The Mind of the Alchemist

(Excerpt from S:.R:.I:.A:. publication- Coming soon!)

Abraham Eleazaris.1

Alchemy is often called, the spagyric art. This term is derived from the Greek words, “span,” to draw or separate and “ageirein,” to assemble. The composed word spagyric means, therefore, to analyze and re-synthesize, decompose and recompose, or in alchemical terms, to dissolve and coagulate – solve et coagula, in which two operations is expressed the entire essence of most alchemical procedures. But, as stated, in alchemy the mind is the artist, the subject and final product, so in the work the mind is to be decomposed, analyzed and recomposed, synthetized again. Consequently it is of utmost importance to form right at the start a clear idea of what is Mind in Itself.

The definitions of the mind given by ancient, by scholastic and by modern philosophers would make a respectable volume. Yet it would be a barren and unnecessary work to compare them, for the result would be the same conclusion anyhow that was drawn by a good thinker, John Stuart Mill, (System of logic; Book I Chap. III 8):

“It is unnecessary in the case of mind to give a particular statement about the skeptical system by which its existence as a Thing in Itself, distinct from the series of what are denominated as its states, is called in question. But it is necessary to remark that on the inmost nature of the thinking principle as well as on the inmost nature of matter, we are and with our faculties must always remain in the dark. There is something I call Myself, or by another form of expression, my mind.”

It is interesting too that Stuart Mill in his Autobiography repeatedly acknowledges that intuition may be superior to reason.

There are noteworthy points in this quotation. One is that Stuart Mill does not want even to consider the “skeptical system” which claims that the mind is but a coherent series of moments of consciousness, and that thinking as well as thoughts are but products of the brain. Yet this is the basis upon which good many modern philosophers are working. They consider just that part of the mind that is conscious of such phenomena only which can be perceived by the five normal senses. This way leads, however, only to the second part of the quotation, to the admission that we are, and with our faculties must always remain, in the dark. But above the normal faculties there are higher faculties of man which, although latent, are capable of development, as this is demonstrated by somnambulance, clairvoyance, clairaudience, intuition, inspiration, telepathy, and telekinesis. And besides the normal consciousness there are higher lights to elucidate the mind; “the Light of Nature” as the Paracelsians called that inner light that can be produced without any difficulty in almost every man, and above this light there is still “the Light of Grace,” the divine illumination.

In the last decades our academic philosophy, following the footsteps of the esoterists, progressed a great deal by studying the subconscious mind. This is the right way toward the recognition of the mind as a “Thing in Itself.” The moderns, however, rarely experiment on themselves but work on others on in laboratories with mechanical devices, and consequently remain behind the ancients, who were aided in their work by their inner lights and drew their conclusions from personal experiences with the normally unconscious parts of their minds too. In our days, however, Einstein and other great thinkers also some leaders in big business, captains of industry, rely upon intuition a great deal. Progressive psychologists recognize more and more too, that from a systematic cooperation of the unconscious part of the mind with the conscious mind results an extension of the consciousness to the higher planes of existence. Consequently the alchemist has good reasons to return also to the doctrines of Tradition and to follow its methods.

Tradition considers the final Cause of All, i.e. God, to be an Infinite, Eternal, Self-sufficient and sole Being, in whom everything that exists lives. As far as finite human minds can conceive, the essence of this God is a supreme and only real Intellect, entirely spiritual, that creatively acts in a co-eternal living plastic substance, which is called the Soul of the World, Anima Mundi. It is for us the source of all life and energy, the essence of which is the conscious sensing, thinking and reasoning, consequently it is a mind, and on this account the Soul of the World is identical with the Universal Mind.

It is immaterial but inseparable from substance; it is the universal agent (force) but also the patient (substance) in all physical and hyperphysical phenomena, the cause of all organized forms, consequently of life and death alike, and the motor in all movement. Modern science recognizes it by the name ether, source of light, heat and electricity. But in esoteric philosophy this ether is considered to be merely the body, or vehicle, or conveyor of the essence called Anima Mundi identical also with the Archeus of the Paracelsians.

Tradition recognizes it as the generative Divine Nature (Natura Naturans) too; imperceptible to our normal senses, it is nevertheless the mother of the generated nature (Natura Naturata) that we call simply – Nature. The generative (creative) Divine Nature is personified as the Great Mother, or Isis, or Demeter (Ceres), is also in many aspects the Shekinah of the Jews, even our Maria. She is a living being, indeed, as every alchemist will recognize in advanced practice.

This Soul of the World or Universal Mind that is always inseparably united to the Supreme Intellect, manifests in the whole creation, consequently in the, to us, normally imperceptible spheres, as well as in our gross material world. It is the Ain Soph of the Kabalists, the neutral Parabrahman of the Hindus, the Nous of the Greeks or Mens of the Romans; the Bythos or Abyss of the Gnostics, the Ungrund (groundless, unfathomable) of Boehme.

The individual human soul or mind is a fraction (monad or atom) of the Universal Mind, Anima Mundi. H. C. Agrippa (De Occulta Philosophia, III, 36), FOLLOWING Hermes but also Plotinus and other Neoplatonists, calls it “Mens” or “Intellectus Illustratus” – i.e. Mind or Illuminated Intellect, and identifies it with what Moses calls in Genesis II, the breath of life (nishemath hayim, literally: exalted essence of life), which inbreathed by the Creator into Adam made him a living soul (nephesh chayah). Agrippa declares also that this soul-mind never sins, is never damned, but after the death of the flesh returns to God. Immanuel Kant calls it “die reine Vernunft” i.e. the pure intellect, and Hindus “Atma.” It is what Stuart Mill rightly calls also the “myself” – the Ego. (In general usage the terms ‘soul’ and ‘mind’ are convertible. If a distinction is made, soul refers rather to the living essence of the individual man, while mind refers to the thinking principle; we are talking about the immortality of the soul and the powers of the mind, but essentially both are the same.)

As to Anima Mundi, so its atom, the human soul, lives in all created spheres of existence. But normally we are conscious only of that part of this extended life that is lived in our material world and are unconscious of any contact with other spheres, despite that this unconscious part of our life interferes to an unsuspected extent with our thinking, and consequently with our whole activity. Yet a close observation of our own mental operations will soon reveal that our thinking is not an un-interrupted process, but it stops often, even if for fractions of seconds only, and during these intervals the subconscious injects its silent and hardly perceptible suggestions. Modern science gives already full attention to this fact and the late professor Elmer Gates (Smithsonian Institute) writes in his “The mind and the brain” (New York, 1904, p-4):

“We do not intentionally create our thinking. It takes place in us. We are more or less passive recipients. Our mentation is the result of the operation of the Cosmic Whole upon us.”

The expression Cosmic Whole includes the unseen spheres of created existence, of which some are higher and some are lower that is this sphere of our normal life, and from which we receive through the unconscious part of the mind intuitions and inspirations for good and evil alike.

This conscious activity of the Mind is used mostly in the outer life, and the semi-conscious emotional and mental life, which may be almost unconscious in the undeveloped man, is called the inner life, a higher aspect of which is the psycho-intellectual life in the world of thoughts. This inner world is the “kingdom within,” and it is as real as is the outer world; both are equally divine manifestations, full of God, full of truth, expressions of the Divine Order. In this inner world is man in constant communion with nature.

Let us now consider the purpose of alchemy, regeneration by the renewal of the Mind. No doubt, experiences in the outer life mature the outer mind. But this is just one part of the Mind, and while it may be the major part of the whole in the undeveloped man, naturally becomes the lesser and lesser part in proportion as a man develops, divests the animal propensities and becomes really human. And anyhow, this cannot renew by its valuable experiences the inner mind or inner life, because it cannot contact the force-substance and intellectual influences of the higher spheres of existence, which have to be indrawn to regenerate the Mind. For these finer force-substances and intellectual influences have to act upon the Mind like leaven acts in the dough; have to produce in it a new fermentation during which their higher qualities impregnate, transform to their own nature, the whole Mind. An inner unfoldment, a real growth, is started thereby, a new and more intensive inner life, that extends the consciousness into the life of the higher spheres, but at the same time favorably reacts upon the outer life too, quickens the outer mind, widens the mental horizon, deepens the whole thinking.

Thus when the powers of the outer and inner parts of the Mind, the conscious and the semi-conscious, even unconscious, are united for harmonious cooperation, life is intensified and extended partly into the starry places of the Invisible, the great Beyond, but mostly inwards to exploit the inner Kingdom while the man is still living in the flesh. But to achieve this, it is necessary to recognize the inner mind, to become familiar with its parts, to discover which part of it is connected especially with this or that higher sphere or with the unfathomable depths of the human Ego. This knowledge furnishes at the same time the keys to the proper understanding of the various alchemical processes. Fortunately the inquirer after this knowledge finds an already well cultivated field the fruits of which can be gathered, and concerning the selection of what is most practical to be selected from among them, the Kabala offers always safe guidance.

According to this highest part of our learning the soul-mind of man consists of five parts, which are, counting from the lowest on upward; Nephesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah. These terms have no generally accepted English equivalents, but in accordance with the concepts of tradition we may consider Nephesh as the vital soul or mind, Ruach as the psychic or emotional and Neshamah as the rational or reasoning soul or mind, while Chayah, called also the Mind of the Mind, Mens Mentis, corresponds to the Soul of the World or Universal Mind, and Yechidah, i.e. the unique, singularis, to the all-permeating Divine Intellect.

The Kabala connects also each of these five parts of the Mind or Soul with a special letter of the Divine Tetragrammaton, viz. Nephesh with the second (final) He; Ruach with the Vav, Neshamah with the first He, Chayah with the Yod, and Yechidah with the head of the Yod or with a point above it. This correspondence implies that the mind is a particle of the Creator, Y H V H, and that its five parts are connected with the three created worlds, also with the emanated world and ultra-zodiacal spaces. This is a great concept for it does not set any limit to the perfecting of the mind, except Ain Soph, i.e. the Infinite Deity.