Alchemical Cycle Logo Master's Thesis:
The Elements as an Archetype of Transformation:
An Exploration of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

| Table of Contents | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Appendix A | Appendix B | Appendix C | References | Bibliography

Chapter 4 - The Theory of the Elements, cont.

The Elements as Mandala

Using the Elemental Mandala in a Fiery Way


If we are able to work with the elemental mandala in a Fire way, we find that we are completely connected to the subtle realities experienced in Air at every level.  What stood symbolically before us, bridging our inner world to the outer world, now comes together – at the Fire level, there is separation without isolation, as we experience a singular archetype at work both within and without.  The Fire aspect of the elemental cycle lets our wonder and reverence for the beauty and sublimity of the cosmos, or of its tiniest part, be filled with a coherency won through the transformation of the lower elements.  We can have the experience that the highest truths are not expressible, but are imminent in the very phenomena themselves (“Do not look beyond the phenomena; they are the doctrine” (Goethe, 1963)), and within which we ourselves are included.  In other words, truth is lived in every aspect of being – it is manifested as a whole.  At this level we can have the experience of what Steiner calls Intuition (big “I”), in which the normal veils between beings is momentarily lifted and we can directly perceive what normally is completely hidden from our view, the inner state of another being.  This is what Goethe called the “subjective objective”, in which the purely personal elements of our own inner state are willingly sacrificed for the ability to accept the seemingly subjective state of another being into our own life in a completely objective way.  In other words, we can have the experience as if we were another being – not just as an imagination, but as an actuality.

All ElementsWork with the elemental mandala’s Fire nature has a completely transformative effect: our consciousness becomes expanded but robust, able to hold multiple possibilities together without requiring any one to arbitrarily overrule any other.  At the same time our outer actions gain a completely new context that works to minimize extreme manifestations in favor of novel approaches based in sound principles.  We find that the Earth level of our experiences no longer serve to isolate us, but are each important steps on pathways of transformation, potential resources which can be of great aid not only in our own development, but the simultaneous development of those around us.  Indeed, our greatest wounds are revealed as our most profound medicines, and we recognize these medicines as gifts we can bring to the world.  Our sense of self expands without dissolving, and we are led towards what we could call our destiny, which no longer seems abstract or remote, but rather is discovered to be inherent in each moment as a holographic piece of the archetypes at work in our lives.

Of course, each element can present itself in an unbalanced way.  Working with the Fire level of the mandala is difficult – regulating our ‘inner temperature’ is one of the most profound things we can accomplish – and it is easy to create a situation in which the central insight of the Fire level passes us by without our comprehension.  Herein lies the “art” of alchemy; it is the skillful harmonization of all of the above principles in both the inner and outer life of the adept, an evolving work which changes with the growth of each practitioner, who must over time creatively learn to work with the various levels of consciousness as a painter uses a palette of colors.  Just as a painter chooses colors appropriate to the particular soul qualities she wishes to render, and would over the course of time develop a sense for what colors are most adequate for the expression of any given scene, the adept weaves through different modes of consciousness that are germane to the particular transformative stage in the Great Work of conscious transformation.

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