Transmutation in Alchemy and the Journey of Self-Discovery - Freddie A. Clark

28 Nov 2023

It’s popular belief that the main goal of Renaissance Alchemy was the transmutation of substances and the transformation of metals into gold. Although that’s true to some extent, spiritual growth is deeply tied to the Alchemical process. Hermeticism, a philosophical system based on the teachings of the legendary scholar Hermes Trismegistus, uses its steps as philosophical allegories.

Spiritual Alchemy has always been an interesting topic to me, and the symbolism of transmutation shaped the drafting of my novel, Umbra: Tales of a Shadow, to the point it quickly became the main theme of this story.

Fulvio’s growth throughout the book is often compared to the Chrysopoeia, the transmutation of quicksilver to the perfection of gold. In Hermeticism and other philosophical practices involving Alchemy, gold represents spiritual enlightenment, healing, freedom, self-determination. Fulvio goes through all the stages of the Great Work: the Blackening, the death of his older self; the Whitening, the purification and awakening; the Yellowing, the awareness, knowledge finally attained; the Reddening, the completion of his soul, inner peace and illumination.

In Umbra: Tales of a Shadow, the Process and the Great Work are both literal and spiritual. Immortal alchemists who have found the Philosophers’ Stone are present, yet their lab work is always accompanied by a philosophical meaning and a magical approach. Alchemists aren’t merely fancy scientists, but true bearers of knowledge and transformation, philosophers who discovered the truth, the real one, the most hidden.

This truth lies inside us, hence we’re all alchemists our own way. Fulvio’s journey mirrors the journey all of us are going through. The Reddening might represent a personal success, healing from trauma, the discovery of one’s gender and/or sexual identity, finding a purpose in life. Whatever our Reddening is, its goal is happiness or, at least, a way to achieve it.

My journey is about most of the examples I’ve listed. I’ve healed from trauma, realised my true gender and sexual identity, and I wrote this book I’m incredibly proud of and that will always have a special spot in my heart. Umbra: Tales of a Shadow is the metaphorical record of my journey told from the perspective of a young assassin, living in a peculiar Sci-fi world that embodies Venetian culture. Fulvio’s story represents the shadow I had become when, oblivious and confused about my whole existence and purpose, I decided to embark on my journey of self-discovery. I’m sure I haven’t reached my Reddening yet, and it’s fair; I doubt that many of us have.

Umbra: Tales of a Shadow, by Freddie A. Clark. Cover by Martina Belli

Through the use of philosophical metaphors tied to Alchemy, I poured my soul into the words I typed and told a story that I truly hope will resonate with those who read it. Umbra: Tales of a Shadow is a deeply personal project, but also my letter to the world and my way to communicate with readers who, just like me, are travelling a path that could lead them to the final stage of their transmutation.

This journey might be painful, devastating. It might crush you, make you feel on the verge of giving up, but it’s worth it. After the Blackening, the death of your old self and mind, clarity awaits. Since each journey is different, your inner gold might not be so far from your reach.

As alchemists in Umbra: Tales of a Shadow say, Knowledge is hidden in the depths of the Earth. Awareness and change lie in the inner corners of everyone’s soul, and reaching them is our right and our purpose, the true path to happiness and freedom.

Interested by what you've read? You can order Umbra: Tales of a Shadow from this link.

About Freddie A. Clark

Freddie A. Clark (they/them)

Freddie A. Clark is the entity hiding in a thread of cables and flowers, a cyborg riding their motorcycle in the streets of a Cyberpunk metropolis, a masked alchemist traversing Venetian canals.

Their creativity draws from ‘80s aesthetic, movies and pop culture, and from an endless pile of books, graphic novels, manga and video games. A Synthwave music enthusiast, born from Metal, Freddie will take your hand and guide you in their vast high-tech Fantasy world.