Workshop: Elements of Alchemy

Workshop: Elements of Alchemy
Laurel Howe MA, STA-T Saturday
February 8th, 2014 9am – 4pm


Western alchemists experimented with fire, water, earth, and air, trying to extract and capture the transformational spirit living in each element.It can be difficult for us to imagine that the elements were alive for the alchemists, and held within them the secrets that keep the world hanging together, incite growth, redeem evil, and produce life. In short, matter contained for the alchemists the mysteries of the gods. When we understand alchemical symbols as expressions of the spirit in the unconscious—the same spirit that brings us dreams, fantasies, the creative drive, and individuation—we begin to realize that the elements and their properties are images of transformational energy that is alive in the the psyche today. Studying alchemy helps us understand how sandplay works as a process of projective identification. When sandplayers work with the elements, they also work with their own psychic energy as it is projected into the elements, and the operations sandplayers perform with the elements help us understand the transformation they are going through. By carefully observing how the elements are used in sandplay and comparing them to alchemical symbolism, we can begin to discern their meaning for the individual in their own healing process. The workshop introduces the basic elements of alchemy: fire, water, earth and air. We review the operations associated with each: calcinatio, solutio, coagulatio, and sublimatio. We explore the psychological meaning of the operations using examples of alchemical symbolism in dreams and sandplay images. Finally we review the four stages of alchemical transformation and try to identify these stages in casework. Participants will gain a basic understanding of alchemical elements of transformation and how sandplay and alchemy are both projective phenomena that reveal dynamics and stages of psychological development. Learning goals: 1. Gain a basic understanding of the elements as alchemical symbols. 2. Learn to recognize alchemical operations and stages in sandplay. 3. Begin to understand the psychological meaning of alchemical symbols. 4. Develop an awareness of the value of projection in alchemy and sandplay.

Laurel Howe, M.A., STA-T is a Jungian Analyst and sandplay therapist in private practice in Denver. She earned her analytic diploma from the Centre for Research and Training in Depth Psychology, Zürich and is a teaching member of the Sandplay Therapists of America. She does analytic work as well as sandplay therapy with adults and children, and provides mentoring, process, and consultation for sandplay therapists. She lectures internationally on Jungian psychology and is a regular instructor at the C.G. Jung Institute of Colorado and the Colorado Sandplay Therapist Association. Laurel has a master’s degree in transpersonal counseling psychology from Naropa University and maintains a strong interest in contemplative psychotherapy. Laurel’s extensive examination of a young boy’s sandplay case with striking alchemical symbolism has appeared in the Swiss journal, Jungiana and in Psychological Perspectives, the journal of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles. Besides alchemy, Laurel is interested in the disappearance and reappearance of the feminine principle in Western religion and culture, including Mary Magdalen and her far-reaching presence in art, legend and contemporary culture. Her article, “Mary Magdalen: Lover of the Dying and Resurrecting God-Man,” will appear in Psychological Perspectives in the winter 2013 issue.  For more information on Laurel please visit
*This training counts towards STA certification.  For more information please visit

Time and Location

Maria Droste Counseling
4th floor conference room
1355 S. Colorado Blvd.,
Denver, Colorado

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