Imagine … an Unquenchable Light.
Lock such Light away in a dungeon … of Absolute Dark.
Here is a metaphor of Soul within Body.
Imprisoned Light burns but cannot illuminate.
Displaced Dark moves to envelope Light, to encompass Light within a shroud, a cloister, a stone gaol.
Theirs is an unbearable intimacy. Each chokes upon the other.
… Spirit besieged by Flesh … Body scorched and charred by Soul …
Spiritual journeys often begin at such an unhappy divide. A quest takes up the formidable task of reconciling the estranged parties. If one’s adventure is triumphant, it ends with a grand and joyous Wedding.
Alchemists struggled to understand this mystery through their own metaphor, the Philosopher's Stone. As a metaphor, the Stone has no one form or shape or physical description. It is a numinous device, a catalyst that purifies and ennobles whatever it touches. Base metal becomes gold and common medicine becomes an elixir for immortality.
An alchemical text, Aurora Consurgens, calls the Stone both
"vile and dear…"
"worthless and priceless…"
Tradition assigns ambiguity and disorder to the Female. Both the Stone and the Soul are named as Female. From Aurora Consurgens:
“nought is more base in appearance than She, and nought is more precious in nature…"
"men and children pass Her by daily in the streets and public places, and She is trodden into the mire by beasts of burden and by cattle…"
Imagine the Philosopher’s Stone as a raw diamond, unrecognized amid rubble and mud and clods of earth, lying unnoticed by Road, Way, or Path. That which is most precious hidden in plain sight amid that which is most common.
Why clothe Her, valuable and sacred, in material mundane and profane? Because in that dress She becomes accessible to all Seekers alike …
— rich and poor
— learned and ignorant
— wise and foolish
… a Treasure free for the asking, a Door open for the knocking, a Whore available and unblemished for the loving.
Degradation then becomes a devout and pious disguise. So says Tradition in its authoritative voice, the voice that booms from within burning shrubbery and at the summit of divine mountains.
Vitalism is a world view that says some supernatural force is needed to begin and sustain life. Inanimate matter must be stimulated a Spirit or Soul or Vital Spark in order to become animate.
One Tradition personifies such energy as female and names her Sophia. She is the agent of life inside all things. She is Wisdom. To know her is to know the meaning of life.
Today’s secular world labels matter as living or non-living.
In ancient times living and non-living were not segregated. The boundary between them remained fluid.
Sophiawas recognized to exist inside every object of the physical world.
She lurked, motionless, inside stones.
She flowed in water currents.
She flexed and rustled in plants.
In animals, she broke free of earth to walk/crawl/swim/fly.
This primal mind-set hints at what science calls theStandard Modelof particle physics, in which energy permeates mass. Energy IS mass.
The medieval alchymist seeks to reveal, to work with, and finally to masterSophia, for the purpose of engineering transformation in the material world.
Advancement from what is base to what is pure.
Evolution from what is profane to what is sacred.
... Actually, the alchymist acts to speed that movement/advancement/evolution. Alchymical Doctrine states that all metal in the earth undergoes a natural growth process, a slow but continuous metamorphosis, into gold.
The alchymist is Nature's assistant, hurrying geologic time.
And it doesn't hurt that from the same Stone can be brewed the Elixir of immortality.
A Philosopher needs some reward for ruining lungs, eyes, blood, and wits during endless, smoky, noxious chymical experiments.