Chaitanya’s Archetypal Possession

Ramananda Roy seeing Chaitanya as Radha-Krishna

Many devotees see the sixteenth century Bengali saint and mystic, Krishna Chaitanya, even in his own lifetime, as an incarnation of Radha-Krishna in one body manifesting the archetype of spiritual androgyny. Universalist Radha-Krishnaism: The Way of Natural Devotion (41) When questioned further about this, I often respond that he experienced archetypal possession. Here’s what I mean by that:



The chief danger is that of succumbing to the fascinating influence of the archetypes, and this is most likely to happen when the archetypal images are not made conscious. If there is already a predisposition to psychosis, it may even happen that the archetypal figures, which are endowed with a certain autonomy on account of their natural numinosity, will escape from conscious control altogether and become completely independent, thus producing the phenomena of possession.—Carl Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious (91)

People may even be destroyed by an archetype, their own existence wiped out forever. In dementia praecox, for instance, it often happens that people are just blasted by an archetype, exploded. They cannot resist it. If they have an experience which the ordinary religious man would call an experience of God, instead of realizing it as such and thanking heaven for the grace, they think they are God or three times more than God. The archetype has sucked them in and swallowed them. The individual ego is far less resistant; it is futile in comparison. Therefore the appearance of an archetype in our psychology is always a moment of the greatest danger as well as the greatest hope.—Carl Jung, Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930-1934, Vol. I (67)

Chaitanya admitted to being an epileptic, “I become unconscious because of epilepsy,” Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.18.174a. According to Wikipedia, “The word epilepsy is from Ancient Greek: ἐπιλαμβάνειν, lit. ‘to seize, possess, or afflict’.”—thus carrying the connotation of possession. Many early people believed seizures were caused by possession. Wikipedia also describes “Dementia praecox (a ‘premature dementia’ or ‘precocious madness’) is a disused psychiatric diagnosis that originally designated a chronic, deteriorating psychotic disorder characterized by rapid cognitive disintegration, usually beginning in the late teens or early adulthood.”—the age Chaitanya became afflicted. His symptoms were sometimes described as “madness” or “divine madness.” My Mac Dictionary defines,

psychosis |sīˈkōsəs| noun (plural psychoses |-ˌsēz| ) a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. ORIGIN mid 19th century: from Greek psukhōsis ‘animation,’ from psukhoun ‘give life to,’ from psukhē ‘soul, mind.’

Regardless of the diagnosis, during his time in Puri, Chaitanya lived under the loving twenty four hour care of his close associates who provided for his needs and tried to prevent him from hurting himself as he was prone to do. He lost external consciousness, and when revived chastised his friends for dragging him back from the spiritual world. Archetypal possession by Radha-Krishna accounts for his devotees’ belief in him as the incarnation of Radha-Krishna as well as his strange behavior without resorting to supernatural explanations, which modern people find hard to believe.

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