Samantabhadra: Syzygy in the form of divine union

Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.
Adi Buddha Samantabhadra, Unknown artist, unknown date, via Wikimedia Public Domain.

As a basic principle, archetypes are not realized in static form but present in dynamic form, expressing transformations in consciousness. Archetypal images transform as awareness transforms. Or said another way, archetypes appear in various forms as consciousness shifts.

In terms of enlightenment, sacred images represent transformations in consciousness, expressing a movement from duality to integration and wholeness. Archetypes are therefore expressed in symbols of transformation: representing transformations in consciousness; transforming as consciousness transforms. [1].

The syzygy is a potent symbol of transformation, representing core transformations in the phenomenology of the Self [2]. The transformations in the syzygy archetype emerge along with transformations of the self, movements from duality to integration.

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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).


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)


Dialectical struggle & the Elixir of Immortality

Kurmavatara, Made in Himachal Pradesh, India,1760-65 Artist/maker unknown, India, Himachal Pradesh, Basohli or Chamba, US Public Domain
Samudra manthan, churning of the Ocean of Milk, Artist unknown- C. 1760 US Public Domain

To live is to struggle. Whether we are rich or poor, beautiful or plain, famous or more humble, we will struggle. The struggle arises from within. It is a struggle of the mind. Yet it is this very struggle that brings forth the potential for growth and Self-realization. It is our ability to be with the struggle, to work with the tensions of life, that opens a horizon for growth and awareness.

The Vedic tradition speaks to this struggle. We are said to live within the world of Maya, the world of duality: good and bad, dark and light, sun and moon, day and night, up and down, inside and outside.

In Vedanta, this struggle of duality is related to avidyā. Avidyā is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘ignorance’ and ‘delusion.’ This word is opposed to Vidya, meaning ‘correct knowledge.’ Avidyā is represented in images of the demons. Avidyā is said to be the ignorance which prevents an understanding of the true nature of the Self, as cosmic or universal Self.

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Jakob Bohme and the Split within God

Theosophia revelata, Jokob Böhme, 1730- US public domain via wikimedia
Theosophia revelata, Jokob Böhme, 1730- US public domain via wikimedia

Böhme’s cosmology includes a division into the light and a dark aspects of the God image. For Böhme’s the God-image is split from within. The split is between the Holy Ghost as the light aspect and the Father as the dark.

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Yin Yang: symbols unite duality

Yin yang in A cycle of Cathay, China, 1897. US public domain via wikimedia
Yin yang in A cycle of Cathay, China, 1897. US public domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung speaks of the Yin Yang:

“There is no position without its negation. In or just because of their extreme opposition, neither can exist without the other. It is exactly as formulated in classical Chinese philosophy: yang (the light, warm, dry, masculine principle) contains within it the seed of yin (the dark, cold, moist, feminine principle), and vice versa. Matter therefore would contain the seed of spirit and spirit the seed of matter…. Nevertheless, the symbol has the great advantage of being able to unite heterogeneous or even incommensurable factors in a single image.” (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para. 197)


  1. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)