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Phoenix
01-06-2009, 12:44 PM
This is a Phoenix-thread (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=7) from the old site (http://alchemy-forums.forumotion.com/forum.htm) created by mescalinfusion.

I'm in the mood to do some soapbox preaching, if that's okay. So bear in mind that the following may seem strongly opinionated, cuz it is.

It's so exciting to see a renewal of alchemy in modern times. However, it seems that with such a renewal, along with that comes an inevitable host of modern misconceptions applied and projected on to the study. One thing that's been on my mind lately is the very popular misconception, IMHO, that the physical, laboratory operations are all symbolic of inner alchemy. In other words, the notion that outer, lab alchemy is simply a special kind of metaphor for the true, inner spiritual alchemy. At the International Alchemy conference site, there's a little blurb that says:
"Although they [alchemists] spoke of retorts, furnaces, and chemicals, they were really talking about synchronous changes taking place in their own bodies, minds, and souls."
This, I feel, is a serious misunderstanding. It seems inherently anthropocentric, as if the alchemists were only concerned with themselves, and as if the spiritual nature of the work applied only to the self.

First of all, alchemy is concerned with the materialization of spirit and the spiritualization of matter. With this in mind, we can contemplate the true nature of alchemical transmuation, vastly different from the mere chemical one. It is said the operations "raise the vibrations" of the material worked on, and "opens the pores" of the matter to the more subtle energy fields. As alchemists, we truly believe we are perfecting matter, quickening its evolution. The alchemist percieves all nature, including oneself, but not exclusively oneself, as existing in a state of potentiality. By removal of the impurities, the "doors of perception" are cleansed.

Also, more importantly, the nature of the symbolic in esotericism and in alchemy does not have to do with semiotics; it is not about this meaning that. The retort symbolizes this, the king symbolizes that. While alchemical symbolism does indeed symbolize things like silver, antimony, oil of vitriol, the flask, etc., it is important to remember that esoteric symbolism communicates things that cannot be transmitted in any other way. It is its own language that speaks directly to the non-cerebral mind, what peeks its head up as intuition, sympathetic resonance, and "higher mind". Plus, since nature is the embodiment of infinite mind, things like silver, antimony, etc are in themselves symbols or hieroglyphs of the divine genesis of matter.

An alchemist is focused not on him/herself, but on all nature, on the creation, on MATTER. What is the true nature of matter? How do lab processes imitate creation? What are the universal processes operating in all things? We need to be asking ourselves these questions. Not "how do the lab processes reflect my own spiritual transformation?"

The first alchemists were smiths, and simple operations like the smelting of metals were looked upon with reverence and awe. Now we take it for granted. But put your mind back thousands of years and pick up a piece of glass.

Anyway, I've preached enough, and I hope this provides some food for thought at least.
I hear what you are saying, and I look forward to the posts that you will make in the Practical Alchemy section. But I must add, to what you wrote, that although there is a practical non-allegorical aspect there is also a practical-allegory one. This doesn't mean the former is better than the latter. I think a synergy of the two is optional. After all the human body is all chemical in a sense.

Paracelsus spoke of the mind as a healer (spiritual) but also of dew as the very same (practical).

I think one should pick what agrees most and then use that, practical or spiriutal... or even mutational!

Keep in mind that if you are turned off at spiritual/allegorical topics then you are still welcome here since this forum is dedicated to ALL FORMS of alchemy!


No, no, don't get me wrong. I am very open to spiritual and allegorical study. For instance, in lab work, there is the technique known as circulation, which "exalts" the preparation, raising it to a subtler plane of matter. I see this reflected in inner alchemy as the microcosmic orbit, and circulating the inner fire. And there's a lot to learn from it, that can be applied to the psyche, and so forth. So I apologize if I came across as being against it, my beef is the popular obsession with always interpreting the symbolism in terms of popular spiritual concepts, and that its true meaning is revealed when interpreted this way, usually in the context of inner alchemy. The blurb from the International Alchemy Conference is a good example. One CAN interpret the symbolism this way, but that is what it is, an interpretation; and it is usually presented in a way as being THE meaning of the symbolism. But don't worry, I won't hound anyone in this forum about it. I really just feel the need to vent.

Also, I feel there is generally a misunderstanding of the nature of the symbolic in alchemy. While you can find all kinds of meaning in the symbolism, I feel that interpretation is good up to a point. As I said before, symbolism is a unique form of transmitting spiritual truths. It synthesizes knowledge and enables the mind to do the same, expanding the mind out beyond a single plane of perception, enabling it to grasp several things at once, in a single instant, contrary to rational learning. What you said about synergy, or perhaps more accurately a simultaneity, of the inner and outer, and the allegorical and the practical, gets more to the heart of it.

You asked about the course I was taking on symbolism. Adam Maclean's course is absolutely fantastic for this exact reason. He is completely against any interpretation. While certain symbols are indeed elucidated, this is to a necessary minimum and Adam just guides you in learning how to approach and really just look at what's in front of you, and letting it speak to you, really letting the symbolism speak for itself without applying any interpretation. I highly reccomend it.
From my understanding Alchemy can be defined as an allegorical description of the human chemical factory
and it's work in transforming coarse substances (base metals) into finer ones (precious ones).

Alchemy is both an art and a scientific disciple that predates modern chemistry. In fact, modern chemistry comes from a DIRECT affiliation from old alchemy.

The discipline of Alchemy relates to how an individual can use the human biological machine as a chemical factory to transform one kind of matter, that is, the coarser ones, into finer ones. These material transformations are but the reflections of something happening on a much deeper level, mirroring the inner evolution of the human soul. These alchemical transformations within the human biological machine are but an existential representative effect, and not the cause, of an inner evolution of the essential self.

Alchemy involves the process by which an individual refines the different substances within their human chemical factory, combining, separating and transforming these substances by various means, over a very long period of time, through the use of a slow heat generated by the application of an unwavering attention directed onto the unconscious manifestations of their own mechanical nature, producing a chemical and electrical mutation within their human biological machine, which is all but a reflection of a much deeper mutation occurring within their essential self.

Although Alchemy is applicable on ALL levels, that is, applicable on the material, genetic, psychic, and spiritual levels, it is very important to note that alchemy is NOT about a way of producing a change in the human biological machine, but rather, in a way to note the changes in the biological machine when changes occur, due to an inner transmutation of the essential self. The changes of the latter are the generatrix of the former and NOT the other way around. Much disinformation is out there because there is an exclusive focus on the material aspects of alchemy overlooking its essential aspects.

The great alchemist Fulcanelli said in his book The Dwellings of the Philosophers:

"And so, I beg those who will read this little book to credit my words. I say to them once more, that they will never learn this sublime science by means of books, and it can only be learned through divine revelation, hence it is called Divine Art."

In his book, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly P. Hall spoke of Alchemy as follows:


"Alchemy is the science of multiplication and is based upon the natural phenomenon of growth. "Nothing from nothing comes," is an extremely ancient adage. Alchemy is not the process of making something from nothing; it is the process of increasing and improving that which already exists."

"God is the "within" and the "without" of all things. The Supreme One manifests Himself through growth, which is an urge from within outward, a struggle for expression and manifestation. There is no greater miracle in the growing and multiplication of gold by the alchemist than in a tiny mustard seed producing a bush many thousands of times the size of the seed. If a mustard seed produces a hundred thousand times its own size and weight when planted in an entirely different substance (the earth), why should not the seed of gold be multiplied a hundred thousand times by art when that seed is planted in its earth (the base metals) and nourished artificially by the secret process of alchemy?
"Alchemy teaches that God is in everything; that He is One Universal Spirit, manifesting through an infinity of forms. God, therefore, is the spiritual seed planted in the dark earth (the material universe). By art it is possible so to grow and expand this seed that the entire universe of substance is tinctured thereby and becomes like unto the seed--pure gold. In the spiritual nature of man this is termed regeneration; in the material body of the elements it is called transmutation. As it is in the spiritual and material universes, so it is in the intellectual world. Wisdom cannot be imparted to an idiot because the seed of wisdom is not within him, but wisdom may be imparted to an ignorant person, however ignorant he may be, because the seed of wisdom exists in him and can be developed by art and culture. Hence a philosopher is only an ignorant man within whose nature a projection has taken place.

"That which is true in the superior is true in the inferior. If alchemy be a great spiritual fact, then it is also a great material fact. If it can take place in the universe, it can take place in man; if it can take place in man, it can take place in the plants and minerals. If one thing in the universe grows, then everything in the universe grows. If one thing can be multiplied, then all things can be multiplied, "for the superior agrees with the inferior and the inferior agrees with the superior."

Rodney Collin Smith said the soul can be viewed as the cumulative sum total of all conscious moments that one has experienced throughout ones life. Working from this definition we can say that the physical process of alchemical transformation which takes place within the physical organism is cumulative also, since it is but a reflection of the cumulative moments of consciousness of the essential self. Thus, if this is true, then the alchemical process does not stop once it begins. It continues as long as the essential self becomes more conscious of itself. If the essential self falls asleep and temporarily gives up the struggle to be more conscious then the process does not stop or reverse itself, it simply ceases to continue.

Alchemists hid their esoteric work under various obscure terms and expressions. The resulting confusion from the various cloaking, red herrings and dead ends, leaves the student puzzled as to the true meaning of most of the alchemical terms.

Deciphering these terms, thinking about them and seeking out those who can help is all part of the alchemical process. This frustrating and sometimes infuriating process sorts the wheat from the chaff.

Fortunately we have Gurdjieff and Mouravieff who clear up some of the confusion. The parallels between alchemy, the Fourth Way and Sufism are no accident.

The basics: Salt, Mercury & Sulfur.

Mercury: The Thinking or Intellectual Centre.
Salt: The Motor Centre.
Sulfur: The Emotional Centre.

Working on these "elements", begins the "The Great Work" which hopefully results in the formation of the Philosopher's Stone. The Philosopher's Stone is another way of describing the Magnetic Center and the formation of a permanent "Real I." Accomplishing the "Great Work" probably refers to the totality of development possible to the human form, eventually leading to "graduation" to a higher density.

Knowing the above elementary definitions makes reading alchemical text a little easier.

I'd just thought I might drop my two pence in.
neutron flux


it is very important to note that alchemy is NOT about a way of producing a change in the human biological machine, but rather, in a way to note the changes in the biological machine when changes occur, due to an inner transmutation of the essential self. The changes of the latter are the generatrix of the former and NOT the other way around. Much disinformation is out there because there is an exclusive focus on the material aspects of alchemy overlooking its essential aspects.


through the use of a slow heat generated by the application of an unwavering attention directed onto the unconscious manifestations of their own mechanical nature, producing a chemical and electrical mutation within their human biological machine

I'm not sure if I totally understand what you're saying here, but I think you're saying that changes in human biochemistry are not the cause of changes in the inner self but that the inner self causes changes in our biochemistry? And I'm not sure what you mean by "an unwavering attention directed onto the uncoscious manifestations of their own mechanical nature". Also not entirely sure what you meant when you said that its a way to "note the changes in the biological machine when changes occur, due to an inner transmutation of the essential self."

Could you please clarify. I'm sorry to ask, but I really don't understand what you mean.

I like what you said about the work progressing as long as the essential self continues to become more conscious of itself. The "essential self" in this context I feel is not the "isolate self" or one's own sense of self but more like pure mind, what Buddhists call Rigpa, or Buddha mind. In Buddhism, recognition and awareness of pure mind leads to liberation. And it is indeed a gradual process of awakening.

But you should perhaps give a little more thought to the practical, material aspects to alchemy. These do indeed cause a change in one's being. Through some simple lab work, I've had a few earth shattering experiences, one of which altered my life for the better.

Also, the trinity of salt, sulphur and mercury is a subtle one, and is not easily grasped and I don't believe it can be made to equate any one single set of ideas. The symbols speak for themselves. IMHO, The equation you made with the trinity I see as being the visible evidence of the trinity working in the human physical being and so personally I wouldn't say this visible evidence defines the trinity.

I like what you said about the work progressing as long as the essential self continues to become more conscious of itself. The "essential self" in this context I feel is not the "isolate self" or one's own sense of self but more like pure mind, what Buddhists call Rigpa, or Buddha mind. In Buddhism, recognition and awareness of pure mind leads to liberation. And it is indeed a gradual process of awakening.
I concur strongly with this, but then there is of course the long debate as to what really is a pure mind. During the rule of the Church in Europe I am sure it was heavily connected with an anti-sexual mind, although this is of course completly incorrect. Although abstinence have its perks I must say.

Personally I believe that a pure mind is a result of a heavy process of Calcination (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=49) and un-brainwashing!

The equation you made with the trinity I see as being the visible evidence of the trinity working in the human physical being and so personally I wouldn't say this visible evidence defines the trinity.I think you can add a lot to this dead discussion: Trinity (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=88)