So now, for those capable of getting a little more Qabalistically technical … a quick rant about the details of the formula of alchemical initiation.
The alchemical process is divided into three main stages. This essay describes the theory of the first stage of the process by which a novice alchemist is guided up to the experience of the condition we call Spiritual Illumination.
Caveat: If you have been following my discourse up to this point, then you will be aware that there are some risks with attempting to put this process in to practice without the guidance of an experienced teacher. For this reason I will not be explaining everything necessary to put the process I describe here in to practice. I give this caution on the basis of the fact that I know from experience there is always someone watching who believes he is knows better, and will attempt experimenting with this information. To do so would be foolish. Enough said.
What we are looking at here is a technique for carrying out the inner alchemical process. What this means is this process is based on, and takes advantage of, the laws of alchemy which nature has placed in government over the mind and our outer reality.
The field of play for this process is the imagination. That is, the work itself is a form of active meditation similar, but more extensive than, that which is commonly known as pathworking or 'skrying in the spirit vision'. The practice of Jungian active imagination also makes use of a technique similar to this alchemical method.
The first premise about this process is that the mind governs our entire reality. That our outer world is the way it is because of the structure and function of our inner world. The latter holds the blueprint of the former. This is a well known and widely accepted concept in esoteric circles. In this way, if we change our mind, we also change our exterior reality. 'Everything' that we recognise as our reality is changed.
The second premise upon which this work is based is that we are only aware of part of our reality. That is, reality as a whole is part conscious, for us, and part unconscious. The goal of the inner alchemical work is to take our conscious awareness inside, into that place which is normally hidden from us … the unconscious. If we achieve this goal then we will have converted our two-side world (one side conscious, one side unconscious) into a one-side world … completely conscious. This is what one famous philosopher called … becoming aware of … “the totality of our being”. This is also what we refer to as 'full Illumination'.
To a certain degree the 'conscious' part of our mind (Ruach) overlaps with the 'unconscious' (Nephesch). This area of overlap is what we experience as our imagination. When you close your eyes and imagine an apple, you are using this overlap area. When you imagine the aroma of an apple you are using this overlap area. When you imagine biting the apple, and are aware of its taste, you are using this overlap area. Each one of the external senses can be duplicated here. Also, when you are consciously aware of dreaming, you are operating inside that overlap area.
One of the things we know, based both on traditional theory and on experience, is that this region of 'imagination' is where our personal Neschamah is manifesting. That is, our imagination is our Neschamah … a piece of the Higher Functions that we can be directly aware of. We know this because we know that in very practical terms if we merge the function of our Nephesch with the function of our Ruach (to even a small degree), the result at the region of the merge is Neschamah.
In the laboratory tradition we know that when we perform a destructive distillation (pyrolytic distillation) on any natural organic system, the result of that distillation is three substances. The first is water, the second is a volatile spirit, and the third is a compound of organic oil-like substances. The physical substance that carries the (non-physical) Ruach is the compound of oils, which alchemists call 'Red Mercury' and 'our Sun'. The physical substance that carries the (non-physical) Nephesch is the volatile spirit which we call 'White Mercury' and 'our Moon'. (See Diagram 6 below.) From them are separated the Four Elements. See in the diagram the four stars in the four corners, which represent the four Elements - two in the white fume, two in the red fume:
If you are familiar with the Order of the Golden Dawn's Equinox ceremony you will also know that the ritual officer known as the Hegemon is the symbolic representation of the Neschamah, who is referred to in that rite as the 'reconciler between them' (the Elements). She is the fifth star in the upper centre of the diagram which represents the manifestation of the Q-state, or quintessence. The fifth Element. In other words when the binary manifestations of the Sun and Moon overlap (web or merge) a fifth thing arises, Neschamah.
We also know that the merging of the Ruach and Nephesch not only produces the Neschamah, but that at the same time the 'Presence' of the Neschamah causes the Ruach and Nephesch to increase their merging, until eventually, as this feedback loop increases in its intensity, the two primary poles of the binary, Sun and Moon, become one new function entirely (Neschamah).
We also know that the imagination (subconscious) is the overlap area of the conscious (Ruach) and unconscious (Nephesch) faculties because the images, smells, sounds, feelings and tastes that we can experience in the imagination are known to be 'uploaded' into the imagination from the memory (Nephesch). At the same time those memories ended up in the Nephesch from conscious (Ruach) observation of the outer world. So when you imagine an apple in your subconscious, for example, you are drawing on something which is stored in the Nephesch, but had its origin in the Ruach's observation of the outer world. In other words, your Neschamah is 'confecting' the imaginary apple from a stored memory which at some point actually existed externally.
Similarly, if we imagine ourselves walking in a park, every object in that imaginary park was uploaded into imagination from memory, and pieced together to form a 'mocked-up' scene of a park. To a certain degree this is what a dream is … a mocked-up drama using pieced together images from our memory, to create a new composite scene, or relive an old scene.
But a dream is more than this, it is a story about things which are happening inside the Nephesch, in relation to things that are occurring in your reality at all levels. But, since we cannot normally look into the Nephesch directly, and see what is going on there, we have to translate what is going on in there into a condition that our Ruach can recognise. A good analogy of this situation is that the content of the Nephesch is like the content of your computer hard drive. If you ripped upon your computer and pulled apart the hard drive in order to look at all the information you have stored there on the magnetic disk, you simply could not recognise that data in its native format. If you want to see the data on your hard drive you need the rest of your computer hardware, and its installed software, to translate that raw data into a form that your Ruach can recognise. In your computer the result of all of this is your computer operating system. Your computer operating system is a Graphic User Interface … that is, it is a graphic (symbolic) representation of what is on your hard drive. Similarly your imagination, in your mind, is your own Graphic User Interface, translating the raw data in your Nephesch in to a form that your Ruach can look at, and recognise.
If you understand this much, and realise that the 'windows' in your Microsoft Operating System, or Macintosh or Linux Operating System are composed partially of pictures of things that are like things in the real world, and they are arranged in such a way as to give us an analogous idea of what is on the hard drive, then you can see how close the computer metaphor is to the mind structure and function.
So what you 'see' (and smell, and taste and touch and hear) in your imagination (Neschamah), is actually a manifestation of the invisible stuff which is contained inside your Nephesch. With this in mind, the field of play for the internal alchemical process is set. The imagination is our laboratory. Because we know for a fact that (1) if we manipulate the content of our imagination in the *right way*, we also manipulate the content of our unconscious, and (2) that our unconscious is the laboratory where our outer reality is created. So if we can successfully manipulate our Nephesch the structure and function of our outer reality is also manipulated … and experience proves this to a striking degree.
The basic concepts here are relatively well known. Even though they usually are not explained or understood in the way I have described them here. The idea that mind rules matter, and that the manipulation of mind also alters matter is the core dynamic here. But the problem with most attempts at putting this idea into effective action is that it is usually not very successful. But the true system of Hermetic philosophy turned in to practical action has understood the most effective method for a very long time.
Now, we know from the lab process that the first stage in the Great Work is the 'philosophic' death our our crude matter. In the lab this means the plant or metal we are working on, and in the inner work it means the novice candidate or the alchemist himself. This death first manifests as the extraction of the 'Soul' and 'Spirit' from the Body. The same thing happens in the inner work. In the lab tradition the Soul and Spirit are called the King and Queen. We also know that in Qabalistic psychology they have the same name (Meleck and Malkah). In Qabalistic psychology the Queen is the Nephesch, and the King is the Ruach, so the first step in the inner alchemical work is to separate and define these two mental functions. Because in the average, normal, human these functions are roughly thought of as being part of one unit (you, the living individual) the amorphous chaos of the average mind.
So we also know from experience that our Nephesch and Ruach (as living intelligent parts of our mind) actually exist in our unconscious. That is, even though we can be aware of our feelings (Nephesch), and hear our thinking (Ruach), we can't 'see' these two intelligences as they exist in their native condition … thus they exist in our unconscious.
But we also know, now, that if our mind uses our imagination to 'dress up' these things that exist in the unconscious, in forms borrowed from memory, which are symbolic of the real nature of Ruach and Nephesch, we can experience them symbolically (visually) as intelligent beings. So we can go in to our imagination, in mediation, mock-up an imaginary scene and 'call' our Nephesch and Ruach out of the unconscious, in to the sub-conscious (imagination), and not only see, smell, taste, hear and feel them, but also communicate with them.
We can actually have a dialogue with the two intelligent functions which make up the primary halves our our mind, which together make up the almost complete package of our living (incarnate) personal psychology. In this way, just as we can do physically in the lab, we have now *extracted* our 'King' and 'Queen' from out of the Chaos of the Elements (unconscious - Anima Mundi), and have separated them and 'contained' them.
This process is Philosophic in that it is entirely unnatural, in the sense that nature keeps these functions hidden in the unconscious (mostly). So to draw them out, separate and define them, and then begin a direct dialogue with them, is an act of art and of science. Because this situation is unnatural, and is a species of decomposition of the personality (lower functions), it also rouses the attention of the Nachash.
Now we need to remember that the Nachash is the intelligence that governs and maintains the faculty of division. The binary function. If we now think seriously about that, it means the Nachash is also the intelligence that 'is' death. Because separation is death. So it is only natural that as soon as we grasp and separate Nephesch and Ruach, the Nachash is going to turn up.
At this point, then, we are in 'actual' practical terms standing before the Gate of the Threshold to the Ancient Mysteries. That is, we have attempted to cross that Threshold (the line between the conscious and unconscious) by using the Imagination to pull something out of the unconscious (our Nephesch and Ruach), and examine them. This violates the mandate of the Nachash, who will now wait to see how likely it is that this violation will become a problem, and then he will himself turn up, demanding that we present the 'keys' to the Gate, and if we cannot, the Nachash will use all of the powers nature has provided it with to turn us back.
The idea of presenting the Keys to the Gate is a symbollic statement. It will do us no good to simply go in to our imaginery inner world and pretend we are offering keys to the Guardian, and hope it will actually open this metaphysical Gate. The 'concept' of the 'Keys' represents something that the initiate must now do … an 'action' … which will give him real access to the actual content of the unconscious, this making him an Hermetic initiate proper.
Once Nephesch and Ruach (the 'Principal' Elements) are successfully extracted from the unconscious, separate and well defined, we can then separate out the Neschamah and Chiah, in symbollic form, and we then have all four Alchemical 'inner' Elements separated and defined out of the Chaos (unconscious). This is the end of the first stage of the Great Work, as we know from the laboratory process, which follows exactly the same method.
As we know from the lab tradition, the next stage in the Great Work is to take the Elements of the crude matter, now separate, and purify them. I am not going to describe this part of the process, partly because that explanation is complex, technical and lengthy. Also, because I don't want to create a situation that entices anyone to experiment with this process. So in the next essay I am going to jump directly to the final stage of the work … the chymical wedding, where the purified Elements are merged and made a permanent unit, from which the state of Illumination emerges.
I think I have supplied enough information here, thusfar, for anyone who is following the story closely to recognise there is indeed a direct correspondence between the lab and the inner works of alchemy, that the foundation concepts of the inner work are laid out in Qabala, and that the method of the inner work as I have described it is viable.
So if I have managed to convey that idea, then, now, let us look at the end of the process. How to we attain unity of mind, and what is that unity like …?
This essay was first published on the Hermetic Alchemy Forum on 28 April 2013, as post #143.
©️ rubaphilos salfluĕre 2022
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