Alchemy (Analytical Psychology) (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Alchemy is a philosophical and chemical "opus" with roots in ancient times and branches throughout the world's cultures. It is both an experimental and symbolic practice, a technical research into the nature of matter, and an imaginal exercise on the spirit of matter and its potential for change. It is also a mythopoeic meditation and a projective method, a moving Rorschach for the practitioner.
Using its experiments as metaphors, it has sought an enlivening elixir, a healing panacea, and the transformation of base metal into gold through release from crude impure ores. This occurs through producing a transmuting agent, itself a transformation from the prima materia of the common "philosopher's stone" into the precious "stone of the philosophers" or "lapis."
Alchemy posits an original unitary energy which separated in space-time into distinct physical elements, "falling apart" and differentiating in the four directions. Perceived as transmutable through shared qualities or correspondences, these elements could one day be reunited in a reconstituted wholeness. The dictaReturn to chaos is essential to the work," "Volatize the fixed and fix the volatile," and "Dissolve and Coagulate"xpress a dialectic process between complements and opposites in analysis and synthesis.
The alchemists might quicken this process through their outer intervention in matter and their interior practice of soul and spirit. The opus is the work of persons or couples, whose integration or dissociation are operative. While using common references, it values the individual and dynamic over the collective and dogmatic. Through the interior change of the adept and his soror mystica (mystical sister) and the chemical changes in the "well closed vessel" of the retort, the microcosm and macrocosm affect and reflect each other.
The Freudian psychoanalyst Herbert Silberer first observed the analogy to transference in the conjoinings and confrontations among sulphurs, mercuries, and salts, between the "masculine" and "feminine" matter, called king and queen, sun and moon, gold and silver, day and night, male and female.
Jung cited Silberer in his work on the "coniunctio" (conjunction) of transference and countertransference. In alchemy, Jung found a precursor of depth psychotherapy's dyadic and interactional model. He came to understand the psyche, the unconscious, and depth analysis as alchemical process, the "stone" as transformational consciousness, both a means and the goal of individuation. He also noted alchemical images in modern dreams.
BEVERLEY D. ZABRISKIE
See also: Allendy, René Felix Eugène; Archetype (analytical psychology); Goethe and psychoanalysis; Jung, Carl Gustav; Silberer, Herbert; Transference/counter-transference (analytical psychology).
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