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No. 12. Jung, Alchemy and History

A critical exposition of Jung's theory of alchemy
by Jon Marshall.

It is well known that Jung's encounter with alchemy was important for the development of his psychology, and that his writings on the subject have a reputation for difficulty.

Jon Marshall here gives a brief history of alchemy, a short account of Jung's position arranged by subject, a small amount on James Hillman's use of alchemy, and some brief criticism. The aim is to provide people with enough background for them to read Jung's writings on alchemy themselves. The overall theme is that Jung's writings, while interesting, important and influential, do not exhaust the complexities of alchemy.

Jon Marshall indicates that Jung gets much from the alchemists, that they deepen tendencies within his own works, but it is extremely doubtful that he clears up the mysteries of the texts themselves. It might be possible to suggest that if the alchemist projected the secrets of their psyche onto the Work, Jung projected the secrets of his analytic psychology onto alchemy.