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Before I start discussing the idea of esoteric initiation, lets first go back over the main ideas I have put forward in my discussion so far.
The first idea of importance I have put forward was that alchemy is, at its core, all about a specific rotary process.
In the entire scope of the subject of alchemy all kinds of operations are toyed with and all kinds of products are sort after. But behind all of this, at the heart of what alchemy is all about, is a specific natural rotary process.
The next important idea I presented was that (given the first premise) the goal of this process is the production of quintessences.
That is, if we work this specific alchemical process properly, the thing we will always end up with is the quintessence of the thing we took in hand to begin the work with.
The third main idea I presented was that the key thing about the quintessence is that it is the highest expression of the thing it was taken from, and when ingested (or projected) it causes transmutation or rejuvenation, to some degree.
For me these ideas are the three backbone concepts about alchemy. They explain what alchemy is, and they provide the motive for its study and practice. If you have followed my discussion to this point and feel you have grasped the rationale of my argument so far (even if you don't necessarily agree with it), then it shouldn't be hard for you to make the next conceptual leap from the lab side of alchemy (which I have mainly explained so far), to the psycho-spiritual facet of alchemy that I am now going to explain.
How I am going to deal with this is to first describe a system of esoteric psychology (an explanation of the structure and function of the mind). Then when that picture is relatively complete, I will explain how the structure and function of the mind relate to lab alchemy. In this way (I hope) you will begin to see how the old alchemists recognised how the machinery of the mind was almost the same as the mechanism of lab alchemy … and thereby, how they learned to apply the laws that govern lab alchemy to the mind, in order the exalt and evolve the mind.
As a matter of record, before I begin, those of you who are aware of the series of books I am writing (The Hermes Paradigm series), the information I am now going to explain forms the main subject of the 5th and last book of the series. While that book is, as of this moment, still only very rough notes, a good deal of what you will now see me discuss is an example of what will appear in that 5th volume. As such, because that book has not as yet been written, most of what I will explain here about inner alchemy is my first attempt at putting these ideas in an orderly and relatively complete format, in writing. While this process forms the main subject of tuition of the Heredom Group, that tuition is based on instructions concerning the practical techniques which are based on the theory I am about to explain. In the Heredom Group tuition on this subject very little theory behind the practical process is explained to students, because once they have experienced the results of the practical inner work, the theory becomes self evident.
I think it is safe to say that discussion of the inner alchemical work is one of the most sensitive areas of alchemical study. This is because so little is actually known, historically, in the mainstream, about what those alchemists who were involved in the inner work were really up to. So almost everyone who cares about this aspect of alchemy has their own very personal take on just what it is all about … and because it is a very personal thing, people tend to get very precious about it. At the same time a very large percentage of the modern alchemical community don't accept this side of alchemy. They believe there is nothing valid in it, and that it stems from primitive superstition. So, often when anyone attempts to talk about inner alchemy in public forums, usually that kind of talk draws a lot of aggressive response. So much so that this is the first time in eighteen years of being online that I have attempted to talk about this subject, at any length, in public.
So lets see how that goes :)
Now, we are continuing on from the idea that if we ingest quintessences, to some degree they are going to have a rejuvenative effect on us. Part of the effect of rejuvenation is physical (bio-chemical), and part is psychological. When people ingest these substances for the first time they often get a surprise, because equally as often they previously knew nothing, or next to nothing, about this psychological effect. Then, if the quintessence is powerful enough, that psychological effect is not only going to be a surprise, its going to be a shock … because while the remedy is cleaning out their body (rejuvenation), it is also going to be cleaning out their mind (psycho-therapeutically), as well as awakening psycho-physical effects that most occultists have only dreamt about.
This psycho-therapeutic effect of quintessences is that which, traditionally, hermetists have referred to as 'initiation'. So in order to understand what these remedies will do to your mind, you need to understand, technically, just what initiation is.
The popular notion of the definition of initiation in the occult community rarely has anything to do with the reality. Many students of the occult believe that esoteric initiation is simply a process of studying and learning occult knowledge, and probably also being involved in occult practices such as ritual, divination, astrology, etc. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In order to know what real Hermetic initiation is we need a basic understanding of esoteric (occult) psychology, which I will explain now in extremely simple, but accurate terms.
The average human being has a mind which is composed of two states of consciousness. One state is what we might call temporal consciousness, which contains all the lower and temporary functions of mind that make up the individual's personality. Everything that you recognise as 'you' (mentally) goes in that package, along with a bunch of stuff you are unaware of about yourself. The other end of the human mind is everything we might refer to as 'eternal', and this contains everything about you that is permanent (generally speaking). Also, inside your eternal consciousness resides what we can call the 'Higher Functions' of your mind (and I mean that in the esoteric sense, not the modern scientific sense), which (for want of a better term), is where your spiritual self resides.
When the average person is living their daily life they operate 99.999 percent from their lower (temporal) functions. All of the decisions they make and their abiity to observe and judge the world, and communicate and relate to other people, all comes from their lower functions … their personality. Much of what your pesonality is you have inherited from other people when you were very young. In other words your view of the world and your approach to dealing with the world is mostly learned behaviour. Or more accurately 'programmed' behaviour. Later in life we all add to this early learning ourselves, but what we add or reject from our world view is always tainted by our early childhood education (programming) about life, which we inherit from other people (the people who raised us, primarily).
Rarely, in the average life, do we ever 'connect' with our Higher (eternal) Functions consciously ('the red path '7' in the diagram), and even when that does happen it is most often an accident, it rarely happens deliberately. Although if we get involved with esoteric training then it is more likely that connections with our Higher Functions will happen more often, and deliberately … but even then usualy those connections are still vague and temporary flashes of experience.
The important thing to understand about the Higher Functions is that when we form a connection with them that we then have the ability to 'think' outside the 'average' box. We have the ability to recognise and to understand ideas and situations that exist outrside of common human mental ability. When I say 'common' I mean the full range of human experience from mentally impaired cognition (including childhood cognition) all the way up to high IQ individuals.
This is a simplified way of explaining this idea, but it is accurate.
Now, the thing to understand about the Higher Functions is that the ability to grasp and to actually understand things like alchemy comes from the Higher Functions. This is because alchemy itself is a Higher Function process. For example, all of the ideas I have explained about alchemy so far, here, are an example (in a very crude form) of how the Higher Functins 'think' about alchemy. So, for example, if you made a connection with your Higher Functions and started dwelling on the subject of alchemy, ideas will start flowing into your conscious awareness that look very similar to the ideas I have discussed thusfar … and 'pictures' of concepts like those I have presented in the diagrams I have also posted will also be seen clearly in your mind's eye as graphic examples of alchemical concepts.
In this way we can say that the people who first recognised the knowledge of alchemy were people who had this connection with the Higher Functions. They were either born with that connection intact, or they developed the ability during their lives. In other words, the early Adepts of the Hermetic tradition realised that most people don't have this link to the Higher Functions, but that it can be encouraged to develop by practicing special mental techniques. Then when someone develops this link (7) and gains the ability to peek into the Higher Functions of their mind, one of the things they will see there is the alchemical mechanism, that lies behind manifest nature, moving and rotating like a clockwork mechanism (metaphorically speaking).
The practice of teaching these techniques of accessing the Higher Functions to someone who does not possess that conscious link naturally is what constitutes real Hermetic initiation. And the old Adepts taught that alchemy (for example) cannot be properly 'undersood' until that link was established, because in order to be able to 'think' accurately about alchemy you needed to 'think' with the Higher Functions, because the normal thinking mind, the lower functions, are incapable to grasping the weird nature of alchemy.
To attempt to picture what an experience of the Higher Functions might be like, imagine that on the side of your head you had a switch that could turn on or off your ability to experience emotion. But that you are unaware the switch exists. You live your life normally until well into your adult life, experiencing the full range of human emotions. Then suddenly one day someone comes along and flicks that switch, and your emotions shut down. I think most people could kind of imagine how that might be.
Emotion is one of the faculties of the mind. So are the Higher Functions. But most people never get to consciously experience the Higher Functions … nevertheless when you practice techniques to 'turn on' your Higher Functions, it is like someone coming back in to your life after a few years of having your emotion switch turned off, and switching them back on. The sensation is not foreign … but you definitely feel like something which is part of the mind machine, which you have not been experiencing, has (almost) suddenly become active after having been dormant, and that the reactivation of that function adds a new dimension of experience to the functioning of your mind.
If you had of been born with your emotion switch turned off … then when other people talked about emotion to you, you are not really going to have any real idea what they mean. You might even be tempted to suggest that they are deluded, especially if you lived in a world where 99.999 percent of people lived all their lives with their emotion switch turned off. But once that switch was activated, you would suddenly become aware that an entire range of mental function that you once were totally ignorant of, now becomes as real for you as the ability to 'think' is for most of us.
This is what it is like to be initiated, and by that process have your Higher Functions turned on. Because so few people are in that situation, if you tried to explain it to them … and how useful it is, they would have no frame of reference, and possibly think you're a bit of a nut.
To make this idea a little clearer, it is posible, for example, for a Master alchemist to teach a novice student how to make the Philosopher's stone, even if that novice does not have that Higher Link established in his mind. The novice will see each process worked and duplicate what his Master shows him, and could make the Stone perfectly in this way. But … in having done so he would not be capable of understanding what the Stone really is, or how it does what it does, or, more importantly … what the fact that the Stone can be made really means in the bigger picture.
In the same way, a student of alchemy without that link, and without a teacher who has that link, cannot solve the mysteries of alchemy because he doesn't possess the 'Higher Thinking' ability of the Higher Functions. This is why so many people who come to study alchemy never succeed in reaching its ultimate goals. Even if they are highly intelligent (academically speaking), and have a good university education in chemistry and physics, alchemy would still look like foolishness to them, or its secrets would evade them. Because even though they have the pieces of knowledge at their finger tips that could allow them success, they don't know how to use that knowledge to understand alchemy. It would be like owning a Ferrari, but having no idea how to drive a car.
So the old Adepts, who knew their stuff, always repeated … in order to succeed in alchemy you need to either be taught by an expert (someone with the link to the Higher Mind, or who was trained by someone who had that link), or alternatively to receive it by divine revelation. What they meant by these two things was that if you are taught by an expert (an Adept) then one of the first things he will do is open that link in your own mind, so you can then grasp the truth about alchemy yourself. By 'divine revelation' they meant … of course … that you have that link opened for you, some how, without the aid of a teacher. But in a situation that is very rare by normal means (being taught by an expert), having that link opened by other means is even rarer.
So the old Hermetic Masters always insisted that before alchemy (or magic) could be studied successfully, the student first had to be 'initiated' … and this meant, have his link to the Higher Functions opened, by someone who knows how that is done, because he himself has had it done to him.
Now, here is the clincher. As I mentioned before, the thing we know about the quintessence is that it can rejuvenate (to varying degrees), and that rejuvenation also includes having a psycho-spiritual impact. I have also called that effect 'initiatory' … and by that I specifically meant that if you ingest a powerful enough alchemical quintessence, it will manipulate your mind in such a way as to open the link between your lower functions and your Higher Functions.
That, ultimately, is the sole motive for practicing alchemy, whether it is lab alchemy or inner alchemy … the end result, at the exterme end of the journey, is the same for both approaches. All roads lead to Rome, as they say.
I might add (again) that I don't speak from theory here. I know these ideas are fact, and I know how they are accomplished. That is, they are provable, and reliably repeatably, in the scientific definition of reliable and repeatable.
So, how is the mind structured, actually? and how does it function? that then makes all of this possible?
This essay was first published on the Hermetic Alchemy Forum on 22 April 2013, as post #120.
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