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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Saved by the Stone!

I had been struggling with a way to tie together the many disparate topics that I wanted to cover, and it dawned on me that the Telesphoros side of the Bollingen Stone was the key. The Bollingen stone was carved by Jung as a monument to what his tower meant to him. The stone itself was to be the cornerstone of the enclosing wall for his garden. A triangular-shaped stone of specific dimension was ordered, but a square block—a perfect cube was sent. Upon seeing the stone, Jung realized that he had to have it. On the first side of the stone, which faces away from the lake, Jung carved a Latin alchemical verse referring to the lapis. On third side, which faces the lake, Jung carved a Latin inscription letting the stone speak in quotations from alchemy, and on the fourth side, the back face which he left blank, Jung wanted to inscribe “Le cri de Merlin” (Jung, 1961/1989, p. 228). On the second side, Hermes, as Telesphoros, is at the center—the Trickster. Perhaps the Telesphoros is also the symbol of the transcendent function itself, since he stands between the symbols of the masculine—Jupiter and the Sun on one side, and the feminine—Venus and the Moon on the other; between the structure of senex Saturn above and the puer/destruction of Mars below. Hermes, as the symbol of Mercury, is in the liminal space between these things. Hermes, as Telesphoros, is the figure that will lead us to the land of dreams. The inscription reads:

Time is a child—playing like a child—playing a board game—the kingdom of the child. This is Telesphoros, who roams through the dark regions of this cosmos and glows like a star out of the depths. He points the way to the gates of the sun and to the land of dreams. (Jung, 1961/1989, p. 227)

This Telesphoros side is the one that has caught my imagination. The Bollingen stone has much wisdom and is alchemical. I felt at the time that much tricky transformation and awakening insights lay in store. Slater (2001) reminds us of the important implications of play, noting that the alchemists “referred to their opus as ‘ludus puerorem,’ the play of children . . . . Depth psychology moves us to take pause and to play in a culture seriously dislodged from the rhythms of imaginal life and the undulations of the soul” (p. 245). Play is where instinct and image meet, where biology meets cosmology.

Using Victor Turner’s (1988) discussion of play as a jumping off point and the Bollingen Stone as my compass, I sought out an adventure with play, and let it inform me through story and synchronicity, through myth and mystery, through evolution and embodiment. I ventured into Hermes’s realm, and was tricked and tripped up at every turn, but the process was illuminating. I boldly embraced the adventure and struck out into the forest, the edges of chaos allowing myself to cascade down bifurcation points and meet up with strange attractors. On this “e-ticket ride,” I have explored play’s liminal spaces through different cultural creations. Little did I know that Jung’s stone would in the end prove elusive to me, just as it had to Maud Oakes (1987), author of The Stone Speaks.

I am reminded of the book The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster, 1993) the story of a boy’s imaginal journey into the nature of things, and a recent quote from the Internet: “Madness takes its toll, please have exact change” (White, 2002, online). Play has the ability to help us change. It deterritorializes the ego. The days of the devouring fathers (Stein, 1973) are numbered. Cronos emasculated Uranus when Uranus would not let all of his children out of the Earth. Cronos was dethroned by Zeus and forced to disgorge his children who Cronos had eaten. Interestingly, Cronos was tricked by his wife Rhea into swallowing a stone instead of Zeus, and Rhea is my middle name! Zeus remains, but he can be tricked. Hermes and others show us this. Perhaps we will play our way out as the sun sets over the last days of the patriarchy. Nero fiddled while Rome burned; maybe he was onto something, only tragically much too late.


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