One of the many things I’ve learned over the last two and a half is how to identify a synchronicity. One of the problems with synchronicities is that they aren’t considered scientifically valid in our modern world. They are, we are told, “subjective”. Of course, over the last two and a half years of the corona debacle, The Science™ in all its objectivity has been wrong about everything. Ironically, I consider this fact to also be a synchronicity as I’ll explain later in the post.
Synchronicities are symbolically meaningful. Therefore, it should be possible to train people to learn to see synchronicities and the way to do that would be to give them training on how to work with symbols; interpreting them, creating them for yourself etc. It used to be the case that almost everybody would engage in symbolic behaviour at least once a week by going to Church. A Catholic mass is nothing but symbolism. The Church building itself is designed according to symbolism. There are symbols scattered around the building in the form of paintings, sculptures, intricate works on the walls and ceilings and cornices. Whether you were paying conscious attention or not, going to a Catholic mass brought you into direct contact with symbolic practice. Symbols were taken seriously and you were encouraged to take them seriously too.
Not many people go to Church anymore but there are other ways to develop symbolic competence. One that I have personal experience with is writing fiction. Again, this is all about symbols. Words are symbols. Sentences are symbols. Character and plot are symbols. Like a well built Church, a novel is a collection of symbols arranged symbolically to create meaning. The collection of the symbols into a story (or a blog post for that matter) produces in the best writers an array of symbolic resonances similar to the greatest holy buildings. These are kinds of works you can read and re-read and each time you notice some new meaning you had missed before. The new meaning you discover is actually a synchronicity but because we know a novel is a work of fiction we don’t perceive it as such. It’s not “real”. Nevertheless, the greatest writers transcend the worlds they create in their novels and create something “universal”. That is exactly what I discussed in last week’s post, my review of Patrick White’s Voss; a book that I believe transcends itself and says something very important to modern culture. I knew Voss was something special when I read it but then another synchronicity happened and now I think it’s really special, perhaps even epochal.
Most of my Devouring Mother analysis was based on reading synchronicities; symbolic meanings. Starting with the corona debacle, I quickly realised that the symbols pointed to a wider pattern, one that involved Brexit and Trump. Corona was not just a random bit of madness, a one-off mass formation psychosis. If it was, it should have ended by now. It should have ended two weeks after it started, or two months, or two years. It could have ended at any time, but it hasn’t. Instead, in just the last few weeks, the vaccine has been made available to children under 5 in some countries in what is arguably the ultimate example of the subset of Devouring Mother behaviours known as Munchausen by Proxy. Corona is not over we are told. It’s not over because the archetypal machinations are not over. In fact, they are only becoming more urgent. Like a giant fist banging on the door, something wants to come in and be recognised.
In Jungian thought, synchronicities are ascribed to the unconscious mind. To quote Jung:
“Something empirically demonstrable comes to our aid from the depths of our unconscious nature. It is the task of the consciousness to understand these hints.”
How can you tell when a hint is symbolically important versus just some random noise from your psyche? All religions solved this problem by giving certain gifted people training in symbolic understanding and then giving them the job of analysing what is a meaningful symbol and what is noise. The followers of the religion had to fall into line behind that analysis. To do otherwise was to commit heresy.
But modern society got rid of religion. And so we are all left to our own devices and our own judgement. These words on the screen are themselves just symbols and you, the reader, can treat them as meaning or as noise. Most people in the modern west would treat them as worse than noise. They would say they are “insane” (an epithet that gets thrown around willy nilly these days). Of course, those same people believe the The Science™ that has been one hundred percent wrong for the last two years. They believe it because science has become our religion. The “experts” are our priests. They are the ones who are officially recognised as interpreters of symbols. Well, it’s obvious those priests are reading the symbols wrong. Maybe it’s time for a new reading.
Those who read last week’s post, my book review of Patrick White’s Voss, know that I got a little excited. I called the book one of the greatest works of Faustian culture. I still believe that to be true but then two coincidences happened that made me re-evaluate its importance and shed new light not just on the book but on my Devouring Mother analysis.
Firstly, in my initial review, I had assumed that White had read Jung and that he had used the Jungian concept of integrating the anima/animus to inform the story of Voss. A commentator on the post (big thanks to Shane) pointed out that this was not true and that White had only read Jung later in his life. This is a crucial fact because it means White intuited exactly the same thing as Jung without direct contact between the two. This is quite a common occurrence in the history of ideas. Perhaps the most famous example is that Newton and Leibniz both came up with the calculus at the same time. Another is that Wallace and Darwin discovered the theory of evolution independently of each other.
It’s partly because I now knew that White hadn’t read Jung, that the second coincidence occurred.
I have been reading Jung extensively over the last year and just as I was finishing Voss, I began the next book on my Jung reading list, Answer to Job. As I was reading Answer to Job my synchronicity meter was going off the charts as I realised that White had also intuited the core issue from Answer to Job. But, much more importantly, it was that core issue that tied the whole thing back my Devouring Mother analysis. I saw a line going straight back from Voss, through Jung, through Faust and winding up way back at the Book of Job. But more than that, I saw The Devouring Mother in this context. It’s the natural consequence of Jung’s argument in Answer to Job. I now believe Jung had (implicitly) predicted the appearance of The Devouring Mother in that book.
Let me explain.
Answer to Job contains a long theological argument which I’ll discuss more in a future post. The main point for now is that it contains Jung’s analysis of the Assumption of Mary, a papal decree which Jung believed was the most important event in the history of Christianity since the Reformation. What is curious, (and, I think, crucial) about the decision of the Pope was that he gave no scriptural backing for the dogma. The only reference that was given was from a senior advisor who cited a passage from the Book of Revelations:
“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”
In the Catholic tradition, the sun-woman is Mary but she is also Sophia and, as Jung notes in one of his letters, Sophia is what Goethe was referring to in the last line of Faust by the phrase “the eternal feminine”. I had also, completely independently, analysed White’s character of Laura Trevelyan as Sophia in my review last week; hence the connecting of the dots in my mind.
There is an enormous amount of symbolic resonance around the concept of Sophia that would need a whole post (probably a whole book) to unpack. For now, we can simply note that Sophia represents the eternal feminine and has her shadow counterpart in the biblical Lilith, first wife of Adam who was banished from the Garden of Eden. In archetypal terms, Sophia is the mother and Lilith is the shadow form; the Devouring Mother.
To return to the quote from the Book of Revelations, the Sun-Woman (aka Mary/Sophia) is giving birth to a Child. But then we find out that there is a dragon in the picture.
“and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.”
Here is how I read the passage as an amateur Jungian. The Sun and Moon combined are the total psyche, The Self. The child is some new aspect of the self being born into consciousness. The dragon is the unconscious. The unconscious is trying to devour (hello Devouring Mother) the new self to prevent it from manifesting. Translated into theological terms, Mary is to give birth to something new which her shadow form, Lilith, wants to destroy. The battle appears to be between the mother and the devouring mother.
As Jung puts it in Answer to Job, there is something new wanting to come into existence. It is the integration of the eternal feminine into the Godhead. This is also known as the Fourth Face of God. That’s what the Pope was doing with the declaration of the Assumption of Mary. A similar movement had already happened in the late 19th century in Russian Orthodox Mysticism where Sophia became the “fourth person of the trinity”, although this was ruled heretical in 1935 prior to the Pope’s decree in 1950.
That was what was going on in the religious spheres. Jung wholeheartedly agreed with the Pope’s decision from his secular psychological perspective. And, of course, in modern society we have seen the same clues popping up everywhere including the various “waves” of feminism which started around the same time at the end of the 19th century. I now believe Patrick White’s Voss to be another exemplar; another “hint”. The papal decree was made in 1950. Jung wrote Answer to Job in 1952 and White wrote Voss in 1957. They are all about the same thing, the eternal feminine.
Here’s another symbolic resonance.
Patrick White was an Anglican but he broke with the Church in large part due to its intolerance of homosexuality (White was gay). In Answer to Job, Jung talks about the problem of Protestantism in relation to the integration of the eternal feminine. Because of the absence of an explicit scriptural basis, almost all Protestant denominations do not accept the Assumption of Mary. This pointed, Jung believed, to Protestantism being a “man’s religion”. It had no formal representation of women. The Assumption of Mary caused a split between Catholic and Orthodox faiths which now represent the eternal feminine and Protestant ones which do not. Jung believed this was a big mistake. What’s more, if the Book of Revelations is correct, then we are right now in an apocalypse (change of epoch) and Protestantism (including modern atheism) is in denial of that fact.
And here lies the key point that leads to corona and the Devouring Mother. The apocalypse – the integration of the eternal feminine – is in Jungian terms an individuation. Some new element of the psyche is coming up out of the collective unconscious and needs to be integrated into consciousness.
“…the symbols that rise up out of the unconscious….show…a confrontation of opposites, and the images of the goal represent their successful reconciliation. Something empirically demonstrable comes to our aid from the depths of our unconscious nature. It is the task of the consciousness to understand these hints. If this does not happen, the process of individuation will nevertheless continue.”Answer to Job
The “hints” in this case are exactly what we have been talking about; the Assumption of Mary both in Catholic and Orthodox religion and the feminist movement in popular culture being just two. I include Patrick White’s Voss because it is an extended “reconciliation” of the confrontation of opposites in the form of a brilliant novel. It invokes all the primary symbols of Faustian culture including Faust himself, Christ, Mary and, most importantly, Sophia in the form of the character Laura Trevelyan. Importantly, Voss was written from a modern secularist viewpoint and so it complements and extends the religious viewpoint. White may have given up on exoteric religion, but it seems clear to me he was practising a kind of esotericism through his writing. That is why I now think his works are more than literature, they are revelations.
If all these are the “hints”, Jung notes that it is the task of consciousness to understand them. But that is precisely what has not happened. Why? Well for one thing, the Protestant denominations rejected the Assumption of Mary and here we have another big coincidence.
In the post-war years, Protestantism in most western countries (the US is an outlier in this respect) has suffered a collapse that has picked up pace in recent decades. Looking at the Australian statistics, which I assume are representative of most western countries, since 1950 Protestantism has seen a massive decrease in membership. Meanwhile, Catholic and Orthodox membership as a percentage of the population has remained steady. This is not what one would expect if there was an overall turn away from religion. In fact, the trend towards atheism in western culture is almost entirely from Protestantism to atheism. This is not that surprising as modern atheism has always been a sub-sect of Protestantism. It’s not a coincidence that the so-called Four Horseman atheists (Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet and Richard Dawkins) are all from protestant backgrounds.
So, there seems to be a clear pattern to the chain of events. In 1950, Protestantism rejects the Assumption of Mary. In the decades that follow, people leave Protestantism in droves. Meanwhile, in secular society, the rise of modern feminism took place at exactly the same time. Just a coincidence? I doubt it. But here’s the problem, it’s clear that secular feminism is not “working”. It’s not fulfilling the underlying need which is psychological/spiritual. That’s why we are seeing The Devouring Mother manifesting the shadow form of the feminine and the increasingly huge ructions that now look to be threatening the very foundation of the West.
The Protestant west (including atheists) were not listening to the Pope in 1950 and they certainly aren’t listening now. Similarly, a brilliant work like Voss has not been understood in secular society because no secular person reads literature thinking they are doing metaphysics. In short, the average westerner is up the metaphorical creek without a symbolic paddle. The problem lies spiritually at the level of the Divine, in Jungian psychological terms in the collective unconscious and in philosophical/metaphysical terms, which would need to unpacked in more detail, but which we can summarise under the concept “wisdom”. No surprises then that modern society cannot deal with any of these. We deny the spiritual. Jungian psychology has been relegated to apostate status. And philosophy has turned into nothing more than academic masturbation. As we are missing the right tools to address the matter, we are invoking all the wrong tools instead: politics, “science”, ideology, propaganda.
Let me end with an idea I’m not quite prepared to defend intellectually yet but seems very relevant.
What we are witnessing now with the corona debacle is, I believe, the beginning of the end of modern science. The guardians of that science including the likes of Fauci (a lapsed Catholic, by coincidence) have been 100% wrong about everything in the last two and a half years. Not just a little bit wrong; exactly wrong. Are these people imbeciles? Are they completely corrupt? Maybe. But maybe there is something else going on.
It seems appropriate that all this should blow up over the concept of viruses which sit right on the border between matter (physics/chemistry) and biology and get talked about in the public discourse as if they were almost human. Modern science treats “matter” as dead, inert, without spirit. But secular people (including most modern scientists) would be very surprised to learn that this idea came about historically by the Church enforcing the old dogma of the Trinity.
The alchemists, who were the predecessors to modern chemistry, believed matter was feminine. It was imbued with spirit. Matter was also associated with the unconscious. Why? One idea is that the feminine had been relegated to the unconscious by being left out of the original Holy Trinity. When the alchemists started playing around with the idea that matter was “feminine” and was imbued with spirit, this was a heresy at the time and the Church stamped it out. Alchemy went underground and became an occult science. Official science (supported by the Church) held that matter was inert. The result was modern chemistry and materialist science as we know it.
What if the alchemists were right? That would mean the feminine spirit had been removed from modern science leading to a “masculine” dominant approach that has now spread around the world. Could that be why science has been at the forefront of the corona debacle? Could that be why The Devouring Mother is working her wrath through that institution directly and why basic scientific facts are now unable to be uttered in polite society? Is this another Jungian “hint” or is it just madness? We’ll explore the idea more in a future post.
If this is all true, what we are seeing in the world is an apocalypse, a new epoch being born through the integration of the eternal feminine into the Godhead. In Jungian terms, it is an individuation process in the collective unconscious. As Jung noted, that process is going to happen whether we like it or not. Like the line in some cheesy movie: “There’s two ways we can do this.” Well, western society is currently choosing the hard way. That’s why we are seeing the Devouring Mother manifest in ever more fervent terms.
We have ignored the hints coming up from the unconscious for more than a century now and they are turning into outright demands. If we don’t take the hints, according to Jung, we will become the victims of the individuation process. We will be “…dragged along by fate towards that inescapable goal which we might have reached walking upright, if only we had taken the trouble and been patient enough to understand in time the meaning of the numina that cross our path.”
That’s what this series of posts will be about: the understanding of the numina that cross our path that are pointing to the integration of the eternal feminine. To adopt Jung’s metaphor, are we going to stand and walk towards the goal or are we going to get dragged through the mud by fate? That seems to be the choice before us.
All posts in this series:
Patrick White’s “Voss”
The Eternal Feminine, The Devouring Mother and the Fourth Face of God: Part 1
The Eternal Feminine, The Devouring Mother and the Fourth Face of God: Part 2
The Eternal Feminine, The Devouring Mother and the Fourth Face of God: Part 3
The Eternal Feminine, The Devouring Mother and the Fourth Face of God: Part 4
The Eternal Feminine, The Devouring Mother and the Fourth Face of God: Final