“Deep down, below the surface of the average man’s conscience, he hears a voice whispering.” Carl Jung
I’m not dead. I slightly open one eye. A sliver of light has penetrated the gloom. Am I dreaming? Can I live? I carefully open both eyes, downcast, too frightened yet to see what’s in front of me.
I’m on the edge of a vast lake, crystal water lapping around my small white feet. I walk into the sparkling water, up to my waist, and splash the pure drops onto my arms, my face my neck, feeling refreshed, purified.
Across the lake mountains of ice glitter in the brilliant white light of a silver moon. Icey stalagmites spring up around me, like swords. Pointed stalactites slide down near my head. I am alive. Illumination floods me, I know something shatteringly new, something I can’t quite grasp, that will change me forever.
The darkness has gone. But I can’t forget that I know it. A voice whispers, to remind me: I’m in the light now, but I carry the darkness inside me. I must always remember it’s there.
The deathly blackness of nigredo transforms to the white world of the albedo: when the unconscious mind is illuminated from above. In alchemy, albedo follows the chaos of nigredo, and all impurities are washed away.
Jung interpreted this phase of dreams as the unconscious realisation of opposing elements of the psyche: the anima (feminine side) in men and the animus (masculine side) in women. The psychic struggle to integrate male and female aspects of character, once conscious, allows men to freely express both their masculine and feminine side and women their feminine and masculine side. And then they are less conflicted, more at peace with themselves.
Jung continues this theme of the opposition of elements of character through two further alchemical stages: the third stage, citrinitas, is the subject of the next post.