Tell me what you know of that is not inside the soul? Take a pitcher full of water and set it down on the water — now it has water inside and water outside. We mustn’t give it a name … If you want the truth, I’ll tell you the truth; Listen to the secret sound, the real sound, which is inside you.
~ Kabir (Ecstatic Poems)
It’s in our human nature to want to divide where we end and others begin. Yet only once we’ve established healthy boundaries can we discover and experience the common waters of Spirit that Kabir mentions above. As the philosopher Teilhard de Chardin eloquently put it, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Learning to live life from this perspective makes all the difference by welcoming this vast ocean into the small pitchers of our lives. Remembering that we are spiritual beings helps to remind us that despite our struggles as individuals, there’s an untameable drop of Spirit within each of us. Although we may try to block this wellspring of Spirit, we can never fully cease the flow of it. This sacred wellspring flows through all of life, and it longs for love, harmony and wholeness.
The Individuation Process
Psychologist Carl Jung once coined the term individuation. He defined it as “a slow, imperceptible process of psychic growth” that gradually results in “a wider and more mature personality.”
Individuation, then, is the lifelong process of growing into wholeness. Unconsciously, on a personal and collective level, we are all inherently striving towards self-realization through the constant process of growth.
Individuation is a process that can be compared to the growth of an oak tree from a single acorn. The acorn represents us and our potential. The oak tree (that is born from the acorn) represents totality: the fulfillment of our potential. In this way, individuation is essentially the process of embodying our true potential, calling, and authentic selves.
Individuation, however, isn’t solely about the development of our ego selves. Ego development is only one part of the process of individuation, not the end result. The purpose of individuation is the development of what Jung referred to as the “Psyche” (the Greek word for “Soul”) which goes deeper than the ego.
In life, all of us experience the call of individuation. We all want to express ourselves on an ego level, but we also crave for something deeper, something that transcends the ego. The individuation process is, all at once, about the process of becoming differentiated and unique, but also a process of becoming whole and united with others.
Only once you get to know the exact shape of your piece of the cosmic puzzle, will you be able to find your place within the puzzle as a whole. This allows you to experience Spirit and Soul.
The Only Way Out, Is Through
For each of us in life, there exists a set of inner doors that no one can go through, except for us.
Our individuation processes are not linear, but circular. Individuation is a journey towards wholeness in which we create a balanced relationship between our inner and outer worlds. This is a delicate art. Perhaps that’s why Jung depicted our wholeness as a circle with a dot in the center, proclaiming, “self is not only the center, but also the whole circumference.”
Throughout the ages, men have been intuitively aware of the existence of such an inner center that guided their life journeys. The Greeks called this center man’s inner “daimon” (meaning “to be motivated by a spiritual force”). In ancient Egypt, this inner force was expressed as the concept of the “Ba” (soul) and the Romans worshiped it as the “genius” native to each individual.
Jung once asked himself, “What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass as out of a swathing mist?” He concluded, “It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and from its well-worn paths. Anyone with a vocation hears that voice of his inner man: he is called.”
There’s a moment in our lives when we awaken to this inner vocation. When we listen to our soft, innermost voices, we become like aliens in society. We stop caring about what our parents, families, friends and cultures pressure us to be. We crave more. This is the moment when our spiritual journeys begin. This is the moment when we begin our unique tasks of individuation. And this is always something different for each of us.
The soul knows that there is only one way to fulfill itself, and that is through creating balance with the inner and outer, ego and spiritual self. Perhaps the oldest truth of all self-discovery is that the only way out is through. In other words, the only way to leave behind our emptiness and unhappiness, is to embark on a journey through the ego.
6 Benefits of Individuation
Individuation is not only the process of cultivating wholeness and becoming our “authentic and true selves.” It is also the process of becoming a fully mature human being.
At different points throughout our lives, we’ll receive different callings and come across new doors that await us. When we are young, these callings might manifest themselves as the formation of our personalities. As we grow older, these callings might manifest themselves as learning empathy, or community. Each calling is just as necessary as the next. We can only move on once we’ve completely integrated the lesson each door has in store for us.
By successfully progressing through our individuation, we can:
- Become aware of our social personas, and how they are not our True Selves.
- Become aware of how our subpersonalities operate, healing and then embracing them from the holistic perspective of the Self.
- Become aware of our core wounds and shadow selves that prevent us from experiencing the wholeness of our egos.
- Awaken to our state of disconnection and soul loss, allowing us to embark on our spiritual journeys in order to discover our place in the world. This allows us to embody our purpose or vocation.
- Cultivate a conscious relationship to Spirit and in doing so enjoy intimacy with all of life, and experiencing oneness with all things and with the Universe as a whole.
- Cultivate a conscious relationship with Soul and thus discover our unique and ultimate place in the world, allowing us to serve the world most effectively as older souls.
When we awaken to our deepest longing for growth and our honest desire for love, we enter the realm of Spirit. As we progressively mature, we begin to realize that we are like waves existing within the One great Sacred Ocean.