Purpose of Alchemy
But just what is alchemy, and what role does it play in the promotion of the welfare of mankind? If alchemy has any true value, it must be based upon eternal values, upon the things that support Heaven's purposes; in other words, upon God's plan of humankind's becoming into the true Elohimic image of the divine. If alchemy simply had an earthly objective, masterminds of the Ages would not have concerned themselves with it. It would have been considered as something so trivial, so transient, as to distract Man from the real work of extricating himself, specifically, from his bondage to the carnal self, the kama manas, or animal soul; and generally, from samsara. Greed was never the impulse that prompted the invention of alchemy. It was, is, and always will be Man's desire for Truth and enlightenment of his true nature and estate that motivates him to seek through every channel and avenue for that certain something that he subconsciously feels he had "lost" and which is his to re-acquire--call it "the Lost Word," "the Philosopher's Stone," or "the Holy Grail," it matters not. Alchemy teaches Man the principles of regeneration and resurrection, laws of creation and transmutation; laws that would assist Man to regain his former estate lost in "the Fall." This "Fall" from Paradise symbolically represents involution of the human life wave into physical matter. The way back to the Throne of God is scientifically called "evolution," and the acceleration of the latter is the art of the hermetic gnosis. This Path of Return is esoterically and graphically symbolised by Jacob's Ladder, and the paths of the Qaballistic "Tree of Life."
The drama of Jesus' life is an alchemical allegory of the steps of regeneration and ascension to the I AM Presence within, the "Father who art in Heaven." Orthodox Christianity does not recognize or is unaware of this vital truth, and because of the lack of mystical insight among most members of its priesthood coupled with the absence of esoteric truths in the doctrines and dogmas of the Church, the average Christian is ignorant and unaware of the true message of Christianity--of the Light, the Christ substance, and the true saving blood that Christ introduced to humankind. Esoteric Christianity is fundamentally an alchemical science and religion; its promulgator was a Master Alchemist--being taught in the initiatory halls of the Mystery Schools. It is related in the Gospels how the Master transmuted water into wine, multiplied loaves and fishes, and walked on water--all of which were manifestations of the applied principles of alchemy, the Hermetic philosophy--or perhaps these events were all allegories conveying some spiritual teaching.
Alchemy is defined as an art of transmutation and precipitation--the changing of base metals into gold. The work of alchemical transmutation is designated as "the Labor of the Sun." This "Eye of Ra" symbolically represents the perfection with which Nature is gradually unfolding in her creations. At the physical level the Sun of Perfection is represented by gold. Alchemy is the science and art which hasten the creations of Nature to attain perfection at their own respective level. Gold is the perfection attain by metals and minerals. Minerals, however, are also following another line of perfection--that of its ability to sustain life and consciousness. And Man, the acme of organic life, is evolving to the state where he acquires perfection in Divine Self-Awareness.
From the above it can be summarized that alchemy is the art of raising vibrations of an object in order to hasten its development or evolution into a higher expression or state. The result is perfection of the object of the transmutation.
Alchemy's Transmission to Christendom
Alexandria was the philosophical capital of Egypt, and perhaps of the whole civilized worlds in the early centuries of Christianity. Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Alchemy and Hermeticism flowered abundantly; these philosophies are intrinsically related, and to comprehend the Royal Art fully, the student of alchemy is advised by Master teachers to be familiar with their doctrines. Alexandria's Golden Age of occult philosophy did not last long, for the reptilian mind of the fallen angels had seized control of the rising new religion of Christianity (no offence to our Christian brothers and sisters). The philosophical sons and daughters of Hermes were persecuted and murdered brutally by Christian fundamentalists and fanatics. Fear and hatred were aroused among the masses and the ousting of the so-called pagan religions from the land ensued. One sad event was the cruel assassination of Hypathia, an illustrious daughter of the Mysteries--the Widow Isis, and propounder of Neoplatonism. She hardly had a philosophical equal during her day, and this caused the envy and jealousy of a certain priest who contrived her murder.
During the decline of the Roman Empire, the Secret Doctrine, or the Ancient Wisdom were passed on to the guardianship of the Arabian and Persian mystics. The tenets of occult wisdom were later incorporated into the Muslim faith with its higher aspects promulgated secretly in the traditional oral manner in certain sects, Orders, and mystical groups such as the Sufi and Dervish Orders, and among the community of Druzes in Lebanon and Syria.
In the 8th to the 11th centuries A.D., in the era of the golden period of alchemic-Islamic culture, we hear of eminent names in the field of the Royal Art, such as al-Farabi, Rhazes, Geber and Avicenna. These men studied the mystery teachings and occult wisdom of the Egyptian and Greek schools. They were most notably influenced by Hermetic, Alchemic and Neoplatonic ideas, and the knowledge that they acquired was synthesized with Islamic and Sufic doctrines. The Sufi adepts produced one of the most beautiful symbols of spiritual unfoldment and progression: the rose. Its symbolism is comparable to the lotus adopted by Hindu mystics.
The Knights Templer was an important link between both East and West, between Islamic culture and the world of Christendom. The alchemical doctrine was passed on by the Sufi adepts to these "Knights of the Holy Sepulchre," as the Templers were originally called. Even the mythical Christian Rosencruez of Rosicrucianism is said to have acquired his occult knowledge from the Sufi Masters and adepts in Arabia.
After the days of the disbandment of the Templer Order by Philip the Fair of France, and the death-sentence of their last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay in 1314, the surviving Knights sought refuge in various countries; and in England some of them founded an alchemical Order which later became known as the "Elder Brothers of the Rose Cross." It is said that this Order comprised 33 members and that this group exists even to this very day in our computer age.
When the believers of Allah invaded and settled in Iberia, they brought with them the Secret Teachings. Colleges were established that had mysticism, metaphysics, and alchemy in the curriculum. With the establishment of the various schools, the Ancient Wisdom finally took definite root in European soil, and it spread gradually throughout the other regions of the Continent. This expansion was no doubt the result of the efforts put forth by the spiritual hierarchy of this planet. Man's evolution is divided into certain steps, stages, and cycles, and these have "time-tables" or schedules associated with them. It was expedient that the Flames of Truth and Freedom be given to the custodian of the Islamic world if it were not to be extinguished by some of the ungodly minds of Christendom of the Dark Ages which would have caused a setback to the Divine Plan already established.
The deviation from the right use of free will by Christian fundamentalists had made them unsuitable vessels for the Christic wine. In spite of exoteric Christianity's blind attack on th Light that gave it birth, the esoteric circle continued its existence clandestinely, preserving the secret teachings of Jesus and transmitting it to a selected few who had the vision of the divine plan within their hearts and minds.
Idries Shah, the eminent Sufi of contemporary times, mentions in his book "The Sufis," how an Englishman, one Robert of Chester, was instrumentally in 1144 A.D., in introducing alchemy to the Christian world by translating an alchemical manuscript originally written in Arabic. There were many others like him, for bearers of the Flame were not few.
Levels of Alchemy
Most of the principles of alchemy conveyed to the public were made up of images, mandalas, and jargon. These obscure languages were necessary considering the era that alchemical science was struggling--struggling for a recognition from the masses as a system of spiritual development in the midst of ecclesiastical persecution. The mentality of the masses of the Middle Ages were not much different from the time of Jesus. Ignorance, superstition, and fear still ruled the day. The letter of the law, as propagandized by Orthodox Christianity were still at odds, and at conflict with the spirit of the law, as advanced by enlightened mystics. The inquisition, which lasted for centuries, showed how far the Church had strayed from the original precepts of Christianity. The Christ taught love, forgiveness, charity and kindness; the Church Fathers and Christian leaders only knew personal ambition, with sadism, and egoism set-up upon an unholy pedestal. The personal "I" was worshipped, the "Yekhidah," or the Divine I AM, was forgotten.
Neophytes of the Mysteries were given the keys of interpretation of Sacred literature when they were accepted in the various secret brotherhoods. The candidates of alchemical initiation were noticed by the Masters when they had proven their sincerity, and the sacrifices and effort that they had made. To the world at large, the existence of the Masters was unknown and unsuspected, even though their presence in the world of men was hinted at in various alchemical manuscripts. It was only in the last century that Helena P. Blavatsky, among others, who brought their existence to the world's attention; and even then, the world scoffed and derided at the idea. This is a little unreasonable, as people of various spiritual unfoldment and mental development may easily be seen and recognized. If some men and women are more perfect than others, why should not there be men and women totally perfect from our human point of view?
Esoterically, when a Master alchemist gave a student of alchemy the "Philosopher's Stone," what was actually conveyed were the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, and a certain yogic system that when applied and practiced, would transmute an initiate into a god.
To the public eye, alchemical icons and terminology conveyed no sense whatsoever, but the mystiqueness of alchemical texts and images aroused interest in potential practitioners of the Royal Art, and it turned the average person into a seeker. This was perhaps one of the intentions of the authors of alchemical manuscripts. Modern chemistry, feeling a little perplexed by alchemical ideas, contemptuously considers her sire as a pseudo-science, in the same manner that astrology is usually frowned upon by the students of astronomy. Modern research will in time change the opinions and prejudicial beliefs of a materialistically-inclined science; already pioneers of quantum physics are hypothesising what the Ancient Wisdom has been teaching for ages.
One key to understanding alchemy is to determine the objectives and the subject of transmutation. Without keeping this principle in mind, one would be lost in the alchemical wilderness. Alchemy is categorized into four levels:
1) Physical alchemy
2) Biological alchemy
3) Psychological alchemy
4) Transcendental alchemy
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