“The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the ‘transcendent function’….This function progressively unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries.” ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.
My previous post, The Feminine Art of Transforming a House, was about how the transcendent function spurs your growth into the whole individual you were meant to be. Dreams can inspire your ego to grow. Some think dreams are meaningless: nothing more than brain garbage that is sloughed off during sleep. But dreams are much more than this. They are artfully produced invitations from the earthy, instinctual part of yourself that has not been tamed and civilized by rules, conventions, and human conceptions of morality. Dreams show you how much your wild, untamed self wants to engage you in a soul-transforming relationship.
Why would you want to pay attention to the unconscious wildness portrayed in your dreams? Isn’t it dangerous? Shouldn’t you ignore it? Aren’t you busy enough meeting your obligations in the outer world? Consider this quotation from the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism: “A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.” Can you imagine not reading a letter from God? Why do I mention God in this discussion? Because cooperating with the unconscious parts of yourself that are revealed in your dreams is how you fulfill your sacred purpose in life: to evolve.
The transcendent function which spurs your evolution is not this or that. It’s a third thing: a sacred relationship. A cooperative, loving partnership between two opposite, but complementary realms within you: your conscious and unconscious selves. Each partner has its own role to play in your journey into wholeness. You can no more grow into your whole potential without the full participation of both than a baby can be born from a sperm that is not united with an egg.
Your ego is the energy center of your conscious self. Like a sperm, it is driven by the need to get out there and penetrate life. It wants to tame the chaos: inseminate, build, manufacture, create. Do something. Be somebody. The egg of your unconscious is the sea of potential that awaits your ego’s flame. Is one more valuable than the other? No. Nothing can be created without the interaction between both.
Your unconscious contains the raw materials of your soul’s essence, instincts, gifts, and promise. It is your portal to the collective unconscious. It is the Cosmic or World Egg of myth and religion, the source from which new life is created.
Your psyche, or soul, is composed of conscious and unconscious. Separated, neither creates anything but chaos. But when they meet and and work together, the chemistry generated between them is like the interaction between the magnetic field created between the North and South Poles. Their interaction sustains the universe of you. The merging of your inner opposites — conscious and unconscious — is the sacred third, the transcendent function that heals the divides within you. Healing your inner conflicts is the key to your evolution into wholeness. Building bridges between your conscious and unconscious selves awakens and empowers your true self.
We live within this transformational miracle but do not see it. We take the needs and desires of our conscious egos very seriously indeed, and we are willing to work very hard to fulfill them in the outer world. But for the most part, our relationships, dreams, and inner world receive far less of our attention. It’s so easy to ignore our unconscious selves that are invisible to the limited perceptions of our egos. Maybe mathematical metaphors can help us remember the necessity for cooperation between both.
Reflect on these formulas. A + B = C. Think of the plus signs as the transcendent function, the third way of dialogue that unites your conscious and unconscious selves.
- Conscious + Unconscious = Wholeness
- Ego + Self = Transcendence
- Sperm + Egg = Creation
- Sky + Earth = World
- Spirit + Matter = Love
- Masculine + Feminine = Partnership
There is no chemistry, no change, without the transcendent function. Alone, neither side can manifest anything. But together they can change the world. You can change the world by connecting with your inner, unconscious self though your dreams.
If you’d like to read more about the transcendent function check out this post from January 3, 2017.
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Image Credits: Wikipedia, Jacob Bryant’s Orphic Egg, 1774. Crossing the Divide, unknown.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched by Schiffer Publishing this October.
I love the egg and serpent graphic Jeanie and the very clever sum which really sums it all up! It demonstrates that one needs the other for the third, transcendent function to evolve. And that one without the other remains fixed, stuck and stale. Re dreams, they really are a way of bringing the unconscious out of the shadows and bringing it in like a welcome guest into one’s home and giving the guest hospitality.
‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’ is a quote by Simone Weil that always speaks to me and is apt re dreams, even more so.
I remember the Talmud expression as ‘an unexamined dream is like an unopened letter’ and Socrates – ‘An unexamined life is not worth living’
Thank you so much, as always affirming and broadening.
Thank you Susan, and I love your Simone Weil quote. Another synchronicity to add to our growing pile. I ordered Weil’s Waiting for God late last week and am half way through it now. I rarely hear her spoken of or see her name in print. And now here she shows up in our conversation!
I think there are a few variations of the Talmud “quote” going around. I’ve never read the original (can’t read Hebrew and don’t know if it’s been translated into English…probably has), but this is the version that showed up on my search. It’s not just our politicians and law enforcement officers that we can’t trust these days! No offense meant to the good ones out there, but we’re reeling from the atrocity of the cruel murder of George Floyd and our president’s latest threats of violence against the protestors. It’s hard not to get jaded.
Wishing you safety and peace in these violent times.
“Dreams can inspire your ego to grow.” So true! When looking back in my dream diaries, I’m always amazed at how often those mysterious synchronicities between my conscious and unconscious lives occur. And how much the transcendent function helps me to create and maintain this partnership … hmm, much like the role of a soul assistant. No wonder some Jungian therapists call themselves by this name too. Oh, and your formulas make it easy for us to remember.
Thank you so much for the generous gift of another rich article that overflows with much wisdom and insight! Hope you’re safe and well as the news coming in from USA is deeply disturbing and shocking. After reading this article I was left wondering if Donald Trump is becoming who he really wants to become? And the very next words I read were … “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.” ~ Antonio Gramsci.
Love and light, Deborah.
I haven’t heard the term ‘soul assistant’ before for Jungian therapists. But what a perfect description of their function. I was so disappointed with the introductory psychology courses I took in high school and college….there was nothing in them that even remotely felt like it could be of assistance to my soul. But nobody I knew had heard of Jung or analytical psychology then. Thank goodness I finally found them!
Glad you liked the formulas. I have no idea where they came from….obviously my unconscious! They just popped up as I was writing and I dutifully recorded them. 🙂
We are safe. There have been some mostly peaceful protests here and a few not so much. We had a 10:00 PM curfew for a couple of nights after some protesters became unruly in a suburb of Orlando that’s about 10 miles south of here. It turns out that the police officer who killed George Floyd has a vacation home here.
What’s happening here is truly disturbing and shocking. I do think Donald Trump is showing us exactly what he wants to become…. and who he really is. Yes, there are monsters in all of us but most of us have enough character and sense of responsibility to keep them on a leash. A time of monsters, indeed.
You are so sweet to thank me for the gift of my posts. Actually I do think of them as gifts that I love to give away. It’s so heartwarming when readers see them as such. I’ve learned so much and feel a deep responsibility to be of as much help as I can in my own way.
I’m so pleased to hear that you’re keeping safe and well Jeanie! What you write about inner monsters is deeply true. I see you as a soul assistant too! Love Deborah.
Thank you for this article. The spermatic thrust in me has gone underground. I have little desire to get out there with my work right now, although I keep writing and keep a dream journal. I feel myself on an unsure threshold with no sense of what’s ahead for our country or my family. So I wait, grow flowers for Monarch butterflies that will arrive soon, take my dogs for walks, listen to birds, watch spring turn to summer, take opportunities to share kindness and donate to places like Color of Change or the ACLU along with organizations to feed the hungry.
I’m grateful for dreams and weekly Zoom discussions with my Jungian dream therapist. She and my dreams are healing influences. I recently dreamed of a wounded baby girl about 3 months old with a deep but healed scar near the spine. There’s much more to the dream, but the essential parts are that the baby must go through more painful treatment, but I can help by holding her against my heart while she’s suffering. I’m coming into deeper contact with the wounded vulnerable feminine within me and the world. Without dream work and writing, I’d feel lost despite the beauty surrounding me. The state of the world, especially the most recent explosion of violence and shadow energy that’s been repressed far too long, leaves me with despair and disbelief as I hear what politicians in charge in DC are doing and saying. There may be a little consciousness arising to counter the darkness, but we’re living in an Underworld I could not have imagined.
I’m fascinated by the complex astrology of this time–so much Pluto, Jupiter, and Saturn. And with that litany of woe, I’ll take my dogs for a walk. Thanks for helping me make sense of it all.
Thank you, Elaine. I’m glad you have your dreamwork with your therapist. That is truly healing as well as revealing. Your wounded little girl says a lot about the status of the Feminine not just in you, but in today’s world,
I too feel despair and disbelief at the words and actions of our politicians. I found your comments about this, and the complex astrology of this time so fascinating that I looked up the symbolism of the gods you mentioned and wrote you a long response. Then, I decided it might be a good blog post! So you’ll have to wait ’til next week to read it.
In the meantime, thank you for being a wonderful “listener” despite your hearing loss, and a wise counselor. If I had a dog, I’d take it for a walk right now! 🙂