Monday, August 14, 2006

Marie-Louise von Franz on Active Imagination

The Mystical Experience Registry: Marie-Louise von Franz on Active Imagination

I believe in yesterday's post on Elkins' exquisite book on painting and alchemy, I mentioned that these two subjects were linked in my mind prior to my discovery of this book five years ago. Von Franz's slim volume Alchemy and Active Imagination, was an essential element (pardon the pun), in the formation of this linkage.

This book theorizes that for some practioners, Alchemy was a near Jungian discipline. Elements were perceived as avatars of archetypical figures (such as the connections made between the material mercury, the astronomical/astrological, and the mythological Mercury.) That while contemplating and actively experimenting, purifying these elements, some alchemists were also interacting with the archetype the element represented. While many commentators on alchemy have noted it's spiritual/psychological side, von Franz provides us with a framework for understanding just how this might have been pursued.

The connection I made was stimulated by a couple of things. One was the theory that Jan

Vermeer used Antonie van Leeuwenhoek as model for The Geographer (seen above) and The Astronomer, based largely on the fact their shared interest in optics would not have been shared by many in the relatively small area of Delft. Such equipment would have been highly specialized at the time, and the community of users small and most likely incestous. This made me think. Artist's pigments and alchemical elements, at this time, were as closely linked at this time as the aforementioned lens, that is the were sold as a commodity and not marketed for any particular purpose. And for the most part the community of end users would have been small.

Yes, these mental linkages are hypothetical, and not likely to ever be sufficiently documented to become historical (even in the slightly more dubious realm of art history) fact. Fortunately, the Dragon is less interested in documented fact, than he is in servicable theory. That is to say, ideas which facilitate the generation and distribution of more ideas. And for the Dragon this is a vein, which has only barely been uncovered, and most likely has years of profitable mining ahead of it.

Now if I could only find a cognitive crucible, with which I could seperate out my metaphors into their constituent parts...

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