The Alchemist’s Journey Through Time, Space and Forever

The following 16 pages is a section of Chapter One from the 22 chapter work. It recounts the story of Western alchemy, weaving backward and forward between ancient connections, psychological insight and realizations, as the dominant opus, a myth of our time, is exposed in its limiting factors on soul and psyche. But as well an alchemy of transfigurative and awesome completeness surfaces from the sands of time and the depths of the unconscious, where for too long it has been hid. A sort of Harry Potter for Wizards, warlocks and saints who want to know how they got there and what they now must do.

( (Note: I keep records of all photos and images, not my own that I use, in and out of copyright.)


An Alchemical Journey: ‘contrara natura

Prima Materia: An Opening Sequence
The 22 manuscript illuminations of 1582, the Splendor Solis represent the stages of individual transformation by alchemy. ’Salomon Trismosin [the creator] clearly identify the alchemical quest as both a spiritual and physical process’ (Wasserman, 1993:94). The first four plates represent the first four stages of the beginning of the interior alchemic Work. The next seven plates show the story of the ‘Alchemical Allegory’. Seven further stages

depict the ‘Transformation within the Retort’, or Vessel, and the last four plates signify the ‘End of the Work’ and its final culmination’. 1 These stages are reinterpreted from a metapsychological position. New psychological, cultural, consciousness, and historical information now allow the separation of magic, myth, the mental, and cultural bases of components of psyche of components that have been extremely difficult to extract and heal. Even Carl Jung had trouble with the same and other series of alchemical images, trying to relate them back to archetypal psychology in order to discern the path of individuation through life. Now I take this opportunity to meld history, psychology, anthropology, society and cultural life to bring a whole new interpretation to bear on the struggles of the soul to realize interior life, even as it operates in the world and falls under the spell of the prevailing myths. The umbrella-term of this marriage of branches of knowledge is metapsychology. Its interest is to grasp the limiting factors and the whole. The purpose of such a new excavation is because whole mind, body, spirit and consciousness demand it, from the core of the innermost being. It is one of the deepest earth incarnation desires, to get to the truth of existence by following the trail of existing myths, archetypes and structures of mind, in order to allow consciousness to know and soar free of culturally conditioned factors and mental frames, as it must, where nothing holds back emergence of the complete ascent.

The Alchemic Images and What They Tell
Alchemical images are symbolically rich, generally carefully conceived and executed, not only for their allegorical narrative about an internal journey, a psyche-ic adventure, but because part of their function was educational. They tell the story of a dramatic process of inner transformation and their meaning can be read on many levels of interpretation. As such, interpretation may range between psychology, the historical, the biology of the
1. PART ONE: THE BASIS OF THE WORK The Vessel, Container in 7 parts

Plate One: An Alchemical Journey: ‘contrara natura’ - The Initiate Approaches the Temple Nigredo/Physis in 7 parts Plate Two: The Alchemist - The Vessel, Container Plate Three: The Crusader-knight, and the Stance of ‘the Return’ - The Ego Sets Out Plate Four: Intercourse of Solar King and Lunar Queen - Conjunction of Opposites Plate Five: Exploration of the Foundations of Nature - Digging into Matter Plate Six: Autumn - Eyeing a Rejuvenating Bath - A Vision of Renewal Plate Seven: Drowning King in the Waters & Young King on the Bank, Rejuvenated - Dying to be Reborn PART TWO: CONJUNCTION; TWO AS ONE; DISMEMBERMENT, then CLEANSING in 4 parts Plate Eight: The Ethiopian, Out of the Mud, & the White Queen Plate Nine: The ‘Whitened Ethiopian’ as Hermaphrodite Plate Ten: Dismemberment of the Body of Salt, Element Earth Plate Eleven: Cleansing by Heat & Fire in the Alchemical Bath PART THREE: THE METAPHOR OF THE RETORT: History as Nightmare, The Allegory of Change Without and Within in 7 parts and images. PART FOUR: THE ‘END OF THE WORK’: Transformation Inside and Out in 4 parts and images.

unconscious and prehistorical antecedents, particularly in reference to the Goddess or Mother of All. Within alchemical work 'the theory of correspondence is taken to the ultimate degree’ (Wasserman, ibid., p.26) and the entire basis of its work was predicated on the belief that matter and psyche are malleable substances that can be worked upon to bring about desired results or end-products. The intensely subjective work of alchemy had an objective face and the mind was clearly worked upon to change it, even its substance. The sixteenth century was already towards the end of the alchemical era per sé in terms of its major preoccupation, which was the negotiation between a medieval mind, still steeped in traditions of pre-history, engaged in religious and philosophical contact with powerful foreigners, and forging a bridge between the fallen Roman empire, Christianity, the Neolithic past, and a modern mind, and ‘New World’, ahead. So the sixteenth century Splendor Solis, which is the main study of this work, sits between the dynamic processes of an alchemistry of mind in process, and the ‘End of the Work’ of the alchemic change on mind, body and spirit. It is recapitulates centuries of work in mind, and a historical archive of the psyche under transformation as well as an allegory or story at a more superficial level. The ‘End of the Work’ resulting in eliciting what I term (2003) the “Western mind-space container’, represented and metaphored by the alchemical vessel, with its distillation and extraction of content contained within the metaphored retort. The process of alchemical transformation is both archetypal and metaphorical, while its major domain of activity occurs in the psyche-somatic or numinous or deep within. Images give a unique insight into processes within that were steeped in the archetypal and numinous matter of inwardness which resulted in the end-product, a fully distilled solar orb of sovereignty, as it turns out, which was in fact, the sun-king extracted from nature and matter, (see Plate Twenty-Two). Crafted in the hermetically sealed alchemic and laboratory vessel, or retort, the work of alchemic men’s metaphoric imaginations as well as external chemical procedures in a laboratory formed a union of intent. The end-result reveals no mere play of fumbling premoderns, but a process of self-actualizing men set to liberate the mind from the most ancient Mother, and also from nature and all ‘vital referents’, that is energetic ones. The goal was to instate a return to the sky-god of

Genesis in which men become the new gods of creation, having shaken the carbon of earth from gravityless feet. Campbell (1989) suggested there is a nightmare of history from which it is time for consciousness to wake up, particularly in the West. My question is ‘why is it so difficult to wake up?’ Perhaps the answer is strongly hinted at in the processes of Occidental alchemy which progressively move in a direction of inner dualism which becomes instated deep in the Western psyche. The Splendor Solis series and other images highlighted in these chapters are examples of the transformation, it is difficult to come to grips with, even now. Peeling apart the romance of characters like Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn, or the Knights of the Rosy Cross, when scholars like Yates take on the historical analysis of the end of the Renaissance and its alchemic undertows, there is a barely hidden tremulous vibrato, a quavering. Alchemists were fast becoming scientists, because the Inquisition had gone within. Body and soul were separated, the Western alchemy of the esoteric-to exoteric kind was done. Isaac Newton and Robert Fludd could mingle alchemic nature ideas and aggressive dominance stance over nature (and the Orient with it). So by the time nineteen to twentieth century neophytes wished to go down that winding path of transformation, including Waite and Jung, for instance, looking back to the sign posting already littering the way, most of the way had already been closed and darkened. What this suggests is that it is difficult to awaken within because at the most esoteric levels of our dominant alchemy which for Jung was the deepest expression of the workings of consciousness within psyche (1953), there is this split between mind and matter, spirit and nature remaining, and which is not resolved into a ‘whole’ and integral being, but into a ‘holism’. The Enlightenment ‘One’ was achieved through the sacrifice of the body and vital being, nature and world-body, Mother and her children. Yet the reconnection of psyche and soma within is seen today as necessary in moves towards ‘whole being’ and that is a strong part of what the New Age and human development movements are most intrinsically about. ‘Awakening’ means awakening from imprisonment in our cultural consciousness and aspects of its over-arching closed psyche as much as contacting spirit guides or beginning the process of following one’s intuition. Consciousness can only awaken from the nightmare of its own history of split-being within by the elucidation of the procedures of the history of broken being. Alchemic processes involve deepest archetypal associations, that is why they have been chosen to throw light on the subject of awakening from nightmare or sleep. But whether we want it or not, it is not just our individual mind and consciousness that is awakening to a more spiritual life, but it is about the whole universe awaking up in us. It is a collective deal. So we’d better be prepared for it. For this, the job we face, which many of us

feel keenly I believe, even if we don’t know exactly what it all means yet, means we had better take to heart the old adage and take it well: ‘Know Thyself’. Opening up is painful, but being closed is not a function of survival in a new world of higher vibrations and the plenitude of new knowledge with deepening and widening interior experience to match.

Plate One: It Begins
Two men in debate approach a large and stately temple with high arches. A river flows within its precincts, in which a rich, red carpet is unrolled down an inner wall, and on which sun and moon shields rest, and between which is an iron helmet from a suit of armour surmounted by a starry cloak, triple crescent moons and a golden crown. Steps lead upward and inward to the interior of the temple, while the shields are hidden from the view of the two approaching men. It is assessed that by entering the temple they will be leaving the outer world in the process of discovering or finding something which is as yet only hinted at. A border rich in nature symbols, flora and fauna surrounds the scene and suggests that the blessings or beneficence of nature abounding, surrounds the task at hand. The words over the entrance to the sanctuary reads ‘Arma Artes’, the ‘coat of arms of the art.’) The solar orb in the shield above the helmet is serenely in the highest position, shining out. The men will come through the arch to the left. In terms of the biology of the unconscious, they are entering by the left hemisphere, the side of reasoning, which fits in with the two men in discussion, using language and thinking to work out the aspects of the underworld. The side on the East, right is hidden from view as the temple precincts go deeper within. The steps also enter from the West, left hemispheric thinking, and right side of the body action and the direction of seeking the prima materia or primal material is East, or right hemispheric side, door to the underworld, memory, the past and the left side of the silence within. (Note: orientation of the figure in the diagram, right below. The images, being created for the viewer, or as introspective devices of the artist, are like mirrors in which the initiate sees his own psyche: it is my premiss the image is so constructed, and are interpreted facing this way.

Above: The left-right orientation of the body shows the switch of brain to body is a fundamental polarity that is commonly metaphored and symbolically appears in projected images, regardless of individual anatomical understanding. This aspect is kept in mind when relating to the alchemical opus in which the alchemist is dynamically involved with the inner polarities in psyche and attempting to reconcile them into a new relation of ‘oneness’.
Both the structure and the function of these two 'half-brains' in some part underlie the two modes of consciousness which simultaneously coexist within each one of us. ... The left hemisphere ... is predominantly involved with analytic, logical thinking, especially in verbal and mathematical functions. Its mode [is] linear... sequential. [and] depend ant … on linear time ... the right hemisphere … language ability is quite limited. This hemisphere is primarily responsible for our orientation in space ... body image ... arts, crafts ... processing information more diffusely... holistic and relational... integrating many inputs at once.’ (Ornstein, 1977:67-8.)

The sun and moon symbols on the red wall are in a North-South axis and indicate the sun has the supreme role, of light. Beneath the knight’s helmet and on the shield is the moon, but it is transfixed, and has grotesque faces in its eyes, and its poking tongue is another face; this is a play on the anciently destroyed Medusa/Gorgon, often depicted on the shield of Greek gods, and stiffly represents the head of snakes, and a cast down lunar power. The blue starry cloak, like hair, or fronds, billowing out from the black helmet are remembrance of the Queen of the Night, and the starry skies of the Sumerian and Babylonian Inanna-Ishtar and her girdle:
The Sumerians [c.2000BC] and Babylonians were fascinated by the stars. ... Nightly from the roof terraces of their houses they must have watched the great constellations wheeling around them, as they came to identify the most brilliant stars and gave the zodiacal belt the names and images that have endured to this day. Both Inanna and Ishtar were worshipped as Queen of Heaven. Their principle images were the moon and Venus, the morning and evening star, which may have given rise to the image of the eight-pointed ...'Radiant Star'... Ishtar in ... seals is often shown with a circle of stars around her, as she personified the zodiac ... the zodiac was called ‘Ishtar's Girdle.’ (Baring & Cashford, 1993:200).

In the alchemical image it seems like the starry cloak decorates the iron helmet as if might be a trophy from some battle; nonetheless, both stellar girdle and moon are below the sun above.A set of three nested crescent moons sit on top of a golden crown. These is remembrance of Diana, fertility cults, bovine worship, essentially the world of feminine divinities and figures often grouped as three. Prior to the symbol of the bull being associated with masculine symbolism, in the Neolithic era, it represented the horned uterus of ancient cosmic womb worship (Gimbutas, 1989). Cow horns, bullflowers and bull-horns found in Neolithic birthing rooms were not coincidentally found there. The crescent moon was associated with lunar cycles in both planting and menses, while it also resembled the female anatomy of womb and fallopian tubes: the most ancient bulls horns are both menses’ lunar symbol and a reference to the womb that gives birth to all. (See below, ‘Birth-giving Goddess Shrine’, c.5800BC.) It was a feminine symbol of generation or creation power.)
Left: 'The Birth-giving Goddess; c.5800BC, Anatolia. The shrine is dedicated to birth ... the goddess is outstretched in the stylized birthing position and 'seems to have given birth to the three bulls' heads placed beneath her'. In this culture the act of birthing is prolific in imagery. (Baring & Cashford, 1993:56). The act of birthing, female anatomy, and the intensification aspect of several bulls horns, symbols of the fallopian tubes/female reproductive organs; might have been to intensify the sacred nature of birthing in association to the Goddess who gives birth to all (Gimbutas, 1989:252-256).

Human physiology show the systems of the body. A tion is drawn to the reprod tive system for its bull-h and horns form. (Image: Sherwood, 1993)

In the Splendor Solis image the three crescents of old adorn the head of the helmet, within

the golden crown; but the symbolic nature of these objects represents a symbolically stated balance of power and sovereignty, as well as the future ahead for the neophyte who walks and discusses or argues with his colleague the way by which he may attain the alchemical gold and the solar condition.The entire scene is surrounded by the richness of nature, the man and his restless walking is still in the background, and so the primal scene is set as they come closer into frame and towards the river flowing onward into the temple. The alchemical journey is hence, a moving away from the nature outside to an inner mysterious world, basically a womb within. They are entering the ancient world of the Goddess in pursuit of psychic change.

To Enter the Sanctuary — Or Not

Grassy knolls flank the rivulet leading down to the underworld; its path is only suggested in the s-shape of its serpentine flow. In the alchemical quest, the river’s ‘season of spring is a season of sacrifice, its river of life a stream of blood ’ (Fabricius, 1976:17). A river that is a stream of blood indicates that it is the body that is being spoken about, the

soma, and its own underworld; it is the abode of the goddess, for it is she that gives life, sustains life and supports its essence through procreation and generation. At the same time, the wall-hanging, edged with gold that is a support for the ‘arms of the art’ is blood-red. The symbolic motifs are forged on a background of blood, which may mean warfare, violence or child-bearing and menses. The border of abundant foliage suggests the alchemist is entering the temple in the spring in the bloom of youth which is reminiscent of the ancient son-lover Dumuzi or Tammuz of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna or Ishtar (Baring & Cashford, 1991); the son by virgin birth of the goddess-mother Ninhursag, Astarte, Artemis, Demeter, Aphrodite, Venus - the cosmological goddess-mother. Tammuz and Dumuzi mean ‘Faithful Son’, and their title was ‘the Green One’ (Baring & Cashford, 1993:207. The Goddess was the vine, the son the fruit (grapes); or the Mother was the Tree of Life, and her son the fruit (dates); the sons of the goddess were the fruits of the year and were organic, vegetative. They came out of the Great Mother, ‘the primordial waters of space’ (ibid., p.208). When the grape vines were cut and pruned, the renewal of vegetation was associated with the renewal of the soul, which was intimately associated with the birth and resurrection of the year god - the male god that was born and died every year, going down into the underworld at winter, being reborn in spring and the new growth season (see Campbell, 1973, [1949]), The horned moon and the milk-bearing cow is a cosmological symbol of life, seeding the earth, fertilization, ‘poetically illustrated through the metaphor of the cow the bull, and their calf, liturgically represented within the precincts of the early temple compounds which were symbolic of the womb of the cosmic goddess Cow herself (Campbell, 1986 [1962]:41). Inanna, Astarte, Ishtar, Isis, and Hathor all wore horned head-dresses suggesting goddesses of fertility, the womb and ‘everything that governed the generation of life’ (Baring & Cashford, 1993:460). They appeared in Sumerian (c.2500BC), Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Canaanite and Near-Eastern goddess worship.

'The bull was connected with the moon from the earliest times ... Upper Paleolithic cave painting and engraving[s]’. Spain and Lascaux, France c.15,000-10,000 BC. (Gimbutas, 1989: 280).

Horned cows, bisons, bulls were all part of the principle of the feminine generation within the abundance and deep immersion of humans into nature and natural processes like birth

which were imbued with numinosity, magic, ‘mana’, and a sacral character. The bulls horns were also associated with the male principle, the god - the goddess’s son, as well as the power of regeneration and birth at Catal Huyük, 5800BC (Baring & Cashford, 1993:84), adorning walls of dwellings and shrines; the son, brother or husband of the Mother was also the ‘Bull of Heaven’ and in these contexts is always in relationship to the Mother as compatriot, associate and life-giver.
Left: Ninhursag, Sumeria, Great Mother of all life wears the bullshorns; full of fertility-power. On her lap is her son, who will be king. He stretches out his right hand to drink the elixir, but turns to his mother as if looking for permission; she holds him forward to take it. Behind them is the Tree of Life. 3 tall vessels act as sacred containers of life-force, strength and power (see Baring& Cashford, 1993:191).

In the primal Sumerian mother-son union, the son had to descend into the underworld so that the earth may renew in the yearly cycles: for he was the fruit. This myth had several variants: in the Babylonian, Ishtar goes to the underworld to rescue Tammuz from his sleep (of Winter); in the Sumerian, Inanna sacrifices Dumuzi to go the underworld instead of herself, and in a third, the god (as Enki) is asleep in the underworld and his mother Nammu has to awaken him (Baring & Cashford, 1993:219). There was, accompanying, significant ritual and associative participation of humans with the cyclical seasons, and lament at the end of summer, From Sumeria and Babylonia, to the Near East and then Mediterranean, the height of summer harvests was replaced by the end of fruits. grains and corn on the bough, plenty was at an end, harvesting complete (June-July) and Dumuzi was lamented.
Everywhere the same myth of the virgin goddess whose son-lover dies a sacrificial death and is reborn after she goes in search of him in the underworld was ritually celebrated. ... When he was ‘lost’ to life much later in Syria and Greece, a wooden effigy of the god was laid in a boat or raft and set afloat on the waters. As it sank Dumuzi-Tammuz descended into the underworld. ... The difficulty of awakening the god from sleep and bringing him back to life was part of he ritual drama of the myth of the goddess. ... The imagery of the archaic myth is [later] transposed to the context of the human soul (Baring & Cashford, 1993:221-3).

In the alchemical journey, the son takes a similar journey into the underworld, back into primary associations and primordial connections, which through the passage of the millennia have undergone many modifications. For instance, as mythology and human consciousness moved further away from nature, the content of the underworld became more frightening for subjective consciousness as it moved’ ‘farther and farther away from a sense of the wholeness and sacrality of life. ... The more the known and the unknown, light and dark phases of life are split apart and associated with good and evil, the more terrifying the dimension beyond

death becomes. ... The ultimate legacy of this fear is reached in the Hebrew Lilith and the Christian image of hell and the devil’ (ibid., p.224). For this, though ancient or archaic symbols are employed in the sixteenth century alchemical opus they have already gone through some radical transformations, yet the journey is significantly about relationships of age-old opposites, oppositions, and of masculine-feminine relations of balance and power in a psyche-ic inner world. Outside the temple in the plate, in the distance is seen water and craggy mountainous regions without foliage or growth. This suggests two things, both the season of winter and that the temple which is being approached is set on a very high place. The perspective from inside the temple suggests it is set at the highest point in the landscape, which precipitously leads away to valleys and regions far below. The ambience of the castle setting is where the ancients built the temples to the goddess. They were set in high places. ‘Throughout the Neolithic world a mound or mountain was symbolic of the goddess ... and in the Bronze Age ... the focus of the temple was the sanctuary at the summit, where the sacred marriage rite was enacted’ (Baring & Cashford, 1993:185). The opposites engaged in a conjunction and culmination, a fusion within a sacred rite, and earth was restored to harmony and balance. Seen in this light, the image of the two alchemists is the less ancient image of the age-old saga of the male approaching the temple of the goddess. The enframed image is within a deep perspective; the temple precinct takes up the foreground and its entrance is suggested is what is foremost in mind. Considering the three bovine ancient symbols of father and mother bull, plus calf, as emblems of the most ancient goddess, they appear in this first image of the opus atop the golden crown of a starry wig or hair-frond that is emblematic of Ishtar, the Queen of the Night herself. The male initiates, in order to be transformed need to enter the womb of the primordial goddess; they are fearful if they will die or live. Is this one of man’s most ancient traumas, or is it only the rather lately won egoic consciousness that is fearful of death or defeat in being immersed in the unconscious?

Return to the Underworld
The ‘putrefaction’ stage of the opus is the compost stage, when the green of nature ferments and returns into the earth. It is associated with Tammuz and Dumuzi returning to the underworld in order to come back budding and renewed the following season. Rebirth is only possible if nature is renewed, after an initial dying away, following the natural cycles. Fabricius (1976:16) quotes ‘Hali’ the ‘Philosopher’ who wrote ‘the green is reduced to its former nature ... things sprout and come forth in ordained time ... putrefied and decocted in the way of our secret art’. Traditional Chinese medicine, pharmaceutically complex and aware of subtle energies, for at least 2000 years, relies on the processes of collecting herbs,

drying, extracting essences by cooking until decoctions are ready to treat various maladies. The process is firmly embedded in nature and natural processes as applied to signs and symptoms of the body which is part of nature, whose laws can be read in the body systems; there is a natural order that tends towards balance and order, as well as cyclic decay and regeneration, microscopic and macroscopic (Tao) (Jingfeng, Jian, et al, 1995). Who was ‘Hali’ ? Kalid ibn Yazid, Omayyad prince (660-704) claims Fabricius, 1976:216. Was his knowledge from a Greek or Babylonian background? In general, alchemistry which follows a ‘natural way’, by following ‘natural cycles’ is Eastern. The Western heritage, ‘philosophy’ is most noticeably that which begins to bring a tension into the relationship between man and nature. Fundamentally, the Eastern (except for certain ascetic yogis) retain the natural world and does not attempt to jettison it, but instead seek ways of balancing closer within its natural order. (Traditional Chinese medicine and Feng Shui are examples.) Regeneration alchemically also depended on a reduction to a primal material, so metals, for example, were reduced to a formless state, thereafter they could be moulded into ‘any form the alchemist may choose’ (Fabricius, 1976:17). With this simple admission, similar to the Jungian (1953) description of the yogic alchemic process, some factor or active agent outside the process is actually working upon the reformulation of the extracted material into any shape. When the alchemical process is associated with the chemistry of gold, one could expect modelling of jewellery or ornaments, for example, but when the process is associated with psychology/psyche it is saying that the adept can act upon any material within to transform it into any other shape, psychological or physical. This suggests that all material, inner and outer is malleable and subject to the controlling factor of the master alchemist’s will or mind.
Out of the swirling chaos of the prima materia, ‘form’ arose in the shape of the four elements fire, air, water and earth. By blending these ‘simple bodies’ in certain proportions, God finally succeeded in creating out of the prime matter the limitless varieties of life. ... Transmutation is an obvious consequence of this theory: any element may be transformed into another through the quality which they have in common. Thus, fire can become air through the medium of heat, just air can become water through the medium of fluidity. ... From this belief it follows that any kind of substance can be transformed into any other by simply changing its elemental proportions through the processes of burning, calcination, solution, evaporation, distillation, sublimation, and crystallization. If iron and gold are metals consisting of fire, air, water and earth in differing proportions, why not attempt to change the elemental proportions of iron by adjusting them to the proportions of the elements of gold? Here we have the germ of all alchemical theories ... based on this theoretical background that the alchemists sweated over their furnaces (Fabricius, 1976:8).

This metallurgy was projected upon by inward unconscious psychic factors (Jung, 1953) which made of it a psychological process; or taking it much further, once the process of alchemy was envisioned as applying to the substance of humans themselves, at any level, it

could be imagined as a science of great psyche-ic and even physical transformational possibilities. Perhaps in the Occidental alchemy this possibility was entertained early because alchemists as clerics, and ‘womanless men’ (Noble, 1992), had an ecclesiastical bias against women, the flesh, and the devil, which in the medieval mind all occupied something of the same rungs of manifestation due to Biblical exegesis, and the myth of the Fall of Man due to Woman and her relationship to a serpent (Pagels, 1979). One of the greatest achievements within the opus is the creation of the homunculus (the baby in the vessel) and its creation in vitro, outside the womb of a woman. The great achievements of recent medical science are testimonies to this possibility envisioned in an earlier alchemy, but as well by the potential for men to give birth to creation, and wrest finally the last great power away from the ancient Goddess cultures, the primary function of birth, as individual and cosmic Mother, and the primacy of nature to create. From the Yahweh of the Judeo-Christian Bible, a masculine deity, without partner, or equal, brings forth the whole creation by his hand and eye. This Iron Age demi-God myth which was raised to ultimate potency becomes the residual desire in the alchemy of the West, to be like ‘Him’. The Western alchemistry, while it may owe a great deal to the Eastern subtle alchemies of inner transformation of the spirit, owe nothing to them of the direction it veered off on; its trajectory was away from nature, absolutely away from the Goddess , particularly as equal, to a sole transcendental control and rulership, not immanence and not a return to unity or at-oneness with Her. The dualistic universe is the ‘battleground of opposing forces’ resolved by the ‘putrefying’ movement of death and rebirth’; by returning to the prima materia; by the ‘circulatorium’ or circulatory movement backward, and ‘to return to the source of all creation, or “God”’ (Fabricius, 1976:17). Text accompanying plate one of the alchemic series Splendor Solis contain the phrase: ‘opus contra naturam’ (Fabricius, 1976:16), which infers the alchemical opus is going against the flow of nature. Lull writes ‘you should know, dear son, that the course of nature is turned about’ (from ‘Compendium artis alchemiae’, in Fabricius, p.10); the body is dissolved in a movement back into a primal substance. The distilling apparatus that the alchemists will use is a bulb-shaped vessel with a neck, an object for free association psychologically. Fabricius claims the pear-shaped vessels are ‘female matrix’ and that the Hermetic vessel was called a ‘uterus’ which the philosopher’s son will be born out of. Hence the entire process of this alchemy is charged with a specific tension, the goal is not unification with the feminine principle in order to instantiate a golden, stellar or cosmic world of psyche-ic oneness with Her or with nature as implicate order, but entrance on a meditative and psychological path of extraction.

This delineates the opus: the extraction of ‘mind-space’ out of the terrestrial and cosmic which includes a new womb that will be created in the process by a cabal.The meditative aspect of the opus reveals the alchemists’ understanding of their ‘work’ as a psychic process of transformation also, unfolding ... with the chemical process of transformation. In such a manner the alchemical laboratories took on the function of psychological laboratories as well. The effect was the symbolized chemistry of alchemy which, is in the last analysis, represents an alchemy of the mind’ (Fabricius, 1976:11). The process might have been happening ‘in mind’ but it bore a particular relationship and stance towards the body as well, and that attitude was one of mounting estrangement which possibly made the sensed process even more precarious as mind withdrew from somatic engagement. There were inherent dangers for the starting-out alchemist; the ‘unconscious’ was the great unknown and it was implicated with the somatic world physis, with all its dangerous associations, lingering in a psychic, clerical atmosphere where nature was feared for its power to induce oneness with it, instating panic for a feared loss of the egoic consciousness struggling to emancipate itself from dependency on ‘Mother Nature’ herself in all her guises, terrestrial, unconscious, pagan and cosmic. All this movement was predicated on desire emboldened as well as chastened by religion, to rule, as Genesis informed.

Entry into the temple of initiation is essentially entrance into the underworld of ’Her’ domain, as well as a descent into cavern or grotto, which will lead potentially to encountering the Shadow. The Shadow may bear an archetypal likeness to the beloved bull of old, from Crete, the same one which becomes the Minotaur in Greek myth. Just as other horned beasts, like rams or goats, companions of shepherd Tammuz (Dumuzi) connected to Baal, son of the Old Testament Goddess (Asherah), become the horned devils in an emerging dualistic universe. There, connection back to nature and the ancient Great Goddess become subverted and shadowy and the dark images of the Gothic imagination, European Romanticism and the existential

Minotaur, painting by G. F. Watts, 1877. The illustration above from a text on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein intimates the monster (Source: Tropp, 1976.) The sacred bull of the Goddess (with feminized face) had become a figure of revile, associated with the labyrinth - physis, womb, and the coil of life, symbolic of the dark ostracized outsider or ‘other’ who can never return to be in one’s conscious living of life.


.On the other side of the brightly lit exterior world of consciousness, what is within is considered ambivalent and potentially threatening. The controlling ego-personality and what that consists of and contains manoeuvres and ‘rebalances’ to contain that which is in the underworld, or out of sight; to enter physis is to go down into that darkness to confront one’s own interior shadowy side

Mary Shelley’s Franken stein, [1818]. Illustration Moser 1994 .

arts to follow, all bear witness to the trail of the divine sunk in the murky well of interior being. Yet, behind all projections of inner woe, remain both an image of the ostracized Mother and womb of all, as well as one of a child lost in the wilderness. The nurturing womb-space is historically and psychically purged, and gradually emptied of content and of vital matter. As it is, the streams flowing back to an ancient and ever-flowing source are almost extinguished and the soul lapses to despair and decay. At the same time, the procedure of Occidental alchemistry was just that removal of the mind of men from the body and remembrance of the Mother of matter and from the profusion of nature in a psyche-ically connected sense. Not only that, a gradual instatement of a new mind and consciousness will take her place and assign attributes of her to a new containment vessel (a wombless one), one where the child knows no such mother, unless she is borne of the laboratory will. To follow this story of a change in collective psyche is to witness in hindsight the loss of the vital world, primordial origins and connection back to the garden of paradise, with the terrestrial garden within. It is also to understand something of the nature of the problem of dualism which brings about the ‘nightmare of history’. This is regarded on two levels — as a process of history out in the world and of a process of the history of the transformation of psyche, within, the very history and nightmare the intensest current inner work must eventually come to grips with and face. That is, one deals with the problem on both sides, individual and collective, of mini-society within, and macro-society without. It is wonderful to wake up to the inner truth and beauty of the fact ‘one is everything’, the cosmos is ‘I’ and ‘we are the universe’, each and everyone of us. That is like the first incredible break-out from the chains of being small and limited egos, of minds of social conditioning just beginning to slough off. But there is barely any vocabulary for dealing with the reality and history of the Western transformation of civilization on the psyche as it moved out of the slumber of consciousness in the Dark Ages and earlier. But there is a thread running from the almost Paleolithic Ages to the present time of the fastness of all souls to a different kind of energetic alchemic bond. The agriculturalist eras are painted as dull and bovine in comparison to the growing scien-

tific eras to follow. But as the West followed an alchemy of extraction, not integration, its most inner paths are psychic trails sand-blasted into the subconscious and unconscious by the forefathers of Western civilization. Ultimately, when we speak about transformation and the New Age, and the coming culmination foretold in the Aztec calendar, we must clear, as part of the cleansing process, deeply embedded cultural consciousness, individual and collective, where it does not serve the meaning of the whole. So how are we going to do this? There is a short answer and a long one; here I will begin with the first …

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