Saturday, April 25, 2009

The End Is Nigh!

Many people believe the world will end in flames. Everything we know and love will burn, the fire will blacken the sky, and so forth. And even if these latent arsonists don’t live to see the end days, they themselves will likely rot away in some grave as the embalming fluids wear off while the second coming keeps getting postponed. Flames and rot. That’s how most people see the end.

In Alchemy, that’s just the beginning. There are two ways to start an alchemical process. You can either burn things up or let them rot, but either way, you can't stop now. You’ve got all the Work in front of you.

The burn is called calcination. You blacken with a dry heat, sucking moisture out while making the soul dance like its feet are being shot at. Meanwhile the rest becomes brittle and breaks apart. You lose everything before you know it and are left with ashes. This is the dry way.

Signs that you are in calcination: you have lost something, maybe a lot of somethings, that you thought you couldn’t live without. Maybe you never imagined they would be taken from you. You spend your time trying to explain why those things are gone. Sometimes you blame yourself, sometimes you blame others. Exes are prime targets as are parents.

The rot is called putrefaction. You blacken everything by breaking it down to the point where you can’t tell what anything used to be. This process can be so slow you don’t realize it’s happening until you look around and don’t recognize your life. You’ve let things go and now they seem worthless and stink a bit. This is the wet way.

Signs that you are in putrefaction: You don’t know who you are anymore, and looking back, you cannot tell when that happened. The things that used to seem important to you, things you once believed would always be important, look a bit gross. You spend your time feeling weighted down by the past.

In both these cases, the process is the process. You can’t stop it once it starts, but you can waste your time complaining about it. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with complaining. And a good righteous indignation at the unfairness of life is a sweet little chocolate on the tongue during hard times.

But complaining or looking for blameworthy scapegoats or stalking your ex - while highly entertaining - can only get you so far. And eventually the feeling of knowing you were wronged gives way to wanting to do something different. If you want to get out of the beginning and on to something else, you’ve got to pay attention.

And remember, this isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.


suz said...

i can see looking back on my life times of both dry and wet putrefaction, and the changes these periods wrought.
but they seem to be in my young woman-hood, not so much recently. so now i'm wondering if one doesn't recognize these times until they're well past, or if i'm just alarmingly unconscious of my own alchemical processes.
:X khairete

Yvonne Rathbone said...

I think we all start out completely unconscious about our own alchemical processes. It's when you keep going through them over and over without waking up to that fact that life starts to get a little ridiculous.