Ninety degrees

We humans have this tendency, or obsession rather, to build houses in the shape of a rectangle or a square. I don’t believe there is any specific logic to this. We came out of caves and wanted to build ourselves some shelter. We could have used a triangle or even an hexagon, which makes much more sense, especially if we’re going to make the most of the available space.

But no. Even at the beach, we tend to build sand castles in the form of a square or, if we feel creative, a rectangle. We build our TV sets with the form of a rectangle. This is not to fit our eyes, which only have two angles, not four. Same with the books we write and read. A rectangle. I believe our obsession is not so much related to the shape itself , but to the 90º angle. The so called ‘right’ angle.

I obviously have no idea why this happens (sorry), but I would speculate that it reflects our inner psychological nature. Ninety degrees is the angle we produce standing on flat ground, and the angle our arms form with our legs, when fully extended. And of course, four corners of ninety degrees is what is formed by one of the most powerful symbols known to man: a cross.

Like the yin and yang symbol, the cross epitomises the dualistic nature of man. It represents the union of two of the main opposites in human mind, horizontal and vertical, which are also associated with other psychological opposites (male-female, conscious-unconscious, reason-intuition/instinct, etc.). The intersection of two ways, of two views. The two worlds we all are within. The two worlds we try to make sense of, we try to reconcile. One cannot exist without the other. The victory of one is the death of both. They can only exist if they maintain the tension, as opposites.

The opposite lines of the cross unite in the centre. As Jung explained at length, it is not a coincidence that, according to Christian faith, the individual who was both god and human died on the cross, at the centre of it all. A unification of the opposites, not an annihilation of one or the other. A reconciliation.

If we take the cross as a reconciliation of opposites, including the conscious ego and the unconscious mind, it wouldn’t be too adventurous to say that Christ brought redemption from the original sin, which in my opinion is a symbol for the separation of the conscious and unconscious minds. By dying in the middle of the cross and by resuscitating later on, Christ becomes the ultimate symbol of the unification of the opposites. This is why Jung considered Him to be equivalent to the archetype of the Self.

The cross, or whatever other heavy burden the hero carries, is himself, or rather the self, his wholeness, which is both God and animal—not merely the empirical  man, but the totality of his being, which is rooted in his animal nature and reaches out beyond the merely human towards the divine. His wholeness implies a tremendous tension of opposites paradoxically at one with themselves, as in the cross, their most perfect symbol.

Carl G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation

Every time I think of a cross, inevitably I think of the heart. The organ that moves and goes nowhere. It is ‘here’. The heart as a symbolic organ, the centre of the cross. The left ventricle is pure force, the right ventricle is compliance. Male and female. Sun and moon.

I look around me and I see how much our collective unconscious influences the way we perceive things, the way we live. All the world we’ve built around us is a massive reflection of the symbolic architecture in our most primitive mind. How far can we take the symbols that we carry within? I guess there is no end… and no evasion from it. We are chained to the unconscious as much as we are to (our) nature.