Everyone tells you alchemy is some complicated. They say it’s this complex system of transmutation from one metal to the next but what they don’t tell you is you’re actually the raw material. Paracelsus blows the lid off of alchemy in one fell swoop. Granted, he was a mastermind that clearly founded a good deal of scientific research but he also knew the only way to understand everything was to understand how it related to other things. Nothing is a fixed and separate piece. Rather, we are all parts in a much more complex and beautiful unity. See, there was this fantastic ideology that shaped alchemy and took us into the realm of the mystical that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Hence the salt, sulfur and mercury in the picture above. These three things are the subtle philosophical principles at the backbone of alchemy. What I’d like to do now is demystify some of the concepts you’ve read about and make them accessible to you. Now, the only way to do that is to frame the three principles into concepts we understand.
Oh sure, I could give you the alchemical rundown and say that salt is the body of a thing that provides the space for sulfur and mercury to act… Sulfur is the mind of a thing that conducts the functions of consciousness- intellect- and the True Will of our personal desires… Mercury is the soul of a thing and contains vital forces that bridge the gap between the body and mind… but how much sense would that actually make without any frame of reference?
Obviously, the three principles interact in a way that would be impossible to separate, that much is certain, but what does that actually mean?
Lets start with an alchemical symbol we understand and break it down into modern terms. This symbol for mercury was first coined by an old court magician, and possible charlatan, we all know as John Dee, circa 1564 AD. We also find it in one of the original manuscripts the Rosicrucians released called the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz– mark that title well because I will do an in depth study on that particular title. (it’s a personal favorite of mine)
Anyways, the symbol is known as the monas-hieroglyphica and it’s an initiation to start the Great Work.
Yeah! Yeah! The Great Work in Alchemy is commonly known as the transmutation of one element into another. However, in spiritual alchemy Mercury represents the human soul. The whole point of spiritual Alchemy is to transform our spiritual selves and realize higher states of consciousness. That being said, a good deal of that transmutation is actually shrouded in the symbol itself.
SALT represents our lower, earthly Souls. 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.
I told you it was deep. We make the mistake of taking our state of being as fact. Obviously, the material world is very real and any choice we make has a very real consequence on how we experience things but that sense of division came with the fall. NOTHING IS DIVIDED, it’s our concrete- black and white- thinking that makes it so.
In previous posts on Mental Alchemy we’ve talked about how the sun and moon represent our conscious and subconscious mind but I want to flesh that out a bit. Feminine and masculine energies aren’t to be overcame they’re to be understood.
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.
Since I don’t want you to have to constantly double back and cross reference what I’m saying I’ll spell out how the moon relates to our subconscious in my eyes. When we talk of feminine energy on a grand scale we are talking about that Divine creative force that is the source of all life. While I call it the Holy Spirit I know some are more comfortable with the term Divine Feminine. Whatever words you use the result is still the same; it is our subconscious- that deep level of being that is intertwined with whatever God actually is.
It’s the interconnectedness that actually matters here. What I mean is we may see Godhead and Creation- conscious and subconscious- as two separate pieces but they’re not. My Taoists peeps would recognize what I’m saying by stating “whatever is happening outside or inside the mind doesn’t matter because it is the same mind that experiences it” with a bit more ease but the truth remains the same- God is not divide; God is one!
Alchemists would hit us with that old.. The sun is the solar principle that symbolizes our highest state of being. But… It also represents our spiritual life and our attunement with all that is, God Himself in His male aspect, which can only happen by embracing His female 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- ergo what alchemists call the union of the opposites.
I know. Comparing our conscious, waking minds and our subconscious minds to the wonderous interplay of God- as we have broken the concept down- together almost feels like humanistic reaching to understand but, on that note, I leave you with an old Hermetic axiom:
“As above, so below. As within, so without. As the Universe, so the Soul.”