[Carl Jung on the Arcane Substance and the Point]
- THE ARCANE SUBSTANCE AND THE POINT
The tremendous role which the opposites and their union play in alchemy helps us to understand why the alchemists were so fond of paradoxes.
In order to attain this union, they tried not only to visualize the opposites together but to express them in the same breath.
Characteristically, the paradoxes cluster most thickly round the arcane substance, which was believed to contain the opposites in uncombined form as the prima materia, and to amalgamate them as the lapis Philosophorum.
Thus the lapis is called on the one hand base, cheap, immature, volatile, and on the other hand precious, perfect, and solid; or the prima materia is base and noble, or precious and parvi momenti (of little moment).
The materia is visible to all eyes, the whole world sees it, touches it, loves it, and yet no one knows it.
“This stone therefore is no stone,” says the Turba, “that thing is cheap and costly, dark, hidden, and known to everyone, having one name and many names.”
The stone is “thousand-named” like the gods of the mystery religions, the arcane substance is “One and All”.
In the treatise of Komarios, where “the philosopher Komarios teaches the Philosophy to Cleopatra,” it is said: “He showed with his hand the unity of the whole.”
Pelagios asks: “Why speak ye of the manifold matter? The substance of natural things is one, and of one nature that which conquers all.”
Further paradoxes: “I am the black of the white and the red of the white and the yellow of the red”; or “The principle of the art is the raven, who flies without wings in the blackness of night and in the brightness of day.”
The stone is “cold and moist in its manifest part, and in its hidden part is hot and dry.”
“In lead is the dead life,” or “Burn in water and wash in fire.”
The “Allegoriae sapientum” speak of two figures, one of which is “white and lacking a shadow, the other red and lacking the redness.”
A quotation from “Socrates” runs: “Seek the coldness of the moon and ye shall find the heat of the sun.”
The opus is said to be “a running without running, moving without motion.”
“Make mercury with mercury.”
The philosophical tree has its roots in the air (this is probably a reference to the tree of the Sefiroth).
That paradox and ambivalence are the keynotes of the whole work is shown by The Chymical Wedding: over the main portal of the castle two words are written: “Congratulor, Condoleo.”
The paradoxical qualities of Mercurius have already been discussed in a separate study.
As Mercurius is the principal name for the arcane substance, he deserves mention here as the paradox par excellence.
What is said of him is obviously true of the lapis, which is merely another synonym for the “thousand named” arcane substance.
As the “Tractatus aureus de Lapide” says: “Our matter has as many names as there are things in the world.”
The arcane substance is also synonymous with the Monad and the Son of Man mentioned in Hippolytus: Monoi’mos . . . thinks that there is some such Man of whom the
poet speaks as Oceanus, when he says: Oceanus, origin of gods and origin of men.
Putting this into other words, he says that the Man is all, the source of the universe, unbegotten, incorruptible, everlasting; and that there is a Son of the aforesaid Man, who is begotten and capable of suffering, and whose birth is outside time, neither willed nor predetermined. . . , This Man is a single Monad, uncompounded and indivisible, yet compounded and divisible; loving and at peace with all things yet warring with all things and at war with itself in all things; unlike and like itself, as it were a musical harmony containing all things; . . . showing forth all things and giving birth to all things. It is its own mother, its own father, the two immortal names.
The emblem of the whole man, says Monoimos, is the jot or tittle.
This one tittle is the uncompounded, simple, unmixed Monad, having its composition from nothing whatsoever, yet composed of many forms, of many parts.
That single, undivided jot is the many-faced, thousand-eyed, and thousand-named jot of the iota.
This is the emblem of that perfect and invisible Man. . . . The Son of the Man is the one iota, the one jot flowing from on high, full and filling all things, containing in himself everything that is in the Man, the Father of the Son of the Man.
The alchemists seem to have visualized their lapis or prima materia in a similar manner.
At any rate they were able to cap the paradoxes of Monoimos.
Thus they said of Mercurius: “This spirit is generated from the substances of the sea and calls himself moist, dry, and fiery,” in close agreement with the invocation to Hermes in the magic papyrus entitled “The Secret Inscription,” where Hermes is addressed as a “damp-fiery-cold Spirit”.
The mystery of the smallest written sign, the point, is also known to alchemy.
The point is the symbol of a mysterious creative centre in nature. The author of the “Novum lumen” admonishes his reader:
But you, dear reader, you will have above all to consider the point in nature . . . and you need nothing else, but take care lest you seek that point in the vulgar metals, where it is not. For these metals, the common gold more especially, are dead. But our metals are alive, they have a spirit, and they are the ones you must take. For know that fire is the life of the metals.
The point is identical with the prima materia of the metals, which is a “fatty water” (aqua pinguis), the latter being a product of the moist and the hot.
John Dee (1527-1607) speculates as follows: “It is not unreasonable to suppose, that by the four straight lines which run in opposite directions from a single, individual point, the mystery of the four elements is indicated.”
According to him, the quaternity consists of four straight lines meeting in a right angle.
“Things and beings have their first origin in the point and the monad.”
The centre of nature is “the point originated by God,” the “sun-point” in the egg.
This, a commentary on the Turba says, is the “germ of the egg in the yolk.”
Out of this little point, says Dorn in his “Physica Genesis,” the wisdom of God made with the creative Word the “huge machine” of the world.
The “Consilium coniugii” remarks that the point is the chick (pullus).
Mylius adds that this is the bird of Hermes,or the spirit Mercurius.
The same author places the soul in the “midpoint of the heart” together with the spirit, which he compares with the angel who was “infused with the soul at this point” (i.e., in the womb).
Paracelsus says that the “anima iliastri” dwells in the fire in the heart.
It is “incapable of suffering,” whereas the “anima cagastris” is capable of suffering and is located in the water of the pericardium.
Just as earth corresponds to the triangle and water to the line, so fire corresponds to the point.
Democritus stresses that fire consists of “fiery globules.”
Light, too, has this round form, hence the designation “sun-point.”
This point is on the one hand the world’s centre, “the salt-point in the midst of the great fabric of the whole world,” as Khunrath calls it (salt = Sapientia).
Yet it is “not only the bond but also the destroyer of all destructible things.”
Hence this “world-egg is the ancient Saturn, the . . .most secret lead of the sages,” and the “ambisexual Philosophic Man of the Philosophers, the Catholick Androgyne of the
Sophists,” the Rebis, etc.
The most perfect form is round, because it is modelled on the point.
The sun is round and so is fire, since it is composed of the “fiery globules” of Democritus.
God fashioned the sphere of light round himself.
“God is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
The point symbolizes light and fire, also the Godhead in so far as light is an “image of God” or an “exemplar of the Deity.”
This spherical light modelled on the point is also the “shining or illuminating body” that dwells in the heart of man.
The light of nature is the “radical moisture” (humidum radicale) which, as “balsam,” works from the heart, like the sun in the macrocosm and, we must conclude, like God in the “supracelestial world.”
Thus does Steeb describe the “second God” in man.
The same author derives the gold from the dew or supracelestial balsam sinking into the earth.
Here he is probably referring to the older formulations of Maier, where the sun generates the gold in the earth.
Hence the gold, as Maier says, obtains a “simplicity” approaching that of the circle (symbol of eternity) and the indivisible point.
The gold has a “circular form.”
“This is the line which runs back upon itself, like the snake that with its head bites its own tail, wherein that supreme and eternal painter and potter, God, may rightly be discerned.”
The gold is a “twice-bisected circle,” i.e., one divided into four quadrants and therefore a quaternity, a division made by nature “that contraries may be bound together by contraries.”
It can therefore, he says, be compared to the “sacred city,” Jerusalem (cf. Revelation 21:10ff.).
It is “a golden castle engirt with a triple wall,” “a visible image of eternity.” “Though gold be mute so far as sound or voice is concerned, yet by virtue of its essence it proclaims and everywhere bears witness to God.”
And just as God is “one in essence,” so the gold is “one homogeneous substance.”
For Dorn the unity of God, the “unarius,” is the “centre of the ternarius,” the latter corresponding to the circle drawn round the centre.
The point as the centre of the quaternio of the elements is the place where Mercurius “digests and perfects.” ~Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, Pages 42-48.