Breaking Dawn: the soul in the Aurora Consurgens

An illustration of a hermaphrodite from the Aurora consurgens-- 15th century. Thomas Aquinas; Marie-Louise von Franz (1966) Aurora Consurgens; A Document Attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Opposites in US Public Domain wikimedia.
An illustration of a hermaphrodite from the Aurora consurgens– 15th century. Thomas Aquinas; Marie-Louise von Franz (1966) Aurora Consurgens; A Document Attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Opposites in US Public Domain wikimedia.

This image is from the Aurora Consurgens. The Aurora Consurgens is an alchemical manuscript from the 15th century. The work has been attributed to Thomas Aquinas, although the true author is yet unknown. Aurora Consurgens is a Latin name which translates to “rising dawn.”

According to Carl Jung the hermaphrodite represents the union of opposites.  Jung says that the hermaphrodite “has become a symbol of the creative union of opposites, a ‘uniting symbol’ in the literal sense.” (CW 9i, para. 292-4)

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The Hermaphrodite in Ovid

Ovidius, Metamorphoseon libri XV (traduction anonyme), Belgique, Flandre, XVe siècle ou le Mysterium Conjunctionis. Creative Commons Wikimedia

In many spiritual traditions we find images of gods and goddess in union. Jung calls these unity symbols the syzygy. They are images of wholeness appearing in art, religious arcana, dreams and imagination. In archetypal psychology they signify the union of opposites. In particular, they signify the union of the conscious and unconscious elements of the psyche, and thus are an image of the wholeness of the Self.

Carl Jung says, “A syzygy or coniunctio symbolizes the essence of wholeness (as also does the Platonic hermaphrodite, who later became the symbol of perfected wholeness in alchemical philosophy).” (CW 9i, para. 326)4

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Marriage of the Lamb

The Marriage of the Lamb. Circa 1255 - 1260. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
The Marriage of the Lamb. Circa 1255 – 1260. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the image above, we see the Marriage of the Lamb. What follows is the description from the Getty Museum:

“This artist represented the scene as a medieval marriage ceremony with the bride depicted as a beautiful young woman. The illuminator took some details directly from the text, such as the bride’s clothing, “glittering and white,” but he also added details not mentioned, such as the white cloth over the couple’s heads and the large ring that the Lamb gives to his bride.”

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The Hermaphrodite: creative union of opposites

Rebis
Il Rebis Androgino Rosarium Philosophorum XV sec. US Public Domain, Wikimedia

The above image is an alchemical drawings of the Rebis Hermaphrodite from the The Rosary of the Philosophers, published in 1550. We see the Rebis, as a winged hermaphrodite. The rebis has a male head on its right and a female head on its left, and holds a coiled snake in the right hand and a cup containing three snakes in the left. The Rebis appears to stands on serpents. Notice that the flowers have faces and a bird feeds its young.

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The coniunctio

An engraving from Michael Maier's Symbola Aureae Mensae (1617) we see Albertus Magnus pointing to an alchemical androgyne holding the letter Y. Zola (42) explains, "The Y is, as Philo taught, the symbol of the Word which pierces the essence of being. The Nassine Gnostics taught that it represented the intimate nature of being, which is male and female and, as such, eternal." from wikimedia. US Public Domian.
An engraving from Michael Maier’s Symbola Aureae Mensae (1617) we see Albertus Magnus pointing to an alchemical androgyne holding the letter Y. Zola (42) from wikimedia. US Public Domian.

The archetypal themes of the coniunctio appear in Gnostic engravings. The image above is from Michael Maier’s Symbola Aureae Mensae (1617). Here we see a representation of the coniunctio as the alchemical androgyne holding a letter ‘Y’. Zola (42) explains:

“The Y is, as Philo taught, the symbol of the Word which pierces the essence of being. The Nassine Gnostics taught that it represented the intimate nature of being, which is male and female and, as such, eternal.”

Carl Jung’s focused on understanding the archetypes in relation to psychical processes. For him, the coniunctio represented the dynamic poles of ‘conscious and unconscious processes.’ Jung understood the Self to be a synthesis of these dynamic poles. Jung was quite clear that the archetypes predate psychology, and that psychology makes use of these ancient motifs. Jung says:

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