(Astrology Explored) Note: As my Facebook friends know I have reentered college to finish up my degree in psychology. As part of one class I wrote this paper on the influence of astrology on Carl Jung. Jung is widely embraced in the astrological world because his theories on archetypes, which he used to create a therapeutic model, fits neatly with the symbolic language of astrology.
Part One–The Influence of Astrology on Carl Jung
When he was a twenty-three old medical student, two paranormal events, a walnut table splitting suddenly in two and steel knife that shattered spontaneously while in a closed drawer was said to influence his decision to enter psychiatry. However, even before these events, Jung attended and even initiated séances, (Main, 1997) a cultural fad in the late 19th and early 20th century. His doctoral thesis was on “The Psychology and Pathology of So Called Occult Phenomena” which featured his cousin as the medium. (Main, 1997). But rather than affirm the paranormal experiences of the feminine side of his family, he chose instead to announce through his thesis that mediumistic experiences were the result of psychological processes rather than paranormal events.
During the first decade of his career he continued his research into séances (Main 1997) and unconscious psychic states and explored dream symbolism (Campbell 1971) and mythology with Freud (Noll 1997).
A letter from Jung to Freud in 1910 gives a hint as to what drew Jung into astrology. Freud and Jung were at that time engaged in a discussion of the symbolism of the ancient mystery religion of Mithrasism.
“Mithras (‘s) . . . left knee is on the back of the bull, pinning it down. With his left hand, he is pulling the head of the bull back by its nostrils, and with his right hand he is slaying the bull by plunging a dagger or sword into its neck. Mithras’s cape . . . depicted seven stars — the seven planets known to the ancient world” (Noll 1997).
Jung and Freud didn’t agree on the meaning of the Mithraic symbols mostly likely because they had intense personal meaning for Jung. Jung and Freud both recognized was that the Mithraic religion was rooted in astronomical observation. By the process of precession, that is the movement of the spring equinox through zodiac by virtue of the wobble of the earth upon its axis, the vernal equinox moved into the constellation of Taurus . This observation led the stoics to “hypothesize the existence of a new divinity responsible for this new cosmic phenomenon, a divinity capable of moving the structure of the entire cosmos and thus a divinity of great power.” Mithras was this deity, and he is seen killing the bull because the act symbolizes the ending of the cosmic age in which Mithraism was born” (Noll, 1997).
In 1911 Antonia Wolff entered Jung’s life as his assistant. According to Noll she taught Jung astrology. From that point on Jung engaged in a serious study of astrology, and may have done so to specifically to decipher Mithraic symbolism (Noll,1997).
Noll tells us, “In early 1912, Jung connected the Mithraic tauroctony with the astrological sign Taurus and with sexuality in a very suggestive footnote to the section on which the tauroctony is discussed in detail.” When Noll attempted to decipher the meaning of the dream, he speculated that the bull represented Freud, whose zodiac (sun) sign was Taurus. What most, except Jung, did not realize was that Taurus, the bull, was the zodiac sign Jung’s moon occupied on the day of his birth. For astrologers the moon represents the feminine, intuitive aspect of the individual, and specifically the individual’s mother. Given the relationship between Jung and his mother, Mithras, the intense male god figure who overthrew the reign of the Taurus bull, would have represented for Jung the male subjugation of an overshadowing and frightening female figure.
Thus in one symbolic insight, Mithras does for Jung what Jung can’t do for himself. Mithras subdues the ferocious mother figure.
Jung wrote a number of years later:
“There are mythological theories that explain everything coming from the sun and lunar theories that do the same for the moon. This is due to the simple fact there are countless myths about the moon, among them a whole host in which the moon is wife of the sun. The moon is the changing experience of the night, and thus coincides with the primitive’s sexual experience of woman . . . The moon, too, is a disturber of sleep, and is also the abode of departed souls, for at night the dead returns in dreams and the phantoms of the past terrify the sleepless. (Campbell, 1971).
Jung’s childhood seems to be summed up in the above paragraph. His sleep was disturbed by paranormal images of his mother, represented in astrology by the moon. Here we see why Jung ascribed the role of the moon as the “disturber of sleep”. The paranormal experiences Jung associated with his mother, the dead and phantom images, terrified him as a child. Astrology held the answers for what he yearned to understand.
Campbell, J. (ed) (1971) The portable Jung, Chapter 2, The Stucture of the Psyche, p.41 Viking
Penquin Inc. New York, New York
Main, R. (1997). Jung on synchronicity and the paranormal. Princeton:
Noll, R. (1997) The aryan Christ: the secret life of Carl Jung, Random House, New York.