Alchemy had a unique and beneficial perspective in understanding the nature of reality. One that is of great value to us today. Especially in regards to our evolution - individually and collectively.
Incorporating a theory of what was known as the 3 principles was fundamental in creating a foundation for the pursuit of alchemical works. This theory split all forms of matter into a trinity so that everything consisted of these three essentials. They were known as the soul, spirit, and body - or in alchemical terms the sulfur, mercury, and salt. We have these divisions with us today, and many people recognize themselves as having a spirit or a soul. But ask someone to define what these immaterial substances are and they will most likely fumble with their words.
In looking to help myself define these words so as to be resolved in my answer - if ever asked - I discovered some rather interesting information that helped to shed light on my understanding of nature, reality, and alchemical works. Practicality and application of alchemy and it's constituent theories and understandings became apparent as I explored the answers to these questions. With integration of this new found knowledge my world was truly transformed by the art of alchemy, which in essence can be seen as the transmutative flow of life itself.
It's easy for a person, with their mind and intelligence, to recognize that there is an immaterial backing to their being. This we might call our spirit, or our soul. In alchemical view, it was also crucial to recognize that not only moving, thinking, animate life was composed of an immaterial counter part, but that the inanimate rocks and plants also contained these substances of soul and spirit. Many of the alchemical works have made this knowing tangible through experimentation. The alchemist could separate any substance, plant or stone, to reveal three basic materials, which came to be labeled the salt, sulfur, or mercury of that material in use. The separation of these principles helped the alchemists of old to conceptualize this understanding - that all matter originated from one source and was comprised of the same basic building blocks. The source was the Prima Materia, the first matter of all. The building blocks were the 3 principles, and the four elements which won't be elaborated on in this article.
To understand the alchemical sulfur, mercury, and salt you must first understand what a soul, a spirit, and a body really are. The terms sulfur, mercury, and salt are just code words used to describe the body, soul, and spirit any given substance. In the past, alchemy and it's practitioners were seen to have gone through their fair share of persecution and discrimination. Many ancient manuscripts used coded language to hide the true meanings of valuable information. Information that might be used to condemn a practicing alchemist or grant power to the greedy. For now, this is history, and what matters most, here and now, is defining and resolving our understandings of the spirit, the soul, and the body.
First it is best to explore the body and define it so a foundation can be built to help grasp the spirit and the soul and their relationship to the body. The body was known in alchemy as the Salt - but let's stick with the word body and explore it's definition.
(Please read the following carefully and slowly.)
Salt: The Body
We all have a body. We can see it, touch it, feel it; Our body is our material vessel. It is the tool we utilize to interact with our world. The houser of our mind, our thoughts, emotions, and memories. We all know the body. It's simple for us to intellectually grasp an understanding of the body. Not only our own, but the bodies of other life forms or objects. We all seem to known it, but I wondered what was the best way to define it. I then did what any other person would do to get a definition of a word - I looked it up in the dictionary. Here is how our dictionary defines the word Body:
A material structure that embodies or gives concrete reality to something abstract.
That definition seems straight forward, but it actually threw me off. Especially the second half that states: "gives concrete reality to something abstract."
I then decided to dissect this definition of it's larger words to simplify the message at hand. I started by splitting the definition into two halves
First half: "a material structure that embodies or...."
Second half: "gives concrete reality to something abstract."
Starting with the second half I defined the larger words.
Reality: The state of things as they actually exist.
Abstract: Existing in thought or as an idea, but not having a physical or concrete existence.
This intrigued me. By picking apart the definition I began to see what was hiding behind these words. The second half of the original definition for Body was telling me that the body "gives a concrete reality to something that has no 'physical or concrete existence.'" The definition was essentially telling me a lie by stating that something that doesn't exist (abstract) actually exists (reality). A lie is defined as: "an intentional untruth", and that is exactly what we have here. My own dictionary was telling me the body was a lie. But let's explore the first half of the definition to further illuminate what a body might actually be.
The major words of the first half of the definition for Body are:
Material: The matter from which a thing is or can be created.
Structure: construct or arrange according to a plan; give a pattern or organization to.
Embodies: To give visible form to an idea, quality, or feeling.
These words shed substantial amounts of light on to the true nature of the body. These definitions are telling us that the body organizes (structure) something (material) to make an idea visible (embodies). What is the matter being structured to achieve this illusion - one of making something appear to exist that actually has 'no concrete reality?' The definition of embodies spells it out clearly: "To give visible form to an idea..." What is an idea? Many dictionaries use a simple definition of 'a thought' - so an idea is a thought.
With that in mind, we can see then that the body is actually an organization of thought to give a concrete reality to something that does not actually exist.
That is our true definition for Body - hiding behind our own English words the entire time.
Since the alchemical term Salt and body are synonymous we can then also apply our new definition of the body to the alchemical salt. The salt associated to the 3 principles of all matter.
The body, which basically defines the existence of all forms of matter, and the majority of objective reality is being painted as an illusion with use of that definition. Physicality is an illusion - That sounds a lot like eastern philosophy, and can even correlate to certain understandings in quantum theory.
Our definition for Body gains ground as authentic as the definitions of spirit and soul are also dissected.
Mercury: The Spirit
In alchemical works the spirit of a given material was known as the Mercury. Staying with our theme of using common language instead of alchemical code let's define spirit.
Spirit: The nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the mind and ego.
The second half of this definition says it most plainly, telling us that the spirit is the mind and the ego. The first half helps us to build a more holistic image to understand the mind and the ego. The most interesting word to me in the first half of the definition of spirit was character, so I looked it up to define it.
Character: the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
With previous understanding of the ego, I found similarities to its definition with the definition of character, so I also looked to define ego and make those similarities more apparent.
Ego: the individual self of a person; a person as thinking, feeling, willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
- that which identifies with thought, feelings, and desires as self.
Essentially, identification with thoughts and feelings gives rise to individuality or character. The mechanics of this function are found within the mind, which the spirit was defined as. Getting to the bottom of spirit is also then getting to the bottom of mind. To define mind...
Mind: the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, thoughts, and feelings; the faculty of consciousness.
If spirit is our mind, and our mind is what enables us to experience the world and ourselves, what then are we? What is the self that the mind is helping us experience? Are we our thoughts? No. We are not our feelings either. The mind is not our source, and the definition of mind is telling us this.
We identify with our thoughts, which also hold our memories, and this identification gives rise to character or individuality. It makes us believe an untruth - that we are our thoughts and emotions, that we are the part that thinks. But we are not our thoughts, or our emotions, we are not our individual selves that we thought - at least not entirely.
The first half of the definition of mind is telling us that the mind is just an element that enables us to be aware of our world and thoughts. But the mind itself is plainly defined as a "faculty of consciousness." What does it mean to be a faculty of consciousness?
Faculty is defined as:
An inherent mental or physical power
Spirit is the mind and
The mind is an inherent power of consciousness.
Consciousness inherently has the power to think. Consciousness is responsible for the mind. The mind is then responsible for the creation of thought. The mind identifies with that thought, organizes it, and embodies it's ideas to create conceptually a concrete reality, even though those realities don't actually exist (other than in the mind).
Sulfur: The Soul
This leaves us to define our final word that we set out to understand. Soul. The alchemical sulfur was the soul of any given material. (Read more on the alchemical sulfur.)
What is the soul?
The Soul is: The actuating cause of an individual life.
In the previous study of the definition for spirit, the answer to what the actuating cause was is presented to us.
- Consciousness -
The mind is an inherent power of consciousness. Consciousness is the actuating cause for an individual life. That answer holds true for all individual lives and for all forms of existence. All matter was known to be composed of these 3 basic principles -soul, spirit, and body- so all of existence knows consciousness as the actuating cause of its individual life. Every rock, plant, animal, star, atom, galaxy, etc.
Consciousness is the true Prima Materia of the alchemists. The seed from which all forms grow and are rooted in. It is the spark of life.
Life can be defined as: a corresponding state, existence, or principle of existence conceived of as belonging to the soul.
Life and existence belong to the soul, and the soul is consciousness.
Consciousness is life, and in all life is consciousness.
Consciousness is the Key.
This is the fundamental truth that alchemy was built upon. Any subsequent experimentation is merely just an exploration of this singular truth, or validation of that truth through any physical or spiritual alchemical practice. The understanding of this fact automatically granted the understanding of the truth of all things and gave true alchemists a fantastic power - The power to be - living freely as and in eternity.
Standardization of definition
In looking to explore and understand the 3 principles of alchemy, I read through many alchemical texts - ancient and modern. The majority of the texts seem to agree that Sulfur is the Soul, Mercury is the Spirit, and Salt is the Body. These texts seemed to be written as if to assume that the student reading them already had prior knowledge of what a soul, spirit, and body are. Feeling that it is never safe to assume, it felt appropriate to seek out fully defining these terms.
To summarize and define the body, soul, and spirit:
Body: Organization of thought to give a concrete reality to something that does not actually exist.
Spirit: The mind - an inherent power of consciousness
Soul: Consciousness - the actuating cause of life
I encourage others to contemplate on the implications this presumes on the nature of reality.
At Kymia Arts we have taken the Vedic Chakra System, Astrology, and Alchemy and transposed them, one upon another, to achieve an integrative system of diagnoses and medicine. Through observation and practice, we have begun to recognize relationships between the different energy centers of the body and the effects our metallic oils have on these personal dis-eases.
It can be noted that the energy centers of the body are systematically placed in a vertical pattern, traveling from the base of the spine to the crown of the skull. Each wheel of energy overlapping the center either above or below it, sharing in certain attributes of its neighbor’s main characteristics. Using the energy centers of the root chakra and the sacral chakra as an example (Saturn/Lead & Jupiter/Tin): The root chakra touches on aspects of personal sexuality and how you relate to and feel comfortable with your own sexuality, whereas the sacral chakra would touch more on how you express that sexuality outwardly. Both overlap on the area of human sexuality. These two centers also share a common denominator for working on different aspects of the Kidneys to regulate hormone secretions, diminish fatigue, and increase awareness.
To see the relationship the chakra centers have to their neighbors is an easy stride to take. But more expansive relationships have been recognized during our studies. Connections such as: the Brow Chakra (Oil of Silver) to the Sacral Chakra (Oil of Tin), the Throat Chakra (Oil of Mercury) to the Solar Plexus (Oil of Iron), just to name a few. These connections become practical in the application of metallic oils for health purposes, both physical and metal, because it allows us to see where an individual’s ailments are stemming from and attack the problem at its source.
Most often a person’s disease will cascade down to other centers rather than extending upwards, jumping the center immediately below it to land on the next one. (Ex: throat chakra jumps heart chakra and lands on solar plexus, then overlapping the sacral chakra). It looks much like a stone skipping across water. The first skip covers the largest length since it holds the blunt of the energy. With each subsequent skip, the stone loses momentum, causing the length between skips to shorten until eventual the rock falls into the water. The first point of contact and the energy behind that system is where the problem is rooted.
Many modes of medicine will focus on symptoms, or the different areas where the “stone has skipped,” but few practices address the energy that first went in to skipping the stone. When we understand the relationships the energy centers have to one another in the body, we can follow the skips back to the point of origin to effectively stamp out any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual disturbances’ at the source.
It is also seen that each energetic system in the body builds upon the one immediately below it. If your root chakra is unbalanced it will cause issues in the sacral chakra, which in return will cause issues in the solar plexus which is situated above the sacral chakra. This can cause the entire energetic system to be out of balance and manifest as a multitude of physical and emotional symptoms within the individual.
There are many points of view you can take to begin to pinpoint the cause of physical and mental diseases. Understanding the relationship of these energetic systems to each other is a corner stone of achieving perfect health, and mental and emotional mastery.
The Acetate Path is one of the Methods employed by alchemists to obtain the soul (sulfur) and Spirit (mercury) of metals and minerals. The acetate path was made most public by past alchemists such as Issac Hollandus in his Work on Saturn, George Ripley in his Bosom Book, and many others. It was considered a viable path and option for obtaining the Sulfur of metals.
Outlined below is a step by step, showing and explaining this method. It is to be remembered that these process were created and employed with recognition to the matter in use, in this case metal, as containing in it the same principles that all life embodied - namely a soul and a spirit. These metals contained consciousness. This process was one of many that was used within the alchemical laboratories to work with and actualize this consciousness.
Step 1: Trial by Fire
To begin the extraction of the soul and spirit of a stone or metal, it was first necessary to secure a source of ore. In this example copper will be used.
Traditionally raw ore was taken from which the pure metal could be smelted out. Smelting processes will not be elaborated on in this article so we will skip ahead to having our pure metal.
Once the pure metal is obtained it is ground down to a fine powder. This powder can then be placed into a cast-iron pan and set over a fire to oxidize. Exposure to the elements and various other methods were employed by alchemist to obtain an oxide. The oxidization of any material is essential the burning of that substance. the ultimate goal was to let your matter "burn", be "killed", and to obtain its oxidized form, or dead body.
In alchemical philosophy the body (metal) had to be killed and turned "inside out" so that the spirit and soul of the given metal could be captured and used for alchemical purposes. This killing was done in the fire. The oxide version of the metal was considered the dead body, from which its spirit and soul would be resurrected.
After the philosophical killing of the metal, the dead body had to be awakened and brought back to life. this was done by using specially crafted menstruums which were essentially the spirits of other metals, minerals, or plants. In this example distilled vinegar will be used, but as stated above a wide variety of menstruums could be used to obtain the desired effect.
The metallic oxide is taken and mixed in a flask with our chosen menstruum (vinegar). When an oxide is mixed with an acetic solution a metallic acetate is formed. The acetate Solution is then hermetically sealed and allowed to digest for 2 weeks to a month
Step 2: Breath of Life
when ready, the alchemist then takes his digested solution of acetate and distills it down to get a highly concentrated version of the acetate solution. The concentrated solution of acetate is taken outside to evaporate slowly and remove the remaining liquid that is holding it in solution. The solution is placed in a glass dish and put over a heating element on a gently heat or allowed to evaporate in the sun. Over the course of a few days the remaining liquid evaporates leaving pure and dry crystals of copper acetate.
Once dry, the crystals are dissolved into distilled water, filtered, and placed back in the glass dish to evaporate off the moisture again. This process of "washing" removes any residual corrosive materials. This step of washing is repeated multiple times to achieve a highly purified acetate crystal.
Step 3: Preparation for Rebirth
Once enough dried and washed crystals are secured they can be crushed and funneled into a flask to be dry distilled.
Dry distillation is a process of distilling by using a dry starting material rather than a liquid which is commonly the case.
Roughly 1/3 of the flask is filled with crushed crystals.
Step 4: Rising from the Ashes
With the crystals of copper acetate in a flask, they are ready to be dry distilled.
The flask on the far left holds the crystals. this flask is placed in a heating mantle that is capable of reaching high temperatures. The flask containing the crystals is attached to a long Liebig Condenser. This condenser has cold water running through it and is intended to condense the majority of the fumes that will issue forth from the heated crystals. This condenser is then attached to a receiving flask. The receiving flask sits in a bowl of ice water to help further condense the fumes into our sulfur and mercury. The receiving flask has two necks. From the second neck, another condenser is attached. In-case any of the fumes are not trapped and condensed into liquid, this second condenser helps to do so. At the end of the second condenser tube a receiving flask is attached. The adapter connecting the second condenser and receiving flask has a vacuum tube attachment. A hose runs from this last receiving flask to a set of Gas Washing Bottles. The first Gas Washing Bottle is left empty. This bottle acts as a pressure release so that during the heavy heating of the crystals heat and fumes can escape and the risk of exploding any glassware is avoided. A hose runs from the first Gas Washing Bottle to a second bottle. This second bottle is filled with Rectified Spirit of Wine (Alcohol) and acts as a bubbler and trap. Incase any of the volatile spirits were not trapped during their contact with the two condensers, the bubbler will trap the remaining spirits so that no product is lost.
When the dry distillation is adequately assembled the heating element can then be turned on to a moderate temperature. The crystals are allowed to slowly heat up until they begin to fume.
Step 5: Life
After the crystals of copper acetate have stopped fuming during the dry distillation, the heating mantle is allowed to cool slowly before the sulfur and mercury can be retrieved. Any liquid caught in the two receiving flasks are combined, filtered, and then put into a clean distillation apparatus, a retort works best for this. A gentle distillation is run to separate the mercury (acetone. in this case the Radical Vinegar) from the sulfur (Oil). the acetone is more volatile and will be captured in the receiving flask. The oil thickens and is left behind in the heating flask. A small bit of alcohol is added to the oil to make it runny and easy to work with, otherwise the oil is rather sticky. Dry distillation of copper acetate yields a green oil, pictured above. The color can vary between each distillation, but always stays a color of green.
This general process can be performed to extract the oils of Copper, Iron, Lead, Antimony, Tin, Zinc, Mercury, etc. To produce the oils of Gold and Silver, other methods are employed.
During the 8th century a man by the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan (A.K.A Geber), a well-known alchemist of Persian descent, wrote of two alchemical principles: Sulfur and Mercury. These two principles revolutionized the understandings that future alchemists would gain on the nature of matter and its origins. But Geber was a very cryptic author and was careful to conceal the true principles of alchemy. He encoded his writings with a veiled style of language. Due to this coded language, we now have our modern word “jibberish”,which refers directly to Jabir and his style of writing which appeared to be pure jibberish to those unaware of the principles of alchemy. But don’t be confused by these titles of Sulfur and Mercury. Understanding the nature of Jabir’s writing style, we can see beyond the code words of Sulfur and Mercury which would lead us to believe these two properties to be elemental sulfur with its pungent smell and liquid mercury or quicksilver. Understanding Sulfur as a code word for a deeper principle, we can now begin to answer the question of “what is Sulfur?” For the sake of this article let us forget about the principle of Mercury and focus specifically on the alchemical Sulfur and what it truly is.
Alchemists studying the works of Jabir knew their Sulfur as an oily substance. This oil could be extracted and concentrated out of their choice of any substance (Plant, animal, mineral, or metal). Frater Albertus, a widely known and respected modern alchemist also points this out by saying: “Sulfur, that is, the alchemical sulfur, is usually found in its oily form adhering to the Mercury.” Although we can pin-point alchemical sulfur as an oil, it functioned as a much deeper symbol to ancient and modern alchemists. In Paracelsus’s book “Concerning the Nature of Things,”he writes that “Sulfur is the soul.” But how can an oil now become the Soul of the substance in question?
The Webster dictionary defines Soul as: The immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life. To the alchemists, the oily characteristics of their Sulfur were described in just the same manner. The Sulfur was seen as the individual signature of the plant, animal, mineral, or metal in question. It was what gave each form of life its own unique characteristics. It was the closest material manifestation of a universal principle that gave all of life its spark and being. This source of all was known to the alchemists as Prima Materia. It was the alchemists “First Matter”, or that from which all things originated from and gained life through. Ancient Indian alchemist called this First Matter Adrishta, which translates as “unseen influence.” To ancient philosophers the unseen influence behind the physical cosmos could be attributed to pure and unbounded consciousness.
Referring back to our definition of Soul, we can now attribute consciousness to the “actuating cause of an individual life.” In all ancient philosophies, consciousness proceeded matter. It created matter by interacting with itself in an internal dialogue known to the Greeks as Logos. The alchemists Sulfur became the soul of the material they were working closely with in their laboratories. This Soul was understood as the Consciousness of that material, and that consciousness was seen as the source of that particular material. Not only was consciousness the source of the material being explored, but that same consciousness was the source of all. Universal and infinite in its expression this one consciousness gave life to all forms.
Freeing the Sulfur from its corporeal body made the universal life giving force of consciousness more available to the alchemists. Further research and study into this substance as the “actuating cause” of life would later lead alchemists into deeper understandings of the nature of all life. In time this would gift the alchemists the ability to extend life indefinitely in any body (Plant, animal, even Human) by creating a direct and permanent link with the subject and the unbounded consciousness residing in all life.
With closer examination the alchemists deepened there knowledge of the relationship of consciousness to matter. Diligent study and practice would eventually lead some to awaken infinite consciousness - acting as the source of life – in matter, and in effect finishing their “great work.” The Magnum Opus of the alchemists. The confection of the philosophers stone.
“He who does not know the Sulfur knows nothing, and can accomplish nothing, neither of medicine, nor of philosophy, nor any of the secrets of Nature.” -Paracelsus
Today is Tuesday, which corresponds with the planetary influences of Mars (Oil of Iron). Here is some more in-depth information on the qualities of this oil and how you can use it on a day like today to benefit in your physical and spiritual development.
The Oil of Iron is associated with the energies of Mars and the chakra center situated within the Solar Plexus. This center is known to govern the digestion and conversion of food into energy for the body. Physically the Oil of Iron works on all systems associated with digestion (Stomach, Intestines, Liver, Gallbladder, Pancreas, etc.). When the Oil of Iron is incorporated into the body, these systems are balanced to help you effectively break down ingested foods and distribute nutrients more adequately. Problems of over or under acidity in the digestive system as well as diabetic issues are also balanced with the usage of this oil.
Spiritually, the Oil of Iron builds upon the two energy centers below it. The self-esteem associated with the energies of Saturn (Oil of Lead), and the raw emotions associated with the energies of Jupiter (Oil of Tin), are elevated and incorporated into the chakra center of the solar plexus. These energies may then be harnessed by the Will to be transmuted towards higher forms of expression and consciousness. When properly balanced this center allows you to thoroughly “digest” your thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are stimulated by the interactions in your interior and exterior environments. With thorough digestion of both physical and emotional intake, the body and consciousness can use these vital energies accordingly so that the organism may flourish.
With energy effectively distributed throughout the body, personal power increases, providing you a better grasp to utilize your Will. This strengthening of Will is the vital aspect of the Oil of Iron. With proper digestion of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and the conversion of these energies into power or will, the stage is set for the higher energies of the heart (Oil of Copper) to use these things as tools to reconnect you with infinite and divine consciousness.
For more information on the Oil of Iron click here.
The Oil of Iron is available for purchase in our store front, click here to purchase
Modern students researching the practices and philosophies of Alchemy will often read the general definition of alchemy as “the art of transformation.” In actuality, there are various definitions and explanations attempting to define just what it is that Alchemy is. There are definitions that represent Transmutation, chemical marriages, raising of vibrations, and so on. These varying definitions lead many to misuse the term Alchemy and attribute it to many new age philosophies or healing practices that may or may not reflect the true nature of the word. Muddying up the practice, and inaccurately defining the word, we now see things in our society like: “Alchemical Massage, Alchemically prepared chocolates, Alchemy in Business, etc.” In no way do I wish to diminish these practices or modes of thinking, but taking something and using it to make something else is not necessarily what Alchemy truly is.
This article, “what is alchemy,” is an exploration into the definition of the word alchemy. This defining is intended to help make alchemical practices and theories clear, distinct, and relevant. Through explanation and exploration of the word alchemy I wish to define alchemy, and also call for a standardization of the definition throughout the alchemical community, and beyond, into adjacent realms of study – which, when understood and applied, can be found to be relevant to all things, all people, and areas of interest. To uncover the true essence of the art of alchemy, it is necessary to explore ancient alchemical texts themselves. The exploration of these texts reveals what the alchemists of old believed their Art to be. To do this, two of the most authoritative texts from eastern and western alchemical traditions will be used - the Emerald Tablet and the Rig Veda. The Emerald Tablet is reported to be more than three thousand years old and was referenced by alchemists of the west. Even today it is considered a corner stone in the beginning studies of any fledgling alchemist, and is quoted in almost every modern book pertaining to the study and practice of alchemy. The Rig Veda is believed to be at least six thousand years old and was the text used primarily by Indian alchemists. Indian alchemy and the studies of rasashastra are becoming more widely recognized and studied, making this a worthy resource for understanding alchemy on whole.
Though these texts come from vastly different places and different times, when compared side by side there are remarkable similarities. Although many ancient and sacred texts can be referenced and quoted for the sake of this exploration, only the two will be used as to maintain an air of simplicity.
Enough with prefaces, let’s explore how ancient alchemists thought of their own study and practice so that we may define and understand Alchemy.
From the Emerald Tablet:
“That which is below corresponds to that which is above, and that which is above corresponds to that which is below, in the accomplishment of the miracle of one thing”
And from the Rig Veda:
“He who knows the Father of this world as that which is below, associated with that which is above, and that which is above associated with that which is below, will have the mind of a sage.”
-Mandala 1, hymn CLXIV: 18
What does all that mean? And how does this talk of above and below explain what alchemy is?
Pulling apart these verses helps to isolate the truths that these texts are woven from.
We see that the Rig Veda describes the “Father of this world” as the Association of that which is above to that which is below. The Emerald Tablet also states that “all things have come from this one thing” (the association) - that “one thing” in the Emerald Tablet is the “father” we hear of in the Rig Veda.
What is this “one thing?” who or what is the “father?”
As stated above, the Father (the One thing) is defined as the Association of the “above corresponding to that which is below.”
ok, the “one thing/Father” is the association. But what is the “above and below” that are being referred to in these texts, and that our “one thing” is associated to and with.
The above was seen as the “heavens” - the macrocosm - that which is bigger than the biggest, or infinity. It was an inner world, a divine world, which gave birth to all that is.
The below was seen as the “Earth” – the physical manifestation - the microcosm - that which is smaller than the smallest – or the infinitesimal. It was the physicality of reality that was born from the Above.
In the Vedic perspective, the concept of below was known as point, and in contrast the concept of Above was known as infinite. To the Vedic sages, both of these concepts – the above and the below – were considered to be aspects of the self. Defining these in Sanskrit we see them named as Ananta – the infinite self, and Jiva – the point self or individual self.
Applying ancient Vedic perspective to our readings and understandings of the Emerald tablet helps to shed light on just what this thing called alchemy is.
Knowing the Above and below as aspects of the self we can see that when the infinite self (above) adopted a “point of view” to know itself, it became an individual (Jiva – the below) while still remaining infinite. This was known classically to the Vedics as Kshetragyah – the knower of the field. The “knower” was the one who has adopted a point of view as an individual to see itself as an infinite being of pure and unbounded consciousness. So then the “knower” becomes everything in between point and infinity. The Knower becomes the association between the above and the below.
The “one thing” who is the “father of this world” this “association” has now become the self. It is you. The self is not only the individual self and surely not the individual body, but rather the association between the individual and infinite, which is the whole. Whole can be defined as: Undivided, entire, or total. Whole signifies no separation, and no separation means there are no divisions between you and “it.” The world and the self. You, the association are the inside and the outside, the above and the below.
The association of the above and the below is the consciousness (which is you) - the awareness of the individual that proclaims to the self (consciousness) that “I exist – I am.” Consciousness in alchemical perspective was understood as Sulfur, which constitutes the soul of any individual form found in the universe. (Further readings pertaining to this topic – sulfur/soul - can be found in Truth of the Matter.)
Possessing true and unadulterated consciousness, one is made aware of both the individual self and infinite consciousness as the source of all. This individual, this knower, stands in-between point and infinity. His feet planted in the below and his head reaching into the above.
Understanding this association between the above and the below is the key to understanding the relationship between consciousness and matter which is the true essence of the science of Alchemy. By first understanding the association between consciousness and matter, one can then move on to the next step and become that association, becoming the “knower” of all that lies in-between point and infinity. The art and practice of alchemy is an avenue in which one can come to know that association and “know thy self.”
To answer the question of “What is alchemy?” in plain language: Alchemy is the understanding of the relationship between consciousness and matter. When these understandings are employed practically in the laboratory work, and internally to the psyche, the science and art of alchemy become manifest. Then the creations that come from the alchemist’s laboratory become the tools that he may use to direct his awareness back towards divine consciousness.
It is this definition of alchemy that must be standardized for truth to root into the minds and being of all. If alchemy is at all an “art of transformation” it is one that understands how consciousness creates and transforms itself into matter. Knowing alchemy as a practice and theory that recognizes the relationship of consciousness to matter, we can then unlock the general principles that structure alchemical theory (sulfur, mercury, & salt – The 4 elements – prima materia – etc.) Opening the doors to these understandings gives the power of wisdom back to every individual. Alchemy is just one of many paths that can be walked to know this and all as so. Understanding and incorporating this definition of alchemy is one step in recognizing the truths that alchemy points to and embodies.
Avery is the lead Alchemist at Kymia Arts and routinely shares information on general alchemy topics as well as our methods and products.