Pope Clement I prays to the Trinity, in a typical post-Renaissance depiction by Gianbattista Tiepolo.
C.G. Jung ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE CONCEPT OF THE TRINITY
Lecture by Dr. C. G. Jung, Zrich (translated from the German by Gary V. Hartman) Originally published in Quadrant, XXVIII:1, Winter 1998. Re-published here with the permission of Quadrant and the C.G. Jung Foundation of New York (taken from CG Jung Page)
I. The Trinity
When I set about to discuss the Trinity, that central Christian symbol, from the psychological perspective, I do so with the awareness that I am entering an area seemingly far removed from psychology.
In my opinion though,religions, with all that they are and express, are so closely the human soul that psychology least of all may disregard them. A notion like the Trinity belongs so much to the realm of theology thatto day, of the secular disciplines, history at most deals with it.
People have even largely stopped thinking about dogma and specifically about a concept like the Trinity, which is so difficult to picture.
There are actually very few Christians any more–not to mention the educated public in general–who seriously think about the meaning of the dogma and consider this concept a possible object of reflection.
Professor Speiser has linked the concept of the Trinity with Plato’s Timaeus.
I expressly say, “Trinity,” and not “triad.” (Divine triads occurred already at the primitive level: there are an immense number of archaic triads in the old and exotic religions.
The grouping in triads is something like an archetype of the history of religion on which the threefold Christian Trinity may well be modeled.
Yet the Trinity is not an example of a triad, but of a tri-unity, a three-oneness, indivisibilis trinitas,that is fundamentally different from the triad corresponding to a”tri-theism.”
Mere threeness is an unordered relationship of threeentities in proximity to one another, while the Trinity is the joining together of three as
one and, at the same time, an expansion of the oneinto three.
The one is lacking in a triad without which the Trinitywould be unthinkable.
Professor Speiser provided the derivation of the three from the one as it occurs in the Timaeus(31b to 32b).
The “one” lays claim to an exceptional position, which Professor Speiser has explained. We find this same, exceptional position again in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages. For thelatter, the “one” was not a number at all, only the “two” was.
“Two”is the first number, because with it separation and increase occur and provide the basis on which counting first truly begins. With “two” an”other” enters in addition to the “one,” a phenomenon that makes an impression to such an extent that the word “other”
in many languages means “second.”
This “second” or “other” refers to a “one” thatdiffers from the “one” that is not a number. With two, namely, one emerges from oneness, which means nothing less than that the separation has reduced and transformed oneness into a “number.”
The “one” and the”other” form an opposition; not however one and two, for they are simple numbers that differ only in their arithmetic value and nothingelse.
The “one” attempts to retain its single and solitary qualities,while the “other” strives to remain an other compared with the one. The “one” does not want to release the “other,” because it would thus lose its own quality, and the “other” rejects the “one” in order evento survive.
To such an extent, a tension of opposites results between the “one” and the “other.”
Every tension of opposites requires arelease valve from which the third comes into being.
The tension resolves itself in the third inasmuch as the lost “one” again emerges: “unitas ex semet ipsa derivans trinitatem,”in the words of Tertullian.
The absolute One is innumerable,indeterminate, and unrecognizable; only when it appears in “one” doesit become recognizable, for the “other” required for this recognition is missing in the condition of the One.
Three is, therefore, anunfolding of the one to recognizability, that is to reality in spaceand time. A “one-next-to-another” is only possible in space and a”oneafter- another” only in time.
Three is the “one” become reality,which without the resolution of the opposition between the “one” andthe “other” would remain devoid of any quality in every determination.
That this formulation is a fitting parallel to God’s Self- revelationas the absolute One in the unfolding of the three is immediatelyapparent.
The relationship of “threeness” to oneness can be expressed as an equilateral triangle: a=b=c,that is through the identity of the three, whereby the entirety ofthreeness is contained in each of the different designations.
Thisintellectual idea of the equilateral triangle is a cognitivepre-requisite for the idea of the Christian Trinity, as ProfessorSpeiser
The Platonic idea makes it possible for us to thinkat least somewhat logically yes, even mathematically, about themysterious essence of the Trinity.
The true contours of the dogma,however, have very little to do with the logical formula.
The threedesignated aspects in the model, a=b=c, are characterized in amanner that cannot possibly be derived from the Platonicpre-requisites, inasmuch as the designations “Father,” “Son,” and “HolySpirit” in no way follow from the three letters.
The Platonic formulaonly supplies an intellectual structure for contents that originatefrom completely different sources.
The Trinity may be largely graspedthrough the Platonic formula; as to contents, though, we have to dependon psychological factors, on irrational data that cannot be logicallypredetermined.
In other words, we have to differentiate between thelogical idea of the Trinity and its psychological reality.
The psychological factorsare the following: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If we start with”Father,”
“Son” results logically from it; but neither from “Father”nor from “Son” does “Holy Ghost” result logically. We must, again, bedealing with special circumstances that are due to psychologicalrequirements. According to the ancient teachings, the “Holy Ghost” is “vera persona, quae a filio et patre missa est.”
The “processio a patre filioque”is a “being breathed” and not a “procreation” (being “begotten”) as isthe case with the Son.
This somewhat unusual notion is in keeping witha separation already existing in the Middle Ages of corpus and spiramen(breathing), whereby the latter meant something more than just “breath.”
That was actually the designation for the “anima,” which is a being ofbreath as its name suggests ( בnemos = wind). While “breathing”is an activity of the body, when conceived of as autonomous it is asubstance apart from the body.
The idea being expressed is thatalthough the body lives, “life” is imagined as an additional,autonomous quality, namely as a soul independent of the body.
Appliedto the formula of the Trinity, one would therefore have to say,”Father, Son,” and “Life,” where the latter emanates from both or islived by both.
The Holy Ghost as “Life” is a concept that simplycannot be derived from the identity of Father and Son. It is much morea psychological notion, that is, a factor based on an irrational,primordial idea.
In addition to the logic ofthe Platonic idea, an aspect that cannot be derived from the Platonicidea forces its way into the concept of the Trinity.
It does notfollow from the idea of the equilateral triangle that one angle is Father, the second the Son, and he third the Holy Ghost.
Filius Spiritus Sanctus
We are not dealing withmere letters designating the angles of a triangle but
withpersonalities: the unbegotten Father (P), the Son (F) begotten by theFather, and the
Spiritus Sanctus (S), the life of both that theyhave in common. This is a concept that
results from a primitiveassumption: the life of a body or an of individual is posited
asdifferent to some extent from either the body or the individual. Fromthis assumption
originates the idea, for example, of the immortal soulthat can separate from the body and
does not depend on the body for itsexistence. In this regard, the primitives have richly
developedconceptions of souls. There are souls, for example, that are immortal;others are
only loosely connected to the body and, therefore, wanderaway, get lost in the night, lose
their way in a dream, and can betaken prisoner. Primitives even conceive of souls that are
not in thebody at all yet still belong to an individual like the Bush Soul thatlives in the forest
in an animal’s body.
The juxtaposition of”individual” and “life” is a psychological factor resting primarily
onthe fact that a relatively undifferentiated mind–not yet capable ofthinking abstractly–is
not able to make subsumptions. Such a mind canonly place the characteristics it
perceives in things next to oneanother as, for example, an individual and his life, or
hisdisease–perhaps as a daimon–or his health, or his prestige as mana,and so forth. If
you analyze Indian philosophy you will notice thatthe Indian mind does the same thing.
We always believe it to beabstract. It is not at all abstract but rather concretely graphic.
The Indian mind places being and other qualities next to things asessences. These
concretizations are usually not related to one anotherlogically but are simply in proximity to
one another. At this levelthere are certainly triads and the like, but simply no Trinities,
aconcept that corresponds to a more advanced, intellectual stage. Atrinity is not a matter
of a tri-theistic coexistence, but of a unityeffected through reflection from internal and
By definition, the Father is the creator, the maker, the auctor rerum,the author of things
who, at a cultural level where there is not yetreflection, can simply be the One. The Other
results from the Onethrough separation. This separation need not take place as long as
noone takes any kind of critical position toward the auctor rerum,that is, as long as a
culture does not reflect on this unity and beginto criticize the work through which the
creator makes himself known. Far from critical judgment and moral conflict, the human
feeling foroneness also leaves the patris auctoritas untouched.
I observed this conditionof the original oneness of the father world in a Negroid tribe on
MountElgon. These people professed the conviction that the creator had madeeverything
good and beautiful. When I asked, “What about the evilanimals that kill your cattle?” they
said, “The lion is good andbeautiful.” And, “Your terrible diseases?” They said, “You lie in
thesun and it is beautiful.” I was impressed by this optimism. But inthe evening at six
o’clock this philosophy suddenly ceased, as I soondiscovered. From sundown on another
world ruled, the dark world, theworld of אy םk, which was evil, dangerous, fear-arousing.
Theoptimistic philosophy ended and another philosophy began, one of fearof ghosts and
the magical practices that supposedly protect against evil. With sunrise, however, the
optimism returned without inherentcontradiction.
Originally, human beings,the world, and the divinity were a whole, a unity untarnished
by anycriticism. This was the world of the Father and of human beings in achildhood state.
Despite the fact that twelve of twenty-four hours arelived in a dark world with dark beliefs,
the question never ariseswhether God might also be Other. The well-known question as to
theorigin of evil does not yet exist in the time of the Father. Thisquestion first arose as a
principal problem with Christianity. Apparently, the world of the father applies to a time
characterized bythe original oneness with all of Nature, a beautiful or ugly or
fearfuloneness. When, however, the question is raised, “Where does evil comefrom, why
is this world so bad and imperfect, why are there diseasesand other horrors, why must
people suffer?”–then reflection beginswhich assesses the revelation of the Father in his
works, and therewithcomes the doubt that expresses the splitting of the original unity. One
comes to the conclusion that the creation may be imperfect, yes,even to the idea that the
Creator has not done his job properly. Thegoodness and power of the Father cannot be
the sole principle ofcosmogony. Therefore, the One must be supplemented with Another.
Theworld of the Father is thereby fundamentally changed and superseded bythe world of
The world of the Son wasthat time in which Greek critique of the world began, the time
ofGnosis in the widest sense, from which then Christianity emerged. Thearchetype of the
redeemer god and the original man is age-old. We haveno idea how old this idea is. We
have parallels that reach as far asIndia. The Son, the revealed god, who sacrifices himself
as a humanbeing in order to bring a world into being or to redeem the world fromevil is
found as early as the Purusha of Indian philosophy and also inthe notion of the
protanthropos (Original Man), Gayomart, inPersia. Gayomart, the son of the light god, falls
victim to darknessand must be freed again out of the darkness for the redemption of
theworld. This is the model for the Gnostic redeemer figures and for thedoctrine of Christ’s
redemption of humanity.
It is not difficult to see that this critical Weltanschauungthat raised the question of the
origin of evil and of sufferingcorresponds to another world in which one longed for
redemption, andfor that time of perfection when human beings were one with the
Father.One longed to return to the kingdom of the Father, but it was lost forgood, because
an irreversible increase and autonomy of humanconsciousness had taken place. Through
this change, one deposed theworld of the Father and entered the world of the Son, with its
divinedrama of redemption and ritual narrative of those things that theGod/man
accomplished during his earthly sojourn. The life of theGod/man now revealed things that
could not have been perceived in theFather as the One. For the Father as the original One
was not anythingdefined or definable and, actually, could not yet have been called”Father”
or have even been thought to exist. Only through hisincarnation in the Son did he become
“Father” and–thereby–somethingdefined and definable. By becoming a father and a
human being, herevealed the secret of his divinity in the human realm.
One of these revelations isthe Holy Ghost which, as a being existing before the world,
iscertainly eternal but can only appear in this world–to a certainextent empirically–when
Christ has left the earthly sphere. In amanner of speaking, he will be to the disciples what
Christ haspreviously been to them. He confers on them absolute power to performworks
that are perhaps even greater than those of the Son (John 14:12).The Holy Ghost is,
therefore, a figure that replaces Christ as hisequivalent and corresponds to that which
Christ had received from the Father.
In other words, from theFather comes the Son, and common to both is the life activity
of theHoly Ghost, which is “breathed” by both of them. Inasmuch as the HolyGhost is a
third and common element between the Father and the Son, itsignifies the abolition of
duality, of the “doubt” from the Son. Actually, it is that third thing that completes the three
and,therefore, is again Oneness. The unfolding of the One truly culminatesin the Holy
Ghost, following its juxtaposition to the Son as theFather. The descent into human form
signifies a becoming “Other,” asetting-itself-in-opposition to itself. From this moment on,
there aretwo, the “One” and the “Other,” which means a certain tension. Thistension
expresses itself in the suffering of the Son and finally in hisacknowledgment of God’s
forsaking him (Matt. 27:46).
Although the Holy Ghost isthe procreator of the Son (Matt. 1:18), as Paraclete it is the
Son’slegacy. In many ways, the Holy Ghost continues the work of redemptionby
descending on those who correspond to the divine election, and whoperform works that
are even “greater” than those of the Son. Theimplication, at least, is that the Paraclete is
the crowning figure ofthe work of redemption on one hand and God’s self-revelation on
theother. We could, therefore, say that the Holy Ghost represents thecompletion of the
Godhead and the divine drama. Undoubtedly theTrinity is a higher form of the notion of
God than a simple Unityinasmuch as it corresponds to a condition of greater reflection,
ofconsciousness, in human beings.
At first, human beingsremain necessarily outside this Trinitarian life process of
theGodhead. We have no way of thinking about this process except as animaginal one in
the human mind, in other words, as a platonic eidolon connected to an eternal eidos. At
the same time, this eidolondoes not express anything binding, nor does it establish its
foundation,for this foundation–namely God–is unrecognizable other than bysomething of
a similar nature. Theological thinking, to be sure–andthis is the great difficulty–often
behaves as if it were the HolyGhost, itself thinking or, rather, unfolding in the human brain.
In sodoing, theologians overlook the fact that the endless and often bitterdisputes
concerning the Trinity are nothing less than the very betrayalof the Holy Ghost. Hardly any
other discipline demonstrates thehigh-handedness of the human, all-too-human, mind, better
than that ofthe history of dogma. For this reason, psychology commits noencroachment on
another discipline if it joins in the discussion andraises questions about the individuals
who think up dogma and about thereasons that might cause them to do so.
The Trinitarian drama dealsin the first instance and overwhelmingly with the Godhead
and withmankind only inasmuch as we are in a pitiable condition and–with theexception of
Paradise–always were. It seems out of the question thatmankind, based on suggestions
in the writings of certain apostles, wasresponsible for fitting the Godhead with the form of
the Trinity. Wewould have no dogma of the Trinity had the church fathers not expendedan
unbelievable intellectual effort toward its creation. In actuality,they developed Trinitarian
Seen psychologically then, what does Trinitarian thinking express? God, the summum
bonum, unfolds in and through the Son to become the Holy Ghost as the third
representing the perichoresis,the round dance, of the One. The Trinity is an harmonic self realization
of God insofar as it opens the way to God’s Kingdomfor individuals in need of
redemption. This process is round andcomplete and to that extent corresponds with the
Platonic idea. Butwhat happens to evil? One comes to the conclusion at which the
MiddleAges had already arrived: “Omne bonum a deo, omne malum a homine. ” If we do
not recognize the devil, we become the devil. We become that which disturbs God’s
But what happens to theactual human being when all evil comes from him and all good
from God? On the one hand, we make a hash of Man, and, on the other, we elevatehim
above the gods–for ultimately something that so mars the beautifulworks of the Godhead
must be no small force! Man thereby becomes asecond God, a dark, counter-God, who
spoils the fun of the “good” God. We credit Man with a significance that exceeds even the
wildestfantasy. Here we get into considerable difficulty. If we pursue thedoctrine of the
Holy Ghost further (something that has not happened inthe Christian Church for
understandable reasons), we come to certainunavoidable conclusions. If the Father
appeared in the Son and shareshis breath in common with the Son and if the Son left this
Holy Ghostbehind for human beings, then the Holy Ghost also breathes out of Manand,
thereby, also breathes in common with Man, the Son, and theFather. Thereby Man moves
into the position of the Son of God, and thewords of Christ, “Ye are Gods,” appear in a
How can this imperfect Man,however, be not only something like the host of the
Godhead, but alsoGod, himself? Would that not shake the Christian Church to the
verydepths of its foundations? Such Godlikeness the Church is not inclinedto concede to
That the doctrine of theParaclete was expressly bequeathed to Man represents
immensedifficulties. The Platonic formulation of threeness would certainly bethe final word
from a logical perspective. Psychologically, though, itwould not be the final word at all,
since the psychological factorsdemand attention to themselves in a terribly disruptive
manner. Why inthe world was the Trinity
not referred to as “Father,Mother, and Son?” That would have been much more
“logical” or”natural” than Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In response we would haveto say
that the Trinity does not result from a merely natural conditionbut from human reflection
joined to the natural succession ofFather/Son. From Nature, this reflection abstracts life
and itsparticular soul and recognizes the latter as an extraordinaryexistence: Father and
Son are united in the same soul.
This psychological factorinterrupts the perfection of the formulation of threeness. It
makesthe formulation into a thematic combination that can no longer belogically
understood and is bound up in a mysterious and unexpected waywith an important
intellectual operation of human beings. The HolyGhost can be understood as life-breath
and as an attitude of love and,at the same time, as the third figure in the Trinity with all
thesignificance of the “third” and the culmination of the Trinitarianprocess. As such, it is
essentially something added from reflection tothe natural image of the Father/Son as the
hypostatizing of a noumenon.In this regard, it is noteworthy that early Christian
Gnosticismattempted to circumvent this difficulty by interpreting the Holy Ghostas Mother.
In doing so, Gnosticism, to begin with, remained with thearchaic natural image, tri-theism,
and also with the polytheism of thefather world. For it is simply natural that a father should
have afamily and that the son again embodies the father. This way ofthinking completely
corresponds to the father world. In addition, withthe mother interpretation, Gnosticism
reduced the specific meaning ofthe Holy Ghost to a primitive primordial image. It thereby
destroyedthe very thing that is the most essential content of the notion of theHoly Ghost.
The Holy Ghost is not only the life common to the Fatherand the Son. Rather, as the
Paraclete, it was also left behind forhuman beings by the Son to bring forth in them the
testimony and worksof the Children of God. It is precisely of the greatest significancethat
the idea of the Holy Ghost is not a natural image, but rather arecognition, a conception, of
the living nature of the Father and ofthe Son, the third between the One and the Other.
Logic says “Tertium non datur.”Life, however, and particularly psychological life, always
creates athird from the tension of duality, which naturally appears asincommensurable or
paradoxical. As “tertium,” the Holy Ghostmust, therefore, be incommensurable, even a
paradox. Correspondingly,the natural philosophers of the Middle Ages [i.e., the
alchemists]personified the “donum Spiritus Sancti” as a paradoxical, hermaphroditic
being, as a “unio oppositorum.”
Thus the Holy Ghost isheterogeneous, since it cannot be derived logically from the
naturalrelationship of father and son. We can only understand it as a conceptresulting
from the engagement of the human reflective process. Itthereby seems that Man’s coming
to consciousness is a part of thedivine life process or, in other words, that God becomes
manifest inthe act of human reflection. The nature of this concept (thehypostatizing of a
quality) corresponds to the necessity for primitivethinking to produce a reconciling abstract
notion by attributingconcrete extraordinary existence to the quality in question. Just asthe
Holy Ghost is a bequest to human beings, by the same token itsconception is a birth of
mankind and carries the qualities of its humancreators. Unnoticed, the figure of the Holy
Ghost includes mankind asa spiritual potentiality in the Trinitarian mystery, thereby
elevatingthe Trinity itself far above the parallels to mere nature of the triadand also above
Platonic threeness and its unity. The Trinity therebyreveals itself as a symbol which
encompasses divine and humansubstantiality. As K צpgen says, it is “not only a
manifestation ofGod’s, but also of mankind.”
A grain of truth lies inthe Gnostic interpretation of the Holy Ghost as Mother insofar as
theVirgin Mary was the instrument of God’s birth and thereby involved, asa human being,
in the Trinitarian drama. The figure of the Mother ofGod can, therefore, count as a symbol
of mankind’s essentialparticipation in the Trinity. The psychological justification for
thisassumption is founded on the circumstance that thinking–apredominantly masculine
activity–originally depended on theself-revelation of the unconscious, which possesses a
feminine qualityin men. This is the origin of the so-called “anima”–the knowledge
ofrevelation, which was personified as sapientia Dei or as Sophia–“in gremio matris sedet
sapientia patris.”These psychological connections make clearer the interpretation of
theHoly Ghost as Mother, but they contribute nothing to the understandingof the Holy
Ghost figure insofar as we do not appreciate why the Mothercould be the third when she
would more likely be the second.
While the Holy Ghost is anhypostasis of the life principle produced by the reflective
process,thanks to its peculiar substantiality, it appears as an extraordinary,even an
incommensurable third. Through its peculiarity it demonstratesprecisely that it is neither a
compromise nor simply a triadicaddition, but rather a more than logically expected release
of thetension between Father and Son. Because of the nature of the redemptiondrama,
the human reflective process is just what irrationally createsthe uniting Third: as the
Godhead descends into the human realm, Man,for his part, attains the realm of the
The thinking about theTrinity or Trinitarian thinking is the “Holy Ghost” to the extent
thatit is never basically mere rumination but gives expression to anincalculable
psychological occurrence. The driving forces which makethemselves felt in this thinking
are not conscious motives but springfrom an historical occurrence which, for its part, is
rooted inobscure, psychological preconditions. We cannot formulate thosepreconditions
better or more succinctly than as a “transformation fromFather to Son,” a transformation
from unity to duality, from anunreflecting condition to one of critical judgment. To the
extent thatTrinitarian thinking lacks personal motivation and its driving forceoriginates in
impersonal, collective, psychological conditions, itexpresses a necessity of the
unconscious psyche which towers over ourpersonal, intellectual needs. With the aid of
human thought, theTrinitarian symbol, arising from psychological necessity, is a
symbolpredestined to serve psychological transformation–relative to changingtimes–as a
redeeming formula for totality. From time immemorial, Manhas experienced any
expression of psychological activity that he hasnot intended or caused as demonic or
divine, “holy,” healing, andcompleting. In actuality, notions of God behave, as do all
imageswhich originate in the unconscious, in a compensatory or complementarymanner to
an individual’s over-all mood or behavior. Only by theirappearance on the scene does
psychological totality emerge in theindividual. The individual who is “only conscious,” only
“I,” is afragment insofar as he is conceived of apart from the unconscious. Themore the
unconscious is split off, the more powerful are the forms inwhich it confronts
consciousness: if not in the form of divinefigures, then in the less favorable form of
possessions (“obsessions”)and morbid affects. Gods are legitimate personifications of
theunconscious, for they manifest themselves out of unconscious psychicactivity. From
this kind of activity came Trinitarian thinking and itspassionate depths, which throw us–the
later descendants–into naiveastonishment. At present we no longer remember, or do not
yet know, towhat extent the depths of the psyche and Trinitarian thinking werechurned up
by a major change in the times. In the absence of thisknowledge, the Holy Ghost seems to
have faded away without havingreceived the answer it demands to the question it directs
II. The Problem of the Fourth
The Timaeus,from which the intellectual formula of the three is taken, begins withthe
ominous question: “Three there are, but where’s the fourth?” Aswe know, Faust takes up
this question in the Cabiri scene:
Three along we’ve brought
But come the fourth would not,
He said, he was the right one
Who thought for all of them.
When Goethe says the fourthis the one “who thought for all of them,” we might suspect
the fourthto be Goethe’s thinking, and we have to conclude that Goethe’s thinkingwas not
his strong suit. It is well known that Schiller had to makethe concept of an idea clear to
him. How defective Goethe’s thinking was we can gather from his Theory of Color
(Farbenlehre).Thinking was his “inferior function,” and we could not find a more
aptcharacterization for this function than the verse, “but come the fourth would not.” It
wanted to remain somewhere behind or below.
Ancient Greek philosophyused quaternarian thinking. For Pythagoras, not three but
four playedthe major role as, for example, in the so-called Pythagorean Oath. There it is
said of the number four, the tetraktys, that “ithas the roots of eternal Nature.” Also in the
Pythagorean school theopinion reigned that the soul was not a triangle, but a quadrangle.
The origin of these views lies somewhere in the dark prehistory of the Hellenistic spirit. The
quaternity is an archetype that occurs universally.
Four is the logicalprerequisite for every determination of totality. If one wants to
makesuch a determination, it must have a fourfold aspect. If, for example,one wants to
designate the totality of the horizon, one names the fourcardinal points. Three is not a
natural pattern of order, but anartificial one. Therefore, we always have four elements,
four primaryqualities, four colors, four castes in India, four paths in the senseof spiritual
development in Buddhism. Therefore, there are also fouraspects of psychological
orientation beyond which nothing more can bestated. For orientation, we have to have a
function that establishesthat something is, a second that identifies what it is, a
thirdfunction that says whether we like it or not, whether we want to acceptit or not, and a
fourth function that identifies where it comes fromand where it is going. Beyond this
nothing more can be said. Therewas an article published recently by Dr. Kindt-Kinder on
the structureof the concept of the nation. In it the author sets forth thefundamental
significance of the fourfold aspect and methodicallyapplies it. You also find the idea in
Schopenhauer that aphilosophical theorem has a four-part root. All of this stems from
thefact that the fourfold aspect represents the minimum for a determination of completeness.
Ideal completion, naturally, is round, is the circle. But its minimal, natural division is the
If Plato had used theChristian concept of the Trinity–which was not the case–and
elevated,therefore, the three above everything else, we would have to objectthat it could
not be a determination of totality. A necessary fourthwould have been left out. Or had
Plato believed that a three-sidedform represented the good and beautiful and attributed to
it allpositive qualities, he would have deprived it of evil and imperfection.What could have
become of the latter aspects? In addition to otheranswers to this question Christianity has
replied that real evil is a privatio boni.This classic Christian formula, however, robs evil of
absoluteexistence and makes it a shadow with only a relative existencedependent on the
Another Christian statementabout evil implies that it has personality as the Devil. The
Devil isnot included in the Trinity but stands outside and, because of theconcept of the
privatio boni, leads a mere shadow existence. In light of the powerful impact of evil,
though, this soundssuspiciously like a euphemism. As an autonomous and eternal
figure,the Devil corresponds more nearly to his role as Christ’s adversary andto the
psychological reality of evil.
The Church fathers mostvehemently opposed the notion of a quaternity of divine
principleswhile making the attempt to assign three persons to the nature of God. This
resistance against the quaternity is extraordinary given that thecentral Christian symbol,
the cross, is unmistakably a quaternity. Itrepresents, however, God’s suffering in the direct
collision with the world.
The definition of God as the summum bonum excludes evil from the start. Thus the
Devil, as simia Dei,remains outside the Trinitarian order and in opposition to it.
Therepresentation of the three-in-one God corresponds to a tricephalicimage of Satan as
it appears in Dante. It thereby suggests a true umbra trinitatis,an infernal Antitrinity
analogous to the Antichrist. Without a doubt,the Devil is an awkward figure: somehow or
other he stands awry in theChristian world order. For this reason, one readily plays down
hisimportance with euphemistic detraction or even by shutting one’s eyesto his existence.
One is more likely to enter him in mankind’s debitcolumn. Those who do so are the same
people who would protest mightilywere the sinful individual also to credit himself with the
origin ofall good. A glance in the Holy Scriptures, though, suffices to show usthe Devil’s
importance in the drama of divine redemption. Had thepower of evil been as minimal as
certain theological opinions wouldhave it appear, the world would not have needed the
Godhead itself tocome to earth. Or it would have lain within human powers to make
theworld good, which is also a childish, modern belief.
Whatever the Devil’smetaphysical position might be, in psychological reality evil
presentsan effective, yes, even a threatening, limitation to the good. It isnot going too far
for one to assume that not only day and night holdthe world in equilibrium, but also good
and evil. This is the reasonwhy the victory of the good is always a special act of grace.
If we overlook the unique,Persian dualism, there is no real Devil in the early period
ofmankind’s spiritual development and, thus, none in the Old Testament. Instead, there
was only a lemur-like riffraff haunting ruins anddeserted locations. The actual Devil first
appears as Christ’sadversary. Thereby, God’s world of light became manifest, on the
onehand, and the abyss of hell, on the other. The Devil is autonomous. He cannot be
subject to God’s dominion, for he would not be in aposition to be Christ’s adversary but
only God’s machine. Insofar asthe One, indefinable, unfolds into Two, it becomes
definable, namelythe man, Jesus, the Son and the Logos. God’s act of love in the Son
isopposed by the diabolical negation.
Inasmuch as the Devil wascreated by God as an angel, who then fell “like a bolt from
heaven,” helikewise emerged from the Godhead and became “Lord of this world.” Itis also
indicative that the Gnostics expressed him sometimes as theimperfect demiurge,
sometimes as the depraved, saturnian archon,Ialdabaoth. Pictorial representations of this
archon thoroughlycorrespond in their details to a devilish demon. He represented
thepower of darkness from which mankind was redeemed by Christ’s coming. The
archons, too, emerged from the womb of unrecognizable beginning,that is, from the same
source that Christ, too, proceeded.
A thinker of the MiddleAges noticed that when God divided the upper waters from the
lowerwaters on the second day of creation, he did not say it was good in theevening as he
did on all the other days. God did not do so because onthe second day he had created the
binarius, the number two, theorigin of evil. We find a similar theme again in a Persian
accountwhere Ahriman’s origin is traced back to a doubting thought ofAhuramazda’s.
Non-Trinitarian thinking can scarcely escape the logicof the following schema:
It is, therefore, notunusual to find the idea of the Antichrist so early. On one hand itmay
be related to the astrological synchronicity of the dawning Pisceanage: on the other, it has
to do with the increasing realization of theduality posited through the Son which–for its
part–is againprefigured in the symbol of the fish: )-( .
In our diagram, Christ andthe Devil appear as equivalent opposites, which is hinted at
by the”adversary” idea. This opposition represents a conflict in the extreme and, thereby,
also a secular task for mankind until the time or untilthat shift in time when good and evil
begin to relativize each other,to question themselves, and when a cry goes up for a
“beyond good andevil.” In a Christian age caught up in the realm of Trinitarian thinking
such deliberation is downright impossible. The conflict istoo intense for the Devil to be
granted any logical relationship to theTrinity other than that of an absolute and
incommensurable opposite. In an emotionally-charged opposition–in a conflict, in
otherwords–thesis and antithesis cannot be considered together. Such consideration is
only possible for a cooler deliberation on therelative value of good and evil. Then, to be
sure, nothing could bemore dubious than a life “breathed” in common not only by the
Fatherand his light Son but by the Father and his dark Creature. The unspeakable conflict
posited by the duality, resolves itself in a fourth principle that restores the unity of the One
in its completedevelopment. The rhythm is a three-step; the symbol a quaternity.
The dual nature of theFather is by no means unknown to the Church. We see this in
theallegory of the monoceros or rhinoceros, an image showing Jehovah’sraging moods
which threw the world into confusion and which could betransformed into love only in the
lap of a pure virgin. Luther, too,knew a deus absconditus. Murder and slaughter, war,
diseaseand crime, and every abomination falls within the unity of the Godhead.When God
manifests his being and becomes something defined, namely adefinite human being, his
opposites have to fall apart: here is goodand there is evil. Thus the opposites latent in the
Godhead separatein the begetting of the Son and manifest themselves in the oppositionof
Christ/Devil. The Persian opposition of Ormuzd/Ahriman may havebeen the implied basis
for this Christian duality. The world of theSon is the world of moral duality, without which
human consciousnesswould hardly have accomplished the advance in
intellectualdifferentiation that it actually has. That people today are nottotally enthusiastic
over this advance is due to attacks of doubt inmodern consciousness.
The Christian individual isan individual suffering morally who, in his suffering, needs
thecomforter, the Paraclete. The individual cannot overcome the conflictwith his own
resources, just as he did not create it. He depends ondivine comfort and reconciliation, on
the spontaneous revelation ofthat Spirit that does not obey human intention but comes
and goes as itwills. That Spirit is an autonomous psychic occurrence, a stillnessafter the
storm, a reconciling light in the darknesses of humanunderstanding, and the mysterious
order of our psychic chaos. The HolyGhost is a comforter like the Father, a still, eternal,
andunfathomable One, in which God’s love and horror are fused together inwordless
unity. In this unity, the original meaning of the yetmeaningless Father world is restored
within the confines of humanexperience and reflection. From a quaternarian perspective,
the HolyGhost is a reconciliation of opposites and thereby answers thatsuffering in the
Godhead that Christ personifies.
The Pythagorean quaternitywas still a fact of nature, an archetypal form of perception,
but itwas not a moral problem, let alone a divine drama. Therefore, it “wentbelow.” It was
merely a natural and, for that reason, an unreflectedperception of the nature-bound mind.
The separation which Christianitywrenched open between nature and spirit enabled the
human mind to thinknot only beyond nature, but also against nature and thereby prove–
Imight say–its divine freedom. This impetus from the darkness ofnature’s depths
culminates in Trinitarian thinking, which moves in thatPlatonic, hyperuranian realm. Rightly
or wrongly, though, Timaeus’question remains: “What has become of the fourth?” It has
remained”below” as an heretical quaternity image or as the Hermetic tradition’s speculation
about natural philosophy.
I think with considerablesatisfaction of a medieval author (Gerard Dorn, mentioned
above)–hewas an alchemist–who pursued this idea and criticized the quaternity,a concept
handed down from earliest times in the tradition of his art. It occurred to him that the
quaternity was a heresy, since theprinciple ruling the world consisted of a Trinity. The
quaternity hadto come from the Devil, in other words. Four would be the double oftwo and
the two was created on the second day of creation, a resultwith which God was apparently
not completely satisfied. The binarius isthe devil of duality and–simultaneously–also the
feminine. (In theEast as in the West, even numbers are feminine.) What was
displeasingabout creations’ second day consisted apparently in the fact that onthis
ominous day a duality was revealed in the nature of the Father,similar to that in
Ahuramazda. From this duality in the Father’snature emerged the serpent, the
quadricornutus serpens, which thereupon seduced an Eve who was changed because of
her binarian nature. “Vir a Deo creatur, mulier a simia Dei.”
The Devil is the ape and God’s aping shadow, Gnosticism’s antimimon pneuma.But he
is the “Lord of this world” in whose shadow Man, too, is bornand with whose original sin
Man is perishably encumbered. According tothe Gnostic view, Christ threw off the shadow
with which he was bornand remained without sin. Through his sinless condition
hedemonstrated his lack of contamination with the dark world ofnature-bound Man, which
the latter attempted to shake off to no avail. (“Earth’s residue to bear / hath sorely pressed
us,” etc.) Theconnection to physis, the material world and its demands, is the causeof
Man’s hybrid condition. On the one hand, he possesses the capacityfor enlightenment,
but, on the other, he is subject to the “Lord ofthis world” (“Miserable being I; who will
deliver me from the body ofthis death?”). Thanks to his sinless condition, Christ, by
contrast,lives in the Platonic realm of the pure idea, which only Man’s thinkingcan attain,
but not he, himself, in his totality. Strictly speaking,Man is the bridge that spans the chasm
between “this world,” the realmof the dark tricephalus, and the heavenly Trinity. Therefore,
even inthe era of unconditional belief in the Trinity, there always existed asearch for the
lost fourth–from the Greek Neopythagoreans to Goethe’s Faust.Although these searchers
considered themselves Christians, they wereonly partial Christians in that they devoted
their lives to an opus, which had as its goal the redemption of that serpens
quadricornutus, that anima mundi ensnared in matter, and that fallen Lucifer. What lay
hidden in matter for them was the lumen luminum, the sapientia Dei,and their task was a
“gift of the Holy Ghost.” Our quaternity formulasupports their claim, for the Holy Ghost, as
the synthesis of theoriginal One and the split One, flows from a light and a dark source.
“For in the harmony of wisdom, right and left powers are engaged,” saysthe Acts of John.
The reader will havenoticed that in our quaternity schema, two equivalent elements
crosseach other. On one side is the oppositional identity of Christ and hisadversary, while
on the other is the unfolding of the Father’s unityinto the multiplicity of the Holy Ghost. The
cross produced in thismanner is the symbol of the Godhead’s suffering that redeems
humanity. This suffering could not have occurred and would not have had todemonstrate
its effect on anything, had it not been for the presence ofa power opposing God–namely,
this world and its lord. The quaternityschema recognizes this presence as an undeniable
factor by laying thebonds of this world’s reality on Trinitarian thinking. Platonic,intellectual
freedom makes possible no determination of totality, buttears the light part of the divine
portrait loose from the dark half. This freedom was, in large part, a cultural phenomenon
and the nobleroccupation of those fortunate Athenians to whose lot it fell not to beHelots.
Only he can elevate himself above nature who has another tocarry earth’s heaviness for
him. How would Plato have philosophizedhad he been his own house slave? What would
Rabbi Jesus have taught,if he had had a wife and children to support? If he had had to
tillthe fields in which the bread he broke grew, had had to weed thevineyard in which the
wine he dispensed ripened? The dark heaviness ofearth belongs to the image of totality.
In this world, nothing goodlacks an evil, no day a night, no summer a winter. But civilized
Manmay lack a winter, for he can protect himself against the cold. He maylack the dirt, for
he can bathe himself–the sin, for he can prudentlyseparate himself from other people and
thereby avoid many an occasionfor evil. He can believe himself to be good and pure
because necessitydoes not instruct him any differently. By contrast, natural Man has
acompleteness that one can admire but there is actually nothing thereworth admiring: it is
unending unconsciousness, mire and muck.
If, however, God wants tobe born as a human being and to unite humanity in the
community of theHoly Ghost, he will suffer the terrible torment of having to bear theworld
in its reality. It is a cross; yes, he himself is the cross. The world is God’s suffering and
each individual human being who alsowishes to even approximate his own totality knows
very well that thatmeans carrying a cross. But the eternal promise of bearing a cross isthe
These ideas are present with moving beauty and simplicity in the American Negro film
Green Pastures.In the movie, God had governed the world for many years with
curses,thunder, lightning, and floods, but it never prospered. Finally, herealized that he,
himself, would have to become human to get to theroot of the evil.
After he had come to knowthe suffering of the world, this God become man left behind
acomforter, the third person of the Trinity. He did so in order that hemight reside in many
individuals, particularly in those who in no wayenjoyed the prerogative or possibility of a
sinless condition. As theParaclete, God drew closer to real human beings and their
darkness evenmore than he had as the Son. The light God stepped onto the bridge of Man
from the day side; God’s shadow, however, from the night side. Whowill decide this
terrible dilemma that threatens to burst the miserablevessel with shudders and
intoxications never before heard of? It willlikely be the manifestation of a Holy Ghost from
Man himself. Just asonce Man became manifest from God, so, too, when the wheel
comes fullcircle, may God become manifest from Man. Since, however, evil accompanies
every good in this world, the antimimon pneuma inMan will create a human self-deification
from the inhabitancy of theParaclete. It will produce an inflation of self-presumptuousness,
theprologue to which Nietzsche’s case has already outlined clearly. Themore
unconsciously the religious problem of the future presentsitself, the greater is the danger
for Man to misuse the divine core inhimself as laughable or demonic self-inflation. He
should, instead,remain conscious of being nothing more than the stall in which the
Lordwas born. Even on the highest peak, we will never be beyond good andevil, and the
more we learn about the inextricable entanglement of goodand evil the more uncertain
and confused our moral judgment willbecome. In the process, it will be of no use
whatsoever to throw ourmoral criteria on the scrap heap and “erect new tablets”
(followingfamiliar patterns). Just as in the past, so into all the future willwrongs committed–
intended or considered–avenge themselves on ourpsyche, unmoved by whether the world
revolves around us or not. Ourknowledge of good and evil has decreased with our
increasing knowledgeand experience, and it will decrease still more in the future
withoutour being exempted from ethical demands. In this most extremeuncertainty, we
need the illumination of a Ghost to make us holy andcomplete, a Ghost that can be
anything else, just not ourunderstanding. Thereby we hint at the mystery of inner
experience, forwhich a capacity to touch more directly or consciously is denied us.
Lecture by Dr. C. G. Jung, Zrich
(translated from the German by Gary V. Hartman)
Originally published in Quadrant, XXVIII:1, Winter 1998.
Re-published here with the permission of Quadrant and the C.G. Jung Foundation of New
York (taken from CG Jung Page)