No matter what we think we know about the goal of alchemical initiation … Spiritual Illumination, the reality is that it is something we are highly unlikely to have any realistic idea about. We may say we want it, and that this goal is the most important thing in our life, but the truth is we are making this claim about something we have no conscious understanding of, and it is a thing few people dare to discuss, especially to the point where an accurate technical grasp of the subject is possible.
Spiritual Illumination is not human. No matter how many people you interact with in your life, chances are you will never meet someone face-to-face who has attained that state. Even if you do, it is highly unlikely you will find yourself in a position where they will describe it to you, so that you can number amongst the few individuals alive who have some degree of realistic understanding of what that state is.
Spiritual Illumination is a state which exists beyond the common human condition. Therefore it is part of the unknown.
In order to fully manifest a state of Illumination in our mind we need to first merge the two poles of our lower psyche more than fifty percent. More than fifty percent because in order for the process to gain momentum, and to continue to work forward toward full Illumination we need to have established a conscious and deliberate 'majority share' in the functioning of our mind. While any other intelligence within us might have the majority share, or we have less than the majority ourselves, our mind and our life is being governed by forces that very likely are working outside of the Great Work … the process for attaining full Illumination. The way we obtain that majority share is by gaining control over our Nephesch and our Ruach, the two poles of the incarnate psyche, and of turning their attention away from an obsessive and limited focus on normal life, to a concerted focus on the accomplishment of Great Work. This is not an easy task. Not only do most people not have any idea about a technique through which this might be accomplished, but we cannot forget that Nephesch and Ruach (the functions which almost entirely govern our instinct, feelings and thinking processes) have also been programmed by nature to remain firmly focused on the struggle of common life. So even to successfully begin to 'think' along lines that have a potential to lead to Higher cognition, is to swim against the powerful current of nature.
Once we have gone against our human nature, by turning the attention of Nephesch and Ruach 180 degrees in the opposite direction from that which nature has ordained for them, only then have we begun the journey back to Unity.
The first step in that process is the death of the 'human' personality, the grasping and separating of Nephesch and Ruach. In doing this we evoke the intelligence of death (Nachash), which we then, too, need to take hold of and gain control over. Because without gaining control of the Nachash, we do not control the process of death, and our matter will not die, putrefy, and be reborn … philosophically.
Once the process of death has be effected perfectly, and the Elements of our being have been duly overcome by it, the next stage of the process is to purify each Element of the dark matter which clings to them, and which causes them to maintain our full immersion in binary existence. The state of Unity cannot be achieved, and Spiritual Illumination real-ised, until the physical and non-physical impurities which maintain duality still cling to 'our matter' (the functions of our subjective and objective minds).
In the inner alchemical work, once the purification of Nephesch and Ruach has been effected thoroughly, the process of wedding the King and Queen can begin. Until that purification has been achieved, any attempt at wedding the poles of the lower functions will result in a homogeneous state that contains dysfunction that cannot easily be removed. This work of purification has its origin in the earlier establishment of a link between Neschamah (imagination) and conscious awareness (Ruach). This link allows the Neschamah to influence the lower functions, causing them to recognise the Higher Functions and to accept that the Great Work of bonding with them is a valid and productive process. For some people reaching this point can take years. For others, an enthusiastic and productive connection with the Higher Functions can take only months. It all depends on the student's degree of commitment, and their level of intelligent application to the process.
Once that link with the Neschamah is reasonably well established the student will recognise that a number of key things about their approach to life begin to change dramatically. Their understanding of what reality is, and how it functions, begins to transform. Old ideas that are part of the “average person” cliche', about what the world is and how you should approach it, begin to drop away, and are replaced by new ideas which are distinctly of a rarer kind, and belong to a more Hermetic and alchemical view of existence. Old behaviours which have been picked up along the way, as we journey through normal life, are re-evaluated, and many of them dropped, being replaced by new behaviours which are grasped as being part of a paradigm that aids in shifting us Higher on the path to Unity. The overall focus also shifts away from the common and temporal struggle for survival in everyday life, toward concern about the health of our connection with the part of us which is eternal. This develops increasingly as the student's link with the Neschamah provides access to realisations about how the common struggles of life can be managed in an almost automatic manner, allowing that level of our existence to virtually look after itself - stress free. This tends toward increasing the students free time (the time outside of maintaining the struggle for survival in the world), and fills that increased free time with more and more productive activities that aid in one's Higher development.
Instead of having a good deal of one's limited spare time focused on activities that contribute nothing to personal growth, such as the near-obsessive television viewing many people are addicted to, that spare time becomes divided in to activities such as reading, study, further education, self observation, mediation, lab work and socialising and networking with other people who have similar interests … all at increasingly intense levels of productivity. It is important to understand I do not mean, here, the kinds of activities we see at the popular level of esoteric involvement, which, when looked at objectively, are in fact often little more than a new brand of the same old time wasting activities. I refer specifically to increased involvement in activities which in fact do help in personal growth, with increasing effectiveness and speed.
This kind of growth, though, brings with it, its own kinds of problems. If it is not managed properly then a species of fear begins to arise. Fear that the focus of one's life is being shifted so much from the 'common' level of behaviour, toward the Hermetic Adept level of behaviour, that it is beginning to be noticed by friends and family who might become uncomfortable with what you are doing. All this new focus can sometimes lead to the aspirant making sudden changes to things which have become characteristics other people have long recognised as defining who you are to them. Changes in living conditions and location. Changes in employment. Changes in love relationships (such as marriage), can all occur not only suddenly and without warning to outsiders, but also in rapid succession … as the initiate makes what he sees are adjustments to his life necessary to his attaining the kind of lifestyle most conducive with fitting in all the kinds of personal activities that he is excited about being involved in, because of the positive effects they are having on his existence. Because outsiders do not have the privilege of thinking with the Higher Functions, as our initiate does, these new and often extreme choices can seem irrational … which, of course, in the limited picture, is true.
If, during this stage of the work, the student starts to look back at his old life, and the people who came along with that package who themselves are entrenched in that style of existence, and begins to feel there might be some value in remaining at that level of existence themselves, then the fear of change can become dramatic. It can even lead to anxiety attacks and in extreme cases paranoia. If the student allows pressure from his old life to gain the upper-hand, and thereby let the fear of change and fear of the journey into the unknown to continue unchecked, then the most likely outcome will be that the link to the Higher Functions will be killed off. Once this condition sets in, and the ability to 'think' with the Higher Functions is retarded, then the individual discovers that once again it is easy to find good 'reason' to go back to the old life as part of the common human herd, and argue in his own mind that the search for Higher self-expression is not only a fantasy, but probably dangerous. If this condition sets in, and gains momentum, the journey of initiation ends. The Nachash wins the battle, and always in such a way that it ensures that never again will the individual become involved in any esoteric practice that has the ability to evolve him toward an Illuminated state.
But if the fear of breaking away from the herd-life is experienced, managed and overcome, (which is where the experience and skill of an expert teacher comes into its own), then the final stage of the Great Work manifests. In this final (and third) stage 'thinking' with the Higher Functions gains the upper hand, as the student learns to place his trust in this new mode of cognition, and to remove his trust from the limited view that is had by the lower functions. Then, as this new state of behaviour gains momentum an entirely novel condition appears on the horizon of the psychological life of the initiate. The summit of human experience, the intelligence we know as The Higher Genius, joins the other newly developed aspects of the initiate's psyche. This event gives the aspirant access to the part of themselves that knows *everything* about what they are. There is nothing that the Higher Genius doesn't know about the initiate, his past, his present and his future options. The Higher Genius is an absolute expert in knowledge of the entire functioning of reality. In this way the Higher Genius governs every aspect of the aspirant's existence, molding and modeling his reality constantly in order to guide his life's path in the direction which is understood to be the most productive. The Higher Genius is the consummate Master Alchemist, who also has wide contact with all manner of expressions of reality which exist outside of the strictly human spectrum of experience.
Once a connection is made with the Higher Genius, and a condition is established which allows that connection to remain permanent and functional, the initiate can truly be said to have attained a state of … “awareness of the totality of his being” … full Spiritual Illumination. Because there is no nook or cranny in the initiate's existence which the Higher Genius cannot look in to, and does not have a complete understanding of, and control over. This is, then, the beginning of the wider journey of the Illuminated Adept. The true beginning of his adventure as a Master Alchemist, capable of manipulating any aspect of his reality, in conformity with the laws of nature, in order to achieve swiftly and effectively, whatever his will desires.
This is the condition, which speculative alchemists call … the (internal) Philosopher's Stone. A state where the 'matter' of the alchemist himself not only has been transmuted, in order to create him as a the Lapis Sapientiae (Stone of the Wise), but also has made him the agent of transmutation, capable of taking what crude matter he desires, and swiftly and effectively converting it into the highest expression of itself. He not only possesses the Stone internally, but if he desires, externally. Wherein he is not only capable of transmutation of base metals in to noble metals, but base humans into noble humans.
This essay was first published on the Hermetic Alchemy Forum on 29 April 2013, as post #145.
©️ rubaphilos salfluĕre 2022
This document is provided for general cost-free circulation, under the condition it is not sold or edited in any way at all, and that any and all quotes made from this document are accurately and adequately referenced.