Alchemical Rituals

by Dennis William Hauck

Ora et Labora - Katlyn

Working with Earth

 

For many people, the most powerful accumulation of female energy can be found in the planet itself. My friend, alternative healing therapist Bernyce Barlow, has devoted her life to helping hundreds of abused youths balance their vengeful masculine energies by taking the kids on meditation safaris to sacred sites. This kind of Earth Alchemy - the recognition of the transformative feminine energy of the living planet - is spreading among researchers everywhere. That we must stop our patriarchal rape of the planet and learn to cultivate earth’s energies is the number one corollary of this new theory. Some scientists refer to it as the Gaia Principle, after the Greek goddess of the earth, but whatever it is called, it is about an opportunity to transform ourselves and the planet by communion with the forces of nature.

“Even though the types of frequencies at sacred sites varies,” Bernyce writes in her book Sacred Sites of the West, “the common bond is that they are clearly distinct and have the ability to influence us on a number of levels: spiritually, mentally, and physically. That is because we are made up of the same components as the rest of the universe, just arranged differently. The life force energies found at power spots seem to act as a bridge between conscious energy and conscious matter.”

Shamans work with the Four Elements in much the same way as alchemists. They pay attention to Water, our very life force; they try to feel the Earth, our nurse and mother; they listen to the Wind, the breath of God; and they attempt to touch the Fire of the One Mind that is embedded everywhere. In the parlance of Native Americans, working with the Earth element is known as Earth Medicine, and sacred power spots are marked with cairns, rock formations, and Medicine Wheels that align the location with the rising sun. Native American medicine men connect to the powers of the Above and Below by accessing the One Thing, what the Sioux call the limen or the realm of chaos “where power moves freely, untransformed.” After journeying to this hidden realm and mastering the powers of the Other Side, the medicine man returns to share his visions and energy.

Anyone can tap into the powers of the planet by communing with nature regularly, but to reach deep enough to resonate the life forces within ourselves requires deliberate concentration. One approach for working with these powers is the Earth Alchemy Meditation, which interprets the four cardinal directions as archetypal pathways or degrees of freedom which define not only our location in space but also our location psychologically and spiritually. In this scheme, the balanced center can be accessed from any of the four directions, and it really does not matter what path one takes as long as one reaches the center, where masculine and feminine forces in our personality can be balanced and the transcendent qualities of spirit and soul can be united. In a field or forest clearing, find a central location and mark it with a circle of rocks or use a natural marker such as a tree stump or boulder. Sit within the circle or near the landmark and face north. Now, relax and contemplate each of the four directions as manifestations of the Four Elements both within you and in nature. Spend ten or fifteen minutes reflecting on the following qualities of each direction and then turn clockwise to face the next direction. The object is to make the like elements resonate between you and the outdoor environment.

According to traditional Native American myth, the North or polar direction is associated with the Earth Element. It is home to the powers of the Below: night, winter, the hidden sun, the fallen moon, ancestors, ancient wisdom, and physical sensation. It is also home to sacred horned animals, such as the reindeer and the white buffalo, or fantasy creatures like the unicorn. Looking to the north, try to actually feel the archetypal Earth, the dark powers of matter and the planet as well as what it would be like to be a horned animal surviving in this untamed environment.

Next, turn eastward in the direction of the Air Element. It is home to the rising sun, spring, birth, thought, and new beginnings. Out of the golden sky of the east comes the soaring eagle. Try to feel the optimism of the dawn and the freedom and perspective of the eagle. Listen closely to the Wind. Then, turn to the south or equatorial direction, home of the Fire Element. This is the direction of the noon sun, summer, childhood, passion, spirit, and the masculine powers. The archetypes of the noontime sun are embodied in animal totems that include family or den-oriented animals like wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions, as well as domesticated animals like dogs and cats. Re-experience the warmth of the home fires and the innocence of childhood as you face the source of Fire. Try to touch this archetypal Fire. Now turn to face the west, home of the Water Element. Since the moon appears brightest after the setting of the sun, native cultures connect the lunar presence with the west. The western horizon is the direction of the sunset, fall, maturity, harmony, soul, deep feelings, and the feminine powers. Its totems are ocean-born mammals such as the dolphin and whale or hibernating animals like bears. Try to be especially still while looking west and open yourself to its unconscious, intuitive wisdom. Pay close attention to any signs of Water.

Finally, return to the facing-north position, but this time, try to feel all the varied energies of the different directions at once. Let them come together within you. This is not a thinking process, so you have to open yourself up and let the elements flow into you and harmonize with the like elements within you. Like our planet itself, you too are made up of Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. Like the planet, you too are alive with yet a Fifth Element. This is the central spot you created on the earth, the one-point within you where all of the Four Elements come together to create the Quintessence, the one living person that you really are. 

 

The Grand Meditation: How to Dematerialize

 

What will it take to present yourself to the Cosmos? That is the question you must ask yourself before proceeding with the final Coagulation. During this operation, we must endure the same kind of existential torture that God went through to manifest himself from the One Thing, the background reality that is present in both nonexistence and existence, both sleep and waking, both death and life. The creation of the Second Body is almost a corollary to this primary act of creation, since the birth of new consciousness requires embodiment.

Our modern leaders and institutions would have us believe that there is only one standardized consciousness available to us, that there is nothing more than one flat, horizontal view of things. We can look to the left, we can look to the right; but we dare not look up or down. Many of us have the desire and willpower to succeed at Coagulation but are afraid to go against this unwritten code, and we end up just drifting through life, servants to shortsighted leaders who only want us to continue playing their commercialized and nationalistic games. In the Corpus Hermeticum (Libellus XI), Hermes speaks directly to these lost souls with some astonishing advice:

“If then you do not make yourself equal to God, you cannot apprehend God; for like is known by like. Leap clear of all that is corporeal, and make yourself grown to a like expanse with that greatness which is beyond all measure; rise above all time and become eternal; then you will apprehend God. Think that for you too nothing is impossible; deem that you too are immortal, and that you are able to grasp all things in your thought, to know every craft and science; find your home in the haunts of every living creature; make yourself higher than all heights and lower than all depths, bring together in yourself all opposites of quality, heat and cold, dryness and fluidity; think that you are everywhere at once, on land, at sea, in heaven; think that you are not yet begotten, that your are in the womb, that you are young, that you are old, that you have died, that you are in the world beyond the grave; grasp in your thought all of this at once, all times and places, all substances and qualities and magnitudes together; then you can apprehend God. But if you shut up your soul in your body, and abase yourself, and say ‘I know nothing, I can do nothing; I am afraid of earth and sea, I cannot mount to heaven; I know not what I was, nor what I shall be,’ then what have you to do with God?”

Hermes not only scolds us for denying our divinity, but also shows us how to reclaim it. The fundamental process of transformation is revealed to humanity in his Emerald Tablet, and the Grand Meditation is structured around the Emerald Formula of Solve et Coagula. As we know, the seven operations in this formula are Calcination, Dissolution, Separation, Conjunction, Fermentation, Distillation, and Coagulation. Ideally, the aspirant should memorize the Emerald Tablet and repeat it during this meditation. Alternatively, the Seven Steps can be followed in the order they are presented in the tablet. During the initial transformation of consciousness, we use the first four steps to disentangle ourselves from the manifest world, and in the second part, we use the next three steps to reassemble the purified essences of our being on a higher level.

To begin the Grand Meditation, take a comfortable position in a quiet place, where you will not be bothered by interruptions. Ideally, a specific area should be dedicated to this type of spiritual pursuit, such as a meditation room, isolation tank, or altar. The best time to practice the Grand Meditation is in the morning or after taking a short nap; remember to remove any jewelry and wear loose clothing. Begin the meditation by closing your eyes and breathing in deep, slow breaths, then progressively relax your muscles, starting at the at the tips of your toes and moving upward until you reach the back of your head. The technique is to relax and observe your current thoughts, emotions, and bodily tensions and notice any involuntary changes in breathing as you examine each area. If you feel tension in your breathing, it is a sign that you need to work on that area or subject matter until it is resolved. If your mental contents are tied to concerns about work, friends, or family, you have to break free of this horizontal orientation and align yourself vertically with the reality of the Above and the Below.

This initial realignment requires the use of the methods you have already learned to achieve personal Calcination and Dissolution. You must be free of egocentric striving, petty feelings, and body blockages and get in touch with our truest and deepest essences. This is not the time, however, to dredge up old feelings and ideas. During the Grand Meditation, we are dealing only with the base material of the day and are attempting to transform our current temperament. Using the Fire of your introspective consciousness, try to overcome the established parameters of your psyche and burn away the hold your ego has on you. Similarly, by allowing the Water of your unconscious contents to rise, experience your hidden side and try to understand how it is responsible for much of your behavior.

Do not proceed from Calcination and Dissolution until you really believe you have exposed ego and have gotten beyond its illusions, and your body is fully relaxed. Clues that this is happening are a feeling of numbness in the muscles, a blank mind, and a clear visual field. In the next phase, Separation, relax your ego and body to the point where neither are active. Try to keep a gentle awareness of what is going on, while you put your body and brain to sleep. This condition of deep relaxation coupled with awareness is known as the hypnagogic state. It may take some practice to achieve, but it is the gateway to experiencing the One Mind. Continue in this state for awhile and consciously let go of any spurious images or thoughts that arise. Enter an even deeper state of relaxation and try to exist only within your mind. Relax so much that you loose all bodily awareness and sensory input shuts down. That is why it is so important to be in a quiet, undisturbed place ¾ hermetically sealed, as the alchemists would say.

At this point, you exist in a void where the only source of stimulation is your own thoughts. You are literally existing within the Fire of consciousness and your thoughts have tremendous power here. You can intensify this separated state even further by identifying with the strongest currents or forces in this environment. These purified forces come from your own soul and spirit, and they may appear as energy patterns or alchemical images. These normally opposing forces in your personality can be united easily in this non-rational environment by applying the power of thought. Simply picture it and make it so in a new Conjunction. What you have created is the Child of the Philosophers and that innocent child is you. You now have a new identity far removed the person you were when you started this meditation.

Your conjuncted identity is a center of consciousness that has been described in many spiritual traditions. The Hindu one-point, or bindu, is the center of the cosmic axis and represents the turning point of existence into non-existence. For the Chinese, the indefinable singularity known as the Tao is the source of all things, while Buddhists seek to follow the Middle Path back to the center of the creator. In Conjunction, you reach a plateau that the ancients called the Lesser Mysteries and alchemists called the Lesser Stone. In this state of consciousness, you have broken free of personal and social restraints to the expression of your true Self.

Sometimes this highly integrated state seems as if you are fully perfected and capable of doing anything you want, when all you have really done is to center yourself in a detached state of consciousness and acknowledged a subtler presence within. But in some people, the very act of enthroning a new ruler of the psyche, be it ever so temporary, awakes vestiges of ego that try to usurp the throne. The attacks of ego at this dark stage of transition usually take the form of images that disturb the equanimity of the centered Self. But Hermes has a trick up his sleeve: simply let the images die of their own poison. You still have control over thought and imagination in here, so turn the energy of the egoic deceptions against themselves and destroy them, like Buddha did in fending off the illusions of Mara under the Bodhi tree.

When the tablet tells us to “Separate the Earth from Fire,” it means to remove all matter, including base emotions and ego, from the Secret Fire of imagination. Having purified and isolated the subtle components of our being, we set up a kind of sympathetic correspondence with a the living powers Above. In the Grand Meditation, this is experienced as a sense of vibration originating just overhead, and it is a direct confrontation with the higher frequencies of the light spectrum. This is something real, that has been documented in a collaboration between Carl Jung and quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Jung concluded that archetypal or divine energy exists as psychoid (mental and physical) factors located in the invisible ultraviolet end of the spectrum in the area of high energy cosmic rays. The pioneering work of Jung and Pauli lends credence to the idea that alchemical transmutation occurs at the level of the subtle body and causes repercussions in the physical realm as well. [1]

Try to bring these higher vibrations down into your body during the Fermentation phase of the Grand Meditation. Mentally, pull them into the top of your head and push them down into your physical frame. Feel them surge throughout your whole body. Concentrate on entraining yourself to the wave pattern entering your body from Above. Make these divine frequencies vibrate in you from head to toe. Now, follow these waves as they travel back up and out of your body; then stay with them as they come back down and reenter you. Keep this circulation going until every fiber of your being is in tune with these vibrations. At this point, you are experiencing dematerialization in the alchemical sense. During this subtilizing Distillation or purifying phase, your physical body is the Ferment, the spiritized womb from which your Second Body will emerge. As the rising and falling waves of Distillation continue, try to observe how the vibrations disperse in your body and then coalesce to depart from your body.

During Coagulation, you must gain control of this vibrational state and start to crystallize the subtle energy into a Stone ¾ your truly independent Second Body. Begin the birth of this body gradually, by extending a hand or foot beyond your physical body. Increase the limb’s vibrational rate if necessary, then touch some object near you. Push your hand or foot right through it; realize that you are not in a totally physical state anymore. Now, return the limb to coincide with your physical body and relax the vibrational rate. For most people, this is enough for the first time. Reduce the vibrations in your body and let the two bodies merge. Lie still as your body returns to normal. Go through the Grand Meditation a few more times before attempting full separation.

When you are committed to travel completely out of your body, go through the Seven Steps of Transformation until you are deeply entrained in the vibrational state. Feel your entire body vibrating and then start to roll, unfold, or lift yourself out of your body. Some people can simply jump free all at once. While performing this disassociation with your body, think about how light you are becoming. Truly desire to exist outside the body and dismiss any extraneous thoughts. You must use all your willpower. Feel yourself becoming lighter and lighter and think how wonderful it would be to exist in a subtle body. Hermes tells us how to do this in Tractatus Aureus (The Golden Tract): “Take the flying volatile and drown it flying, draw it from itself and repel it from itself, that it may live and answer you, not by flying away into the regions above but by truly forbearing to fly.”

Fear will pull you back into the body, so try to understand that nothing can harm you during the birth of your Second Body. You are still connected to your body by the golden Umbilical, whether you can see it or not. Start by exploring the room you are in, and next time, travel through your entire apartment or home. Try to notice objects that will confirm to you that you are really out of your body. You are beginning the journey of a lifetime and the places you can visit are endless. All you have to do is think about them and you are there. After you experience the freedom of this boundless body, you can verify the words of the Fifth Rubric for yourself: “Thus will you obtain the Glory of the Whole Universe. All Obscurity will be clear to you. This is the greatest Force of all powers, because it overcomes every Subtle thing and penetrates every Solid thing.”

Be patient in the practice of the Grand Meditation. The alchemists believed that ultimate success came in three broad stages they called “magisteriums,” to which they gave the names of different Stones. During the First Magisterium, the Lunar Stone is created. It represents gaining control over the body, so that every fiber and tissue can be completely relaxed. The Second Magisterium, the Solar Stone, is achieved when the mind is controlled through willpower, so that fear and ego do not interfere. The Third Magisterium is the union of the Lunar and Solar Stones with the cosmic presence to create the Stellar Stone or Astral Body. Seen another way, the Conjunction is the union of the Lunar Stone with the Solar Stone, the Marriage of the King and Queen, to create the Lesser Stone in which we become centered and gain control over mind and body. Coagulation, then, is the union of the Lesser Stone with the powers Above to create the Greater Stone of the Golden or Astral Body. Having achieved that Greater Stone, you have broken free of genetic, environmental, and even astrological restraints to your being and are free to express the bliss of your true Presence ¾ the Stone. At this stage, you are born into the Universe and have arrived at a new plateau, the Greater Mysteries of the ancients. This is true atonement (at-one-ment) with the mind of God, and it allows you to enter the “graduate school” of spiritual instruction where you learn to exist within the golden umbilical of the Whole Universe.

However, dematerialization is not the final goal, just as getting into heaven is not the final stage in alchemy. As Hermes has repeatedly warned us, the eighth stage is a step off the ladder of transformation and a return to where we started. “Its inherent Strength is perfected,” we are told, “if it is turned into Earth.” The successful Coagulation is only made real if it “descends again to Earth” and enters into the processes of Projection and Multiplication to perfect others. It is the return of Buddha, Mohammed, Christ and all the saints. In this view, we are truly the Salt of the earth.

 

Creating the Hermes Field

 

The Hermetic state of consciousness opens doors that Apollonian consciousness does not even know exist. The search for the highest truths begins by hermetically sealing the mind from outside influences, so a person achieves true objectivity by separation from ego prejudice and illusion. Only from this centered viewpoint can true reality be perceived. No learning can take place, no truth can be expressed, unless this Hermes Field prevails.

“When we are in Hermes’ Field,” John Bly wrote in his book Iron John, “messages pass with fantastic speed between the brain and the fingertips, between the heart and the tear ducts, between the genitals and the eyes, between the part of us that suffers and the part of us that laughs. Hermes is Mercury, and we know that mercury cannot be held in the hand - it rolls everywhere, separates into tiny drops, joins again, falls on the floor, rolls under the table, moves with amazing quickness. Sometimes when friends are talking in a closed room, the heat of conversation begins to increase: witty things are said; contributions flow from all sides; leaps of imagination appear; the genuinely spiritual follows an instant after the genuinely obscene. Hermes has arrived. At some beautiful moment of the conversation a silence falls that feels mysterious; everyone hesitates to break it. In Spain until the fifteenth century that silence was called Hermes’ Silence. Hermes slips in true information in that split second between the moment your tongue starts and the moment it finishes. Hermes moves faster than our thought. What people call a Freudian slip is really a Hermes Precision. Hermes punctures pomposity, piety, sureness, self-satisfaction.”

How do we enter the Hermes Field? First, we have to get beyond our own egos and gender styles. That means not engaging in masculine “pissing contests” or feminine self-martyrdom. Hermetic arguments are exchanges of inspiration and insight geared toward exposing the bare truth of a situation. “In Truth, without deceit, certain, and most veritable” is how the tablet tells us to enter the Hermes Field. Thought here is never designed to enhance one’s position, make someone look better or worse than someone else, support someone’s belief system, or score points in the art of argument. Conversations, thoughts, and meditative sessions taking place in the Hermes Field are marked by a quiet expectation and gentle persuasion that results in a sensation of flowing truth. Proceed “gently and with great Ingenuity” the tablet tells us at this stage.

Hermes may well be part of the fabric of reality, manipulating order and chaos through his connection with the One Thing. “Hermes,” says physicist Fred Alan Wolf in his book The Spiritual Universe, “directs the flow of energy by making something from nothing. Bringing order out of chaos and chaos out of order requires the trickster’s prestidigitation, for the trickster is always upsetting the established order of things in surprising ways; thus, he is the creator of confusion as he crosses from the world of order into the world of chaos and the creator of order as he crosses back.” The remarkable fluency within the Hermes Field is never pushed out like artificial logic but is a wave of inspiration that one simply rides.

When riding this Hermetic wave, or “rave” as some have  described it, there is no striving to establish steps of deduction or present examples in support of inductive inferences. This state of consciousness has nothing to prove, and only the intuitive search for genuine truth guides it. It is “enthusiastic” in the original Greek meaning of enthous: to be possessed by god. The coupling of our deepest subjective desire with the highest objective truth within the Hermes Field results in an internal, conquering state of mind that can be used to reclaim our power from others who have inflicted their own rigid belief systems on us. Although being in a Hermes Field gives us greater personal confidence, our thoughts themselves seem to come from a higher mind for which we cannot take credit. The Corpus Hermeticum was written within the Hermes Field, and that explains why its authors credited Hermes and not themselves. Mediums, psychics, and channelers enter the Hermes Field to gain access to ideas not normally their own, and many modern authors have used this technique to create insightful works. Examples include Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God series.

 

 

The Inner Light of Transformation

Thomas Vaughan (1621-1665), the twin brother of mystical poet Henry Vaughan, is considered one of the most gifted metaphysical alchemists. In his writings, he revealed much about the Secret Fire of Fermentation. “After Putrefaction,” he wrote in Coelum Terrae (The Earth of Heaven), “appears the [solar] sperm or Influx of the Sun [the Peacock’ Tail], which is the father of it. It is a quick, Celestial Fire, incorporated in a thin, oily, airy moisture. It is incombustible, for it is a Fire itself and feeds on Fire; and the longer it stays in the Fire, the more glorious it grows.” “Fire,” he elaborated in Lumen de Lumine (Light of Lights), “notwithstanding the diversities of it in this sublunary kitchen of the elements, is but One Thing from one root, and what we call our Secret Fire is at the root of all things both visible and invisible. It is in Water, Earth, and Air; it is in minerals, herbs, and beasts; it is in men, stars, and angels. But originally it is in God Himself, for He is the Fountain of Fire.” The Celestial Fire spoken of by Thomas Vaughan is the same baptism by fire of which Jesus spoke. The first baptism by water gives us repentance and purification and was called the Lesser Work by the alchemists. The Greater Work is undergoing the second baptism, the influx of spirit and vision from the divine Mind. This Secret Fire is the inspired act that makes the Work real, and the longer the matter at hand stays in this Fire, the stronger it grows. In Jungian terms, this type of active imagination eventually produces a third thing, the Ferment, that leads to a new level of being, a true incarnation that one alchemist defined as the “concentrated awareness of real imagining.”

“The concept of Imaginatio,” said Dr. Jung, “is the most important key to understanding the Opus. We have to conceive of these imaginal processes not as the immaterial phantoms that we readily take fantasy pictures to be, but as something corporeal, a subtle body. The Imaginatio, or the act of imagining, was a physical activity that could be fitted into the cycle of material changes, that brought these about and was brought about by them in turn. The alchemist related himself not only to the unconscious but directly to the very substance (the First Matter) that he hoped to transform through the power of imagination. The act of imagining is therefore a concentrated extract of life forces, a hybrid of the physical and psychic. So the demand that the alchemist must have a sound physical constitution is quite intelligible, since he works with and through his own essence and is himself the indispensable condition of his experiment. There was no mind/matter split in the heyday of alchemy, but there existed an intermediate realm between mind and matter ¾ a psychic realm of subtle bodies ¾  whose characteristic is to manifest themselves in a mental as well as a material form. The moment when physics touches the untrodden, untreadable regions ¾ and when psychology too touches the impenetrable darkness ¾ then the intermediate realm of subtle bodies comes to life again, and the physical and psychic are once more blended in an indissoluble unity.”

 

 

Capturing the Fermental Light

Most people prefer to work with the Secret Fire under much less blazing conditions than those found in the psychedelic experience. The lesson of alchemy is that the light of the Secret Fire experienced in mystical visions, meaningful dreams, near-death and out-of-body experiences, paranormal encounters, and psychedelically, is the same. That Fermental Light can be accessed by anyone to overthrow the hold of ego ¾ without the use of harsh drugs ¾ if we follow the steps of the Emerald Formula in meditation. “Separate the Earth from Fire,” Hermes tells us, and that is exactly what the Fermental Light can do. This light is always close at hand and only the veil of our assumptions of materiality needs to be lifted to see it. 

Let’s do a very simple experiment in personal Fermentation. First, sit back in a comfortable chair, fold your hands in your lap and relax; then, close your eyes and concentrate on the first image that pops into your mind. Do not be concerned if it is something you had just seen or if there is no image at all. Give it a little time and allow that image, or pattern, or blankness, or whatever, to change and grow. Pay attention to the morphing image and try to remember as many details about the scene as you can. Now, ask yourself a question, something you really want to know, and see what happens. Observe how the image alters itself and what the final version looks like. Open your eyes again. Simply report to yourself what you saw in as much detail as you can remember.

If you visualized someone from the office lying naked on your waterbed, you have probably missed the point. The idea is not to engage our fantasies but to allow images to rise on their own from an unconscious source. This is True Imagination of which the alchemists spoke. Try it again at a later time if your images are being driven by wish-fulfillment or from instincts such as visions of a juicy hamburger if you have missed lunch. Part of the curse of modern man is that he confuses fantasy for the amazing power of True Imagination and thus relegates both to the psychic trash heap.

However, during this exercise, you might have seen something that you had not previously noticed or something which an independent part of your mind was still dwelling on. Or you might have seen something unexpected or allowed the image to become fluid and were able to communicate with that independent part. In such cases, you need to interpret what was seen and how it changed when you asked your question. For instance, at a recent lecture I gave on the Alchemy of Management, one of the executives present saw himself seated at his desk and asked what the “hidden truth” was in the project he was working on at the time. Next thing he saw was his narrow navy-blue tie stretch into a bib-sized emblem full of swirling, multi-colored lines kept constantly changing. He quipped that the neon colors of his new tie were so loud he could almost hear them, and he was obviously uncomfortable with the colorful image. What did the image of the tie mean? Ask yourself what a tie symbolizes to a man. Women get to dress in a much wider variety of clothes than men. In fact, the only way a man in a suit can express his mood is through his tie. That is why there are so many thousands of different ties on the market, and why a man shopping for a tie can be as picky as any woman shopping for a dress. His tie is the only way a man wearing the uniform of business can show the colors of his soul. While our executive wanted to project the image of a conservative, solid businessman, his True Imagination revealed there was something else inside of him that was stifled and wanted to be expressed. That was the “hidden truth” of the “project” on which he was working. His only real project, like that of all of us, is the greater Work of alchemy.          

The fluid, momentary light experienced in this little experiment is the same independent Fermental Light with which mystics and mediums try to connect. This internal vision quest can be expanded to become a significant part of your life. If you work at it, it can put you in contact with a deeply truthful intelligence within yourself that you never knew existed. In fact, the alchemists measured a person’s mental health by the degree to which imagery was used, by how well nourished was his or her imagination. 

 

 

Circulating the Light

The circulation of mind and light in the Fountain of Fountains is mirrored Below in the human body. Chinese alchemists became proficient at this type of Distillation thousands of years ago. Called the “Circulation of the Light,” the aspirant is taught to “concentrate on the light of the inmost region and, while doing so, to free himself from all outer and inner entanglements.” The first stage of the Distillation is the Mercury or watery phase in which the light is gathered by quieting the body and mind through breath awareness and meditation. The light of the True Imagination is a kind of seed energy scattered throughout the body, and the object is to bring it all together in a stove or athanor visualized in the abdominal cavity just below the navel.

In the second phase of the Circulation of the Light, Sulfuric or firery consciousness is used to initiate the movement of the accumulated light energy. With concentration fixed at the level of the abdominal athanor, the practitioner wills and feels the light circulate up the “channel of function” through the chest cavity to the “precious cauldron” at the center of the brain. There, the light energy is distilled and accumulated, and any unconverted energy returns to the navel area via the “channel of control” that runs down the back. The adept repeats the Circulation of the Light daily for months or even years, until enough of the “light” collects to crystallize in the cauldron within the brain. According to Chinese alchemists, the subtle matter distilled through this process congeals into a Golden Pill, which is the adept’s passage to perfect health and immortality.      

The development of the relaxed-yet-alert state of concentration required by such meditations is at the heart of the psychological Distillation process, which is basically a turning inward to raise consciousness. There are also moving meditations designed to accomplish the same thing. The slow and graceful movements of the ancient art of Tai Chi Chuan are designed to make the practitioner aware of the subtle light energy (chi) as it circulates in the body. The sadhana postures of kundalini yoga actually attempt to bind one’s awareness to this energy, so it can be followed upward as it is distilled from the body in a union of the individual’s consciousness with the infinite consciousness of God. Such exercises work with the vertical axis in the human body and are explained in detail in Chapter 18 (“Message of the Caduceus”).

 

 

 

Fanning the Flames: The Bellows Breath

 

If we do not refine our thoughts and emotions in the light of reflected consciousness and meditation, they knot up inside us and block the natural flow of life force in our bodies, as in the case of Dr. Metzner’s patient. Most adults are chronic sufferers from this affliction, and several moving meditations are designed to untie these knots and free the trapped energy. The release of that energy has a rejuvenating and empowering effect on the body.

The consciousness-altering “Bellows Breath” is one of these active meditations. In this exercise, the alchemist sits cross-legged on the floor and tries to focus his energy at the navel or birth point. The breath is very rapid, continuous and powerful with no pause between inhaling and exhaling. The rate is about two exhalations per second. As you exhale, push out the air like a bellows by pulling the navel point in toward the spine. When you inhale, use a forward thrust of the navel to bring air into the lungs. Try to keep a smooth, balanced breath with no emphasis on the either the taking or expulsion of air. After a few minutes of “fanning the fire,” you will start to feel a warmth rise from the stomach and accumulate in the head. Sometimes practitioners report being able to see a shining Quintessence within, if they close their eyes after about five minutes of performing this strenuous exercise. After about ten minutes, most people experience a “blunting of the ego” which is the final goal for many yogis. If you try to stop at this point, there is a bouncing or spilling sensation as the energy returns to the psychospiritual cauldron at the base of the spine. If you continue, a fluid warmth rises from that area to the head and then spreads slowly to other locations in the body. Use this opportunity to experience the rising energy without making any assumptions or judgments about what is going on. Simply feel the pure energy and how it seems to follow thought to different areas of the body. Aside from releasing knots of trapped energy along the spine, the Bellows Breath has health benefits such as oxygenating the blood and cleansing toxins, and regular practice quickly expands lung capacity. The Bellows Breath combines the elements of Fire and Air, which is a powerful spiritizing combination of alchemical forces.

Another moving meditation for Calcination is the “Dance of Sulfur.” Sulfur is a yellow powder which when ignited burns with a biting odor and leaves behind a red, plastic-looking residue. The alchemists believed it embodied the active, masculine principle of creation, and sulfuric acid (Vitriol) was the driving force in most of their experiments. The Dance of Sulfur is an aerobic exercise designed to increase the metabolic rate and use the fiery energy to loosen energy blockages along the entire frame of the body. Any aerobic routine, like jogging in place or in a circle, which raises the heart rate for at least twenty minutes can be used. Other possibilities include running, fast dancing, stepping in place, or skipping rope. The idea is to increase the heart rate and metabolism, so the physical exertion temporarily knocks the concerns of ego out of the picture, and we can focus entirely on the state of the body. When you reach this point of empty-mindedness, start visualizing fiery energy rising up in waves from below. This can be accomplished by imagining you are running over hot coals or pretending that if you run fast enough you can fly. The theory behind this visualization is that, without the interference of ego, body energy more easily follows thought. Focus the attention on the sensation of heat rising up and direct that energy to tensed-up or problem areas in your body. Visualize the melting away of hardened energy blockages while you maintain the aerobic pace.

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© Dennis William Hauck