Prima materia had many expressions. One of them was masa confusa, i.e. confused matter,
where you could say, for example, “Something is happening to me, but I do not know exactly
what it is.” It was also called materia confusa, which is a similar term. Other names for it
were chaos, earth, also red earth or animal earth, then mountain, which in psychoanalytic
language resembles a complex, and mons, or also mons niger – a black mountain, something
black that is mysterious, unexplored, strange, also lead, then death, the house of death, the
monster, the animal, the woman (foemina) – so it was associated with all those concepts on
which the alchemist could project something unredeemed in himself. It is always something
that needs to be supplemented or dealt with in the appropriate way. In psychological
language, we could say that it is that which basically needs the intervention of consciousness
and is always craving for it, sometimes even vigorously hungering for it.
In his work, the alchemist was concerned with three elements. Firstly, he knew very well that
the prima materia he was dealing with had its own character, its own nature: sometimes it
behaved like an animal, sometimes as if it were dead, sometimes like a woman full of
mysteries, sometimes like the sky (for it was also called the coelum), about which we never
know what weather conditions and inconveniences it will cause us. It was something that,
because of its passive and numbed state, is also remote, perhaps even seemingly unreachable.
By studying matter, they were systematically observing that part of our own nature which is
contained or locked up in our complexes.
Another important element was the cultural factor. For alchemists, what is known as human
intervention was very important. When an alchemist engaged with the nature of matter, or
when he worked with matter, contemplated its conflicts, studied them, depicted them, he was
making a human intervention or an intervention of consciousness.
One could say that in this case it is both culture as a human activity that interferes with nature, of course also or Mind the opus contra naturam especially with one’s own inner psychological and spiritual self. This is also one of the basic principles of personal development. When we are confronted with our own conflicts or with matter, we must be constantly vigilant and observe carefully and patiently what is going on inside us the whole time.
Human intervention can change the course of events considerably. This is its crucial and
essential function and dimension. On one hand, nature itself determines what will grow out of
matter. For example, an apple seed will grow into an apple tree, that is certain! But with
human intervention, we can take care of that apple tree in one way or another, or nurture it for
better or worse. If it grows in a place where it has no space or has other poor conditions, it
will grow into a crooked tree. If the same young tree is given good growing conditions, it will
develop into a mighty tree with fruits that can feed a whole family.
This is how we need to evaluate and address the alchemical notion of human intervention.
This is the way that profoundly describes the alchemist’s approach to matter. If we translate
this to the level of the mental symbolism of personal growth, we could say that it is the
understanding that can make a big difference.