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Medieval parallels to Mount Meru.
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Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture XV 3rd March, 1939

We were speaking last time of the medieval parallel to the Mount Meru sequence of symbols.

I will give you a chart to make it clearer:


Shri-Chakra-Sambhara Tantra Alchemy

I. Shunyata, Void. (Avidya) I. Chaos
II. Four Elements II. Tetrameria
III. Mount Meru III. Mons
IV. City IV. Civitas castrum
V. Four-headed Vajra, Four colors V. Quaternitas
VI. Lotus VI. Flos auri
VII. Moon VII. Luna
IX. Lotus with Yoni IX. Al-baida (Beya)
X. Moon with Lingam X. Conjunctio
XI. Vihara XI. Vas Hermetis
XII. Mahasukha XII. Lapis, Hermaphroditus, Homunculus

I. Shunyata, the Void, corresponds to chaos, the original condition.

It has the form of a moist sphere in which the primordial elements are contained in a mixed condition.

II. The four elements are brought forth from Shunyata, and correspondingly from the primal water of the chaos.

We still find this done symbolically in the Roman Catholic Church, the priest divides the water on Easter Eve with the sign of the cross.

This is to divide it into the four elements so that the water should possess the ability to give rebirth.

Medieval philosophy expresses the same idea by saying that the prima materia must be divided into four so as to give it the strength to b ear the new world.

III. In the Shri-Chakra- Sambhara Tantra this is Mount Meru and in alchemy it is the mons, (mountain) on which the panacea, the herb, or the philosopher’s
stone is to be found.

The names given to this herb, lunatica, lunaria, etc., show that it is connected with the head.

It is a poison and a remedy.

This is the psychological mystery of alchemy.

The mountain as we saw is identified by the Fathers of the Church with Christ and also with his mother Mary.

We spoke also of the stone described in the book of Daniel, the stone which was cut out without hands and became a great
mountain which filled the whole earth.

The mediaeval philosophers speak of the lapis angularis, and of the lapis exilis, the latter means the small insignificant stone.

And as we saw Christ is the corner stone which groweth into an holy Temple “and the small insignificant stone that became the great mountain and
which came out of the mountain Mary.

It is very necessary in psychology to return to these old examples or we cannot understand.

We must know how the human psyche came into being for in the unconscious the old ways are always trodden again.

This becomes quite clear if you think of a science such as anatomy, it is impossible to understand anatomy unless we study the history of its
biological development.

We find all the ancient forms of the human psyche in dreams and in such texts as the Shri-Chakra-Sambhara Tantra.

The unconscious comes into action through the attitude of the conscious in active imagination.

The official example of Yoga in the West is the exercitia spiritualia of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

We will speak of these in the next Semester.

Alchemy is not interesting to chemists for they are not interested in psychology.

The real meaning of alchemy was carefully veiled for in those days it was dangerous to be concerned with the Spirit outside the dogma of
the church.

When one studies the inside of these mysteries, and comes to understand them, one finds their great secrets lying hidden from the world,
just as they are hidden in the Tibetan texts.

These also were kept entirely secret.

It is only within the last few years that a few Lamas have become interested in giving their texts to the world.

This is largely due to Sir John Woodroffe and to the American Evans Wentz who succeeded in getting in touch with such people, and in interesting
them in the translation and publication of some of their texts.

The mountain is not only identified with Christ and Mary but also with the Holy Ghost.

Divinitas sancti spiritus has a peculiar relation to Mary, for the Sapientia Dei or Sophia was identified by the early Church with Mary.

So the mons is identical with three divine figures.

Such things become quite comprehensible when we think of the medieval point of view.

They thought of the world as coming out of the four elements and they personified the world-being by a god.

We also personify our mountains, think of the Jungfrau for instance.

III. We now come to the city which lies on Mt. Meru.

The parallel in alchemistic philosophy is the civitas castrum, the fortified city.

A city is definitely a feminine symbol and we come to Mary again.

She is called the acies castrorum, the castellum, the civitas or the gazophylacium.

The last means the house where the treasure is kept and is also called the domus thesauraria.

These expressions all originate with the Fathers of the Church, but the alchemists use them in connection with the veritas and sapientia,
truth and wisdom.

G. Dorneus speaks of the veritas as an impregnable castle, a citadel which cannot be stormed, it contains the treasure which is taken away
after death.

The idea is that the treasure is something which is ordained to eternal life, and apparently after death it goes up to the skies and leads a
post mortem existence.

IV. We come now to the four-headed Vajra.

Vajra as you know means diamond, the symbol for great durability.

The Sanskrit word Vajra could always be translated as eternal, Vajra weapons would be the eternal weapons and so on. ·

So the treasure in the citadel is an eternal treasure.

We find the same idea as the four-headed Vajra in an alchemistic text by G. Dorneus in the four castles of the sapientia.

Crystal, silver, diamond and the fourth is “something which does not fall under the senses”, it cannot be apprehended by
them, it cannot be understood.

This is very remarkable for this is also the case with the functions.

We can understand thinking, feeling and sensation but intuition is another thing.
We do not know how we arrive at an intuition, it is perception by way of the unconscious.

It is very interesting that the old Gnostics and alchemists already knew that the fourth could not be understood.

“Castrum in quose continet philosophicus amor”. (The castle in which the philosophicus amor lives.)

The philosophicus amor is the love of philosophy, the striving after truth, the search for the transformation of matter.

Alchemical philosophy is an instrument and a way to the inner transformation of man, a problem which is practically unknown today.

We find the same idea in the Heavenly Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation, that is a real “castrum”, plentifully decked with the imagination
of the author.

Alchemy is also occupied with the theme of decoration, the philosopher’s gold and the wonderful glass of the vitrum aureum, made from the
smelting of the elements, of crystal, diamond and gold, the idea of the most precious thing.

Pica della Mirandola, 1463-1494, wrote a book about phantasy and said that the soul lived in a royal castle.

So it is not astonishing that Christ, who contains all Christian souls, should be described as a protecting citadel.

Such an idea is found very early in the Christian Church and also among the heretics, mainly the Gnostics.

Hippolytus, who lived in the second century, spoke of the wall and fortress in which the inner man lived.

Gnosticism was savagely persecuted by the Church, so its texts are fragmentary and rare.

There is the Codex Brucianus, a Coptic text at the Bodleian Library in Oxford and fortunately several other Gnostic and Manichean
texts have been found in Egypt recently.

The Fathers of the Church could never quote the Gnostics, but here and there they could not resist mentioning their ideas but in a peculiar
form and very indirectly.

We find the idea of the Monogenes in the Codex Brucianus: “who dwelleth in the Monad as in a metropolis”.

The Monogenes is self-generated, none can s ay where he came from. St. John calls the Monogenes the Logos, the word, the Son of God.

He is the primal being, the Purusha.

As we have seen, the town containing a treasure is a very general idea.

The Monogenes is based on four.

We find the same idea in the four-headed Vajra of our text.

The latter has four colours and this theme also plays an important role in alchemy.

The alchemists speak of the cauda pavonis, the peacock’s tail, they regard it in the light of a vision, a treasure, and say that when such
colours appear in the retort the goal is not far off.

Heraclitus mentions black, white, red and yellow as the elements and the Greek painters used these four colours as a foundation,
from which they mixed their other colours.

These colours appear again and again till late in the Middle Ages.

The four colours represent the fact that the four-headed Vajra consists of four parts.

The original unity was divided in four, and was hatched into a unity again but it is a unity in which the four are still visible.

We find this idea again and again in alchemy.

There is a letter attributed traditionally to Aristotle (a Pseudo Aristotle naturally) addressed to Alexander the Great in which he says:

“Divide lapidem tuum in quattuor elementa et conjunge in unum.” (Divide thy stone into four and unite it into one.)

The idea of the quaternity itself was holy to the alchemists, and the medieval texts are full of this idea.

As I have already mentioned, we find it in the Codex Brucianus where the Monogenes is thought of as standing upon a platform, supported by
four pillars.

This is the Gnostic conception of Christ on the Tetramorphus, the four evangelists.

We find the quaternity everywhere, the four rivers of paradise, the Rex Gloriae with the four evangelists , etc. etc. V

ery beautiful western mandalas exist which are divided into four, eight, sixteen or thirty-two parts.

Pythagoras in the 6th century B.C. made the tetraktys, the quaternity, the basis of his teaching.

It is the number of the living one, the foundation of all life.

In Barbelo Gnosticism the first creature was Metra or the body of the mother in the chaos.

This was impregnated by the Pneuma and bore the four Aeons or eternal creatures, that is, the four elements.

In another Gnosis the Tetras descended to man and revealed that both God and man are a quaternity.

The Tetras came in a female form and indicated all the parts of the body.

This idea appears in the Middle Ages as the secret square of the philosophers.

It is also referred to as “our pelican” and a certain kind of alchemical retort, in which a circulating distillation takes place, is
called a pelican.

The pelican of course is a symbol for Christ.

It is always represented with its beak smiting its breast in order to feed its young.

It has a red spot on the beak which is the origin of the idea that it uses its own blood for this purpose.

Pelicanus noster means that our redeemer gives his blood to save us.

The medieval concept of squaring the circle is well known.

I. Chaos is the circle and II.

the division into four elements is the squaring of the circle.

This is done by a mathematical mystery, it is a mystic representation of the four elements and their union; the point in the middle is the mediator, quinta essentia, or pelicanus noster.

So the mediator is said to be he who brings about the squaring of the circle, he represents the mystery and its solution.

It is impossible to mention even a fraction of the widespread literature and art relating to the squaring of the circle.

The Rose Window, which is to be found in so many Churches and Cathedrals, is known to you all.

There is often a Rex Gloriae in the centre of such a window and it usually has 8,16 or more divisions.

We reach VI, the Lotus, with the rose symbolism.

The rose played a large role in the Middle Ages, it is the typical abstract symbol for the love of Dante in the Divine Comedy.

We find Mary as the rosa mystica in the Litany of Loretta.

The motif of the jewel in the lotus is very frequent in the East.

You will remember the mantra: “Om mani padme hum”, the jewel i n the Lotus.

The jewel in the rose has exactly the same meaning.

Christ is spoken of as being born or hidden in a rose, or as a sea bird resting in a flower of the sea.

This is a direct analogy to Buddha appearing in the Lotus in the Amitabha Land with geese and swans about him.

The idea of the flower plays an important role in medieval alchemy.

It is synonymous with the materia and the aqua permanens from which the philosopher’s stone is made.

It is also called the world flower, the flower of the sun or the golden flower, and is als o compared with Christ as the philosopher’s stone.

You find the same idea in the blossoming of Aaron’s rod.’:

In the language of the Fathers of the Church the mystical rose is the flesh of Christ, the bud which holds the divine spirit as in a vase.

We come here to the idea of the containing vessel.

The steam which rises in the retort is thought of as the flowering of matter, steam is the transformation of the corporeal into the incorporeal, it represents the spirit.

The retort itself encloses the spirit, and it must be hermetically sealed so that the spirit does not vanish.

So the flower rising in the. retort represents the strength of the miraculous water, the psyche or spirit.

Komarius teaches Cleopatra that the dead who stay in Hades [that is in chaos) are transformed into Spring flowers by the miraculous dew.

This is the idea of the living elements in chaos or Shunyata waking and uniting through being contained in the lotus.

The mystical rose, like the lotus in India, grows for the salvation of man.

Dante saw the mystical rose as the last vision in the Paradiso, where it embraced the whole Heavens.

But we find the chief parallel to the lotus in the hymnology of Mary, where she is called the flower of Heaven, the noble rose of Heaven, the rose without thorn; she is also greeted as the sweet rose, etc.

This is exactly the same idea as that of the lotus in India.

Mary is the bud which contains the becoming being that is undergoing transformation. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 3Mar1939, Pages 97-101.