Alchemy isn’t religious, though it can be. Alchemy isn’t magic, it can be, but inherently it’s a philosophy of healing. I’m an alchemist but use the term loosely— I’m well read on historical resources and engage in alchemical practices, but my whole practice as an esoteric practitioner exists without doctrine. I find it’s easiest to be devout to things which can’t be described, a natural human tendency (re: god, god of the gap, gnosis, etc).
Alchemy, in my experiences, can be best described as a multi-level therapy. Those who seek ascension most often best benefit from therapy first. I don’t seek ascension. I look to alchemy for healing.
Much of my practice does revolve around healing, I skirt around the topic of spirits in many of my writings because ableist and colonial perceptions would ridicule me. However, being white, what intolerance I face is minimal and negligible compared to the many generations of abuse Indigenous practices have suffered. ‘New age’ hype around tarot and crystals has taken off, and white people struggle to truly understand the concept of healing, especially when most of our healing is actually harmful. White sage, chakras, reiki— theft all around, these symbols and practices removed from their cultures leave something shallow, unsubstantiated. This is what colonialism finds familiar.
Being able to recognize acts of true healing leads to a fuller understanding of spirituality. At the moment, my work as an alchemist involves identifying self-sabotaging reliance on expectation. ‘Should’ hides the truth. ‘I should be able to do this’ means ‘I have self confidence issues’. I know for a fact I’m insecure, but I don’t know any facts about what I should be able to do.
Healing doesn’t necessarily rely on what we’d consider facts, but they are useful tools. Alchemical philosophy was born from some of our first sciences. I’m learning to step out of these realms of thought though, because even this ‘truth’ isn’t what I’m seeking. ‘Verumweh’, my website name, is a compounded etymological journey of the word ‘true’, where it crosses over with ‘woe’. In reference to sustaining practice, verumweh is the hard truths of help vs harm.
Alchemical healing must be based in awareness. These last months, I’ve struggled with severe dissociation which has reached a peak with my work in addiction recovery (alongside the added seasonal stress of agriculture, and joining a new ptsd support group), and I haven’t let my mind wander where it needs to. It gets lost in redundant rumination, and then in hindering nothingness. I miss wandering.
I notice more when I wander. Tramping through the brush is slow going because every small life begins to catch my eye. Thinking aimlessly brings me to sharp clarity. This is a valuable lesson in alchemy and psychology. We don’t need to fear emptiness.
Space in a metaphorical vessel holds potential.
As we work toward healing while being mindful of the accidental, ignorant, negligent, or apathetic harm we cause, we notice the power of love. I recently realized an alchemist I’ve kept tabs on is a covid denier and it struck me how easily we stray from the driving forces of nature. The harmony of perfection comes from oneness. I mask indoors and outdoors amongst a sea of bare faces, because I am them and they are me and I don’t want us to bring avoidable danger to our vulnerable loved ones, who are also us.
Alchemical healing means caring, not in the spending of energy on further harm, but in the facilitation of energy, caring with intention, with awareness, with diligence.
Destruction has its purpose and is not synonymous with harm. Many structures must eventually be torn down. Alchemy involves rot, chaos, violence, and other seemingly harmful concepts. When I violently reject an intrusive thought, I affirm what I truly believe and the fragility of the symptom, and the violence is naturally amended with compassion and curiosity. When I sit peacefully in chaos, I remember my purpose. When I rot, the dead parts of me are consumed and repurposed. These are acts of healing.
Alchemy is what we make of it, same as healing, same as all.