Ergon, in alchemy, was a term designating the right eye of the soul, which was turned toward eternity. This was opposed to the left eye of the soul, parergon, which was directed toward time.

Here is seen the religious aspect of alchemy, left toward the sinister and right toward the divine. After failing in purifying metals into gold alchemy tried purifying man. A.G.H


Ergon and Parergon

In alchemical symbolism, the concepts of «Ergon» and «Parergon» reflect the dual nature of human perception and experience, representing the spiritual and temporal aspects of existence.


Ergon – The Right Eye of the Soul

  • Symbolism: Ergon symbolizes the «right eye of the soul,» representing a focus on eternity and spiritual pursuits. It reflects the soul’s aspect that is oriented towards the divine, eternal truths, and the pursuit of higher knowledge.
  • Divine and Eternal Focus: The association of the right side with divinity is rooted in various cultural and religious traditions, where the right side often symbolizes righteousness, moral virtue, and alignment with the divine.


Parergon – The Left Eye of the Soul

  • Temporal Focus: Parergon represents the «left eye of the soul,» which is directed towards time, the material world, and temporal concerns. It symbolizes the part of the soul concerned with earthly matters and the mundane aspects of life.
  • Sinister Connotations: Traditionally, the left side was often associated with the sinister or less favorable aspects. In this context, it refers to the temporal and transient nature of the physical world as opposed to the eternal.


Alchemy’s Dual Pursuit

  • Purification of Metals: Initially, alchemy focused on the physical process of transforming base metals into noble ones, particularly gold, which symbolized perfection and purity.
  • Spiritual Alchemy: As alchemical practices evolved, there was a shift towards spiritual alchemy – the idea of purifying the human soul. Alchemists sought to refine their spiritual essence, just as they attempted to refine metals, aiming for a transmutation of the self towards a higher state of being.


Religious and Philosophical Aspects

  • Integration with Religious Beliefs: Alchemy’s concepts like Ergon and Parergon reflect a deep integration with religious and philosophical thought, indicating that alchemy was not just a proto-scientific pursuit but also a spiritual and mystical one.
  • Symbolic Interpretation: The distinction between Ergon and Parergon in alchemy can be seen as a metaphor for the human struggle between spiritual enlightenment and material existence, a common theme in various mystical and philosophical traditions.


Modern Interpretation

  • Psychological Perspective: In modern times, these concepts can be interpreted through a psychological lens, representing the balance between our higher aspirations and our worldly needs and desires.
  • Holistic Development: They also emphasize the importance of holistic development – nurturing both the spiritual (Ergon) and material (Parergon) aspects of life.


Drury, Nevil. The Watkins Dictionary of Magic. London. Watkins Publishing. 2005. p. 93