CG Jung’s Aion is itself an alchemical work from its very metastructure: the book has 333 pages, a reference to the highest principle in Tantra and Kabbalah—complete spiritual enlightenment, the number tops the Tree of Life. The book itself is, therefore, a magic spell; and a similar pagination can be found in Julius Evola’s works—Jung considered Evola’s works on alchemy to be the best available, and perhaps he took inspiration from Evola’s magical works for his own book. Aion’s concrete structure represents a complete statement of Jung’s psychology contextualised within an historical arc, an arc guided by astrology.
Jung’s project seeks to recover the Self. This is not the same as the ego or the persona: the ego is the everyday “I”: the “I” that wants food, sex, and sets life goals. The persona is crafted by the ego in order to achieve those goals; it is the face we put on to go to work that conceals all our egoistic objectives and desires, although it is crafted by the ego. The Self is what “stands behind” the ego—technically, it stands nowhere and everywhere—it is what the Indians call the Atman: unmediated observation, contentless observation—consciousness. The experienced meditator seeks to stand back from his thoughts—to watch his thoughts come and go, as if he watched a sea—and this is union with the Atman. For the most part, people are identified with their thoughts, feelings, and desires; they think they “are” those things. They fear death—loss in general—because when they die all these will cease; and yet if they identify with the Atman they will see all is perception, eternal perception.
Jung seeks to recover the Self for his clients: we lose our Self as we grow up; we become the stereotyped individual in mass society who must fulfil certain roles; for many people, their life is their ego and their persona and nothing else. There may well be a turmoil beneath their masks, but they do not explore that area; they stay firmly in the conscious world—and for many people this leads to misery. The Atman is related to the eternal summer experience in childhood, before various roles and rational objectives have been imposed on the observer. This has led to the now hackneyed term “inner child”; we could say “inner observer”—people have an inner observer that has become swaddled in armour designed to protect it from experience and to allow that observer to play a social role. The miserable person—the immature person—cries out to be reconnected to the inner observer; although they find this difficult to articulate, because all they know is the ego and the persona. Basically, experience hurts and so they conceal the observer behind defences; and yet eventually they die behind those defences and become “stuck” in various ways. Psychoanalysis is meant to get them unstuck.
In more archaic times, this process was formalised in religious rites; yet in modernity, these rites have almost totally degraded. Jung seeks to recover the Self through his individuation process: this means to reconcile opposites, the anima and animus, contained within each person—and also any other dyads, syzygies or divine pairs, contained within a person’s psyche. This work—an alchemical work, a transmutation of the psyche—also involves confrontation with the shadow and its integration into the wider psyche. This process is mediated through mandalas: the mandala is a quartered circle in a square; and this is what the ancients meant by “squaring the circle”; it was not an unsolvable geometrical puzzle, rather it was a way to represent the soul visually.
In line with the four quarters found in the mandala, Jung thinks that the complete religious experience will be found when four elements combine; thus, to the Christian Trinity he adds a fourth—Lucifer. So the Jungian Quaternary runs Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit (Sophia-Mary), and Lucifer. The four form a square and, unlike the Trinity, the square can form a cycle; the cycle is analogous to the ouroboros, the snake that swallows its own tail. Lucifer is the rejected evil element; his integration into the Trinity is, for Jung, a move that integrates the rejected shadow. The conflict between good and evil is now overcome, because in the square a person can cycle around from the highest good to the lowest evil and back again; they are not stuck with an unintegrated and immobile shadow, as in the Trinity.
Jung does not explore sacred geometry, since he claims to take a non-metaphysical approach. In fact, the geometry found in the mandala represents the sacred geometrical proportions that, in turn, relate to the heavenly rhythms and perfect architectural forms—a metaphysical assertion in line with neo-Platonism. The chakras themselves are represented by Platonic solids; to activate a chakra means to vibrate at the right frequency, to be in harmony with that particular chakra. So an individual’s mandala relates back to their soul; its proportions relate to the spirit itself and as each mandala is made a person passes through the four alchemical stages: black, white, yellow, and red. Finally, they complete the circumambulation and regain the Self—i.e. the circle whose centre is nowhere and circumference is everywhere, aka God.
This Self or Atman is Aion (aka Abraxas): it is the hidden God—it is eternity. The God found in the Trinity is only a visible emanation from the hidden God; this is the forbidding Yahweh in the Old Testament. It is only through unifying the four, through Lucifer’s inclusion in the Trinity, that we arrive at the hidden God; the God that is both good and evil—and neither; Jung’s answer to theodicy, to the problem of evil. Aion is represented by the ouroboros because the gateway to eternity is found through perpetual nature, through the descent represented by the alchemical work. In Dante’s Inferno, the descent to Hell’s centre eventually leads the wanderers to climb down Satan’s fur; from Satan’s central point they climb down the celestial pole until it starts to go up and they emerge in Heaven.
Aion is usually represented as a lion-headed man who carries a serpent; he is also Saturn (Cronus), the original god of the Golden Age who was castrated by his rebellious son Jupiter (Zeus), an act that began our fall into the material world—so to recover the hidden God, Aion-Saturn, is to recover the Golden Age. Aion is, incidentally, Kek-Pepe, the troublesome frog that caused a ruckus in 2016; Aion is a hermaphrodite—a man-lion—just as Pepe the Frog lives between two worlds; and in Ancient Greek “kyklos” is a circle, and it is pronounced “keklos”. The perpetual circle leads to eternity. Jung presents a blueprint to recover eternity—the place outside time—through certain psychoanalytical practices; for Jung, Jesus represents the complete man, a man who has united the opposites within himself and achieved eternity; hence Christ is a model for Jung.
Astrologically, Jung suggests that around the Renaissance we began to enter a new age; an age that roughly accords with the rise of the Antichrist in Christian eschatology. Materialism, totalitarianism, and barbarism have come to dominate the world and spirituality has been forgotten. For Jung, this relates to the Aquarian Age, the age of the water-bearer; we left the Age of Pisces (the fish) sometime in the 20th century: the fish is a long-standing Christian symbol—a symbol that, in turn, relates to sacred geometry through the vesica piscis, an element in sacred geometry that resembles a fish and the third eye found in Hindooism. Aion governs eternity and so he stands behind the astrological ages—astrology charts eternity.
Jung should have looked a little closer at fish symbolism. In the Grail legends, the knight attains the Holy Grail when he takes from a wooden bowl a salmon; it is the fish that confers Grail wisdom on the knight. Jung associates the Age of Pisces primarily with Christ, but the Grail legend is an older Indo-Aryan tradition—Jung should have fished deeper for the Grail and the salmon of wisdom.
In the Aquarian Age, Jung thinks that religion will be entirely personal and individualistic. The churches and traditions will break down and people will pursue their own paths to the godhead, possibly through psychoanalysis. The time of Jesus, the time of the fish, has ended; and although Jesus will continue to symbolise the complete man, each individual will have to make his own way. A similar idea was suggested by the mystic Krishnamurti in the 1980s; he said that there will be around six billion paths to God—i.e. as many paths to God as there are individuals on the planet. For many people, what looks like a breakdown and collapse is, for Jung, an opportunity—although one fraught with dangers—to find new paths to the godhead. Consequently, he urges Christian faiths to update and “modernise” their views and beliefs, probably in order to prepare people to take individualistic spiritual paths with little institutional oversight or supervision.
If we consider that Aion was written in the 1950s, we can see how these ideas percolated and informed 1960s spirituality and the subsequent New Age—a bastardised version would say spirituality is a “Do-It-Yourself” job, where you make it up as you go along. Aside from this view, the “Aquarian Age” became associated with utopian and unrealistic thought among the hippies; and we must consider Jung to be partially responsible for this view, although his ideas were half-digested and misunderstood.
There are two problems with Jung: his metaphysics and his relationship with the East. Jung always maintains that he is not involved in metaphysical claims, but this is disingenuous; he makes metaphysical claims all the time, but then weakly claims that these are psychological. He characterises Aion’s realm as the unus mundus—a non-material realm that connects everything—and it is through this realm that meaningful coincidences occur, synchronicities. Synchronicities are, in fact, Lucifer’s domain; each curious coincidence concerns uncanny luck, the luck of the Devil.
Jung psychologises all these ideas, but really—as with the mandala—he makes metaphysical claims. Nothing wrong with metaphysical claims, but I suppose Jung wanted to maintain the veneer that he was still a materialist scientist and that his claims were empirical—although no scientist regards Jung as a scientist, not today anyway. Jung hoped to bring science and religion together through a fourth addition: Lucifer in religion and synchronicity in science. If you add synchronicity to reason, logic, and experiment then you can account for the “lucky accidents” that sometimes happen in science, such as the discovery of penicillin—an event that occurred when an experiment went wrong in a “good way”. The luck of the Devil. Jung thought that once the scientific and religious Quaternaries were complete science and religion would be reconciled: the common link would be Lucifer; to integrate evil in religion, and to integrate luck in science.
From a strictly spiritual view, Jung was wrong to proceed in this direction. The spiritual realm is meant to be a higher qualitative realm, a realm characterised by poetry and music. It is a distinct realm, with its own power and efficacy. Jung engaged in a common activity in modernity—in the Kali Yuga, the Hindoos would say—he tried to bring the spiritual down low. So Jung claims that the pathway to the Self is found in the unconscious, an empirical scientific fact, and so religion is knowable in a crude quasi-gnostic sense—it is knowable through a scientific method, psychoanalysis. This muddles metaphysical claims, for the Self seems to be in eternity and outside ordinary laws—hence synchronicity—and yet for Jung it is an empirical fact. The spiritual answer is that the Self is the higher Atman, it is a separate metaphysical reality—related to, but not synonymous with, the subtle body—and it cannot be identified by empirical science; to do so perverts it, reduces it to profane quantity. Indeed, I doubt any scientist today would claim that we have located the unconscious (in Jung’s sense) or the collective unconscious as an empirical fact—let alone synchronicity.
As for the East, Jung’s ideas in this respect must be contextualised by WWII. Jung denies that the fish symbolism that is associated with Christ comes from the East; he claims it is autochthonous to European Christianity. Yet, as with the salmon in the Grail story, this is actually from a deeper Indo-Aryan tradition—and hence the fish is, as even Jung concedes, an important symbol in Hindooism as well; it is the third eye. Jung insists that the only spiritual path for European man is Christian and that European spirituality has no relation to the East. He asserts this—an untruth—because the National Socialists used the swastika, a symbol from Hindooism and Buddhism, and associated themselves with an older Indo-Aryan tradition. Although Jung did serve in a largely ceremonial position in a psychoanalytical association in Hitler’s Germany, he was ambivalent about the regime—and even more so after the war.
He asserts that European man’s spiritual path can only be Christian because he was disgusted by what happened in partially paganised Germany; and he thinks that the rise of the Aquarian Age accords with barbarism on this scale. From the Christian perspective, the Antichrist is on the loose—or on the approach, anyway—and Christianity has collapsed; only individual paths remain. I think that Jung lacked courage and commitment to the truth here: the connections between the older Indo-Aryan tradition and European spirituality—particularly the Holy Grail, a tradition older than Christianity—are firm.
Whatever Hitler’s crimes and however he used the symbolism, the truth is the truth. Further, Jung contradicts himself: he says that European man can only tread a Christian path—and yet he uses the mandala extensively in Aion. The mandala is central to Jungian analysis, and yet even the name is Eastern. There are, of course, Christian versions, but the idea is Eastern; and this is because the East retains a higher primordial tradition that we have lost over the aeons. I think the gentle Jung was horrified by what happened in Germany, and possibly ashamed by his own complicity through his very tangential role in Hitler’s regime. So he decided to obscure the older European tradition—yet the truth is the truth.