Blessed greenness 3


Carl Jung around the time of his vision

Blessed greenness – Carl Jung’s vision of Christ

‘Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.’

In 1939 whilst Carl Jung was researching for his work on Psychology and Alchemy, he woke from sleep and saw bathed in a bright light the figure of Christ on the cross at the foot of his bed. The figure was not quite life size but quite distinct, and Jung saw clearly that Christ’s body was made of greenish gold. Whilst the vision was remarkably beautiful, Jung felt deeply shaken by what he had seen.

Jung had also just given a seminar on the ‘Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola’, and his first thought about the vision was to link it to the Anima Christi, one of the meditations he had been thinking about. But it seemed as if the vision was a reminder too – Jung deduced that he had overlooked the analogy of Christ with the alchemists search for gold.

Jung explains that the serious alchemists realised that essentially their attempts to turn base metals into gold wasn’t so much to do with either ‘common gold’, or ‘philosophical gold’, but rather with spiritual values and psychic transformation. It was the psychic transformation between patient and analyst that particularly drew Jung’s interest. The vision, Jung writes, points to the central vision of Christ as an alchemical symbol – a force for transformation.

Here the green-gold is the life spirit that animates the entire cosmos.

‘This spirit has poured himself out into everything, even into inorganic matter; he is present in metal and stone. My vision was thus a union of the Christ-image with his analogue in matter …  If I had not been so struck by the greenish gold, I would have been tempted to assume that something essential was missing from my “Christian” view – in other words, that my traditional Christ-image was somehow inadequate and that I still had to catch up with part of the Christian development. The emphasis on the metal, however, showed me the undisguised alchemical conception of Christ as a union of spiritually alive and physically dead matter.’

Jung was grappling with his understanding of the symbolism of Christ: the gold at the heart, and the green of the living water, and the animating spirit that gives life to everything in creation – including all that seems to us as dead matter. The spirituality pervades everywhere and everything. The Kingdom of God is everywhere, and as Thomas Merton says: ‘Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open.’