Alchemy of Vision, Pt. 2

Gold/Red – Rubedo —  Perfection – Refinement

It’s been a few weeks now since both my eyes were healed; I have bionic lenses now, and while I thought I’d be musing on perfection, which alchemical gold purports to be… I am sitting here writing in the tea bar with much better but imperfect vision.

My distance vision is 20/15 (I’M A SUPERHEROOOOOO!), but it’s reading glasses forever for close-up work. My astigmatism is also gone. The clarity is overwhelming sometimes. I’m actually giddy looking around my neighborhood while I walk to the bus stop. This sure beats the progressive trifocals I was heading toward, and I’m not blind in one eye anymore.

But it’s not perfect. I mean, if money were no object, I could have selected the fancy-schmancy lenses that do make your vision flawless… but insurance covers the standard ones. So the deal you make with the devil (who is a friend of mine) is either correction close up, or correction for distance. I picked perpetual readers.

So, I’m pleased. But in contemplating the alchemical pattern of my vision change, I did have to wonder if gold meaning “perfection” was misplaced.

Or if, in thinking on the symbolism of alchemical gold, if the method or reason for attainment changed course as the definition of perfection changed over time.

And, yes, that meant a wormhole opened up…

What a mess this word “perfection” is. The notion of it being “flawlessness” is fairly recent, and more ideologically controlling. And ridiculous.

You can either take the Eastern perspective, where you come into the world perfect and then the to-and-fro of life contributes to you forgetting your basic goodness, which makes you imperfect. Or you can take the Western perspective, where you are sinful and loaded with dross the minute you are born, and have to spend your life trying to hopelessly be perfect in a world that is not, but keeps telling you is necessary. (Perfectionism, the belief that you think it’s possible to be perfect, and that somehow you are responsibile for it, has never made sense to me. But it is so prevalent here in the West.)

Aristotle spoke of it as completeness — of being finished. Perfection means you have all the components to be whole and mature, you can’t be any better, and you have attained your purpose. In Hellenistic Greece, Deity could never be perfect, because the force of the divine was always moving, growing, never completed; the world was perfect because it had everything it needed and ran beautifully according to design. With the onset of Thomas Aquinas’s readings of the Greeks in the Middle Ages, perfection began to take on the definition of flawlessness; now God was perfect, and we could never be, but were punished by believing it was possible and we were obligated to keep working to attain such a state.

None of this is particularly satisfying. Or accurate.

Maybe we’re looking at this with the wrong eyes…

Gold isn’t the ultimate alchemical attainment because it’s shiny and pretty and you can make money out of it. Gold is one of the softest and most malleable metals we have. Ask any jeweler — you have to add other metals to it to make it strong enough to wear, or even hold, otherwise it’ll bend and melt into a shapeless mass… a beautiful shiny mess.

The value of gold is not in its appearance, but in its ability to change form.

When we alchemists attain gold, we attain the ability to never harden, to continue to have the endless possibility to change and transform, to shine on while we are being twisted and bent and hammered. Somehow gold — and we — won’t break under pressure. And that is actually the perfection we are attaining; no matter what happens, we will always have the ability to bend and change and adapt, and to know that incomplete beautiful worth.

We’ll never be “finished”, “flawless”, “complete”. That’s death, really. And whether we contain gold inherently or fight to attain it, it’s possible over and over again to change ourselves and our circumstances. That’s the gift of gold.

This change in my vision is an alchemical miracle. The doctor said my eyesight will likely not change for the rest of my life now. I’m thrilled with that idea. But also I’m a little thrown by the permanence. I’m a little flawed and unchanging… this is different wisdom.

My entire life was having to bring things in close to be able to see and understand it clearly. Now… I have to back up and take it all in. This is so new to me… and clearly the lesson I’ll spend the rest of my life learning…

A week after my second surgery I was sitting at Paganicon in the Temple of Satan’s hospitality suite, musing with Asmodeus about gods and darkness and eyesight and gold. I mentioned that I initially told my Heathen friends to hold off on the Odin jokes while I was one-eye blind; but now that both eyes are fixed, I was thinking about him more. What vision did he lose and attain? And how did his ascertaining of this thing “wisdom” change? Not knowing enough about the Northern gods, I left it hanging in the air while the room began to fill up with drunk Pagans… and then in walked Stacey, my beautiful Heathen friend who drove me through the dark for my first eye surgery. Now she was festooned in an amazing red and gold costume, fresh from the Ball, full of whiskey…

Well, ask and you’ll receive, right?

“Hey Stacey, did Odin get to pick which eye he gave up?”

“NOPE!! The sisters took the one they wanted.”

“OK… did he get to choose whether he sacrificed insight or foresight?”

“NOPE!! He didn’t choose anything. They took his eye and strung him up by his foot.”

I was grateful for better post-surgery care than that. But I couldn’t get past the realization that my first apprehension of new vision was tree branches — and that after nine nights of hanging on the World Tree, Odin first learned the runes by seeing what the Tree branches had to teach.

I have the vision and the desire to learn again, which blindness actually took from me for a while. My eyes are new gold…

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