Alchemy Lectures by C.G. Jung
To the alchemist, matter was endowed with a living soul, and as he met this soul everywhere in his experiments, he concluded that at the bottom of all these individual, physical manifestations, there was a universal, all-permeating soul, an anima mundi (soul of the world) , which was the cause of every living substance and of its particular form.
It is self-evident, therefore, that the alchemistic method had to be a double one, for it dealt with a duality in the object and was therefore bound to be psychical and chemical.
The alchemist, being in need of a revelation about that strange and incomprehensible object matter, prayed that God would send him enlightenment. He admitted that he himself did not know, but he believed that the knowledge would come to him by the help of divine grace. What was it then that came to him?1 It must have been something from the depth of his own psyche, something which had been constellated in him by the unknown substances.
In the same way the alchemist, when he was occupied with a chemical substance ab out which he knew little or nothing, contemplated it until something came to him about it, until he had an intuition, an "Ahnung " in German.
The secret intention, which the alchemist felt in matter, was the psychical element which he met there through projection. The totally dark and unknown "substance" is the collective unconscious ; which is, in its original condition, like an obscure and heavy element and is wholly negative. Yet, if its negative condition can be overcome, it contains the highest value, the completion of the individual . It was the "Ahnung " of this, the desire of the alchemist himself to become conscious, which came to him while he laboured with his materials.
But because of his mental condition and of his fascination by matter, he thought he was dis covering a principle of matter and not of the psyche. Therefore, when he was contemplating a substance, this substance would whisper to him that it wanted to be transformed. When he received the enlightenment, for instance, that lead wanted to become gold, h e was obeying an inner command when he tried to bring about this transformation. This "aspiration" was concealed in the lead, it was a spirit, and the alchemist tried to liberate this spirit from its prison in the lead. He also call ed this spirit aqua or tinctura (water or tincture) , and it was through its aid that he tried to transform lead into gold.
This is a mythological idea, an archetypal image of a daimonion, a god or Anthropos, concealed in matter. In the cheap and vile substance, which can be found everywhere and which is despised, the highest and most precious substance is hidden, which longs to be redeemed and to return to its original state of incorruptibility, to the form in which it was originally created and in which it was of the same nature as the creator.
The highest value, the immortal form or soul of things , is compared to gold or to a precious stone, substances which owe their value to the fact that they are not corruptible.