Black Swan Editions Visionary Art Book
Books Drawn from the Well of Myth

BLACK SWAN EDITIONS
Visionary Art Books & Poetry in Santa Fe, NM

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Art BLOG - The FIVE Minute Art Salon

What is a Path to Alchemy?

alchemy of the everyday 01THE ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting in visionary art book, "ILLUMINATIONS THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE IMAGINATION", pages 194-197      by Steven E. Counsell, Black Swan Editions, Santa Fe New Mexico USAWhat Is A Path To Alchemy?

As an artist, for close to five decades I’ve been an alchemist. I literally change one form into another. Metamorphosis is all I’ve ever been about. There are many names for this: myth, fantasy, symbolism, surrealism, even language itself (one of its ultimate forms).

 

 

 

 

 

 

alchemy of the everyday, painting detailALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting detail, pages 194-197 in visionary art book "ILLUMINATIONS The Geography of the Imagination", by Steven E. CounsellBut let’s deal with what most of us think we know about alchemy, turning lead to GOLD. Lead, a base metal, an analogue of the human condition, unrefined, dull, coarse, selfish, un-imaginative. GOLD, bright, brilliant, fanciful, to go from lead to gold is to go from the unenlightened to the enlightened.

 


alchemy of the everyday, painting from visionary art bookTHE ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting detail from visionary art book "ILLUMINATION THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE IMAGINATION''                                  by Steven CounsellEnlightenment is one of alchemy’s obvious metaphors, but as Joseph Campbell pointed out if you get stuck in the literal you will forget the symbolic. Lead to Gold. Were there Alchemical practitioners that really thought their early proto-chemistry could achieve this precious transformation? Of course!

 

 

ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting from visionary art bookTHE ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting detail from visionary art book "ILLUMINATION THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE IMAGINATION''                                   by Steven by CounsellAnd in one case, an alchemist in Germany promised a Prince he could in fact turn lead to gold. Though intense heat, ground bone, and dumb luck he managed to discover instead, Porcelain. This broke the Chinese monopoly and brought into being the Meissen ceramic works, making the Prince obscenely rich. The Alchemist was put into prison for his trouble - after all he had not turned lead to gold. White gold, as porcelain came to be known, was apparently not good enough. The Prince and the Alchemist both got stuck in the metaphor. Throughout history most have.

 

 

ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting detail from visionary art bookTHE ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting detail from visionary art book "ILLUMINATION THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE IMAGINATION''                                      by Steven E. CounsellBut philosophically what is alchemy really? In its simplest construction to make science sacred, or make the sacred scientific. Let me explain. As far back as the Sumerians and certainly the classical Greeks alchemy has been a fixed longing in the human psyche. Even though alchemists proper have been primarily male, alchemy's evolving philosophy has been curiously matriarchal, goddess centered. To whit - the balanced harmony of earth, air, fire and water. It’s so obvious, earth, literally the ground of ones being. Air (pneuma) the breath of life. Fire is the sun. And our star makes life possible. Water is what we are made of and what we must have. To the alchemists this is sacred science, and truly if this is not the source of the sacred what is?

 


Alchemy of the Everyday, painting detail from visionary art bookTHE ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting detail from visionary art book "ILLUMINATION THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE IMAGINATION''                                   by Steven E. CounsellAll the alembics, vacuum chambers and furnaces were an attempt to understand how all these forces interacted, science still does, but generally without humility or the sacred. Symbolically all of this translated to a more evolved perception, not just the obvious mechanics of greed. Carl Jung’s passion for alchemy was just this, what-is-the-empirical-source-of-the-sacred.

 

 

 

 

 

 


alchemy of the everyday, painting, visionary artTHE ALCHEMY OF THE EVERYDAY, painting from visionary art "ILLUMINATIONS The Geography of the Imagination" pages 194-197As we slide into an ethically narrowed race to the unknown trajectory of high tech, and the doctrinaire cliché’s of that old time religion, where is the wonder, the awe, the transfiguration of our essential humanity? Unity and sacredness in the final analysis is truly what alchemy is all about.