The Quaternity as Mother of Death

Is psychological balance and fitness primary or is the individuative drive central to our psychology? Obviously, individuation exists as an unconscious impetus, because we must leave childhood naivete behind and become responsible individuals. Also in adult life we want to make headway in order to feel good. But which is the egg and which is the hen?

Arguably, individuation is secondary to psychological harmony. After all, should personality experience stagnation, then the individual would like to break out from the stagnant condition, even if much has been accomplished. What's the point in living in a beautiful castle if one is bored? So the foundational principle is perhaps that life must keep flowing. But this also means that growth will occur.

In Poul Bjerre's (1876-1964) thought, individuation is a function of the continual process of "death and renewal". Any achievement of wholeness will sooner or later turn into a stagnated condition, from which personality must break free. It means that wholeness as a goal also means psychological death. On this view, wholeness is an ambivalent symbol. Although being a goal for personality, its backside is stagnation. It's the important realization that St Augustine made, i.e., that it is not worthwhile to strive after a worldly paradise (v. "City of God").

Bjerre, who was one of the first psychoanalysts, saw destruction as a central theme in individuation. If personality is stuck, a renewal must be invoked. But this means that the old Self is abandoned and what has been achieved is thrown off. Thus, individuation can mean destruction, in the sense of breaking out of an old shell. Yet, it conflicts with the psychoanalytic notion of integration, central to which is to integrate disowned aspects of ourselves. In Jung's thought, individuation consists in collecting psychic content into a 'complexio oppositorum'. The principle of negation is given little weight. Rather, what counts is assimilation. Yet, evidence suggests that negation is very central. A woman recounts her dream:

"I have had recurrent dreams of a woman living in an ivory tower, or other buildings, and being forced to leave. In one dream I was admiring the garden outside the woman's tower. A disembodied voice said: 'This is beautiful, but all this must change.' --In the period following, my life became much more "real" and a lot less beautiful."

The conclusion is that personality isn't imprisoned in childhood, but we are wholly capable of changing our ways. It's just that people are reluctant to abandon old habits of life, including cognitive habits. For various reasons personality remains stuck. It could be due to insecurity or inertia. (I write something about Bjerre's view of individuation, which involves also negation and destruction, here.) From this perspective it is easier to understand this dream from my early twenties:

"I entered a huge library with an enormous cupola, which had a pinkish plastering. In its centre was a round mandala with four black circles in square formation. I was awestruck. On the outside was the blackness of the universe. A voice said: 'These are the holes through which the soul leaves at the moment of death'."

In this dream, the quaternity, which is supposed to mean life's fulfilment, acquires the meaning of death. The dream seems to compensate the ideal of quaternary wholeness by associating it with death. Indeed, to collect all knowledge in a huge library is symbolic of intellectual wholeness. But it is a deadly backwater, too. So the quaternity is like the Mother of Life and Death--it is ambivalent.

The four is regarded a feminine number, contrary to three, which is masculine. Arguably, the quaternary focus of Jungian psychology is misguided, because one shouldn't pledge allegiance to any single archetype. The trinity and the quaternity are opposites, denoting different kinds of wholeness. This complementary dynamic must remain at play.

Mats Winther

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    Jung simplifies matters too much when he portrays human existence as One, a complexio oppositorum of this-worldly life and psychic fulfilment through integration of the unconscious. I have proposed that the problem is more complicated than how Jung portrays it, and that the human Self is complementary, having at least two sides.--mats

    We aren't mimicing monkies or commercial opportunists so we all have to break out of a strictly jungian mode and derive our own individual understandings and interpretations. I expect this is what Jung expected of his readers and students as well. I couldn't find the response on your differing interpretation of the quaternity and trinity but I meant to attach this comment to it. I salute you for your achievement....

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    sorry for the delay in taking up your interesting and challenging material. I was preoccupied with some personal matters. 

    Jung understands the Basel Cathedral as the burden imposed on us by our Christian heritage. But I think it really signifies the destructive capacity of the Self to obliterate "stagnant wholeness", because the cathedral is a symbol of the Self. Arguably, the vision projects a renewal of the Self, wholly in line with the ideal of ego abandonment. But such a thought was anathema to Jung, because the Self is like a never-ending building project. It cannot be destroyed, allowing a new Self to grow in place of the former.


    For Jung the basel cathedral was dead wood.  He inherited this problem from his father,  a pastor, who had lost his living connection with christianity. Jung was the modern man in search of his own soul. He successfully made that reconnection for himself and opened up the pathway for others to follow in his footsteps. This is the problem of our age.

    The basel cathedral was destroyed because it had lost its connection with the living gospel of christ. One should rather consider the destruction of the cathedral and the coincidental death of God as an evolutionary advance in christian consciousness. Our evolving Christian consciousness had attained a state where the ego was able to separate itself from the unconscious to the extent that when the cathedral/God were removed the ego was able to assert itself to the point wherein the ego became God.

    Jung collected a whack of mandalas and other symbols of the self. They were not all completely identical. The self images were also capable of evolution. He even called christ a symbol of the self somewhere in his writings....along with the wise old man... assuredly the king as well.... 

    Well let's put it this way the self is not destroyed in the basal cathedral collapse. It is The ego's conceptualization of the self that has proven to be inadequate. Due to the ego's growth God has died as well as the basal cathedral/church. A new iteration of the self would ordinarily be born from the disarray and the resolution to it.... just a quibble as i agree with most of the paragraph i included

  • Klemens, I find your theory interesting, albeit somewhat unclearly defined. You say that the Mother gave birth to the principle of individuality, which competes with the older principle of manhood. In Egyptian myth, if Seth represents the phallus of the Mother, the young god Horus, birthed by Isis, would represent the individual principle, then.

    However, some interpreters say that Horus and Christ are symbolically equivalent. So I don't see how the Christ could have inaugurated the "age of the Son" in the sense of puerility, if that's what you mean.

    Arguably depression equals lack of conscious passion. Thus, individual conscious zest safeguards us against encroaching depression, which was always an imminent danger in the age of collective consciousness. In traditional society, as soon as a member was expelled from the tribe, he would be overtaken with depression and likely die.

    The Mother, of course, would want to protect his son, although she also represents the threatening abyss in the form of Death. But manic depression (bipolar disorder) has both genetic and non-genetic grounds. I think it's better to employ a more general term of depression. /Mats

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    I see your perspective and it I appreciate it.  I also understand the incredible amount of energy expended in your effort to "Know Thyself'. I will not question the validity of the insights observations and conclusions derived from your personal INDIVIDUATION.
    On the other hand neither Jung nor Jungian psychology could be construed as being dogmatic. He opened the pathway to individuation and then stepped back and let it transform the analysands. How could he possibly expect individuality not to flourish and find its own uniquely individual expression in his patients. And why shouldn't other forms of individual expression be unique and different than his own. The name of the game is individuality. So when you critque Jung is it from the perspective of one who has pursued his own individuation only to find that your individuated insights do not concurr with Jung's. Don't you think Jung might say viva la difference! Now lets argue about the conclusions you have drawn from your own individuationed maturational development. From the confluence of many unique individual perspectives perhaps we will get a whole different perspective on the quaternity and trinity. I suspect you are being unfair to Jung when you place so much responsibility on his shoulders. I don't say this to invalidate your perspective because I suspect it is the confluence of many unique individual perspectives that Jung was aspiring to build.
    You have amplified your dream somewhat and it alters my perspective. I initially received the impression that you were impressed by the beauty of the cupola and library.... Now you say the dream made you feel like a speck... could i was severely humbled by the beauty and majesty of the vista replace I felt like a speck. It was an awesome and the same time a humbling vision. Don't mind me... It was just an alteration in my perception of your initial dream recap...Again i previously envisaged the presence of a great library as representing what you have learned and what your predestinatory image says you will continue learning/becoming... The builder of the library of knowledge and and and...all... i don' want to be presumptuous but consider the possibility that the dream is telling you that your fascination with the end game is robbing you of your capacity to become .... at least that is what you are telling me that the dream might be saying. Does the fault for not expressing your full potential lie with Jung, within yourself or both Jung and yourself to one degree or another...  it is pretty hard for me to pontificate on dreams... so i tried altering perspectives to see what might reveal itself. 
    Jung simplifies matters too much when he portrays human existence as One, a complexio oppositorum of this-worldly life and psychic fulfilment through integration of the unconscious.---mats
    Jung's experiences and his effort to understand them don't need my validation. He bore witness to them. Take it or leave it. If individuation leads you in another direction or realm of conceptualization what is wrong with that. 
    I have previously dealt with the gist of the Augustiniun spirit matter dichotomy. We are spirits living in a material world. I am certain Jung had a very good concept of matter and materiality. He was a true born son of the earth and he was proud of his peasant like earthiness. I am sure he was familiar with augustine as well. I suspect some of the differences in regard to explaining the spiritual/material dichotomy lay in perspective. Jungs perspective was that of an empirical psychologist... He deliberately omitted putting mystical trappings works. What can i say beyond that. Archetypes shape our existence and guide us through the human life cycle. They emanate from the Unconscious. Relationship individuality courage  Hermes the belief in order... We don't spontaneously manufacture such. They are inborn attributes that are rediscovered [in the platonic context] as we need them to deal with the ever changing vicissitudes of existence. That is one of the great discoveries of psychology in the last century... That we are largely unconscious> i don't know if my answer is satisfactory but it is what it is for the moment. 
    Thanks for the cathedral material. I couldn't find it on google and was too lazy to go through my copy of memories dreams and reflections. As usual my memory of the event is diminished, so i enjoyed seeing the whole vision laid out. I do highly suspect the first dream i linked in and the cathedral dream are related. 
    I will take a break before i take up this most interesting and vital topic
    • Klemens, you reason that the path of individuation is relative to individuality and it can lead in any direction. I think this view is too relativistic. I argue that Jung's version of individuation is Neo-Pagan in kind, because his metaphysic conflates spirit and matter. Although he reasons in terms of projection, he introduces metaphysical notions, such as synchronicity, which elevate psyche (the psychoid realm as container of objective meaning) as fundamental ontic substance.

      You could argue that this is appropriate for the personality that is congenitally pagan. But there is no reason to invent the wheel again, because paganism is live and well. The problem is that the Jungian view risks leading people astray, in the same sense that ideologies lead people off the right path. For instance, think of how many people have wasted their lives in servitude to Marxism and Communism. I discuss psychological dependency on Jung in three cases (Henderson, Pauli, von Franz) :

      "In an interview (cf. Wagner, 1985) Henderson recounts a dream where he is seated in a church together with his colleagues. Jung appears as a clergyman and holds a speech. Afterwards all people in the pew rise and exclaim repeatedly "mandala! mandala!", similar to how historical Christians would call out hosanna! Henderson said that the dream was indicative of his ridiculous attachment to Jung." (here)

      Jung's contributions to psychology are important, but he dons the role as high-priest of a Neo-Pagan movement; a mixture of Neoplatonism and psychology. Late in his life, he wrote to an English friend: "I have failed in my foremost task to open people's eyes to the fact that man has a soul, that there is a buried treasure in the field and that our religion and philosophy are in a lamentable state." So he really expected to revolutionalize Western culture during his lifetime, which is ludicrous. After all, when he died, he had more followers than both Jesus and Buddha had at the end of their life. One can hardly hope for more.

      His ambition was that the diverse religious and philosophical creeds should be abandoned for his own strange worldview that conflates Kantian, Neoplatonic and alchemical themes. In Mysterium Coniunctionis he claims that God and gods are really "debatable images from the psychoid realm", whereas religious belief is characteristic of "naive people" (p.551). He clearly states that religion is all but obsolete and that his metaphysic is the proper solution. But it also depends on blind belief, because the psychoid realm is transcendent in the absolute sense. Yet, he argues that, unlike other belief-systems, his notion isn't fraught with self-contradictions, and it makes better sense. But this isn't true. Logically, it doesn't hold water.

      Mats Winther

      Dependency in the analytic relationship
      Three cases of psychological dependency, in analysands of C.G. Jung, are investigated. Their dreams show that personal emancipation is pivotal.
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         Neo-Pagans we are as much as we are christians. We emanate  from the Greco Roman well spring as much as the christian one. In fact if the the New Testament was not Hellenized Jesus would never have been taken up and promulgated by the civilized world of the time. I suspect your affinity for some of the Gnostics might be preventing you from developing a pro Neo-Pagan approach to understanding our historical legacy.... One might try plugging Christ into the position of the God who was destined to replace Zeus, Agape the demenor of the New testament God is a Greek creation. The greeks concept of  a God of Agape is a massive advance from the the all powerful forcefulness of the patriarchal Zeus. And the God of agape was so antithetical to the psychopathic old testament god that Marcion tried to cut the Old Testament out of the christian bible. Don't underestimate our Neo-Pagan ancestors as they were the progenotors of our civilization....

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        as ever and always you raise questions and challenges that force one to re-examine ones thoughts and opinions. Of course this is not one of the unanswered questions I meant to address but on this reading it caught my attention

        you reason that the path of individuation is relative to individuality and it can lead in any direction.-mats

        Individuation fosters the creation of the individual in the first half of life. The individual is one who has been individuated and has systematically acquired the capacities to survive as an independent psychological, physiological, emotional and material entity. The culmination of the individuation process in the first half of life leads to the emergence of the authoritarian or patriarchal personality.... One must become an individual before individuality in itself becomes the main actor in the second half of existence.

        Individuality can lead in any direction but as it blossoms it follows an individual path through " a defined growth process' that culminates in providing the ego with a solution to the end game of existence. The second half of life is learning about how to let go of our ever diminishing material existence. 

  • Klemens, the problem is just this, that Jung makes his important discoveries paradigmatic for human life. But there are other aspects to existence, also. Of course, when I was young, I thought I had found the essential truth about "everything" after having read Jung. But the dream places me in a humongous library where I feel like a little speck. So the dream says: "Look what you have missed out on!" And then it portrays Jung's quaternity as as disintegration, as Death.

    Jung simplifies matters too much when he portrays human existence as One, a complexio oppositorum of this-worldly life and psychic fulfilment through integration of the unconscious. I have proposed that the problem is more complicated than how Jung portrays it, and that the human Self is complementary, having at least two sides. This accords with St Augustine's position. 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." ("Living in Two Cities", p.xi)

    Indeed, in our mode as earthly citizens, God is dead, just as Nietzsche says. But in our other mode of existence, in the City of God, He is live and well. Duality is inbuilt in the human situation. Jung's youthful vision of God destroying the Basel Cathedral is MDR, pp.36-39:

    "I thought it over again and arrived at the same conclusion. "Obviously God also desires me to show courage," I thought. "If that is so and I go through with it, then He will give me His grace and illumination."

    "I gathered all my courage, as though I were about to leap forthwith into hell-fire, and let the thought come. I saw before me the cathedral, the blue sky. God sits on His golden throne, high above the world—and from under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder.

    "So that was it! I felt an enormous, an indescribable relief. Instead of the expected damnation, grace had come upon me, and with it an unutterable bliss such as I had never known. I wept for happiness and gratitude. The wisdom and goodness of God had been revealed to me now that I had yielded to His inexorable command. It was as though I had experienced an illumination. A great many things I had not previously understood became clear to me." (Jung, MDR, pp.36-39)

    Jung understands the Basel Cathedral as the burden imposed on us by our Christian heritage. But I think it really signifies the destructive capacity of the Self to obliterate "stagnant wholeness", because the cathedral is a symbol of the Self. Arguably, the vision projects a renewal of the Self, wholly in line with the ideal of ego abandonment. But such a thought was anathema to Jung, because the Self is like a never-ending building project. It cannot be destroyed, allowing a new Self to grow in place of the former.

    But, in fact, what was shattered was his former Self, not our Christian heritage. He threw out the whole of trinitarian tradition, because he needed to break free of naive childhood faith. But Christian mystics also repudiate naive religiosity. For example, St John of the Cross exposed religious frauds, such as stigmatization.

    Mats Winther

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    Jung's first dream

    In contradistinction to mat's dream. This is not the dream of mystic but of someone who was psychologically under the gun from the gitgo. As I said previously Jung gave us the tools with which to approach the Unconscious to reconnect with our own souls. That is the gift. The other gift was the introduction of the empirical methodology into the study of the Unconscious/psyche/analytic psychology. One must look inside oneself and find ones own individual path. A path that even indeed might be a mystic one, if that is where ones individuation and underlying nature leads one. Jung is not the be all and end all of existence. He was mortal and could only do so much. I know you are not blaming him for not catering directly to your mystical bent....

    I hope we are both working on the problem of orientating ourselves to Jung's contribution to psychology. In his life and in his works he presented a new paradigm for humanity. A uniquely  individual paradigm. He was the trail blazer for individualities entry as a player in our collectivist Christian civilizational dynamic. God died within our christian civilization because we have psychologically matured to the point where the ego and individuality are ready to emerge and take center stage. The psychological problem of the day is our newly emergent ego must learn that god may be dead but the ego is not God. The developing ego's role is to discover his limitations and reintroduce God back into the psychological equation. This is our christian duty and our civilization task. This is the what the individual must do if mankind/the individual is going to eventually take responsibility for his own destiny....

    I can't seem to find a link to Jung's dream of God pooping on the church. I was intending to close this response with Jung's discovery that the church was dead and in need of renewal. Well there goes my God is dead so the ego becomes god parallel. Inside Jung was a furious God who would not accept the death of the church and God he inspired Jung to reconnect with his own soul and renew our religious roots... whatever... 

    Carl Jung's First Dream: The Man-Eater - Jung Currents
    Jung narrates his first dream, when he was three or four years old: In the dream I was in this meadow. Suddenly I discovered a dark, rectangular, sto…
  • Klemens, I discuss this notion in my article 'An intrusion of matriarchal consciousness' (here). Although M-L von Franz discusses the puer aeternus as a form of immaturity predicated on the mother complex, she also says that society harbours individuals that psychologically belong to an older epoch. She recounts how she met with a Stone Age man living in the Alps, who walked about naked during the summers. He was at one with nature.

    Arguably, many pueri aeterni belong to this type, i.e., they are psychologically a throwback to a pre-Christian mindset. These people have always existed. Ancient Greek society was heroic and oriented toward achievement. Nevertheless, Epicurus's philosophy became enormously popular. As many as 400,000 people lived in Epicurean societies around the Mediterranian, until they were closed down by the Christian emperor in the 6th century. They worked just enough to sustain themselves, and for the rest of their time they focused on feeling good among their fellow Epicureans. Life was not about achievement, truth-searching, or exploration. Rather, it was all about feeling content and happy. So these communities were like modern retirement homes. Of course, it must have been perfect for people suffering from illness or handicap, but the phenomenon can't be explained without a notion of congenital matriarchal psychology. Why on earth would strong and able men want to throw away their lives like this?

    So it would mean that there is a neurotic as well as a congenital puer psychology. The latter is very much connected with ethnicity. My country, a world-renowned Nanny State, is favourite with black Africans, many of whom are pueri aeterni. They have no zest for accomplishment, but focus entirely on feeling good, while adopting a vegetative lifestyle, much like ancient Epicureans. 

    However, we mustn't equate an inability to put down roots with a neurotic or congenital condition. After all, it could depend on life's circumstances and somatic illness, etc. /Mats

    An intrusion of matriarchal consciousness
    The collective mind is reverting to matriarchal conceptions, abandoning Western values that allow for differences. It leads to cultural neurosis.
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