Emerald Insights: Ancient Guidelines for Personal Transformation
from The Emerald Tablet by D.W. Hauck, Penguin Arkana 1999
Emerald Insights to Live By
How does one become an alchemist in modern times? One way is to make the Emerald Formula live in us and distill it even further to make of it practical insights that we can use to rise above the trials and tribulations of everyday life. By working with the Emerald Formula on a daily basis, its precepts penetrate even deeper into the fiber of our lives and often work their wonders without us even being aware of it. The following seven principles capture the essence of each of the Seven Steps, but in deference to the profundity of the Hermetic Mysteries, we will label them neither “commandments” nor “insights” but “Arcana” — the great secret ingredients of our lives that come together to make the Stone.
In our ignorance, we are constantly messing up the alchemy of our lives and that of the planet. The opportunistic growth of ego, whether in a person or in a nation, gradually takes over the whole organism and becomes its Tyrant King, who keeps power through disinformation and subterfuge. Ego, on whatever level it manifests, saps us of energy and positions us opposite the divine. By living under ego and not our essence, we are no longer living in truth and bring about our own demise. We loose innocence; our plans and goals become mockeries.
Calcination, the hellfire reserved for those who go against the emanations of the One Mind, who live outside the Operation of the Sun, can take place on a personal, marital, social, national, or planetary level. Nothing will ever go right, unless we are connected to the One source of all creation and purged of our enslavement to ego. The Rightful Ruler, the sacred Presence within each one of us, must overthrow this despot King. We must acknowledge the Presence beyond ego, for when it is coagulated and ruling our world, we, too, are divine; but when things are not going our way, we are experiencing the justice of Thoth himself. Jesus knew exactly what it meant to remain Below, and he expressed it in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth can save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Arriving at a solution to any problem requires psychological Dissolution, the suspension of previous assumptions and the discovery of new perspectives. However, one of the most basic and hardest assumptions to give up is the assumption that all problems can be solved rationally. Any scientist or mathematician will tell you that reality is made up of both rational and irrational components. The only totally rational world exists inside computers, where reality is artificial and limited to preprogrammed parameters. As sentient beings, our only advantage is to live on the edge between “yes and no,” in the chaotic zone where only our living intuition knows the way.
So, finding truth requires using our minds and following our hearts, which is why the alchemists sought to develop a feeling intellect. That is what they meant when they warned that the alchemist could transmute nothing until he had transmuted himself. At that point, the alchemist opens himself fully to feeling and experience. In fact, in many drawings, alchemists are shown burning or tearing up books to demonstrate that alchemy is not static knowledge or dogma but a living, experiential gnosis.
During meditative work in our own inner laboratories, we too can actually feel the Emerald Formula working within us and living in our heart of hearts. From the perspective of the Emerald Tablet, the only unforgivable sin is smugness, which is the unwillingness to be alive and open to new experience.
Nature is a book from which the wisdom of the divine can be read. By recognizing the divine signature of a thing, you can understand the connection between the Above and the Below through which it was manifested. Each thing has its own signature, the archetypal essence that can be identified by its similar expressions. By contemplating the relationship between the objects in our lives and the forces that created them, we can arrive at the “thing itself” and know its inherent identity. Only in this way can we understand what these objects or forces mean to us and whether they represent threats or assistance. This application of the Doctrine of Correspondences is fundamental, and by ignoring the congruencies between the Above and the Below we are holding back the wisdom of the universe. As alchemists, we must undergo a process of constant Separation in which we work only with the archetypal essences of people, things, and events.
The alchemists became very familiar with the signatures of metals, and we have seen how the physical properties of metals became associated with an individual’s temperament. The alchemists saw that the metals carried the signatures of the planets, just as we carry the signatures of the metals. The same principle was adapted in Paracelsian medicine, in which the signatures of plants determine how they can be used to cure people. Apollonius of Tyana believed that the esoteric signatures of gemstones could also be used to heal. Such alchemical therapies work on both a subtle and a gross level at once, by working with the hidden signatures of things. Words and images have signatures too, and even religions have their own signature based on how they came into being. By the same token, the God whom people worship places his signature on their minds.
True enlightenment cannot come from earthbound philosophies. We must find a source higher than ourselves, and for the Egyptians and Hermeticists of all ages, that source was symbolized by the Sun. This is not primitive sun worship but a genuine regard for the higher alchemy of the universe expressed in the Operation of the Sun. It is a state of consciousness less cut off from the source of life and more in tune with the internal dimensions of the cosmos that are reflected within us.
Whether it is seen simply as the governor of dark and light, the revealer of Cosmic Ages, or the Mind of God, the Operation of the Sun demonstrates the Ouroboros — the Fountain of Fountains — the seemingly endless creation of light and energy feeding off the One Thing within itself. Each one of us can live the same way, if we tap into the inexhaustible reserves of our nuclear Self. To do that, of course, requires peeling away all the leaden layers of falseness that have grown over it in the course of our lives and withdrawing the carbon rods of control placed there by ego. This ouroboric reaction within us is an amazing and unbelievably powerful source of pure energy that can heal our faults and sustain high levels of health and enthusiasm, inspiration and bliss in our lives.
If you follow the Operation of the Sun, which is alchemy, something amazing will begin to unfold in your life. When you with a force instead of opposing it, you gain power, and you finally know what you have to do in your life. You experience a Conjunction in which the powers both Above and Below work together on all levels of your being. Truly astonishing synchronicities will occur at the intersection of your mind and the One Mind. It is as if your interest in alchemy will cause alchemy to become interested in you.
The True Imagination exists on the fine line between real and unreal, manifested and unmanifested. Where do you draw the line at what is real? Your fantasies? Your dreams? Your thoughts? Psychology — is that real? Should we accept the view of quantum physicists that matter itself is an illusion? According to the alchemists, everything is real. Everything we perceive is all part of the same One Thing, and we are as connected to it as we want to be.
As the Gateway to the Above, the True Imagination is connected to the physical reality of the One Thing through the archetypes and to the realm of the One Mind through the light of consciousness. When these forces of Above and Below come together, anything can happen. Many people have experienced this power at the borderline between sleeping and waking, or between death and life. One ten-year-old boy, who had a near-death experience, described it as “walking inside your mind.” At such times, we realize that the universe is alive with Mind, and Mind is a real place, even though the light that dawns there is the imagination.
Using the power of True Imagination, we enter the Greater Mysteries that begin with our Fermentation, in which we experience an influx of meaningful insight and higher inspiration. This altered state of consciousness reveals the true alchemy of a person’s life. Some will ascend and others descend during this experience in accordance with their personal alchemy. What is amazing is that both the ascent and the descent lead to the same place. That is the meaning of the Ouroboros.
What is the True Imagination? To the alchemists, it was the fusion of Mercury with Sulfur, the passionate union of imagination and will beyond all egocentric fantasy. This combination affects the very fabric of existence, creating a gravity of likely events that brings image to fruition. Using the True Imagination, we create a sacred space, a Hermes Field, that affects reality on all levels.
Within that sacred space exists the First Matter, the primordial substance that becomes the Stone. It is with the True Imagination that we first perceive the First Matter, and our Fermentation is when we realize that the First Matter is indeed the key to the Work. We learn to look for it everywhere and stay connected to it always. Yet the First Matter exists only in the present moment — it has no past and no future. It is the eternal soul hidden in all created things.
For the ancients, who lived in accord with the principles of the Operation of the Sun, thoughts and words had tremendous power. To know something’s name was to have complete control over it, because it provided a focus for the use of directed thought. Following the Doctrine of Correspondences, they believed that just as the Thoughts of the One Mind (what we would call the Word of God) created the universe, so can the thoughts and words of man change his reality Below. As we approach the millennium, more and more people are realizing this simple truth once again. Meditation groups are at work throughout the world trying to raise the “vibrations” of our planet and repair some of the damage caused by centuries of thoughtless negativity. Working with thoughts and feelings in this impartial way is what the ancients meant by Distillation.
We must remember that the intentional articulation of thought is how things are manifested. Consciousness is a force in the universe, and words really do have power. Words can be sacred, and being well-spoken in the Hermetic sense is connecting your words with the archetypal essences that give them power and meaning. You are yourself the living Word of the cosmos, and you embody the sulfuric awareness and mercurial imagination that materialize the salt of existence. And if you can clear yourself of all the falsity, fantasy, and ignorance around you, if you can return to your most innocent essence, you too can work the miracles of Hermes.
How can mortals work miracles? We work miracles all the time without even being aware of it. All of us are incarnations of Hermes and are constantly either creating lead or gold in our lives. Since we can feel what others feel and think what others think, we can change our personal reality by thinking and feeling like certain people. We must learn to think and feel like the person we want to become. We know what it is to be young; we know what it is to be completely healthy; we know what it is to be creative and insightful. By applying the power of True Imagination, anything is possible. However, because the universe is alive with Mind, our empowered thoughts have repercussions which can produce results we do not expect. There is no way of escaping the power of Thoth, the God of Thought. If you deny it, it will hide from you according to your command. In alchemy, justice means you create your own reality whether or not you are aware of it.
Those who have undgergone Distillation know that eternity is all around us. It is in every moment we let slip by. Forming a mystical connection to both matter and the present moment (both space and time) is the key to entering the final stage of alchemical transformation. Distill the present moment and find the First Matter and everything — everywhere and everywhen — is yours!
As Hermes never tires of telling us, over and over, over and over: the One Thing and the One Mind are One. He means that mind and body, Soul and Spirit, male and female, positive and negative, Above and Below, are all One. All sexes, all races, all species, all life is One. All life, all death; all heroes, all villains; all angels, all demons; all gods, all devils are One. Unless you find this One Presence within you — what the alchemists called the Stone — you cannot escape the continual dance of becoming that is duality, even for an instant. “All Is One” is the message of the Ouroboros and the basis of the alchemical principle of changing one thing into another. Alchemical transformation would not be possible unless everything were really One.
Renaissance alchemists sometimes referred to the Stone as the “Telesma,” which means a self-perfecting physical presence similar to our modern idea of the force behind nature or evolution. By working with the Telesma, the alchemists hoped to speed up the process of our species’ evolution, to truly participate in the work of nature, to affect it and transform it, making of it not an evolutionary phenomena but a revolutionary happening within one’s own lifetime.
The Stone is the emerging pattern that resulted from the tireless work of the alchemists in past millennia. It is our true legacy, a gift to each of us from each of them. Apollonius of Tyana even included it in his will to us! Yet for each of us, the only Stone, the only magical talisman we ever need to carry, is our own bodies — on whatever level they manifest. We can either begin personal Coagulation and make of the Stone a truly living presence within us, or we can throw it all away. The choice is ours, yet if we do not accept it as our salvation — if we do not suffer for this Stone — all is lost. In her article “Annals of the Invisible College,” recently published in Lapis magazine, author Jocelyn Godwin presents an impartial and startling summary of the Hermetic Tradition:
“There is nothing left of most people’s souls once they have been filtered through the planetary spheres. The vast majority will be extinguished as personalities soon after death, then perhaps recycled as different people. The adept’s ambition is to survive this general Dissolution, and if he should incarnate again, to do so only through deliberate choice, not through bondage like everyone else. In order to pass beyond the boundaries of the cosmos, symbolized by the starry sphere, and enter consciously into another mode of existence, the adept must have forged, during life, a ‘radiant body’ as a vehicle for this individuality. Knowing of this hyper-esoteric stream makes it easier to understand alchemy. The forging of the radiant body goes in parallel with the chemical events, and its completion is marked by the appearance of the Philosopher’s Stone.”