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Alchemy and Finnegans Wake by Barbara DiBernard

By Barbara DiBernard

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Sample text

I have striven to elicit it by means of aqua fortis and alkali. I have spent nights and days in dissolving, coagulating, amalgamating, and precipitating. Yet from all those things I derived neither profit nor joy. I had hoped much from the quintessence, but it disappointed me like the rest. 12 The tendency to eschew all laboratory processes exhibited by this discouraged alchemist became more pronounced, until the Hermetic Art became completely spiritualized, refined out of the laboratory and almost out of existence.

The 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica suggests that the alchemy which grew out of Alexandrian Egypt began with practical methods for making alloys and coloring metals. Mystical interpretations of the processes, the identification of the metals with the planets, the use of magic formulas, the concept of each person as a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, and even the concept of transmutation resulted from contact with Greek philosophy and Eastern influences. Later, some authors claimed that the perfection of the human soul was just as or more important than the perfection of base metals into gold.

For this reason I have found myself obliged to give the corresponding archetype the psychological name of the "self"a term on the one hand definite enough to convey the essence of human wholeness and on the other hand indefinite enough to express the indescribable and indeterminable nature of this wholeness. The paradoxical qualities of the term are a reflection of the fact that wholeness consists partly of the conscious man and partly of the unconscious man. But we cannot define the latter or indicate his boundaries.

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