I turn now to one last aspect of the snake, actually already contained in the preceding one: the snake as a time symbol.
It is the snake that is Chronos, Greek for time.
It is the ring of coming into being, the (one and all).
“All cults and mysteries serve it. As Oceanos or Jordan it is the humid substance, and nothing in the world—immortal or mortal—can exist without it. Everything is subject
to it, and it itself is good, and, just as in the horn of the one0horned bull (Moses), it embraces the beauty of all other things . . .like the river rising in Eden and dividing itself into four origins.”
Simon Magus, however, says: “And it is always one and the same, that which is living in us, that which lives and is dead, and which is awake and asleep, and is young and old. When it changes, the latter is the former, and again the former, when it changes, is the latter.”
Meister Eckhart calls this “the river flown into itself.”
Christ was also interpreted in this sense as the great ecclesiastical year; he was the Zodiacal snake, whose pictures represent the twelve apostles.
The Indian god of creation Prajapati, too, is the world year.
The idea that the snake represents time, the coming into being, and the durée créatrice is probably connected with the fact that it sheds its skin.
Many fairy tales of the primitives interpret this as a reincarnation, and infer the snake’s immortality from this.
We have also heard that Philo regarded it as immortal.
So that is probably also the reason why it is in possession of the herb of immortality.
In Mithraism one has also found the figure of a god with a lion head, on whom a snake winds upward, laying its head upon his.
He is the god Aion or Zervan, the god of eternal duration.
Similarly, in Kundalini yoga the snake, climbing up the spine and touching the various chakras in a temporal development, stands for the vital force by which man is simultaneously put into the course of time.
It stands for nature in contrast to the spirit, yet at the same time it is the principle leading to the lapis, to perfection beyond nature.
It is quite impossible to bring some order into the whole wealth of this material, and still harder to interpret the meaning and the real essence of the snake as a symbol.
When I stressed three main aspects—the snake as earth demon, as savior, and as time symbol—this was just an attempt to organize the many aspects.
When the snake appears in a dream, you basically have to take into account all three aspects.
I now come back to the dream to evaluate the remaining details of the description.
The snake appears to the girl either in the forest, or it chases her as far as into her bedroom.
The encounter in the woods is, so to speak, the more natural place, because the forest stands for the dark, unconscious side, where one meets one’s animals and projections.
Initially it looks as if the dreamer came to meet the snake.
But then the situation is reversed; the snake chases the dreamer as far as into her bedroom.
There exists an intense attraction between the snake and the child; the snake becomes active and the child thinks it wants to bite her.
It haunts her with glowing eyes, sparkling like diamonds.
The snake is famed for its gaze, by which it hypnotizes its victims, to devour them afterward; one also says of certain women, the “vamp” type who exerts a kind of terrifying attraction, that they would have that snakelike gaze.
Its eyes sparkling like diamonds could be an indication that the snake does after all possess the diamond, the lapis, carrying it in its head, whereby it would not only have the pure, negative instinctual characteristic, but also, as seems to be indicated, the possibility of higher consciousness.
The glowing eyes are easy to explain. As has often been said, the snake is connected with the secret fire; it carries within itself the punctum igneitatis of self-destruction; it
is also in connection with the fiery lion.
Mercury is the kyllenian fire, and many dragons in mythology are fire-spitting monsters; all of this has to do with the fact that it dwells in the depths of the earth, psychologically speaking, that it has to do with the sphere of emotional outbreaks, with the drives.
By the way, the motif of the snake’s eyes is sometimes accentuated in other contexts, too.
You may remember the vision of St. Ignatius, from the lecture at the beginning of this summer, to whom a snake with many eyes appeared after rigorous ascetic exercises.
He says that a certain something appeared to him, beautiful and great, greatly comforting him.
Sometimes it would have been a snake full of sparkling eyes, although it was not eyes.
Later he interprets this as a vision of the devil, and wards it off.
Argus, too, is such a dragon figure with innumerable eyes.
This multiplicity of eyes may be connected with the multiplicity of subliminal perceptions: man is, so to speak, more clear-sighted in the unconscious than in the conscious, and, above all, sees into many more directions simultaneously.
Hence the snake’s power of prediction, also bestowing the gift to understand birds’ voices.
The last remaining statement of the dream says: “the snake that wants to bite me.”
It is questionable if this is so objectively.
In any case the child supposes this, because she is frightened.
Because she flees the snake, the latter chases her, for it just wants to get near her.
Obviously, it wants to unite with her in one form or another, and chases her as far as into her bedroom, that is, into her most intimate living space.
The girl rejects it, however, being frightened by its instinctual, negative, demonic aspect.
Incidentally, in many Asian fairy tales we find the motif that girls transform themselves into snakes at night, or, conversely, that snakes walk as girls, or one sees how at night snakes glide into a girl’s mouth.
This is interpreted as possession by a demon.
So we might assume that the dreamer has a conscious attitude that cannot accept this power the snake stands for, a so-called Christian attitude, which, of course, can only be the result of the milieu; or else a too orderly, well-behaved, rational scope of consciousness, which naturally provokes, attracts, and at the same time rejects the snake as its counterpart.
The girl being young, the snake might well rather stand for temptations of a worldly nature, that is, for life and “the lord of this world,” whom the snake after all represents.
If she cannot accept it, the snake will probably poison her and create a flood, that is, an inundation of her consciousness with unconscious images.
For the rest, it can be said of the problem that the child faces a rather common situation, which makes a solution more likely.
Professor Jung: In her exhaustive paper, Ms. von Franz has very beautifully pointed out the three main aspects of the snake symbol: the aspects of the chthonic snake, the soter, and the time snake.
You can now picture how ambiguous this symbol is, and how manifold its manifestations are.
The snake touches on the deepest instincts of man, so that from time immemorial one thought it to be in possession of great secrets. Let us now deal with our dream in detail. ~Carl Jung, Children’s Dream Seminar, Pages 248-251.