In the writings of nearly all alchemists there appears a reference to the place of gold in nature. It is one of their cardinal doctrines. Eireanaeus Philalethes states it more clearly and concisely than most. He says:
When a metal decomposes and releases its astral counterpart, this counterpart undergoes a period of assimilation of its experiences. In due time it is carried along by the life-wave to a new metallic incarnation, this time entering a metal a step higher in the scale of evolution. Its experiences in lower, or less complex, forms give it the ability to function in a form of higher construction. This process continues, according to the alchemists, until at last it reaches the highest and most perfect metal. It becomes incarnated in gold.
Gold is the highest form or principle possible to any particular realm. And because all souls are evolving, on the plane they occupy, toward its highest state, it is, as Philalethes says, "the intention of nature in regard to all metals." If they have not yet reached this highest state, or condition, it is because they have not yet had sufficient experience to mold about themselves a golden form. This is an "accidental hindrance; they are all potentially gold."
The same thought, encompassing a vastly wider scope was stated by a Hermetic Master: "Every immortal soul is the seed of a universe."
In this he has gone even above the plane of spiritual alchemy; for he is dealing with the alchemy of the angelic state. Having accomplished the Great Work, he was looking to the plane next above his own level, and imparting his conception of what he there saw to one still below who was struggling yet with the problems of spiritual transmutation.
All souls are the seed of spiritual gold. They are undergoing those experiences, slowly or rapidly, by which ultimately they will be able to build about themselves a perfect spiritual form. It is the intention of nature that they become immortal, and unless some untoward circumstances arise, ultimately they will arrive at that exalted state. Their experiences with life may as yet all be base metal, and mostly dross at that. Nevertheless, there is a grain of pure gold within. It is the eternal ego. In due time, under the slow process of nature, all will be changed into gold.
But the spiritual alchemist does not wish to await the slow and ponderous workings of unaided nature. The fact that in centuries to come she will ultimately convert all his metals into gold is interesting philosophically and scientifically, but it does not satisfy his present ambition. He has no desire to await a long process by which additional experiences may be had on the astral plane and through which these and earthly experiences may be more fully assimilated. If he is to have an immortal spiritual body, why wait perhaps countless eons? Instead of permitting nature to do it all in her deliberate way, why not help her? Why not accelerate the process and by intelligently directed effort build up this immortal form so that he may have it now? This is what the spiritual alchemist determines to do.
He, like other alchemists, must have a laboratory in which to labor.
The laboratory of any alchemist is determined largely by the kind of work
at hand. The material alchemist must have a place where he may keep his
furnace, cupels, chemical reagents, retorts, crucibles, test tubes, fluxes,
and the metals upon which he experiments. But the spiritual alchemist needs
a more comprehensive laboratory. The metals with which he works are the
experiences of life. His materials he collects from the whole domain of
nature. These he converts to his uses in the laboratory of his own soul.
Not because I shall refer to them thus in these lessons, but because they appear in the writings of nearly all alchemists, some explanation should be made of salt, mercury, and sulphur.
It is a cardinal principle laid down by all that these three are the elementary constituents of everything.
The most familiar example of crystallization is that of salt. When Lot's wife, as related in the Bible, looked back, she crystallized. So does anyone who becomes so attached to present objects and conditions that he does not look ahead in the direction of progress. Salt is extensively used. Because of its recognized state of crystallization it becomes a universal symbol of the physical. The physical body is the salt of the alchemist.
Of things that burn with great heat, sulphur is widely recognized. Lakes of fire and brimstone are alluded to from the pulpit. Sulphur, because of its association with intense heat, becomes the symbol of fire. Within all life there is a spark of the divine fire. This eternal spark of Deity that furnishes the energy to impel the soul ever onward in its toilsome journey through the vastness of life is well represented by a more than common fire. The indwelling spirit is the sulphur of the alchemist.
No wonder the alchemists must conceal under universal symbols their
ideas from the church; for they believed and taught that not only man but
everything possessed of life has not merely a body but a spirit and a soul.
The function of this evolving soul is to penetrate the realm of form and
gather those experiences that ultimately becomes love and wisdom. Quicksilver
penetrates quickly where water will not go. It may be strained through
a chamois-skin bag. Of amazing activity, its globules run hither and thither,
and actually gather up, or amalgamate with, precious metals. It is like
the intellect in its activity and power of acquisition. Mercury is a universal
symbol. To the alchemist, when mentioned in relation to salt and sulphur,
it signifies the soul.
Schoolmen well could laugh at the alchemical doctrine of the first matter so long as the various elements of chemistry remained indivisible. Now, however, they know that the ancient alchemists were right; for all the so-called elements are composed of positive electric charges, called positrons, and negative electric charges, called electrons, which are positive and negative concentrations of the universal field, commonly called ether.
The nucleus of an atom embraces one or more proton, which is a combination of positrons and electrons having one more positron than electron, and thus carrying a positive electric charge. The nucleus of an atom may also embrace one or more neutrons, which is a combination of an equal number of positrons and electrons, and is thus electrically neutral.
Around the nucleus, to balance the positive charge on each proton, revolve as many electrons as there are protons in the nucleus. The number of protons in the nucleus is the element's atomic number. Uranium, the heaviest natural element, has 92 protons. Remove 4 of these and the result is radium, which has 88 protons. From uranium remove 10 protons, or from radium remove 6 protons, and the result is lead, which has 82 protons. From uranium remove 13 protons, or from lead remove 3 protons, and the result is gold, which has 79 protons. From gold remove 53 protons and the result is iron, which has 26 protons. From iron remove 25 protons and the result is hydrogen, which has only one proton, and is the lightest chemical element.
The usual approach of the alchemist to the problem of transmutation, however, was not the attempt to knock protons from an atom having more than the desired metal. Instead, the attempt was made to build up the precious metal by bringing together, under proper circumstances, other metals that would furnish electrons and protons in proper number and under such conditions that these protons and electrons would enter into combination in the numerical proportions of the desired metal. If gold was desired it was necessary to furnish 79 protons and 79 electrons. Although not all the electrons and protons of metals thus brought to the combination might enter into the final product, enough must be available that would enter into the process to build up the necessary 79 pairs.
But merely bringing together silver and lead and tin and other ingredients does not produce gold. The proper ingredients must be present in certain proportions, it is true. But before being transformed into gold they must be reduced to a state which makes recombination of the protons and electrons possible. This is called reducing them to the first matter. The energy used in the process is variously called the universal solvent, the alcahest, the sophic fire, the supreme secret of alchemy, azoth, and the Water of Pythia.
In metallic alchemy the first matter is, of course, field, commonly called ether. And the force applied must be of an electromagnetic nature. It must be an energy which is capable temporarily of overcoming the affinity of the positrons and electrons for each other. These building blocks of the atom must be freed from their present attractions so that they may recombine in a different arrangement.
In spiritual alchemy we are dealing with something still more recondite. We are dealing with spiritual elements. They therefore must be reduced to their spiritual components. That is, a force must be applied that so overcomes their previous internal attachments that they are free to recombine in a different arrangement. This energy, for want of a better name, we term the spiritual light.
To better illustrate what I mean, let us have recourse to simple mathematics. Let us suppose, for example, that the transcendent gold for which we seek is represented by the number 1. The alchemist, then, let us say, has at hand only fractions, representing the other elements from which synthetically he hopes to produce gold. After much research and study he may decide that there are three fractions in his possession that if properly combined will give him the desired gold.
Let us assume these three fractions, representing metals, are 1/2, 1/3, and 1/6. Each of these fractions is a distinct numerical element, differing from the other two. Try as we may we find it impossible to combine them, while they still express their individuality, into one element. Merely to add them as they stand is to produce only a mechanical mixture. Thus do metals, if added together without being first reduced to the first matter, united, not in transmutation, but in an alloy.
But if we reduce these three fractions to their first matter, to a common
denominator, they may be added together to give a new and distinct individuality.
That is, they may be transmuted. Thus reduced 1/2 becomes 6/12, l/3 becomes
4/12, and 1/6 becomes 2/12. Now added together their sum is I2/12. This
is no longer spoken of as a fraction, but is the integer, number 1. Here
the number 12 is the universal solvent. The alcahest on the mental plane
is the astral light. On the spiritual plane it is the spiritual light.
As in this instance we reduced to twelfths, so in like manner the alchemist
operating on any plane seeks to reduce his metals by using the common denominator,
or Water of Pythia, of that plane.
The chief ends sought by alchemists in various ages and climes were four in number:
As the gold we seek is spiritual permanence, and the base metals upon which we operate are the experiences of life as they are gathered day after day, our philosopher's stone, as spiritual alchemists, must be something that touching any experience of life can transform it into a permanent spiritual treasure. It must be capable of giving it the quality that is necessary for it to persist as a component of the immortal spiritual body on the plane yet above the astral.
One thing there is that is changeless. That is gold. One thing there is also that touching other things makes them partake of its all-enduring quality. When truth is pressed against them, the eternal principles expressed by things are revealed, and thus are objects and forces transformed through the process of spiritual understanding, from base objects or experiences into the gold of their underlying spiritual nature.
"The Truth That Sets You Free" is the touchstone of alchemy. But as an intellectual process only it has no freeing power. The truth of any object, experience or force embraces a full comprehension of its various relations. Truth is correct knowledge. This correct knowledge embraces a comprehension of the relation of the thing to all other entities and forces. It embraces a correct knowledge of the relation of the thing to God, to man, and to the universe. It reveals its true spiritual significance in the life of man.
Such truth is a freeing and transmuting power, for when the spiritual
relations are completely realized there is more than an intellectual perception.
There is also present an emotion, a feeling of the stupendous privilege
of life, and deep gratitude for its glorious opportunities. When correct
knowledge is fully realized within there springs into existence as a component
part of it, as the things inevitably conditioned by its presence, a deep
aspiration, and an unutterable longing and determination, for a higher
and better method of living. This Truth is the Philosopher's Stone.
The fountain of eternal youth has been sought in many lands. The alchemists, instead of exploring the earth in the hope of finding it ready prepared by nature, undertook its manufacture. They diligently worked to prepare a fluid which they styled the elixir of life, in which to bathe and indefinitely prolong both youth and existence. With the philosopher's stone they would change other metals into gold. But to be able to enjoy this gold they must have life. To reap its advantages in fullness, old age must be defeated and death defied. Therefore, to perpetually rejuvenate themselves, they must prepare this most precious elixir.
It was the policy of these alchemists, whatever they sought, to follow closely, though striving to accelerate, the processes of nature. Watching her, they could only decide that life wherever found springs into existence through the interaction of positive and negative potencies. Where sex is not there is no life.
The life of each atom of matter depends upon love. For instance, the sum of the components in the helium nucleus, or alpha particle, is 4.0332 mass units, yet the actual mass of helium is only 4.0027 units. Thus considerable of the mass of the components is converted into binding (love) energy. The binding energy of such an alpha particle is 28,000,000 electron volts. And it is the binding (love) energy released in the fission or in the synthesis of certain atoms that is the source of so-called atomic energy.
Mineral crystals are sensitive to poison, grow, and reproduce themselves. They are made up of atoms. These crystals continue their lives until, through age or other polarizing forces, the love of the atoms for one another is overcome. When such attractions cease the crystal disintegrates.
In the vegetable kingdom, also, the power of growth and duration depends upon the strength of the attraction between the cells, and their love for the nutritive materials carried to them by circulating fluids.
All life, thought, and activity are the result of sex. Sex expresses itself as movement, as fire, as passion, as enthusiasm, and as exalted unselfish love. It is convertible. It may be base and ignoble, or it may ascend to the very throne of Divinity. But wherever there is life there is some form of love.
The alchemist, then, perceiving that life is dependent on love concludes
that spiritual life must depend on a spiritual love, and that immortal
life must depend on an immortal love. And what so quickly can restore youth
as love? Even the surgeons endeavoring to restore youth and prolong physical
existence by transplanting tissues, utilize in a material way this principle;
for they use the glands associated with love. The problem of the spiritual
alchemist who seeks the coveted elixir thus becomes clear cut and definite.
Life depends on love, and immortal life in a spiritual realm depends on
an enduring spiritual love. It is this love that he seeks to find.
Many think that the possession of the fruit of the great work comes by chance, that it comes without much effort, or that it is given by nature to the unworthy.
My own observation of life convinces me that this is a pernicious fallacy. The very few whom I have known who came into its possession certainly well merited any blessing that life could offer. Invariably they had accomplished some important task for the welfare of society. Through their interest in, and concern for, the advancement of others they had blended the finer emotional elements within themselves into the precious elixir of life. They already had quaffed the immortal fluid.
The alchemist, also must have been convinced that it comes only as a result of some special effort. Otherwise they would not have called it a work, but a recreation.
This great work, about which so much has been written, is the reunion of twin souls in the spiritual realm. As such it is the highest result of spiritual alchemy, because after thus united their potencies expand and they move from the highest level of the spiritual plane to angelic vistas that are beyond the imagination of embodied man. The union that results from the accomplishment of the great work is more than a fusion of the spiritual bodies that already have been constructed by each. It is a permanent union of souls.
No such fusion, even of spiritual bodies, can take place until there are spiritual bodies to fuse. How can there be any recognition of a spiritual union by those who as yet have not expanded their consciousness sufficiently to contact the spiritual plane? The greatest truth may, by its very greatness, be the most potent snare when misunderstood. Feeling an intense attraction for another, it is easy to imagine the soul-mate has been found. Most such affinities are merely the result of magnetic attraction.
The great work can only take place when an active soul is capable of functioning in a well-constructed spiritual body. Few people have as yet such active souls, or such fully formed spiritual bodies. When such a spiritual body has been constructed by an active soul, there is no need to wander about looking for the soul-mate; for by virtue of this spiritual activity alone they are bound to be attracted one to the other. Therefore, let those who long for the soul-mate learn that mere wishing and seeking will never suffice; for it is an accomplishment requiring the utmost spiritual effort. Let them remember that alchemists call this reunion of twin souls the Great Work. The first step in its accomplishment is to build up the spirituality. This is the task of spiritual alchemy.