April 17, 2024
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Using Sacred Alchemy in Your Creative Works

Hermes Trismegistus was a sage in the ancient world in the regions of Greece and Egypt who wrote about the metaphysics of Alchemy— the mysterious, magical process by which raw, mundane materials like lead can be transformed into pure gold. These esoteric writings have proven indispensable, not so much to scientists as to psychoanalysts, artists and magicians, for whatever their utility in actually transforming material elements may be, the descriptions of alchemy and alchemical operations serve as deep, rich metaphors for processes of the human psyche, and the modes by which something can be made out of nothing.

The psychoanalyst, Carl Jung has argued that the Alchemists were not so much describing chemical or biological transformations occurring within their equipment as they were describing processes of transformation that were occurring within the psyche of the Alchemist himself. The process of lead transforming into gold corresponded to the psychological process of individuation— that is, the integration, purification and exaltation of the psychic elements of the individual.

When an artist creates a piece of art, she is performing an analogous process of integration. In order to accomplish this feat, the artist must bring all the disparate elements that are warring within herself into harmony. As artists, we must be inspired, visionary, dreamy and experimental, and we must also be rational, discerning, disciplined and realistic. A great work of art has something of our hearts and also something of our minds; it speaks a spiritual truth, yet has a physical form.

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Ceremonial magic, as well as what we in modern times call “manifesting” or deliberate creation, also require this kind of integration. On the one hand a magician or deliberate creator must be decisive, clear and grounded in stating what he wants, and on the other hand he must let go and surrender to higher powers to allow that desire to come into being.

When the Magician or Artist finds unity, wholeness and completion on his inner planes, he also finds unity, wholeness and completion on the outer planes, in his manifested work. This is one of the meanings of the Alchemical axiom, “As within, so without”.

At the end of the Emerald Tablet, Hermes Trismegistus speaks of this process of integration as the key to creating the Alchemical work: “Therefore I am called Thrice Great Hermes, having all three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe.”  Here Hermes Trismegistus is referring to the process of mastering the three fundamental planes of being: Physical, Mental and Spiritual. Success was found when the triad was in perfect balance, for when one plane is neglected, the other two suffer.

Let’s explore the meaning and properties of each of the planes to better understand how we may ourselves become Alchemical Masters in our quest to create the Great Work!

Alchemy 1: The Spiritual Plane

This Spiritual Plane correlates to the Archetypal qualities of the true self, including your higher ideals, spiritual principles and the inner guide. This is the realm of pure vibration or “Source” energy— what some may refer to as God or Universal consciousness— in which all beings are One. It is from this plane that we receive dreams, visions, inspiration, epiphanies, revelations, spiritual impulses and “downloads” of information from celestial sources.

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Before we have ideas or thoughts about what we want to create, we have some desire or attraction to certain ideals or qualities, and these impulses are what actually inspire us to seek form and expression.  The Higher Self or Inner Guide corresponds to this sphere because, in a very deep way, who you truly are comes down to what you love. The very will to create, express and explore have their roots in this plane.

Connecting to the Spiritual plane means tapping into the desires, values and simple joy of the process itself that originally drives us to create in the first place. Clarify your values and intentions in general, thematic ways, rather worrying about the finer details.

To reconnect with this Spiritual plane of creating we may ask the questions:

  • Where do I feel fascination?
  • What qualities, values or concepts am I innately attracted to?
  • What part of this brings me joy?
  • In what part of this process do I experience the simple fun of doing?
  • Where do I feel a sense of adventure, experimentation and exploration?
  • What activities or approaches put me in a flow state?
  • What influences am I inspired by? What works do I want to emulate?
  • What qualities characterize my favorite works by other people?

Alchemy 2: The Mental Plane

The Mental plane stands halfway between the Spiritual and Physical, having much of the freedom and unlimited quality of the Spiritual plane, while gaining more of the particularity and differentiation of the Physical world.

The Mind is, in a sense, the supervisor or middleman who listens to the desires and values of the Higher Self and figures out how to translate them into a manifested reality in the material world. The Mind conceives the blueprint by which the ideal building may be constructed. Without the Mind, we have only an aspiration and a pile of bricks.

Bringing the Mental plane into alignment within the triad of planes means getting clear about your methods. While there should always be room for following the inspiration of the moment, having certain structures in place in your artistic practice is enormously helpful for keeping yourself on track, especially when you are stuck or disoriented.

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Some artists have a “box of tricks” cataloging different techniques or approaches; when the artist has lost his way, he pulls a slip of paper out of the hat, and applies whatever is written on it to his piece as an experiment for releasing the block. Seeking out constructive criticism or feedback from others at the right stages can also be of immense value, since it is easy to become so enveloped in your own work that you lose objective perspective on it.

Alchemy 3: The Physical Plane

The Physical Plane is the world of seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, touching that we all know and live in every single day. This is the realm in which ideas and aspirations are brought to completion and attain their final form in the material world. The Physical plane focuses the energies on the other two, for thoughts and values only attain significance when they are physically manifested.

Integrating the Physical plane in a balanced way means developing rituals that are meaningful to you and which serve your productivity. Set realistic goals, and find structures, tools and time management solutions that help you meet those goals. Cultivate self-discipline so that you fulfill your commitment to work on your art, even on days you don’t feel like it. It is not always particularly beneficial to force yourself to create, but there are always supplementary activities— like practicing your instrument, doing drawing exercises, or reviewing what you have so far— that you can integrate on lower energy days. You are a channel for the higher planes to express through, so you have to give them the opportunity to do so by showing up!

The Trinity

Just as our Spiritual impulses affect our Mental thoughts, and our Mental thoughts affect our Physical actions, our Physical actions also have cascading effects in the other direction, upon the non-physical layers of our being.

This is one of the main reasons that magical ritual makes use of certain scents, sounds, symbols, and other sensory information rooted in the Physical plane. Through the Physical, we may affect and direct the energy of Mental and Spiritual planes.

Even in daily life, our words and actions telegraph important signals to the deep layers of our being about how seriously we take our work, how much we respect ourselves, and what we believe to be most important. And of course, our own physically manifested art works, when we finally get to step back and admire them in their completion, work wonders upon our Mental and Spiritual planes.

While we can easily delineate the properties of the three planes in words, it is hardly ever so easy to separate them in real life! All that we are is participating simultaneously in the Spiritual, Mental and Physical planes. Practice bringing these planes into balance, and you shall be a master, just like Hermes Trismegistus!

Life itself is Alchemical work, so find your balance and enjoy creating!