Today on The M.A.P. I introduce the first of what will likely become many discussions relative to the Art of Human Alchemy.
To begin, we will explore the Art of Thinking, and endeavor to understand the nature of our cognitive process; which is the first step towards any lasting personal Transmutation.
This is CORE MATERIAL for any serious student of Alchemy, and is the KEY to advancing oneself in their pursuit of personal ascension.
Ready? Let’s Begin. ^_^
Human Alchemy & The Art of Thinking
Greetings, and welcome to The Modern Alchemist Channel, I’m Aubrey Forest – the Modern Alchemist – and this is The M.A.P., The Modern Alchemist Podcast. Today on the MAP we’re going to be discussing Human Alchemy and the Art of Thinking. For the Alchemist Apprentice, you will discover by the end of today’s discussion that you have been equipped with the essential nuts and bolts necessary to effect commencement of your own personal Transmutation. And to the Alchemist Adept, you will find a welcome confirmation of your own cognitive experience relative to the very personal Art of Human Alchemy, placed into very frank, pragmatic, and familiar terms.
Ready? Let’s Begin.
Before any meaningful dialogue may be held regarding this material, it is important to identify the nature of our inner dialogue and that, in fact, there is such a thing. Of course, there are literally thousands of articles, magazines, books, and websites which have spent an equal number of pages discussing the nature of human cognition, and we will not be going into those many concepts here. Instead, I am going to share with you the Method I discovered during my Journey in becoming an Alchemist, and how it has helped me discern the nature of my own cognitive process, and what I later learned was a shared trait among all people.
The Great “I AM” or “Me, Myself, and I”
When we critically examine ourselves and the nature of our thinking as human beings, we learn quite quickly that there are at least two aspects of our own conscious state. There is the conscious state that is self declarative and subjective: “I am happy, I am sad, I am frustrated, I am angry, etc,” then there is the part of one’s consciousness that examines things from a far more objective perspective.
Within the framework of this discussion, we shall discover that our conscious experience is divided into three parts. In Freudian terms, this is described as the Id, the Ego, and the Super Ego. In Alchemical terms it would be described as Salt – the Body, Mercury – the Soul, and Sulfur – the Spirit. The terms I have discovered to be the most descriptive of this tri-un conscious state as I have experienced it is the Subjective Self, the Middle Self, and the Objective Self.
In common terms today, the Subjective Self is equivalent to the Ego. However, for the purpose of this discussion I’m going to avoid the use of the term “Ego,” as that it has become inherently associated with something that is bad. Instead, the term “Subjective Self,” will be used because it is actually more descriptive of the sense of that particular cognitive process.
The Subjective Self is the sense of self that declares “I am” or “I feel” and is tied directly to the rudimentary physicality of our being; our physical/material self. We feel because we are flesh and bone. We have desire, passion, and presence! “I am!” we declare in our own personal godhood, and we often expect the universe to respond when we have declared what it is we happen to be or be feeling at the moment. Not surprisingly, the universe will generally oblige and provide a response whenever our declaration of “I am” is spoken and witnessed, although not always to our satisfaction. Everything associated with the Subjective Self and the “I am” is tied to an emotional state of being and is seen from a completely subjective experience because you are the subject of all you experience. When the “I am” is speaking there is no sense of “The Other,” no sense of anyone or anything outside of the Subjective Self; and the interests of the Subjective Self outweigh all other considerations. To the “I am” everything is personal, everything is felt, nothing is reasoned.
By contrast, there is an airy detachment present in what most call the “Higher Self” – which has little to do with actual preeminence over the Subjective Self and more to do with sense of Perspective that is granted through objective vision. As such, I have come to know the “Higher Self” as the “The Objective Self.” Where the Subjective Self feels the Objective Self thinks. Where the Subjective Self operates on hunches and intuition, the Objective Self operates on concrete information and reasoning. The Subjective Self permits error (after all, “you’re only Human” says the Subjective Self), the Objective Self comprehends error but demands accuracy. Where the Subjective Self is sustained and concerned only with the “I,” the Objective Self sees things in terms of “We.” Thus where the Subjective Self declares “I am,” the Objective Self would declare, “We are.” Because of the objective vantage of the Objective Self, it is impossible for the Objective Self to perceive separation, for to the Objective Self all is unity. This is the core behind the objective perception of the Objective Self and the statement “We are.”
The Art of Thinking is learning how to use both of these traits to your advantage. This brings me to “The Middle Self.” As one identifies these two cognitive traits within themselves through the course of meditation, one comes to the realization that there is a “Middle Self,” that observes and responds to the dialogue of the Subjective Self and the Objective Self. While the Middle Self engages in cognitive process, it can be seen more as a regulator and sculptor of thought rather than the actual generative aspect of thinking. It is the sculpting and regulation of Thought that is the thinking process of the Middle Self. This realization provides a unique perspective and illustrates that there is a distinction between the experience of thinking and the experience of observing the process of one’s thoughts and deliberating on that process. It is a fine line, but one that renders an extraordinary revelation to the astute Alchemist. The revelation is this: that the Subjective Self, the Objective Self, and the Middle Self (your sense of “You-ness”) are all you! The terms, “Me, Myself, and I” are then revealed as the following: the Middle self as “Me,” the Objective Self as “Myself,” and the Subjective Self as the great “I.” They may seem separate, but they are all a sense of self that is generated through the process of cosmic consciousness. This revelation endows the Alchemist with the necessary perception to proceed forward with not one driving aspect of consciousness and cognitive process, but three: the Subjective Self, the Objective Self, and the Middle Self or Me, myself, and I.
The “Third-Party Observer”
Applied meditation upon the nature of thinking and the propagation of one’s thoughts will eventually yield the presence of yet one more aspect of one’s conscious state, that of the “Third-Party Observer.” This is that aspect of one’s consciousness that continually observes and which can infinitely retreat into itself, maintaining the role of “Observer.” It is the sense of watching oneself thinking, knowing you are observing yourself, and being aware that the observer is forever being observed by an even deeper layer of consciousness that typifies the idea of the Third-Party Observer.
In the end, one is rarely “Alone with their thoughts!”
The reason why I bring this concept to bare is three-fold. First, it is helpful to anyone seeking personal improvement of any sort to be aware of their cognitive process and have the language necessary to express their cognitive state. Second because it is my experience that most are unaware of the process of the conscious state taking place within them and thus most rarely discover their objective likes or preferences, and find their decisions are driven almost entirely by their Subjective Self and their current emotional state rather than objective reasoning. The strength of the Subjective Self or its influence upon our conscious state cannot be underscored sufficiently. The Subjective Self has the greatest sway upon our conscious state because the Subjective Self is most closely tied to what it is to actually be and what it is to be alive. The Subjective Self understands these concepts implicitly because the Subjective Self’s “Intelligence” is a product of instinct rather than academic or experiential learning. The Subjective Self feels its way to a solution or conclusion, the Objective Self thinks its way, and the Middle Self plays its role as adjudicator and executioner of the cognitive process of the Subjective Self and/or the Objective Self. The Subjective Self is “The Body,” the Objective Self is “The Spirit,” and the Middle Self is “The Soul,” or combined temporal, mortal incarnation of the Spirit (Objective Self) and the Body (Subjective Self).
At this point, many might (and do) consider the Subjective Self to be inferior, or even villainous; however such appellations, while enticing, are generally unproductive. The Subjective Self is there to assist us when we lack the time or luxury to be able to think our way from start to finish and cast a judgment, and the Subjective Self allows us to short-cut our way from problem to solution. In this light, the Subjective Self is most closely related to one’s sense of instinct or intuitions, for the judgments of the Subjective Self are ever founded in how one feels rather than how one actually thinks. Still were you to ask the Subjective Self, the Subjective Self would assert that feeling is thinking, and the Subjective Self would be right. But never forget, is important to recognize that while feeling may be thinking, it is a very different kind of thinking.
The Subjective Self as Satan, Your “Personal Adversary”
Understanding the nature of the Subjective Self, its function and attributes leads the clever Alchemist to many other discoveries. The first among many is the association of the Subjective Self within the framework of the Kabbalah. For those unfamiliar with the Kabbalah, fear not, we have explored it in many ways already on The Modern Alchemist Channel, and will continue to refer to it regularly by virtue of its vast utility in all areas of thought. For now, suffice it to say that the planetary association within the Kabbalah relating to the expression of cosmic consciousness into physical form happens under Saturn within the sphere of Binah (the third sephiroth or sphere in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life). This is our first association with Saturn being “The Key.” It is the very nature of the Subjective Self that lends itself to understanding a very important aspect of human consciousness as revealed in a study of Kabbalah, most notably, that the Subjective Self is tied to Saturn by virtue of its expression through the existence of fleshly mortality: our material body. This principle places a great many ecclesiastical concepts into a much clearer and more specific relief. Recognizing the Subjective Self as one’s personal tempter or adversary provides us the final necessary link to understanding Saturn’s association with Satan. Beyond the physical trapping and elemental nature of the archetype presented in the character and nature of Satan, it is the meaning of this word as translated from Hebrew that is the greatest revelation into the source of this connection. Satan means “Personal adversary,” and that is precisely what the Subjective Self presents to the overall self that is you. In other ecclesiastical words, the Subjective Self is “The Natural Man,” that part of you that simply does a thing because you “Feel like it,” without any regard for the outcome of that choice or how that outcome may impact others around you. It is because the Subjective Self places itself above all others that it is characterized as being “Evil” or at the very least “Adversarial.” Without question, the Subjective Self left unchecked is a detriment to itself and all around it, largely because of its myopic perspective and limited capacity for objective judgment. But in spite of all that appears to be negative regarding the Subjective Self, it’s really not all that bad once you get to know it and harness what motivates it to your benefit.
As presented within Kabbalah, it is our physicality and the limitation our physical form presents that is both our greatest blessing and our most doleful bane. Our physical being allows us to experience all there is to experience and what it is to be alive as a Human Being, but it also presents us with aspects of that physicality which transcend our Free Will, and often our ability to even make a choice without dire consequences. Our physical form presents us with wants, desires, feelings, and emotions which often have the capacity to override reason entirely; and all of this is driven by the possession of a body that is of very divided states of consciousness, for while we are doing the things our emotions may be driving us to do, we are also observing ourselves doing those things, and many times we may even find ourselves asking ourselves “What the heck are we doing, and why?” Who, within us, is engaging in this inner dialogue? Why none other than the Objective Self, and perhaps even the Middle Self in relation to the Subjective Self. Of course, the Subjective Self when pressed rarely is capable of articulating a reason, because there is no reason, other than the Subjective Self felt like doing it. And this drive, this reasonless motivation is what philosophers throughout the ages have presented as Satan, our “Personal Adversary.”
Your greatest enemy is your Subjective Self, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The Subjective Self can become a powerful ally, but only when managed in full under the counsel of the Objective Self, and the cooperative acts of the Middle Self as Agent and Actor for both the Subjective and Objective Self. It is the process of learning how to do this and doing so effectively that is the first step in initiating one’s personal Transmutation.
The greatest obstacle to Mental Alacrity is the Subjective Self, because the Subjective Self is invested in what it knows, feels, or believes. The Objective Self knows no such form of attachment, and the Middle Self is that which negotiates between the feelings of the Subjective Self and the comprehension of the Objective Self. Mental Alacrity is challenged any time we are confronted with new information or information that seems to be in contradiction with known dogma or facts determined by scientific, religious, or philosophical consensus. This challenge can be compounded by orders of magnitude, depending upon the individual’s personal investment in mainstream thinking, philosophy, science, or religion. Those who find themselves most-deeply invested in prevailing orthodoxy will find themselves sorely challenged as new ideas or interpretations of existing data are expressed and/or demonstrated.
One’s only defense against this resistance to new information is the awareness that one is becoming resistant. This awareness is lent from the Objective Self – who is not invested in anything but what can be shown to be real, substantial, or authentic – to the Middle Self and allows the Middle Self the opportunity to take intelligent action, rather than be passively driven by the whims or concerns of the Subjective Self. The Middle Self can then evaluate if the feelings of the Subjective Self are – in fact – valid, or the product of unsubstantiated apprehension wrought from a fear of change or the unknown, rather than actual reason.
Again, the Alchemist is best served by placing the Subjective Self temporarily to rest, and taking counsel from the Objective Self until all the data has been presented and processed. Then, when the information has been processed, permit the Subjective Self to weigh in and express as to how it feels. More often than not, one will discover the Subjective Self to be in agreement with the Objective Self, because the Subjective Self hates being wrong, and loves how a decision feels when it is made intelligently, for it gives the Subjective Self confidence that is actually earned.
Once possessed of Mental Alacrity, the Alchemist is able to move among the symbols, archetypes and mythologies which are the Language of Alchemy like a dancer or gymnast; effortlessly twisting and turning among the myriad disciplines that encompass the Science and Art of Alchemy to unlock its secrets and core narratives. Such a dance, however, is only possible if one first frees one’s mind of the shackles of consensus orthodoxy to travel a different Path.
Without question, maintaining a state of constant Mental Alacrity is one of the greatest challenges in obtaining and performing one’s personal Transmutation. It is the very essence of Mindfulness as taught by the Buddha. This is because Mental Alacrity demands that the Alchemist to be honest with themselves and what it is that is being experienced as a result of the course of their personal Transmutation. This honesty is only possible if the Alchemist is constantly aware of what, how, and why they are thinking or feeling as they are thinking or feeling in real time; in the present.
In the end, resistance truly is futile for it blinds you to all you are and can be and binds you to the limitations of the Subjective Self and its many projections.
Mindfulness, Cognitive Presence, and Meditation
One of the greatest struggles for those entering upon the Esoteric in Western Culture is learning how to focus one’s mind in meditation. This is largely because we in the West have projected what we believe meditation to be upon the practice rather than actually seeking to understand what the practice of meditation actually is. As such, most in the West believe meditation to be something that is done in a static position, in silence, involving some form of regulated breathing, and possibly conducted with soft “Spiritual” music playing in the background, and one or more candles and incense sticks burning in the immediate vicinity,
The number one reason people fail or become discouraged with the process of mediation is because they simply have no idea what to do once all the physical trappings of a “Meditation” are addressed. Literally, the Subjective Self cries out, “What do I do now?” which usually is quickly followed by “This is stupid,” and “I am so bored.” It is this last sentiment, or any so phrased with the oh-so-potent “I am” that reveals the face of your true opponent to be the Subjective Self. Should the student be able to quell the constant prattling of the Subjective Self, the student will quickly find themselves in a desert of thought which is rapidly being populated with a million and one little things that pose one distraction after another, also a creation of the Subjective Self presenting itself in one of its million and one different forms. In such cases the open expanse of the Mind becomes harried with the worries and concerns of the Subjective Self. Thoughts of one’s finances, one’s relationships, how one may be perceived by the public may all come to mind. If not this, then there is always the student who is overly concerned with perfection in all its forms. “Am I breathing correctly? Is my posture perfect?” etc. are simply other faces of the Subjective Self as revealed by the question “Am I?” which is nothing but the Subjective Self asking itself what it currently believes itself to be or be feeling. In the end, “Am I?” or “I am” are both expressions of the Subjective Self speaking to itself and expressing to the universe at large how it feels about whatever it may be experiencing, and expecting a response. If no response is given, the Subjective Self will then avail itself the opportunity to suggest an alternative to the failed activity, “How about we go and do something that is not this …” says the Subjective Self; and if left unmanaged or unidentified, will result in the consummation of another failed attempt concealed beneath the desire to move on and do something else. The vicious irony of this cycle is that this too can be fodder for the Subjective Self to self-flagellate, leading to the self-indulgence of self pity or personal recrimination depending upon the nature and complexion of the Subjective Self at that time in particular.
As I have counseled many students before, to know that it is the Subjective Self that is one’s opponent in a successful meditation is the first line of defense against its influence. But be warned, the Subjective Self – once called out – will often hide itself in what feels like the ministrations of the Objective Self, but this deception is easily revealed when the Subjective Self calls upon itself for self flagellation, repentance, or punishment for its lack of discipline. Should this be the case, the Subjective Self will then begin in a long series of self-directed assaults, all of which are easily identified as the Subjective Self speaking within one’s self dialogue. “I’m (I am) a failure. I can’t do it. I’m (I am) not disciplined enough. I should try harder. “ I … I … I, and endless array of reasons all centered in the “I” and thus all centered in the Subjective Self.
At this point it needs to be noted what is presented here as an obstacle to a successful meditation is also the same instrument of our every failure. Every fear, every reason for not doing a thing, every regret – and the cause, product, and legacy of that regret – are all products of an unidentified and unrestrained Subjective Self. Every sudden flash of anger, every blush from flattery, every single reason for despair, anguish, and personal suffering, all are the product of the Subjective Self. The Objective Self does not treat with these issues because to the Objective Self there is a much larger picture and perspective from which to make a proper judgment. But the Subjective Self cares little for such perspective, and has no use for objective reasoning when in the heat of emotion. To the Subjective Self, all is personal, all is directed toward the Self, all dialogue and action are directed at you and therefore at the Subjective Self.
Taking Charge of One’s Soul – Being “Me”
“How did all this come to be? How is it possible that a literal “Madman” (the Subjective Self) is in charge of so much of what I do? How can I overcome what is clearly a part of who I am as a whole, and how can I turn this to my advantage?” These are the questions the clever Alchemist generates when first confronted with such an opponent, and in their address, the Alchemist is capable of isolating and comprehending something few ever do: their very nature.
Of course to meditate upon this would be of great value to the Alchemist Apprentice, if only the Subjective Self could be quelled long enough for such a fruitful meditation to take place. Here then is our personal Gordian knot, and my advice to any seeking its resolution is to use the method reputed to have been used by Alexander the Great. As legend has it, Alexander – being a man of action – realized when presented with the Gordian knot the best way to unravel the knot was not waste one’s time tugging at each and every thread or line; instead, one must draw upon the Sword of Reason and cut through all the bullshit.
So it is when confronting the many faces and masks worn by the Subjective Self. Like Alexander the Great, one must draw upon the Sword of Reason – the Objective Self – and objectively cut through all the irrational feelings, attachments, and illusions the Subjective Self employs in an effort to preserve and conceal its influence within one’s conscious state and at last become free.
The Subjective Self Unmasked
The chief reason why I elected to focus my discussion upon the Subjective Self in the Art of Thinking is simple: nothing will stand in the way of a person more readily than their Subjective Self. Literally, one must learn to get out of one’s own way in order to proceed. This literally is the singular reason why we fail. It isn’t for the hundred and one reasons we give ourselves, it is because that dialogue even exists that we fail; for the source of that dialogue is ever the Subjective Self. “I wasn’t good enough. It was a bad day. They had better materials or training. I didn’t have their advantages. If I had what they had, I’d be great too.” And on and on the Subjective Self goes, in a thousand different voices, for a thousand different scenarios, it really doesn’t matter; because the Subjective Self is the ultimate chameleon, shape-shifting and changing as needed, projecting itself or its beliefs upon the world around it, and ever driving forward with nothing more than feelings and intuition, and all the sundry ways those feelings and intuitions are vulnerable to the environment wherein they are contained. Of course to the Subjective Self none of that matters, because the Subjective Self feels as it feels; and left unmanaged or undetected, those feelings become the core of one’s thinking leaving the Middle Self an hostage to the manipulations and perceptions of the Subjective Self.
In this state, truly the Subjective Self is one’s “Personal Adversary” and as such well deserving the appellation of “Satan;” for the Subjective Self is both the great Tempter and Punisher of our ever perceived inclination, transgression, or sin. If we believe our lives to be “Hell on Earth,” it is only because our Subjective Self has placed us there, and we have submitted to its many judgments. As has been wisely observed by sages over the millennia, “The only hells that exist on this earth are those lay within the Human Heart,” and it is here where all the most important battles must be fought.
Recognizing and understanding this concept is the first step towards one’s personal transmutation.
So there you have it, the essential nuts and bolts of the Art of Thinking as presented within my work on The Saturn Key. To the clever Alchemist, this will provide more than a sufficient start toward executing their own transmutation, and witnessing that transmutation ripple outward and effect the world about them.
Until next time, thank you for joining me in another episode of The MAP, The Modern Alchemist Podcast as we discussed Human Alchemy and the Art of Thinking. I’m Aubrey Forest – The Modern Alchemst – I’ll be talking to you soon.