Although alchemy is popularly regarded as the science that sought to transmute base physical matter, many of the medieval alchemists were more interested in developing a discipline that would lead to the psychological and spiritual transformation of the individual. C. G. Jung discovered in his study of alchemical texts a symbolic and imaginal language that expressed many of his own insights into psychological processes. In this book, Marie-Louise von Franz examines a text by the sixteenth-century alchemist and physician Gerhard Dorn in order to show the relationship of alchemy to the concepts and techniques of analytical psychology. In particular, she shows that the alchemists practiced a kind of meditation similar to Jung's technique of active imagination, which enables one to dialogue with the unconscious archetypal elements in the psyche. Originally delivered as a series of lectures at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, the book opens therapeutic insights into the relations among spirit, soul, and body in the practice of active imagination.
"Von Franz has a remarkable gift for interpreting and demystifying the difficult symbolism of religious visions, ancient myths, and fairy tales of the common folk. Whether explaining the psychic complexities of gender or racial conflict, or the survival value of our connection to other animals, von Franz is perhaps unsurpassed as the archetypal Jungian."—Library Journal