Alchemy was the mideval occupation concerned with transmutation of metals, and finding/creating the aquae vitae" (elixir of life, as in Hawthorne's "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"). Marlowe's Dr. Faustus (see FAUST) was, among other things, an alchemist.Widely associated merely with the "fraudulent art of turning base metals into GOLD," alchemy has extensive symbolic significance. Its secular message is purely scientific, concerned with discovering the laws that govern the universe. Spiritually, however, alchemy becomes the art of man's intellectual and moral self-improvement. "The GOLD alchemists strived to produce was, symbolically, human perfection" (Julien, 10). In Jungian psychology, the alchemic process is one of man in search of himself, the process of "individuation"; the journey begins in the pure unconscious, continues into the division of the psyche into separate components, and results in the true values of existence assimilating into the conscious mind and being applied to his life.
Its creation is divided into four stages, each signified by different colors: black (prime matter, guilt, origin); white (mercury, feminine, minor work, quicksilver); red (masculine, sulphur, passion) or finally gold or lapis (absolute synthesis, transcendence). Also has seven operations: 1) calcination, the 'death of the profane' 2) putrefication, a consequence of the first, and the separation of the destroyed remains 3) solution, the purification of matter 4) distillation, the elements of salvation of the previous steps 5) conjunction, joining opposites, Jung called the close union 6) sublimation, symbolizes the suffering resulting from mystic detachment and spiritual dedication, wingless creature carried away, Prometheus 7) philosophic congelation, binding together, male with female.
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