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Category: Inner Alchemy

New Music/Image/Poem: “The Journey”

(The poem, image, and music belong together)

The Journey

If darkness be east,
Go west!
If evil be south,
Go north!
If want be below,
Go above!
If sadness be without,
Go within!

You will never find the Water of Life
Lying in the desert:

“Look how bright is the sun!” you say.
“See how the dunes shimmer!
See how beautiful and unique
Is each and every grain of sand!


“Woe is me!
It is too hard!
I am not strong enough,
Wise enough,
Beautiful enough,
Wealthy enough,
Anything enough
To rouse myself!

Countless are the excuses
With which we distract ourselves,
That keep us prostrate,
That lull us into a fatal sleep,
Slowly dying of thirst,
Slowly transforming us
Into crumbling bones in the sand.

Better to follow visions of Water,
Even mirages!
Than to lay down in the sand and die!

Better to follow rumors of Water,
Hearsay from fellow travelers,
And even the occasional deliberate Lie
Than to lay down in the sand and die!

Run when you can!
Crawl when you must!
But if you keep your course
Strait and True,
Guided by Eternal Polaris by night,
And the sun’s passing shadows by day,
In due time you will find Paradise.

The Compass

An Ordinary Compass

An Ordinary Compass

Every journey needs a compass. But compasses usually have their arrows pointing outward–the image for “The Journey” has its arrows pointing inward.

And, the ‘eye’ is an apt symbol for ‘reason’ (as in: “I SEE what you mean”). Meanwhile,  St. John (and others) inform us that “God is Love” (heart)–and not “God is Thought” (mind)! In this image, “heart/Love” envelopes “mind/reason.” Mind without heart is as inclined towards Evil as Good (e.g. Hitler’s acknowledged genius). But Mind directed and focused by Heart/Love–ah–that be a True Compass!!

With your indulgence, the remaining symbolism of this image is left as an exercise to the reader…

The Compass

The Compass

The Music

“The Journey” is scored for glass armonica, string orchestra and harp.

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New Music: “Two Fish”

“Alchemy” is fairly well known as the attempt during the Middle Ages and Late Renaissance to turn Lead into Gold. An enormous body of alchemical literature has survived. But within that literature is a stream in which ‘alchemy’ was a metaphor for turning the human heart from Lead into Gold—a way to talk about Spirituality and alternate ideas about Christianity that might not set well with the religious authorities of the day. After all, in those days they didn’t exactly “honor diversity”— being different could result in your being the guest of honor at a burning-at-the-stake!

The famous psychologist Carl Jung wrote extensively about this ‘inner alchemical’ literature.

Some of it is in the form of images, others as poetry or wildly metaphorical prose. The Book of Lambspring is a set of images and accompanying poems. It dates from around 1600.

The poem says that the two fish are the Soul and the Spirit, swimming in the sea of the Body. You can read the poem for yourself, but I’ll leave you with a thought that has helped me make sense of this image and sacred literature in general. And that is: perhaps one way of thinking about the difference between Soul and Spirit is that ‘soul’ is our consciousness directed towards OURSELVES, where ‘spirit’ is our consciousness directed toward God. You’ll notice that the two fish in the image are swimming in opposite directions.

So here’s the first image in the alchemical Book of Lambspring, and my own new piece to go with it.

1. The Two Fish

1. Two Fish

The Sea is the Body, the two Fishes are Soul and Spirit.

The Sages will tell you
That two fishes are in our sea
Without any flesh or bones.
Let them be cooked in their own water;
Then they also will become a vast sea,
The vastness of which no man can describe.
Moreover, the Sages say
That the two fishes are only one, not two;
They are two, and nevertheless they are one,
Body, Spirit, and Soul.
Now, I tell you most truly,
Cook these three together,
That there may be a very large sea.
Cook the sulphur well with the sulphur,
And hold your tongue about it:
Conceal your knowledge to your own advantage,
And you shall be free from poverty.
Only let your discovery remain a close secret.

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NEW CD: In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone

In Search of the Philosophers Stone

In Search of the Philosopher's Stone

(Click here for mp3 and order page)

The “Philosopher’s Stone”, reputed to be hard as stone and malleable as wax, is a legendary alchemical tool, capable of turning base metals into gold—which we’ve seen can be a metaphor for ‘enlightenment’. It was also sometimes believed to be an elixer of life, useful for rejuvenation and possibly for achieving immortality—all of which fit in nicely with alchemy processes in general being metaphors for  ‘enlightenment’.

“The stone, also referred to as the “tincture,” or the “powder” (Greek xerion, which passed through Latin into Arabic as elixir), was allied to an elixir of life, believed by alchemists to be a liquid derived from it. Inasmuch as alchemy was concerned not only with the search for a method of upgrading less valuable metals but also of perfecting the human soul, the philosopher’s stone was thought to cure illnesses, prolong life, and bring about spiritual revitalization. The philosopher’s stone, described variously, was sometimes said to be a common substance, found everywhere but unrecognized and unappreciated.”1

What a wish list! Wealth. Spiritual renewal. Longevity. Health. Even an elixir of life! In essence, the philosopher’s stone offers all human values. The Philosopher’s Stone is like gold, but even better. Gold is a means to all material wealth, but the philosopher’s stone is a means to all ends, a universal means. And it’s lying around for the taking. It’s everywhere! If you have the wit merely to recognize it and learn how to use it, then all ends are within your reach. We needn’t wonder why those who believed in the philosopher’s stone devoted their lives to finding it. What higher ideal could they seek? What better end could a man set himself than a universal means?

The search for the Philosopher’s Stone occupied some of the finest minds of the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Isaac Newton (1643–1727: yes, the famous physicist!) was deeply interested in alchemy and particularly interested in finding the Philosopher’s Stone.2 And, according to legend, the 13th-century scientist and philosopher Albertus Magnus (1193/1206–1280)  is said to have discovered the philosopher’s stone and passed it to his pupil Thomas Aquinas (c.1225–1274: yes, the famous Catholic theologian!) shortly before Magnus’ death.

And just pure speculation: in the  ‘Sword in the Stone‘, might the stone from which young Arthur pulled Excalibur and proved his right to the English throne be related to the Philosopher’s Stone?

More generally, isn’t the never ending search for the Philosopher’s Stone, in all of its guises, one of our quintessentially human qualities: never satisfied with the status quo—always picking away at the chains that bind us all—longer life, better health, more comfort, more knowledge, more Art, more spirituality, more more more! That quality has been both our Great Glory and our Great Curse.

In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone is scored for glass armonica and symphony orchestra.

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  1. Encyc. Brit., 15th ed., 1976
  2. NOVA: Newton’s Dark Secrets (2005) USA: PBS

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