Emotion and Invulnerability to Fire

From an archetypal perspective, if we can access the power known as Invulnerability to Fire, we will have a very good chance of staying conscious enough in the moment to bring help to an activation. Consider Edward Edinger’s observations on Calcinatio, the whitening fire that purifies:

“The image of invulnerability to fire indicates an immunity to identification with affect. Experience of the archetypal psyche has this effect to the extent that it enlarges and deepens ego consciousness. There is then less likelihood of identification with the emotional reactions of oneself or others. By contrast a weak ego is very vulnerable to being consumed by encounter with intense affect.” (see Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy)

While it is true that even the strongest of egos will be challenged by the highly charged affects associated with severe trauma, here we want to think about getting our boundaries working to support staying conscious in the middle of an emotional fire storm. Having an immunity to identification with affect means we are not likely to “catch” the emotion, even if it is highly contagious for most. This applies equally to our own potential emotional possession states. To the degree we are vulnerable to being consumed by an encounter, we can expect to get sick as often as we are exposed.

The following elaborations (Edinger) move us a bit into thinking about the origins and nature of the affects requiring us to develop our invulnerability to fire powers.

“…Calcinatio has a purging or purifying effect. The substance is purged of radical moisture. This would correspond to the drippings of the unconscious that accompany emerging energies. Or, in other words, the energies of the archetypal psyche first appear in identification with the ego and express themselves as desires for ego-pleasure and ego-power. …calcinatio brings about a certain immunity to affect and an ability to see the archetypal aspect of existence.”

He is advising us to be aware that when we connect with archetypal energy, whether through trauma or a big dream, the 220 plus voltage contact will trigger some type of inflation or grandiose possession state, as least temporarily. We want to do what we can to keep grounded in the face of such activations, lest we become identified with the power. From this perspective, attending to how to keep grounded while working on depth psychological process is an ongoing, high priority component of our work.

I think the take away for this section is to consider the possibility that with enough consciousness, with enough connection to the archetypal world, exposure to firestorms of affect can be purifying.

Two excellent woodcuts depicting “The Expulsion of Demons” and the “King in his Sweat Box” can be found in The Anatomy of the Psyche. In the first, we see the alchemist/healer sliding the petitioner/patient’s head into an oven, which then produces the demons, flying out the chimney as if up in the smoke. If only this were so easy! In the second image, the King sits quietly in his sweat box, choosing to subject himself to a small flame near his head. These two images represent something of a continuum in our ego’s progress in choosing to tolerate the heat of the conflicts which need our attention.

(See Edinger, Edward, Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy)

One Comment on “Emotion and Invulnerability to Fire”


  1. […] It is reasonable to offer a willingness to help make the both and more case, as this requires consideration of the opposing reality on the way to opening up to the “more.” It takes practice to hold to one’s center and stay calm and conscious in the presence of intense emotion. Am I really guilty as charged? Are you truly just trying to help me in attacking me so? Did I really hurt your feelings terribly without even realizing it? (Edinger on Calcinatio and Invulnerability to Fire). […]


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