Every layman is capable of internal alchemy. Mysticism, esotericism, these contain humble secular power that can be absorbed by any skeptic. You need no belief but in your power to heal emotionally. For an introduction, check out Alchemy of Self.
Every transformation requires a beginning. We must make the conscious choice that it’s time to change. Our deeper consciousness has likely known for quite some time, but the initiation into metamorphosis must be taken on readily and willingly. While schools of alchemy vary greatly you’ll find consistent truth in their contradictions and an agreement that in order to change, the base materials must be destroyed without truly destroying them.
This is a brief overview of the first stage in the process of self improvement. This phase is also referred to as Melanosis (Greek), Nigredo (Latin), and Caput Corvi— the decapitated crow.
In the lab, the alchemist would use this phase to begin dismantling their materials into the base components to acquire that which was valuable. This is a time of destruction for the greater good. Using elements of fire, water, and air, chemistry comes into play in an elegant show of natural magic. While the secrecy and gnosis of alchemy has masked the mundane realities of transformation, they still remain at its core. The burning of matter to ash, dissolving of substance in liquid, and separation through evaporation.
Philosophical and psychological alchemy follow similar methods through metaphors. The mind creates specific symbolic associations. We’re wired in extremely intricate ways and tapping in, changing those ways, is as difficult. For success, belief is critical in our ability to effect change on our behaviour, thoughts, emotions, and personality. Half measures won’t cut it. If we lack conviction that we can change, need to change, we won’t. We don’t always start with enough but beginning the process with what have often reveals the necessity of building it.
The first phase may feel like a semi-controlled crisis.
Colour theory is highly prevalent in the myriad symbolism of alchemy— black may represent melancholy but also control, as a saturnine energy is needed to build mastery over the process. We will learn to gain control by relinquishing control.
Sadness and shame is an inevitable aspect of this work as we must become aware of all the entirety of ourselves, but radical acceptance will be learnt in turn. To accept, we must acknowledge.
Metaphorically, the crow’s head is removed because we cut out the narrating bastard within us who is in love with denial and repression. In order to look critically at what we’re working with, we have to give up the unproductive means we use to build security and comfort. It’s time to be uncomfortable. This honest inventory is an import part of self transformation. It’s all painful but once we get through this phase, we are quickly rewarded going onward.
Similar to the practical alchemy, we will work to destroy the things inside that hold us back, lie to us, make us selfish, insecure, so that we can find our core.
This week I’ll begin breaking down Caput Corvi into several of the common steps and how we can actively begin this work of transformation.