Overview of Alchemy
Alchemy is one of the most misunderstood subjects of all time, but the term is often used loosely, but do you really understand what it means? Legend has it, alchemy is known as a mythical process that turns lead into gold. When thinking about alchemy, you may have imagined an old scientist with extra-large glasses in a messy laboratory conducting mysterious experiments. That’s not all alchemy is about, there is so much more. Let me debunk that idea for you. Let's look at the definition of alchemy from Merriam-Webster dictionary, and there are 3 definitions:
“a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold
a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way
an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting” (18)
Based on the definitions, the meaning of alchemy is so much more than a chemical experiment; but it is a process of transformation and transmutation that exists in all forms of life. To me, alchemy is the junction of science, philosophy, and ancient wisdom. The process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly through stages of metamorphosis is a great analogy to understand what alchemy is. These transformational processes also exist in each of us as we go through different stages in life. It is not just a chemical process; it is also biological, physical, energetical, as well as spiritual since it involves all aspects of living things and beings. Alchemy is, therefore, necessary for evolution. There are seven stages of the alchemical process that transform one element into another, they are:
These seven stages are also associated with our seven chakras or energy centers: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown chakra.
The Seven Chakras
The seven chakras are the energy centers that run along the spine from the perineum to the top of the head, from root chakra to crown chakra, respectively. “Chakras” is a Sanskrit word that means “wheels” because these energy centers rotate like a wheel. If the wheel is slow, stagnant, or rotates too fast, it means that the energy center is out of balance; over time, it can lead to physical illnesses. Each of these chakras is also known to be associated with the seven laws of the universe by Hermetic teaching in reference to the Kybalion(3), "becoming supernatural" (4) by Joe Dispenza, and the teaching of Matias de Stephano in "Initiation"(5) series from Gaia media network.
The seventh chakra, or the crown chakra, is linked to the First Law of Mentalism, "the all is mind, the universe is mental."(3). This chakra governs the pituitary gland. Balancing this gland's energy will help us access the divinity from within as well as being in harmony with the universe.
The sixth chakra of the third eye is linked to the Law of Correspondence "as above, so below; as below, so above."(3). This chakra governs the pineal gland. When this gland is opened, we can see beyond the physical realm.
The fifth chakra, or the throat chakra, is linked to the Third Law of Vibration "Nothing rests, everything moves, everything vibrates."(3). Our words are sound, and sound is vibration. Hence, words are vibrational energy. This chakra governs the thyroid, glands and organs around the throat area. When this chakra is in balance, we can express and speak the truth of who we are.
The fourth chakra, or heart chakra, is linked to the Law of Rhythm. This chakra governs the heart and the lung. Balancing this chakra will help us to have love, compassion, and gratitude for ourselves and others.
The third chakra or the solar plexus is linked to the Law of Cause and Effect, also known as the Law of Karma. This chakra governs the stomach, spleen, kidneys, liver, and other organs in the upper abdomen. Balancing the solar plexus is when we can restore willpower, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
The second chakra or sacral chakra is linked to the Law of Polarity, "everything has its pair of opposites."(3). This chakra governs the pancreas, ovaries, intestines, and other organs in the lower abdomen. It is known to store emotions related to relationship issues.
The first chakra, or the root chakra, is linked to the Law of Gender or the Law of Generation, where "everything has its masculine and feminine principle."(3). This chakra, therefore, governs sexual organs in the body for reproduction purposes. This chakra is strongly linked to survival, safety, and creativity.
Each stage of transformation is influenced by one of the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth. Therefore, once we go through the process of transformation, we evolve and climb upward in our energy field toward higher vibration.
The Caduceus symbol is best known for describing this process of alchemical transformation. The two intertwined snakes signify transmutation and transformation. The intertwinement of the snakes going up the wand represents the process of alchemy that is simplified in two repeating purification processes of separation and rejoining through different characteristics of each stage. Why two snakes and not one? The two snakes indicate the polarity that exists within each of us, the negative and positive, the yin and the yang.
As we heal each energy center or chakra, we open the passage for kundalini rising. Like the snakes climbing up the wand, the energy rises from the bottom of the spine at the perineum up to the third eye. Once this third eye is open, the portal between the realms is open that allows us to transcend to higher dimensions. Therefore, the last knot on the caduceus, which associates with the crown chakra, is between the wings. It is here that we are free from the illusion of the 3D world, and our consciousness is expanded beyond the physical realm. The pineal gland, our third eye at the sixth chakra, is the portal to a different realm. It is this gland that is often referred to as the philosopher stone by ancient alchemists.
The Eye of Horus and the Pineal Gland
To the ancient Egyptians, the philosopher's stone is illustrated in the eye of Horus. Its shape is that of the midbrain where the pineal gland is located. It looks like an eye, hence the term “third eye.” Therefore, the alchemical transformation is the healing journey through all the obstacles and blockages in our lives to obtain a higher state of being. As we move forward or upward through the journey, we release the blockages and the baggage that weigh us down and trap us in the illusion of suffering.
The Hero's Journey
According to Dr. Theresa Bullard(2), the ascension of the hero's journey to self-actualization through the twenty-two major arcana of Tarot cards in the mandala wheel depicts the stages of alchemy. To understand each specific stage of alchemy, it is useful to understand the hero's journey. It shows each stage of alchemy in smaller segments that provide a closer look at events or occurrences taking place in each stage. The tarot cards(6) mentioned in this book are designed by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, the two occultists of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Rider-Waite tarot cards are therefore drawn from their knowledge and wisdom in hermetic teaching, alchemy, mystics, and metaphysics.
The first stage of alchemical transformation begins at card #8, the Strength, and continues all the way through card #21, the World. From 0 to card #7 is known as the preparation of the Great Work. Since the purpose of this book focuses on my transformation through alchemy, I will discuss only the cards related to the alchemical process with brief descriptions about each card and how they show up in my life that provides much deeper insight into my journey. Also, note that these cards are meant to read intuitively. Hence, some details on the cards may speak to my journey, but other details may be more relevant to you. Therefore I do not discuss all details in every card for this reason. I can only discuss what is relevant to me.
Please be aware that although one major archetypal card may appear to be the primary influence of a specific stage, it doesn't mean that you don't experience influences from other archetypes of other cards. This archetypal energy is not cut and dry. There can be multiple sources of energy that influence at a specific stage, but there seems to be a grand theme from one tarot archetype that is the strongest and overcasts other archetypes.
They can appear to be very similar as the primary process of alchemy is the repeating cycles of separation and rejoining, so there's always that essence of death and rebirth energy throughout the process, as I've experienced. However, the characteristics of each stage are different. Though it is complex, it is recognizable. For each stage, I will only discuss the main tarot archetype that drives the circumstance or situation I was in at the time. To understand tarot cards at a deeper level, I'd refer you to "Mystery Teachings"(2) by Theresa Bullard from Gaia media network.
As I'm reflecting back on my life through the lens of alchemy, I started to see a bigger picture and connect the pieces together, why everything had to happen that way. When I understand the journey, it gives me a glimpse to see the purpose of my life. Keep in mind that there are layers of alchemy, the transformation that takes place collectively in humanity, transformation within each of us, and there is also alchemy in relationships. The world will always keep evolving through these stages of alchemy, so will we because we are part of this world.
Philosopher Heraclitus said, "There is nothing permanent except change."(12)
Hence it's imperative to understand these stages of evolution to move along with them to help us be aligned with the universe. If we are stagnant, we will fall behind, and going against the current will only cause more suffering in our lives.
Understanding the stages of the alchemical process can help us navigate through life by looking at the circumstance we're in at a higher perspective with a different point of view so that we know where we are and where we're heading while not attaching ourselves to an outcome. Going through the stages of alchemy can help us master the art of manifestation while elevating our soul's evolution.
Let us begin.