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Carl Jung on the Early Christian Cross


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Visions : Notes of the seminar given in 1930-1934 (2 Volume Set) (Bollingen)

So the whole series of Zarathustra’s adventures leads him up to the one problem, the relation to the earth, and this is what everybody will have to face who has advanced beyond medieval Christianity, beyond the more recent forms of Protestantism, that is.

The problem will come up because the Christian movement is the ascending movement; that is expressed in the symbolism of the church.

For instance, the early Christian cross was equilateral, surrounded by a sort of halo like the disk of the sun, because it was really still the sun.

Therefore the early fathers of the church had such a hard time to teach their followers that Christ was not the rising sun, that the rising sun was merely a symbol for Christ.

One finds the equilateral cross in Norman art until the beginning of the thirteenth century, and then it slowly changed into the Gothic form, the cross with the elongated shaft.

And this cross is now slowly preparing, or expressing, a great change in religious consciousness.

The cross that originally was quite in the heavens, that expressed a detached deity, came down to the earth; it lost the form which was like the disk of the sun and became a structure erected upon the earth.

These three lines represent the earth, this is Calvary.

The symbol has lost its divinity.

The church as a political institution prevailed against the spirit that originally prevailed.

So this later cross takes on a human form.

It loses its character as an abstract divine symbol and takes on the figure of a man with out-stretched arms.

In the days when that earlier form of the cross still prevailed, Christ was represented not as nailed to the cross, but standing in front of it with his arms outstretched.

I have seen in the Germanic museum in Nuremberg a so-called crucifix of the eleventh century, which represents Christ pulling the nails out of the cross and coming away from it, a most extraordinary thing.

The lower shaft of the cross was elongated till it became almost like a Catholic church spire, a thing pointing to heaven.

The elongation means an elongation of the center of gravity; the divine center of the spiritual man was removed from the earth-it was somewhere up in the sky.

This is expressed in the Gothic style.

The Norman style is rather hard and square, and it is built firmly upon the earth, sometimes giving almost the effect of a cave, while in the Gothic style everything is lifted up into the air, and therefore it is uplifting in its effect.

One could say that the divine symbol, with its magic power of attraction, descended to the point where it met man, and then pulled him up in a sort of inflation.

His human structure became, as it were, deified, and so the church slowly replaced the spirit-as if the church were spirit. ~Carl Jung, The Visions Seminar, Pages 284-285