Jung and Alchemy
Jung's interest for alchemy starts from two directions. One is the necessity to find a historic parallel to his own discoveries of the unconscious psychic life. The second
refers to the series of dreams which have evoked the new research course, on which Jung talks at length in his autobiography: Memories, Dreams and Reflections.
"Before I discovered alchemy - writes Jung - I had a series of dreams which dealt with the
same theme. Beside my house stood another, that is to say, another wing of annex, which was strange to me. Each tie I would wonder in my dream why I did not know this house, although it had apparently
always been there". This strange part of the house revealed its meaning finally: "The unknown wing of the house was a part of my personality, an aspect of myself..."
This part was unconscious and would reveal itself as an interest for the in-depth study of medieval alchemy.
This study was announced definitively in the dream from the year
1926 when Jung dreams himself being captive in the 17th century. "Not until much later did I realize that it [the dream] referred to alchemy, for that science reached its height in the seventeenth century".
Alchemy is a symbolic representation of the individuation process. In
the serious alchemy, believes Jung, processes arising from individual psyche are described encoded. Peculiar terms that alchemy operates with, such as prima materia, unus mundus, Mercurius, filium philosophorum, lapis
and many more are decrypted by Jung through an arduous work of over 10 years.
His develops and parallels are described at length in his book Psychology and Alchemy
, an essential piece of work for the ones studying interestedly analytical psychology, the individuation process and the exploration of the unconscious through dream interpretation.
We could resume Jung's vast experience with alchemy in the next two quotations:
- "Grounded in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy formed the
bridge on the one hand into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other into the future, to the modern psychology of the unconscious".
- "Only after I had familiarized myself with alchemy did I realize that
the unconscious is a process, and that the psyche is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious".
More about alchemy, archetypes and dream interpretation may be found in Psychology and Alchemy, the book Jung has dedicated to the analysis of the relationship between alchemical symbolism and
the individuation process. You may order this book right now from Amazon.com. Just click the following link:
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Vintage Books, New York, 1989.