And thus it ends…

May 13, 2015 5 comments

The primary purpose of this site was to prevent the uninformed from being misinformed and misled by psychologists, academics, charlatans, occultists, etc. It did not exist to satisfy curiosity about what one might assume was important.

An opportunity was provided for people to learn from complex impacts and indirect teaching, but this has not been recognized nor utilized; rather most questions answered in a way that did not match the format desired and expected by the questioner received no attention (or negative attention).

When it was pointed out that practice must inform theory, it was assumed that such a response was from a position of subjectivity and that such was an example of cultic activity.

We had been determined to stop teaching and pull down the whole site quite some time ago, and perhaps we should have done so. It would appear that there is little to no value in the alchemystical format for people at this time and in this place (at least not with our humble self at the helm)—and since such a format is not at all necessary, if it happens to serve as a distraction it is best discontinued.

Just to be clear, this ceasing of activity is not the result of any one person’s actions or any one event … it is the result of broad issues and has been a long time coming.

Now, that said, we have both enjoyed our time with you; but as that does not justify the continuance of activity, we bid you Godspeed on your quest. We will leave portions of this site up so that it may continue to serve its original function.

It would almost surely be more useful for persons to take the texts of the Traditionalist and Shah schools and use them to inform their practice of one of the revealed World religions (Buddhism, Christianity and Islam).

One final bit of advice: beware of what you desire, beware of what you think you know, and always, with every breath, assay your mettle.

Best wishes to you all,

james & Xiaoyao

P.S. Xiaoyao and I are acutely aware of our failure to be of greater assistance to you, our fellow wayfarers, and we wish you all well for your future travels along whatever path you may choose to follow.

Categories: Uncategorized

Three Forms of Conscience

April 17, 2015 16 comments

Despite the careless use of the word in common speech, there is more than one type of “conscience”.

True Conscience is a matter of direct perception of the Design of Life. The development of this is the goal of the esoteric alchemystical arts.

Spurious conscience is a matter of derived doctrine. Exoteric religious doctrine fosters the development of this, which often manifests as a hope of heaven and/or the fear of hell. The person of spurious conscience most often shows a genuine desire to do good and not to do wrong. In common language, when people speak of “conscience” this is often what they mean, but it is important to realise that this is far from the highest form of conscience.

False conscience is also a matter of fear and hope. But here the hope is of earthly reward and the fear that of earthly deprivation. In other words, the person of false conscience fears pain or loss (subtle or gross) and/or hopes for pleasure or reward (subtle or gross). This type of person will have a desire to do good if something can be gained from it, but is most often satisfied with not getting caught doing wrong.

With True Conscience the psyche of the individual has begun the switching process toward inner sensitization and motivation. It is not a matter of hope of gain, nor fear of loss. True Conscience manifests as immediate and pro-active inner guidance involving creative response to a given event-horizon.

In both spurious and false conscience the psyche of the individual remains subject to outer sensitization and motivation, and manifests as a mediated or after-the-fact guilt-response regarding intentions, words, or actions that are already manifest.

We can perhaps see that the person of False Conscience cannot be left alone and expected to do good or refrain from evil. The person of Spurious Conscience can be trusted to try to do good and/or try to refrain from evil to the degree that they are able to Will what they Desire, to the degree that they Desire to act according to their derived doctrine, and to the extent that such doctrine is sound.

In terms of the vertical-horizontal axis (discussed in a comment dated March 17, 2015, under “Context and Guidance“): True Conscience is related to Freedom from Choice and is a vertical element.

Spurious Conscience is related to Freedom of Choice and is a horizontal element moving toward the center and away from the circumference.

False Conscience is related to the Illusion of Choice and is a horizontal element moving toward the circumference and away from the center. The person of False Conscience is ‘corrected’ through contact with the exoteric religious law.

The person of Spurious Conscience is corrected through contact with the Tariqa (esoteric spiritual practice).

Every human being has each of these three forms of conscience within him/her. Can you recall the experiential feel of each of these forms of conscience so that you may be able to distinguish what form is active at any given moment?

Categories: Knowing and Being Tags:

Of Mines, Metals, Minerals and Natures

March 5, 2014 8 comments


“Within this Mine two Stones of old were found,
Whence this the Ancients called Holy Ground;
Who knew their Value, Power and Extent,
And nature how with Nature to Ferment.
For these if you Ferment with Natural Gold
Or Silver, their hid Treasures they unfold,
According to their Natures then proceed,
And take care properly each one to feed;”

– The ‘key’ lines from Verse on the Threefold Sophic Fire


The First Four Lines:
“Within this Mine two Stones of old were found,
Whence this the Ancients called Holy Ground;
Who knew their Value, Power and Extent,
And nature how with Nature to Ferment.”


The technical term ‘Mine’ is the root of the term mineral, which latter means: ‘that which is drawn from a mine’; which is why, in alchemy, the term is sometimes used in reference to both metals and minerals.

The term ‘mine’ also, more generally, refers to ‘an excavation in the earth from which ore or minerals can be extracted, as well as the site of such an excavation, with its surface features and tools’. It also means ‘an abundant supply or source of something valuable.’

The ‘two stones’ that are found here are the two natures: Absolute and relative, Universal and Individual, Agent and Patient, Objective and Subjective, Active and passive, Gold and Silver.

A ‘mine’, in the alchemystical sense, is thus ‘Holy Ground’ because it is the source of all that we are, were, or can be. We have become estranged from our true Nature, but the mine (as abundant source of that which is most valuable and necessary to human life) is ever there should we desire to return to it and uncover the ‘root’ or ‘radix’ (referred to elsewhere in this text as the ‘radical humidity’) – which is also the soothing ‘balm’ of our true Nature. That root (or radix) being recovered, the individual is then a walking ‘mine’ (a repository of essence, liquor, elixir, alchahest, azoth, stone, tingeing powder, etc.) from which others may receive ‘tincturing’ (which term refers to the process of ‘projecting the stone’). The recovery of Universal Nature (Original Infinite Life) provides one with the capacity to serve as a source for the fermentation of other individual natures.

The hermetic axiom associated with this process/function runs thus:

Nature delights in nature,
Nature conquers nature,
and Nature masters nature.


Let us examine each of these functions individually.

Nature delights in nature [sympathia]
This means that the universal Nature delights in the individual nature – the Universal is the salvation of the individual (this relationship is termed ‘value’ in the third line) – the Biblical correlative of which would be “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever has faith in him should not perish but have eternal life“.

Nature conquers nature [antipathia]*
This means that the Universal Nature penetrates the Individual nature through and through (this relationship is termed ‘extent’ in the third line) – the Biblical correlative of which would be “I in them and thou in me, that they may be Perfect in One“).

Nature masters nature [magisteria]
This means that the Universal Nature overcomes the individual nature (this relationship is termed ‘power’ in the third line) – the Biblical correlative of which would be “Be still and know that I am God.“)


The Greater Ferment
This ferment can be had direct from the source. It deserves to be called Greater Ferment inasmuch as it remains absolute beyond dualism and contingecies and is the sole or at least primary source of ferment used in the sudden or solo work. The greater ferment could also be called Natural Gold.

The Intermediate Ferment
This ferment can be had from a more proximate locus in the form of an inheritor or exemplar of the tradition, in which case the ferment is not as absolute as the former, but neither is it as susceptible to misuse and abuse as the lesser ferment (see below). This ferment is intermediate inasmuch as it has the benefit of infusions of essence/baraka (through projection of the stone), but though it also uses encoded laws, rules and regulations there is nevertheless an agent able to interpret and reinterpret such laws as necessary for a given time, place and people. The intermediate ferment could also be called manufactured or sterling Silver.

The Lesser Ferment
Lastly, ferment may be had indirectly from the textual and cultural remains of the tradition: in moral codes, regulations, rules, laws and rites. Such ferment is impaired to the extent that the encoding of such material participates in the inevitable limitations of language, concepts, dualisms and contingencies. This lesser ferment could also be called crude Copper (which nevertheless has the seed of gold within it).

The primary intent of the text regards the Greater and/or intermediate ferment and its use in each of the three actions: sympathia (or value), antpathia (or extent) and magisteria (or power) in relation to either the solo or cooperative work.


The Second Four Lines:
“For these, if you Ferment with Nat’ral Gold,
Or Silver, their hid Treasures they unfold,
According to their Natures then proceed”
And take care properly each one to feed;


By the use of the plural, ‘Natures’, is here meant ‘Gold’ (Universal, Essential Nature) and Silver (individual, formal nature) – or also see above for an alternate interpretation where these refer to the quality of the ferment. Rather than eliminating the one or the other nature, we establish that balance which is the unique and defining characteristic of the ‘Man of Insight and Reason’, which our Sufi parent tradition defines as

Someone who sees Truth in creation and creation in Truth, without either of them being veiled by the other; rather he sees one existence in its reality – as Truth from one point of view, and as creation from another. Thus he is not veiled by multiplicity from witnessing the face of the One and Only in its Essence. Nor does he have any difficulty contemplating the multiplicity of the manifestations of the Oneness of the Essence, by which he is illuminated. Similarly, he is not veiled by the oneness of the face of Truth from witnessing the multiplicity of created things; neither does he have any trouble witnessing the Oneness of the Essence revealing itself in the manifestation of multiplicity.


Or, as Ibn al Arabi (aka ‘Doctor Maximus’) relates:

So in creation lies the essence of Truth
If you are a Man of Insight;
And in Truth lies the essence of creation
If you are a Man of Reason;
But if you were a Man of both Insight and Reason,
Then you could not help but see:
The essence and the form of a thing are one.


The phrase “And take care properly each one to feed” finds its Biblical correlative in “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”). Neither nature is to be clung to over against the other for to do so creates imbalance. Nor should either nature be mistaken for, or given the prerogatives of, the other.

In the alternative interpretation where Gold and Silver refer to the quality of the ferment, this line about feeding is in reference to the cooperative work, and the Exemplar (who is responsible for projecting the teaching current and the current teaching) is being advised to take care to project each one properly for the benefit of all concerned.

Understanding the technical terms and phrases embedded in traditional literature is the minimum requirement for even the most basic, surface-level conceptual comprehension. Be that as it may, as was mentioned in the explication of the Epistle of John Pontanus, accurate theory follows upon successful practice, and successful practice takes its direction from accurate theory. One without the other creates imbalance and nurtures error.

*note – antipathia, as a technical term, means ‘opposed’, as for instance when two forces are working at cross-purposes. There is no animosity, hostility, oppression or aggression implied in its usage in such a context.

Categories: Raeding and Wrighting

Washing with Fire, Burning with Water

October 26, 2013 8 comments

Regarding the affective soul, alchemists often mention that ‘we wash with our fire and burn with our water’ – which is very descriptive of the effects that result from the inclination of our desiring – which word (inclination) has, here, multiple meanings: in the sense of habit, direction and slope.

The phrase has two basic raedings:

1) in the first, water refers to downwardly (outwardly) directed desire (appetite) which burns in the sense that it is the source of pain and suffering. Fire, in contrast, refers to upwardly (inwardly) directed desire that washes in the sense of making clean/pure [during the black and white works].

2) in the second raeding, water and fire are one, and their action is one, due to bringing the focus of ALL desiring to The One, such that even when the sensorium observes external objects these only serve to remind one of The One. In this case water burns in the sense of purification of the superfluous from sensation and fire washes in the sense of a gentle cleansing since there is no scoria to burn [during the red work].

So, the following phrase has reference to the second raeding, which refers to the state or station of being in the world but not of it:

“He who can burn with water and wash with fire makes a heaven of earth and a precious earth of heaven.”

This creates an indissoluble union between the fixed and the volatile.

Categories: Raeding and Wrighting

Knowing and Being

December 22, 2012 Comments off

Alchemy is not a science that is learned by piling fact upon fact until one is compelled by reason to accept some conceptual proposition. It is not dependent upon belief or knowledge (at least not as contemporary pedagogy conceives of knowledge). The difference between the traditional alchemist and most contemporary students of alchemy is that the alchemist has mended the wound caused by the severing of epistemology and ontology, knowing and being. Information accumulation may change your mind (or pattern of ideation) but it will not transform your desire, imagination or will and so cannot prevent or even ameliorate or mitigate against the development of faulty belief systems, cognitive dissonance, depression, obsession, prejudice, selfishness, magical thinking, fear or despair. In short, such ‘knowledge’ will not transform you alchemystically.

Alchemy is not to be believed and alchemists have no desire to teach. For the most part, contemporary students want to learn or to be taught alchemy when, in fact, it can only be imbibed or caught. Alchemy is a ‘gradual’ method of transformation in the sense that it uses expedient means to prepare (or shorten) the way to true self-knowledge. But, though alchemystical transformation does not happen without effort (or rather, perseverance), all such effort is preparatory rather than causative. The nigredo merely prepares one to be able to respond to the transformative moment during the final stages of the albedo when knowledge of one’s self transforms into knowledge of one’s Lord. Alchemy is a ‘sudden’ method of transformation in the sense that it recognizes that the actual transformation is wholly a matter of grace/baraka. One cannot know truth without being truth. One cannot know alchemy without being an alchemist. One cannot know god, without knowing self; for to know one’s self is to know limitation, emptiness and dependence. To acknowledge limitation, emptiness and dependence is the necessary prerequisite for restoring the unity of knowing and being, removing the veil between one’s self and one’s Lord. It is only selfless love and complete devotion that removes the final veil and permits the whole and the part to become intimately reacquainted.

…[alchemists] want to force those who seek this wisdom to feel their dependence upon God (in whose hand are all things), to obtain it through instant prayer, and when it has been revealed to them, to give all the glory to Him. – Sophic Hydrolith

Categories: Knowing and Being


October 7, 2012 Comments off

As the topic of prayer has arisen, and offered itself as it were for meditation, it may be useful to follow this vein deeper into the mine of the literature while we simultaneously trace its path within the mine of our own feeling and understanding.

The idea is to point the way and illustrate a possible approach to penetrating the dense and daunting matrix of alchemical works (i.e. by taking a word or concept and investigating its use in depth throughout the reliable literature) while sensing within and attempting to verify the gold one thinks one may have discovered.

Prayer has become a difficult subject to discuss in modern society, overlaid as it is by so many diverse—and often adverse—associations for most of us. It takes quite an effort to disengage from those associations and look at the topic afresh. (The same applies to the word God, which is why in the commentaries on this site it is usually found in quote marks: ‘God.’) Without doing so, however, one will simply carry a huge mass of unexamined assumptions that will colour the investigation and bias its outcome.

A starting point for considering prayer could be the working definition that it is an orientation, a posture, toward something other than ourselves.

General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, author of Alchemy and the Alchemists, a dependable resource, says (in his Christ the Spirit, 1860, p. 205-206):

We have but a very superficial idea of the nature of prayer, when we see it merely in a form of words, petitioning God for something.
All effort is prayer. Every desire is a species of prayer. Every pursuit is a prayer, and every earnest pursuit is an earnest prayer. But in all cases the character of the prayer takes its complexion from the object of prayer. A prayer becomes divine when God is the object; or when the particular pursuit is followed with the idea of God as the law, within which the prayerful soul seeks what it seeks.
If this idea be not present, every pursuit is an unholy prayer—as if it were addressed to a false God.

It is unsettling to think that we pray constantly, especially when we realise what we are praying for, and how unworthy those objects are. When we do realise this, however, we can redirect our intentions toward more noble ends. Indeed, the very motto of our lineage is “Orare est laborare, laborare est orare.” – “To pray is to work, to work is to pray.”

General Hitchcock’s shocking assertion is supported by statements found elsewhere on this (Al-Kemi) site: “Prayer is not a petition for personal gain (superfluity), but rather the spontaneous expression of inherent human modalities (necessity, dependence, submission). Prayer is a channel of revelation and benediction” and “[Prayer] is a redirection and circulation of the light of one’s spiritual intelligence (Gr. Nous, Ar. Al-Aql). It can be referred to as a metanoia or ‘change of heart’ – a reversal of flow.”

In very slightly different language, the Cultivator of Realisation says:

The spirit of a human being is in the mind, and the trigger of the mind is in the eyes. Therefore when the function of the eyes is inside, the mind remains inside along with it. Not only does it remain there; it is also stabilized. Once the mind is stabilized, the fire of the heart descends while the water of the genitals rises. The mouth is filled with sweet saliva, the feet walk on fiery brilliance. There are subtleties to it that cannot be fully expressed in words.
If human beings have just one true mind, why do they stray into confusion? They seem to have awareness, but they have no self. Therefore it is said that if you know when you stray, then you won’t stray. When you need to let go, let go.
Sincerity eliminates falsehood, respectfulness eliminates conceit. When wandering thoughts occur in profuse confusion, don’t try to stop them, just look back at the mind itself—what is it that thinks? When you have recognized what thinks, you will attain tranquility on the spot.
Study of the Way has no special technique: constantly looking within is studying the Way, and when false thinking is no more, then this is the Way. Master Zhu said, “To the extent you are in possession of your mind, to that extent you find power within. If you keep it under close control and don’t let it chase things, how could you not succeed in correcting it?” This can be experientially proven in even half a month’s time.
(Taoist Meditation, p. 25)

This is prayer without using the term.

It may be useful to locate other quotes regarding prayer from this website or the books recommended thereon (i.e., in The Al-kemi Store — lest we waste time sorting the wheat from the chaff). By focusing closely on these quotes and questions they may spark, often we can find that glint of gold that leads us deeper, deeper into the literature and deeper into ourselves.

“Seek in reading
And you will find in meditation;
Knock in prayer
And it will be opened to you in contemplation.”
– San Juan de la Cruz

Categories: Uncategorized

Experience and Authority

May 12, 2009 5 comments

There is, in alchemy, a very pronounced tension between the need for and value of authority —whether embodied in texts or in the person of a guide— and the need for and value of first-hand experience and discernment. Either one without the other creates imbalance.

Count Michael Maier provides the balancing perspective:

If anyone will not acknowledge the force of reason, he must needs have recourse to authority.

The phrase ‘force of reason’, as Maier is using it, refers to the power of the rational soul to ‘remember’ (in the Platonic sense of anamnesis) true reality when exposed to it. The purpose of authority should be to awaken the ‘memory’ and ‘taste’ for the experience of reality in the soul of the disciple so that his/her practice is founded upon accurate theory, in order that theory may then be confirmed and further informed by accurate practice.

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