The Annunciation-to-Consummation cycle is diagrammed with the descent and the returning ascent moving through the four levels into which the span of human consciousness ordinarily is divided: (1) the supra or transcendent realm of consciousness; (2) the level of the ordinary, everyday conscious mind; (3) the personal unconscious; and (4) the collective or archetypal level.
Source: Higher Ground, by Ann Elliott.
This richly illustrated book can be viewed by following this link.
THE SOUL’S RETURN TO THE WHOLE
© 2000-2003 by Ann K Elliott
. . . I looked, and lo,
in heaven an open door!
[And a voice] like a trumpet, said,
“Come up hither . . . .”
Edward F. Edinger
Edward F Edinger’s small book, The Christian Archetype, has been a very large source of inspiration to my own understanding of how the stages of the spiritual journey conform to the major events in the life of Christ. It is therefore in his memory I offer Higher Ground, grateful as well for the clarity of his many other Jungian studies, and also for his example of how to appropriate the rich heritage of religious art to enhance understanding of both psychological and spiritual truth.
In addition to Dr. Edinger’s influence, I also want to acknowledge my other two favorite Jungians—Morton T. Kelsey and John A. Sanford—for their Christian perspective into the archetypal symbolism of the Bible.
In addition I have a favorite visionary—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin—through whose eyes I see the evolutionary perspective of who Jesus was and who, as the Cosmic Christ, is the attracting force drawing humanity collectively to its higher, co-creative destiny as sons and daughters of God. In my life I have been blessed to know two persons who knew Teilhard. One was a close friend who grew up in China and whose father was a university professor and friend of Teilhard’s. Among my friend’s most cherished childhood memories were Teilhard’s visits to his home. The other was an elderly Jesuit priest and retreat master from South America who, over supper one evening, recalled for me his meetings with Teilhard at Jesuit gatherings, and who had been privileged to have been among those whom Teilhard’s writings were circulated in their “underground” mimeographed form.
Increasingly, Teilhard and Jung’s names are linked; both having approached the greater, spiritual Reality and its symbols as scientists, and both having looked upon the restoration of the feminine as crucial to the new paradigm of the unity of spirit and matter.
Another whose life works are increasingly compared are Teilhard’s and India’s Sri Aurobindo. While still young Aurobindo was shipped off to England to be educated. So it was that when he returned to India in his twenties and began his studies of India’s ancient masters teachings on the divine science of consciousness, the result was a unique East/West synthesis of science and spirituality. I consider myself fortunate to have had enough years and freedom to delve deeply into the life works of these three—Jung, Teilhard and Aurobindo—and now to contribute what I can towards building a new unity of understanding between East and West and the sciences of psychology, spirituality, and consciousness.
Additionally, in gratitude and appreciation I would thank Bob, my husband of over fifty years, who in his retirement has delighted to trade places with me in keeping the home fires burning, enabling my total immersion in this project.
Ann K Elliott, TSSF
THE ETERNAL RETURN
Putting on the Mind of Christ * The Eternal Spiral Return * Paradoxes of the Self * The Perception of Destiny * Asking and Receiving * The “U-Turn” of the Journey * Building Up and Knocking Down * Turning Eyes and Ears Inward * The Union of Matter and Spirit * The Pebble in the Pond
THE HERE-AND-NOW REIGN OF GOD
When Yahweh Becomes Abba * From Circle to Cycle
THE LIFE-OF-CHRIST PATTERN OF TRANSFORMATION
The Ancient Mysteries * A Framework for the Process * The Annals of Time
Opening to the Light * Tapping into Deeper Levels * Christianity as a Mystery Religion
The Journey Through Four Levels in Seven Stages
The Annunciation-to-Consummation Cycle * The Upward Impulse * Symbolic Correspondences from East and West * The Descending Phase of the Journey * Two Dark Nights * The Ascending Phases * The Christ Who Transcends Christianity
Vocation * Annunciation and Individuation * The Conjunction of Two Realities * The Message and the Messenger * Unoccupied Channels * How to Avoid the Psychological Dangers of Transpersonal Energies
The Bethlehem Event * The Changeover of Archetypal Dominants * The Virgin Mother * Continuing Incarnation * The Bethlehem Star * An Act of Divine Imagination * Myth and History
The Hidden Years
The Holy Family * The Presentation * The Flight to Egypt * The Journey to Jerusalem
Prelude to Ministry
The Missing Years * Sonship and Selfhood * Another Wilderness * Who is the Tempter?
The Power to Become
The Depth Psychology of the Gospels * The “Real” and the “Not Real” * The Man who Comes to Jesus by Night
Scenes from Passion Week
The Week of All Weeks * The Triumphal Entry * The Stones * Another Garden * At the Foot of the Mount of Olives * The Cup of Salvation * Christ the Evolver * The Psychological Depths of Gethsemane * Embracing the Cross * The Way of the Cross * Living from the Center
The Cross as Symbol
The Ancient Imprint of the Cross * The Highest Function of a True Symbol * The Passion of Francis
The Inner Meaning of Crucifixion
The Cross of Human Nature * The Death that Leads to Life * The Grand Conjunction * Existence as a State of Conflict * On Being Crucified with Christ * The Image of Totality * Christ Crucified Between Two Theives
A Crucifixion Dream
THE DESCENT TO HELL
The Descent into Hell * Transformation by Fire * Tolstoy’s Story of Transcendence * Teilhard’s Emergence from the Collective Hell of WWI * Allowing Ourselves to be Surpassed * The Baptism of Fire * The Holy Saturday of History
What Dies? Who Arises? * Noli Me Tangere * Quantum Physics and the Resurrection * Supper at Emmaus * Doubting Thomas * Breakfast on the Lake Shore
Eastern and Western Reflections on Eternal Life
The Importance of Images of the “Hereafter” * Spirit and Matter / Consciousness and Life * The Art of Letting Things Happen * Pearls and Diamonds * The Shift from Outer to Inner Awareness * Noah’s Three Sons * Who or What is Left to Enjoy Eternity? * The Death of Snowflake
The Return * An Eye-Witness Account * Ascendancy in Dreams * The Transfiguration * Ezekiel’s Chariot * A Sky-Chariot Dream * Jung’s Formulation of the Self * Atom & Archetype * The Return of the Prodigal
Consummation as Conflagration * The Chain Reaction * Michaelangelos’ Conversion of Paul * Teilhard’s Vision of the Cosmic Christ * Of Rocks and God * Being “In Christ” * The Evolutionary Spiral * The Myriad Rungs of Consciousness * Consummation & Assumption
The Great Fish * The Reconciliation of Opposites * Humanity’s Collective Nativity * Teilhard’s Legacy * Teilhard’s Dangerous Prayer * The Road Ahead * The Third Way * The Celtic Renaissance
THE LIFE OF CHRIST
PATTERN OF TRANSFORMATION
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 [or woman] who has been transformed
by his [or her] higher destiny. C G Jung 1
STEPPING STONES TO HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS
The Ancient Mysteries
An ancient way of envisioning the soul’s journey was in progressive stages through descending and ascending levels of consciousness. The purpose of some of the world’s most ancient teachings was to guide neophytes safely through these stages. Until as recently as the twentieth century, knowledge of this process was considered sacred and limited to word-of-mouth transmission supported by geometric and diagrammatic constructs, with the journey itself requiring careful preparation and close supervision.
As if hiding in plain view, the stages of the soul’s progression towards union with God is contained in the stepping-stone events of the life of Christ. This progression would inspire the magnum opus of the medieval philosopher-alchemists, whose work in turn would lead Jung to discover the parallel pattern of events in the individuation process of depth psychology.
The quote at the beginning of this chapter suggests that a person is transformed by his or her higher destiny, and that the self-discovery to which persons are called requires each to follow where the inner voice of Self leads with the same faithfulness as Jesus. “In every feature,” Jung writes,
Christ’s life is a prototype of individuation and hence cannot be imitated: one can only live one’s own life totally in the same way [Christ lived his and] with all the consequences this entails.2
A Framework for the Process
Recent mind/brain research suggests the ancient mysteries were transmitted by modes of perception that engaged the visual and intuitive functions of the right hemisphere of the brain. Diagrammatic images and glyphs (as in hieroglyphics) were effective means of doing this–of engaging the mind in a symbolic mode of perception that increased receptivity to the transforming light contained within the mysteries. Through an expanded and encompassing scope of mind, perception of the interconnection between all things is heightened. As the mystic’s goal is unitive consciousness, this also may have been so for those participating in the ancient mysteries.
Central to how sacred teachings are transmitted is some sort of framework onto which the stages of the process can be ordered. Here again, the main events in the life of Christ fit onto such a framework and correspond remarkably to the archetypal themes of other religions concerning the transformation of consciousness. The ordering structure is sometimes a ladder, or a spiral stairway, musical scale, the rainbow spectrum, or some other gradation that marks movement between higher and lower levels of consciousness. The prime example is Jacob’s ladder upon which he sees angels descending and ascending between heaven and earth.
The benefit of such a framework is the ease with which the systematic symbolism of different cultures, religions and ages can be seen to correspond to one another, and thus bear witness to the one truth under girding the different paths to God. The importance of this for our times is the hope it offers that the many peoples of the one God will come to a realization of their unity.
The Annals of Time
Besides the “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” inquiries into one’s higher personal destiny, there are also the “we” questions: “Where in the annals of time are we?” “What stage of our collective human destiny is presently unfolding?” “How do our self-reflective, personal lives serve the higher collective destiny of humanity?”
For as far back as can be pieced together from the remnants of human history, the starry heavens have been the screen onto which the archetypal images of the collective unconscious have been projected. Similar to how the psychological mechanism of projection works from the personal unconscious onto a person, group or situation, so the ancient sky-seers projected images from the collective unconscious onto groups of stars in the heavens. The outlines of the images they saw in the stars were projections from the archetypal psyche in much the same way as dream symbols are. And as projections from the unconscious they were similar to what persons can see in others but not in themselves, except they withdraw their projections and re-examine them for self-revelation. Thus the wisdom of the stars is in the reflection they afford into the archetypal depths of human nature. And now as then, the wise are those who are able to use their projections to gain insight into the “big picture” of human consciousness, and how, like in the heavens, certain patterns appear and reappear cyclically.
When the forefathers of the Hebrews migrated to Canaan they brought with them the ancient Mesopotamian sky-seers’ division of the heavens into twelve “houses.” Each of the twelve sons, who would become the twelve tribes, was assigned one division of the heavens. And since the axis of earth has a slight wobble that causes it to make an elliptical rotation once in approximately 26,000 years, the view from the polar axis shifts every 2,000 or so years from one heavenly stage to the next. With this shift the glyph by which an age is know changes to the one for the next aeon. Because these glyphs have remained basically unchanged for thousands of years, they have passed the test of being true symbols rather than mere signs. They therefore are the actual carriers of the forces they symbolize. As rotationally-changing motifs, they also contain clues to changing collective patterns. And for this reason the glyph for the age now beginning offers hope.
As the Pisces sign of two fishes swimming in opposite directions (Figure 1a) was a reflection of the conflict and division that marked and scarred the past two millennia, so the coherent “air waves” of Aquarius (Figure 1b) promise a time of accord.
Astrological Glyph for Aquarius
Also encouraging is the new symbolic theme of the heavenly water carrier who, as the Cosmic Christ is pouring out the water of Spirit onto all “flesh.” And incidental to this changeover of symbolic dominants, the entire planet finds itself reduced to the proximity of life in a tribal village, and where the activities of everyone are known to everyone else. As if overnight, the Aquarian air waves are as alive with movement as the Piscean seas once were.
Who could have anticipated the acceleration of activity by which the air waves surrounding planet earth would become such a closely woven net of global interconnections? And now science is surmising what tribal peoples and visionaries have always known: that space is not “empty.” Nor on earth are there any more hidden places, or any more secret mysteries, as from East to West the saced teachings are all “out there” for any who would to access.
Opening to the Light
But accessing the mysteries is not the same as implementing them in one’s life. Receptivity to their light in a way that leads to individual transformation is still what counts.
The mysticism of the ancient Hebrews teaches that there is a house in the back of the head that contains a window through which the light of God can enter. The Kabbalah is said to open this window. Spelled QBLH, each Hebrew letter is also an image: Q is “back of the head”; B is “house”; L is “ox goad”; and H is “window.” Thus the purpose of the Kabbalah is to goad the window housed in the back of the head into opening. What could this mean in terms of the different ways the brain is known to function?
What is now known is that the left hemisphere of the brain controls verbal, logical, linear, sequential, analytical thinking processes, while the right hemisphere is analogical. Its finely-tuned perception is visual, intuitive, musical. Moreover, it perceives wholistically and simultaneously. It expands an idea or concept “into an immense interconnected thought-field” in which “multiple simultaneous meanings” fall into place and are “inwardly felt.” How the two modes differ is superbly explained by Robert and Deborah Lawlor in their Preface to Egyptian scholar Schwaller de Lubicz’s Symbol and the Symbolic3 With underlines, notes and turned-down corners on nearly every page, I have all but destroyed my copy of this slim little volume. The following is an example:
The symbolic attitude of ancient knowledge cultivated the intellect to the extent of perceiving all of the phenomena of nature itself as a symbolic writing revealing the forces and laws governing the energetic and even spiritual aspects of our universe.
Modern science, particularly subatomic physics, has . . . expanded its knowledge of matter to the point where Nature must be considered supra-rational (as being beyond the limits of rational methods and formulae). These new discoveries and ideas . . . demand a new and as yet unfound vocabulary, as well as a radically different approach to education and knowledge itself.4
From the above it can be surmised that what really was being taught in the mystery schools was how to use the right or analogical side of the brain, a mode that utilizes myth, metaphor and analogy, a mode that “connects the dots” and pieces together a felt perception of the whole. It is this mode that gives access to the higher octaves of truth, harmony and proportion, and brings knowledge of the laws of the universe down into individual creative expression. In Blake’s words, it is
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour. 5
Tapping into Deeper Levels
Evidence also suggests that in some case those being initiated into the mysteries were guided through a prolonged and deliberate process by which inner fears and other hidden, unconscious contents were exteriorized in order to be confronted and overcome. In much this same way the early Christian “Desert Fathers” succeeded in ridding themselves of the inner demons of their unconscious minds by subjecting themselves to aesthetic spiritual practices in combination with extreme sensory depravation. As a result of this emptying of the personal unconscious, they tapped into the deeper levels of the psyche. The “signs and wonders” that followed were recorded in the accounts of their lives, as well as in the lives of other saints–from both East and West–whose inner transformation was followed by supra and paranormal powers.
Jung, in his lifework, would discover the principles of depth psychology as fully operational in the spiritual disciplines and practices of the past. What he and others in the new field of psychology would provide was a language–a terminology–through which the laws of the psyche could be widely understood and disseminated.
Christianity as a Mystery Religion
Some believe that Christianity in its purest form, and as transmitted in the Gospel of John, was a mystery school with similarities to those of ancient Egypt and Greece. If so, then its teachings were not intended to be grasped through rational, logical, literal-minded, analytical thinking. Rather, its deeper teachings were hidden within its symbolism and in the person of Jesus–not just his words but his every move and manner. If so, then the mysteries of his life were meant to be received in way that allowed them to expand “into an immense interconnected thought-field” of “multiple simultaneous meanings.” Received in this way, the light of God found entry through the window of the spiritual mind.
A succinct summary of the pivotal events marking the life of Christ, the same events that would become the Christian mysteries, are outlined in the Apostles’ Creed.
He was conceived . . . by the Holy Spirit
. . . born of the Virgin Mary.
. . . suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
The above enumerated events are those celebrated as Christianity’s “high holy days.” They are also the “holy mysteries” contemplated by millions of ordinary Christians who daily pray the liturgy of the Rosary, not in churches but wherever they are, as with beads and imagination they move from the joyous anticipation of Christ’s coming, to the sorrow of the Crucifixion, the glory of the Resurrection, and his consummate return to the heavens.
In addition, the creed speaks of how the inner Christ is conceived, born of the spirit, and its new life nurtured to maturity. But the soul, on its journey, also suffers crucifixion and descends into the lower regions of the unconscious until, at the lowest point, the way down becomes the way up that leads to its rebirth and ascension to new transcendent heights. In Psychology and Religion Jung writes:
[A creed is] always the result and fruit of many minds and many centuries, purified from all the oddities, shortcomings and flaws of individual experience.6
To the above he adds that “to a seeker after truth” a creed is nevertheless not as convincing as a “warm red blood pulsating” personal experience. He also points out that creeds and dogma sometime serve to protect and even insulate persons from a direct encounter with the divine and the demands such a breakthrough makes on a person’s life.7
THE JOURNEY THROUGH FOUR LEVELS
IN SEVEN STAGES
The Annunciation-to-Consummation Cycle
In Figure 2 below, the Annunciation-to-Consummation cycle is diagrammed with the descent and the returning ascent moving through the four levels into which the span of human consciousness ordinarily is divided: (1) the supra or transcendent realm of consciousness; (2) the level of the ordinary, everyday conscious mind; (3) the personal unconscious; and (4) the collective or archetypal level.
The Life-of-Christ Journey
Through Four Levels in Seven Stages
As diagrammed, the Christ-life pattern is a descent from the Annunciation to the Incarnation to the Crucifixion, and into the deepest Hell of human consciousness. Here the U-turn is made and the ascent begins, leading to the Resurrection, the Ascension and the ultimate Consummation (Teilhard) or Pleroma (Paul)―as the culmination of creation when “God will be All in All.”8
According to apocryphal accounts, between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection the work of redemption was extended into the regions of Hell. Similarly, in Dante’s Inferno it was not until the lower-most regions of the collective psyche had been plumbed that the point of return was reached and the direction turned back up and towards the light.
According to Jungian persuasion, the redemption or wholeness we seek requires knowledge and acceptance of our own inner darkness and our own propensity for evil. Only in accepting our own human frailty can we accept it in others. And unless we at least are conscious of our own failures, and are accepting and inclusive of others, we ourselves will remain fragmented and unrelated to the Whole that God is. In this manner of thought, the movement of the Christ journey is a descent from the light into the darkness, and then bearing back into the light of consciousness a portion of the darkness encountered.
The Upward Impulse
To speak of “descending” into Hell or “ascending” into Heaven is to use space metaphorically and in comparison to other dimensions of consciousness. According to Mircea Eliade, “ascent” is a metaphor used to express the “upward impulse” of the inner life and to indicate “the human condition” that is “being transcended [to] higher cosmic levels.”10 Thus Jesus’ ascensional return to “the heavens” is envisioned by Teilhard as his elevation to the Cosmic Christ, a term that includes “the Whole Body of Christ,” and that leads to “the Christing” of humanity as the Consummation and the still-in-progress Christ event. Jung similarly holds out hope for “the Christification of the many.”
When the levels of consciousness outlined above are juxtaposed the Christ-life events, each can be observed as involving a shift from one level to the next–lower in the descent, higher in the ascent. For example, the Annunciation takes place on the transcendent level to which Mary is supraconsciously attuned. With the Incarnation, the Child is born into the world of ordinary, everyday, conscious reality. But with the Crucifixion, Jesus departs the ground-level of consciousness, descending first through the personal, then the collective levels of the unconscious, and “into hell.” Surprisingly, the only scriptural justification for including the phrase, “He descended to the dead [or hell],” in the Apostles’ Creed is from a verse where Paul quotes the Psalmist as saying, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,” and which Paul parenthetically explains:
In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.9
Possibly Paul is speaking from the personal experience of one all too aware of his own conflicted “lower” nature, but also as one convinced of the overcoming power of the mind of Christ in him. In fact, a careful reading of Paul suggests he had experiential knowledge of but not the language to describe the principles of depth psychology.
If indeed Christ descended into the lowest depths of human nature, then the Resurrection was an ascent, not from the Cross or the empty tomb, but from the realm of “the dead”―i.e., the unconscious on both personal and collective levels, and for the purpose of setting free what was held captive there. According to Jung, what is retrieved from the unconscious possesses the highest value for the psyche and bestows upon the individual his or her greatest possible meaning and purpose. In the Gospels, whenever the lost is found heaven rejoices.
As diagrammed in Figure 2, the descent and ascent through four levels is accomplished in seven stages. Also evident in the diagram are the pairs of opposite events occurring on corresponding but inverse levels: the Resurrection as the symbolic inversion of the Crucifixion; the Ascension that of the Nativity; and the Annunciation, or initiating event, paralleling the culminating Consummation.
Symbolic Correspondences from East and West
In the Eastern system of Kundalini Yoga there are also correspondences between lower and upper levels of consciousness. This system observes seven major centers of energy called “chakras.” When these are represented as dots and spirally connected, the resulting correspondences are between levels I and VII; II and VI; and III and V, and with IV as the turn-around or U-turn of the spiral. (Figure I-3) This is the same three-and-one-half turn spiral Campbell points to as a primary clue to the universality of the one truth undergirding the systematic symbolism of both East and West.
The Seven-Point Connections of the Three-and-One-Half Spiral
If this spiral is cut in two along the seven centers and turned horizontally, the motif that emerges is the seven-branched Menorah of Judaism. (Figure 4). In Kundalini Yoga the chakras, representing lower and upper centers of consciousness, are said to be “activated,” while in Judaism the candles are “lighted.” Thus the symbolism of the East, of Judaism, of the descending/ascending pattern of the life of Christ, as well as the discoveries of depth psychology, all share the same archetypal structure.
The Seven-Branched Menorah
A fourth parallel to the life-of-Christ pattern is found in the Kabbalah Tree of Life. Sometimes this “Tree” is shown as four interpenetrating circles contained within a larger, all-embracing circle. The Tree is said to span four “worlds,” as shown in Figure I-5. The world of spirit overlaps the world of soul; the world of the soul the world of mind; and the world of mind the realm of nature and the physical body, thus forming five areas and seven levels.
Insert Figure 5
The Four Worlds of the Tree of Life
The ten “lights” or Sefirot on the Tree of Life, as they appear in Figure 5, are strategically arranged throughout the four worlds, falling wherever worlds meet. In Figure 6 the Sefirot are shown in their traditional arrangement with their interconnecting pathways, but they are superimposed as well over the four worlds and include the Tree’s one “hidden light,” as well as an uppermost one for the unknowable, unfathomable Ensof.
Insert Figure 6
The Ten Sefirot of the Tree of Life
In a slightly different arrangement of the Tree, the dynamic movement of Spirit through the ten Sefirot is shown in Figure I-7. In Kabbalah symbolism, the ten are divided into an upper “trinity” and seven lower centers of divine activity. The seven are said to correspond to the “Elohim” (plural) of Genesis as the Spirit of the Three-in-One descends through the seven forces or principles of the four created worlds. Figure I-7a shows the path of descent, and Figure I-7b the ascent by an opposite path. Together the two paths complete an alternating circuitry. (Figure I- 7c).
Insert Figure 7
The Tree of Life’s Descending/Ascending “Lightning Flash”
The Descending Phase of the Journey
Both Kundalini Yoga and the Kabbalah provide correspondences to the Life-of-Christ pattern as well as to the individuation process. In the pattern, the descent is initiated with the Annunciation as Phase I. In the individuation process this is the awakening or birth of spiritual awareness. Phase II follows, taking place on the conscious level of the will where a foundation is laid upon which to build a higher spiritual consciousness. Through the inner work of meticulous self-observation and scrupulous self-honesty, the authentic Self is separated out from the false. Metaphorically, this is the winnowing process by which the chaff and the wheat are separated. In this phase the persona is re-evaluated as one becomes aware of how his or her self-images and egocentricities are unconsciously expressed. This prepares the way for the first descent below the threshold of consciousness, into the realm of the personal unconscious where the work of Phase III increases awareness and acceptance of the rejected shadow elements that make up the personal level of the unconscious. From here the process moves to Phase IV and into the deeper, archetypal collective levels.
Two Dark Nights
In addition to being the territory of depth psychology, stages Phases III and IV coincide with St John of the Cross’ two “dark nights of the soul”: the first “bitter and terrible to the senses”; the second bearing “no comparison with it . . . horrible and awful to the spirit.” St John explains the first night as having much to do with our love of self and our own inclinations. That his second night moves into the deeper levels of depth psychology is evident in the following:
For this Divine purgation is removing all the evil and vicious humours which the soul has never perceived because they have been so deeply rooted and grounded in it; it has never realized, in fact, that it has had so much evil within itself.10
For this Divine purgation is removing all the evil and vicious humours which the soul has never perceived because they have been so deeply rooted and grounded in it; it has never realized, in fact, that it has had so much evil within itself.11
Thus the first, more personal “dark night,” prepares the way for the second more “awful” night. In a similar way, the work of integration on the level of the personal unconscious is preparation for the descent into the collective.
The Ascending Phases
With Phase V the ascent back toward the light of consciousness begins. This phase passes again through the level of the personal unconscious as contents of an archetypal nature are identified as being personally relevant and thus raised to consciousness for integration. From the personal/collective synthesis of Phase V, the soul is resurrected from “the land of the dead” (the unconscious), and returned to “the land of the living” (consciousness). In Phase VI, and as a result of the soul’s rebirth, the Self as the inner Christ is in a position to orchestrate the final active phase of the progression by which the divided soul is reunited into a harmonious whole. The symbolism of this final phase indicates that wholeness is a four-fold union of opposites by which body, mind, soul and spirit are co-joined in grand conjunction.
Jung’s Mysterium Coniunctionis describes the conjunction as a “synthesis of psychic opposites.” The Old Testament source of the symbolism is Ezekiel’s chariot; while the New Testament parallel is found in the imagery of the Transfiguration and references to Christ’s glorified body. In the East a similar synthesis is called the diamond body. What seems most likely is that in each case the symbolism is describing a psycho-spiritual process involving the symbolism of transformation and directed towards the creation of an indestructible, eternal body–a trans-dimensional vehicle–and which just may turn out to be transcendent consciousness itself.
The Christ Who Transcends Christianity
As creation has six active phases and an inactive seventh phase, as St Theresa’s Interior Castle has seven mansions, and Thomas Merton’s mountain seven stories, as the Menorah of Judaism has seven branches, and Kundalini Yoga its seven chakras, so the soul’s progression towards completion follows the same septenary pattern and is, in fact, a universally applicable map describing the way to the higher ground of Christed consciousness.
In this chapter a framework has been built on which next to observe the high drama of the life of Christ and how it is being re-enacted in the individual soul. Jung called this sequence “the Christian archetype.” In the remaining chapters the focus will be on each of these events for the purpose of extracting their meaning for lives today, many of whom consider themselves “unaffiliated seekers,” yet nevertheless have heard and responded to the call to come up higher. Hopefully, as in Christianity’s third millennium gets underway, a new compatibility will be found between spirituality, psychology and science, with the Church providing an environment in which together all three can nurture body, mind, soul and spirit.
Chapter One Credits
Figures (by author)
1 – The Astrological Glyphs of Pisces and Aquarius
2 – The Life-of-Christ Journey Through Four Levels and in Seven Stages
3 – The Seven-Point Connections of the Three-and-One-Half Spiral
4 – The Seven-Branched Menorah
5 – The Four Worlds of the Tree of Life
6 – The Ten Sefirot of the Tree of Life
7 – The Tree of Life’s Descending/Ascending “Lightning Flash”
Chapter One Notes
1 Jung, Psychology and Religion, CW 11, par.233, quoted by Edinger
2 Murray Stein, Jung on Christianity, Princeton University Press, NJ, 1999, p 170
3 Robert & Deborah Lawlor, in Preface to Symbol and the Symbolic, by R A Schwaller de Lubicz, Inner Traditions International, NY, 1981, p 7
4 Ibid, p 9
5 William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
6 C G Jung, Psychology & Religion, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1938, p 63
7 1 Corinthians 15:28
9 J E Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, Philosophical Library, NY, 1962, p 20
10 Ephesians 4:8-10
11 St John of the Cross, quoted in The Soul Afire, Meridian Books, NY, 1960, p 256
What is it that in the end induces a person to go his or her own way, to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass?
It is what is commonly called vocation, and which acts like a law of God from which there is no escape. C G Jung 1
Vocation–vocare–to call, to summons, to follow where the inner voice of the authentic Self will lead. Sometimes the voice comes as an angel, sometimes as a thundering from the heavens, or a blinding light. Often it comes as a vision in the night, or a call out of the deep. Jesus said:
My sheep hear my voice and follow where I lead.2
Jung saw vocation as the impulse towards individuation: going one’s own way; rising out of “unconscious identity”; not bent on becoming like anyone else; allowing one’s creative relationship to life to unfold from within.
In my Presbyterian upbringing I heard about the Pauline doctrine of predestination, that “all things work together for good with those who love God and are the called according to God’s purposes.”3 My grandfather, however, and perhaps contrary to strict Calvinism, preached an inclusive gospel of God’s unfathomable love “without respect of persons.” Yet he knew himself to have been called and so always emphasized the words as they appeared in his King James Bible. Nor did he have a conflict with the two ideas of inclusivity and of being among “the called.” Paradoxically, he knew both to have dovetailed in his own life and in a way that told him who he was and the purpose of his life. Because of this he identified with Paul whose life also had been headed in one direction when he had been knocked off his horse, blinded, and his life turned about face.
In Romans, Paul goes on to say that those who are “called” are “predestined” to be “conformed” to the image of the Son. He adds that those who are “called” are also “justified,” and those who are “justified” are also “glorified.”4 Could Paul have been speaking of a process? One he had undergone personally, and that had begun with his abrupt spiritual awakening on the road to Damascus?
Annunciation and Individuation
Mary’s call, of course, is known as the Annunciation, and her response exemplary. She yielded, accepted, acquiesced in her simple “yes” to God’s will for her life. Paul on the other hand struggled. He tried to work out his guilt. He agonized over the “thorn in his flesh.” He strove to “conform” himself to an image of who he thought he ought to be. He went to extraordinary lengths to “justify” himself according to who he thought God wanted him to be. But in the end his submission to God’s will was as total as Mary’s. Hers was the feminine way; his the masculine. Most often, the response to the inner call falls somewhere between the simple surrender of Mary and strenuous effort of Paul.
Individuation, typically, begins with an experience that is the symbolic equivalent of the Annunciation. It is the individual’s call to the higher ground of a transpersonal perspective and through which a person’s life takes on new meaning, and new purpose, and is accompanied by a new influx of creative energy. The experience comes as a breakthrough from the transpersonal level of awareness into the conscious mind.
While the Annunciation celebrates the conception of the Christ–Mary’s Child–annunciation as an individuation event is the awakening of the inner Christ. It is the second birth Jesus attempts to explain to Nicodemus–the birth of spiritual awareness.
The Conjunction of Two Realities
Suarès holds that events such as the Annunciation owe their “immense importance . . . to the fact that they are a conjunction of two realities,” and that such events “modify the course of history in so far as they become religious phenomena.” In their passage from historic to mythic reality they become the means by which the human psyche is put in touch with “the great unknown.”5 Edinger speaks similarly of the Annunciation as an individuation event:
[Annunciation} signifies the soul’s acceptance of its impregnating encounter with the numinosum. The consequence of this encounter is the subordination of the ego to the Self . . . .6
Some find it difficult to apply psychological understanding to spiritual events such as the Annunciation and Incarnation, believing that to do so is to negate the event historically. Jung, however, sees the two–the inner and the outer–as synchronistically related. He explains the events as happening in human history because they have their origin in the human psyche.
The Message and the Messenger
In the life of Christ, the descent of the Spirit into human form is initiated from the transpersonal realm with the archangel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary. El Greco, in his Annunciation (Plate 1), shows the descent of Spirit in the form of a pure white Dove, thus connecting the symbolism of the Annunciation with that of Jesus’ baptism when the Spirit as Dove would again descend.
El Greco’s Annunciation
With the Annunciation Mary is called to the transpersonal purpose of her life. Similarly, individuation is initiated from the transpersonal realm and under whatever circumstances provide the opening into the conscious life of the individual. Jung brought to light the fact that many more persons than openly admit it, nevertheless have had spiritual experiences of one kind or another. In Civilization in Transition, he refers to these as “the silent ones of the land,” and numbers them in the millions. They are also the ones to whom Saint Augustine refers: whose hearts, having experienced the numinosity of God, are ever after “restless until they find their rest in God.”
My own spiritual awakening led me to conclude with Jung that whatever function in a person’s life has been undervalued or undeveloped will be the one to provide the opening through which the call to wholeness is most likely to come. Individually and uniquely, a person’s destiny is in the direction that provides the new influx of energy necessary to fulfill the creative purpose of one’s life. Arnold Mindell, (although I don’t recall where,) spoke of life-determining experiences as coming through a person’s “unoccupied channels.” Similarly Jung points to the “inferior” of the four ways persons function as the bringer of that person’s salvation, i.e. wholeness.
From Morton Kelsey’s description of “a hypnogogic vision” I recognized the particular state of consciousness in which my awakening had occurred–one that slipped in through that twilight zone between sleeping and waking. In this state I saw a figure of pure light whom I assumed to be Jesus as he had appeared to the disciples at the Transfiguration. Three audible words accompanied the vision: “God is Truth.” Moreover, they were in answer to a question that had been on my mind; not one I had consciously, intellectually formulated, but one that had simply appeared in my mind and undoubtedly triggered the evening before. I had been attending an “inquirer’s class” at the local Episcopal Church. I was there because there was no Presbyterian Church in the small community where shortly before we had moved. That evening, Father John had drawn a triangle on the blackboard with arrows pointing to illustrate how God was both one and at the same time three separate beings. From what I now know about the power of such diagrammic images, this had been enough to scramble my existing concept of God, and had thus prepared the way for what I would experienced. I was then twenty-eight years old and still carrying around an unexamined concept of God formed in my early childhood. It was the God of Michaelangel’s Sistine Chapel ceiling—an awe-inspiring but remote father figure. Fortunately, this far-away God had been balanced by the image of a loving and kindly Jesus on whose lap children were always welcome.
Only years later did I wonder about the connection between Jesus and the words “God is Truth” that had accompanied the vision. The connection came about one day as “out of the blue” a scripture verse clicked onto the image: “For he is the image of the invisible God”7 And I knew that all along I had known the God of Truth, but who was now calling me to a new level of understanding.
How to Avoid the Psychological Dangers of Transpersonal Energies
A breakthrough of transpersonal energies into consciousness is not without its psychological dangers. The tendency for the newly initiated into spiritual realities is to take a God-visitation personally. This then causes one to feel special, even “chosen.” As a result the ego suffers inflation, and once this happens an opposite and equal deflation is as sure to occur as night follows day. Mary, however, in her manner and in her response, demonstrates how to safely sustain transpersonal energies without falling victim to an inflation/deflation cycle.
When informed she was to be the mother of the long-awaited savior, her reply was a simple: “Let it be according to God’s will.” Had she said, “What have I done to deserve such an honor,” she immediately would have played into the hands of the personal ego. But in true humility she simply acquiesced in what became known as her “Fiat,” (Plate 2), thus allowing her soul to become the magnifying glass by which “all generations” would be blessed8 in accordance with God’s promise “to Abraham and his seed forever.”9
Shortly after the Annunciation, Mary received word that her cousin Elizabeth who had been barren had conceived. Mary set off immediately for the country place of her kinswoman. This “Visitation” was again precisely the right thing to do, because following a highly charged transpersonal experience a safe place and the company of a trusted companion is needed in order to sort out and process what has happened. (Plate-3)
El Greco’s “Visitation” of Mary to Elizabeth
Upon hearing about Elizabeth’s miraculous conception, Mary’s response was “with God nothing is impossible.”10 Thus she showed herself attuned to spiritual rather than the ordinary physical laws of possibility. Next, when Elizabeth recognized that Mary had been “chosen” as the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, Mary again declined to take personally what she knew to be a transpersonal event: She understood that she was only an instrument for the magnification of God; her womb the prophetic space within which God intended to fulfill his promise to Israel. And because of her response she was spared again from falling victim to inflation. In response and instead of indulging the ego’s voice of self-glorification, she glorified God.
Perhaps what made it possible for Mary to turn deaf ears to the ego was her Judaic training which had taught her to look upon the workings of God as an unfathomable mystery. Whereas the ego’s tendency would have been to exalt itself, Mary saw herself as a “lowly handmaiden,” literally the “slave girl” of the Lord. In remaining “lowly” she showed by example how the seed of divinity in human nature can pass safely from invisibility into visibility. This enabled her soul to serve as the prism through which the invisible light of spirit could be refracted. Thus through Mary’s womb the many-splendored reflection of God became visible. Accordingly, sometimes the wings of the Angel of the Annunciation are shown as rainbow variegated. (Plate 4).
Jan van Eyck’s Rainbow-Winged Gabriel
Mary’s way, then, is to affirm God as the source of all glory and all power; and to see herself (the soul) as the mere conduit through which the transpersonal spirit is stepped down to the level of human experience. Moreover, Mary understands that the splendor of God must of necessity remain veiled. Therefore the Christ is left to gestate in the secretness of the stable/cave/womb. Here Suarès also reminds that to remain “lowly” is to accept the human mind as incapable of comprehending the ultimate being and workings of the mind of God.
[I]n the perception of the fact that existence is a total mystery lies the foundation of any true religious awareness.
In another place he adds:
There is no transcendence other than our intimacy with the unknown as the unknown.11
And just as a personal annunciation experience brings “the urge to individuation,” so it also calls for the soul’s “yes” to a process by which the many levels and facets of the personality can be integrated into a whole. It is this whole Self which then becomes capable of entering into union with God and what is known as the mysterium coniunctionis.
Chapter Two Credits
1 – Annunciation, by El Greco, 1541-1614, Illescas, Hospital of Charity (cat no.42) Foto Mas. Barcelona (Information from Toledo Museum, Ohio, Exhibit Catalog)
2 – The Fiat, from the Grail Art Catalogue, ©1965, (possible by Trina Paulus)
3 – The Visitation, by El Greco, Dumbarton Oaks Collection, (Trustees Harvard Univ, Washington, DC, (color transparency source for Toledo (Ohio) Museum’s, Exhibit Catalog: Juan Antonio Oronoz, Madred)
4 – The Annunciation, by Jan van Eyck, circa 1400, Flemish, National Gallery of Art, Mellon Collection
Chapter Two Notes
1 Edinger, The Christian Archetype, Inner City Books, Toronto, 1987, p 45
2 John 10:27
3 Romans 8: 28
4. Romans 8:29-30
5 Carlos Suares, Cipher of Genesis,~~ p11
6 Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype ,p 26
7 Colossians 1:15
8 Luke 1:48
9 Luke 1:55
10 Luke Chapter 1
11 Suarès, op cit, Cipher, pp 11 & 45
We are no more than the manger in which the Lord is born. C G Jung 1
The Bethlehem Event
As the Annunciation is a descent from the realm of archangels to Mary’s supraconscious state of receptivity, so the Incarnation is a further step down into the world of everyday consciousness where hope and fear, light and dark co-mingle. In the biblical accounts of the Nativity, the historic and the mythic–the real and the symbolic—also intermingle. Yet considering the cosmic proportion of the event unfolding at Bethlehem, how could it be otherwise? How could the heavens not rejoice, or the earth and all of creation not be glad over the good news traveling the light waves of spirit: A child is born. His name (nature) shall be Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace?2
Heralding the event, a brilliant star lights the way to the stable where the Holy Child is cradled in a manger. Converging upon the scene are the angels and the shepherds, come to join the beasts of burden already there to welcome the one born to bear human’s burden of iniquity. Giotto’s thirteenth century Nativity, painted on the walls of the basilica at Assisi, tells it all. (Plate 1)
The Nativity, by Giotto
As evidence that this Child’s destiny transcends that of an other infants, “wise men” from the East follow the star that leads them to the Child. Jung explains that
The Magi from the East were star-gazers who, beholding an extraordinary constellation, inferred an equally extraordinary birth.3
The long-anticipated celestial event is believed to have been a third consecutive conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the zodiacal sign of Pisces, and to have pointed to the birth of Israel’s new king.4 Jung’s comments continue:
These astrological ideas are quite understandable when one considers that Saturn is the star of Israel, and that Jupiter means the “king” (of justice.)5
Rabbi Joel Dobin, in The Astrological Secrets of the Ancient Hebrew Sages, has clarified that the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions occurring every twenty years were looked upon as favorable times for reassessing God’s will. And when they occurred repeatedly in the same sign, they were said to herald “a major change in the manifestation of God’s will.”6
The Changeover of Archetypal Dominants
It was also a time of changing archetypal dominants. As the astrological Age of Aries, with the ram as its symbol, was ending, the Age of Pisces, represented by the two fishes, was commencing. Aries had been a pastoral age; and accordingly the first to visit the newborn king were shepherds. Moreover, the theme of “the Good Shepherd” would be woven throughout the Gospels and inspire both early and late Christian art. An example is the carved reredos in Plate 2 from the Chapel of the Good Shepherd in the Washington National Cathedral.
The Good Shepherd
In accordance with the incoming Piscean symbolism, the Christ would call his followers from among fishermen and instruct them in how to become “fishers of men.” He would multiply the fishes and loaves to feed the multitude; pay taxes with a coin found in the mouth of a fish; and even direct his disciples as to where to cast their nets for “the miraculous catch.” These acted-out parables would spawn a whole shoal of fish symbolism as well as be reflected in the religious art of the age, as in Duccio’s painting of the calling of Peter and Andrew which is part of the National Gallery of Art’s treasury. (Plate 3)
Insert Plate 3
The Calling of the Fishermen, by Duccio
Noting the wealth of astrological symbolism around the birth and throughout the ministry of Jesus, Jung expressed the opinion that to anyone acquainted with the symbolism of astrology it should be clear that Christ was born as “the first fish of the Pisces era, and also doomed to die as the last ram of the declining Aries era.”7
Before the Age of Aries human sacrifice was not uncommon. When Abraham thought he heard God tell him to sacrifice his only son, in obedience he set out to do so. At the last minute, however, an angel stopped him. Turning around, Abraham saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket. Thus a ram took the place of the son and became the acceptable burnt offering of the Judaic age. Two thousand years later, another “only son” would be called “the lamb of God.” To him would be entrusted the task of breaking human bondage to belief that God required any sacrifice other than a humble spirit and an open and contrite heart into which the Spirit of God could enter.
In the Age of Aries–a fire sign–the rite of sacrifice was the burnt offering of the holocaust. In the following Age of Pisces–a water sign–baptismal waters would be the rite of passage into new life. And now with entry into Aquarius–an air sign–a changeover of archetypes is again happening, with symbolic emphasis now relevant to air—to the upper realms of space, of mind, and of spirit—and the supramental fields of consciousness where the mystics of all ages have gone before, and where the initiatory rite of passage well may be the same as Mary’s: “Let it be unto me according to God’s will”—the sacrifice of self-will to God’s higher will for one’s life.
As the outline of a fish was the earliest sign by which Christians identified themselves, so already the dove has become the symbol of choice for spiritual renewal. Its symbolic roots, however, reach back to the dove of Genesis who returned to Noah bearing the olive branch of peace; who appeared also at the Annunciation; who was perched in the rafters at the Nativity; who descended upon Jesus at his baptism; and again as the dove-winged tongues of fire at Pentecost to baptize the hundred-and-twenty in the upper room with the fire of Spirit.
In creative design–including pictographic, glyphic, hieroglyphic, and folk art–the wavy line expresses fluidic movement. From early peoples on, the wind—pneuma, breath—has been a sign of the presence and power of Spirit. Spiritual energy, electrical current, light waves, vibrational frequencies, are all represented by wavy lines, as is the Age of Aquarius by its glyph. Birds gliding on currents of air are similarly indicated by a wavy line, while birds in general belong to the symbolism of spirit. In religious art as in the scriptures, a pure white dove indicates the operation of the Holy Spirit. At Jesus’ baptism, “the heavens were opened” and the Spirit descended “as” a dove:
. . . and [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on [Jesus].8
Then again at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came it was
like a rush of wind,” and “there appeared tongues as of fire.”9
In both instances the language used is qualifying a manifestation of Spirit. In both cases the manifestation is focalized and intense enough to materialize and appear, at least to the visionary eye, in a discernible shape: out-of-doors as a dove; in the darkened “upper room” as tongues of flame. In any event, Figure 1 illustrates the close resemblance in creative design of the essential outlines of a wave of spiritual energy, a dove in flight, and tongues of fire.
The Essential Outlines of Light Waves, a Dove in Flight & Tongues of Fire.
The Virgin Mother
As everyone knows, the chosen vessel for the divine/human Incarnation was a virgin named Mary. Less known is the role of Virgo in the Piscine heavens. And even though orthodox Christianity is uncomfortable with astrological symbolism, its presence in the Bible is difficult to ignore, as is the influence of the-goddess-who-never-went-away but simple withdrew into the hearts and souls of the common people. Her new name would be Mary.
Esther Harding, from a psychological perspective explains why it was appropriate that the Holy Child be born of a virgin.
Psychological virginity refers to an attitude which is pure in the sense that it is uncontaminated by personal desirousness. . . . The virgin ego is one that is sufficiently conscious to relate to transpersonal energies without identifying with them. . . . [and quoting Philo] . . . “when God begins to associate with the soul, he brings to pass that she who was formerly woman becomes virgin again.”10
Jungian analyst Luella Sibbald refers to the astrological as well as psychological relevance to the virgin birth of the Christ. She notes the Zodiac sign opposite Pisces is Virgo. This places the two constellations in a relationship that is both complementary and in opposition–mother and son, the masculine and the feminine, the son of God and the mother goddess, sun and moon, the conscious and the unconscious. Thus the heavens affirm the balancing, supportive role of Mary and the feminine principle in bringing the new humanity to birth.
In spite the strong opposition between the masculine and feminine poles of human nature that reaches back to the origins of the Hebrews, and despite the still-powerful Christian patriarchy, sometime around the beginning of the second millennium Mary’s role in human redemption began to gain recognition. Out of this there arose “the cult of Mary.” Her feminine influence, however, was more deeply felt than “popularity” and “cult” imply. In truth, devotion to “Our Lady” was a transfer of affection from the ancient goddess to a form more acceptable to the Church, a devotion that would penetrate to the very heart of the culture and creativity of the middle ages.
Sibbald has related that among those influenced by Mary’s feminine virtues were the master builders of the grandest of Europe’s gothic cathedrals, seven of which–all dedicated to “Our Lady”–were geographically placed so as to correspond to the stars making up the constellation of Virgo. The Chartres Cathedral, as the most famous of these, was situated in the most important position, while the other six, also honoring “Notre Dame,” were positioned to correspond to other prominent stars in the constellation. Thus the master architects, in an age unsurpassed for its architecture, conformed their art to the premise “as in heaven, so on earth.” Similarly, the individuation process leads to a union between the masculine and feminine poles of being. And, as the Christ Child was born of a virgin:
The divine child in each one of us can only be born from the virginal, unknown inner place, removed from the activity of the adapted, collectively oriented side.11
“Continuing incarnation” is the phrase Jung used in connection with the awakening of individual awareness to the transcendent nature of the Self. In Nativity symbolism, the human heart is the manger in which the inner Christ Child is cradled, and where, in the lowliness of this hidden place, it is protected. As the inner Child “grows in wisdom and stature” the psyche in its totality serves as its Holy Family in protecting and guiding the Self to maturity. Plate 4 is an early nineteenth century folk art painting on glass from Poland. It is a reminder of the role these images have played in the spiritual life of ordinary people.
The Holy Family, by an Unknown Folk Artist
The songs of a people as well as their art shape their spiritual lives. At Christmas the familiar carol bids the birth of the inner Christ:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!12
Now as with Mary, the divine birth depends upon a consent of will, and a heart in which room for the Child has been made. As with Mary, her “let it be” is how the soul also is impregnated. “Christ in you the hope of glory”13 is how Paul presents the theme of continuing incarnation. For Teilhard as well, incarnation is an ongoing Christing process; while Jung’s hope is that the time is now right–the kairos–for the “Christification” of many.
THE BETHLEHEM STAR
The Star-Cross of the Transcendent Self
The Star of Bethlehem, as the brightest light in the night sky, signals the sowing of the heavens with the star-seeds of the new humanity. As an archetypal symbol, the star speaks of the origin, destiny, and eternality of the soul. As the eight-pointed star-cross of the transcendent Self (Figure 2) it speaks of the individuating or Christing process.
Of all the symbolism surrounding the Incarnation, the star is the most universally recognized. Ignatius captures this in the following lines:
A star shone forth in heaven above all that were before it, and its light was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star.14
The Psalmist as well sang of the long-awaited event:
Let the heavens be glad,
and let the earth rejoice;
. . . before the Lord,
for he comes . . . 15
Symbolically, the heavens are the psyche and earth the soma. The one star that outshines all others is the Self whose light illuminates the entire inner, microcosmic universe of the soul. About this star Edinger writes:
One star that outshines the others represents “the One Scintilla or monad” among the multiple luminosities of the unconscious and “is to be regarded as a symbol of the self.”16
In the East much is made of the symbolism of the star. There the belief is that each soul has its own star from which it originates and to which it returns. In the tradition from which this comes, persons are seen more complexly than in the West. Heinrich Zimmer explains:
We are not simple, and the duality of “body and soul” does not express our being. The ancient conception of man was highly complex, as is shown in the following lines telling what becomes of him after death:
Earth covers the bones,
the shade flies round the mound,
the soul descends to the underworld,
the spirit rises to the stars.17
An Act of Divine Imagination
Going back to the origins of Judaism, Abraham is told to look to the stars: his descendents will be that innumerable. Taken literally the promise speaks of a quantity of sons and daughters with a common ancestry. But if by progeny the reference is to the capacity to enter into conscious relationship with God, then the promise can be understood as speaking qualitatively about a higher, transcendent capacity for union with God, and a larger Reality where the eternal spiritual Self is forever at home in God.
In being told to look to the stars, Abraham is asked to engage his creative imagination. To look up through mortal eyes to the myriad stars against the backdrop of the night sky is to feel insignificant by comparison. But through the higher functions of intuition and imagination, it is possible to observe the one star that is ours, and to see it reaching out to us. As it grows brighter and brighter, we imagine ourselves and our star moving towards one another–closer and closer, nearer and nearer–until we touch, merge, and become one. Thus in imagination it is possible to ascend to the stars, and to that “One Scintilla” that heralds the birth of the inner Self–the true and eternal mode of being.
Myth and History
In the Incarnation the realms of the divine and the human merge. Eternity unfolds in historic time. Emmanuel! God is on earth!
In the Christ event myth and history are woven together; unless, that is, a myth is equated with a story that isn’t true. Then the mythic material in the Bible becomes troublesome. Confusing facts with truth, some insist the Bible contains the literal words of God. Others overreact to this, until between the literalists and the rationalists the beauty and truth of the Bible suffers mutilation, eclipsing its deeper meaning. But what if the Nativity is truth of an altogether higher order? What if, as Frederick Buechner holds,
A myth is a story that is always true.18
THE HIDDEN YEARS
The Holy Family
The Gospel accounts surrounding the birth and early years of Jesus are in all likelihood just such a mixture of historic and mythic truth. But as Jung points out, sometimes the two–the mythic and the historic–converge. Were this not so, this one life that transcended its own historic time and geographic place would not have had the transforming impact it has on millions of lives. Nevertheless, the Gospels record only three incidents involving Jesus’ early life as the son of Mary and Joseph. In the New Testament these serve as a transition from the more mythic elements of his birth to the more historically-presented accounts of his public ministry. Since each of these events relate to stages of the individuation process they are worth examining.
In Luke, Joseph and Mary take the infant Jesus to the temple forty days after his birth. Again it is Luke who places the boy Jesus at twelve and once more in the temple in Jerusalem. Matthew omits these but records the escape into Egypt. Although most of the details of these oft-told stories are apocryphal, like the stories surrounding his birth they have been fleshed out and made memorable as the subject of some of the greatest art of the Christian era. Long before the common people had Bibles and could read, scenes from the life of Christ adorned basilica and cathedral walls. As a result these archetypal representations came to be embedded in the inner gallery of collective images that is part of Western culture’s sacred heritage. In showing Mary and Joseph honoring and protecting the sanctity of the Christ Child, these familiar scenes speak also of how, in the individual Christing process, the inner divine image needs to be affirmed and nurtured.
On the first occasion, Mary and Joseph take the infant to the temple in Jerusalem. Mary’s forty-day “purification” is over and they go there for the purpose of dedicating their newborn son to God. The prescribed offering for the rite is two turtledoves. (Plate 5)
The Presentation, by Giotto
The present day custom of baptizing or “christening” infants is rooted in this ancient observance of the law of Moses. A “devout” man named Simeon is witness to the ceremony. After Simeon confirms the divine destiny of the Child as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles,” he turns to Mary and forewarns, “a sword shall pierce through thine own soul.”19 Also present is a prophetess named Anna “of a great age,” who for many long years has lived at the temple “worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”20 Recognizing the Child as the one for whom Israel has been waiting, she too gives thanks,
The Presentation is also an allegory for the attitude the ego needs to assume in relationship to the newly emerging Self. Kahlil Gibran captures the essence of the moment when possessiveness towards a child is relinquished.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.21
Similarly, the inner Christ Child, in its early stages, needs protection from the ego’s possessive attachments. This is what Harding intends by the “virgin ego” as being “sufficiently conscious to relate to transpersonal energies without identifying with them.” Thus in Revelations, as soon as “the woman clothed in the sun” (i.e., consciousness) gives birth to the Child, at this moment the Dragon (i.e., unconscious “desirousness”) appears. The Child, however, is spirited away “to the throne of God,” and the woman (as the Christ-bearing soul) flees to the Wilderness, to a place prepared for her by God.22
The Flight to Egypt
If the Holy Child is to survive its earliest and most vulnerable stages, it must do so under the wing of divine protection. Therefore an angel appears to Joseph in a dream, instructing him to take mother and Child “down into Egypt” out of harm’s way. Not only must Joseph, as protector of Mary and Jesus, be open to guidance but he must be willing to alter the course of his own life for the sake of the Child. Similarly, the individuating Self is worthy our unreserved commitment to its well-being, and our willingness to go wherever the process leads. This is a persistent biblical theme wherever the evolution of consciousness is at issue: Adam and Eve are forced from Eden; Jacob flees his brother’s anger; Joseph is exiled in Egypt; and Moses escapes to the wilderness.
By including the “Flight to Egypt,” the author of Matthew brings an Old Testament pattern forward and, at the same time, fulfills Hosea’s prophecy: “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”23 (Plate 6)
Flight to Egypt, by Giotto
The Journey to Jerusalem
In the third scripture vignette of the life of the Holy Family, we are told that the Child has grown. He has “waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God.”24 He now is twelve, and “according to custom” has gone with Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. When it comes time for the journey home Mary and Joseph assume he is with others in the traveling party. They don’t realize he is missing until he fails to show up for supper that evening. Immediately they turn back to Jerusalem and, after searching for three days, find him “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”25 (Plate 7)
Jesus in the Temple at Twelve, by Duccio
When a child is missing anxiety intensifies with each moment and each failed effort to find the child, especially if the parent has grown accustomed to the child doing as expected. Mary’s lament is typical: “Son, why have you treated us so?” and the boy Jesus’ response is also characteristic: “I thought you’d know where I’d be.
Is there a conscientious parent who hasn’t known apprehension and anxiety over a child’s safety and well-being? Or, as the child has matured, not had to entrust him or her to Life itself, and to the wisdom inherent to the child? It is often at this gateway to adolescence, as portrayed by the boy Jesus in the temple, that the passion of a child’s interests point in the direction his or her life will take. Seized by the intensity of the moment, all else is overshadowed. Time ceases to exist, as does the possibility that parents just might be worried, or that it isn’t obvious to them where their child can be found.
The transpersonal Self is by nature disproportionate and non-temporal. I recall the day our youngest son didn’t come home from school as expected. Since we lived in the country we thought either he would get a ride or call for one. Only when he didn’t show up for supper did we begin to worry in earnest. Finally, at nine o’clock in the evening we began calling. Fortunately we found a friend who had left him several hours before at the pizza place in town. At that time, the friend reported, he had been playing the same electronic game for three hours straight. We, of course, called immediately; “Yes” he was still there, and still playing the same game on the same quarter.
Did the relief of my maternal anxiety express itself in accusation? Indeed! and in words close to Mary’s. “But I couldn’t leave,” he protested. “No, I couldn’t phone. I was breaking a record.” And was our child’s fascination with things electronic, coupled with a capacity for prolonged concentration, a clue to where Life would be leading him? Absolutely!
The finding of Jesus in the Temple can be turned into a personal query:
How can the Self’s call to serve Life be discerned in those times when I have been so absorbed in the moment as to be oblivious to time? and to whatever other obligations I was neglecting?
What are the fears that have held me back from following where Self would lead? What price has been exacted for failing to do so? And when I have followed, what have the rewards been?
PRELUDE TO MINISTRY
The Missing Years
From the time Jesus is twelve until he presents himself to John for baptism, the Gospels are silent. Luke provides the date as “the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign.” A footnote in The Jerusalem Bible calculates this as between 28 and 29 A D. Taking into account an arithmetical error concerning the beginning of “the Christian era,” Jesus would have been between thirty-three and thirty-six years old. His “missing years” are therefore those during which most persons round out their personal lives, start families of their own, and become established in the roles they are assuming as contributing members of a community.
One place in the Gospels the question is asked: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary . . . .”26 And in another place: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”27 No other reference to the “missing years” is made. Some suggest he might have returned to the Egypt of his early childhood to study the ancient mysteries. Others suggest he spent some of those years in India. Or he simply could have blended unobtrusively into the life of Nazareth, carrying on the carpentry work of Joseph after his death, and taking his place as the head of Mary’s household.
Sonship and Selfhood
Jesus’ emergence from obscurity began with his baptism. This event included some of the same symbolic elements present in the Annunciation. In Matthew, as he came up out of the waters “the heavens were opened . . . and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove . . . and a Voice from heaven [saying], “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”28(Plate 8)
Baptism of Christ,
Immediately after the Annunciation Mary had headed straight for the isolation of her cousin Elizabeth’s country home, so Jesus after his baptism “was led by the spirit into the wilderness” where for a period of forty days he was “tempted.”
A time spent in the wilderness is another familiar Old Testament theme. With forty years as the duration of the Israelites’ stay, Jesus’ forty days is an abbreviated parallel, but one that confirms the Old Testament pattern of this as a time of “temptation” or “testing.” On the spiritual journey, the wilderness is where the soul learns what it is to hunger and thirst not for what satisfies the physical, mortal body but for what satisfies the deeper longing of the eternal Self. About this dry and thirsty inner landscape the Psalmist writes:
Eagerly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land
where there is no water.29
The wilderness is where the soul undergoes its formation into a vessel of Spirit. In the individuation process, it is how the unconscious underpinnings of a person’s life are exposed to the light of consciousness, and where the soul’s desire for wholeness so intensifies as to turn all lesser desires to ashes, but from which experience the Self, as the Phoenix, emerges reborn.
Because the wilderness symbolizes the vast unclaimed territory of the collective unconscious, it well could take forty years to transverse. And even that might not be time enough. Whether forty years or forty days, the wilderness is a stage of transformation that takes as long as it takes. Edinger notes,
[It is] the prolonged dealing with the unconscious–the chaos or prima materia–that is required following an irrevocable commitment to individuation . . . .
[It is a] transition between personal, temporal existence [that of the ego] and eternal, archetypal life [that of the Self].30
Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness are instructive of what can be expected when a person’s life is intercepted by God and the course of that life altered. In its most gentle expression, the wilderness is a time and place for sorting out the often conflicting inner voices clamoring to be heard and by which persons feel pulled in different directions. In essence, the purpose of the wilderness is to determine and prepare the soul to trust and follow where the will of God will lead.
Who is the Tempter?
Jesus’ wilderness temptations were on three levels: the first concerning “bread” was the temptation to put physical or materialistic needs ahead of spiritual ones; the second Edinger described as “the temptation to transcend human limits for the sake of spectacular effects;” and the third was to seek worldly power and glory. For this last temptation Jesus was led up “a very high mountain,” suggesting that if unrestrained the ego’s desire would be for nothing less than to usurp the place God.31
Jesus identifies his tempter as the “devil,” which Tolstoy, in his The Gospels in Brief, translates as “the voice of the flesh.” Fritz Kunkel, somewhat similarly, equates the devil with a person’s own voice of egocentricity. If the ultimate temptation is to be sidetracked from fulfilling one’s higher destiny, then the temptation to live solely for material gains and comforts does just that, as do the ego’s temptations to live according to its desire for power and glory. Some are tempted more by one, some more by another. The only real failure of a wilderness testing is to see the source of temptation as having an outer rather than inner origin, and so miss the opportunity to consciously identify and have it out with the inner voices of one’s fears and other self-defeating patterns. Not to do so is to evade one’s allotted share of responsibility for collective evil, and something to which each is called not simply to endure but to overcome and transform.
THE POWER TO BECOME
. . . to all who received him,
who believed in his name,
he gave power to become
children of God. John 1:12
The Depth Psychology of the Gospels
As Jesus actualizes wholeness in his own being, so he sees everyone else as potentially whole, even one so hopeless as the man from Gerasenes whose demons are “Legion.”32 The story is reminiscent of Jesus’ words to Suares quoted earlier: “It wasn’t you that found me,” rather, “It is you in me that I found, in what it is your nature to become.”
As a healer of souls, Jesus’ methods were similar to those of depth psychology. Kunkel, a psychiatrist and a dedicated follower of Jesus, regarded the New Testament as “the great text-book of depth-psychology.”33 Bypassing the obvious, Jesus had an uncanny way of going right to the heart of each person’s real inner need. With both wisdom and compassion, he knew in an instant where persons were blocked; where their perspectives on life were too narrow; where their perceptions were limiting their potential for wholeness; or where their inner attitudes were undermining their outer lives.
As portrayed in the Gospels, he saw each one he met as unique. And he met each on the ground of her or his own being, He freed those who came to him from all manner of emotional and mental disturbances, but without the use of any special “technique,” or pat formulas. Rather, when he looked into persons’ souls complex physical, psychological and spiritual problems came unraveled before his unconditional acceptance and total lack of judgment towards them. With a word, with a look, with a gesture, he was able to disarm their defenses and take authority over their demons, or in Jungian parlance, the very real autonomous complexes of their inner worlds.
His objective always was to reconnect those he encountered to the springs of living waters from which the creativity, the meaning, and the purpose of their lives could once again begin to flow and move them back into the stream of life. In this way he went about “fulfilling the scriptures” and proclaiming “the acceptable year of the Lord”—the year of Jubilee—which brought with it good news to the poor; release to the captives; sight to the blind; and liberty to the oppressed.34
His was a declaration, a proclamation of the new higher law of God–the law of compassion and mercy. To those who received him he gave power to become the children of Abba—the One who became two so that the two could return to the One What did it matter, he asked, whether he said “your sins are forgiven” or “take up your bed and walk”? The realm, the reign, the domain he came to bring in was beyond form. It was without formulations. Neither here or there, it broke forth spontaneously. Neither this nor that it was whatever of value had been lost and now was found–the lost sheep, the lost coin, the hope that had been lost, or the life that until now had been unlived.
The Real and the “Not Real”
In his role of repairing the breech between the human and the divine, he also dealt with cases not so simple as the casting out of demons. More difficult were the attitudes of mind that blind a person’s eyes to the reality of the spiritual world.
As a physical being I know that I exist because of what I see, touch, hear, smell and taste. My senses tell me this is the “real” world. And they are so convincing that they lead me to believe that all else is “not real.” Their judgment is against there even being such a thing as a spiritual world. This domination of sense perception erects a prison-without-walls that limits the soul’s access to the greater spiritual realm. Yet it is not only the senses that create the confusion as to what is the “real” and what the “not real.” It is also the intellect and its tendency to confuse “mind” with “spirit.”
The Man who Comes to Jesus by Night
Enter Nicodemus–a man seeking a way out of his similar confusion. He comes to Jesus by night, perhaps at night because his self-identity is too much with his intellect, while the restlessness that is leading him to Jesus is coming from his spirit. The intellect is rational, analytical and controlling, while the spirit is like a child, spontaneous, exuberant, expressive, and a terrible embarrassment to the dignity of the intellect. Only if Nicodemus can meet Jesus without being seen will his intellect agree to the meeting. In Tolstoy’s interpretation of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus says to Jesus:
You do not bid us keep the Sabbath, do not bid us observe cleanliness, do not bid us make offerings, nor fast; you would destroy the temple. You say of God, He is a spirit, and you say of the kingdom of God, that it is within us. Then, what kind of kingdom of God is this?
Understand that, if man is conceived from heaven, then in him there must be that which is of heaven.
Nicodemus, not understanding, next says:
How can a man, if he is conceived of the flesh of his father, and has grown old again enter the womb of his mother and be conceived anew?
Jesus now takes the discussion to a deeper level:
Understand what I say. I say that man, besides the flesh, is also conceived of the spirit, and therefore every man is conceived of flesh and spirit, and therefore may the kingdom of heaven be in him. From flesh comes flesh. From flesh spirit cannot be born; spirit can come only from spirit. The spirit is that which lives in you, and lives in freedom and reason; it is that of which you know neither the beginning nor the end, and which every man feels in him. And, therefore, why do you wonder that I told you we must be conceived from heaven?34
Still Nicodemus doesn’t get it, at least not at first. Nor do we. But Jesus knows that he will and that we will. The seed has been planted. He has done what he could where the obstinacy of the intellect still rules. Now life will have to be the teacher, confirming through experience what couldn’t be accepted on faith.
The lesson of life is that the seed, having fallen into the ground and in order to release its potential, must die. From life’s crises and traumas, from the small and large deaths the ego suffers, the life of the spirit is born. Having endured the traumas of childhood and adolescence, having passed through the crises of independence and identity, having suffered the pain of the ego’s crucifixions and the shadow self’s humiliations, in all these ways a person’s perception of the “real” and the “not-real” makes an about-face. The “real I” and the “not-real I” trade places: what is “flesh” and what is “spirit”; what is “mind” and what is “soul”; what is “temporal” and what is “eternal.” Having been differentiated, these opposing forces are now ready for reconciliation–the divided to be reunited. The total, the whole Self has learned that to be human is to be on both sides of the equation: the physical self who perceives Reality sequentially—as in time–and the spiritual Self who experiences the Whole simultaneously—as in eternity.
From the greater perspective of the Eternal Now the gap between the seen and the unseen closes. The “here” and the “hereafter” are no longer two places. “This side” that is called life and “that side” that is called death interpenetrate. From the perspective of spirit, the greater Reality is seen as a multidimensional, interconnected whole. Totality, Suares insists and physicists are beginning to agree, “is an indeterminate number of universes . . . with no dividing walls.”35
Looking back from journey’s end, incarnation will be seen to have been a passage through time in order to gain the perspective of eternity. Separation from the Whole will be seen to have been in order to return as a consciously knowing inseparable part of the greater Reality. In the end the returning soul will take its place in Dante’s Celestial Rose, which is not just an image, but an actual attracting force at the Center by which the soul is being drawn home. (Plate 9)
Dore’s Interpretation of Dante’s Vision of the Celestial Rose
Chapter Three Credits
1 – The Essential Outlines of Light Waves, a Dove in Flight, and Tongues of Fire
2 – The Star of the Transcendent Self
1 – The Nativity, by Giotto, 1267-1337, The Arena Chapel, Assisi (contact: Scala)
2 – Good Shepherd, Reredos in Chapel of the Good Shepherd, Washington National Cathedral
3 – The Call of Peter and Andrew, by Duccio, 1255-1318, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D C
4 – The Holy Family, Early 19th Century Polish folk art, from Folk Art of Europe, 1990, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc, 300 Park Ave So NY, NY 10010
5 – The Presentation, by Giotto (see III-1 above)
6 – Flight to Egypt, Giotto, (see Plate 1, above)
7 – Christ Disputation with the Doctors, by Duccio, c 1255-1315, The Maesta, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena (contact: Scala)
8 – The Baptism of Christ, Stained Glass Window, St Matthew’s Episcopal Church, San Andreas CA, design by Wm Rundstram (1999), McKeever Studios, 830 A Sonoma Blvd, Vallejo CA 94590, (707) 648-0630, photo by Richard Duval.
9 – The Empyrean, by Dore, 1832-1883, from The Dore Illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy, Dover Publications, inc. 180 Varick Street, NY, NY, 10014
Chapter Three Notes
1 Jung, op cit, Psychology and Religion, CW 11, para 267
2 Isaiah 9:6
3 Jung, op cit Aion CW Volume 9 Part II, para 146
4 Ibid, para 128
6 Rabbi Joel Dobin, The Astrological Secrets of the Ancient Hebrew Sages, Inner Traditions, NY, 1977, p 33
7 Ibid, para 147
8 Matthew 3:16
9 Acts 2:2-3
10 Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype, p 28, with Philo quote from Esther Harding’s Woman’s Mysteries, Ancient and Modern. pp.124
11 Luella Sibbald, The One With the Water Jar, Guild for Psychological Studies, San Francisco, 1978, pp 5-6
12 Phillips Brooks’ “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
13 Colossians 1:27
14 Ignatius of Antioch, “Epistle to the Ephesians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p 57, quoted in Edinger’s Christian Archetype, p 36
15 From Psalm 96
16 Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype, p 36
17 Heinrich Zimmer, in Spiritual Disciplines, Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, edited by Joseph Campbell, Bollingen Series XXX 4, Princeton University Press, NJ, 1960 p26
18 Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, A Theological ABC, Harper & Row, NY, 1973, p 65
19 Luke 3:32-35
20 Luke 2:37-38
21 Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, Knopf edition, NY, 1963, p 17
22 Revelations 12:1-6
23 Hosea 11:1
24 Luke 2:40
25 Luke 2:46
26 Mark 6:3
27 Matthew 13:55
28 Matthew 3:15-17.
29 Psalm 63:1
30 Edward F Edinger, The Bible and the Psyche, Inner City Books, 1986, Toronto, pp 5
31 Matthew 4:8
32 Luke 8:26-36
33 Fritz Kunke, Creation Continues, Word Books, Waco, 1973, p 284
34 Luke 4:18
35 John 3:1-8
36 Suares, op cit, p 2
The stone is about to fall,
and its ripple effect
reach the farthest star.
SCENES FROM THE PASSION
The Week of All Weeks
From the time Jesus is twelve until he presents himself to John for baptism, the Gospels are silent. Similarly, the Apostle’s Creed skips from “born of the Virgin Mary” to “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried,” suggesting that all that comes between is preparation for the seven days out of all time to be known as Holy Week. Symbolically parallel to the seven “days” of creation, the “passion week” is in reparation of the breech that had come between the divine and the human.
The focus is now on the sequence of events that culminates with the Crucifixion. In Christian mysticism, these occurrences correspond to the “rite of passage” known as the “dark night of the soul.” The outcome of this pivotal and often prolonged spiritual crisis is the “crucifixion” of self-will. There is another crisis Saint John of the Cross calls the “more terrible” “dark night of spirit.” The result of passing through this “night” is an expansion of consciousness that transcends the personal and encompasses the whole of humanity. Jung describes the outcome as he experienced it as when one no longer belongs to oneself but to the all.
The Triumphal Entry
In the life of Christ, the successive events leading to the Crucifixion begin with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. (Plate IV-1)
Entry into Jerusalem, 12th Century Mosaic
As Jesus comes riding on the back of a donkey, the crowd cries out “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” This compels the Pharisees to demand that Jesus rebuke the claim of the people. Instead he counters:
I tell you, if these were silent,
the very stones would cry out. (1)
Oblivious to the gathering storm clouds, the people continue their shouts of “hosanna.” Knowingly, the stones as well continue their silent witness: of children dancing about and spreading palm fronds before the one who comes regaled as a king; a king coming in peace–on a donkey–the very same beast of burden that had carried the infant Jesus out of harm’s way in the arms of Mary. With this reentry Jesus’ life comes full circle. As “the son of man” his days are numbered, each increasing the certainty of his fate. With the high drama of the passion underway, from here on out every detail is a symbol. As one day leads to another, the branches of the palm–in Hebrew phoenix–will turn to ashes. Mary’s joy, as Simeon foretold, will turn to sorrow. But like the fabled phoenix he too will rise reborn. The palms of this Sunday will become the following Friday’s “ashes,” and be memorialized in the tradition of all Ash Wednesdays to come.
Donkey and palms have their significance. But what of the stones who keep their silent watch? What do they know? What do the shouting people and the dancing children know that those supposed to be “in the know” don’t? And where in all this pageantry is the one Jesus calls the rock? Peter–Petros the rock–also stone, also mountain. Imagine his elation! His relief! Jesus was wrong. He does not have to die. He is going to be acclaimed king . . . and “I, Peter, will reign with him.”
Poor Petros–hard, stubborn substance of matter–he doesn’t understand the transubstantiation of matter into spirit. And so he must cling to the only Jesus he can imagine–the flesh and blood one he knows as Rabboni. In the language of symbolism, who is this Petros on whom so great an edifice is to be built?
He is the rock: the stone, the mountain, the hard substance of matter. As the knowing stones he is the created world as the container of spirit. His feminine counterpart is Sophia who, as Holy Wisdom, is the Philosopher’s Stone, the Alchemist’s opus–gold from lead, spirit from matter, meaning from existence, Self from self, Life from life,
In the Arthurian cycle the sword is in the stone. The sword of spirit is embedded in the stone of matter. The one who can extract the sword from the stone will rule the kingdom, for,
If stone is turned to bread it is consumed,
but if stone bears witness to Truth it is eternalized.
Therefore it is the rock, the stone, the mountain
–the hard, stubborn substance of matter
that cries out very God of very God.
With the dawning of this Truth the Stone is about to fall and its ripple effect reach the furthest star.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday . . . Holy Week moves on: The tables are overturned in the temple; the Last Supper is shared in the upper room; and the disciples follow Jesus into the garden of Gethsemane where the greatest act of compassion the world has ever known is about to move to center stage.
The reverence with which Christians speak of “the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ” is in recognition of a heart of flesh and blood so unbounded as to have expanded to infinity. The stones and rocks of this other garden are to witness the final dissolution of the barrier between the divine and the human, making Gethsemane the symbolic inversion of Eden. For if Eden symbolizes disobedience, Gethsemane is its opposite–obedience unto death.
At the Foot of the Mount of Olives
Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, is the place where the oil is pressed from the olives. It is here Jesus has come to pray–a stone’s throw or so from the temple complex where, at the very same time, those empowered to uphold the structure of Judaism are plotting to murder its purest son.
Jesus goes deep into the garden and kneels beside a large rock beneath the ancient, gnarled trees. He knows what he is up against, and asks the three disciples closest to him to “watch and pray.” Knowingly and deliberately he has overturned the tables and accused the richly-garbed priesthood of stealing money from the poor. Openly, he has called the Pharisees hypocrites and bigots. He knows the fickleness of the multitudes who just days before had acclaimed him their king. He is also mindful of the weaknesses of those close to him. As when oil is being extracted from the olives, the wheel turns and the weight of the press bears down.
The Bible says he is “perplexed” by the oppression coming over him. He continues to pray. He identifies the oppressive force. It is grief. It is sorrow. And it continues to worsen. He awakens the three who have fallen asleep, and tells them that his soul is exceedingly sorrowful, “even unto death.” He asks again for their help, that they stay awake and pray. But he also understands it is their own grief that is rendering them unconscious. He is overheard addressing “Abba.” He asks: “if it is possible let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”(2)
[Then] an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength. In his anguish he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.”(3)
The Agony in the Garden, by El Greco
The images of this scene are familiar from the work of numerous artists, including El Greco, who in Plate IV-2 shows the angel giving Jesus the cup he now realizes he cannot escape drinking–the “cup of salvation”–in which the purity of his life blood, like the clarity of the finest wine, will be co-mingle with the sediment at the bottom—the bottom of the human barrel.
Agonizing against the sheer weight of what is pressing in on him, he prays for strength to endure what he must. He is preparing to let down the final barriers between his light-filled mind and the twisted, fragmented, demonized, “outer darkness” of human-nature-gone-astray.
Having consumed the cup to the last bitter dregs, his struggle now is to remain consciousness. In opening his mind to the cumulative psychic pain of collective humanity, he has opened the floodgates to his heart as well to an inundation of the suffering the human race has perpetuated on one another. So overwhelming are the heart-wrenching emotions he feels, he fears it is more than he can bear. The fight to stay conscious continues as alternately he vicariously experiences what it is like to be victim, and then what it is like to be the demon-possessed victimizer. He feels the helplessness of the abused; the frustration of the disinfranchised; the anger of those who know what it is to be the brunt of injustice; the heart-breaking pain of those who have experienced betrayal; or known what it is to feel forsaken by family, friends, and most awful of all to feel abandoned by God. Gethsemane will lead to the Cross, and the Cross into the bowels of Hell. But in Gethsemane he already will have been there.
The Cup of Salvation
In the Arthurian legends, the Holy Grail is the cup shared by Christ and the twelve at the Last Supper. In symbolism the twelve represent the different facets or “faces” into which humanity is divided. Legend says the cup the disciples shared was the one Joseph of Arimathea held up to the Cross and into which he collected the blood and water flowing from the side of Jesus. Grail–literally a crater–is a hollowed out receptacle. The symbolism deepens as in Gethsemane Jesus opens his soul to the suffering of the whole of humanity, and thus becomes the hallowed Grail.
Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews speak of him “becoming sin.” This is in reference to the high priest who, before entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, is sprinkled with the blood of the sacrificial offering. So Jesus in Gethsemane is “sprinkled” by his own blood and, in his agony, enters into the Holy of Holies to make reparation “once and for all,” therefore restoring the at-one-ment between creation and Creator.
Measured in footsteps, the distance from Gethsemane to Calvary is short. In hours there is less than a night and a day between Gethsemane’s “Not my will but thy will be done,” and Calvary’s “It is finished,” and with which words the continuation of creation towards its ultimate consummation is assured.
The search for the Holy Grail, then, can be understood as the soul’s quest for union with God. St John of the Cross writes of the “Divine light” that “acts upon the soul” in order for it to be “purged and prepared for perfect union.” It is this “Divine fire” that “before it unites and transforms the soul . . . first purges it.(4) Similarly, Teilhard writes on the mystery of Christ:
God must in some way or other make room for himself, hollowing us out and emptying us if he is finally to penetrate into us. And in order to assimilate us into him, he must break the molecules of our being so as to recast and remodel us.(5)
Christ the Evolver
As Teilhard understands the mystery of the Cross, it is both to atone and transform. Whereas up to present times the primary focus of Christianity has been on “the dark side of creation,” Teilhard, looking to the future of Christianity, sees a shift of emphasis to the “luminous” side with “Christ [as] the Evolver.”(6)
In terms of the evolution of consciousness, Gethsemane is where the light penetrated and permeated the darkness, and thus enabled the evolution of creation to continue its onward and upward ascent. In this connection both Jung and Teilhard use the term “Christification.” Sanford echoes both in saying:
God’s work among us is a process, begun by Christ and completed in the deification of the human soul and the ultimate completion of the entire cosmos.(7)
The Psychological Depths of Gethsemane
Depth psychology is familiar with an experience of the psyche comparable to the crushing of olives in a press in order to separate out the pits and pulp and extract the oil. The oil, of course, is symbolic of spirit. And as the fuel of the lamps of biblical times, it is also symbolic of light. As spirit and light, oil is symbolic of consciousness. The process of separating out the oil is a metaphor for how consciousness is extracted from the unconscious.
Normally it takes some kind of conflict or pressure to give rise to a new degree of consciousness. Ordinarily this comes about as one “agonizes” or is extremely anxious about something, or concerning which one suffers relentlessly recurring anxiety attacks. The agony of the struggle becomes the crucible in which the new measure of consciousness is separated out and contained. It becomes the empty, hollowed-out place into which God, light, consciousness can enter.
The transformation of consciousness is the result of many such personal agonies. But sometimes the process goes deeper and brings to light family or racial patterns, some of which are destructively repetitive. Insight into what “comes up” often suggests or is the remedy. Deeper still and more rare are conscious mergings with archetypal and instinctual contents. From these insight is gained into the common ground shared by all human beings. To see into one’s own instinctively-rooted vulnerability is to soften one’s judgments towards others, even to having them transformed into empathy.
Embracing the Cross
Even before Jesus came under the shadow of Crucifixion, he had made metaphoric use of carrying one’s own cross. Sanford has noted that in Jesus’ day “it was the custom for a person who was to be crucified to carry his own cross to the place of execution.”
[C]arrying our own cross is a symbol for carrying our own psyche, hence for individuation. Individuation requires us to carry the burden of our personalities and our lives consciously and courageously.(8)
Thus the gospel says:
If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, he must leave self behind; he must take up his cross and come with me.(9)
But the ultimate meaning of Jesus’ words only becomes apparent on the road to Calvary. El Greco, in Plate IV-3, draws attention to the hands that are about to be disfigured on the cross. Leo Bronstein’s commentary points out that in bearing the Cross the hands of Jesus do not touch it. He would rename the painting “Christ Embracing the Cross.”(10)
Christ Embracing the Cross
The Way of the Cross
As mentioned above, Teilhard views the necessity of the Cross as for both atonement and transformation: to repair the breech of the past and to open up new possibilities for the transformation of consciousness. The ambiguity is that while Jesus suffered for all, each one nevertheless is called to bear a portion of the burden of being human. For some the weight of the cross is what they personally suffer; for some their share of the burden is generationally or racially linked; while others are called to an awareness of suffering that constrains them to co-mingle their lives with the hungry, the homeless, and the ill.
The yoke, the yoga, the work of the Cross is light, i.e., consciousness–“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”(11) Therefore, “to be crucified with Christ” is to become conscious of the human condition–in oneself and in others. Being “yoked to Christ” is the Gospel explanation of how suffering–whether borne or inflicted, knowingly or unknowingly–is lifted to the Cross. Thus understood, the way of the Cross is the willingness to accept a portion of responsibility, not just for conscious acts and omissions but for unconsciousness as well–one’s own and others’. It is to know and affirm, simply and without exception, that all is forgiven. And since the Cross intersects time and eternity, its work extends both backward into the past and forward and into the future.
Living from the Center
Psychologically understood, to embrace the cross is to live from the center in obedience to the inner voice of Self and in full acceptance of who one is called to be and what one is called to do. As Jesus–“the unblemished lamb”–willingly and consciously accepted what only he could do, so each must ask: What is there in life that only I can do? Jung reminds that this is a matter of “yeah saying” to life. Edinger adds,
[T]he cross can be seen as Christ’s destiny, his unique life pattern to be fulfilled. To take up one’s own cross would mean to accept and consciously realize one’s own particular pattern of wholeness.(12)
The discovery of “one’s own particular pattern of wholeness” is what Jung intends by individuation. In a spiritual sense, embracing the cross is a matter of accepting one’s unique and infinite worth in the eyes of God. In a psychological sense the task is to discover one’s innermost creative center and live life from there–not striving to be more or settling for less. In fact, Jesus levels his most severe criticism at the hypocrites who pretend to be something they are not.
THE CROSS AS SYMBOL
The Ancient Imprint of the Cross
Thousands of years before the Crucifixion, the cross existed as an archetypal symbol deeply imprinted in the human psyche. It became visibly prominent in the pictographic language of early peoples the world over who incorporated it into the work of their hands for both ordinary and sacred purposes. Down through time this motif, in countless variations, has been woven, embroidered, painted, sculpted, modeled, molded, engraved, cast, and even welded by both folk and master artists alike. (Figure IV-1)
A Few Variations on the Theme of the Cross
As a universal motif, the cross is the single most essential expression of the structure of the psyche. It corresponds to the initial act of creation in emerging through a geometric progression that first divides the unity of the whole (Figure IV-2“a”) in two horizontally–what is above and what is below (“b”), and then vertically into four (“c”), the result being a sense of harmony and unity between the parts of the whole.
The Geometric Emergence of the Cross
The Highest Function of a True Symbol
Originally it was not the cross but the fish by which Christians identified themselves. The beginning of the Christian era was a time when to be a Christian was to live under the threat of crucifixion. Therefore its symbolism was not openly flaunted. But with Constantine’s official recognition of Christianity, the cross became a sign of victory, and was most often depicted in art as the risen Christ carrying the cross as a banner. Only with the advent of Byzantine art around the sixth century did the agony of Jesus’ death by crucifixion find expression in the form known as the crucifix. During the following centuries it was through this form that Christians were invited to enter vicariously into Christ’s suffering. Particularly in the richly detailed liturgical art of medieval Italy did this form of the Cross flourish. Thus it was that Francis of Assisi came to be kneeling before the crucifix at the crumbling Church of San Damiano (Plate IV-4).
St Francis at San Damiano, by Giotto
With his vision fixed upon the iconic eyes of Jesus, Francis heard the words, “Rebuild my Church.” Eventually he would understand the words as calling him to follow the Gospel as Jesus had lived and preached it. But in the meantime, he set about literally rebuilding the collapsing churches around Assisi. In his life the San Damiano Crucifix (Plate IV-5) served the highest function of a true symbol and charged his soul with a magnetism that drew others to join him in returning to the simplicity and purity of the teachings of the Gospels.
The San Damiano Crucifix
The Passion of Francis
The crucifix for Francis was a touchstone to the event it encompassed. In vicariously suffering the passion of Christ, Francis’ life was empowered. On the San Damiano Crucifix time and eternity, heaven and earth came together: Heaven’s witnesses to the event were portrayed at the very top of the crucifix; with earth’s bystanders at the very foot; while angels observed from the left and right arms. Under one of Jesus’ outstretched arms his mother Mary and the beloved John were gathered in. Under the other arm, stood the two other Marys and the centurion who had acknowledged, “Truly this is the son of God.” But the engaging focal point of the icon was in the eyes of the Christ as he passively submitted to Crucifixion. The eyes of the icon became the portal through which Francis entered into a state of ecstatic receptivity to the plan of God for his life. Paradoxically, the Cross was also Francis’ source of joy. As Paul said that he “gloried” in the cross and carried “the marks of Jesus in his body,(13) so Francis’ soul was similarly so charged by the power of the Cross that near the end of his life he too manifested the marks of crucifixion in his own flesh. (Plate IV-6)
St Francis Receiving the Stigmata, by El Greco
THE INNER MEANING OF THE CRUCIFIXION
We all have to be “crucified with Christ,” . . .
suspended in a moral suffering equivalent
to veritable crucifixion. C G Jung (14)
The Cross of Human Nature
As the work of transformation progresses, the ego’s role as the center of consciousness is threatened by the Self’s higher authority as the center of the total psyche. As the tension between ego and Self mounts a soul crisis develops which Jung above describes as “a moral suffering equivalent to veritable crucifixion.” Just as surely as the Incarnation led to the Crucifixion, so in everyone the tensions inherent between “spirit” and “flesh” become the vertical and horizontal bars of the cross upon which human nature hangs. In the process of the second or spiritual re-birth, the ego must endure the subjective, emotional pain of its own crucifixion. Psychologically defined, crucifixion is the death of the ego’s will to rule; while resurrection is the maturation of the transcendent Self whose will is in accordance with the divine will. As crucifixion is the price exacted from the ego and its self-will, so rebirth is the promise of the Self’s new transcendent identity.
The Death that Leads to Life
The details of the Self’s eternal mode of being are easier to come by in the East than in the West. Exceptions, however, are found in the mystical traditions of the Sufis of Islam, the medieval Alchemists, and the Kabbalah of Judaism. They are also contained in Jesus’ teachings about how eternal life is gained. Tolstoy’s Gospel in Brief reads:
Whoever wishes to follow me, let him forsake his own will, and let him be ready for all hardships and sufferings of the flesh at every hour; then only can he follow me. Because he who wishes to take heed for his fleshly life will destroy the true life. And he who fulfills the will of the Father, even if he destroy the fleshly life, shall save the true life. For, what advantage is it to a man if he should gain the whole world, but destroy or harm his own life?(15)
And Jesus said [to Zaccheus]:
Now you have saved yourself. You were dead, and are alive; you were lost, and are found . . . .There in is the whole business of man’s life; to seek out and save in his soul that which is perishing.(16)
A grain of wheat will only bring forth fruit when it itself perishes.(17)
Crucifixion, then, is a death that leads to Life, with the biblical word translated “flesh” understood not as “body” but as the mind-set that equates reality with materiality, thus turning its back on the greater Reality. Psychologically, what is crucified is egocentricity—the ego as center–and what is resurrected is a new life lived from the Self as the center of the whole psyche, and in submission to the higher will for one’s eternal life.
The Grand Conjunction
Reaching back to the origins of human consciousness, stone and cross or cross in stone express the union of spirit and matter. The crucified body of Christ is entombed and enclosed by a stone which, with the Resurrection, is rolled away.
With the Cross–Calvary that is–as the grand conjunction of opposites, it is also the crossroads of both historic and evolutionary time. It is where heaven and earth–the eternal and the temporal, spirit and matter–come together. Similarly, in the soul’s journey, the cross foreshadows the mysterium coniunctionis–the inner marriage of the major opposites of the psyche, and the restoration of its equilibrium.
The cross is also the very structure of the psyche: its horizontal line is for the earth, the body, the feminine principle; and its vertical line for heaven, the spirit, the masculine principle. Its opus is the reconciliation of the body, mind, soul and spirit into a harmonious whole which, like the four rivers of Eden, flow from the central fountain of Life in order to restore and replenish the entire psyche. In design this is expressed by the gammadion or tetraskelion, a motif that emerges when the circumference of a circle containing a cross is broken as in Figure IV-3. The motif is also a variation of the swastika or Svasti, a Sanscrit word carrying the essential meaning of “all is well,” and which dates back to early pictographic symbolism.
The Gammadion Signifying “All Is Well”
Since to be human is to be of both heaven and earth, the cross is also the most simple and yet most profound expression of what it is to be human–to stand upright, one’s head extended toward the heavens, one’s feet gravity-bound to the earth, and one’s arms outstretched toward the horizons. In form and by nature, to be human is to bear within and without the quaternary sign of the cross.
Existence as a State of Conflict
As the Gospel calls each person to bear his or her own cross, to do so is to become conscious of what it is to be by nature part animal and part divine. This is the human state of inner duality from which there is no escape and to which each ultimately must surrender or be torn asunder. The inevitable consequence of embarking on the inner journey is to be made acutely aware of existence as the state of conflict “exemplified by the Christian symbol of crucifixion.” Going further Jung postulates that since “the soul is by nature Christian,” the pattern of crucifixion is bound to appear in the life of the individual “as infallibly as it did in the life of Jesus.”(18) Edinger, as well, affirms the deep impact of the cross on the Western psyche:
For close to two thousand years the image of a human being nailed to a cross has been the supreme symbol of Western civilization. Irrespective of religious belief or disbelief, this image is a phenomenological fact of our civilization. Hence it must have something important to tell us about the psychic condition of western man.(19)
So ancient and important a motif as the cross would have to have roots reaching into archetypal levels, and while it may seem more reasonable to assume that the cross became prominent because of the Crucifixion, it may have been that the manner in which this crucial event of human history occurred was determined by the preexistent imprint of the cross on the collective the psyche. Moreover, if the structure and dynamics of the psyche is cruciform by design then the cross, as an archetypal symbol embedded in the human psyche, is invested with the same power by which the Crucifixion led to the Resurrection, and opened the doors of new possibilities for human consciousness.
On Being Crucified with Christ
If a symbol is attuned to and empowered by the greater Reality it embodies, this would explain why for two thousand years and for so many the cross has been the most compelling touchstone of faith. It follows as well that whenever the image of the cross is activated in the psyche of an individual so as to rise to the level of consciousness, a major stage of transformation is indicated. Images of crosses, or of being crucified are evoked, and sometimes find their way into consciousness spontaneously, or through “active imagination,” or in a dream. Moreover, the crucifixion stage of the psycho-spiritual journey may stretch into years, even decades, coming and going in intensity.
Paul conveys his own experience of inner crucifixion as a conflict of wills. He observes that what he wants to do he doesn’t do and what he doesn’t want to do he ends up doing.(20) There is indication that Paul, in dealing with his conflicted intentions, discovered the effectiveness of “active imagination.” He writes of seeing himself “being crucified with Christ,” not just once but daily.(21)
The Image of Totality
As an inner process, crucifixion intensifies the conflict between the opposites of the psyche. Above its horizontal line are the conscious mind’s altruistic intentions. But below the line of consciousness is another counteractive, instinctually-rooted will with an agenda of its own. Paul names these contrary forces the “will of God” and “the will of the flesh.”(22)
On the cruciform human body, the intersection where the vertical and the horizontal lines meet is at the heart. Around this center, the primary opposites of the psyche converge: upper and lower, right and left, the spiritual and the physical, the masculine and feminine poles of human nature. But at the very center, unifying and ordering the whole, is the soul’s image of totality–its imago Dei–the inner Christ as the higher Self. Thus the image of the cross is an image of totality: an ordered, contained, and completed whole and which emphasis on the unified whole is most aptly expressed in the Celtic High Cross.. (Plate IV-7)
Ninth Century Celtic High Cross
Insert Plate IV-7
Christ Crucified Between Two Thieves
In a discussion on the Crucifixion, Jung elaborates on the symbolism of the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus, the one who acknowledged and the other who scorned him. (Plate IV-8)
Christ Crucified Between Two Theives, by Duccio
. . . the image of the Saviour crucified between two thieves tells us that the progressive development and differentiation of consciousness leads to an ever more menacing awareness of the conflict and involves nothing less than a crucifixion of the ego, its agonizing suspension between irreconcilable opposites.(23)
Jung emphasizes the importance of embracing the task of individuation as a “binding personal commitment.” He cautions that unless one does so consciously and intentionally the unhappy consequences of “repressed individuation” can occur.
In other words, if [one] voluntarily takes the burden of completeness on . . . [he or she] need not find it “happening” . . . in a negative form. This is as much as to say that anyone who is destined to descend into a deep pit [i.e., the deeper, collective levels of the unconscious] had better set about it with all the necessary precautions rather than risk falling into the hole backwards.(24)
One way a person can end up in a psychic pit is through the backlash effect of a projection in which the ego has become emotionally involved in defending one of its “sacred cows.” In this way the ego projects a portion of its self-worth onto an outer principle, a person, or sometimes an outworn but ingrained belief system. On this basis the ego makes unsound judgments which rebound. It ends up feeling judged, rejected, and frightfully defensive. The psychological mechanism of projection is addressed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
Judge not, that you be not judged. . . . the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?(25)
As the ego bases its sense of self-worth on outer confirmation, the Self, buoyantly free of conditioned prejudices and mores, is affirmed from within by its own sense of authenticity. But the Self also invites crucifixion by its sabbath-breaking recklessness and its table-turning disregard for “business as usual.” Thus both ego and Self end up as the two thieves to the right and left of Jesus. From their opposing attitudes, the one taunts, “If you are the Christ, then save yourself and us.” In contrast, the other confesses to “receiving due reward for [his] deeds,” but then turns and implores, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In looking to the Christ the Self is assured, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”(26)
That Jesus had “a profound awareness of the reality of the psyche,” Edinger sees evidenced in his teachings:
Whereas the Mosaic Law recognized only the reality of deeds, Jesus recognized the reality of inner psychic states. . . . The gospel accounts abound [with] major psychological discoveries [such as] the conception of psychological projection two thousand years before depth psychology.(27)
The ability to recognize and withdraw a projection is particularly important when experiencing the deeper, more collective levels of consciousness. The withdrawal of a projection brings instant self-knowledge, as when a person catches sight that what she or he is seeing as “out there” is in actuality a disguised or denied aspect of oneself. In that instant the person has glimpsed the intricate workings of the unconscious mind and become incrementally more conscious. The importance of this is because
[t]he psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate.(28)
In the scripture advising the necessity of carrying one’s own cross, Jesus goes on to say that whoever is willing to be lost for his sake will find his or her true self.(29) Edinger interprets this as “if a man will lose his ego for my sake, he will find the Self.”(30)
A CRUCIFIXION DREAM
A dream I once had said in effect that ego crucifixion is not something imposed from without, but is an inner “rite of passage.” The timing of this dream anticipated my immersion into a long drawn-out, highly active, emotionally-charged period of inner work. My emergence from it was onto a plateau that ever since has been creatively fulfilling and relatively emotionally peaceful. Whether it lasts, or for how long, I would not venture to guess.
In the dream I was on the stage of a theater. The curtains were drawn so that what was taking place was happening “behind the scenes.” I sensed I was undergoing some kind of “initiation.” The theater was empty except about half-way towards the back a group of persons were gathered. Among them were my mother, my husband and our children. Nearby another group included my deceased father and others who, in this life, had been close to me. On the stage with me were persons I knew as spiritual companions. All were there for what was to be my “rite of crucifixion.” I observed a life-size cross with a ladder beside it. I was told that I wouldn‘t actually have to get up on the cross. The crucifixion was to be carried out “by me, to me and for me.” Knowing what I must do, I took a sword in my right hand, lifted it up, and plunged it into my left shoulder over my heart. A clear fluid, which I knew to be a vital part of me, came flowing out. There was an odor about it “like that of a living body.” I wondered how all this “vital” fluid that was being lost could be replaced. And I thought how very weak I would be until it was. With this thought the dream ended.
For nearly two decades following the dream I experienced being physically, emotionally and psychically pushed, pulled and bent out of shape, but also stretched, broadened and deepened.
What is it that enables a person to survive the ego’s “rite of passage”? Perhaps it has to do with the kind of self-honesty modeled by the one thief on the cross–what Sanford describes as “calling a spade a spade.”(31) To do so is disarming to the ego’s defenses. This allows one to go behind the scenes of consciousness and observe oneself acting out the roles one has assumed on the stage of life. When self-observation is possible, insight is gained into how ordinary persons as well as actors take their cues as prompted from the wings and proceed to perform their well-rehearsed lines from scripts they have not written.
Sanford differentiates between “the ethic of obedience” and “the ethic of creativity.”
Only if a person knows what he is doing, accepts responsibility for what he is doing, and has come to terms with his egocentricity so that his goals are not self-serving, can he depart from the ethic of obedience and follow the ethic of creativity. But when this does occur, the highest and most moral life of all is lived.(32)
The ethic which Jesus outlines is that of authenticity. “Of old you have heard . . . but I say . . . ” wherein his discourse is on the inner life of the psyche. If the creative life of the Self is to be lived, its foundation must be based on an inner truth discovered through, in Sanford’s words, “psychological honesty and knowledge of one’s true motives.” Otherwise one is always in danger of “falling into the hole backwards” by reason that
Everything we do unconsciously, without awareness of our motives and without moral reflection, we must pay for later on.(33)
Chapter Four Credits
Figures (by author)
IV-1 – Variations on the Theme of the Cross, partially compiled from Horning’s Handbook of Designs & Devices, Dover, NY, 1946
IV-2 – Geometric Emergence of Cross
IV-3 – The Gammadion Signifying “All Is Well”
IV-1 – Entry into Jerusalem, 12th Century Mosaic, S. Marco, Venice
IV-2 – Christ on the Mount of Olives, by El Greco, 1541-1614, (Toledo, Ohio), The Toledo Museum of Art
IV-3- Christ Bearing the Cross, by El Greco, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
IV-4- St Francis Receiving the Stigmata, by El Greco, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore
IV-5 – St Francis at San Damiano, by Giotto, Arena Chapel, Assisi, (Scala, or Alinari)
IV-6- San Damiano Crucifix, 12th century, Basilica of St Clare (Scala or Alinari)
IV-7- Ninth Century Celtic High Cross, Ireland, (Corbis.com)
IV-8- Crucifixion with Two Theives, by Duccio (Scala)
Chapter 4 Notes
1. Luke 19: 38-40
2. Matthew 26:39
3. Luke 22:44 Jerusalem Bible
4. H A Reinhold, Editor, The Soul Afire, Meridian Books, NY, 1960, pp 258-9
5. Christopher F Mooney, Teilhard de Chardin and the Mystery of Christ, Doubleday Image, NY, 1968, p 124
6. Ibid, pp 113-114
7. John A Stanford Mystical Christianity, Crossroad, NY, 1994, p 300
8. John A Sanford, Fritz Kunkel: Selected Writings, Paulist Press, NY, 1984, p 346-7
9. Matthew 16:24
10. El Greco, Text by Leo Bronstein, Harry N Abrams, NY, 1950, p 78
12. Edward F Edinger, Ego and Archetype, Penguin Books, Bartimore, 1973, p 135
13. Galatians 6:17
14. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, C W 12, para 24
15. Luke 9:23-25, as paraphrased by Leo Tolstoy in The Gospel in Brief, Edited F A Flowers III, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1997, p 111
16. Ibid, Luke 19:9-10, p 123
17. Ibid, , John 12:24-25, p 180
18. Jung, op cit, Psychology and Alchemy
19. Edinger, op cit, Ego and Archetype, p 150
20. Romans 7:19
21. 1 Corinthians 15:31 and Galatians 2:20
22. Romans 7:21-25
23. Jung, Aion, op cit, para 79
25. Matthew 7:1-3
26. Luke 23:39-43
27. Edinger, op cit, Ego & Archetype, p 133
28. Jung, op cit, Aion
30. Matthew 16: 25-26
31.John A Sanford, The Man Who Wrestled with God, Religious Publishing Co, King of Prussia, PA, 1974, p 24
32. Ibid, p 21
33. Ibid, p 22
THE DESCENT TO HELL
The death and resurrection of Christ is an archetype which lives itself out not only in the individual but also in the collective psyche. There are certain periods in history when the collective God-image undergoes death and rebirth. Such is now the case. The twentieth century is the Holy Saturday of history.
Edward F Edinger(1)
The Descent into Hell
In order “that God may be all in all”(2) early Christian theologians saw the necessity of extending the act of redemption to the deepest collective levels of the human psyche. Allegorically this would be back to Adam and Eve. Therefore in recognition of the completeness of the remedy of the Cross, Christ was declared to have descended into hell on the Saturday between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, whereby
. . . the gates of brass were broken in pieces . . . and all the dead that were bound were loosed from their chains . . . and the King of glory entered in.(3)
The Harrowing of Hell
A Contemporary Icon by Brother Claude Lane, OSB
The doctrine of the descent or “harrowing of hell” has been embellished in apocryphal lore as well as through the symbolism of the visual arts. In the imagery of Plate V-1, Christ is entering into hell through a mandorla opening in order to raise up Adam and Eve. As a theological statement, “the harrowing of hell” specifically refers to the release of the “worthy dead.” As a mythological theme, it is parallel to the descent into the lower world known as the “night sea journey.” In mystical literature, it is relevant to “the dark night of the soul.” As a phase of individuation, Edinger points to the descent as having “the greatest importance to depth psychology” in that it represents “the ego’s deliberate descent into the unconscious.”
The light of the ego is temporarily extinguished in the upper world and is carried into the lower world where it rescues worthy contents of the unconscious and even conquers Death itself.(4)
In the iconography of the “the harrowing of hell” Christ is portrayed in a role similar to a tribal shaman: one who has undergone a death and rebirth experience and who now journeys into the lower world for the purpose of retrieving what has been lost, be that health, “luck,” or fragments of the soul. The icon of Plate V-1 could well serve as a meditation image for the purpose of entering into the realm of the unconscious in order to retrieve what can bring about an expansion and enrichment of consciousness. It could serve equally well as a focal image for a method of inner work Jung calls “active imagination.”(5) In either case the purpose would be to raise to consciousness “the worthy dead” of one’s inner world.
Transformation by Fire
The imagery of the descent into hell is analogous to the ego’s fall into the unconscious for a prolonged time and to a depth from which it emerges as one reborn, and as a result now seeks to serve the Self who serves the All. Jung views this prolonged encounter as the psychological equivalent of the integration of the collective unconscious and as forming “an essential part of the individuation process.”(6) Similarly, St John of the Cross speaks of “the cleansing fire of the dark night.” when,
Divine light . . . acts upon the soul which is purged and prepared for perfect union in the same way as fire acts upon a log of wood in order to transform it into itself.(7)
Thus St John tells us that the goal of the journey is “perfect union,” for which the dark night (or the descent into the collective) is preparation. To accomplish the work of transformation, the “fire acts upon” the wood. He says the fire begins “by drying the wood” and “driving out its moisture.” Here the psychology analogy could be as to how emotional contamination from the unconscious, when sufficiently “heated, sputters and spews and sometimes erupts in a way that drives what is hidden out into the light of consciousness where, as a component of the shadow, it can be recognized, owned and transformed. It then begins, St John continues, “to make [the wood, i.e., soul} black, dark and unsightly.” In this analogy St John offers a reasonably good description of how the shadow appears to the conscious personality, and why it ended up in the basement of the personality in the first place.
Little by little, St John instructs, the fire brings out and drives away all that is dark and unsightly and “contrary to the nature of fire,” until finally, the fire begins to kindle the wood externally and give it heat, at last transforming the wood and making it “as beautiful as fire.” He goes further in his analogy to say that when the log (the soul) is acted on by the fire (the Spirit) it is neither passive nor active. Its weight, however, is greater and its substance denser than that of fire, but otherwise “it [the soul] has in itself the properties and activities of fire [Spirit].”
Thus it is dry and it dries; it is hot and heats; it is bright and gives brightness; and it is much less heavy than before. All these properties and effects are caused in it by the fire.(8)
In the New Testament, John the Baptist describes his baptism as “with water for repentance,” but points to Jesus as the one who will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”(9) Whereas water washes and cleanses what is on the surface, fire goes much deeper: turning to ashes all that is combustible to its flames; revealing the value of what is able to withstand its flames; and otherwise transmuting the elements from one state to another–the temporal into the eternal, self into Self. As noted above, Jung held that the integration of the collective unconscious is the greater part of the individuation process. After his own prolonged descent into the deeper, collective level, he wrote of the radical change of perception he had undergone:
It was then that I ceased to belong to myself alone, ceased to have the right to do so. From then on, my life belonged to the generality.(10)
Typically, after a person emerges from these deeper levels, his or her life is no longer determined by personal satisfactions. Before the descent, the ego was the center of the conscious personality. Afterwards it serves the Self who, as the new center of the whole psyche, serves the greater Whole.
Tolstoy’s Story of Transcendence
Tolstoy, for his short story Where Love Is God Is, takes as his theme the rebirth of the soul. The story is about a shoemaker named Martin whose wife and only surviving child have died. As a result, Martin has fallen into the depths of a personal hell. He lives and works in a small basement room with one window looking onto the street. One day a “holy man” from his native village stops by. Martin opens his heart to him and tells him of his sorrow. The “holy man” counsels Martin to read the Gospels. His words, and perhaps his compassion, “sink deep into Martin’s heart.” From that time on Martin reads from the Gospels each evening.
Drowsily reading one evening, he hears a voice call his name. “Whether a vision or a fancy,” he can’t tell, but twice again he distinctly hears: “Martin, Martin!” and then, “Look out into the street tomorrow, for I shall come.” Next day, as Martin sits by his window mending boots he keeps looking up and out.
He sees an old soldier who, having grown weary from shoveling snow, is resting on the handle of his shovel. Martin taps on the window and beckons him come in. From his samovar he pours out two tumblers of tea and together the two old men sip their tea and visit. Martin, however, keeps glancing out the window. “Are you expecting someone?” his guest asks. Martin tells him about his experience of the night before. He asks the old soldier if he has read the Gospels. His visitor replies that he is just a simple man who cannot read. But he seems interested and so Martin tells him what he had been reading just the night before: how when the Lord was on earth he went mostly among plain people, “and chose his disciples from among the likes of us.” The old soldier is noticeably moved and tears begin to run down his cheeks. In taking leave he thanks Martin kindly for the comfort he has given both to his body and soul.
Picking up his work again, Martin continues to glance out the window. The day moves on and the sun grows cold. He now notices a woman who is a stranger and without as much as a shawl against the winter chill. Moreover she has a baby in her arms who is crying as the woman tries to shield the infant from the cold. Hastening to his door, Martin bids her “Come in. Warm yourself and feed your baby.” She explains she hasn’t eaten all day and has no milk. Martin turns at once to fix her a bowl of cabbage soup. While she eats he entertains the baby. As he does, happy memories of when his children were little flood into his mind. Assured the woman has a place to stay, he finds a warm shawl for her from among his late wife’s things. As mother and infant take leave, hope for their future is renewed.
Tolstoy’s story continues with other guests, until the day winds down and the lamplighter comes by. This signals Martin to put his work aside and open his Bible. But before he can begin reading, he thinks he hears footsteps. He turns to look in the direction of a darkened corner of the room. He imagines he sees dim forms. As the forms emerge and pass before him he recognizes each of those to whom he had given hospitality that day. He again hears the voice, this time saying: “Martin, Martin. Don’t you know me?” Knowingly Martin smiles to himself and picks up his Bible to where it is open. There he reads: “I was hungry and you feed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in.” And moving on to the bottom of the page, his heart leaps with joy as he reads, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”(11) The Lord, indeed, had come to him that day . . . and he had welcomed him.
Teilhard’s Emergence from the Collective Hell of WW I
During World War I Teilhard experienced a “living hell” during the time he served as a stretcher-bearer in front-line trenches. Writing near the end of his life, he looked back to this time of immersion into the collective experience of the horrors of war as the point from which the new, visionary dimension of his life, both as scientist and priest, was born. From that time on he saw all of creation, even inanimate nature, as infused with Spirit. Once Teilhard caught sight of the unity of spirit and matter there was no turning back to the conventional thinking of either religion or science. In him the two had come together and conceived a new vision of a divinely-directed evolution moving forward and upward towards an ultimate goal when God would be “all in all.” Teilhard would spend the rest of life formulating and writing about what he had seen and knew to be true, even in the face of an unrelenting rejection by the church and the order to which he had vowed obedience.
Allowing Ourselves to be Surpassed
Satprem reports that by mid-twentieth century Aurobindo felt the human species had reached a crucial point
. . . a new crisis of transformation as crucial as must have been the crisis which marked the appearance of Life in Matter or the crisis which marked the appearance of Mind in Life. And our choice is crucial also, for this time, instead of letting Nature work out her transmutations without caring much for living contingencies, we can be the conscious collaborators of our own evolution, accept the challenge or, as Sri Aurobindo says let ourselves be surpassed.(13)
In the lives of both Teilhard and Aurobindo their attainments to higher levels of consciousness were preceded by unusually intense, even “burning” and “all-consuming” circumstances beyond their abilities to control. Sometimes, in our more ordinary lives, we too find ourselves in circumstances not of our own choosing and beyond our ability to control. In the midst of such circumstances we tend to forget that once initiated the transformational process has a life of its own, leaving us the choice of either trusting or resisting to go where the supramental Self, or Holy Spirit, leads.
The Baptism of Fire
Within the context of individuation symbolism, fire and its baptism is the psycho-spiritual process by which the chaff of the personality is burned away so as to reveal the gold of the higher spiritual being–the Self–and so prepare and empower a person for service to transpersonal purposes. There is a baptism of water and a baptism of spirit, the one is a conscious choice, the other is visited upon one when the time and conditions are right for the trials that a call to higher consciousness brings. Again these words of Jung speak out of his experience:
What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass . . . ? It is what is commonly called vocation . . . [which] acts like a law of God from which there is no escape. (14)
Aurobindo described the operation of his inner voice as when “the required knowledge” would fall into his mind “like a drop of light.” Jung described his transition as from belonging to himself alone to belonging “to the generality,” which term Edinger interprets as “being connected with the ‘infinite.’”(15) Teilhard, after his transformation, was never again free to conform his mind to the Jesuit mold, even though he continued to live in obedience to the Rule he had accepted for his life, and even though the outer suppression of his own creative voice caused him intense emotional suffering. As it worked out, however, shortly after Teilhard’s death and due to a loophole in canon law, not only were his spiritual writings published but they met with an overwhelming enthusiasm, probably augmented by their previous suppression.
The Holy Saturday of History
As individuals undergo transformation the collective consensus of reality changes. As individuals are transformed their influence sways others to embrace new possibilities as to what is humanly possible. Similarly, and over long periods of time, the collective concept concerning the nature of God and what constitutes “Reality” also changes. Edinger observes that
The death and resurrection of Christ is an archetype which lives itself out not only in the individual but also in the collective psyche. There are certain periods in history when the collective God-image undergoes death and rebirth. Such is now the case. The twentieth century is the Holy Saturday of history.(16)
With the Resurrection “on the third day,” the Friday of the Crucifixion is day one, and Holy Saturday day two. Both Old and New Testaments give a scriptural time formula which says “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.”(17) This suggests the idea of the entire second millenium as the Holy Saturday of history, and in which the twentieth century was its final hours. And history well may will look back on the second millennium, and particularly on the twentieth century, as humanity’s collective equivalent to Christ’s descent into hell. If so, has the U-turn of the descent been made? Is humanity now emerging from its collective hell on earth? This same avenue of symbolic thought suggests a collective Resurrection “on the third day,” or during the third millennium. When Jung looked into the future he saw the times ahead as momentous:
We are living in what the Greeks called the kairos–the right moment–for a metamorphosis of the gods, of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time . . . is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing.(18)
Chapter Five Credits
V-1 – The Harrowing of Hell, Contemporary Icon by Brother Claude Land, OSB, Mount Angel Abbey (503-845-3314)
Chapter 5 Notes
1. Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype, p 118-119
2.1 Corinthians 15:28
3.James Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, p 100
4.Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype, p 110
5.See Barbara Hannah’s Encounters with the Soul: Active Imagination as Developed by C G Jung, Sigo Press, 1981; also Robert A Johnson’s Inner Work, Harper & Row, SF, 1986
6. Jung, Aion, CW9ii, par 72, quoted by Edinger, Christian Archetype, p107
7. Soul Afire, op cit. 258-259
9. Matthew 3:11
10. Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype, p 112
11. Matthew 25
12. Satprem, Sri Aurobindo, Harper & Row, NY, 1968, p 283
13. Ibid, p 308
14. Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype, p 45
15. Ibid, p 112
16. Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype, p 118-119
17. 2 Peter 3:08 & Psalm 90:4
18. Edinger, op cit, Christian Archetype, p 119
There was something more to [Jesus] than just a body, and there is something more to us than our physicality.
This physical body of ours can die and disintegrate, and yet a part of us continues on and can rise in a new form.
The resurrection speaks to the essential unity of the physical and spiritual in our universe. Morton Kelsey(1)
What Dies? Who Arises?
We are born. We live. We die. A sign and result of several centuries of scientific materialism are the many who are willing to let it go at that, including a surprisingly large number of professing Christians. Yet the Resurrection is presented as Christians’ guarantee of eternal life:
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.(2)
Nor is Christianity alone in promising an afterlife. What about the other paths to the one God?—some that “flesh out” an afterlife in greater detail than found in either Judaism or Christianity. What have they to say about immortality and eternality? Are we all moving towards the same goal? What, two thousand years later, is to be made of Paul’s vision of the collective, universal coming of the sons and daughters of God? Or of Teilhard’s twentieth century vision of the Cosmic Christ at the head of the evolutionary vanguard? Or Jung’s anticipation of “the Christification of many”? To examine these and other questions, Eastern as well as Western teachings on immortality and eternality need consideration and comparison.
Paul gets right to the point in asking and answering: How are the dead raised? And with what kind of a body are they raised?
There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon . . . . So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, [what] is raised [is] imperishable. [What is] sown a physical body, [is] raised a spiritual body.(3)
Paul compares the difference between the physical and spiritual bodies to that of the moon and the sun. His symbolism suggests a transformation from an earthly to a heavenly form that is comparable to what occurs when the ego is superseded by the Self as the new center of the total psyche, its glory now illuminating the total being. Does the radiance of the celestial obscure what had been a terrestrial form? If so, how in the “afterlife” are persons to recognize one another? This last question goes right to the heart of the desire to survive: the desire for there to be a continuity of those relationships that have “warmed our hearts” and instilled our lives with meaning and purpose. In answer, the Gospels present a number of post-Resurrection vignettes in which Jesus appears to family, friends and disciples. In each case the purpose seems to be to reassure those who have known and loved him that he still lives. Moreover, he seems to be demonstrating the circumstances under which his presence will continue to be known through inner vision and heart-felt experiences.
Noli Me Tangere
The first encounter is with Mary Magdalene on Resurrection morning. She has gone to the tomb, and, upon finding it empty, is distraught. Seeing a person she takes for the gardener, she entreats, “Where have they taken my Lord?” Only when the man speaks her name—”Mary”—does she realize who it is. “Rabboni!” She reaches out to touch him but he cautions her against doing so, saying, “I am not yet ascended.”(4)
Fra Angelica’s Touch Me Not
This first Resurrection scene suggests that at the point Mary recognizes Jesus and reaches out to him, his body is undergoing some kind of transformation, and that the process that is underway is not yet complete. He says to her, “I am not yet ascended,” and then instructs her to give his disciples the message: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”(5)
Important to note is the point that only when Jesus speaks her name does she recognizes him. This suggests there is something in the vibratory quality and manner of his voice that reveals his presence. Her heart does a flip-flop, and from her lips burst the “Rabboni”—the title by which she had been accustomed to addressing him. Thus it is not the outer but the inner person each addresses; not the somatic body but the spiritual soul that invokes recognition, not the mind but the heart in an overwhelming feeling response. And so in each of the post-Resurrection appearances, there is some personal interchange that is characteristic of the relationship that enables recognition and communication.
Quantum Physics and the Resurrection
It might be that the process of “ascending” to which Mary was witness was one in which the elements of the physical body, rather than being slowly reduced back to carbon atoms, were instead undergoing a molecular reordering into another kind of body. In The Man Born To Be King, Dorothy Sayers addresses the “Mechanics of the Resurrection.” Kelsey points out that Sayers was writing before there was a general understanding of quantum physics and of how energy and mass are interchangeable.
. . . suppose that the physical body [of Jesus] was, as it were, dissolved into its molecular elements, drawn out through the graveclothes and through the stone and reassembled outside—this phenomenon being (not surprisingly) accompanied by a violent “electrical” disturbance, perceptible as a kind of earthquake.(6)
Kelsey then elaborates on what science is bringing to light concerning “the immaterial quality of matter,” and how scientists like Fritjof Capra are drawing parallels between modern physics and the mysticism of both East and West.
When we try to picture what matter is really like, we are faced with fully as many problems as understanding the resurrected body of Jesus.
. . . [we] begin to see that we live in a very mysterious universe where things like the resurrection are going on all the time on a subatomic level.(7)
On closer examination, the Gospels may be describing three successive “bodies”: (1) the Good Friday one that was crucified and placed in the tomb; (2) the Holy Saturday one that descended into an inhabited “lower” world; and (3) the Resurrection Sunday one Mary observed as not yet “ascended,” or perhaps “not yet vibrationally attuned and stabilized” for Jesus’ return to higher realms
Supper at Emmaus
Later in the afternoon of that first Easter, two who had known Jesus were walking towards their home in Emmaus. They were discussing the events surrounding the Crucifixion when a stranger came along and joined them. On arriving home they invited the stranger to join them for supper. Only when “he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” were “their eyes opened” as to who the stranger really was. Reflecting back, “they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked to us on the road . . . “(8) Again it was neither through their eyes nor their intellects that recognition dawned. Rather, it was through an inner sense of knowing that they intuited the stranger’s true identity.
Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus
Later Easter evening the disciples were gathered in a room behind closed doors when Jesus appeared among them and showed them the marks in his hands and side. Thomas, however, was not present, and when he was told about the appearance he replied that unless he could see and put his finger in the holes, and his hand in his side, he would not believe.
Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. “Peace be with you” he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!”(9)
Duccio’s Doubting Thomas
Thomas’ need for the verification of his sense of sight and touch was as valid for him as Mary’s feeling response had been for her, and as the intuited recognition had been for those on the walk to Emmaus. Primarily a thinking person, Thomas’ senses informed his mind that indeed Jesus was alive and standing right there before him. On the strength of this conviction he, too, would be willing to die.
Breakfast on the Lake Shore
In yet another post-Resurrection appearance, seven of the disciples had been fishing all one night but without any luck. It was getting light when they saw a man on the shore who called out: “Have you caught anything, friends?” When they answered they had not, the man told them to throw out their nets on the other side. And when they did the catch was more than they could haul in. As they were attempting to do so, “the disciple Jesus loved” said to Peter: “It is the Lord.” At this, the impulsive Peter jumped into the water and made for the shore while the others brought in the catch. When they were altogether on the shore, Jesus served them bread and fish.
Duccio’s Appearance on Lake Tiberias
Here again Jesus was recognized by his disciples within the familiarity of their relationship to one another. And in our lives, too, Jesus meets us on the level of who we are, and in relationship to the daily lives we are living.
EASTERN AND WESTERN REFLECTIONS
ON ETERNAL LIFE
The Importance of Images of the “Hereafter”
The question of the survival of consciousness is one Jung takes up in Memories, Dreams and Reflections. In his chapter titled “On Life after Death,” he advises on the importance to psychological health of creating mental images of what life after death might be like. He adds that “Not to have done so is a vital loss,” regardless of whether the images turn out to be right or wrong. This is because
. . . the man who despairs [out of lack of a vision] marches toward nothingness, [while] the one who has placed his faith in the archetype follows the tracks of life and lives right into his death.(10)
On the same subject of the importance of having positive images of the “hereafter,” the revered Quaker, Rufus Jones, writes:
It seems strange that St. Paul’s great spiritual conception [of the eternal body] has never quite got into man’s consciousness. . . . It fits our new world outlook better than any other suggestion that has been made. St. Paul holds that we are all weaving a permanent soul-structure while we live and think and act here in the body. It is an inside self, not composed of atoms, of molecules, or corporeal stuff. It is an immortal, eternal, spiritual heavenly sheath which gives form and covering to our spirits so that they are not naked when they lose their outside tent. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tent were dissolved we have”—not shall have—”a building God-made, not constructed by hands, eternal and heavenly.”(11)
And although the tenants of microphysics might have caused Jones to reconsider the possibility that the “heavenly sheath” is also composed of “stuff,” it nevertheless would be of a different sort that would vibrate at a rate different from “bodies” in “this world.” Moreover, his point that “we are all weaving a permanent soul-structure while we live and think and act here in the body” is comparable to what in the East is viewed as the “diamond body.”
Spirit and Matter / Consciousness and Life
From the perspective of quantum physics, a sufficient body of evidence is emerging to support a view of the universe as multidimensional, and in which consciousness may turn out to be the mode of transport between worlds, as well as how the soul “sheathes” itself according to laws governing different dimensions of reality.
Ancient Eastern wisdom refers to a “body,” the creation of which is facilitated by what is described as a reversal of “the circulation of light” from “downward and outward” to “upward and inward.” Paradoxically, the achievement is not realized by seeking to escape from physical existence, but rather by embracing life in its fullness, and thus transforming instead of expending life’s energies, so that a portion of the life force afforded each physical being becomes its doorway into eternal life. These precepts are contained in the Chinese text called The Secret of the Golden Flower. This ancient work teaches that “life”—as we know it in the physical world—and “consciousness”—as it transcends the material world—are, in reality, two halves of a whole. To be able to unite the two as one is to be “in the Tao.” Jung notes:
It is characteristic of the Western mind that it has no concept for Tao. The Chinese character is made up of the character for “head,” and that for “going.” . . . .”Head” can be taken as consciousness, and “to go” as travelling a way, thus the idea would be: to go consciously, or the conscious way.[i]
In the East the Tao is conceived as an interchanging flow or circulation between what is revealed and what is hidden, between active and passive principles, yang and yin, light and dark, heaven and earth, or, as explained in the text under examination, a process that involves “consciousness” and “life.” Jung notes that light is the symbolic equivalent of consciousness, and that the nature of consciousness is expressed by analogies of light. “Life,” he explains, is “hidden in the unconscious” and guided by the “unconscious laws of being.” When in balance, ”light” and “life” serve the whole—i. e., the Tao—or what Jesus calls the “kingdom,” or active rule of heaven. This union of “light” and “life” is what the Chinese text calls conscious life.
In the process of the two becoming one, “life” is infused with “light” and becomes the soul’s eternal or “diamond body.” The sacred text advises how this is achieved:
If thou wouldst complete the diamond body . . .
Diligently heat the roots of consciousness and life.
Kindle light in the blessed country ever close at hand,
And there hidden, let thy true self always dwell.(12)
Jung evaluates the text as “a sort of alchemistic instruction” for the creation of enduring consciousness. “Heating,” he explains, is an “intensification of consciousness.”
But not only consciousness, life itself must be intensified. The union of these two produces “conscious life.” According to the Hui Ming Ching, the ancient sages knew how to bridge the gap between consciousness and life because they cultivated both. . . . in this way “the great Tao is completed.”(13)
The Art of Letting Things Happen
The Secret of the Golden Flower reads:
The most important things in the great Tao are the words: action through non-action. Non-action prevents a man from becoming entangled in form and image (materiality). Action in non-action prevents a man from sinking into numbing emptiness and dead nothingness.(15)
The Tao, then, is neither “something” nor “nothing,” but a union of the two, and although couched in Eastern terms, the concept of “action through non-action” is known also to Western mysticism. It provided Jung with the “key” to the “way”:
The art of letting things happen, action through non-action, letting go of oneself, as taught by Meister Eckhart, became for me the key opening the door to the way. We must be able to let things happen in the psyche. For us [in the West,] this actually is an art of which few people know anything. Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace.(16)
Our need in the West, then, is not for a more active interfering consciousness, but rather for a more passive, allowing approach to consciousness, one that yields and “lets things happen.” Again, it is the “Let it be” of Mary’s response to the angel. In this way the divine seed is implanted in the dark recesses of the soul where it is nurtured until, of its own accord, it comes to fruition. Meister Eckhart teaches that it is “Here,” in this hidden place, that “the soul is pregnant without form or image.”
When the soul resigns herself to God . . . God undertakes her work, she is merely receptive and leaves God to act.(17)
As the Eastern sage likens preparation for eternal life to a diamond, so Jesus compares the realm or rule of heaven to a pearl:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.(18)
Pearls and Diamonds
Both diamond and pearl are symbolic of an enduring spiritual consciousness. Thus entrance into the heavenly city of Revelations is through twelve portals: “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl.”(19) Layer upon layer a pearl is formed around a grain of sand—an irritant—which serves as an attracting, coalescing center. In the same manner, “life” provides the “heat” by which “consciousness” is built, and by which the conscious life of the Self—the true Self—is achieved.
In the case of a diamond, it builds durability through its capacity to withstand the weight of constant pressures bearing in upon it from every conceivable direction. Its adamancy is created through a process in which its carbon atoms undergo a molecular rearrangement that results in the obscurity of a piece of coal attaining the clarity and light-reflecting qualities of a diamond. Similarly physical existence, with the difficulties to be withstood and the pressures that weigh heavily upon it, provides the ground that prepares the soul for eternity Also interesting to note, the organic substance of a diamond is carbon—the basis of all organic life on planet earth—and to which the physical body, when life has left it, returns. Thus the carbon cycle of the physical body—from ashes to ashes and dust to dust—is reducible to the same carbon atoms as the diamond, and which in the East is symbolic of the eternal or “light” body.
The Shift from Outer to Inner Awareness
To “Kindle light in the blessed country ever close at hand” is another way of saying “turn your focus from without to within.” This is accomplished through the discipline of self-observation, and is how the “true self” is revealed. However, the diligent self-observation this calls for is very costly to the self bent on preserving its temporal life at the cost of its eternal life. Jung acknowledges the difficulty:
Everything good is costly, and the development of the personality is one of the most costly of all things. It is a question of yea-saying to oneself, of taking one’s self as the most serious of tasks, of being conscious of everything one does, and keeping it constantly before one’s eyes in all its dubious aspects—truly a task that taxes us to the utmost.(20)
The teachings of Gurdjieff similarly call for diligence in making the shift from outer to inner awareness:
Our life is not action as we imagine, but reaction; and we react to things in the same mechanical way over and over again. . . . It is only by conscious effort that one can realize one’s mechanicalness, and this effort must be made towards a definite thing, a definite reaction, something practical and clear and distinct. To take it as a theory is worse than useless. When one realizes one is mechanical in some definite respect, it gives a shock . . . a moment of self-remembering.(21)
To diligently “heat the roots of consciousness” requires an intensity of focus which leads to insight into those unconscious responses we unthinkingly and repeatedly make, not only to others but to life as ingrained attitudes and unexamined assumptions. It is the habitual way we unconsciously and mechanically sleep walk through life. This, Gurdjieff constantly harps, is what dissipates the energies of life, and causes consciousness to move downward and outward so as to disengage itself from its higher function of leading the soul along the inward and upward path.
Noah’s Three Sons
The idea of different bodies occupying the same space also exists in both Judaism and Christianity.
Ancient Jewish mysticism teaches that what one thinks of as body, mind, and soul are three separate entities or “bodies.” As noted before, these three, together with the spiritual “world,” make up the “four worlds” of the Tree of Life. The Zohar, or “Book of Splendor,” corresponds these three aspects to the three levels of Noah’s Ark, and Noah’s three sons to “the three aspects of the soul,” namely nefesh, the vital soul, ruah, the spirit, and neshamah, the innermost or super-soul. The object of this teaching is to animate neshamah, the “super” or eternal aspect of the soul, the spiritual Self.
Rabbi Judah said: Nefesh [vital soul] and ruah [spirit] are conjoined, while neshamah [eternal soul or Self] has its abode in the character of a man . . . . If a man strive to a pure life, he is therein assisted by holy neshamah . . . . But if he does not strive to be righteous and pure of life, there does not animate him holy neshamah, but only the two grades nefesh and ruah. More than that, he who enters into impurity is led further into it, and he is deprived of heavenly aid. Thus, each is moved forward upon the way which he takes.(22)
Similarly, the Eastern Book of Consciousness speaks cryptically of “three fires.” These appear to correlate to the above Zohar text.
Within the germinal vesicle is the fire of the ruler; at the entrance of the germinal vesicle is the fire of the minister; in the whole body, the fire of the people. When the [first] fire of the ruler expresses itself, it is received by the [second] fire of the minister. When the fire of the minister moves, the [third] fire of the people follows him. When the three fires express themselves in this order a man develops. But when the three fires return in reverse order the Tao develops.(23)
How is the above relevant to the self-realization process? First of all, the symbolism of social, hierarchical authority is one commonly employed in the East. In this case, there is the ruler, the minister and the people. These correspond to the superconscious mind (Aurobindo’s supramental); to the conscious mind; and to the unconscious mind, including its collective level of “the people.” In the text, the “fire” or light of higher consciousness descends from the highest to the lowest level—from ruler, to minister, to the people: “in this order a man [the personality] develops.” But when the “fires return in reverse order the Tao [the divine Self] develops.” It is in the ascent of the soul from its “dark night” or “hell” that the diamond or eternal Self becomes sheathed in its glorified body.
In commenting on this text, Jung corresponds the return to the “germinal” state to “re-enter[ing] the womb,”(24) or as he advises Nicodemus: you have to be born again as a spiritual being. As The Secret of the Golden Flower discloses, when the life force is redirected from outward to inward this causes a circulation around the “germinal” or original divine spark at the center of the soul. This in turn builds up an individualized center of enduring consciousness, a divine center which when complete manifests in what is variously symbolized as Dante’s white rose, a golden flower, a thousand petaled lotus, or a diamond body. In Aurobindo’s words:
Evolution is the eternal blossoming of a flower which was a flower from all eternity.(25)
Who or What is Left to Enjoy Eternity?
From his East Indian view, Aurobindo also conceived of a trinity of physical, mental, and emotional “bodies,” each composed of different forms of energy and each reducible, on dissolution, to universal elements. If we accept the thinking and feeling selves as subject to change in the same way as the physical body, then they too are temporal in nature. What or who of us does this leave to enjoy eternity?
Visions and other paranormal events are not limited to biblical times or to the mystics and saints. As previously mentioned, in Civilization in Transition Jung refers to “the silent ones of the land” as the untold millions of ordinary people who have had spiritual experiences and who would seek deeper understanding except for their fear of appearing foolish.(26) Their experiences, nevertheless, cause them to wonder about ultimate matters.
The Death of Snowflake
A personal experience that made a lasting impression on me occurred during a time when I found myself the keeper of a small herd of goats. I had assisted the birth of a little doe—snow white and as dear a creature as ever I had known—but who contracted tetanus when she was about ten days old and who, in spite of treatment, died in my arms. With my hand on her back, I distinctly felt a vibratory force move down her spine and out of her body. In that instant she was gone. And although there may be a rational, physiological explanation for what I experienced, the death of “Snowflake” was for me an unforgettable mystical experience. The sensation was similar to what I once had experienced when I inadvertently served as a ground for a faulty electrical appliance. In the death of Snowflake I similarly served as a conduit, this time for the animating spirit which one moment made her alive and the next dead. My sense was of having witnessed one of life’s mysteries—the coming and going of the spirit by which matter comes to life—is enlivened—and then dies. In the case of the electrical current, the sensation was unusual enough to recall, but its recollection is devoid of emotion. The memory of Snowflake, however, is different. In my memory she is still alive. With indelible clarity I still delight in how, before she was stricken, she would bounce down hill sideways, and as only a little kid can.
Paul, too, gave considerable thought to such questions as: What happens when the life force leaves a body? Is anything in creation expendable? He is fairly detailed and specific in his First Letter to the Corinthians, which he concludes by saying:
What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.(27)
Although science is getting closer, it still does not know how memory works or what its purpose is, let alone what consciousness is. It may turn out that the sum total of what survives is made up of all the sufficiently spirit-and-emotion-infused experiences a person has had, all of the experiences that have made a permanent imprint on the soul: a vision of Jesus, the birth of a child; the death of a doe; but probably not the weighty thoughts one has had, or beliefs held to, or even good works done. Rather, the essence of being that remains when all else passes away may turn out to be those times when the veil has fallen away and one has been consciously present to and emotionally impacted by the truly memorable moments that rise to the level of the transpersonal.
Chapter Six Credits
VI-1 – Touch Me Not, by Fra Angelica, 1400-1455, Museo di San Marco, Florence
VI-2 – Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio
1573-1610, Pinacoteca de Brera version
VI-3 – Doubting Thomas, by Duccio, Siena
VI-4 – Appearance on Lake Tiberias, by Duccio, Siena
Notes Chapter Six
1. Morton Kelsey, Resurrection, Paulist Press, NY, 1985, p129
2. John 14:2-3
3. 1Corinthians 15:40-45
4. John 20: 16, Jerusalem Bible
5. Ibid, v.17
6. Dorothy Sayers, The Man Born To B King, London, Victor Gollancz, 1949, p317, Quoted in Morton Kelsey’s Resurrection, op cit, p101
7. Ibid, Kelsey, pp 102-103
8. Luke 24:13-32
9. John 20:26-29
10. C G Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Pantheon Books, NY, 1961, pp 302-306
11.Rufus Jones, quoted in INWARD LIGHT, Vol XXVI, No. 64, Winter-Spring, 1963, in an article titled “Jung on Survival of Consciousness,” by Elined Prys Kotschnig, p 10
12.Richard Wilhelm, Translator, Commentary by C G Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower, Harvest Book, Harcourt, Brace, NY, 1962 (revised), p 98
17.The Soul Afire, op cit, Meridian Books, NY, 1960, p 226
19. Revelations 21:12
20.Wilhelm, Op cit, p95
21.Maurice Nicol, Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff & Ouspensky, Vol 1, Shambhala, Boston, 1984, p 98
22.Gershom Scholem, Editor, Zohar, “The Book of Splendor, “Basic Readings from the Kabbalah,” Schocken Books, NY, 1949, p 69
23.Wilhelm, op cit. p 71
24.Ibid, p 71
25.Satprem, Op cit, p 169
26.Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, para 494
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men to myself . . .
that you may becomes sons of light. Jesus (1)
At the Ascension as at the Nativity, angels were present to accompany the Christ on his journey between the visible and invisible worlds. My first glimpse into the symbolic inversion of these two events was through the eyes of our daughter Louisa the Christmas she was four years old. Playing alone, (or perhaps with her invisible playmate,) I overheard her explain that “when Jesus was born the angels came down to say good-bye.” When in the course of the liturgical year the celebration of the Ascension came around, I recalled her words and thought how now the reverse was true as the angels came again, this time to welcome the son of heaven back home.
An Eye-Witness Account
The Acts of the Apostles provides an eye-witness account of the Ascension, with Jesus leading the disciples into the countryside where,
as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.(2)
Without too much difficulty most of us can recall times when some aspect of our lives were undergoing what felt like crucifixion. The Ascension, however, is more difficult to relate to personally, except as experienced in levitation or flying dreams.
My most vivid dream of this nature began with me fleeing from “the flatlands.” Far in the distance and to my right a fire was raging in which “the dinosaurs” were being consumed. It was from this fiery scene I was fleeing. As I walked hurriedly, an “old model” car came along and passed me by. I ran and caught hold of the back bumper. Holding on for dear life, I was transported to a structure that reminded me of a multi-leveled parking lot. The car, with me dragging behind, wound its way spirally to the top. At that point the car disappeared and I was left standing at the top and before an elevator. Soon the elevator door opened and out of it came my mother in a wheel chair. She said to me, “My dear, you may have anything you want for your last meal.” Ignoring her offer, I went straight to the low wall surrounding the upper level. Climbing onto it, I raised my arms and felt myself lifted up and into the sky. With this the dream ended.
It was for me “a big dream” in that it covered some major territory of my inner, psychological life. At the time I was dealing with issues of who I was as a woman and a mother. I already had four children and would be having two more; whereas my mom had only had me and a busy career in the early days of radio and television. In the dream, as the “old model” car had disappeared, in its place my mother had appeared, and in a wheel chair. This suggested there was something handicapped about her as a model for my life, something that didn’t fit my life circumstances. In any event, her offer to arrange for me to have anything I wanted for my “last meal” had “death row” implications. Someone–me–was scheduled to die for some crime committed.
Now in a dream, a “capital offence” is something one is doing that is destructive to the life of the true, higher Self. As Jesus pointed out, to do so is at the expense of the eternal soul. As long as I was trying to be an imitation of my mother, I was failing to discover and live out of my own center, failing to discover my own distinct, individual destiny.
To ascend bodily, even in a dream body, is to break free from the limitations of gravity. A mother (mater, matter) can exert something like a gravitational pull on a child, something that holds the child back, that prevents the child from attaining his or her own creative potential. Limiting self-images can do the same thing. To ascend is to rise above whatever limitations are holding one back from the adventure of self-discovery and fulfillment.
Taken as a whole, the theme of the dream was ascendancy. This was apparent in the spiral drive to the top of the structure. The elevator was another ascendancy symbol, as was the dream’s final levitation scene. As gravity is symbolic of matter so levity (lightness) is symbolic of spirit. Perhaps the dream was telling me to “lighten up,” to find more joy in my role as a stay-at-home mother of a large brood. Perhaps. But there also were deeper issues with which the dream was confronting me.
The dream pointed to a death. And whenever death appears as a symbol in a dream, a rebirth is also implied. Then there were all those levels to be transcended: from the lowest “hell” of the “burning dinosaurs,” up the spiraling structure, and finally the ascent into the sky. With the symbolism of levels so explicit, the dream itself would seem to be an overview of the many deaths and rebirths experienced in transcending from one level or degree of conscious to another. This, of course, is the very point of an ascent–to gain an ever higher and broader perspective of one’s life, as well as Life itself in its greater, ultimate sense.
Before having this dream, I had made a commitment to the inner journey, and in doing so had committed to the process of becoming my own person separate and apart from the values and views of the “old model.” The dream showed the journey as reaching back to primordial, instinctual beginnings, and reaching down as well into the deeper, archetypal, and therefore unconscious levels of the collective psyche. This was indicated by the burning dinosaurs, a symbolism related to the “fiery serpents” encountered by the Israelites in the wilderness. Here their dejection over their circumstances and their downcast attitudes had dissipated the very inner resources they needed to reach the Promised Land. Moses’ remedy had been to raise up the serpent staff for those who had been bitten to look upon and be healed. Besides being a foreshadowing of the remedy of the Cross, it was also symbolic of the process by which the toxicity of unconscious contents is antidoted when lifted up into the light of consciousness.
Very much like a serpent ascending a pole, the spiral way of the dream was around an elevator shaft, an apt symbol for the central axis by which the ego and Self–the lower and higher centers of consciousness–are connected. The dream further suggested the necessity of “hanging on” to the “old model,” even being dragged along by it, until one reaches a jumping off place to Selfhood. Also suggested is the subjective, psychological meaning of ascension as coming to the place where it is possible to break free from whatever is keeping one “earth-bound,” and therefore preventing the attainment of a higher vantage point.
The theme of ascension is easily recognized in a dream as an upward movement such as a spiraling or whirlwind ascent. The symbolism includes climbing a ladder or stairway, going up in an elevator, climbing a mountain, observing the flight of birds, having a sense of weightlessness, being in a tower or on the top of a mountain that affords an expansive overview of the landscape below. Edinger compares such ascending movements to the sublimatio symbolism of alchemy, and through which one gains the insight of broader, wider viewpoint:
Psychologically, this corresponds to a way of dealing with a concrete problem. One gets “above” it by seeing it objectively. We abstract a general meaning from it and see it as a particular example of a larger issue. Just to find suitable words or concepts for a psychic state may be sufficient for a person to get out of it enough to look down on it from above.(3)
It was shortly before the Crucifixion, and perhaps in order to prepare the disciples for his departure, that Jesus led the three closest to him up the high mountain where they witnessed his Transfiguration. According to the account, “his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” To the disciples’ surprise Moses and Elijah also appeared and spoke to Jesus, perhaps to counsel him concerning the ordeal he faced. The account goes on to say that the mountain was overshadowed by a “bright cloud” from which a voice spoke saying “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”(4)
The Transfiguration by Fra Angelico
Evidently the disciples had fallen into a trance, for the account goes on to say that “Jesus came and touched them,” and that when he did they looked up and “saw no one but Jesus.” On the way down the mountain, as they were discussing what had happen, Jesus cautioned them to tell no one about what they had witnessed until after he had been raised from the dead.(5)
Why these three are given a preview of his “glorified” body isn’t clear, but what the account does suggest is that the closer Jesus comes to the Crucifixion and Resurrection the more apparent his twofold nature as son of man and Son of God becomes. Another question the account raises is why Moses and Elijah are present. The consensus here is that these two are present because they are purported to have been “translated” directly from this life to a higher dimension or state of being. Moreover, both Moses and Elijah are associated with mountain tops: Moses with Mount Sinai; and Elijah with Mount Carmel–mountains again belonging to ascension symbolism.
Ezekiel is another Old Testament prophet with relevance both to the Ascension and to individuation symbolism. The sixth century iconography of Plate VII-3 shows Jesus’ Ascension as taking place in Ezekiel’s chariot. In the image, Mary is in center front, flanked by two angels. On either side the disciples are looking heavenward.
Sixth Century Iconograph of Jesus
Ascending in Ezekiel’s Chariot
Edinger maintains that Ezekiel’s vision is “fundamental to the Western psyche.” In the vision, Ezekiel observes a wind blowing from the north. He sees a great cloud with light around it and from which lightning darts. In the center he sees four animals, each of whom has four faces–that of a human, a lion, a bull and an eagle–and each also has four wings. As fire is flashing between the animals, on the ground beside each are glittering wheels with the rims of “eyes” all the way around. When the animals go forward, the wheels go forward. Overhead is a gleaming vault under which the creatures wings are outstretched and from which a great noise is heard. Above the entire scene is a sapphire throne upon which is seated a being encompassed in a light Ezekiel describes as “the glory of Yahweh.”(6)
An entire body of Jewish mysticism evolved out of this vision. Called the “Merkabah,” meaning “chariot throne,” the symbolism was carried over into Christian iconography as well, with Ezekiel’s four “living creatures” represented by the four Evangelists or Gospels. Plate VII-4 is an example.
Westminster Psalter Illumination of Christ
with Symbols of the Four Evangelists
Here the majestic Christ, as the Alpha and Omega, is contained within the geometrically-derived vesica pisces. The symbolic representations of the four gospel/evangelists are in each corner. The illumination of this twelfth century manuscript is also a prime example of the astrological influences found in the Christian art of earlier centuries. Aside from the vesica–the fish-shaped intersection of two circles, and its relevance to Pisces—the traditional symbols for the four gospels, (directly derived from Ezekiel’s vision,) coincide with the motifs for the cardinal signs of the Old Testament Age of Aries: with the ox of Taurus assigned to Luke; the lion of Leo to Mark; the eagle, as Scorpio’s alternate motif, assigned to John; and Aquarius—the man, or son of man—to Matthew. To continue the correspondences, each of the four cardinal signs falls in a different season, and each sign is also assigned one of the four elements. Moreover, each of the elements relates to one of Jung’s four functions, and each function to a direction of the compass, and with the four functions forming a “compass of wholeness.”
Edinger points to Jung’s use of the image of Ezekiel’s chariot “as the basis for his most complex and differentiated formulation of the Self”: “the unfolding of totality into four parts four times.” Thus seen, the “chariot theme” corresponds to the “four-square” New Jerusalem of Revelations and which the heavenly city is symbolic of the eternal Self. For Jung, the symbolism is descriptive of the psychological transformation that comes about as each of the four functions finds expression and integration in a person’s life. In this way the “compass of wholeness” is activated, but also integrated so as to function in conjunction with each other function and as a whole.
As previously detailed, the Eastern concept of the creation of the diamond body, sometimes called the “rainbow body,” is said to involve a reversal of the circulation of psychic energy. Moses did something like this when he diverted the Israelites attention from the biting serpents to the bronzed one on the staff, thus lifting their vision and therefore their consciousness from the downward spiral of suffering and death to an upward one of healing and life. In Merkabah symbolism, the two directions in which energy flows–clockwise and counterclockwise–are imagined as two intersecting tetrahedrons which form a star tetrahedron. This polyhedron is also a three-dimension model of the Star of David. This conjunction of opposite and intersecting tetrahedrons–one spinning one way and one the other–is understood to create the force by which the “chariot” lifts off. Similarly, the integration of the masculine and feminine poles of the psyche, which also can be imagined as spinning in opposite directions, simulate a similar circulation of psychic energy, and analogously, provide the thrust for ascending to a higher level or dimension of consciousness.
Obviously, Merkabah symbolism holds some of the same fascination as UFO phenomena, an area Jung ventured into in his studies of the structure and dynamics of the psyche. From his clinical observations, he speculated that the archetypal images of the psyche’s deep inner space can, under certain conditions, be projected into a field of vision that is perceptible in some waking or quasi-consciousness states of mind. On the subject, he was cautious but open-minded.
He was less cautious is discussing the “work” of the Alchemists in their attempt to transmute lead into gold, seeing their efforts as either unconsciously guided or as “a cover” for carrying on their real concern with the transmutation or creation of consciousness. Similarly, the Kabbalists described their “work” in terms of descending and ascending the Tree of Life in a similar effort to attain a transcendence of consciousness that freed them from the gravitational pull of the physical body.
A Sky-Chariot Dream
I learned from a dream I had several years ago that I for one am not ready to be whisked away in a sky chariot. In the dream I was on the roof of a four-story building. Looking towards the sky I saw a luminous object moving toward me. At first I was excited, but as it came closer I experienced a moment of fear during which I said to myself, “I don’t think I’m ready for this.” As soon as the thought formed, the object made a split-second shift from coming towards me to speeding back away. Not, however, before I got a close look at how it was constructed. It had four sides, and each side had two wheels, one rotating clockwise and the other counterclockwise. The dream left me hoping that another time my fears would not again deprive me of so promising an adventure.
Jung’s Formulation of the Self
Jung’s model of the Self (found in Aion) is considerably more complex than the star tetrahedron model of Ezekiel’s chariot or the one in my dream. In Edinger’s Mysterium Lectures, he discusses the Merkabah and also Jung’s diagram of the Self. He places a star in the center, and in which place I have added the Star of the Transcendent Self from Chapter Three.
Jung’s Formulation of the Self
In Jung’s formulation, the four components of the large square (the primary quaternity), are, according to their A, B, C and D lettering, moving clockwise. In the corners, the four smaller diagonal squares are, according to their lettering, moving counterclockwise. Each of the smaller diagonals corresponds to a progression of a four-fold process. Jung used his diagram in clinical practice to discern what aspect of totality was being constellated in a patient’s life. And although his method for doing so is beyond the scope of this study, the diagram is included for the purpose of comparing it with the ordered way by which consciousness is developing in our own lives. It is also interesting to note how Jung’s clockwise and counterclockwise movements correspondence to the Westminster Psalter illustration of Plate VII-4. The primary focus of the illumination is the enthroned figure of the Christ. Behind his head is the nimbus with cross, itself a quaternity or wholeness symbol. The movement within the central image is clockwise: from Christ’s raised hand downward to the letters resting on his opposite knee reading “Jesus, the Alpha and Omega.” The symbols for the four evangelists are intended to be read counterclockwise according to their gospel order: with Matthew in the upper left; Mark in the lower left; Luke in the lower right; and John in the upper right. Their placements correspond to the four corner diagonal squares of Jung’s diagram.
In The Mysterium Coniunctionis Jung lays out the alchemical progression as a three-phase process by which the four aspects of wholeness–“soul, spirit, body and ‘world’”–are united: In stage one the union is” between soul and spirit over against body; in stage two, soul and spirit unite with the body; and in stage three, soul, spirit and body unite with “the world,” with the latter understood as the all-pervasive, unified Whole. Thus the three merge with the One.
Atom and Archetype
Jung presents his diagram as a chemical (alchemical) formula. This allows him to go on to compare the process by which wholeness is attained to “the carbon-nitrogen cycle in the sun,” wherein “a carbon nucleus captures four protons.” Two of these four immediately become neutrons and will be released “at the end of the cycle in the form of an alpha particle.” Since I lack a background in chemistry I can only grasp Jung’s diagram as metaphor, and relate it back to the transformation by which carbon–a piece of coal–becomes a diamond.
In the same way that a “terrestrial” body can become a “celestial” body, the carbon nucleus itself–the eternal God Self–comes out of the process unchanged This suggests to Jung that the secret of existence–the existence of the atom and its components–“may well consist in a continually repeated process of rejuvenation.” This in turn led him to a similar conclusion concerning “the numinosity of the archetypes.” Apologizing for his “hypothetical” comparison, he added:
Sooner or later nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious will draw closer together as both of them, independently of one another and from opposite directions, push forward into transcendental territory, the one with the concept of the atom, the other with that of the archetype.(7)
Such is the mystery of the atom and the archetype of the whole Self. From the “terrestrial” body the “celestial” is born; through the portal of crucifixion the resurrected and ascended body–like the alpha particle of the otherwise spent carbon atom–returns to the Whole.
Considering how different twenty-first century cosmology is from that of the first century, and how slowly theological beliefs change, it is no wonder a terminology barrier exists when it comes to understanding events such as the Ascension. Without the language of symbolism it would be impossible for the wisdom of past ages to speak to the present. And without the continuity of wisdom gained human civilization would disintegrate and cease. For this reason an imperative for each generation is to go beyond preserving the wisdom of the past to finding new metaphors, analogies, and terminology for understanding and extending the sum total of that entrusted humanity in its sacred traditions.
The Return of the Prodigal
There is, in essence, only one story. It is the story of the essential indestructibility of the eternal soul who, having left its home and journeyed to a far country now seeks to return. The one story is about the soul’s awakening to its true identity and its determination to find its way back home.
In parable Jesus advances the Old Testament theme of the Israelites’ return to the Promised Land. In the New Testament it is the story of Abba: the One who becomes the two, and who, as the two, returns to the One. But what makes the difference is that the soul is now conscious of knowing and of being known by the One. Spiritually understood, Israel is the soul in search of and longing to return to its Source. In the story of the prodigal, the forgiving father is the Source to whom the soul seeks to return.
The story begins with two brothers: the one, the elder, is content with life as it is; but the other, the younger, is driven by a divine discontent into “a far country.” The “far country” is where the physical aspect of being expends its apportioned quota of the human desire to live life to its fullest. The Bible calls this sin. But is it? Perhaps the question should be, is not the greater sin to do otherwise than live life to its fullest?
In the story, when the fires of youthful desirousness have been spent, the prodigal finds himself beset with an equally-divine disillusionment. The soul, having been lulled to sleep by a sensate overload, awakens to find itself now cast into the throes of sensory depravation. But this now becomes the very condition that allows him to see his situation with clarity. Doing so, he determines to return home and say to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He intends to add, “treat me as one of your hired servants.” But before he can get the words out, the father embraces him, kisses him, and gives orders for a welcome-home party.
Murillo’s The Prodigal Returns
This is, of course, terribly hard on the elder son, and with whom it is so easy to identify. But the point is that the father has compassion for his son who had been spiritually dead, but now is alive; who had been lost, but now is found.(8)
As it turns out, it is the prodigal’s extreme hardship–his near starvation, and his painful loneliness–that allows him to see that he has only to get up out of the misery of his condition and, putting one foot in front of the other, make his way back home. Thus it was then and is now that life itself–the very trials and temptations we would avoid if we could–turn out to be the means by which we grow into awareness of our eternal identity as spiritual beings, and for whom the welcoming arms and loving heart of God awaits our return.
Chapter Seven Credits
VII-1 – Jung’s Formulation of Self, adapted from Jung, Aion, Bollingen Series XX, Pantheon Books, NY, 1959, page 259.
VII-2 – Compass of Wholeness Correspondences, (by author)
VII-1 – The Ascension, by Giotto, Assisi (Scala)
VII-2 – The Transfiguration, by Fra Angelica, Florence (Alinari/Art Resource, NY)
VII-3 – Christ Ascending in Ezekiel’s Chariot, AD 586, Miniature from the Rabula Gospels, Biblioteca Laurenziana, Florence. (pictured in The Early Christian & Byzantine World, by Jean Lassus, (Sorbonne, Institute of Art & Archaeology), 1967, McGraw-Hill, NY, (try Alinari)
VII-4 – Christ and Symbols of Four Evangelists, from Westminster Psalter, England 12th century Manuscript, The British Library, London. From book by Nancy Grubb, Revelations: Art of the Apocalypse, Abbeville Publishing, 1997, NY
VII-5 – The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Murillo, Spanish, 1617-1682, National Gallery of Art
2. Acts 1:9-11
3. Edward F Edinger, Anatomy of the Psyche, Open Court, La Salle, 1985, p 117-118, anatomy
4. Matthew 17:1-9
5. Edinger, op cit, Anatomy
6. Paraphrased from Ezekiel 1:4-28
7. Jung, op cit, Aion, para 410-412
8. Luke 15: 11-32
Truth has to appear only once, in one single mind, for it to be impossible for anything ever to prevent it from spreading universally and setting everything ablaze. . . . sooner or later there will be a chain reaction . . . Teilhard (1)
Consummation as Conflagration
Consummation is both an individual and a cosmic event, happening sequentially in time as the soul’s return to the Whole, and simultaneously beyond time as the culminating event of creation. In Teilhard’s words, the Consummation will occur when
the substantial one and the created many fuse without confusion in a whole which, without adding anything essential to God, will nevertheless be a sort of triumph and generalisation of being . . . [with Christ as] . . . the active center, the living link, the organising soul of the Pleroma.(2)
The Consummation is the moment of the conflagration by which the scattered parts of the many are reunited into a cohesive Whole. Individually it occurs when the spark from the flaming heart at the center of creation ignites and sets the soul afire. It happens collectively as one soul ignites another, each a link in the chain reaction by which human consciousness is being re-configured according to the Christ pattern. Teilhard calls the process “Christogenesis”:
Like lightning, like a conflagration, like a flood, the attraction exerted by the Son of Man will lay hold of all the whirling elements in the universe so as to reunite them or subject them to his body.
Such will be the consummation of the divine milieu.(3)
In The Gospel According to Thomas, Jesus says,
Whoever is near to me is near to the fire, and whoever is far from me is far from the Kingdom.(4)
In another place,
I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I guard it until it (the world) is afire.(5)
The Chain Reaction
Teilhard’s “blazing plenitude” was Dante’s immense, luminous rose, a vision that cleaved the poet’s mind “in a great flash of light.” In turn, Dante’s creative spirit ignited Dore’s imagination, and through whom came his familiar Celestial Rose (Chapter Four, Plate IV-9) of “tier upon tier” of “myriad thrones” turning
As a wheel whose motion nothing jars
By the love that moves the Sun and the other stars.(6)
Over the course of the soul’s return its vision expands to cosmic proportions until finally it beholds the reflection of its own glorious Self in the radiating presence of the Christ. Thus Paul could say
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another . . . .(7)
Unlike the disciples, Paul never knew the flesh and blood Jesus. Nor was he among those who witnessed the post-Resurrection appearances through the Ascension. Yet on the road to Damascus the man Saul, who would become Paul, was struck down as by a bolt of lightning, a light so bright as to blind him. Deep in trance “he heard a voice say, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” When he asked “Who are you, Lord?” the voice answered, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”(8)
Thus Paul became a link in the chain reaction. And from that moment for the rest of his life he knew without a doubt that the flesh and blood person the disciples had known as Jesus was the still-living Christ he knew. Moreover, it was on this dime of one man’s blinding experience of the risen Christ that the entire history of Western civilization would turn.
Michelangelo’s Conversion of Paul
Among the Vatican’s treasures is a fresco by Michaelangelo in which Paul’s high moment of divine intervention is captured in what could be called an intrusion of the divine into a human life.
Michelangelo’s Conversion of Paul
As the over-zealous persecutor of those he judged to be the over-zealous followers of false messiah, Paul was an unlikely choice for the task of turning a small Judaic sect into a world religion. His story is, in fact, hope for our times: that under certain circumstances God does meddle in human affairs in order to fulfill the divine design for creation. This precise moment Michelangelo captures portrays Paul as one slain by the Spirit and who, upon awakening, begins to fulfill his divine destiny to give shape to the message of God’s love incarnate in the person of Jesus, and in a form that insures it universal spread.
The high drama of such an event is an indication of its impact on the collective. Michelangelo shows this with the twister-like beam of light that funnels down from the powerful arm of Christ (in the painting’s upper level), with an impact that knocks Paul off his horse and leaves him unconscious (at the bottom of the fresco). Through the artist’s creative genius the viewer is there as witness to the transdimensional impact of the mind of Christ on the mind of Paul. By the proximity of the foreground, Michelangelo draws us into the scene. We are also there because what is happening to Paul is of such import that it is happening collectively to all and for all times.
What were the circumstances that led to Paul’s encounter with the living Christ? When was the wedge driven into his pharisaic mind? Some say it was at the stoning of Stephen when “the witnesses laid down their garments at Saul’s feet.”( 9) Or perhaps Paul’s conversion was God’s answer to Stephen’s dying prayer, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”(10) The circumstances surrounding the conversion suggest several questions for personal reflection:
Where and under what circumstances did my cosmic egg begin to crack?
When has the light of a higher, spiritual awareness broken through into my ordinary conscious mind?
One thing was certain, when Paul regained consciousness he was on the high road to spiritual attainment, and into an intimate personal relationship with the everywhere-present, still-living Christ. Moreover, his new mission was to encourage and build up the faith of the very ones he had been persecuting as his enemies. Thus Paul, as must happen to all on the spiritual path, found that those (or what) he had feared and rejected were now his allies.
Teilhard’s Vision of the Cosmic Christ
Nearly twenty centuries after Paul’s encounter, Teilhard would experience a comparable transdimensional experience of the Cosmic Christ. It happened one day when he was in a church seated before an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that “the planes which marked off the figure of Christ from the world surrounding it melded into a single vibrant surface whereon all demarcations vanished.”
First of all I perceived that the vibrant atmosphere which surrounded Christ like an aureole was no longer confined to a narrow space about him, but radiated outwards to infinity. Through this there passed from time to time what seemed like trails of phosphorescence, indicating a continuous gushing forth to the outermost spheres of the realm of matter and delineating a sort of blood stream or nervous system running through the totality of life.(11)
In this vision Teilhard the mystic and Teilhard the scientist converged so as to conclude with Paul that in the Son, “all the fullness of God was pleased to swell.”(12) Both Paul and Teilhard, because of what they personally, experientially knew, could envision something similar happening to others, and in the fullness of time happening collectively as the birth of the many sons and daughters of God for whom “the whole of creation has been groaning in travail.”(13)
Of Rocks and God
Once Teilhard had caught sight of the Christ of all of creation–the Cosmic Christ–he was free to yield to a love he had felt since childhood for things both material and spiritual: the rocks he had carried in his pocket and the love of God his devout mother had instilled in his heart. From these two early loves–God and rocks–Teilhard the man formulated the twin propositions that would guide him in his explorations into “the heart of matter”:
Matter is the matrix of Spirit.
Spirit is the higher state of Matter.(14)
Being “In Christ”
Nor was Teilhard ever dissuaded–not by Rome or by any other by hierarchical authority–from following where his supramentally-received conviction led. Although separated by an entire age, Teilhard and Paul both spoke from the common ground of their personal experiences and their conviction that the influence of the Christ they so intimately knew extended to and filled the whole of creation. Both held that “in Christ” all things come into being and are held together.(15) Both understood the purpose of the Incarnation as God in Christ “reconciling the world to himself.”(16) And here Paul answers the why of the Incarnation–to reconcile–which Webster defines as “to bring back to harmony,” “to cause to be friendly again.”
Even though through revelation Paul had come to understand Christ as present in all of creation, the science of his day lacked the vision and the nomenclature for expressing the vastness of the universe. Today, however, this manner of speaking is idiomatic, as in The Book of Common Prayer’s Eucharistic prayer:
At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.(17)
As self-portrayed in his Letters, Paul was a complex person, sometimes contradictory and at times contentious. Nonetheless, his mysticism was simple and uncomplicated. It was simply a matter of “putting on” the mind of Christ, of letting, allowing, permitting, inviting the transcendent God to become personally immanent. Similarly for Teilhard, “being in Christ” meant being part of an “attracting force” of evolutionary magnitude by which creation was being drawn towards its Consummation, when “Sooner or later there [would] be a chain-reaction.”(18) This made perfect scientific as well as spiritual sense to Teilhard, as it had to Paul, but to him in terms of the cosmology of his day. Both were seeing the same Truth, but through the lenses and in the parlance of their own times. As Jung pointed out, even eternal Truth needs a human language in which to be recast in the spirit of the times.
As a scientist and a mystic, Teilhard could think both analytically and symbolically, and without the two modes in conflict. This, however, was not the case for his ecclesiastical superiors who could accept his science, (about which they were in the dark,) but not his visionary insight, (which infringed on their own turf.) With his ideas considered “heretical” and “pantheistic,” and their publication forbidden, his choice was to endure the emotional pain of having his life work rejected or of leaving his order and the priesthood. Endure he did, but without ever wavering from his conviction that God and rocks and spirituality and evolution were inseparably linked–the one the higher reality of the other. Nor did he ever doubt that this was what his life was about.
The Evolutionary Spiral
According to Teilhard, humanity’s evolutionary path is an ascending spiral that is converging towards “Point Omega” as the Consummation or Christing of creation. He writes that “the Universe is centrated–Evolutively,” and goes on to explain that the movement of evolution is both upward and forward through space and time. (Figure VIII-1)
Teilhard’s Evolutionary Spiral
Teilhard’s four “genesises” have a number of correspondences to other schema examined in previous chapters, and as charted in Figure VIII-2.
Levels of Consciousness
Jung’s Four Functions
Birth of Spirit
Birth of Mind
Birth of Life
Birth of Matter
(as primary opposites)
Correspondences to Teilhard’s Four Evolutionary Births
The Myriad Rungs of Consciousness
With quantum physics advising that energy and light, in varying wave lengths, move through space spirally, the “worlds” of the scientist and the mystic are convering. And with the more recent focus of physics on the inner space of microcosmic, subatomic, non-tangible reality, science and religion as allies stand poised for the next great leap in the evolution of consciousness.
Blake’s spirit-driven imagination envisioned Jacob’s ladder as a spiral stairway spanning heaven and earth, and on which angels were descending and ascending. (Plate VIII-2) The painting moves the eye around four predominant, upwardly-spiraling turns, creating a visual correspondence to Teilhard’s evolutionary spiral.
Blake’s Jacob’s Ladder
According to Jung, Jacob’s ladder is a symbolic representation of the ego/Self “axis of communication.” The establishment of this axis depends on the ego first gaining a sense of its own strength, thus building a stairway between the lower and higher realms of consciousness. The Self is also Aurobindo’s connection to the supramental–a level of consciousness infinitely wiser than the intellect, and in touch with the source of all knowing. In this connection, Jung advises that the realms of higher spiritual consciousness are not to be confused with intellectual achievements. He warns, in fact, that the intellect can “harm the soul when it dares to possess itself of the heritage of spirit.” Going further, he explains that “the spirit is something higher than intellect,” and includes the feelings as well. The attainment of this higher consciousness is the goal towards which life is striving. It is the path leading to “shining, supra-human heights.”(19) Aurobindo’s clarification of higher consciousness agrees:
Consciousness is not a way of thinking or feeling (in any case not exclusively that) but a power of entering into contact with the myriad rungs of existence visible or invisible. The more our consciousness develops, the more its radius of action and the number of degrees it can encompass grow. . . . .Our body, our thought, our desires are only a thin film of our total existence.
For everything, always, is a question of consciousness, for our mental, vital and physical life as for our sleep and our death and our immortality. Consciousness is the means, consciousness is the key, consciousness is the end.(20)
If the answer to the question of the purpose of human life is the creation of consciousness, a further question might be: What ultimate purpose for human life does an increase of consciousness serve? What, if given a choice, would motivate a person to choose the trials, tribulations and uncertainties of human existence over simply remaining in the paradisal garden of unconscious bliss–the place where the journey begins?
Consummation as the Marriage of Heaven and Earth
For the marriage “contract” to be “ratified” it must be consummated. The two, on the most intimate physical level, must be joined as one, and from there grow closer together in soul, mind and spirit as well. Consummation, in this sense, is a process of ascending degree by degree to higher levels of union.
The path of the mystic as traditionally described is in three stages: illumination, purgation, and consummate union with God. In the Alchemist’s opus, the goal is the union of heaven and earth, symbolized in the mysterium coniunction as the sun and the moon—the inner marriage of heaven and earth, the masculine and feminine principles, spirit and matter. Jung compares the three-fold alchemical pattern of union to that of classical mysticism: In the first stage, the illumination, spirit and soul are united; in the next, spirit and soul are united with the physical being for the purgation; with the final consummate union joining the three–body, soul and spirit–to what the Alchemist terms “the world,” and the mystic “the One.”
Among Jung’s alchemical discoveries was a series of sixteenth century German woodcuts. One of these (Plate VIII-3) is a picture worth a thousand words in the symbolic details it contains relevant to the three-stage process by which the major opposites of the psyche are united, completed and consummated.
16th Century Alchemical Diagram Titled Rex and Regina
In the woodcut, the king is standing on the sun, symbolic of the masculine principle, and the queen on the moon, symbolic of the feminine principle. Their left hands are touching to signify contact with the unconscious archetypes each represents. Union on this level of the archetypes and instincts is fundamental to the process. In their right hands each holds out to the other a leafing branch, symbolic of the growth in consciousness which will be the ongoing interchange between them. The crossing of the right-hand-held branches establishes the diagram’s overall flow of energy as a circulation between the masculine and feminine poles of the psyche the two figures represent. The circulation is in the rhythmically-balanced interchange of a figure eight which, as a double quaternity symbol, signifies wholeness in both poles.
In the image as a whole, the six-pointed star in the highest position points to the process’ projected completion as the same conjunction of opposites visualized earlier in the two-dimensional Star-of-David, and three-dimensionally as the star tetrahedron. The emphasis of the alchemical star, however, is on its three axes, symbolic of the three-fold union represented. In the diagram, the lines of the axes are repeated in the three branches, their resting or grounding points on the joined left hands to confirm the archetypal unconscious as where the mystery of the conjunction–the inner marriage–is taking place.
It is on this deepest, collective, psychoid level of nature that the duality inherent to human nature, in its triune mind/body/spirit expression finds resolution and the final reconciliation of spirit, mind and body. As a three-fold process, the horizontally-crossed axes speak of the work of the first two stages—illumination and purgation–known to the Alchemists as the “lesser conjunction.” But it is the bird, vertical axis that points to the grand conjunction–the culminating union of the divine and the human.
The animating spirit of the process is represented by the dove from whose beak the branch of peace is extended. But this dove is not the third person of the all-masculine Trinity. Rather it reverts to an earlier symbolism still prevalent in the Eastern Church, where the dove is identified with Holy Wisdom–with Sophia—and the Old Testament theme of the love of wisdom.
Nor can this amazing sixteenth century correspondence to the mystical union be left without noting one further significance: the star’s three axes as formed by an “I”—for the Greek Iesus–and an “X”–for the “Ch” of Christus—the earliest and most widely used monogram for Jesus the Christ.
The Greek Initials for Iesus Christus
Consummation and Assumption
Although Christian liturgy celebrates the return to the heavens of Christ the King, from early on the common people recognized something as missing in the kingship imagery. And so, in their prayers and in their spiritual practices, they added the Virgin Mother to the heavenly court, honoring her as the Queen who reigns beside the Son.
It is well known how overjoyed Jung was when, in 1950, Mary’s bodily assumption to the heavens was by papal proclamation declared official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. He saw this as the long-awaited restoration of the feminine principle to the Godhead, and the single most significant religious event since the Reformation. Many, though, called it “scandalous,” while Protestant theologians, in particular, were quick to label it “just that–an assumption.” Jung, however, based his elation on what he believed to be the psychological validity of the decree. What since medieval times had been a grass-roots effort to restore a balance between the two most important poles of the human psyche, was at last officially acknowledged.
Mary’s precursory elevation to the heavens had been evidenced in Christian art for over a millennium before the papal declaration, and her “coronation” celebrated for as long in the prayers and devotion of those who looked upon her as their heavenly Mother. The centuries-old illustration of Plate VIII-4 is an example. Note how astoundingly its central images of Jesus, Mary, God the Father, and the Dove correspond in design to Plate VIII-3 analyzed above. Here the Dove (as Sophia) hovers both to bless and to lend to the painting the equal balance of the feminine: as the fourth; the principle of matter; the inspiriting of matter which brings completion or Consummation to the life-of-Christ journey.
The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven
Chapter Eight Illustrations & Figures
VIII-1 – Teilhard’s Evolutionary Spiral
VIII-2 – Correspondences to Teilhard’s Four Evolutionary Births
VIII-3 – The Greek Initials for Iesus Christus
VIII-1 – Conversion of Paul, by Michelangelo, 1475-1564, Vatican (Alinari/Art Resources, NY)
VIII-2 – Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake, 18th century, British Museum, London (BM or London/Art Resource)
VIII-3 – King and Queen, from the Rosarium philosophorum, secunda pars alchimiae de lapide philoosophico (Frankfurt, 1550), reproduced in Jung’s The Psychology of the Transference, Bollingen, NJ, 1969 (C G Jung Archives SF)
VIII-4 – Coronation of the Virgin, artist unknown, reproduced in The Christian Calendar, by L W Cowie & John Selwyn Gummer, G & C Merriam Company, Springfield, p 98 (contact: Archives of Photo Fratelli Fabbri Editore, Milan)
Chapter Eight Notes
1. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter, Harcourt Brace, NY, 1978, p35
2. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu, Harper & Row, NY, 1960, p 122
3. Ibid, p 151
4. op cit, The Gospel According to Thomas, Log. 113
5. Ibid, Log. 10
6. John Ciardi translation Dante’s Paradiso, The New American Library, NY, 1961, p 365
7. 2 Corinthians 3:18
8. Acts 8:5
9. Acts 7:58
10. Acts 7:60
11. Teilhard, op cit, Hymn of the Universe, pp 37-38
12. Colossians 1:19
13. Romans 8:22
14. Teilhard, op cit, The Heart of Matter, p35
15. Colossians 1:17
16. 2 Corinthians 7:19
17. The Book of Common Prayer, Church Hymnal & Seabury Press, NY, 1977, p 370
18. Teilhard, op cit, Heart of Matter, p 102
19. Edinger, op cit, p85.~~
20. Satprem op cit, pp 62 & 106
To live the cosmic life is to live dominated by the consciousness that one is an atom in the body of the mystical and cosmic Christ.
Teilhard de Chardin (1)
The Great Fish
Much of the symbolism to emerge at the beginning of the Christian era had its origin in the geometric motif known as the vesica piscis. Constructed from two identical, intersecting circles whose centers are on each other’s circumferences, the “fish” in the center served as the spawning ground for some of the most familiar symbolism of Piscean Age Christianity.
The Vesica Piscis
The vesica, or “vessel of the fish,” is symbolic of the Incarnation: Christ is the fish—the intersection wherein the human and the divine merge. Strachan explains:
Christ is the “Great Fish” in the sea, having descended into that sea to redeem floundering humanity. (2)
Another name for the vesica is mandorla, Italian for almond. Plate VIII-3, (in the last chapter,) illustrates how Medieval and Renaissance artists used the shape as an artistic device to portray Christ in his majestic or glorified appearances. Another example is in the icon of Plate V-1, in which Jesus is stepping out of the vesica and into Hell.
The Reconciliation of Opposites
The graphic sign for Pisces expresses the idea of opposition, with the two halves of a circle (a whole) separated, held apart, and understood to be moving in opposite directions—one clockwise and the other counterclockwise. (Figure E-2)
The Sign of Pisces
As the vesica piscis is the geometric reconciliation of the opposition of Pisces, so in the Incarnation the duality inherent to human nature is resolved. In Paul’s words: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”(3)
Another geometric resolution of the opposition between spirit and nature is expressed in the familiar yin/yang symbol of Taoism. Here heaven and earth, and all other dualities, are recognized as the “illusion” by which the manifest world is created, and how, in a rhythmically-balanced interchange of opposites, the “illusion” is maintained. Moreover, this Taoistic notion of the illusive and interchanging idiosyncrasy of energy and matter approximates the determinations of quantum physicists. (Figure E-3)
The Yin/Yang Interchange of Opposites
Some early Christian symbolists, who may have been Pythagorean geometricians as well, saw the vesica as the womb of the equilateral triangle and therefore symbolic of the Holy Trinity. The Trinity, and the number three as its numeric equivalent, is another way of understanding how duality is reconciled. Figure E-4 details how a perfect triangle is derived by connecting points “a” and “b”–the centers of the two circles—and then points “a” and “b” to “c.” When “a” and “b” are also connected to “d,” the result is a perfect diamond.
The Vesica Derivation of the Equilateral Triangle,
the Diamond, and the Gothic Arch.
The same vesica is the geometric source of the gothic arch, with the arc of “a” to “b,” and then “b” to “c” basic to the architecture of the great Medieval cathedrals. Moreover, this same arch will be recognized as the design source of the miter worn by bishops–the episkopos–with this Greek word containing the same root as piscis. Taking the symbolism a step further, the “episkopos” carried a shepherd’s crook as a reminder of his role to bring the Arien sheep into the Piscean fold.
Humanity’s Collective Nativity
In the changing symbolism of the subsequent ages, the caught fish of Pisces are contained in the water pitcher of Aquarius, to there await the time–the kairos–of their release into the sea of humanity. Close to this idea is Teilhard’s conceptualization of Christogenesis–the birth of the whole Christ–in which the Incarnation is extended to the collective, evolutionary birth of humanity as a whole. Birth, however, implies a mother–in this case, not a human mother but a divine mother of humanity–one who can give birth to the divine potential of all her children, and who can encourage and empower them to become the co-creative sons and daughters of God. But it has been a very long time since some of her children have “called home.” This troubled Jung immensely, knowing as he did that alienation from the mother has psychic repercussions.
Robert Faircy, a Jesuit professor of spirituality, compares the thinking of Teilhard and Jung, and discusses their mutual concern around the devaluation of the feminine.(4) Both, he explains, understand the feminine as the missing “fourth”: the feminine as matter, nature, and mother. Teilhard knows her intimately as “the Blessed Virgin Mary”; Jung as the Archetypal Feminine who, as a Jewish maiden named Mary, becomes the mother of the divine/human, God/man, and who, as instructed by the angel, names her son Jesus.
It was gratifying to both Teilhard and Jung to live long enough to celebrate Mary’s “official,” (i.e., papal,) elevation to the heavens. Fr. Faircy writes:
What Teilhard affirms at the level of faith vision and of theology, Carl Jung verifies at the level of the psychology of religious symbols. Both are concerned with how the Christian today understands his faith, with how he sees, with the symbols that represent and that concretize his faith vision. And both, each in his own way, affirm the mother of God as having her place in that faith vision–a place with God, with the risen Christ, in heaven bodily. . . . [to fulfill] the symbolic functions of representing all femininity, all maternity, . . . .
Fr. Faircy then recalls that with
Thomas Merton, they see Mary as “Hagia Sophia,” the wisdom of God, “the feminine principle in the world. . . the inexhaustible source of creative realizations of the Father’s glory.” The Blessed Virgin Mary, Merton writes, “can be said to be a personal manifestation of Sophia, Who in God is Ousia [the Divine Essence] rather than Person.” Mary’s consent at the annunciation “opens the door of created nature, of time, of history, to the Word of God. God enters into his creation.” And, we might say, creation begins to enter into God.(5)
Does it not make sense that if there is to be a collective Incarnation–a Christogenesis–that preliminary to this happening all of God’s children need to be reconciled to their mother, to the feminine principle, to the “Mother of All,” and by whatever name each chooses to call her? And that then through her they be reconciled to one another? Is not this the way of many families? That for the sake of the mother the children stay in touch, and if they have a grievance with one another, then, for her sake, they “get over it.”
Central to Teilhard’s thinking is Jesus’ role as the “central axial line” along which evolution is moving towards “the final reconciliation of all things in Christ.” This passage is, in fact, the theme of the last entry in Teilhard’s journal, made three days before his death on Easter Sunday, 1955. In a notational formula he brings together his life, his religion, and his science: “Noogenesis=Christogenesis (=Paul).” From the birth of mind to the birth of the Whole Christ is how Teilhard interprets Paul’s “En pasi panta Theos”–“that God may be all in all.”(6)
Teilhard envisions the final stage of the evolution of consciousness as from mind (noo) to Spirit (Christo), a process he understands Paul to have begun on the road to Damascus. And perhaps Teilhard’s inside track into the mind of Paul is due to Teilhard’s own mental-to-spiritual transformation. In any event, Thomas Berry offers the opinion that
From the viewpoint of our present understanding of the universe it could be said that Teilhard is the most significant Christian theologian since Saint Paul.(7)
Teilhard’s Dangerous Prayer
As Paul created the bridge over which first century Christianity could be extended from a Jewish sect to a universal religion, so Teilhard’s legacy to Christianity is an evolutionary and cosmic perspective. In his Easter passage from the realm of the temporal to the eternal, he left a renewed and revitalized vision for the Church he loved. But for the individual undergoing the Christing process, he left a more personal and fervent testimony in the form of a prayer, one he prefaced with the words: “I firmly believe the Christianity of tomorrow will find its increasingly clear portrayal” in the following:
Lord, lock me up
in the deepest depths of your heart;
and then, holding me there,
set me on fire,
and lift me aloft,
until I become utterly
what you would have me be
through the cleansing death of self.(8)
Teilhard’s prayer has been called “the dangerous prayer.” To make its words one’s own and say them from the heart is to surrender to the higher will of God for one’s life, and also to assent to whatever such a transformation-by-fire may require. In Jung’s words, to follow where this leads is to be transformed by one’s “higher destiny.”
To the visionary eyes of both Teilhard and Jung, standing as they did at the crossroads of one age’s ending and another’s beginning, the signs appeared to be pointing to a time–a kairos—pregnant with the expectation of humanity’s collective Nativity, when, as Jung’s writes:
[O]nce again the Holy Ghost descends, this time to bring about a “Christification of many.” For the individual this means . . . . not an “imitation of Christ” but its exact opposite: an assimilation of the Christ-image to his [or her] own self . . . .(9)
The Road Ahead
Having entered its third millennium, what are the choices Christianity now faces?
Over the course of the first millennium, Christianity was a somewhat homogenous mixture of its Eastern, Western, and Coptic branches, together with the splintering heresies of its beginning centuries. But by the second millennium a split between the spiritual citadels of Constantinople and Rome was inevitable. In the West, Rome had strengthened its role as intermediary between earth and heaven, a position it maintained until the mid-millennium Reformation.
Again, at the beginning of the third millennium, another regrouping appears inevitable, one that quite possibly could offer “a third way,” a synthesis of opposites. If so, what are the signs? And where do they point?
Within both Catholicism and Protestantism are those determined to hold fast to their traditional positions. At the same time, there are within these two main streams of the Western Church those who are more in agreement with one another than with the conservative branches of their respective parent churches. Within Catholicism the emphasis tends towards ritual, tradition, and an hierarchical structure of authority: while within fundamental, evangelical Protestantism, emphasis is placed on the authority of the Bible, as well as on personal religious experience, and a well-defined position as to what is meant by “salvation.”
Among Catholics there are those who value much in their tradition, but who no longer are comfortable under strict hierarchical authority. Similarly, there are Protestants who value the attributes of their faith, but who are uncomfortable with an authoritarian attitude towards the scriptures. Nor is it just a matter of being discontent with what is. There is also, among both Catholics and Protestants alike, a sense that something is missing, a failure to find fulfillment for their spiritual hunger. For some, religion feels more like a monologue than a dialogue. For some, church feels more like being an audience than a participant in the drama of one’s own, ongoing spiritual transformation. While meaningful changes are undoubtedly underway, many have simply left their pews to search out other ways of facilitating their own and others’ psychological/spiritual wholeness.
The Third Way
As previously noted, both Jung and Teilhard were outspoken in pointing out that was what missing from Christianity was recognition of the feminine principle as being on equal ground with the masculine. Faircy also echoes this:
Only to the extent that the feminine is restored to its primacy in Christianity will Christianity find itself in good health. And only to the point that the suppression of the feminine is corrected will our Western culture recover from its many illnesses.(10)
Everywhere the rise of the feminine for recognition and parity is evident. And because the imbalance is centuries’ old, the demand for restoration is coming from the deepest levels of the collective psyche. In other words, one way or another balance will be restored, either through human understanding and cooperation, or through nature herself. This, of course, is another way of saying “at the hands of the goddess” in her destructive or de-structuring role as Kali.
By definition, a third way is the way by which opposites are united. The wisdom of the Tao speaks of “the Undivided, the Divided, and the Reunited.” A very ancient symbol is surprisingly appropriate for the possibilities open to a third millennium spirituality that is inclusive of the feminine. As might be expected, it is goddess-related–the triple spiral of the ancient “Triple Goddess” of Celtic spirituality.
The Triple Spiral of the Triple Goddess
The motif of Figure E-5 is a replica of the triple spiral found in the main chamber of the megalithic tomb-sanctuary at Newgrange, Ireland. It is dated around 3000 BC, and part of the Stone Age Irish “grave-passage” culture. A similar triple spiral also appears on the Newgrange entrance stone.
The Entrance Stone at Newgrange, Ireland
The triple role of the ancient goddess was to preside over birth, life and death. As triune as nature’s birth/death/rebirth cycle, she was maiden, bride and crone. When Christianized the ancient Celtic goddess become the new Brigid, the “saint” of hearth and home in whose name the fires were re-lighted each year on her February first saint’s day.
The Celtic Renaissance
Midst the megalithic remnants of ancient goddess cultures, the Celts were captive to the presence of the past (the morphogenic resonance) in the land they now occupied. Moreover, there were the everywhere reminders of the ancient ones’ beliefs that death is a passage to another world. The stones bearing this message were massive; the symbolic language of the carvings laboriously intricate; the underground burial sites comparable in calculated human labor to the great pyramids, and thought to be as much as five hundred years older. Through these monuments to the mother-goddess of old, she continued to teach that all of existence is cyclic in nature, and that there is a direct continuity between the material world and the other-world.(11)
The pre-Christian tradition of the Druids of Wales also recognized the unseen world as interpenetrating and effecting the visible world.(12) Considering the credibility quantum physics is lending to similar ideas, is it any wonder that Celtic spirituality is experiencing a renaissance?
In any event, the attraction of Celtic spirituality is part of a larger attraction to certain ancient traditions containing the elements missing from the life and culture of our times. The Celtic renewal is parallel to the long-overdue appreciation being afforded Native American spirituality, with the appeal of both to religiously affiliated and unaffiliated seekers alike.
Moreover, the roots of Celtic spirituality are not limited to the “Isles of the North.” They reach even further back in time to the Rhineland where, as Matthew Fox informs, the spiritual lineage of Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart and other “high mystics” of that area, can be traced to Celtic origins, and whose spirituality has both ecumenical and global appeal.(13) As Hildegard lived through most of the twelfth century, two years after her death Francis of Assisi would be born to carry forward the imprint Celtic spirituality in his nature mysticism, with his personal lineage traced to his Celtic-French mother, and the wandering troubadours of her origins.
Akin to the renewal of interest in Celtic spirituality is an attraction to monastic life in general, and the possibilities of living a non-monastic life according to a spiritual Rule of Life. An example is my own Franciscan order, which is one of several “third” orders with Catholic, Anglican and Ecumenical branches. Some Benedictine orders as well are ecumenically inclusive, including the one with whom I have received training in spiritual direction, and whose abbot is a Jungian.
Shamanism is another “third way” approach to spirituality. It is the one my husband Bob has been pursuing for a number of years, including the Celtic shamanism of his Northern European spiritual heritage.
With the hunger for a more meaningful spiritual life everywhere apparent, there are still very few churches who are openly encouraging their members to discover the new-old pathways to greater psychological and spiritual wholeness. When the two–the psychological and the spiritual—do come together, whether within or without the walls of a church, “the third way” is discovered: the way of the feminine, of relationship, of connection to life, to the earth, to others. Isolation, separation, despair is overcome. God–as Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Son, Daughter, Friend–lives in the compassion of a people who care for and support one another, and who, having heard the call of the Christ “to come up higher,” are doing just that.
Epilogue Credits and Notes
E-1 – Megalithic Entrance Stone at Newgrange, Ireland, Photo credit: Corbis
Figures (by author)
E-1 – The Vesica Piscis
E-2 – The Graphic Sign for Pisces
E-3 – The Yin/Yang Interchange of Opposites
E-4 – The Vesica Derivation of Equilateral Triangle, Diamond, and Gothic Arch
E-5 – The Triple Spiral of the Triple Goddess
1. From Cosmic Life, by Teilhard de Chardin. Quoted by Ursala King in Spirit of Fire, Orbis Books, NY, 1996, p55.
2. Gordon Strachan, Christ and Cosmos, Labarum Publications, Scotland, 1985, p 99
3. II Corinthians 5:19
4. Robert Faircy, SJ, The Lord’s Dealing, The Primacy of the Feminine in Christian Spirituality, Paulist Press, NY, 1988, pp 65-66, with the Merton quotes from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, NY, New Directions, 1977, pp 369-370
5. Faircy, op cit, p 98
6. Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, Harper & Row, 1964, p 309, (French edition, 1959)
7. Thomas Berry (source lost, hope to recover. ae)
8. Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe, Harper & Row, Perennial Library, NY, 1965, p 26
9. Jung/Edinger, op cit, Mysterum Coniunctionis CW 14, par.492, quoted by Edinger, Christian Archetype, p 18
10. Faircy, op cit, back cover.
11. Nigel Pennick, The Sacred World of the Celts, Inner Traditions
International, Rochester, VT, 1997, pp 68 & 138
13. Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, Bear & Company, Santa Fe, NM, 1985, see pp 7 & 16