Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 22 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class number 22, and our assignment covers paragraphs 368 to 380. It’s a continuation of chapter 14, Structure and the Dynamics of the Self.

I have six themes tonight to talk about:

  • number one is handwriting, left over from last time,
  • number two is the modern mind’s descent into matter,
  • number three is the excrescent soul,
  • number four, paradise quaternio,
  • number five, lapis quaternio,
  • and number six, the vessel.

To start with number one, handwriting.


That reference goes back to last week’s assignment in paragraph 366, where Jung says that

“[CW09:2:366] … The good, perfect, spiritual God was opposed by an imperfect, vain, ignorant, and incompetent demiurge. There were archontic Powers that gave to mankind a corrupt “chirographum” (handwriting) from which Christ had to redeem them.”

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

Then in a footnote, Jung quotes Colossians 2:14. I wanted to quote that reference in a little larger format to make it a little more understandable. In Colossians, Paul is describing to the church their blessed condition now that they are members of the church. He says that,

[2:10] you are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power,
[2:11] and you are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands …
[2:12] You're buried with him in baptism, (that refers to Christ) and you're also risen with him through the faith, and you're raised from the dead,
[2:13] and you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, have he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
[2:14] and he, (that means Christ) has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross,
[2:15] and having spoiled the principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly triumphing over them.

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

That’s the reference. This idea here is that humans have been tainted with the handwriting of the evil archons, and Christ redeems them from that negative handwriting, and they’re redeemed from what are called the principalities and powers. That word principalities is the word ἀρχῆς – archis, as one translation puts it there, “the cosmic powers”. This handwriting that’s referred to here is another example of the signs of the Father that you will remember in an earlier passage that the serpent brought down, only in this case the handwriting is given a negative connotation.

The idea is that as the soul, the newborn soul descends into incarnation into its earthly existence, it goes through the planetary spheres, and as it goes down, it takes on the qualities of the various planetary spheres, the various planetary deities, and so when it arrives on earth, it’s encumbered with those qualities, with that handwriting, so to speak.

Psychologically, this would refer to our ancestral or archetypal background that has imprinted us with its patterns of predisposition.

The theme of handwriting also represents one’s destiny. A particular example of that is the handwriting on the wall that is described during Belshazzar’s Feast. You’ll find that in the 5th chapter of Daniel, where Belshazzar has desecrated the sacred vessels from the sanctuary by bringing them to his feast and using them to drink wine out of, and at that point then the handwriting on the wall appears, and nobody could read what it said until Daniel was brought. What it said was, “you’ve been weighed in the balance and found wanting”, so the handwriting on the wall represents, in that case, the manifestation of the destiny that is announced from the depths of the Unconscious.

A short time ago, I came across an interesting short story that had that same theme in it. The basic image was that a man discovered in the wall of his closet, his clothes closet, hand writing starting to appear, but of words that he could not decipher, and each day he would check it and there’d be more words there, and it got more and more ominous, and eventually it turned out that his wife, who was going mad, was putting that handwriting on the wall of the closet, but it’s the same archetypal image you see as Belshazzar’s handwriting on the wall.

Theme number two, modern mind’s descend into matter.

The Modern Mind’s Descent into Matter

That reference is found in paragraph 368, where Jung says that

“[CW09:2:368] … modern science has given us an unparalleled knowledge of the “dark” side of matter. … and made the very roots of life itself an object of investigation. In this way the human mind has sunk deep into the sublunary world of matter, thus repeating the Gnostic myth of the Nous, who, beholding his reflection in the depths below, plunged down and was swallowed in the embrace of Physis.”

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

This is an example of how Jung’s profound perception into the collective psyche can relate the course of recent cultural development with the archetypal images that derive from Gnosticism.

The idea that modern man’s fascination with matter reflects the image of Nous descending into matter. It corresponds very much to the image of the fallen angels that is described, particularly in the Book of Enoch. That’s an apocryphal work. In that book, just before the flood of Noah,

[6:1] it came to pass when the children of man had multiplied, they were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters,
[6:2] and the angels the children of heaven saw and lusted after them, and said to one another, Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of man, and beget us children.

[Note: the 1st Book of Enoch, Chapter 6]

So the heavenly angels fell out of heaven, descended to earth, and copulated with human women, brought forth giants, and taught men the arts and sciences at the same time, revealed to man the secrets of heaven. And as a consequence of that, there arose much godlessness and corruption, and that brought on the flood.

It’s the same theme that Jung is referring to here as what’s occurring in in our own time, and concerning that image of the book of Enoch and the giants that are generated by the fallen angels. In “The Creation of Consciousness“, I report an Enoch-like dream in which an individual who’s walking along the Palisades overlooking New York City on the New Jersey side watches as the city is being invaded by giants, extraterrestrial aliens. The land has been leveled. Fireball is in the sky. It was the end of the world. Great race of giants come from outer space, and as he watches, they scoop up human beings and eat them. It’s the same scene that the book of Enoch describes prior to the flood, to the flood of Noah. And that’s the same idea that Jung is talking about in paragraph 368.

Number three, the excrescent soul.

The Excrescent Soul

The reference to that is found in paragraph 370. He’s talking about the shadow quaternio that we spoke about last time.

“[CW09:2:370] … By “shadow” I mean the inferior personality, the lowest levels of which are indistinguishable from the instinctuality of an animal. This is a view that can be found at a very early date, in the idea of the προσϕύης ψʋχή, the ‘excrescent soul’ of Isidorus.”

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

Now that προσϕύης ψʋχή – “prosphys psyche”, I’ve written that word on the board, derives from the word προσϕύω – “prosphyo” that means “to grow upon” or “be attached to”. The root stem ϕύω – “pheo”, “to grow”, is the same stem in the word φύσις – “physis” that is translated as “nature”. So the reference here is that a certain aspect of the soul, the psyche, has growths on it. It has appendages. And Jung refers to the quotation from Isidorus. You’ll find this in the Clement of Alexandria text that Jung refers to in the footnote. Let me read part of that to you to give you the idea of what this excrescent soul is.

“The adherents of facilities are in the habit of calling the passions appendages, saying that these are in essence certain spirits attached to the rational soul through some original perturbation and confusion. And again, that other bastard and heterogeneous natures and spirits grow onto them, like that of the wolf, the ape, the lion, the goat. So these appendages assimilate the lusts of the soul to the likeness of animals. Man, according to facilities, preserves the appearance of a wooden horse, according to the poetic myth, embracing as he does in one body a host of such different spirits.”

Clement of Alexandria

[Note: the reference in footnote: “See Clement of Alexandria, ibid., II, 20, 113 (Wilson, II, p. 65).”]

So the idea here is very similar to the handwriting symbol, because once again, the idea of the excrescent soul is that the newborn soul acquired these appendages or growths upon itself as it descended through the planetary spheres. So that each of the planetary archons deposits an appendage of its own nature on the descending soul. I talk about this image further in “Anatomy of the Psyche”. You can find it starting on page 134. At that place, I quote Macrobius, who describes this image. Here’s what he says about it.

“By the impulse of the first weight, the soul having started on this downward course from the intersection of the zodiac and the Milky Way. It’s on its way down from the upper heaven. And it goes through successive spheres lying beneath it. As it passes through these spheres, it acquires each of the attributes which it will exercise later. In the sphere of Saturn, it attains reason and understanding called logisticon and theoreticon. In Jupiter’s sphere, the power to act called practicon. In Mars’s sphere, a bold spirit or thymicon. In the Sun’s sphere, sense perception and imagination. aestheticon and fantasticon. In Venus’s sphere, the impulse of passion. In Mercury’s sphere, the ability to speak and interpret. And in the lunar sphere, the function of molding and increasing bodies.”


Then I just, I won’t go into it now, but I also quote a later poem by Henry Vaughn, who describes the reverse movement. As the earthbound soul is cleansing itself of its earthly attachment, it goes back upward through the cosmic ladder and gives back all those appendages that the archons had passed on to it on its way down.

See, these will be images in which the psyche describes in its own term, so to speak, the incarnation of the Ego. The way the Ego comes into being. It comes into being by appropriating the various archetypal entities that derive from the archetypal images. It takes fragments of them and incorporates them into its own being, generating that so-called “appendage soul”. And then in the incarnated existence, one lives out of those various archetypal factories unconsciously. And as one is involved in the individuation process, then what happens is that those archetypal entities that one had been living in identification with become subject to conscious realization. And that process of consciousness then separates the Ego from its appendages. And that would correspond to Henry Vaughan‘s image of the soul ascending back up the ladder and handing back to the archonic powers the qualities that had been impressed on the Ego on its way down. It’s quite a beautiful image of psychological development. And it’s not based on a theory because it’s all in the myth indicating that the psyche itself is telling us how it undergoes development. And it’s all laid out there.

Okay, theme number three. The Paradise Quaternio.

The Paradise Quaternio

You’ll remember that we’ve already had two quaternions to examine. We’ve had an upper Moses quaternio, so-called, and a lower Moses quaternio. And the upper one was called the and the lower one was called the shadow quaternio. And the shadow quaternio at its lowest term was represented by the serpent. So Jung now builds another quaternio below the serpent. This he calls the Paradise Quaternio and it derives from the quotation that we had previously discussed in the prior assignment. And I’m going to reread it. It reads as follows.

This is from Hippolytus. I’m reading it from Hippolytus. It’s, this is from page 57 of volume five of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. I’m reading the larger version of it.

“They (the Gnostics) assert that Eden is the brain, as it were, bounded and tightly fastened in encircling robes as if in heaven. They suppose that man, as far as the head only, is paradise. Therefore, that this river which proceeds out of Eden, that is, from the brain, is divided into four heads. And the name of the first river is called Pishon. That refers to the eye, to seeing. The name of the second river is Gihon. And that refers to hearing, the ear. Name of the third river is Tigris. And this refers to smelling. The nose. And the name of the fourth river is Euphrates. And this they assert is the mouth, through which are the passage outwards of prayer and the passage inwards of nourishment. The mouth makes glad of nurtures and fashions the spiritual perfect man.”

Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, Page 57

And then you remember it goes on to say that this water of Euphrates is the, is the water that is above the Firmament. And it’s also the water that Christ spoke of when He said, “if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

So what Jung is now doing is he’s combining, the Moses quaternio of, which is one of the Gnostric quaternios, with what he calls the paradise quaternio. And here’s what he has to say about that in paragraph 372.

I put the paradise quaternio on the board there. So that’s the upper one that you can see. It starts with the serpent, divides into the four rivers of Eden, and then unites again in the lapis.

And Jung says,

“[CW09:2:372] For the Naassenes Paradise was a quaternity parallel with the Moses quaternio and of similar meaning. … consisted in the four rivers”

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

And the serpent is part of it, because it’s an illustration of the personified tree numen. And it’s the voice of the tree which persuades Eve to eat of the tree.

Now, we’ve already talked about those various representations. So what I’m going to do is go right on to the next level, which is what he calls the lapis quaternio.

The Lapis Quaternio

And that reference is found in paragraph 374. Here’s how it gets from paradise to the lapis. That’s the point. He says,

“[CW09:2:374] The snake symbol brings us to the images of Paradise, tree, and earth. This amounts to an evolutionary regression from the animal kingdom back to plants and inorganic nature, epitomized in alchemy by the secret of matter, the lapis.”

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

I’m going to be talking about this next time, but just so that you aren’t totally lost in abstractions, I’ll remind you that these images we’re dealing with are living psychic images that manifest themselves in dreams, and that we need to know them in order to recognize their occurrence in dreams. So just a reminder of that fact, although I’m going to wait for next time to go into details about how these various quaternions manifest themselves psychologically.

As Jung says, what we’re involved in here is a downward regressive movement from the heavenly anthropos, the upper Moses quaternio, to the inferior Moses quaternio, the shadow region, through the serpent down to the level of nature, where the tree and the rivers of the Garden of Eden are manifest, all the way down to brute matter symbolized by rock, ordinary stone. That’s as low as you can get as you descend from the elevated spirit down to elemental brute matter.

And that’s where we arrived at when we come to the lapis, because here he’s talking about the lapis as not as the end product of the alchemical opus, but as the Prima Materia, as the original stuff, the elemental stony stuff. And he says here that the lapis was thought of as a unity, and therefore often stands for the Prima Materia in general, representing a bit of the original chaos. And the alchemical task then in dealing with that Prima Materia, that original chaos, was that it had to undergo a separatio process. And Jung speaks of that. He says it represents an original state of conflict, a neutral repulsion. And there’s a splitting up or unfolding of the original unity into the multiplicity of the visible world. And this corresponds to the separatio of the Prima Materia into the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water.

[Note: I just quote the entire paragraph 375 below, because Edinger inserts many interjections into it.]

“[CW09:2:375] The lapis was thought of as a unity and therefore often stands for the prima materia in general. But just as the latter is a bit of the original chaos which was believed to be hidden somewhere in metals, particularly in mercury, or in other substances, and is not in itself a simple thing (as the name “massa confusa” shows), so too the lapis consists of the four elements or has to be put together from them. In the chaos the elements are not united, they are merely coexistent and have to be combined through the alchemical procedure. They are even hostile to one another and will not unite of their own accord. They represent, therefore, an original state of conflict and mutual repulsion. This image serves to illustrate the splitting up or unfolding of the original unity into the multiplicity of the visible world. Out of the split-up quaternity the opus puts together the unity of the lapis in the realm of the inorganic. As the filius macrocosmi and a living being, the lapis is not just an allegory but is a direct parallel of Christ and the higher Adam, of the heavenly Original Man, of the second Adam (Christ), and of the serpent. The nadir of this third quaternio is therefore a further counterpart of the Anthropos.”

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

And Jung says in paragraph 376,

“[CW09:2:376] … the constitution of the lapis rests on the union of the four elements, which in their turn represent an unfolding of the unknowable inchoate state, or chaos”

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

So this sequence is then represented in this lower quaternio. The lapis as Prima Materia in the alchemical process undergoes differentiation into a quaternio, what’s called the lapis quaternio into the four elements. And then those separated elements are reunited into the rotundum. This diagram summarizes the alchemical process, and at the same time summarizes the psychological process.

Another way of formulating it would be to put it this way. This lapis quaternio, this sequence of three, could be formulated this way. First there’s a circle, then there’s a square, then there’s a circle again. This is the original lapis, the original Prima Materia. It undergoes differentiation into the four elements, and the four elements undergo synthesis into unity again.

The other way of putting it is this way, you see. The original circle, the square represented by the four elements, and then the union of the four elements, signified by the outer circle.

This is an image that represents the two-fold process of analysis and synthesis, of separatio and coniunctio that goes to constitute the total process of psychological development.

In “Ego and Archetype“, I quote a dream that has this particular image explicitly in it. You’ll find it in page 210. I won’t go into it now, but the dream brought up that as a specific image describing a state of completion.

See, we start out in a condition of unconscious unity represented by the first circle. The course of psychological development requires progressive differentiation of that unity, hopefully into four more or less conscious functions, but those functions, as long as they remain separate, are in antagonism with one another. To complete the process, the original unity has to be re-achieved on the level of consciousness, which is then represented by the second circle.

Okay, going on to theme number six, the vessel.

The Vessel

So Jung’s discussion of the lapis symbolism leads him then to the symbolism of the vase or vessel. And the reference is found in paragraph 377, where he says this lapis symbolism can once more be visualized diagrammatically as a double pyramid (which I’ve put on the board). And the conclusion of that pyramid is the rotundum. And Zosimos calls the rotundum the omega element, which probably signifies the head. And then he says the vase is often synonymous with the lapis, so that there is no difference between the vessel and its content. Then on down a little farther, he says the anonymous author of the scholia to the Tractatus aureus also writes about the squaring of the circle and shows a square whose corners are formed by the four elements, and in the center there is a small circle. (It’s the same image as this one.) And in a later chapter, he depicts the vessel, the true philosophical pelican, as shown on the next page, (which is this, the true philosophical pelican).

[Note: I just quote the entire paragraph 377 below, because Edinger inserts many interjections into it.]

“[CW:09:2:377] This lapis symbolism can once more be visualized diagrammatically as a double pyramid: Zosimos calls the rotundum the omega element (Ω), which probably signifies the head. The skull is mentioned as the vessel of transformation in the Sabaean treatise “Platonis liber quartorum,” and the “Philosophers” styled themselves “children of the golden head,” which is probably synonymous with “filii sapientiae.” The vas is often synonymous with the lapis, so that there is no difference between the vessel and its content; in other words, it is the same arcanum. According to the old view the soul is round and the vessel must be round too, like the heavens or the world. The form of the Original Man is round. Accordingly Dorn says that the vessel “should be made from a kind of squaring of the circle, so that the spirit and the soul of our material, separated from its body, may raise the body with them to the height of their own heaven.” The anonymous author of the scholia to the “Tractatus aureus” also writes about the squaring of the circle and shows a square whose corners are formed by the four elements. In the centre there is a small circle. The author says: “Reduce your stone to the four elements, rectify and combine them into one, and you will have the whole magistery. This One, to which the elements must be reduced, is that little circle in the centre of this squared figure. It is the mediator, making peace between the enemies or elements.” In a later chapter he depicts the vessel, “the true philosophical Pelican,” as shown on the next page.

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

Now, at first sight, that may not seem like much of anything to you, but there’s a lot condensed in that little diagram. Jung considers it as rather important because he returns to it in Mysterium Coniunctionis, and speaks about it at some length. In fact, I suggest you put this reference in your margin on the margin of paragraph 378, right adjacent to this chart, to this diagram of the true philosophical pelican. CW 14 paragraph 8 FF.

Jung goes ahead to quote the author of this text with saying, A, there, is the inside, as it were, the origin source from which the other letters flow, and likewise, the final goal to which all the others flow back, as rivers flow into the ocean or into the great sea.

“[CW09:2:378] He comments: “A is the inside, as it were the origin and source from which the other letters flow, and likewise the final goal to which all the others flow back, as rivers flow into the ocean or into the great sea.”

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

This image is precisely the same as the image that I charted a few times ago of the four rivers of paradise. You remember, this is an image of paradise. Here’s the head of the four rivers, and then they flow out. The eye, ear, nose, and mouth, and go to make up a mandala image. That’s exactly the same image as this. You see, this is just abstracted a little bit more.

Also, this is really the same image as this, because the generation of a four-fold entity flowing out of this central source amounts to creating a square. The square is already delineated by those points, and then you have a precise correspondence to this.

The reason these are so significant and worth your attention and reflection on is that they are the elemental images by which the psyche manifests its ground, its foundation, the nature of its basic being, basic unified being. What we find in dreams and our analytic work repeatedly are infinite variations on this underlying ground plan. If you’re fairly familiar with the basic ground plan, then you’ll recognize the variations when you encounter them.

It’s this entity, this central entity that is described as the containing vase, the vessel. It brings up the whole complicated vessel symbolism of psychology. Basically, the vessel represents the vessel of Selfhood in the individual psyche. The way it manifests itself in ordinary human life is that containing vessel gets projected into relationships, into groups, into church, or collective settings of various kinds. Then that sense of containment and fulfillment is dependent on the individual’s connection to whatever that collective vessel is.

The analytic relationship is often an embodiment of that vessel. That’s all right as a temporary phenomenon, but it’s not satisfactory as a permanent phenomenon. Eventually, the vessel must somehow find its way back to the individual.

Okay, I’ll stop with that.

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