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Alchemy In Thinking & Destiny
Much more than just chemical processes, "Alchemy" might be properly defined as how all things combine to form the Reality we experience. It ultimately has the same goal of "becoming conscious of Consciousness".
This "Great Work" is accomplished by inducing physiological and psychological changes through diet, physical exercise, sexual hygiene, meditation/prayer, symbolic rituals filled with correspondences across many different aspects of reality, etc.
It is the cultivation of a particular state of awareness integrated into a regular way of living and perceiving.
This is what is meant by the term "Philosopher's Stone" (philo, "to love" + Sophia, "Wisdom"; it is the Love of Wisdom made "fixed" or permanent within a mineral body, like a stone).
One of the main "formulas" or processes of Alchemy is: Separate → Refine → Recombine
In other words, we split a thing into its base components, develop each one through a particular method, and then unite them all together as one in a more rarefied state.
The base components or "parts" are sometimes referred to as Body, Mind, and Spirit or "Salt", "Sulphur", and "Mercury" (although these words are used in a way very different from their current meanings). They are complemented by the "Four Elements" of "Fire", "Air", "Water", and "Earth". Again, these latter terms are much different from how they are currently used, and it would be much better to think of them as akin to the phases of matter (i.e.: Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma).
These 3 aspects and the 4 states that they can take are repeated throughout the Universe on every level of scale. We can also make links between these different levels of scale through certain geometric diagrams, sounds, etc. in order to facilitate certain changes. Notice, for example, that Astrology has Fire, Air, Water, and Earth signs that can be Fixed, Cardinal, or Mutable in nature.
In other words, the happenings within our body are a reflection of Nature as a whole. "As above, so below". The microcosm exists within the macrocosm and vice versa. All truly is ONE.
Therefore, the Alchemist is attempting to assist evolution "by Art", using methods which compress into a single lifetime what would normally take Nature millions of years, or many lifetimes. Thus, the Matter of the Body can be transmuted into the Light of the Spirit. In other words, our Physical Body literally becomes transformed into our "Immortal Heavenly Body".
...Or as Percival might put it, we are rapidly ascending through The Eternal Order of Progression by turning as many Nature Units into Intelligence Units as we possibly can until we unite the Doer with the Thinker and Knower and enter into The Realm of Permanence as a full Triune Self once more.
While this terminology may seem fairly modern, this knowledge has existed long before recorded history. It is the core "esoteric" scientific understanding at the basis of every spiritual path. The details differ amongst the different teachings, each one imparting its own "flavor" to it, but the essence is always the same so long as one does not get caught up in the destructive.
Taoism has a particularly clear distillation of this kind of information in a highly developed form that has miraculously stayed intact, for the most part, across 5,000 tumultuous years of Chinese history. However, if one plunges deep enough, one can uncover aspects of it within Judaism / Christianity / Islam and Hinduism / Jainism / Buddhism with little difficulty.
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