Jung’s Alchemical Philosophy Psyche and the Mercurial Play of Image and Idea
Winner of the IAJS Book Award 2023 for Best Theoretical Book
Traditionally, alchemy has been understood as a precursor to the science of chemistry but from the vantage point of the human spirit, it is also a discipline that illuminates the human soul. This book explores the goal of alchemy from Jungian, psychological, and philosophical perspectives.
Jung’s Alchemical Philosophy: Psyche and the Mercurial Play of Image and Idea is a reflection on Jung’s alchemical work and the importance of philosophy as a way of understanding alchemy and its contributions to Jung’s psychology. By engaging these disciplines, Marlan opens new vistas on alchemy and the circular and ouroboric play of images and ideas, shedding light on the alchemical opus and the transformative processes of Jungian psychology. Divides in the history of alchemy and in the alchemical imagination are addressed as Marlan deepens the process by turning to a number of interpretations that illuminate both the enigma of the Philosophers’ Stone and the ferment in the Jungian tradition.
This book will be of interest to Jungian analysts and those who wish to explore the intersection of philosophy and psychology as it relates to alchemy.
'It is all too easy to regard the Philosophers’ Stone as an idle metaphor or as the product of a misguided and vain alchemical obsession. But Jung’s Alchemical Philosophy demonstrates on the contrary that the Stone is something to take seriously with deep implications for our self-understanding and our connection to the cosmos. In this ambitious and comprehensive book, detailed discussions are given of Jung’s extensive research into the relationship between the search for the Stone and the greater Self, and of subsequent contributions by James Hillman with an emphasis on the soul work symbolized in alchemical transformation and on imagination as an inherent ingredient in that same transformation. The larger philosophical significance of the Stone is pursued in a nuanced treatment of Hegel’s notion of Absolute Spirit, drawing on the depth-psychological interpretations of Wolfgang Giegerich. Contemporary authors such as Derrida and Zizek are also woven skillfully into the larger tale. The book generates a complex tapestry of philosophical and psychological insights, demonstrating their dialectical co-valence. Written with a rare combination of precision and passion, this book expands the horizons of the always enigmatic relationships between matter and meaning, self and other, life and death. By the end, the reader comes to realize that the Philosophers’ Stone is not something merely chimerical but a psychical reality and an inroad into soul and spirit alike'.
Edward S. Casey, Professor of Philosophy, SUNY at Stony Brook, USA
'This edifying book has a double impact. The author is a philosopher and a psychoanalyst, and his book is at once a philosophical psychology and a psychological philosophy. In the first instance it reveals to its reader valuable and varied insights into the history and imagery of alchemy, demonstrating why the philosophy of alchemy has been crucial to the development of the theory and practice of psychoanalytic therapy. But this is not all. Philosophers think about thinking, and philosophy, as the book reminds the reader, is thought in the act of thinking about itself. So, in the second instance, this book shows its reader how to think about psychology psychologically, as opposed to thinking about psychology personalistically as medicine, science, spirituality, or problem-solving for ego and its difficulties. The book's doubleness rewards the reader with provocative perspectives'.
David L. Miller, Watson Ledden Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University, USA
'Stanton Marlan’s Jung’s Alchemical Philosophy provides a wide-ranging and profound analysis of the transformative psychological understanding of alchemy initiated by Jung. In the process Marlan brings to light the alchemists' efforts to come to terms with such binary oppositions as nature and spirit, absolutism and relativism, thought and being, and most pointedly, image and idea. Marlan provides a perspective through which these oppositions can be reconciled and he opens a new philosophical vista on alchemy which expands upon and complements Jung’s depth psychological perspective on the alchemical opus'.
Sanford Drob, Core Faculty of Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California, USA