Readers of this blog post need to keep two things in mind at the outset: 1. I am new to the community the follows the Law of Thelema(Thelemites) and 2. I have done my utmost to research this topic and have found a potential void in the information landscape which I wish to fill. If I have missed any previous published works that have commented on the topic of the symbolism of the Sun and Star as understood in this specific comparative study, I apologize in advance. I do not claim to be an expert, rather I claim to be someone who is passionate about comparative mysticism and the psychology of C.G.Jung. I also have access to his Collected Works, as well as the entire standard edition of Swedenborg. My library of Crowley’s works is small, but growing. I will be referencing already published works by other authors and will give them their due credit during the portions of this present essay with which I wish to reflect and summarize. All other works cited shall be from the great books of Swedenborg, Jung, and Crowley.
This present essay assumes that the reader will have some familiarity with the works of the three great men mentioned above. I will not spend time summarizing their entire position but will dive right into topic: the symbol of the sun/star. I recently made the topic of my last Dreaming In Symbols podcast on the subject of the Sun as it relates to Swedenborg, Jung, and Crowley. After publishing that episode to YouTube I began to research the topic in greater detail and discovered even more references that I wished I had interacted with in that Dreaming In Symbols episode. This essay is my attempt to faithfully interact with the primary documents I missed, and to reexamine other previously mentioned works.
The Sun/Star is a symbol which is utilized by the three great thinkers: Swedenborg, Jung, and Crowley. The comparison between Crowley and Jung’s use of the Star symbol as meaning the Self is explained in an excellent way by the online blogger IAO131. His article is can be found by clicking on the link below:
IAO131 limits his referencing of Jung’s work to Collected Works V0l.8, specifically the essay “The Significance of the Unconscious in Psychology.” He uses this essay, and Jung’s discussion of the Star and how it is used in the context of Alchemy, and by extension, analytical psychology, in a parallel discussion to Crowley’s Liber AL. It is worth reading IAO131’s essay.
I am very happy to see that many Thelemites are using Jung’s psychological theories to enrich their spirituality and to help underline and compliment Aleister Crowley’s works. Such authors as J. Daniel Gunther in his book “Initiation in the Aeon of the Child,” makes repeated mentions of Jung. Dr. David Shoemaker in his book “Living Thelema,” does the same comparison. In Dr. Shoemaker’s book review of Jung’s “The Red Book”, he explains parallels between the symbol of the Sun as found in Jung and Crowley’s works. Dr. Shoemaker’s review can be found here:
The purpose of this present essay is to add to the discussion already started by the above authors. I will be quoting from Jung’s “Symbols of Transformation,” and “Memories, Dreams, Reflections(specifically the Seven Sermons to the Dead)”, in a an attempt to illustrate an even richer interaction with the symbols of the Sun and Star. In an comparative context I will also interact with Crowley and Swedenborg’s views to further show how important this symbol was for all three men in their writing about the Divine.
The sun is an ancient symbol that has represented the divine for centuries. Crowley writes: “Thou that art One, our Lord in the Universe, the Sun, our Lord in ourselves whose name is Mystery of Mystery, uttermost being whose radiance, enlightening the worlds, is also the breath that maketh every God even and Death to tremble before Thee.”-Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass. The author IAO131 states: “The common symbol of the Sun, the point in the circle, is itself a symbol of the union of opposites: in this context, the Sun represents the Whole, the One, the All, et cetera.”(IAO131, 2014 pg. 292) In my limited exposure an understanding thus far of Crowley’s views on spirituality, it would appear that the Sun can be interpreted as being a symbol that represents the inner most part of the human psyche/soul as well as the objective divine.
Swedenborg also held the Sun to be the prime symbol that the divine uses to manifest itself to our limited understanding. In Divine Love and Wisdom Swedenborg explains that God can be viewed as having an almost yin/yang essence that is composed of Love and Wisdom. These two elements of the divine are symbolized by the spiritual and physical sun, that is, the light and warmth are expressions of love and wisdom. The Swedenborgian scholar Odhner stated: “…Ra became identified with the spiritual Sun and with the idea of God as a Man within it. His symbol, the red solar disk with encompassing serpent, signify the Divine Love, surrounded by the Divine Wisdom.”(Odhner, 1914 pg.79-80) I honestly don’t know if Swedenborg ever discussed the symbol of the Star, but we might assume that when he referenced the Sun he also meant the Star as well. However it is clear that Jung and Crowley did reference both symbols(Star and Sun) separate from each other as shall be explored below.
Jung wrote his book Symbols of Transformation the years leading up to his break with Sigmund Freud. It should be noted that Crowley read this specific book by Carl Jung. It is a hefty book which includes descriptions of world religions and mythology as they are related to the dynamics of the human psyche. Upon analyzing the Ms. Miller fantasies, Jung as able to find parallels between her subjective experiences and the objective meaning behind world symbolism and spiritual ideas. As he points out “The libido having turned away away from the concrete object, its object has become a psychic one, namely God. Psychologically, however, God is the name of the complex of ideas grouped round a powerful feeling; the feeling-tone is what really gives the complex its characteristics efficacy, for it represents an emotional tension which can be formulated in terms of energy.”(Jung, 1956, pg. 85)
Jung again states: “I am therefore of the opinion that, in general, psychic energy or libido creates the God-image by making use of archetypal patterns, and that man in consequence worships the psychic force active within him as something divine. We thus arrive at the objectionable conclusion, from a psychological point of view, the God-image is a real but subjective phenomenon.”(1956, pg. 86) Jung continues to reference Christian mystics, mystery religions, Hinduism, and other works that illustrate that the divine, the Sun, and the Star are all synonymous.
What does Jung make of the Star? In his autobiography: “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, Jung includes his Seven Sermons to the Dead. This text is originally included in a much fuller form in Jung’s The Red Book. This text is largely gnostic in character and represents what I could consider to be one of Jung’s most purely spiritual writing. It is derived from a time when Jung faced a spiritual crisis which resulted in his production of The Red Book. The Seven Sermons to the Dead occur near the end of this intense psycho-spiritual experience. Within the text are mentions of the Sun, Star, God, and gods. As I continue to study Crowley I will no doubt have more to say on Jung’s Seven Sermons, but for now I will quote one section from the 7th sermon:
“This Star is the god of and the goal of man. This is his one guiding god…To this one god man shall pray. Prayer increaseth the light of the Star.” (Jung, 1961 pg. 389)
As I stated above, my knowledge of Crowley and Thelema is at the stage of that of a novice. However, I hope this essay can be a humble addition to the growing comparative field that is informing modern day discussions in the context Thelema and O.T.O. It is amazing to see that three great spiritual minds: Crowley, Swedenborg, and Jung each approached and perceived the divine as symbolized by the Sun and by extension: a Star. As Crowley states:
“Every man and every woman is a star.”-The Book of the Law