Alchemy of Self: Putrefaction Part 2

The fifth stage of death after pallor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, and livor mortis, and the fifth stage of alchemical transmutation: putrefaction. Psychological transmutation is the same as any other and must follow the laws of nature— our body hosts our mind, and one day our body will rot and become dirt. We can be proud of this, we are organic material and we are made of dirt. What goes around comes around. 

We want to feel better about having to die someday, or about having to live. We want to have a stable footing as we walk forward into the unknown, and this is why we do this. This is why we meditate upon decay.

Consider putrefaction our next round of battle. Upon our first burning with calcination, we scorched out parts of ourselves we no longer needed and then washed them, organized them, and moved on. Now, however, we know we aren’t perfect and we missed a few things. We aren’t starting over because nothing can undo the work we’ve already done but we’re going for round two.

While the stages of alchemy are performed in many orders and the first is often a metaphor for decay, putrefaction is rarely the very first step (but not never). A prior relationship with transmutation helps to understand and appreciate putrefaction, true decay within the realm of light and awareness.

The alchemist knows death. Death is the ultimate reversion to the original form, the base components. Death is the lord of ‘solve’ in ‘solve et coagula’, meaning in Latin ‘dissolve and coagulate’ or take apart and put back together. We cannot take ourselves apart without becoming friends with rot. Rot is a custodian. Decay is an act of cleanliness. What is dead cannot remain as it is, there is still use in its base components. 

Our journey of understanding and healing ourselves is one of becoming at peace with the world. The alchemists who know death are the ones who don’t fear it and don’t beg for it. All that I love will die someday and I will join them in the dirt, we will become the plants that we loved so dearly and the air we had breathed to laugh with. 

Decay doesn’t feel as sad when you know it’ll be used to grow. We will experience grief, rage, guilt, regret, confusion, paranoia, shame, and we will accept them and release them. Everything is released one way or another just like the iron in our blood must return to the earth. Understand we are coming to a critical point where we have already been reborn and we’ve built a permanent fixture of strength within us. Coagulation comes from that which cannot perish.

We are only given this gift when we understand. Don’t fear the pain because such wonderful times are coming. I promise you this from my most core experiences that this stage is a turning point for your entire life. The next stage is the after, and this stage is the end of your before. Remnants will hold on but nothing will be stronger than your inner and outer world.

There is a reason so many people have quietly dedicated their lives to alchemy. Even in codes, riddles, hidden in myths, even with all the labour involved, it has been there to guide humans through the orderly chaos of reality. Even before reaching the end of putrefaction, you will begin to feel blissful.

Happiness can easily coexist with sadness, duality is a tenet of alchemy.

It’s ok to fall apart now. You are rebuilding and learning. Birth, growing, these are painful, just as painful as decay. They work with the same energy. Remember the dirt and the mushrooms and what they mean to the ecosystem.

Previous: Putrefaction 1 | Next: Congelation 1 | First: Alchemy

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