Updated Jan 2022 – added an additional note to the conclusion; reworked the second addendum.
“The new rock, then, takes the place of Christ, just as the everlasting gospel was meant to take the place of Christ’s message. Through the descent and indwelling of the Holy Ghost the νἱοτῆς, sonship, is infused into every individual, so that everybody who possesses the Holy Ghost will be a new rock, in accordance with I Peter 2 : 5: “Be you also as living stones built up.”
Carl Jung, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, CW 9ii, par 144
The Ego as the Moved and the Self as the Mover
One of the most complete and vivid description of the self by Jung is the following:
Behind a man’s actions there stands neither public opinion nor the moral code, but the personality of which he is still unconscious. Just as a man still is what he always was, so he already is what he will become. The conscious mind does not embrace the totality of a man, for this totality consists only partly of his conscious contents, and for the other and far greater part, of his unconscious, which is of indefinite extent with no assignable limits. In this totality the conscious mind is contained like a smaller circle within a larger one. Hence it is quite possible for the ego to be made into an object, that is to say, for a more compendious personality to emerge in the course of development and take the ego into its service. Since this growth of personality comes out of the unconscious, which is by definition unlimited, the extent of the personality now gradually realizing itself cannot in practice be limited either. But, unlike the Freudian superego, it is still individual. It is in fact individuality in the highest sense, and therefore theoretically limited, since no individual can possibly display every quality. (I have called this process of realization the “individuation process.”) So far as the personality is still potential, it can be called transcendent, and so far as it is unconscious, it is indistinguishable from all those things that carry its projections—in other words, the unconscious personality merges with our environment in accordance with the above-named participation mystique. This fact is of the greatest practical importance because it renders intelligible the peculiar symbols through which this projected entity expresses itself in dreams. By this I mean the symbols of the outside world and the cosmic symbols. These form the psychological basis for the conception of man as a microcosm, whose fate, as we know, is bound up with the macrocosm through the astrological components of his character.
The term “self” seemed to me a suitable one for this unconscious substrate, whose actual exponent in consciousness is the ego. The ego stands to the self as the moved to the mover, or as object to subject, because the determining factors which radiate out from the self surround the ego on all sides and are therefore supraordinate to it. The self, like the unconscious, is an a priori existent out of which the ego evolves. It is, so to speak, an unconscious prefiguration of the ego. It is not I who create myself, rather I happen to myself. [Carl Jung, Transformation Symbolism in the Mass, CW 11, par 390-391]
This lengthy quote has some key elements that are worth being repeated.
First, the ego is not the whole personality. Hidden from the conscious mind, a second center can be hinted at but never fully apprehended. This totality of both conscious and unconscious processes manifests as a single unitary entity and behaves like a unique personality. This individuality makes the self stand apart from the Freudian superego.
Given this existence beyond the grasp of the ego, the self can easily disappear from consciousness, even never be perceived at all. This is the case for most people: the self is in this latent, unconscious state existing only as potential.
When the self is in this dormant condition, we are in a state of participation mystique*, where psychic projections are indistinguishable from the environment. Glimmers of the unconscious self, whose origin is to be found within, are now found outside. This merging of the unconscious self and the material world happens through a phenomenon called projection.
Part I – Projections
Projection as a Mediation of Unconscious Contents
In the process of self-knowledge, unconscious contents cannot become conscious by themselves. They require a mediation that can be overwhelming for the ego.
Outside of dreams, the main process of this mediation is known as projection*. Projection is the perception of one’s activated unconscious contents as being “outside oneself” (i.e., found in other people, objects, symbols).
The relationship that one experiences towards a projection can range from very positive (infatuation, admiration, etc.) to extremely negative (hate, ridicule, etc.). The one commonality is an uncontrollable fascination that draws us compulsively until we achieve closure.
The important point is that we are not drawn to the carrier of the projection itself but rather the aspect of our personality that is being reflected by it. This explains the irresistible magnetism that we are experiencing: we are trying to unite back with an unconscious reflection of ourselves. The irony being that the source of that reflection is us.
While they can be overpowering, projections are not a phenomenon to get rid of in itself. They promote the growth of consciousness by orienting us towards the next aspect of the personality that is ready for integration. In fact, the stronger the attraction, the more valuable the realization at the end of the process. This remark can be extended to transferences and countertransferences.
It must be said that not everything is based on projections or transferences. The gentle and caring love that one experiences for a family member is not a projection. The same can be said in the case of healthy anger: if someone is invading your personal space, anger is an appropriate reaction.
For something to be attributed to a projection, one must observe a compulsive and intense affective behavior, which would be evidence of a repeated investment of libido. I use the rule of thumb that something needs to repeat at least three times before I work on it.
Three Types of Projections – Shadow Projection
Once familiar with the idea of projection, we can distinguish at least three different types of projections: shadow projection, anima projection, projection of the self.
The phenomenology of shadow projections can be best described as hostile brothers. One is compulsively drawn to diminish, dismiss, criticize, reject, ridicule the carrier of the projection because one cannot stand to see the part of oneself that is being mirrored.
In one way, the shadow projection can be a rejection of a negative trait, in which case we blame the other person for reminding us of our flaws. But, more dangerously, it can be the rejection of a positive trait, in which case the person will be attacked for manifesting a quality that we are in dire need of but are repressing for various painful reasons. This is when shadow projection turns into scapegoating: the group turns against an innocent individual because his presence threatens the identity of the group that has become corrupt.
Shadow projections are currently plaguing our society. Pick any conflict and you’ll find two sides who cannot stand to be in the presence of each other. The left cannot stand the right, the right cannot stand the left. The scientist cannot stand the religious person, the religious person cannot stand the scientist. And, as of 2021, vaccinated and unvaccinated people cannot agree on anything, even among the same family.
For more details on the shadow, check my Shadow Work article.
Cain and Abel, the archetypal hostile brothers
Three Types of Projections – Anima Projection
Anima projection can be observed most strikingly in the experience of infatuation, also described as falling in love (to fall implies the loss of control). One has been touched by Cupid’s poisoned arrow: it’s a 10’000-volt love compared to the more manageable 110-volt love that is found within friends and family.
Psychologically, infatuation means that one has found a carrier suitable for the anima. This can be a matter of life and death. To find one’s soul-image* reflected in the world makes one’s life highly meaningful and provides a secret comfort that is life-sustaining. But it’s also an intoxicated state where rejection can be seriously wounding. Unfortunately, relationships based on unconscious projections will inevitably and painfully fade when the real personality behind the projection starts to show up.
A modern phenomenon of anima projection can be seen in the waifu/husbando phenomenon from the anime subculture. While there is undeniably a playful attitude around this phenomenon, some people really do fall in love with fictional anime characters and dedicate their lives to that relationship (see video below).
To reiterate, falling in love means that the anima has been constellated in the unconscious and its projection is being carried, even if by a fictional character. At some point, the projection will break and the work of recollection needs to take place. If one does not undergo the effort of retrieving the projection, the phenomenon will repeat. For more on the anima, check my Anima and Eros article.
Note: having never experienced animus projection, I can only presuppose that animus projections share similar qualities to the ones I’ve described above.
An example of anima projection
Three Types of Projections – Projection of the Self
Finally, we come to the self and its projections. While shadow projection usually falls on the same gender, anima/animus falls on the opposite gender, the self is projected on something that displays paradoxical properties as if two opposites were united. Indeed, the ability to unite opposites is an attribute of wholeness and totality, two characteristics of the self.
Symbols that can carry a projection of the self are very varied. Consider the next three categories:
- Geometrical symbols (such as the square, the circle, the point) have always been used in religious context: the yin-yang, the trinity, the cross, the star of David, the monad, the chakras, the sefirot, etc.
- Elements of nature such as the serpent, the tree, the stone have been identified as symbols of the self by Jung.
- The human form can also carry the self: Jesus, Buddha, Khidr, Mercurius, the Anthropos, the Chên-yên (true man) of Chinese Alchemy, etc.
Let’s review these symbols. As argued above, what makes a symbol an appropriate carrier of the self is that it unites opposites.
- The yin-yang symbol marries black and white into harmony, the trinity is a three-in-one paradox, the star of David is the superposition of two triangles, the cross divides and unites, the monad is the smallest but indivisible unity representable, both the chakras and the sefirot are psychic architectures of the totality of man.
- The serpent is used to express the lowest and the highest, the tree is the vegetative union of heaven and earth, the stone is the immortal and unalterable matter.
- Finally, Jesus and Buddha are both god-man. Khidr belongs to a similar category of transcendent teacher. Mercurius is of a dual nature, both light and dark. The Anthropos and the Chên-yên are the original man in its totality.
These many symbols, with their paradoxical nature, account for the unknowable essence of the self, the self being “the virtual union of all opposites.” (Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, p. 529)
Spontaneous manifestation of the self in a dream: “The Self is represented as the magic cloud. Into it goes the bad blood on the lower right and out of it comes the new red blood on the left. The glass ball is the ego — now in a state of vacuum. There is a flame above the ego, new life.” (Edward Edinger, The Living Psyche, pp. 204-205)
Modern Examples of Projections of the self
When we look at historical examples, it can be hard to relate on how, for instance, the alchemist projected redemption in the symbol of a stone, endowing it with spiritual qualities. In this next part, I will provide modern examples of projections of the self that show that, while the symbols supporting the self have changed, the mechanism of projection is still the same.
1/ Bitcoin, the modern lapis
If you have been exposed to Bitcoin, you might have observed some of the following rhetoric. Bitcoin enthusiasts, sometimes calling themselves Bitcoin evangelists, will argue that Bitcoin is the “new gold” and to hold some is to achieve “sovereignty and independence” from the system.
We can readily observe that the blockchain (with Bitcoin as its leading figurehead) is capable of exerting the same properties as the lapis: whereas the lapis turns base metals into gold, the blockchain is able to transform digits into the “new gold”. And, just like the alchemist’s lapis, to own some of it has a redemptive value that transcends its digital properties: possessing Bitcoin confers the spiritual status of being sovereign.
In fact, Robert Breedlove argues that Bitcoin might be the lapis.
Standing at the vanguard of human technological achievement, existing as the only money characterized by a manipulation-proof supply, and inspiring earnest transformations in the lives of true believers, perhaps Bitcoin actually is the lapis philosophorum pursued by alchemists for centuries—the incorruptible substance giving rebellion to state tyranny and, in doing so, bringing mankind closer to God. Bitcoin is the truth, and by one definition, God is expressed in the truthful speech that rectifies pathological hierarchies.
Robert Breedlove identifies Bitcoin as what “brings mankind closer to God” and states that “Bitcoin is the truth”. This draws an immediate parallel between Bitcoin and Christ as the Logos.
Another example is Vin Armani. In his discussion with Jonathan Pageau, he equates Bitcoin and the Trinity as manifesting the same patterns of reality.
It really is a reflection of the Trinity, the things that are happening in Bitcoin. So the way that Bitcoin lays itself out, the pattern that’s there is, it’s like- it’s a very much an echo of the way that the Trinity is laid out in the [Orthodox Christian] tradition.
The Bitcoin War | with Vin Armani, from 1:08:26 to 1:14:36
These identifications with Christ, Logos and the Trinity suggest that Bitcoin is perceived to be a mediating agent between mankind and God, or Heaven and Earth. This is remarkably similar to the lapis-Christ parallel that Jung studied in his works (for instance, Psychology and Alchemy, CW 12, Part III Chapter 5) and indicates a projection of the self.
Two more examples of Bitcoin capturing projections of the self: Bitcoin as an archetype (left), Bitcoin as a messianic phenomenon (right).
2/ Transgenderism, a modern symbol of the hermaphrodite
The image of the hermaphrodite is frequently encountered when one studies symbolism. Because it unites the male and female gender, one can already intuit that it is an aspect of the self. In this next part, I will try to demonstrate this proposition by referring to Jung’s discussion of Adam’s androgyny in Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW14.
In that chapter, we read that there are two Adams: Adam before the Fall and the second Adam, named Adam Kadmon in the Cabalistic view. They are both androgynous. We read, “According to an old tradition Adam was androgynous before the creation of Eve” (ibid., par 551) and “Hence Adam Kadmon, as a personification of the whole “inverted tree,” is androgynous” (ibid., par 652). The second Adam can be equated with Christ: “The second Adam is Christ, whose mystical androgyny is established in ecclesiastical tradition“. (ibid., par 565)
Not only is Christ androgynous but the Church is as well: “[Quoting Kopegen] Here the new androgynous form of existence becomes visible. Christianity is neither male nor female, it is male-female in the sense that the male paired with the female in Jesus’s soul. In Jesus the tension and polaristic strife of sex are resolved in an androgynous unity. And the Church, as his heir, has taken this over from him: she too is androgynous.” As regards her constitution the Church is “hierarchically masculine, yet her soul is thoroughly feminine.” (ibid., par 527)
Finally, even the soul shares an androgynous quality: “The presence of a divine pair or androgyne in the human soul is touched upon by Origen: “They say that as the sun and moon stand as the two great lights in the firmament of heaven, so in us Christ and the Church.” And thus, too, Adam and Eve are in each of us, as Gregory the Great says; Adam standing for the spirit, Eve for the flesh.” (ibid., par 582)
In summary, the original Adam, the second Adam, Christ, the Church, and the human soul all share an androgynous quality. We can conclude that the reconciliation of masculinity and femininity is a necessary aspect of being a divine vessel.
Two hermaphrodites in alchemy: The Rosarium philosophorum (left), The Rebis (right)
This symbolism is complicated by the fact that hermaphroditism can be used to represent the devil. For instance, we find two hermaphrodites in the Tarot de Marseilles: The World (XXI, the last Arcana, the goal of the opus) and The Devil (Arcana XV).
This apparent contradiction can be explained: if hermaphroditism is shared by opposites like Christ and the Devil, it confirms that this is a non-human quality, thus an attribute of the self and not of the ego. In other words, to manifest this wholeness is a quality of the self that shines through the ego, but is not possessed by the ego.
Two hermaphrodites in the Tarot de Marseilles-Jodorowsky: The World (left), The Devil (right)
The argument here is that, given the archetypal nature of androgyny, a projection of the self can easily take place when we are presented with androgynous beings. If this projection happens, then one will be forcefully drawn to the topic of transgenderism as it now carries a major aspect of wholeness. It then falls onto the individual to work with this projection consciously rather than to live it unconsciously.
As we saw earlier, androgyny is traditionally understood as a mystical quality. Thus it is my understanding that androgyny should be achieved inwardly first and foremost. While it is true that to achieve it outwardly represents a liberation from the opposites, the adversarial quality of the devil suggests that it is at best an intermediate achievement, at worst a Faustian temptation.
3/ UFOs as flying mandalas
Another phenomenon that attracts projections of the self is the UFO phenomenon. There are mainly two ways for that symbolism to appear.
First, UFOs can appear as shining dots in a dark sky. This motif is known as the scintillae, the “soul-sparks”, the multiple luminosities. Jung writes, “the scintillae are germinal luminosities shining forth from the darkness of the unconscious.” (The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par 388) Psychologically speaking, the scintillae announces the coming of the self into consciousness but its scattered nature calls for unification.
Second, when observed directly, the flying saucer is an image of the rotundum, thus of the self. It is, so to speak, a flying mandala.
Like the mandala, the roundness of the saucer indicates not only a geometrical characteristic but also a maternal image of matter. This transcendental feminine feature stands in compensation to the masculine world of spirit and science. This compensation offers a meaningful but highly threatening opportunity. Von Franz writes, “Flying saucers have become for many people a symbol of the Self, a redemptive or destructive manifestation of the divine.” (Marie-Louise von Franz, C. G. Jung, His Myth in Our Time, p. 150)
This does not mean that the UFO phenomenon can be resumed to psychic projections. Rather it means that UFOs attract projections of the self thus becoming indistinguishable from them. If there is a reality behind these projections, it cannot be approached as long as it is being overlaid with them.
Left: the scintillae (found in Edward Edinger, The Mysterium Lectures, p. 62). Right: two plates analyzed by Jung (Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par 758ff)
Part II – Archetypal Psychohistory
The Self and the Precession of the Equinoxes
In this second part, I am going to argue that the symbols that attract projections of the self depend and evolve relatively to the astrological Age in which we live.
In Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self (CW 9ii), Jung empirically demonstrates that the figure of Christ was synchronistically parallel to the Age of Pisces. This means that a prefiguration of the evolution of Christianity can be found in the astrological fish symbol of Pisces.
This requires some elaboration. The constellation of Pisces is made of two fishes with opposing characteristics. The first fish has a vertical trajectory whereas the second fish has a horizontal trajectory. Given its ascending nature, the first fish is seen as possessing a spiritual quality and is identified with Christ. In opposition, the second fish, the descending fish is seen as having a material nature and is identified with the opposite of Christ, the Antichrist.
Because it takes roughly 2000 years for the sun to traverse this constellation, we can make the observation that the first fish ruled the first half of the Age, from 0 to 1000 AD with an inflection point around 500 AD, whereas the second fish ruled the second half of the Age, from 1000 to 2000 AD with an inflection point around 1500 AD. Please refer to the figures below for a visual explanation.
Top: the constellation of Pisces (left), Pisces as made of one vertical fish and one horizontal fish (right).
Bottom: the evolution of the Age of Pisces following the two fishes (left), 2000 years of Christianity with its nodal points (right). Both schemas are from Edward Edinger’s The Aion Lectures.
It’s hard to emphasize how remarkable and far-reaching this finding is. It means no less than the evolution of the sun in the zodiac, the ecliptic, shapes man’s religious aspirations and drives the development of consciousness. To put it another way, the dominant of consciousness is carried by the position of the sun and its corresponding astrological Age.
This thesis should not be taken lightly. I will provide a few examples of how this development has taken place. The arguments will rely on some knowledge of astrology, specifically astrotheology.
Let’s start three Ages ago, in the Age of Taurus. If an astrological Age lasts roughly 2000 years, the Age of Taurus lasted from 4000 BC to 2000 BC.
As the name implies, the Age of Taurus is an Age that is guided by the symbol of the bull, a representation of the vitality of animal nature. If the sun is in the Age of Taurus, then the bull attracts projections of the self and becomes a symbol of worship. Indeed, we do find images of the bull as a deity, usually associated with Moloch.
While bull worshiping can appear to be a relic of the past, the symbol of the bull is still very much alive in the representation of St Luke as a bull or the Bull of Wall Street. In the first case, St Luke has a golden halo and, in the second case, the statue appears golden (though it was made of copper). In both cases, they point to the fact that the bull can be a representation of solar consciousness. In addition, the haloed bull is part of the tetramorph in Ezekiel’s vision of God. As it belongs to the God-image, we can conclude that the solar bull is an aspect of the self.
In summary, this complex imagery can be understood as the bull-like aspect of the animal psyche that is guiding human development to this day. It was a primary focus in Taurus but it has become subordinate to a more complex and differentiated aspiration since.
Bull symbolism: the constellation of Taurus, two images of Moloch, The Bull of Wall Street, the bull as one aspect of the tetramorph, St Luke as a haloed bull
Like all Ages, the efficient nature of Taurus is followed by a deficient period, where the limitations of a single mode of adaptation become a problem. In the case of Taurus, the strength of instincts can render large-scale social adaptation impossible. One has to tame the animal psyche in order to lay the foundation for a civilizational project.
While this sounds reasonable on paper, the change of Ages is always a great and violent drama. The bull that was worshiped and sacrificed to must in turn be sacrificed. This dramatic enactment of the violent taming of Taurus is found in the image of Mithra slaying the bull.
Mithra slaying the Bull
Note that the bleeding wound caused by piercing is not an incidental event but an archetypal feature of this transition. It’s from this fatal wounding that a new Age can exist: the blood of Taurus (or later the blood of the Lamb or the blood of Christ, respectively Aries and Pisces) becomes the free-flowing libido, the creative outpouring that was previously contained in an old, sterile, barren or dying container and now serves the regeneration of the collective.
The blood of the Lamb (left) and the blood of Christ (right).
Coming back to the slaying of the Bull, Mithra is effectively putting an end to the Age of Taurus. This symbolic transition of the taming of the instincts by a civilizing force is still reenacted to this day through bullfighting.
The slaying of the Bull as a transition between Taurus and Aries
Remarkably, we find that, between the constellations of Taurus and Aries, there is the constellation of Perseus, whose brightest star is named Mirfak(!).
This goes a long way to explain the worship of Mithra as a solar deity: just like the sun passed through the constellation of Perseus, Mithra and Mithraism achieved the status of solar consciousness and attracted projections of the self.
The constellation of Perseus, with Mirfak as its brightest star.
Once Taurus was subdued by the intervention of Persian Mithraism, the Age of Aries took place.
The symbols associated with Aries are the shepherd, the ram and the lamb. These symbols are still alive in the modern psyche because they are an integral part of Christianity. Psalm 23 exemplifies the positive side of Aries.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23, KJV
The submissive aspect of Aries is an efficient mindset to lay the foundation for a civilization but it inevitably reveals its downsides in the form of group-mindedness and herd behavior. The society of ancient Greece was facing this impasse.
In Greece during the second millennium BC, we see a culture completely absorbed in an ancient mythology whose origins are lost in the dark ages of man. It is a grim mythology where the might of heroes makes right, and man is always trying to find reprieve from the jealously and wrath of feuding gods by offering sacrifices of animals and riches of gold and jewels up to appease them. As is well known the pantheon of ancient Greek Gods was a dramatically exaggerated reflection of the realm of mortals, replete with sexual and feudal intrigue, murder and war. More disturbing is that, especially in the Iliad, this human drama has a particularly soulless quality. […] No one, neither mortal nor god, could escape Fate, and a “god” intervenes whenever a mortal must make a crucial decision. […] we ought to take the absolute power of fate and the constant intercession of the gods as evidence of a startling lack of a sense of personal agency and rational deliberation. The ultimate Fate consigned to archaic Greek man was death conceived of in the earliest traditions as a passage to Hades, the eternal abode of shades. It was an underworld of shadows where good and bad would wander equally bereft. In light of this woeful end the only purpose of life, brilliantly fulfilled by heroes, was to win a fame that would promise immortality through dramatic deeds worthy of remembrance in the songs of poets. In short, we find a society completely mesmerized by its reflection in the distorting mirror of its own mythology.
Jason Reza Jorjani, Lovers of Sophia, The Pharmakon Artist
To promote individual development and detachment from this mesmerized state, the Greeks introduced tools and ways of thinking that would teach mass man rationality and independent thinking. This effort was supported by the constellation of the Triangulum.
Pythagoras (left) and the constellation of the Triangulum between Aries and Pisces (right).
As Aries is ending and Pisces is beginning, a new solar figure is needed to carry the transition between the Ages. That figure is Christ.
But, to the extent that Christ was regarded as the new aeon, it would be clear to anyone acquainted with astrology that he was born as the first fish of the Pisces era, and was doomed to die as the last ram (ἀρνίoν, lamb) of the declining Aries era.
Carl Jung, Aion, CW 9ii, par 162
The iconography of Christ has, among other things, the imagery of Aries as a good shepherd but also the imagery of Pisces with the ichthys (an acronym for “Ἰησοῦς Χρῑστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ”, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”) or the vesica piscis (“bladder of a fish”, sometimes called the mandorla).
On the left: Christ as a good shepherd and the Lamb of God. In the middle: the constellations of Aries, Pisces, and Aquarius. On the right: Christ as the ichthys, the vesica piscis and the mandorla. In both cases, we find the halo as a sign of solar consciousness.
At this time, Roman Mithraism was a rival to Christianity and both of them aspired to be a worldwide religion. In distinction to Christianity, Mithraism was a militaristic religion with a complex system of initiations yet both religions called for a deep spiritual exploration and a restriction of one’s libido. It is not clear to me why Christianity won over Mithraism but Christianity became the State religion while the interest in Mithraism faded.
With the advent of Christianity, we are now well into the age of Pisces. Because of the dual nature of the constellation, it is no easy task to explain the underlying dynamism of the Age of Pisces. According to Jung, “The Platonic month of the Fishes is to be ruled by two principles […] one is Christ and the other the Antichrist.” (Aion, CW 9ii, par 231) “That is to say: the fishes will rule this world and subdue it by working astrologically through man and moulding his consciousness.” (ibid.) The two fishes represent “the driving forces” (ibid.) of “the newly arisen world of consciousness”. (ibid., par 230)
My understanding is that the Age of Pisces, because of its dual nature, introduced to the forefront the differentiation of the opposites: left/right, nature/society, man/God, body/mind, matter/spirit, good/evil, etc. In alchemical terms, the massa confusa went through a global separatio operation.
This differentiating effect has the positive effect of creating a tremendous growth of individual consciousness: only when one is freely able to choose between two equivalent options are we making a choice. Unconscious choices or choices bound by external constraints are not really choices. “There is no morality without freedom.” (Carl Jung, Psychological Types, CW 6, par 357).
Looking at Christianity, it should be no surprise that we find such an emphasis on Logos. The symbolism of the Logos is a sword that cuts, divides, names, categorizes but also kills. The separation of the opposites has a clarifying effect and promotes consciousness but also brings conflict to the forefront. This is the deficient side of Pisces: once separated, the opposites are in a deadly polarization and no one knows how to reconcile them. As I am writing this article, the tension between the opposites has become unbearable and is reaching civilization-destroying levels.
Marie-Louise von Franz expressing similar concerns with different words; a must-see in the context of this article.
The Projections of the Self at the Transition Between Pisces and Aquarius
If, as seems probable, the aeon of the fishes is ruled by the archetypal motif of the hostile brothers, then the approach of the next Platonic month, namely Aquarius, will constellate the problem of the union of opposites. It will then no longer be possible to write off evil as the mere privation of good; its real existence will have to be recognized. This problem can be solved neither by philosophy, nor by economics, nor by politics, but only by the individual human being, via his experience of the living spirit, whose fire descended upon Joachim, one of many, and, despite all contemporary misunderstandings, was handed onward into the future.
Carl Jung, Aion, CW 9ii, par 142
The basic issue in Aion is the double or bipolar nature of the Christian God-image.
Edward Edinger, Transformation of the God-Image, p.
As argued before, the strength of Pisces is that it was able to separate and distinguish the opposites, promoting individual consciousness to a large degree. But, unbeknownst to itself, this separation has created a problem of monumental proportions that has broken loose at all levels of society: we do not know how to reconcile the opposites. All the tools that we have at our disposition (philosophy, science, economics, theology, …) have the sword-like tendency to accentuate the polarization they are trying to address. This does not mean we should give up on these methods, but we have to accept that something else is at play.
Not only all our methods are failing us, but the problem of the opposites reaches up to the dual God-image, which experiences its own internal opposition in the form of Christ and Antichrist, Heaven and Hell, God and Satan. It’s as if the deity is suffering from the same inescapable division between the opposites that we are struggling with.
This means that we have to miserably resign ourselves to the reality that the broken individual has to carry the insurmountable problem of the opposites within his own Being, within his own fragmented psyche, and his own contradictory drives. Man is the crucible for the reunification of opposites, a problem that threatens to burst open at every moment.
Be that as it may, this task cannot be achieved alone. This would be utter foolishness or deadly inflation*. To be carried out, one must rely on the advent of the Paraclete, the advocate or helper of humanity. Just like The Holy Spirit left Christ’s body at Pentecost to form the Church, The Holy Spirit is now leaving the institutional Church to descend upon each and every individual, forcing each of us to pick up and bear the cross that is our own unique life.
But the Paraclete is also Hermes Trismegistus, “the friend of whoever is lonely”. This is the unconscious. This is the water of the coming Age of Aquarius.
The constellation of Aquarius, the Water Bearer
For the longest time, carrying water has been exclusively a female tradition. With the advent of Aquarius, the water must now be carried by the masculine. This symbolic shift from the feminine to the masculine means that the water has to be carried consciously, not unconsciously.
Moreover, compared to Taurus, Aries, and Pisces, Aquarius is not an animal but a human. This further emphasizes the importance of the “broadening process of incarnation“, the continuing incarnation. Two thousand years ago, the deity has incarnated in human form but this process was left incomplete and must be carried further.
We have always been taught that the Incarnation was a unique historical event. No repetition of it was to be expected. . . . The sole source of revelation, and hence the final authority, is the Bible. God is an authority only in so far as he authorized the writings in the New Testament, and with the conclusion of the New Testament the authentic communications of God cease. . . . [But Christ had told his believers that they] are children of God and “fellow heirs with Christ.” When Christ leaves the earthly stage, he will ask his father to send his flock a Counsellor (the “Paraclete”). . . . The Counsellor is the Holy Ghost who will be sent from the father. This “Spirit of truth” will teach the believers “all things” and guide them ”into all truth.” According to this, Christ envisages a continuing realization of God in his children, and consequently in his (Christ’s) brothers and sisters in the spirit. (Carl Jung, Answer to Job, CW 11, par 655)
God’s Incarnation in Christ requires continuation and completion because Christ, owing to his virgin birth and his sinlessness, was not an empirical human being at all. . . . (ibid., par 657)
The continuing, direct operation of the Holy Ghost on those who are called to be God’s children implies, in fact, a broadening process of incarnation. (ibid., par 658)
As the sun enters the Water Bearer of Aquarius, the concept of the new man is attracting projections of the self. From the Nietzschean Übermensch, the New Communist or Fascist Man, the enlightened master, the transhumanist cyborg, to any other kind of alien hybrids, all these symbols will be suitable to carry the projections of the self, of the Anthropos, of the New Adam.
Because of the unconscious nature of the mechanism of projection, one will be drawn to some of these symbols but one must not identify with them. Identification with these concepts is a morbid inflation whose prime example is found in Nietzsche’s downfall. Individuation calls for the conscious realization of the self by the ego, not that the ego becomes possessed by it!
So what is required of the ego in this period of transition? Fortunately, we have an outline of the solution to this problem. In his essay on the Trinity, Jung lays out three stages of psychological development:
- [The world of the Father is] man in his childhood state. . . . [It] typifies an age which is characterized by a pristine oneness with the whole of Nature [i.e., an age far removed from critical judgment and moral conflict]. (Carl Jung, A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity, CW 11, par 201)
- [The world of the Son is] a world filled with longing for redemption and for that state of perfection in which man was still one with the Father. Longingly he looked back to the world of the Father, but it was lost forever, because an irreversible increase in man’s consciousness had taken place . . . and made it independent. (ibid., par 203)
The stage of the “Son” is therefore a conflict situation par excellence: the choice of possible ways is menaced by just as man possibilities of error. “Freedom from the law” brings a sharpening of opposites. (ibid., par 272)
- The advance to the third stage [the world of the Holy Ghost] means something like a recognition of the unconscious, if not actual subordination to it. . . . Just as the transition from the first stage to the second demands a sacrifice of childish dependence, so, at the transition to the third stage, an exclusive independence has to be relinquished. (ibid., par 273)
This third stage . . . means articulating one’s ego-consciousness with a supraordinate totality, of which one cannot say that it is “I,” but which is best visualized as a more comprehensive being. (ibid., par 276)
One will remain in sonship unless one recognizes the unconscious as an autonomous center distinct from the ego.
The self, in its efforts at self-realization, reaches out beyond the ego-personality on all sides; because of its all-encompassing nature it is brighter and darker than the ego, and accordingly confronts it with problems which it would like to avoid. For this reason the experience of the self is always a defeat for the ego. (Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par 778)
If the project of the new man is to confuse the ego and the self as a singular entity, the goal of individuation is to distinguish the ego and the self as two different centers of psychic activity and create a functional relationship between them, the ego-self axis. Practically speaking, this means achieving “an ego functioning under the aegis of the Self“. (Edward Edinger, The Mysterium Lectures, p. 136)
Having touched on the danger of projecting the self onto the concept of the “new man”, there is one last projection that must be discussed.
In his books, Richard Noll has observed (even if in a most disagreeable way) that people do not treat Jung as a normal and historical human being but rather as an exceptional, even messianic figure. This dissociation between the historical Jung and the mythical Jung means that Jung and his works are attracting projection of the self.
I’ll state without reserve that Jung is in fact an epochal figure. He is, symbolically speaking, the last fish of Pisces and the first water bearer of Aquarius. His works provide a suitable foundation for the transition of these two Ages and we must acknowledge this achievement at its proper value.
I also must be transparent about the fact that I experience (like many others) an uncontrollable attraction towards Jung’s works, which I have to frequently temper. I wanted to become a Jungian analyst but a dream said no. I wanted to publicly defend his works but a dream told me to focus on other things. I even went to the trouble of ceremoniously burning some writings about Jung to signal that I had enough of this. The next week, someone linked me to a video by Edward Edinger and I was back to learning once again.
It’s from this position that I will now urge the reader to be wary of projecting the self onto Jung or becoming a Jungian. To become a Jungian is in some regards the opposite of individuation: it is adopting a collective identity instead of working to develop one’s unique expression. Of course, I am well aware that an apprenticeship must take place and that one can (must?) study under Jung and refer to his works frequently. But, no matter how seductive or practical it appears to be, to refer to oneself as a Jungian above all things is counterproductive. Don’t let any collective identity take over your individual nature.
The goal of individuation is to establish a living relationship with the psyche. This is not reserved to Jung or Jungians. This is why I refer to analytical psychology or depth psychology and avoid the term Jungian psychology.
A word to the wise: I am emphasizing this because the deficient side of Aquarius is a uniformization of mankind under the same values, the same aspirations, the same use of language, the same worldview. It will be very easy to fall into the trap of forgetting one’s individual nature in such a uniform climate.
I need to clarify a possible misinterpretation of this article.
I do not believe that the religious phenomenon or the history of humanity can be reduced to a deterministic zodiacal clockwork. If anything, I suspect that the celestial bodies are driven by the same unknown force that shapes human experience but on a different level, like fractals of each other. In this respect, astrotheology is the glue that ties the evolution of religion but not the sacred itself. For instance, Christ’s incarnation might by synchronistic with the Age of Pisces and the symbol of the fish, but cannot be reduced to it.
There are clearly other patterns at play, whether they are knowable or above human understanding. One of them has to do with the evolution of the symbols of the self.
During Pisces, the symbol of the self was projected into Heaven and the afterlife, guiding a spiritual effort. Then it fell into matter, guiding materialistic progress. With the coming Aquarius, the separated opposites are now seeking renewal in the “new” human form, the individual that can carry his own water without relying on any community (religious, political, familial, etc.).
In a similar way, the impersonal Father Zeus has left his place to a judgmental Yahweh who, if anything, cared too much about human beings. After the incarnation, God became a universal, omnipotent and omniscient presence that transformed into the personal Jesus of Protestantism. And now, under Aquarius, a likely driving idea will be that every one of us is Christ.
For instance, the leading idea of a new religion following the Christian age would be that everybody would be Christ, that Christ had been merely the projection of an entirely human mystery. And inasmuch as we take back this projection from Christ into ourselves, each one of us is Christ. (Carl Jung, The Visions Seminars, p. 722 or vol. 2, p. 301)1
1 The quote does not end there, “[…] Christ was crucified, and everyone gladly got rid of their burdens by pushing them off onto Christ; they became irresponsible children. But now we see that everybody must be responsible adults, everybody has to live his own life in his own fashion; we cannot imitate anyone else, nor can we make believe that we are anyone other than we really are. So we shall be sacrificed. Everybody is now a Christ, and inasmuch as he is a Christ he is crucified.” (ibid., p. 723) An interesting variation of this idea can be found at the end of The Second Coming miniseries, which can be watched on YouTube at the time of writing.
As we can see, this process is anything but random. The self is drawing ever closer to mankind as if driven by a telos of conscious realization in the human being.
But this process of realization is always trapped by projections. Without a practice of self-knowledge, we are driven despite ourselves from one shimmering aspect of the self to the other, always looking to find proximity and intimacy near these projections. Meanwhile, the wheel of the zodiac keeps turning and the carriers of solar consciousness keep shifting…
When the Gnostics saw the light, the creative spirit, the world soul trapped in matter, they meant essentially the same thing as I am pointing out here. The mechanism of projection “traps” a psychic aspect in matter (or in the digital space!). And, just like Sophia fell into matter, these projections from the unconscious must be rescued.
This description fits the paradoxical situation of the self, as its symbolism shows. It is the smallest of the small, easily overlooked and pushed aside. Indeed, it is in need of help and must be perceived, protected, and as it were built up by the conscious mind, just as if it did not exist at all and were called into being only through man’s care and devotion. (Aion, CW 9ii, par 257)
Despite being supraordinate to the ego, the unconscious cannot achieve realization without the ego’s help. It is incumbent upon us to find a way to distinguish the projection from the carrier of the projection and retrieve the aspect that ultimately belongs to ourselves. Projections come from the psyche and that is where they must return. This requires a continuous and wearying moral effort from the individual.
Only an infantile person can pretend that evil is not at work everywhere, and the more unconscious he is, the more the devil drives him. It is just because of this inner connection with the black side of things that it is so incredibly easy for the mass man to commit the most appalling crimes without thinking. Only ruthless self-knowledge on the widest scale, which sees good and evil in correct perspective and can weigh up the motives of human action, offers some guarantee that the end-result will not turn out too badly. (ibid., par 255)
Addendum I – Retrieving Projections
This article has left out the hard question of “How does one retrieve projections?”
The first thing to establish is that projections are not bad as such. Like all phenomena, they have a positive side that must not be undermined. Projections promote the growth of consciousness by orienting us towards our next realization, our next adventure.
The real question is then: “When is a projection ripe for recollection? When is it time to work on retrieving a projection?” A good indication is given by Marie-Louise von Franz.
The need for the withdrawal of a projection is always constellated at that moment when conscious or semi-unconscious doubts about the rightness of one’s own way of looking at things arise and when on the conscious level this view is fanatically defended. Doubt and fanaticism are therefore symptoms which indicate that the time is ripe for the withdrawal of some projection. (Marie-Louise von Franz, C. G. Jung, His Myth in Our Time, p. 150)
On this note, I recommend Marie-Louise von Franz’s Projection and Re-Collection in Jungian Psychology: Reflections of the Soul.
As far as I am concerned, I do not have a systematic way of dealing with projections. I can only provide some observations.
- I follow my dreams quite closely. They usually lay out the next future development and how I should prepare for it. In some cases, I even had dreams that told me that I was not ready to deal with the current subject of introspection so I accepted to live with it.
- I have described some methods for working with shadow projections in my Shadow work article.
- Internal Family Systems is my go-to method when I need to do serious introspection. Please refer to my Working With Complexes article.
- I have told the story of how I had to deal with an anima projection in my Anima and Eros article.
- Projections of the self have been more complicated. Dealing with them has been a mix of events ranging from sudden insights, difficult and bitter discussions, personal experiences that did not fit into any box, and some humiliating episodes where I had my trust invested in what was revealed to be illusions.
Throughout this article, the reader might find the interchangeability of the word self and God-image confusing. This requires some clarifications.
Depth psychology is not metaphysics and therefore it has nothing to say about the transcendental. What psychology can work on is the representations of the deity, the God-image, that are handed to us through mythology and religions.
The observation of the self works in a similar manner: the self cannot be fully grasped but it can be studied through the spontaneous images of wholeness that are provided by dreams.
By using this empirical approach, it can be observed that both the symbols of the self and the God-image possess the same characteristic of wholeness, totality, and union of opposites. So, though they must be distinguished as two distinct conceptual concepts, their phenomenology is so similar that we are in the unfortunate position to say that “the spontaneous symbols of the self, or of wholeness, cannot in practice be distinguished from a God-image.” (Aion, CW 9ii, par 73)
The extraordinary difficulty in this experience is that the self can be distinguished only conceptually from what has always been referred to as “God,” but not practically. Both concepts apparently rest on an identical numinous factor which is a condition of reality. (Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par 778)
Psychology, as I have said, is not in a position to make metaphysical statements. It can only establish that the symbolism of psychic wholeness coincides with the God-image, but it can never prove that the God-image is God himself, or that the self takes the place of God. (Aion, CW 9ii, par 308)
Another clarifying insight can be found elsewhere. “[W]e should reserve that term God for a remote deity that is supposed to be the absolute unity of all singularities. The self would be the preceding stage, a being that is more than man and that deﬁnitely manifests; that is the thinker of our thoughts, the doer of our deeds, the maker of our lives, yet it is still within the reach of human experience. … [The self] is not only our best friend, but also our worst enemy[.] … We must say to the self, “Now don’t be blind; for heaven’s sake be reasonable. I shall do my best to ﬁnd a place for you in this world, but you don’t know the conditions. You don’t know what military service means or tax collectors or reputations. You have no idea of life in time and space. So if you want me to do something for you, if you want me to help you to manifest, you must be reasonable and wait. You should not storm at me. If you kill me, where are your feet?” That is what I (the ego) am.” (Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, pp. 977-978)
Following the quote above, Jung did not see the self as the final frontier. Marie-Louise von Franz comments, “Jung suggested that the sequence of transformations described above does not end with the Self. There are probably further powers behind the personification of the Self, but he decided not to attempt further description of them, for he thought such a description would not be understood. He was convinced, however, that more and more distant horizons of existence could be opened up to our growing consciousness.” (Marie-Louise von Franz, C. G. Jung, His Myth in Our Time, p. 71)
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