Alchemy, Integration and Peace

Over the past four weeks, we’ve journeyed through the four elements and looked at the necessity of using them in a balanced way, whether in pottery or in the person.

As we view the world around us in this season of wishing our friends and loved ones peace and joy, it’s certainly clear that things are out of balance. There’s clearly an excess of people whose primary experience is defined by greed and domination, or of pain and suffering, or anger and resentment, or manipulation and denial. Those of us who wish to make the world actually work for everyone would like to know the secret to manifesting that kind of world. Guess what? It’s not a secret! It’s available to all of us! Read on! 

We’re now at that time of year that culminates at the winter solstice – the point of greatest darkness. We keep our spirits up by celebrating with festivals that focus on lights and on giving and receiving. In astrological terms, the winter solstice happens when the sun is in the sign Sagittarius, a fire sign, associated with the generously expansive planet Jupiter. Saint Nicolas, the very spirit of giving, was born on the 6th of December. And while we tend to think of giving as an external act, in our sometimes frantic efforts to find the right gifts for our loved ones it’s important to consider what might be a perfect gift to give to ourselves.

As a potter who has experienced deep personal growth and internal transformation through studying and working with clay, as well as various forms of spirituality, shamanism, breathworkand more, I suggest the gift of Clay Alchemy!

Alchemy, as we’ve learned begins with integration – the combination in increasingly perfect balance, of the elements of fire, water, earth and air – of the associated temperaments – choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic, and sanguine – of spirit, emotion, physicality and intellect.

Integrate: To make into a whole by bringing all parts together; to unite 

Over the past month we’ve explored how the focused and ultimately the balanced use of the four elements is necessary to successfully create Clay Alchemy in the form of a pottery bowl, mug or pitcher. We’ve also looked at personal alchemy, and how those of us who are seeking balance can transmute our own elements—body, spirit, intellect and emotion—into human works of art, or our own best selves: centered, grounded, purposeful, empowered human beings.

Ruldolf Steiner promoted the idea of four temperaments, which has endured since their identification by Hippocrates. Steiner observed that the temperaments, “naturally never manifest themselves in such pure form. Every human being has one basic temperament, with varying degrees of the other three mixed in.” He lectured that as we strive for adulthood, we should strive to balance our own temperaments.

We began with fire.

Fire /Choleric/Spirit

…a desire arose in The River of Time, a desire for something, for the Fertile Darkness to give birth to something out of nothing…. from it came one tiny spark of Living Fire. And the Living Fire was consciousness. 

Like consciousness, Clay is created out of the fire – volcanic fire. In pottery making, fire is also the final step. After the clay is worked with water and air it is sacrificed to the fire of the kiln. Our fire as Human Beings is our spirit. Keeping the fire alive calls for inspiration and renewal,imagination, connection, and vigilance.

To bring about change, we must first desire it, and then we must be willing to live in a state of consciousness! Fire is associated with the choleric personality. Yet, having an overly choleric temperament can make us demanding, controlling and intolerant. In balance though, we’re social, courageous and passionate! And so, to achieve and maintain our personal equilibrium, to move toward balancing and integrating the elements of temperament within ourselves, we want to be conscious of and to understand how these elements interact. 

To make fire burn stronger we add air – we fan the flames. Air is the opposite and compliment of fire. To damp down the fire we adjust the flue and reduce the air. 


Air is associated with the sanguine personality, with the nervous system, and (the invisible, subtle) astral body, with mobility and changeability. An overly sanguine type can be breezy, unfaithful, and impractical. In balance, we’re communicative, thoughtful and organized. . 

In pottery making, before beginning to form the clay, remember, we must eliminate the air, as trapped air will cause explosions in the kiln. Then we must use the air to dry the pot evenly before it goes into the kiln, and afterwards to cool it down. As persons, because fire can be all consuming of others, and cause ourselves to burn out, sometimes we must chill. Before going into potentially stressful situations it helps to take some time to reflect or meditate, as fire can sometimes suck all the air right out of a space. Before we ignite and fire off a scathing comment, we ought to take a few deep breaths, and think about the consequences. At The Voice of Clay we offer Consultations, to discuss, express and assess your needs and chart a course of healing. Using Breathwork techniques and working with oxygen ultimately soothesand relaxes and leaves us feeling balanced.

To build up steam we fire up the water in the kettle. Water is the opposite and compliment of Earth. If we want to put out the fire we dowse it with water or smother it with earth.


The phlegmatic temperament develops when our etheric-body, which regulates the glands, growth and metabolism, is predominant. This gives us a sense of inner well-being and allows our attention to focus inward. An overly phlegmatic type may be isolated, gullible, and self-sacrificing. In balance though, we’re calm, patient, caring, intuitive and creative.

In Clay Alchemy, water holds the otherwise dusty clay together, giving it form. Yet, the water content must be monitored to keep the pot from sagging. In our own self-development our relationship with our watery emotions needs attention too. Sometimes we need Air to make a few waves and stir things up a bit. At other times we need Fire to warm us up, or motivate – build a fire under us! Water naturally is attracted to Earth, and yet is easily absorbed by it.Awareness of our feelings can become lost in the mundane aspects of our lives. Engaging in the Creative Process at The Voice of Clay can keep us in tune with ourselves, and develop our natural ability to be guided by intuition.


The Melancholic temperament develops when the physical body is the predominant focus. This can often give the melancholic type the feeling of not having mastery of her body. In excess, earth can make us fearful, moody, depressed or tyrannical. In balance though we’re empathetic, focused and conscientious. 

In Clay Alchemy, it’s about the earth! No Earth, no pottery. No physicality, no person. The process of making pottery develops our focus, grounds us and reminds us that we’re living in a manifested form on a manifesting planet! When we make a mug or a bowl, we can relate to its function as a container, in the same way our bodies are the vessels for our spirit, mind, emotions, and our soul.

Alchemy is more than the integration of the four elements though, it’s the magical process that happens when the elements and temperaments mingle, interact and transform! The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts!

The Voice of Clay is Committed to Encouraging Conscious Living. When we make a choice to live consciously, we open up a world of possibilities. That includes the possibility of Peace on Earth, and a world that really does work for everyone. The only way that can happen is one person at a time. When a critical mass of us are committed to remaining conscious in our bodies, feelings, thoughts, actions and interactions the nature of life on

our planet will improve dramatically! The more we gather in groups and mingle, engage with, appreciate and learn from people of all temperaments, the more peace and joy we’ll share. It’s no secret. It’s simple, if not easy, and yet it’s what it’s all about. 

So, in this season of giving, during your unique celebration of light, consider giving the gift of Consciousness, of Alchemy to yourself and those you love. A Gift Certificate from The Voice of Clay can be redeemed for Pottery, Pottery Classes, Clay Consultations, Breathwork, Astrological Chart Interpretation, and more.

Let your Light Shine!

shannon Burke