Ask An Alchemist — The Core Principles & Benefits of Alchemy
By Aubrey Forest
Ryan from Orlando Florida writes … “… I have a couple questions for you. First, what are the core principles of an alchemist? Second, what are the benefits of becoming an alchemist?”
I have given these two questions a great deal of thought, since they were asked back in January. This is not because my answer is uncertain, but rather because questions such as these, carry with them some rather significant and far-reaching implications. Knowledge of certain principles, laws, or functions will eventually alter the course of one’s life. Knowing that fire is extremely dangerous and yet extremely beneficial is one such principle which has endowed us with the civilization we enjoy today. Knowledge of the Principles of Alchemy has been the sole motivation behind why I share what I have discovered. Because just like knowing that fire is both dangerous and useful, understanding the universe from the alchemical perspective of our ancestors – a perspective now viewed through contemporary eyes – and recognizing the utility of such a perspective in modern terms, one can come to terms with a great many things that previously caused a great deal of confusion, and find a higher order of peace of mind; or at least so has been my own experience. I suppose that this “Higher order of peace of mind” is perhaps one of the greater benefits of pursuing the study of Alchemy.
As to the Principles of Alchemy, I have developed these four, or rather they were revealed to me as self-evident, through the course of my own Alchemical pursuits.
The First Principle is coined in the phrase “Temet Nosce,” meaning “Know Yourself.” This is not a kind of superficial, psyho-babble know yourself, this is the kind of self-knowledge that crosses every threshold. It means that in order to know yourself you must be acquainted and facile in ALL of the sciences! You must have an understanding of your physical nature, as well as an understanding of your emotional and intellectual nature. It requires that in order to understand yourself you must also understand the environment wherein you reside, and how that influences you, your existence, your self. This means that an understanding of politics, law, sociology, history, foreign languages, religion, philosophy, archaeology, and the myriad other sciences which embody the understanding of civilization and society as a whole is necessary so that you may also understand yourself within the context and framework of the time wherein you live. To know yourself, you must also have an understanding of the operations of the universe at large, and so an understanding of geometry, physics (both standard and plasma physics), chemistry, biology, and mathematics is also essential. For an understanding of these sciences provides the Alchemist the language whereby they can then express what they are experiencing in a language which is as full and complete as possible. Language is the Key. The greater your understanding in as many ways human consciousness has plied the pathways between knowledge and wisdom to convey meaning to our conscious experience, the more facile you shall become within your own human experience, being able to better express to yourself and others what it is that you see, hear, or feel, and to be able to place those feelings into a proper, relative, context. Definitely two additional benefits indeed. The pursuit of Temet Nosce is a kind of Nigredo, wherein all of one’s most precious preconceived notions are placed upon the table to be scrutinized and possibly burned. The pursuit of Temet Nosce will require the casting down of all of your illusions relative to how you may think the world operates and come to terms with the actuality of whatever it is you may discover. More often than not, Temet Nosce can lead one to a crisis of faith, and this is where the true Nigredo is made manifest.
The Second Principle is to develop a complete understanding of what Love actually is. Not in some fluffy-bunny, sappy, romantic poet way, but in philosophical and rational terms as an operational principle of the universe. Be wary, a true contemplation of Love will reveal to you who you have become, but not necessarily who you are. In this way, the Heart can express to the Mind what it is feeling, and the Mind can process that into as concrete terms as possible. This process is a kind of Albedo, wherein the Truth you have discovered creates within you an altered state of consciousness, wherein the old self is cast aside for the new self which has emerged from the pyre of your Nigredo.
The Third Principle is to love oneself. This is not a narcissistic self-love, but rather one born of the clarity of thinking that develops through a persistent study of the First and Second Principles, and can for some, be far more difficult than one can imagine. The revelation of the First Principle, Temet Nosce, is that you are not separate from your environment, but a part of it. In your pursuit of of further understanding of yourself and the principle concept, nature, and attributes of Love, you will enter into your own form of “Purgatorio” (see “The Divine Comedy” by Dante’), wherein you will discover that all that kept you separate from what you wanted was either the misdirection or absence of love as a result of your lack of understanding of yourself and in tern, your environment. This Principle yields within the Alchemist the Citrinitas or the yellowing, wherein the heart of the alchemist is transmuted from its dark and leaden state into gold.
The Fourth Principle is to Lead a Life Deliberate. This means that all things you do are a reflection of the realization of the previous three Principles. You act at all times, recognizing that a choice to do nothing is still a choice to act. All you do is an expression of all you know and understand; which it is already, but now your every action is an act of active, waking, consciousness; purposeful and deliberate. Each moment is a moment wherein you actively participate in its actualization, its creation. To Lead a Life Deliberate is to choose, to be, and to become. You can do none of these in ignorance. In ignorance one may only be directed by the Ego. This Fourth Principle is the very Rubedo the Alchemist seeks in their own Great Work. It is the point of actualization wherein the Alchemist becomes the Magician.
As to the benefits, other than the ones mentioned relative to their respective Principles, you get super powers as an Alchemist. Nah … not really … and yet, in a way, you do.
My facility in Alchemy has led me toward vast discoveries I could rarely have imagined ten or fifteen years ago. It alters your consciousness in ways that are difficult to describe. You see with clarity. You no longer need to seek a connection with all things because you have learned that, in fact, you are connected. A search for meaning in life becomes irrelevant, because you now know that all things have meaning; and by virtue of your pursuit you have experienced this meaning. This experience is only a part of that “Higher order of peace of mind” I spoke of earlier. You also discover that you are capable of vast potential, and vast understanding. You become free, or rather more free, because you can now witness yourself as a partner in the operations of the universe, rather than a mere by-stander. But most of all you discover how much you love every minute of every day, each moment being yet another opportunity to see it all happen, and know that you are now aware of it happening. You are the reflection in the mirror looking back at yourself and seeing the wonder of it all.
Ultimately, the pursuit of Alchemy is a means of seeking an end to Samsara, our perpetual reincarnation into sadness and misery (as the Buddha so described) and to move forward toward the next adventure, the next step, if that be your desire. It opens endless opportunity and possibility and provides clarity and perspective in the now. My studies and pursuit of Alchemy have brought me all this and a great deal more.
Thank you for the excellent and thought-provoking question!