4. Sacred Marriage
When you make the two into one, and when you
make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the
upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single
one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when
you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in
place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the
Gospel of Thomas, 22
The sacred marriage, the ‘coniunctio’ or
‘coitus’, refer to the union of our divine spirit with the soul, and
finally with the body. By way of speaking we could say that in common
man the spirit, soul and body are kind of separated from each other,
although they are working with each other. But when the Great Work has
been completed, the divine spirit has been brought ‘down’ to shine
through the soul and body and unified itself with them, so they all form
one and the same ‘body’.
(Museum Hermeticum reformatum, Frankfort,
Some alchemists claim there are three
coniunctio’s, but coniunctio by itself can be interpreted in many ways.
Alchemy knows a lot of opposite images, like water and fire, dryness and
wetness, warmth and cold, the volatile and the fixed, the bodily and the
spiritual, the Sun and the Moon, gold and silver, circle and square and
so on. The union of these opposites already constitutes a coniunctio.
Coniunctio is also the union of divine or spiritual energies with
In the mystical sense coniunctio is the
understanding or experience of the unity of opposites or paradoxes, the
experience of the unity that lies behind our world of duality. Our
limited understanding can only see in opposites. In the far East one
tries to transcend this limited understanding by koans, expressions that
contain paradoxes. Alchemy has a similar approach as it uses expressions
as fiery water, watery fire, water that does not wet the hands, fire
that does not burn.
Coniunctio provides this transcendence into
unity by the process of dissolution of the body into water. "As the
dissolution dissolves the bodies, thus the doubts of the philosophers
are dissolved by knowledge." (Gerhard Dorn, 16th century)
alchemical manuscripts conciunctio is depicted as the union or coitus of
King and Queen, of the red man and the white woman, or just by man and
wife. "Connect the slave with his fragrant sister and by themselves they
will make the entire work; because as soon as the white woman has been
married to the red man, they will hug themselves firmly and become one,
they will decompose and perfect each other: from the two bodies they
were before they will become one single body that is susceptible for
perfection." (Donum Dei, early 16th century). As it shows in this
quotation coniunctio was often incestuous. We can also find that in
other religions, like Sulamith and Adam Kadmon in the Cabala, Adam and
Eve in Catholicism, Isis and Osiris in ancient Egypt. In alchemy it
usually between mother and son. "Beya mounted Gabricius (her son) and
locked him up in his belly, that well that he was not visible anymore.
And she hugged Gabricius with such love that she took him completely
into her nature and divided him into numerous parts." (Rosarium
philosophorum, 1550). A bizarre union but it is entirely symbolic. Carl
Gustav Jung says that this symbolic incest is the descent into or the
penetration of the unconscious. The mother is the unconscious, the son
is the conscious. It is a ‘regressus ad uterum’ or the return to the
uterus of the mother. Penetration of the female is the same as the
penetration of the water or the unconscious. Thus we see that the
coniunctio is depicted as the coitus of man and wife, king and queen,
but also by the king taking a bath, or drinking water. Sometimes the
coitus between man and woman happens in water, in a bath or in a
fountain. The water is also synonymous with mercury or quicksilver.
The alchemist Gerhard Dorn spoke about the body, soul and spirit of man.
The body (corpus) corresponds with what we now would call with the
Jungian term ‘the shadow’. The soul (anima) he considered to be a
neutral life energy, the habits, wishes and desires. Spirit (animus) was
the will, the ego concept. The spirit is always good and has higher
mental potentials. In ignorant man they form a trinity, because man is
not conscious of all three, but experiences them as just one.
said there are three coniunctio’s. The first coniunctio happens with ‘separatio’
or ‘distractio’. The soul separates itself from the body when man
becomes conscious of those two. The soul and the spirit are uniting,
which he calls ‘unio mentalis’. As man is now conscious of his body as
separated from his soul and spirit, it is a voluntary death of the body,
for example one does not express its negative impulses.
coniunctio is the unio mentalis combined with the purified body.
third coniunctio is the combination of the spirit-soul-body with the ,unus
mundus’. "The unus mundus is the potential world of the first day of
creation when nothing existed ‘in actu’, that is in Two or multiplicity,
but only of One." It is an entrance into unity, where one experiences
everything as one.
In Hinduism the individual soul unifies with
Brahman, which is the ultimate reality, the all unifying principle. He
is the inner being of all things. He is limitless and cannot be
understood by our intellect, nor expressed by words.
Pernety (1858) also knows three coniunctio’s: "The first one is called
double coniunctio. It is between ‘agens’ and ‘patiens’, between the male
and the female, the form and the substance, quicksilver and sulfur, the
subtle and the gross. The second one is called threefold, because it
unifies three things: the body, the soul and the spirit. Thus reduce
trinity to unity. The third one is called fourfold, because it unifies
the four elements into one, but also includes the three others."