Life change can be terrifying. When things fall apart, a threatened ego will grasp at almost anything to stave off rising waves of panic, anxiety, and depression. Conventional psychiatry is quick to oblige by recommending pharmaceutical medications that will ostensibly lift the user out of these states. However, if one has a certain amount of support and the proper map, one may actually plumb the depths of transformation and reap the rewards of those uncomfortable, shadowy realms. For me, that map was alchemy, and it proved the deciding factor in successfully navigating rough terrain. What follows is an exploration of my transformational crisis, or spiritual emergency (Grof & Grof, 1991) through the lens of alchemy.
The Dream: Prima Materia
How to describe the fundamental re-configuring of a life? Let me begin with a dream. Although I was already well into my transformative breakdown, which began in the spring of 2014, this dream appeared nine months into the process, in December 2014. It was an explicit harbinger of what was about to become its most intense, challenging, and destabilizing phase. I include the description here verbatim, as I recorded it at the time:
December 15, 2014. “GIVING BIRTH:” I realize that I have a baby in me. I look in the mirror in my room, and spread my legs, and am surprised to see the top of the head, visible there! So now that I’ve seen it, there is no way to stop the birth process….oh my gosh I’m not totally ready though, I’m just here, by myself in my room…. But I start to lie down because this is going to happen, now! I think of my white carpet and all the blood…but there is no time to prepare otherwise. I lean back, and without even much effort the head starts coming out, and I reach my arms around to catch it, and before I know it there is a little baby lying in my hands! It was so fast — I am astonished. I did it all by myself. I am relieved and amazed that it was so easy and painless. I mean… what luck! That’s really unusual! She is a little girl, not moving, not very bloody…. I look closer, and she starts to move. And talk. I don’t feel a rush of maternal feelings…. I can’t remember what I’m feeling, I think amazement… I go into my parents’ room to show them this new baby, and hold her out in my hands. I say, “Her name is Clara, and she’s really verbal.”
This dream is a classic illustration of prima materia, or “first matter.” “The alchemists inherited the idea of the prima materia from ancient philosophy and applied it to their attempts at the transformation of matter. They thought that in order for a given substance to be transformed, it must first be reduced or returned to its original, undifferentiated state” (Edinger, p. 10). In this dream I have returned to my original condition as a newborn infant, ready for transformation and growth. As Edinger asserts:
Fixed, developed aspects of the personality allow no change. They are solid, established, and sure of their rightness. Only the indefinite, fresh, and vital, but vulnerable and insecure, original condition symbolized by the child is open to development and hence is alive…the image of a child in dreams…can symbolize the prima materia. (p. 11)
With this dream, my psyche could not have delivered a clearer message that my alchemical journey was about to begin in earnest. Little did I know it, but certain “fixed, developed aspects” of my personality would indeed begin breaking down in ways that would prove decidedly uncomfortable.
Background: Solutio and Circulatio
For many months leading up to this dream I had been enduring debilitating chronic pain in my neck, shoulder, and arms. Truth be told, the pain had dogged me in some form or another for almost five years prior to this, causing me to seek help with physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic adjustments. But it had gained particular momentum and intensity in March of 2014. This is why I mark my transformational crisis as having begun at this point: I began to acknowledge the hard fact that life as I knew it could not continue in the same way. Something fundamental had to change.
What had brought me to this peak of intensity? What was the crucial ingredient that ushered in this dawning realization? I was falling in love. I met a man who Soul recognized as a kindred spirit and a disrupter of my patterns. On some level, it knew that if I were going to open myself to receiving love from this person, some of the deepest structures in my psyche—the very same structures that were also implicated in my chronic pain—would have to dissolve and wash away. Fears, rigidities, boundaries, and protections that had functioned to keep me safe were now direct impediments to love, change, and growth. True, James had moved into my home on March 1st merely as a renter; there was no overt sign of romance until a few months down the road. But Soul anticipates on a subtle level what individual ego becomes conscious of only later.
With the presence of this man in my home, my pain—which I had heretofore been able to keep somewhat private and hidden away—had a sensitive and attuned witness. My suffering was starting to leak out and be noticed in ways that were, for me, new and unsettling. I did not like to have my “weaknesses” observed, much less responded to; I did not want to be “pitied.” But rather than diminish and allow me to contain it, my pain increased. It had found something of an outlet, and in spite of my best efforts, I found myself cracking open and breaking down not only in the presence of this man.
My choice of words in describing this process is no accident. Going over them with a discerning eye, it becomes glaringly apparent that the terms “dissolve,” “wash away,” and “leak out” indicate that, with the entry of James into my life, I was plunged into the alchemical operation of solutio. In alchemy, solutio refers to the washing, cleansing, or dissolving of the substance being worked with. And falling in love is a kind of dissolution, for what could be more powerful than love at dissolving egoic boundaries and individual psychic structures? Even the language we use, “falling in love,” indicates the submersion of the self in something like a pool or a lake; a liquid containing matrix. One does not “fall upon love” or “step over to love;” one falls into liquid love. One is dissolved by it.
Edinger (1996) has this to say: “Love and/or lust are agents of solutio. This corresponds to the fact that a particular psychic problem or state of development often remains arrested or stuck until the (person) falls in love. Then abruptly the problem is dissolved. Although new complications appear, life has begun to flow again. It has been liquefied” (p. 55). He goes on to mention that “whatever is larger and more comprehensive than the ego threatens to dissolve it” (p. 56).
In my case, I had been limping along with chronic pain for years, and acute pain for months. I was not happy about it, and was growing less and less satisfied with my life. But at least I was still “in control.” I was making sensible, rational decisions and operating in a way that I was used to. My boundaries, defenses, and coping mechanisms, although rigid and increasingly constraining, were familiar. Even though I wanted something to change so that I would no longer be in pain, I was not able to figure out how to get “from here to there,” so to speak. There was no force in my life big enough or comprehensive enough to overtake or engulf my habit energy and egoic will—something that would ultimately be necessary to bring about radical transformation. Love entered and became that force. Yes, pain had been a powerful agent, nudging me along and forcing me to make certain adjustments. But love engulfed and began to dissolve me.
By May of 2014, with James’ support and encouragement, I made what felt like a radical decision: I would take a medical leave of absence from work. Although this felt risky, drastic, and possibly selfish, the typing and desk work required to do my job exacerbated my neck and shoulder pain beyond tolerance. Once my leave was granted, I spent four months away from the office, living with friends and family in the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. During this time, I hiked, prayed, read, and spent as little time as possible on a computer, in an attempt to heal. Again, I knew that my chronic pain was related to profound change that was trying to come through, or, more specifically, that the pain was related to my resistance, on various levels, to this change. Still, I did not know what “my new life” was supposed to look like! I knew that my old routines were not working, but I did not know what to replace them with.
Prima Materia and Calcinatio
After four months away, I returned to work, part-time, in September. Granted, my job was problematic, but I hoped that a reduced work schedule would be a stopgap measure against quitting entirely, until I had some idea of what else I would do. By this time the pain was slightly more manageable, but still very present. I knew in my heart that it was related to not only the physical mechanics of the job (i.e. typing and working on a computer), but to the promptings of Soul: this position was not my calling and, to the degree that I devoted most of my time and creative energy to it, was standing squarely in the way of Soul’s increasingly insistent urgings. In his book The Soul’s Code, archetypal psychologist James Hillman (1996) puts forth the idea that each of us is given, before we are born, a “unique daimon,” which “has selected an image or pattern that we live here on earth. This soul-companion, the daimon, guides us here.
In the process of arrival, however, we forget all that took place and believe we come empty into this world” (p. 8). It is then one’s task to remember, or perhaps get out of the way, so that the daimon, who “remembers what is in your image and belongs to your pattern” (p. 8) can effectively guide you to your destiny. Perhaps it would be more apt to frame the necessary action, rather than “getting out of the way,” as coming into alignment with one’s daimon. Whichever, Hillman (1996) points out that “a calling may be postponed, avoided, intermittently missed. It may also possess you completely. Whatever; eventually it will out. It makes its claim. The daimon does not go away” (p. 8).
The difficulty comes when one is fairly certain of what isn’t one’s calling, but has not yet formed a concrete idea with regard to what is. In these cases, as in mine, life can become excruciatingly uncomfortable as the urgings of the daimon point one away from familiarity, comfort, and safety but do not make crystal clear the proper path to move toward. One is left suspended in an existential void of sorts, with one light fading into the background but no discernible beacon to illuminate the path ahead.
I had also, come September, moved back in to the house with my new love. Only this time, we were not just housemates, we were partners. One need not be an alchemist to know that the initial stages of serious love are associated with fire, passion, and heat. These connections are made in myth, fairytale, and modern songs and movies. In alchemy, the operation associated with the element of fire is calcinatio. This is the stage when fire gets applied to heat up and catalyze the substance being worked upon. Careful attention must be paid so that just the right amount of heat is applied; too little, and the Work remains cold and stagnant; too much, and the Work may burst into flames and be destroyed before it is ready. Ultimately, the idea is to burn away impurities and leave what is pure, strong, and worthy.
I am not someone who falls in love easily. On the contrary, for me it is an exceedingly rare and precious occurrence. And, as the weeks living with James unfolded, I began to understand why I had been mostly single during my adult life: falling in love—real love, transformative love—can be terrifying! In addition to the joys and delights of new partnership with a truly kindred spirit, I began to experience some unfamiliar fears and anxieties. In fact, it could be said that certain aspects of my personality were being subjected to the unrelenting flame of another person’s attention, day in and day out. In the midst of the love, which was definitely present, the fire of calcinatio was beginning to produce some discomfort.
Edinger (1994) talks about the ruling principle of the ego—or, the dominant value around which the personality is structured—as being personified as a King in alchemical texts, and there are many images depicting the king being burnt on a pyre, shoved into a stove, or boiled alive in connection with the calcinatio operation. Then, “after a descent into hell, the ego (king) isreborn, phoenixlike, in a purified state” (p. 19). Viewed from the perspective of alchemical Soul Work, then, the dominant value around which my personality had been structured, “defend, achieve, and be self-sufficient!” was being challenged, or rather, burnt up in the fire of calcinatio. In order to love and be loved, I had to incorporate another’s care; I had to soften; I had to be vulnerable; I had to learn that I could depend on another. Real love is no joke; the stakes are high. It takes a powerful force to create enough heat and pressure to cause elements of the personality to melt and then burn up, in service to growth.
Much of the fall of 2014, then, was this steady process of love heating things up and beginning to burn away layers of habit and defense. As I previously mentioned, however, alchemical texts emphasize that the intensity and timing of the fire being applied is critical to the Work’s success. The famed alchemist and Franciscan friar Roger Bacon speaks to this in his Radix Mundi:
And the gentle or temperate fire is that only which completes the mixture, makes thick, and perfects the Work. The happy prosecution of the whole Work consists in the exact temperament of the fire: therefore beware of too much heat, lest you come to Solution before the time, [viz. before the matter is ripe:] For that will bring you to despair of attaining the end of your hopes. Wherefore saith he… Beware of too much fire, for if it be kindled before the time, the matter will be Red before it comes to ripeness and perfection, whereby it becomes like an Abort, or the unripe fruit of the womb. (as cited in Linden, p. 117)
In our case, falling in love and immediately living together proved to be a recipe for nearly immolating ourselves entirely. By December, it became increasingly clear that if we wanted to build a solid foundation and preserve a lasting and more stable connection, I would need to move out. This, accompanied by the additional ego-destabilizers of continued physical pain, and the knowledge that I probably needed to leave my job and perhaps my Ph.D. program, was enough to thrust me out of calcinatio and into the darkest of all operations: mortificatio. It seems apt that this occurred at the onset of winter—the season of long nights, hibernation, and underground incubation.
Mortificatio and the Vessel
In the weeks prior to the dream of giving birth to myself, my physical suffering had reached a debilitating crescendo. I had sharp nerve pain radiating from my neck down my arm, making any position uncomfortable and wreaking havoc on my sleep. In a desperate attempt to diminish what I knew to be a ramped-up stress response in my body—which was not responding to acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, Rolfing, and other physiological healing practices—I changed tactics, somewhat, and began working with relaxation techniques, mantras, and meditation. In combination with a few other supportive measures that I put in place, these caused me to shift focus ever so slightly from primarily the physical to the psychological (of course this duality is more or less a mental construct; they are, at bottom, indivisible). An excerpt from my journal at the time describes the beginnings of this shift:
Suddenly I had this overwhelming realization that I would actually rather be in physical pain than experience depression and anxiety again. As much as it hurts and constrains my movements…. it’s better than psychological hell. And in THAT MOMENT I realized what my body has been doing for me all these months/years: It has taken on the burden of stress and uncertainty to spare me the hell of psychological fear and anxiety.
Suddenly everything flipped, and I felt immense, tremendous gratitude and compassion! My body has allowed me to function, these past five or six years at this job! So, rather than be my tormentor, my body has taken this hit, for me. I felt amazed. To suddenly switch out of this “my-body-is-torturing-me” mode to “my-body-is-trying-to-spare-me” mode. It was like night and day.
And weirdly, within the next few hours, the massively acute, hot/tingling pain that I’d been suffering in my right arm substantially diminished. It’s just astonishing. And now… the sheer level of stress and anxiety I have been carrying about next steps in my life has come into my conscious awareness. My body is saying, “OK finally, I can start to unwind this tension because you are taking back from me some of this burden and working with it, CONSCIOUSLY.
Within a few days of this epiphany, I was visited by the dream indicating my state of prima materia. What is particularly interesting is that I am not only the baby, in this dream; I am also the one giving birth. Thus I am not simply being reduced to prima materia; rather, I am reducing myself to prima materia, in preparation for the deep Work to begin. This points to the archetype of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail, symbol of infinity and rebirth that the alchemists borrowed from ancient Egypt. Jung (1977) had this to say about the Ouroboros:
The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which […] unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious. (para. 513)
After the birth dream, everything began to rapidly shift into mortificatio. Love’s calcinatio had been steadily burning away rigid defenses such that I was more emotionally exposed than I had perhaps ever been. Pain made me fragile, vulnerable, and frustratingly dependent on other people. Mounting ambivalence about my job and Ph.D. program—roles which had defined me for the past seven years—made me question, on a fundamental level, who I was and what I was doing with my life. In many ways, although I chose to focus on love’s role in the process of calcinatio, the fire was also being fed by my waning enthusiasm for academic work. All my life I had been a student: I got straight A’s, skipped a grade in school, earned a full ride to college, and genuinely loved learning and the classroom environment. If calcinatio is understood to be the operation wherein the “dominant life value around which the personality has been structured (undergoes) reevaluation,” (Edinger, p. 20), then contemplating a flight from academia was certainly fanning the flames.
Life changes of this magnitude, all at once, can feel not only challenging and destabilizing, they can produce a physical and mental state bordering on madness. Many times during those months I said to myself “…Am I going crazy…?! I can’t handle this; this is too much! This level of tension and anxiety is impossible to hold; my body is going to break apart, my mind shatter into fragments.”
During these times, using an alchemical lens to understand that my process was in the stage of mortificatio was invaluable. The notion that, in the quest for the philosopher’s stone (i.e. the Self), one gets burnt to a crisp, reduced to prima materia, and only then begins the real Work—which includes a harrowing descent into a shadowy underworld—is immensely comforting when one feels as if one is being held to the fire, crushed in a vice, or exploded from within. The alarmingly gory images of dismemberment and hellish trials that Zosimos (Linden, 2003, pp. 50-53) described suddenly become reassuring when one is experiencing terrifying dreams, paralyzing anxiety, a racing heart, and high levels of depression and existential fear on a weekly basis. Rather than bizarre and terrifying, the images become normalizing.
It was at this juncture that one of the principles at the heart of alchemy proved to be crucial for me as well. That is: essential to the Work of transformation is a strong vessel, or container. Otherwise the Work will break it apart, or begin to leak through and be lost or destroyed. Never in my life have I understood this at a deeper, more visceral level. For nine years I had been living in a small room in a San Francisco apartment. During much of this time, the place served me well: it was a mere two miles from work and school, allowed me to gather community around me, provided easy access for visiting friends and family, and was close to parks, shops, and restaurants.
As my pain had increased over the months and years, however, I had begun to intuit a connection between this container and the fraying state of my mind and body. By the middle of December 2014, shortly after the dream, it became abundantly, painfully clear that the kind of transformation being asked of me would be nothing short of impossible were I to continue living in that space. The container had become weak and cracked, and my process corrupted and even poisoned.
What did this look like? First of all, I had not been able to do any writing or creative work in my room for a few years. If I wanted to concentrate or get any kind of flow of ideas, I had to leave the house. Further, anyone who wanted access to the backyard had to pass through my space, so it was more of a passageway than a room. It was also located off of the house kitchen, below the upstairs neighbors’ kitchen, and adjacent to the next-door neighbors’ dining area. This made it something like a box-drum, or “Cajon,” with the percussive sound of feet and voices bombarding it from all sides. The times I could go to bed and wake up were governed by the unpredictable activities of the people around me. From outside, the sound of non-stop air-conditioning units and restaurant dumpsters being emptied at 4:30am leaked in. The room was totally porous; barely more than a symbolic membrane between me and the psychic and physical energy of the urban environment.
This was tolerable when I was settled in my job, happily attending classes, and pain-free. In other words, it served adequately when I was in a kind of stasis. But as this period of deep alchemical transformation gathered momentum—with my job, my academic career, my health, and my love relationship all in question and shifting rapidly—I began to feel the need to go within and attend to the process more and more. I found myself unable to do so in this container. It became a matter of utmost urgency that I have a quiet, safe place to rest, meditate, create, and sleep, and I could do none of these activities uninterrupted in this space. My anxiety level increased and my nervous system ramped up to the point where I required drugs to sleep for even a few hours. I found myself having active imagination fantasies of crawling into a hole in the forest floor; I longed to be surrounded by solid, noise-cancelling, damp earth. I longed to be held securely.
All of this points, again, to mortificatio, the stage in which the Work depresses, becomes heavy, spoils, decomposes, and/or otherwise invites the alchemist into low places of reflection. Says Edinger (1994), “Mortificatio is the most negative operation in alchemy. It has to do with darkness, defeat, torture, mutilation, death, and rotting. However, these dark images often lead over to highly positive ones—growth, resurrection, rebirth” (p. 148). Viewed from this angle, my “strange” desire to crawl into the ground and cover myself with earth could be understood as an urge to “compost” myself in rich soil; to descend into the undisturbed darkness of earth and surrender to decomposition. Edinger (1994) cites a passage from The Golden Treatise of Hermes, an old alchemical text, which reads as follows:
O happy gate of blackness, cries the sage, which art the passage to this so glorious change. Study, therefore, whosoever appliest thyself to this Art, only to know this secret, for to know this is to know all, but to be ignorant of this is to be ignorant of all. For putrification precedes the generation of every new form into existence. (p. 149)
I was a nervous wreck and needed a calmer, safer place. The framework of alchemy became very useful for stepping back and understanding the gravity of what was actually going on for me, and what was required: it helped me see that my situation was not one of simply “needing to get it together and be less sensitive,” or even one in which attending to just my physical health and internal psychological needs would suffice. Albertus Magnus stressed the need for “a place and a special house” (Linden, 2003, p. 103), meaning, a sacred place set apart to attend to the Work, and this is exactly what I required. It is, I think, a notion foreign to most mainstream psychologies that a particular kind of personal/spiritual transformation might require a special holding space. So I am grateful to alchemy for validating what I was intuiting so strongly, but had not quite been able to act upon.
I moved to Oakland, California, on March 1, 2015. Having a safe, quiet place to which I can retreat feels like a huge luxury. Also, this act of separatio shifted things immediately and dramatically for the better in my love relationship. In alchemy, the separatio operation is just what it sounds like: a process of cutting away, dividing up, or separating out what should not be part of the Work. In our case, separatio needed to happen in order to counteract, or rather cool down, the raging fires of calcinatio. We had applied too much heat, too fast, and had in some sense melted together. Moving into a different physical space, separating myself out from the vessel in which our love had first inflamed, proved to be exactly what was needed at that stage of the Work. With some distance between us, we could each focus on our own personal process as distinct from the intensity of the relationship process.
Still, I am often scared. I am often depressed, anxious, and worried that maybe this will go on forever and that in fact I have some kind of disorder. The disconnect between what conventional society tells me—that I must know what I am doing in life, have a set career, and be “successful” and “independent” at this point in my life—is in direct opposition to what is trying to happen: this breakdown/breakthrough; this decay and putrification of the old ego system in order to create fertile ground for the new Self to emerge. It is remarkably difficult to maintain a sense of deeper, unconventional, personal truth in the midst of the daily grind: we are inundated with commercial messages aimed at propping up a false self and a false definition of “success” nested in a fragmented and alarmingly misguided society. In part because of this, surrender to the process is challenging. There really is no place, in the industrial growth society, for rest, decay and putrification. These things run, in every sense, counter to the capitalist agenda and a growth economy. There is no time for rumination, reflection, a composting of what’s been learned, or a lying fallow while the new growth germinates and waits to be born. Yet this is what nature, and the alchemists, knew to be necessary! These wise practitioners emphasized above all else how long the Work—in other words, emergence of the Self, or Soul, and what Jung (1989) called individuation—takes, and what fortitude it requires. They placed a huge emphasis on the patience, diligence, and longsuffering required of the alchemist, and maintained that doing the Work quickly was in essence worse than not doing it at all. From the famed eighth century Islamic Alchemist, Jabir ibn Hayyan:
Yet you must not think all this can be effected by preparation at once, in a very short time, as a few dayes and hours; but in respect of other Modern Physicians, and also in respect of the operation of Nature, the verity of the Work is sooner terminated this way. Whence the Philosopher saith, It is a Medicine requiring a long space of time. Wherefore I tell you, you must patiently sustain labor, because the Work will be long… Therefore let him that hath not patience desist from the Work, for credulity will hinder him making over much haste. And every natural action hath its determinate major and time, in which it is terminated. (Linden p. 81)
In the end, it doesn’t matter what my career looks like, or how people perceive me; it doesn’t matter if I end up with a Ph.D., or achieve that which my culture deems admirable or appropriate. If I can stay with this process of dissolving old egoic structures, if I can more fully surrender to love’s liquid matrix, I will exist in a container large enough to call forth and nurture Soul’s plan for me. The room in which I live will no longer be so important; nor will the neighborhood, nor even the city or state. For indeed, I will exist freely in the cosmos…itself a vessel whose entire contents is love.
Tired of Speaking Sweetly
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us, Break all our teacup talk of God. If you had the courage and Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights, He would just drag you around the room By your hair, Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world That bring you no joy. Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly And wants to rip to shreds All your erroneous notions of truth That make you fight within yourself, dear one, And with others, Causing the world to weep On too many fine days. God wants to manhandle us, Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself And practice His dropkick. The Beloved sometimes wants To do us a great favor: Hold us upside down And shake all the nonsense out. But when we hear He is in such a “playful drunken mood” Most everyone I know Quickly packs their bags and hightails it Out of town. —Hafiz
Edinger, E. (1994). Anatomy of the psyche: Alchemical symbolism in psychotherapy. Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing.
Grof, S., & Grof, C. (1991). The stormy search for the self: A guide to personal growth through transformational crisis. New York, NY: Tarcher/Putnam.
Hillman, J. (1996). The soul’s code: In search of character and calling. New York, NY: Warner Books.
Jung, C.G. (1977). Collected works of C. G. Jung (Book 14). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C.G. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
Linden, S. J. (2003). The alchemy reader: From Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Clara Lindstrom holds psychology degrees from the University of Washington (BA, Summa Cum Laude, 1995) and the California Institute of Integral Studies (MA, 2006). She is a doctoral student at CIIS in East-West Psychology where her focus is the intersection of spirit and matter, social and environmental justice, and community building and storytelling as pathways to healing. Outside of academia, Clara works with scholars, teachers, and activists to create content for CIIS Public Programs & Performances.