The Alchemical Coniunctio and Neurobiology
Jung was embroiled in alchemical research for more or less the last three decades of his life (1928 up to his death in 1961). During this period the notion of the coniunctio, as a central concern, informed much of his mature works. Concerning this notion he stated in his paper ‘The Philosophical Tree’ (1945/1954) that: “the [alchemical coniunctio] ... usually consists in the union of two pairs of opposites, a lower (water, blackness, animal, snake) with an upper (bird, light, head, etc) and a left (feminine) with a right (masculine).” Based on this core idea, I develop commentary by considering a sample of images made prior to 1928, as found in Liber Novus. I further explore a sample of alchemical images from the Rosarium Philosophorum, as found in Psychology of the Transference (1946), as well as Jung’s ‘Bollingen stone’ (made in 1950).
These pictorial depictions, suggesting the theme of the alchemical coniunctio, are then used as a basis to establish a number of correlations to a sample of key ideas derived from neurobiology, with emphasis on the three-brain model. The intention is to open up interest that may lead to a more ambitious and collaborative project along the lines of Alchemy and Neurobiology. Such a project is envisioned as being located within the burgeoning interdisciplinary area of where Analytical Psychology intersects with Neurobiology. It is inspired by works such as Erik Goodwyn’s The Neurobiology of the Gods (2012), and psyche-soma work such as Marian Dunlea’s Bodydreaming (2019). It seeks to further our understanding of the value of especially the alchemical aspect of Analytical Psychology toward a more refined understanding of emotions.
Mathew is a graduate of the University of Essex, where he specialised in Jung and Alchemy. He is a lecturer at Limerick School of Art and Design (Technological University of the Shannon), is course director of the Certificate in Jungian Psychology with Art Therapy and programme director of the MA in Art, Psyche and the Creative Imagination. Mathew regularly presents at international conferences, is a guest lecturer at ISAP Zurich and runs workshops with his wife Lyn for the Jung in Ireland programme. His interests include dream interpretation, synchronicity, art, alchemy, astrology, the environment, as well as personal and cultural mythologies. He is also a member of the International Association of Jungian Studies (IAJS).
He is author of "The Alchemical Mercurius: esoteric symbol of Jung’s life and works" (Routledge 2014), and a number of articles and book chapters.