Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 10 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class number 10, covering paragraphs 150 to 161, it’s the chapter entitled “The Prophecies of Nostradamus”.

I’m gonna center my remarks tonight around 4 themes:

  1. Nostradamus
  2. The enthronement of the goddess Reason
  3. The lower triad, also called the chthonic triad
  4. The symbolism of the North


Jung sets the scene for his discussion of Nostradamus with the first paragraph of the chapter, which is a good concise summarizing statement, so I’m going to quote it:

“[CW09:2:150] The course of our religious history as well as an essential part of our psychic development could have been predicted more or less accurately, both as regards time and content, from the precession of the equinoxes through the constellation of Pisces. The prediction, as we saw, was actually made and coincides with the fact that the Church suffered a schism in the sixteenth century.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

In other words our nodal point 1500.

“[CW09:2:150] After that an enantiodromian process set in which, in contrast to the “Gothic” striving upwards to the heights, could be described as a horizontal movement outwards, namely the voyages of discovery and the conquest of Nature. The vertical was cut across by the horizontal, and man’s spiritual and moral development moved in a direction that grew more and more obviously antichristian,”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

This corresponds to the movement of the equinoxal point through the two fishes, you see. First of all through the vertical fish, and then starting about 1500 through the horizontal fish.

“[CW09:2:150] so that today we are confronted with a crisis of Western civilization whose outcome appears to be exceedingly dubious. With this background in mind”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

he says, I want to mention Nostradamus. As is evident to the readers of this book, Jung casts his net very far afield. Who would have thought Nostradamus would come into the picture? But here he is. I want to say a few words about this man, that Jung thought was worth a chapter in Aion.

His dates are 1503 to 1566, so he’s born right on that nodal point of 1500. His parents were French Jews, who were forced to convert to Christianity at the threat of exile. They could take their choice: they could be exiled or they could convert. His parents chose to convert.

He lived a very dramatic life. Both his grandfathers were famous physicians and astrologers. That combination was very common in those days. They were in the service of a dukedom which is equivalent to royalty in those days in France.

Nostradamus was a brilliant precocious child. His education was supervised by his grandfathers, so he really got the best. He went to the second best medical school in France, Montpellier, in the South of France and did brilliantly.

He spent several years as a successful wandering physician, which was often done in those days, often treating the plague. He developed quite a reputation for his courageous treatment of plague victims.

Finally in his early thirties he settled down with a wife and two children, and after a few years the plague struck his family, and his whole family was wiped out – everyone except him.

He then had 13 years of wandering as a physician and at the age of 44 he married again, a rich widow. He became a court favorite. He turned more and more to the writing of prophecies. First of all prophecies about the next year to come and then gradually his prophecies ranged farther and farther afield.

His published prophecies were very popular, even though they were quite obscure, they didn’t express themselves very specifically. He wrote prophecies in verse. He tells us that he only began writing his prophecies, or at least publish them, I think at about the age of 51. What he says is: “I felt an unaccountable and new enthusiasm springing up uncontrollably in my mind which at last amounted almost to a maddening fewer until I sat down to write them”, the prophecies.

He was really gripped with the activation of the Unconscious that was forcing these things out. In his preface to his prophecies, written as a letter to his son, he says that he refrained from writing down his prophecies for a long time because people would be offended by what they heard. He quotes Christ saying “give not that which is holy unto dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine”.

But he changed his mind. Evidently, the reason he changed his mind was because of the maddening fewer that he experienced internally. He says in an interesting remark “later because of the vulgar advent I decided to give away and by dark and cryptic sentences tell you of the causes of the future mutation of mankind”.

Because of the vulgar advent I decided to give away and by dark and cryptic sentences tell you of the causes of the future mutation of mankind. [← Edinger really repeats this sentence twice.] Now that term, “vulgar advent”, is usually assumed to refer to the French revolution by Nostradamus scholars, but I think the use of the term “advent” suggests that it might rather refer to his vision of the coming of Antichrist.

In another place he confesses: “many times in the week I’m overtaken by an ecstasy” and again he says that his “calculations had been determined by the celestial movements combined with the emotion handed down to me by my forebearers which come over me at certain hours”. In other words he would be meditating on astrological images and patterns and in the midst of that meditation he’d be gripped by intense emotions which he identified with residues of his ancestors within his own makeup.

In another place he says “hidden prophecies come to me by the subtle spirit of fire, sometimes through the understanding being disturbed in contemplating remotest of stars, while remaining alert the pronouncements are taken down in writing without fear, without a taint of excess verbiage because all these things proceeded from the divine power of the great eternal God”. So he was absolutely convinced that his prophecies were divinely inspired, you see.

With that background let’s look at the one particular prophecy that Jung chose to quote. There’s a whole big book of these things, but the one that Jung chose to quote is found in paragraph 151. After detailing a year characterized among other things by various conjunctions then he writes:

“[CW09:2:151] Then the beginning of that year shall see a greater persecution against the Christian Church than ever was in Africa,3 and it shall be in the year 1792, at which time everyone will think it a renovation of the age. … And at that time and in those countries the infernal power shall rise against the Church of Jesus Christ. This shall be the second Antichrist, which shall persecute the said Church and its true vicar by means of the power of temporal kings, who through their ignorance shall be seduced by tongues more sharp than any sword in the hands of a madman. … The persecution of the clergy shall have its beginning in the power of the Northern Kings joined by the Eastern ones. And that persecution shall last eleven years, or a little less, at which time the chief Northern king shall fail.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

This is a reference to 1792 and it’s generally understood as referring to the French revolution, naturally. Concerning that Jung says in paragraph 155 after going through some other data that led to the date 1789, he says:

“[CW09:2:155] Both dates are suggestive, and a knowledge of subsequent events confirms that the things that happened around that time were significant forerunners of developments in our own day. The enthronement of the “Déesse Raison” was, in fact, an anticipation of the antichristian trend that was pursued from then onwards.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

The enthronement of the Goddess Reason

This enthronement of the “Goddess Reason” I want to say a few words about, because Jung alludes to this several times and attributes considerable historical importance to it as a symbolic event.

Looking up in the history books at my disposal closest thing I have found to this event was in Will Durant‘s “The Age of Napoleon” in which he writes that:

a crowd of ‘sen-qou-lats’ [<- could not discern] – that’s rebels – invaded the abbey of Saint Denis on October 16th, 1793, emptied the coffins of French royalty there entombed and melted the metal for use in the war. On November 10th, men and women from the working class quarters in the ideological haunts of Paris flooded to the streets in mock religious dress and procession. They’ve entered the Hall of the Convention and prevailed upon the deputies to pledge attendance at that evenings fate at the Cathedral of Notre-Damme, renamed “The Temple of Reason”. There a new sanctuary had been arranged in which Mademoiselle Candille [<- don’t know the correct spelling] of the opera robed in the tricolored flag encrowned with a red cap stood as the Goddess of Liberty – I guess that would be an equivalent to the Goddess of Reason – attended by persuasive ladies who sang a hymn to liberty. The worshipers danced and danced in the naves while in the side chapels sat hostile reporters, profiteers of freedom, celebrated the rites of love – on other words they copulated. On November 17th the bishop of Paris yielding to popular demand appeared before the convention adjourned his office, handed over to the president his episcopal crosier and ring and donned the red cap of freedom. In the November 23rd the commune ordered all Christian churches in Paris closed.

The Age of Napoleon by Will Durant

That shows you what was going on in the cathedral of Notre-Dame renamed “The Temple of the Goddess of Reason”. Jung expands on this issue in some remarks in his essay “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man”. He says:

“[CW10:174] There can be no doubt that from the beginning of the nineteenth century—ever since the time of the French Revolution—the psyche has moved more and more into the foreground of man’s interest, and with a steadily increasing power of attraction. The enthronement of the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame seems to have been a symbolic gesture of great significance for the Western world—rather like the hewing down of Wotan’s oak by Christian missionaries. On both occasions no avenging bolt from heaven struck the blasphemer down.”

Collected Works, Volume 10, Civilization in Transition by Carl Jung

“[CW10:175] It is certainly more than an amusing freak of history that just at the time of the Revolution a Frenchman, Anquetil du Perron, should be living in India and, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, brought back with him a translation of the Oupnek’hat, a collection of fifty Upanishads, which gave the West its first deep insight into the baffling mind of the East. To the historian this is a mere coincidence independent of the historical nexus of cause and effect. My medical bias prevents me from seeing it simply as an accident. Everything happened in accordance with a psychological law which is unfailingly valid in personal affairs. If anything of importance is devalued in our conscious life, and perishes—so runs the law—there arises a compensation in the unconscious. We may see in this an analogy to the conservation of energy in the physical world, for our psychic processes also have a quantitative, energic aspect. No psychic value can disappear without being replaced by another of equivalent intensity. This is a fundamental rule which is repeatedly verified in the daily practice of the psychotherapist and never fails. The doctor in me refuses point blank to consider the life of a people as something that does not conform to psychological law. For him the psyche of a people is only a somewhat more complex structure than the psyche of an individual. Moreover, has not a poet spoken of the “nations of his soul”? And quite correctly, it seems to me, for in one of its aspects the psyche is not individual, but is derived from the nation, from the collectivity, from humanity even. In some way or other we are part of a single, all-embracing psyche, a single “greatest man,” the homo maximus, to quote Swedenborg.”

Collected Works, Volume 10, Civilization in Transition by Carl Jung

See, here we have a glimpse of how Jung perceives the history of humanity as just one more patient. So he says that as the value that had been carried in the West – Christianity – was in the process of being so severely depreciated, at that same time the new version of that psychic value was being brought from the East by another Frenchman, you see. It’s even significant that a Frenchman had to do it, since it were the French that were enthroning the goddess.


This archetypal event, the historical archetypal event of the enthronement of the Goddess of Reason, is something that we see relived in the life of the young individual again and again. You don’t see it so much anymore because there aren’t so many people that are exposed to a religious childhood, but there’s still some. We are all familiar with friends or patients who have gone through a religious childhood and then often about adolescence they go through the French revolution and they enthrone the Goddess Reason in Notre-Dame in effect, you see. That’s and archetypal event that takes place not only historically but individually too.

Theme number 3.

The lower triad, also called the chthonic triad

Jung makes a couple of references to this in our assignment. In paragraph 156:

“[CW09:2:156] That a usurper from the North would seize power14 is easily understood when we consider that the Antichrist is something infernal, the devil or the devil’s son, and is therefore Typhon or Set, who has his fiery abode in the North. Typhon’s power is triadic, possessing two confederates, one in the East and one in the South. This power corresponds to the “lower triad.””

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

Then again in paragraph 158, he says:

“[CW09:2:158] Adam Scotus imagined there was a frightful dragon’s head in the north from which all evil comes. From its mouth and snout it emitted smoke of a triple nature.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

There is a reference to footnote 24 where Jung says “allusion to the lower triad”. So let’s ask ourselves what is this lower triad that he refers to here.

Concerning the alchemical image of the lower triad in Volume 13, Plate 2B, there is a picture of the hermaphrodite sanding on a three headed serpent and that three headed serpent is identified as the lower triad. What I’m referring to is in Volume 13 of the Collected Works, Plate B2.

I wanna pay some attention to this image because it’s particularly important in dream interpretation. See, as Jung points out the Christian aeon has been characterized by the creation of an upper triad, represented by the Christian Trinity. That’s the Trinity that Joachim de Flora was so fascinated with. As Jung tells us, the creation of an upper trinity generates its opposite, namely a lower trinity. That’s what we are going to pay attention to then.

We get a striking image of that in Dante’s Inferno. At the very beginning of the work there is an image of the lower triad when Dante is faced with three animals, a leopardess, a lion, and a she-wolf, and that encounter is then followed by his descent into Hell. When he gets all the way down, to the bottom of Hell, in Canto 34, he finds Satan there embedded in a block of ice. I’ll read a part of it:

"How frozen I became and powerless then,
Ask it not, Reader, for I write it not,
Because all language would be insufficient.

I did not die, and I alive remained not;
Think for thyself now, hast thou aught of wit,
What I became, being of both deprived.

The Emperor of the kingdom dolorous
From his mid-breast forth issued from the ice,
And better with a giant I compare

Than do the giants with those arms of his;
Consider now how great must be that whole,
Which unto such a part conforms itself.

Were he as fair once, as he now is foul,
And lifted up his brow against his Maker,
Well may proceed from him all tribulation.

O, what a marvel it appeared to me,
When I beheld three faces on his head!
The one in front, and that vermilion was;

Two were the others, that were joined with this
Above the middle part of either shoulder,
And they were joined together at the crest;

And the right-hand one seemed ‘twixt white and yellow
The left was such to look upon as those
Who come from where the Nile falls valley-ward.

Underneath each came forth two mighty wings,
Such as befitting were so great a bird;
Sails of the sea I never saw so large.

No feathers had they, but as of a bat
Their fashion was; and he was waving them,
So that three winds proceeded forth therefrom.

Thereby Cocytus wholly was congealed.
With six eyes did he weep, and down three chins
Trickled the tear-drops and the bloody drivel."

See, a terrible image of an infernal Trinity. Horrible. Now that’s what in neutral psychological terminology Jung calls the lower triad. He goes into this image in very nice detail in another work, in his essay on “The Phenomenology of Spirit in Fairy Tales”, a footnote refers to this, but I’d like to summarize what he says there for you. He is talking about the interpretation of a fairy tale that involves a three legged horse. This horse had been acquired by a magician from a witch who owned it, but as he rode away on the horse, which originally was four legged, when it was in the witches possession, it was a four legged horse, but as he rode away from it, and as he crossed the border, the border of the witches realm, 12 wolves attacked him, and tore off one of the horses hooves, so the magician was left with a three legged horse. There is more to this fairy tale, but that’s the part that concerns the lower triad. Jung then proceeds to tell us, that this three legged horse represents the lower or chthonic triad. Now I want to read what he say then:

“[CW09:1:426] Between the three and the four there exists the primary opposition of male and female, but whereas fourness is a symbol of wholeness, threeness is not. The latter, according to alchemy, denotes polarity, since one triad always presupposes another, just as high presupposes low, lightness darkness, good evil. In terms of energy, polarity means a potential, and wherever a potential exists there is the possibility of a current, a flow of events, for the tension of opposites strives for balance. If one imagines the quaternity as a square divided into two halves by a diagonal, one gets two triangles whose apices point in opposite directions. One could therefore say metaphorically that if the wholeness symbolized by the quaternity is divided into equal halves, it produces two opposing triads. This simple reflection shows how three can be derived from four, and in the same way the hunter of the captured princess explains how his horse, from being four-legged, became three-legged, through having one hoof torn off by the twelve wolves. The three-leggedness is due to an accident, therefore, which occurred at the very moment when the horse was leaving the territory of the dark mother. In psychological language we should say that when the unconscious wholeness becomes manifest, i.e., leaves the unconscious and crosses over into the sphere of consciousness, one of the four remains behind, held fast by the horror vacui of the unconscious. There thus arises a triad, which as we know—not from the fairytale but from the history of symbolism—constellates a corresponding triad in opposition to it—in other words, a conflict ensues.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 1, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung

He continues then saying that the horse that is missing the fourth leg, that the fourth leg that is missing from the horse – I should say – corresponds to the inferior function which remains connected with the matrix in the Unconscious. Here is a very finely presented formulation:

“[CW09:1:430] The lost component which is in the possession of the wolves belonging to the Great Mother is indeed only a quarter, but, together with the three, it makes a whole which does away with division and conflict.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 1, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung

“[CW09:1:431] But how is it that a quarter, on the evidence of symbolism, is at the same time a triad? Here the symbolism of our fairytale leaves us in the lurch, and we are obliged to have recourse to the facts of psychology. I have said previously that three functions can become differentiated, and only one remains under the spell of the unconscious. This statement must be defined more closely. It is an empirical fact that only one function becomes more or less successfully differentiated, which on that account is known as the superior or main function, and together with extraversion or introversion constitutes the type of conscious attitude. This function has associated with it one or two partially differentiated auxiliary functions which hardly ever attain the same degree of differentiation as the main function, that is, the same degree of applicability by the will. Accordingly they possess a higher degree of spontaneity than the main function, which displays a large measure of reliability and is amenable to our intentions. The fourth, inferior function proves on the other hand to be inaccessible to our will. It appears now as a teasing and distracting imp, now as a deus ex machina. But always it comes and goes of its own volition. From this it is clear that even the differentiated functions have only partially freed themselves from the unconscious; for the rest they are still rooted in it and to that extent they operate under its rule. Hence the three “differentiated” functions at the disposal of the ego have three corresponding unconscious components that have not yet broken loose from the unconscious. And just as the three conscious and differentiated parts of these functions are confronted by a fourth, undifferentiated function which acts as a painfully disturbing factor, so also the superior function seems to have its worst enemy in the unconscious. Nor should we omit to mention one final turn of the screw: like the devil who delights in disguising himself as an angel of light, the inferior function secretly and mischievously influences the superior function most of all, just as the latter represses the former most strongly.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 1, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung

What that means is that when the auxiliary and two functions, the second and third functions undergo their differentiation they in effect split. A part of them goes with the superior function and the other part goes with the inferior function and the result then is a pair of triads, you see. That’s the simple psychology that lies behind this massive image of the heavenly Trinity of Christianity and the Luciferian Trinity in the depths of Hell. When you get that symbolic image then you start to get the feeling impact of what it means for those two triads to have undergone such a separation.

Keep these ideas in mind whenever you encounter a threesome in a dream of a lowly nature, especially even animal nature, you see. Then you can say, that’s the lower triad.

OK. Now I wanna turn to theme number 4.

The symbolism of the North

What I want to speak about I tried to put on the board here in order to illustrate a particular example of what I called earlier clustered thinking. I recommend that as you read Aion as we proceed you make yourself charts of this kind to help keep in mind the cluster thinking that Jung is bringing to particular images. You see, he takes the image from Nostradamus’ prophecy where he say that the Antichrist shall have its beginning in the power of the Northern kings. Starting with that image from the prophecy “the Northern kings” Jung then starts talking about the symbolism of the North. What I clustered around there are a number of biblical passages that emerge as Jung’s cluster-thinking starts circumambulating the idea of the Antichrist coming from the North. Let’s start with Jeremiah 1:13.

"[Jer 1:13] A second time the word of Yahweh came to me, asking, 'What do you see?' I answered, 'I see a
cooking pot on the boil, with its mouth tilting from the north.'
[Jer 1:14] Then Yahweh said: 'From the north disaster will come boiling over on all who live in the country,
[Jer 1:15] for I am now summoning all the families of the kingdoms of the north, Yahweh declares. They will
come, and each will set his throne in front of the gates of Jerusalem, all round, against its walls and against all
the towns of Judah."

That’s a kind of prototype of Antichrist coming from the North. Isaiah 14:12.

"[Isa 14:12] How did you come to fall from the heavens, Daystar, son of Dawn? How did you come to be thrown to
the ground, conqueror of nations?
[Isa 14:13] You who used to think to yourself: I shall scale the heavens; higher than the stars of God I shall set
my throne. I shall sit on the Mount of Assembly far away to the north. "

Here is Lucifer coming from the North. Another very important reference is Ezekiel 1:4. We’re going to be talking about the vision of the 1st chapter of Ezekiel in detail later, but the beginning of that vision reads as follows:

"[Eze 1:3] the word of Yahweh was addressed to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in Chaldaea by the River Chebar.
There the hand of Yahweh came on him.
[Eze 1:4] I looked; a stormy wind blew from the north, a great cloud with flashing fire and brilliant light round it,
and in the middle, in the heart of the fire, a brilliance like that of amber,"

That’s the beginning of his grand vision of the nature of God, you see, coming from the North. The Job references I’m not going to take the time to go into, they pursue other angles of it. As Jung says in paragraph 158, he refers to another writer’s quoting Ezekiel and his vision of God coming from the North and relating that to the coming of Antichrist and Jung then says:

“[CW09:2:158] The pious author never stops to think how remarkable it is that the prophet’s vision of God should be blown along on the wings of the north wind, wrapped in this devilish smoke of threefold ignorance.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

You see, what this material indicates, he lays it all out, and what it indicates is that the Unconscious of these pious authors is pointing out the fact that devilish attributes and divine attributes come from the same source. They are the positive and negative manifestations of the Self. Those realizations are slipped in to pious discourse via the Unconscious of those who don’t realize what they are giving away. The North is both the abode of Seth, Typhon, Lucifer, the devil, and the source of the most magnificent revelation of deity that the whole Old Testament offers us.


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