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A Most Mysterious Union: The Role of Alchemy in Goethe’s Faust
Wilkerson, Stephen
Chiron Publications / Softcover / 2019-06-01 / 1630514101
Archetypal (Jungian) Psychology
price: $39.95 (may be subject to change)
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Readers today are especially thrilled by the prospect of good news. Drought and global warming, civil war and famine, poverty and economic inequity—yes, bad news abounds. This book by Dr. Stephen Wilkerson, on the other hand, is about hope and optimism for the future. The recorded history of our world is largely one of a sometimes worthy patriarchal striving. It has, however, all too often been tarnished, marred, and horribly disfigured by the hatreds, intolerance, and destruction that have accompanied it. And the good news? There is another way, poignantly and persuasively outlined nearly two hundred years ago by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, involving the Divine Feminine.

Goethe’s masterpiece, Faust, involves an immensely intelligent but profoundly narcissistic man, who cruelly and selfishly exploits and ultimately ruins the life of an innocent maiden. In the legend on which Goethe’s great work is based, Faust understandably winds up in Hell, just as he does in virtually every version of this well-known wager with the Devil. But in Goethe’s interpretation, the deeply flawed protagonist is received into Heaven by the Mother of God Herself.

How and why can this be? Mankind’s long history of heroic accomplishment has never been sufficiently tempered by a sense of global community and cooperation that mitigate the horror and devastation that ever seem to march along beside a single-minded struggle to achieve and prevail. And how may this missing unity be brought about? Alchemy as understood in this book has nothing to do with an early and misguided chemistry and everything to do with the sort of individual transformation necessary for a better, more gracious, more inclusive world.

The millennial patterns of blind violence and repression can only be ameliorated by a thoughtful and genuine embrace of open-minded reception of difference and heart-felt valuation of a larger, borderless world in which all grow together rather than further apart. Such is the promise of the final words in Goethe’s Faust: “The Divine Feminine leads us forward.”

About the Author:

The son of medical missionaries to China, Stephen Wilkerson was born in Shanghai, although he later moved to and grew up through high school in central Taiwan. Like Faust, pulled in two directions, he received an M.D. and also a Ph.D. in history from Duke University and has been vacillating between science and the humanities ever since. Most of his professional career has been in the field of medicine, first in the U.S. Navy, then in the U.S. Army, and finally in private practice in Florida. His time as a physician, especially in the military, provided many opportunities for teaching, which he has done in some capacity or other ever since working as a tutor and English language instructor in high school.

After retiring first from the Army and later from civilian practice, he entered a program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, from which he most recently received a Ph.D. in mythological studies. He has for 10 years co-chaired the area on mythology of the national Popular Culture Association, and continues his interest in teaching now primarily for Road Scholar and other adult continuing education programs.

He has published a number of papers, particularly in medicine, but this is his first book. He is now living in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

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Archetypal (Jungian) Psychology
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