Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 19 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class number 19, covering paragraphs 306 to 327, which continues chapter 13 entitled Gnostic Symbols of the Self.

I have six themes that I want to refer to tonight:

  • number one is the fall of Sophia into matter,
  • number two is the Naassenes and their serpent Naas,
  • number three is the Anthropos Hermes text,
  • number four is the Christ Coniunctio text,
  • number five is Angelus Silesius,
  • number six is Kepler and the God-image falling into nature.

Number number one, the fall of Sophia into matter.

The Fall of Sophia into Matter

We get into that idea through paragraph 306, which begins the assignment. Let me read some of that. Jung says:

“[CW09:2:306] … I would like to mention some of the Gnostic symbols for the universal “Ground” or arcanum … The most important of these images is the figure of the demiurge. The Gnostics have a vast number of symbols for the source or origin, the centre of being, the Creator, and the divine substance hidden in the creature. Lest the reader be confused by this wealth of images, he should always remember that each new image is simply another aspect of the divine mystery immanent in all creatures. My list of Gnostic symbols is no more than an amplification of a single transcendental idea, which is so comprehensive and so difficult to visualize in itself that a great many different expressions are required in order to bring out its various aspects.”

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

The basic idea in Gnosticism was that a heavenly stuff fell out of or descended or was lured out of heaven and descended into matter, into the dark realm, and this heavenly stuff then gave rise to the world and to life, gave rise to creation, because it was living stuff. And it’s this divine stuff that has a number of different terms or images applied to it.

Often was called the primordial man, the first man, the anthropos, which is just the Greek word for man, or sometimes it was called Nous, or light.

And one common term for this heavenly stuff was Sophia, the divine wisdom. And Jung summarizes this latter image in note 33, starting on page 196, where he speaks of the Sophia,

“[CW09:2:307:Footnote:33] … who “sinks into the lower regions.” … ” She was forcibly held captive by the lower powers. She corresponds to the much later alchemical idea of the “soul in fetters” … “The soul once turned towards matter, fell in love with it, and, burning with desire to experience bodily pleasures, was no longer willing to tear herself away from it. So was the world born.” … In Pistis Sophia she is the daughter of Barbelo. Deluded by the false light of the demon Authades, she falls into imprisonment in chaos.”

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

Let me read you a bit of that passage from Pistis Sophia to give you the feeling of it, because this is an important symbolic image, psychologically.

Talking about Sophia:

“[PS] In the past she looked below, (Sophia did), and thought to herself, I will go into that region and take light (that she sees down there) and fashion for myself light aeons. So when thinking this, she went forth from her own region and went below. And she came into the regions of the chaos and drew nigh to the lion-faced power, which is also called the self-willed. (That’s the translation of the term Authades that was quoted by Jung.) So the self-willed lion-faced power encountered her, and all his emanations surrounded her, and the great lion-faced power devoured Sophia and cleaned out her light, and her matter was thrust into chaos, that is Yaldabaoth (of whom I have spoken to you many times). And Sophia became very greatly exhausted, and the lion-faced power set to work to take away from her all her light powers, and surrounded her and pressed her sore, and Pistis Sophia cried out most exceedingly, she cried to the light of lights above. And uttered this repentance, saying, O light of lights, in whom I have had faith from the beginning, harken now, O light unto my repentance, save me, O light, for evil thoughts have entered into me. (And Sophia has been caught, and her light has been taken over by the lion-faced self-willed power.)

Pistis Sophia

[Note: the texts in parentheses are Edinger’s interjections.]

It’s a very provocative image, and one thing, it’s an image of Ego development, and any kind of fall from heaven that brings heavenly light stuff down into the lower world corresponds to a fall into Ego manifestation. So that’s where the self-willed idea comes up.

An example of this image occurred in the dream of a case history that I presented several years ago here, it’s going to be published for a long, let me read you, I’m referring to that picture series that I’ve elaborated. One of the pictures was from a dream that read as follows.

"I descend to the basement of a whorehouse, run by a brutal man. I discover a bruised and battered young woman, nevertheless had a glowing beauty. I kiss her and awaken her, and overcome momentarily with a sense of compassion for her, for me, for the pathos of the human condition. The tough owner stands at the top of the staircase."

And he painted a picture of that whole phenomenon.

You see, this is an image that sort of encapsulates in a single synoptic form the basic task of the whole analytic process to descend into the Unconscious and to rescue or redeem the soul image that’s imprisoned there.

Theme number two, the Naassenes and their serpent Naas.

The Naassenes and Their Serpent Naas

The reference occurs in paragraph 311, where Jung says,

“[CW09:2:311] The Naassenes themselves considered Naas, the serpent, to be their central deity, and they explained it as the “moist substance,” in agreement with Thales of Miletus, who said water was the prime substance on which all life depended. Similarly, all living things depend on the Naas; “it contains within itself, like the horn of the one-horned bull, the beauty of all things.” It “pervades everything, like the water that flows out of Eden and divides into four sources”.”

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

I want to read you the fuller version of the text that Jung summarizes in that passage. It can be found on page 57 of volume 5 [Note: of The Ante-Nicene Fathers], which is missing. Hippolytus is talking about the Naassenes who take that name because their deity is Naas, which means serpent. And Hippolytus says,

“They do not worship any other object but Naas, and therefore they are called the Naassenes. But Naas is the serpent from whom the Naassenes says, all at under heaven are denominated temples. And he states that to him alone, that is to Naas, is dedicated every shrine and every initiatory rite and every mystery. And in general, that a religious ceremony could not be discovered under heaven, in which a temple, Naos, has no existence. And in the temple itself is Naas, from whom it has received its denomination of temple, Naos.”

The Ante-Nicence Fathers, Volume 5, Page 57

The word for serpent is Naas, N-A-A-S. The word for temple is N-A-O-S. And by typical etymological tricks that antiquity used whenever it sued their purposes to insert symbolism and etymology, they’re stating here then that the word for temple is derived from the word for serpent. You see. That’s what they’re saying.

“In the temple itself is Naas, from whom it has received its denomination or its name of temple, Naos. And these nostics affirm that the serpent is a moist substance, just as Thales, the Mylesian, spoke of water as an originating principle. And that nothing of existing things, immortal or mortal, animate or inanimate, could consist at all without him. And that all things are subject unto him and that he is good and that he has all things in himself as in the horn of the one horned bull, (or according to the authorized version, as in the horn of the unicorn. That’s a reference to a biblical passage.) So he imparts beauty and bloom to all things that exist according to their own nature and peculiarity as if passing through all, just as the river proceeding forth from Eden and dividing itself into four heads.”

The Ante-Nicence Fathers, Volume 5, Page 57

[Note: the texts in parentheses are Edinger’s interjections.]

Then follows the text we previously talked about, the Paradise Quaternity text that concerned the Garden of Eden and the four rivers that flowed out of it. So that they are linking the serpent Naas with the water, the original water of Thales, the philosopher, and with the water of the Garden of Eden river.

And we have a very interesting symbolic equation expressed here. The original water that’s at the root of all things, according to the Thales, the philosopher, equals the serpent, equals the temple. See, this serpent that we’re talking about is a continuation of the serpent that we talked about previously as the serpent comes down from heaven carrying the signs of the Father. It’s that same serpent.

And it’s this serpent that is the living water that permeates and originates all things. And it’s the luminous presence that inhabits every temple.

See, this is a very remarkable idea for 2000 years ago, because look what it’s saying. It’s saying that there is an entity prior to all the separate religious denominations and separate temples set up to different deities. There is a primordial stuff that is the essence of divinity that inhabits all of those temples, regardless of the particular deity that the temple is supposed to be consecrated to. In other words, this is a truly psychological generalization. It’s a symbolic announcement of the discovery of the muminosum that lies behind all of the religious phenomenon. It’s quite a remarkable accomplishment, and it helps to explain why Gnosticism is so interesting to Jung and so relevant to depth-psychology.

Okay, theme number three. What I call the Anthropos Hermes text.

The Anthropos Hermes Text

In paragraph 313, which is a long, tightly packed paragraph, Jung condenses a lengthy Gnostic description of the original man or Anthropos, which equates him with Adam and the images of the original man as he shows up in various mythological traditions, and finally leading to the image of the ithyphallic Hermes. It’s a very condensed paragraph, which is interrupted for a digression, and then returns to complete its material in paragraph 325. So you should make a note to the effect that paragraph 313 is continued in paragraph 325, and goes on into 326 and 327.

Now these paragraphs are hard to grasp. They’re hard to get a hold of because they’re so condensed. But Jung really performs a very valuable service for us here, because what he’s doing is he’s condensing, he’s skimming off the psychological cream of a whole body of material, and if you read it slowly and repeatedly, the message will come through.

Let me show you what I mean. I’m not going to read the whole paragraph. I’m going to read parts of it to to illustrate that it that it really is perfectly clear if you go slowly enough.

He says,

“[CW09:2:313] For the Naassenes, the universal “Ground” is the Original Man, Adam, and knowledge of him is regarded as the beginning of perfection and the bridge to knowledge of God.”

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

Well, that’s perfectly clear. And that corresponds to what we experience in dream work that when dreams bring up images of the Anthropos, the original man, they do indeed provide a bridge to the knowledge of the of the transpersonal. They do make a connection to wholeness. And Jung goes on,

“[CW09:2:313] … He is male/female; (He’s double. He’s a union of opposites.) from him come “father and mother”; he consists of three parts: the rational (νoερóν), the psychic, and the earthly (χoɩкóν). These three “came down together into one man, Jesus,””

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

I think what lies behind that symbolism of the of the descent of the threefold entity is that when contents of the Unconscious come into Ego-realization, they come into the realm of threeness. The symbolism of threeness belongs to the spatio temporal world of Ego-existence because space and time are Ego-categories. So that although it’s it’s true that triads are incomplete quaternities, it’s also true that when manifestations of of original wholeness fall into Egohood into into space and time, they take on the characteristics of the triadic existence. And that’s how that symbolism of the three applies.

He then proceeds with an image of the procreative seed. And this procreative seed is thought of as the hidden and mystical Logos, which is likened to the phallus of Osiris. That’s the one member of the dismembered Osiris that never got found again. A further synonym is the ithyphallic Hermes Kyllenios.

Now Hermes Kyllenios refers to a statue of Hermes that existed in a temple of Hermes built on Mount Kyllini. That was the highest mountain in the Peloponnesus. And it was sacred to Hermes. And there was a temple built on the top of that mountain. And in that temple, there was an ithyphallic statue of Hermes, Hermes with an erect penis. And that’s what’s referred to by the ithyphallic Hermes Kyllenios. And the Gnostics equated this Hermes with the Logos.

That sexual symbolism then led to a digression to another text, which we’ll come back to. But if you disregard that digression, the account is completed starting in paragraph 325, where he picks up the symbolism of Hermes again, and talks about some of the some of the attributes of Hermes as a conjurer of spirits, a guide of souls, equipped with the golden wand, and things of that sort.


Now this phallic imagery of the Hermes statue leads Jung to another text involving sexual imagery, which takes me to my theme number four, which I’m calling the Christ Coniunctio text.

The Christ Coniunctio Text

The reference to that is found in paragraph 314, where Jung states that according to a certain text, it’s related that Christ took a woman by the name of Mary, it’s not the Virgin Mary, with him onto a mountain, where he produced a woman from his side and began to have intercourse with her. And then down a little further, he completes the text, saying it says that Mary receives such a shock, she fell to the ground. And Christ then said to her, wherefore do you doubt me, oh you of little faith. This was meant as a reference to John 3:12, “if I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things”.

Then Jung proceeds to comment about this text in paragraph 315, where he says,

“[CW09:2:315] This symbolism may well have been based, originally, on some visionary experience, such as happens not uncommonly today during psychological treatment. For the medical psychologist there is nothing very lurid about it. The context itself points the way to the right interpretation. The image expresses a psychologem that can hardly be formulated in rational terms and has, therefore, to make use of a concrete symbol, just as a dream must when a more or less “abstract” thought comes up during the abaissement du niveau mental (the lowering of mental level) that occurs in sleep. These “shocking” surprises, of which there is certainly no lack in dreams, should always be taken “as-if,” even though they clothe themselves in sensual imagery that stops at no scurrility and no obscenity. They are unconcerned with offensiveness, because they do not really mean it. It is as if they were stammering in their efforts to express the elusive meaning that grips the dreamer’s attention.”

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

This brings up the whole question of how one should understand overtly sexual imagery as it shows up in dreams.

I think in the great majority of cases, such dream images don’t have anything at all to do with concrete sexuality, but that’s not their point. But rather, their point concerns coniunctio or union symbolism. It’s the Unconscious which generates dreams is rooted in biological nature and therefore uses the imagery that fits natural reality and is trying to express ideation in terms of natural images.

Let me give you an example or two.

This is an example that I report. It can be found in “Anatomy of the Psyche” in page 63. It’s a dream of a middle-aged woman with emerging creative powers as a poet and scholar. She dreams:

"There's a party at my mother's apartment, a strange disturbing man, Mr. X, a poet, is the guest of honor. After several episodes, the mother leaves the party. When she does, there's a kind of universal spontaneous rejoicing, which I also feel, though I don't know what's up. I find out soon enough, though, for almost at once, Mr. X gathers all the women around him in a semicircle, whereupon he undresses and ejaculates a huge stream of sperm which falls like a fountain on each of us. I thought the idea was for us to serve him in this way, but as it turns out, that's only part of it, because as the sperm shower hits us severally, we each experience our own separate and individual orgasms."

Well, you can’t get much more sexual than that, so far as imagery is concerned, you see. But what’s being referred to is that she’s being baptized in her own emerging creative powers from the Unconscious.

There’s another example that I quote in “Ego and Archetype” on page 70.

It’s from the same patient and the same general period of time.

“I see a young man naked, glistening with sweat, who catches my attention first by his physical attitude, a combination of the falling motion of a pieta [Note: could not discern properly.] figure in the energetic release position of the famous Greek Discobolus. He stands out from others of a group of men by the fact that he has an enormous phallus in the form of a third extended leg”, which she drew a picture of. “The man is in agony with the burden of his erection”, and she then has intercourse with him and undergoes a kind of reversal of orientation, a kind of entire revolution inside of 180 degrees.

This is interesting in that it is an example of the threefold symbolism of a content of the Unconscious, entering Consciousness. Because this was a three-legged man, his third leg was at the same time a great phallus. But there again, the point of the dream is not concrete sexuality. It’s the imagery that’s used to refer to something else, namely a connection to the creative Unconscious.

Okay, theme number five.

Angelus Silesius

The reference to him is found in paragraph 321.

“[CW09:2:321] … Meister Eckhart, using a different formulation, says that “God is born from the soul,” and when we come to the Cherubinic Wanderer of Angelus Silesius, God and the self coincide absolutely. The times have undergone a profound change: the procreative power no longer proceeds from God, rather is God born from the soul.”

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

Now, I draw your attention to Angelus Silesius because Jung refers to him in several different places. In fact, I would suggest that you add a couple of references in the margin on page 206, where Angelus Silesius is referred to. Put down in the margin CW 6, paragraph 432, and CW 14, paragraph 132, note.

The Angelus Silesius, which is a pen name, his actual name was Johann Scheffler, was a Polish mystic who lived from 1624 to 1677. I don’t know what his contact with Meister Eckhart‘s texts were, but he repeats Eckhart’s ideas precisely and more extremely. In both of these references that I suggested, you’ll find a number of examples. I don’t have time to read as many as I’d like to, but to give you a flavor.

“[CW14:284] God is my centre when I close him in,
And my circumference when I melt in him.”

Collected Works, Volume 14, Mysterium Coniunctionis by Carl Jung

“[CW06:432] I know that without me
God can no moment live;
Were I to die, then He
No longer could survive.

In me is God a fire
And I in Him its glow;
In common is our life,
Apart we cannot grow.”

Collected Works, Volume 6, Psychological Types by Carl Jung

And Jung ads, after quoting some of these in the Psychological Types reference, says,

“[CW06:433] It would be absurd to suppose that such audacious ideas as these and Meister Eckhart’s are nothing but figments of conscious speculation. Such thoughts are always profoundly significant historical phenomena, borne along on the unconscious currents of the collective psyche.”

Collected Works, Volume 6, Psychological Types by Carl Jung

So they were kind of forerunners of depth psychology of these two.

Theme number six, Kepler and the god-image falling into nature.

Kepler and the God-image Falling into Nature

This reference is found in paragraph 323. Where, Jung speaks towards the bottom of the page, he speaks that

“[CW09:2:323] … observation of Nature that was just beginning to assimilate the archetype of man. This attempt continued right up to the seventeenth century, when Johannes Kepler recognized the Trinity as underlying the structure of the universe—in other words, when he assimilated this archetype into the astronomer’s picture of the world.”

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

This idea can be found in “The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche”, Page 159. That’s a book written jointly with Pauli. And Pauli quotes Kepler as writing that book.

“[INP:Page:159] The image of the triune God is in the spherical surface. That is to say the Father is in the center, the Son is in the outer surface, and the Holy Ghost is in the equality of relation between point and circumference. A straight line moving from the center to a single point on the surface represents the first beginnings of creation, emulating the eternal generation of the Son.”

The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche by Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung

You see, Kepler is thinking about the circular orbit of planets around the sun. And the idea then he has is that, that astronomical image is a representation of the trinity. The the central sun is the Father, the the planet is the Son, and the centripetal bond that holds them together is the Holy Ghost.

This corresponds to what Jung speaks of elsewhere as the projection of the numinosum into matter, which is the basis of modern science. You see, what’s happened is that the god-image is now lodged in nature, and Kepler was an early expression of that event. So physics, chemistry, biology, the energy that’s generated to investigate those sciences, derives from the projection of the God image into nature. That’s the source of the fascination.

You know Jung quotes William James as saying, “our esteem for facts has not neutralized in us all religiousness. It is itself almost religious. Our scientific temper is devout”. See, the pursuit the scientific knowledge with real scientists, the ones who make the advances, it’s a religious enterprise. And that’s what’s so important for the modern psyche about science. The missing god-image that has fallen out of the religion has fallen into nature and into the scientific observation of nature. And that’s one reason why Jung insists on being absolutely true to the scientific tradition, because to the extent that the god-image is still functioning in a authentic way, it’s in the temper of modern science.


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