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Psychology and Alchemy

i. The Unicorn Cup

The healing cup is not unconnected with the “cup of salvation,” the Eucharistic Chalice, and with the vessel used in divination.

Migne says that Cardinal Torquemada always kept a unicorn cup at table: “La corne de licorne preserve des sortileges” (fig. 261).

Hippolytus, in his summing up of the teachings of the Naassenes, says that the Greeks called “Geryon of the threefold body” the “heavenly horn of the moon.”

But Geryon was the “Jordan,” the “masculo-feminine Man in all things, by whom all things were made.”

In this connection Hippolytus mentions the cup of Joseph and Anacreon: The words “without him was not any thing made” refer to the world of forms, because this was created without his help through the third and fourth [members of the quaternity].

For this is . . .the cup from which the king, when he drinks, draws his omens.

The Greeks likewise alluded to this secret in the Anacreontic verses:

My tankard tells me
Speaking in mute silence
What I must become.

This alone sufficed for it to be known among men, namely the cup of Anacreon which mutely declares the ineffable secret.

For they say Anacreon’s cup is dumb; yet Anacreon affirms that it tells him in mute language what he must become, that is, spiritual and not carnal, if he will hear the secret hidden in silence.

And this secret is the water which Jesus, at that fair marriage, changed into wine.

That was the great and true beginning of the miracles which Jesus wrought in Cana in Galilee, and thus he showed forth the kingdom of heaven.

This [beginning] is the kingdom of heaven that lies within us as a treasure, like the “leaven hidden in three measures of meal.”

We have seen that the “heavenly horn of the moon” is closely connected with the unicorn.

Here it means not only “Geryon of the threefold body” * and the Jordan, but the hermaphroditic Man as well, who is identical with the Johannine Logos.

The “third and fourth” are water and earth; these two elements are thought of as forming the lower half of the world in the alchemical retort, and Hippolytus likens them to a cup.

This is the divining-vessel of Joseph and Anacrcon: the water stands for the content and the earth for the container, i.e., the cup itself.

The content is the water that Jesus changed into wine, and the water is also represented by the Jordan, which signifies the Logos, thus bringing out the analogy with the Chalice.

Its content gives life and healing, like the cup in IV Ezra (14:39-40:

Then I opened my month, and lo! there was reached unto me a full cup, which was lull as it were with water, but the color of it was like fire.*

And I took it and drank; and when I had drunk,
My heart poured forth understanding,
wisdom grew in my breast,
and my spirit retained its memory.

The secret of the cup is also the secret of the horn, which in its turn contains the essence of the unicorn as bestower of strength, health, and life (fig. 263).

The alchemists attribute the same qualities to their stone, calling it the “carbuncle.”

According to legend, this stone may be found under the horn of the unicorn, as Wolfram von Eschenbach says:

We caught the beast called Unicorn
That knows and loves a maiden best
And falls asleep upon her breast;
We took from underneath his horn
The splendid male carbuncle stone
Sparkling against the white skull-bone.

The horn as an emblem of vigor and strength has a masculine character, but at the same time it is a cup, which, as a receptacle, is feminine.

So we are dealing here with a “uniting symbol” that expresses the bipolarity of the archetype (fig. 264).

These assorted unicorn symbolisms aim at giving no more than a sample of the extremely intricate and tangled connections between pagan and natural philosophy, Gnosticism, alchemy, and ecclesiastical tradition, which, in its turn, had a deep and lasting influence on the world of medieval alchemy.

I hope that these examples have made clear to the reader just how far alchemy was a religious-philosophical or “mystical” movement.

It may well have reached its peak in Goethe’s religious Weltanschauung, as this is presented to us in Faust. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Pages 466-471.