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Psychology and Alchemy

(Jung's Collected Works #12)

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,984 ratings  ·  50 reviews

A study of the analogies between alchemy, Christian dogma, and psychological symbolism. Revised translation, with new bibliography and index.

Paperback, 467 pages
Published October 1st 1980 by Princeton University Press (first published 1944)
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Average rating 4.34  · 
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Jan 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: The wise old man, the Anima, and the intellect as Prima Materia
I was reading Psychology and Alchemy on the bus when a young woman leaned in and ask me, "Is that Jung?"

I told her that it was.

"Man, I've tried reading Jung before, but I've never made it all the way through. How are you liking it?"

"Well, it's ..." I blanked. And not only blanked, I realized that my mind had been blank for the last god-knows-how-long. As my eyes had been scanning the page, my thoughts had wandered so that not only could I not remember what the last sentence I had read said, but
Jason Thompkins
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If I happen to write about a book then you can be certain it is IMPORTANT to those of us "on the Path". This book contains invaluable reproductions of drawings made by REAL Alchemists, in fact the whole book as more illustrations than writing almost. Almost every page as a huge Alchemical drawing that, in my true opinion, can be meditated on and it helps those of us on the Path to GNOSIS. ...more
Erik Graff
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: alchemy/Jung fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: psychology
I'm not actually certain when I read this volume of the Collected Works and such similarly demanding texts as his Mysterium Coniunctionis. Hopefully I had the sense by the end of college to hold such texts until such time as I knew more about medieval and early modern religion and alchemy.

One thing I did do in college was to utilize interlibrary loan to obtain hundreds of journal articles about Jung and analytical psychology. By senior year I had my own study carrel and would basically spend the
Aug 05, 2011 marked it as to-read
In this book, Jung describes the 'opus' "as a work of imagination. He is discussing an old alchemical text that that tells how to produce the philosophers' stone. The passage says that one should be guided by a true and not a fantastic imagination. Commenting on this idea, Jung says that imagination is "an authentic accomplishment of thought or reflection that does not spin aimless and groundless fantasies into the blue; that is to say, it does not merely play with its object, rather it tries to ...more
H.A.A. Zayour
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I highlight the importance of reading Jung's book basically due to their richness when it comes to cultures and religions. I usually behave like a fanboy when it comes to Carl Jung due to his astonishing genius, but I encourage everyone to try and view things from his point of view.
Alchemy and psychology seem to be the least related topics, and it requires great creativity to actually link them together, which is exactly what Jung brilliantly does here. However, my main problem here would be the
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Carl Jung puts forward a thesis, which I am going to oversimplify: Alchemy, rather than being a scientific process, was, at least in part, an artistic process by which alchemists were attempting to resolve unconscious material within the psyche by using narratives involving physical matter such as chemicals, precious metals, and stones. The “transformation” alchemists sought is similar to that of the symbol of the figure of Christ and many of his parallels.

Jung provides support for this theory
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
if you can't be botehreed to wade through the very dense case studies, the first chapter is worth reading on its own, just for the insights it gives into Jung's marvelous connections he makes. ...more
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most certainly I wasn't ready for how much alchemical knowledge Jung had in this book. ...more
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: serious students of Jungian analysis, alchemy, or the Western esoteric tradition
This book is encyclopedic in scope, filled with page after page of electrifying insight and ecstatically illustrated throughout with 17th and 18th century alchemical engravings. There are worlds upon worlds to be discovered here, many of which I'm afraid I will have to wait until subsequent readings to fully grasp. Jung writes for the serious scholar, with footnotes that often cover more than half the page, and assumes substantial knowledge in the fields of analytic psychology, alchemy, and Chri ...more
Medical Marijuana
Jan 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Jung's book introduced me to the subject of alchemy and became a profound influence on me in terms of the way in which I use symbolism in my own writing. Jung believes that the Freudian "subconscious", (which he renamed the "unconscious"), or what he calls the "personal unconscious," is subsumed by a greater whole of transpersonal, transcultural elements called the "collective unconscious". When he (supposedly) noticed alchemical symbolism in the dreams of his patients he embarked on a massive s ...more
Elizabeth LaPrelle
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Wow. Jung, along with T.S. Eliot and some others, has the ability to make me feel woefully undereducated because, you know, I can't read Greek. OR Latin, even. Many parts of this book were almost impenetrably dense (for me), made up of references to ideas and people I had never heard of, and lengthy quotations and their translations, and discussions of their translations. That was rough. I was hoping to come out of it knowing a little something about alchemy, and I'm not sure that really happene ...more
Taliesin Mcknight
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a very good book for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Jung's views on alchemy and its connection with the individuation process. Jung analyzes dream images and shows parallels with many of the symbols found in alchemy. Jung theorizes that the alchemical Great Work is an actual process of self-actualization and unfoldment which is projected into the chemical changes witnessed by the alchemist. For this, Jung does produce some empirical evidence in the form of a great deal of recor ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: phd-studies
This impressive account of how much the medieval world view, based upon a perhaps faulty historical record of Ancient Egyptian customs, developed into a transformational spiritual practice Jung places at the heart of his psychoanalysis. Individuation may not have been the wealth a wide variety of alchemists throughout history (mostly in European locations) had expected to achieve and much has been written on these attempts through the centuries, not all of it to be trusted. Fortunately, Jung had ...more
Vera Borisova
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Too much alchemy and religion, less psychology than I expected.
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lately I've taken to saying alchemy, as a concept, has ruined my life, which, in the spirit of Jung, I mean in the best possible light. I.E., it is so curious and, to be clichéd, "disruptive," when applied in the way Jung analyzes it here. That's to say: what IF most of what we as humans use to feel connected to something greater (religion, science) is in fact, as Jung asserts here, projection that reveals a desire for wholeness and individuation? What does that reveal about us as a people and t ...more
Brandon Bagley
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was my fourth foray into the collected works, after Symbols of Transformation, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, and Aion. I expected it to be very difficult, and although it was at times, I was amazed by the profound truths I was able to glean from it. The alchemists projected their inner desire for wholeness and rebirth into "dead" matter in need of perfection, and struggled against their own doubt and confusion tirelessly for the goal. To me, Psychology and Alchemy is a prof ...more
Nemanja Lazarevic
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really couldn't expect anything less from such a genius mind as Jung's, especially after reading "The Red book". I think that anything I'm capable of saying would lower the value of the book itself, therefore, without many words, 5/5 for the great Jung! ...more
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredibly complicated book in which Jung forgets that maybe a student of it doesn't have enough background in symbolism.

It was a bit too much for me. I will get back to it when I get more knowledgable on the subject.
Christian Smith
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
He outlines spectacularly how alchemy was the psychological stepping stone, the evolutionary precursor to the scientific pursuit. Rich in works of art and prose, it is a book that is nothing short of revalatory.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: occult-crap
Interesting, if tedious at times.
Barron Dalton
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jung was a genius. His introspection was always deep and usually verified by time. Some of the illustrations were very insightful. One serious point that I learned from Jung was "intuition". ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Very very dry. Not sure why most of the book is a stranger's dream analysis... ...more
Anton Zlatev
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional and absolutely stunning. Must read for all who are destined to become "themselves". ...more
Brandon Cook
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Exceptionally interesting, and very accessible.
Concetto Oniro Quest
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing introduction to the world of dreams and symbol analysis especially trying to analyze the correspondences between christianity and gnostic religions. A must for fans of Jung.
Matthew Marks
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Does what it says on the tin. A laborious read, but I carry the fruits with me to this day.
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I tried reading this in high school but found it somewhat impenetrable though certainly intriguing and did lead me to an interest in hermeticism and gnosticism.
Dan Cooper
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
For anyone interested in the mystery of life and the mind. I recommend reading the intro, then the epilogue first. Reading the intro twice really helped. It will especially interest you if you like dream interpretation (by a master) as well as mythology, the problem of opposites, and universal symbols. A lot of our new age ideas originate with alchemy. Nothing new under the sun.
Ayam Abraxas
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was unbelievably illuminating into the psychological symbolism of the ancient alchemical art. Jung was an initiate, and thus understood the esoteric significance of what he was studying, and any explorer of the unconscious through the use of psychedelics will be able to intuitively apprehend what he is alluding to.
Lupita Kirklin
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jungian Analysts, depth psychology
Who believes that medieval and early modern alchemy was only a misguided effort to transform base metals into gold, or at best a crude preparation for scientific chemistry, will experience a great and probably bewildering surprise.

The philosopher's stone can only be acquired and the metal can only be transformed into Gold in the psyche of man and in his soul... with the help of God...
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Carl Gustav Jung (/jʊŋ/; German: [ˈkarl ˈɡʊstaf jʊŋ]), often referred to as C. G. Jung, was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. Jung proposed and developed the concepts of extraversion and introversion; archetypes, and the collective unconscious. His work has been influential in psychiatry and in the study of religion, philosophy, archeology, anthropology, l ...more

Other books in the series

Jung's Collected Works (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • Psychiatric Studies (Collected Works, Vol 1)
  • Experimental Researches (Collected Works, Vol 2)
  • The Psychogenesis of Mental Disease
  • Freud and Psychoanalysis (Collected Works, Vol 4)
  • Symbols of Transformation (Collected Works 5)
  • Psychological Types
  • Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (Collected Works 7)
  • The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (Collected Works, Vol 8)
  • The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (Collected Works 9i)
  • Aion (Collected Works 9ii)

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“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” 832 likes
“The real mystery does not behave mysteriously or secretively; it speaks a secret language, it adumbrates itself by a variety of images which all indicate its true nature. I am not speaking of a secret personally guarded by someone, with a content known to its possessor, but of a mystery, a matter or circumstance which is “secret,” i.e., known only through vague hints but essentially unknown. The real nature of matter was unknown to the alchemist: he knew it only in hints. In seeking to explore it he projected the unconscious into the darkness of matter in order to illuminate it. In order to explain the mystery of matter he projected yet another mystery - his own psychic background -into what was to be explained: Obscurum per obscurius, ignotum per ignotius! This procedure was not, of course, intentional; it was an involuntary occurrence.” 15 likes
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