calcinatio

Calcinatio constitutes one of seven major alchemical operations as distinguished by Edinger, each one a center of an elaborate symbol system making up the principle content of all culture-products. The author's cluster diagram (fig. 002.00) of calcinatio is shown below:

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AOP Pg 017 (xx) Cluster Diagram Calcinatio

Cluster Diagram: Calcinatio

Author's Diagram

(a)

Most lists of alchemical operations begin with calcinatio. A few authors say solutio comes first. However, the sequence of operations (with one or two exceptions) does not seem to be psychologically significant. Any operation may be the initiating one, and the others may follow in any order

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(b)

As with most alchemical images, calcinatio derives in part from a chemical procedure. The chemical process of calcination entails the intense heating of a solid in order to drive off water and all other constituents that will volatilize. What remains is a fine, dry power. The classic example of calcination, from which it derives its name (calx = lime), is the heating of limestoneor slaked limeto produce quicklime.When water is added, quicklime has the interesting characteristic of generating heat. It was thought by the alchemists to contain fire and was sometimes equated with fire itself

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FOUR ELEMENTS AND THEIR

CORRESPONDING OPERATIONS

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Each of the four elements has its own particular operation. Calcinatio is the fire operation (the others: solutio, water; coagulatio, earth; sublimatio, air). Hence any image that contains open fire burning or affecting substances will be related to the calcinatio. This opens up the whole rich and complicated subject of fire symbolism. Jung has demonstrated that fire symbolizes libido. This puts it very generally. In order to specify the implications of fire and its effects, we must examine the phenomenology of the image in its various ramifications

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(c-1)

In The Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine we find the following recipe for calcinatio: “Take a fierce gray wolf, whichis found in the valleys and the mountains of the world, where he roams almost savage with hunger. Cast to him the body of the King, and when he has devoured it, burn him entirely to ashes in a great fire. By this process the King will be liberated; and when it has been performed thrice the lion has overcome the wolf, and will find nothing more to devour in him. Thus our body has been rendered fit for the first stage of our work” ( Waite, trans., The Hermetic Museum 1 : 325 ) (fig. 002.01)

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AOP Pg 018 (c-1) FigNo002.01

Calcinatio of the King

The Wolf as Prima Materia, Devouring the Dead King. Maier, Atalanta Fugiens, (1618)

CALCINING FIRE COMBINES

SEVERAL THEMES

(d)

The calcining fire combines several alchemical themes: calcinatio as cremation, the death and blackness of mortificatio; extraction of essence, separatio; and the making of gold, the goal of the opus.the dead king or father figure is the object of calcinatio.it suggests a dominant life value around which the personality has been structured is undergoing re-evaluation

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(d-1)

The calcining fire may derive from sexuality. For instance, a man who was dealing with compulsive sexuality had this dream:

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Dream:

Hot Slate

(d-2)

He sees his mother in a wire basket covered with fragments of hot slate. The procedure is supposed to be therapeutic but there is some question that it may become diabolical if the slate fragments are heated so hot as to make it torture

DREAM COMMENTARY

(e)

The dreamer was reminded of having seen rats escaping from a basket of burning trash. In this dream the mother represents the prima materia that must undergo calcinatio. In other words, it is the Eros realm of the feminine principle that requires purification (fig. 002.03)

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AOP Pg 020 (e) FigNo002.03

(e)

Calcinatio of the Devouring Parent

(e)

Mutus Liber, (1702)

SHADOW STUFF

(f)

In another text the calcinatio is described as follows: “Then take out all the feces which remain in the retort, and are blackish like unto soot, which feces are called our Dragon, of which feces calcinein a fervent hot fireuntil it becomes a white calx, as white as snow” (fig. 002.04) . Here the matter to be calcined is called “dragon” or “black feces”that is, shadow stuff. In another text it is called the Ethiopian: “Then will appear in the bottom of the vessel the mighty Ethiopian, burned, calcined, bleached, altogether dead and lifeless. He asks to be buried, to be sprinkled with his own moisture and slowly calcined till he shall arise in glowing form from the fierce fireBehold a wondrous restoration or renewal of the Ethiopian!”

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AOP Pg 021 (f) FigNo002.04

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The Fire of the Dragon Being Both Fanned and Extinguished

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Trismosin, Splendor Solis, (1582)

(g)

The text above demonstrates the nature of the substance to be calcined. It is called variously a `ravening wolf,' `black feces,' a `dragon,' and a `mighty Ethiopian.' These terms tell us that the calcinatio is performed on the primitive shadow side, which harbors hungry, instinctual desirousness and is contaminated with the unconscious. The fire for the process comes from the frustration of these instinctual desires themselves. Such an ordeal of frustrated desire is a characteristic feature of the developmental process

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A man who endured a prolonged frustration had this dream:

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Dream:

Hot Masses of Limestone

(h-1)

The dreamer found himself in a cavernous place, perhaps underground. Through a door come huge, white-hot masses of limestone that slide or roll past him. Smoke and fire are all about. He seeks for a way out but whenever he opens a door he is met by billowing smoke which drives him back

DREAM COMMENTARY

(i)

On awakening, his first associations were that this must be hell or the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar. In this dream the inert limestone is in the process of being transformed into living quicklime by the calcinatio

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PENTECOST

(j)

In the miracle of Pentecost, as described in Acts 2 : 3, the Holy Spirit comes as tongues of fire (fig. 002.10) . The following case is an example of the image of fire as the Holy Spirit. A young research scientist made a brilliant formulation in a scientific paper based on an important discovery. The professor who held authority over him had belittled his conclusions without reading the paper. At this point the young scientist, who was usually very mild mannered, replied with great intensity: “Professor,if you are going to criticize my paper you must first read it and give it careful thought.” He was alarmed by the intensity of his reaction, but after an initial flare of anger the professor acknowledged his mistake, read the paper, and recognized its value

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AOP Pg 036 (j) FigNo002.10

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Pentecost

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Doré, Bible Illustrations

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The night before this crucial encounter, which had important consequences for the young scientist's career, he had this dream:

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Dream:

Tongues of Fire

(k-1)

I am sitting at a dinner table with guests. Suddenly something spills and catches fire. Then the whole table is covered with little flames shifting around from one side to the other. It is a beautiful sight. On awakening I think of the miracle at Pentecost

DREAM COMMENTARY

(l)

This dream refers not only to the dreamer's fiery encounter with the professor, but, more importantly, to the creative fire of the Holy Ghost that poured itself out on him and enabled him to make his brilliant formulations

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WHITE ASH AS THE

END PRODUCT

(m)

The end product of calcinatio is a white ash. This corresponds to the so-called “white foliated earth” of many alchemical texts. It signifies the albedo or whitening phase and has paradoxical associations. On the one hand ashes signify despair, mourning, or repentance. On the other hand they contain the supreme value, the goal of the work. One text says, “Despise not the ashes for they are the diadem of thy heart, and the ash of things that endure.” Another says, “The white foliated earth is the crown of victory which is ash extracted from ash, and their second body.” The ash is the incorruptible “glorified body,” which has survived the purifying ordeal. It is equated with the biblical image of the crown of glory

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(m-1)

Sometimes the result is a vitreous mass; hence there is an overlap between the symbolism of ash and glass

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(m-2)

An example of calcinatio followed by glory is found in the legend of St. John the Evangelist. The apostle survived the cauldron of boiling oil, was exiled, and ultimately returned covered with glory

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(m-3)

The entire Book of Job may be considered a symbolic description of the calcinatio. See Edinger, Ego and Archetype, p. 76ff.

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What turns the ashes of failure into the crown of victory is indicated by the fact that ash is alchemically equivalent to salt. The symbolism of salt has been discussed comprehensively by Jung. Basically salt symbolizes Eros and appears in one of two aspects, either as bitterness or as wisdom. Jung writes: “Tears, sorrow, and disappointment are bitter, but wisdom is the comforter in all psychic suffering. Indeed, bitterness and wisdom form a pair of alternatives: where there is bitterness wisdom is lacking, and where wisdom is there can be no bitterness. Salt, as the carrier of this fateful alternative, is coordinated with the nature of woman” ( CW14: par. 330 )

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CALCINATIO AS A

DRYING-OUT PROCESS

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From the simplest standpoint, calcinatio is a drying-out process. An important part of psychotherapy involves the drying out of water-logged unconscious complexes. The fire or emotional intensity necessary for this operation seems to reside in the complex itself and becomes operative as soon as the patient attempts to make the complex conscious by sharing it with another person. All thoughts, deeds, and memories that carry shame, guilt, or anxiety need to be given full expression. The affect liberated becomes the fire that can dry out the complex and purify it of its unconscious contamination

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FRUSTRATION OF DESIROUSNESS

OR CONCUPISCENCE

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The necessary frustration of desirousness or concupiscence is the chief feature of the calcinatio stage. First the substance must be located; that is, the unconscious, unacknowledged desire, demand, expectation must be recognized and affirmed. The instinctual urge that says “I want” and “I am entitled to this” must be fully accepted by the ego. There can be no proper calcinatio, as distinguished from masochistic self-flagellation, until the proper material is at hand. I think this fact is what underlies the following warning of an alchemist: “A great many students make a mistake at the very outset, by performing this calcinatio on a wrong substance;or they choose a false method, and corrode instead of calcining the metallic bodies on which they operate. Calcination can take place only by means of the inward heat of the body, assisted by friendly outward warmth; but calcination by means of a heterogenous agent can only destroy the metallic nature, in so far as it has any effect at all” ( Waite, trans., The Hermetic Museum 2 : 256 )

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FIRE BROUGHT ABOUT

BY THE PSYCHOTHERAPIST

(q)

The fire of calcinatio, to the extent that it can be brought about by the psychotherapist, is achieved largely by expressing attitudes and reactions that frustrate the patient. This is a dangerous procedure and must be used with great care. As the text warns, the calcinatio may be performed on the wrong substance or by a false method, which corrodes instead of calcining. A sufficient solid psychic foundation must be present to endure the calcinatio, and also an adequate rapport between the patient and therapist must exist to be able to carry frustration without generating destructive negativity

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FRUSTRATED

DESIROUSNESS

(r)

As a rule, life reality, if faced, provides plenty of occasions for the calcinatio of frustrated desirousness. The primitive, undifferentiated desire that says “I want” operates on the implicit assumption that it is entitled to have what it wants. When denied, it becomes enraged. This is the psychological homologue of the “Divine Wrath” that roasted Christ. Reality often generates fire by challenging or denying the demanding expectations of such desires. Denied justification, the frustrated desire becomes the fire of calcinatio. Ripley says: “Calcination is the purgation of our stone, Restoring also of his natural heat; Of radical moisture it leaveth none” ( The Lives of the Alchemystical Philosophers, p. 218 )

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PURGING OR PURIFYING EFFECT

(s)

Calcinatio has a purging or purifying effect. The substance is purged of radical moisture. This would correspond to the drippings of unconsciousness that accompany emerging energies. Or, in other words, the energies of the archetypal psyche first appear in identification with the ego and express themselves as desires for ego-pleasure and ego-power. The fire of calcinatio purges these identifications and drives off the root, or primordial moisture, leaving the content in its eternal or transpersonal state, restored of its natural heatthat is, of its own proper energy and functioning (fig. 002.13) and (fig. 002.14)

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AOP Pg 044 (s) FigNo002.13

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Expulsion of the Demons

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Engraving, 17th Century

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AOP Pg 044 (s) FigNo002.14

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The King in the Sweatbox

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Maier, Atalanta Fugiens, (1618)

(t)

Finally, the calcinatio brings about a certain immunity to affect and an ability to see the archetypal aspect of existence. To the extent that one is related to the transpersonal center of one's being, affect is experienced as etherial fire (Holy Spirit) rather than terrestrial firethe pain of frustrated desirousness

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