Psychology and Religion: West and East (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 11)
God the Father (top), the Holy Spirit (represented by a dove), and child Jesus, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
FATHER, SON, AND SPIRIT I have dwelt at some length on the views of the Babylonians and Egyptians, and on Platonist philosophy, in order to give the reader some conception of the trinitarian and Unitarian ideas that were in existence many centuries before the birth of Christianity.
Whether these ideas were handed down to posterity as a result of migration and tradition or whether they arose spontaneously in each case is a question of little importance.
The important thing is that they occurred because, once having sprung forth from the unconscious of the human race (and not just in Asia Minor!), they could rearise anywhere at any time.
It is, for instance, more than doubtful whether the Church Fathers who devised the homoousios formula were even remotely acquainted with the ancient Egyptian theology of kingship. Nevertheless, they neither paused in their labours nor rested until they had finally reconstructed the ancient Egyptian archetype.
Much the same sort of thing happened when, in A.D. 431, at the Council of Ephesus, whose streets had once rung with hymns of praise to many-breasted Diana, the Virgin Mary was declared the ‘birth-giver of the god who worshipped Mary after the manner of an antique goddess.
Her cult had its chief centres in Arabia, Thrace, and Upper Scythia, the most enthusiastic devotees being women. Their provocations moved Epiphanius to the rebuke that “the whole female sex is slippery and prone to error, with a mind that is very petty and narrow.”
It is clear from this chastening sermon that there were priestesses who on certain feast days decorated a wagon or four-cornered seat and covered it with linen, on which they placed offerings of bake-meats “in the name of Mary”, afterwards partaking of the sacrificial meal.
This plainly amounted to a Eucharistic feast in honor of Mary, at which wheaten bread as eaten.
The orthodox standpoint of the time is aptly expressed in the words of Epiphanius: “Let Mary be held in honor, and let the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost be adored, but let no one adore Mary.”
Thus the archetype reasserted itself, since, as I have tried to show, archetypal ideas are part of the indestructible foundations of the human mind. However long they are forgotten and buried, always they return, sometimes in the strangest guise, with a personal twist to them or intellectually distorted, as in the case of the Arian heresy, but continually reproducing themselves in new forms representing the timeless truths that are innate in man’s nature.
Even though Plato’s influence on the thinkers of the next few centuries can hardly be overestimated, his philosophically formulated triad cannot be held responsible for the origins of the Christian dogma of the Trinity. For we are concerned here not with any philosophical, that is conscious, assumptions but with unconscious, archetypal forms.
The Platonic formula for the triad contradicts the Christian Trinity in one essential point: the triad is built on opposition, whereas the Trinity contains no opposition of any kind, but is, on the contrary, a complete harmony in itself. The three Persons are characterized in such a manner that they cannot possibly be derived from Platonic premises, while the terms Father, Son, and Holy Ghost do not proceed in any sense from the number three. At most, the Platonic formula supplies the intellectual scaffolding for contents that come from quite other sources.
The Trinity may be conceived platonically as to its form, but for its content we have to rely on psychic factors, on irrational data that cannot be logically determined beforehand.
In other words, we have to distinguish between the logical idea of the Trinity and its psychological reality. The latter brings us back to the very much more ancient Egyptian ideas and hence to the archetype, which provides the authentic and eternal justification for the existence of any Trinitarian idea at all.
The psychological datum consists of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
If we posit “Father” then “Son” logically follows; but “Holy Ghost” does not follow logically from either “Father” or “Son.”
So we must be dealing here with a special factor that rests on a different presupposition. According to the old doctrine, the Holy Ghost is (a real person who is sent by the Son and the Father).
The (procession from the Father and the Son) is a “spiration” and not a “begetting,” This somewhat peculiar idea corresponds to the separation, which still existed in the Middle Ages, of “corpus” and “spiramen,” the latter being understood as something more than mere “breath.”
What it really denoted was the anima, which, as its name shows, is a breath-being (anemos = wind). Although an activity of the body, it was thought of as an independent substance (or hypostasis) existing alongside the body.
The underlying idea is that the body “lives,” and that “life” is something superadded and autonomous, conceived as a soul unattached to the body. Applying this idea to the Trinity formula, we would have to say: Father, Son, and Life the life proceeding from both or lived by both.
The Holy Ghost as “life” is a concept that cannot be derived logically from the identity of Father and Son, but is, rather, a psychological idea, a datum based on an irrational, primordial image.
This primordial image is the archetype, and we find it expressed most clearly in the Egyptian theology of kingship.
There, as we have seen, the archetype takes the form of God the father, Ka-mutef (the begetter), and the son. The ka is the life spirit, the animating principle of men and gods, and therefore can be legitimately interpreted as the soul or spiritual double.
He is the “life” of the dead man, and thus corresponds on the one hand to the living man’s soul, and on the other to his “spirit” or “genius.” We have seen that Ka-mutef is a hypostatization of procreative power.
In the same way, the Holy Ghost is hypostatized procreative power and life-force.6 Hence, in the Christian Trinity, we are confronted with a distinctly archaic idea, whose extraordinary value lies precisely in the fact that it is a supreme, hypostatic representation of an abstract thought (two-dimensional triad).
The form is still concretistic, in that the archetype is represented by the relationship “Father” and “Son.” Were it nothing but that, it would only be a dyad. The third element, however, the connecting link between “Father” and “Son,” is spirit and not a human figure.
The masculine father-son relationship is thus lifted out of the natural order (which includes mothers and daughters) and translated to a sphere from which the feminine element is excluded: in ancient Egypt as in Christianity the Theotokos stands outside the Trinity.
One has only to think of Jesus’s brusque rejection of his mother at the marriage in Cana: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (John 2:4), and also earlier, when she sought the twelve-year-old child in the temple: “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2 149).
We shall probably not be wrong in assuming that this special sphere to which the father-son relationship is removed is the sphere of primitive mysteries and masculine initiations. Among certain tribes, women are forbidden to look at the mysteries on pain of death.
Through the initiations the young men are systematically alienated from their mothers and are reborn as spirits. The celibacy of the priesthood is a continuation of this archetypal idea.
The intellectual operation that lies concealed in the higher father-son relationship consists in the extrapolation of an invisible figure, a “spirit” that is the very essence of masculine life.
The life of the body or of a man is posited as something different from the man himself.
This led to the idea of a ka or immortal soul, able to detach itself from the body and not dependent on it for its existence.
In this respect, primitives have extraordinarily well developed ideas about a plurality of souls.
Some are immortal, others are only loosely attached to the body and can wander off and get lost in the night, or they lose their way and get caught in a dream.
There are even souls that belong to a person without being lodged in his body, like the bush-soul, which dwells outside in the forest, in the body of an animal.
The juxtaposition of a person and his “life” has its psychological basis in the fact that a mind which is not very well differentiated cannot think abstractly and is incapable of putting things into categories. It can only take the qualities it perceives and place them side by side: man and his life, or his sickness (visualized as a sort of demon), or his health or prestige (mana, etc.).
This is obviously the case with the Egyptian ka. Father-son-life (or procreative power), together with rigorous exclusion of the Theotokos, constitute the patriarchal formula that was “in the air” long before the advent of Christianity.
The Father is, by definition, the prime cause, the creator, the auctor rerum, who, on a level of culture where reflection is still unknown, can only be One. The Other follows from the One by splitting off from it.
This split need not occur so long as there is no criticism of the auctor rerum so long, that is to say, as a culture refrains from all reflection about the One and does not start criticizing the Creator’s handiwork.
A feeling of oneness, far removed from critical judgment and moral conflict, leaves the Father’s authority unimpaired.
I had occasion to observe this original oneness of the father world when I was with a tribe of Negroes on Mount Elgon.
These people professed to believe that the Creator had made everything good and beautiful.
“But what about the bad animalsthat kill your cattle?” I asked. They replied: “The lion is good and beautiful.” “And your horrible diseases?” “You lie in the sun, and it is beautiful.”
I was impressed by their optimism. But at six o’clock in the evening this philosophy came to a sudden stop, as I was soon to discover.
After sunset, another world took over the dark world of the Ayik, who is everything evil, dangerous, and terrifying. The optimistic philosophy ends and a philosophy of fear, ghosts, and magical spells for averting the Evil One begins.
Then, at sunrise, the optimism starts off again without any trace of inner contradiction.
Here man, world, and God form a whole, a unity unclouded by criticism. It is the world of the Father, and of man in his childhood state. Despite the fact that twelve hours out of every twenty-four are spent in the world of darkness, and in agonizing belief in this darkness, the doubt never arises as to whether God might not also be the Other.
The famous question about the origin of evil does not yet exist in a patriarchal age.
Only with the coming of Christianity did it present itself as the principal problem of morality.
The world of the Father typifies an age which is characterized by a pristine oneness with the whole of Nature, no matter whether this oneness be beautiful or ugly or awe-inspiring.
But once the question is asked: “Whence comes the evil, why is the world so bad and imperfect, why are there diseases and other horrors, why must man suffer?*’ then reflection has already begun to judge the Father by his manifest works, and straightway one is conscious of a doubt, which is itself the symptom of a split in the original unity.
One comes to the conclusion that creation is imperfect nay more, that the Creator has not done his job properly, that the goodness and almightiness of the Father cannot be the sole principle of the cosmos.
Hence the One has to be supplemented by the Other, with the result that the world of the Father is fundamentally altered and is superseded by the world of the Son. 202 This was the time when the Greeks started criticizing the world, the time of “gnosis” in its widest sense, which ultimately gave birth to Christianity.
The archetype of the redeemer-god and first man is age-old we simply do not know how old. The Son, the revealed god, who voluntarily or involuntarily offers himself for sacrifice as a man, in order to create the world or redeem it from evil, can be traced back to the Purusha ofIndian philosophy, and is also found in the Persian conception of the Original Man, Gayomart.
Gayomart, son of the god of light, falls victim to the darkness, from which he must be set free in order to redeem the world. He is the prototype of the Gnostic redeemer-figures and of the teachings concerning Christ, redeemer of mankind.
It is not hard to see that a critique which raised the question of the origin of evil and of suffering had in mind another world a world filled with longing for redemption and for that state of perfection in which man was still one with the Father.
Longingly he looked back to the world of the Father, but it was lost forever, because an irreversible increase in man’s consciousness had taken place in the meantime and made it independent.
With this mutation he broke away from the world of the Father and entered upon the world of the Son, with its divine drama of redemption and the ritualistic retelling of those things which the God-man had accomplished during his earthly sojourn.
The life of the God-man revealed things that could not possibly have been known at the time when the Father ruled as the One. For the Father, as the original unity, was not a defined or definable object; nor could he, strictly speaking, either be called the “Father” or be one.
He only became a “Father” by incarnating in the Son, and by so doing became defined and definable.
By becoming a father and a man he revealed to man the secret of his divinity.
One of these revelations is the Holy Ghost. As a being who existed before the world was, he is eternal, but he appears empirically in this world only when Christ had left the earthly stage. He will be for the disciples what Christ was for them.
He will invest them with the power to do works greater, perhaps, than those of the Son (John 14: 12).
The Holy Ghost is a figure who deputizes for Christ and who corresponds to what Christ received from the Father. From the Father comes the Son, and common to both is the living activity of the Holy Ghost, who, according to Christian doctrine, is breathed forth (“spirated”) by both.
As he is the third term common to Father and Son, he puts an end to the duality, to the “doubt” in the Son.
He is, in fact, the third element that rounds out the Three and restores the One.
The point is that the unfolding of the One reaches its climax in the Holy Ghost after polarizing itself as Father and Son.
Its descent into a human body is sufficient in itself to make it become another, to set it in opposition to itself.
Thenceforward there are two: the “One” and the “Other,” which results in a certain tension.
This tension works itself out in the suffering and fate of the Son 10 and, finally, in Christ’s admission of abandonment by God (Matthew 27:46). 205 Although the Holy Ghost is the progenitor of the Son (Matthew 1:18), he is also, as the Paraclete, a legacy from him.
He continues the work of redemption in mankind at large, by descending upon those who merit divine election. Consequently, the Paraclete is, at least by implication, the crowning figure in the work of redemption on the one hand and in God’s revelation of himself on the other.
It could, in fact, be said that the Holy Ghost represents the final, complete stage in the evolution of God and the divine drama. For the Trinity is undoubtedly a higher form of God-concept than mere unity, since it corresponds to a level of reflection on which man has become more conscious.
The trinitarian conception of a life-process within the Deity, which I have outlined here, was, as we have seen, already in existence in pre-Christian times, its essential features being a continuation and differentiation of the primitive rites of renewal and the cult-legends associated with them.
Just as the gods of these mysteries become extinct, so, too, do the mysteries themselves, only to take on new forms in the course of history.
A large-scale extinction of the old gods was once more in progress at the beginning of our era, and the birth of a new god, with new mysteries and new emotions, was an occurrence that healed the wound in men’s souls.
It goes without saying that any conscious borrowing from the existing mystery traditions would have hampered the god’s renewal and rebirth.
It had to be an entirely unprejudiced revelation which, quite unrelated to anything else, and if possible without preconceptions of any kind, would usher into the world a new and a new cult legend.
Only at a comparatively late date did people notice the striking parallels with the legend of Dionysus, which they then declared to be the work of the devil.
This attitude on the part of the early Christians can easily be understood, for Christianity a The relation of Father to Son is not arithmetical, since both the One and the Other are still united in the original Unity and are, so to speak, eternally on the point of becoming two.
Hence the Son is eternally being begotten by the Father, and Christ’s sacrificial death is an eternally present act did indeed develop in this unconscious fashion, and furthermore its seeming lack of antecedents proved to be the indispensable condition for its existence as an effective force.
Nobody can doubt the manifold superiority of the Christian revelation over its pagan precursors, for which reason it is distinctly superfluous today to insist on the unheralded and unhistorical character of the gospels, seeing that they swarm with historical and psychological assumptions of very ancient origin. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion.