We are nearing the end of the beginning. We have taken the pieces of ourselves apart. Transforming the way we think, the way we act, this is a rigorous endeavour that requires many cycles. Though how we achieve them may vary throughout the steps of the transformation, we will repeat our concept of separating and recombining at least four times.
During and after this phase of critical thinking we’ll begin inching out of Caput Corvi and into the world of the swan and dove, Cygnus and Columba, Kúknos, Peristerá, Leukós, Albedo. This is a time of clarity. We are beginning to be truly aware of who we are and what we’re made of, we’re better equipped to decide what we wish to incorporate into our new way of life and what to let go of.
Consider the iconography of the crow in Calcination and Dissolution. The bird has been decapitated. It’s suffering but it’s regaining control by relinquishing control. This is a time of destruction, death, decay, but now we have transcended this phase and from here on out each process will become easier to cope with as you regain your personal power.
We can begin to think clearly, see what we truly value. What has brought you comfort during this time of sorrow? What has taught you not to be ashamed? If you still struggle to see these, you may need to repeat the first phase. Rarely can we each Albedo on our first try but we’ll still learn something with each attempt and as with all things going forward, each cycle will be easier. You’ll find calcining your repression more natural, dissolving falsity with your emotions less tedious.
Eventually we will meet our next bird, the dove. Understand that it’s impossible not to. You will need to repeat Caput Corvi for as many times as required but while it’s impossible to take a short cut to the dove, the crow will always lead us there when we’re ready. Trust the crow. We don’t suffer for no reason, there is meaning to our pain.
Once we’ve become privy to the meaning we have reached clarity. We aren’t hiding anything from ourselves, we’re truly self aware. By this point we’ve already begun to change.
You’ll find it easier to identify cognitive distortions such as black and white thinking, catastrophizing, overgeneralizing, imperative statements (using words like ‘should’ or ‘must’), and selective abstraction (focusing on one negative detail while ignoring the rest). You’ve begun to come to terms with your past traumas and can identify how they affect your current behaviours and thinking. You know what you want, what you don’t want, and know that you’re capable of changing because you already have.
In medieval and practical alchemy Separation is a time to acquaint oneself with the elements and learn to dissect the valuable from the useless using techniques such as distillation. As I mentioned in Dissolution, these processes replicate the goings on of the natural world. The concept of microcosmos and macrocosmos, as above so below, is part of worldwide philosophy but as with many, originates from Judaism and the Kabbalah.
When respecting the connection between what we’re doing and the cycles of nature we must also pay our respect to the rich ancient cultures that society oppresses. As we reach our phase of understanding and critical thinking, we also gain the responsibility of being aware of the debts we owe. Repay this debt by educating yourself and being aware. Some mistakenly refer to broad spectrums of esotericism as kabbalistic without realizing these are specific and closed practices. Influences of heinous Aleister Crowley brought a white washed half assed child’s doodle of Jewish mysticism to the table and contemporary occultism ate it up.
This transformation of ours is secular. I mentioned in my introduction that no religious or spiritual beliefs are needed for our practice of self alchemy. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of where our tools come from. An atheist celebrating Christmas should know the origins of the holiday even if they don’t observe it religiously, a non vegan should still invest in knowing where their meat comes from and how its processed, a white person should be in the know of current racial politics, etc.
You’ll notice I used the word ‘should’ a lot. Aren’t these imperative statements? Cognitive distortions? Problematic thinking? Yes. Though we become aware, we can’t avoid. We’re hardwired to express ourselves through ethics and morality which inevitably bring up words like ‘should’.
In Separation, we can track these thoughts. We know what they are. We can follow them to find our values and our coal— what we decide is what coal we turn into diamonds and what is just rubbish.
‘You should never bring this work about, if you will speed therefore without doubt, raise up the birds out of their nest, and after again bring them to rest.’ — George Ridley, third gate Separation.
In the next segment I’ll detail some thinking exercises that will prepare us for finishing this phase and heralding in the next, our first coagula, Conjunction.