Mar 6, 2013

Personal Alchemy

On Thursday, I couldn't get a phrase out of my head.  "Six keys for six roads."  I didn't remember hearing the words anywhere else, and wasn't sure exactly what they meant, but the keys/roads symbolism wasn't lost on me.

I did a search for the phrase, for kicks, and "The Six Keys of Eudoxus" showed up.  The text speaks of alchemy - in this case it refers to mercury many times and I assume the steps taken to transmute that into the material most valued - gold.  I find this type of writing both fascinating and confusing.  If you have a minute or thirty to look over The Six Keys, you'll understand what I mean.  It's both rich and poetic and mysterious as well as terribly difficult to wrap your head around completely.

As I read it, another level of understanding appeared to me.  I'm not a chemist, but I grasp the idea behind alchemy - the process of transmuting something common, or of little value, into something valuable, rare or superior in form.  And although this text is about "the generation of a new substance infinitely nobler than the First," I feel as though I could spend vast amounts of time picking it apart and applying the directions to life itself.  It helps that the author uses the words "life, body, spirit, soul," and similar words to describe mercury and the other substances in the Keys.

For example:

"...there are three different substances...which are the spirit, the soul, and the body; and though they appear pure and perfectly united together, there still wants much of their being so..."

"...the spirits of the bodies are the Bath where the Sun and Moon go to wash themselves."

"Hermes says, that there is so much sympathy between the purified bodies and the spirits, that they never quit one another when they are united together: because this union resembles that of the soul with the glorified body; after which Faith tells us, there shall be no more separation or death; because the spirits desire to be in the cleansed bodies, and having them, they enliven and dwell in them."

The Alchemist - Cornelis Pietersz Bega

It was not a surprise to me then, that the next day, upon visiting my 99 year old grandfather who had taken a sharp turn in his health, I would be pondering the body and the spirit and the idea of transmutation.  While sitting with him, I looked up at the mirrored doors of his closet and could clearly see myself sitting at his bedside, but could not see him on the bed.  I looked back at him, and then at the mirror again and still could not make out his form in the mirror.  I had a clear moment of understanding that he was already taking steps on his journey out of this world.  By the next evening, he had passed on.

I often ponder my progress in life.  Am I learning my lessons?  Am I becoming more than I have been? Seeing a progression is important to me (while still maintaining a childlike joy, of course.)  I don't want to be hung up on the same issues five years from now.  I don't want to be on my death bed and think "I wonder if I look fat in this hospital gown?"  I desire alchemy in my life.  I want to transform lower thoughts and not-so-lovely attitudes into more beneficial philosophies and practices.  I still fall.  There is much to be learned in a fall too.  But the goal is to not step into the same hole again.

My grandfather wasn't perfect.  He fell too.  But he evolved.  He grew more interested in joy.  In chocolate.  In seeing his family and grandchildren grow.  In chasing the ladies after my grandmother passed on.  He died surrounded by family and friends because he was cherished. People didn't flock to his bedside last weekend because he had a fortune to leave behind that they were hoping for a piece of.  They were there because he had built a legacy that people were proud to be a part of.  He had transformed himself from a poor English farmboy to a nearly 100 year old patriarch of an adoring family.  He passed from this life singing.

He took a body of flesh and a spark of spirit and created something incredibly valuable with them.

He was a hell of an alchemist.


pensive pumpkin said...

My word, Rue. That was beautiful.

I'm sorry for your loss, and glad that it was a gracious one. Wow. Lovely post in such a difficult time.

Aine O'Brien said...

It is no accident that I read this post today. Thank you so much for writing it.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

What a beautiful tribute to your grandfather, Rue. My condolences to you and your family. Your "six keys" made me thing of the Six of Swords in tarot which denotes getting a new perspective on things.

Sue Peters said...

Thank-you so much for sharing this Jen, it touched my heart!

Rue said...

Thank you Debra! Talk about missing the obvious - I didn't even think of the tarot. The six of swords is the perfect transition card. Dragging my deck out today...

Linda Wildenstein said...

Rue, I often visit your blog but very seldom comment...but today, like Aine, I needed this lesson. You have fleshed it out for me very well. Thank you.
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your grandfather.
Oma Linda

Jennifer said...

That was beautiful Rue. Just beautiful.

brandi said...

~you brought me to tears this morning with your writing...may comfort and peace be with you and your family now and in the days ahead...i know he will long remain in your hearts and mind...much love light and blessings be with you~

Holly said...

What a beautiful post & remembrance of your Grandfather. I am sorry for your loss. I, too, am trying to make progress, though it is sometimes uphill work, as the saying goes. Thank you for taking the time to give me & others something to think about as we walk our own paths. Peace be with you and your family.

Tilda said...

Incredible insight...just beautiful :)

Amy said...

I nominated your blog, should you wish to participate. I think its a nice way to show off blogs that we enjoy/admire:

Bogaman said...

I think we have just enough spiritual experiences in our life to let us know there is more than a physical world.
Your grandfather sounds interesting and I am sure he was specail to you.
Sorry for your lose. X.

Magaly Guerrero said...

He was a hell of an alchemist because out of him came you.

What a wonderful life, 99 years... I bet his song was a happy one. I'm sorry you will no longer smell the chocolate as he eats it, but I celebrate the fact that many (including you) will always see him enjoying joy in the heart.