Awaken to the Mystery of the Undiscovered Self

woman gazing at landscape

“A million zeros joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one. Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual…”

In this quote from his essay The Undiscovered Self, Carl Jung is making an impassioned plea for the meaning and purpose of the individual as distinct from the mass statistic of the human population.

It is not that Jung is against community. Rather that he sees true community as made up of individuals. The essay, written in 1956, finds Jung already concerned with the reality of nuclear weapons and the cold war as well as the impact of totalitarian regimes on Eastern Europe. Jung felt that it was the essence or “quality” of the individual that stood in the way of the loss of human freedom.

He continues, “But if the individual, overwhelmed by the sense of his own puniness and impotence, should feel that his life has lost its meaning – which, after all, is not identical with public welfare and higher standards of living – then he is already on the way to State slavery and, without knowing or wanting it, has become its proselyte.”

The “million zeros” never adding up to one is the antithesis of the argument that, given enough aeons, a monkey at a typewriter will come up with Hamlet; it is the essence of the individual human, even in collaborative effort, that raises certain material or psychological qualities to the level of great art or the possibility of human grandeur or truth.

Jung is making a profound political point: If the recognition of this individual value wavers then the twin poles of nihilism or totalitarianism await the unsuspecting weakened mass humanity. He is also making a point about the nature of the human experience: truth that avoids the unavoidable value of the human subject is no truth at all.

This is where Jung’s argument is relevant to the practice of astrology. In one sense, the natal chart is the ultimate recognition that the human being is not a tabula rasa; not a blank slate waiting to be shaped by experience, but someone who comes into this world with a pre-existing identity – i-human.

Yet everyone has a chart. In the mass symbolism of astrology, the complexity of its many forms and in the pre-existing interpretative categories, there lurks the potential for a totalitarianism of the mind: one that might imprison the human spirit in a variety of subtle cages.

I have always valued Rudhyar’s emphasis on the animating power of consciousness as the final step within the understanding of the natal chart. This to me is the line in which the individual value that Jung stood for is still protected: that it is the unique individual consciousness that animates the natal chart. That is the realm of the undiscovered self.

It is the mystery of the self that lends the final power to the natal chart; its aliveness. With this in mind, we never sacrifice the meaning and purpose of the individual to their chart. In fact, if we are truly alive to their life, we turn the chart to the individual and we invite them to live it.

In this way, we stay awake inside the mystery of the undiscovered self, alive to its every possible twist and turn. In this living rapport we might discover the natal chart as a living open-ended symbolism. A uniquely created mirror ball or diamond whose multifaceted light shines into the undiscovered self.