Albedo: dialogue with the soul

Albedo: dialogue with the soul

What does it mean to enter into a dialogue with your soul?

Jungian psychology is unusual in being a psychology for the healthy. Although Jung’s unique and original approach is a highly effective psychotherapeutic method, it goes beyond the narrow focus of medical psychotherapy. Jung and his Magnum Opus[1] provides an extraordinary system of psychological and spiritual growth and transformation. Whilst it is impossible to do justice to the method in a few sentences, or even to clearly state its aims, these include the amplification of consciousness, the birth of meaning and ultimately, individuation. An idea akin to, although not the same as, Satori (enlightenment).[2] Individuation can be described as, the realisation of one’s ideal destiny, a life that expresses one’s truest and most honest self.

Although this might sound a little grandiose or elitist, the truth is, if anything, the opposite. All of us, in as much as we strive to improve the quality of our lives and the world around us, to live courageously and perhaps most importantly, to be true to ourselves, we are on the path of individuation. The great gift that Jung has given us is a method, a theoria,[3] by which to consciously pursue this objective.

The four stages in alchemy

Jung compares this method into four steps or stage in Gnostic alchemy, the alchemical process of transformation or transmutation.[4]

  • Nigredo (confession or catharsis),
  • Albedo (illumination or amplification),
  • Citrinitas (education)
  • Rubedo (transformation)


The Albedo Stage

The second stage of the Magnum Opus is Albedo. This is the stage of illumination and amplification. Jung describes this, in his paper on the four steps of transformation[5], as the classical psychoanalytic process first employed by Freud. The process through which previously unconscious contents are brought into the light of consciousness and a dialogue with the unconscious psyche or soul is initiated. The purpose of the dialogue, to make conscious the impulses, intentions and trajectory of the unconscious psyche. Through such dialogue, to bring the conscious and unconscious psyche into a state of synthesis, to facilitate the fertilisation and amplification of the conscious personality by the unconscious, and to heal fractures in the unconscious psyche. The trajectory and Telos of this process is:

  • Greater consciousness;
  • less fragmentation and more cohesion in the psyche, a personality that is whole;
  • a life that expresses the Self archetype (the authentic or essential self), as opposed to the default provisional self that is a very limited and inauthentic expression of the total personality.


Dialogue with the unconscious psyche

This dialogue with the unconscious psyche or soul is conducted following clearly prescribed paths, given to us by psychoanalytic theory. This investigation illumination and interpretation of unconscious content by consciousness, has both symbolic (principally image based) and semantic (linguistic) components and pathways. The unconscious’ dominant form of communication is symbols.[6] Language (semantics) is the medium of consciousness. The Albedo or illumination stage establishes a dialogue between the conscious and unconscious psyche that involves both symbols and language; and builds a bridge between the two. To put this another way, the task is to translate the symbolic forms of the unconscious into the language of consciousness.


The Albedo Stage involves working with the modules of consciousness, ego, dreams, active imagination and symbols. Let us briefly look at each of these.


Consciousness & ego: It is consciousness rather than the unconscious that is most important on this journey. Sometimes, with the focus of depth psychology on the unconscious that critical point is lost. We start the journey by reflecting on and illuminating the consciousness position: beliefs, values, desires and ideology. With a clearly articulated conscious position, the journey into the unconscious psyche has an Archimedean point with which to anchor itself. This is critical to avoid the ego being washed away in the storm of unconscious content. Once the journey into the unconscious psyche is undertaken and its gifts harvested, we return these to the conscious ego. If the harvest is rich the ego identity is radically challenged by what emerges. The task then, that faces the intrepid journeyman of the psychic landscape, is to re-imagine conscious ego identity, armed with these new facts.


Symbols: the language of the unconscious. During the Albedo Stage the subject works on accessing, identifying, classifying and understanding the key symbols of the unconscious. This is the starting point of a lifelong relationship between ego consciousness and the unconscious psyche or soul. These symbols have both an archetypal or transpersonal and a personal or subjective dimension. They carry the subjects most deeply held and authentic beliefs, values and desires. They carry the Telos of the individuation path and provide the libido, psychic energy, for the individuation process.


Dreams & active imagination: Freud famously said of dreams that they are “the royal road to the unconscious”. And, although there are significant differences between the Freudian and Jungian approaches to dream interpretation[7], both schools share that view. Dreams provide the most direct access to unconscious content. Interpreted using the symbolic lens and following the 4-step method: confession, illumination, education, transformation, they are invaluable in coming to terms with the unconscious psyche. To this method, Jung added a further, immensely valuable, contribution, the technique of active imagination. This is a method of dreaming whilst awake, similar to, but not the same as, lucid dreaming.  Using this, relatively simple method, allows the subject to dream the dream on and to engage with symbolic content outside of the classical dream scape.


Engaging in this fashion with the unconscious allows the subject to recognise and come to terms with mythological patterns and archetypes present in the psyche. Making these conscious and acquiring the tools, method and practice of ongoing dialogue with the unconscious psyche:

  • Releases the chokehold the unconscious has on the conscious ego has by default,
  • allows the subject to become a collaborator and co-architect with the unconscious psyche;
  • deconstructs the provisional self, allowing the authentic or essential self to emerge;
  • and is a critical step in the individuation process.

These stages are not exclusive to Jungian psychology. Jung’s great breakthrough was the discovery of their precedent in gnostic alchemy. Jung’s work though, documented in his Collected Works, was the distillation, amplification and articulation of these methods in the concepts and language of modern psychology. He found and documented this method of transmuting the unconscious shadow, the primal material of alchemy, into the conscious and individuated self, the alchemist’s gold.  Through this process, the authentic essential Self is revealed in all its vulnerability, beauty and nobility.

The transcendent function does not proceed without aim and purpose, but leads to the revelation of the essential man. […] The meaning and purpose of the process is the realization, in all its aspects, of the personality originally hidden away in the embryonic germ-plasm; the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness.

Jung, CW7 ¶ 186

The Albedo Stage of Magnum Opus is now open for student intake.

To find out more or register for the programme, follow the red link below.

[1] documented in the twenty volumes of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung.

[2] In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kenshō, “seeing into one’s true nature”.

[3] Contemplation, theory; the contemplative virtue is called theoretike; like the beholding of festivals of the gods and their epiphanies, philosophy introduces the beholding of the well-ordered cosmos, still called by the same word, theoria; in Neoplatonism, the creative power of the cosmos is contemplation ( theoria) and intellection (noesis), therefore divine praxis is theoria; for Plotinus, on every level of reality creation is the result of the energy produced by contemplation (Enn.8.3-4); every intellect contemplates directly itself; contemplation may be compared to the mystery-rites (teletai). (Dictionary of Spiritual Terms)

[4] ‘Problems of modern Psychotherapy’ (Jung, 1931/1954, Collected Works, vol. 16)

[5] Ibid

[6] The reasons for this are not completely known, there are many theories, but none is considered definitive. One plausible hypothesis is that the unconscious psyche is an artefact, Jung’s “collective unconscious”.  The idea being that the development of language (semantics) was preceded by symbols (archetypal images). The unconscious psyche, being an artefact of millions of years of evolution, still delivers its communication in symbolic forms.

[7] At the Centre for Applied Jungian Studies naturally we follow the Jungian method, although are mindful and influenced by Freud’s work on dream interpretation. His seminal text, published in 1900, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ still stands today as greatest single work on the subject. In particular, one of Freud’s own dreams ‘Irma’s injection’, contained in the book, must be the most thoroughly analysed dream in the field.

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Comments (4)

  • Deb Goukd Reply

    Just wondering … would it be appropriate to start now in the process of Albedo if we haven’t quite negotiated the catharsis/confession?

    May 3, 2017 at 1:47 am
    • Stephen Reply

      Deb I would say yes, the conclusion of each stage is, of necessity, provisional. The unconscious and its exploration is a process more than a destination, a way of living and engaging that continually shifts and evolves consciousness.

      May 3, 2017 at 12:23 pm
  • Lynne Braga Reply

    I have often been confused about Jung’s idea of Individuation how it is so often said not to be the equal of Enlightenment, Satori, Moksha, Nirvana, etc. In my understanding (through mystical studies) Individuation would seem to have the same characteristics of salvation, meaning the freeing of the self from ego, the empirical self. The world of the senses becomes illusion and one becomes free from all attachments–“original wholeness” is at last arrived at. It is, of course, the most difficult state to attain and one need go no further. Victory over sin and death is complete and one need not reincarnate. Would appreciate any explanation on this confusing concept.
    Thank you.

    May 19, 2021 at 4:57 am
    • Rebecca McPherson Reply

      I too have wondered about this as I have found Jung and his works but also feel that I am on a spiritual path which guides me in enlightenment. I feel the pull towards the individuation process and the methods and knowledge involved and realize that I have been doing the beginning stages of the work for years without really knowing the concepts and knowledge personally. My sense, without being able to fully explain it with precision yet, is that the two are related somehow and that it is not a black and white matter of them being unequal. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be so complicated. Just follow and do what feels right to you, be yourself and the rest will work itself out in the experimental aspect of lived experiences. The mind will only get you so far.

      November 23, 2023 at 3:05 pm

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