The Transmutation process attempts to release and redeem a supreme value from its bondage in the base matter, the physical world. The base matter or Prima Materia is the presenting problem in therapy that needs to be fixed. In the immature state, the ego has not separated from the collective unconscious’s power, beliefs, and attitudes. The personal unconscious is the individual`s experience and repression of painful feelings and trauma. Alchemy heals this internal split of conflicts, the opposing conscious and unconscious dynamic forces. The ego is at the centre of the personality, complex emotions, intellect, and values. The self is the circumference of the total individual, personal and transpersonal, relating between the ego and the self. The concept of two fishes swimming in different directions, where we can start to recognize the opposites of spirit and soul, experiencing the body and matter on common ground. In our culture, the body is deemed inherently evil rather than instinctual. Our sense of wholeness or integrity is disturbed by conflicting drives with self-destructive immature urges that inhibit sexual pleasure and expression, creating life-threatening diseases and mental difficulties. The ego and self are fused in a narcissistic reality, bonded with the collective unconscious.

When we can distinguish between the various archetypes in the depth of the psyche, we go through 9 milestones.
  1. Your ego is absent and identifies with the unconscious as in infancy.
  2. As you grow physically, the ego rises as you learn to distinguish yourself from the environment/ other.
  3. Your ego becomes aware of its emergent powers and explores the love of self and others.
  4. Your ego stops focusing on making people respond and starts to make things.
  5. The pangs of separation from the original condition of blissful wholeness felt in the adolescent identity crisis.
  6. The ego yearns to recapture wholeness in love of the beloved and creativity.
  7. Attachment is strictly personal; needs are dissolved by being a nurturing mentor and detachment from external experiences, given up to in the mystic mystery.
  8. The reign of the ego in consciousness ends in illumination as it transcends itself.
  9. The tyranny of the ego is over, again absent, having merged back with universal awareness, cosmic consciousness, and unification (ultima Materia)

The prima materia is the crossroads, the impasse preceding a spiritual awakening, away from the busy social life of materialism and life without reflection. A major shock, death or separation leads to disappointment, where you start to question the meaning of life, where the suffering has left life empty and unreal, looking for what lies beyond the perceived reality .you can no longer fill the empty void by the false persona, as the experience becomes more painful and intolerable. You may start to feel the repressed feelings of guilt, remorse, and shame, as the body armour can longer protect you from unseen forces; the conformity and people-pleasing no longer serve the enfeebled ego.

The Shadow/Nigredo

The black moon and darkening, where life becomes meaningless, where you need to subject yourself to change and embrace the spiritual awakening. The self is symbolised as the dragon devours itself, and dies, only to rise again when the work is perfected. The ego is the married man with a sword (rational intellect), confronting the unknown in the descent and experiencing the good and bad in a confrontation with the shadow. The ego is frustrated, discontent, and isolated, forced into a breakdown to introvert and recover the energy reserves needed to confront its inferior traits. The marriage of opposites produces the magical child, the potential for the realisation of the higher self. The soul animates the body and the spirit as we take back our projections and stop playing games. The lion represents the unconscious, the transmutation of the devouring dragon, the king of beasts, where creative imagination has transformed wild forces.

Symbols mediate or form a bridge between the logical, rational mind and the subjective, intuitive mind. The symbol stands for what we can’t conceptualise, the hidden higher self, the marriage of opposites the immature ego could not see or create. The feminine (anima) brings the unconscious forces and undisciplined urges into relation with the reality ego, submitting to the transpersonal psyche. The male can incorporate the primary characteristics of their sexual opposite, capable of intimacy in a true relationship. The weak ego escapes into romantic fantasies, unable to deal with reality, seeing yourself in your beloved opposite.

The transcendent anima is the great mother, Sophia, the Virgin Mary, or high priestess. She is the master of wisdom, magic, wizardry, and the shaman. Three basic reasons to learn to use projections effectively
  1. Gain communion with your inner mate and access opposite the sexual resource they hold
  2. Free yourself from subjective distortions about yourself and others, and develop real relationships based on intimacy and truth.
  3. Strengthen the link between conscious and unconscious, and realise the deeper higher self.

The body becomes mortified, dying of the old condition, and creates a void within. The body is rendered white with soul and spirit by the saturation with the solutio, solid changed to liquid, the return to the liquid womb, the prerequisite for the rebirth. The attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours must be dissolved in both body and mind before rebirth. Reduced to the Prima Materia, the contents of the unconscious erupt into consciousness, with no guarantee the ego will survive this onslaught and be brought to psychosis once stripped of its defences. They may see others as alien, sinister, and threatening, living in a world of doom and gloom where the energy can ascend from the abyss, and the phoenix starts to rise. The ego requires sacrifice, where one may feel like they are going insane, unable to weather the storm, alternating between frenzy and voiding out. The active awareness of one’s sexual and aggressive instincts may be distressing, as you open up to the fall of spirit and are subject to lower urges of instincts. The self replaces the centre of the personality, where fantasies and illusions have been dissolved and a new worldview created. The forces of the deeper subconscious must be subjected to the process of differentiation and integration, unifies with the life force (libido), where complete devotion can dissolve behavioural patterns and deep-seated beliefs.

The Uroboros represents the dragon eating its own tail, the original primal fusion with the maternal realm of the great mother. The dragon symbolises death/rebirth as it devours its own tail, the impending doom of the ego. The ego must expose itself t the annihilating force of the mother dragon, power through the gates of hell without being destroyed.

Dissolving the blocks and barriers between mind and body, ego death allows one to reconcile your being with its mortality, die daily, and have the courage to tolerate the intense overwhelm and anxiety. The soul is the middle world between the material and the spiritual. The terrible mother is the opposite dark ruler, seductive aspects of the anima, the whore of Babylon, the wicked witch of the west caught in the unconscious sexual drives and behaviours. The dragon’s immature drives of passion and desire are transformed into the great goddess, where devoted impulse, compulsion or will promote coagulation. The goddess is the root of fertility and imagination, the creative force to change and ascend your spirit. The process of differentiation  (solutio) and integration (coagulation ) must be repeated repeatedly, where the two birds of the caduceus become one. The closer the ego comes to surrender, the more liberating experience and anxiety grow when the ego senses catastrophe and imminent destruction. The distillation and refinement of the ego allow the traumas to be conscious and experienced, resolved with behavioural and attitudinal change.

The cooking and heating up of the raw material of psychological life, having touched the bottom of the abyss and surviving it, in communion with the primal being, the soul begins its ascent to the mountaintop. The royal wedding initiates a new condition with its own potential, resolving the conflict between spirit and body. The white dove Is turned black; the ego has burned itself out, with the phoenix rising out of the ashes, the white ash of albedo, containing the opposites of despair, mourning, and repentance. The bond of humanity is expressed in the androgynous self, a marriage of the feminine and masculine. The original betrayal, where the body Was cut off from the ego-consciousness due to parental abonnement and rejection, is repaired and resolved. The body is purified; the spirit can inhabit or incarnate in the body, requiring a receptive feminine, trusting attitude strong enough to endure the unknown and betrayal experience. The ego becomes anchored in each chakra and connects with the soul, with the ego transmuted to a higher self embodied with spiritual energy. The whitening is essential to show the redeeming aspect so f the ego and raises the blackness of the nigredo from its inertia.

Albedo is the in-between state, the imagined component with feminine symbols, the moon, silver, and the anima. Left living in an “as if “reality, with the ego still in the woods, the soul living between matter and spirit. Metaphor becomes the method of communication and nourishing the heart. The whitening phase represents the emergence of psychological consciousness with the ability to perceive fantasy and create reality. The anima has the direct experience of its innate power, the power coming from the blackness (the shadow). The combing of the red and white bird, Ida and Pingala of the caduceus, surmounted in the crown chakra and all awareness. The kundalini arises in the middle path, created by the marriage of opposites, where the two poles of the psyche are united and integrated, duality formed into the spirit. Therapy helps open the inner process, unifying conflicts between drives, impulses, and beliefs. The new life of spirit allows for sound judgment, discernment, and self-control, manifesting a positive expression of the superego.

When the ego finally surrenders to the self and spirit, one can experience the sense of immortality, reborn to the soul and king of the world. The hero does not overcome or conquer evil; he wins with the ability to overcome the infantile ego, the reactive good/bad aspects of self and unite into the nature of his full being.

The Hero’s Journey

  1. Sometimes abandoned child (innocent/orphan)
  2. Wanders in the aimless world of meaningless and lack of purpose (Wanderer)
  3. Overcoming obstacles by divine intervention (Martyr)
  4. Gaining the treasure that is hard to find and hold onto (warrior)
  5. Returning home or reunion (shaman /magician)

The hero must battle personal historical limitations and contaminations to obtain the vision of spirit and wellbeing, returning as a transpersonal teacher. The crucifying of the eternal torment, surrender to spirit, becoming the hero, and completing your heavenly task, returning to life, trying to integrate your inner experience into the mundane life. The hero moves from a state of innocence and helplessness, compliant and obedient, to a place of courage, faith, freedom, and joy. The false self-image transmutes through the hero’s journey of spiritual awakening, a new chance for deeper healing, coming from within with strength and awareness. The refining fires and obstacles of hellfire and purgatory cleanse the body of infantile ego desires and impulses. The philosopher`s stone is the conjunctio between the sun and the moon, good and evil, integrating the split-off parts with a new sense of reality where thinking, emotions and bodily sensations work in tandem with equal energy.

As an individualised divine being, the real saviour of the whole process of self is conscious awareness in integration. The journey refines the personality so it is strong enough to contain and hold the higher orders of consciousness. In alchemy, the process is symbolised by warring opposites, which come to a peaceful, harmonised reconciliation and marriage. They consume each other during the process, eventually yielding and creating the spirit within—the regenerative union of body, soul, and spirit.

The Modern Alchemist – A Guide to personal transformation – Richard and loan miller