ALCHEMY & FREEMASONRY – MOST PARTICULARLY THE SEVEN ANCIENT PLANETS AND THE CORRESPONDING LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS - SIMPLIFIED
WHEN DISCUSSING HISTORY OF ALCHEMY AND ITS INCLUSION IN FREEMASONRY, I’LL LEAVE THIS TO THE HISTORIANS THAT RELISH IN MAKING THE CONNECTIONS WITH THE MANY MYSTERIOUS TWISTS AND TURNS. IN THIS DISCUSSION WE ARE NOT GOING TO NECESSARILY LOOK AT THESE HISTORICAL CONNECTIONS, ALTHOUGH OCCASIONALLY HISTORICAL REFERENCE MAY BE MADE, INSTEAD I WOULD LIKE LOOK AT ALCHEMY AND ITS MANY SYMBOLS AND SEE IF ITS SYMBOLISM AND METAPHOR PARALLELS THE ESOTERIC SYMBOLS AND ALLEGORIES IN FREEMASONRY, AND TO SEE IF IT IS VIABLE IN WHAT WE CALL THE MODERN WORLD.
Do I believe and alchemy walk hand and hand, yes, but so does any system of philosophical thought that puts forth truth and has the ability to raise ones level of consciousness.
Is it a coincidence that if one listens with an attentive ear to certain sections of the rituals one should be able to make the connections with a little bit of knowledge of the vernacular used by alchemists, I think not.
It's no mystery that we are an old order, old enough for many schools of thought to infuse its truths into the rituals, and what stronger period of history esoterically and spiritually was that of the age of the enlightenment, with alchemy, the great work, considered the science of the enlightenment.
It is my humble opinion that the Lodge Room derives its symbolic layout from Pythagoras and his number symbolism, not quantitative but qualitative symbolism, yet there can be no doubt that Hermetic and alchemical allusions exist within certain spoken words of the ritual. It's as if Pythagoras, the philosopher, and Paracelsus, the alchemist, got together and created a school of philosophy where Pythagoras explained the expanding creation and Paracelsus explained the way back to the beginning, the contraction.
Although I tend to ascribe to the notion “keep it simple” when discussing either Pythagoras or Alchemy simple is far from what Pythagoras and alchemy teaches symbolically and rarely the merging of the two is discussed.
Some would ask, could and old Greek philosopher and a misunderstood mystical science be viable in today's modern world, my answer would be you be the judge. I think you may be surprised.
First we'll need to look at the basics of alchemy, with a little help from a deceased author named Franz Hartmann, a Freemason and author of numerous esoteric titles. Most particularly we'll be looking at the title named Philippus Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim, known by the name of Paracelsus, written in 1891.
ALTHOUGH MUCH OF WHAT YOU ABOUT TO READ MAY SEEM OBSCURE AND OVERLY SYMBOLIC REMEMBER ALCHEMY WAS A SCIENCE THAT PREDATES PSYCHIATRY, PSYCHOLOGY, AND THE EVER EXPANDING FIELD OF MIND AND CONSCIOUSNESS STUDIES. ALCHEMY USES METAPHOR AS AN ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND HOW ONE MAY EXPAND THEIR LEVEL OF AWARENESS TO A LEVEL WHERE, TO BORROW A BUDDHIST WORD, ENLIGHTENMENT IS ACHIEVED, SAME MOUNTAIN DIFFERENT PATH.
AS I STATED ABOVE, WHAT THAT FOLLOWS WAS WRITTEN A LONG TIME AGO, BUT I BELIEVE DR. HARTMANN'S STUDY OF PARACELSUS AND HIS ALCHEMICAL PRINCIPLES MAKES CLEAR SYMBOLISM THAT OFTEN COMES ACROSS AS CONFUSING.
I will attempt to in my own humble way to modernize some of the ideas put forth by Paracelsus and Dr. Hartmann, the italics are from Dr. Hartmann's title.
It should be noted, as I have noted, not all will project the same meaning on the esoteric symbolism of alchemy, every interpretation comes from a certain level of understanding unique to the level of consciousness of the interpreter.
“The” Seven Planets" are the Seven Principles which constitute the universe, and which are at least "potentially" contained in everything. Paracelsus speaks of them in a very mystical language, as follows: "There are seven elementary powers or principles— four lower ones belonging to mortal and changeable things (Sthula sharira, Linga sharira, Prana, and Kama), and a trinity of celestial power (Atma Buddhi Manas), which is also called the quinta essentia. The four elements (lower principles) can in no way interfere with the quinta essentia. The heavenly and the hellish power is not obedient to the four elementary powers, but each section stands for itself"
A question for all Masonic brothers: How many steps from the Lodge Room floor to the seat of the Master of the Lodge?
My belief is that the underlying esoteric philosophy in Freemasonry is Unity, not just fraternally or religiously, I'm talking Unity with a big “U”, a type of
I believe the “Seven Planets”, or the seven principles, may correspond symbolically to seven levels of consciousness. Clearly because of Dr. Hartmann's association with the Theosophy movement of his time when he uses Sthula sharira, Linga sharira, Prana, Kama, Atma, Buddhi and Manas to describe these levels. In today's esoteric vernacular we could use the planes, Physical, Astral, Mental, Intuitional, Spiritual, Monadic, and Divine.
The “four lower ones belonging to mortal and changeable things” could be considered levels in the realm of Matter, and the “trinity of celestial power (Atma Buddhi Manas), which is also called the quinta essentia” represent Spirit. We are clearly both, Matter and Spirit. Alchemy is the spiritualization of Matter, metaphorically to transform lead into gold, "Solve and Coagula," or, dissolve and recombine.
In his alchemical writings, Carl Jung described the dissolving process of alchemy as "breaking down the boundaries of the ego, and allowing the chaotic material of the unconscious to pour forth where it can be inspected by consciousness." The second part of the Work of Alchemy is "coagula" or to come back together, to rejoin, perhaps ourselves, others, or a new understanding.
I do recommend those interested in consciousness studies, dig into the work of Integral writer Ken Wilber, or psychologist and consciousness explorer Dr. Carl Jung, both will certainly open you up to ideas that will expand your knowledge of consciousness, not to say Mahayana Buddhism or Vedanta are any less valuable.
When we discuss raising one's level of consciousness we are not talking about a self-help discipline, although the little self may start the journey, but the little self will assuredly disappear by the end. It you don't understand that, you have a way to go.
This goes to show that to the spiritual kingdom belongs to a state of consciousness different from the lower states of consciousness, and having nothing in common with them. Spirituality is, therefore, not to be considered as a state of high intellectual development, but it is an awakening to an entirely different and higher state of consciousness, which may take place in persons of high intellectual development, but far oftener in those who are unsophisticated and of a simple mind.
What a beautiful and profound passage, it does not necessarily fair well for those that intellectually seek higher levels of consciousness; they usually become their own worst enemy. Intellectual seeking is a form of craving, a way of feeding the ego, a type of spiritual materialism, the opposite of what is needed to enter into the higher levels of consciousness.
Some of the greatest mystics came from deserts, jungles, and self imposed isolation, far away from academia.
It's pretty easy, one could sit and study the map, or one could actually do the journey. Many can memorize and quote wisdom drawn from the various Sacred Volumes of Law, but just can't walk the walk.
The "Seven Planets" are equally mysteriously described in his "Ccelum Philosophorum "
What follows is the Paracelsus explanation of the alchemical symbolism of the seven ancient planets, with a little insight from Dr. Hartmann. Remember we a talking about levels of consciousness.
“Mercury. Wisdom; the knowledge of the soul that realizes the truth, and which has nothing to do with the action of the intellect, that consists in collecting and comparing ideas. "All things are hidden within all things. One of them is their concealer, and at the same time their body and vehicle, external, visible, and movable. All things are revealed within this vehicle, for it is a corporified spirit; but the spirit thereof has no name." Translated into modern language this means: "Mercury represents divine wisdom. The whole of Nature is a vehicle and visible manifestation of the wisdom of God; but God Himself cannot be described. He is the universal life, the root of all consciousness and knowledge, and the will of divine wisdom."
Imagine what Dr. Hartmann would say in the present time, in his day the science of Quantum Physics and non-local reality theories didn't even exist, not to discount more consciousness explorers are theorizing everything is consciousness, or simply said “we are all but the mind of God”.
Mercury in its higher aspect is the symbol of wisdom, in its lower aspect that of the intellect.
I am not really sure why Paracelsus or Dr. Hartmann decided to place Mercury first; I do believe Saturn would be the least level of consciousness, the planet attributed to lead.
I would tend to believe Mercury, also symbolic of Thoth or Hermes, is needed through our complete journey, wisdom.
Jupiter. Universal primordial substance and power. "Within the body of Jupiter are contained all the other six metals in a spiritual state, each always still deeper hidden and more remote than the one that precedes." This means that, of all the seven principles, each contains the other six either actively or potentially. Thus, even within a stone or an oyster there is a hidden spark of divinity, such as may become conscious and manifest in the constitution of man.
The metaphor used by the alchemist was to change lead to gold, lead being the lowest level of consciousness, completely egotistical and totally materialistic, gold symbolic of the ultimate realization, enlightenment plus, or union with the divine. In order for the alchemist to begin the transformation from lead to gold, he or she must have a little drop of gold to add to the lead before the process begins. In the world of the alchemist you already have a drop of gold within you, the spark of divinity, instead of looking outward towards imaginary heavens you should be looking inside to increase the amount of gold.
“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”...Luke 17:21
Jupiter in its higher aspect represents majesty, in its lower aspect energy.
After spending many years studying in the Buddhist tradition I came to realize the importance of mindfulness, meditation, and techniques that allow the individual to still the ever ready bunny of a mind. “Multi-tasking” is but an excuse for an energy level that is truly chaos.
I have a question: “If you tend to talk to yourself, who's listening?”
Mars. Universal energy. The will. "Mars, owing to its combative energy, is enabled to gain glory and to assume the place of the king. Care will have to be taken that he does not become captured. We must see how we can raise him up and combine Sun and Moon with Saturn in the place of Mars." This indicates that we should seek to attain a powerful will, but avoid letting that will become subservient to matter (Saturn). This is done by combining our imagination (Moon) with wisdom (Sun).
Don't be fooled by the word imagination, replace it with the word intuition and it makes more sense. “The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there”...From The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Mars represents spiritual power, but also in its lower aspect strength of passion.
People who fail to fully integrate a balanced Mars consciousness can easily become floating spirits who find it difficult to be fully in touch with their physical environment; they must still function within the world, but may not be of it. Balance is needed here.
Venus. Love, identical with Knowledge; because true love is the spiritual recognition of the true self. "The six other metals have formed a corruptible external body with the quality of Venus; but all combustible things can be changed by the power of fire." This is to say that human love is at present bound up with many impurities, but when the true fire of love awakens, these impurities will burn away and leave us in possession of unadulterated wisdom.
I heard this wonderful little creation and fall story a few years back, I would certainly love to give the writer credit but for the life of me I can't remember who wrote it, well anywise it goes like this: One upon a time there was this loving God, a God that loved so much he decided to create humans just so he could share his love. This loving God would give and give and give, and the humans would receive.
One day the receivers, the humans, decided they wanted to become Gods. When the giving loving God heard there request he loved them so much he granted there request, he cut of his giving, the humans now had to become givers.
As time went on the humans missed there loving God, they searched here and there for there loving God, but he was no where to be found. But fear not God still loved his creation very much, but he knew humans would have to give totally, and only when all was given would they be able to receive again.
Venus in its higher aspect is divine love, identical with self-knowledge; in its lower aspect, desire.
Many years ago I was introduced to a Buddhist meditation known as Metta Bhavana, or Loving Kindness Meditation.
The first stage of the practice proper involves developing good feelings for ourselves: something within us that we can draw on, to extend to others.
The second stage is about cultivating metta (think compassion) towards a friend.
Stage three is about developing metta for a 'neutral' person, that is, a person for whom you have no particular strong feelings in either direction.
The fourth stage of the metta bhavana practice is about cultivating metta towards someone that you find 'difficult'.
In stage five we broaden the focus of our awareness, aiming to shine metta out toward many other sentient beings.
Sound easy? Try it; you would be surprised how many find the first stage the most difficult.
When I contemplate this level I think of Mother Theresa, living amongst the poorest of the poor, total compassion, her reward, malaria and at one time a deep crisis of faith which she overcame.
Saturn. The Life-principle. Saturn says: "My six brothers have relegated me and expelled me from the spiritual kingdom. They have forced me to live in a corruptible form. I have to submit to be that which they refuse to be. My body is attracted to the earth, so that everything I embrace becomes earthly; but it would not be well for the world to know all the virtue hidden in me and all that I may accomplish." This means that the human mind (Manas) is the connecting-link between spirit and matter. If the inquisitive scientist were to know the divine life within his own constitution, and could develop it before he has attained innocence and virtue, he would become an incarnate devil instead of a god.
Saturn, lead, is usually symbolic of our beginning of the journey, and for some sadly the end of there journey. This consciousness is that of the egotistical, where psychologically one perceives oneself as the center of the story.
Saturn is the life in the universe, and in another aspect it represents matter.
This would be the level where the spiritual is missing, one life, done, gone. Even though this seems to the level of the materialist, every once in awhile something causes us to wonder, “That which we seek is causing us to seek”.
Luna—Moon. Imagination. "The principal thing to know in regard to Luna is its origin. It is the seventh metal, containing the six others in a spiritual state, and it is externally corporeal and material." This goes to show that Luna, in its external aspect, means matter with its phenomena, which are always illusive as long as we do not know their true origin. If we wish to gain absolute knowledge of all things in Nature, we must attain the knowledge of God.
Once again I believe the word intuition would better describe the symbolism here, instead of imagination. Alchemically speaking, the moon represents Silver, it reaches a stronger potential when joined with the sun, or Gold in the Greater Work. In more practical terms, the moon represents fertility, resurrection, occult power, immortality and intuition. The moon is a feminine property and alchemists would incorporate it with the sun (gold) to assure balance. In the Jungian world the moon could be symbolic of the unconscious.
Sol—Sun. The Life, or Wisdom. "It is pure fire, and has within itself all the other six metals (principles)." Everything that exists is a manifestation and product of the one life in the universe, from which all things receive their vitality and powers; "for that which is visible is merely the vehicle, but the element therein is a spirit, and lives in all things as the soul lives in the body. This is the prima materia of the elements, invisible and incomprehensible, but nevertheless present in all; for prima materia is nothing else than the life itself in all creatures. That which is without life is no longer an element, but within the ultima materia, wherein is contained neither virtue nor energy”
The seventh stage of spiritual unfolding. All sense of separation ends. There is only a blissful, peaceful, and loving state of indivisible oneness with the Only One. This Key signifies Cosmic Consciousness, or Nirvana. For full descriptions of this state see Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke's Cosmic Consciousness, Ouspensky's Tertium Organum, Jacob Boehme's Supersensual Life, William James' Varieties of Religious Experience, and the many writings of Brother Swami Vivekananda.
The central fact of this experience is that he to whom it comes has first-hand knowledge that he is in perfect union with the One Power which is the Pivot and the Source of the whole cosmos. He knows also that through him the governing and directing power of the universe flows out into manifestation.