Unconditional Care of the Self: Solutio and the Alchemical Transformation of Defense Mechanisms and Addictions

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism.” -Jung

“Wind blowing over water disperses it, dissolving it into foam and mist. This suggests that when a man’s vital energy is dammed up within him, gentleness serves to break up and dissolve the blockage” – Richard Wilhelm, The I-Ching, Hexagram 59; Dispersion

Unconditional care for the Self is a process that embodies gentle acceptance of the totality of our self including those parts that we disown and find repugnant.  In this way  we don’t become pathogenic to ourselves and become our own worst enemy to our shadow, our greatest source of growth.  As a result of  not being seen as children, of being disrespected, neglected, criticized, judged and violated, we may have dissociated and imprinted the qualities of the original perpetrators deep in our psyche.  Developing unconditional care is an antidote to self attack and autoimmune reactions within the psyche that block the dissolution of compensatory defenses and addictions and  integration of the shadow .

The Alchemical operation ‘Solutio’ turns solid into liquid through dissolution or baptism.  In the classic alchemical treatise, The Splendor Solis, an illustration depicts an old king sitting in the alchemical bath while a man applies a bellows to the fire underneath, to “wash out the murkiness and shade” so the king can be purified and transformed into the “prima materia.”  Achilles, whose well intentioned mother, the nymph Thetis, bathed Achilles in the river Styx as she held him by the heel so that he could become immortal, might have asked, “Mom, what are you doing?”  She might have answered, as Alice Miller said ironically, its “for your own good,” leaving his heel the one vulnerable place left to later magnetize the fatal arrow during the Trojan War.

How can we make the arrow point an inoculation of consciousness?  Often we are shot with the arrow over and over before we get the message that we have magnetized our own rejected primal wounds.  If we can treat that repugnant wound consciously,  uncritical of our failure in battle, even venerate our repugnance, we may be able to re-baptize ourselves and re-experience the essence of our wounds and see the blessing of these symptoms that hitherto have been perceived as enemies.  We no longer throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Richard Wilhelm introduced Chinese Alchemy to Jung  who synthesized the teachings with Western Alchemy creating a more effective psychology.  Jung said of  Wilhelm “he has inoculated us with the living germ of the Chinese spirit.” In this course we will explore a cross inoculation of Eastern and Western Alchemical concepts that promote Solutio, such as myth and dream analysis and active imagination  from the West and the I-Ching, Tibetan Tantric practices such as Dream and Sleep yoga, dark retreats, and the use of Mantra and Meditation from the East.

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