The psychological and religious implications of alchemy preoccupied Jung during the last thirty years of his life. This collection of five essays, with numerous illustrations, traces his developing interest in alchemy from 1929 on and may be read both as a useful introduction and as a valuable supplement to his longer works on the subject, Psychology and Alchemy, Aion and the monumental Mysterium Coniunctionis.
Each of these essays is an extended commentary on a theme with alchemical associations, some of which Jung had referred to in earlier publications: an ancient Chinese Taoist text, The Secret of the Golden Flower; the visions of Zosimos, a Greek alchemist and Gnostic of the third century A.D.; the spirit of Mercurius in Grimm’s fairy tale, “The Spirit in the Bottle”; and the symbol of the Philosophical Tree in the drawings of modern patients. “Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon” stands out as a separate study, a discussion, with an emphasis on alchemical sources, of the arcane speculations of the sixteenth-century Swiss natural philosopher, physician, and empiric known as Paracelsusu. Its striking effect arises perhaps from the fact that Jung could identify himself with his dynamic and explosive countryman.
The illustrations include eight plates of alchemical pictures and forty-two of drawings or paintings by patients in analysis.