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Date: Wed, 9 Apr 1997
From: George Matchette

Hi All.

Through the mists of distant memory, I recalled my chemistry class and the
comment that catalyst facilitated reactions without themselves being
changed. If I understand correctly (and please correct if I don't),
mercury in fact was the catalyst of old of turning lead to gold...

I bring this up as a practical question applied to the transmutation of
personality in the crucible of psychotherapy (a modern alchemical attempt);
position "a" being that the therapist must change to do the client any good
(i.e., is part of the change process) and position "b" the therapist
should be stable and in a high enough stated within Self, that in fact,
he/she is the catalyst of change (but does not necessarily change in the
process per se.)

I'm increasingly tending towards position "b" as my own practice becomes
clearer, stronger, etc. Any thoughts?

Best Regard,

George Matchette

Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997
From: Deanna Herrera

Hi George, on April 9th you wrote,

>Through the mists of distant memory, I recalled my chemistry class and the
>comment that catalyst facilitated reactions without themselves being
>changed. If I understand correctly (and please correct if I don't),
>mercury in fact was the catalyst of old of turning lead to gold...
>I bring this up as a practical question applied to the transmutation of
>personality in the crucible of psychotherapy (a modern alchemical attempt);
>position "a" being that the therapist must change to do the client any good
>(i.e., is part of the change process) and position "b" the therapist
>should be stable and in a high enough stated within Self, that in fact,
>he/she is the catalyst of change (but does not necessarily change in the
>process per se.)
>I'm increasingly tending towards position "b" as my own practice becomes
>clearer, stronger, etc. Any thoughts?

I am a therapist too, a psychologist and I do have some thoughts on this topic.
I agree with Jungs notion that both conscious and unconcious
attitudes/elements in the therapist/doctor and client/patient are involved
in a process where both people are deeply affected, and I quote,
"For two personalities to meet is like mixing two different alchemical
substances: if there is any combination at all, both are transformed."

It seems that when involved in psychotherapy I am both receptive and
analytical while my intuition pulls from the material images, memories or
even symbols that emerge. The intuitive data usually presents itself when
I am involved in the process reciprocaly. This reciprocity is often
transformative for the client when there is sufficient power generated by
an emotional field that touches both of us. Now as you know to facilitate
growth a certain amount of objectivity is needed and to become overly
identified with a patient would obscure the objectivity necessary.But
without the empathic connection of care or "love" there is not the power of
transformative energy to bring about change (I think the Jungian analyst
Jean Bolen calls it "Aphrodite concsiousness"). Perhaps this is one means
of acting as a catalyst.
Whenever there is the intermingling of two souls on a deep level then
something new is born, a third spirit: Insight, Discovery, Joy whatever it
may be. It is an interesting paradox to be intimately involved with somene
who knows very little about me. Even so I am transformed whether I am
conscious if it or not. A good example is the process of becoming an
effective therapist. One can only develop proffesionaly through experience
with others. When I supervise interns it is clear that the orientation to
the therapeutic relationship changes with experience and it is both
consious and unconsious. Hopefully the therapist is aware of his or her
internal formations enough to keep them out of the relationship and at the
same time let himself be moved by the experiences of the client. I tend to
think that the therapist is transformed in his or her own spirit as she
learns the fluid balance of receptivity and objectivity.
All in all I believe that "a" and "b" are partially true (and I would lean
toward "a"). A therapist needs to be stable and enlightened enough to
withstand and move with ongoing transformation. Instability of self with
no self awareness would of course put the therapist into a fragile boat
with the client on turbulent seas and both could sink.
What I have told many folks is that it is not so much getting your "shit
together" as it is knowing what your shit is and being aware enough to keep
it out of your eyes and mouth. And to refrain from smearing it all over
your loved ones. The same could be said for the therapist. One need not
be at a stable and high level of self to be a good therapist since a
certain dissolution of self is necessary for growth. You just need to know
yourself well enough to keep the process clean of your own inner
pollutants. This last piece of it I know you are all too well aware of,
since we pretty much have to be while doing this work. Any more ideas?

Deanna

From: B X Bovasso
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997

> On April 9th George Matchette wrote:
>
>Through the mists of distant memory, I recalled my chemistry class
>and the comment that catalyst facilitated reactions without themselves
>being changed. If I understand correctly (and please correct if I don't),
>mercury in fact was the catalyst of old of turning lead to gold...
>I bring this up as a practical question applied to the transmutation of
>personality in the crucible of psychotherapy (a modern alchemical
>attempt); position "a" being that the therapist must change to do
>the client any good (i.e., is part of the change process) and
>position "b" the therapist should be stable and in a high enough stated
>within Self, that in fact, he/she is the catalyst of change (but does not
>necessarily change in the process per se.)
>I'm increasingly tending towards position "b" as my own practice
>becomes clearer, stronger, etc.

Dear George:

I hope you do not draw an either/or conclusion. As you aptly noted,
Mercury or Hermes is a catalytic instrument in the alchemical process.
This would indicate, in translation to the analytical psychology parallel,
that at least ideally neither the analyst or the analysant serve as catalyst.
More likely, however, the analyst will self-assume themself as
the catalyst in the process unfolding and which more than likely
would indicate an inflation on the part of the analyst derived
in the various aspects of the transference/countertransference.

From the analytic standpoint of Jung, however, this is hardly
desireable (in other therapeutic approaches it is actually
encouraged!) Breaking or resolving the
transference/counter-transference, requires
that a third and mediating aspect be constellated, in this case the
"catalyst" as a transpersonal element. Since Mercury personifies
what I call the "Hermetic function" (of the endopsyhic intuition), for
either the analyst or the analysant to become identified with it suggests
an "expansion of the personality beyond its proper limits.*"

In other words, the catalytic presence of an archetypal dynamis
requires an agency or field that is other than the persons involved.
This is achieved by the recognition of a *symbolical reality* as a third or
transcendent reality so that the persons invovled are not engaged in
a purely one on one dialectical relationship. The mediating factor
Jung calls the "transcendent function." If the archetypal elements
constellated during an analysis are not understood as performing in a
transcendent (symbolical) reality plane, then there is good chance
they may be identified with so that "archetypes" are exploited as
so much magical hocus-pocus in a power expression of personality
during a sustained if not encouraged *partcipation mystique*
of the T/C-T circumstance.

*Jung notes of inflation: "Expansion of the personality beyond its
proper limits by identification with the persona or with an archetype,
or in pathological cases with a historical or religious figure. It produces
an exagerrated sense of one's self-importance and it is usually
compensated by feelings of inferiority" (from *MDR, Glossary).

This cautionary definition is especially relevant if the processes of
alchemy are included as part of the psychic work, more so that it
provides the transcendant sybolical reality plane by which archetypal
material may be accommodated (without "possessing" the adept).

Sincerely,
Bernard
(BXBovasso)

Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997
From: George Matchette

Dear Deanna,

Thank you for your kind response to the topic I raised; they were very
helpful in my clarifying my own thoughts. I want to respond to one piece
you brought up that I'll quote below:

>I agree with Jungs notion that both conscious and unconcious
>attitudes/elements in the therapist/doctor and client/patient are involved
>in a process where both people are deeply affected, and I quote,
> "For two personalities to meet is like mixing two different alchemical
>substances: if there is any combination at all, both are transformed."

As I increasingly become a student of essence and its principles, I think
the "mixing of personalities" while to some extent inveitable, isn't the
right tool for a transformation which ultimately takes place-- if at all--
from heart to heart. If one of the main principles of essence is unity and
stability within the heart, then a therapist effort is to practice from
that space he or she occupies. Said in Jungian terms, the practitioner
develops the archetype of Self and can do nothing other than respond from
that place if in fact its genuine. For me, the Self archetype represents
unity, integration, etc., the others are part of the multiplicity that
personality often represent. The alchemy is then a meeting of the two
(unity and multiplicity) where unconsciously the client (and the
unintegrated part of the therapist) seeks integration through essence. The
pull is often towards the shadow elements of both (i.e., whatever is
pathological ), the work ultimate is towards practice and self-discipline
or said more cheerfully, one's bliss, essence, ascension, etc. Ultimately,
my practice is not mixed with my clients, although at its core there's no
division in truth.

Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments and the chance to continue
clarifying how I think of alchemy in psychology.

Best regards,

George

Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997
From: Deanna Herrera

To: George Matchette
>From: Deanna Herrera,
>Your welcome. Lots of food for thought. I appreciate your humility and
>thoughtfulness. I'll sit with it. But before I do here is some verbage.
>First off I would like a bit of clarification on one thing you had mentioned.
>This piece here,

> "The pull is often towards the shadow elements of both (i.e., whatever is
>pathological )..."

Are you meaning that because the material is unconcsious that it is
pathological or that because it is of the shadow that it is path.? Because
I would have to disagree if you meant the latter. I will spare you the
argument if you meant the former. Please let me know.

To tell you the truth, I think that what we are discussing is beyond
expression by means of words or language. By using language we somehow
miss the true nature of what it is to be a catalyst of change. Alchemy may
be a language a bit less removed from the transcendent. Human development
necessarily involves soul work which resides in the transcendent and can
not be described. Don't you think? That is, paradoxicaly (is that a
word?), why I enjoy these discussions. Stabbing in the dark is fun and
brings me to the house of humility. I am reminded that we are all
kindergardners on the same bus. People in helping professions are
hopefully directing people who want views to the window seats and those who
need to get off to pee a lot to the aisles. So I have a hard time with
value judgements of the appropriateness of different perspectives on
therapy because I would agree with taoist thought that even a positive
action will eventually have a negative reaction somewhere. Eventually
someone at a window seat will need to pee, crawl over someone to get off,
and that could be a good thing a bad thing or most likely an
inconsequential thing. So the best we can do is lean toward the good and
make the effort to help and let go of the effects. As
therapists/psychologists we are trained in the notion that we work within
the confines of positive science which is such a joke. Once we buy into
the unknowable, the unprovable, the unconcsious then we are talking faith
and spirituality and to argue faith is somewhat ridiculous. I am amused
when I argue about ideas/beliefs and I find myself doing it all of the
time.

If you are interested in only replying to the first Q. asked I would be
just as pleased if you replied to the rest.

Very Sincerely,
Dr. Deanna Herrera (Counseling Psychologist, Stevenson College, UCSC)

Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997
From: George Matchette

To: Deanna Herrera

I suppose I think some shadows are more pathologic than others (kidding),
and recognize I'm mixing my psychological metaphors (to analytic
psychology, there are complexes and archetypes, but no pathology per se; to
more object oriented folks, there's plenty of pathology, but no archetypes,
etc.)

As far as words being paltry vehicles for expression of experience (the
word water is not the drink, etc.) I agree-- however, the experience itself
is, well, divine.

(Last night I dreamt of a snake in a pet store, who came towards me with
something of a grin. When I removed my head, the pet store owner, said,
"no, you don't understand. this is a friendly snake." Sure enough, it was
friendly, and I petted it with some hesistancy. With touch it soon became
a dog, and I thought, now I'm making progress.)

Best regards,

George Matchette