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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Jerusalem: rebirth from the mother city

Mapa Jeruzaléma, 12th Century. US Public Domain.
Mapa Jeruzaléma, 12th Century. US Public Domain.
Carl Jung tells us that “this longing for the mother is amply expressed in the literature of the Bible” (ibid). One such instance of the divine mother in the Bible is Jerusalem as sacred mother city. Heavenly Jerusalem “is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:27).

The city, in general, is often as “a maternal symbol,… a woman who harbours the inhabitants in herself like children” (para 303). In the Biblical language of the Old Testament the “cities of Jerusalem, Babylon, etc are treated “just as if they were women” (ibid). The heavenly city Jerusalem is not only mother image, but divine mother, mother in whom we may be reborn of spirit. Jung sites Galatians 4:27:

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Divine Child: symbol of the soul’s fulfillment

German nativity scene with depiction of Trinity (God the Father and dove of Holy Spirit accompanying the Christ child and Madonna- C. 15th Century. guenther-rarebooks.com. US public domain via wikimedia.
German nativity scene with depiction of Trinity (God the Father and dove of Holy Spirit accompanying the Christ child and Madonna- C. 15th Century. guenther-rarebooks.com. US public domain via wikimedia.

We are in deep winter: days short, nights long. Father sun seems so far away, mother earth lonely. All the creatures mourn in winter. They burrow in their little holes and mourn the lost days of sun. Mother nature proffers so little in winter. The animals seem to know that. They go within and await her spring, her bosom, her blossom. All the world will rejoice when light and earth rejoin in their holy union. It is then, that life will burst forth in divine celebration. The animals frolic, make love, build their little nests, hatch their eggs– life is born of union.

But we, us human souls, are on another cycle. While our bodies may follow such creaturely cycles, seeking union in bodily form, our souls follow a different cycle entirely. In the depths of winter the divine child is born. On the darkest of days we celebrate the birth of the divine child.

What is the divine? How might we know it? Carl Jung provides a unique perspective. The divine is a divine couple: mother and father of souls.  In Symbols of Transformation, Jung speaks to the soul, leading us on a path of soul. This is not your normal everyday path. God is not some distant icon, some idealized figure in the sky. This is a phenomenological path: the soul comes into form insofar as it lives and knows. This is Gnosis. And what are we to know? Many things, but first we shall start with our divine parents.

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An imaginal journey into the origin and history of soul

“Language, in its origin and essence, is simply a system of signs or symbols that denote real occurrences or their echo in the human soul.” (Carl Jung, para. 13)

In its origin and essence language is a mode of the soul. Jung echoes one of the earliest psychological texts, titled the Psychologia Empirica. Writing in 1732, Christian Wolff says:

“Thinking is an act of the soul whereby it becomes conscious of itself and of other things outside itself” (cited in Jung fn 2).

It is with the soul in mind that we begin our discussion of Jung’s Essay on Two Kinds of Thinking, addressing language from the perspective of the soul. Here, language is an act of the soul, whereby the soul becomes conscious of itself.

Origin

At origin, at basis, there is no thought, no language.  Something is, but we cannot call it being or non-being, we cannot know it as full or empty. All we can fathom is that it is the ground of life: essential to life, yet unsayable, unspeakable. It, unfathomable, gives birth to soul.

Ground emerges into form, becoming the divine body of life. The divine body is the birth place of soul, the container or vessel for soul. Divinity and soul are first in unity; they are “indistinct” (Para. 23), like a baby in womb.

With time, the soul emerges out of primal unity into differentiation, initiating a process of individuation. The soul aims to become conscious of itself and others outside of itself. The soul seeks to know life, as the divine body of life. Language is a mode of the soul in communion with and about its mother world. Jung says:

“From time immemorial language has been directed outwards and used as a bridge, which has but a single purpose, namely that of communication. So long as we think directedly, we think for and speak to others” (para. 12).

In its emergent form the soul thinks for and speaks to the divine body. Language becomes a bridge between a soul and divine other. The soul realizes itself in dynamic communion: speaking, bridging, linking, and interweaving with the divine body of life.

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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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