A General Look at Alchemy Part 2
Transmutation of one substance into another such as base metals into gold, water into wine, etc., is the physical aspect of alchemy. It is often referred to as the "Greater Circulation." Much charlatanry and quackery became involved with this aspect and many people were cheated by rascals who claimed that they had in their possession the Philosopher's Stone that could effect a transmutation of base metals into gold. Human greed knows no bounds; the poor wishes to be wealthy, the rich aims to be wealthier, and with all their efforts, whether successful or not, sorrow and suffering is the karmic result.
Aspirants of the Ancient Wisdom are taught that the world of form is transient and that one's happiness should not be based upon something that is illusory. Illusions do not last and they are not eternal. They bind man to a false sense of human limitation. They enslave man to matter by seducing him to indulge in things that hampers the development of the soul. Truth and the Real are that which is eternal and they are to be found in the "kingdom of God" within us. Unfortunately, most Christians overlook this one of the most important injunctions of the Nazarene Master. The ancient precepts advises us further that the less earthly desires one has, the richer one truly becomes.
The "Lesser Circulation" of the herbal family is also included in this category of Physical Alchemy. The main object of this work is the search for a universal panacea that would cure the ills and sufferings of humanity. This is quite a noble desire should the lucrative aspect and profit motive be absent; it would exemplify the Bodhisattva ideal.
In contemporary times, there are many of those who have claimed to have accomplished a successful transmutation in their laboratories, even teaching the secrets of the art to their ardent followers.
When alchemists realized that they were advancing in age and were no closer to the goal of physical transmutation, they sought a way to stall the process of old age, to regenerate the body, and even to acquire a degree of physical immortality and biological immunity to diseases that humankind is so prone.
With such an object in view, they commenced their search for an "Elixir of Life" that would prolong their physical existence. At the very onset, the search took them to the field of herbalism, for many plants were believed to possess the traditional virtues of the fabled "Fountain of Youth." The Hindu mystics attribute such qualities to the "Soma" creeper. The Chinese Taoists declare that a certain mushroom that they call "lung chih" has the virtue of regenerating the physical body. The Egyptian god Thoth is also said to have described a life-giving mushroom which conferred immortality.
At a later period, however, the discovery was made that the real Elixir lied within man himself, and it had to be manufactured via psycho-biological means. Briefly, this is the work to be undertaken at the biological level.
Psychological, or "Mental Alchemy," is the science of the development of the Mind. Of the four lower bodies, the mental sheath is the only one unstructured, as yet, into an organized body--that is, in most people. In the course of evolution, the mental body will be constituted and coordinated so as to allow the Ego, and the waking consciousness, to function fully in the mental realm. The "Secret Doctrine" of H.P.Blavatsky tells us that in the Fifth Round the mental body is expected to be fully developed. Mental Alchemy accelerates the evolution of the Mind. It permits its practitioner to acquire in the Fourth Round what Nature intends humankind to attain in the next with her somewhat languid process. Mental development entails the development and the refinement of the following abilities, qualities, and faculties:
1) A universal attitude and perspective
4) The ability to reason inductively, deductively, syllogistically, analytically, analogically, etc.
5) Mental quietude
6) Abstract thinking
7) Divine thinking
8) Mental receptivity
10) Discrimination (Viveka)
11) Detachment (Vairagya)
13) Mental creation Etc.
Before quick progress can be made in developing the above faculties, the mind has to be purged of all the phobias, neurosis, and psychosis that are infecting it; even the guilts, resentments, and sinful feelings torturing one's consciousness. The aspirant is advised to forgive--forgive self and forgive others. The steps of conviction, contrition, confession, consecration, and communion should be adhered to when one desires spiritual unfoldment.
One of the other steps to be taken is the unification of the male and female aspects of the psyche. Psychoanalysis, however, has only touched the outer fringes of the mind with its inner probings.
Mental Alchemy, like the previous categories, is not considered the ultimate goal of Alchemy. They are but stepping stones leading to Transcendental Alchemy. More on Mental Alchemy and the general laws governing transmutation may be read in the Kybalion written by anonymous initiate-writers.
All things in their natural unregenerated state are considered dead by alchemists. Man in his natural state is in a state of death. Master Jesus voiced this precept when he declared, "let the dead bury the dead." Transcendental Alchemy raises Man from the "State of Nature, to a State of Grace." The process reunites the sadhaka, the disciple, to the Atma, and later to the Monad in full awareness. This is the "unio mystica" sought fervently by mystics of all Ages. When Man unites with the totality of Life, he factually unites himself with God, for Life and God are synonymous.
Unity with "Tao," Lao Tse's mystic term for the Absolute, results in the realization of one's true Identity and Reality. The individual who is united with the Absolute is a Jivanmukta, a freed being--freed from ignorance, maya, and mortality; human consciousness expands and embraces Cosmic Consciousness in this unified state. Figuratively, the Drop returns to the Ocean, and the Spark to the Flame, and Man's essential divine nature shines forth with the splendour of the Sun. This is the destiny of Man--to advance into the Kingdom of God and be all that God wants him to be.
There are various systems of spiritual unfoldment catered to the basically, seven different temperaments of Man, that leads him to his ultimate goal. Transcendental Alchemy is one of these sublime systems. It is essentially yogic in nature. Meditation, concentration, and contemplation are stressed and the work of the previous levels of transmutation are conducive to its successful outcome.
Symbols of Alchemy
Since ancient times symbols have been used to describe something that words were not adequate enough to express. The intellect has its limitations in comprehending spiritual verities. Intuitively, Man feels that the forces of nature are intelligently directed. How and why, his human mind is unable to explain. Cosmic principles, though inadequately described verbally by prophets of God, finds its inculcation upon the human mind expressively through symbols and signs.
Symbols are not restrictive, nor exclusive. Minds interpret symbols according to the level of their mental and spiritual development. The child-mind interprets a symbol in one way, while the transcendental mind would interpret it in another.
Most symbols are taken from Nature; others invented by Man, usually take on the form of combined geometric elements. Examples of the former are: the snake, which symbolizes regeneration; the scarabeaus--immortality; mountains--obstacles, etc. Examples of the latter: the Martinist pentacle--the unity of Man and Omneity; the Egyptian ankh--Life and Immortality; the circle--eternity.
Symbols have a certain usefulness in transforming the mind. Whatever man thinks upon, that he becomes. By meditating on symbols, or images representing power, love, holiness, and compassion, for example, through mental induction man unfolds such qualities within his nature.
Personally developed symbols are sometimes used as media for communicative exchange between the waking consciousness and the subconscious mind. This is effected by ascribing a certain attribute to a, preferably, invented symbol by repetitious thought and contemplation upon it. For example, the waking mind may ascribe to lightning as a symbol the meaning of danger by constant focus and suggestion upon it until it is absorbed by the subconscious mind. At a later date, when real danger is present, an intuitive impression with the lightning symbol would flash through from the subconscious to the waking mind, thus warning the individual. This method is also applicable to enrich and enlarge upon symbolic dream content and to induce the subconscious to utilize the newly absorbed symbols which are non-mystifying to the waking-consciousness.
Alchemy is very rich in symbolism. The Royal Art itself is sometimes represented by the Pelican and the Phoenix bird. The latter was invented by mystics in Alexandria during its heyday; the former, by a group of Knights Templer in the British Isles.
Alchemical symbols of past ages were designed to reveal, as well as to conceal; to stimulate the mind to awaken from its intellectual-complacency. Alchemical mandalas describe processes of transmutation. Truths, laws, and principles, which are pertinent to an aspirant's spiritual unfoldment, are similarly depicted within mandalas. Such truths were obscured by vague language and inexplicable diagrams for protection from persecution, because truths, for some reason, were, and still are, considered heretical by Christian orthodoxy. In accord with this dire situation, alchemical symbols, as an expedient, took on Christian coloration.
Let us examine the following common alchemical symbols:
1) The Hermaphrodite
3) The Caduceus
Modern psychology has discovered that the human psyche possesses both masculine and feminine qualities. The male and female polarities are present no matter what our biological gender. One polarity in the human psyche is, however, usually repressed to the background in the Id, the subconsciousness, to the detriment of the psychological equilibrium and stability of the waking consciousness.
There are hierarchies of development and transformation of both male and female qualities evolving within the psyche. The "lowest" rung of the female hierarchy is the "Harlot," later transfiguring into the "Virgin" of the succeeding rung, and on to the High Priestess" and the "Empress" of the higher stages. The masculine side has its transformation from "Barbarian," to "Knight," "Hierophant," and "Emperor."
The Hermaphrodite symbolically represents the ideal anima and animus in symbiotic conjunction; the highest aspect of the male and female qualities in perfect balance and unity within the psyche. This is the state of unity that every man and woman unconsciously seeks in an external partner. The search for wholeness should really take place within. Man's union with Omneity is preceded by man's union with his alter ego within his waking consciousness.
Any individual with such a coordinated psyche functions balancely and creatively in society. An aura of holiness enfolds the person; the world knows the person as a compassionate, wise, and powerful being. He, or she, is the "twice-born."
Esoteric tradition teaches that in a future Root Race individuals will be hermaphrodites. Aside from having an androgynous psyche, man would biologically possess two spinal columns with the cerebra-spinal and autonomic nervous system functioning in a closer relationship. Individuals who are capable of controlling autonomic functions such as the heart beat, is a certain indication of where the biological and physiological aspects of man are evolving.
There are many myths and legends concerning heroes slaying dragons that are to be found in the mythology of various cultures. We hear in Greek myth of Apollo vanquishing Python; Siegfried, St. George, Krishna, Hermes, and many other heroic figures have also had their dragons to slay. There are basically two species of dragons to be found in alchemical mythos: the celestial, and the terrestrial dragon. The latter dragon is sometimes called "the red dragon."
What do dragons represent? Dragons are symbols of raw energy within the psycho-biological organism of man. The terrestrial dragon in the microcosm, is the kundalini fire nesting in the kanda. In the average person, this energy is used mainly in sexual gratification and indulgence in sensual activities. Slaying the dragon symbolizes the tapping of this energy for higher uses of the Ego. The student-hero utilizes the sword, symbolic of the will, to overcome the beast within, does so by directing the kundalini fire upwards toward the brain centers via the channel called sushumna--stimulating creativity of a higher order as a result. Illumination is the consequence of the internal marriage that takes place between the negative kundalini force and the higher positive Christic force, symbolised by the celestial dragon, within the Holy of Holies of the sanctum within the cranium. In a symbolical sense, the hero is smeared by dragon's blood making him immortal. The resurrected Kundalini is sometimes represented by the Phoenix bird.
The individual who has his kundalini raised permanently and hissing through the Third Eye, is honorably called a "Naga," a Hindu mystic term for "dragon," or "serpent." With the experience of illumination, the Naga realizes the oneness and unity of life. The Naga is known for his wisdom in his words, action, and behavior. Master Jesus is presumed to have praised the enlightened Nagas by exhorting his followers to be "as wise as a serpent . . ." Dragons, occasionally, represent the unresolved and repressed energies to be found in the psyche--the "monsters of the id"--such as phobias, neurosis, guilt feelings, and the like.
From the geo-terrestrial angle, dragons represent certain currents of magnetic energy found in certain parts of the earth's terrain. They could perhaps be called "chakras of the planet." They also correspond to accupressure points in the body of man. Ley lines are, likewise, associated with geo-terrestrial dragons. The Knights Templers had certain knowledge in this regard--they knew how to determine the locations of magnetically-charged regions. Such hallowed grounds were chosen as sites for cathedrals, chapels, and temples. Dragons are sometimes associated with the body, soul, and spirit of Man.
Mystic gurus, when instructing disciples, sometimes adopt teaching devices to train their chelas. The Caduceus is one such device. It represents the major nadis, or subtle nervous system to be found in man's occult anatomy.
The Caduceus, or staff of Mercury, is composed of a rod with two snakes intertwined around the rod. The rod represents sushumna, an etheric counterpart of the spinal cord. Within the sushumna there are other subtle nerves, channels of refine energy; they are called by yogis "Vajrini," "Chitrini," and "Brahman." The sushumna extends upwards and outwards into the Overself as the "Sutratma." Pingala and Ida are the two nadis depicted by the snakes. The junctions where the snakes and rod meet are symbolic of the major chakras. Vagabond yogis sometimes carry bamboo staffs with seven knots on it to represent sushumna and the chakras.
Atop of the caduceus rod is a knob; a vine creeper is sometimes attached to this knot ending somewhere midway at the staff. The protuberance represents the medulla oblongata with the vagus nerve, the creeper, connected to it. The vagus nerve ends in the thoracic region. Each of these components plays an important role in man's mystic development. They serve various spiritual functions.
Occasionally, a pair of wings are to be found appended to each side of the knob or rod. This indicates that the kundalini energy at the base of the sushumna had been raised and resurrected. Angelic wings symbolize a superior degree of consciousness and mind.
As a whole, the caduceus symbolizes regeneration and enlightenment. It further depicts the attunement of the mind of man with the Cosmic Mind.
In bygone days, in the Mystery Schools, only the adepts and those of a higher standing were worthy enough to hold such a symbolic staff in their hands. Sometimes the caduceus, or versions of it, were magnetized with odic energy and Atmic force. The Thyrsus held in the hands of hierophants of the Eleusian Mystery School was one rod with such a divine quality impregnated into it. It was primarily designed to stimulate the kundalini fire of the disciples and initiates when their gurus deemed it necessary and appropriate at certain stages of their spiritual growth. The act of impregnating a mystical or religious object with divine influences is called "consecration," or "magnetization."
Some occultists interpret the caduceus as representing the Universal Magickal Agent. This magickal force is used abundantly in theurgic and thaumaturgic operations. Egyptian hierophants were adepts in the application of this force. The laws and principles involved in controlling the agent were transmitted under oath of secrecy to seekers of Light. Appolonius, Pythagoras, and Moses are names that come to mind when considering the display of so-called miracles. These eminent individuals were all initiates of the Mystery schools in the Land of Khem.
Nowadays, the Caduceus is an emblem employed by the medical profession. Only in recent years is this branch of science discovering the subtle energies with which this emblem is silently pointing.
Themes of Alchemy
Alchemy, no matter what its level of application, is essentially psychic in nature. All of the laboratory processes described by alchemists takes place mainly in man's consciousness. Consciousness is the key to transmutation. God-Consciousness is the secret of the royal Art. Functioning in higher dimensions, the conscious mind in unison with higher levels of consciousness, creates forms of perfection in higher realms, in archetypal worlds. The consciousness operating therein coalesces the necessary electronic particles to bring about a manifestation in the physical world. Consciousness, when in the borderline state, easily experiences and produces psychic manifestations.
The Mind is the creator and director of the dynamism and kinetics of subatomic particles. Out of Cosmic Root Substance, or Prima Materia, the Cosmic Mind and Intelligence fashioned the entire universe. Man, being the reflection of the macrocosm, is able to use the same Mind to manifest his designs. Patterns of perfection held constantly in mind becomes living archetypes which stimulates its creator to work spiritually upon his redemption and salvation from bondage to human mortality. We become what we think. Thoughts are living energy, and it is the proper directing of those thoughts by the will that effects transmutation or precipitation. It is declared that thoughts of a divine nature give rise to the vibrations of a Master Soul. Thoughts influence us holistically. Our nerve substances, composition of the blood, auric energies and radiations, are all affected by the state of our mind, by the thoughts that we dwell on a day to day basis.
Every organism is an embryo of a higher development and expression. Nature is constantly striving to produce perfection. Alchemists believe that it is Man's prerogative to speed up the processes of nature to quickly attain perfection. This spiritual labor is conducted in the laboratory of the soul.
From the Absolute's point of view, we may speculate that everything is perfect, for "everything" does not truthfully exist--everything is his being. All is God in his omnipresence. God is Immanent and Transcendent. Perfection is a divine quality ever present within Nature and Man. This innate divinity is stressed by spiritual gurus. The "know ye not that ye are gods" precept is emphasized repeatedly.
From the relative point of view, imperfections are to be seen everywhere. Man's earthly mission is to transmute this disordered condition, this cacophony of man's evolving principles by attuning with the rhythm of the Cosmos--with the dance of Shiva.
To understand the esoteric science of alchemy, it is necessary to elaborate upon the above through discussing briefly the following alchemical themes:
1) The Philosopher's Stone
2) The First Matter
3) The Seed
5) The Seven Metals
6) The Universal Panacea