Science tells us that, at least in quantum mechanics, the observer must take into account the observed. This is evident in the double-slit experiment, where matter and light exhibit characteristics of both waves and particles. This tells us that observer and observed are in no way independent of each other. Or, as Werner Heisenberg said, “separation of the observer from the phenomenon to be observed is no longer possible” (Heisenberg 231).
The old alchemists used various ores in their work. They considered “metals as seeds” (Hillman 2522), lead being a seed of Saturn, copper a seed of Venus, silver a seed of the Moon, etc. These ores were not understood as objects separate from the imaginative minds of the observers. Just like seeds, they visualized them as possessing “encoded intentionality” (Hillman 2527), the innate tendency to fulfill their destinies, metamorphosing into what they were intended to become. These metals were viewed as ensouled entities, or what I would refer to as animaterial entities.
The root meaning of the word, metal, comes from the Greek word, metallao, which means, “to search.” The alchemists were searching, albeit sometimes unconsciously, for the gods in the metals they used in their operations. Hillman says, the “metals act as seeds forcing the mind to bestir itself with inquiry” (Hillman 2538-2539). Just as there is a god for every planet, there is also a god for each metal used in alchemy.
So, the gods, having been banished from our minds millennia ago, exist in our lives, nevertheless. They took various forms, one being subterranean substances that mankind considered valuable, such as gold and silver. Most assuredly, the gods are powerful forces in the collective unconscious of humanity. When they were repressed, they were driven into the nether regions, and because of projections, down into the depths of the earth. The alchemists sought them in the various metals they worked their processes upon. They saw each “seed” as being the perfection of the thing. For example, the seed of an oak tree contains its perfect state, a fully mature oak. Just so, the seed of Saturn within lead contains its perfection: coldness and heaviness. The seed of the Moon within silver contains whiteness, swiftness, and lunification. But, furthermore, according to the ancient teachings, all things contain the seeds of all other things, so lead also contains the seed of gold, which it can become if worked upon and nourished properly. All metals, according to the alchemists, are in a constant state of evolution, ever progressing toward becoming gold.
The gods are in our midst, if we seek them, but they remain in the depths of earthly affairs if we don’t. The seeds of the gods are within us. If we have understanding of these things and hearken to them, we will evolve and transform into golden vessels of the gods. Their seeds are our perfection.
Heisenberg, Werner. The Representation of Nature in Contemporary Physics’, Symbolism in Religion and Literature (1960), 231. Cited in John J. Stuhr, Philosophy and the Reconstruction of Culture (1993), 139
Hillman, James. Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman
Volume 5: Alchemical Psychology, Kindle edition. Dallas: Spring, 2013.
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