Reading The Red Book (43) – Seven Sermons to the Dead

We have now reached the seventh and final Sermon to the Dead, which you will find in the third section of The Red Book called Scrutinies. The dead come to Philemon and ask him to “teach us about men.” This sermon addresses the most portent of questions: who are we, humans, and what is our relation to divinity? We learn that an individual is a gateway. Through us humans passes “a procession of the Gods.” In every “eternal moment” new Gods come and go. Human do not create gods but they should be open to receiving them and let them pass through their gateways towards embodiment.

RWS Tarot – The Star

The Star is the most significant symbol that appears in the sermon. For Ribi, it stands for “the transcendental particularity of a person—the expression and symbol of the eternal in the individual, which stands superior to mortality and provides orientation and hope through the vagaries of life.” (1) Wanderers and navigators have been guided by the stars for centuries. In a similar way, “consciousness navigating its unknown darkness takes its bearings from the scintillations of psyche’s imaginal forms.” (2) An individual is a microcosm with all the stars of the universe encompassed within the dark skies of the psyche.

Gerhard Dorn, a sixteenth-century alchemist frequently quoted by Jung, wrote that in every man there is an “invisible sun.” Divinity and its light permeates everything – the underworld and the upper world. Agrippa von Nettesheim, author of Three Books on Occult Philosophy (1533) spoke in this context of the world soul – a “certain only thing, filling all things, bestowing all things, binding, and knitting together all things, that it might make one frame of the world.” (3)

Wilhelm Kotarbinski, “Evening Star”

The transcendental light of the world soul unites psyche and matter, planting divine sparkles (scintillae) in both. As Jung wrote,

“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing. The synchronicity phenomena point, it seems to me, in this direction, for they show that the nonpsychic can behave like the psychic, and vice versa, without there being any causal connection between them.” (4)

In other words, in a miraculous moment of an archetypal constellation, the archetype that is ripe in the psyche materializes and becomes part of reality. These are the precious moments of synchronicity in our lives. But for such an incarnation to occur, gods need humans so as they can pass through the gateway of manifestation. The true kingdom of god is the individual soul or as Meister Eckhart put it, “God himself is blissful in the soul.” (5)

In the seventh sermon we also meet Abraxas again. As previously indicated, this terrifying deity stands for the physical drive, the carnal fire, the ultimate creative and destructive force of the psyche. As Hoeller explained, Abraxas is “the fiery force which acts as the primeval union of the opposites at the foundation of psychic life.” (6) After the sermon is over Philemon tells Jung, “What is time? Time is the fire that flares up, consumes, and dies down. I saved being from time, redeeming it from the fires of time and the darkness of time, from Gods and devils.” The dominion of the fiery god Abraxas, who personifies Time, loses its power in the face of enlightenment or in the event of death. In order to be like Philemon – “the eternal fire of light” and to step out of the transience of being and out of the domain of Abraxas– an individual has to become someone who is – like in Hinduist Tat Tvam Asi – Thou Art That, You are one with the Absolute. Only when Abraxas’ influence stops, can the light of the star take over and an individual can become one with the eternal.

Jung is now approached by “a dark form with golden eyes.” The mysterious figure says Jung can call him “death that rose with the sun.” He reminds Jung that death begins in the midst of life. He tells Jung:

“You will go to men as one veiled. Your light shines at night. Your solar nature departs from you and your stellar nature begins.”

Thus the fate of Jung seems to be sealed – he will bring the dark wisdom of the unconscious into the light.

In a final vision, brought to Jung by the dark one, Jung saw “the night, … the dark earth, and above this the sky stood gleaming in the brilliance of countless stars. And I saw that the sky had the form of a woman and sevenfold was her mantle of stars ….” Philemon asks the celestial mother to take Jung as her son. This, however, proves to be only possible after a period of solitude and purification that Jung must undergo. On that note Philemon disappears.


Footnotes to The Red Book offer more in-depth analysis of the significance of the last sermon to the dead. There Shamdasani quotes extensively from the Black Books – Jung’s private journals named after the black covers; these journals were actually the prima materia of The Red Book, so their colour is very apt. In the Black Books, Jung recorded a conversation with his Soul, who asked him if he wants to receive three or seven lights. He chooses seven lights. The Soul teaches: “The first light means the Pleroma. / The second means Abraxas. / The third the sun. / The fourth the moon. / The fifth the earth. / The sixth the phallus. / The seventh the stars.” The celestial mother and the sky are encompassed by the symbolism of the Star, adds the Soul. What is more, the six lights taken together form a bridge to the seventh light of the Star. This resonates with the Egyptian mythology, where the goddess Nut, who personified the starry night sky, had Geb, the Earth, for her husband. From their union Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys were born. One of Nut’s epithets was “She Who Holds a Thousand Souls.” (7) The mysterious great goddess of the star, who appeared in Jung’s vision, could also be associated with the Seven Sisters, that is the Pleiades star cluster. She could also be Binah, the Great Mother of the Kabbalah, who is associated with Saturn and the colour black. As the dark womb that gave birth to all, she reminds me strongly of the Black Madonna. In her mantle shine a million stars, each one unique and assigned to each and every one of us upon our birth.

Our Lady of Guadalupe


(1) Alfred Ribi, The Search for Roots: C.G. Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis

(2) The Book of Symbols, Reflections on Archetypal Images, ARAS, edited by Ami Ronnberg

(3) quoted by Alfred Ribi

(4) C.G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (vol. 8 of CW), par 418

(5) C. G. Jung, Psychological Types (vol. 6 of CW), par 418

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

(7) M. M. Meleen and T. Susan Chang, Tarot Deciphered: Decoding Esoteric Symbolism in Modern Tarot


Support my blog

If you appreciate my writing, consider donating to support my work. Thank you very much in advance.


This entry was posted in The Red Book by C.G. Jung and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s