Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 6 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is class number 6 and the assignment is paragraph 81 through 104 and it’s a continuation of the chapter entitled “Christ a Symbol of the Self”.


I have a couple of notations to make before we begin. On page 51, I think it will improve the understanding of this quotation in the middle of the page if you underline the word in the 4th line of the quotation “appetible” and put off in the margin the word “desirable”. That word “appetible” is not in general use, so you might quite not know what it means. It means “something that excites the appetite” but its “desirable”.

Then on page 56, note 51, which is a reference to the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, the reference in the Ante-Nicene Fathers for that is Volume 8, page 339f. In note 52, in the Ante-Nicene Fathers it’s Volume 8, page 334. In note 54 on page 57 there’s an error in that reference that should be chapter 8 instead of chapter 6.

Chapter Homilies, Volume 20, Chapter 8 and that reference is in the Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 8, page 341. OK.

Tonight’s themes

Now we have for discussion tonight, at least my remarks are going to center around 3 themes:

  1. Privatio Boni
  2. The Pseudo-Clementine text on the nature of God and creation
  3. The vision in the ascension of Isaiah

Privatio Boni

The biggest one of those 3 is the first, the Privatio Boni. Let me offer a few remarks about that which Jung talks about at some length here. This is a basic doctrine of the Christian aeon, the idea of the Privatio Boni. It’s a corollary of the doctrine that “God is good only” and that God in fact can be defined as the “Summum Bonum”, the highest good.

The basic idea of the Privatio Boni doctrine is that evil has no independent existence of its own, it is merely a privation or an absence of the good. It has no substance or reality of its own.

Another corollary to this set of doctrines of the “Good God” and the “Privation of Good” as the meaning of evil another corollary is that “all good comes from God and all bad comes from man”.

Now, Jung points out, very explicitly, that the Privatio Boni doctrine is based on a Petitio Principii, a begging of the question, which means philosophically that if one slips an assumption into the argument at the beginning, the assumption of what it is one’s trying to prove, you beg the question by assuming the answer in advance. In this case, that is done by defining God in advance as good and defining existence, all existent things then necessarily as good, because they’re created by a good God, a good Good creator, and good God by definition isn’t capable of creating evil and thus a metaphysical assumption is smuggled into the discussion at the beginning and hence it’s a begging of the question.

Now, Basil the Great, settles the question this way, Jung quotes him in paragraph 83. He says:

“[83] Another passage sheds light on the logic of this statement. In the second homily of the Hexaemeron, Basil says:
It is equally impious to say that evil has its origin from God, because the contrary cannot proceed from the contrary. Life does not engender death, darkness is not the origin of light, sickness is not the maker of health. … Now if evil is neither uncreated nor created by God, whence comes its nature? That evil exists no one living in the world will deny. What shall we say, then? That evil is not a living and animated entity, but a condition [δɩἀθεσɩς – diathesis] of the soul opposed to virtue, proceeding from light-minded [ῥᾳθύμοις – rathymís] persons on account of their falling away from good. … Each of us should acknowledge that he is the first author of the wickedness in him.”

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

Now the operative word in this passage is the word [ῥαθυμία – rathymía], what that means literally is “easy souled”, “loose”, “careless”, “sloppy souled”, that’s what it means. That’s the word translated as “light minded”. Jung makes a big point of this term in paragraph 85, when he says:

“[85] For these reasons the psychologist shrinks from metaphysical assertions but must criticize the admittedly human foundations of the privatio boni. When therefore Basil asserts on the one hand that evil has no substance of its own but arises from a “mutilation of the soul,” and if on the other hand he is convinced that evil really exists, then the relative reality of evil is grounded on a real “mutilation” of the soul which must have an equally real cause. If the soul was originally created good, then it has really been corrupted and by something that is real, even if this is nothing more than carelessness, indifference, and frivolity, which are the meaning of the word [ῥαθʋμία – rathymía]. When something—I must stress this with all possible emphasis—is traced back to a psychic condition or fact, it is very definitely not reduced to nothing and thereby nullified, but is shifted on to the plane of psychic reality, which is very much easier to establish empirically than, say, the reality of the devil in dogma, who according to the authentic sources was not invented by man at all but existed long before he did. If the devil fell away from God of his own free will, this proves firstly that evil was in the world before man, and therefore that man cannot be the sole author of it, and secondly that the devil already had a “mutilated” soul for which we must hold a real cause responsible. The basic flaw in Basil’s argument is the petitio principii that lands him in insoluble contradictions: it is laid down from the start that the independent existence of evil must be denied even in face of the eternity of the devil as asserted by dogma. The historical reason for this was the threat presented by Manichaean dualism. This is especially clear in the treatise of Titus of Bostra (d. c. 370), entitled Adversus Manichaeos where he states in refutation of the Manichaeans that, so far as substance is concerned, there is no such thing as evil.”

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

What makes this particular formulation so interesting, considering the origin of evil to be [ῥαθʋμία – rathymía], is that this is an early expression of the psyche as the source for something substantial, you see. Even though Basil tries to say it isn’t anything, if it produces something substantial it must indeed have some considerable substance of its own.

Now, as is evident in this assignment, Jung makes an awful lot over this issue of the Privatio Boni and he tells us why in paragraph 97:

“[97] Psychology does not know what good and evil are in themselves; it knows them only as judgments about relationships. “Good” is what seems suitable, acceptable, or valuable from a certain point of view; evil is its opposite. If the things we call good are “really” good, then there must be evil things that are “real” too. It is evident that psychology is concerned with a more or less subjective judgment, i.e., with a psychic antithesis that cannot be avoided in naming value relationships: “good” denotes something that is not bad, and “bad” something that is not good. There are things which from a certain point of view are extremely evil, that is to say dangerous. There are also things in human nature which are very dangerous and which therefore seem proportionately evil to anyone standing in their line of fire. It is pointless to gloss over these evil things, because that only lulls one into a sense of false security. Human nature is capable of an infinite amount of evil, and the evil deeds are as real as the good ones so far as human experience goes and so far as the psyche judges and differentiates between them. Only unconsciousness makes no difference between good and evil. Inside the psychological realm one honestly does not know which of them predominates in the world. We hope, merely, that good does—i.e., what seems suitable to us. No one could possibly say what the general good might be. No amount of insight into the relativity and fallibility of our moral judgment can deliver us from these defects, and those who deem themselves beyond good and evil are usually the worst tormentors of mankind, because they are twisted with the pain and fear of their own sickness.”

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

Here’s the punchline:

“Only unconsciousness makes no difference between good and evil.”

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

What that tells us then is that the clear and unambiguous distinction between good and evil is an attribute of egohood.

The clear-cut and definite distinction between good and evil is an attribute of egohood. He goes on to say in paragraph 98:

“[98] Today as never before it is important that human beings should not overlook the danger of the evil lurking within them. It is unfortunately only too real, which is why psychology must insist on the reality of evil and must reject any definition that regards it as insignificant or actually non-existent. Psychology is an empirical science and deals with realities. As a psychologist, therefore, I have neither the inclination nor the competence to mix myself up with metaphysics. Only, I have to get polemical when metaphysics encroaches on experience and interprets it in a way that is not justified empirically.”

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

You will notice that he uses the term “experience” and “empirical” again and again and this is in contrast to the basis of the Privatio Boni doctrine which has a metaphysical basis, it’s not experiential.

So the basic point is that reality of good and evil is based on the judgement of the conscious Ego, only unconsciousness makes no distinction.

So we could then say that the Privatio Boni is a kind of unconscious trick of the Christian psyche which pulls the wool over the eyes of the Ego regarding the reality of Evil. Jung is doing his very best to analyze this collective complex in the Christian psyche but his efforts in this regard and that includes not only his criticism of the Privatio Boni, but his criticism of the definition of God as the Summum Bonum and as only good, that whole interpretive approach has encountered massive resistance. That’s indicative of the fact that it’s touching a deeply rooted entrenched complex. A letter written to Victor White is very instructive in this regard. I want to quote a bit of it. This letter was written December 31, 1949, and it’s to be found in volume 1 of the Letters, starting on page 539.

But before I read the quote I want to, for those of you who have the 2 volumes of the Letters, I must make a correction. I want you to go home, those of you who have the Letters, go home and turn to page 540 of volume 1 and on footnote 12, which is the last footnote on the page write, what I’m correcting here is not a typographical error, it’s an editorial error of interpretation, you should add to note 12: “this is not a slip, the right word is ‘good'”. When you get home, you’ll see what that means, it’s too long to explain to you now. The editors had thought they’d corrected a slip on Jung’s part and they’re mistaken, it was not a slip.

Father Victor White had read something of what Jung had written about the Privatio Boni and the Summum Bonum, and in a published paper he had criticised Jung his “misunderstandings of the doctirne of the Privatio Boni” and his “quasi-Manichean dualism” and added a calling of “his somewhat confused and confusing pages another implicitous excursion of a great scientist outside of his orbit”. Jung responded to that in a way that I think illuminates his thinking on the whole theme of the Privatio Boni and I wanna quote part of it:

“You have kept me busy for a while with your correctio fatuorum – in Dominican Studies. I found it very interesting and illuminating and it has forced me to go as far back as Basilius Magnus, who is the perpetrator of omne malum a homine.”

“This doctrine produces Luciferian vanity and it is also greatly responsible for the fatal underrating of the human soul being the original abode of Evil.”

“This privatio boni business is odious to me on account of its dangerous consequences: it causes a negative inflation of man, who can’t help imagining himself, if not as a source of the [Good], at least as a great destroyer, capable of devastating God’s beautiful creation.”

“As long as Evil is non-entity, nobody will take his own shadow seriously. Hitler and Stalin go on representing a mere “ accidental lack of perfection.” The future of mankind very much depends upon the recognition of the shadow. Evil is — psychologically speaking — terribly real. It is a fatal mistake to diminish its power and reality even merely metaphysically. I am sorry, this goes to the very roots of Christianity. Evil verily does not decrease by being hushed up as a non-reality or as mere negligence of m an.”

“Good and Evil are psychological relativities and as such quite real.”

Letters, Volume 1

Now these thoughts as I say have generated massive resistances. Whole books had been written to refute it. Now, as you know, it’s a basic Jungian principle to honor resistance and not to brush over it, so that whenever we meet a resistance, particularly a severe resistance to an interpretation we must ask why? What does that resistance mean? Now Jung raises that question in paragraph 98:

“[98] My criticism of the privatio boni holds only so far as psychological experience goes. From the scientific point of view the privatio boni, as must be apparent to everyone, is founded on a petitio principii, where what invariably comes out at the end is what you put in at the beginning. Arguments of this kind have no power of conviction. But the fact that such arguments are not only used but are undoubtedly believed is something that cannot be disposed of so easily. It proves that there is a tendency, existing right from the start, to give priority to “good,” and to do so with all the means in our power, whether suitable or unsuitable. So if Christian metaphysics clings to the privatio boni, it is giving expression to the tendency always to increase the good and diminish the bad. The privatio boni may therefore be a metaphysical truth. I presume to no judgment on this matter. I must only insist that in our field of experience white and black, light and dark, good and bad, are equivalent opposites which always predicate one another.”

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

What I want to draw you attention to is what he does to accommodate the intense resistance. You see, the resistance indicates that the reality that Jung is pointing out is so horrible that it has to be denied and certainly this matter is not something to be argued about if you run across somebody who vigorously holds to the Privatio Boni doctrine. That’s the reason that Jung gives as an “out” when he says “The privatio boni may therefore be a metaphysical truth. I presume to no judgment on this matter.” The word metaphysical fits the situation rather than psychological because Jung does presume judgements in psychological matters. It’s in metaphysical matters that he does not. I see this statement as an example where Jung is fulfilling the promise he made in the foreword when he said that he was going to write as a physician with a physician’s sense of responsibility. You see, any individual who can’t stomach his interpretation of the reality of Evil is free to demur on the grounds that he is acquainted with a metaphysical fact beyond empirical experience and Jung won’t argue with him, he opens the door, quite specifically.

It’s my view that in addition to the reasons he gives that a further reason that Jung makes such an issue of the Privatio Boni is that he realizes he’s writing for the posterities, that he’s establishing the agenda for the new aeon, the Jungian aeon, and in order to be true to his task he has to spell out that new doctrine and how it differs from the old doctrine.

Another way of putting it would be that one’s basic reaction to the Privatio Boni question is a kind of touchstone which indicates to what extent one belongs to the Christian aeon and to what extent to the Jungian aeon. If one believes like Victor White, that Jung shouldn’t dabble in metaphysics beyond his depth then that indicates that the whole idea of a Jungian aeon is ridiculous and the current aeon is the only one, the only living and real one, I wouldn’t offer any argument to that at all, because I can perceive the similar reaction within myself. The Jungian standpoint meets my complete intellectual agreement, it’s flawless so far as its logic is concerned, but emotionally it’s a horror and I don’t like it at all. If I can find some way to say I think you’re a little too hard there that the universe really is stacked ultimately in the favor of good, I’m gonna go that way if I can find it, you see. So, that’s just an evidence that we’re in a transition between the to aeons and each person has to ask for him or herself what fits your own individual experience.

The Pseudo-Clementine text on the nature of God and creation

Now we go to theme number 2, this is the Pseudo-Clementine text, that Jung quotes. The so-called Pseudo-Clementine literature is an apocryphal material that circulated under the name of Saint Clement of Rome probably going back to the end of the 2nd century. This literature is translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers in volume 8. Jung specifically quotes the homilies of Pseudo-Clement. He turns to this particular text because it pictures a deity who’s not yet split into irreconcilable opposites. You see, as Christian doctrine underwent further development that split became greater, but it hadn’t yet happened. You’ll find it in 99 and 100. He talks about:

“[99] The unknown author understands good and evil as the right and left hand of God, and views the whole of creation in terms of syzygies, or pairs of opposites.”

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

And he says at the end of paragraph 99, that:

“[99] There is no denying that Clement’s theology helps us to get over this contradiction (that you arrive at when the God of Christianity is defined as only good) in a way that fits the psychological facts.”

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

Which means then that it provides a kind of bridge from Christian symbolism to Jungian psychology and that’s what he’s looking for, a bridge. In the next paragraph he quotes Pseudo-Clement who describes the nature of creation in which man is a compound of 2 mixtures, 2 “pastes” and then he goes on later:

“[100] These two principles have not their substance outside of God, for there is no other primal source [ἀρχὴ – arché]. Nor have they been sent forth from God as animals, for they were of the same mind [ὁμóδoξoɩ – ómódoxó (homodox)] with him. … But from God were sent forth the four first elements—hot and cold, moist and dry. In consequence of this, he is the Father of every substance [ούσίας – úsias], but not of the knowledge which arises from the mixing of the elements. For when these were combined from without, choice [πρoαίρεσɩς – proairesis] was begotten in them as a child.”

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

This text brings out a very interesting idea that Jung just alludes to. The image is that in the act of creation God sent forth the 4 elements and when they were combined knowledge and choice was born out of them, [πρoαίρεσɩς – proairesis] was begotten in them as a child. Now, [πρoαίρεσɩς – proairesis] means “purpose” and the verb made from that noun [πρoαίρεο – proaireo] means “to have purpose” or “to decide”. So what we are dealing with here is a phenomenon of consciousness, so without distorting the meaning we could actually translate to say:

When the 4 elements were combined from without consciousness was begotten in them as a child.

Now, this is subtle reference to the idea that the creator God is unconscious and what he creates generates consciousness out of itself posterior to God’s so to speak. With consciousness, with choice comes good an evil. Jung says in paragraph 102:

“[102] It seems as if, without God’s intending it (and possibly without his knowing it),”

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

See, there is the unknowing God idea

“[102] the mixture of the four elements took a wrong turning,”

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

Well, it took a wrong turning in so far as it created evil, but it took a right turning in so far as it created consciousness and those two go right together, because consciousness generates along with it knowledge of good and evil.

The vision in the ascension of Isaiah

OK. Goal number 3. The vision in the Ascension of Isaiah.

The Ascension of Isaiah is an apocryphal Christian work of the 2nd century. It uses the figure of Isaiah, the prophet in the Old Testament, but it puts Christian material into his experience. This apocryphal work has 2 sections to it. One section describes a magnificent vision of Isaiah’s in which he is given a guided tour of the seven heavens. He’s lead up from one heaven to another, all the way up and back down again. The other section of this work describes the martyrdom of Isaiah in which he is sawn apart, sawn in two with a saw used to cut down trees. A shocking disparity of the two parts. As it’s said in the work the reason he was martyred because he had the vision, so that gives as an inclination of what the psychological cost of having certain kinds of visions can be. You see this image of being sawn apart there are several Christian martyrs had that same image and such images express symbolically what was happening to the Christian psyche as the church was being established as the dogma has been laying down. The psyche was being torn apart, it was being ripped into separate entities and that’s what these images of martyrdom by being sawn apart represents.

Jung refers to this vision in paragraph 104 and I wanted to give you a somewhat enlarged version of it. This can be found in the New Testament Apocrypha of , it’s volume 2 of the New Testament Apocrypha. I’m not sure whether this is in the library or not, I can’t tell you that. What happened in this vision is that Isaiah is given a guided tour by an angel and he goes through the series of heavens upwards and as Jung points out briefly, the characteristics of the heavens change as you go up. In the first heaven praise was going on, but in the second heaven more praise. In the third heaven, when he gets to that one, nobody at that level has ever heard of the world. In the lower heavens they are familiar with the world, what’s going on, but in the third heaven there is no knowledge of the world at all. In the early heavens there are angels divided into different groups, right-hand angels and left-hand angels and when you get up higher there aren’t any left-hand angels anymore, just right-hand angels. When he got all the way up to the seventh heaven, he liked it so much up there, he says, “I don’t wanna go back”. That’s how Jung reacted when in his experience when he almost died, he didn’t want to go back, but the angel told him, just as Jung was told, “I’m sorry about that, but you’re days are not yet fulfilled. Don’t be sad, they’re not fulfilled yet.”, so he had to go back, but as he went down, he also had the opportunity to witness Christ descending with him and when Christ got down to the Earth he then went into the womb of the Virgin Mary and then his whole destiny started to unfold.

See, there’s a lot of interesting implications to this image. It’s as though Isaiah’s trip up there helped bring Christ down. Also, it’s very interesting that the vision was accompanied by the experience of martyrdom. You see, the same phenomenon took place in the Passion of Perpetua, which I would remind you, was a companion essay in the German version of Aion. In the Passion of Perpetua she experienced a martyrdom but in the midst of that experience she had the vision of ascending the great ladder, you see, so it’s the same theme, it’s the same psychological combination of ideas.

What Jung emphasizes so far as this vision of Isaiah is concerned that the upper-realm and the lower-realm are not completely split apart yet, there’s interpenetration between them corresponding to the right and left hands of God that Clement speaks about and only later in the development of the doctrine there’s the split become total and irrevocable which is what you find in the medieval last judgement pictures. OK.

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