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Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961

[Carl Jung on the dreams of Elias Ashmole.]

To C. H. Josten

Dear Sir, 6 April 1952

Thank you ever so much for letting me see Ashmole’s dreams!

Such a series is indeed unique.

One has to go right back to the 3rd cent. A.D. to find something that would bear comparison, namely the dream-visions of Zosimos of Panopoli.

These are indubitably alchemistic, while Ashrnole’s dreams have nothing-on the surface at least-reminiscent of alchemy.

They are, though, of considerable interest inasmuch as they contain a problem which played a great role in the generation immediately before Ashmole’s time:

It is the so-called “Mysterium Coniunctionis” represented in a literary document, viz . Christian Rosencreutz: Chymische Hochzeit, 1616.

It is also the foundation of Goethe’s Faust and one of the most important items in Gerard us Dorneus ‘ “Speculativa Philosophia”
(end of XVIth cent. Printed in Theatr. Chemi.,2 Vol. I, 1 6oz ) .

The “Mysterium” reaches its culmination in the dream of Dec. 29th 1646.

The peripeteia follows in the dream of March 1st 1647 and the catastrophe in the dream of May 16th 1 647.

The subsequent dreams show the turning over from the feminine to the masculine side, i.e., from the attempt at coniunctios. compositio to the suppression of the feminine factor in favour of a one-sided masculinity.

This a mounts to a complete disregard of the “left” side. i.e., th e unconscious, and the equally complete restoration of the former state of consciousness.

We describe this process as an intrusion of unconscious contents into the conscious world of an individual.

It is setting in with Sept. 11 th 1645: in the IX house = a personification of the alchemistic “Sapientia” ( parallel to the Gnostic “Sophia”!).

All the subsequent erotic and semi-erotic dreams aim at a coniunctio with the feminine, i.e., transconscious side (called “anima”). The “bridegroom”
is always, curiously enough , also the cipher chosen for Ashmole himself, quite correctly, because it is his “mystery.” March 1, 1647, a
“young man” poisons him, i.e., he himself as a younger person than he is, less experienced, his inferior, insinuates a younger, more masculine
idea over against an older, wiser attitude, inclined to integrate his more “feminine” trends which aim at the completion of the Self
(“process of individuation”).

The latter is expressed in dream June 21st 1646 by paradise on th e North pole, the 4 springs (quaternity!) and the “chapel of Our Lady,” also by dream of Dec. 29th 1646: “all my affections terminate in thee,” i .e., th e Anima-Sapientia .

In the North pole dwells the cor Mercurii.

“A” describes here a mandala, a well-known symbol of the Self.

(You will find all the necessary amplifications and evidence in my book Psychologie u. Alchemie, 1944 and in Symbolik des Geistes, 1948, here especially about 􀁴 .Concerning the “North” vide my book Aion, 1951.)

On account of a complete lack of personal material I am unable to say anything about the personalistic aspect of the dreams.

It would be however nothing more than a bit of personal or “all-too-human (!) chronique scandaleuse,” not altogether interesting.

I have confined myself therefore to the archetypal and impersonal aspect exclusively.

Here we have ample material for comparison at our disposal and a fairly conclusive one at that.

The whole dream-episode pictures in a remarkably neat way the experience of an “unconscious” invasion compensating a somewhat impulsive and rather one-sided masculine attitude, characteristic of the XVI and XVII cent. in the northern countries.

A parallel document in Italy is the famous Ipnerotomachia of Poliphilo (XVth cent.) with very much the same psychology.

(Cf. the book by L. FierzDavid : Der Liebestraum des Poliphilo [ 1947] Zurich.)

I have given you a very rough draft indeed of what one could say about A.’s dreams.

There is quite a lot more of detail I have not dealt with here.

To do so would require half a small book.

I only want to draw your attention to the Faust parallel: in the beginning of the series a number of women symbolize the approach of the unconscious; he is unable to establish a relationship with the female partner (his unconscious side, viz. his “anima” ), he then gets poisoned through his shadow ( alchem.: “familiaris,” as a rule , in Faust Mephisto) and through death and murder and fraud he regains his former masculine attitude with its ambitions: honour and wealth.

Another solution even in those unpsychological times would have been possible if “A”had carefully observed the ethical rules as well as the “Philosophia Meditativa”of alchemy.

It does not seem as if the publication of the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum had been the right answer.

However the dream series was an episode which might have had another effect if repeated later in his life.

I have dealt with this classical alchemistic problem in a special treatise Mysterium Coniunctionis, that is not yet published.

But my Psych . and Alch . gives you a general orientation at least.

Could you enlighten me about Mr. Lilly?

Was he a sort of sorcerer? and about the “Negative Oath”?

I know nothing about it.

Thank you again for your kindness!

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung

P.S. Are you going to publish the dreams?

It would be interesting material for a psychologist of my brand. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 47-48