Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 23 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class number 23, covering paragraphs 381 through 401, and continuing chapter 14, The Structure and Dynamics of the Self.

I have five themes I want to talk about tonight:

  • number one is the four-fold quaternio,
  • number two is the vision of Ezekiel,
  • number three is the four fires,
  • number four is the space-time quaternity,
  • number five is the Clementine creation myth.

So, starting with number one, the four-fold quaternio.

The Four-Fold Quaternio

As you know, for the last several sessions, Jung has been elaborating a series of quaternions out of the Gnostic texts. He’s gone through four successive quaternions, which I will remind you of.

So, we have a series of these four quaternios, which he’s elaborated, and which are connected to one another by common images. And they fall into a string, which I’ve indicated on the board. Number one, two, three, and four, and they have, as common terms, the “Anthropos“, “Man”, the “Serpent”, the “Lapis“, and the “Rotundum”.

Now, what Jung proceeds to do in tonight’s assignment is he turns this chain into a circle. He takes the tail of it and puts it into the mouth of the first one. He turns it around, and I indicated that procedure in the second image, the diagram on the board, whereby one, two, three, and four is turned into a circular or square kind of structure. And as that is done, the image of Anthropos and Rotundum overlap, and they are considered as the same image. So, it’s now the Anthropos-Rotundum that starts off the sequence. So, we now have a circle.

He’s going to take this one step further in next week’s assignment and turn this into an abstract formula. But for the present, what we must do is to examine this four-fold quaternio in more detail and see what the various elements represent. Psychologically.

These four separate entities that I’ve numbered, one, two, three, four, represent four different realms or four different aspects of the psyche. And wholeness can manifest itself in any one of these four realms. And when it does, then you have a quaternity pertaining to that realm. And certain typical symbolism and imagery is associated to each of these four realms. I want to go over each of those briefly, descriptively.

We have four aspects.

  • The Anthropos quaternity is associated with spiritual symbolism.
  • The Shadow quaternity is associated with animal symbolism. That includes human. Humans are animals too, I remind you.
  • The Paradise quaternity is associated with plant symbolism.
  • And the Lapis quaternity is associated with mineral inorganic symbolism.

I would also draw to your attention that each one of these realms has a triad built into the structure. Not only is it a quaternity, but it’s also an image of a sequential developmental process of a triadic nature. Because the image has three levels at the same time that it’s expressing a quaternity. So what we have then is a quaternity representing the static aspect of the totality of that realm of the psyche. And the triad representing the dynamic developmental process whereby that realm unfolds. Let me look now briefly at each of these four in turn.

The Anthropos or Spiritual Quaternity

The images that represent this aspect of the psyche pertain to the upper regions, the heavens, the celestial, and with light images. So the atmospheric or cosmic phenomenon would belong to this spiritual quaternity. Sublimatio symbolism is particularly at home in this particular realm of the psyche. I’ll give you a couple of examples.

Henry Vaughan‘s poem [Note: its title is: The World],

I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d.

That’s a vast image of heavenly cosmic imagery with emphasis on light. It’s a classical example of the Anthropos or spiritual quaternity.

Another example would be the vision of the heavenly rose that concludes Dante‘s Divine Comedy. I won’t quote that now, but I quote that in “Anatomy of the Psyche” on page 224. It’s a vast, beautiful image of light, essentially, a great heavenly rose of light. Again, that would be an example of the Anthropos spiritual quaternio.

The Shadow Animal Quaternio

This represents the lower, dark, kernel realm symbolized by human figures, usually of a dubious nature, or animals. Including, first of all, warm-blooded animals, but then going lower down in the evolutionary scale down to the cold-blooded animals also. So this realm represents the world of the chthonic quaternity and the chthonic triad. So when everyone has dreams or images involving dubious human beings, animals, in a four-fold or circular structure, those will be examples of the shadow animal quaternity.

Classical examples would be the Four Sons of Horus, which are divine guardians that were buried with the deceased in ancient Egypt. One had a jackal head, one had a falcon head, one had a dog head, and one had a human head.

The vision of Ezekiel that we’re going to be talking about in a few minutes. The creatures in that vision are very similar, symbolically, to the Four Sons of Horus. Those creatures had four faces. Each creatures had four faces. One of the faces was that of a lion, one that of an ox, one that of an eagle, and one that of a man.

And that same symbolism was taken over intact in the Christian mandalas that we have involving the Four Evangelists, who are represented thereomorphically as a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a man representing the Four Evangelists.

In the dream series that we have in “Psychology and Alchemy” [Note: Collected Works, Volume 12], you can find examples for various of these quaternities. For example, in one of the dreams, a gibbon is to be reconstructed in a square. That would be an example of the shadow animal quaternio.

In another one of the dreams, animals are being transformed into men, again, in a square. That would be another example of the same.

The Paradise Quaternio

This realm involves vegetable, plant, tree, and garden symbolism. It’s an image of wholeness set in the plant world. Trees are important in this category.

One example would be Jung’s Liverpool dream, which you remember, had as its central feature a tree on an island illuminated in perpetual sunshine.

Dreams in the “Psychology and Alchemy” series, which is a garden under the sea, or a green plant growing out of a spear, or a green tree in a circle. Those would be all examples of the paradise quaternio.

The Lapis Quaternio

This involves fourfold structures that are composed of stones, jewels, crystals, or pertain some way or another to the inorganic world.

A good example of that is the image of the heavenly Jerusalem that’s found at the end of the Book of Revelation. This heavenly city descends from above, and to the extent that it derives from heaven, it belongs to the spiritual Anthropos quaternity. But, as it’s described, it’s made up of precious stones.

"I saw this great holy city of Jerusalem descending. Her light was like a stone, most precious. The wall had 12 gates, and the building of the wall was Jasper, and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation of the wall garnished with all manner of precious stones, Jasper, Sapphire, Emerald, and on 12 of 12 and all" 

It’s a grand image of a fourfold structure made up of inorganic stuff, stone. That’s an example of the lapis quaternio.

Now, I’m going to be talking some more about these four realms and the way they’re synthesized in Jung’s abstract formula next time. It’s something you keep in mind because you encounter dream imagery involving these four realms all the time. Very frequently, the quaternities we encounter are not pure at all, but they’re mixed or overlapping. And indeed, the more differentiated quaternities that have undergone the circulatio process are going to be highly mixed up. Each one of these four realms is going to have an effect on the other, but I’ll go into that more next week with the formula.

Let’s turn now to theme number two, which is the vision of Ezekiel.

The Vision of Ezekiel

I wanted to talk about that tonight because the formula that Jung presents in next week’s assignment tells us in a letter is based on Ezekiel’s vision. And that indicates then how important that vision is. It’s really a central image for all of Western civilization. This vision of Ezekiel that is described in the first chapter of Ezekiel is the most differentiated expression of the God image in the whole Old Testament. And the imagery of it was picked up in Christian art, in Christian mandalas.

The same imagery was picked up in Jewish mysticism. You can read about that if you’re interested in Gershom Scholem‘s book, the “Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism“, in which he talks about Merkabah mysticism.
It means throne-chariot mysticism, which is what the Ezekiel vision is, a great throne-chariot.

And to complete it all then, modern depth psychology has taken that same image and used it as a foundation for the most differentiated image of the Self.

So that gives you some idea of what central importance it has for the Western psyche.

I’m going to read kind of an abbreviated version of it for you. And while I’m reading it, you might look at my five crude representations of that vision that may help give you a little idea of what it’s referring to because it’s not crystal clear.

Ezekiel writes that,

[Eze 1:4] As I looked, a storm wind came from the north, a huge cloud with flashing fire.
[Eze 1:5] Within it were figures resembling four living creatures.
[Eze 1:6] Each had four faces and four wings.
[Eze 1:10] One was the face of a man, another was the face of a lion, another was the face of an ox, and finally each had a face of an eagle.
[Eze 1:8] Human hands were under their wings.
[Eze 1:13] In among the living creatures something like burning coals of fire could be seen, like torches moving to and fro.
[Eze 1:15] And as I looked at the living creatures, I saw wheels on the ground.
[Eze 1:16] Wheels had the sparkling appearance of chrysalite.
[Eze 1:17] They could move in any of the four directions.
[Eze 1:18] They had rims, and their rims were full of eyes.
[Eze 1:19] And when the living creatures moved, the wheels moved with them. And when the living creatures were raised from the ground, the wheels were also raised.
[Eze 1:22] And over the heads of the living creatures something like a firmament could be seen, like glittering crystal.
[Eze 1:24] And I heard the sound of roaring mighty waters.
[Eze 1:26] And above the firmament, over their heads something like a throne could be seen, looking like sapphire. And upon it was seated one who had the appearance of a man.
[Eze 1:27] And above his waist I saw a gleam like electrum. And downward from his waist I saw what looked like fire.
[Eze 1:28] He was surrounded with splendor, like the bow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day. Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

So you see, it was really a stupendous vision of the numinosum, highly differentiating into a four-fold quaternity. You see, it’s a quaternity of creatures and wheels, but each creature is a subordinate quaternity. So you see, just like this, just like these. Therefore, the analogy between the two.

And as you’ll see next week, when we go into the formula, the parallel is quite close.

Okay, theme number three, The Four Fires.

The Four Fires

So the reference to this is found in paragraph 392. Jung refers to a picture. It’s a picture that he reproduces on the next page, from paragraph 392 and 393. So it’s a facing page 250, this picture. He then gives the verses that describe this picture in Latin. Unfortunately, he forgot to translate that, but I’ll read it to you.

“[CW09:2:393] Naturae qui imitaris opus, tibi quattuor orbes
Quaerendi, interius quos levis ignis agat.
Imus Vulcanum referat, bene monstret at alter
Mercurium, Lunam tertius orbis habet:
Quartus, Apollo, tuus, naturae auditur et ignis,
Ducat in arte manus illa catena tuas.”

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


You who imitate the work of nature must look for four balls
in which a bright fire is active.
Let the undermost have reference to Vulcan.
Let the second show Mercury. The third circle spans Luna.
The fourth is Apollo. It is also called Fire of Nature.
Let this chain guide your hands in art.

All you need to know about those Latin verses is that the lowest ball is Vulcan. Number two is Mercury. Number three is Luna. And number four is Apollo. Vulcan, Mercury, Luna, Apollo in ascending.

Jung goes on to discuss what this symbolism refers to. It refers, first of all, to the four elements. From above downward, the four elements are earth, water, air, and fire. From above downward, that would correspond to Sun, Moon, Mercury, Earthly Fire, Vulcan. Earth, water, air, and fire.

[Note: an audience member asks Edinger if Apollo is Earth.]

Audience Member: Apollo is Earth?
Edinger: Apollo is Earth.
Edinger: You read carefully and you’ll find your justification for that. It’s not arbitrary. It is less surprising, but in this particular sequence, that’s what it is.

These four elements in turn, Jung relates to the four states of aggregation of matter. The four states of aggregation are solid, liquid, gas, and flame. So what the image is telling us is that the common denominator of all the elements is fire. In other words, energy.

Now, what would this mean psychologically? I would understand it to mean that psychic contents are aggregations of energy, psychic energy, or libido. That is, they exist by virtue of their energy content. You know, that’s really no more than saying what modern physics has discovered, that matter and energy are two expressions for the same phenomenon. We now know that matter can be transformed into energy. And this image indicates the same thing applies to the psychic.

So, contents, psychic contents exist by virtue of their energy content. But also we can say that their mode of manifestation is determined by the level of the activation of that energy. For instance, an unconscious content or complex can remain utterly quiescent until it’s activated. And as long as it remains quiescent, it’s earth, so to speak. It’s in that most solid of states. But if it’s heated up, if it’s activated, then it can turn into water, into air, or into fire.

Now, that’s an interesting idea that I don’t have time to explore any more fully. But it’s something to reflect on as you’re doing your work, considering that the psychic contents that we’re engaged with are all of energy manifestations that appear under different modes depending on their different levels of activation.

Okay, theme number four, the space-time quaternity.

The Space-Time Quaternity

This reference is found in paragraph 397. Jung has been talking about these four balls of fire. Apollo, Vulcan, Luna, and Mercurius, and he says three of them are straightforward, and one is ambivalent because it’s Mercurius duplex. That’s the characteristic imagery of the three plus the unusual fourth. Then look what he goes on to say.

“[CW09:2:397] If we look at this quaternio from the standpoint of the three-dimensionality of space, (Edinger’s interjection: he’s referring to a chart. He’s just pictured in which height, depth, width, and time are pictured in place of Apollo, Vulcan, Luna, and Mercurius.) then time can be conceived as a fourth dimension. But if we look at it in terms of the three qualities of time—past, present, future—then static space, in which changes of state occur, must be added as a fourth term. In both cases, the fourth represents an incommensurable Other … Thus we measure space by time and time by space.”

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

And then he goes on to say in the next paragraph,

“[CW09:2:398] The space-time quaternio is the archetypal sine qua non for any apprehension of the physical world—indeed, the very possibility of apprehending it. It is the organizing schema par excellence among the psychic quaternities.”

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

Now, I don’t know whether you realize it or not, but what he’s expressing here is really a revolutionary insight. Which builds a bridge between the world, the psyche, and the physical world. See, it says in effect that our experience and apprehension of the physical world, our ability just to perceive, to function, and relate in the physical world of matter, is an expression of the Self, of the quaternity.

Now, it takes a while for the implications that’s to sink in. And it’s important to know that this discovery is based on the earlier discovery of Kant, Immanuel Kant, the philosopher, which is vital for an understanding of Jung.

[Note: at this point Edinger does a quick survey of the audience.]

Let me ask you, how many of you feel you have at least a rudimentary notion of Kant’s philosophy?
How many? Raise your hands! Up high so I can measure.
Well, maybe half, maybe half.

It’s important, it’s very important if you call yourself a Jungian psychologist that you have at least a rudimentary idea of Kant.

The basic idea that was really took a genius to discover is that perception and understanding of the external world are structured according to a priori forms or categories of the mind. So when we perceive the external world of objects, as we do, laid out in three dimensions of space and continuous in a sequence that we call time, these structures of space and time, which contain the external world as we perceive it, do not exist in the outer world. They are structures that our mind imposes or projects onto the raw data of the senses in order to make sense of it. It’s the mind that creates the order of the universe of space and time. Space and time do not exist in the physical world itself.

Now, this was a revolutionary discovery of Kant’s for epistemology, for the science of knowledge. And what Jung is doing in his description of this space-time quaternity is he’s assimilating that Kantian discovery to his own discovery of the Self. The implications for this are immense, because for one thing they reveal that perception of the psyche and perception of φύσις – “physis” the physical world overlap. And each is perceived through the organ of the Self. He alludes to something like this in his remark in paragraph 381, where he says,

“[CW09:2:381] The quaternity is an organizing schema par excellence, something like the crossed threads in a telescope. It is a system of co-ordinates that is used almost instinctively for dividing up and arranging a chaotic multiplicity, as when we divide up the visible surface of the earth, the course of the year, or a collection of individuals into groups, …”

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

What he doesn’t specifically state, but what’s implied, is that Kant was doing the same thing when he made the discovery that we perceive and order the sensations from the external world by means of the quaternity of the space-time image. That space-time image is one version of the cross threads in the telescope of our perception.

That’s all I have time to say about that.

I brought along a little something I was thinking I might read concerning Kant’s categories and forms of perception. Since I brought it, I will mention that those of you who have not had at least a rudimentary philosophical education, ought to at least get the rudiments, and I would recommend something I’ve liked ever since. I discovered it in high school. It’s Will Durant‘s “The Story of Philosophy“. It’s as good and as simple an account of the basic thing you need to know as you can find anywhere.

Okay, turning to theme number five, the Clementine Creation Myth.

The Clementine Creation Myth

The reference here is found in paragraph 400. I would like to mention, in conclusion, the peculiar theory of world creation in the Clementine homilies. In God, πνεῦμα – pneuma and σῶμα – soma are one. When they are separate, pneuma appears as the Son, and soma appears as matter, and then the matter divides into four elements, and out of that psyche arises a number of syzygies or paired opposites.

“[CW09:2:400] I would like, in conclusion, to mention the peculiar theory of world creation in the Clementine Homilies. In God, pneuma and soma are one. When they separate, pneuma appears as the Son and “archon of the future Aeon,” but soma, actual substance (ούοία) or matter ὒλη, divides into four, corresponding to the four elements (which were always solemnly invoked at initiations). From the mixing of the four parts there arose the devil, the “archon of this Aeon,” and the psyche of this world. Soma had become psychized (ὲμψῦχον): “God rules this world as much through the devil as through the Son, for both are in his hands.” God unfolds himself in the world in the form of syzygies (paired opposites), such as heaven/earth, day/night, male/female, etc. The last term of the first series is the Adam/Eve syzygy. At the end of this fragmentation process there follows the return to the beginning, the consummation of the universe (τελευτὴ τῶν πάντων) through purification and annihilation.”

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

It’s up here.

Once again, this is so condensed that it’s very difficult to understand. I’ve elaborated it a little bit in a chart on the board to show you what that basic image is, and this is an image of some importance to Jung. You’ll remember, he mentioned this image earlier. Actually, it’s back in paragraph 99. In fact, I suggest that you put a reference in the margin paragraph 400 to see above paragraph 99 FF, because there before he talked about the Clementine image of God in which the right hand is good and the left hand is evil. Here is another version of that same image where the unitary God divides into a good son and a bad son. A good son is the right hand, the right arm, so to speak, the right pillar, pneuma, spirit, and the bad son is matter, and that matter then further divides into the four elements, and the devil comes out of that. Those are just the first two opposites.

The other opposites that are divided from unitary God, as I mentioned, are heaven and earth, day and night, male and female, light and fire, sun and moon, life and death, Adam and Eve.

What we have here is quite a close parallel to the Kabbalistic Sefirotic Tree. It has different numbers, but it’s an image of the deity emanating into a series of separate entities, and just as in the Sefirotic Tree, the opposites are incorporated in the two sides, just as they are incorporated in the two sides of this entity.

As I said, this is an important image to Jung because it was an early explicit example of a god-image that explicitly contained the opposites and didn’t split them apart, even though it was a Christian image and expressed in a Christian text. So it really foreshadowed Jung’s conception of the self as a reconciliation of opposites.


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