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Carl Jung on the “Tetraktys” – Anthology – Quotations

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tetra

This number four is the tetraktys. Other Gnostics describe man as a tetrad, probably referring to our four extremities. Also one revelatory goddess is the tetrad. ~Carl Jung, Psychology of Yoga and Meditation, Page 170

I would hazard that we have to do here with a tetrameria (as in Greek alchemy), a transformation process divided into four stages of three parts each, analogous to the twelve transformations of the zodiac and its division into four. As not infrequently happens, the number 12 would then have a not merely individual significance (as the patient’s birth number, for instance), but a time-conditioned one too, since the present Aeon of the Fishes is drawing to its end and is at the same time the twelfth house of the zodiac.  ~Carl Jung, CW 9i, Para 552

As compared with the trinitarian thinking of Plato, ancient Greek philosophy favoured thinking of a quaternary type. In Pythagoras the great role was played not by three but by four; the Pythagorean oath, for instance, says that the tetraktys “contains the roots of eternal nature.” The Pythagorean school was dominated by the idea that the soul was a square and not a triangle. The origin of these ideas lies far back in the dark prehistory of Greek thought.

The quaternity is an archetype of almost universal occurrence. It forms the logical basis for any whole judgment. If one wishes to pass such a judgment, it must have this fourfold aspect. For instance, if you want to describe the horizon as a whole, you name the four quarters of heaven. Three is not a natural coefficient of order, but an artificial one. There are four elements, four prime qualities, four colours, four castes, four ways of spiritual development in Buddhism, etc. So, too, there are four aspects of psychological orientation, beyond which nothing fundamental remains to be said ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 246

The arrangement of the snakes in the four corners is indicative of an order in the unconscious. It is as if we were confronted with a pre-existent ground plan, a kind of Pythagorean tetraktys. I have very frequently observed the number four in this connection. It probably explains the universal incidence and magical significance of the cross or of the circle divided into four. In the present case the point seems to be to capture and regulate the animal instincts so as to exorcise the danger of falling into unconsciousness. This may well be the empirical basis of the cross that vanquishes the powers of darkness ~Carl Jung, CW 12 Para 189

The four that are to be united into one refer to the tetrasomia of Greek alchemy, where, corresponding to the planets, they stand for lead, tin, iron, and copper. Hence in his process of henosis (unification or synthesis), as Michael Maier correctly understood it, what Greverus had in mind was not the three basic Paracelsan substances but the ancient tetrasomia, which at the end of his treatise he compares with the “union of persons in the Holy Trinity” ~Carl Jung, CW 13 Para 357

For him the triad of sun, moon, and Mercurius was the starting point, the initial material as it were, in so far as it signified the seed of the tree and the earth in which it was sown. This is the so-called coniunctio triptativa. But here he is concerned with the coniunctio tetraptiva, whereby the four are joined in the “union of persons.” This is a characteristic example of the dilemma of three and four, which plays a great role in alchemy as the well-known axiom of Maria Prophetissa ~Carl Jung, CW 13 Para 357

The aim of the tetrasomia is the reduction (or synthesis) of a quaternio of opposites to unity. The names of the planets themselves indicate two dyads, one benevolent (Jupiter and Venus), the other malefic (Saturn and Mars), and such dyads often constitute an alchemical quaternity. Zosimos gives the following description of the transformation process that is needed for the preparation of the tincture: ~Carl Jung, CW 13 Para 358

Via Daniel and Enoch, the quaternity of God’s sons penetrated very early into Christian ideology. There are the three synoptic gospels and the one gospel of St. John, to which were assigned as emblems the symbols of the cherubim. The four gospels are as it were the pillars of Christ’s throne, and in the Middle Ages the tetramorph became the riding animal of the Church. But it was Gnostic speculation in particular that appropriated the quaternity. This theme is so far-reaching that it cannot be dealt with more closely here. I would only draw attention to the synonymity of Christ, Logos, and Hermes, and the derivation of Jesus from the so-called “second tetrad” among the Valentinians. “Thus our Lord in his fourfoldness preserves the form of the tetraktys and is composed of”: ~Carl Jung, CW 13 Para 366

The alchemical tetrasomia and its reduction to unity therefore have a long prehistory which reaches back far beyond the Pythagorean tetraktys into Egyptian antiquity. From all this we can see without difficulty that we are confronted with the archetype of a totality image divided into four. The resultant conceptions are always of a central nature, characterize divine figures, and carry over those qualities to the arcane substances of alchemy ~Carl Jung, CW 13 Para 367

An unmistakable and very interesting mandala can be found in Jakob Böhme’s book XL Questions concerning the Soule. It is clear that this mandala represents a psychocosmic system strongly coloured by Christian ideas. Böhme calls it the “Philosophical Eye” or the “Mirror of Wisdom,” by which is obviously meant a summa of secret knowledge. Most mandalas take the form of a flower, cross, or wheel, and show a distinct tendency towards a quaternary structure reminiscent of the Pythagorean tetraktys, the basic number. Mandalas of this sort also occur as sand paintings in the religious ceremonies of the Pueblo and Navaho Indians. ~Carl Jung, CW 13, Para 31