The relationship between Analytical Psychology and Transcendence – The disturbing question inherited from the “Red Book” by Jung </h1> <br> Antonio Grassi, Sandra Berivi

The relationship between Analytical Psychology and Transcendence – The disturbing question inherited from the “Red Book” by Jung

Antonio Grassi, Sandra Berivi


The relationship between Analytical Psychology and Transcendence – The disturbing question inherited from the “Red Book” by Jung


by Antonio Grassi, Sandra Berivi



Analytical  psychology ,in giving a pantheistic response to man’s religious question , while offering a great and futuristically actual theoretical construct on the psyche , does not respond to the archetypal need of Transcendence, hidden in the deepest part of the human soul. In this paper it is attempted  to explain  the reasons for such a lack, but also to indicate  a further path that analytical psychology can open towards more radical answers to the religious need of man.

Key Words: Analytical Psychology, Science, Faith, Transcendence


At the center of psychic suffering  Jung places the religious problem that grips the neurotic subject and is at the origin of his/her symptoms. As it  has  already been  written in another work (Grassi, 2010b), he shares this basic assumption with Robert Langs (1988a) communicative psychotherapy creator, and with W. Bion (1970),a  Kleinian psychoanalyst, and  his great admirer and estimator.

At a first reading of ‘The Red Book’ it might seem to emerge a valid answer to the religious problem of all human beings , identified in the process of individuation as an ‘initiatory’ path that each person  is called to follow to realize the sense of his/her  earthly existence. In the Book at this analysis level  indeed Jung identifies Analytical Psychology as a method and a fundamental reference theoretical construct : in fact    ‘his’ individuation process  meaning and deep objective will be the scientific development of the Analytical Psychology starting from its historical matrix: Alchemy and, even before, Gnosis.  But examining in depth his inner research it is to  be noticed  that the author makes other essential clarifications: he firmly declares  that his book is a kind of logbook on an individuation path that is his personal existential journey, with  specific choices , which cannot  be shared in terms of affiliation, or imitation, or mimicking. In this sense he declares that there can never be true Jungians; everyone has and goes his own way.  Indeed Jung, through his imaginative ego and his ‘oniric’ dream-like  ego, makes choices that will obviously have repercussions  not only on the development  of his psychic theory but also, and above all, on  depth psychology ethics conception.  Ethics is not  casually mentioned.  At the end of the Book he is  faced by Elijah  with  the alternative   between the choice of a ‘telluric mysticism’, represented by Salome, and the alternative of a ‘celestial mysticism’, represented by Elijah himself. He replies that he is a man and therefore he cannot follow Elijah’s way. Salome, in  going away with Elijah, gives him a winking glance. It can be questioned why Jung chooses Salome, and then, in this way, gives the origin  to a later  Analytical Psychology orientation that led to ethical values relativism  . As communicative oriented Psychologists Analysts , often in spite of ourselves, we are  accustomed to researching the origins of intellectual theories, of  human behavior relational models  in deep unconscious motivations, often rather unpleasant for the conscience. It is to be said that for some time the development of Jung’s thought has been under the focus of our attention. We have been  analyzing it  in full respect of the fundamental truth, by the author himself expressed, according to which no analyst can ever lead  his patient beyond his/her own limit of psychological development. We believe that highlighting his work values and grasping its limitations, where they appear in all their evidence, is, on our part, a dutiful testimony of esteem towards the author. This is precisely in order to further develop the riches hidden in his intuitions, in order to ‘throw away only the dirty water without losing the child’.

In this  work it is  proposed the hypothesis  that the development of the new psychotherapeutic discipline named by Jung as Analytical Psychology is the author’s original and brilliant work, but, at the same time, it has its speculative limit on  religious dimension exploration. It will be tried  to demonstrate, through a thorough and detailed analysis of the Red Book, that the development of his religious thought remains at an ‘immanent’ level without crossing the transcendence  threshold  because of the unresolved personal conflict with the paternal dimension. The contributions on the Red Book  interpret it as the expression of a synchronistic coincidence between European reality events and catastrophic changes  contemporary to Jung  and his personal vicissitudes. In complete sharing of the above mentioned interpretations, just to fill the gap represented by a weak and / or just nuanced analysis of the author’s personal dimension involved in such synchronistic events, it has been  tried to explore  how Jung’s ego has managed his personal conflicts that  were part of those synchronistic events.


1.1.0 Communicative Oriented  Analytical Psychology: an anthropological conception of the psyche rooted in the metaphysical-theological dimension

Analytical psychology as a science of the mind obviously belongs to the anthropological sphere, Hegel’s finished Spirit , together with art and religion, and stands as an extended cognitive spectrum between heaven and earth, that is between Nature and Absolute Spirit. This  research is placed in this dimension.

During  our consciousness  going down  to the depth, through dreams, associations, imaginative activity, etc.,  first  an unconscious so-called ‘surface’ ego  system (Langs, 1988a) is encountered. All the erotic and aggressive predatory drives described by Freud operate in it. This unconscious ego drive level  is mechanically governed by the defense mechanisms described by classical Freudian psychoanalysis. The latter lead to the auto and hetero deceitful transfer  phenomenon , to  false theorizations and  illusory and / or distorted interpretations of reality . Ego’s  unconscious part  essentially plays the function of desire hallucinatory satisfaction , which consists in appropriation drive satisfaction  inherent in the omnipotent Oedipal fantasy, even at reality expense (Fornari, 1975). On the contrary, going  even deeper, there is the  unconscious archetypal dimension , where depth and super-conscious height paradoxically coincide.

Jung,  Bion, and Langs recognize a perceptive-cognitive interpersonal attitude to this dimension, which goes beyond the ordinary sensory paths and communicates, through the symbolic or associative-metaphorical language,  our and others’ relational and behavioral motivations authentic truths and meanings. However, this inner space goes so far as to open the mind to  life basic rules  and  human existence ultimate spiritual meanings  transpersonal awareness  up to an opening to transcendence.

This premise allows a reader to understand the key  used in ‘The Red Book’ careful examination. In this work the author  recorded particularly critical and troubled inner path events. This trouble led him, in the period from 1913 to 1928, to let  twentieth century scientific culture know  Analytical Psychology  psychic foundations and theoretical and clinical framework: in particular the archetype and the  Objective Psyche conception, i.e. the ‘Reality of the Soul’. Archetypes constitute the Objective Psyche supporting structures.

Archetypes and Objective Psyche

1.1.1 The archetype.

By archetype Jung means an  experience and knowledge a priori category, a pattern of behavior that is not only instinctual, like in  Ethology  , but also  imaginal , that is specifically

1.1.2 The Objective Psyche or Reality of the Soul.

  • The discovery of objective Psyche transcendence, not in the metaphysical sense,related to both conscious and unconscious ego, is, however, of fundamental importance. That is to say that the objective Psyche refers to the ego as a you and vice versa. The ‘objective Psyche’, otherwise also defined by Jung ‘Reality of the Soul’,  has therefore  its own autonomy and, related to the conscious ego, behaves like a second personality possessing a much wider, deeper and higher awareness. So  it has its own independent faculty of evaluation, judgment and will. Following this new and revolutionary Psyche totality Jungian vision, it has been conceived the idea that the unconscious ego is, consequently, connected ,in a similar way , with  the objective Psyche both  external  and internal worlds . The latter are both ‘Other’ with respect to the conscious-unconscious ego. In fact, it can be made  the following  hypothesis  that, for example, a psychic defense mechanism, considered by Jung to be fundamental,  the projection, can intervene on the part of the unconscious side of the ego towards not only  outside world characters, but also inner world  ones  when  they present themselves to the ego, for example during active imagination or a dream. These mechanisms  is always the same: the  omnipotent Oedipal, oral or phallic fantasy hallucinatory realization of unconscious ego ,at the reality expense , this time meaning by reality not only the external objective Psyche characters’  but also the  inner ones .  In ‘The Red Book’  Jung seems  to  presents himself as an emblematic case  in which the unconscious ego uses   this type of internal defense from the figures that emerge from his inner world and animate it. As evidence of this thesis, some  seemingly distorted interpretations will be referred . They were given by Jung   of his interlocutors and  emerge from the depth, especially those significant in relation to his relationship with the Sacred and in particular with the Transcendence (Elijah and Philemon ). These distorted interpretations produce for Analytical Psychology great and disturbing questions raised by the contemporary reading of ‘The Red Book’ and of the memoirs written in’ Memories, Dreams and Reflections’:

– Was Jung’s negative relationship with his personal father decisive in causing his reluctance towards the metaphysical-theological transcendence?

– Was the conflict with Freud conditioned by his original personal negative relationship with his father, a Protestant pastor?

– Consequently, given this conflict and a hypothetical omnipotent solution , does the implantation of Analytical Psychology manage to stay within the anthropological  Science of the Sacred limits or is it likely to go beyond them unknowingly attributing itself  the significance of a pantheism – founded Sacred Science?

– In the last  case ,does  Jung’s  pantheistic vision  have strong repercussions on the clinical level, on the concept of man, the relationship between man and woman and ethics?

In this work  the preliminarily proposed thesis  is that the Zurich master  made,  on the  ego level, an  inner exploration journey  that would  lead him to identify Analytical Psychology origins and pillars, while on the unconscious level he retraced all the stages of   his Oedipal conflicting relationship with the paternal dimension , unfortunately not resolving the problem.

Besides  another  thesis is proposed  ,that Jung, unconsciously, due to his unresolved conflict with the paternal, cuts  the psyche  totality  out  of  a profound evidence inherent in the Objective Psyche he passed through: the existence of a  Transcendence archetype (Elijah), i.e. an a priori predisposition to the experience and not intellectual knowledge of God. It is  also believed  that this amputation  had a strong negative impact on his conception of  the relationship between man and woman structure and  of spirituality. These consequences are made evident by the meaning and the role that , in ‘The Red Book’ and in ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’,  the female images  play associated with the male figures object of Jung’s Oedipal conflict: Sabina Spilrein regarding Freud, Salome in reference to Elijah, Soul and Mary in relation to Philemon.


In the text the Zurich master very clearly  exposed  all  his unconscious soul and his conscious and unconscious ego motions. In fact, the analysis, often also pitiless, that  will be conducted  on the  author’s thoughts, feelings and behavior, as well as on  unconscious motivations, is to be interpreted as a disenchanted gaze  not only in Jung’s  but also in everyone’s  inner truth mirror. Jung can be everyone , and if the reflections and  criticisms made here are to be thought as  addressed to a Jung that symbolically represents  all of us, even the hardest analysis  on the author’s  work  concerns all of  us personally.

Text analysis

2.0.0 The negative story with Freud: Jung’s interpersonal, cultural and value Oedipal Conflict

Jung  asserted that his work was his personal life devoted to Analytical Psychology discovery and that ‘The Red Book’ itself  derived from the detachment from Freud and the consequent period of his personal crisis. It seems appropriate, therefore, to make some considerations on how and why Jung, on a human level, and not only theoretically, separated from Freud. Separation is  not mourning in order to underline an essential fact: physical separation, or even theoretical, between two people might  not be equivalent to an effective reciprocal detachment and consequent mourning. Far from it! So what really happened in the deep unconscious between Freud and Jung?

In order to answer this question avoiding other authors’ misinterpretations  of what really happened, the best choice  is to rely on  the words written on the subject by Jung himself in ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’ “(Jung, 1961: 174-196).

Jung himself  tells the story of  the inner process that led him to the separation from Freud, and  makes it quite  clear (to quite  witty readers  )that he  experienced  Oedipal ambivalence towards his father Freud: his dreams and also his  associative communications in the personal relationship with him unequivocally demonstrate it. He intimately accused his master of  elevating the eros to the rank of a dogma, of a religious numen (divine power), and on this subject his observations are extremely convincing. He got indignant , however, when Freud maintained that  he (Jung) wanted  to be considered as a prophet.  In reality, in his psyche conception  development ,  he himself  will end up embodying  the   new discipline, Analytical Psychology, prophet-role . Manzoni, in his ‘Promessi Sposi’ (‘The Betrothed’), watching two people attribute to each other criticizable images, commented: ‘so they exchanged their business cards’.

Once  Jung and  Freud were at a dinner party and  the first excitingly began  to talk about his interest in the “marshes  corpses” in some  Northern Germany regions.  The teacher fainted and, as soon as he recovered, he pointed out to the student that all his chattering of corpses at the table with him meant that the disciple had death wishes in his regard.  Freud  correctly perceived and interpreted his disciple’s  unconscious intentions ,  communicated to him through the associative metaphors made up of  his stories on the ‘ marshes corpses’ (ib.:190 et seq.).

On another occasion, during a discussion on Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, who  had destroyed all the cartouches  on his father’s stems in order to establish the monotheistic religion in place of his time  widespread polytheism  , Freud claimed that Amenhotep IV had acted because of a negative paternal complex, essentially a desire to kill the father; Jung instead defended Amenhotep IV stating  that the pharaoh’s son only fought against the name of the god Ammon  and not against his father; only for this he had erased that name from anywhere, so even in his father’s cartouches. Once again, the second, Freud fainted (ib.:184). Even in this case it could be objected to Jung: if Amenofi IV’s goal was to cancel only Ammon’s name, why did he  destroy all his father’s cartouches  and not only erase the god’s  name ?

Through the discussion on Amenhotep IV the two protagonists, Freud and Jung, were unwittingly and reciprocally communicating . The first  was perceiving the latter’s unconscious desire to take his place  and the  latter was communicating  to the first that he was legitimate to do it, otherwise he could not replace him in  the psychology of the unconscious realm.

Following an analytical evaluation, even only of these  two short episodes,  Analytical Psychology communicative orientation  allows to say that Freud and Jung, in these disputes, mutually felt the unconscious meanings of their relationship through ‘derivatives’, that is, narrative metaphors. Jung analyzes  the same story in a hard but  truthful way, therefore ,according to this decoding  key of unconscious communications between the two, even from Jungians’  side, it must  be   admitted  that Freud was right. Both the Viennese master’s  fainting episodes ,which can also be inscribed in the category of conversion symptoms mimicking the goal of Jung’s unconscious desire to kill his father, and the impermeability  shown by Jung to the master’s arguments, testify how much  the author’s negative paternal complex  was excessively egosyntonic and therefore completely inaccessible to critical self-reflection.  Jung’s  unconscious parricide motivation  against Freud  is witnessed  by  his crisis with the Viennese master turning dream .  In the first part  it represents Freud as an old Austrian customs officer ghost ,  wearing a  uniform, who, walking curved, passed him without paying attention to him (Jung, 1961: 174-196). There cannot be a better symbolic Oedipal complex expression of the student  towards the teacher! It was precisely Oedipus who, in the myth, not  bearing  his father passing into a narrow area ‘without paying attention to him’, killed him.

In the dream, however, a female voice says  to Jung: ‘He is one of those who could not really die’(ib.:174-196). Why was the relationship with Freud not really able to die at least until then? Why did Jung keep alive a relationship that had already  been dead for years? Perhaps Jung himself says it , in an unconscious way, through his associations: “Customs = Border. At the borders the suitcases are opened and they are examined if they contain smuggled goods “(ib: 174-196). In fact, in a merciless, but perhaps truthful, analysis the dream seems to warn Jung that when he said that he had to bow to Freud’s intellectual authority, he really  tried to smuggle, even to himself, for an  attitude of devotion and loyalty to the teacher, an  interior attitude that connoted  the desire  to take his place. Being appreciated as his young and brilliant heir, did he hope perhaps in his analytical professionalism clearing? On the conscious level, Jung said: ‘In my eyes Freud had already lost […] his authority […] could it be the death wish that Freud suspected? No, I  absolutely wanted to work with him ‘(ib: 174-196). However, he smuggled to himself the persuasion that he wanted  to work with the Viennese master, which was instead    contextually denied  by his hidden low opinion  and contempt that  revealed his unconscious wish for  Freud’s death .

Jung manages to fulfill his wish to be recognized  as an innovator of Depth Psychology  in the second part of the dream, when he represents himself as  a  twelfth century Knight  , completely armed, invisible to everybody but to himself. A knight full of life, belonging to the birth of alchemy and   the Holy Grail search century. A story that brings him  back to the reading he did  when he was 15. The young adolescence knight  succeeds to the old customs officer father.  It is analytical culture acquired heritage  that during adolescence the young’s death drive towards the father  and the desire to be the promising new hero embodying  the  mother’s unconscious omnipotent narcissism  are at play. A representation of himself as a twelfth century  knight, at  the time of the birth of alchemy which was  considered  by Jung the mother of Analytical Psychology. A new world, a kingdom in which the old father is dispossessed by the young son, who renews life and culture.

The detachment from Freud becomes definitive when Jung formulates his conception of incest, with which he replaces  Freud’s one . For Freud incest is an almost biological fact, certainly concrete. The child really wants to own the mother’s body. Only the taboo can be opposed to it so that society can survive. Jung does not deny the reality of incest, but substitutes Freud’s conception with his, thus realizing a form of Oedipus acted among different theoretical conceptions: incest concerns  unconscious inner images ,the taboo is not to be opposed because the incest has a strongly religious content, for this reason  it is present in all cosmogonies and in many myths. Jung writes ‘Freud adhered to a literal interpretation and could not grasp the spiritual significance of incest as a symbol” (ib: 174-196). As he himself states, the complex of incest would have a positive function on the symbolic level. This operation  leads Jung to elaborate a matriarchal conception of the unconscious: the Great Mother is, in fact, the archetype founding the unconscious. The  Incest does not concern the real mother, but the archetypal mother, and allows the hero to break down  the collective consciousness   fossilized values, that are the Father, replacing them with a new world and reality  vision . The incest complex  continues, therefore, to orientate both authors, Freud concretely as  danger and Jung symbolically as desired destination. In both cases the Father, however, must be killed: in Freud as the representative of the real father’s internal punitive-judging- superegoic image,  in Jung as collective consciousness values and norms embodiment, which must be destroyed  to be able to go along  the path of individuation.

On the contrary, according to a compensatory modality, the unconscious tries to correct this vision of Jung’s  paternal   by  a dream  on 12th  December , 1913. The author dreams of descending into a cavity-cavern and of discovering  a young blond man ‘s head wounded corpse floating in a deep watercourse  .  First  a gigantic black beetle emerges  from the deep water , and then, from a further depth, a  just born  red sun. Dazzled by its light, Jung tries to replace the stone on the cavity opening, but it spills out  blood rivers  (ib: 206-207). The Zurich psychoanalyst brings this dream back to the drama of death and renewal that characterizes the  hero and the sun myth . He will attribute the  blood rivers , already dreamed of before, to a precognition  of the First World War  imminent outbreak .  This interpretation of archetypal-synchronic nature, even in its precognitive implications, should not  be questioned. However  the Swiss author  does avoid  any reference to his personal inner story. Instead   the same  dream  can be analyzed on the basis of the underlying assumption of the Jungian concept of synchronicity which implies a correspondence between inner events and external events. According to this interpretation the wound that the young corpse has on his head could also symbolize the sense of castration experienced by Jung in his relationship with Freud. The dream also seems to propose that, going deep, and  so not keeping to the surface of the castration experience, he could first meet the enormous black scarab, a primitive repetitive archetypal paternal image, then an infinite state of light, of unconscious awareness: the  ‘midnight’ red sun, which is rising. The sun is a paternal symbol. So it  can  be understood  that  Jung ‘s  deep  unconscious  indicated  an interior journey towards  the  solar paternal archetypal value  rediscovery in his emotions  deep  water . The author, frightened  of  being dazzled by so much light,  immediately tries to put ‘a stone on it’, even if at the price of being overwhelmed by an enormous hemorrhage of forces in this conflict. After  blocking   the light of the solar paternal awareness , however, Jung will also  ‘put a stone on’  that indicates the relationship with the Anima -woman with whom he is involved in  an overwhelming passion at that time of his life, that is Sabina Spielrein .

In fact, in the dream of December 18th , 1913, made a few days later, he, together with others, must kill Siegfried, who, on a cart made of dead bones, descends at a crazy speed down a steep slope. Jung really kills Siegfried. Devoured by remorse and guilt, overwhelmed by the fear that the crime can be discovered, he runs away. A shower of rain sweeps  away every trace of the corpse. ‘A voice says to  him:’ If you do not understand the dream, you must shoot yourself ‘. (Ibid: 206-208). In his memoirs, Jung specifies that in the  bedside table drawer  he had a loaded revolver, and in  that circumstance he  began to frighten. The author interprets Siegfried’s figure  as the  ego’s unconscious ideal  underlying his conscious attitude, he attributes the responsibility  of it to a female figure and draws the conclusion that this ideal had to be killed because it no longer suited him. In this way, Jung reveals, completely unintentionally, one of the most serious dangers inherent in the use of analytical interpretive tools, either Active Imagination dreams or characters. That is to say  dealing  with  images as inner world  autonomous personifications , but totally detached from any relationship with concrete life concomitant context. One of the fundamental elements of  symbolic reading is  thus scotomized (eliminated) : reality. The risk  is  ending up in self-deceptive explanations which, leaving the inner characters prey to their only concrete  and not functional definition, produce a sort of psychological materialism. Another danger is inherent in the self-interpretation of dreams, which may be untrue, but determined by  the unconscious ego needs of each of us. In fact, it is to be considered that   Jung absolutely scotomizes some details  of his life when he interprets this legendary figure. He does not speak clearly of his very intense  contemporary relationship with Sabina Spielrein. He does not mention the following facts.  Siegfried’s father’s name  was Sigmund (like Freud). Sabina’s greatest desire was to have a child from him and to give him the name Siegfried. This child, in Spielrein’s aspirations, would fill the gap between her Jewish nature  and  his Arian one.  Finally, in  Spielrein’s mind, Siegfried could also be ‘one of their symbolic creatures originating from the union of his teachings [of Jung] with those of Freud’ (Carotenuto, 1980: 16 -17). This last event, however, would have subverted Jung’s Oedipal relationship balance as it would have meant no longer supplanting his father, but becoming himself  a father in ‘sitting on his right’. Forgive the somewhat daring analogy!

The  legend  tells that Sigmund,  Siegfried’s father, dying, told his wife that they would have a son,  and  he would  leave him the fragments of his sword.  In the legend Siegfried  had inherited them and with them, forging them again, he had built the only new sword able to face and defeat the dragon. Like Siegfried, Jung could  inherit Freud’s analytical tool , the sword cut into pieces, and, forging it again , could  develop the new sword, Analytical Psychology, to face the dragon of the unconscious, but integrating and not denying the Freudian contribution . This was  his lover Sabina Spielrein’s wish.  Freudian elaborations  contribution  and the consequent rigorous analytical setting are to be considered  precious  for the analysis of the unconscious. More or less flexible rules are generally signs of  interpersonal boundaries lability  and of psychic promiscuity consequent risk , as it sometimes  happens in the Jungian field, and not only. Another Jungian Analytical Psychology weak point  is the analysis of the Freudian drive, which operates continuously under  daily life surface : the predation towards people and things belonging to others. The Jungian risk is therefore to take refuge, as sometimes see even Jung does   in ‘The Red Book’, in archetypal interpretations to escape, even in analysis, to daily ‘ugliness’ unpleasant awareness. Therefore it can be legitimately assumed that Jung  ‘transferred’ even the real Oedipal conflict with Freud to the inner, mythical images, removing it from his consciousness, . Perhaps here comes Jung’s idea  of the symbolic incest with inner images: it, deprived  of its relationship with reality, risks to hide the actual incest once again.

At this point a necessary debate can  be opened on the meaning of the word ‘Symbol’ and the term ‘Father’ for Jung. Should the unconscious be designated as a Great Mother whose incestuous seduction must be yielded to be reborn in the role of heroes? And the Father, where is he? Is the  Paternal role and value really and exclusively so negative and marginal as to be  relegated to  a collective consciousness  role to be eliminated as soon as possible in order to exorcise its inauspicious  effects? One might ask: but then God, or, for the unbelievers, Nature, for what reason would have given life to  the Father’s figure? It would seem that the Deep Unconscious from the perspective of Jung’s  unconscious ego , though not explicitly, does not  provide  the paternal figure. It seems that today’s society is doing just that. It is recovered by Jung only in the Old Sage’s archetypal image, a figure however quite  indefinite and contaminated by the Selbst concept, which instead coincides with the realization of the Anthropos, i.e. the spiritualized Hero-son.

3.0.0 Jung’s Oedipal Conflict Relationship with the heavenly messengers: Elijah and Philemon

It is  now  illustrated  how the fundamental archetypal figures that animate the fantasies described in ‘The Red Book’ indicate the existence of Jung’s  strong conflict  towards the paternal and, consequently, the Transcendence. In the course of his active imagination (Red Book) and related dreams, he describes his relationship with two fundamental male and three female archetypal figures: Elijah and Philemon on one side, Salome, Soul, and Mary on the other side

3.1.0 Elijah and Salome

The author, during an active phase of Imagination, descends into the dead ’s land   along  a crater slope and meets an old man with a white beard  with a beautiful young girl: they are Elijah and Salome. One might ask immediately: why is Jung forced to meet Elijah in the land of the dead and not in another less disturbing place? A hypothesis could be that, being Elijah a paternal archetypal image , and having the author already several times killed his father inside himself, only among the dead he could meet him again. Salome is blind.  A black snake is with them, which shows, says Jung, ‘an unequivocal sympathy for me’ (Jung, 1961: 209). Salome is the seductiveness symbol of the unconscious drive motions  that blind  the soul.   Since eternity she  has been  with  Elijah, which Jung defines as the archetype of thought. This definition of Elijah is, clearly , a distorted interpretation of the prophet and the meaning of his figure.  In fact it  has seemingly  a strong defensive connotation. With the snake perhaps Jung’s  unconscious could depict his ‘serpentine’  attracted by the Oedipal seductions. It  is well known that  a  father or a paternal symbolic figure of teacher, guide, leader is  often forced to say, towards a son, a beloved pupil or a subordinate from which he is undermined: ‘I fed a snake in  my bosom’. In Jung’s  case , it seems legitimate to suppose that his unconscious ego pushed him   to cultivate a great image of himself, as  a genius hero in the eyes of   a woman seen  as a seductive maternal equivalent. This image appears intimately connected to his blindness by erotic passions, which he will suffer very frequently during  his life. In his fantasy he clings to Elijah, to defend himself from Salome and gives himself this interpretation: Elijah is the old sage’s  personification , which depicts the cognitive element.

3.1.1 Jung’s  unconscious ego interpretative distortions   about  Elijah’s figure

According to the author, the intellectual that Christ meets in the New Testament would be John the Baptist. Jung explains his fear of Salome: ‘… she claims the head of the intellectual (the Baptist), especially if he is a saint” (Jung, 2009: 248-249).

According to the following  interpretation, this appears as another self-deceptive theorizing of   Zurich analyst psychologist’s unconscious ego: to pass Elijah for  a pre-intellectual, John the Baptist for an intellectual and thus formulate a disavowal of such figures’ meaning. The purpose of this distorting interpretation by the author’s  unconscious  ego  is  to give himself a rational explanation that legitimizes his choice to yield to erotic instincts.  It is not possible to not be overly and unilaterally intellectual and, moreover, holy, because the driving  forces of man’s animal nature, that is, Salome, make you ‘lose your head’. To escape the rigidity of his intellectualism, Jung finds the solution in the return to maternal pre- thinking . He writes : ‘To renew you will have to return to the maternal pre-thinking. But pre-thinking leads to Salome … because I was a thinker “(ib: 248). At last, but only incidentally, he declares: “Because I was a thinker” (ib: 248). The falsification lies in the fact that Elijah and John the Baptist can be interpreted in many ways, but only as intellectuals. Jung gives them his intellectual defense.

In order to  understand these figures, confused  by Jung  because of his  negative paternal complex, the images  have  to be  analyzed according to two interpretive perspectives: one pertaining to Jung’s  unconscious ego , side of his  intellectual personal shadow , the second on the Objective Psyche  archetypal side.

La Prospettiva interpretativa dell’Io inconscio di Jung

According to the first perspective, he projects on Elijah his intellectual function, ‘the pre-thought’, (ib.:Appendix B). In fact, he writes about Elijah and Salome: ‘One could say that the two characters are personification of the logos and the eros’ (ibid.: 201). Logos and eros have always been animating the world (ibid .: 249 and ff.).By Jung  the logos  is not the Christian Logos, but belongs to  the  Greek mythology and means human intellect.  Jung’s unconscious ego , in a semi-conscious way, is reiterating to itself , by derivatives, that intellectualism and unbridled sensuality  have always been  together , ‘ab aeterno’(since eternity). Indeed, the author here grasps a great truth: intellectualism and unbridled erotic instinct are two sides of the same coin. Intellectuals, par excellence, often lose their mind , blinded by their lower passions. Jung’s   self-deceptive  Elijah and Salome interpretation analysis , conducted with the key of communicative reading previously briefly described, allows  to consider confirmed, in this case, the hypothesis of the possibility of  the author’s personal complexes projections  (belonging to the unconscious part of the ego) also on inner figures originating instead from the deep unconscious. These projections lead to the distortion of the messages that the unconscious offers us on ourselves and on others. In Jung’s  specific case , an Elijah considered as  Greek rationality  representative would reproduce precisely the projection on the prophet of his (Jung’s) being an intellectual. If he had  used the amplification  objective interpretive instrument , which he himself considered to be fundamental, he might have confronted with the projective subjectivity of his  Elijah and Salome ‘s misinterpreting.

La Prospettiva della Psiche oggettiva

In fact, in the second perspective, on a universal communicative level, the message that Elijah, as an archetype of the Deep Unconscious, wants to convey to Jung is far superior, almost original: materiality in itself is blind, but it  is a  God’s daughter , and the human character who represents her in his blind instinct , Salome, can only be  Elijah’s daughter, as he is the representative of God on earth and so  his Word’s speaker. It must be remembered  that God, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition to which Elijah belongs, created the world through the Word and that the prophet speaks in the name of God (the etymological root of the word prophet is the Greek ‘pro-femì’, which means precisely ‘speaking  in the name of’). Even John the Baptist uses the word to invite men to their own sins inner purification  in the waters of purifying emotions. Salome then, in the Bible , makes John the Baptist beheaded not as  the intellectual, but as the man of  faith  purifying emotions , which opens the soul  doors  to the inner advent of the Transcendence (Christ) inner advent.

For what regards Elijah’s figure, as narrated in the Old Testament, which Jung   knew very well, the Prophet  performed the following miracles (First and Second Books of Kings-The Jerusalem Bible, 2004):

– by divine will he made  the flour in a jar offered to him by a hosting  widow , and the oil,  in another jar, never run out although initially of extremely limited quantities, until the Lord  sent  rain to the earth  after a prolonged period of drought;

– the resurrection of the widow’s son, who had fallen ill and died;

– he faced King Ahab and  suffered  his persecution, after having defended the One Transcendent God, Jahweh, against the idolatry god, Baal, and killing all the followers of the latter.

– he was abducted to heaven on a fire chariot drawn by fire horses and Elisha, his disciple, who had  been  with him until then , while  he  was climbing  in the whirlwind towards the sky, looked at him and shouted ‘My father, my father, chariot of Israel and its steeds! ‘.

Elijah is therefore the prophet who proclaims the Transcendence of the One God, he is the one who defends it from the temporal power of idolatrous, human, too human beliefs. For what he does, he is Christ’s precursor . In fact, he performs miracles, in the name of Jahweh, which, by type, will then be the prerogative of Jesus.

A fundamental passage of Jung’s memoirs on the encounter with Elijah is this: With Elijah I had a long conversation, of which I could not grasp the meaning’ (Jung, 1961: 209-210) This passage is scotomized  by Jung  himself in its profound and cardinal meaning: What does Jung unconsciously tell us about his relationship with the Transcendence, represented and defended by Elijah? He tells us that he cannot  understand its meaning, despite this prophetic figure, constellated in the deep unconscious, and  tries , in a long conversation, to convey it to him. Elijah can be  said to  present  himself as one of the figures of a hypothetical  Transcendence  archetype , a genetic predisposition to  Faith, which in man would open  the psyche gaze  on the Absolute. Bion writes (1970) that  Faith is a state of mind, (1970), which opens up like a window on infinity. It is a mind  disposition in which the sense of Transcendence is realized in the interiority  not through self-cognition or cognitive self-reflection, which are only preliminary stages, but through the mystical experience, in which thought and feeling are united in the intuition of Being.

In ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’ Jung attributes  Elijah’s teaching  to Philemon: “[The thoughts in your mind] are either like animals in the forest [n. : aggressive strategies, predatory thoughts that occupy the mind in the jungle of life] or as birds of the air [ author’s note: abstract concepts, pure reason, culture, merely human spirituality] (Jung, 1961: 210 and ff.). Why this confusion of Jung? If it was a slip, it is clear that he, on the level of his unconscious ego, has the impulse to deny the value of transcendence once again, although he  is eighty years old: it is better to attribute to a psychagogue (Philemon) what is instead God’s prophet’s patrimony . If it was not a slip of the tongue, it   might be thought that he  did not  write  ( in’ The Red Book’ )everything that had happened to him during his inner experience and that both Elijah and Philemon actually  had sent him the same Transcend message. Philemon, for example, in the’ Septem Sermones ad Mortuos’ (‘Seven Speeches to The Dead’)does shows  them the need for  Christ’s figure  recovery . Therefore,  Elijah and Philemon  are substantially   the deepest and highest spiritual value figures, because they are both  conveying  metaphysical significance. This is a fundamental point.  Today’s ‘pantheistic’ construction of Analytical Psychology  psychic-spiritual order is perhaps founded on this misunderstanding  of  the sense of Transcendence .In this  circumstance, Jung behaves, on a personal level, as an emblematic example of how a personal conflict can condition and prevent the soul opening  to the metaphysical dimension. In the conflict between Faith and Reason, today always of great relevance, Jung chooses the scientific Reason, amputating the Faith from  himself. This misunderstanding  causes that first  Elijah, an old wise white-bearded  man , and then Philemon, a transcendence  psychagogue  himself , are later supplanted by Ka, a god born from the bowels of the earth, who has  religiousness’ in his hand’. (ibid .: 212). Ka seems to possess all superman’s  attributes , he is the god who knows and is immanent.


In this succinct analysis of crucial steps  in Jung’s ‘ Red Book’   it has been attempted    to verify and validate the hypothesis of an immanentist religiosity  conception  in Jung, but also  to consider that the latter was, on one side, fundamental to Analytical Psychology  very original construction and innovative theory , but, at the same time, it has marked its limits confining it to the mere anthropological dimension. This produced a relativistic drift of the concepts of truth, ethics and spirituality of which today’s society is  suffering a lot.

The arguments  here outlined are  to be  resumed In a subsequent under construction  book,  which will deal with the rediscovering of the psychological path that can lead man to the longed-for and neglected goal of Transcendence. What would happen in our psychological and spiritual development if we chose to follow Elijah?


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