Marie-Louise von Franz: Niklaus Von Flüe And Saint Perpetua: A Psychological Interpretation of Their Visions

Chapter 18

Interpretation of the First Vision

224 That is the account of the “Passio Perpetuae:’ Concerning the genuineness of the visions, which is occasionally, if rarely, a subject of controversy,1 the general impression they give seems somehow to banish any thought of their being a literary fiction.

22s Moreover, considered from a psychological point of view, they contain not a single purely Christian motif; rather, they contain only archetypal images common to the pagan, Gnostic, and Christian worlds of that time.

Had the visions been invented for the sake of edification, the author would most certainly have made use of exclusively Christian motif.

  1. As it is, Christian authors have not known what to make of, for instance, Perpetua’s transformation into a man in the last vision.

226 One would hardly, moreover, invent such an incident as that of Dinocrates’s name suddenly jumping into Perpetua’s mind-her second vision-when she should have been attending to her prayers, to say nothing of her dream, or fourth vision, the following night.

227 In addition, a psychological interpretation reveals a connecting inner thread running through all four visions, a thread that is by no means evident in the outer motifs.

It only comes to light through the interpretation and, therefore, could not possibly have been invented by a person of that time.

228 Perpetua had the first of the visions or dreams as an answer to a definite question that had arisen in her consciousness: Was she destined to suffer martyrdom or not?

It was by no means uncommon at that time to call for or invite visions in this way; indeed, it was a generally widespread custom in both the pagan and Christian worlds.

In the so-called incubation oracles, it was customary to call upon the Deity for dreams in answer to definite questions.

This practice, moreover, was not limited to the sacred places, and thus numerous prescriptions for bringing about true dreams have been preserved in the magic papyri.2

Perpetua was confident of receiving an answer because, as she said, she “often held converse [conversations] with God:’

229 The vision granted to her on the following night clearly states her psychological situation; she stands before a narrow ladder at the foot of which lies a dragon.

This ladder leads up to a heavenly Garden of Eden.

At first glance, the picture immediately recalls Jacob’s ladder, which “reached to heaven” (Gen. 28:12), but the conception itself appears originally to have been old Egyptian, figuring in the Egyptian mysteries as a stair with seven gates or seven steps, symbolizing the seven planetary spheres through which the soul had to ascend to God after death.

A klimax heptapylosexpressing the idea of ascending out of the different metals belonging to the planets (lead, tin, iron, mercury, an alloy for Venus, silver, gold) by means of a stair with seven gates-was likewise associated with the Mithraic mysteries.3

230 The heptaporos bathmis ( stair of seven steps) of the Chaldean oracles or the 80 steps of punishment in the cult of Mithras, mentioned by the mythographer Nonnos, were similar conceptions.

231 A further parallel is to be found in the visions of the philosopher Zosimos; he likewise sees in a dream an altar in the shape of a shallow bowl to which 15 steps lead up.4

There, he perceives the place of the askese, or punishment, where people are cooked in boiling water in order that they may become pneumata ( spirit beings).

232 The stair or ladder, therefore, has the meaning of a process of spiritualization, a development in the form of steps, leading to a higher state of consciousness.5

Thus, for instance ( as Professor Jung has brought to our notice), an alchemist, Blasius Vigenerus, says that “through the symbols, or signs, or attributes of God;’ which originate in the visible world, we “should be lifted up, as on a Jacob’s ladder or Homer’s golden chain, to the knowledge of the spiritual and intelligible things:’6

233 This ascending process of transformation was sometimes dangerous and a real torture, as may be seen in the Zosimos visions.

In Perpetua’s vision, there are iron implements fastened to the ladder to tear the unwary climber to pieces.

Added to this, the ladder can only be climbed singly, and there is no turning back.

This picture undoubtedly contains a suggestion of her coming martyrdom.

For instance, a contemporary source describes how the martyrs built, as it were, a ladder leading up to the gates of Heaven out of the steps of their sufferings, the instruments of their torture.

It is surely for this reason that Perpetua’s dream represents martyrdom in the form of a ladder, in order to convey that, seen from the psychic level, it has the meaning of a transitus to a higher state of consciousness; thus, the dream enables her to perceive the inner meaning of the event, the realization of which prepares her to meet her imminent fate.

234 The fact that the ladder can only be climbed singly shows that this road to higher consciousness is an individual path which ultimately must be trodden alone.

The necessity of looking ahead-and on no account glancing back-is surely founded on the knowledge that when once the possibility of attaining a higher state of consciousness has arisen, one cannot return to a condition of unconsciousness without imperiling the soul. Indeed, the undertaking is fraught with such difficulties that a single backward glance (as in the cases of Lot’s wife and of Orpheus) suffices for a weak nature to be again overpowered by the tremendous force of the unconscious.

23s The idea that climbing upward on the ladder means a progression to a higher state of consciousness-and at the same time a painful transitus-is also expressed by the Syrian poet Jacob of Batnae, in regard to Sarug’s singular conception of Jacob’s ladder as a prefiguration of Christ’s death upon the cross:

236 The cross is set up as a wonderful ladder upon which mankind is in truth led up to heaven …. Christ arose upon earth as a ladder of many steps, and raised Himself on high, so that all earthly beings might be exalted through Him …. In the ladder, Jacob truly perceived the crucified one …. On the mountain. He [ the Lord] made fast the mysterious cross, like a ladder, set Himself on the top of it and from thence blessed all the nations …. At that time, the cross was set up as a guiding ideal, as it were a ladder, and served all peoples as a path leading up to God.7

237 Saturus, later Perpetua’s fellow martyr, now ascends before her (in the dream) and endeavors to instill courage into her.

In reality, this Saturus had not been imprisoned at the same time as Perpetua, Felicitas, and their other fellow martyrs, but he subsequently  behaved toward the authorities in such an aggressive way that he likewise ended up in prison.

He did this deliberately in order to be able to help the others spiritually and strengthen them in their faith.

So, he was one of those who sought a martyr’s death passionately and of their own free will.

That is the reason why Perpetua interprets her dream-in this respect-objectively, as an anticipation of the

real event, just as the instruments of torture attached to the ladder led her to conclude that she would have to face martyrdom.

23s Undoubtedly, the whole vision has a “prognostic” value, but when we compare the entire proceeding in it with the actual fulfillment, it becomes evident that it has been transferred to the mythological level.

For instance, martyrdom is not represented as such but as a ladder leading up to heaven; and it is a dragon-in

other words a purely mythological figure-that tries to hinder Perpetua’s ascent.

It is as though the dream were intent on representing the real and deeper meaning of the event threatening

the dreamer in the outer world in order thereby to prepare her for her inescapable fate.

Therefore, it displays the archetypal background of this fate.

239 In such an inner connection, Saturus also becomes a symbolic image:

He represents the Christian spiritual attitude of the fanatical believer, or in other words a Christian animus figure in Perpetua herself.

240 As the unconscious consists in the first place of all the parts of the personality which-mainly for reasons of outer adaptation have not been integrated into consciousness, its character is specifically complementary to that of consciousness.

It is therefore usually  embodied in an archetypal figure of the opposite sex which transmits the contents of the collective unconscious.

Hence, by “animus:’ we mean the personification of all the masculine components of a feminine personality, a woman’s unlived traits which have remained in the unconscious background.

241 In the case of a man, the anima embodies chiefly his affects, feelings, and emotions, while a woman’s animus represents rather an a priori opinion or conviction of a collective nature which arises from the unconscious.

A conviction of this kind can indeed take possession of a woman with such demonic and passionate force

that it is capable of completely destroying her feminine existence.

But the animus also possesses creative power: It is the logos the Spermatikos (the spermatic Word) which transmits new contents from the unconscious.8

242 Inasmuch as Perpetua-judging from the slender knowledge we possess of her personal life-had lived a thoroughly feminine existence as a wife and mother, all her traditionally masculine traits such as courage, determination, the power to stand unflinchingly by a conviction even in the face of death-traits which break through to a striking extent in her martyrdom-are chiefly embodied in the unconscious animus figure and are projected onto Saturus, who, we are told, first converted her to Christianity.

In other words, she experiences and sees in Saturus these qualities which he evidently actually possessed to a high degree.

Hence, it becomes apparent through the dream that Perpetua’s Christian spiritual attitude was not mainly a consciously integrated one, acquired through the Christian teaching (which was indeed unlikely, seeing that the latter had been of such very short duration).

It was rather a passionate conviction which arose from the unconscious, a spiritual state of emotional possession which took hold of her completely and drew her fatefully into the collective problem of her time-the problem to which her individual existence was destined to succumb.

244 When the dream depicts Saturus ascending the ladder before her, it shows precisely-on the subjective level-that this masculine spiritual attitude in Perpetua herself, which had hitherto remained unconscious, has now taken over the lead.

The unconscious thus parallels consciousness and supports it in the fulfillment of a new type, that of the Christian.

245 At the foot of the ladder, however, lies a dragon which endeavors to prevent her from climbing.

In Christian imagery, the dragon, or  serpent, has become a symbol for the devil, as “leviathan … the

dragon that is in the sea” (Isa. 27:1), or as the tempter in the Garden of Eden.

In most dualistic religious systems, the dragon generally plays the role of a chthonic, wicked demon, the enemy of light, usually of a feminine nature.

As a cold-blooded animal, however, with a very small development of the cerebrum, the serpent chiefly

signifies the system of reflexes (the basal ganglia and the spinal cord), the instinctive psyche or “nature-spirit;’ or simply the unconscious.

As far back as the teaching of the Gnostic sect of the        Perates, the. serpent was identified with the cerebellum and the spinal cord.

In the macrocosm, the Father corresponded to the cerebrum, but the cerebellum was associated with the Son, the Redeemer-that is, with the serpent (as Logos).

The serpent conveyed the pneumatic substance to the spinal cord, which in turn

brought forth the seed of all creatures. 9

In pre-Christian antiquity, in Gnosticism, and also in its medieval continuation, alchemy, the serpent signifies not only an ambiguous and concealed Deity but also a sacred demon dispensing blessings a true Redeemer.

Thus, the Perates also say that the all-encompassing serpent (that is, the Ouroboros, tail-eating dragon), which as    Oceanus surrounds the earth like a ring, is the wise Logos of Eve, the mysterium of Eden, the river that flows out of Eden (Eden is the brain) and divides into the four origins.

And as “the serpent of brass;’ which Moses “put upon a pole” (Num. 21:9), it becomes a symbol of Christ, the Soter-serpent.

In Egypt also, the dragon was principally worshipped as a serpent of salvation, as the outward form of the god of revelation, Hermes, as the Agathodaimon, or as Osiris, “lord of the Egyptian earth” and husband of Isis.

247 In the Roman catacombs, in the so-called Balbina coemeterium,10 there is a remarkable fresco which is looked upon as an illustration of Perpetua’s vision: a human figure is ascending a ladder under which lies a serpent.

The ladder rises out of a cornfield consisting of single tall ears of corn.

So here, the serpent represents the earth spirit connected with the cornfields. This points even more clearly to the Egyptian Agathodaimon that was worshipped as “cornfield head” and Pantokrator.

The Gnostic Ophites also interpreted the ear of corn which was shown in the Eleusinian Mysteries as the Logos which rules the world.

It is a symbol for all the dying and resurrecting vegetation gods such as Attis, Osiris, Adonis, the Phrygian Papas, and so forth.

249 In this connection the dragon is clearly a symbol for an “unconscious nature-spirit;’ “the wisdom of the earth:’

Therefore, seen from the Christian standpoint, it also represents the pagan conception of the world in which experience of the Deity, or of the spirit, was projected into the material reality of the world.

In antiquity, one experienced divinity through a feeling of being gripped and moved by the phenomena of nature-in the rustling of the Dodonean oaks, in the murmuring of a fountain, in the starry heavens, and the glow of the rising sun.

These were the manifestations of the highest power.

This form of experience, however, had obviously become unsatisfying, even destructive, and it had to be surmounted rather than overcome.

250 The process of withdrawing the projection of the gods from nature had actually already begun in the Stoa. They interpreted the Olympians as the embodiment of specific psychic characteristics, but only again in favor of a “subtle material” conception of the spirit, as having a fiery, ethereal nature-the all-pervading and all-ruling Nous.

But it was Christianity which first took the real step toward a purely spiritual, extramundane conception of God.

It is the realization of this fact which is represented in Perpetua’s ascent over and beyond the dragon to a heavenly place.

Consequently, in the vision, the dragon stands for the danger of slipping back into the old pagan spiritual attitude, out of which the ladder shows the way to higher consciousness.

251 As a feminine and chthonic being, however, the dragon also means Perpetua’s own instinctive soul, her will to live, and her feminine reality which she tramples underfoot and disregards as she steps beyond.

252 In the Shepherd of Hermas, we also find-as J.A. Robinson has pointed out-the image of a gigantic animal symbolizing the antichristian power.

It is a beast resembling a sea monster, about a hundred feet in length with a head like an earthenware vessel.

This recalls the demonic angel Amnael in the old alchemical text, Isis to Horus.

On his head, as a semeion (sign or symbol), he carries just such a vessel, containing the alchemical secret substance Isis is seeking.13

The motif of the vessel as the head itself, or even as on the head, points to a feminine mysterium, so these parallels confirm what is already clear to us-namely, that Perpetua rejects her own feminine instinct in order to attain spiritual transformation.

In so doing, she treads on the dragon’s head.

This is a well-known gesture of triumph and, as St. Augustine (who often refers to the “Passio Perpetua” and appears to have been very much impressed by it)

already recognized,14 probably is also an allusion to Genesis 3:15:

253 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

The trampling of the dragon, according to Psalms 91:13-“the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet” (et conculcabis leonem et draconem)-was also frequently looked upon at that time as a sign of martyrdom and as victory over the devil.

255 On reaching the top of the ladder, Perpetua finds herself in a garden, in the center of which a gigantic shepherd, clad in white, is milking sheep.

As this garden lies in Heaven above, it can be no other than the celestial garden, Paradise, the Heavenly World Beyond; and this is also the reason why, immediately on waking, Perpetua interprets the dream as a premonition of her approaching death.

It is in the garden that she is received into the bright company of the Blessed, robed in white.

256 The idea that Paradise should again become the abode of humanity after death is already foreshadowed in the Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament.

Perpetua’s vision, and especially Saturus’s vision of Paradise, included further on in the “Passio Perpetuae:’ in which he enters into a heavenly garden with cypresses

and roses, facing the east, are among the earliest known Christian conceptions of Paradise.

257 Curiously enough, the idea of Paradise led to a long, dogmatic discussion.

According to prevailing opinion at the time, it is a locus corporalis, a material place occupying a definite space where the souls abide, in contrast to the extramundane Heavenly kingdom, the “Father’s Mansion:’ for which it is a preliminary stage.

According to the Church Father Hippolytus, it exists on earth toward the east.15

Another conception, however, places Paradise beyond the cosmos.

In the Passio SS. Montani et Lucii, for example, Christ appears-in the figure of a boy with a shining countenance-to a fellow martyr named Victor and promises him eternal life.

When the latter asks where Paradise is to be found, Christ answers: “Extra mundum” (beyond the world).

Indeed, Origen had to refute a conception according to which Paradise ((is only an immaterial world, existing merely in the fantasies of the mind and in thought.”16

Philo was already familiar with this interpretation and himself held that Paradise is a symbol of God’s wisdom.

25s The localization of Paradise outside the cosmos is explained by the idea that its four rivers, with their purifying and fertilizing properties, had their origin in the division of “the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament” (Gen. 1:7).

These celestial waters very early on in the patristic literature became a symbol for the Holy Ghost.

From this primordial place the power of God created the four rivers of Paradise,

so that the latter were somehow regarded as identical with them.17

259 Since Perpetua does not journey over the face of the earth toward the east, but rather climbs up a ladder to Heaven, the Paradise of her vision must be the extramundane Paradise.

In psychological language, the higher level of consciousness which she seeks to attain is thus revealed as a spiritual reality beyond the material world and the cosmos.

In this reality, ideas exist in themselves and are no longer experienced as projected into the universe.

260 The curious uncertainty concerning the material position of Paradise in space no doubt comes from the fact that Christianity did not recognize that its own conception of God and its most important dogmas primarily reside within the soul as psychological realities (which indeed was quite impossible to realize at the time, as is proved by Origen’s refutation mentioned above).

Instead, they were projected as absolutes in a space beyond the world-with the result that these ideas again acquired a peculiar substantiality.

261 In Perpetua’s vision, in the middle of the garden the “Good Shepherd” receives the Saint and gives her “a morsel of the cheese which he was milking:’ The figure of the shepherd as a guiding spirit, a Paredros and Redeemer, was an archetypal concept common to the pagan and Christian worlds of that time.18

In the pagan world, he was called the Poimandres, “shepherd of men” (an aspect of Hermes), who leads them to enlightenment and redeems them.

He became the prototype for the shepherd in the Christian text, the Shepherd of Hermas, which Robinson-quite rightly, it seems to me-looks upon as the source of the text under discussion.

262 The text entitled Poimandres begins with the following description of the ecstatic vision of a Hermetist:

263 Methought there came to me a Being of overwhelming and boundless proportions, who called me by name and spake: “What do you wish to hear and see and know by thought?”

264 “Who are you?” I said.

26s “I:’ said he, “am the Poimandres, the Spirit of Truth [ho tes authentias nous].19

I know what you wish, for indeed I am with you everywhere.”

266 “I would fain learn:’ I said, “the things that are, and understand their nature and acquire knowledge of God:’ He answered me: “Keep in mind all you desire to learn, and I will teach you!”

When he had thus spoken, he changed his semblance, and forthwith all things were opened out in a

moment, as by a sudden turn of the scale [rope], and I beheld a boundless vision, I saw all creation as a most mild and joyous light. 20

267 It is not only in the Hermetic writings that this God of Redemption and leader of souls appears as a symbol of Nous, or Logos, in the form of a shepherd.

Attis, who is interpreted as Anthropos and Logos in the Sermon of the Naassene, is a “shepherd of the shining stars.”

In like manner, the Phrygian Zeus or Papas was pictured by the Gnostics as a goatherd. They interpreted the Greek word Aipolos (goatherd) as Aeipolos (the ever-rotating one); that is, the all transforming and generating Logos.

The same applies to the Egyptian God Anubis, and to the Egyptian sun-god, Horus. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the latter is the “good shepherd” who rules over the “four human races:’ which form his flock.

269 The shepherd is a cosmic figure and, at the same time, is generally also considered the first man, the Anthropos.21

As a text says, he is “the son of God, who can do everything and become everything as he will [and] appears to any one as he will:’ He extends throughout the universe and is the redeemer from the compulsion of the stars, the heimarmene.

270 But why should just the image of the shepherd have been chosen for this conception of God and as a symbol of Nous? Philo of Alexandria endeavors to explain it as follows:

271 The role of shepherd is such an exceedingly good one, that it is not only ascribed to kings and wise men, and to the souls which have been purified through initiation, but also, and rightly, to God himself, the leader of the universe.

For, as if in a meadow or pasture, the Shepherd and King-God, with justice and law, leads his great flock: the earth and the water, the air and the fire, and all that in them is, plants and living beings, mortal and immortal, and also the nature of the heavens, and the circlings of sun and moon, and the rhythmic

dances of the stars.

He sets over them his upright Word [Logos], his first-born Son, who will receive the charge of this

holy flock as the vice-regent of the Great King.22

2n Thus, the shepherd was a symbol of the ordering mind of God, the Stoic Nous or Logos, which pervades the whole universe.

Therefore, he carries the staff of king and judge, with which he rules.

He is a ”pneuma reaching from heaven to earth:’

273 At that time, humanity looked upon the laws of nature chiefly as the effects of an indwelling semimaterial and divine spirit.

But this spirit had now “become man”; it was no longer merely the power of nature but also a daimon paredros, personally experienced by each individual.

Numerous prayers in the pagan Magic Papyri are addressed to this spirit which pervaded and ruled the cosmos; for instance:

274 Hail, thou who comest forth from the four winds, Pantokrator, thou who breathest the life-giving pneuma into man … whose eyes are the sun and moon> shining in the pupils of man … thou are the Agathodaimon> who generates everything and nourishes the inhabited earth.23

27s Or again:

Thou who sittest on the head of the cosmos> and judgest everything> surrounded by the circle of truth and faith. Thou who hearest on thy head the golden crown> and in thy hand the staff with which thou send est forth the gods. 24

276 He was usually represented as a beggar with staff and knapsack> as the power that holds the cosmos together and as the “shepherd of the stars;> that is> the center of all the innumerable celestial constellations.

From the psychological point of view> this primordial image of the shepherd represents the Self> whence all the other archetypal images of the collective unconscious receive their invisible regulation.

277 Christ as the Good Shepherd and Pantokrator has taken over all the functions of the pagan god. He is a liberator from the heimarmene; as Kosmokrator, he likewise extends throughout the universe.

He is called the all-powerful Logos of God, “who walking on earth, touches the heavens:’ In contemporary art, he often figures as a kind of Hermes, a lamb on his shoulders, over his head the

seven planets, on either side of him, sun and moon, and at his feet, seven lambs, representing the seven nations.

On an epitaph in the Domitilla coemeterium, he is even depicted as Attis with a shepherd’s

staff and pipe.

The Martyrium Polycarpi (chapter 19) calls him “the shepherd of the Universal Church which extends all over the world;’

and in the Alberkios inscription, he is “the holy shepherd, who feeds his flocks of sheep on mountains and plains:’

27s In a saying such as the opening verses of Psalm 23-“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”-which St. John in the New Testament applies to Christ (John 10:11-16), he is still quite definitely thought of as a kind of daimon paredros-that is, as a personal guardian spirit that accompanies each individual, just in the same way as the Poimandres declares, “I am with you everywhere:’ In the Martyrium Polycarpi (chapter 19), he is even called “the shepherd, the savior of our souls and the guide of our bodies.”

Thus, he is, so to speak, a nonpersonal guiding spirit, yet also in some way connected with the ego, almost in the sense of an apparition, which means that, at that time, the unconscious no longer appeared as a power projected into nature, but rather as a daimon accompanying man.

This is shown most impressively in the appearance of the shepherd described by Hermas:

While I was praying at home, seated on my bed, there entered a man of lordly appearance, in shepherd’s garb, clad in a white goat skin, his pack on his shoulders and a staff in his hand; and he greeted me, and I returned the greeting.

Forthwith he sat down by me, saying: “I am sent by the highest angel, that I may dwell with thee all the remaining days of thy life:’

I suspected that he had come to tempt me, and asked: “Who art thou?

For I know into whose keeping I was given:’

He said to me: “Dost thou not know me?”

”No,’ ‘ I replied.

Then he declared: “I am the shepherd into whose care thou hast been given:’ And while he was still speaking he changed his semblance, and I knew that he was the one into whose keeping I had been given.25

The shepherd then undertakes the function of strengthening Hermas in his faith and instructing him.

288 As we shall see, something of the same kind takes place in Perpetua’s vision when, in a scene which recalls the Holy Communion, the shepherd gives her a morsel of cheese and she receives it with folded hands.

This scene in particular has been looked upon as a proof that the martyrs were Montanists, for a

special group among them, the so-called Artotyrites-from artos (bread) and tyros ( cheese )-are said to have celebrated their Eucharist not with wine but with bread and cheese.

In any case, the manner in which the cheese is dispensed in the vision is entirely modeled on the partaking of the Holy Communion.

289 Some writers have also seen a certain connection in this passage with the Passio Montani, which describes the passion of “a certain Montanus” and his followers.

As a result of the death of the proconsul, these martyrs were doomed to linger a considerable time

in prison.

Several of their visions which have been recorded are not unlike St. Perpetua’s.

For instance, a woman named Quartillosia had the vision of a young man of supernatural stature who fed the prisoners with two bowls of milk that never became empty and promised them a third, after which he disappeared through the window.

290 The singular picture in the St. Perpetua vision of the shepherd milking cheese ( which moreover could occur only in a genuine dream) probably comes from the fact that two conceptions overlap: the idea of the Holy Communion, the receiving of the Host, as something “made by the hand of man;’ something solid; and, on the other hand, the idea of bestowing a drink in the form of milk.

291 In the Phrygian mysteries, for instance, the mystic abstained from eating meat, “and moreover he fed on milk as one newly born:’

This is important inasmuch as Montanus himself was a Phrygian.

Milk and honey were also looked upon as stimulating and inspiring, much the same as wine. In a magic papyrus, we read: “Drink milk and honey before sunrise, and in thy heart there will be something divine:’ Milk also stood for spiritual teaching in the Christian world:

”As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word [logikon ], that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2:2).


292 Ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have

milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. (Heb. 5: 12-13; also 1 Cor. 3:2)

293 St. Paul described himself and his followers as “children in Christ” (nepioi en Christo), and Clement of Alexandria even calls the Christians directly galaktophagoi (milk-drinkers).

, too, stands for an emanation of the Deity.

In the so-called Odes of Solomon, we read:

294 A cup of milk was offered to me; and I drank it in the sweetness of the delight of the Lord. The Son is the cup, and He who was milked is the Father: and the Holy Spirit milked him: because his breasts were full, and it did not seem good to Him that His milk should be spilt for nought; and the Holy Spirit opened her bosom and mingled the milk from the two breasts of the Father; and gave the mixture to the world [literally, “aeons”], without its knowing it; and they who receive [it] are in the perfection of the right hand [literally, “on the right hand in the Pleroma”]. 26

29s As Reitzenstein doubtless rightly interprets it, the drink of milk denotes the beginning, and the draught of wine, on the other hand, the complete fulfillment of man’s divinity.27

According to the rules of the Church instituted by Hippolytus, the neophytes first received a cup of water, then a mixture of milk and honey, and finally wine and water as the real Eucharist.

The sweet-tasting morsel which Perpetua receives at the hands of the shepherd is thus a kind of spiritual food, or teaching, through which she is admitted to the bright company of the Blessed (those who stand around robed in white and say ‘J\men”), the company in the Beyond, whence-in the fourth vision-comes the deacon

Pomponius, in festive garb, to fetch her away.

It also has the meaning of a cibus immortalis, an immortal food, inasmuch as those “who worship God in spirit and in truth have a share in his glory and are immortal with him in that they are partakers of eternal life through the Logos:’ The Holy Ghost was indeed a life-giving breath.

297 If the gods of antiquity were already dead-that is, if the highest value bestowing life and giving it meaning had sunk at that time into the unconscious and become dissolved-this value had risen again in a changed form in the figure and teaching of Christ, the God become man and mediator.

The unconscious life force streamed forth from the new teaching, enabling life to progress on a fresh course and bringing about a step forward in culture. 28

298 The first of Perpetua’s visions describes this process in archetypal images.

It is true that the complex meaning in their deeper connections could hardly have been accessible to her consciousness, but they did give her the inner feeling of a meaning in her destiny.

Thus, they enabled her to accept her martyrdom.29

299 Although the dream represents the Christian teaching as the highest value and as a new source of life, one can hardly assume that the unconscious intended to drive Perpetua into martyrdom.

The obstructing factor in itself, for instance, is by no means exclusively characterized as a power of evil, although Perpetua interprets it as the devil.

The dragon may also represent the unconscious animal side which seeks to hinder Perpetua’s ascent and which she tramples underfoot.

Quite objectively, the dream simply lays before our eyes the inner process which is taking place.

The suprapersonal imagery is the language of the collective unconscious.

The impressive power and depth of the images can no doubt be explained by the fact that they were called forth as a vital reaction of the unconscious to the fate threatening the dreamer in the outer world. ~Marie-Louise von Franz, Page 147-167