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Alchemical Darkness Part Two

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We all know the sayings, “It is always darkest before the dawn,” or “Tomorrow is another day.” These platitudes work for the most part when someone is having a bad day or is going through a difficult but short-lived ordeal, but when the day does not dawn bright even after weeks or months, it is then that one has entered into a dark night of the soul. During this time tomorrow is not, as the saying goes, another day, but an extension of one long painful night where time slows down, sounds come as if from a great distance, and any kind of illumination feels intrusive and unwelcome.

The alchemists would describe this state of being as the nigredo stage of the alchemical process where the prima materia becomes blackened and a psychological dismemberment begins. Mohammed ibn Umail states that “You are its prima materia, it is included in you, you keep it hidden in you and it is extracted from you, as it is you who reduce it to its essence and dissolve it.”  In psychological terms, you are the prima materia; the work that must be attended to is within you, within us all. I found an interesting quote from Theodore Abt and Erik Hornung in their book Knowledge for the Afterlife, which suggests that it is spirit or God that is within us all and is the source of the work “The origin of the work, with its horrifying blackness of the eclipse, is therefore Allah himself.” Spirit and matter are inseparable to the alchemists.

© 2010-2011 Sloane Rhodes


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