picture courtesy of Adam McLean





Jung's alchemy
a psychoanalytic reading

Central to Jung's work was the collective unconscious, a "myth-producing level of mind common to all" (Storr, 16). Alchemy, often misunderstood as pseudo-chemists vainly trying to make gold, was in fact a religious quest for 'philisophical' gold - a spiritual development. Not only is it rich with the archetypal images that compose the collective unconscious, it attempted to work with them and unify them. Jung saw this as a symbolic process of individuation.

Although as a religion alchemy has all but ceased to be, as a myth-system it can still illuminate us. Firstly, through not being institutionalised, it retained an intimate, non-prescriptive relationship with the collective unconscious. Secondly, in compensating for the one-sidedness of the dominant religion, Christianity, it addressed similar problems to ones we face now, but from a different historical vantage point.