By Thomas H. Burgoyne
What a weird yet strangely pleasing name the term Alchemy is. It is simple, yet so filled and intermixed with the possible verities of exact science and the philosophical speculations on the infinite and the unknown, as to elude our mental grasp, as it were, by its own subtle essence, and defy the keenest analysis of our profoundest philosophers in science. And yet, in spite of this self-evident truth, how fascinating the sound of the word becomes to the mystic student’s ear, and bow pregnant with awful and mysterious possibilities it becomes, to the immortal powers embodied within the complex human organism termed man.
Words, if we but knew it, have the same innate, magnetic influence, and possess the same power of affinity and antipathy, that the human family possesses; as well as all organic and inorganic forms and substances; and how sad, to a developed soul, to witness the disharmony existing in our midst, caused by the misapplication of names.
Most human beings are very conscious of personal, or human magnetism, and its effects. But they stop right there, and do not dream of the subtle, silent influences emanating from a name, a word, and the power existing in words, when properly used. The human mind is so absorbed in Nature’s manifestations, which are only the husks, that they fail to see the true, hidden meaning and realities, concealed beneath the material shell.
We will first notice the meaning of the words which constitute our subject, viz., Alchemy, then give a brief review of its physical correspondence, chemistry, and its true relation to its spiritual counterpart, Alchemy.
“Al” and “Chemy” are Arabic-Egyptian words which have much more in them than appears upon the surface, and possess a far different meaning from the one which the terms usually convey to the average mind. Terms, and the ideas we associate with them, vary according to the age in which we live. So with those, from which the word Alchemy is derived.
Let us penetrate beneath the mere verbal husk with which linguistic usage and convenience have clothed them, and which, in the course of ages, has become nothing but the dross of decomposed verbiage, and see if we can excavate the living germ, that has become buried within. If we can do so, we shall, at the commencement of our study, have attained unto a realization of the ancient meaning and real significance of the terms employed. And this will be no small gain, and will form no unimportant part of the equipment in our present research.
The Arabians, who derived the whole of their Occult arcana from the Egyptians, are the most likely to render us the most truthful and direct significance of the word, and so we find them. Thus, “Al,” meaning “the,” and Kimia,” which means the hidden, or secret, ergo THE OCCULT, from which are derived our modern term Alchemy, more properly Al Kimia. This is very different from the popular conception to-day, which supposes that the word relates to the art of artificially making gold by some chemical process, and viewing it only as some sort of magical chemistry, forgetting that, the science of chemistry itself is also derived from the Kimia of Arabian mystics, and was considered as one and the same thing by every writer of the Middle Ages.
At this time, the physical man was not so dense and grasping for husks; hence the soul and spiritual part had greater control, and could impart the real, the alchemical side, of Nature to him; hence the Law of Correspondences was understood, and guided the educated in their considerations, researches, and conclusions.
Do you ask why, if they were so enlightened, they have veiled their knowledge from the world at large?
The power of mind over matter was as potent in those days as now, and the masses were as correspondingly corrupt as they are today. Therefore, to put this knowledge into the hands of the multitude would have been generally disastrous. So they wrote it in mystical language, knowing that all educated students in Nature’s laws, at that time, would understand; yet they little dreamed how much their language would be misunderstood in the centuries to follow, by those who look to their ancient ancestry for aid on subjects that have become at the present day so lost in mystery.
Having ascertained, beyond question, that Alchemy was, and consequently is, the secret science of Occultism–not the philosophy, mind you, but the science; let us proceed, for, we shall find that these two aspects may often differ, or appear to differ, widely from each other, though they can never do so in reality, for the latter produces and establishes the facts, while the former occupies itself in their tabulation and deductions. The science constitutes the foundation, and the philosophy, the metaphysical speculations, which rest thereon. If these important distinctions are borne in mind, all the apparent confusion, contradiction, and other intellectual debris, will either disappear or resolve themselves into their own proper groups, so that we may easily classify them.
It is at this very point, that, so many students go astray amid the labyrinths of science and philosophy. They, unconsciously, so mix and intermingle the two terms, that nine-tenths of the students present only one side of the question–philosophy, which soon runs into theory, if not supported by the science, which they have lost in their volumes of philosophy.
You may say, one subject at a time. Yes, this may be true, if its twin brother is not absorbed and forgotten.
In this chapter, we shall deal especially with organic Alchemy.
Organic Alchemy deals exclusively with living, organic things, and in this connection differs from the Alchemy of inorganic matter. These two aspects may, in this one respect, be compared to organic and inorganic chemistry, to which originally they belonged; as astrology did to astronomy. Alchemy and astrology– twin sisters–were the parents of the modern offspring, known in chemistry and astronomy as exact science. These latter, however, deal with shadows and phenomenal illusions, while the former concern the living realities, which produce them. Therefore, there can be “no new thing under the sun,” said Solomon.
First, let us deal with the most lovely form of our art, that which pertains to the floral and vegetable kingdoms. Every flower or blade of grass, every tree of the forest and stagnant weed of the swamp, is the outcome of, and ever surrounded by, its corresponding degree of spiritual life. There is not a single atom but what is the external expression of some separate, living force, within the spaces of Aeth, acting in unison with the dominant power corresponding with the type of life.
If science could only behold this wonderful laboratory within the vital storehouse of Nature, she would no longer vainly seek for THE ORIGIN OF LIFE, nor wonder, what may have become of the missing link in scientific evolution, because, she would quickly realize that, biogenesis is the one grand truth of both animate and inanimate Nature, the central, living source of which is God. Science would also, further realize that this life is ever in motion throughout the manifested universe; circulating around the focii of creative activities, which we term suns, stars, and planets, awaiting the conditions which are ever present for material incarnation; and under all possible combinations of circumstances and conditions, conceivable and inconceivable, adapting itself to continuous phenomenal expression. Links, so called, in this mighty chain of evolution, may appear to be missing here and there, and, for that matter, whole types may seem to be wanting, but, this is only because of our imperfect perception, and, in any case, can make no real difference with the facts, because, if such be a reality, if there be what we may term MISSING LINKS in the scheme of evolution, it only shows that spirit, although associated with, is ever independent of matter.
But matter–what is to become of it? Is it independent of spirit? The kindness of the Divine spirit heeds not the unconscious mind of matter and its boasted independence, and works silently on, and at last, accomplishes its mission–the evolution of matter, the uplifting of the soul of man, as well as the universe. The blindness of man is dense, and the saddest part to admit is that, they will so stubbornly remain so.
If, for one instant, the penetrating eye of the soul could shine forth through the physical orbs of vision, and imprint the scenes, beheld behind the veil, upon the tablets of the brain of the physical organism, a fire would be kindled that, could never be quenched by the fascinating allurements of the material, perishable things, of matter.
That development of the real atom of life can, and does, go forward, irrespective of the gradation of physical types, needs no convincing proof, other than visible Nature.
MAN IS NOT THE OUTCOME OF PHYSICAL EVOLUTION, and produced by a series of blind laws, that lead him upward from protozoa to man, as a child climbs up stairs, advancing regularly, ONE STEP AS A TIME. This latter conception, we know, is the theory of exact science, but not of Alchemy, not of the science of Occultism. Man, according to Wallace, Darwin, Huxley, and Tyndall, is what progressive stages of physical evolution have made him. But the very reverse is true. The fauna and flora of past geological periods are what the human soul has produced, by virtue of its gradual advancement to higher states and conditions of life, so that, so far from man being the outcome of the planet’s development, such material progress is the outgrowth of man’s advancement, proving again that, matter is not independent of spirit, neither can spirit be independent of matter for its expressions. They so interblend that, the dividing line cannot be detected by the untrained eye of the exact scientist. But, that time is not far distant, when the scientists will prepare and evolve their interior being to take up the spiritual thread, exactly where the visible thread ends, and carry forth the work, as far as the mortal mind of man can penetrate, while embodied in the physical form.
God hasten this day is my prayer, for then man will become more spiritual and aspiring for advancement and knowledge, thus, setting up vibrations that will create higher and loftier conditions for the physical man. Aye! then they will know that, even the birth of the world itself, owes its primal genesis to the desire of the human atom for earthly embodiment.
Here is where exact science, or the counterpart of Alchemy, becomes both profitable and helpful. Says Paracelsus: “The true use of chemistry is not to make gold, but to prepare medicines.” He admits four elements–the STAR, the ROOT, the ELEMENT and the SPERM. These elements were composed of the three principles, SIDERIC SALT, SULFUR, and MERCURY. Mercury, or spirit, sulfur, or oil, and salt, and the passive principles, water and earth. Herein we see the harmony of the two words, Alchemy and Chemistry. One is but the continuation of the other, and they blend so into each other that, they are not complete, apart.
The chemist, in his analysis of the various component parts of any form of matter, knows also the proportional combinations; and thus, by the Law of Correspondence, could, by the same use of the spiritual laws of Alchemy, analyze and combine the same elements from the atmosphere, to produce the corresponding expression of crystallized form. By the same laws, are affinities and antipathies discovered and applied, in every department of Nature’s wonderful laboratory.
Chemistry is the physical expression of Alchemy, and any true knowledge of chemistry is:–not the knowing of the names of the extracts and essences, and the plants themselves, and that certain combinations produce certain results, obtained from blind experiments, yet, prompted by the Divine spirit within; but, knowledge born from knowing the why and wherefore of such effects. What is called the oil of olives is not a single, simple substance, but it is more or less combined with other essential elements, and will fuse and coalesce with other oils and essences of similar nature. The true chemist will not confine his researches for knowledge to the mere examination, analysis, and experiments, in organic life; but will inform himself equally, in physical astrology; and learn the nature, attributes, and manifested influences of the planets, that constitute our universe; and, under which, every form of organic matter is subject, and especially, controlled by. Then, by learning the influence of the planets upon the human family; and that special planetary vibration that influences the individual; he can intelligently and unerringly administer medicines to remove disease in man.
A familiarity with the mere chemical relations of the planet to man, makes still more apparent, the mutual affinity of both to the soil, from which they appear to spring, and to which, they ultimately return; so much so that, we have become conscious, that, the food we eat is valuable or otherwise as a life sustainer, in proportion to the amount of life it contains. We are so complex in our organization that, we require a great variety of the different elements to sustain all the active functions and powers within us. Man, being a microcosm, or a miniature universe, must sustain that universe, by taking into the system the various elements, which combine to make up the Infinite Universe of God. Animal flesh is necessary to certain organized forms, both animal and man. When I say necessary, I do not mean an acquired taste and habit of consuming just so much flesh a day; but a constitution, which would not be complete in its requirements, without animal flesh. I am thankful such do not constitute the masses.
Science would say, you only require certain combinations of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon, to sustain all the activities of the physical body. Apparently, this is true. Upon the surface it is, but in reality it is not; because if it were really true there could be no famines. Science could make bread out of stones, as was suggested at the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. And yet, no one knows better than the academies of Science, themselves, that their learned professors would quickly starve to death, if they were compelled to produce their food from the chemical properties of the rocks. They can make a grain of wheat chemically perfect, but they cannot make the invisible germ by which it will grow, become fruitful, and reproduce itself. They can reproduce from the stones in the street the same chemical equivalents that go to compose gluten, albumen, and starch–the trinity which must always be present to sustain life; but they cannot, by any known process, make such chemical equivalents of these substances, do the same thing. Now, if not, why not? Science cannot answer this. A very mysterious shake of the head and profound silence is the only answer. Ask Science HOW THE PLANT GROWS, what causes the atoms of matter to build up root, stem, leaf, bud and flower, true to the parent species from which the germinal atom came. What is there behind the plant that stamps it with such striking individuality? And why, from the same soil, the deadly aconite and nutritious vegetable can grow, each producing qualities in harmony with its own nature, so widely different in their effects upon the human organism, YET, SO COMPLETELY IDENTICAL AS REGARDS THE SOURCE FROM WHICH THEY APPEAR TO SPRING. There must be a something to account for this, and this something, ancient Alchemy alone can scientifically reveal and expound; and, this knowledge lies just beyond that line which calls a halt to material scientists, and says: “You can go no farther; this is beyond your purview. The end of the material thread has been reached, and unless you can connect it with the thread of the next plane, your researches must stop.”
Before entering upon and answering these vital questions, we must digress a little, and make ourselves perfectly familiar with the ideas and revelations of advanced physical science upon the subject, and for this purpose no more trustworthy guide can be consulted than the new edition of “The Chemistry of Common Life,” by the late James F. W. Johnson, M. A., England, and revised by Arthur Herbert Church, M. A. In chapter IV on page 56 of this work, upon the anatomy of plant life, we read:
“How interesting it is to reflect on the minuteness of the organs by which the largest plants are fed and sustained. Microscopic apertures in the leaf suck in gaseous food from the air; the surfaces of microscopic hairs suck a liquid food from the soil. We are accustomed to admire, with natural and just astonishment, how huge, rocky reefs, hundreds of miles in length, can be built up by the conjoined labors of myriads of minute zoophytes, laboring together on the surface of a coral rock; but it is not less wonderful that, by the ceaseless working of similar microscopic agencies in leaf and root, the substance of vast forests should be built up and made to grow before our eyes. It is more wonderful, in fact; for whereas, in the one case, the chief result is that, dead matter extracted from the sea is transformed into a dead rock; in the other, the lifeless matter of the earth and air are converted by these minute plant-builders into living forms, lifting their heads aloft to the sky, waving with every wind that blows, and beautifying whole continents with the varying verdure of their ever-changing leaves.”
Further on in the same chapter, on pages 62-3, the same eloquent writer continues:
“But the special chemical changes that go on within the plant, could we follow them, would appear not less wonderful than the rapid production of entire microscopic vegetables from the raw food contained in the juice of the grape. It is as yet altogether incomprehensible, even to the most refined physiological chemistry, how, from the same food taken in from the air, and from generally similar food drawn up from the soil, different plants, and different parts of plants, should be able to extract or produce substances so very different from each other in composition and in all of their properties. From the seed-vessels of one (the poppy) we collect a juice which dries up into our commercial opium; from the bark of another (cinchona) we extract the quinine with which we assuage the raging fever; from the leaves of others, like those of hemlock and tobacco, we distil deadly poisons, often of rare value for their medicinal uses. The flowers and leaves of some yield volatile oils, which we delight in for their odors and their aromatic qualities; the seeds of others give fixed oils, which are prized for the table or use in the arts. These, and a thousand other similar facts, tell us how wonderfully varied are the changes which the same original forms of matter undergo in the interior of living plants. Indeed, whether we regard the vegetable as a whole, or examine its minutest part, we find equal evidence of the same diversity of changes and of the same production, in comparatively minute quantities, of very different, yet often characteristic forms of matter.”
From the whole of the foregoing, we observe the exact position to be the one we have previously stated. If such wondrous things can be revealed to us through the physical science of chemistry, what think you must be hidden from our physical sight and knowledge by the veil which hangs between matter and spirit? Think you not, it is worth the effort to penetrate beyond that point where the atom disappears from the view of the scientist?
If plants produce such wonderful phenomena in their life and influence, what must the Divine organism of man have concealed within his microscopic universe, to study and comprehend? Plant life is merely the alphabet of the complex, intricate, and multitudinous processes, going on in the human body.
And, as the mechanical microscope of physical science cannot reveal the why and the wherefore, let us, for a brief moment, disclose some of the wonders that declare their existence, when subjected to the penetrating alchemical lens, of the inward spirit. The first thing that intrudes itself upon our notice, by virtue of its primary importance, is the grand fact of biogenesis–life emanating from life. We perceive every external form to be the physical symbol of a corresponding degree of spiritual life; that each complete plant represents a complete cycle, state, or degree of interior existence; that it is made up and consists of countless millions of separate atoms of life; that these atoms of spiritual activity are the real instigators of the life and motion of corresponding material atoms; that they ever obey the Divine impulse of co-operative unity, in their chemical, as well as their spiritual affinity. Consequently, everything in the form of material substance must be, and is, but the means for the phenomenal expression of incarnating spirit; the organism of man, a tree, a plant, or an animal, being no exception to this Divine, omnipresent law of creative life.
To the true Alchemist there can be no mystery surrounding the wonderful phenomena mentioned in the work we have quoted, in plants extracting from the same rocks, soil, and air, qualities so manifestly different–deadly poisons, healing balsams, and pleasant aromas, or the reverse, from the same identical plant foods. Nothing is more wonderful or mysterious, than, the same alchemical processes, which, are hourly being enacted within our own bodies. From the same breath of air and the same crust of bread do we concoct the blood, the bile, the gastric juice, and various other secretions; and distil the finer nervous fluids, that go to build up and sustain the whole of our mental and dynamic machinery. It is the same ancient story of the atoms; each part and each function endowing the same inorganic chemicals with their own spiritual, magnetic, and physical life-qualities, by what appears, to the uninitiated observer, a miraculous transmutation of matter, but which is, in reality, the evolution of organic form from inorganic materials, in obedience to the Divine law of spiritual progression. Who could stop with exact science? For, when we come to consider the apparent mysteries of life and growth by the aid of this alchemical light, the shadows flee, and all the illusions of Nature’s phenomenal kaleidoscope vanish before the revelation of the underlying spiritual realities. We know that the plant, being the physical expression upon the material plane of a more interior life, endows its outward atoms with their peculiar qualities. THESE QUALITIES ARE NOT DRAWN DIRECTLY FROM THE SOIL; the soil only becoming the medium for their complete or incomplete expression, as the case may be; i.e., supplying the necessary inorganic atoms. Hence, the deadly qualities of aconite, and the generous life-sustaining qualities of the nutritious vegetable, BEING SPIRITUAL LIFE ENDOWMENTS, conveyed to the material substance, abstracted from the soil and withdrawn from the atmosphere, are no mystery; their effect upon the human organism being exactly that, which is produced by their spiritual affinity or antipathy, as the case may be. And this also shows and explains, why purely inorganic chemical atoms, though they be exactly the same as the organic substances, from a strictly scientific standpoint, YET FAIL TO SUPPORT LIFE, because such chemical equivalents lack the organic spirituality of the interior life, which alone, gives them the power and function to support the same. They fail to fulfill the requirements of the alchemical law of life for the support of life–in other words, biogenesis.
And, too, this inorganic life may be parted from the plant or vegetable, if it be too long severed from the medium which transmits the spiritual life, from the inorganic world to that of organic matter. Vegetables, fresh from the ground, or parent stem, retain this life if at once prepared for food, if not overcooked, which is so often ignorantly done. This is the secret of sustenance from foods. Nature’s perfected fruits and vegetables are overflowing with the life-giving essences, and, if eaten direct from the tree or parent stem, that life is not lost, but transmitted to our organisms, and replenishes the wasting system with a living life. Much less of such food is required to completely satisfy and nourish the body than if the life had partly departed or been destroyed.
Briefly stated, then, everything within organic Nature is the expressional symbolic manifestation of spirit; every form being a congregation of innumerable atoms of life, revealing their presence in material states; each organic form, or, rather, organism, evolving under the central control of some dominating Deific atom or soul, which, by virtue of past incarnations and labors in its cycle of evolution, from the mineral up to man, has achieved the royal prerogative to rule within its own state. Man being the highest representative form–the grand finale in the earthly drama–sums up and contains within himself everything below, and THE GERMS OF EVERYTHING BEYOND, THIS STATE. He is truly a microcosm, and represents in miniature the grand Cosmic Man of the Heavens. Every living force beneath him corresponds to some state, part, or function, which he has graduated through and conquered, and which, in him, has now become embodied, as a part of his universal kingdom. Consequently, all things are directly related to him, in the grand universal unity of spiritual life.
This cannot be realized and comprehended by the physical man, nor conveyed to his outer senses by the physical sciences. He must bring into active use the inner man, the real being, which inhabits and controls the outer organism, and through its instrumentality, understand the interior source and workings behind the phenomena of manifested being. So we see that, exact science cannot take us far, yet, it is a mighty factor, in the evolution of the microcosm Man, and in consciously relating him to the Infinite Macrocosm–God, Spirit, All.