An introduction to spiritual alchemy, the transformative art of introspection and discovery. This is part 1 of a series on alchemy.
Millennia ago chemistry and psychology were joined together under a single art called alchemy. Ancient alchemists realised that the physical and spiritual realms are intertwined and considered them together.
Chemistry has since branched off into its modern scientific form based on experimentation and the accumulation of objective knowledge. Psychology in my humble opinion is the equivalent and relatively modern attempt to make a subjective art objectively scientific. The fashion of trying to make everything into a science is a blasted pestilence doomed to abject failure, as not everything can be communicated and understood objectively.
Psychology has its merits, although I do believe it should be regarded as an art first and a science second. Too much of its territory lies beyond the scientific method, locked away in the mind away from objective scrutiny. Understanding people is largely about interpreting stories, intuiting motives and deciphering symbols. It, like alchemy, is the art of understanding souls. “Soul-study” is literally what the word psychology means, and well, good luck putting one of those under the microscope.
Arts may only be mastered through personal experience and that knowledge is not the kind that can be explained in any satisfactory way. Certain principals can be explained but that’s about it and the rest is practice. Attaining the remaining knowledge is done though coaching and self-discovery, as with other arts. Arts are lived.
Alchemy will always be an art.
The Physical Realm & The Spiritual Realm
The physical realm is not real in the same way as the spiritual realm. The physical realm is made of matter, while the spiritual realm is made of information. The spiritual realm dictates reality to the physical realm without existing in it directly. The laws of nature are the perfect example of spiritual forces that tell the physical realm how to behave while remaining ghostly, graspable by the mind but not the hand. A puppet on a string.
With regards to time, physical reality only exists in the present moment. Neither the future nor the past are physically real. The spiritual realm maps every permutation of possibility with regards to the future, and it tracks the present, and it also records the past. The spiritual realm does not exist inside of time, it makes time possible. The flow of time that living beings experience is our physical realm falling through the spiritual realm. We tumble toward the future away from an ever receding past without a parachute, but are we falling helplessly or flying without wings?
Symbolic Gateways Between the Realms
Take a story book, like Harry Potter. Stories are made by a flow of possibility from the future being realised in the present and being connected to the past in a coherent way. They don’t physically exist. They spiritually exist.
The pages of the Harry Potter books, as with any written book, contain symbols. Symbols are doorways to information and not information itself, and literacy is the tool required to access information pointed to by symbols in books. Reading the book causes the Harry Potter story to spring into being and yet you did not physically go anywhere. You spiritually went somewhere. The letters on the page are not the story itself, but they are the map you need to find it. The story is not tangible and it has no physical reality, only spiritual reality. The experience is fleeting as it passes through the present moment from the future into the past. The letters remain letters, a physical doorway to a spiritual experience.
A human mind is a combination of physical and spiritual interaction. Only things in the physical realm experience time, and so only a physical human brain can have thoughts. Thought is what animates that which exists in the spiritual realm, a place outside of time that does not experience change. That is how letters frozen on a page, pointing to a story frozen in time, are brought to life in the mind of the reader.
The Significance of the Spiritual Realm
The spiritual realm then tells us about what can be, determines what is, and records what has been. It is also a place where abstract ideas exist, such as stories, and stories are how we make sense of life. We derive morality from stories. A good morality could be summed up as “how best to live”, and it would consist of useful principals to help guide the moral person through the unpredictable rough and tumble of life.
Understanding the nature of things is required to make good judgements. The nature of people is especially murky is it not, and so penetrating the murk would seem useful to understand them. A few people also have the awareness to reflect upon their own nature, and are surprised to find themselves the most mysterious person of all. Why don’t we understand ourselves? Do you have any idea who you are? Most people have no idea who they are. No idea at all. People know their names and a few other superficial things, but really, most of a person’s nature is out of mind and deeply buried.
What a strange mystery, to not be born with complete understanding of ourselves! It’s no wonder we don’t understand other people, only parts of them. There always seems to be more and more to find out, and comparing notes with other wayfarers is endless fun for those inclined. Curiously, our personal beings are entwined with human collectives, and common stories are embedded with personal wisdom, things that apply to us as well as other people. For those of us who are fated to explore the nebulous mind of humanity, I will say that faith is an especially important factor in guiding the soul away from nightmare and into good. A strong sense of intuition is paramount. Trust in God and yourself, absolutely.
I can’t recommend the path of the alchemist to just anyone. We are dualistic creatures in nature, one extreme of the soul being blindingly bright and the other crushingly dark. While our glorious aspects take the breath away, it takes a strong will to stomach the parts that belong to nightmare. It’s just not very safe for the average person’s sanity. And so for the feint of heart it’s better to remain ignorant and mind your earthly business. People who like matters to be solid are likewise not suited. Rather, you should make doubt and uncertainty your constant companions, for no alchemist can ever be certain of truth. The best we can hope for is “near enough to be useful”.
What is the Point of Alchemy?
The point of modern alchemy is self-illumination, or discovering how you work, truly knowing your own personality, understanding and accepting your personal flaws and how to mitigate them, realising your gifts and how they can benefit you and all of humanity. Alchemy helps you to discover yourself and find meaning in life.
Not everybody needs alchemy to know who they are and what their life goals should be. Some of us are just lucky and are pulled by whatever cosmic forces there are in a particular direction to shine. Some of us however are crippled by doubt and struggle to find a point. Alchemy is more for that second group of people, though it is only part of a solution. Alchemy tells you about who you are, not what you should do.
By discovering who you are, who you really are, it might become apparent what you should do with your life, what is missing, what you should try to add or subtract, to be in harmony with your inner nature.
How and Where to Start
The main thing is to turn the mind’s eye upon the mind itself and then to just watch and reflect. You do this whenever the mood takes you for however long and develop a habit. Over time, you will see patterns and natures and other phenomenon, and gradually you will develop an understanding of the person you are looking at. This can also be applied to entire cultures, with the important habits also being to question everything ad nauseam and pay attention.
The more you pay attention, the more you notice how odd everything is. To most people, the odd things have become background noise they tuned out some time ago and they no longer pay attention to them. What if some of that detail in the background is really important, and it’s being overlooked? So many answers lay hidden in plain sight, if only people would pay attention.
More in subsequent parts. Or should I say, “To be continued…”. Until next time then!