The Practice of Psychotherapy: Essays on the Psychology of the Transference and Other Subjects (Bollingen Series)

The soul descending from heaven is identical with the dew, the aqua divina, which, as the Rosarium, quoting Hermes, explains, is “Rex de coelo descenderis.”

Hence this water is itself crowned and forms the “diadem of the heart” in apparent contradiction to the earlier statement that the ashes were the diadem. It is difficult to tell whether the alchemists were so hopelessly muddled that they did not notice these flat contradictions, or whether their paradoxes were sublimely deliberate.

I suspect it was a bit of both, since the ignorantes, stulti, fatui would take the texts at their face value and get bogged in the welter of analogies, while the more astute reader, realizing the necessity for

symbolism, would handle it like a virtuoso with no trouble at all. Intellectual responsibility seems always to have been the alchemists’ weak spot, though a few of them tell us plainly enough how we are to regard their peculiar language.

The less respect they showed for the bowed shoulders of the sweating reader, the greater was their obligation, willing or unwilling, to the unconscious, for the infinite variety of their images and paradoxes points to a psychological fact of prime importance, namely the indefiniteness of the archetype with its multitude of meanings, all presenting different facets of a single, simple truth.

The alchemists were so steeped in their inner experiences that their sole concern was to devise fitting images and expressions regardless of whether these were intelligible or not.

Although in this respect they remained behind the times, they nevertheless performed the inestimable service of having constructed a phenomenology of the unconscious long before the advent of psychology.

We, as heirs to these riches, do not find our heritage at all easy to enjoy.

Yet we can comfort ourselves with the reflection that the old masters were equally at a loss to understand one another, or that they did so only with difficulty.

Thus the author of the Rosarium says that the “antique Philosophi tarn obscure quam confuse scripserunt,” so that they only baffled the reader or put him off altogether.

For his part, he says, he would make the “experimentum verissimum” plain for all eyes to see and reveal it “in the most certain and human manner” and then proceeds to write exactly like all the others before him.

This was inevitable, as the alchemists did not really know what they were writing about.

Whether we know today seems to me not altogether sure.

At any rate we no longer believe that the secret lies in chemical substances, but that it is rather to be found in one of the darker and deeper layers of the psyche, although we do not know the nature of this layer.

Perhaps in another century or so we shall discover a new darkness from which there will emerge something we do not understand, but whose presence we sense with the utmost certainty. ~Carl Jung, CW 16, Page 287. Par 497.