Aion: a lion-headed, snake-encircled Mithraic God-image of time (also called Kronos or Deus Leontocephalus) who for Jung represented death/rebirth and a psychological union of opposites like light and darkness, male and female, creation and destruction.
“Eon,” a long length of time, also meant for Jung the two-thousand-year Christian eon, which coincided with its astrological sign, Pisces, in which one fish represents Christ and the other its future opposite, the Antichrist.
Below all this works the archetype of the hostile brothers; too, the astrological characteristics of the fish contain essential components of the Christian myth: the cross, the moral conflict and its splitting into two figures, the son of a virgin, the classical mother-son tragedy, the danger at birth, and the savior.
For the alchemist, the fish also symbolized the Lapis; for Jung, unconscious wholeness.
Two thousand years ago, the late Roman Empire saw a roar of libido emanating from the collective unconscious, an outpouring we can no longer imagine thanks to the psychological barriers erected by centuries of Christianity.
The Roman gods were dying, foreshadowing Nietzsche and our era.
Christian ritual and dogma contained and channeled the animal ancestral forces splashing across Europe and symbolized by the Colosseum, thereby exalting the individual, providing a new ethic, forging a new sense of community, giving people for whom the old religions and myths no longer worked a sense of purpose, and splitting spirit and nature so each could develop independently.
The result: modern civilization, standing on the ruins of Rome.
Starting with the Reformation (which was helped along by an interest in antiquity inspired by the fall of the Byzantine Empire under Islam’s onslaught and by the resulting spread of Greek language and literature through Europe) that broke the church’s authority, eroded ritual, and splintered Christianity, religious and traditional containers for the instinctual-archetypal forces began to lose their meaning. “The bridge from dogma to the inner experience of the individual has broken down” (Aion)
The Reformation coincided with the point where the ecliptic intersects the meridian at the second fish’s tail.
The enantiodromia (conversion into an opposite) from Christ to Antichrist falls midway between the two fishes, which was around the Renaissance.
At that time Post-Reformation Christianity gave the bipolar Self expression (the Incarnation of God in us) but compensated for the Gothic overemphasis on spirit by further dividing spirit from instinct and matter, faith from knowledge.
1750: Enlightenment – tail of second fish – reason replaces faith.
Alchemy and astrology arose by way of further compensation and set the stage for scientific materialism, which could now oppose and control nature by reeling in our identification with/projections onto it.
The result of all this: the vertical development of spirituality gave way to the horizontal development of materialism.
Jung speculated that the polarity of the God-image was behind the Reformation and the split of modern society into two armed camps.
Compensating for this: psychology, a symbol system potentially useful for containing and channeling the instinctual-archetypal forces and reuniting the God-image.
Around and because of the French Revolution: an explosion of nonpersonal stuff piled up since the Enlightenment. The pagan in us got much stronger. The decay of traditional symbol systems increased.
Ideally, the autonomous activity of the unconscious is zero; today it’s higher than ever before.
The freed surplus of libido also has caused inflation (because attributing things to the gods at least jibed with their nonego status and because an archetype that loses its container becomes identified with the conscious mind) and activated various isms, utopian fantasies, psychic infections, and a longing for herdism and the State (as opposed to the earlier traditions and heirarchical orders).
Too, collective ideals compensate the rise of individuality that began with the Reformation.
Meanwhile the rise of exogamous libidinal tendencies (stranger-love) prompted a counterreaction of endogamous (relative-love) libido that powers religions, sects, nations, and isms.
Ultimately, however, only individuation can fuse the two tendencies and prevent the endogamous reaction from growing dangerously powerful. See cross-cousin marriage.
“A civilization does not decay, it regenerates.” (Civilization in Transition)