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The Alchemy of Failure: Life Transmutation of the Hard Lessons Learned

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

By: A. W. Finnegan #DivineLaw #Alchemy #Occult #Discipline

I'm proof against that word failure. I've seen behind it. The only failure a man ought to fear is failure of cleaving to the purpose he sees to be best. - George Eliot (Marian Evans)

Those of us who have seen considerable chaos and adversity throughout our journey, have probably found some equally deep realizations about life, insight that couldn't have come through to us any other way. Some of life's most important lessons and Truths have been given to us through the cruel storm of failure, mistakes, hardships, and lessons learned the hard way. In the journey of life, those who take a genuine shot at life live deeply and many mistakes and hardships follow. They may find that, despite the list of accomplishments they can or cannot list, many of those critical, important lessons were learned not from our accomplishments, but from our mistakes and failures. Failure and harsh mistakes have an intense ability to teach us about life and offers us insight for moments of opportunity in the same respect comparable to chaos and adversity (for more this, see my article Adversity is the Current in which we Transform Life and Grow).

Alchemical Herbs of the Great Work
Belladonna by A. W. Finnegan

Unfortunately, many will find these harsh lessons, survive them, yet continue the same behaviors and thought patterns that brought them there in the first place. These lessons being taught in vain, they ignore what life had to teach them, fail to understand the underlying reality behind it, and they keep a revolving door open between the unchecked thoughts and  behaviors and the mistakes that force them back in check, time and time again. I often saw this in many individuals when I was in jail. Folks that were much older than I, who would just keep making the same mistakes, returning to jail over and over again, all because they failed to take responsibility for themselves. They failed to see the correlation between their thoughts, actions, and consequence, (this concept is covered in more detail in my article The Garden of Life: Seeds of Thought and the Fruits they Produce).

There is one principle, however, that distinguishes us from those who keep that revolving door of trouble open. It resides in those of us who pay attention to consequence, those harsh lessons life has to teach. It resides in those of us who heed to the teacher of hardship and learn from the study of our mistakes. This allows those of us who have made mistakes, to reinvent themselves, to use failure and hardship to transmute their life and character to be the very best they can be. Some have said failure goes hand in hand with success. Absolutely, this is the case. In any area of focus or venture, how often does somebody master something the first time? Does it sound very realistic that someone who has no experience in a field they wish to specialize in, that they would rise to the top and be an experienced professional, without any practice or experience? Of course not.

Practice towards mastery brings us to experience and expertise. Oftentimes we learn to master something by repeatedly attempting it and learning from where we falter or fail. Our mistakes act as a guide or compass, showing us where we need more work to improve our craft or character. It shows us in which direction we need to focus on the most. This is true in any subject, not just in accomplishments, but relationships, character, and just about anything in between. We can hardly expect to have perfect, long-lasting relationships if we don't make some mistakes along the way and learn from them. Dedication to these ideas and principles will strengthen Love to be unbreakable in the face of hardships and obstacles between two people. Likewise, in life accomplishments, practice and dedication will shape your abilities to be the master of your specialized craft. We need a foundation for our dedication, like that of the Heirophant card of the Tarot, and approach our journey with a sense of loyalty and dedication.

Foundation for the Great Work
The Heirophant Card

I can certainly speak from experience when I say that in my life, I've had so many disasters and failures on my hands, some of which landed me in hot-water and behind bars. Many unfortunate things have I endured in order to learn some very hard lessons about life. The good thing is, I finally straightened out and began to study my mistakes, learn from my failures, to pay attention to the aspects of life I was neglecting so that I finally came to correct the mistakes I've made, take responsibility for myself and propel myself forward in a way that everyone benefits from.

We oftentimes fill ourselves with so much fear and expectation about life with this idea that we have to do things just right the first time or we are somehow ruined. We have to learn to face chaos and failure, and when we accept that it is a necessary part of the process, we will have a much easier time letting go of the fear that accompanies our journey. We will accept its nature and begin to use it to our advantage. Fear is the primary barrier in allowing ourselves to take genuine shot at life, and the reason why many won't continue the pursuit of something they want following a mistake or failure (for more on the regressive tendencies of fear, see my article The Primordial Enemy: Fear, Silencer of Life, Harbinger of Death).

The Nightshade Tarot and the Great Work

We can find a better path to self-realization when we accept our fallen nature as the starting point in our great journey. We can learn to see our mistakes and failures as the compass guiding us to the right destination. The quicker we all realize this, the sooner we will be on the path to salvation. The cultivation of self-ownership in the servitude of Truth brings us to the position of alignment with the Saturn energy of time as the hand of karma. It strikes like the swift lightning in the Tower card of the Tarot. It is not an evil force in and of itself, but rather giving back the energy you put in. If you put in the wrong energy in, you get the wrong energy back, and it sometimes feels cruel, but such is life, such is Mother Nature. When we live right, we can harvest the fruits of Truth, rather than be at the mercy of the life currents of chaos and adversity.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of alchemy, it is an ancient practice of transmuting base metals into gold, shaping what is often termed "the Philosopher's Stone." While many have interpreted this transmutation to gold as a literal transformation. Its real value, however, can be found in the allegorical association, the spiritual terms of crafting our base metals to spiritual gold. The base metals symbolize our base desires and fallen nature, the diamond in the rough that we begin to shape in the image of perfection. We shape them in a process of refinement and transmutation. We use a process of repetition and eventually we find the sacred formula that leads us to the transmutation and acquisition of the Philosopher's Stone of spiritual gold, that is, the mastery of character as the gold that can bring forth more treasures than any amount of precious metals. Indeed, they called it the Philosopher's Stone, for the very reason that this was implied to a philosophy of life. This occult science is a necessary part of initiation. We can learn to approach life in the continual process of refinement and transmutation.

The art of this alchemical formula first requires belief, we must believe we are capable if we are to undertake the mission. Our belief in ourselves and our mission, however, must be stronger than our mistakes and failures. Belief, dedication and persistence is the only requirement to its success. As stated in the article on the Hermetic principles, Stairway to Heaven: The Seven Steps of Hermetic Intelligence and its Forgotten Eighth Principle, all things start in the mental sphere of thought, as the Law of Mentalism, and from here, we plan and apply ourselves to reflect our thoughts and desire. If we see a goal or relationship as certain to fail, it will do just that.

We must understand that the Will is the integral foundation for creating success. Overcoming fear is the Will being strengthened and hardened against the weather of failure, chaos, and adversity. When the formula is understood, chaos and adversity is not seen with disdain, but rather welcomed with open arms, because in this light it becomes just another tool to shape our craft, the means to an end in which we refine our approach or attitude until our feet reach the doormat of the Emerald City, unconquered by life, holding the Master Key to open the kingdom to Divine Creation...

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