Jung’s Red Book — The Cunning Serpent and the Blind God

6 min readFeb 29, 2020
Picasso — Girl Before a Mirror

Our world and the mirror world, like Darkness and light, yin and yang, reason and chaos, is a splitting off and separation of what was once whole

We, in turn, are split beings; having separate existences in each of the worlds.

As we approach the mirror, so our counterpart in that world approaches us. And when we retreat away into our own world so to, does our ‘other’ into his; Contact is lost and we become separated and lost.

Jung seemed apt at turning things on to their heads, as any right minded traveller in the ‘land of topsy turvy’ should.

He identified our world, not as the one of light, but as its dim and dark counterpart.

Our ‘shining glories’, Intellect, reason, ‘science’ and consciousness turn out to be but dark reflections of the strange mirror world ‘light’.

The task of the alchemist, then, is to catch this refracted ‘divine light’

Those labouring in the darkness must try to accomplish an opus that will cause the ‘fishes eyes to shine in the depths of the sea’

Everything that the darkness thinks, grasps and comprehends by itself is dark; therefor it is illuminated only by what, to it is unexpected, unwanted and incomprehensible. Jung on Alchemy p62

One of Jung’s visions in the Red Book evokes the meeting with his opposite at ‘the mirror’.

In his vision Jung yearned and was travelling towards the symbolic East; The home of the rising sun. His way was narrow, leading up to a mountain ridge, but as he approached, a mighty booming resounded from the other side, like ‘ore being pounded’. The sound echoed thunderously, and as he reached the pass an enormous man, clad in golden bejewelled armour approached, mirroring him from the other side.

This ‘powerful one’ is the beautiful and terrifying blind God, himself longing for his opposite, the symbolic West; The immortal land, where the sun sinks to be reborn.

No longer do outer opposites stand in my way, but my own opposite comes toward me and rises up hugely before me, and we block each others way.

In the vision, Jung, as an emissary for the ‘Western lands’; the world of humanity, found himself in the form of a wyrm or serpent, as he cowered before this gigantic, elementally powerful hero.

As in a myth, it is the role of the serpent to strike at the heel of the hero and administer the poison.

The blind God asks Jung, ‘Does the sun sink in the sea? Or does it touch the solid land in its decline? and Jung brings the God low with the knowledge that the sun is a celestial body lying unspeakably far out in unending space.

The God is overcome by suffocating fear and beseeches, ‘I will never reach the sun and never reach immortality?

’The blind God is lamed by the wyrm’s poison, which we call ‘reason’.

It is at least a poison for the Gods. We, humanity are somewhat immune to it, although it has left us lame and stunted, without the opportunity to properly flourish.

‘No stronger being has ever cut me down, no monster has ever resisted my strength. But your poison, worm, which you have placed in my way has lamed me to the marrow’

The marvellous hero asks, “Have you no Gods anymore?”

and Jung answers, “No, words are all we have.”

“But are these words powerful?” The God asks further,

Jung admits, “So they claim, but one notices nothing of this.”

…..So I did not anticipate the Powerful, Blind and Immortal One, who wandered longingly after the sinking sun, who wanted to cleave the ocean down to its bottom so he could descend into the source of life. That which hurries toward the rising is small, That which approaches the descent is great. Hence I was small, since I simply came from the depths of my descent. I had been where he yearned to be. He who descends is great, and it would be easy for him to smash me. A God who looks like the sun does not hunt worms. But the worm aims at the heel of the Powerful One and will prepare him for the descent he needs. His power is great and blind. He is marvellous to look at and frightening. But the serpent finds its spot.

This is the meeting with our shadow, but the shadow turns out to be not just an ‘evil’ counterpart to our ‘good’ self. It is a beautiful and terrible God!

Where we are sober, it is fantastic; Where we are utterly new, it is ancient; Where we are cunning, it is full of power.

The way is narrow and straight; To hold a course along this charged and conflicting boundary between the opposites. But then to leave the path is to become hopelessly lost.

The high-blazing flame is the middle way, whose luminous course runs between the human and the divine.

If you go beyond him, blindness will befall you, if he goes beyond you, paralysis will befall him.

Jung expresses the significance of ‘going beyond’ for man. Leaving the path, in search of the rising sun and the land of fantastic, yet blind powers.

If the God comes near you, then plead for your life to be spared, since the God is loving horror. The ancients said: it is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God. They spoke thus because they knew, since they were still close to the ancient forest, and they turned green like the trees in a childlike manner and ascended far away toward the East. Consequently they fell into the hands of the living God. They learned to kneel and to lie with their faces down, to beg for pity, and they learned to live in servile fear and to be grateful. But he who saw him, the terrible beautiful one with his black velvet eyes and the long lashes, the eyes that do not see but merely gaze lovingly and fearfully, he has learned to cry out and whimper, so that he can at least reach the ear of the Godhead. Only your fearful cry can stop the God. And then you can see that God also trembles. Since he stands confronting his own face, his observing gaze in you, and he feels unknown power. The God is afraid of man.

The God and the serpent compliment and need each other. At the point where they meet, they are equal. The God, descending and the wyrm rising.

So he lay before me, helpless, my blind God, who had become half seeing and paralysed. And compassion seized me, since it was plain to me that I should not let him die, he who approached me from the rising, from that place where he could be well, but which I could never reach. He whom I sought I now possessed. The East could give me nothing other than him, the sick and fallen one.

The blind shall be lamed, so that he will not run into the abyss and the lame shall be blind, so that he will not look at things beyond his reach with longing and contempt.

Jung intuited that man and his shadow have not always been distant entities.

He speculates that previous astrological ages (occuring every 2160 years) were marked with different relationships between man and ‘the other.’

In Aion (1951) Jung noted that during the age of the twins (The age of Gemini circa 4300BC) ‘man had his spirit around him as a second person.’

When that ended the men said to their shadows, you are I , thus two became one. And through this collision of opposites the formidable broke out. Precisely that spring of consciousness that one calls culture and which lasted until the time of christ.

The fish (The age of Pisces) indicated the moment when what was united split, according to the eternal law of contrasts, into an underworld and upperworld.

If the power of growth begins to cease, then the united falls into its opposites. Christ sent what is beneath to Hell, since it strives toward the good. That had to be. But the separated cannot remain separated forever. It will be united again and the age of the fish will be over.

Astrologically the beginning of the next aeon, (The Age of Aquarius) according to the starting point you select, falls between AD 2000 and AD 2200

Jung wrote, ‘ If , as seems probable, the aeon of the fishes is ruled by the archetypal motif of the ‘hostile brothers’, then the approach of the next platonic month, namely Aquarius, will constellate the problem of the union of opposites. It will then no longer be possible to write off evil as mere ‘privatio boni’, its real existence will have to be recognized.

We suspect and understand that growth needs both, hence we keep good and evil close together. Because we know that too far into the good means the same as too far into the evil, we keep them both together.




Head in the clouds, but really quite practical. Fine art trained, but frequently seduced by the promise of science. https://instagram.com/goat777etc