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Christ and The Sign of The Fishes “Pisces”


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Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self

[Carl Jung on Christ and The Sign of The Fish “Pisces”]

Let us now turn back to the theme of Christ as the fish.

According to Doelger, the Christian fish symbol first appeared in Alexandria around A.D. 200; 71 similarly, the baptismal bath was described as a piscina (fish-pond) quite early.

This presupposes that the believers were fishes, as is in fact suggested by the gospels (for instance Matt. 4:19).

There Christ wants to make Peter and Andrew “fishers of men” and the miraculous draught of fishes (Luke 5:10) is used by Christ himself as a paradigm for Peter’s missionary activity.

A direct astrological aspect of Christ’s birth is given us in Matthew 2:1ff. The Magi from the East were star-gazers who, beholding an extraordinary constellation, inferred an equally extraordinary birth.

This anecdote proves that Christ, possibly even at the time of the apostles, was viewed from the astrological standpoint or was at least brought into connection with astrological myths.

The latter alternative is fully confirmed when we consider the apocalyptic utterances of St. John. Since this exceedingly complex question has been discussed by those who are more qualified than I, we can support our argument on the well-attested fact that glimpses of astrological mythology may be caught behind the stories of the worldly and otherworldly life of the Redeemer.

Above all it is the connections with the age of the Fishes which are attested by the fish symbolism, either contemporaneously with the gospels themselves (“fishers of men” fishermen as the first disciples, miracle of loaves and fishes), or immediately afterwards in the post-apostolic era.

The symbolism shows Christ and those who believe in him as fishes, fish as the food eaten at the Agape, baptism as immersion in a fish-pond, etc.

At first sight, all this points to no more than the fact that the fish symbols and mythologems which have always existed had assimilated the figure of the Redeemer; in other words, it was a symptom of Christ’s assimilation into the world of ideas prevailing at that time.

But, to the extent that Christ was regarded as the new aeon, it would be clear to anyone acquainted with astrology that he was born as the first fish of the Pisces era, and was doomed to die as the last ram of the declining Aries era. 75 Matthew 27:158 hands down this mythologem in the form of the old sacrifice of the seasonal god.

Significantly enough, Jesus’s partner in the ceremony is called Barabbas, “son of the father.” There would be some justification for drawing a parallel between the tension of opposites in early Christian psychology and the fact the zodiacal sign for Pisces frequently shows two fishes moving in opposite directions, but only if it could be proved that their contrary movement dates from pre-Christian times or is at least contemporary with Christ.

Unfortunately, I know of no pictorial representation from this period that would give us any information about the position of the fishes. In the fine bas-relief of the zodia from the Little Metropolis in Athens, Pisces and Aquarius are missing.

There is one representation of the fishes, near the beginning of our era, that is certainly free from Christian influence. This is the globe of the heavens from the Farnese Atlas in Naples.

The first fish, depicted north of the equator, is vertical, with its head pointing to the celestial Pole; the second fish, south of the equator, is horizontal, with its head pointing West. The picture follows the astronomical configuration and is therefore naturalistic.

The zodiac from the temple of Hathor at Denderah (1st cent. B.C.) shows the fishes, but they both face the same way. The planisphere of Timochares, mentioned by Hipparchus, has only one fish where Pisces should be.

On coins and gems from the time of the emperors, and also on Mithraic monuments, the fishes are shown either facing the same way or moving in opposite directions. The polarity which the fishes later acquired may perhaps be due to the fact that the astronomical constellation shows the first (northerly) fish as vertical, and the second (southerly) fish as horizontal.

They move almost at right angles to one another and hence form a cross. This countermovement, which was unknown to the majority of the oldest sources, was much emphasized in Christian times, and this leads one to suspect a certain tendentiousness.

Although no connection of any kind can be proved between the figure of Christ and the inception of the astrological age of the fishes, the simultaneity of the fish symbolism of the Redeemer with the astrological symbol of the new aeon seems to me important enough to warrant the emphasis we place upon it. If we try to follow up the complicated mythological ramifications of this parallel, we do so with intent to throw light on the multifarious aspects of an archetype that manifests itself on the one hand in a personality, and on the other hand synchronistically, in a moment of time determined in advance, before Christ’s birth.

Indeed, long before that, the archetype had been written in the heavens by projection, so as then, “when the time was fulfilled” to coincide with the symbols produced by the new era. The fish, appropriately enough, belongs to the winter rainy season, like Aquarius and Capricorn (the goatfish).

As a zodiacal sign, therefore, it is not in the least remarkable. It becomes a matter for astonishment only when, through the precession of the equinoxes, the spring-point moves into this sign and thus inaugurates an age in which the “fish” was used as a name for the God who became a man, who was born as a fish and was sacrificed as a ram, who had fishermen for disciples and wanted to make them fishers of men, who fed the multitude with miraculously multiplying fishes, who was himself eaten as a fish, the “holier food,” and whose followers are little fishes, the, “pisciculi.”

Assume, if you like, that a fairly widespread knowledge of astrology would account for at least some of this symbolism in certain Gnostic-Christian circles. But this assumption does not apply when it comes to eyewitness accounts In the synoptic gospels. There is no evidence of any such thing. We have no reason whatever to suppose that those stories are disguised astrological myths.

On the contrary, one gets the impression that the fish episodes are entirely natural happenings and that there is nothing further to be looked for behind them. They are “Just So” stories, quite simple and natural, and one wonders whether the whole Christian fish symbolism may not have come about equally fortuitously and without premeditation.

Hence one could speak just as well of the seemingly fortuitous coincidence of this symbolism with the name of the new aeon, the more so as the age of the fishes seems to have left no very clear traces in the cultures of the East.

I could not maintain with any certainty that this is correct, because I know far too little about Indian and Chinese astrology.

As against this, the fact that the traditional fish symbolism makes possible a verifiable prediction that had already been made in the New Testament is a somewhat uncomfortable proposition to swallow.

The northerly, or easterly, fish, which the spring-point entered at about the beginning of our era, is joined to the southerly, or westerly, fish by the so-called commissure. This consists of a band of weak stars forming the middle sector of the
constellation, and the spring-point gradually moved along its southern edge.

The point where the ecliptic intersects with the meridian between the two fishes coincides roughly with the sixteenth century, the time of the Reformation, which as we know is so extraordinarily important for the history of Western symbols.

Since then the spring-point has moved along the southern edge of the second fish, and will enter Aquarius in the course of the third millennium.

Astrologically interpreted, the designation of Christ as one of the fishes identifies him with the first fish, the vertical one. Christ is followed by the Antichrist, at the end of time. The beginning of the enantiodromia would fall, logically, midway between the two fishes.

We have seen that this is so. The time of the Renaissance begins in the immediate vicinity of the second fish, and with it comes that spirit which culminates in the modern age. ~Carl Jung, Aion, The Sign of the Fishes, Paragraphs 145-148.

Note: In instances where Dr. Jung used Astrological Symbols or Greek terminology I have sadly been unable to include them within the text above.