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Emblem 060: Ouroboros

You’ve met him before, the snake with his tail in his mouth. He comes to us from alchemy. There he stands for the circulatio, a process that continues itself. The material on which you work in its closed container, responding to gentle persistent heat, sublimes and rises, condenses and falls. Repeat as necessary.

There are matters in our lives in such process. “Why is this bothering me again? I thought I already dealt with it,” we think. We’re right, we did. But it needs more work. When we’re the material the work takes a lifetime.

Alchemy isn’t about being done with things. It’s about change. Each time the material cycles it incorporates all of your previous hard-won insights into itself. Gradually it transforms. Look at the image of the ouroboros. As he changes, so does his diet. As his diet changes, so does he. He’s neither what he was nor what he’ll be. He’s traveling.

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Emblem 018: Through all the colors

In alchemy the peacock represents the phase of the work in which all the phases have been realized. The maxim is, “You must pass through all the colors.” No skipping the ones that aren’t appealing, no pretending you’ve done ones you haven’t, and ignorance of a color doesn’t excuse you from making its acquaintance. It speaks to recollecting all the scattered elements of personality from projection and fitting them into a conscious sense of identity. It also speaks to the aging process, letting each age have its turn—blissful youth, overworked midlife, elder who knows how things turned out. Through all the feelings, through all the stages of life, through all the components of personality, through all the experiences of your lifetime, skipping nothing, refusing nothing, denying nothing. Put another way, you’re encouraged to collect the whole set.

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