A General Look at Alchemy Part 4
Photo by Samuel Scarborough
Steps in Alchemy
Every spiritual system has its steps or phases of development. The Qabalist has his guide in the fruits and the paths of the "Tree of Life." Mahayana Buddhism teaches its adherents the various "bhumis," or "grounds" that has to be passed; other traditions such as Sufism and Yoga similarly have designated the rungs of the spiritual ladder. The 33 degrees of Freemasonry has its prototype in the vetebrae of the human spine. Kundalini is supposed to climb 33 rungs before she is crowned in the sahasrara chakra. The Patriarch Jacob was shown in a vision how to climb that spiritual ladder. In Alchemy, teachings differ as to the number of stages required; some adepts propound 5, 7, 9, 12, or even 14 steps. We choose to deal briefly with the following seven steps:
Sanctification is the act of consecration, of rendering holy an object; or in the case of the spiritual path, the act of committing or consecrating one's life to an occult, esoteric purpose and objective. This step is undertaken when one, like Kaspar or Melchior, who saw the Star, and was determined to follow it despite obstacles, obstructions and hindrances. Psychologically, the determination to follow and see a project to its ultimate conclusion can be said to be an expression of sanctification.
Sanctification is an initiation which offers a test of one's sincerity, of being true to one's Self, to one's principles, and to the vows undertaken at the time of sanctification, which may or may not be in the form of a mystical ceremony. Once a person is sanctified, the eyes of the spiritual hierarchy are focused upon him, guiding, guarding, inspiring, and strengthening his newly-born Christ mind, as symbolised by the Nativity. Every step of the Way brightens the aura of the alchemist, expanding his consciousness and mind to greater frontiers, to greater realities; he develops a keener sense of awareness, comprehension, and appreciation of cosmic verities. The alchemist sanctifying his life never cease to disperse from his four lower bodies the heavy particles that bind him down to mortality and limitation; and incorporating within his principles the atoms of an ethereal nature, conducive to his functioning in higher planes of consciousness.
Purification is the result of the diet, the spiritual discipline which the alchemist undertakes. By strict adherence to the laws of a spiritual ethical code, the process of purification goes underway. Purification is processed under three principles:
1) The raising of the vibratory rates of the atomic structures and atoms within the lower components of Man.
2) The dispersion of foul matter and toxins which corrupts the sheaths.
3) The prevention of the accretion of heavy atoms which densifies the sheaths and entombs the soul.
In esoteric Christianity, purification is represented by the Baptism. The soul being washed in the fluids of the Cosmic Sea, gradually changes its garments into Christ substance, and emerges into a new world of Light. The first Adam donned clothes of skin, the last Adam dons the apparel of the spiritual body. Purification is an on-going process. It never ceases as evolution never halts to the point of non-progression.
Impurity in Man results in a negative attitude and behaviour-pattern, a "tamasic" expression that makes a man sluggish in his ways. Records of karmic sins lodge in the heart seed atom and in the four lower principles. To the clairvoyant eye, these are seen as blackish-grayish clouds resembling the pollution emanating from an industrial center. The alchemist purifies and purges these astral, physical, and mental toxins from his system by living in harmony with the Tao, and by undertaking spiritual exercises designed to cleanse his being. It is the dark substances that prevents man's union with God, and with the freedom to function in higher planes of consciousness. Love, Life, and Light are detergents that washes and baptizes the soul in the River Jordon. Such divine qualities should be allowed to unfold within one's nature.
All things go through the change called "death," which is really a transformation into a new state of expression.Only forms change. The energy ensouling the form, or which gave form its expression can never be destroyed or annihilated. Molecules may break from its mass, atoms may disunite from one another and explode into a shower of electrons, but with all of this apparent destruction of identity, a law so profound operates which gives birth to a new being arising from the ashes of the old.
Putrefaction is an intensification of the process already commenced in the previous steps. Astral and mental toxins are dispersed from the spiritual structure of Man by the cleansing force, the Holy Fire, and disintegrating and decomposing the effluvia of the lower realms parasiting upon Man's fears and ignorance, making it possible for the laying of the foundations for the transmutation of tomb into temple. Like the Freemason, the alchemist has to construct a temple not made with hands; a temple worthy enough for the occupation and operation of the Ego.
In this putrefying stage, the alchemist resembles a cocoon who works upon itself internally; habitual thoughts and emotions that are not of an Ascended Master quality are decomposed and released into the Cosmic "incinerator."
The principle of change is symbolised by the Transfiguration of Jesus. Elijah representing Fire, and Moses--Water, are the wisdom and love aspects of buddhi that impregnates and fertilizes the Seed of Gold within Man.
Focus upon the solar principle, God's living fire, is a sure method of burning the dross, the dispersal of impurities, and the transmutation of tamas-rajasic metals of man's principles into qualities of gold. Fire quickens the buddhic seed within our being, awakening it into activity; Water purifies the seed giving it freedom to grow, and nourishing it at the same time. It is said that "putrefaction is the principle KEY to the process of the Transmutation." It is the agent which accelerates growth. The momentum is increased at each succeeding step of the way.
After undergoing the previous stage of putrefaction, one then undergoes fermentation, which is represented in Christian mysticism by the Passion, the agony of Jesus at Getsamene. Mystics of the Christian tradition call this spiritual condition, "the Dark Night of the Soul."
Chemically, fermentation is the breaking up of complex compounds, changing it into other structures with the aid of an agent such as yeast. Psychologically, it is a time of intense psychic activity where doubts assail one's deepest convictions and beliefs to their very root.
A man never knows the stuff he is made of until tried and tested by life and his rebounding karma. When man becomes "fixed" in his attitudes and outlook, denying the possibilities of soul-culture and development, when he gets complacent concerning his place in the scale of evolution and refuses to budge further, then Nature comes to the rescue acting as yeast would do in initiating a forced change in a compound, which in this case, is the complex being called Man. This forced change comes in the form of tests and trials; and all of his previous beliefs and misconceptions are analyzed as to their purported value in sustaining his equilibrium, saneness, and comprehension of life.
Students of Alchemy are advised by adepts to volatilize that which is "fixed" and to stabilize that which is volatized. Esoterically, this implies that one has to liberate one's self from all delusions, glamour, illusions, and the ignorance of not knowing; to shift one's focus from the unreal to the Real, and to live in eternity and Truth.
This activity of conversion, or "renewing of the mind," is the result of fermentation, and it is usually undertaken under the supervision of an adept-master who introduces the "natural state," or the "Clear Light" to the initiate when judged to be ready.
After experiencing the "Dark Night of the Soul" of the previous step, the alchemist is faced with a greater test, that of the "Dark Night of the Spirit," where one feels forsaken and cut-off from one's source of being, from the encouragement, inspiration, and support from one's teachers and loved ones. Accumulated karma of past embodiments returns in full force with apparently no mercy, but by remembering that God does not give more trials than Man can bear, the alchemist-initiate makes it through like Old Job.
In the state of crucifixion, which symbolizes combustion, the emotions and mind on their respective planes are literally on fire, or conflagration. One overcomes this period by being self reliant, dependent upon one's own resources. Although apparently neglected, the suffering initiate is never alone.
Combustion causes a reaction, an upheaval in Man's soul, which is accompanied by bliss and pain, symbolised by light and heat. Jesus expressed this paradoxical state when on one hand with agony he cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34), and on the other, after recognizing his error in presuming separation, with total surrender he entered the blissful state by decreeing to the Supreme One that is supposed to have left him: "Father, into thy hands I command my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
What causes combustion, alchemically speaking, is God's all-consuming fire. With its descent upon one's psyche, the intensity of the Light temporary induces spiritual blindness, causing the delusion that darkness had fallen upon the soul. While surrounded by Light, one gropes around in seeming darkness. With the descent of Divine Fire, a conflagration is begun in the emotions and mind, generating pain and agony, which is later subdued by being accustomed to God's face. It is said that no one sees the face of God and live; what perishes are the last remnants of the false ego, and the active identification with the carnal self. Man dies to his lower self but lives in the glory of his greater Self.
The presence of fire prepares one for the next stage of regeneration, with which it plays a vital role. Combustion is the baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost as promised by John the Harbinger. From the esoteric anatomical perspective, combustion is triggered by kundalinic activity. As the fiery serpent ascends in sushumna, sensations of heat, "cold heat," is felt along the spine.
All religions fundamentally, are concerned with regenerating Man, in laying the foundations for the regenerative process to proceed. It is the esoteric side of religion that puts Man into active contact with higher forces and principles that activates the regenerative phase of Man's spiritual development.Misguided by dogmatic teachings of the Church, the average Christian believes in a literal resurrection from the grave at the Last Judgment; however, when interpreted esoterically, Paul's writings present a wealth of information concerning the regenerative process. For instance, he declared that "for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:22). Adam, or the carnal self, causes the incarnating entity to be dead to higher realities. He operates his bodies sluggishly like a zombie. By contrast, when the prodigal son absorbs the universal Christ substance, and Christ Consciousness emanating from his higher principles, he then functions under the direction of a higher intelligence. He commences his life living in Truth and in eternity. Regeneration consequently, begins to occur within his four lower bodies, even transmuting the corporeal form into the "Body of Light." To be made alive in Christ requires a certain spiritual discipline to be exercised. But sadly, the average individual prefers believing rather than knowing and doing.
It is the destiny of Man to attain what Jesus had attained in the "resurrection," and thus Paul advised the Romans: "But if the Spirit of him that raiseth up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raiseth up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11). If the Spirit must dwell in us for a quickening, then there must be a way for inviting the Spirit to dwell in our bodies, mere beliefs and faith are insufficient to invoke the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.
When relied upon Nature's pace of evolution and development, the regeneration of Man may require eons to accomplish. By entering the "straight and narrow gate," the Path of Return, the Prodigal Som may accelerate the regenerative process and quickly deify himself in his Father's arms. It is said that great men do not die, they simply fade away. Enoch, the great antediluvian prophet was one such an individual who simply faded away. It is recorded in Genesis that he walked with God and then he was not. There are basically two interpretations to this statement: one, the complete elimination and non-identification with the false self, the false ego; and two, the etherealization of the physical body.
After successfully treading the various phases of the way, the alchemist comes to a point where a greater influx of the rays of the Higher Self descends and takes active control of the four lower bodies. Every cell in the physical body is vitalized by this Paraclete and raised to a higher state of vibration resulting as a side effect, youth and a renewed power. Life is prolonged in the form, and all diseases that plague humankind comes to no effect.
Psychologically, regeneration causes a spiritualization of the character of the alchemist. Morals, ethics and principles held by the alchemist are unfolded and applied from the divine perspective. Every smile displayed and directed by the master alchemist to a recipient comes with a special blessing and force which is subtly felt projected from the heart center of the alchemist.
From the above it can be deduced that regeneration is represented by the Master Jesus' resurrection. Regeneration causes the unfoldment of the Seed of Gold within Man to mature, and preparing him for the final stage which concludes his path of transmutation.
Exoterically, atonement is the reparation of any wrong or injury done to another. Esoterically, atonement is at-one-ment, the "unio mystica," or oneness between Man and God. It is the ascension in which Man is unified with his "I AM Presence." This is the conclusion of the path of human salvation, the attainment of alchemical gold. Many tests and trials have been passed, many initiations undergone. The Seed of the Tree of Life planted in Man's Edenic consciousness has matured and is bearing fruit of God-qualities. Man attains his high estate by personal effort and labor and not by depending upon another's merit and endeavors for his exaltation into the Light. This differentiates the Master soul from the puerile human being.
Oneness is Reality. Differentiation and separation are illusory, the projection of Maya. As Man unites with the One, he assumes the resemblance of the One; he has grown into God's image and becomes the Sun Initiate the, "Symbol of Wisdom, the Center of Power, or the Heart of Things." The Initiate, by virtue of being one with his Sun principle, is an enlightened mind and illumined being.
Atonement is the culmination of the alchemist's spiritual labour in the long process of purifying, refining, and improving the quality of his metals. The principles of Right Thinking, Right Speaking, and Right Action (some of the elements of Divine Thinking) are conducive in effecting the transformation of the various sheaths. The alchemists lives in a state of "constant" meditation and prayer, 24-hours a day, prior to his ascension. Like the Sufis, the names of Allah are continually upon his lips and mind. The spiritual practice of "zikir," or "remembrance," is applied devotedly by the maturing initiate. The alchemist is an active seeker for the kingdom of God within. In Esoteric Christianity, the principles, or the Panacea for attaining the transcendental state, and expanding the consciousness to embrace Solar Consciousness is given as Conviction, Contrition, Confession, Consecration, and Communion.
Whenever Man stalls in his evolution, the intelligences of the spiritual hierarchy offer a way out in the form of a new religion, philosophy, science, or art. Alchemy is at once all of these, and ever since its advent into the Mysteries, a profound inquiry had been made by aspirants and seekers as to the possible processes involved in effecting a transmutation. Confused by jargon and the real goal of alchemy, the average student of alchemy spends wasted time, funds, and energy trying to probe the secrets of the science. Sincerity, faith and perseverance were, and still are the keys that unlock the portal to a master's heart; and with his aid and guidance, a higher understanding and appreciation are acquired by the aspirant.
Though still dismissed as a pseudo-science by modern scientists, alchemy's value as a psycho-spiritual tool for Man's transformation cannot be denied when understood in its entirety. It only takes a mind of purity, freed from bigotry and intellectualism to become like a little child in the arms of the Divine Mother, or Sophia, in order to grasp the essential principles of alchemy which radiates so much light for the wayfarer to guide him to his destination.