I have a fascination with heating metals. I think the process is one of the most sensual and visceral forms of alchemy we humans do. There is something about taking a cold lump of metal placing it in a fire and watching that metal turn to glowing, red, bendable… and eventually if a the heat reaches the right temperature the molecules will release their hold on each other and the metal will turn to liquid. Magic.
Not just any kind of magic. It is a very human magic that imitates the furnaces of volcanoes. It is the magic of human curiosity, discovery and creativity. This wisdom has been held in the lineages of fire, alchemy, art, science and industry found all over the world. In some ancient traditions working with metals meant you were in direct conversation with the Gods…. in others you could if you were successful enough in your acquisition of knowledge create things of wonder and power. Magical swords, wands, amulets and such from the fire of the forge through the process of molecular states, sweat and vision. There is even this magic in the making of nails and other things we build the world around us with. Our understanding of metals change the course of human history.
I chose to write about the forge today as a metaphor. The earth is being place in a fire of transformation on so many levels. The heat of political rest, climate change, industrial growth, the insatiable metabolics of energy use and consumption, war…. etc ….
We are in the process of softening the molecules. The metal of our understanding, knowledge, vision, and actions. The rigidness of our institutions and ways of life are going through change and transformation.
In the ancient western spiritual traditions metals are divined as the path of the soul/spirit moving from lead (the the least evolved) to gold (the achievement of spiritual awakening). Like metals, the earth is warming and the potential for transformation is being raised by our human actions and the demands placed on the earth.
The two kinds of metal working encapsulate where we seem to be in this arc of progress. One is Blacksmithing and the other lost wax casting.
Blacksmithing is a the art of working metals through a process of heating, shaping, and tempering. The metal is never really brought to full liquid. The process aligns the atoms through the process of hammering and heating. This can allow for stretching, strengthening the metal and also change the magnetic polarity of the metal. Blacksmithing offers a way for heating surface enought for the atoms to bond with the same other kinds of metal. These particular methods are wielding and brazing.
This metal work can be seem as the shaping, bonding and tempering metaphor.
Lost wax casting is the process of making a mold. It requires a vision. A form. An idea. Which is created out of a burn able material in this context wax. A proto type of the form is created it with all the details and shapes that will be the finished piece. The wax form is submerged in an investment plaster. Allowed to dry and then put in a burnout kiln. This type of kiln is used to combust the wax so it leaves and empty space in the plaster for metal to be poured into. Like the process of a fossil. The organic material decomposes and is replaced by silicates.
The next part of this process is the metal is put in a crucible and heated to the point of liquidfying…. creating hot molten metal. The plaster mold is taken out of the kiln while still hot the liquid metal is poured into it. Then the metal is cooled and the mold broken to release the casting.
This is the metaphor for taking materials to build an idea, submerging it into a supported contain and through the process of fire and combustion recreating the form in a strong and more resilient way.
Some might call this time the point of evolutionary change. The time that divides those who survive from those to don’t. The earth is getting hotter and the billows of change are blowing, some of is are hammering, some building the molds to create something new, others are heating the metals… some will bust the molds… then there is polishing and finshing…. or starting over….