The Complementarian Self
The complementary nature
of the Self
The Self, representing the wholeness of the
psyche, has in different guises functioned as a role model for the individual,
throughout history. In the Christian era, the ideal of the spiritual individual
who is morally perfect (Jesus Christ), through its very
one-sidedness, created a reversal of its spirit into materialism. Psychologist
Carl Jung, renounced the ideal of perfection and proposed an ideal
of completeness. The article argues that the trinitarian spiritual ideal must
continue to play a role, together with a this-worldly (quaternarian
) ideal of
spirit, following the principle of complementarity as defined by physicists. The
transformation of Self is an ongoing process in the unconscious. The complementarian Self obtains as the goal of the spiritual path.
In medieval alchemy it corresponds to the hermaphrodite, and the philosopher’s
stone. The article diverts from Jung’s view of alchemy regarding the method of
approach to the unconscious.
twofold Self, psychic structure,
complementarity, St Augustine, Wolfgang Pauli, trinitarian, quaternity, alchemy, Christ.
The complementarity principle is a concept
developed by physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962) to deal with the
existence of two models which are both useful, but not directly reconcilable.
The principle of complementarity is indispensable to modern quantum physics. It
helps to explain many quantum phenomena, such as the dual nature of light. This
article aims to show that it is also indispensable to psychology, in explaining
the structure of the Self, in terms of analytical (Jungian) psychology:
Self. The archetype of wholeness and the regulating center of the
psyche; a transpersonal power that transcends the ego […] The
self is not only the centre, but also the whole circumference which embraces
both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the
ego is the centre of consciousness. (Sharp, 1991)
I employ the term “complementarian Self” (not “complementary
self”) to avoid confusion with certain everyday uses of complementarity.
For instance, in depth psychology complementarity is sometimes used in the
sense of completion
, the assimilation of a content which has previously been
lacking in consciousness. The principle of complementarity, according to
quantum mechanics, implies that the total information about an entity or system cannot
be obtained because the information is located in at least two complementary
qualities. Measuring one quality precludes measurement of the other. In some
experiments light acts like a series of particles and in other experiments it
acts like a wave, which is why neither of these descriptions is alone adequate
to explain the nature of light. If we try to explain light exclusively as a
particle phenomenon, certain wavelike characteristics must remain unexplained,
such as the fact that light can be polarized.
However, “light as
wave” and “light as particle” are wholly different phenomena,
and the two models are mutually exclusive. Physicist therefore accept that
light’s nature is complementary
, taking on a different appearance depending on
the experimental setting. The two models seem to contradict each other, and in
a traditional sense they are excluding each other. However, if kept distinct
and used interchangeably, these two models cooperate to provide a full
scientific explanation of the phenomenon of light. They fit perfectly together,
like two pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Together they create a wholeness that can
provide the whole picture. Important to understand is that either of the two
sides in the complementary model is a functioning wholeness, in itself. For
instance, light as wave movement is a wholly viable explanatory model. The
problem is only that some empirical facts fall outside this
model, so it must be complemented.
Complementarity beyond physics
Thus, two physicists come to two different conclusions as to the nature of light. One says that it has particle nature whereas the other says that it has wave nature. The reason why they get different results is that they have set up their experiments differently. My argument is that depending on how we set up our “cognitive equipment”, we come to different conclusions as to the nature of the world and the nature of morality.
Physicist Abraham Pais
observes that “[complementarity] can be formulated without explicit reference to
physics, to wit, as two aspects of a description that are mutually exclusive
yet both necessary for a full understanding of what is to be described”
(Plotnitsky, 1994, loc.cit., p.73). Also Niels Bohr has discussed
complementarity beyond physics (Collected Works, vol. 10). In the Gifford
lectures (‘Causality and Complementarity’, 1948–1950) he suggested that
theologians make more use of the complementarity principle.
An obvious instance of this, I argue, would be the double nature of
Christ. The Athanasian creed says: “Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is
God and Man …
Perfect God; and perfect Man …
yet he is not two, but one Christ.”
The Christ came to earth as wholly man through the Virgin Mary.
Yet the Christ is also wholly God. It seems contradictory. He cannot
be wholly human if he is wholly God at the same time. Yet, we cannot solve this
dilemma by thinking of Christ as two separate persons. He remains one person,
wholly divine and wholly human, neither less human because he has a divine
nature nor less divine because he has a human nature. The Christ is a wholeness — one
whose full description calls for two
incommensurable models. It conforms with the complementarity principle. If the
Christ is compared to light, his human nature would correspond to light’s particle
nature, whereas the divine aspect would correspond to the wave aspect. Light is wholly
material and wholly wavelike, yet it remains one phenomenon, not two separate
The Self of transcendency
Transcendence need not be
interpreted metaphysically, but could refer to the urge of transcending
worldliness. This model could also be termed the Self of oneness.
C.G. Jung’s explication of the Christ as a symbol of the Self
(Jung, 1979), he does not touch upon the double nature of
the Christ, but argues that Christ as a symbol of Self is flawed.
There can be no doubt that the original Christian conception of the imago
Dei embodied in Christ meant an all-embracing totality that even includes
the animal side of man. Nevertheless the Christ-symbol lacks wholeness in the
modern psychological sense, since it does not include the dark side of things
but specifically excludes it in the form of a Luciferian opponent […]
Psychologically the case is clear, since the dogmatic figure of Christ is so
sublime and spotless that everything else turns dark beside it. It is, in fact,
so one-sidedly perfect that it demands a psychic complement to restore the
balance […] A factor that no one has reckoned with, however, is
the fatality inherent in the Christian disposition itself, which leads
inevitably to a reversal of its spirit — not through the obscure workings of
chance but in accordance with psychological law. The ideal of spirituality
striving for the heights was doomed to clash with the materialistic earth-bound
passion to conquer matter and master the world. This change became visible at
the time of the “Renaissance”. (Jung, 1979, pp.41-43)
Jung’s view of the Self is based on completeness.
He views the
one-sided spiritual ideal of man as counterproductive.
If one inclines to regard the archetype of the Self as the real agent and
hence takes Christ as a symbol of the Self, one must bear in mind that there is
a considerable difference between perfection and completeness.
The Christ-image is as good as perfect (at least it is meant to be so), while
the archetype (so far as known) denotes completeness but is far from being
perfect […] Natural as it is to seek perfection in one way or
another, the archetype fulfils itself in completeness […] Where
the archetype predominates, completeness is forced upon us against all
our conscious strivings, in accordance with the archaic nature of the archetype.
The individual may strive after perfection (“Be you therefore perfect (…) as
also your Heavenly Father is perfect.”) but must suffer from the opposite
of his intentions for the sake of his completeness […] “Redemption”
does not mean that a burden is taken from one’s shoulders which one was never
meant to bear. Only the “complete” person knows how unbearable man is
to himself. So far as I can see, no relevant objection could be raised from the
Christian point of view against anyone accepting the task of individuation
imposed on us by nature, and the recognition of our wholeness or completeness,
as a binding personal commitment. If he does this consciously and intentionally,
he avoids all the unhappy consequences of repressed individuation. In other
words, if he voluntarily takes the burden of completeness on himself, he need
not find it “happening” to him against his own will in a negative form.
Jung is correct in saying that completeness and perfection (oneness as
emptiness) are mutually exclusive. His Self ideal is chiefly this-worldly.
On the other hand, the Christian ideal is lopsided toward otherworldliness and
the ascetic. The latter form of wholeness may remain intact because it avoids
being rent asunder by internal conflict. Wholeness can be maintained because the spiritual
Self ideal implies not partaking in the world, instead to pass it by (“Jesus
said, Be passersby.”, Gospel of Thomas, 42). The man who partakes in the
world will inevitably become soiled, whereas the man who stands above it may
remain whole. However, Jung argues that the man who subscribes to the ideal of
perfection will inevitably fall into the pit which represents his dark side. After all, it
has not been integrated in his personality, but remains a negative factor in
the unconscious. Jung, however, really refers to the effects of the Christian
ideal on the general citizen who takes part in temporal life. Should he adopt a hypocritical attitude, he will inevitably fall prey to his own shadow. Arguably, Jung’s
analysis is not valid for unworldly man, who has accepted suffering and who stands apart
from the world. He cannot be called a hypocrite since the psychic
opposites are not active within him. Thus, he is capable of remaining truly whole.
The Self of completeness
According to Jung’s ideal of Self a
man should be capable of harbouring irreconcilable opposites activated as a consequence of him
partaking in the world. The powers of consciousness must be so developed that the integral parts of personality may remain collected, which include instinctual and dark
aspects of psychology. In this manner the dark sides will remain within
conscious command. On the other hand, should they remain unconscious, they will assume an overly
destructive form. One way or the other, the repressed content will come to
revolt against a fraudulent conscious standpoint. Jung’s understanding makes
much sense, and his conclusions build on clinical material. Yet, arguably, not many people are capable of such a feat, let alone
integrating the shadow and admitting to one’s own faults. That is known as “losing
face” among many an ethnic group —
blame should preferably be cast on
Jung’s Self is associated with the quaternity, whereas the Christian
Self is trinitarian
. The quaternarian Self, being this-worldly, harbours many
opposites. It is beautiful and good, but also demonic and fearsome.
Like all archetypes, the Self has a paradoxical, antinomial character. It is
male and female, old man and child, powerful and helpless, large and small. The
self is a true “complexio oppositorum”, though this does not mean that
it is anything like as contradictory in itself. It is quite possible that the
seeming paradox is nothing but a reflection of the enantiodromian changes of the
conscious attitude which can have a favourable or an unfavourable effect on the
whole. (ibid. p.225)
As Jung realizes that these two Self models (the this-worldly versus the
otherworldly; the complete versus the perfect; the antinomial versus the empty;
the quaternarian versus the trinitarian) are mutually exclusive, he concludes
that his quaternarian model is the only right one, and declares the transcendental
model as obsolete. This he does without having refuted the latter. Rather, he has merely shown that
this-worldly application of the trinitarian model doesn’t work. Jung’s thinking
is curiously Hegelian. He thinks in terms of antinomies capable of synthesis. If
they aren’t capable of synthesis, but remain contradictory in themselves, then
logic says that either one is false. Against this, Plotnitsky explains that
complementarian thinking is profoundly anti-Hegelian (cf. Plotnitsky, 1994, p.11). My
argument is that this is the right place to apply complementarian thinking.
Both models are true, and both are necessary to fully represent the phenomenon
of the Self. Thus we arrive at a complementarian model which
includes irreconcilable opposites, and not only dialectical opposites. It stands
to reason that a truly exhaustive model of the Self should include both perfect
man and complete man. Arguably, Jung’s Self ideal does not provide the whole
picture. There is in him an inner conflict between the ideals of “complete
man” and “spiritual man”, as we shall see in the following
analysis of his dream.
The dream about kneeling before the highest presence
to Jung, the dream which he relates in the autobiography (Jung, 1989, pp.217-220), illuminated for him his relationship to Christianity, and
foreshadowed the writing of both “Aion” and “Answer to Job”. In this oft quoted
dream he bends down his head before the “highest presence”, but not
quite to the floor, as there is a millimeter to spare (cf. Jung, 1989, pp.217-20,
). In Jung’s understanding the unconscious (the father) harboured great knowledge about
biblical exegesis, which would soon come to expression in “Answer to
Job”. His own modern psychotherapeutic standpoint is expressed as inferior to the
great exegetical cunning of his father. As David and Uriah later appear,
it seems like his father’s exegesis revolves around this particular story in the bible
As the father appears as a clergyman, he
could be understood as a representative of the “Christian fatherly spirit”,
who thinks according to Church
arguably, a way of thought that Jung underestimates.
His father’s interpretation, and the dream as a whole, concerns the role of
saintly man (Uriah) and why he must be regarded superior to the “lord of this world”.
In Jung’s own thought, man should attempt to approximate the Self as a complexio
equally carnal and spiritual. But Uriah would approximate the
largely one-sided unearthly man, and not a complexio oppositorum.
Uriah, who refused order from David to
sleep with his wife (due to ongoing war), and
who lost his earthly life due to treachery, was practicing celibacy. Nevertheless,
in the dream, Uriah is superior to the sultan who lives in a circular gallery,
reminiscent of Jung’s symbol of the Self. He is seated in the middle of a
mandala where he speaks with counselors (about mundane matters) and philosophers
(about extramundane matters). Evidently, the sultan aspires to be equally
carnal and spiritual. Note that Jung associates the sultan with the “lord
of this world”, which is a well-known designation for the devil (cmp. the “monstrous”
Primal God Image, below).
Uriah is living far above the sultan, in a solitary (hermit’s)
chamber; a place “which no longer corresponded to reality” (i.e., the
realm of spirit). He represents the “highest presence”. Arguably, the
dream expresses that “spiritual man” is superior to Jung’s ideal of
the Self, which coincides with the understanding of great Christian
thinkers, such as St Augustinus, St Aquinas, and John Duns Scotus. The Christian
interpretation is expressed as vastly superior to Jung’s standpoint, in that his
father, the Christian Father-spirit, is intellectually superior. The dream
expresses that Uriah is superior to Jung’s notion of Self. Since, in Jung’s universe, nothing
other than God can be greater than the Self, he is bound to equate Uriah with
God. However, the dream probably expresses that saintly man (Uriah) is greater
than the man who manifests the completeness of the Self (the sultan). Uriah
represents crucified man, suffering man, the Man of Sorrows.
be argued that Jung should have coped with the problem of “unearthly
man” versus “complete man”, and that his exegetic accomplishment
served as deflection from the critical
issue. This was the subject which was so “extremely important” in his
father’s lecture. The bible bound in shiny fish-skin, is really bound in the skin
of Christ, because he is ICHTYS —
the fish. Jung views the
bible as an “unconscious content”. This is logical, if the bible is
understood as the theological outpouring soon to surface. However, the bible could also
be understood at the objective level, or as the deep-rooted voice of our
Christian forebears, i.e. as the Christian thoughtway extant in the collective
unconscious. The roundish silvery scales of the fish skin that surround the
bible, could be understood as the sum of theological thought produced by Christian forebears.
In the dream Jung thinks of himself as an “idiot”. There is
really no reason for this if the dream is understood as a forthcoming engrossment
in the bible, a theological passion earlier overlooked by himself (after all, he
had other engagements in life). If he calls himself an “idiot”, it
means that his conscious standpoint, in some sense, is utterly wrongheaded. In
his own interpretation, he does not address this forceful expression of
Why could Jung not bring his forehead quite down to the floor? Arguably, it foreshadowed that he would never come to bend to the message of this dream,
which is to regard spiritual man as the highest presence. He would not completely
yield, but persist in his standpoint that completeness is the ideal. He
would only bend to the message of God thus far, a millimeter to spare, in order to evade the demands of individuation at this very crucial point —
God himself, as it were. Arguably, this symbol derives from concepts of
electricity. A millimeter air between the poles will prevent contact, as no
transfer of energy can occur. This millimeter of air is really an abyss. Sometimes
it just doesn’t click, despite great intelligence and understanding. Had he touched the
earth, the electric current would have
entered his head, and the coin finally dropped. I make
the following interpretation: it is foreshadowed that
Jung will refuse to yield to pious man as an ideal. However, he knows well
not to turn a deaf ear to the spirit, so he will bend down in obeisance.
The complementarian Self
This is a schematic representation of above dream, which shows the
structure of the Self. Uriah is located at A and Akbar at B. To Jung, the
horizontal scene —
the circular room with the sultan in the centre —
the Self. But also the vertical representation belongs in the full picture. The
gradient from light to dark illustrates the fact that the Self is only partly
conscious. See also the upmost image of the pyramid, where the horizontal
region suggests immanence as it has extension in space. It harbours many
opposites whose focal point is the
Self of completeness.
In the horizontal region compensation
the major principle at work to balance the opposites, which are brought to
compensative harmony. The apex of the pyramid, which focuses in a point,
symbolizes the Self of transcendence.
An ideal point has no extension in
space. It illustrates the spot “which no longer corresponded to reality”,
where Uriah is located in Jung’s dream. The vertical extension indicates that
the two models are mutually exclusive (Akbar and Uriah as complementary
opposites), but are brought to complementarian harmony. In this model of the
Self, A and B (Uriah and Akbar) may complement each other so that a lopsidedness
need not occur. The historical lopsidedness in the medieval Christian
civilization has made the Self of completeness
(the sultan; the lord of
this world) stand out as too dark a character. The sultan is not that bad,
granting that he is ambivalent.
In all major religions we
find a Self ideal that corresponds to the ascetic and world-weary man: monks and
nuns, recluses, hermits, wandering
and contemplative mystics. Wherever
we look, the idea of the holy man resembles very much the traditional Christian
ideal, the ascetic who rejects the world and searches perfection according to an ideal condition of personality, void
of all commotion. Jung’s theory does not account for the fact that this is how
the Self has empirically manifested itself throughout history, the total number
of devotees vastly surpassing the sum of “enlightened sultans” in
world history. One cannot account for this enormous devotion in all higher
civilization by explaining it away as the neurotic consequences of a warped
worldview; a misunderstanding of the true constitution of Self or a misconception of the
true nature of God. The empirical facts about human psychology tell us that the Self manifests in two ways. Besides a yearning for completeness there is a longing for transcendence, for transcending the terrestrial turmoil, in both its inner and outer aspects.
Complementary paths of individuation
Jung says (my emphasis):
Individuation cuts one off from personal conformity and hence from collectivity. That is the guilt which the individuant leaves behind him for the world, that is the guilt he must endeavor to redeem. He must offer a ransom in place of himself, that is, he must bring forth values which are an equivalent substitute for his absence in the collective personal sphere. Without this production of values, final individuation is immoral and — more than that — suicidal […]
The individuant has no a priori claim to any kind of esteem. He has to be content with whatever esteem flows to him from outside by virtue of the values he creates. Not only has society a right, it also has a duty to condemn the individuant if he fails to create equivalent values (1977c, pars.1095f).
A real conflict with the collective norm arises only when an individual way is raised to a norm, which is the actual aim of extreme individualism. Naturally this aim is pathological and inimical to life. It has, accordingly, nothing to do with individuation, which, though it may strike out on an individual bypath, precisely on that account needs the norm for its orientation (q.v.) to society and for the vitally necessary relationship of the individual to society. Individuation, therefore, leads to a natural esteem for the collective norm, but if the orientation is exclusively collective the norm becomes increasingly superfluous and morality goes to pieces. The more a man’s life is shaped by the collective norm, the greater is individual immorality. (1977b, para.761)
If our vantage point is the Self of completeness, the above definition of individuation is undoubtedly correct. Nevertheless, it’s easy to think of examples when this definition doesn’t hold water because we cannot always chime in with ruling ideology. My conclusion is that Jung’s definition falters despite being correct and complete. As it isn’t sufficient to make an adequate definition of individuation, it must be regarded a complementary aspect. As the Self consists of a complementary pair, so must individuation be expressed by two complementary paths.
The theory of individuation stands only on one leg, because the reclusive way of individuation is missing. Jung took exception to the secluded and eremitic ideal as formulated in the Middle Ages, often denoted as ‘imitatio Christi’. This is the reason why he keeps so devotedly to a this-worldly ideal of Self. Nonetheless, it has awkward consequences. The individual cannot sing in unison with the collective during a time when the latter has become neurotic and follows evil and destructive ways. The Self must be viewed as complementary. There exists also a path of transcendency, complementary to the the path of temporality. Arguably, the rejection of the ways of the world is wholly consistent with individuation.
Jung’s view of individuation runs into difficulties. Although correct, it needs another correct definition as a complement. According to Jung, adaptation to the collective is essential to individuation. The problem is that all the late manifestations of culture are neurotic. It is a notorious theme in fairytales interpreted by Marie-Louise von Franz.
The consequence is that the individuant must needs contract the neurosis of the collective. As the individual adapts to the conflicted psyche, it becomes absorbed, to a degree. We also know that Jung, true to his view of individuation, made an effort to adapt to the Nazi collective. From what I have gleaned, he traveled to Germany and held speeches. He assumed overall responsibility for the Zentralblatt für Psychotherapie, a journal known to have published content that had Nazi flavour. Until 1939, he maintained professional relations with psychotherapists in Germany who had declared their support for the Nazi regime. He believed, as Christian missionaries always did, that evil could be turned to good.
Jung has been subjected to much critique for his standpoint of adaptation toward the Nazi regime. This does not mean that he believed in the Nazi system. His writings are essentially anti-fascist. But any attempt to adapt to an awfully pathological collective is doomed to failure. Arguably, he should have adopted the stance of the recluse who takes exception to the social collective, thereby holding off its neurosis. The way in which Jung behaved is predicated on his morally ambivalent Self ideal, symbolized by sultan Akbar in his dream. He really believed in the validity of evil, and that archaic and vulgar Nazism, as an upheaval of the collective unconscious, could be harnessed and reformed in conscious light. He theorized that evil must be integrated and put to good use, thus divesting it of its autonomous energy. Arguably, that’s why he dealt with the Nazis, up to the time that the war broke out. We know that he viewed the movement in symbolic terms as the resurgence of the pagan deity Wotan. The pagan mentality had been repressed and was now coming to life again. It represented a compensatory reaction against the spiritual one-sidedness of Christianity. The only right thing to do was to consciously adapt to it.
This all comes out of his theory of the relation conscious-unconscious. His standpoint was both well-meaning and theoretically compelling, but he was mistaken, because the Nazi worldview proved exclusively destructive. Arguably, there is something amiss with his view of the Self and of individuation. It focuses on integration, but doesn’t take the divisive force into account. Negation
plays no role in his system. I have instead argued that the upsurge of Nazism and warfare was an expression of Thanatos and destructivity for its own sake (Winther, 2012, here
). The divisive force, Thanatos, also comes to expression in reclusive individuation, as mors voluntaria.
The individuant effectively divides his universe and decides to stand apart from the world.
The pillar saint, perhaps the most radical form of asceticism, can be said to represent the complementary form of individuation. Jung was averse to pillar sainthood, because his view of the Self was essentially this-worldly. The notion of transcending the rumpus of the world was foreign to him. Of course, the pillar saint is a rather extreme phenomenon. Not all recluses in history went to these extremes. Yet it finely illustrates my point. Modern people tend to look with scorn at the figure of the pillar saint, who appears narcissistic, as he is elevating himself and placing himself on a pillar. But this is a projection, because it is really modern people who are prone to narcissism. In fact, the saint is showing his own wretchedness to everyone. He is not sitting there like a king in royal garment, but as the Man of Sorrows fastened on the tree. It is really a form of ‘imitatio Christi’. The pillar saints were anything but narcissistic. They weren’t elevating themselves, rather, they were punishing and demeaning themselves. It was like being nailed to a cross, hence a form of self-mortification. Traditional Christianity has always resisted narcissism, and spoken out against vanity, self-conceit, etc.
The Stylites spent years of their lives sitting on a pillar. 
St Simeon Stylites was disgusted with the world and wanted to distance himself from it. Luis Bunuel made a film about him, “Simon of the Desert”, in which the devil, in the form of a beautiful woman, subjects the saint to temptation. Evidently, Bunuel identified with the stylite. He was fed up with the superficial ways of the world and wanted to climb a pillar. Much like the pillar saint, he experienced that external reality was in the process of invading his private world, making him neurotic, too. So he wanted to escape the world. This was how Bunuel felt in face of popular culture, that annoyed him immensely. In Jung’s dream, Uriah is highly elevated, assuming a role similar to the “pillar saint”.
The image illustrates physicist Wolfgang Pauli’s vision of a
world-clock. It consists of a vertical and an horizontal circle, having a common
centre. The horizontal circle consists of four colours. On it stand four little
men with pendulums. The vertical circle is blue with a white rim. A pointer
rotates upon it. The “clock” has three rhythms. The pointer circulates
32 times faster than the horizontal circle, which represents the middle pulse.
Each revolution of the slowly turning outer golden ring, which was earlier
black, corresponds to 32 revolutions of the horizontal circle. The clock is
supported by a black bird (missing in the picture). The vision made a deep and lasting impression on the
dreamer, an impression of “the most sublime harmony” (cf. Jung, 1980,
p.203) (image by me).
[The] figure tells us that two heterogeneous systems intersect in the Self,
standing to one another in a functional relationship that is governed by law and
regulated by “three rhythms”. The Self is by definition the centre and
the circumference of the conscious and unconscious systems. But the regulation
of their functions by three rhythms is something that I cannot substantiate […]
We shall hardly be mistaken if we assume that our mandala
aspires to the most complete union of opposites that is possible, including that
of the masculine trinity and the feminine quaternity on the analogy of the
alchemical hermaphrodite. (ibid. p.205)
Jung argues that “two heterogeneous systems intersect in the Self”.
That sounds very good in my ears as it can be interpreted in terms of
complementary opposites, especially since Pauli belonged to the Copenhagen
school to which the concept was central. Since the mandala, according to Jung,
is a symbol of the Self, it is logical to interpret the image as two Self
symbols intersecting. However, what Jung refers to as “two heterogeneous
systems” are the conscious and the unconscious systems. Accordingly, the
latter is feminine, has blue colour, vertical extension, and is
associated with the number four (ibid. p.213). Consciousness is masculine and connected with
the number three. The idea is that the image represents two psychic systems unifying to manifest the alchemical hermaphrodite. But there is a
logical contradiction in that the horizontal mandala, representing
consciousness, is clearly fourfold, and not threefold.
The horizontal circle is a typical Jungian mandala with its four functions,
beleaguered with opposites, representing the notion of the Self. The vertical
mandala is empty, save for the pointer, and has the colour and the shape of the
heavenly arch. It would represent the trinitarian Self since vertical extension relates
to transcendence. It is stationary (at least, it is stationary in the vertical
extension), suggesting permanence, an existence beyond the world of flux. If the
upper partition relates to the superstratum of spirit, the lower partition would
signify the substratum of matter (as such). The vertical mandala is simple,
pointing in one
direction at a time, thus conforming to the ideal of the
Christian mystic or Zen buddhist, namely emptiness and oneness.
horizontal layer is like
on which the little men can stand, suggesting immanence. It
is revolving horizontally, in its own extension —
the worldly abode of the
psyche is temporal and always in flux. It is partitioned into front and back,
corresponding to conscious and unconscious. The horizontal mandala is multifarious, and
diverse things are going on, expressing completeness.
The latter type of
wholeness is similar to a light that beams in all directions, whereas the oneness
ideal focuses in a laser beam. Yet the pointer of the blue mandala will
eventually point in all directions, too —
it’s just that it does it one at a
Thus, two independent wholenesses intersect to create a
three-dimensional wholeness, a perfect symbol of the complementarian Self. The
golden ring circulates around the double mandala to emphasize that the whole
wholeness made up of two intersecting wholenesses, or Self models.
The ring has gone from black to gold, because illumination follows after a period of
darkness. Such a ring is called nimbus
and is used to denote divinity.
It is seen surrounding the heads of gods and saints in artworks of all major
Pauli’s dreams and thoughts often revolved around the
problem of three and four. He was influenced by Jung’s notion that three is an “incomplete
wholeness”. However, in this context I think it denotes the Self of
transcendence. The three-rhythm of the world-clock is an apt symbol of the
transcendental spirit, especially as time is invisible. Yet, time also denotes
the temporal sphere and the terrestrial spirit, as evinced by the
(chthonic deities) with pendulums. Therefore three-rhythm
could be understood as three + rhythm, 3 + 4, heavenly
plus temporal, which is the theme of the vision. Pauli often said he wanted to
reconcile “Christ and the Devil”, but he tended to project this
problem on physical science, or on our biological nature as representing the
number four. However, I think it better compares with the dream about Uriah and
Akbar. Yet, this symbol could also be pertinent to the mystery of matter.  The dream about Bohr
suggest that Self-complementarity holds the key to many of Pauli’s dreams. On
Oct 1, 1954, he dreamt that Bohr explained to him that the difference between v
corresponds to the difference between Danish and English. Bohr said that
he should not just stick with Danish but move on to English (cf. Meier, p.143).
Although English is a Germanic language, like Danish, it has borrowed heavily
from Latin and French. Moving on from Danish to English suggests speaking a “complementary”
language. Bohr, as the father of complementarity, personifies the principle of
complementarity. That’s why he advises Pauli to move on to the complementary
, pronounced “double-you”. Indeed, double-you
would imply double-self.
In the Hebrew language,
letters have always been used to denote numbers, especially in Cabalistic
mysticism, but are nowadays used only in specific contexts. Hebrew letters are
still used to denote dates, grades of school, and other listings. Pauli and
Bohr, since they were both Jewish, ought to have known this. The letter v
the sixth letter and therefore has the numerical value of 6. Two vavs
) is in
traditional number mysticism calculated as 6 + 6 = 12.
Thus the w
in the dream equals 12, which is the product of 3 and 4, symbolic of the
resolution of the problem that had haunted Pauli. The sixth letter vav
can alternatively be represented by w
, so the symbolic meaning of w
analogous. The pronunciation of v
in Danish also corresponds to w
English. Hence v
would symbolize the Self, and w
symbolize the Self in its
complementary version. This interpretation is bolstered by Jewish tradition,
according to which vav
) represents the connection between “heavenly
and earthly matters”, while it is also the “number of man”. 
It coincides cogently with the definition of the Self.
In a theological reading, the image of man as the connecting force between
heaven and earth is symbolic of Christ.
The problem of 3 and 4
According to M-L von Franz (1974), the whole numbers aren’t
mere signs for quantities. Each number signifies a wholeness of its own — qualitatively,
that is. The number 3 is experienced as a three-wholeness, the four as a
four-wholeness, etc. Thus, the natural numbers may serve as different
models of the Self or as different models of the divine.
Jung’s god image, as expressed in “Answer to Job”, is quaternarian.
In a letter to von Franz (Nov 6, 1953) Pauli accounts for an active
imagination experienced by him. The letter was headed with the caption, “To
the sign of 6”, followed by: 2 × 6 = 3 × 4.
To this was added the motto, “The professor
who shall reckon numerically” (cf. Lindorff, p.178). Again, Pauli grapples
with the problem of 3 and 4. He believed the solution lay in the number 12, as
the numerical product of 3 and 4, but he eventually became stuck. Lindorff says:
The number 12, in spite of its failings, had led Pauli to a more expansive
view of the
self, but he was still stymied. With frustration he wrote to von Franz, “Every correct solution (i.e., that corresponds to nature)
must contain the 4 as well as the 3. I found myself in an apparently
no-way-out situation: ‘I was cornered’, as the Americans say” […]
had the intuitive feeling that the 3-4 problem could be solved
only by living the 3 and the 4 simultaneously — in other words, by
relating to the dynamic aspect of the Self. (ibid. pp.185-87)
The expression 3 × 4 symbolizes, in itself, the resolution of Pauli’s
yearning to arrive at a more expansive view of the Self. The sign of 6 is the
sign of man, as we learn from Revelation 13:18 (having to do with the fact that
man was created on the sixth day, etc.). It is the counting letter vav
Hebrew alphabet, that can be said to symbolize the Self. Also in this case is
hinted at the motif of 2 × vav,
that is, w
. I conjecture that
the above equation says: the twofold Self is the solution.
“An ace of clubs lies before the dreamer. A
seven appears beside it.” (Jung, 1980, para.97)
Pauli discussed this dream with Jung. He came to view the black
crosslike shape as the “shadow cast by the Christian cross —
other words [the] dark side of Christianity
” (cf. Lindorff,
pp.53-54). It represents, I suggest, the Christian paradigm grown stale. That’s
what’s on the table —
his present state of Self, and of civilization. The 7
represents what shall come instead. It is the materia prima,
psychic generic substance, out of which the 3 and 4 shall emerge in the form of the
alchemical royal brother-sister pair. The number 7 is associated with the
materia prima due to the seven metals (gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin,
and lead). These are reducible to materia prima, which, conversely, can generate
any of the seven metals. The metals are associated with the seven “planets”
(Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). To associate the number
7 with the yet unknown problem of 3 and 4 is logical, although this
interpretation is uncertain.
The Primal and the Ultimate God Image
Joseph L. Henderson, (1967, 2005), the
motif of transcendence is evident in documented rituals of initiation and in
the fantasies and dreams of patients. During a phase in the individuation
process there is a longing to transcend this world of particulars, and a
strong urge to transcend animal nature. Allegedly, the motif also plays a role
in the transcendence of group identity; to acquire a refined “apollonian”
spirit of order. His notion of “God Image” is equivalent to the Self
notion, and he outlines two aspects of the Self: the Primal God Image and the
Ultimate (Celestial) God Image. Although Henderson tries to accommodate this view of
the Self within Jungian confines, to me it’s evident that the Primal God
Image corresponds perfectly with Jung’s Self, whereas the Ultimate God Image has
the bearing of the Christian trinitarian spirit.
The Primal God Image stands for the individual experience of God. Henderson
exemplifies with an ambivalent monster
situated in the centre of a mandala, lacking limbs, but capable of benevolent wisdom (cf. Henderson, 1967, p.226). It embodies the
opposites good and bad, creation and destruction, male and female, etc. It
brings to mind Jung’s youthful dream of an underground deity in the form of a
one-eyed phallus (cf. Jung, 1989, p.12). As a complement to the monstrous Self,
Henderson posits the Ultimate God Image. In a fantasy, a patient returns to
the Christian Godhead, in improved form, after a dangerous but rewarding
encounter with the Primal God Image (cf. Henderson, 1967, p.206ff). Henderson interprets
the initiation in the celestial mystery (the ascent) along lines of Mircea Eliade. Initiation rites in primitive society serve the purpose of
transcending a former and more primitive identity, to achieve a higher grade
of culture. This implies a gradual abatement of group identity. The person who
has undergone these rites has transcended the secular condition of humanity.
Intermediate God Images
Such aspects of primitive
sociology, however, cannot account for humanity’s enormous spiritual passion of transcendency. I maintain that Henderson has, by a
furtive reintroduction of the trinitarian transcendental God Image as an
intrinsic aspect of individuation, really broken with Jung’s view of the Self.
Jung viewed the Christian spirit as chiefly an impediment to individuation,
although certain individuals must remain under the auspices of Christianity due
to constitutional factors of personality. The Primal God Image has properties of
Mother goddess, whereas the Ultimate God Image corresponds loosely to the
fatherly aspect of divinity. Fatherly spirituality revolves around transcendence
and the breaking free of bonds in whatever form. As Jung’s Self notion lacks the
trinitarian complementary element (the transcendent presence of Uriah),
spiritual emancipation becomes subordinate to the assimilation of archetypal
complexes, and more generally, subordinate to the involvement and identification
with archetypes and the mirages of the world. This could lead to a dependency on
the unconscious and on psychology, as such. The effects are similar to
a mother complex. It involves putting a naive trust in the unconscious psyche, namely to
view it as a good mother, expecting her to lead the way through dark woods,
securely to Avalon, the island of legend. There is sometimes a tendency to
romanticize the archetypes; to intentionally identify with them, along lines
of New Age. It cannot be ruled out that such a mother-child relation with the
unconscious is sometimes of the good, but it does not bespeak objectivity in
face of the uncanny ambivalence of the unconscious. The this-worldly ideal of
spirit, which is almost of the Celtic hue, where the spirits are always proximate, is
deep-rooted in Jungian psychology. It is antithetical to the inner call of transcendency, to remove all distractions and to empty the
self of all particulars; to
unshackle personality from the realities of everyday life. In the end, pagan mundaneness will keep the subject in psychological
fetters, save for those blissful individuals who, by nature, belong in the lush
The notion of two sides to personality accords with St Augustine’s view, as explicated in his masterpiece “City of God” (cf. Wiki, here
). Eugene TeSelle says:
In Augustine’s thinking [the metaphor of two cities] meant differentiating between two modes of life and two concrete communities which he called the earthly city and the city of God, expressed in, but not identical with, the state (or civil society) and the church. Before he arrived at that position, however, he understood the duality (not dualism!) in a variety of other ways. At first he thought it possible to live fully in both cities at the same time, to be bathed in the divine light yet active in the material world. Then he came to the conviction that this is impossible under current conditions — that we are so firmly enmeshed in the sensory world that we can be citizens of the city of God only through faith and hope, or through the momentary ecstasy that he called “alienation” from the world of the senses. Duality, in other words, may be built into the human situation. (TeSelle, 1998, p.xi)
Jung, as we know, thought it possible “to live fully in both cities at the same time”, according to his ideal of an integrated life. Although Augustine rejected this view, he emphasized that some may change citizenship. Says TeSelle:
Thus the term “city,” [refers] metaphorically to much more than the physical city. The two loves and the two societies which they constitute transcend all empirical states and organizations. That is why Augustine emphasizes that both angels and human beings can belong to each city, so there are two cities, notifier (ciu.dei XII,1). In the case of human beings, furthermore, the duality between the earthly city and the city of God is not fixed or final; all human beings are born citizens of the former, while some may be reborn into the latter. (ibid. p.22)
The manifestation of the Self
The laws of quantum physics allow us to get a more exact measurement of
the momentum or
the position of a particle. Those two
qualities cannot be exactly measured at the same time (cf. Wiki: ‘Complementarity’,
By analogy, should the complementarian Self become manifest in reality, in a real individual, it will appear as either complete
, either as Akbar or Uriah. No person may
manifest the two ideals at the same time.
The trinitarian longing after transcendence represents an inner urge to
transcend the worldly, in order to bring the soul to stillness. The notion did
not appeal to Jung, whose idea of the spirit is experiential (kataphatic). He
rejected the view of John of the Cross (1542–
1591), who said
that the contemplative shall enter the dark night of the soul,
room for the infusion of God’s spirit. 
both persons were right in their own way.
Jung followed the completeness-ideal and liked to think of himself
as a modern Merlin. Krishnamurti (a very Christlike person, but nothing like the
historical Jesus) followed the transcendental ideal. Both individuals had a very
different view of things. Krishnamurti refused any psychological, inner,
evolution or “becoming”, and said that any movement away from
is an escape. Despite their mutual irreconcilability,
both perspectives carry a great deal of truth, because it is the truth about
the Self. (Remember the principle that either of the two sides in the
complementary model is a functioning wholeness, in itself, although neither of them is quite
sufficient to describe reality.) Both persons, believing that they had found the
right path to the Self, attempted to realize the Self, not knowing that the Self is
What does this mean? It means that both persons were
right but also utterly wrong, because their vision of the Self does not
include its complementary. Krishnamurti manifested a Christlike ideal, whereas
Jung manifested a modern Merlin. Since they both portrayed a
vision of the Self that is a wholeness in itself, it fails to epitomize the
whole truth about the Self. To the extent that they identified with the Self,
they also estranged themselves from its complementary opposite. To manifest the
Self is to become alienated from the Self. Likewise, the quantum phenomenon can only
manifest either of its two complementary opposites. The other opposite is
discarded. When the holy man Krishnamurti manifests the Self as a living guru,
he has discarded his complementary. As a consequence, he alienates himself from the Self
while making it manifest. Accordingly, Jung observed that the saintly practice
of ‘imitatio Christi’ alienated religious devotees from the Self of
completeness. History is replete with tragic victims of ‘imitatio Christi’. On
the other hand, the ‘imitatio Merlini’, in the way of the modern paganist, alienates
the subject from the Self of transcendence, the consequences of which I have
discussed above. The conclusion is that it is a mistake to throw out the
complementary opposite, because it inevitably leads to identification with the
An alchemical image of the hermaphrodite (rebis
) as the fulfilment
of the opus (from Rosarium Philosophorum, Univ. of Glasgow Library, here
). Rex and Regina,
or Sol and Luna, corresponding to sulphur and quicksilver, have reemerged from
the darkness of nigredo
as a Janus-faced creature, the rebis.
To Jung it
represents the realization of the Self as conscious and unconscious conjoined.
The problem with such a view is that it cannot happen in reality,
since psychic structure remains largely the same. However, his argument revolves
around archetypal symbolism. The advancement is expressed in terms of a
superlative archetypal symbol, although a conjunction has occurred only to a
relative degree. It depends on the fact that the archetype of the
conjunction is activated during the process when contents are
integrated with consciousness. Although Jung’s explanatory model is logical, it
functions not as well with other symbols of the process.
The royal brother-sister pair both emerge from the prima
or massa confusa,
which in Jung’s understanding is symbolic of an undifferentiated
unconscious, often associated with the tailbiting snake —
It has been understood as the instinctual and undifferentiated state of the
the uroboric Self. According to Jung (1980), the brother-sister pair represents
the feminine and masculine aspects of the prima materia. Thus, it is not
evident that the male aspect of royalty, the sun, is equatable with
consciousness, or the heroic ego. Rather, it is a symbol of the spirit, which is
also evident from the texts. The rebis symbol could alternatively be interpreted
as the result of operations performed on the Self, during which the Self complex, as
such, is transformed, and not the psyche as a whole. It would symbolize the
complementarian Self and its constituent parts of two irreconcilable opposites —
the sun-spirit of sulphur and the moon-spirit of quicksilver, i.e., the Self of
transcendency and the Self of completeness. The alchemists themselves seemed to
reason along similar lines. Jung says:
For the alchemist, the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but
the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter. Only as a secondary consideration
does he hope that some benefit may accrue to himself from the transformed
substance as the panacea, the medicina catholica, just as it may to the
imperfect bodies, the base or “sick” metals, etc. His attention is
not directed to his own salvation through God’s grace, but to the liberation of
God from the darkness of matter. By applying himself to this miraculous work he
benefits from its salutary effects, but only incidentally. (Jung, 1980, p.312)
Jung argues that the alchemist’s standpoint is largely a
misunderstanding of the nature of his work, due to projection of the alchemical
opus on matter. The redemptive project really concerns the artifex himself:
The darkness and depths of the sea symbolize the unconscious state of an
invisible content that is projected. Inasmuch as such a content belongs to the
total personality and is only apparently severed from its context by projection,
there is always an attraction between conscious mind and projected content.
Generally it takes the form of a fascination. This, in the alchemical allegory,
is expressed by the King’s cry for help from the depths of his unconscious,
dissociated state. The conscious mind should respond to this call: one should
operari regi, render service to the King, for this would be not only
wisdom but salvation as well. Yet this brings with it the necessity of a descent
into the dark world of the unconscious, the ritual […], the perilous adventure
of the night sea journey, whose end and aim is the restoration of life,
resurrection, and the triumph over death (p.329) […]
Resulting as it did
from the advice of the philosophers, the death of the King’s Son is naturally a
delicate and dangerous matter. By descending into the unconscious, the conscious
mind puts itself in a perilous position, for it is apparently extinguishing
itself. It is in the situation of the primitive hero who is devoured by the
dragon. (ibid. p.333)
True, in Splendor Solis (The Third Parable) the King is drowning in the sea
and he is calling out for help. However, the text does not relate that an heroic
individual dives into the sea to help him. Instead, when the morning comes, the
King has wondrously resurrected. There is no reason to assume an heroic and
self-destructive action on part of the artifex, especially not at the beginning
of the process. A change of attitude would suffice to rescue the King; to
tone down outer life and to direct libido inwards. Arguably, if the King is lost in forgetfulness it calls for an improvement of the alchemist’s spiritual understanding. The profane alchemist believed that alchemy was equal to
laboratory work; the arcanum
merely a substance to be produced in
the retort. In such case the spirit is wholly projected onto matter. It is
therefore captive in matter, from where it is calling for help. If that’s the
case, saving the alchemical King from drowning in the sea means to partly
withdraw the projection from matter, leading to a symbolical and
celestial understanding. It cannot be achieved by allowing ego
to be dissolved in the unconscious, on the heroic interpretation. The Splendor
Solis goes on to describe how the body of a man with a golden head is laid
waste, in order that he “might possess abundant life” (The Sixth
Parable). In the Seventh Parable an old man becomes young again by having
himself cut up and boiled. The decapitated King is not the ego —
it is the Self. Alchemy is
Yet, Jung tends to interpret alchemy according to the
heroic struggle of the ego, although the dying and resurrecting King represents not the
ego, but the Self. The destruction and recomposition of the Self, as a
semi-autonomous process, does not seem to fit into Jung’s scheme (cf. Jung, 1977, p.371). Arguably, since he
wanted to accommodate alchemy within his psychological paradigm of “direct
confrontation and integration”, he tends to overlook the empirical
facts. Alchemical texts seem to
revolve around another theme, namely to assist
the processes of Nature (see the extract
from Splendor Solis below).
The argument that I put forward, that the
alchemist’s work really revolves around the transformation of Self, gives
the issue a different slant. Since the effect on consciousness is indirect,
participation does not require a radical crisis of the ego, involving its
dissolution in the unconscious. It tallies better with the recurrent idea of the
or the wonder-working lapis,
as the end product of
the process. The philosopher’s stone, as a panacea, has the capacity to transform and heal ego
and body, and to create even more wonders. Yet it seems
illogical to equate this ‘thing’ with the realized whole of the subject’s
personality, conscious and unconscious included. Arguably, it is better understood
as the renewed and reconstituted Self, capable of influencing the wholeness of
personality. The Self has awakened from a dormant stage and become active. It
would imply that the hermaphroditic rebis, as the goal of the process, is
realizable in the unconscious
, unlike the unrealizable ideal of psychic wholeness, in archetypal
form, on lines of Jung.
It’s now easier to understand why the artifex must heat the
alchemical brew slightly and leave it alone for a long time, merely controlling
the fire. The transforming process is to a high degree autonomous. He must add
the ingredients and provide only a little heat. It corresponds to a method of “heating”
by which consciousness directs its rays at the unconscious massa confusa.
It is a focusing attention of sentient light, but not a strong light, and not too much of it. This
causes the content to slowly brew. Personality adds to the brew the divine sparks (the scintillae
) that are found in nature. According to Hortulanus, the stone arises
from a massa confusa,
containing in itself all the elements (cf. Jung,
1980, p.325). It is sufficient to itself. Rotation brings the elements in
motion, an apt symbol of a process that is self-feeding (i.e., a feedback
process). Accordingly, the uroboros,
whilst symbolizing the prima
materia, also denotes the alchemical opus as a whole.
belief that the redemptive work is performed on a divine
(the Self) enclosed in matter can
be interpreted in psychological terms as the becoming aware of the Self (or more
precisely, the contents belonging to the Self). However, on such a
view, it’s not possible to interpret the process in terms of a reconstruction of
the self —
a renovation of its very nature —
since the Self is already defined as a psychic wholeness ready to be moved into the light. Nevertheless, a
process of renovation is apparently what the alchemical manuscripts seem to
describe, rendering a symbolic picture that is not quite comprehensible in
Jungian terms. In fact, Jung’s Self is only half the truth. It seems that it corresponds to
the feminine part of the brother-sister pair, to be united with its
complementary, in order to be reborn as the hermaphroditic Self. 
In Jung’s view, the conjunction
is understood as the united
conscious and unconscious, something that is connected with dangerous inflation.
The process requires that the ego is dissolved in the unconscious to unite with the
Self, a demand that very few people are capable of or
prepared to go through. In that case alchemy is for a tiny élite
only. How many artificês have actually lived through such an extreme crisis at the very
edge of psychic disaster? The alchemist as daredevil, who
recklessly dives into the unconscious to do battle with the dragon, is not the proper view of alchemy.
The alchemists always repeat their dictum that the process proceeds
from the one
and leads back to the one.
It is the same thing,
but the first one is inferior and the second one is superior. The dictum concerns the
Stone. Such a notion is hard to understand in the light of psychology,
where the initial state consists of ego and Self as two
standpoints to be united. In my reading the alchemical gold,
i.e., the achieved coniunctio
in the form of the hermaphrodite
or the lapis,
represents the reformed Self, as such. It is the
wonderworking Stone that will heal the soul, the body, and the world. Thus the ego
is indirectly affected by the transformed Self, which has emerged thanks to a process of Nature, with a helping hand from the Art. In
a sense the artifex is an “active bystander” who provides the right
conditions for the Stone to grow out of Nature, by itself. Salomon Trismosin (“Splendor Solis”) says:
[Quicksilver] is a material common to all metals; but it should be known
that the first thing in nature is the material gathered together out of the four
elements through Nature’s own knowledge and capacity. The philosophers call this
Material Mercury or Quicksilver. It is not a common mercury: through the
operation of Nature it achieves a perfected form, that of gold, silver, or of
both metals. There is no need to tell of it here: the natural teachers describe
it very clearly and adequately in their books. On this the whole art of the
Stone of the Wise is based and grounded, for it has its inception in Nature, and
from it follows a natural conclusion in the proper form, through proper natural
For this one must decoct and putrefy it after the manner and
secrets of the Art, so that by art one affords assistance to Nature. It then
decocts and putrefies by itself until time gives it proper form. Art is nothing
but an instrument and preparer of the materials — those which Nature fits for
such a work — together with the suitable vessels and measuring of the
operation, with judicious intelligence. For as the Art does not presume to
create gold and silver from scratch, so it cannot give things their first
beginning. Thus one also does not need the art of Nature’s own secret to possess
the minerals, since they have their first beginning in the earth […]
Through the secrets of the Art they can be made rapidly and manifested complete,
born from temporal matter through Nature. Nature serves Art, and then again Art
serves Nature with a timely instrument and a certain operation. (Trismosin,
It is obvious from the above text (which is rather typical) that the
process is highly autonomous (it “decocts and putrefies by itself”).
Yet it must constantly be nourished with the fiery element, because the
thrives on fire. The artifex does not leave
the decoction alone to take care of other business. He takes part,
but in a more deferential way than how Jung portrays it. The artifex’s
attitude is similar to that of the Christian mystic. According to alchemical texts, piety plays a big role. It is this attitude which provides the fiery element, symbolic of the
energy that returns to the unconscious. To this is added meditations in some
form, which serve to search out the scintillae
My reinterpretation, however, does not refute Jung’s view of
alchemy. However, it affects the most important aspects, namely how to view the
relation with the unconscious, and the way in which the spiritual journey is
accomplished. To Jung it involves a radical transformation of consciousness,
including dangerous encounters with archetypal reality. To the alchemists,
however, it regards the radical transformation of divine Self, having an
indirect benevolent after-effect on life as a whole. But the ego is not the
foremost beneficiary —
it is God. In fact, Michael Maier, author
of the alchemical emblem book Atalanta fugiens,
says that at the end of
his grand peregrinatio
he found neither Mercurius nor the phoenix, but
only a feather —
his pen! (cf. Jung, 1980, p.431).
Individuation in Jungian terms excludes the trinitarian ideal of individuation, which centers upon the reclusive life. After coming to terms with personal problems, individuation proceeds by way of assimilation of archetypal complexes. The strong focus on integration makes it insufficient as a method of relating to divine nature. To rectify this lopsidedness, I have suggested a notion of complementation
(Winther, 2012, here
). It would mean to put focus on the regeneration of the unconscious
, rather than the transformation of conscious personality. It is necessary to distinguish the operation from the traditional notion of integration of archetypal complexes. Integration implies that the autonomous archetype “sacrifices” itself for the benefit of the conscious world. It mirrors the self-sacrifice and dismemberment of the gods in pagan religion. However, in religious history sacrificial priest also make a reparational offering. To give life back to the gods was regarded as equally essential. In the modern era, it could take the form of pious acts that direct conscious focus onto the divine. Meditation and contemplation are ways to sacrifice sentient energy for the rehabilitation of the spirit, although non-commercial artwork is perhaps better suited for modern man. The individuant becomes more or less a seclusive. Such an surrender of sentient awareness is necessary for the growth and transformation of Self. I denote it complementation
, since I think of it as a slow process whereby the unconscious collects and constellates its nature, aided by a mild conscious focus. I submit that it corresponds to the alchemical symbols of circular distillation
and the transformations in the vessel.
Complementation does not imply that the unconscious is restructured according to the designs of the ego. On the contrary, it is a semi-autonomous process to which the ego contributes by providing energy, and by modulating the heat with an amount of intellectual understanding when it gets too hot, or increasing the heat by symbolic awareness, alternatively a contemplative focus. Thus, complementation
would mean the very opposite of ego control and psychic integration. The Self, or any other archetype for that matter, does not abide in the unconscious as a ready-made Platonic form. It is more organic than that. Normally, it needs time to grow in order to blossom out at a point in time, also on the historical scale. Jung points out that the anima
(soul complex) does not constellate in all ethnic groups. The anima is not generally present among the Chinese, which would depend on historic factors. Jung and von Franz hold that there is a complete range of historical personality types in a population, from Stone Age people, via the medieval mindset, to the modern individual. Von Franz relates that she once met with a Stone Age man who lived in the Alps, who walked about stark naked during the summer. He lived in unison with the brooks, the trees, and the animals. The reason why personality is thus rooted in the different ages of man would depend on the structure of the psyche. In a minor portion of the Western male population the anima never constellates. Combined with other genetic factors, the personality might turn out as a Stone Age man who chooses to live with Mother Nature. By example, the medieval laboratory alchemist is still alive and well in modern society. Such people have a fascination with chemical processes and crystal formations in the retort. Most people are unable to grasp the extent to which they enrich the chemical process with meaning. Because it is symbolically quite potent, the alchemists think that it is
the ‘quinta essentia’. Perhaps one could view them as medieval dwellers that happen to live in the wrong age.
Analogously, the Self as the alchemical hermaphrodite, or the rebis
, may constellate in a population. The process is slow, however, similar to the emergence of the anima. The alchemists argued that they were capable of speeding up the processes of nature in their own laboratory. It implies that the artifex is able to assist the constellation of the Self. Thus, complementation signifies a way of assisting nature’s work of archetypal constellation. It serves to speed up the process, so it doesn’t require a thousand years of efforts, via many generations.
The process would occur relatively independent of consciousness. It is coupled with a different attitude of personality. The greedy and gluttonous frame of mind, so typical of the ego, forms the basis of the psychological paradigm, whose central tenet is the assimilation of the unconscious. The ego thinks that everything in the unconscious belongs to “me”. The devouring capacity is denoted as the “synthetic function” in psychoanalysis. As soon as a content surfaces, the ego immediately appropriates it and claims that it has been conceived by the ego.
The ego is a dictator that enslaves psychic content. There exists a well-known fairytale motif of being “captured by the mountain”. In Scandinavian fairytales it is called “bergtagen” (lit. ‘mountain-taken’). Characters are captured by the mountain and swallowed by it wholly or partly. Occasionally they become stuck with their head or a limb. Sometimes they become stuck in a thorny thicket that surrounds the mountain, transfixed on the thorns. Fairytales depict psychic life from the perspective of the unconscious in order to compensate for the one-eyed conscious outlook. The evil mountain (glass mountain, golden mountain) portrays the insatiable over-extended ego from the viewpoint of the unconscious psyche. The covetous and egotistic attitude is severely criticized in religious teachings, not the least in traditional Christianity, since it is inimical to the spontaneity and naturalness of psychic life. The ego should give glory to God and refrain from glorifying itself by taking credit for all the blessings that are bestowed upon it. Vainglory and self-worship is condemned. However, if the psychoanalytic paradigm is taken to its extremes, in terms of the integrative effort, as in Edward F. Edinger’s psychology, the ego has become an evil mountain, inimical to spiritual and instinctual life. In Christian theology, pride and arrogance is destructive to the workings of the Holy Spirit in the soul.
, which I connect with ‘circular distillation’ in medieval alchemy, builds on a different attitude of personality. The ego rids itself of its typical illnesses, namely covetousness and pride. A meek and unassuming attitude means that conscious light burns with less intensity, yet with a clear flame. The ego is no longer fixated on self-satisfaction. It now exalts God instead of itself, and no longer views itself as self-sufficient.
Although the ego is now less energetic, it maintains focus on the process and sustains the circular distillation by the addition of a mild heat. The alchemists always said that over-heating the vessel ruins the process. It is imperative to maintain a mild and continuous heat. Some say that the light of the moon is enough. They assert, again and again, that the artifex must maintain a truly pious attitude, otherwise the operation has no chance of success.
What the alchemists had in mind was not first and foremost a process of assimilation, the way in which Jung understands the alchemical opus
. Rather, it denotes a process of complementation
during which the unconscious Self emerges out of the ‘massa confusa’ and takes shape as a complementarian composite of opposites. The process can only take place in mild light, as the strong light of ego consciousness would only transfix the components on its spines. Nor can it go on in total darkness, where the contents would freeze and the process risk coming to a halt. The alchemists believed that the metals slowly mature (into gold, eventually) in the womb of the earth. In the laboratory, an artificial womb is created, which serves to speed up the process (cf. De Pascalis, p.13 & p.94). The symbol of the ‘golden coral growing in the ocean’ also seems to signify an autonomous process (ibid. p.27). What generates the growth is ‘the philosophical fire’, which is a potential fire within the elements themselves that must be activated and fed. Giovanni Pontano says that it is “a fire of modest flame, for it is with a modest fire that the Work may be carried out” (ibid. p.101).
Evidently, the ego must become small and simple, remain virtuous and modest. This attitude corresponds to the standpoint of Christian mystics, such as St John of the Cross, whose teachings Jung rejected out of hand, saying that apophatic mysticism and the ‘via negativa’ “has nothing to do” with individuation. Although Jung, according to my argument, misinterpreted alchemy to a degree, he maintained an attitude of reverence toward the spirit. The unconscious realm was, in a sense, holy to him. He went as far as saying that, to him, the unconscious is God. This attitude is reflected in his dream, when he bows down before the holy Uriah. Of course, this attitude of reverence made him reluctant to “kill” every psychic content by means of assimilation.
Nevertheless, this misinterpretation has taken a turn for the worse in some of his followers. The unchristian attitude of “killing the unconscious” is probably what has given rise to neurotic forms of thought in the psychoanalytic school, too.
Jung’s view of the spiritual journey requires a “confrontation
with the unconscious”, as the chapter in his autobiography is named.
It entails a dissolution of the ego in the unconscious sea, wherefrom the ego reemerges
as a better approximation of the Self. The process is close to going through a
schizophrenic episode. It is possible to interpret the night sea journey,
and the nigredo
in this way, i.e., as the hero’s journey into chaos.
However, I argue that it is better understood as the journey of the Self,
during which the effects on the ego system are secondary. When the Self goes
through the sufferings of the nigredo, the ego would likely experience “dryness”
and passivity, a condition illustrated in “Psychology and Alchemy” (Jung, 1980, p.275) where an
alchemist meditates in nature. The non-secular person must himself go through
hardship because he must, more or less, stand apart from the social sphere. His
sufferings depend on the circumstances of life. He need not go through a
next to schizophrenic stage, when the ego is dissolved in an overwhelming
experience of the Self. Murray Stein says that Jung’s “Answer to Job” is “tendentious”
in the way Jung deliberately accommodates the divine drama within the
Answer to Job is tendentious. It is driven to its conclusions by a reading
of history and the development of human consciousness that sees humankind as
having left the mythical and the metaphysical eras behind, and as now having
entered into the psychological. Answer to Job does not stand in the tradition
of theological Biblical criticism and commentary, which answer to a particular
religious tradition on one side and to conventions of historical inquiry and
scholarship on the other. The psyche replaces heaven and hell and all such
metaphysical beings as gods and goddesses, angels and devils, as the field in
which the essential conflicts rage and must be won or lost or worked through.
And with this comes the ethical responsibility for ordinary mortals to take on
the burden of ‘incarnation’. Incarnation for modern men and women means entering
actively and consciously into the battle of the opposites (good vs. evil;
masculine vs. feminine), submitting to the suffering of this cross, and enduring
this agony until a unio oppositorum is constellated in their individual
souls. Each person is called upon to incarnate God, which means to bear the
opposites inherent in God’s nature. (Stein, 2003)
Jung is also tendentious in his interpretation of alchemy. He is very much
an advocate of “ego-dissolution” in confrontation with the
unconscious, although this is not a workable solution. Jung portrays the path
of the hero, and makes it the ideal of individuation, i.e., to throw oneself headlong
into the battle of gods and dragons. But the hero is an archetype. It is not a
proper model of the ego, which Jung himself found out when a dream voice said that he must
shoot himself if he cannot come to a proper understanding of his hero dream (cf. Jung, 1989, p.180).
Nevertheless, he never abandoned the psychoanalytic modus operandi
relation to the collective unconscious. In “Two Essays”, and elsewhere, Jung
describes the spiritual path involving the encounter with the archetypes of the
collective unconscious. Through active imagination,
encounters the anima/animus, the wise old man, and the Self, allegedly an
overwhelming experience of an entity vastly larger than the ego, something
which is experienced as traumatic, amounting to psychological death. Yet, Jung
accounts for no case studies. His followers should be able to give an account
of such encounters, but nothing is emerging. If these powerful complexes cannot be
called up in the majority of seekers, we are forced to question Jung’s version
of the spiritual path.
Jung and von Franz were aware that the Self has different demands on
different persons. Von Franz says that people in modern
society exist at different cultural levels of personality, corresponding to different
epochs in human evolution. As already mentioned, she even knew a stone age man whose personality remained at
an archaic level (which doesn’t mean that he was stupid). To him God and
nature was the same. Understandably, he loved to be with God. Jung
recommended certain analysands to return to the Judaic or the Christian faith,
since their psychological makeup belonged to older epochs. However, he certainly didn’t view
this solution as ideal. Jung’s flexibility in matters of personality cannot hide the fact
that his path of confrontation is a blind alley for the absolute majority of
Arguably, the proper attitude is to achieve a relative reduction
of the ego
according to the ascetic (trinitarian) paradigm and the terms of
mystic tradition. The ego must be reduced
according to the practice of
self-denial and renunciation of worldly pleasures. In a radical interpretation it
may require withdrawal from the material world to a life of meditation, as in
the practice of Yoga. Jung objected to this view, and argued that it is certainly
proper that the libido turns inwards, away from the world, but the ego must be
prepared to confront the archetypes (which are to be ignored
according to ascetic mysticism). When this happens, it has a
pronounced dissolvable effect on the ego. Luckily, it doesn’t
seem to occur with the healthy psyche.
We normally view the ego as a highly autonomous “reality
function”, capable of relating by direct
means. Yet the ego is not
wholly autonomous; it is dependent on unconscious libido, capable of affecting
the mood of the ego. Looking at it from the obverse point of view —
perspective of the unconscious —
it is the Self which is truly “real”,
whereas the ego is a mere projection; a shadow on the wall in Plato’s cave. If the
Self undergoes transformations, its two-dimensional projection will not be
affected to an equal degree. On this view, direct confrontation is
not imperative when integrating the unconscious. Personality, under subtle
influence of a slow unconscious “fermentation process”, can gradually
grow to maturity. The individuant involves himself with mental imagery, but in a way which
facilitates transformations of the Self. He is careful not to
disturb the process. (Consciousness, like an elephant in a china shop, will create
havoc in the unconscious.) Yet, in the end, the ego will go through a thorough transformation, clad in the new robe of the Self.
The argument implies that the ego fulfils a
more sedate role, more close to the path of the Christian mystics, who said
that one must, in stillness, allow the “infusion” of God’s spirit. But
Jung rejects the mystics out of hand, such as St John of the Cross,
who said that the soul must be brought to dryness. I argue that the trinitarian
perspective must, somehow, be retained in unison with Jung’s perspective. This
is what Pauli ruminated over, namely the problem of 3 and 4. He wanted to keep
the number 3, although Jung told him to throw it out. This was also the grounds for the
conflict between Jung and Father Victor White (1902–1960).
had already solved the quandary. Their method was to apply heat to the alembic
where the salamander dwelled, surrounded by flames. The
artifex kept feeding the salamander (the Self), who thrives in the fiery
element. The image illustrates a vessel called the pelican.
itself, while it leads the vapours back, similar to how the pelican is believed
to feed its nestlings with its own blood. The uroboros
also feeds on
itself. It is symbolic of a self-sufficient process, only needful of added heat.
This does not mean to say that the path to holiness is
effortless; it requires self-control and solitude, and it’s quite time-consuming,
to boot. To be successful the seeker must take issue with his personal
problems and complexes. To some people, this can be a difficult experience, in
itself, but apart from that the salamander need only be fed. In normal
circumstances it is not mandatory to enter its fiery abode to confront it. The
unpolluted mind, undistracted by worldly matters, has great powers. Rays of
consciousness are capable of illuminating the faint spirits in order to
revivify them in the mild light, and the salamander will feed on them.
The solution to the 3-4 problem
The trinitarian solution, according to the number 3 (St John, et
al.), implies that wholeness is achieved by standing apart from the world. The
number 4, according to Jung, stands for the “concretization of the spirit
as it is cast in the subjective mould”. The quaternarian solution means to
partake in the world, to throw oneself wholeheartedly into life, and equally
passionately to turn inwards, to confront the archetypal psyche. How can two such
widely differing standpoints be reconciled? Alchemy, I contend, combines 3 and
4 by the formula: “partake while standing apart”. Alchemical texts belong to the trinitarian tradition. To be capable of finding the
one must have a clean heart, much like the ideal of the
Christian mystics. J.A. Belin says:
For the reasons above alleged one has need in the practice of the assistance
of the most high: but heaven gives no help to the man who is its enemy: one must
have a pure and holy heart, divested from the desires of the world, and vowed
entirely to God. (Belin, 1646)
The alchemists referred to alchemical creativity as ludus puerorum —
play. Not much scholarly knowledge is needed. Neither does it call for “deep
insights” into the mysteries, on Gnostic lines, nor a dramatic “confrontation
with the unconscious,” on Jungian terms. The artifex keeps the fire burning
by recourse to an elementary form of creativity, that will help to transform
spirit and soul; a process that however goes on autonomously. Meanwhile the
are doing the work —
hence the term ludus puerorum.
“A Lexicon of Alchemy” (1612) gives:
‘Game’. A Game for Children. The Philosophers have given this name to the Work of the Stone after the preparation of the Mercury, because there nature takes up the work, and it is requisite only to maintain the fire, following the rules of a certain definite procedure. (Rulandus, 1612)
The notion that “nature takes up the work” is noteworthy. Jung keeps to the paradigm of psychoanalysis, which implies a confrontation with archetypal
complexes followed by their assimilation. There is an
overwhelming amount of evidence to support this procedure when it comes to the
pathologies of the ego. However, the question is whether its justified to extend the
methodology beyond this line, thus elevating it to a spiritual path. Jung
Note that the children also play a part in the opus alchymicum: a
certain portion of the work is called ludus puerorum. Save for the
remark that the work is as easy as “child’s play,” I have found no
explanation for this. Seeing that the work is, in the unanimous testimony of all
the adepts, exceedingly difficult, it must be a euphemistic and probably also a
symbolical definition. It would thus point to a co-operation on the part of “infantile”
or unconscious forces represented as Cabiri and hobgoblins (homunculi: fig 96).
(Jung, 1980, p.199)
Arguably, the ego experiences the period of nigredo
because it cannot remain as active as it used to. Should the ego intervene too
much, the floodlight of consciousness has destructive consequences. While the
are doing their job, they mustn’t be disturbed. Meanwhile the ego
should content itself with supporting their activity. The artifex must diminish
his involvement with worldly matters, and subject the unconscious to “mild
heating” through some form of meditation or creative activity, void of the
fiery passion characteristic of the ego. The anonymous author of the Rosarium
says that the work must be performed “with the true and
not with the fantastic imagination” (ibid., p.257).
Gerhard Dorn says in his “Philosophia meditiva”: “Thou wilt
never make from others the One that thou seekest, except there first be made one
thing of thyself” (ibid. p.255). The precursory unity of personality here
referred to is the same as the trinitarian unity (‘unio mentalis’). Yet Dorn also exclaims: “Transform
yourself from dead stones into living philosophical stones!” (ibid. p.269). This transformation occurs indirectly, similar to the slow revolution of
the outermost unconnected ring in Pauli’s vision. In this way, the 3 and 4 are
In the trinitarian world Heaven and Earth are separated. God is in the
He is transcendental.
This is how a person with a trinitarian
mindset experiences the world, according to his level of culture. A
trinitarian attitude is comparable with the posture of the Christian mystic.
Comparatively, the Neo-Pagan individual would have no bent for personal sacrifice, i.e., to surrender
his time and cravings to afford assistance to Nature. A Neo-Paganist would
make sacrifice naively, that is, ritually. New Age has revived the ancient
worship of crystals, etc. Yet should trinitarian awareness of “the
above” be forgotten, then half of our field of reference is gone. Instead, as in pagan times,
sacred and profane are conjoined. Due to an
identification with the world the conscious level is low. It is not possible to uphold such a
frame of mind in today’s complicated and conflicted world, and that’s
alchemy is incompatible with a pagan attitude. There has
always been much hoax in alchemy. There existed much inferior literature also in
A critical attitude is characteristic of the modern mind, whereas the naive mind tends to
gobble everything up. It indicates that the penetrating force of Mercurius is
lacking. The increase of conscious light has a Promethean quality. Prometheus,
whose name literally means “forethought”, stole the fire from the
gods. Likewise, the serpent in paradise breaches the ratified order of God,
encouraging Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of knowledge, with the consequence that their
eyes are opened. The serpent and Prometheus have a similar symbolic value. It is a force that
instills fear, as it seems unfettered by the “laws of Maat”
(the predefined universal order of ancient Egyptian religion). It is as if the workings
of the mercurial intellect is perceived as a subversive activity to undermine
the instituted order of the gods. But this serpent, whom people are afraid of,
is the serpens mercurialis
himself. If there is too much of pagan
naiveté, then there is too little quicksilver, and the process cannot succeed.
Thus, the penetrating force of Mercurius is essential to the process. It is
illustrated in this image from Speculum Veritatis.
Modern alchemical symbols
What is alchemy all about? It is related to gnosis,
although the creature to be
saved through heavenly wisdom is not the alchemist himself, but a spirit
imprisoned in matter. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: “Split a piece
of wood: I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there” (Logion 77).
Jesus’s saying is not pantheistic, meaning that Nature and God are the same.
Rather, the Gnostic Jesus is here saying that the divine spirit is hiding in
gross materiality. This spirit must be sought out and recovered, to release it
from its bond to matter. It will bring about gnosis, which will free the
seeker from the world. That’s why the seeker must split the wood, and why he
must lift the stone. He mustn’t worship the objects, but rather disrupt them.
After all, they keep the spirit imprisoned, inside the wood, and under the stone.
Alchemy took over this notion, that is, of the spirit imprisoned in matter. In
an attempt to extract the spirit, they ground matter and subjected it to fire.
If they thought that the spirit hid inside a crystal, they would grind that
too, and subject it to heating. The Gnostic “disrespectful”
attitude, and lack of veneration towards matter, gave rise to science. It
is all about becoming aware of the “spirit of matter”, i.e., what
matter and material images inspire in us. The material, as such, lacks value;
only what it inspires in the soul is valuable, that is, its unearthly qualities
must be extracted and canned up.
It means that matter is indirectly of
great value, but not as such. It is a tool for redemption. The lapis,
was greatly desired because it was a panacea —
remedy for all ills and difficulties. It is close to how we today, in the
scientific age, view matter. It means, for instance, that the crystal, as
such, has only pecuniary value. What is really valuable is what the artifex
feels and thinks about it, how he experiences its inner spirit. Therefore, having
a crystal in mind and heart is better than owning hundreds of crystals. But the
crystal is only one among many millions of objects that contain the sacred
substance of prima materia.
Jesus points at stones and pieces of wood as
We are very much enveloped in the ego and its doings. Alchemical
imagery compensates this, as it focuses on another centre of the psyche, namely
the Self. The Self is archaic (preceding the ego), which is why it is symbolized
by a snake, the uroboros,
The alchemical operations that are performed on the
Self occur semi-autonomously. Arguably, the ego has developed so
strongly in the latest millennium that it threatens to separate from the soil of
the unconscious. Like Saint-Exupéry’s
Little Prince, the
rootless ego settles down on the little asteroid B-612. To counteract this phenomenon, and
what Jung terms instinctual atrophy
in modern-day man, it’s necessary
for the ego to take root in the unconscious soil. Otherwise, it threatens to lose
contact with both instinct and the meaningful archetypal source of life. This is
why correspondences of alchemical themes continue to emerge. Modern symbols, that
approximate the alchemical, can be found in dreams. As examples of how the
modern psyche spontaneously tries to renew alchemical symbology I relate the
following dreams of mine. Such dreams are very valuable, more valuable than the
alchemical symbols in medieval books, because new symbols better relate to
the modern mind. If alchemy only revolves around olden symbols then it is
reduced to a branch of comparative history of religion.
When I had been
distracted by earthly matters for a period of time, I dreamt that I had been “neglecting
my aquarium”. In a dream I arrive at a public place where a big
aquarium is placed and I question how the fish had managed to survive. It turns
out that a woman has fed the fish while I’ve been away. The aquarium has been
taken care of in a satisfactory way, although not perfectly. There are algae on
the glass. The fish, it seems, are different kinds of tetras, such as the
red-blue cardinal tetra. There are also many beautiful species that I cannot
The aquarium corresponds to the alchemical vas,
red-blue tetras are quite mercurial in appearance. These fish, like the cabiri,
must be fed and tended to, a little at a time. Tetras are known to be a very
undemanding kind of fish. It is obvious from these dreams that nothing much is
demanded of me, in terms of active effort. Yet the activity is quite significant
anyway. However, the ego tends to experience the condition as difficult as it is
used to exerting itself, to have passions and to occupy itself wholly with something, engaging libido
in a directional way. Thus the ego can easily experience frustration during the
. I believe that many alchemists became obsessed with their laboratory
experiments. It is this very obsessive spirit that must, sooner or later, be
terminated by the “penetrating Mercurius”. The artifex must endure the
period of nigredo. Accordingly, Dorn says, “Rend the books lest your hearts
be rent asunder”. The work can be difficult, in practice, but this is a
consequence of the restlessness of the ego. It’s really a ludus puerorum.
Another example. In my twenties I dreamt of visiting the Holy Land
with a group of hippies. By chance, we found a very valuable “uranium stone”.
We were immediately reformed; abandoned our irresolute attitude towards life,
and undertook to refine the stone. We started a technological firm and worked
hard for many years. Eventually we were capable of launching a satellite that
circulated the earth. This satellite could now be put to use, to the benefit of
humanity, and scientists could communicate with it to do measurements at
different layers in the atmosphere. In my understanding the uranium stone
represents the unrefined (and dangerous) prima materia,
the uroboric Self —
potentially immensely valuable. Uranium contains
immense power, capable of destroying whole cities. It glows in the dark, and it is
capable of both good and bad.
The end product, the satellite, is the
refined Stone of the Wise, i.e., the renewed Self. It is a sacred stone in
its weightless capacity to fly over the earth. Its dangerous radioactive rays
(the penetrating Mercurius) have been converted to the good, now used for
communication. The satellite binds together Heaven and Earth, which has always
been the role of Mercury as the messenger of the gods. The scientific
researchers represent, perhaps, the hermetic philosophers who now have recourse
to the different layers of the ethereal realm. The goal of the alchemical
process, it seems, is to establish a conduit between
Heaven and Earth. As communications now can occur freely,
of Heaven has been established on Earth, long before the
religious and time-transcendent Kingdom of Christ.
ring, in Pauli’s clock vision, was black while being “carried by the
children”. It is from the dream that Jung comments on, above. The black
ring would represent the nigredo
phase. The ring reappears in the clock
vision, depicting the coniunctio
(the end goal of alchemy), where it has
turned golden. Some years ago I had a similar dream in which appeared two gigantic
concentric circles that had formed out of clouds and covered a great part of
the sky. They consisted of
I Ching hexagrams
(from the ancient Chinese oracle book). They were
somewhat diffuse as they were made up of clouds. I did not connect it with
Pauli’s vision, which I, by then, had forgotten all about. The I Ching contains
64 hexagrams. It is an image of the coniunctio
units appear in each circle. Half the hexagrams belong to the heavenly yang
principle, and 32 to the earthly yin
principle. (I take it that the
inner ring consisted of yin hexagrams and the outer of yang hexagrams.) Although
the rings are concentric, and not intersecting, the meaning should be similar.
But the meaning of the 32 × 2 units escapes me. In the continuation of the
dream there was also to occur a coniunctio,
in the form of marriage with a woman who
arrived simultaneously (as upper - so lower!). I was going to live in some kind
of school, a brown wooden house in the wild region, for a considerable time. It signifies reclusion.
Such remarkable dreams are relevant to the understanding of the alchemical
Complementarity in Christology
Niels Bohr suggested that theologians make more use of the complementarity principle (see above). It appears that Bohr didn’t know that theologians had already made heavy use of it. In fact, it was they who invented it. According to Christian dogma the nature of Christ is characterized by ‘hypostasis’ (coexisting natures). The hypostatic union means that the human and divine natures of Christ coexist, yet each is distinct and complete. 
Despite having two natures, Christ is one
person. It means that each description of Jesus Christ is complete, in itself, yet both descriptions are needed to account for the whole phenomenon. This is close to, if not equal to, complementarity as defined by Bohr. In theological quarters, Christology and quantum complementarity has been discussed before. 
The following is my take on the subject.
Theologians faced a similar problem as modern psychologists, namely the intellectual problem of how to formulate a “two-unity” from the two “selves” of Christ. Self-complementarity, as I have sketched it, does not signify a complementarity of conscious-unconscious, but rather of a complementarity of two selves, the one more conscious and delimited, and the other more unconscious and complete. Two millennia ago, when it became apparent that God had a wholly human nature, and not only a heavenly, it gave the theologians a headache. Nestorius (–c.451 A.D.) claimed that in Christ a divine and a human Person (Logos and Jesus) acted as one, but did not join to compose the unity of a single individual. 
At the turn of the previous century, when it became apparent that the human Self is composed of unconscious nature, and not only of conscious, similar models began to emerge. It stands to reason that psychology can learn from earlier epochs, of how to deal with the problem of one nature appearing as two natures, that is, of one Self being founded upon two sides of personality, conscious and unconscious. In point of fact, the human Self is moulded partly by the ruling view of divine nature. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, etc., function as Self ideals.
The Self can be viewed as a ‘hypostatic union’, i.e. a complementarian wholeness. The Christ of immanence (Self of completeness) I denote ‘quaternarian’, whereas the Christ of transcendence (Self of perfection) I denote ‘trinitarian’. If we read the gospels it is easy to see that Jesus (the immanent Christ) is portrayed as a complete human being, as the theologists say. Jesus is not an immaculate person. He likes to drink vine and socializes with sinners. He has an irate temperament. He calls Peter “Satan” (Mark 8:33), and he wishes his mother and brothers further (Matthew 12:47-50). (This episode, by the way, makes a very authentic impression.) He aggressively empties the temple area of mongers, an area that was decidedly bigger than a soccer field. He is plagued by severe anxiety in Gethsemane. Yet, he is morally superior to the most elevated person among hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees.
Nevertheless, this version of Jesus, as portrayed in the gospels, has not caught on as Self ideal. Jesus was not a “tolerance fundamentalist”, a cultural and moral relativist, like the average liberal person of today. It is curious. In fact, one gets the impression that the average Christian Westerner has never read the gospels. Historically, the advanced notion of hypostasis never caught on. It remained a mere theological quandary as part of the Christian creed. Believers kept parroting it without really understanding it.
It seems as if the lopsidedness toward the trinitarian ideal has consigned the complementary version of the Self, the quaternarian or immanent Self, to oblivion. This, in turn, is what has caused the compensatory plunge into materialism that we experience today. The quaternarian Self is able to deal with the world, something which the trinitarian Self is unsuitable for. Hence the “otherworldly” attitude of the average politician or debater. Instead of dealing with reality, they tend to soar above it, formulating politically correct theses of “Human Rights”, etc.
Thus, what Christian theologians are really saying is that Christ is a complementarian wholeness. It neither denotes dualism nor a one-dimensional form of monotheism, on lines of orthodox Judaism or Islam. Rather, it is a more advanced concept. Christ is, according to the Christian creed, “wholly God and wholly man”, equally complete in both the sublunar and the heavenly sphere. Yet, on earth, he was present in his quaternarian form, and not in his trinitarian, because the latter lacks relevance to empirical reality. In the same way, the individual must obtain a roothold in both spheres. Yet, he must not think, like Krishnamurti, that his unworldly awareness is appropriate when dealing with earthly matters. Nevertheless, invisible wholeness is indirectly
greatly valuable in earthly reality, as it is the fountainhead of meaning
A more thorough version of Christological complementarity should be able to compensate for the trinitarian bias. According to the complementarian paradigm, the earthly and divine natures of Christ cannot exist simultaneously in time. After all, both definitions are complete. A phenomenon cannot be more than complete. Nonetheless, the phenomenon of God extends beyond either of the definitions taken for itself. When the Christ was present on earth, although he manifested the Godhead as wholly human, he wasn’t quite sufficient to embody the phenomenon of God. The Son of God is One with God, yet His presence cannot quite account for the phenomenon of God in its entirety. Analogously, the electron is a phenomenon that is complete in itself. It is sufficient to explain most of electrical phenomena, but not all. The electron is the son of father Electricity. It is
electricity, but cannot quite account for the phenomenon of electricity in its entirety.
The notion of two-unity can be expressed in different ways. It is interesting to see what alternative models of two-unity there existed in early Christianity. A competing notion in the fifth century was ‘miaphysitism’ (or henophysitism), according to which Jesus Christ has two different aspects, one divine and one human. 
These two aspects are united in one nature. They co-exist and are indistinguishable. This rhymes with the standpoint that Jung advocates, i.e. the Self as a ‘coniunctio oppositorum’. The Coptic Orthodox Church still subscribes to the miaphysitic view of Christ.
According to Jung, personality has two different aspects, conscious and unconscious, which are capable of uniting. The Self ideal is a ‘complexio oppositorum’, a full conjunction of conscious and unconscious. The process of individuation attempts to approximate the Self by way of integration. Should personality remain unintegrated, hence remote from the Self as the wholeness of personality, it is effectively split against itself and is prone to develop neurosis.
Freud’s view corresponds to the Nestorian standpoint, i.e., disunion of two natures. According to Freud, there are two aspects of Self that are, by nature, antagonistic. Personality appears as one only by way of the formation of compromises. The unity of personality thusly forged, causes inner frustration that may develop into neurosis.
The notion of fusion is also present in Christology. It is called ‘monophysitism’, meaning that the Christ had only a single nature that was either divine or a synthesis of divine and human. 
I don’t know which psychological school it would correspond to, perhaps Charles Brenner’s “Conflict Theory”. He has discarded the separate psychic layers of conscious and unconscious. As a besides, Jung’s solution could alternatively be denoted “time-transcendent monophysitism”, since the goal of the “one fused nature” exists in the future as an ideal that can only be approximated during earthly life.
The complementarian model of the Self lends support from the hypostatic model of the Church Fathers. I am convinced that it is better than Freud’s and Jung’s. Because the Christ is a symbol of the Self and, according to Christology, is complementarian by nature, it follows that we have entertained this model of the Self in the Christian era, although the notion has not been fully understood. It is a psychological fact that the ruling Self model must be understood as complementarian. This realization would help to overcome the one-sided trinitarian view of Christ, should we learn to cope with the fact that the Christ is also quaternarian. It leads to an improvement of our understanding of the human Self, to the great benefit of psychic well-being. The complementarian Self is really an uncloaking of something that already existed. It is like a valuable artefact that only needs to be dusted off.
Jung’s view, corresponding to the ‘miaphysitic’ (one composite or conjoined nature from two), implies that the Self is ambivalent. He also views the Godhead as ambivalent (vid. “Answer to Job”, 1979, and elsewhere). There are moral problems connected with an ambivalent Self ideal. Take the example of an upstanding and competent individual who regularly beats up his wife (which is not a far-fetched example). According to modern morality, he is an evil person who deserves the penalty of imprisonment. But his personality is really ambivalent, since in all other respects his conduct is fine. The sultan Akbar (above) would be such an ambivalent character, likely a bigamist with a great harem. Perhaps he is even a murderer, like great King David. There is no way around the fact that ambivalence, in human psychology, means that the person is a dark character.
We know that ambivalence is characteristic of the unconscious, whereas the modern mind is moulded by the trinitarian spirit. Hence, the Self as a complexio oppositorum results in ambivalence, which is morally objectionable. Ambivalence in personal psychology equates with evil, according to modern morality. If the Self is portrayed as the conjunction of an ambivalent unconscious with the conscious function, it would imply that the Self is ambivalent, too, i.e. it is infected with the evil principle (much like the upstanding citizen who manhandles his wife). Arguably, that’s why Dorneus warned that quartarius (equal to the Jungian Self) is the binarius in disguise. This was also the quandary that Job wrestled with. According to Job’s argument, if God breaches an absolute moral boundary then even He must morally accountable. Jung has argued that the author of Job found the idea of the ambivalent Godhead intolerable. Job exclaims: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth
” (Job 19:25). In Jung’s controversial exegesis, the encounter with Job invoked a moral realization in the Godhead that moved Him to finally proceed with the Incarnation.
The quaternarian Self ideal elevates the ambivalent person as role model. Indeed, this is the model individual in phallocentric culture. The conclusion is that the ambivalent Self is morally fallacious. The view of the Self as a complexio oppositorum isn’t good enough. I have proposed another solution which I call the “complementarian Self”. Jung’s version of the Self I denote quartarius
. I do not repudiate this Self model, but merely conclude that it is half the truth. Evidently, Christology could help to advance the complementarian view of the human Self. Since it is capable of forging personality, it may have a benevolent effect.
The inner longing to achieve
transcendency, spiritual emancipation, must be accepted as an operative factor
in the individuation process. However, a regress to the historical trinitarian
mindset is not an acceptable solution. The only viable option is to allow the
to affect us as a new ideal. The trinitarian and
quaternarian principles come to expression in a complementary fashion. The
complementarian Self is symbolically equivalent to the theological conception of
Christ, who has two natures, human and divine, immanent and transcendent. Keep
in mind that Jesus was considerably more complete than His heavenly
manifestation: “Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of
publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). Christ’s earthly Self even resorted
to violence to cleanse the enormous temple area.
Although Jung’s Self
notion is appealing, and no doubt verified in clinical material, he
throws the baby out with the bathwater. He has renounced the trinitarian spirit,
especially as defined in mysticism. The Self functions as a role model for the
individual and defines his path in life. In my personal experience, while I find
truth in both, they are mutually exclusive. Thus, they cannot become integrated.
Complementarity can provide a solution. The trinitarian and the quaternarian,
the “oneness-self” and the “completeness-self”, are, in
fact, complementary opposites. Thus, a conflict is resolved. Both paradigms are
largely right, although they contradict each other. We have to stop thinking in
Jung often represents the three as an incomplete wholeness; only four is wholeness proper. Yet triads of gods are replete in religious history. It is a recurrent symbol of dynamic and godly wholeness (holiness). Without doubt, the number three expresses wholeness, in itself. Nevertheless, it is not wholly sufficient as Self symbol. Something is amiss. Jung sensed this, and thought that the quaternity could take its place as an apt symbol of the Self, because the quaternity is symbolic of completeness. Nonetheless, it is insufficient as Self symbol, as well. To achieve an unflawed symbol, both numbers are embraced as complementary models. Conjointly, they are a consummate symbol of the Self, but not at the same time, since the Self cannot be more than complete. It cannot be more than a wholeness. Since they are mutually exclusive, they must function in a revolving manner, as in Henderson’s diagram, above. It is possible to combine two or more mutually exclusive models. They are made compatible in this way, since neither of them will quite suffice as sole explanatory model.
As guiding star in an individual’s life, the Self changes its appearance from three into four, and reverse. Thus, over time, the guiding star changes its nature. At any given moment in time, the individual may only live under the aegis of either ternarius or quartarius. Yet, the complementarian union of both numbers must be cherished as the proper Self symbol, exemplified by Pauli’s world-clock. The revolution of three and four avoids the dangers and pitfalls that are associated with these numbers, respectively.
The realization of the complementarian Self is a slow
procedure corresponding to the creation of the lapis philosophorum
alchemy. The relation between ego and the unconscious, as rendered
by psychology, is enhanced with an alternative and indirect approach to
assimilation, which better approximates the medieval
alchemical view. The symbolic depiction of the process according to the
medievals is very apt. Transformations can be invoked in the unconscious,
capable of continuing autonomously, although the procedure is dependent on “heating”
in the form of conscious meditations. Eventually the transformations taking
place in the vas hermeticum
will cause a pronounced after-effect
The hermaphrodite in alchemy is
reinterpreted in terms of the “complementarian Self”. It differs from
Jung’s understanding of the end goal of alchemy as the realization of the
conjunct conscious and unconscious —
the integrated Self. Instead the
hermaphrodite, or the lapis philosophorum,
is the result of a largely
autonomous process that occurs relatively independent of the ego. If this is
correct, the ego need not undergo the radical subversion that Jung
portrays, involving a psychological crisis, or severe depression. The renovated
Self, as such, as the wonder-working lapis,
will transmutate the ego, as
Although Jung’s work has improved the understanding of human
nature immensely, it has a tendentious quality. Misinterpretation leads to a warped view of the spiritual path. The way of the cloistered contemplative is no alternative to
most people. Instead the “alchemical” way may provide an
answer. Yet psychologization and misinterpretation
has very damaging consequences. This question is not merely a dispute over the
misinterpretation of alchemy, or the theory of the Self, it concerns the
immensely important issue of how to find our way during the spiritual quest. See also ‘Critique of Synchronicity’ (Winther, 2012b, here
) where I discuss the complementarian Self further and direct critique against the unitarian Self.
Winther, March 2011 (augmented 2015: ‘Two Cities’). Text and images by me.
Addendum: a complementarian model in physics
As a matter of
interest, physical science provides us with an example of a functioning
complementarian wholeness. It regards the electron as wave-packet, which here
moves upwards in the image. This phenomenon cannot be observed, as the electron
in complementary fashion manifests either
as a particle or
wave. This does not prevent physicists from creating an heuristic model of a
combined particle and wave, a so called wave-packet. Analogously, it should be
possible to create a model of the Self that illustrates the complementary
aspects of completeness and transcendence. Thanks to the principle of
complementarity, the one does not invalidate the other. In this model the waves
correspond to the transcendental concept, because they are mental constructs
that show how electrons propagate in conceptual spaces. The waves are not
constituents of nature (they “transcend” reality) —
a mental picture that physicists draw to be able to understand nature.
a wave-formation consist entirely of waves having a precise wave-length, which
will extend only over a small region of space. Waves outside this small region
of space destroy one another by interference. A short sequence of waves of this
kind is called a wave-packet:
In front of the wave-packet, the waves are continually destroying one
another by interference, while at the back the reverse process is taking place.
This results in a slowing down of the speed of the wave-packet as a whole, so
that it advances more slowly than the individual waves of which it is
constituted. The packet as a whole travels only at a speed u, which is
precisely the speed of the electron. Thus the waves as a whole do not run away
from the electron. (cf. Jeans, p.165ff)
It is an elegant model.
Stylites. See Wikipedia article (here
Looking at the world-clock we realize
that the horizontal region is surrounded vertically by the blue trinitarian
mandala. The horizontal region, pertaining to the this-worldly spirit, is the
realm of the human soul and the world-soul (anima mundi
). By inference,
above is the realm of spirit; below is the realm of body and matter. If this is
correct, it would imply that spirit and matter coincide at their extremes. The
soul is surrounded by spirit above and matter below. Arguably, the essence of
the bodily is an aspect of spirit, since matter, as such, is unknown. The
reverse is also true. The very essence of the spiritual is arguably material.
Perhaps this is why an extreme otherworldly orientation tends to manifest in
bodily-oriented ritual. Many Gnostic sects practiced very explicit sexual rituals
(cf. Walker, 1983). Sexuality has also a religious aspect (cf. Goldberg, 1963). At the
other end of the spectrum are the physical scientists who experience that the wonderments of matter
inspire religious feeling. Opposites meet.
When the contemplative, of whichever religious creed, makes
stillness in his soul, he thereby enters the celestial sphere, but in equal
measure he enters the material and bodily sphere. It would explain why much of
spiritual discipline revolves around bodily focus. It is an important point to
make, not to forget the role of the material principle. Emancipation according
to the trinitarian principle seems to mean that one moves on to the realm of
the sacred, that somehow includes the material/bodily. Therefore philosophers
have always been divided over esse in re
esse in spiritu,
although Jung’s credo, I maintain, is esse in anima.
A three-fold rhythm governs the clock. Thus it seems as though the
quaternity is surrounded by the ternary principle, similar to how the alchemical
method of Quadratura Circuli (“squaring of the circle”) prescribes
that the square must be surrounded by a triangle. The three-fold rhythm alludes
to the conjunction of three and four and to the fact that the ternary principle,
as spirit-matter, surrounds the whole. It would also help to explain why the
world-clock, in the vision, is carried by a black bird.
The following applies to the vav
character according to traditional
Jewish mysticism. The placement of the vav
in the Torah (Genesis 1:1) occurs
between the words “heaven” and “earth”. Thus, as it joins
heaven and earth, it implies the connection between divine and temporal
matters. It appears as the 22nd letter in the word et
, a purely
grammatical connecting word. It therefore represents the creative connection between all
the letters, as the number of letters is 22. It stands for the connecting force
of God, the divine “hook” that binds together heaven and earth.
has always been regarded as the number of man in Jewish tradition.
Man was created on the 6th day. He works for 6 days, and rests on the 7th.
There are 6 millennia before the coming of Messiah. The number of the beast is
the number of man, i.e. 666, according to Revelation 13:18 (cf. ‘Hebrew for Christians’,
Jung’s view of Christian
mysticism, in terms of John of the Cross,
was clear. James Kirsch once asked him whether John’s “dark night of the soul”
was a process of individuation, and he replied,
“John of the Cross’
‘Dark Night of the Soul’ has
nothing to do with this. Rather, integration is a conscious confrontation, a
dialectical process…” (Jung & Adler, 1976, p.159).
Christian mysticism I refer to the mystic tradition according to apophatic
(an imageless stillness and wordlessness), as in “The Cloud of
Unknowing”. Solitude and self-denial serve to create the empty mind, a condition
void of distractions. It coincides with the ideal of Buddhism. In accordance with
this, Jung advocates a directing inwards of libido, a strong sense of
introversion. This makes it necessary to withdraw projections from the objective
world, because his path is one of withdrawal and introversion. So far Jung is
in agreement with mystic tradition. However, at this point he
departs. Jung says that withdrawal of libido from the outer world implies that
libido falls back into the unconscious, thus activating the
archetypes. Jung’s design is to confront the archetypal complexes, and relate to
them, ideally by way of active imagination.
psychological way is the very opposite of the apophatic way, according to which the
inner images must be brushed away to cleanse the mind of anything resembling
the worldly. John of the Cross
and Buddhist theorists alike, say
that subjective experiences of the mind build on the same worldly categories
through which the outer world is experienced. All images of the soul are of
the world, and therefore create an attachment to the world. Allegedly, this works counter
to the attainment of unio mystica,
which implies transcending all
sense impressions, to enter a state of total detachment. God can only be found
Such transcendentalism is anathema to Jung, according to whom the unconscious is God. This divine power can be experienced through the images of the archetypal realm. If God cannot be experienced, he explains, then we
are justified in questioning whether the notion of divine existence makes any
sense at all. Jung’s experiential standpoint is glaringly obvious in all his
writings, in his autobiography, too. He rejects the standpoint of blind faith, when there is
no experience of the divine. Yet, Christian mystics do indeed strive after a total experience —
the immersion in God.
What is the metaphysical nature of
the Self? Some say that the objective of the hermetic art is to transmute the
imperfect material state into a subtle body,
i.e. a body that is at the
same time spirit (vid. Jung, 1980). The Chinese alchemists call it the “diamond
body”. It is reminiscent of the Pauline notion: “It is sown a natural
body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a
spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44). This is the glorious body,
relevant to theology. It is the body of the resurrection, which the
alchemists are creating in advance. The alchemists were radical enough, when
they claimed that the ego can initiate the process that creates the
Resurrection Body (see Remo Roth’s papers,
However, I maintain that, in alchemy, the ego mostly participates indirectly.
Great artists have assistants who prepare the canvases, etc. The artist is the
Self and the assistant is the ego. But is the assistant involved in the creation
of the great work of art? It is a matter of definition.
Hypostatic union is a technical term in Christian theology employed in mainstream Christology to describe the union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one hypostasis (Wikipedia, here
See Counterbalance Interactive Library entry (here
Nestorius. d. c.451 A.D. Persian prelate. Patriarch of Constantinople (428-431); preached the doctrine (Nestorianism) that in Jesus Christ a divine person and a human person were joined in perfect harmony of action but not in the unity of a single individual; deposed for heresy by the Council of Ephesus (431) and banished (c.436) to the Libyan desert. Nestorianism spread widely in Persia, India, Mongolia, and China (Merriam Webster Biographical Dictionary).
Miaphysitism (sometimes called henophysitism) is a Christological formula of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and of the various churches adhering to the first three Ecumenical Councils. Miaphysitism holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one or single nature (“physis”), the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration (Wikipedia, here
Monophysitism. Christian schismatic sect of the 5th and 6th centuries that maintained that Christ had only one (divine) nature, thereby opposing the orthodox doctrine that he was both divine and human (Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia).
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