March 9, 2017 9:36 am
Physical Alchemy is a practical and auspicious art of refining the physical body and its interactions and perceptions of the world, other beings and the Cosmos. A new form of an ancient pattern. Just as the alchemists of old removed impurities and led plants, minerals and metals to perfection, so too we seek to transmute the body via the removal of the a series of progressively deeper imprints that obscure the true luster – the gold – that is a human being, unalloyed. Via the fusion of trainings scientific and arcane, hidden patterns begin to reveal themselves – catalyzing the seed that is the essence toward growth that habituation and sleep have kept dormant throughout our lives.
The 21st century is a weird and wonderful place – full of chaos, uncertainty and information overload. It may well be an epoch ending times, then again even if it is – what better time to do this work. Tuning the physical body to survive and thrive amongst the chaos – to slice through this clusterfuck complexity – requires we train along a number of lines simultaneously. There are emergent properties to the human being that allow the seeing of the unseen undertow and the navigation of this maelstrom to create and do work that will genuinely aid humanity and the planet.
Physical Alchemy is a educational and experimental method that educates the practitioner seeking self-knowledge related to the body and physical reality. It has a rich practical and metaphysical heritage though much of the unique flavour is derived from a transmutation that occurred to me when I was attempting to combine the methods I had learned from my first three Teachers into my own craft. It was successful – a fusion occurred, but not in a way I had predicted. After this I turned my full attention towards becoming a pathfinder of this work.
[*] triangulation [3 pillars]
Triangulation has a number of levels of meaning within the art. First and foremost we have ‘3 pillars’ of work in terms of realms of training: physical work, awareness work and reenchantment work.
At its base, Physical Alchemy has this triad of ‘works’ that form the tripod necessary for supporting the alembic that produces the human transmutation that is initiated via the removal of the disenchantment imprint.
These three pillars are whole domains of training, each with their own benefits.
Physical work is is as it sounds – any form of potent work upon changing the physical form. Strength, flexibility, movement, martial, dance, parkour, coordination – and so on. As a general populace we are beginning to truly understand the depth and profundity of potent physical methodology; which individual groups and practitioners have long been aware of. There are many different types of physical work, each with its own specialties in terms of qualities trained. I personally know, or have met, a decent number of practitioners who have truly exceptional methods in this realm. This is a very good era for encountering high level physical training. This work is primary in the black work.
Awareness Work is the work upon attentional, meditative and contemplative qualities and skill-sets. As in the 1960s, it is going through another quickening in terms of interest in the population and numbers of practitioners. Advances in neuroscience of the brain, re-ignition of research into the therapeutic aspects of psychedelics – or just increasing perception of the world going bat-shit crazy; have all had their part in the increase. Within Physical Alchemy this is largely personal choice of flavour, lineage and methods – with the proviso from the third pillar work that the 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛 of disenchantment afflicting the human will often ‘choose’ the type of contemplative work it can hide and recoagulate within the easiest – and that you actually make them work. This work takes on primacy in the white work.
Reenchantment work encompasses learning a new and living anatomy of the language habits, physical correlates, false-value deep structures, social media interactions, thought-chains, metaphysical postures and mechanical behaviour of the three strains of disenchantment-imprinting as they manifest throughout the three centres* and through humanity.
It is unique to Physical Alchemy within the ‘New School’ of physical work.
A bipod is not stable enough to complete the work – the retort needs to be a tripod. The language of those ensnared within the ‘white work’ often betrays this ‘bipodity’: ‘mind-body’, ‘bodymind’, ‘coding’, ‘movement and stillness’ – themselves neat binaries.
Beside the ‘3 pillars’ and their interaction with the 3 phases of the work – triangulation also pertains to the necessity of developing access and awareness of the 3 centres in trapping the false-I [what one takes as oneself but is actually a mechanical ‘mind’ that obscures the essence – the actual individual] clusters associated with the disenchantment imprint.
By using awareness to witness the tension in different tissue layers in the body: muscle, skin, fascia, bone, nerve, visceral sheaths and organs – we can learn to listen to the tension-patterning in real time and combine this with the system encompassed in the reenchantment work pillar to set the trap to catch the mercurial false-I associated with the imprint as it seeks to evade our grasp.
If you only have partial awareness of the body or of the centres (which is most humans) you have no real chance of completing the transmutation because it will hide in the shadows of where you fear to tread.
[*] 3 phases of the work
The work towards the transmutation in question has three phases: the black, the white and the red works.
Trying to complete these out of order creates erratic results, or in trying to skip ahead to the red work phase – no results at all.
The black work contains most of what people associate with physical training: fitness, strength and conditioning, movement training, martial arts, performance, cooridinations, working on the physical body to increase qualities of strength, flexibility, agility, conditioning across a number of the bodies systems. It also includes skill work; relearning the basic movement patterns of a human being or learning the physical motions and skills associated with a martial art or type of physical art. Training the physical body for increased health and vitality lay in this phase, too. Even when one progresses into the white, there is a need to keep this fire burning as an ‘anchoring’ for the other works.
The white work moves into increasing the bodies capacity to digest and assimilate sensory impressions and the repatterning of sensori-motor amnesia that has accumulated in the organism from external and internal sources. In the late stage white work we begin to interface with some of roots of this – roots that have their genesis in deeper imprinting phenomena that frame the structure of the acceptable channels of information perceivable and filter out impressions that do not fit the mold of the mind-shape. Though this is largely the material worked upon in the red work; and attempts to contrive it out of sync with the process is conducive to mutation rather than transmutation.
The red work is something else entirely and does not operate by the same principles as the well known black work or the fringe-becoming-acceptable white work. It is working on the arcane [in its original use meaning ‘hidden’] properties of the body. It is working on the subliminal [in its original use meaning ‘below threshold’] structures of the mind and experience. To access these one has to be working all ‘three pillars’ simultaneously and have had the sequencing of the first two phases proceed and produce the substances necessary – and in most cases still needs a guide to help navigate the mutation patterns.
What you choose and how you proceeded in the black and the white determine to a large degree what will occur in the red – and influence heavily the chance of you stabilizing the volatile transmutation and the gold that it produces. In Physical Alchemy the black and white phases are set up to facilitate transitioning from the red to the gold. This requires specific knowledge and skill.
[*] black work
‘Honestly expressing yourself…it is very difficult to do. I mean it is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling and then feel like pretty cool…or I can make all kind of phony things, you see what I mean, blinded by it or I can show you some really fancy movement. But to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself…now that, my friend, is very hard to do.’ – Bruce Lee
‘A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.’ – Aldous Huxley
Regular training of potent physical methods enhances the experience of life and produces change in the adult human physical form that counteracts the biological aging of the body. It opens up potentiality for greater physical literacy, communication, spontaneity and personal expression.
In the black work we also lay the foundation for creation on an ‘alembic’ of the body that much of the later phases depend upon to reach fruition. The ‘connective tissue retort’** of the bone, muscle and fascia supporting the nervous system, visceral organs and fluid systems (blood, lymph, etc) needs to be worked thoroughly and systematically. It needs to be raised to another level.
The aim is to find the best fit of training within the parameters of each persons unique life, stresses and goals. The training should fit naturally in with the person – whilst being strong enough to stimulate growth.
Quality training enchants the ordinary and buffers against misfortunes and koans of life. Through training a mobilization of one’s frozen resources beings to occur. You never asked for the blizzard to descend – and yet here it is and you are frozen and cannot actualize your life. Even without getting too esoteric; simple, humble physical training done consistently over time can (and does) produces wonders. With training the seed of one’s life can begin to germinate and grow.
At Physical Alchemy I have been seeking and studying the best training methods in the fields I feel compelled to study and have all been blessed to study with – and know personally – some truly exceptional teachers in deep traditions and methods.
[ see ‘People’ section ]
[*] white work
‘Essence is the truth in [hu]man; personality is the false. But in proportion as personality grows, essence manifests itself more and more rarely and more and more feebly and very often happens that essence stops in its growth at a very early age and grows no further. It happens very often that the essence of a grown-up [hu]man, even that of a very intellectual and, in the accepted meaning of the word, highly ‘educated [hu]man, stops on the level of a child of five or six. This means that everything we see in this man is in reality ‘not his own’. […]. There are cases, however, when a man’s essence grows in parallel with his personality. Such cases represent very rare exceptions especially in the circumstances of cultured life. Essence has more chances of development in [Hu]men who live nearer to nature in difficult conditions of constant struggle and danger.’ G.I.Gurdjieff ***
‘[Ida Rolf] was not interested in curing symptoms; she was after bigger game. She wanted nothing less than to create new, better human beings. The ills would cure themselves; the symptoms would melt as the organisms became balanced. Curing symptoms led you in for an endless chase around the body.’ – Rosemary Feitis on Ida Rolf [Ida Rolf Talks: about Rolfing and Physical Reality]
Just as the alchemists heated plant, mineral and metallic substances in their alembics in processes of transmutation – so to do we heat the connective tissue retort of our bodies with the fires of stretch, pressure, motion, breath and awareness. And just as metals release impurities upon heating, so to does the re-patterning of one layer of dysfunction and amnesia give rise to old patterns and stagnation that bubble up to the surface to in turn be interrogated via the flame. [Solve et coagula]
The guiding principles of this phase of the work are not those of fitness, performance or ‘wellness’ – though any and all of these may occur as beneficial collateral. This is physical repatterning work. The focused work upon dehabitualisation and demechanicalisation of the physical body.
Expressing oneself fully, honestly and with full life, is – as Bruce says above – very hard to do.
And Gurdjieff provides the detail [quote above].
We cannot produce our true essence when we like because it has stopped growing long ago, without our even noticing that the plant is no longer watered, or in the light of the sun.
We accept that we have to do physical training – have to do resistance work to develop strength; conditioning and skill work to improve these qualities. But we do not know – or do not want to know (and even if we do ‘know’, we do not understand) that we need to work against the resistance of the patterns of the false-I [the false personality we take to be ourselves] to once again allow our essence to be watered – to feel the light of the sun once more.
Training a physical body to increase capacity is one thing. Training to coax the essence out of the dormancy of its long, mechanical winter – this, my friends, is very hard to do.
Unlike the embryo in utero that experiences one birth, the adult human being in the world can undergo multiple births and deaths. Cycles of solve et coagula. After each step has stabilised the reality inhabited can be so radically different that one is forced to reevaluate what was essentially “me” and what was simply patterning and habit. Often difficult, sometimes painful – nevertheless what is happening each time is alchemical. A transmutation. More than a ‘gaining’ it is the incineration of illusion within the fire of training and awareness.
If one changes profoundly enough in an auspicious direction the experience is that the view of one’s previous incarnation (our self before the change) is one of only being partially alive – embryonic. And with these insights one can begin to see things that remain to most, unseen – subliminal.
As we dive deeper into the many layers of inhibition, sensory-motor amnesia we have patterned into our bodies – into our nervous system and connective tissue architecture – we find that it has become riddled with unnecessary tension and amnesia. The maps of our internal world are forgotten, fragmented and missing whole continents. This especially includes people who are already ‘healthy’ and ‘in shape’ – this is a totally different mode of training.
Many of the properties of being a full human being are held in stasis. This phase is about the beginning of really working with the unknotting these ropes that bind our structure.
The goal of this syllabus is to gain as full a sensory map of the physical body as possible to complement the movement pattern and raw physicality developed in the physical cultivation syllabus. This is by no means the end but merely an oasis before the most interesting work. Work on mapping continues even when we are ready to proceed but must not proceed before we are ready.
Just as the black work has themes of intensity, incarnation, ‘plasticity’ (trainability) learning the language of the body and mobilising frozen resources – so too, does the white work have general and strain-specific ‘markers’ that fulfill the necessary metaphysical repatterning alongside the physical.
Many who succeed in the black work phase are thrust unceremoniously into the white work via illness and injury. The preceding work then has its darker aspects analysed and is seen to have been imbalanced and partial. Via well structured training the black work can proceed into the white seemlessly in an organic deepening of practice but the guide has to understand what they are doing and the general and specific aspects.
White work involves the preliminary phases of seeing into (but not through) the cultural lattice, and besides illness or chronic injury, is often heralded by the disenchantment with ones career, work, relationships or life circumstances. This is a very important phase of the work that most humans recoagulate in because of the shock and inversion between this and the red work is gargantuan.
As a people, we moderns, have armored against sensitivity and creative expression. No quanta of TED talks, evidenced-based studies or biohacking is going to undo this.
There are a growing number of high quality physical training systems in the world with their centre of gravity in the white work. It is great accomplishment to find oneself here, and stabilised. But one must sacrifice this comfort if one wants to proceed to the real work of the red work and the arcane insights it brings. The physical work in the white work is best viewed in this method as a way of using physical cultivation practices and movement exercises to cultivate specific qualities that prepare the organism for the shocks of the red work which lay outside of what is conceived possible from physical training.
The intention is in the direction of self-knowledge and witnessing in every aspect of life – not just the training, is paramount. Once enough bodily intelligence is developed we work on freeing ourselves from unconscious and habitual patterns of motion, speech, behavior, gesture and posture – and forge onward into the unknotting of habitual patterns of breathing, mind and emotion.
Further undertaking the unwrapping of the many layers of conditioning around the spontaneous and nature functioning of the human being is primarily (within Physical Alchemy, at least) for collective reasons – for planetary ecology reasons. The individual benefits are certainly cultivated and celebrated but the direction of the undertaking is more powerful when it is a deep ecological one. Pursuing the red work for selfish ends – sooner or later – drags the practitioner into a mutation pattern on one level or another.
[*] red work
“ It can be said that there is one general rule for everybody. In order to approach this system seriously, people must be disappointed, first of all in themselves, that is to say, in their powers, and secondly in all the old ways…In the meantime remember one thing only: A man must be sufficiently disappointed in ordinary ways and he must at the same time think or be able to accept the idea that there may be something – somewhere.“– Gurdjieff***.
If the white is about cultural conditioning and its somatic impact, the red is about the acultural factors of the deeper imprinting phenomena and the holographic phenomena of ‘sensori-motor amnesia’ ‘stretching’ and ‘digestion’ taken into another realm that is not reached by most methods – ancient or contemporary.
Occasionally people in the white have that elusive ‘something’ appear in a session of practice, or workshop – but afterwards it evades them. They are driven mad trying to recapture it – so startlingly different from normal life, it was. The red work contains the principles to stabilise these one-time revelations and have them occur with ever-increasing frequency. The growing tip of the physical work methods of this age is coagulated around the white-red junction – and has been for a number of years.
Red work is the phase is the work upon the specific, active aspects of the disenchantment patterning as they try to recoagulate and 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑟𝑜𝑤 – as they reinfect the physical methods and awareness practices you used for the first-to-second phase jump (for those that have). Without the ‘reenchantment work’ pillar the human almost always initiates a recogulation pattern and fails to have the transmutation occur. This is a painful thing to watch and far worse to experience. This is why in Physical Alchemy we train from a triad base. Reenchantment work is primary in the red work phase.
Much of the nature of red work relates to the insight that the the root of the vaguely describe and polymorphous ‘disenchantment’ that afflicts humanity was actually directly correlated with one of the deeper imprinting phenomena afflicting humanity.
The current definition stands as: a memetic contagion – a non-traumatic, acultural imprinting phenomena occurring subliminally in the mind-stuff of all modern humans [regardless of ethnic background, gender, religion, economic status and personal trauma].
It warps the mind into a shape – related to which of the three centres is warped in the genesis – that then governs huge aspects of cognition, perception and permittable sensations within the physical body. The training involves a huge perceptual inversion relating how one interacts with others, the world and oneself. The longer one has been in the comfortable purgatory of the white the more shocking the inversion. The imprint forms in the mind successive layers of habituation, false-value structure and veiling of aspects of physical reality. Conventional training in physical work systems and contemplative techniques solely (or in combination) rarely even dints the imprint, let alone dissolves it – because it is an active-imprint.. it has a mind of its own and it does not want to be found.
The dissolving of this specific imprint removes the veiling and allows for many things that are dormant within the human form to arise and germinate. The properties of the human being change. This alone yields deep insights into the world and its afflictions, as well as opening the vision into powerful ways to remedy the ‘grand koans’ of this age of the world.
This begins with ‘assembling the alembic of the physical body’ in the black work and proceeds through the white work to arrive at what is truly Physical Alchemy in the red work and the gold work, after.
The deeper work of Physical Alchemy is to create humans who are themselves a living paradox – they embody paradox.
Attempts to bridge the white-to-red phase divide – and the final red-gold barrier to transmutation – elude the New School of physical work. The cybernetic pattern-reboot trap; the systems-theory disenchantment of the ‘bio-psycho-social’; or the dharma-bot pyrites ‘red work’ emulation patterns. All of these (and many more) are attempts to take the principles of work from the black and white phases into the red and it cannot be done.
So come along, become part of the development of a new ‘physical education’ far more auspicious than what you were taught in school. Physical Alchemy is one pocket of the reform happening around the world and it is exciting times and quite a profound thing to play some small part in.
We are slowly piecing together an ‘operation manual’ for a human being, starting with the physical body. Many things on an outer level are refining and coming together and yet, even now deep into the 21st century, there are still things arcane about the body and what we can do when we wake it from its dormancy.
[*] Bio – Dave Wardman
Dave is a guide and the creator of the Physical Alchemy method. His influences and studies include practice and metaphysics drawing from: Western physical culture, Sufism, Zen, Stretch Therapy, Martial Arts (traditional and modern), Bodywork, Ida Rolf, the teachings of Gurdjieff, shamanism, alchemy and more.
The true prima materia of the method lies the deep relationships and learning undertaken with his first 3 Teachers. This includes an apprenticeship with Stretch Therapy creator Kit Laughlin; an initial transmutation in the martial arts w [C]; and studying with [L] his Dharma Teacher [Korean Zen, Shamanism, Advaita].
Now, more than ever, the importance of the teacher-student relationship is primary for Dave as he teaches other human beings potent methods of change. He currently has two teachers:
Mushtaq Ali Al Ansari – a Western Sufi teacher and creator of the Nine-Sided Circle (among other things). Sort of like Dave’s three first teachers combined within one human (which was always my goal). The contactable one of DW’s Teachers.
[L] – as mentioned above, a rarefied Being whose lineages of study are vast and unique. Currently uncontactable and outside of the public forum.
* centres – centres are ‘centres of intelligence’ – if you immediately go to ‘gut-brain’ and interactions between this and the brain in the skull you reveal your strain. Centres need to be taken in a different way than mere brains and plexii of nerves – the are whole perceptual modes and intelligences. Maybe they correlate with the nerve clusters but this is far from the essential point. The centres cosmology comes via Gurdjieff and originate in Central Asia.
** Body as ‘connective tissue retort’ – an idea I first encountered in ‘Job’s Body: a handbook for bodywork’ – Deane Juhan
*** G.I.Gurdjieff, as quoted in ‘In Search of the Miraculous – P.D.Ouspensky’, Penguin Arkana edition