We specialize at the intersection between spiritual experience and depth psychology, providing works to assist you on your journey back to your Self.
Our main focus is the instinct for personal development.
We believe it is the central pivot around which all other instincts turn. It can also be seen as the main motivating factor in higher human behavior and it informs and colors the development of the world's religious and philosophical systems.
The transformation process is the central tenet of, for example, both Christianity and alchemy. It is a little known fact that some of the most influential theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas as well as other intellectuals such as Sir Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci were practicing alchemists.
There are 27 references in the New Testament alone to the mystery element of Christianity. Despite this firm attestation from the texts themselves, the esoteric level of Christianity has been largely ignored and sometimes actively discouraged by the church. This bias has been to the detriment of the spiritual growth of the church at both an individual and collective level.
The history of alchemy is intimately tied to that of chemistry and many conventional scientific terms and operations came from the art. In the current context, however, the focus is specifically on the psychological processes which are represented by the material symbols. There is no attempt here to turn lead into gold but, rather, it is a road map for self-realization and transformation. This is also called salvation, wholeness or enlightenment.
Our writing brings the most comprehensive explanation on the intimate connection between the symbolism of alchemy and Christianity to date. It also brings the psychological component into both systems with the advantage of the latest revolutionary findings in comparative neurology which are currently rewriting the entire history of pre-21st century clinical psychology into a new paradigm.
As an arcane art alchemy evolved in secret and there was never a uniform exposition from the various schools that had a hand in its development. Much of this confusion was a deliberate strategy on behalf of the adepts to keep the mystery element intact. The present work is a modern rendering of some of the classic symbols and principles into a unique working model for use by the contemporary magickal practitioner. No apology is given if the system appears pared down when compared to the highly elaborate schema formerly presented. The important thing to bear in mind is that it works.
That our works focus on the psychological elements of the transformation process does not mean that the entire project is reduced to a merely biological or neurological level nor that there is no room for the individual's Soul. The word 'psychology' comes from the Greek psyche which means not only mind but also life energy or Soul. It is with this depth that the word is used here.
It is typical Western dualism to separate spirit and matter or mind and body but this is a mistake. The Soul is the meeting place of the universal spirit with the material plane. The physical aspects of human being stand together with the deeper, spiritual features of our nature and they are treated here as being inter-connected. The spiritual dimension is not brought down to the level of reductionist clinical science: The boundaries of psychology have been elevated to include many of the most profound transpersonal experiences.
This can be seen as establishing a material basis within which the non-material element can be nourished and therefore flourish. A question mark is left over many of the transpersonal dynamics of the process and it is left up to the individual seeker to find their own answer.
The concept of the Archetype
and it significance in spiritual alchemy.
The concept of the archetype is central to spirituality in general because it is the inherent, transpersonal nature of the archetypal components of the psyche that act as the motivator and guiding force in the Adept. The archetypes, therefore, can be seen as spiritual instincts.
This metaphysical understanding is one which stretches back in the West at least as far as to the philosophical schools in Classical Athens. As has been comprehensively demonstrated throughout the book "The Idea of the Archetype", the Hebrew and Christian Bibles cannot be fully understood without a theological engagement with the concept.
The concept is also a central ingredient in the transformation dynamics of spiritual alchemy. After the introductory volumes "The Toad in Magick, Socrcery and Midwifery" and the Spiritual Alchemy Self initiation manual",, our two books on the archetype are written as a full explanation of this arcane art. The first, "The Idea of the Archetype; Ancient and modern" focuses on the theoretical application of the archetype and is available now. The second; "The Function of the Archetype in Spiritual Alchemy" focuses on the practical application and is scheduled for publication at the end of August 2017.
Despite (or perhaps because of) its ancient legacy the theory of the archetype has become shrouded in controversy and misinterpretation. The theological import of the archetype is especially evident in the mystical element of Christianity and it is also plays a very central role in many other schools of mystic teaching.
The concepts of the so-called 'collective unconscious' and the concomitant 'archetypes' have become synonymous since the first half of the twentieth century with the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Gustav Jung, who coined the former term.
Contrary to his own better understanding, Jung continually named the subjective symbols that the archetypes produce as the objective archetype as such. This over-working led to an unending confusion of derivative images being labeled archetypes by him and his followers which has seriously dissolved their meaning as a psychological reality. It has also confused the metaphysical understanding of the concept as it is explained throughout the Western intellectual tradition.
Jung was unable to provide appropriate evidence for his contentions which has further brought the concept into disrepute in the larger scientific community.
Although Jung clearly stated that the archetypes were either instinctual processes or their compensatory polar opposite, in his work he continually attributed the symbolic images that the archetype produces to be the archetype itself. This was also in contradiction to his own acknowledgment that “the archetype is essentially an unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, and it takes its colour from the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear.”1
According to Jung, archetypes are “primordial types, that is, universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” Jung quotes Levy-Bruhl’s concept of représentations collectives to describe the way in which these primordial and universal images have become expressed in the symbols of myth and fairytale.3 This comparison by Jung to Levy-Bruhl's concept underlines the same point of confusion because these collective representations are specific, conscious images that vary from one culture to the next.
Despite occasionally qualifying his theory by stating that the “unconscious processes, then, are not directly observable,”4 Jung continually contradicted this by insisting that “the archetypes are the unconscious images”5 which are consciously apprehended in, for example, the sun,6 the cross,7 the trinity,8 the quaternity,9 the virgin mother,10 the horse,11 the healing snake,12 incest,13 all god forms14 which means every specific manifestation including Wotan15 and, presumably, each of the 330 million forms of God in Hindu symbolism as well as a host of other vehicles.
In the end there are an infinite number of possible derivative images that, throughout his collected works, Jung would continually refer to as the actual archetype itself and this does not include all the so-called “archetypal” life situations which could also have infinite possible manifestations. This is a distortion and mockery of the original concept and it is also a basis of great confusion about the role and nature of the archetype. It is also a problem that Jung should have recognized when he states that the various symbolic images (which he refers to in the text as the actual “archetypes … ) … reveal quite unmistakably the critical and evaluating influence of conscious elaboration.” 16
Analytical psychology has achieved an almost exclusive voice in the exposition of the archetypes for the last century and therefore it is necessary to elaborate here on the failure of the system which has led to a widespread misunderstanding of the concept.
For Jung the “wise old man,” for example, was an actual archetype as quoted above and it had a psychological connection to other “archetypes” which form a complex in the individual's psychic life. His collected works are full of elaborations of these “archetypal” constellations. This misunderstanding has been broadly picked up and furthered by Jung's followers. Walter Shelburne, for example, states that one cannot give an exhaustive list of the archetypes, because “the archetypes tend to combine with each other and interchange qualities making it difficult to decide where one archetype stops and another begins.”17 The Jungian analyst June Singer suggested a partial list of well-studied archetypes which were, predictably enough, listed in pairs of opposites.18
Jung cited recurring themes as evidence of the existence of specific unconscious images shared among all humans. For example: “The snake-motif was certainly not an individual acquisition of the dreamer, for snake-dreams are very common even among city-dwellers who have probably never seen a real snake.”19 This is rather a weak argument from Jung because a person does not need to have directly seen a snake for the image of one to enter their dream state.
Still better evidence, Jung felt, came when patients described complex images and narratives with obscure mythological parallels:
"A more certain proof would be possible only if we succeed in finding a case where the mythological symbolism is neither a common figure of speech nor an instance of cryptomnesia—that is to say, where the dreamer had not read, seen, or heard the motif somewhere, and then forgotten it and remembered unconsciously. This proof seems to me of great importance, since it would show that the rationally explicable unconscious, which consists of material that has been made unconscious artificially, as it were, is only a top layer, and that underneath is an absolute unconscious which has nothing to do with our personal experience."19
Jung's leading example of this phenomenon was a paranoid-schizophrenic patient who could see the sun's dangling phallus. The motion of the phallus caused wind to blow on earth. Jung found a direct parallel to this idea in the Mithras Liturgy from the Greek Magical Papyri of Ancient Egypt—only just translated into German—which also discussed a phallic tube, hanging from the sun, and causing wind to blow on earth. He concluded that the patient's vision and the ancient Liturgy arose from the same source in the collective unconscious.20 This is a somewhat shaky foundation to build the theory that a huge range of symbolic images are defaulted as archetypes in the human neurological hard-drive.
Jung's theory has brought both the concept of the archetype itself as well as that of the collective unconscious into disrepute. If the countless images that Jung named as such were actually archetypes then they would be encountered universally in the symbolism of every culture because they would exist a priori in the instinctual unconscious. Many of the images that Jung named archetypes are quite widespread but there are none that are universal. Many are very culturally specific and despite his various attempts Jung admitted that he was unable to provide proof of his conjecture that the images or symbols were universal archetypes.21
To bolster his theory Jung retreated into the hypothesis that images were inherited into a more specific racial unconscious. This concept weaves its way throughout his writings and in Psychology and Alchemy Jung assumes that by approaching their respective religious dogmas as symbols, rather than literal truth, a Catholic will return to the church while a Parsi will return to the Zoroastrian fire temple. 22 This view of specific cultural layers within the unconscious is most famously expressed by Jung in his disdain for Yoga in the West as outlined in the introduction to his book Psychology and Religion: East and West, where he writes that Yoga can be no more than mere “psychic hygiene” for Westerners who have not inherited (in their racial unconscious) the necessary psychological attitude to fully grasp the process of a loss of the ego. 23
Freud's concept of the 'super-ego' carries a similar meaning as a cultural level in the unconscious. However, for psychoanalysis, there is no assumption that this specific level was an inescapable jail sentence nor that one must remain with or return to the religious symbols inherited in their cultural situation. According to Freud, a Westerner could gain the same benefit from Yoga as an Easterner whose culture was steeped in the practice. At the end of the first chapter in his book Civilization and its Discontents, Freud gives a nod to a friend who, through practising Yoga, proclaims to have found a loss of ego and “primordial states of mind.” Although Freud admits to the possibility that these Yogic experiences can be summed up under the rubric of trances and ecstasies, he does not develop this train and is positive and poetic. Quoting the Romantic Schiller, he concludes “it must bring you joy to taste the rosy light.” 24
This is an extremely important difference in the theories of the two pioneers of depth psychology but the most noteworthy point here is that Freud is taking it as a given that there is a primal or innate level to the individual unconscious. As this discussion unfolds we will discover that his whole system centred around an understanding of the so-called primal unconscious that corresponded to the collective or instinctual unconscious.
It will be further shown that Freud forged a theory of the archetypes that fused the understanding of the concept as it was expressed throughout the history of Western philosophy with the hard clinical evidence of his psychoanalytic experience.
While it is certainly true that Jung was the first clinical psychologist to use the term 'archetype,' the concept is an ancient idea—as he himself noted. Jung paid tribute to the history of the theory with reference to it being “an explanatory paraphrase” of the Platonic Ideas: εἰδος. 25
The Platonic Ideas can be described as pre-existent 'Ideals' or 'Forms' that exist in a metaphysical state and influence our conscious apprehension. This is a development of the Logos of Heraclitus and the Nous of Anaxagoras. In other words it is an explanation of the apparent order in the universe with recourse to a metaphysical system.
Although Jung nowhere qualifies what he means by a “paraphrase” of the Ideas, it would be safe to assume that he was differentiating his own theory because for Plato there is a pure Form for a chair and all other mundane objects which is not in keeping with the sense in which Jung used the term.
That Jung continually referred to the symbol which manifests in the individual or cultural consciousness as being the actual archetype itself is also a departure from the Forms in Plato's theory and it is a departure that cannot be accepted if one wants to fully understand the nature of the archetype as a psychological phenomenon.
In the Republic (514a–520a), Plato describes the apprehension of the archetypal realities for people in his famous cave analogy. For the normal person it is as if they are imprisoned in a cave with a fire behind them and they are tied to a chair facing towards a wall. People pass between their back and the fire but the prisoners can only see the shadows which are cast on the wall in front of them. In the same way that the shadows are not the true manifestation of the procession of people in the cave—the symbols by which one perceives the archetype are not the true archetype.
Of course the conclusion to the cave analogy for Plato is to escape through the discipline of philosophy and consequently to be able to see the real. This freedom, however, can still not agree with Jung's multitude of apprehended archetypes: In Phaedo, Socrates teaches Cebes that through the dialectic one can perceive the unchanging nature of the unseen Ideas so that it is apprehensible to the unseen soul. 26 Socrates continues by positing the body and the senses in the world of the seen and changing—therefore sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell cannot comprehend the pure and unchangeable archetypal forms.
The 'unseen soul' could be what the psychoanalyst Dan Merkur has referred to as “unconscious wisdom.” 27 In his definition this is specifically tied to the functioning of the super-ego of the individual which is not the way that I see it because in psychoanalysis this concept generally 28 relates to the culturally inherited part of the individual's psyche.
This discussion understands the 'unseen soul' as part of the original instinctual unconscious and I will refer to it as 'intuition.' This word comes from the Latin intuitionem which means 'to look at' or 'consider' and stems from tuitionem, which means 'to look after' or 'protect' and 'to teach'—hence the English word 'tuition.' By using this word I mean the grasping of something that is beyond the physical senses but which has a concrete reality in a deeper level of unconscious apprehension. In other words a form of 'teaching' that seems to come to us from the metaphysical realm. The metaphysical space is being adapted here to mean the a priori unconscious that contains instinctual information and intuition is the personal and subjective grasping of that information which can be apprehended consciously by the individual only in an indirect, subjective and symbolic form.
In both Phaedo 29 and Phaedrus 30 Socrates denies that those who apprehend the world through the divine Ideas are “looking through a glass darkly” but he qualifies this by alluding to the dialectic in testing every thesis that comes to one in the anti-thesis of falsification—thereby holding the synthesis as the new true reality. In other words even for the unseen soul or intuition to comprehend the unseen archetypes it is a matter of a constant process of becoming.
Trench's work, cited in the introduction, also makes a very good control for Jung's because he used some of the same historical precedents and his understanding of Plato's conceptualization of the archetypes agrees with my point. For Plato the archetypes are the unseen forms in the heavens and they manifest as 'images' and 'likenesses' (or 'similitudes') to humans. The human apprehensions are not the actual archetypes as Jung argued because, as Trench states, these are mere 'copies' or 'resemblances' of the heavenly forms. “Thus, the monarch’s head on the coin is εἰκών (Matt.22:20); the reflection of the sun in the water is εἰκών (Plato, Phaedo, 99 d); the statue in stone or other material is εἰκών (Rev.13:14).”31 Just as the reflection of the sun is not the same as the sun, for example, the symbol is not the same as the archetype. Within the same cultural context the apprehension of the archetype may take a very similar form as do two coins that are pressed from the same mold—but different cultures will create various images just as different molds will stamp out various coins.
This nuance is not so pedantic as it may at first appear. One could argue that a symbol is perceived in the imagination of the subject and therefore because this is not being perceived by the senses it could be equated with a direct apprehension. However, the imaginative apprehension of the symbol will take a concrete form even in the dream or vision of the recipient which will translate to a visual manifestation. In other words in a dream a picture of a god form or a symbol such as a mandala may present itself to the individual as a representation of the archetype but this is still only a subjective imitation which is consciously perceived.
The great mistake of analytical psychology is to confuse the conscious symbols with the unconscious archetype. What I am advocating here is a return to the original understanding regarding the apprehension of the archetype as it is explained in the works of Plato and his followers in the Western philosophical tradition.
In other words these new books and the system explained within them are a radical and important improvement in the way that the theory of the archetype has been developed by Jung and his followers. There are very important implications with this revision of Jungian psychology that enable the alchemist to differentiate much more clearly between the genuine transpersonal archetypes that assist the path to enlightenment and the unhealthy complexes that hinder the journey.
1 Jung, C.G. (1959). 4.
2 Jung, C.G. (1959). 5.
3 Jung, C.G. (1959). 5.
4 Jung, C.G. (1986). 40.
5 Jung, C.G. (1959). 44.
6 Jung, C.G. (1917). 109.
7 Jung, C.G. (1963a). 433.
8 Jung, C.G. (1953a). 209, 280f, 286.
9 Jung, C.G. (1963a). 246, 261. (1995e). 406.
10 Jung, C.G. (1963a). 714.
11 Jung, C.G. (1995e). 347.
12 Jung, C.G. (1972). 184.
13 Jung, C.G. (1995b). 659. (1978). 396. (1995e). 368.
14 Jung, C.G. (1963a). 404, 557.
15 Jung, C.G. (1995b). 203f.
16 Jung, C.G. (1959). 5.
17 Shelburne, Walter A. (1988). 63.
18 Singer, June Kurlander. Culture and the Collective Unconscious. Dissertation accepted at Northwestern University. August 1968.
19 Jung, C.G. (1954). 148.
20 Jung, C.G. (1954). 150–151.
21 The phallic tube example appears again in Jung, C.G.(1959). 50–53, but Jung adds: "I mention this case not in order to prove that the vision is an archetype but only to show you my method of procedure in the simplest possible form. If we had only such cases, the task of investigation would be relatively easy, but in reality the proof is much more complicated."
22 Jung, C.G. (1953). 15.
23 Jung, C.G. (1963). 574: „seelischer Hygiene“.
24 Freud, Sigmund. (1968). 19-20. My translation.
25 C. G. Jung. (1959). 4.
26 Plato; Jowett, Benjamin trans. (2007). 56.
27 Merkur, Dan. (2001). 16, 19, 20, 23.
28 I qualify this statement with the rider “generally“ here because, as Merkur points out, there are at least seven major formulations of super-ego theory.“These theories commonly credited the superego with the production of a guilty conscience, but otherwise profoundly disagreed from each other.“ See: Merkur, Dan. (2001). 51.
29 Plato; Jowett, Benjamin trans. (2007). 75.
30 Plato; Jowett, Benjamin trans. (2007). 112.
31 Trench, Richard C. (1858). 50.
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