Sunday, January 31, 2010

Opus Contra Natura

The Work Against Nature is a phrase powerful enough to drive anyone away from something. But in alchemy the work against nature--Opus Contra Natura-- is merely a turning inward, a searching within which yields development and awakening.

It is a "work against Nature" because "nature" means physical nature. The opus contra natura draws our attention toward spiritual nature, the deeper truth of things.

In working with individuals who are just starting to write "again" the opus contra natura is a riot in the heart. The words just start flowing and, in some, they bring with them deep sorrow and joy which must be moved through.

I have been, of late, made aware (through being dumped by one such person and realizing my life is full of them) of personality disorders and their onset at either age 7 or in the adult years. Such disorders--borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and the like--occur because a child is not given the safety and expression children require. So, that child ceases developing past a certain point psychologically while the body continues its journey into maturation. The result: an incredible number of very tall 5 year olds, men and women, walking around and often running various shows.

I think of the opus contra natura and how it can be used to retrieve those inner 5 year olds, tend them, move them back into the forefront and listening to them. Doing the hard work necessary to become whole.

Is it possible that the sacred texts and their writers were writing about people who have left themselves entirely behind? And the fluidity of Life comes when we have gone back and dislodged those parts of us once frozen in time. . .

(picture courtesy of Adam McLean's website : Geber's Works woodcuts, c. 1678.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Alchemy and The Red Book

When Jung was having his initiation, which occurs in the writing and art of The Red Book, it was his introduction into the rights of alchemy, this wild formula for converting the matter of one's life into spirit.

I contacted Adam McLean about Jung's work in Alchemy. McLean is the founder of Hermetic Journal and a leading voice in the study of alchemical texts. McLean labors intensely to reproduce and publish the arcane and little known alchemical works on which Jung--and, since, countless others--based his work. McLean states on his stunning website ( that he was once enamoured of Jung's work. I emailed him asking him, basically "what happened" and he replied (within hours) that he simply prefers working in the originals. I respect that, and i also see it as in deep keeping with the nature of alchemy itself--a return to, and journey through, origin into the highest self.

McLean's work allows us to see the sources Jung turned to--the dark and peculiar, often grotesque drawings of the medieval texts such as Mutus Liber. It was on these books that Jung based his own Red Book. To explore them visit McLean's website:

For me, the images of the old stuff deeply spoke almost as soon as I'd opened Lyndy Abrahams' Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery. Granted I was going through absolute hell at the time and had reached out into alchemy since I'd heard it was the source of the deep healing (called politely "depth psychology" professionally, but I call it something quite different). I started to see the symbols dance with each other, and they became increasily illuminated--even playful. There is a joy in working with alchemy and its artwork. Its elements and writings look dark and frightening--as does the Book of Revelations, but inwardly, elucidated by the dictionary and the work of McLean (who is acknowledged in the dictionary), all of it is about reaching a deeper place in ourselves, a place so dark it glows.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I picked up a copy of Jung's Alchemical Studies and, while getting my hair done by the amazing Guadalupe Chavarria, an alchemist in his own right for what he can do with a pair of scissors and that "diuturnity of intense imagination" he examined me with when I walked into his shop all shaggy and unshorn in the throes of last minute Christmas browsing, opened this unassuming little white book. Following the experience denoted in the Red Book, Jung devoted the rest of his life to trying to comprehend it. He calls all the other stuff, aside from the Red Book, his attempts at integration. This volume is his exploration of a number of alchemical writings--The Secret of the Golden Flower, the writings of Zosimus and Paracelsus and exploring the alchemical concepts of mercurius and the philosophical tree.

Jungian psychoanalysis draws heavily on alchemy and theosophy. This is just an example of the master psychic archeologist's explorations, a warm-up to the later works through which he furthers his argument that the psyche has been left unexplored for centuries as a result of the shunning of alchemy.