Nobody who finds himself on the road to wholeness can escape that characteristic suspension which is the meaning of crucifixion. (Carl Jung, CW 16, The Psychology of the Transference, CW 16, par 470)
In Aion (CW 9ii, par 68 ff.), Jung dedicates a section to the study of Christ as a symbol of the self. His initial conclusion is that “Christ exemplifies the archetype of the self ” (ibid., par 70) but this remains incomplete without the next part: “[A]lthough the attributes of Christ (consubstantiality with the Father, coeternity, filiation, parthenogenesis, crucifixion, Lamb sacrificed between opposites, One divided into Many, etc.) undoubtedly mark him out as an embodiment of the self, looked at from the psychological angle he corresponds to only one half of the archetype. The other half appears in the Antichrist.” (ibid., par 79)
Understood in this manner, the Antichrist is “the shadow of the self, namely the dark half of the human totality, which ought not to be judged too optimistically.” (ibid., par 76)
These remarks were necessary to establish two points.
First, it is now clear that the symbol of Christ on the cross (as the self on the cross) is symbolically equivalent to the self as the center of the medicine wheel.
Second, if Jung is right in his assessment of the archetype being split in half, then any attempt to enter wholeness will be a torturous agony indeed. One cannot simultaneously claim to be whole and yet deny the dark half of the psyche, as both need to find a balanced expression within the individual.
From this it is evident that individuation, or becoming whole, is neither a summum bonum nor a summum desideratum, but the painful experience of the union of opposites. That is the real meaning of the cross in the circle, and that is why the cross has an apotropaic effect, because, pointed at evil, it shows evil that it is already included and has therefore lost its destructive power. (Carl Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i, par 705)
The crucifixion then is the moral problem of being confronted at once with two incompatible halves (light and dark, good and evil, etc.) and an appropriate symbol of the overpowering experience of being under such paradoxical pressure.
[T]he image of the Saviour crucified between two thieves . . . tells us that the progressive development and differentiation of consciousness leads to an ever more menacing awareness of the conflict and involves nothing less than a crucifixion of the ego, its agonizing suspension between irreconcilable opposites. (ibid., par 79)