Sum it up for me

The psyche in antiquity by Edward Edinger


Source: Edward Edinger The psyche in antiquity

Let’s begin. Welcome to class number one of Course on Gnosticism and Early Christianity. As you’ve probably learned from the assignment sheets the chief texts that I recommend are:

Remark: Edinger tells the author’s last name first and then the book title.

  • “The Gnostic Religion” by Hans Jonas which I think is the best available concise text that we have in English for Gnosticism and
  • “The Early Church” by Henry Chadwick.
  • Now for those wanting to go into more depth I would suggest that you consult the material in the 10 volume set of “The Ante-Nicene Fathers”, you can find that in the library.
  • Also “Fragments of a Faith Forgotten” by George Robert Stowe Mead provides a kind of epitome of the various relevant texts from the early church fathers both concerning gnosticism and concerning early Christianity.
  • I’d also like to mention an alternative text to Chadwick’s by the same title “The Early Church” by W. H. C. Frend. This is less structured then Chadwick and not as comprehensive but it’s easier reading. He has a livelier style and it’s got a little more spark to it.

Now what I intend to do for each session is to speak for about an hour and in our remaining time take up whatever questions my come to me. I shall not take questions from the floor this time, but I will take them in writing, so if you have a question please note it as you go along, submit it concisely in writing either at the end of a given session or if you wish you can mail it to me and if I feel I have something to say to the question I’ll respond to it in our next session. It’s also an opportunity to do it anonymously.

The new discipline: archetypal psycho-history

Okay. To get into the heart of the matter then. For those of you who’ve looked into Jung’s work “Aion”, if you’d reflected on it you might very well have realized as I have that this book, “Aion” has laid the foundation for a whole new discipline of study. If I were to label the new discipline I would call it “archetypal psycho-history”. It’s a study that perceives and elaborates the movements of the Collective Unconscious as they manifest themselves through the political and cultural history of the human race. The requirement being though that first you have to see those movements in other words you have to perceive them at the depth level from which they’re happening. I really believe this is an important discipline of the future. What I’m going to offer you in the next 12 sessions is a kind of an initial effort in this new discipline of “archetypal psycho-history”.

You know, about two thousand years ago the Collective Psyche was undergoing a profound upheaval that has remarkable parallels to what’s happening again in our own time. This upheaval amounted to the death and rebirth of the functioning God-Image of that time and something of the same sort of thing is happening today. That same drama is repeating itself. What happened at that time was that great historical drama played itself out largely as a confrontation between to major antagonists or protagonists: Rome and Judea. To start with I want to say something about each of those protagonists in turn as to just what their condition was at the beginning of our era.

The psychic condition of the Roman people

Let’s start with Rome. After decades of destructive and demoralizing civil war that destroyed the Roman Republic the Roman state was re-stabilized as the Roman Empire, at least temporarily, by resorting to absolutist rule. The rule carried out by a deified emperor. The civic virtue of the republic was replaced more and more by the motives of pure greed and power. The earlier authentic devotion to the Roman gods and to the genuine patriotic service to Rome that was so characteristic of the noble Romans of the republic was lost in the empire. The religious motives that prevailed in the people were perverted more and more by the state to serve the personal power purposes of the leaders of the empire. Even Rome’s famous toleration of all religions was a kind of cynical power ploy. According to Gibbon’s famous remark he said:

Remark: Edinger does not quote verbatim, he often changes the order of sentences and modifies them slightly.

“The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true, by the philosopher as equally false and by the magistrate as equally useful.”

Edward Gibbon – The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

I doubt that the common people were quite as tolerant as Gibbon allowed them to be. But anyway so far as the ruling class was concerned cynicism regard religion prevailed. In addition to that there was the morally corrosive effects of universal slavery, which went almost entirely unchallenged even by the wisest men of the day. Here’s what Jung has to say about ancient Rome. This comes from Volume 5, Paragraph 104:

“We can hardly realize the whirlwinds of brutality and unchained libido that roared through the streets of Imperial Rome.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 5, Paragraph 104

“The men of that age were ripe for identification with the word made flesh, for the founding of a community united by an idea, in the name of which they could love one another and call each other brothers.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 5, Paragraph 104

“There was an elementary need in the great masses of humanity vegetating in spiritual darkness. They were evidently driven to it by the profoundest inner necessities, for humanity does not thrive in a state of licentiousness.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 5, Paragraph 104

So that was Rome at the beginning of our inquiry.

The psychic condition of the Jewish people

Now how about Judea. This is a tiny province in the wast Roman Empire that had just what Rome lacked, namely a profound authentic religiosity that governed its actual life. This religiosity was rooted in a long historical and prophetic tradition that was enshrined in their holy scriptures. Its deficiency from the point of humanity as a whole was that it was a concrete local and highly particularistic religion. The Jews had a relation to Yahweh that was reserved solely for them. This gave them an inner spiritual autonomy that allowed them to stand up to the mighty Roman Empire in what’s really an astonishing way, when you look back at it. But it also set them apart and generated animosity from all sides because of their spiritual arrogance. But they weren’t in the state of psychic stability either because the religious tradition in Judea was also undergoing great upheaval. Just on the political level this proud people was chafing under harsh Roman rule. Also the priestly religion of animal sacrifice and strict literal adherence to the Mosaic Law was being questioned from various quarters. As early as Jeremiah we hear about a so-called “new covenant” that would be different from the “old covenant” with Yahweh and when that “new covenant” came “he will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts” as Jeremiah said.

In addition to this a new archetypal image was erupting in the Jewish psyche. The Yahweh God-Image was very much pertaining to the Father, Yahweh was Father. But starting a few hundred years before the new era, we find a new image emerging, the image of the “Son”, alternatively called either the “Son of God” or the “Son of Man”. Now from the very beginning of the Jewish scriptures Yahweh had designated Israel, the collective national entity, as his son. However this new formulation was putting it differently. It was bringing forth a new version of the “Son” of a different and more specific nature than the collective sonship of Israel as a whole. Jung discusses this matter in “Answer to Job”, you may recall. There he speaks of the effect’s of Yahweh’s encounter with Job because of that encounter and because of the consciousness of Yahweh’s nature that Job acquired, Yahweh was therefore obliged to incarnate himself and to become man. Jung demonstrates that this tendency reveals itself successively first of all in Ezekiel and the great vision of Ezekiel, then again in the Book of Daniel, and then in the Book of Enoch. In all of these sources the term “Son of Man” took on considerable prominence. Ezekiel was called by Yahweh the “Son of Man”. In the Book of Daniel there’s reference to the “Son of Man” and in the Book of Enoch, Enoch a number of times is specifically designated as “Son of Man”. Jesus certainly knew the Book of Enoch, Jung’s convinced of that, and he appropriated that term “Son of Man” to apply to himself. He probably got it from Enoch, along with the other sources.

The image of the “Son of Man”

This is a very interesting symbolic image, the image of the “Son of Man”. I talk about it in my book “Transformation of the God Image”, you can find it on page 90. I won’t repeat myself now but the basic idea is that the “Son of Man” as it’s been elaborated it’s gotten an immense amount of scrutiny by religious scholars. It’s an image that fascinates them, which is characteristic of a living symbol. When you got a real living symbol it has a fascinating effect and scholars and commentators cluster around it like moths around the flame. That’s certainly what’s happened with this term. I have a whole book at home titled “The Son of Man”, just on this subject. Basically the way it’s understood falls into two categories. One category is just a personal reductive category, doesn’t mean anything special, just means you were born of a woman and it means about the same thing as “man, it’s cold outside”. Doesn’t mean anything more than that. But the context of these passages belie that simple explanation. The other view, I think we have to take very seriously, that it is definitely a messianic and eschatological term and refers to an entity that derives from the transpersonal divine dimension. The fact that the term “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are often interchangeable, especially in the Gospel accounts is quite understandable to Jungian psychologists who are acquainted with the fact that individuation proceeds from a two-fold source namely from two centers, namely from both the Self and the Ego. Since that’s the case this double aspect of the term “Son of Man” is quite consistent with the psychological findings.

So this “Son of Man” figure was emerging in the Jewish psyche for two or three centuries in advance of the time we’re examining and this same figure had other terminology attached to it. It was also called “Messiah”, “anointed king”, and “Christ”. Those three are synonyms, they mean exactly the same thing. “Χριστός” – “Christos” is only the Greek term for “anointed”. One is anointed by chrism, you see, it’s the same root word, and “מָשִׁיחַ” – “mashiach” means “the anointed one”. The basic idea is that the “Son of Man” is coming as the anointed one. The idea is that he was conceived as being sent by God to bring salvation to mankind and to function as a mediator between God and humanity which was in danger of losing its connection to the divine. As this figure was elaborated in the scriptures it took on a double aspect. In one aspect it was described as a suffering servant. Unjust suffering, willingly accepted, in order to redeem mankind from sin. The 53th chapter of Isaiah is the classic statement for that aspect of the messiah. Its other aspect is triumphant king coming in judgement, defeating Israel’s enemies and bringing judgement and perpetual reign of righteousness. One good source for a description of that version of the image is Psalm number 2. By and large the Jews were expecting a concrete literal version of the second type and it’s largely for that reason that they refused to accept Jesus with his humiliating execution and apparently total life failure.

Now according to Josephus there were 4 competing schools or sects among the Jews of the time of Christ.

There were the “sadducees”, that were the establishment composed of the temple priesthood largely. They were the practical ones and they did not indulge in any theological fantasy or elaboration of doctrines, such as destiny or resurrection.

There were the “pharisees”, who were much more theologians, they were much more imaginative, more thoughtful, more introverted I guess you could say, and they did indulge in some of these theological fantasies. They believed in resurrection and in destiny. Neither of those were particularly influenced by the emerging messiah image. They were too rooted in the mainstream daily functioning, I think, for that.

But the other two sects were very much gripped by the emerging messiah archetype, namely the “essenes” and the “zealots”.

The zealots were revolutionaries and arsonists who were seeking to expel Rome by military means and expecting the coming of a political messiah who would quite literally free them from Roman rule re-establish the monarchy of Israel. They were definitely gripped by the messiah archetype in a very concrete sense.

The other sect, the “essenes” were the sect of the dead sea scrolls and they are particularly interesting from our standpoint. They have been very much gripped by the erupting messiah archetype. They had separated themselves from the Jerusalem priesthood and moved to the desert and lived a monastic life awaiting the messiah. It was this eschatological expectation that governed their whole daily life really. They’re a quite striking example of a group being gripped by the emerging messiah archetype.

Jesus Christ as an expression of the “Son of Man”

However the fact remains that this emerging archetype revealed its fullest expression and its most enduring effects in the life of Jesus Christ and in the community that crystallized around his figure after his death. In another place I summarized the bare bones of the myth of Christ that emerged in the centuries after his death. Let me repeat that. This comes from page 16 of “The Christian Archetype”. The gist of the myth is this: God’s pre-existent, only begotten son empties himself of his divinity and is incarnated as a man through the agency of the Holy Ghost who impregnates the Virgin Mary. He’s born in humble surroundings, accompanied by numerous events and survives great initial dangers. When he reaches adulthood he submits to baptism by John the Baptist and witnesses the descent of the Holy Ghost signifying his vocation. He survives temptation by the Devil and fulfills his ministry which proclaims a benevolent loving God and announces the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. After agonizing uncertainty he accepts his destined fate and allows himself to be arrested, tried, flagellated, mocked and crucified. After three days in the tomb, according to many witnesses, he is resurrected. For forty days he walks and talks to his disciples and then ascends to Heaven. Ten days later at Pentecost the Holy Ghost descends, the promised Paraclete.

Now, when we examine the records we have about this figure of Jesus, it quickly becomes evident, that the personal story of the individual is so interpenetrated by the description of the archetypal role projected onto him that it’s impossible to separate the historical Jesus from the mythological figure. They’re so interpenetrated. Now, we’ve got a very interesting letter of Jung’s on this subject that I want to read to you in part. Upton Sinclair had written “The Life of Jesus” and sent it to Jung for his comments and Jung responded to him with a quite length letter we’re very fortunate to have. I haven’t read the book actually, but it’s clear from Jung’s letter that he largely treated Jesus just in his personal human aspect, so gave him pretty much of a reductive account. Now here’s what Jung has to say in that subject. This comes from Volume 2 of the Letters starting on page 201:

“If Jesus had indeed been nothing but a great teacher hopelessly mistaken in His messianic expectations, we should be at a complete loss in understanding His historical effect, which is so clearly visible in the New Testament. If, on the other hand, we cannot understand by rational means what a God-Man is, then we don’t know what the New Testament is all about. But it would be just our task to understand what they meant by a “God-Man.” You give an excellent picture of a possible religious teacher, but you give us no understanding of what the New Testament tries to tell, namely the life, fate, and effect of a God-Man, whom we are asked to believe to be a divine revelation. These are the reasons why I should propose to deal with the Christian Urphänomen in a somewhat different way. I think we ought to admit that we don’t understand the riddle of the New Testament. With our present means we cannot unravel a rational story from it unless we interfere with the texts. If we take this risk we can read various stories into the texts and we can even give them a certain amount of probability:
1. Jesus is an idealistic, religious teacher of great wisdom, who knows that His teaching would make the necessary impression only if He were willing to sacrifice His life for it. Thus He forces the issue in complete foreknowledge of the facts which He intends to happen.
2. Jesus is a highly strung, forceful personality, forever at variance with His surroundings, and possessed of a terrific will to power. Yet being of superior intelligence, He perceives that it would not do to assert it on the worldly plane of political sedition as so many similar zealots in His days had done. He rather prefers the role of the old prophet and reformer of His people, and He institutes a spiritual kingdom instead of an unsuccessful political rebellion. For this purpose He adopts not only the messianic Old Testament expectations, but also the then popular “Son of Man” figure in the Book of Enoch. But meddling with the political whirlpool in Jerusalem, He gets Himself caught in its intrigues and meets a tragic end with a full recognition of His failure.
3. Jesus is an incarnation of the Father-God. As a God-Man He walks the earth drawing to Himself the “ἐκλεκτός” – “chosen” of His Father, announcing the message of universal salvation and being mostly misunderstood. As the crowning of His short career, He performs the supreme sacrifice in offering Himself up as the perfect host, and thus redeems mankind from eternal perdition.”

Carl Jung – Letters, Volume 2, Page 201

That’s as much as I’m going to read, but it’s evident from what he says and also from a later quote that I’m going to read you that so far as the understanding of the historical Jesus is concerned, Jung subscribes to item number two. Item number three of course is just a picture of the archetype. What we have then is that the life of Christ as it comes down to us becomes a symbolic picture of two separate superimposed events. In one event the “Son of God” descends to Earth to incarnate as man and in the second event the human being engages the archetype of the God-Image and finds himself caught up in embodying it. Putting those two psychologically we could say the first place the Self enters the Ego and in the second place the Ego becomes conscious of and related to the Self.

Changes in the Greco-Roman psyche

Now this is the event that happened in the collective psyche two thousand years ago. So far as the Jewish psyche was concerned the Christian sect that was generated around the figure of Jesus was a heresy that was eventually extirpated. But in the case of the classical psyche, the Greco-Roman psyche, the consequences were immense. It’s obvious that the classical psyche needed what the new God-Image had to offer much more than the Jewish psyche did, because that’s how you tell what a need is by the thirst. The classical psyche in its decadence was based on the principles of pleasure and power. Matter, money and the deified power of the stat residing in the hands of the deified emperors who delegated portions of their arbitrary power to their favorites. The Christ figure that was constellated generated the opposite pole in the collective psyche namely the spiritual, other worldly dimension of existence. That was what was missing in the classical soul. As Jung puts it:

“The emergence of Christianity itself signifies the collapse and sacrifice of the cultural values of antiquity, that is of the classical attitude.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 6, Paragraph 30

That’s from Volume 6, Paragraph 30. He then sums it up again in Volume 17, Paragraph 309. Quite a remarkable observation expressed here. He says this:

“One of the most shining examples of the meaning of personality that history has preserved for us is the life of Christ. In Christianity, which, be it mentioned in passing, was the only religion really persecuted by the Romans, there rose up a direct opponent of the Caesarean madness that afflicted not only the emperor, but every Roman as well: civis Romanus sum. The opposition showed itself wherever the worship of Caesar clashed with Christianity. But, as we know from what the evangelists tell us about the psychic development of Christ’s personality, this opposition was fought out just as decisively in the soul of its founder.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 17, Paragraph 309

Here’s the striking insight:

“The story of the Temptation clearly reveals the nature of the psychic power with which Jesus came into collision: it was the power-intoxicated devil of the prevailing Caesarean psychology that led him into dire temptation in the wilderness. This devil was the objective psyche that held all the peoples of the Roman Empire under its sway, and that is why it promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth, as if it were trying to make a Caesar of him. Obeying the inner call of his vocation, Jesus voluntarily exposed himself to the assaults of the imperialistic madness that filled everyone, conqueror and conquered alike. In this way he recognized the nature of the objective psyche which had plunged the whole world into misery and had begotten a yearning for salvation that found expression even in the pagan poets. Far from suppressing or allowing himself to be suppressed by this psychic onslaught, he let it act on him consciously, and assimilated it.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 17, Paragraph 309

Here’s the punch line:

“Thus was world-conquering Caesarism transformed into spiritual kingship, and the Roman Empire into the universal kingdom of God that was not of this world. While the whole Jewish nation was expecting an imperialistically minded and politically active hero as a Messiah, Jesus fulfilled the Messianic mission not so much for his own nation as for the whole Roman world, and pointed out to humanity the old truth that where force rules there is no love, and where love reigns force does not count. The religion of love was the exact psychological counterpart to the Roman devil-worship of power.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 17, Paragraph 309

Now he takes up the same theme in another letter. This comes from Volume 1 of the Letters, page 267. It says this:

“Take the classic case of the temptation of Christ, for example. We say that the devil tempted him, but we could just as well say that an unconscious desire for power confronted him in the form of the devil. Both sides appear here: the light side and the dark. The devil wants to tempt Jesus to proclaim himself master of the world. Jesus wants not to succumb to the temptation; then, thanks to the function that results from every conflict, a symbol appears: it is the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven, a spiritual kingdom rather than a material one. Two things are united in this symbol, the spiritual attitude of Christ and the devilish desire for power. Thus the encounter of Christ with the devil is a classic example of the transcendent function.”

Carl Jung – Letters, Volume 1, Page 267

Now this is so important in my mind, I’m going to give you yet a third quotation on Jung’s view of the historical Jesus. In this one he puts it more candidly, still, to a small informal gathering in New York city in 1937 and you will find this in “C. G. Jung Speaking”, starting on Page 97:

“Jesus, you know, was a boy born of an unmarried mother. Such a boy is called illegitimate, and there is a prejudice which puts him at a great disadvantage. He suffers from a terrible feeling of inferiority for which he is certain to have to compensate. Hence the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, in which the kingdom was offered to him. Here he met his worst enemy, the power devil; but he was able to see that, and to refuse. He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” But “kingdom” it was, all the same. And you remember that strange incident, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The utter failure came at the Crucifixion in the tragic words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” If you want to understand the full tragedy of those words you must realize what they meant: Christ saw that his whole life, devoted to the truth according to his best conviction, had been a terrible illusion. He had lived it to the full absolutely sincerely, he had made his honest experiment, but it was nevertheless a compensation. On the Cross his mission deserted him. But because he had lived so fully and devotedly he won through to the Resurrection body.”

Carl Jung – C. G. Jung Speaking, Page 97

The transpersonal aspect of the Christ figure

Now I’m not going to explore that last mysterious sentence. Now this all describes the personal human Ego aspect of the image of Jesus Christ. But the other side the transpersonal aspect equates Christ with the supreme deity, one of the three persons of the Trinity, the divine Logos, that has existed from all eternity and is co-regent with God. You can see here what we have here is a profoundly paradoxical symbolic image. Two natures united in a single individual, both human and divine.

Origen, whom we are going to talk about later in the course describes this state of affairs rather colorfully writing about 200 years after Christ. Let me read you how he describes it:

“But of all the marvelous and mighty acts related of Him, that is God, this altogether surpassed human admiration and is beyond the power of mortal frailness to understand or feel how that mighty power of divine majesty that very Word of the Father and that very Wisdom of God in which were created all things visible and invisible can be believed to have existed within the limits of that man who appeared in Judea. Nay that the Wisdom of God can have entered the womb of a woman and have been born an infant and have uttered wailings like the cries of little children and that afterwards should be related that he was greatly troubled in death saying my soul is sorrowful even onto death and at last he was brought to that death which is accounted the most shameful among men, although He rose again on the third day. Since then we see in Him some things so human that they appear differ in no respect from the common frailty of mortals and something so defined that they can appropriately belong to nothing else then the primal and ineffable nature of deity. The narrowness of human understanding can find no outlet for this but overcome with the amazement of the mighty admiration know not whether to draw or what to take hold of or whether to turn. If it think of a god that sees immortal think of man it beholds Him returning from the grave after overthrowing the empire of death laden with its spoils and therefore the spectacle is to be contemplated with all fear and reverence that the truth that both natures may be clearly shown to exist in one the same being so that nothing unworthy or unbecoming may be perceived in that divine and inevitable substance or yet those things which were done be supposed to be the illusions of imaginary appearances. To utter these things in human ears and to explain them in words far surpasses the power either of our rank or of our intellect and language I think that it surpasses the power even of the Holy Apostles. Nay the explanation of that mystery my perhaps beyond the grasp of the entire creation of celestial powers.”


This gives you a little sense of the numinosity that surrounded the paradoxical image of Christ in the early years of our era. He was an embodiment of the numinosum. He was it. Now as I said this paradoxical figure has these various names attached to it: “Son of God”, “Son of Man”, “messiah”, “anointed king”, “Christ”, “suffering servant”, and “stern judge of the last judgement”. Now we have to ask ourselves how is this figure to be understood psychologically by the modern mind. Jung has given a definitive and epic making answer to that question. He first stated it in 1941, in his essay “Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity”. Here he states that the figure of Christ is an archetype and specifically the archetype of the Self. Here’s what he has to say. This is Paragraph 231 of Volume 11:

“It was this archetype of the self in the soul of every man that responded to the Christian message, with the result that the concrete Rabbi Jesus was rapidly assimilated by the constellated archetype. In this way Christ realized the idea of the self. But as one can never distinguish empirically between a symbol of the self and a God-image, the two ideas, however much we try to differentiate them, always appear blended together, so that the self appears synonymous with the inner Christ of the Johannine and Pauline writings, and Christ with God (“of one substance with the Father”), just as the atman appears as the individualized self and at the same time as the animating principle of the cosmos, and Tao as a condition of mind and at the same time as the correct behaviour of cosmic events. Psychologically speaking, the domain of “gods” begins where consciousness leaves off, for at that point man is already at the mercy of the natural order, whether he thrive or perish.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 11, Paragraph 231

And then again, in Paragraph 233:

“The goal of psychological, as of biological, development is self-realization, or individuation. But since man knows himself only as an ego, and the self, as a totality, is indescribable and indistinguishable from a God-image, self-realization—to put it in religious or metaphysical terms—amounts to God’s incarnation. That is already expressed in the fact that Christ is the son of God. And because individuation is an heroic and often tragic task, the most difficult of all, it involves suffering, a passion of the ego”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 11, Paragraph 233

“The human and the divine suffering set up a relationship of complementarity with compensating effects. Through the Christ-symbol, man can get to know the real meaning of his suffering: he is on the way towards realizing his wholeness. As a result of the integration of conscious and unconscious, his ego enters the “divine” realm, where it participates in “God’s suffering.” The cause of the suffering is in both cases the same, namely “incarnation,” which on the human level appears as “individuation.” The divine hero born of man is already threatened with murder; he has nowhere to lay his head, and his death is a gruesome tragedy. The self is no mere concept or logical postulate; it is a psychic reality, only part of it conscious, while for the rest it embraces the life of the unconscious and is therefore inconceivable except in the form of symbols. The drama of the archetypal life of Christ describes in symbolic images the events in the conscious life—as well as in the life that transcends consciousness—of a man who has been transformed by his higher destiny.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works, Volume 11, Paragraph 233

Now this discovery of Jung’s I think it’s impossible to over-emphasize the significance of it. It’s a discovery that can be summed up in one lapidary sentence: Christ is a symbol of the Self, providing you grasp fully what’s meant by those words. Once one truly understands the meaning of that concise sentence the whole conflict of our age between scientific secular humanism and traditional religion is resolved. In one stroke traditional Christianity has been redeemed from irrelevance for the modern mind. The whole vast body of Christian dogma, disputation, commentary, heresy and so on extending from 20 centuries can now be understood as the painful, tortuous workings of the Collective Unconscious on humanity as it strives to bring the divine drama of the evolving God-Image into human consciousness.

Now what happened two thousand years ago with the eruption of the Christ-Archetype into Collective Consciousness set off a chain of events that lead to a whole new aeon, the aeon we’re just closing now. It provoked a huge process in the Collective Psyche that split into two main streams.

In the first stream the development of the Christian Church proceeded which through various twists and turns and dead ends finally developed into a single, unified universal Catholic Orthodoxy. Took several centuries to do it. The fruit of that development then was the institution of the Church that was really the chrysalis of western civilization as we know it because it was out of that cocoon that western civilization was born. It survived the dark ages and passed much of the works of antiquity on to the modern world. Its hallmark was a unified, universal – that’s what “catholic” means, it means “universal” – coherent uniform collective belief structure that was built into an institutional framework that was strong enough to withstand many severe political storms through the century. Fundamentally it was a collective phenomenon and what grew out of it was society, a collective civilization.

The other stream is the stream of Gnosticism. In contrast to the churchly stream, right from the beginning it fragmented into a multitude of various sects and proponents. It was much more individualistic than the church stream was. In that respect it to some extent foreshadowed the protestant movement of the 15th and 16th centuries. The individualism of Gnosticism fed the rich theological and cosmological fantasies that were characteristic of the Gnostic movement but they had to stem from individuals and once you let individuals indulge in depth fantasies of that sort you can forget about orthodoxy, you see. The Church had the good sense, since it really knew what it was doing, it was creating a durable collective and in order to do that it had to very rigorously interdict individual theological fantasy and although we regret in the modern world any residue on that tendency of the Church, it was of vital necessity at the time to perform the historical function that was in store for it. The Gnostics had no such qualms. What we see then is a flowering and a dispersal sects which on the one hand was their glory but on the other hand was their downfall because they sprung up and withered. They didn’t gather sufficient critical mass to form a durable ongoing tradition, not to mention the fact that they couldn’t stand up against the collective mass of the Church as it crystallized itself out.

Now these two streams, the Church stream and the Gnostic stream are represented right at the beginning of their history by two major figures, namely Paul of Tarsus and Simon Magus of Samaria. What I intend to do in our succeeding sessions is to focus on these two main figures, first of all and then their descendants so that next time I’m going to talk about Paul and in session number three will talk about Simon Magus. In subsequent sessions we’ll follow intermittently and alternately more or less the two streams that stem from those figures. So far as the Church stream is concerned after Paul we’ll examine Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine. For the Gnostic stream after Simon Magus we’ll look at Marcion, Basilides, Valentinus, and Mani. Then at the end of that we’ll have one concluding session involving a summary of where we’ve been and a look into all things unfolded in later development leading up to the current time.

Now as I said I’m not going to take questions from the floor, I think the weight of the subject matter dictates this other approach, it’s a little more thoughtful way of taking questions but I am available to receive your written questions either here or through the mail and we’ll take up which ones I feel able to at the next session. So with that, I say Good Night.

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