Jenna Lilla limns the way of soul in the work of Carl Jung
A few days ago, I spoke of the hermaphrodite as the child of Hermes and Aphrodite in Ovid’s writings. Ovid wrote at the Augustan height of Roman literature. About fifteen centuries later, the hermaphrodite image emerged in alchemical symbolism. Carl Jung says the hermaphrodite “became the symbol of perfected wholeness in alchemical philosophy.” (CW 9i, para. 326)
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, pa
In this image, the female half of the hermaphrodite holds a bat and the male half holds a rabbit. in Jungian terms, the bat can be seen as emerging from the shadow and could represent shadow or spectral elements. The hare can be interpreted as an image of the helpful mother. (see Carl Jung, 9i, para. 157) The bat and hare oppose and contrast each other as the male and female halves do, even as they unite.
Notice also the eagle in the image. Jung speaks of the eagle as representing “the liberated soul.”(CW 12, para, 306). A union of opposites in the form of the Hermaphrodite is held and lifted by or transumed into an image of the “liberated soul” as Great Bird.
Notice at the bottom of the image, in blue you will see what seems to be blue birds or, possibly, fish. Jung says that fish often symbolize the creative energy of the unconscious (CW 9I, para 248), and the bird the soul (anima) image.
In Attar’s “Conference of the Birds” thirty birds journey in search of a Great Bird which is finally seen and experienced by each of the birds as the very image of their own souls purified and liberated. In this image, beneath the feet of the Hermaphrodite there lies what looks like an ocean of many blue bird souls. This ocean of bird souls is perhaps transformed and purified through creative union of opposites into the Hermaphrodite that rises above them, lifted by the Eagle. Or perhaps this image of a Great Eagle with Hermaphrodite in tow, rising above an ocean of souls is a dynamic image of the soul’s liberation through the creative union of opposites. The ocean of many small bird souls and the Great Eagle are perhaps two modes and moments of the soul– the individual and collective.
Footnote: I first published this post as “Breaking Dawn: the soul in the Aurora Consurgens.” Shortly after, I realized that Aurora Consurgens might best be translated as “Rising Dawn.” The Latin word Aurora translates to dawn, from the Roman goddess of dawn. The Latin word Consurgens is from cōnsurgēns meaning: ‘standing or rising up’, or even ‘ambushing.’ In this post we see the soul rising up through the coincidence of opposites.
Carl G.Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Collected Works volume 9i.
Carl G.Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Collected Works volume 9i.