Home Light and Shadow: the archetypal dimension of the transformation

Light and Shadow: the archetypal dimension of the transformation

Light and Shadow: the archetypal dimension of the transformation
Dr. Diego Frigoli*

MATERIA PRIMA Rivista di Psicosomatica Ecobiopsicologica - Luce e Ombra - Numero III - Settembre 2011 - Anno I
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«When God began the creation of the heavens and the earth – says the Genesis – the earth was desert and empty and the darkness dominated the surface of the abyss, the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. and God said ‘Let there be light: and there was light’. God saw that the Light was good. God separated the light from the darkness»[1].
For thousands of centuries the exegetes and the theologists, in the hope of discovering the mystery of the origins and the mysteries of the divinity analyzed each word, each image, each syllable in the attempt to clarify what was meant by ‘abyss’, ‘darkness’, ‘heavens’, ‘earth’ till the decisive moment of the ‘Fiat Lux’. But are these terms meant to express a material or an immaterial reality? And how was it before the Creation? No one could answer these questions and many were the questions spontaneously arising dealing with the mystery of the origins. The first verses of the Genesis were interpreted by the best scholars as an expression of a  macrocosm and microcosm both simultaneous existing and both related to the physical event of the birth of the primordial light and to that of the ‘inner light’, that is the birth of the consciousness. The ‘inner light’ is not to be thought as ‘the consciousness of man’, but in the broader sense of the ‘consciousness of the unit of the world’ where all the living things correspond through a specific and individual process of ‘cognition’ that from the mineral to the vegetable kingdom through the animal one, find in man the possibility of integrating in a superior order made of harmony and knowledge. That  is the meaning of the reflections of all the mystics: if the world is ‘one’,  man is the image of it, therefore to get to know the universe it is necessary that man has a knowledge of himself. This knowledge will allow him to understand the mystery of his origin: his creation in the image of God, in fact if man in his body is the image of the world, the anima is the image of God. Therefore to get to know himself, man has to transcend the perfection, the limit of his intelligence, his ratio, he is not in fact the creator of the world, but ‘the orderer’ of it. Through the contemplation of his Logos[2], gathering the presence of the beings preceding it in the illumination of his knowledge, he can get the secret hierarchy of the cosmos. In this sense the world offers to the contemplation of the Logos, an ‘image’ of simultaneity, of reality, of spontaneous and superabundant life outpouring in the magnificency of the nature where the being and the making united in the universal law of the circularity, ‘speak’ of their reason of existing in the constant mediation between the divine and the human.
Plotinus claimed that if man wishes to know the presence of God in the universe «it is necessary that the  prophet becomes simlar to what it has to be seen as to apply to the vision»[3]. His words are quite similar to those of the Indian rishis[4] when claiming that the real form of the Purusha[5] «is not an object of perception [because] no one can see it with the eye; it can be felt through the heart, for the knowledge and the mind»[6]. Only «by the identification of the one with the other, the Purusha can claim ‘it’»[7].
But what is the meaning of the ‘identification’ of the subject with the object of its contemplation if not a form of concentration of the psyche deep into the anima, a sort of ecstasy beyond each word and each image that in the Zoroastrian mystics, is described as ‘the Light of the Lights’?[8]
Through the extinction of the dialectics, the consciousness can have access to that totality that has neither a face or a name as claimed by the metaphysical Taoism[9], it coincides in fact with that intuitive and detached vision that transforms each event into an experience whose borders do not depend on the will of the reason, but only on the broadness of that experience. The hermeneutics implied in this experience most of all when applied to the exegesis of the Scriptures, is not that concerning the overlapping of a sensus historicus vel letteralis, but rather that sensus spiritualis implying the mediation between the infinite and the finite, in Greek the Logos.
The master of this mediation is Plato. In the Cratilo, in fact, it is discussed how the ‘sound’ is referred to its meaning only when it expresses a natural sense: the real name of a thing is only that that imitates (gr. mimesis) the thing it refers to as ‘sound’. The dialogue ends with Cratilo claiming «who knows the sounds, also know the things that they express»[10], and consequently Who first gave the names to things did it being perfectly aware of their nature. Therefore the Creator is the one who not only knows all the ridde names of the things, but also of those things that have not yet manifested in their appearing by means of that ‘pre-science’ referring to the names, that is why the Archetype Creator has made everything. This «power going beyond the human one», already taken into consideration by Plato, is the One that knows the names before the things happen, the ‘pre-science’ that exists before everything not from a temporary point of view  but, being derived from the things as the cause of their existence.
It is therefore by virtue of this divine ‘providence’ that all the things are produced in their perfection of ‘form’ and ‘meaning’: getting a name is equal to be born, enter life according to a specific order belonging to each individual. Until an individual principle is active there is a name; the world of ‘names’[11] is the world of ‘life’, and even if a man dies what never abandons him is ‘his name’ being linked to his archetypal essence.
In this perspective, according to which the de-nomination and the individual existence of the forms appear as aspects among them inseparable, linked by the original and inexhaustible ‘enunciation’ of the archetypal creativity, what is it possible to get from the images of the light as to have access to that archaic science of the archetypes that organizes the hierarchy of the beings according to a relation of correspondence and of relationships where the dominant factor is always a polarity connecting the physical and the metaphysical? Carrying out an examination of some properties of light, we will try to approach that counter-party immediately evident in the hope that the verbal and figurative language of the analogy allows us approaching the contemplation of the archetypes hidden in the sensible form. The most appropriate images allowing  per visibilia to have access to the ad invisibilia are those specifically referring to the symbolic language of Tradition, images ‘thought’ by men whose stage of inner development could allow an intuition of the origin, a ‘vision’ of the archetypal reality by means of images able to express it both linguistically and plastically. 
In the treaty De Luce, Roberto Grossatesta, one of the first masters of Oxford in the XIIIth century claims that ‘the primordial body form, the materiality, is the light’[12], because in the shapeless darkness, where without the determinations of the corporeality, it, expanding in different directions  from a light point, defines a ‘material’ sphere of light that represents a first aspect of corporeality. Moreover, the author distinguishing the Lux, the spring light, from the Lumen, the radiated and diffused light, establishes that the first one corresponds to the function-images diffused starting from the archetype.
Also for Marsilio Ficino, a Neoplatonic philosopher of the XVth century, the light is at the centre of his speculations. The Ficinian issue concerning the light basically consists in defining the relationship it has with the inner experience of the spiritual and contemplative life and consequently with the bliss. The eye, Ficino claims can see thanks to the light; this sensible light and the intelligible light of the ideas that is invisible belong to a single genre: the latter of a superior degree, the former of an inferior one. Between these two aspects there is no solution of continuity, but just a symbolic or analogic relationship between the sensible and the intelligible world what can allow the thought according to an ascending progression as to have access to the world of the ideas and to that of the forms[13]. Thanks to Ficino’s work and to his translations of the Corpus Hermeticum, the cult of the sun came back into fashion. According to Ficino the Sun represents a descending order: before is God, then the divine light, the intellectual illumination and finally the body warmth. Each of these prerogatives  refers to the different degrees of expression of the archetype of the light that the alchemist, knowing the ‘subtle mathematics’ of the reciprocal correspondences between the subtle objects and the intelligible principles, can through his Art manipulate.
Concerning this Paracelsus, in his work Philosophia Sagax, claims the lumen naturae not only derives from the knowledge of the influences of the stars, but most of all from the knowledge of the astrum or sydus of the ‘star’ which is in man. «And as in it there is all the natural light … he [man] must be born in his [personal] star»[14]. If at birth man is provided by a perfect and instinctive comprehension of the light of the nature, all his life can be considered a path aiming to make him conscious of this inner treasure. Though difficult to be reached, it can be ‘tasted’ and ‘enjoyed’, man can in fact only make continuous references taking into consideration the physical and the metaphysical, the semiotic and the symbolic thanks to the interpretation key of interpretation of the analogy.
«God – Paracelsus adds – gave each man as much light as necessary to make him wander […]»[15] and this light, spiritually speaking, would correspond to ‘the subtle body’, or to the ‘body of light’ of the Pythagorean, Orphic and Platonic traditions telling that the anima has got its own modalities of manifestation, a radiant means that could manifest once the anima is on its way to freedom, from its fall into the material body. According to the modern approaches the ‘subtle body’ of the ancient traditions would correspond to that condition described by Jung as a psyche perceived introspectively, as an ‘objective reality’, and probably the ‘subtle body’ in its condition of ‘liberation’, would be perceived by the consciousness as a state of somatopsychic depersonalization, if not of dissociation, where the Ego sees the image of itself as separated from the body.
In fact, the neoplatonic philosopher Damascius (Vth-VIth century a.C.) in one of his fragment reported by Marie Louise von Franz[16] claims that when the anima is radiant descends into the body, gets dark and becomes more and more material, during the fall makes use of a ‘sort of body spirit’ a real quintessence of the elements as to make the body move, make the blood circulate and function the sense organs. If this ‘body spirit’ orientates upwards it produces rational psychic contents revealing more complex ideas and totalizing intuitions, whereas if oriented downwards illusory images because it merges into the instincts and the passions.
It is then possible to postulate the idea that when this ‘body spirit’ during the existence gets completely free from the influence of the world of the passions, it consciously conquers the original light of the anima, and this psychic condition of freedom can be lived as a ‘separation’ from the body through the experience of autoscopy[17], where the consciousness of the Ego sees from the outside the totality of the body as if it reflected in a mirror. This phenomenon has been  recently analyzed by Raymond Moody and Michael Sabom as well as by the psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who study patients hit by the cardiac syncope and brought back to life by artificial means referred about similar experiences characterized by a detachment from the consciousness from their body, from an experience of happiness to the following perception of a tunnel at the end of which it was possible to see an extremely clear light. Besides the psychological considerations concerning these thanatological experiences, it is important to notice that the first effect of the imminent death was described as an experience of detachment from the body. The ancient alchemists and the hermetic artists have always tried to describe such an experience. It is therefore known how the aim of many an alchemist was not but that of obtaining in life a metamorphosis and a regeneration of the ‘subtle body’ defining this initial condition of palingenesis as a ‘nigredo’. In the ‘nigredo’ the spirit and the soul leave the old body that enter a phase of darkness and putrefation. Just later the spirit and the soul once sublimated and purified will gather to the body and from this triad will originate the consciousness of the transformation and of the freedom from the body bonds, of the ‘subtle body’. When that happens, psychologically speaking, we are dealing with the ‘total man’, a consciousness where all the unconscious parts of the personality depending from the irrational aspects of the instincts and of the passions, are made conscious to be later be assimilated by the Ego in a process of individuation in the direction of the Self. But as to realize such a transformation it is needed that the complex of the Ego is presented with such a strong structure as to allow it bearing the comparison with the unconscious contents without getting fatal consequences in its tissue. When that happens the Ego gets a de-centralization of its position and finds itself to get the role of a passive spectator having to cope with unconscious contents substituting its will with the direction imposed by the Self.
It it at this time that the feeble light of the Ego substitutes the spark of the Anima, that shines so intensely as to allow to the Ego an immediate reading of that natural light of the Anima Mundi unconsciously experimented at the birth and in the first years of the life of man. Therefore man has got a mission to be carried out in respect to the nature and the world that of freeing the entire universe from the chains that make it servant and from that hate made up by the common opinions, by the hypocrisies of the feelings, by the sophisms of the reason and by the tyranny of the ideas.
So the individuation does not exclude but includes the world. Alain de Lille a scholastic philosopher of the XIIth cenctury a.C., a scholar of the nature who got his education at the school of Chartres, in his work De planctu naturae, presents us a dialogue between the nature and Alain giving the nature the expression of a face as just the sculptors can do giving the stones the qualities he intends to express. He writes: «Offspring of God, mother of all things, bond and firm chain of the universe, jewel of earth, mirror to mortality, light-bringer of the world! Peace, love, virtue, government, power, order, law, end, way, light, source, life, glory, splendor, beauty, form, pattern of the world! Thou who, guiding the universe with thy reins, dost join all things in firmness with the knot of concord, and dost with the bond of peace marry heaven to earth; who, reflecting upon the simple ideas of mind, dost fashion every species of thing, and, cloaking matter with form, dost shape the cloak of form with thy finger; whom the heavens befriend, whom the air serves, whom the earth cherishes»[18]. In the contemplation of the nature and of the world the man gets the sense of the light because already in the Bible the Creator is defined as Lumen de Lumine.
The sensible world is the expression of God and therefore cannot be thought as separated from him. Philosophy and science are inseparable. In the creation things originate from the nothing; the light is the first manifestation of the creation and that is not common to all the forms, the union of it with other aspects of the nature will give origin to the bodies determining the essential properties that will dispose in a hierarchical order.
According to Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, a theologian, a philosopher, a doctor of the Church educated at the Franciscan cloister in Bagnoregio and author of the most famous treaty on the possibility for man to attain the spiritual knowledge, the Itinerarium mentis in Deum[19], the anima is a substance that is in itself complete, separable from the body, incorruttible and immortal. Referring to the thought by Vittorini, Riccardo and Ugo di San Vittore, he claims that the anima has got three faculties of eyes: the sensibility towards the external things, the spirit addressed to itself; the mind  addressed to what is above the human soul. With the first two eyes it is possible to know God respectively through the evidence of what he has left in the creation and  the images he has left in the intellective beings; with the third eye it is possible to feel God himself by similitude. Using these three faculties the anima can make its journey towards God in six degrees: sense, imagination, reason, intellect, intelligence, height of the mind. The last two steps are got thanks to the will, the point of arrival is the mystic ecstasy, a seventh step in which the soul unites and becomes appeased in God. The deep reflections of Bonaventura, a real path of contemplation, represent a specific journey of the mind towards the knowledge of the Archetype Creator, through the light of the truth and the ascesis of the heart. In this journey the faculties of the sensibility and of the rationality first abide by the domain of the analogy that allows finding again the concordances of the multiplicity, then the analogy becomes ‘vital analogy’ as a ‘proportion’ of images on which the world is built and at last the analogy gives way to the analogy itself, that allows the language of the heart, as traditionally thought, contemplating not only the harmony but also the beauty of the Archetype. Dante says: «the trasumanar of the eye as the mystery able to penetrate in the metaphysical incommensurable world of the Paradise»[20].
Many would be the aspects to be analyzed concerning this archetype, how its aesthetics made up of  infinite images can fill that void that converts the ‘esthetic’ into the ‘theoretic’, most of all when the theorèin is thought as a pure contemplation without the object. The path of knowledge of an archetype needs to cross that Mundus Immaginalis where the forms get step by step their first and subtle consistency, to open up only with the passing of time, with the patience of the study and of the work to the safest fruition of the symbols and of the analogies. Only at last the discipline of the perception is intrinsic to some symbolic forms and can sustain the inner energies and allow that peculiar kind of the mental activity consisting of getting the world without the antagonism and the dissention caused by the ignorance of the causes.


La Sacra Bibbia. Fratelli Fabbri Editori, Milano 1963
Katha Upanishad, II,VI, 9. Torino, UTET 1976
Alighieri D., La Divina Commedia, Paradiso, I canto, verso 70. Rizzoli, Milano 1981
Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, 1259§Jung C.G., Philosophia Sagax, di Paracelso, op. cit. in Riflessioni teoriche sull’essenza della Psiche, Vol. VIII, Boringhieri Torino 1976
Matton S., En marge du De Lumine splendeur et mélancolie chez Marsile Ficin, in Lumière et Cosmos, Cahiers de l’Hermétisme, Albin Michel, Pari, 1981
Platone, Cratilo, Tutte le Opere, Sansoni, Firenze 1974
Plotino, Enneadi, I, 6, 9. Rusconi, Milano 1992
Raynaud de Laje G., Alain de Lille, poète du XII siècle, Paris 1951
von Franz M.L., La morte e i sogni, Boringhieri Torino 1986
Weber E., La Lumière principe de l’univers, d’après Robert Grosseteste, in Lumière et Cosmos, Cahiers de l’Hermétisme, Albin Michel, Paris 1981

*Dr. Diego Frigoli - Founder and promoter of the ecobiopsychological thought. Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Director of the ANEB Institute – School of Specialization in Psychotherapy. Innovator in the study of the imaginary focusing on the symbol in relation to its dynamics between the individual and the collective  knowledge.

Translated by Dr.ssa Raffaella Restelli – Psychologist, member of the British Psychological Society (UK), Ecobiopsychological Counselor and expert in ANEB Psychosomatic Medicine. Linguist in ANEB

[1] La Sacra Bibbia. Fratelli Fabbri Editori, Milano 1963
[2] Logos: this philosophical term has had an evolution. For Heraclius the Logos represents that universal law constituted by “reason” and “need” according to which all things happen. Man remains unaware of this Logos, possible to be reached only during his spiritual growth.
[3] Plotino, Enneadi, I, 6, 9, Rusconi
[4] Rishi: they are wise men with a conscious perception of the “subtle” levels of reality. They live in close contact with nature in a state of consciousness free from the matter and life itself, their wisdom is written in the sacred texts of The Veda and Upanishad.
[5] Purusha: in the Samkhya philosophy of the Vedic India the Purusha and the Prakriti represent the eternal principles, the first one immutable and inalterable implying the totality of the individual and cosmic processes, while the second refers to the relative aspect of the manifested world. They can be compared to “the essence” and “the substance”.
[6] Katha Upanishad, II,VI, 9. Torino, UTET 1976
[7] Katha Upanishad, Ibidem
[8] The Light of the Lights: in the Mazdeism or in the Zoroastrism, religions of the pre-Islamic Islam, this expression refers to the perfect Man, Zoroaster able to renew and transfigure his own life towards the identification with Ahura Mazd?, the thinking Man corresponding to the supreme God.
[9] Metaphysical Taoism: the term refers both to a philosophical system and an organized religion related to the teaching of the great Chinese philosophers of the Antiquity like Lao-Tzu. The “knowledge” is at the basis of their philosophy aimed to the identification with the Tao, that principle and vital force inspiring the Great Whole of the universe.
[10] Platone, Cratilo, Tutte le Opere, Sansoni, Firenze 1974
[11] Names: the doctrine of the creative ‘word’ is a common heritage of many traditional cultures. The Indian tradition is however particularly interesting considering the Word as a sound become matter. At the centre of the Vedic myth there is a feminine figure called Vac, the sacred Word not distinguished from the primordial androgynous, the Purusha, of whom she is the femminine aspect. In her being the universal creator Vac ‘tells’ the world: she creates it in its sensibile verbal aspect. The cosmic energy of Vac in the space-time ground generates the name and the specific form of all that exists; therefore what exists has got a ‘body’ and this ‘body’ is a formed and sounding organism and as such is a language that inside its form resounds the primordial Word.
[12] Weber E., La Lumière principe de l’univers, d’après Robert Grosseteste, in Lumière et Cosmos, Cahiers de l’Hermétisme, Albin Michel, Paris 1981, pag. 17
[13] Matton S., En marge du De Lumine splendeur et mélancolie chez Marsile Ficin, in Lumière et Cosmos, Cahiers de l’Hermétisme, Albin Michel, Pari, 1981, pag. 32-75
[14] Jung C.G., Philosophia Sagax, di Paracelso, op. cit. in Riflessioni teoriche sull’essenza della Psiche, Vol. VIII, Boringhieri Torino 1976, pag. 211
[15] Ibidem, pag. 211
[16] von Franz M.L., La morte e i sogni, Boringhieri Torino 1986, pag. 152
[17] Autoscopy: the hallucinatory phenomenon where the subject sees himself as double, confused, semi-transparent. It is caused by a deconstruction of that intuitive vision of the spatial image of the body organized on the basis of his own physical experience.
[18] Raynaud de Laje G., Alain de Lille, poète du XII siècle, Paris 1951, pag. 106-107
[19] Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, 1259
[20] Alighieri D., La Divina Commedia, Paradiso, I canto, verso 70. Rizzoli, Milano 1981