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Salome and Jung's anima

The dream of killing Siegfried has now given way to an area of Jung’s unconscious where the figures of Elijah, Salome and a serpent meet him. Before him lays a passage into the depths of ubiquitous, dark maternal images that again give him the feeling of being “in the land of the dead.” In this other world,

near the steep slope of a rock I caught sight of two figures, an old man with a white beard and a beautiful young girl. I summoned up my courage and approached them as though they were real people . . . The old man explained that he was Elijah, and that gave me a shock. But the girl staggered me even more, for she called herself Salome! She is blind . . . They had a black serpent living with them which displayed an unmistakable fondness for me.

(1965: 181)

The disparity between the wise old man and the beautiful young woman stands out immediately, but Elijah assures Jung that he and Salome “belonged together for all eternity . . . ” The paired image of the old man with the young girl could certainly reflect Jung’s relationship to Spielrein - he her wise 30-year-old doctor and she his 19-year-old psychotic, infantile patient. In a letter explaining his cowardly behavior to Spielrein’s mother, Jung writes:

You do understand of course, that a man and a girl cannot possibly continue indefinitely to have friendly dealings with each other without the likelihood that something more may enter the relationship.

(Carotenuto, 1983: 94)

Jung took the figures to be images that amplified the nature of some unconscious process.

Salome is an anima figure, blind because, though connecting the conscious and the unconscious, she does not see the operation of the unconscious. Elijah is the personification of the cognitional element, Salome the erotic. Elijah is the figure of the old prophet filled with wisdom. One could speak of these two figures as personifications of Logos and Eros very specifically shaped.

(1989: 89)

Jung, unlike Elijah, is truly a male of the dominance mentality who must maintain a separate subjectivity premised on the denial of his association with the feminine. He chose to stick “close to Elijah because he seemed to be the most reasonable . . . and to have a clear intelligence . . . Elijah and I had a long conversation, which, however, I did not understand” (p. 181). Perhaps Jung could not understand because he could not fathom Elijah’s choice of Salome as a companion, of whom Jung was distinctly suspicious. Jung is dissociated from some painful affective state symbolized by Salome. If one considers the following comment, it is no wonder Jung splits her off, for nothing feels heroic when one is engulfed in blood:

When Elijah told me he was always with Salome, I thought it was almost blasphemous for him to say this. I had the feeling of diving into an atmosphere that was cruel and full of blood. This atmosphere was around Salome, and to hear Elijah declare that he was always in that company shocked me profoundly.

(p. 93)

If one examines Jung’s imagery of Salome as the point of contact, however, connections between Salome and Lilith surface. The bloody atmosphere is identical with Lilith’s lair, which is said to be “drenched in blood.” Lilith does indeed seem to belong with Elijah for all eternity, for she is coupled with him in several Hebrew legends. For the most part, Lilith’s encounters with Elijah depict her in her guise as blood-sucking child killer. These stories depict Elijah as another male hero: a female demon is vanquished by a lone prophet, then rendered harmless and driven away. The woman is delivered up, defenseless, to the demon without a fight. There are certain Kabbalistic traditions that have Elijah seduced by Lilith, and this prevents his entrance into heaven. One such meeting is described in an anti-Gnostic text from 375 to 377 A.D.:

There came, so people say, a female demon, who stopped him and said to him: “Whither do you go? For I have children by you and you cannot ascend (to heaven) and abandon your children.” And he replied: “How can you have children by me, have I not lived in the way of holiness?” She said: “Yes, in sleep, in your dreams, you were often emptied by the outflow from your body. Then I received your sperm and bore you children.”

(quoted by Hurwitz, 1999: 104)

Most interesting of all the associations to Elijah is the fact that John the Baptist is identified in the Gospel of Luke as Elijah come down to earth in fulfillment of the prophecy made in the very last verse of the Old Testament (Mal. 4:5):

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.

That Elijah and Salome appear together for all eternity points to the relationship between the succubus and man, Salome and John the Baptist, Lilith and Elijah.

One of the main theses of this book is that masculine shame is dissociated through the male’s identification with the warrior hero, and the primitive content projected makes a succubus of the maternal feminine. This phenomenon has been occurring for at least seven thousand years. So if the hero with whom Jung is “secretly identified” is murdered, and Jung is then, according to his autobiography, no longer identified with Siegfried and the heroic ideal, where is Jung’s shame?

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