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John Reid's Course on Practical Alchemy - I. Chapter 1.
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The Philosophy of Alchemy
The first question one is faced with and surely must ask oneself as one start's on this path is, what is alchemy? To many people, alchemy is a pseudoscience practiced by old men in musty basements. They use ingredients like eye of newt, bats wing, cat's liver, and the like to try to produce a universal elixir that prolongs life indefinitely as well as transmutes base metals to gold.
Alchemy is much more than the pursuit of these frivolous dreams. Alchemy is the search for the QUINTESSENCE! It is all about isolating the vital force of life itself, isolating it so it can be condensed, purified, and manipulated to conform with the artist's will. Alchemy, in short, is the art of evolution! It is in a real sense concerned with the elevating of all organisms to the highest level of perfection they can attain -- as originally mandated by God -- while still on this earth in material form. When speaking of an organism reference is being made to all forms of matter found on this planet, irrespective of the fact of whether they are organic or inorganic, because for the alchemist all matter is alive, or else it could not continue in the form that it occupies and keeps. Of course there are different levels of the vital force in all organisms. Some have enough vital force to keep their form, or so it would seem because their decay is so prolonged, as in the case of a metal rusting. While others have such an abundance of life that they can reproduce or even help to vitalize and stabilize the vital force in other organisms that have become unbalanced.
In order to get a better understanding here of what is meant by alchemy being the art of evolution, we should take a look at the five basic tenets of alchemy, which are:
1) That the entire universe is divine in origin. Therefore Wisdom and Guidance must be sought from the source from which all creation flows.
2) That all organisms, no matter how subtle or gross they are, have within them the divine spark of life and are interrelated with each other. It is therefore our task to understand this kinship, so that we may utilize inspired knowledge to aid in our understanding of how to prepare the quintessence of our matter.
3) That all organisms are in a state of constant evolution as they continue their synthesis towards perfection. Upon reaching an understanding of tenet (2) the true work begins, i.e. , the aiding of nature by the art of alchemy to reach its highest point of perfection.
4) That humans are a part of the universe. Therefore, they are divine in origin and they can affect all organisms on all spheres of existence by their actions or inaction.
5) That humans, by understanding the basic laws that govern their beings and conversely the entire universe may learn to recognize the divine spark of vital energy in all organisms, isolate it, purify it, and manipulate it to speed up the processes of evolution.
These five tenets propose there is a system whereby humans can learn about the universe from its subtlest intimations to its grossest manifestations. It says that by knowing the self, one can know the One the All (or as close as the human mind can come to recognizing it) and in fact bring about physical changes and manifestations by a lawful application of the system's rules. These statements are true, although the degree to which they become manifested in any one life depends entirely upon the individual applying them and the amount of diligence with which they approach their task. Yet one must get started somewhere on this road. So let us begin together.