Alchemy

Prima Materia

The Prima Materia, or First Matter, is a difficult concept to define. It has been said that the First Matter is both everything and nothing.

According to D. W. Hauck , “It is the primal One Thing that existed before time, as well as the primordial chaos that contains all possibilities.” It is said that the First Matter carries the germ or seeds of all things that every existed or ever could exist in the future.

In the Emerald Tablet, the “One Thing” refers to the Prima Materia. This was then acted upon by the thoughts or word of the One Mind to create the material reality we can observe with our senses.

The Egyptian hieroglyph for the sound “kh” also symbolized the concept of the First Matter. It was the first letter used in the word khem , which means “black matter which is alive.” [It also the root of the word alchemy.] Other possible translations of this word are “placenta,” “fertile dirt,” or “living black soil.”

It can be thought of as the unmanifest, the part of God or spirit that is all potential, that contains all possibilities.

It the substance that we start with, the raw material that is perfected through the entire alchemical process known as the “Great Work.”

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Alchemy

The Caduceus, or “Staff of Hermes”

The Caduceus is one of the most well-known symbols in the world today. However, the true story and significance of this symbol remains obscured to the vast majority.

Most of us will recognize the Caduceus as a symbol belonging to the medical community. If asked, most would likely say that this symbol was adopted by doctors and other medical professionals as their symbol representing the power of healing, and that its origins can be traced to Asclepius, the ancient Greek physician.

Others, however, dispute this theory, arguing that in reality, what we know as the Caduceus is of much greater antiquity, having been traced back even further to the Greek legend Hermes Trismegistus.

There is a Greek legend which tells the story of how he came to possess what has also been called “the Staff of Hermes.”

It begins with a Greek seer named Tiresias, who discovered two mating snakes in the middle of the road on Mount Kyllene. When Tiresias went to separate the snakes with his staff, he was turned into a woman. He remained a woman for seven more years, until again he encountered and separated another pair of snakes.

The powerful staff, together with the snakes, was then hidden in a cave on the mountain; it is said that it is here where Hermes would eventually be born, and would make his home.

It is often thought that the snakes represent the life force, or inner creative power within man (and woman). Some even speculate that, since the caduceus looks quite similar to the double-helix structure of DNA, this could be clue hinting at the possibility that Thoth/Hermes may have somehow manipulated the structure of the human genome to advance our progress and hurry us toward the future evolution of humanity.

These are all interesting ideas, but the possibilities are not limited to these two options. I believe there are many ways of reading this myth, especially in light of certain alchemical principles.

I have my own inclinations when it comes to interpreting the symbolism of this mythic origins story, but I’d love to hear what you think.

Do the snakes and staff (and wings, in some versions) have any personal significance for you? What does it mean to heal or be healed, and how does the symbolism of the Caduceus represent that?

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Earlier this week I was reading more about alchemy in my new book, “The Emerald Tablet.” I learned about the concept of the rejected stone, or what manifests from the parts of ourselves we have not accepted and integrated. It comes from the persistance of what we keep in the shadows, unwilling to recognize and transmute.

So I said, in my mind, “I want to see my shadow. I want to know what I’m hiding from myself, so that I can work with it, and stop the cycle of manifestation into my life.” I didn’t really expect much of an answer; it was more of like, “I’ll put that on my to-do list for later.”

But I did get an answer. I entered the field of Hermes, I know that for sure. I was shown a lot of things that made me uncomfortable. That I didn’t want to accept. That even still, I tried to deny, or justify, or rationalize.

I knew that I was in the presence of Hermes, because of the play of language that was fighting it’s self in my mind.

One of my attempted justifications was, “Well, you didn’t know better. It’s understandable that you would act that way based on your past experiences & what you’ve been taught.”

Then I heard myself answer, “Okay well you are an adult now, and every day you have the choice to do differently. You don’t have to live as an extension of your past; you have a responsibility to do better now.”

I attempted to deny those words, too, but I couldn’t: they were the same things I had just said the day before about my parents. I could acknowledge that, yes, it would make sense for them to act as they did & do, but that’s never an excuse.

“Music is the space between the notes.”

Claude Debussy

So I kept going. I kept seeing. I kept accepting. I kept staying in that space between understanding and questioning. Of accepting and knowing I could do better. This space in between in where the magic is.

I’m working on staying grounded in this liminal space. At the border between two truths, between the inner and the outer, at the crossroads of above and below, the masculine and the feminine, of my light and my own darkness. To look both ways as I leap into this infinite void, the place of all possibility and of true presence.

It’s an ever-changing dance, a beautiful and delicate stepping into the future, a jump divinely inspired and grounded in truth.

Step by step, I’m here, and I’m ready for whatever may come.

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