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Carl Jung: The ka is probably a descendant of the placenta.

181 rebirth

Letters Volume I

To Johanna Michaelis

Dear Frau Michaelis, 20 January 1939

Your questions are not easy to answer.

Your conjecture that ancient Egyptian psychology was somehow fundamentally different from ours is probably right.

Those millennia had indeed quite different problems.

On one side a torpid impersonal unconsciousness reigned, on the other a revealed consciousness, or a consciousness inspired from within and hence derived directly from the gods, personified in Pharaoh.

He was the self and the individual of the people.

The spirit still came from above.

The tension between above and below [In Ancient Egypt] was undoubtedly extreme, hence the opposites could be held together only by means of equally rigid forms.

The “duality” of the ruler is based on the primitive belief that the placenta is the brother of the new-born child, which as such often accompanies him throughout life in ghostly fashion, since it dies early and is ceremonially buried.

You can find detailed descriptions of this in Levy-Bruhl’s Le Surnaturel et la nature dans la mentalite primitive.

The ka is probably a descendant of the placenta.

White and red are sacred colours in India too, for instance the temple walls are painted with white and red stripes.

What they mean is not clear to me.

Your interpretation as light and blood is extremely probable but one should have historical proofs.

The tension between above and below in ancient Egypt is in my opinion the real source of the Near Eastern saviour figures, whose patriarch is Osiris.

He is also the source of the idea of an individual (immortal) soul. (“The Osiris of N. N.”)

The purpose of nearly all rebirth rites is to unite the above with the below.

The baptism in the Jordan is an eloquent example: water below, Holy Ghost above.

On the primitive level the totemistic rite of renewal is always a reversion to the half animal, half human condition of prehistoric times.

Hence the frequent use of animal skins and other animal attributes.

Evidence of this may be found in the cave paintings discovered in the south of France.

Among these customs we must also reckon the demotion of high to low.

In Christianity the washing of the disciples’ feet, in ancient Egypt the birth from an animal’s skin.

Hence twice a year in India, even today, the Maharajah of Travancore, with torso bared and bare feet, must accompany the god to the bathing place with his whole court.

As a further parallel there are the Shrovetide customs of the medieval Church, when the youngest lay brother took the abbot’s seat and was waited upon by the older monks.

Modern student initiations!

Also the ritual mockery of sacred customs, the Fools’ Mass in medieval monasteries.

Among the Pueblo Indians the “delight makers” (see The Delight Makers by Adolf F. Bandelier).

It is very probable that as long as seriously observed rites exist which unite the polar opposites the balance in the life of a people will be preserved.

Hence, in China, Tao rests upon the harmonious cooperation of heaven and earth.

But as you can see from the I Ching, heaven sometimes separates from the earth, thus producing a disorderly and unfavourable state of affairs.

There are very many parallels to these questions you have touched upon, particularly to the baptismal customs, but I cannot possibly mention them all.

As regards the four royal standards I would only remark that, if I remember rightly, a placenta was carried along with them.

There is a monograph on this, but unfortunately I cannot remember its title.

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 259-261