Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.
— William Shakespeare, from The Tempest
As a dabbler in Alchemical concepts I was heartened that the American TV show “Lodge 49” was renewed for a second season. The show is mostly set in Long Beach, CA at the current time and revolves around characters who are members of the fictional fraternal social club Lodge 49, a local chapter of a greater fictional organization called the Order of the Lynx. The history of the Order is mysterious and is revealed slowly as it is told to one of the main characters who becomes a new member. There are many Alchemical references in the artwork on the lodge’s walls and in the literature and philosophy of the Order itself (as well as beliefs by a few members) but for the most part the members use the lodge as a gathering place to socialize and to network for personal and business needs.
There is a great sense of ennui and nostalgia in the member’s lives, in the atmosphere of the lodge itself, and the larger world outside. The golden days of yesteryear are past. The economic climate is mostly dire because businesses are shuttering or are corporate nightmares and in general people are not happy in their personal lives and their life’s work. The new member (who could represent our “everyman” but perhaps the Fisher King himself) at first seems to be rather worthless but we soon see has been dealt some rough blows recently. And yet he still seems optimistic and hopeful for a better tomorrow and a return to better days. His sister is more worthwhile but not by much, working a dead end job and living a life that’s going nowhere except trying to help her brother. A sadness and disappointment hangs about in most everyone’s lives.
Our everyman’s enthusiasm and hope soon infects the other lodge members but as we learn more of their backstories and the history of the lodge we feel that a bright future for all is still very much in doubt. Everything is in flux, but there is always a give and take to be considered. Here the idea of “equivalent exchange” comes to mind. To gain something from the world, something else must be given up. To win something, something else must be lost. In the long game, perhaps knowledge is the ultimate prize to be granted, and what we must relinquish is our innocence and naiveté. But not our hope, because without it we are lost and just going through the motions, as many of these characters are.
Alchemy has been seen in modern thought to be an analogy for personal growth and individuation. Carl Jung was a pioneer in this as he explored the meaning of dreams and the unconscious. As the alchemist strived to transmute base substances into gold (the element that was thought to embody both material and spiritual perfection), so a person should work to transform his life and its meaning into the highest forms that they can obtain. This is indeed possible because what constitutes all that is superior, also constitutes all that is inferior. As Above, So Below (from the Emerald Tablet and which is the title of the first episode).
The title of the last episode: