We begin our 3rd week on inner transformation- a look into alchemy- with a short poem describing this stage known as the Albedo.
The ash is washed away
To reveal our original purity
To every black, there must be a white.
A heaven to every hell.
Behind the mask of our temporary identities, there is an eternal soul.
When we remove the mask
The Prema Materia and the Nigredo
To this point, our writing, group discussion, and meditations have been revolving around the importance of inner work. Alchemy deals in large part with building an inner chem lab in which we participate in the arriving experiences both familiar and new. Alchemy helps us, as we have discussed in prior weeks, to identify where we are and where we are going in the transformation of our psychological worlds. From the starting material (prema materia) discussed 2 weeks ago, we moved then to nigredo, or blackening of our psychological eye. This refers to a dissolving of hope wherein we surrender to the abyss – the darkening of our perspectives. Remember that we come to new life only through the death experience. If you are suffering, embrace that process with your support. Let the energy pull you down and stay engaged, something powerful is happening!
Finding the Positive
Here is the second phase of the work. On the one hand, the coming whitening is filled with potential, hopefulness, refreshment and nourishment. On the other, it generates a large degree of stretching – insight, effort, and refinement. Albedo refers to the whitening of the experience, where, through our darkness, we begin to see light. Can you recall these kinds of moments in your life? How many clichés do we have for this shift? “It’s always darkest before the dawn” or “we need darkness to see the light?” We have all had mysterious happenings come out of difficult circumstances. Finding the positive proves quite difficult until something new comes out of it. This is one way of understanding a gift in our suffering. Think of those that work in treatment. Chances are good they too have suffered and to a large degree find meaning and wisdom. They now point the way.
The Light From Darkness
In the simplest terms, albedo refers to the light that comes from darkness. It refers to the light that may itself be darkness. New hope, the whitening, a bright light that we could not see until we waited in the abyss. It is not the light that we might expect, however. Suffering the nigredo does not automatically give us a new life. Rather than a solar light where warmth and growth come to us with clear and practical direction, we instead experience the white light of the moon.
The King and the Alchemical Work
Alchemical texts across the world use sun (solar) and moon (lunar) to describe the two poles of the psychological experience. On the one hand, sunlight refers to what we know. We associate it with kingship, the ruling conscious self that sits on the throne in your mind. The one that chooses and rules over actions. It is ultimately this king that goes through the alchemical work as consciousness must be broken down. Here the lunar (moon) must be experienced. Firstly we go from daylight to darkness (nigredo), then we begin to see that very same world we have known in the solar world with new hues and perspectives. Those same trees that once looked green and vibrant, now, in the pale moonlight, look muted, ominous, and full of the critters of the night.
The Odd New Perspectives
Lunar consciousness – the whiteness of the moon – is a metaphorical way of referring to the odd new perspectives that come with the alchemical process. We transform old selves through the blackness then begin to see with eyes that are quite different. From lunar we get the word lunacy. This is to say that new beginnings must come from an inner perspective that at first is quite backwards. Does it surprise you to learn that going “crazy” is in fact necessary in order to change? Of course to what degree and how we do this can very tremendously. Have you ever felt like you have “lost it” and that actually became the medicine for your life?
The Lunar and the Feminine
We have seen that whitening refers to the lunar instead of the solar. However, this can also mean the feminine instead of the masculine or silver instead of the gold. Here, having broken down and lost our way, we revisit the world we have known but with new eyes. Everything then takes time to observe and experience from a new perspective. This is a tricky thing to describe here and I hope you are getting some tastes of what this might feel like. But let’s take it a bit further and see what may grab you. Let’s talk about silver for a minute.
A Silver Mining Experience
Silver is a difficult substance to mine. In order to dig up silver, it takes a tremendous amount of hard work for little yield. So to get perspective you have to do a lot of digging. Your eyes must be facing down and into the dark earth of your psyche and through this comes the harvested silver of the albedo. Once you have descended to the earth you have to then extract the silver. Silver needs polish and work on but then provides a strong mirror. There in the face of our silver-selves can we see clearly what we are. Albedo is a silver mining experience. Albedo is a silver revealing, emotion clarifying and vision providing experience.
A Willingness to Go Loopy
Through moonlit insight, we trip on what was otherwise overlooked in our “rightness” of daylight. The reflective lunar mind is the mind of the patient. It is a willingness to go loopy, to feel the lunacy of your stories and to share, share, share. There in the moonlight do you find your monsters and your allies. Recognize that this work of alchemy is a series of separations of parts and merging of parts. We leave the world we have known, look at the parts we have called ourselves, and returned to them with new eyes. Some parts shrink, others dissolve, some become ideas instead of realities, others realities instead of ideas. Taking the time to cook, dissolve, and free flow through these stages is essential to the soul’s liberation.
Albedo and the Purification
Losing your mind becomes about the aesthetic value, the sensory experience, the here and now in the dark unknown. What firstly can be known? Your senses. the feeling, the feminine, the pale light of being in the body first and the mind second. As the whiteness clarifies what we want, we feel ever closer to what we are and where we are. We not simply our minds nor our bodies, but attending to these parts makes us something entirely more. The soul is the one in the experience and in albedo we must notice the purification taking place. It too can be suffering, although the images that come through tell us more about why.
The Lunacy of the Imagining Mind
We suffer for this clarity, we suffer for reflection, we suffer for the beautiful pure image that we want to achieve that comes out of the black. Have you entered the lunacy of the imagining mind? If so you are no doubt beginning to dream, thinking in wondering and curious possibilities and, most importantly willing to enter your self-exploration with an unknowing attitude.