Book Review
by Valerie McIlroy


Archetype of the Apocalypse: A Jungian Study of the Book of Revelation
by Edward F. Edinger
1999, Open Court, Chicago and La Salle

 

A great deal of apocalyptic prophecy has surrounded our current change of millennium, making the appearance of this book very timely.  The book was developed from a series of lectures, presented by the renowned Jungian Analyst, Edward Edinger, to the analysts and trainees at the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles.

For me, reading this book was a step back in time to the Club Room at the Los Angeles C.G. Jung Institute listening to Dr. Edinger, seated on the small podium, lecturing in his precise and disciplined intellectual style.

In these lectures Dr. Edinger explores the psychological meaning of images of the Apocalypse from the New Testament book of Revelation.  Jung believed, and Edinger concurs, that mankind has entered a period of earthshaking upheaval.  This has been and is evidenced in international relationships and the breakdown of the social structures of Western civilization.  It appears in political, ethnic and religious groupings as well as within the psyches of individuals.

According to Dr. Edinger, the psychological meaning of the apocalypse archetype is "...the coming of the Self into conscious realization; the shattering of the world as it has been, followed by its reconstitution."   The lecturer takes us on a scholarly journey through each chapter of Revelation, the final book of the Judeo-Christian Bible, examining each vision of the numinosum (divine reality) in detail and exploring the symbolic meanings with reference to both the Old and the New Testament and to Jungian Archetypal Psychology.  The book concludes with two appendices which address recent cases of apocalyptic possession, the Branch Davidians and the Heaven's Gate Cult.

In reading this book one can approach the apocalypse archetype both in the greater context of the destiny of mankind and in the smaller context of one's individual psychology, the struggle towards individuation and the encounter with the Self.  Edinger stresses the importance of our personal awareness, "In my opinion, as our world sinks more and more into possession by this archetype, nothing is more important than the existence of a certain number of individuals who understand what is going on."  He directs us to Jung's message in Answer to Job which is that a vast historical "transformation of God" is going on and that the apocalyptic ordeal is the necessary "sacrificial" event to bring about that transformation.

 

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