Keynote : The Azure Vault - The Caelum as Experience

James Hillman
Thompson, Connecticut, USA
Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts

I would like to begin along two parallel paths: a poem by Lisel Mueller called “Monet Refuses the Operation” – a cataract operation – and a moment in the analysis of Anna O reported by Josef Breuer.

So that you may have a general idea of where we are going, I’ll state again the title of this talk: “The Azure Vault: Caelum as Experience.” Briefly, the Latin word means the blue sky; heaven; the abode of the gods and the gods collectively; the sky as the breath of life, the air; and also the upper firmament or covering dome, including the Zodiac. The alchemical caelum or coelum is expanded upon especially in Jung’s last great work, Mysterium Coniunctionis, and, as he says, the caelum has “a thousand names.” These few will also help us as we proceed: “a Heavenly Spirit that makes its way into the essential forms of things” (Ruland, p. 10); the “anima mundi in matter,” “the truth itself,” “a universal medicine,” “a window into eternity,” radiating “a magic power,” “the unus mundu” as a “unio mystica with the potential world, or mundus archetypus” and the final realization of the alchemical opus (CW 14, §761-770). We are headed to the edge.

Now to the poem, and the first of many stories:

“Monet Refuses the Operation”
“Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction,
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.

What can I say to convince you
The Houses of Parliament dissolves
Night after night to become
The fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gasses. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.”

Now Anna O as told by Josef Breuer: “She told me there was something the matter with her eyes; she was seeing colours wrong. She knew she was wearing a brown dress but she saw it as a blue one.” (Breuer, p. 33) Breuer tested her colour vision; it was not impaired. So, Breuer interprets this curious “misperception” as an incursion of a secondary state of mental functioning into “her first, more normal one.” Breuer writes: “he had been very busy with a dressing-gown for her father, which was made with the same material as her present dress, but was blue instead of brown.” The visual mistake – or visionary experience? – is reduced by Breuer to the blue material of the father’s dressing gown.

Could there be something more? Could the patient’s own avowal that she saw blue despite knowing “she was seeing colours wrong” indicate a wish, not for the father only, and for dressing his body, but for clothing herself in blue? And, what might it imply for her, for that analysis, for the field of analysis itself – since Anna O is the fons et origo of our heritage – for the body of the patient, of every analytical patient, the opus itself to be clothed in blue? We shall return to both Monet and Anna O.

But first a few more blue stories.

Again one from the beginnings of our field, the devastating crisis starting at age thirty-nine in the life and work of Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887), to whom both Sigmund Freud and William James pay effusive tribute, claiming him to be the most valuable thinker in psychology of the nineteenth century. Fechner was a brilliant physical psychologist, observer, micro-measurer, laboratory experimenter.

Then his eyes gave out. He couldn’t observe, he couldn’t read. He was not blind, but he could no longer see. Nor could he eat or drink. His digestion gone, shriveled, despairing, sleepless and silent, he protected his eyes with lead cups and retreated into a blackened room, kept alive by his wife. After close to three years in this black hole, gradually recovering physically, he emerged, lifted the bandages and allowed light into his eyes:

I stepped out for the first time from my darkened chamber and into the garden. ...

It seemed to me like a glimpse beyond the boundary of human experience. Every flower beamed upon me with a peculiar clarity, as though into the outer light it was casting a light of its own. To me the whole garden seemed transfigured, as though it were not I but nature that had just arisen. And I thought: So nothing is needed but to open the eyes afresh.

The picture of the garden accompanied me into the darkened chamber; but in the dusk it was all the brighter and clearer and more beautiful, and at once I thought I saw an inward light as the source of the outward clarity … and the shining of the plants’ souls.

(Lowrie, p. 211)

Fechner felt giddy with joy of this moment of the multi flores. Fechner went on to live healthily to age eighty-six, immensely productive, exchanging his professorship from natural science to the philosophy of nature. The first lectures he delivered after his recovery were devoted to pleasure, formulating for psychology the pleasure principle later expanded upon by Freud. [Ellenberger, pp. 217, 512] The book on the soul that followed his return to life was subtitled “a walk through the visible world in order to find the invisible.”

Fechner now wore blue glasses: to protect his eyes? Or to protect his vision from the materialist perspective that had led to his blindness and which he now called the “nightworld,” i.e., the nigredo from which he had emerged.

Two stories from childhood, one from an Irish poet, the other from an American musician. AE, friend of Yeats, and pivotal figure in the Irish literary revival, describes a moment when about four or five years old, he was lying flat on some grass recalling a story of “a magic sword with a hilt of silver and a blade of blue steel. The word ‘magic’ stirred me, though I knew not what it meant. … It lay in memory … until a dozen years later its transcendental significance emerged as a glittering dragon-fly might come out of a dull chrysalis. The harmony of blue and silver at once betwitched me. I murmured to myself “blue and silver! Blue and silver!” And then, the love of color awakened … one color after another entered the imagination. … This love of color seemed instinctive in the outer nature.” Here, says AE, is “the birth of the aesthetic sense,” in harmony with the natural world and its colors that were, as he says, “of its nature and not of that unthinking child’s.” (AE, pp. 12-13)

“The very first thing I remember in my early childhood,” says the incomparable artist Miles Davis, “a flame, a blue flame jumping off a gas stove. … I remember being shocked … by the suddenness of it … that stove flame is as clear as music is in my mind. I was three years old.

“I saw that flame and felt that hotness of it close to my face. I felt fear, real fear … But I remember it also like some kind of weird joy, too. I guess that experience took me someplace in my head I hadn’t been before. To some frontier, the edge, maybe, of everything possible. … The fear I had was almost like an invitation, a challenge to go forward into something I knew nothing about … everything I believe in started with that moment. I have always believed and thought since then that my motion had to be forward, away from the heat of that flame.”

“Away from the heat of that flame” and into the “cool:” his inventive use of the mute, his solos as “thinking” the music, the titles of his great pieces such as “Kind of Blue,” “Blue in Green,” his wearing “shades” already in the 1940s. I can imagine that both Goethe and Kandinsky would approve of Miles’ feeling for blue. “Blue,” says Goethe, gives us the impression of cold … and reminds us of shade. A blue surface seems to recede from us … it draws us after it.” Kandinsky adds” “[B]lue … retreat from the spectator … turning in upon its own center … active coolness.” For Davis, a challenge to go forward; for AE, the sympathy for revolt.

The call of AE’s aesthetic sense and the spirit of revolt marked the Romantic impulse of which Novalis’s “blue flower” is the undying example – although he himself as Friederich von Hardenberg died at twenty-nine. That famous blue flower appears in Novalis’s novel of the poetic education in which the hero, Heinrich, dreams a vision. Climbing through a strange geography, the hero comes to a place filled with “a holy stillness,” where “a basin of water emits a faint blue light.” (Bamford, p. 228) Blue, veined cliff. … The sky was blue, clear, and he was “drawn to a tall light-blue flower. The flower then leaned towards him and … upon a great blue corolla, hovered a delicate face.” (Bamford, p. 229)

Novalis regarded the blue flower as “the visible spirit of song,” (perhaps a revelation of Leibniz’s cosmological idea of a pre-established harmony governing all things?) Curious that AE entitles the little book describing the evolution of his poetic calling, Song and its Fountain. Novalis writes: “one thing recalls all …” (Bamford, p. 229) “No more the order of time and space … the great soul of the world moves everywhere, blooms ceaselessly. … World becomes dream, dream becomes world.” (From Heinrich von Ofterdingen [by Novalis], “Eros and Fable: birth of Astralis.” [Bamford, p. 230])

Another report from the history of our field. This time: Wilhelm Reich. Reich combined the libido of Breuer and Freud with the physical science of Fechner. Reich imagined that the libidinal charge flowing through the body is the orgone energy of the cosmos. Freud’s later theory of Eros as a cosmic force Reich would capture in a box in which a patient could receive orgone radiation. The radiation, according to Reich, came in three variations of blue. (Adams, p. 89) Whether Reich was a crackpot or a brilliant therapist does not concern us here: but his witness to blue as the color of libidinal Eros that embraces the phenomenal world adds another page to our collection of stories. Besides, why not imagine libidinal desire as blue? Weren’t porn shows once called “blue movies” and the suppression of libido attributed to puritans named “blue stockings”?

Backing for Reich’s blue Eros as the universal energy that joins phenomena together comes from Cézanne. I quote from one of his most astute and studious biographers: Cézanne gave blue a new depth of meaning … by making it the foundation of the world of objects ‘existing together.’ Blue was now recognized as belonging to a deeper level of existence. It expressed the essence of things and their abiding, inherent permanence. …” (Badt, p. 82)

Cézanne himself wrote: “Blue gives other colours their vibration, so one must bring a certain amount of blue into a painting.” (Badt, p. 57) Zola, referring indirectly to Cézanne, writes: “the flesh colours are blue, the trees are blue, surely he went over the whole picture with blue.” (Badt, p. 56; cf. Zola, L’Oeuvre) In his old age Cézanne drew with a brush loaded with aquamarine. May we say Cézanne painted with the color of the caelum in order to present the unus mundus?

Again from the history of our field. Two stories from Jung’s biography: In 1944 Jung suffered a heart attack. “I experienced dreams and visions which must have begun when I hung on the edge of death. … I had reached the outermost limit … It seemed to me that I was high up in space. Far below I saw the globe of the earth, bathed in a gloriously blue light. I saw the deep blue sea and the continents … its global shape shone with a silvery gleam through the wonderful blue light …” (MDR, p. 270)

Jung’s vision goes on for pages. It made his return to the normal hospital situation disappointing and difficult. He writes, “Now I must return to the ‘box system’ again. For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up. …” (MDR, p. 273) (That theme again of the cosmos without horizon, without partitions, as if a deeper layer of existence, “the foundation of the world of objects.”

A particular moment in the three-week course of Jung’s vision needs remarking. He felt the presence of “inexpressible sanctity” that had a “magical atmosphere.” (MDR, p. 275) “I understood then why one speaks of the odour of sanctity, of the ‘sweet smell’ of the Holy Ghost.” (MDR, p. 275)

Here, I want to use poetic license by inviting Heidegger to explicate Jung’s moment of sanctity, the presence of holiness in the hospital room. Heidegger writes: “Blue is not an image to indicate the sense of the holy. Blueness itself is the holy, in virtue of its gathering depth which shines forth only as it veils itself.” (Heidegger, p. 166) Robert Avens explains Heidegger’s holiness of blue: “Holiness is not a property of a God … but a name for all entities insofar as they display a numinous aspect; it is an ingredient that awakens, ensouls, and vivifies everything. Specifically, the holy [in Heidegger] is identified with the blueness of the sky.” (Avens, p. 56)

The next tale of Jung’s encounter with blue occurs in Ravenna on entering the Baptistry of the Orthodox. “Here, what struck me first was the mild blue light that filled the room. … I did not try to account for its source, and so the wonder of this light without any visible source did not trouble me.” It was here that Jung and his companion envisioned “four great mosaic frescoes of incredible beauty … and to this day I can see every detail before my eyes: the blue of the sea, individual chips of the mosaic …” (MDR, p. 265-66)

As you know, these mosaics on the walls of the Baptistry did not exist, simply not there – though they were seen and remembered in detail by both viewers. The light which introduced the vision was blue; the most vivid of the images: “the blue of the sea.”

The last of these stories of the azure vault I take from Marcel Proust in Time Regained, the concluding part of his many-volumed masterpiece, the author as himself and as character reflecting on his lifelong literary effort recounts the rising of his psyche to joy from “gloomy thoughts” about the “life of the mind” which he calls “unfertile,” “boring,” “tedious,” “useless,” “sterile,” and “melancholy.” (p. 898)

While crossing a courtyard he stumbles on an uneven paving-stone, and suddenly the oppressive blue mood becomes visual and visionary. “… a profound azure intoxicated my eyes, impressions of coolness, of dazzling light, swirled around me …” (p. 899) Then, “… a new vision of azure passed before my eyes, but an azure that this time was pure and saline and swelled into blue and bosomy undulations, and so strong was this impression that the moment to which I was transported seemed to be the present moment …” (p. 901) No sooner is Proust out of this sentence then the cauda pavonis appears: “… the plumage of an ocean green and blue like the tail of a peacock. And what I found myself enjoying was not merely these colours but a whole instant of my life on whose summit they rested …” (p. 901)

Recording his reflections, he concludes with a cogitation about time past and present “and I was made to doubt whether I was in the one or the other.” (p. 904) Experiences that so moved him and had given him such felicity were those that joined past and present, “outside time” (p. 904), and the doubt about the life of the mind as writer and “anxiety on the subject of my death had ceased … since the being which at that moment I had been was an extra-temporal being.” (p. 904) “The being which had been reborn in me … with a sudden shudder of happiness … is nourished only by the essences of things … (p. 905) A minute freed from the order of time has recreated in us, to feel it, the man freed from the order of time.” (p. 906) The azure vision had brought together the pleasures of the world and the life of the mind, placing time within the timeless, the timeless within time. And with joy he can now say, “My appetite for life was immense.” (p. 905)

Proust presents this azure vision in temporal terms, where time’s ineluctable continuity, as in a flash of lightening (p. 905) is intersected by the joyful certitude of his extra-temporal essence beyond the reach of death.

The harmony of world and mind, resolving doubt and death, brings us to Wolfgang Pauli’s dream vision of the world clock, a centerpiece of Jung’s 1935 Eranos Lecture published more fully in Jung’s Terry Lectures at Yale, Psychology and Religion, and later in his Psychology and Alchemy (Vol. 12).

Your familiarity with this piece of Jung’s work allows me to recapitulate only that component of Pauli’s vision bearing on our theme: the vertical blue disk that intersects the horizontal one, each disk having its own pulse or time-rhythm.

A letter from Pauli to Jung – in the volume of their correspondence introduced by Beverly Zabriskie – shows Pauli still working on the world-clock dream of several years before. October 15, 1938, Pauli writes: “… I have come to accept the existence of deeper spiritual layers that cannot be adequately defined by the conventional concept of time. The logical consequence of this is that death of the single individual in these layers does not have its usual meaning, for they always go beyond personal life.” Pauli emphasizes the “sense of harmony” bestowed by the word-clock vision, much as Proust wrote of joy and an appetite for life and Fechner of the beauty of the garden of flowers.

What intersects, breaks into the normal (to use the word from Breuer) world of time’s minutes and three-dimensional existence, what moves one outside that “box” (to use Jung’s language of his own vision after the heart attack) is blue’s verticality. The break in Proust’s step-by-step forward motion, his stumble, parallels Jung’s late strange definition of God: “This is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path … all things which upset my subjective views, plans, intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse.” (Letters, Vol. 2, 5 December 1959)


Proust’s was the last of my stories – last of those I have collected so far. There are surely more waiting in the wings. So now the temptation arises to form the scattered occurrences into a metaphysical conclusion. It would be expected now to leave the earth for the blue yonder and a literalization of the spirit, outside of time, outside the body. Don’t the stories support a hypothesis of earthly transcendence? Have we not been encountering the Celestial Kingdom, the “effulgent blue light of the Buddha body,” (CW 11, §852) visitations of Sophia, of Mary in her blue dress, the ultimate anima?

Not quite; not yet; not today. I shall go on insisting until I am blue in the face that Miles’s music stayed dark, that blue is the color of the deeps, as Heidegger says, that the poetic fantast AE was earthborn and earthbound, invited by the United States Department of Agriculture to lecture on rural economy; that Cézanne stood day in and day out in the fields among rocks and mountains, painting peasants and apples of this earth; that Novalis, whose degree was in mining, felt called “to cultivate the earth” (Bamford, p. 198) and that he took the penname Novalis from the Latin for “newly ploughed field” (Bamford, idem); and that Fechner acknowledged the earth’s consciousness to be far superior to that of humans; and that Proust captured every fiber of the earthly emotions in nature, in body, in taste, touch and smell.

If spiritual ascension is not my intention with these tales, what am I intending to convey? First of all I am elaborating a method for psychology of story-telling. Stories claim neither proof nor truth. Instead of argument, anecdote; individual cases circumambulating a theme. The theme? The caelum of alchemy in actual lives, particularly lives open to fresh perception. The method follows Jung’s method of amplification: building the power of a theme by amplifying its volume with similarities, parallels, analogies. The method is also empirical in that it starts and stays mainly with actual experiences. Further, the method is phenomenological: let the event speak for itself, bracketing out concepts of spirit, of the numinous, the coniunctio, and the self.

Most valuable of all, I believe, is the aesthetic of the method which I am attempting. I am employing a rhetorical device, peitho, as the Greeks sometimes called Aphrodite, to invite, seduce, charm, enhance, and convince by rhetorical, even poetic, means. An aesthetic method relies on texture, images, language, emotion, and sudden mysterious irrationalities. The method complies with and submits to the content. Story keeps its words close to events, logos in the embrace of psyche. Like blue itself, an aesthetic method conceals and reveals, withdraws from our prehension, tempts us to follow after it, and connects invisibly, analogously, all the stories and persons existing together in the same field. The method is relieved of interpretations and personalistic contexts. It aims to present things as they are and also as played upon the blue guitar – to use Wallace Stevens’s famous phrase (CP, p. 165), following also his statement: “I am thinking of aesthetics as the equivalent of apercus which seems to have been the original meaning.” (Stevens, Letters, p. 469) Sudden openings of the heart and mind and senses, especially of the eyes; insights, aha’s, analogies, unique epiphanies that shake the soul, carry it to the edge, and free it from the box.

The box is also psychology: not psyche, but the ‘ology, ’ that parasitical suffix that sucks the psyche dry. Long before there was psychology there were tales, old-wives-tales, grandmother’s tales, oral accounts of origins and great deeds, theater of tragedy and comedy, the gossip of the day carried by messenger, lessons learned at the feet of a teacher, stories passed down rich in the ways of the world and the ways of the soul. Long before psychology there were the bedside observation of physicians, of captains on the field of battle, painters of portraits, breeders of animals and trappers, of midwives and judges and executioners. Psychology’s case reports are too often botched attempts to continue the story-telling tradition. Too soon we draw theoretical conclusions obliged by ‘ology’ to package psyche in a box. We would win from every story the trophy of meaning.

An aesthetic method, if I may call it that, ideally, would let the beauty of an event, its sweet shock instruct the soul, educate it by leading it to an edge, out of the box of the already conceived and into pondering and wondering. The method suits the correspondences that compose the cosmos itself, each thing implicating other things by likeness rather than by causality, in an implicit order of the world. Metaphors and analogies abounding. The display of images addresses the “poetic basis of mind” (Hillman, RP, p. xvii) which is our most native mode of comprehension.

Alchemy caught me and taught me with its aesthetics – its colors and minerals, its paraphernalia, freaks, and enigmatic instructions. It is like a vast collective artwork built through centuries. It offers an aesthetic psychology: a myriad of apercus, images, sayings, stories, formulae; and all the while engaged with the matters of nature. It tells us to throw away the book of conceptual systems; no need for male and female, typology, stages, opposites, transference, self. Conceptual systems may be useful as a scaffolding for better access to the massa confuse which alchemy presents to a logocentric mind. Too soon, however, the conceptual scaffold replaces alchemy itself reducing it to merely providing examples to support the conceptual scaffold. Que lastima!


Do allow me one more story, one more from Jung. This is the moment in the articulation of our field when Anna O’s poetic blue is saved from Breuer’s prosaic brown.

It is the moment of Jung’s “steep descent,” when he felt he was “in the land of the dead.” “The atmosphere was that of the other world.” First, he met Salome and Elijah which he interpreted as Logos and Eros; but then retreated from this intellectualization. Then, “another figure rose out of the unconscious … I called him Philemon.” (MDR, p. 175) Jung had already met Philemon in a dream: “There was a blue sky, like the sea, covered not by clouds but by flat brown clods of earth. It looked as if the clods were breaking apart and the blue water of the sea were [sic] becoming visible between them. But the water was the blue sky. Suddenly there appeared from the right a winged being sailing across the sky. … He had the wings of the kingfisher with its characteristic colours.” (MDR, p. 176)

You all know these pages in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, and you well recall that it was Philemon especially, Jung said, who taught him that “there are things in the psyche … which produce themselves and have their own life.” “It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche.” (MDR, p. 176) Jung later placed a kingfisher’s wing in one of his paintings, a wing whose color has given its name to a particularly brilliant blue. That blue with its shimmer of coppery gold recalls Stevens’ poetic way of stating psychic objectivity: “When the sky is so blue, things sing themselves.” (“Debris of Life and Mind,” CP, p. 338) The blue wing sailing across the sky announces in an aesthetic image the arrival of Jung’s new knowledge of the autonomy of the psyche.

The autonomy of the psyche is preserved by an aesthetic method. Jung’s term, “the objective psyche,” refers to more than the spontaneous production of “internal” events. Psychic events are not atomistic particulars only; they bode forth analogous affinities such as Freud sought in free associations. Events “sing themselves” further, dream the myth onward, even “infinitely” as Mueller’s poem says, and in this way they are objective, freed from the given – the psychic feeling or fact or fantasy – by their analogous implications. Events dissolve their own edges and overreach themselves, creatively objectifying psyche in the production of complex forms that bring their own norms which seem to usual judgments as irrational, amoral or abnormal, giving rise to the prejudice that the aesthetic and the ethical are incommensurables.

To the great misfortune of our tradition, Josef Breuer could not hear the transposition to psychic objectivity, the singing of things themselves. Despite his arduous devotion to his case he did not recognize the poetic basis of mind. He called Anna O’s seeing blue a “secondary state” invading the “more normal view.” Her dress was simply brown – basta la musica. Yet, Anna’s fantasies were breaking into, and her out of, the historical, literal, and personal. Her symptoms were mainly bodily and the analysis was wrapping her body in blue material. Breuer describes Anna as “markedly intelligent with penetrating intuition [and] powerful intellect. … She had great poetic and imaginative gifts.” (op. cit., p. 21) The patient was being led by her very eyes and the call of her symptoms to follow the blue in keeping with her gifts.

The blue incursion early in the case of Anna O, upon whose psyche our field is founded, requires us to make a small correction to the poem about Monet’s cataracts with which I began this morning. Lisel Mueller has Monet saying: “I tell you it has taken me all my life to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels. Fifty-four years before I could see Rouen cathedral is built of parallel shafts of sun …” Fifty-four years! Jung, too places the caelum at the end of his opus maior and the end of his scholarly life. And an implication from Proust requires a correction. Is it only as death enters our thoughts and we are near the last page of that novel’s via longissima that the azure vision, with peacock tail, flowers, and joy finds us?

Others tell a different story. Miles Davis as a tiny boy; little AE with the silver and blue of the magic sword; Anna O barely out of her teens. Fechner in his early forties; Jung with Philemon also in midlife – not at the end of an opus contra naturam, a work that struggles to arrive. Rather, we learn that the “arrival,” if it be that, is outside of time altogether and what is outside of time cannot be achieved through time. Either the achievement is never reached: analysis “interminable” to use Freud’s term. Or, timeless is eternally present from the beginning and potential in each moment of the work. Far out is where we start from! Hence, caelum is one of the names of the materia prima, the starting stuff and permanent basis of the work. (Jung, “Lecture Notes,” 20 June 1941) The striving toward healing on the via longissima is present from day one in the very fantasy of wholeness as an impulsion of the caelum as unus mundus. The fantasy that things are improving, integrating, and Jung’s synthetic or prospective method too, are modes of stating in terms of time the caelum that is always there as the mundus archetypus to which all things desire to return to their potential.

Practitioners of analysis who carry an alchemical imagination in their devotion will keep faith with the primordial firmness of their vision. Like Fechner they will wear blue glasses and like Cézanne they will hold a blue brush in their hands, hearing things as they are played upon Stevens’s blue guitar. Practitioners will be remembering that practice itself is an aesthetic activity that awakens the soul from anesthesia by revisioning from the first hour. And, like Miles Davis, they will feel the blue flame pushing forward to some frontier, the edge, and out of the box, loosed from the logic of opposites and the coercion of centering, without tops and bottoms and lines of horizons. Certitude and Trepidation, both; and like Proust, with an immense appetite for life.


All along our blue theme has been haunted by nostalgia, Heimweh, a nest from which we have flown, the harbor where we have not arrived, a longing that imagines an elsewhere that is “not here.” Not here: that is the essential plaint of the émigré, of the mercenary by the campfire in a foreign land, of the displaced, the exiled. A mood of wishing, “mixing memory and desire,” and the disconsolate regret of heartbreak. Nostalgia gives a particular hollow ache to the “missing blue” mentioned by Jung in his Psychology and Alchemy (CW 12), and the missing blue in the opus itself, dominated by black, white, yellow and red.

Blue withdraws from us, says Goethe; it is the absence shadowing the alchemical process, the essentially missing. Not-hereness profoundly motivates the work all along the way: not enough, not right, not fulfilling, something else, something more. Intensely present in its utter absence, reminding the soul of its exile. The inevitability of exile as the necessary ground for removal of all supportive identities: the very idea of identity, of self-identity, of self itself are the structures and straws to which loneliness clutches. Exile reveals that we are each foundlings and that there is no other home but the cosmos itself from which no single particle can be severed, in which, to which each and every thing belongs and homecoming takes place continually, occur ring in our very breathing its blue air. Cézanne drenched all things in blue, keeping them from separateness, making visible “how heaven pulls earth into its arms.” The azure vault folds hard edges into its cosmic comprehension. No elsewhere, no exile, no nostalgia.

Precisely here we can make a distinction on the one hand, between the blue of the unio mentalis that occurs, writes Jung, before the unus mundus and, on the other, the celestial blue of the caelum. That first blue is more mood than effulgence. Its blue roses are intertwined with lunar subjectivity, called “pleurosis” in the case of Laura in Tennessee Williams’s Glass Menagerie. That first blue emerges as the nigredo clears into the albedo and the mute mind finds voice, lightens up and can sing the blues, express the melancholy. That blue I explored at length in an essay twenty-five years ago. (Hillman, “Alchemical Blue,” 1981) This azure blue is the “visible spirit of Song,” wrote Novalis (Bamford, p. 229), the source of song itself (AE), the blue of vision further than reflection. If the unio mentalis signifies the confluence of understanding and imagination, an understanding by means of images, the caelum is beyond understanding – though we may work at it as did Pauli. It feels unimaginable, incomprehensible – as to Jung after Ravenna. Magical. It simply happens, out of the blue, simple and evident and truthful as the sky happens, as death happens, unfathomable and undeniable both. A universal given, a gift. The eyes no longer able to grasp what they see; the eyes become the ungraspable air by which they see. It is vision.

Science fosters the separations, the exile; and the program of this conference states our sessions here belong to science. Science, its root scire, to know, has a further root in Greek, schizo (cleft, splinter, separation) and further, Sanscrit chyati (divides). Instead of science, why not séance for these sessions that invoke our common ancestor? Séance is defined by the dictionary as a meeting of a learned society and also a meeting that attempts to connect with the dead. Jung’s expansive vision in hospital took him to the edge of death. Return to life meant divisions, separations: “the grey world with its boxes.” (MDR, p. 275) But there are other ways out of the box, other ways for the grey world to discover a blue vision.

In this vision the world appears as analogies. All things refer, imply, connote. Likenesses everywhere and so things cure one another by means of similarities. “Objects existing together” (Badt on Cézanne). Edges banished says Monet in Mueller’s poem: “I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other.” “The human soul recognizes itself in the world, as the world” (Bamford, p. 230, on Novalis). Descartes’ separations dissolve. Analogy, says William James (op cit., p. 151), is the mark of Fechner’s method and genius, for it reaches in all directions and finds subtle strands of implications. “Attentiveness to subtle signs and traits …” writes Novalis. (Bamford, p. 224) The method of discovering analogies carries further than symbols, further than images as such It is a poetic connection. Reich might add, “an erotic connection.” “Poetry,” writes Wallace Stevens (Stevens, 1951, p. 117), “is almost incredibly one of the effects of analogy.” So incredibly is healing. Analogy disrespects definitions, leaps over defenses, listens through walls to overhear meanings. The poetic mind resolves the need for meaning, Jung’s underlying reason for psychotherapy. “The poet is the transcendental doctor,” wrote Novalis (op cit., p. 220).

James goes on to describe Fechner’s unus mundus: “All things on which we externally depend for life – air, water, plant and animal food, fellowmen, etc. – are included in her [the earth]. … She is self-sufficing in a million respects in which we are not so.” (James, p. 157) Then, like an astronaut’s vision of the globe, and like Jung’s vision from his hospital bed, James captures Fechner’s vision with this paragraph: “Think of her beauty – a shining ball, sky-blue, sunlit over one half, the other bathed in starry night … she would be a spectacle of rainbow glory. … Every quality of landscape that has a name would be visible in her at once … a landscape that is her face,” Novalis saw the face of the blue flower. “Yes,” writes James, “the earth is our great common guardian angel who watches over all our interests combined.” (James, p. 164)

Just this Fechner perceived through his blue glasses, the unus mundus, the earth as angel, the deep ecology of the Gaia Hypothesis as truth because seen and felt, not because believed in or scientifically buttressed. “We are called to form the Earth,” wrote Novalis. (op. cit., p. 220) “Doctor if you could only see …” This vision is the caelum experience, and without vision, continues James famously at the end of his rapture recapitulating Fechner’s rapture “without vision the people perish.” (James, p. 165) And we perish, the patients perish, our psychology perishes without reminiscence of the vision that impelled us to Jung in the first place, a vision that is there from start to finish as prima materia and unus mundus, a recollection that gives reason for Jung’s turn to alchemy for the amplification and substantiation of his life’s extraordinary work, leaving us with the charge to recollect that our work, however boxed and clocked, however bandaged our eyes, is always under an azure vault.


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