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Carl Jung on Miriam of the Old Testament

000 miram the prophetess 001 miriam 002 Miriam

Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self

The Naassenes, as Hippolytus says derived all things from a triad, which consists firstly of the “blessed nature of the blessed Man on high, Adamas,” secondly of the mortal nature of the lower man, and thirdly of the “kingless race begotten from above,” to which belong “Mariam the sought-for one, and Jothor the great wise one, and Sephora the seer, and Moses whose generation was not in Egypt.”

Together these four form a marriage quaternio of the classic type:

Their synonyms are:





Moses corresponds to the husband, Sephora to the wife; Mariam (Miriam) is the sister of Moses; Jothor (Jethro) is the archetype of the wise old man and corresponds to the father-animus, if the quaternio is that of a woman. But the fact that Jothor is called “the great wise one” suggests that the quaternio is a man’s.

In the case of a woman the accent that falls here on the wise man would fall on Mariam, who would then have the significance of the Great Mother.

At all events our quaternio lacks the incestuous brother-sister relationship, otherwise very common.

Instead, Miriam has something of a mother significance for Moses (cf. Exodus 2:4ff.). As a prophetess (Exodus 15:20f.) she is a “magical” personality.

When Moses took a Moor to wife—the “Ethiopian woman”—this incensed Miriam so much that she was smitten with leprosy and became “as white as snow” (Numbers 12:10). Miriam is therefore not altogether unsuited to play the role of the anima.

The best-known anima-figure in the Old Testament, the Shulamite, says: “I am black, but comely” (Song of Songs 1:5).

In the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, the royal bride is the concubine of the Moorish king. Negroes, and especially Ethiopians, play a considerable role in alchemy as synonyms of the caput corvi and the nigredo.

They appear in the Passion of St. Perpetua as representatives of the sinful pagan world.   ~Carl Jung, CW 9ii, Para 328-329

The “lower Adam” corresponds to the ordinary mortal man, Moses to the culture-hero and lawgiver, and thus, on a personalistic level, to the “father”; Zipporah, as the daughter of a king and priest, to the “higher mother.”

For the ordinary man, these two represent the “royal pair,” which for Moses corresponds on the one hand to his “higher man,” and on the other hand to his anima, Miriam.

The “higher” man is synonymous with the “spiritual, inner” man, who is represented in the quaternio by Jethro. Such is the meaning of the quaternio when seen from the standpoint of Moses.

But since Moses is related to Jethro as the lower Adam, or ordinary man, is to Moses, the quaternio cannot be understood merely as the structure of Moses’ personality, but must be looked at from the standpoint of the lower Adam as well.

We then get the following quaternio:

Moses (as Culture Hero) __________________Zipporah (as Higher Mother)

The Lower Adam (as Ordinary Man) _________Eve (as Ordinary Woman)   ~Carl Jung, CW 9i, Para 360

From this we can see that the Naassene quaternio is in a sense unsymmetrical, since it leads to a senarius (hexad) with an exclusively upward tendency: Jethro and Miriam have to be added to the above four as a kind of third storey, as the higher counterparts of Moses and Zipporah.

We thus get a gradual progression, or series of steps leading from the lower to the higher Adam.

This psychology evidently underlies the elaborate lists of Valentinian syzygies.

The lower Adam or somatic man consequently appears as the lowest stage of all, from which there can be only an ascent.

But, as we have seen, the four persons in the Naassene quaternio are chosen so skilfully that it leaves room not only for the incest motif [Jethro-Miriam], which is never lacking in the marriage quaternio, but also for the extension of the ordinary man’s psychic structure downwards, towards the sub-human, the dark and evil side represented by the shadow.

That is to say, Moses marries the “Ethiopian woman,” and Miriam, the prophetess and mother-sister, becomes “leprous,” which is clear proof that her relation to Moses has taken a negative turn.

This is further confirmed by the fact that Miriam “spoke against” Moses and even stirred up his brother Aaron against him. Accordingly, we get the following senarius:

THE LOWER ADAM _______________________________________________ EVE MOSES

ETHIOPIAN WOMAN JETHRO, the heathen priest _______________________ MIRIAM, the “white” leper  ~Carl Jung, CW 9i,Para 361