Book of Alchemy
Chapter One - Introduction
Alchemy traditionally had as its purpose the transmutation of base metals into gold, and the discovery of the Great Magical Agent, whereby the alchemist might effect great cures, and achieve command over all forms and forces of the physical plane and spiritual plane. The Philosopher’s Stone, which was and is much talked about, which they seek to make, could not be made until he had become that Stone.
The true import of alchemical literature is harder to discover, because there are three classes of alchemical books. The first class comprises the words of the genuine adepts, links in the chain of oral tradition which transmits Hermetic Science from one generation to another in person.
The second class consists of books written by persons who misunderstood the writings of true adepts, and supposed them to be no more than explanations of processes whereby physical metals might be transmuted by chemical means.
To the third class belong worthless productions of charlatans who had nothing to tell, but wrote their big wordy volumes in order to make gold by the process of extracting it from the purses of their ignorant readers.
The great number of alchemical books now extant were written after the twelfth century, but the beginnings of the Great Works on Art may be traced to a much earlier period. The fundamental doctrine of alchemy is as follows….
“That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for the performance of the One Thing.”
These words are from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes.
Tradition ascribes them to Hermes Trismetistus, and occult reverie has run wild concerning the personality of that shadowy Egyptian adept. Authorities say that “The Emerald Tablet” is a more modern work, composed long after the beginning of the Christian Era.
It is not known just when the earlier Upanishads were first put into writing, but it is generally agreed that they antedate, by several centuries, the Buddhistic period which began in the sixth century BC Furthermore, we know that Indian literature was transmitted orally for a long time before it was written. Out of the distant past, then, we hear the voice of a Hindu wise man saying: “As below, so above; as above, so below; he passes from death to death who finds here the least shadow of variety.”
Some reference has been made to the importance of the pentagram; it is the sign of human intelligence. The five pointed star developed from the pentagon. A pentagon is the central figure in every pentagram. Its five equal sides symbolize the balance and equal proportion of five aspects of reality.
These five aspects of reality are the five phases of manifestation known in alchemy as the quintessence and the four elements. The fifth essence, or quintessence, corresponds to the ether of space. The four elements are fire, water, air and earth.
The Great Work is precise as mathematics, complete as the Earth. The axiom of the basis for the Great Work is, “Nature is to man as man is to God.”
It defines man as the greater part, and nature as the lesser part, because nature is subordinate to man. God is the all, or whole, superior to man as man is superior to nature.
It is true that the alchemist seeks to transmute the baser metals into gold. When he speaks of the seven metals, he does not mean the common products mined from the earth.
Other sages make use of the same distinction; the Masters speak always of
our Mercury, our
The alchemical metals bear the names of the sun, the moon, and the five planets known to the old astronomers; it is the same in older books.
This is one reason Paracelsus insists that one must be acquainted with the ideas of the old astronomers in order to succeed in the Great Work. Shown in the booklet, The Great Seal of the United States, the heraldic colors are often used by alchemists.
The correspondences are:
1) Lead Saturn Black 5) Copper Venus Green
2) Iron Mars Red 6) Silver Moon White
4) Gold Sun Yellow
The colors are those which, in the “Queen Scale,” are attributed to the spheres of the planets on the Tree of Life. You have learned the correspondences of these to the seven interior stars, which are the same as the seven chakras.
You will remember that Saturn corresponds to a nerve-center at the base of the spine, the sacral plexus. Mars is represented in the physical body by the prostatic ganglion.
The sun governs the cardiac plexus, Venus is attributed to the pharyngeal plexus, the Moon corresponds to the cavernous ganglion, which lies on either side of the sella turcica, the protective covering of the pituitary body. Mercury is represented by the pineal gland.
In that portion of the Great Work which has to do with the transformation of the alchemist himself, the making of the Philosopher’s Stone is a process whereby the vibratory activity of these interior stars is so modified that the lower rates of vibration are transmuted (literally, “changed across”) and sublimated, or lifted up.
This transmutation of the subtle force which works through the interior stars has a triple consequence.
1) It leads to spiritual illumination
2) It gives the perfected adept a new body which is absolutely healthy.
3) It enables him to exercise powers which remain latent in most human beings.
His health is the result of perfect combination and co-ordination of chemical and electrical energies which maintain the form and functions of his physical body. This condition of radiant vitality is communicable. When it is established an alchemist can project his own rate of vibration upon the bodies of other persons, including a vibration like that of his own organs. This is one method of Hermetic healing.
Fundamental in alchemy all things are manifestations of three principles:
The names indicate three ways in which the One Thing manifests itself.
One is identified by a quality like a quality possessed by
Mercury is liquid and flows, and the surface of each globule of this metal is a mirror reflecting its environment.
Its rapid movement, like that of a living creature, accounts for the name Quicksilver, in which “quick” means both living and rapid, as we may see from the French “argent vive,” (living silver.)
Salt crystallizes in perfect cubes, and since the days of Pythagoras,
cubes have been types of earth and the physical plane.
Salt has also the property of arresting dissolution or disintegrative
chemical change. The quality of
The principle piece of alchemical apparatus is a furnace called an athanor. Eliphas Levi said, “We all possess the chemical instrument, the great sole athanor which answers for the separation of the subtle from the gross and the fixed from the volatile elements.
“This instrument, complete as the world and precise as mathematics, is represented by the sages under the emblem of the pentagram, or five-pointed star.”
It is the human organism. The Chaldean root of “athanor” means “Essence of Fire.” Our bodies constitute the Base of The Art in which the whole operation of alchemy is performed.
The pupil is the metal to be transmuted, and the metal must be cleansed, the mind and body must be purified before the higher secrets are communicated.
In its natural state, the body cannot receive and handle the high-tension currents of the essence of fire, which would destroy the physical organism of an average person.
Therefore, one must become the Philosopher’s Stone, before he can hope to make it externally, for unless he has it, no book of instructions can tell him how to transmit this mastery to someone else.
This “power of projection” which passes from master teacher to student is in fact a substance, through which projection he can communicate wisdom to the student; it is a force by means of which the student may be transmuted from the base metal, to the gold of the liberated personality.
When the alchemist, working in his secret laboratory, has dissolved the old creature and coagulated the new creature in its place, his physical organism enables him to effect, by mental means, transformations in the molecular and atomic structure of the physical substances constituting his environment.
Dissolution is accomplished not by means of the fire, but in a wholly abstruse manner, with the help of Mercury.
Mercury helps us to control those functions of our bodies which dissolve or break down into their constituent elements, the form of materials taken from our environment.
This action or Work is called Hermetic, with reference to Hermes, who also identifies as Thoth or Mercury.
The word abstruse means away or from the root – truders – to thrust, let or formulate.
Abstruse – Away or From
Trudere – To Thrust = To Conceal = Hard to Understand – Hidden
In Hebrew, Thoth is the 11th month of the year (AB.)
Mercury is the messenger of the Gods – which is to say – that it takes away from the substance the form of the substance being dissolved or the substance being taken to someone for their needs that you are healing.
It has also to do with the action of the Spiritual body keeping the physical body in the perfect form.
Then if you will look a little closer, it shows why when one receives the light of illumination, the tools of man begin to function.
The concealed light which we all have because there is life in our bodies, which is brought into our consciousness through an exercise or the teachers work, this too is the function of the elements of our minds, motivated by the aspects of Mercury on the elements.
The secret vessels of the alchemist are the organs of his own body, together with their etheric and astral counterparts.
The operation is really a chemical one, under the direction of man’s self-conscious intelligence, which begins in man’s-God’s mind, but is realized by means of changes effected in his physical body. In consequence of these changes, he becomes a new creature, able to exercise powers which are unknown to the average being – He attains Self-Mastery.
The Arabic base root of the Word for alchemy and chemistry meant “pouring” or “infusion.” “Alchemy” has been termed by the dictionary as being a “medieval chemical science whose great object was the transmutation of the baser metals into gold, and the discovery of the universal cure for diseases and means of indefinitely prolonging life.”
The basis of alchemy, like the basis of yoga, is the idea that man is a direct consequence of the perfectly free, unmodified Spirit whence all things proceed.
This is the true essence of his being. The Great Work is the direction of energy derived from that essence according to the perceptions of an awakened intelligence – in God’s Mind.
The preliminary in alchemy is the same as the preliminary step in yoga
– that is, to eradicate from the heart all impurities and transmute the body
into a holy
The initial step of this is a certainty: “heavenly intention,” that is a reaching inward to heaven.
The fire of alchemy is said to be a secret fire, often compared to a serpent or dragon – a fiery force which yogis say is coiled in the Saturn center at the base of the spine. It is named Kundalini.
Yoga practice raises this “serpent” power stage by stage, through the seven chakras which alchemy identifies with metals.
Paracelsus, like other sages, declares the Great Work to be performed by the aid of Mercury, and that the only other agencies of the art are the powers of the sun and moon.
We recognize the importance of the power personified by Mercury; the object of yoga is something which is to be grasped by the mind alone. They also recognize the other two agencies, one hot and fiery called Prana or Surya (Surya meaning “sun”); the other agency cold and moist, named Rayi, the lunar current.
In comparing the two systems, Yoga and Alchemy:
1. Both agree that all things are expressions of one fundamental energy.
Both affirm that all combine 3 qualities: 1) Wisdom, “sattva” or
Mercury; 2) Desire, “rajas” or
3. Both recognize five modes of expression: Spirit, or Quintessence (Akasha); Fire (Tejas, or Agni); Water (Apas); Air (Vayu); Earth (Prithivi).
4. Both mention the seven spiritual vehicles of activity – the chakras of yoga, and the metals of alchemy.
5. Both say there is a secret force, fiery in quality, which is to be raised from one chakra, or metal, to another, until the power of all seven is sublimated in the highest.
6. Yoga says Prana or Surya (Sun) and Rayi, (Moon) and Sattva (wisdom), are the three main agencies in the work. Alchemy says the whole operation is a work of the sun and moon, aided by Mercury.
7. In both systems, preparation for the work is the establishment of the physical purity and ethical freedom from lust, avarice, and other negative tendencies.
8. In both systems, success enables adepts to exercise extraordinary powers, to heal diseases, to control forces of nature, and to exert a determining influence on circumstance.
The intelligence which aids this work is the self-consciousness of man, which though not the highest level of life-expression, has this power: it can perceive the true order of nature by discerning the principles behind the veil of surface appearances.
The mind of man, his Mercury, is able to discover principles, and to control by suggestion the forces of the subconscious life. It is able to invent and execute new application of methods not provided by nature, thus bringing about a finer adjustment and organization of both environment and organism.
The result is the new kind of being, able to receive the influx of energies which would harm an ordinary human body, fraught with impurities.
When he becomes illumined, he perceives directly the Truth that he is living the eternal life of the One Power which brings all things into manifestation, and sustains and governs everything in the universe.
At the completion of this Work, his transmuted personality expresses nothing but the inwardly perceived impulses of the One Power. He knows, not merely believes, that all his thoughts, acts, and words are direct expressions of God, the One Will.
He is discreet in this work, not often revealing his Adeptship. An Adept knows the true significance of even the tiniest details of his daily life, and in all things acts as administrator of the eternal laws of Being for the furtherance of the work of God, and the One Plan.
This is the High Goal and the Aspiration of the ages. This is the “confection,” (or the composing) of the Philosopher’s Stone.
Jacob Boehme, one of the greats of both mysticism and alchemy, said in his
Life of Man:
“The old Adamical flesh of death cometh not to the heavenly flesh: No, it belongeth to the earth, to death; but the eternal flesh is hidden in the old earthly man, and it is in the old man, as the fire in iron, or as the gold in the dark stone.
“This is the noble stone (Lapis Philosophorum), the Philosopher’s Stone, which the Magi find, which tinctureth nature, and generateth a new son in the old. He who findeth that esteemeth more highly of it than of this outward world.
“He who hath it, and knoweth it, if he seeketh, he may find all things whatsoever are in heaven and earth. It is the Stone which is rejected of the builders, and is the chief corner stone; upon whatsoever it falleth, it grindeth to powder, and kindleth a fire therein.
“All universities seek it, but find it not by their seeking; sometimes it is found by one that seeketh it rightly. But others (that seek it in self, and for their own gain), despise it and cast it away, and so it remaineth hidden still.”
Jacob Boehme goes on to say:
“In this Stone there lieth hidden, whatsoever God and the eternity, also heaven, the stars, and elements contain, and are able to do: There never was from eternity anything better or more precious than this, and it is offered by God, and bestowed upon man; everyone may have it that doth desire it; it is in a simple form and hath the power of the whole Deity in it.”
The Stone represents the union of the central Ego in man, Qabalistically termed Ben, the Son, with the cosmic-Life Power seated in Ab, the Father.
Boehme speaks of “finding” this Stone, but he also teaches the alchemical Truth that the finding is also making or confecting.
In one sense, the true Stone already exists within each of us, but only in its elements. These must be discovered, and then brought into the perfect union suggested by the presence of the two words, Ab and Ben, in the Hebrew, “Ehben,” meaning Stone.