“Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood!” — Spiritual Alchemy and the Creative Process

Citrinitas — The 3rd Stage of Spiritual Alchemy (original artwork by Lorem Ipsum)

In an earlier post I gave a description of what I (along with many others) term spiritual alchemy — see here for that previous article.

Anyway, today what I wanted to focus on was how my own personal approach to spiritual alchemy informs and helps shape what I create as an artist.

For this purpose, I will be talking today in this context, in particular, about the novel I have written called Missing Zero. The subtitle of which reads thus, “an alchemical account of one man’s dissent from madness”.

A work of satire primarily, the novel incorporates many of the techniques of spiritual alchemy within its pages. And I will set about now trying to throw some light on what exactly some of those are, as well as what they entail.

First off, the most prevalent technique I use is one that is most widely known as dialoguing. My experience with this idea comes from what Jung called “active imagination” exercises. The basic gist is that you take a dream figure or absent party and you talk with them. The only twist is that you also supply the other person’s responses, by imagining what they would say if they were actually physically present.

So, you see, as an adjunct to the creative process of writing itself, I then took this technique of dialoguing to the next level and started having conversations with my novel, just as if it were another person in real life. In my imagination, therefore, I would picture myself, sitting on a beach talking to my book, only my book had the form of a woman, and I would ask it questions.

“But why on Earth would you do that?” I hear you asking incredulously. “Are you crazy?”

Well, crazy is as crazy does. Although what I really mean to say is that within a discipline like spiritual alchemy the division between sane and crazy often becomes quite fuzzy. But there is nearly always a benefit to be had from blurring the line in this fashion, believe me.

Let me explain further. The exact reason why I wished to talk to my novel was so I could ask for its help whenever I came to an impasse in the writing of it. For instance, by way of my asking the novel (it obviously still being in the form of a woman) what it wanted to be or why I couldn’t finish a certain section of the story, I was able to get unexpected insights into whatever it was I was currently struggling with.

Of course, the key to this process rests entirely in any given person’s ability to suspend his or her disbelief. And, I suppose, it’s equally obvious to say, like anything, it gets easier the more you do it. But most importantly of all, does it actually work?

Well, yes, in my case, I would have to say it worked for me. Not because I now have an option with Hollywood for a three-film deal against the novel’s book rights. But rather instead because I got through the process of writing my debut novel relatively in one piece.

Take a quick tour of other people’s blogs and one of the first things you’ll see is how many of them have bucket lists. And so, then, let me tell you, I’m not really all that different to anybody else. I’ve got my own version of one of these lists. Moreover, guess what, writing a novel pretty much headed my list.

For some people it’s bungee jumping, while for others it’s climbing to the base camp at Everest. But we spiritual alchemists are mountaineers of the soul, and so therefore my bucket list was always going to be about internal challenges and triumphs.

Whatever. Ultimately what all of this means is that I am am now free to move onto the next entry on my list, namely “securing an option with Hollywood for a three-film deal against the novel’s book rights”…hey, you’ve got to remember alchemy has always been about turning stuff into gold, right? So why not a little Oscar gold, awarded for Best Adapted Screenplay created from an original story, as well?

So, anyway, check this out, soon after I finished writing my novel I dreamt that Ellen DeGeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi played two key roles in the dream version of just such a film of my book. It was a brilliant piece of casting, and one that I would never have been able to come up with on my own.

Portia played the role of Dualia, a much-maligned and misunderstood hermaphrodite, whereas Ellen played the role of Dr Marie Louise von Auerbach, her “attention-shy but brilliant” superior within the ranks of a clandestine sisterhood of political anarchists. The “urst” between them was palpable.

I know, I know, you don’t care about that, because what you’re still really itching to find out (from earlier on) is what my novel said she wanted to be when I asked her that very question. Ok, I’ll tell you. In essence, then, just like everybody else, she said she felt a need to make a connection with other people. And the exact words she spoke to express this feeling were these…”I want to be understood”.

This is an image of the Ellen Degeneres and Po...

This is an image of the Ellen Degeneres and Portia DeRossi wedding cake topper sculpture by Michael Leavitt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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About Lorem Ipsum

Just some guy trying to figure out where the "on" switch is hid on the remote control—ah, forget it. Because, you know what, I'm also the kinda guy who always likes the book waaay more than the movie! View all posts by Lorem Ipsum

10 responses to ““Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood!” — Spiritual Alchemy and the Creative Process

  • MuseWriter

    Did you ask her any questions after the book was finished? Great read- good luck with the movie deal!

    • Lorem Ipsum

      No, sadly, I have neglected her of late. So, thank you, for your taking the time to comment at all, but also for your reminding me to practise what I preach!

      Also, though, I am intrigued to know what your Queen of Hearts might have to say to you? Don’t be afraid to give it a go, even if she is all “off with your head” to begin with. I suspect, Lewis Carroll was most certainly a spiritual alchemist if ever I spotted one…

      • MuseWriter

        do you think that all writers practice a little spiritual alchemy? i’ve never heard of this concept before and i find it interesting. i think that i might have been tempted to talk to my Queen but i don’t think she’s the right mentor for my current rhetoric path. i fancy someone tall, dark, and handsome…my muse. hence, muse writer. although, sometimes free verse writing leads into communications that can’t be planned. so who knows? maybe the Queen and i will have a chat one day after all 😉

        • Lorem Ipsum

          Yes, I really do think most writers are using spiritual alchemy, without even necessarily being aware of it. In order to put words into the mouths of their characters etc, writers are internally dialoguing with imaginal entities all the time. However, it’s when one realizes, for instance, that it is possible to talk directly to one’s muse in just such a way that things become really interesting. Also, within this context one isn’t just restricted to talk either. With mental practice, one can experience what it’s like to physically embrace said muse, in an imaginal sense. The more vivid the mental picture you have of your muse, the more revelatory this kind of contact can often be, where you next feel yourself melt into this “other” entity and becoming one with them. This being the true meaning of atonement (at-one-ment) with your muse.

      • MuseWriter

        i love it. i think i shall practice! i look forward to reading more of your material.

        • Lorem Ipsum

          I sincerely wish you every success with your practice! The key is not to confuse mere fantasy with the true power of the imagination. The Sufis claimed that the imagination was the seat of the soul. Whereas fantasy is a product of ego and leads to deceit and delusion.

          The other thing to remember is that it is up to you to delineate the boundaries of your encounters with the imaginal realm. For this reason, I like to lie down with my eyes closed, in a meditative state, and picture myself floating inside a cocoon of white life energy, before I begin any kind of dialoguing activity. This means I have chosen to establish contact with those imaginal entities I have questions for. The added benefit of this approach also means that any resulting experiences are much more immersive.

          Remember as well that you don’t have to push too hard to get responses to your questions, quite amazingly the imagination can create independent speech almost effortlessly, just think of your dreams as an example of this.

  • timidvoice

    I love all your posts about writing!

  • John

    I like your concept of spiritual alchemy. Most of the early alchemists were Christians (of sorts) who believed that material wealth could be made out of whatever is at hand. One did not have to rob, plunder or cheat your neighbor in order to prosper. God created abundance, enough for everybody. Wealth is created in the mind, so they prayed before each experiment for the Creator’s wisdom

    • Lorem Ipsum

      Yes, John, you’re right. Sorry for the cut and paste job, but this excerpt references exactly that point:

      There is also a strong Medieval Christian Alchemical tradition that equates Jesus to “the Water of Life” or “the Fountain of Life”, as well as believing the fabulous Elixir of immortality and the “living stone” of St. Peter (1Peter 2:4) to be the true Philosophers Stone. This same Christian Alchemical tradition holds that the true knowledge of the Elixir of Life and the real Philosophers Stone are essential to understanding the Secrets of the true Holy Grail.

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