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Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture X 30th June, 1939

In the last lecture we were speaking of the alchemical parallels to the three ways of meditation prescribed by Cisneros, and we stopped before we had finished the third way, the via unitativa.

I only had time to tell you that the analogy in alchemy was to be found in the symbol of the coniunctio, the union of the spirit with the body.

This is usually represented by the union of sun and moon, or silver and gold, the most valuable metals.

I told you the alchemists sometimes represented this peculiar union as the rite of the Mass and. gave you an example.

The peculiar conceptions of Hermetic philosophy are really wholly parallel to the meditations of the Devoti, it is only the language and procedure which are different.

The alchemists were concerned with matter, but they endeavoured to produce a body which they said could only appear through the grace of God and which they compared to the body of Christ.

This sounds a complete absurdity to us today, but it was by no means absurd in the Middle Ages.

They had a totally different conception of the world, they did not need to search for metaphysical reality, for it was all settled fact for them.

They knew that God had created the world in seven days and that he had sent his Son to become man.

Metaphysical reality was already there so that chemical matter was seen by them in this light.

It was a matter of course to them that the stone was formed by metaphysical means, they knew that it could only be accomplished through the grace of God.

He had already accomplished this miracle in the incarnation of Christ, and the alchemists endeavoured to produce the same process in the materia.

They imagined the life of Christ, how he was begotten and born, suffered and died, and they hoped that this would imprint itself on the materia and transform it.

So they also called the miraculous stone the Salvator, to characterise it as the incarnated Saviour, in contrast to the spiritual Saviour who was Christ himself.

In the Middle Ages Christ was no historical figure but a perpetual presence, as he still is in the Roman Catholic Mass.

The stone is also called “pelicanus noster “.

The pelican nourishes its young with its blood as the Lord nourishes his children with his blood in the Mass.

So the lapis is also called: “cibs immortalis” (immortal food], “aurum potabile” (drinkable gold] , “spiritualis sanguis” (spiritual blood] and “medicina catholica” (panacea).

All these are attributes of this miraculous thing.

One could assume that the peculiar language and designations in Hermetic philosophy originated in Church tradition; Albertus Magnus and other Fathers of the Church seem to have been interested in alchemy and several treatises have been ascribed to them but it is all rather doubtful.

Alchemy began about the same time as Christianity, in fact we find alchemical ideas in China long before our era, so one can only be sure that the symbolism and language of the Fathers of the Church play an enormous role in alchemy.

The baptismal water of the Church was anticipated in Hermetic philosophy, we find it mentioned in treatises belonging to the first century A.D. and these are founded on pre-Christian sources.

There are quotations from these sources in the earliest alchemistic texts extant.

So the baptismal water is apparently an instance where the natural philosophy of antiquity influenced the beginnings of Christianity.

It is especially the symbols of the union or coniunctio which we find in the communion service.

In the Roman Mass the priest breaks off a small piece of the host, a round wafer which has been consecrated, and mixes it with the wine, the blood.

This is the breaking of the body of Christ.

The wine is spirit in the double sense, so body and spirit are reunited in this act.

The Latin passage in the service which is read runs roughly: “The union and consecration of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; may those who receive this mixture attain everlasting life.”

It is the cibus immortalis, the mixtio, a symbol of the union of body and spirit and of the resurrection of the living Christ.

It is the moment in the Mass when Christ comes to life again, and, as the doctrine of transubstantiation shows us, really and actually.

This is interpreted as the Resurrection and is directly designate d as such.

This breaking of the bread is carried out in a much more interesting way in the Byzantine Mass in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Very often the host, or round slice of bread, is replaced by a loaf of bread, which is kept on a sideboard or table behind the altar or iconostasis.

The priest performs the mactatio, the slaughter of Christ, by piercing the bread with a silver lance, as Christ was pierced by the lance of the soldier in order to ascertain whether he was already dead.

This procedure is very interesting because the host or loaf of bread is divided into four pieces.

Diagram I.

This established the quaternity. It is laid on the silver plate in the manner of Diagram II.

This is exactly the same idea as the quartering which is undertaken in alchemy to produce the four elements.

The four quarters of the bread are then mixed with the wine, and, through the joining of the separated, Christ is again re-established. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 161-162