4 May 1932 Visions Seminar Lecture 1
Ladies and Gentlemen: We shall continue to work at this long series of visions.
Do you remember with what particular motif we were concerned at the end of our last seminar?
Mr. Allemann: It was the mandala motif.
Dr. Jung: In what form was that motif represented?
Mrs. Sawyer: The white city and the black city.
Dr. Jung: Yes, we had some time ago the symbol of the white city on top of the mountain, and here we have the black city that is below.
This, we said, was according to the two recurring principles of Yang and Yin, which-I must explain to the new members-are terms in classical Chinese philosophy.
They are simply contrasts, they represent the paradoxical nature of everything in existence.
Also they represent the source of living energy; without these opposites nothing lives, nothing moves; contrast is the source of energy.
We have seen how the unconscious of our patient has moved from the Yang principle down into the Yin principle, from above to below, and this whole series of visions is chiefly concerned with the extraordinary
difficulty of the transition from one leading principle to another.
Always the leading idea of the conscious, or the leading religious or philosophical conviction, is the Yang, because it is light; it shines, it is differentiated, it appears on the surface of the earth, in the minds of men.
And it is always contrasted-and counteracted-by the opposite, the shadow, darkness.
There is a clear demonstration of this fact in the Christian religion, which is much concerned with that tremendous difference between the light and the darkness; St. John, for instance, speaks of the light that shineth in darkness.
The Persian Zoroastrian religion is based upon the opposition between the powers of light and the powers of darkness.
And the same fundamental idea, the conflict between the light and the darkness, was taken up again in Manichaeism.
We know very little of Manichaeism as yet, but it was once a very powerful religion in the East, and it also reached far into the West.
It was founded by Mani, a Persian, in the third century A.D. Recent German expeditions, the Turfan expedition in particular, have unearthed a number of Manichaean remains in India; and a translation of a Manichaean book into Chinese has been discovered, showing that those ideas were known as far East as China.
In Central Asia Manichaeism was extirpated by Mohammedanism in about the ninth century.
In the West it figured in the history of the church as an arch heresy, the height of everything evil and devilish, although it was a religion very much like Christianity.
It even penetrated into France.
The Albigenses, a Catharistic sect that flourished in southern France from the eleventh century until they were exterminated by the Crusades and the Inquisition two centuries later, were much influenced by Manichaeism.
And it is interesting that those Manichaean emissaries coming from the East were Bulgarians.
A trace of them remains even now in the modern French word bougre, which is derived from Bulgar, it was probably first used as a sort of curse, and it is still a derogatory term.
Our own time is characterized by a fully developed religious idea or philosophy, and this conscious system, our Weltanschauung, has also to deal with the darkness, it casts a tremendous shadow.
And the shadow is growing; it shows itself on every side in the extraordinary development of the darker powers.
One sees it in art, in social conditions, in all sorts of forms; the powers from below are trying to rise, and what has been above is descending.
That is so in our psychology; of course we resist it, we are afraid of it, yet it is occurring.
This process is evident in the visions of our patient.
She is constantly fighting against something overpowering that comes from below.
At times she falls into it, at times she escapes from it, but then it is only to go back to it again; after futile
attempts to cling to the heights, she drops to the depths, deeper down into the underworld.
So we have seen lately that the symbol of the white city, which is the culminating vision of Revelations, the culminating vision of fulfillment and accomplishment in the Christian Weltanschauung, is counteracted, quite overbalanced, by the black city below; and the symbol of the accomplishment, the mandala, appears now in the colors and forms of the abysmal things.
That means a complete reversal, and one might conclude that when such a vision was reached she would be
more or less caught in that inescapable law, that she would be forced to make up her mind to a revision of her attitude, or to seek a new attitude that would help her to adapt to this fall, this fact that could not be avoided. We come now to the next vision.
She says: · I stood by the sea, looking toward the horizon. A ship appeared and came toward me.
The sea is always the symbol of the collective unconscious, and standing on the seashore is a symbolic situation which occurs often in dreams or visions, meaning that one is on the edge of the conscious world, as it were, looking into the limitless distance, or the uttermost depths of the ocean.
The sea, the unconscious, looks like a mirror; one cannot penetrate into it, but one knows that its shining surface covers an immense depth containing all sorts of mysterious forms.
And when standing there, she naturally expects something to happen or to appear; she is looking into the distance, or down into the sea, and that looking, psychologically, brings about the activation of the object. It is as if something were emanating from one’s spiritual eye that evokes or activates the object of one’s vision.
The English verb, to look at, does not convey this meaning, but the German betrachten, which is an equivalent, means also to make pregnant.
Trachtig means to carry, to be big with young, pregnant, but it is used only for animals, not for human beings; a pregnant cow is a trachtige Kuh.
So to look at or concentrate upon a thing, betrachten, gives the quality of being pregnant to the object.
And if it is pregnant, then something is due to come out of it; it is alive, it produces, it multiplies.
That is the case with any fantasy image; one concentrates upon it, and then finds that one has great difficulty in keeping the thing quiet.
It gets restless, it shifts, something is added, or it multiplies itself; one fills it with living power, and it becomes pregnant.
Even human beings behave like that; if you stare hard at someone, he gets restless and begins to move.
And you can betrachten, not by looking, but by putting your hands upon a thing, a table for instance, and if you have the quality of making things pregnant, the table moves.
Or if you put your fingers on a glass, it moves away in circles, and the thing you have projected into it begins to talk; that is table-rapping, table-turning, the old trick.
And if you put your hands on a human being-as if he were a table-he also begins to move.
You can make people talk in a very strange way, or they move their legs and arms about.
I have made such experiments and they are exceedingly funny.
if you want to know something from patients, you stare at them hard; then they assume that I know all about them, but I know nothing.
When our patient looks at the sea, then, something she has put into it comes out of it.
It is as if a sort of germ had been latent in the unconscious, which appears when she stares at it.
Her conscious mind is an absolute blank, for the conscious things are done for, they are no longer
She simply looks into empty space-what is called the unconscious-and by staring at that void something begins to stir and out comes the ship.
Now why just a ship?
Why not an animal, a fish, or a sea serpent, or the old man from the bottom of the sea?
Mrs. Schlegel: The ship will bring something from another shore.
Dr. Jung: Yes, we must be quite naive about it.
A ship is a hollow form that would naturally contain something.
Therefore we may assume that it is here sent ashore to bring something.
Now she says: “The sails of the ship were black and on each sail was a ring of gold.”
What dramatic moment does the black sail suggest?
Mrs. Baynes: Tristan waiting for Isolde.
Dr.Jung: Yes, and there the black sail was an evil portent: it meant death, Tristan’s end, his waiting was in vain.
It is the great love story; therefore “on each sail was a ring of gold”-a ring always means a union.
We could go further and say it pointed to a mandala, but we must wait.
She continues: “On the prow of the ship was a wooden image of a woman.”
Such a figurehead emphasizes the fact that the ship is female,-as a rule it is a woman’s figure on the prow-and here it is a woman with dark sails.
What does that point to?
Mrs. Baynes: The black anima, but she should not be having an anima.
Dr. Jung: In a man’s case it would be a black anima; as a matter of fact that ship was bringing Isolde, Tristan’s anima, only the black sails concealedher.
But in this case, as a woman is not supposed to have an anima, it would be the shadow part of our patient.
Now the ship would naturally come from the unconscious, because the black city in the vision before meant the black self in the depths, and no sooner does she look into the unconscious than she sees that ship looming up.
The ship grounded on the beach beside me and I climbed up into it. There was no one to be seen.
She is obviously in the situation of Tristan, and if Isolde had reached Tristan in time, she would have taken him with her in her ship.
So this woman is almost in the place of the man, and since she is acting the part, her animus is not present.
And that she climbs into the ship with the black sails means that she accepts the shadow form.
She is like Kuan Yin, the goddess of kindness, who took on the form of an evil spirit herself in order not to frighten the devils when she went down to comfort them in hell.
Now there is no one to be seen on that ship, it seems to be entirely empty, evidently she is the only content.
She continues: “I descended into the ship and entered a room hung with blue.”
What does this descent mean?
Mrs. Fierz: She goes again into the lower parts of her body, so to speak.
Dr. Jung: Yes, she enters the heart of darkness.
That is a speech metaphor in the I Ching, in the hexagram about overcoming the darkness; when the Yin has reached its greatest power, the enantiodromia begins and Yang appears again.
Here she descends into the belly of the ship, and enters a room hung with blue.
What would that indicate?
Mrs. Crow!ey: It would be the Yang, having to do with the sky.
Dr. Jung: It is on the Yang side, but it is not exactly the Yang, because the Yang would be a positive light, not a color.
What is the reason for the blue color of the sky?
Mrs. Baynes: It comes from the thick layers of air.
Dr. Jung: Yes, layers of air are always blue like the water, so this blue refers to air or to water, and therefore it symbolizes intuition or mind or spirit, anything more-or-less mental as opposed to hard, heavy matter.
All the lighter forms of matter, like gases or vapors or water, symbolize the more spiritual side of nature.
Therefore in alchemy the volatile substance, the essence, that rises into the alembic from the heavy dense
body heated in the retort, was called the spiritus.
The original meaning of the word spiritus was breath, one that has spirit; the spirit was a subtle body, or a puff of wind, a breath of air.
So the blue refers to something spiritual in the large sense of the original word.
But descending into the heart of darkness would mean going down into blackness, matter, into everything that is a contrast to the light, where one would not expect to find anything particularly spiritual.
How do you explain the presence of a blue room down there?
Mrs. Crowley: It would be like the Yang and the Yin again, in the Tai-gi-tu. ·
Dr. Jung: Yes, like that symbol of the two fishlike forms, the white fish with the black eye and the black fish with the white eye.
In the center of the fully developed Yin is that one point which is the germ of the Yang.
When the day is at its height, at full noon, the germ of darkness appears; as at midnight the germ of the new day is already underway.
She enters that room, which is the germ of the new light, and she says: “In the center of the room was a white fur rug on which lay a snake coiled up.”
The center of the room means its very essence, and there is the white rug.
Why not an ordinary carpet? And why just fur?
Mrs. Crowley: The fur belonged to an animal, and a carpet would have been made by man.
Dr. Jung: It is not a living animal, it is a prepared animal skin. What is your fantasy about it?
Mrs. Baynes: A polar bear!
Mrs. Fierz: One could say in German that it is abgezogen.
Dr. Jung: Yes, it is an abstract animal because the skin is pulled off, it is detached.
Abgezogen means something pulled off, but it also means something distilled, or abstracted.
Mrs. Sawyer: Could it be the sacrificed animal?
Dr. Jung: Well, it is an animal that has been denaturalized, it has been flayed.
But flaying was part of a famous sacrificial rite. You Americans should know that.
Mrs. Baynes: In Mexico?
Dr. Jung: In Mexico they flayed a criminal every year, and the priest then got into the skin of the flayed victim, thus representing the god.
The symbolical meaning is that man must be denaturalized in order to attain to the god.
In all religions there is the same idea of the denaturalization of man in favor of the god, that the god may be born in man, or in witness of his power, his light.
One could say that monasteries were great flaying institutions, and the practices of the Christian hermits were efforts to get out of their old skins, as if they were caterpillars that by flaying themselves would become butterflies.
It is like laying off the old Adam and putting on Christ, as St. Paul says.
Or it is like the Negro idea of how death first appeared on earth.
They thought that human beings were originally like snakes that shed their skins once a year and thereby
got a new skin, a new life; but once an old woman became somewhat distracted and put on the old skin again, and so death came into the world.
The idea of flaying is really archetypal, so the fur rug probably refers to the animal that has been flayed, meaning the animal consciousness that has been transformed into a detached consciousness.
Now an animal consciousness is an instinctive consciousness, therefore compulsory, a consciousness which is always dependent, always in participation mystique with circumstances-like a person who cannot imagine anything which is not just under his nose, for instance, who cannot think hypothetically or make assumptions, cannot say what he would do “if.”
That someone was able to think, “how would it be if” was the beginning of all human invention.
Even in Roman times they could not do that; the old Romans never discovered a steam engine, for instance,
simply because they could not think “how it would be if”; they could not abstract their minds from the mere funny or beautiful aspect of things.
They had a complete knowledge of everything which would have enabled them to construct a steam engine; as a matter of fact, they did have a sort of steam engine, a plaything that was called Heron’s Ball, but they simply thought it was amusing, they stopped at that.
It was built by Heron, a physicist from Alexandria; he really invented a steam engine, yet it was only a curio, they played with it.
So when Galvani saw the frogs’ legs jumping, which the cook had hung up on wires that occasionally
touched, he might have said, how funny, and everyone else would have thought it was funny, and repeated it forever.
But Galvani was a man who had achieved an abstract consciousness, who said to himself, “What would it be if?”
So he succeeded in constructing the first apparatus for generating electricity.
But the Romans did not do that.
And of course primitives could not do it, which accounts for the fact that all primitive civilizations are so exceedingly conservative.
For a hundred thousand years nothing new happened, absolutely nothing.
But the moment man reached the point where he asked himself, “how would it be if,” in that moment his thoughts became detached, thus far he was liberated from participation mystique, and so he began to experiment.
Civilization is the result of this process of detachment in the individual life, the development of consciousness, and that process is going on.
All progress in human life, every improvement in insight and understanding, is a progress in conscious development: one is more conscious, more aware, one can imagine things which are not, one is detached from facts.
One can invent beyond the actual possibilities because one can imagine “how it would be if.”
For instance, suppose there were an epidemic of typhoid fever.
After a while someone says, how strange that we have the epidemic always in this district and never in another.
Then people go on saying that for three or four hundred years, until one fellow comes along and says there must be a reason for it.
He realizes it, he becomes aware of it; he says, if it always starts in this particular district, there must be some reason.
And then he discovers the fact that there is a particular pipeline that is infected.
He is a being with a detached abstract consciousness, who can draw a conclusion in an empty space; he sees no other bank on the other side, but he knows that it must be there.
Or perhaps there is a certain place in a town where a street accident occurs, and the next day again an accident, and in a week another, always on the same spot; then people begin to say it is odd that it always happens just there.
But nobody yet thinks that there must be a definite psychological reason.
As a rule we are so much in participation mystique with things that we don’t see the reason.
Such things happen all the time in our psychology, but nobody draws a conclusion.
The most we can do is to wonder.
Nobody pays attention because nobody is aware that there is a principle behind the whole thing, so a very serious thing is perhaps taken for a long time very lightly.
Now here our patient is about to discover something which has hitherto operated entirely in the darkness, something which would explain a great deal.
That is the snake on the fur rug.
There is something quite new here.
You see the center would naturally be the Yang principle, and here the Yang center is represented by the Yin; the snake seems quite obviously to be the Yin, yet it is now in the place of the Yang, the eye of darkness.
How is that possible?
Mrs. Sawyer: The snake is also the two ways, going back and forth.
Dr. Jung: Well, the snake is the thing that is in the unconscious because the snake is quite cold-blooded; the localization of that symbol would be somewhere in the lower spine, and that is profoundly unconscious.
Usually, on account of the fact that the snake personifies darkness, we assume that it always means Yin, but here we see that that is not necessarily so, the Yang can be Yin too.
That is an absolutely new idea-not to our abstract and intellectual mind with which we can think anything; but as an experience, it is a new idea that philosophical thought, which to us is entirely bright and shining, could in the unconscious darkness be a snake.
The Yang principle is perfectly known to us as the bright day where everything is clear and self-evident, and that in the darkness this very same thing could be a demon of the underworld is unheard of, but that is practically what is shown in this form.
I have seen many people who in the beginning of analysis took the unconscious, their dreams, for instance, as a sort of imagination that happened, but that au fond meant nothing.
They admit that one can, of course, come to certain conclusions; a wish has been repressed from
consciousness, for instance, but that is only a sort of negligence, something fell under the table and disappeared in the rubbish heap.
But according to their point of view, it is quite excluded that the unconscious could produce anything serious, like a conscious thought.
They are astonished when they discover that the unconscious can say something of its own, something very substantial which they didn’t know and have never even heard of before.
It may be a very small thing: whilst writing a fantasy, a picture may suddenly present itself, for instance, or a voice may break in saying something unexpected.
That is usually the turning point, the experience that gets them; then they realize that the unconscious has really an activity of its own, that it is not just subjective activity, but something like an independent object standing against them and able to influence them.
Until that happens they take psychological phenomena as a more or less subjective play of representations, all of conscious origin.
But from such an experience they discover the Yang in the Yin, which is an extraordinary spiritual experience, one might say, because it demonstrates in an absolutely irrefutable way-of course not objectively but subjectively-the fact that something psychical within one is alive, and it is not “I,” but it.
Dr. Reichstein: I do not understand why you call this the discovery of the Yang in the Yin here. It seems to me that it is only that both are in the unconscious.
Dr. Jung: But the general prejudice is that all our thoughts start in consciousness, that they are made.
Dr. Reichstein: But it is quite evident that they are not.
Dr. Jung: To you!
Dr. Reichstein: As you explained it, it seems to mean that the whole unconscious would be identical with the Yin.
Dr. Jung: Yes, that is the assumption, that the Yin is a mere shadow of the conscious, that all psychological phenomena are just shadows cast by the light of consciousness which have no substance whatever.
Therefore it is an amazing discovery when something in that shadow moves.
It is as if I were looking at my shadow in the sun-the shadow walking along with me as usual-and then suddenly see that it is walking in the opposite direction.
Or as if, when looking at myself in the mirror, my reflection should walk out of the mirror and away, so I can no longer see myself.
I have lost my reflex, my shadow.
Like that excellent movie story: The Man Without a Shadow, where the devil went off with his shadow.
The shadow is one of the primitive symbols of the soul, so the man’s soul was stolen.
Mr. Baumann: How is it in the case of men? Can they discover a Yin in the Yang? Is it different?
Dr. Jung: Oh no, it is absolutely the same, it has nothing to do with personal psychology.
This is the psychology of our time, it is a matter here of something that is generally human.
Therefore it is of a certain interest to interpret and analyze such visions, which otherwise, if they
were only personal, would bore one to tears.
When one first reads them, without elaboration, one is only impressed with the subjective character, which bores one beyond description.
I cannot tell you how bored I was, they are terribly uninteresting, they got on my nerves and for a long time I could not touch them.
And when I said to myself, now I must really go into it, it was as if I had decided to get into a very cold bath at seven o’clock on an icy morning in January.
Only when one sees behind the subjective and personal does one realize that these visions are an expression of a very general problem, that they are demonstrating different aspects of the unconscious development in order to bring it a step forward in consciousness, a step nearer the detachment of consciousness.
Mr. Baumann: There is a very interesting story in that book you referred to last term, Holiday Omnibus. Everybody was killed by a volcanic eruption excepting one man, and he tried to destroy everything that
might still be left because he wanted to be the only one. Then irito that dead black world came a girl, and she would be the one light spot.
Dr. Jung: I had not thought of it in that aspect, but that would be a parallel.
In a black Yin world in which every light is dead, the one man alive would mean the Yang principle in utter suppression.
I recommend that book. It is just a collection of stories like this; I mean, it is the same unconscious symbolism, which is born out of the spirit of the time, but it is therefore highly symbolical; it conveys a message, one could almost say.
Mrs. Sawyer: I would like to ask if that snake does not here mean something more than it meant before, because it has appeared in her visions so many times. And the sphinx also told her that the way was twofold.
Does it mean something else this time? Or is it just a repetition?
Dr. Jung: It is not just a repetition, for everything else we have said about the snake comes in too; here it is summed up again.
One always finds that each event, as in dreams, is a summing up of everything that has been felt and thought before.
The snake is usually the incarnation of the Yin principle, cold, humid, dark and so on, but we find it now in the center of the Yang.
So the snake here symbolizes that thing which is Yin as well as Yang.
What is that?
Mrs. Baynes: The transcendent function in analytical psychology.
Dr. Jung: And in Chinese philosophy it is Tao, where yea and nay are the same, where they are one reconciling symbol.
Here the reconciling symbol appears in the unconscious under the negative aspect of the serpent, which confirms once more the strange fact that things in the Yang are counteracted by a principle that seems negative, yet it is in reality the most important thing, for it brings about the union of the opposites, Tao.
Mr. Baumann: In The Serpent Power, two snakes are mentioned; one represents the Yang and the other the Yin principle.
Dr: Jung: Those are Ida and Pingala, two serpent-like lines which run from muladhara up to the nostrils.
Mr: Baumann: But there is a distinct difference.
Dr: Jung: Yes, their way of moving is really a demonstration of the operation of the pair of opposites.
Dr: Curtius: The Chinese dragon is also a principle of Yang.
Dr: Jung: In China many things are just the reverse of what they are with us.
The dragon to us would be the Yin, but in China it is positive, celestial, the symbol of Yang; while the symbol of Yin is the tiger.
Now when the snake represents Tao, it means a particular condition of Tao.
In very early times the idea of Tao was derived from a legendary feminine principle, also from a sort of dragon or serpent, but later on that original idea was lost in the philosophical elaboration of the concept
of Tao. Lao-tze, who lived in the sixth century B.C., spoke of the female nature of Tao-it was the mother; he also called it the spirit of the valley, and said that the nature of Tao was like water, comparing it with the meandering snakelike course of the river that flows at the bottom of the valley.
And he said that Tao, like water, always sought the deepest place and with infallible certainty found it.
That shows that the original image was still present in his mind.
It belonged to a very remote time, and that particular idea of Tao disappeared, but here it appears again.
Now in what condition must Tao be when it is represented by the snake?
Miss Hannah: Unconscious.
Dr: Jung: Yes, the snake always represents the unconscious condition; it is only a lower vertebrate, quite cold-blooded at that, and therefore it must be somewhere in the vicinity of the cold-blooded system of the
In this patient, Tao is still in an unconscious form; it is discerned by a far-reaching intuition, but it is far from being part of her conscious psychology.
So one can say that such visions are really anticipations of things that belong to a remote future perhaps.
They are not yet real in the sense of being conscious, they would not influence her conscious life.
These are visions of things which might come off, but it is not at all certain that they will come off.
To have such a vision is as if one had seen the top of a mountain through a telescope, but still had to walk
sixty kilometers to reach even the foot of the mountain.
She evidently did not realize that the snake had any special meaning, and she accordingly turned away.
She says: “I tried to find someone, but all was silent and deserted.”
She pays no attention to the serpent, that most important central symbol; to her it is nothing but a snake coiled up on the fur rug.
She is looking for a human being and having sought in vain, she says: I approached the snake and kicked it. It glided away. (It would!) I “pulled up the fur rug and I saw that it concealed an engraved tablet on the floor.
She takes this symbolism quite objectively, not knowing what a significant arrangement it is; she kicks the thing away and then discovers something behind it.
Now that is usually so in life.
If we could only open our eyes at the beginning of our lives and read the signs we first encountered, if we could stop and contemplate our first dreams, we would know about the whole course of our lifetime.
But far from it; we kick that thing away, and we understand nothing.
We may discover certain signs again later and try once more, slowly and carefully, and perhaps in the end of
life we commence to understand the beginning, we see that if we had known this and that, our lives would have been quite different.
When one has watched human lives from the beginning to the end, when one knows what has happened to those people and what they first encountered in the path of life, one realizes that they could have foreseen many things from those first experiences.
In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the strange fact is told that immediately after death, the dead perceive the Clear Light, the Divine Body of Truth, the Dharmakaya.
But the light is so blinding that the dead man usually turns his head away and makes for lesser, dimmer, more troubled lights, which are illusions.
Yet each step contains the possibility of returning to the white light, if he is only able to recognize that they are illusions.
Otherwise, at the end of the whole series of illusions, he encounters the fantasies of conception and birth once more, and then he disappears into a womb and is born again.
You see, it is the same idea; if the dead could only cling to the perfect light which they encounter in the beginning, they would be saved from all the suffering involved in a new birth.
And so one could say, if our patient could only understand the meaning of that snake, she would not need to read the tablet, nor would she need to search further.
But since it is too much, too difficult, since she does not know at all what she is up against, she throws away
that chance, and so she must follow the lesser truth.
That often happens with patients in the regular course of analysis: in the beginning they have most important dreams, and if they could real ize what they meant they would know all that they are working for.
But they cannot, so they must follow the path of illusion, make for lesser truths, tangible errors perhaps.
On each stage the patient has a chance to see the illusion, but if he does not, he must go down and down the path of error until he meets that lesser truth, which can be circumvented.
Then he can come up again.
This law always holds true, that in the beginning is the greatest chance and in the end the least.
Now what would the engraved tablet be?
Mind you, it is below the fur rug.
Dr. Gordon: It might be an important record.
Dr. Jung: Or it might also be an inscription or a symbolic picture.
That would be a sort of message, like the inscriptions one sometimes encounters on such tablets: “On this spot died so-and-so,” or “In this house so and-so was born.”
But she says: Upon the tablet were engraved a sphere, a compass and the head of a woman with a halo of many arrows.
The tablet is below the snake, the substitute of a lesser truth than Tao.
She evidently realized that the tablet had something to do with the snake, or she would not have put the snake on top of it as a sign of the connection, yet she understands it as little as we do, so she says:
I pulled up the tablet (which served as a sort of trap-door apparently) and descended into the dark hold of the ship. Still deeper down, from the heart to the belly.
Now such inscriptions or pictures, in dreams or visions as well as in reality, often amount to explanations.
You have read stories of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, symbolic stories of adventure, in which were mentioned certain sentimental inscriptions on rocks or in caves, like: “O beata solitud, 0 sola beatitud, ” or perhaps: “Here I remember my lost love”-something of the sort.
The American Mission at Crete discovered stones that had been placed there by knights inscribed: “Here I loved the boy So-and-So for the first time.”
Homosexuality was then supposed to be love, but heterosexuality was mere beastliness; moral views have
changed a bit.
So this tablet probably means an attempt at an interpretation of the snake.
But she goes further, right down into the hold of the ship, thus following the way I have described: first the great truth, then the lesser truth, and then the darkness.
If she could have stopped at the tablet, it might have told her enough.
What does it mean?
Mrs. Baynes: Those are mathematical symbols.
Dr. Jung: Yes, the compass and the sphere, the degrees of latitude and longitude.
Mrs. Sawyer: They have to do with navigation, and Tao is the way of navigation, it is the way of life.
Dr. Jung: You are right. Tao is the right way, and knowing the right way would be navigation, sure enough.
The right way on unknown seas is found by calculating the longitude and latitude, and for that one needs
a sphere and a compass, and one needs something more in order to find one’s exact position.
Miss Hannah: Intelligence.
Dr. Jung: Exactly, the head.
She made a picture, which I do not possess, of the head with the arrows pointing at it, not coming from it.
That means, attention to the head, concentrate upon the head, which would be intense consciousness.
In Chinese hieroglyphics Tao is written with the sign for the head and the sign for walking, so it means going with the head, with consciousness, or the conscious way.
Tao can only be where there is consciousness.
If you cannot think it, you cannot experience it, you cannot be aware of it; you can only be aware of a thing which you can distinguish, discriminate, by thinking.
So the meaning of Tao is revealed in the symbolism on the tablet in a most remarkable way, as it is in the old Chinese hieroglyphics, only instead of the symbols that mean making your way while navigating, the Chinese used the land symbolism, walking on land.
The Chinese are chiefly an agricultural people; of course, there has always been a certain amount of shipping and navigation, but the Chinese mind is really identified with the soil, so to them Tao is symbolized by walking, finding the way on the earth with the feet.
Our patient, on the other hand, had seafaring ancestors, for all the Western nations are really pirates; Europe is a promontory almost surrounded by the ocean, and the people have to a great extent been seafaring, buccaneers, and therefore conquerors, the first brigands of the world.
So no wonder that her unconscious expresses itself according to the age-old tendencies of the blood in terms of navigation.
That is the secret of this tablet, then, it represents the concept of Tao, as the snake did above; my idea that the snake meant Tao is confirmed.
But if you don’t understand the snake as the sign of Tao, then you find the lesser truth, the human explanation of Tao, and that is symbolized by writing.
The Chinese mind would perhaps have discovered the word Tao written in hieroglyphics on that tablet, or if he could not read himself, he would ask an expert who would have told him what the sign meant.
And so to this woman I would be the expert on hieroglyphics who tells her the snake means Tao, as her unconscious has already told her.
Yet it would be a step away from the truth if understood through the formulation, the immediate experience is superior.
When a secondary way of explanation is needed, like the hieroglyphics, it is probable that only the surface is reached and not the thing itself.
People may nod their heads wisely, when they really do not know at all.
Whoever knows Tao by intimate experience does not need an interpretation.
As Faust says: “Mit Worten lasst sich trefflich streiten.”
Well now, not even the tablet conveys a meaning to our patient, so she pulls it up, and then comes a drop into the darkness.
One can expect further revelations; as the snake tried to reveal something to her, so also did the tablet; and now, when one drops below the human intellectual formulation of a truth, at what does one arrive?
What is the darkness?
We will take a very practical example: a patient asks me for advice, and instead of an answer I make a certain gesture.
Now that should convey everything that is necessary, but she asks what it means.
And then follows an explanation, words.
The gesture was the real thing, the next thing is that I put part of the gesture into words, but that only hints at the real thing.
If she is clever enough she may understand the gesture perhaps through the words, or it might possibly be
that the words evoke that whole experience, but probably not.
Then I explain the thing very definitely, and it means just nothing; it is as if I had talked into the air, and later on she says, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“But I told you in so many words, I said so-and-so.” “And you really meant that?” Of course I did!
Once a person wrote to me about my book, Psychology of the Unconscious, saying, “You could not possibly have known what you wrote there.”
Now I admit that it is possible to do something of which one is not fully conscious, but in this case she first read the book without giving it any thought, and then she read it again and suspected that there was perhaps something in it, and after ten years, she decided that there really was something in that book; therefore she invented the idea, probably to appease herself, that I could not possibly have known what I had written.
So after falling back upon the lesser truth, from the actual immediate experience itself to the intellectual formulation, if that also is not understood, then what follows necessarily?
Mrs. Fierz: The doing of it.
Dr. Jung: Yes, or better, the actual happening.
Therefore I say: “If you cannot understand what I am saying, if you cannot realize it, then it will happen.”
And then the thing blindly happens.
But you see, that is the darkness, the pitch-black darkness of the happening.
That may open people’s eyes, there are people who have learned from experience, but usually they don’t see it; they say, how peculiar, but they still don’t draw a conclusion.
We may assume, then, that going still further down will lead into some experience belonging to the sphere of action. ~Carl Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 659-674