Out of the Blue

Part 2 of a series on the Alchemical Recipe of the One Man
We left off asking two questions: How might the coniunctio bring forth the Orphan into the status of the Foundling?  What are the inherent demands that emerge in process when an experience like this unfolds?  In my experience it is possible to hold questions like these without trying to logically answer them.  Such a practice opens us to consider a distinct approach to reading.

Alchemical Textual Practice

The alchemists developed their practice in two separate venues. In their labs they worked procedures in the retort. In their libraries they meditated with their texts, and would trace their inquiries and insights in the statements of those that went before them.  There was an understanding that the work in one arena had an effect on the other.

Psychoanalysts have developed an analogous two fold practice. When in session with clients, the sealed vessel brings forth a variety of unanticipated contents.  Outside of session the material gets explored privately, in supervision (and during training, in case seminars).  Through my years of psychoanalytic training, time and time again I see how the processing of material in supervision and case seminar impacts process in indisputable ways.

We find in alchemical textual practice something beyond just sitting down to read a book.  The text in such a practice becomes the other in a dialogue that the author of the text could never plan.  A simple phrase in the original text might serve a creative digression in the process of the reader.  In this way, without the systematic means of inquiry to guide the process, alchemical textual practice resembles reading the I Ching, the Book of Changes.

In this series, a similar process has been taken up.  Here, the short passage in Jung’s Mysterium Coniunctionis is being carefully sifted and the different phrases are being played with in a manner that is not intended to be academic in its stance, but instead, meditative, imaginal and prospective.

Out of the Blue

So lets return to the text.  After the designation of the lapis as the “orphan,” Carl Jung notes that:

“Dorn mentions (this) apparently out of the blue when discussing the union of the opposites.”

The phrase “out of the blue” gives the feeling that something just fell out of the sky unexpectedly.  In this sense, it’s as if it has dropped from the heavens.  The phrase could also be used to indicate something emerging suddenly from the depths of the sea.  In either case, something beyond the perspective of expectations has arrived.

The color blue has both it’s heavenly and oceanic references, the celestial starry gown of the Mother of God as well as coloring of the dolphins at Knossos.  Emotionally it is hard not to also consider the blues, a musical genre amplified beautifully by Mark Winborn in his Deep Blues: Human Soundscapes for the Archetypal Journey.


That the unexpected might emerge from above or below helps us to recognize that it cannot be anticipated.  In a sense, to train ones focus in a certain direction forces the appearance to occur elsewhere.  We can hear in this mythologem the pattern of the Christ child being born in a stable, and the linkage of the orphan to the archetype of the divine child opens us to the transformative energies manifesting in the coniunctio.

The Union of the Opposites

In his later years, Carl Jung committed much of his energy to the study of the union of the opposites.  The emergence of something, anything for that matter, new depends on it.  Culturally, spiritually, psychologically, or physically, regardless of the sphere of inquiry, nothing unprecedented emerges without the coming together of opposing energies.

That the symbol of the Orphan emerges out of the blue upon the union of the opposites is an important insight.  Like the seed mentioned in the gospel parables sown on rocky ground, the emergence of the new thing, the divine child, is fundamentally vulnerable, and in need of being claimed.


Recipe of the One Man

An appropriate question regarding the Self is simply this:  is it found or is it built?  And in keeping in form with unconscious dynamics, we begin to glimpse that the answer is not an either/or, but a both/and.  

For the past few years I have been meditating on a passage in Carl Jung’s  Mysterium Coniunctionis (CW 14, par. 35) which has been very fertile for my process and I offer it to you as a meditation.  In this passage I find a precursor to many of the themes that capture the imagination of the psychoanalytic field today: embodiment, abandonment, archetypal affect, etc.  Over the coming months I will work through each section as a series of blog posts.

I’ve broken the quote out into separate points, so in what follows, letters A-F is Jung, and letters G-K are written by the alchemist Gerhard Dorn.

The Recipe of the One Man

A. Our starting point for these remarks was the designation of the lapis as “orphan,”

B. which Dorn mentions apparently out of the blue when discussing the union of the opposites.

C. The material we have adduced shows what an archetypal drama of death and rebirth lies hidden in the coniunctio

D. and what immemorial human emotions clash together in this problem.

E. It is the moral task of alchemy to bring the feminine, maternal background of the masculine psyche, seething with passions, into harmony with the principle of the spirit,

F. truly a labour of Hercules!

G. In Dorn’s words: Learn therefore, O Mind, to practice sympathetic love in regard to thine own body, by restraining its vain appetites, that it may be apt with thee in all things.

H. to this end I shall labour, that it may drink with thee from the fountain of strength, and, when two are made one, that ye find peace in their union.

I. Draw nigh, O Body, to this fountain, that with the Mind thou mayest drink to satiety and hereafter thirst no more after vanities.

J. O wondrous efficacy of this fount, which makest one of two, and peace between enemies!

K. the fount of love can make mind out of spirit and soul, but this maketh one man of mind and body.

The Orphan, an Initial Reflection on the Recipe

In Dorn’s approach to the material of the coniunctio mystery, the combination of the opposites, he understands the process to take place in three successive stages.  The first union is of the soul and the rational aspect of the personality which produces what Dorn calls mind.  The second union is of the mind and the body which is the focus of the recipe.

The lapis is a designation of the philosopher’s stone in alchemy.  As Craig Chalquist notes:

“for Dorn, producing the Lapis constituted only the second stage (for Jung the representation of the idea of the Self in visible form). The third: the union of the whole man with the unus mundus. Union with the Ground of all being. Identity or relation of the personal with the suprapersonal atman, or individual with universal tao.” Alchemy heading, A Glossary of Jungian Terms

Recipe of the One Man
Image from the Red Book by Carl Jung

I recall just before discovering this text, I had an extended experience within analysis of an unrelenting series of affects that succeeded each other rapidly. Throughout the experience, it felt that they were not solely my own: abandonment, shame, rage, hopelessness, fear and grief all came together in a difficult amalgam which kept me quite mute for an extended period of time until I was eventually able to utter “an orphan.” My posture within the experience of these affects was of one who could no longer cry, a withdrawn reserve, with a bare flicker of warmth in the body, barely enough to keep the cold from the flesh.  It was an encapsulated mutism whereby unconscious processes where desperate to defend that which was helpless.

As I began to process this experience it became clear that this was not solely a personal experience due to early relational trauma, and I began to recognize how these attributes were archetypal in nature, belonging not only to my personal psychology, but also to the Self, the Self as Orphan.

With the rise of egocentric enlightenment, the Self became the forgotten one, no longer cared for, sitting in the darkness, silent and despondent, as if all the prophetic utterances regarding the forsaken one in the Old Testament had been fulfilled.  The archetypal affect at the core of the alienation of abandonment is shame.  From this perspective, the Self as Orphan can be viewed as the prototypical shame carrier, the helpless one set adrift to the care of chance and unknown circumstances.

This pattern can also be noted some seven thousand years earlier in the abandonment of the matriarchal social structures.  In her book Masculine Shame, Mary Ayers traces this cultural manifestation at the rise of patriarchy when the Goddesses began to go into hiding.

While my experience was located in an infantile experience of the orphaned psyche, there is also the flip side of the orphan to consider, and it is the aspect which gets our meditation moving forward, namely that of the Foundling.  In the opening of Beowulf we find this helpful description regarding the foundling king that washed up on the shore: “They decked his body no less bountifully with offerings than those first ones did that cast him away when he was a child and launched him alone out over the waves.” (Heaney, Beowulf )

How might the coniunctio bring forth the Orphan into the status of the Foundling?  What are the inherent demands that emerge in process when an experience like this unfolds?   These and many other questions will emerge as we follow our recipe over the coming months.