Through longing fierce; yet passion constrained, immortality’s child takes form –
For instinct tamed is Spirit’s gain & the soul in its joy flies free – In the flame
& the flood, from the swan and the dove, the three-in-the-One is born
Whakapapa: This poem is concerned with the alchemical process of forming the Rebis (from res bina, ‘twofold matter’). The Rebis is a symbol of the hermaphrodite. It is created from two substances, the male & the female, out of which a royal child is formed. So the King (masculine) marries the Queen (feminine) then goes through a death & rebirth process out of which an entirely new entity (the Rebis or hermaphrodite) is formed. The Rebis has the qualities of the King & the Queen but is in itself something completely new. The Rebis is the Philosopher’s Stone. In the poem I call this new creation ‘the three-in-the-One.’
Alchemy concerns itself with the transformation of lead into gold. The energy of the instincts (lead) are released into the body/psyche system & then transmuted. For example, the power drive (or aggression) is released & transmuted to become inner-power & the ability to be clear, dynamic & vital. The sexual drive (or sexual desire) is released & transmuted to become love, compassion, creativity, empathy & passion. During the alchemical process the entire person, body & soul, is transformed. The transformed person is no longer orientated around the old ego-system. A new larger system is created with a new Centre. In the new system the (strengthened) ego forms a conscious partnership with the Philosophers Stone & a new, dynamic and constantly expanding & evolving system is born.
The image of the ‘swan and the dove’ comes from a dream. ‘Suddenly the climax of the creative event happened. It was like an artistic religious ritual. A living white swan was lifted onto the tips of the gathered feminine hands; instantly a white dove flew from my hands toward it. I was stunned & filled with a sense of awe.’
Symbolism: The White Swan is a manifestation of Light. Sometimes white swan symbolises a synthesis of both the light of the sun & light of the moon & becomes hermaphroditic & even more charged with mystery and holiness. The swan symbolises the power of the poet & poetry itself. In alchemy, it’s a symbol of the marriage of opposites, fire & water, & is connected with hermaphroditism.
The dove in Judo-Christian symbolism is the Holy Spirit: purity, simplicity, and, even when it brings back the olive Branch to Noah’s Ark, peace, harmony & re-found happiness. It can stand for the sublimation of the instincts, especially the erotic instincts. Because of the dove’s grace & beauty, its spotless white feathers and gentle cooing it is a universally current metaphor for woman. St Gregory of Nyssa is quoted as saying, ‘the closer that the soul approaches the light, the lovelier it becomes and, in the light takes the shape of a dove. And the lover calls his beloved ‘my soul.’ Doves are extremely sociable birds & this further strengthens the ever-positive powers of the bird as a symbol. In a pagan context, with its different sense of values around purity, the dove was associated with (rather than contrasted with) physical love, so the dove was Aphrodite’s bird, representing the pledge of love which the lover offered the woman of his desire.
Symbolism taken from: The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols: Jean Chevalier (author), Alain Gheerbrant (author), John Buchanan Translator) pg. 822.