3 thoughts on “nigredo

  1. Nigredo, or blackness, in alchemy means putrefaction or decomposition. The alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter.

    In analytical psychology, the term became a metaphor ‘for the dark night of the soul, when an individual confronts the shadow within’.
    For Carl Jung, ‘the rediscovery of the principles of alchemy came to be an important part of my work as a pioneer of psychology’. As a student of alchemy, he (and his followers) ‘compared the “black work” of the alchemists (the nigredo) with the often highly critical involvement experienced by the ego, until it accepts the new equilibrium brought about by the creation of the self’ Jungians interpreted nigredo in two main psychological senses.

    The first represented on the one hand a subject’s initial state of undifferentiated unawareness: ‘the first nigredo, that of the unio naturalis, is an objective state, visible from the outside only…an unconscious state of non-differentiation between self and object, consciousness and the unconscious’. Here the subject is ‘”too conscious”…in reality unconscious of the unconscious; i.e. the connection with the instincts’.

    In the second sense, ‘the nigredo of the process of individuation on the other hand is a subjectively experienced process brought about by the subject’s painful, growing awareness of his shadow aspects’. It could be described as a moment of maximum despair, that is a prerequisite to personal development. As individuation unfolds, so ‘confrontation with the shadow produces at first a dead balance, a standstill that hampers moral decisions and makes convictions ineffective or even impossible…nigredo, tenebrositas, chaos, melancholia’. Here is ‘the darkest time, the time of despair, disillusionment, envious attacks; the time when Eros and Superego are at daggers drawn, and there seems no way forward…nigredo, the blackening’.

    [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

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