Carl Jung and the Trinitarian Self

Triads of gods appear very early, at the primitive level.  The archaic triads in the religions of antiquity and of the East are too numerous to be mentioned here.  Arrangement in triads is an archetype in the history of religion, which in all probability formed the basis of the Christian Trinity
- C G Jung,  A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity.

The title of this article could hardly appear more oxymoronic. However, we are all driven by our own daemons and mine set me the task of uniting a firm belief in the completeness of the trinity as the foundation of the human psyche with Jung's psychological schema.  In all mental and spiritual honesty I could not wholly abandon one or the other, so in Jungian fashion I had to employ the third term.  At the heart of the psyche Jung said duality existed, and it was the balance of opposing forces which created a normal, neuroses-free individual.  But even this could not completely satisfy Jung.  In 1918 whilst drawing his mandalas he discovered what he named the third term, the necessary mechanism to harmonise the forces in opposition.  He postulated that the ego performed this function, and hence gave rise to man's psychic evolution from the animal kingdom.

The Trinity was the rock on which the hope of introducing Jungian psychology wholesale into Christian theological thinking foundered, when Jung's  associate Father Victor White refused to accept the inadequacy of the Christian position.  One of the most important ramifications, unacceptable to White (and to many other Christians), of the Jungian quaternal recipe is the reinterpretation of the nature of evil and its personification in the real or mythological being of the Devil.   Not only did their collaboration cease but also, sadly, did their friendship.  "It makes an enormous practical difference" wrote Jung, "whether your dominant idea of totality is three or four"[1].  Even those Christians who avidly use psychological explanations and interpretations of dogma and morality still cannot reconcile this seemingly intractable problem.   Father Christopher Bryant simply lived with the contradiction in Jung and the Christian Way[2], employing Jungian quaternal thinking whilst still upholding the veracity of the Nicene Creed, whilst Father Leonardo Boff (perhaps the foremost exponent of Liberation Theology)  makes a strident statement in favour of the completeness of the trinity archetype[3] .

Perhaps both parties have overconcentrated on the Christian manifestation of the archetype, working backwards rather than starting at source?  After all, Jung himself thought the origin of the Christian version lay in the ancient Babylonian and Egyptian triads, which are of varying sexuality and character. The development of the doctrine of the Christian Trinity is explained by many historians of religious thought as the need to retain monotheism but also to afford divine status to the Son and Paraclete.  However, from a psychological perspective it is the other way round, viz. that the unconscious psychological disposition was already trinitarian, which required an ontological theological explanation.   The main bastion of trinitarian thought was indeed in Egypt at Alexandria, formulated mainly by Origen (AD 184-254)[a], and recently there have been archaeological excavations indicating that Christianity was taking hold at a much earlier date in Egypt than had previously been thought.  Burial remains from the first century AD include what appears to be priestly vestments bearing a threefold design, possibly the Trinity or the Pauline three levels of heaven.  The symbol of the cross is also of Egyptian provenance, being a modified ankh.  Jung discusses the Babylonian grouping of Anu, Bel and Ea, finding it wanting of a fourth part, in the same manner as the Christian Trinity awaiting its quaternal completion.  However, if we look at its mythological representation we find that Anu is the Father of all the gods and goddesses, a true supreme deity; Bel, or Enlil, is concerned with matters on Earth and symbolises the forces of nature (as opposed to Anu who is the sky-god); and Ea is the god of knowledge who imparts it along with wisdom to mankind.  Nature, man and the heavens are all herein given expression - it is already complete with no need of "a fourth".

For his own reason (and I shall guess at it later) Jung had decided early on that Christian theology was deficient in one central respect that blighted the rest of its judgements, i.e. the Trinity.  The incompleteness of the doctrine lay in the attempted exclusion of the female and the chthonic elements of the human psyche.  His apparent line of reasoning was that as the Christian Trinity was exclusively masculine (although he would later question the sexuality of the Holy Spirit, noting that it was "represented by the bird of Astarte, the dove, and who in early Christian times was called Sophia and thought of as feminine"[4]) then this meant that the trinity archetype, and trinities per se, were also masculine or somehow deficient ("Where is the fourth?").  But how to explain, for example, the ancient Mother Goddess displayed in three aspects, perhaps the oldest known example of which is from ancient Anatolia, 7,000 BC in the aspects of maiden, mother-giving-birth, and old crone? Jung himself refers to "the threefold aspect [of Demeter-Kore] as maiden, mother and Hecate"[5].  Justin Martyr's pre-Nicene Trinity appears to link the Holy Spirit with Kore[6], theocrasy if not actually homologisation, which not only recognises the Third Person as a feminine entity but also makes the link to the chthonic and Mother Nature (see more below).  Indeed there is a minority history within the Church of perceiving the Holy Spirit as a mother figure and even the new Eve: a tradition stretching from early times through to Jurgen Moltmann in the twentieth century[7].  (There are also Paleolithic paintings of groups of three female figures from the late Magdalenian period, ca. 10,000 to ca. 12,000 years ago, at the Cambrelles caves in the Dordogne and Pech-Merle, about 50 miles away.)  It appears to me much more the case that the trinity archetype is bi-sexual and can manifest itself in one form or another or in its fullness as both.  After all, if the Christian Trinity is unbalanced due to mono sexuality why not complement it wholly with its trinitarian counterpart?  If a different fourth is added there is in fact still an imbalance.  The Hindu trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva was complemented by a female equivalent, namely their consorts.  Originally, there was only this male triad but in order to fight against the evil god Andhaka they sat down together to summon, with their joint power, the female trinity.  This feminine form illuminated the heavens, the light being composed of three colours, red (Lakshmi), white (Sarasvati) and black (Parvati); the same colour trinity as that of the heads of the tricephalus Satan in Dante's Inferno XXXIV.  The black Parvati, consort of Siva, represents the chthonic, which elsewhere is also described by the colour green (hence capable of "illuminating the heavens"), as were the great Egyptian Mother Goddess Isis and her ancient  Libyan counterpart.  Parvati speaks thus:


"I am alone among the hidden; nevertheless I rejoice in my heart, because I can live privily, and refresh myself in myself....under my blackness I have hidden the fairest green."[8]

Jung speculated on the sexuality and nature of the Paraclete, as above, and wrote of it twice as the colour green[9], indicating it was an earthy element.  Surely, this being so, it includes in the Trinity the chthonic and naturalistic qualities that were deemed to be absent from the Christian formulation.

A similar experience of the trinity in a threefold light was had by the Norman poet Guillaume de Digulleville, prior of the Cistercian monastery of Châlis.  As usual, Jung insists that the fourth, the female, element is missing and that the dreamer is being driven to include the absent part.  Without retelling the whole dream (which can be found in Collected Works, vol 12, par 315-322) there are three angelic beings robed in purple, the colour of power, who appear in the dream and enter the golden circle of Heaven.  An angel explains the dream to Guillaume which ends in a question and answer session on the nature and meaning of the Trinity.  The angel's answer is that the Trinity is a Trinity of colours united in one: gold for the Father, red for the Son, and green for the Holy Ghost.  Jung asks, "But where is the fourth?", referring to blue for the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary.  This question is not asked by the dreamer, whose dream coloration is much the same as the trimurti, and the three purple-robed spirits bear a close resemblance to the Three Ones of the Taoist alchemists, the miscrcosmic counterparts of the celestial trinity.  This is a universal theme from the three angels visiting Abraham to the Iroquois prophet Handsome Lake having his new religion revealed to him by three spiritual beings in the form of men sent by the Great Spirit.


Jung does understand this union of trinities, writing:

The Yahwists symbol of the star of David is a complexio oppositorum...a mandala built on three, an unconscious acknowledgement of the Trinity.[10]

Also he quotes Joannes Lyndus concerning the importance of the number six:

The number six is most skilled at begetting, for it is even and uneven, and of the hylical nature on account of the even, for which reason the ancients named it marriage and harmony...And they say also that it is both male and female...And another says that the number six is soul-producing because it multiplies itself into the world sphere, and because in it opposites are mingled.[11]

Gerhard Adler, one of Jung's leading disciples, agrees with the importance of the double trinity.  Writing in The Living Symbol [Pantheon, New York, 1961] Adler explains the female triad as being connected to instinctual events and the male triad as based on thesis, antithesis and the reconciliation in-between.  Unfortunately, this idea of masculine and feminine trinities does not seem to have been taken up in Jungian circles, the emphasis still placed on the quaternity.  Actually, I wonder what Jung himself would have made of so important a disciple expressing such views, in particular Adler's ascription of the number three to the female when Jung insisted on it being four.  Jung, of course, died in the year of publication.

In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious[12] Jung does let slip the notion that his sacred quaternity symbolised by the square may actually be none other than a pair of triangles:


If one imagines the quaternity as a square divided into two halves by a diagonal, one gets two triangles whose apices point in opposite directions.  One could therefore say metaphorically that the wholeness symbolised by the quaternity is divided into equal halves, it produces two opposing triads.

Jung uses this image in an attempt to show that three is incomplete, producing a contrary triad, and resulting in conflict.  However, this is out of step with Jung's thinking generally which is always looking to the complementary nature of opposites, even to the extent of good and evil.  Indeed, he berates Christian dogmatists for trying to cast out the Devil instead of making him part of the Trinity, i.e. making it a quaternity.  Further, if the quaternity can be understood as a pair of triangles then, like Solomon's Seal, it is actually united in the number six, not four.  If one accepts this proposition it changes the entire complexion of Jungian psychology, in that the double trinity is the archetypal symbol of wholeness.  And the cross, being a linear form of the circular T'ai chi or double-natured uroboros, is the means of expressing the multiplication of the three to the six.

This division of the square was also used by Plato, who constructed a view of the whole of material existence based on the triangular shape.  And again the same division of the square is to be found in Roman magic using the famous incantation abracadabra.  Although the word has taken on music hall dimensions, it is one of the oldest surviving magical words in the Western tradition.  It appears in the writing of Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, physician to the Roman emperor Septimus Severus, in the second century AD.  If the word was inscribed on an amulet and worn around one's neck for a period of nine days it had the reputed power to cure a fever.  The word took on greater power by being written in the form of an inverted triangle or placing two triangles, one upright and one inverted, in the form of a parallelogram.

Robert Graves, author of The White Goddess, recognised the hierogamic double trinity in mythology and religion, and expressed his view of its external appearance in the introduction of the new Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology:

When an invading Aryan chieftain, a tribal rain-maker, married the Moon-priestess  and the Queen of the conquered people, a new myth inevitably celebrated the marriage of the Sky-God and the Moon.  But since the Moon-goddess was everywhere worshipped as a triad, in honour of the Moon's three phases - waxing, full and waning - the god split into a complementary triad.  This accounts for the three-bodied Geryon, the first king of Spain; three-headed Cernunnos, the Gallic god; the Irish triad, Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba, who married the three queenly owners of Ireland; and the invading Greek brothers Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades who, despite great opposition, married the pre-Greek Moon-goddess in her three aspects, respectively as Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Sea, and Queen of the Underworld.[13]

Although the Moon-goddesses are related to the phases of the Moon, we can see in the realms allotted to the pre-Greek goddess the familiar pattern of the triple stratification of chthonic, celestial and the conjoining middle.  Elsewhere the triple goddess is referred  to in the aspects of mother, daughter and hag.

If the trinity is the archetype of the universal Self and not just a Christian theological preserve, what are the three elements and to what do they refer.  The schema of God, Man and Nature seems to me not just generally descriptive, but one already used elsewhere (one thinks particularly of the Baconian threefold division of knowledge), not least of all by Jung when describing the symbolism of the Eucharist:

In short, what is sacrificed under the forms of bread and wine is nature, man and God, all combined in the unity of the symbolic gift.[14]

His close friend the sinologist Richard Wilhelm, translator of  the Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching, to which Jung wrote a foreword, writes in his Introduction to that book:

The holy men and sages, who are in contact with those higher spheres, have access to these ideas through direct intuition and are therefore able to intervene decisively in events in the world.  Thus man is linked with heaven, the suprasensible world of ideas, and with earth, the material world of visible things, to form with these a trinity of the primal powers.[15]

The ancient Canon of Supreme Mystery, the T'ai Hsuan Ching, resembles the I Ching, but is based directly on that primal trinity - Heaven, Man, Earth - adding a third double-broken line to the those of yin and yang.  

Arnold Toynbee, the English historian, who had already been developing the idea of archetypes, preferring the term 'primal image', before he met Jung attempts in An Historian's Approach to Religion to match mankind's religions to Jungian typology, and in the same volume classifies the plethora of them into the categories of nature-, man-, and god-worship:

If we set out to make a survey of the religions that have been practised at different times and places by the numerous human societies and communities of whom we have some knowledge, our first impression will be one of a bewilderingly infinite variety.  Yet, on consideration and analysis, this apparent variety resolves itself into variations on Man's worship or quest of no more than three objectives; namely, Nature; Man himself; and an Absolute Reality that is not either nature or Man but is in them and at the same time beyond them.[16]

This concurs with an observation I had made some time ago concerning the advent of major prophetic teachers about 500 to 600 BC.  There appeared to be an upsurge, a burst of the collective unconscious, giving birth to the doctrines of Zoroaster[b], Buddha, Pythagoras, Mahavira, Lao Tsu, and Confucius, besides the reformation of Jewish theology.  In the doctrines of the Middle East the notion of monotheism is given full vent, whereas in northern India the accent is on man and his karma without the notion of divine grace.  In the Orient, mystical Taoism concentrated on the cosmic force, the Way, which man had to live in accord with: there was no belief in a benevolent Deity or karmic soteriology.

In less differentiated form, Mircea Eliade, the Romanian historian of religion, noted that the considerable appeal of Tibetan Buddhism, in common with medieval Hinduism and Christianity, rested on the triple combination of a traditional belief in the sacrality of cosmic structure, salvific religion, and an esoteric tradition.[17]

Toynbee's observations of the external manifestation of types of religion are borne out by  Dr F C Happold in his book Mysticism[18], in which he states there are three types of mysticism:  the first is nature-mysticism, the second soul-mysticism and the third God-mysticism.  The first and third varieties are to do with one's relationship to other forces, whereas the second concentrates on the isolation of the human soul from everything else, including God, or the concept of God. The identification of this universal internal Trinity is very important from the psychological point of view as it affirms the external as a manifestation of the psychic.

However, immediately one uses the word God all the old prejudices spring to the fore, so I would like to qualify what appears to be pejorative theological speculation by saying God in this schema can be taken to mean the aesthetic quality, as opposed to a more utilitarian comprehension of existence.  The ancient Chinese spoke of Ti and T'ien, God/Lord and Heaven, virtually interchangeably, both conveying the meaning of a 'higher' force, albeit initially anthropomorphically (although not necessarily anthropopsychically).  The term 'the Mandate of Heaven' coined at the end of the Shang period was used even by the Maoists to justify the Communist regime.  This Mandate, being superior to Man, over-ruled lineal claim to the throne, unlike the Japanese system, where the monarch was believed to have been descended from Amaterasu, the sun goddess, and as such was the living mandate.  The ideogram for emperor is three horizontal lines representing Heaven, Man and Earth  intersected by a vertical line representing the unifying role of the monarch: a living embodiment and development of the most ancient of archetypes, the triple-stratiformed cosmic tree, holy mountain, ladder or pole rooted in the nether world, passing through the earth (the middle region) and  arriving in the celestial sphere - the universal axis mundi.  This is the medium by which the shaman ascends - firstly by katabasis - to the home of the gods and obtains the gift to overcome evil and control natural forces.  The protoype for the imperial incarnation can be found in the myth of the cosmic Man P'an Ku, the parent of the three gods of Heaven, Earth and Mankind (not unlike the three sons of Adam, the embodiment of the cosmic Adam Kadmon).  The mystic, likewise, ascends through the three levels towards divine union, experienced time after time by Christians, Sufis and Taoists.  St Bonaventure's  'ladder' not only passed through the triple strata, but each stage was dualistic, possessing the immanent and the transcendent; a sixfold structure he related to the six-winged Seraph who embraced St Francis prior to the onset of the first manifestation of the stigmata.

The rectification of theological incompleteness in Christian dogma is to be found in the addition of a complementary Trinity, which Jung comes very close to in A Psychological Approach to the Trinity:

Man is, in truth, the bridge spanning the gulf between "this world" - the realm of the dark Tricephalus - and the Heavenly Trinity.[19]

Jung's initial encounter with the Trinity obviously left a marked effect on his thinking and is perhaps the cause of his depreciating standpoint:

One day I was leafing through the catechism, hoping to find something besides the sentimental-sounding and usually incomprehensible as well as uninteresting expatiations on Lord Jesus. I came across the paragraph on the Trinity, here was something that challenged my interest; a oneness which was simultaneously a threeness.  This was a problem that fascinated me because of its inner contradiction.  I waited longingly for the moment we would reach this question.  But when we got that far, my father said, "We now come to the Trinity, but we'll skip that, for I really understand nothing of it myself."  I admired my father's honesty, but on the other hand I was profoundly disappointed....[20]

Jung had had a dream in very early childhood which he guarded as a secret until his old-age concerning the discovery of a phallus on a throne in an underground cave.  If Christianity, in the shape of his cleric father, could not explain the Trinity it could neither explain his secret dream.  When in later life he tackled the meaning of the Trinity he added the quality of the dark underground phallus to it which produced the quaternity.  For Jung the Trinity, being at the heart of the Christian teaching and belief, must be incomplete because the whole of the Christian religion seemed insufficient, especially for modern man.  The dark chthonic element must be the missing factor, the part respectable orthodoxy would not, or could not, address itself to.

However, even with his jaundiced view of Christian trinitarianism Jung did on occasion explain the Trinity as a completeness, albeit related to a process of development :


In short, according to Jung, the Christian dogma [of the Trinity] represents a symbol for the collective psyche: the Father symbolises a primitive phase; the Son an intermediate and reflective phase; and the Spirit a third phase in which one returns to the original phase, though enriching it through the intermediate reflections.[21]

This is a classic description of the triple formulation contained in many theologies, mythologies and psychologies, viz. the lower, middle and higher, being hierarchical and at the same time, uroboros-like, vertical and horizontal, which concerns three varieties of trinitarian mystical experiences, sometimes encountering the trinity as three qualities (kabbala, Gnosticism, Zen - the Void of Hui Neng described by Dr Suzuki in Zen Doctrine of No-Mind[22], as comprising Being, Seeing and Acting), other times as three deities (religious Taoism), and sometimes growth to perfection through three levels (Sufism,  shamanism, St John of the Cross).  Quite often the different elements are intertwined and interdependent, requiring development through the three levels to perfect three qualities or meet three deities or a triune Being.

Edward Edinger typifies the mystified Jungian who in spite of himself cannot help but notice the completeness of the trinity archetype.  Edinger, not wishing to transgress the articles of Jungian faith, interprets the archetype along the developmental lines of Jung as a description of individuation: the unconscious, the ego and the axial relationship between them.  Like Jung with the discovery of the third term in 1918, Edinger attempts to unite the collective unconscious and ego in a trinitarian relationship.  His apparent epiphany occurs when leafing through a volume of the Jung's Collected Works:

I turned to a collection of mandalas published by Jung [in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious] and was surprised to find how frequently there was trinitarian imagery embedded in pictures which had been selected to demonstrate the quaternity.[23]

Jung employed the ancient method of painting mandalas [meaning circle after the normal formats of forces circulating around a centre point], known particularly in India, as a way of discovering the contents of the unconscious.  During his midlife crisis he made personal use of them, producing them spontaneously, to ascertain the nature and content of his psyche.  In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious,  Jung displays a series of various mandalas to demonstrate the content of the collective unconscious, which, like Edinger,  you will see includes the ubiquitous triadic theme.

The mandala in figure 3 (and described in par 644) is the Tibetan World Wheel, the centre of which is a dark circle surrounded by a triple uroboros of a cock, snake and pig.  The Wheel is then divided into six spokes, becoming twelve at the edge.  The six and the twelve are clearly beheld as multiples of the trinity.  The sextuplet wheel is again produced in figure 25, this time by a female patient who is herself pictured three times in the mandala:

...below she is caught in a chthonic tangle of roots.  In the middle she studies a book, cultivating her mind and augmenting her knowledge and consciousness.  At the top she receives illumination in the form of a heavenly sphere... 


The three conditions of the woman are descriptive, respectively, of the aspects of Nature, Man and God.


[Along similar lines was the famous Trinity vision of the patron saint of Switzerland, the hermit Brother Nicholas von der Flue, otherwise known as Brother Claus.  He receives particular attention from Jung due to the number of visions he received in his life, but one in particular was so powerful it is said to have changed his personal appearance to such an extent that people became afraid of him.  After the experience Claus painted a mandala of the vision on the wall of his cell, which has been reproduced in the parish church of Sachseln.  Bearing in mind that it is famous for being a vision of the Trinity, the mandala shows a composition of six parts with the crowned countenance of God at the centre.] 

In figure 27 the ancient symbol of the trinity, a cross with a triangle at each point, is given slightly altered form.  Here circles dominate the centre of the mandala with the arms of the cross shown as four trees, each having a triangle at the heart of its branches.  The tree is a Jungian symbol of the Self, and at the centre of it we find the trinity.  Taking the cross as the union of horizontal and vertical, female and male, the mandala symbolises the trinity, further expanded by the complementary division of yin and yang.  This is also the case in figure 38 where the trinity is symbolised by three dogs forming a triangle, overriding a swirling cross.  Figure 39, a window at Paderborn cathedral, employs three hares (a symbol of the soul) instead of dogs, but like the dogs, which appear to be greyhounds, give the impression of speed.  One assumes this must be an allusion to the dynamic centre of the unconscious.  This triad of animals, in both cases in circular mode, is reminiscent of the theriomorphic centre of the Tibetan Wheel mentioned above.

Finally, in figure 40, drawn by a young woman patient, a triangle stands at the centre of a circle radiating four- and eight-pointed stars, all contained in an outer circle.  Jung again sees an incomplete three becoming a quaternity in the shape of the stars.  In fact, they are crosses composed of trinities, further emphasising the central triadic theme.

If the trinity archetype is the archetype of the Self then, from this point of view, the ego is a fourth addition, not a third (as in the third term).  This quaternity, as opposed to the cruciform development of the dyad, expresses ego development and supports Jung's understanding of the quaternity being participation in the physical realm.  The trinity does in fact find fulfilment in a quaternity.  The separation of two quaternistic patterns, one pertaining to the unity of the collective unconscious and ego and the other to the balance of dyadic qualities, allows for the completeness of the trinity without denying the classic Jungian perspective.  This separation is of fundamental importance as it allows for two differing views of the structure of the psyche: one hierarchical, Nature, Man, God, the other egalitarian, primarily concerned with equilibrium and homeostasis.  Father Victor White worshipped a God above and spurned (probably metaphorically) a Devil below, whereas Jung circumscribed his theory with the circle of the T'ai chi and the alchemical uroboros, the individual in harmony with his inner Self, and could reduce his whole system to one word: balance.  Philosophical Taoism has no place, indeed no room, for the Satan, Mara or Ahriman of soteriological theologies, just as Jung's schema can only treat that mythological personification as a part of the all-inclusive psychic stasis.  A confusion of quaternities, then, also blurs the two approaches to the nature of evil - one, out of order and the other, out of balance.

Satan is first mentioned in Job (1:6) and Zechariah (3:1) as the adversary of Yahweh, but is redrawn by Jung as the opposite of Christ.  The struggle of the mystic and the prophet to overcome the temptations of this world before attaining enlightenment is the correct ordering of an internal hierarchy, just as the shaman must experience katabasis in order to rise to the celestial sphere.  Universal deities, such as Siva, combining both creation and destruction represent the natural order of the 'world of becoming': there is neither goodness nor evil in the salvific sense.  A confusion between these approaches can lead to psychology attempting to integrate disorder into the psychic whole and theology attempting to annihilate psychic healing.  Of greatest danger to doctors of the salvific faiths is the eternal institutionalisation of the Evil One as an archetype: the whole area of eschatology becomes a veritable battleground.  The ramifications extend into the study of the history of religion, raising the question of universal teleological dynamic: are the archetypes only realised through the medium of the individual's ontogenesis or are they the cohesive driving force of mankind as a whole?  By treating the individual's ontogenetic fulfilment as the sole aim of the collective unconscious the door is left open to denude the psyche of real universality and for the post-Jungian predilection of trashing the original concept of synchronicity.  Mircea Eliade's treatment of historical religious development certainly flies in the face of much that is classified as Jungian.  His replacement of the term 'collective unconscious' with 'trans-consciousness' and the introduction of the concept of metapsychoanalyis present the individual as a player in the overall spiritual evolution of the human race as well as a separate soul requiring the psychological healing.  Perhaps the Jungian system has an innate concentration on the microcosm and needs an Eliadic overview to provide the macrocosm?   

There is then a further question to be faced: if the collective unconscious has been developed 'over aeons'[c] (as Jung maintained) it must have a mechanism for self modification, so to what extent is it universal?  If the archetypes change, there cannot - in the final analysis - be a common universal psyche or goals.  If there is an unchanging Self it must be separate from any system of modification.  This is the same problem faced by the metaphysicians of the Upanishad school of Samkhya-Yoga in attempting to cater for the relationship between purusa (pure spirit and the cosmic Man), unchanging and unchangeable, and prakrti, the multi-formed world of existence.  Those doctors speculated that purusa must be reflected in the higher of the three modalities of the gunas, sattva.  If there is a common universal element it lies in the cosmic blueprint from which the individual's ontogenetic progression is drawn, a situation demanding a dual classification of the contents of the collective unconscious - Bonaventure's immanent and transcendent.  Roberto Assagioli, an Italian psychologist who was part of the original pyschoanalytical movement, sensing a possible flaw of a total philogenetic Self for the model of the psyche devised a modified Jungian system - psychosynthesis - which postulates a personalised Self mediating between the collective unconscious, the superconscious and the ego.  This is a rather cumbersome schema which attempts to unite the qualities of the unchanging with the developmental. A final point on this matter is that Jung himself can still display if not a disbelief in his own theory of an evolved collective unconscious, then certainly its aetiology: "Whether", says Jung, "this psychic structure [the collective unconscious] and its elements, the archetypes, ever 'originated' at all is a metaphysical question and therefore unanswerable by psychology."[24] and “ it [the collective unconscious] we hear the voice of uninfluenced [my italics] primal nature...”[25]

Jung's favourite symbol of the collective unconscious was the spirit Mercurius, the central figure of alchemical experience and speculation.  Jung admits that Mercurius is referred to more times as a trinity than a quaternity, which accords with the Taoist alchemical, meditative practice of uniting the three golden flowers.  At one point Jung describes him thus: "....his positive aspect relates him not only to the Holy Spirit, but....also to Christ and, as a triad, even to the Trinity."[26]

Commenting upon Jung's essay The Spirit Mercurius, John Beebe in the introduction writes:

This is probably the most personal of Jung's great essays on archetypes in that it is a description of Jung's own characteristic spirit... [27]

Perhaps the greatest alchemist of them all (besides Jung!) was Paracelsus, a Swiss physician of the early 16th century.  According to Jung, Paracelsus obtained his arcane knowledge from two sources; the Light of Nature and the Light of Revelation.  However, in Alchemical Studies, he mentions, almost by the way, a third Light, but as usual cannot, or does not want to, fit it into an overall view of the alchemist's philosophy and work.

He (Man) has a natural light , but also a light outside the light of nature by which he can search out supernatural things.  The relationship of this supernatural light to the light of revelation remains, however, obscure.  Paracelsus seems to have held a particular trichotomous view in this respect.[28]

In obtaining the knowledge that comes with the Light of Nature, Paracelsus was a magician, and in receiving the love and knowledge of God through the Light of Revelation, i.e. through the Church, he was a Christian.  For Jung, this is a  duality of the Mother archetype expressed in Mother Nature and Mother Church.  Paracelsus is obviously talking of a third and intermediate light which is supernatural  but also not divine.  Wholeness for this Swiss magus is triality.

Jung himself noted that often the fourth part of a quaternity appeared somehow different to the other three (smaller, feminine, etc.)[d], using as an example the woman who completes the trinity of men during his trip to Kenya in Memories, Dreams, Reflections.  In particular, he points to the fourth element of the Christian quaternity, the Virgin Mary, the chthonic.  In the same way that Jung deals with triadic-themed mandalas, so also with dreams.

Many of the dream examples used by Jung to demonstrate the centrality of the quaternity to the psyche are actually based on the formula of the-dreamer-plus-three-others.  Here are some of the examples from Psychology and Alchemy [Collected Works, vol 12] which Jung employed to show ongoing alchemical symbolism in modern man's unconscious.  The dreamer in each case, I believe, is representative of the ego and the three others, the triune Self.

The dreamer finds himself with his father, mother and sister in a very dangerous situation on the platform of a tram-car. [One similar to  this is recorded by P W Martin in Experiment in Depth: A Study of the Work of Jung, Eliot and Toynbee, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1976, page 52, which commences "We were in a car going from Geneva to Lausanne.  There were four of us, my father, mother, younger brother and myself...".  Indeed, many of the ancient triadic formulations were based on familial relationships, especially in Egypt.][29]


Four people are going down a river; the dreamer, his father, a certain friend and the unknown woman.[30]


The dreamer, the doctor, a pilot, and the unknown woman are travelling by aeroplane.[31]


The dreamer is in the Peter hofstatt in Zurich with the doctor, the man with the pointed beard, and the 'doll woman'.[32]


In a primeval forest.  An elephant looms menacingly.  Then a large ape-man, bear, or cave-man threatens to attack the dreamer with a club. Suddenly the man with the pointed beard appears and stares at the aggressor, so that he is spell-bound.  But the dreamer is terrified.  The voice says, "Everything must be ruled by light."[33]

In this final example Jung points out that the man with the  beard is the archetypal symbol for God.  The symbolism of the other two figures the dreamer encounters can be interpreted as (the elephant for) nature and  man, making a thematic nature, man and God.  The success on the third - "third time lucky" - is a well-known formulation in fairy tales (and mythology) world-wide, the list almost endless:  The Three Bears, Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs, Rumpel-Stilts-Skin,  Aladin and the Lamp, The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs, etc. etc.  (How von Franz manages to interpret The Three Feathers as success on the fourth is totally beyond me.)   The same theme underlies the universal hero being tested three times to gain spiritual power and immortality. Emma Jung was deeply interested in Arthurian lore, writing with Marie-Louise von Franz a seminal volume on the Holy Grail, and was familiar with the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:  it was certainly a great favourite with the Jungian-flavoured mythologist Joseph Campbell.  The tale is one of death and resurrection, symbolised in the opening scene by the axe and the holly branch which the Green Knight carries with him into the court of King Arthur, and follows the standard formulation of the hero achieving the victorious goal after a series of trials based on the triple test (see below).

There is one final triadic example from this volume where Jung interprets an ace of clubs as a trinity becoming a cross. This again fits the formulation of an original likeness of the parts of the triality finding expression through the 'odd' fourth.

Perhaps the most important dream Jung had - for himself and his psychological system - was the one of Liverpool which marked the end of his midlife or creative trauma, and with it the finish of his mandala drawing and painting. Originally Jung published the dream in 1929, attributing it to "a patient", as indeed it still is in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious[34].  However, the dream is related in his autobiography as his own.  Moreover, the dream is slightly altered from the original account, the most telling being the opening scene.  In the original version it commences thus:

The dreamer found himself with three younger travelling companions in Liverpool.

In the autobiographical version:

I found myself in a dirty, sooty city.  It was night, and winter, and dark, and raining.  I was in Liverpool.  With a number of Swiss - say half a dozen - I walked through the dark streets.[35]

Both versions end with the discovery of a red-flowering magnolia, which is for Jung the centre of the psyche, the Self, beyond which it is impossible to go.  This then is the end of his internal quest.  The importance of this discovery cannot be underrated; Jung himself writes in the most pressing way to convey this sense of importance:

The dream depicted the climax of the whole process of development of the conscious....Without such a vision I might perhaps have lost my orientation and been compelled to abandon my undertaking.  But here the meaning had been made clear.  When I parted from Freud, I knew nothing; but I had taken the step into darkness.  When that happens, and then such a dream comes, one feels it is an act of grace.[36]

This whole breakthrough is enacted by Jung and three others, but this is, for some reason, omitted from the later version in the '50s.  This, I feel, is an unconscious attempt to devalue the importance of the trinity, which is nevertheless replaced by "say, half a dozen", the double trinity.

His fantasies at the very beginning of the midlife trauma, which ended with the Liverpool dream, are also full of trinitarian symbolism, which again is overlooked by Jung as well as commentators on his life.  On 12 December 1913 he withdrew his internal barriers and plunged into his transforming, creative illness, which was to last for four years.  Jung wrote, "I let myself drop."  After "descending a thousand feet or more" he eventually meets three individuals, Elijah, Salome and a black serpent.  He understands these characters as: "Elijah is the figure of the wise old prophet"; "Salome, the erotic element"; and "the snake was an indication of a hero myth".  Not only is this an obvious triad but the three modalities of the Self are expressed in the formulation of Elijah=God, Salome=Nature and the snake=Man.  These characters eventually give way to three others, namely Philemon who develops out of Elijah, Ka[e] who was "a spirit of nature" and a woman, the anima, who "must be the 'soul', in the primitive sense".


As the alchemists discovered, the spirit Mercurius can be a good friend (as in the Liverpool dream) or the "dark tricephalus"[f], the tempter, deceiver and adversary of the universal hero.  By overcoming the chthonic trinity the saviour not only becomes a demi-god but, in bringing the fruits of his victory to the tribe, ensures the spiritual and physical well-being of mankind. One of the stories from Hindu mythology seems to prefigure the struggles of Buddha and Christ with the Evil One.  In the case of Hinduism the Christ-like person is the son of a Brahman, Tvashiri, who is eventually killed by the god Indra.  Tvashiri, in a bid to outdo Indra, created a three-headed son who possessed wondrous spiritual power which grew at such a rate it promised to absorb the universe.  The three heads had the separate functions of reading the Vedas, feeding himself, and observing all that existed:  a combination of intellectual, physical and divine sustenance - the totality of life.  As in the accounts of the temptations of Christ and the trials of Gautama, the tricephalus Brahman is attacked three times: firstly through seduction by Heavenly maidens; secondly by a thunderbolt thrown by Indra which kills the hero; and lastly by a triple decapitation.  The final onslaught, ordered by Indra because the body continued to glow with the light of spirituality, released a great flight of doves and other birds, symbolising the resurrection of the perfected spirit and is analogous to the enlightenment of Buddha and the defeat of Satan in the wilderness.  The attacks on Gautama by Mara are variations on the same ideas of seduction, attack by the actual god and attack by the god's henchman.  The Buddha now becomes an enlightened being, losing his old material desires, and brings salvation to mankind.

In the Middle East there existed other notorious examples of the triple heroic test, and cannot be unconnected with the  temptations of Christ.  In ancient Egypt one of the stories of Se-Osiris (reputedly the greatest Egyptian magician) from the 13th century BC show him in psychic battle with the Ethiopian the Son of Tnahsit who is the agent of Apophis, the Egyptian Devil.  As in the other stories, Se-Osiris has to overcome his satanic adversary three times in order to prove himself and gain total victory.  Firstly, the Ethiopian manifests a huge serpent in front of the Pharoah, but Se-Osiris picks up this giant cobra, turns it into a small white worm and throws it out of the window.  Next the evil protagonist summons a large black cloud which resembles the darkness of the tomb or the dark cloud of smoke from burning bodies.  Again, the hero easily decreases the threat to an infinitesimal size and throws it out of the window.  The final threat is in the shape of a sheet of flame moving towards Pharaoh, but the good magician reverses its movement back in the direction of his adversary, who is subsequently engulfed and totally defeated.

Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, writes of the triple life force released by the universal hero upon completion of his struggle with the internal monster; the bestowing of the secret treasure, the Holy Grail:

The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world.  The miracle of this flow may be represented in physical terms as a circulation of food substance, dynamically as a stream of energy, or spiritually as a manifestation of Grace.  Such varieties of image alternate easily, representing three degrees of condensation of the one life force.[37]

The hero's encounters infer a triality of character, with ramifications for typological classification.  Tripartite man is a theme as old as that of the trinity, the two being inextricably linked in the relationship of micro and macrocosmic.  The origin of much of the tripartite formulations is to be found in the works of Plato, originator of the archetype theory of Form or Idea.  Plato's own threefold division of the soul is into spirit, reason and desire.  It is from these three segments that the layers of society in the utopian Republic are derived: the Guardians, the Auxiliaries and the Plebs.  Broadly, the philosophers, the spiritually enlightened, rule over and guide society, the military types carry out the directives of the elite, applying the rules to the governorship of the materialistic majority.  This hierarchical view of tripartness is counter-balanced by an egalitarian formulation allegorised in the Phaedrus by a charioteer and two horses.  One horse is an expression of honour and modesty whilst the other stands for man's animal desires, with their unity in the hands of the charioteer, the middle conjoining factor.  The Gnostics use this platonic schema in their soteriological explanations - the saved spiritual type, the pneumatic, the damned materialists, the hylic, and those with the possibility of  choice, the psychic - described in the Jung codex of the Nag Hammadi library.

The multiplication of tripartite theories has produced an overwhelmingly extensive list of variations on the same theme, including Freud and beyond, but I think it worthy of note to mention that it was part of Carl Gustav Carus' thinking.  I say this because he was one of the old-school of psychologists much admired by Jung.  Interestingly, Dostoyevsky was also a great fan and one wonders if the three Karamazov brothers, Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha, characterising respectively blind social obedience, the human intellect and mystical-propheticism, were not Carus-inspired. 

In Toynbee-like fashion, it does not seem unreasonable to look for the external organisations and trends associated with the different types.  I had initially made a deduction from studies on the history of religious thought that a threefold division could be made along the lines of fundamentalist, developmentalist and prophetic, when I read with interest the post-Jungian division of schools made by Andrew Samuels in Jung and the Post-Jungians[38]: Classical, Developmentalists and Archetypal.  Perhaps a trinitarian view could be taken of the foundation of modern psychology employing the God, Man, Nature schema (or as C S Hall and G Lindzey would have it in Theories of Personality: primordial thought patterns; social interest; and sex) for Jung, Adler and Freud?  Jung certainly had no qualms about such a unity; he could be both Adlerian and Freudian as the need arose (see Memories, Dreams, Reflections).

The fourfold typology posited by Jung was an update of the ancient Greek formulation based on the humours of the body, which makes perfect sense seen from an homeostatic point of view.  However, just as valid is the Vedic counterpart using three humours which also describe three character types, namely kapha, vata and pitta, and restated by the god Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita when he tells Arjuna, "Each has the duty, ordained by his nature, born of the gunas [the threefold, hierarchical hypostases of prakriti]".  Again, both are inherently logical - and apparently complete - systems, but the latter schema is hierarchical and the former egalitarian.

A real hierosgamos would be if tripartite typologies could be synthesised with the four Jungian types with a resulting twelvefold system[g] satisfying both viewpoints and giving a psychological raison d'etre to the zodiacal system, much beloved by Jung.  He himself hints at a desire to unite his quaternity with the astrological method:

Since the earliest times, attempts have repeatedly been made to classify individuals according to types and thus to bring order into what was confusion.  The oldest attempt of this sort known to us was made by Oriental astrologers who devised the so-called trigons [sets of three star signs] of the four elements, air, water, earth and fire.[39]

Whatever, Jung himself was quite emphatic that the door was not shut, declaring that:

...I have made it very clear that I do not hold mine to be the only true or possible type-theory.[40]

Like Jung challenging Freud, one tends to use the existing orthodoxy as a standard first to follow, then to rebel against and finally to renew through synthesisation.  This is the developmental pattern that Jung himself recognised. 

Ellenberger's statement in The Discovery of the Unconscious is one of those self-evident truisms which can be used to pervert or rebuild:

It is to be expected that with the passing of time Jung's work will undergo certain transformations.  One reason for this is of general nature: it is the fate of any ideology that each generation tends to see it in a new perspective. [41]

[a] The first recorded application of the term 'triad' to God was by Bishop Theophilus of Antioch shortly before the birth of Origen, which may indicate multi-geneses of the Christian Trinity.  In studying their navels too closely, there is a possibility that Christian historians have overlooked the influence of the Capitoline triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva (the latter two being Etruscan (female) replacements for the original Roman (male) deities Mars and Quirinus).

[b] The traditional dating by Mazdean tradition would put Zoroaster between 628 and 551 B.C., but on the basis of linguistic analysis (of the gathas) the dates can be pushed back to as far as 1,500 B.C.   However, Cyrus the Great adopted the Faith in 549 B.C.

[c] In light of recent developments in the theory and knowledge of human evolution, the question becomes more pressing.  Jung's longtermism 'over aeons' no longer squares with the rapid development and spread of homo sapiens, and especially not with the so-called Great Leap Forward of ca 40,000 years ago, when our ancestors suddenly and universally surpassed all the ancient hominid cultures.

[d] Marie-Louise von Franz comes close to this concept when she explains a fairy tale concerning a king with his three sons.  The youngest son - the fourth person in the story - is the weak odd-man-out who, psychologically, will be assimilated into the ego and then act as a mediator between the collective unconscious and the ego.  However, this approach is constructed from typological considerations and falls short of a universal explanation for the imbalanced quaternity.

[e] Jung writes elsewhere, "As Preisigke points out, the Early Christians simply transferred their traditional ideas about the ka to the Holy Spirit.  This explains the curious fact that in the Coptic version of Pistis Sophia, dating from the third century, Jesus has the Holy Spirit as his double, just like a proper ka." [Collected Works, vol 11, par 177]

[f] Unlike Jung's midlife crisis, the trinity here has a malevolent nature, and seen from an hierarchical viewpoint the struggle is against disorder and inversion: the temptations are to use the powers of the trinity for lower, rather than higher purposes.

[g] Other Jungians have proposed a twelvefold typology by simply utilising the standard four, each one modified by a relationship with the others, individually.

[1] Collected Works, vol 18, par 1610.

[2] Jung and the Christian Way, Bryant Christopher, Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1983.

[3] Trinity and Society, L Boff, Burns and Oates, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, 1988, page 103.

[4] Collected Works, vol 8, par 336.

[5] The Psychological Aspects of the Kore, Collected Works, vol 9 I, par 306.

[6] Early Christian Doctrines, J N D Kelly, fifth edit., Adam and Charles Black, London, 1977, p 103.

[7] Modern Trinitarian Perspectives, J Thompson, Oxford University Press, New York, 1994, pp.116-117.

[8] Collected Works, vol 14, par 622.

[9] Collected Works, vol 14, par 137 "In the sphere of Christian psychology, green has a spermatic, procreative quality, and for this reason it is the colour attributed to the Holy Ghost as the creative principle.";  ibid. par 396 "Green is the colour of the Holy Ghost, of life, procreation and resurrection.".

[10] Collected Works, vol 18, par 1617.

[11] Collected Works, vol 16, par 451, n 6.

[12] Collected Works, vol 9, part 1, par 426.

[13] Larousse World Mythology, edited by Pierre Grimal, Hamlyn, London and Middlesex, 1974.

[14] Collected Works, vol 11, par 387.

[15] I Ching, the Richard Wilhelm translation, third edit., Arkana, London, 1989.

[16] An Historian's Approach to Religion, Arnold J Toynbee, Oxford University Press, London, 1966, page 16.

[17]A History of Religious Ideas, vol. 3, M Eliade, University of Chicago Press, 1985, page 283.

[18] Mysticism - A Study and an Anthology, F C Happold, rev. edit., Penguin, Middlesex, 1970.

[19] Collected Works, vol 11, par 263.

[20] Memories, Dreams, Reflections, C G Jung, Fontana Press, London, 1993, page 70.

[21] Italian newspaper L'Europeo 5 December 1948, "The Psychoanalyst Jung Teaches How to Tame the Devil".

[22] Zen Doctrine of No-Mind: The Significance of the Sutra of Hui-Neng (WeiLang), York Beach, Maine, USA, Samuel Weiser, 1991, page 45.

[23] Ego and Archetype, E. Edinger, Penguin, Middlesex, 1973, page 189.

[24] The Psychology of C G Jung, Jolande Jacobi, seventh edit., Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1968, page 45.

[25] ibid page 158.

[26]Collected Works, vol 13, par 289.

[27] Aspects of the Masculine, page xvi, Editor's Introduction, Princetown, N.J., Princetown University Press, 1989

[28] Collected Works, vol 13, par 148.

[29]Collected Works, vol 12, par 151.

[30]ibid. par 162.

[31]ibid. par 147.

[32]ibid. par 136.

[33]ibid. par 117.

[34] Collected Works, vol 9, part 1, pars 654-655.

[35] Memories, Dreams, Reflections, C G Jung, Fontana Press, London, 1993, page 223.

[36] ibid. page 224.

[37] The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell, second edit., Princetown University Press, New Jersey, 1968, page 40.

[38] Jung and the Post-Jungians, Andrew Samuels, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1985.

[39] Modern Man in Search of a Soul, C G Jung, Ark edit., London, 1984.

[40] ibid. page 99.

[41] The Discovery of the Unconscious, The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry, Ellenberger Henri F, Basic Books Inc., New York, 1970.

Emerging Church Economics

There are too many errors in this book for unsophisticated readers. McLaren’s book has value only to readers who recognize the mistakes but are willing to learn about a position that springs from ideology and a theological framework. For me, the emerging church movement is enough to consider by itself without flawed economics intertwined

Mordecai Kaplan: Rethinking Judaism for the New World

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