Aion was originally published in German in 1951. The central theme of the work he set felt forced to write, the book he notes that "he set it all down in" and was able to speak his "secret language" contained the broadest scope of anything he had ever written. Its time line was the entire Christian aeon of two thousand years from the birth of Christ to the year 2,000 and the second millennium.
In the Forward to Aion, Jung tells us that the theme of the book is the change of the psychic situation in the Christian aeon which coincides with the astrological conception of the Platonic month of the fishes or Pisces. Those familiar with astrology may recognize that the notion of the Platonic month is based on the astronomical procession of the equinoxes. The movement of the sun through each zodiacal sign is called the Platonic month. In the spring equinox of around 1 A.D., the beginning of the Christian aeon, the equinox left the sign of Aries and started into the sign of Pisces. Now, 2,000 years later, it is about to leave the sign of Pisces and enter that of Aquarius.
Aion is about this grand two thousand year cycle and the sequences contained within the cycle. Perhaps the best place to start when approaching Aion is with The Aion Lectures by Edward Edinger. These lectures were given at the Jung Institute of Los Angeles between 1988 and 1989 and, like Edinger's Mysterium lectures, also provide a short type of "Cliff Notes" to help one navigate the complex waters of the work.
As Edinger notes in the Forward to his book, "Jung's Aion laid the foundation for a whole new department of human knowledge, a scholarly discipline one might call archetypal psychohistory." It is a discipline based on the insights of depth psychology to the data of cultural history. "The historical process," writes Edinger, "can now be seen as the self-manifestation of the archetypes of the collective unconscious as they emerge and develop in time and space through the actions and fantasies of humanity.
While it is impossible to do justice to this awesome work in the space we have here, we can briefly touch on the broad symbolism Jung approaches in Aion. Pisces is symbolized by the fish and Aquarius by the water carrier. The contextual symbolism is one between the dualities of inside and outside. The fish (Pisces) is contained within water while a water carrier (Aquarius) cannot be contained within water if he is to be a carrier of water. He (Aquarius) must be outside of the water. The aeon cycle therefore represents a change from being controlled by the container to being outside the container.
The fish may symbolize the psyche and Jung seems to be suggesting that the two eons will have a different relationship to the psyche. Jung might be suggesting that the context we have been discussing will evolve into a content and that a new context for humanity will evolve. The contextual symbolism which now contains humanity may be coming to the end of its cycle. The emerging symbolic struggle is to move out of water. As Edinger suggests in The Aion Lectures, with the coming Age of Aquarius "we have the image of a vessel, an allusion to the symbolism of the alchemical vessel and to the capacity to contain the psyche, rather than be contained by it." Instead of being a fish contained in a psychic fish pond, the individual becomes a conscious dispenser of the psyche.
Edinger suggests that Christ may have foreshadowed the age of the water carrier. Both Mark and Luke recount that Christ directed two of his disciples to make preparations for the last supper saying to them, "Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him." (Mark 14:13 and Luke 22:10) The man leads the disciples to the house in which they are to go to the upper room for the Passover meal of the last supper. And Christ was also seen as a water bearer and water dispenser. To the Samaritan woman at the well he said that if she had asked him for a drink, he would have dispensed eternal living water for her. (John 4:10)
But, as Edinger remarks, the water Christ dispensed did not generate more dispensers. Rather it generated fish contained in the water. The church, Edinger speculates, became the water carrier, the fish pond in which the faithful fish could swim. The great secret knowledge of Jung was the discovery of the containment, the water. "If my reading of the symbolism of Aion is correct," says Edinger, "the aeon of Aquarius will generate individual water carriers." This will mean that the psyche will no longer be carried by religious communities but instead it will be carried by conscious individuals. "This is the idea Jung puts forward in his notion of a continuing incarnation, the idea that individuals are to become the incarnating vessels of the Holy Spirit on an ongoing basis."
In Aion Jung provides the broadest contextual basis for symbolism he ever explored. The symbolic contextualism is the archetype of the God-image (the Self) and how this archetype has progressively revealed itself in the course of the Christian aeon. With the creation of this strange book Jung was finally able to gain a sense of peace in his final years. His secret knowledge was indeed "permitted" to be brought forth into the world. And with it, a foundation for a new science of a symbolism of culture.
Religious and Societal Sequence
A number of observers have recognized a sequential pattern in the development of civilization and the concurrent evolution of religion. Common stages identified by most researchers is the movement from hunting, to agriculture and then to the social communities of villages and the urban society of cities.
In The New God Image, Edward Edinger suggests a variation of this common sequence with the following six stages and key events contained within each stage.
Edinger elaborates on the various stages showing their relationship to psychic development. In the animism stage, the objective psyche was experienced in a diffuse way and spirits were everywhere - in animals, trees, places. The entire surrounding environment was animated.
With the evolution from hunting to agriculture, from animism to matriarchy, the "earth mother" became the primary symbol because food (life) now came from the ground rather than from animals. This was the stage when mankind began to recognize the cyclicality of life with the comings and goings of the seasons which brought annual crops. Fertility rites dominated during this period and vegetable symbolism took on an increasing importance. The death and rebirth imagery of the annual cycle was the dominate mythological pattern. The masculine archetype was subordinate to the feminine archetype because the earth was more important than the sky to the life of mankind.
In The New God Image, Edinger remarks that the Attis-Cybele myth was the dominant myth of this period. It told the story of the great mother and her son-lover who was castrated and died young, mourned like vegetation and then reborn the next year. As Edinger notes, it represents the feeble state of human consciousness at this stage which was still dominated by nature and the earth principle. The son-lover was reborn but he never achieved maturity just as the psyche had not achieved maturity at this time.
The move from agricultural settlements to urban environments marked the demise of the "great mother" and rise of the masculine principle. Matriarchy gave way to patriarchy in the next stage of hierarchical polytheism. The gods were no longer earth gods but now sky gods with Zeus the dominant god. The period of hierarchy begins with the King at the top of the hierarchy. Kingship was required to govern the new city states. Egypt and Greece cultures were dominant and much of the central mythology was Norse and Germanic in origin. The period saw the beginning of technology, metalurgy and writing and Homer's Iliad.
The next stage was tribal monotheism created by the ancient Hebrews. The god was Yahweh and, unlike Zeus, he was a personal god. With the emergence of Christianity, the tribal monotheism of ancient Israel became universal and available to entire nations. The monotheism of one tribe now became available to all tribes. A new god image developed with Christianity. As Edinger notes, Israel's Yahweh was a Father-God whereas Christianity's god-image was a Son-God. Yahweh had two sons, though, and in order for Yahweh to turn into the all-good Christ-Son, he had to split off the all-bad Satan-Son. Although split off, the Satan son remained in the background to be dealt with later.
Interestingly, one of the key symbols of the Christian aeon Jung discusses in Aion is the fish symbol of Pisces. Jung finds a dual fish symbol through the Christian era. The first half of the Christian aeon was under Christ who was symbolized by the first fish. The second half of the aeon was under Satan, the split off son, who was symbolized by the second fish.
With the final phase of individuation, Edinger remarks that religious imagery comes to be understood as the phenomenology of the psyche. As we have shown, this was one of the central themes of Jung's Aion. It was also a central theme of Jung's Answer to Job.
Commonalities Of Sequential Elements
Research in correspondences between symbolic sequences is at an early stage and it is premature (and more than a little presumptuous) to draw conclusions. The goal here has been to simply provide a number of illustrations from important works and theories for consideration.
At the same time, there are some commonalities which these works and theories suggest. These commonalities might be based around key words or concepts that seem to appear in many of these sequences:
- Mother (Matriarchy)
- Father (Patriarchy)
Associated with these words are particular places in sequence. For instance, the idea of separation comes in sequences before the idea of resolution or transformation. The emergence of opposites comes before the idea of reunion or resurrection.
While there is still much research to be done, the common division of sequences seems to center around the numbers three or four. Importantly, the dramatic forms also center around this number of divisions as well as mythologic structure.
The key concepts might be placed in a type of chart under the broad headings of the beginning of cycles and the end of cycles. Three key stages can be identified between the beginning and the end: the beginning sequences, the middle sequences and the ending sequences. The chart might be represented in the following manner:
Beginning Cycle ------------------- Ending Cycle
Astrology, Mythology, Religion, American History & Drama
The goal for our purposes is to see if there is a connection between these sequences and the content of popular culture. In other words, is position in this sequence the primary factor in organizing the types of products that appear in popular culture.
For instance, assuming America is going through what Strauss and Howe term an "unraveling" sequence of the millennial cycle, will a particular genre of product dominant this "unraveling" period? Does a particular type of product (symbol) always dominate unraveling sequences in cycles? If so, might there be a correspondence in time to the "unraveling" sequence of the millennial cycle and the "unraveling" sequence of the "great power" cycle (1865-1946) or the "unraveling" sequence of the "civil war" cycle (1794-1865).