“Introduction to Alchemy: An Overview of the Basic Psychological Concepts in C.G. Jung’s Approach to Alchemy and the Archetypal Patterns of Transformation”
Presenter: Stephen Foster, Jungian Analyst
Date: Saturday, October 13, 2018
Time: 9AM – 1PM
Location: Denver Tech Area, 10 Inverness Drive East, 2nd Floor Conference Room, Englewood, CO
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When C.G. Jung first encountered alchemy, he did not see its psychological significance. As he immersed himself in the texts and images of the alchemists he interpreted the work of certain “spiritual alchemists” as a documentation of their projected inner processes onto the reactions they were observing. He identified a number of common themes and archetypal patterns in Alchemy, which he explores at length in four volumes of his collected works. In this interactive co-learning presentation/workshop we will examine the basic goals and concepts of Alchemy that Jung identified as psychologically important. Although the alchemical texts can be arcane and difficult to read, Jung has provided a road map to understanding these texts.
Jung interpreted Alchemy as a psychological transformation process, and he identified the “matter” or substances and elements to be transformed as the psychological issues within the psyche of his patients that needed transformation. The goal was to bring about change and achieve what the alchemists called the “philosopher’s stone,” and which Jung interpreted as a living connection to the Self, or wholeness in the psyche.
The goal of this presentation will be to introduce the metaphorical materials to be worked, the processes that bring about change and the transformative stages through which the psyche must pass to achieve healing. These processes are metaphors for the difficult changes required in therapeutic work, such as mortificatio or death (which psychologically represent ego death or letting go), putrefactio or decay and purification (which psychologically represent psychic breakdown) or coagulatio or coagulation (which psychologically represent a coalescing of the ego). Although we will briefly explore the stages, elements, substances, and some transformative processes in alchemy, we will use clinical case examples to achieve a deeper understanding of how alchemy works to illuminate present-day psychotherapeutic practice.
- To understand the alchemical stages of transformation and see how these terms might apply to modern psychotherapy.
- To understand the alchemical substances and elements to be transformed and see how these terms might apply to modern psychotherapy.
- To understand some of the processes of alchemical transformation and see how these terms might apply to modern psychotherapy.
- To understand what C.G. Jung meant by the terms: Archetype and archetypal pattern, and to understand how these terms can be applied when working with material from the unconscious, such as alchemical images.
Jung on Alchemy. Selected and Introduced by Nathan Schwartz-Salant: Read the introduction, pages 1 through 43.
Deeper Reading: (recommended but not required)
Religious Ideas in Alchemy, An Historical Survey of Alchemical Ideas. Jung’s Collected Works Volume 12, Psychology and Alchemy, pages 227 through 483.
Stephen Foster is Senior Training Analyst with the Boulder Seminar of the Inter-regional Society of Jungian Analyst. He has a private practice in Boulder, Colorado. He is the author of the book Risky Business: A Jungian view of environmental disasters and the Nature Archetype, which expands on his interests in the psychology of environmental problems, nature, and archetypes related to our interactions with nature. In addition, Stephen has a specific interest in alchemy stemming from his scientific background and Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He has taught on a wide-range of subjects including alchemy and alchemical processes in films, tarot, archetypes, fairy tales and the relationship between Jung and Wolfgang Pauli. (See his website: www.BoulderJungianAnalyst.com). Stephen is a Licensed Professional Counselor, holds a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology (Regis), is a Diplomate Jungian Analyst (IRSJA, IAAP) and is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. His Ph.D. and Diplomate in organic chemistry are from Imperial College, London.