In my painting our attention is brought immediately to the center where we see the two opposite but complementary forces of nature, the feminine and masculine energies in nature being brought into the union of the Alchemical Marriage. This is the Heiros Gamos, or the holy marriage of the divine aspects of our inner archetypal and divine couple whose offspring becomes the alchemical Hermetic Child as our rebirth into a new and higher spirituality. We see this marriage being blessed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit as the descending dove that is the mediator between heaven and earth.
We also see that the entire scene is divided into two equal parts or aspects of consciousness. Two luminaries share this scene. The Sun to rule the day, and the Moon to rule the night. In the depths of darkness, in a little far off town, one alchemist is keeping vigil, even in his sleep he tends to his fire and keeps the light. This suggests to us that the Alchemical Wedding is to be experienced inwardly through spiritual practice, meditation, aspiration and love for that which is the divine in us.
As we explore our scenery, we pass by Diana’s temple and realise that it is she that is our beautiful queen and goddess. Her purity and chastity is symbolised by the unicorn as the single horned white horse, tireless when attempted to be captured by the impure of heart, but surrenders and falls meekly to the ground when approached by a virgin. According to Cirlot’s dictionary of symbols, the unicorn has been an emblem of the sword or the word of God. This also suggests to us as being the secret fire of the alchemists, for the word of God is as fire. Next we see the White Swan which gently swims over our darkened water. Alchemists have often repeated to watch for the appearance of the white swan, for when it appears over our matter, the whitening stage, the purification of our work has begun. In the lake we also see the water lily having spread its petals seeking to absorb the light of dawn. The lily is a beautiful symbol revealing that the highest in us is found in that which is the lowest in us, as the roots of this beautiful flower are anchored in the murky mud below the surface of the waters.
An important symbol not to overlook are the lilies of the valley at the foot of our Queen. The lily is a fragile flower and likes to live in the indirect light of the sun, in the shadows, hence in the valley. This is symbolic of the emerging light and consciousness of the Self being also fragile as it unfolds its petals. It cannot immediately look directly at the sun. Thus we must mature and get accustomed to the lunar reflective stage of the emerging light as we begin to endure the higher intensities of the alchemical fire of the soul. We are after all the athenor of our work, which is revealed by the athenor in the very center of the painting. We see there the vessel also containing our alchemical King and Queen, suggesting that this is a Hermetic Work, and that it is an inner event. We see the outer fire below the athenor heating the vessel and raising the vibrations within it allowing for the alchemical process to be initiated. The outer fire also symbolises the fire of passion, and of spiritual aspiration and practice which will set the inner fire of the soul within the vessel.
As we continue to explore the scenery we arrive at the right side of the painting. We see here the brightness of the light of day. We see the king’s castle and a chapel over the hill. The ground is rich and fruitful with vines and grapes suggesting the action of the solar force. Even the tree is full with blossoms as we have entered into the revival of nature in spring. This is an apt symbol of our own revival into a new and glorious awakening. The right side of the painting is in sharp contrast to the left, however it is also seen as being a harmonious union of opposing forces, which is also symbolised by the pavement upon which stand our beloved couple exchanging wedding vows. The Queen offers herself as the white alchemical rose to the King. The King offers himself as the red alchemical rose.
The colors are suggestive of the white and red stage of the alchemical process. The flooring or pavement is checkered as the forces of light and darkness are in harmonious balance. This is the marriage of the alchemical fire and the water as our alchemical Sulfur and Mercury. It is said that if it were not for water, fire would burn up the world, and if it were not for fire, water would drown the world.
Behind the King follows the alchemical Red Lion representing the ferociousness of the ego. There is nothing wrong with ego as long as it is purified, subservient and obedient to the King. For in its positive aspects the ego is also strength, fortitude, power and the virile mighty power of the soul. It is the “I Am” principle in one without which, as Carl Jung states, we cannot be conscious. The ego helps to make real the totality -the whole psyche. It is the ego that serves to light up the entire system, allowing it to become conscious and thus to be realized. The Red Lion in us must first be conquered and put to death, and then resurrected. Anyone who has experienced the dark night of the soul will understand this.
This painting was intended to allow the meditative and contemplative mind to realise the beauty of the alchemical process as being one of a regeneration of the soul and consciousness and the uplifting of one’s ordinary human condition. Alchemy need not be a dark and mysterious journey. Though darkness will be encountered, it is to be accepted as the blessed darkness of the soul, within which is found the regenerative secret fire of the alchemists. In the breaking through of an unconscious content into consciousness, which is as a dawning light, we first always enter into a darkness of consciousness. Just as a candle flame loses its brightness when brought from a dark room into the sunlight. The greater Light diminishes the light of the ego. Until the assimilation of this most adorable fire is achieved, we enter into a lowering of the level of consciousness, into a moment or time of obscurity. A certain part of us, as our lesser selves, must pass through the psychological “Dark Night of the Soul” and its impending “Philosophical Mortification”. But always we keep our sacred vigil, for dawn breaks just before the darkest hour, revealing a Golden Dawn, a resurrection and a realization into a higher order of the Self. A Self having passed through its alchemical marriage as the entity becoming one with that which is the universal in him.
Written by Steve Kalec
Forthcoming Work, Beautiful Alchemy