Jung interpreted religious traditions from the viewpoint of their psychological significance. The allegorical tale of the Prodigal Son illustrates Jung’s basic understanding of the structure and development of the psyche. The young prodigal epitomizes shadow qualities of ignorance, arrogance and impetuousness. His dissolute indulgences show lack of ego strength and land him in a pigsty. Repentant, he returns to his father’s estate, hoping for servant work. Instead, his father celebrates his homecoming. The older brother is aghast at this joyful reception; he has been dutiful yet never so acclaimed. He is the embodiment of respectable persona and adaptation—yet his ego-oriented sense of self seems to have a less enlivened connection with the father. The father, symbolizing the transcendent Self, provides redemptive eros and safe haven. Each of us has a shadow, an ego that tends to believe it’s our totality, and a transpersonal center that can welcome us home.
HERE’S THE DREAM WE ANALYZE:
“I am on the second platform of a four-tiered structure leading from a dock on the river to the top of a cliff. There are ladders and obstacles connecting each of the platforms. I am looking down at the water which is raging and ebbing with monstrous waves. The water is a beautiful color of indigo blue, vastly wide, and immensely deep. There are boats being tossed in the waves with the owners tethered to them by rope, desperately attempting to climb aboard but ultimately becoming swallowed by the crashing waves. I notice a small park ranger dinghy boat come out from a crack in the cliff face and set into the raging water in an apparent attempt to save the other boaters. The driver of the boat appears timid and frightened. I shout to a man next to me, “I used to have that job!” The boat is immediately capsized. I begin climbing up to the third platform and become paralyzed with fear as I climb the wooden pegs jutting out of the side of the cliff. I am aware that a slip would result in certain death. I realize that I have done this many times before and struggle before ultimately pulling myself up and over. A young Afghan boy comes after me effortlessly scaling this obstacle and the next, reaching the top of the cliff. I realize that I was holding up a line of people! I think of the capsized park ranger and determine that I must go save him. I look into the water from on high and see his body; curled in the fetal position; bobbing in the water. I am transported down and reach my hand in to gather him and perform CPR. I am confused to find that all I pull out of the water is a long-expired cartridge from a firework or rifle.I begin the climb up to the second tier and at the threshold there is a tangled web of rope that ensnares me. I am panicking when I hear little voices from below: “Wear it like a dress!” I ponder this for a second and then slip through the rope web as if putting a dress on, and am securely on the second platform. I look below and see a dozen young girls; aged about five years old; all wearing matching black and white dresses. I realize that I must help them up and demonstrate the climbing technique: “Pretend you are a pirate!” I shout to them and demonstrate in an animated way the technique. They begin to climb and I reach down; gathering them two at a time and pulling them to the second platform.”
Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, Luke 15:11-32.
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