Symbols of Alchemical Transmutation
By JC Collins
“Alchemy is a threefold art, its mystery well symbolized by a triangle. Its symbol is 3 times 3 – three elements or processes in three worlds or spheres. The 3 times 3 is part of the mystery of the 33rd degree of Freemasonry, for 33 is 3 times 3, which is 9, the number of esoteric man and the number of emanations from the root of the Divine Tree.” – Manly P. Hall, The Secret teachings of All Ages
The crushing weight of the material world can be at times overwhelming. We are all susceptible to act out through episodes of weakness and selfishness in response to those feelings of pressure and hopelessness.
In the movie The 33, which describes the rescue of 33 Chilean miners in 2010 after a mine collapse, one of the men tells another man the following:
“Hate is for children.”
The connotation is that as we mature and age we should leave behind weak emotions, such as hate, and rule over our unbridled emotions for the betterment of self. There is no place for hate in the world of evolved men.
The moral of the statement in the context of the story is that the men would have to act together and control their negative behaviors in order to have any chance of surviving and ascending back to the light of the real world.
In the post The Grand Man – Part One I wrote:
“When I was a child my father taught me how to square walls and build things. Not mastering the square part, I built things anyway.”
We are always building and creating. The hard part is to become master of what we are building and creating. Building leaning walls on shifting foundations will ensure the collapse of all the things which we were born knowing, but forgot under the crushing weight of matter.
We need to become master builders.
The tale of the Chilean miners is the story of humanity told through the esoteric and symbolic analogy surrounding the alchemical transmutation of man from a base metal (the physical form) to gold (the evolution of spirit and matter as our higher self is reborn within a new temple).
The physical metal and gold aspects of alchemy are traps to catch the weak and unwary from stumbling upon the real truths of the nature of man and existence. These truths can only be realized through hard work, self-discipline, and self-realization. The truth must be hidden from the profane and unworthy through symbols and analogies.
All have the opportunity to discover these truths, but it must be done so at their own pace and in their own time. The symbols and analogies which hint at these truths are on display throughout the material world. They are in movies, songs, paintings, blogs, and in the very air we breathe and water we drink.
They work on a subconscious level but need to be willingly acted upon in order to manifest in the life of the knowing apprentice. Otherwise the truth stays buried in the depths of our heart and psyche, only to leak out through feelings of guilt and shame at living an unworthy life.
The name of the production company which made The 33 is Phoenix Productions. This is one of the most obvious clues that the movie itself is communicating something much more important that the rescue of 33 miners from their buried tomb.
The real life story of these men and their rescue is also loaded with symbolism. How this event came to be, and how it held such symbolism in the real world, is difficult to imagine. It was as if the fourth wall of symbolism and make believe came crashing into the real world.
In the movie the men are seen to have all the challenges associated with living in the material world. There are money concerns. One man is challenged with infidelity. Another is shown holding a whiskey flask. There is jealousy, hate, envy, and desire. But there is also love.
The men know the mine is not safe but toil there anyway because they need to support their families.
Within the first five minutes of the movie the learned observer can see that all of life’s trials and tribulations have been put on display. This is important because it is these things which must be mastered in one’s own heart and mind before the transmutation process back to light can begin.
As the men descend into the darkness and fear of the mine, there are religious symbols which play an important role. Each of the men pray to these false symbols, not realizing that true salvation can only be found within each of them.
When the mine collapses the 33 men manage to make it to a section called the refuge. It is within the refuge that they must face their greatest challenges. There is false pride and hopelessness, as well as simple greed and the temptation to murder. It is only through self-realization and banding together as brothers that the men survive the ordeal and return to the light of the real world.
Some of the masonic symbolism in the movie, and real life drama, include the rescue tunnel itself, which measured 66 cm in diameter (33 x 2), and was the pathway for the miners to travel from the dark and hopeless pressure inside the mountain to the light and love awaiting on the other end.
The rescue tunnel was drilled by an American company and took 33 days to complete.
The rescue capsule itself was called Fenix, obviously a play on the word phoenix. All 33 of the men ascended from the darkness inside the Fenix capsule on 10/13/10, which when added equals 33.
While in the refuge we can see that one man is wearing a shirt with the number 33 emblazoned on the back. Another man is wearing a shirt with the number 9. As detailed in the Manly P. Hall quote at the beginning, both of these numbers play an important part in the transmutation process. The appearance of only these two numbers is not by accident.
The Phoenix is the bird which rises from the ashes of its old former self. It is the symbol of a completed transmutation. Like the analogy of Christ, who completed the process of transmutation at the age of 33, the story of the men in the mine once again communicates to us the importance of being a master builder.
The 33 masonic degrees are also symbolic of this transmutation process.
Much like Denzel Washington in the movie Man on Fire, the challenges of one’s life decisions can find absolution through acts of courage, self-realization, and selflessness. At the end of the movie all 33 men are shown together on a beach, holding hands in a circle. It is stated that they remain brothers today.
The play on the word brothers brings to mind the comradery in masonic lodges, where each is referenced as brother. The movie itself can be taken as a masonic initiation into the alchemical mysteries of transmutation. The real life story should be considered an example of divine emanations in the real world, and how we can use these manifestations as guides to steady our hand from drink, steel our hearts from pain, and expand the mind to wash away all unbridled emotion. – JC