Mother World: splitting, integration & evolution in the mother archetype

Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 19th Century, US Public Domain
Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 19th Century, US Public Domain

Recently, I have been writing on the aims and instincts of the human soul. Carl Jung speaks of the human soul’s “longing to attain rebirth through a return to the womb, and to become immortal like the sun” (CW5, para. 312). In biblical terms, rebirth is associated with entrance into Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy city, an image of the divine mother.

Jung says, “the Old Testament treats the cities of Jerusalem, Babylon, etc. just as if they were women” (para 303). While Jerusalem is an image of the holy mother, Babylon is the unholy mother. In Jung’s words: “Babylon is the symbol of the Terrible Mother” (Jung, para 315). In Revelation 17 it is written:

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The Hero as Soul Image: aims and instincts

In Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung says that the hero myth “symbolizes the ideas, forms, and forces which grip and mold the soul.” (para. 259) The hero is an image or form of the living soul, expressing trials and tribulations as encountered upon the path of soul. While we often think of the hero in terms of idealized images of triumph and even of immortality, getting at the soul of the hero takes a more subtle insight. Such insight includes an understanding of the subtle realms of psychic life: perceptions that extend beyond idealized images, perceptions of the movements in the life of the soul.

At the time that Jung wrote Symbols of Transformation, Freud and Jung were engaged in a stormy debate regarding the nature of psychic life, each seeing the psyche from a different perspective. Their two perspectives formed two basic viewpoints on psychic life: the egoic and the transpersonal. This schism played out in their perspectives on myth interpretation, and particularly their interpretation of the Oedipus myth. Freud’s understanding was focused on the development of the ego, reflecting ego development taking place within the first half of life. Jung’s psychology was focused on archetypal elements, and his reading of the myths focused on the movement beyond ego, into transpersonal and archetypal motifs. Jung often took the perspective that the transpersonal aspects of psychic life were collective and biological, arising from evolutionary determinants. My aim is to read Jung’s writings from a spiritual perspective, understanding that archetypal images express the telos of the soul– the aims and instincts of the soul.

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Archetypal Dialectics

I have heard many people complain about the division between spirit and matter. Often they blame Descartes. For example in Marigold’s book titled A Guiding Hand, she says:

“If we hadn’t given so much credit to… Descartes division between spirit and matter, we would have saved ourselves a lot of time and a lot of pains.” (p. 181)

Marigold’s view represents a way of thinking that is quite common: turning a creative tension into a problem, as if it were invented by Descartes.

The opposition between spirit and matter is quite a bit older than Descartes. One might call it an archetypal dialectic. Spirit and matter represent basic categories of thought. These categories help us to conceptualize the world around us.

One of the ways in which humans conceptualize the world is through opposition. Oppositions are often represented as binary pairs, such as spirit and matter. These binary pairs provide reference points, one idea is known in relations to the other. Oppositions drive us to resolve tensions through acts of creative synthesis.

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Dreams: the subject of the deep

In Psychology and Religion, Carl G. Jung undertakes a philosophical investigation into the religious dimension of the unconscious. Jung investigates the nature of an inner voice of wisdom as it occurs within a dream sequence. This investigation begins with a discussion of a man and his dreams. He says:

[The dream voice] “utters an authoritative declaration or command, either of astonishing common sense or of profound philosophic import. It is nearly always a final statement, usually coming toward the end of a dream, and it is, as a rule, so clear and convincing that the dreamer finds no argument against it. It has, indeed, so much the character of indisputable truth that it can hardly be understood as anything except a final and trenchant summing up of a long process of unconscious deliberation and weighing of arguments. ” (p. 45)

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Spiritual dreams: in sequences

In Psychology and Religion, Carl Jung states that our dreams “speak of religion.” In this discussion Carl Jung is talking about the spiritual nature of dreams. One of the issues he addresses is how spiritual dreams tend to occur in a dream sequence that takes place over a period of time. Carl Jung says “dreams are the visible links in the chain of unconscious events.” (p. 38)

According to James Hall, “the ego always has a limited view of reality.” (1934, p. 40) The dream can help the ego open to a larger truth that is available only within the unconscious of the dreamer. Carl Jung said “I have to admit the fact that the unconscious mind is capable at times of assuming an intelligence and purposiveness which are superior to actual conscious insight.” (p. 45)

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