Praxis für Alternative Psychosomatik und Traumdeutung, Dr. Remo F. Roth, CH-8001 Zürich

Remo F. Roth

Dr. oec. publ., Ph.D.

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

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Wolfgang Pauli, Carl Jung and the Challenge of the Unified Psychophysical Reality

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 4. Neoplatonic and Hermetic alchemy: Eternal infertility versus incarnation

(part 1)  


part 1:

4. Neoplatonic and Hermetic alchemy: Eternal infertility versus incarnation

4.1 Wolfgang Pauli's differentiation between Neoplatonic and Hermetic alchemy

4.1.1 A short description of the alchemical opus

4.1.2 Some differences between Neoplatonic and Hermetic alchemy

part 2:

4.2 Neoplatonic alchemy
4.2.1 The impossibility of transmutation (Wandlung) in the Neoplatonic opus

4.2.2 The reduction of the quaternity to the Trinity by the early Medieval Platonist Scotus Eriugena and the Hornberger Schiessen

4.2.3 Einstein's objective worldview as Hornberger Schiessen

part 3:

4.3 Hermetic alchemy
4.3.1 Robert Fludd's chymic wedding, the intermediate world and the infans solaris

part 4:

4.3.2 The symmetry between spirit and matter in Hermetic alchemy and complementarity

part 5 (will follow):

4.3.3 Carl Jung's ambivalence between the trinity and the quaternity and the Axiom of Maria prophetissa: A preliminary analysis

 4. Neoplatonic and Hermetic alchemy: Eternal infertility versus incarnation

(part 1)


4.1 Wolfgang Pauli's differentiation between Neoplatonic and Hermetic alchemy

4.1.1 A short description of the alchemical opus

In the previous chapter we found that Pauli's argument is that Jung's depth psychology was originally conceived as a natural science, but it began to drift into metaphysics and esoterics because it projected quaternities into heaven and like this is incapable of solving the psychophysical problem. Apparently this was as far as Jung could envision at his time in history. However, we in the 21st century are left with the task of trying to come to grips with the psychophysical problem. Therefore we must go on dealing with this subject.

In the present chapter we will examine more of Pauli's writings as well as those of the alchemists in the interest of trying to gain further insight into the solution of the psychophysical problem. The alchemists have laid down (unconsciously) a very rich deposit of exploration into the psychophysical problem over the millenniums and this material must now be thoroughly mined (consciously) by becoming involved in some of their central ideas.

One of the most important tasks of alchemy was the transformation or transmutation of the unrefined into the refined. The unrefined was the so-called prima materia, the refined the lapis, the philosopher's stone, the philosophical gold or the corups subtile (subtle body) which in far-eastern alchemy is the diamond body . The alchemist's fascination with matter was compensatory to the too spiritual Christian eon, which demonized the body (matter) and the feminine principle in general. Of course they were not consciously aware of why they were so drawn to this effort and this is why some of their explorations became literal attempts to make gold. However, the alchemist's work prefigured the task we have at the start of the 21st century - and that is to consciously realize the importance of the body, the feminine principle, or Eros functioning for it is pure gold. Such a conscious realization of the feminine principle will provide a much needed balancing of the human psyche and thus how it relates not only to others but also in how it values and honours the earth and its resources.

One part of the alchemists believed in a concrete realization of this task and spent their lives trying to make gold, for example out of lead. Of course they did not succeed, because their magical attitude of utilizing the alchemical processes for the literal transformation of concrete matter was wrong. During the 17th century natural science developed and showed that we can deal with matter with a causal attitude. As an effect of this greater consciousness the science of Chemistry was born and the magical procedures of the concretesized opus were shown as useless. Today, most scientists think therefore, that this period was pre-scientific and that we have overcome it with the help of the modern scientific tools, i.e., quantification and mathematical treatment of matter.

Besides this concretisizing attitude, however, there also existed a different branch of alchemical researchers. These alchemists felt that the process they observed in their retorts must be interpreted in a symbolic way. This attitude on the part of these alchemists makes their work of great value to the modern psychologist because Jung's depth psychology has paved the way for understanding how to live the symbolic life and thus we are now able to interpret the symbolism of these alchemists. One part of these alchemists interpreted their opus using Neoplatonic ideas while the other part used Hermetic philosophy.


4.1.2 Some differences between Neoplatonic and Hermetic alchemy

The alchemical process used for the refinement or distillation of the prima materia into the anima mundi (i.e., into the world soul - into the body-soul that was hidden in matter - which was demonized by the Christian eon) or into the subtle body played an important role in the Hermetic philosophy between the 1st and the 4th century, as well as in Neoplatonism, between the 3rd and the 6th. Alchemy of the late Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance period - in the second half of the 15th and in the first of the 16th century - incorporated these earlier ideas. As a consequence, this more modern alchemy has its roots back to the writings of the founder of Hermetic philosophy, the Egyptian Hermes Trismegistos and to the Greek Platonism and Neoplatonism of Plotin.

As we have seen in the previous chapter, about one and a half years before the foundation of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Wolfgang Pauli intensified his research about the co-founder of modern science, Johannes Kepler, the results of which he published together with Jung's synchronicity article in 1952 - as the so-called Kepler essay. For the purpose of understanding the position of Kepler, he had also to engage in its counter-position, the alchemical ideas.

It was in this time (1946/47) that Pauli noticed for the first time that the above mentioned two branches of alchemy, the Neoplatonic on the one hand and the Hermetic on the other, were totally different.

One of the most important Hermetic alchemists was the Swiss Medieval physician Paracelsus (1493-1541) . In his book De Vita longa he describes his opus as a deeply introverted procedure, in which out of the prima materia of the physical body a life essence is "distilled". This elixier vitae, which is equivalent to the lapis, helps for a long and healthy life in this world, but also for an individual eternal life in the beyond. This eternal body was also a deified body, which is of course an absolutely heretical idea for a Christian. Therefore Paracelsus states: "I also confess that I write like a pagan and yet am a Christian". [CW 13, § 148]

Paracelsus' ideas were continued by his gifted student Gerardus Dorneus (2nd half of the 16th century), and finally by his last follower Robert Fludd (1574-1637). All three were physicians , in contrast to the Neoplatonists who were mostly priests. We will deal with them in more detail later.

Especially Robert Fludd will play a very important role in our investigations. He was involved in an extended polemic with Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Therefore Pauli was very deeply interested in Robert Fludd's thinking, and we will come back to this alchemist, physician and Rosicrucian many times in our investigations.

One of the most important differences between the two philosophies, the Neoplatonic and the Hermetic, occurs in their relationship to matter. While the "spiritualizing philosophers" (Pauli) of Platonism and Neoplatonism consider matter in principle as something negative and evil, as the snake which they will "crush the head" ("den Kopf zertreten"), the originally Egyptian Hermetic show a positive valuation of it. Therefore Pauli writes:

"Bei Fludd habe ich wohltuend das Fehlen dieser unangenehmen Tendenz gespürt. Sein Ziel ist die Coniunctio von licht und dunkel: nicht die Vergeistigung der Materie, sondern das 'Sonnenkind' in der Mitte ist das Ziel. Das ist Alchemie im besten Sinne." [emphasis mine]

English translation:

"With Fludd I felt the absence of this disagreeable tendency in a beneficial manner. His goal is the coniunctio of light and dark: not the spiritualization of matter, but the 'sun's child' in the middle is the goal. This is alchemy at its best". [translation and emphasis mine]

Or nine months later:

"Anders als bei den Platonikern wurde das Licht-Dunkel-Problem von den Alchemisten des 17. Jahrhunderts eben nicht verdrängt, und das war und ist es, was mich an Fludd so fasziniert. [emphasis mine]

English translation:

"Contrary to the Platonist the problem of light and darkness was just not repressed by the alchemists of the 17th century, and this is it what fascinates me with Fludd". [translation and emphasis mine]

As a first result we can therefore conclude that Pauli is fascinated by the Hermetic idea of the coniunctio, the (sexual) union of the opposites of light and dark, and of the Hermetic assumption that these opposites, because of their equivalence, do not unite in the heaven (or in the Empyreum), but in a middle sphere, where also the product of this coniunctio, the sun's child, is born.


Chapter 4, part 2:



See also further articles about Wolfgang Pauli in