Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Alchemy and the Journey of Transformation December 11, 2012

gnosis_21Whether we know it or not, you and I are on a journey of transformation. The same is true of our species. From the moment of our conception, natural forces of growth and change we could not see or control were in operation, heating, intensifying, distilling, mixing, softening, dissolving, separating and transforming fixed aspects of our cells, minds and bodies. They still are.

Scientists devote their lives to understanding the physical aspects of these forces;  psychologists, to understanding the non-physical. Yet our knowledge of them is still rudimentary. Where does that miraculous light that shines in the eyes of every human come from?  Where does it go when our bodies die?  What is this mysterious thing we call consciousness?  Why can’t science find its location anywhere in the body, especially the brain?

Rooted in the mysteries of life and death, questions like this have always haunted humanity and inspired new directions of study including the science, or art, of alchemy. We don’t know its ancient origins but we do know alchemy was practiced in pre-Common Era China and Egypt. Mother of modern-day chemistry, Alchemy searched for the formula for the Elixir of Life and the secret to transmuting base and dense metals like lead into silver and gold.

But, as A. Cockren writes in his History of Alchemy, the accounts of the lives of those who practiced it “lead us to believe that they were concerned with things spiritual rather than with things temporal. They were inspired by a vision…of man, made perfect…freed from disease and the limitations of warring faculties both mental and physical…man made truly in the image and likeness of the One Divine Mind in its Perfection, Beauty, and Harmony.”

Early in the 20th century Carl Jung incorporated the symbolic language and images of alchemical texts into modern psychology. The base metals represented the baser parts of humanity: our unrefined instincts and raw, ungovernable emotions. The operations to purify and transform them, Calcinatio, Solutio, and Coagulatio, and the stages of change they underwent, nigredo, albedo and rubedo had their counterparts in mental and emotional processes and changes. And the longed-for results, gold and silver, were earthly versions of the heavenly perfection of the opposite energies of Sol and Luna. Finally, the holy marriage (hieros gamos) between theis King and Queen created the philosopher’s stone, a symbol of humanity’s highest accomplishment: transformation into wholeness and enlightenment.

sacredmarriageAlchemy was an attempt to understand the soul’s journey through life, and alchemists were Spirit Warriors committed to personal growth and refinement in preparation for the mystery of death and beyond. We are likewise Spirit Warriors who take our inner lives seriously enough to practice dreamwork, active imagination, astrology, tarot, I Ching, shamanism and so on. All these are symbol systems which address the language, archetypal patterns, and processes of our souls.

“Good Christian” that I was in the 1970’s, I was wary of such things.  My church considered them “occult” and dangerous. As if searching to understand ourselves and grow into our potential for relationship with the divine is the work of the devil! Yet, until very recently, this is exactly what most of the “civilized” world thought, which is why witches, alchemists, gypsies and others with inner wisdom were regularly tortured by the Church.

Whether we know it or not, you and I are on a journey of transformation. The same is true of our species. To continue to fight our natural and desirable growth is a choice to fulfill this prediction by Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

Three: The Number of Spiritual Wholeness June 19, 2012

Every religion is based on the fundamental belief that it is possible for coarse, common, vulgar humanity to be transformed through a mysterious, sacred process into something special, valuable, beautiful, and lasting. Thus, there is a spiritual tradition of ascribing not two, but three aspects to the process of uniting our inner opposites, including our masculine and feminine sides.  

For example, Christianity has the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and ancient matriarchal religions were based on the triple Goddess of Mother, Maiden and Crone.  In essence, the third element suggests the new entity that comes into being as a result of the hierosgamos, the Sacred Inner Marriage.

The addition of the third element recognizes the psyche’s potential to grow out of its dualistic state of “twoness” into a transcendent “threeness,” a more spiritually wise and conscious way of being.  It represents our capacity to survive our initiations so as to develop a new way of honoring the quiet inner spiritual voice (i.e. the Holy Spirit or Wise Old Man) or the confident knowing of our deep, intuitive feminine wisdom, (i.e. the Wise Old Woman or Crone).  This means that the individual has discovered the aspect of God that dwells within every archetype, and has learned to listen to it and act on it with strength and integrity in everyday life. 

The following passage written by Jungian analyst Robert Bosnak in his book, Dreaming With an Aids Patient, describes the mysterious process that leads to three-ness as it manifests in the life of an individual who is committed to inner work:

“I’m reminded…of the image of marriage in alchemy.  Alchemists imagined the fusion of different metals into an alloy, a new metal, as a divine marriage where the king and the queen dissolved together in a dark stream of images.  They were reconstituted as a new being, a man-woman, a hermaphrodite, partaking of both sun and moon, gold and silver, the ultimate alloy. 

“The process the alchemists describe shows marriage [here Bosnak is referring to the inner marriage] as an ever more intensified struggle of opposing forces held together in a painful paradox.  This warring love leads to dissolution, in which the opposing forces fall apart and get a chance to reconstitute in a new form. 

“At one point, when the marital struggle has reached a point of frenzy—when the full force of the joint family neurosis has hit like a bomb—all that remains is the sense of burned-outness and death.  From all this darkness a new capacity for relationship emerges, hardened like a metal that has been switched time and again back and forth between the fire and the ice-cold water.  No living happily ever after for the alchemists.”

In other words, our ego’s determination to resolve the conflict between our conscious personality and a considerably intensified shadow which lives in a world of darkness can lead us to the depths, not only of cold depression, but of our lifeless souls. This same intolerable conflict is the catalyst that pushes us to find a way in which the two can live together; and if we can tolerate the fiery tension that comes with this search, it will launch us onto the path toward spiritual wholeness. 

“As within, so without.”  This is the same process that can transform an outer-world couple relationship, the topic of my next post.

You can order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at www.larsonpublications.com.

 

 
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