Prima materia  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Prima Materia is, according to alchemists, the alleged primitive formless base of all matter, given particular manifestation through the influence of forms. The concept is sometimes attributed to Aristotle, but apparently emerged after his lifetime, out of errors of interpretation The alchemical operation consists essentially in separating the prima materia, the so-called chaos, into the active principle, the soul, and the passive principle, the body. They are then reunited in personified form in the coniunctio, the ritual combination of sol and Luna, which yields the magical child (filius sapientiae or filius philosophorum), the reborn self, known as the ultima materia. The collective unconscious appears in the many symbols of religion, myth, art, and dreams. The Ouroboros dragon biting its own tail depicts the original chaotic condition, which prevails before the radical transmutation. But it contains all the refined ingredients of the ultimate state in their uncooked form—the heat has yet to be applied to the unrefined material, raw uncooked emotion.

Therefore, we see not only the anguish and despair of the beginning, but the seeds of rejuvenation, rebirth and promised illumination of the final stages of the process. Thus, prima materia is the seed of the process, which takes place in the natural mind; it is the seed of enlightenment. The Crown of Creation is an overarching symbol equating with the top sphere Kether in Qabala. It triumphs over the terrible Dragon of the primal, unrefined condition, represented by the dragon or Terrible Mother. In the bottom-center is Atlas holding the earth to symbolize the material sphere of Malkuth. All is one magical movement from Kether through Malkuth. Ego cannot separate itself from the powers and abilities of the subconscious. To submit this material to the process means to apply conscious effort to the task, and find our own experiential spirituality. Prima Materia represents the crossroads or crisis preceding a spiritual awakening (intellectual doubts, metaphysical problems).

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