|The twelfth process of Projection consists of the conversion of art into the essence of ART.|
Underlying alchemy and of more importance than the physical production of gold is the transmutation of the alchemist himself. Behind the flamboyant spectacle and theatrics of the laboratory event, the quest for enlightenment and higher states of knowledge is the goal of the Great Work.
The desire to transmute personal ignorance into knowledge is inherent in man's nature. Though many are content to drift through life aimlessly in the absence of conscious effort, the desire for spiritual reward exists in all people. The adept is characterized simply in that he is not content to wait for the reward to come to him, rather he makes a conscious endeavor to obtain the reward.
The quest for enlightenment is not the sole domain of alchemy. Religion functions as a means by which man can achieve enlightenment. Philosophy serves this function also. Likewise does science aim toward that ultimate goal. In a myriad of forms, all striving toward the same end, alchemy stands apart by virtue of its discipline.
Shrouded in mystery, the alchemic discipline, like so many of the occult arts, appears elusive and difficult. The fact of the matter is to the contrary.
The presumption of difficulty lies in the fact that the alchemic art attempts to describe the pathway of knowledge in numerous modes of thought all at the same time. The alchemic tradition is such an universal system of thought that it cannot be described adequately in any one mode. Scientific methodology is mingled with Eastern religious dogma. Western religious imagery is mingled with Celtic pagan affectations. The traditional alchemical literature abounds, in so many comixtures of essentially similar (theological) doctrines that the common person, unschooled in such a variety is confused by it.
Likewise, working against the common person’s grasp of alchemy, is an air of elusiveness which seems to pertade the discipline. This air of elusiveness tems from two sources. One source derives from the threat of persecution which arose from the many religious inquisitions down through history. Although alchemy per se was never actually the object of the inquisitions there existed the possibility that the alchemist might be suspect to other forms of the occult arts. In modern times, while there in no inquisition to threaten the alchemist, there still lingers a nonacceptance to anything related to the occult by a majority of people. It is ironic that the fact of the matter in this case is that alchemy draws upon the Christian theology and drama for inspiration and allegory. Many of the processes and their representations draw upon Biblical sources as their antecedents. The second source which has contributed to an air of elusiveness derives from the use of allegory and mystical literary representation. Alchemists have used allegory down through the ages both as an aid and as a deterrent. It is an extremely difficult job to explain certain things such as mental attitudes and consciousness states in words. Allegory facilitates the conveyance of thoughts more easily than language. The alchemists used allegory to convey their thoughts with the realization that the adept would be able to intuit the correct meaning. At the same time the merely curious would be unable to understand the allegorical meaning and the message would be safeguarded from any subversive action. The irony of this situation is that the thoughts which the alchemical discipline communicates are so basic and simple that every individual should easily, through intuition, comprehend them.
The alchemical discipline is neither exclusive, difficult nor elusive. The processes which comprise the alchemicall act are all logical steps which, if followed sincerely, will lead the initiate from spiritual ignorance to spiritual knowledge.
The process of Projection is the graduation of the initiate into the realm of knowledge. It might be thought of as a transcendental experience in which the individual transcends or transmutes from one level of consciouness to a higher level.
To the artist, the process of Projection is the acknowledgement that there is nothing in reality except ART; that ART is fundamentally the same thing as religion and as science; and that the functional realm of ART is not only physical (the sensational influences on the human senses) but also that it is mental. The process of Projection is what gives validity to Duchamp's claim that his 'readymades' are ART because he, the artist, chose them; as such as well as giving validity to Van Gogh's and Cezanne's claim that the essence of reality might be embodied in a single spot of color or brushstroke. It is the process of Projection which urges the acknowledgement of the Dadaist satire as 'valid' art statements.
At the point where the artist can produce an art which speaks both physically and intellectually to the viewer, the projection of the Philosopher’s Stone has been accomplished.