FROM THE FIRE
FROM THE FIRE
(Regular Column from the Alchemy Journal)
THE GREAT WORK INC. (Volume 7-1)
Daniel Schmidt has alerted me to the fact that someone has patented the ancient alchemical recipe for Oil of Egg. This appears to be an arrogant and flagrant attempt to control ancient wisdom to make money. We all know the miraculous healing powers of Oil of Egg. According to medieval alchemists, Oil of Egg contains highly purified life force energy that can be applied to many ailments. The formula has always been in the public domain, but as of today it is “illegal” to make it without a license from a German company. This is an outrage! Frater Albertus’ Paralab sold it and making it was part of the the curriculum at Paracelsus College. PON taught it as well. Now, Jurgen Roehmig of Pohlheim, Germany, has taken out a patent on the formulation in 34 countries that makes criminals of us all. Check out the clever way their product is presented at www.roehmig.com/davinci/html/uk/uk_eggoil_01.htm.
Could this be the start of a trend? I have to wonder how long it will be before corporations realize the potential of alchemical preparations and take their production out of the public domain. The basic tenet of practical alchemy is that anyone can make tinctures and oils in the privacy of their own homes. Alchemy is a grass roots effort that must remain in the control of people who serve nothing else but the very life force they carry in themselves. We are courting disaster if we work with alchemical preparations in any other way but on the personal level. Sorry, I’m just not ready for the Great Work Inc.
A MODERN EMERALD TABLET (Volume 6-2)
At a recent workshop in Graz, Austria, I was challenged to restate the message of the Emerald Tablet for modern times. It is a common question, as our culture has seemed to have lost contact with our own human essence to which the Tablet speaks. It is also a symptom of our modern hubris, which leads us to believe our science and technology represents the pinnacle of knowledge. Closed hearts in our upside-down world do not recognize the perennial wisdom of the universe as we did in simpler times. So once again, I attempted to rewrite the Emerald Tablet in terms the modern mind can grasp:
Truly, without hype, religious exploitation, or commercial consideration, you can experience Higher Consciousness.
That which is Matter corresponds to that which is Energy, and that which is Energy corresponds to that which is Matter, in order to accomplish the miracles of the One Light. And just as all things came from this Light, through the concentration of One Mind, so do all created things originate from this Light, through the transformation of Thought.
Its father is Energy; its mother Matter; the Spectrum carries it in its belly; its nurse is the Brain. It is the origin of All, the consecration of the Universe. Its inherent strength is perfected, if it is materialized.
Separate the Light from Matter, the Subtle from the Gross, gently, in deepest Meditation. The Light rises from Earth to Heaven, and returns again to Earth, thereby combining within itself the powers of both Energy and Matter.
Thus will you obtain the Glory of the Whole Universe. All Darkness with be illumined to you. This is the greatest Force of all powers, because it overcomes every Energetic thing and penetrates every Material thing.
In this way was the Universe created. From this comes many wondrous Manifestations, because this is the Formula.
Therefore, am I called Thrice Greatest, having united all three parts of reality and seen the underlying relationship between Energy, Matter, and Light. Herein is completely explained the Operation of Consciousness.
SPIRITUAL vs. MATERIALISTIC ALCHEMY (Volume 6-1)
In developing methods of modern alchemy, such as the Alchemergy project at www.Alchemergy.com, I have been trying to focus on a combination of spiritual and psychological methods of manifesting the contents of the True Imagination in practical reality. I want to demonstrate the ancient truths in modern terms for everyone to see. I want to show that consciousness is a force in nature whose power most of us are unaware. I feel these modern applications of alchemical principles will manifest in human reality in terms of health and wealth, which are the practical concerns we all share. i realize I am walking a fine line between the spiritual and the mundane worlds. I have spent most of my life in spiritual pursuits, not only my interest in ancient spiritual traditions but also in my “professional” work in pure mathematics. In fact, I cannot think of a more meditative discipline than mathematics; I have spent many days and sometimes weeks living in my head. That may seem a little pompous or that I am touting my spirituality — but believe me I am thoroughly ashamed of being able to live in my head and subsist on thoughts. That for me is nothing to be proud of. If I live only in my head, I am no better off than a religious zealot who denies physical reality and lives only to punish the worldly and seeks his reward in the afterlife. The alchemists are clear on this: It is just as bad to be too spiritual as it is to be too materialistic. The Great Work of transformation takes place here, in the real world between heaven and hell, in the Earth. That said, I ran across something purporting to be “modern alchemy” that sorely tests my resolve to remain balanced in the world. Just as the mercenary “puffers” of the Middle Ages soiled the reputations of genuine alchemists everywhere, so today are there alchemical charlatans plying their wares on an all too gullible public. I am referring to an auction now taking place on eBay which offers a “gold making machine” for which the bidding starts at $250,000. Under the heading “Gold Maker Millenium” (sic – can’t spell “Millennium” – my confidence is already shaken!), the machine is not shown but its output is depicted with a picture of a huge stack of gold bullion. In the background, the music of Abba’s “Money, Money” is playing. The unusual offering is described thus: “This auction is for the patent-pending invention – Gold Making Machine. It will replicate or create any metal sample (gold, platinum) in unlimited quantities, no raw materials required. Food and diamond replicating feature can be added by request. You will profit from your investment in the first few hours. Part of the revenue from this sale will go for future design of the heaven re-creation machines and time travel industry development. Please contact us prior to bidding as we are only interested in serious bidders. A very unique opportunity for a serious gold investor. If you are a bank institution, a credit line option can be discussed. NOT A SCAM! The heart of the gold replication system is a pair of molecular matrix matter replicators. A sophisticated quantum geometry transformational matrix field is used to modify the matter stream to conform to a digitally stored molecular pattern matrix. If you are a bank institution, credit line option can be discussed. Weight: 10,000 lbs approx; Floor space: 10′ x 6′ x 7.5′ Tall; Electrical 110/220v 3ph 60hz; Control: Molecular Matrix. Includes Raw Material Dematerialization Module, Optical Interface Module, Replication Probe Chamber, High Precision Optical Laser, LCD Operational Monitor, Manuals and Schematics.” What a deal! The sad thing is that, even if this is a complete hoax, there are people who take it seriously. I have received a half dozen emails asking for my opinion! However, if you really need to buy it, I am not going to stand in your way. Place your bid at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=15154&item=4991089746&rd=1 .
HERMETIC EDUCATION (Volume 5-4)
The Hermetic way of imparting sacred knowledge is very different from modern educational methods. In all temples in Egypt, this Hermetic, threefold method of instruction is embedded into the very structure of the buildings themselves, which were considered sacred places not public diploma mills. The first of these Hermetic stages is known as the PHILOSOPHICUM or knowing what it is. This first stage encourages the student to reflect on deeper truths, occult (or hidden) principles, and discovering the essence of what is. The process involves breaking away from conventional thought patterns and engrained belief systems to search for the greater reality. The PHILOSPHICUM teachings took place in the Outer Court, where the public was often allowed to listen to discussions and debates on the basic paths to enlightenment. These were the Outer Teachings, which were often moralistic or simplified rules that could be followed by common people in their daily activities. In the second stage, the THEORETICUM, the universal principles and actual operations of enlightenment and transformation are revealed. In the Inner Court, where the THEORETICUM teachings were given, only initiates into the path were allowed. These were people who had proven themselves worthy of learning the actual methods involved in the teachings. The last stage of initiation is called the PRACTICUM or knowing how to do it. This is where the practical or worldly applications of esoteric knowledge are taught. This final stage took place in the Holy of Holies, where some sort of physical manifestation took place or some tangible secret was revealed that changed the initiate on all levels of body, mind, and spirit. This was the PRACTICUM, after which the initiate became an adept, one was allowed to practice magic and apply the principles to transform the world and attempt to harness the forces of Nature with wisdom and knowledge of the repercussions of his or her intentions. Note that this Hermetic progression is just the opposite of conventional education and instruction. In our materialistic world, the practical or applied principles are taught first and later the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings are treated. Children begin their initiation into our society by learning rote methods and mechanical manipulations of knowledge. For instance, the ancient sacred science of mathematics is reduced to simple arithmetic that teaches mindless manipulations (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing) increasingly larger groups of numbers. No wonder by the time most students finish grade school they are utterly bored and fed up with mathematics. In the rush to become socially qualified, we rob our children of meaning. Are we so foolish as to believe children would not react or be thrilled by the fundamental mysteries of numbers and go on to actually understand mathematics? The natural order of instruction has been overturned in order to “process” children into a modern world bereft of deeper meaning. Graduates from this way of teaching are wont to manipulate the world without regard to the deeper laws of Nature and manipulate people without regard for their souls. Not only is this a perverted pretense in the search for truth, but it is a dangerous situation for the alchemy of the whole planet. In these times, the Hermetic teachings as offered in the few mystery schools and study programs that teach in the ancient way could be the only hope of preserving the way of the soul on an increasingly mechanistic planet.
WHERE IS THE WIZARDRY? (Volume 5-3)
The word “alchemy” is becoming synonymous in our culture with the idea of positive growth and perfection. Quantum physicists and psychologists muse about the “New Alchemy,” in which consciousness is seen as a force of nature – just as the alchemists believed. Leaders in such diverse fields as business management and software engineering are eager to apply the “alchemy” buzzword to breakthrough new techniques. Readers of the mega-selling Harry Potter series are spellbound by its magical characters and alchemical themes, which author J.K. Rowling freely admits she borrowed from alchemy books dating back over five-hundred years. But alchemy goes back much further than that. Historians have traced its roots to the Amenhotep dynasty in Egypt – over 3,500 years ago. This ancient “spiritual technology” was always an odd combination of magic, religion, and science. It can best be thought of as a science of soul that sought to accomplish lasting perfection by working simultaneously on all three levels of reality (the physical, the mental, and the spiritual). To an alchemist, the success of an experiment depended as much on the quality of the physical substances as it did on the experimenter’s purity of consciousness, focused intent, and degree of spiritual maturity. Changing lead into gold was only the outward metaphor of a larger process that involved the rejuvenation of the body, the integration of the personality, and the perfection of the human soul. Though they spoke of retorts, furnaces, acids and chemicals, the alchemists were really talking about changes taking place in their own bodies, minds, and souls. In our modern world, we have lost the magical connection to the universe that the alchemists sought to develop. Grown weary of New Age gurus and the spiritual supermarket approach to enlightenment, many modern seekers are starting to realize the authentic power of the ancient operations of alchemy. However, where does one go to learn alchemy? There are no alchemists in the Yellow Pages; no modern university offers alchemy in its curriculum. There is not a single Hogwarts School of Wizardry to be found anywhere, yet that is what people are looking for. People in all walks of life are discovering that the images and methods of alchemy have great relevance in their lives. Beyond the merely curious and those attracted to the allure of the occult, there is a huge segment of the population seeking practical methods of personal transformation. Audience members often come up to me after my lectures and credit alchemical processes with altering their habits and lifestyles at a much deeper level than any other system they have tried. Without a doubt, alchemy is coming back to life in the modern world with new terminology and powerful new applications. The ancient ways are working true transformations once again. The Alchemergy website at www.Alchemergy.com is devoted to just this kind of a rebirth of alchemy in the modern world. Please contribute your personal experiences, ideas, articles, and artwork on all aspects of modern alchemy. We are trying to make this new website a powerful resource and inspiration for personal and planetary transformation bringing alchemical principles back into the modern world.
MODERN ALCHEMY (Volume 5-2)
There has been a huge response to my last column and the announcement of the new www.Alchemergy.com website. The idea of a new form of alchemy for modern times with modern wording and modern applications is a natural corollary to the fact that these ancient principles are universal both in space and time. While a few of my more traditional alchemist friends have accused me of going “practical” or even “mercenary,” I can only respond that the alchemical Conjunction takes places in the real world, and it is just as bad to be too spiritual as it is to be too materialistic. Balance is the key to becoming spiritual warriors engaged in transforming not only ourselves but the world and its institutions. Many have asked what direction they should take to begin using the principles of alchemergy (or modern alchemy). There seem to be two main branches forming of how to apply alchemical operations to concerns of Health and Wealth. The Health category includes not only nutrition and spagyrics but also dieting, breathing techniques and aerobics. Also sparking renewed interest are traditional alchemical practices such as Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Acupuncture, Yoga, etc. The operations of purification and distillation of essences takes on new meaning when applied to the human body. On the other hand, in the category of Wealth, the focus is on joyful work, finding your dharma, spiritual products and franchises, liquidating cumbersome assets, conscious investing, transforming the workplace, and examining our relationship with money. This is an opportunity to actually contribute to the growth of a new spiritual discipline. Please feel free to email me with your ideas and questions on alchemergy. Send me links to relevant websites and books. Let me know of any companies offering opportunities for income to spiritually motivated individuals. If you have time, write up your ideas and experiences on the power of alchemical transformation in your life for me to add to the website. Think about what it would really take for you to make yourself over. Think about new ways to apply the ancient methods of working with matter and spirit. Think about unifying science and religion. Think about transforming the lead of a politicized, secularized world of greed and competing religions and nations into a new world of gold in which the human spirit is exalted and freed — no longer shackled to fear, dogma, and the egocentric control of those who would “rule” us into conformity with their own shortsighted vision of what is real.
ALCHEMERGY (Volume 5-1)
In my continuing efforts to bring the ancient principles of alchemy to fruition in the modern world, I have started another website devoted exclusively to this subject. I call this new kind of alchemy “Alchemergy” (pronounced “al-chem-er-gee”). The word Alchemergy is made up of several root words that evoke not only the energy and principles of transformation but also the emerging of a new way of working in the world based on the merging of ancient wisdom and conventional science and business. The component “erg” in Alchemergy is Greek for “work” (root of the English word “energy”), which represents the Great Work of personal and global transformation. Like the multi-level meanings embedded in the word itself, the universal principles of Alchemergy are at work on all levels of body, mind, spirit — on all levels of health, relationships, and business. The blend of scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, businessmen and entrepreneurs possible within the framework of the principles of Alchemergy makes it a powerful force for planetary, social, and personal transformation. Alchemergy focuses on dissolving structures and personal ego to release living essences and allow growth in any situation. As mathematician Alfred North Whitehead put it: “Nature is a structure of evolving processes – the reality is the process.” Or in the words of Mahatma Ghandi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Alchemergy is a compilation of proven techniques to transform the world on all levels of physical, mental, and spiritual realities. As in ancient times, the Great Work of alchemy permeates every layer of our personal experience, our culture, the evolution of our species, and the dynamics of our planet and universe. These principles can be applied equally to such diverse areas as health and wealth, relationships and business. In my lectures to government agencies, HMOs, and corporations on the “Alchemy of Management,” I have noticed a deep and growing desire for enlightenment in these traditionally “unspiritual” areas. Not only are individuals ready for such a unique blend of spirituality and business, but its principles hold the promise of a deeper transformation in society itself. This new approach, however, requires a change in our basic beliefs about the nature of money itself. The first stage of practical transformation begins, as it did amongst the alchemists, with the search and accumulation of the First Matter. In alchemy, the First Matter is that amorphous, chaotic, potential energy that is shaped into something physically real by the focusing of mind or consciousness. In the modern cultural climate, nothing fits the description of First Matter better than the vitriolic “green stuff” that is the “almighty” dollar. It is the great and undifferentiated potential of money through which our dreams and images are turned into concrete reality. Remember, there is nothing inherently base or unspiritual in money. Like the First Matter, the chaotic and impartial substance can be used for good or evil. When accumulated with avarice and greed, money takes on the attitude of its possessor and becomes a force of lies and evil-doing, as it has at Enron, WorldCom, and hundreds of other corporations. When accumulated with compassion and understanding, however, money becomes a source of spiritual power whether it be in an individual’s life, in a business, or in society. If money is the First Matter – the agent of transformation – in today’s world, then the First Matter of money is a vital principle in everyone’s life. It is very simple, really. Unless we can free ourselves from the prison of working for someone else, of surrendering to another’s goals and images of success, we will not have the time and clarity to transform our own lives. Unless we stop selling our life force for pennies in the service of some mechanistic bureaucracy, callous politician, or materialistic CEO, we will never wholeheartedly begin our own alchemy. Yet we have the potential to become the seeds of gold that finally transform the whole system! Each of us needs to create a personal Stone, a place of refuge and impermeability that exists in both mind and matter where we can create an environment that is true to our inner spirit. The same was true of every alchemist, whose first steps in transformation were always towards freedom and independence in the world. They realized they had to find a way of living long enough and comfortably enough to achieve their final goals, which would take many years of concentrated spiritual effort. They had to create enough wealth to set up a sanctum or laboratory to be free to pursue the Great Work. In today’s world, money is the medium of that environment. These are the hard facts of an imperfect world – which we should always remember are no less severe or immediate than Nature herself. The idea that health and wealth are basic requirements to succeeding in the Great Work will shock many people. But it is time for a shock to our spiritual complacency. The stakes are much more serious than just individual transformations. The alchemy of the whole planet is at stake. The trend in the world is towards a growing duality of “haves” and “have nots” in which it takes wealth to enjoy health. The equity built up by a trusting middle class is being plundered by the forces of corruption, greed, and control. The methods of manipulation are so subtle that we will end up not even realizing we are living as slaves. In a static and salted environment in which the life force is stifled and controlled, there can be no more alchemy. Obviously, Alchemergy is a work in progress, but it is also an opportunity to get on the ground floor of something completely new. Help us build it. Share your knowledge of how to gain personal health and wealth, so we may be armed and empowered as spiritual warriors in a leaden world. Alchemists everywhere, come out of the closet! Give us your ideas on how to develop the principles of alchemy in the modern everyday world! Leave your feedback and comments at www.Alchemergy.com or join the discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alchemergy/.
SALT AND EGO (Volume 4-3)
In the first stages of personal transformation, most of the work focuses on tearing down the ego, or the Salt of the personality. The operations are the same as in the laboratory, and the subject of the work is something already existing that must be perfected by destroying it, releases its essences, and starting to build something new and better from what remains. During the initial stages of personal transformation, our ego becomes the enemy, the suspicious self that fosters illusions, generates false beliefs, judges and classifies things, imposes habits in thought and body, and literally incarnates an imperfect robotic self. Attacking one’s own ego is a painful but necessary first step in personal alchemy. Like the fire and acid used in the lab, we try to reveal the deepest essences of the subject at hand to “start over” in a conscious way and create a more perfect substance. I have found, however, that most people miss one important point. The ego is not the devil inside us but an essential part of us that allows us to function in society and the world. It is a focal point of self. Like the unperfected First Matter at the beginning of the work, it is the beginning and most important component of transformation. It is like lead and Saturn – both despised by the unenlightened, who fail to see their inner nature. The ego, like lead and the saturnic forces, carries the secret fire that fuels the whole transformation. The same is true for ego, our salted identity. The goal on the personal level is to dissolve the ego, to break down its structure to reveal the true inner essences of the new Salt or new identity. These are essences of Soul and Spirit, Sulfur and Mercury. In fact, we must become Mercury to do this, and like the mirror-like surface of the metal, we are free to take on any image, any identity, once the slate is swept clean. So, just as in the dregs and ashes of laboratory work, the lowly despised ego eventually becomes the Stone. In other words, identity is the key to personal and spiritual transformation, as well as the grander Hermetic power of existing on all levels of reality. In the words of the master Georg Gurdieff: “If a man can develop within himself a permanent ‘I’ that can survive a change in the external, it can survive the death of the physical body. The whole secret is that one cannot work for a future life without working for this one. He must become a master of his life to become a master of his death.”
SPIRITS OF THE ALCHEMISTS (Volume 4-2)
During a recent trip to Prague, I felt unusually sensitive to the spirits of the alchemists, unlike any time I had been there before. I felt a real empathy with all the suffering (both personal and social) these dedicated souls went through to practice their universal philosophy. I felt them still fighting the war for freedom of consciousness, still trying to dissolve the “salted” world of false beliefs and wrong judgments, to smash the delusional social matrix in which we still find ourselves trapped. Yet these “angry spirits of the alchemists” were new to me. I had always thought the alchemists suffered quietly, in peace with their souls. Now I realized these men and women were completely fed-up and pissed-off with the imperfect world around them. In alchemical terms, they were vitriolic, flowing with the biting and brutally honest sulfuric acid of the suffering soul. Perhaps it was the nearness of Mars that made these feelings surface in me, perhaps it was actually the ghosts of the alchemists walking the streets of ancient Prague, or maybe some synergistic combination of both. For whatever reason, I truly felt and deeply honored the sacrifices these men and women made to humankind. My thoughts turned to how difficult it was for our species just to accept that we are not the center of the universe, that the earth is not even the center of our solar system, and only the divine Sun could occupy such an important position. (Is that not still our problem?) Yet for all Copernicus and GaliIeo sacrificed to cure the cancerous hubris of human beliefs, neither of these famous men gave as much as the obscure alchemist Giordiano Bruno. An accomplished adept, Bruno declared that the heretic Copernicus had not gone far enough. The sun was indeed the center of the solar system, but beyond that, he insisted, there were many suns in the universe, many solar systems. He even stated there were probably other earths and other sentient beings and suggested that the divine light of mind was not the privileged possession of just our species. That was too much for the Church. While they let Copernicus and Galileo apologize for their errant thoughts, the Church immediately burned Bruno alive in a public display of homeland security that left lasting impressions on alchemists everywhere. To placate and honor the spirits of the alchemists, I would like to issue a corrected version of De Crimine Falsi, the decree against alchemy issued by Pope John XXII in 1317. The decree said in part: “Alchemies are here prohibited and those who practice them or procure their being done are punished. They must forfeit to the public treasury for the benefit of the poor as much genuine gold and silver as they have manufactured. If they have not sufficient means for this, the penalty may be changed to another at the discretion of the judge, and they shall be considered criminals.” Of course, the Church failed to realize the official decree had actually validated the most controversial claim of the alchemists (changing base metals into noble metals) by demanding the alchemists turn over all “genuine gold and silver they have manufactured.” Therefore, in honor of all the alchemists past, I do herewith issue the new De Crimine Falsi: “Hypocrisies are hereby prohibited, and those who practice them or promote propaganda and spread falsity should be punished. They must forfeit to the public enlightenment all knowledge and records of past and ongoing atrocities committed through selfish acts and organizational politics, whether committed in the name of the people or in the name of God. If they have not sufficient integrity or understanding to do this, then the penalty will be administered by the people, and all clerics, politicians, CEOs, and other wrongful rulers shall be considered criminals against the human spirit.”
IN SEARCH OF ALCHEMY (Volume 4-1)
First, I must apologize for not being able to put out the Spring issue of the Alchemy Journal. As many of you know, I have been traveling extensively doing research on Egyptian alchemy and working with the Alchemy Guild on projects for 2004 and beyond. I have also just finished my next book, Sorcerer’s Stone: A Beginner’s Guide to Alchemy (Citadel Press 2004). Unfortunately, my research and personal projects will require me to be on the road extensively for the next year or more. Accordingly, with my being on the road, I plan to do more workshops in the United States and will be living in Europe for at least part of the year. You may contact me in Europe in care of the Alchemy Guild ([email protected]) or through ETX. I will still be working actively with all my students and hopefully will get to meet with more of them by traveling more. Another reason for my traveling more is to continue my personal work, that is, the alchemical work within me. One of the first tenets of alchemical initiation is that you must experience the ancient truths firsthand. One might understand these principles by reading about them, but they must come “alive” for them to be alchemical. Sometimes this energy or “light of illumination” happens in the inspired presence of your teachers or friends who are on the same path, and sometimes it happens in the inspired space of your own private meditations. This inspired presence or space is a very real thing in alchemy. In fact, let me make this very clear: it is an actual substance. Call it First Matter, Life Force, or chi, it is real and can be accumulated and manipulated in the Hermetic Incubator, the Human Holy of Holies, where divine energy and wisdom pour down from Above. This is Mercury Space, the sacred realm of Thoth, where the Hermetic pattern is most obvious. If you cannot access this space, if you cannot purify your own environment (physically, mentally, and spiritually) to make the sacred space manifest, then you cannot finish your alchemical initiation. The Great Work is never just in the head, but in the real world, as well as it is in the heart and body. For my own inner work to proceed, I must regularly leave my office environment, unplug the word processor, and seek to accumulate more of this real yet invisible substance to understand it. I believe the time is coming when this living “stuff” will be the most important thing to everyone, even the most blatantly materialistic among us. But to access this magical material, the universe demands that we abandon ourselves socially to live on the edge, to slice open reality right down the middle, and follow our innate Intelligence of the Heart wherever it leads us. At this time in my life, I am reminded of the words of the 16th-century alchemist, Simon Forman, when asked to give advice to those interested in pursuing the Great Work. “Crave wisdom of God, the sense to understand,” he warned, “or else meddle not herewith, nor take it in hand. For it will cost thee much worldly wealth and position. But trust no others, and do it yourself. Learn therefore, first to cleanse, purify and sublime; to dissolve, congeal, and distill; and sometimes to conjoin and separate, and how to do it all — so that when you think to rise, you do not fall. Trust only yourself and no other. I can say no more to you if you were my brother.” I will use these pages as a continuing saga of my journeys and lessons, and to make sure I stay connected to the very special people who read the Alchemy Journal. Fortuitously, to insure the continued and regular publication of the Alchemy Journal, I am very happy to announce that Duane Saari has volunteered to take over the duties of editor. I will still be very active in the journal with updates, articles, and guest editorials, but Duane will handle all the duties of editor. He brings a wealth of expertise to this position. As an online instructor for the Empire State College of the University of New York, Duane is familiar with web publishing and editing. As a student of alchemy and social shamanism, he is an inspiring and wise teacher for anyone interested in Hermetics and the path of personal alchemy. I most heartily welcome his input and assistance!
ALCHEMICAL ILLUMINATION (Volume 3-4)
One of the first tenets of alchemical initiation is that you must experience the ancient truths firsthand. You will never understand these principles just by reading about them. Sometimes this “illumination” happens in the inspired presence of your teacher, and sometimes it happens in the inspired space of your own private meditations. This “inspired” presence or space is a very real thing in alchemy. It is the Hermetic Incubator, the Holy of Holies, where divine energy and wisdom pour down from Above. This is Mercury Space, the sacred realm of Thoth, where the Hermetic reality is most obvious. If you cannot access this space, if you cannot purify your own environment (physically, mentally, and spiritually) to make the sacred space manifest, then you cannot finish your alchemical initiation. The Work is never just in the head, but in the heart and body as well. I am reminded of the words of the 16th-century alchemist, Simon Forman, when asked to give advice to those interested in pursuing the Great Work. “Crave wisdom of God, the sense to understand,” he warned, “or else meddle not herewith, nor take it in hand. For it will cost thee much worldly wealth. But trust no others, and do it yourself. Learn therefore, first to cleanse, purify and sublime; to dissolve, congeal, and distill; and sometimes to conjoin and separate, and how to do it all — so that when you think to rise, you do not fall. Trust only yourself and no other. I can say no more to you if you were my brother.”
SEEKING AND FINDING (Volume 3-3)
What is the difference between seeking and finding? Many of us consider ourselves seekers of truth, searching for something deeper and more real than the illusions of the everyday world. As seekers, hopefully, we have developed a certain degree of skepticism about the claims and motives of other seekers. This ability comes down to sensing what other people are really seeking in their lives. If we allow ourselves, we can realize what another person is seeking because it colors everything they do. Or, as the alchemist’s put it, we can read other people’s “signatures” — what they truly carry in their hearts and what motivates them. It is not hard for most people to know when a politician is after your vote or a salesman after your money. It is a little more difficult to know when someone you care about is just after another sexual conquest or when some guru is clothing their enshrined ego in a swath of spiritual soundbites. Many people in our culture are only seeking to use other people to get ahead in the world — which is why it is called the “rat race.” So seeking is really what makes the world go ’round. If we were not seeking something better all the time, the whole economy would collapse — but so would most religions and spiritual traditions. That’s right — we are no better as spiritual seekers if we are always seeking and never finding. We may be “whiter” rats, but we are still in the rat race. The only way out is to use our god-given ability to see what is real, to read the true signatures of people and situations. Only then can we recognize the true leader, the genuine friend or lover, the universal truth. At that point, we must stop seeking and accept what we have found. We have to commit to the higher truth. This is a surprisingly hard step for most people. It is much more fun to play the field, to be constantly seeking and never finding. We live in a rat race because it is in our basic nature to behave as rats. Each of us has to take that difficult step out of the race, stop running and break the rules, and be true to ourselves and what we recognize as real. Then, one day, the majority of those rats are suddenly going to stop on the sidelines and start shouting into the frenzy of race: “Hey – the race is over! We already won!”
SOMETHING IN THE AIR (Volume 3-2)
I have gotten a lot of email on the last editorial, most of which is in the same vein as the insightful example from Bob Becker below. People are not only sensing “something in the air” but truly realize it is somehow connected with their own inner states of consciousness. To me it seems as if the divine is actually getting closer. We are undergoing a paradigm shift from the ancient dictum of “As Above, so Below” to the modern realization of “As Within, so Without.” This is not only happening in people, but also in our most advanced sciences and spiritual disciplines. The question I am often asked is why. Why all the optimism among spiritual seekers that “something wonderful” is approaching when the world seems to be falling apart around us, when religious dogma is responsible for so much hate and murder? What hope is their in a world where people will sacrifice their lives in acts of death and terrorism but have no idea how to sacrifice their lives in acts of life and love? In a world of fatalistic philosophies, widespread hatred, and rampant materialism, why — in all this darkness — are some people suddenly becoming more hopeful and spiritually optimistic? Hundreds of people are telling me this; I feel it myself. A new stage of alchemical transformation is beginning on the planet, and we are all the catalyst. For, contrary to much of the shallow rhetoric of our New Age gurus, it is not what we say or think that counts. That may seem like a shocking statement from a lifelong Hermeticist, but I have found that the fluff of enlightened sound bites and trademarked spiritual methods mean nothing. The lip service of rehearsed ritual and pleading prayer are equally self-serving. It is only what is truly in the human heart that counts. For most of us, our hearts remain silent witnesses to the folly of our egos, but once in awhile the power in our hearts is demonstrated for all to see. That happened recently. As a mathematician, I have been supporting and helping interpret the statistical results of Princeton University’s Global Consciousness Project (GCP) since 1999. In math, the First Matter of the alchemists is represented by mathematical chaos (strings of completely unconnected and meaningless numbers). Today computers can be programmed to generate endless chaos using sophisticated random number generators. In the GCP, 40 random number generators are scattered around the globe and feed their chaotic stream of numbers into a central computer for analysis. Every once in awhile, some of the numbers show an ordering or coherence. What the project has discovered is that in times of events that touch the hearts of people around the world, these periods of ordering of chaos are more pronounced and last longer. Wars and natural disasters such as earthquakes cause changes in the output of the random number generators. To date, the most pronounced change occurred on September 11, 2001, and lasted several days. Physicist Roger Nelson, who heads the project, summarized the intriguing effect: “Some kind of great coherence arises when people are all engaged in the same event, sharing the same emotions and attention in some event of deep meaning for them. That coherent presence in the world is what causes our numbers to be different from what they should be.” In other words, from the perspective of what is happening alchemically on the planet, it is only what is truly in the human heart that counts. You can view that “coherent presence,” which is the collective heart of our planet, in real time by visiting http://noosphere.princeton.edu and selecting “NetStatus” and then “Real-Time Display.” What you will see are 40 bar-graphs of coherence from each of the random number generators. Brighter colors and longer bars indicate increased coherency or large deviations from chance. Turn on your speakers to hear the “heartbeat” of the planet, which plays musical notes with pitch and loudness related to the momentary data values against a steady background of a normal beating heart. If you hear crashing cymbals, a major coherency has occurred.
DISTILLATION (Volume 3-1)
The theme of this issue is Distillation, a process in alchemy where the matter at hand is exalted and purified. To the medieval alchemists, this was the most important and powerful of all the stages of alchemy. Most of their processes relied heavily on Distillation, whereas more ancient Egyptian alchemy relied more on Fermentation for the higher transformations. In the psychology of the modern person, Fermentation corresponds to soulful contact with higher realms, whereas Distillation takes the more objective view of spirit in seeking what is true. Fermentation is religion; Distillation is science. You can see these same trends in civilization. Religion and science, subjective and objective, soul and spirit, Sulfur and Mercury, each struggling for supremacy. When practiced internally, we come to really know these two operations. My Fermentation experiences provide an instant, intuitive, and often overwhelming insight into deeper mysteries, while my moments of Distillation allow me to understand and extract the universal wisdom in these “irrational” experiences. Fermentation is when I drop out of sight and refuse to talk to anyone. Distillation is when I try to write a book or go out and give lectures. Coagulation, which is a higher merging of these two operations to become the Stone, has happened to me rarely. When it does, it is an incorruptible experience of being truly alive and participating in the universe in which all my previous doubts and problems seem absolutely trivial. At these precious moments, I give up the pen, computer, lectern, meditating, and even my own ego, and try to go out into the world just to relax with people at any level of society. When coagulated, my presence in the world is enough to change it. Call it “vibes” or “aura” or “Christ consciousness” or whatever you want. It is something new, something unexpected, something wonderful. In Coagulation, you wear truth like a wedding garment; you live it and it lives you. That precious incarnation is the true Powder of Projection and process of Multiplication in the alchemy of our species. As the alchemists keep reminding us: “It takes a seed of gold to make gold.” I think the next step in our planetary alchemy will be when we finally move beyond the disruptive processes of Fermentation and Distillation. During the final Coagulation, the planet and those sentient beings who populate it will finally become “real” and alive. As “living Stones,” we will move beyond both science and religion to a quickened gnosis of what really lies beyond the Clouds of Unknowing. The alchemists predicted that those who are genuine vessels and survive the stressful transformations will become seeds of higher consciousness in the fertile soil of earth. That is what is happening as we enter the next epoch. Coagulation is not the final step, but it is the crucial middle pillar between the extremes of Fermentation and Distillation. Authoritarian or extreme views from either religion or science, matriarchal or patriarchal control, liberal or conservative dictators, the supremacy of either lunar or solar consciousness in individuals — any of these can destroy the planetary experiment in Coagulation. All we can do is beware of manipulations from extreme positions both in society and within us. It is time for each of us to become who we really are, to forsake both forms of parental authority and follow the purified, experiential path of the Child. Only then will the Child of the Philosophers become the Salt of the earth.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR (Volume 2-6)
Something is in the Air. I do not mean mundane air, but the Air of the alchemists. This is the Air of spirit, the universal life force that animates from Above. Just as normal air keep our bodies alive, so does this celestial Air nourish our spirits. If we do not stay consciously connected to the Air of the divine Mind, however, our spirit withers away. I think we all begin to loose contact with the Air of spirit when we pass from childhood to adulthood, when we follow the pattern and mindset of modern civilization, which has little regard for this invisible, universal force. Indeed, alchemists today are like Jedi knights, constantly seeking connection with the unseen “Force” that animates the whole universe. But this is not fantasy, and that is what is in the Air. There is something wonderful coming our way as a species, a new birth in spirit awaits us. Yet, like a newborn child, we will need that proverbial slap on the back to get us breathing in the new medium — the Gurdjieff “shock” that will force us to a new octave of being. That “slap” hurts, though, and coming into a new level of being is never easy. They will suffer who resist breathing in the new way, who hold onto the material realm. But ultimately the change has to be for the greater good — part of the greater alchemy of which we are so woefully unaware. The time is getting closer. Another decade perhaps. Those who can will sense it. Something is in the Air.
SEXUAL ALCHEMY (Volume 2-4)
As you may have guessed, the theme of this issue is sexual alchemy. Despite the acceptance of Eastern sexual alchemy, Western sexual alchemy has always been a little more suspect. Talking openly about this subject in the Middle Ages landed not a few alchemists on the bonfire. Even today, we tend to think of European alchemists as lecherous old men when it came to their sexual cultivations. Once again, clarity comes to the situation when we follow the Hermetic dictum of working on all three levels of reality. The bed becomes an alchemist’s laboratory when the “work” is done simultaneously on the bodily, mental, and spiritual levels. In fact, that is about as good a definition of “true love” as I can think of. Future themes for this journal will include alchemy of the kabballah, the Tarot, Paracelsus, spagyrics, Dee and Kelley, Egyptian alchemy, and Islamic alchemy. Please feel free to submit your articles or artwork on these topics. We are always looking for good material!
ALCHEMY AND SHAMANISM (Volume 2-3)
This issue of the Alchemy Journal is devoted to the topic of alchemy and shamanism. Due to the growing interest in this topic, we have also added a special section to the Alchemy Lab website on Shamanic Alchemy. Because of its emphasis on psychoactive substances, some traditional alchemists have told me they do not believe this is a suitable topic for alchemical practice. However, we would be naive indeed if we could not at least consider the possibility that the alchemists worked with mind-altering drugs. They were, after all, the first chemists. Personally, I believe the states of consciousness described by the alchemists are beyond mere brain chemistry, but in keeping with the principle that alchemical changes must occur on all three levels of reality (the body, mind, and soul), I would not be surprised to find chemicals corresponding to those states. Moreover, I am sure whatever super-snoop government software is perusing the Internet has already discovered the wealth of chemical information and labware offered through our website, and we are already looked at with suspicion, so why not give them a little more for our money? And if that is not enough to arouse their interest, just wait until they see the topic for the next issue, which is sexual alchemy. The government watchdogs will probably have to invent a whole new security category for things like “internal sex,” “alchemical incest,” and “sex with spirits” that they will find in these pages.
MAGIC OF EGYPT (Volume 2-2)
Having just returned from a three-week trip to Egypt, I am once again having difficulty readjusting to things in our modern world. The main ingredient that seems to be missing is the spiritual component that connects us to the perfection of the Above. In Egypt, the east bank of the Nile is for the living, for building grimy cities and factories, for buying and selling things, for all the practical and temporary accouterments of the world. Nothing is built to last on the east bank, and most of the dwellings are simple brick buildings that always seem to be in some phase of construction or destruction. But to find the spiritual component, all you have to do is look across the Nile to the west bank. It is the spiritual realm awaiting us, the place where even the sun goes when it dies to the world. The west bank is for tombs, pyramids, monuments, and things built to last forever. It is the eternal realm, the dwelling place of the gods, and it is just across the river. In ancient times, no one was allowed to live or farm on the west bank. It was reserved for the gods. I miss that clear demarcation between the temporal and the eternal. I miss that constant reminder that there exists an Above that determines our reality Below.
TAKING THE PATH OF ALCHEMY (Volume 2-1)
I am happy to announce that the Alchemy Journal is now a bimonthly magazine. We have also received a lot of positive feedback in our efforts to create a serious periodical devoted to alchemy that covers all aspects of this ancient discipline. If you would like to write an article or volunteer your time to assist us, please feel free to contact me. My special thanks to Assistant Editor Tiffany-Nicole Hill for persevering through this period of transition. I am presently working on two new books (A Beginner’s Guide to Alchemy and Egyptian Alchemy: Creation of the Golden Body) plus preparing for another trip to Egypt, so I truly appreciate the help. It seems appropriate at this time to reiterate the purpose of this journal, as I stated it in the first issue: You will find in these pages an eclectic blend of material, both scholarly and personal, logical and emotional, practical and spiritual. Just keep in mind that this publication seeks to stay alive, to become and remain a living thing in pursuit of a genuine experience of what alchemy is, where it came from, and how it works in the world today. If some of the things in this journal upset you or set you afire with inspiration, then we have succeeded in our major goal, which is setting you on the path of alchemical perfection and transformation.
WELCOME TO THE ALCHEMY JOURNAL (Volume 1-1)
Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Alchemy Journal. This journal, like all proper alchemical endeavors, will seek to balance both the feminine and masculine ways of knowing (intuition and intellect) to arrive at truth. For that reason, you will find in these pages an eclectic blend of material, both scholarly and personal, logical and emotional, practical and spiritual. Just keep in mind that this publication seeks to stay alive, to become and remain a living thing in pursuit of a genuine experience of what alchemy is, where it came from, and how it works in the world today. If some of the things in this journal shock you, upset you, or set you afire with inspiration, then we have succeeded in our major goal: setting you on the path of alchemical perfection and transformation.