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«***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HIDDEN SYMBOLISM OF ALCHEMY AND THE OCCULT ARTS*** Hidden Symbolism of ALCHEMY and the OCCULT ARTS (Formerly ...»

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Although we know that the parable was written by a follower of the hermetic art, and apparently for the purpose of instruction, we shall proceed, with due consideration, to pass over the hermetic content of the narrative, which will later be investigated, and regard it only as a play of free fantasy. We shall endeavor to apply to the parable knowledge gained from the psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams, and we shall find that the parable, as a creation of the imagination, shows at the very foundations the same structure as dreams. I repeat emphatically that in this research, in being guided merely by the psychoanalytic point of view, we are for the time being proceeding in a decidedly one-sided manner.

In the interpretation of the parable we cannot apply the original method of psychoanalysis. This consists in having a series of seances with the dreamer in order to evoke the free associations.

38 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts The dreamer of the parable—or rather the author—has long ago departed this life. We are obliged then to give up the preparatory process and stick to the methods derived from them. There are [044] three such methods.

The first is the comparison with typical dream images. It has been shown that in the dreams of all individuals certain phases and types continually recur, and in its symbolism have a far reaching general validity, because they are manifestly built on universal human emotions. Their imaginative expression is created according to a psychical law which remains fairly unaffected by individual differences.

The second is the parallel from folk psychology. The inner affinity of dream and myth implies that for the interpretation of individual creations of fancy, parallels can profitably be drawn from the productions of the popular imagination and vice versa.

The third is the conclusions from the peculiarities of structure of the dream (myth, fairy tale) itself. In dreams and still more significantly in the more widely cast works of the imagination creating in a dream-like manner, as e.g., in myths and fairy tales, one generally finds motives that are several times repeated in similar stories even though with variations and with different degrees of distinctness. [Let this not be misunderstood. I do not wish to revive the exploded notion that myths are merely the play of a fancy that requires occupation. My position on the interpretation of myths will be explained in Part I. of the synthetic part.] It is then possible by the comparison of individual instances of a motive, to conclude concerning its true character, inasmuch [045] as one, as it were, completes in accordance with their original tendency the lines of increasing distinctness in the different examples, and thus—to continue the geometric metaphor—one obtains in their prolongations a point of intersection in which can be recognized the goal of the process toward which the dream strives, a goal, however, that is not found in the dream itself but only in the interpretation.

Section I. Psychoanalytic Interpretation Of The Parable. 39 We shall employ the three methods of interpretation conjointly.

After all we shall proceed exactly as psychoanalysis does in interpretation of folk-lore. For in this also there are no living authors that we can call and question. We have succeeded well enough, however, with the derived methods. The lack of an actual living person will be compensated for in a certain sense by the ever living folk spirit and the infinite series of its manifestations (folk-lore, etc.). The results of this research will help us naturally in the examination of our parable, except in so far as I must treat some of the conclusions of psychoanalysis with reserve as problematic.

Let us now turn to the parable. Let us follow the author, or as I shall call him, the wanderer, into his forest, where he meets his extraordinary adventures.

I have just used a figure, “Let us follow him into his forest.” This is worthy of notice. I mean, of course, that we betake ourselves into his world of imagination and live through his dreams with him. We leave the paths of everyday life, in [046] order to rove in the jungle of phantasy. If we remember rightly, the wanderer used the same metaphor at the beginning of his narrative. He comes upon a thicket in the woods, loses the usual path.... He, too, speaks figuratively. Have we almost unaware, in making his symbolism our own, partially drawn away the veil from his mystery? It is a fact confirmed by many observations [Cf. my works on threshold symbolism—Schwellensymbolik, Jahrb. ps. F. III, p. 621 ff., IV, p. 675 ff.] that in hypnagogic hallucinations (dreamy images before going to sleep), besides all kinds of thought material, the state of going to sleep also portrays itself in exactly the same way that in the close of a dream or hypnotic illusions on awakening, the act of awakening is pictorially presented. The symbolism of awakening brings indeed pictures of leave taking, departing, opening of a door, sinking, going free out of a dark surrounding, coming home, etc.

The pictures for going to sleep are sinking, entering into a room, 40 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts a garden or a dark forest.

The fairy story also used the same forest symbol. Whether on sinking into sleep I have the sensation of going into a dark forest or whether the hero of the story goes into a forest (which to be sure has still other interpretations), or whether the wanderer in the parable gets into a tangle of underbrush, all amounts to the same thing; it is always the introduction into a life of phantasy, the entrance into the theater of the dream. The wanderer, if he had not chosen for his fairy tale the first person, could have [047] begun as follows: There was once a king whose greatest joy was in the chase. Once as he was drawn with his companions into a great forest, and was pursuing a fleet stag, he was separated from his followers, and went still further from the familiar paths, so that finally he had to admit that he had lost his way. Then he went farther and farther into the woods until he saw far off a house....





The wanderer comes through the woods to the Pratum felicitatis, the Meadow of Felicity, and there his adventures begin. Here, too, our symbolism is maintained; by sleeping or the transition to revery we get into the dream and fairy tale realm, a land to which the fulfillment of our keenest wishes beckons us. The realm of fairy tales is indeed—and the psychoanalyst can confirm this statement—a Pratum felicitatis, in spite of all dangers and accidents which we have there to undergo.

The dream play begins and the interpretation, easy till now, becomes more difficult. We shall hardly be able to proceed in strictly chronological order. The understanding of the several phases of the narrative does not follow the sequence of their events. Let us take it as it comes.

The wanderer becomes acquainted with the inhabitants of the Pratum felicitatis, who are discussing learned topics, he becomes involved in the scientific dispute, and is subjected to a severe test in order to be admitted to the company. The admission thus does not occur without trouble but rather a great obstacle is placed in [048] Section I. Psychoanalytic Interpretation Of The Parable. 41 the way of it. The wanderer tells us that his examiners hauled him over the coals, an allegorical metaphor, taken possibly from the ordeal by fire. In these difficulties the attaining of the end meets us in the first instance in a series of analogous events, where the wanderer sees himself hindered in his activities in a more or less painful, and often even a dangerous manner. After a phase marked by anxiety the adventure turns out uniformly well and some progress is made after the obstruction at the beginning.

As a first intimation of the coming experiences we may take up the obstacles in the path in the first section of the parable, which are successfully removed, inasmuch as the wanderer soon after reaches the lovely region (Sec. 3).

The psychology of dreams has shown that obstacles in the dream correspond to conflicts of will on the part of the dreamer, which is exactly as in the morbid restraint of neurotics. Anxiety develops when a suppressed impulse wishes to gratify itself, to which impulse another will, something determined by our culture, is opposed prohibitively. Obstructed satisfaction creates anxiety instead of pleasure. Anxiety may then be called also a libido with a negative sign. Only when the impulse in question knows how to break through without the painful conflict, can it attain pleasure—which is the psychic (not indeed the biologic) tendency of every impulse emanating from the depths of the soul. The degrees of the pleasure that thus exists in the soul may be very different, even vanishingly small, a state of affairs [049] occurring if the wish fulfilling experience has through overgrowth of symbolism lost almost all of its original form. If we follow the appearances of the obstruction motive in the parable, and find the regular happy ending already mentioned, then we can maintain it as a characteristic of the phantasy product in question, that not only in its parts but also in the movement of the entire action, it shows a tendency from anxiety towards untroubled fulfillment of wishes.

As for the examination episode, to which we have now 42 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts advanced in our progressive study of the narrative, we can now take up a frequently occurring dream type; the Examination Dream. Almost every one who has to pass severe examinations, experiences even at subsequent times when the high school or university examinations are far in the past, distressing dreams filled with the anxiety that precedes an examination. Freud (Trdtg., p. 196 ff.) clearly says that this kind of dream is especially the indelible memories of the punishments which we have suffered in childhood for misdeeds and which make themselves felt again in our innermost souls at the critical periods of our studies, at the Dies irae, dies ilia of the severe examinations. After we have ceased to be pupils it is no longer as at first the parents and governesses or later the teachers that take care of our punishment. The inexorable causal nexus of life has taken over our further education, and now we dream of the preliminaries or finals; whenever we expect that the [050] result will chastise us, because we have not done our duty, or done something incorrectly, or whenever we feel the pressure of responsibility. Stekel's experience is also to be noticed, confirmed by the practice of other psychoanalysts, that graduation dreams frequently occur if a test of sexual power is at hand. The double sense of the word matura (= ripe) (that may also mean sexual maturity) may also come to mind as the verbal connecting link for the association. In general the examination dreams may be the expression of an anxiety about not doing well or not being able to do well; in particular they are an expression of a fear of impotence. It should be noted here that not only in the former but in the latter case the fear has predominantly the force of a psychic obstruction.

For the interpretation of the examination scene also, we note the fairy tale motif so frequently appearing of a hard-won prize, i.e., any story in which a king or a potentate proposes a riddle or a task for the hero. If the hero solves or accomplishes it, he generally wins, besides other precious possessions, a woman or Section I. Psychoanalytic Interpretation Of The Parable. 43 a princess, whom he marries. In the case of a heroine the prize is a beautiful prince. The motif of the hard-won prize matches the later appearance of obstacles in the Parable. The nature of the prize is, for the present at any rate, a matter of indifference.

A second edition of the examination scene meets us in the 6th section as the battle with the lion. The advance from [051] the anxiety phase to the fulfillment phase appears clearly and the emotions of the wanderer are more strongly worked out.

The difficulty at the beginning is indicated in the preceding conversation where no one will advise him how he is to begin with the beast, but all hold out guidance for a later time when he shall have once bound the lion. The beginning of the fight causes the wanderer much trouble. He “is amazed at his own temerity,” would gladly turn back from his project, and he can “hardly restrain his tears for fear.” He fortifies himself, however, develops brilliant abilities and comes off victor in the fray. A gratification derived from his own ability is unmistakable. The scene, as well as a variation of the preceding examination, adds to it some essentially new details. The displacement of the early opponents (i.e., the examining elders) by another (the lion) is not really new. It is a mere compensation, although, as we shall see later, a very instructive one. Entirely new is the result of the battle. After killing the lion the victor brings to light white bones and red blood from his body. Note the antithesis, white and red.

It will occur again. If we think of saga and fairy lore parallels, the dragon fight naturally comes to mind. The victorious hero has to free a maiden who languishes in the possession of an ogre.



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