Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 11 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class 11, covering paragraphs 162 to 176. This includes most of the chapter entitled “The Historical Significance of the Fish”.

I have 4 themes tonight I want to center my remarks around.

  1. The image of the “Birth of the Messiah”
  2. The 2 messiahs
  3. The Book of Tobit
  4. The destruction of the god-image

So, number 1.

The image of the “Birth of the Messiah”

Paragraph 163 leads into this theme where Jung writes:

“[CW09:2:163] Like every hero, Christ had a childhood that was threatened (massacre of the innocents, flight into Egypt). The astrological “interpretation” of this can be found in Revelation 12:1”

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

That refers to the woman clothed with the sun. I want to read that passage because the image is an important one. It starts with revelation 12:1 and goes for several verses. This is from the Book of Revelation which you remember was a grand apocalyptic vision that was experienced by Saint John the divine, on the island of Patmos. Chapter 12 reads as follows:

[Rev 12:1] Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on
her head a crown of twelve stars.
[Rev 12:2] She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth.
[Rev 12:3] Then a second sign appeared in the sky: there was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten
horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet.
[Rev 12:4] Its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them to the ground, and the dragon stopped
in front of the woman as she was at the point of giving birth, so that it could eat the child as soon as it was born.
[Rev 12:5] The woman was delivered of a boy, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and
the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne,
[Rev 12:6] while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had prepared a place for her to be looked after
for twelve hundred and sixty days.

That’s the image that Jung refers to here as a kind of a variation of the “Christ nativity”. Jung attaches considerable importance to this image and this reference in Revelation and that’s indicated by his lengthy discussion of it in “Answer to Job”, beginning with paragraph 710. He observes there that the image corresponds to the myth of Leto‘s giving birth to Apollo. The story was that Leto was pregnant with the twins Artemis and Apollo, but Hera’s wrath pursued her and Hera set up a python to pursue her, allowing her no rest. Hera would not let any place on Earth give aid to Leto to have her birth, which finally took place on Delos, which was a floating island. So, we have the same image there of a pregnant woman with a serpent or dragon waiting to devour the child as soon as it comes forth.

Jung in his commentary in “Answer to Job” emphasizes that the text says that it’s a woman clothed with the Sun, he says:

“[CW11:711] Note the simple statement “a woman”—an ordinary woman, not a goddess and not an eternal virgin immaculately conceived.”

Collected Works, Volume 11, Psychology and Religion: West and East by Carl Jung

He is referring here to the idea that the next incarnation of the Self is symbolized in this image and as it appears in the individuation process it will be born out of the ordinary human being and not the special, purified one represented by the Virgin Mary. He then continues by pointing out that the child is born out of the union of the opposites since the woman is clothed in the Sun and has the Moon under her feet, so that she is actually a personification of the coniunctio of Sol and Luna. Then he goes on with these words:

“[CW11:713] The man-child is “caught up” to God, who is manifestly his father, and the mother is hidden in the wilderness. This would seem to indicate that the child-figure will remain latent for an indefinite time and that its activity is reserved for the future. The story of Hagar may be a prefiguration of this. The similarity between this story and the birth of Christ obviously means no more than that the birth of the man-child is an analogous event.”

Collected Works, Volume 11, Psychology and Religion: West and East by Carl Jung

“[CW11:713] This strange repetition or duplication of the characteristic events in Christ’s life gave rise to the conjecture that a second Messiah is to be expected at the end of the world. What is meant here cannot be the return of Christ himself, for we are told that he would come “in the clouds of heaven,” but not be born a second time, and certainly not from a sun-moon conjunction.”

Collected Works, Volume 11, Psychology and Religion: West and East by Carl Jung

“[CW11:713] The fact that John uses the myth of Leto and Apollo in describing the birth may be an indication that the vision, in contrast to the Christian tradition, is a product of the unconscious.”

Collected Works, Volume 11, Psychology and Religion: West and East by Carl Jung

I go into this in particular because I think it’s a particularly important image in its relevance to the individuation process which has just been discovered and made explicit currently at the end of our aeon. The idea is that the man-child who’s caught up to God is an image of the manifestation of the Self which is to be realized through the efforts of the ordinary man at the end of the Christian aeon. The image is a prefiguration of the discovery of the individuation process. That’s why Jung paid so much attention to it.

Then, in our text he proceeds to give us another account of the birth of the messiah that’s found in a Jewish legend and this account is a kind of parallel to the vision in Revelation. This is found in paragraph 167. Reads as follows:

“[CW09:2:167] Elias found in Bethlehem a young woman sitting before her door with a newborn child lying on the ground beside her, flecked with blood. She explained that her son had been born at an evil hour, just when the temple was destroyed. Elias admonished her to look after the child. When he came back again five weeks later, he asked about her son. “He neither walks, nor sees, nor speaks, nor hears, but lies there like a stone,” said the woman. Suddenly a wind blew from the four corners of the earth, bore the child away, and plunged him into the sea. Elias lamented that it was now all up with the salvation of Israel, but a bath kol (voice) said to him:
It is not so. He will remain in the great sea for four hundred years, and eighty years in the rising smoke of the children of Korah, eighty years under the gates of Rome, and the rest of the time he will wander round in the great cities until the end of the days comes.”

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

Jung then says about this story that:

“[CW09:2:168] This story describes a Messiah who, though born in Bethlehem, is wafted by divine intervention into the Beyond (sea = unconscious).”

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

You see this legend has many similarities to the Sun-Woman text in Revelation. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that they influenced one another, they are completely autochthonous products. In each case the birth occurs at a time of great external danger and in both cases the child is taken into protection. In one case he’s taken up to be with God in Heaven, and in the other case he’s taken up into the sea where he would remain for a stipulated period of time.

These kind of parallels of images that crop up at approximately the same time indicate the fact the an underlying archetype is activated and it’s like a bulb or a root that throws up shoots and when the shoots come up they’re not exactly the same, but they have similarities with each other, and similarities indicate that they derive from the same root. Of course the story of the nativity of Christ is another shoot from that same root and there again the newborn messiah is born into an environment of grave danger. Herod’s ought to get him. The slaughter of the innocents is an evidence of that. This theme of the danger that surrounds the newborn Self corresponds to the fact that the established conscious dominant, the conscious authority that the Ego is governing itself by, is gravely threatened by the birth of the Self, because it realizes that its authority is to be overruled. We have a particularly interesting nuance about that image in the Revelation vision because the fact that the dragon is waiting to devour the newborn Self indicates that the dragon power lies behind the efforts of the Ego to maintain its own supremacy on the occasion when the greater authority has arrived to take over.

I discuss this theme in a little more detail in chapter 3 of “The Christian Archetype”.

OK. Let’s go on to theme number 2.

The 2 messiahs

Jung presents this theme in paragraph 168, which I read part of.

“[CW09:2:168] The later, mainly Cabalistic tradition speaks of two Messiahs, the Messiah ben Joseph (or ben Ephraim) and the Messiah ben David. They were compared to Moses and Aaron, also to two roes, and this on the authority of the Song of Solomon 4:5: “Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.” Messiah ben Joseph is, according to Deuteronomy 33 : 17, the “firstling of his bullock,” and Messiah ben David rides on an ass. Messiah ben Joseph is the first, Messiah ben David the second. Messiah ben Joseph must die in order to “atone with his blood for the children of Yahweh.” He will fall in the fight against Gog and Magog, and Armilus will kill him. Armilus is the Anti-Messiah, whom Satan begot on a block of marble. He will be killed by Messiah ben David in his turn. Afterwards, ben David will fetch the new Jerusalem down from heaven and bring ben Joseph back to life. This ben Joseph plays a strange role in later tradition. Tabari, the commentator on the Koran, mentions that the Antichrist will be a king of the Jews, and in Abarbanel’s Mashmi‘a Yeshu‘ah the Messiah ben Joseph actually is the Antichrist. So he is not only characterized as the suffering Messiah in contrast to the victorious one, but is ultimately thought of as his antagonist.”

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

You see what Jung does here in this paragraph, which he does so many places in this book, is that he condenses a great deal of legendary material into very compact form. Now, let’s consider a little more leisurely what’s implied by this double messiah.

The Ben Joseph messiah suggests one with a personal father, whereas the Ben David messiah suggests one with more the archetypal father, David as the great historical king would carry more the archetypal idea. This idea of two distinct messiah figures is developed quite explicitly in the Old Testament. There are a number of texts scattered throughout the Old Testament that all Jewish and Christian scholars agree are messiah text – they are considered to refer to the messiah. I want to read you two such examples to show you how one refers to what’s called the Ben Joseph messiah and the other one to the Ben David messiah. It’s the difference between the royal, victorious, ruling messiah and the meek, suffering messiah.

We find an example of the royal, ruling messiah in Psalm number 2, which is considered as explicitly a messianic Psalm. It reads like this:

[Psa 2:1] Why this uproar among the nations, this impotent muttering of the peoples?
[Psa 2:2] Kings of the earth take up position, princes plot together against Yahweh and his anointed - his anointed means messiah, that's the word,
[Psa 2:3] 'Now let us break their fetters! Now let us throw off their bonds!'
[Psa 2:4] He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs, Yahweh makes a mockery of them,
[Psa 2:5] then in his anger rebukes them, in his rage he strikes them with terror.
[Psa 2:6] 'I myself have anointed my king on Zion my holy mountain.' - He's talking about His messiah
[Psa 2:7] I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh: He said to me, 'You are my son, today have I fathered you.
[Psa 2:8] Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright, the whole wide world as your possession.
[Psa 2:9] With an iron sceptre you will break them, shatter them like so many pots.'
[Psa 2:10] So now, you kings, come to your senses, you earthly rulers, learn your lesson!
[Psa 2:11] In fear be submissive to Yahweh;
[Psa 2:12] with trembling kiss his feet, lest he be angry and your way come to nothing, for his fury flares up in a
moment. How blessed are all who take refuge in him!

So, that’s the description of the regal, ruling, victorious messiah. Now you get a very different picture in some of the suffering servant passages in Isaiah, which is also universally acknowledged as a messiah text.

[Isa 52:14] As many people were aghast at him -- he was so inhumanly disfigured that he no longer looked like a
[Isa 52:15] so many nations will be astonished and kings will stay tight-lipped before him, seeing what had never
been told them, learning what they had not heard before.
[Isa 53:1] Who has given credence to what we have heard? And who has seen in it a revelation of Yahweh's
[Isa 53:2] Like a sapling he grew up before him, like a root in arid ground. He had no form or charm to attract us,
no beauty to win our hearts;
[Isa 53:3] he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it
were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard.
[Isa 53:4] Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him
as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God;
[Isa 53:5] whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment
reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises.

You see both these passages are talking about the messiah, but the similarity ends with the name. They’re totally different. What they represent is two aspects of the Egos experience of the Self.

The one aspect is an imperious authority, one who must be obeyed, and the other is a dispenser of suffering who also shares in the suffering that it dispenses.

You see it’s as though Yahweh and Job were united in a single person. In the course of the individuation process these two figures are encountered by the Ego and to some extent or other inevitably there’s identification with each of the figures. In the course of experiencing them they have to be identified with a bit at least, although it’s important that that be kept as little as possible because they symbolize the kind of experience that the Ego needs to accept while not being possessed by it. You see the two aspects are the passive and active versions of the experience. There are times when the Ego must submit to that imperious authority and there are times when it must be the living expression of that authority. Similarly with the other aspect there are times when the Ego experiences the redeeming effect of the suffering Self – so to speak – and there are other times when the Ego is obliged to itself experience the suffering serving aspect which then promotes the redeeming aspect of consciousness. It’s the two version of the Self-experience, the active and the receptive version.
Just in passing I would point out the interesting fact that Jung chose as a motto for part one of “Psychology and Alchemy” a passage from the suffering servant text of Isaiah. The one he chose was the: “The bruised reed he shall not break, and the smoking flax – a “flickering wick would be a better translation” – “he shall not quench.… (D.V.) – Isaiah 42:3”

OK. Theme 3.

The Book of Tobit

Jung refers to this in paragraph 174 where he says we come across the healing fish in the story of Tobit. He condenses that story into a couple of more sentences there. This is story that’s so relevant to the analytic process that I wanna expand on it a little bit. The Book of Tobit is one of the books of the apocrypha. You will not find it in the protestant or Jewish bibles, but you will find it in Catholic bibles which take their contents from the Septuagint, from the Greek Old Testament. Let me summarize that story for you.

It’s the analytic fish story par excellence. Old man Tobit lives in Nineveh. He’s blind, persecuted and neglected, and prays that he can die – he wants to die. The same day that he’s doing that a young woman, Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, who lives in the city of Media, was also contemplating suicide, because she have had seven marriages and each time on the wedding night the demon Asmodeus had killed her new husband. So, simultaneously you’ve got these two figures at different levels. The blind old man praying to die and the young woman whose demon kills her husbands, contemplating suicide. In the course of Tobit’s prayer, or upon on Tobit’s prayer, he remembers that he had once deposited 10 talents of silver with a man in Media. Very sizable sum. He calls his son Tobias, and says to him: I remember, I’ve dropped this deposit of silver in Media, I want you to go and claim it. So Tobias sets out with a fellow traveler. The fellow traveler turns out to be the angel Raphael. On the first night they camp at the Tigris river bank and a great fish leaps out and threatens to swallow Tobias’ foot. Raphael tells him to catch that fish, extract the gall, the heart and the liver from it. There is a big conflict and Tobias catches the fish and makes the extractions and then he puts those parts aside, then he eats the rest. Then when they arrive in Media, Tobias recovers the deposited silver and also meets Sarah and he courts her, and they marry. But then comes the wedding night. Then Rafael informs him of what the value of these extracted fish material is. He says you take the liver and heart and burn it and the smoke will drive away the evil demon. And so it happens. Then they return to Nineveh, and Tobias’ father’s blindness is cured by a applying the gall of the fish to his eyes and then at that point Raphael the angel reveals himself for what he was and then flies away. Some of you may remember Rembrandt‘s picture of that moment when Raphael has revealed himself and then is taken off, you see, on his way. That’s the story of Tobit.

This is a story I think of whenever I’m brought a fish dream. And there are a lot of fish dreams, if you’re alert for it, you’ll see them frequently, because it’s a very important theme. See, the original state is one of blindness and despair. You can take it either way. You can take Tobit as the Ego and Sarah as the Anima, or you can reverse it, and take Sarah as the Ego and Tobias as the Animus figures. Either way there is a two-fold despair: a despair consciously and unconsciously. It’s a double state. The prayer sets things in motion. Tobit’s prayer. Because then he remembers the deposited money and he sends Tobias out to get it, so that the trip gets started. The helpful angel appears as the guide. Then comes the central issue of the story when the fish leaps out and threatens to Tobias. That’s the central event. It’s potentially a curative fish, but it appears first in a threatening guise. It’s a kind of a lower version of Raphael, you might say. Then there is a struggle with the fish and the question is: who is going to catch whom, you see. Tobias manages to catch the fish, then extracts its curative qualities and then everything else follows as a consequence, because he then meets the Anima, and the marriage can be successfully consummated because of the extracted curative entities. A rich quantity of Libido is extracted from the Unconscious and brought back to Consciousness and simultaneously Tobit’s blindness is cured.

So the central image is the story of the encounter with the fish. Now that’s what the majority of this book is about. It’s about the fish. I think as is already evident to you, as will become increasingly evident as the fish material accumulates, the image of the fish basically has two paradoxical meanings. On the one hand it’s an image of the cold blooded, undifferentiated primordial, infantile psyche. The original concupiscence. That’s one side of its meaning. The other side of its meaning as in its identification with Christ and the whole aeon is as the symbol of the Self. So it’s sort of highest and lowest simultaneously. That corresponds to the double fact that when it first appears to Tobias it’s a threat until it’s been dealt with and extracted and then it becomes a most valid valuable remedy and curative entity.

Dealings with the fish have really 3 steps to them:

  1. Catching of the fish
  2. The extracting of its healing virtues
  3. Applying the remedy achieved in the living situation.

I would call those 3 steps:

  1. Capture
  2. Extraction
  3. Transformation.

This I consider to be the essence of the whole analytic process. It’s all captured in that single image of encounter with the fish and the three steps of catching it, extracting it, and the transformative application of it to the living situation,

Let me give you an example of such a dream image in my own experience. Very early in my own personal analysis I had what I take to be my initial dream. Not necessarily my absolutely first one, but the really meaningful one. I can tell you it’d be the initial one.

In the dream a golden fish was jumping up and through the floor and I was in the process of trying to catch it. It was a rather complicated process of catching that I won't go into for reasons of time, but I succeeded in catching it and then the next task was to extract its blood. I got its blood out of it, I had it in a beaker, and then the danger was that the blood might clot before the process was finished.I was in the process of boiling that blood which was supposed to keep it permanently fluid if that succeeded. Then an older man, whom I identified as a spokesman for tradition, told me: that process, that would never work. The blood is sure to clot. However I didn't think so and I thought I had a good chance in succeeding and I kept on boiling it. That was the dream.

As you can see, three steps are involved: the catching, the extracting, and the transformative application. It’s a personal, individual variant of the Book of Tobit, actually. You’ll find a lot of examples of that image, once you’re familiar with it. Once you know it, then you see it. Before you’re familiar with it, it passes right by and you never get it.

OK. Theme number 4.

The destruction of the god-image

I wanna read to you important paragraph 170.

“[CW09:2:170] As the highest value and supreme dominant in the psychic hierarchy, the God-image is immediately related to, or identical with, the self, and everything that happens to the God-image has an effect on the latter. Any uncertainty about the God-image causes a profound uneasiness in the self, for which reason the question is generally ignored because of its painfulness. But that does not mean that it remains unasked in the unconscious. What is more, it is answered by views and beliefs like materialism, atheism, and similar substitutes, which spread like epidemics. They crop up wherever and whenever one waits in vain for the legitimate answer. The ersatz product represses the real question into the unconscious and destroys the continuity of historical tradition which is the hallmark of civilization. The result is bewilderment and confusion. Christianity has insisted on God’s goodness as a loving Father and has done its best to rob evil of substance. The early Christian prophecy concerning the Antichrist, and certain ideas in late Jewish theology, could have suggested to us that the Christian answer to the problem of Job omits to mention the corollary, the sinister reality of which is now being demonstrated before our eyes by the splitting of our world: the destruction of the God-image is followed by the annulment of the human personality.”

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

See this is the malady of our time. The destruction of the god-image. The more one reflects on it, the more experience one accumulates on the subject, the more one realizes that all the great sociological and individual symptomatology of our time: crime, alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse, state of general disorientation – they are all symptoms of the same fact, the destruction of the god-image. This statement points to the ultimate task of Jungian analysis which is the reconstruction of the god-image in the individual. That’s what the fish story accomplishes too. They are talking about the same thing actually. I think the more one realizes that is our central task as Jungian analysts it will help us to understand how this difficult material that Jung assembles in Aion is really profoundly relevant to our analytic work.

OK. That completes my remarks, but I do want to mention a couple of corrections.

  • On page 112, note 38 should read a little differently than it does. The 3rd line of note 38 should read: “like a fish which darts at a baited hook and does not only lay hold of the bait”. They’ve messed up the sequence of words.
  • The other correction is on page 113, 10 lines down, where it says “the angel Raphael helps Tobit”, he helps Tobias, not Tobit. Tobit is the father, Tobias is the son. So in the story of Tobit the angel Raphael helps Tobias to catch the fish that’s about to feed him.


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