Philip Ball and Sonu Shamdasami conjure up the spirits of Paracelsus and Jung
Writer Philip Ball and Jungian historian Sonu Shamdasami conjure up the spirits of two of the most significant alchemical visionaries: Paracelsus and Jung. Separated in time by 400 years, but linked by their Swiss birth place, they wandered Europe in parallel explorations of psychic health, science and alchemical symbolism.
The Swiss physician Paracelsus (1494-1541) changed the course of Western medicine by insisting that the medical theories of antiquity, based on the notion of the four humours, should be replaced by an alchemical vision of how the body works. "Don’t make gold, make medicines". He exhorted the alchemists, while his ‘bio-alchemy’ anticipated the modern understanding of how chemistry underpins all life. But Paracelsus’s scheme was broader than that: for him, the entire universe was an alchemical process wrought by God, in which ‘occult’ forces governed the relationships between the stars, the earth and the body. Philip Ball will outline this vision and describe Paracelsus’s colourful, troubled life as he wandered throughout a Europe that was exploding with religious, political and intellectual tensions.
Four centuries later the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung was struck by the recurrence of alchemical symbols in his patients’ dreams and theorised that the symbolic language of alchemy was an expression of innate but unconscious psychological processes. He related alchemy to the psyche in the same way that Paracelsus had to physiology and it became key to his groundbreaking hypothesis of the collective unconscious and the process of “individuation”.
Hear about their lives and works from two experts, who'll reveal the strange connection between scientific development and the occult that underpinned these two fascinating men's work.
Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets include a Hendrick's Gin Cocktail.
Brompton Cemetery Chapel, West Brompton
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