All shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
from “The Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot
Coniunctio is the alchemical process of combining elements that were previously separated. It is often conceptualized as union of opposites to form a third, sometimes symbolized by marriage, but Coniunctio can also involve more than two elements.
It was odd to work with my friends on Coniunctio images this week because it was the last of these gatherings. No sooner had we explored a process of coming together than we went our separate ways, home or otherwise, though people were reluctant to leave and lingered almost a full hour past the time we’d agreed to end.
With all three of the alchemical processes we experienced through the process of image making, there was a definite diversity of interpretations within the group. But nowhere was this truer than with Coniunctio. One friend centered her image on a union of natural and man made materials. Another focused on color and wove black and white materials together. A third focused on a quote from Jung about how “…life calls not for perfection but for completeness….”
In each of these processes I have found that certain materials speak to me strongly, demanding to be used. For Coniunctio, the loudest voice from the material table belonged to the magnets. I knew I had to use them and feature them prominently in my image. I wanted the piece to have a certain attractive quality, a certain gravity to it, as though it pulled everything around it toward the Coniunctio taking place at its center.
We are, by nature, drawn into Coniunctio. We form communities, relationships, families, corporations — groups of all kinds, like this gathering of friends. We speak of these things as though they are discrete events, but a marriage, for instance, begins but does not end with the act of getting married. Relationship, Coniunctio, is a process that converts its original elements into something new, such that, even at the next Separatio or Mortificatio, the elements that enter these processes are not the same as the elements that entered the Coniunctio process. We are drawn to this transformation over and over again, always in flux, and always changing and being changed by one another.
Psychologists and philosophers have heated debates about this: Is there truly such a thing as an essential self? Or are we just the sum of the influences of culture, friends, and family? Ultimately, to me, this question is rather uninteresting, an I tend to think of if, perhaps a bit more lightheartedly, as the wave/particle dualism of the self. We are at once discrete and continuous.
Working with Coniunctio, I felt my continuous aspect was a bit more at the forefront of consciousness, and I am grateful to friends, both within this alchemical group and in other aspects of my life, for the ways in which they influence my world, for the continual Coniunctio we are all engaged in together.