Squaring the circle was a problem that greatly exercised medieval minds. It is a symbol of the opus alchymicum, since it breaks down the original chaotic unity into the four elements and then combines them again in a higher unity. Unity is represented by a circle and the four elements by a square. The production of one from four is the result of a process of distillation and sublimation which takes the so-called “circular” form: the distillate is subjected to sundry distillations so that the “soul” or “spirit” shall be extracted in its purest state. The product is generally called the “quintessence,” though this is by no means the only name for the ever-hoped-for and never-to-be-discovered “One.” It has, as the alchemists say, a “thousand names,” like the prima materia.
( Carl Jung )
Jung on Alchemy - At the end of Mysterium Coniunctionis, Carl Jung sums up the meaning of alchemy:
…the entire alchemical procedure…could just as well represent the individuation process of a single individual, though with the not unimportant difference that no single individual ever attains to the richness and scope of the alchemical symbolism. This has the advantage of having been built up through the centuries… It is…a difficult and thankless task to try to describe the nature of the individuation process from case material… No case in my experience is comprehensive enough to show all the aspects in such detail that it could be regarded as paradigmatic… Alchemy, therefore has performed for me the great and invaluable service of providing material in which my experience could not find sufficient room and has thereby made it possible for me to describe the individuation process at least in its essential aspects.
JUNG ON ALCHEMY – C.G. Jung’s research revealed to him that analytical psychology coincided with Alchemy. Jung states:
“I had very soon seen that analytical psychology coincided in a most curious way with alchemy… The experiences of the alchemists were, in a sense, my experiences, and their world was my world. This was of course, momentous discovery: I had stumbled upon the historical counterpart of my psychology of the unconscious. The possibility of comparison with alchemy, and the uninterrupted intellectual chain back to Gnosticism, gave substance to my psychology. When I pored over those old texts, everything fell into place: the fantasy-images, the empirical material I had gathered in my practice, and the conclusions I had drawn from it. I now began to understand what these psychic contents meant when seen in historical perspective.”
( C.G. Jung Psychology and Alchemy CW 12, pars. 345ff )
The basic structure of alchemical transformation is simple. It is as follows: The purpose is to create a transcendent, miraculous substance, with his among other symbolized the Philosophers’ Stone. The Elixir of Life, or the universal medicine.
First, find the suitable material, the so-called prima materia. In fact, unless the prima materia was found was returned to it is undifferentiated state transformation could not happen. Then the prima materia is subject to a series of operations that will turn it into the Philosophers’ Stone …. psychologically the image corresponds to the creation of the ego out of the undifferentiated unconscious by the process of discriminating functions: thinking, emotions, sensation and intuition.
Working on images in our work is working on the psyche and is the work of creating the Self (our unique identity.) Thus the work is to take the fixed, settled aspects of the personality that are rigid and static are reduced or led back to their original, undifferentiated conditions as a part of the process of psychic transformation. Rigid and developed aspects of the personality allow no change. They are solid, established, and sure of their rightness. Only the indefinite, fresh and conditional, the vulnerable and insecure, original conditions is open to development and hence is alive. Thus, the primia materia is found in the shadow of our ego addictions and what we do not want to know about ourselves.
These painful and humiliating aspect are what we unconsciously and sometimes bring forward to work on. Humility is a prerequisite for transformation to something better. Through humility mean that the inflated ego turn back to a primal relationship with the Self. The prima materia is a confused mixture of undifferentiated and contrary component requiring a process of separation into its element (images). Separate and transform from the shadow into the developing Self. Each time we create a new increment of prima materia, a new creation of consciousness occurs and is carved out of the unconscious. This process brings about healing and rejuvenation. The ego needs the guidance and direction of the unconscious to have an meaningful life; and the latent Philosophers, is imprisoned in the prima materia and needs the devoted efforts of the consciousness to come into actuality. Together the conscious and unconscious do the Great Work to create more and more consciousness in the universe.