At first seeming to be nothing more than a harmless pictoform from children’s books or cartoons for juvenile consumption, the Twitter logo is the silhouette of a tiny bird, a short-billed finch or wren, and is as disarming and innocuous as any image ever might appear, when taken up by a contemporary mind pelted with an overwhelming and bewildering succession of graphic memes in every hour.
However, a study of Alchemical symbol forms from the Canadian Journal of Comparative Mythology points to the representation of short-billed, non-raptorial birds as representative of spirits, not process. The Twitter symbol is not what it seems.
Long-billed birds such as the Raven, symbolizing the Nigredo or Black State of the chemic process of refinement, or sharp-bills such as the Eagle or Falcon, standing for success of the highest aims of the Work, mean different aspects of the dynamic process of alchemical transmutation.
The smaller bird, on the other hand, is a volatile Spirit, but in the material sense, a byproduct of the same process.
In De Groene Leeuw of het Licht der Philosophen (The Green Lion, or the Light of the Philosophers), 1674, Goossen van Vreeswijk writes of this symbol, “‘To make the Bird fly’ is to free the Spirit from its material prison, that it may soar in the Alchemical Sky and bring back Below the benefits of what is Above.”
This statement occurs in the section regarding Dissolutions– such a bird represents volatile substance, which when freed, dissolves into vapor and vanishes.
The “Song” of the Bird comprises the audible evidence of that same discorporation.
At first this might seem the perfect occult explanation of what a “tweet” is – a song that dissolves, a message that vanishes. But precisely what benefits is it “from above” that a tweet is supposed to bring to “those below?”
In the time of van Vreeswijk, the most talented of alchemists were known to use volatile substances as a cleanser, even an acid: Baruch Spinoza was famously excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam in part for his insistence on using volatile alchemical substances to clean the lenses he made for a living in order to support his philosophical work.
Spinoza, of course, was a monoist – a believer that the entire universe can be reduced to but one substance. Most of his philosophical work is spent articulating this point. His alchemical work followed a similar pattern: Spinoza employed volatile alchemical substances as cleaners precisely because in the brief time they existed in a natural state they reduce other substances down to base components, and then, eventually to only one.
To employ such a substance, then, is to hasten the process of homogenization and with it the loss of individuality, creating a subject more docile and more subject to domination from the (powers) Above.
By reducing a significant portion of human communication to 140 characters or less, Twitter has fulfilled the mission of its mascot by significantly reducing the diversity of human thought: all manner of things may be tweeted about, but they all follow the same set of conventions, and the same arbitrary limitations. Twitter is an alchemical substance reducing us all to our base material.