Home > Raeding and Wrighting > Washing with Fire, Burning with Water

Washing with Fire, Burning with Water

October 26, 2013

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
  1. February 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Dear Xiaoyao, It has been a while since I last quizzed you, but I really am in need of some ‘spiritual’ guidance and turn to this arena at such moments, rightly or wrongly.

    Is there a way to gauge ones progress on a path, or indeed anything in the literature to suggest what a soul struggling against obsession, compulsion or heedlessness may do to reorient and measure themselves with/against ?

    Thankyou for the your help in past correspondences, for what seemed at first to be criticism has been of far more use in hindsight, and indeed has shown me how far from the path I am / have been.

    Thanks again, Otove

  2. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    February 18, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Dear Otove,

    It is a pleasure to hear from you and you are always welcome.

    Trust that however far we go on this road (which, as Bilbo says, goes ever on and on), trust, I say, that as soon as you turn around there is the door to your home, with warm hearth and welcome quiet, where one may enter in and be restored in peace and wholeness.

    And yet, it is our nature that, having restored ourselves, we turn to the outside and stand at the windows, aching again for the road that carries us out into life where we search and struggle and live and help others and accept help on our own part.

    But that door is ever there, when you stop and remember, and remembering, trust, and turn around, and enter.

    Be Well,


  3. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    February 19, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    As to “anything in the literature,” it is pretty much everywhere.

    For example, the following passage says basically the same thing as my comment above:

    Sometimes the effect of excess desire is spoken of as a desert, desolation or waste which cannot support life, ‘desolation’ being a fitting description for the state of the soul of one who has leaked all vital substance away through an externally directed sensorium; in such a soul the Tree of Life never comes to fruition for the soul then becomes barren, whereas once it was a garden. By draining off the superfluous moisture and sealing the alchemical vessel we turn the direction of the current around, we thus water the desert and make of the waste a garden once again. This is made perfectly clear in Revelations 22:1–2:

    And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bare all manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

    Be that as it may, true to the hermetic trait of polyvalency of terms and concepts, and in light of the focus on prescribing medicine and measuring dosages, the terms and concepts of ‘desolation’ and ‘emptiness’ were not always seen as negative. Alchemists are fond of pointing out that every medicine is a poison, and every poison is a medicine. This being so, the soul can be overly desirous and take too much satisfaction and consolation from discursive meditations, spiritual locutions, etc. These things, which are fine and a sign of progress for those just beginning the WORK, are nevertheless a great hindrance and a sign of stagnation and decay for those further along.

  4. February 20, 2014 at 12:01 am

    Still awaiting this initial ‘turning around’ feeling, having read lots and practiced as much, this first experience is not forthcoming. I will keep trying none the less.

    Thank you Xiaoyao,

  5. February 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Apologies for such a cursory reading of your initial reply, ‘it’ is clearly there staring me in the face. I will look much more carefully in future.

  6. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    February 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Hi Otove,

    Sorry for the delay. There’s a kid in the neighborhood who knocks on my door then runs away; I had to catch him in time to teach him a lesson.
    The “turning around” lies in your attention, it is not an experience you wait for or try for. It is not about what you do, but how you are.
    How are you?

  7. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    February 20, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    What is you? When are you? Where are you?

    All of these are not so much questions to be asked as orientations to be experienced as you turn the light around and gently search within.

  8. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    February 20, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Gentle, relaxed, easy … but constant, like water wearing away stone. Search your body-mind for tensions, then relax them. The more you reach and grab for it, the more it runs the other way. The work you are doing is more about letting go of things — tensions, worries, assumptions, desires — and letting a reorientation occur. This is a very natural process that is not earth-shattering.

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