Psychology and Religion: West and East (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 11)

III. GREECE In enumerating the pre-Christian sources of the Trinity concept, we should not omit the mathematical speculations of the Greek philosophers. As we know, the philosophizing temper of the Greek mind is discernible even in St, John’s gospel, a work that is, very obviously, of Gnostic inspiration. Later, at the time of the Greek Fathers, this spirit begins to amplify the archetypal content of the Revelation, interpreting it in Gnostic terms. Pythagoras and his school probably had the most to do with the moulding of Greek thought, and as one aspect of the Trinity is based on number symbolism, it would be worth our while to further examine the Pythagorean system of numbers and see what it has to say about the three basic numbers with which we are concerned here. Zeller says: “One is the first from which all other numbers arise, and in which the opposite qualities of numbers, the odd and the even, must therefore be united; two is the first even number; three the first that is uneven and perfect, because in it we first find beginning, middle, and end.” The views of the Pythagoreans influenced Plato, as is evident from his Timaeus; and, as this had an incalculable influence on the philosophical speculations of posterity, we shall have to go rather deeply into the psychology of number speculation. The number one claims an exceptional position, which we meet again in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages. According to this, one is not a number at all; the first number is two. Two is the first number because, with it, separation and multiplication begin, which alone make counting possible. With the appearance of the number two, another appears alongside the one, a happening which is so striking that in many languages “the other” and “the second” are expressed by the same word. Also associated with the number two is the idea of right and left, and remarkably enough, of favourable and unfavorable, good and bad. The “other” can have a “sinister” significance or one feels it, at least, as something opposite and alien. Therefore, argues a medieval alchemist, God did not praise the second day of creation, because on this day (Monday, the day of the moon) the binarius, alias the devil, came into existence. Two implies a one which is different and distinct from the “numberless” One. In other words, as soon as the number two appears, a unit is produced out of the original unity, and this unit is none other than that same unity split into two and turned into a “number.” The “One” and the “Other” form an opposition, but there is no opposition between one and two, for these are simple numbers which are distinguished only by their arithmetical value and by nothing else. The “One,” however, seeks to hold to its one-and-alone existence, while the “Other” ever strives to be another opposed to the One. The One will not let go to the Other because, if it did, it would lose its character; and the Other pushes itself away from the One in order to exist at all. Thus there arises a tension of opposites between the One and the Other. But every tension of opposites culminates in a release, out of which comes the “third.” In the third, the tension is resolved and the lost unity is restored. Unity, the absolute One, cannot be numbered, it is indefinable and unknowable; only when it appears as a unit, the number one, is it knowable, for the “Other” which is required for this act of knowing is lacking in the condition of the One. Three is an unfolding of the One to a condition where it can be known unity become recognizable; had it not been resolved into the polarity of the One and the Other, it would have remained fixed in a condition devoid of every quality. Three therefore appears as a suitable synonym for a process of development in time, and thus forms, a parallel to the self-revelation of the Deity as the absolute One unfolded into Three. The relation of Threeness to Oneness can be expressed by an equilateral triangle, A = B =: C, that is, by the identity of the three, threeness being contained in its entirety in each of the three angles. This intellectual idea of the equilateral triangle is a conceptual model for the logical image of the Trinity. In addition to the Pythagorean interpretation of numbers, we have to consider, as a more direct source of Trinitarian ideas in Greek philosophy, the mystery-laden Timaeus of Plato. I shall quote, first of all, the classical argument: “Hence the god, when he began to put together the body of the universe, set about making it of fire and earth. But two things alone cannot be satisfactorily united without a third; for there must be some bond between them drawing them together. And of all bonds the best is that which makes itself and the terms it connects a unity in the fullest sense; and it is of the nature of a continued geometrical proportion to effect this most perfectly. For whenever, of three numbers, the middle one between any two that are either solids or planes [i.e., cubes or squares] is such that, as the first is to it, so is it to the last, and conversely as the last is to the middle, so is the middle to the first, then since the middle becomes first and last, and again the last and first become middle, in that way all will necessarily come to play the same part towards one another, and by so doing they will all make a unity. In a geometrical progression, the quotient (q) of a series of terms remains the same, e.g.: 2: i === 4 : 2 =; 8:4 = 2, or, algebraically expressed: a, aq, aq. The proportion is therefore as follows: 2 is to 4 as 4 is to 8, or a is to aq as aq is to aq. This argument is now followed by a reflection which has far reaching psychological implications: if a simple pair of opposites, say fire and earth, are bound together by a mean, and if this bond is a geometrical proportion, then one mean can only connect plane figures, since two means are required to connect solids: Now if it had been required that the body of the universe should be a plane surface with no depth, a single mean would have been enough to connect its companions and itself; but in fact the world was to be solid in form, and solids are always conjoined, not by one mean, but by two. Accordingly, the two-dimensional connection is not yet a physical reality, for a plane without extension in the third dimension is only an abstract thought. If it is to become a physical reality, three dimensions and therefore two means are required. Accordingly, the god set water and air between fire and earth, and remade them, so far as was possible, proportional to one another, so that as fire is to air, so is air to water, and fire as air is to water, so is water to earth, and thus he bound together the frame of a world visible and tangible. For these reasons and from such constituents, four in number, the body of the universe was brought into being, coming into concord by means of proportion, and from these it acquired Amity, so that united with itself it became indissoluble by any other power save him who bound it together. The union of one pair of opposites only produces a two dimensional triad: p2 + pq + q. This, being a plane figure, is not a reality but a thought. Hence two pairs of opposites, making a quaternio (p* + pq + pq 2 + <J ), are needed to represent physical reality. Here we meet, at any rate in veiled form, the dilemma of three and four alluded to in the opening words of the Timaeus. Goethe intuitively grasped the significance of this allusion when he says of the fourth Cabir in Faust: “He was the right one / Who thought for them all,” and that “You might ask on Olympus” about the eighth “whom nobody thought of.” It is interesting to note that Plato begins by representing the union of opposites two-dimensionally, as an intellectual problem to be solved by thinking, but then comes to see that its solution does not add up to reality. In the former case we have to do with a self-subsistent triad, and in the latter with a quaternity. This was the dilemma that perplexed the alchemists for more than a thousand years, and, as the “axiom of Maria Prophetissa” (the Jewess or Copt), it appears in modern dreams, and is also found in psychology as the opposition between the functions of consciousness, three of which are fairly well differentiated, while the fourth, undifferentiated, “inferior” function is undomesticated, unadapted, uncontrolled, and primitive. Because of its contamination with the collective unconscious, it possesses archaic and mystical qualities, and is the complete opposite of the most differentiated function. For instance, if the most differentiated is thinking or the intellect, then the inferior, fourth function will be feeling. Hence the opening words of the Timaeus “One, two, three but where, my dear Timaeus, is the fourth . . . ?”- all familiarly upon the ears of the psychologist and alchemist, and for him as for Goethe there can be no doubt that Plato is alluding to something of mysterious import. We can now see that it was nothing less than the dilemma as to whether something we think about is a mere thought or a reality, or at least capable of becoming real. And this, for any philosopher who is not just an empty babbler, is a problem of the first order and no whit less important than the moral problems inseparably connected with it. In this matter Plato knew from personal experience how difficult is the step from two-dimensional thinking to its realization in three-dimensional fact. Already with his friend Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse, he had so many disagreements that the philosopher-politician contrived to sell him as a slave, from which fate he was preserved only because he had the good fortune to be ransomed by friends. His attempts to realize his political theories under Dionysius the Younger also ended in failure, and from then on Plato abandoned politics for good. Metaphysics seemed to him to offer more prospects than this ungovernable world. So, for him personally, the main emphasis lay on the two-dimensional world of thought; and this is especially true of the Timaeus, which was written after his political disappointments. It is generally reckoned as belonging to Plato’s late works. In these circumstances the opening words, not being attributable either to the jocosity of the author or to pure chance, take on a rather mournful significance: one of the four is absent because he is “unwell.” If we regard the introductory scene as symbolical, this means that of the four elements out of which reality is composed, either air or water is missing. If air is missing, then there is no connecting link with spirit (fire), and if water is missing, there is no link with concrete reality (earth). Plato certainly did not lack spirit; the missing element he somuch desired was the concrete realization of ideas. He had to content himself with the harmony o airy thought-structures that lacked weight, and with a paper surface that lacked depth. The step from three to four brought him sharply up against something unexpected and alien to his thought, something heavy, inert, and limited, which no “privation boni” can conjure away or diminish. Even God’s fairest creation is corrupted by it, and idleness, stupidity, malice, discontent, sickness, old age and death fill the glorious body of the “blessed god/’ Truly a grievous spectacle, this sick world-soul, and unfortunately not at all as Plato’s inner eye envisaged it when he wrote: All this, then, was the plan of the everlasting god for the god who was going to be. According to this plan he made the body of the world smooth and uniform, everywhere equidistant from its centre, a body whole and complete, with complete bodies for its parts. And in the centre he set the soul and caused it to extend throughout the whole body, and he further wrapped the body round with soul on the outside. So he established one world alone, round and revolving in a circle, solitary but able by reason of its excellence to bear itself company, needing no other acquaintance or friend but sufficient unto itself. On all these accounts the world which he brought into being was a blessed god. This world, created by a god, is itself a god, a son of the self-manifesting father. Further, the demiurge furnished it with a soul which is “prior” to the body. The world-soul was fashioned by the demiurge as follows: he made a mixture of the indivisible and the divisible, thus producing a third form of existence. This third form had a nature independent of the “Same” and the “Different”. At first sight the “Same” seems to coincide with the indivisible and the “Different” with the divisible.18 The text says: from “Not being.” Theodor Gomperz mentions two primary substances which are designated as follows in Plato’s Philebus: limit, unlimited; the same, the other; the divisible, the indivisible. He adds that Plato’s pupils would have spoken of “unity” and of “the great and the small” or of “duality.” From this it is clear that Gomperz regards the “Same” and the “indivisible” as synonymous, thus overlooking the resistance of the “Other,” and the fundamentally fourfold nature of the world soul. The indivisible and ever the same substance [Cornford’s “Sameness”], and that which is physically divisible, he mixed an intermediate, third form of existence which had its own being beside the Same and the Different, and this form he fashioned accordingly as a mean between the indivisible and the physically divisible. Then he took all three existences and mixed them again, “forcing the nature of the Different, though it resisted the mixture, into union with the Same.” Thus, “with the admixture of being, the three became one. 187 The world-soul, representing the governing principle of the whole physical world, therefore possesses a triune nature. And since, for Plato, the world is a second god, the world-soul is a revelation or unfolding of the God-image. 188 Plato’s account of the actual process of creation is very curious and calls for some elucidation. The first thing that strikes us is the twice-repeated (‘he mixed’). Why should the mixture be repeated, since it consists of three elements in the first place and contains no more than three at the end, and, in the second place, Same and Different appear to correspond with indivisible and divisible? Appearances, however, are deceptive. During the first mixture there is nothing to suggest that the divisible was recalcitrant and had to be forcibly united with the indivisible, as was the case with their supposed analogues. In both mixtures it is rather a question of combining two separate pairs of opposites, which, because they are called upon to make a unity, may be thought o as arranged in a quaternio: Same Indivisible Divisible Different Indivisible and divisible, together with their mean, form a simple triad which has “its own being” beside the Same and the Different. This triad corresponds to the condition of “thought” not yet become “reality.” For this a second mixture is needed, in which the Different (i.e., the “Other”) is incorporated by force. The “Other” is therefore the “fourth” element, whose nature it is to be the “adversary” and to resist harmony. But the fourth, as the text says, is intimately connected with Plato’s desire for “being.” One thinks, not unnaturally, of the impatience the philosopher must have felt when reality proved so intractable to his ideas. That reasonableness might, under certain circumstances, have to be imposed by force is a notion that must sometimes have crossed his mind. The passage as a whole, however, is far from simple. It can be translated in many ways and interpreted in many more. The critical point for us is, literally, he compounded (a form of the nature of sameness and difference) in the middle of the indivisible (and the divisible). Consequently the middle term of the second pair of opposites would coincide with the middle term of the first pair. The resultant figure is a quincunx, since the two pairs of opposites have a common mean or “third form”: This seems borne out by the fact that the first pair of opposites is correlated with (being), and the second with (nature). If one had to choose between “Being” and “Nature”, the latter would probably be considered the more concrete of the two. I have placed the pairs of opposites side by side, instead of facing one another (as in the previous diagram), in order to illustrate their union in a single mean. Three elements are to be distinguished in our diagram: the two pairs of opposites and their common mean, and I understand the text as referring to these three elements when it says: “Then, taking these three existences . . .” Since the mean is called the “third form,” each pair of opposites can presumably be taken as representing the first and second forms: Indivisible = first form, Divisible = second form, mean = third form, and so on. Their union in a quincunx signifies union of the four elements in a world-body. 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 an “X” According to Porphyry, a X i1 a circle signified the world-soul for the Egyptians. It is, in fact, thehieroglyph for “city.” Perhaps Plato was trying, in this passage, to bring forth the mandala structure that later appeared as the capital of Atlantis in his Critias. The two mixtures could be regarded as a parallel to the two means of the physical elements. Cornford, on the other hand, considers that Plato is referring to three intermedia, which he calls “Intermediate Existence/’ ‘Intermediate Sameness’ “Intermediate Difference.’ His main insistence is on the threefold procedure and not on the four substances. The Middle Ages were also familiar with the quatuor elementa (A B C D) and the tria regimina (three procedures) which united them as follows: AB, BC, CD. From this point of view, Cornford fails to catch Plato’s subtle allusion to the recalcitrant fourth. We do not wish it to be supposed that the thought-processes we have deduced from the text of the Timaeus represent Plato’s conscious reflections. However extraordinary his genius may have been, it by no means follows that his thoughts were all conscious ones. The problem of the fourth, for instance, which is an absolutely essential ingredient of totality, can hardly have reached his consciousness in complete form. If it had, he would have been repelled by the violence with which the elements were to be forced into a harmonious system. Nor would he have been so illogical as to insist on the three-foldness of his world-soul. Again, I would not venture to assert that the opening words of the Timaeus are a conscious reference to the underlying problem of the recalcitrant fourth. Everything suggests that the same unconscious spiritus rector was at work which twice impelled the master to try to write a tetralo, the fourth part remaining unfinished on both occasions. This factor also ensured that Plato would remain a bachelor to the end of his life, as if affirming the masculinity of his triadic God-image. As history draws closer to the beginng of our era, the gods become more and more abstract and spiritualized. Even Yahweh had to submit to this transformation. In the Alexandrian philosophy that arose in the last century B.C., we witness not only an alteration of his nature but an emergence of two other divinities in his immediate vicinity: the Logos and Sophia. Together with him they form a triad, and this is a clear prefiguration of the post-Christian Trinity. ~Carl Jung; Psychology and Religion, Para 179