Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Alchemy
A Human Being is really the Alchemical Laboratory
When we are experiencing ourselves as true nature, we realize that a human being is really the alchemical laboratory. The human being, the human consciousness, the human body is the laboratory where alchemy happens, where the philosophers’ stone does its work. The human consciousness, the human mind, the human heart are the instruments through which the magician works. So it’s true that our mind functions, our heart functions, and our body functions, but they all function simply as conduits. The more we recognize them as instruments and conduits, the more the elixir flows through the veins of the human consciousness revealing the light that illuminates itself by illuminating the obstacles in its way. And by illuminating itself, this light—which is our nature, which is what we are—illuminates whatever it comes in contact with.
The Alchemy of Freedom, pg. 8
Alchemy is Hidden by Its Unlikelihood
The human organism is a miniature universe. This is true in so many ways that most people would be completely astounded if they were to see this reality for themselves. The outsider can think of alchemical language only as symbolic, because this is easier to accept than the actual truth of alchemy. So again, alchemy is hidden by its unlikelihood. It is hidden because its truth is unexpected. We are not trying to be mysterious. We are stating the obvious facts in plain language. There are some complications in the matter of alchemical texts because some authors do not really understand the quintessence of alchemy, or they understand it only partially. Some alchemists used some terms symbolically, whereas more knowledgeable ones knew they were not symbolic but literal or parallel. This makes most books about alchemy full of contradictions, which in turn makes it almost useless, if not completely misleading, for most people to read alchemical texts. The individual has to be steeped in the direct knowledge of essential development in order to understand alchemical texts and to see that alchemy is literally the science of inner chemistry, or the science dealing with subtle substances.
Alchemy Refers to Processes Involving Actual Substances on the Subtle or Essential Dimension and Not on the Corporeal Level
We see here the real meaning of alchemy. Alchemy is usually considered a mysterious science, full of symbols, secret processes, and esoteric terms. Many believe that the alchemical terminology is a symbolic representation of inner events and processes. This is partially true. It is true that the terminology refers to inner processes, but it is not true that the language is symbolic. It appears symbolic only to one who does not know that essence is a subtle substance with physical characteristics. Alchemy refers to processes involving actual substances on the subtle or essential dimension and not on the corporeal level. Most of the terminology is really descriptive. The alchemists try to describe their work in terms that are most direct and literal. For outsiders, the terms can be understood only as symbolic of something else. Outsiders think that when alchemists use the term sun, they must be “referring to some kind of mental or spiritual process or perception.” This is both true and untrue. It is true in that they are referring to essential perception. It is not true in that the alchemists actually mean sun—the physical sun in the sky—but a distinct essential reality that the word sun describes better than any other word. For the true alchemists, everything that exists in the physical universe has its inner counterpart, and the physical object is not necessarily taken to be more real than the inner one. This is expressed in the Emerald Tablet, ascribed to Hermes, the Father of Western alchemy, which says, “What is above is like what is below. What is below is like what is above.”
Carl Jung’s Psychology stayed on the Level of the Mind
Although it is clear that in texts like these references to substances are not symbolic, modern authors continue to take the symbolic meaning. This is of course a reflection of the fact that these authors are bound by their minds; they cannot see that essence is something more fundamental and more substantial than the mind and its manifestations. They remain on the mental realm of symbols and images and shy away from the embodied experience of being. A well-known example is that of the psychologist Carl Jung and his followers. He understood alchemical language to be symbolic of mental and psychic processes. He took the terms water of life, the philosopher's stone, Mercurius, and many others as symbols and metaphors of psychic and spiritual processes. In this way he got closer to the truth than those people who totally dismiss alchemy but he fell short of the truth of alchemy. He could not go beyond his mind and his intuition, and so his development could not go to essential realization. His psychology stayed on the level of the mind, and his archetypes remained as disembodied images. He saw the soul as containing images, instead of actual presence…
True Nature is so Mysterious and so Invisible that We Can Only See Its Faces
What is this true nature that is any and all of these things? This becomes the salient question, and it is what I have been referring to as the philosophers’ stone. The alchemists spent millennia trying to find it. They considered it the final result of the magnum opus, the great work of spiritual and material transmutation. Some alchemists thought they could make it, others believed it had to be discovered. Some thought it was white, others red. Some thought it was a stone, others a liquid or gas. And some understood the philosophers’ stone to be a metaphor. I am not teaching anything about alchemy here; I am borrowing the idea because it fits with what I am trying to say about true nature. The key to the secrets of existence, true nature is so mysterious and so invisible that we can only see its faces. We can only experience true nature in the manifold ways it presents itself, and yet it is always one thing.