Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 15 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class number 15, we’re covering tonight paragraphs 236 through 247. This is the final page of chapter 10 and the first half of chapter 11, “The Alchemical Interpretation of the Fish”.

I’m going to talk about four subjects tonight:

  • number one, the big fish dream
  • number two, magnetism
  • number three, the aqua doctrinae
  • and number four, the two categories of symbols.

Starting with number one, the big fish dream.

The Big Fish Dream

This is what Aion presents in paragraph 236, which I shall read. The big fish dream.

“[CW09:2:236] “I came to the bank of a broad, flowing river. I couldn’t see much at first, only water, earth, and rock. I threw the pages with my notes on them into the water, with the feeling that I was giving something back to the river. Immediately afterwards I had a fishing-rod in my hand. I sat down on a rock and started fishing. Still I saw nothing but water, earth, and rock. Suddenly a big fish bit. He had a silver belly and a golden back. As I drew him to land, the whole landscape became alive: the rock emerged like the primeval foundation of the earth, grass and flowers sprang up, and the bushes expanded into a great forest. A gust of wind blew and set everything in motion. Then, suddenly, I heard behind me the voice of Mr. X [an older man whom she knew only from photographs and from hearsay, but who seems to have been some kind of authority for her]. He said, quietly but distinctly: ‘The patient ones in the innermost realm are given the fish, the food of the deep.’ At this moment a circle ran round me, part of it touching the water. Then I heard the voice again: ‘The brave ones in the second realm may be given victory, for there the battle is fought.’ Immediately another circle ran round me, this time touching the other bank. At the same time I saw into the distance and a colourful landscape was revealed. The sun rose over the horizon. I heard the voice, speaking as if out of the distance: ‘The third and the fourth realms come, similarly enlarged, out of the other two. But the fourth realm’—and here the voice paused for a moment, as if deliberating—‘the fourth realm joins on to the first. It is the highest and the lowest at once, for the highest and the lowest come together. They are at bottom one.’” Here the dreamer awoke with a roaring in her ears.”

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

Now Jung tells us that this dream sums up in condensed form with the whole symbolism of the individuation process. So that fact makes it worth our closer examination. In fact, I suggest that if this dream makes enough impact on you that you can remember it, it can be very useful for amplification purposes whenever you encounter a fish dream. So that’s my idea to try to imprint it enough on you that you’ll remember it. And as part of that purpose, I drew a picture of it. See, there’s the dream right there on the board.

The X marks the spot of the dreamer where she’s standing on the shore of the river. And where the fishing rod is put in her hands. And then the four circles are indicated that emerge and turn. The river we can understand as the water of the unconscious and also as the river of life. And what happens in the dream can be divided into four steps.

  1. In the first step, the dreamer says, “I threw the pages with my notes on them into the water”. This is an image of the sacrificial act of paying attention to the unconscious, of working on the dreams, of scrutinizing one’s complexes, and doing active imagination, and offering those efforts to the waters out of which the dreams and the complexes come, you see. And when we do this kind of work, we’re doing psychological fishing. That’s what it is. And therefore, the dream indicates that fact because as soon as she throws her papers into the water, she has a fishing rod in her hand, indicating the fact that she’s engaged in the fishing process. So that’s step one. And it’s that step of paying attention to the unconscious that sets all the subsequent sequences into operation.
  2. So in the second step, with the fishing rod in her hand, she catches a fish with a silver belly and a golden back. This will correspond to the story of Tobias catching the fish, you remember, on the way
    to find Sarah. And that is the fish that would cure Sarah of her demonic possession and cure his father of blindness. This particular fish is a coniunctio fish because it’s two fishes in one. It’s got a silver belly and a golden back, so it’s a coniunctio of Sol and Luna. It signifies the mystery of the opposites and their reconciliation. This is though in this dream, the dreamer has caught both of the Lambspringk fishes at once. You remember last week’s Lambspringk image of the two fishes swimming in opposite directions. This particular fish is a union of those two in one.
  3. So having caught that coniunctio fish, then the third step unfolds. The fish now reveals its numinous nature because a theophany occurs. The whole landscape becomes alive. The rocks emerge like the primeval foundation of the earth. There’s an vegetation spring up and a gust of wind sets everything in motion. See this is an image of the original creation. So what’s happening here is that the foundation, the conscious personality is being laid down as represented by the rock that becomes the primeval foundation and the life impulse starts the flowering plants and the wind of the spirit sets things moving.
  4. Then comes the fourth step. This is the phenomenon of the authoritative voice. This is a theme that comes up occasionally in dreams and is always to be taken with the greatest respect because it’s the voice of the self speaking. It’s as though there’s been a shift now from the natural level of development to the human level. Not only does the wind and the earth and the flowers manifest, but now a human entity with the logos that can communicate on that level appears. It makes a pronouncement of transpersonal wisdom in which it announces four different items:
    1. First item is that the patient runs in the innermost realm are given the fish, the food of the deep, and then circle number one is drawn, the first little circle. This first circle is the one occupied by the patient ones, which I think would be a reference to those who are able to establish a relation to the unconscious. It does indeed require patience to be able to establish such a connection. When the connection is established, then a feeding process does occur. The food of the deep starts to become available to the Ego.
    2. On the second item that is announced, the brave ones in the second realm may be given victory for they are the battle of this thought, and then circle number two is drawn. That’s the larger circle, the second larger circle. This circle occupied by the brave ones, Jung suggests might refer to the enduring of a conflict perhaps between the conscious Ego and the Shadow. It certainly is true that it takes psychological courage to integrate the Shadow and to withdraw Shadow projections because what’s required in order to do that is that one is obliged to renounce once and for all the immature device of blaming others for what happens to you, and it does take courage to do that. So that perhaps would be what would be referred to by the second third circle.
    3. Then the third circle is mentioned, which is not described specifically. That might correspond to the conscious encounter with the Animus or the Anima. That would be a consistent possibility anyway.
    4. And then finally there is a fourth circle represented by this big dotted line. And the fourth realm is described this way. The fourth realm joins on to the first, it’s the highest and lowest at once, and they are at bottom one.
      This first circle would correspond to encounter with the self, with the totality of the psyche, and the way it’s described it recalls the axiom of Maria that says one becomes two, becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.

Whenever you encounter a fish dream, think of this one, this along with Tobias, in the “Book of Tobit” will offer you first rate associations.

Now moving to item number two, magnetism.


At the beginning of chapter 11, Jung returns to the Echeneis Remora text that we spoke about last time. This text is recorded back in paragraph 218. Let me remind you of that text.

“[CW:09:2:218] … that little fish the Echeneis, … is shut up in that deep mid region of the great universal sea. This little fish is extremely small, alone, and unique in its shape, but the sea is great and vast, and hence it is impossible for those to catch it who do not know in what part of the world it dwells. … we teach him that hidden secret of the wise, how he can naturally, speedily, and easily catch the little fish called Remora, which is able to hold back the proud vessels of the great Ocean sea (that is the spirit of the world). Those who are not sons of the art are altogether ignorant and know not those precious treasures which are concealed by nature in the precious and heavenly Aqua Vitae of our sea. But, that I may declare to you the clear light of our unique material, or our virgin soil, and teach you in what wise you may acquire the supreme art of the sons of wisdom, it is needful that I instruct you concerning the magnet of the wise, which has the power of attracting the little fish called Echeneis or Remora from out the centre and depth of the sea.”

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

That’s the crucial passage.

“[CW09:2:218] But, that I may declare to you the clear light of our unique material, or our virgin soil, and teach you in what wise you may acquire the supreme art of the sons of wisdom, it is needful that I instruct you concerning the magnet of the wise, which has the power of attracting the little fish called Echeneis or Remora from out the centre and depth of the sea.”

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

Now about this text Jung writes paragraph 239. So you won’t just get lost in the symbolic dimension. Let me remind you as I’m reading this that what we’re talking about is how to catch the Self.

Jung writes:

“[CW09:2:239] … The Echeneis exercises an attraction on ships that could best be compared with the influence of a magnet on iron. The attraction, so the historical tradition says, emanates from the fish and brings the vessel, whether powered by sail or oarsmen, to a standstill. I mention this seemingly unimportant feature because, as we shall see, in the alchemical view the attraction no longer proceeds from the fish but from a magnet which man possesses and which exerts the attraction that was once the mysterious property of the fish. … It is therefore a remarkable innovation when the alchemists set out to manipulate an instrument that would exert the same powers as the Echeneis, but on the Echeneis itself. This reversal of direction is important for the psychology of alchemy because it offers a parallel to the adept’s claim to be able to produce the filius macrocosmi, the equivalent of Christ—Deo concedente—through his art.”

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

See, what we’re talking about here corresponds to the work of the analyst who presumes by his technique or his procedure to be able to draw the Self from out of the unconscious of the patient. That’s the goal of the analytic process, the Jungian analytic process, to constellate the Self in the patient. That’s what centers, consolidates, and heals. So all our efforts are devoted to that goal.

This capacity to attract the Self is symbolized in the text by magnetism. The fish itself is a magnet and the alchemists by their wisdom, by their experimental knowledge or what they learn passed on from their teachers acquire the magnetism of the fish from the fish itself and turn it into an instrument that then is used to draw the fish out. That’s the basic image.

And as Jung says, it’s a remarkable innovation when the alchemists set out to manipulate an instrument that would exert the same powers as the Echeneis. Just as the psychological equivalent of it is a remarkable innovation.

In paragraph 240, Jung says that this magnet of the wise which could be taught was the knowledge of how to find the Prima Materia. This then leads him into the discussion of the alchemical term Magnesia, which is one of the many names for the Prima Materia.

Magnesia is linked to the term magnet first of all phonetically and perhaps also etymologically. There’s some uncertainty about that. The term “magnesia” derives from a district in ancient Greece where there were magnesium deposits. And according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the following is said about the term magnesia. It says:

“the magnesium stone is the designation of two different minerals. One mineral is the lodestone. – That’s the magnet. That’s the original primitive magnet. – And the other mineral is a stone shining like silver, perhaps talc.”

Oxford English Dictionary

And the dictionary says:

“it’s not clear which of these two senses gave rise to the alchemical use. Of the term magnesia.”

Oxford English Dictionary

I think as with most double items in symbolism, we can understand as both as being relevant that the magnetic aspect of the magnesia and also the brilliant white luster. Most of us probably know magnesia chiefly from local magnesia of childhood. But the metal magnesium is a silvery lustry metal similar to aluminum.

So we arrive at the psychological idea that the Prima Materia, which with magnesia is one of the names of and is a primitive manifestation of the Self, has it innate luster in it and has innate magnetic qualities in it.

The symbolism of magnetism comes up very interestingly in the modern history of psychotherapy. I’m referring to Franz Anton Mesmer who has a good claim to be the discoverer of the Unconscious, although he didn’t use that term. Jung says about him that the original references to the Unconscious and its beginnings can be traced back to the time of the French Revolution and the first signs of it can be found in Mesmer. His dates are 1734 to 1815. His life paralleled the life of Goethe. He was just 15 years older than Goethe, but otherwise their lives went right together. He was an Austrian physician who was influenced by Paracelsus and developed the idea of what he called animal magnetism. He evidently was a very charismatic man, but he was gripped by the “magnet archetype”.

The basic principles of his ideas of animal magnetism as he developed them were that there is a subtle physical fluid that fills the universe and forms a connecting medium between man, the earth, the heavenly bodies, and also between man and man. We now call that fluid the Collective Unconscious. He thought that disease is the unequal distribution of this fluid in the human body and that recovery occurs when equilibrium is re-established. And by various magnetic techniques, this fluid can be channeled, stored, and transmitted in one place to another, from one person to another.

In his very earliest experiments, he would have his patient drink water with the powdered iron in it, and then he’d pass a magnet around her body, so that the iron would go to the right place. He refined that technique, and he abandoned the literal magnet and powdered iron, but he thought himself as a living magnet. So he would do both individual and collective group therapy.

His individual therapy would be set up this way. It’s not too much different from what we do today. He’d sit directly in front of the patient, very close, holding her hands and pressing the patient’s thumbs into his hands and looking fixedly into her eyes. I say her because I imagine most of them, but that’s probably what the magnet doesn’t probably got activated a little better that way. And then he would make passes over the body at places that were thought to be relevant. That was his individual method.

His collective method was, he had his patient sit around a circular tank of water holding iron rods that emerged from the tank. And the patients would be joined each other by a rope, so they’d all be linked up, and they’d each be holding their own individual iron bar, and Mesmer would enter, and he would make various movements to circulate the magnetic fluid, and that would generate the effects.

So what we were evidently dealing with were quite powerful individual and collective transferences, you see, that he described in terms of animal magnetism, that the image of the magnet is basic. So that’s sort of the background of the roots of our professional work, the image of the magnet.

Okay, theme number three is the aqua doctrinae.

The Aqua Doctrinae

Jung brings up this term in paragraph 243.

“[CW09:2:243] … In the “Duodecim tractatus” the magnet appears as the symbol of the aqua roris nostri (water of our dew), “whose mother is the midpoint of the heavenly and earthly Sun and Moon.” This water, the famed aqua permanens, is apostrophized by the anonymous author.”

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

And then in the next paragraph, Jung says,

“[CW09:2:244] The underlying thought here is the idea of the doctrine, the “aqua doctrinae.””

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

The text equates the magnet to water, and Jung then says this particular water, which corresponds to the magnet of the wise, corresponds to the idea of the aqua doctrinae.

Now that’s a term that Jung takes from Origen, and he speaks about it in several other places. In fact, I suggest that you put in the margin a couple of references here to the aqua doctrinae. Put in asterisks after the aqua doctrinae of paragraph 244, and in the margin note the reference CW 14, paragraph 372, and CW 16, paragraph 4.

[Note: here is a gap in the audio recording.]

See, for Origen, the symbolism of water meant the aqua doctrinae, the water of doctrine. So that, for instance, in the 19th chapter of John after the death of Christ on the cross, a soldier pierced his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water. The water that came out was interpreted as the aqua doctrinae.

And again, in the 17th chapter of Exodus, Yahweh instructs Moses to strike the rock and water will flow from it for the people to drink. That was interpreted, that water, as the aqua doctrinae.

Now, Jung makes an important description of this aqua doctrinae in “Psychology of Transference”, paragraph 478. He’s talking about picture number seven in which the dead, united body, is ready to be subjected to dew from heaven and to be washed by water. And Jung talks about this water.

“[CW16:478] … Here we seem to have a hint about the treatment required: faced with the disorientation of the patient, the doctor must hold fast to his own orientation; that is, he must know what the patient’s condition means, he must understand what is of value in the dreams, and do so moreover with the help of that aqua doctrinae which alone is appropriate to the nature of the unconscious. In other words, he must approach his task with views and ideas capable of grasping unconscious symbolism. Intellectual or supposedly scientific theories are not adequate to the nature of the unconscious, because they make use of a terminology which has not the slightest affinity with its pregnant symbolism. The waters must be drawn together and held fast by the one water, by the forma ignea verae aquae. The kind of approach that makes this possible must therefore be plastic and symbolical, and itself the outcome of personal experience with unconscious contents. It should not stray too far in the direction of abstract intellectualism; hence we are best advised to remain within the framework of traditional mythology, which has already proved comprehensive enough for all practical purposes. This does not preclude the satisfaction of theoretical requirements, but these should be reserved for the private use of the doctor.”

Collected Works, Volume 16, Practice of Psychotherapy by Carl Jung

I think that’s a very important passage that we all can reflect on because in my experience, we all tend to cling to abstract theoretical formulations because they’re the easiest. They don’t require wholeness in response and wholeness in response is very hard.

This also applies, I think, to interpretations that go back to childhood experience. It’s relatively easy to point out that a current life experience, a current manifestation of a complex derives from its earlier edition, its earlier version. We’ve got a theory that enables us to understand that very well. Although such interpretations are partially true. The trouble is they don’t heal. They don’t transform the original experience. They point out the original experience, but one is still stuck with the original experience, you see. They satisfy the head, but the heart says so what? What we need at such time is the aqua doctrinae that Jung is speaking of, namely the relevant, amplifying image that has the power to transform the complex or the original traumatic experience by enlarging the conscious attitude, by setting the original experience in a larger context that releases the Ego from bondage to the original trauma. That’s how I understand the aqua doctrinae idea.

Theme number four is the two categories of symbols.

The Two Categories of Symbols

This takes us to paragraph 246, a short but rather difficult paragraph that I thought deserved some comment. It reads as follows.

“[CW09:2:246] Obviously a distinction must be made between two categories of symbols: first, those which refer to the extrapsychic chemical substance or its metaphysical equivalent, e.g., serpens mercurialis, spiritus, anima mundi, veritas, sapientia, etc.; second, those denoting the chemical preparations produced by the adept, such as solvents (aqua, acetum, lac virginis) or their “philosophical” equivalent, the theoria or scientia, which, when it is “right,” has miraculous effects on matter, as Dorn explains in his philosophical treatises.”

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

You have to read this several times to get straight what the basic categories are. What they are:

  1. the first one is the basic objective substances
  2. and the second one is the preparations that are compounded by the alchemist.

So it’s the natural original substances on the one hand and the preparations made by the alchemist, by the alchemist art on the other hand.

Now, what’s emphasized here, and it’s in other places too, which is all part of this symbolism of the instrument of the magnet being in the hands of the alchemist. What symbolized here is the crucial importance of the conscious human enterprise in the process of dealing with the Unconscious.

This leads us in to the difference that Jung emphasizes between the religious and the alchemical attitudes. He goes into that in “Psychology and Alchemy”. I’m going to read you just a little bit from it in paragraph 414. He’s distinguishing the Christian formulation from the alchemical formulation.

“[CW12:414] Now, all these myth-pictures represent a drama of the human psyche on the further side of consciousness, showing man as both the one to be redeemed and the redeemer. The first formulation is Christian, the second alchemical. In the first case man attributes the need of redemption to himself and leaves the work of redemption, the actual ἆθλον or opus, to the autonomous divine figure; in the latter case man takes upon himself the duty of carrying out the redeeming opus, and attributes the state of suffering and consequent need of redemption to the anima mundi imprisoned in matter.”

Collected Works, Volume 12, Psychology and Alchemy by Carl Jung

Whole question of who’s being redeemed by whom. Alchemy shows man as both the one to be redeemed and the redeemer. In the case of the religious attitude, man attributes the need of redemption to himself and leaves the work of redemption, the actual opus to the divine figure. Sacrifice of Christ does the redeeming, you see.

In the case of the alchemical attitude, however, man takes upon himself the duty of carrying out the redeeming opus and attributes the state of suffering and consequent need of redemption to the anima mundi imprisoned in matter. And he describes it more clearly again in paragraph 420.

When he says:

“[CW12:420] … For the alchemist, the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter. … His attention is not directed to his own salvation through God’s grace, but to the liberation of God from the darkness of matter. By applying himself to this miraculous work he benefits from its salutary effect, but only incidentally.”

Collected Works, Volume 12, Psychology and Alchemy by Carl Jung

Quite a difference, you see.

So this is an elaboration of what it means to make the distinction between the basic natural substances on one hand and the preparations compounded by the alchemist on the other hand, because those are the preparations that do the job. They correspond to the magnet that the alchemist holds in his hands to draw forth the fish from the deep, all very provocative and suggestive imagery concerning the nature of the analytic task.


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