The Alchemical Devilry Finale, Part IV: The Symbols of Alchemy, Practical Applications, and the Mathematics of the Psyche
When we discuss alchemy, what we are really discussing is not the process of making vulgar gold, as common thought would have it; what we are instead discussing is a psycho-spiritual phenomenon which is experienced by way of projection. It makes use of the idea that man is a microcosm representing the macrocosm, and that the universe is a macrocosm which represents the microcosm. Because of the language of alchemy and the density of the symbols used, it is very easy to be ‘put to sleep’ by them, as it were, and take them on face value; it is a similar effect to the one had by the Bible, or Shakespeare’s more symbolic soliloquies, as demonstrated by Timon of Athens, one of Shakespeare’s less compelling plays solely because the first half is nothing more than the set-up required to give us context of the alchemical allegory which will form the second half. The sort of language used and the density of the allegory lulls the average man into thinking he is viewing a “problem play”, and taken on face value it certainly is: Timon learns no useful lesson, is naught but spiteful, and dies worthlessly. But what the story truly tells is the tale of a man who succumbs to a deep depression, or what in alchemy is referred to as ‘the nigrido’. Betrayed by his friends and pursued by debtors, deep in the dark night of his soul, Timon moves into a cave near the woods and the sea shore, and, resolving to live like an animal and eat only roots in his new misanthropic existence, he digs in search of food and discovers not roots, but gold.
Who seeks for better of thee, sauce his palate
With thy most operant poison! What is here?
Gold? yellow, glittering, precious gold? No, gods,
I am no idle votarist: roots, you clear heavens!
Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair,
Wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant.
Ha, you gods! why this? what this, you gods? Why, this
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides,
Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads:
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed,
Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves
And give them title, knee and approbation
With senators on the bench: this is it
That makes the wappen’d widow wed again;
She, whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices
To the April day again. Come, damned earth,
Thou common whore of mankind, that put’st odds
Among the route of nations, I will make thee
Do thy right nature.
The above is so rich with imagery that it would take an entire essay. But, in essence, Timon does not make positive use of his gold; rather, he gives most of it to those who would make war on Athens, gives a little of it to the writer and the artist (though, in the recent Oregon Shakespeare Festival production, they interpreted his spiteful deliverance of gold as purely facetious, which I thought better fit the character), and gives a little of it to his loyal servant, who stays on with him even unto the end, remaining there in his cave with him. Because this work is a microcosm representing a macrocosm, (not necessarily Shakespeare, since it is thought this play was written in collaboration), all of these events and images are symbols. The aged Timon represents the fading dominant function of the psyche, that which is already on its way out, and thus could be said to be Saturnine, representative of his own poisonous lead; and when confronted by all that means his end and the discovery of gold in the cave of the psyche, near the seashore of the unconscious, he gives that gold to the war-mongering Martian aspect rather than using it to renew himself, the City, or anyone but his servant, who represents the audience, the only other person to stay with Timon to the end. This is a microcosmic portrait of a man who is has totally given in to misanthropy and has had his inner City claimed by rage and hatred; though Timon dies, the macrocosm does not, because the Philosophical City of Athens remains in-tact; it is simply claimed by a new, less generous psychological principle than the one it held before.
Do you see how easy it is to be lulled to sleep by the density of the imagery of Shakespeare? How easy it is to take it on face value? But those who delve a little deeper are richly rewarded, and the same is true of all works of art. There is, however, no comparison to the feeling of creating an alchemical work of art, particularly when it is intentional and not simply recognized in the afterthought. When we experience a work of art, we feel profound pathos for the characters within. Our brain designed to accept stories, to be filled with them and to learn from them; after you finally buy your copy of Delilah, My Woman, which is free from August 12th through the 14th, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to catch this in time, you should also go buy a copy of Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story. It is an interesting book, even for non-writers, about the nature of a story and why people are in need of stories; indeed, I would say any artist would benefit, whether you’re painting Boschian nightmares or writing Wagner librettos. It is invaluable to understand the manner in which we are affected by the media we consume, and we are affected by a powerful work of media in a literal way: in reading a story, we experience it, as if we are really living it in that moment, for, after all, all life is truly psychic life, signals being transmitted through the brain and translated by the mind. This is why powerful works of literature are so important, and why every young lady should strive to graduate from Twilight as soon as possible. We are what we consume, and even more than that, we are what we create. It is why every obsessive parent over-identifies with their child, and their child’s achievements; that child often is their only creation. But more satisfying and powerful than a sheerly biological creation is a psychological creation; a work of art. For when we produce art, we are moved by it, transformed by it in the manner of having experienced the thing, assuming we have not experienced the thing already— for, just as often as writing allows us to experience that which we otherwise never could or should, so too does it allow us to process and express those things which we have already experienced, whether or not we are consciously aware of the act of processing. Alchemy is, in essence, psychologically processing an event, an attitude, or life itself, by way of externalized projection; and the most powerful way to control and experience those projections is to willfully create them, oneself.
Alchemy is fairly misunderstood by the mainstream, but it feels to me on the verge of a true psychological resurgence. Though we are ever more deeply connected by the Internet, we are also more tangibly separated by it. Japan is rife with a so-called ‘epidemic’ of hermits, referred to as hikki mori; America is not far behind it, nor anywhere else in the first world, for that matter, judging by Internet traffic. As I have pointed out previously, physical occurrences often have psychic parallels which help us to better grasp both experiences. In this case, the attitude of those who would be swallowed by their technology, and by the Internet, is identical to those hermits who were swallowed up by their alchemical tools. The same phenomenon of psychological projection is happening, but it is happening in new and varied ways, for only a relative few of these neo-hermits have the resources or space required to endeavor to create physical gold. This means that projection is happening upon other things, every thing, but yet it seems as though little alchemical art has been produced as of late, outside of musical circles. A curious thing, considering just how much free time these neo-hermits have, but I suppose it is not unlike the case of the painter who, completely isolated with his work, lost all perspective on it and by his death had produced a senseless and disjointed mural. All reality becomes distorted by isolation, and we see not just a reduction in the quality of output, but the simple quality of being. Isolation sometimes gives way to xenophobia, xenophobia, of course, being the root of all fear of the ‘other’, whether racism, sexism, homophobia, or what have you, for it presupposes that there is an ‘other’ to fear; ideally, isolation should not be a result of a desire to withdraw, but rather a desire to make clear the projections which cause other forms of fear in the face of mystery. Xenophobia is the root of all hate, and the root of all xenophobia is a failure—and, in some, an inability—to know thyself, and in so doing, know others, and know the macrocosm. The elimination of xenophobia arises when one understands that that art thou, that the bleakest darkness of the world is also in one’s very own heart, that all the holiness of God is embedded profoundly within the material of Man. And alchemy, with its goal of the synthesis of opposites, is very much an art with an aim towards wholeness. Completion. The filius philosophorm, the philosopher’s stone, that which turns lead into gold, that which makes base metals pure— that is achievable through the Art, which is achievable through all art, and made all the easier by an understanding of its symbols. The goal of this paper is tuo present the reader with several approaches for tangible alchemical operations, and to introduce neophytes and the initiated alike to a more thorough understanding of the mechanics of the psyche. Whensoever the Logos takes control, however, it can be difficult to come to the point—and, indeed, the closer one grows to the point, the more thickly the metaphor veils itself. Because of that, ultimately, trying to communicate the symbols of alchemy is similar to attempting to communicate the psychedelic experience—indeed, it is arguably the same goal, as I will be discussing later! What this means is at this phase in psychological and linguistic development, we are somewhat hampered and are forced to deal with imperfect symbols of very tangible, but subjective experiences, and the only way to get around that is to have the experience, yourself. In order to truly and completely internally understand the symbols of alchemy, you have to take your basic understanding of them, put them into practice, and draw from that your own experiential conclusions.
A BRIEF SURVEY OF COMMON ALCHEMICAL SYMBOLS
As we have previously discussed, the Devil is our doorway to the unconscious, and so we will start with the Devil in alchemy, though we must follow him back to his source. Much as things are not really ‘black or white’ but a continuum of void/color, and they are not ‘up or down’ so much as part of an inseparable continuum of direction, so too are the Devil and Christ part of the same archetypal continuum; the holy and chthonic archetypes both resolve themselves to the androgynous Spirit Mercurius, who is both the prima materia and the ultimate goal of the alchemical transformation, the lapis. He is the water in which the quintessence is dissolved, the guiding angel of Descartes, that which initiates the process and that which guides it. In describing Timothy Leary’s mental circuits, Robert Anton Wilson describes the ‘meta-programming’ 7th circuit and suggests that readers imagine it as a type of computer, relegating the great mother/chthonic father archetypes to the neurogenetic 6th circuit. If that is what works for you, then that is what works, but I believe that it is this 7th circuit consciousness being discussed when alchemists discuss Mercurius, both helpful servant and threatening slave-driver, and I think the more common manifestation of Mercurius, then, is that of an angel or demon. Mercurius, after all, represents both our highest potential, and our guardian angel, and the guiding architect of our DNA. Mercurius is that spirit which represents in many forms based on the background of the person beholding him; I will not go into him in too great a depth, for he has already been described thoroughly in Jung’s Spirit Mercurius, and in the second article of this very series we have provided a multitude of examples of the archetype, certainly enough that any reader might be able to read the various examples and see the commonalities between them. To refresh, however, a brief bullet-point list of qualities:
- The Quicksilver – Mercury, a liquid metal, is never seen, and only reflects
- The Messenger – Much as Mercury is closest to the sun, Mercurius is the messenger of God
- The Civilizing Arts – Enki, Prometheus, and other iterations were responsible for the arts
- The Mentor – Frequently a doctor, artist, or guru, the Spirit comes as an educated master
- The Fire of Consciousness – The experience of Mercurius awakens one to consciousness
- The Condemned – Most iterations of Mercurius are condemned to or trapped in matter
- The Morally Neutral – Mercurius is not wholly good or chthonic—not even Christ was good to the money-changers
Though the above does not begin to cover it, nor does it begin to go into the many paradoxical qualities of the Spirit, suffice to say the above gives a strong idea of things. As previously mentioned, one must not be put to sleep; one must not wholly bind the Spirit to one way of being, and so to take anything I say too literally is to take a risk with your own understanding. The Spirit Mercurius, suffice to say, is found within each of us, and is reachable through the alchemical process, through the understanding of and exploration of the psychological symbols of the tradition. In alchemy, the three primary principles which are derived from the four elements are Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt. To describe Sulphur as the masculine iteration and Salt as the feminine iteration of Mercury is to oversimplify the matter slightly, though there is a relation there, is indeed some right-thinking, but the process is more complex than that.
The above is a demonstration, for those with imagination, of how the four elements are said to come together to produce the three principles. In Jung’s masterwork, he refers several times to an anonymous treatise, De Sulphure, which, though inspired, is not thought through to its complete form.
Thus the fire began to work upon the air and brought forth Sulphur. Then the air began to work upon the water and brought forth Mercurius. The water began to work upon te earth and brought forth Salt. But the earth, having nothing to work upon, brought forth nothing, so the product remained within it. Therefore only three principles were produced, and the earth became the nurse and matrix of the others.
It is also worth noting that alchemical sources commonly describe fire as the first element, water being the second which arose from this and, with its forebear, produced the air; and these three, together, produced the earth. This is a very common thought process among the alchemists, and although I think this is indeed a thorough explanation, it is not a complete explanation. There is something missing. I do not believe that the earth would settle itself to have nothing at all to work upon. Far from it— if we have learned anything from mythology, the earth cannot help but work, and if not on its own, then in a manner which proves disastrous!
I have chosen to draw special distinction between Black Sulphur and Red Sulphur, not the least of reasons being the fact that these things, as illustrated in the delightfully Victorian experiments of one Professor Magnus, work to become a beautiful waking metaphor for the alchemical process. The problem in psychological alchemy, however, becomes the problem of how it is derived. What results is the fascinating realization that one is looking at a story akin to the gnostic Sophia’s creation of the demiurge, the Woman Clothed With The Sun’s pursuit by the Dragon, the opening of Pandora’s box, the eating of Eve’s fruit, Hera’s embittered creation of Typhon— the list of appearances of this archetype is truly endless, but it appears, in its most faceless way, in the diagram above.
The mistake that the anonymous author of De Sulphure makes is the assumption that, just because earth does not have a partner to work upon, that it will not work upon something, or endeavor to, at any rate— and, being of too gross a substance, too substantial a matter, to work upon the air, and helpless to work upon the water, the earth is then given one option: to work upon the first element which set into motion, the fire. When sand is manipulated in fire, the resulting material is glass—the vessel, the ego. This glass produced by the working of matter upon consciousness does indeed shine brilliantly, beautifully— but one must be ever aware of the by-product of the process, for the fire, being as active an element as it is, works also upon the earth. It is the instinct of fire to produce with its mate the principle of Sulphur— however, when this mate is not the intended air, but instead is the matrix of earth which functions at once as womb and prison, the resulting principle is a corrupted, blackened principle, namely Black Sulphur. This Black Sulphur seems initially an undesirable substance, but it is in the investigation of Black Sulphur that one may come to know the Red Sulphur: for the Black Sulphur has at once the qualities of the vessel, the glass whose making caused its creation, and also the qualities of purified Red Sulphur, in whose image it was made. Thus, the knowledge of Black Sulphur operates as a psychological bridge which the alchemist may cross in order to penetrate a deeper understanding of the principles, but it is a highly volatile substance, slick and oily. This is the personal shadow of consciousness— this is the component of the unconscious which crosses over and confronts us in consciousness, initially making its most common appearance, according to Jung, in the form of a figure the same gender of the viewer. The work of exploring and understanding this figure is the method by which one crosses from the material world of gross matter, disconnected from one’s shadow, to the spiritual-psychological world of the unconscious. Sulphur is a fiery, inherently powerful principle with a very deep relation to Sol; yea, it could be said that Sol is Sulphur and Luna, Salt, themselves revealed in purer emanations. But these latter two have formed a conundrum for many alchemists, and small wonder that they should, since so many alchemists were men to whom the workings of the feminine proved alien until discovered by surprise within oneself. The secrets of these elements are freely available to all who would be willing to look, and to delve deep enough within the symbolism presented to reach understanding.
SOL NIGER, THE NEW MOON, AND THE ILLUSORY PROBLEM OF GENDER
In the above diagram, the reader will note that Black Sulphur is the shadow of both Glass, and Red Sulphur. In terms of our metaphor, Glass is likened to the fragility of the ego: it is the vessel in which consciousness is brewed, in which the archetypes are sealed, from which the Stone shall emerge. When the creation of Glass also by necessity results in the Black Sulphur (and note how close these two symbols are in form!), the Black Sulphur, as mentioned above, demonstrates some of the traits of Glass, and some of the traits of Red Sulphur; it possesses the fiery nature of Red Sulphur, acts as a vessel in the sense of Glass, and yet it is the worst of both of them, dangerous as both of them. Much as Red Sulphur is the seed which engenders, so too is Black Sulphur capable of endgendering, but lo! The products of its penetration are a struggle for Man to receive, and for this reason Black Sulphur is as akin to Sol Niger, the Black Sun of alchemy, as true Red Sulphur is to Sol. The Black Sun is blackened because it is tainted by the products of the Earth, and so, like the Earth during a Lunar eclipse in which the face of the moon is reddened, Sol Niger stands between Sol and Luna in syzygy and forms the bridge between the two.
What is the Black Sun, then? The Black Sun is, as described by Jung, the Mr. Hyde to Sol’s Dr. Jekyll. It is the light of consciousness, corrupted. It is the self-destructive and laconic shadow of the ego which must be captured, tamed, purified— from this shall be extracted the true Sol of pure consciousness. Like our own sun, holy Sol, which casts its golden rays upon the world and thus allows Man to see, consciousness severs with the clarity of Logos the distinctions of this form from that, of you from me. Consciousness is the thing which makes possible our states and ways of being, for without consciousness there would be nothing to observe that anyone was alive. Consciousness predates even the first Man and is an entity unto itself but requires a vehicle of language to operate. Pure, fiery consciousness, hot and dry, the Logos, is masculine, insofar as traits such as logic, discernment and a focus on concerns of the mind are considered to be masculine traits. Law, for instance, and linguistic rules, are qualities of the masculine archetype, as is the basic rules of black and white definition—’this’ is not ‘that’. Intuition, emotionality, and a blurring of distinctions, however, as well as a social focus; these are more typically traits related to the feminine. Standing opposed to the masculine, the feminine is cold and moist, the Eros; it is matter, a word which shares its meaning and root with ‘mother’. Because all matter is related, matter seeks to combine, and asks, ‘why can ‘this’ not be also ‘that’?’
All matter is feminine; all consciousness is masculine. It does not matter if you are born a man or a woman, identify as a man or a woman, feel that you are a man or a woman. Gender does not figure into the equation here because gender is little more than a construction of the ego and how it relates to its body, its psyche, and the society around it. What I am describing here is a very simple and logical conclusion to which all religions have already come—the image of Shiva in the eternal embrace of Shakti is evidence enough of that, though I might also cite the androgyny of Christ. If readers would care to follow along at home, consider what pure consciousness would be. If there were such a thing as ‘pure consciousness’, removed from any sense of self, any goal, any intent or any preconceptions, what would it be like? Rather like the camera’s lens, one would expect—a silent observer which gazes out upon face after face, emotionless, illuminating without discernment, showing everything exactly as it is and forcing the editors to deal with the result. The editor is, in this case, the ego; the ego gives a narrative based on memories, a ‘spin’ in the sense that a documentarian spins the truth to suit his message. The editor has a message, always, or else he would not be editing: he has an intention. But if our Observer is an unhampered and free-floating entity—say, electrons in their wave form, as I have seen recently described—then there is no intent, there. No judgment, attachment. There is nothing but the idea of Observation. Naught but the camera’s lens, which cannot be accused of being anything but objective. It is, then, this natural objectivity which lends pure consciousness, Sol, his masculinity, masculinity in and of itself being a symbol for the pure Consciousness of the Observer, the Atman, the Holy Spirit, or whatsoever else one could possibly call it. In this sense, the Sulphur (Logos) is a mere symbol for Mercurius (Nous), but because of this, Sulphur (Logos) is the vehicle by which Mercurius (Nous) navigates the world, and Salt (Sophia) is the vehicle by which Sulphur (Logos) grasps itself, and Mercurius (Nous). It is perhaps better to say that Sulphur is the camera and the camera-man, and the Salt is the camera’s lens, which ‘flavors’, as it were, the type of shot one will receive, but which is all the same necessary to the operation of the camera, in order to film at all.
The moment that free-floating consciousness becomes bodily aware and becomes rapt by the concerns of the body is the moment when it is covered up by emotions. Again, there is a simple, logical way to this conclusion, and that is to consider the fact that all emotions have a physiological, chemical basis in the brain. The Arc of the Covenant is a rainbow, a series of colors commonly indicating emotion; it is no coincidence then that after a long period of flooding (unconsicousness), Noah (the ego who the story is about) greeted the sun (consciousness) and found a rainbow (emotions). Rainbows appear time and time again in the Bible; the Arc appears also in Revelations, appearing in Heaven before the arrival of the Woman Clothed With the Sun. Ah— do you see? Even merely discussing this topic has sent us down a more intuitive path than a logical one, but the fact remains that my logical point was made— emotions are tied to a physiological state of being, are regulated by chemical processes. Therefore emotionality is bound up in matter, and all matter is inherently feminine, regardless of one’s gender. This is symbolically represented by the fact that all life arises from the body of the woman with the endgenderment of the male consciousness. Gender is illusory, save for a convenient method of measurement and a convenient yardstick by which one may take the measure of another person; we are all a balance of masculine and feminine, with most of us more to one side than to another, but all of us a combination just the same.
Now, I am not saying that anyone’s gender identity is invalidated by this. Far from it. If anything, it is double-validated, and all so-called deviations from the binary are explained in a symbolic snap. Just as a combination of chemistry and society determines our gender, so too is it determined in part by how we identify ourselves as beings. Do we identify more with our psycho-spiritual Sol consciousness, or with our eroto-emotional Lunar forms? We are all masculine consciousness having the feminine experience of emotional matter at varying degrees of visible femininity and comfort with our level of visibility. There is a joke that ‘white, hetero male’ is thought of as the default way of being, but in a sense, it is. It is, in that it is symbolic of the default state of being, the default state of being truly being ‘disembodied, purified consciousness’. The issue with this function as a symbol is that, like all symbols, it puts us to sleep, and we see only the symbol. Like children who hear about Sleeping Beauty, we hear only the fairy tale and do not consider the meaning beneath the surface. Like children who hear Snow White, we are spellbound and cowed in terror by the Other we are convinced to be there, when really the Other is naught but fiction. The result of the misunderstanding of the visual symbols of our reality is racism, sexism, and every other kind of fear imaginable. All women have a ‘masculine’ or sulphurous consciousness buried beneath their feminine egos, and that is something Jung came very close to understanding, but never truly grasped, or fully accepted, at any rate.
I want to make something clear here when I say that I love the work of Carl Jung, but I do not believe he understood certain facets of his own symbolic observations, particularly when it came to women. Very rightly, Jung pointed out that, in men, Sol represented the dominant, or unconscious principle of the psyche and Luna the unconscious principle. When it came to women, however, whose consciousness is represented by chthonic Luna, he fumbled. He was, as it were, caught and blinded by his own masculinity, his own knowingness. In his most glorious key to the psyche, the Mysterium Coniunctionis, An Inquiry Into The Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy, surely available at a branch of your local library, he fumbles on the analysis of the principle of Salt, working around it, exploring it to relative satisfaction but at the same time bungling Salt’s expression, which is the feminine expression of Mercurius and much else besides. It is nowhere more clear that Jung is, as a philosopher, unbalanced in the masculine/feminine dynamic, however, than in his estimation of Sol in its expression as a woman. He writes:
“The Sol who personifies the feminine unconsciousness is not the sun of the day but corresponds rather to the Sol Niger. This is not the real Sol Niger of masculine psychology, the alter ego, the Brother Medardus of Eta Hoffman’s story “The Devil’s Elixer,” or the crass identity of opposites which we meet in Jekyll and Hyde. The unconscious Sol of woman may be dark, but it is not “coal black”, as was said of the moon; it is more like a chronic eclipse of the sun, which in any case is seldom total. Normally a woman’s consciousness emits as much darkness as light, so that, if her consciousness cannot be entirely light, her unconscious cannot be entirely dark either. At any rate, when the lunar phases are repressed on account of powerful solar influences, her consciousness takes on an overbright solar character, while on the other hand her unconscious becomes darker and darker—nigrum nigrius nigro—and both are unendurable for both in the long run.
Her Sol Niger is as void of light and charm as the gentling moonlight is all heavenly peace and magic. It protests too much that it is a light, because it is no light, and a great truth, because it invariably misses the mark, and a high authority, which nevertheless is always wrong, or is only as right as the blind tomcat who tried to catch imaginary bats in broad daylight, but one day caught a real one by mistake and thereafter became completely unteachable. I do not want to be unfair, but that is what the feminine Sol is like when it obtrudes too much. (And it has to obtrude a bit if the man is to understand it!)”
-Jung, Carl G., “The Personification of the Opposites,” Mysterium Coniunctionis, pg 181-182
Just as Jung begins to close in on the truth, he allows himself to continue to be divided from the feminine sex, allows himself to continue to be an alien force from himself—note how, despite the depth of his understanding of the psyche, he still relents to the same tired sense of humor about the mysteries of the female mind found almost universally in not just all men, but all people! A woman is even a mystery to another woman at times, because some women are so blinded by pure emotion, and others closer to the sunlight of logic. Men are almost always blinded by emotion when they discuss women, even if those emotions are positive; women are likewise almost always blinded by emotion when they discuss men. That is because human beings are, by their nature, blinded by emotion.
I want you to look at the above quote again. As the discovery of Luna standing behind the Black Sun ideally brings about a fresh understanding and an opportunity at balance of the masculine and feminine in the heart of the Sol-conscious man, so, too, should the discovery of the Eclipsed Sol/Sol Niger of a woman’s psyche serve a better purpose to the balance of masculine and feminine, but instead he dismisses outright the validity of this Sol’s light. He specifically describes this black sun as being more like a “chronic eclipse of the sun” than the actual black sun of the masculine shadow, and he is very correct—of course it is a chronic eclipse of the sun, if Sol is the unconscious principle, and Luna the conscious one! Why, dear Dr. Jung, dear Carl! Did you ever see, I wonder? Or did you perhaps see and mislead? Had he penetrated only a little deeper into the feminine psyche, deep enough to discover that the eclipse can be seen through, he might have had an even more thorough understanding of Salt, of alchemy, and of the mind.
The above diagram demonstrates in a vague way what I mean by my descriptions of the feminine psyche when compared against the masculine one. The male’s path through consciousness is a simpler one because his association with Sol/Sulphur is readily apparent due to his gender. The difficulty for the masculine consciousness is usually of reconciling or recognizing feminine elements within oneself in addition to also recognizing the unpleasant, Saturnine, shadow elements. A male mind which is awakened has a much easier time not only coming about it due to social circumstances, but also due to literal biological circumstances. Women often sacrifice the entirety of their identity and become the archetype of ‘mother’ upon the creation of a child, and though the same is sometimes true of men and fatherhood, this is more the exception than the rule; men are better able to balance the roles of ‘father’ and ‘provider’ because they are one in the same, but it is difficult for a mother to be both ‘mother’ and ‘provider’ in terms of fitting to the actual archetypes. Rather than ascribing herself to the Great Mother role, the working or single mother must, by virtue of her being in the workforce, provide the kind of example for her children which is normally provided by the masculine role model—things like time management, diligence, workplace ethics and office logic are typically the domain, not of feminine intuition, but of masculine organization. This is closer to the situation of the overbright solar character which Jung describes above; the woman must push away her intuitive, Lunar way of being and subscribe herself to the purely logical ways of being supported by the masculine society. Because she is not acknowledging the Lunar portion of her psyche, this woman is just as imbalanced as a woman who, in her hyper-femininity, earth-mother way of being, cannot acknowledge that she has within her any hint of the masculine. But the light of the moon is cast by the sun; and the true meaning of the albedo is the amount of light reflected from an object, indeed, like the face of our very Luna.
As to the nature of the woman’s black sun—the nature of the woman’s black sun is all hidden in the secret of the phrase ‘a chronic eclipse of the sun’. Once this eclipse is recognized, it ceases to be chronic—the personal revelation of the eclipse in the woman is more than enough to bring on, not the above overbright solar character, but the spiritual consciousness of Mary Magdalene, who saw the rising of Christ, or even the ecstatic experience discovered by Saint Theresa, who was penetrated by the orgasmic spear of the angel in the same manner that consciousness penetrates matter. The recognition that one is not looking at a sun which is black unto itself, but rather an eclipsed sun, also causes us to pay careful attention to the cause of that eclipse—that is to say, the position of the moon relative to the earth. The duty of the equally feminine earth, then, is to first recognize that the appearance of the black sun is neither a disaster, nor the be-all, end-all of her unconscious principle. Instead, it is an indication of the impurity of the sun, tainted, as it were, by the moon—the moon which covers it, which stands between the observing earth and the hot, bright sun. The movement of the moon, and its waxing and waning, is a result ever of the position of the earth, as much as the position of the moon, and so both must work in tandem to reveal the sun; the sensible and grounded terra must reach out to the intuitive moon, which, despite its presence as the primary dominant symbol of feminine consciousness, represents, all the same, the mysterious connection of consciousness to the unconscious, and of matter to psyche.
When a woman sees the sun is black and knows it to be not a sign of the apocalypse, but rather a result of the relation of the earth to the moon, and of the earth and the moon, then, to the naked Sol, the next confrontation becomes the issue of the waxing and waning of the moon. It is by this waxing and waning, indeed, that the moon distinguishes herself from the sun; each month, she dies, and each month she is born again by virtue of his light. The new moon, the blackening, occurs when the moon is between the earth and the sun, in a manner similar to the eclipse of the sun which results in the feminine Sol Niger, the corruption of Sulphur as it expresses itself in a woman, which, despite Jung’s postulations that the shadow is always the same sex as the viewer, is often masculine in a woman, because her new moon is a feminine blackness enough. These two phenomenons seem to be similar, and they are indeed related as they are both a consequence of the moon coming between the sun and the earth; but the difference between a new moon and a solar eclipse is as many as five degrees in position, and this must be considered very carefully by any woman who, in the course of her alchemical studies, turns to the positions of the planets in pursuit of enlightenment. There is a shadow which attaches itself to the ego, and there is a shadow which attaches itself to Logos, and they are related, indeed, expressions of the same shadow; but that is only insofar as the nature of light causes shadows to combine, so that, arguable, there is no difference between ‘your’ shadow, ‘my’ shadow, ‘our’ shadow, ‘that’ shadow—it is all just shadow which we perceive as belonging to this thing or that thing, to you or to me, to the ego or to Logos.
Though recognition of the new moon rather than a black sun can at first be discouraging, for it rules out at the time of its appearance the possibility of an eclipse, it is an empowering experience, for the Sol of the feminine psyche may be extrapolated simply by the presence of the light upon her Lunar face, just as the existence of a greater shadow is indicated by the existence of my lesser one. The full moon occurs, indeed, when the earth is between the moon and sun, leaving thus the only heavenly bodies between them first Venus, then Mercury, and these planets are easy enough for the mindful woman to negotiate. Indeed, I should argue that women have a far easier time with this portion of alchemy—the struggle of male alchemists is not the revelation of Luna, but it is the problem of freeing and utilizing Mercurius, which can be even more at issue when Mercurius emerges in his hermaphroditic or purely feminine, Venusian aspect. Though it is easy for the masculine Self to accept that he has a feminine side of himself, after all, it is not as easy to accept the same of God. The work required of a woman simply to come to terms with the indications behind the presence of Black Sulphur in the vessel—that is to say, the amount of work to even see the black sun against the outline of the sky, the amount of effort required to even see one’s own shadow, to catch it in action, and therein discover the masculine aspect hidden within all conscious being, no matter how feminine—ah, ah, now that level of effort is something which, in ways, makes the understanding of Mercurius (Hermes), of Venus (Aphrodite) a thing of perfect cogency to the feminine mind. The woman has an affinity with the Snake for a reason, you see? For the Awakened Woman is the perfect Hermaphrodite, even if she is purely feminine: she is a spiritual hermaphrodite in the same sense as Christ, in the same sense as the Awakened Man, who, like Hermaphroditus raped by the feminine naiad Salmacis, has no choice but to succumb to the spirit of the anima rising up within him, the spirit of the unconscious feminine element.
And what is it, then, that makes rise the presence of the feminine element in the man, and the masculine element at the woman? The sperm and ovum of course contribute varying sides, varying genetics, and the social bath in which the resulting sperm-ovum combination is evolved then contributes countless important elements. The nature of this bath—whether it be acidic or basic, what chemicals it contains based on what its carrier has consumed, etc—all play an integral role in the resulting ego, and on the consciousness which can be born from that ego. Babies, which lack consciousness, are pudgy, soft and bound to the first circuit and the physical comfort needs of the first circuit, and these helpless round objects are considered inherently feminine because they lack consciousness, because they are soft and new from the woman, as the sprouted seed is still so new from the earth that it can hardly be yet called a plant. The most confidently masculine of men are those men who are most conscious, for they are aware of the feminine within them and find masculine security in the acceptance of it. Throughout the centuries, however, women have been encouraged to dampen and mute their consciousness. They have been restrained in the arenas of education and the working world, and as a result, opportunities for heightened consciousness have been significantly less than those available for their male counterparts. This is due to the inherent illusion of matter, the matrix, if you will, mother earth, Maya, the moon which reflects the light of the sun—whatsoever you wish to call it, the challenge of producing the Stone, freeing Mercurius, of noticing the Observer within the feminine vessel in the first place is of exceptional difficulty.
When one is carried away by emotions, as is anyone in a body whether male or female, and as are in particular many feminine women, and even those who are less feminine but still under the pains of estrogen, one is dropped to a lower level of consciousness—the first or second circuit, often, but the fourth can also prove a tremendous distraction, and indeed pose the cause of ruination as great as any amount of second circuit passion-aggression or first circuit cycles of attraction-fright. Lust blooms with destruction, and those who would destroy are full of a tremendous lust for it, knowingly or unkowingly. One had ought never to discount exactly how unconscious the average man is; how deceptive the somnambulist state of the average man can be. Women are at particular danger with this because they are more consistently given a physical consequence for their lust—again, emotion has a tremendous effect on the body. This danger comes not only in the form of condemnation and accusations of things like witchcraft in the form of seduction and victim-blaming in cases of sexual assault, but also motherhood, which causes an over-identification with matter and, in far too many esoteric types, gives way to the aging hippie ‘earth mother’ personality type which inevitably ends up believing in the healing power of earth magnet balance bracelets and other almost aggressively obnoxious homeopathic remedies. This, incidentally, is also the root of those who would place undo emphasis on the magical power of the menstrual cycle. What the menstrual cycle truly is, in fact, is a symbol of not only woman’s consciousness, but of the corrupt and violent nature of matter: that which gives life reaches the peak of its being and comes then to a bloody and painful end. Like the corruption which causes the Blackness of Sulphur, of Sol, of Luna, of the nigrido, the blood of a woman’s womb must reach maximum capacity and prove its fruitlessness before it is shed away: “A-ha,” says the woman, who has been in the clutches of heightened emotions and perhaps even premature pain, “that is what has been wrong with me! I’ve been PMSing!” “A-ha,” says the woman who has been awakened, “that is what has been wrong with me! I am trapped in matter!”
It is also worth noting that, when a star’s core has been transmuted to iron by the incredible forces engaging within it, it faces a tremendous energy crisis: this material, associated with both violent Mars and the heavy weight of the Earth, as well as, what else, but the very blood of our bodies, is the cause of implosions in the core of the star in which it builds and results in a super-nova of the overlaying material. The debris thrown back into space contains a mixture of elements. Martin Rees’ book Just Six Numbers is full of beautiful and unintentional symbolism of the mind, and is well worth a read for any alchemist or mystic.
The ideal is that one should see the body of the moon but also the light of the sun which is reflected off of it. When one sees a black sun, one should understand that it is nothing but the true sun as observed with the matter of the moon in the way. Indeed, I might go so far as to argue that Jung put too much distinction on the black suns of the male and female, and that indeed the male and female psyches could be constellated in near identical ways: for is the man’s black sun, the man’s shadow, not as much a result of the hypnotic and unconscious effect of the feminine moon upon the dreaming Sol as the woman’s a result of her own eternal and bodily Lunar eclipse? The male and female manifestations of Nous, or of Mercurius if you would rather, are not so very different at all, not at their hearts. Only by virtue of social conditioning does the Nous forget its inherent maleness and plunge headlong into the emotional sea of femininity and feminine being. The alchemy of the woman, and the struggle to extract the pollution from the Black Sulphur and render it Red, is one of profound and slow self-revelation. Awakening in its purest sense is a difficult issue for a woman, who is so often encouraged to look outside of herself for what she needs—her lover, her child, her career is meant to fulfill her, much as a man’s lover, his lineage, his career is meant to fulfill him—but even when she looks within herself, she often makes the fatal mistake of looking at herself not as ‘human’, but as ‘woman’. Witches’ covens and would-be Babylons and those who place an undo focus on the power of femininity over the power of humanity are spreading a falsity just as much as any spread by the patriarchy. The substance of the ‘monkey body’, as Terence McKenna called it, is the same whether male or female, and thus, with the correct mindset, men and women are equally capable of experiencing the Logos, and also experiencing Nous. Anyone who does not believe this is but a slave to falsity; the number is one, and not two, two and not three or four, and nor is it eight, for that matter. Anything which is not one is but a symbol striving to reconcile itself with its opposite condition to become one.
ON WORKING TOWARDS A MATHEMATICS OF THE PSYCHE
Language and imagination are the two most important things in the world, and one is rooted in the other. The dawn of man came not with the activation of second circuit violence, but rather with the development of the third circuit function of time-binding, or, as I prefer to call it, narrative building. It begins with one human’s development of language, which came into the mind of that first inspired, blessed man like the light of a fire; which opened his eyes to the world, to the world and himself, and which first, chronologically speaking, lit the globe like the light of the dawning sun. The first man builds the first narrative and passes it along to his brothers, his sisters, his daughters and sons so that it becomes ‘history’, and each generation of children not only takes to it faster but builds more words, and does more with the language. Conflicts which might otherwise not arise, or arise in more passive fashions, arise as a result of new errors in communication. The tool for awareness and time-binding which by necessity severs the objects of the world from one another also severs people from one another; it is just as capable of garnering peace agreements, however, which otherwise might never have been achieved. The Word is of tremendous power—of such tremendous power that the end of the Bible is, in a sense, the story of its psychedelic manifestation.
William S. Burroughs often and loudly posited the idea that language is a virus—an alien invader from outer space, as it were, which controls the human mind. He was, of course, right, though consciousness—Nous, is the interplanetary virus, and Logos is the vehicle by which Nous perpetuates itself. The thought is the language, the language is the thought. Concrete and articulate thoughts are constrained within the boundaries of language; as children, we often do not realize something is a distinct possibility in the world apart from other things until we learn of its existence, like a bunch of naïve middle schoolers first learning about homosexuality on the bus from one particularly aware child. The most concrete thoughts, and the most effective teaching tools, are often metaphors like the one in the previous sentence: we are able to relate, in the sense of being told a story, the new idea to the old idea, and in so doing we form a model of the new idea. The most powerful metaphors, however, are always visual metaphors.
Nous and Logos are two separate things, two entities which work hand in hand: Mercurius and Sulphur. Logos is what brings about Nous, in the sense of proceeding it, in the sense of being required for Nous to experience itself and the world in a static, definable way. In the beginning was indeed the Word—then came Consciousness, and then, after consciousness, an awareness of the bodily Self. The ultimate goal of language—that is to say, of Logos—is to provide a psychedelic experience, in essence, unto itself—this much is reflected in the nature of the liturgical hymn as it is in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, or the invocative scripts of the Pyramid Texts. Or, say, the Nag Hammadi Library, which returned to us the incredible genius of The Thunder, Perfect Mind. The list of texts contributing to the final and inevitable goal of language is endless, but it is all the same, and perfectly self-evident in the nature of language itself, and the evident desire of consciousness to reach ever greater heights of total understanding. The ultimate desire of consciousness is to have perfect conscious experience of all things; ultimately, Logos is working towards the liberation of Nous, which cannot know itself if it does not have a self to know or a means by which to know it. That is why, in order to achieve either one of these things, a vessel—a partner—is required. Specifically, what is required is one who is willing to actively work with the Logos, to be subsumed in its psychedelic experience and perfect understanding of its language, so as to heighten Nous and liberate it, Sophia, and Mankind. Logos blurs the lines between the figurative world and the literal, between the imagination and the waking world, and it is the duty of the psychiatrist, the occultist, the alchemist, and the common man, alike, to lift his consciousness ever higher for the good of the greater whole. The closer language is to achieving a perfect understanding, the closer humanity is to liberation. To that effect, it is better for the uninitiated to think of Nous not as ‘Mind’, but as ‘Consciousness’, and of Sophia not as ‘Wisdom’, but as ‘Mind’. This slight adjustment to the labeling is an adequate starting point which can then be resolved into greater, more classical understanding at the proper juncture, when one has become conscious enough to do so.
In order to heighten one’s consciousness, one must strive to be conscious. It is no coincidence that those who worship Logos often teach a kind of mindfulness. Burroughs, though he feared and misunderstood the Logos and the framework it provides Nous and Sophia, was one of many people in his time to become interested in what he called the “Do Easy” way of living, what is called by Zen Buddhism mindfulness, what is called by many others many things. But it is simply a process of being conscious; and in becoming conscious, the mind gains a greater understanding of itself, its environment, and the relation of that self to the environment. Nous inhabits the body to experience, and so a man who is unconscious and who does things with the automation of a robot cannot be home to Nous—or, if he finds himself home to Nous, but then slips again into unconsciousness, he is risking his very life, for the Nous may seek then physical liberation from the gross matter of its ignorant prison. A similar principle may be applied in terms of consciously viewing the external environment as a series of projected symbols. If I live in a messy and oppressive environment, I am promoting a messy and oppressive way of being, a messy and oppressive mindset. For a similar reason, one must strive to be impeccable with one’s Word, for the Word is all there is, and until we as a species are capable of telepathy and thus the direct insertion of our intent and empathy, we must ever strive for total clarity of communication. It is not agreeable that one should turn one’s consciousness away from what is unpleasant, what is horrible; nor should one’s consciousness be made to seek it out. These things indeed must be observed as they arise, investigated and considered while they are before the mind, and then set aside when they have left one’s vision. That which oppresses us must be faced and subsumed, that it may be reconciled into a greater understanding.
The gnsotic writer and the alchemical writer both wish for the same thing, but the pattern of the alchemical writer is easier to define, so we will focus on that. Previously we have mentioned that the three principles of alchemy can be applied to all facets of life. To reiterate, a gross oversimplification:
- Mercurius – Nous – Conscious
- Sulphur – Logos – Language
- Salt – Sophia – Matter
Mercurius, which is hermaphroditic, works both with Sulphur and with Salt, and as a result combines to form both the male and female principles, which in and of themselves, in their Sol and Luna form, psychologically speaking, represent the conscious and unconscious, or the dominant and suppressed functions of the psyche. By their nature as symbolically male and female, then, these conscious and unconscious principles can be reconciled. What alchemy is, essentially, is a form of active psychotherapy based in conscious projection.
So what can I project it on? Oh, anything. Alchemists once commonly did so upon their chemical substances as a result of their long periods of isolation, but the far more constructive method is not to seek out a particular way to do it, but instead to project its contents upon whatever one finds in one’s waking life. I have, for instance, a very dear friend, who is a wonderful grower of plants, and through his light touch with the vegetative world I have had the fortune of observing firsthand the manner in which the Pattern applies to a certain species of psychoactive plants. The Sulphurous grower engenders the Salt of the soil with the Mercurial seed, and from this springs the plant, with either the feminine or the masculine gender in dominant expression; interestingly, if put under stress, the feminine plant has a high chance of becoming a hermaphrodite and thus self-fertilizing. Certain conditions of the soil, like the level of humidity, tend to increase the likelihood of the female plant; and it is up to this female plant, then, to produce the THC-rich crystals which will coat the leaves, and to accept in its turn, as the soil before it, engenderment, if applicable, in the form of male pollen. Plants which realize they will not be home to male pollen amp up the production of THC, and for this reason it is desirable that the grower should prevent fertilization from occurring. Interestingly, there is little understanding as to why the plant produces THC, though some theorize that it provides a mild pest protection; indeed, though the soil and excrement in which the plant grows attracts flies, after a certain point small flies seem unable to bear the smell or sensation of the crystals, and are thereafter seldom seen on the leaves of the plant. Spider mites, though, are evidently another issue entirely, so this does not seem to be the case. Either way, at the end of its life, a successful plant has remained unpollinated and produced a massive amount of THC for the original gardener—again, the original Red Sulphur principle in this equation—to smoke or distribute to other smokers. The Mercurial spirit of the seed has been transformed into an unrecognizable form which is then absorbed into a greater life form, and the Salt of the soil must be somehow be revitalized, or, if not that, then returned to the earth from whence it came. When the process of growing plants—even a literal tomato—is done in mindfulness, every smallest thing becomes a sublime symbol of the divine, and life is revealed as one tremendous act of creation, one great unfurling mutual orgasm which beats in the hearts of all things.
The mathematics of the psyche is alchemy. What Jung was endeavoring to do was create a universal system of symbols by which Man could be awakened—he swept through as much literature as he could find in hopes of revealing the commonalities across cultures, and my God! What a job he did—what a far more incredible job he might have done had he lived in the age of the Internet, what a job anyone with a keen perception might do given the opportunity to assess the patterns laid out plain before him! I posit that there is a combination of thoughts, a logical flow, by which the human mind has no choice but to reach enlightenment—a form of magic spell, if you will, or invocation to awaken the Atman, the Holy Spirit, whatever one would care to call it. This is the initial discovery of most successful faiths, I think—truly, deeply successful ones, not ones which simply appeal to some passive need to be a part of the greater church-going whole. Someone discovers a successful thought experiment which gives multiple people the subjective experience of the divine, and it then becomes doctrine. The problem, however, is that the language becomes muddled and, as the generations move forward, the symbols are taken for literal reference, to mean things in and of themselves; and there are always those who cannot, for whatever reason, find success in that particular method of programming, but do it anyways because they are supposed to be doing it according to what is normal for their friends and neighbors, or because they think God is found in a church, in the sky, instead of in Man. To give an example, Protestant Christianity is entirely hopeless, and is in fact actively delaying the progress of humanity as a whole due to their inability to understand the meaning of a metaphor. A true understanding of the nature and drive of the metaphor, however—to produce firsthand experiential understanding of an alien concept based on existing knowledge—leads one to read all things in a new light, the Bible most of all. A true understanding of the nature and drive of the metaphor leads one to unlock a true understanding of language, and the realization that language is nothing more than living metaphor, and the realization that metaphor is built on a combination of experience and imagination. We must live, that we may unlock the secret of the metaphor; we must think, that we may unlock the secret of the metaphor; we must produce, that we may unlock the secret of the metaphor.
There is no one perfect way to experience the metaphor, but that is only because mankind does not yet have sufficient technology—and thus a sufficient material basis—by which to express the metaphor, though it can still attempt to express it in many ways with varying degrees of success. The metaphor’s vehicle is everything, but it becomes most transparent in the forms of deliberate artwork produced by Man, that is to say: writing, music, sculpture, painting, etc. The subject of what defines art is another issue entirely, but for purposes of this essay it becomes any system engendered by Man which utilizes symbols to express a creative or philosophical intent, which must then be interpreted by those who interact with that system. When we read a story or look at a painting we are, in a sense, computers running a program, and different operating systems with different users will have different experiences with different programs in the same way different egos with different backgrounds react differently to different works of art. This is why the idea of there being one universal ‘program’ to awakening true Consciousness is a difficult one to achieve, but not a necessarily impossible one. It is the nature of many fairy tales, after all, to impart the same cultural programming over and over, across generations—indeed, fairy tales themselves tend to operate on multiple symbolic levels which provide us with a wealth of thought fodder, dealing with both social concerns and esoteric concerns. The “Don’t talk to strangers” lesson of Little Red Riding Hood could just as easily be read as a veiled warning about the dangers to consciousness in pursuing lower-circuit, unconscious tasks into the woods with hedonistic intent rather than continuing the straightforward mission to the Dying Monarch archetype in need of renewal. The story of Hansel and Gretel bears a similar uncanny warning to young boys about being lured by strange women, and generally deals with 4th circuit sexual terrorism—but it is also just as easily read as the story of a boy who is lost in the woods of a nigrido-blackened unconscious, who then falls into the clutches of the Saturnine, poisonous witch of ‘inevitable’ psychological (or even physical) death, and must be liberated by his anima. One should strive, in reading and writing stories (and, indeed, doing all things) to be conscious of every level of interpretation: the literal implication, the social implication, the psychological implication, the esoteric implication. These final two implications indeed often look very much the same, and that is because the psychological implication is closest to the esoteric implication.
As to what all of this has to do with the Devil, and with alchemy in general, well, the Devil is naught but the Christian interpretation of the Spirit Mercurius, arising in his male, chthonic aspect. In a previous article, I described a pair of quaternities, the Christian and Chthonic, which are represented in the following diagram:
These are the same quaternity described in two different ways. There is a universal meaning which can be derived from these symbols, however, or a meaning which is close to universal, and that is a meaning best represented by a three-dimensional cross. The best way to understand this one might to make little labels, take a crucifix and represent it to yourself in real life.
‘Extroversion’ and ‘Introversion’ is, of course, just another way of describing the Christian and Chthonic modes of thought. The terms are here utilized in a less conventional way than the Myers-Briggs interpretation; it is here in reference to one’s relation to the world versus one’s self, rather than the manner in which one interacts with people. While it is true that the beloved town preacher is extroverted in the conventional sense, and the hut-dwelling hermit introverted in a similar manner, it applies on a deeper level than mere personality type—it has more to do, as a term, with how one reacts to matter and emotion. The use of this cross is nothing more than to understand the quaternities in a basic sense and perhaps to pin down a better understanding of the manners in which Mercurius manifests, but once it is grasped it should be thrown away, because it is little more than a map by which the position of the Self to the Spirit may be roughly triangulated. Accordingly, the Christian Devil emerges as the Introverted, Masculine, Conscious manifestation of the Spirit with an emphasis on Matter. Other manifestations of the archetype may appear in other ways. Either way, it is working with Mercurius, the prima materia, which is necessary for the process of alchemy; he must be extracted from the Devil or whatever other prima materia one might begin with, and the lapis, then, extracted from Mercurius. The manner in which this is most obviously done is in the process of writing and analyzing. As previously discussed, Man owes a duty for his consciousness, and must create with it—but the higher tax is understanding that which he creates, and creating it mindfully. When the alchemical pattern—the Hermetic pattern—is applied to one’s work, illumination is achieved; symbols unfurl with their meaning, and one becomes aware of a kind of resonance had by the written work upon the waking world. The conscious writer, the conscious artist, the conscious alchemist, realizes that the material with which he works is naught but himself, and so the utmost caution and reverence is required. And he also knows that, because he is not truly the one doing the Work, he has little more than a simple set of duties: to make himself available for the work, to open himself as a vessel for the Logos and the Nous, to experience as much as possible so Nous has as many metaphors to draw upon as possible. In writing, the author is the source of the Sulphuric drive which engenders the Salt of the paper with its words, the language, then, being in this case the Mercurial substance, the prima materia; there then is produced the conscious story, with its unconscious motivations, and by reconciling and observing these masculine and feminine story elements together the author is able to come to feel a greater whole—a greater understanding of his own psyche, and a more complete story. There is a reason why so very many powerful stories take a little, not a lot, from an author’s life—and why these stories often come to life with such grand vividity upon the page. An author is an alchemist preforming an operation upon the various principles of his psyche, no matter how seemingly mundane—but a conscious author is an alchemist which has an opportunity to advance sincerely the Art, the Great Work called by many names, and that is the greatest duty of all.
The first step is, of course, the nigrido—the blackening. One must purge the poison, must face the Black Sun and the New Moon, before the Lunar Eclipse can take place and the sun may cast its reddening light upon her pale face. I wrote a book about a serial killer; you might craft a particularly violent opera, or paint a painting—hopefully not, like Richard Vasko, one of human blood, but if that is what your soul commands, then who am I to throw stones? Delilah, My Woman is the story of a man who was, like many men before him, lost in the nigrido of material life; Albedo is a very deliberate attempt to recover from the enormity of the experience of writing so purgative a work. The nature of these works to my psyche was not conscious to me until I realized it this past February, but now I have found it out to some small extent, and my Work is proving a very intense and pleasurable endeavor. Yours should, too. Though it is dangerous business—sometimes agonizing, painful business which looks like sheer madness from the outside, which looks pathetic and useless—it is a wholly worthwhile endeavor, alchemy. “Man, know thyself,” says the Lord: and there is no better way to know thyself than to examine with objective eye the outputs of one’s work. No one will ever know Finnegans Wake better than James Joyce, and even his understanding of the work stops at a certain level of symbolic reason—the rest of the secret lay in the bosom of Logos, with all secrets of the tongue, and it is only by the raising of Nous to vast heights of knowledge that the Salt of mankind, the corrupted matter of Sophia, may ever be purified enough to receive it.
Come back next week for an essay about the esoteric music of David Bowie, and in the meantime, from August 12th through August 14th, Delilah, My Woman is free on Amazon, so consider leaving a review if you get yourself a copy, or at the very least recommending it to some friends.
M. F. Sullivan is the author of Delilah, My Woman and the work in progress, Albedo, a Hermetic fairy tale endgendered by the Logos. Click here to download Delilah, My Woman for free from August 12th through 14th, or buy yourself a lovely hardback copy.