Alchemical Love

I was listening to a video from Carolyn Elliott the other day regarding the topic of love. In it she talks about how many of us miss the love around us because we are seeking to find ourselves worthy of it. Am I worthy of love? What must I do to be worthy of love?

But this is the wrong way of looking at love. It’s not about making the grade or getting to the final cut where we’ll finally grasp the golden ring and be found worthy!

Nope.

The most humbling aspect of love, she says, is that worthiness has nothing to do with it. Alas, love just is for no reason at all.

This is the truth about love. It’s unconditional or it’s not love at all. One loves everything; the ugly, scary, awkward, weird bits alongside of the ordinary, milquetoast, mediocre bits, and the beautiful, fabulous, glorious bits.

When it comes to ourselves, I think it’s difficult and often even terrifying to love the whole of ourselves. I know it is for me. I can be mean, nasty and petty sometimes.  I can also be quite awesome and a cool person to be around too. I’m both of these people. It’s been hard for me to love my dark side. But I’ve learned to over the last few years. My shadow is part of me and she’s gotten me through some tough spots. I’ve learned to stop shunning her so that we can become better partners and work through the rough patches with greater ease and less drama.

The one I still have trouble with is Awkward-me. The one who has ADD, poor coordination, brain fog, and freezes at the thought of small talk. She’s the introvert that trips me up and makes my life extraordinarily difficult. She’s why I suck at job interviews and have such a hard time in front of cameras. She’s a big reason why Shadow-me can be such a monster. I feel like I’m always paying a huge price for Awkward-me, so loving her has been so very difficult. It’s a hell of a lot easier for me to love my shadow!

This awkward part of me is why I’ve had worthiness issues in the past. When I get frustrated with myself, I still scream, “Why can’t I do this?! What’s wrong with me?!” But the simple answer is, this is the body I have. These are the chemicals in my brain. I have these challenges and they shape me into who I am. I would likely not be on my current path had it not been for these challenges. As frustrating as my challenges can be – I love my path, I love how I think.  What I really don’t like are the bumps in the road. Welcome to the human condition.

I’m may be the fire breathing unicorn, but she’s the gun toting cat!

Love is not about being worthy. Love is about embracing the whole, even the stuff you hate. Maybe especially the stuff you hate. That’s the stuff that carves us into the magical creatures we become.

I know I’m a unicorn. My beloved told me I was this morning and she never lies.

Shadow Wrangling

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept…”

John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

Just this week I’ve been bombarded by well-meaning relatives and friends sending me pro-Trump ad and other various propaganda videos. I’ve also overheard co-workers speaking about their new pro-Trump paraphernalia to put out on their lawns and how they hope he can get this country back on the right track and… I really don’t want to hear it. I do not like this man and I certainly do not relish the idea of four more years of him. I’m not sure America can survive four more years of him.

But if you happen to live in America, hear about him you must as we all do. Every. Single. Day. I imagined this election cycle would be exhausting back in 2016 if Trump managed to remain in office. But on top of out-of-control coronavirus, mask wars, well-justified Black Lives Matters protests, DHS goons being sent into our cities, and Trump at the center of all of it like some mad conductor leading a group of hyenas on kazoos playing All Hail the Conquering Hero – I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.

But with little choice in the matter, I’ve chosen to focus on a positive aspect of the Trump administration. What could that possibly be? He’s introduced America to its shadow side.

All of the hate, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the religious hatred, is hanging out for everyone to see. All of the problems plaguing America; the cracks in the system, the loop-holes in our democracy, the institutional blindness towards people in need, the gerrymandering in the voting system, the theft from the social safety networks are now exposed to us. It was always there. Trump didn’t cause it, he just shined a large enough light on it for all of us to see the rot that was growing there. Our history is both great and terrible. Where we have excelled, we must remember that this nation accomplished its great deeds on the backs of slaves and through the genocide of the indigenous culture. This is a time for our nation to sit with these realities and actually work through them rather than ignore them. If we are to ever heal these wounds, we need to stop pretending that we have nothing to do with our own past. As Antonio tells Sebastian in The Tempest, “What’s past is prologue.” Everything in our history has led us to this point. But how we choose to act right now at this moment, can change things for the better or the worse.

There is no recovery from some mistakes.

When I was studying archaeology as an undergrad, my professor gave me an old iron artifact covered in rust from the 19th century to clean with a sandblaster. To this day, I don’t know what it was. It was mostly rust by the late 20th century when I got my hands on it. As I used the sandblaster to remove the rust, it gradually became apparent that whatever it was, the rust was all that was holding it together. My heart sank as the object split into four pieces. They were shiny though! If we melted it down, we could have used the pieces to make it into something else. Alas it was not a metal recycling class, it was archaeology. My job was to preserve the useless thing. When my professor saw it he simply replied, “Ah, shit.”  

I sometimes get the feeling that America is now being hit by a giant karmic sandblaster. It’s a grueling process, but we’re slowly stripping the rust and rot away. Maybe beneath it there are some shiny nuggets for us to recover and make into something new. Rather than being archaeologists and preserving the old, decaying, rusted, rotting legacy that we’ve held onto so tightly for so long, we need to instead become the alchemists who burn away the dross, refine what is left and make alchemical gold.

Solve et Coagula

My work this election year is shadow work. It is not easy. It is why it is called The Great Work.

To everyone who is reading this, stay healthy and stay safe.  

Love & the Devil

Today’s topic has to do with my daily tarot reading. I’m currently in a program that uses the Thoth deck, which I’ve never used until now. I resisted it for a while because the energy is entirely male to me. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just never felt comfortable with it. The deck is a combined creation of Aleister Crowley and the art of Lady Frieda Harris. The alchemical symbolism is rich and the artwork quite stunning. I’m warming up to the deck as I embrace the fact that I need to integrate my animus and celebrate the masculine energies within – this is not easy for me. But I have found it’s a bit easier now with Mars currently direct in Aries. Now as I see that in writing it sounds like a euphemism for something dirty. I’m going to leave it there anyway because it’s astrologically sound.

I balance the male energy of the Thoth deck with what I sense is the female energy of the Tarot of the Holy Light deck. This is a Marseilles based deck, which is also alchemical and rich in Gnostic and Sophianic symbolism. It was quite painstakingly researched by Christine Payne-Towler with artwork by Michael Dowers. I find that when the Thoth deck throws something at me that I don’t quite understand, the TotHL deck offers a deeper understanding to make more sense of the reading. And if I fret over the Thoth card, like a mother she tries to guide me back to reason, often times with a dose of tough love. Other times, the cards simply complement each other and rhyme. I’ve fallen into a daily morning routine with them that sets me off on my day.

Today’s card from the Thoth deck was the Two of Cups: Love

The card’s divinatory meaning is marriage, love, pleasure, harmony of masculine and feminine united.

Interesting in its own right, as that is how I view the use of the two decks in my daily life and this is my chosen topic for today’s post. I do understand that I picked the topic after the daily draw, yes. Other rhymes for the day include the finalization of my hiring process at work from contractor to full-time employee; a great conversation with my boss, whom I love; and she bought me a new headset for remote use when I work at home. I also had a great lunch with my partner today and it’s the Full Moon in Aquarius. What’s not to love!

The daily draw for the TotHL deck was The Devil

This deck has a Gnostic view of the devil, which I love. Had I pulled it from the Thoth deck the meaning would be a bit different, while maintaining a similar resonance, I think. But here the devil is Venusian. It is the awakening of the suppressed self. As the book that comes with it notes, it is the “light-bringer uniting the reborn anima and animus.” The Latin words on the Hermaphrodite’s arms read “Solve et Coagula.” This is the alchemical act of disolving the elements, refining them, and then recombining them into alchemical gold. The alchemical symbolism on the card is plentiful. We see the union of the woman and man, the sun and the moon, the Alpha and Omega, the peacock’s fan symbolizing alchemical perfection, water and fire emanating from the same source, and something about disembodied rainbow eagle feathers. It’s a Divine union of opposites. This card represents the end of duality and a shift into polarity. For our world and so many among us who have lived our lives in the absence of the Goddess, it is a celebration of the re-emergence of Goddess energies.

But today, for me, it’s more about the union with the animus.

The challenge I was given for this month is to write something of significance everyday on social media. This is to let out my Leonine spirit for Leo season. This is the Coagula part of this month’s alchemical process. The Solve aspect will be letting go of some bad behaviors, fears and resentments I’ve built up over the past few months. But taking this time to get back into the swing of writing and celebrating myself as a writer with something worth saying is something I’ve been denying myself for a while now under the guise of too much else to do. So, this month, I’m going to embrace my animus and let it all out!

Happy Leo Season!

Mystical Persuasion

Mystical Persuasion

One of the major discoveries I made about myself on my journey over the past year, is that I’ve always been drawn to the mystical. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I never thought about it deeply before. I am aware of my interests while growing up, but I never bothered to follow all of the crumbs to see where they could lead me. In retrospect, more self-awareness at a younger age could have saved me a lot of heartache and pain, but I also wouldn’t be where I am at today if I had made the connections then. The destination is only a small part of the journey. The fun is in the road trip.  

Our Lady of Medjugorje

As a kid, I was first fascinated by the religion I was born into, Roman Catholicism. I was the kid who knew all of the holy days of obligation, collected prayer cards like baseball cards, knew all of the mysteries of the rosary and prayed them obsessively, and I got into Marian apparitions. I even took a trip to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia when I was seventeen years old. The Virgin Mary is alleged to appear there to this day.

When I went to college I started to shift away from Catholicism, though I clung to it for a while. Much of the beliefs and dogma didn’t add up for me anymore. It was a difficult time as I was introduced to so many different religions and philosophies. I felt like I kept having the rug pulled out from under me. I found something that would make a little sense, but in the end, it would always leave me cold. You could say I became a temporary atheist then, though I’m not sure that is entirely accurate. I even called myself a non-practicing atheist because I didn’t know what else to call it. I had no idea what I really believed; I just knew what I didn’t believe any longer.  But my spiritual life dwindled to occasionally playing Magic: The Gathering with friends. This mostly consisted of me creating my own decks and watching others play. I was more concerned with certain colors and spells that appealed to me than creating a competitive deck, so I lost a lot when I bothered to play.  

Apparently, an entire deck of blue cards is pretty useless.

Philosophy of science and 20th century existentialism where far more interesting to me than religion during my undergrad years. I studied philosophy, cultural anthropology, archaeology, geology and paleontology. These things resonated with me and they still do today. But something was missing. Even then, I felt a soul-sucking hole in my life and it ached.  

I would occasionally try to go back to Catholicism, but I didn’t feel moved by it anymore and I felt guilty engaging it it. I stopped going to church completely, which still upsets my mother. But if it’s not there, it can’t be forced. I didn’t feel any connection with any other denomination in Christianity either. And it felt like cheating. I didn’t have a beef with Catholicism in terms of a bad experience, I just couldn’t connect with it anymore. I felt nothing at all for Protestant Christianity or non-traditional forms of it. It was the mysticism I felt an attachment for, and outside of Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, there’s not a lot of it in the other branches.  

When I decided to go back for graduate school, I opted for a religious studies program that focused on the academic study of religion rather than a theological approach. It is during my tenure at grad school that I began to slowly find my way back to a spiritual pursuit. I remember being asked what I believed and I couldn’t answer the question. I pulled out the ole non-practicing atheist spiel, which made people laugh, but left me feeling rather empty.

I also noticed that I’d drift back and discuss my Catholic upbringing when I would be asked about my religion. I had nothing to offer in terms of what I believed, so I mined my past. But it said nothing of what my current beliefs were.

Time went on, I graduated with a masters in religious studies and I procured a few jobs in academia. I still felt no real connection to any belief systems. I felt adrift. Students would occasionally ask me what I believed, and I still couldn’t tell what it was. I knew by then it wasn’t atheism. I started to embrace a form of pantheism, but I wouldn’t classify it as Hinduism or Buddhism. It was more of a scientific pantheism in which there was no real difference between God and the Universe. But for that matter, it might as well be atheism.

About two years ago or so, I woke up in the morning when a desire to find out about the Egyptian god Thoth. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, particularly Celtic, Nordic and Greek mythology. As a child I was interested in Egyptology (I had a great love for Indiana Jones, I wanted to be an archaeologist), but not so much in the gods of Egypt. I knew them in passing only. So, it was out of the blue that I felt this urge one morning to look up the Egyptian deity of communications, magic, wisdom, the moon and invention. I did what most of us do, I looked up the Wikifile on him.

Thoth and the Crocodile Eater of the Souls sitting behind him.

Which led me to Hermeticism and all of the mythic stories surrounding Thoth, Hermes Trismegistus, the Emerald Tablet and the Kybalion and… here I am today. I quickly started to obsess over the hermetic tradition. I searched the internet for information, bought every book I could afford, bought tarot decks, took classes, and fell in love with everything I learned. Since I’ve been on this road, I’ve experienced magic through a series of synchronicities that I would never have believed if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

Hermeticism gave God back to me in a way I could understand and follow. All of the paradoxes I could never resolve were resolved under this ancient philosophical tradition. I could even reclaim bits of Christianity through the lenses of Gnosticism and alchemy. Divinity wasn’t outside of us, but within us. All religions, understood through the hermetic lens, blossomed with a new comprehension. The ancient symbols of the gods and goddesses, both east and west, revealed their power. The myths and legends from antiquity were — and remain — the magical alchemy that help people, then and now, to understand the divinity within the soul. These symbols, internalized, empower us if we are able to turn them from ideas into action.

Hermes Trismegistus

It’s been quite the road trip to get to this point. I don’t think I would have gotten to this place right here, right now, had I not gone through the badlands of confusion, and the climbed a few mountains to nowhere. Most of us learn our lessons the hard way on a road paved with blood, sweat and tears. I’ve stopped beating myself up for not understanding it all earlier. We start to understand when we’re able to and not a moment before. The point is to be open to that understanding when we are able to grasp it and act on it.

Thoth came to me in a dream and put me on this path. Here I am.

Road Trippin – Red Hot Chili Peppers

“These smiling eyes are just a mirror for the Sun…”

Embracing the Magic

Yeah, that’s all gonna have to come off.

For a while now I’ve been contemplating the reality that so many of us deny our own magic. Why is it that those of us who seek to recognize the magic in our soul, must go through years of intense shadow therapy to scratch the surface of our nature’s true core so that we can create a united will that will let us shine in our magical brilliance? One would expect that this shadow work needs to be done for anyone wishing to embrace the magic within, but it seems that we run into what I would term as excessive muck. Even once the outer layers of filth are removed, one must apply the proverbial scrapers and picks to skin off the tar, plaque and barnacles that have accumulated over years of systematic abuse and societal programming. The work, it seems, is never truly done.

A good friend of mine, Nick Mather of Dreaming Green, sent me a video from the movie, Samsara, that perfectly nails the visualization of how our psyches are attacked and taken over in a constant barrage of promises of wealth, happiness and beauty that give the illusion that we have some control over our lives. But this is a demonic spell we are under. The message, it turns out, is nothing more than layer upon layer of fear and crippling self-doubt, which keeps us working for the machine. We believe that if we work hard enough, keep our noses clean and don’t make too much noise, we will be rewarded. Except the reward never comes.

Office Man, from the film Samsara

I’m sure the behemoth looks like something out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

So here we are. Just a handful of shamans and witches in a world full of demonic forces in which most of the people have been scooped up into the behemoth industrial structure. I imagine some mechanical monstrosity held together now mostly with duct tape, rust and wads of chewed gum. And as insanely terrifying as it is, people believe in it and serve it. They can’t get out of its demonic thrall. My friend Nick likened our modern fascination with ourselves to the myth of Narcissus, who wasted away in the thrall of his own image in the water. But today it’s not even our own image, it’s an artificially constructed image. I think the key is there and why it is so worse now in the digital age than ever before. It’s the deception of a false image being made to appear as our own. We’re not looking at ourselves, we’re looking at simulacrum, which is distorted with false ideals of beauty and success. If we stripped off the veneer, we’d be left with something that more accurately depicts the portrait of Dorian Gray; something terrifying and wrought with its own corrupt, corrosive forces. Basically, we’ve each been lured into the trap with our own shadow, which is why it works so well.

Dorian Gray, by Ivan Albright

So, how did we come to this and what can be done about it?

I’ve discovered that much of the spiritual work I’ve done through my whole life has left out the physical world and concentrates on the spiritual realms. That’s really been the main problem all along. Spiritually, most of us have been taught to value the higher realm of God. We ignore the physical world around us at a great cost. The feminine, worldly aspects of spirituality have been stripped away in so many belief systems because it is viewed as lesser rather than the equal partner of the masculine, mystical aspects. This has left our world with a severe hormonal imbalance that is life threatening to the entire planet.  

A colorized version of the Above and the Below. Opus Medico Chymicum, by Daniel Mylius

In Alchemy, we often hear the principle of correspondence translated to “as above, so below, as below, so above.” However, this is not how it’s written in the translations we have of the Emerald Tablet, which is reputed to have been written by Hermes Trismegistus (the tablet has never been found, but many translations of it exist). The Emerald Tablet words this carefully because it is an alchemical formula for us to follow. It states, “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” 1 We too often forget that we need to start with the Below if we’re going to work up to the Above. We exist in the physical world and it is here where we begin the whole process. Acting as though we are already lofty entities of great spiritual power is not only hubris, it’s psychotic. The act of world-creating demands that we unite the Below and the Above; these two worlds reflect each other. So, valuing only the Above and treating the Below as though it is trash, leads us into the scenario we are living out today.

Embracing the Divine Feminine and witch within has allowed me to pull the physical world into my spiritual practice. Witches, warlocks, shaman, medicine men and women, spiritual gurus, light workers and warriors, all know that we start in the physical world. We begin with Gaia and connect to the Anima Mundi, the World Spirit. It is from there that we can connect to the spiritual world of the Above to create our world Below in its image.

What I’ve learned from this process is to do away with ideas of sin and shame, which are completely unproductive and only work to sabotage us. Sin and shame, these two twins of destruction, keep us immobilized and trapped in the demonic snare of our current system. This is the muck that covers us unless we commit to the work of freeing ourselves from them.  It’s taken me nearly my entire life to learn this lesson so that I can just begin the process of shadow therapy. I’ve already cleared so much of it; I feel lighter and happier. But there is more to do. I have so much gratitude for witches like Carolyn Elliott and Lisa Lister for helping me to see how to embrace my inner witch — that lushes, gorgeous, powerful. magician within — and bring her forward. They taught me that the physical world is necessary, beautiful, and magical, but we also must remember to be a fully immersed part of it.

The Magic Circle, by John William Waterhouse

1 Hauck, D. W. (1999). The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation. New York, NY: Penguin Compass.