Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 9 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class number 9 and it covers paragraphs 139 to 149 and it includes the last half of the chapter entitled “The Sign of the Fishes”.

I have 4 themes I want to discuss tonight:

  1. Joachim de Flora and the Holy Ghost movement
  2. The symbolism of the new rock
  3. Christian fish symbolism
  4. Pisces the constellation

So to begin with let’s start with number 1.

Joachim de Flora and the Holy Ghost movement

You remember last time I talked about the pattern of the Christian aeon and I spoke of the tendency within that 2000 year time period for certain nodal points to be accentuated, approximately 500 AD, 1000 AD, 1500 AD, and 2000. You remember last time we talked about the first nodal point in the vicinity of 500 AD which marked the time of Saint Benedict and the beginning of organized monasticism.

The second nodal point in the pattern of the aeon comes around 1000 AD and that region of time is characterized by the emergence of a number of heretical sects and cults and also of a prominent spokesman for the Holy Ghost namely Joachim of Flora, also called Fiore. That’s a town in the southern part of Italy, in the foot of the Italian boot. I want to sketch very briefly the life of Joachim of Flora and then go into his chief idea.

His approximate dates are 1132 to 1202. He was the founder of an order of monks and he attained considerable renown in his lifetime and his ideas left a deep imprint. They were very influential on the spiritual movements of the times and also historically. Not very much is known about his life, he was born in Southern-Italy, and lived there pretty much his whole life. He went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land on one occasion, he became a cistercian monk, and at one time he broke away from the monastery and retired to the mountains to follow a [could not discern] life of solitude. He had a rich inner life, but not very much is known about the details, except according to the legends he had three very significant illuminations. One apparently occurred on his pilgrimage, the second one took place on Easter eve after a frustrated period of studying the Book of Revelation, at which time after a state of feeling imprisoned his mind was suddenly flood with clarity, and the third occasion was the most significant one, and the one he is most known for, was an experience at Pentecost, when after a time of agonizing doubt concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, which is something he was obsessed with pretty much throughout his lifetime, in the midst of this agonizing doubt concerning the Trinity, he had a vision of a psalter. The psalter is a kind of a primitive harp and the Psalms are also called a psalter because they’re to be accompanied by this stringed instrument. Joachim had this vision of a psalter with 10 strings on it and the psalter was in a triangular form, signifying the Trinity. That vision brought a sense of revelation about his doubts concerning the Trinity.

His major doctrine concerned the Trinity. His really novel idea was that the Trinity, which was thought of as a static entity expressing the Christian deity, Joachim conceived of as a historical process. His idea was that the age of the Father manifested itself in history during the Old Testament age and corresponded approximate to the 1000 years before Christ. He characterized that time as the time of law and fear. The age of the Son he considered to be the New Testament age to occur historically the first 1000 years of the Christian aeon and that he characterized with grace and faith. The age of the Holy Ghost he considered to being about 1000 AD and that was to be characterized by the qualities of love and spirit, the manifestation and individual indwelling of the Holy Ghost in individuals.

For some of you who might not be thoroughly versed in the dogma of the Trinity I want to read a brief section of the [could not discern] version of the creed, which characterizes, describes the Trinity. There’s been a whole series of creeds and Jung goes into this subject in his “Essay on the Trinity” in volume 11. This particular description of the Trinity comes from the creed of the Lateran council which took place in 1215 and it describes the Trinity in these words:

“We firmly believe and simply confess that there is only one true God, eternal and immeasurable, almighty, unchangeable, incomprehensible and ineffable, Father, Son and holy Spirit, three persons but one absolutely simple essence, substance or nature. The Father is from none, the Son from the Father alone, and the holy Spirit from both equally, eternally without beginning or end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal, co-omnipotent and coeternal;”

Lateran Creed

That’s the dogmatic formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity in its most elementary form. Joachim’s great contribution was to translate this symbolism into a temporal sequence. Jung in several places in his work refers to Joachim and to his idea, because this was quite significant, it was kind of a forerunner of Jung in the sense that Jung has done the same thing. He translated the symbolism of the Trinity also into a temporal process into a process of psychological development. I want to outline that for you. He does this in his Trinity essay. As to summarize it in an outline form, here’s what he does with the symbolism of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.

“[CW11:201] … The world of the Father typifies an age which is characterized by a pristine oneness with the whole of Nature …”

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

“[CW11:199] … an age [<- Edinger’s insertion] far removed from critical judgment and moral conflict …”

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

“[CW11:201] … it is man in his childhood state …”

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

It corresponds to the psychological condition of original oneness, because the Father is number one of the Trinity sequence. About the world of the Son, who is number two of the Trinity sequence, Jung writes:

“[CW11:203] … a world filled with longing for redemption and for that state of perfection in which man was still one with the Father. Longingly he looked back to the world of the Father, but it was lost forever, because an irreversible increase in man’s consciousness had taken place in the meantime and made it independent. …”

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

“[CW11:272] … The stage of the “Son” is therefore a conflict situation par excellence … “Freedom from the law” brings a sharpening of opposites …”

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

This state of affairs corresponds to the symbolism of the number two, which symbolizes the conflict of the opposites. The Holy Ghost then takes us to the symbolism of number three. Concerning the world of Holy Ghost, he writes:

“[CW11:274] Accordingly, the advance to the third stage means something like a recognition of the unconscious, if not actual subordination to it. … Just as the transition from the first stage to the second demands the sacrifice of childish dependence, so, at the transition to the third stage, an exclusive independence has to be relinquished.”

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

“[CW11:276] … This third stage, as we have seen, means articulating one’s ego-consciousness with a supraordinate totality, of which one cannot say that it is “I,” but which is best visualized as a more comprehensive being …”

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

So you see there are considerable analogies between Joachim’s three-fold historical sequence and Jung’s three-fold developmental sequence. One striking similarity for instance is that Joachim thought of the final age of the Holy Ghost as ushering in what he called the “Ecclesia Spiritualis”, the spiritual church, the church of the Spirit. That’s a term that Jung makes use of, shows up in alchemy, and it corresponds to the church in which each individual has his own unique relation to the Holy Ghost. That’s the church that constitutes the “Ecclesia Spiritualis”. So Joachim’s thinking is really a prelude to psychological thinking.

In paragraph 139 Jung tells us that in Joachim’s day everyone felt the rushing wind of the pneuma – that’s the Holy Ghost manifesting itself. This was the time when cults and heresies were springing up all over. [Here he lists some of these heresies, but I could not discern most of them.] I want to take just one of those heretical cults and say a few words about them to flesh out what these cults believed and what they preached. Let’s speak about the Cathars. They were also called the “Albigenses”. They originated in the 11th century, right around the turn of the millennium, and they spread throughout Europe. It was a Neo-Manichean sect of radical dualism that believed that all matter was evil. Some sections in this sect considered Satan to be an independent deity. They had a docetist doctrine of Christ, they thought that Christ was an angel with only a phantom-body, who did not really suffer, because their radical dualism could not allow the Son of God to actually concretely enter into that evil matter, you see, so it had to be only a semblance, only a seaming. They had a moral doctrine of extreme rigor. They condemned marriage and the use of all animal products. They called themselves “the pure ones”, that’s the meaning of the word “Cathars”. They considered that man wan an alien in this evil world, just a sojourner here, and he shouldn’t soil himself with the matter of this world. They practiced extreme asceticism. They applied different standards to different groups. The faithful were divided into two groups: into the perfect and into the believers. The perfect were set apart from the others by an initiation ceremony called “Consolamentum” and they then devoted themselves to contemplation and maintain the very highest moral standards. See, according to those standards, if everybody followed those standards, the human race would die out in a generation, but the believers were allowed a lot more liberties.

Now, this term “consolamentum” which was part of the initiation ceremony for the perfect ones is an interesting term. It means the consoling or comforting function of the Holy Ghost, considered to be the Paraclete, who had been promised by Christ that after he left, he would send the Paraclete, the comforter. The initiation ceremony was thought to amount to a baptism in the Holy Ghost and that baptism brought with it a consolamentum. I came across an interesting use of this term “consolamentum” in one of Jung’s letters [Letters, Volume 2, Page 133, “To Father Victor White”, 11/24/1953]. In a letter in which he talks about Joachim’s vision of a new age and a new Gospel, he says that Joachim had that vision “in a time when the great tearing apart had just begun and such a vision” – he says – “seems to be granted as divine grace as a sort of consolamentum so that man is not left in a completely hopeless state during the time of darkness”. It’s not too hard to read into that some analogy to Jung’s own experience of consolamentum that functioned as a comfort in the light of perhaps more consciousness than the individual should be asked to carry.

Now the Cathars and all the other heretical sects of that age had certain characteristics in common and Jung summarizes those in paragraph 139. It’s actually a quote from another scholar:

“[CW09:2:139] Item, they believe themselves to be God by nature without distinction … and that they are eternal … .
Item, that they have no need of God or the Godhead.
Item, that they constitute the kingdom of heaven.
Item, that they are immutable in the new rock, that they rejoice in naught and are troubled by naught.
Item, that a man is bound to follow his inner instinct rather than the truth of the Gospel which is preached every day. … They say that they believe the Gospel to contain poetical matters which are not true.”

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

And Jung then comments:

“[CW09:2:140] These few examples may suffice to show what kind of spirit animated these movements. They were made up of people who identified themselves (or were identified) with God, who deemed themselves supermen, had a critical approach to the gospels, followed the promptings of the inner man, and understood the kingdom of heaven to be within. In a sense, therefore, they were modern in their outlook, but they had a religious inflation instead of the rationalistic and political psychosis that is the affliction of our day.”

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

This phenomenon of Joachim and the stirrings of the Holy Ghost as it manifested in these sects and heresies, Jung understands as the first stirrings of the second fish, the first fish being Christ and the second fish being Anti-Christ.

OK. Moving on to theme number 2.

The symbolism of the new rock

In what I just quoted to you, in paragraph 143, Jung draws our attention back to the phrase I just quoted, in which the heretics were described as believing that “they are immutable in the new rock”, and then he goes on to talk about this new rock as analogous to the Philosopher’s Stone, and he talks about he it refers to the symbolic equation of Christ with the rock.

These heretics have the immutability in the new rock, which corresponds to the Philosopher’s Stone, and he also alludes to the water from the rock that Moses struck in the Sinai Desert. That sacred rock was equated with Christ from whom blood and water flowed when his side was pierced. He also speaks of the water from the rock as equivalent to the alchemical “Aqua Permanens”, so he then summarizes that:

“[CW09:2:144] The new rock, then, takes the place of Christ, just as the everlasting gospel was meant to take the place of Christ’s message. Through the descent and indwelling of the Holy Ghost the [υιοτης – uiotés], sonship, is infused into every individual, so that everybody who possesses the Holy Ghost will be a new rock, in accordance with I Peter 2:5: “Be you also as living stones built up.”70 This is a logical development of the teaching about the Paracletc and the filiation, as stated in Luke 6:35: “You shall be sons of the Highest,”…”

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

This is all individuation symbolism, you see, in which the individual discovers the inner rock, which then grants a certain immutability. The rock then is found within as a consequence of connection to the Holy Ghost as opposed to projected or collectively exteriorized.

Another interesting feature of this symbolism is alluded to in note 70. It’s on the bottom of page 88, where Jung says:

“[CW09:2:Footnote 70] Cf. the building of the seamless tower (church) with “living stones” in the “Shepherd” of Hermas.”

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

I want to read that vision to you. That was a vision that took place at the beginning of the Christian aeon. Hermes had a vision he saw:

"2[10]:4 Then she again took me by the hand, and raiseth me, and seateth me on the couch at the left hand, while she herself sat on the right. And lifting up a certain glistening rod, she saith to me, "Seest thou a great thing?" I say to her, "Lady, I see nothing." She saith to me, "Look thou; dost thou not see in front of thee a great tower being builded upon the waters, of glistening square stones?"

2[10]:5 Now the tower was being builded foursquare by the six young men that came with her. And countless other men were bringing stones, some of them from the deep, and others from the land, and were handing them to the six young men. And they took them and builded.

2[10]:6 The stones that were dragged from the deep they placed in every case, just as they were, into the building, for they had been shaped, and they fitted in their joining with the other stones; and they adhered so closely one with another that their joining could not possibly be detected; and the building of the tower appeared as if it were built of one stone."

So the image is: stones coming from all sides joining to make a single building which became a single rock without seams and then Hermes asks the woman who’s showing him this vision, what is this, and she says:

"3[11]:3 The tower, which thou seest building, is myself, the Church, which was seen of thee both now and aforetime. Ask, therefore, what thou willest concerning the tower, and I will reveal it unto thee, that thou mayest rejoice with the saints.""

So the church took over that rock like function of Christ.

A very interesting modern dream has come to my attention concerning this imagery which I think is a very interesting contrast to that dream at the beginning of the Christian aeon. This is a dream occurring at the end of the Christian aeon. The dream is this:

"I see a large aggregate of stones nearly vertical in my view shaped in some circular pattern. The stones were alive and angry, screaming like magpies. They become angry when anyone attempted to remove one of the stones, but someone explained to me that each person has to remove his own stone from the aggregate if he is to be an individual. Then I do remove my own stone, and the person who had been talking to me points out a tiny dark spot in the center of my stone and explains that each stone has that center, and that in some way that center is identical to the total aggregate."

You see, this is a beautiful example of what the new aeon is calling for. The Hermas-vision was appropriate for the beginning of our aeon, because the church was just in the process of being constructed 2000 years ago, and individuals had to hand over their inner stone – so to speak – in order for it to be realized in collective form, but now, that aggregate must be disassembled, so that the individual can leave his containment in that collective rock and discover his own individual stone and thus become a member of the “Ecclesia Spiritualis”.

OK. Theme 3.

Christian fish symbolism

From paragraph 145, Jung says:

“[CW09:2:145] Let us now turn back to the theme of Christ as the fish. According to Doelger, the Christian fish symbol first appeared in Alexandria around A.D. 200; similarly, the baptismal bath was described as a piscina (fish-pond) quite early. This presupposes that the believers were fishes, as is in fact suggested by the gospels (for instance Matt. 4:19). There Christ wants to make Peter and Andrew “fishers of men,” and the miraculous draught of fishes (Luke 5:10) is used by Christ himself as a paradigm for Peter’s missionary activity.”

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

This is a significant symbolic image, the idea that religious believers are fishes swimming in the ecclesiastical fish pond. Tertullian in his essay on baptism say the specifically. He says:

“We little fishes after the example of our Ichthys, Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way then by permanently residing in water.”


Now the same idea was also applied in Judaism. A text that is quoted by Erwin Ramsdel Goodenough in his “Jewish symbols in the Greco-Roman period”, volume 5, page 33, says this:

“The Israelites, especially those faithful to the law, are little fishes swimming in the Torah, where alone they can live.”

Jewish symbols in the Greco-Roman period, Volume 5, Page 33 by Erwin Ramsdel Goodenough

That’s exactly the same symbol as the Tertullian-symbol about Christians swimming in their Christian fish pond.

There’s another interesting idea in paragraph 147, for Jung says:

“[CW09:2:147] The symbolism shows Christ and those who believe in him as fishes, fish as the food eaten at the Agape, baptism as immersion in a fish-pond, etc. At first sight, all this points to no more than the fact that the fish symbols and mythologems which have always existed had assimilated the figure of the Redeemer; in other words, it was a symptom of Christ’s assimilation into the world of ideas prevailing at that time. But, to the extent that Christ was regarded as the new aeon, it would be clear to anyone acquainted with astrology that he was born as the first fish of the Pisces era, and was doomed to die as the last ram (ἀρνίoν, lamb) of the declining Aries era. …”

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

I think we can say something analogous about Jung. We are about to enter the aeon of Aquarius the water carrier, and leave the aeon of Pisces, so in a sense Jung is the last fish and the first water carrier. You see, there is a very significant symbolism, I think, in those two images of transition. Fish live within the medium of water, or contained by it, Aquarius the water carrier carries it, indicating a totally different relation to the psyche.

That reminds me of a funny little anecdote that sounds silly on first encounter, but is quite profound. I came across this by chance some years back. The anecdote is the riddle: who discovered water? The answer is: I don’t know, but I know who didn’t discover it, the fish.

There is another interesting item further down in this paragraph, Jung says:

“[CW09:2:147] Matthew 27:15 ff. hands down this mythologem in the form of the old sacrifice of the seasonal god. …”

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

That scripture refers to the custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover and Pilate therefore asks the mob. He brought out a criminal, Barabbas, and said: who do you want me to release? You want me to release Jesus or Barabbas? In other words this was a two-fold event and how completely two-fold that event is revealed by the literal translation of the passage. The only bible that I know that translates it literally is the New English Bible. The others obscure this very significant psychological fact, but the New English Bible translates Pilate’s question in these words:

"[Matthew 27:17] Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?"

In other words they were two individuals with the same name. What it means literally is “Jesus son of the Father” or “Jesus the Messiah”. Those are the alternatives, you see.

Note: “bar abbas” means “son of the father”. The terms “Messiah” and “Christ” are interchangeable.

OK. Now going to item number 4.

Pisces the constellation

I put on the board here a crude representation of the way the two fishes are outlined in conventional representations astronomically. This is how they are actually outlined to represent the two fishes. The line running along there is the ecliptic, the path that the Sun takes and what we are talking about here is the precession of the equinoxes, so it’s the movement of the Sun point at the vernal equinox through the centuries. Jung speaks in this assignment of star number “alpha”, also called “113”, when the Sun reached that point, that was 146 BC, when it reached star “o”, indicated there, that was 11 AD, and one get down to about this point here, clearly over the horizontal fish, that’s approximately 1500 AD, when an absolute psychological explosion took place in the collective psyche, it’s as though the Holy Ghost descended with a vengeance, you see. What we had then was reformation, the renaissance, the age of exploration, the birth of science and art, and critical examination of all the sacred scriptures that up to then dare not be touched. Just as one dare not touch the human body up until then, but in 1543 Andreas Vesalius having robbed the gallows brought out his first major work on human anatomy. Nothing was sacred anymore, the Holy Ghost had descended and then everything was up for grabs.


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