Dear Professor Jung, July 26, 1937
I would just like to say a brief word of thanks for sending me your book on alchemy.
It was bound to be of great interest to me, both as a scientist and also in the light of my personal dream experiences.
These have shown me that even the most modem physics also lends itself to the symbolic representation of psychic processes, even down to the last detail.
Of course, nothing is further from the thoughts of modem man than the idea of penetrating the secrets of matter in this way, for he would actually rather use these symbols to penetrate the secrets of the soul, since it seems to him that, relatively speaking less research has been done on the soul and it is less familiar than matter.
But perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from alchemy’s mistake attributing to the lapis the ability to help in the manufacture of genuine gold.
For it seems to me important for us, too, not to attach any particular expectations of external, material success to the formation of the central symbol.
This appears to be very closely connected with the “epilogue” of your treatise, where you touch on the questions of imputing psychic contents to the ego and the risk of the inflation of consciousness.
Maybe the alchemists’ idea that they could really make gold by using the lapis cao be seen can expression of such an inflation of consciousness.
By way of contrast the expectations of external, material success are given up expectations that are initially connected with the appearance of the central symbol-then other fantasies emerge in the course of time, and they are concerned with the death of the individual and the meaning of death.
And it might possibly be that the rejuvenation of Faust, which only came about in a postmortem state, would be right, sub specie aeternitatis, for the individuated individual, if not for the history of civilization in general; this would be the case insofar as the death of the individual is always, in a certain sense, a historically conditioned necessity for this individual is also constantly subjected to such psychic influences, which in in his lifetime could not be fully assimilated into consciousness.
If the reverse were the case there would be something incomplete about the individual life.
As far as individually mentioned symbols in your treatise are concerned, what particularly struck me, in addition to the Christ-lapis parallel, is the evaluation of the Sacrifice of the Mass by the alchemists.
The former is quite analogous to my experience that the central symbol can be represented both as an acting person and an abstract one (as a “radioactive nucleus”).
As for the transformation and communion symbols, they are also very familiar to me as representing certain stages in the spiritual transformation in the individuation process.
I look forward with great interest to your further investigations into this process and am somewhat hopeful that they also might lead to the discovery of dynamic laws about the chronological sequence of the various phases.
Once again, my thanks and best wishes,
W, PAULI ~Carl Jung, Atom and Archetype, Pages 18-19