WHAT ALCHEMY REALLY IS
Alchemy is defined as the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir. Once the word pops up most people instantly imagine some mad scientists standing over a cauldron whispering incantations to the Dark Lord. It’s the stuff of folklore and mystery that used to plaster the pages of the penny dreadfuls in 19th century London. Factor in gentlemen like John Dee who spiraled into madness and swindlers like Daniel von Siebenburgen who defrauded people and it’s no wonder alchemy fell by the wayside.
Granted, all these preconceived notions are based on an aspect of alchemy that was grossly mistranslated by greedier minds but it is what it is. Alchemy started out as the search for spirit in matter. Guys like Paracelsus that really wanted to know how the great mystery of life worked. Newton tirelessly translated The Emerald Tablet believing it contained an infinite number of potential discoveries. These men understood that the alchemist was just as transformed by the processes as the material being worked.
Huge secret, alchemy is a polysemic language. A lot of practitioners hid the meaning of their work with rich symbolism meant to confuse the uneducated reader. Think of Jesus to his disciples when they ask why he teaches in parables-
“Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.”-Matthew 13:11
Spiritual alchemy was passed down in the same fashion. They’d use symbols known to the world of astrology in ways that would be unrecognizable to most astrologers. I’m certain they would have given the ambiguous response of “as above, so below” in response if they were ever asked why. So, what we have today is a collection of works that hardly even agree with one another due to alchemies secretive past.
Let’s unravel the Great Work a bit, shall we?
SUN AND MOON=CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS
Notice that the sun is over the moon in this depiction. Evola writes-
“We can say in general that the sun is `form and the power of individuation,’ while the Moon- which preserves the archaic mother and woman symbols expresses the `material` and Universal: to the undifferentiated vitality, to the cosmic spirit (Holy Spirit), or The Ether light, corresponds the feminine.”
So, the sun represents our Consciousness, that Which experiences the sensory world and the seat of our intellect. This is the part of us that yearns to enjoy the experiences of life itself, that knows we exist. Think bull-headed determination and conscious thinking.
Then, Luna, or the Moon must be that which is experienced or what the Greeks would call hyle- matter. She is that Divine reflection at the core of existence. This is the seat of our intuition, that still-small Voice that directs our path. Think gut feeling. Ergo-
“Nature loves to hide Herself, she hints of one meaning under many forms, which delude the senses of the fool.”
Heraclitus was trying to tell us to go inward and seek Wisdom, for She is the guiding light that brings us closer to G-D, but not seek with our heads and our perception of the outer world. Rather with our Hearts in the interior world. This is why I always say construct your Temple at the Heart of the Rose. It’s not the intellect that awakens the Divine presence in all things, it’s the Spirit.
This brings us to the subject of actual transformation. To turning our will and our lives over to a higher calling. So let’s demystify some of the alchemical symbols that work us towards that goal a bit.
THE GREAT WORK
The Great Work in Alchemy is the transmutation of one element into another. MERCURY represents the human soul. The whole point of spiritual Alchemy is to transform our spiritual selves and realize higher levels of consciousness. However, a good deal of that transmutation is actually shrouded in the symbol itself. Let’s break it down real quick. Here we can actually see three distinct symbols drawn together. We Have a cross, a circle, and a crescent moon shape. Granted, we could write this off as merely a representation of our triune existence of mind, body and soul but there’s a bit more to it than that.
SALT represents our lower, earthly selves. This is what keeps us in the materialistic and Earthbound planes. When the cross dominates the soul it is buried by the Earth. Hence the reason the cross comes out at the bottom of the symbol for Mercury. After the fall of Man we became (or were convinced we are) dual in nature. As a result, our spiritual selves are trapped on the physical plane. It Is by allowing God’s grace and love to enter into us that we were able to Rise Above This into the cosmic Unity at the center of all creation.
The moon symbolizes our first order of transmutation from lead into silver. The Moon is a wonderful and reflective faculty. In my interpretation it is the medium through which God’s divine grace and love is reflected within us. I see the moon as a representation of Ru’ah, or Sophia. It is the female aspect of God that transforms us. She is the eternal reflection of the spotless mind of God; the acting force in creation itself. It is this aspect that pervades all living things and moves within them. As it’s written-
“From the mouth of the Most High I came forth, and covered the Earth like a mist.”-Ben Sira 24:3
The sun is the solar principle that symbolizes our highest state of being. It also represents our spiritual life and our attunement with all that is, God Himself in His male aspect. This is seen as an ideal state of consciousness as it can be whatever it wills itself to be. Jehovah- not the G-D who is but the who enacts His WILL. This is why most believers- from any walk of faith- choose to serve the will of the Divine rather using the natural laws to bend the world to their will. In doing so we are transforming ourselves to a higher state of being and helping others to do the same.
So, Mercury then, is an allegory for Consciousness in its raw form. It is the face of the Still Waters of the great sea over which the Spirit flew in the creation epoch of Genesis. It is the Prima Materia- the raw material God works with. This implies that all one has to do to elevate their Consciousness is awaken to the truth, God is within us and ALL LIVING THINGS.
Thus the Great Work begins…