McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
alchemy, archetypal psychology, Hegel, James Hillman, Jungian analysis, Wolfgang Giegerich
Alchemy has been viewed within the context of the history of natural science as a precursor to and a primitive form of chemistry. The enigmatic goal of the alchemical process, the Philosophers' Stone, is the focus of this dissertation. A natural scientific approach has shed little light on the mythical, esoteric and symbolic attributes of the Stone, which are intrinsic parts of the alchemical imagination. From the larger perspective of the history of the human spirit, these neglected aspects of the Philosophers' Stone can be seen as vital dimensions of an ancient religious and spiritual philosophy, the goal of which is not simply the transformation of lead into gold, but the transformation of earthly man into an illuminated philosopher.
The natural scientific and spiritual/symbolic perspectives are aspects of the Stone's history, which constitute a divide in the alchemical imagination regarding how the Stone is understood. Both dimensions are important in the historiography of the study of alchemy. C.G. Jung referred to these differing aspects of the Stone by what he called the "dual face of alchemy." However, his contribution was to see the Stone in the context of symbolic and psychic reality and alchemy as primarily a precursor to his psychology of the unconscious. In so doing, he identified a depth psychological dimension. Jung's perspective was revolutionary, and it considerably expanded the field of alchemical studies.
Jung's contribution has been challenged by Jungian revisionists such as James Hillman and Wolfgang Giegerich, and from outside of the Jungian tradition by a number of historiographers, currently and most prominently Lawrence Principe and William Newman. Such alternative perspectives are based on differing underlying philosophical convictions, and this recognition underlines the importance of considering alchemy and the Philosophers' Stone as philosophical concerns as well as scientific, spiritual and psychological ones.
In examining the history of philosophy and particularly the work of Kant and Hegel, this dissertation seeks to shed light on the enigmas of the Philosophers' Stone from a philosophical perspective and on this basis, to make a contribution to the ferment within the field of alchemical studies.
Marlan, S. (2014). The Philosophers' Stone: Alchemical Imagination and the Soul's Logical Life (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/874