Christ as Archetype  

As we know, Dionysus and Attis represented the early-dying sun-god, the son of the mother, the god who dies in the spring.  The date of the Feast of Easter has been taken over from the Feast of Attis, and mosaics were executed in ancient Rome with the cross with grapes around it and an invocation, “Oh thou, Dionysus, Jesus Christ.”  So at the beginning at least there was considerable doubt as to whether Christianity did not mean a rebirth of Dionysus – or of Attis – but in another form.  The Church Fathers tried to make a definite break and establish Christianity, hoping in this way to prevent the new symbol from being sucked back into the past. 

To make sure of it’s creative élan, the newly converted Christians were emphatic on contending that Christianity was entirely different from the cult of Dionysus.  But the similarity of the archetypal figure was so striking that everyone felt very doubtful, which accounts for such stress being laid on the fact that Jesus Christ was an historical personality in contrast to the archetypal god figure.  TPoPA 252

(If in a story or dream one) returns in the form of Attis or Dionysus, (that) could be said to represent an attempt by the unconscious to create an archetypal experience which would bridge the gulf created by this sudden Christianization.  One might think that, having passed through this experience, the author might now really understand what the figure of Christ means.  If you sweep away all of the historical dust, you see that this is a return to the original experience of what it means to take the cross upon oneself, to carry it and be crucified with Christ, only there is a different shade of something more ecstatic and more dynamic and, in an archaic way, vital.  It is an attempt of the unconscious to recreate the Christian symbol and revive it in a form in which it is linked again with the deeper layers of the personality.   TPoPA 252

How widespread and how vital this problem is can be seen by the fact that one finds the same attempt of the unconscious in a completely different sphere.  Those among you who heard my lectures on Niklaus von der Flue will remember that there Christ appears with a bearskin – as a Berserk – and there too it is an attempt not to abolish the symbol of Christ but to reinterpret it, linking it with the archaic layers of the instinctive psyche.  Only if we understand it in this more complete form can the symbol of Christ survive, for if it is not anchored in the depths of the soul it will be cast off and there will be a return to atheism and neo-paganism in some form. 

The same thing can be seen in the Negro spirituals, which give a parallel phenomenon, for in them there is a pagan layer of the psyche with its symbolic expressions and religious emotions, and over that is layered a Christian doctrine, just a lacquer which any kind of movement or anti-propaganda would remove.  Unless the main archetype of this Christian doctrine, which in our civilization is called Christ, constellates a similar archetypal symbol and links it up with the whole emotional personality, whereby it becomes a living faith, only then can people understand from underneath what Christ means in them personally.  Otherwise it is purely intellectual and there is the hole in the staircase.  Below one still prays to Dionysus, or in these cases, naturally, Wotan, because the one who is speared and who hangs on the World Tree is Wotan:

   Christ doctrine                Christ

   Pagan Archetype             Wotan (in Germany)

   Constellated below          Mercurius-Kerunnus (in France)

In France and those countries where there is a Celtic background the archetype called up in this form is not Wotan but Mercurius-Kerunnus, a stag god.  This is a god who is transformed, who is crucified, and who is the sacrificed sun god – the spring god and the resurrected god – so in Celtic countries it is the archetype of Kerunnus which is constellated by Christ.  In medieval legends, in the legend of the Holy Grail and also in Celtic material in England, Ireland, and Wales, it is the archetype of Mercurius-Kerunnus.  In all those cases there is an attempt to link these superimposed figures of God with the old roots of the archaic and genuine inner experience.  TPoPA 253