Dominique Zahan, who wrote on colour symbolism in Africa, equates white to a mystical union with God that takes place during initiation rituals in many African customs where initiates are painted with white clay and a white goat is slaughtered. This union with God is not a separation from community, but a sense of a deeper integration, presence, and connectedness. ‘“There is no union with God”, a Bambara would say, ‘without the world we live in”’ (Zahan, 1977, p. 77).
In alchemy’s great work, or Magnum Opus, a process symbolic of spiritual evolution (turning lead into gold), white (the albedo phase) denotes ‘an indication of the success of the first part of the Magnum Opus which has been achieved after a purification process of subjective and inner evils, which we may call “private”’ (Cirlot, 1962, p. 1). The albedo phase is interpreted as the initiation of dialogue between conscious and unconscious elements in order to bring clarity through the integration of opposites and thereby recover the original purity (or wholeness) and receptiveness of the soul to ultimately receive the divine spirit (Burckhardt, 1967, pp. 183–9). The great work can be equated to Jung’s individuation process (psychological development through enquiry and self-reflection), with the proper relationship to the archetype of the Self being the goal – where the ego in relationship to the Self is analogous to the earth revolving round the sun (Jung, 1928/1971, CW 7, para. 405).
Edinger (1995, p. 83) describes white as a colour of primal wholeness, which is a principal characteristic of the archetype of the Self.
"Whiteness is described as symbolizing the impersonal, infinite, eternal undefined vastness that lies behind the personal, particular, concrete and ordinary phenomena of everyday life. It is the original undifferentiated whole before it has been refracted – dismembered as it were – into its particular component parts. It is the infinite and impersonal that has never been subjected to the personalizing process, that is the process which incarnates the eternal forms in personal, particular manifestations.”
Denise Grobbelaar (2020) The White Lion as Symbol of the Archetype of the Self
and the Cannibalization of the Self in Canned Hunting, Jung Journal, 14:2, 11-29
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