Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 7 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is class number 7 and it covers paragraphs 105 to 126 and this is the conclusion of the chapter entitled “Christ a Symbol of the Self”.

I’m going to divide my remarks tonight into 5 categories and will talk about 5 different themes briefly.

  1. The paradoxical Yahwistic God-Image
  2. The Self as a quaternion of opposites
  3. Basilides’ 3-fold sonship
  4. Completeness vs perfection, teleosis
  5. Involuntary individuation

Hippolytus of Rome

Before I get into those themes let me make the observation that with this assignment Jung begins making reference to Hippolytus and his work which is titled “Elenchus” or “Refutation of all Heresies”. You also find it sometimes referred to as “Philosophumena”. Hippolytus was one of the early Christian fathers and his life was approximately from about 170 to 236. He was a presbyter at Rome and he wrote among other things a very comprehensive treatise refuting the Gnostic heresies, but in the course of attacking them he described them all at considerable detail, so the result is that he’s one of our very best sources for the understanding of Gnosticism, which was not his intention. There’s maybe a psychological lesson to be learned from that.

See, the early Christian fathers hated the Gnostics with a passion and they searched down and destroyed all the Gnostic writings so that until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in 1945 we had practically no original writings of Gnostics at all. The only way we know about them is from what the Christian heresy-hunters said about them. Even Hippolytus’ refutation was lost and it was not re-discovered until 1842. The manuscript of it was discovered in a library of a monastery on Mount Athos, an island off of Greece. I think it’s very significant that along with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in the 20th century, the discovery of Hippolytus’ work on the heresies when it took place in the 19th century, there is a historical synchronicity. This work is available in English in volume 5 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, so you can look up any of these references that you’re inclined to and I would urge you to because if you read them in their context it will give you a much better feeling of what they’re all about.

OK. Turning now to my 5 themes.

The paradoxical Yahwistic God-Image

You remember that in the previous assignment Jung quoted the Pseudo-Clementine homilies which described a God-image which incorporated good and evil as the right and left hands of God. He noted that this text, the Pseudo-Clementine text, was linked so to speak to Jewish-Christians and that in fact is significant because it continued the Yahwhistic God-image which was being elaborated in Judaism about that same time. Jung now turns to that matter in the present assignment and he provides us some material which he says derived from “Gnostic circles and in syncretistic Judaism” generally and this material is presented in paragraphs 105 to 111. Let me give you just a couple of examples of it to remind you of that content. This is an accumulation from various Jewish sources belonging to the first 2 or 3 centuries AD.

Referring to the occasion of the Exodus it’s said:

“[106] Once permission has been granted to the destroyer, he does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. Indeed, he even begins with the righteous.”

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

That refers to the avenging angel that executed the Egyptian first-borns. “Once permission has been granted to the destroyer, he does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. Indeed, he even begins with the righteous.”, so you better stay out of sight on that particular night, that is the idea.

Another one says you should hide yourself at the moment of Yahweh’s wrath because He warns us that at the moment of his unbridled irascibility, if at that moment of divine wrath a curse is uttered it will indubitably be effective. In other words you gotta be very careful what you say and what is said to you at this particular moment when God’s wrath is kindled.

Another one says God’s left hand dashes to pieces, his right hand is glorious to save. Well, these are enough to illustrate pretty forcefully just what’s meant by the paradoxical Yahwistic God-image, you see. These descriptions have direct psychological applications. For instance, the remark that a curse uttered at the moment of divine wrath will be effective, that would refer to the psychological fact if the self has been seriously offended, then look out both in your responses to others and in others responses to you. If there’s been a serious offense been committed such that the Yahweh-level of the psyche is activated then what takes place at that moment has extraordinary power and consequences. The remark that the destroyer does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked would correspond to the psychological fact that the wrath of the Self is an unconscious phenomenon, it’s a force of nature, so just as a tornado doesn’t distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, indeed it might hit the righteous first because they might be more innocent and then the same thing applies to the activated Self.

The Self as a quaternion of opposites

Going on all further on page 63, we come to our second theme which is the theme of the Self as a quaternion of opposites. Jung charts here two different quaternities, two different crossed pairs of opposites which are related to the image of Christ specifically. Christ because he combined in the way that he was described, the Christ-image combines both God and man since he’s a union of God and man, having both divine and human aspects and having both eternal and historical aspects. You know, according to the doctrine Christ was a pre-existent entity, he existed from prior to creation on one hand and on the other hand he was born into space and time into a historical setting and therefore was a specific, historical being. So, given that combination of opposites Jung constructs this particular quaternity which just pictures that stat of affairs, a figure that is uni-temporal on the one hand, namely has a historical individual existence, and is eternal on the other hand and who is unique on the one hand and on the other hand is universal because his universality is represented in his symbolism as being an inner figure that is contained in all humanity. He the wine and you are the branches, that sort of idea, that corresponds to the unique – universal pair of opposites.

Then a second quaternity is spelled out by Jung further down on this page and this quaternity would apply if one considers the fact Christ and Satan go to make up a whole. In that case then good and evil constitutes one polarity and spiritual and material constitutes the other polarity, because to the extent that he is a spirit that he also becomes incorporated by incarnation, so he unites those pairs of opposites. Now, these chartings may just seem like interesting abstraction but they’re much more than that because they correspond to dream images that come up now and then, so that one should be alert for dream images that combine opposites in such a fashion as this because that alerts us to the fact then that the Self-image is being presented.

Basilides’ 3-fold sonship

Alright, theme number 3, Basilides’ 3-fold sonship. This is the subject that is discussed in paragraph 118 and I think you’ll all agree that this paragraph is highly condensed and as with so much of this book it needs considerable elaboration to become really comprehensible, if you are not already familiar with the material in advance, so I’m gonna expand it a little bit in hopes that it will make it more comprehensible.

Basilides is one of the Gnostics that Hippolytus talks about and he was of particular importance to Jung. Jung even attributed to Basilides his seven sermons to the dead, you all recall. Now we don’t know anything about Basilides personally, except that he was a Christian-Gnostic teacher of great brilliance and a prolific author who flourished and taught in the first half of the 2nd century, so about 125 AD would be a good flourishing date for him. He was a very famous Gnostic, he wrote a great many commentaries on the gospels and he was a complete Christian, but a Gnostic-Christian, so that he applied the Christian material to Gnostic formulations. One of the things he talked about was the so-called 3-fold sonship. Now, Jung is particularly interested in this image, refers to it in several places, especially you’ll find he discusses it in Mysterium Coniunctionis, in paragraph 124. Let me talk a little bit about it and what it refers to.

The idea is that initially there is a non-existent God, the deity that only exists latently, that hasn’t come into manifest being yet. That God emanates from Himself a kind of creative word. I represented this on the board here which generates a cosmic seed and that cosmic seed emits or gives birth from itself 3 sonships. That’s what they’re called: sonships. Emanations would be another term, but sonship is a little more personalized. 3 sonships.

  • The first one is very refined and pure and it immediately reverts to the the origin, to the non-existent God, that shoots back up to the original source. I represent that in the chart on the board.
  • The second sonship is grosser and heavier than the first, however it is winged and it can fly, but only with the help of wings so it gets fly away. It’s kind of intermediate position between the cosmic seed and the original source, the non-existent God.
  • The third sonship, which is the most interesting one, from my standpoint, is described as formless and un-purified and intermixed with the undiscriminated seeds of all things. It’s what’s called a pan-spermia, a mixture of seeds, just a jumbled mixture of seeds. It’s kind of the seed-bed of the world, the potential seed-bed of the world that hadn’t sprouted yet or hasn’t manifested. It’s a kind of matrix of all possibilities. That’s the third sonship.

Now, Jung talks about this, he runs right through it very hastefully in paragraph 118 and the reason obviously is that he considers it very suggestive concerning the nature of certain aspect of psychic reality. There are different way of looking at it and I suggest that you all just reflect on the image for yourself and see what it says to you.

Just to give you one idea, one thing that you might get out of this image is that you can think of it as an image of Ego-development. The Ego, as we know, is the son or daughter of the Unconscious and this creation myth of Basilides tells us then that that process of the emergence of the Ego out of the Unconscious, or the emergence of the individual psyche out of the general Unconscious is a 3-fold process.

One part of it, the first sonship never separates from the original wholeness. It clings to that original unborn state of things entirely, the non-existent God.

Part two achieves a kind of intermediate position and part three falls totally into matter, so part two then would be the only really conscious part.

Part one would be the part that is completely identified with the original wholeness and part three would correspond to which is described as falling in matter or in formlessness might be seen in several ways. You might see it as that aspect of the psyche that resides in the body, for instance, that has not yet achieved the psychic level of existence.

Another way of seeing it is the way that Jung speaks of it in paragraph 120, where he says:

“[120] This picture of the third sonship has certain analogies with the medieval filius philosophorum and the filius macrocosmi, who also symbolize the world-soul slumbering in matter. Even with Basilides the body acquires a special and unexpected significance, since in it and its materiality is lodged a third of the revealed Godhead. This means nothing less than that matter is predicated as having considerable numinosity in itself, and I see this as an anticipation of the “mystic” significance which matter subsequently assumed in alchemy and—later on—in natural science.”

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

Now I hope you get that, because it’s an important aspect of Jungian thinking. This idea that a certain aspect of the Self falls into matter and brings about then a state of numinosity of matter and that this is represented by the phenomena both of alchemy and natural science. You see, it’s very obvious in alchemy because the alchemists were gripped by the mystery of the transformation of matter as it revealed itself in the alchemical retort, so it’s obvious that they were gripped by the numinosity of matter. When you start think of it, the same thing is true of the whole scientific development that followed alchemy. The development of chemistry and physics and the biological sciences as well. The fascination that scientific investigators have that leads them to pour their lives into the goal of discovering the secrets of matter that represents the numinosity of matter too.

I’m keenly aware of that from my own experience. As a boy I was in love with the subject of chemistry. I had a home-laboratory and spent a great deal of time there. It was a kind of an alchemical phase. I was fascinated by the numinosity of matter, that’s what it was, I wouldn’t been able to formulate that way then, but now I realize, that’s what it was. That’s how I conceive the whole scientific revolution. So, the three sonships of Basilides illuminate that particular phenomenon along with a lot of other phenomena.

Basilides’ image of the 3 Christs

Now, another image is brought up here in the last part of paragraph 118 in a way that you couldn’t possibly understand unless you went back to the original, because what Jung does here is that Jung brings in another image from Basilides, the image of the 3 Christs.

This image of the 3 Christs derives from Basilides’ conception of the universe, which I charted on the paper over here. This is the model of the universe according to Basilides. At the top is the realm of the non-existent God, that’s the realm of super-mundane space, and the celestial vault is the ceiling there. Just below the celestial vault that’s the dwelling place of the Archon of the Ogdoad, which means the “Rule of the Eight”. He resides in the ether. The floor of that realm is the orbit of the Moon and below that another archon rules, that’s the Archon of the Hebdomad, or the “Ruler of the Seven”. He occupies the realm of air. Down below the air is Earth, you see.

So you’ve got that model of the universe and in the context of that model then Basilides describes the image of the 3 Christs. You have to understand this if you’re going to understand Jung’s listing of the top of page 66. You won’t know what he is talking about unless you get this.

The idea is this: the Archon of the Ogdoad had a son, a Christ and the Archon of the Hebdomad had a son too, a second Christ. Some wisdom filtered down from the non-existent God and was picked up by the first Christ, the Christ of the Ogdoad. That wisdom informed the son, that there was a higher god than the archon. He proceeded to tell his father. His father was very upset to learn that there was a higher god than he, because he thought he was the highest god. The wisdom then filtered down farther to the second Christ, to the son of the Archon of the Hebdomad and that Christ had also learned that there was this higher god. He also told his father. See, the son knew more than the father because the son got the information for the father and the Archon of the Hebdomad was very upset too. In fact when they learned about this fact that there’s a god higher than themselves, they fall into a terror. That’s what the text says. But this wisdom didn’t stop there, because a third son, a third Christ had been created on Earth. That Christ was Jesus, the son of Mary. That wisdom percolated down to him and then he informed the world about it, you see. So, that’s Basilides’ image of the 3 Christs.

The light that comes down to Jesus, the son of Mary, and the life that that concrete, historical Jesus lived then is said to be an example for the third sonship that is lost in the formlessness of matter, that Jesus, the son of Mary, that third Christ is an example that this impure sonship lost in matter here is supposed to follow in order to be recovered from his formless state.

Now, this purification of the third son’s here is described in an important quote in paragraph 118:

“[118] It was known, and stated, very early that the man Jesus, the son of Mary, was the principium individuationis. Thus Basilides is reported by Hippolytus as saying: “Now Jesus became the first sacrifice in the discrimination of the natures [ɸʋλoкρίνησɩς – phylokrínésis], and the Passion came to pass for no other reason than the discrimination of composite things. For in this manner, he says, the sonship that had been left behind in a formless state [ἀμoρɸία – ámorfía] … needed separating into its components [φυλοκρινηθηναι – phylokrinéthénai], in the same way that Jesus was separated.”

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

Now, we know this passage is very important to Jung because he uses it as the motto for the book. On the title page, he says:

“These things came to pass, they say, that Jesus might be made the first sacrifice in the discrimination of composite natures.”

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

Now, all that you need is to figure out what that means.

It’s on the title page of the book. He uses it as a motto for the whole book, so obviously he thinks it’s pretty important. You see, what we have here is a very profound image concerning the nature of individuation and the way consciousness emerges.

“Jesus became the first sacrifice in the discrimination of the natures, and the Passion came to pass for no other reason than the discrimination of composite things.”

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

See, what’s meant by composite things? Composite things will refer to the Prima Materia, the chaos, the undifferentiated condition of the third sonship which is in the same state as the way I described the cosmic seed-bed, a pan-spermia, a confused mixture of seeds of all things. The third sonship which is amorphous, without any form or structure, learns how to take on form, learns how to purify itself and learns how to separate itself from that disagreeable condition by the example of the third Christ, the Christ Jesus, son of Mary.

As Jung alludes to in various places that’s achieved by means of the crucifixion image. It’s achieved by imposing the experience of the cross on the original, amorphous condition. The cross has the effect of separating the opposites, bringing about the discrimination but at the same time ordering them and unifying them.

That’s where note 86 will come in where Jung says a word about the Horos-doctrine of the Valentinians, in which the cross was equated with Horos which means “limit”, “boundary”, “fence”. So that will begin to give you a little idea of how it is that this third sonship undergoes differentiation: it’s through an encounter with the activated image of totality which has the conscious power to discriminate the opposites while at the same time containing them and the image of the cross does that.

Completeness vs perfection, teleosis

Number 4, the theme of completion or perfection. In paragraph 123 Jung talks about “teleosis”. To strive atfer teleosis in the sense of perfection is quite natural, he says, but there’s another kind of teleosis which is completion and he refers to the scripture that says – this is the Matthew 5:48 scripture – which enjoins the believer to “be you therefore perfect as also your heavenly father is perfect”. This is the Christian adjunction to perfection, to one-sided goodness. It is based on the translation of the word [τελείως – teleiós] as “perfect” which isn’t quite right. I put the relevant words up here:

  • [τέλος – telos] means “goal”, “end” or “fulfillment”, so you get that root in our word “teleology” for instance
  • [τελείως- teleos] means then “that which has reached its goal”, “that which is mature, that’s complete”, “fulfilled”, “fully grown”
  • [τελείωσɩς – teleiosis] would be more the “state of completion” or “wholeness”

So that this scripture could perhaps better be translated: “be you therefore whole and complete as also your heavenly father is whole and complete”. In other words that’s a remark made to the third sonship by the third Christ informing the third sonship how to get out of its state of amorphousness and get back into relation to its source.

Involuntary individuation

Finally, theme number 5, involuntary or repressed individuation. Jung alludes to that in paragraph 125, where he says, talking about the “task of individuation that’s imposed on us by nature” and we that should take that as a “binding personal commitment” in “recognition of our wholeness or completeness”, and then he says “if he does this consciously and intentionally, he avoids all the unhappy consequences of repressed individuation”, in other words, involuntary individuation.

In other words, if he voluntarily takes the burden of completeness on himself he need not find it happening to him against his will, in a negative form.

Edward Edinger

This is as much to say, that anyone who’s destined to descend into a deep pit had better set about it with all the necessary precautions, rather than risk falling into the hole backward.

This reminds me of the fact that Jung once said “whoever comes to see me takes his life in his hands”. Now the way I understand that, that remark, is that since individuation was operating so powerfully in Jung, whenever a patient works with him, individuation is inevitably constellated within the patient. You can’t get close to that archetypal force field without it’s having an effect on you. If the patient does not consciously accept that task, that has been constellated in him, then he’s caught in a situation of repressed or involuntary individuation and that repressed individuation-urge can become dangerously destructive. I think this dynamism may lay behind certain chronically unlucky people, who are perpetually accident-prone. In the extreme cases repressed individuation can kill you.

A variation of involuntary individuation is what might be called “exteriorized individuation” and he alludes to that in paragraph 126, at the very end of the paragraph, where he says:

“[126] The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.”

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

He’s referring there to the political division between East and West, but lesser versions of this phenomenon are also too. The idea is that if the opposites had been activated in the process of individuation and one remains unconscious of that fact and one is blissfully unaware of a conflict, then the unconscious opposite manifests itself in one’s environment and then the conflict hits you from the outside rather than from the inside. So I always try to consider any such external events that come my way as external dreams. I assume that they’re carrying a psychological meaning for me the same way that a dream is and I try to interpret it in the same way.

About the author


Add comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Sum it up for me

Recent Posts

Recent Comments