Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 5 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is class number 5 and the assignment covers paragraphs 68 through 80 which amount to the 1st 1/3 of the rather long chapter “Christ a Symbol of the Self”.

Left-over corrections and comments

Before we get down to the substance I had a couple of left-over corrections and comments. Last time on page 23 a question was raised as to the interpretation of the phrase “to the extent”, which is in the 5th line. The German word there is “insofern”, which can probably best translated in the context as “in as much as”. That term as it’s used implies something equivalent to “since”.

The other comment I want to make applies to page 41, the 2nd line from the top can be helped with a parenthetical addition, so I would suggest to improve the comprehension of the sentence starting “But it …”, read: “But it (the split) proves harmful.” It’s a little ambiguous what “it” refers to otherwise.

Also to start with I want to introduce you to a reference work. Starting with this assignment and running through all the rest of the book Jung makes very extensive use of the early christian fathers and he quotes the standard Latin of all the early christian fathers which isn’t available to any of us, but very fortunately we do have available a 10-volume set of the “Ante Nicene Fathers”, that refers to the fathers prior to the Counsel of Nicaea AD 325 in English translation. In this format, this is 1 of 10 volumes, and the Library has gone through the trouble to purchase this set and it’s now available in the library and I hope that you take the opportunity to look up some of the references as they show up, because to read them in context will give you a whole new perspective about this material and that suggestion starts for tonight because tonight there are several references to Origen, whose work you’ll find in volume 4 of this series.

The shifting of the experience of the Self from a religious projection to the human psyche

Now we’ve worked our way down the psyche through the Ego, the Shadow, the Anima and the Animus, and the Self, and we now come to another aspect of the Self. This is the collective, religious-mythological aspect of the Self, in other words, in this chapter what’s dealt with is the expression of the Self in the prevailing myth of western civilization which is the christian myth. So that’s what this chapter is about, it’s all the rest of the book is about various aspects of the Self, deeper and more profound aspects of the Self. As we go down, of course, the viewpoint broadens out until you reach a kind of infinite broadness, but we are in the process of broadening the image of the Self now.

In this chapter, very early in paragraph 70, Jung makes an amazing, revolutionary statement, that amounts to the announcement of a whole new worldview. He puts this announcement in italics and the statement is, in italics: Christ exemplifies the archetype of the Self. Now that’s a simple little statement on the surface, but it’s a blockbuster. I cannot adequately emphasize how radical this statement is once it’s understood, once it’s understood in its full reality, not just as an intellectual token, but as an expression of the reality of the collective psyche, because it’s the first clear announcement of the fact that western man’s experience of the Self has shifted from a religious projection to the human psyche. That man, at least one man, namely Jung, is conscious of that fact. It means that human consciousness has discovered the religion-creating archetype which the figure of Christ is just one expression of, but the relevant expression for our particular civilization. It means that human consciousness has gotten below, or behind the metaphysical projection. It’s gotten below or behind the metaphysical content that Christ is the personification of and so human consciousness is now able to state what is prior to that metaphysical projection and what it is it’s prior to it, is what goes by the name of the Self.

Christ, an Instance of the Archetype of the Self

Now some of the evidence that Christ exemplifies the archetype of the Self is that the characteristics that had gathered around the Christ-image correspond in many respects to the phenomenology of the Self as it’s observed empirically. Let me give you just a few examples and then I’m gonna read you a passage of Jung’s on that subject:

  • Christ is identified as the “central source”, such phrases as: “I am the wine and you are the branches” for instance. That’s a symbolic feature of the Self.
  • Christ is described as a union of opposites. He says: “I am alpha and omega” for instance.
  • The symbolism of 4 and 12 are associated with Christ. He is surrounded by 12 disciples, corresponding to the 12 signs of the zodiac, or the 4-fold symbolism of the cross, or the image of Christ as the center of Christian mandalas, which are surrounded by symbols of the 4 evangelists, for instance.
  • The various images symbolizing the Kingdom of Heaven which is practically identical with the image of Christ, such as the “pearl of great price” or the “treasure buried in the field”, or the “mustard seed that grows to the great tree” or the “heavenly city”. Images like that.

Jung goes into this in more detail, the analogies between the Christ figure and the phenomenology of the Self, in a reference that he makes in Note 5. In that note he draws our attention to Volume 11, starting with paragraph 229. That’s in the essay entitled “A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity”. Let me read some of that. And I quote:

“[229] If we are to answer this psychological question, we must first of all examine the Christ-symbolism contained in the New Testament, together with the patristic allegories and medieval iconography, and compare this material with the archetypal content of the unconscious psyche in order to find out what archetypes have been constellated. The most important of the symbolical statements about Christ are those which reveal the attributes of the hero’s life: improbable origin, divine father, hazardous birth, rescue in the nick of time, precocious development, conquest of the mother and of death, miraculous deeds, a tragic, early end, symbolically significant manner of death, postmortem effects (reappearances, signs and marvels, etc.). As the Logos, Son of the Father, Rex gloriae, Judex mundi, Redeemer, and Saviour, Christ is himself God, an all-embracing totality, which, like the definition of Godhead, is expressed iconographically by the circle or mandala.6 Here I would mention only the traditional representation of the Rex gloriae in a mandala, accompanied by a quaternity composed of the four symbols of the evangelists (including the four seasons, four winds, four rivers, and so on). Another symbolism of the same kind is the choir of saints, angels, and elders grouped round Christ (or God) in the centre. Here Christ symbolizes the integration of the kings and prophets of the Old Testament. As a shepherd he is the leader and centre of the flock. He is the vine, and those that hang on him are the branches. His body is bread to be eaten, and his blood wine to be drunk; he is also the mystical body formed by the congregation. In his human manifestation he is the hero and God-man, born without sin, more complete and more perfect than the natural man, who is to him what a child is to an adult, or an animal (sheep) to a human being.”

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

“[230] These mythological statements, coming from within the Christian sphere as well as from outside it, adumbrate an archetype that expresses itself in essentially the same symbolism and also occurs in individual dreams or in fantasy-like projections upon living people (transference phenomena, hero-worship, etc.). The content of all such symbolic products is the idea of an overpowering, all-embracing, complete or perfect being, represented either by a man of heroic proportions, or by an animal with magical attributes, or by a magical vessel or some other “treasure hard to attain,” such as a jewel, ring, crown, or, geometrically, by a mandala. This archetypal idea is a reflection of the individual’s wholeness, i.e., of the self, which is present in him as an unconscious image. The conscious mind can form absolutely no conception of this totality, because it includes not only the conscious but also the unconscious psyche, which is, as such, inconceivable and irrepresentable.”

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

“[231] It was this archetype of the self in the soul of every man that responded to the Christian message,”

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

He is talking about the beginning of the Christian era.

“[231] with the result that the concrete Rabbi Jesus was rapidly assimilated by the constellated archetype.”

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

That’s why we know practically nothing about the historical Jesus at all, because he was inundated with projections of the Self.

Imago Dei

An important theme that comes up early in this assignment is the theme of the Imago Dei, the God-image. I think it’s helpful with certain themes to follow Jung and use the Latin terminology because it emphasizes the fact that we are dealing with a technical term in Jungian-psychology and it helps fix that fact in our mind to baptize it in Latin so to speak.

In this context he speaks about Christ as being equated with the Imago Dei. Psychologically speaking the Image Dei, the God-image is a synonym for the Self. Jung discusses this theme at some length and he quotes several texts that equate Christ with the Imago Dei. This theme begins right at the beginning of Genesis. In the 1st chapter of Genesis God says: “Let us make man in our own image”, so this passage, right at the beginning of the Bible, establishes the fact that man contains an Imago Dei. This basic mythological fact then has undergone immense reflection and theological scrutiny and elaboration. It’s this original Imago Dei which is considered to had been damaged by the fall of man and Jung refers to this in paragraph 72 where he says:

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 – Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung

“[72] The God-image in man was not destroyed by the Fall but was only damaged and corrupted (“deformed”), and can be restored through God’s grace.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 – Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung

He’s describing the mythological understanding, you see. He’s speaking in terms of the myth now.

“[72] The scope of the integration is suggested by the descensus ad inferos, the descent of Christ’s soul to hell, its work of redemption embracing even the dead. The psychological equivalent of this is the integration of the collective unconscious which forms an essential part of the individuation process.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 – Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung

You see, Jung takes so much for granted, he assumes that his readers are thoroughly familiar with what that reference is, and it’s not even a Biblical reference, it’s a legendary reference. The reference is that between the time of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection He descended into Hell, or more specifically into Limbo, this is according to legendary material, that became quite widespread in the pictorial material in the middle-ages, and he broke the brass gates of Hell and rescued the ancient worthies and lead them back to the upper realm. This is the image that Jung is referring to and he says:

“[72] The psychological equivalent of this is the integration of the collective unconscious which forms an essential part of the individuation process.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 – Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung

In other words one aspect of individuation involves the descent to Hell, the “harrowing of Hell” and the rescuing of the lost worthies, redeeming them and restoring them to consciousness.

I talk about this matter in the “Christian Archetype”, starting on page 109, if you’re interested in it any further.

The reformation of the God-image

He continues the discussion of the God-image in paragraph 73, where he says, quote:

“[73] The God-image in man that was damaged by the first sin can be “reformed” with the help of God, in accordance with Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is … the will of God” (RSV). The totality images which the unconscious produces in the course of an individuation process are similar “reformations” of an a priori archetype (the mandala). As I have already emphasized, the spontaneous symbols of the self, or of wholeness, cannot in practice be distinguished from a God-image. Despite the word μεταμορφουσθε – metamorfousthe (‘be transformed’) in the Greek text of the above quotation, the “renewal” (ἀνακαίνωσις – anakaínosis, reformatio) of the mind is not meant as an actual alteration of consciousness, but rather as the restoration of an original condition, an apocatastasis. This is in exact agreement with the empirical findings of psychology, that there is an ever-present archetype of wholeness which may easily disappear from the purview of consciousness or may never be perceived at all until a consciousness illuminated by conversion recognizes it in the figure of Christ. As a result of this “anamnesis” the original state of oneness with the God-image is restored. It brings about an integration, a bridging of the split in the personality caused by the instincts striving apart in different and mutually contradictory directions. The only time the split does not occur is when a person is still as legitimately unconscious of his instinctual life as an animal. But it proves harmful and impossible to endure when an artificial unconsciousness—a repression—no longer reflects the life of the instincts.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 – Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung

Now, we have 4 different words here, all of which have very rich associative connections. The 4 words are:

  • reformation
  • renewal
  • anamnesis
  • apocatastasis


I wanna pay particular attention to apocatastasis and also an allusion to anamnesis. This is a term that Jung is quite fond of, he uses it quite a few times in scattered places in his works, so it’s important to understand it, because an understanding of it leads to an understanding what the essential nature of Jungian-analysis is. This word “apocatastasis” shows up only once in the New Testament in Acts 3:19 and following. We read this, Peter is speaking to a crowd of people and he says:

“3:19 Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,

3:20 and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus,

3:21 whom heaven must keep till the universal apocatastasis comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets.”

Jerusalem Bible – Acts of the Apostles

Now, that’s not the word that’s used in the English translations, the usual word is “restoration”, “till the universal restoration comes”, but we’ll use the original word, “apocatastasis”. Now what he is referring to here is the term used by the prophets for the return from the Babylonian exile. When it was thought that the return of the Jews to their homeland the restoration of the temple, the apocatastasis, it was also thought of as a foretaste of the messianic age, so it had that double reference of being a historical event and also a messianic event. In another place Jung mentions that Paul talks about the same theme in the letters and that Paul may have gotten this idea from his Hebrew teacher, the rabbi Gamaliel, the elder, whom Jung describes as a “Jewish Gnostic” and Jung suspects that Gamaliel may have taught Paul the old tradition about paradise, that after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, the garden was no longer any good, the garden had been damaged, in the same way that the Imago Dei in man had been damaged, so for that reason God moved Paradise into the future, so that the future, in the messianic age when there will be a return to Paradise that will be an “apocatastasis”, a “return back” to an original ordering of things as I’ve represented that etymology on the board.

Also, this term was used for an early christian doctrine in the first 2 or 3 centuries which stated that ultimately all free moral creatures, angels, man, and devils, will be saved. Origen, one of the christian fathers, and we’ll speak a little more about, subscribed to this doctrine and this doctrine in its complete form even entertained the idea that even the Devil will be saved. This doctrine was formally branded a heresy at the Council of Constantinople in 543.


See, this term, “apocatastasis” corresponds to the Platonic idea of anamnesis, or what’s called “recollection”. Whenever Jung uses the term “anamnesis”, he’s thinking of the Platonic use of that term and that idea of Plato’s is that as we acquire consciousness, as we learn knowledge all our learning is only a remembering of prenatal knowledge, that we knew it all to start with, and so all our cognition is no more than re-cognition. It’s no more than an “anamnesis”, a remembering of what we once knew and had forgotten.

We find the same archetypal idea in T.S. Eliot in his poem “Little Gidding” for instance, he says:

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

It’s the same thing, it’s the idea of “apocatastasis”.

What makes this archetypal thing so important to Jungian-analysts is that that’s what analysis is. It’s a deliberate, orderly process of anamnesis that starts with a recollection of our personal life and then keeps going, you see.


Now, before going further, I wanted to say a little more about Origen, who as I said was an exponent of this doctrine. Origen is a favorite of Jung’s and he quotes him many times in Aion, starting with this chapter. I suggest you look up some of the reference to Origen, you’ll find them in Volume 4 of the Ante Nicene Fathers, but I wanna say a few words about him, because he’s particularly close to Jungians, now I’ll tell you why in a minute. His dates are approximately 185 to 254. He was born in Alexandria of christian parents, that was a Greek-Egyptian city, his father, Leonides, was a teacher of Greek rhetoric and grammar and he supervised his education. Origen was a very precautious and brilliant pupil of both Greek culture and Hebrew scriptures. When he was 17 years old, his father was martyred in a persecution and that was when he began his career as a teacher of grammar and he quickly gained a very sizable reputation. Already at the age of 18 the bishop of Alexandria master in the catechetical school. He combined this work with the study and interpretation of the scriptures. He also, along with Plotinus, was a pupil of Ammonius Saccas, the great Neo-platonic philosopher, so you see, he was saturated with the totality of Greek philosophical wisdom and at the same time the Hebrew scriptures and the recent Christian material. He was a very voluminous writer, and his most important work was called Peri Archon, that’s the same word as “archetype” comes from and is generally translated “First Principles”.

He should be specially honored by Jungians because he really originated the heretical idea of the ultimate salvation of the Devil. See, what that means is, he already foresaw the potential healing of the Christian split that was just then splitting apart. That had to be heretical because the split hadn’t even been fully established yet, but now we are in a position to understand the prescient wisdom of that idea.

The one-sidedness of the Christ figure

Paragraphs 74 through 76 bring up another matter. Jung tells us that although the figure of Christ has gathered symbols of wholeness around itself, still in regard to the opposites good and evil it remains one-sided. Let me read something here, paragraph 76:

“[76] If we see the traditional figure of Christ as a parallel to the psychic manifestation of the self, then the Antichrist would correspond to the shadow of the self, namely the dark half of the human totality, which ought not to be judged too optimistically. So far as we can judge from experience, light and shadow are so evenly distributed in man’s nature that his psychic totality appears, to say the least of it, in a somewhat murky light. The psychological concept of the self, in part derived from our knowledge of the whole man, but for the rest depicting itself spontaneously in the products of the unconscious as an archetypal quaternity bound together by inner antinomies, cannot omit the shadow that belongs to the light figure, for without it this figure lacks body and humanity. In the empirical self, light and shadow form a paradoxical unity. In the Christian concept, on the other hand, the archetype is hopelessly split into two irreconcilable halves, leading ultimately to a metaphysical dualism — the final separation of the kingdom of heaven from the fiery world of the damned.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 – Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung

Examples of this irrevocable split in the Christian psyche is seen by the many medieval pictures of the last judgement. I reproduce one of those pictures in “Anatomy of the Psyche” on page 205. They’re all essentially the same. The upper half of the picture is a picture of heaven where the quires of the blessed surround the heavenly throne. That’s light and joy, and order, and then but halfway down, there’s a line, an absolute schizoid line and below it is the chaos of Hell, where the damned are, you see. That’s a picture of the Christian psyche. That’s why Origen’s notion of the possible salvation of the Devil is so significant, because he held out the idea that that split need not be perpetual, that there might be a reconciliation sometime. But as long as that split exists, everybody is going to do is his damned best to identify with the Heaven, needless to say.


But as we know, psychologically, whenever such a one-sided identification exists it generates a its opposite in the Unconscious and sooner or later an enantiodromia takes place and that leads Jung to say then, quote:

“[77] The coming of the Antichrist is not just a prophetic prediction — it is an inexorable psychological law.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 – Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung

He couldn’t put it any stronger than that.

Paragraph 78 is an important summarizing statement:

“[78] In making these statements we are keeping entirely within the sphere of Christian psychology and symbolism. A factor that no one has reckoned with, however, is the fatality inherent in the Christian disposition itself, which leads inevitably to a reversal of its spirit—not through the obscure workings of chance but in accordance with psychological law. The ideal of spirituality striving for the heights was doomed to clash with the materialistic earth-bound passion to conquer matter and master the world. This change became visible at the time of the “Renaissance.” The word means “rebirth,” and it referred to the renewal of the antique spirit. We know today that this spirit was chiefly a mask; it was not the spirit of antiquity that was reborn, but the spirit of medieval Christianity that underwent strange pagan transformations, exchanging the heavenly goal for an earthly one, and the vertical of the Gothic style for a horizontal perspective (voyages of discovery, exploration of the world and of nature). The subsequent developments that led to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution have produced a worldwide situation today which can only be called “antichristian” in a sense that confirms the early Christian anticipation of the “end of time.” It is as if, with the coming of Christ, opposites that were latent till then had become manifest, or as if a pendulum had swung violently to one side and were now carrying out the complementary movement in the opposite direction. No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell. The double meaning of this movement lies in the nature of the pendulum. Christ is without spot, but right at the beginning of his career there occurs the encounter with Satan, the Adversary, who represents the counterpole of that tremendous tension in the world psyche which Christ’s advent signified. He is the “mysterium iniquitatis” that accompanies the “sol iustitiae” as inseparably as the shadow belongs to the light, in exactly the same way, so the Ebionites and Euchites thought, that one brother cleaves to the other. Both strive for a kingdom: one for the kingdom of heaven, the other for the “principatus huius mundi.” We hear of a reign of a “thousand years” and of a “coming of the Antichrist,” just as if a partition of worlds and epochs had taken place between two royal brothers. The meeting with Satan was therefore more than mere chance; it was a link in the chain.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2 – Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung

Just to underscore what he says there is what the advent of Christ represented psychologically was that it split the opposites in the God-image into 2 irreconcilable halves Christ and Satan. This was a necessary step in the development of consciousness, but it led to a profound one-sidedness and to a dissociated condition that now has to be corrected. The forestage in that correction if one is been identified with the image of Christ is an encounter with the opposite of Christ namely Antichrist. The same idea, Jung says, is alluded to in the great symbol, as he calls it in paragraph 79, “the Saviour crucified between two thieves”. According to the legendary material one thief who blessed Christ went to Heaven and the other thief on His other side who cursed him went to Hell. You see the twofold movement taking place within that crucifixion scene so that simultaneously there’s a movement up and a movement down and this represents a containing of the conflict between those opposite movements and it kinda presaged what William Blake finally described as the “marriage of Heaven and Hell” in which the up and down movement becomes reconciled or united in a third image.

OK. That’s all.

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