The king entrusts his son, the prince, to the spiritual guide to show him the world below from a high mountain above, and the heavens above from below, which fills the prince with great joy. Likewise in a spiritual pilgrimage, this event reflects a process through which the soul separates from the earthly body and its physical senses mature, and simultaneously is made conscious of its own nature and the inner world through the spirit. This event can be traced down to »the nigredo,« or the blackening, in alchemy. However, during these transformative procedures the soul could easily be deceived by the initial inner brightness, which is often mistaken for true illumination: »the albedo« or the whitening, which precedes »the rubedo,« the reddening.The next plates from the Book of Lambspring reveal the choice of the prince, who mourns the lonely king and returns to his pale and dying father, as the soul must return from its pilgrimage for the alchemical initiate to continue beyond the albedo. As the story progresses, the father – who deeply rejoices his son’s return, so much so that he devours him – goes into a metamorphosis of the body that changes his form to resemble that of a glorious man; albeit still wishing for his son’s return. The change – and the hybrid state – represented resonates with the way we use the term migration/spiritual pilgrimage. This is a physical, observable change that follows and reflects that of the soul and the spiritual.
»And perhaps it is through this very separation of consciousness, and coexisting in multiple realms, tied together by bonds of empathy and solidarity, that the refugee might once again be made whole in a new home through rebirth (or replacement), that we understand it to be a modern image of the esoteric alchemist.«
Finally, upon the king’s wish, his body is softened by rain, which allows for the rebirth of the prince from the king to achieve the balance of body, soul, and spirit in the alchemical initiate; the rubedo, the final stage of the Magnum Opus of alchemy.
It is to be noted that the allegory of the suffering father devouring the returned son dictates the yearning for a physical manifestation of the soul’s transformation after its return, and the difficulty of the inner conflict the initiate must overcome to achieve the great work. The process in its entirety could also be grasped through reading these words from the infamous emerald tablet: »Separate that spirituous earth from the dense or crude by means of a gentle heat, with much attention. In great measure it ascends from the earth up to heaven, and descends again, newborn, on the earth, and the superior and the inferior are increased in power.«Refuge and migration are subjects we often delve into in our art practice; our deep interest lies in understanding how these notions transform individuals and how closely one can tie them to the alchemical initiation. The act of refuge is a transitional state. A verse of the gnostic gospel of Philip indicates that refuge can be interpreted as an alchemical process – one that does also start in the nigredo: »Those who have gone astray are those born of the spirit. And they are usually lost because of the spirit. So from one single breath of spirit the fire blazes and is blackened.«It is also noteworthy to consider how a refugee holds two entities or personas, a rescuer and a rescued (he rescues him*herself, and becomes the rescued). A selfless consciousness is consumed to create the path for a dormant yearning self, a potential future, which is an act done in perfect awareness, almost reminiscent of that of the alchemical Ouroboros constantly consuming its self to grow and survive.