Theotokos: Paradox of the Tree of Death & Life

 Berthold Furtmeyr, Mediaval miniature by Berthold Furtmeyer: Baum des Todes und des Lebens, Tree of death and life- 1481
Berthold Furtmeyer: Baum des Todes und des Lebens, Tree of Death and Life– c. 1481. US public domain via wikimedia

There is a archetypal relation between the God, Self, and trees.

Jung calls the tree of life a “mother symbol” (CW 5, para 321). In the image above, we see Furtmeyer’s Tree of Death and Life. This image represents the paradox inherent in the tree as mother symbol. Anne Baring describes the scene of the image:

“The faces of the two women are identical, and their heads incline away from the central point of the tree in antithetical relationship: Eve, predictably naked, offering to humanity the apple of death, which she is passing on from the serpent; and Mary, predictably clothed, offering the redeeming apple of life. The position of the serpent arising from the not-to-be seen phallus of Adam is presumably less than coincidental. On Eve’s side of the tree lies the grinning skull, while Death waits for her on the right, and on Mary’s side of the tree – the Life side – the cross with the crucified Christ poised as on a branch, himself the fruit of her miraculously intact womb.”

This image is especially significant in that it is not only a “mother symbol”, but shows the profound paradox within the mother image. We here see a duality in the archetypal Mother. Here is Eve as the mother of our fallen state and here is Mary as the mother of redemption. Eve offers the fruit of death; Mary offers the fruit of redemption.

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Theophany, soul’s imagination

Theophany by Pskov- 13th- 14th century, from: http://www.wco.ru/icons/. US Public Domain via wikimedia.
Theophany by Pskov- 13th- 14th century, from: http://www.wco.ru/icons/. US Public Domain via wikimedia.

In the image above we see the Theophany. Theophany is an Ancient Greek term from theophaneia, meaning “appearance of a god” [1] . The word describes the the appearance of the deity to the living soul. In Psychology and Alchemy, Carl Jung speaks of “the relationship between God and soul.” (Para. 11) Jung says:

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The Anima Wants Life

“Because the anima wants life, she wants both good and bad.”
(Carl Jung, 9i, para. 59)

Jung tells us that the word “Anima means soul.” He adds that notion of the anima “designate something very wonderful and immortal. ” (9i, para. 55) Hillman tells us that the anima is the “mediatrix to the eternally unknowable” (p.133).  As soul image, the anima guides us beyond what is known into the ‘unknown’ mystery of being. The soul exits somewhere between the eternal and temporal, between the infinite and finite, and thus can be considered the mediatrix to the unknown.

 

 

References:

  1. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)
  2. Symbols of Transformation (Collected Works of C. G. Jung Volume 5)
  3. The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol. 8)
  4. Myth of Analysis by James Hillman

God: immanent or wholly other?

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean, 19th Century, by Alighieri, Dante, The Divine Comedy, US Public Domain
Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean, 19th Century, by Alighieri, Dante, The Divine Comedy, US Public Domain

“Were it the case that a fly had reason and rationally seek out the eternal abyss of divine being, from which it came forth, we see that ‘God’, in so far that he is ‘God’, could not fulfill or satisfy the fly. Let us pray to God to be free of ‘God’.” –Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart, theologian and mystic, addresses the difference between our symbols  and the truth that lies beyond symbolic representations. Eckhart speaks to two notions of God: the symbolic notion of ‘God’ and the truth of God which lies behind the symbolic notion.

If we are to know God, then we must seek to know the truth which lies beyond the symbols and images of ‘God’. There are 1000s of names for God. There are many ways of knowing and understanding God. What is important, is not how we define ‘God’ but the experience of God, the truth of God– felt in the heart.

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Is ‘God’ Dead?

“Let us pray to God to be free of ‘God’.”  –Meister Eckhart.

We exist in a shifting ground, and outworn symbolic notions need to be re-imagined. Outer, worldly, changes provoke a response from human beings, and this response takes place as a shift in the collective psyche. This shift is not a quick and sudden shift, but instead a slow and gradual shift, as people begin to rethink and re-imagine their relationship to each other and life. Some of this shift in thinking takes place consciously and some of it unconsciously. The unconscious cultural shifts can be interpreted though our collective beliefs, fashions, images, and sayings.

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