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Alchemy – The Soul’s Journey

Course Description:

We see around us many of the mysterious images of alchemy, for they have become very popular: the lion swallowing the sun; the strange twin-bodied hermaphrodite; heavy stone cubes floating like clouds in the sky – and so many more. So my aim in these four presentations is to make a connection to the fascinating images of alchemy through our outer everyday life, whilst at the same time weaving them into the interior quality of the soul. Alchemy uses both pictures and strange words to express this paradoxical work. I hope to open these up and clarify them.

It was the psychologist Carl Jung who raised the profile of alchemy. He brought this discipline out of the dark corner of the past and into his studies of the human soul in the twentieth century. A new depth, meaning, and symbolic value emerged for modern people, who searched for a different approach to go with their contemporary sensibilities. In 1959, Marie-Louise von Franz says:

…Dr Jung … devoted many years of study to this subject, which he practically dug up from the dunghill of the past, for it was a forgotten and despised field of investigation which he … suddenly revived. The fact that now the smallest pamphlet sells for about 100 Swiss francs, while about ten years ago an excellent book on alchemy could be bought for two or three francs, is actually due to Dr Jung, because except for the interest displayed by some Freemason circles, and later developments by Rosicrucians, nobody really knew anything about the subject when he began his work on it.
We’ll learn about the symbolic meaning of these alchemical images, as a journey towards the mystical marriage: the greatest symbol of wholeness, and, indeed, holiness. That is, a marriage of the opposites or polarities within the psyche or soul: feminine marries masculine, dark marries light, spirit marries matter, fire marries water, good marries evil, and so on. All these aspects are symbolic forces or energies within the psyche. If these opposites are too wide apart they create tension in the personality. Alchemy helps us to reconcile these opposites, and so leads us to the state of real happiness, that is not so dependant on outer circumstances.

Alchemy is a process of inner, psychic development and spiritual realisation, taking place within ordinary life. It therefore has the power to change our everyday perceptions as much as our inner psychic reality. When the inner (the work of the soul) and outer (practical work in the world) move against each other, in constant movement and change, we enter the realm of unfolding transformation.

The rejection by the traditional church of the esoteric or mystical branch of Christianity meant that the alchemists practiced their art discretely. They risked being regarded as heretical, especially during the period of the Inquisition in Europe (Early 12th century to early 19th century) as they did not fit into the obedience required by the canon law of the Church. Although I have not found any records of an alchemist being burnt at the stake for practising alchemy, still, the alchemists kept rather a low profile. As a result their psychic work intensified and their writings became obscure. Jung himself was daunted after his encounter with his first alchemical book. He writes:

I let this book lie untouched for nearly two years. Occasionally I would look at the pictures, and each time I would think, “Good Lord, what nonsense! This stuff is impossible to understand.” But it persistently intrigued me, and I made up my mind to go into it more thoroughly. … [The] texts still seemed to me blatant nonsense, but here and there would be passages that seemed significant to me, and occasionally I even found a few sentences which I thought I could understand. Finally I realised that the alchemists were talking in symbols – those old acquaintances of mine, “Why, this is fantastic,” I thought. “I simply must learn to decipher all this.”
So it is thanks to the efforts of Carl Jung and his work of disentangling the symbolism of alchemy that we have so many insights. The method of the alchemists contained a minimum of programming and that is why, as von Franz says: that … alchemical writings are especially helpful for understanding modern material – and by reflection, modern men and women.

Sometimes three stages, and sometimes four, occur in alchemy and the four fit well into into our four presentations. They are as follows:

  • The Nigredo
  • The Albedo
  • The Rosy Dawn
  • The Sunrise

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the 4 webinars, you should be familiar with:

  • The deep significance of Jung’s work on alchemy and its suitability for the psyche of modern men and women.
  • An understanding of how Jung worked with the problems of our time.
  • An understanding of the significance of Jungian psychology and its divergence from more conventional methods.
  • A familiarity with Jungian terminology when used in alchemy.
  • A feeling for the flow of alchemy through everyday personal events and dreams.

Session Topics:

  • The Nigredo – The modern word for the nigredo is depression. At times, mental health descriptions pathologise this important process. It has received negative connotations, separating it from the spiritual life. The opposite is true. The state of The Dark Night of the Soul is part of the journey towards the light. Who can see the light of the stars if there is no dark night?
  • The Albedo -The albedo is the first light after a period of psychological darkness, or deep incubation. Slowly the light begins to shine on new, undiscovered aspects of our psycho-spiritual being. This is often symbolised in dreams of washing, or bathing, or being in bathrooms. New creative qualities, once hidden in the psyche, start to emerge.
  • The Rosy Dawn – The rosy dawn is the first light of day. Dawn is not yet sunrise, but the initial nigredo has refreshed the new light in the psyche, bringing the albedo. This has thrown light on new possibilities. At this stage there is often the realisation of a new creative life, either on the inner or outer level. A new awareness comes into life.
  • The Sunrise – The sun is our daytime star, illuminating the world. It symbolises the mystical marriage within the soul and puts an end to the gentle light of the stars in the night sky. The true light has appeared, and is above personal insight. The sunrise is sometimes called ‘the reddening’ to let us know that Eros, love, has arrived in our souls and the world.

We will look at the alchemical symbolism of these four states, and how they may appear in dreams, visions and unexpected everyday synchronicities. We will also look at how the process circulates in the psyche, going backwards and forwards, for it is not a static, rational process.

Requirements for enrolled Degree students to earn 1 Credit:

Required Reading

  • Marie-Louise von Franz: Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and Psychology (Inner City Books – Slim paperback)
  • Alexander Roob: The Hermetic Museum: Alchemy and Mysticism (Taschen Books – paperback). A collection of alchemical pictures – and just wonderful to browse through and marvel!

Recommended Reading:

  • C G Jung: Memories, Dreams, Reflections (different publishers, so use the index to locate Jung’s experiences and dreams around alchemy)
  • C G Jung: Psychology and Alchemy, collected works, volume 12, (Routledge). This is Jung’s analysis of the alchemical dreams of Wolfgang Pauli, the Nobel Prize winning scientist.

End of course essay describing the impact on your life of studying this material

  • For BA students – 6-9 pages in length
  • For MA students – 10-15 pages in length
  • For PhD students – 20-25 pages in length

The rules guiding our assignment collection and grading process can be found here: Ubiquity University Grading Policy


Brenda Crowther, MA initially studied Fine Arts, which included painting and art history and obtained her BA (Hons) in London. She exhibited her work for many years and spent some years in India and Asia studying the ancient sites and philosophies. After a teaching diploma, she taught in Art Colleges and Brighton University, where she was both studio teacher and lecturer in art history. Brenda had been reading the work of Carl Jung since she was 18 years old, and his way of using symbolic images influenced the development of her paintings and attitude. From an early age her dreams showed that alchemy was her path, and she knew that Jung has researched this intensely.

Many years later she resolved to study the work of Jung formally and to train as a Jungian Analyst. As a Master’s degree was required to prepare for this, she decided to study French Philosophy and obtained her MA from Sussex University. Then the immense study to be an analyst began. This covered the history of religion, the myths and fairy tales of all nations, the origin and development of consciousness, archaic man, alchemical studies, besides the more conventional study of psychiatry and psychological complexes, and of course, case work. The richness of this study ended with a thesis of 50,000 words, which gave her a Diploma as a Jungian Analyst easily described as doctoral level.

At present she prepares a book on her relationship to nature in both a symbolic and psychological way. She has written many articles and was editor of Harvest Journal for Jungian Studies in UK for six years. Recently she received the honour of the title of Fellow of the Guild of Pastoral Psychology in UK for her continued contribution to the field of Jungian psychology through conferences, articles and seminars.
Gyorgyi Szabo, PhD serves as Ubiquity University’s Dean of Graduate Studies. She was a Co-Founder and Academic Dean of the ‘Ervin Laszlo Center for Advanced Study’ (ELCAS). She served as the Director of Research and Development of the Center’s Exploratoria Program. She was co-creator of the WorldShift International Foundation, and the WorldShift 2012 organizations, and currently serves as the Executive Director at the Laszlo Institute of New Paradigm Research and a Member of the Advisory Board of the Memnosyne Foundation. She lectures worldwide and has published two books; papers in The Scientific and Medical Network’s Review, The Shift Network, and World Futures: The Journal of New Paradigm Research. Gyorgyi Szabo holds a PhD in Sociology – Summa Cum Laude awarded by the Sorbonne, University of Paris. She is also a trained Reiki and Reconnective Healing practitioner. Her holistic approach to metaphysics and interest in conscious evolution serves as foundation for her work in facilitating cooperative evolution toward a peaceful and regenerative world.

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