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Alchemy and the Imagination (part 1) - By Ian Irvine

Alchemy and the Imagination (part 1) - By Ian Irvine

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Published by Ian Irvine (Hobson)
This article is the first in a series of three outlining a modern alchemical perspective on creativity. The article introduces key concepts in alchemy as they might be of use to writers and artists and begins to look in particular at the role of Hermes/Mercury in the alchemical process. Likewise, the uses Jung made of alchemy in his theory of the collective unconscious and general approach to creativity is here introduced Part One.
This article is the first in a series of three outlining a modern alchemical perspective on creativity. The article introduces key concepts in alchemy as they might be of use to writers and artists and begins to look in particular at the role of Hermes/Mercury in the alchemical process. Likewise, the uses Jung made of alchemy in his theory of the collective unconscious and general approach to creativity is here introduced Part One.

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Published by: Ian Irvine (Hobson) on Jul 26, 2010
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03/29/2014

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Solve et Coagul
:Creative Alchemical Transmutations
beingPart One of 
Alchemy and the Imagination
 
[This article, part of seven in a series, is based upon the draft of a talk deliveredto the Bendigo Writers
Council and general public in August 2008 by Dr IanIrvine entitled
Alchemy and the Imagination
’.]
 
Article Copyright
: Dr. Ian Irvine, 2008-2013, all rights reserved.
Image Copyright
:
Cerridwen and the Cauldron of the
 Fferllyt 
taken at
 Kerridwen
’ 
 s Kauldron
, Whitby, UK in 2010 - copyright Ian Irvine, all rights reserved 2010.]
Publisher
: Mercurius Press, Australia, 2010=13.
 
 
‘Solve et Coagula
: ‘analyse all the elements in yourself, dissolve all that is
inferior in you, even though you may break in doing so; then, with the strengthacquire
d from the preceding operation, congeal.’
1
 
‘[To the mind informed by alchemical principles] correspondences pervade every
field. From the stars to the parts of the body. Thence to the impulses of the mindand soul, the gods, the daemons which govern the planets and of whom the planets themselves are only the bodily cloak are related in essence to our spiritand soul by ties of interaction. Nothing occurs below that does not have itscorrespondence above, and conversely; and this correspondence extends to every
sphere of the Universe.’
2
 
1
 
Discussed in Piobb, P.V.
Clef Universelle des sciences secretes
. Paris, 1950.
 
2
 
Bernoulli, Rudolf, p.312, ‘Spiritual Development in Alchemy.’ in
Spiritual Disciplines
, 1935.
 
 
 
The Archaic Heritage: Hermes-Thoth and Alchemy
A challenge for all writers, I think, is to maintain an awareness of the deepest motivations behindone
’s writing. If we aren’t vigilant we may simply absorb prevalent def 
initions of what it is to bea writer from our immediate cultural milieu. This discussion concerns the complex relationship between creativity, psycho-spiritual transformation and the writer/artist
s attitude toward the
sentient others
with whom he or she shares this planet. In thinking about the reasons I was firstdrawn to poetry and fiction back in the mid-1980s I recall that certain writers and thinkerssomehow managed to speak directly to my existential state
 — 
one of those writer/thinkers wasCarl Jung and despite being a psychologist he will figure prominently in this discussion of Alchemy, Hermetica and creativity.Back in 2003 I wrote a series of poems inspired by my childhood fascination with stampcollecting. Retrospectively I realize that the poems were permeated by the figure of Hermes, botha Greek god and, in alchemy, a kind of archetype for the medieval magician/alchemist (known asHermes Trismejistus). Many of the poems have been published in all sorts of odd places, andthus I
ve ended up with rather fond feelings toward the mischief-maker God,
Hermes
. Back in2003 I imagined, wrongly as it turned out, that I
d simply write a few amusing little poems aboutstamps and Hermes before moving on to more serious creative business!
Five Creativity Archetypes: Dionysus, Orpheus/Apollo, Taliesin, the
Celebrity Writer
 and
The Bohemian Writer
 
Between 2005 and 2007, after some years coordinating a writing course and thus being exposedon a daily basis to the
 business of writing
’— 
as it is increasingly known these days incontemporary Australia
 — 
I experienced something of a vocational crisis. There seemed no point,to me, in continuing as a writer and teacher of writing if I couldn
t find a way to regain some of the existential excitement and authent
icity of the encounters I’d had as a young adult with a
range of writers, poets, and thinkers
 — 
in short, if I couldn
t continue to believe in
the work 
(ahthere
s a term we
ll return to repeatedly!), at the very least
my work 
, as something more thansimply a
 productive
,
self-expressive
,
Social Darwinist
activity to be assessed by the icy,
invisible hand
of the marketplace. In seeking to exorcise myself of the
celebrity
 – 
 Neoliberal
 writer archetype, I found myself turning for inspiration to three traditional poet-writer archetypesfrom the European tradition: Orpheus (whom I also associate with Apollo), Dionysus andTaliesin (a figure beloved of my Celtic ancestors).The Orphic/Apollonian model of literary activity is understood by scholars to be rational,measured and socially conformist in style, as well as melodic, technically excellent and highlymelancholy/sensitive. The Dionysian model, on the other hand, activates the primal instincts:sex, aggression and emotional excess. In the Dionysian worldview we may experience a violentseizure of consciousness by underground (unconscious) forces
 — 
 pounding, often discordant,music and large quantities of wine (or name your own intoxicant) complete the picture. If theOrphic/Apollonian poetic is sedate and safe (its product pleasing to the ear), the Dionysian poeticis the path to personal mayhem, ruined relationships, Acquired Brain Injury, and, occasionally, premature death. Neither poetic, on its own, has ever sat comfortably with me.
Taliesin
, a Welsh poet archetype, has long acted as a useful counter to the limitations I perceive in both the Orphic/Apollonian and Dionysian archetypes. I guess the foundationalshamanic/animistic elements to the Taliesin story, coupled with a deep acknowledgement in theCeltic polytheistic tradition generally of female creativity appeals to me - there are many stories,for example, concerning powerful female druids,
ovates, filidh
and bards. On the other hand, I
veoften felt Taliesin
s druidic derived poetic to be too remote, too embedded in the polytheisticCeltic past, too New Age, these days, to allow a modern
 poet/writer 
to deal effectively with the

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