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Alchemy

The theoria of alchemy, as I think I have shown, is for the most part a projection of unconscious contents, of those archetypal forms which are characteristic of all pure fantasy-products, such as are to be met with in myths and fairytales, or in dreams, visions, and the delusional systems of individual men and women.

That is why all the true scientists, the true searchers among the alchemists, said, “I am not looking for the gold of the ordinary people, I am not looking for vulgar gold.  I am seeking a higher gold, the true gold.”    AAI 19

Alchemy describes, not merely in general outline but often in the most astonishing detail, the same psychological phenomenology which can be observed in the analysis of unconscious processes.  The individual’s specious unity that emphatically says “I want, I think” breaks down under the impact of the unconscious.  So long as the patient can think that somebody else (his father or mother) is responsible for his difficulties, he can save some semblance of unity (putater unus esse!).  But once he realizes that he himself has a shadow, that his enemy is in his own heart, then the conflict begins and one becomes two.  Since the “other” will eventually prove to be yet another duality, a compound of opposites, the ego soon becomes a shuttlecock tossed between a multitude of “velleties,” with the result that there is an “obfuscation of the light,” i.e., consciousness is depotentiated and the patient is at a loss to know where his personality begins or ends.  TPofT 34

The old master saw the alchemical opus as a kind of apocatastasis, the restoring of an initial state in an “eschatological” one (“the end looks to the beginning, and contrariwise”). This is exactly what happens in the individuation process, whether it take the form of a Christian transformation (“Except ye become as little children”,), or a satori experience in Zen (“show me your original face”), or a psychological process of development in which the original propensity to wholeness becomes a conscious happening. Aion 169

Everything that was naively presumed to be a knowledge of transcendental and divine things, which human beings can never know with certainty, and everything that seemed to be irretrievably lost with the decline of the Middle Ages, rose up again with the discovery of the psyche.  MC 58

It is the moral task of alchemy to bring the feminine, maternal background of the masculine psyche, seething with passions, into harmony with the principle of the spirit – truly a labour of Hercules!  MC41

In one of his writings Ibn Sina confirms that through the gift of prophecy and through certain techniques of ecstasy reached by long exercises in meditation, the soul of man acquires some of God’s capacity even to change material things.  You see, when God said, “Let there be light,” there was light, but when a man says the same thing, nothing happens.  If, however, a man through religious meditation, can get so close to God within himself that he can, so to speak, get some of the power by which God can just will or wish things and they attain material reality, then the soul acquires some of that ability.  It is on that assumption that alchemical activity and transformation are based.  AAI 37

… alchemical texts can only be understood by adopting synoptic views, by putting all the quotations together and then seeing intuitively what they are driving at.   AAI 40

The alchemical image of the coniunctio, whose practical importance was proved at a later stage of development, is equally valuable from the psychological point of view: that is to say, it plays the same role in the exploration of the darkness of the psyche as it played in the investigation of the riddle of matter. Indeed, it could never have worked so effectively in the material world had it not already possessed the power to fascinate and thus to fix the attention of the investigator along those lines.  The coniunctio is an a priori  image that occupies a prominent place in the history of man’s mental development.  If we trace this idea back we find it has two sources in alchemy, one Christian, the other pagan.  The Christian source is unmistakably the doctrine of Christ and the Church, sponsus and sponsa, where Christ takes the role of Sol and the Church that of Luna.  The pagan source is on the one hand the hierosgamos, on the other the marital union of the mystic with God.  TPotT 5

(Alchemy differs), for instance, from Buddhist meditation training, for in the East there is no such return to the body (except in certain Zen Buddhist traditions).  There is always the idea that certain things like worldliness, superficiality, and so on, have to be definitely eliminated, so that there is always a kind of educational program.  Dorn does have a bit of that – you have to do a certain amount of it – but he always returns to the idea that the real man, as he is, is the object and even the vehicle of the inner transformation.  That is where Jung, and I, agree with alchemy more than any other tradition: for if you indulge in putting away what you cannot change or transform, you will have a wonderful idealistic result that does not hold when it comes to the test.   AAI 65

   PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF ALCHEMY

The demand made by the imitatio Christi – that we should follow the ideal and seek to become like it – ought logically to have the result of developing and exalting the inner man.  In actual fact, however, the ideal has been turned by superficial and formalistically-minded believers into an external object of worship, and it is precisely this veneration for the object that prevents it from reaching down into the depths of the psyche and giving the latter a wholeness in keeping with the ideal.  Accordingly From left, Rolly Turla, Ruben Enaje and Emerito Baking re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by having themselves nailed on the crossthe divine mediator stands ouside as an image, while man remains fragmentary and untouched in the deepest part of him.  Christ can indeed be imitated even to the point of stigmatization without the imitator coming anywhere near the ideal or its meaning.   

We must not forget, however, that even a mistaken imitation may sometimes involve a tremendous moral effort which has all the merits of a total surrender to some supreme value, even though the real goal may never be reached and the value is represented externally.  It is conceivable that by virtue of this total effort a man may even catch a fleeting glimpse of his wholeness, accompanied by the feeling of grace that always characterizes this experience.   BW 455 !!!

Western man is held in thrall by the “ten thousand things”; he sees only particulars, he is ego-bound and thing-bound, and unaware of the deep root of all being.  Eastern man on the other hand, experiences the world of particulars, and even his own ego, like a dream; he is rooted essentially in the “Ground,” which attracts him so powerfully that his relations with the world are relativized to a degree that is often incomprehensible to us.  BW 456

the ideal took upon himself the sins of the world.  But if the ideal is wholly outside then the sins of the individual are also outside, and consequently he is more of a fragment than ever, since superficial misunderstanding conveniently enables him, quite literally, to “cast his sins upon Christ” and thus to evade his deepest responsibilities – which is contrary to the spirit of Christianity.  BW 456

If the supreme value (Christ) and the supreme negation (sin) are outside, then the soul is void: its highest and lowest are missing.  The Eastern attitude (more particularly the Indian) is the other way about:  everything, highest and lowest, is in the (transcendental) Subject.  BW 456

… Accordingly the significance of the Atman, the Self, is heightened beyond all bounds.  But with Western man the value of the self sinks to zero.  Hence the universal depreciation of the soul in the West.  (repeated)BW 456

An exclusively religious projection may rob the soul of its values so that through sheer inanition it becomes incapable of further development and gets stuck in an unconscious state.  BW 458

However we may picture the relationship between God and soul, one thing is certain: that the soul cannot be “nothing but.”  On the contrary it has the dignity of an entity endowed with consciousness of a relationship to Deity.  Even if it were only the relationship of a drop of water to the sea, that sea would not exist but for the multitude of drops.  The immortality of the soul insisted upon by dogma exalts it above the transitoriness of mortal man and causes it to partake of some supernatural quality.  It thus infinitely surpasses the perishable, conscious individual in significance, so that logically the Christian is forbidden to regard the soul as a “nothing but.”  As the eye to the sun, so the soul corresponds to God.  Since our conscious mind does not comprehend the soul it is ridiculous to speak of the things of the soul in a patronizing or depreciatory manner. BW 458

It would be blasphemy to assert that God can manifest himself everywhere save only in the human soul.  BW 458

Things have gone rapidly downhill since the Age of Enlightenment, for, once this petty reasoning mind, which cannot endure any paradoxes, is awakened, no sermon on earth can keep it down.  A new task then arises: to lift this still undeveloped mind step by step to a higher level and to increase the number of persons who have at least some inkling of the scope of paradoxical truth.  BW 464



[1] Scintiallae