28 APRIL 1939 Lecture 1 Psychology and Yoga Meditation
Tantric symbolism Hermetic symbolism
- Shûnyatâ (=the void, ávidyâ)
- Four elements
III. Mount Meru
- Four-part, four-headed
- IX. Lotus (=yoni)
- Moon with lingam
- Civitas, castrum
- Quaternitas, quaternarium
- Golden flower
- The white woman, femina alba,
- Conjunctio solis et lunae
- Domus thesauria, vas hermetis
XII. XII. Lapis, hermaphroditus, lux
Last winter semester we grappled with a very difficult question, namely that of active imagination.
Over the course of my lectures I tried to give a sense of how we might understand active imagination from an historical perspective.
Of course, I’m fully aware that this problem of the active exercise of the imaginative capacity is a matter that is not exactly popular, especially these days while the world resounds with war and rumors of war, and our culture is gradually disappearing into obscurity or at least is threatening to disappear.
I am making every effort in my humblest of situations to ward off this process of erosion, which is another aspect of the soul, and for this reason I am punishing the present audience with this difficult problem of the human soul.
It is quite the same to me whether this makes me popular or not.
I will go on seeking incessantly to pursue the path of the human soul, unfazed by which recent treaties have been agreed and then abrogated.
Those of my audience who were here last semester will know that by active imagination we understand an active engagement with otherwise passive fantasy.
By fantasy we mean something usually quite useless.
Like a leisure activity for people with time on their hands.
One often thinks there’s something pathological about it.
If someone entertains a fantasy, it is said that they are ripe for the Burghölzli, yet no one stops to consider that not a single cultural artifact would exist if it did not grow out of the finest imagining.
It must be admitted that fantasy is a game, a creative game. In Indian mythology the play of the gods is the making of the world.
So, in microcosm, man can become creator, at least “the little god o’ the world” as Faust says.
Fantasy is nothing to be trivialized, although some make bad use of it, since nothing is so good that it cannot also be misused.
Our fantasy is in fact not an object of education, and for this reason it is mostly wild and produces weeds.
For some people it serves in the creation of works of art and even of technical discoveries, which these days harvest the ultimate honorary awards.
In the Middle Ages and in the East fantasy as imagination played a specific role.
They trusted it more than we do today.
And there used to be systems of religion—and in the East, these still exist—in which fantasy was subjected to a special process of education.
We have no such process, but there used to be one, and this still exists in specific circumstances.
We will hear more about it.
In the East, however, the training of fantasy, the transformation, the mere act of phantasizing is an active exercise, an absolutely meaningful question in philosophical and religious systems.
Over the course of the winter semester we concerned ourselves with two texts.
Both are Buddhist texts.
One is the so-called Amitâyur-Dhyâna-Sûtra, the text about Amitâbha (or
Secondly, we considered the Shrî-chakra-sambhâra Tantra the book of the sacred wheel collection.
The wheel is a symbol, a mandala, expressing the wholeness of man.
The Amitâyur-Dhyâna-Sûtra is the older text.
We have a Chinese translation from the fifth century. The Sanskrit original is lost.
In the form of a frame narrative, this sûtra teaches how the concentration of fantasy is to be carried out.
Concentration begins by directing the gaze towards the setting sun as a fixed point.
Then follows the meditation of imagining the water, then the ice, then the lapis lazuli whereby one is ferried across to firm ground.
That is a further object of imagination.
Then follows the imagination of nonvisible things: namely, the so-called dhvajâ is imagined under the ground, i.e., the flag or standard, but also a symbol.
I think it is better translated here as symbol, because we immediately learn from the text that this sign extends into the eight directions of space.
These directions are then depicted by the golden cords, and the whole is thought of as enclosed in a circle.
This is the chakra. It is also called padma.
It has a double meaning, it can also mean yoni and the feminine in the sexual sense.
I’d like to remind you that as far as Eastern fantasy is concerned everything has a different character than it does for us.
The East, unlike us, does not suffer from a morbus sexualis, in this regard being absolutely normal.
Then follows the meditation upon the eight lakes, corresponding to the directions of space.
The lakes are strewn with lotus flowers, which are all perfectly round.
The round element is stressed here.
These eight lakes strewn with countless lotus flowers actually have the meaning of
worlds or groups of humanity.
The individual lotus flowers actually refer to single individuals, all perfectly formed.
Thus all these lotus flowers contain Buddha figures.
They are the expression of perfect humanity, whose only form is that of the Buddha, the perfect, the enlightened one.
According to these meditations, a single lotus is imagined, located on the foundation, the firm ground of reality.
So when a lotus is imagined upon the firm floor of the real it means that the lotus is really made through the imagination.
This is an extremely particular Eastern requirement, this imaginal exertion to create something psychically real through practice and the utmost concentration.
Of course, we cannot imagine this very well. For us the concept of the real is based on something actually extended through space in three dimensions, whereas the East has no such prerequisites.
A truly educated Indian will of course not accept that something that fills the room can be created.
But there is a large group of people in India who are firmly convinced that in the caves of the Himalayas live great wise men, the Rishis, who are gifted with supernatural abilities and who, from there, direct the fate of the world through the strength of
And yet they have never been seen.
The Ramakrishna mission actually sent out people to investigate this question, who undertook research in the entire Himalayan area, but not a single example of such men was found.
As a rule it is accepted that psychic reality is nonspatial, for in the East psychic reality is a
thing which exists in and for itself, it can be perceived and even induced to appear, but it cannot be invented.
But we in the West think that someone has an idée fixe or has been gripped by an idée fixe as if it has happened to him.
In the East, it is a matter of a fixed form which is simply entire unto itself, which does not arise from some sort of idea, but which in fact can be apperceived.
In the final chapter of the book With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet by Mme. David-Néel, there is a description of how she was guided to produce such a splinter figure within herself, who then however became truculent, and how it took several months to work free of this figure once again.
The reality of this description cannot be doubted. I know Mme. David-Néel personally.
She is a very intelligent, clear-thinking French woman of whom one cannot easily presume fanciful “nonsense.”
But all sorts of remarkable things can happen to one who lives for a long time in this environment and specifically in this natural environment, which of course would never happen to one on the Bahnhofstrasse here in Zurich.
I met a sportsman who was on the first expedition to Mount Everest, a geologist, a highly educated scientist who assured me in all seriousness when he returned that he had been cursed by the lâmas in a lamaic monastery, and he was completely convinced that the mountains were inhabited by devils.
Fortunately I have had my own experiences in Africa, so when I’m told such things, I
always keep a straight face.
Our European consciousness is nice only here at home, under other conditions it becomes something completely different.
When I went to East Africa to visit the Negroes, a medicine man asked me: “What, you want to study these negroes? That’s not interesting at all.
you must study the Europeans who come to Africa!” And he was right.
Our psychology is infected by its own devils.
We also did not think that this Europe of ours could develop so curiously as it has in the last ten years.
We’ve got it in us, and thus it doesn’t come by chance.
The evil is not hidden behind the mountain but is right in front of it.
When the lâma imagines something real and it succeeds, then he has made something real.
He has created something with his fantasy that adheres to him.
His conscious psychology has changed, and he has made another being.
I don’t mean to say that I would be able to see this second figure with my physical eyes, but I would recognize this person, the author of such a peculiar accomplishment, by virtue of his peculiar psychology.
Upon this lotus of the real an equally real tower arises, characterized by four.
The conclusion reached by the text is that upon this tower is located the ultimate being, the Buddha himself.
And in this moment, if this realization succeeds, the one who is meditating has become the Buddha himself, i.e., the omnipresent spirit who is dispersed into the whole world, i.e., the universal Buddha.
This figure, then, is simply identified with what is always translated into English as mind: Buddha consciousness.
In any case it is evident that this Buddha corresponds absolutely to the mystical idea of the inner Christ.
In the New Testament there are individual places referring to this idea, namely that
everyone is in fact a Christ, inasmuch as he succeeds in identifying himself in imagination with Christ.
The occurrence of the stigmata is a living expression of this medieval idea.
Concerning the Shrî-chakra-sambhâra Tantra, this is an uncommonly rich text, which it is impossible for me to recap for you.
The best way to do that is to present to you once again the series of symbols that forms the skeleton of the text.
In this series the entire exercise emerges from shûnyatâ, i.e., the void or ávidyâ as far as Mahâsukha at the end.
It is the typical developmental process from (1) unknowing to (12) ultimate enlightenment.
- At the beginning we do not have the void state achieved through ultimate
consciousness, i.e., Buddha consciousness, but rather the original void, the void of
the world where unconscious beings dwell, who do not know that there is a world.
For when one does not know that there is a world, then there is no world.
This is the basic fact of the Indian spirit, that it realizes that the world is as we see it and that it is because we see it.
This is also the basic idea of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. He was also influenced by Indian ideas, although his rather limited knowledge of the Upanishad texts must be kept in mind.
This original state is actually based upon unknowing: ávidyâ, i.e., unconsciousness.
We must imagine that we would be in the state of ávidyâ.
Thus, every person in the West is in the state of ávidyâ which makes a redemption necessary.
Active imagination serves the purpose of introducing psychic enlightenment into this void and thus transforming the inner dark unknowing into the light so that one is not in non-existence, but one knows that one exists.
- The series begins with the splitting of the void. Something must be differentiated so that one knows that something exists.
Thus, the separation, the division into four elements, is the foundation of knowledge.
So there is a typical analysis of knowledge in this text, as well as an analysis of the psychic functions, which can even be translated directly into modern speech.
The division into the elements is a system of orientation: a four-part orientation
system like the crosshairs in a telescope.
It is exactly like the directions of the wind that divide the horizon into four parts.
Or the four elements: fire, water, air, earth, which have always been identified with the four points of the compass or the four seasons.
This is a complete system of order because it completely illuminates the spirit.
You can also divide the circle into sixteen parts, but the division into four is the simplest, and for this reason it is an archetypal, basic attitude of the human spirit.
- After this differentiation follows the symbol of the world Mount Meru.
This is the first creation of something magnificent, towering, heaped up. Concentration
intensifies somewhat with this, and that is symbolized as a mountain, which of course determines the central point because Mount Meru is situated in the center of the earth: a complete division into four parts, in every direction.
- Upon Mount Meru there is the city. Enclosed as a human community.
- Then a four-part vajra appears, a diamond, symbol of the accumulated energy that
can be radiated, with which one can do something.
This is the lightning energy in Tibetan: dorje.
The diamond is hard and indestructible.
That is why one can translate the word vajra simply as eternal, i.e., this form is transformed into an eternally indestructible one.
This form that is created through active imagination is eternal.
It exists on the other side of time and space and thus is completely liberated from the corruptibility of our things located in space.
So it is something symbolic, but psychically completely real.
- This now transforms into a lotus, upon which rests the moon.
- The moon is considered nearly everywhere to be feminine, although it is a masculine noun in German.
However, in middle High German mâne is feminine. It is the “reflecting light.”
- And the sun is the masculine counterpart. This is the actual light.
The sun, source of light, of radiation, and the moon is the reflecting light; they are feminine and masculine principles.
This would no longer be a division into four, but rather into two.
- The yoni arises out of the lotus, the feminine organ.
- The moon then appears as the feminine, united with lingam, the masculine.
Lingam is mostly translated as phallus.
In the ancient Shiva temples you sometimes find a whole series of such phallic symbols, described as lingam, mostly in the inner sanctum of the temple, inaccessible to Europeans.
With us, in the choir of Christian churches there is the high altar and suspended above it is the cross.
In contrast, in the East the holy of holies is in a deep shaft in the earth, three to four meters deep: beneath is a yoni in a lotus, upon which is the lingam, the phallic symbol.
We associate the spirit with above; in India it is below, in the mulâdhâra, meaning in the root support from which the whole of life ascends.
The layout of the church depicts a human form.
In India one gathers that the innermost of the temple corresponds to the innermost of the human body.
The early Buddhist chaityas are usually hewn from the rock, and this then looks like a ribcage from the inside.
In the background stand the Buddha and the lingam.
This leads to a further meaning of the lingam.
In sâmkhya philosophy, or in Vedânta altogether, the lingam means the subtle body containing the ancient idea of the anima.
The subtle body is thought of as half matter.
The soul has a fine subtle body, and it is called lingam.
This comes from the fact that lingam is an appendage, a mark, a sign, so it also carries the meaning of the sexual sign of the masculine, of male genitals.
In the same way, the subtle body is appended to the actual body, a sort of appendage.
All this points to the fact that the lingam symbol is in fact a symbol of the soul.
Remarkably, I experienced this from a Tantric teacher in Puri in Bengal.
He told me all kinds of things about the temple and now, at long last, he wanted to share the most profound secret with me because I was so full of understanding, so then he whispered: “This is in fact a masculine member.” I thought, well, every child knows that.
But—this is India, where what is the biggest secret is the most obvious thing to us.
And we thought we already knew it, yet we have not understood anything about India. It was hard for me to get my bearings.
I simply could not understand why this should be a secret for Indians.
This unification is a very significant moment in the entire series of symbols.
- Then follows the so-called vihâra.
No longer a town of this world, but a spiritual monastery, a seminary, an enclosure for a few who are a fellowship in a particular spirit.
Within is the great magic circle.
- In the center of this magic circle is Mahâsukha, the lord of great blessedness.
Mahâ means large, sukha is blessedness.
This is the Buddha. The series ends in the same way as the Amitâyur-Dhyâna-Sûtra.
The lâma finally becomes Buddha through the unification of moon and lingam.
The moon (manas) means reflective knowledge, understanding, consciousness, truth. Consciousness (or psyche) unified with the subtle body (lingam) creates the holy gathering.
This is the reality of the Buddha.
The idea of the exercise is that the exercise is accomplished insofar as the lâma who undertakes it ultimately is completely realized in the second version of himself, which he has found through imagination.
Rather like Mme. David-Néel with her shadow, into which she threatened to transform herself.
But then she would never have existed, for then the other becomes the real.
Such things may sound pathological to you.
A young woman who was pretty normal, perhaps a bit nervous, had transformed herself into another, completely unconscious of herself.
The one a rather morose person, the other euphoric, funny, enterprising, the opposite in every regard.
When the one within her had retreated, the other stepped forward.
This second personality animated her so strongly that when she became pregnant, the first personality knew nothing about it.
So she was unconscious of the state she had entered into, before she had realized it consciously.
The woman gradually transformed into the second person within her.
This is a pathological occurrence. I have seen similar things.
People who are rather retarded in their conscious development in this way give themselves over to what they do unconsciously, which brings with it a very remarkable disposition of character.
It is the same phenomenon of the split in character that is accomplished consciously in our Shrî-chakra-sambhâra Tantra through active imagination. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Yoga Meditation, Page 177-185