Coagulatio is an alchemical term used by Carl Jung to describe a stage in the cycle of psychological development. To help you understand the meaning of this word some explanation is in order. When particles that are dispersed in a solution coagulate they come together, creating a more visible, solid form. An example of coagulation is wastewater treatment, wherein a metallic salt is added to wastewater causing the organic particles suspended in the water to bond together and precipitate out of the surrounding liquid. Thus, from an alchemical viewpoint, coagulation is a falling, sedimenting, or grounding process. That which was once suspended and diffuse emerges in physical form, gaining weight and solidity.
From a psychological and spiritual perspective, coagulation is the process by which spirit enters matter and matter becomes imbued with spirit. More practically speaking, it is a process by which we more fully enter the reality of our corporeal being—that is, the trials, joys, tribulations and suffering that mark a full engagement with life in all of its demands and limitations. It means fully experiencing the pull and tension of potentiality and destiny within the unformed clay of your life.
Another alchemical term for coagulatio is fixatio—sometimes illustrated by a snake fastened with spikes to a cross or tree and reflected in the image of Christ nailed to the cross. To become fully mature individuals, we must allow ourselves to be nailed, or bound, to the cross of our destiny within the limitations of a temporal world. In other words, life cannot be fully lived in the abstract or in fantasy. We must take root in this world and be willing to experience our unique mortality. Only when we allow ourselves to be nailed to the cross of our own individuation (personal growth) process is there the opportunity for real growth of the person, soul, and consciousness.
Coagulatio is an essential process in any life that is going to be lived with real depth. To avoid coagulatio is to skim across the surface of life or to float above it like a hot air balloon.
Coagulatio is a process that we encounter over and over in life, but it is perhaps most prominent in the transition of youth to adulthood. To take on the yoke of life in the material world, to find, accept, and pull the cart of your own calling and ministry, is to leave the more comfortable confines of childhood. In childhood most of our needs are provided for us, and life’s demands and responsibilities are generally lighter. (Of course, exceptions abound.)
Because coagulatio implies suffering within the intersecting planes of limitation (material reality) and destiny (the pull of individuation), it is something we may have a tendency to try to circumvent, delay or flee entirely. Therefore, it is no surprise that political systems based on communism or socialism are enticing to many people, perhaps especially those coming of age, for these government structures tend to extend the dependencies of childhood into adulthood. As Carl Jung observed in his book, The Undiscovered Self, in socialism—and even more so in communism—the State becomes the Self. (Or, more accurately, the Self—the nourishing and healing center of the total personality—is projected onto the State.) The State becomes the reassuring, all-providing parent in exchange for the obedience of its grateful dependents.
In the corporatocracy that seems to be our current political system, the attraction of a socialist system is very understandable. It represents a healthy impulse to tip the scales of government towards a more egalitarian republic. The current popularity of democratic socialism in the United States, especially among our country’s younger adults, reflects the legitimate anger many people have regarding the injustices and inequities within our society and our increasingly corrupt government.
In the U.S., democratic socialist candidate Bernie Sanders has tapped into this energy and made it a focus of his campaign. There are many positive aspects to Mr. Sanders’ populist vision. However, the anger and aggressiveness more often associated with his supporters suggests to me that there may be more than just righteous indignation at play here.
I believe that the 2020 democratic socialist movement in the United States also taps into an egocentric rebelliousness and an effort to extend childhood’s dependency. Un-tempered and un-matured idealism is likewise reflected in Bernie Sanders’ political agenda which seems to be based on fomenting a revolution, without a specific plan as to how he would institute and pay for the changes he suggests. Dramatic solutions tend to lose steam when it’s time to determine how you will actually implement one of them.
As seductive the idea of a revolution and “burning down the house” may be, it may take longer to substantially transform society than a more measured approach that focuses on what is achievable in the short-term while still maintaining the vision of a more just and truly democratic society in the long term. Idealism is often psychologically inflating. Anger can be a high. Burning down a building is quick and easy. These things are, in alchemical terms, uncontained calcinatio—that is, uncontained fire or heat. Properly contained and channeled, fire and heat can be put to the service of meaningful change and transformation. But uncontrolled fire and heat can be counter-productive, eliminating what is helpful as much, or more, than what is not.
Building a house—a really quality house—takes patience, care, forethought, and focused effort over time. It may not be as easy or as exciting as a conflagration of self-righteous anger and rebellion, but sometimes the less dramatic is the more efficient and more conducive to true coagulatio at both the individual and societal levels.
[Author’s Note: There is much to like and admire about democratic socialism (just ask a New Zealander), and it is not the intent of this article to conflate the Bernie Sanders version in its entirety with egocentric rebelliousness or the desire to extend childhood dependency into adulthood. That being said, there are elements of these things in the current U.S. democratic socialist movement. All political movements have a shadow side, and for those unwilling to see some truth in what I have written above, perhaps it is too true.]
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
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