The birds of Barchusen

At Friday’s talk on alchemy, the image series that made the most impression on me was the one by Barchusen, and specifically the many images of the bird going down into the vessel, bringing material up, then going down again, bringing material up, over and over.

It is an image that can be described in several different ways. In general, it reflects a process of bringing awareness into our prima materia – our life, our individual self, our habitual patterns, our beliefs and identities. We go into an aspect of our life, bring it up into awareness, and in the process allow for differentiation (separatio) and clarification (sublimatio), and then dissolving of the old patterns (solutio), new patterns emerging (coagulatio) and a more conscious union (conjunctio.)

We explore and bring awareness into who we are, as an individual, and what we are, as Spirit.

This happens over and over again. The same issue comes up, much as before or maybe in a slightly different way. Something is off (nigredo), we work on it (albedo) and there is a sense of resolution and a harvesting of the fruits of the work (rubedo.) And then it happens again. And again. Seeing it from slightly different angles, in slightly different contexts. Becoming more and more familiar with it, knowing the terrain in more and more detail. Eventually, the charge may go out of it more completely and there is just clarity.

If anything, the Barchusen series is a reminder of the cyclical nature of the work, and of engaged persistence.

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