Alchemy is about more than just the transformation of chemical substances. It is a metaphor for the transformation of the mortal into the immortal, and an archetypal representation of the process of individuation. Carl Jung says:
“The alchemists saw it in the transformation of the chemical substance. So if one of them sought transformation, he discovered it outside in matter, whose transformation cried out to him, as it were, “I am the transformation!” But some were clever enough to know, “It is my own transformation-not a personal transformation, but the transformation of what is mortal in me into what is immortal. It shakes off the mortal husk that I am and awakens to a life of its own.” Carl Jung, CW 9i , para. 238)
The Taoist used alchemical techniques of purification to cultivated body liberation, shih-chieho. In the image above, we see an illustration from “The Secret of the Golden Flower”, a Chinese book of alchemy and meditation. The image depicts a Taoist practitioner cultivating the ‘immortal embryo’.
- Carl Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious – CW 9i (1934–1954) (1981 2nd ed. Collected Works Vol.9 Part 1)
- Historical Dictionary of Taoism by Julian F. Pas