The Principle – Exhibit

The Alchemical Theatre

(20″ x 16″) Pieces of a demolished theatre, poplar, gold

Saddened by the demolition of the old Little Theatre I took pieces of the building, gilded them and mounted them in boxes. The ten pieces of the building help to preserve the memories of the many events that were rehearsed and performed in the building. The destruction of the old gives birth to the new.

The Aviator’s Dream

(48″ x 84″) Oil on canvas

There are three mythical events happening in this painting: the loss of Amelia Earhart, the fall of Icarus (his winged father Daedalus to the left), and the destruction of the World Trade Center. The ivy growing over poor Amelia suggests the passing of time, and possible reconciliation, while the rose alludes to the timeless love and healing offered by God.

As the Crow Flies

(dimensions vary) Oil on canvassed panel, 77 birch panels, amalgam leaf

The first step of the alchemical work is to locate pure examples of the elements, burning them to reduce them to their core constituents. This process is called the nigredo, because the material is reduced to black ash and dross, while the pure essence is distilled and separated. In alchemical symbolism black birds are one image describing this process. I have used them here to illustrate my spiritual journey, in which I have attempted to find my role within God and do away with the dregs of life in favor of trying to understand that universal mind: like the recreation of the prima materia this is ultimately impossible, but worth the journey.


(48″ x 84″) Oil on canvas

The painting alludes to the hermit in the desert, a mystical person in search of universal truth. In his circle, the hermit is surrounded by the four elements, air, earth, fire and water, while he has the pillars of duality on either side. His gesture to the earth and sky refer to the alchemical principle that what is here on earth must correspond to what is in the cosmos, while the staff reminds us that wherever God is in relation to the creation, there is a spiritual relationship between us and him; the third part of any duality. Look for the divine ratio.


(48″ x 84″) Oil on canvas

The stones in this painting are laid out on the ground in the shape of a cross, while there are two pieces of paper attached to the foreground megaliths. Sharp-eyed observers will see the names of the two prime manifestoes of the Rosicrucian order written on them. The objects on the rock suggest a modern date, but the setting is archaic – the suggestion is that the ideals of the reforming mystics are true in the past and the future.


The Reluctant Death of Modernism

(59″ x 53″) Oil on Canvas

An allegorical painting about the end of the modern era. Andy Warhol’s soup can lies crushed and broken on the desert floor, while a pregnant woman contemplates her child, wondering what to expect.



Three Wishes

(18″ x 11″) Oil on oak panel

Holed stones have been used for thousands of years for sealing agreements, making promises and binding marriages. Looking through the hole in a stone is said to make it possible to see into the other world, usually invisible to mortals. The stones are also used for making wishes, so you are invited to make your wishes here.


(Dimensions vary) Oil on canvassed panel, clay cups, beeswax, string, electric motor, stone

Small cups show up repeatedly in British Neolithic gravesites and sacred spaces. I chose to make a mound of these roughly made grail cups as a cairn, suggesting that many people have come seeking the mystical grail, and left their personal grail behind, realizing that the true grail is a spiritual discovery, not a material object. The search dates back thousands of years and at heart it’s a search for union with God, looked for in every age and country.


Self-portrait with wafer

(29″ x 16″) Oil on canvas

The communion wafer is in the shape of the circular monad, the Pythagorean symbol of God.

Sleeping woman

(22″ x 14″)

The initiate sleeps before waking.

Singer (Study for a crucifixion)

(36″ x 24″)

The singer ululates at the death of the avatar.

Invitation to a lynching

(65″ x 71″) Oil on canvas

What do you do with the crucifixion? This painting places you, the viewer, into the crowd watching as the murder of the avatar Christ takes place. Which person do you most resemble?

The models for the twenty-seven figures in the painting are all in it twice, except one. It took seven years to complete. After a year and a half of work it was removed from the stretcher bars and stored on a roll in a closet until this summer, when it was re-stretched and completed.


A Neolithic Wedding

(54″, 42″) Oil on canvassed panel

One third (the right hand panel) of a planned but never completed triptych, the painting shows a mother and daughter on their way to a wedding three thousand years ago. The two women are our ancestors, passing the open tomb of their own forebears. We owe everything we are to our ancestors, who survived through dangers that would kill modern humans in a moment. The other two panels were to show a father and son on the left side, and a shaman at centre, all set before a Neolithic chambered cairn.

Text from the exhibit:


The Principle

An alchemical installation by Michael Pearce


Alchemical philosophy is grounded in the idea that the matter from which the universe was created can be restored through a process of combining the four elements air, earth, fire and water together into a stone, the philosopher’s stone. (Harry Potter’s “sorcerer’s stone”) It’s commonly thought that the alchemists were obsessed with creating gold from base matter, and in a sense they were, but only insofar as gold is a symbol of the prima materia, the first material. Their spiritual quest to find the prima materia of creation was far more important than the preparation of mere gold, because according to the philosophy of Pythagoras the stuff of which the universe is made must be the material of God himself, so alchemy can be seen as the quest to find God by understanding the phenomena of the universe, a quest that has continued to this day as we endeavor to decipher the creation in our explorations at Universities and Colleges worldwide. In a sense the student body and faculty are all alchemists.

Renaissance alchemists used symbols to describe what they were doing in a particularly obscure coding of their process. It’s understandable that they should choose to do so in an age that saw men like poor, innocent Giordano Bruno rewarded for their achievements in science by being burned alive; many were lost to a vindictive inquisition that sought to keep the church’s grip upon the truth despite all the evidence that the world was not as it seemed. The weird symbols alchemists used worked in much the same way as the periodic table, offering a system for them to communicate their ideas to one another in a way that could only mislead the un-initiated. Because their symbols are mysterious the unscrupulous vendors of dubious cults have used them to scare their victims with paranoid accusations of Satanism and witchcraft. Such things simply have no place in historical alchemy.

When Luther’s revolution came, alchemists sought refuge in Protestantism and are repeatedly discovered amongst the reforming leaders of Britain, Germany and Holland. In Elizabethan England men like Fludd and Dee risked their lives to promote and encourage the interests of scientific research. These men are deeply associated with the origins of the mysterious Rosicrucian order and the beginning of Freemasonry, followed by men like Ashmole and Newton, who were both pre-occupied by alchemy, forming their natural philosophy from the alchemical works of their predecessors and establishing the Invisible College and the Royal Society. Newton wrote half a million words about alchemy! 

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