An Alchemical Laboratory
Most people think of alchemy as a bunch of frauds trying to cheat people into thinking they could change lead (actually any base metal) into gold.
In actuality, alchemy is far more complex than that.
The challenge is that the original books and documents about alchemy are written in coded language. As a result, there are commonly three ways used in interpreting them.
- Sexual Alchemy: In this system the terms of alchemy are decoded as sexual terms, resulting in the production not of gold, but of a “magickal childe,” your magickal goal. Until the late 20th century many, if not most books on sex magick were forms of sexual alchemy.
- Spiritual Alchemy: In this system the terms of alchemy are decoded in ways dealing with personal spiritual advancement. Thus, your goal is to turn the lead of your common, physical self into enlightened spiritual gold. A variation of this is Jung’s psychological interpretation of alchemy.
- Practical Alchemy: Actually, there are two major goals in this form of alchemy. The first is to produce the “Philosopher’s Stone” that will bring physical health and immortality. It is believed by some that the Count of St. Germain, seen in the drawing below, achieved this goal. [Note: St. Germain was his name. He was not sainted by any church, as some people seem to believe.]
An engraving of the Count of St. Germain by Nicolas Thomas
made in 1783, after a painting then owned by the Marquise d’Urfe and now apparently lost.
Contained at the Louvre in France
The second major goal of practical alchemy was to use a combination of spells, talismans, prayers, rituals, and genuine scientific practices and research in an attempt to turn one metal into a more valuable ore. Practical alchemy is the ancestor of chemistry and other physical sciences.
In 1915, Harvey Spencer Lewis, the founder and head of the¬†Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, supposedly transmuted a piece of zinc into gold using little more than an open flame and a crucible. The accounts of this public demonstration have been published in the Order’s magazine,¬†The Rosicrucian Digest (March, 1942).
The goal, of course, was to use alchemy to become wealthy. I know this next question seems odd, but it’s important to ask it: Why be rich? Why have a lot of money?
Magick and Money
Money, itself, is kind of magickal. It’s just pieces of paper or metal with sigils on it. It has no intrinsic value and is only considered valuable because society agrees to value it. The real value of money is that it can be traded for products. You can use money to buy things. If there were nothing to buy, money would be just pieces of paper and metal. (In some cultures other items ranging from small beads to enormous rocks [see the Rai stones of the island of Yap] have been used as money.)
Presentation of Yapese Rai Stone Money for the Inauguration of the Federated States of Micronesia, 1979
Having a pile of money is as meaningless as having a pile of stones or metal. You may give it some meaning, but intrinsically, a pile of stones or paper has no value. The value is in what you can get with it, ranging from a place to live to good health care, attracting a partner, having “power” over others, paying travel expenses, etc. In other words, money is magick.
Think of all the purposes you can for doing magick. Getting things for yourself. Helping others. Having the time to perform exercises for spiritual development. All of those things can be done with money. Money is a form of magick and magick can manifest as money.
External and Internal
In my first and second installments of this series, I focused on exercises and techniques you can do concerning improving yourself. They were forms of what might be called “inner magickal work”: it’s about changing yourself. But practical alchemy and many forms of magick are about changing your environment: getting things that are external to you, obtaining power, improving the things around you.
There is a myth that magicians live in high towers hidden away from civilization. The reality is that magicians are very social men and women. While they may focus on personal spiritual evolution, they’re concerned about the people and the world around them. Magicians change the world.
In the first two lessons I shared instructions on how you can improve yourself. How, in lesson three, can I possibly give you an exercise or practice that can change the world?
The answer, and your work for this lesson, is to contact a legislator. Right now, people from Greece to the Middle East are putting their lives on the line challenging their governments. I’m not suggesting you need to do anything like that. Rather, I’m suggesting that you simply contact a legislator or two. Write a letter. Make a phone call. Email them. You can find out who your legislators are by doing a search on the internet.
Then, pick an issue and let your legislators know where you stand. Tell them when you agree with them. Tell them when you disagree. The sad truth is that in the U.S., few people vote and fewer people bother to contact the people in office. That means your voice matters. That means you can change the world. That means you can do magick.
Not all magick is done with spells and sigils. Some is done with phone calls and letter writing.