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Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman

Volume 5: Alchemical Psychology

Copyright James Hillman 2010
All rights reserved.

eISBN 978-0-88214-586-0 (Kindle/iBooks Edition 2013, v. 2.3)

Published by Spring Publications, Inc.
Putnam, Conn.

Cover illustration:
James Lee Byars, Untitled, 1960. Black ink on Japanese paper. Estate of James Lee Byars; courtesy Michael Werner
Gallery, New York, London, Berlin

The Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman is published
in conjunction with Dallas Institute Publications,
Joanne H. Stroud, Director
The Dallas Inst it ut e of Humanit ies and Cult ure, Dallas, Texas
as integral part of its publications program concerned with the imaginative, mythic, and symbolic sources of culture.
Additional support for this publication has been provided by
The Fert el Foundat ion, New Orleans, Louisiana,
and by the Pacifica Graduat e Inst it ut e and Joseph Campbell Archives and Library, Carpinteria, California.

Authors Preface
The following pages were writ t en for different occasions and, except for Chapt ers 2, 5, and 6,
were delivered as lect ures. I called t he early at t empt t o present my way of grasping t his
mat erial, in t he 1960s at t he C.G. Jung Inst it ut e in Zurich, Alchemical Opus/Analyt ical Work.
My int ent ion t hen as now is t o give psychoanalysis anot her met hod for imagining it s ideas and
procedures by showing how alchemy bears direct ly on psychological life, more clinically
immediat e and less spirit ually progressivist .
Lect ures in New York Cit y and not es for semest er courses t o universit y st udent s in 1968
(Chicago), 1973 (Yale), 1975 (Syracuse), and 1979 (Dallas) expanded t he sources and t he
insight s t hey prompt ed, which are compact ed where relevant int o t hese chapt ers.
All along my work has derived from t he ext raordinary scholarly achievement s of C.G. Jung
who opened t he field t o psychological underst anding. Tho following his foot st eps, I have worn
my own shoes, t hat is I t ry t o abjure a grand narrat ive t hat encompasses alchemy wit hin an
explanat ory t heory, such as Jungs conjunct ion of opposit es and t he realizat ion of t he Self,
eschewing t he t empt at ion t o give meaning by t ranslat ion int o universal symbols and noble
met aphysics. Inst ead, I have t ried t o obey one of Jungs own principles,st ick t o t he image t o
t he colors, t he chemicals, t he vessels, t he fire images of t he sensat e imaginat ion as it
present s st at es of soul. St ick t o t he image recovers t he ancient Greek maxim, save t he
phenomena (sozein ta phainomena), and t he phenomena of alchemy present a chaos. Every
ot her science and art is closely reasoned, says a basic t ext at t ribut ed t o Bonus of Ferrara,[1]
t he different proposit ions follow each ot her in t heir logical order; and each assert ion is
explained and demonst rat ed by what has gone before. But in t he books of our Sages t he only
met hod t hat prevails is t hat of chaos; t here is everywhere st udied obscurit y of expression; and
all t he writ ers seem t o begin, not wit h t he first principles, but wit h t hat which is quit e st range
and unknown t o t he st udent s. The consequence is t hat one seems t o flounder along t hrough
t hese works, wit h only here and t here a glimmering of light
Obscurit y of expression is nat ural t o t he psyche. Prime example, our dreams; mere
glimmerings. Saving t he psyches phenomena calls for an alchemical met hod of chaos, a
met hod which indulges t he souls surprising beaut y and invent ive freedom, and speaks bot h of
t he psyche wit h psychology and t o t he psyche wit h imaginat ion.
In preparing t his book I received help from and am grat eful t o Mary Helen Sullivan, t he lat e
Gerald Burns, St ant on Marlan for valuable suggest ions and keeping me at t he t ask, and Klaus
Ot t mann for his int elligence, t ast e, and labor.
upon this simple system of many colors is based the manifold and infinitely varied investigation of all things.
Zosimos of Panopolis (ca. 250 CE)
1Bonus, 11314. Who Bonus was, where and when he lived remain uncertain. Cf. J. Ferguson, Bibliotheca Chemica,
2 vols. (Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons, 1906), 1:115.
The Therapeutic Value of Alchemical Language:
A Heated Introduction
Jung's alchemical work has been relevant for analyt ical psychology in t wo main ways. I shall be
suggest ing a t hird way.
The first way has been excellent ly present ed by David Holt in his lect ure on Jung and
Marx. [1] There Holt shows t hat Jung imagined his work t o be t heoret ically and hist orically
subst ant iat ed by alchemy, and t hat Jung spent a great part of his mat ure years working out , in
his own words, an alchemical basis for dept h psychology, [2] part icularly t he opus of
psychological t ransformat ion. As Holt indicat es, it is t o alchemy we must t urn t o gain t he
proper placing of Jung's ent ire endeavor. We need alchemy t o underst and our t heory.
The second way has been profoundly elucidat ed by Robert Grinnell in his book Alchemy in a
Modern Woman.[3] There Grinnell demonst rat es t he incont rovert ible parallels bet ween t he
psychic processes in a modern It alian pat ient and t hose t hat go on in t he alchemical opus.
Where Holt st resses alchemical theory as background, Grinnell st resses alchemical
phenomenology in practice. We see from Grinnell t he cont inuit y or archet ypalit y of alchemical
t hemat ics in case-work. Thus, t o work wit h t he psyche at it s most fundament al levels, we must
imagine it as did t he alchemist s, for t hey and we are bot h engaged wit h similar processes
showing t hemselves in similar imagery. We need alchemy t o underst and our pat ient s.
The t hird angle, which I shall now essay, has t o do wit h alchemical language. In brief I want t o
make t his one point : Besides t he general t heory of alchemical t ransformat ion and besides t he
part icular parallels of alchemical imagery wit h t he individuat ion process, it is alchemical
language t hat may be most valuable for Jungian t herapy. Alchemical language is a mode of
t herapy; it is it self t herapeut ic.
To t alk about t herapy, we must first t alk about neurosis, and here I follow Jung's general
t heory t hat neurosis is a one-sided development of personalit y (CW 16:257), which I t ake t o
mean t he unavoidable one-sided development of consciousness per se. I read Jung t o mean
t hat neurosis resides in t he pat t erns of our conscious personalit y organizat ion, in t he habit ual
way we go about our days. What ever we do here requires repression somewhere else: I do
because I repress or I repress because I do. As Jung's own formulat ion st at es: One-sidedness
is an unavoidable and necessary charact erist ic of t he direct ed process, for direct ion implies
one-sidedness (CW 8:138). Neurosis can be cognit ive, conat ive, or affect ive, int rovert ed or
ext ravert ed, for we can be one-sided in any direct ion of personalit y.
Jung's is a beaut ifully limit ing idea of neurosis, keeping it t o what some might call ego-
psychology. I wouldn't , couldn't , call it such for reasons we shall come t o; but at least Jung's
idea of one-sidedness keeps neurosis from complicat ed explanat ions in t erms of socio-
adapt ive processes, development al hist oricisms, int ropsychic dynamisms, biofeedback
mechanisms, and ot her jabberwockies. Neurosis is locat ed right in one's conscious framework
(CW 16:12). I am neurot ic because of what goes on here and now, as I st and and look and t alk,
rat her t han what went on once, or goes in societ y, or in my dreams, fant asies, emot ions,
memories, sympt oms. My neurosis resides in my ment al set and t he way it const ruct s t he
world and behaves in it .
Now, t he essent ial or at least an essent ial component of every ment al set , of every
personalit y, is language. Thus language must be an essent ial component of my neurosis. If I am
neurot ic, I am neurot ic in language. Consequent ly, t he one-sidedness t hat charact erizes all
neuroses in general is also t o be found specifically as a one-sidedness in language.
An import ant implicat ion of t his I will merely brush in passing. This implicat ion is: t o discover
t he specifics of any neurosis, I must examine t he specifics of t he language essent ial t o it , t he
st yles of speech in which t he neurosis is couched. Jung began on t his pat h wit h his st udies in
word associat ion; Charles Osgood's semant ic different ial and George Kelly's psychology of
personal const ruct s could t ake us int o furt her det ail and pract icalit y.
There is much t o learn in regard t o t he rhet orics of t he neuroses. For we psychologist s list en
t o t he st yle of speech and not only t o t he cont ent s of t hat speech, and t o t he t one and body
of it s voice. Archet ypal psychology has already begun t o examine t he language, especially t he
rhet orical st yles of manifest speech, whet her in t he hour, in dream report s, or writ t en works,
and wit hin words t hemselves. But all t his we leave aside t oday.
The main implicat ion of t he proposit ion t hat t he one-sidedness of neurosis occurs
essent ially in t he one-sidedness of language will lead us direct ly t o t he goal of t his int roduct ion.
To get t here quickly let me clear t he ground in a hop, skip, and jump. The hop: since language
is largely social, t he one-sidedness of my language reflect s societ y's collect ive language. Then,
t he skip: Jung has already defined collect ive language as direct ed (direct ed process,
direct ed t hinking [CW 5, chap.2]), and I have at t acked it in various places under it s guises of
nominalism, rat ionalism, psychological language, Apollonic consciousness, and day-
world concept s. Last , t he jump: concept ual language, which is nominalist ic and t hus denies
subst ance and fait h in it s words, is t he usual rhet orical st yle of ego, especially t he
psychologist 's ego, and is t he chronic locus of our collect ive neurosis as it appears in
You see t hat I am claiming, as have Freud and Jung in ot her ways, a general West ern
cult ural neurosis of one-sidedness. However, I am locat ing t his in our direct ed-process
language, which is directed from within (for, aft er all, who or what direct s our direct ed t hinking?)
by it s inherent synt act ical, grammat ical, and concept ual st ruct ures result ing in concept ual
rat ionalism. Horrible dictu, t his neurosis is reinforced by t he academic t raining we must each
have t o become members of t he psychot herapeut ic profession. By concept ual rat ionalism I
mean writ ings such as t his t hat account for event s in concept -t erms rat her t han t hing-words,
image-words, craft -words, and also I mean our habit ual use of ident it y verbs (such as is),
which unconsciously subst ant iat e t he very t erms we consciously assert t o be only nomina.
Hence we hypost asize our hypot heses. A rift develops bet ween t heory and pract ice, even a
t heoret ical delusion about pract ice. Like Jung, we assert our concept ual st at ement s are only
heurist ic; but because of language we cannot avoid, in pract ice, subst ant iat ing what our t heory
assert s is only heurist ic, only hypot het ical. We simply are caught in t he lit eralism of our own
We speak in concept s: t he ego and t he unconscious; libido, energy, and drive; opposit es,
regression, feeling-funct ion, compensat ion, t ransference When working wit h t hese t erms we
curiously forget t hat t hey are concept s only, barely useful for grasping psychic event s, which
t hey inadequat ely describe. Moreover, we t end t o neglect t hat t hese concept s burden our
work because t hey come freight ed wit h t heir own unconscious hist ory.
Not only, t hen, as Jung says, are psychological concept s irrelevant in t heory, but , as he also
says, t he psychologist must rid himself of t he common not ion t hat t he name explains t he
psychic fact it denot es (CW 8:22325). Yet we psychologist s imagine t hese concept t erms t o
be t hing words, for as Jung cont inues: Psychology is st ill afflict ed wit h a ment alit y in
which no dist inct ion is made bet ween words and t hings. What is t his ment alit y, t his afflict ion?
Is Jung speaking of lit eralism, t hat one-sidedness of mind t hat experiences only singleness
of language? In such a consciousness, t here is no as if bet ween t he word and what ever it is
conceiving. Then t he subject s in our sent ences become exist ing subject s and t he object s
become object ively real fact s. Then such concept s as t he ego, t he unconscious, t he feeling-
funct ion, t he t ransference become lit erally real t hings. Subst ant ives become subst ances. So
much so t hat we consider t hese concept s able t o account for personalit y and it s neuroses,
whereas I am arguing t hat t hese very same subst ant ialized concept t erms ego, unconscious,
t ransfeence are t he neurosis.
As Freud began by delit eralizing t he memory of sexual t rauma int o it s fant asy, and as Jung
began by delit eralizing incest and libido, we need t o delit eralize a host of ot her subst ant ialized
concept s, beginning wit h t he ego and t he unconscious. I have personally never met eit her
of t hem, except in a psychology book.
Ent er alchemy t hing-words, image-words, craft -words. The five supposed sources of
alchemy are each a t echnology. Each is a handwork physically grappling wit h sensat e
mat erials: (1) Met allurgy and Jewelry: mining, heat ing, smelt ing, forging, annealing; (2) Clot h and
Fiber Dyeing: dipping, coloring, drying; (3) Embalming t he Dead: dismembering, evacuat ing,
infusing, preserving; (4) Perfumery and Cosmet ics: grinding, mixing, dist illing, dilut ing,
evaporat ing; (5) Pharmacy: dist inguishing, t inct uring, measuring, dissolving, desiccat ing,
pulverizing. To t hese t radit ional sources must be added food preparat ion and conservat ion,
t he daily act s of t ransforming raw mat erials int o t ast y and nourishing edibles.
To a mind t hat has not severed concept ual denot at ions from met aphorical inference, all
t hese act ivit ies wit h t he hands and senses carried meanings about nat ure, life, deat h, and t he
soul. A smit h had t o know how t o manage fire and regulat e heat ; a pharmacist must make
mixt ures in t he right proport ion, else a remedy could kill rat her t han cure. (The very word
pharmakon means bot h poison and remedy.)
The basic st uffs of personalit y salt , sulfur, mercury, and lead are concret e mat erials; t he
descript ion of soul, aqua pinguis or aqua ardens, as well as words for st at es of soul, such as
albedo and nigredo, incorporat e event s t hat one can t ouch and see. The work of soulmaking
requires corrosive acids, heavy eart hs, ascending birds; t here are sweat ing kings, dogs and
bit ches, st enches, urine, and blood. How like t he language of our dreams and unlike t he
language int o which we int erpret t he dreams. When alchemy speaks of degrees of heat , it
does not use numbers. Rat her, it refers t o t he heat of horse dung, t he heat of sand, t he heat
of met al t ouching fire. These heat s differ, moreover, not only in degree but also in qualit y: heat
can be slow and gent le, or moist and heavy, or sudden and sharp. As well, t he heat of horse
dung impart s t o t he heat ed mat erial propert ies of horse dung it self. Heat is not abst ract ed
from t he body t hat gives it .
The words for alchemical vessels t he shapes of soul in which our personalit y is being
worked cont rast wit h t he concept s we use, concept s such as inner space or int ernal object ,
or fant asy, or pat ience, cont ainment , suppression or relat ionship. Alchemy present s an array of
different qualit ies of vessel, different fragilit ies, visibilit ies, and forms: condensing coils,
mult iheaded alembics, pelicans, cucurbit s, flat open pans. One uses copper or glass or clay t o
hold one's st uff and cook it .
Finally, t he words for t he operat ions t hat which one does in craft ing t he psyche are
again concret e. We learn t o evaporat e away t he vaporousness, t o calcine so as t o burn
passions down t o dry essences. We learn about condensing and congealing cloudy condit ions
so as t o get hard clear drops from t hem. We learn about coagulat ing and fixing, about
dissolving and put refying, about mort ifying and blackening.
Compare t hese craft words of alchemy wit h t he words used for t he operat ions of
psychot herapy: analyzing t he t ransference, regressing in t he service of t he ego, developing t he
inferior funct ion, managing anger, synt onic ident ifying, showing host ilit y; improving, denying,
resist ing, ident ifying Not only is t his language abst ract , it is imprecise. Because of t his
imprecision in our equipment , our concept s for grasping t he movement s of t he soul, we have
come t o believe t he soul it self is an ungraspable flux, whereas act ually t he psyche present s
it self always in very specific behaviors, experiences and sensuous images.
Before Jung's t hought had been t ouched by alchemy, he raised doubt s about t he sensuous
language t hat alchemy so relishes. In 1921 he writ es in his Psychological Types:
The rational functions are, by their nature, incapable of creating symbols, since they produce only a rational product
necessarily restricted to a single meaning, which forbids it from also embracing its opposite. The sensuous
functions are equally unfitted to create symbols, because, from the very nature of the object, they are also confined
to single meanings which comprehend only themselves and neglect the other.[4]
I read him t o be claiming t hat sensuous percept ion is as one-sided as concept ual
underst anding, t herewit h implying t hat sensat e language clings t o it s referent s (alchemy's
concret e st uffs and operat ions) so t hat no furt her connot at ions emerge. Here, I believe, Jung is
confusing t he concret e wit h t he lit eral.
Alchemy t ook Jung away from t he syst emat ic rat ionalism of t he Types. We can see now, as
Holt quot ed, how necessary alchemy was for providing a basis for his dept h psychology
because alchemy leaves unilat eral lit eralism complet ely. No t erm means only one t hing. Every
alchemical phenomenon is bot h mat erial and psychological at t he same t ime, else alchemy
could not claim t o be salvific of bot h t he human soul and mat erial nat ure. It is all met aphor
(symbolic in Jung's 1921 sense of t hat word). All analogy. All a poiesis of t he hand.
Our minds st ill ret ain t his alchemical propensit y for t ransferring t echnology int o psychology.
Psychot herapeut ic slang bet rays how we t ruly imagine long before t he profession arrives at
sophist icat ed concept s. The language of handwork, of t echnical grappling, now emerges from
t he car repair shop. There, in t hat garage, met aphors abound for our psychic life: realignment s,
t une-ups, t ight ening t he brakes, refilling t he t ank so as not t o run out of gas, never st alling,
never misfiring, and never going flat .
Ever since Jung opened t he door t o alchemy for psychologist s, we have t ended t o go
t hrough it in only one direct ion: We apply our direct ed t hinking t o it s fant asy t hinking,
t ranslat ing it s images int o our concept s. Whit e Queen and Red King have become feminine
and masculine principles; t heir incest uous sexual int ercourse has become t he union of
opposit es; t he freakish hermaphrodit e and uniped, t he golden head wit h silver hair, red wit hin
t he black wit hout t hese have all become paradoxical represent at ions of t he goal, examples of
androgyny symbols of t he Self. You see what happens: sensat e image disappears int o
concept , precision int o generalit y. Even t he peculiar images of t he Rosarium Philosophorum
(CW 16) which call for perplexed cont emplat ion are asked inst ead t o serve as a handbook for a
general psychology of t ransference.
We could go t hrough t he door different ly. We might t ry t ranslat ing t he ot her way t he
act ualit ies of psychot herapy and t he language we use t o conceive t hose act ualit ies put int o
imaginat ively precise alchemical words: t hing words, image words, craft words. Grinnell's book
does just t his and so, concept ually addict ed minds find it hard t o read, heavy. It is hard and
heavy precisely because it speaks in t he concret e words of t he opus.
We could also not go t hrough t he door at all. For if we see t hrough t he concept s t o begin
wit h, we do not need t ranslat ions. Then we would speak t o t he dreams and of t he dreams as
t he dreams t hemselves speak. (By dream here I mean as well t he dream, or fant asy, wit hin
behavior.) This seems t o me t o follow Jung's dict um of dreaming t he myt h along. To do t his we
must speak dreamingly, imagist ically and mat erially.
I have int roduced mat erially at t his junct ure because we are close t o t he crunch, and t he
crunch of alchemy is mat t er. It is t he crunch of our pract ice t oo t o make soul matter t o t he
pat ient , t o t ransform his/her sense of what mat t ers.
Holt , following Jung, has shown t hat alchemy is essent ially a t heory of t he redempt ion of t he
physical, of mat t er. If so, t hen t his redempt ive process must also t ake place in our speech,
where t he absence of mat t er is most severe, and especially because t his deprivat ion is so
close t hat it is unconscious t o us even as we speak. We can hardly expect t herapy so
dependent upon speech t o work on t his massive curse of West ern consciousness, our
t ort ures over mat t er, if t he t ool wit h which we work, our speech, has not it self resolved t he
curse. Our speech it self can redeem mat t er if, on t he one hand, it de-lit eralizes (de-
subst ant iat es) our concept s, dist inguishing bet ween words and t hings, and if, on t he ot her
hand, it re-mat erializes our concept s, giving t hem body, sense, and weight . We already do t his
inadvert ent ly when we speak of what t he pat ient brings as mat erial, look for t he grounds of
his/her complaint , and also by t rying t o make sense of it all.
Re-ent er alchemy. It s beaut y lies just in it s mat erialized language which we can never t ake
lit erally. I know I am not composed of sulfur and salt , buried in horse dung, put refying or
congealing, t urning whit e or green or yellow, encircled by a t ail-bit ing serpent , rising on wings.
And yet I am! I cannot t ake any of t his lit erally, even if it is all accurat e, descript ively t rue. Even
while t he words are concret e, mat erial, physical, it is a pat ent mist ake t o t ake t hem lit erally.
Alchemy gives us a language of subst ance which cannot be t aken subst ant ively, concret e
expressions which are not lit eral.
This is its therapeutic effect: it forces met aphor upon us. We are carried by t he language int o
an as-if, int o bot h t he mat erializat ion of t he psyche and t he psychizat ion of mat t er as we ut t er
our words.
Alchemical t ext s are monst rously arcane. They are compact ed wit h ent angled layers of
references and analogies. It seems deliberat ely cult ish, supposedly t o hide it s secret s from t he
common mind and dogmat ic aut horit ies. But t here is a more profound, psychological, int ent ion
behind alchemy's obscurant ism.
The sages did not give a name to any of their things nor compare them with anything unless there is an aspect
which requires the contemplation of the observer about it and his thinking it over They did not coin examples or
descriptions except in order to point by them to their hidden stone. They did not coin them for fun or for
The language it self has a psychological effect :
Man' s language consequently must strain to capture the density of meaning [the hidden stone] conveyed by the
signs. It is this very fact which makes Paracelsian texts themselves difficult to interpret. Their fantastic vocabulary is
not designed to define unique, singular characteristics of phenomena; rather, it is constructed to reveal as many
depths of meaning as possible their words are intended to reverberate in the imagination with meanings.[6]
Concept ual language, however, is not self-evident ly met aphor.[7] It is t oo cont emporary t o be
t ransparent ; we are living right in it s midst . It s myt h is going on all about us, so it does not have
a met aphorical sense built in it . I do now know, cannot see, t hat I am really not composed of an
ego and self, a feeling funct ion and a power drive, cast rat ion anxiet y and depressive posit ions.
These seem lit erally real t o me, despit e t he experience t hat even as I use t hese t erms, t here is
a haunt ing wort hlessness about t hem. Nominalism[8] has made us disbelieve in all words
what s in a name? t hey are mere words, t ools, any ot hers would do as well; t hey have no
subst ance.
But our psychological language has become lit erally real t o us, despit e nominalism, because
t he psyche needs t o demonize and personify, which in language becomes t he need t o
subst ant iat e. The psyche animat es t he mat erial world it inhabit s. Language is part of t his
animat ing act ivit y (e.g., onomat opoeic speech wit h which language is supposed t o have
begun). Unless my language meet s t he need t o subst ant iat e, t hen t he psyche subst ant iat es
anyway, unawares, hardening my concept s int o physical or met aphysical t hings.
May I insist t hat I am not proposing t o cancel our concept s and rest ore t he archaic
neologisms of alchemy as a new esperanto for our pract ice and our dealings wit h one anot her.
That would be t o t ake alchemical language only lit erally. I do not mean: let us st art off now
t alking alchemy; I mean first let us t alk as alchemists, as if we were talking alchemically. Then
we can t alk alchemy, even t he old mad t erms, because t hen we will not be using t hem as lit eral
subst it ut ions for our concept s, employing t hem as a new set of cat egories. It is not t he lit eral
ret urn t o alchemy t hat is necessary but a rest orat ion of t he alchemical mode of imagining. For
in t hat mode we rest ore mat t er t o our speech and t hat , aft er all, is our aim: t he rest orat ion of
imaginat ive mat t er, not of lit eral alchemy.
I said t hat t he one-sidedness of neurosis perpet uat es in our psychological language, it s
concept ual rat ionalism. One-sidedness t hat general definit ion of neurosis now becomes
more precise. It can now be seen t o refer t o t he grasping nat ure of our grasping t ools, our
concept s, which organize t he psyche according t o t heir shape. Our concept s ext end t heir
grasp over t he concret ely vivid images by abst ract ing (lit erally, drawing away) t heir mat t er.
We no longer see t he clay funeral urn or t he iron pot -bellied st ove, but t he Great Mot her; no
longer t he sea just beyond t he harbor, t he sewer blocked wit h muck, or a dark pat hless forest ,
but t he Unconscious.
How can we have fait h in what we do if our words in which we do it are disembodied of
subst ance? Here again I join Grinnell and Holt who t ake fait h t o be t he key t o t he ent ire
psychological and alchemical opus. But I would locat e t his fait h in t he words t hat express,
operat e, are t his endeavor. Again: abst ract concept s, psychological nomina, t hat do not mat t er
and bear weight , willy-nilly accret e ever more hardening, leaden immobilit y and fixat ion,
becoming object s or idols of fait h rat her t han living carriers of it . When we t alk psychology, we
cannot help but become adamant ly met aphysical because t he physical imaginat ion has been
empt ied out of our words.
According t o Jung, neurosis is split t ing, and t herapy is joining. If our concept ual language
split s by abst ract ing mat t er from image and speaking only from one side, t hen t he as-if of
met aphor is it self psychot herapy because it keeps t wo or more levels dist inct whet her words
and t hings, event s and meanings, connot at ions and denot at ions joining t hem t oget her in t he
word it self. As t he coniunctio is an imaged met aphor, so met aphors are t he spoken coniunctio.
Especially, our one-sided language split s immat erial psyche from soulless mat t er. Our
concept s have so defined t hese words t hat we forget t hat mat t er is a concept in t he mind, a
psychic fant asy, and t hat soul is our living experience amid t hings and bodies in t he world.
As Jung grew older, he became ever more occupied wit h t his part icular split mat t er and
soul, at t empt ing t o join t hem wit h ever fresh formulat ions: psychoid, synchronicit y, unus
mundus. Even if defined as embracing bot h sides and even if present ed ambiguously and
symbolically, t hese words (unlike, for inst ance, t he alchemist s own soft st one,
hermaphrodit e, or Royal Wedding in t he Sea of t he Indians) only reinforce t he split t ing
effect inherent in such one-sided language it self. For t hey t oo are concept s, wit hout body or
image. Thus psychology remains neurot ic: we describe a nominalist ic psyche wit hout mat t er
(and t herefore fant asy and image do not really mat t er, are only in t he mind or must
magically connect t o mat t er in synchronicit y), and a de-souled mat t er t hat seeks redempt ion
t hrough body t herapies, consumer hedonism, and Marxism.
We end wit h a cult ural st at ement about neurosis and it s t herapy, similar t o ones made by
Freud and by Jung. Our neurosis and our cult ure are inseparable. Aft er polit ical doublespeak,
spin, jargonism, and Pent agonese, aft er sociological and economic scient ism and media
management of speech, and all t he ot her abuses even t hose of Lacan and Heidegger and
communicat ions t heory performed in t he very name of language t hat have drained words of
t heir blood, brought int o our day a new syndrome, childhood mut ism, and made us in
psychology lose fait h in t he power of words so t hat t herapy must t urn t o cries and gest ures:
aft er all t his I am passionat ely urging a mode of recuperat ing language by ret urning t o speech
t hat mat t ers. I am also harkening back t o Confucius who insist ed t hat t he t herapy of cult ure
begins wit h t he rect ificat ion of language. Alchemy offers t his rect ificat ion.
Delivered in 1977 at the 7th International Congress for Analytical Psychology in Rome and first published in Methods of
Treatment in Analytical Psychology, ed. I.F. Baker, (Fellbach: Adolf Bonz Verlag, 1980), 11826.
1D. Holt, Jung and Marx: Alchemy, Christianity, and the Work Against Nature (lecture given at the Royal Society of
Medicine, London, 21 November 1974, under the auspices of the Analytical Psychology Club, London), http:// (accessed February 2, 2009).
2My encounter with alchemy was decisive for me, as it provided me with the historical basis which I had hitherto
lacked, MDR, 200.
3Alchemy in a Modern Woman: A Study in the Contrasexual Archetype (Zurich: Spring Publications, 1973). See also his
Alchemy and Analytical Psychology, in Methods of Treatment in Analytical Psychology, ed. I.F. Baker (Fellbach-
Oeffingen: Adolf Bonz Verlag, 1980).
4C.G. Jung, Psychological Types or The Psychology of Individuation, trans. H.G. Baynes (New York, Pantheon, 1923),
5Muhammad Ibn Umail, Book of the Explanations of the Symbols (Kitb all ar-Rumz), Corpus Alchemicum Arabicum,
vol. 1, ed. T. Abt, W. Madelung, T. Hofmeier, trans. S. Fuad (Zurich: Living Human Heritage Publications, 2003), 73.
6O. Hannaway, The Chemists and the Word: The Didactic Origins of Chemistry (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ.
Press, 1975), 61.
7Every modern language, with its thousands of abstract terms and its nuances of meaning and association, is
apparently, from beginning to end, but an unconscionable tissue of dead, or petrified, metaphors. O. Barfield, Poetic
Diction: A Study in Meaning (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1984), 63.
8Cf. the discussion of Nominalism in my Re-Visioning Psychology (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), 58.
Bonus = Bonus of Ferrara, The New Pearl of Great Price, t rans. A.E. Wait e (London: J.
Elliot & Co., 1894).
Collectanea = Eirenus Philalet hes [George St arkey], Collectanea Chemica, t rans. A.E.
Wait e (London: J. Elliot & Co., 1893).
CP = Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers. Aut horized t ranslat ion under t he supervision of
Joan Riviere, 5 vols. (London: The Hogart h Press and t he Inst it ut e of Psycho-Analysis,
CW = Collected Works of C. G. Jung, t rans. R.F.C. Hull, 20 vols. (Princet on Univ. Press,
195379), cit ed by paragraph number unless indicat ed ot herwise.
Figulus = Benedict us Figulus, A Golden and Blessed Casket of Natures Marvels (London:
J. Elliot & Co., 1893).
HM = The Hermetic Museum, Restored and Enlarged, t rans. A.E. Wait e, 2 vols. (London: J.
Elliot & Co., 1893).
Jung Letters = C. G. Jung Letters: Volume 2, 19511961, ed. G. Adler, t rans. J. Hulen
(Princet on Univ. Press, 1976).
KY = C.G. Jung, The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932
by C. G. Jung, ed. S. Shamdasani (Princet on Univ. Press, 1996).
Lexicon = Mart in Ruland t he Elder, A Lexicon of Alchemy, t rans. A.E. Wait e (London: J.
Elliot & Co., 1893).
MDR = C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, recorded and edit ed by Aniela Jaff,
t rans. R. and C. Winst on (New York: Vint age Books, 1989).
Minerals = Albert us Magnus, Book of Minerals, t rans. D. Wyckoff (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
Paracelsus = The Hermetic and Alchemic Writings of Paracelsus the Great, t rans. A.E.
Wait e, 2 vols. (London: J. Elliot & Co., 1894).
SE = The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. J.
St rachey, 24 vols. (London: The Hogart h Press and t he Inst it ut e of Psycho-Analysis,
UE = The Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman, 11 vols. (Put nam, Conn.:
Spring Publicat ions, 2004 ).
Table of Contents
Tit le Page
Aut hors Preface
1/ The Therapeut ic Value of Alchemical Language: A Heat ed Int roduct ion
Abbreviat ions