Hi everyone,

I am currently reading Modern Man in Search of a Soul and, at the risk of seeming like a dolt, I wanted to ask if someone could clear up for me the idea of the athanasias pharmakon.  It is a concept I am having trouble understanding and I can't seem to find much information.

Thanks :)

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Hi Anna,

Literally, athanasias pharmakon means medicant of immortality.  In Aion, Vol. 9ii, par. 178, Jung refers to Jewish tradition where the pharmakon athanasias is the flesh of Leviathan, i.e., a eucharistic meal where if you can eat the flesh of Leviathan you will become immortal.  Naturally, this is the same thing you are doing in the Christian Eucharist when you eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ. Theoretically, you are transformed into a pure immortal spiritual being.  Joseph Campbell would tell you that these rituals are developments from the tropical mythogenetic zones, where ritual cannibalism seems to have had its roots.  What it means is that by eating the flesh of others you can take on their attributes.

In Psychology and Alchemy, Vol. 12, paragraph 125, Jung refers to this only in Greek, and compares the concept to the Lapis (the stone) and the elixir vitae (the elixir of life--or immortality).  These and other alchemical symbols refer to achieving immortality through spiritual transformation. 

In other words, there are many who still believe that immortality may be found by practicing the right ritual or perhaps by finding for instance the "Fountain of Youth" as Ponce de Leon tried to do.  Actually, these are metaphors for spiritual transformation.  This transformation is more or less a change in state of mind, where you recognize that your spiritual Self, of which your ego is only a part, is already immortal--only the body dies.

Does this help? 

Scott, that was extremely helpful.  Thank you so much.  Your knowledge on the subject is greatly appreciated :)

Always glad to be of help Anna,

As for the knowledge, everything I know is "with a little help from my friends."  It didn't hurt to have a set of the collected works, which includes a volume titled "General Index."  I'm just glad you didn't feel the need to have me burned at the stake for comparing the Holy Communion with primitive warriors eating the brains of those whom they have defeated in order to acquire their "mana."  (You've got to love Joseph Campbell.)

best wishes,

Hi Scott,

On the contrary, I'm finding this idea of cannibalism and the Eucharist extremely interesting.  I grew up Catholic but a long stint in Catholic school made me question the "facts."  I predict that I shall be looking into this subject further...

Thanks again :)


If you have not read any of Joseph Campbell's books, I highly recommend The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  It is a phenomenon, and an eye-opener, unto itself.  You will not find the discussion of the origins of ritual cannibalism there, however.  For that you will have to go to his magnum opus The Masks of God, in four volumes.  The reading of these I think most people would find tedious, if not difficult, however.  For example, he spends the first 180 pages of Volume 1, Primitive Mythology, developing the concepts that lead to the conclusion that the origin of the Holy Communion has its roots in ritual cannibalism.   If you have a taste for Jung's work aimed at his peers, however, even The Masks of God should be a breeze.

I find it quite disconcerting that many Catholics do not understand the Eucharist.  Take away the frills, trills and pageantry of the Holy Mass, what is left?  There are the three reading of the bible, the homily given by the priest and the laity partaking of the Eucharist Host.  This is bringing the Mass down to its bare bones so-to-speak: no longer dress in the fineries of life.

The Catholic Church is not iconoclastic and should not be perceived or treated as such (though that may be stretching it for Catholics in modernity); nonetheless, it is done all the time by those of us that profess to be symbolists.  There is neither a Catholic nor student of psychology that is not a symbolist.  This is quite a human failing and not just a quirk on the part of the symbolist.  Because of the nature of the psyche it is a worldwide phenomenon.

The psyche exists in a dualistic mechanized world.  On one hand the psyche lives in the mundane iconoclastic world where everything is seen and taken literally (fundamentally) and on the other hand the symbolists that also lives and breath in the psychological and/or religious sphere do so on a totally symbolic level: nothing is iconoclastic in these realms of thought.  Now think of those of us that literally have to walk in and out of both these realms of thought (iconoclastic and symbolic) numerous times throughout the day.  Of course, to the symbolist, after a time such movement through these dualistic realms of thought becomes second nature.  Here it can be seen why there is such a great divide between the symbolists and the fundamentalists.

Having said all that, the Catholic Mass is a theatrical play that invokes the Eucharist similar if not the same as the Shakespearean Oedipus Play that fed Sigmund Freud his idea of the Oedipus complex.  It can easily be seen here that whether Freud knew it or not nor whether he was an atheist or not he partook of the Eucharist; albeit, in a different format.  

 The three readings of the bible: both Old and New Testament sections is the laity hearing the word and partaking of the Eucharist (Elixir of Life): Christ is the spiritual interpretation of the sacred scriptures.  In fact John Scotus Eriugena in his 10th century homily on John’s gospel: THE VOICE OF THE EAGLE says, “Christ’s tomb is Holy Scripture.”  Think of the scriptural interpretive ramifications of Mary Magdalene arriving at the tomb on Sunday morning. This means that if you interpret the sacred scripture correctly you are partaking of the Eucharist: you are raising Christ from the dead.  In fact every Catholic is a priest after the Order of Melchizedek according to the Catholic Catechism; therefore, every member of the Catholic laity has the authority to raise Christ from the dead.

 The Homily given by the priest is also the laity hearing the word and by doing so partakes of the Eucharist: Elixir of Life.  Finally, the laity going to the altar to partake of the wafer host is merely a symbolic gesture that they have received the Eucharist.  Yet, all of this can be done at home in the supplicant’s private sacred space.

 The sins that are forgiven by the congregant partaking of the Eucharist is not the forgiveness of the petty crimes committed against society’s civil or penal codes or petty offenses against parental rules or petty quarrels or misdeeds against family, friends or associates. Partaking of the Eucharist forgives the sin (false beliefs) of fundamentalism.  It is the sin of walking back and forth through the two realms of thought (iconoclastic and symbolic).  The sacrifice of Christ is that he is re-crucified and buried every time each congregant returns to the world of iconoclastic thought.  The stone has been rolled back over the entrance of Christ’s tomb: out of sight out of mind.  The whole purpose of religion is to get the psyche/soul back into the Garden of Eden as portrayed by Dante in his 27th canto/chapter of Purgatorio.  In the Garden of Eden the soul (no longer the psyche: dualistic reality) lives, moves and has its being in transcendental LAW: God.  Yes, the Born Again soul can move amongst mortals as if walking on water: the petty quirks of the world have become meaningless: the world has become a PARADISO.

Yes, the Born Again soul can move amongst mortals as if walking on water: the petty quirks of the world have become meaningless: the world has become a PARADISO.

And he would never be recognized as being such a one, unless it suited him.  In the 1979 film "Being There," Peter Sellers, who plays the main character, named Chance, is the apparently autistic gardener of a wealthy business man who dies, leaving him nothing and nowhere to go.  As this simply marvelous comedy develops, it becomes apparent that everything that happens to "Chance" redounds to his benefit.  In spite of his seeming mental retardation he becomes the confidant of a great business magnate and later even the President of the United States.  At the end of the film he is seen walking on water.

Should such a being make himself known to the world, the Buddhists would call him a bodhisattvah.  In Gurdjieff's system, souls that have reached the seventh level of being no longer appear in space and time.  In Kundalini Yoga this state follows with the opening of the "third eye."  This, the result of the aspirant's moving up through the seven "chakras" and  uniting with his "shakti," the divine feminine force.  In alchemy, this same process is described as the heiros gamos, the sacred wedding between the adept and his "sorror mystica" (mystical sister), which results in the creation of the divine hermaphrodite.  Jung calls this process "realizing" the anima.

All of mysticism sees the same truths.  It would appear that the Indians got there first; the seventh century, B.C., or thereabouts.  At least they were the first to commit these realizations to writing.  Jung's analytical psychology is little different from what the Upanishads have to say, if one can make the necessary translations.  Gurdjieff's "esoteric Christianity" is no different at all, save for the terminolgy.

And yes, having achieved this level of spiritual development, we are all "priest[s] forever on the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 110:4). All we need do is "turn," and be healed of the necessary split that occurred in our being when we incarnated at conception--the whole psyche is there, at that instant.  As Plato puts it we were there whole, in the round, both male and female--beyond all opposites.  All the psyche need do is unfold in the fullness of "time and space," and that requires the development of a body, as well as a mind. 

And so when Joni Mitchell says in her 1969 song "Woodstock:"

We are stardust...Billion year old carbon...Caught in the Devil's bargain (Job 1:6ff)...And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

...this is the metaphor that you speak of, which is to recover our "...original face, before [we] were born--our original wholeness.

But then, as you say, and as Dante put it, there is a wall, of fire perhaps, or is it a mathematical matrix between us and our wholeness that we must traverse?  This is certainly not a physical wall.  Carlos Castaneda, in his book The Fire from Within, says that when we get to this mystical point, we must choose our place, and then jump through this wall into nothingness.  In the first pages of the Mahabharata, it says:  "Imagine there is a wall: there is a wall." 

The psyche is the most powerful force in the universe.  But what is it?  Where did it come from?  Some call it God.  Or is it one step removed from your MONAD?


Scott Baird:

Thank you for adding that link to youtube. Though I have to speak at times in metaphor here and there in my posts, above I was discussing, like the film, what is possible now.

It was interesting how the Yogi spoke of the jump into emptiness as clearly as Dante describes Vigil method of convincing him to stay the course as he was traversing the Wall of Flames. "you have to trust somebody completely".

I had no human guide; thus, I trusted those unseen hands that guided me throughout, which I considered my only confidant: God.

What is a perfect metaphor of loosing ORENDA is the human baby brought into the world. It is as if ORENDA leaks from the child as it is educated into the ways of the world. Often you see children playing with imaginary friends or they having the absolute belief in immortality. I can personally remember the 'logical argument' I had with myself at the age of seven where I convinced myself that I could die.

The metaphor I speak of in the lost of ORENDA, concerns the lost of the Renaissance. Galileo was wrong from the spiritual point of view: the Catholic Church's point of view, which was fixed in ORENDA 'at that time'. Galileo was right from a materialistic point of view; however, what was his error? His error was throwing out the baby with the bathwater: he like other Reformists (astronomers) threw out Astrology, which was intrinsically linked to Astronomy. Neither is of any intrinsic value without the other.

Look at the modern day Chemist, whom also threw out the very same baby (symbolism) with the bathwater when dealing with the mythos of Alchemy. Protestants did the same thing when they threw symbolism out with the bathwater. Catholics are on the same road with the fundamentalists though they have the symbolism they have not a clue as to what it all means. Now we have in the world a refuge dump, which few will see as the castle of the Holy Grail. We give that heap of discarded filth the must obnoxious name we can possibly place upon it as a warning to civilized man: we call it the OCCULT. CG Jung at least rummaged amongst that heap of disreputable and infamous gems and found the discarded unconscious. "a pearl of great price".

There was a beautiful animated movie years ago called: THE DARK CRYSTAL, which dealt with this splitting of the opposites and how to reunite them. See the YOUTUBE movie trailer

The first sixteen hundred years of Christianity is a perfect mythological array demonstrating how the process works from going from the Fundamentalist's viewpoint to the Renaissance. That process is literally outlined in Catholicism great artworks. Saint Peter's Basilica both from the standpoint of Constantine and Julius shows the two different stages of Solomon's Temple. Chartres Cathedral in its beginnings gives a like demonstration and it is all worked into symbolism and frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. And of course Dante demonstrates the process in his La Divina Commedia.

Just stumbled across this thread and am reminded that the word most mentioned in the bible, after 'God', is 'blood'. 


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