Psychology and Alchemy

Psychology and Alchemy

"Psychology and Alchemy" is the twelfth volume in the Princeton/Bollingen edition of the Collected Works of Carl Jung. In it Jung argues for a reevaluation of the symbolism of Alchemy as being intimately related to the psychoanalytical process. Using a cycle of dreams of one of his patients he shows how the symbols used by the Alchemists occur in the psyche as part of the reservoir of mythological images drawn upon by the individual in their dream states. Jung draws an analogy between the Great Work of the Alchemists and the process of reintegration and individuation of the psyche in the modern psychiatric patient.

In drawing these parallels Jung reinforces the universal nature of his theory of the archetype and makes an impassioned argument for the importance of spirituality in the psychic health of the modern man. Lavishly illustrated with images, drawings and paintings from Alchemy and other mythological sources including Christianity the book is another example of Jung's immense erudition and fascination with the eso- and exoteric expressions of spirituality and the psyche in religion and mysticism.

Influenced by pioneering work by Ethan Allen Hitchcock and Herbert Silberer (who was in turn influenced by Jung), "Psychology and Alchemy" is a seminal work of reevaluation of a forgotten system of thought which did much to revitalise interest in Alchemy as a serious force in Western philosophical and esoteric culture.

Section I. Introduction to the Religious and Psychological Problems of Alchemy

Jung sets out the central thesis of the book: that Alchemy draws upon a vast array of symbols, images and patterns drawn from the Collective Unconscious of the West. Jung defends his exploration of the Psyche and Soul against various critics who have accused him of being both religious and anti-religious depending on their point of view. He argues for a deeper understanding of the Western spiritual traditions eg Esoteric Christianity and Alchemy alongside an examination of the Eastern ones eg Buddhism, Hinduism etc. Jung diagnoses the spiritual laziness of the West in not truly embracing the Christian Myth as an inner journey of transformation. Alchemy, he argues, is a 'Western Yoga' which was designed to facilitate this. The book will begin with a description of a whole cycle of dreams described by an unnamed patient (to protect confidentiality) which will be interpreted in their archetypal and mythological sense by Jung. This is designed to illustrate the existence of Jung's theory of the Collective Unconscious and the psychological goal or Great Work of psychic and spiritual integration or wholeness through the individuation process.

Section II. Individual Dream Symbolism in Alchemy

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Jung sets out his agenda and explains his method. The text that follows will contain several cycles of dreams recounted by a patient to a student of Jung. Each dream will be described and then analysed and interpreted with reference to Alchemical imagery and psychoanalytic theory. Jung is at pains to explain that the patient knew nothing of Jung's interpretations and so was not influenced in any way during the dream process.

Chapter 2 - The Initial Dreams

Jung details an entire cycle of the patient's dreams, summarising the details of each then interpreting them in terms of their parallels with alchemical imagery to reveal their psychological content.

ee also

*Carl Jung
*Ethan A. Hitchcock (general)
*Herbert Silberer

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