Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Who Peed in My Alembic?
Spiros at Soul Jerky just posted a fascinating article on Green Hermeticism, and I thought it'd be an interesting footnote to link to Tim Miller's article on ashtanga yoga and alchemy, in which he notes: "Turning lead into gold is a metaphor for the liberation of spirit from matter, which is the primary goal of both alchemy and yoga."

Link: The Alchemy of Yoga

It makes me think that Tim ought to be writing more articles, whether he's commissioned by Yoga Journal or not.

In the Hermetic alchemical tradition, there are three stages of spiritual transformation: nigredo, or as Jung has it, individuation, purification, or burnout of impureness; albedo, or whitening, spiritualisation, or enlightenment; finally, rubedo, or reddening, for unification of human with divine, limited with unlimited.

It's important to note that these kinds of transformations take place in a crucible, and a crucible must by nature be stronger than the materials heated and transformed within it. The primary series and hatha yoga in general aims to construct the adamantine body in which this transformation takes place.

Set aside for a moment the obvious parallels between the different sequences in ashtanga vinyasa, which would cast the primary series or yoga chikitsa as nigredo, intermediate series or nadi shodhana as albedo, and the advanced series as rubedo, because it's important to recall that Pattabhi Jois says, "Primary series --- very, very important. Intermediate series --- important. Advanced series --- demonstration only!"

The tree-branch metaphor of the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga is relevant in that nigredo, albedo and rubedo can occur simultaneously, rhizomatically, rather than in a step-wise, hierarchical progression. All three can occur in primary series. Picasso famously said he spent his whole life learning to draw like a child again, and sometimes I think we're all just trying to find ways to get back to our very first yoga practice, that very first state of savikalpa samadhi that perhaps ensued.