Tellingly, Jung never names the second phase of the coniunctio, referring to it only as the reunion of the unio mentalis with the body. I have given it the Latin name unio corporalis to help remedy this lack. Ideally, during this phase, insights are brought into the body, into action, into the world. The impact of the daimonic image upon our instinctual body-centered life has been little explored, though many speak of its necessity. Integration of insight, of the vivified, ensouled image with the body is little understood and remains a major stumbling block in the therapeutic, spiritual, and creative work. Failure to put into practice what is learned during the time spent exploring the inner world sometimes leads to a ridicule of these important endeavours as ineffective, self-centered pastimes. I believe the troubling images that drove me to write this book, and make up the phenomenologic heart of this study, help explain why so often “personal growth” stops at insight, and attracts such disdain or discouragement.
In Mysterium Coniunctionis Jung devotes more than sixty pages to the second phase of the inner union that must qualify as one of his most confused and obscure discussions. He follows Dorn’s claim that a certain substance with magical properties lies hidden in the physical body, the “quintessence of the philosophic wine.” It is this magical substance that makes “the fixed volatile and the volatile fixed,” in the reunion with the body. (This mysterious quintessence plays a central role in this stage.) The “spirit must be changed to body and body to spirit.” An interweaving of spirit and body must be accomplished before the complete conjunction or wholeness can be attained. Here Jung says the alchemists referred to this magical quintessence released in the unio corporalis as truth, the imago Dei, Mercurius, the supreme chthonic spirit, the devil, and blood.
Jung is concerned with the soul image “getting out of hand” during the unio corporalis, as he believes it inclines naturally toward the body. Since the resolution of opposites is always an instinctual, energetic process, when the tension of opposites is great enough, unions activate spontaneously. He cautions that insight gained in the unio mentalis may easily slip back into its former unconsciousness if union with the body takes place before the “light of the spirit” has become a solid achievement. He recommends the use of “active imagination,” “a dreaming the dream forward that aims to objectify the affects and confront consciousness with them,” as his principal method of establishing contact with and stabilizing the unconscious image. He seems to imply that active imagination is the psychological counterpart of the second union that will eventually bring about integration of the daimonic fruits of insight. Even when enacted through expressive movement, however, active imagination falls toward the psychic end of the unconscious spectrum. It appears to depend far more upon insight, upon the direction of the mind, than upon shifting the bodily roots of the sense of self.
Perhaps because he favors the psychic end of the unconscious spectrum, or because he deems the accomplishment of bodily integration an “insoluble task,” Jung concludes that insight cannot stand the clash with reality. In any event, he never seems to come to terms with this stage. Reading his comments today, one senses Jung’s discomfort with the energetic process of reuniting with the body. His concern with the daimonic images “getting out of hand” seems to reflect the then-prevailing cultural attitude of deep distrust of the instincts that predominate in this phase.
In contrast with the psychic activity that dominates gaining insight, the emphasis during the unio corporalis must be placed on the body. This epresents a radical reversal — and is not at all obvious. It is a turning point against a previously held position that requires violating our previous orientation. Now we must immerse ourselves in the very irrationality of sensation and feeling that was discouraged as insight dawns on the witnessing mind. When we take our new insight seriously by taking to heart the daimonic realities (the rage and hurt) of our inner selves, we actually strengthen our imaginal, subtle senses. This deep acceptance of the validity of the daimonic promptings toward the feelings and the body is the necessary precondition for bodily integration. At this point, when the daimons encourage immersion in their reality, we must forget all we learned earlier, when we needed to seperate ourselves from the chain of instinctual drives, and allow ourselves to fall into an intensification of feeling and sensation. This movement will naturally signal all sorts of dangers to us, as we have been involved in seperating our sense of self out of the instinctual, feeling realm to bring it to awareness. This identification of feelings brought on by insight brings out the full symbolic expression of these daimonic energies, hence the predominance of what is considered “lower” or instinctual imagery: themes of primitive animality, aggression, and sexuality.
After years of objectifying the psyche through meditative practices, active imagination, creative pursuits, expressive therapy, or simply trying to be a “good” person, we have strengthened our defenses against bodily forces. To seriously take on the daimonic makes us fear we are leaving the path, abandoning what has given meaning to life, or entering into a self-indulgent morass. It takes a radical shift of mind [just] to face up to the daimonic in ourselves, much less to reunite with it. Edinger comments on this phenomenon:
What is a crime at one stage of psychological development is lawful at another, and one cannot reach a new stage of psychological development without daring to challenge the code of the old stage. Hence, every new step is experienced as a crime and is accompanied by guilt, because the old standards — the old way of being — have not yet been transcended. So the first step carries the feeling of being a criminal.What kind of commitment to the source of Life does it take for us to realize that what opens a door on one level, closes it on another? Who wants to feel like a criminal? The discriminating and objectifying stance of the ego, or witness-consciousness, permits a deepening and strengthening of the personality, [and] a growth of self-knowledge, but this very strength at some point becomes a liability. If the ego cannot release its separateness and accept the discomforting lead of the daimonic energies, its rigidity limits our contact with yet deeper, more maturing, levels of the psyche.
Aside from fears of sin or crime, and our long habit of holding fast to what we have always known, we are sure to find the daimonic image, itself, rather forbidding. In keeping with its predominantly somatic nature, the daimonic may bring us physical and subtle-body torments in the form of aches, pains, tensions, and particularly distressing sensations, including dizziness, fragmenting, hollowness, expanding and contracting, falling, madness or being posessed. It often involves themes of sexuality and violence, death and decay. We naturally want to escape these things. That is why it is so important to place them in their larger transformative context.
Yet another obstacle presents itself when we face the daimonic, regardless of the form it may take. The entrance of daimonic energy into the body is a rather “feminine” process. Our culturally-sanctioned heroic and “masculine” ego-ideal stands in the way of the “feminine” receptivity required in our interaction with the daimons. We believe we need to “take action” on these imaginal promptings. We equate “just being” with laziness or downtime, and do not appreciate the impregnating potential of this state of mind. Indeed, this stage of inner work toward union tends to be relational, erotic; for the darkest material is colored with passionate overtones. Feminine erotic receptivity and the union it makes possible contrasts sharply with the separative “masculine” move that emphasizes the first stage of work, marked by rationality.
Moreover, I believe the common themes of sexuality and violence proliferate when the daimonic emerges as a result of the overlay of sensations of erotic union with the dismantling of our limited self-image. The daimonic encounter potentially brings an ecstatic body/mind experience charged with Dionysian energies of sublime sexuality, but for it to do so we must release our existing self-image to allow a penetration by the daimonic energies. We experience this penetration as a change in the bodily constituents of our sense of self. We feel fundamentally different; flooded with new, unusual, sometimes disorienting sensations. We rarely realize how deeply our sense of who we are rests on a bodily foundation. The way we carry ourselves, the strength and weakness of relative muscle groups, habitual tensions, or chronic illness, [all] add up to determine our innermost experience of “I”. To truly embrace or integrate the daimonic image, our fundamental bodily identity must shift to include new qualities inherent in the image, different perhaps for each person; qualities such as strength, sensuality, clarity, loving-kindness, and vision. Alice in her Wonderland of ever-changing shapes and sizes could commiserate with our plight at this point. The unio corporalis entails the loss not merely of the mental image that was challenged in the first stages of self-awareness, but of a biologically based sense of who we are.
In the initial stage of the unio mentalis, the nigredo or darkening reflects our attachment to a particular rational self-image. We do not care to see ourselves as rageful, weak, conniving, greedy, powerful, or possibly vulnerable, or, for some, creative. We cling to our familiar idea of ourselves, reluctant to grieve the loss of our illusions, so we suffer. In the second stage, if we can let go further and begin to trust the taboo, ego-alien instinctual energies, [then] the full daimonic presence will emerge. It is into a space of fractured identity that the daimonic heralds our deeper being come forth. The second stage of union — the conscious acceptance of the recently emerged daimonic image into the body — is a rare event that requires exceptional physical and psychologic openness from us. At this stage, we no longer cling to illusory mental pictures of ourselves; rather, we must be ready to stake our fundamental being on the bewildering promise and threat of the previously unacceptable chaos within. Such an encounter with the daimon seems to tear down and rebuild our cells, finally altering our being in the world. The good news amidst the ruins is that while we are not who we suppose ourselves to be, we discover we are incomparably more complex, richer, multi-dimensional beings.
1 thought on “Unio Corporalis”
You may be interested in how I plot the structure of the psychological process of enlightenment as outlined in my “Introduction the the Nv Freemasonry” (google it). My stance is the unio corporalis constitutes the crossing of the abyss upon the Tree of Life, which is the attainment of enlightenment. In essence, the body ascends into spirit like Jesus is depicted doing. A good image is the alchemical motif of the serpens mercurialis nailed to the cross, because with this experience one has comprehended change (the volatile), and is wed to the eternal beyond the material (the cross). For a long time I thought this second stage meant the spirit and soul dropped down to wed to the body after the unio mentalis, but it is the body who rises up to wed to them, enacting the complete spiritualization of the person. It is only after this occurs does the universe emits drops of reconstitution, being filius noster as Magus.