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Spiritual Alchemy

Hermetic Tradition

Alchemy is sometimes called the Hermetic Art after Hermes the messenger of the Greek gods. He is known by many as the father of alchemy, and an entire tradition of alchemy bears his name.

Probably the single most revered document in the Hermetic Tradition is the Emerald Tablet. Said to have been originally written by Hermes himself, stories of it's discovery remain varied.

The tablet reads -

Truly, without Deceit, certainly and absolutely -

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 just as all things have come from One, through the Mediation of One, so all things follow from this One Thing in the same way.

Its Father is the Sun. Its Mother is the Moon. The Wind has carried it in his Belly. Its Nourishment is the Earth. It is the Father of every completed Thing in the whole World. Its Strength is intact if it is turned towards the Earth. Separate the Earth by Fire: the fine from the gross, gently, and with great skill.

It rises from Earth to Heaven, and then it descends again to the Earth, and receives Power from Above and from Below. Thus you will have the Glory of the whole World. All Obscurity will be clear to you. This is the strong Power of all Power because it overcomes everything fine and penetrates everything solid.

In this way was the World created. From this there will be amazing Applications, because this is the Pattern.
Therefore am I called Thrice Greatest Hermes, having the three parts of the Wisdom of the whole World.

Herein have I completely explained the Operation of the Sun.

In attempting to transmute lesser metals to gold, the alchemist is trying to achive perfection, but not just in the material sense. At the same time he is striving to achive perfection of the self. Just as compounds are broken down, dissolved and recombined in the alchemist's laboratory, death is not seen as the end of things but simply their breaking down into their components, a state from which they are combined with all things in existence.

It is the belief that the immortal 'spirit' can leave the mortal body behind and thus the self can become immortal.

"Leave the senses of the body idle, and the birth of divinity will begin." - Hermes

Tantric Alchemy

Indian Rasa Shastra or Tantric alchemy is closely involved with the metal mercury. The mercury was seen as a living being, and in it's processessing is 'awakened', made 'hungry', 'fed', made to 'swoon', and then 'killed' (incinerated).

Those seeking enlightenment must undergo much preparation of the body and mind otherwise, when they are enlightened, they will be unable to cope with the energy released. By ingesting mercury, (along with gold and sulfur as a Makaradwaja) it is said that the body can be made able to digest anything, hence the mercury can aid one on the path to enlightenment.

Thus the preparation of mercury is seen as the the preparation of one's self for enlightenment.

Chinese Spiritualism

The Chinese, like the Indians, have their own way of practising alchemy internally as well as externally. The nei tan or inner elixir is developed by the alchemist through a form of excercise called Qigong, which manipulates the chi energy of the body.

In the same way that the alchemist performs transmutations on materials in search of the outer elixir, or wai tan, he 'transmutes' his body with the inner elixir, giving himself long life and good health.

Whilst the search for the outer elixir may not be carried out by many, Qigong is practised to this day, and whether it is realised to be a form of alchemy or not, it is becoming increasingly popular in the west as a technique for improving health and lifestyle.