Source Quote: Von Franz on The Suffering God Osiris

I will be moving this post to a Source quote soon, but wanted to offer it now with comments pending. Enjoy! (note my italics)

In her orientation to the origins of alchemy, Marie-Louise von Franz discusses the middle of the old Egyptian empire and the rise and increasing dominance of the sun god Re:

“This phenomenon corresponds to a typical development of consciousness. It was the time when writing and recording, the measuring and mapping out of the fields, mathematics, and all such arts flourished. For the first time in the Egyptian empire records were kept. Here there is a coincidence: at the time when the sun god, who is the archetypal principle of consciousness, becomes dominant in a civilization, there is a sudden increase in rational consciousness. But naturally through this also arises a split from which we still suffer: namely, that certain aspects of the psychic life of the individual, certain moods and impulses that do not conform to collective rules, have to be repressed.”

She then moves into describing what gets pushed into the background, the shadow, with the dominance of the sun god Re:

“You could therefore say that part of the primitive individuality of the Egyptian went into the unconscious at that time, and with it went a certain aspect of affect in the feeling life. This aspect of the Egyptian’s communal life was concentrated in the archetypal image of the god Osiris. Osiris, in contrast to the ordering, ruling sun god, was the suffering god. He represented the passive, suffering aspect of nature and of the psyche. Histories of religion always depict him as the god of vegetation; however that does not mean concrete vegetation, but vegetation as a symbol of his being: it is that which does not move, which does not have its own volition, which is the greatest suffering thing on this earth. Osiris represents the underground part of the Egyptian communal life. In the Osiris part of his nature was also hidden the Egyptian’s true consciousness of his own individuality, in contrast to the collective ruling principle of consciousness.”

Then she brings in the idea of the Ba-soul.

“So the body was associated with Osiris and the idea of the Ba-soul. … The true pre-conscious individuality and individual human consciousness was at that time still projected into the Ba-soul. Normally in Egypt the Ba was either represented by a star or a bird… a man was not aware of his Ba-soul during his lifetime, since as an individual he lived according to Egyptian regulations, even to the extent that during the judgment after death he had to swear to a list of things he had not done. That is the famous negative confession: “I have not stolen, I have not broken the law, I have not sacrificed to the god..,” and so on. … clearly a nice list of lies, because they did all these things like everybody else, but the idea of lying like that to the gods after death was considered not a lie but an assertion: “I would not dare to impinge on the collective rule.” Because to dare to say, “Yes, I have done this,” would imply individuality; it would mean standing up to the fact that one had broken the rule, and that was forbidden. Egyptians were so closely identified with the collective ruling body of morale and ideas they could not admit their individual sinful impulses even to themselves and to the gods. 

Normally, you would meet your Ba-soul only after death and be completely unaware of its existence before. It emerged, so to speak, at death and during the mummification process. But in this specific paper, “The World-Weary Man,” there appears a man whose Ba-soul suddenly speaks to him during his lifetime, at the moment when he is about to commit suicide. This results in a very famous and touching conversation between the two. Such a meeting with the nucleus of one’s own individuality was believed to take place only after death, the Ba-soul being immortal and individual, the eternal aspect of the human being. Becoming one with the Ba-soul meant, therefore, being deified and becoming one with the oneness of the universe.”

von Franz, Marie-Louise, alchemical active imagination, Shambhala Publications, Inc, 1979. 1997, pp. 4-6.

Explore posts in the same categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Soul

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