|Abstract||The general focus of my research is the analytic psychological investigation of a spiritual symbol. The specific symbol in question is the Western Esoteric (i.e., Occult) Tradition's interpretation of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The primary purpose of this thesis is to engage in a meaningful and academically sound rapport between analytic psychology and, a hitherto academically marginal spiritual tradition, the Western Esoteric Tradition.
The first portion of the thesis will define such terms as Kabbalah, Occult, Esoteric, and various Hebrew words. Following this introduction, the history of the development of the symbol of the Tree of Life will be undertaken. Some important areas to be included are early Jewish mysticism, Christian adaptations of the Tree by Pico Della Mirandola and Giordano Bruno, Hermetic interpretations of the Tree and, finally, the Western Esoteric Tradition’s interpretation of the Tree of Life through authors such as Levi, Fortune, Crowley, and Knight.
A second area of research will look at how Jung understood and utilized the Tree of Life. By tracing Jung’s use of the Tree and its associated symbols (Adam Kadmon, 32 Paths, sefirot, etc.) throughout the Collected Works we can elaborate on Jung’s understanding of Judaism, mysticism, Hermeticism, and alchemy. Jung’s understanding of Kabbalah and the Tree of Life is similar to (though not identical with) his understanding of alchemy, i.e., a spiritual tradition which mirrors the process of psychological maturation.
Finally, with the preliminary research completed I will look at what I hope will turn out to be a lively debate between Jung’s theories and the theories of the Western Esotericists and their particular interpretation of the Tree of Life. Several issues will be raised throughout the debate. One issue from within the Western Esoteric Tradition is the potential for ego inflation and shadow identification. Another area of debate is the potential, as implied through the image of the Tree, that the archetype of the self is not as central to psychological maturation as Jung indicates (archetypal psychology will also be used in this debate). Also, the concept of the Abyss (as found on the Tree of Life) acts as a buffer between rational and trans-rational thought, indicating a need for greater and wider excursions into the unconscious at potential, but necessary risk to the ego.
The above is only a very rough outline of areas I will be researching. As my research progresses I will contribute a more focused summary.