I had a conversation with Dr. Jung the other day. We entered into a deep discussion, and I wanted to share with you what it was about.
I voiced my concern with him because until this day there exists a great deal of confusion and semantic blurring as to how self-realization might be distinct from individuation. In my experience, both terms denote separate stages in psycho-spiritual development and should therefore not be conflated.
Of late, I came across articles in which the authors erroneously suggest that Jung equated individuation with self-realization/transcendence. Following my conversation, I have come to believe that Dr. Jung did not sharply delineate the two, perhaps due to a lack of understanding. His concept of individuation has been utilized to denote the idea of how a thing is identified as an “individual thing” that "is not something else." In other words, once the individual’s projections are owned and brought back to its source; a person becomes disentangled from a more undifferentiated or unconscious sense of self.
In this psycho-spiritual process, elements of the immature psyche become integrated into a well-functioning whole, which Jung called the Self. It is the psychic nucleus and sum total of personality. From the viewpoint of the Self, we gain a more objective understanding of the nature of the ego. The idea of individuation shows good correspondence to Maslow’s term “self-actualization”. So thus far we have to different self-concepts: the ego, as an immature part of personality, and the Self as integrated sum total of all psychic processes.
In distinction to Jung, it makes more sense to me to use “self” instead of “Self”. Why? It is confusing to use a capital "S" for a self as he describes it--individuation, self-actualization or psychic integration are merely stepping stones en route to the even greater stages of self-transcendence or Self-realization in which the individual ego or self are no longer the nucleus of identification--notions of you, me, relationship, and integration are merely arbitrary abstractions at that stage or beyond.
Is individuation a necessary stage to reach Self-realization? I am not qualified to answer this at this point, but what I do know is that the individuation or integration process generally begins with a wounding of the ego-personality which is often an entry point to a deepening of one's spirituality. At this wounding stage, I often find people caught up in what I call "spiritual bypassing," a mode of thinking in which ego, self, and Self are often blurred. This shall be the subject of a later post.
These are my own provisional reflections. I own them. Dr. Jung, forgive me if I misinterpret your work. But I found it important to clarify to prevent further confusion and blurring.