Saturday, March 3, 2012

Transformation by Murray Stein - An Ah-Ha experience

Transformation - Emergence of the Self  by Murray Stein is indeed a transformative experience for the reader, especially any of those interested in Jung's use of alchemy as an allegory for the transformation and individuation process, leading to authenticity when triggered and maintained during an extended relationship.  While Murray (and Jung) uses the Rosarium philosophorum alchemical process of the transcendence to show the stages of transformation within the relationship of an analyst and patient during the course of therapy, I choose to look at it as the Chymical Marriage, when the transformation which can happen between two committed people in a relationship.  After all, each person's road to individuation or authenticity is different and perhaps the alchemists used images for a reason, so each individual would provide their own understanding towards the symbolism drawn out during the various steps.
And now let me introduce Dr. Murray Stein.  I first encountered him during some of his webinars at The Asheville  Jung Center He has covered a number of topics using a Jungian approach such as, Caring for the Soul: An Introduction to Jungian Psychotherapy for Patients and Therapists, The Architecture of the Soul, Active Imagination, and Individuation A Life Long Journey. 
Murray Stein is a Ph.D. Jungian analyst in the Chicago area and has written a number of books during his career, and after many years of experience working with patients.  I found his webinars personable, even humorous at times with easy to understand concepts which he explores in Jung's many books and lectures.
I purchased the book, hoping Stein's writing style would be just as easy to follow, and because he wrote about the transformation of a poet, Rainier Marie Rilke, two artists,  Rembrandt and Picasso, and Jung.  Being an Introvert Feeling Intuitive, these are four people I could relate to.  
But, even better,  I was incredibly thrilled when I reached the chapter where Stein explained the therapeutic process of transference, counter transference and the resulting transformative process which can result if both parties stick with it, even during the rough spots.  I was introduced to Jung's alchemy approach when I worked as a counseling astrologer over twenty years ago and found Liz Greene's explanations, using astrological imagery, helped to explain what I found hard to understand in Jung's book on Mysterium Coniunctionis. Jung can be a wordy writer and his way of viewing every subject from every angle can be confusing, especially when he reference4s so many books and papers during his extensive research. 
But even reading Greene and other books on alchemy as well, I have never seen it broken down into such comprehensible components those offered by Stein.  Wow - in ten pages, I got it!  (Granted back then over twenty years ago, there was no Internet, Amazon or Google, such archaic information wasn't available at our fingertips.  Many libraries carried limited books on symbolism and alchemy and so the only alternative involved  hunts through used and rare bookstores in order to stumble upon resources.
 After I read Stein's approach, I delved into a large book I have on 16th and 17th century alchemical texts and I could decipher some of the images with no problem whatsoever! (however not any of the Kaballah images - those always stump me). 
The way Murray Stein explained it (in only ten pages, no less!) reminded me of the way a herald in the Society for Creative Anachronism breaks down a blazon.  Each aspect, each color, even where on the device an element is placed, left, right, up down, etc. and how the space is divided has a meaning. Some of these are universal meanings.  And then others can be personal for each individual aspect. 
Stein only used the first ten of twenty woodcuts from the Rosarium philosophorum found in De Alchimia opuscula complies veterum philosophorum... Frankfurt 155, which is said to be based on Arabic alchemy.
At this time, I've only begun the research and feel ready to tackle just the first ten stages as well, combining Stein's explanation of the process, with Adam McLean's viewpoint on The Alchemy Website, (McLean is author and publisher of over 70 books on alchemical and Hermetic ideas).
 Finally, I, at least, can comprehend most of the myriad images and their profound instructions on how to achieve authenticity through the "other."
The Rosarium philosophorum starts with The Fountain of potential, the Prima Materia. represented by the fountain, where the three spigots releasing the water (emotion, feeling) indicate the separate waters of the King and Queen symbolized by the sun and moon above, to be ultimately joined with  the waters released from the third spigot as the Aqua Vitae, the water of life, the inner source of soul energies, into the vessel below where the primal substance (the soul energies) may potentially undergo a divine transformation with the heavenly aid or grace of Hermetic/Mercurial forces above, represented by the separate snakes in the clouds or heavens not yet joined for the healing caduceus, and not yet the ourorborus.
The second panels depicts the left-handed handshake, where the unconscious aspects (the lapis) of each person, represented by the King and Queen are engaged, aided by magic and mystery and the potential for transformation. The next stage is the  solutio, a bath of emotions, where the King and Queen are enthralled and decide to immerse themselves in each other, conjunctio, (where they feel the joining of egos and make a conscious decision to be together, then the nigredo (or katabosis, dark night of the soul,) which brings up anxiety and depression, as each individual confronts their fears of giving oneself up totally and/or the alternate fear of abandonment, as they relive the wounds caused previously in their childhood and life, which they must address. This is a pivotal stage which can either prove as a catalytic stage or a stalemate,  where each must make a conscious and unconscious decision to be patient and strong enough to give up their total ego control, in order to heal their past wounds, and discover their true essence through the other, before they can move on to the most important part, the coagulatio, indicated by joining in the bath under rain (intuitive help from above), the most productive if each separate entity chooses to face their fears, discuss them with the other, and solve them together. This is the stage which leads them to enlightenment if successfully navigated and is experienced as the most sacred and powerful stage. The two separate entities are visually depicted by either two birds or two totally different animals representing the separate souls. The joining of souls then leads to authenticity through the paradoxical unity as symbolized by the rising of one solitary creature, the Rebus (a winged creature, sometimes mythological, or a combination of animals not found in nature, sometimes a synthesis of images, a combined soul or spirit, which rises up from the couple, representing archetypal unity) and wholeness. This magnificent stage is followed by the final panel, the hierosgamos (sacred marriage), the gold sought by alchemists, depicting the hermaphroditic, androgynous creature of conjoined King and Queen, sun and moon. I still have to figure out what the four snakes, three in a chalice held by the King, and one coiled, held by the Queen mean. I wonder if they mean the four elements.  The second is the mystery of the full moon tree - there are only 11, so I don't have any idea at this point.
I used many of these alchemical/psychological stages as underlying threads in my novel, Shaman Circus, between Jacob and Lily, but as they often become stuck in the nigredo stage, they have yet to reach the more sacred stages, to stay there long enough to accomplish the final scared stage.  This process I address in Shaman in Exile, a current work in progress, goes back through another, more enlightened coagulatio and nigredo stages and while not yet finished, touches upon the efforts to obtain the hierosgamos stage. 
So reading Stein's, Transformation served as an Ah-Ha Experience. A visual short hand so to speak, as opposed to the word intensive approach, written in a cryptic and circulatory style by the alchemists on purpose,  since they thought this knowledge should only be understood by the few and not the many, and also by Jung due to his abstract way of thinking.  
Finally, Stein offers the key to the visual map I've been searching for during my research over 29 years. I knew the steps intellectually, but knowing them was nothing like the experience of visually reading the original Rosarium philosophorum as easily as I can read a map, an astrological natal chart, even a traffic sign. 

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