Theotokos: Paradox of the Tree of Death & Life

 Berthold Furtmeyr, Mediaval miniature by Berthold Furtmeyer: Baum des Todes und des Lebens, Tree of death and life- 1481
Berthold Furtmeyer: Baum des Todes und des Lebens, Tree of Death and Life– c. 1481. US public domain via wikimedia

There is a archetypal relation between the God, the supreme Self, and trees.

Among the various spiritual and religious traditions, the tree appears as an image of the Self. In the Katha Upanishad the roots of the tree represent “the supreme Brahman,” and Brahman is said to be the supreme Self.

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Mother World: splitting, integration & evolution in the mother archetype

Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 19th Century, US Public Domain
Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 19th Century, US Public Domain

Recently, I have been writing on the aims and instincts of the human soul. Carl Jung speaks of the human soul’s “longing to attain rebirth through a return to the womb, and to become immortal like the sun” (CW5, para. 312). In biblical terms, rebirth is associated with entrance into Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy city, an image of the divine mother.

Jung says, “the Old Testament treats the cities of Jerusalem, Babylon, etc. just as if they were women” (para 303). While Jerusalem is an image of the holy mother, Babylon is the unholy mother. In Jung’s words: “Babylon is the symbol of the Terrible Mother” (Jung, para 315). In Revelation 17 it is written:

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Lady of the Sycamore: feeding from a sacred tree

Tomb of Thutmosis III, Scene: The King is fed from the Holy Tree–Lady of the sycamore. circa 1500-1450 bce
Tomb of Thutmosis III,  The King is fed from the Holy Tree–Lady of the Sycamore- c. 1500-1450 BCE

In the image above we see a drawing of an Egyptian king feeding from a sacred breast of a holy tree,  the ‘Lady of the Sycamore.’ The image is about 3,500 years old. Jung notes that, “numerous female deities were worshiped in tree form, and this led to the cult of sacred groves and trees” (para 321).

Reference:

Symbols of Transformation by Carl Jung

Jerusalem: rebirth from the mother city

Mapa Jeruzaléma, 12th Century. US Public Domain.
Mapa Jeruzaléma, 12th Century. US Public Domain.

Carl Jung tells us that “this longing for the mother is amply expressed in the literature of the Bible” (ibid). One such instance of the divine mother in the Bible is Jerusalem as sacred mother city. Heavenly Jerusalem “is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:27).

The city, in general, is often as “a maternal symbol,… a woman who harbours the inhabitants in herself like children” (para 303). In the Biblical language of the Old Testament the “cities of Jerusalem, Babylon, etc are treated “just as if they were women” (ibid). The heavenly city Jerusalem is not only mother image, but divine mother, mother in whom we may be reborn of spirit. Jung sites Galatians 4:27:

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Faust’s Dream: the realm of the mothers

Faust's Dream, by Luis Ricardo Falero- 1880. Sotheby's. US Public Domain.
Faust’s Dream, by Luis Ricardo Falero- 1880. Sotheby’s. US Public Domain.

In the Introduction to the Second Section of Symbols of Transformation (SoT), Carl Jung speaks of and quotes a section of Goethe’s Faust. In the story, Faust descends to the realm of the Mothers. Faust’s influence on Jung is particularly important for our reading of SoT.

In the story, Mephistopheles gives Faust a key. He says: “The key will smell the right place from all others; Follow it down, ’twill lead you to the Mothers.” With this Jung begins his gradual contemplation of “the realm of the Mothers,” a contemplation which will culminate in his last chapter on “The Sacrifice.” Understanding the nature of the ‘Mothers’ requires the ability for creative imagination. One has to ‘dream on’ the Mothers, to contemplate the Mothers. And in doing so, a whole new field of knowing opens: a field of the soul, of the creative potential of the ‘feminine principle.’ This feminine principle is vital to transforming both ourselves and the world. It is the principle of creative regeneration and rebirth of the Self.

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