Reading The Red Book (41) – Seven Sermons to the Dead

We have now reached the fifth Sermon to the Dead, which you will find in the third section of The Red Book called Scrutinies.

At the dawn of civilization Greece was inhabited by Pelasgians, who are viewed as the indigenous, pre-Hellenic population of Greece. The Greeks called them their ancestors. In his Greek Myths, Robert Graves attempted to reconstruct the creation myth of those ancient people. Stephan A. Hoeller draws our attention to the analogy of that myth to the content of the fifth and sixth Sermon to the Dead. (1) This is the myth as told by Graves:

“In the beginning, Eurynome, The Goddess of All Things, rose naked from Chaos, but found nothing substantial for her feet to rest upon, and therefore divided the sea from the sky, dancing lonely upon its waves. She danced towards the south, and the wind set in motion behind her seemed something new and apart with which to begin a work of creation. Wheeling about, she caught hold of this north wind, rubbed it between her hands, and behold! the great serpent Ophion. Eurynome danced to warm herself, wildly and more wildly, until Ophion, grown lustful, coiled about those divine limbs and was moved to couple with her. … So Eurynome was … got with child.

Next, she assumed the form of a dove, brooding on the waves and in due process of time laid the Universal Egg. At her bidding, Ophion coiled seven times about this egg, until it hatched and split in two. Out tumbled all things that exist, her children: sun, moon, planets, stars, the earth with its mountains and rivers, its trees, herbs, and living creatures.

Eurynome and Ophion made their home upon Mount Olympus, where he vexed her by claiming to be the author of the Universe. Forthwith she bruised his head with her heel, kicked out his teeth, and banished him to the dark caves below the earth.

Next, the goddess created the seven planetary powers, setting a Titaness and a Titan over each. Theia and Hyperion for the Sun; Phoebe and Atlas for the Moon; Dione and Crius for the planet Mars; Metis and Coeus for the planet Mercury; Themis and Eurymedon for the planet Jupiter; Tethys and Oceanus for Venus; Rhea and Cronus for the planet Saturn.”

Thoth tarot, The Universe

This primordial vision stands in contradiction to later creation stories. Here the celestial mother is the active, creating agent. Moreover, the seven classical planets are presided over by feminine and masculine deities as equals.

In the fascinating and profound Sermo V the feminine and masculine mysteries come to light. As Hoeller emphasizes, “one finds that the ideas presented here are far more complex and esoteric than the popularized version that found its way into the standard literature of analytical psychology.” We are far from the crude distinctions into Eros-driven women and Logos-driven men. Consider these opening lines:

“The world of the Gods is made manifest in spirituality and in sexuality. The celestial ones appear in spirituality, the earthly in sexuality.”

Spirituality (German Geistigkeit) is as divine as sexuality (German Geschlechtlichkeit). The latter word in the original German does not only mean what we understand as sexual activity but refers to gender (German Geschlecht) affiliation.

Philemon continues the sermon:

“Spirituality conceives and embraces. It is womanlike and therefore we call it MATER COELESTIS, the celestial mother. Sexuality engenders and creates. It is manlike, and therefore we call it PHALLOS, the earthly father.

The sexuality of man is more earthly, that of woman is more spiritual.

The spirituality of man is more heavenly, it moves toward the greater.

The spirituality of woman is more earthly, it moves toward the smaller.

The sexuality of man goes toward the earthly, the sexuality of woman goes toward the spiritual.”

Hoeller states that these two principles – the feminine logos, the Heavenly mother, who “comprehends” all as Sophia/Wisdom on the one hand, and the masculine Eros, the engendering Phallos on the other – are present in both men and women. All individuals partake in these qualities. He writes:

“Logos governs the spiritual in man and the sexual in woman, while Eros in turn governs the spiritual in woman and the sexual in man.

The phallic god, being unconscious, is perceived by man only by projection. Thus men project their dark, erotic side onto women, whom they then fear and desire at the same time, precisely because they fear and desire their own unconscious Eros.

One might say with but a slight exaggeration that feminine sexuality has its eyes wide-open to meaning, while masculine sexuality is blind.”

The unconscious feminine Logos, in turn, makes the woman intuitive, insightful and more spiritually aware while it also frees her from the traps of rationalization, so typical of the conscious masculine Logos.

In the sermon Philemon warns against identifying either with spirituality or sexuality by virtue of them being daimons, i.e. forces above and beyond our humanity:

“Spirituality and sexuality are not your qualities, not things you possess and encompass. Rather, they possess and encompass you, since they are powerful daimons, manifestations of the Gods, and hence reach beyond you, existing in themselves.”

We must not rigidly identify with either of these energies but rather be a vessel for both to intertwine. Only in this way will the cosmic egg hatch into being.

The last theme of the sermon refers to individuality (“singleness”) as opposed to community. As usual, Jung advocates right measure in everything:

“Community is depth, singleness is height.

Right measure in community purifies and preserves.

Right measure in singleness purifies and increases.

Community gives us warmth, singleness gives us light.”

I find the wisdom contained in the Seven Sermons timeless. At the present moment, when the world is horrified by the Russian aggression against Ukraine, India is about to celebrate the annual Maha Shivaratri, the sacred night of Lord Shiva. It is also an auspicious festival that celebrates the union of Shiva and Shakti. This seems to be a very potent moment when things are poised on the edge of the knife and we are all hoping that the worst will not happen. At the same time there has also been a true feeling of oneness, solidarity and community palpable here in Europe.

Hoping against hope, I found this quote in Vanamali’s book on Shiva:

“He has two natures—one wild and fierce, the other calm and peaceful. Of all the deities, he is the one most easily propitiated. Moreover, in compassion there is none to compare with him. He is the friend of the unfortunates…

He has a blue neck because he drank deadly poison in order to protect the world from it, keeping it in his throat rather than swallowing it, and it made his neck turn blue. … He is Chandrachuda (wearer of the moon), for he wears the crescent moon as an adornment for his hair. Like the waxing and waning of the moon, he is in tune with the rise and fall of the cosmic rhythm. He is Krittivasa, wearer of animal hides. His upper body is covered with the skin of the black antelope, the elephant hide covers his loins, and the tiger skin is his seat. By wearing the male kundala (a man’s earring) in his right ear and the female tatanka (a woman’s earring) in his left, he reveals his androgynous nature.” (2)

Adiyogi Shiva statue

The androgynous nature of Shiva himself as well as the deity called Ardhanarisvara, who is depicted as half-male and half-female to symbolize the union of Shiva with Parvati, point both to a reality beyond dualism, beyond conflict, where opposites are united. The coat of arms of Ukraine is a blue shield with a gold trident; the trident being also one of the most important attributes of Lord Shiva. It can only be touched by him or Shakti. It is solely used to restore peace and divinity in the universe.

Ardhanarisvara – the combined form of Shiva and Shakti, by Ashdei-San
Flag of Ukraine with coat of arms


(1) Stephan A. Hoeller, The Gnostic Jung and The Seven Sermons to the Dead                                                                                                                                  

(2) Vanamali, Shiva: Stories and Teachings from the Shiva Mahapurana

Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

Reading The Red Book – part 3

Reading The Red Book – part 4

Reading The Red Book – part 5

Reading The Red Book – part 6

Reading The Red Book – part 7

Reading The Red Book – part 8

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

Reading The Red Book – part 12

Reading The Red Book – part 13

Reading The Red Book – part 14

Reading The Red Book – part 15

Reading The Red Book – part 16

Reading The Red Book – part 17

Reading The Red Book – part 18

Reading The Red Book – part 19

Reading The Red Book – part 20

Reading The Red Book – part 21

Reading The Red Book – part 22

Reading The Red Book – part 23

Reading The Red Book – part 24 

Reading The Red Book – part 25

Reading The Red Book – part 26

Reading The Red Book – part 27

Reading The Red Book – part 28

Reading The Red Book – part 29

Reading The Red Book – part 30

Reading The Red Book – part 31

Reading The Red Book – part 32

Reading The Red Book – part 33

Reading The Red Book – part 34

Reading The Red Book – part 35

Reading The Red Book – part 36

Reading The Red Book – part 37

Reading The Red Book – part 38

Reading The Red Book – part 39

Reading The Red Book – part 40


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3 Responses to Reading The Red Book (41) – Seven Sermons to the Dead

  1. Jeff says:

    Hi Monika. Your image of the Universe card immediately caught my attention. The Thoth deck is one I use occasionally, although I have to say that the Alchemical Tarot by Robert Place is currently my favorite deck. Anyway, loved the quote from Graves. I read “White Goddess” many years ago but have not read anything else from him. Alas, my list grows longer – LOL. And thank you for mentioning Ukraine. I am aghast by what I am witnessing unfold. I hope you and your family remain safe out there. Hopefully things will calm down soon.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jeff, yes, the Thoth deck has some amazing images. I do not own any decks by Robert Place but I have read one of his books. I have come full circle and am now sticking to the good old RWS deck.
      Anyway, on a more important note, I do not know where we are headed right now and it fills me with dread.
      Thank you for your presence here

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff says:

        I can only imagine. The world has not seen aggression like this in a long time. I have family in Europe and they are also concerned. Sadly, there does not seem to be anywhere one can go to escape the insanity. My only solace is that we appear to be in the Tower time (to draw on tarot symbolism). Hopefully, we are witnessing the throes as the established structures which no longer serve our common good crumble. I have to believe that the Universe has a plan, and we are just watching it unfold.

        Please stay safe.

        Liked by 1 person

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