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The alchemists and the individuation process

spiritual alchemy“The alchemists, who in their own way know more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail.
In the age old image of the ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the most astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself.
The ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow self. This feed back process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life again, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. This is much like the cycle of the Phoenix, the feminine archetype.
Ouroboros symbolizes The One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites…”

 

Carl Jung, from Collected Works

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