Sunday, November 27, 2011
Hoeller on Jung's Gnostic Paracelsus
The cosmos, according to Paracelsus, contains the divine light or life, but this holy essence is enmeshed in a mechanical trap, presided over by a kind of demiurge, named by Paracelsus Hylaster (from hyle, "matter," and astrum, "star"). The cosmic spider-god has spun a web within which the light, like an insect, is caught, until the alchemical process bursts the web. The web is none other than the consensus reality composed of the four elements of earth, water, fire and air, within which all creatures exist. The first operation of alchemy therefore addresses itself to the breaking up (torturing, bleeding, dismembering) of this confining structure and reducing it to a condition of creative chaos (massa confusa, prima materia). From this, in the process of transformation, the true, creative binaries emerge and begin their interaction designed to bring about the coniunctio or alchemical union. In this ultimate union, says Jung, the previously confined light is redeemed and brought to the point of its ultimate and redemptive fulfillment.
While these statements ostensibly refer to the material universe and to nature, Jung perceives in them a model or paradigm for the material and natural aspect of human nature as well. Under the guise of liberating the light confined in matter, the alchemists were endeavoring to redeem the spirit or psychic energy locked up in the body and psyche (the "natural man" of St. Paul) and thus make this energy available for the greater tasks of the spirit or spiritual man.
The roots of this thinking within both the Christian and the Hermetic gnosis are clearly acknowledged by Jung, who likens the imprisoned light to the primordial man of the Gnostics, the Adam Kadmon of the Kabbalah, and by association to the lost lightsparks of the Kabbalah of Isaac Luria. (The implications of this concept of alchemical redemption are many and impressive. On the one hand, it is clear that matter and the body are by no means to be equated with evil and darkness, while on the other hand, the pagan emphasis on a mere immersion of human consciousness in nature as advocated by some in our times under such slogans as "affirmation of life" and the "celebration of nature" reveals itself as a limited view to which alchemy may serve as a much needed corrective.)
Stephan Hoeller, C.G. Jung and the Alchemical Renewal
for further illumination try these books on Jung and Gnosticism/Alchemy. Stephan Hoeller reads Jung's Gnosticism in the light of the Nag Hammadi books (which of course fascinated PKD), and Raff on the concept of "Alchemical Imagination"