Alchemy and Psychotherapy: Post-Jungian Perspectives
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Alchemical symbols are part of popular culture, most recently popularised in the Harry Potter books. Alchemy intrigued Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. It inspired him as he wrote ‘the Red Book’ - the journal of his voyage of internal discovery. He devoted much of his life to it, using alchemical symbols as metaphors for unconscious processes. Alchemy and Psychotherapy explores the issue of alchemy in the consulting room and its application to social and political issues. This book argues against the dominant discourse in contemporary psychotherapy - scientific materialism - and for the discovery of spiritual meaning.
Alchemy and Psychotherapy
has four main sections:
‘Alchemy and meaning’ - looks at the history of alchemy, particularly the symbol of the coniunctio - sacred marriage - a metaphor for the therapeutic relationship.
'The symbolic attitude’ - explores working with dreams, fairytales, astrology and the body: each of which is a symbolic language.
‘The spirit and the natural world’ - discusses the concept of 'burn out' - of therapists, our ecological resources, the mystical aspects of quantum physics and the philosophical underpinning of symbol formation.
‘Clinical Applications’ - shows alchemy’s use with victims of abuse, those struggling to secure gender identity, in anorexia and in ‘social healing’ - atonement and restorative justice - which apply the idea of the coniunctio.
Alchemy and Psychotherapy
is illustrated throughout with clinical examples, alchemical pictures and poetry which emphasise that alchemy is both a creative art and a science. Bringing together contributors from a wide range of disciplines, Dale Mathers and contributors show that therapy is both art and science, that the consulting room is the alchemical laboratory, and that their research is their creative engagement. Alchemy and Psychotherapy will be a valuable resource for practitioners, students at all levels of psychotherapy, analytical psychology, psychoanalysis and creative, art-based therapies and for creative practitioners (in film, literature and performing arts) who draw on Jung’s ideas.
Southwest London and St. George’s NHS Trust, Dr Mathers is now in private practice. She analyses, teaches and supervises for psychotherapy and Jungian analytic trainings in England, Poland and Russia. She is also an artist, working with watercolours, oils and mixed media: www.carolamatherspsychotherapy.co.uk. Dale Mathers, MB, BS, MRCPsych. Dale is a supervisor with AJA, and a psychiatrist. He teaches analytical psychology in the UK and Europe and is in private practice in South London. Dale is
bath’, exploring sensations around anger, but then hatred got in the way of going further. I began to experience ‘perversion as an erotic form of hatred’. Robert ‘bubbled up’ with rage, like Mercury’s fountain. Emotions splashed into frequent rows with colleagues, and me. He’d overwhelm me with minute details, feel he was ‘being done to’, like an angry teenager. He’d get road rage, fume over ‘bad service’ in shops, storm out if an interpretation was ‘a bit off . . .’, or near the mark. I could
loneliness. He was courageous enough to listen to his unconscious and not run away. In struggling with me and his new partner he noticed his fascination for, and disgust with, women. He felt small in relation to women’s genitals: they were large, arrogant and demanding. He couldn’t give them anything, nor could he go 68 THE QUEEN AND THE SERVANT away, so he ended up standing with head down, turned aside. There was neither possibility of relating nor of escape. Next day, in reminding him he was
the transformational themes in fairytales and alchemy – calcinatio, solutio and nigredo, and illustrate with some clinical material. Calcinatio: transformation through ﬁre Images of heating and burning are central to the work of alchemy. As we reﬂect on our inner images, we heat our material in the ﬂask, burning away the dross through this accelerated attention. In contrast to the uncompromising challenge of the fool, we ﬁnd many young girls in fairytales who are not so much awkward, as
recede. I would like to leave the reader with a similar metamorphosis of the ancient Grail question, in which the old, transformative words ‘what ails you?’, still echoing, are superceded by ‘what heals you?. ‘What heals you’ emerges as a fulcrum of the clinical hour as the Divine unfolds in the depths of embodied being. References Barad, K. (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway Durham USA: Duke University Press. Blass, R. (2006) ‘Beyond illusion: psychoanalysis and the question of religious