The use of the word ‘work’ here and elsewhere on this website is in homage to Alchemy-as-language, through which the lineage underlying the ideas on Sacred River was transmitted from ancient times to the present. The alchemical ‘work’ was referred to as the opus contra naturam, ‘the work against nature’. This phrase represents both the entire body of activities in which this art involves one and the essence of the work.
In our culture, the word ‘work’ has become associated with heroic activity. Yet, Alchemy is anything but heroic. Rather than slay dragons, Alchemy meets them, listens to them, learns from them, is shaped by them. The equation of work with heroics reveals more about the culture of our world today than it does about the true nature of work.
We get a glimpse of a different attitude to work when we consider that the word opus has often been used for works of art. Compositions in classical music was often called opuses. An artist's body of work is sometimes referred to as their opus. As are literary ‘works’. To put it succinctly, the alchemical opus is really the art of psychological transformation as symbolised by the transformation of lead into gold.