When I tell people I’m an Alchemist, the first thing they usually ask me is what that means exactly. “So, you’re, like, trying to turn metal into gold?” they say, incredulously. “What, like Harry Potter?”
No. Not like Harry Bloody Potter! I am a spiritual alchemist. For me, then, alchemy can best be described as the “chemistry of the soul”. I am a metallurgist of deeper meanings, seeking to transmute my soul, not base metals.
Believe me, I am not alone in this respect. From alchemy’s very first inception there has existed two camps within its ranks. On the one side were those literally intent on finding the secret of changing lead into gold. These alchemists are known disparagingly as “puffers”, due to the bellows they fire their alembics with. And the other camp sought the more spiritual goal of releasing their spirit (or pneuma) from the dross that makes up this imperfect physical existence.
It took the genius of Carl Jung to reinterpret the great alchemical tracts of the past as being symbolic representations of the process of becoming psychologically whole, something he called individuation.
And it is some kind of cross between Jung’s psychological approach to alchemy and the work of the earlier spiritually-minded (often Gnostic) alchemists that I feel my own Work is most-closely aligned to.
So what is it that I actually do, then, as an alchemist, if I am not trying to discover the philosopher’s stone and turn other less-precious metals into gold?
Simply put, I turn my dreams into reality.
Mostly, I’m talking about those actual dreams I remember having dreamt upon waking. Yes, those kinds of crazy, disjointed amoral psychodramas that flood our minds while we sleep. I take those and try and bring them to life. And I do this by living symbolically.
A mundane example might be that I have had (as I did last night) a dream of going ice-skating, a past-time I don’t normally partake of. And so, when I wake up, I try and find a way of incorporating the idea of skating somewhere into my daily activities.
But don’t think it’s as literal as all that. It’s not like I race off to the closest ice-rink and start skating figure-eights for the next eight hours. Trust me, I have just as many responsibilities and time constraints as you yourself.
No, I try and “distil the essence” (an alchemical reference) of the dream down to its most basic components. For instance, what did it feel like to be skating in my dream? Well, I felt powerful and my legs felt supremely muscular as I carved up the ice under my skates. It surprised me, in fact. It surprised me to feel how physically adept I was at something I have never really spent any time trying to master.
Okay, to me, then, the dream seemed to be about the joy and feeling of strength to be found in physical movement. And, you know, it took me all day to “real-ise” this feeling. But I did it, when I raced my child in the park today. Instead of sitting behind a computer for once, I suddenly “found myself” being propelled across the ground by the legs I’d almost forgotten I have. Not a moment of Olympic glory, to be sure, but a peak experience of sorts in the life of a spiritual alchemist…
And that’s enough for me. Because it’s not about going for gold, as far as I’m concerned. It’s about listening to the whispers of the soul, while chasing your dreams. And in the process, who knows what you might discover about yourself? I discovered I could write a novel, fashion handmade jewellery and create digital artwork, like the image below: