The concept of chaos describes the original state of the world; it is an absolute, original state, an improbable original state, where the opposites are right next to each other, represented in countless images, with flames and drops of water among them, with signs of the different planets, with signs of the different metals and signs of the zodiac opposed in a hostile way, or interested in each other, or applied to each other, i.e., pairs of opposites in conflict, a constant intermingling, with no above and below or right and left.
An excellent example can be found in an ancient book entitled “Le Temple des Muses.” It is called “Le Chaos ou l’origine du monde.”375
This chaos was mostly conceived of as darkness.
This is where ideas from Genesis come in. “And the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters …. ”
The last sentence was drawn upon many times; this chaos, being darkness, was thought of as nigredo, the black, and it had to be made fruitful by the spirit of God as at the beginning of the world.
Out of the chaos emerged firstly the four rhizomata, the four roots, the four elements of Empedocles.
These are the four parts expressed by the ancient Greek alchemists with the maxim: “to divide philosophy in four” (tetramerein ten philosophian).
Philosophy is meant here in two senses: first as the first original material (materia prima), and second as philosophy, which must be divided into four parts.
Chaos is the materia prima; it cannot be understood by us. For these people the entire natural world was materia, and pure miracle.
Which is why everything they did not understand was projected into it. And the workings of the psyche are the philosophy we do not understand.
Philosophy was always much more than a critique of knowledge, it was a specific way of life, an experience.
The ancient natural scientists had this kind of experience in all the unknown materials of the universe.
Such was the unknown mysterious country into which one could project every wonder. “To divide philosophy into four.”
Matter was divided into four elements and therefore philosophy had to be divided into four parts.
This division into four was described as the series of the four colors: nigredo, i.e., darkness; albedo, i.e., the ascent of light, becoming light; citrinatis, i.e., becoming yellow, and finally the strange color suggested by the Greek word “iosis”: “becoming iosis.”
Berthelot sometimes translated it as violet, but that is questionable.
The colors indicate four directions, being further the four functions of consciousness. Evidently it is here a matter of the splitting of an original unconscious state into four recognizable functions.
Now, the world mountain Meru emerges out of this state, out of this completeness, this already differentiated state that is identical to the entire created world which one can grasp with the senses, about which one can think, feel, and have all sorts of intuitions.
The old conception is such that all subsequent potential is already contained within the chaos, including, therefore, man.
However, not man as we know him, but philosophical man, homo philosophicus, also described as “philosophical Adam.”
This doubled as a particularly soulful being, also known as “anima.” It came from a substance that could not be expressed in terms of the four elements, a type of ethereal substance, hence also called aetherius.
An idea one also finds among primitives who differentiate the subtle body, the breath body, from the visible body.
The subtle body is also described as anima. In Latin, animus, in Greek anemos, meaning wind or breath, thus a being of breath.
This notation runs through the whole of alchemy. And you can find this idea the world over.
Everywhere you have the idea of this subtle body, not as immaterial but of a finer quality (subtle), including the spirits.
The homo philosophicus is thought to consist of four natures: earth, water, air, and fire, corresponding to the four elements.
The same idea of the primordial being is also described as an egg, which is not only a man within the chaos, but also a potential existence, potential life, described as an egg: this is the “philosophical egg,” the ovum philosophorum.
This egg must be divided into four, which together make up the one, the four-as-one.
This second or four-as-one brings to perfection something that is present in potentia in the chaos.
This separatio elementorum was also equated with the four seasons. The four seasons are the attributes of homo philosophicus.
So this primordial man is also paired with time. We find the same ideas in India where Prajapati is connected with the year.
Also, the liturgical year of the church is exactly like Christ, since that is the course of his life. He is the course of time.
The same idea you will also find among the NeoPlatonists, where the actual creator is Chronos and the creator of time is
Aion, because everywhere creation occurs, time is also there.
And the same idea is at work in Prod us, who is the originator of Bergsonian philosophy.
The idea of the duree creatrice is the only intuition you will find in Bergson’s works.
The division of the four elements must now be overcome by the so-called coniunctio, i.e., by their conjugation or composition.
I have to mention this because Mount Meru is one such amalgam. In between is the separation of the four elements.
Of this an alchemist once said that it is achieved through moral philosophy.
So, this separation or division into four is produced by the psychological process and dissolved again in the same way.
Through psychological knowledge.
The author of this quotation is an honorable doctor from the mid-sixteenth century who lived in Basle and Frankfurt: Dorneus.
He was a sort of colleague of mine!
He said; “Knowest thou not that heaven and the elements were formerly one, and were separated by a divine act of creation from one another, that they might bring forth thee and all things.” ~Carl Jung, Psychology Yoga Meditation. 155-158