top of page
ALCHEMY IN PRACTICE
Let us begin this practical part of our lesson with the subject of Mystical Alchemy. As previously explained, the Philosopher's Stone in this branch of Alchemy is not a powder or any sort of material object; it is rather a spiritual object, being a symbol of the True Self. To acquire this stone in Mystical Alchemy is to attain the ideal identity of our inmost nature. In the Philosophy of Magick, such is called "the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel." It is by this attainment alone that the Mystical Alchemist is able to transmute all base metals into the Perfect Gold of the Sun, conforming all things to his/her True Will. But there are various forms of alchemystical practice to attain the Stone of the Philosophers and to effect this Supreme Transmutation.
Mystical Alchemy can be practiced through the Eastern techniques of Kundalini Yoga. However, there is a form of Occidental Kundalini Yoga. Such is one of the central mysteries of the royal system of initiation in the New Order of the Golden Dawn. This system, as previously explained, is sevenfold, having seven principal grades or steps of initiation. Each one of these initiatory steps directly corresponds to the awakening of one of the seven Chakkras. The actual alchemical process begins with the First Grade of the Zelator.
In the Thelemic Ceremony of the Zelator, the Hierophant proclaims the following to the initiate: "The word Zelator is from the ancient Egyptian Zaruator, signifying `Searcher for Hathoor.' Hathoor is otherwise called Het-Heru, that is, the House of Horus. This House of Horus is Nature Herself, the Temple of the Elements, of which you are a zealous student." Moreover, the Hierophant proclaims: "Zelator is further the title of the assistant of an Alkhemist who must keep the Fire burning in the Athanor or Alkhemical Furnace. The Alkhemist of the Operation is the Inner Self, the Athanor is the human body, and the Fire is the Sacred Flame of the True Will. As a Zelator you must keep this Fire burning in your body and brain, by constant dedication of yourself to the Great Work of doing your True Will, that you may fulfill the Law of Thelema."
Unknown to many, the twenty-two Atu of Thoth or Major Arcana of Tarot symbolically describe a form of Occidental Kundalini Yoga or an alchemical operation of Self-Transformation. They represent particular stages in the Great Work, or stages in what is called the "process of individuation" in the field of Psychology. The Tarot is, to all intents and purposes, a symbolic book of Self-Initiation, a method and means of realizing by oneself the wisdom of one's True Self without the guidance of a visible teacher, but by way of an invisible teacher who is, in fact, the One Teacher of which every visible teacher is only a symbol. In Tarot this One Teacher is Thoth, who is the Mercury of the Sages.
In the Masonic book "Morals and Dogma", by Albert Pike, we find the following comment on page 777: "He who desires to attain to the understanding of the Grand Word and the possession of the Great Secret, ought carefully to read the Hermetic philosophers, and he will undoubtedly attain initiation, as others have done; but he must take, for the key of their allegories, the single dogma of Hermes, contained in his Table of Emerald, and follow, to class his acquisitions of knowledge and direct the operation, the order indicated in the Kabalistic alphabet of the Tarot." This comment contains one of the most important clues to the practical understanding of the Royal Art and Science of Alchemy. In my own opinion, for whatever worth it may hold for you, without Tarot the Art of Alchemy is a meaningless operation, and this extends to all other fields of the Hermetic Science. Thus did Eliphas Levi declare: "All secrets of the Qabalah and Magic, all mysteries of the elder world, all sciences of the patriarchs, all historical traditions of primeval times, are enclosed in the Hieroglyphical Book of Thoth."
It has been said that the word Taro is derived from the Egyptian terms Tar (Road) and Ro (Royal). Thus the Tarot is the Royal Road of Initiation. To travel this regal road we work with the twenty-two Atu of Thoth in accordance with the Qabalistic scheme of the Tree of Life, commencing our alchemical journey with the Serpent's Tail at the place of Atu XXI at the Path of Tav on the bottom of the Tree of Life, and we end at the Serpent's Head at the place of Atu 0 at the Path of Aleph at the top of the Tree of Life. The Serpent embraces within its coils the twenty-two Paths and it ascends from Tav to Aleph. Such is the Path of Initiation by which the Mystical Alchemist can attain the Stone of the Philosophers to effect the Supreme Transmutation. The Serpent in this operation is, of course, the SECRET FIRE of Alchemy or the Kundalini of Yoga without which nothing can be accomplished.
There is, however, another method of traveling the Royal Road, but concerning this I must maintain a certain degree of silence, lest I reveal what must be discovered for and by oneself. Yet the nature of this secret operation is so obvious that it is like a light that is so bright that it makes one blind. In this tarotic alchemystic operation the Qabalistic scheme of the Tree of Life is not employed in the same manner as it is in the operation that is explained in the above paragraph. It is rather an operation that is independent of the system of initiation that is outlined on the Tree of Life, yet it does in fact partake of the mysteries of this system after another manner. But this operation is only for the few, and thus it is concealed beneath the veil of the obvious. It is only revealed to them who are duly prepared to execute its formula. To others it will seem a meaningless path.
Astrology, the Science of the Stars, also has a story to tell us. In this science there are seven traditional Planets and twelve Signs of the Zodiac. As previously explained, the seven traditional Planets are linked with the seven Chakkras of Yoga and seven alchemical Metals, and they also represent seven stages in the Great Work. Most sevenfold systems of initiation are based on the astrological model of the seven traditional Planets. The alchemical Metals themselves grow in the bowels of the earth under the magical influence of the Planets. In the Mithraic Mysteries the initiate climbed seven metallic steps representing his ascent into the seven Planetary Spheres, and Zosimos defined Alchemy as the Mithraic Mystery.
The Signs of the Zodiac also represent distinct stages in the Great Work, but there are twelve of these stages instead of seven. These twelve stages are defined by the nature of the Zodiacal Signs themselves which have planetary and elemental attributions. The Circle of the Zodiac, called the Path of the Sun, is the Circle of Initiation, containing twelve distinct Signs or stages. Like the images of the Atu of Thoth, the Signs of the Zodiac are images of archetypes in the Collective Unconscious which can be systematically evoked and consciously experienced for the attainment of the Philosopher's Stone.
In each of these methods the principal theme is the realization of a single object: the True Self. Such is the Indivisible Self of the Universe, the One without a second. The great secret of Alchemy can be summed up in a few simple words: "All is One." This is the meaning of the Greek motto "en to pan" which, note it well, is composed of three words with seven letters, which relate to the Three Principles and Four Elements of Alchemy, to the seven alchemical Metals or Interior Stars, and to the seven Steps of the Great Work which are the seven Grades of Initiation. One of the symbols of the Great Work is Ouroboros, a Serpent forming a Circle by swallowing its own Tail and which bears this Greek motto upon it. The Circle that is formed by this Serpent gives us a clue into the nature and operation of the Great Work itself.
Now this Oneness or Unity of All is concealed in a secret substance called First Matter (Prima Materia), which is not matter in the common sense, as it is perceived by our human senses; it is the potential rather than the actual; it is matter in its metaphysical sense. According to Thomas Vaughan: "If thou dost know the First Matter, know also for certain that thou hast discovered the Sanctuary of Nature." In the Yoga System of Patanjali, the First Matter is called Prakriti, the primal source of the three Gunas or Qualities of Nature. Prakriti is the Soul of the World (Anima Mundi), also called the Great Mother. In the Qabalah, She is Neschamah, the higher Soul of Nature whose formless form remains pure and unchanged behind all change and diversity in form. She is the eternal essence in all things, the secret substance of all visible and invisible objects in Nature.
"The squaring of the circle" is one of the most important interpretations and definitions of the Great Work of Alchemy. The Circle represents Unity, the First Matter of our work, and the Square represents the Four Elements of Nature which emanate from and return to the Circle. In Alchemy it is asserted that the metals are composed of the Four Elements, which the ancient philosophers called Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. The actual differences between the metals are the result of the particular proportions in which the elements are combined in the metals. Gold itself is the natural result of a particular combination of the elements. The other metals of Alchemy are also combinations of the elements. By extracting and purifying the elements in the base metals, thereby reducing the metals to their pure state of Prima Materia, and then by skillfully converting the actual proportions in the combinations of the elements which constitute the life of the metals, the metals can be transformed into gold.
By purifying an object of the Four Elements we are left with a fifth element which we call the Quintessence and the First Matter of our work. In WoMan this fifth element is called his/her Spirit. Now in Mystical Alchemy the elements represent the human senses. Fire is the sense of sight, Water is the sense of taste, Air is the sense of smell, Earth is the sense of touch, and Spirit is the sense of sound. The fifth element of Spirit, unlike the others, has a direct link with our True Self, which is the Crown of our alchemystical work. To attain this fifth element we must first purify or deprogram ourselves. Then must we recreate or reprogram ourselves in accordance with our True Will. When the True Self is attained through its so-called purification, or, in other words, when we rise above the elemental senses, it is then that we are able to properly recreate ourselves, to reprogram our systems, or to recombine the elements to fit in with our new perspective. But first we must purify our systems; only then are we truly fit and freely able to properly consecrate ourselves to the Great Work, to reprogram ourselves in accordance with our True Will, and to effect the Supreme Transmutation.
To deprogram ourselves is not really an act of elimination but of purification. In this case the elemental senses are to be purified. The senses, as commonly applied in the world, are material in nature, causing an identification of consciousness with the material plane at the expense of the spiritual. But we cannot realize our True Self if our senses are bound to the material world; they must become the vehicles of our True Self. The senses must be purified and then magically dedicated to the Great Work if we are to attain the same; and this dedication must not be partial, but whole. For the senses are the instruments which we must use in the operation of the Great Work; they are the essential, creative vehicles of our True Self which need to be completely lustrated and then magically consecrated to the True Self for the proper execution and essential fulfillment of its True Will which is the attainment of the Great Work itself.
What is needed first is for you to realize your True Self beyond your elemental senses by eliminating your identification with them and their innumerable desires, and in this profound realization is the very act of purification. If a WoMan can witness something, it means that he/she is beyond that thing, for awareness is transcendence. We are always witnessing our senses in the form of desires, usually becoming identified with them. We take into account no measure of the True Self which is beyond the senses and desires, but instead we become slaves to our senses. But if we go within and acknowledge our True Self beyond our senses, and become a witness rather than an animal, then do we transcend our senses and gain the power to master them. The True Self is the ultimate source of the elements, therefore we must be the True Self to master them. But this does not mean that we have to give up our senses with all their delicious desires. It is all a matter of what we are identified with, our True Self or our desires. We are not our desires, but they are a part of our personality which is the divine expression of our soul.
The laboratory wherein to perform and accomplish this alchemystical work is naturally the Body of WoMan. And since a WoMan's body is his/her own and not another's, it is a simple fact of Nature that only that WoMan can work upon him/herself to accomplish the Great Work. No person can do the work for us; we must all do it by our own individual efforts. Mystical Alchemy is a personal science, a sublime and effective system of Self-Initiation. Only you, as a single individual, can calculate and follow your way up the Great Mountain of Hermetic Attainment. It is entirely a matter of your own practical application and devotion. All essential guidance is within you, in the inmost centre of your heart where your own Holy Guardian Angel, or Inner Self, resides. To depend upon any other thing than your own Holy Guardian Angel to accomplish the Great Work is to insult your Angel who is with you to instruct and guide you. All essential wisdom by which to achieve the Great Work is to be ascertained only within you; nowhere else will you find the Truth.
But enough of all this mystical talk! Let us now tackle the more mundane aspect of Alchemy. Such is contained in the ancient Science and Art of Sexual Alchemy, which was the great secret of the Egyptian Magicians, the Gnostics, the Ophites, the Initiates of Mithras, the Knights of the Temple, the Freemasons, and the Brethren of the Rosy Cross. Aleister Crowley envisaged Sexual Alchemy to be the flower of Magick and the key to the future progress of humanity. By it we are able to partake the Supreme Sacrament of the Golden Dawn, to create dynamic changes in accordance with our True Will, and to make Light, Life, Love and Liberty our chosen lot. Members of the New Order of the Golden Dawn are instructed in the mysteries of Sexual Alchemy by way of "ceremonial symbolism," which impresses on their minds the universal formula of the Great Work by which they may become Adept in Our Royal Art to accomplish their True Will.
In Sexual Alchemy there are certain emblems linked with the Tetragrammaton. These are the Red Lion for Yod (Fire), the White Eagle for Heh (Water), the Serpent for Vav (Air), and the Gluten for Heh final (Earth). The Red Lion is the male operator, the White Eagle is the female operator, the Serpent is that which swims in the Blood of the Red Lion, and the Gluten is the Menstruum of the White Eagle. The Egg which is laid by the White Eagle is fertilized by the Serpent. The instrument or apparatus of the male operator is the Athanor or Furnace. The instrument or apparatus of the female operator is the Cucurbite or Retort. Now when the Blood of the Red Lion is one with the Gluten of the White Eagle, and when the Serpent and the Egg are perfectly fused, then is the Stone of the Philosophers manufactured. In this the Lion exchanges his Red Blood for the White Gluten of the Eagle. The Red Lion turns White, and the White Eagle turns Red. The Fire burns up the Water and the Water extinguishes the Fire. Such is the consummation of the Royal Marriage of the Sun and Moon in the Hermetic Vessel.
Basil Valentine wrote: "Let the Lion and Eagle duly prepare themselves as Prince and Princess of Alchemy -- as they may be inspired. Let the Union of the Red Lion and the White Eagle be neither in cold nor in heat...Now then comes the time when the elixir is placed in the alembic retort to be subjected to the gentle warmth...If the Great Work be transubstantiation then the Red Lion may feed upon the flesh and blood of the God, and also let the Red Lion duly feed the White Eagle -- yea, may the Mother Eagle give sustainment and guard the inner life."
I would now like to present to you an alchemical ritual called "The Ceremony of the Sun and Moon." This ritual contains the whole secret of the Great Work from the point of view of the material plane. It is a Sexual Ceremony designed to unite the Sun and Moon to produce the Stone of the Philosophers. This ritual is specifically designed for the use of two participants. These are the Priest of the Sun and the Priestess of the Moon. In this ritual the Sun and Moon are invoked in the Priest and Priestess who then unite in ecstasy to produce the Philosopher's Stone. It is the Official Thelemic Marriage Ceremony of the Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn, composed by my own hand in the year 1991 e.v. by the magical inspiration, and under the guiding light, of the Sun and Moon. As such, it is a unique contribution to the Magick of Thelema, and it is the first ceremony of its kind to openly reveal the secrets of Sexual Alchemy. For it is a True Ceremony of the Rose and Cross, only to be understood by those men and women of the earth who live and breathe in the Secret Sanctuary of the Gnosis. Such are the Holy Brothers and Sisters of the Rosy Cross, whose names are writ with blood in the Stone of Eternity.
DE MAGNUM OPUS SOLIS
(ON THE GREAT WORK OF THE SUN)
Now, o my beloved brethren of the Golden Dawn, shalt thou read herein the words of Hermes Trismegistus, Thrice-greatest Lord of Our Royal Art and Science, whose Voice is Wisdom and whose Thought is Light. And this, o my beloved brethren, is His Holy Book, dedicated to His Royal Work, the Magnum Opus of the Sun. It is made of thirty-six verses in all, being a manifestation of the Glory of Mercury, from whence it was written in the mind of a Magician. It is the magical fruit of the Invocation of Hermes-Mercurius-Thoth, the Threefold Lord of Our Majestic Opus of the Sun, in whose Holy Image it was written. Mayest thou partake of the splendour of its Truth, tasting the sweetness of its Wisdom, to fortify and illumine thy soul, mind and body with the Life and Light of the Sun which is the Eternal Spirit of the Golden Dawn.
Continue to the holy book:
Alchemy in Practice: Text
bottom of page