Secret Fire of the Alchemists: The Power to Transform Reality
Secret Fire of the Alchemists
The alchemists recognized four grades of Fire with which they could work. Generally, these were classified from the grossest (most material) to the subtlest (most spiritual). The grades were called Elementary Fire, Secret Fire, Central Fire, and Celestial Fire. Elementary Fire is the fire of the created elements and is what we think of as fire in our everyday lives. Secret Fire exists within the consciousness of the alchemist. Central Fire is the fire of creation, the embedded Word of God, in all manifested objects. Celestial Fire is the brilliance of the Mind of God itself.
“The Elementary Fire, which is the fire of our stoves,” wrote alchemist/monk Antoine-Joseph Pernety in 1758, “is impure, thick and burning. This fire is sharp and corrosive, ill-smelling, and is known through the senses. It has for its abode the surface of the earth and our atmosphere and is destructive; it wounds the senses, it burns, it digests, concocts, and produces nothing. It is external [to the alchemist] and separating.”
According to Pernety, the purest grade of fire was the white Celestial Fire, or the fiery power of God’s will. He described it thus: “The Celestial Fire is very pure, simple and not burning in itself. It has for its sphere the ethereal region, whence it makes itself known even to us. Celestial Fire shines without burning and is without color and odor, though it is sensibly exhaled. It is gentle and known only by its operations.”
Between these two extremes of Elementary Fire and Celestial Fire, the alchemists postulated two other gradients. One was the Central Fire hidden within matter at its very center, which is God’s Will in matter, or the One Mind acting on the One Thing. According to Pernety: “The Celestial Fire passes into the nature of the Central Fire; it becomes internal, engendering in matter. Though the Central Fire [within matter] is pure in itself, it is mixed and tempered. It engenders and enlightens sometimes without burning, and burns sometimes without giving any light. It is invisible and therefore known only by its qualities. The Central Fire is lodged in the center of matter; it is tenacious and innate in matter; it is digesting, maturing, neither warm nor burning to the touch.”
There is yet a fourth grade of fire, and it was the primary fire with which the spiritual alchemists worked. They called it their “Secret Fire,” and they went to great pains to disguise its true nature. “The fire of the sun could not be this Secret Fire,” Pernety notes. “It is interrupted, unequal, and does not penetrate. The fire of our stoves, which hinders the union of the miscibles and consumes the bond of the constituent parts, could not be the one. The Central Fire, which is innate in matter, cannot be that Secret Fire so much praised, which causes the corruption of metallic germs, because the heat which engenders is internal and innate in matter, and that which corrupts is external and foreign to matter.”
So, the Secret Fire is “external” to matter yet is somehow able to change it or cause its “corruption.” Actually, the Secret Fire is part of the life force of the alchemist himself. Says Pernety: “This heat is very different within the generation of the individuals of the three kingdoms; the animal possesses it in a much higher degree than the plant.”
In his book Alchemy, Franz Hartmann states that we all carry this Secret Fire within us. “In many theosophical works,” he writes, “the Secret Fire of the alchemists is described as kundalini, the ‘serpentine’ working power in the body of the acetic. It is an electric, fiery, occult or Fohatic power, the great pristine form which underlies all organic and inorganic matter. H.P. Blavatsky calls it ‘an electro-spiritual force, a creative power which, when aroused into action, can as easily destroy as it can create.’ This cautionary point is the reason why the secrets of alchemy can not be divulged to the idle-minded or curious, and why only those who have gained the power to control their own self may be told how that power can be aroused in man.”
The identity of the Secret Fire was known and concealed ever since the invention of writing in the Thothian epoch. “In allegories and fables,” remarks Pernety, “the philosophers have given to this Secret Fire the names sword, lance, arrows, javelin, etc. It is the Fire which Prometheus stole from heaven, which Vulcan employed to form the thunderbolts of Jupiter, and the golden throne of Zeus.”
The Secret Fire is therefore “thought” in its highest sense — equivalent to the god Thoth, the first alchemist who speaks only the true Word, which through intonation and vibration acts on matter to create new incarnations of Mind. To some extent, this divine power is shared by humans in the power of inspired thought and imagination. This fact was one of the greatest secrets of the alchemists.
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Psychological Fire is the source of our personal transformations.
There are four grades of Fire in the Great Work.
“The potentialities in nature are aroused by the action of the Secret Fire and assisted by the Elementary Fire. The Secret Fire is invisible and is contained within all things. It is the most potential and powerful Fire, with which the external visible Fire cannot be compared. It is the Fire with which Moses burned the golden calf and that which Jeremiah hid away, but which seventy years later was found by the knowing ones, but which, by that time, had become a thick Water (2 Maccab. I; II). Without the possession of this magical Secret Fire, no alchemical process can be accomplished, and therefore it is recommended by the Rosicrucians that the student of alchemy should above all else, seek for this Fire.”
– Comment on the Secret Fire from a Rosicrucian text