From: Richard Roberts
I believe I can slay two alchemical antagonists with one
email: Mats Winther's question re the myth of the dragon spewing out Jason
and George Matchette's inquiry about "wolves as part of the alchemical
process." There is a synchronicity between this day, Good Friday, and the
answer to these questions, for both deal with that station in the hero's
journey described in Joseph Campbell's THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES as
"the belly of the whale," which incorporates symbolism of the Night-Sea
Journey: Joseph in the Well, Jonah in the Whale, Entombment of Christ,
illus. in the book by a page from the 15th century "Biblia Pauperum."
Campbell writes, this station is "a sphere of rebirth symbolized in the
worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of
conquering... the threshold is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear
to have died."
To my critics who believe that spiritual evolution can occur only on the
earth plane (incarnation), I may have more to say when I have more time, but
alchemy is devoted to the process whereby spirit is liberated from matter,
Indeed, Coomaraswamy writes that "no creature can attain a higher grade
of nature without ceasing to exist." Christ in the tomb is a matephor of Light
(Gnostic Nous) trapped in its antithesis the darkness of matter (nigredo).
In Eastern philosophy, the paralell is to yin swallowing yang. The "belly
of the whale" is a precursor, however, to rebirth, and wolf and dragon
In the 1970s Campbell began to augment his lectures with color slide
projections, which appealed to the Sensation and Feeling functions as well
as the Thinking function. He stayed in my home on most of his West coast
trips in the 1970s, and I drove him to many of his lectures; hence, I saw
these slides many, many times. I recall the dragon "spewing Jason" from a
4th or 5th century Greek vase on which it had been painted. It was a magic
potion from Athene which enabled Jason to emerge from the dragon's maw.
Michael Maier's "Scrutinium Chymicum" (1687) has an engraving of a wolf
eating a dead king. Then in the background, the wolf is consumed in fire,
from which the resurrected king emerges. Thus, the king represents
spirit-Sun-gold descended to and devoured by Physis-Saturn-lead.
I am having dinner Sat. night with Jean Erdman, Joseph Campbell's widow,
and Mark Watts, the son of Zen scholar Alan Watts. It was Watts who brought
Campbell and me together exactly thirty years ago. I found, to present her,
two old poems I dedicated to my mentor, and since one has a
sacrificial/alchemical quality, I shall send them as attachments. In this
holiest week of the year, it is appropriate that the questions on the wolf
and dragon should direct us towards thinking about the rebirth of the Christ
within each of us.
Blessings to all,