Religion #7: C.G.Jung: Alchemy & Religion

Superstition only appears in such people if they are pathological, not if they can keep their balance. It then takes the form of fear of “Going Mad” for everything that the modern man can’t define it regards as insane. Archetypal contents of the collective unconscious can often assume grotesque and horrible forms in dreams and fantasies, so that even the most hard-boiled rationalist isn’t’ immune from scattering nightmares and haunting fears. The psychological elucidation of these images, which can’t be passed over in science or blindly ignored, leads logically into the depths of religious phenomenology. The history of religion in its wildest sense (including therefore mythology, folklore, and primitive psychology) is a house of archetypal forms from which the doctor can draw helpful parallels and enlightening comparisons for the purpose of calming and clarifying a consciousness that’s all at sea. It’s necessary to supply these fantastic images that rise up so strange and threatening before the mind’s eye with a son’s of context so as to make them more intelligible. Experience has shown that the best way to do this is by means of comparative mythological material. 

Christus-lapis: is a parallel that gives rise to a comparison between the aims of the opus alchymieum – the central ideas of Christianity, for both are of the utmost importance in understanding and interoperating the images that appear in dreams, and in assessing their psychological effect. For many alchemists the allegorical aspect undoubtedly occupied the foreground to such an exert that they were firmly convinced that their sole concern with chemical substances.  

There were always a few for whom laboratory work was primarily a matter of symbols and their psychic effect. They were conscious of this, to the point of condemning the naïve gold-makers as lions, frauds, and dupes. There own standpoint they proclaimed with propositions like “Aunum nostrum non est aurum vulgin.” Although their labors over the retort were a serious effort to elicit the secrets of the chemical transformation, it was at the same time the reflection of a parallel psychic process which could be projected all the more easily into the unknown chemistry of matter since that processes is an unconscious phenomenon of nature, just like the mysterious alternation of substances. What the symbolism of alchemy expresses is the whole problem of the evolution of personality, the so-called individuation process. 

Religion and Eros 

The church’s great buttress is the imitation of Christ the alchemist. Without realizing it and certainly without wanting it, easily falls victim, in the loneliness and obscure problems of his work. To promoting ad unconscious assumptions of his own mind, since, unlike the Christian, he has no clear and unmistakable models on which to rely. The authors he studies proved him with symbols whole meaning he thinks he understands in his own way; but in reality they touch and stimulate his unconscious. Towards themselves, the alchemists coined the phrase “objcurum per obscurious” with this method of explaining the obscure with the more obscure they only sunk themselves deeper in the very process which the church has struggled to redeem them. While the dogmas of the church offered analogies to the alchemical process, these analogies, in contrast and to alchemy had become detached from the world of nature through their connection with his stories figure of the redeemer. The alchemical like and II the philosophical gold, the lapis angual aris, the aqua divina, became, in the church, the four aimed Eroses on which the only begotten had sacrificed himself once in history to same time all eternity. The alchemist ran counter to the church in preferring to seek through knowledge rather than to find through faith, though as medieval people they never thought of themselves as anything but good Christians. Paracelsus is a classical example in this respect. In reality they were in much the same position as modern man, who prefers the immediate personal experience to believe in traditional ideas, or rather then has if forces upon him. The central ideas of Christianity are rooted in Gnostic philosophy, which in accordance to psychological laws, had to grow up at a time when the classical religious had become absolute,. It was found on the perception of the symbols thrown up by the unconscious individuation process, which always lets in when the collective dominants of human life fall into decay. At such a time there’s bound to be a considerable number of individuals who are possessed by archetypes of the numerous nature that force their way to the surface in order to form new dominants. This state of possession shows itself almost without exception in the fact that the possess identify themselves with the archetypical contents of their unconsciously, and because they don’t realize that the role which is being thrown on them is the effect of new contents still to be understood, they exemplify these contents in their own lives, thus becoming prophets and reformers. In so far as the archetypal content of the Christian drama was able to give satisfying expression to the uneasy and important unconscious of the many, the consenus omuium raised this drama to a universally binding through – not by an act if of judgment, but by the irrational fact of possession, which is more effective. Thus, Jesus became the tutelary image of amulet against the archetypical powers that threatened to possess everyone. The glorifying announced: “It has happened, but won’t happen to you in as much as you believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God!” yet if it could happen to everyone in whom the Christian dominate has decayed. For this reason there has always been people who, not satisfied with the dominant of everyday life, set forth to seek direct experience of the psyche, find themselves in the wilderness where, like Jesus, they come up against the son  of darkness, the antimimon oneuma. Thus an old alchemist, who was a clenicprauultorridanostraementis purga tenebrasaccende lumen sensibus (purge the horrible darkness of our minds, light a light for our sense!) the author of this sentence must have been under poines the experience of the nigredo. The first stage of the work, which was felt as “melancholia” in alchemy and corresponds to the encounter with the shadow in psychology. 

When modern psychotherapy meets with the activated archetypes of the collective unconscious, it’s merely the repetition of a phenomenon that has often been observed in moments of great religious crisis, although it can also occur in individuals for whom the ruling ideas have lost their meaning. An example of this is the descensus an inferos depicted in Faust, which consciously or unconsciously, is an opus alchymicum.  

The problem of the opposites called up by the shadow plays a great role in alchemy, since it leads in the phase of the work to unite the opposites in the archetypal form of the hierosgamos or “chymical marriage”. Here the supreme opposites male and female (Chinese Ying and Yang) are melted in to a unity purified of all oppositions and therefore incorruptibly the pre requisite for this is that the artifex shouldn’t identify himself with the figures in the work but should leave them in their objective, pon personal state. As long as the alchemist was working in his laboratory he was in a favorable position, psychologically speaking, for he had no opportunity to identify himself with the archetypes as they appeared, since they were all projected into the chemical substances. The disadvantage of this situation was that the alchemist was forced to represent the incorruptible substance as a chemical product – an impossible understanding which led to the downfall of alchemy, its place in the laboratory being taken by chemistry. The psychic part of the work didn’t disappear. It captured new interpretations, as can be seen in Faust and from the signal connection between modern psychology of the unconscious and alchemical symbolism.  – C.G. Jung

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