Gerhard Dorn was a Belgian alchemist who lived in the sixteenth century. Detailed facts concerning his life have been lost. We know he lived in Mechelen, in the province of Antwerp, from about 1530 until the 1580’s. He began publishing books around 1565 when he wrote his Chymisticum artificium. He was instrumental in the recovery, translation into Latin, and publishing of Paracelsus’ writings.
Carl Jung was very interested in Dorn, not only for his alchemical theories, but also for his speculative philosophy. Actually, the two go hand-in-hand. Dorn believed that God, not humanity, was in need of redemption. The alchemical work was the means by which humans could assist God in bringing about His redemption. The opus was a work of love, the love of humans toward God.
When Jung traveled to India in 1928, he brought with him Dorn’s writings. During this time, he learned about Dorn’s idea of the Unus Mundus, the one substratum of all reality. In Latin, it means “one world.” This idea would become the foundation of Jung’s conception of synchronicity.
As in all axial periods of human achievement, there was another thinker, a contemporary of Dorn, who believed in the underlying interconnectedness of all things. Giordano Bruno, having been influenced by Hermetic teachings, brought this idea to light in the late sixteenth century, around the time of the birth of the man who would cleave reality in two for centuries to come (Descartes). The Unus Mundus is actually a Hermetic teaching that is very old.
The alchemical work had, as its general goal, the creation of the lapis philosophorum, the Philosopher’s Stone. Theoretically, this completed the second stage of the opus. Dorn, however, believed there was yet a third stage to be worked. This third stage is the union of humans with the Unus Mundus. It is the conscious realization that human being is one with the world at large, and thus one with the Anima Mundi.
The One and Simple is what Dorn called the unus mundus. This “one world” was the res simplex. For him the third and highest degree of conjunction was the union of the whole man with the unus mundus. By this he meant…the potential world of the first day of creation, when nothing was yet “in actu,” i.e., divided into two and many, but was still one. The creation of unity by a magical procedure meant the possibility of effecting a union with the world-not with the world of multiplicity as we see it but with a potential world, the eternal Ground of all empirical being… (Jung 534).
This “potential world” is the world as I have imagined it, when I write of the animaterial world, animatter, etc. The animaterial world is synonymous with the Unus Mundus. Animaterialism is based on the idea that all souls are interconnected, and all souls are one with, not only the cosmos, but with the Anima Mundi.
The “unity of the soul” rests empirically on the basic psychic structure common to all souls, which, though not visible and tangible like the anatomical structure, is just as evident as it (Jung 535).
The third stage of Dorn’s alchemical opus is the conjunction of the “personal with the supra personal atman, and of the individual tao with the universal tao” (ibid.). Heaven has descended to earth, and the two have become one. The inner unity achieved in the second stage of the opus, the lapis, is only an intermediary step, and, even then is not permanent. The lapis, all the inner unity we have achieved, is subject to the storms of life, which sometimes destroy one’s soul house. When this occurs, we are back to square one; the soul must be reworked. In a revealing passage, Jung states that
Anyone who submits his sense of inner security to analogous psychic tests will have similar experiences. More than once everything he has built will fall to pieces under the impact of reality, and he must not let this discourage him from examining, again and again, where it is that his attitude is still defective, and what are the blind spots in his psychic field of vision. Just as a lapis Philosophorum, with its miraculous powers, was never produced, so psychic wholeness will never be attained empirically, as consciousness is too narrow and too onesided to comprehend the full inventory of the psyche (Jung 534).
The true goal is to move beyond the lapis to the Unus Mundus. This is where our salvation truly lies. In reality, the labor of the alchemist produces a “materialization of the spirit,” according to Jung, elevating “the body into proximity with the spirit while at the same time drawing the spirit down into matter. By sublimating matter he concretized spirit” (Jung 535). This melding of spirit and matter is brought about by a third element, which, in my mind, must be the human soul united with the World Soul. Jung claims this is the synthesis of conscious with unconscious, and is something totally non-rational. The best we can do is speak in paradoxes of this reality.
Jung, C.G. Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry Into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy. trans, R.F.C. Hull. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 14. Princeton: Princeton, 1963.