Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 8 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is class number 8, which covers paragraphs 127 to 138, which constitutes the first half of the chapter entitled “The Sign of the Fishes”.

Someone I know made a remark about Jung’s Aion, the remark was: “I don’t have any trouble with Aion until I get to the fish business”. Well, we have arrived at the fish business.

I’m going to order my remarks around 5 separate themes:

  1. Christ as a fish
  2. The double aspect of Christ
  3. The planetary conjunctions
  4. The pattern of the Pisces aeon
  5. The image of righteousness and truth

Let’s consider theme number 1, Christ as a fish.

Christ as a fish

This is a major theme that runs throughout the rest of the book. You’ll recall our discussion of the precession of the equinoxes, and the fact that 2000 years ago, approximately, the Sun at the spring equinox moved from the zodiacal sign Aries the ram into the sign of Pisces the fishes. That transition into the sign of Pisces corresponds to the Christian aeon, which began 2000 years ago, and which is now about to end as the Sun point moves out of Pisces into Aquarius.

One of Jung’s basic points is that the fish symbolism that gathered around the figure of Christ at the beginning of the era is either connected with or synchronistically paralleled by the fact that the new astrological aeon then dawning was the aeon of the fishes. Christ became a kind of personification of his aeon so that he was represented as a fish, which does not mean that his symbolism as a fish was caused by the fact that there was a general knowledge that the Sun had moved into Pisces – that’s not the case – it’s just that’s there’s a synchronistic parallel, because we know from a wealth of data that the early Christians explicitly identified Christ with the fish, Ichthys, the Latin word for fish was one of his names. This particular sign of the fish was used as a kind of secret talisman to identify one Christian to another. That sign is still around, you still find it on bumper stickers.

One of Christ’s names was Ichthys, and a kind of anagram was devised to account for that, which I put on the board here, Jung alludes to it, “Jesus Christ Son of God Savior”, that the first letters of that phrase go to make up the word Ichthys.

Note: I don’t know why Edinger claims, that the word “Ichthys” is a Latin word. It is the Greek word ἰχθύς, and the anagram he refers to is also Greek: Ἰησοῦς Χρῑστός Θεοῦ Yἱός Σωτήρ. It’s Latin transliteration is: Iēsoûs Khrīstós Theoû uiós sōtḗr.

Augustine alludes to this anagram in “The City of God“, in the kind of psychologically neat passage, which Jung might have quoted, he didn’t happen to, but he might have. Augustine says that:

“Fish is the word in which Christ is mystically understood because he was able to live, that is to exist, without sin in the abyss of this mortality as in the depths of waters.”

City of God, Book 18, Chapter 23 by Augustine of Hippo

It’s a good example of how Augustine thinks, his symbolic mode of thinking, that’s why I bring that in. Augustine himself is like a fish, he can swim in and out of symbolic thinking in quite astonishing way.

The New Testament alludes to fish symbolism in several places which helps to account for the connection of Christ with the fish too. Christ chose fisherman to be his disciples saying:

“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 4, Verse 19

The miracle of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes which multiplied miraculously and fed the multitude is another example. This very likely is the source of the fish symbolism used early on as the Eucharistic meal in early Christianity.

And then the miraculous draft of fishes is still another example.

This is a symbolic image we are going to be dealing with again and again as we go through the book. This is just the start of the image of the fish. The fish business goes on and on and on.

Theme number 2 is the double aspect of Christ.

The double aspect of Christ

This is another major theme that will continue throughout the book. This is just the beginning of that one too. You see, the zodiacal sign of Pisces is a double sign. It represents 2 fishes, one vertically oriented and one horizontally oriented. There will be a lot more to say about that. The fact that it is a double sign parallels the fact that the image of Christ took on a doubleness very early in its manifestation. As Jung points out in paragraph 130, the double aspect of Christ is prefigured in the ancient Egyptian image of the pair of hostile brothers Horus and Seth, the good brother and the evil brother respectively. They prefigure the pair Christ and Satan, which again is going to be discussed much more fully later on.

Let me draw your attention to one particular remark, it’s located on page 78. At the top of the page Jung says:

“[130] … One thinks involuntarily of the ancient Egyptian pair of hostile brothers, Horus and Set, the sacrificer and the sacrificed. …”

Collected Works 9, Part 2 – Aion by Carl Jung

What he is referring to there is a representation he’s referred to earlier in which Seth is represented as the sacrificed one, tied to his slaves-post, Horus standing before him with a knife in his hand. He says that in the Egyptian myth is the evil one who is sacrificed on the slaves-post, in the Christian version, that’s reversed, it’s the good one who is the sacrifice.

Then I particularly want to draw your attention to the footnote that follows that remark, which is footnote number 40, where he says:

“[Footnote 40] Crucifixion was a well-known punishment for slaves. The Cross with a snake on it, instead of the Crucified, is often found in medieval times [Psychology and Alchemy, fig. 217], and also in the dreams and fantasy-images of modern people who know nothing of this tradition. A characteristic dream of this sort is the following: The dreamer was watching a Passion play in the theatre. On the way to Golgotha, the actor taking the part of the Saviour suddenly changed into a snake or crocodile.”

Collected Works 9, Part 2 – Aion by Carl Jung

This is an important image that shows up in dreams occasionally, so it’s important to be familiar with it and have some notion of what it signifies. It represents a symbolic image of psychological transformation process in which the cold-blooded primordial psyche, represented by a snake, crocodile, fish, lizard, something of that order, is sacrificed. That’s a very prominent feature of Christian symbolism, however, it doesn’t originate from Christian symbolism, it originates autochthonously from within the psyche, which is the same place the Christian symbolism originated from. So as Tertullian could say the soul is naturally Christian in a certain sense, in that images of this kind are spontaneously produced. This is a typical kind of dream that Jung refers to here.

In classical mythology a different kind of pairing is expressed in the image of the two brothers Castor and Pollux (or Polydeuces), the one being mortal, and the other being immortal. In that particular image the good-evil dichotomy is not present, rather it’s the mortal-immortal opposition that is emphasized. Those two brothers were said to have become the astronomical constellation of Gemini the twins.

Now there is a very interesting similar image applied to Christ in the Gnostic work “Pistis Sophia“. Jung quotes a passage from that work. We are still talking about the double aspect of Christ you know, I don’t want you to get lost, because that’s very easy to do as Jung accumulates his data. If you don’t have an overall ground plan to keep it in mind, you can easily get lost. We are talking about the double aspect of Christ and in paragraph 131 Jung quotes a very interesting story about the childhood of Christ in the Pistis Sophia, a Gnostic work.

“[131] In considering the double aspect of Christ, mention might be made of the legend of Pistis Sophia (3rd cent.), which also originated in Egypt. Mary says to Jesus:
When thou wert a child, before the spirit had descended upon thee, when thou wert in the vineyard with Joseph, the spirit came down from the height, and came unto me in the house, like unto thee, and I knew him not, but thought that he was thou. And he said unto me, “Where is Jesus, my brother, that I may go to meet him?” And when he had said this unto me, I was in doubt, and thought it was a phantom tempting me. I seized him and bound him to the foot of the bed which was in my house, until I had gone to find you in the field, thee and Joseph; and I found you in the vineyard, where Joseph was putting up the vine-poles. And it came to pass, when thou didst hear me saying this thing unto Joseph, that thou didst understand, and thou wert joyful, and didst say, “Where is he, that I may see him?” And it came to pass, when Joseph heard thee say these words, that he was disturbed. We went up together, entered into the house and found the spirit bound to the bed, and we gazed upon thee and him, and found that thou wert like unto him. And he that was bound to the bed was unloosed, he embraced thee and kissed thee, and thou also didst kiss him, and you became one.”

Collected Works 9, Part 2 – Aion by Carl Jung

This is very interesting psychologically. This particular image is part of what was called “docetism“. That was an early Christian heresy. According to that doctrine the Christ nature, the divine nature of Jesus, descended on the ordinary human being at a certain time – usually the time was thought to be at his baptism – and entered him, and then it performed its work through him, and then when its work was all done and Jesus was on the cross, then it abandoned him and he had to suffer the consequences of the work that the Spirit had done through him. I consider this a very important image for understanding the nature of individuation. The Self does behave something like that in relation to the Ego. It descends on the Ego, it imposes assignments on the Ego, tasks, jobs to be done the Ego would naturally not do since they are usually rather onerous, and then it leaves the Ego to pay the bill.

OK. Theme number 3.

The planetary conjunctions

When two planets come very close to one another as seen from the Earth, they are said to be in conjunction. This is an unusual event, it’s very striking, it’s impressive, and therefore it readily invokes collective projections. Jung refers to several examples of this phenomenon of planetary conjunctions together with the collective psychic projections that the conjunctions evoked.

For instance:

  • The conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that occurred about in the 14th century BC was considered to have presaged the birth of Moses.
  • In the 12th century AD the messiah was predicted to come when there would be a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces.
  • The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces that took place in 7 BC, is considered to have signaled the birth of Christ.

These are some of the data that Jung lays out in this chapter, you see, I’m just listing them, in a little more orderly, elementary fashion. As Jung says about this phenomenon of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, that since Saturn is considered the malefic planet, the evil planet, and Jupiter is the planet of justice, the supreme being, so the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter – Jung says – represent the union of extreme opposites, good and evil, life and death. In that respect they correspond to the symbolism of the two fishes in the zodiacal sign of Pisces.

Jung also mentions the fact that a conjunction of Jupiter and Pisces in Gemini occurred in 531 AD, and he finds that synchronistically connected to the founding of the first monastery by Saint Benedict in 521 AD. See, the underlying idea is that whenever opposites come together the coniunctio takes place and one can expect something big to happen. This is illustrated by an interesting medieval tradition according to which the great religions originated from planetary conjunctions. Jung quotes this in paragraph 130.

  • Judaism is thought to have originated from a conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn,
  • Islam from a conjunction of Jupiter with Venus,
  • Christianity from a conjunction of Jupiter with Mercury,
  • and the Anti-Christ is thought to be indicated by a coming conjunction between Jupiter and the Moon.

I think there are interesting psychological implications in all four of these. Without going into any detail, the most obvious idea is that would be presented from this symbolism is that:

  • Judaism contains and is the result of the greatest possible condition of oppositeness, Jupiter and Saturn.
  • Islam, deriving from a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus suggest that there is the greatest Eros-content, and I think that in fact is the case, that Arabic Islam is indeed an Eros-religion and that helps account for the crescent in so many flags of the Islamic nations.
  • Christianity, deriving from Jupiter and Mercury suggests that it emphasizes spirituality to the greatest extent, which I think is true, it has the greatest denial of the body.
  • And the idea of the Anti-Christ coming as a result of a conjunction of Jupiter with the Moon, suggest that Anti-Christ will incorporate all that is most ambiguous about Moon-symbolism. I will just remind you of the length of the extensive material on Moon-symbolism in Mysterium Coniunctionis that we went through a couple of years ago. Very dubious entity, the Moon.

Alright, so much then for our theme of planetary conjunctions.

Theme number 4 is what I call “the pattern of the Pisces aeon”.

The pattern of the Pisces aeon

You will have noticed in this assignment that Jung gives us a great number of various references to significant events in the Christian aeon. As you begin to look at the events that he refers to – and this is going to continue as you proceed through the book – a pattern of the aeon will start to emerge. I want to give you that pattern now, because it will help orient you in the midst of the flow of raw data that Jung supplies in the coming chapters.

I’ve indicated very crudely the basic outline of the pattern of the aeon on the board. It’s a 2000 year span of history, more or less, approximately. Events of major psychological importance tend to cluster around certain points, certain nodal points in the course of this 2000 year span. They cluster around approximately:

  • 1/4 of the way through it, about 500 AD,
  • 1/2 the way through it, about a 1000 AD,
  • 1/3 of the way through it, about 1500 AD,
  • and then again at the very end, 2000 AD.

I think you should keep this basic pattern in mind. It’s only very approximate and what we have is a cluster-phenomenon, it’s nothing precise, but it’s just that the greatest intensity of the clustering will tend to occur around these four nodal points.

1000 AD is particularly important, because it’s then that the age of the first fish is about over and the age of the second fish is dawning. At about 500, the first half of the aeon has consolidated itself, kind of reached its high point.

At about 1500 the Anti-Christian aspect of the aeon comes fully into its own. Just to give you a few of the events that cluster around these points, I’ve mentioned a few of them on the board:

  • Jung considers quite significant the beginning of monasticism with Saint Benedict’s founding the first monastery in 529.
  • He considers very important Joachim de Flora, who came a little after, a 1000 AD. I’m going to talk more about Joachim de Flora next time. Also around AD 1000 was a great flowering of cults and heresies.
  • Then around 1500 come events that we’re particular familiar with:
    • the renaissance,
    • the reformation,
    • the emergence of science,
    • and I just add another significant item, the historical Dr. Faustus is supposed to have lived in 1480 to 1540. That’s when he shows up, that’s when that legend gets going.

Now, concerning this pattern, I want to say some more about Saint Benedict, because I said I’m gonna talk next time about Joachim de Flora, but let me say something about Saint Benedict of Nursia, who lived from about 480 AD to 547, something like that. Jung noted that there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Gemini in 531 and he connects that with the founding of the first monastery of Benedict in 529. Benedict was the father of Western monasticism. He was shocked be the licentiousness of Rome, where he lived initially, and he retired as a young man into a hermit’s live into a cave. He acquired a reputation of sanctity, and gathered a great many disciples around him, and finally founded his monastery at Monte Cassino, where he established the famous Benedictine-rule for monasteries. That rule became the guiding code for Western monasticism ever since. Let me give you a little idea of what’s in that rule. I’ll read you some of the table of contents. It tells just about everything one needs to know about how to set up and run a monastery, you see:

  • On the kinds of monks: what kind of a man an abbot ought to be
  • What are the instruments of good works
  • On obedience
  • On the spirit of silence
  • On humility
  • How many psalms are to be said at the night office
  • At what times Hallelujah is to be said
  • How the work of God is to be performed during the day
  • On reverence and prayer
  • How the monks are to sleep
  • On excommunication for faults
  • On those who’ll not amend after repeated corrections
  • On the tools and property of the monastery
  • On the sick brethren
  • On the weekly reader
  • On the measures of food
  • At what hours the meals should be taken
  • On the daily manual labor
  • Whether a monk should receive letters or anything else
  • On the clothes and shoes of the brethren
  • How pilgrim monks are to be received
  • If a brother is commended doing impossible things
  • Let the brethren be obedient to one another

and so on.

Let me also just pick something to give you a more definite feeling from it. This is instructions on learning humility.

“The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will, nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires but model his actions on the saying of The Lord, I have come not to do my own will but the will of Him, who sent me. The third degree of humility is that a person for love of God submit himself to his superior in all obedience imitating The Lord from whom the apostle says he became obedient even onto death. The fourth degree of humility is that he hold fast to patience with a silent mind. When in this obedience he meets with difficulties and contradictions and even any kind of injustice enduring all without growing weary or running away for the scripture say he who perseveres to the end he it is who shall be saved and again let your heart take courage and wait for The Lord.”

Saint Benedict

And on, and on, and on.

See, the basic idea of monasticism was poverty, chastity, obedience. This became an immense collective process that extended over many centuries. Certainly, millions of people participated in the monastic phenomenon in the course of the centuries. Now, from our position we are particularly aware of the Shadow side of monasticism. We can see, how it could be an escape from life. But, I think it had chiefly a different meaning during the times of its thriving, because what it did was it generated a massive collective operation that was involved in taming the instinctual psyche, taming the concupiscence of the primordial psyche and subjecting it to a spiritual counter-pole. You see, the insistence on poverty, chastity and obedience that’s a radical frustration of everything one desires. That pretty well covers it all. Your greed, everything you desire, your lust, and your power desire. You see, if you have to be obedient you have to subordinate your desire for power. It is my view that the monastic phenomenon performed a profound service in the transformation of the collective psyche through the centuries. That’s why Jung gives it such importance when he refers to it as actually being presaged by a major conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in 531 AD.

OK. Theme number 5.

The image of righteousness and truth

I wanna go back to the quote from the Pistis Sophia to paragraph 132. After giving us that quote of Christ as twins, Jung then says:

“[132] It appears from the context of this fragment that Jesus is the “truth sprouting from the earth,” whereas the spirit that resembled him is “justice [δικαιοσύνη] looking down from heaven.” …”

Collected Works 9, Part 2 – Aion by Carl Jung

What he is referring to in here is that in the passage not quoted, just before the quoted passage, Mary had quoted Psalm 85:11 and then went on to tell about the event of the Phantom-Christ coming down. Psalm 85:11 reads:

"[85:11] Truth shall spring (or sprout) out of the earth
and righteousness shall look down from heaven."

Jung then goes on to say:

“[132] … Jesus, accordingly, is conceived as a double personality, part of which rises up from the chaos or hyle, while the other part descends as pneuma from heaven.”

Collected Works 9, Part 2 – Aion by Carl Jung

Truth sprouting up from the earth and justice looking down from heaven. I find this a very interesting image when you reflect on it. I’m not going to take the time to go into it now, but these two terms “justice” and “truth” had very interesting usages in the Old Testament. The basic idea is that truth concerns sincerity, authenticity, fidelity to ones reality, in other words psychologically it would mean being genuine, being what one truly is and that’s what sprouts up from below, whereas justice or righteousness is defined as submission to principles, to laws of proper conduct, to spiritual standards have been established. What we have here is something very close to a pair of opposites in which genuine, truthful being grows from the earthy-concrete reality of oneself, whereas ones spiritual rightness comes from above, and the passage then describes the coming together of Christ’s heavenly brother with himself would correspond to the coming together of truth and justice or righteousness. It’s very interesting to me that the same image – which probably came to him spontaneously – is used by Milton in the final line of his masque called Comus, in which he is talking about a feminine personification of virtue, fidelity, honest truthful living, he ends with the beautiful line – he expects that she (virtue) will be successful, but if not, he says:

"For if virtue feeble were, heaven itself would stoop to her."

It’s the same image you see, that which is sprouting up from below, in its authentic being generates a response from above and they come together.


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