Σάββατο, 21 Ιανουαρίου 2017

Ο Γιούνγκ και η Αλχημεία ως Πνευματική Εργασία




Μια από τις σημαντικότερες συμβολές του Καρλ Γιούνγκ στην ιστορία του Δυτικού Εσωτερισμού είναι η ερμηνεία της αλχημικής εργασίας ως προβολή των ψυχικών διεργασιών στο μονοπάτι της εξατομίκευσης. Η θεωρία αυτή δεν ανήκει ακριβώς στο Γιούνγκ. Το 1850 ο Mary Atwood διατυπώνει πρώτος την άποψη πως η αλχημική τέχνη είχε ίσως πνευματικό χαρακτήρα παρά χημικό, γνώμη την οποία ενστερνίζονται και αναπτύσσουν με την σειρά τους ο Rene Guenon, o Julius Evola και πολλοί άλλοι. Η οπτική του Γιούνγκ βέβαια είναι μοναδική καθώς ως ψυχαναλυτής προσεγγίζει το όλο ζήτημα ως αντικείμενο ψυχικής εμπειρίας. Δεν είναι λίγες οι φορές όμως για τις οποίες έχει κατηγορηθεί για αυτό! Αφαιρώντας τον εργαστηριακό χαρακτήρα από την αλχημική πρακτική κάνει τους αλχημιστές να μοιάζουν με γελωτοποιούς της επιστήμης κάτι που απέχει βέβαια από την πραγματικότητα.

Η αλήθεια όμως είναι διαφορετική! Ο Γιούνγκ δεν υποστήριξε ποτέ πως η αλχημεία είναι αποκλειστικά και μόνο μια ψυχολογική προβολή, απλά ο ίδιος έδωσε έμφαση σ’ αυτό το κομμάτι. Το πρόβλημα προέκυψε στην βεβιασμένη και ως εκ τούτου λανθασμένη μετάφραση των έργων του από τα γερμανικά στα αγγλικά. Ο ακαδημαϊκός W.J. Janegraaff, στο κείμενο που ακολουθεί (απόσπασμα από τις σελίδες 290-291 της μελέτης του Esotericism and the Academy, 2012) εξηγεί με κάθε λεπτομέρεια το μεγάλο αυτό σφάλμα που οδήγησε σε μια σειρά από παρερμηνείες:

Thus, Lawrence Principe and William Newman quote from the English translation by Stanley Dell, published in 1940, of an article originally published in the Eranos Yearbooks: “we are called upon to deal, not with chemical experimentations as such, but with something resembling psychic processes expressed in pseudo-chemical language.” This might look like the proverbial “smoking gun” that proves Jung’s adherence to “spiritual alchemy,” but Tilton dismisses it as a misrepresentation of the original. He refers the reader to the parallel passage in Jung’s chapter on the “psychic” nature of alchemy, in his book Psychologie und Alchemie (orig. 1944), which actually reads as follows: “In the alchemical work, we are dealing for the greatest part not only with chemical experiments, but also with something resembling psychic processes expressed in pseudo-chemical language”. Unfortunately, however, neither Tilton nor Principe/Newman seem to have looked at the original Eranos lecture, which undermines both their positions. It begins with a statement that is remarkably negative about the purely “spiritual” understanding of alchemical symbolism in the wake of Jacob Bοhme:

Gradually, during the course of the eighteenth century, alchemy fell victim to its own obscurity . . . The inner decay of alchemy began more than a century earlier, already in the time of Jacob Bohme, when many alchemists left their retorts and crucibles and devoted themselves exclusively to the hermetic philosophy. At that time, the chemist separated himself from the hermeticist. Chemistry became natural science, but hermeticism lost the empirical ground under its feet and lost its way in allegories and speculations that were as bombastic as they were empty of content, and merely lived off the memories of a better time. This better time, however, was when the spirit of the alchemist still truly struggled with the problems of matter, when the investigating mind was facing the realm of the unknown and believed to perceive forms and laws in it. [Jung, “Erlοsungsvorstellungen”]

In other words, Jung calls purely “spiritual” alchemy a degenerate phenomenon! Further on in the article, we find the original version of the contested sentence: “The decisive thing is, however, that we are dealing not at all [gar nicht], or at least for the greatest part not [wenigstens zum großten Teil nicht] with chemical experiments, but probably [vermutlich] with something like psychic processes expressed in pseudo-chemical language.” Of course, these differences are significant. In revising the Eranos lecture for his Psychologie und Alchemie, Jung removed the radical “not at all” (which conflicted with the quotation just given) but also the cautious “probably.” As for the passage criticized byNewman and Principe: it was never there at all, but represents a mistranslation by Stanley Dell. Hence, we are dealing with a classic example of a scholarly “ghost.” Jung’s American audience was led astray by the defective English version; and since most of his followers were reading him with little or no interest in history of science anyway, they came away with the absurd idea, which Jung never seems to have held, that alchemy as a historical phenomenon was essentially unconcerned with laboratory processes. It would seem, then, that Principe’s and Newman’s criticism is applicable to the drift of popular Jungian (mis)interpretations of alchemy – and to radical Traditionalist views such as Evola’s, which they do not discuss – rather than to Jung’s own work; and the “spiritual alchemy” highlighted by Tilton was in fact dismissed by the Swiss psychologist as “bombastic” and “empty of content.” All these are effects of what Shamdasani calls the “fictionalization” of Jung by later generations.



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