Friday, December 31, 2010

Alchemically Speaking: The Past Two Months

 "Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news."
                                        -Chogyam Trungpa

      The past two months have been very strange for my husband and I. In October, I was battling my second round of bronchitis. On the 28th, the hot water pipes exploded in our shower while I was standing there. Within 45 minutes, our home was flooded. Within 8 hours, we were evacuated to a hotel 10 miles away. Then things became even stranger: the very day the work on our home was to be completed, the hot water heater exploded on the man who was finishing the tile work in the kitchen. (I am grateful he was not hurt.) This created a second flood which covered area of the new floor and walls just completed. It also flooded the only space that wasn't flooded in the previous incident. Also curious: no personal items (furniture, books, clothes, guitars, computers etc.) were destroyed by the flooding itself. When the work was finally done on our home on December 16, we moved back in. The adventure didn't end there.
               As this drama was unfolding, I was asking myself  "What does this mean?"  Trish MacGregor reminded me to analyze it like it was a dream....and I finally had a "light bulb"  moment. All of it can be explained through the language of alchemy. In particular, the stage of dissolution! Jung wrote several books on the language of alchemy as a metaphor for the individuation process.  
          Some of symbols representing the alchemical dissolution process include: whale, fish, toad, dragon, a stag in a forest, flooding, breaking apart, rivers, streams, tears, pools, warm bath, baptism, dissection, dissembling, dismemberment, the near death experience, mid-life crisis, lungs, the color blue, the metal tin. The first alchemical apparatus for use in experiments with water & dissolution were invented by a Jewish alchemist named Maria Prophetissa, sometime before 100 B. C E. Maria Prophetissa is considered a female Hermes (Hauck/1999). Hermes is the mercurial trickster force behind the alchemical process. The alchemical bath has since been called the bain-marie (French for Mary's bath). This process can be repeated- solve et coagula: dissolve and solidify -- several times before it's done.

              Prior to the flooding, I was battling bronchitis: a lung disorder. I have several problems with my immune systems as well as ME/CFS, so any illness can create complications.
             The first person on the scene to help me after the hot water pipes exploded was a woman named Mary.
            When my husband and I first walked into the lobby of  the hotel that would be our refuge from the flood, the first thing we encountered was a giant whale sculpture. The lobby was also decorated for Halloween with pumpkins, skeletons, and skulls. During the first 3 weeks of our stay, the maid assigned to our room was named Maria. The room was decorated in blue. The view outside the window was a of a surrounded courtyard with 3 heated pools. During this period of time I read The Millennium Trilogy, by Steig Larsson. The main character in this trilogy is Lisbeth Salandar, aka "the girl with the dragon tattoo".
          During this time I had 3 dreams about shamans. In one dream I was traveling over water on a boat in the Florida everglades . (See Trish & Rob MacGregor's blog, Synchronicity, for more about this dream.) I had 3 dreams that involved structures dissembling. I also had 3 dreams where I was communicating with people who have died.
During the 3rd week of reconstruction, the hot water heater exploded, creating more flooding. At this point, we can say that the 2nd process of alchemical dissolution had begun. The day after Thanksgiving, we went down to the lobby. The whale in the lobby now had antlers and a sweater, decorated for Christmas.

Our alchemical whale had become a reindeer/stag. The following weekend, we we moved to the fifth floor, into another blue themed room. This time our view was of a steep, forested hill. It was in this room a celebrated a mid-life birthday. 

       During a dissolution phase of psychological alchemy, one finds oneself in a position of having no control over one's life passage. When my husband & I entered the hotel, we no longer had our own identities. For 6 weeks, we became anonymous. Even the account at the hotel was done by a third party. We became Mr. & Mrs. Page, the displaced couple. We had none of our usual props in our daily lives. Very little belonged to us. We didn't have our usual daily routines. We were living amongst a sea of anonymous, transient people. Even though we had computers, the hotel had very limited internet contact. The TV had very few channels (unless you paid extra). Larry's job was the only thing that remained constant, but even that was effected by the dissolution process. On one particular day, he went work to find corporate personnel in the office. Several of his co-workers were gone, either transferred or let go. There was no warning for this incident.
           We were going through the dissolution together as a single body: the Sun/Moon, or King/Queen. (Larry & I have a natal (his)Sun/Moon (mine) conjunction in astrological charts.) We were removed from our collective body, our home, and taken to an anonymous bardo, or transition state, while our body (home) was dismembered and reconstructed. This is similar to a shamanic dismemberment & initiation. The point of this whole process is to learn to live in the moment. 
Just this... Now.

         We were finally able to move back in to our home on Dec 16. The alchemist would ask at this point: "Will the newly constructed vessel be able to contain without leaking?"
      On December 21st, there was rare eclipse (sun/moon, or king/queen)-- last seen in 1378. On Dec. 22nd, San Diego was hit by a storm that would bring record rainfall and flooding. On Dec. 23rd, we awoke to standing water-- up to 8 inches -- surrounding 3 outer walls of our condo. This had never happened before. The men who had just spent 6 weeks working on our home  happened to be on the grounds already, so we were able to work fast on preventing damage to the interior of  our newly remodeled home. 

Christmas Day was celebrated with family and friends.  I received a beautiful golden bronze stag as a gift from my friend Teresa. 

On the morning of December 28th, I pulled back the curtains to find many doves sitting outside my front picture window, looking inward at me. Usually there is only one or two, not several.  The dove is prominent above the heads of the King and Queen in alchemical imagery-- after the dissolution was complete. At this moment I knew all was exactly as it should be. The storm on Dec. 29th did not cause any further flooding. The work of this phase of the alchemical process was complete. I hope we don't need to repeat it.



  1. You have analyzed this perfectly. I can see how the dissolution works. I wonder if I'm going through something similar. Currently battling a very bad chest cold, we had a very similar experience in Maui with flooding. I was reminded - nothing is permanent, and nothing is as expected. Similar dreams - mostly about confronting my shadow. We live in very interesting times. I'm so glad you are home and hopefully on the mend. Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2011.

  2. Happy New Year, Nancy! Please feel better soon.

  3. Wow, D, you have an amazing outlook on things, and I can clearly see how it helps you deal with "life." You have a wonderful attitude, my dear. You also helped me to understand my own many tears that were shed in December.

    Are you in San Diego like me? Small world!


  4. You're amazing. This so resonates with all these external/internal experiences. Alchemy at the heart of it, personal transformation.

  5. great story - and analysis - interesting your bout with bronchitis because i, too, since mid december i have been battling the same thing - and still am not free of it - in any event, again, great story and post - best wishes to you and yours in the new year!