Psychology and Religion (The Terry Lectures Series)

[Carl Jung on the Anima Mundi]

“God is an intellectual figure whose center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere,” as one of these philosophers said, repeating St. Augustine.

A man as introverted and introspective as Emerson could hardly fail to touch on the same idea and likewise quote St. Augustine.

The image of the circle regarded as the most perfect form since Plato’s Timaeus, the prime authority for Hermetic philosophy was assigned to the most perfect substance, to the gold, also to the anima mundi or anima media natum, and to the first created light.

And because the macrocosm, the Great World, was made by the creator “in a form round and globose,” the smallest part of the whole, the point, also possesses this perfect nature.

As the philosopher says : “Of all shapes the simplest and most perfect is the sphere, which rests in a point.”

It’s image of the Deity dormant and matter. As is said in the Timaeus, only the demiurge, the perfect being, is capable of dissolving the tetraktys, the embrace of the four elements.

One of the great authorities since the thirteenth century, the Turba philosophorum,, says that the rotundum can dissolve copper into four.

Thus the much-sought-for aurum philosophicum was round.

Opinions were divided as to the procedure for procuring the dormant demiurge.

Some hoped to lay hold of him in the form of a prima materia containing a particular concentration or a particularly suitable variety of this substance.

Others endeavored to produce the round substance by a sort of synthesis, called the coniunctio; the anonymous author of the Rosarium philosophorum says:

“Make a round circle of man and woman, extract therefrom a quadrangle and from it a triangle. Make the circle round, and you will have the Philosophers’ Stone.” ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 92.

It is of course difficult to understand why a feeling of “most sublime harmony” should be produced by this abstract structure.

But if we think of the two circles in Plato’s Timaeus, and of the harmonious all-roundness of his anima mundi,, we might find an avenue to understanding. Again, the term “world clock” suggests the antique conception of the musical harmony of the spheres. It would thus be a sort of cosmological system.

If it were a vision of the firmament and its silent rotation, or of the steady movement of the solar system, we could readily understand and appreciate the perfect harmony of the picture.

We might also assume that the platonic vision of the cosmos was faintly glimmering through the mist of a dreamlike consciousness.

But there is something in the vision that does not quite accord with the harmonious perfection of the platonic picture.

The two circles are each of a different nature. Not only is their movement different, but their color too.

The vertical circle is blue and the horizontal one containing four colors is golden.

The blue circle might easily symbolize the blue hemisphere of the sky, while the horizontal circle would represent the horizon with its four cardinal points, personified by the four little men and characterized by the four colors. (In a former dream, the four points were represented once by four children and another time by the four seasons.)

This picture immediately calls to mind the medieval representations of the world in the form of a circle or in the shape of the rex gloriae with the four evangelists, or the melothesia where the horizon is formed by the zodiac.

The representation of the triumphant Christ seems to be derived from similar pictures of Horus and his four sons.

There are also Eastern analogies:

the Buddhist mandalas or circles, usually of Tibetan origin. These consist as a rule of a circular padma or lotus which contains a square sacred building with four gates, indicating the four cardinal points and the seasons.

The center contains a Buddha, or more often the conjunction of Shiva and his Shakti, or an equivalent dorje (thunderbolt) symbol.

They are yantras or ritualistic instruments for the purpose of contemplation, concentration, and the final transformation of the yogi’s consciousness into the divine all-consciousness. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 113.

The arcane substance was also known simply as the rotundum, by which was understood the anima media natura, identical with the anima mundi.

The latter is a virtus Dei, an organ or a sphere that surrounds God. Of this Mylius says: “[God has] love all round him.

Others have declared him to be an intellectual and fiery spirit, having no form, but transforming himself into whatsoever he wills and making himself equal to all things; who by a manifold relation is in a certain measure bound up with his creatures.”

This image of God enveloped by the anima is the same as Gregory the Great’s allegory of Christ and the Church: “A woman shall compass a man” (Jeremiah 31: 22).

This is an exact parallel to the Tantric conception of Shiva in the embrace of his Shakti.

From this fundamental image of the male-female opposites united in the center is derived another designation of the lapis as the ”hermaphrodite”; it is also the basis for the mandala motif.

The extension of God as the anima media natura into every individual creature means that there is a divine spark, the scintilla, indwelling even in dead matter, in utter darkness.

The medieval natural philosophers endeavored to make this spark rise up again as a divine image from the “round vessel.”

Such ideas can only be based on the existence of unconscious psychic processes, for otherwise we simply could not understand how the same ideas crop up everywhere.

Our dream-example shows that such images are not inventions o the intellect; rather, they are natural revelations.

And they will probably be found again and again in exactly the same way.

The alchemists themselves say that the Arcanum is sometimes revealed in a dream. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 152.

The later views seem to cluster round the following central idea:

The anima mundi, the demiurge or divine spirit that incubated the chaotic waters of the beginning, remained in matter in a potential state, and the initial chaotic condition persisted with it.

Thus the philosophers, or the “sons of wisdom” as they called themselves, took their prima materia to be a part of the original chaos pregnant with spirit.

By “spirit” they understood a semi-material pneuma, a sort of “subtle body,” which they also called “volatile*’ and identified chemically with oxides and other dissoluble compounds.

They called this spirit Mercurius, which was chemically quicksilver though “Mercurius noster” was no ordinary Hgl and philosophically Hermes, the god of revelation, who, as Hermes Trismegistus, was the arch-authority on alchemy.

Their aim was to extract the original divine spirit out of the chaos, and this extract was called the quinta essentia, aqua permanens, or tinctura.

A famous alchemist, Johannes de Rupescissa (d. 1375) calls the quintessence “le ciel humain,” the human sky or heaven.

For him it was a blue liquid and incorruptible like the sky.

He says that the quintessence is of the color of the sky “and our sun has adorned it, as the sun adorns the sky.”

The sun is an allegory of gold.

He says: “This sun is true gold.”

He continues:

“These two things joined together influence in us … the condition of the Heaven of heavens, and of the heavenly Sun.”

His idea is, obviously, that the quintessence, the blue sky with the golden sun in it, evokes corresponding images of the heaven and the heavenly sun in ourselves.

It is a picture of a blue and golden microcosm, and I take it to be a direct parallel to Guillaume’s celestial vision.

The colors are, however, reversed; with Rupescissa the disc is golden and the sky blue.

My patient, therefore, having a similar arrangement, seems to lean more towards the alchemical side. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 160.

Thomas Taylor, who was strongly influenced by Proclus, says in his commentary to the Timaeus:

“For those which are connected with her essence in a following order, proceed from her [the anima mundi] according to the power of the fourth term (4), which possesses generative powers; but return to her according to the fifth (9) which reduces them to one.”

Further confirmation of the quaternary nature of the world-soul and world-body may be found in the passage where the demiurge splits this whole fabric lengthwise into two halves and joins them up again in the form of a X. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Page 126.

The devil is the aping shadow of God, in Gnosticism and also in Greek alchemy.

He is “Lord of this world,” in whose shadow man was born, fatally tainted with the original sin brought about by the devil.

Christ, according to the Gnostic view, cast off the shadow he was born with and remained without sin.

His sinlessness proves his essential lack of contamination with the dark world of nature-bound man, who tries in vain to shake off this darkness.

Man’s connection with physis, with the material world and its demands, is the cause of his anomalous position:

on the one hand he has the capacity for enlightenment, on the other he is in thrall to the Lord of this world. (“Who will deliver me from the body of this death?”)

On account of his sinlessness, Christ on the contrary lives in the Platonic realm of pure ideas whither only man’s thought can reach, but not he himself in his totality.

Man is, in truth, the bridge spanning the gulf between “this world” the realm of the dark Tricephalus and the heavenly Trinity.

That is why, even in the days of unqualified belief in the Trinity, there was always a quest for the lost fourth, from the time of the Neo-pythagoreans down to Goethe’s Faust.

Although these seekers thought of themselves as Christians, they were really Christians only on the side, devoting their lives to a work whose purpose it was to redeem the “four-horned serpent,” the fallen Lucifer, and to free the anima mundi imprisoned in matter.

What in their view lay hidden in matter was the lumen luminum, the Sapientia Dei, and their work was a “gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Our quaternity formula confirms the Tightness of their claims; for the Holy Ghost, as the synthesis of the original One which then became split, issues from a source that is both light and dark. ‘

For the powers of the right and the left unite in the harmony of wisdom we are told in the Acts of John. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 263.

Dr. Evans-Wentz has entrusted me with the task of commenting on a text which contains an important exposition of Eastern “psychology.”

The very fact that I have to use quotation marks shows the dubious applicability of this term.

It is perhaps not superfluous to mention that the East has produced nothing equivalent to what we call psychology, but rather philosophy or metaphysics.

Critical philosophy, the mother of modern psychology, is as foreign to the East as to medieval Europe.

Thus the word “mind,” as used in the East, has the connotation of something metaphysical.

Our Western conception of mind has lost this connotation since the Middle Ages, and the word has now come to signify a “psychic function” despite the fact that we neither know nor pretend to know what “psyche” is, we can deal with the phenomenon of “mind.”

We do not assume that the mind is a metaphysical entity or that there is any connection between an individual mind and a hypothetical Universal Mind.

Our psychology is, therefore, a science of mere phenomena without any metaphysical implications.

The development of Western philosophy during the last two centuries has succeeded in isolating the mind in its own sphere and in severing it from its primordial oneness with the universe.

Man himself has ceased to be the microcosm and eidolon of the cosmos, and his “anima” is no longer the consubstantial scintilla, or spark of the Anima Mundi, the World Soul. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Paragraph 759.