London Alchemy
ALCHEMY OF THE PSYCHE - Paracelsus & Jung
A salon in the cemetery with Philip Ball and Sonu Shamdasami
Sunday 5th June from 3:00 to 5:00 pm

Writer Philip Ball and Jungian historian Sonu Shamdasami conjure up the spirits of two of the most significant alchemical visionaries: Paracelsus and Jung. Separated in time by 400 years, but linked by their Swiss birth place, they wandered Europe in parallel explorations of psychic health, science and alchemical symbolism

The Swiss physician Paracelsus (1494-1541) changed the course of Western medicine by insisting that the medical theories of antiquity, based on the notion of the four humours, should be replaced by an alchemical vision of how the body works. ‘Don’t make gold, make medicines’, he exhorted the alchemists, while his ‘bio-alchemy’ anticipated the modern understanding of how chemistry underpins all life. But Paracelsus’s scheme was broader than that: for him, the entire universe was an alchemical process wrought by God, in which ‘occult’ forces governed the relationships between the stars, the earth and the body. Philip Ball will outline this vision and describe Paracelsus’s colourful, troubled life as he wandered throughout a Europe that was exploding with religious, political and intellectual tensions.

Four centuries later the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung was struck by the recurrence of alchemical symbols in his patients’ dreams and theorised that the symbolic language of alchemy was an expression of innate but unconscious psychological processes. He related alchemy to the psyche in the same way that Paracelsus had to physiology and it became key to his groundbreaking hypothesis of the collective unconscious and the process of “individuation”.

Tickets £12 including a Hendrick's Gin Cocktail. Please click here to buy.

Philip Ball
is an author and presenter, and writes regularly on science and its interactions with the arts and the wider culture. His biography of Paracelsus, The Devil’s Doctor (Heinemann, 2006), provided the material for a play of the same title, funded by the Wellcome Trust, which toured throughout the UK in early 2009. His most recent book is Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen (Bodley Head, 2014).

Sonu Shamdasami is a London-based author, editor, and professor at University College London. His writings focus on Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), and cover the history of psychiatry and psychology from the mid-nineteenth century to current times. Shamdasani edited for its initial publication a major work of Jung: The Red Book. Although well known by its title, until 2009 its contents had remained hidden from the public and from practicing psychotherapists.

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