Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 24 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class number 24, the final one, covering paragraphs 402 through 429.

I have five themes I want to touch upon tonight.

  • number one is a postscript to the space-time quaternio we talked about last time,
  • number two is the fourfold quaternio manifested in history,
  • number three is man the mediator,
  • number four is the formula of the Self,
  • and number five is the aeon of Aquarius.

So starting with number one, the postscript to the space-time quaternio.

Postscript to the Space-Time Quaternio

You’ll remember in the assignment for last week, Jung spoke about the space-time quaternio in two different ways.

  • In the one way, the three dimensions of space would make up three of the categories, and time would be the fourth category.
  • And the other way of looking at it is that time has three aspects, past, present, and future, and the fourth entity that would make a quaternio to those three would be space.

I want to present an example of the first version that I encountered in the newspaper. This was reported in the Los Angeles Times back in October 8, 1988. It describes the near-death experience of an English philosopher, Sir Alfred J. Ayer, who was described as a formidable atheist. And he told of a near-death experience that he had during a period when for four minutes his heart had stopped beating. And this is the way he described his near-death experience.

I was confronted by a red light exceedingly bright and also very painful, even when I turned away from it. I was aware that this light was responsible for the government of the universe. Among its ministers were two creatures who had been put in charge of space. They were charged with seeing that space was kept in working order, but the ministers had failed and space was like a badly fitting jigsaw puzzle. Ayer said he recalled feeling that he needed to put a right, the suddenly chaotic laws of nature, and simultaneously extinguished the painful red light that seemed to be signaling that space was awry. Remembering that Einstein's general theory of relativity treats space and time as a whole, he says, I thought I could cure space by operating upon time. Trying to make contact again with the ministers, I hit upon the expedient of walking up and down, waving my watch in the hope of drawing their attention not to my watch itself, but to the time which it measured. This elicited no response. I became more and more desperate until the experience suddenly came to an end and his heart started beating again.

You see, the idea is that what he encounters when in this situation of universal red alert is that space is awry and he realizes that what’s missing is the fourth. And that’s what he tries then to bring to the threefold nature of space. Time, which we can understand from our knowledge of the space-time quaternity to be the fourth.

I thought that was an interesting illustration of Jung’s idea of the space-time quaternity.

Okay, number two, the fourfold quaternity as manifested in history.

The Fourfold Quaternity as Manifested in History

As you remember, during the last several assignments, Jung has been describing a sequence of four quaternios. The Anthropos Quaternio, the Shadow Quaternio, the Paradise Quaternio, and the Lapis Quaternio. And in this assignment, he, in paragraphs 403 through 407, he speaks of one way that sequence of quaternios manifests itself, historically, in the historical cultural process during the course of the Christian aeon. Anthropos, Shadow, Paradise, Lapis quaternities. And what he says about this sequence is that the sequence corresponds to the historical development of the collective psyche during the Christian aeon,

  • so that 0 to 500 A.D. corresponds to the Anthropos Quaternity. That, you remember, is the spiritual realm. And that corresponds to the collective attitude of that period, which was pneumatic, spiritual, and not of this world. 0 to 500 A.D.
  • The second period then, 500 to 1,000 A.D., corresponds to the Shadow Quaternity. And you remember that we characterized that quaternity as referring to the animal realm, including carnal man, man as fleshly animal. And Jung says that historically, that period of time, 500 to 1,000 A.D., corresponds to the time when the church became worldly. It lost its strictly pneumatic spiritual approach, and it descends, so to speak, into relation with carnal man. And indeed, popes themselves did a pretty good job of descending into carnality.
  • The third phase, 1,000 to 1,500 A.D., corresponding to the Paradise Quaternio, which we have associated with plant symbolism, Jung associates with, historically, with the emergence and development of alchemy.
  • And then, the final phase, 1,500 to 2,000 A.D., the Lapis Quaternity, he associates with the age of scientific materialism and the deification of matter. Because you remember the Lapis Quaternity referred to the inorganic realm of matter.

So his idea is then that the whole aeon, so far as the collective psyche is concerned, has been a circulatio-process through those four quaternities. That that’s one way of looking at it. Anyway.

Okay. Theme number three, Man the Mediator.

Man the Mediator

In the course of discussing how the four-fold quaternio manifests itself historically, Jung makes a very interesting summarizing statement. This statement is in paragraph 402, and it can be found on page 255. I’m going to read it. He’s speaking about the fact that the modern mind can no longer conceive of a psyche that’s oriented exclusively upward, the way the original pneumatic attitude of the church was. And here’s the statement.

“[CW09:2:402] … Only through Christ could he (this is man he’s speaking of) actually see this consciousness mediating between God and the world, and by making the person of Christ the object of his devotions he gradually came to acquire Christ’s position as mediator. Through the Christ crucified between the two thieves man gradually attained knowledge of his shadow and its duality. This duality had already been anticipated by the double meaning of the serpent. Just as the serpent stands for the power that heals as well as corrupts, so one of the thieves is destined upwards, the other downwards, and so likewise the shadow is on one side regrettable and reprehensible weakness, on the other side healthy instinctivity and the prerequisite for higher consciousness.”

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

“[CW09:2:403] Thus the Shadow Quaternio that counterbalances man’s position as mediator only falls into place when that position has become sufficiently real for him to feel his consciousness of himself or his own existence more strongly than his dependence on and governance by God.”

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

Now that remark is packed with a lot of import. Let me try to underscore some of it anyway.

The basic image he’s referring to here is the image of mankind, the human being existing as a mediator between God and the world. And he says the first image that presented that symbolic position was the image of Christ, who on the one hand was the Son of God and descended from above and was related to where he’d come from. On the other hand he was incarnated flesh that was man, and so he served a mediating function between God and the world.

And then Jung expresses a remarkable idea that when becomes that which he meditates upon. He says that man’s worship of Christ, the mediator, thus functions as a kind of prelude to his assuming that role himself.

And then an additional aspect of this idea is the remark that through the Christ crucified between the two thieves, man gradually attained knowledge of his shadow and its duality. Now I’m sure nobody ever thought of that before.

You see the image we have, the canonical image of the crucifixion, is that it was actually triple crucifixion. On either side of Christ there was a thief being crucified at the same time. And one of those thieves, the one on the left, cursed Christ and the other one blessed him. And the result was that the one that cursed him descended to hell on his death and the one that blessed him ascended to heaven. So that you’ve got the crucifixion taking place between the opposites uniting the two realms, so to speak, uniting heaven and hell by the fact that the different thieves went in the different direction.

And Jung tells us that that image which was meditated upon in innumerable church services and innumerable artistic representations had the unconscious effect of preparing us for a conscious knowledge of the shadow and the opposites. That that’s all embodied in that image. If once you have a psychological attitude that can approach the image psychologically, then it reveals what it means psychologically.

I wanted to elaborate that particular reference because it’s so striking.

Okay, going to number four now. The formula of the Self.

The Formula of the Self

I put up on the board the formula as Jung lays it out in paragraph 410.

What he pictures here is an abstract fourfold quaternity, which also pictures a process of circulation. You can think of it in two ways.

  • You can think of it as a static entity on the one hand,
  • or you can think of it as a circular process of continual movement, clockwise movement running through A, B, C, D, and then repeating itself.

As I mentioned last time, this formula is quite similar to the vision of Ezekiel. Because you’ll notice on the formula that each quaternity, each of the four quaternities has at each of the four corners representations of itself and the other three quaternities. So the four entities are A, B, C, D, and each quaternity embodies all four entities. And that feature corresponds to the vision of Ezekiel in which each of the four living creatures had four faces. The face was an angel, an ox, a lion, and an eagle. And those same four showed up on each of the four creatures.

But there is a difference between this formula and the vision of Ezekiel, however, because in the vision, each creature has a wheel beside it, just as in the formula, each quaternity has a letter beside it, but in the vision, the wheels are all the same, whereas in the formula, the letters are all different. So in other words, the formula has achieved a higher level of differentiation than the vision has achieved.

Now let me give you an example of how this formula works because it’s going to be abstract and just floating in space until you can apply it and see how it actually operates specifically.

So let’s take as an example that the four terms A, B, C, D refer to the four elements. Let’s say A equals fire, B equals air, C equals water, and D equals earth.

Okay, so starting then with the top A equals fire, it undergoes a four-fold differentiation, and what the original fire differentiates into then is four kinds of fire, which corresponds to the image we had of a time or two back, you remember the alchemical image, where there were four kinds of fire. So those four kinds of fire can be described as

  • A, A, which is fiery fire,
  • A, B, which is airy fire,
  • A, C, which is watery fire,
  • and A, D, which is earthy fire.

You got it so far?

Then it moves on to the next entity, which is air in our example, and then that air undergoes differentiation into four kinds of air.

  • And so B, B is airy air,
  • A, B is fiery air,
  • C, B is watery air,
  • and D, B is earthy air.

Then we go on to item C, which is water, and go through the same sequence there, the four kinds of water,

  • watery water,
  • airy water,
  • fiery water,
  • and earthy water.

And then finally the fourth one, four kinds of earth,

  • earthy earth,
  • watery earth,
  • airy earth,
  • and fiery earth.

Now one could go through that same sequence if you took the four psychological functions to be represented by ABCD.
We could then say that

  • A represents intuition,
  • B represents thinking,
  • C represents feeling,
  • and D represents sensation.

And then each of the functions goes through a four-fold differentiation in the course of this whole process of circularity.

And the implications of this formula is that something like that unfolding differentiation does happen in the process of individuation. You see.

Let me read the summary as Jung puts it. You’ll find that he puts it more succinctly. I’m reading from paragraph 410 now. He’s talking about how the rotation of the mandala takes place.

“[CW09:2:410] … When psychic contents are split up into four aspects, it means that they have been subjected to discrimination by the four orienting functions of consciousness. Only the production of these four aspects makes a total description possible. The process depicted by our formula changes the originally unconscious totality into a conscious one. The Anthropos A descends from above through his Shadow B into Physis C ( = serpent), and, through a kind of crystallization process D ( = lapis) that reduces chaos to order, rises again to the original state, which in the meantime has been transformed from an unconscious into a conscious one. Consciousness and understanding arise from discrimination.”

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


Now, what Jung then proceeds to do is to present us with some parallels to this 16-term formula. We’re dealing with the symbolism of the number 16 here. You see, four times four, four quaternities. And he presents some alchemical parallels to this 16-fold formula. Run for example in paragraph 414, which you will find on page 262. This table of four columns and four rows, which I’m afraid isn’t going to be very intelligible the way it’s presented.

Aspect of the alchemical workElementIdea behind the operationPsychological reference
Opus naturaliumAquaNaturae compositaeSensus
Divisio naturaeTerraNaturae discretaeDiscretio intellectualis
IntellectusIgnisAetheris simpliciorisArcanum
Schematization and analogy-formation

Let me tell you what’s referred to here.

  • The first column refers to aspects of the alchemical work.
    • And number one is work on natural things.
    • Number two is work to divide natural things.
    • Number three is work on the soul. That means the soul in nature.
    • And number four, work on the intellect or the mind element in nature.
  • The second column refers to the four elements. So the idea is that each of those four types of alchemical work is associated with one of the elements, water, earth, air, and fire.
  • And the third column refers to the ideas behind these four operations.
    • The first is the idea concerning composite natures, natures that are composite.
    • And the second one referred to natures that are discriminated, undergone discrimination.
    • And number three refers to simple things.
    • And number four refers to the simplest possible of things, which is ether.
  • And then the fourth column refers to the psychological references. These are all psychological terms, so it’s the psychological reference that applies to each of these four aspects of the alchemical work.
    • And the first one refers to sensation, just our sensation experience.
    • The second one refers to intellectual discrimination.
    • The third one refers to the capacity of reason.
    • And the fourth one, which is number 16 in this 16-fold sequence, it’s the mysterious one. Just like number four is ambiguous after the first three. So number 16 is ambiguous after the previous 15. It’s the mystery. It’s the goal of all the previous ones. And it’s the mystery that can’t really be named. It’s called the arcanum.

And Jung presents this, he presents it in a little more detail in “Psychology and Alchemy”. As he says, although even there it takes some work to figure out exactly what it means. But he presents it as an example of a 16-fold sequence that has an analogy to our 16-term series of quaternities. That’s why it’s there, you see.

And then he brings in a second parallel, too. In paragraph 416, Kircher‘s quaternities system.

“[CW09:2:416] Athanasius Kircher produced a quaternity system that is worth mentioning in this connection:
I. Unum = Monas monadikē = Deus = Radix omnium = Mens simplicissima = Divina essentia = Exemplar divinum.
(The One = First Monad = God = Root of all things = Simplest understanding = Divine Essence = Divine Exemplar.)
II. 10 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10) = Secunda Monas = dekadikē = Dyas = Mundus intellectualis = Angelica intelligentia = Compositio ab uno et altero = i.e., ex oppositis.
(… Second Monad = tenth = duality = spiritual world = intelligence of the angels = composition of the One and the Other = i.e., from opposites.)
III. 10 = 100 = Tertia Monas = hekatontadikē = Anima = Intelligentia.
(… Third Monad = hundredth = soul = intelligence.)
IV. 10 = 1000 = Quarta Monas = chiliadikē = Omnia sensibilia = Corpus = ultima et sensibilis Unionum explicatio.
(… Fourth Monad = thousandth = all concrete things = body = final and concrete unfolding of unities.)”

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

And here again, you have to do a little work to extract the essence out of all the Latin. But I’ve done that on the board. And it’s something of the same sort of idea, you see, in which there are four different levels. And they are associated with numbers 1, 10, 100, and 1,000. And they are analogous to the four quaternities, as I’ve indicated over at the side. And Kircher connects

  • number 1 as we’re corresponding to God, the root of everything, of all things.
  • Number 2 as 10, the duality, the spiritual world.
  • Number 3, 100, the realm of soul and intelligence.
  • And number 4, the number 1,000, the realm of body and all concrete things.

So here again, you can see the same kind of sequence from above downward that Jung applied to our four-fold quaternity. Going from the spiritual realm of the Anthropos Quaternity all the way down to brute matter in the Lapis Quaternity.

And what Jung is trying to demonstrate with these parallels is the fact that the psyche has an innate tendency to generate four-fold quaternities. He’s trying to justify his formula, you see.

Okay. Number 5, the aeon of Aquarius.

The Aeon of Aquarius

With this theme, I just left our present book, because Jung doesn’t mention the aeon Aquarius. But I’m mentioning it as a logical consequence of everything that has gone before.

What I want you to do is to return to the frontispiece where we started and look at it. You remember, this is a picture of the Mithraic god Aion, the human figure winged with a lion’s head and encircled by a great serpent. It’s an image of the Aion.

This image comes up in Jung’s experience of his confrontation with the unconscious. It’s not in “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, but it’s to be found in the 1925 seminar, which “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” quotes only a part of. But on page 134 of the Mimeograph Notes in the 1925 seminar, Jung is describing his encounter with Elijah and Salome and his descent into the Unconscious, which was discussed to some extent in “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”. But then he includes something that is not present in the Memories account, and I’m going to quote.

He met Salome and Elijah, and there was also a serpent with them. Quote, then a most disagreeable thing happened. Salome became very interested in me, and she assumed that I could cure her blindness. We knew that Salome was blind, but I already told us that. She began to worship me. I said, why do you worship me? She replied, you are Christ. In spite of my objections, she maintained this. I said, that is madness, and became filled with skeptical resistance. Then I saw the snake approach me. She came close and began to encircle me and pressure me in her coils. Coils reached up to my heart. I realized as I struggled that I had assumed the attitude of the crucifixion. In the agony and the struggle, I had sweated so profusely that the water flowed down on all sides of me. Then Salome rose and could see. While the snake was pressing me, I felt that my face had taken on the face of an animal of prey, a lion or a tiger.

So you see the parallel.

Now what does that mean, that vision? I think one of the things it means is that it expresses the fact that Jung is the first representative of the new Aion. And therefore, it was his experience to go through that initiation of being identified with the god Aion. Jung is the new Aion. He’s the harbinger of the new aeon and the new aeon, and what I call the Jungian-aeon, and what I think will in the future be called the Jungian-aeon. He could not have perceived and summarized the content of the aeon of Pisces unless he were already outside it. You can’t see objectively something in its totality until you’re already out of it. And he was already in the next aeon, so to speak. And just as Christ was the first person to enter the aeon of Pisces, so Yong is the first to inaugurate the aeon of Aquarius.

So that leads us to inquire then, at least briefly, what the qualities of the aeon of Aquarius might be. We’ve been talking about the aeon of Pisces up to now. The term Aquarius has three different interpretations that I’ve run across. It’s called water man, water carrier, and water pourer. And the figure of Aquarius is pictured as a human figure carrying a jug of water. Sometimes he’s pouring the water from the jug, and sometimes he’s just carrying it. This suggests three different things.

  • First, it’s a human figure. It’s not an animal or a fish. So that suggests that the aeon of Aquarius is going to be of a human nature, not of a less than human nature.
  • Further, the figure is carrying water rather than being immersed in it like a fish. That suggests that a totally different relation to the psyche between the two aeons. Between being a fish, immersed, and being a carrier and a pourer.
  • And third, we have the image of a vessel, which will be an allusion to the symbolism of the alchemical vessel, and to the capacity to contain the psyche rather than be contained by it.

I think this represents a profound change in the individual’s relation to the psyche. Instead of being a fish contained in a psychic fish pond, the individual becomes a conscious carrier and dispenser of the psyche. Steve Gallapo drew my attention a few weeks ago to an interesting scriptural passage. It’s found in both Mark and in Luke. In this passage, Christ directed two of his disciples to make preparations for the Last Supper. He says, “go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him.” And this man then leads the disciples to the house in which they are to go to the upper room for the Passover meal, which will be the Last Supper. This is an image of the aeon to come 2000 years later. So we see, even at the opening of the aeon Pisces, we have a hint of the aeon to come 2000 years later.

And that corresponds also to certain symbolic aspects of Christ. Christ was also pictured as a water bearer and a water dispenser to the Samaritan woman at the well. He spoke of, “ask me for a drink and I will give you, I will dispense eternal water, eternal living water for you”. And also the image of a stream of water flowing from his belly when his side was pierced to crucifixion is another image of being a water dispenser.

So these images indicate that in a certain sense Christ foreshadowed Aquarius because he was a water dispenser. But the water he dispensed did not generate more dispensers, it generated fishes, not water carriers. Because the church became the water carrier, the church became the fish pond in which the faithful fish could swim. Remember my riddle, who discovered water? I know who didn’t discover it, the fish. We can now say that the person that discovered it was Aquarius, Jung discovered water.

And if my reading of the symbolism is correct, the aeon of Aquarius is going to generate individual water carriers. And the numinous reality of the psyche is no longer going to be carried by religious communities, by the church, the synagogue, or the mosque. But instead it’s going to be carried by conscious individuals. And this is the idea that Jung puts forward in his notion of a continuing incarnation. The idea is that individuals are to become incarnating vessels of the Holy Spirit on an ongoing basis. And this is the idea that he develops more fully in the next work that he wrote, Answer to Job.

But that’s another story.

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