Saturday, February 27, 2010

Calcinatio: Letting Go an Illusion of Reality

In a former blog entry I introduced alchemy as a metaphor for great coaching, then summarized key alchemical processes in a recent newsletter. For the next nine blog entries I'll amplify these alchemical metaphors with client examples.
Calcinatio, purifying by fire, is the first of the alchemy procedures, subjecting the basic material to intense heat, driving away alien substances and leaving a pure, whitened ash. Psychologically, this is the burning away of the false self. The whitened ash represents release from our personality's fixated illusion of reality.
Whenever we are "consumed" by raging anger, this is the ego's habitual response to feeling threatened. In The Nine Ways of Working, Michael Goldberg uses the calcinatio metaphor with perfectionists, "fire-breathing dragons with very good manners. Their dragon fire can be a sanctifying, purifying fire--something to test your mettle and make you the best you can be--or it can be a punishing hellfire that will burn you to a crisp."

When we're angry and learn to stay with the fire, however, not reacting, not obsessing over how and who to burn to a crisp, we let the anger go to ground, finding and releasing the illusion that everyone should behave a certain way and it's our job to fix them. Here's how Jan describes changes she's experienced:
I used to have the sense "If I don't flog it and work really hard at it, it won't be enough." I became aware of a pattern where a grievance with someone in a work situation would give me an excuse to get angry.

My story was "Unless I'm right and good I cannot love or be loved," and that's not true, of course.

Since then I've learned ways to release anger so I don't devastate the countryside, no one dies, and no tragedy occurs. I've come to allow the lid to rest a little more lightly on the pot. I'm not pushing it down so hard for fear the contents will explode. I'm more in touch with my anger, aware when it comes up, and find new ways to express it, often in creative efforts.
This burning through releases creative energy, passion, and grounded idealism that can literally change the world.

(See also Solutio, Solificatio, Nigredo, Separatio, Mortificatio, Sublimatio, Coagulatio

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