Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 16 by Edward Edinger


Table of Contents


This is Aion class 16, the final half of chapter 11 entitled “The Alchemical Interpretation of the Fish”.

I have five themes to cover tonight:

  • number one is Gerhard Dorn,
  • number two is Veritas,
  • number three is Leibniz’s monadology,
  • number four is Objective Self-Knowledge,
  • and number five is the Philosopher’s Stone.

Starting with number one, Gerhard Dorn.

Gerhard Dorn

We have a lot of quotes from Gerhard Dorn in tonight’s assignment, and I wanted to try to focus on him briefly as an actual person, as a living entity, because he’s a very important figure for Jung. Jung quotes him quite extensively. Most notably, the entire chapter 6 of “Mysterium Coniunctionis” is an extended commentary on Dorn, and he also shows up in volume 13 [Note: of Collected Works, title: Alchemical Studies].

We do not know very much about his life. We don’t know the actual dates, but good approximate working dates that I use are 1520 to 1590. That’s an approximation, because he did all of his publications were in the second half of the 16th century. So we’ll say he lived from 1520 to 1590. He was a physician, an alchemist, and a pupil of Paracelsus, whose dates overlapped. Paracelsus‘ dates are 1493 to 1541.

Marie-Louise von Franz has written a commentary on a text of his, which has been published in her book titled “Alchemical Active Imagination”. She also makes a few personal remarks about him. It’s almost impossible to find out anything about Gerhard Dorn, so I learned most of what I know about him from her. Let me read a few things that she says about him.

We know that he was a physician, a general practitioner. He was a passionate pupil and defender of his master Paracelsus. He advanced pharmacology to a certain extent. One of his pharmacological contributions was the discovery that certain chemical medicines, if they were distilled, gave a more heightened effect. He was one of the few introverted alchemists at the end of the 16th century who realized that alchemical symbolism and tradition implied a religious problem. That’s one of the reasons that Jung finds himself so significant.

In contrast to many others, he really tried to engage the whole problem of the conflict between the alchemical approach and the religious approach. He was an avid Platonist, and every now and then laps into polemic against Aristotle demonstrating his considerable introversion.

What I would suggest that you do is to add in the margin of page 161 in the margin adjacent to paragraph 248, where Jung begins his discussion of Dorn. I suggest you add these references:

  • Concerning Dorn, CW 14, chapter 6,
  • CW 13, paragraph 375, FF,
  • And also FF, Alchemical Active Imagination.

Okay, that’s all I can tell you about your hard Dorn as a man.

Number two on our theme agenda is Veritas.


Last time you remember, we had a discussion about the difference between natural substances and prepared compounds. For instance, a salt is a prepared compound, which is referred to in paragraph 247, where
we read:

“[CW09:2:247] … The centre of this magnet contains a hidden salt, a menstruum for calcining the philosophical gold. This prepared salt forms their Mercury, with which they perform the magistery of the Sages in white and in red. It becomes an ore of heavenly fire, which acts as a ferment for their stone.” In his view, therefore, the secret of the magnet’s effect lies in a salt prepared by the adept. … one hand, a product of his art; on the other, already present in nature.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

Jung then continues on this subject in paragraph 248, where he says:

“[CW09:2:248] A similar state of affairs can be found in Dorn’s writings. In his case it is not a question of the sal sapientiae but of the “veritas,” which for him is hidden in natural things and at the same time is obviously a “moral” concept. This truth is the “medicine, improving and transforming that which is no longer into that which it was before its corruption, and that which is not into that which it ought to be.” It is a “metaphysical substance,” hidden not only in things, but in the human body: … a certain metaphysical substance known to very few, which needeth no medicament, being itself an incorrupt medicament.” Therefore “it is the study of the Chemists to liberate that unsensual truth from its fetters in things of sense.””

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

Then on that same theme, I direct your attention to the other side of the page, to note 32, where Dorn is quoted as saying:

“[CW09:2:Footnote:32] “There is a certain truth in natural things which is not seen with the outward eye, but is perceived by the mind alone, and of this the Philosophers have had experience, and have ascertained that its virtue is such that it performs miracles” (“Speculativa philosophia,” Theatr. chem., I, p. 298).”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

Continuing this issue, turning the page, the top of the page, continues to say,

“[CW09:2:248] … doctrine, in Collesson’s words, is the magnet whereby the “centre of truth” is liberated from bodies and whereby the bodies are transformed. “The Philosophers, through a kind of divine inspiration, knew that this virtue and heavenly vigour can be freed from its fetters; not by its contrary … but by its like.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

What this means then is that this stuff, this magical, hidden stuff called by Dorn, veritas, is equated with the Echeneis Remora fish of our previous text on the one hand and with the magnet or the aqua doctrinae that attracts and catches the remora fish on the other hand. So we’re pursuing this same symbolism under a new image. And later in the chapter there are further remarks on this subject of what the veritas is. In paragraph 264:

“[CW09:2:264] … he succeeded in explaining the magnetic attraction between the imagined symbol—the “theoria”—and the “centre” hidden in matter, or in the interior of the earth or in the North Pole, as the identity of two extremes. That is why the theoria and the arcanum in matter are both called veritas. This truth “shines” in us, but it is not of us: it “is to be sought not in us, but in the image of God which is in us.””

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

And then in the next page, I mean in the next paragraph, Dorn goes even further and allows the predicate of being to this truth and to this truth alone. In other words, nothing exists beside that one thing. The only thing that truly exists for him is the transcendental Self, which is identical with God.

So that pronouncement in that veritas alone as being means nothing less than that the Self is the root or origin of all that exists. Or in psychological terminology, folks say a little more particularly, mean that the Self is the root and source of the totality of our experience.

Now, having laid out some of those texts, I want to talk a little bit about this archetypal image of veritas, which is something that has gripped Dorn so powerfully. It’s what we translate into English as “truth”. But it’s got a long historical background to it, this concept. And it has a very powerful symbolic impact.

In ancient Egypt, it was represented by the goddess Maat. I put this sequence up on the board. It was she who presided at the weighing of souls in the afterlife. And her father was put in one pan of the balance and the heart of the deceased was put in the other pan. And if they didn’t balance, the heart was thrown to the monster who was waiting to devour it. So that the soul of the deceased was being measured on the basis of truth as the ultimate judge, the ultimate determiner of its being.

In ancient Greece, the term for truth was ἀλήθεια – Aletheia, which I have on the board here, which is a very interesting term because it’s a negative term. The ἀ- A is a privative prefix, which signifies “absence of”. And what’s absent is λήθη – “Lethe”, “the water of forgetfulness”, which, or what one drinks when one goes to the underworld, or what one drinks when one comes into conscious existence when a soul is born. It has a swig of λήθη – Lethe so that it forgets its past to prenatal life. So for the ancient Greek, truth was Aletheia, meaning the absence of forgetfulness. That means the presence of memory. It’s very interesting that it should be a negative term to be used to describe such a supremely positive and important value.

Plato uses this term Aletheia. To distinguish the eternal world of forms from the phenomenal world of appearance. Aletheia applied to the eternal world of forms, and the phenomenal world of appearances was only a copy or an imitation of that eternal world. So that Aletheia is the original. And that means then that Plato can say in Timaeus, “as being is to becoming, so is Aletheia to belief”, so is truth to belief. Belief is a kind of copy of truth. Not the real thing, but a kind of secondary imitation of it.

In Hebrew, the word is אמת – emeth. And it’s often used in the Old Testament to indicate the nature of Yahweh.

  • For instance, in Psalms 19, we read, “the judgments of Yahweh are true. More desirable than gold.”
  • In the New Testament, Christ uses this term as something of supreme importance also.
  • For instance, in the 8th chapter of John, he says, “you shall know the truth”. Which is Aletheia in the Greek and veritas in the Latin translation. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”.
  • In the 16th chapter of John, the coming paraclete is described as the spirit of truth. I think this is a particularly important passage.

In the 16th chapter, he’s telling his disciples that he has to leave, he has to leave them, he has to die, but that after he dies, he will send the paraclete, the comforter. And he says, when this comforter comes, “the spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth”. So this coming paraclete is described as the spirit of truth. And this corresponds to a reference John makes in paragraph 249 of our assignment where Jung is talking about the doctrine, which is the magnet and the mysterious truth of which the doctrine speaks. And Jung says,

“[CW09:2:249] … The doctrine enters the consciousness of the adept as a gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

While the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit is just a synonym for the paraclete, they are synonyms for each other. So you see that spirit of truth and Holy Ghost are symbolic equivalents.

But again, when he’s being examined before a pilot, Christ says, “I came into the world that I should bear witness to the truth”. Veritas, Aletheia, and “everyone who is of the truth hears my voice”. And Pilate in typical secular response replies cynically, what is truth? Quid est Veritas?

So as you see, this Veritas has a lengthy history. And as John tells us in note 32 of page 160 that I’ve already read, this Veritas has such a virtue that it performs miracles.

Now this would all correspond psychologically to the latent Consciousness hidden in the Unconscious. If we apply this symbolism to the analytic process, to the analytic dialogue, then we could say that the Veritas corresponds to the latent Consciousness hidden in the Unconscious of the patient. It’s the Consciousness that accompanies the imagery of the Self, of wholeness. And this Consciousness of wholeness can be drawn forth like a magnet attracting iron with the help of the analysts’ interpretations and responses and the analyst’s total Consciousness that he brings to bear on the psychology of the patient. Or another way of putting it would be that the analyst’s personal relation to the Self functions like a magnet which constellates and draws forth or activates the Self in the patient and brings it into manifestation. So that Veritas, which has the ability to perform miracles, is made manifest.

Okay, number three is Leibniz’s monadology.

Leibniz’s Monadology

This reference comes in paragraph 251 where Jung says,

“[CW09:2:251] … The alchemist, … knew definitely that as part of the whole he had an image of the whole in himself, the “firmament” or “Olympus,” as Paracelsus calls it.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

And then in note 43, he says:

“[CW09:2:Footnote:43] An idea that reached its full development 200 years later in Leibniz’ monadology”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

So I thought I’d just draw your attention to Leibniz because as you know Jung uses the total phenomenology of the cultural history of mankind to illustrate the psyche. He draws on everything. And so Leibniz is just one further example.

His dates are 1646 to 1716 and in his theory of mononology, theory is that the universe is composed of a vast number of elementary units called monads. Here’s what Will Durant has to say about this idea. He says:

“We should understand the monads better if we think of them in imitation of the notion that we have of souls. As each soul is a simple separate person, a solitary ego, alone against the world, fighting its way by its own internal will against everything outside. So each monad is essentially alone, a separate independent center of force. Every monad is unique. In the entire cosmos there are no two beings completely alike. Each monad feels however confusedly and unconsciously that it constitutes the whole universe or that it’s a mirror more or less obscurely reflecting and representing the world. But as no individual mind can really look into another mind, so no single monad can see into another. It has no window. It’s windowless. But although the monads are called windowless, they’re not at all cut off in the world because, as another commentator puts it, each living thing is a perpetually living mirror of the universe. It seems as if we all live in many different worlds, but these are in truth nothing but aspects of a single universe viewed from the special point of view of each monad. Being joined in this way we are not really independent. Everybody feels the effect of all that takes place in the universe. Each created monad thus represents the whole universe within itself.”

Will Durant

You see here we have a kind of philosophical precursor of the empirical psychological discovery of the Self. It’s the same idea, and Jung was referring to that fact in his footnote.

Now, thing number four, objective self-knowledge.

Objective Self-Knowledge

This idea is brought up in paragraph 252 where Jung says this:

“[CW09:2:252] This objective knowledge of the self is what the author means when he says: “No one can know himself unless he knows what, and not who, he is, on what he depends, or whose he is [or: to whom or what he belongs] and for what end he was made.” The distinction between “quis” and “quid” is crucial: whereas “quis” has an unmistakably personal aspect and refers to the ego, “quid” is neuter, predicating nothing except an object which is not endowed even with personality. Not the subjective ego-consciousness of the psyche is meant, but the psyche itself as the unknown, unprejudiced object that still has to be investigated.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

This is a very important reference for Jung. He repeats it and goes into it in even more detail in volume 14 in Mysterium [Note: Mysterium Coniunctionis].

Also in paragraph 250, a remark about experiment is relevant to this. Where he says:

“[CW09:2:250] … The production of the arcane substance, the “generatio Mercurii,” is possible only for one who has full knowledge of the doctrine; but “we cannot be resolved of any doubt except by experiment, and there is no better way to make it than on ourselves.””

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

You see these two ideas go together because the experimental attitude is part of an objective attitude. One cannot experiment with an entity unless one takes an objective attitude towards it. They go together.

So if one is taking an experimental attitude towards the psyche, then one is taking an objective attitude. But then we must ask ourselves, what does it mean to have an objective attitude about oneself? See, actually that’s the whole effort of the analytic process to achieve an objective attitude. However, to have any hope for success in a certain way, you have to start with it too. You have to have a latent or potential objective attitude towards oneself or one can never get started. You remain hopelessly one of those fish swimming around in the fish pond. You remember my story about who discovered water? You can’t take an objective attitude towards water as long as you’re a fish swimming around in it.

But the ability to take an objective attitude towards the psyche is the absolute hallmark of consciousness. It’s the evidence that consciousness is present. To see one’s own psychology as an objective living process, as an other, because that’s what objective means. To take an objective view means to see a given entity not as the subject oneself, but as an other, as something different from the Ego. Jung puts the importance of this very strongly in paragraph 255.

“[CW09:2:255] The final factors at work in us are nothing other than those talents which “a certain nobleman” entrusted to his “servants,” that they might trade with them (Luke 19 : 12ff.). It does not require much imagination to see what this involvement in the ways of the world means in the moral sense. Only an infantile person can pretend that evil is not at work everywhere, and the more unconscious he is, the more the devil drives him. It is just because of this inner connection with the black side of things that it is so incredibly easy for the mass man to commit the most appalling crimes without thinking. Only ruthless self-knowledge on the widest scale, which sees good and evil in correct perspective and can weigh up the motives of human action, offers some guarantee that the end-result will not turn out too badly.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

The operative phrase there is ruthless self-knowledge. Ruthless self-knowledge is totally impossible unless it’s objective. It is not possible to be ruthless to oneself subjectively. The reason that’s so in terms of awareness of evil, which is what Jung was talking about in this paragraph, the reason is that if one perceives evil in the psyche subjectively rather than objectively, it instantly demoralizes him because the Ego identifies personally with the evil that it perceives. And there’s no more ruthlessness because the Ego has become so demoralized that it can’t function any longer as a perceiver. It’s so laden down with guilt at the evil that it perceives subjectively that it’s a goner.

So that in order to have a ruthless self-knowledge and to be able to perceive fully the full limit of darkness in the psyche, one has to perceive the individual psyche as an object rather than as a subject. In other words, not as the Ego. You have to perceive thoroughly that although the Ego is doing the perceiving, the whole of the psyche is an objective entity. And that whole is not made by the Ego but is only discovered by it. It’s discovered by experiment, the same way that the alchemists and the later science discovered the nature of the outer world.

We do not create ourselves. We are created. And that means what we discover in the individual psyche is what’s been created, not what we’ve made. And what we are in our totality is not our subjective responsibility. What we do with it in our reality is our responsibility, but not what we find there.

And that ability to take a radically objective attitude towards the nature of the individual psyche is indispensable to any significant consciousness.

Okay, theme number five, the philosopher’s stone.

The Philosopher’s Stone.

The stone is described in paragraph 257, for instance. Jung quotes a text, which reads as follows:

“[CW09:2:257] … “This stone is below thee, as to obedience; above thee, as to dominion; therefore from thee, as to knowledge; about thee, as to equals.” The passage is somewhat obscure. Nevertheless, it can be elicited that the stone stands in an undoubted psychic relationship to man: the adept can expect obedience from it, but on the other hand the stone exercises dominion over him. Since the stone is a matter of “knowledge” or science, it springs from man. But it is outside him, in his surroundings, among his “equals,” i.e., those of like mind. This description fits the paradoxical situation of the self, as its symbolism shows. It is the smallest of the small, easily overlooked and pushed aside. Indeed, it is in need of help and must be perceived, protected, and as it were built up by the conscious mind, just as if it did not exist at all and were called into being only through man’s care and devotion. As against this, we know from experience that it had long been there and is older than the ego, and that it is actually the secret spiritus rector of our fate.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

Then again in paragraph 258:

“[CW09:2:258] … “This stone is something which is fixed more in thee [than elsewhere], created of God, and thou art its ore, and it is extracted from thee, … and so it is [dug] out of man, and thou art its ore, namely by working; and from thee it is extracted, … for without thee it cannot be fulfilled, and without it canst thou not live”.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

See, that puts it in a nutshell. “Without thee it cannot be fulfilled, and without it thou canst not live.” That’s a concise description of the nature of the relation between the Ego and the Self. Without thee, without the Ego, the Self cannot be fulfilled, cannot be brought into conscious realization. And without a living connection to it, the Ego cannot live, because the Self is its source of being.

Jung comments in paragraph 259:

“[CW09:2:259] … We learn from it that the stone is implanted in man by God, that the laborant is its prima materia, that the extraction corresponds to the so-called divisio or separatio of the alchemical procedure, and that through his knowledge of the stone man remains inseparably bound to the self. The procedure here described could easily be understood as the realization of an unconscious content. Fixation in the Mercurius of the wise would then correspond to the traditional Hermetic knowledge, since Mercurius symbolizes the Nous; through this knowledge the self, as a content of the unconscious, is made conscious and “fixed” in the mind. For without the existence of conscious concepts apperception is, as we know, impossible. … That is why it is so extremely important to tell children fairytales and legends, and to inculcate religious ideas (dogmas) into grown-ups, because these things are instrumental symbols with whose help unconscious contents can be canalized into consciousness, interpreted, and integrated. Failing this, their energy flows off into conscious contents which, normally, are not much emphasized, and intensifies them to pathological proportions.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Aion by Carl Jung

Here’s a crucial feature of the approach of Jungian psychology and Jungian analysis. Not only should children be told myths and fairy tales, but also the process of analysis incorporates the same device in which dream images are amplified by mythological parallels. By mythological, religious, folkloristic parallels. One of the functions of which is to do what Jung says here to inculcate religious ideas, because these things are instrumental symbols with whose help unconscious contents can be canalized into consciousness.

You see, to a disturbing extent, a modern secular man has no archetypal imagery, no symbolic concepts in consciousness, nothing that has any value attached to it, that would be available to canalize and help to incorporate the emerging energies and contents from the Unconscious in order to assimilate them. So the one aspect of the analytic process then is to inculcate those ideas, and the method of amplification does that, you see. And you often find in the early stages of work with a particularly secular person, you’ll get resistance. Anything religious or mythological kind of has a bad smell to it, and there’s distaste in having anything to do with it. It’s not in fashion, you see, for modern secular consciousness, but you smile and go on because the Unconscious hears you, and it responds with dreams. It loves it, you see, it loves that stuff because you’re talking its language, and the dreams will be your ally.


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