Denise Grobbelaar:

Individuation and the Transcendent Function

Jungian Analyst, Psychotherapist & Clinical Psychologist.

Individuation is what Carl Jung called the process of lifelong psychological development with a person moving closer to a sense of wholeness, uniqueness, authenticity, self-knowledge, and fuller realization of inner potentials. The purpose of individuation is to achieve a state of unified consciousness as an individual, integrating all parts of the self, conscious and unconscious.

Murray Stein writes that our ego-identity is “made up of bits of family and ancestral material, cultural patterns and influences… The ego is embedded in this matrix and identifies unconsciously with it.” (1) Our self-identity is thus an illusion while are at the mercy of the tension between polarities of the conscious’ known self and unconscious factors like complexes, projections, defences and identifications which distort our self-perception and our perception of the world.

Jung (2) describes the ‘transcendent function’ as a neutral observation, pure awareness, a point (or a bridge) between conscious and unconscious which elevates consciousness to the state of pure nature, undisturbed by complexes or projections. “The transcendent function does not proceed without aim and purpose, but leads to the revelation of the essential man… The meaning and purpose of the process is the realization, in all its aspects, of the personality originally hidden away in the embryonic germ-plasm; the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness.” (3)

Murray Stein writes that the goal of the analytic process “is dedicated to gaining self-knowledge through separation from all identifications and entanglements with unconscious contents (cleansing the doors of perception) and bearing witness to the archetypal powers that underlie individual and cultural psychologies.” (1) Our deepest roots comprise the archetypal field that underlies all human consciousness and once realized transmits direct awareness of eternal ground of being. Individuation increases consciousness and can be equated to enlightenment, where duality is overcome and the inner split healed. Erich Neumann writes of this inner unity as ‘the dissolution of the self’s form and … the actualization of the anonymous self-field’ (4)

Written for @jungsouthernafrica


  1. Stein M. Psychological individuation and spiritual enlightenment: some comparisons and points of contact. J Anal Psychol. 2019 Feb;64(1):6-22.
  2. Jung, C. G. (1969b). The archetypes and the collective unconscious (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 9, Pt. 1, 2nd ed.). Princeton University Press. (Original work published in 1959.)
  3. Jung, C. G. Collective Works 7, ¶186.
  4. Neumann 1989, p. 61

Image credit: Carl Jung, The Red Book

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Posted in Individuation (Hero & Heroine's Journey) on Jan 18, 2023.