View Full Version : The Human Body as Athanor

solomon levi
06-13-2010, 09:38 PM
There has been discussion of this topic, but I feel it is sparse and scattered and often hinted at without further development. So my wish is that we can have a pretty thorough exploration of the human body as the ideal alchemical vessel. Obviously, I hope, this is not meant to exclude or deny practical laboratory alchemy as with retorts, minerals and such. If you know me, you know I consider both as viable paths and see no reason to pit them against each other.

"In alchemy, an athanor is a furnace used to provide heat for alchemical digestion. An athanor is a self-feeding furnace, designed to maintain a uniform temperature.

The athanor was also called Piger Henricus ("Slow Harry"), because it was chiefly used in slower operations, and because when once filled with coals, it keeps burning a long time. For this reason the Greeks referred to it as "giving no trouble", as it did not need to be continually attended. It was also called the Philosophical furnace, Furnace of Arcana, or popularly, the Tower furnace."

From Paul Foster Case:
"Dissolution is said to be the whole mystery of alchemy,
because Hermetic practice enables us to control those
functions of our bodies which dissolve, or break down
into their constituent elements, the forms of materials
taken from our environment. The laboratory of the
alchemist is his own personality. The secret vessels
therein are organs in his own physical body, together
with their astral and etheric counterparts.
The principal piece of alchemical apparatus is a furnace,
called an "athanor." Eliphas Levi says: "We are all in
possession of the chemical instrument, the great and
sole athanor which answers for the separation of the
subtle from the gross and the fixed from the volatile.
This instrument, complete as the world and precise as
mathematics, is represented by the sages under the
emblem of the pentagram, or five-pointed star, which is
the absolute sign of human intelligence. I will follow
the example of the wise by forbearing to name it; it is
too easy to guess it."
Today there is no need for even the slight concealment
which seemed advisable when Levi wrote. The athanor
is the human organism. Its name, like many other
alchemical terms, is derived from Hebrew. In that
language it is Ath-Ha-Nour, which means "Essence of
Fire." Thus Bernard of Trevisan is correct when he says
that the Great Work is not performed by means of fire,
and so are the other sages who insist that the fire
employed by them is "no common fire." It is the essence
of fire, manifested as the human organism, which
provides us with the instrument for the Great Work.
Hence the athanor is defined as a "self-feeding,
digesting hrnace, in which an equable heat is
maintained." Is not this a fairly good description of the
human body?"

We are all familiar with the correspondence between the seven planets, metals and the interior stars or seals (I call them 'seals' to differentiate from chakras which occur at any crossing of energy lines). These also correspond to seven plexus or ganglion, and seven ductless glands.

Case mentions another interesting item:
"The cryptic portion of Kelly's writing, however, begins
with the phrase, "in the bowels of the earth it lies ready
to our hands." Kelly was a clever Qabalist and a first rate
astrologer. He knew why alchemists call their First
Matter Lac Virginis, or Virgin's Milk. He understood
their reason for describing it as an unctuous, or oily,
water. He accepted their doctrine that man is a
microcosm. So he had no difficulty in compressing the
essence of the alchemical doctrine into a phrase.
Understand by "earth" the microcosm, man, and you
will easily solve the puzzle. "The bowels of the earth"
are the human intestinal tract, ruled by the earthy sign
Virgo, the Virgin. The Virgin's Milk, the oily water
which will not wet the hand, is actually chyle, the
product of stomach digestion, which enters the
intestines (the Black Dragon of alchemy) in the form of
a milky, fatty fluid, from which the lacteals in the small
intestine absorb the various substances required for the
replenishment of the blood-stream.
Basically, those substances are organic forms of various
minerals. Thus Kelly is essentially correct when he says
that the First Matter is derived from the metals
themselves, and when he insists that it is a living
substance. He shows himself an ingenious Qabalist by
declaring that in the bowels of the earth the First Matter
is "ready to our hands." For in Qabalah the sign Virgo is
attributed to the letter Yod, and the significance of the
letter-name IVD, Yod, is "hand." We shall see that
another of our alchemical authors also refers to the
letter Yod in connection with the First Matter."

I cannot say that I agree that chyle is the alchemists first matter. There are plenty of ways that this does not fit the description, but it's interesting to look at the ways that it does.
Chyle is nearly identical (etymologically) with the old Philosophers' idea of first matter or proto-matter, called hyle in greek. I think the etymological relation between laboratory and lavatory is also interesting. :)
We've discussed alot about urine here, but how about the contents of the bowels, the earth?

From Case:
"Yet here again we must guard ourselves against the unwarranted
assumption that we have grasped the whole
mystery when we have identified chyle as the form of
the First Matter which is used in the alchemical process.
Some readers of these pages, indeed, may doubt that
anything so ordinary can possibly be the precious
substance of the alchemists. Let them remember that
Thomas Vaughan says that he knows most persons
would regard the truth as laughable; and let them recall
the story of Paracelsus, who promised to show the
faculty of a university the Elixir of Life, and
scandalized them all by uncovering a jar filled with
excrement. Most of his contemporaries believed that he
was guilty of a gross practical joke. The essence of the
joke was that he actually kept his promise. For when the
alchemical process is understood and carried out, the
adept is able to extract from the chyle a great number of
essences which are of inestimable value. These are
wasted by the average human being because he does not
know how to extract them. By gaining conscious
control of the process of intestinal digestion and
assimilation, the adepts in alchemy are enabled to fill
their veins with the veritable elixir of life, the priceless
liquid "gold" (solar energy) that not only maintains the
vital functions indefinitely, but also makes possible the
preparation of the true Stone of the Wise.
We repeat, nevertheless, that although what we have
explained is a revelation of the alchemical mystery
more definite than any other which has been given in
the plain language of modern times, it is by no means
the discovery of the First Matter. The quotation from
Waite's glossary to Paracelsus (consisting largely of
unacknowledged borrowings from Thomas Vaughan)
makes this evident. Yet you will notice that even here
there is mentioned the production of the Virgin's Milk,
followed by that of blood - the same sequence that
occurs in the body when chyle is taken up by the

"Chyle is a milky bodily fluid consisting of lymph and emulsified fats, or free fatty acids (FFAs). It is formed in the small intestine during digestion of fatty foods, and taken up by lymph vessels specifically known as lacteals. The relative low pressure of the lacteals allows large fatty acid molecules to diffuse into them, whereas the higher pressure in veins allows only smaller products of digestion, like amino acids and sugars, to diffuse into the blood directly."

From another source:
"Chyle is an alkaline, milky, odorless fluid that provides about 200 kcal/liter."

It has it's own internal fire - 200 kcal/liter. It's a milk called Hyle! Just coincidences?
And who would have thought - lacteals in the intestines/serpent/dragon.

Well, that's a start. There's so much more. Please contribute what you will.


solomon levi
06-13-2010, 09:56 PM
Compare what Case says about digestion with Gurdjieff's teachings on alchemy:


He basically says the same thing, but shows it also using the scale of octaves and such. Basically, the things we ingest - food, water, air, impressions, enter the body at one particular frequency and are digested to higher frequencies. But this natural digestion stops at particular points unless given an additional conscious shock by the alchemist.

Gurdjieff has also said that all energy is sexual energy, and describes ways of utilising energy to create a light body, perhaps not unlike this thread on the Forbidden Letters:


ps- the work by Case is called "Hermetic Alchemy, science and practice"
You can probably find a pdf somewhere, maybe scribd.

06-13-2010, 10:40 PM
An athanor is a self-feeding furnace...

γνῶθι σαυτόν :D

How about the contents of the bowels, the earth?

And how about their function rather than content?

"In a short time, the Alchemist is able to accomplish above ground what takes Nature many years to perform in the bowels of the Earth."

I personally don't doubt that the Work can be accomplished internally, but I'd also say that the same Work may be accelerated by performing some of the stages 'above ground'.

I'm aware of at least two practical applications for the above statement.

One of them is very grose, but nevertheless mentioned ad nauseam in most treatises, albeit in a slightly misleading context IMO.

The other one I have already mentioned elsewhere.

I believe Fulcanelli gives a clue regarding this other method, at least according to my own personal interpretation.

solomon levi
06-13-2010, 11:18 PM
posted by me:
There has been discussion of this topic, but I feel it is sparse and scattered and often hinted at without further development.

Can you elaborate?
I'm aware of Mantak Chia's Taoist "know thyself" practices. Do the alchemists use this matter outside the body? Any quotes or references?

What more about their function? Digestion? I'm aware of digestion as a common alchemical practice (in the retort). It's interesting that the body already has a blood-temp self-regulating fire. Are other fires required?
I often think of a fever, not as an illness, but as a cure. Our internal fire is heightened by kundalini as well. I've had serious fevers both times I've had kundalini movements. But obviously the internal fire's range is limited. And most alchemists talk about the fire being very high at the end of the process. I would also consider a blend of "internal" and "external" alchemy/fires, depending on the stage.

Will you post a link to that other one you mentioned elsewhere?

Thanks brother.

06-13-2010, 11:51 PM
Any quotes or references?

No explicit ones that I am aware of.

But the way I see it, if the principle is understood, the possible interpretations and practical applications are many.


Among other known operations, such as putrefaction, sublimation, condensation, etc... One Vessel Size Fits All :)

solomon levi
06-14-2010, 01:52 PM
Thanks Androgynus.

I thought of another etymological item with chyle;
one of the greatest sources of saltpeter in the world is in Chile.

06-18-2010, 07:11 PM

How to work with the Athanor ... the inner alchemy teaches this in the Lambspring.
In exercises you learn to handle the fire.
Dissolution ... the dark night of the soul, you lose yourself in the deep water.

The inside stone is just as hard to develop like the outside stone, and the
transformations processes are partly very painful.

06-18-2010, 07:26 PM
Hi Joy,

Would you care to elaborate a little more on your perspective on the Lambspring/Inner Stone & Athanor connection?

How do you personally perceive the 'Inner Stone' and The Work towards it?

06-18-2010, 08:22 PM
Sol, will appreciate this


Tummo, tummo, tummo,........lets break it down a little shall we? Those of us trying to meditate the stone into existence should know that while we think that we are doing all this path work on our souls and work on our selves by inner reflection or what have you should know that none of that really makes a lick, you will never hold the stone in your hand or your heart in this way,... what really goes on during mediation is a very real physico-alchemical separation of aether from the air by controlled breathing which is inherently taught/practised in all forms of mediatation, i.e. you aren't mediatating unless you are breathing correctly, but this method is further potentialized in the practise of tummo by creative visualizations, creative being the operative word here. Because man is surely a microcosm he can draw down the secret fire at will because he is physically a magnet for it by virtue of the iron in his blood that flows through his veins and the very red earth he was formed from. . You learn to seperate the very aether (fire) from the air and hold it in your lungs for a period of time so that your lungs can absorb it directly. He draws it down near his mouth using the most important organ he has, his mind, and then he procedes to inhale it and push it to the bottom of his lungs and hold it there, while exhaling only the air only to draw it down over and over again and fill his lungs with it and air once again, while continuing to hold the cosmic fluid in the bottom of his lungs until his body starts to absorb it. This ignites the inner fire(tummo) and changes his bodily physiology/chemistry very profoundly , its has been documented in several cases: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tummo

Scientific investigation
An attempt to study the physiological effects of Tummo has been made by Benson and colleagues (Benson et al., 1982; Cromie, 2002) who studied Indo-Tibetan Yogis in the Himalayas and in India in the 1980s. In the first experiment, in Upper Dharamsala (India), Benson et al. (1982) found that these subjects exhibited the capacity to increase the temperature of their fingers and toes by as much as 8.3C. In a 2002 experiment, conducted in Normandy (France), two monks from the Buddhist tradition wore sensors that recorded changes in heat production and metabolism (Cromie, 2002

A brief description of the practise/history from the same article:

The Tummo practices were first described in writing by the Indian yogi and Buddhist scholar Naropa, although the Tibetan Buddhist tradition holds that the practice was actually taught by Shakyamuni Buddha and passed down orally until the time of Naropa. The Tummo practice is also found in the Tibetan Bn lineage. One of the most famous practitioners of Tummo according to the Tibetan tradition was held to be Milarepa. The biography of Milarepa is one of the most popular among the Tibetan people (Evans-Wentz, 2001). Modern western witnesses of this practice include the adventurer Alexandra David-Nel (David-Nel, 1971), Lama Anagarika Govinda (Govinda, 1988), and anthropologist Dr. John Crook.

Dr Arya (2006) in discussing the "life airs" (Tibetan: rLung) states that historically: "The rLung practitioner (yogi) uses special colors of clothes to improve the power of the Tummo fire."[13]

Dr Arya (2006) describes the raising of drod or tummo through the tsa lung vortices (Tibetan: khorlo; Sanskrit: chakra) in a manner comparable to the "serpent fire" (Sanskrit: kuṇḍalinī; caṇḍalī) and mentions Vajrayogini and bodymind making reference to English renderings of marigpa, sahasrara and Traditional Tibetan medicine:

The psychic heat Drod is produced by the space particles and the heat manifested from the friction of the wind element.(the 'space particles' are the aether, the cosmic fluid,- radiant energy is generated when the sun[heat] sets it in motion and causes the particles to rub producing friction, this type of friction produces a primordial electrical fire, nano lightning bolts, which are inhaled )This is another fundamental element as it supports and gives power to the consciousness, like the power of the fire that can launch rockets to space. The power is called medrod or 'digestion fire' in medicine and Tummo in yoga tantra. The heat (fire) sustains life and protects the body/mind. The psychic fire increases the wisdom, burns the ignorant mind of the brain and gives realization and liberation from the darkness of unawareness. That is why yoga describes Tummo as the aggressive fire which ignites from below navel, pierces the chakras one by one and reaches the sky of the crown chakra. The tummo burning arrow married with the celestial bride leads to enjoy the life of transformation of samsara. They give birth to the son of awareness from the blissful garden of Vajrayogini.[13]

solomon levi
06-18-2010, 09:19 PM
I'd like to elaborate on my experience, which I've mentioned a couple times in the spiritus vitae section of the forum.

The process I was taught is basically one of pranayama with visualisation. But also supported with much science on the body, the ductless glands and their hormones, the brain and its neurotransmitters.

The practice is long and hard, taking many years, though there are many results along the way - "spiritual" side-effects.

The practice is totally alchemical - one of circulation and the "raising of vibrations" as Fra Albertus defined alchemy. The breath is called the serpent breath or cobra breath, perhaps because of the hissing sound from placing the tongue to the roof of the mouth. Then the air is forced out in a long "ssshhhhhhhh". Bandas or locks - tightening down of certain areas - go along with the breath. While sitting in the lotus position, one inhales and tightens the buttocks, and squeezes the lower abdomen - already I feel the energy gathering in the solar plexus; and now the breath is released with force, and the energy shoots up into the brain and fills the skull, often blasting through it and beyond.
The volcano visualisation may accompany the breath. Simply position your awareness above your head and see yourself looking down into the mouth of a fiery volcano. The volcano encompasses the first three seals, with the base at the basal seal of saturn and the mouth at the solar plexus (which are actually martial, not solar, as is obvious from the adrenaline and norepinephrine produced in these glands). So everything is the same, inhale and tighten down, and you hold that and watch the volcano build (from the perspective atop your head), and hold it as long as you can and finally the breath and the volcano bursts forth spewing energy into your head and beyond.
Repeat, repeat , repeat....... this is the circulation. The sexual energy moves up the seals, unlocking them as it goes. A great movement of energy, hormones and negative ions is created. The body is filled with peace. The re-awakening of the thymus is the fountain of youth. This gland is the size of a pear until you reach puberty and it quickly shrinks to the size of a walnut. Some doctors have claimed that taking melatonin helps awaken the thymus and youth, observing that our brain also produces less melatonin as we get older. So theoretically, if we give the body the amount of melatonin it produced when it was young...
This area, the thymus, the fourth seal, is the first step outside of social consciousness, the lower three seals. It corresponds to loving oneself, and to ultra-violet in the electro-magnetic spectrum.
So as you move the gravitational center of your energy, you also change your consciousness. When you move beyond hertzian, infrared and visible light - the lower three seals of sex and survival (1st), pain and victimisation (2nd), power and tyranny (3rd), - the energetic egg (aura, meisner field, m-bands) also spin differently, some changing direction and others flipping to bring the infinite towards you instead of away from you.

There's a lot more to be said about it, though it isn't really something to be taught over the internet. I'm certain that all the promises of alchemy can be achieved internally. But it is a long and hard path as Joy said.


solomon levi
06-18-2010, 09:29 PM
I was apparently typing while you posted that Leo.
I can agree with much of that, but I was taught a little differently.
A variant of the exercise I mentioned above is that after you've exhaled and forced out a powerful breath, you exhale again without inhaling, and again...
until you've forced all the air out of your lungs and you are now pushing chi/prana/aether/QE. Finally, inhale.

This breath is very powerful, often pushing me out of my body.

If anyone is practicing tummo without a teacher, at least protect yourself and draw a circle with your intent and keep the fire there. You can actually burn yourself with this, in more ways than one, if not careful.


06-18-2010, 09:55 PM
It is interesting though...... that I described the inhalation while you described the exhalation....in order....wyrd. Somewhere, perhaps in another dimension or alternate universe this forum has its own breath.

06-20-2010, 08:53 AM
Hey Androgynus,

In the inner alchemy the athanor represents not the physical body, but
another vessel, the psychic one.

During the great work, the light body has to be developed, so all the centers
come to function, and part of it are the ESP abilities.

Therefore the "active meditation" work with the athanor is right in the begin of
the Lambspring and constantly work in it is needed.

To gain the inner stone we have to work with the alchemy emblem series.
The paintings and the lessons with the exercises can reach a deep level inside
of us. In the morning I get up with them and at night I go to bed with them.
They are the inner pathes of alchemy.

06-20-2010, 03:53 PM
Joy, thanks for elaborating :)

My views are somewhat similar on this particular topic, but even the 'Psychic Vessel' needs a Fire ;)

05-28-2015, 12:44 PM
As usual posting on old treads (seems I spend most of my time on here catching up..)

The inner alchemy / building of the Light Body / raising spiritual vibration and the creation of external products appear to go hand in hand, the one seemingly cannot far exceed the other.

As Above so Below, and it seems that least in practical / spagyric terms there can be discerned a pattern of basic steps:
1. "digestion" with acid - in the body this would be stomach acids,
2. extraction with alkali - in the body this would be chyle,
3. and then recovery of the "product" via a neutral child of both (salts normally form when you react acid and base) - in the body this is maybe salty blood?

An oversimplification, but the above steps can be used as is in the production of anything from Ormus to DMT. So starting with the digestive system as an allegorical tale Virgo, the Virgin ruling the stomach which is maybe the cave in the house of bread (Bethlehem) gives birth to the child that would eventually become Christed.

Ida, Pingala, Sushumna ; ISIS, OSIRIS, HORUS.
Magdalene (widow), Jesus/Christ (God resurrectedin man), Child (stone mason / widow's son / alchemist).
Salt, Mercury, Sulphur.

05-28-2015, 01:30 PM
I think the above may hold some value on the Spagyric (or even Advanced Spagyric) or Yogic level/model.

But (IMO) it leaves much to be desired in terms of High Alchemy & 'The Great Perfection'.

I also don't particularly resonate with this hetero-sexist model (jesus, magdalene), which I view as a cultural & socio-genetic (and perhaps intentional) 'corruption' of higher principles.

But I can see why such a model is 'easier to digest' by a relative majority of practitioners.

Personally, I see it more as a relative 'voltage' thing (potential differences interacting on a continuum).

But all this applies to the spagyric/yogic ways. (Hard work!!!)

It's not the 'Royal Path'.

But then again...

It took me 14 years to make it overnight.