[*] Historical perspectives
One of the long term projects happening behind the scenes at Physical Alchemy involves changes to the architecture behind the method and rekindling of the idea of a Guild as a central hub for education.
In medieval cities people gathered together in guilds based on their crafts. These guilds often had a primary physical location – a guild hall – which functioned as a central meeting area where the members of the guild could work their crafts, commune and take care of other business. The founders of the guilds were often independent master craftsmen with shared principles and an interest of imparting and preserving the secrets and mysteries of their art to the next generation by way of apprenticeship.
Along with the guilds came a formalisation of a somewhat grueling educational chain that interested candidates had to pass through before they could be elected to become a master craftsman.
This involved starting an apprenticeship – a formal 7 year study period – in which the apprentice was bound to and shadowed a single master. They would learn the craft directly by immersion. They in turn provided support in the completion of mundane tasks to give the master more time for important matters. The apprentice was not to be paid for any work he produced at this stage and usually lived with the master as a member of the household. In exchange the apprentice received food, lodging, and the essential training.
After graduating from the apprenticeship one would then become known as a journeyman – a word which comes from the French word journée (meaning a ‘day’s march’) and referred to the journeyman’s right to charge a fee for each day’s work. The journeyman was considered competent in his craft but could not work for himself; nor hire others to work under him – and so was resigned to only working as an employee under the direction of a master craftsman.
To become a master craftsman (a full member of a guild) the journeyman would generally have to produce a masterpiece – a opus – that illustrated his capacity for craft. This, alongside a sum of money to show his commitment to the guild.
If the masterpiece was not accepted by the masters of the guild he was not allowed to join the guild and quite likely would remain a journeyman for the remainder of his days.
In some areas there was also a tradition called ‘the wandering years’ where the journeyman would set out for travel for at least 3 years – working abroad and studying the regional techniques and methods of other master craftsmen. After a period of wandering the craftsman would return to the guild and register to become an apprentice-master. He would settle in the guild for a few more years before presenting his masterpiece. This earned him the right to be promoted to Guild Master and open his own workshop (assuming his piece was auspicious enough to be accepted, of course).
The collapse of the guild system came about due to their influence on – and entanglement with – the economy and legal systems that were in place at the time. Their economic and social failures notwithstanding, what they did do to some degree is allow their crafts to be transmitted and effectively through the generations – which is the part we are most interested in.
[*] Physical Alchemy ‘culture’ – a Neo-Guild Structure
Enter the idea of a ‘Neo-Guild’.
This is our vision – a collective of highly skilled physical artisans in a structure resembling the guilds of old but adjusted for modern times. Each member creating and refining a personal expression of the craft and then passing on to the next generation. All the while respecting and working with the underlying living current and principles of the method. This encompasses both a virtual network of craftspeople and also physical location (Physical Alchemy Laboratories HQ).
As the artistic medium for this craft is a human being, work must occur simultaneously upon the craft [physical and non-physical methods] and the craftsperson [transmutation]; otherwise it is simply physical training and not physical alchemy.
A subclinical dissatisfaction is felt by keener explorers within the realms of physical training and movement. Physical Alchemy is not an isolated reaction. Tinkerers, dabblers, pathfinders – all flavours of educationally half-caste physical practitioners. People are beginning to feel the need for something different and are blending methods both within the physical training domain and extra-domain – mixing ‘repatterning methods’, practices from spiritual traditions and other experiential work with potent physical training methods of increasing availability.
This is not the ‘freedom’ it seems to be. The compulsion to tinker is a dangerous virtue.
Many people these days seem to be doing an inversion of the ‘wandering years’ mentioned above – without a formative apprenticeship phase in the general terms of sticking with one method under someone who can teach well until it ignites, they are workshop hopping and creating what Bruce Lee called a “fancy mess” of stanzas of training methods and tantalising philosophies jumbled together that produce erratic and sometimes interesting results.
Even if the person has completed a formative period something akin to an apprenticeship and we assume such tinkerings produce increased effectiveness, efficiency and creative expression (which is quite an assumption) – this tells us mainly about the use of such explorations on the level of physical training alone.
Within Physical Alchemy adding the perspective of Reenchantment into the evaluation of the training allows physical training methods to be seen in a new light. Even if it is cutting edge physical methodology well taught (and that is quite an ‘if’) it will include one of three ‘bonus’ effects upon the human under instruction in line with the state of the practitioner teaching (regardless of whether the practitioner is aware of this or not):
- it will have a roughly neutral effect upon the persons being trained in terms of reenchantment;
- it further disenchants the person and in some cases can even trap them in an inauspicious bind that is extremely difficult to escape or possibly terminal (regardless of the potency of the physical method);
- or rarest of all (as in practically non-existent) it simultaneously produces the physical capacities associated with the physical arts and methods trained AND ALSO facilitates and provokes the human transmutation known within Physical Alchemy as Reenchantment.
Variety and distribution of powerful physical training methods available for study has increased almost exponentially since I began seriously looking into them in 2001. This certainly has benefits but there are pitfalls, also. If someone is amazingly skilled at producing physical-only transformations but the method also propagates disenchanting sequaluae the effect is one of ‘bluntening the very tools that will save us’ – as physical training is a very useful tool to counter the general aspects of disenchantment on a cultural-body level but will not address the specific aspects. One can be a genius on one level and an (educated) fool on another.
This perspective leads to some very interesting differences in application. In some cases you will make diagrammatically opposite choices for the same person depending upon where you are as a teacher and which perspective you view the training in. Sometimes you will even pick an inferior physical method to provoke a wider response or teach a particular lesson.
[*] The Disenchanting Current
The term ‘disenchanting current’ is a phrase I have coined to describe a process I saw first within physical training methods I was researching – and later within every facet of life. Later still, I found a precise description of the mechanism behind this and even a passage exactly describing what I had seen in a book penned about events roughly a century ago ** (See Notes). So it is not a new phenomena and I am certainly not the only one to see it.
What I am interested in is evading its icy grasp with my own method – Physical Alchemy. As this method took form I had the realisation that I was onto something very important – a wholly new form or a new expression of an ancient form. And not ‘form’ in terms of the opticks of the physical exercises which actually borders on irrelevance at the deep structural level of art creation. But form in terms of what it seeks to do within the world..
However interesting this insight was it is not overly important practically speaking – what to do with it is. I had seen great teachers hoarding their potent methods in cloistered towers for fear of them being taken away – keeping them from fully aiding Humanity. I had seen other great teachers pave the degeneration of their arts by seeking academic legitimization and validation for their work where it was not necessary; or occurred at the wrong stage of the development of their body of work. I had seen teachers honestly trying to spread their methods but not providing for adequate fail-safes on the degenerating of quality of expression of material by certifying people incapable of anything but degeneration of methods.
I had seen all this and wanted a different path.
My Teacher [L] told me that all groups follow their creators in many interesting ways and so – with this burden to bare – the decision to start my own method was born and careful research upon the bodies of work and creation I was influenced by and had studied within began. At which junctures and what actions spark degeneration of the creative energies and enchanting current:
These are among the most useful questions and ideas creators and artists can every ask themselves.
Many insightful observations occurred: forums and other ‘sharing of ideas’ platforms actually initiated the disenchanting current because the critical mass of disenchanted humans talking about things they did not have the practical or experiential match for sets off an inauspicious reaction that has a precise order (that I am keeping hidden) that smothers much of the spark in the activity – removing a large amount of its potential to provoke transmutation; small ‘splinter cells’ of people who are reenchanted or very close can sustain a creative flux of exceptionally high and enjoyable discourse without disintegrating – but only if they are privately done; allowing ‘coolness chasers’ to study the inner workings your methods is inviting the degeneration of your methods. Many, many insights have come.
Just as some still-vital lineages of Zen utilise koanic collections such the Blue Cliff Record [碧巖錄] and the ‘Gateless Gate’ Mumonkan [無門関] to test the minds of student’s accomplishments of stages along the path to Enlightenment [Kenshō (見性)] – so Physical Alchemy is developing reenchantment ‘koans’, puzzles and challenges to test the aspirants authenticity of this transmutation and perception of reenchantment in the world.
In Zen the formal answers to these koans are not published. Opacity of ‘proofs’, transparency of activity will occur within Physical Alchemy. What people think of certain bodies of work; who one thinks is working towards reenchantment and who is mislead; reactions to reading ‘winnowing tomes’ (particularly three very special ones) and mistaking ‘pyrites tomes’ for ‘winnowing tomes’; words habitually used in conversations; behaviours and actions in person and on the Internet; interpretation of the neo-twilight language [ sāṃdhyābhāṣā ] used within Physical Alchemy and why this is done – all of these form koans and puzzles for the testing of this particular transmutations’ presence or absence. The triangulation process seems arcane but is actually very simple and clear. If it seems complex you simply are not here yet.
This is part of the reasoning behind the architecture within the guild being transmutation-based – not knowledge or (mundane) results based. Not even skill based. Only authentic transmutation and its testing can provide the strength of transmission needed to maintain and refine the methods and principles and pass them onto successions of generations in a non-watered down form.
If I cast my mind back and reincarnate into my pre-transmutation self I would be asking something along the lines of: ‘this sounds all well and good – but where is your evidence?!’. A good question and one certain to pop up at some stage. All I can say is I am collecting a number of forms of evidence but it will take a very long time to present these – call me when Saturn returns for a second time (Dave ~58-60 years old).
One does not report the same findings looking at a petri dish with a light microscope compared to an electron microscope. Greater perception than a human comes into this world with is required to research the phenomena I am talking about. If you can find a team of reenchanted researchers to study this change I am all for it. You would need to be in the state to study the state. I do not see this happening any time soon (but am willing to be surprised!) and so am going to continue my own form of research in the meantime. All things known were once unknown – many thought of as fanciful or impossible.. some not even entertained in thought at all.
That something of high importance and low occurrence within the human population is occurring within Physical Alchemy I have no doubt of. What, when, how, why are all up for discussion and change – but the actual reality of what is occurring is very clear and very different than the usual.
Reenchantment can occur without physical cultivation and capacity enhancement or it can occur in combination with physical training done virtuously. To teach Physical Alchemy you must have both the transmutation and a physical method to express it through. The transmutation is the essential feature.
Movement alone cannot produce Reenchantment.
And so the working parameters for the Physical Alchemy apprentice is something like this:
[ To simultaneously train methods to increase the physical capacities and resources of the human form; to produce Reenchantment* in human beings and to unlock hitherto unknown perceptions is the name of the game. ]
[*] 5 level structure
The structural hierarchy is not based upon time spent practicing or technical skill – rather on whether or not certain transmutations have taken place in the practitioner.
Each change in hierarchy represents an accomplishment and jump in capacity to perceive and act in an auspicious way previously inaccessible to the practitioner prior to the transformation. Certain other signs and lore are used to triangulate and test the transmutation – but these are held secret to prevent emulation.
The order in which one progresses is currently thusly named:
[Apprentice] → [Journeyman] → [Artisan] → [Master-craftsperson] → [Physical Alchemist].
Yes, yes – a bit fanciful but we have to name them something. The names are fluid, what they represent is stabilised.
Apprenticeship is a general term for immersion style learning of a certain duration. Within Physical Alchemy it also has some specific elements.
This stage of learning must be directly overseen by an artisan (or higher) as there has to be a certain spark to enkindle the process. Teachers with an abundance of theoretical and practical knowledge but no spark cannot teach the specific elements. Unlike a traditional apprentice the Physical Alchemy apprenticeship lasts as long as it needs to for the first transmutation to appear – escaping Cerberus (dissolving the crystallisation). This is heralded by certain signs <<scheduled>>. If certain signs are not seen within 1001 nights the apprentice is expelled from the process as an act of mercy upon them. They can rejoin after 1 year. To enter into the apprenticeship also has a large array of criteria. It is not for everybody.
There are roughly a dozen humans known or met who have done this transmutation (and in some cases gone much, much farther) known to Physical Alchemy – with slightly less than one half occurring from within Physical Alchemy – it is quite something to move from this stage to the next.
The stage of the journeyman is where the real work begins. Accomplishing this ‘Reenchantment’ is a rare thing indeed (demographically speaking) – but in the scheme of the totality of human potential it is not so big a deal. It is actually the beginning. The real work lays farther ahead. A keyless door must be passed through to accomplish the perceptions necessary in the teaching of Physical Alchemy but do not get too big-headed about it. It marks the beginning of real doing. And do we must. One cannot see the insights that the reenchantment provides and sit idle. The results of such is an affront to all the process is designed for. Many actions one once considered virtuous are now contraband by the insights gained by the reordering of the mind. Luckily many new options for you to play with appear too.
It is time to refine what it is you are doing on this Earth – and do it! Do it with the resources and insights that cannot come from the disenchanted haze. This transmutation needs to be shown and shared.
For those inclined towards teaching within Physical Alchemy a craft piece is necessary during this phase. This can be research of different kinds: creation of a syllabus using the principles gained; demonstration of work with students over time to produce results of a definite character not often seen; a piece of art or writing; a statue; anything really! As long as it shows that you can put to use this transmutation in an auspicious way for the benefit of Humanity.
This craft piece is presented to the circle of Artisans, Master-Craftsman and Physical Alchemists upon completion and – should it be found to be ‘pretty fucking virtuous’ by the council – it will be added to the formal methods of the guild and the practitioner will gain a ‘seat at the round table’.. so to speak (<<whispered>> we are actually going to get a real table!).
Artisans comprise the first ‘rank’ of ‘full membership’ (if you will). There are always going to be troubles with ‘ranks’ like there are with ‘belts’ or ‘sashes’ in the martial arts. But something needs to be done to show a transmutation has occurred. The jump from that of Journeyman also has specific signs and lore associated with it but there is no point discussing these publicly as they form a partial selection criteria for this rank.
This is the highest rank currently active within Physical Alchemy and is occupied by only one human currently – [DW]. This was conferred in recognition of his work upon the reenchantment process (somewhere approaching ~10,000 hrs); creation of the Alchemical Stretching syllabus out of the Re-patterning syllabus and the criteria of differences between them; creation of Physical Alchemy method and the reenchantment of five** humans other than himself as well as being the pathfinder for the process on his own.
Master-Craftsperson and Physical Alchemist
Two more ‘ranks’ within the structure currently exist in potentia based upon human beings known to Physical Alchemy members who have gone farther than us in terms of human transmutation.
The names are up for change but the overall premise is sound if one understands the importance of the linkage between level of transmutation of a human being and corresponding knowledge and insight available to said human. As one completes the apprenticeship clear insight is gained into this point which makes the ‘rank’ and round-table a comfortable paradox. In this work you cannot allow people with high intellect but no transmutation to ‘grab the microphone’ or you get the mess that happens in the “free information transfer” of forums and unregulated groups. Occasional small nuggets of gold within a turgid swamp where the signal-to-noise ratio is far too inauspicious to teach anything of substance. Decent sifting practice for the office-worker not ready to quit or the university student avoiding their essays. We are interested in higher forms of information transfer, however.
People by and large do not understand this and principles relating to the disenchanting current and think that allowing whoever and whatever to be posted is a useful strategy of communication. It is my strong opinion that this is not so.
[*] Neo-alchemical Circle
One of my wishes for Physical Alchemy as it grows is to have humans ‘laterally transfer’ into the ‘collective’ or ‘culture’ of Physical Alchemy Neo-guild and enrich it with what they have learned and the methods they practice. This cannot just be people with interesting training heritage – hence the tests, koans and riddles to test perception. Studying too long and too varied without producing the transmutation is one of the key features in the genesis of the false-enchanter patterns… but that is a story for another article.
I am honestly interested in anyone who has accomplished this transmutation via any method. I do not overly care which methods – the stranger and further away from my own the better in many respects. I believe the transmutation of an individual human being into this state of ‘reenchantment’ acts as a stretch for the cultural-body (sorry, no evidence you will accept for this one).
The aim to simultaneously produce Reenchantment and train the physical form well forces a new ‘culture’ to appear.
And here we are.
** The 5th other than myself actually occurred during the writing of this very article!
2) [ Disenchanting Current quote]
Ouspenksy, P.D., ‘In Search of the Miraculous: fragments of an unknown teaching’, 1987, Arkana (penguin books).
“Such a course of things, that is, a change in direction, we can observe in everything. After a certain period on energetic activity or strong emotion or a right understanding a reaction comes, work becomes tedious and tiring; moments of fatigue and indifference enter into feeling; instead of right thinking a search for compromise begins; suppression; evasion of difficult problems. But the line continues to develop though now not in the same direction as at the beginning. Work becomes mechanical, feeling becomes weaker and weaker, descends to the level of the common events of the day; thought becomes dogmatic, literal. Everything proceeds in this way for a certain time, then again there is a reaction, again a stop, again a deviation. The development of the force may continue but the work which was begun with great zeal and enthusiasm has become an obligatory and useless formality; a number of entirely foreign elements have entered into feeling – considering, vexation, irritation, hostility; thought goes round in a circle, repeating what was known before, and the way out which had been found becomes more and more lost.
The same thing happens in all spheres of human activity. In literature, science, art, philosophy, religion, in individual and above all in social and political life, we can observe how the lines of the development of forces deviates from its original direction and goes, after a certain time, in a diametrically opposite direction, still preserving its former name. A study of history from this point of view shows the most astonishing facts which mechanical humanity is far from desiring to notice.” [p129]