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Carl Jung: Mithras is sometimes shown with three heads, a trinity, rising out of a tree.

Tags: dream tree motifs

LECTURE I 22 January 1930

You remember that in the last seminar we were interested in three or four cases of exteriorization of our discussion of the cross and crescent symbolism, the cases of children who produced drawings which precisely expressed that subject.

I have now another example to tell you about.

In Berlin I saw a patient whom I had seen only eight or nine times before, but in that time I had started her drawing, at which she was very quick and quite efficient.

The other day she showed me one which she said her husband criticized as artificial.

She had drawn the same picture that Mrs. Sawyer showed us here, the cross and the crescent and the great light, done on the same date.

That is especially interesting because I had seen her so little.

I had received in the meantime two or three letters of an official character from her husband, but there was no direct connection.

Then, in looking through the cellars of the East Asiatic department of the Museum in Berlin, I was able to get these examples of seal cylinders, which are of great interest in connection with the same symbolism.

[Here Dr. Jung showed us several photographs and plaster impressions of designs, seals, engraved on the surfaces of Babylonian cylinders made of amethyst and jade.

Among the most striking was a Maltese cross, with the crescent in one corner and the sun below with the cross in the centre.

Another contained the idea of the pair of opposites-two male figures on either side of the sacred Tree of the Babylonians.

The trunk of the tree had a peculiar segmentation and it carried the light on top, in the shape of the winged disk of the sun.

The disk was divided into four parts by the cross form and the wings made it resemble an Egyptian symbol.

Another example was a segmented tree with the amphora on top, out of which appeared the winged disk.

Still another of a similar pattern had human heads on top equivalent to the winged sun.

The sacred tree played a great role in the Babylonian cult, and it is very frequent on seals.

Sometimes it is like a date palm, usually with two priests in adoration, or giving water to the tree.

Our Christmas tree is really a parallel, the light of the new year.

Then there was the idea of the birth of the sun out of the top of the tree; Mithras and Ra have both been represented in that way.

Mithras is sometimes shown with three heads, a trinity, rising out of a tree.

It is also a medieval idea, like the family tree of Adam, with the roots in the sleeping Adam, the Kings of Israel in the branches, and Christ crowning the top as the last descendant-again the light bearing tree.

I have a drawing by a patient of a segmented tree with a winged disk on top, and around the roots are four heads.

The segmented trunk stands for the spinal column, or the Ka or bodily soul of the Egyptians, while the sun-disk between the two wings at the top would be mind or spirit.

At my request, Dr. Deady and Mr. Henderson have made a synopsis of the Dream material of the past seminars, which will be read for the benefit of the new members.

It will be almost impossible for you to grasp all the detail, but it will be an advantage to the class to pause and if possible take note of what may be called the musical movement of the unconscious in these dreams, a sort of rhythmical movement. It is a way as yet unknown.

We are far from understanding the dynamics, the laws of the movements of the unconscious; it is perhaps like a sort of symphony.

A friend of mine has worked out an interesting scheme from a series of his own dreams extending over three years; he extracted the Motifs and arranged them in a system which he invented, making a notation for degrees of intensity also.

One makes out from it a sort of counterpoint. Certain motifs take the lead and others disappear.

I noticed, for instance, that when the anima motif was up, the sex motif was down; and when the sex takes the lead, the anima recedes.

So one might from this report get an impression of a peculiar musical character in the flow of dreams.

I have a feeling that music has much to do with our unconscious; perhaps it is the music of the future.

Schopenhauer’s idea of the movement of eternal ideas might be with us the movement of archetypes.

That remains to be seen, it consists chiefly of question marks so far.

[The report was read by Mr. Henderson. ]

Dr. Jung: I suppose you could not follow entirely the mass of condensed material that has been read, you must have rather a blurred impression.

It is very important, nevertheless, that you heard the flow of images represented.

Now I am going to set you a new task.

I should like you to try, with the aid of this report and the fuller reports of the former seminars, to reconstruct, in a sort of abstract way, this movement of the unconscious through the series of dreams.

I want to find out something about the laws of this peculiar melody.

Perhaps there are musical people among us who may get a hunch;

I am too unmusical to manage it, but I can give you suggestions for this kind of enterprise.

I suppose you have seen that there are certain motifs which occur from time to time a machine, or the mandala principle is hinted at, or the cauldron, the anima, etc.

These are principles, motifs, of worldwide frequency and great stability of meaning and interpretation.

And these motifs can be grasped: here is something rather concrete, a fact, like a hard handle which one can take hold of.

Of course I admit that there is a vague fringe where one doesn’t know exactly how they should be taken. Sometimes it is very clear, sometimes thin and tenuous; there are many shades of meaning.

In such cases one might classify them as doubtful or definite.

In any science here are doubtful facts.

But as a whole one finds a certain number of very definite themes, such as directions in space, spiritual symbols, sex, which do not escape one’s grip altogether.

If one has such tangible themes, so that one can say this is a rebirth dream, or a regressive dream, etc., it makes a working basis; if one possesses detail one can perhaps establish certain rules according to which the movement takes place.

One might invent a method by numbers, or by drawing, let us say, by which these motifs would become visible.

I will show you the method my friend used.

The presence or absence and the intensity of the various motifs is noted for each dream.

In working with a patient one has two methods of measuring the value he puts into his material.

If he talks a lot about a certain theme, it is obvious where his libido is; or he may not talk about it at all-his libido is there, but he is unconscious of it.

The other method is the number of associations and the feeling-tone.

Here is another possibility similar to the one above, where we will try to map the intensity of the various motifs.

We could say in dream 1 that C is lacking altogether. A, which is marked in 1, diminishes in the next dream, and B also, but B goes over into 3 and A does not.

D increases from something very slight in 1 to something very pronounced in 2.

This is research work for you-new land. Anybody may find gold. You may see something which nobody has seen before.

Perhaps you would use different colours to show how the threads move, similar to the dreamer’s great vision of the river.

You had best follow the suggestions of the unconscious, and you may arrive somewhere.

It looks as if it were feasible.

Those peculiar stripes in his dream would be the different motifs.

In his dream they meant individual lives, but perhaps we are each but a complex in a greater mind, as, in our own minds, complexes are individual autonomous attempts.

We think we are supreme somehow, some finality about us, but it is quite possible that we are merely such complexes, which move about, discuss things, perhaps have rows together, they might fight as we do, make a hell of a noise.

We must allow such speculation, allow ourselves to open our minds and cast away all prejudices-search for the truth.

In finding the truth it is always necessary to throw away everything that one has thought before.

Why not? I tried to make a pattern myself and it turned out rather funny, like a river with oil on top.

But it looks quite aesthetic, and when a thing suggests beauty or harmony in its form, it always has more to do with the truth than when it is ugly. ~Carl Jung, Dream Analysis Seminar, Pages 439-443

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Carl Jung: Mithras is sometimes shown with three heads, a trinity, rising out of a tree.


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