Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 17 by Edward Edinger



This is Aion class number 17, and it covers paragraphs 267 to 286, which is chapter 12, entitled “The Background to the Psychology of Christian Alchemical Symbolism”. I have 5 themes I want to deal with tonight:

  1. Number one is the importance of myth and dogma
  2. Number two is two parallel worldviews
  3. Number three the Christian creed
  4. Number four anamnesis
  5. And number five the apostle Paul in Athens

This assignment, you’ll agree, something of a rest-bit, it’s a little easier to read than many of the others because in it Jung is just talking to us and not presenting the heavy actual material of the psyche, but we’ll get back to that next time.

The importance of myth and dogma

But, the chapter does continue a theme that was sounded in the last chapter which I’ve taken as my number one theme, the importance of myth and dogma. You remember that came up last time and there were some questions came up about it and I wanna return to the paragraph it referred to which is paragraph 259 and we reinforcing it anyway.

“[259] For without the existence of conscious concepts apperception is, as we know, impossible. This explains numerous neurotic disturbances which arise from the fact that certain contents are constellated in the unconscious but cannot be assimilated owing to the lack of apperceptive concepts that would “grasp” them. That is why it is so extremely important to tell children fairytales and legends, and to inculcate religious ideas (dogmas) into grown-ups, because these things are instrumental symbols with whose help unconscious contents can be canalized into consciousness, interpreted, and integrated. Failing this, their energy flows off into conscious contents which, normally, are not much emphasized, and intensifies them to pathological proportions. We then get apparently groundless phobias and obsessions—crazes, idiosyncrasies, hypochondriac ideas, and intellectual perversions suitably camouflaged in social, religious, or political garb.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

See, the idea here is that the archetypes of the Unconscious in order to have an appropriate effect on the Ego, in order to have their effects transmitted to Ego-consciousness need to have bridges on which to reach consciousness and these bridges are supplied by religious and mythological images and ideas that already exist as an accepted part of consciousness. That’s why knowledge of myths and religious dogma Jung considers to be so important, because those images function as bridges that allow the effects of the archetypes of the Unconscious entry, so to speak, into Consciousness. If the conscious Ego is lacking such ideas, then these archetypal energies flow into containers that are too small for them.

I wanna give you an example of that, an example that Jung uses, he perceives it pretty important because he used it in his Terry lectures, so you can find this example starting in paragraph 19 of volume 11 [in the Collected Works]. In these lectures he describes a patient who was gripped by the compulsive idea that he had cancer in the intestines and although he went to repeated, exhaustive medical examinations and was repeatedly assured that there was no physical basis, that didn’t make any difference. He was convinced that he had it, or at the very least, if he didn’t have it, he might have it. That amounts to the same thing. So Jung then talks about this particular case as an example, so he says:

“[19] What, then, shall we say to our patient with the imaginary cancer? I would tell him: “Yes, my friend, you are really suffering from a cancer-like thing, you really do harbour in yourself a deadly evil. However, it will not kill your body, because it is imaginary. But it will eventually kill your soul. It has already spoilt and even poisoned your human relations and your personal happiness and it will go on growing until it has swallowed your whole psychic existence. So that in the end you will not be a human being any more, but an evil destructive tumour.””

Collected Works, Volume 11, by Carl Jung

“[20] It is obvious to our patient that he is not the author of his morbid imagination, although his theoretical turn of mind will certainly suggest that he is the owner and maker of his own imaginings. If a man is suffering from a real cancer, he never believes himself to be responsible for such an evil, despite the fact that the cancer is in his own body. But when it comes to the psyche we instantly feel a kind of responsibility, as if we were the makers of our psychic conditions.”

Collected Works, Volume 11 by Carl Jung

I’m skipping on.

“[24] It is, to my mind, a fatal mistake to regard the human psyche as a purely personal affair and to explain it exclusively from a personal point of view. Such a mode of explanation is only applicable to the individual in his ordinary everyday occupations and relationships. If, however, some slight trouble occurs, perhaps in the form of an unforeseen and somewhat unusual event, instantly instinctual forces are called up, forces which appear to be wholly unexpected, new, and strange.”

Collected Works, Volume 11 by Carl Jung

When some slight trouble occurs and then a whole new level emerges, that’s the archetypal level and collective forces rush up, and he says: as a matter of fact we are always living on as a volcano.

“[26] Our cancer case shows clearly how impotent man’s reason and intellect are against the most palpable nonsense. I always advise my patients to take such obvious but invincible nonsense as the manifestation of a power and a meaning they have not yet understood.”

Collected Works, Volume 11 by Carl Jung

“[26] Our patient is confronted with a power of will and suggestion more than equal to anything his consciousness can put against it. In this precarious situation it would be bad strategy to convince him that in some incomprehensible way he is at the back of his own symptom, secretly inventing and supporting it. Such a suggestion would instantly paralyse his fighting spirit, and he would get demoralized. It is far better for him to understand that his complex is an autonomous power directed against his conscious personality.”

Collected Works, Volume 11 by Carl Jung

In other words: God. His cancer-phobia is a manifestation of the inner God-Image, an autonomous power that transcends the capacity of the Ego and this is an example of Jung’s remarks in paragraph 259 of how archetypal energies that do not have adequate bridges into Consciousness then flow into containers that are too small for them.

Theme number two: two parallel worldviews.

Two parallel worldviews

This theme is brought up in paragraphs 267 and 268 where Jung says:

“[267] … we’re [<- Edinger’s change] witnessing today the curious spectacle of two parallel world-views neither of which knows, or wishes to know, anything about the other.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

And then down in the next paragraph he says:

“[268] Thus, in the course of the eighteenth century, there arose that notorious rift between faith and knowledge. Faith lacked experience and science missed out the soul. Instead, science believed fervently in absolute objectivity and assiduously overlooked the fundamental difficulty that the real vehicle and begetter of all knowledge is the psyche, the very thing that scientists knew the least about for the longest time.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

The two worldviews then are:

  1. One: the world of faith, antiquated, concretistic, parochial, religious faith and everybody’s faith is always assumed to be the only really true one, you know. That’s the one worldview.
  2. And the other worldview is a secularized, rationalistic, soulless science. With eyes to see, you look around and you see this conflict everywhere in the outer-world, just everywhere.

And as Jung says in another place, in paragraph 280, the conflict of opposites can never be reconciled on their own level, they can only be reconciled by finding a third position that’s on a new level and Jungian-psychology provides that third position which is capable of reconciling these two parallel worldviews, and it’s not only the collective psyche that’s split in this fashion but the same split occurs in great numbers of individuals. Of course there are great many individuals who identify with either one side or the other, one or the other of these two opposing worldviews, but there are also a good number of individuals who carry both viewpoints within them and keep them in compartments and in part of their lives is lived out in one of the viewpoints and another part of their lives live out the other viewpoint, and since they never connect with each other, they don’t experience any conflict, but if the analyst tries to bring those two hermetically sealed compartments together, then there’s an explosion, then you meet the most violent resistance.

The other kind of issue that often comes up in analytic practice is how to deal with individuals who are largely identified with one or the other of these two standpoints. Those identified with the secular, rationalistic attitude very often need to be introduced to mythological and the religious imagery, and the dreams will often suggest that procedure. On the other hand, those who are identified in a traditional, concretistic faith then have to be introduced to Voltaire or his equivalent, the rationalist who analyzed away religious faith. Speaking of Voltaire, I use his name particularly because of the fact, that really surprised me the first time I learned it, namely that on the landing of the stairs leading to Jung’s study, where he did his analytic work, was a statue of Voltaire, and Jung told somebody, some interviewer that he had that statue there to remind him of his shadow.

Concerning this matter of the conflict and the resolution Jung makes a comment in paragraph 282:

“[282] The problems which the integration of the unconscious sets modern doctors and psychologists can only be solved along the lines traced out by history, and the upshot will be a new assimilation of the traditional myth. This, however, presupposes the continuity of historical development. Naturally the present tendency to destroy all tradition or render it unconscious could interrupt the normal process of development for several hundred years and substitute an interlude of barbarism.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

In fact I take this remark to be a prediction, because the present tendency to destroy all tradition is already so far advanced in our collective operations, in our education system, that it seems like it’s certain to run its course in just this fashion.

Item number 3, the Christian creed.

The Christian creed

Jung refers to the Christian creed in paragraph 270:

“[270] Our Christian doctrine is a highly differentiated symbol that expresses the transcendent psychic—the God-image and its properties, to speak with Dorn. The Creed is a “symbolum.” This comprises practically everything of importance that can be ascertained about the manifestations of the psyche in the field of inner experience, but it does not include Nature, at least not in any recognizable form. Consequently, at every period of Christianity there have been subsidiary currents or undercurrents that have sought to investigate the empirical aspect of Nature not only from the outside but also from the inside.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

He then goes on to say that:

“[271] The word “dogma” has even acquired a somewhat unpleasant sound and frequently serves merely to emphasize the rigidity of a prejudice. For most people living in the West, it has lost its meaning as a symbol for a virtually unknowable and yet “actual”—i.e., operative—fact.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

Now, following up on these remarks and on the earlier remarks in which Jung says how important it is that Consciousness be furnished with dogmatic images, dogmatic ideas, let’s take a look at what the Christian dogma actually is, which is what has been the operative myth of the aeon now ending. For those of you that are interested in a little more detail, you find a summary of the Christian dogma or creed at the conclusion of the Episcopal “Book of Common Prayer” which lays out the so-called articled of religion, the fundamental dogmatic beliefs that constitute Anglican-Christianity, but if we go back to the early part of the aeon we find much simpler versions of the creed that will give you a picture of what the basic dogma of our aeon has been. This is a variation of the Nicene Creed and I take it from Jung’s essay “On the Trinity” in paragraph 217 of Volume 11. Here is one concise version of the Christian dogma, just so you know what the basic images are that underlie the Western psyche for the last 2000 years.

“[217] We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was made flesh by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary and became man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried, and on the third day rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father, whence he shall come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and whose kingdom shall have no end. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake through the prophets. And [we believe] in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

Collected Works, Volume 11 by Carl Jung

That’s it, all in once concise package and as you can well imagine, if that body of images were an absolute conviction, if you could live out of it with certainty, your life is all set for you. You’re contained. You see this religious creed can now be understood as a symbolic expression of a psychic reality, namely it’s an expression of the process of individuation. It tells us first of all that there is a God-Image, that is the creator and origin of everything. It tells us that one aspect of that God-Image descended to Earth, incarnated in a man, in other words manifested in an Ego. The Self, on its own initiative incarnated in an Ego and with redemptive intention to rescue that Ego, and the redemption will mean psychologically to bring it a sense of meaning. This aspect of the Self then re-ascended to where it came from, indicating that incarnation was not a perpetual event but a temporary one and that there is going to be a second coming, a second manifestation of the Ego’s encounter with the Self and that second manifestation there is going to be a different kind of experience, it’s going to be a last judgement experience. That will then be followed by general resurrection, a resolution of all repressed complexes and the establishment of an eternal kingdom, in other words the establishment of the eternal dimension of the psyche, a translation or a transition from the temporal experience of existence to something of a transpersonal atemporal nature. Now, that’s just a very brief elaboration. If you’re interested in more, you can read my book “The Christian Archetype”, which goes into it in some detail.

Item number four, anamnesis.


You remember this theme has come up before, but it comes up again and it’s worth re-iterating since it’s such an important one in practical analysis. It comes up in paragraph 279:

“[279] … when a living organism is cut off from its roots, it loses the connections with the foundations of its existence and must necessarily perish. When that happens, anamnesis of the origins is a matter of life and death.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

And then he goes on to say:

“[280] Myths and fairytales give expression to unconscious processes, and their retelling causes these processes to come alive again”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

So that they promote the anamnesis process and then down in paragraph 281 he says that:

“[281] The healing and renewing properties of this symbolical water … point to the therapeutic character of the mythological background …”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

That’s an important phrase, “the therapeutic character of the mythological background”. That’s part of the anamnesis-experience and I also just want to remind you of our earlier reference to anamnesis which is in paragraph 73, page 40, where he says:

“[73] … in exact agreement with the empirical findings of psychology, that there is an ever-present archetype of wholeness22 which may easily disappear from the purview of consciousness or may never be perceived at all until a consciousness illuminated by conversion recognizes it in the figure of Christ. As a result of this “anamnesis” the original state of oneness with the God-image is restored. It brings about an integration, a bridging of the split in the personality …”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

And as I mentioned on that earlier occasion analysis to a very large extent is an anamnesis, it’s a remembering of what has gone before, and there are two dimensions to that analytic anamnesis: there is the personal dimension and the collective or archetypal dimension. So first we examine the personal history and the individual goes through a deliberate personal remembering of his personal past which opens up his personal Unconscious. Then, if he is meant to proceed deeper, than his dreams lead him beyond that into the collective dimension of the anamnesis which involves an archetypal, historical remembering first of all of his family, his ancestral background, his tribe, his nation, and then the archetypal level of humanity as a whole, and finally he gets that deep … origins from the universe itself. I want to emphasize how important I think it is that every analysis begin with a careful, systematic scrutiny of the individual history. I think one should uniformly the beginning of each analysis ask the perspective analysand to write a personal biography with emphasis on those aspects of their life-history that have the most libido-charge to them for both positive and negative and one can go then through that biography in some detail and subjecting it to the analytic dialog, so that the review becomes a part of the living experience of the analysis. I think it’s very important that you begin every analysis in that orderly and systematic way with that kind of a personal anamnesis. It gets the analysis off the right start, rather than a meandering, you see. This procedure corresponds to the Platonic idea of anamnesis which is usually translated “recollection”. As Plato says in the Phaedo (Φαίδων):

“If we acquired knowledge before we were born and lost it at birth, but afterwards by the use of our senses regain the knowledge which we had previously possessed would not process which we call learning really be recovering knowledge which is our own, and should we not be right in calling this recollection.”

Phaedo by Plato

Calling this anamnesis (ἀνάμνησις), that’s the Greek word. See what Plato is saying here, and he has put it in a phrase, is that all cognition is re-cognition, all knowing is re-knowing, all knowing is remembering knowledge we once had.

Now, that’s not literally true, as we understand our experience, but it’s psychologically true in terms of the process of the exploration of the Unconscious in both its personal and its archetypal layers. We were once in touch with both of those layers, we knew it all once before, “knew” in quotation marks, but then we forgot it, and in the course of developing consciousness, even if we are not neurotic, the very process of consciousness involves a split between the Ego and the Unconscious, and so the phenomenon of consciousness itself brings about a split from one’s roots and if we can remember where we came from, if we can go through that process of anamnesis, then we can recover our lost wholeness.

Theme number five, the apostle Paul in Athens.

The apostle Paul in Athens

This reference is found in paragraph 275.

“[275] If Paul were alive today, and should undertake to reach the ear of intelligent Londoners in Hyde Park, he could no longer content himself with quotations from Greek literature and a smattering of Jewish history, …”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 by Carl Jung

He had to extend himself farther afield, but the idea here that I wanna elaborate a bit, is the idea that comes up in the image of Paul’s visit to Athens which took place at the beginning of this aeon. See, Paul was in the process of introducing to the ancient world a new worldview and something analogous is taking place now at the beginning of the next aeon. Jungian-psychology has the task of introducing to the world a new worldview and so the experience of Paul in Athens which Jung alludes to several places in works is relevant as a kind of traditional pattern of a recurrent issue.

When he was in Athens, Paul gave a speech before the council of Areopagus (Ἄρειος Πάγος) and this is described in the 17th chapter of Acts, when he starts out by saying:

"17:22 … ‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters,
17:23 because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it."

You see, he is … to the established standpoint and the farther down in this speech he also quotes a Greek poet, that stated that we are all God’s children and made use of that passage too. So, this image of Paul preaching to the Athenians is a traditional pattern indicating how to proceed for the introduction of a new level of consciousness to the world. It must be done by relating the new insights to the traditional ideas of the past. Jung puts it very clearly volume 14, “Mysterium”, in paragraph 521, when he says:

“[521] Any renewal not deeply rooted in the best spiritual tradition is ephemeral;”

Collected Works, Volume 14 by Carl Jung

Any renewal not deeply rooted in the best spiritual tradition is ephemeral.

“[521] but the dominant that grows from historical roots act like a living being within the ego-bound man. He does not possess it, it possesses him;”

Collected Works, Volume 14 by Carl Jung

See, if you reflect on this remark, Jung is describing his modus operandi. This is the basic principle on which he writes his books. That’s why they are so full of amplification and traditional imagery that is being presented and seen in new way and in the light of depth-psychology, but he knows, that unless the psychological insights that he is presenting are rooted in the best spiritual tradition of the past, they are ephemeral, they won’t survive, and Paul’s method in talking to the Athenians is the same method then that Jung is using in a much more sophisticated way in his works, as Jungian psychology today is an analogous position to what Christianity was 2000 years ago and that means that it must relate itself to the traditional imagery that it is destined to replace, and as part of that process alchemical symbolism is particularly helpful it provides a bridge between the traditional Christian dogmatic images and the modern scientific mind. That’s one reasons that Jung found it so helpful for his purposes.

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