Through a Jungian Lens

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The Axiom of Maria – En Route to Conscious Wholeness

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Finally, I got a decent photo of a Turkey Vulture.  I was near the top of one of the small mountains not too far from where I am spending the winter here in Costa Rica.  The bird is quite different from the Black Vultures which I have been able to photograph at will.  Near the end of my hike, just about 100 metres from the villa, I came across another four of these birds.  Strange indeed, even synchronistic as I was going to write about the ONE becoming FOUR – the Axiom of Maria which is found in volume 12 of Jung’s Collected Works.  Here is the quote:

One becomes two, two becomes three and out of the third comes the fourth. (Jung, CW 12, par. 26)

Now I have a fairly logical and analytical mind and there is no doubt that this quote makes absolutely no sense to me without further commentary to see the context that these words are placed in.  Since the quote comes from the volume that deals with the subject of alchemy, my first guess was that this must originally be descriptive of the states of transformation in trying to turn lead into gold.  Then in trying to place this in psychological terms, I thought that perhaps this about the transformation of the psyche.

This is what Daryl Sharp has to say about the Axiom of Maria.

In brief, one stands for the original, paradisiacal state of unconscious wholeness (e.g. childhood); two signifies the conflict between opposites (e.g. persona and shadow); three points to a potential resolution; the third is the transcendent function; and the one as the fourth is code for the Philosopher’s Stone – psychologically equivalent to a transformed state of conscious wholeness. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked:  Book Two, 2008, p. 51)

This helps somewhat, especially the first two parts.  Perhaps that is because I am still stuck in the conflict of opposites phase.  At my age, this is a bit worrisome if this was some sort of test to be passed.  I’d likely run out of time before I could achieve the final state of conscious wholeness.  When I was in Varanasi, India, a young man took the time to explain how Hinduism divided life into four stages or ashramas: Brahamacharya, the student stage, is about preparing to become an adult, preparing for a career, for a family and for learning the foundations of spiritual knowledge; Grihastha, the householder stage, is the time to earn money, develop a career, engage in sex and support and raise a family; Vanaprastha, the hermit stage, would be the equivalent of entering midlife, where one has become a grandparent and now is ready to set aside career and responsibilities of raising and caring for children that are now grown and are caring for themselves, it is a time to retreat, to learn to be with self; Sannyasa, the stage of the wandering ascetic, is a period when all is given up and there is no ego need, a time when one has become holy and has merged with God.

In many ways, this appears to be heading in the opposite direction, to a holy state of unconscious wholeness rather than of conscious wholeness.  Given two different approaches to the issue of one eventually becoming four, that is transforming into a fourth stage, I turn without hesitation back to the promise of alchemy, a promise of conscious wholeness.  In my own way, I will become more conscious that I am now, perhaps not completely conscious; but it will be a journey that I could willingly follow.  That said, sometimes there is something very appealing about the third stage of Hindu life, the life of a hermit.


One Response

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  1. I seem to be on a similar journey and still grappling with dualities (aren’t we all), but more able to live with them – perhaps that’s the key?? Thanks for this post.


    December 31, 2011 at 8:20 am

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