For people who go through the fire of calcination there is one more thing they need to be aware of – the main subject of the undergoing change is the cognitive function of thinking. It is the way we think – how we perceive ourselves, the world and our own place in it, how we interpret the things that happen to us, what is in the core of the alchemist work during the calcination process.
I have found that the main difficulty for people who are going through this process is precisely the ingenuity of the mind to sneak out and avoid seeing the obvious. The mind can be as slippery as a fish! The expression “like the Devil reads the Bible” describes precisely the way our mind functions in such situation. This is why some authors (like Eckhart Tolle) make an equation between the Ego and the mind – the mind can provide a perfect shelter for this mental part of us that resists change. When I talk with “people in calcination” and try to make them pay attention to certain external facts or internal conflict, they often reply with „yes, but…“ answer – although it seems that what they say appears related to the topic, in fact it distracts the attention in a different direction.
Apart from the amazing ingenuity of our mind to sneak out, another typical characteristic of it is to prompt us to look for a solution outside, not inside of us. It directs our attention to people or events outside that are the source of our unpleasant feelings and keeps us busy with what we have to do in order to change them and receive what we want. Instead of internal it looks for external change and ends up to another trap – we decide that we are a victim, after feeling helpless to change the situation for so long. We feel as a victim – angry, helpless and desperate and miss seeing that this helplessness indicates solely the inability to realize that there is still a choice. And exit out. Just it is not where we are used to looking for it. As Viktor Frankl says, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves”.
This change begins with a change in the way the way we think. Similarly to the knife that can take a life in the hands of a killer and in the hands of a surgeon it saves life, in its essence mind is neutral. It is related to the Ego only to the extent it serves the Ego’s hidden agenda – to resist change and to defend its leading role in humans’ life. If it serves the Self agenda it becomes the main and most powerful source for the radical inner change and this is the reason why the main focus of calcination process is transformation of the mind.
More or less, everyone changes when clashing with life’s limitations and suffering frustrated desires. More or less, everyone is forced to see truths about himself and his life that are both painful and liberating. But in order for such an experience to become a spiritual initiation one needs not just to change a little bit his way of thinking. One needs to change it radically! This change in the way we look at the things that happen to us, at our place in the world and the laws ruling it, resembles the situation where we used to believe that the Earth spins around the Sun but we came to know that it is exactly the opposite. This change is the dethronement of the Ego-dominated mind and the empowerment of our true Self.
Burning in the flames of frustrated desires is not a guarantee that the dethronement of the old king – the earthly Ego, will be successful. One needs to make a conscious choice in order to convert the painful experience into a spiritual initiation. Some people are satisfied with partial changes and this can be enough for them. Still, those who strive to add value in their life that is beyond the matter, have to go deeper until their thinking starts “circulating around the Sun” – i.e. to look at their own selves not as a body that has a soul, but as a soul that has a body. Only such a transformation can help them to bridge the gap between the matter and the spirit. Then one stops thinking that meditation or reading spiritual literature are spiritual practices but cleaning the house, going to work, bringing up a child or earning money are not. Instead he starts to see that everything is Spirit and the matter is just the condition for the Spirit to express his creative power.
Then if a person has issues with his partner, the questions he starts asking are not anymore: “What do I want from this relationship? What has to be my partner? How can I make him/her to understand what I want from him/her?”, but questions like “What my innermost Self wants me to do now? What can I do in order to develop my ability for a deep and satisfying relationship?” In order to see the calcination process as a spiritual experience we need to engage our mind with questions about the spiritual meaning of what is happening with questions like “Where the zone of my inner expansion lies now? What is Life trying to tell me with that? What is the deeper meaning of such experience?”
If one manages to answer these questions sincerely, he(one) normally realizes that he is used to get(ting) into partnership from the position of emotional dependence, conditional love and possessive attitude. That – if lonely – loneliness in his life is channeling lessons of a more mature kind of love. Those confinements and other forms of limitations are only the messages that tell him that freedom is something to be looked at from inside, not outside. That the lack of a dream job can reflect this inner part of him which consists of pretentiousness, vanity and pride – things from the arsenal of the Ego-dominated mind.
Once we bridge in our mind the gap between the matter and the spirit, all life becomes sacred. All what we do becomes a spiritual practice – a tool of self-knowledge that helps us to make choices synchronized with the need for inner growth. Then we start to realize that matter – as the thickest layer of the Spirit, is the most difficult one because it contains most opportunities for creation. That the limitations in the material life – the main source for our suffering, are just the way Hi ???gives to life a different shape. That the door to fulfilling our wishes in the world outside stays closed, in order for another one to be opened – the one that leads to our innermost Self. As Jung says, “I have the feeling of infinity only when I am ultimately limited”.
When we succeed in transforming the way we used to think, something very important happens – for the first time we can stop blaming the others or feeling helpless victims of the limiting circumstances in our life. Then the feeling of being a victim turns into the power of self-sacrifice – the ability to give up the object of our frustrated desires in the name of something bigger – the birth of our new Self. The symbolic meaning of sacrifice is to give up something precious in the name of something more precious.
Very often people get stuck in the calcination process because they fail to understand what it means to sacrifice something precious in order to gain something even more precious. What is more precious than being healthy, pretty, successful, happy, loving and feeling loved? Through the lens of our higher Self, what is more precious than getting what we want is to realize what is the real purpose of our life. And very often this purpose is different than having joy, pleasure or success. Because there is a difference between a “happy life” and a “meaningful life” and only when we start choosing the second one are we ready to synchronize the desires of the Ego with the needs of our Self. We are able to see calcination as a spiritual process when we start searching for the meaningful, even though it brings us to the dark places and unpleasant feelings.
The process of burning in calcination is an act of sacrifice when we give up something valuable from the matter and receive back something more valuable from the realms of the spirit. When our biggest desire becomes to fulfill the purpose of our life as immortal beings the calcination process can be completed. This does not mean that we stop having worldly desires. Not at all! Desires are still there but the way we look at their fulfillment has changed radically. Then if we want a loving partnership we do not put conditions on Life who will be the one who can give it to us. And the same is about the time. We do not tell Life when this will happen. We know that it may take some time – time for maturing and getting ready. But the most important – if we do not get what we want, we do not live in despair – we know that when we do not have what we want, we always receive something else. Something much more valuable.
“What is to give light, must endure burning” is the phrase that describes best the meaning of suffering during the calcination process. Another similar phrase is “In order to give off light, you’ve got to burn” (if you want to be light for the others, you need to learn how to bear the heat of the flames). These are perfect expressions of the essence of this first and most torturous process among the purification processes in alchemy. When I look at the faces of the people whom I know have burnt or are still burning in the calcination fire, do you know what I see? I see passion, I see commitment and dedication; I see inner power and huge potential for love. If they had not had these qualities, they would not known what it means to burn yourself in the flames of your own passions. The calcination is hell only for those afraid of the deep and the change that happens there. And is a priceless opportunity for those who want to expand in awareness, embracing the real purpose of their life and adding value to what never dies.