British Psychological Society History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series
Sponsored by the British Psychological Society. Open to the public.
Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)
Tuesday 12th March
Dr. Hereward Tilton (University of Exeter)
“The Path of the Serpent: Gnosis, Alchemy and the Esoteric Antecedents of Analytical Psychology”
C. G. Jung influentially asserted that the alchemical corpus constituted the missing link in an ‘uninterrupted intellectual chain’ leading from ancient Gnosticism to his own analytical psychology. Nevertheless, recent studies in the history of Western esotericism have problematised both Jung’s interpretation of alchemy and his historiography. Although certain doctrines and practices within the ancient Gnostic milieu can legitimately be considered distant precursors to analytical psychology, in this seminar we will discover that the chief conduit of their transmission to modernity was the Kabbalah in its Jewish, Christian and post-Christian occult incarnations. Particular attention will be directed to techniques for the attainment of heavenly ascent, conceived as a reversal of the cosmogony in the microcosm of the human body and depicted within Gnostic and Kabbalistic traditions – as in Indo-Tibetan Tantra – as ‘the path of the serpent’. Although it would be misleading to use the term ‘alchemy’ to describe what is essentially a species of theurgy, we will also explore the emergence of nineteenth-century Freemasonic and Theosophical notions of ‘spiritual alchemy’ from the Christian Cabalistic tradition of conceiving this heavenly ascent in alchemical terms. As I will argue, it is this alchemically conceived theurgy rather than alchemy per se that truly constitutes the ‘secret thread’ of esotericism leading to Jung’s work.UCL
6pm to 7.30pm Location:
Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544,* 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HB Directions: From the main reception, go through the double doors at the back and turn left, walk the length of this corridor and at the very end turn left again – you will find yourself in front of the ‘West’ Lifts. Take these to 5th Floor. On exiting the lift, turn right through double doors and then left through single door, walk the length of this corridor pass through another door and then turn right – you will see a marble table ahead. Room 544 is straight ahead.