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Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:20 pm
by Nefastos
We have been thinking to start a reading circle about C.G. Jung's Psychology and Alchemy (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 12) with brother Nayana. Would anyone else be interested in participating? We haven't discussed specifics yet, but since this is quite a hefty book, we must take our time with this, in order to not devour too much time from the other works & studies.

Not only is there a lot of love towards Jung in our forum & among the brotherhood members, this is also a work that works as a rare and deep introduction to alchemical thought and symbolism, so the effort will be rewarding.

* * *

Contents of the book (editorial notes omitted) are:

Part I. Introduction to the Religious and Psychological Problems of Alchemy 1

Part II. Individual dream symbolism in relation to alchemy 39

Chapter 1. Introduction

- I. The Material 41
- II. The Method 43

Chapter 2. The Initial Dreams 47

Chapter 3. The Symbolism of the Mandala
- I. Concerning the Mandala 95
- II. The Mandalas in the Dreams 103
- III. The Vision of the World Clock 203
- IV. The Symbols of the Self 215

Part III. Religious Ideas in Alchemy 225

Chapter 1. Basic Concepts of Alchemy
- I. Introduction 227
- II. The Alchemical Process and Its Stages 228
- III. Conception and Symbols of the Goal 232

Chapter 2. The Psychic Nature of the Alchemical Work

- I. The Projection of Psychic Contents 242
- II. The Mental Attitude Towards the Opus 255
- III. Meditation and Imagination 274
- IV. Soul and Body 280

Chapter 3. The Work

- I. The Method 288
- II. The Spirit in Matter 295
- III. The Work or Redemption 306

Chapter 4. The Prima Materia
- I. Synonyms for the Materia 317
- II. In Increation 320
- III. Ubiquity and Perfection 323
- IV. The King and the King's Son 327
- V. The Myth of the Hero 333
- VI. The Hidden Treasure 340

Chapter 5. The Lapis-Christ Parallel

- I. The Renewal of Life 345
- II. Evidence for the Religious Interpretation of the Lapis 357
-- a. Raymond Lully 357
-- b. Tractatus aureus 358
-- c. Zosimos and the Doctrine of the Anthropos 360 [OBNOXION]
-- d. Petrus Bonus 373
-- e. "Aurora consurgens" and the Doctrine of Sapientia 376
-- f. Melchior Cibinensis and the Alchemical Paraphrase of the Mass 396
-- g. Sir George Ripley 406
-- g. The Epigoni 423

Chapter 6. Alchemical Symbolism in the History of Religion

- I. The Unconscious as the Matrix of Symbols 432
- II. The Paradigm of the Unicorn 435
-- a. The Unicorn in Alchemy 435
-- b. The Unicorn in Ecclesiastic Allegory 439
-- c. The Unicorn in Gnosticism 449
-- d. The One-Horned Scarabeus 452
-- e. The Unicorn in the Vedas 453
-- f. The Unicorn in Jewish Tradition 460
-- g. The Unicorn in China 465
-- h. The Unicorn Cup 466

Epilogue 473-484

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:45 pm
by Rúnatýr
I have the book and have read it like 13 years ago. Will be interested to hear about this project in its proceedings!

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Sun Jan 19, 2020 2:44 pm
by obnoxion
Nefastos wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:20 pm
We haven't discussed specifics yet, but since this is quite a hefty book, we must take our time with this, in order to not devour too much time from the other works & studies.
If we can do it without haste, I would be interested. My only worry is that I really need all the time I have for the upcoming article, so I would not be able to participate before that dead line comes up...
Nefastos wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:20 pm
c. Zosimos and the Doctrine of the Anthropos
If we end up doing this, I'd lvery much like to take this chapter on Zosimos.

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:54 am
by Smaragd
I'm very much interested, but I have to see if the pace is manageable before committing myself to this. As a slow reader I'm quite tasked with the current reading circles and have fallen terribly behind on those I've tried to follow from the background (The Red Book and Esoteric Buddhism). I remember we had a short discussion of alchemical sources with fratres Nayana and Mimesis some years ago and Jung came interestingly to the table, to which I haven't yet managed to look into enough. Last Summer I gave some attention to the basics of alchemical symbols and terms, and some general ideas of theosophy presented clearly by P. Ervast migh just have opened some doors to make such an adventure quite a fruitful one. Would you concider ~30 pages a month reasonable? That would take us about 16 months to go through the book. The book doesn't seem to skimp with the rich vaults of alchemical illustrations! How fantastic!

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:10 am
by Kenazis
I have been thinking to read that as well. And I have it on mys bookshelf. However, I'm not sure if I have time to take on this kind of project. Maybe I read it with my own pace and follow the discussion.

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:09 pm
by Wyrmfang
I began this months ago, but it was soon left because of more urgent works. I will probable be able to read it now consistently, but maybe I´ll do the same as Kenazis.

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:17 pm
by Umbra
Seems very interesting to me as well, but I'm worried I lack necessary background knowledge to start on this, as alchemy is a very foreign subject to me. It is one I've wanted to get into lately, though, so the timing of this reading circle seems auspicious.

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:53 pm
by Smaragd
Umbra wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:17 pm
Seems very interesting to me as well, but I'm worried I lack necessary background knowledge to start on this, as alchemy is a very foreign subject to me. It is one I've wanted to get into lately, though, so the timing of this reading circle seems auspicious.
I would assume Jung to bring his psychology next to the alchemical traditions making it more familiar to us, so I'm not sure if its necessary to have much background knowledge. Personally I think what I've been looking into recently might help to draw lines to studies on occultism of other traditions and maybe understand some concept on multiple different layers and in more indepth way. Besides, I'm sure everyone of us has some essential background knowledge just from our personal experiences and life in general.

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:40 pm
by Nefastos
Thank you everyone! Since there are many people interested in attending, but almost everyone is uncertain of their time, we will arrange things this way:

Following fra Smaragd's suggestion of about 30 pages monthly, I will take turns with fra Nayana to take the duty on each month.

Now anyone can ask for any part of the book – a whole thirty page month or a smaller part of it – to comment in the month when it will be in reading. (E.g. sod obnoxion's Zosimos will be in reading in about a year, since it starts from page 360.) The parts that are not chosen by any other readers will be commented by me & Nayana.

I will start with the next month, so:
Even months (starting with February) will be supervised by Nefastos.
Odd months (starting with March) will be supervised by Nayana.

I will start with "Part I. Introduction to the Religious and Psychological Problems of Alchemy", which includes pages 1–37.

Comments on the text may be done by one post, one weekly, or [edit:] bi-monthly. I will most likely post my thoughts on this Part in four weekly bits, i.e. commenting about 9 pages per week – unless someone else wants to participate in presenting Part I.

Those readers who do not "officially" have that month's part to present, may of course comment on their leisure at any time. It might be polite to wait for the presentator's post about the content before commenting that part of the text, however.

I will edit the first post to mark down reserved parts. Just holler here whenever you become interested in any part of the book enough to make a commitment.

Re: Reading Circle (Jung: Psychology and Alchemy)

Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 2:10 pm
by Nefastos
This first week of February give us the first quarter of the part one, INTRODUCTION TO THE RELIGIOUS AND PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF ALCHEMY. I'll go through the prefaratory texts & pages 1-10.

The Editorial Note to the First Edition tells us that this is "one of Professor Jung's major works, to be compared in importance with Psychology of the Unconscious and Psychological Types."

In Jung's own Prefaratory note to the English edition, he tells us a bit about the fundaments of his working:

Prefaratory Note to English Edition wrote:Some thirty-five years ago I noticed to my amazement that European and American men and women coming to me for psychological advice were producing in their dreams and fantasies symbols similar to, and often identifcal with, the symbols found in the mystery religions of antiquity, in mythology, folklore, fairytales, and the apparently meaningless formulations of such esoteric cults as alchemy. Experience showed, moreover, that these symbols brought with them new energy and new life to the people to whome they came.


It was Jung's style to emphasize the aspect of practical substance onto which his theories are founded.

We then have the list of illustrations: 247 in all, from "The creator as Ruler of the threefold and fourfold universe – faces "Liber patris sapientae," Theatrum chemicum Britannicum (1652)" (which by the way seems to be missing from page 1 where it should be), to "Virgin the unicorn" from Khludov Psalter, Codex 129, fol. 93, presented in Tikkanen's Die psalterillustration im Mittelalter. Illustrations from pages 445 to 483 are therefore missing from this list of illustrations. Either I don't understand something here, or even Routledge – a very high profile publisher – has some flaws in their editing process. These are very small problems though.

In the begininning of Part I itself Jung once again stresses the point he made in the Prefaratory note:

What I now have to put forward as regards the nature of the human psyche is based first and foremost on my observations of people.(p.3.)


I wonder if the actually scientifically minded people can agree with Jung here. Maybe some can. To me, though, the question – how valid is the "grounding" of Jung – is of minor importance.

On the next page, Jung lists nine reasons why psychological treatment may be terminated, from "(1) after receiving a piece of good advice" to "(9) after having begun to build up a practical philosophy of life". Mutatis mutandis, the list is usable concerning esoterical teaching. Naturally the biggest difference is in that one's psychological treatment is supposed to end somewhere, whereas one's esoteric life in a certain school of thought ideally does not end at any point. In practice, these come quite close to each other.

Next Jung gives very similar idea about the meeting points in Hermes' staff as did I in Polyharmonia:

"Ars totum requirit hominem!" [The art demands the whole human being], exclaims the old alchemist. It is longissima via [the longest road], not straight but snakelike, a path that unites the opposites in the manner of guiding caduceus, a path whose labyrinthine twists and turns are not lacking in terrors.(p.6)


(I personally adore Jung's use of Latin, assuming that the reader must be familiar with these phrases, or know enough Latin to translate them himself; this gives text artistic depth.)

Concerning the idea of Caduces as points of meeting, confer to:
Polyharmonia, III wrote:In that which is itself so unconditioned, clear through and through in the non-existence (mutual presence) of opposites, lies the only permanent truth for understanding. This understanding will become a key for any problems concerning forms and consciousness, since their principle of action is to unite the apparently separated aspects of the one being. There are many crossroads along the way leading towards the one goal. These crossings of the path with itself are the meeting points of the serpents of the Caduceus at the point of the third and innermost serpent. Out of these harmoniously influencing wave lines of opposite forces are born the rise and fall of times and tides, spirit and matter, consciousness and unconsciousness, nourishment and digestion, vivification and mortification, creation and destruction, that together are one.


Jung next comes to difference between the Oriental and Occidental thinking, how in our Western culture of Christianity everything is seen outside ("the soul is void"!), while in the Eastern thought, everything is within (Atman is one with the Absolute). The problem of the first is that spirit will escape the religion, and one forgets that the idea of Christianity – for example – would be imitatio Christi in the idea, and not to simply except grace from outside. The probelm of the latter is that a person may drift to a somewhat dreamy state of being. Jung sees no problem in religion itself:

We can accuse Christianity of arrested development if we are determined to excuse our own shortcomings; but I do not wish to make the mistake of blaming religion for something that is due mainly to human incompetence. (...) It is conceivable that by virtue of his total effort a man may even catch a fleeting glimpse of his wholeness, accompanied by the feeling of grace that always characterizes this experience.(p.7, underlining mine)


Going through these very first pages it came apparent to me that our slow tempo while going through the book was an excellent choice. There would be things on every page to focus on, and so much similar to our philosophy of oneness in the Star of Azazel that it would be foolish simply to run through this book without at least some more detailed ponderings on the way.

Next week I will go through pages 11-20. Any comments you'd wish to make are welcome.