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Some hermetic alchemists said that at the very being of their Great Work is Chaos. As the hermetici relied heavily on Greek mythology one needs to understand the term Chaos in this way. Chaos was described as an original state of existence from which the first gods appeared. In other words, the dark void of space. It is made from a mixture of what the Ancient Greeks considered the four elements: earth, air, water and fire.
After encountering chaos, the Great Work starts in which the gods appear as the traditional seven planets and their metal equivalent. The process in the Great Work is also described in terms of the four elements. At the very start we have Earth, which turns into water by putrefaction, then distillation turns water into air, and later on, by coagulation air turn into fire.
The state of Chaos and the birth of the Gods might be viewed as cosmological events, but one must always remember that originally they stood for human experiences. When ordinary man starts the process of introspection, like meditation, the very first thing he experiences is chaos. You can easily find that out for yourself. When you start to become aware of your self, that is of what is inside of you, you will find a bunch of emotions and feelings that are running around, bodily tensions that pops up and bother you, and especially a constant flow of random thoughts that doesn't care if you want to have them or not. When you close your eyes and go sit in meditation, it is a complete mess in there. That is the chaos the alchemists spoke about. Then the cleansing process of the Great Work starts.

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