Real life Alchemy – creating Transmutation Circles

Alchemy – the art of transmutation, which means lasting change and transformation, of your self AND your relationship to the world and environment around you. From this place, you can effect material change in circumstance as well as spiritual/psychological change in yourself.

I’ve hit upon what may be a fun way to play with alchemy and transmutation (other than create animations and stories about it). Looking around the internet, so much of the info on alchemy is either based on the history of it as pre-chemistry, or incredibly high-brow hermetic babblings that have only small glimmers of practical use.

The best video I found was actually an explanation of Alchemy in a Japanese anime, Full Metal Alchemist –

The stages here are quite clearly expressed :

  • First, understanding and comprehension of the Material : what is it made off, the energy of it both potential and kinetic. In yourself, it is understanding the nature of your habits, feelings, physicality. In the world, it might be nature of relationships from yourself to others, and also the impersonal substance of natural or cultural law. (I hit upon cultural law effects only in my thirties – almost getting a police caution for drawing magical symbols and poems on a wall – turns out that is graffiti – and then dealing with Immigration rules, country borders and Family Law)
  • Next, Deconstruction – take the material apart, break it down into elements, process it in someway – there are a variety of alchemical operations for doing this – burning it, dissolving it, filtering it, putrefying it.
  • Finally, Reconstruction – take the essence of it and create something new, deliberate, intentional. One of the corollaries is what they call “Law of Natural Providence”  – in that you have to work with the limits/amount of the material you have – you only have so much “stuff” in the matter, and it has a certain composition of elements – if you try and make MORE stuff or change the nature of it completely, there will be some kind of “rebound” effect. In real life transmutation, I think that yes, some emotions have certain common elemental qualities — there is something that underlies both fear and excitement, so changing one to another is possible, but fear into joy doesn’t work as well. Tears  – of joy, of sadness…tears of fear? of anger? not quite.  I also think about taking measured steps rather than giant leaps when it comes to changing patterns : you have to acknowlege your level of energy and resource, how much you can really change at once. If you go all-out in one area you will get a ‘rebound’ effect somewhere else.

I really love the discussion of transmutation circles and transmutation arrays. My very first initiation into Real Life Magic involved learning about creating a circle, a container. It works. It focuses attention, and creates a time and a space within which the transformation can happen. It doesn’t have to be a visible line of chalk or a ring of incense. We can and do make invisible commitments of time and energy. Often we step into the one made (or emergent) of culture, of an employer-business, a school or study program. Done well, these systems have a flow of energy within them that holds and transforms, inspires art, work, growth, learning. Done poorly, there is stagnation, fragmentation, boredom, fracturing.

Hypothesis: Rather than focus on controlling or changing ourselves through linear WILL and action : instead “Set up” transmutation circles, in ourselves and our life – maybe around specific intentions. They allow for the flow of integrity and energy with ease and increasing potency – focus for attention and time. What we put within that – a creative project, a relationship, oursevles – will transmute. Change that lasts, is enduring.

Experiment : I will follow this thread, and start seeing/sketching the transmutation circles/arrays I’ve created in my life. I already see how I’ve made many, unconsciously, or stepped into ones made by others. Now I will get conscious about it, deliberate, and start encouraging and supporting others to create their own transmutation circles, with their life. Because we can do more Magic than we realise.( And it’s more fun than goal setting mindmaps… )


(pictures from

"There's nothing you can do that's more important than being fulfilled. You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way, you will find, live, and become a realization of your own personal myth." – Joseph Campbell

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