The Symbolism of the Phoenix in Alchemy

The phoenix is a mythical bird that is deeply rooted in alchemical symbolism. The bird is said to live for several hundred years before bursting into flames and being reborn from the ashes. In alchemy, the phoenix is seen as a symbol of transformation and renewal, representing the process of turning base metals into gold and achieving spiritual enlightenment.

One of the most significant aspects of the phoenix in alchemical symbolism is its ability to rise from the ashes. This process is seen as a metaphor for the alchemical process of transformation. Just as the phoenix burns in its own flames and is reborn from its ashes, alchemists believed that they too could transform themselves through a process of burning away impurities and achieving spiritual enlightenment.

The phoenix also represents the concept of regeneration. The alchemists believed that all matter could be transformed and regenerated, and that the phoenix was the ultimate symbol of this process. By working with the phoenix as a symbol, alchemists were able to tap into the regenerative powers of the universe and create new things out of old.

In addition to its transformative powers, the phoenix is also associated with the element of fire. Fire is seen as a powerful symbol of purification and destruction in alchemy, and the phoenix’s association with it emphasizes the importance of these concepts in the alchemical process. By working with fire, alchemists believed they could purify themselves and achieve spiritual enlightenment.

The phoenix is also often associated with the sun. The bird is said to represent the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, and its cycles of death and rebirth reflect the daily cycle of the sun. This association with the sun is particularly important because the sun was seen as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment and divine wisdom.

Finally, the phoenix is also associated with the concept of the philosopher’s stone. This legendary substance was said to have the power to transmute base metals into gold and was the ultimate goal of the alchemical process. The phoenix was seen as a symbol of the philosopher’s stone because it represented the transformative power of the stone and the ability to achieve spiritual enlightenment through the process of transformation.

In conclusion, the phoenix is a powerful symbol in alchemical symbolism, representing the process of transformation and renewal. Through its association with fire, the sun, and the philosopher’s stone, the phoenix embodies the core concepts of alchemy and the quest for spiritual enlightenment. By working with the phoenix as a symbol, alchemists were able to tap into the regenerative powers of the universe and achieve transformation on both a physical and spiritual level.

Less is More

Journal Date: January 3, 2021

Looking back now, I think these issues were what ultimately caused my last breakdown (and subsequent loss of absolutely everything: my job at Polarity, my casita, most of my friends, etc).

Reflecting on this, I can see how my lack of patience and my inability to be satisfied were what destroyed all of the very real good I had in my life at the time.

Working at Polarity was a dream, and incredibly healing and stabilizing for me.

My coworkers there were like my family– I even called them “my little familia” whenever I talked about them to other people.

I enjoyed the work I did, and I felt skilled and competent in all my duties there.

I was making more money than I’ve ever made before.

I was able to move into my first apartment on my own without roommates, and created my beautiful home, my “casita” that I loved so very much.

I had more friends than I’ve ever had in all of my life until then. People I felt I could count on. And I had many acquaintances that I liked and could spend time with, as well.

By all measures, I had all of the things I’d dreamed of, right?

But I was still miserable.

It seemed that the more I had, the more anxiety, fear, dissatisfaction and disapproval I felt.

I needed more, more and more.

 It was this relentless drive to somehow prove, once and for all, that I was a good person, after all.

But the more I got, the more I just felt higher levels of guilt, shame and fear.

I was trying to compensate for my very troubled past. 

I felt this need to overcompensate, as if to make up for this, to be so over-accomplished that it would somehow erase all that I had ever been before.

It was motivated by denial, it was an ego driven attempt at erasure of all my lived experience, a wish to run from all that was still dark and painful inside.

None of that ever went away, regardless of the goodness everyone saw on the outside.

It festered there, increasing my desperation, fueled by the belief that I didn’t actually deserve any of it, and that it would inevitably be take from me, just as everything else had been.

So I continued to need more, more, more.

I added more work: tutoring on the weekends.

I added a volunteer position: Business Development Associate at the Woman’s Global Leadership Initiative (10 hours a week). 

I enrolled in a graduate program in Counseling Psychology.

And on top of that, I was still engaged in my mad dash towards reading every book in the world during the few spare moments I did have…

It was all part of the same mentality I’ve been stuck in this week. 

Never feeling like I’m enough. Trying to add more and more until I just crack under the pressure.

I don’t want to do that again.

If I keep getting caught in this mentality, I will never find myself truly healed, either. I will never be what I want to be, no matter how much is there on the outside to prove myself to the contrary.

Maybe what I actually need is less

Maybe what I need is to slow down, and enjoy what I do have in the present moment.

There’s a lot I can legitimately be frustrated about, to be sure. I’m not going to sit here and deny that reality.

But it’s not all bad.

I’m in school again, in a program I like. I’m working again. I’m slowly developing my writing and my business. 

I have a wonderful little pup to keep me company. I’m healing and having great success with my inner work. I have several friends that I’m in touch with. I have time to meditate and rest when I need to. I have a home to live in, plenty of space, and a reasonable amount of privacy and time to myself. I’m in good physical health, for the most part.

All of these things are opportunities for me to feel good about my life and about myself.

In fact, I feel like right now I’m being called to reach for less, not more. 

Called to simplify my life in every way. And then devote my full attention only to what I’m truly in alignment with.

So as much as I may feel frustrated and complain that I’m ready to get this show on the road already, I think my higher self knows that I’m not entirely ready to move on yet.

In a way, I’m still sorting through my past. I’m still in the Separation phase of alchemy where I make decisions about what to save and what to discard as no longer necessary…

As much as I may want to, there is really no rushing the process. To push on before the matter is ready is only to delay the work further… It will just create a mess which will need to be dealt with later, and for longer next time.

I can easily get caught in comparing myself with everyone around me, and feel scared that I will never catch up.

It’s true. I won’t. There’s no catching up, and there’s no need to.

For whatever it’s worth, I’m here. This is the truth of my life.

There’s no need to run blindly towards the next thing– no need to desperately escape the terror of my past.

The kind of person I want to be– and am becoming– feels no compulsion to repress or deny.

What for?

My past (or present) pain doesn’t invalidate me, the way I always thought it did.

I don’t need to share it with everyone I meet, but there’s no need to hide it either– especially from myself.

If anything, I can be proud of what I have been through. 

I went to hell and back, it’s true.

And here I am– I made it. 

I survived incredible suffering. I am resilient. I am strong. 

And despite it all, I never lost my capacity for love.

The world may have done everything it could to crush me, but my soul and my heart– those they could never reach.

The Philosophers of Fire

orange flame

One of the central concepts in alchemy was the idea of the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire, which were believed to be the basic constituents of all matter.

Among the alchemists, there were those who specialized in the element of fire, and they were known as the philosophers of fire. These alchemists believed that fire was the primary agent of change and transformation, and that it had the power to purify and transmute matter. They saw fire as the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe and achieving spiritual illumination.

The philosophers of fire had a profound influence on the development of alchemy and contributed greatly to its theoretical and practical aspects. They developed sophisticated theories of the nature of fire and its relationship to the other elements, as well as methods for harnessing its power for alchemical transmutations.

One of the most famous philosophers of fire was Zosimos of Panopolis, an Egyptian alchemist who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE. Zosimos wrote extensively about the role of fire in alchemy, and he believed that it was the primary agent of spiritual transformation. He also developed a theory of the “divine fire,” which he believed was the source of all life and energy in the universe.

Zosimos of Panopolis

Another prominent philosopher of fire was Jabir ibn Hayyan, a Persian alchemist who lived in the 8th century CE. Jabir developed a complex system of alchemical symbolism, in which fire was associated with the masculine principle and the element of sulfur. He believed that by purifying and refining sulfur through the action of fire, alchemists could transmute base metals into gold and achieve spiritual enlightenment.

Illustration of the Phoenix from the Aberdeen Bestiary

The philosophers of fire were also known for their experimental work in alchemy, which involved the use of furnaces, crucibles, and other tools for manipulating fire. They developed techniques for heating and cooling substances, as well as methods for measuring temperature and observing chemical reactions. These experimental methods paved the way for the development of modern chemistry, and many of the apparatus and techniques used in alchemy are still used in laboratories today.

In conclusion, the philosophers of fire were a group of alchemists who specialized in the element of fire and believed that it was the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe and achieving spiritual enlightenment. They developed sophisticated theories of the nature of fire and its relationship to the other elements, as well as experimental techniques for harnessing its power. Their contributions to alchemy laid the groundwork for the development of modern chemistry, and their legacy continues to inspire scientists and philosophers today.

The Language of the Birds

Birds have fascinated humans since ancient times, and they have been associated with various beliefs and myths. In alchemy, birds have several meanings, depending on their species, color, behavior, and other characteristics. Some of the most common birds in alchemical symbolism are the phoenix, the peacock, the eagle, the crow, and the dove.

The phoenix is perhaps the most iconic bird in alchemy, representing the cycle of death and rebirth, the purification of the soul, and the attainment of immortality. According to the legend, the phoenix lives for several hundred years, builds a nest of aromatic woods, and sets it on fire to consume itself in the flames. From the ashes, a new phoenix arises, symbolizing the spiritual transformation that alchemists sought. The phoenix is often depicted with wings spread, surrounded by fire, and holding a serpent or an egg in its beak.

The peacock is another bird that has strong symbolic associations in alchemy. Known for its beautiful and colorful feathers, the peacock represents the integration of opposites, the harmony of the elements, and the attainment of enlightenment. In alchemy, the peacock often appears as an emblem of the Philosopher’s Stone, which is believed to have the power to transmute base metals into gold and grant eternal life. The peacock is sometimes depicted with a serpent in its claws or a crown on its head, indicating its regal and mystical nature.

In the fermentation stage of alchemy, the symbolism of the peacock and the cauda pavonis takes on a specific meaning. Fermentation is the stage in which the prima materia, or the raw material, is broken down and transformed by the addition of a fermenting agent, such as yeast or bacteria. The peacock symbolizes the raw material before fermentation, while the cauda pavonis represents the colorful and transformative process of fermentation itself. The colors and patterns that emerge during fermentation are a sign that the raw material is being broken down and transformed into something new and more complex. Just as the peacock sheds its feathers to reveal new ones, so too does the raw material shed its old form during fermentation to become something new and more refined. The symbolism of the peacock and the cauda pavonis therefore represents the transformative power of fermentation in alchemy, as well as the ever-evolving nature of the alchemical process itself.

The eagle is a bird of prey that is associated with the sun, the element of fire, and the masculine principle in alchemy. The eagle represents the soaring spirit, the divine nature of the soul, and the pursuit of excellence. In alchemy, the eagle is often shown with wings extended, holding a thunderbolt or a scepter, and gazing at the sun or the stars. The eagle also symbolizes the alchemist’s aspiration to rise above the mundane world and attain spiritual enlightenment.

The crow is a bird that has ambiguous connotations in alchemy, representing both the shadow aspect of the psyche and the transformative power of darkness. The crow is associated with the element of air, the lunar cycle, and the feminine principle. In alchemy, the crow often appears as a messenger, a guide, or a trickster, leading the alchemist to the hidden depths of the unconscious. The crow is sometimes depicted with a key or a lantern, indicating its role as a guardian of secrets and mysteries.

The dove is a bird that represents peace, purity, and love in alchemy. The dove is associated with the element of water, the moon, and the feminine principle. In alchemy, the dove often appears as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the divine grace that descends upon the alchemist during the process of transformation. The dove is sometimes depicted with an olive branch or a heart, indicating its role as a bringer of blessings and healing.

In conclusion, birds have played a significant role in alchemical symbolism, representing various aspects of spiritual transformation, purification, and enlightenment. The phoenix, the peacock, the eagle, the crow, and the dove are some of the most common birds used in alchemy, each with its unique meanings and associations. By understanding the symbolism of birds in alchemy, we can gain insights into the alchemical process and the mysteries of the universe.

The Symbol of the Rose in Alchemy

Alchemy is an ancient practice that involves the transformation of base metals into gold and the attainment of eternal life or immortality. It is also a spiritual and philosophical discipline that seeks to understand the nature of the universe and the relationship between humans and the divine. One of the most prominent symbols in alchemy is the rose, which represents a variety of different concepts and ideas.

In general, the rose represents the process of transformation and the attainment of perfection. It is often associated with the idea of the Philosopher’s Stone, which is the mythical substance that alchemists believed could transmute base metals into gold and grant eternal life.

The rose is a complex symbol in alchemy that represents a range of concepts, from purity and innocence to passion and transformation. It is often depicted as a red or white rose, with each color having its own specific meaning. The red rose symbolizes passion, desire, and the transformative power of love, while the white rose represents purity, innocence, and spiritual enlightenment.

Another example of the rose as a symbol in alchemy can be found in the work of the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. He believed that the rose was a symbol of the psyche, representing the process of individuation or the journey towards self-realization. He saw the rose as a powerful archetypal image that could help individuals connect with their deepest selves and unlock their full potential.

One of the most common interpretations of the rose in alchemy is as a symbol of transformation. In this context, the rose represents the process of turning something crude and unrefined into something beautiful and valuable. The transformation of base metals into gold is one of the most famous alchemical pursuits, and the rose is often used to represent this process.

In many cultures, the rose is seen as a symbol of the divine feminine, representing love, compassion, and beauty. In alchemy, the rose is often used to represent these same qualities, as well as the idea of nurturing and growth.

In alchemy, one of the central concepts is the idea of the union of opposites. The rose is sometimes used to represent this idea, as it combines the opposing qualities of beauty and thorns, fragility and resilience, and growth and decay. The rose is seen as a symbol of the delicate balance that must be struck between opposing forces in order to achieve harmony and balance.

 Here are three more examples of the rose in alchemy:

my altar at home
  1. The Alchemical Rose Cross: The rose cross is a symbol used in alchemy that combines the rose with the cross. The rose represents the spiritual nature of humanity, while the cross represents the physical nature of humanity. The combination of the two symbols represents the unity of the spiritual and physical realms, and the transformative power of alchemical work.
  2. The Red Rose Garden: The red rose garden is a metaphor used in alchemy to represent the alchemist’s laboratory or workshop. It is said to be a place of transformation, where base metals can be turned into gold, and where the alchemist can cultivate their spiritual growth and enlightenment.
  3. The Rosarium Philosophorum: The Rosarium Philosophorum, or “The Rosary of the Philosophers,” is a famous alchemical text from the 16th century. The text is structured as a series of 20 woodcuts, each depicting a stage in the alchemical process. The final woodcut in the series depicts a garden filled with roses, symbolizing the culmination of the alchemical process and the attainment of the philosopher’s stone.

The symbol of the rose in alchemy is a complex and multifaceted one, with many different interpretations and meanings. By exploring the various meanings of the rose in alchemy, we can gain a deeper understanding of this ancient practice and the symbols that were used to represent its ideas and concepts.

The Ouroboros

The ouroboros is an ancient symbol that has been used throughout history in various cultures, including ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It is a symbol of a serpent or dragon eating its own tail, forming a complete circle. In alchemy, the ouroboros is considered a symbol of unity, wholeness, and the cyclical nature of life and death.

Carl Jung, a prominent Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, explored the symbol of the ouroboros in his theories on alchemy. According to Jung, alchemy is not only a precursor to modern chemistry but also a spiritual and psychological practice. Jung believed that the alchemical process was a metaphor for the journey of self-discovery and the integration of the unconscious and conscious mind.

The ouroboros, for Jung, represents the paradoxical nature of the self. The snake eating its own tail represents the idea that the self contains both the beginning and the end, the past and the future, and the light and the dark. The ouroboros is a symbol of the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

In alchemy, the ouroboros is also associated with the concept of the Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s Stone is a substance that alchemists believed had the power to transform base metals into gold, and also had the power to grant immortality. Jung believed that the Philosopher’s Stone was a symbol of the self, and that the alchemical process was a means of achieving individuation, or the realization of the self.

The ouroboros is also a symbol of the union of opposites. Jung believed that the self was composed of both masculine and feminine elements, and that the process of individuation required the integration of these elements. The ouroboros represents the idea that the self contains both the light and the dark, the conscious and the unconscious, the masculine and the feminine.

The ouroboros is a powerful symbol in alchemy that represents the cyclical nature of life and the paradoxical nature of the self. The ouroboros is a symbol that continues to fascinate and inspire people today, and its message of unity and wholeness remains relevant in our modern world.

Entering the Hermes Field

Journal Date: Saturday, January 2, 2021

I remember early on into the first month or so of quarantine– I was reading a book on alchemy, and it was describing the process of “entering the Hermes field,” and how to use this in your own spiritual development and awakening.

In the book, the author creatively describes a meeting with Hermes, and suggests that you can also directly communicate with him, and ask for guidance.

So I decided to try it.

“Hermes, I’m ready– show me my shadow. I’m ready to see the truth.”

I was answered almost immediately, that same night.

It was a lot– it felt very intense. So much so that I had to modify my request a little bit: “I’m ready, but please just show me what I can handle right now. Not more, and not less, just exactly what I am capable of handling at any given moment.”

Honestly, I was scared.

I was coming up against things I’d been running from for a lifetime.

And it hurt. It was painful to see what was there to be seen.

Painful, but not exactly surprising.

I already knew I was pretty messed up.

The surprise came just a few months into it, though, when the things I was seeing shifted from how I was wrong, and started to reveal to me how others needed to be held accountable.

This was where it started to get really difficult. 

I was used to being the one to blame. My inner critic was so easy to activate, it was already so natural for me to punish myself.

But what do I do when I have to hold other people accountable?

That was beyond terrifying to me.

How could I begin to come to terms with the vast amount of mistreatment from all those people I felt so powerless with?

This was the hardest thing: to come to terms with my family and how they had treated me.

I’d never really allowed myself to consider this.

I’d rather throw myself under the bus, and punish myself, than face the truth of what my family was.

I resisted.

But it soon became undeniable.

There was something deeply wrong with the narrative I’d been sold about who I was, and why they acted as they did toward me.

The narrative was coming undone, even though I’d done my best for 32 years to hold the bundles of lies and patchwork logic together.

I’d changed myself to fit their demands.

I’d sinned just to earn a place in their hell.

And it was all starting to unravel itself before my eyes.

There was nothing I could do to stop it now.

I could look away, but the thread had been pulled loose, and was now coming undone through a life of its own.

Coagulation | The Seventh Phase of Alchemy

The seventh and final phase of alchemy is known as coagulation, in which the alchemist completes the Great Work and creates the Philosopher’s stone. 

In laboratory alchemy, this is thought to occur after the process of distillation is completed and the matter congeals into a solid substance. 

In personal alchemy, it signifies the completion of the process of solve et coagula, or dissolve and coagulate. 

In what is known as the lesser work, the elements of the lower personality or ego are burned away and dissolved in order to be recombined into a greater whole. 

The great work culminates in the final union of the purified self with the greater whole, a union of the microcosm of man with the macrocosm of the universe. According to Paracelsus, the result is a “completely healed human being who has burned away all the dross of his lower being and is free to fly as the Phoenix.” 

On a spiritual level, the completion of the great work is thought to produce an entirely new body for the alchemist, an energy body of golden light that would survive beyond physical death. Paracelsus referred to this body as the Iliaster, or “the Star in Man.” 

Once the Philosopher’s stone has been created, the alchemist can then use two operations, projection and multiplication, to increase the effects of his powerful achievement. 

Projection is the use of the Philosopher’s stone to transmute base metals such as lead into gold. According to Dennis William Hauck, “it is said that just a tiny piece of the Stone or a pinch of the red powder of projection made from it is enough to perfect the metals and transmute lead into gold.”

Multiplication is the ability to heal and increase the amount of whatever it comes into contact with. “Just a touch of the Stone or a grain of the red powder will cause plants to grow to perfection or cells to be healed and multiply perfectly,” says Hauck. 

This highlights the ultimate purpose of achieving coagulation and creating the Philosopher’s stone: it is not simply to transcend the material plane, but to bring the spiritual wisdom encountered back to heal the earth and other people.

As the Emerald Tablet says, “Its inherent strength is perfected if it is turned into Earth. Thus you will obtain the glory of the whole Universe.”

Distillation | The Sixth Phase of Alchemy

After the visionary turmoil and excitement of fermentation comes the sixth phase of alchemy, known as Distillation. 

In this process, the inspired material left over from the fifth phase of alchemy is refined through a process of repeated separation and recombination.

In laboratory alchemy, this often takes place through a process known as rectification. This usually involves the use of two different vessels, a lower one known as the curcubit in which the material is heated, and an upper vessel known as an alembic in which the rising vapors are then collected to be further refined.

The alchemical process of personal distillation is quite similar. It is reminiscent of the earlier process of separation, in which the higher or more authentic elements of the self are separated from the dross of the ego. 

The difference here is that distillation is a longer, ongoing process in which the matter, in this case the soul, is raised to a higher level and, just as in laboratory alchemy, goes on to later receive the influx of purified essence again. 

It is as if we receive the visionary inspiration characteristic of fermentation again and again, which gives us guidance as to how to proceed in this work of purification. When we have taken action and purified ourselves, this purified essence is then brought back down again to influence the original matter and be purified yet again.

Fermentation | The Fifth Phase of Alchemy

The process of Fermentation is typically regarded as being composed of two steps in both laboratory and psycho-spiritual alchemy.

The first phase is known as putrefaction, in which the matter undergoes a second death and is cleansed of all remaining impurities. It is somewhat similar to the first phase of alchemy, calcination, in which the heavy dross of the material is burned off. The putrefaction is the final cleansing of the substance undergoing alchemical transformation.

The second part, or the true fermentation, began with a display of colors known as the cauda pavonis, or peacock’s tail.

In this second part of fermentation, the alchemist may experience visions or engage with psychic energies in a process known as active imagination. The alchemist may also experience fermentation through meaningful or prophetic dreams, out-of-body experiences, or through the use of entheogens or other mind-altering substances.

This fifth step of alchemy is critical in the Great Work, as through this process the seeker is given guidance and inspiration for how to continue on the path toward enlightenment.