I want this thread of posts, and your comments, to focus on transformation and transmutation that are the energy engines of alchemy. We won’t get there until we have an agreed upon understanding of how we are using these terms and other similar ones. So, let’s look first at the other related terms from our list: convert, transfigure, metamorphose and transmogrify.
The first, convert, is probably the most straightforward. The concept, however, does not include the type of change that transform or transmute do. To convert some object is to use it in some other way. The core nature of the object itself remains unchanged.
Transfigure identifies a type of change with a very specific result – an exalting or glorification of what has changed. Any of the forms of change we are considering could have this result.
The definition of metamorphose is interesting because the focus is on the cause of the change and implies it must be surprising, unexpected and created by a magical or supernatural force we do not understand. A common example of metamorphosis is the abrupt developmental change in the form of a caterpillar as it becomes a butterfly.
While transmogrify is not limited to a type or feature of metamorphism, it does identify a change that has a grotesque or humorous result such as the frog that morphs into a prince.
Where does our brief exploration of these four types of changes leave us? I believe it informs us that none of them capture the essence of the nature of change that lies at the center of alchemy. While the change we will consider in future posts may involve converting parts of ourselves to use in different ways and some of these changes may transfigure us, they do not go to the heart of transformation or transmutation. Neither does transmogrify although grotesque and humorous changes have occurred in the alchemist’s laboratory. The nature of metamorphism has something to tells us about the process of transformation and transmutation.
I’ll explore that in my next post.