View Full Version : Alchemist = Transcendentalist

05-18-2012, 05:25 AM
My view is that alchemy is a word that encompass a wide array of subjects, that all have some form of transformational/transcending goal.

But isn't life filled with spirit all about transcendence? So calling ourselves alchemists, well then might as well call ourselves transcendentalists...

Some have a need to call themselves something, anarchist, alchemist... punk rocker... and filing systems can be discussed at length, but at the moment I am only concerned about those that call themselves alchemists.

From what I have gathered studying this stuff the very idea to call oneself an alchemist kind of ruins the whole thing. It is like calling someone who is interested in being alive a living being... in other words pretty obvious.

I kind of like a student of alchemy, whereas the alchemist is a moniker that suggest something else... not sure what...

I really don't have a fixed point to any of this, I just felt the need to throw this out there... it always bothered me a little when people claim to be an alchemist so I thought I'd get some feedback in order to understand my own annoyance. It's like people who call themselves teachers... are they?


05-19-2012, 04:56 AM
I meditate - sometimes in seated position - Siddhasana - Half-Lotus. My hands are usually in Gyan Mudra on knees because that was how I began to meditate. You cannot know what I'm doing with my mind, but you can see that I'm not sitting on a Zafu, and my hands are not nested one upon the other, palms up, thumb tips touching. One would surmise that I am practicing Yoga meditation, not Zazen. And you would be right. I have read Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau. I was waved at by a smoke-belching steam locomotive engineer passing by Walden Pond, as if he knew I was tripping hard and would remember always a wave from a passing train engineer in his striped cap. He was right. So I am also a Transcendentalist.

I was just looking for a boiling flask on-line, then I went to my lab table to check on the size of a connection (24/40). As I began to unscrew the wing-nut on the clamp that hid the flask's neck, and perceived the various pieces of glassware, and metal, some purchased in recent years, or given to me by a kind soul at a flea market, or a friendly co-worker science teacher; or again, the triple ring stand I built in metal shop in 1967, or the rings and clamps that I received in 1963, I felt an experience that might best be expressed by the alchemical Ouroboric serpent that takes tail-in-mouth. In a split second, I saw the 10 year old Mark who was as thrilled as ever he was in life when he was given some real lab ware in the 5th grade. My mind travelled at the speed of thought to the 9th grade, encapsulating some of the awe I had experienced in my early chemistry experiments, to Mr. Poland's metal shop class where I built the ring stand. It was the emotion of awe that won out over the intellection of chemistry that directed me to internal techniques of eliciting awe in late adolescence. He I am, 40 years after leaving my science undergraduate major for philosophy, having learned to soar on the eagle's wings of awe - the primal religious emotion.

My intellectual pursuits following those initial experiences: occultism, philosophy, yoga, religion, theology, and psychology, which in turn introduced me to alchemy through Jung's works, in college, seminary, and grad school. But alchemy also made itself known to me from The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments that I obtained in the 6th grade, and from the Time-Life Science Series of books I began to receive by 7th grade, so alchemy has been a recurring theme. Let me not forget Frankenstein which is alchemical and influential, and the story I read at age 13 in Stranger Than Science about Andrew Crosse, whose experiements apparently gave Mary Shelley the idea to write her novel. All this, in a flash, from handling a boro-silicate balloon acquired almost 30 years ago at The Swap Shop in Ft. Lauderdale. Am I an alchemist? If I am, it is not because my egoic-mind is making some presumptuous claim. If I am, it is because these symbols and this fascination, and the experiments that elicited an emotion so critical to my human development is an intrinsic part of who I am.

I recently bought a couple of Grateful Dead tin signs for my themed bathroom. One has a red, white, and blue Steal-Your-Face skull and the words, "Dead Head Parking Only." Dead Head - Caput Mortuum. I have been a Dead Head since 1972. When I die, it remains for me to select burial or cremation - Putrefaction or Calcination? Should I have a wreath of artificial red roses tied around my head with a yellow ribbon, or should I ask my surviving Soror Mystica to consider Dissolving, Separating, and Coagulating a Salt from my calcined ashes? What would YOU call an individual who contemplates such things? Crazy would be a popular and immediate response. Most people would only register horror or disgust. An alchemist would look to the deeper symbolism and statements being intended here about acceptance, transmutation, transcendence. If you have some understanding of what I'm saying here (and I trust that you do), then you are an alchemist as far as I am concerned. It is an admission made quietly, and humbly, not boldly and rashly. Atheists insist that believers prove the existence of God. They are fools. So are those who ask an alchemist to produce Gold made of Lead. It's about Knowing Inwardly, being in Tiphereth, the Sun. The Gold is Gnosis. In Gnosis, nothing is base, everything is golden. The stones one treads on are jewels. One is Eternally Youthful.

05-19-2012, 05:11 AM
"Hello, let me introduce myself...

a) ... I am an alchemist"
b) ... I am a poet"
c) ... I am a magician"
d) ... I am an artist"
e) ... I am a philosopher"
f) ... I am a Rosicrucian"

A lot of words make pefect sense except when they are used. The finger should get used to seal our lips, unless we are trying to make someone laugh (probably ourselves).

05-19-2012, 05:30 AM
A lot of words make pefect sense except when they are used. The finger should get used to seal our lips, unless we are trying to make someone laugh (probably ourselves).


Despite my 100% agreement with you, I wore a black long-sleeve t-shirt to a workshop today with this. Only one woman, a social worker, began to read the words aloud, but she didn't ask, so I didn't SAY a word:


05-19-2012, 07:26 PM
I have come to preceive myself as a "Visitor" to this Planet. My ways are distinctively different from everyday-man, from birth onward. Alchemy, during my soul-recalls, showed that it belongs to the native 'science' of the 'gods' who came here. They introduced the Art of organism-making (today's crude form of homunculi, genetics in a way), distilling of elementals, plant and metal kingdoms, palingenesis, preparation of spiritus mundi, etc. and as the science funneled down to our modern period, along the way, it has gone 'underground' (for various reasons), now to some degree part of several secret societies OR, in the knowledge of those who remember, so forth. Those that 'pick up' alchemy, in my opinion, have a lineage to those earlier periods, whether that's conscious or not, that doesn't matter.

So, in a way, we're all transcending our identity by praticing alchemy. It's the way of the humonoids that Earth-inhabitants called the gods from the Sky. I remember this lineage, we're all part of it.

Bel Matina
07-23-2012, 09:08 AM
I refrain from calling myself an alchemist for similar reasons, though lately I've given in to the term alchemy when explaining what I'm doing and how it relates to my life. But the term is as damnably slippery as the tradition it labels. Alchemy by its nature seeks to account for everything as an extension of absolute simplicity, and accordingly the tradition has been in all its phases voraciously syncretic. What, then, to an alchemist (whoever that is) isn't alchemy? If one were to pin the phrase down, it ultimately refers to a fusion of Platonic henotheism and astral mysticism as revolutionized through advances in astrology in the centuries before the ascension of the Achaemenids which formed in early common era Alexandria in Egypt. Excluding Qabbalists, I don't even know of anyone since the printing press who's claimed a specific continuous tradition leading back to Alexandria. So where does that leave us as students of the art? I think it's suiting that every generation should have to reinvent the wheel in a certain sense; it reminds us that our work starts with what's in front of us, and not what others have provided. Still, it does leave one running in circles a bit. It's human nature to gather around our interests, but if no-one is legitimate, who is legitimately included?

solomon levi
09-06-2012, 01:30 AM
In my experience, transending is different than transmuting.
I talk about transcending often when I speak of dimensions and transcending polarities.
One could call that alchemy I guess. But transmuting a thing into something else is
different than transcending one plane for another one, which is my experience of transcending.
For example, there is nothing needing to be changed in the universe from a transcendental view.
But maybe developing a transcendent view is a transmutation.

Bel Matina
09-09-2012, 05:47 AM
That distinction between transcendence and transmutation definitely resonates with me. Though there seems to be more variation within each tradition than between them, I'd say if there's something which distinguishes Yoga from Alchemy it's that since the earliest documents Yoga views transcendence as an end in itself, where Alchemy relies on that same kind of transcendence as its agent of transformation. Alchemy isn't Alchemy without solve et coagula, where Yoga says solve and if there's anything after that you'll figure it out, and many sources say explicitly that there isn't.

As an aside, it occurs the me that the proper in-term is "philosopher", so to anyone familiar with the literature "alchemist" as a self-attribution is implicitly contradictory.

Then again, "philosopher" tends to always refer to prior sources, so referring to yourself as a "philosopher" is pretty arrogant. I think there's a lesson in that though, that our self-attribution is not to make self-attributions. Just another way our predecessors have made things harder and easier for us, I suppose :)