Larry Rayburn ~ Nature and the Opus Contra Naturam

Larry Rayburn, Ph.D.

Saturday Morning Talk:
Nature and the Opus Contra Naturam in Alchemy, Individuation, and the Clinical Process

February 24, 2018

(9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)
St. Agnes Room,  The Casa Franciscan Renewal Center

Throughout the natural world we see contrary forces at work. Great destructive events such as fires, hurricanes, and floods exemplify in large ways nature turning against itself. Even in normal conditions river, ocean and weather currents create counter-currents of different types. Similarly in the human psyche, turning against ourselves is all too common. Different aspects of the personality are at odds. Perhaps, as Jung suggested, these very oppositions and destructions are “natural,” and might be necessary to our individuation.

Jung used the phrase opus contra naturam, or the work against nature, often in the context of his alchemical researches, with several different meanings. Analyst James Hillman expanded on this theme through many topics, from religious language to the topsy-turvy imagery of the circus. Alchemy, itself a kind of a backwards enterprise, keeps both nature and the work against it close together. In everyday life, idealizing a single direction of growth and progress as “natural” prevents us from seeing the promise of an opus contra naturam, while a depth-psychological perspective allows us the use of our pathologies and foibles and provides us with a means to expand on the possibilities of going the “wrong” or circuitous way. Even Freud’s idea of masochism represents a creative counter-point to the idea of “smooth functioning.”

In the clinical situation, and in life, we often find ourselves engaged in a pull between what we imagine as the natural course and what we experience as resistance or opposition. Yet the analytic process itself is a work against nature, as it opposes our naturally occurring habitual attitudes and worn schemes, away from the straight and narrow toward some deeper prospect.

We will be looking at several texts that amplify this idea in different ways. In the morning I will outline Jung’s and Hillman’s ideas, those of the alchemists, and a brief exploration of Freud’s ideas on perversion.

Eventbrite - Morning Talk: Nature and the Opus Contra Naturam in Alchemy, Individuation, and the Clinical Process


Saturday Afternoon Workshop:

February 24, 2018

(1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
St. Agnes Room,  The Casa Franciscan Renewal Center

In the afternoon workshop we will take the ideas developed in the workshop and see how those ideas may (or may not) inform everyday life as well as the general clinical situation.

Eventbrite - Afternoon Workshop: Nature and the Opus Contra Naturam in Alchemy, Individuation, and the Clinical Process


Larry Rayburn, Ph.D. is a Jungian analyst practicing in Santa Fe and a member of the New Mexico Society of Jungian Analysts. He trained through the Texas seminar of the InterRegional Society of Jungian Analysts. Larry is interested in male psychology, particularly that of boys and the father, and in the theories of play and psychic energy. As with this program, his Jungian thesis was an exploration of the Alchemical opus contra naturam, or work against nature, as expressed in the flow and counter-flow of life and clinical practice.
In his other life he is a husband and father who likes to play various folk instruments and spend time on the river and in the outdoors. Previous to becoming a therapist and analyst he worked in the construction industry for many years. He is a graduate of Prescott College as well as Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Publications Include: Fire in the Stone: The Alchemy of Desire (essay); Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion; The Sacred Cauldron: Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Practice; The Religious Function of the Psyche

Areas of Emphasis: Religious Function of the Psyche; Interface of Analytical Psychology and Psychoanalytical Theories.