This particular talk was not offered first to Los Angeles, it was offered first to San Francisco when they said they would like to have me give a public lecture there, so I wrote back, said to Dr Yandal, who is in charge of arranging such programs that I’ve been working on this Emerald Tablet material, my libido was in it, and I thought I’d like to talk about that. A very long period of silence followed that letter. About a month. I began to fear that he had qualms about the esoteric quality of the subject, so I wrote a second letter and said perhaps you’d rather not have that subject, perhaps you’d rather have something more elementary and straightforward. He replied immediately, yes, I think perhaps that would be better. So they didn’t get what you’re getting. Whether or not it’s drags or not, it would remain for you to determine. Anyway it is the bottom of my barrel so far as the past weeks’ efforts have been concerned.
Jung’s major interest in his later years was his researching the psychological meaning of alchemy and the results of that research are massively documented in his major books “Psychology and Alchemy”, “Psychology of Transference”, “Alchemical Studies”, and that magnificent capstone to his life-work “Mysterium Coniunctionis”. Although this quote perhaps is already familiar to you, let me give it again, because this and the next one describes so well what alchemy meant to Jung. In his memoirs he says this about what the discovery of alchemy meant to him:
"I had very soon seen that analytical psychology coincided in a most curious way with alchemy. The experiences of the alchemists were, in a sense, my experiences, and their world was my world. This was, of course, a momentous discovery: I had stumbled upon the historical counterpart of my psychology of the unconscious. The possibility of a comparison with alchemy, and the uninterrupted intellectual chain back to Gnosticism, gave substance to my psychology. When I pored over these old texts everything fell into place: the fantasy-images, the empirical material I had gathered in my practice, and the conclusions I had drawn from it. I now began to understand what these psychic contents meant when seen in historical perspective."
And then again at the very end of “Mysterium Coniunctionis” he sums up what alchemy meant to him in these words:
"We can see today that the entire alchemical procedure for uniting the opposites, which I have described in the foregoing, could just as well represent the individuation process of a single individual, though with the not unimportant difference that no single individual ever attains to the richness and scope of the alchemical symbolism. This has the advantage of having been built up through the centuries, whereas the individual in his short life has at his disposal only a limited amount of experience and limited powers of portrayal. It is therefore a difficult and thankless task to try to describe the nature of the individuation process from case-material."
"No case in my experience is comprehensive enough to show all the aspects in such detail that it could be regarded as paradigmatic."
"Alchemy, therefore, has performed for me the great and invaluable service of providing material in which my experience could find sufficient room, and has thereby made it possible for me to describe the individuation process at least in its essential aspects."
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus
The central image of alchemy is the Opus. The alchemist thought of himself as committed to a sacred work, an effort to create a supreme and ultimate value. First, he must find the suitable starting material, the Prima Materia, then a series of operations were to be performed for the purpose of transforming this material into the Philosopher’s Stone, the miraculous end product. In the tangled jungle of alchemical text which purports to describe this Opus one document stands out as a concise, if not a clear, summary of the Opus namely the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. It contains a series of 13 very brief precepts which were treated with the greatest reverence by the medieval alchemist. It was viewed as a kind of a supernatural revelation to the Sons of Hermes by the patron of their divine art who was called Thrice-Greatest Hermes. According to legend the original Emerald Tablet was found in the tomb of Hermes Trismegistus either by Alexander the Great or in another version, by Sarah, the wife of Abraham. At first it was known only in Latin but in 1923 Eric John Holmyard discovered an Arabic version and it is thought likely that a still earlier text was in Greek and according to Jung, the Emerald Tablet originated in Alexandria. It is the closest thing we have to an alchemical scripture. The alchemists treated it with unique veneration. Its statements were engraved upon their laboratory walls and were interspersed throughout their alchemical writing. More than any other text it can be considered as a kind of cryptic epitome of the alchemical Opus.
In his ETH lectures on alchemy, delivered in 1940 and 1941 and privately printed, Jung subjected the Emerald Tablet to a brief psychological scrutiny and in this paper I shall continue and expand that examination considering the Emerald Tablet of Hermes as a symbolic summary of the process of individuation as it was projected by the alchemist. I have qualms that I may fail to be clear so before we start let’s think of proceeding more as a circumambulation kind of meditational circumambulation around a central alchemical symbol rather than a commentary. I had some qualms about that word “commentary” I might be offering more than I can deliver so I wanted to modify it for that reason.
Let me then first read all 13 precepts in English and then take them one by one and try to comment and enlarge and amplify the implications of each one in turn, keeping in mind that what we’re scrutinizing is a kind of a symbolic formula for individuation using alchemical terminology.
- Truly without deception certain and most true.
- What is below is like that which is above and what is above is like that which is below to accomplish the miracles of the one thing.
- And as all things proceeded from the One through meditation of the One so all things came from this One thing through adaptation.
- Father is the Sun, mother the Moon. The wind has carried it in its belly. Its nurse is the Earth.
- This is the Father of All, the completion of the whole World.
- Its strength is complete, if it be turned into Earth.
- Separate the Earth from the Fire the Subtle from the Dense gently with great ingenuity.
- It ascends from the Earth to the Heaven and descends again to the Earth and receives the power of the Above and the Below. Thus you will have the glory of the whole World. Therefore all Darkness will flee from you.
- Here is the strong power of the whole strength for it overcomes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid.
- Thus the world has been created.
- From here will come the marvelous adaptations whose manner this is.
- So I am called Hermes Trismegistus have three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
- What I have said about the operation of the Sun is finished.
1. Truly without deception certain and most true.
The Emerald Tablet begins with a profession of its truth and authenticity. It asserts that what it presents is real. Thus the first step is to acknowledge the reality of the psyche. Now of course the full realization of the reality of the psyche does not come until the end of the process and yet the idea must be entertained, at least hypothetically at the very beginning, if anything is to happen. He who can not acknowledge at least tentatively the substance and value of psychic imagery is barred from the process of transformation. If one can’t at least hypothetically assume that dreams have some meaning, for instance, that they have something that could be described as certain and most true, there’s no place to go. So, that’s the first thing.
2. What is below is like that which is above and what is above is like that which is below to accomplish the miracles of the one thing.
This is a very common theme. Another version of the same idea is found in the alchemical verse that reads:
Heaven above heaven below, Stars above stars below, All that is above also is below, Grasp this and rejoice!
This is the doctrine of Man the Microcosm mirroring the great world the Macrocosm. As early as Democritus in the 5th century BC, we read that man is a universe in little, a Microcosm. Parallel to this notion is the idea of the interrelation between the Earthly and the Heavenly world, what the Neoplatonists called the Sensible World and the Intelligible World. What began as a religious conception of the two realms, the immortal gods above and the mortal men below was translated by Plato into the philosophical idea of the Heavenly World of Eternal Forms and the Actual World of Sensible Particulars. Furthermore the concrete world was conceived as mirroring or copying the eternal images of the heavenly world and the classical image for the relation between the two realms was presented in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, in which the phenomenal world is pictured as made up of shadows or mirror images of the archetypal world of eternal forms. And again in Plato’s Timaeus, the demiurge uses the eternal or intelligible world as a model to create the actual cosmos. Six centuries later Plotinus the neoplatonist rephrases the same image in these words:
The vision has been of God in travail of a beautiful offspring, God engendering an universe within Himself, in a painless labor. The manifested God cannot think that he has come forth in vain from the Father, for through Him, another universe has arisen. Beautiful as the image of beauty, this second cosmos at every point copies the archetype. It has life and being in copy and has beauty as springing from that diviner world.
Astrology assumes a parallel between the upper world of planetary principles from the lower world of man. Also alchemy thought of the metals hidden in the Earth as the Earthly replicas of the Sun, Moon, and the planets. I was once brought a dream which demonstrates that this idea is still alive in the modern psyche. I hope you’re still with me and haven’t forgotten what we’re talking about. We’re talking about what is below is like that which is above. I’m rather long-winded because it’s so important, I think. Now, this dream that I referred to is an example of the alchemist idea that the metals hidden in the Earth were thought of as the planetary replicas of the planets. The idea was that the planets in their endless revolutions around the Earth spun the Earthly replicas, the metals, into the Earth in the form of the Ore which could then be extracted. Concerning that principle this astonishing dream was once brought to me by a middle-aged man in need of a better relation for the archetypal psyche. He dreams:
4 metal clad figures descend toward me from the sky. They float down over an ancient Roman wall. Each suit is made of a different metal. One is bronze, another lead, another iron and the fourth is made of platinum. The platinum suited figure separates from the others and approaches. "We are seeking metal", he says, "the metal we seek matches the material of our suit".
The idea of this dream is that personal qualities, that is the metals of the Earth, are to be related to or return to their archetypal origins, signified by the heavenly metal suited men. In other words the personal qualities are to be recognized as objective transpersonal factors. According to ancient thought the soul at birth descended though the planetary spheres picking up by accretion the qualities of all the planets as it traversed their realms in its downward movement to Earth and either at death or by a journey of spiritual enlightenment this movement was reversed and the soul would then ascend to the ladder of the planetary spheres and then return to each planetary archon or principle the qualities that derive from him or her. This is the process that is taking place in the dream with the interesting variation that the planetary principles are descending to Earth in search of their corresponding qualities. That is the initiative for greater awareness of the transpersonal dimension is coming from the unconscious.
The idea of correspondences between the upper world and the lower world was elaborated by Swedenborg into a system of literal equations between concrete facts and spiritual facts. Emerson expresses a more sophisticated version of Swedenborg in correspondence in this quotation:
Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture.
Now, getting finally to the psychological dimension. The upper heavenly world will refer to the Self or to the transpersonal psyche, while the lower world, the Earth, will refer to the Ego. Thus the Emerald Tablet tells us that the Ego corresponds to or is built on the model of the Self. As Jung puts it:
"The Self is an a priori existence out of which the Ego evolves. It is so to speak an unconscious prefiguration of the Ego."
Now, the correspondence and connection between the symbolic Heaven and the symbolic Earth, that the tablet refers to, are not at all obvious to the uninstructed Ego. The Lord’s Prayer recognizes the desirability of such a correspondence when it asks:
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
But if it were easily achieved, one wouldn’t have to pray for it. In fact, the rare occasions when one experiences the overlap or the interpenetration of the Ego-World and the Archetypal-World, have an unforgettable numinous impact. The phrase “miracle of the one thing” can be understood to refer to just such experiences which are felt to be miraculous, laden as they often are, with synchronistic meaning. The one thing will refer to the Unus Mundus, the unitary reality behind the apparent dualisms of upper and lower worlds. In actual psychological experience the realization of the correspondence between Ego and archetypal psyche amounts to a union of opposites. Thus the beginning of the healing of a woman’s inner conflict was marked by a dream similar to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. This was a woman who was plagued by chronic depression and the dream that marked the gradual resolution of that state was this brief one:
She dreamed that she was shown by a friend the shadows of the stars which were cast upon the ground. They looked on the ground the to shadows of the stars, and sure enough they were. She looked up the sky and the sky was cloudy. She couldn't see the actual stars themselves but their shadows were visible.
That’s Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in a modern dream. Even though the stars themselves weren’t visible, in other words the archetypal images were not on direct view for her, she saw them in their dark aspects for instance and that realization then gave the meaning to the darkness of her depression and led to gradual lifting of it.
3. And as all things proceeded from the One through meditation of the One so all things came from this One thing through adaptation.
The “one thing” mentioned in paragraph 2 is now described as the creator and source of all things. This “one”, the “han” or the “monad” of ancient philosophy was an important image for the ancients. Pre-Socratic philosophers for instance seemed obsessed by the need to find the “single substance” the “arche” from which everything else derives. Unity and multiplicity which is what this paragraph is about, the “one” and the “many”, can be considered as equivalent to the Heavenly and Earthly realms respectively so that the archetypal Heavenly realm will be the realm of the “one” and the realm of “multiplicity” will be the realm of the Earth. This is the image that lies behind the beautiful lines of Shelley when he says:
The One remains
The Many change in path
Heaven's light forever shines
Earth's shadows fly
Life like a dome of many colored glass
Stains the white radiance of eternity
The alchemical meaning of the “one” in this passage is clearly the Prima Materia. This is indicated explicitly by a variant text which speaks of “basic material” as a substitute phrase for the “one”.
The text then proceeds saying “all things proceed from one through meditation”. This is a well-known theme in Hindu philosophy, the theme of creation taking place through meditation, through “tapas”. I’m going to skip some of those explicit references.
“So all things came from this One thing through adaptation”, here it’s creation by adaptation. In the Upanishads there is a creation myth that explicitly uses this process of adaptation. According to this myth, in the beginning the Creator was alone. He divided himself in two, creating his wife. Then
the female thought how can he copulate with me when he's just created me out of himself? Come let me hide. She became a cow. He became a bull and copulated with her. Thus cattle were born. She became a mare, he a stallion. She became a female ass, he a male ass. He copulated with her. Hence cooked animals were born. She became a she-goat, he a goat. She a ewe, he a ram. Thus indeed, he created all whatever pairs there are even down to the ants.
Same idea of creative adaptation is expressed by the Apostle Paul, when he says (in 1st Corinthians, chapter 9):
9:19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. 9:20 To the Jews I became a Jew in order to win Jews. To those under the Law, I became as one under the Law, that I might win those under the Law. 9:21 For those outside the Law I became as one outside the Law, that I might be with those outside the Law. 9:22 For the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Creation by adaptation corresponds psychologically to the process of Ego development. A descent of the pristine one into multiplicity and in order for that to take place the original Self must bend to partial and particular incarnation if it is to be manifest in temporal reality. In terms of the Ego the individuals effort to adapt to particular roles, tasks and situations can be seen as a kind of cosmogonic Opus. If the Ego does its best, but is still too weak, it can hope for the same assistance due to virtue as Milton describes it:
Oh if virtue feeble were
Heaven herself would stoop to her
A dream of a middle-aged minister who is experiencing an enlargement of personality makes use of this theme of adaptation. In fact I’ll tell you that it was when I was working on this dream with this particular man, that the thought came to me that I ought to work out this commentary on the Emerald Tablet because this particular phrase was my immediate association with his dream, and this was the dream:
I'm in a large mansion with a great personage, a supreme bishop known throughout the entire world who seems to embrace all religions. He is to celebrate the Eucharist and I am to assist him. The bishop tells me that he worked in many different places and must therefore be prepared to adapt to various local habits and customs. Outside the house I meet an exotic, attractive, effeminate young man. He is called Yakus.
This attractive young man was associated with Dionysus, and this patient’s growth process was obliging him to adapt to the Dionysian principle, which had previously been neglected and he was being encouraged in that task by the encounter with this larger personality, “the bishop of all religions”, who gave him a lesson in adaptation and this dream then reminded me of this particular paragraph of the Emerald Tablet: “all things came from this One thing through adaptation”.
4. Father is the Sun, mother the Moon. The wind has carried it in its belly. Its nurse is the Earth.
With this paragraph there’s a shift. The “one” which had been dismembered to create the World, is now to undergo reconstitution and what is to be produced is the Philosopher’s Stone. Here it is described as the product of the “coniunctio” of Sun and Moon. Concerning the symbolism of Sun and Moon, Jung says:
Logos and Eros are intellectually formulated intuitive equivalents of the archetypal images of Sol and Luna. I equate the masculine consciousness with the concept of Logos and the feminine with the of Eros. By Eros, I mean the capacity to relate.
Strictly speaking it’s impossible to function by Logos and Eros simultaneously. They are incompatible contraries. If the Philosopher’s Stone or Self which is a product of those two and unites them it then must be a transcendent entity beyond the power of the Ego to grasp.
Actually the text tells us that the Stone is a product of four factors: Sun, Moon, wind and earth. Jung states in the ETH Seminar that
These refer to the four elements, Sun equals fire, Moon equals water, wind equals air, and earth equals earth. The original one has divided itself into the four through adaptation and through the coming together of the four it appears again as a united product.
says Jung. Another way of putting the same thing is that the Philosopher’s Stone is the product of the operations of the four elements. I mean by that the operations “calcenatio” for fire, “solutio” for water, “sublimatio” for air and “coagulatio” for earth.
Calcenatio involves the application of intense heat to the material. Images belonging to that symbol include refining of metals by fire, hell, purgatory, pentacostal fire, such things as that. It’s a drying out process and a purifying process. That which is left behind, the ash or the vitreous body is the eternal, incorruptible essence.
Solutio is the water operation and involves the dissolution of the material within a solvent. Breaks down rigid solidified states and promotes flow and intermixutre. Positively it brings rejuvenation and negatively regressive dissolution.
Sublimatio the air operation is an elevating process, whereby earth is transformed into air and body into spirit. Images connected with this are wind, birds, feathers, height, ladders, flying, weightlessness. Psychologically it refers to getting above a concrete problem or abstracting a general meaning from it, seeing it under the aspect of eternity so to speak.
Coagulatio is the operation that turns the substance into earth, something heavy and fixed. Its imagery includes lead, heaviness, flash, Saturn, food, falling, limitation, imprisonment, et cetera. It refers psychologically to the substantial realization of psychic contents which comes when they are connected to the Ego by full conscious awareness.
So, the Philosopher’s Stone we’re told in this paragraph, is a product of these four elements or a product of these four operations. It had all these operations applied to it. We’re also told thereby that it’s a four-fold structure, reflecting the four-fold structure of the individual psyche, that Jung has demonstrated.
Almost everyone who’s had a depth analysis, has encountered the mystery of the number four. It’s absolutely basic to the phenomenon of consciousness. Here’s what Jung says about quaternity or fourness:
In the history of symbols quaternity is the unfolding of unity. The one universal being cannot be known because it's not differentiated from anything and cannot be compared with anything. By unfolding into four, it acquires distinct characteristics and therefore can be known. This is not a metaphysical argument, but simply a psychological formula for describing the process by which an unconscious content becomes conscious. So long as a thing is in the unconscious it has no recognizable qualities and is consequently merged with the universal unknown, with the unconscious all or nothing, with what the gnostics call a non-existent all-being. But as as the unconscious content enters the sphere of consciousness it is already split into the four. That is to say, it can become an object of experience only by virtue of the four basic functions of consciousness. Through the act of becoming conscious the four basic aspects of a whole judgement are rendered visible.
5. This is the Father of All, the completion of the whole World.
In this statement we’re given a paradox because the source is equated with the goal. Father – “Pater” is equated with Completion – “τελεισμη” . The Father is the source and the goal is the completion so that the beginning and the end are joined like the biblical statement: “I am alpha and omega”, the beginning and the ending. The “Father of All” corresponds to Aristotle’s “Prime Mover” or “First Cause” and also to Plato’s demiurge.
The Gnostics called the “Monad” Father. For them, Hippolytus says:
The beginning of all things is the Monad. Ingenerable, imperishable, incomprehensible, inconceivable Creator and Cause of all things that are generated and this Monad is called by them the Father.
or in some texts “The Father of All”, quite literally. Jung says that the Gnostic term “Father of All” corresponds to the microcosm, the “mystical Adam” and the bisexual original man in his prenatal state as it were when he is identical with the unconscious.
The Father-Son image is the one that’s operative in this text. Origin and goal corresponds to Father and Son. In alchemical terms, Father of the process is the Prima Materia and the Son or the gold of the process is the Philosopher’s Stone, which was also called Son, called Filius Philosophorum. In the Aurora Consurgens there is a very interesting and ambiguous passage on the alchemical Father-Son symbol, Wisdom in her Prima Materia aspect is speaking:
He that shall dig for me as money and obtain me as a treasure he for whose love I languish in whose ardor I melt in whose odor I live by whose sweetness I regain my health from whose milk I take nourishment in whose embrace I am made young from whose kiss I receive the breath of live in whose loving embrace my whole body is lost to him indeed I will be a Father and he shall be to me a Son wise is he who rejoiceth his Father him whom I place first and highest among the kings of the Earth and I will keep my covenant faithful to him forever.
Here the Prima Materia is calling upon the alchemist to redeem her by his loving effort and attention. She in turn promises to make him as a son to a father. Now the Filius, the Son is a synonym for the Philosopher’s Stone, thus it seems as though she is promising to make the alchemist the Philosopher’s Stone or at least we are dangerously close to an identification with the alchemist with the stone. Von Franz observes that this passage is similar to the call of the soul or its redeemer, Christ, but there are crucial differences. This is from Von Franz’s description or commentary of that text:
The Anima is not calling Christ to her, but a human Ego. Anima - Wisdom relates to the alchemist as God to Christ. The unconscious symbolism thus expresses the progressive christification of the individual, the importance of which is described by Jung in "Answer to Job". The ordinary man is chosen to be the place of God's birth and in him is incarnated, not only as in Christ, the light side of Yahweh. In him God regenerates himself as a totality in both is light and dark aspects thereby the individual man as Aurora says becomes Son of God and is placed first and highest among the kings of the Earth.
Now this is a profound and dangerous idea. It must be tempered by the reminder that the Son refers to the Philosopher’s Stone i.e. the Self. The Self can come into realization only through the devoted efforts of the Ego but it does remain a transpersonal entity which the Ego must continue to serve, thus there is no question of a deification of the Ego.
The hidden Father of All becomes the manifest completion as Son. Psychologically this would mean that the transformation of the original Father of All into the completion of the Son corresponds to the individuation process in which the Ego redeems and restores the divine meaning lost in the unconscious by paying conscientious attention to the unconscious in all of its manifestations.
6. Its strength is complete, if it be turned into Earth.
Jung translates this sentence with the phrase “turned towards Earth” rather than “into Earth” but the meaning is essentially the same either way. What’s referred here is the Coagulatio, creation not of a spiritual ideal but of an Earthly reality. If you grant the symbolic equation that Earth = Ego, we can than understand the statement to mean that Egohood is an indispensable and indeed ultimate feature of the process. To turn into or towards Earth means to take seriously all that is personal and particular and ordinary, in a word all that is mundane. Throughout alchemy we encounter the dictum “dissolve and coagulate” or volatilize what is fixed and fix what is volatile so that spirit, image and meaning must be attached to the petty personal realities in order to be turned into earth. There’s an alchemical picture that shows an eagle flying along in the sky attached by a great chain to a toad that’s hopping along on the earth and that signifies how the Philosopher’s Stone of the Totality must be turned into or towards the Earth if its reality to be realized.
7. Separate the Earth from the Fire the Subtle from the Dense gently with great ingenuity.
This paragraph refers to the operation of Separatio. The alchemists often spoke of their material as a “chaos”, a “massa confusa“, or a composite mixture that required separation of its component parts which were all jumbled together and the various opposites were said … troublesome facts for instance that we my stumble over, be a kind of a stumbling stone, needs to have its spirit or meaning extracted. In fact one alchemical text specifically says:
Find the stone that has a spirit in it, take it, divide it, thrust in your hand and draw out its heart, for its soul is in its heart.
And then there is a comment by a commentator in the margin that says:
This refers to the extraction of quicksilver from Prima Materia.
Let me try to introduce another dimension here so that we don’t get too abstract or sterile. This whole idea of separating the meaning, the living meaning, the spirit from the hard distressing stone of a fact, I want to illustrate by personal experience. Many years ago I thought my front yard needed some adornment. I decided to plant some evergreen trees in it. I went to a lock where the trees had grown and they were for sale and chose several trees and they were duly dug up and transported to my front lawn and planted in my front lawn. I then noticed scrutinizing them that one of the trees was imperfect. It had growing up quite close to another tree in the original lot and result was that on one side the lower branches had never filled out, they were missing there. I discovered that that defect annoyed me inordinately. After all it’s been my own selection, I couldn’t blame anybody else for it. That was the stone that I was butting my head against, I could not excuse myself for having made such a mistake, so I was obliged to do some active imagination on the subject. What emerged was the case history of that evergreen and the fact that it had this loving sibling that grew up quite close beside it and they were inseparable and quite dear to one another and from a distance looking at both of them they made a marvelous pair and who thought that anyone was going to come along and tear them apart from each other. Of course their life history explained why they each had a defect, because being so close together they had no need for that completion, they were a complete unit, as a couple would be. As I realized that and also realized how illustrative that image was of human psychology itself, not only people who grow up close together, but really all of us, because we all have an inferior function and that inferior function almost invariably is carried by some member of our environment and if finally we are thorn away from that environment by the individuation process we’re less than with that gaping defect showing that inferior function just like my defective tree. As all these realizations dawned on me my attitude towards that tree changed. I began to love that poor little thing and thought more of it by far than if it had been a perfect specimen. That’s an example of how one can extract the meaning or the soul or the spirit of a hard stone.
8. It ascends from the Earth to the Heaven and descends again to the Earth and receives the power of the Above and the Below. Thus you will have the glory of the whole World. Therefore all Darkness will flee from you.
This passage refers to the operation of Circulatio. Astrologically it corresponds to the ascent and descent of the planetary spheres whereby each of the archetypal principles, symbolized by the planetary archons, is encountered successively. Chemically, Circulatio refers to the process in which a substance is heated in a reflux flask. The vapors ascend and condense then the condensed fluid is fed back into the belly of the flask where the cycle is repeated. Sublimatio and Coagulatio are thus alternately repeated again and again. This is so important, I think I’ll … a sort of unconscious prestige and its effect lasts only so long as it is not disturbed by conscious intention.
12. So I am called Hermes Trismegistus have three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
Here, the author signs his name to what he has written and we learn that his name is Thrice-Greatest Hermes who was an enigmatic mythical figure of antiquity who was thought to be the originator of a secret wisdom tradition. The alchemists have considered him their spiritual ancestor or master and called themselves the “Sons of Hermes”.
This personal signature raises a very interesting psychological question, namely, to what extent the opus of individuation promoted by a specific inner figure who functions as a personification of archetypal wisdom. Our most fully documented case of individuation is that of Jung, so let’s turn to that. In “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” he tells us of his encounter with the fantasy figure Philemon. He writes:
Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him and he said things which I had not consciously thought, for I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest or people in a room or birds in the air and added if you should see people in a room you would not think that you have made those people or that you were responsible for them. It was he who has taught me psychic objectivity and the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought. He conferred me in an objective manner and I understand that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be directed against me. Psychologically Philemon represented superior insight. He was a mysterious figure to me. At times he seemed quite real as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him and to me he was what the Indians called a guru.
It is generally true that individuation is often promoted by a guiding personality either an inner one or an outer one. Usually this function of personification of wisdom is first projected onto an actual person. The analyst often carries this image for his patients. For many of us, Jung and his writings serve this function. But projection is only a prelude to the encounter with the inner autonomous figure who will be the conveyor of one’s utter uniqueness.
I think it’s very significant indeed that the Unconscious has this distinct tendency to meet the approaching Ego with personifications of itself. I think it tells us that the Unconscious is cooperating in the Opus, that it meets us halfway by trying to manifest itself in modes of expression that are congenial to the Ego. Tells us then that what we’re involved in individuation is a mutual enterprise. In one text the Philosopher’s Stone speaks quite specifically about its cooperative tendency. It says:
Understand ye sons of wisdom, the stone declares, protect me and I will protect thee, give me my own that I may help thee.
Same idea, you may recall, is expressed concerning the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs, where we read:
4:6 Forsake her not and she shall preserve thee. Love her and she shall help thee. 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing therefore get Wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding. 4:8 Exalt her and she shall promote thee. She shall bring thee to honor when thou dost embrace her.
The phrase than the “three parts of the philosophy of the whole world”. That’s an expression of the archetype of the number three. I think it’s interesting that our text should end not with a quaternity but with a trinity. I see the symbolism of the number three as pertaining to the Ego through a developmental process in space and time. One could say that three represents individuation as a process and four represents it as a goal.
It may be that the three parts in this paragraph is a reference to the three precious words which were known throughout alchemy and which were supposed to contain the whole alchemical secret and were supposedly passed on from generation to generation. On that subject the Aurora Consurgens ends with this statement:
The spirit of the doctrine sowed his seed that these might ripen thereof threefold fruit which the author of the three words said could be three precious words wherein is hidden all the science which is to be given to the pious, that is to the poor, from the first man even onto the last.
The pious and the poor reference here refer to the elect who received the secret from the previous generation and pass it on to the next. The idea is that there was a golden chain that extended through the generations and certain select individuals in each generation passed on these three words to the next generation forging excessive lengths then in the golden chain.
13. What I have said about the operation of the Sun is finished.
Jung speaks of the Sun as the classical symbol for the unity and divinity of the Self. In another place he interprets the Sun as the Ego. This apparent contradiction is explained by the symbolic connection between gold and the Sun. Gold and Sun were considered equivalent by the alchemists. They had the same sign, same emblem to designate them. Gold was thought of as the Terrestrial manifestation of the Sun and the text says:
The Sun by its many millions of revolutions spins the gold into the Earth. Little by little the Sun has imprinted its image on the Earth and that image is the gold.
So that Sun and gold correspond to the Self and the Ego respectively. Gold, although a derivative of the Sun is equivalent to it. The same thus will apply to the relation between the Ego and the Self and their common ground is consciousness. They are respectively the lesser and the greater centers of consciousness. We can say that the passive aspect of the Ego derives from the Self just as the gold derives from the Sun by being spun into the Earth from the Sun’s operation. However, the active Ego represented by the alchemist assumes the role of the Sun in trying to make gold, thus all of this try to elucidate the term “operation of the Sun”. This term “operation of the Sun” then has a double reference. It refers to the making of the gold. Making of the gold by the Sun which spins the gold into the Earth, that’s an operation of the Sun, and it also refers to the making of the gold by the alchemist, who in his active role then is performing the same operation as the Sun and therefore is equivalent to the Sun in that creative effort.
Psychologically it will mean creation of consciousness through the mutual cooperative efforts of the Ego and the Self.