By LJ Vanier
Anyone who is called to the difficult inner journey of self-transformation ineluctably awakens deep structures in the psyche that can be seen in both the alchemical opus and, properly translated, in chaos theory.
These two parallel models share five critical insights (as well as many smaller ones) which provide a template for transformation. No matter what particular spiritual path we have chosen (or which has chosen us), these insights can help enrich our understanding of the process of transformation, whether outside in the world, or within our own lives.
1. The self-referential nature of reality
In alchemy, this is represented in the core belief of “as above, so below,” first presented in the fabled ‘Emerald Tablet.’ In Chaos theory, this occurs in several different presentations, including the fact that global (i.e., as above), and local (so below) are inextricably mixed.
The chaos theory example which is equivalent in renown to the Emerald Tablet might, however, be Benoit Mandelbrot’s mathematical concept of fractals.
Here I’m using the more modern term. All of chaos theory is based on feeding back information from one stage of a process to the next stage of the process. The computer has allowed scientists, for the first time, to model the way nature continually feeds back actions into themselves. But alchemy tried earlier to model such behavior by building up-and-down movements into their alchemical stages such as sublimatio (sublimation, aeration, rising, spirituality), and mortificatio (mortifying, falling into matter), or more explicitly in the circulatio (continual cycles of rising and falling). But the most ancient alchemical symbol of feedback is the image of the uroboros, the snake that swallows its own tail.
3. Transformation through cycles of taking apart and putting back together
In alchemy, this is accomplished through stages such as solutio (i.e.,dissolve), and separatio (break into parts), followed by stages such as coagulatio (coagulate, come together) or coniunctio (conjunction, joining). This process is implicit in all of chaos theory, especially in ‘strange attractors.’ The most famous example is the baker transformation, in which a baker kneads dough over and over, separating parts of the dough that are close together, and bringing together other parts that were widely apart.
In alchemy there was an explicit stage of darkness and confusion: the nigredo. There was an understanding that because this chaos was beyond all definition, it implicitly contained all possibilities within itself. Eventually, points of light (scintillae of light) would begin to emerge within the darkness of the alchemical experiment. There was no possibility of predicting which spark would suddenly grow into the light of new birth, but new birth there would be.
And, of course, as one can tell by the name chaos theory, chaos is explicit part of the modern model. As we will see in more detail, order gradually bifurcates, splitting into first two possibilities, then four, and so on. It is impossible in advance to predict which fork will be taken. Then at some further point, the bifurcations change into chaos. But what is a new insight in chaos theory, is that even this chaos has structure at a global level, that out of it emerges a new order.
6. Inseparability of Experiment and Experimenter
There are innumerable references in alchemical texts to the idea that in order to fully carry out the opus, the alchemist must first purify himself in order to become worthy of the stone. Though less explicit in chaos theory, it is nevertheless found there. For example, neurobiologist Walter J. Freeman, a pioneer in the application of chaos theory within neuroscience, discovered that: “Instead of minds shaping themselves to their sensory inputs from the world, minds shape sense impressions according to their innate categories.” Freeman demonstrated this conclusively through his study of dynamic attractors in the brain for odor and other senses.
About the author
LJ Vanier - Hi! I am LJ Vanier and I am the creator of SoulScience Awakening You! I am deeply involved in spiritual practice and have experienced the paranormal since I was a young child. I am clairvoyant, clairaudient, clairsentient and clairognizant. An indy author and I am currently working on my next project Ether, set to be released in June 2015. Glad to have you here!