Reading The Red Book (32)

Chapter XIX of Liber Secundus (part II of The Red Book) is called The Gift of Magic. The Soul wants Jung to accept the gift of magic represented by “a black rod, formed like a serpent-with two pearls as eyes-a gold bangle around its neck.” The serpent is one of those powerful symbols that accompanied Jung throughout all his life. He owned a ring with an image of a dark snake, which he described with these words:

“It is Egyptian. Here the serpent is carved, which symbolizes Christ. Above it, the face of a woman; below the number 8, which is the symbol of the Infinite, of the Labyrinth, and the Road to the Unconscious.” (1)

Jung’s Gnostic ring

It was in Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, where Jung dives deep into the symbolism of the serpent. (2) There he wrote the following about the snake, which he perceived as simultaneously the highest, most spiritual animal and the lowest, most material and chthonic one:

“… snakes are favourite symbols for describing psychic happenings or experiences that suddenly dart out of the unconscious and have a frightening or redeeming effect.” (par. 291)

“It expresses his fear of everything inhuman and his awe of the sublime, of what is beyond human ken. It is the lowest (devil) and the highest (son of God, Logos, Nous, Agathodaimon).”(par. 293)

“As serpens mercurialis, the snake is not only related to the god of revelation, Hermes, but, as a vegetation numen, calls forth the ‘blessed greenness’ all the budding and blossoming of plant life. Indeed, this serpent actually dwells in the interior of the earth and is the pneuma that lies hidden in the stone.”(par. 386)

“Just as the serpent stands for the power that heals as well as corrupts, so one of the thieves is destined upwards, the other downwards, and so likewise the shadow is on one side regrettable and reprehensible weakness, on the other side healthy instinctivity and the prerequisite for higher consciousness.” (par. 402)

Cirlot perceived the serpent as “symbolic of energy itself—of force pure and simple.” Snakes are guardians of the deeps and of hidden treasures as well as guardians of the springs of life. (3) They may stand both for renewal and destruction. Because they symbolize pure energy, they are beyond good and evil and they can flow in both directions.

Returning to chapter XIX of Liber Secundus, Jung hesitates whether he should accept the gift of magic from the Soul. The Soul tells him that this kind of gift will require the sacrifice of solace. Jung will not be able to give or receive solace if he accepts this gift from the soul. He ponders:

“This means the loss of a piece of humanity; and what one calls severity toward oneself and others takes its place.”

The inhumanness of the snake of magic seems to worry Jung, but he knows he needs to accept the gift. He hold the rod and speaks to it, calling it “the messenger of the night”:

“Are you time and fate? The essence of nature, hard and eternally inconsolable, yet the sum of all mysterious creative force? Primordial magic words seem to emanate from you, mysterious effects weave around you, and what powerful arts slumber in you?”

Image 127

The black rod of magic brings with it “defiance and contempt for men.” Image 127, which accompanies this part of the text, was described by Jung as “the inexorable wheel of the four functions, the essence of all living beings imbued with sacrifice.” The four functions he refers to here are thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. There is always one function that dominates the consciousness in each of us, according to Jung. This exact function needs to be sacrificed in the name of wholeness. Only then will its opposite function be liberated from the state of repression in the unconscious. If a thinking type sacrifices his or her intellect, his feeling function will be able to rise to consciousness. By the same token, the intuitive type is often too steeped in his or her inner life, too much future oriented, which means that his or her sensation is suppressed. Such an individual cannot live here and now and has difficulty living the simple life of the senses. Psychological Types, volume VI of Collected Works of Jung, contains a few examples of sacrificing the main function. For example, this is what Jung wrote of Tertullian, one of the early Church Fathers:

“His most valuable organ was the intellect and the clarity of knowledge it made possible. Through the sacrificium intellectus the way of purely intellectual development was closed to him; it forced him to recognize the irrational dynamism of his soul as the foundation of his being.” (par. 20)

Rembrandt, “Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves”

Image 127 shows how painful the sacrifice can be but the consolation is the caption above the painting – The Triumph of Love.

Image 129

Next image – 129 is quite a striking portrayal of the black serpent. The creature seems to emerge from Kether, the topmost of the sephirot of the Tree of Life in Kabbalah, which symbolized the primal unity with God. White brilliance is the colour associated with Kether by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The luminosity and otherworldliness of the image is quite stunning even if Jung did not consciously choose to refer to Kabbalistic thought in the image. He writes:

“…we approach the overpowering, inhuman forces that are busily creating what is to come. … The tension of the future is unbearable in us. It must break through narrow cracks, it must force new ways.”

The luminosity is forcing its way into the sublunary realm. The serpent guarding the treasure is standing on the threshold between the unconscious and manifestation. The energy coils through its sinuous body.

 Jung continues:

“There is only one way and that is your way; there is only one salvation and that is your salvation. … What is to come is created in you and from you. Hence look into yourself.”

This though is not new in The Red Book. The path to individuation is the body of the snake arising from one’s unconscious. It is a solitary path with little comfort. It is the way of the Magician:

“In it Heaven and Hell grow together, and in it the power of the Below and the power of the Above unite.”

Image 131

The extraordinary image 131, one of the most celebrated paintings from The Red Book, is accompanied by a magical incantation:

“The Above is powerful,

The Below is powerful,

Twofold power is in the One.

North, come hither,

West, snuggle up,

East, flow upward,

South, spill over.

The winds in between bind the

cross. The poles are united by the

intermediate poles in between.

Steps lead from above to below.

Boiling water bubbles in

cauldrons. Red hot ash envelops

the round floor.

Night sinks blue and deep from

above, earth rises black from

below.”

Image 133

The luminosity of Kether is resplendent in the winter night, behind the dark tree of life set against indigo blue sky. This is followed by two more striking images and magical incantations. Image 133 could be the portrait of the solitary one, who sings the incantations:

A solitary is cooking up healing potions.

He makes offering to the four winds.

He greets the stars and touches the earth.

He holds something luminous in his hand.

He is far from men and yet the threads of their fate pass through his hands.”

The solitary ends his incantation by abstaining from the role of a savior of humanity. He says instead:

Now prove your worth by each

living for himself.”

Image 135

Image 135 is a continuation of the visual narrative presented by the stunning imagery of this rich chapter. The inscription below the egg says:

“The fire comes out of Muspilli and grasps the tree of life. A cycle is completed, but it is the cycle within the world. A strange God, the unnamable God of the solitary, is incubating it. New creatures form from the smoke and ashes.”

In the footnotes, Shamdasani explains that in Norse mythology Muspilli (or Muspelheim) is the abode of the Fire Gods. It seems a new cycle is beginning with the snake and other creatures emerging from the roots of the burnt world tree. This is the mystery of the changeful, says Jung, and “the road is without end.”

Notes:

(1) C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, edited by William McGuire and R.F.C. Hull, Bollingen Series: Princeton University Press 1977, p. 468

(2) Collected Works volume 9ii

(3) Juan Eduardo Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2001

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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 33

Reading The Red Book – part 34

Reading The Red Book – part 35

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Master Arnold Böcklin

Arnold Böcklin (born in 1827) was a Swiss symbolist painter, whose work The Plague (1898) has recently emerged as the emblem of our moment in time. It seems that through his symbolist lens he managed to capture the timeless terror of epidemics. True symbolist art is able to achieve precisely that – to situate its creations in the eternal realm. The vibrant blood red colour of the woman’s dress in the foreground is juxtaposed with the blacks, browns and greens of death and decomposition. The whitish cloud of miasma behind the Death figure and the same bad air breathed out from the dragon’s mouth create a terrifying effect. Böcklin was criticized for his garish taste in colours but from the symbolist viewpoint his choices are fully justified. This emblematic image resembles a tarot card.

A. Böcklin, “The Plague”

Death was the theme close to Böcklin’s heart – see his self-portrait with Death playing the fiddle below (1872). Not to mention that his Isle of the Dead (1880) remains his most iconic and famous work of all times. In it, a figure clad in white is standing over a coffin, also draped in white. Their boat is being solemnly rowed towards an island with cypress trees guarding the ultimate mystery.

Arnold Böcklin, “The Isle of the Dead”

Similar figures also clad in white are featured in The Sacred Grove (1886), which has a very special place in my heart. Who are these people walking in a sacred procession and bowing deeply before a sacred fire? Are they Druids or Ancient Greeks? Or are they simply emblematic of all silent nature worshippers of the times of Yore? There seems to be a temple behind the trees on the right as well as a white statue, which is not visible very well. I was lucky recently to see the original in a museum in Basel and indeed I was able to confirm that there is a statue behind a tree on the right-hand side. The sacred site seems to be situated on a marshland judging by the stone altar’s reflection in the water.

A. Böcklin, “The Sacred Grove”

In The Sacred Teaching of All Ages by Manly P. Hall there is a passage describing the oracle of Jupiter in Dodona, which makes me think of the scene depicted in the painting:

“The oracle of Dodona was presided over by Jupiter, who uttered prophecies through oak trees, birds, and vases of brass. Many writers have noted the similarities between the rituals of Dodona and those of the Druid priests of Britain and Gaul. The famous oracular dove of Dodona, alighting upon the branches of the sacred oaks, not only discoursed at length in the Greek tongue upon philosophy and religion, but also answered the queries of those who came from distant places to consult it. The ‘talking’ trees stood together, forming a sacred grove. When the priests desired answers to important questions, after careful and solemn purifications they retired to the grove. They then accosted the trees, beseeching a reply from the god who dwelt therein. When they had stated their questions, the trees spoke with the voices of human beings, revealing to the priests the desired information. Some assert that there was but one tree which spoke–an oak or a beech standing in the very heart of the ancient grove. Because Jupiter was believed to inhabit this tree he was sometimes called Phegonæus, or one who lives in a beech tree.”

Giorgio de Chirico, the great Italian Surrealist, once declared that each of Böcklin’s works is a shock. One of the most shocking aspects of his oeuvre is perhaps the organic, extremely lifelike and lively nature of some of his paintings. For it was not only death that preoccupied him. His delightful Mermaids at Play (1886) are full of merriment and can be described as gently grotesque. A bewildered baby with a fishtail on the left-hand side is holding a little fish. The frolicking mermaids are not portrayed to be seductive or satisfying for the male gaze. On the contrary, they are being natural and relaxed in their bodily comfort. This puts Böcklin in contrast to many other nineteenth-century artists.

A. Böcklin, “Mermaids at Play”

It is quite astounding that Böcklin’s artistic career developed simultaneously to that of the Impressionists. He really seems to have nothing in common with them. He must have picked his own secluded path through the dark woods. As an art critic George B. Rose wrote in 1917:

“He is no impressionist. His works are finished.”

More paintings at https://www.arnoldbocklin.org/

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Reading The Red Book (31)

“Little good will come to you from outside. What will come to you lies within yourself. But what lies there!”

C.G. Jung, The Red Book, chapter XVIII (Liber Secundus)

Johfra Bosschart, Aquarius

Chapter XVIII of Liber Secundus is called The Three Prophecies. The title itself poses an important question of whether The Red Book is prophetic. In a book of dialogues dedicated to The Red Book by James Hillman and Sonu Shamdasani, the latter offers the following reflection:

“He [Jung] realizes around about 1917 that the prophetic tone, the prophetic language in which he wrote the first two sections of the text were given to him by this figure of Philemon, in other words, there’s a prophetic voice in him that is not himself. The issue then is one of differentiating being instructed by it without identifying with it. He did have a real career choice. He could have set up shop like Rudolf Steiner around the corner in Dornach and said, ‘This is the new revelation.’ I mean, gurus are two a penny in Europe in the 1920s—prophets of the new age, competing for the same clientele. He could have done that. But what then is interesting, what makes Jung Jung is, in a certain sense, the fact that he doubts his own visions and is more interested in the vision-making function than simply proclamation.” (1)

Jung chose the path of experience. He chose not to identify with the divine presence that was bestowing revelations on him. In a letter to Frau Patzelt, which Jung wrote in 1935, he emphasizes his reservations even more decisively:

“I have read a few books by Rudolf Steiner and must confess that I have found nothing in them that is of the slightest use to me. You must understand that I am a researcher and not a prophet.”

Though Jung touched the eternal in the experience that he described in Liber Novus, he decided not to proclaim it as the absolute truth. He decided against publishing The Red Book.

Chapter XVIII begins with a vision that Jung experienced on 22 January 1914, which he recorded in his black book. The soul asks Jung if he will accept whatever she brings to him without judgement or rejection. He agrees. The soul dives through the ages of humankind bringing him the worst atrocities: the annihilation of whole peoples, war, epidemics, and all kinds of “frightful feral savagery.” Jung accepts everything as gifts of the soul. But when the soul brings the treasures of all past cultures and “books full of lost wisdom,” he seems overwhelmed. No person can accept such an enormous wealth. It is wise to limit oneself and with contentment and modesty cultivate one’s own garden. Jung says:

“A well-tended small garden is better than an ill-tended large garden. Both gardens are equally small when faced with the immeasurable, but unequally cared for.”

The soul also brings Jung three prophecies – “ancient things that pointed to the future.” These are “the misery of war, the darkness of magic, and the gift of religion,” which all share the same capability of both unleashing and binding the forces of chaos. Before the First World War erupted Jung had had an overpowering vision of a flood that covered all Europe but was stopped by the Swiss Alps. He saw the sea of blood and a civilization turning into rubble. In the chapter that we are discussing Jung expresses the longing to know nothing because the memory of what he saw would not leave him alone. This is why it is so important, he claims, to keep a well-tended garden, because otherwise the depths of the collective unconscious, which contain everything, will swallow the individual. Therefore he declares that he wishes to discard “everything divine and devilish with which chaos burdened me.” He says that is is vital that an individual does not identify with the collective contents pressing upon the psyche:

“You should be able to cast everything from you, otherwise you are a slave, even if you are the slave of a God.”

Magic is the second gift that the soul brings Jung. In Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (CW 8) Jung wrote that “’magical’ means everything where unconscious influences are at work.” (2) In the same volume he referred to psyche as “the greatest of all cosmic wonders.” (3) He also said further that “anyone should draw the conclusion that the psyche, in its deepest reaches, participates in a form of existence beyond space and time, and thus partakes of what is inadequately and symbolically described as ‘eternity.'” (4) But still he concluded that we would never be able to determine whether that was the absolute truth. From the perspective of the conscious mind, any proclamation as to the nature of the unconscious psyche is conjecture. When Jung says that “magic is dark and no one sees it” in the chapter of The Red Book that we are looking at, he is hinting at the occult nature of the unconscious psyche and its workings.

But even such hedged statements about the nature of the psyche did not win Jung any favours with scientists or scientifically minded psychologists of his time and of our time. Lance S. Owens makes an excellent point when he says that Jung was disowned not only by science but also by religion of his time. He explains:

“… both fields share a problematic blind spot: They both think that ‘religion’ stands against ‘the secular.’ However, the historical record shows that these two defined themselves not just against one another but, simultaneously, against a third domain…. This third domain that they both rejected has been referred to by different names, but the most well-known are superstition and magic.” (5)

Magic is the dark, shadowy domain inaccessible both to science and the institutionalized religion. It is religion which is the final gift that the soul bestows upon Jung. The Red Book seems to ponder an important question what religion will be like in the coming Aion of Aquarius. The main themes of the Aion of Aquarius have been summarized by Liz Greene as “the union of the opposites, the interiorisation of the god-image, and the struggle to recognise and reconcile good and evil as dimensions of the human psyche” rather than “projected duality of God and the Devil” that has been prevalent in the current Aion of Pisces. (6)

The chapter is accompanied by Image 125. In his invaluable footnotes Shamdasani explains that the scene depicted in the image resembles one of Jung’s childhood fantasies described in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. In it he imagined Basel to be a port and in his mind’s eye he saw a sailing ship on the waters of the Rhine. The image here shows Atmavictu in deep meditation (see part 30 for details about him). The Aquarian vessel on his head is being filled with divine prana or the water of the spirit, which emanates from the golden red solar mandala. It seems that the ship from the childhood fantasy sails on the border between divine and mundane reality. The orderly Swiss world below appears to be oblivious of the spiritual dimension depicted in the upper part of the image.

Notes:

(1) James Hillman and Sonu Shamdasani, Lament of the Dead: Psychology After Jung’s Red Book, Kindle edition

(2) par. 725

(3) par. 357

(4) par. 815

(5) Lance S. Owens, “C.G. Jung and the Prophet Puzzle,” in: Murray Stein and Thomas Arzt, editors, Jung’s Red Book for Our Time: Searching for Soul under Postmodern Conditions, volume 1, Kindle edition

(6) Liz Greene, “‘The Way of What is to Come’: Jung’s Vision of the Aquarian Age,” in: Murray Stein and Thomas Arzt, editors, Jung’s Red Book for Our Time: Searching for Soul under Postmodern Conditions, volume 1, Kindle edition

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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 32

Reading The Red Book – part 33

Reading The Red Book – part 34

Reading The Red Book – part 35

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The Power of Wildness in the Times of Dystopia

At least for me, it has been a season for dystopian novels. After finishing Handmaid’s Tale and its sequel The Testaments, I moved on to reread 1984. When a cruel new law was recently passed in Poland forbidding abortion in all circumstances without a scrap of concern for women’s dignity and in the name of Catholic fanaticism, thousands of women (and men) took to the streets. The images from Handmaid’s Tale sprung up all over the place.

a poster by Patrycja Podkościelny

In the rich symbolic tapestry woven by Margaret Atwood in Handmaid’s Tale, I was particularly drawn to the way it constellates the archetype of the wild woman. No matter how much violence and injustice was inflicted on Gilead handmaids, they always found a way to go on. Their red gowns served to mark them as fertile vessels and also as scarlet, unchaste women. But of course the colour red, being the wildest of all colours, means that ultimately women cannot be tamed. Blood is life itself in its fiery strength and glory. In Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name is Red, the colour red is one of the narrators, who says this:

Life begins with me and returns to me.

It is not a coincidence that women’s strike in Poland also chose a red lightning bolt as its chief symbol.

Women’s Strike by Ola Jesionowska
Let the Sirens Wail by Magda Wolna (the siren is a symbol of Poland’s capital Warsaw)

In Jung’s Mysterium Coniunctionis I found an apt summary of the power of red in relation to women’s wild nature:

“The relation of the love-goddess to red dates back to ancient times. Scarlet is the colour of the Great Whore of Babylon and her beast. Red is the colour of sin. The rose is also an attribute of Dionysus. Red and rose-red are the colour of blood, a synonym for the aqua permanens and the soul, which are extracted from the prima materia and bring ‘dead’ bodies to life. … The stone … is the son of this whore. …

C.G. Jung, “Mysterium Coniunctionis,” CW vol. XIV, pars. 420-422

Next to red, the second symbol quite ubiquitous in Atwood’s novel is the moon, described as “gigantic, round, heavy, an omen.” At one point Offred calls the moon “a sliver of ancient rock, a goddess, a wink.” She also says somewhere else:

“But I tell time by the moon. Lunar, not solar.   I bend over to do up my red shoes;…”

In the TV series based on Handmaid’s Tale, the writers added another potent symbol to constellate the archetype of the wild woman. It was the black wolf which Offred encountered in the forest shortly before a powerful birth scene, in which she gives birth all alone in an empty house.

The third symbol was for me storytelling itself. The titles of both novels speak of bearing witness to events. In the first part the Handmaid tells her tale, while in the second part a host of female characters deliver their testaments or testimonies. It was Clarissa Pinkola Estés who reminded us of the power of stories to lead us back into our instinctual self – this forge of transformation. She said that through stories we can “pick up the path left by the wildish nature.” She also wrote:

“Stories set the inner life into motion, and this is particularly important where the inner life is frightened, wedged, or cornered.”

Women protesting in Poland showed a great deal of creativity – both visual and verbal – in the posters that they created for their marches. This is a narrative completely different to the dominant religious/patriarchal one. These words, these stories will overcome the tyrants.

photo by Tomasz Stanczak, via https://lodz.wyborcza.pl/lodz/7,35136,26447701,strajk-kobiet-w-lodzi-plany-na-srode-wolne-od-pracy-protest.html?disableRedirects=true

Overall, wildness seems to be a singular factor that will always tear regimes down. I was gratified to come across a passage in Orwell’s 1984, in which Winston is happy that Julia has slept with a huge number of men as he hates purity and he wants everyone to be “corrupt to the bones” because this is what will bring the Party down:

“That was above all what he wanted to hear. Not merely the love of one person, but the animal instinct, the simple undifferentiated desire: that was the force that would tear the Party to pieces.”

May the last word belong to Clarissa Pinkola Estés:

“So, if women must, they will paint blue sky on jail walls. If the skeins are burnt, they will spin more. If the harvest is destroyed they will sow more immediately. Women will draw doors where there are none, and open them and pass through into new ways and new lives. Because the wild nature persists and prevails, women persist and prevail. It is this yearning that causes us to search for Wild Woman and find her. It is not as hard as one might first imagine, for Wild Woman is searching for us too. We are her young.“

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

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The Doll as a Symbol

The doll is a curious and polyvalent symbol. On the one hand, there is no shortage of creepy dolls in horror movies. Furthermore, in his Dictionary of Symbols, Juan Eduardo Cirlot speaks of dolls solely in the context of psychopathology and “a regression to an infantile state.” To add to this dark portrayal of dolls, they have been used to symbolize stiff social roles of women expected to behave and look in a certain way. In Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House the main character talks bitterly of her married life:

“I have been your doll wife, just as at home I was Daddy’s doll child. And the children in turn have been my dolls. I thought it was fun when you came and played with me, just as they thought it was fun when I went to play with them. That’s been our marriage, Torvald.”

Nevertheless, in ancient civilizations dolls played a magic role, alongside their socializing function. In ancient Greece, dolls were very popular as votive offerings and were found in large numbers near caves of the nymphs. (1) The word “numphe” in ancient Greek, which signified a female divinity on the one hand and a bride on the other, was also sometimes used to refer to dolls. On the one hand, nymphs were perceived as divine beings, who were “sexually desirable, free of familial restrictions,” but they also held patronage over bridal rites and female rites of social transition. Larson explains:

“The ornamentation … of the doll corresponds to the value placed upon conventional measures of female beauty, especially in the contexts of … wedding.” (2)

Ancient Greek terracotta doll

Also Marija Gimbutas mentions the role dolls played during the celebration of the pagan festival of Imbolc, known as Brigid’s Day:

“Her feast on February first, Imbolc, celebrated the first signs of spring and the lactation of the ewes, symbolizing new life. It was the day of purification and homage to the goddess. People poured milk on the ground as an offering and baked special cakes. Girls carried dolls in her image in procession through the town, and each house welcomed the goddess.” (3)

Clarissa Pinkola Estés offers as a very unique and beautiful perspective on the lost symbolic meaning of dolls. She approaches it through the tale of Vasilisa, who received a wooden doll as a gift from a dying mother. The doll proved to be of supernatural help to her as a voice of inner wisdom and intuition. In the absence of her mother, Vasilisa received guidance, comfort and nurturance from the doll.

Vasilisa by Nora Surojegin https://twitter.com/hazytale/status/838834400217411587?lang=fi

Estés writes:

“For centuries humans have felt that dolls emanate both a holiness and mana—an awesome and compelling presence which acts upon persons, changing them spiritually.

The doll is the symbolic homunculi, little life. It is the symbol of what lies buried in humans that is numinous. It is a small and glowing facsimile of the original Self. Superficially, it is just a doll. But inversely, it represents a little piece of soul that carries all the knowledge of the larger soul-Self. In the doll is the voice, in diminutive, of old La Que Sabe, The One Who Knows.” (4)

Although the dolls may symbolize soullessness, the healthy life of the psyche cut short by death or madness or the stifling social expectations towards women; they also stand for the wisdom and numinosity of the inner voice whispering to us from the depth of the heart.

Frida Kahlo, “Me and My Doll”
Mother-and-Child Doll – Native American corn husk doll, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/319221

Notes

(1) Jennifer Larson, Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore, Kindle edition

(2) Ibid.

(3) Marija Gimbutas, The Living Goddesses, ed. by Miriam R. Dexter, University of California Press, 12 Jan 2001, p. 249

(4) Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, Kindle edition

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Reading The Red Book (30)

“I feel the things that were and that will be. Behind the ordinary the eternal abyss yawns. The earth gives me back what it hid.”

Liber Secundus, chapter XVII

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “The Damsel of the Sanct Grael”

Chapter XVII of Liber Secundus, the second part of The Red Book, has the title Nox Quarta (The Fourth Night) and is particularly dense and rich with meaning. It starts with Jung saying:

“I hear the roaring of the morning wind, which comes over the mountains.”

This sentence sets the tone for the entire chapter in that it invokes the Atman – the breath, the eternal soul, and the central task of individuation, which seems to be the integration of the individual soul with the collective psyche. The soul tells Jung:

“Airy passages should be built between all opposed things, light smooth streets should lead from one pole to the other.”

It is a task of individuation to go beyond polarities by breaking down the rigid barriers that the ego erects to divide them. 

In this chapter Jung talks to the Cook and the Librarian again. Like a trickster, Jung throws a wild idea at the librarian, who finds Jung’s words rather bewildering:

“I: ‘’Allow me the indiscrete question: have you ever had an incubation sleep in your kitchen?’

L: ‘No, I’ve never entertained such a strange idea.’

I: ‘Let me say that you’d learn a lot that way about the nature of your kitchen. Good night, Sir!’”

It seems that at that point Jung had stopped caring about pandering to the closed-mindedness of the Librarian and decided to share his truth with him, no matter the reaction. This brings to mind the German saying “über den eigenen Schatten springen,” which literally translated means “to jump over one’s shadow,” that is to go beyond one’s limitations or do something that is out of character (seemingly). It seems that this necessary step on the way to individuation is illustrated by image 115 with its caption – “This is the golden fabric in which the shadow of God lives.” There is something animal-like in this shadow figure. The sun in the background symbolizes the light of the Self, the God within, who for Jung did not exist without its shadow side.

Image 115

Following this the setting changes and Jung finds himself in a theatre. He is watching Wagner’s Parsifal. Wagner’s take on the myth of the Holy Grail is different than the classic version authored by Chrétien de Troyes. Liz Greene saw the story of Parsifal as a classic Leo myth, which incidentally was Jung’s Sun sign. She summarizes the classic story in her book Astrology of Fate. Parsifal lives in a forest with his mother. One day a group of knights pass through and persuade him to join them. At this point Parsifal is “clumsy and boorish;” Liz Greene compares him to an animal. At a crucial point Parsifal’s fate brings him to the suffering Fisher King, the protector of the Holy Grail, as summarized by Greene:

“The king in the story was wounded in the groin or thigh: he cannot procreate, for his manhood is injured. This is a thinly veneered image of castration. A vision then appeared to Parsifal, of a sword, a lance which dripped blood, a maiden bearing a Grail of gold set with precious stones, and another maiden carrying a silver platter. Students of the Tarot will see these four sacred objects as the four suits of cups, swords, wands and pentacles, and students of Jung will recognise the quaternity which symbolises the wholeness of the Self.”

The symbolism of the Holy Grail conveys the ideas of “wholeness, center, vessel and source.” (1) The pre-Christian legends of the Grail saw it as the vessel of the goddess, her “Cauldron of Plenty.” Since medieval times it has symbolized “a gradual process of psychic integration and transfiguration.” (2)

This first encounter with the Fisher King ended up in a failure for Parsifal, for he did not ask the only question he was required to, “Whom does the Grail serve?” (the implied right answer being that it serves the Self and not the ego). What Parsifal lacked at that point in the story was the ability to suffer and to feel compassion. But his return to the Grail Castle after a long quest and a lot of suffering proved fruitful. He finally asked the right question, which resulted in the healing of the King and the land regaining its fertility thanks to the Holy Grail.

Liz Greene explains how Wagner’s version of the Grail’s story differed from the classic:

“In the opera, the Grail King Amfortas received his wound from the evil magician Klingsor, at a moment when the king was rendered vulnerable in the arms of the seductive Kundry, …. Klingsor wanted to be a Grail Knight, but Amfortas refused him; so the magician castrated himself to make himself invulnerable to erotic temptation, and stole the spear from Amfortas in revenge. As a result of the wound and the loss of the spear, the Grail Kingdom lay in waste. Perhaps this gives us some insight into one of Leo’s dilemmas; for in the brightness and nobility of his aspirations he will not permit the lowly shadow, his own flawed humanness, entry. That rejected shadow strikes back from the unconscious through the disintegrating effects of uncontrollable eroticism. Amfortas languishes unmanned in the arms of Kundry; he cannot retain his ‘purity’ of vision, and he is thus a mockery, a soiled king who is no longer fit to guard the Grail and is wounded by his own gnawing guilt.”

 In Psychological Types (CW 6), Jung also wrote about Wagner’s opera and the role of Parsifal, whom he called “nirdvanda, free from the opposites,” the redeemer “who unites the bright, heavenly, feminine symbol of the Grail with the dark, earthly, masculine symbol of the spear.” (par. 371).

Coming back to the scene described in the chapter, Jung suddenly realizes that Klingsor, the villainous magician, closely resembles him. The evil magician symbolizes the shadow side of Leo with their overblown ego. But then Parsifal enters the stage and Jung suddenly also sees himself in the knight, who at some point enters clad in the lion skin of Hercules.

Further in the chapter, Jung continues to tackle the theme of opposites. He asks:

“I presume you would like to have certainty with regard to truth and error?”

Yet, he says, being certain about one end of polarity leads to “resistance against the other.” But the truth is that “one cannot be enough for us since the other is in us.” Polarities are intertwined. The bigger the chasm we try to create between them, the worse the psychological consequences. Growth demands the acceptance of “the Other”. Jung will return to this mystical paradox and the necessity to transcend the either/or thinking in Seven Sermons to the Dead with their pronouncement of Gnostic wisdom.

Another issue Jung expands on at this point is talent. His advice is not to identify yourself with your gift. The essence of a talent is “extrahuman” – therefore it cannot be possessed by the ego – “he is never at the height of his gift but always beneath it.” Furthermore, by accepting the shadow side inherent in each talent, one can bear the gift “without disadvantage” of an inflated ego.

The chapter also contains a wonderful passage that affirms the need of darkness in the psyche:

“It is the most primordial form of creation, the very first dark urge that flows through all secret hiding places and dark passages, with the unintentional lawfulness of water and from unexpected places in the loose soil, swelling from the finest cracks to fructify the dry soil.

This silent, deep part of the psyche calls for salvation and it needs to be awakened, says Jung. He concludes:

“Nothing should separate me from him, the dark one. If I want to leave him, he follows me like my shadow. If I do not think of him, he is still uncannily near. He will turn into fear if I deny him.”

This dark nameless godlike figure, writes Jung, completes Christ.

The chapter is richly illustrated with images that tell their own story. The shadow image 115 described above is followed by image 117. Here we meet Atmaviktu – the breath of life, the creative impulse. He is trying in vain to stop the dragon from swallowing the sun. In Black Book 6 (quoted in the footnotes by Shamdasani) the soul tells Jung that Atmaviktu is “a kobold, a serpent conjuror, a serpent.” From the serpent, Atmaviktu transformed into Philemon, who was a towering figure in Jung’s life and his spiritual guru. More space will be devoted to him in future instalments of the series.

Image 117

In Jung’s garden in Küsnacht there is a sculpture of Atmaviktu depicted as a kobold or a kabir, who symbolized the vital creative impulse for Jung. In Psychology and Religion (CW 11) Jung wrote about the Cabiri (par. 244):

The statue of Atmavictu in Jung’s garden

“The Cabiri are, in fact, the mysterious creative powers, the gnomes who work under the earth, i.e., below the threshold of consciousness, in order to supply us with lucky ideas. As imps and hobgoblins, however, they also play all sorts of nasty tricks, keeping back names and dates that were ‘on the tip of the tongue,’ making us say the wrong thing, etc. They give an eye to everything that has not already been anticipated by the conscious mind and the functions at its disposal.”

Jung carved such a figure also on a stone in Bollingen – a kabir Telesphoros bearing the symbol of Mercury on his vest – with the following inscription:

“AION is a child playing—Wagering on draughts—Kingship of a Child

Telesphoros traverses the dark regions of this Cosmos

A flashing Star from the Depths

Guiding way to the Gates of the Sun and to the Land of Dreams” (4)

The stone in Bollingen
An ancient Greek statue of Telesphorus. He was worshipped as a god who accompanied Asklepios, maybe he was even his son. He was connected with the recovery from an illness, via Wikipedia

In image 119, Atmavictu is shown after killing the dragon. In the previous image (117) the dragon had devoured the sun. Now Atmavictu sets out to retrieve it from the dragon’s belly, but as Jung’s inscription says, the dragon “must not hand over the gold of the sun.” At the same time there are other suns falling from the dragon’s dismembered body. As Drob summarizes,

“We might say that the dragon swallowing the sun symbolizes a stage in the process of individuation in which the conscious ego regresses into the unconscious, remains for a time in its grip, and emerges a fully individuated self after it has been released.” (5)

Image 119

Interestingly, we had already met Atmavictu in The Red Book. He was a figure, who helped Jung to murder the hero Siegfried, the symbol of the overblown ego.

Image 121 is a beautiful mandala with the philosopher’s stone in the centre. Jung’s own note on the image says that the stone “expands into space through four distinct qualities, namely breadth, height, depth, and time. It is hence invisible and you can pass through it without noticing it. The four streams of Aquarius flow from the stone.” Liz Greene comments that

“The astrological reference seems to hint at Jung’s understanding of the possibilities for humanity inherent in the new Aquarian Aion: integration of the individual personality with the Self, for which he came to view the lapis philosophorum of alchemy as a primary symbol.” (6)

Image 121

The striking image 122 is yet another depiction of Atmaviktu. Liz Greene writes:

“This face, staring out at the viewer, floats bodiless against a backdrop of greyish stones, and is surrounded by ancient flint or obsidian knives and the fossils of ammonites and other prehistoric creatures. The colours are those of the earth: grey, rusty brown, ochre, and black. Both the image legend and the goatlike features suggest specific symbolic references to Saturn.” (7)

Image 122

Jung himself describes the image as the “stony residue” of Atmavictu, who has returned to “endless history,” having completed his creation.

Finally, the beautiful image 123 portrays the water-bearer with the stream of water resembling the glyph of Aquarius. (8) The image legend states:

“This is the caster of holy water. The Cabiri grow out of the flowers which spring from the body of the dragon. Above is the temple.“

Image 123

Notes:

(1) The Book of Symbols, Reflections on Archetypal Images, ARAS, edited by Ami Ronnberg p. 786

(2) Ibid.

(3) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 153

(4) Translation found in http://gnosis.org/Hermeneutics-of-Vision.pdf

(5) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 156-157

(6) Liz Greene, The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus: Daimons, Gods and the Planetary Journey, Kindle edition

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ibid.

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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 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

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Carl Jung and the Ways of Hermes

Before I continue my journey through Jung’s Red Book, I would like to draw your attention to an excellent essay by Lance S. Owens, The Hermeneutics of Vision: C.G. Jung and Liber Novus. You can download it here along with other interesting materials available at gnosis.org here.

Below you can find a collection of crucial excerpts from the above-mentioned essay. I hope this will help you to situate The Black Books (published last year) and The Red Book chronologically as well as gain an insight into Jung’s unique hermeneutic method. It all started for Jung on 12 November 1913, when his soul called to him, which resulted in him starting to chronicle his inner experience in a black notebook.

I. “First, there were six sequentially dated journals, known as the “black books,” which he began this night in November of 1913 and continued through the early 1920s. These journals might be best described as his primary and contemporaneous ledger of a voyage of discovery into imaginative and visionary reality, what he termed ‘my most difficult experiment.’ By 1915, as the magnitude of his experience penetrated him, he felt the need for a more formal and elaborate recording of the visions. With great artistic craft—employing antique illuminated calligraphic text and stunning artwork— Jung labored for sixteen years translating the primary record of his experience from the black books into an elegant folio-sized leather-bound volume: this is the famous but long-sequestered Red Book. Jung titled it Liber Novus, ‘The New Book.'”

Meine Seele, meine Seele, wo bist Du? – My soul, my soul, where are you? – Jung’s Black Book Journal entry of 12 November 1913 (via Wikipedia)

II. “The key is immersion and involvement in the mythopoetic imagination:
grasping the independent reality of imaginal voice and vision, and
participating with it. I do not say ‘granting reality’ to the experience—
that would imply the sovereignty of the granting observer. The shattering
fact that Jung knew is that the ego sacrificed all sovereignty in the experience. The demiurge was deposed: daylight consciousness was not the sole creator of the real.”

III. “From the very beginning of his journey in November 1913, Jung struggled with an interpretive task: translating his imaginative encounters—his visions—into words. … Now he needed to give this experience firm form. This was an intensely focused and deeply considered interpretive process.”

IV. “I have mentioned very briefly two aspects of Jung’s approach to the interpretation of his experience —how he worked the stone in his roles as physician and as scientist. But there is another vital and complex issue that must be considered: Jung had received a revelation. …

He faces not only the hermeneutics of a vision, but of himself as hermeneut.”

V. “Behind the word ‘hermeneut’ resided a mythic and symbolic history
of meaning. Jung knew it. Hermes was the interpreter of the words of the
Gods to Men, the mercurial messenger imaged in his planetary aspect: a tiny
celestial luminosity visible only occasionally in twilight hours between
light and dark, on swift journey between the gates of the sun and the land
of human dreams.”

VI. “… [A] mysterious mode of interpretation was mentioned in medieval commentaries. It was called anagoge. Its methods remained perpetually vague in many centuries of commentary. The Greek word itself means to lift up, or elevate. Hermeneutics in the anagogical mode cleaves all other approaches with a vertical axis: it reads mystical meanings. Here the hermeneut directly bridged above and below, thus witnessing the visionary fact veiled by words.
Jung traveled that high way—the vertical axis—the ancient road of
Hermes. Understood symbolically, in image of the hermeneut, he stood as
nexus between inner and outer, hidden and seen, above and below, Gods
and Men.”

VII. “Only those who had traveled the inner world, and been wayfaring men, could clearly recognize these ancient maps for what they were. To explain what he saw, he had to help others take the journey into psychic reality.”

Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, “Mercury Attaching His Wings”

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Symbolism of Amber

Nicola Tesla once said that though we cannot understand the life of crystals, they are nevertheless living beings. When it comes to amber, this precious gem, which is not even a stone per se, seems to vibrate with more life than other gems. Touching it bestows incredible warmth in the hand and warms the heart. Amber cradles the warmth and light of the sun and the vitality of earth’s plant life.

In mythical lore of various cultures, the origin of amber was associated with tears. In Greece, where amber was called “electron” and equated with the beaming sun, it was believed to have originated from the tears of the seven sisters of Phaethon, son of the sun god Helios. In a well known myth, Phaethon, too inexperienced to control the sun chariot of his father, was as a consequence struck down by lightning, and tumbled down to his death. His seven sisters turned into poplars as a result of their grief. Their tears hardened into droplets of amber, which were carried by the river to the sea. In a Lithuanian and Polish myth, the queen Jurate, who lives in an amber palace under the Baltic Sea, falls in love with a fisherman. When her God of the Sea father finds out about this transgression, he smashes the amber palace into a million pieces. Its fragments wash upon the Baltic coast up to this day. In Norse myth, the goddess Freya sheds tears when her husband Odur is away from her. The tears which fall on the earth turn to stones, the ones that fall into the sea turn into amber.

Anne Marie Zimmerman, “Tears of Gold”

There is something human, lifelike, fragile and delicate about amber. But at the same time, precious stone adepts speak of its tremendous “life force” (1) as well as its purifying, healing and balancing properties .

The Polish Black Madonna in a dress made of amber and other precious stones

Amber is an ancient resin from deciduous and coniferous trees – prehistoric poplars and pines – that has fossilised over millions of years.  Resin is oozed by a tree in order to heal its broken branches. It hardens, often trapping insects in a sort of magnificent tombs, preserving them for eternity. This process and the pre-historic origins of amber link it symbolically to “experiences passed down from one’s ancestors” as well as to “past-life explorations.” (2) Amber was also placed in tombs to protect souls in the afterlife.

A prehistoric bee entombed in amber

Because amber is created “by the synthesis of light by plants and trees” (3), and not below the earth’s crust like many other stones and minerals, it carries with itself the triple energetic signature of the Earth, the Sun and the Sea. Though so fragile, amber emits tremendous power of protection. Viking women “used spindles with whorls made of amber to spin protection into garments for their warrior husbands or sons.” (4) To this day we make our children wear amber necklaces not only to ward off evil but also to soothe teething pain. In Chinese medicine, amber is believed to bestow a state of peace and calm as well as provide with energy and vitality.

A Neolithic solar amulet found in Poland

The most precious and ancient amber comes from The Baltic Sea. It is very common and emblematic of the northern part of the land of my ancestors (Poland). Its paradoxical and magical quality of being both so vital and so magically pre-historic has never ceased to amaze me. I think Rilke captured the mystery of amber wonderfully in his poem Black Cat, which ends with these words:

“But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;

and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,

inside the golden amber of her eyeballs

suspended, like a prehistoric fly.”

The colours of Baltic amber

Notes:

(1) Robert Simmons, Naisha Ashian, The Book of Stones: Who They are and What They Teach, 4th Kindle edition, 2021

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

(4) https://www.crystalvaults.com/crystal-encyclopedia/amber

28.57.23 front

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Reading The Red Book (29)

I. “Your sun will rise from muddy swamps.”

II. “The lowest in you is the source of mercy.”

III. “But the lowest in you is also the eye of the evil that stares at you and looks at you coldly and sucks your light down into the dark abyss.”

C.G. Jung, The Red Book, Liber Secundus, Chapter XVI

Alex Grey, “Gaia,” https://www.alexgrey.com/art/paintings/soul/alex_grey_gaia-3

We have reached chapter XVI – “Nox Tertia” (The Third Night) in Liber Secundus. Because Jung has “accepted the chaos,” his soul approaches him. The soul urges Jung to embrace madness because it will allow him to “find paths”:

“Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life.”

Before we delve deeper into the chapter, I would like to share a passage from Sanford L. Drob as a metacommentary:

“So much of The Red Book is propaedeutic to Jung’s later ideas about integrating the shadow that one can almost become impatient with the repetition. We must appreciate, however, that The Red Book is not a finished theoretical treatise, but rather records Jung’s struggle with certain key experiences, intuitions, and ideas that he returns to from a variety of angles in order to more fully comprehend and work them through for himself.” (1)

Jung progresses in spiral motion through the key themes of The Red Book, of which the Shadow is one, and with each repetition our and his understanding of the matter is deeper. To invoke Hamlet and his famous “there is a system behind this madness,” there is indeed a system in The Red Book but it is a living, breathing organic system rather than a linear presentation of ideas. As Jung states in the same chapter:

“Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.

Only my life is the truth, the truth above all. We create the truth by living it.”

The setting of the chapter is still the madhouse as it was in the preceding chapter. Jung is spoken to by a co-patient. What the man tells Jung echoes Jung’s own experiences when he was working in a psychiatric clinic Burghölzli in Zurich. The patient says:

“I was supposed to marry the mother of God long ago. But the professor, that devil, has her in his power. Every evening when the sun goes down he gets her with child. In the morning before sunrise she gives birth to it. Then all the devils come together and kill the child in a gruesome manner. I distinctly hear his cries.”

Jung’s experience with mental patients was a root to his lifetime work with the archetypes and the collective unconscious. He was able to perceive divine patterns emerging out of psychotic states of the patients. The words of the madman quoted above are linked to image 109, which Jung supplied with the following comment: “This man of matter rises up too far in the world of the spirits, but there the spirit of the heart bores through him with a golden ray. He falls with joy and disintegrates. The serpent, who is evil, could not remain in the world of spirits.”

Image 109

The material man rises to the world of the spirit, which is reminiscent of the Neo-Platonist doctrine of the Ascent of the soul (2) to the Realm of Nous (Divine Intellect) and the World of Forms. There a solar ray of wisdom pierces his heart and he falls down in blissful disintegration. Jung is flooded with a sequence of symbolic images (the rising sun, the ram, the crown of thorns, finally the World Tree with its crown in heaven and roots in Hell). But he is fearful and disheartened. This moment resembles his accounts of the time which he described as the “confrontation with the unconscious,” which happened after he parted ways with Freud. He was seized by a flood of fantasies and feared for his sanity. And yet he was saved thanks to being able to perceive meaning in the seeming madness:

“But there was a demonic strength in me, and from the beginning there was no doubt in my mind that I must find the meaning of what I was experiencing in these fantasies.” (3)

In this chapter Jung once again raises the issue of the language, which he defines as “the image of God.” As such the language can be either empty or full, hellish or divine, the smallest or the greatest. With their “daimonic shadows” words can ensnare or pull into the underworld. Though words may form the seas of chaos, they also bring the truth and light. Similarly, “the endless divine” brings both order and disorder and its laws are “unlawful.”

Another important theme of the chapter is the acceptance of the shadow. Jung asks, “Who should accept the lowest in you, if you do not?” Only in this way, by accepting our darkness and depravity, can the Below conjoin with the Above and can wholeness be achieved. Chaos, evil and hell are where the World Tree has its roots. This part is illustrated by image 111 with its legend: “The serpent fell dead unto the earth. And that was the umbilical cord of a new birth.” Jung says that this radical acceptance is not a peaceful process but is rather akin to a crucifixion. It brings torment and a necessity to “hate that which he loves in himself.”

Image 111

Jung once again conveys a similar thought with a metaphor:

“Insofar as I accept the lowest in me-precisely that red glowing sun of the depths-and thus fall victim to the confusion of chaos, the upper shining sun also rises.”

At the same time he warns against denying one’s own evil because without “the dark nourishment of the roots” our tree of life will wither. Yet the knowledge and awareness of good and evil is not devoid of doubt. Even the strongest experience doubt, says Jung. Doubt is a necessary ingredient of the mind that wants to stay free of doctrine. With his affirmation of doubt Jung anticipates our postmodern sensibilities, says Drob. (4)

The final image of the chapter is an image of the divine child – Phanes, the first god according to the Orphics, the one who emerged from the world egg, which had a serpent wrapped around it. Phanes was the shining one but his light was ineffable, hidden, invisible. In of the footnotes to the chapter Shamdasani includes a passage from Jung’s Black Books, in which Phanes is described as “the friend of man, the light emanating from man, the bright glow that man beholds on his path. / He is the greatness of man, his worth, and his force.” The importance of Phanes in Jung’s personal mythology cannot be underestimated.

Image 113
Phanes

Notes:

(1) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 147

(2) http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~bmaclenn/Classes/US310/Plotinus-Ascent.html

(3) C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections; recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe ; translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston, Vintage Books 1963, p. 217

(4) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 148

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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 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

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The Nymphs

I. To Nereids

“O lovely-faced and pure nymphs,
daughters of Nereus, lord of the deep,
at the bottom of the sea
you frolic and dance,
fifty maidens revel in the waves,
maidens riding on the backs of Tritons,
delighting in animal shapes,
bodies nurtured by the sea,
and in the other dwellers
of Triton’s billowy kingdom.
Your home is the water,
you leap and whirl round the waves
like glistening dolphins
roving the roaring seas.”

Apostolos N Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow, The Orphic Hymns (Kindle edition)


Arnold Böcklin, “Triton Carrying a Nereid on His Back”

II. To the Nymphs

“O Nymphs, daughters
of great-hearted Okeanos,
you dwell inside
the earth’s damp caves;

You nurture fruits, you haunt meadows,
O sprightly and pure
travelers of the winding roads,
who delight in caves and grottos.
Swift, light-footed, and clothed in dew,
you frequent springs,
visible and invisible,
in ravines and among flowers
you shout and frisk with Pan
upon mountainsides,
gliding down on rocks,
you hum with clear voice.
O mountain-haunting maidens of the fields,
of gushing springs and of woodlands,
sweet-smelling virgins,
clothed in white, fresh as the breeze,
herds of goats, pastures, splendid fruit,
you protect; wild animals love you.
Though you are tender, cold delights you;
you feed many, you help them grow,
Hamadryad maidens,
playful, water-loving.”

Apostolos N Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow, The Orphic Hymns (Kindle edition)

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, “Circle of Nymphs, Morning”

In her book Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore, Jennifer Larson ponders upon the ambiguity of the word “numphe” in ancient Greek, which signified a female divinity on the one hand and a bride on the other. Nymphs were divine beings, who were “sexually desirable, free of familial restrictions,” but not necessarily young or virgins. A case in point is Penelope, who was referred to as a nymph in The Odyssey.

Although free and independent, nymphs were also nurturing and protective. The nymphs Ida and Adrasteia nurtured the infant Zeus in a cave on Crete. Nymphs were worshipped as Mothers on Crete:

“There was a tradition of Kretan colonization on Sicily, according to which the Kretans, who were stranded on the island after Minos’ abortive expedition to punish king Kokalos, founded a settlement at Engyon in the interior. This they named after the local spring, and they instituted a cult to ‘the Mothers,’ for whom they built a temple. The Mothers, or Meteres, were said to be the very nymphs who had nurtured Zeus in the Kretan cave and were set into the sky as the greater and lesser Bears.” (1)

Arnold Böcklin, “Nymph”

In all ancient Greek genealogies, nymphs played a crucial role as divine and mythical ancestors that went back to the period of the Great Flood. This was “a period of proto-civilization that, while harsh and savage, was also in some sense an idealized golden age.” Nymphs, who were predominantly rural rather than urban, were closely intertwined with the features of the landscape, especially rivers, springs, seas, lakes, marshes as well as meadows, mountains and caves. Consequently, they were linked with “gods who have rural or pastoral associations: Dionysus, Hermes, Pan, and Apollo.” They delighted in the company of herdsmen, who enjoyed their protection together with their flocks. They taught mankind the art of beekeeping, thus bringing the gift of civilization. Nymphs were indeed “teachers of the earliest skills and moral values that distinguished civilized humans from bestial savages.” Plutarch wrote that especially Dionysus, the wildest of the gods, needed a large entourage of nymphs “to tame and train him.” There was also a deep affinity between the nymphs and Centaurs, especially Chiron, who was married to the nymph Chariklo, and who, like the nymphs, dwelled in caves and nurtured young heroes.

Arnold Böcklin, “Nymph in the meadow ground as a representative of prehistoric times”

Nymphs presided over the totality of the landscape with the heavy emphasis on water. The Okeanids were daughters of Okeanos, the primordial river. Nereids were sea nymphs while Naiads presided over fresh water. The Pleiades are also usually considered as nymphs due to their status as primordial mothers. What is more, even “the Muses, Charites, and Horai are groups closely allied to the nymphs, and they fulfill under other names many of the functions otherwise attributed to nymphs (e.g., causing the crops to ripen or producing inspiration).” Nymphs possessed prophetic and healing qualities. Before Apollo took over Delphi, the nymph Daphnis delivered her prophesies there, while Erato, the Arkadian nymph, was known to deliver the prophecies of Pan. The Korykian cave of the nymphs at Delphi was frequented alongside the official Delphic oracle mostly by poor people, who used Astragaloi (“knucklebones”) as a method of divination. Furthermore, nymphs were often cult partners of Apollo’s son, the healer god Asklepius.

Jan Toorop, “Oceanide”

Nymphs had a sensual and sensual aura; they abided in “the fertile, moist parts of the landscape,” which “were associated with female anatomy.” They were associated with abundant vegetation and, as hamadryads and dryads, with trees, of which their favourite were the oak, the plane tree and the black poplar, frequently found by rivers and springs. For the Greeks, mountains were “the meeting place of gods and mortals,” where the rules of urban society did not apply and where Dionysus carried out his ecstatic revels. Mountain caves were cult areas especially dedicated to the nymphs. As a matter of fact, any scenic spot with “abundant water, shade, and vegetation” was blessed by the nymphs and imbued with their presence. Such a place was referred to as “locus amoenus” (a pleasant spot) and was believed to endow a visitor with inspiration. In this context the word “numpholeptos” was used, meaning “seized by the nymphs.” It denoted “a heightening of awareness and elevated verbal skills.”

John Flaxman, “The Rise of the Pleiades, the Time to Harvest” via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Pleiades_(mythology)#/media/File:Flaxman’s_Zeichnungen_1910_017.jpg
John Flaxmann, “The Descent of the Pleiades, the Time of Sowing,” via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Pleiades_(mythology)#/media/File:Flaxman’s_Zeichnungen_1910_018.jpg
Maia, one of the Pleiades featured on an ancient coin from Pheneos; her son Hermes on the right ; Maia lived in a mountain cave, where she gave birth to Hermes

The key role of the Nymphs as custodians of the motherland is beautifully featured in Homer’s Odyssey. There the nymphs “are the island itself,” which Odysseus craves to regain after his protracted meanderings through the seas. He prays at a fountain, surrounded by poplars, where all his ancestors and townspeople had been drawing water and leaving offerings at the altar dedicated to the nymphs. This is a moment of Odysseus’s homecoming (Greek nostos). But before he can truly announce his return and claim what is his own, he spends some time in the Cave of the Nymphs. In his famous essay the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry described the cave as a dark, stony and humid symbol of the sensible world. In their misty and watery cave, the Naiades (sweet water nymphs) are weaving and clothing the souls in bodily energies. Here souls are descending into generation since the moisture is the agent that brings the embodiment of souls.

William Blake, The Sea of Time and Space (Vision of the Circle of the Life of Man)

Another famous Nymph and a cave dweller from The Odyssey is undoubtedly Calypso. She keeps Odysseus concealed in her primordial cave in Ogygia. It is there that the hero gets in touch with the deepest recesses of his soul, enveloped by Calypso’s (the Concealer) fertile feminine darkness. But he refuses the gift of immortality offered to him by this mistress of Life and Death. Gregory Nagy wrote this of Calypso:

“Calypso is keeping Odysseus concealed in her cave. The feelings of attraction associated with the beautiful nymph Calypso are matched by feelings of repulsion evoked by her terrifying name … derived from the verb kaluptein, ‘conceal’: this verb is traditionally used in ritual formulas of burial, and it conveys the idea of consigning the dead to concealment in the realm of darkness and death…” (2)

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, “Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld” – Eurydice was a nymph, daughter of Apollo

An encounter with a nymph did not always end well for a mortal. Larson says:

“The nymph’s supernatural power balances or overwhelms the assumed superiority of the male, so that her desires are often central to the narrative.

All the accounts of goddess-mortal unions I have so far discussed have at their root the same male fear of placing oneself at the mercy of a more powerful female (with, perhaps, an attendant unconscious attraction to this idea). The reversal of expected gender roles creates a powerful anxiety that is completely absent when gods have their way with mortal maidens.”

For women, on the other hand, the nymph stands for “a fantasy of total female independence,” “sexual pleasure without the restricting aspects of marriage and, …, without the duties of caring for children.”

Salvador Dali, “Nymphs in a Romantic Garden”

Also for the gods such as Pan or Apollo nymphs proved to be elusive. The nymph Syrinx was pursued by Pan and managed to flee by turning into marsh reeds. When Pan sighed with dismay upon the reeds, they produces a plaintive sound, which gave him the idea of fashioning the first panpipes. Thus the pursuit of the nymph led to artistic creation. Similarly, Daphne, who was pursued by Apollo, turned into a laurel leaf, which became a cultural symbol for poets and musicians. In both myths carnal desires were sublimated into artwork. Interestingly, Hermes seemed to have had more luck with the nymphs, who as a rule did not flee from him. His mercurial nature seems to have better suited their desire for freedom.

Hermes with the Nymphs, Lainate, Villa Litta Atrium of the four winds

Though themselves untamed, nymphs presided over the rituals of marriage, fertility and childbirth. In this role they were strongly associated with Hera, the goddess of marriage. Larson quotes another scholar, who argues that in earlier times Hera had been “a powerful nature goddess” and “mistress of animals,” who underwent a process of acculturation. While nymphs were usually depicted as nudes, Hera’s images were predominantly clothed. Yet every year Hera retreated to a sacred spring at Nauplia, where she bathed, thus retrieving her maidenhood and her essential nymph nature.

John Reinhard Weguelin, “Rodantha”

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Notes:

(1) Jennifer Larson, Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore, Kindle edition (all the subsequent quotes, unless otherwise indicated, come from this book)

(2) Gregory Nagy, The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, Kindle edition

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