I wanted to offer my sketches, my thoughts, my perhaps ramblings and rumblings as I try and bring forth such a fabled concept into my practice. I mean, I am doing that right now, have been doing that since my last few posts.
Creating the Philosopher's Stone means many things, and has historically, and for me its creation represents being able to share in more Western language the precious understandings and knowledge I have of reality through Eastern paths almost exclusively.
When looking at the historical data on how to create a stone or some material, such as a powder or a wax-like substance, which can turn metals into gold, which also incorporates ideas of the perfection of oneself, with more esoteric understandings being part of the process as well, each alchemist, or person who practices this art, has a variation on the basic steps of this process, the process of alchemy.
I am relating all of this and find this important because, for one, my understanding of reality, as I am sure is the case for everyone, this shapes so much of who I am, and I know this to be quite different than a lot of people's. It seems important to share this about myself as it inevitably influences the work I do.
Secondly, if in my knowledge, and belief to an extent, I feel we are all inevitably going towards this understanding of reality, this truth of it, and most of us are not aware of this truth, and it is shaping us and our path regardless of our knowledge of it, this seems important to share in a helping profession. If I am not mentioning or referencing or working with the underlying framework and pull that drives or conditions each of us in unique ways, then I feel I am neglecting knowledge I have that could be shared to be helpful and open up reality more for a path to wholeness for each person.
The historical quest for the Philosopher's Stone, whether for turning lead into gold or perfecting the nature of oneself, in it I have found language which echoes that of traditional Tantra and Vedanta.
Both of those Eastern understandings speak of reality in a way which I know, however much I do know it They basically state we are already at our destination, having already reached a true oneness with the universe, and instead of "universe" you can use your own word for the ultimate understanding of things, whether this be for a force, a being, a presence, or what have you, whatever you conceptualize as an ultimate understanding, one which can be experienced, interacted with, even related to in the sense of a relationship.
Alchemy has tried to speed up the natural perfection it says all metals are going towards, or that all of us are reaching for. Gold for alchemists has been the perfection of all metals, symbolic of our own perfect nature which we strive for.
When turning lead into gold or helping others reach this state of perfection, the Philosopher's Stone has already reached this place, helping others or other material to arrive there.
I feel it important to conclude my talk of alchemy here, and begin to share it as the process already in place in my practice, of reaching for wholeness, and although I will use and have used the word perfection for what alchemy strives for, there is nothing more perfect than the Eastern conceptualization of us knowing our true nature, as the universe itself, as the state of perfection already inherent within us.
Alchemy seeks to help us unlock this door of understanding, and when it does so, when it helps us uncover who we really are, it creates in the process a golden key of awareness with which we find our freedom and joy in life.
I feel like I have finally come to a place where I can share openly, if not completely so, the knowledge I have that has meant so much to me throughout my life.
This knowledge I can share will be on a path unique to each person, but it translates into freedom for everyone, a loving sense of being, a peaceful sense of existence; it is dynamic and powerful, loving and human.
It accepts no authority, but your own.
In the ultimate sense, it is authority for everyone.
When looking at the basic processes of alchemy, in which a material becomes purified to a point of perfection, reaching its own innate essence or self, the final destination becomes colored red.
This may symbolize the material's own innate perfection achieved. It may also signify its ability to change other materials into their own perfected states.
This, I am so happy to have discovered, perhaps urged on silently by the work of Carl Jung, who himself found in alchemy so much rich meaning for his own discovered understandings of how we reach for wholeness.
I will say I have come across this perfected material before, sometimes called a stone, throughout my life.
A most recent encounter with it shaped myself and the beginnings of my practice, introducing the sacred feminine to me in a way I had not known. The importance of self-love was pointed out, not in a distorted way, but in a way which had me feeling more whole.
Reading books on the subject, I found in the sacred feminine a suppressed understanding, lineages or potential lineages of women who incorporated everyday living into their daily practice.
If a path of truth were to be walked, discarding everyday life and love did not seem healthy based on the recent experiences I had had at the time.
I encountered the red thread designation of Meggan Watterson, which harkened back to the women of the past I was discovering.
Completely separate from her, I found out there was a Red Thread Zen practice, incorporating everyday living into its unique form of Buddhism.
There are other encounters with this color, and I will come to another of them in a moment, but when I discovered in alchemy just recently the path of making this treasured material, perfected in itself and which could transform others as well, I was shown how I could incorporate all of my path in a way which could be communicated to others, the symbolism of alchemy and its processes having paved the way with their precedents.
Repeated from a previous post, here are the sequences of changes when transforming a material into its perfected state, signified by color change and including my own interpretation of what each stage means. Transforming oneself, as well as other materials, has been a goal of alchemy historically.
Black - a distillation of ourselves past the everyday world and mind talk.
White - insights and information gained from the experience as we return.
Red - living our lives changed from the knowledge of our experience.
While I had very deeply and clearly encountered my own personal experiences of the first two stages of alchemy, not until I encountered the need of the sacred feminine in such a fundamental way could I have found meaning in the third stage, even though I had experienced it in my own way, if not highlighted or talked about in the traditions I had followed.
Without elaborating on this, I will simply say that any tradition that advises practice and discipline away from others or from even basic human sexual understanding, without honoring either of them, or without honoring the connecting human link we have to all, this potentially complicates the path, sometimes to an alarming degree.
You may reach a state of understanding without consciously honoring our humanity or sexuality, but depending on the degree of neglect, this will return at some point to challenge you.
A religion, for instance, may honor a removal of oneself from the world to gain insights and understanding, as in the first two stages of alchemy, but it may not have much to say on how to be a human and work with these. This represents a feminine addition to the knowledge, to my mind, and to my heart, for a more complete understanding, for how to humanly work with this knowledge and any insight gained.
Traditional Tantra represents such a complete path as I have outlined, as alchemy has put forth. I have been excited and heartened to discover we have had a Western approach, in alchemy, to a complete path to realizing the truth of who we are, which we are all going towards, whether we know it or not.
Traditional Tantra has been the most complete path I have ever encountered, predating religion as we know it, captured and intimated somehow in the stages of process outlined in alchemy for reaching perfection.
Traditional Tantra has come from India, followed closely by, perhaps around the same time and around the same region, the teachings of Vedanta. Whereas Vedanta follows more closely the first two stages of alchemy, traditional Tantra, which I will refer to as simply Tantra now--Tantra emphatically emphasizes the third stage of alchemy, incorporating red most vividly in some of its esoteric practices.
The practice of helping others in my life has come to this point of my journey, to be able to follow a Western set of guidelines for Eastern practices, which incorporate the entirety of a path to wholeness, to realizing the truth of who we are.
I will have more to say about the degrees of subtlety found in the three stages of process, the three ways or pathways of alchemy, which capture the full journey of anyone who honors being human as part of it.
I have been trying to bring more openly into my practice the ideas and understandings that are the most precious to me. If I know what truly can be life changing, and I feel there is some way to communicate this to others, and I am in the profession of helping others, how can I not want to do this?
Actually, when I felt such freedom from my discoveries the first time, in a real and experiential way, I could not help but want to just beam this out to all I knew or thought might appreciate this information when I first was experiencing the reality of it.
From that day until now, I have always tried to work with this information, really radical from the everyday perspective, and I think I may have finally been able to find a vehicle or approach to communicating this that may just be what I was looking for.
Carl Jung has said many positive things about his understandings and research into alchemy, an ancient way of approaching several tasks which encapsulated for him his understandings of how we naturally try and achieve wholeness and well-being as humans. Seen as symbolic and truly metaphor for him, the processes of alchemy captured his own understandings, discovered separately, for how we go about achieving wholeness.
I have not read of Jung's own takes on alchemy overly much or that much at all, to my recollection, for I wanted to see if it might speak to me in a way that holds value for myself, with my own interpretations, separate from anyone else's ideas about it. As I have continued to breach and work with and perhaps wrestle with at times the subject of magic, or magick as I have referred to it on here, I came across alchemy, having first read of it many years ago.
Now, after having begun to read about it in more depth, from several authors' perspectives of what it has been historically, even up to more present times, I feel I have found the vehicle to communicate the truth as I know it, the understanding of reality that seems so much a break with the everyday, yet, this is my normal way of operating and going about in the world.
It has been difficult to have this knowledge and not be able to share it or be with others who might relate to it.
In the patterns and goals described in the alchemical processes of history, there is one pattern and goal, for the purposes of this post, that I would like to relate.
Alchemy has famously been depicted as trying to turn lead into gold by its practitioners. A basic pattern to this process involves beginning with a basic material, which at times has been hidden and elusive, but an essential ingredient to the process nonetheless. I will use the word distillation, although not in the technical sense, to describe one of the first processes involved in transforming the material. When it becomes blackened through heat, perhaps during the distillation process, this color change is key for all versions of the process, and they can vary greatly among alchemists.
One of the next steps in transforming the material involves a process of combining with it again a portion of itself which may have been separated from it in a previous process. If you think of the previously mentioned stage, where the material was blackened, as death, this process of reconstituting it is a return to life, and in this second stage the material becomes white.
There does become related a stage of yellowing of the material in some versions of the process, but I am not using it here in this example.
One of the final stages then, in which other material becomes introduced into this white, resurrected material, describes the white material as being fed by food or drink, symbolic of this other material being introduced, the original material now growing or having given birth to the final stage in the transformation process.
The material is described as being red at this point, the stone which can transform lead into gold.
Not until I just began practicing counseling at the end of my school years or at the beginning of my own private practice did I come across anything where I would find meaning in the complete color sequence as outlined above for alchemy.
As I communicate it again here, I will share with you the goal that the more spiritual side of alchemy reached for, adding to each stage my own interpretation relating to the goal.
Black - a distillation of ourselves past the everyday world and mind talk.
White - insights and information gained from the experience as we return.
Red - living our lives changed from the knowledge of our experience.
The spiritual or higher aspirations for alchemy were to help us transform ourselves into the best versions of us, to perfect our human nature, if you will.
Distilling whatever substance it is, including ourselves, into a pure form, returning reconstituted again within this pure form, and then living out our lives, as our new selves, this becomes the symbolic map of the alchemical process, and I have much more to say on this, including how the stage of the red stone, the final result, ties in with the sacred feminine and traditional Tantra.
I wanted to get my thoughts out about the three topics in the post title, reflecting on how I see them, how I experience them, how I define them, to a degree, and their relation to one another, and what I hope to share about them in looking at them here, a discovery I have yet to make, even for myself.
Beginning with science, I want to emphasize what I consider truth, and how science may interoperate with it, truth being the connecting piece for the topics.
I believe in my experiences as outlined in Vedanta, or Advaita Vedanta, which expresses ultimate reality in terms of an absolute which can never be explained or defined in our regular understanding.
It says we are going towards this truth of reality, which it does try and describe, and all of us are going towards it, no matter who we are.
Bringing science into this perspective, the attempt to see it through science will always only be an attempt, because if you can never define or explain what is put forth as real, this reality as put forth by Advaita Vedanta, then science perhaps will just leave it alone and never try.
However, science, its practitioners, do continually try to express an explanation of any and all things, at a fundamental level, whether this be for the beginning of the universe or for the makeup of what has been called matter.
Science, in its own way, tries to define and explain the ultimate understandings of reality.
Advaita Vedanta and science both at least attempt to explain reality at a most basic and fundamental level like this.
This reality, this absolute, whatever word you use, this I call truth. This is what I speak of when I refer to truth.
Focusing again on science, it has and puts forth many ideas, or more specifically, theories.
The world of reality in science is one of theories.
Again, the world, as expressed and explained and defined by science, the best explanations we can ever have of it, according to science, are theories.
This it will readily admit, or should, and I mean its practitioners as scientists admit this.
This does not seem too far from the inexpressible truth that Advaita Vedanta says is real.
Sharing this now, it seems that science seems the better and safer perspective, to not get too far out there in terms of what we base our lives on, what perspective we live from--if science readily admits all of reality can ever be considered a perspective of theory, never provable, then why not live from here versus an ancient understanding supposedly knowing reality, which admits itself at the same time that no one can ever express it?
Taking this further, in answer to the question above, the ancient scriptures of Advaita Vedanta do say we can know ultimate reality, we ourselves can. Even if we cannot express it.
That is the difference.
Science may never be able to prove anything one-hundred percent, and that is its nature, that is its modus operandi.
However, Advaita Vedanta says that not only can we know reality at its most fundamental level, one-hundred percent, but it invites us to.
Science may one day reach this fundamental level, but any attempts to define it and express it in this world will be frustrated.
The truth of truth is that you cannot be in this world and define it and express it as we would here. You can approach it, in whatever way and perspective, using whatever methods you like, but this approach will only yield your own unique expression of truth, not a defining expression of it, for all to understand.
Shifting to a practical application of all of this, all of this information shared, perhaps now answering the question of what I hoped to gain from looking at this information, I pull in that symbolic representation I call magick, full of potential ideas, understandings, and yes, misunderstandings, but I have felt compelled to use this word, make use of this word, make it a symbolic reference for us in the West, bridging any gaps between Eastern Advaita Vedanta and Western ideas that may come to mind when I say magick.
The practical application, in my mind, of the ideas of Advaita Vedanta, of the truth we can fully know, if not fully express, becomes expressed in magick.
The expression of the universe that we do know, in a limited way, can be called Maya in Advaita Vedanta or Eastern understandings. If we are the universe itself, as Advaita Vedanta ultimately says we are, and the expression of the universe itself, including ourselves, comes in the form of an almost illusory appearance called Maya, then what does this mean? How does this fare beside the scientific world of theory, of one needing proof?
If science, as has been shared, can never fully prove anything one-hundred percent, then you have to grant that it goes on the basis of faith, if however small a percentage.
Science will never and can never through its own protocols or parameters prove anything--no facts, just theories in the world of science.
Through my own experience I have known the reality of Advaita Vedanta, touched on it briefly, at the very least, while living in the world, on this earth.
I would rather choose and do wholeheartedly choose the path of Advaita Vedanta, the ultimate reality I have known in some way through my own experience, versus a blind allegiance to more illusion through the world of theory, of science.
There no more should be a world of science than there should be a world of any one approach to solving problems, any one approach to living your life, any one approach to going about what feels right and is right to you in your own experience.
Simply put, to wrap up any loose ends in the topics explored here, science becomes a method of solving problems, of thinking, of hopefully making things right, or more comfortable or more amenable, for who we are as a people living on this earth.
But it just ultimately becomes one way, one approach. It is like making one tool in your tool belt the only tool you ever use, at the expense of any other.
Your own experience with respect for others, if you want to do it like that, should be the guiding scientific method or approach to what is right for you as a person, for what you choose.
If we solely lived in a world of science, how could anyone realistically do anything without having to check so much on outside authority? To even brush your teeth safely, walk your dog, walk out of your house even, or even now safely talk to someone else, science would become the ultimate authority to turn to for any and all things.
Does this seem right?
Magick, I have said, becomes the practical application of what I have been exploring here, and I will echo that again.
There was a time when science as we know it was not the only approach to solving and working through problems and knowing things, and to connect this with magick, and this with traditional Tantra, I will share with you now the topic of an upcoming post: alchemy.
I have found this so interesting and heartening in the Western history of ideas and problem-solving approaches, that we at one point had a method which was more holistic, incorporated more of our whole being, in going about thinking and living, for reaching for our best on this earth.
If I say magick becomes a practical application of Advaita Vedanta, then I say alchemy touched on its ultimate ideals.
This along with Tantra, together, in another post.
Mark Newlon, feeling the embrace of the sacred feminine daily!
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