The Round Table

For what is meant by being called the Round Table is the roundness of the world and the condition of the planets and of the elements in the firmament; and the conditions of the firmament are seen in the stars and in countless other things; so that one could say that in the Round Table the whole universe is symbolized.  TGL 163

In the Philosophia reformata, an alchemical work by J.D. Mylius (1622), four goddesses are shown sitting at a round table.  As Jung explains, they represent the four seasons and the four elements, which in a literal sense appear to be “combined” around the table.  The table, therefore, is more associated than is the vessel with the human endeavour towards a syntheis of the totality, which then expresses itself in the vessel, the Grail.  TGL 166

As Jung says, the opposing elements must come together in a common effort to help the one achieve totality.  TGL 168

(A table’s) quaternary structure resembles the foundation of the god-image.  It is as if the Self required the consciousness of the individual, consisting of the four functions, as the basis for its realization, since the quaternity, in contradistinction to the circle, symbolizes reflected wholeness.  Compared with the vessel, the table is for that very reason more connected with the human effort to achieve consciousness.  By its means all the dissociated aspects of the personality will be made conscious and brought into unity.  A symbol of the incarnate deity, the “Son of God” or, in the Grail story, the wondrous vessel which constitutes a feminine analogy to the Son of Man, then appears on the table for the first time.  The awarding of equal value to both aspects well reflects the psychological perception that “God cannot be experienced at all unless this futile and ridiculous ego offers a modest vessel in which to catch the effluence of the Most High.”  TGL 169


The fact that the plate is of silver permits association with the alchemical lapis when in the state of the albedo, because the stone is then white or silver like the moon.  The plate, moreover, is a “round” object – a symbol of the Self, like the lapis.  However, while the table represents a more collective aspect of the process of bringing the Self into consciousness – it brings many persons together for a communal meal – the plate is an illustration of a more individual application of that same transcendent function, since it is from a plate that the single person eats his share of wholeness.  TGL 170

The Knife

In the preparation for the Communion, which is meant to symbolize the slaying of the Lamb, a square piece of bread is cut out of the consecrated loaf and marked with the form of a cross.  The four loosely connected pieces produced in this way symbolize the Lamb of God that is to be slain. 

   In the various versions, these knives appear to have the unchanging function of carrying on or completing the work of the lance.  TGL 171

In itself, the knife, like the sword, represents a psychic function, i.e., discriminating thought and judgment.  The doubling of the knife in Wolfram indicates, however, that this function – thinking – is as yet only nascent and even partly identical with the enlightening impulse (the lance) on its way up from the unconscious, or else that it is only now separating out from it.    TGL 171

(Because) the Grail stories were written by poets, this new form of understanding was considered from the purely symbolic angle and was apprehended visually as it emerged from the unconscious.  The alchemists, on the other hand did exert themselves to extract from matter, i.e. from the unconscious itself, a sensus naturae, or “light of nature,” and a way of thinking, the symbolic or essentially psychological thinking that is contained within it.  For this reason, many of their texts recommend working on the head or skull or brain of a human being so as to extract the “thinking” from it.  The thinking thus taken from the unconscious is clearly symbolized here by the two knives and is intended to protect the lance or imago Christi from the desiccated residue – that is, behind the Imago Christi stands the Self, and what the Self attains is cultivated by a thinking achieved through self-knowledge and is thereby protected from the sterilizing effect of the intellect.  TLG 172

Cont’d … (this section summarizes chapter 9, but is very valuable)