Jung on Alchemy (3): Meditation and Imagination

Brigit Marlin, "Meditation on Emptiness"

Brigid Marlin, “Meditation on Emptiness”

Alchemy speaks a secret language, which, provided there is a basic soul readiness, can be learnt through a slow and arduous process, yet abounding in moments of rapture and revelation. Its method of explanation was best summarized by a Latin phrase obscurum per obscurium, ignotium per ignotius (the obscure by the more obscure, the unknown by the more unknown):

“The real mystery does not behave mysteriously or secretively;… it adumbrates itself by a variety of images which all indicate its true nature. I am not speaking of a secret personally guarded by someone, with a content known to its possessor, but of a mystery, a matter or circumstance which is ‘secret,’ i.e. known only through vague hints but essentially unknown. The real nature of matter was unknown to the alchemist: he knew it only in hints. In seeking to explore it he projected the unconscious into the darkness of matter in order to illuminate it.” (par. 345)

In the modern art of text interpretation called hermeneutics, in the foreground is the relationship between the reader and the text. My relationship with Jung’s alchemical writings is a devoted one; the vagueness, secretiveness and all the contradictions just fan my flames. If we agree that alchemy works with the soul, whose limits, as Heraclitus taught, one cannot find, so deep is its logos; then we will see that the multi-faceted and paradoxical nature of alchemical contents is warranted. Psyche is timeless, unchanging throughout the ages; this makes it possible to merge our modern horizon with that of the alchemists of the old times, provided we are attuned to our inner depths in the same way as they were.

According to Jung, two components were indispensable in order to embark on alchemical work: meditatio and imaginatio. They are defined in Ruland’s Lexicon Alchemiae as follows:

MEDITATIO — The name of an Internal Talk of one person with another who is invisible, as in the invocation of the Deity, or communion with one’s self, or with one’s good angel.

IMAGINATIO — is the Star in Man, the Celestial or Supercelestial Body.

Via http://www.rexresearch.com/rulandus/rulxm.htm

It seems that there was a hermeneutic process operating in alchemy, which was based on “an inner dialogue and hence a living relationship to the answering voice of the other in ourselves, i.e., of the unconscious” (par. 390). As the Emerald Tablet stated, “And all things proceed from the One through the meditation of the One,” which demands from us to attune ourselves to our inner psychic reality in order to bring what is hidden into light. The life-bringing exchange between the spotlight of consciousness and the vast fertile darkness of the unconscious is “a creative dialogue, by means of which things pass from an unconscious potential state to a manifest one.” (par. 390).

Brigid Marlin, "Mandala East to West"

Brigid Marlin, “Mandala East to West”

Imagination was what fired up those great alchemical works with their phantasmagorical images. Those “fantasy-pictures,” said Jung, are not mere immaterial phantoms but they are subtle symbolic bodies. For Jung, imagination was “a concentrated extract of the life forces, both physical and psychic” (par. 394). The soul is the bridge that spans the material and the spiritual realm, constantly engaging in creative imagination in order to actualize the archetypal forms into manifestation:

“The place or the medium of realization is neither mind nor matter, but that intermediate realm of subtle reality which can be adequately only expressed by the symbol. The symbol is neither abstract nor concrete, neither rational nor irrational, neither real or unreal. It is always both.” (par. 400)

Imagination is the inner star guiding us along the process of our soul making. The process of imagining and birthing new forms takes place in an egg-shaped vessel, which the alchemists imagined as well sealed, “completely round, in imitation of the spherical cosmos, so that the influence of the stars may contribute to the success of the operation.” (par. 338). This soul vessel held all secrets of creation.

Brigid Marlin, "Wolves in St Marks"

Brigid Marlin, “Wolves in St Marks”

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Source of quotes:

C.G Jung, Psychology and Alchemy

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28 Responses to Jung on Alchemy (3): Meditation and Imagination

  1. Thank you, Monika. I love your choice of content and reflection that is simultaneously concise and complex. Your words and selections from Jung act as a conduit between our conscious and unconscious life. I am grateful for this piece as it is absolutely a perfect illumination of experience, especially in this in between time of eclipses. You bring up just enough explanation to light the fire of imagination in your reader for further self-discovery. I love the focus on living, creative, imaginal dialogue.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LDA says:

    Recommend, if you haven’t already, reading Idries Shah’s “The Sufis.” Wonderful discussion on “alchemy” in Chapter ‘The Secret Language III. The Philosopher’s Stone.’ “…some claim that alchemy was the forerunner of chemistry, exclusively concerned with producing the Philosopher’s Stone; others that it stems from early attempts to gild or plate metals and pas them off as gold or silver; other s that it is a sublime art which deals only with the potentialities of the human consciousness.”


  3. BLaine Robert Parker says:

    Reblogged this on D. Blaine 's Space.


  4. Maria F. says:

    Monika, what a coincidence that today I finished a poem I started a few days ago, and I used the word “alchemy” automatically. The analysis you’ve made here has helped me understand the process a lot more. I like “The soul is the bridge that spans the material and the spiritual realm, constantly engaging in creative imagination in order to actualize the archetypal forms into manifestation”. There is a certain way one interacts with the physical world, according to this idea, one’s soul may or may not be present, even when our mind and body are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maria F. says:

      The painting by Brigid Marlin, “Wolves in St Marks”, has so much symbolism for me, I cannot begin to try to interpret it. I love how those trees are seen creeping in through the columns, the wolves, and the woman seems to hold on to the “round” vessel which seems to elevate her; and the wolves in this case seem to represent the “physical world”, but I think I’m far from understanding what’s really going on.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this and the other comment, especially the interpretation of the painting. I think you are really spot on and incredibly so! It does seem to be a very alchemical and visionary painting – the blackness as materia prima, the black earth. Also, I did not realize the poem you posted was actually written by you. It is beautiful and shows talent, I think. I love “penumbral precipice” especially. The poem seems amazingly timely right now.


  5. Slartibartfast says:

    Thank you Monika – this is yet another splendid post. I am ever so grateful for the wisdom you have distilled and share with us here. A little light from Zurich is spreading all over the world. You enlighten us and challenge us to further our own self-discovering quest.

    In appreciation, S.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. dimvisionary says:

    This post gets all of my yes. As usual, Monika, your awesome is so darn awesome. Thanks for inspiring words and images and thanks for a new word to research: hermeneutics! I like the way you finished with an “egg-shaped vessel”. I love an Easter Egg Hunt and that tricky rabbit always hides the egg in the last place you think to look. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. geokalpataru says:

    this is a great post Monica

    Liked by 1 person

  8. 1weaver says:

    perfect centering material as we prep for the new moon in aries 2015.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Janet C says:

    Reblogged this on Magic & Meditation and commented:
    This post is important to me because I can’t say how much of my life I spent denying my imagination (and my urge to draw and paint), because it made me different from other people. In the past few years, much of my “coming to” was realising that NONE of the things that made me different was anything to apologise for.

    Imagination is infantilised in some ways in society and the mainstream media. It is only validated when its results can be measured by outward material or financial means–we have studied less often how much it is needed for inner work: emotional and spiritual healing and growth. Imagination is also, coincidentally or deliberately, seen as the domain of only “gifted” individuals, and judged, constantly, when not used as judgment itself. “That was just my imagination” is used as dismissal even when the effects are real: our increased heartbeat and adrenaline rush if we are imagining something strange in the darkness. If an individual were to counter their fear by imagining protection forces around them, more often than not, that counter move is also derided.

    Meditation trains and manages imagination, yet conversely, also frees it. The two as combination are powerful, and within the reach of any individual to practise, if they choose. To start using them is to become familiar with immensely powerful tools, and they will become, in time, part of the journey.


    • Thank you humbly – so beautifully put and I agree with every word. We are the stuff that dreams are made on: fantasy is prior to any other experience.
      Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Gratefully received.


  10. Pingback: Jung on Alchemy (3): Meditation and Imagination | lampmagician

  11. Timely, as always. Just finished drafting up a post on Book IV of the Odyssey, where I definitely found alchemical connections to the god Proteus. Should have that post up tomorrow, I hope 😉



  12. Amy Campion says:

    Ah, my friend (if i may call you that), you never fail to make me smile! I so love to read your posts – just knowing that you are out there somewhere thinking these thoughts brightens my day..or night…or both 😉
    I just wanted to share, as a child I was always told I had a “wonderful imagination” – and it never ceased to surprise me that others didn’t! I could not fathom how they survived without dwelling, immersing, luxuriating in that place of creativity and wonder…but I did wish to understand it better. Even then I knew instinctively there was more to this if only I could learn it. One day we were fortunate enough to have a children’s author present to us at school, and we were allowed to ask her questions. “Where do ideas come from?” I asked. She couldn’t answer, and she tried to explain some of the things that inspired her. That wasn’t what I meant. I really meant – where do ALL ideas come from? What is this thing we call imagination? What am I really doing when I create? I stumbled and fumbled my way around these questions, and more, for many years… I am stumbling and fumbling still! But posts like yours help light the way down these dark twisty paths. With all my heart I thank you fellow journeyer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Amy,
      Thank you – of course you can call me a friend! It feels extraordinary to me to be understood so intimately by some of my readers. If that is not friendship then I do not know what is. Your comment came very timely just when someone else has been trying to hijack and destroy my blog by sending a barrage of hurtful comments. Thank you for proving them wrong.


      • Amy Campion says:

        So sorry to hear you have had hurtful comments and problems Monika. No matter how logically we try to rationalise aggressive behaviours, I know that does not stop it from being painful. I hope the small minority do not detract from the many of us who value and appreciate your work. You are a rare shining light, and sadly those who have their own demons to deal with often seek to extinguish that which may actually heal them. Stay strong – my friend 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Jung on Alchemy (3): Meditation and Imagination | Man in the Middle

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