Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Alchemical Mercurius and Carl Gustav Jung

  • Mathew MatherEmail author
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...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

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