Psychic and Spiritual Alchemy
Soul Apart From Body
The Higher Mysteries
Dialectic: Transformative Interchange
Knowledge As Self-Evolvement
Discovering the Spiritual Domain
Contact With Higher Beings
Plato's Mystical Science of Dialectic
Living In the Higher Self
Dimensions of Being
Living in the Supersensible Realm
"Man . . . is the true laboratory of the Hermetic art; his life the subject, the grand distillatory, the thing distilling and the thing distilled, and Self-Knowledge . . . the root of all Alchemical tradition . . ."|
| The Perennial Tradition, 1 the single stream of initiatory teaching flowing through all the great schools of philosophy and mysticism, has taken many embodiments and worked with many themes over the centuries. In this essay we shall explore the essence of Perennialist Alchemy: the theme within the Perennial Tradition which deals with the transmutation 2 of the the human essence.|
The "magic" or occult mystery of Alchemy--has been seen in three different lights:
There appear to have been three strands of thought and practice which worked simultaneously to take the serious alchemical practitioner through the various steps of the precise processes:
We are examining Perennialist Alchemy to gain a complete conceptual understanding of its essence, and also to attain a practical discernment of its actual realization. In this way we can attain the capability of transmuting ourselves into our Higher Self--our Soul. In our efforts we are particularly interested in persons who have successfully studied Perennialist Alchemy to the point that they can provide us with specific and practical means of learning how to realize our goal of self-transmutation. One of the most helpful in this regard is a woman named Mary A. Atwood (1817-1910) who wrote a truly outstanding book: Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850, 1960.
Atwood herself had our same interest in practical, useful knowledge about alchemy, as she states:
"Meanwhile we, who look directly onward to penetrate the mystery, seek not at random any longer in the outer world where so many before have foundered . . . but we look within, or rather, that we may learn how to do so, inquire of the wise ancients to direct us about the true method and conditions of Self-Knowledge. For it is this, no common trance or day-dream, or any fanatical vision of celestials, that we propose to scrutinize, but the true psychical experience. . . " (Italics added)
In this next section of the essay, we'll examine meticulously the teachings of two persons who have penetrated into the essence of Self-Transmutation in the alchemical tradition: Mary A. Atwood and Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925). We'll review their teachings through an ongoing interpretation of the meaning of their concepts and operations which will draw out deeper meanings and implications that will provide the basis for contemplation and practice. (I suggest you read the interpretation passages aloud to yourself.)
The one contemporary person who unmistakably achieved the locating of her consciousness in her Higher Self, her Soul, was Betty White. Her husband, Stewart Edward White (1873-1946), explained that she could psychically "travel" to any location on earth and bring back evidence that she had been in that spot, but they were interested in more important things: "the development of the individual as a whole to the point where he can enter what amounts to another region of consciousness." 6 Betty explained what was most important: "I am getting an actual demonstration, proof, of a spiritual existence as it is here, not in a future life. It's a very definite winged consciousness, nothing postponed or impossible of attainment about it. It's absolutely the next step we've got to take."
Theurgy consists of ritualized, performatory 7 procedures bringing about the transmutation of the Soul and its permanent return to the Eternal World. The initiate, through performing these ceremonies, 8 achieves ascent from the conditions of worldly existence and realization of unity with the Divine One.
The interpretation of Alchemy as theurgical induction of a higher trance state comes in part from Walter Leslie Wilmhurst's elucidation of Mary A. Atwood's Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, in his introduction to her book. Wilmhurst believed that Atwood had conceived of Alchemy as theurgical induction of a higher trance state, primarily because she had herself experienced a form of mystical enlightenment through her father's alchemically inducing a higher trance state in her. Mary Atwood had, before her marriage and while still living with her father, written a small book entitled Early Magnetism, in its Higher Relations to Humanity As Veiled in the Poets and the Prophets.
"Miss South," says Wilmhurst, "in an emotional moment and at her father's instance wrote and published (in 1846) a thin octavo volume (issued by H. Bailliere, London) . . ."
According to Wilmhurst, Mary South (later Mary Atwood) and her father approached Alchemy as a science, and attained a facility with this arcane science that enabled her to achieve a higher trance state through which she realized a mystical experience of enlightenment.
The highest form of ordinary hypnotic trance reaches its ultimate achievement in activating the subconscious mind and exploring its super-normal capabilities--quite an achievement in its own right.
With conventional hypnotic induction, the subject can learn to enter what Frederic W. H. Myers called the "hypnotic stratum." From that state of consciousness, ordinary persons can go back to the subconscious-subliminal state.
Only those who have been initiated into Higher Knowledge through alchemical or other mystical processes are able to move from the hypnotic stratum to Higher Consciousness--through learning to understand and develop the higher trance state.
In the higher trance state the subconscious and conscious minds are both much more active, whereas in the deepest ordinary trance state--somnambulism--the conscious mind becomes almost entirely quiescent and is no longer in control.
In the passage immediately below we can see the difference between an ordinary and a higher trance state experience.
If we examine persons who claim to be currently practicing some form of alchemical or psychic process--for example those claiming to be able to perform astral projection (AP) or out of body experiences (OBE)--we find that almost all of them are self-deluded charlatans. We examined three of these mountebanks in a previous essay. As you can see from reading that essay--or looking at the hundreds of supposed OBE and AP "experts" holding forth on YouTube videos, these charlatans delude other people--for exorbitant sums of money--into believing that they--the "experts"--can locate their consciousness outside their bodies--and can teach their customers to do so as well.
We've seen that authentic alchemy--as well as all other processes used by Perennialist adepts--results in a transmutation of a person from an ordinary self-centered, ignorant, basically illiterate individual into an altruistic, truth-seeking philosopher (lover of wisdom). A brief examination of the current crop of charlatans--of all stripes and kinds--reveals that they are ordinary self-centered, ignorant, basically illiterate persons, evincing no improvement, let alone complete transmutation into a higher type of being. The only change seems to be that they become even more greedy and grasping capitalists than before.
Most persons at present are so psychologically immature that they're unaware that they can be manipulated by a charlatan through emotional stimuli, causing these persons to believe they have been involved in an out of body or astral projection event when it's nothing more than a heightened, subjective, counterfeit experience. A person who achieved the genuine capability of unity with his Higher Self would never consider creating a corporation or a program through which to pretend to "sell" this capability to those willing to pay exorbitant prices.
As we see from the quotation above, alchemy consists of spiritual processes that can prove dangerous to the mentally and morally unprepared. Alchemy can be disastrous to this kind of mere thrill-seeker because:
I suggest that you take these warnings seriously as you proceed with this essay.
The understanding of alchemy as the theurgic induction of a higher trance state allows us to utilize this process in our own self-transmutation. Only a fully realized adept--an initiated Perennialist teacher--can perform the complete theurgic induction of a higher trance state in a seeker. However, it is possible to accomplish the first stages of this process through theurgic self-induction of a higher trance state, as in the exercises outlined below.
Read aloud to yourself the theurgic affirmations, actualizing the elements they refer to.
"Theurgic union is attained only by the perfective operation of ineffable rites correctly performed, rites which are beyond all ordinary understanding and by the power of unutterable symbols which are intelligible to Divinity.""There is another ultimate underlying potency (αρχέ) of the soul which is superior to the whole realm of nature and generated existence. Through it we are enabled to attain communion with the superior intelligences, of being transported beyond the scenes and arrangements of this world, and of partaking of the Life Eternal and the higher powers of the heavenly ones. Through this capability we are able to set ourselves free from the domination of Fate, and are made, so to speak, the arbiters of our own destinies. For, when the more excellent parts of us become filled with energy, and the soul is exalted to communion with superior beings, then it becomes separate altogether from those conditions which keep it under the dominion of the present every-day life of the world, exchanges the present for another life, gives itself to a different order, and abandons the conventional habits belonging to the external order of things, to enter and mingle itself with the order which pertains to the higher life." 10
I am my soul
Becoming Aware Of Life In the Supersensible World
Making contact with Divinity
1 See the author's book, The Perennial Tradition
2 Transmutation: "Despite the soul's fall there lingers in it, although in a condition of atrophy and enchantment, a residual germ of that divine principle which once wholly actuated it; a germ capable of being so stimulated into activity as to raise the personal consciousness even to the point of unity and identity with the Universal Mind and through the healing efficacy of that principle's transmuting potencies, to effect such an organic change in the psychical, and even the physical parts of our present frail and imperfect nature as will bring them into a divinised condition."
Walter Leslie Wilmhurst, Introduction to Mary A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850, 1960.
3 The Secret of Hermetic Alchemy
4 Mary A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850, 1960
5 Vincent Bridges, "The Gnostic Science of Alchemy," Source
6 Stewart Edward White, Across the Unknown, 1939
7 Performatory: The act of making statements of the form "I hereby . . ." or "I pronounce . . ." in which the speaker is declaring that the utterance itself has accomplished the act it describes. "I now pronounce you man and wife." "I hereby sentence you to life in prison."
8 Ceremony: An expression of shared feelings and attitudes through more or less formally ordered actions of an essentially symbolic nature performed on appropriate occasions. A ceremony involves stereotyped bodily movements, often in relation to objects (words, images, music) possessing symbolic meaning. For example, people bow or genuflect, tip hats, present arms, slaughter cattle, salute flags, and perform a myriad of other actions. Ceremonies express, perpetuate, and transmit elements of the value and sentiment system and aim at preserving such values and sentiments from doubt and opposition; moreover, they intensify the solidarity of the participants. Ceremonies are found in all societies.
9 Introduction by Walter Leslie Wilmhurst to Mary A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850, 1960
9 Introduction by Walter Leslie Wilmhurst to Mary A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850, 1960