The process of controlling the spiritual powers and physical forces of the human body was taught by the ancient philosophers under a series of arcane symbols and allegories. The discipline was to ponder deeply upon the mysteries, and if his/her heart was pure and his/her mind properly developed, the true light would dawn upon him/her and a voice within him/herself would explain the emblematic figures which concealed the sacred and arcane truths. Enter the Art of Alchemy.
there are two types of minds studying alchemy. The first, smaller group is composed of earnest and sincere seekers after divine light. These have no desire to make diamonds or rubies, nor to transmute physical metals. Their request is for spiritual things. Their great desire is to transmute their own ignorance into a wisdom with which they could serve intelligently the needs of their fellow creatures.
The second and much larger group is composed of those who pursue the quest of alchemy for power and personal gain. They liked to have others believe that they were great philosophers, hence they wore long gowns and went about reciting unintelligible gibberish and seeking to appear learned and impressive. There is no doubt that in some cases they achieved the end of actually transmuting metallic silver, lead, and sulphur into gold by means of a mysterious powder which was called “red lion.” This latter group did not realize that the “red lion” of true spiritual alchemy was the human Will power, by means of which all base things are transmuted through courage and perseverance.
From both of these groups of alchemists and pseudo-alchemists there issued voluminous writings, some to the point and others away from it. In some cases those who wrote knew their subject and in other cases they had no glimmering of it. The pseudo-alchemists were the most prolific in their literary endeavours. Their works are weighty, involved, and to a superficial reader, intensely erudite; but after spending much time in their study and consideration it dawns upon the student that the authors merely used a ponderous vocabulary to conceal their own ignorance.
The truly great alchemical works are few in number and in most cases are small in volumes.
The symbols of alchemy are chiefly of Egyptian origin, though to a certain degree they have been modified and in some cases amplified by later concepts and reconstructed doctrines. While the alchemical truths have been concealed within endless involvements, the teachings of alchemy are comparatively simple. In fact, they are so simple that the average person overlooks them because of an innate belief that he/she should view them in a complicated manner. Many things in life are so simple that we overlook them. Great truths are always simple.
Nearly all of the great alchemical truths are concealed in diagrammatic symbols, in which the planetary hieroglyphics and mysterious mythological creatures are jumbled together in apparently hopeless confusion.
Alchemy was devoted to the attainment of one or more of three particular ends. The first was the discovery of a mysterious substance to be used for the tincturing of base metals. By means of this substance, base metals could be transmuted into precious metals. To the ancients, Gold was the most precious of metals. Therefore, the highest art was the manufacture of Gold.
The second end to be attained by alchemy was the discovery of the elixir of life, a peculiar and mysterious liquid, a few drops of which would transform the body and perpetuate it in eternal youth.
The third quest of the alchemist was the power of manufacturing diamonds and other precious stones. In order to attain this, it was necessary to use a furnace and create a tremendous heat. Certain substances when placed in this furnace could be transformed into precious stones.
These three achievements were considered to be the ultimate in the arts of alchemy.
The three aspirations of the alchemist – the transmutation of metals, the discovery of the universal elixir, and the making of the diamond – are symbolic terms beneath which they concealed the three steps of alchemical philosophy. The lowest of the three was the transmutation of metals and the highest the making of a diamond. Between these two was the formulation of the universal elixir. The transmutation is an allegory for reforming the physical body. Making the universal elixir was symbolic of soul growth, while the hardening of the diamond in the fire signified the attainment of holistic intelligence.
The alchemist divided the nature of man into three essential parts; the thoughts, the emotions, and the actions (the triune nature of man). These they declared to be, in reality, only three manifestations of a single principle. In the same way they divided the elements of the philosopher’s stone into three parts – salt, mercury, and sulphur; and these in turn they declared to be only three parts of one divine element; spiritual sulphur (consciousness). Man’s physical body they symbolized by salt and the element of earth, because crystallization is a power which acts over both of these natures equally. Man’s intellectual and soul nature they symbolized by mercury. Mercury had two natures: divine mercury and human mercury. In the same way, man’s mind has two spheres of activity. His spiritual mind is creative, idealistic, and synthetic. His material and earthy mind is destructive, precise, and analytical. These are the facets of the right brain hemisphere (the feminine) and the left brain hemisphere (the masculine).
In every case the lower must be transmuted into the higher if true spirituality is to result.
The spirit was symbolized by sulphur, because sulphur is closely allied to fire, whereas mercury more nearly resembles water. In fact, the philosophers called mercury the living water (esoteric biblical terminology referencing the same allegory). Whoever can adjust his/her life so that his/her physical nature, his/her intellectual nature, and his/her spiritual nature cooperate One with the other, resulting in a harmonious, unified personality (acting in accordance with what you know and feel) has achieved proficiency in the ancient science of alchemy, for alchemy is the chemistry of human life and chemistry of body, faculty, and function as these react upon each other.
Philosophy is considered to be a masculine element; intuition is feminine. Without intuition, the alchemist cannot attain his/her ends. Therefore he/she must woo intuition. In alchemy, intuition is symbolized by the moon, while philosophy and reason are symbolized by the sun. Hence one of the first steps in alchemy is the marriage of the sun and moon, or the union of logical and intuitional facets; The Alchemical Wedding. These are most often symbolized by an androgynous figure, one side of the figure masculine and the other feminine; often with two characters, male and female. The male is often surrounded with the solar nimbus, while the female head is surrounded with the lunar halo. Intuition and reason are also called silver and gold.
The reason why alchemy is symbolized by an androgynous figure is the same which inspired the Hindus to form their deity with a partly masculine and partly feminine body. This indicates that fine blending of qualities necessary to the attainment of intelligence. Intelligence is unattainable until the individual has blended all parts with him/herself.
I always questioned why many religious doctrines are prone to refer to God as masculine by always speaking of God with pronouns such as “him” or ‘he”. The Hindus, on the other hand, at least certain castes of them, emphasize the Mother-god, using the pronouns “she” and “her”.
Alchemy teaches that the spirit of man is androgynous. It would not be proper to say that it is neither of the two; rather it should be considered as being both of them in one. Occultism tells us that man ought to attain a perfect blending of the masculine qualities of courage, determination, and philosophic intellect with the feminine qualities of sympathy, endurance, and intuitional foresight. All nature cooperates toward the abolition of extremes and the glorification of equipoised bodies and temperaments.
Nature is producing ever finer and higher environments, thus compelling man to eternally readjust himself. These adjustments are called growth. Nature insists on growth.
Notwithstanding all our efforts in the opposite direction, we cannot help growing, nor can we help being alchemists in one way or another. Some people grow by a roundabout process. Whether actions be constructive or destructive, they result in growth. If the action be constructive (the path of mercy), the growth is direct; if the action be destructive, the growth is indirect, but the lamentable reactions of destructive actions are warnings which mankind cannot fail to heed. Therefore indirect growth comes through suffering (the path of severity).
The spiritual nature of man was symbolized by the lodestone which communicated its powers to things about itself, and the highest attainment of alchemical art was the making of the philosopher’s stone, the manufacturing of a diamond. The diamond is symbolic of the spiritual nature because as the diamond reflects the light of the sun so the spiritual nature reflects the light of Divinity. As the diamond must be cut and faceted, so the spiritual nature of man must be trued with sharp tools before its glory is revealed. As the diamond is found in the depths of the dark earth, even in the heart of coal, so the spiritual nature is found in and must be lead out from the darkness of ignorance and degeneracy. As the philosopher’s stone must be fired in a great heat, so the spiritual nature of man must pass through the flames of suffering before the individual can become truly great and courageous. The Great Work of the world is done by men and women who are courageous.
So the fire of alchemy in the great laboratory of life makes the stone of the wise man.
Magic vs Sorcery
At first glance, many have unconversantly conjectured that the arts of alchemy are akin to the practice of magic and sorcery. Their ignorance is immediately revealed by the mere interchangeable usage of the diametrically opposed terms. For said terms have definitions that are deafening to the ears of the user of such a logical fallacy.
Magic is the science and art of influencing change to occur in accordance with the Will. Sorcery is the science and art of influencing change to occur in accordance with the will.
Thy Will or thy will be served, that is the difference. The capital W Will is referring to the Will of creation, the act of being an influence in the fundamental transmutation of the erroneous understanding that is possessed by his/her fellow man, regarding his/her understanding of self and his/her understanding of the universe. To teach his/her fellow man how to think, and to align their free will with the Will of the Universe; to know and to abide by the true Laws of Nature.
The lower case w is referring to the will of the ego. To make this great body of knowledge serve the will of the individual, instead of aligning that will to the Will of creation, which is to serve Truth and bring that light into the lives of many, so that the many will live in accordance with the precepts of Nature. Rather, the sorcerer seeks to use this body of knowledge to manipulate those whom are ignorant of it.
To think is to live, in the human sense of the word. Not to think is to exist, in the bestial sense of the word.
The true Alchemist
Today we have many seekers after Truth, but only a few of them are practical. Most of them are seeking, like the pseudo-alchemist, for the formulae of precious metals and an elixir of eternal youth. These pseudo-seekers do not realize that these are allegories that are meant to convey an arcane meaning; those who have found wisdom can never grow old. Wisdom knows no death, while ignorance knows no life. Immortal is the man who knows himself, for he has found within the midst of himself a spark of eternal life which is birthless and deathless. Those who have in their own bodies well-sharpened tools are wealthy beyond the comprehension of kings. The alchemist has all things which any man or woman may truly possess, for he/she knows the reason for his/her being and the purpose of his/her life.