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, Self, and trees.

Jung calls the tree of life a “mother symbol” (CW 5, para 321). In the image above, we see Furtmeyer’s Tree of Death and Life. This image represents the paradox inherent in the tree as mother symbol. Anne Baring describes the scene of the image:

“The faces of the two women are identical, and their heads incline away from the central point of the tree in antithetical relationship: Eve, predictably naked, offering to humanity the apple of death, which she is passing on from the serpent; and Mary, predictably clothed, offering the redeeming apple of life. The position of the serpent arising from the not-to-be seen phallus of Adam is presumably less than coincidental. On Eve’s side of the tree lies the grinning skull, while Death waits for her on the right, and on Mary’s side of the tree – the Life side – the cross with the crucified Christ poised as on a branch, himself the fruit of her miraculously intact womb.”

This image is especially significant in that it is not only a “mother symbol”, but shows the profound paradox within the mother image. We here see a duality in the archetypal Mother. Here is Eve as the mother of our fallen state and here is Mary as the mother of redemption. Eve offers the fruit of death; Mary offers the fruit of redemption.

The fruit of redemption is Christ. Carl Jung understands that Christ is an image of the Self. Christ is an image of a re-birth into symbolic life, into life oriented toward Self. Jung says:

“Christ’s redemptive death on the cross was understood as a “baptism,” that is to say, as rebirth through the second mother, symbolized by the tree of death… The dual-mother motif suggests the idea of a dual birth. One of the mothers is the real, human mother, the other is the symbolical mother” (CW 5 para 494-495, emphasis added).

References:

The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image By Anne Baring, Jules Cashford

Symbols of Transformation (CW5) by Carl G. Jung (in US Pubic Domain, first published 1912)

 

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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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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Sophia: divine wisdom

Icon of Sophia from warm St. George church in Vologda, circa late 16 century. US public Domain via wikimedia
Icon of Sophia from warm St. George church in Vologda, circa late 16 century. US public Domain via wikimedia

In the image above, we see an image of Sophia, as wholly wisdom or divine wisdom. Sophia is an important archetypal image of the divine feminine. Sophia sometimes appears as mother and sometimes as bride.

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The Divine Mother as Rose

Madonna della rosa, attribuited to Michelino da Besozzo or to Stefano da Verona- circa 1435. http://www.wga.hu. US Public Domain via wikimedia
Madonna della rosa, attribuited to Michelino da Besozzo or to Stefano da Verona- circa 1435. http://www.wga.hu. US Public Domain via wikimedia

Here we see a 14th Century painting of the Madonna of the Rose. The rose is often associated with the Mother archetype. Carl Jung points out that the mother archetype “can be attached to … various vessels such as the baptismal font, or to vessel-shaped flowers like the rose.” (9i, para. 157) In the Western tradition we see the rose associated with the Virgin Mary. Cardinal Newman (1801 – 1890) said:

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