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:
- 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?
- 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?
- What happened to Osiris and other gods and goddesses after the fall of ancient Egypt? Did the gods die? Is Osiris an archetype?
- 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, CavalliBooks.com 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.