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Organizational Alchemy Part 5: The “Magic” of Alchemy

Ancient of Days by William Blake

To this point, we have discussed the practical and organizational aspects of alchemy, however, with what really makes “alchemy” alchemy is that there is a bit of “magic” involved (“magic” being a the placeholder for that which is currently unknown or unknowable). Only recently have scientists begun to explore the effects that things such as intention, concentration, meditation, and prayer have on health and clinical outcomes, however, they have always been part of the subtler workings of the world. It is interesting to note that many of the most famous alchemists were those with deep spiritual practices or gifted geniuses that worked at the nexus of the known and unknown and sought to turn “magic” into “science”. However, it is also interesting to note that these famous alchemists often shared the common traits of: 1) clarity of mind and intention, 2) Deep appreciation and gratitude for the phenomena of this world, and 3) dedication to some greater purpose. It is these subtle characteristics of the alchemist themselves and how they influence everything that they do where the magic of alchemy comes in.


Intention frames our perception. It is the lens through which we see the world and how we subtly and deliberately figure out what parts of reality to pay attention to and what to ignore. On a cognitive level, intention is how we selectively become aware, filter, and interpret the infinite pieces of information available to us in every passing moment. Some of us have the intention of following a predetermined path (and so we focus on the information that either helps us notice deviations from that path or validation that we are on it). Others may have the intention of being explorers, visionaries or innovators (and so we focus on what others have done and how to be different or unique or built upon it in a new direction). Some of us seek to strengthen our own image and standing (so we opportunistically exploit situations for our own gain whenever possible). Some of us believe in a higher purpose or interconnectedness of a larger system (so we look to keep balance or build connections). Depending on our disposition, we may use that filtered information as excuses to give up, challenges to overcome, or lessons that help us understand a more full and authentic reality. The key is to realize that our intention frames our perception of reality and of the viable courses of action – and someone with a different intention may have a totally different experience in the exact same reality. Intention makes the information and reactions that might be barely perceptible to most people, very clear to a select few.

Appreciation & Gratitude

Everything in this world just wants to be seen for what they are and appreciated for it. There is not reason for lesser metals to become gold if those “lesser metals” are considered valuable in and of themselves – lead can be valued for its malleability, copper and aluminum for their conductivity, iron for its strength, etc. Ironically, a world full of gold actually renders gold worthless. When appreciated for what they truly are (and utilized in a way that honors those characteristics), any substance can be as valuable as gold.

It is no different in our teams. Not everyone needs to be a great strategist or a skilled facilitator. That “negative” individual that constantly finds fault with plans or other people’s comments, may be a valuable asset when trying to identify risks or if engaged early enough to proactively inform plans or strategies. The person that considers future trends is just as important as the one who looks to past context when it comes to making decisions. Each is important and valuable in its own way and the master integrator should appreciate those differences and seek ways to leverage that inherent value. There is “gold” trapped in the people, things, and situations all around us, only that most of us cannot see it.

Alan Watts has a great quote along these lines; It reads: "We cannot have the flower’s beauty without the root’s ugliness, the light and color above without the dirt and darkness below. Enlightenment is the understanding that both are supremely right in their own places. Ignorance is trying to have one without the other, and Sin is to put the flower in the dirt and the roots in the air.”

Reverence for a Higher Purpose

Alchemy is not for those that seek to control and exploit – somehow, those intentions always poison or undermine the effort. However, when this work is undertaken with noble and altruistic intentions, or in pursuit of a genuine curiosity, then somehow the effort is always successful regardless of whether the end goal is fully met - the effort itself becomes transformative, not the outcome.

One amazing example of this is the miracle of birth – one of the greatest alchemical processes of them all. The alchemist (i.e. mother in this case) somehow transforms a couple cells into an entirely new being that has its own unique form, spirit, and personality. In the process of pregnancy, delivery, and nurturing of the baby – the mother discovers strength, patience, and endurance that she never knew was possible while also tapping into intuitive primal knowledge that she was not aware that she possessed. Regardless of the resulting baby, she is forever transformed and empowered by the experience. These are potentially two of the greatest transformations that exist – the birth of a being and the act of becoming a mother (or father). These are occasions that are so profound and magical for everyone involved – yet it happens millions of times everyday all around the world. So many miraculous things happen around us every moment. With the right intention, awareness, and gratitude for every moment of every day, everyday occurrences can become extraordinary miracles – seeing and appreciating this is the heart of alchemy of any kind.

This post is dedicated to my amazing wife and our beautiful son (born 30 January 2015).

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