Jung and the Alchemical Imagination [NOOK Book]

Overview


Jung and the Alchemical Imagination illustrates the spiritual nature of Jungian psychology and the debt it owes to the tradition of esoteric religion. Unlike other books on Jung and alchemy which contain a psychological interpretation of alchemical material, this work uses alchemy to understand the three cornerstones of Jungian spirituality--the self, the transcendent function, and active imagination.

Through the interpretation of alchemical...
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Jung and the Alchemical Imagination

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Overview


Jung and the Alchemical Imagination illustrates the spiritual nature of Jungian psychology and the debt it owes to the tradition of esoteric religion. Unlike other books on Jung and alchemy which contain a psychological interpretation of alchemical material, this work uses alchemy to understand the three cornerstones of Jungian spirituality--the self, the transcendent function, and active imagination.

Through the interpretation of alchemical imagery, Raff explains the nature of these three concepts and illustrates how together they form a new model of contemporary Western spirituality. This book is also unique in selecting alchemical texts for analysis that are relatively unknown and which, for the most part, have never been interpreted. In addition, he presents two new concepts--the ally and the psychoid realm. Through the addition of these ideas, and the new understanding that they offer, it is possible to apply alchemical imagery to transpsychic experience/ that is, to a world of spirits which may not be reduced to psychological concepts. By including this realm in the study of alchemy and Jungian thought, it is possible to gain insights into the nature of visionary and ecstatic experiences that form part of the path of individuation--the road to completion. 
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With loving attention to rare alchemical texts, the author poignantly expands key Jungian concepts to offer a useful and modern transformative." —Clarissa Pinkola Estes

"Jeffrey Raff uses his own experience as an analyst to courageously move out on his own. He outlines a form of spirituality based in part upon active imagination and in part upon the reinterpretation of little known alchemical texts. Using ancient Western traditions, Raff calls us back to our innermost selves, to connection with mysticism and the divine." —Arnold Mindell, author of The Quantum Mind

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892545674
  • Publisher: Nicolas-Hays, Inc
  • Publication date: 11/15/2000
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author


Jeffrey Raff received his B.A. from Bates College, a Master's in Psychology from the New School for Social Research, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the Union Graduate School. He graduated as a diplomate from the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich. He has had a private practice in Littleton, Colorado, since 1976, and teaches classes, seminars, and workshops on Jungian psychology and alchemy all over the country. 
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Read an Excerpt

JUNG AND THE ALCHEMICAL IMAGINATION


By JEFFREY RAFF

NICOLAS-HAYS, INC.

Copyright © 2000 Jeffrey Raff
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-89254-045-7



CHAPTER 1

JUNG as a SPIRITUAL TRADITION


I went to Zurich in 1972 to study at the C. G. Jung Institute. Though I took many classes there, my real training lay with a group of analysts then known as the "Kusnacht Mafia." This was an assemblage of individuals who had been most influenced by the teachings of Marie-Louise von Franz. A student, colleague, and friend of Dr. Jung, von Franz seemed to us to hold the key to a deeper understanding of Jung's theories. We spoke frequently of the written tradition versus the oral tradition of Jungian psychology, for there were major differences between the Jung of the Collected Works and the Jung as von Franz presented him. Von Franz spoke of a Jung who was a spiritual teacher, who knew full well that the inner work was of paramount importance. He was concerned far more with experience than with theory, and the stories of his many adventures with the unconscious were fascinating and inspiring.

It was an exciting time to be studying in Zurich. Many of the "old teachers" were still active. As students, we experienced the reality of the self first hand, and focused our efforts on living with it. We were taught to think of it as an inner figure with its own voice, one that could be heard directly in dreams, active imagination, and even in ordinary experiences. I remember Dr. von Franz explaining how she would tune in when asked a question, even one as simple as whether she would have lunch with someone. She would focus her awareness on the self and wait for the answer to come.


THE SELF

Jung's published writings are not always easy to understand, and frequently do not convey the reality of direct contact with the self. Jung does write of such experiences. For example, he stated that the self as center must become the spiritus rector of daily life. Moreover, the experience of the self is almost impossible to practically distinguish from the experience of "what has always been referred to as 'God.'" The experience of the self is from the perspective of the ego an experience of the Divine that presents it with problems and issues it would just as soon avoid. In the book Jung designed and edited for the general public, Man and His Symbols, von Franz presented Jung's basic notion of the encounter with the self when she wrote:

Some profound inner experience of the Self does occur to most people at least once in a lifetime. From the psychological standpoint, a genuinely religious attitude consists of an effort to discover the unique experience, and gradually to keep in tune with it ... so that the Self becomes an inner partner toward whom one's attention is continually turned


These comments occur in a paragraph in which von Franz equated the self with the philosopher's stone, an equation that Jung, himself, never failed to make.

There were a number of factors that influenced Jung's conclusion that the stone was symbol for the self. He conceived of the self as the union of opposites and the center of the psyche. The stone was the union of opposites, and often portrayed as center. The self could be personified as an inner figure, as could the stone. The self was the repository of wisdom and so, too, was the stone. The self was the goal of all psychic life, and the end state to which the individuation process led, while the stone was the goal of all alchemical endeavors and the end to which all the alchemical processes led. Moreover, Jung thought that the self created symbols in order to make its attributes known and the stone was one such image. Jung always operated under the assumption that what was said of the stone was true of the self, for in the stone the self had found a way to symbolically express itself. The comparison of the self with the stone united Jung's model with the alchemical one. He was also able to explore the spiritual ideas of the alchemist as they related to his own religious perspective.

Jung described the "religious attitude" as "careful and scrupulous observation of ... a dynamic existence or effect not caused by an arbitrary act of will." Since the self is the composite of these effects, I could describe the religious attitude as paying attention to the self, or as making it into an inner partner. The ego scrupulously observes the manifestations of the self and harmonizes itself with them. This was the tradition passed on to me in Zurich, and one I have followed for the last thirty years. This simple formulation conveys the heart and soul of Jung's spiritual model. Though many today would deny him any significance as a spiritual teacher, there was no doubt to those of us studying in Zurich with Marie-Louise von Franz and Arnold Mindell that Jungian work was a spiritual process. We did not confine our work with the unconscious to our analytical sessions, but made it the very fabric of our lives.

Jung was concerned with the question of how his psychology fit within the context of the Western European tradition. He found parallels to his psychic perspective in the lineage of alchemy and Gnosticism. While the question of Jung's place in history continues under debate, students of what has come to be called "esoteric spirituality" believe he belongs in that tradition. Esoteric religion includes teachers such as Jacob Boehme, Paracelsus, and in fact all of alchemy, as well as the Rosicrucian movement. In an essay on esoteric spirituality, Gerhard Wehr argued that Jung is part of the esoteric tradition. While owning that there are some difficulties with this attribution, he argued that Jung fits in this particular context for two reasons. Jung consistently referred to and quoted from older religious traditions to shed light on the workings of the unconscious. The second reason is more compelling. As Wehr points out, "The experience of depth psychology, the process of individuation that must be undergone, is itself an esoteric event which changes people to the depth of their being, extends their consciousness, and brings their personality to the maturity of the whole person." The nature of the inner experiences that Jung's model creates connects it most with the earlier esoteric schools.

Placing Jung within an historical context may not seem important. Today, however, more and more Jungians are redefining Jungian work and concepts with a decidedly non-spiritual emphasis. To lose touch with the deeper meanings of Jung's work, and with the traditions that helped shape him, would be tragic. Regardless of how analysts and therapists choose to apply Jungian thought to the clinical setting, originally and essentially, Jungian work was a system aimed at promoting profound transformational experience. Analytic work with individuals that does not foster such transformational experiences should only loosely be termed Jungian.

Living with the self is the key practice in Jung's spiritual model, but what is the self? Dialoguing with inner figures is a quintessential feature of the Jungian approach: the self is often experienced in this way. Personified as an inner figure, it embodies an individual's essential nature and, although often overwhelming, the self still wears a face resembling that of the conscious personality. But what is the self? Experientially, the self is an inner and subjective figure or center that feels powerful, numinous, and complete in itself. As a theoretical construct, the self has a number of attributes. It is the center of the whole personality and is thus related to what Jung calls the ego, the center of consciousness. In fact, to understand the self, one must understand something of the ego and the structure of the psyche as Jung conceived it.

The ego is easy to experience and hard to define. Experientially, it is what we refer to when we say, "I." When an individual says, "I am hungry," "I am angry," or "I am male," the "I" in those statements is the ego. The ego carries the "Iness" of the personality. We often naively identify the whole psyche with this "I," not realizing that there are, in fact, other aspects of the psyche with which we simply cannot identify. In Jung's conceptualization, the ego is the center of consciousness and, as such, is the instrument for making experience conscious. When the ego is in touch with any psychic content, that content is conscious. When the ego is not, that content is unconscious. Not only does the ego's attention lend consciousness to a psychic content, but it can also trigger a change within that content. Part of the work of individuation is the process of the ego's making experience conscious and thereby effecting changes in the psyche.

Those parts of the psyche that are not in relationship with the ego comprise the unconscious, both personal and collective. The personal unconscious consists of complexes and other material that belongs to the individual's life experience, but which, for a variety of reasons, is not in relationship to the ego. Much of this material can and should be brought into relationship with the ego, and the process of doing so strengthens and widens consciousness. The collective unconscious, on the other hand, consists of archetypes and universal images that do not belong to any single individual, but to humankind as a whole. Archetypal structures, patterns, and images mold and shape human life, and have always done so. This material does not belong to consciousness, and while it can be brought into relationship with the ego, the ego must not identify with it or assimilate it into its own structure. Any attempt to do so can lead to inflation or even psychosis. However, the archetypes may be brought into relationship with the self, for the self as center of the psyche is capable of interacting appropriately with this collective material.

Simply put, the psyche consists of the ego that is conscious and the complexes and archetypes that are unconscious. As the ego is the center of consciousness, the self is the center of the whole personality. The self is also the archetype of wholeness, and as such, carries a sense of the complete personality. Wholeness refers to the union of the conscious and the unconscious parts of the personality and, in particular, to the union of the ego and the unconscious. We might think of this process of unifying the opposites as occurring under the aegis and following the model of the self. Jung explains this aspect as follows:

Psychologically, the self is a union of conscious (masculine) and unconscious (feminine). It stands for the psychic totality. So formulated, it is a psychological concept. Empirically, however, the self appears spontaneously in the shape of specific symbols, and its totality is discernible above all in the mandala and its countless variants.


The self is the center of the personality even before the process of individuation begins. It only points toward wholeness symbolically, for the actual union of the conscious and the unconscious is the work of a lifetime. I refer to the self prior to this union as the "latent self." As the process of joining these two parts of the psyche begins to unfold, the self moves increasingly to its own manifestation. This latter aspect I call the "manifest self." The self and its transformation from latent to manifest are the primary focus of Jung's spiritual model.

It is important to clarify just what Jung meant by spirit and spiritual, however, so that we may more easily grasp how this process unfolds. In his article "The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales," Jung wrestled with the problem of the meaning of spirit. He came to the conclusion that there were three major attributes. The first is spontaneous movement and activity. The spirit is free to do and create as it will, and is free of the control of the ego, the conscious part of the personality. The ego can experience the spirit, but not dictate to it. The second attribute of spirit is the capacity to spontaneously produce images independently, and the third attribute is the "sovereign manipulation of these images." Experientially, every human being encounters the spirit in his or her dreams, for the images that populate dreams derive from the spirit. Not only the images themselves, but all that they do in the dreams are a reflection of spirit. In this sense, the ego does not make up dreams; rather, it experiences them as they unfold through the spontaneous manifestation of the spirit. Jung felt that the archetype of spirit appeared in dreams as the wise old man.

He also believed that the contents of the unconscious, including complexes and archetypes, had the capacity to manifest themselves as images. We might imagine the psyche as a chaotic place, in which every part is capable of generating its own image. With every aspect of the inner world able to personify itself as an image, the result would be a conflicting chorus of voices, each singing its own melody, with no regard for the others. This chaos is evident in severely disturbed and psychotic individuals who are unable to protect themselves from the cacophony of their inner spirits.

Balancing this disorder, however, is the self, the principle of order and harmony. I described the self earlier in its relationship to wholeness, to the potential totality of the personality. From the perspective of personified images, the self as a totality includes the whole array of images and voices that arise from the unconscious. In addition, the self is the center of the psyche, around which all the other parts orient themselves. The self brings order to the psyche, and harmonizes all aspects of the psyche to create an orchestrated composition. Seen in this way, the self is the center of the soul around which the archetypes are grouped in their respective order. The mandala is the symbol for the self when it functions in this manner. Speaking of the mandala, Jung writes:

[The] basic motif is the premonition of a center of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy. The energy of the central point is manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is.... Although the centre is represented by an innermost point, it is surrounded by a periphery containing everything that belongs to the self.... This totality comprises consciousness first of all, then the personal unconscious, and finally an indefinitely large segment the collective unconscious whose archetypes are common to all mankind.


Jung calls the mandala, with its emphasis on order and harmonious balance, a premonition of the center of personality, or self. It is a premonition in that the self, in its capacity as the ordering center for the whole psyche, does not exist at birth. It must be produced through a variety of psychological experiences. To distinguish between the self before and after individuation, I speak of the "latent" and the "manifest" self. The latent self is a weak center, possessing only limited power to organize psychic life. With the latent self, the complexes and archetypes vie for control of the psyche; the intra-psychic situation is chaotic and difficult. The individual by no means experiences the chaos a psychotic patient does, but the individual's sense of self is tenuous.

The ego may believe itself to be in a strong and controlling position, but complexes can manifest at any time, disrupting the order that the ego struggles to maintain. A successful businessman who is very much "on top of things" at work may experience uncontrollable rages at home. A career woman may weep inconsolably for no known reason. The ego's order is a charade that a complex can easily puncture. If an individual comes under the power of an archetype, the fragile sense of identity conferred by the ego may easily be swept away. Obvious examples are the experience of normal and seemingly healthy individuals who are gripped by the emotions of a mob or the ability of governments to turn sensitive individuals into killing machines by appealing to patriotism.

More damaging from the point of view of spirituality is the risk of mistaking other inner voices for that of the self. An individual who is trying to listen to the voice of the inner spirit and who wants to relate to the images created by it may be dealing with an autonomous complex or archetype, and not the self at all. Turning inward in search of the still, small voice often unleashes a torrent of uncontrollable images. These images may not be related to the process of individuation, but to archetypes or complexes that are not yet part of the mandala Jung describes.

This happens all too often, as a study of spiritual experiences proves. Consider, as only one example, the fathers of early Christianity who went into the desert to seek their God and met hordes of demons instead. In all likelihood, the demons that plagued them were images produced by constellated complexes or archetypes.

In the above quote, Jung explained how the self could orchestrate the psyche, including the collective unconscious, around the powerful center I call the manifest self. As a result of the work of individuation, the self gains the position of the dominant spiritual force within the psyche. When images manifest, they manifest as the self, and though they cannot be controlled or even predicted, they can be trusted.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from JUNG AND THE ALCHEMICAL IMAGINATION by JEFFREY RAFF. Copyright © 2000 Jeffrey Raff. Excerpted by permission of NICOLAS-HAYS, INC..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments          

Introduction          

Chapter 1 JUNG AS A SPIRITUAL TRADITION          

Chapter 2 THE ALCHEMICAL IMAGINATION          

Chapter 3 THE CREATION OF THE SELF          

Chapter 4 THE PROCESSES OF INNER ALCHEMY          

Chapter 5 THE NATURE OF SPIRITUAL ALCHEMY          

Conclusion          

Bibliography          

Index          

About the Author          


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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2000

    A Classic of Spiritual Mysticism and Practical Mysticism

    I think this book may become a classic of spiritual psychology and practical mysticism. Jeffrey Raff uncovers the wisdom that has been hidden within the Western spiritual tradition, dresses it in clear, readable language, updates it with the central terms of Jungian depth psychology and grounds it in years of personal and prefessional experience. The result is the birth of a Way to wholeness and enlightenment equivalent to Eastern meditation practices - yet fitting for the Western psyche. The Way is active and creative, providing tools for self-knowledge, individuation and human self expression while simultaneously reaching to the deepest spiritual realities. It can stand on its own and can enrich any spiritual tradition. I'd recommend it especially to anyone interested in Jewish, Christian, or Islamic mysticism. This book will be known as a classic work in spiritual and practical mysticism. By explaining the methodology of Jungian depth psychology and ancient alchemical processes in clear and understandable writing Jeffrey Raff creates a Way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2000

    Imagination: The Force That is With You

    Raff, a Jungian analyst practicing in Denver, takes some interesting leaps in this experiential and theoretical treatise of psyche and spirit. He begins with Jung¿s individuation theory, which he explores as a psycho-spiritual process expressed by symbols of union well known to western alchemists--such as sol and luna or sun and moon, king and queen. From Jung¿s foundation, Raff moves to both alchemy and the mystics of Sufism, as well as his own experience and that of his clients as he extends into and beyond the realm of imagination. He posits a transpsychic world of spirit he terms the psychoid. For Raff, the quest for wholeness continues as a blend of imagistic psychic and actual psychoidal experiences, the latter stemming from the realm of quasi-corporal spirit he considers the source of the archetypal psyche. Along with other recent volumes concerning the creative force and connective substance of imagination, this work too seeks to evolve western psycho-spiritual theory and practice with insights based on historic and contemporary experience.

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