Blacksmith and Phosphenism

Blacksmiths, Alchemists… and the Phosphenes

A few years ago, an anthropological essay was written by Mircea Eliade, under the title of  Blacksmiths and Alchemists.

A blacksmith is a person who transforms iron or steel, or any other metals into tools and weapons, using fire and metalwork.

So, the smith is an alchemist, a transformer, that uses primary materials provided by the earth, works on them, manipulates them, imprints them with his energy. With help of the fire, of the anvil and the hammer, blacksmiths materialize their ideas in the shape of tools, weapons or any other type of objects.
This capacity to transform the materials that the earth provides into tools for  humanity is an alchemy. That is one of the causes why blacksmiths have always been considered as alchemists and mystics, according to Eliade’s book.

When I was 18 years old and I just finished my studies in college, my father, who was dedicated to  breeding horses, proposed me an idea: now that I had finished my studies and that I had to work, I should prepare myself  to be a  horseshoer, because it seem to have good prospects.

And so I did. I studied in several schools and as the apprentice of several blacksmiths until I got a good formation.

But to be good in that line of work, I needed the knowledge the knowledge of forge. So I studied the forge to complete my education.

I had several forge teachers and I learned not only to make horseshoes of many types, but tools, ornaments and artwork, and I was lucky to have a forge teacher that was an alchemist.

His name was Turley, he lived in the desert in New Mexico, USA, in a trailer next to his workshop. He was an American Indian and he practiced Tai Chi. Besides teaching me to forge, he used to tell me stories of the early blacksmiths of many cultures. And always compared the act to forge iron with the act to forge one’s own soul.

Although I was too young to understand many things, the experience impressed me deeply and I will never forget my days at Frank Turley’s workshop, who began his morning routine of forge with American Indianás singings and who practiced breathing exercises of Tai Chi while hitting the hot iron on the anvil, with a brutal energy.

Back at my house, I had my own workshop during many years , my forge and my anvil, to practice the profession of blacksmith and horseshoer which I quit years after for back problems. Although I still have my workshop.

More than 15 years after that I discovered Phosphenism, and its entire paradigm, concepts, ideas and results.

This is when I understood  Mircea Eliade’s book about the mystic abilities of the blacksmiths.

So, let’;s enter a forge workshop. They are always dark, without much light, because is very important to be able to see the color of the iron when it is heated. It goes from an almost white, pale red to a dark cherry. The different tints are very important for the blacksmith.

And in a corner, protected from the light, there is the forge. Its center, used for heating the charcoal forms a kind of volcano, a crater that directs all the heat produced by the fire… an intense white light indicates that the forge is really hot.

Normally the anvil is situated in front of the forge, in such a way that when the smith extracts the hot iron of the forge, turns his back to the fire and checks the color of the hot iron. Thanks to the color, he knows the temperature.

And so, we are beginning to see certain common factors between Phosphenism and the forge: after watching an intense and almost white light, the fire of the forge, the smith collects the iron and turns around towards the dark area where the anvil is, to hammer it. Thus producing a phosphene.

Forging, hitting the metal on the anvil, can be done by up to three persons. But it always has to be done in a very specific way: with rhythm. When there is a single person working, the rhythm is more or less one beat per second (a physiological rhythm). But one other thing is important: when hitting the iron, the smith observes the piece to give it the appropriate form. This process is similar to Phosphenism: mixing rhythmic thinking and focusing on a source of light.
After a while, the metal cools down and it is necessary to heat it again. This produces an alternation, another of the basic elements of Phosphenism.

The sways are produced in an instinctive way. If hitting is always done with arm only, it is very tiring. So in an instinctive way, little by little, one learns to hit using one’s center of gravity, the Hara. So anterioposterior sways occur in a spontaneous way when hitting with the hammer. You can easily observe this if you have the chance to see a master forging.

What about the mantras? Obviously, they can be found in the sound of the hits. In the end, the sounds of hitting with the hammer repeat themselves in a rhythmic and constant way. Nevertheless, it is also very probable that most smiths recite or chant songs or prayers while they work, as my master used to do.

In Japan, the sword smiths are extremely spiritual, because they engrave their own character into their work. The majority of them wish that their swords would be used not to give death but to protect life. They used to dress in white, as a symbol of purity, and they carry out rituals of purification before and during the forge. So, without knowing it, they practice Phosphenism while working.

There is a legend that relates the story of two Japanese sword smiths who used to make the best swords in Japan. One with the intention of defending the life and one with the intention to kill.

One day, to distinguish their swords, a samurai placed them in a river with the blade in the water. The floating leaves would be cut in two by the blade. The best steel. The best blade.

He did the same thing with the second sword but when the leaves were about to touch the blade, they were slightly deviated. The leaves did not avoid the sword, it is the sword that avoided the leaves, because it was created for protecting life. The best intention.

Is it be possible to imprint one’s spirit into the matter, not only by forging and wishing that the sword protects life, but by amplify and purify one’s thoughts with a conscious or unconscious practice of Phosphenism?

It is interesting to observe that blacksmiths can perfectly be mystic, initiates, or alchemists. Not simply because of their capacity to transform nature, the minerals, into tools for human use, but also because of their constant and unconscious practice of Phosphenism, the basis of all religions.
Today, we have lost much of this traditional work.

The industrial revolution, that mechanized many of these activities, has been an evolution and a social and economic revolution, but it also has been an involution and a delay for the spiritual development of humanity.
Daniel Fernandez Ruano