Breaking Dawn: the soul in the Aurora Consurgens

An illustration of a hermaphrodite from the Aurora consurgens-- 15th century. Thomas Aquinas; Marie-Louise von Franz (1966) Aurora Consurgens; A Document Attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Opposites in US Public Domain wikimedia.
An illustration of a hermaphrodite from the Aurora consurgens– 15th century. Thomas Aquinas; Marie-Louise von Franz (1966) Aurora Consurgens; A Document Attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Opposites in US Public Domain wikimedia.

This image is from the Aurora Consurgens. The Aurora Consurgens is an alchemical manuscript from the 15th century. The work has been attributed to Thomas Aquinas, although the true author is yet unknown. Aurora Consurgens is a Latin name which translates to “rising dawn.”

According to Carl Jung the hermaphrodite represents the union of opposites.  Jung says that the hermaphrodite “has become a symbol of the creative union of opposites, a ‘uniting symbol’ in the literal sense.” (CW 9i, para. 292-4)

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Marriage of the Lamb

The Marriage of the Lamb. Circa 1255 - 1260. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
The Marriage of the Lamb. Circa 1255 – 1260. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the image above, we see the Marriage of the Lamb. What follows is the description from the Getty Museum:

“This artist represented the scene as a medieval marriage ceremony with the bride depicted as a beautiful young woman. The illuminator took some details directly from the text, such as the bride’s clothing, “glittering and white,” but he also added details not mentioned, such as the white cloth over the couple’s heads and the large ring that the Lamb gives to his bride.”

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We Divide the Cosmos to Reflect Our Own Inner Polarity

Samudramanthana, the Churning of the Ocean. 19th Century, India. at the British Museum of Art. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
Samudra manthana, the Churning of the Ocean. 19th Century, India. at the British Museum of Art. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

The image above is a watercolor of Samudra manthana, the Churning of the Ocean. The British Museum provides a description of the image:

“This event took place during the second incarnation of Visnu as Kurma, the tortoise. The painting shows Visnu seated on the top of Mount Mandara, here represented as a pole. He holds a discus, sword, conch and lotus in his four hands and has a golden nimbus around his head. Around the pole is wrapped the snake Vasuki. On one side the snake is pulled by the gods and on the other it is pulled by the Danava’s. On the shore of the ocean are the objects which have emerged during the churning, which include Laksmi, Varuni, the conch, the elephant mount of Brahma, Airavata, Surabhi the wish fulfilling cow and the vessel holding amrita which bestows immortality on the drinker. A crescent moon is shown in the top left corner of the painting. The painting is surrounded by a black border.”[1]

From an archetypal perspective, Vishnu is an image of the Self.  The central pole may be seen as the axis mundi. The axis mundi is the world pole which offers a connection between the three worlds or three states of consciousness. The snake is wrapped around the pole, an image of the instincts– both lower and higher. The gods and demons churn the great sea of milk by pulling on either ends of the snake. This image may be seen as representing the synthesis of Self, and thus of psychic wholeness and Oneness.

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Hieros gamos in the drawings of Opicinus de Canistris

Diagram with Zodiac Symbols by Opicinus de Canistris,, Avignon, France, 1335–50. US public domain, wikimedia
Diagram with Zodiac Symbols by Opicinus de Canistris,, Avignon, France, 1335–50. US public domain, wikimedia

Opicinus de Canistris was a 14th Century Italian mystic who created cosmological diagrams. Above is one of his diagrams. According to Richard Salomon (1953) this diagram contains the: “full autobiographical notes covering the first forty years of the author’s life … inscribed into a scheme of forty concentric rings each of which corresponds to one year in the author’s life. A calendar ring surrounding the whole system gives every single day its fixed place within the scheme.” (p. 45)

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The goal of individuation is the synthesis of the self

Mandala from 18th century with Christ, US Public Domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung’s work aims toward individuation; the goal of individuation is the synthesis of the Self. Jung says:

“I have called this wholeness that transcends consciousness the ‘self.’ The goal of the individuation process is the synthesis of the self. …the symbols of wholeness frequently occur at the beginning of the individuation process.” Carl Jung (CW 9i, para. 278)

The word synthesis comes from the ancient Greek σύνθεσις, σύν “with” and θέσις “placing” [1]. Synthesis is a resolution of opposing ideas, forces, or representations– so as to bring about a new idea. In archetypal terms, the new idea is the Self.

This is a psychical aim, an aim of symbolic life. Jung calls this aim: ‘Self-realization’, a term used in Eastern philosophy, synonymous with enlightenment. By setting such spiritual aims, Jung makes clear his reverence for the sacred.

Jung spoke of the Self in both psychological and spiritual terms, elucidating the archetypes and symbols in relationship to the Self. The Self, as archetype of wholeness, guides our psycho-spiritual development. For Jung, the Self forms the distance horizon of psychic life, revealing itself in archetypal forms.

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