RE: The Alchemist - a theosophical perspective
Nov 16, 2005 03:34 PM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
November 16, 2005
H P B published this :
LETTERS ON MAGIC AND ALCHEMY*
THE term "occult" is applied to certain things winch are beyond the power of
being perceived by the external physical senses and which can be known only
in a higher than the ordinary state of consciousness. To those who are able
to enter that superior consciousness in which the spiritual faculties are
opened, these things will cease to be "occult ;" but to those who are
deficient in that power and especially to those who deny the possibility of
any higher perceptive faculty than that of the external senses, the inner
mysteries of Nature will be incomprehensible, and the reading of books on
metaphysics and occultism will perhaps have no other effect than to disorder
The inner mysteries of the "Temple" cannot be unveiled; it is the observer
himself who must remove the veil that hangs before his eyes; there is no
other key to the understanding of Nature than the power of understanding
Logical argumentation and inductive or deductive reasoning are good
enough as far as they go, but they are only crutches for those who cannot
walk on their own legs; they are means by which those who cannot see certain
things may form a more or less correct opinion as to how these things would
look if they were able to see them; they are the aids of speculative
science, but they do not convey real knowledge, for real knowledge is the
direct perception and understanding of a truth as it is and not merely as
what it is said or imagined to be.
Real knowledge is therefore not obtained by mere theoretical
speculation but it is the result of experience, and as a person without
well-developed external senses can have only an incomplete experience in
regard to external and sensual things ; likewise he who is unconscious of
the things of the spirit can have no real knowledge of spiritual truths ;
nor can he who is in possession of real self-knowledge communicate it to
another who has no such experience; for however true a thing may be to him
who knows, it will be only a matter of opinion or belief to those who have
not had the same kind of experience.
It is therefore exceedingly difficult to speak in a comprehensive
manner about things in regard to which the majority of man-kind have only
very vague opinions, and even the terms which must be employed to express
thoughts on occult subjects differ widely in their meaning according to the
intellectual or spiritual standpoint of the reader. No sooner is a new term
applied to signify some spiritual power, it is immediately travestied and
misapplied to external things by those who have not the least conception
that such powers exist.
Thus the word "Faith," which originally meant "spiritual knowledge," is now
universally misapplied for "belief" or "creed ;" "attraction" is called
"love," while, in fact, it is only the reaction of love; "begging," i. e.
the requests for the gratification of selfish desires, is called "prayer,"
which in its true sense means the aspiration of the soul for the highest,
implying entire forgetting of self; "magic," or the exercise of spiritual
powers for a wise purpose, is misnamed "witchcraft," &c., &c.
Terms are misleading unless they are properly understood, and to avoid
as much as possible such an unfortunate misunderstanding, it will be
necessary to preface the following articles by giving an exact definition of
some of the terms used therein:
GOD.-The infinite, unlimited, unconditioned, omnipresent and
unmanifested ABSOLUTE; the intellectually incomprehensible, fundamental
and universal CAUSE of all that exists, in which all exists and in which we
all are, and live, and have our being.
SUBSTANCE.-The universal invisible essence of which all visible and
invisible forms are made; whether in its transcendental aspect as
"Mind-substance" or the matter which gives shape to thought; or in its more
gross, dense and material aspect, where its outward appearance becomes
manifest to the external senses and in which state it is usually called
POWER.-A state of Substance in which it manifests activity. This
activity may manifest itself in various forms and on various planes of
existence. It may act without or with relative consciousness. As there is
only one fundamental Substance, there is only one fundamental Power, and the
two are only two aspects or modes of manifestation of the eternal
unmanifested One called God.
WILL.-The fundamental and original Power from which all other forces
and activities in the universe spring. Every imaginable power or force from
relatively unconscious motion up to self-conscious spiritual love, is
therefore nothing else but a certain mode of manifestation of Will, and all
the different terms applied to these forces, such as "life," "light,"
"sound," "electricity," "heat " &c., merely signify the various aspects and
modes of manifestation of that one fundamental power called the Will in the
same sense as all imaginable substances, from relatively unconscious granite
rock up to self-conscious spirit forms, are only various shapes of one
fundamental original substance which assumes various qualities in its
various forms of manifestation, according to the nature of its internally
IMAGINATION.-The creative power of Deity, acting in Nature as a whole,
or in individual beings, which governs the construction of form according to
a certain pre-conceived plan or pre-existing idea. The Imagination like the
Will, may act with or without relative consciousness, and be exercised with
or without any voluntary conscious effort. The growth of a tree is the
result of the image of the future tree existing unconsciously within the
imagination of the seed, and being gradually rendered objective by the
internally acting and relatively unconscious will having been stimulated
into action by influences coming from external surroundings. There are many
things existing in man's imagination; but he is not conscious of all of them
at one given moment of time.
THOUGHT.-The exercise of the power by which the images in the mind come
to the consciousness of the latter. Man creates no ideas; he merely grasps
the ideas which are already existing and whose images are reflected in his
mind as in a mirror, and by the act of thinking he combines or resolves them
and puts them into new shapes. The lower animals perceive only the images
which are reflected in their minds without any effort on their part; but man
has the power to rise by his will into the higher region of ideas, and to
select and grasp ideas according to his choice.
SPIRIT.-Will and Imagination united into one, and acting undividedly in
the same direction and for the same purpose. The will, by identifying itself
with a thought, invests the latter with a spiritual power; the imagination
uniting itself with the will guides the latter, and thus a spiritual and
self-conscious power may be made to act as far as thought can travel, or as
far as the will can reach.
CONSCIOUSNESS-Certain states, resulting from the action of the Will
upon the Imagination. There can be no absolute unconsciousness in the
universe, for all things are the products of an activity which is eternal
and therefore self-existent and self-conscious, even if it is without any
relative consciousness in regard to any existing form. External things may
come to man's external consciousness by means of his external perceptions;
but spiritual and "invisible" things come to his inner consciousness by
means of the emotions and sensations produced within the sphere of his Mind.
ETHER.-The universal but invisible element of "Matter" in its aspect as
It seems almost unnecessary to reiterate the statement that all the
above explained terms are not intended to represent these things as being
essentially different from each other; they only refer to different aspects
or forms of manifestation of the eternal One for which there is no name and
He who spiritually knows of the One will find the doctrines of Occultism
easy enough to be understood; he who is incapable to spiritually recognize
the Unity of the All, will get lost in the labyrinth of the multiplicity of
external phenomena, and however experienced and learned he may be in the
classification of such phenomena and in giving to them the names adopted by
science, he will necessarily remain ignorant of the Cause of all things,
without the knowledge of which nothing can truly be known. Therefore the
ancient Rosicrucians said that he who knows many things knows very little,
while he who knows only One-knows all.
The requirements of human language have made it necessary to give
separate names to the various kinds of manifestations produced by the
absolute One, and from this circumstance arises the illusion which makes it
appear in the eyes of the ignorant as if these things were different from
each other, not merely in their external appearance but in their essential
nature. If we were permitted to speak correctly we would have to say in
speaking of a Man, a Horse, a Stone: That of which we intellectually know
nothing, and for which we have no appropriate name, having manifested itself
to our external consciousness in the form of what we have chosen to call a
"man," a "horse," a "stone," &c.
Instead of speaking about Life, Light, Sound, &c., we would perhaps have to
say: "Those vibrations of the universal Ether of Space, which are invisible
and intangible to our senses, but which, by acting upon certain media and
under certain conditions, produce within our external consciousness the
phenomena which we call "life," "light," "sound," etc. Such a roundabout way
of speaking would be more philosophical: but it is doubtful whether it would
be more comprehensible and practicable for use.
Language is, after all, only an aid and not a substitute for the exchange of
thought. Minds who are in harmony with each other will have no great
difficulty in understanding each others thoughts, even without the use of a
great many words, while those who are in disharmony with each other will
only increase their misunderstanding by using a great many words. External
language like any other external thing, can only be relatively true;
absolute truth is self-evident to those who can see it, and requires no
human testimony or certificates. Every assertion requiring logical proof is
therefore true or false according to the aspect under which the object is
seen; a circle seen from the plane in which it exists, is only a straight
line with two ends and a middle part; seen from above or below it is a
circle without any end; looked at sideways, it is an ellipsoid and if one
half of it is invisible it may appear to be a parabole. All external
science, however true it may be in one way, is false in another, and all
dogmatic assertions prove nothing but the vanity of him from whom they
originate; for there is no one who knows absolute Truth except He who is
Himself the Life, the Way and the Truth, the self-conscious divine Spirit in
Under such circumstances it would perhaps be wisest to be silent and to
say nothing at all, and if we nevertheless attempt to speak about things
belonging to the interior realm of Nature, it is not for the purpose that
our views should be regarded as being intended to give any new revelations;
but merely as furnishing food for thought and as an aid by which the Truth
which exists within the inner consciousness of the reader may come nearer to
his intellectual understanding. To those who have already found the truth,
we have nothing to say.
THE UNITY OF "MATTER."
A great deal has been written about the question: "What is Matter and
what is Mind ?" Scientific and philosophical dissertations have been written
without very much elucidating the subject, the usual answer having resulted
in: "Mind is no matter, and matter never mind." Nevertheless, the answer
seems plain; for "Matter" and "Mind" are undoubtedly two terms signifying
two different aspects of modes of motion of the eternal One. This truth is
clear to the spiritual perception of those who can see with the eye of
Reason, and they require no further proof; but even to those who are
accustomed to reason only from the plane of external observation, the Unity
of the All and the consequent identity of Matter and Mind is a fact which
gradually forces itself upon their scientific attention.
The scientific and religious world seems to be gradually rising out of
the profundity of its ignorance. Some 288 years ago Giordano Bruno was
burned alive as a heretic for having proclaimed the fact that there is only
one God and consequently only one Substance in the universe, and now the
same truth is believed in by some of the greatest luminaries of science.
Professor Suess, in his inaugural address as rector magnificus of the
university of Vienna in 1888, publicly expressed his belief in the Unity of
the All, even in the stronghold of Roman Catholicism, without being burned
or even challenged by the followers of orthodoxy. Having called the
attention of his hearers to the newest discoveries of science made by means
of the spectroscope, by which the identity of material substances existing
upon the various planets and stars is proved, and having mentioned the
important discoveries of Mendelejeff, which go to show that there is a scale
of harmony of chemical substances resembling that of colour and sound, he
spoke the following memorable words: "As the dawn precedes the sunrise,
likewise all great discoveries are preceded by a foreboding of their coming.
To-day the Unity of all Substance is instinctively felt to be a truth, but
the united labour of all nations will soon discover the way to prove it
intellectually to be so."
This old and nevertheless ever new truth that the All is only One, and
that the great variety of forms in Nature is merely a variety of forms and
not of essential being, is the fundamental basis in the pursuit of occult
study. It begins to be universally recognised, and yet its full importance
is seen only by few. It is the most sublime idea which can be grasped by the
human mind, and the consequences of its recognition reach far beyond the
limits of time into Infinity. Cornelius Agrippa says: "The One completely
penetrates every other number; it is the common measure, the foundation and
origin of all numbers. It is unchangeable and excludes multiplicity.
Multiplied with itself it is its own product; it cannot be divided into
parts but every division produces a multiplication, i. e., it produces
units, of which none is larger or smaller than the original unit and of
which every part is the whole. It is the beginning and end of all things,
but it has itself neither a beginning nor an end. All things originate from
the One, and all tends towards unity in the end; all that exists finds its
true being in the One, and those who seek for salvation in the One must get
rid of their multiplicity and return to the One."
There can only be one Love, one Life, one Power, one Wisdom, one Truth,
one Substance, one God, although each of them may become manifest in an
endless number of forms, and all these terms merely represent various
aspects of the One, whose name consists of one letter.
The One is self existent and self sufficient, and therefore eternal and
not subject to change. It will forever be intellectually incomprehensible,
because the intellect is only one of the many forms of its manifestations
and a part cannot comprehend the whole. A scientific examination can
therefore have nothing to do with qualities of the absolute One, it can only
deal with its manifestations. As soon as the One begins to manifest itself,
it steps out of the sphere of pure being and a duality comes into existence.
Formerly it was only Cause; now it is Cause and Effect and as every Action
produces a Reaction, it becomes at once a Trinity of Cause, Action and
Reaction the incomprehensible mathematical point; extending in three
dimensions, assumes the aspect of a triangle constituted of Matter and
Motion and Space.
Space represents Causality, it is unchangeable: Matter and Motion
manifest themselves in a great many ways. There are forms of matter or
Substance in the mineral, vegetable and animal Kingdoms there are
substantial forms in the realm of the Elementals and in the Kingdom of gods.
There are forms of Motion, from unconscious motion up to conscious thought,
and still higher up to the action of the self-conscious Spirit but Space
remains always the same, and there can be no other but a three-dimensional
Space; for "Space" represents Form, and Three is the number of Form. A form
with more or less than three dimensions is unthinkable, and can have no
existence for us.
To recapitulate, we have therefore the Unit'' of the Cause; the
Duality of the form of its manifestation, and the Trinity of the Effect.
Within the eternal absolute One, Matter and Motion, Will and Ideation are
one; but as soon as they manifest themselves they appear as a duality,
producing a trinity, the child, in which the qualities of the Father and
Mother find their united representation."
[This article was first printed by H. P. Blavatsky in Lucifer for
APRIL, 1915 THEOSOPHY VOL. 3, pgs. 308-313 ]
see also PATANJALI'S YOGA SUTRAS ( pp. 1 - 11 )
" 2. Concentration, or Yoga, is the hindering of the modifications
of the thinking principle.
[DTB : Who or what "modifies ?" ]
In other words, the want of concentration of thought is due to the fact that
the mind- here called "the thinking principle"-is subject to constant
modifications by reason of its being diffused over a multiplicity of
subjects. So "concentration" is equivalent to the correction of a tendency
to, diffuseness, and to the obtaining of what the Hindus call
"one-pointedness," or the power to apply the mind, at any moment, to the
consideration of a single point of thought, to the exclusion of all else.
UPON THIS APHORISM THE METHOD OF THE SYSTEM HINGES.
The reason for the absence of concentration at any time is, that the mind is
modified by every subject and object that comes before it; it is, as it
were, transformed into that subject or object.
e, is not the supreme or highest power; it is only a function, an instrument
with which the soul works, feels sublunary things, and experiences. The
brain, however, must not be confounded with the mind, for the brain is in
its turn but an instrument for the mind. It therefore follows that the mind
has a plane of its own, distinct from the soul and the brain, and what is to
be learned is, to use the will, which is also a distinct power from the mind
and brain, in such a way that instead of permitting the mind to turn from
one subject or object to another just as they may move it, we shall apply it
as a servant at any time and for as long a period as we wish, to the
consideration of whatever we have decided upon.
3. At the time of concentration the soul abides in the state of a spectator
without a spectacle.
This has reference to the perfection of concentration, and is that condition
in which, by the hindering of the modifications referred to in Aphorism 2,
the soul is brought to a state of being wholly devoid of taint of, or
impression by, any subject. The "soul" here referred to is not Atma, which
4. At other times than that of concentration, the soul is in the same form
as the modification of the mind.
This has reference to the condition of the soul in ordinary life, when
concentration is not practised, and means that, when the internal organ, the
mind, is through the senses affected or modified by the form of some object,
the soul also-viewing the object through its organ, the mind- is, as it
were, altered into that form; as a marble statue of snowy whiteness, if seen
under a crimson light will seem to the beholder crimson and so is, to the
visual organs, so long as that colored light shines upon it.
5. The modifications of the mind are of five kinds, and they are either
painful or not painful;
6. They are, Correct Cognition, Misconception, Fancy, Sleep, and Memory.
7. Correct Cognition results from Perception, Inference, and Testimony.
8. Misconception is Erroneous Notion arising from lack of Correct Cognition.
9. Fancy is a notion devoid of any real basis and following upon knowledge
conveyed by words.
For instance, the terms "a hare's horns" and "the head of Rahu," neither of
which has anything in nature corresponding to the notion.
A person hearing the expression "the head of Rahu" naturally fancies that
there is a Rahu who owns the head, whereas Rahu-a mythical monster who is
said to cause eclipses by swallowing the sun-is all head and has no body;
and, although the expression "a hare's horns" is frequently used, it is well
known that there is no such thing in nature. Much in the same way people
continue to speak of the sun's "rising" and "setting," although they hold to
the opposite theory.
10. Sleep is that modification of the mind which ensues upon the quitting of
all objects by the mind, by reason of all the waking senses and faculties
sinking into abeyance.
11. Memory is the not letting go of an object that one has been aware of.
12. The hindering of the modifications of the mind already referred to, is
to be effected by means of Exercise and Dispassion.
13. Exercise is the uninterrupted, or repeated, effort that the mind shall
remain in its unmoved state.
This is to say that in order to acquire concentration we must, again and
again, make efforts to obtain such control over the mind that we can, at any
time when it seems necessary, so reduce it to an unmoved condition or apply
it to any one point to the exclusion of all others.
14. This exercise is a firm position observed out of regard for the end in
view, and perseveringly adhered to for a long time without intermission.
The student must not conclude from this that he can never acquire
concentration unless he devotes every moment of his life to it, for the
words "without intermission" apply but to the length of time that has been
set apart for the practice.
15. Dispassion is the having overcome one's desires.
That is- the attainment of a state of being in which the consciousness is
unaffected by passions, desires, and ambitions, which aid in causing
modifications of the mind.
16. Dispassion, carried to the utmost, is indifference regarding all else
than soul, and this indifference arises from a knowledge of soul as
distinguished from all else.
17. There is a meditation of the kind called "that in which there is
distinct cognition," and which is of a four-fold character because of
Argumentation, Deliberation, Beatitude, Egoism.
The sort of meditation referred to is a pondering wherein the nature of that
which is to be pondered upon is well known, without doubt or error, and it
is a distinct cognition which excludes every other modification of the mind
than that which is to be pondered upon.
1. The Argumentative division of this meditation is a pondering upon a
subject with argument as to its nature in comparison with something else;
as, for instance, the question whether mind is the product of matter or
2. The Deliberative division is a pondering in regard to whence have come,
and where is the field of action, of the subtler senses and the mind.
3. The Beatific condition is that in which the higher powers of the mind,
together with truth in the abstract, are pondered upon.
4. The Egoistic division is one in which the meditation has proceeded to
such a height that all lower subjects and objects are lost sight of, and
nothing remains but the cognition of the self, which then becomes a
stepping-stone to higher degrees of meditation.
The result of reaching the fourth degree, called Egoism, is that a distinct
recognition of the object or subject with which the meditation began is
lost, and self-consciousness alone results; but this self-consciousness does
not include the consciousness of the Absolute or Supreme Soul.
18. The meditation just described is preceded by the exercise of thought
without argumentation. Another sort of meditation is in the shape of the
self-reproduction of thought after the departure of all objects from the
field of the mind.
19. The meditative state attained by those whose discrimination does not
extend to pure spirit, depends upon the phenomenal world.
20. In the practice of those who are, or may be, able to discriminate as to
pure spirit, their meditation is preceded by Faith, Energy, Intentness (upon
a single point), and Discernment, or thorough discrimination of that which
is to be known.
It is remarked here by the commentator, that "in him who has Faith there
arises Energy, or perseverance in meditation, and, thus persevering, the
memory of past subjects springs up, and his mind becomes absorbed in
Intentness, in consequence of the recollection of the subject, and he whose
mind is absorbed in meditation arrives at a thorough discernment of the
matter pondered upon."
21. The attainment of the state of abstract meditation is speedy, in the
case of the hotly impetuous.
22. Because of the mild, the medium, and the transcendent nature of the
methods adopted, there is a distinction to be made among those who practise
23. The state of abstract meditation may be attained by profound devotedness
toward the Supreme Spirit considered in its comprehensible manifestation as
It is said that this profound devotedness is a preeminent means of attaining
abstract meditation and its fruits. "Ishwara" is the Spirit in the body.
24. Ishwara is a spirit, untouched by troubles, works, fruits of works, or
25. In Ishwara becomes infinite that omniscience which in man exists but as
26. Ishwara is the preceptor of all, even of the earliest of created beings,
for He is not limited by time.
27. His name is OM. " .........
40. The student whose mind is thus steadied obtains a mastery which extends
from the Atomic to the Infinite.
41. The mind that has been so trained that the ordinary modifications of its
action are not present, but only those which occur upon the conscious taking
up of an object for contemplation, is changed into the likeness of that
which is pondered upon, and enters into full comprehension of the being
42. This change of the mind into the likeness of what is pondered upon, is
technically called the Argumentative condition, when there is any
mixing-up of the title of the thing, the significance and application of
that title, and the abstract knowledge of the qualities and elements of the
thing per se. .......
18. The Universe, including the visible and the invisible, the essential
nature of which is compounded of purity, action, and rest, and which
consists of the elements and the organs of action, exists for the sake of
the soul's experience and emancipation.
19. The divisions of the qualities are the diverse, the non-diverse, those
which may be resolved once but no farther, and the irresolvable.
The "diverse " are such as the gross elements and the organs of sense; the
"non-diverse," the subtile elements and the mind; the "once resolvable," the
intellect, which can be resolved into undifferentiated matter but no
farther; and the "irresolvable," indiscrete matter.
20. The soul is the Perceiver; is assuredly vision itself pure and simple;
unmodified; and looks directly upon ideas.
21. For the sake of the soul alone, the Universe exists.
The commentator adds: "Nature in energizing does not do so with a view to
any purpose of her own, but with the design, as it were, expressed in the
words 'let me bring about the soul's experience.'"
22. Although the Universe in its objective state has ceased to be, in
respect to that man who has attained to the perfection of spiritual
cultivation, it has not ceased in respect to all others, because it is
common to others besides him.
23. The conjuncture of the soul with the organ of thought, and thus with
nature, is the cause of its apprehension of the actual condition of
the nature of the Universe and of the soul itself.
24. The cause of this conjuncture is what is to be quitted, and that cause
25. The quitting consists in the ceasing of the conjuncture, upon which
ignorance disappears, and this is the Isolation of the soul.
That which is meant in this and in the preceding two aphorisms is that the
conjuncture of soul and body, through repeated reincarnations, is due to its
absence of discriminative knowledge of the nature of the soul and its
environment, and when this discriminative knowledge has been attained, the
conjuncture, which was due to the absence of discrimination, ceases of its
26. The means of quitting the state of bondage to matter is perfect
discriminative knowledge, continuously maintained.
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