‘An alchemist being tempted by Luxuria.’ Oil painting after Marten de Vos.

Spiritual Alchemy – Casting Light on a Secret Science

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Spiritual alchemy is closely linked to secret knowledge and many who have attained this level of wisdom later decided to withdraw from it as they found they were not ready to receive it. The purpose of spiritual alchemy is attaining an ancient state which allows access to answers to the following questions: “Who are we?” “Where do we come from?” and “Where are we heading?” Many say the Kabala describes the road and the destination, but alchemy describes the process and the transformations needed to find the required answers.

Physical to Spiritual Alchemy

Medieval alchemy has its origins in Egypt as it spread from this area towards Europe. Since that time, alchemy has often been described as “Ars Laboriosa Convertens Humiditate Ignea Metala In Mercuris”, referring to the transformation of fire’s humidity into mercury. In other words, it is the art of turning lead into gold.

‘Alchemist Sendivogius’ (1566–1636) by Jan Matejko, 1867.

‘Alchemist Sendivogius ’ (1566–1636) by Jan Matejko, 1867. ( Public Domain )

In spiritual alchemy, this is seen as turning a person’s “lead” (personality) into spiritual “gold”. Alchemists used to speak of human occult anatomy. The energy that surrounds the body surpassing its borders is known as the “aura” and nerve connections at a subtle level, often called “chakras,” are two examples of this secret anatomy. Occult anatomy is a type of human anatomy which is not visible.

Isaac Newton is one famous historical figure who has been proven to have been an alchemist. When he died, many were waiting to enter his study to take his work on physics and mathematics. They were surprised to find that numerous works were on alchemy and only a few were related to physics and mathematics.

Spiritual Alchemy in the Hindu Tradition

The Hindu tradition describes three main energetic channels: the Ida, the Pingala, and the Sushumna. Furthermore, it says the human mind is formed by three parts with connections between them. These parts are the sensorial mind, the intermediary mind, and the interior mind.

The Hindu tradition also speaks of certain “ages of humanity”. These are: the Krita Yuga (Golden Age) when people used to be spiritual and innocent, the Treta Yuga (Silver Age) when knowledge begins to lose light, the Duapara Yuga (Bronze Age) when wars start and, finally, the Kali Yuga (Iron Age) when humans need interior transformation due to distancing themselves from the light and developing negative habits.

There are also elements which make humans go further away from the light. In Christianity, these elements are called “the Seven Deadly Sins”. In Tibet they are known as psychic conglomerates. In Egypt they were known as “Seth’s Red Demons”.

The Importance of Mercury and Sulfur

Seth was the God who tried to dethrone Osiris. After being tricked, Osiris came back to life as a symbol of the resurrection of positive values. In Ancient Greece, the negative elements were believed to be invincible mythological beasts; but heroes always found ways to outsmart them. As a reward, they would then obtain symbols of their interior capacities. For alchemists, these elements were known as “the dry mercury”. This signified the struggle against something negative which came from within.

Egyptian God Osiris featured in a frieze on a wall of tomb QV66, the burial place of Nefertari (c. 1295-1255 BC)

Egyptian God Osiris featured in a frieze on a wall of tomb QV66, the burial place of Nefertari (c. 1295-1255 BC). ( Public Domain )

Alchemists describe several alchemic processes as follows: Calcinatio, Solutio (Dissolution), Elementorum (Separatio), Conjuctio, Putrefactio, Coagulatio, Cibatio, Sublimatio, Fermentatio, Exaltatio, Augumentatio and Proiectio (Projection). Mercury is the primal matter in alchemy and, as it is silver, it is linked to the moon. It symbolizes all the internal energies: mental, emotional, instinctive, moving, and sexual. By using these forces, the alchemist can attain the Philosopher’s Stone inside his own being. Also, as a god, Mercury is the “Messenger of the Gods” - the link between the human and the divine.

Mandala illustrating common alchemical concepts, symbols, and processes. From Spiegel der Kunst und Natur.

Mandala illustrating common alchemical concepts, symbols, and processes. From Spiegel der Kunst und Natur. ( Public Domain )

Sulfur is viewed as the secret fire. By combining fire and water, one obtains the Philosopher’s Stone. In Hinduism, it is said that Kundalini is achieved. In Egypt, mercury is combined with sulfur in the form of the snake and the eagle from the pharaoh’s crown. The eagle, as a symbol of the spirit, shows that the individual has reached the divine level of the spirit. By combining mercury and sulfur along with salt, as the neutral energy that unites two opposite poles, one obtains the To Soma Heliakon, the solar bodies, namely a set of values that previously did not exist. In the Kabala, the bodies obtained are the Malchuth (physical), Yesod (vital), Hod (astral), Netzah (mental), Tiphereth (causal), Geburah (conscience), Hesed (atman), Binah (holy spirit), Hokmah (son) and Kether (father). They are depicted in the Sephiroth and the first seven represent the colors of the rainbow.

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