Lately I’ve been wondering about the wrathful deities in Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism, especially in Tantric Buddhism iconography, the surreal, weird images that I have always found so compelling. Apparently their purpose, at least in part, is to help the practitioner integrate unconscious shadow material into their consciousness in a healthy way. Their peaceful deities offer archetypes of upperworld attributes, the wrathful deities offer archetypes of the underworld, all with gifts that can be incorporated into the human psyche.
We don’t have much of that in the West which may be, at least in part, why Westerners tend to act out violence and shadow in the collective (underworld, wrathful deities) and get into so much trouble with romantic love (falling in love tends to be the method for encountering the upperworld archetypes, and we all know what kind of trouble we can get into projecting archetypal energies onto human beings). I’m wondering if the Book of Revelation, in some of its disturbing imagery, reveals encounters with, and incorporation of, shadow material. This is something I intend to continue inquiry into.
Jungian Edward Edinger defines the word “archetype” as a “living organism …that inhabits the collective psyche.” It’s both a pattern “composed of a network of inter-related images” and a “dynamic agency” — a “primordial psychic pattern of the collective unconscious that is at the same time a dynamic agency with intentionality.”
Edinger writes of the “disintegration of social and psychic structures and values which have been the architecture of the collective psyche no longer ‘contained’ by an operative religious myth” which is part of the ‘archetype of the apocalypse.” You could say we are currently contained by the uncontained.