[Carl Jung and the Symbolism of the Living Body]

Now, what the living body represents is a great problem.

Of course the historical symbolism, as far as we know it, refers to the animal.

The life of the body is animal life.

There is no difference in principle between the physiology of the monkey and our own physiology; we have the physiology of an animal with warm blood.

Another analogy is with the plant and so with the tree.

Therefore the cross of Christ is also called the tree; Christ was crucified upon the tree.

And an old legend says that the wood for the cross was taken from the tree of paradise which was cut down and made into the two pillars, Aachim and Boas, in front of Solomon’s temple.

Then these were thrown away, and discovered again, and made into the cross. So Christ was sacrificed on the original tree of life, and in the transitus he carried it.

The plant or the tree always refers to a non-animal growth or development and this would be spiritual development.

The life of the body is animal life: it is instinctive, contains warm blood, and is able to move about.

Then within the body is spiritual or mental development, and that is always expressed as the growth of a flower or a miraculous plant or an extraordinary tree, like the tree that grows from above, the roots in heaven and the branches down toward the earth.

That is Western as well as Eastern symbolism.

The famous tree of Yoga grows from above, and Ruysbroek, the Flemish mystic, uses the same symbol for the spiritual development within the Christian mysticism.

So in the one case the body or the corpse would mean the animal-we have to carry the sacrificed animal-and another aspect is that we have to carry our spiritual development which is also a part of nature, which has to do with nature just as much.

Then there is a further point to consider. Occasionally in my experience with patients-not only in that legend of Vikram-it is less a matter of a corpse than of the dead thing generally, a sort of preoccupation with the dead.

This hangs together with the fact that the body is a sort of conglomeration of ancestral units called Mendelian units.

Your face, for instance, obviously consists of certain units inherited from your family; your nose comes from an ancestor in the 18th century, and your eyes are perhaps from a relative in the 17th century.

The characteristic protruding lower lip of the Spanish Habsburgs dates from the time of Maximilian; that is a Mendelian unit which occasionally appears in a very pronounced way in certain individuals.

There is also an insane streak in the Spanish Habsburgs, which appeared in the 15th century and then disappeared, and then, according to the Mendelian law, it appeared again after two hundred years.

Then there is an English family named Whitelock, which is characterized by the fact that most of the members, particularly the male members, have a tuft of white hair in the center of the skull; therefore they are called Whitelock. That is again a unit of a particular tenacity.

So our whole body consists of inherited units from our father’s or mother’s side, from our particular clan or tribe for centuries past.

Now, each unit has also a psychical aspect, because the psyche represents the life or the living essence of the body.

So the psyche of man contains all these units too in a way, a psychological representation; a certain trait of character is peculiar to the grandfather, another one to a great-great-grandfather, and so on. Just as much as the body derives from the ancestors, the psyche derives from them.

It is like a sort-of puzzle, somewhat disjointed, not properly welded together to begin with, and then the mental development of the character, the development of the personality, consists in putting the puzzle together.

The puzzle is represented in dreams sometimes by the motif of a swarm of small particles, little animals or flies or small fishes or particles of minerals, and those disjointed and disparate elements have to be brought together again by means of a peculiar process.

This is the main theme of alchemy.

It begins with the idea of totality, which is depicted as a circle.

This is called “chaos,” or the massa confusa, and it consists of all sorts of elements, an archaic collection, but all in one mass.

The task of the alchemist begins there.

These particles are to be arranged by means of the squaring of the circle.

The symbolic idea is to arrange the particles in a sort of crystal-like axis, which is called the quaternity, or the quaternion, or the quadrangulum, the four, and to each point a particular quality is given.

That is what we would call the differentiation of the psychological functions.

You see, it is a fact that certain people start with an intuitive gift, for instance, which will become their main function, the function by means of which they adapt.

A man who is born with a good brain will naturally use his intelligence to adapt; he will not use his feelings which are not then developed.

And a man who is very musical will surely use his musical gift in making his career and not his philosophical faculty, which is practically non-existent.

So one will use his feeling, another one his sense of reality, and so on, and each time there will be a one-sided product.

The study of these one-sided human products led me to the idea of the four functions, and nowadays we think that we should have not only one differentiated function but should take into consideration that there are others, and that a real adaptation to the world needs four functions-or at least more than one.

And this is something like the ideas of those old alchemists who wanted to produce out of chaos a symmetrical arrangement of the quaternity.

The four quarters of the circle indicate the fire, the air, the water, and the earth regions, and when they are arranged they will make in the center the quinta essentia, the fifth essence; the four essences are in the corners and in the center is the fifth.

That is the famous concept of the quinta essentia, a new unit which is also called the rotundum, the roundness, or the round complete thing.

It is again that circle of the beginning but this circle has now the anima mundi, the soul of the world, which was hidden in chaos.

At first all the elements were completely mixed in that round chaos, and the center was hidden; then the alchemist disentangles these elements and arranges them in a regular figure, like a crystal.

That is the idea of the philosopher’s stone in which the original round thing appears again, and this time it is the spiritual body, the ethereal thing, the anima mundi, the redeemed microcosmos.

The motif of the swarm of little fishes or other little objects is also found in alchemy, representing the disjointed elements.

And it is often in children’s dreams: I have dealt with such a case in one of my dream seminars at the E.T.H., a child who died unexpectedly about a year after she had produced a series of the most extraordinary dreams, practically all containing the swarm motif.

There was a cosmological dream where it was clearly visible how the swarm comes into existence, or how it is synthesized, and how it is dissolved into the swarm.

The Mendelian units join together physiologically as well as psychically and then disintegrate again.

That anticipated her death: her psyche was loosely connected, and when something adverse happened it dissolved into these units.

Now, each of those particles is a Mendelian unit inasmuch as it is living; for instance, your nose is living.

You live inasmuch as these Mendelian units are living.

They have souls, are endowed with psychic life, the psychic life of that ancestor; or you can call it part of an ancestral soul.

So inasmuch as you are like your nose, or can concentrate upon your nose, you become at once identical with the grandfather who had your nose.

If your brain happens to be exactly like that of the great-grandfather, you are identical with him, and nothing can help you there-you have to function as if you were entirely possessed by him.

It is difficult, or quite impossible, to indicate the size of Mendelian units; some are bigger, some are smaller, and so you have either large areas or small areas of ancestral souls included within you.

At all events, you are a collection of ancestral spirits, and the psychological problem is how to find yourself in that crowd.

Somewhere you are also a spirit-somewhere you have the secret of your particular pattern.

Now, that is in this circle of chaos but you don’t know where, and then you have to go through that whole procedure of the squaring of the circle in order to find out the quinta essentia which is the self.

The alchemists said it was of a celestial blue color because it was heaven, and since it was round, globular, they called it “heaven in ourselves.”

That is their idea of the self.

As we are contained in the heaven, so we are contained in the self, and the self is the quinta essentia.

Now, when someone is threatened with dissolution, it is just as if these particles could not be united, as if the ancestral souls would not come together. I am telling you all this in order to explain that other aspect of the dead: it is not only the dead body, but the spirits of the dead.

So if a primitive wants to become a medicine man, a superior man, he must be able to talk to the dead, must be able to reconcile them.

For the dead are the makers of illnesses, causing all the trouble to the tribe; and then the medicine man is called upon because he is supposed to be able to talk to the ancestral spirits and make a compromise with them, to lay them or to integrate them properly.

That is necessary for everybody in order to develop mentally and spiritually.

He has to collect these spirits and make them into a whole, integrate them; and that difficult task, the integration process, is called the carrying of the corpse of the
ancestors, or the burden of the ancestors. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 1398-1402.