The Metamorphoses of the soteriological archetype

de lect. univ. dr. Vasile CHIRA
Facultatea de Teologie „Andrei Şaguna” Sibiu

Vasile ChiraIn 1909 Jung was invited together with Freud to give a series of lectures at the Clark University of Worcester, Massachusetts. He told the father of psychoanalysis about one of his strange dreams, dream of whose interpretation and, obviously, assumption led at length to the split between the younger Jung and Sigmund Freud. Jung had dreamed that he was living on the top level of an old, but elegantly decorated house. Amazed by the fact that he is the owner of such a house, he comes down to examine the ground floor. Here, the things look even older. Then, casting a look at the floor, he discovers a hook in one of the stone slabs. Giving it a pull, the slabs rises, and some stone stairs show before his eyes, leading the way to the depths. Climbing down those steps, he enters a cave dug in the rock. Down, in the dust, he sees bones and potsherd and, among them, two human skulls half disintegrated by the weather[1].

The house was an analogue of the soul. The top floor room stood for his conscious life. The ground floor was his personal unconscious mind, and the basement – the collective unconscious. Upon this vision, Carl Gustav Jung built his original psychological system, whose importance in the psychic field was the equivalent to the discovery of the quanta in physics or to the decipherment of the human genome in genetics.

The collective unconscious is made up of „identical psychic structures”, inborn neuropsychic nuclei, which Jung calls archetypes. These represent nothing else but the ancient heritage of humanity. If Sigmund Freud discovers[2] the subjective personal unconscious, Jung talks about a suprapersonal layer, inventorying the fundamental experiences of the human being. Archetypes are responsible for the mythologems, thoughts, images, ideas, and similar emotions, irrespective of race, culture, epoch, geography, social situation or faith.

The objectivity of the collective unconscious is the more so as in its structure there are elements never activated at the individual conscious level, unlike the personal unconscious, whose contents were at one time made conscious by the individual. Jung identifies several such „primordial images” of the collective unconscious: anima, animus, persona (the social archetype), the shadow, the child and the divine virgin archetype, the Self archetype, and the mother archetype etc.

Some of the religious founders (Buddha and Jesus) are regarded by Gustav Jung symbols of the Self archetypes. We fully agree to this thesis, but we consider that Jung would have been even more inspired if, besides associating the names of some founders of religions with the symbol of the Self, he had seen in their lives and their doctrines metamorphoses, reiterances and the bringing up-to-date of another archetype: the soter archetype. That is precisely the archetype (unidentified and therefore only tangentially theorized by Jung) we will deal with in the present study.

The promise made by God in Eden, after the fall of the primordial couple: „I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; it will bruise your head and you will strike its heel” (Genesis 3: 15), the protogospel, as it is named by theologians, concurs with the moment of enunciating, disseminating the soteriological archetype in a human being’s mind, archetype that throughout history displays polymorphism: Ma’At principle, and deification of Pharaohs with the Egyptians, Zoroaster’s domination over Angro-Mainyu and restoration of Creation through Saoshiant with the Iranians, Messianic ideal with the Jews, Prometheus, Orphism, Pythagorism, immortality of the soul and Platonic theory of the transcendence of the idea of „good” with the Greeks, Buddha’s concept of release, the Christian soteriological message, the revelation of Muhammad on the Hira Mountain etc., as we find these things related in the great books of spirituality: The Egyptian Books of the Dead, Avesta, Thora, Tripitaka, The New Testament, the Koran.

Although firm as an element of the unconscious, the soteriological archetype, like other archetypes, has changed its content down through history. From the archaic soteriological scenarios (Persian, Chinese or Indian) going through supreme epiphany, realised in the Person of Jesus Christ, till Muhammad, the soteriological archetype has gone through a series of complementary metamorphoses and, after all, necessary. The soteriological archetype is manifesting itself coherently in the lives and the doctrinal principles of great founders of religions (soters): Zoroaster, Confucius, Lao-tse, Mani, Buddha, Moses, Jesus or Muhammad, and veiled in diverse mythological productions.[3]

The similarities between the life and activity of Jesus Christ and the existential routes of the other soters are yet obvious through every archetypal structure, the seed of the Logos is updated, thrown into the inmost depths of the human mind, because what else does the archetype represent than an original mark of the divinity? In other words, the soteriological archetype is a reminiscence of the primordial revelation, a reflection of the divine intentionality, imprinted upon the abysmal structures of the collective unconscious.

The divine child (Apollo, Hermes etc.), the divine virgin (Artemis, Persephone, Demeter etc.), the virgin birth, the astronomical signs (the star), the spiritual precocity, the withdrawal to the desert, the severe ascetic regime, confronting the forces of evil (Abriham, Mara, the Devil), the preaching, the resurrection (Marduk, Adonis, Osiris, Mithras) are archetypal realities common to the various pre-Christian mythologems, a part of them existing in the history of the soteriological Christian act. This evidence does not affect the credibility of the Christian ontology. For His soteriological message to be recognized and perceived, God, in the case of His appearance in time, through Jesus Christ as a person of The Holy Trinity, could have chosen to go with an existing archetypal scheme.

A comparative study between the lives and the doctrines of the major founders of religions would render evident such a soteriological algorithm. We will do this at another time. We shall limit ourselves here to presenting some biographic elements common to and Buddha and Jesus Christ.

The birth of Buddha was announced by a white elephant that had penetrated into the right thigh of Queen Maya, thus producing the immaculate conception of Prince Gautama.[4] The birth of Jesus Christ, announced by the angel Gabriel, who assures Virgin Mary that which is conceived in her womb is of the Holy Ghost[5] and so „sine ulla viri operatione”.[6] The founder of Buddhism is born during a trip in the Lambini forest.[7] Jesus of Nazareth is born in a cave in Bethlehem after a journey that Joseph and Mary had made during the census requested by Caesar Augustus.[8] Four kings come to sit at the head of Buddha’s bed.[9] Three wise men worship Jesus.[10] Shortly after the birth of Prince Gautama, the Brahman monk Asita comes to the baby, flying from the Himalaya Mountain and foretells the following: „this is the child who will become Buddha, the guide to immortality, freedom and light.”[11] To Jesus comes the holy-man Simeon who utters the words: „Now exempt Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word in peace, as my eyes saw Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples, the light to the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel”.[12] At the age of 12 Buddha is lost and found under a tree, preaching to some wise Brahmins.[13] At the same age, Jesus is lost and found by his parents in the temple, preaching to teachers.[14] Returning from the wilderness, Buddha is greeted by a woman exclaiming: „Happy mother, happy father, happy woman you belong to”. The enlightened one replies: „Blessed are only those who are in Nirvana”.[15] After returning from the desert and at the beginning of his public activity, a woman approaches Jesus with the words: „Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!” Christ rejoins: „Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it”.[16] Buddha withdraws into the wilderness, where he faces Mara, an evil entity whose components are evil and death: In the face of these temptations, Buddha gives the following reply: „I know well that another kingdom is given to me, but I do not strive for a worldly kingdom, I will become the Buddha, and everyone will jubilate”.[17] Jesus responds to the tempter: „In My back, Satan, for it is written: the Lord thy God I worship and serve Him only He”.[18]

Both after Buddha’s and Jesus Christ’s preaching, a succession of conversions take place. Before his death, Buddha says: „Nothing is lasting”.[19] Christ prays to Father for those who crucified Him: „Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing”.[20] After death, Buddha’s body emanates light. Christ’s tomb is also bathed in light.

Regarding the existence of these biographical parallels between Buddha and Jesus, three assumptions were put forward:

1. The biography of Jesus imitates the moments of Buddha’s life, who was born approximately five centuries before;
2. Neither of the two biographies has any historical foundation[21];
3. The biography of Buddha is inspired from the life of Jesus.

The earliest historical sources on the life of Buddha date from the 4th century A.D., so after eight centuries from the time of birth and four centuries from the birth of Jesus respectively, which could explain any possible loans from Christian missionaries.[22]

The originality and depth of Christianity begins from the point where the two natures of Jesus Christ, oppositive, disjunctive, are revealed as belonging to the same person (hypostasis). The hypostatic union of the infinite accounts for the paradoxical structure of history, in the sense that the human nature contained in Christ’s hypostasis is not an ordinary one, but it is human nature taken as a whole. The suffering of Christ is not an individual one, but, by crucifixion, the Logos is suffering for the entire human nature, exhausting the suffering of humanity. The essence of this junction of two ontologically heterogeneous natures, into a unique personality lies in the fact that the two natures exchange their attributes: time is eternalizing, while eternity gets temporal. The embodied transcendence involves the transcendental character of the immanence and the immanent character of the transcendence.

Christology overturns the Myth of the cave. It does not assert the escape of an individual from the platonic cave, and the return to his enchained mates, but the Sun itself entering the cave, and being stoned by those who took the shadows for the truth.

One of the most obvious arguments which stand for the objectivity, coherence and divine filiations of the Christian Epiphany is represented by prophecies. The over 300 Messianic prophecies, written by the Old Testament prophets 1,000 years ago, are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Peter W. Stoner, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Astronomy, Westmont College and Pasadena City College, in his book Science Speaks (Moody Press Chicago, 1976), as a result of his estimates based on the calculus of probability, taking into account only 8 out of the 300 prophecies, proves that Jesus from the Gospels is actually the Messiah of the Old Testament writings. The probability is 1 in 1017. More precisely, only 1 man in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 people could have fulfilled these 8 prophecies.

The reasons for which God inspired the Old Testament prophets to forth-tell about the life and death of Jesus, would be, on the one hand, the facilitation of His identification and, on the other hand, the impossibility of their fulfilment with a false Messiah.

The idea that Jesus intentionally plied on the prophetic accounts, updating them in a forced, artificial manner, was denied by the theory of probability, by logic and by historical facts.

The birth to Bethlehem had been anticipated 700 years before Jesus’ birth, by the prophet Micah: „And you Bethlehem Ephrata, although you are small among the essential cities of Judah, yet out of you will come the one who rules over Israel and whose origin comes from the Old Testament, to the eternal days”.[23] About the sum of 30 silver coins, given to Judah in order to betray, and then earmarked to buy the potter’s field, mentioned in the Gospel on Matthew (26, 14-15; 27, 3-8), which had been prophesied over 500 years before, by the prophet Zachariah: „I told them: if you consider it right, give me the reward, if not, do not give it to me – and they weighted me as payment 30 silver coins and put them into God’s house for the potter”[24] After the arrestment, the Roman soldiers drew lots for Jesus’ clothes.[25] This had been prophesied about 1,000 years before, in David’s Psalms: „They divide the clothes and draw lots for my shirt”.[26]

The Crucifixion had been predicted by David in the same book of psalms about 1,000 years ago, although at the time of his writing them, the Crucifixion was not in use as a method of torture. „They have pierced my legs and feet.”[27] The piercing of the rib was also an exception from the custom of crushing the shinbones. But Zachariah had told about this more than half a millennium ago: „They will look at the one who was pierced”.[28] Finally, the Crucifixion between the robbers had been anticipated 700 years before by the prophet Isaiah: „He was settled with the wrongdoing ones”.[29]

Mathematical, anthropological, logical and metaphysical reasons make Christ’s experience plenarily saturate the soteriological archetype .This thing does not mean that the message of other monotheistic religions becomes superfluous.

The coexistence of several levels of reality postulated by quantum mechanics, the principle of included middle, and the theory of ontological undecidability comes to confirm these features of the soteriological archetype, and also their subtle coherence and convergence.

From a Christian perspective, petrified in subjectivity and self-sufficiency, such interdisciplinary approaches (inter-religious), are seen as attempts to relativization of Christian ontology.

Physicist, philosopher and writer Basarab Nicolescu, founder and theorist of transdisciplinarity, although postulating a principle of relativity, sees no disagreement between his assertions and statements of patristic authors, like Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, John of the Ladder, or Gregory Palamas.

Actually, Basarab Nicolaescu makes a clear distinction between his principle of relativity and plain relativism: ”I accept the distinction that some Orthodox thinkers make between <<Orthodox religion>> and <<Orthodox theology>>. Some of them go so far as denying the notion of <<Orthodox religion>> (just because this word <<religion>> would place Orthodoxy on equal terms with other religions) and prefer to speak exclusively of <<Orthodox theology>>. As an Orthodox, I accept this point of view, which is, as a matter of fact, shared by some hierarchs of the Romanian Orthodox Church. My principle of relativity applies only to religions, and not to theologies. Religions involve the participation of some Relativity levels of The Object (for example, in the territory where a religion appears), and of the Subject (for example, through the founders of these religions), while Orthodox theology is entirely situated in the area of Hidden Third. That is why, to me <<trans-religious>> and <<Orthodox theology>> are synonyms. Therefore, transdisciplinarity has nothing to do with concordism.

Christ can be, of course, described as paradoxotaton, that is, a paradox of paradoxes. My personal belief is that, in a not too far-off future, a transdisciplinary and transreligious hermeneutics will appear, which will have as an Ontological Centre of Reality the person of Jesus Christ.”[30]

The affirmation of the pre-eminence of Christianity against the other religions, apparently entails a series of logical dilemmas. If Jesus Christ is the only landmark that the road to salvation must pass by, then all those who had lived before Him and therefore were ignorant of his teachings, lost any possibility of salvation. Such a God, who has not given to all mortals the chance of salvation, could be accused of injustice. This can be extended to the current world configuration of religions. Out of the almost 7 billion inhabitants of our planet, approximately two billion are Christians (only 280 million are Orthodox), the rest belonging to other religions, or are atheists. On the other hand, provided pre-Christian or post-Christian religions all offered salvation, the value and unique character of Christ’s sacrifice would be deeply affected. What sense would the missionary activity of Christians have had, why a lot of Christians would have given their lives in the name of one of the tens of ways leading invariably to the same God?

These questions cannot be solved without diversifying the key criteria according to which God will save the world, and by accepting the mysterious reasons of Divine iconomy.

The case of the righteous, the patriarchs and the Old Testament prophets is paradigmatic. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David were saved by the way they acted toward the Law and the type of Revelation that were available to them, in short, by the moral and spiritual exigencies imposed by the Theo-cosmic coordinates within which God allowed them to live.

Once committed, the original sin brings about devastating consequences at the ontological level. But, a complete rehabilitation was not possible without the descent of the Triune Logos into time. Jesus Christ has, by excellence, illustrated the Self Symbol[31], He is the Image of God (imago Dei).

Christ’s sacrifice is the culmination of restoring the transcendental mechanisms, the absolute penitence of a mystic Adam in whose unique structure the attributes of both natures (divine and human) are being simultaneously, distinctly and indistinctly activated.

Jesus of Nazareth is not only a perfect image of the man (Son of the Being), but also a Symbol of the Self[32], an image of the image, an archetype of the Absolute. We all recognize ourselves in His innocence and agony, even if we are not conscientiously aware of this fact. For, what else is life but a road from Gethsemane to Golgotha, on whose sides the light terminals of the Infinite are flaring, once in a while?

[1] See Anthony Stevens, Jung, translated by Oana Vlad from English, Humanitas Publishing House, 2006, p. 54-55.
[2] Freud is not the first to speak of the unconscious as a dimension of human psyche. It is sufficient here to mention Schopenhauer. Freud’s indisputable merit is to have theorized and emphasized the impact of this egological level on conscious life.
[3] Karl Gustav Jung’s investigations on abysmal psychology provides an important hermeneutic key for the better understanding of Christian concepts.
[4] See Mircea Eliade, Istoria credinţelor şi ideilor religioase, Vol II, Scientific and Encyclopedic Publishing House, Bucharest, 1981-1988, p. 74.
[5] Matthew 1: 20.
[6] This expression belongs to Niceta of Remesiana (Catechismus sive libelli instructionis sex, Libellus quintus: De simbolo, cap. III).
[7] See Edward J. Thomas,., The History of Buddhist Thought, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1951, p. 135.
[8] Luke 2: 1-7.
[9] See Edward J. Thomas, , op. cit., p. 135.
[10] Matt. 2: 1-12.
[11] Rudolf Steiner, op. cit., p. 106.
[12] Luke 2: 25-35.
[13] Rudolf Steiner, op. cit., p. 107.
[14] Luke 2: 41-51.
[15] Rudolf Steiner, op. cit., p. 107.
[16] Luke 11: 28.
[17] Rudolf Steiner, op. cit., p. 108.
[18] Matt. 4: 10.
[19] Rudolf Steiner, op. cit., p. 108.
[20] Luke 23: 34.
[21] This hypothesis is also supported by Rudolf Steiner, see op. cit., p. 109.
[22] See Ernest Valea, Creştinismul şi spiritualitatea indiană, Ariel Publishing House, Timişoara, 1996, p. 227.
[23] Micah 5: 2.
[24] Zechariah 11: 12-13.
[25] See Matt. 27: 35.
[26] Ps. 22: 18.
[27] Ps. 22: 16.
[28] Zechariah 12: 10.
[29] Isaiah 53: 12.
[30] Basarab Nicolescu, Ortodoxia, transdisciplinaritatea şi atitudinea transreligioasă, Epifania, Publication for religious dialogue, No. 13, October-November 2010, p. 87.
[31] See C. G. Jung, Opere complete, vol 9. Aion. Contribuţii la simbolistica sinelui. Translated by Daniela Ştefănescu from German, Trei Publishing House, Bucharest, 2005, p. 53.
[32] Although he seems to take a certain scientific distance when drawing the parallel between Christ and Self („There is no question at all of any methaphysical intrusion, namely of faith”), Jung does not hesitate to confer on Jesus Chirist the status of symbol of the Self. See Jung, ”Opere complete” , vol. 9, op. cit., pp. 85-86.

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