To John Trinick
Dear Mr. Trinick, 1 October 1957
First of all I must ask your forgiveness for having caused this long delay of my reaction.
My plan was to study your MS1 in my summer vacation with the necessary leisure.
But the god of chance had another idea and crammed any amount of disturbances and obligations into my holidays and on top of everything I had to finish a little book and I was forced to lose a certain amount of time with the International Psychiatric Congress in Zurich.
Thanks to your generous permission to keep your MS for the time being, I have been able to read it with attention not only once but in several parts twice.
Such a continuous argument as your “enquiry” demands some concentration, as in certain places at least it is no easy reading.
This is of course only an external difficulty.
The real reason for the inevitable slowing down of the reading process is the controversial and enigmatic nature of the subject itself.
While reading one must pay close attention not only to what you say but also to the disturbing upsurge of unconscious reactions in one’s self.
Just as some alchemists had to admit that they never succeeded in producing the gold or the Stone, I cannot confess to have solved the riddle of the coniunctio mystery.
On the contrary I am darkly aware of things lurking in the background of the problem-things too big for our horizons.
This background begins to stir when one reads your paper.
Your erudite disquisition has taught me quite a few things, especially your careful analysis of Eirenaeus Philalethes who indeed deserves special treatment.
It would have been within the scope of my book to pay special attention to his work but he is a problem in himself, like Andreae and Die Chymische Hochzeit (the model for Faust II, insufficiently treated by Mr. Gray in his book: Goethe the Alchemist).
I am glad you have taken up the challenge of Philalethes.
He is remarkable, and your analysis does justice to him.
I was deeply impressed by your care and tactful handling of the material and by your unusual knowledge of, and your profound insight into, the significance, implications and innuendos of this central alchemical problem.
It is astounding how a young man like Philalethes succeeded in producing such an extraordinary presentation of the problem; yet we encounter a similar miracle in Andreae’s case and to a certain extent in Goethe’s too, viz the main parts of Faust.
For the explanation of this fact, I have to point out the archetypal nature of the coniunctio on the one hand and the youthful intuition of archetypes on the other.
The younger an individual is, the nearer he is to the primordial unconscious with its collective contents.
This becomes particularly impressive when one studies those dreams of earliest childhood that are still remembered in adult age.
They yield most astounding results, as they show an apparent knowledge of archetypes quite inexplicable in the individual case.
I think that something along that line explains Philalethes’ and Andreae’s precocity.
The archetype is ageless and ever present.
To deal with the coniunctio in human words is a disconcerting task, since you are forced to express and formulate a process taking place “in Mercurio” and not on the level of human thought and human language, i.e., not within the sphere of discriminating consciousness.
On this side of the epistemological barrier we have to separate the opposites in order to produce comprehensible speech.
You have to state that a is not b, that above is not below, that the perfume of the Spiritus Sanctus is not the malus odor sepulchrorum sive inferni and that the nuptiae spirituales are not the carnal union of bodies.
Yet in the archetypal unimaginable event that forms the basis of Conscious apperception, a is b, stench is perfume, sex is amor Dei, as inevitably as the conclusion that God is the complexio oppositorum.
The alchemists were more or less aware of this shocking state of affairs, although rarely explicitly so.
Usually, whether consciously or not, they tried not to commit themselves, yet they also did not avoid symbolic allusions or pictures of an alluring kind.
They expressed f.i. shock at the idea of incest, yet they could not refrain from using the term, just as little as undoubtedly Christian poets did, f.i. Chretien de Troyes: “Dieu qui fit de Sa fille Sa mere.”
The fact is that the figures behind the epistemological curtain, i.e., the archetypes, are “impossible” unions of opposites, transcendental beings which can only be apperceived by contrasts.
Good can only be understood by “not bad,” “day” by “not night,” etc.
Alchemy tries to express the Good, the Splendid, the Light, the Gold, the Incorruptibile et Aeternum by the materia vilis and is therefore forced to speak of Death, Putredo, Incineratio, Nigredo, Venenum, Draco, Malus Odor, P estilentia, Leprositas, etc.
Since the coniunctio is an essentially transcendental, i.e., archetypal process and since our mental attitude is still essentially Christian we emphasize the Spirit, the Good, the Light, the Above, the spiritualized, i.e., subtle body, purity, chastity, etc. and separate all that from the contrary, which we have to mention nevertheless, even by explicitly denying, disregarding and condemning it.
It will be there, because it belongs inevitably to the transcendental, archetypal reality.
Good cannot exist without Evil, nor luminositas sine nigredine Mysteria revelata vilescunt.
In trying to reveal that which no mortal being is able to conceive, we distort and say the wrong things. Instead of creating light, we conceal in darkness, instead of lifting up, we expose the treasure to ridicule and contempt.
Instead of opening a way, we barricade it by an inextricable snarl of paradoxes.
“In Mercurio” spirit and matter are one.
This is a mystery nobody is ever going to solve.
It is real, but we are unable to express its reality.
An alchemist very wisely said: Artifex non est magister Lapidi sed potius efus minister.
When the artifex speaks, he will always say the wrong things, or at least things that are also wrong.
It is neti-neti in other words: beyond our grasp, although it is a definite experience.
It is said of the Stone: habet mille nomina, which means that there is not one name expressing the Mystery.
Your attempts to formulate it are not vain or futile; on the contrary, our labours are witnesses to the living Mystery, honest attempts to find words for the Ineffable.
The “way” is not an upward-going straight line, f.i. from earth to heaven or from matter to spirit, but rather a circumabulatio of and an approximation to the Centrum.
We are not liberated by leaving something behind but only by fulfilling our task as mixta composita i.e., human beings between the opposites.
The spiritualism of a Berdyaev and others is only the contrary of materialism, one half of the truth.
There is not God alone but also His creation, i.e., the will of God in Christian terminology. Homo sapiens has to envisage both.
That was the great discovery of Mater Alchimia.
Your opus ought to be published, as it is a link in the Aurea Catena reaching through twenty centuries down to our benighted present.
With all my good wishes,
C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 392-396.