The Alchemy of “Golden Girls”
September 26, 2010 4 Comments
By: Peter Parker
Okay I couldn’t resist, here’s Golden Girls as a metaphor for the alchemical magnum opus. A further sign I have way too much time on my hands.
In alchemy the magnum opus or great work was the production of the philosopher’s stone, a special mineral that could convert matter from an incomplete state to a perfected state. Led to gold, etc. To produce the stone, it was believed that the alchemist himself must first be a spiritually pure philosopher. There were several levels of chromatic transformation the stone would go through, nigredo (black), albedo (white) & rubedo (red). At the end of this a philosopher’s stone would be produced. So let’s begin with this silly waste of time.
1.) The show’s title is the “Golden Girls” clearly a reference to the intended end product of the great work (gold).
2.) The eldest & wisest golden girl is called Sophia, (Greek for Wisdom). Clearly it is she who must be sought by the adept wishing to perform the great work. Philosopher is, of course, from the Greek “Philo Sophia” (lover of wisdom).
3.) Sophia’s daughter is Dorothy (Greek for Gift of the Gods), showing that the product of Wisdom is a divine gift (ie the stone.)
4.) The remaining two golden girls are called Blanch (meaning white) and Rose (meaning red), representing the final two chromatic phases of the great work, Rubedo & Albedo.
5.) There were four golden girls, corresponding to the 4 elements in alchemical theory (earth, fire, air, water).
6.) Dorothy’s ex-husband (a rather “base” fellow) was named Stanley (old English for “Stone ley” or a stony meadow). He is clearly the, as of yet, inactivated substance that will become a philosopher’s stone once merged in a “chemical wedding” with the vivifying, divine power that is Dorothy (gift of the gods).
7.) Dorothy’s deceased father (who Sophia mentioned a number of times) was named Salvador, (Latin for Savior). In Gnostic theology (arguably influential on alchemy) our base material world is the end product of a series of increasingly degraded emanations from the One, unknowable, pure, immaterial god. These emanations (called aeons) come in pairs. One such pairing, common in various Gnostic myths, is that of Christ (or Savior) & Sophia. The two principles must be reunited to lead souls out of the material prison and back to the divine realm. I seem to recall Salvador appearing to Dorothy as a ghost in one episode. This is noteworthy since, as a ghost, he is free of the prison of the material body, in keeping with gnostic soterology.
8.) Sophia’s last name (through her husband) is Petrillo, derived from Petros (meaning rock or stone) again strengthening the show’s symbolic connection to the great work.
9.) In the final episode, Dorothy marries Blanche’s uncle Lucas (Latin for Light). The two move to his manor in Atlanta. Atlanta’s symbol is a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a common symbol for the great work in alchemy. Atalanta Fugiens (Latin for “The Flight of Atlanta”) was a famous renaissance book of alchemical symbols by the German alchemist Michael Maier. Dorothy’s marriage to Lucas signifies the return of souls (the products of Sophia) to the pure realm of light.
10.) Following this, the remaining 3 golden girls become casino managers in the series’ spin-off “Golden Palace”. This represents the earthly transmutation of elements brought about by the divine return of souls to the incorruptible realm.
Okay, It started out as a joke but as I stretched for more connections between a quartet of geriatrics sluts and esoteric proto science, things seemed to get easier. It was a real Foucault’s Pendulum moment. I imagine Brandon Tartacoff (who isn’t really dead) is going to track me down and garrotte me before I can divulge NBC’s terrible secret. Oh a few more points. Atlanta is on the 33rd degree latitude North. The 33rd degree is of course the highest degree in Scottish Rite Freemasonry, a system based on the alchemical magnum opus, spiritually transforming men into perfected lodge members. Masonry is replete with alchemical symbols, including the Phoenix, in fact Phoenix Arizona, also on the 33rd degree, a city founded by Freemason “Lord” Darrel Duppa, also uses the mythical bird as it’s symbol.