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Gold is a manuscript on alchemy only recently recovered from Israel Regardie’s estate. A continuance of his ideas in The Philosopher’s Stone, Gold connects alchemy to concepts in Eastern mysticism and Jungian psychology. According to the introduction from Chic and Sandra Cicero, Regardie believed that alchemy’s transmutation from lead to gold spoke only to the human psyche. This view changed after he met practicing alchemists, but this altered view is not reflected in Gold.

Throughout the text, Regardie’s worldviews come across loud and clear. He bemoans the way modern culture eviscerates the spiritual. He believes that violence comes from defective psychic function on a cultural level. His comments seem keenly similar to the complaints of modern spiritual folk. “We have become over-conscious, top-heavy as it were, living too much and too often on the surface. It is a one-sided mode of life, an exaggeration of one particular psychic function at the expense of another. We have lost contact with the vital processes and dynamic cycles of nature.” Regardie further grieves the state of his world: “We feel as film-stars have taught us to feel and as we are dictated to by the insidious suggestions from our politicians.” Regardie concludes that this separation from all of nature – and thus our true natures – has led to a shared shadow within the collective unconscious. “The Unconscious has become transformed into a dangerous entity individually because of abuse, repression, and lack of understanding.” This inner darkness comes from everyone – but no one wants to take responsibility for the monster created by thousands of shared suppressed minds. In these days of global terrorism and exposed scandals, this passage is especially resonant.

He also identified the essential shared foundation of all religions: the mystical experience. “Every system, from archaic times until today, bases itself on that single fact. Under certain conditions, different men and women, regardless of race or creed, have experienced a sudden exaltation to the heights – a momentous and incomparable experience.” Yet even as he identifies this phenomenon, he notes that not all people are meant for it. “Not all are so constituted by nature as to be capable of great devotion. Some actually may be incapable of it.” This understanding of the universality of mysticism – and yet how the mystic is not universal to all human minds – is an oft overlooked point among the modern spiritual and the modern atheist. The very idea that some people might just not be meant to be spiritual has the potential to undo every church, new age cult, or happiness motivational guru workshop. At the same time, it implies that some people are meant to be – perhaps not undoing the work of the aggressive atheists, but for those that are thinkers and not zealots, it is an idea worth examining even if rejected rather than incorporated into a non-religious philosophy.

Jung also comments on the concept of enantiodromia in an alchemical context. Enantiodromia is a state in which a condition builds up in the psyche, usually after an ego death. This drama eventually becomes a crisis state, and then the crisis subsides, but the spiritual effect remains – and is expressed as the opposite of the crisis. To Regardie this psychological state reflected the physics of expansion and contraction. He concluded, “We rise and we fall in spite of ourselves – and a glance over history will show how one condition is inevitably succeeded by that which is its reverse.” Regardie felt that self-knowledge could master that swing and the ups and downs of life it brings.

Unconsciousness and the law of opposites led Regardie to often admonish his readers to cultivate self-awareness. “Beware of uncontrolled expression of any extreme emotion. The time may come when the law of your own psyche may operate to your discomfiture to convert your expression to its antithesis!” In this case, Regardie cites people eschewing their parents’ political and religious choices only to embrace them later. While in modern times people look to somatic queues for what triggers generational trauma, Regardie recognized them as part of the collective unconscious, recommending a remedy only an occultist could love, to be aware of what you’re not aware of.

Jung also gives excellent, little-discussed advice to readers who might explore the occult: “It is well known that, in the beginning, meditation exercises are fatiguing. And at first also, before students become aware of their own limitations and capability they strain entirely too much.” For fellow meditators this comment rings multiple bells.  He also gives encouragement to anyone to keep doing the work: “The theory is based upon the empirical fact that any faculty grows by repeated use.” Even Regardie thought showing up made all the difference.

Regardie’s Gold covers the theory of alchemy in the human consciousness. In his reflections on the metaphors of alchemy and their application to human life, he reveals a great deal of insight as to the nature of meditation, the depth of spirituality, and the collective unconscious. While he writes only in an alchemical to psychological context, the book has much to offer any practitioner new or old, even if it the familiar flavor of food for thought.

Recommended

~ review by Diana Rajchel

Author: Regardie, Israel
Llewellyn, 2015
pp. 247; $19.99

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