Thursday, October 28, 2010
That was easy
I think my beloved Sir Isaac Newton was even more of a genius than we generally assume. He spent a lot of time observing the world, thinking, and writing while all alone. He saw the world so clearly. Though perhaps not a shaman outright, he was definitely shamanesque.
Late in life, Sir Isaac got way into alchemy. His title was "Master of the Mint." Cool, eh? To the modern sensibilities of western culture, it seems weird, like he went off the deep end or something. I get it, though. I know alchemy isn't a "hard" science (whatever that means), but it's a true science, even if its truth can't be explained except as a metaphor.
I love Joseph Campbell's take on alchemy, that it is a process by which we come to know our true natures. Anyone who has ever been through the ordeal of personal transformation can easily relate to the metaphors of being cooked, poured, putrified, purified and clarified, oh yeah. All of the people I love most have lived the alchemical lifestyle at some point or another.
Lately I've been thinking about collective alchemy, a term I might have just made up. Sometimes when people come together in community, as friends, or at work, something inexplicably miraculous happens. The coming together produces a whole that is much greater than a sum of its parts. It almost doesn't matter who the people are individually (I mean the individuals do not necessary need to hold the same world views or values) though there does have to be a willingness on the part of each person to be fully present, fully authentic.
This is my very very very longwinded (and perhaps circuitous) way of saying that I have just returned from a three-day gathering of women I haven't seen since high school. We stayed in a house on Table Rock Lake in southwestern Missouri, up in the Ozark mountains. We didn't do anything that was particularly remarkable: we ate, drank LOTS of wine, danced our asses off, laughed our asses off, told stories, listened to each other. There was no agenda, we did not try to do anything except have fun. Even so, the collective alchemy was exquisite, producing a healing mojo so powerful that each of us walked away renewed, reglued, and resplendent. Wow.
I am in collective alchemical awe. Sir Isaac, you were on to something, you really were. Thanks, brother!