Remo F. Roth

Dr. oec. publ., Ph.D.

dipl. analyt. Psychologe (M.-L. v. Franz)




English HomePage

© 2005 by Pro Litteris, Zurich, Switzerland and Remo F. Roth, Horgen-Zurich. All Rights Reserved. Republication and redissemination of the contents of this screen or any part of this website are expressly prohibited without prior written consent. This book is intended for private use only, and is copyrighted under existing Internet copyright laws and regulations.

With many thanks to Gregory Sova, Ph.D. and Patricia Sova (LA, CA) for translation assistance

go to index of contents

The Archetype of the Holy Wedding

 in Alchemy and in the Unconscious of Modern Man

(Part 2)

back to part 1

3. The Alchemical Rosarium Philosophorum

3.1 The fountain of Mercury  

The Rosarium Philosophorum begins with a representation of the site of its creation myth (see picture on the left; 1st picture of Carl Jung’s essay). It is not the Garden of Eden, as in the Old Testament (Genesis 2 and 3), but the Fountain of Mercury, the latter being the central archetype of alchemy. Mercury, an absolutely ambivalent being, symbolizes the personification of the ambivalence between the physical/psychic and the spirit/psychic energy. In this fountain a transformation takes place and thus the symbolism immediately shows us that this creation myth is governed by an energetic transformation process. This fountain of Mercury, in which the sexual union of the king (Rex) and the queen (Regina) – the ultimately divine beings – happens, is at the same time compared to the uterus. In it the hostile opposites, the feminine and the masculine principle, goddess and god, matter and spirit, are united.  



3.2 The king, the queen, the dove as Mercury and the three flowers

Contrary to biological sexuality, the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the dove, accompanies the pair (see figure on the right; 2nd picture of Jung’s essay). Symbolically seen, the dove possesses, however, much less the characteristics of a spirit but much more of the psychophysical realm, Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli referenced in their correspondence[1]. As a flying body, the dove means the Mercurial bipolarity as mentioned above, i.e., it symbolizes the union of the spiritual and the material and is therefore able to have a relationship with both, the spirit and the body (or matter in general)[2].  

Further, in our picture Mercury (the dove) is connected in a dual manner with the number six. On the one hand it touches the six-pointed star which hovers in the sky. On the other hand it is related to the three flowers that connect the royal couple and are arranged in such a way as to also form a hexagon. This hexagon is however a very special one because it is formed with three flowers, and its angular arrangement builds a double-triadic structure that consists of three blooms and three roots (respectively three bulbs).  

As I have shown in my book I Cercatori di Dio [The Quest for God; DiRenzo ed., Rome, 1994] this sixfold structure, especially in its form of the double triad, belongs to a primal structure of the material universe, to the so-called quark/antiquark sextette, which is itself the background of the atomic nucleus and the atomic force. It represents further the so-called unus mundus[3], the potential world of the alchemist Gerardus Dorneus before the creation (i.e., before the Genesis), which transcends the split between matter and spirit (see below).  



3.3 Carl Jung’s interpretation: The archetypal child as the third  

With the help of the sexual act performed in the water of the fountain of Mercury, yet the third will be created from the two opposites. This third entity possesses many different alchemical names: The stone (lapis), the philosopher’s gold, the filius Philosophorum, the infans solaris (sun child), the red tincture, the sun/moon child, and so forth.  

However, one must beware of the idea that this child, the product of the sexual union, as in the biological process carries forward the characteristics of its parents. It is on the contrary the so-called tertium non datur (“the third does not exist”), the excluded third of Western philosophy, as it has essential attributes of the child archetype[4].  

To show this difference to the human child, Carl Jung begins the description of the phenomenology of the child archetype as follows[5]:  

“Abandonment, exposure, danger, etc. are all elaborations of the ‘child’s’ insignificant beginnings and of its mysterious and miraculous birth. This statement describes a certain psychic experience of a creative nature, whose object is the emergence of a new and as yet unknown content. In the psychology of the individual there is always, at such moments, an agonizing situation of conflict from which there seems to be no way out – at least for the conscious mind, since as far as this is concerned, tertium non datur [the third does not exist; RFR]. But out of this collision of opposites the unconscious psyche always creates a third thing of an irrational nature, which the conscious mind neither expects nor understands.” [emphasis mine] 

This “third thing of an irrational nature”, which is unexpected and incomprehensible to the consciousness represents further “an anticipation of future developments”[6].  

Western philosophy is double valued. In it only a “yes” or “no” exists; there is no third. This principle, which is also behind modern digitalization and thus behind the computer, is however not sufficient for the description of the processes in the psyche, in the personal as well as in the collective. This is why the depth psychologist continues as follows[7]:  

“[The child] presents itself in a form that is neither a straight ‘yes’ nor a straight ‘no’, and is consequently rejected by both. For the conscious mind knows nothing beyond the opposites and, as a result, has no knowledge of the thing that unites them. Since, however, the solution of the conflict through the union of opposites is of vital importance, and is moreover the very thing that the conscious mind is longing for, some inkling of the creative act, and of the significance of it, nevertheless gets through. From this comes the numinous character of this ‘child’. A meaningful but unknown content always has a secret fascination for the conscious mind. The new configuration is a nascent whole; it is on the way to wholeness, at least in so far as it excels in ‘wholeness’ the conscious mind when torn by opposites and surpasses it in completeness. For this reason all uniting symbols have a redemptive significance.”  

The most interesting aspect of this quotation is the fact that the depth psychologist speaks of the opposites between the ego and the Self that must be united. This fact is very obvious in Carl Jung’s essay The transcendent function[8]. There he writes[9]:  

“The psychological ‘transcendent function’ arises from the union of conscious and unconscious contents.”  

As he mentions in the continuation of his article, the means for this union is Active Imagination. Then he concludes[10]:  

“[The active imagination is] the bringing together of opposites for the production of the third: the transcendent function.”  

Thus, we can conclude that Carl Jung’s theory, of which Active Imagination is one of the most important empirical tools, roots in the reunion of the first, the (Logos) ego with the second, the (Logos) Self to the third. This third principle he calls the archetype of the child or the transcendent function.


[proofread GJS, 4/20/05]

[1] Atom and Archetype, The Pauli/Jung Letters 1932 – 1958, ed. C.A. Meier, Princeton University Press, 2001; originally published in German as Wolfgang Pauli und C.G. Jung, Ein Briefwechsel 1932 – 1958, ed. C.A. Meier, Springer, Berlin, 1992

[2] See CW 14

[3] See CW 14

[4] For Carl Jung’s very important distinction of the child archetype from the concrete human child see CW 9/I

[5] CW 9/I

[6] CW 9/I

[7] CW 9/I

[8] CW 8

[9] CW 8

[10] CW 8


English Homepage Remo F. Roth