Journey of Love: The Fate of the Alchemist

2013.06.01 DSCF1444 bw lores 16s ca The Fate of the Alchemist

Halloween is the perfect spell for exploring evil visitations and how we unconsciously invite more fear-provoking ghouls into our everyday lives without really knowing or understanding why. In this seasonal blog post I shall be bringing to light the fate of the magician, otherwise known as the witch, healer, or shaman, for the alchemist has many names. To begin with I’ll briefly explore the terms ‘alchemy’ and ‘fate’ before delving into one of Jung’s richest passages that I’ve ever had the good fortune to stumble across.

Alchemy is an ancient tradition shrouded in deep mystery and silence. Its mystics and followers mainly sought to turn lead into gold, a quest that captured the hearts and imagination of many people for thousands of years. Within the context of this article I will be using the word ‘alchemy’ as a metaphor for transformation as a human being, a kind of transcendence from base metal into spiritual gold by becoming your own best self, using your passions, talents, and experiences to greatest effect in order to reach your highest potential.

Fate is defined as forces outside of our control that make things happen. An example of this is when you miss your train and meet the woman who turns out to be your future wife, while standing on the platform waiting for the next InterCity. So as you can see, fate is generally considered to be the development of events outside somebody’s control, regarded as predestined by some kind of supernatural, mystical influence. Like movements written in the stars or dependent on the will of the Goddess alone, fate seemingly awaits us all.

The Fate of the Alchemist

But what if fate wasn’t true? What if the magic and mayhem of our lives were simply us creating our own reality, minute by minute. What then? This is where the alchemist steps in, as last week whilst reading Jean Raffa, one of my favourite writers/bloggers of Jungian Psychology, I came across one of Jung’s quotes that quite literally stopped me in my tracks for the entire day. It went like this: ‘The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.’

The unearthing of this quote has been profound as it feels like the greatest statement I’ve ever read about the truth of the Soul. It implies that what happens on the inside, always, always affects what happens on the outside. Oh sure I can see a few heads shaking right now and you wouldn’t be the first to tell me I’m a dreamer, yet, in the lyrics of John Lennon, ‘I’m not the only one.’ For I believe there’s a connotation to the word alchemy that evokes a certain kind of dreamer, someone who is tirelessly trying to change the ordinary into something extraordinary by means of mystery and magic.

The implications of this revelation being truthful are vast for humankind, because it asks the big questions, such as; is evil really out there or does it lay within? If so, what kind of crazy projections are we unconsciously sending out? If true we need to stop and check our internal conflicts before we unleash them onto the world. We must learn to integrate what is consciously felt and explore our personal shadow. For when shadows are cast ‘outside’ and the ‘good’ masks are pulled on, we split off from our disowned parts, allowing them to fall deeper into the shadow. We tell ourselves something like, “I’m a good person living in an evil world. I must separate from the evil inside of myself and put it out there” – this psychological process is called ‘projection’. Followed through we end up believing, “It’s them that’s evil, not me. I mean look at those terrorists, I’m not like them!” Yet if we pause and ask, “In what ways do we ‘terrorise’ ourselves?” we sooner or later recognise that we are all saints-sinners and everything in-between.

Now for some, it’s not people they consider evil but food, or sex, others still may be repelled by poverty. Essentially whatever we reject in ourselves falls into our shadow side, which quite naturally builds. Joseph Campbell writes “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” And this was true for me when after many years of marriage I decided I was so desperately unhappy, suicide became a real option such was the difficulty of ‘coming out of my closet’ as a gay woman back in the 90’s. My true sexual orientation was unacceptable yet everywhere I went, my shadow constantly sought out what my persona refused and frequently introduced me to yet another gay woman.

Journey of Love

Yesterday gave me the perfect opportunity to explore this rule while walking in my local park, where I encountered two large dogs well known by breed for their fierceness. Instead of my usual fearful attitude of moving as far away as possible, I meditated on ‘honouring’ my own fierceness. In other words I held in mind the wild fierce energy that lies in my shadow and thus, instead of being afraid of my shadow outside of me in the form of the dogs, I embraced it knowing that it exists within. As I passed, I swear those dogs smiled at me! Naturally, I wouldn’t recommend going up to any wild animal or dangerous situation to test this theory – this was just my way of beginning to look at my externalized shadow.

It helped me to better understand that the fate of the alchemist is to learn how to ‘hold the tension of the opposites’ to hold both positive and negative influences. Jung believed that anyone who attempted to do this significantly added to world peace. For to not only understand but face our inner demons prevents us from setting them loose into the world, where those evil visitations and ghouls always demand centre stage. Halloween, a time for dressing up and getting in touch with our inner demons, seems the perfect time to remind us, again in the words of Lennon, to “Imagine all the people living life in peace” by maintaining the tension of the opposites.

Lastly I’d like to give a nod to the doctor of the Soul himself, Jung, who I believe was a gift to the world! Since our second meeting I have to confess I’ve been absolutely spellbound. Was it fate? Well, I mostly like to think that I met him on my journey walking towards the Self. Similar to Samhain, this feels like a whole new cycle about to begin where hopefully my words have lit a fire against the winter’s dark so I can rejoice in the alchemist’s shadow that will soon come-a-knocking! A Blessed and Happy Samhain to all.

NB. For those interested, the life-size metal sculpture by Phillip Jackson in the image is holding a golden mask. I do not know its official title, yet for me she is affectionately known as ‘The Alchemist’ and is truly awe-inspiring to behold. When I first met her, I sat for a while in the sculpture garden, soaking up her ancient mystery and magic.

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2015

18 thoughts on “Journey of Love: The Fate of the Alchemist

  1. Absolutely bloody fascinating Deborah – I must say!

    I loved the way that you explained an alternative use of the word alchemy. You even managed to break it down in such a way that a layman could understand.

    Yes, this sits right with me …

    Well done you Xxx

    1. Thank you again Bathsheba for another truly inspiring comment today. Most generous! I think to date this has to be one of my most read blog posts. I’ve received several amazing emails from many writers, and alchemists all across planet blue saying similar things. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it too. xxx

  2. Hi Deborah,
    I began studying Jung with a meditation/philosophy/Jungian teacher in 1968. The idea of fate as a projection of the unlived or unseen inner world has guided my life since then. Also the sense that our spiritual/psychological work draws us into an alchemical journey.
    It’s been a gift to make contact with you and your work.
    Warmly, Elaine

    1. The feelings are richly mutual dear poet … for that’s what you are! Never have I read a book ‘Leaning into Love’ more poetical than yours. I hope you continue to follow that ‘red’ thread through the labyrinth of your life for many years to come. Your words; such treasure in one’s life. Thank you so much Elaine for the kindness of your reply and your warm words, truly appreciated always. Forever Jung-at-heart, Deborah

  3. This is so excellently written and brings up some very interesting concepts. After living through several manipulative and abusive relationships, I was so broken down and so bewildered that I realized there was something toxic inside of me that I was never dealing with or facing and it was somehow manifesting itself in my unhealthy relationships. That’s when I sought counseling. I knew that at the heart of my problem it was not a coincidence that I was moving from one bad thing into another. Counseling helped me face those ‘demons’ and move on with my life in a much healthier fashion. And my life just continues to improve because I am no longer hiding those toxic forces deep down inside. I have purged them. Well I am constantly working at purging them. Occasionally I find myself slipping, of course, but then I read articles like yours and it helps me put everything into perspective again. Thank you for your wonderful insights. All the best-Lindsey.

    1. Thank you so much Lindsey for your truly wonderful comment, much appreciated. I’m so pleased that you have been able to make that connection with the abusive relationships and your own toxic shadow. Confronting our dark, shadowy sides is often a gruelling yet compulsory task for us in order to whole-heartedly heal from within.

      Facing and purging those deadly demons cannot have been easy for you, it takes much heaps of courage and bravery … and patience too as the slow can be slow and enduring. Your blog is a true blessing, a treasure trove for many, who like myself live with the consequences that these toxic relationships leave behind for loved ones.
      Love and blessings, Deborah

  4. Dear Deborah, this is so beautifully written 🙂 You take a complex concept and present it in a totally clear and easy to understand way. Your passion for the subject matter is palpable and as such it is totally inspiring. Yes, it’s so important to be open to exploring all facets of our being and to accept even those parts of ourselves that we can’t fully understand or which we find difficult to accept because they’re in conflict with the image we (wish to) have of ourselves, or they are not in line with prevailing social/religious constructs and values. It’s not only acceptance we need, however, as you rightly point out; it’s also essential to engage in the alchemical process of “transcending our base metal into spiritual gold”. What you describe here speaks of “authenticity”, which is a human quality that I find so incredibly important. I am weary of the masks human beings put on and which I am also – at times – obliged to put on according to the social/professional setting I find myself in. It is such a joy whenever I am in the company of somebody who is truly authentic, and when I can also be at my most authentic. It feels extremely fulfilling and joyful. With age, I find it’s easier to walk an individual path, to no longer care too much what other people think, to really delve deep into the alchemical process, which ultimately is the main purpose of our existence on this planet. Love & blessings, always, Sam 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Sam for your rich, wondrous words here, know I treasure them always. I feel, even after six years of study I’m still very ‘wet behind the ears’ re: Jung … yet like Sleeping Beauty I’ve been awoken and my curiosity aroused, so yes, passion indeed as his work keeps me ‘Jung-at-heart.’ My own work as a psychotherapist for nearly twenty years continues to be an awe-inspiring psychological, spiritual adventure which has always felt vocational rather than any well-thought out career choice.

      Shadow work is the deepest, illuminating work I’ve encountered … I love the way Jung says not to judge this aspects within but simply to notice, explore their movements, and in doing so we throw light into the darkness and learn how to ‘integrate’ ourselves more. I whole-heartedly agree that being in the company of our/others truthfulness is a beautiful encounter … love and blessings always, Deborah. 🙂

  5. Your book remains a gift. I open it at random looking for a little synchronizity. As fate would have it, it never fails.

    The alchemy metaphor has been a guiding light for me. Turning lead to gold whenever possible. The concept of the oven, those periods of processing and the fact that it doesn’t happen on our schedule, I also felt has been important for me to learn to accept.

    Fate for me is Destiny’s child, she sure likes to smile. Lol. You know that one.

    Paul Chaffer, our fellow poet at hp, once “yelled” at me for using a solipsism in one of my poems, we went back and forth on the definition, but he was right, it means everything which happens in our lives is a projection. I think this what you’re saying. As I understand it those parts of ourselves that are unconscious, appear in dreams, motivate us and frame our thinking, one could say our view of reality. The stories we tell ourselves. Homophobia is a prime example and so often the one’s that shout the loudest are busted with methamphetamine and a young man.

    I do think we can manifest realities, it has been said our chi follows our thoughts. But there is also germ theory, they float around and sometimes they get you. Particularly when you need a rest.

    Jung was an enlightened individual. He recognized our unity in the collective, put words to the pieces and parts of us as individuals and the human condition.

    Such an interesting discussion and just really enjoying the opportunity to think and write about such matters. I’m also remembering Deborah that day when we met out there on the “interweave. “

    1. Thank you so much Steve for your deep, rich contributions to this spiritual discussion. Oh my goddess I remember well the day we met as poets, out there in the ‘interweave’… on the open road, and the joyfulness that was brought into my life from that moment.

      I’m so pleased that you are enjoying my poetry book … it is more than this poet could hope for. I selected the white and black appearance to represent the light and shadow of my life and with poetical alchemy it is my divine wish to integrate within those pages. I have a deep, deep feeling you already recognise this.

      For as long as I remember I have been attracted to alchemy and further back if that makes sense, only I didn’t have a name for the mystery and magic … it just became too scary around the age of nine and I abandoned it, not knowing there would be a re-emergence later in life.

      ‘Fate is Destiny’s Child, she sure likes to smile’ …. Beyond language, incredible word-spelling!

      ‘Everything in our lives is a projection’ I am slowly unravelling this tenet and feel that one of the reasons I enjoyed my six months at HP so much was that, in hindsight (alongside the poetry) it presented me the unique opportunity to confront my shadow and my own projections … the chance to work ever deeper. Inestimable! What a gift … yet, as the shadow threatened to overtake I knew it was time (for me) to withdraw.

      I concur with the way that you view dreams and have been recording them for over six years now ever since my second meeting with the doctor of Soul, Jung … and it is through a Jungian, shamanic lens that I too explore them. A witch, barefoot in the grass … listening in. Love and blessings, Deborah.

  6. What a well thought out piece Deborah, rich with insight and knowledge. This is a major expansion on the theory of creating your own reality which I strongly believe in. With that I use positive intention in order to create a better world around me and to help me achieve my dreams. Your article gives me further insight in that the things that I don’t acknowledge within – those within my shadow – will come back as reminders in my everyday life until I acknowledge, accept and integrate them…fine tuning creating my reality even more. What a realisation – looking at everything I judge externally as being a part of me internally – I think there’s a lot of acceptance work here to do!!

    This really is an excellent post with information that I think would help many people to deal with their demons and live a more fulfilling life – Thank you Deborah for sharing it and keep spreading the word!! I will certainly look up Jean Raffa’s website – I am interested to read who you are reading.

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your simply wonderful response to my Halloween blogpost. I feel truly blessed to have met some beautiful, like-minded souls out here in the blogosphere!

      Yes, do read Jean, she’s amazing! It goes without saying that I whole-heartedly agree with your ‘acceptance work’ statement and also recognise the truth needed for the work ahead … for in accepting our shadow sides we find true liberation. If you ever felt inclined I would highly recommend tapping into the opulent vein of Jung, for the riches I have mined to date with his work have been absolutely incredible … exploring the Shadow, revelatory, life-changing!

      His memoir ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ is often a great place to start. ‘Fine tuning’ reality, I love that way of looking at soul evolution. I’m so pleased that my post speaks to you. Love and blessings, Deborah.

  7. Deborah, what an insightful and thought provoking post. I read it three times and will read it again so I can absorb the information and the amazing enlightenment you have provided with this piece.
    Although I could have not eloquently expressed it all like you did, I am in complete agreement with everything you have written here. Especially when speaking about “what happens on the inside always affects what happens on the outside.” It makes the most sense when one thinks of a disease or sickness. Your body fighting off a virus will most certainly give you a fever (what is happening on the inside is affecting what happens on the outside).
    I am also a big believer that change in the world first happens with changing ourselves. “Be the change you would like to see in the world” is the quote I live by and feel you have taken this idea to such a meaningful and eye opening level.
    I appreciate this piece so very much!
    Thank you for enlightening me and reminding me to go inward before going onward.

    1. Thank you so much Lily for your great response to my musings on Jung’s psychological rule, truly appreciated! If it helps I’m still ‘reading’ too … over and over again as my past experiences has taught me always that new ideas can take a while to ‘land’ before the inner processing begins … so there’s been lots of winged-words flying around inside this past week and et voila! Today, three newly ordered books arrive.

      The joy of this rule means that positive things come to us too! And on the subject of joy, one of the most delightful things about writing in the ‘blogosphere’ has meant that I’ve been able to connect with a small handful of simply wonderful, like-minded souls like yourself. For this I’m truly grateful. I love that quote by Mahatma Gandhi and share your values and beliefs around his philosophy. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed this post thank you and blessings always, Deborah.

  8. Deborah, you are “the Alchemist!” I don’t know where to start because Jung’s rule changes the way I think…. .the way everyone thinks I think.
    Lots of things came up while reading your blogpost and probably will do lots more much later but addiction is what I thought about the most, how my addictive personality behaves.. I don’t even try to keep it “in the closet” or “shadow it” it gets out all the time, out of hand usually.
    Is Jung saying that I meet “addiction” outside of myself because inside I am addicted to quite a lot of stuff?? actually I don’t let go, I hold on past sell-by dates. I can see I need to sit down and work out what I’m addicted now on the inside.
    Of course I love your picture!! She looks more like a powerful witch to me. I feel that through these blogposts I’m understanding your poems even more. Alchemist’s shadow comes knocking, ah! clever writing. Will keep coming back to read this so good!! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting Claire, your wonderful contributions are always appreciated. Ha-ha! I’ve been thinking about this ‘psychological rule’ all week now and it seems to make a lot of sense to me because what I’ve noticed immediately is when I hold the tension of the opposites, I become less judgemental and more courageous.

      I agree when trying to comprehend a new idea we all struggle because when we contemplate that we may be ‘actually’ creating our own reality, minute by minute we are called to face up to the truth and that’s the difficult bit … it’s not easy to look at our own terrorism, hunger, and poverty?

      Re: Addiction, I get the feeling (being a Feeling type) that you’re thinking along the right lines by exploring your ‘inner’ addictions. It’s been both a pleasure and a challenge for me to write this post … yet another wonderful opportunity to experience myself holding the tension of the opposites … so fully understand that you need to sit with these ideas a little longer, me too. 🙂

      1. I keep coming back to this one Deborah, hope you don’t mind I’ve tweeted this to spread more of your Halloween magic around. 🙂 🙂

        1. That’s so wonderful thank you Claire, Twitter is new to me. 🙂 I’m so glad my seasonal post has spoken to you, it’s more than this poet could hope for! Ha-ha! Beware, it won’t be long before you fall ‘deep-in-the-JUNG-le!’ like I did when I first encountered the magic of Jung. 🙂

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