And the Phoenix Rises From the Ashes
Alchemical Transformation Series
Rebirthing ourselves into the world.
This piece is the second in a three-part series of articles. Read Part-1 here (To Face the Dragon is to Seize Life Itself and Part-2 here (The Sorting Stage of Transformation: Heroes Need Not Apply)
One day, several years after the birth of my second daughter, I began to feel nauseated. My appetite was shifting and erratic. And, my period was late. I knew these were the tell-tale signs of pregnancy.
But, I didn’t even need a pregnancy test to know that I was not pregnant with another human being. I knew I was pregnant with my new self.
For the past several months, I’d been undergoing a Dark Night of the Soul–a period of such intense spiritual intensity I wasn’t sure I would make it back to see the light. In this period of time, everything I thought I knew fell away and left me in a state of confusion and disarray. All the guidelines that had shaped and structured my life vanished. I was left, in the dark, with nothing to hold on to but my faith in a full and complete transformation.
This period of time is reminiscent of the Nigredo Stage of transformation according to alchemy, which I discussed in Part 1 of this series.
I’d been painstakingly combing through my life, as well as my beliefs and values, which correspond to the Albedo Stage, discussed in Part 2 of this series.
And so intuitively, I knew I needed a spiritual healer, not a gynecologist, to help move me through the third and final stage of my transformation.
Nearly from the moment, I laid my body down on her table and her hands moved over mine, my body began to respond. I alternately sweat, shivered, and ached. I moaned, I sobbed, I yelled out. My wise healer continued to guide me through the process, encouraging me to breathe, to scream out, to do whatever I needed to do to birth this new being into the world.
At some point, it happened. A weight left my body. I cooled down, and a gentle sweetness arose in the room. My healer covered me with a blanket. There was indeed a newborn baby in our midst, and it was me, in my new skin.
After this session, I began the hard work of caring for my new self. As with any infant, it is critical to indulge in self-care at this stage. We must use caution in introducing ourselves back to people or places until we develop the boundaries and necessary wisdom of the spirit that will arise in this third and final stage of transformation.
Our strength is not yet fully developed, our wings are still a bit wet, and our heart is quite vulnerable.
And yet the beauty of this stage, the Rubedo Stage, is undeniable. The newborn you have done deep and difficult work to reveal the authentic soul within.
The Rubedo Stage is the third and final stage of personal transformation according to Alchemy. It is the stage where we begin to feel reinspired to live a life aligned with our souls and our true values. It’s where we once again seek sources of wisdom to excite and impassion us. The Rubedo stage is the rising phoenix from the ashes, the butterfly from the cacoon, and, of course, the baby emerging from the mother’s womb.
The world will want to quickly begin to re-teach its ways of harshness and division. It will quickly try to remind this newborn you that you must earn your keep, that there is no room for someone who steps out of line, and so on. The world will try to mold you into an agreeable sort of person–one who slowly forgets their magic and their power, even the power recently remembered.
Immediately and without a care for the sensitivity of this newborn soul, the world will get to work trying to condition it to be anything other than the agent it can actually be in its full power.
This is what happens to Harry Potter when, as a child, he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle. Representing the culture at large, the aunt and uncle are tasked with conditioning the magic and possibility out of Harry. But, thankfully, Harry’s spirit is too strong. He makes his way out of this straight-jacketed life into the one he was meant to live.
We too will face all kinds of “uncles and aunts” trying to make us live in tiny closets. We must firmly resist.
Think of and treat yourself like a newborn baby. You have nothing to prove and no agenda to pursue. Do not also make the mistake of thinking the work is done. Given the tentative nature of this stage, it is a time in which everything can go awry. If you take this newborn you back into past environments and past people too quickly, you risk losing much of what has been gained. So, try to maintain some distance from the places where most of your early conditioning came from–particularly if it was damaging or abusive, but even if it was not. Our early patterns tug hard on us and will work to undo our tentative newer, healthier patterns.
If old patterns reemerge too quickly, it is a sign that too much of the old has come along for the ride, too much has masqueraded as authentic, or we were not honest with ourselves about what was and wasn’t authentic in the previous stages. While this is not a failure, it does mean that we will likely return to the Nigredo stage before long. We all must return to face the dragon from time to time.
In this third and final stage of transformation, we begin to let ourselves be inspired by new ways of being in the world. We take in possibility, and we test out our new power. We begin to weave together a new way of being in the world that keeps us connected with our souls.
We are not only shaping how we feel about others, but how, eventually, others will feel about us. Because the change is happening from such depth of honesty, humility, and acceptance, it is impossible that others will look at us the same way. To them, it might seem as if we’ve gone off the deep end. Such is the view from Status Quo Land.
So, stay true, stay aligned, and trust the knowledge you’ve reconnected with during your transformation.
After all the hard work we’ve been through, we must tend carefully to our new selves. But don’t forget–like the birth of a real human baby, it is also a time to celebrate and rejoice.
Once the very tender and fragile state of our rebirth is behind us, we are ready to move back into the world.
We transition from the fluid state we’ve been in during our time in transformation and form ourselves back into a thing of substance. This substance is what we’ll stand on going forward in the world: our integrity, our sense of self, our newfound wisdom. As we rebuild, we must be very clear to ourselves about what matters to us and what doesn’t, and make choices accordingly.
No longer borrowing our sense of integrity or our code of ethics from other systems or people, we begin creating them for ourselves. We don’t need The Ten Commandments, nor the Yamas and Niyamas from the yoga tradition. They may inspire our own personal code, but we can adjust, add, or find other words and phrases that mean more to us personally as we design our own.
Keep in mind that the ego will always be lured back into our old ways. We are not immune from further marring of the soul–quite the opposite, this is part and parcel of being human. We have not attained some permanent, frozen stage, nor would we wish to attain it. Going back out into the world will eventually result in us getting hurt once again, getting burdened once again, and, most likely, returning to the Nigredo stage once again.
But if we emerge from the Rubedo stage with a strong sense of self, the effects will hold longer, and likely make subsequent transformations a little easier.
But that’s a concern for a later time. For now, enjoy the beautiful new you–and soar like the phoenix from the ashes.
If you want to read more of my writings, you may explore the following articles:
Not Who I Was — Not Yet Who I Will Be
To Face the Dragon is to Seize Life Itself
The Sorting Stage of Transformation (Heroes Need Not Apply)
[More about my path and my work is available here.]
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