Archangel Michael: Bringers of light, enlargers of consciousness

J. M. W. Turner, The Angel Standing in the Sun -1846. US Public Domain.
Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Angel Standing in the Sun -1846. US Public Domain via wikimedia

In the above image by Turner, we see “the Archangel Michael appearing on the Day of Judgement with his flaming sword. In the foreground are Old Testament scenes of murder and betrayal: Adam and Eve weeps over the body of Abel (left), and Judith stands over the headless body of Holofernes (right)” (Tate Museum)

In Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung tells us that ‘bringers of light’ is an archetypal concept (CW 9i, para. 288). Turner provides a wonderful image of Archangel Michael as a ‘bringer of light’. The angel stands in the Sun with his flaming sword. The Archangel Michael is an angel of healing, a protector of innocence and a bearer of light.

Divine light is an important theme in the Christian tradition: “God is light” (1 John 1:5)”. Christ says: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Man also has within him this light, as life, which is contrasted with darkness: “In Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Gospel of John).

As an image of the powers of light, Archangel Michael is also the leader of God’s army in the battle against the powers of darkness. Jung understand the relation between the light and darkness as an archetypal theme. Jung speaks to such contrast:

“Bringers of light, that is, enlargers of consciousness, overcome darkness, which is to say that they overcome the earlier unconscious state. Higher consciousness, or knowledge going beyond our present-day consciousness, is equivalent to being all alone in the world. This loneliness expresses the conflict between the bearer or symbol of higher consciousness and his surroundings.” (CW 9i, para. 288)

Light and dark are binary signifiers. They represent categories which are logically opposed. Together they represent the core psycho-spiritual dynamics of psychic life. As binary signifiers, the light and love of God is contrasted with darkness of ignorance, suffering, sin and delusion. In a similar way, higher consciousness is contrasted with lower consciousness.

To have higher consciousness is to be aware, and to be aware necessarily includes an awareness of the implicit and explicit pain and suffering of humanity. In the image above, we see Archangel Michael appearing in the light of the sun on the Day of Judgement. In the foreground are Old Testament scenes of murder and betrayal expressing the darkness that has fallen on mankind.

From a religious perspective, we are born into the darkness of suffering and sin. In Christianity, this is called original sin. Original sin is the sin resulting from the fall of mankind, a sin resulting from Eves temptation and Adam’s rebellion in Eden.

If we are born into the darkness of sin, then it is the ‘bringers of light’ that guides us back to God. Figures such as Christ, Archangel Michael, Sophia are all ‘bringers of light’. Appearing in art, dreams and imagination the ‘bringers of light’ are seen with halos of light, or likened to the sun or the light. For Augustine, God himself is the lamp, a bringer of light. He says:

“The mind needs to be enlightened by light from outside itself, so that it can participate in truth, because it is not itself the nature of truth. You will light my lamp, Lord.”

Augustine understand that the mind needs to be enlightened by the light of God, as ‘outside itself.’ This transcendent light encourages participation in divine truth. Roger Marston (c.1235–1303) speaks to the eternal light as immanent, ‘irradiating the human mind’:

For the eternal light, irradiating the human mind, makes a certain active impression on it, from which a certain passive impression is left in it, which is the formal principle of cognizing the unchanging truths (Quaestiones disputatae de anima 3, p.263).

Eternal light makes impressions on the mind, opening the soul so as to perceive the ‘unchanging truths’ of higher awareness. Light, and bringers of light, are images of spiritual truth and awareness. They guide the soul, or psyche, from lower states of consciousness to higher states: enlarging consciousness.

 

 

 

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