The end product of the alchemical process is the caput aureum, or golden head. This stage of consciousness is also “round, it is the wholeness, and it is transparent stone. Which consciousness is like this, inflexible, hard, detached, immortal, and can no longer be changed? ” asked Carl Jung of his students in a 1938/39 seminar on Children’s Dreams. The answer is individuated consciousness.
Speaking metaphorically the alchemists used language in strange ways to describe inner states of consciousness obtained by their experimental craft. Often they did not distinguish between the outer reality, which we have come to call “chemistry”, and the inner reality, the phenomenology or psychology of the imaginal realm. Because of this ambiguity of language, they are often taken literally and their metaphoric words discarded as nonsense. Eastern religious philosophy used similar terms to describe human states of consciousness.
Jung explained these metaphors. When one has become “individuated” there is an integration of the ego (the conscious personality) with the unconscious. The basic ancient patterns of humanness are distinguished from ordinary awareness. Plato called these matrices (patterns from mother nature) “archetypes”. The Romantics called these the spiritual forms or divine patterns. They are the “totally other” part of human nature, the gods and goddesses of ancient times. Once humans become aware of these powerful forces and understand their functioning, it is possible to make relations with them and this results in an enlargement of personality. This ancient human process of spiritual evolution was given a new name by Jung. He called it “individuation”. The individual ego becomes aware of the infinitely more powerful realm of spirit and changes its attitude from manipulation of the environment, “my will be done”, to service, “Thy will be done.” Service to the Divine, to the Self (as the Hindus call Atman), is the mark of individuated consciousness.
Such a state of consciousness “is detached and no longer touched by the earth. This is consciousness attained in Buddhistic yoga, it rests,” said Jung, “completely detached, between heaven and earth. In The Secret of the Golden Flower you will find the idea of detached consciousness, which is like the moon, eternally untouched, and which will no longer change. We could compare this state with a firm conviction or, even better, with a final psychic state that can no longer be changed. One simply has become like that. This is the effect of the individuation process, and it occurs when the flow has reached the valley, when the potential has been spent. Then a lake comes into being, which is still and mirrors only the sky. Apart from that, it does nothing. And there are also fish in it. (p. 223)”
This state of accomplished oneness with the universe is depicted in the wise old man, the long life person of Tibet, who stands beside the water of life at one with the animals and plants. The flow of a lifetime’s awareness becomes still water, what the Native Americans call the Medicine Lake, where the whole world is reflected. When you have become the water of the medicine, you are one with the fountain of life, the magic of the individuation process. This stage can be reflected in your dreams.