This is a transcription of a lecture originally given live and unscripted on Gnostic Radio. You can download the audio here: Alchemy 03 The Laboratory of the Alchemist AUDIO . There is also a reference PDF: Alchemy 03 The Laboratory of the Alchemist PDF .
In the previous two lectures, which were called "The Elements in Spiritual Growth” and “Transmutation," we were talking about how spirituality is based on the transformation of energy. One of the emphasized points of those lectures is that every given element and every given existing thing is composed of three components:
All things have this trinity, from the tiniest to the largest. We ourselves are composed of these three components. Only by working with these three in conjunction with each other can we fulfill the purpose of spirituality.
We also described how those three components relate to the five basic elements that make up all manifested things.
The five elements are sometimes simplified to just four: air, fire, water, and earth. Those four elements in spirituality do not refer merely to physical elements. They refer to spiritual and psychological elements as well. The elements also are composed of those three primary factors: matter, energy, and consciousness.
The four elements are ultimately only manifestations of one element. They are particularizations, condensations, or crystallizations of a more primordial, raw matter-energy-consciousness. In Hinduism, that fundamental source is called Prakiti. In Hebrew it is Shekinah. In English terms, we would call it "Divine Mother." In Latin, it is mater, and it is where we get the word matter. This word has in its construction the root term or phrase ma, which is universally the word for mother.
The four elements, air, fire, water, and earth, are particularizations or condensations of the body of the mother nature, Ma, mater, Amma, mother, matter—these are all the same thing.
Our physical body is a very gross level or dense level of the condensation of these four elements that emerged into existence (because of a physical mother). But that ability for that physical body to exist, even though it is composed of these four elements and they came through a physical mother, is only possible because of a cosmic mother, our individual inner mother, she who gave us these forces and energies to work with.
That primordial source can also be called Kundalini in Sanskrit. But we have to understand the use of that word "Kundalini," because in us, it is not active. It is latent, it is asleep. This is why Kundalini is depicted in ancient religions as a sleeping serpent, a force that is not yet activated, not yet awakened. But it is the very power or energy of the Divine Mother, and this is why She is always represented with a serpent. My particular favorite representation of that force is the Divine Mother Athena or Minerva whose symbol is the serpent; she wears a serpent, and she commands the serpent, and often times you see here with the serpent in her hand. That serpent represents the power of nature—Her power, that in us is asleep, not yet activated. That power is the Ouroborus, the serpent eating its tail: it is the cyclical power of nature, which, as the root of all things, can be found in all things, but particularized in different ways.
Unfortunately in us, that energy has been dispersed, misused, and has elaborated what in Greek symbolism is represented as the opposite of Athena. In Greek mysteries that opposite is called Medusa, which still begins with M, Ma. Medusa is a woman who fell from purity because of pride, vanity, and lust, thus that single serpent becomes many. The same duality of the serpent force can be seen in other religions, such as related to Moses in the book of Numbers. Because of the ego, the single serpent of the Divine Mother becomes multiplied, symbolized as the serpents on her head.
Her horrible power is to turn her victims into stone, into earth. In other words, the power of the Medusa is to crystalize the ego. The power of Medusa is the same power of the Divine Mother, but inverted. She turns the heroes into stone, into earth, just like the wife of Lot in the Bible, who looks back at the degeneration in her past (Sodom and Gomorra), and turns into a pillar of salt. Alchemically, this is the same symbol. Salt is a mineral, it belongs to earth. Looking back to the past represents how the ego is attached. All of this is represented in the Arcanum Six.
The Divine Mother, as the root energy, can be called Prakriti, and another word for that energy is Akash, the root vibration or prana, the energy that vibrates in all things. So it is in us, it is the core or heart fire in every atom within us. Physically, and psychologically, we have that prana within, we have the power of the divine mother. The problem is that we have misused it and crystalized the ego; we have turned that power into something negative. The power of Medusa is very strong in us.
That is why in the previous lectures we were describing how to transmute, how to reduce elements back to their essence, and to reform them into something pure. What this essentially means is that we take that very power of the Divine Mother and harness it. And we pulverized everything that is within us in order to reform it. To create something new, something pure, something better. In other words, we withdraw the energy of the four elements in order to bring them back to their original source, which is Akash. In the tradition of alchemy, that force is called Quintessence, which means the fifth power. It is the fifth element. Is is the Kundalini, it is the energy of the Divine Mother.
In order to do that work, we need a laboratory. Without a laboratory, it is impossible to perform that type of work. We need a place within which we can bring the needed elements, focus on them, pulverize them, purify them, extract the essence, cast aside what is unneeded and unnecessary, and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. The four elements, through the process of heat and pressure, gradually, with patience, become pure. This means that the power of the Divine Mother grows in us. Awakens. Emerges... And instead of being a latent and static power, becomes an active or kinetic power, something that moves, something that acts.
This illustration represents the laboratory that we need.
This illustration was designed by an Alchemist-Kabbalist from the 16th century named Heinrich Kunrath. He was a great Alchemist and a great Kabbalist, a Christian Kabbalist. He was a European, not a Jew, but a Christian, who applied the principles of Kabbalah and Alchemy to his Christian faith. He taught his principals through these type of drawings; he hired artists to create them. They are all beautiful, and there is a series of these types of images. This one in particular is important for our work, because it represents in symbolic form the teachings that only now are being taught publicly in lectures like this. The teachings that he was working with and protected were completely secret. He utilized these images both to communicate to other initiates who were practicing this science, and also to fish for students, to attract souls who were prepared, who worked with the science, which were very few, and even now are very few. The science was not stated explicitly or given explicitly but was given in symbolic form which only the trained could penetrate. Only those who were trained, only those who were given the keys or clues could understand the meanings hidden in these types of drawings.
This drawing belongs to the Western tradition of alchemy. If you go to a university or a school where they study Alchemy in a scholarly fashion, as history, they will tell you all kinds of inventive theories about alchemy, but it is all garbage, because they are not initiated into the tradition of alchemy. Everything the university and library books, and websites, tell you about alchemy is just theories invented by people who have no idea what they are talking about; they are just spreading their ideas and theories about Alchemy, but none of that is what Alchemy actually is. Only the ones who have been initiated in the science, who have been brought into the actual tradition and experienced first hand know what alchemy actually is. There are many famous books, websites and movies that claim to teach alchemy and that talk about many beautiful and fantastic things, yet they are all wrong. Their theories can be very beautiful, very compelling, and move your heart, but be completely wrong.
Alchemy is a science to access the power of the Divine Mother Herself, which is a divine power. It is not given to the profane. It is not given to those who simply are curious. Ever. Even now, in these times in which the teachings are being openly revealed, the actual access to the power is still restrained, it is only given by one being: God.
Only the divine bestows the power of alchemy on the person. No school, no book, no instructor bestows that power. They may open doors, but to actually become an Alchemist is a power given only by God. It can only be that way. To understand that we need to know what alchemy means. We need to understand the real meaning. Not the meaning that we see in movies and in popular books, but the actual meaning. So to understand that we will study this drawing.
Lead into Gold
Regarding real alchemy, Samael Aun Weor said,
“We need to transmute the lead of personality into the gold of Spirit. This work is only possible in the laboratory of the Alchemist.”
Probably the most popular statement that people make about alchemy is that its supposedly was just a farcical belief of a bunch of clowns running around Europe claiming to have the ability to transform crude metals into pure gold. Without question, there were many such clowns. There were people who dressed themselves up to look fantastic, to play the part of an Alchemist, who were tricksters, who were only trying to get attention or money. Without a doubt, there are many such people even today.
The truth is that the concept of transmuting lead into gold was merely a symbol of the actual work of alchemy, which was to transform the base metals, the earth, into pure metals. Symbolically speaking, that earth is us. In Kabbalah, the earth is represented by the sephirah Malkuth, which represents you and me. Our metal, our earth, is very impure. It is very corrupted, very weak, susceptible to many illnesses and dangers, very impermanent, very unreliable. We do not know when we will die, we are very susceptible to illness, weakness, and pain. We have no real power in the world. The tiniest thing can lay us flat. A microbe can make us sick, and kill us. This does not equate to strength. This is not a sign of strength or power in nature. It is a sign of weakness.
To transmute the lead into gold refers to transforming the psyche, the mind, the heart, the personality, everything, into spiritual gold, a vessel through which the Divine Mother can operate without any obstacle.
Samael sais this work is only possible in the laboratory. Naturally, over the centuries those who have been curious about alchemy, who have wanted to make gold so they could become famous and rich, have made themselves many laboratories and tried to reproduce the teachings of the alchemists physically, by crafting all sorts of fantastic vessels and objects and ovens and limbics and many type of tools that they've gathered together, and as a result we have now our modern science of chemistry. What we have now today as chemistry came from alchemy; you see the words are similar? But the difference between chemistry and alchemy is that chemistry has lost the first two letters "Al". If you know Arabic, you know what that means. If you know Hebrew, you know what that means. "Al", "El" means God. Al-kimia means “to fuse with God.” To bind, to merge, to become one. Modern chemistry renounces divinity, “Al.” Modern chemistry has created some useful things, we do not deny it, but no chemist is an alchemist.
We see here in this image the typical representation of alchemists laboratories that have been mimicked and celebrated for centuries in the West, as many foolish, greedy people have wasted their lives attempting to create gold from lead, studying ancient texts, pouring their fortunes into futile pursuits.
What we need as a laboratory is not this type of laboratory. The type of laboratory we need is revealed in this next image.
This painting is also a painting of alchemy, and it represents the great difference between those who are initiated into actual alchemy and those who are not. This image shows an alchemist in the center, in his robe, who is observing an angel, a woman. She is seated in a very strange looking tree, and behind the alchemist is a building, and inside the building we see one of those alchemists laboratories filled with all sorts of strange vessels in an oven. This image shows the difference between the materialists, the curious, the skeptics, the chemists, who play with physical matter as they pursue their greed, as they pursue their lust, envy, and pride, attempting to play games with the matter of nature, the energy of nature, while ignoring its consciousness. That is represented in that mechanical laboratory in the back. That is why at the bottom of it says "Opus Mechanicus", the mechanical work, physical work, literal work, the spiritually useless work.
On the left we see a woman, an angel, a cherubim, who has on her head a seven pointed crown and has under her hips a fire. That is the fire of the Divine Mother Nature. That is prana, Akash, Kundalini, She represents nature, who here is revealed to the eyes of the alchemist who looks here directly in the face and knows who She is, and bows his head. But you see that his hands are hidden from view, because the work that he is performing is not visible to the uninitiated; his right hand is hidden, his left hand is hidden, enclosed in black. The work of alchemy has always been done in darkness, hidden from the eyes of those who were uninitiated, in order to protect it and in order to protect the uninitiated, because those who play games with this type of teaching can cause great harm if they are not properly prepared. The tree that She sits in represents the Kabbalah, the structure of nature, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, and as one works with nature that is what precisely is elaborated and protected: our own inner tree of life. This tree has three roots, a trinity, which are united in one as a fire. That fire is the Kundalini, the fire that gives the power to create life. Naturally, it is the sexual power.
So this image shows us that we need proper instruction, and we need to understand that the work is in our relationship with our Divine Mother. No where else.
This image is from an ancient book called Mutus Liber, which means “the mute book” or “silent book,” and it illustrates the principals of alchemy. It shows a typical representation in alchemy: a couple, man and women, working with difference devices in the process of purifying, heating and breaking down, purifying, heating and breaking down, purifying, heating things up, breaking them down, purifying, constantly working until new things emerge, many symbolic forms that are hard to understand, that are very dream like. At the bottom, we see the Divine Mother as Luna / Selene, the Moon, with Saturn. The Moon represents procreation, birth, gestation, life-giving. Saturn represents death. Alchemy is that: the death of the old and impure (the "lead"), in order to give birth to the soul, the spiritual gold.
- Al / El: "God"
- Khemia / kimia (Greek χυμεία) which means "to fuse or cast a metal."
Here we see the meaning of alchemy: to fuse with God, to make our metal, our body, our heart, our mind, one with the divine. This is the real meaning of alchemy.
And what about the laboratory? Of course, nowadays we take this concept of a laboratory for granted, and we immediately think of people wearing glasses running around in white coats, and usually have a bunch of pens in their pockets, and we think they are very smart. Nowadays, we treat scientists like priests, as if somehow they are better than other people, or holy, as if they know more than the rest of us, but really, the so-called “scientists” did not invent science of the laboratory. In fact, the whole concept of science and the laboratory came from the tradition of alchemy. Furthermore, all of the historical scientists were alchemists: Newton, Gallieo, even Einstein knew what real alchemy was.
"Because the way by the Mercurial principle may be impregnated has been thought fit to be concealed by others that have know it, and therefore may possibly be an inlet to something more noble that is not to be communicated without immense damage to the world if there be any verity in Hermetic writers. There are other things besides the transmutation of metals which none but they understand." - Isaac Newton
The word laboratory actually means something different from what we think it means. It comes from Latin: laboritorum.
The first part, labor, means “to exert with hardship, pain, fatigue,” a work of labour, something difficult, something that is not easy... Without question, that applies to the Gnostic work. It is very tiring work, a very exhausting work. It requires great exertion, toil, it engages much hardship, and causes much pain. It is not pleasant. But it is worth it.
The second part is oratorium, which means “a place of prayer.”
This image shows a woman representing nature, but she's removing her mask, meaning that he's seeing her true face. The veil of Isis is being lifted. Remember Isis states: "No mortal can see past my veil," which means that in order to see the face of Isis you have to become more than a mere mortal. You cannot reach that state by means of devices in a physical, common laboratory. That is only possible by appealing to the divine, and through the application of a very specific and exact science. Thus: labor-oratorum.
This image of the Alchemists' laboratory was drawn by an artist for Heinrich Kunrath; he did not draw it himself. He gave instructions to the artist, who drew this based on those instructions. It is filled with cryptic messages, and we do not have time in the context of the lecture to explain all of them, but I want to point out some of the important ones because they help us understand the teachings of alchemy.
In this image, before a tent is an alchemist on his knees, with his hands out, praying. The tent is very much like the tents used by the Israelites when they were out in the wilderness. Inside the tent we see a table, and on it are many sacred books, but of great significance here is the posture of the alchemist. Nothing in this image is accidental. It is all purposeful. The alchemist is on his knees, as is a sign of humility, obedience. It is a representation that in order to engage in the real work of alchemy, we have to bow before the will of God. Not acting from our own will, but doing what is required of us by God. His outstretched hands form a crucifix. This is a complete relinquishment of personal will. This represents the full and complete sacrifice of oneself on the cross. This is to be crucified on behalf of others. This is to die in order to serve. The alchemist here is representing that the basis of the work is prayer, obedience, devotion.
That side of the image, the left side, is the prayerful aspect, the emotional aspect of the work. On the right hand side, we see the logical, labor aspect: all the tools that are arranged in the laboratory, and in the middle, we see a table, that is also with many instruments, especially musical instruments.
Of particular significance here is that the entire image is topped by a seven pointed lantern. It is a candelabra with seven flames.
Those seven flames hang from a trinity, so there you see the tree of life: the law of three and the law of seven. Those are the forces at work that we need to harness: the three and the seven. We need to light those fires in our own inner heavens, in order to succeed in this work of alchemy.
On the left hand side we see the alchemist in prayer, kneeling on his cushion; on the very top of that tent we see a cross, which always represents the four elements in activity.
The cross represents the crossing of man and women. The vertical pole represents the active principal, the male, while the horizontal pole represents the passive principal, or receptive principal, the woman.
The cross is also the four elements: air, fire, water, and earth.
These aspects are all always engaged in any practice of alchemy. Moreover, they are the pinnacle, they are the most sacred, and they must be held very high.
Below that it says, “oratorium,” which means "A place of prayer."
Below that it says in Latin and Hebrew:
Felix cui יהוה a consilis
"Happy is he who follows the counsel of יהוה Yod Hei Vav Hei.”
That יהוה Yod Hei Vav Hei, or Yod Havah, is our Inner Guide, our Inner Divinity, the four forces of the Tetragrammaton that work in us. That is our Master. No one else. No one outside, anywhere, should be our counsel. Our counsel should be God. We should seek out the guidance we need through prayer, not the internet, not e-mail, not the phone, not over coffee, not in groups, churches, or temples, not at retreats or conferences, but through prayer. Everyone talks about wanting guidance from the Divine, but few have the determination to actually acquire it. This is the message at the pinnacle here, below the cross. We must follow the guidance of our Inner Master. To do that we need to pray, constantly.
Under that in Hebrew is says הכמהאל ha-kama-el, which means, “the longing for God.” That should be our motivation: longing for Divinity. Not the longing for fame, recognition, security, comfort. The longing for God, at any price, at any cost. We can withstand any suffering if we hold fast to that longing for God. If we remember our Being, constantly, focusing our attention on that Divinity, we can withstand anything. The problem is that we forget. We become distracted by our desires, by the eight worldly poisons, name and fame, gain, all of the things that we long for and desire, the comfort, the security, the recognition, the revenge, the redemption... That is why we suffer. If we really hold fast to our prayer, to the remembrance of divinity, to that devotion, we have a place of solitude, of solace, which is here, this area of prayer.
Burning inside of this tent is a single flame. That is the flame of the heart. We all want that flame to be enlivened through romance, through the love of our friends, or our children. We want the respect of our peers. But all of those are mistaken cravings. Those types of flames in the heart are completely impermanent and unreliable. They do not last, they cannot last. The only flame that can burn in your heart that can last, and can actually give solace to the consciousness, is the love of divinity. A reciprocal love... That love is always coming towards us, but because we do not pay attention, we do not feel it. If we learn to pay attention, to listen in to the heart, to sense divinity in our presence, that becomes a real living thing, a fire, a flame, that you can feel. That can sustain you... But it requires exertion on your part... to reach out and to feel it.
The alchemist kneels before a table that represents the four bodies of sin: the physical body, the vital body, the astral body, the mental body. We call them the four bodies of sin because with these four vessels we commit mistakes and create suffering for ourselves and others. The physical body is the vessel through which we transmit all our energy, we transmute it improperly. The vital body is the body through which energy goes in and out of our psyche. The astral body relates to our emotions; unfortunately in us it has become Kama Rupa, the body of desire. The mental body relates to our inner Judas, our betrayer, the liar, the mind, the Pontius Pilate within, the part of ourselves which refuses to accept any responsibility for our crimes and always sees ourselves as innocent, just a victim of circumstances. “We are not really at fault.” That is what we tell ourselves...
Those four bodies have to be transformed, transmuted, in order to become a proper table of prayer, so that table of four legs becomes the solar bodies. That transmutation is what creates the alchemists table upon which the real alchemist can work.
The real alchemist is our inner Being. The real alchemist is God. The one who really performs the work of Alchemy is the Innermost, the Magician the first card of the Tarot. If you study that card you see that he stands before a table, and that table represents us. But in us that table is unsteady, impure, weak. It needs to be transformed and made strong. That is why underneath the table in this drawing we see an arch, and inside that arch is a skull. It is in darkness. Written in Latin, it says Disce bene mor (spelling), if you know Italian you know what that means, it means "Learn to Die Well".
Learn to die well. This is not talking about physical death, it is talking about psychological death. The death of those four bodies of sin, so that they can be recreated, made into something pure, something strong that the Being can use for his work. Learn to die well.
The pose of the alchemist represents the same thing, that is why they are close together. His crucifixion, his obedience, his humility, his prayer, all represents the attitude that we need in order to die well. That is an attitude of submission. We do not like that. Our pride does not like that. We do not want to submit. We want God to submit to us. That is why when we pray, we say “God, give me this and give me that. God, I want this and that. I'll make a deal with you, God. If you give me ABC, I will do this little thing over here for you; I will do this little favor for you, if you give me A, B, and C.” We want God to submit to us. This is why we cannot feel God. This is why we hear silence when we pray. God will NEVER bow to the ego. This is not a matter of pride, it is a matter of how things work. The ego is the devil. Our mind is Satan.
The alchemist here shows the proper attitude for prayer. It is submission to Gods' will. This is why Jesus taught his prayer: "THY will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." That “earth” is the body. That earth is Malkuth. That earth is us.
On the right side of the drawing, we see two pillars, and behind that in obscurity is a collection of tools. These two pillars have great significance in all ancient esoteric traditions. In the Bible they are called Jakin and Boaz. Anyone who has been a freemason knows about these two pillars. The two pillars represent the two sides of the tree of life: the pillar of severity and the pillar of mercy. These are the two sides of the tree of knowledge: Tob and Rah. These are man and woman. The two sides of all creation. You cannot create with just a man, or just a woman. Life emerges when you combine man and woman. Thus, all life is founded on two pillars.
Behind the two pillars hidden in the back is an oven. There is incense burning. There are tools scattered around: a lute, bellows, tongs. These are all tools for working in the fire. There is a feather hanging on the pillar.
Wisdom and Method
What is particularly interesting are the inscriptions at the base of the two pillars. One on the left says Ratio, which is a Latin word that means “reason” in the sense of logic, method. If you think of ratio in terms of method, it becomes very interesting when you look at the other pillar which says, "Experentia." Naturally in English we would say it means experience, and yes it does, but not the way we use it now. Experientia means wisdom. So, these two pillars are method and wisdom. Anyone recognize that? Any Buddhists here? Those are the two pillars of Buddhism: Method and Wisdom.
“...there are two main aspects to the Buddhist path: method and wisdom.” - The 14th Dalai Lama, Training the Mind
Images of Samantabhadra, or any great Buddha, show them in a sexual embrace of masculine and feminine. If you ask any monk what it represents, they say it is the union of Method and Wisdom, which is how the dharma is performed...
We see the same teaching given here in alchemy, a tradition from the other side of the world, from a totally separate culture.
The two pillars, method and wisdom, mean that we need a combination in order to build our temple. We need theory and practice. We need a strong intellectual culture. We need to know the teachings VERY WELL, but we also need to be doing it. These two need to be in perfect harmony, perfect balance with each other. There are many people who read a lot of books, study a lot of theory, study all the methods, but do not actually do it. There are many others who do a lot of practices, and a lot of techniques, but never study. Both camps of people will fail.
The path of alchemy is extremely precise, more than anything else in the world. It is extremely precise. Our understanding has to be razor sharp, and guided by divinity, not our intellect, not our habits. You see, those who lean towards the method side like to pick up different practices that appeal to their habits, and those who lean towards the wisdom side, the experientia side, like to read and study those things that feed their intellectual habits, that lean towards their habits of believing or disbelieving. So the intellectual types like to read and study a lot of intellectual things, but they do not like to practice. The believers like to study a lot to build up their beliefs and make them feel secure, but they do not like to practice, and do not like to study and remember things, because we are all lazy. We need balance, and we need to be very critical with ourselves, and if we see we are lazy about practice then we need to practice more, and if we see we are lazy about study we need to study more. This is not a game. The future of your soul depends on it... Everything is at stake. Laziness will take you to hell. Laziness and old bad habits will cause you to fail. So these two pillars are very important.
In front of the pillars, the very front of the image, we see an alchemists collection of tools that we can call an oven or a furnace, comprised of different vessels that are connected together in a strange way. By appearance alone it does not make a lot of sense. Written on the center vessel, which is quite tall and very phallic, we see written Festina lente, which is Latin and means, "Hasten slowly." Kind of makes your brain skip, doesn't it? It is supposed to. It is supposed to get you to pay attention, to be present, to be here and now. Its written on a phallic symbol, a sexual symbol, for a reason. It is saying "pay attention, be present, use your energy wisely, do not waste it. Be persistent, work constantly, but do not rush, work with great caution and care." So this symbol at the bottom front is representing the main mysterious tool of the alchemist that was never revealed publicly, but today we are going to talk about.
Looking at the entire image, we understand that all of these symbols together hide a great secret, but it is very hard to penetrate it. It can be hard to see. Yet this is a very purposeful drawing, and I am going to show you why and how right now.
If you study art, you will understand that the genuine artist creates every little detail with a purpose. Not like so-called art nowadays, where the so-called artists merely vomit their psyche on canvas, making a chaotic mess that only manages to display their lack of anything useful to say. That is not art. Real art is communication, conscious, that delivers knowledge that otherwise is incommunicable. This drawing is a great example of that. There are many messages here that you will gather if you meditate on the image. But I am going to give you a hint towards once that has real significance, and is quite surprising.
If you study the image you see that there are many converging lines; it is a very architectural type of image. All of the lines are converging on a single point. We call this “perspective.” Most of us do not pay attention to that, we do not think anything of it. But if you look closely, you see all the lines of the perspective of this image are converging on the very center of the image, passing through an arch of four pillars. These four pillars are the four elements, the four bodies, the cross, the four letters of the holy name of God. That has a great deal of significance. The arch above it is the Akash, which comes from this trinity at the top. Here we see the tree of life. All the lines ultimately point towards an open door. And what is behind the open door? A bed!
Why would an alchemist’s drawing have ALL of the lines and everything in it converging on a bed? Well, now we know why, but for the last five hundred years, no one knew why. The bed is where the sexual act is performed. The bed is the heart of the laboratorium, where the work and prayer must be performed: on the bed. Laboritorium, the place of prayer, where the work is performed is in the bedroom. That work is between man and woman. If one is single, one works within oneself, with ones own energy, and with ones' Divine Mother, through prayer.
These images represent the furnace, oven, athenor, that the alchemist has to use. This is the heart of the alchemists' laboratory. The furnace of the laboratory represents a sexual secret.
For hundreds and hundreds of years, people have been trying to build these ovens in their workshops and basements. They are wasting their time, and you know why? Because everyone of us is carrying this oven around with us all the time. This furnace is your body. The laboratory is your mind, your heart, your body. The laboratory of the alchemist is this here and now, working with your energy here and now. That is the laboratory.
The furnace, the tools, are here in the body. The fire burns in sex, in the sephirah Yesod. It is the fire that creates life; it is the sexual energy. That fire burns us if we do not know how to control it. The fire can destroy us, and consume us, if we do not know how to use it wisely. That fire must be kept “with a gentle heat, with much attention.” This is the instruction that Hermes gave in the documents that formed the foundation of alchemy, that gentle heat is to keep that fire burning but low and controlled; not inflamed with lust, not within inflamed desire, not overwhelming, but low and controlled, with much attention. In that context, that fire heats the vessel, the sexual organs.
In Alchemy, our vessel represented as a clear glass vessel. Within it burns that fire or the water of mercury. Mercury is a symbol of sexual energy. And inside of this we see a man and a woman forming a cross, and the holy spirit as a dove putting the other element which forms a six pointed star. That of course is very deep, significant symbol: it is the rune Hagal.
This man and woman represent Adam and Eve within us. Physiologically, psychologically, they are the channels Ida and Pingala, Od and Obd, Rasana and Larana, the red and white channels. These are energies or forces that move within us in preparation for the Advent of the Fire, the awakening of the Kundalini.
The fire of sexuality heats up the waters of the mercury and causes steam to rise up the central column of the spine, to the brain. That is what is represented in all these images: the awakening of the Kundalini, the energy of the Divine Mother.
That energy rises up the spine and awakens the seven lights on that candelabra of seven flames, the chakras or churches that are written about in the book of Revelation. Those lights give us the ability to see spiritually. They restore us to the state of Eden, to have the ability to talk with God directly. That does not come when we are seeking only material gold, or material success. That ability to see God and talk with God comes through prayer and work.
On either side of this oven we see a man or woman with deep red faces, wearing green clothing. These represent the forces of divinity. We can call them Shiva and Shakti; these are our Inner Being and Divine Mother. They are the guides who oversea the process of transmutation within us. In other words, no matter what fantastical ends you may pursue in your physical life to achieve the ends of alchemy, if you do not work in harmony with your Innermost, you will achieve nothing. The one who performs the work in you is your inner divinity. That work is performed by satisfying the Will of God, and the first Will of God is for you to die, as an ego; for all of your impurity to be purged. That is what the fire does. This fire boils the water to remove the impurities; the steam rises, not the impurities. What is steam? Water and air heated by fire.
Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit [air, wind], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
“I [Christ] am come to send fire on the earth [you]... Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth [your body and mind]? I tell you, Nay; but rather division [between the pure and impure]...” - Luke 12
The “steam” rises up through the earth to awaken and enliven the brain (Adam), the glands, the chakras in the head.
So that is in synthesis the process of alchemy or the work in the laboratory. It is to work with these forces in ourselves, in harmony with the Will of God.
If you are transmuting your sexual energy, studying these teachings, and trying to put them into practice, you are learning how to practice alchemy, whether you are single or married. Your sexual scenario is just circumstantial, the nature of your karma, and that is what you need to work with. That is what God is giving you to work with, so work with it. Either way (single or married), your Innermost and your Divine Mother bring into the laboratory the elements that need to be transformed. Then there we are in the laboratory saying "No, God, I do not want to work with that. That is not the spouse I want. That is not the job I want. I need more money than this. I need better clothes. I need to be living somewhere better than this. I need some respect from my friends. I need education, I need money in the bank. I do not want these things you are bringing into my life. I want A, B, and C, then I will do what you want, after that." This is a big mistake.
Who in the universe knows better what you need for your spiritual growth than your own Innermost? It is time for us to trust our Innermost, to submit to the Will of our Innermost, to accept what our Innermost puts in our lives, and to learn to transmute them. This is the basis of alchemy.
Oftentimes, we talk about alchemy as something materialistic: we think that we merely take the sexual energy, transform it, and then we awaken consciousness. It is not that simple. You cannot get anywhere with just that attitude. The real process of alchemy is to transmute your entire psyche. Where is all of your sexual energy anyway? It is trapped in your ego. It is all trapped in lust, anger, pride, and envy. So to free it, to redeem it, to free yourself from suffering, you have to transform those elements. And how will God do it? He will put it in your face, by making you suffer. So he says, "You see, here is the bed of roses that you made. It is filled with thorns." The life that you are living is the life that you made by your own worksl if you want to make that better, accept the guidance of God, the counsel of God. That counsel is: "You want to do the work? You want to be an alchemist? You want to be liberated from suffering? Here. Deal with this mess that you made. Here is your life, here are your circumstances, here is your situation. You made it. Fix it." We do not fix it by changing everything in our external circumstances; we change it by fixing our attitude, changing how we deal with other people. How we deal with God. How we deal with ourselves.
Those who are focused only on changing their physical circumstances will always end up disappointed. We can never modify external circumstances to our liking, because the cause of them is inside of us. If the cause remains the same, the effects will remain the same.
Why do we suffer? Because of who we are inside.
Our Innermost is bringing us our situation, as painful or as difficult as it may be, because we need it. Because that is what we need to work on, that is the most important element that we face. We always hear students pray, "God, please give me what I need to work on myself. But change this and that! Give me a better job, give me a better place to live, I need a better apartment, etc, etc".
We do not realize that what our Innermost is already giving us is exactly what we need.
In the book "Tarot and Kabbalah", Samael Aun Weor wrote,
“Salamanders keep the fire; Undines are within the raw matter, which is enclosed within its receptacle. The Undines can help us if we dominate them; if we do not, then they do what they want because they are very whimsical. The sylphs make the steam that escapes from the raw matter to rise. The Gnomes are in charge of the distillation of the raw matter, in order for it to be converted into gold within the brain."
That quote is describing how the four elements in ourselves are managed by conscious elements that we call elementals. The process of alchemy is the process of working with the elements. Those elements are not just physical matter, they are energy, and they are also consciousness. The fire, the air, the water, and the earth, all have consciousness in them. And traditionally, in alchemy, they have these names. The elements of the air we call Sylphs, the elements of the fire are called Salamanders, the consciousness of the fire. The consciousness of the water is called Undines, and the consciousness of the earth is Gnomes, dwarfs, pygmies. These are not invented or made up things. They are the consciousness of the elements, they are inside of us. Moreover, as we explained in the first lecture, all of the ordeals that we face in life, all the difficulties and problems, ordeals of air or water, of earth or fire, are the activity of those elementals in our life. When we are facing difficult psychological challenges, our old habit is to complain, and complain, and complain. In our mind, in our heart, and verbally. What we are failing to realize is that those problems are exactly what we need. Those problems are the activity of those elementals within us and outside of us that are bringing a great deal of energy, that if we are smart, we will harness that and transmute it into something beneficial.
I will give you an example: if you are in a circumstance when you have to be very close to someone who is criticizing you behind your back, this can be very frustrating, and it can build a lot of resentment in you unless you learn how to transform it. What would be the right way to transform that? Firstly, you can only transform it if you are cognizant of it, aware of it. If you are just being mechanical, the way you always are, you will just build a lot of resentment, you will become angry with the person, you will start treating them badly, you will ignore them, you will intentionally do things to create obstacles for them, you will speak badly about them, you will do all these things mechanically because we are alseep. But if you become cognizant, aware, and pray and remember God, you will remember, "God is giving me this for a reason. This person is talking behind my back all the time, they are telling all these people bad things about me. What do I do, God, help me. Help me learn to die well." Then what do we do? We have to learn to treat that person with love, because they are helping us. They are showing us our pride. We do not like to see that! Wwe do not like the one who makes us see it. But really, we need that! That person is actually the most important person in our life at that moment. They are doing a service for us that can never be repaid, because they are giving us the keys to liberation from suffering. They are saying "Here, let me show you your pride. Here is your anger. Here is your resentment." If we act mechanically, we will indulge in the pride and in the anger and the resentment; we will hate that person, and we will deepen our suffering, and waste the opportunity. If we are cognizant, prayerful, learning to die well, then we can see this person and say, "they are really doing me a favor. Look at my pride. Let me feel that, let me see it. Let this be the last time that I suffer with this pride. Let it die." And then we can respond to that person with kindness, with gratitude, with love.
What will happen to that situation? It will be transformed. Completely. And this is the type of attitude we need to generate in all of our circumstances. This is how we take advantage of the energy that the elementals put into motion.
Our Innermost Being is orchestrating all the circumstances of our life, in order to put these things in our face, and that happens with the help of the elementals, inside of us, and around us. So we need to learn how to transform that energy, to have a better attitude. Learn to accept with gratitude all of the unpleasant manifestations of our fellow men and women. Receive them gratefully, because they are the keys to awakening. The problems of our lives, the adversities, the obstacles, the pain and suffering are exactly what we need in order to see why we suffer, and to change. If God gave you what you wanted, a totally peaceful life, rich, living in your castle with all your servants, whatever it is that you dream of, not only would you not become liberated from suffering, you would become worse. Really contemplate that. Really think about that. When those desires are emerging within you, really think about that, "If I got that, really, honestly, would I become better?", No! If you won the lottery, would you really become better? I do not think so. I really doubt it. You have to be your own judge.
Questions and Answers
Instructor: Her leg is being revealed because she is the Divine Mother Nature. So as the work of alchemy is proceeding, the identity or reality of the Divine Mother is revealed. And its something intimate, so that leg being exposed is that: something intimate.
Instructor: The process of alchemy is broken down into many different stages by different alchemists, and there are a variety of terms used to describe those stages, and it depends on which alchemist you are studying and which stage of the work they are addressing in order to interpret those symbols. Sometimes those steps are broken down to 7, 10, 12, 14, many stages, and they all apply to different parts of the work. In general, though, we talk about a process called putrefaction or blackening. This is a process in which, through the heat of the fire, the ego becomes blackened, the fire accelerates the decomposition. So when we look in the context of our ordeals in life, before you were transmuting your energy, you suffered a lot, we all suffered. And we suffer from many psychological and circumstantial problems, but when you begin to transmute your sexual energy, your suffering seems to intensify. And that is the process of the blackening, putrefaction. That happens because when the power of the sexual energy, when it is being harnessed and directed towards the ego, it intensifies all of the experience of the suffering of that ego. So the suffering seems to get worse because it is, but that is needed in order for those elements to be completely eradicated, eliminated, and broken down. We need that; we need the pressure and heat to crush it, so we can extract the diamonds and gold. So again, it depends on which particular alchemist and which stage, becomes that comes in many stages, there are stages in the beginning, middle and end, there are many stages of that.
Instructor: We are going to talk about that in additional lectures, specifically about that. The process of the work in the laboratory is a gathering together of energy in order to direct that energy. Our primary purpose is to completely pulverize all the impure elements that exist within our psyche. The only way that process can succeed is if we are cognizant of it. In other words, you cannot change your anger if you are unaware of your anger. You cannot change your pride if you are unaware of your pride. So that process of becoming cognizant comes in your daily life through self-observing and self-remembering, and transforming situations in the way I explained. But secondly, you cannot succeed in that completely if you are only doing it during the day. At night, you need to meditate on those events, and really investigate them more deeply, abandoning the physical body, so that you are not distracted by any physical senses, and you can go deeper into the examination of those elements, in order to pulverize them more accurately, in order to completely, completely reduce it to dust. So that is a process of meditation, and that is a long process. We will get more into the details of that in a later lecture.
Instructor: In this image, above the bedroom, we see written in Latin: Dormiens vigila, which means, "While sleeping, watch." This means that we need to be vigilant at all times, conscious of ourselves.
We need to do this while the physical body is sleeping. That is one level of meaning of the bed in the back, and some people who have studied this image have realized that it relates to the tradition of dream yoga. This is easy to see. But the deeper meaning is that we are always sleeping, because our consciousness is asleep; we have not awakened our consciousness yet. So we need to become vigilant. That vigilance is not at one time or another, it is all the time. Dormiens Vigilia (spelling) means: watch how you sleep. Become aware of how you sleep. Awaken! And that is what it says in the gospels:
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” - Matthew 24
Audience: How do the Runes fit in with Alchemy?
Instructor: Everything about Alchemy is based on the runes. If you have studied any of the symbols of alchemy, you will see that all of the symbols are runic, and I gave you a clue here. When you look into the vessel here that shows the man and the woman and the holy spirit or bird, between them all they are holding the Rune Hagal, which we talked about in the previous lecture. Every alchemical symbol, every alchemical stage is based on the runes.
Audience: Is this process the process of Moses leading the Israelites to Jerusalem?
Instructor: The process of alchemy is hidden throughout the Bible. Moses is an alchemical symbol, his name is Moshe, which means “born of fire and water.” That is what we see here. The fire is below, the water is in the vessel. The one who is born of that is our divinity, our own inner Moshe. So the entire process, every stage of the work of Moses or Moshe, is a symbol in alchemy. All of the plagues, all of the works that he performs, all of the magical events that happened, the parting of the waters, the coming of the frogs, all of those things represent stages of working in alchemy. The Israelites are a symbol of the consciousness that is trapped in the ego (slavery) and must be redeemed by the guidance of Moshe, our willpower guided by Divinity.
Audience: Is Alchemy something for beginners, and if so, what is the first stage?
Instructor: Truthfully speaking, alchemy is for all human beings; all of us need alchemy. In order to become a true human being, we need it. We are all beginners, without exception.
The thing that we need in the beginning is to study. We need to study the teaching, we need to study it very well. Without a strong foundation and understanding in the teaching, in a very comprehensive way, we will very easily be misled by very clever people and very mischievous people. So it is essential in the beginning to study relentlessly, and at the same time to begin to incorporate practice at your own level. We can say in some way, in the beginning, those two pillars (Method and Wisdom) are a little bit out of balance. We do not know how to practice in the beginning, we do not know the method. We do not even know the teaching. So in the beginning we have to first start by learning the method, by learning the teaching itself, learning how it works, the theory, concepts, word, language, how it works. Little by little, we need to add practice as well so that they nourish each other. This is very important. Establish that equilibrium between the two. Part of that is to learn to recognize the realities about yourself, to be sincere, be honest with yourself.
This type of work is not social and has nothing to do with any group. Unfortunately, some people make it into something social. They believe their spirituality can only succeed if they have a social group. There is a need for the sangha or spiritual community. It is one of the three fundamental jewels or aspects of any real spirituality. But ultimately, the real community is not in the physical world. The real community or sangha is in the internal worlds. You do not need to be too worried about the physical part. We should not be focused on the social aspects of our spirituality. We should be focused on the psychological aspects within ourselves. Be honest. Be sincere. Look at yourself, and see what you really are, and do not hide from yourself. It is painful to see our impurities, it is very painful, do not avoid it. If you avoid something painful, you let it get worse, and it will kill you, and the same is true spiritually. Especially spiritually. If you avoid looking into your psychological and spiritual pain, you will never succeed in this work. Thats' why the phrase on that drawing says, "learn to die well." We need to look into the face of those things that hurt us, so they won't hurt us anymore. It is not an easy thing to do, but it must be done.
Instructor: Where is Lucifer in the laboratory? Lucifer is everything in the laboratory. He is the laboratory itself. Lucifer is a Latin phrase that means the "Carrier of Light.” Lucifer is the one who makes its possible for this work to be done. Lucifer in other words is the heat of the fire, lucifer is the boiling of the water, lucifer is the rising of the steam.
Instructor: When you look into the symbolism of alchemy we see that always that the stages related to the disintegration of the ego are a process of putrefaction, decay. So we see many images of corpses, and of a black raven, and animals eating corpses, things like that. Lucifer is that process. Properly said, Lucifer is the one who orchestrates the ordeals around us so that we see ourselves for what we are. So in the early part of the lecture when I was saying that the Being is the one who is giving you your ordeals, it is that aspect of the Being, Lucifer. Nowadays, we think Lucifer is evil, Satan, but that is inaccurate. That was a misinterpretation made by the Catholic churches centuries ago that they never corrected, but it is easy to see, because in ancient times even the Bishops and Popes were named Lucifer! It was not always a negative name. They made it into something negative because of a political squabble. A translator of the Bible, Jerome, was fighting with a bishop named Lucifer, so he changed the bible to say, "Oh thou Lucifer, how thou art fallen," because he was talking about a bishop that he did not like. Ever since then we have been hearing that “Lucifer is Satan,” but it is not true. Lucifer is an aspect of Christ.
Audience: Which alchemical book is the best?
Instructor: Well, honestly, the best alchemical book is yourself. Everything you need to know about alchemy is in your psychological makeup.
But you cannot learn about that unless you have guidance and instruction. The best place you will find that is the book of Genesis, the Bible, but not in English. In Hebrew. The second place is the book of Revelation. But not in English, in Greek.
The other places that you will find it are in all of the scriptures of tantra, such as Kalachakra. Tantra is just a Sanskrit name for alchemy. It is the same tradition. In fact, if you investigate the secret writings of the great tantric masters, you will finally use the same terminology. Tsong khapa spoke often of the foundation stone, transmutation, and the philosopher stone. These traditions from the east and the west are actually one tradition.
In this tradition [the six yogas of Naropa] the expressions "the inner heat, the foundation stone," is well-known. This is because in the completion stage yogas one uses the inner heat technology from the very beginning in order to collect the subtle life-sustaining energies into the central channel and thereby arouse the innate great bliss. This is the actual basis upon which all practices rely and upon which all later completion stage yogas are founded. This inner heat doctrine establishes this basis.
The practice of the inner heat doctrine entails directing the life-sustaining energies into the central channel. Here the energies enter, abide, and are dissolved. When one trains well in this technique, the strength of the experience has the power to give control over the loss of the bodhimind substance [i.e. the sexual drops]. Then, based on this power, one can rely upon a karmamudra [sexual consort] as a conducive condition to arouse the four blisses. On this foundation, innate bliss is aroused. Arousing this innate bliss is the purpose of the practices of the inner heat yoga and karmamudra. - Tsong Khapa
The other important book in the tradition of alchemy is the Emerald Tablet, which was presented to humanity by Hermes, the God Thoth of Egypt.
So those are the most important treatises of alchemy, and below that there are hundreds more, and they are all interesting. But let me point out something important: the truth about alchemy is that you will not find it in the past. The past is dead. The past is gone. The past is a rotting corpse. Do not waste your time sifting through dusty, mistranslated books. The truth of alchemy is found here and now in your heart, by prayer to God, and in your life, by practicing the principles that are now openly available. That is where you will find it. The texts are interesting, and we need to study the teaching, and we need to understand the principals, but do not be distracted longing for the past, or trying to uncover secrets from the past, because you will not. Everything in the past was hidden, and is already dead. Why dig up an old corpse just to pick through the bones? The living truth of alchemy is burning inside of you, now... It is the fire of your Divine Mother who is waiting to awaken, if you have the courage to do it. That is the courage to face yourself as you are, and to change, to take your energy and use it better, to awaken, to transmute yourself. Then you will find the reality of alchemy, you won't need all those old books. You won't need dusty papers and stale concepts, and to memorize old terms and theories and images, because you will see that its all just dust. The living vibrating reality of alchemy is waiting for you inside of your heart right now. But you have to have the courage to look, and to use it.