[[Carl Jung on Saint Peter, Gnostics, Opposites]

In this connection mention should be made of Peter’s valedictory words, which he spoke during his martyrdom (he was crucified upside down, at his own request):

“O name of the cross, hidden mystery! O grace ineffable that is pronounced in the name of the cross! O nature of man, that cannot be separated from God! O love unspeakable and indivisible, that cannot be shown forth by unclean lips! I grasp thee now, I that am at the end of my earthly course. I will declare thee as thou art, I will not keep silent the mystery of the cross which was once shut and hidden from my soul.

You that hope in Christ, let not the cross be for you that which appears; for it is another thing, and different from that which appears, this suffering which is in accordance with Christ’s. And now above all, because you that can hear are able to
hear it of me, who am at the last and farewell hour of my life, hearken: separate your souls from everything that is of the senses, from everything that appears to be but in truth is not. Lock your eyes, close your ears, shun those happenings which are seen!

Then you shall perceive that which was done to Christ, and the whole mystery of your salvation. . . . Learn the mystery of all nature and the beginning of all things, as it was. For the first man, of whose race I bear the likeness, fell head downwards, and showed forth a manner of birth such as had not existed till then, for it was dead, having no motion. And being pulled downwards, and having also cast his origin upon the earth, he established the whole disposition of things; for, being hanged up in the manner appointed, he showed forth the things of the right as those of the left, and the things of the left as those of the right, and changed about all the marks of their nature, so that things that were not fair were perceived to be fair, and those that were in truth evil were perceived to be good.

Wherefore the Lord says in a mystery: “Except ye make the things of the right as those of the left, and those of the left as those of the right, and those that are above as those below, and those that are behind as those that are before, ye shall not have knowledge of the kingdom. This understanding have I brought you, and the figure in which you now see me hanging is the representation of that first man who came to birth.”

In this passage, too, the symbolical interpretation of the cross is coupled with the problem of opposites, first in the unusual idea that the creation of the first man caused everything to be turned upside down, and then in the attempt to unite the opposites by identifying them with one another.

A further point of significance is that Peter, crucified head downwards, is identical not only with the first created man, but with the cross:

For what else is Christ but the word, the sound of God? So the word is this upright beam on which I am crucified; and the sound is the beam which crosses it, the nature of man; but the nail which holds the center of the crossbeam to the upright is man’s conversion and repentance.

In the light of these passages it can hardly be said that the author of the Acts of John presumably a Gnostic has drawn the necessary conclusions from his premises or that their full implications have become clear to him. On the contrary, one gets the impression that the light has swallowed up everything dark. Just as the enlightening vision appears high above the actual scene of crucifixion, so, for John, the enlightened one stands high above the formless multitude.

The text says: “Therefore care not for the many, and despise those that are outside the mystery!”

This overweening attitude arises from an inflation caused by the fact that the enlightened John has identified with his own light and confused his ego with the self. Therefore he feels superior to the darkness in him. He forgets that light only has a meaning when it illuminates something dark and that his enlightenment is no good to him unless it helps him to recognize his own darkness. If the powers of the left are as real as those of the right, then their union can only produce a third
thing that shares the nature of both.

Opposites unite in a new energy potential: the “third” that arises out of their union is a figure “free from the opposites,” beyond all moral categories.

This conclusion would have been too advanced for the Gnostics. Recognizing the danger of Gnostic irrealism, the Church, more practical in these matters, has always insisted on the concretism of the historical events despite the fact that the original New Testament texts predict the ultimate deification of man in a manner strangely reminiscent of the words of the serpent in the Garden of Eden: “Ye shall be as gods.”

Nevertheless, there was some justification for postponing the elevation of man’s status until after death, as this avoided the danger of Gnostic inflation.

Had the Gnostic not identified with the self, he would have been bound to see how much darkness was in him a realization that comes more naturally to modern man but causes him no less difficulties. Indeed, he is far more likely to assume that he himself is wholly of the devil than to believe that God could ever indulge in paradoxical statements.

For all the ill consequences of his fatal inflation, the Gnostic did, however, gain an insight into religion, or into the psychology of religion, from which we can still learn a thing or two today. He looked deep into the background of Christianity and hence into its future developments. This he could do because his intimate connection with pagan Gnosis made him a “receptor” that helped to integrate the Christian message into the spirit of the times. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Pages 285 – 287, Paragraphs 436-439.

Image: Caravaggio’s depiction of the crucifixion of Apostle Peter upside down.]

In this connection mention should be made of Peter’s valedictory words, which he spoke during his martyrdom (he was crucified upside down, at his own request):

“O name of the cross, hidden mystery! O grace ineffable that is pronounced in the name of the cross! O nature of man, that cannot be separated from God! O love unspeakable and indivisible, that cannot be shown forth by unclean lips! I grasp thee now, I that am at the end of my earthly course. I will declare thee as thou art, I will not keep silent the mystery of the cross which was once shut and hidden from my soul.

You that hope in Christ, let not the cross be for you that which appears; for it is another thing, and different from that which appears, this suffering which is in accordance with Christ’s. And now above all, because you that can hear are able to
hear it of me, who am at the last and farewell hour of my life, hearken: separate your souls from everything that is of the senses, from everything that appears to be but in truth is not. Lock your eyes, close your ears, shun those happenings which are seen!

Then you shall perceive that which was done to Christ, and the whole mystery of your salvation. . . . Learn the mystery of all nature and the beginning of all things, as it was. For the first man, of whose race I bear the likeness, fell head downwards, and showed forth a manner of birth such as had not existed till then, for it was dead, having no motion. And being pulled downwards, and having also cast his origin upon the earth, he established the whole disposition of things; for, being hanged up in the manner appointed, he showed forth the things of the right as those of the left, and the things of the left as those of the right, and changed about all the marks of their nature, so that things that were not fair were perceived to be fair, and those that were in truth evil were perceived to be good.

Wherefore the Lord says in a mystery: “Except ye make the things of the right as those of the left, and those of the left as those of the right, and those that are above as those below, and those that are behind as those that are before, ye shall not have knowledge of the kingdom. This understanding have I brought you, and the figure in which you now see me hanging is the representation of that first man who came to birth.”

In this passage, too, the symbolical interpretation of the cross is coupled with the problem of opposites, first in the unusual idea that the creation of the first man caused everything to be turned upside down, and then in the attempt to unite the opposites by identifying them with one another.

A further point of significance is that Peter, crucified head downwards, is identical not only with the first created man, but with the cross:

For what else is Christ but the word, the sound of God? So the word is this upright beam on which I am crucified; and the sound is the beam which crosses it, the nature of man; but the nail which holds the center of the crossbeam to the upright is man’s conversion and repentance.

In the light of these passages it can hardly be said that the author of the Acts of John presumably a Gnostic has drawn the necessary conclusions from his premises or that their full implications have become clear to him. On the contrary, one gets the impression that the light has swallowed up everything dark. Just as the enlightening vision appears high above the actual scene of crucifixion, so, for John, the enlightened one stands high above the formless multitude.

The text says: “Therefore care not for the many, and despise those that are outside the mystery!”

This overweening attitude arises from an inflation caused by the fact that the enlightened John has identified with his own light and confused his ego with the self. Therefore he feels superior to the darkness in him. He forgets that light only has a meaning when it illuminates something dark and that his enlightenment is no good to him unless it helps him to recognize his own darkness. If the powers of the left are as real as those of the right, then their union can only produce a third
thing that shares the nature of both.

Opposites unite in a new energy potential: the “third” that arises out of their union is a figure “free from the opposites,” beyond all moral categories.

This conclusion would have been too advanced for the Gnostics. Recognizing the danger of Gnostic irrealism, the Church, more practical in these matters, has always insisted on the concretism of the historical events despite the fact that the original New Testament texts predict the ultimate deification of man in a manner strangely reminiscent of the words of the serpent in the Garden of Eden: “Ye shall be as gods.”

Nevertheless, there was some justification for postponing the elevation of man’s status until after death, as this avoided the danger of Gnostic inflation.

Had the Gnostic not identified with the self, he would have been bound to see how much darkness was in him a realization that comes more naturally to modern man but causes him no less difficulties. Indeed, he is far more likely to assume that he himself is wholly of the devil than to believe that God could ever indulge in paradoxical statements.

For all the ill consequences of his fatal inflation, the Gnostic did, however, gain an insight into religion, or into the psychology of religion, from which we can still learn a thing or two today. He looked deep into the background of Christianity and hence into its future developments. This he could do because his intimate connection with pagan Gnosis made him a “receptor” that helped to integrate the Christian message into the spirit of the times. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Pages 285 – 287, Paragraphs 436-439.

Image: Caravaggio’s depiction of the crucifixion of Apostle Peter upside down.

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