The River of Time and the Return of the Repressed

Heraclitus is especially notable for his paradox that you can’t put your foot in the same river twice (and perhaps even once). The river is time, and it is a very common metaphor for the flow and flux of time. Nietzsche uses it on occasion — rivers rushing to the sea as a return to origin. This is very common in mysticism as well. It’s another one of Nietzsche’s many, many ironies. And since time is irrupting into consciousness and beginning to overtake and even subsume our hitherto exaggerated spatialised consciousness (called perspectivism) we should spend some time understanding what’s involved in this reversal of foreground and background effects (for time was the background to perspective consciousness).

Now, we have stated here in the past that it is best to understand what Jung means by “the collective unconscious” as coincident with the discovery of “deep time” rather than as anything essentially spatial. Just as the Earth is layered in terms of aeons of time, so is the psyche so layered in terms of aeons of time. To put that another way, the soul’s experience of the Earth is inscribed in the psyche, and is also reflected in the structure of the Earth itself.

And so we find, too, that the psyche is a composite and a polymorph and a polychrone structure of aeons and aeons of time — the archaic legacy, but also the ages of magic and myth are still represented in it as legacies of the soul’s entire experience of the Earth.

So the death of God and the return of the repressed necessarily involve deep time in which what is ancient and old again emerges into presence and into manifestation — these aeons which have hitherto been forced into the background or “cast into the outer darkness” by an overly exaggerated obsession with space and the conquest of spaces. This is now reversing itself.

“Everything is pregnant with its opposite”, writes Marshall Berman, and that is a witness to this reversal by which the dimension of time (and especially deep time) begins to overtake and subsume space and so we also are emigrating into a Heraclitean Age of the paradoxical. Now what was backgrounded becomes foregrounded, and what was foregrounded (or “privileged” as they say) dissolves into the “field” as perspectivising consciousness begins to falter and fail in the face of time and temporicity.

The rediscovery of the river of time and the “stream of consciousness” are also quite coincident movements. “Time is of the soul” says Augustine, and this is also reflected in the old symbol of a polymorphic/polychrone Aeon. Who or what is Aeon?


In many respects Aeon bears the same attributes as the Hindu god Shiva, as well as the Hermetic symbol of the Cosmic Androgyne (the “Rebis”)

Dance of the Nataraj
Rebis. The hieros gamos.

All quite similar in respect of their symbolism and their attributes aren’t they? That’s because they are all symbols of the totality of the Self called “fourfold Atman”.

Aeon is a quite interesting figure in this respect. Aeon is a tetramorph who has the four attributes of human, angel, serpent, and lion, yet inscribed on his body appear to be the complete twelve signs of the Zodiac. Once again, we see this pattern in Aeon — the one into four, the four into twelve (the etymology of the word “Aeon” is quite interesting). But we also see in Aeon Blake’s Albion and the “four Zoas” represented.

Our interest here today is in the twelve attributes of Aeon inscribed on Aeon’s body as the Zodiac. This uncannily resembles, of course, Christ and the twelve disciples, but also what Rosenstock-Huessy refers to as “the twelve tones of the spirit” which have, apparently, some correspondence with Jung’s twelve principle archetypes of the “collective unconscious”, and which we also find in terms of “twelve winds”, “twelve virtues”, or “twelve ways of seeing” and so on.

For me, Aeon is the nearly perfect representation of the tetramorph or what is called “integral Self”, “integral consciousness” or “the totality of the Self” and all eras and ages are represented in Aeon as the sum of all histories — the ideal of Gebser’s “presentiation” or the image of Rosenstock-Huessy’s ideal of “universal history”. Aeon is, in effect, what Blake calls “the Universal Humanity” or the Anthropos. This is the potential of the “return of the repressed”.

If we credit Jung’s twelve archetypes of the collective unconscious as being also what is inscribed on Aeon’s body, the “return of the repressed” would signal the irruption of all those ancient archetypes at once — everything from the Cosmic Androgyne, through the Green Man, through the Psychopomp and the Mage, and also the Shadow at once as also factors in Gebser’s “presentiation” or “manifestation”, and that these now become also the “Twelve Ways of Seeing” of the previously mentioned book (at least as interpreted through the mental-rational consciousness).

So this “return of the repressed” in those terms would definitely meet the description of “pandaemonium” and chaos without corresponding knowledge of how to integrate them into a whole. Part of that knowledge is already represented in and as Aeon. Aeon is the representation of the “You of you”.

So, I do emphasise that you are also going to see some pretty weird, surreal, and even irreal things with this return of the repressed, including elements of ancient magic and myth often cast into new forms (like media or technics) but whose pedigree in ancient layers of the psyche is unmistakable. But no true “universal history” of the soul’s entire experience of the Earth would be feasible without their coming into presence and into manifestation. But if we are going to have any kind of livable, intelligible, sensible world, we need this “universal history”, and that means we need integral consciousness that can actually effectively create this universal history. This is what Rosenstock-Huessy (paralleling Gebser) attempted with his grammatical method and “cross of reality”.

Aeon is probably the same as Swedenborg’s “Grand Man of the Heavens”, by virtue of the signs of the Zodiac inscribed on Aeon’s body, which we may also take as having something to do with the Anthropic Principle in physics.

In Aeon we see the representative of what we call “deep time” as the composite of all times and also of the four classical elements or directions which, of course, were not “elements” as we think of them today but the Guardians of the Four Directions, for they also appear in Buddhism as the “Four Heavenly Kings” who presented themselves to Buddha upon his enlightenment.

The Buddha receiving the the Guardians of the Four Directions

In Aeon, these Four Heavenly Kings are incorporated into and as Aeon’s body.

Aeon is you self.

3 responses to “The River of Time and the Return of the Repressed”

  1. brucedetorres says :

    Is the human collective unconscious as expressed by Jung just an evolutionary artifact reflected in developmental neural morphology and anatomy ?

    • Scott Preston says :

      There would definitely be a correspondence between human biology and psychic structure. Blake’s own “four Zoas” he describes as residing “in the Human Brain”, and these are four “Energies”. (the Word “Zoa” is derived from zoe — which means life or beast). The classical four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water likewise were not seen as separate from states of the soul and would have some correspondence with metabolic, respiratory, nervous and circulatory processes of the body. “Physis” in the old sense was not divided into subject and object domains. It was a continuum.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    There is more interesting stuff about Aeon in this article. Aeon isn’t originally a Christian symbol at all, but could certainly be one. Christianity, though, broke up Aeon into the four Evangelists in their zoomorphic forms surrounding the cross of christ on the cross

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