Sum it up for me

Number and Time by Marie-Louise von Franz



Table of Contents


I’m deeply grateful to the organizers of Panarion that they gave no instructions to the lecturers what to speak about, but that they gave us freedom to choose our own subject.

Because after I finished by book on numbers, I felt very happy about number, not that I had in anyway said the last word, but my own Unconscious left me in peace about it.

I had said what I could say about it.

But about the problem of time I felt I had only scratched the surface and it went on turning in me and I caught myself involuntarily always buying books on that theme, which is always for me a symptom that something is going on.

So I was very happy when I was invited here.

I thought that’s now the chance to make an effort to bring together all I have thought about it.

But unfortunately as you will see, this is such a difficult theme that my lecture has a lot of loose ends and there are a lot of open questions left and I am not yet sure, that my Unconscious will leave me after I have done this lecture, but for the moment that’s what I can present you.

The relativity of time and space in the Collective Unconscious

About 50 years ago C.G. Jung discovered the fact that in the deeper layers of the Unconscious our conscious categories of time and space seem to become relative, sometimes even seem altogether annihilated.

Microphysics discovered approximately at the same time that in the realm of elementary particles time seems no longer relevant in the sense that the 2nd thermodynamic law which determines the so-called arrow of time is no longer valid.

In the physics of elementary particles the world changes but does not evolve as one author puts it.

Since this has become known, a world-wide discussion has arisen concerning the question: what is time?

The results of this discussion have revealed that time is a very complicated and elusive factor.

There are many times:

  • such as the arrow of time in macrophysics owned to the law of entropy,
  • biological time as seen in evolution,
  • physiological time based on the recently discovered so-called biological clocks or rhythms
  • and subjective time namely the fact that our subjective realization of time depends on physiological conditions such as body temperature and the rate of our metabolism and also on psychological conditions such as our emotional state of mind.

Newton’s concept of time as a continual flow which was represented in classical physics as a bio-geometrical line, has been tentatively replaced by some physicists by the idea that time is a discontinuous staccato process consisting of some ultimate little units or instances called chronon.

It is far beyond my scope to unravel these problems.

My aim in this lecture is only to elucidate some specific aspects of time which present themselves on account of Jung’s discovery of the Collective Unconscious, its center, the Self, and of synchronicity and the problem of the relation to Ego-consciousness.

Although in the deeper layers of the Collective Unconscious time-space seems to become relative.

It is not always totally non-existent.

This relativity of time as you know manifests itself in parapsychological events such as telepathy, clairvoyance, synchronistic phenomena, etc.

But we cannot simply assume that our Consciousness is time-bound and the Unconscious completely atemporal.

The very fact that our conscious realization of time is largely based on memory processes testifies against this, for memory is at least partly an unconscious factor – you have heard about this by Dr Adler.

Also from Dr Adler – the astrological systems of different civilizations point to the fact that there is some time even in the realm of the archetypes of the Collective Unconscious.

The mystery of time in the Unconscious and psychological constellations

Most modern investigations of time circle around our conscious experiences of time.

In contrast to this I would like to focus my attention in this paper on the aspect of the mystery of time in the Unconscious itself and on what we generally call a psychological constellation.

The latter plays as you all know an important role in practical analytical work.

We know that a patient’s problem is now constellated more than it ever was before or after and should be especially attended to.

“There are” – as Schiller says in Wallenstein – “certain moments in a man’s life where he seems to be closer to the world spirit and where he is free to ask faith a question”, or as Jung has put it:

“The decisive question for man is, is he related to something infinite or not.
If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitude change.
In the final analysis we account for something only because of the essential we embody and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.”

Carl Gustav Jung

Jung’s definition of consciousness

My question today is: how can we know a bit more about this infinite essence, how does it link with our time-bound conscious life?

Jung has defined Consciousness descriptively in several ways, such as it being that field in which psychic contents are associated with the Ego-complex.

More important for our purpose is his observation that Consciousness seems to arise in zone of friction between external stimuli impinging upon the archetypal data.

If we collect what Jung has said in various places about Ego-consciousness it becomes strikingly clear that in its structure it is a small but rather accurate replica of the greater psychic center, the Self.

It has a quaternarian structure like the Self, it is a union of opposites like the Self.

One of its basic symbols, the Sun, is just as much in mythology an image of Consciousness as a symbol of the godhead or the Self.

This is why in the Mysterium Coniunctionis Jungs says at the and of his chapter on the Sun literally that the Ego is identical with the Lapis and thus with the Self.

“Just as in India the personal Atman has always been identified with the Cosmic Self, or Atman.”
“One can”, – Jung continues – “charge me with grossly contradicting myself, I have defined the Self as the totality of the Conscious and the Unconscious psyche and the Ego as the central reference point of consciousness.
It is the existential part of the Self and can be used pars pro toto when the significance of consciousness is born in mind, but when we want to lay emphasis on the psychic totality it is better to use the term Self”.

Carl Gustav Jung

Just before this place Jung stresses that “a religious believer is at liberty to regard human consciousness to which as it where a second world-creation was enacted as a divine instrument”.

The problem is at the bottom a paradox.

The Ego is and is not identical with its opposite the world-encompassing deity or Self.

In other words it depends only on our own viewpoint if we want to or must describe the Ego as different to or as identical with the Self.

This makes it clear, why we cannot simply say that the Ego lives purely in time and the Self in a timeless reality.

Time and movement

Whatever time may be in itself Jung calls it a mere “modus cogitandi”, a mere way of thinking.

We cannot measure it without movement and to make it measurable we even need a rhythmical and thus countable movement.

Movement and number are therefore concepts which cannot be separated from the idea of any measurable time.

Aristotle even defined time as “numerus movins” a “moving number”.

Time and movement define each other.

He says:

“The time marks the movement since it is number, and the movement the time.”


But as it has been rightly pointed out it more recent times, this definition only concerns the measurement of time and does not give a definition of time per se.

However when we have to consider time practically, we look for measurable time and must therefore take its preconditions movement and number into account.

Furthermore Jean Piaget has shown that children learn much earlier and easier to be aware of speed and rhythm than of what we call time.

The time concepts of 3 civilizations

The Aztec concept of time

In most of the great civilizations of the past the mandala aspect of the Self, the god-image, or image of cosmic order has been projected onto the nocturnal sky, onto the movements of the Sun, Moon, and stars and onto the seasonal changes which seemed to coincide with certain stellar constellations.

One of the most elaborate systems in this respect is the old Mexican calendar.

The Aztecs had in fact two calendars.

One for counting the years, a solar calendar made up of 18 20-day months to which were added 5 additional days, the so-called “nameless days” or “left-over days”, dedicated to the gods of the underworld.

This calendar was mainly of historical importance.

A second calendar was in use for divinatory purposes.

It determined the birth-horoscope of an individual and served to find out favorable or unfavorable days for certain actions.

In this latter calendar 4 groups of 13 years, each were attributed to the 4 points of the compass.

  • The years called “reed” belonged to the life and fertility of the East,
  • the years called “flint” to the aridity and death of the North,
  • the years “house” denoted the decline and decadence of the West,
  • and the years “rabbit” belonged to the South and were indifferent.

And there were also the days had still such qualifications.

If someone was born on an unfortunate day, one could soften his fate by giving him a name on a favorable day.

By ethical conduct one could also influence one’s fate favorably namely by literally “controlling oneself, disciplining oneself, or entering within oneself”.

There was among the Aztecs a third means of relating to time.

They had an oracle technique which very closely resembled that of the Chinese I Ching, only they used corn and tzité beans for counting instead of yarrow stalks.

Corn, the female element corresponded to the broken yin line in the I Ching, the tzité bean element was the male line.

The Popol Vuh the great myth of the K’iche’ tribe gives us an idea of this tzité bean oracle was connected with the horoscope calendar.

According to it, mankind was created by the wise arrangement of Xpiyacoc and Xmucané, an ancient couple.

Xpiyacoc is the old woman and is called the mother of life, Xmucané is the creator god.

[She mixed up the deities, Xmucane is actually the old woman and Xypiyacoc is the old man / creator god.]

These two old magicians ordered the gods Qʼuqʼumatz and Huracan to unite sexually.

Whilst the latter did so, they simultaneously threw a tzité oracle and called out:

“thou corn, thou tzité bean, thou Day of Fate, thou Fate, bound up with them, thou with the vulva, thou with the erected phallus”.

If we consider this text more closely this throwing of the tzité oracle seems mysteriously associated with the sacred marriage of the male and female creator gods and also with the moment of conception of mankind.

In it, what they call “day”, “calendar day” stands for the female element, and the fate, the specific fate given to the child for the male element.

Conception or birth itself is not only a magical coniunctio of male and female but also of a feminine moment of time with an active masculine action of fate.

Conception and birth themselves are like an oracle throw in the universe.

I want here to anticipate a remark on the I Ching which are going to consider later.

In it to, the ultimate male-female yang-yin principles act together in each oracle.

Yin representing the earth form and space reality, yang heaven, representing content and meaning, each field of action is time and movement.

In this specific point there is a difference between the Chinese and Aztec point of view.

In the latter, time belongs to both principles.

The empty movement of time is feminine, the action or content of that moment is masculine, while in China time is completely attributed only to the masculine element, but in each oracle of both systems these two powers unite.

But let us now return to the Aztec concept of time.

It cannot be understood more deeply without looking at their cosmology as a whole.

The timeless eternal foundation of the universe is the ancient god Ometeotl who is male and female, mother and father of everything.

He is called “he who dwells in the complete ring of the waters, who lives in the clouds an inhabits the shadows of the land of death”.

He is also named “lord of time” and “lord of fire” or “the mirror which illuminates all things”.

This divinity begot 4 sons: the Red Tezcatlipoca, the Black Tezcatlipoca, the white one, who is more often called Quetzalcoatl and the blue one, who is more often called Huitzilopochtli.

These 4 gods belong to the 4 directions of space and with the latter are associated a lot of other mythological symbols.

In the middle-central axis upward-downward lies the fifth direction.

Here is the heart of the old god Fire.

The 4 Tezcatlipocas created all other things, fire, Sun and all regions of the universe.

With them space and time fully entered the world.

These 4 however severed after a period of equilibrium the cosmic state of balance because all of them wanted supremacy and wanted to become the Sun.

Each gods period of ascendancy thus constituted a world-age.

The Mexican sun calendar relates 5 such periods.

The sun called “four tigers” lasted 676 years, then the people were eaten by ocelots and the Sun destroyed.

Then followed the sun called “four winds” which ended with everything being carried away by a wind and the people becoming monkeys.

Then came the sun “four rains” and the end of its reign everything was burned up and people were turned into turkeys.

Then came the sun of our time, called “four movements”.

“In its reign there will be earthquakes and hunger and then our end shall come” – as the Leyenda de los Soles says.

As the sun in this last period was created through an act of sacrifice the Aztecs believed in keeping it alive and moving on and preventing the end coming by human sacrifices which lead to the well-known fact of their many bloody rituals.

Bernardino de Sahagún tells us an interesting detail how the two calendars came into existence.

I owe this to Dr José Zavala who is an Aztec himself and he took the trouble to translate a part of this text anew for me and there it came out that the meaning had been more or less missed before.

Originally when the people landed in Mexico they were moving along the coast with their priests and god and sacred books, but when they settled the god went on and with him went the wise men and sacred writings.

Only four wise men remained and they invented the calendars and the dream books in order to give the people a standard or model of life.

If you interpret this psychologically it means that originally the people went completely along with movement of the archetype of the Self and thus they did not realize time.

When they settled the development of a higher cultural level of consciousness began and with it a separation from the movement of the gods in the Unconscious.

In order to bridge this separation the two calendars and the reckoning of time came into being so to speak in order to restore the contact with the basic rhythms of the Collective Unconscious.

As León Portilla points out the idea of change and movement contained something abrupt and total in the Aztec view, it is not gradual as in the Chinese.

In their view once east and positive forces are dominant, once north and austerity.

Today we live in good times, tomorrow perhaps in unfavorable times.

The Navajo view of existence was not optimistic.

“Is there any truth in our words here, all seems so like a dream”

– says one poet.

“One day we must go,
one night we will descend into the region of mystery,
there only we come to know ourselves,
only in passing are we here on earth”

– sings another wise man.

“Only when a poet sings,
when his tatters, flowers of songs
inspired by the highest lord
the giver of life
can he produce some truth on earth”

– that’s for the storytellers.

Whilst the prospect of man’s life after death is often seen in rather gloomy perspective there are also wise men and poets who expect that in death “our heart shall go to know his face”, namely of the supreme god who is called “night” and “wind” and who is an inscrutable mystery.

If you look at the problem of time in the Aztec view we can see that time already exists potentially with a supreme lord of life but that it only actually becomes real with the emergence of the four Tezcatlipocas and the four dimensions of space.

In psychological parlance only with the birth of human consciousness.

After a period os tense equilibrium strife and change arise which leads to the great historical eons of the five suns.

In the view of the Aztecs, the day, what is for us only a measure of time namely the word “day” for instance, or the word “night” was pictorially represented in a very striking way.

In the manuscript they represent a god figure carrying 6000 years on their back or 5000 days on their back, like that and here goes a god carrying a bundle of days.

That’s the image, I have no more space here to [could not discern].

In psychological words this would mean that ultimately archetypes are the carriers of measurable time periods.

Time moves or flows not by itself, it is literally carried by the dynamic forces of the different archetypes which follow each other in a distinct sequence of order.

The Chinese time-concept

Let us now briefly turn to the Chinese view of time, especially that underlying the functioning of the I Ching.

Each of the 64 signs of the I Ching consists of two trigrams as you all know.

There are as a whole eight of them the so-called “eight kua” which were associated with the eight cardinal points.

From those eight signs the Chinese made a mandala which constituted the so-called “sequence of earlier heavens”.

In this, the trigram “heaven” was located in the south and the trigram “Earth” in the north.

This so-called “sequence of earlier heavens” is to a great extent timeless, though not without internal motion.

“Within the primal arrangements” – says Richard Wilhelm – “the forces always take effect as pairs of opposites, but the opposites do not conflict, on the contrary, they balance each other.”

Richard Wilhelm

This primal arrangements was also associated with an arithmetical mandala called “Hou Tu”.

You have that also in my “Number” book.

Now, if you count, there are 10 internal rhythms and to my great excitement I have recently heard a lecture on Indian music and there is a pause when they stop for a while.

The musicians do not just stop their instruments, they do that.

This movement repeats itself eternally inside the arrangement.

In its centers are the numbers 5, 10 , 15.

You can actually continue that ad infinitum.

Now, if you represent this movement by stretching it, you’ll get this figure: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then 6,7,8,9,10.

You get a chain of double pyramids.

And, to anticipate what comes later, Jung made a <bundle> of internal movements of the Self which you’ll find in Aion, if you take four of these pyramids and then arrange it to a ring.

[The lines with italics are quite hard to discern from the recording.]

This primal arrangement and its internal rhythm or it’s called also a “sequence of earlier heavens” is in its totality static.

The pool of inner life in circulating motion.

We could compare it with a state of equilibrium which in the Aztec tradition reigned for a while after the creation of the four Tezcatlipocas, before they began fighting each other, which led to the origin what one would now call “historical time”.

In China too, this order or primal arrangement was changed later, though not so violently and the new order was not seen as being opposite to the older one.

This new order is called the “later heavens” or “inner world arrangement” but in it too there is also the motif of “evil” and “fight” because this “inner world arrangement” came into being in a very dark historical moment.

According to Chinese tradition – you find this and probably many of you will know it, it’s the chapter 36 of the I Ching, there in the commentary you have most of the material I’m bringing here – according to this tradition the later arrangement was invented by King Wen and the Duke of Chuo whilst they were imprisoned and daily threatened with death by the evil tyrant Chuo Hsin.

He was overthrown in about 1150 BC.

The fate and the sufferings of the righteous people of later Chuo dynasty is described in this chapter.

In prison, when they were imprisoned and so to speak living under the constant threat of extinction they invented the so-called “sequence of later heavens”.

In it, “fire” is in the south, instead of “heaven” and “water” is in the north, instead of “earth”.

Here, as the commentaries say, the trigrams are taken out of their grouping in pairs of opposites and shown in a temporal progression, in which they manifest themselves in the phenomenal world of the cycle of the year.

That’s where the second arrangement suddenly contains a temporal element and time is born.

The cardinal points and the seasons are correlated.

What is important for us is the fact that cyclic time enters with the later heavenly order but it is not as with the Aztec a violent disruption of the former equilibrium.

In this second, time-bound inner world arrangement there is a much greater polarity between the male and female trigrams, there’s more tension.

They are no longer joined in pairs but placed in their temporal and seasonal sequences during the cycle of the year.

This is how according to the Chinese point of view time was born.

Just as the primal arrangement was associated this number-cross, or mandala called Hou Tu, so the later arrangement too was associated with another Chinese numerical basic pattern of the universe, namely with the so-called Lo Shu or “pattern of the river flow”.

This is a so-called “magic square” … [could not discern]

In China this was regarded as a most basic pattern of the universe according to which the Chinese ordered their architecture, music, ceremonies and even their menus.

But I must refer you [could not discern] where you’ll find much more about it.

I don’t want to go to the number aspect today but to the time aspect.

Of course the Chinese had beside this time concept underlying the I Ching also a kind of astrology which resembles our own astrological tradition and even more closely the Aztec one.

It’s zodiac contains as you probably know different animals to ours.

Also, our signs are monthly, where’s the Chinese are annual symbols.

Just as the Aztec method of throwing a tzité bean oracle was mystically identical with determining the astrological birth moment, so the Chinese thought that time in the I Ching and in the astrology were also related, for the I Ching’s wisdom was created “by looking upwards to the sign of heaven” that creates astrology and “looking down to examine the lines of the earth” that is the I Ching.

The world of the original images is in the heaven and the realm of their reproduction is the earth.

But the heavenly images are signs and their earthly counterparts follow the same number-pattern.

If you compare the Aztec cosmological vision with that of the old Chinese people we can see that in both cases time is born through or actualized by what I would like to call a “procession of archetypal figures”.

The Aztecs see it as a linear sequence of Tezcatlipocas, one coming after another, each becoming a different sun, whereas from the Chinese point of view it is a cyclic round-dance of the eight Kuas or basic world principles.

But in both, the archetypes of the Collective Unconscious seem to contain an aspect of atemporal orderedness and also an element of motion which causes them to dominate one after the other in a numerical sequence and that is what creates the thing which we call time.

That’s for the polytheists to get annoyed.

We get into contact with its latter aspect when we throw an I Ching oracle.

As you remember, Jung shed light onto its functioning in his introduction to the English edition of the I Ching and I only want just to remind you briefly of its essence.

“The Chinese are not interested as we are in what was called causality and is now called statistical probability. They were interested instead in the qualitative interpretation of [could not discern], or bundles of clusters of psychoid and physical events which coincide in a certain moment of time.”

Carl Gustav Jung

In modern words, they were interested “in the configuration formed by chance events in the moment of observation”.

Jung once said in a conversation that throwing an I Ching is like looking onto the world clock to find out what is the quality, the cosmic quality of the moment, that is really what is done by such an oracle.

Whatever happens in a given moment – in the Chinese idea – inevitably possesses the quality peculiar to this moment.

The latter however only reveals its meaningful nature if it is possible to read the pattern and to verify its interpretation partly by the observer’s knowledge or the subjective and objective situation and partly by the character of subsequent events.

“The I Ching” – as Jung points out elsewhere – “is a formidable psychological system that endeavors to organize the play of archetypes,” – please keep that word “the play of archetypes” – “the wondrous operations of nature into a certain pattern so that a reading becomes possible.”

Carl Gustav Jung

“This play of archetypal motifs” – he points out – “although it is illogical in a formal sense it nevertheless obeys natural laws which we are far from having explained.”

Carl Gustav Jung

It seemed to me that what Jung calls here a “play of archetypes which obeys natural laws ” is the same is what I called just before the “procession of archetypes”.

“All this presupposes” – as Jung pointed out elsewhere – “that time is not seen as it is in classical physics as an empty frame of reference but that it is rather a stream of energy filled with qualities”.

Carl Gustav Jung

“Careful investigation” – he says – “of the Unconscious shows that there is a peculiar coincidence with time which is also the reason why the ancients were able to project the succession of unconsciously perceived inner contents onto the outer astronomical determinants of time”.

Carl Gustav Jung

This also has to do with the fact the Collective Unconscious surrounds us everywhere and that “in cases of synchronicity it even proves to be a universal substrate present in the environment rather than a psychological premise”.

The Collective Unconscious somehow then coincides with objective events.

This psychic time of the Collective Unconscious is different from the time of physics.

It consists in a circular circling or in the eternal revolution of divine images.

In a letter of 1954 Jung identifies his former concept of qualitative time with the principle of synchronicity.

“For time” – he says – “is only an empty mode of thinking which we use to formulate the flux of things and events it is therefore always qualified by events, thus psychic time would ultimately consist in the circling or a procession of archetypes which creates a sort of aeonic time in the Collective Unconscious, the phases of which are qualitatively determined by sequentially dominating archetypes”.

Carl Gustav Jung

This kind of time is obviously also the basic idea in the I Ching.

The Chinese assumed that this procession or play of archetypes to which a sort of time of the Collective Unconscious is created could be grasped by arithmetical procedures.

What is important for our theme is namely this:

The archetypes do not seem to swim about in the Collective Unconscious at random like fish in a pond, for a mathematically graspable lawfulness seems to exist behind their appearance and disappearance, their constellation and their fading away.

As most existing models of such an order are cosmic mandalas we must assume that the archetype of the Self ultimately regulates this play of archetypes.

I’m skipping the Indian view of time [could not discern] with its great eons and kalpas, it’s a completely circular idea of time , an immense circle of periods.

The astrological time-system in our own civilization

Let us now cast a glance at the astrological time system in our own civilization which had its origin in Mesopotamia.

The latter spread also to Egypt and lies at the basis of the Egyptian astrology and possibly even also of Chinese astrology.

The signs of the zodiac as we know them today in our common newspaper astrology and also the other constellations originally varied greatly and we received many of them not directly from Babylonia but via a renaming and reshaping in Egypt.

The Greeks first received astrological inspiration from Babylonia as early as the 6th century BC.

What is important however from our point of view is that the symbols of the constellations probably originated as earthly tribal gods of nature.

One has excavated boundary stones on which you have the Capricorn and Aries and such figures which later became images of the heavenly constellations.

It was only through the early interest in the motions of the celestial bodies that the Babylonians mainly in the 8th century BC associated these tribal gods with the heavenly luminaries and at the same time they began to grasp their motion mathematically, beginning to observe their periodical rising and and setting.

Towards the end of his life Jung defined number as an archetype of order which has become conscious.

This most relevant and surprisingly new idea of Jung explains psychologically the association of number or mathematics with the stars.

In other words the Babylonians began to realize the existence of a lawful order in the movements of the stars and with the of the archetypes, the gods of the Collective Unconscious and that order expressed itself in numbers.

I was very struck by Jung’s remark that number is an archetype of order which has become conscious and I asked him more about it and he said that just came to me from the deep Unconscious and I feel I don’t understand it myself completely but I know it is right, I know it is pointing to something very relevant.

The Babylonians projected the idea of a lawful play of the archetypes onto the sky, the large hook for this projection being the obvious but mysterious orderness of the stellar motion.

This new science-religion spread spread also into Persia and Egypt where the Babylonian gods were partly renamed and associated with the gods who were known there.

Even before the exile, the Jews also knew the Babylonian system and in the later Book of Enoch, that’s 1st century, Mesopotamian astrology is fully incorporated.

All things on earth corresponded to what happened in the skies.

"That which is below is like that which is above" 

– as the Tabula Smaragdina says.

In vast periods of 4.320.000 years the whole constellation began again – that is the myth of the “eternal return”.

In Greece Plato thought that we live in a cosmos below like tree-dwellers, while there is above an eternal world, the realm of the fixed stars which are called “visible gods” and of the ideas which were in Plato’s latest works identified with the natural numbers.

In this upper, transcendental realm of the Platonic ideas an eternal simultaneity reigns, but the world creator could not transfer this eternal simultaneity this many-one model all in one into the visible world of definiteness and limitation, he therefore created this world as a moving image of eternity and that is how according to Plato time came into being.

In Chinese astrological cosmology there was under all the heavenly constellations an underlying cosmic psycho-physical energy called “chi” which carried all the stars along.

And in the same way the stoics in antiquity believed that the fiery ether or the divine pneuma carried all the stars along, therefore the idea of time was closely associated with this idea of an underlying unitary cosmic energy principle.

In the opinion of the Greeks the earth and again the whole cosmos were encircled by Okeanos who was represented as an ouroboric serpent and symbolized the primeval procreative world-psyche – that was another image of this cosmic energy.

According to Macrobius time only began when Saturn emasculated his father Uranus and thus established the obliquity of the ecliptic – there you have also a catastrophe or a misdeed at the beginning of the origin of time like the fight of the four Tezcatlipocas.

Insofar as Chronos was identified with the oiphic-mitraic Aion, he carried the serpent representing the cosmic psyche around his body which in turn moved along the zodiac constellations.

You have probably seen statues of Aion in Roman museums if you have ever been there, it’s a human figure with either a lion head or more rarely a human head and he has wound around his body a serpent and on the back of the serpent are the signs of the zodiac or on the body of this Aion-figure, the signs of the zodiac.

Jung has interpreted this Aion-figure as a symbol of psychic energy as such he fills according to antique ideas and carries along the whole universe.

In a magical Greco-Egyptian papyrus this pantheistic deity is beautifully invoked as follows:

“Come to me from the four regions, 
all-ruling god who inspires life into man, 
lord of all that is beautiful on Earth, 
who has the unutterable name which is feared by all demons, 
heaven is thy head, the ether is thy body, the Earth thy feet, 
wound around thee is Uternos, 
oh agathodaemon who is Aion, who nourishes the Aion” – the Aion means world - 
"and rules over the aeons, 
one immortal god alone who engenders everything.”

Oracles as the earthly counterparts of astrological calendars

We have seen that the Aztecs and the Chinese people combined with their astrological calendar they had an earthly oracle technique based on a process of counting randomly collected units, the tzite oracle and the I Ching.

These oracles are the earthly counterpoints of the astrological constellations.

This to me clearly proves that it is not the stars themselves that account for time as the qualitative flux of events that it is the principle of synchronicity which can appear through any chance-like cluster of events.

In other words any throw of dice is just as good a means to read the quality of the moment as are the stars.

The same applies to our own astrology.

It too had its counterpart in the so-called art of geomancy.

Instead of looking at a certain moment of time in the start constellations one picks at random a group of petals or mix a random cluster of dots on a bit of paper then cuts them off in pairs so that either one or two remain.

This is repeated four times and we thus get certain constellations and we make it until we have 16 figures.

I don’t want to go into the details of geomancy.

One then inscribes these 16 figures into a horoscopic chart in the 12 mansions and the last 4 in the middle.

Being an earthly astrology so to speak in which a random collection of dots replaces the star constellations it shows clearly that what makes these techniques function had not so much to do with the stars than with number.

This is what led Jung to suspect the existence of a relation between the numeral archetypes and synchronicity.

If we compare the antique god Aion who has this serpent and the zodiac signs inscribed on his body with the Aztec habit of visualizing time as the gods carrying the bundles of days or years on their backs there is a certain similarity.

From the Aztec point of view the gods carried bundles of time measures on their backs and in the oiphic image of the god Aion he carries the measures of time on his body.

It looks as if time in itself does not exist.

It is created by a sequential motions of the archetypes of the Collective Unconscious.

But if numerically measurable time and its periodicities have been only lately associated with the star-gods, this does not mean that the gods, or in our language the archetypal images, had no relation to time before, only it was not conceived as regular and arithmetically graspable.

Roman and Lithuanian gods of the instant

It is the great merit of Hermann Usener to have created a new term in the history of religion by speaking of “Augenblicksgötter” – “gods of the time moment”, or “gods of the instant”.

The Roman and Lithuanian religions mostly as example show an innumerable number of gods who personify time-bound human activities.

There’s even such a person as the god Sterquilinus from stercus – manure who represents the favorable to spread manure.

Or there is a god Subruncinator who represents the favorable moment to pull out weeds.

Or as a Lithuanian example there’s Gosa the goddess who increases cattle, Perdoitus the god of good sales, Procarimos the god of the right moment of taking the honey out of the hive.

Usener hit here a very important point by recognizing that that sort of god was especially archaic.

Gilbert Durand also has recently pointed out that probably the oldest form of archetypal symbols were not images, they are mythical images, but physical actions.

By the way he polemicizes, he says he disagrees with Jung that the archetypes produce mythical images, the most original forms are symbolic actions, but he has completely overlooked that that is just what Jung says himself.

His opinion coincides with that of Jung that man probably first was impelled to perform symbolic actions before even having any symbolic or philosophical ideas about them.

These symbolic actions are the most archaic manifestations of the archetypes.

But with these gods of actions there were also as Usener has worked out gods of time moments closely connected with the gods of actions mainly through agricultural activities which were naturally time bound.

These gods of certain time moments and actions still survive in that series of catholic saints who protect certain activities and own so to speak certain days of the church calendar.

“Whenever” – says Usener – “in a certain moment the awareness of a thing around us makes us feel consciously that a god is present or whenever the state we are in of a surprising energetic impact of something makes us experience it as the value of the power of a god then we have witnessed the birth of a god of a moment”.

Hermann Usener

Helen of Troy for instance in a tragedy of Aeschylus when she sees Menelaos again exclaims:

“oh god, for it is a god to see again ones beloved”.

In this connection of thought all great gods were pluralized.

Each sexual union for instance has its own Venus, each birth its own Artemis Eileithyia.

In late Roman times one even prayed to such strange gods as the “advent of emperor”, in other words the moment when the emperor returned from a journey.

Gods like Nike Victoria or Fortuna – fate, or Pax – peace clearly refer to a luminous qualitative moment.

The Greek name for such a moment is Kairos which designates a numinous coincidence or favorable or unfavorable fact pointing to the manifestation of a god.

Hermes was believed most often to be behind such coincidences.

When there was for instance a sudden general silence in a conversation the Greeks said that Hermes had walked through the room.

Kairos was represented in art as a beautiful youth with winged feet like Hermes.

One had to catch him by his hair if one wanted to make use of his swift appearance.

Fortuna the goddess of luck is a close relation to this archetypal Kairos figure, she too is elusive and difficult to catch.

The wheel is her earthly attribute, a central object of the old Etrurian cult of the mothers.

Another moment-goddess was the Greek Nike – Victoria – victory.

She was represented as a winged female and symbolized that magic instant when the tip of the scales turned in favor of a combatant or of a whole army.

That strange psychological moment when one senses, sometimes even ahead of time, that one will win or lose the battle.

Though such seemingly abstract divine figures remind one of abstract intellectual concepts they are by no means so, on the contrary, they are especially primitive and archaic.

I would like to remind you of Jung’s experience with the Elganji in Africa.

They spat into their hands and stretched towards the rising Sun.

They did not worship the Sun, but they worshiped that numinous moment of sunrise.

Gods are not static beings, they move about.

For this reason in nearly all higher forms of religions there were certain god-images worshiped in certain temples.

They left their shrine once a year and were carried or wheeled on carriages around the country in a great procession.

Often they were carried to some special water, in Egypt for instance to the bank of the Nile and in India to the Ganges and washed to bring about their renewal.

We know more of one of these processions in the Isis cult through its description named “The Golden Ass” of Apuleius.

A spherical holy symbol which was carried about in this case was a jar full of Nile-water encircled by its [could not discern].

It represented the death and rebirth of Osiris.

Some scholars believe that this was the model for the grail procession which Percival saw in the Gail-Castle.

In our Christian church the Catholics carry and accompany the holy tabernacle containing the host, the body of Christ around their towns, villages and fields at the feast of Corpus Christi.

One underlying idea of these processions is obviously that the god does not remain stationary in his church or temple but that he moves about among men or that our human life carries him on so to speak and thus keeps him alive.

Jung’s model of the play of the archetypes

If we sum up what we have seen in our different materials, we can see this:

Even before some higher civilizations began to identify their gods with regular temporal motions of the stars the god had an archaic relation to time, but only through their astrologization – if I may invent this word – the concept of a general order or regularity in the temporal appearance of these gods came into being.

Astrology was a first hunch of that mysterious but lawful play of the archetypes as Jung called it.

Jung himself has sketched the model of such a play of the archetypes in his book Aion.

You probably remember his models of light and dark, Moses marriage quaternio, and its gnostic and alchemical amplifications.

He stresses however that these names and themes only serve as a paradigm, in other words it is the geometrical structure which is important [could not discern]

This structure refers as Jung point out in Aion to a symbolic process of transformation within the Self.

It is a rotation and antithetical play of complementary processes and then the restoration of an original state of wholeness but with a qualitative change involved, namely of an increase of consciousness.

In a letter Jung says:

“Archetypes in spite of their conservative nature are not static, but in a continuous dramatic flux, thus the Self as a monad or continuous unit would be dead but it lives in as much as it splits and reunites again. There is no energy without opposite.”

Carl Gustav Jung

And in Aion he says:

“The Self is not just a static quantity or constant form but also a dynamic process. The four transformations” – that are those four pyramids – “represent a process of restoration, a rejuvenation taking place as it were inside the Self and are comparable to the carbon-nitrogen cycle in the Sun. When a carbon nucleus captures four protons and releases them at the end of the cycle in the form of an alpha particle the carbon nucleus itself comes out of this reaction unchanged like a phoenix from the ashes. The secret of existence ie the existence of the atom and its components may well consist in a continually repeated process of rejuvenation and one comes to similar conclusions in trying to account for the numinuosity of the archetypes.”

Carl Gustav Jung

This play of the archetypes goes on through world-ages and they lend their quality to historical aeons.

They are tiny forms of continuum which reaches to far greater time dimensions than the lifespan of an individual.

The linear and cyclical aspects of the Collective Unconscious

But until now I have avoided looking at the problem which probably has occurred to you long ago, namely the question of whether this aeonic process in the Self or in the Collective Unconscious is ultimately cyclic or linear.

In our examples we saw four aspects of time in the Collective Unconscious:

  1. its eternal unchanging center
  2. its aspect as an ever-present ubiquitous timeless ordered continuum
  3. its aspect as a cyclical motion or round dance of archetypes
  4. as a linear process of increase of consciousness

In India the idea of a purely cyclical order of time prevails.

In China we have two standpoints existing side by side.

On the one side a cyclical time process related to the stars and seasons, very much reinforced by Indian influence and on the other hand the Chinese people were always very much aware of the uniqueness of historical events.

Joseph Needham even believes that the linear concept of time predominated in the Chinese point of view.

Their historiography was based on the principle of synchronicity, each year being understood as a unique cluster of cosmic and human events all fitting together in the quality of that year.

With us in the west, we have a cyclic idea of time prevailing in Platonism and in stoic philosophy but it is not so in the judeo-christian cosmology.

If we look briefly at Jung’s idea of history we can see that he has the idea of a, at least partly, linear process of archetypes.

He has mainly worked that out in Answer to Job and Aion.

There he describes how first God was united with his female companion the Wisdom, how He lost Her during the act of creation, a disruption of balance similar to what we saw in other systems, how then God himself incarnated at least with His light side in Christ at the beginning of the aeon of the fishes and how later His dark side also wanted to become man in the age of the second fish and how in Aquarius an image of a whole man might probably evolve in whom dark and light, male and female will come together again.

And all this is probably not just a short episode within an immense cyclic process of time but contains also an irreversible element, an increase of human consciousness.

This process is therefore not a circle in Jung’s view, but a spiral.

You see in a spiral you have the circle but you have also a linear, it goes on in a line in the same time.

Its linear aspect lies in Jung’s conviction that man is an uncanny experiment of the living God who seeks to become conscious through man.

The cyclic aspect predominates when one looks at the lawfulness of the Self or Unus Mundus and the linear aspect when one looks for the personal meaning of outer events.

Synchronicity and acausal orderedness

We must now consider how these materials relate to the principle of synchronicity, which as you remember, Jung has identified with his earlier concept of qualitative time.

At the end of his paper on synchronicity Jung distinguishes three factors:

  1. a pre-existing transcendental objective meaning in nature itself which underlies all synchronistic phenomena
  2. acausal orderedness
  3. actual synchronistic events

“Acausal orderedness” – he says “appears among others in such physical phenomena as radioactive decay which James called an effect without cause and in the realm of psychology acausal orderedness appears in the individual properties of the natural numbers.”

Simply because both these things are. just to use Kipling’s words. they are just so stories.

You cannot account why radioactive decay takes so and so much time and that there is another, we cannot find any cause, we can only see this is just so, and also we cannot account causally for why 6 is the multiple and the sum of 1, 2 and 3. 1 * 2 *3 = 6 and 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. Why? Well, obviously just so.

That’s what Jung calls acausal orderdedness.

It is a fact which we have to take as a fact without a cause.

Both the physical example and the number example could be called acts of creation insofar as they are completely a priori factors.

In contrast to the more special synchronistic events these phenomena are ubiquitous and regular occurrences, they are constant and experimentally reproducible phenomena.

The third category on the contrary are random phenomena.

“They seem to be” – as Jung says – “only a particular instance of general acausal orderedness namely that of the equivalence of psychic an physical processes where the observer is in the fortunate position of being able to recognize the tertium comparationis which is its archetypal background and its meaning.”

Carl Gustav Jung

These spontaneously and randomly occurring synchronistic events or acts of creation, as Jung calls them, obviously belong to the linear aspect of time.

If for instance through such a synchronistic event a biological mutation has happened life on earth will afterwards no longer be what it was before.

In the synchronistic event the eternal timeless or at least aeonic order of archetypes unites as it were with the linear time of man’s consciousness.

This is probably why a throw of an oracle was understood by the Aztecs and by the Chinese as a sacred marriage or union of opposites.

Jung called synchronistic phenomena sporadic and even in a letter he calls them arbitrary events so that according to his point of view we might not assume that they occur regularly for instance at certain time points of the world clock.

Such points as I’ve shown in my Number book could only perhaps constitute a field of probability for possible synchronistic events, but not more than that.

In other words what all divination methods can give qualitative feels of what might happen or that if something is going to happen it will belong to that and that quality of time but they cannot predict the actual event for instance if you take an example, if you throw an I Ching and you get the chapter number 9, line 3, there you read: “the spokes spurt out of the wagons wheels, man and wife roll their eyes”.

If you look at the commentary the prediction clearly says that one’s conscious way of going on, because that’s the wagon, will meet with failure because it is not in harmony with the Unconscious, that’s like man and wife quarreling, the Conscious and the Unconscious are not in harmony and therefore the wagon breaks.

But if you then had a motor accident this synchronistic event would fit very well into the prediction qualitatively, it would fit into the picture, but we could never get such an oracle predict that we would have a motor accident.

What we can predict is only that we are not in harmony, the Conscious and the Unconscious is not in harmony and therefore any accident which belongs to such a constellation might happen.

Dr Liliana Frei my colleague in Zürich, she’s an astrologer, told me that one also cannot foresee somebody’s death in his horoscope, one can only conjecture that it might happen in a period of a difficult constellation.

She said literally to me if somebody is very old and already very ill, and then there comes a very difficult constellation, one might predict that that probably means death, but one cannot predict it for sure.

Lawful order and arbitrariness in the Self

We have to therefore consider two symbolic aspects of the Self or god-image:

  • the symbols of a cosmic lawful order
  • and the symbol of a personal god, who can produce arbitrary actions.

The symbols of a cosmic lawful order are so to speak these cosmic mandalas, which are sometimes also represented as a kind of time machine.

Jung points out that through the time machine aspect of the Self we are “plunged into the torrent of cosmic events”.

Everything essential happens in the Self and the Ego functions as a receiver and spectator.

“But” – Jung continues – “a machine is always something thought up, deliberately put together for a definite purpose.
Who has invented this machine?
The theists say that things represent a represent the distinctness of God’s thought.
I always had the feeling that these symbols touch on the great secrets of God.”

Carl Gustav Jung

Jung therefore seems to think that the personal god, who is not this time machine but is the inventor of it, stands so to speak behind this machine which serves a deliberately chosen purpose.

In another letter Jung stresses also that synchronistic events are not regular phenomena and that they point to the existence of an arbitrary arrangement.

In other words we have to distinguish between the aspect of the Self as a clock which is associated with the idea of a regular acausal cosmic order and the single synchronistic event which seems to point to an arbitrary arrangement, but one within which spontaneously new events happen, real acts of creation as Jung calls them.

The word arbitrary is relevant for me here for it points to an image of the Self or God, which is personal.

Only a personal being can manifest itself in arbitrary arrangements.

In stressing the exceptional spontaneous and arbitrary quality of synchronistic events Jung really alludes to the existence of a personal god, standing behind the cosmic time machine as its inventor.

In his Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung explains why this personal aspect of the god-image corresponds to a psychological need in man.

He says:

“The great advantage of the concepts daemon and god lies in making possible a much better objectivation of the vis-a-vis, namely a personification of it.
This emotional quality confers life and effectuality upon them.
Hate and love, fear and reverence enter the scene of confrontation and raise it to a drama.
What has nearly been displayed becomes acted.
The whole man is challenged and enters the fray with its totality.”

Carl Gustav Jung

And later on Jung stresses that as long as this confrontation did not take place the opposites are coexistent in God, but not united.

Only when man enters into this relationship with God the opposites within him and the Self can really unite.

“That is the meaning of divine service, of a service which man can render to God that light may emerge from the darkness that the Creator may become conscious of His creation and man conscious of himself”.

Carl Gustav Jung

Closing remarks

So we end up here where we began, that the Ego seems to be a divine instrument of cosmogony and that time which today has become abstracted into a mere mode of thought was originally identical with the creative flow in the Self, a flux, in which the synchronistic events are creative acts due to a continuous creation within a pattern “that exist from all eternity, repeats itself sporadically and is not derivable of any known antecedents”.

The eternal timeless orderedness and its spiral unfolding in time thus represents a coincidence of opposites within the Self.

Applied to our own practical work, this would mean that deeper archetypal dreams of a patient refer to the long-lasting time order in the Collective Unconscious pointing to something infinite which wants to become real in our lives, therefore we must adapt our hectic conscious rhythm to that deeper rhythm of life if we want to relate to time in the right way.

Two years before his death Jung one day complained to me that he could not use any more the I Ching, because whenever he took the coins or the yellow stalks to throw an I Ching he knew what he would get.

And he tried it out and he always got what he knew he would get, so he would finally gave it up, which shows that he was really, so to speak constantly completely permeable to this deeper rhythm of life.

When I throw an I Ching I’m always utterly surprised what I’ll get.

What seems to me even more relevant is the fact that this view of time changes completely our idea of history.

At the surface history seems to be a bloody sequence of economic and ideological battles among the masses and a series of some outstanding individuals who achieved outer or inner changes of their societies.

But from this deeper point of view of Jung, there is this underlying current completely coherent play of archetypes which is responsible not only for the ultimate meaning of individual life but also for the existence of such personalities that Jung calls biological masterpieces.

This aeonic undercurrent is the same thing that Jung calls in his memoirs the rhizome, the network of roots from which the individual springs and into which it returns at the end of its life.

Beyond that however the Self also appears and is experienced not only by the mystics as a point or realm of absolute stillness where time completely ceases to exist.

So, the god-image appears on the one hand as a creative cosmic flux of events and on the other as the immovable mover, the resting point of eternity.

These two images form a paradox, but they are only anthropomorphic of the ultimately unknowable.

I have been given by somebody in the audience a picture which I didn’t know and which represents the Aztec picture symbol of time and as you see, there is this paradox, there is this static matter, this eternal structure without movement and also this flow, the flux of events which flows to the [could not discern]

They have put the paradox of my lecture in a beautiful form in this image.

That’s all.

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