7.Offer your own definition of the Three Philosophical Principles / Essentials / Substances, i.e., Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt.
REPLY: My understanding of the Three Essentials is in keeping with the various modern and classical writings, so I do not feel there is need for further elaboration.
8.What do you understand of the Rebis or ‘two thing’ / ‘a thing twice’?
REPLY: Again, I think this depends on what level we are speaking. Rebis can easily be seen as the refined Mercurial essence – life force itself. Refined out of what? Out of matter, out of our consciousness, the essential energy of the cosmos. I am sure there are other definitions that reflect particular experiences along particular interior and exterior practices.
9.“The Secret Fire of the Philosophers has many names [including] The Water of Life … Burning Water … Ardent Water … The invisible Fire … Our Fire …” What do you understand of the Secret Fire?
REPLY: The Secret Fire changes somewhat depending on what level of action we are speaking of. I understand it to be Nitrogen on the chemical level, but the power of the imagination on the psychological level. On the psychic level, of the psychic centers, it is a powerful emotion; we could easily say it is love, but it is more than common love, rather it is a powerful and passionate singularity of the lover and the beloved. Venus plays a role here, as does Mars. The idiosyncratic nature of esotericism requires that we identify our school of thought, or manuscript, and then what the results are to be from the practices it outlines. When we know what the end result is to be, we know what kind of fire we are speaking of. Some schools say there are Four Fires – this can easily be interpreted as the four worlds of the Tree of Life. But remember, all these worlds are right within us, our very mind and body.
10.The Philosophers’ [sic] Stone has been described variously, and in a number of particular forms (including as a Universal Medicine, as an inextinguishable light / perpetual lamp, and as the Powder of Projection). What is your understanding of [the] Stone?
REPLY: The Stone is seen as an actual vehicle wherein transformations of the mineral realm – the densest energy/matter expression known – take place at the discretion of the alchemist or one to whom he gives a piece of the Stone. Thus the Stone has certain similarities to talismans, created under specific astrological and even atmospheric conditions (that of a clear, cloudless sky). It is clearly an objective expression of a subjective state or experience for the alchemist, but more importantly, in some regards, it is the inducer of a subjective state for those who experience its objective actions but were not involved in its confection. The witness is healed regardless of their belief in or knowledge of the Stone. Because of its universality, the Stone is then some kind of mechanism for expressing and manipulating pure Energy-Matter-Consciousness. Pure, not in a moral or ethical sense (which plays some part, although not as much as we may like to believe), but pure in that it is of one nature or purpose. It is singular, and in that singularity it is potentially everything.
Now the Red Stone, or the Philosopher’s Stone, is said to transmute lesser metals into gold. This is said to be a state of perfection; as Dubuis would say, “everything heads toward a red state.” In Tibetan Vajrayana, we hear that eight, the number of Hermes, is special to Vajrayana practice (the Eight Manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava), also the number of Mercury (and by implication – Time and Eternity). The color gold for Egyptians, across the Indo-Iranian region into Tibet and China, is the color of perfection. We are told, “Gold is the flesh of the gods.” By this we mean the perfect material expression of an energetic quality of stability, utility, and, in its own way, enlightened consciousness.
Now, I am a bit of a heretic here, in that while I place a great deal of emphasis on morality and ethics in spiritual work – and alchemy in particular – as they bring harmony and stability to our inner life, I am not convinced that one must necessarily be a “good person” to confect the Stone. The magical texts known as grimoires are filled with demons who have the ability to perform the same functions as the Stone. So, the Stone in some way is naturally occurring in nature – it has to be to exist at all – but we alchemists as the “handmaidens of nature” speed up the process of its generation. Whereas nature creates the state we call the Stone unconsciously, we as alchemists create it consciously, thereby making ourselves a “little sun” in the universe.
Dr. Joseph Lisiewski told me of some experiments undertaken at the Paracelsus Research Society where high voltage electricity was used to make the White and Red Mercuries out of mercury (Hg). It was prohibitively expensive and only a few grains of the salts of the red mercury were obtained before it was abandoned. The description was similar to what I was told regarding a “Mercurial Tree” Dubuis had created using the Flamel Path, with small granular red “apples” on its branches.
11.Have you ever attempted the Great Work of confection of the Stone (and if so, via which Path/s)? Describe the works / operations and products (if any).
REPLY: This is a tricky question, for as you know, the classical admonition is, “Those who know are silent.” For myself, I am not unbending in that it holds in certain circles today, as those making exceptional claims are also required to put forth exceptional proofs. So for me, anyone who says they have confected the Stone OR has stated or implied in their writing and instruction that their methods will lead to the White or Red Stone, is obliged to produce a demonstrable fruit of their labor.
This is a very important point for me, and while some may disagree, I do not care. When we are instructing people in the Work, we are asking them to follow us, in our footsteps if you will, and that means they are spending their time – something they cannot get back – on the conviction that what we have said is honest, true, and verified through personal experience. What makes the White or Red Stone so important is that it is objectively verifiable. You can either transmute lead or mercury or you cannot. It is that simple. There is one well-known alchemical author whom I have several times bitten my tongue on taking them to task for some of the implications and direct statements they make in their writing regarding practical steps in the Work. It is very clear that their instructions are incomplete, being notes from a seminar, and will not work.
12. Paracelsus remarked with regard to alchemy that “The straight road is easy, but it is found by very few” and that “No one … will ever enter the true path so long as he holds back from the goal through fear of making a false step, or fails to correct his own errors by imitating the course of Nature.” Comment.
REPLY: Jean Dubuis often said, “Do not be in love with your ideas,” and that is critical if we are to progress on any path, regardless of whether it is esoteric or not. In truth, there is no such thing as esotericism: only the possession of a philosophical view that allows us to experience material reality from an interior or combined energetic and mental perspective. That is why esotericism can be “hidden in plain sight,” as you either possess the necessary philosophical view that allows the interior perception or intuitions, as well as intellectual connections and references, or you do not. This is not something unique to Hermeticism, as we see that philosophical foundations – or the “View,” as it is called – is critical in Tibetan Vajrayana as well. The good news is that these philosophical views can be learned. The goals of Vajrayana are identical to those of Hermeticism in general and alchemy in particular. Total realization wherein Thought, Word, and Deed – or Body, Speech, and Mind – are of a single nature and effect. Thus, death is transcended, as a mind capable of self-generating a physical body, or turning a physical body into an energetic one and back again (as Jesus is said to have done after the Resurrection), is practical immortality.
One of the most significant problems I see today in modern spirituality is arrogance, pride, the Sin of Satan, or Vice of Tiphareth. It is subtle in many ways, but its result is to always place the one who has it above others, to believe that one is superior, privy to some great secret and therefore better than those around him, or his teachers. It is the burden of humans that their great suffering comes from always comparing themselves to others. This is very apparent in the ritual magic community, but also in what remains of the various initiatic organizations that have survived the various schisms that have plagued them. We see a great deal of pride manifest in the politicizing of esotericism, wherein it is assumed that if one is “on the Path of Return” and a “good person,” then they will inherently be left-of-center politically, and support all the “correct” causes and ideals. This thinking is destructive to esotericism, wherein each must be left alone to decide how to put their philosophy into action, as time and place will dictate different needs.
The secondary effect of this is the unwillingness to follow a path in its strict cultural context. The idea that we can mix and match systems is in some way unique to modern Western occultists. This is not to say that there have not been cross-cultural influences in the past, but that those influences were integrated into a working system and not simply patched on like an old quilt. We can look to others for inspiration and ideas, but we ultimately have to find the answers within our own culture and systemic context.
Again – and this cannot be repeated too often – the advantage of alchemy is that one can justly and appropriately ask, as Frater Albertus did, “Where are the results?” Anyone who makes claims must also be ready to produce proofs; this is critical in the mundane and even more so in the esoteric, where we are asking people to dedicate their time and resources to what we say is “truth.” Time is short and we cannot afford to waste it.
Another aspect of this question is the curse of perfectionism. People can be so afraid of making a mistake that they become afraid of doing anything at all. Do something, anything, the Christian scriptures say: “I would rather thee be hot or cold, but ye are lukewarm so I spit thee out.” Marsilio Ficino quotes the classics and says, “The gods help those who act.” Along with the curse of perfectionism is fear of criticism, or a weak ego structure (sense of self) that cannot hold up to genuine and honest appraisal.
Alchemy is not for the timid or the weak. It is not an activity in which everyone gets an award just for showing up. It is deeply personal, and only the strong survive. Strong in what way? Those committed enough to the goal of self-realization, perfection, immortality, however you want to frame it, to do whatever is necessary – and that means in their own lives – to make it happen.
The hidden pathology here is that esotericism in general, and operative occultism in particular, is filled with too many people who are afraid of life and are looking for an easy answer or solution to life’s problems. It has always been that way; however, our modern Western culture has created a climate that only encourages it, rather than limits or reveals it.
To Dare, To Do, To Will, To Remain Silent – or (1) conceive, (2) act, (3) modify and continue acting, and (4) stay focused until the goal is reached – are the axioms of Hermeticism. Action is required. We live in Assiah, the World of Action! Alchemy is really a form of Karma Yoga, when you think about it. Action is required, and as Swami Vivekananda said, in Karma Yoga the one we help is really ourselves.