Unio Mentalis

Expressed in the language of Hermetic philosophy, the ego-personality’s coming to terms with its own background, the shadow, corresponds to the union of spirit and soul in the unio mentalis, which is the first stage of the coniunctio.  What I call coming to terms with the unconscious the alchemists call ‘meditation’.  MC 707

In order to understand the second stage, the union of the unio mentalis with the body, psychologically, we must bear in mind what the psychic state resulting from a fairly complete recognition of the shadow looks like.  The shadow, as we know, usually presents a fundamental contrast to the conscious personality.  This contrast is the prerequisite for the difference of potential from which psychic energy arises.  Without it, the necessary tension would be lacking.  Where considerable psychic energy is at work, we must expect a corresponding tension and inner opposition.  The opposites are necessarily of a characterological nature: the existence of a positive virtue implies victory over its opposite, the corresponding vice.  Without its counterpart virtue would be pale, ineffective, and unreal.  The extreme opposition of the shadow to consciousness is mitigated by complementary and compensatory processes in the unconscious.  Their impact on consciousness finally produces the uniting symbols.  MC 707

The unio mentalis, then, is psychological as well as in alchemical language, means knowledge of oneself.  In contradistinction to the modern prejudice that self-knowledge is nothing but a knowledge of the ego, the alchemists regarded the self as a substance incommensurable with the ego, hidden in the body, and identical with the image of God.  This view full accords with the Indian idea of purusha-atman.  The psychic preparation of the magisterium as described by Dorn is therefore an attempt, uninfluenced by the East, to bring about a union of opposites in accordance with the great Eastern philosophies, and to establish for this purpose a principle freed from the opposites and similar to the atman or tao.  Dorn called this the substantia coelestis¸ which today we would describe as a transcendental principle.  This ‘unum’ is nirdvandva (free from the opposites), like the atman (self).  MC 748

Thus the modern man cannot even bring about the unio mentalis which would enable him to accomplish the second degree of conjunction.  The analyst’s guidance in helping him to understand the statements of his unconscious in dreams, etc. may provide the necessary insight, but when it comes to the question of real experience the analyst can no longer help him: he himself must put his hand to the work.  He is then in the position of the alchemist’s apprentice who is inducted into the teachings by the Master and learns all the tricks of the laboratory.  But sometime he must set about the opus himself, for, as the alchemists emphasize, nobody else can do it for him.  MC 752

Like this apprentice, the modern man begins with an unseemly prima materia which presents itself in unexpected form – a contemptible fantasy which, like the stone that the builders rejected, is ‘flung into the street’ and is so ‘cheap’ that people do not even look at it.  He will observe it from day to day and note its alterations until his eyes are opened or, as the alchemists say, until the fish’s eyes, or the sparks, shine in the dark solution.  For the eyes of the fish are always open and therefore must always see, which is why the alchemists used them as a symbol of perpetual attention.  MC 752