Ancient Greek philosophers identified a three-fold division of nature, by which they categorized the known world. These kingdoms are plant, animal, and mineral, and these three kingdoms form the basic divisions of the art of alchemy.1
The alchemical names for the operations and experiments related to each division are as follows:
- Plant Alchemy is called palingenesis (from the Greek palin, meaning "again," and genesis, meaning "birth"). The most well known experiment is called The Rose Phoenix. In this experiment, a living rose is burned to ashes and then reanimated thorugh the process of alchemy, at least in appearance.
- The central operation of the biological division of alchemy is known as the creation of the homunculus or animunculus, which is the generation of a complete living man or beast from a body substance such as semen or blood.
- The third division of alchemy is mineral in nature, and its chief operations are the transmutation of metals, and the changing of the shape, color and quality of gemstones.
The Rose Phoenix
In my book Spiritual Alchemy, I discuss at length the use of the homunculus in healing and spiritual development. I would like to delve into another branch of alchemy in this essay and discuss plant alchemy, specifically the making of the rose phoenix. The photo essay here will demonstrate my first attempts at this difficult experiment. I use the photos as a feedback system for my trance-work. I will explain how I do this. My purpose here is not to offer proof of spirit or anything else, but instead to discuss how phenomena captured by a camera can be used as feedback for spiritual progress. I will also briefly discuss my theory of alchemy. The proposal I make is that all alchemy is spiritual alchemy and relate the ancient art to modern mediumship, in particular, physical mediumship. It is this relationship that forms the key precepts of my practice. I believe the rose phoenix is the most basic operation of what is an ancient form of channeling physical manifestations.
Palingenesis and Physical Mediumship
Plant alchemy is not herbology. Paracelsus, a 16th Century alchemist, whose writings on medicine and herbology became very popular, can be blamed for this confusion as to the nature of palingenesis. The rose phoenix is the only known experiment in plant alchemy that is comparable to the creation of the homunculus in animal alchemy, and the transmutation of minerals in mineral alchemy. All three primary alchemical experiments have aspects that are to be seen in modern physical mediumship circles. Because of this relationship between the three primary alchemical experiments and manifestation mediumship, and also because of hints given in some alchemical writings, I believe that all alchemical experiments use spiritual energies as their prime force in execution.
The palingenesis experiment is either a manifestation of ectoplasm, or an apportation. It is accomplished by a spirit control working through a medium. An apportation is when an object that already exists is transported through the interdimensional environment and made to appear in the medium's presence. The second possibility is that palingenesis is accomplished by the generation of an ectoplasmic apparition.
Ectoplasm is an etheric white substance that you will see in the photos that follow. In its natural state, it forms a spherical mass that can coagulate into a mist, or into the appearance of a specific object or entity. In a physical mediumship circle when the conditions are ideal, it can also lift and move things around in the room. It is the substance that I believe is the prima materia, or first matter. I believe ectoplasm is a substance that is in an in between state, neither completely spirit nor completely matter. It has a translucent appearance that is difficult to see and tends to reflect light just out of the human visual range, mostly in the infra-red spectrum.
The rose phoenix experiment creates an apparition of a living rose from the dust of the ashes of a rose that has been completely burned. Ideally, the experimenter should be able to generate an apparition that is physical in appearance and can be seen by others. Only a few successful cases of the rose phoenix experiment has ever been recorded. Ebenezer Sibly was reputed to be able to perform this operation, and recorded the technique in his book, A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences.2 Paracelsus mentions it but does not say if he successfully completed it. I think it is unlikely that he did, as he developed what appears to be a form of modern herbology rather than the use of spiritual energies to complete his operations.
In order to accept, if only for the purpose of discussion, that spiritual energies are required for the successful completion of the rose phoenix experiment, it is necessary to accept the possibility that physical mediumship is a genuine phenomenon. I have come to this conclusion in my own work. Circles such as the Felix Experimental Group and the Scole Experiment, as well as the original Phillip Experiment, were done under tight controls and demonstrate that there is a genuine phenomenon occurring when ectoplasm is generated. I do not deny that there was fraud in some circles; however, there are physical mediumship groups that are honest and produce genuine paranormal phenomenon.
I believe that in the palingenesis experiment, the ectoplasm—the stored spiritual energy—coagulates into the form of a flower from the ashes of the flower that is burned. According to the few works written about the topic, the ashes were placed on gentle heat, or exposed to moonlight, or in the case of Sibly, rendered through a complex series of distillations and condensations. The end result was a reformation of the flower. The description of the resulting flower is described from being as ghostly to being as solid and as alive as any fresh cut rose.
In the article by Neil Mann titled "W.B. Yeats and the Vegetable Phoenix," there are several descriptions of the rose phoenix experiment. The attempts described in the article were all undertaken from a materialistic viewpoint, which is contrary to my belief that the experiment can only succeed if the manipulation of spiritual energy is its primary focus. According to Mann's article, the poet W.B. Yeats, who was a member of the occult fraternity known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, made many attempts while a university student, but did not succeed.3 I believe his failure provides a good indication of the end result of all alchemical experiments when they are executed from a purely materialistic point of view.
I do not even think that a material basis for this alchemical experiment is essential. The physical materials used in alchemy offer nothing more than a point of focus for the spiritual energies that must be channeled. The circles mentioned above that assessed the reality of physical mediumship record the successful performance of all the operations essential to the rose phoenix experiment without using any material basis. Appearances in ectoplasm and apportations of flowers both fulfill the essence of the rose phoenix experiment. I have never seen anything used as a material basis in the circles that are able to accomplish this feat. None of the known apparati of alchemy, such as the vessels used for distillation, the burners, and so on, are used in manifestation circles. Candles and other light sources are generally prohibited due to the photosensitive nature of ectoplasm. It is not uncommon to use light shielding around the sitting area.
Emerald Tablet and Manifestation
I realize I am going out on a limb with this assertion, but there are also indications in alchemy literature that manifestation mediumship is what is occurring during these operations. First is the Emerald Tablet itself. It describes the process that to me seems far more related to spiritual forces and spiritual development than a chemistry process. This is probably the most essential document to these operations, and I believe that this document can also aid mediums in the development of physical phenomenon. It is of primary interest to those who want to practice evocation. I think the art of creation of the homunculus is essentially the same as evocation. The principles learned through alchemy apply to the occult arts as well.
Ripley and Manifestation
The second supporting document I will offer here is George Ripley's poem "The Compound of Alchymie." He emphasizes in several places that only one vessel is to be used.4 You cannot distill and coagulate chemicals with only one vessel. One vessel is traditionally used for both the homunculus and the rose phoenix, and Ripley discourages the use of multiple vessels in his writing. I feel this indicates these two experiments have the same mechanism of action—that is, spiritual force being channeled to generate a physical effect. Ripley, in the introduction to his poetic work on alchemy, emphasizes spiritual purity. The preparation process to the alchemy experiment is shamanistic in tone.
What is emphasized by Ripley is similar to what I went through myself during my initiation by spirits. That is fully described in my book, Spiritual Alchemy (Llewellyn, 2016). I think many of the alchemical works that came after Ripley were written from a materialistic point of view and completely disregarded the spiritual aspects that are at the core of the art, and the prime mover of the experiments.
Most of the phenomena related to these spiritual energies appear to be in the infra-red spectrum of light. It is just out of our normal daylight visual range. However, depending on individual color vision abilities, some people (especially those that are color blind) can see the phenomenon quite well. I can see the spheres and mists if the environment is reasonably dark, but I do not see them as clearly as they appear in these accompanying photos. My eyes have to be adapted to the dark to see orbs or other apparitions. The appearance to me is identical to well documented photos of ectoplasm produced by reputable Spiritualism circles.
I believe, based both on the appearances I see and the descriptions given by manifestation circles, that the phenomenon is ectoplasm. It is a phenomenon that can be imaged with an ordinary camera and flash. Once the ectoplasm is exposed to light it disappears for a few minutes. This allowed me to take pairs of photos, one with the phenomenon present and the other without its presence, for purposes of comparison. The natural appearance of ectoplasm appears to be spherical based on what we see in the photos. It is as if a bubble appears between worlds, and on this side an image of it can be obtained when it has developed. Some feel these spheres are actual spirits. I tend to believe they may be a pin prick of a wormhole between dimensions that is affected by mental focus and intent. The hole takes on a spherical appearance on this side.
The spheres that appear in photographs have been dismissed by skeptics as out of focus water droplets or dust motes. Others feel they are sentient entities. I find that they are interactive, which indicates intelligent control, but I am not yet convinced that they are in fact entities. It seems more likely to me that they are being controlled by one or more entities, as well as by my own mental focus and will. Working in harmony with these unseen controllers can result in very interesting appearances.
For example, in one experiment I asked them to point out the most energetic crystal in a group of quartz crystals and crystal clusters. There was a clear indication and preference for an intact quartz cluster. That photo, unfortunately, is not clear enough to process for a publication without modification, but the experiment itself indicates there are interactive qualities to the spheres and other related phenomenon. It is an easy enough experiment to replicate. The interaction is key to understanding. It has been made very clear to me through experimentation that the spheres are not water or dust on my camera lens.
Because of this interactive quality, the phenomenon can be used as a feedback system for alchemical experiments. It has bearing on the rose phoenix because the more you develop in physical mediumship abilities, the more intense the images will be that you are able to capture with your camera. This offers even beginners a very tangible affirmation.
I don't offer these photos as proof of anything. All images can be faked or even possibly have a natural, three-dimensional explanation, so the photos of spiritual phenomena have no value as far as proving anything. They are not taken under controlled conditions that include observers and other controls. My focus is on developing my skills in alchemy, which I now believe to be a solitary practice of physical mediumship.
I want to demonstrate how I use the phenomenon as a feedback tool. It is important that you believe it is a spiritual phenomenon. If you do not believe that it is paranormal, then you cannot use the tool effectively. For those who have trouble accepting this, I would recommend using another tool such as a structured remote viewing method to start with. If you have doubts but are willing to experiment, that is sufficient to be able to use this method. Everyone, including me, has doubts when they start with a new esoteric tool. The first success with the tool will begin a positive feedback cycle, if you have an open mind.
This is an interaction photo. In the first figure, I asked the spheres to appear in front of me on the wall. In figure two, I asked for the photo to be clear.
I am attempting to increase the solidity of the phenomenon. This photo was taken in my back yard. Usually the initial photos taken are the best. The energy used to generate the spheres declines after the first few minutes when I make attempts to document the apparitions.
This is a contrasting photo to Figure 3 showing no lights.
This pair of photos show the light manifestation in different locations on different nights in the same part of the woods near the house. There are no reflective materials in this area. On the nights these were taken, the weather was dry and cloudy. Temperatures were below freezing and no insects were present. Taking images of these bright spheres drained my camera's battery.
The last photo shows a mist manifestation, which occurs usually within the first couple photos. The mist has characteristics of ectoplasm. Once exposed to light it dissipates.
My camera is a Fujifilm XP. The digital camera used to capture spiritual apparitions has to be able to take photos in infra-red. A way to test if your camera can do this is to take a video or photo of an infra-red source. A TV remote is a common household item that uses infra-red light. If you look in the viewfinder of the camera at the end of the remote that has a clear shiny dark plastic, and you see a purple light flashing through the viewfinder of your camera while you are pushing the buttons of the remote, it means the camera will take photos of spiritual energies in the infra-red light range. Many digital cameras will do this.
The second requirement is that the camera has to have a flash that flashes one time without pre-illumination when taking a picture. The light of the flash reflects off the manifestation and gives additional luminescence and color in the visible light range. Spheres and other apparitions will appear without the flash, but they will be very dim and hard to see. In the beginning, I would recommend using a flash. Infra-red cameras or night vision cameras are helpful in working with this phenomenon as well. They are able to capture the movement as well as still photos of the manifestations you are producing.
Once the manifestation is exposed to light it will disappear. It is well known that ectoplasm manifestations are photosensitive. You will get one photo out of each manifestation that you produce. The number of photos you can take in a session depends on your energy channeling skills. The more you practice, the more manifestations you will be able to document. Exploring manifestations with this kind of photography will naturally lead you to discover more effective techniques.
The acquisition of physical mediumship abilities has never before been described as a step-by-step procedure, to my knowledge. It is a common belief of Spiritualist circles that there are certain individuals endowed with the ability, and that if you are not born with this gift you cannot be a physical medium.
My experience does not agree with this precept. I was not born with clairaudient or clairvoyant abilities. In fact, all the psychic abilities and skills I have at this time were developed over the past five years or so, and I am over fifty years of age.
I would recommend that you practice trance work and learn to scry. These are the two skills that were the core of my development in the beginning. You can do this along with the photography experiments. I think that your development will be more efficient if you use this feedback system. I also used radio channeling in my work, and found that this was also a good feedback tool.
The Emerald Tablet
I would like to focus on the part of the Emerald Tablet that I believe is most relevant to the connection between alchemy to physical mediumship. The Emerald Tablet is a one of the most ancient and revered of all alchemical writings. You will find it in full in my book Spiritual Alchemy, and in Donald Tyson's edition of Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy.5 For this essay I want to focus on verses four and six. Verse four says, "Its father is the Sun, its mother the Moon, the Wind carries it in its belly, its nurse is the Earth." Verse 6 reads, "The power is strong when changed into the Earth." These are the two key statements that explain how the operations of alchemy are accomplished.
It is important to understand that the most basic substance from which all matter is derived is called the prima materia, or the first matter. The first matter is not really matter but is spiritual energy that is invisible to us in this physical world. Ectoplasm is probably the closest thing to visible prima materia. Verse four describes the transition of the first matter into physical matter. It describes the parents. The father is the Sun the mother is the Moon. These two energies are cosmic in nature; above and apart from the Earth, or the material world. The heavens here are portrayed as spirit. The mother and father contain both polarity and unity and manifest personality from undefined primal spiritual energy.
The next statement is, "The wind carries it in its belly." The wind in this case represents air. This is symbolic of the medium. The channeler carries the manifestation as a pregnant woman carries a child in her womb. The medium stores and grows this energy within. It is not a physical womb but a storage mechanism that is described in a variety of traditions. I want to emphasize that this is associated with the soul and spirit of the medium, rather than a material object. It is not a physical storage site, but instead it describes the ability of the medium to collect and channel energy.
The reason why I do not believe that the storage of spiritual energy is associated with a physical site is because the location of the storage site is not consistently described between various traditions. In Western occult literature, the heart is considered the spiritual center. In Yoga it is believed to be at the base of the spine. In Taoist belief it is a triple burner located in the lower abdomen. The actual focus of the energy manipulation can be wherever you want it to be.
Through channeling energy, focus and will, the medium carries the manifestation to the physical-material plane. It is then born on the earth, and as it grows in power it can be perceived by people other than the medium. When the energy is fully manifested, then the experimenter overcomes the physical-material world and opens doors to greater power and manifestations of that spiritual energy. The objects manifested often demonstrate unusual qualities. In Willy Schrödter’s book A Rosicrucian Notebook, we see that the objects may glow with unusual light or can be used to miraculously heal diseases.6 This is the expression of verse six of the Emerald Tablet.
This concludes this essay on the rose phoenix of alchemy. I hope that you will attempt these experiments yourself and put into practice some of the techniques I have described. If you are already a Spiritualist medium or practicing occultist, I hope this essay will give you some food for thought and help you develop in your work.
Above all, have fun with this. An attitude of lightheartedness and contentment is most effective for this type of spiritual development. It requires patience. If you are like me, and starting from ground zero with minimal inherent ability, is not an art that can be perfected overnight. It is important to enjoy the journey. I hope taking photos will become a tool that you use to reinforce your work and development. If you have questions please email me.
1. Kelley, Edward. The Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelley. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970, p. 7.
2. Sibly, Ebenezer, A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences ... in four parts London: C. Stalker, 1795, pp. 1114-15.
3. Mann, Neil. "W.B. Yeats and the Vegetable Phoenix." Yeats Annual Report Number 17 (pp. 3-35). London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 4-6.
4. Ripley, Sir George. “The Compound of Alchymie.” In Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. London: J. Grismond, 1652, pp. 138, 147, 159.
5. Agrippa, Henry Cornelius. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Edited by Donald Tyson. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1993, p. 711.
6. Schrödter, Willy. A Rosicrucian Notebook. York Beach, Maine: Weiser, 1992.