Why The #collective Unconscious Of Mankind Chose The Symbol And Image Of Serpent To Depict The Mysteries Of Life?

The common language of communication of collective unconscious mind is imagery and symbology akin to our dreams. The symbol of serpent has won favor over other symbols derived from animal kingdom to interpret the secrets / mysteries of human life in a vivid way.

The common language of communication of collective unconscious mind is imagery and symbology akin to our dreams. The symbol of serpent has won favor over other symbols derived from animal kingdom to interpret the secrets / mysteries of human life in a vivid way.

The great genius and psychologist Mr. Jung has demonstrated explicitly that the language of biblical, mythological, folklore tradition and alchemist tradition, far from expressing mere products of phantasy or superstition, conveys genuine mythological and physiological facts, clothed in the universal language of symbols and images akin to the language to our dreams. To interpret these

symbols and images correctly in their historical perspective one must be master of psychology, understanding human behavior and social science. Jung speaks of a “universal mind” the language of which is very subtle and our individual dreams share with the above mentioned traditions in a recollection of sour –experience reaching back into ancient times, into the pool of what he termed as “collective unconscious”

The collective unconsciousness is preserved in symbolism, imagery and iconology. Symbolism and mythology are fine reservoir of “collective unconsciousness” from which especially the poets draw symbols and images to get inspiration. Symbolism is as old as human civilization. Symbol is poetic tool to convey the condensed feelings in most efficient and expressive way. Symbols are the tools by which we can visualize and interpret the collective unconsciousness psyche of mankind as a whole. All symbols pertaining to different races, cultures and religions, almost speak in the same language of “collective unconscious” without minor exception..

The Serpent is creeping creature belonging to vertebrate group of animals which has been greatly symbolized in all cultures and civilizations. Perhaps serpent was the most suitable symbol for the ancient man to convey his esoteric and mystical feelings. Serpent symbolizes eternity, universality, knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment, deceitfulness, duality of life and healing in almost all cultures over the world. The western associations of serpent with evil and wickedness are of recent origin and not primordial in nature. The collective unconsciousness mind, people and artists around the world, have found a great symbol and metaphor in serpent for the great mysteries of life to unfold, reveal and represent. The serpent is one of the oldest and most widespread mythological folk symbols and images.


Life is eternal. It has no beginning and no end. It neither takes birth nor dies. Eternity is essence of human life. There is cycle of life and death. The universal force or energy pervades all life forms. The eternal cycle of death and rebirth or mystical theory of reincarnation is represented in many parts of the biosphere as a snake biting and eating its own tail. So serpent is nice symbol of eternity of human life circle and it represents it beautifully, more vigorously and representatively than any other image or icon. Birth and its destruction are two grand aspects of human life and all existence on earth. Every minute life is evolving and every minute life is getting annihilated. Every process of life is subjected to decay and death. Man is mortal .The annihilation of life is marvelously symbolized by serpent eating its own tail. Snake is one of the universal symbols for displaying eternity. It is something very peculiar how the creature having deadly poison was identified with life eternity. This very antagonism is perhaps the very essence of life force. The ultimate reality is two winged or two aspects which in Indian tradition of knowledge and metaphysics have been represented by Shiva and sakti , prayga and upaye, Vishnu and parvati. From this dualism of reality many schools of thought evolved in Indian philosophy. Reality is unified or one but its representation can not be without duality. This duality has been called Maya or prakriti in Indian philosophy. The advait philosophy merged or blended this dualism in supreme reality pronouncing the concept of BRHAMAN. It is possible that the primordial collective consciousness and wisdom of mankind chose the symbol of serpent because of its habit and nature of sloughing its skin. This process of sloughing of skin by snake is called” kunj uttarna” in Punjabi idiom. Death and rebirth is way of nature and human life. The principle of “my beginning is my end “or “I am born to die”; is the essence and crux of Indian spiritual thought

Serpent symbology in ancient cultures

The veneration of serpent in ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece and Roman is no surprise keeping in mind its deep association with almighty in different forms. In Indian culture serpent was also worshiped and respected. Even specimen of serpent’s carved on walls of temples has been found in ancient Indus civilization. In Indian mythology many stories, legends and fables are prevailing about serpents in common folk. Man has always found fascination with this creeping creature

since centuries or time memorial. Serpent worship was also prevalent in the temples of Asklepios and was depicted as wrapped round this god’s staff. The Hindu goddess SHAKTI, the consort of lord Shiva is frequently personified as a serpent. Lord Shiva is called nagdev meaning” divine serpent “or lord serpent. Even the word Hurricane refers to the fury of the serpentine force of winds and storms. Typhoon from Typhoon, the god of evil in Egyptian mythology is always depicted as a undulating serpent.

Naga is the Sanskrit word for serpent that signifies supreme deity of snakes. The largest of the cobra in India is the King Cobra or naja. Naja is depicted as intelligent, alert and deadly in Indian tradition and folklore. The Indian king cobra holds a special place and veneration in the religious symbolism of Hinduism and Buddhism. The Buddha is said to have been sheltered from rain and sun shine by a giant cobra. Similarly is the myth about Guru Nanak the first Sikh guru of Sikhs. Guru Nanak is lying on floor and the serpent is shadowing his face from dazzling sunshine with his raised hood. Jesus tradition recognized serpent as symbol of deception and wisdom. One of the exhortation in his twelve apostles is: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16) in medical parlance the serpent is identified with symbol that unites and expresses the dual nature of the work of the physician, who deals with life and death, sickness and health


Caduceus is symbol or icon of god Asklepios staff with two intertwined serpents. The rod of Asclepius also spelled Asklepios or Aesculapiu also known as the asklepian, is an ancient symbol associated with astrology, the Greek god Asclepius, and with medicine and healing. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. This symbol is still used as physician’s logo in India and other parts of world. It is depicted on the signboards of physicians. The enter wining of two snakes reminds us double stranded Helix structure of D.N.A. Some scholars are of the view that it is not coincidental but it foreshadows the double helix structure. We find great and striking similarity of caduceus with double helix structure with nitrogen bases
The spaces and loops formed by snakes in caduceus seem to mirror the seven spinal charkas of yoga system of patnezali and sidh yogis it is also depicted as power of kundlini in hath yoga .Esoterically the two serpents depicted in caduceus represent the process of involution and evolution, spirit descending into matter and rising again enlightening into spirit. The kundlini yoga also represents the same religious principle.

Wisdom and knowledge

Serpent is also considered to be the symbol of wisdom and knowledge. In Christianity serpents is associated with evil force of life alluring and prompting man kind to eat the forbidden fruit of heaven. The orthodox Christianity sees this event as fall from the grace and descending step towards evil but esoterically it can bee seen as liberation from unconscious limitation and dawn of self consciousness. In this sense serpent is seen as precursor of Christ. Christianity, building on Judaism, also connects the Serpent and Satan. The world famous epic paradise lost and paradise regained by Milton is based on the theme and epitome of Adam and eve

Dual nature of matter or universe

In some folk lore and mythological traditions serpent represents both negative and positive aspects of life and human nature. Both positive and negative symbols of serpent can be traced in mythology and folklore. Serpents represent antagonism and dichotomy of human life force. Man’s lower self or animal self is purely guided by animalistic instincts while its higher, enlightened or spiritual self is guided by transcendence or higher spiritual values of life in the form of enlightenment and emancipation.
The positive symbol of snake and the positivity of its behavior are revealed by the symbol Mucalinda the king of snakes, who shielded the Buddha from the elements as the Buddha sat in deep meditation having total oblivion to the surrounding world. An example of a serpent used as a negative symbol is the snake that tempted and allured Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as described in the Book of Genesis.


Article Written By ANANDBLISS

professor of psychology and parapsychology and writing on issues concerning human nature and illness

Last updated on 26-07-2016 2K 0

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