INTO ARCHETYPAL REALITY
Metaphor, myth and symbolic image--
for human beings these are the age-old doorways
from ordinary to non-ordinary reality,
from the personal to the transpersonal,
from the temporal to the eternal
Encountering the Archetypes
In Part I the Garden was seen as a mandalic whole. Its
main components were a central fountain, two trees and four rivers--the
rivers fanning out so as to water the whole of the Garden. In
design Eden was seen to reflect the structure of the human psyche.
Now, in Part II, Eden becomes the symbolic doorway from
the ordinary reality we think of as "the real world" into an infinitely larger,
multi-dimensional sphere of being where, behind the scenes of conscious
awareness, archetypal dynamics are at work exerting transpersonal influences on
In his later years Jung explored this deeper, edenic
dimension of the psyche, describing it as
that mysterious shadow realm, the
collective unconscious, to which we shall never have direct access, and of
whose existence and operation we can have only indirect knowledge, precisely
through our encounter with the archetypes . . . .(1)
[There] archaic man still lives in us .
. . without fixed boundaries, and still wholly interwoven with the world and
Progoff similarly defined the archetypes as " expressions in
individual form of the processes and rhythms . . . of nature."(3)
In the development of consciousness we become separated from
nature. We leave the Garden. But in our archetypal depths where consciousness is
"without fixed boundaries," there, in our inner collective depths, psyche and
nature remain "wholly interwoven."
From Jung we understand that archetypal levels are not accessed
directly or through "ordinary" consciousness, but indirectly through encounters
with the archetypes as they are activated in our lives. Their activation, Jung
tells us, is detected "from the effects they produce."(4)
Learning to detect these effects is part of how we gain greater conscious
interaction with archetypal reality.
Land of the Shadow
Just as in Part I the mandalic Garden was divided into
four by its four rivers, so now in the dynamics of the drama that
takes place in Eden there are the four players who represent the
four primary archetypes of the psyche. And corresponding to the
central fountain is the Self--the wholeness-ordering wisdom
of the psyche. The Self is the hidden treasure, the pearl of great
price buried in the field of the human psyche.
Back in Genesis, after Adam's and Eve's expulsion from the Garden,
the Tree of Life was placed under guard on all sides by a flaming
sword.(5) In similar mythic truth, the Self
is guarded all around by a fire-breathing dragon. This means that
in the search for wholeness the realm of the dragon--the unconscious--will
have to be entered and our own inner dragons encountered.
Encountering dragons involves facing up to having those inner
selves we try so hard to conceal, both from ourselves and others:
our angry, prideful, deceitful selves, as well as the envy, greed,
lust or laziness we disown but project onto others. It means removing
the "log" from our own eye rather than the "specks"
we think we detect in the eyes of others.(6)
Put together, those selves we disown form the archetypal shadow
about whom Jung warns:
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality,
for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable
moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the
dark aspects of the personality as present and real.(7)
Condemned to the unconscious, the shadow is capable of wrecking
havoc in lives, particularly in relationships where we condemn
in others what we have yet to accept as part of our own human
nature. But in recognizing and accepting the shadow we are put
in touch with our own vulnerable human sameness. As a result we
become less judgmental and more kindly inclined towards ourselves
The dragon (as shadow) is caught off guard, and therefore disarmed,
when accepted. Similarly the ego, when taking a stance in opposition
to the Self, is disarmed by our acceptance of human nature as
a co-mingling of light and dark. Moreover, this is the way we
assume responsibility for the darkness apportioned each of us,
and until we do we will continue to project our own capacity for
evil onto others, thus increasing rather than decreasing humanity's
Doorways into Archetypal Reality
Owning one's shadow takes considerable moral effort because the
only way to become conscious of the shadow, as well as other archetypal
aspects of the psyche, is through self-knowledge. And there is
only one way to gain self-knowledge, and that is through self-observation.
For this a shift of perception is needed so as to discern our
own unconscious processes at work. Following Jung, we will here
approach archetypal reality indirectly, as through a backdoor
into the psyche.
Metaphor, myth and symbolic image are all doorways into archetypal
reality. For just as the shaman uses the drum as "canoe"
or "horse," so the repetitive rhythms of metaphor, myth
and image are primary modes for being transported into the land
of the archetypes. Try entering by so-called rational means and
you will not get there. Knock, however, on the doors of symbolic
perception and the way will be opened.
Non-ordinary reality can be recognized in several ways. There
will be about the landscape a subtle sense of other-worldliness,
something qualitatively different--a numinosity. And about its
lighting there will be a peculiar luminosity. The atmosphere also
will feel "charged," "heightened," "enlivened."
Finally there may be a feeling or a sense of familiarity--of having
been there before.
Places Where the Past is Still Palpably Present
There are also places in "ordinary" reality so impregnated
by the past as to leave an imprint still palpably present. Rupert
Sheldrake's theory of "morphic resonance"(8)
includes the idea that "fields of resonance" build up
as "cumulative collective memories." This could explain
why certain geographic locations evoke the same kind of resonance
and effects that archetypes do. They have become impregnated with
Inner or outer, there seem to be "fields" of energy that evoke images
and feelings capable of impacting us emotionally and sometimes
physically. These then become examples of "the effects"
Jung refers to which have "a kind of autonomy" and "possessive"(9)
quality capable of bringing forth both positive and negative effects.
Dreams are also doors into non-ordinary reality, as are spontaneous
fantasies, or the process of active imagination which when initiated
may take on a life of its own.(10) In any case,
finding ourselves in a different from ordinary state of consciousness
we are alerted to the opportunity to observe and to ask what is
happening in an area of the psyche not ordinarily available for
our observation. What am I doing here? What am I feeling? Why
here? Why now? What might I fantasize as my connection to this
The Realms of Ancestral Roots
At times we may become conscious of an interpenetration of ordinary and archetypal levels of reality.
Some years back my husband Bob went to Scotland seeking his
paternal roots. He described his week there as "enjoyable"
and "interesting." But then on a brief jaunt down to
southern England, coming to Glastonbury and sitting midst the
ruins of the old abbey, there in the geographic proximity of his
mother's people, he experienced an intense feeling of having "come
A year or so later, the resonant effect of Southern England called
Bob back to look more deeply into his maternal roots. Shortly thereafter we learned of
the work of Dr Kenneth McAll (described in his book Healing
of the Family Tree.)(11) Dr McAll, a
psychiatrist and also an Anglican layman, explains how insight
into the family tree and the healing power of the Eucharist can
work in conjunction to free persons who may be suffering from cross-generational
influences. Relating his findings to biblical references to "the
iniquity of the fathers" being "visited" on future
generations,(12) Dr McAll suggests that
in some cases the unresolved problems of those who have died may be effecting, or "being visited upon," the living.
He then suggests a family tree be drawn for the purpose of asking: "Who
is visiting?" Figure 1 is a sketch by Dr McAll of
a person whose mind is under the siege of unconscious voices.
Both Bob and I had personal reasons for being interested in Dr McAll's findings.
When Bob had been thirteen his parents, first
his mother and three months later his father, had taken their
lives. And on both sides of my family tree there was a history
of serious, life-immobilizing alcoholism.
If such was possible we wanted to learn how to pray for the deceased of our families whose souls might benefit from our prayers. Our concern was also for our children and grandchildren, that their lives be free from the influence of destructive family patterns.
How family patterns
are transmitted can only be speculated. It may be genetically,
or perhaps through some form of psychic resonance. In some cases
it simply may be a matter of the attitudes and assumptions of
parents being caught by the children. In any event, whatever way generational influences are passed along, if we believe God to be a loving God, then we can't believe that God "punishes" children for their ancestors' sins. Perhaps, though, there is some other aspect of truth behind these troublesome scriptures, some trans-dimensional, time-transcending overall reality in which forgiveness flows freely both backward and forward in time so as to allow for the past to be healed in the future. Jesus' words in the eighth chapter of John suggest his availability throughout all time: "before Abraham was I am."
In Dr McAll's work the Eucharist--the Blood of Christ--is the
healing agent applied to the family bloodline. But when the Eucharist
is not available, what then? Perhaps it is then that, in touch with the sacrificial meaning of the Cross, human empathy and compassion become the "Blood of Christ" universally and eternally available for all and all times.
One of the truths Eden mythologically presents is the unity in origin of all of humanity.
The Transformation of Perception
Just as geographical places can be "fields" charged with particular energies, so there are areas in the psyche similarly charged by archetypal energies. Jung called these highly charged areas complexes. The images we bear within us of our personal parents are undergirded by archetypal parents. In this sense we are all in the grips of father and mother complexes by which we feel accepted and supported or rejected and abandoned. Sometimes we project our parent complexes onto others in our present life situations. And sometimes, in so doing, we set ourselves up to experience all over again the pain of rejection we had felt as children.
An approach to the healing of our inner parent images is one in which the judgments we have placed on our parents are transformed into empathy for them as we
gain insight into the hopes and expectations they had held for
their lives. In this way our focus is on their aspirations rather than their
failures. We thus broaden our perceptions of who they were and also gain insight into how their hopes may have played a role in
forming our own aspirations. Even where they failed, their hopes
nevertheless live on in us.
In active imagination we can sense a parent blessing us at
whatever period(s) in our lives we most needed them to be free
to express their love for us. Nor does our doing so depend on
whether a parent is still living or not, this because it is
our perceptions concerning them that need be transformed. And when our perceptions are changed the result is a new emotional reality which heals the personal parent image by enjoining it to the undergirding divinely-infused archetypal parent.
I can personally attest to a transformational healing of this nature that occurred around my feelings of having been abandoned by my father. This happened when I was in my late thirties. I had shared
a dream with a friend.(13) He responded
by suggesting I visualize my father holding me in his arms when
I was an infant. Evidently the meaning of my dream (which I no
longer recall) was so obvious to my friend that he led me straightway
into the heartland of archetypal reality where he knew my father
would be waiting. Once there, he suggested I sense how much my
father had wanted to love and care for me. He instructed that
in my imagination I see written on my father's face and shining
from his eyes the love God as Father implants in every human father's heart. As I imagined the infant I was, my friend
suggested I open my heart to allow this co-mingling of human and
divine father-love to pass through my father's heart into mine. Ever after I have perceived
myself as loved by both an earthly and a heavenly father, the personal having been assumed into the archetypal.
The negative perception or "field" of psychic energy around the inner image of the personal parent is transformed into a positive one when the archetypal parent (the divine Mother or Father) enters in and becomes part of the equation. And often, as in my case, it is a dream that opens the door.
How Archetypal Encounters Guide Creative Work
Another example of the way ordinary and archetypal levels of reality
can interpenetrate involved my mother on a trip she made to Spain.
Moreover, her encounter there directed the creative movement of her life for the next
ten years. Visiting an old cathedral she felt something so oppressive
in its atmosphere as to bring on an attack of nausea. Accompanying
this physical reaction was an intuitive sense of something
to do with the Spanish Inquisition.
Having gone to Spain to research the early life of Fr Junipero
Serra, her bizarre "flashback" so captivated her interest
in inquisitional Spain that, after finishing the Serra story,(14)
she returned to Spain to pursue the life of another Franciscan,
a Poor Clare abbess whose life, a hundred years before Serra,
had been subjected to hierarchical scrutiny. In my mother's research
she had come across a reference in which Serra credited Mary of
Agreda with his coming to North American. Serra believed that
Agreda, a century before, had laid the ground work for his founding
of the California Missions. How? That question led my mother further
and further afield in searching to know how a Seventeenth Century
nun who never left Spain could "visit" Indian tribes
throughout the American Southwest.(15) If
a satisfactory explanation for Agreda's and others' "bi-location"
travels ever is found I venture it will lead into the deep ground
of the Self where, "without fixed boundaries," nature,
the universe, and the human psyche co-exist in a state of oneness,
and where, according to Jung, synchronistic occurrences have their
origin.(16) As for Agreda, when she was
questioned about how she could have been in two places at once,
she simply quoted St Paul: "Whether in the body or out of
the body I do not know, God knows,"(17)
and thus she personally escaped the tyranny of the Inquisition.
Jung noted that archetypal influences are characterized by their
capacity to fascinate. Serra had been captivated by the New World
"journeys" of Mary Agreda. My mother, in turn, "caught"
his fascination. Shortly after my mother's death, and probably more than a little related to it, I discovered there was an Anglican branch
of Third Order (secular) Franciscans. I recognized at once that I was by
nature and inclination Franciscan. Eastern religions speak of
"spiritual lineages," a concept that may have validity
in the West as well. My mother, the daughter of a Presbyterian
minister, had no apparent connections to the Franciscans. Nevertheless
the lives of two Franciscans fascinated and captivated her creative
energies so as to lead her deeper and deeper into the mysteries
of the human psyche, and now my life was being directed onto the Franciscan path. Of Agreda my mother had asked: What was the motivating
force behind the extraordinary accomplishments of her life? And
of Serra, what was the common spiritual bond that attracted him
(a scholarly university professor) and the California Indians
(living in a Stone Age world) to one another, causing each to
recognize the other as brother or sister "in Christ"? And now I too wonder of Francis, Agreda and Serra: What is it that binds us one to the other and not only in visible but invisible realms?
While there may be alternate explanations for why we feel emotionally
impacted by one place and not another, or attracted to certain
spiritual practices or disciplines and not others, when we look
back over our lives certain destiny-determining archetypal
influences emerge as the connecting threads of our lives.
Healing the Residue of Unresolved Grief
In the 1970's we moved to a narrow creek valley in the California
Mother Lode where the Miwok Indians had lived before their land
and lives had been taken from them out of greed for gold. Shortly
after settling in, I began to sense a sadness beneath the sylvan
beauty and tranquillity of this place. It felt to me like the
"unresolved grief" of those who had been here before.
I sensed their anguish and also their bewilderment over the abruptness
with which their way of life had been crushed. Walking along the
creek and coming to the rocks where they had ground acorns, and
to the deeper holes where they had bathed, it was as if I could
hear their mournful cries. It was as if their existence continued
on, but in a reality of unresolved, bewildering, and meaningless
grief. As one whose roots trace back to the Europeans at whose
hands the Indians so grievously had suffered, I asked for forgiveness.
Following my prayers I began to perceive ways greed and acquisitiveness
have played out in my own life; how prone I have been to compensate
for my inner greedy self with outward showings of generosity--one
being the shadow of the other. Following my indignation at the
greed of others I became acquainted with the face of greed in
my own psyche.
Through self-observation we gain self-knowledge. And wounding
as it may be to the false self's sense of pride, self-knowledge
is the kind of truth by which the true Self is set free.
Gradually my perception of the presence of the past here has changed,
until now the resonance of those tragic days feels superseded
by the happier, tranquil lives the Miwoks had lived in harmony
with nature. It feels now to be an environment where the soul
can be nourished by the tranquillity and harmony that is here.
But this is also a good place to do grief work, perhaps because
of the human suffering witnessed here: grief over what was or
what never was. Grief work for ourselves, our ancestors, and our
planet is something we each can do to lighten the load we collectively
bear. In this way we help free future generations from the burden
of the past. Grief experienced through to resolution serves this
purpose. To grieve loss is part of what it means to be human.
On this earthly plane, joy and sorrow, and life and death co-exist--life
that is not separate from death but as one life/death pulse beat
eternally repeated. There is about any place whose roots reach
into archetypal reality a sense of paradoxical simultaneity. Our
souls are layered with opposite and alternate experiences. We
have experienced this and that. We have felt this and
that. Self-knowledge is gained through experiences that put us
in touch with the opposites that make us human. Our capacity to
experience the heaviness of sorrow and the lightness of joy simultaneously
is part of what makes us human. We are both shadow and light;
both conscious and unconscious. One of the miracles of being human
is this capacity to embrace, contain, and experience the opposites
of human nature.
Self-Knowledge As a Pressing Necessity
In assessing the collective psychic condition of the mid Twentieth
Century, Dr Jung wrote that "self-knowledge in particular
has become one of the most pressing contemporary problems."(18)
He goes on to explain that this is what affords the individual
protection from the "isms" of mass-mindedness and its
"irresistible urge to catastrophe."(19)
Self-knowledge is what inoculates the individual from the contagion
of fear constantly loosed in the collective. Jung cites two areas
in particular where self-knowledge is needed. The first is for
recognition of the shadow component of human nature which unrecognized
is projected onto other people, races, religions, organizations,
institutions and governments. The blind-to-self shadow tries to
make itself right by making what is wrong "out there,"
thus avoiding personal responsibility for the resolution of collective
problems. Concerning the shadow and self-knowledge, John Sanford
The kingdom requires a morality which is not founded on rules
and regulations imposed from outside, but on self-knowledge. This
self-knowledge can be achieved through inner confrontation. The
inner confrontation occurs when we confront the person within
us for whom the Law is necessary. It would not be necessary to
have a Law forbidding murder, adultery, stealing, coveting, and
slander if there was not a part of our personality which might
do exactly these things. The scribes and Pharisees seek to avert
the danger of this inner "shadow" by following rules
which prohibit these things. But the higher morality requires
confronting the shadowy one within us who has made the rules necessary
in the first place. In this way we achieve a truly differentiated
moral attitude toward ourselves and life and are fit for the creative
life of the kingdom.(20)
The second necessity Jung called for was recognition of "the
existence and the importance of the archetypes." Shadow and
other archetypes inform us concerning our human commonality, knowledge
of which perhaps really is, at this point in history, our most
pressing need if we are to survive this present evolutionary passage.
Archetypal Reality and the Bible
The Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, abounds with archetypes
and archetypal personifications and situations. When, in the course
of our everyday lives, we are put in touch with persons or situations
that "set us off" we can be sure there are biblical
correlations to what we are experiencing. This is because the
Bible, as well as the myths and wisdom of every culture, address
a limited number of typical (archetypal) situations. The Chinese
book of wisdom, The I Ching, speaks to 64 possible human
situations that occur and reoccur in our lives as "patterns
When we seek out biblical correspondences to our occurring life
situations we open ourselves to insight. This pursuit of insight
into the meaning of life's challenges is how an activation or
"disturbance" of the contents of the unconscious is
resolved and assimilated into consciousness. It is also the way
we learn to recognize, communicate with, and reclaim the archetypes
as part and parcel of our human nature. Jung (in pre-inclusive
language) wrote: "Man's capacity for consciousness alone
makes him man."(21)
In particular, the Bible of our Judaic-Christian heritage furthers
self-discovery by presenting myths, metaphors and symbolic images
that resonate from the past up through the present. Resonance
alerts us to the activation of an archetype. Then, if we seize
the opportunity and follow where this leads, it will be in accordance
with the innate wisdom of the Self. This approach to following
where the archetype leads is the one followed below in attempting
to derive personal meaning from the drama taking place in Eden.
Finding Ourselves in Eden
If, in a dream, meditation or some other inscape, we find ourselves
in an edenic-like place, very likely we will be awestruck before
its verdant, primeval beauty. Looking about we may surmise ourselves
to be alone. Surprisingly, however, we will not feel lonely.
Rather we will sense the place to be alive with a sentient presence.
In the Judaic-Christian tradition Eden is a metaphor for an archetypal
level of consciousness that exists in each of us. Here Adam and
Eve, representing humanity's first parents, "walked and talked"
with an all-knowing, all-pervading presence sometimes called "Yahweh"
and sometimes "the Lord God." But the experience of
the presence that they knew there could also be describing an
experience of the Self, the God-Self, in whose image our
most essential, eternal being is made. The drama in the Garden
speaks metaphorically of how and why our original connection to
God through the Self was broken. With the expulsion of
human consciousness from the Garden, the journey back into God's
Encountering Eden's Archetypes
Eden, then, is not a place that no longer exists (or that never
was) but a common ground of archetypal reality where a drama concerning
the evolution of human consciousness is being enacted. And since
the evolution of consciousness is something that is happening
simultaneously, both collectively and individually, we too are
part of the drama.
In that the archetypes of Eden are transpersonal, we are not connected
to them through personal memory or history. Nor do they belong
to any one culture or religion but rather to all who share a common
identity as human beings. Just as at the bottom of all oceans
all land is one, so it is with archetypal reality. The archetypes,
although emerging from common ground, are nevertheless as varied
in form as the individuals whose lives they both energize and
Stages of life have a way of running out of energy. When this
happens the archetypes, as the transformers of psychic energy,
have an important role to play. At such times it is the Self--the
archetype of wholeness--who calls forth some new potential
waiting in the wings of the unconscious for its turn on the center
stage of our life, bringing with it a whole new reserve of energy
and enthusiasm for life. Thus our individual lives are moved from
one stage to the next by the power inherent in the archetypes.
Human Nature as Part Animal and Part Divine
As human beings we are creatures of both earth and heaven. We
are part instinctual (part Serpent) and part divine (part Yahweh).
We are also part dark and part light--partially conscious and
partially unconscious. This is the primary, vertical duality of
human nature. Secondarily, and on either end of a horizontal axis,
we are also both Adam and Eve, both masculine and feminine. We
have both active and passive poles as well as the capacity both
to think and to feel, to sense and to intuit.
The human psyche is the crucible within which the opposites of
human nature are held in suspension in order to be reconciled.
Eden is the stage upon which the drama of awakening consciousness
takes place. The players are the four primary archetypes. As Adam
and Eve and Yahweh and the Serpent, they represent the masculine
and the feminine and the divine and the instinctual. They are
the four corners upon which consciousness is founded. As they
become reconciled in us we become whole.
Figure 2 reflects Eden's four rivers and shows Eden's four
players in their polar-opposite arrangement. As two opposing pairs
they exert the tensions that keep our lives from complacency.
They keep us moving towards wholeness. The psychic energies flowing
between the opposing poles also work to bring the light of consciousness
into the dark recesses of the unconscious, causing some of what
lies latent there to rise to consciousness. Increment by increment
we become more conscious by a process that is both humbling and
ennobling as we come to accept both the heights and depths that
make us human.
Eden's Archetypal Cast of Four
Even should we give these four different names, or even leave
them unnamed, still they would exist as representatives of the
four parts of human totality. Similar to how astronomers plot
out the heavens, working from what they do know of the orderedness
of the heavens, so psychologically the existence and unique characteristics
of these archetypes can be deduced from what is known of the essential
order of the psyche. This, in any event, is the "scientific"
premise from which Jung approached his study of archetypes.
Moreover, just as our perspective of heavenly bodies changes over
seasons and more greatly so over eons, so the collective perception
of the archetypes changes as cultural persuasions change. Thus
succeeding generations bestow upon the archetypes new meanings
or shades of meaning. Also, because the language they speak is
common to all peoples, archetypes are the bridges between different
cultures and religions. In this capacity they reinforce human
sameness and our underlying unity.
The Transformation of Consciousness
Even though the archetypes are universal they can only be understood
particularly. And when it comes to deriving personal meaning from
them they shift similarly to the sands of changing tides. Illusive,
in fact, is the very nature of an archetype. More an energy than
an image, an archetype sidesteps letting its meaning be pinpointed.
Rather it points in a general direction of relevance to a particular
time or situation. Realizing this we can assume as our responsibility
the need to work with and get to know a particular archetypal
image from as many facets as possible, a task that requires both
patience and perseverance.
An archetype, in order to fulfill its role in the transformation
of consciousness, must, first of all, connect with and even become
attached to something in the individual psyche that is ready to
be moved from the darkness of the unconscious into the light of
consciousness. In this way it is like a catalyst that triggers
a chain reaction resulting in a change from one state to another:
as when a liquid becomes a solid; or an aspect of self that has
been unconscious becomes conscious. A biblical example is the
story of the angel who from time to time would stir the waters
in the pool of Bethsaida.(22) Then it would
be that the person first into the disturbed waters would be healed.
The inner meaning of this story is that until our unconscious
blocks and fears are disturbed, exposed and challenged we will
continue to find ways to avoid the responsibility of living our
lives to the fullest.
As the container of a latent potential an archetype is "programmed"
towards a goal. This goal is to bring the part of the whole that
it represents into a conscious relationship with the totality
of who we are, and then this totality into conscious relationship
with the greater Whole, the All-in-All, that God is. The dynamic
symmetry of Eden, as presented in Part 1, is our potential
for wholeness, and its four players are the North, South, East
and West of the human psyche. With this as a foundation upon which
to build understanding, we can next ask: "Who in us
are the archetypes of Eden?"
The Serpent of Eden
"Well, certainly," we may say, "not the Serpent,
not the cause of suffering for the whole human race." But
yes, this creature who is as complex as its comparable part of
human nature, is also us, and a part without which we could not
have made it into this life or our lives thus far.
Although the Serpent has been interpreted in opposite ways by
various peoples and historic times, its most essential symbolic
meaning is unconsciousness and instinctuality. But
also, even in the Bible, its other connotations are wisdom and
healing, and to this day this meaning survives in the caduceus
emblem of the medical profession. (Figure 3)
According to Jung the ambiguity of the Serpent corresponds
. . . to what is totally unconscious and incapable of becoming
conscious, but which, as the collective unconscious and as instinct,
seems to possess a peculiar wisdom of its own and a knowledge
that is often felt to be supernatural.(23)
Larger-than-life and multi-faceted, East and West understand the
Serpent from different points of view. This two-headed aspect
of the Serpent is shown in Figure 4. Not only do East and
West view the Serpent ambivalently but past and present, influenced
by changing cultural and religious values and mores, also fluctuate
concerning the value judgments they place on the Serpent.
The Instinctual Serpent
In the process of being "civilized" our instincts are
for the most part repressed. And because by nature they are unconscious,
it is only under rare circumstances that we are afforded the increment
of distance necessary to observe and identify our instincts in
action. Such a moment of truth is always awakening.
One of the problems we commonly face is that in our alienated-from-nature
society we have been made uncomfortable with the idea of our instincts
and therefore prejudiced against the Serpent. Like a snake in
the grass our instincts hide in waiting. And for the very reason
that they have been culturally repressed we have been rendered
"unconscious and incapable of becoming conscious" of
the ways instinctuality rules and overrules the outer veneer of
our out-of-balance intellectual and technological civilization.
But, if we dare, we can receive insight through the archetypal
Serpent as to how instincts disguise themselves in our personal
lives and in our culture.
Serpent, snake and dragon carry interchangeable meanings with
somewhat different emphasis. In mythology it is the dragon who
guards the "treasure," the treasure being the Self in
its totality, and which includes the "peculiar" or instinctual
wisdom referred to above, while the more common garden variety
snake is symbolic of the "dark, chthonic world of instinct."
But as Jung further points out, "the snake is not just a
nefarious, chthonic being; it is also . . . a symbol of wisdom,
and hence of light, goodness and healing."
. . . The inner polarity of the snake-symbol far exceeds that
of man. It is overt, whereas man's is partly latent or potential.
The Serpent surpasses Adam in cleverness and knowledge and can
Implied here is a warning: Never underestimate the power of
the instincts. "She," Jung goes on, "is older
than he, and is evidently equipped by God with a superhuman intelligence,
like that son of God [of Hebrew mythology] who took over the role
of Satan." It is this double significance of the Serpent
that places her (according to Jung) at the lower end of
the primary axis of the human psyche--its vertical axis--by which
the heaven and earth of human nature are united.(25)
The Egocentric Serpent
A duality similar to the Serpent's applies to the ego. Through
our egocentric arrogance we, along with the fallen angels, are
brought low, but only because we (our egocentricity) also aspire
to ascend to a position higher than God. This is how egocentricity
functions. It usurps the place of God. It places itself higher
than God and so takes the place of God in our lives.
But egocentricity is only the unredeemed aspect of the ego. The
redeemed ego is our link to the Self, to knowing God and the realization
of the Kingdom as an inner reality. For this reason Jungians,
rather than seeing the ego as something to eliminate, advise instead
that the ego-Self axis be strengthened in order to establish an
open line of communication with God.
In recent times the person who seems to have had the greatest
insight into egocentricity was John Sanford's mentor Fritz Kunkel.
Kunkel believed that our egocentricity is the equivalent of the
biblical idea of original sin. It is this that corrupts us; it
is the spiritual disease from which we must be cured. Kunkel once
made the statement that the closely guarded secret of evil is
that the ego is the devil, by which he meant that the ego in its
egocentric condition is the door through which archetypal evil
enters the soul and eventually comes to possess it. When this
happens, Kunkel noted, "the [egocentric] ego, without knowing
it is always fighting on the side of evil and darkness though
it pretends to be a servant of light."(26)
Separations and Differentiations
We have been told that in Eden it was an act of disobedience that
caused the fall and brought about the ultimate tension of the
human soul--self will in opposition to God's will. As unconscious
beings Adam and Eve were "obedient children." In common
with what anthropologists tell us about the earliest humans, their
sense of immediacy was with nature and their environment. But
with the dawning of self-consciousness came the establishment
of boundaries between the individual and the natural environment.
Perhaps it was at this point that Adam was given the task of "naming"
the animal kingdom, thus differentiating and ordering them into
species.(27) If so, this would mark a time
in evolution when a separation from undifferentiated unconsciousness
was taking place--the time of emergence into self-consciousness.
The growth of human consciousness proceeds through repeated separations
and differentiations. This is how autonomy and consciousness-of-choice
are established. But the gain is also a loss. The ability to make
choices leads to the painful consequences of choices made for
the wrong reasons and under the influence of a voice that urges
towards self-will and "hardens" the heart towards God.
To Obey or Not Obey
In the evolution of consciousness one of the most vulnerable points
of temptation is early adolescence with its glandular changes,
erupting emotions, and power struggles. Let us assume that in
the Garden Adam and Eve had come to the adolescent stage of development
and, as typical adolescents, they were vulnerable to suggestion.
To obey or not obey? To resist or not resist temptation? To believe
the voice of parental and cultural guidance or the voice of the
Discontentment is another aspect of adolescent consciousness.
And although Adam's and Eve's fall from grace is blamed on disobedience,
it could be that just as much at fault was the same discontent
with constricting circumstances that causes young people today
to become disruptively restless. Up to this time Adam's and Eve's
obedience had been without questioning. Yet, without the ability
to question there would be no basis upon which to learn to make
choices and therefore become self-determining adults. To obey
or to question authority, this is one of Eden's paradoxes to which
each of us can relate.
Having been an adolescent as well as having seen six offspring
through their teen years, my sympathy is with both Yahweh and
Adam and Eve. My experience has been that when the time comes
and children are restless to move on into a larger, less constricting
world, the tensions that mount cause a mutual readiness to let
go. Someone (I don't know who or even if I recall it correctly)
expressed the dilemma of parenthood: "Love, if held too tightly,
will die; if held too lightly will fly away; lightly, tightly,
how do I know if I'm letting you die or letting you go?"
This may have been Yahweh's dilemma.
Could it, then, have been adolescent discontent, together with
the capacity to make choices, that caused Eve and then Adam to
listen to the voice of temptation, and therefore set themselves
up to be driven from the Garden?
As with ourselves and our children, sometimes our choices too
have led to painful consequences. As part-smart adolescents we
were unaware of our own latent powers. This together with surfacing
instinctual tensions--the very elements the Serpent symbolizes--made
us particularly vulnerable to temptation.
Proneness to Suggestion
In reference to the Serpent, Jung wrote the following:
Most people do not have sufficient range of consciousness to become
aware of the opposites inherent in human nature. The tensions
they generate remain for the most part unconscious . . . . . Traditionally,
the snake stands for the vulnerable spot in man: it personifies
his shadow, i.e., his weakness and unconsciousness. The greatest
danger about unconsciousness is proneness to suggestion.
And early to mid into the Twentieth Century he began to fear that
because our society had become so overly rational we were headed
for a time of extreme vulnerability and susceptibility to irrational
violence. He feared that "rationality without tradition and
without a basis in instinct" would leave us vulnerable, unprotected,
and unable to discern "absurdity" when we would be faced
with it. He felt that
the ever-widening split between conscious and unconscious increases
the danger of psychic infection and mass psychosis. With the loss
of symbolic ideas the bridge to the unconscious has broken down.
Instinct no longer affords protection against unsound ideas and
Kunkle also expressed concern for the dark side-effects of a collective
time of "puberty" as "human character comes of
Our time, like the first century, is characterized by the decay
of national structure on an international scale. The individual
must stick to old conventional values which are obsolete, or he
must set out on his own account to find the entrance into the
realm of the future. The new outer structure is developing within
the character of the average individual. We are witnessing a psychological
mutation; the old species, homo feudalis (feudalistic man),
is changing into the new species, homo communis (common
man). But every mutation has to be paid for with much loss of
life. There will be many criminals and madmen for each single
"reformer" who finds the entrance into the kingdom.(29)
But we are not without a ray of hope. Along with the collapse
of our spiritual and psychological "bridges" there is
a simultaneous collapse of racial and political barriers.
With the collapse of the latter, the common people of earth are
moving closer towards one another. In our connectedness we move
beyond individualism towards realization of our human sameness.
In our personal egocentric strivings we move away from unity and
into separateness, but in becoming mindful of the whole we reconnect
with a personal sense of being part of the Whole. Our sense of
individuality merges with our sense of universality. Echoing Teilhard,
Barbara Marx Hubbard describes the next level of human transformation
as from Homo sapiens to Homo universalis with Christ
as the "evolutionary template."(30)
The Psyche as Crucible
The human psyche is the crucible within which the opposites of
human nature are held in suspension: hate and love; doubt and
fear; despair and hope; dark and light; sadness and joy. Similarly
the duality of the Serpent is a part of human totality, not only
as Satan (the rebellious ego) but also as the elemental level
of consciousness which when elevated empowers creativity. It seems
important, then, that we free the Serpent from its negative connotations
and cultural judgments and see that most essentially the Serpent
is symbolic of the life force hidden in the very heart of creation--even
matter itself. But we need also do so without losing sight of
how being unconscious of elementary instinctuality makes us vulnerable
in the extreme to temptation. And temptation, if followed,
ends in alienation from God, from the source of our creativity
and therefore our sense of meaning and purpose.
The Patriarchal Slant of Genesis
As far as cultural history goes, whether the Serpent has been
interpreted positively or negatively has depended on the particular
culture's point of view. Certainly in Genesis we are given the
patriarchal slant, and naturally so, since this was the point
of view from which the writers and translators purposely told
Crawling close to the ground the Serpent symbolizes the pre-conscious
or instinctive side of human nature whose primary concern is for
the survival of life and the species. If we are to read the Genesis
story as consistent with the instinct to survive then we will
have to allow that it is the patriarchal slant that causes the
story to color the Serpent, and therefore the feminine,
at fault. And yet where would any of us be without the survival
concerns of the nurturing feminine who, of necessity and in the
ordering of creation, is instinctually rooted?
Because the drama of Eden contains mythological elements and archetypal
symbols, as we delve into the story new levels of meaning naturally
emerge for us, the significance dependent on where in our individual
journeys we happen to be. Moreover, what the story means for one
generation or one culture will be different for succeeding generations
and under culturally changing views.
To find the correction to the patriarchal slant we have but to
look to pre-patriarchal and eastern cultures. These cultures more
readily recognize and honor the feminine principle, and understand
the Serpent as symbolic of the kind of wisdom that looks to earth
and to nature for insight. It would seem also that eastern cultures
make allowances for the darker aspects of their gods and, more
generally, recognize that dark as well as light is a part of total
reality. This is particularly true of the artworks of eastern
religions where the goddess is sometimes shown as having a ferocious
aspect, as does nature herself.
Masculine and Feminine Ways of Knowing
Referring back again to the wheel of archetypes in Figure 2,
if egocentricity were to replace the Serpent, and the Self take
the place of Yahweh, in Jung's sense of the Self as our God connection,
then for Adam we could substitute the masculine way of knowing
which is direct and mental, and for Eve the feminine way which
is indirect and intuitive. In this manner and as shown in Figure
5, the wheel of the psyche would be stepped down from the
archetypal or collective to a personal and individual level.
Polarities of the Human Psyche
As happens, in the process of the psyche coming into greater balance,
the pendulum swings back-and-forth between the two sets of polar
opposites. Similarly the poles of cultures also shift. In a dominantly
masculine culture, feminine ways of knowing are feared and suppressed.
Although feminine values are making a come back, it was not so
long ago that "witches" were being burned at the stake.
(Moreover, this was being done by Christians and in America, a
land supposedly founded on the principals of freedom and equality.)
If, however, feminine ways of knowing are understood to apply
to men as well as women, then we can observe how the feminine
pole functions in both negative and positive ways in men as well
as in women. Receptivity is to the feminine pole what the capacity
to take action is to the masculine pole. In the feminine, be we
men or women, we receive. In the masculine, be we women or men,
we take action.
As a spiritual capacity, receptivity is the ability to hear God's
inner directing voice, to receive it in our hearts, to hold it
there, to ponder it, and, if further directed, to take appropriate
action. Because Mary was receptive to a messenger from God and
acquiesced, Jesus was born. Because Joseph received guidance through
his dreams the child Jesus was protected from those who sought
to harm him. Thus the Child was able to survive to adulthood in
order to fulfill the purpose for which he had come. Mary received
and acquiesced: Joseph received and took action. Together they
exemplify the necessity for being free in the feminine pole.
The Sin of Manipulation
But there is another, a negative side to the feminine way of knowing.
And how can we judge when a way of knowing is "of God"
or not? What makes one person a prophet or prophetess and another
a "witch"? And how might we, in a present cultural context,
define a witch?
The definition I once heard, and tend to agree with, is someone
who manipulates another person's will for their own purposes.
This definition has helped me identify a few "witches"
who have crossed my path. But it also has caused me to think of
the more subtle ways I, too, have been guilty of manipulation.
In doing inner work, and particularly where the shadow is concerned,
we are forced to redirect our accusing finger to ourselves.
Accordingly, if witchcraft is understood as manipulation, then
it would have to include all the ways persons intuitively or instinctively
"psych" others out to get their own needs met. And since
"needs" are instinctually rooted, whether for survival,
gratification, or power, it then would be our own neediness that
sets us up to be "psyched out." Moreover, it would be
our same neediness that tempts us to manipulate others for our
own purposes. In either case, it is unconsciousness of where we
are needy that makes us vulnerable both to being manipulated and
to being manipulators. Here again the evolution of consciousness
is dependent on self-knowledge.
Insight into Self Images
If our need is to fulfill a self image of how we want others to
see us, this makes it even more difficult for us to catch sight
of our shadow. If, for example, someone looks to me for help because
they have me pegged as a good Christian or even just plain motherly--the
earth-mother type that I am--I may fulfill their expectation simply
because it matches my own self-image. If I do so unconsciously
I may soon find myself in the position of being this person's
source--their god--and therefore their co-dependent in the dark
art of manipulation. The Serpent, as a perpetrator of manipulation
is truly wise beyond all creatures and "more subtle."(32)
But I would dare say that as children we were all, to some degree
or another, masters in the art of manipulation. Speaking for myself,
I remember a time when I was in third or fourth grade and knowingly
and with remarkable subtlety manipulated my teacher so as to get
out of having to stay after school. Can I claim innocence of age?
I don't think so since I still recall the scene and the way I
"colored the facts" in order to win her sympathy.
Original Sin as Generationally Perpetuated
When, even as children, we knowingly and consciously practiced
deceit we were diminishing the light of our souls. Nor is the
capacity to deceive something every child reinvents. Rather it
is an aspect of the "original sin" into which we are
born, and even may be a part of the DNA patterning passed on to
successive generations. In any case, we also have the capacity
to choose not to practice deceit. Some of our ancestors did and
some did not, some more and some less. Thus, we are all both cursed
and blessed by those who came before us. If we make an effort
to become more conscious and more self-honest concerning the motives
behind what we say and do and how we go about getting our needs
met, then, instead of being the perpetrators we become transformers
of generational sin. Rather than blaming "sin" on Adam
and Eve, we can assume responsibility for our share in transforming
In observing and honestly assessing the ways we use our own lower
intuitive powers we initiate the process by which the shadow aspect
of human nature is redeemed. Kunkel speaks of this shadow aspect
of inner work as "a painful and exclusively personal task:"
It implies the acceptance and assimilation of our unconscious
fears and faults, the removal of our inhibitions and prejudices,
the reformation and integration of our passions and compulsions.(33)
Suffering, Endurance and Consciousness
The drama in the Garden tells of the beginning and cause of suffering.
But, as we have already surmised, the beginning of suffering was
also for the sake of the evolution of consciousness, and for humanity's
conscious reunion with God. The New Testament, as well
as the writings of mystics both past and contemporary, speak of
a "suffering endured for the sake of Christ" and that
is transforming. Although judged "foolishness" by the
rational mind, it is nevertheless the "wisdom of God"
to which Paul and many have attested.(34)
James, in his New Testament letter, speaks of an endurance that
is rewarded by "the crown of life."(35)
And Sweitzer, in discussing the "being in Christ" mysticism
of St Paul, refers to a suffering that is atoning when
endured for the sake of Christ and borne in conscious union
with Him.(36) There is also Jesus' directive
to his disciples to pick up their crosses and follow him.(37)
In context, Jesus seems to be referring to self-denial--to yielding
self-will to the higher will of the one he calls Father. Symbolically
understood this amounts to the death of self-will--its crucifixion.
From personal experience I know that suffering can be physical,
emotional or mental. I know also that there is a kind of suffering
that takes the form of a moral dilemma and that places one in
the fire of painful or conflicting emotions or desires so as to
evoke images of being "tried" by fire. It is James again
who observes how often it is the tongue that sets in motion the
"wheel" of fire--of hell.(38)
But even self-ignited suffering can be transforming when it leads
to self-examination, and self-examination to insight as to how
self-will exerts itself in our lives. In this way we "eat
our sin," that is to say we assimilate into consciousness
a portion of our previously unconscious shadow self. The uroboric
Serpent who swallows its tail is symbolic of this self-assimilation
process. (Figure 6)
Entering Myth as a Participant
Characteristically an archetypal myth invites the reader to become
a participant, to put him- or herself into the story as one (or
more) of the players. This is possible because a story that is
mythologically true is able to reach beyond our conscious blinders
and directly into the unconscious where its meaning is symbolically
Just as there are levels upon levels to human consciousness, so
there are levels and levels of meaning in an archetypal myth.
But for as long as the patriarchal finger of Genesis has kept
us focused on "the woman's" eating from the forbidden
tree of knowledge of good and evil we have missed some of the
more subtle messages of the story and its paradoxical nuances.
As already noted, the Serpent not only has a dark side but also
a light side. In both the Old and New Testaments there are hints
of both: the Serpent as Satan, and as bearer of wisdom and physical
healing. Moreover, even though the meaning of a myth may be culturally
conditioned, the symbolic language through which it communicates
allows its truth (not to be confused with the facts) to
be transmitted from age to age and place to place. The reason
we can personally relate to an age-old myth is because we have
within us counterparts to what is being portrayed in the story.
In addition to the masculine point of view presented in Genesis,
a feminine voice also can be heard speaking from a purely earth
mother point of view. This causes me to wonder, "If I were
Eve, deceived or not, what would be going through my mind as the
sequence of events unfolds?"
An Earth Mother View of the Fall
True, as we listen to the Serpent as tempter, the tale is one
of unabashed guile: How to practice guile and how to be beguiling.(39)
These, however, are the very characteristics of consciousness
that develop along side of egocentricity. Therefore, if it was
through egocentricity that the Serpent intended to "psych
out" Yahweh's children, perhaps Adam would have been a better
victim. But what if there was something else that made Eve susceptible
to this particular temptation? From what other angle could Eve
have been beguiled?
An important point of the story is the Serpent's contradiction
of Yahweh by telling "the woman" that what Yahweh really
fears is that if she and Adam eat the fruit of this tree they
will become "like gods.". I think "being like gods"
would mean something different to a man than to a woman. Speaking
for myself, I don't see the Serpent as appealing to Eve's egocentricity
so much as to her instincts as an earth mother. And if so, how
exactly did the Serpent go about setting Eve up for "the
fall"? In other words, what could have been going on in Eve's
mind? What beneath the surface of the story might be at issue
For one thing, as Eve it would seem to me that the most important
thing about becoming "like gods" would be "to live
forever." Moreover, the first argument the Serpent presents
to Eve is to contradict Yahweh by telling her, "You will
not die." To the part of me that is Eve this would
certainly be more appealing than gaining "knowledge of good
and evil," except perhaps as idle curiosity. But I know from
Eve's name that her primary nature is in being an earth mother.
And I know how primarily concerned an earth mother is for the
safety, well-being and the preservation of the physical life of
her offspring. And if Eve is destined to become the "mother
of all," as her name indicates, then this desire is basic
to who she is. I know that on this level I am unconsciously and
sometimes outrageously instinctual. At times I even have been
just conscious enough to observe how even mild apprehension can
evolve into full-fledged anxiety where my children are concerned.
For these reasons I feel that for Eve, the original earth mother,
this priority of physical survival would have been essential to
As I read the story, Yahweh's focus, too, seems more concerned
with the Tree of Life than the Tree of Knowledge. Only after the
fact of the temptation is Yahweh overheard to say, "See,
the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of
good and evil. He must not be allowed to stretch his hand out
next and pick from the Tree of Life also, and eat some and live
for ever." It is for this reason that Yahweh bans Adam
from the Garden and places the Tree of Life under the guard of
the flaming sword.(40)
The Tension of Opposites
At this point in the story as it has come down to us in Genesis,
it is almost as if Eve, being a mere woman, has become
so unimportant as to be invisible. I also can relate to this,
to times in the midst of highly charged, "important"
masculine situations when I, too, have felt invisible. But in
all fairness, I'm sure the same could be said for men when in
the vicinity of women totally involved in their own gender happenings.
Just as the Serpent and Yahweh create a tension of opposites--the
instinctual and the spiritual--so Adam and Eve--the masculine
and the feminine--have their own characteristic and opposing energies
that from time to time build up to a collective fervor capable
of obscuring all else.
If the Serpent is instinctual--is of the earth and matter--then
Yahweh is of heaven and spirit. If Yahweh represents consciousness,
then the Serpent represents unconsciousness. If Yahweh is "good,"
then the Serpent is "evil." If the goal is to return
to conscious union with God then the "evil" that
the Serpent represents is that which is done out of unconsciousness.
The Bible nowhere defines for us an ultimate, absolute, transcendent
God, perhaps because this, as Judaism holds, is beyond human understanding.
Instead we have different names for God, names defining different
divine characteristics. These different names clue us into the
different facets of the One who is beyond our comprehension. When
Moses asked of the Voice from the burning bush, "Who shall
I say sent me?" "I am who I am" (also translated
"I exist",) was what he was told. Thereafter it was this "I
am" who, through Moses, directed the Israelites and who became
known as Yahweh.
But Yahweh is not the only name by which God is known in the Bible.
In Genesis 1:1 it is Yahweh-Elohim who creates "heaven and
earth." Nor is Yahweh, as he is characterized in the Old
Testament, the same in character as the Heavenly Father whom Jesus
calls "Abba," (or as we would say, "Daddy.")
At least by name--by nature--Yahweh is not even the name of the
one who spoke to Abraham saying:
I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed a
group of nations shall descend from you. Even kings shall be numbered
among your descendants.(41)
El Shaddai, according to David Ebaugh's research based
on Strong's Concordance, is a feminine Hebrew word related
in meaning to"large or multi-breasted provider." Yahweh,
on the other hand, is a masculine word whose root meaning includes
the idea "to produce with the hand," and the Elohim
of Genesis 1:1 is a plural androgynous word etymologically related
to "strong oak tree."(42) These
different names for God suggest different facets of the Hebrew
Godhead, only one of which was Yahweh.
It was "Yahweh-Elohim," who walked and talked with Adam
and actually spoke of himself in the plural. Let us just suppose
that this Yahweh-Elohim of the Hebrew Godhead had some reason
other than a demand for blind obedience for not wanting his children,
in their present stage of development, to eat of the Tree of Life.
From the perspective of wholeness, what motive might we assign
Yahweh that would be more in keeping with how a loving father
could be expected to deal with disobedience in children? To gain
insight here we need turn now to Adam and the role in the Garden
drama assigned him as representative of the masculine pole of
the human psyche.
The Archetypal Adam
As the first man and the first woman, Adam and Eve represent the
masculine and feminine principles of the human psyche. Eve's role
as earth mother--as the primal maternal--has already been noted.
Adam, as her opposite, carries the potential for masculine or
paternal responsibility. One of the positive functions of the
masculine principle is to assume responsibility for the protection
of offspring until they become old enough to shoulder responsibility
for themselves, at which time they will be better equipped to
make responsible choices and be responsible for their choices.
Along with the freedom of choice comes exposure to unknown dangers.
If there was something about the nature of the Serpent that resonated
with Eve's basic role, then it follows there was something about
the nature of Yahweh that related to Adam. If in the development
of human consciousness Yahweh exemplified, among other things,
the protective masculine then his justification for expelling
Adam and Eve from the Garden may have been that human nature was
not yet ready to assume the responsibility for making mature choices.
But why, having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil
and already having tasted something of what it is like to be gods,
would Adam ("the woman" is not mentioned) have needed
to be protected at all costs from eating of the Tree of
From Unity to Multiplicity
Back in Genesis the "innocence" that was lost was an
original state of undifferentiated unity of consciousness. Eating
of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil was symbolic of the
beginning of the process of differentiation. Before that, we may
surmise, the individual human being was not yet aware of existence
apart from the whole. Reflective thought, except in undifferentiated
reference to the whole, had not yet been experienced. Only after
the fruit of duality was consumed and digested, only from that
point on did the ability to think in terms of opposites become
apparent: good and evil, light and dark, male and female, heaven
and earth, the divine and the human, life and death. And, as human
consciousness continued its evolutionary path of increasing complexity,
the list of opposites multiplied proportionately.
Yahweh's immediate concern had been with "the man" who
had become like god in his knowledge of good and evil. But what
if Yahweh's ultimate concern was the near certainty that these
humans next would eat of the Tree of Life and consequentially
obtain immortality. Apparently in Yahweh's mind to have done so
would have been disastrous.
Yahweh's Worst Fear
Eve, "the mother of all those who live,"(43)
is the earth principle with its inherent instinct for physical
survival. If Eve could have secured physical immortality for herself
and her children her innermost desire as an earth mother would
seem to have been fulfilled and, as far as she was concerned,
creation would have fulfilled its purpose. But, at the same time,
Yahweh's worst fear would have been realized. It has been said
that high on the list of human fears is the fear of dying before
one has really lived. When life becomes complacent and settles
in at the level of mere existence there is no motivation to make
of one's life something more than it already is. For this reason
Jesus said, "Whoever would preserve [as in pickle] his life
will lose it."(44)
Perhaps this is what Yahweh was bent on preventing from happening:
humankind's eating of the Tree of Life and thereby attaining immortality
too soon--before having lived long enough to become conscious
enough to appreciate that without purpose and meaning life is
not really being lived. A tragedy of our times is that so many
young people are "falling through the cracks" of our
society, the potential of their lives being lost before they have
had an opportunity to live.
The Tree of Life--Its Heart and Side Shoots
A Jewish "cabalistic" explanation of the Tree of Life
sees it as having lateral branches representing the sub-human
species. These side-shoots come to a halt at one level or another,
ending on the same level where each began. Humankind, however,
is understood as being the heart or trunk of the tree. (Figure
The Heart and Side Shoots of the Tree of Life
Consequently, each species is compelled to exist in a milieu which
varies only to a slight extent. If the milieu alters beyond the
species' capacity of adaptation, then the species dies. . . .
. For the genus Homo, however, the situation is completely
different. . . . The life to which Adam is called is a series
of destructions and new beginnings. Allegorically, life is "saying"
all the time that this "germ" of humanity must always
be prevented from achieving perfect protection and shelter. If
ever it should find a fixed refuge, a comfortable stability, it
would settle down lazily into a subhuman species; it would become
one of these side-shoots on the tree of life.(45)
A similar point of view is given in The Spiritual Legacy of
the American Indian, by Joseph Epes Brown, who explains the
complexity of the spiritual endowment of the Plains Indian, and
why their beliefs cannot be put off simplistically as pantheism.
. . . although man was created last of all the creatures, he is
also the "axis," and thus in a sense is the first. For
if each animal reflects particular aspects of the Great Spirit,
man, on the contrary, may include within himself all aspects.
He is thus a totality, bearing the Universe within himself, and
through his Intellect having the potential capacity to live in
continual awareness of this reality. . . .
[Peace] comes within the souls of men when they realize their
relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers,
and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells
Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere,
it is within each of us.(46)
The Ordering of Priorities
In Eden, while Yahweh's concern had been with Adam, the Serpent's
conversation had been with Eve. In apprising the Tree of Knowledge
Eve saw, first of all, that it was "good to eat," secondly
that it was "pleasing to the eye," and last of all she
conceded it to be "desirable for the knowledge it could give".
If the archetypal Eve is a part of each of us, it can be self-revealing
to note Eve's priorities, and then honestly assess them against
our own. What are our survival concerns? Our emotional needs?
The value we place on knowledge?
The transformational process asks that we become observers but
not judges of our own unconscious attitudes and assumptions.
In becoming observers we gain the distance and detachment necessary
to see how some of our most basic attitudes and cherished assumptions
are the cause of our resistance to change, and therefore to having
alternate choices. Judgment, on the other hand, (whether directed
towards ourselves or others) causes a defensive response which
blinds us to alternate possibilities. Biblical personalities,
however, offer another avenue to self-knowledge, one that is indirect
and therefore able to bypass the resistance we all have to seeing
into the inner depths of our own souls. When we read about them
we are drawn to reflect upon our own human similarities. In this
way we become more psychologically honest. John Sanford, speaking
of what made Jacob a candidate for transformation, notes:
To be psychologically honest means that a person is capable of
seeing the truth about himself and what he is doing. . . . He
calls a spade a spade, and this quality of psychological honesty
is of fundamental importance to spiritual and psychological development.
Without it nothing can take place; with it there is always the
possibility that God (Who, psychologically speaking, is the urge
toward wholeness) can break through our egocentricity and make
something of us.(47)
How Opposites Interchange
As noted in Part I, the components of the Garden form a
mandala that reflects the structure and dynamics of the human
psyche. Another way of seeing the same dynamics at work is in
the Star of David, which symbol is to Israel what the Cross is
to Christianity. Both Cross and Star are symbolic of the reconciliation
of opposites and have common components. Previously we have seen
Adam and Eve and Yahweh and the Serpent as pairs of opposites.
Now, in Figure 8, Yahweh and Adam are shown occupying the
upper, downward pointing triangle and Eve and the Serpent as occupying
the lower but upward pointing triangle.
As shown in Figure 8, the upper but downward pointing
triangle is the territory of Yahweh and Adam, with Yahweh representing the
higher and Adam the lower archetypal levels of the masculine principle.
Inversely, Eve's territory is the upper portion of the lower triangle, the one
pointing upward, which for our purposes represents the feminine principle. Its
lower-most archetypal level is the habitation of the Serpent
Note the small diamond in Figure 8 where the tips of the
two triangles (marked with a plus sign) meet. Then, in Figure
9, note how in the integration process opposites interchange.
For Eve and her daughters the journey towards wholeness leads
upward from the lower world of the unconscious--a place or state
of mind where no one questions Eve's ability to carry on a conversation
with a Serpent. But for Adam and his sons the journey leads downward
from the upper world. Whereas it was Eve who conversed with the
Serpent, it was Adam whose task it was to name and categorize
the animals. Adam's challenge, or the challenge of the dominantly
masculine, is to become more intimately familiar with the lower
regions of consciousness referred to as the unconscious.
The Process of Symbolic Inversion
In Figures 8 and 9, as Eve's and the Serpent's triangle
ascends and Adam's and Yahweh's descends, what is a small diamond
(a seed potential) in the center of Figure 8 has expanded
so as to include all four of Eden's archetypal personages. Moreover,
Yahweh and the Serpent, instead of being relegated to the upper
and the lower outermost territories, (representing the archetypal
extremities) have now become co-joined and included within the
very center of the diagram.
This process by which opposites interchange is called symbolic
inversion. As a principle of nature it is constantly happening
in our daily lives as day turns into night and summer becomes
winter. Something similar is also constantly taking place in the
human psyche with its rhythmic movement from times of withdrawing
inwardly to times of moving back out into greater activity and
involvement. This ebb and flow of psychic energy is as regular
as the rise and fall of the ocean and follows laws of nature as
dependable as those upon which the tides are regulated.
In Genesis, Yahweh and the Serpent are the archetypal representatives
of the principles symbolized as heaven and earth: Adam and Eve
are the representatives of these same principles in human nature.
The creative task of becoming individually whole is the progressive
work by which the opposites on both personal and collective levels
of consciousness are united. The diamond, as it is double outlined
in Figure 9, is symbolic of the many-faceted, whole psyche--the
The Creative Process at Work in Our Lives
Our survival into adulthood gives us firsthand knowledge of life's
passages. From infant to child to adolescent to young adult, we
pass through "initiations" that symbolically relate
to our emergence from unconsciousness. In the embryonic state
we were contained within an encircling environment that provided
all our needs. After being so rudely pushed from the womb we gradually
experienced separateness. Incrementally our independence and self-identity
increased and strengthened. Gradually it dawned upon us that someday
we would be expected to assume responsibility for our own lives.
As teenagers we began to resist what we experienced as barriers
to our freedom and to rebel against those who imposed limitations
on us. We were betwixt and between the womb and the world. We
were about to be banished from Eden's gates.
On the transformational journey we become conscious of who we
are both individually and in our relationship to the whole. Our
need is to know where we have come from so as to appraise where
we now are and be receptive to direction from within as to where
we are to go from here. In this movement the creative process
is at work in and through our lives.
The story of Eden is about the initial phase of the repetitive
pattern by which consciousness evolves. In grasping this we come
to see that the real life situations that cause us the psychic
pain of alienation are not working against us but for our wholeness.
If only we could more readily embrace rather than resist our pain,
then our suffering would be less and we would understand it as
something not to escape but to wrestle with. "To prevail"
in this sense is to not let go of what we are wrestling or struggling
against until we are able to discern its message, meaning, or
guidance for our lives. When we do this the experience then becomes
transforming and prepares us to ascend higher up the evolutionary
spiral where our lives can be seen in terms of their intentional
To know there is intent behind our lives is to know that we are
connected to and part of a larger life and a greater reality than
the limited one we know through our five senses.
From the First to the Second Adam
Paradoxically, for the individual as well as for humanity, emergence
from that original edenic state of collective containment causes
an erasing of memory. We are born into this life with only "intimations"
of our immortality. In the original, undifferentiated, unconscious
state we are so identified with the whole we don't know who we
are apart from all else. The biblical journey from Genesis to
Revelations points our way of return to the eternal All-in-All
that God is, not as an unconscious union but in a fully conscious
The real choice to be made is between accepting the responsibilities
of becoming more fully conscious over the consequences of remaining
unconscious, a choice most acutely brought into focus at each
of life's crossroads. For pre-conscious humanity the Garden of
Eden was just such a crossroads.
If Yahweh is the archetypal representative of the divine masculine
principle, one of his primary functions is to keep humanity on
its evolutionary course in order for it to reach its goal. The
way an archetype functions is to set in motion a particular kind
of energy by which the human psyche--individually and collectively--is
moved from one phase of its journey to the next. In this light,
even the violence of the Old Testament and of Revelations can
be read as symbolic of how the human soul's resistance to transformation
is overcome--is itself done violence to--as when a tornado uproots
everything in its path that is not sufficiently lashed in place,
or an earthquake shakes the very foundation upon which a person
is standing, causing whatever is not firmly anchored to come tumbling
The Garden of Eden was a pivotal crossroads for collective humanity.
Jesus, in the agony he experienced in Gethsemane, made a symbolic
return to Eden. About this the Apostle Paul wrote:
The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became
a life-giving spirit.(48)
In accepting the "bitter cup" of crucifixion Jesus was
opening himself to all the cumulative darkness and pain of the
human race. Rather than making any effort to preserve his own
life, he accepted "obedience unto death," thereby blotting
out that first and all subsequent acts of disobedience--past,
present and future.
If in Eden disobedience caused humanity to veer from some originally
intended course, in Gethsemane humanity as a whole was put back
O happy fault
That merited such and so great a redeemer!(49)
Marianne Elliott: Frontispiece and Figures 3, 4, & 7.
Kenneth McAll, M.D.: Figure 1 (permission requested)
Ann K Elliott: Figures 2, 5, 6, 8, & 9
1. Jung, C G, quoted by Jolande Jacobi in
Complex, Archetype, Symbol, Bollingen Series, Princeton
University Press, 1950, p 31 and following in which Jacobi gives
a clear and concise treatment of the archetypes. Italics in text
2. Ibid, p 32
3. Progoff, Ira, Jung, Synchronicity, and Human Destiny,
Dell, NY, 1973, p78
4. Complex, Archetype, Symbol op cit,
5. Genesis 3:24
6. Matthew 7:3
7. Jung, Collected Works, Aion, Researches
into the Phenomenology of the Self, Vol 9,11, para 14, p 8,
Bollingen Series XX, Pantheon Books, 1959
8. Sheldrake, Rupert, The Presence of the
Past (Park Street Press). Also see Dan Menkin's interview
with Sheldrake in Quest Magazine, Autumn 1995.
9. Ibid, p 8
10. For an in-depth treatment of active imagination
as developed by Jung see Barbara Hannah's Active Imagination,
Sigo Press, 1981
11. McAll, Kenneth, M D, Healing the Family
Tree, Sheldon Press, SPCK, Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DU,
12. Exodus 20:5
13. The friend to whom I refer is Cliff Custer.
See his book Love is an Inside Job. Address inquiries to
his attention, 421 Avenue De Terresa, Grants Pass OR 97526
14 . Karney, Beulah, Old Father's Long
15. The Agreda Story, by Beulah Karney
16. Jung, Synchronicity, and Human Destiny,
op cit, pp 112-3
17. 2 Corinthians 12:2
18. The Basic Writings of C G Jung,
edited by Violet Staub de Laszio, Modern Library, Random House,
1959, N Y, p 115
20. Sanford, Kingdom Within, p 51
21. op cit, Basic Writings, p 102
22. John 5:2-9
23. Jung, C G, Aion, Pantheon Books,
New York, 1959, p 234
24. Ibid, p 245
25. Ibid, p 247
Westminister/John Knox Press, KY, 1992. Kunkel
quote from Fritz Kunkel: Selected Writings, p 387, Edited
by Sanford and published by Paulist Press, NJ 1984
27. Genesis 2:19
28. Aion, op cit p 248
29. Kunkle, Fritz, Creation Continues,
pp 64-65, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1973
30. This is thematic in The Revelation,
Our Crisis is a Birth, by Barbara Marx Hubbard, Foundation
for Conscious Evolution, Greenbrae, CA, 1993
31. Sanford, John, The Man Who Wrestled
With God, (Revised and Updated), Paulist Press, (1987) NY
See Chapter 12, particularly the last few pages in discussion
of the Wisdom interpretation of the Serpent of Eden which suggests
that at the time of the writing of the story there was actual
concern for the kind of evil that is morally defiling and capable
of causing a person to darken or lose their soul by corruption
32. Genesis 3:1
33. Kunkle, op cit, p 70
34. With reference to 1 Corinthians 1:25
35. James 1:12
36. Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul
the Apostle, Macmillan, MY 1956, See pages 141-7
37. Matthew 10:38
38. James 3:6
39. Genesis 3:3
40. Genesis 3:22
41. Genesis 35:11-13
42. Research on The Names of God provided
by David Ebaugh in his newsletter Monarch, October 1990, 102 Park
Terrace, Harrisburg PA 17111-1667
43. Genesis 3:20.
44. Matthew 16:25
45. Suares, Carlos Cipher of Genesis,
Bantam Books Edition, NY, 1973, p 98-99
46. Brown, Joseph Epes, The Spiritual
Legacy of the American Indian, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 135, 1964,
Pendle Hill PA, pp 18-19
47. Sanford, John, The Man Who Wrestled
With God, Religious Publishing Co, PA, 1974, p 24.
48. 1 Corinthians 15:45
49. From the Roman Missal