To make an impression on another person is to instill in them a minor sense of awe, which is very useful because it tends to make that person more willing to be helpful. This minor sense of awe, if reflected back upon the awestruck, closely relates to the phenomenon of charisma. The tricky part is that what impresses another person depends on that person’s own level of alchemical development.
Impressing someone at a raw, biological level is fundamentally a matter of strength and natural vigour. This is primarily the basis on which dominance hierarchies are formed among social creatures in nature. Basically, creatures pay respect to any other creature powerful enough to fuck it up. These creatures probably evolved to do so, because the alternative to doing so was often death and therefore a failure to propagate one’s genes.
In an alchemical sense, this responds to the level of clay. In other words, it’s the natural state. People who have not been raised well – i.e. people who have been either neglected or abused as children – tend to not move past this stage. This is also the stage at which prison logic runs. The motto of this stage could be “Might makes right”.
What’s crucial to note here is that a person who is themselves at the level of clay will not and cannot be impressed by a person’s level of silver or gold, because they simply will not be able to perceive those elements. Even perceiving when a person carries significant levels of iron is difficult.
Being strong and vigorous will not impress any mature adult person, of course, for the reason that they only consider it impressive to be strong if one also has that strength under control. Wilding out and demonstrating raw physical dominance by fighting might impress some people, but it won’t impress those of a higher grade.
What will impress people of iron is being strong and having that strength under control. Respect is thus only given to those who are able to impose order upon their own bodies. At this level, it’s common for people to pay respect to people who are good at fighting, but to not respect people who are good at applying their intellects at the expense of martial prowess.
Alchemically, this level of control reflects the presence of iron, which itself implies a heightened degree of order. To have a will of iron is to have the ability to impose one’s will on one’s body no matter what it is telling one to do. The most impressive thing one can do here is to die on the battlefield by charging valiantly into the enemy and making them remember you.
Being strong and having that strength under control isn’t necessarily enough once one starts climbing the social hierarchy. Here, we enter the realm of silver, and here what impresses is not having strength, and not having that strength under control, but having that strength easily under control.
A person of iron will be impressed by the ability to bear great physical trials, but a person of silver will only be impressed if these trials are born with grace. This represents a softening, in the sense that the emphasis is no longer on killing like Rambo but rather preserving one’s humanity under duress.
The captain of a sports team always has to be a bit more of silver than the players under them, and it is on this basis they are judged after the match. Can they take a loss with good grace, and acknowledge the ways in which the opposition were superior? Can they take a win with good grace, and acknowledge that the opposition challenged and tested them despite the scoreline?
If they can do so while smiling, and while physically exhausted after an extended period of strenuous exertion and probably running on adrenaline, then they might impress the man of silver. This sort of behaviour will be considered noble or gentlemanly by any onlooker who are themselves sufficiently cultivated to appreciate it.
Of the fourth way to impress people very little can be said, as is usual for matters pertaining to alchemical gold. In the context of this essay it’s enough to say that it pertains to impressing people – and knowing that one has impressed people – without letting it go to one’s head and becoming egotistical.
In other words, it’s not enough to be strong, and it’s not enough to have that strength under control, and it’s not even enough to have that strength easily under control. If one wants to impress a man of gold, one has to be able to do all that without becoming too impressed by oneself, because it’s there that gold will not be.
This is extremely difficult for a number of reasons. The primary one is that it represents the apotheosis of the philosopher, which is an experience reserved only for the rarest of persons. Another major reason is that the temptations of the ego are evil in every possible application of the concept; they are multifarious enough so that evil can tempt one in any situation.
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