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Salt, The Archetype


Jung's alchemical writings are exercises in hermeneutics, interpretations grounded in his intuition that in their philosophic treatises in the nature of chemical materials, the alchemists projected psychological processes onto matter. Much of the unconscious masculine nature was the substance sulphur, which contributed to the fiery character of Sol. But in the formation of the man's lunar unconscious, which had a feminine character, the root substance appeared to be salt, associated throughout human history with tears. Jung's understanding of the importance of experiences of bitter appointment in the development of the anima reaches beyond lie traditional Christian emphasis on suffering and sacrifice embodied in the Virgin Mary to the more seasoned femininity of the Gnostic Sophia, who personifies earth wisdom.

Apart from its lunar wetness and its terrestrial nature, the most outstanding properties of salt are bitterness and wisdom. As in the double quaternio of the elements and qualities, earth and water have coldness in common, so bitterness and wisdom would form a pair of opposites with a third thing between. (See diagram on facing page.) The factor common to both, however incommensurable the two ideas may seem, is, psychologically, the function of feeling. 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 in be no bitterness. Salt, as the carrier of this fateful alternative is coordinated with the nature of woman. The masculine, solar nature in the right half of the quaternio knows neither coldness, nor a shadow, nor heaviness, melancholy, etc., because, so long as all goes well, it identifies as closely as possible with consciousness, and that as a rule is the idea which one has of oneself. In this idea the shadow is usually missing: first because nobody likes to admit to any inferiority, and second because logic forbids something white to be called black. A good man has good qualities, and only the bad man has bad qualities. For reasons of prestige we pass over the shadow in complete silence. A famous example of masculine prejudice is Nietzsche's Superman, who scorns compassion and fights against the "Ugliest Man"—the ordinary man that everyone is. The shadow must not be seen, it must be denied, repressed, or twisted into something quite extraordinary. The sun is always shining and everything smiles back. There is no room for any prestige-diminishing weakness, so the sol niger is never seen. Only in solitary hours is its presence feared.

Things are different with Luna: every month she is darkened and extinguished; she cannot hide this from anybody, not even from herself. She knows that this same Luna is now bright and now dark—but who has ever heard of a dark sun? We call this quality of Luna "woman's closeness to nature," and the fiery brilliance and hot air that plays round the surface of things we like to call "the masculine mind."











Despite all attempts at denial and obfuscation there is an unconscious factor, a black sun, which is responsible for the surprisingly common phenomenon of masculine split-mindedness, when the right hand mustn't know what the left is doing. This split in the masculine psyche and the regular darkening of the moon in woman together explain the remarkable fact that the woman is accused of all the darkness in a man, while he himself basks in the thought that he is a veritable fount of vitality and illumination for all the females in his environment. Actually, lie would be better advised to shroud the brilliance of his mind in the profoundest doubt. It is not difficult for this type of mind (which besides other things is a great trickster like Mercurius) to admit a host of sins in the most convincing way, and even to ; combine it with a spurious feeling of ethical superiority without I in the least approximating to a genuine insight. This can never be achieved without the participation of feeling; but the intellect admits feeling only when it is convenient. The novilunium of woman is a source of countless disappointments for man (which easily turn to bitterness, though they could equally well I be a source of wisdom if they were understood. Naturally this is possible only if he is prepared to acknowledge his black sun, I that is, his shadow.

Confirmation of our interpretation of salt as Eros (i.e., as a feeling relationship) is found in the fact that the bitterness is I the origin of the colors (par. 245). We have only to look at the drawings and paintings of patients who supplement their analysis by active imagination to see that colors are feeling-values. Mostly, to begin with, only a pencil or pen is used to make rapid sketches of dreams, sudden ideas, and fantasies. But from a certain moment on the patients begin to make use of color, and his is generally the moment when merely intellectual interest gives way to emotional participation. Occasionally the same phenomenon can be observed in dreams, which at such moments are dreamt in color, or a particularly vivid color is insisted upon.

Disappointment, always a shock to the feelings, is not only the mother of bitterness but the strongest incentive to a differentiation of feeling. The failure of a pet plan, the disappointing behavior of someone one loves, can supply the impulse either for a more or less brutal outburst of affect or for a modification and adjustment of feeling, and hence for its higher development. This culminates in wisdom if feeling is supplemented by reflection and rational insight. Wisdom is never violent: where wisdom reigns there is no conflict between thinking and feeling.

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