Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 18 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class number 18, and the assignment covers paragraphs 287 to 305, which amounts to the first third of chapter 13 entitled “Gnostic Symbols of the Self”.

After a few remarks about Hippolytus, then I’m going to speak about five themes:

  • Number one is the Paradise Quaternio text,
  • Number two, the Signs of the Father text,
  • Number three, the Rays of Light text,
  • Number four, the Unconscious God.
  • And number five, Meister Eckhart.


Starting with tonight’s assignment, we will be dealing primarily with Gnostic imagery from now on. And for data concerning the Gnostics, Jung refers very heavily to Hippolytus’ work, “The Refutation of All Heresies”. You may remember that I spoke of Hippolytus in class number seven. Let me remind you briefly about him.

He was a Presbyter at Rome. His dates were approximately 170 to 236 AD. He wrote this very comprehensive attack against the Gnostic heresies. And in the course of attacking them, he described their doctrines with great fullness, indicating that they had a certain fascination for him. In spite of himself, and so it turns out that this work against the Gnostics is one of our very best sources about the Gnosticism.

And then you’ll remember that Hippolytus’ refutation was lost in antiquity and only rediscovered in 1842 in the Library of a Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. Certainly a piece of historical synchronicity since the Western mind was just getting ready to be able to hear the Gnostics.

And we are very fortunate to have an English translation of Hippolytus in its entirety available. It’s in Volume 5 of the “Ante-Nicene Fathers“, and it’s in the Library. And I urge you to examine it and browse through it to get the flavor of his account. And it gives you a real sense of Gnostic mentality, not to mention Hippolytus’ early Christian mentality.

And I’m going to give you some corrections later for some of the footnotes. And then, with those corrections, you can look up most of the references in the “Ante-Nicene Fathers”, Volume 5.

In our material tonight, Jung is continuing his examination of the symbolism of the magnet. You remember the Echeneis Remora fish and the magnetic effect that it exerted on ships and the fact that a certain kind of doctrine had the magnetic effect of catching the fish. Well, Jung is continuing the symbolism of the magnet, and he tells us that he’s identified three texts in Hippolytus’ work that speak of the magnet. And he then proceeds to summarize those texts, and I’m going to go through each of them in turn in number one, two, and three of my themes.

The first one is what I call, and what Jung calls later, the Paradise Quaternio text.

The Paradise Quaternio Text

And it’s summarized by Jung in paragraph 288. This text is quite important for the rest of the book because he uses the imagery of this Paradise Quaternio for other purposes later on. Let me read you this text in a little lengthier version than Jung gives us. If you’re interested, you can find it on page 57 of Volume 5 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. And Hippolytus there says that:

“The Gnostics assert that Eden is the brain. And they suppose that man insofar as the head only is Paradise, and that a river proceeds from this Eden, that is, from the brain. And this river is divided into four heads. And the name of the first river is called Pison, and that is the eye, which by its honor among the rest of the bodily organs furnishes the testimony of what is spoken. And the name of the second river is Gihon. This is hearing, the ear. And the name of the third river is Tigris. And this is smelling, the nose. But the fourth river is Euphrates. This is the mouth, through which are the passage outwards of prayer and the passage inward of nourishment. The mouth makes glad and nurtures and fashions the spiritual perfect man. Furthermore, the Gnostic says that this is the water that is above the permanent. Concerning which the Savior has declared, “if thou knowest who it is that asked, I would have asked from him, and he would have given you to drink the living, bubbling water”. Into this water, he says, every nature enters choosing its own substance, and its peculiar qualities comes to each nature from this water, more than iron does to the magnet. (There you get the magnet.)”

Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, Page 57

Okay, that’s the text from which one can picture number one here. This is a picture of the brain that has at its center the source of the four rivers, and then they divide up, and one river comes out the eye, another river comes out the ear, another river comes out the nose, and the fourth river comes out the mouth. You see, that’s the image. It’s a kind of active imagination image with the skull, or the brain, the round thing in man.

And as Jung tells us, the first three that are referred to are so similar in nature, but the fourth one that’s referred to, the Euphrates, the mouth, is of a special nature because things move both ways in the mouth. The mouth, food goes in and prayer comes out, so the fourth one is the special one, which corresponds to the psychological fact that the fourth function brings up totality with it, you see, and therefore is of a special nature, and as the image indicates, Euphrates, the mouth, promotes a kind of two-way dialogue with the Self, with the Godhead. The nourishment goes in on the one hand to the Ego, and nourishment goes out on the other hand to God via the prayers.

Furthermore, this Euphrates water is described as the water above the firmament. That’s what’s referred to in the first chapter of Genesis, where it says “God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament and the waters which were above the firmament”. The firmament is a vault, a heavenly vault, and it was thought that water existed above the heavenly vault, and so it’s said that this Euphrates water corresponds to that celestial water that exists outside the heavenly limit.

Not only that, but it’s also referred to as Christ’s living water, which is referred to in the fourth chapter of John, where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at a well and says to her, “If thou knowest the gift of God and who it is that said to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked him, and he would have given thee living water”. So Christ is identifying himself then as that living water that the Gnostics equate with the Euphrates and also with the water above the firmament.

And Jung then remarks about this:

“[CW09:2:289] As the reference to John 4:10 shows, the wonderful water of the Euphrates has the property of the aqua doctrinae, which perfects every nature in its individuality and thus makes man whole too. It does this by giving him a kind of magnetic power by which he can attract and integrate that which belongs to him.”

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

That would correspond to the fact that when one is in touch with the Self, then the libido-connection that is generated by being so in touch has the effect of locating the scattered fragments of one’s identity that reside in the world. You know, if we’re alert to it, we can note what it is we encounter in our reading, in our daily trips through the world and through the meeting with people and various things. We can identify what belongs to us by noticing our reactions. We value what belongs to us. We have an aha experience. Ah, oh, that’s something significant. And if you read with that thing in mind and go through the world with that awareness in mind, you can constantly be picking up things that belong to you. And that corresponds to what Jung says about this water. It gives him a kind of magnetic power by which he can attract and integrate that which belongs to him.

I came across an interesting dream example of this water once. After a session with a patient in which I found myself being particularly brilliant in making amplifications of a dream we were discussing, I don’t take credit for such brilliance. It’s projected into me, you know, and I just acted out. It comes from the Unconscious of the patient. But nonetheless, after such a session of rich amplification, that night the dreamer dreamt that a stream of crystal clear water was coming out of the mouth of the analyst. That’s the river you’re afraid to water, you see.

Okay. Number two, signs of the father text.

The Signs of the Father Text

This is summarized by Jung in paragraph 290. Let’s look at a little fuller version of that text, which you can find starting on page 63 of volume 5 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. And this text I’ve tried to chart in the middle panel there, number two.

“According to the Gnostics, the universe is composed of Father, Son, and Matter. Intermediate between Matter and the Father sits the Son, the Word, the Serpent. At one time he’s turned towards the Father, and at another time he’s turned towards Matter. The Son, by a power which belongs to himself, transfers the signs of the Father from the Father into Matter. If anyone of those beings, – such as that little fellow there – any of those beings down in the darkness and Matter, have the strength to perceive that he has a paternal mark, a sign of the Father, if he is of the same substance with the Father in heaven, then he returns thither. But this only happens – I have to paraphrase this a bit to make it understandable – if he has the doctrine. No one then can be saved or return into heaven without the Son, and the Son is the Serpent. For as he brought down from above the signs of the Father, so again he carries up those signs, roused from a dormant condition, and rendered substantial. And he transfers these marks to those who close the eyelid as the gnats drawing the fire in every direction towards itself, or rather as the magnet attracts the iron.”

Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, Page 63

So the idea then is that the Son, Serpent, carries the signs of the Father down from heaven into matter where man resides, and the man who has the right doctrine recognizes that he has the signs of the Father, or another way of putting it is that having the right doctrine, the sign of the Father that’s brought down, is transferred to him. Then once transferred to him, it’s rendered substantial, it’s materialized, it’s incarnated, and then it’s transferred back to the Serpent again and carried back to heaven in embodied form. That’s the idea behind this text.

Now, about this text, Jung says something in paragraph 291. He says:

“[CW09:2:291] Here the magnetic attraction does not come from the doctrine or the water but from the “Son,” who is symbolized by the serpent, as in John 3:14 – where he said, and “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up”. Christ is the magnet that draws to itself those parts or substances in man that are of divine origin, the πατρικοι χαρακτηρες – patrikoi charaktires (signs of the Father), and carries them back to their heavenly birthplace. The serpent is an equivalent of the fish.”

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

Since we’re talking about the image of the snake here, we should note at this point Jung’s remarks about snake symbolism in paragraph 293, page 188. This is an excellent summary of the symbolism of the snake. Since this is such a common dream image, I would suggest you line this for a particular note.

“[CW09:2:293] … the serpent. It appears spontaneously or comes as a surprise; it fascinates; its glance is staring, fixed, unrelated; its blood cold, and it is a stranger to man: it crawls over the sleeper, he finds it in a shoe or in his pocket. It expresses his fear of everything inhuman and his awe of the sublime, of what is beyond human ken. It is the lowest (devil) and the highest (son of God, Logos, Nous, Agathodaimon). The snake’s presence is frightening, one finds it in unexpected places at unexpected moments. Like the fish, it represents and personifies the dark and unfathomable, the watery deep, the forest, the night, the cave. When a primitive says “snake,” he means an experience of something extrahuman.”

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

Remember these remarks whenever you get a snake dream. Such an image almost always generates a highly ambiguous and highly charged occasion. It indicates the activation of the unconscious at quite a primordial level. It signifies the prospect of an important step in individuation.

  • On the one hand, it threatens to bite and poison you.
  • On the other hand, it’s the bringer of the signs of the father.

In other words, the bringer of the marks of wholeness. So that a snake dream always brings with it the double idea of a danger, something ominous on the one hand, and a revelation on the other hand.

Number three is the ray of light text that I’ve tried to summarize over here in panel three.

The Ray of Light Text

This is summarized by Jung in photograph 292. The full text can be found on page 68 of volume five of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Let me read a bit of that.

“The Sethians affirm the theory concerning the composition and mixture is constituted according to the following method. The luminous ray from above is intermingled and blended with the dark waters underneath. Both these become united and form one compound mass. But then it’s possible to separate the different ingredients of that compound mass. And according to the Gnostic, this is done by Christ as when he said, “I came not to send peace on earth but a sword”. That corresponds to the division and separation of things that had been commingled, had been mixed up. For each of the things that have been commingled is then separated. And with that separation, then the different substances hurry off to their own proper place as the iron towards the magnet. Light-matter, the ray of light which had been commingled with the water, having obtained from discipline and instruction its own proper locality, hastens towards the logos that comes from above.”

Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, Page 68

All right, now let me just summarize what that means in terms of this chart because I want you to be sure and understand these images.

The ray of light comes down from the light region above and gets all mixed up in the dark waters. But then the logos descends as a dividing sword and that has the effect of separating the commingled mixture and the rays of light that had been all mixed up in the dark waters, separate themselves and are attracted like iron filings to the logos, to their proper place. And the reference is to Matthew 10:34, which is this.

You see, what takes place is that the Gnostics put a totally different interpretation on the scriptures than do the conventional historians. Matthew 10:34 says, Christ is speaking, “Think not that I come to send peace on earth, I come not to send peace, but a sword, for I am come to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter against her mother and the daughter in law against her mother in law,
and a man’s foe shall be they of his own household”. So that’s what the Gnostics interpret that sword aspect that Christ has the logos, which has the effect of separating the rays that had been mixed up in the darkness.

You see, this image corresponds to the Gnostic idea of Sophia falling into the embrace of darkness and then having to be rescued. Concerning that ray of light, Jung says in paragraph 293,

“[CW09:2:293] Here the magnetic attraction comes from the Logos. This denotes a thought or idea that has been formulated and articulated, hence a content and a product of consciousness. Consequently the Logos is very like the aqua doctrinae, but whereas the Logos has the advantage of being an autonomous personality, the latter is merely a passive object of human action.”

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

Jung then proceeds to compare these three different texts, which have different images for the same magnetic agent.

  • The Paradise Quaternio text, number one, has the image of the water of the Euphrates, and that’s the water that for every nature attracts that which is proper to it.
  • The second text, the signs of the father text, has the serpent image, which attracts those who carry the signs of the father.
  • And the third text has the logos as dividing sword image, and it attracts the light from the mixture.

And about these three different things, Jung has this to say on page 188.

“[CW09:2:293] …
1. The agent is an inanimate and in itself passive substance, water. It is drawn from the depths of the well, handled by human hands … . It signifies the visible doctrine, the aqua doctrinae….
2. The agent is an animate, autonomous being, the serpent.
3. The agent is the Logos, a philosophical idea and abstraction of the bodily and personal son of God on the one hand, and on the other the dynamic power of thoughts and words.”

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

    And he says:

    “[CW09:2:294] It is clear that these three symbols seek to describe the unknowable essence of the incarnate God. But it is equally clear that they are hypostatized to a high degree.”

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

    Now, if you remember this threefold sequence, water, serpent, sword, as all variations of the symbolism of the magnet, then when any one of these images comes to your attention, you’ll be reminded of the others. And the net result will be the possibility anyway that some of that living water might flow out of your mouth, you see, on the right occasion.

    Okay, theme number four, the unconscious God.

    The Unconscious God

    This idea comes up in the assignment and Jung quotes several texts to illustrate this idea of the unconscious God. And then he sums up in paragraph 303. I should say that this is a very important idea for the late Jung. It’s really a revolutionary contribution that he makes with the insight of the unconscious God. After mentioning some of these examples, he then says,

    “[CW09:2:303] These utterances on the nature of the Deity express transformations of the God-image which run parallel with changes in human consciousness, though one would be at a loss to say which is the cause of the other. The God-image is not something invented, it is an experience that comes upon man spontaneously—as anyone can see for himself unless he is blinded to the truth by theories and prejudices. The unconscious God-image can therefore alter the state of consciousness, just as the latter can modify the God-image once it has become conscious. This, obviously, has nothing to do with the “prime truth,” the unknown God—at least, nothing that could be verified. Psychologically, however, the idea of God’s ἀγνωσία – ágnósia, or of the ἀνεννóητος θεóς – ánennóétos theós, is of the utmost importance, because it identifies the Deity with the numinosity of the unconscious.”

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

    I think the outstanding statement there, practically speaking, is the unconscious God image can alter the state of consciousness just as the latter, just as the state of consciousness, the Ego, can modify the God image once it has become conscious. This would be an illustration of the symbolism of the Euphrates river mouth, which moves in both directions. Just as the unconscious God image, when it’s activated, has an intense effect on the Ego, and the danger is that the Ego will become possessed and identified with the unconscious God image, and then function as a kind of primitive Yahweh. That’s the one possibility.

    But the other possibility is that if the Ego is able to meet the onslaught of the unconscious God image with sufficient conscious awareness, the effect is that the God image itself is transformed.

    In answer to Job, Jung makes a number of additional remarks about the unconscious God, but one in particular I would draw to your attention comes from paragraph 600, note 13, where he states in the boldest possible terms the following.

    “[CW:11:600:Footnote:13] The naïve assumption that the creator of the world is a conscious being must be regarded as a disastrous prejudice which later gave rise to the most incredible dislocations of logic. For example, the nonsensical doctrine of the privatio boni would never have been necessary had one not had to assume in advance that it is impossible for the consciousness of a good God to produce evil deeds. Divine unconsciousness and lack of reflection, on the other hand, enable us to form a conception of God which puts his actions beyond moral judgment and allows no conflict to arise between goodness and beastliness.”

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

    Okay, turning now to theme number five, Meister Eckhart.

    Meister Eckhart

    The whole idea of the unconscious God leads Jung then to Eckhart. Jung had a very intimate connection to Meister Eckhart. He felt very close to him indeed.

    His dates are approximately 1260 to 1328, almost identical with Dante’s. Dante’s dates are 1265, 1321. That’s one way to remember it.

    In a letter, Jung refers to Eckhart as one of the ten pillars of the bridge that spans the morass of history. One out of ten. You want to know what they are?

    • Gilgamesh,
    • I Ching,
    • the Upanishads,
    • Laozi,
    • Heraclitus,
    • Gospel of John,
    • the letters of Paul,
    • Eckhart,
    • Dante,
    • and Goethe’s Faust.

    I suggest you explore Eckhart for yourself. The Jung library has two collections of Eckhart, two volumes of Evans and one volume of Blakeney. I suggest that you read the first four sermons, and they’re the same in both collections.

    The other thing that I would recommend that you read is Jung’s brilliant essay on Eckhart in “Psychological Types”, volume 6 [Note: of the Collected Works]. It’s about 17 pages long. It runs from paragraph 407 to 433.

    One passage from that. Then we have to skip that passage. But you can look them up yourself.

    I do want to say what Jung has to say in paragraph 301. He says,

    “[CW09:2:301] Meister Eckhart’s theology knows a “Godhead” of which no qualities, except unity and being, can be predicated; it “is becoming,” it is not yet Lord of itself, and it represents an absolute coincidence of opposites. … Union of opposites is equivalent to unconsciousness, so far as human logic goes, for consciousness presupposes a differentiation into subject and object and a relation between them. Where there is no “other,” or it does not yet exist, all possibility of consciousness ceases. Only the Father, the God “welling” out of the Godhead, “notices himself,” … and “confronts himself as a Person.” … As the Godhead is essentially unconscious, so too is the man who lives in God.”

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

    There is a kind of striking idea. This text requires a little bit of explanation.

    Eckhart distinguishes between godhead and god. What he calls the godhead is what we would call the unconscious original Self. It’s the original unconscious all, so to speak. And when the Ego is immersed in it, or when the Ego is identified in it, then the Ego does not exist as a separate entity, and god doesn’t really exist either.

    God, on the other hand, as a term used by Eckhart, is a consequence of consciousness. It is born in the human soul according to Eckhart. And that’s the basic theme of Eckhart’s teaching, that god, like the nativity of Christ, is born in the human soul, and he doesn’t exist, really, until he’s born.

    That’s the idea that Jung found so very appealing to his own way of thinking, that god requires conscious man in order to come into existence. And Eckhart really is the first one to clearly state that fact. He’s a depth psychologist, [Note: … man-k COULD NOT DISCERN], definitely.


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