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Jung’s concept of the Pleroma and the Great Invisible Spirit of the Gnostics



The Apocalypse of the Reluctant Gnostics by Stuart Douglas

However, there is one fundamental point of departure between Jung’s concept of the Pleroma and the Great Invisible Spirit of the Gnostics.

For the Gnostics, the ultimate divinity is completely alien and a wholly transcendent God-above-God; Jung’s Pleroma is simultaneously, and paradoxically (again), fully transcendent yet fully immanent.

Whereas Jung inherits the Gnostic view that the created world is estranged from its source in the ineffable realm, his concept of the Pleroma remains intimately related to the created world.

In much the same way that light pervades the atmosphere, and electromagnetic radiation penetrates solid objects, Jung’s Pleroma interpenetrates the created world.

For the Gnostics, the Great Invisible Spirit is, in a spatio-temporal sense, distant from creation.

For Jung, this spatio-temporal separation has been collapsed and the Pleroma pervades creation.

This is in accord with the maybe not-quite-Gnostic Gospel of Thomas which teaches that splitting a piece of wood, or lifting up a stone, and there within can be found the divine.

As such, in contrast to the monist cosmology of the ancient Gnostics, Jung’s Gnostic vision is panentheistic.

Panentheism (from the Greek pan “all”, en “in”, and theos “God” [i.e., “all in God”]), in distinction to pantheism, is the metaphysical doctrine that considers God to be greater than the universe, both containing it and interpenetrating it.

God is simultaneously transcendent and immanent.

Pantheism (from the Greek, meaning “all is God”), on the other hand, ideies God with the universe, in other words, the universe is God manifest, and God is the universe un-manifest (Figure 6). ~Stuart Douglas, The Apocalypse of the Reluctant Gnostics, Page 45

Figure 6. Pantheism vs. panentheism.

Figure 6. Pantheism vs. panentheism.

Jung’s Gnostic cosmogony also differs from that of the ancient Gnostics’ in terms of process. Expanding on the concept of emanation of the binary pairs of opposites, Jung’s account stresses the crucial importance of the differentiation of the opposites in the act of creation.

For Jung, differentiation is creation, and without the differentiation of the opposites, there can be no creation.

Without differentiation, the syzygies of the Pleroma remain inert and exist, insofar as they can be considered to exist at all, as potentials only.

Through the process of differentiation, these original unified “pairs”—we cannot really call them pairs in their unified, undifferentiated state—are split into a dyad of complementary, yet polar, opposites, both of which are required to reconstitute the whole.

Nothing can exist without the simultaneous existence of its complementary opposite. There is no hot without cold, no light without dark. In the Pleroma, prior to differentiation the opposites cancel one another out and are ineffective and not “real”.

Only once differentiated do they come into effect and become what we might consider as “real”.

Consequently, as created beings, the fundamental characteristic of human nature in Jung’s Gnostic thinking is the differentiation of the opposites.

This differentiation of the opposites would become the crucial factor and the hallmark of Jung’s psychology.

Also lacking from Jung’s Gnostic creation myth is the notion that the world came into being through error. Indeed, in sharp contrast, Jung’s view was that the process of emanation/differentiation of the pairs of opposites was to be regarded, not as a mistake, but far more positively as the origin of life itself (McGuire & Shamdasani, 2012). ~Stuart Douglas, The Apocalypse of the Reluctant Gnostics, Page 46-47