In the Crucible: The Alchemy of Passionate Relationships

(by Jay Ramsay)

(From Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine, issue 33, Spring2013)

“By approaching the mystery of love with the sensibility of a poet, psychotherapist and mystic, Jay Ramsay has achieved an extraordinary depth of articulation. Crucible of Love has changed the way I think about love. And in doing this, it has opened me to a deeper experience of love itself – in all its richness and power.”
Philip Carr-Gomm, author of Druid Mysteries

What do we really know about Love? It is our greatest mystery, and somewhere we know it is where we come from and where we return to. We may even recognize that we are essentially here (in incarnation—in human form) to learn about Love…but what has happened to our understanding of it?

Twenty years ago when I started the journey of this book, it seemed to me we were very confused between love, commitment, freedom and sex. Most of all what I saw then was that relationships needed freeing up: partners would hide in a romantic ‘merger’ rather than being themselves, and in an unexamined taboo of ‘fidelity’ which meant all other relationships were off-limits. Result? Love is claustrophobic and small. Thinly masking its opposite: power and control over each other. It seemed to me like a shambles as well as a sham.

This was also the 1980’s where a lot of cynicism as well as materialism had come in during the Thatcher years. Result? Sex. We know where we are with that. Opposite polarity here, pretty much unfeeling. So: domestic merging love on the one hand, and ‘freedom’ enshrined in separative or even indifferent sex on the other. Not a happy combo. It still goes on.

I knew that wasn’t Love. I knew there was a greater love. I also felt we had to get to it, or we would never get to a bigger picture.

CRUCIBLE OF LOVE: The Alchemy of Passionate Relationships (New Edition) by Jay Ramsay (Foreword by Lindsay Clarke), published by O Books, paperback (220 pages)

Around then I started studying alchemy in depth. Far from being an outdated pseudo-chemical system, I saw that the alchemical process—which had been specifically ‘humanized’ in the 15/16th centuries—was all about love, sex and relationship. And it was about transformation. Alchemy was hot stuff, centuries (at least four) ahead of its time. We are still decoding the results of those extraordinary imaginal researches, cryptic because morally dangerous as well as treasonable in the avowed belief that we are all potential kings and queens. Lead, the state of unconscious sleep, needs to become ‘gold’: the awakened state. The passage is one of death and rebirth, the ego death of nigredo, then the purifying state of solutio, followed by the reformation (and individuation) of coagulatio—all as a preparation for the true wedding, the ‘Royal Wedding’ of rubedo.

C.G. Jung’s massive Psychology and Alchemy (1944) was essential reading here. All the other key modern books on the subject: Fabricius, Titus Burkhardt, Nathan Schwarz-Salant, follow this.

I took its framework for intimate and couple relationships, and everything started to fall into place. My book tells the story of that realization and integration, presented as a whole picture of inner work and transformation, with a series of exercises and meditations you can do with your partner.

It also raises some uncomfortable questions as well as areas of challenge, places where I now find people much more willing to go than they were then. Of course, the basic issues for couples remain within the key realization that without freedom there cannot be Love. And without the quality of commitment that is also freely chosen, there cannot be enduring Love. My book deconstructs the myth of the romantic ‘merger’ to reveal the true Romantic quest here that fires all of us, that gives all of us the passion (as well as the permission) to be truly alive.

That is a heart-centred rather than ego-centred thing, as it has to be: which is what the transformation brings us to. It also helps us to see where sex and love—split like mind and heart in our culture—can come back together. Like men and women, when we learn to communicate and have the courage to be ourselves, which is what my work with Couples as a psychosynthesis psychotherapist is always about. When we can really work together again, and we’re not just dancing in the dark, Love will be the force in this world that it is yearning to be.


Jay Ramsay

Jay Ramsay is the author of over 30 books of poetry, translation and non fiction, most recently The Poet in You (O Books, 2009) and Places of Truth—journeys into sacred wilderness (Awen, 2012). An accredited (UKCP) psychotherapist in Stroud and London, he also works with spiritual healing, and via Skype.

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