Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Alchemical Mercurius and Carl Gustav Jung

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_804

Alchemy and Mercurius

In alchemy the figure Mercurius has a close association to the substance quicksilver and to the planet Mercury and therefore also to the Greek Hermes. Indeed the term Hermetic Art associates directly to this figure.

As a substance, the element mercury exhibits remarkable properties. In Alexandrian alchemy it was used to affect a spectacle of transformation. Specifically, by crushing and heating a piece of cinnabar ore, a metallic vapor was released. This vapor could then be distilled to yield quicksilver. Reheating the quicksilver transformed it into a red-like crystal, reminiscent of the original cinnabar ore. In effect, it portrayed a transformation mystery whereby a piece of earthly matter could undergo a “tortuous ordeal of purification and renewal.” In the animistic worldview of archaic alchemy, it illustrated the idea of a spirit “captured in matter” that could be released and transformed through alchemical operations.

The alchemists also noted the highly...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access

Bibliography

  1. Cobb, C., & Goldwhite, H. (2002). Creations of fire: Chemistry’s lively history from alchemy to the atomic age. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.Google Scholar
  2. Dobbs, B. (1992). The foundations of Newton’s alchemy: Or, the hunting of the greene lyon. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Goldwater, L. (1972). Mercury: A history of quicksilver. Baltimore: York Press.Google Scholar
  4. Jung, C. G. (1943/1948). The spirit Mercurius. In Alchemical studies, CW 13. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  5. Jung, C. G. (1963/1995). Memories, dreams and reflections (Ed. A. Jaffé, trans: Winston, R. C.). London: Collins and Routledge & Kegan Paul. (Republished by Fontana Press, Hammersmith, London).Google Scholar
  6. Jung, C. G. (1973). Letters 1: 1906–1950 (G. Adler with A. Jaffé, Eds., trans: Hull, R. F. C.) London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  7. Jung, E., & Von Franz, M.-L. (1970). The grail legend. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Von Franz, M. -L. (1972/1998). C. G. Jung: His myth in our time. Toronto: Inner City Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Psychoanalytic StudiesUniversity of EssexWivenhoe Park, ColchesterUK