Dear Friends and Colleagues,


In 1926 a man had a dream about exploring mysterious rooms in his house that he’d not seen before. He discovered a library with “large, fat folio volumes” bound in pigskin and filled with strange symbols and ciphers that he couldn’t read. This dream changed my life by arousing my interest and research into the Royal Art. The man, of course, was C. G. Jung and this seminal dream launched his thirty-year exploration into alchemy. The change in direction from his earlier research was so radical that his long time associate, Toni Wolf, essentially quit; Marie Louise von Franz would take up the mission that last the rest of Jung's life.

I have been captivated by alchemy for about an equal length of time. Where Jung showed alchemy’s relevance to psychology, my efforts have been aimed at making alchemical psychology more accessible to the Jungian community. As a writer, lecturer and psychotherapist, I believe that alchemy is perhaps the single best metaphor for describing both the individual and collective psyche. To this end, I’ve written two books, Alchemical Psychology, Old Recipes for Living in a New World (Putnam 2002) and Embodying Osiris, the Secrets of Alchemical Transformation (Quest 2010).


I am honored to be tending the May Book Club that will focus on Embodying Osiris. This book is a Jungian, alchemical interpretation of the five thousand year old myth of Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the dead. Osiris became the perfect vehicle for me to explore a variety of related themes, including ancient Egypt (cosmology, psychology, history), individuation, Akhenaton, alchemical psychology, funerary ritual, emergence, gods and archetypes, dreams, dismemberment and magic. The book is filled with clinical examples, alchemical dreams and a glimpse into the ancient Egyptian mind.


To help organize our discussion, I will offer a brief description of Osiris and a synopsis of the myth in our first week.  Since I will be referring to specific passages and one chapter in particular, I recommend purchasing the book that is very modestly priced from Amazon. Rather than give reading assignments, we might pursue the circulatio that Jung preferred in his own method of research. I am especially interested in discussing how Osiris and his story have immediate relevance to contemporary culture. To this end, I will pose four questions, one for each week that “resurrects” this ancient god and the need for his service in the following areas:


  1. What does the Osiris myth have to do with the revolution that is occurring throughout the Middle East? In particular, how does the Arab Spring in Egypt relate to the chief motif of the myth?


  1. What role does alchemy play in this myth and how does it relate to the individuation process? What is the central, alchemical recipe that explains psychic development and how does that emerge in the psychotherapeutic process?


  1. What happened to Osiris and other gods and goddesses after the fall of ancient Egypt? Did the gods die? Is Osiris an archetype?


  1. Where do we find alchemy in today’s society? Is alchemy dead? If not, then what are its applications? What is “Alchemical Activism”?’


I encourage you to listen to the audio/visual presentation that I, along with Bonnie, prepared for our group. You can also take a look at my websites: Alchemical Psychology and Cavalli Books. The first offers a rich sampling of alchemy, including beautiful images, passages, didactic illustrations and even a computer toy! This site is especially useful to those of you who are new to alchemy. I recommend reading the cover page of my more recent website, to get more information about my approach to alchemical psychology. There are also some great links, like how to make a mummy and an excellent video on the recipe, Solve et Coagula.


I look forward to your participation and invite your questions, comments and examples from your own work. Together I hope we will form an alchemical experience that will have lasting results in your opus!


Blessings on our work,



Thom F. Cavalli, Ph.D.

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    • 9142551662?profile=originalIn our first week's discussion of Embodying Osiris, we have touched on such diverse subjects as a big dream, astrology and the Second Coming. Our new discussion question is

      What role does alchemy play in the Osiris myth and how does it relate to the individuation process? What is the central, alchemical recipe that explains psychic development and how does that emerge in the psychotherapeutic process?

    • Thom,

      Thank you for the reply!  The hermeneutics of such a text can be quite complex!  Sections of the myth can be taken as evidence for alchemical recipes, metaphysical stages, psychological analogies, etc...  This reminds me of something I read both in Conforti's "Field, Form, and Fate" and in Yoram's "The Way of the Image," and that is the relentless "search for the dominant and essence of an image [without being] tempted to make an image fit [one's] own belief system."  We can try an perform best-fit template matches to a story, but ultimately there has to be an exhaustive survey of all the outstanding evidence to try and come to an objective hypothesis as to the myth's meaning.   Again, from Yoram's "The Way of the Image" :

      I submit that there is an optimal “interpretation” of a given interaction or an image or a dream, one that brings about the most transformative energy [...] The idea that there is a “correct” or “true” answer, raises, inevitably the thorny philosophical-epistemological question of the possibility of ever understanding the nature of truth and objectivity. The battle between the two sides— those that claim that objectivity exists and truth is attainable, and those that say that it does not exist— has been waged for more than two thousand years, starting with Aristotle to our modern age.  [...]  One can look at an image (or a dream or fantasy) from any number of layers: psychic, psychological, religious, spiritual or soul layers. One can view it through an infinite number of orients: musical, botanical, sociological, historical and so on. One is only limited by one’s imagination, and thus can gain unexpected insights into various fields and endeavors.

      The process involves two stages:

      • first, the raw material— a newspaper headline, a proverb, a film, a book— has to be translated (not interpreted) into its exact psychological equivalent.
      • Once this is accomplished, it can be directly applied to whatever orient we have chosen, provided, of course, that one possesses enough familiarity with the orient to be able to accomplish this.

      So the task of translating the Osiris myth into an exact psychological equivalent is the hard part.  Afterwards one could then look for optimal template matches to such orients as alchemy, metaphysical stages, other myths, motifs, and spiritual traditions, etc...   And this is made especially difficult since we (as moderns) are so far removed in time, geography, and culture from the ancient Egyptians.  Your book provides a fantastic amplification of this myth and I'm grateful for it.

      Thanks again!

      Joe Camosy

    • Your welcome! I will be posting another question this Friday and hope you will continue to bring your insights to bear on this incredible myth.

  • Hello : )


    The Egyptian revolution has certainly caused a shift in my thoughts about resurrection, rebirth, and evolution, especially in regards to the Christian belief of a Second Coming.  It appears as a though a second coming may be in our presence as this revolution may be seen as a resurrection from oppression, and a transformation of engeries from the "I Am" to the  "We Are." There is a new awareness, an awakening, an evolution.  The second coming may not come in the form of one person, but in the rise of, or the resurrection of the collective.  Jesus said, "I am the way" and the way was the I, but there seems to be a birthing of a new light; an emergence of a new way.  We are the way.

    • I couldn't agree with you more, Kelly! In fact, this idea resonates with ancient Egypt in that the society was shaped in the form of a pyramid with the pharaoh at the top, the priests in the middle and the people forming the base - all aspects of one majestic, eternal form. I have termed this movement toward conscious wholeness "collective individuation." As to the Second Coming: Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, has long been considered the prefiguration of Christ. In fact, Osiris, Isis and Horus may account for the origin of the Holy Family; Isis giving birth to her reanimated dead husband set the stage for the Virgin birth. Osiris resurrects and becomes god of the dead, while Horus carries on his earthly mission by becoming the falcon god who is patron to every pharaoh. Horus in essence brings civility to the throne. We might contrast Horus to Seth in that the latter is easily mistaken as a devil while the former represents the kind of freedom that modern Egypt is demanding. But...there were followers of Seth in ancient Egypt, not because he was evil but because an effective government requires physical might. Where Horus stands for freedom, Seth puts limitation on excess. This is what I consider the mythological underpinnings of the struggle we are witnessing in Egypt today. Unfortunately, the fall of a dictator (Mubarak) has left the military and religious zealots (the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis) to fill the vacuum - all reflecting Sethian energy!! When you say "we" you and I must define just who that includes. Unless there is the right alchemical ingredients and sufficient time, there will be no transformation.

    • Hi Thom,

      I have come to think about the energy of the Second Coming also in the shape of a pyramid but an inverted one, with the smallest point at the bottom and the energy radiating up and broading out.  I haven't got it all worked out in my head yet, so my thoughts about this are still quite disorganized; but it seems to me that the smallest point of each pyramid represents those closest to the gods.  So in the standing pyramid we would have, yes, the pharaohs, and today, in our modern world, our religious leaders. And it would be from those closest to the gods that we recieve the grace of god from; from without.  With the inverted pyramid the smallest point would represent the individual as they come to recognize the spirit within and broadens to recognize the spirit within everyone and every living thing; the notion of Namaste.  This brings me to how I have defined the "We".  I had said in my above post "We Are" but I didn't finish it : )  Finished it reads "We Are One;" coming from the notion that we are all pieces of one spirit; one energy.  It thereby includes all of humanity and every living thing, including our planet and the universe.  A pretty expansive group : ) I do believe that there is a power strong enough to handle it and that power is love.  In terms of alchemey there is a lot I don't know and I do worry about time.  But when I let things get the best of me and start to worry that love won't be enough, something always brings me back to love and I feel incredible peace.  The words of Gandhi, "Be the change" have also stuck with me.  I would like to share an example.  I was at a rally not to long at one of our local parks.  There were a number of police there keeping an eye on things and there was amoungst the members of our group feelings of anger which had seeped into me; but not my friend.  I had brought cookies and we were standing close to a couple of the officers.  My friend presented me the idea of sharing my cookies with officers.  I did but I admit with resentment. After watching so many vidoes of rallies involving confrontations with police and am beginning to wonder.  Rallys have there place but maybe cookies are the way!!  I am taking locally. I do understand that the situation in areas like Egypt is much graver.  Not there is not oppression here but.... sometimes I think we should work harder to be peaceful here, locally, out of respect for those who maybe can't.  And at the end of the day, if anger and resentment can spread like wild fire in a small park, then why can't love.  Anyway, when I don't know stuff, I start with what I do know.  I have started a manifestation box.  In the box I am putting in things that represent love.  I have surrounded the box with objects representing the four elements. When I returned from that rally I put a cookie on the box... just for a little while : ).  And I TRY to live love ... even in the smallest ways... a smile when maybe I would have grimaced.  That's where I'm at : )


    • Hi Kelly. Here is an excerpt from Alchemical Psychology that speaks to your point:

      Finally, we end with a paradox that captures what alchemy is really all about: at the center of the heart is a consciousness that knows no distinctions between inner and outer, above and below. At the heart of the matter, alchemy is about coming to the realization that we already possess the philosopher's stone and its name is love.

      Now, I would ask you to comment on Isis' love for Osiris and Horus - it plays a critical role in their transformation (and ours!)

  • Hi Thom, Bonnie, and others-


    I am interested in this topic and watched the introductory video to get a feel for it.  I am familiar with the Osiris myth but have not done any in depth analysis or research into it.  I am not a certified therapist but I am a practicing astrologer who sees clients in that context and I am interested in archetypal psychology, archetypes, myths, . . .  I am a teacher and advisor at Tacoma Community College, teaching and working with students who have dropped out of high school and are pursuing their diploma at the community college.  I am interested in all of your questions, including applying it to current events and investigating if Osiris is an archetype.  I would like to know if it would be appropriate to integrate my astrological understanding into posts about Osiris and current events if I am called to do so. I also do have interest in Jungian psychology but have never done official academic work in that capacity- I recently received a copy of the red book and am just at the cusp of exploring it.  I am looking forward to this opportunity to work with all of you! Blessings . . .

    • Some of the most exciting work in contemporary Egyptology involves astrology. In particular, I am fascinated by the ongoing research of Robert Bauval et al. I highly recommend his books The Egypt Code and more recently, Black Genesis. He was among the first to put forth the idea that the arrangement of the pyramids reflect particular star constellations; Isis was initially known as Sirius and Osiris as Orion. How these stars move has much to do with the rising and inundation of the Nile, New Year's day! I would love to hear more about the relationship between the Above and the Below. We might also recall that Osiris was born of Nut, the sky goddess and her lover/husband Geb when both were at first united and later separated by Shu (god of the atmosphere), so that humans owe their existence to that precious space left between these two gods; thus, we are made of both celestial and terrestrial stuff. The question of whether Osiris is an archetype is challenging. I have put forward the idea that he evolves from a nature spirit god to god of the dead to god of becoming. I would love to advance this concept and see how it might translate across cultures, giving it the weight of an archetype. Astrology is not my strong suite and would like to know what is a decan and how does it relate to an archetype? Your knowledge in these areas are most welcomed!

  • Looking forward to discussing your book!  I'm just finishing up "Alchemical Psychology" now as a prep, and then will begin "Embodying Osiris" in a day or so.


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