Remo F. Roth

Dr. oec. publ., Ph.D.

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




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

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The Archetype of the Holy Wedding

 in Alchemy and in the Unconscious of Modern Man

(Part 7)

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3. The Alchemical Rosarium Philosophorum  

3.8 Summary and further conclusions

It is now time to summarize the results so far and to draw some further conclusions. I have shown that Carl Jung was convinced that behind Sigmund Freud’s concretistic interpretation and the personal psychology of sexuality, i.e., behind the personal intimate relationship between man and woman, there must be a more universal aspect of this primal drive, a (psychophysical) archetype, the so-called coniunctio or Hierosgamos (Holy Wedding). Since Carl Jung was familiar with Gnosticism of the first and the second century, he quotes the deep insight of the Gnostics that “man’s procreative power is only a special instance of the ‘procreative nature of the Whole’.”  

Thus, I postulate that we have to look for a creation myth on a deeper, psychophysical level, which fulfils these claims. We have seen that it is the Hermetic alchemical Rosarium Philosophorum, which could be the archaic myth we have to translate into a modern language, taking into consideration the developments and results of quantum physics as well as of Carl Jung’s depth psychology of the 20th century. We have further seen that Carl Jung interprets this archaic myth as the archetypal background of the transference/counter-transference problem in psychotherapy. Therefore, a first challenge arises: If I try to find an interpretation of the Rosarium at a psychophysical level, it will include more than the archetypal background of the above crucial problem of psychotherapy, and like this it will perhaps extend and/or contradict some of Carl Jung’s results, the latter limited to the psychoanalytical setting.  

The alchemical myth, the Holy wedding or conjunction – completely heretical when seen from a Christian standpoint – tells us that a god and a goddess engage in sexual intercourse and create a child. Therefore, the Rosarium seems to be the looked-for creation myth. It contradicts the Jewish/Christian Genesis insofar as there is a divine couple and not God the Father alone who creates the “new thing”. Further the sexual symbolism of this compensatory creation myth is highly visible.  

For Carl Jung the archetypal background of the resulting third, of the new creation, is the child archetype. For him, the archetypal child is the so-called tertium non datur, the excluded third of Western philosophy and thus a spiritual principle. With this interpretation the depth psychologist limits the child archetype to what I will later call the spirit-psyche and interprets it as “the emergence of a new and as yet unknown [psychological] content,” “a third thing of an irrational nature, which the conscious mind neither expects nor understands.” Further, this “third thing of an irrational nature”, which is unexpected and incomprehensible to the consciousness represents “an anticipation of future developments.”  

The child’s characteristic of the vinculum amoris, the band of love, leads to the idea of the depth psychologist that we can equate this archetype with the so-called transcendent function. The latter is the “union of conscious and unconscious contents.” The tool used for this procedure is Active Imagination. Like this the (Logos) ego and the (Logos) Self come together. The ego talks to the figures of the unconscious and like this becomes more conscious about its blind spots.  

Carl Jung’s modern interpretation of the coniunctio leads thus to the result, that the child as the third principle is the transcendent function, which unifies the conscious and the unconscious psyche. One of the divine figures of the Rosarium is thus reduced to the consciousness of man. This is, in all likelihood, the reason why the depth psychologist feels later that he did not really reach the (second) coniunctio, the unio corporalis.  

In contrast to this merely spiritual interpretation I stress the bipolarity of the Self, shown in the archaic images of the Rosarium. There is more than one “Self” in it, not just the king or a god, but also a goddess, and both figures are equivalent. Thus I extend Carl Jung’s theory and postulate a Logos Self – alchemically seen the king – accompanied by the Eros Self, the queen.  

Further, the pictures of the Rosarium show that the divine couple is accompanied by Mercury, the most important, but ambivalent figure of alchemy. Thus the divine couple is enlarged to some sort of a threeness: The god, the goddess and the ambivalent Mercury. This result is backed by the alchemical Axiom of Maria Prophetissa. In my modern interpretation of it, one of the most important conclusions is that qualitatively seen the third is split and thus an ambivalent twoness. It must therefore be reunified in the fourth. Since symbolically seen the third is equal to the energy term, we can further conclude that also the energy term must be bipolar: spirit-psyche and matter-psyche. This result coincides with the bipolar Self I propose, containing Logos as well as Eros.  

Since the coniunctio is an affair of the three, the result, the child, is now the fourth. This fourth is a hexagonal structure, symbolized by the three flowers in the pictures # 2 to 4 . As a flower it reminds us of a vegetative myth, i.e., a myth in which the body – in deep contrast to concrete sexuality – is immobile. Further, the “heads” and the bulbs of the flowers create a double-triadic structure: The Seal of Solomon.  

In an abstract language this result means that the fourth is not equal to # 4, but equal to # 6 and to the double-triadic structure. This (first) child of the Holy Wedding, the vegetative Seal of Solomon (see picture on the left), symbolizes the (first) goal of Hermetic alchemy. It is also equal to the main structure of Nicholas von Flue’s Radbild (wheel image; picture on the right). Further we find it as the central symbol in the mandala of the heart chakra anahata of Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism (picture below left). In alchemy it appears also as the so-called rotundum, the round thing.

The Seal of Solomon represents the so-called unus mundus, the potential world before creation (i.e., before the Jewish/Christian Genesis) of the alchemist Gerardus Dorneus, which is an intermediate realm and thus transcends the split between matter and spirit.  

We can further conclude that the inclusion of the deeper, psychophysical aspects of sexuality in one’s own individuation process can only happen if the symbolism of # 6, not the symbolism of #4, is accepted as being an image of a more inclusive structure of the Self which appears at the unio corporalis stage of the Gerardus opus.  

In stercore invenitur, in the dirt we will find it (the lapis, the gold). This maxim of the alchemists shows that they had to accept that all these sexual images imposed on them by the unconscious, compensated for a too spiritual interpretation of the opus. The Holy Wedding is in fact not a divine concern in the Christian sense, but a union of the opposites, thus of the spiritual and the instinctive aspects of the alchemical deities. The resulting child is therefore the son of a bitch[1] as well as the new light that outshines the sun and moon, and it is even the restoration of the vanished man of light, the so-called Anthropos or primal man.  

The Anthropos, the primal man, is equal to the anima mundi, the World Soul, “latent in the dark of matter”[2] and penetrating all the phenomena of the universe. This is why Carl Jung concludes that the process beginning in stercore and represented in the symbolic pictures of the Rosarium indicates a mystery of creation and incarnation of cosmic proportions.  

However, if we remember that the depth psychologist tries to show that the myth is the alchemical template of the transference/counter-transference problem of the psychoanalytical process, such an interpretation seems to be a little out of place. I must confess that during my almost 30 years as a psychotherapist I never saw or heard of any psychoanalytical treatment, in which such a cosmic process could have happened. It seems therefore that we must leave the parlors of the psychoanalysts and look somewhere else – in the real world of normal, non-neurotic people being able to suffer consciously for this cosmic myth.  

A first hint how a modern procedure on the background of the creation myth symbolically demonstrated in the Rosarium and in the work of the above mentioned Gerardus Dorneus could look like, we find in the circumstance that it is compared with a vegetative reproduction. In the moment of the death of the divine bodies, the human and/or animal sexuality is replaced by a vegetative myth, in which the seed is buried into the earth and there, after its death, awakes to new life.  

This essential detail leads us to a process on the vegetative level, on the basis of the sympathetic nervous system – in German the sympathetic nervous system is also called the vegetative system – , which is itself connected to the chakra system of Buddhist and Hindu Tantrism. We have to therefore include this mystical path of these two world religions into our considerations, since in it the gross body, the sthula, is transformed into the suksma, the subtle body.  

Further, in the alchemical as well as in the Far-East procedure the instance is always stressed that this method serves a creation and incarnation in the microcosm as well as in the macrocosm, in one’s own body as well as in the universe. We will therefore track both aspects found in the Rosarium and Dorneus’ opus.  

At the age of almost 78 Carl Jung confessed to Wolfgang Pauli that he did not reach the second coniunctio, the unio corporalis. It seems that it was not his fate to go further than the realization of the unio mentalis, the first coniunctio, which is found in a parallel myth to the Rosarium, i.e., the first stage of the opus according to the Hermetic alchemist Gerardus Dorneus. The unio mentalis – it precedes the second and most important phase of the Rosarium, the unio corporalis – is represented in the 7th picture. In this image the king and the queen have unified into one single body. As this body has two heads, it is, symbolically seen, of course again a symbol of the double-triad, the seal of Solomon and its parallel, the Radbild (wheel image) of Nicholas von Flue. It is however only an intermediate product, since it is true that it contains the necessary structure[3], but does not yet live. On the contrary, with the symbol of the grave the unknown author of the Rosarium stresses the circumstance that the divine body is now just dead matter. This is so because the soul has left it and unified with the spirit in the Christian Heaven. Like this the first aspect of the soul I call the spirit-psyche has been created.  

In another article[4] I have shown that this first phase of Dorneus’ opus, the unio mentalis, and thus also the 7th picture of the Rosarium demonstrate the Neoplatonic aspect of alchemy. I call this process also the first coniunctio, in which the psyche is extracted from matter or from the body and unified with the spirit in Heaven. The modern form of this procedure is Carl Jung’s Active Imagination.  

The remarkable circumstance that the body of the Rosarium remains lifeless in the grave, we can interpret in the way that the corpse, abandoned by the psyche, has become what we call today inanimate matter, the matter without any soul of modern science.  

We can therefore interpret the procedure shown in picture # 7 also as the process natural science followed after Descartes, as exactly since then matter is defined as inanimate and the spirit (or spirit-psyche) is postulated as the only animated principle. Descartes’ idea of splitting the world into the res cogitans, the cognitive ego, and the res extensa, matter with the only characteristic of being measurable and artificially treatable by man, had won. The complementary principles, what I would call the res amans, equivalent to Eros consciousness (see below), and the res intensa, the “matter-psyche” or the “shadow of Carl Jung's Self” (see below), were repressed.  

However, the continuation of the Rosarium shows us that this so-called dead matter contains the anima mundi, the World Soul, and is therefore the basis of a potential new creation of cosmic dimensions. I have further guessed that a necessary and decisive condition for the success of such a creation and incarnation myth is an active role of man as a co-creator.  

As we will see, the liberation and the reconstitution of the res amans and the res intensa, of the Eros ego and the Eros Self, the complementary principles to the Logos ego and the Logos Self, is the main content of a modern variant of Dorneus’ unio corporalis (see Chapter 4), and of the pictures of the Rosarium after the 7th with its Neoplatonic liberation of the psyche and devaluation of the body, and of matter in general. The interpretation of the 8th to the 10th picture will thus help us in developing a modern imagination method based on the Hermetic alchemical opus.


part 8

[1] see CW 16

[2] CW 9/II

[3] For the discussion of this aspect of the opus see The Wheel Image of Nicholas von Flue as Symbol of the Subtle Body,

[4] Neoplatonic and Hermetic alchemy: Eternal infertility versus incarnation,

[proofread GJS, 10/26/05]

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