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Zarathustra Seminars

[Carl Jung on the “Subtle Body.”]

Very little is known about this strange concept of the subtle body.

Mead has written a book about it.

You see, when we speak of the unconscious we meant the psychological unconscious, which is a possible concept; we are then dealing with certain factors in the unconscious which we really can understand and discriminate.

But the part of the unconscious which is designated as the subtle body becomes more and more identical with the functioning of the body, and therefore it grows darker and darker and ends in the utter darkness of matter; that aspect of the unconscious is exceedingly incomprehensible.

I only mention it because in dealing with Nietzsche’s concept of the self, one has to include a body, so one must include not only the shadow-the psychological unconscious-but also the physiological unconscious, the so-called somatic unconscious which is the subtle body.

You see, somewhere our unconscious becomes material, because the body is the living unit, and our conscious and our unconscious are embedded in it: the contact the body.

Somewhere there is a place where the two ends meet and become interlocked. And that is the place where one cannot say whether it is matter, or what one calls “psyche.”

Now everything that can be represented to the conscious is psychological, but if a thing cannot be made conscious, or can only be expressed by vague analogies or hints, it is so dark that one doesn’t know whether it has todo with the top or the bottom of the system, whether it leads into the body or into the air.

According to the old Gnostic system, the pneuma is above , that part of the unconscious which is divine; then below would come the body which was called hyle, or sarx, as Paul calls the flesh in the New Testament, and between the tow there is the human or the psychological sphere.

The Latin words for pneuma are spiritus and in another connection animus, not to be mistaken for the specific animus concept in our psychology.

Then with the psyche would be the anima, with the connotations of the breath of life, the living flame, the living warmth of the body.

This anima has a spiritual side, called in China the shen, and their concept of kuei would be the somatic and their concept of kuei would be the somatic or corporeal part.

This region contains the psychology of the subtle see the body, the sarx, and only by inference do you come to the psychological side; you get reflected rays of light from a body of flesh, and you hear a voice, vibrations of the air, and they give you the necessary hints to conclude as to the psyche.

I you are inside yourself, in your own body, they your are in the psyche, which is the center.

It would be like this.

The mountain would be the conscious and the unconscious, and the spiritual would be on one side and the somatic on the other. The greatest intensity of life is in the center and the darkness is on either side, on the spiritual side as well as on the side of matter.

You may have read that famous work, Pistis Sophia.

Pistis means fidelity, confidence, trust, loyalty, wrongly translated by “belief” or “creed,” and Sophia is the woman wisdom of God.

She is God’s wife in a way, and therefore has also been understood as the so-called theotokos, the mother of God-that is the term used in the Greek Orthodox church for Mother Mary-and certain Gnostics held that Sophia was the mother of the spiritual Jesus.

The man Jesus has of course been born of an earthly woman, but the spiritual Jesus that descended into him when he was baptized by John was born out of Sophia.

They were convinced that the man Jesus who was hanging on the cross was only the material body, that during his sruggle in the garden, hours before his crucifiction, the God had departed from him.

So the God was never crucified.

The Body was hanging on the cross and not the God-man, the proof being that Christ himself said, “My Go, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

That is the belief of the Doketic form of development of the orthodox Christian dogma.

I mention this because all these ideas of the subtle body play a great role in the New Testament.

The body or sarx, to Saint Paul is the gross, biological, physiological body, the corruptible body; but he speaks also of the incorruptible body which we put on with Christ, because Christ is in a way the soul or the pneuma, the incorruptible body that is beyond time and space.

You see, the subtle body-assuming that there is such a thing-necessarily must be beyond space and time.

Every real body fills space because it consists of matter, while the subtle body is said not to consist of matter, or it is matter which is so exceedingly subtle that it cannot be perceived.

So it must be a body which does not fill space, a matter which is beyond space, and therefore it would be in no time.

You know, we can only have a notion of time by the measure of distance; for instance, to move from this end of the room to the other needs a certain length of time, but if there is no extension, no change, there is no time; even if that moment stands still for ten thousand eternities, there is no time because nothing happens.

This idea of the subtle body is very important, and it is marvelous to encounter it in a text which naively comes from the wholeness of man.

You will see from the next chapter that Zarathustra is one of the books that is written with blood, and anything written with blood contains the notion of that subtle body, the equivalent of the somatic unconscious.

I usually do not deal with that concept simply because it is too difficult I content myself with things of which I can really know something.

It is beyond our grasp per definition; the subtle body is a transcendental concept which cannot be expressed in terms of our language or our philosophical views, because they are all inside the categories of time and space. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Pages 441-443.

Note: G.R.S. Mead authored “The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western Tradition.”