Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche

[Carl Jung on Alchemical Elements, Molecular Movement and Energy.]

The remarkable thing about this paralleling of states of aggregation with different kinds of fire is that it amounts to a kind of phlogiston theory not, of course, explicit, but clearly hinted at: fire is peculiar to all the states of aggregation and is therefore responsible for their constitution.

This idea is old and can be found as early as the Turba,, where Dardaris says:

“The sulphurs are souls which were hidden in the four bodies [elements].”

Here the active principle (anima) is not fire, but sulphur. The idea, however, is the same, namely that the elements or states of aggregation can be reduced to a common denominator.

Today we know that the factor common to antagonistic elements is molecular movement,, and that the states of aggregation correspond to different degrees of this movement.

Molecular movement in its turn corresponds to a certain quantum of energy, so that the common denominator of the elements is energy.

One of the stepping-stones to the modern concept of energy is Stahl’s phlogiston theory, which is based on the alchemical premises discussed above.

We can see in them, therefore, the earliest beginnings of a theory of energy.

The phlogiston theory adumbrated by the alchemists did not get as far as that, but it points unmistakably in that direction.

Moreover, all the mathematical and physical elements from which a theory of energy could have been constructed were known in the seventeenth century.

Energy is an abstract concept which is indispensable for exact description of the behaviour of bodies in motion.

In the same way bodies in motion can only be apprehended with the help of the system of space-time co-ordinates.

Wherever movement is established, it is done by means of the space-time quaternio, which can be expressed either by the axiom of Maria or by the sesquitertian proportion, 3:4.

This quaternio could therefore replace that of the four elements, where the unit that corresponds to the time-coordinate, or the fourth in the alchemical series of elements, is characterized by the fact that one element has an exceptional position, like fire or earth. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, The Structure and Dynamics of the Self, Paragraphs 394-395.

Image: The Chemical Galaxy I, an alternative periodic chart of the elements. (Notice Mandala shape.)