Alchemical Vessels: mother image

Aurora and dragon. Aurora Consurgens-15th Thomas Aquinas; Marie-Louise von Franz (1966) Aurora Consurgens; A Document Attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Opposites in Alchemy, London: Routledge & K. Paul century. Us Public Domain
Aurora and dragon. Aurora Consurgens-15th Us Public Domain

Carl Jung says that “the mother image “can be attached to … various vessels.” [1]

In alchemy, the vessel offers an imaginal space for transformation. The alchemist used vessels to carry out their alchemical operations. It was in such vessels that distillation and transformation occurred, making them a suitable image for the transformation and distillation of spiritual energies.

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Immortal Body: transformation of the mortal into the immortal

Development of the immortal embryo in the lower dantian of the Daoist cultivator. US public domain via wikimedia
The Immortal Fetus, from The Secret of the Golden Flower. Harvest/HBJ, New York and London, 1962. US public domain via wikimedia

Alchemy is about more than just the transformation of chemical substances. It is a metaphor for the transformation of the mortal into the immortal, and an archetypal representation of the process of individuation. Carl Jung says:

“The alchemists saw it in the transformation of the chemical substance. So if one of them sought transformation, he discovered it outside in matter, whose transformation cried out to him, as it were, “I am the transformation!” But some were clever enough to know, “It is my own transformation-not a personal transformation, but the transformation of what is mortal in me into what is immortal. It shakes off the mortal husk that I am and awakens to a life of its own.” Carl Jung, CW 9i , para. 238)

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Hermes was the mystagogue and psycho pomp

Alchemical Hermes, Emblem from Symbolicarum quaestionum, Achille Bocchi Bologna- 1574. US Public Domain via wikimedia.
Alchemical Hermes, Emblem from Symbolicarum quaestionum, Achille Bocchi Bologna- 1574. US Public Domain via wikimedia.

Carl Jung often speaks of Hermes as psycho pomp, spiritual friend, or personal guide. He says:

From the earliest times, Hermes was the mystagogue and psycho pomp of the alchemists, their friend and counselor, who leads them to the goal of their work. He is “like a teacher mediating between the stone and the disciple.” To others the friend appears in the shape of Christ or Khidr or a visible or invisible guru, or some other personal guide or leader figure.” (Carl Jung, CW 9I, para. 283)

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Individuation: transformation occuring between sun and moon

Johann MichaelFaust, Compendium Alchemist-- c. 1706. US public domain via wikimedia
Image from the Compendium alchymist by Johann Michael Faust- 1706 US public domain via wikimedia

In the image above, we see an alchemical drawing by Johann Michael Faust (1663-1707).  The image is from the Compendium Alchymist. The book text reads:

“Compendium alchymisticum novum, immersive Pandora explicata et figuris illustrata; which is the noblest gift of God, or a Güldener treasure with which the old and new Philosophi that imperfect metal, by force of fire.”

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