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THE GREAT WORK

LESSON ONE

THE CREST WORK, o f t e n t e r m e d t h e


Magnuiii O p u s , i s t h u s def i ne d b y E l i -
phas Levi:
The magnum o p u s i s p r e - e m i n e n t
l y t h e c r e a t i o n o f man b y h i m s e l f ,
t h a t i s , t h e f u l l and c o m p l e t e c o n
q u e s t w h i c h he c a n make o f h i s
f a c u l t i e s and h i s f u t u r e ; i t i s p r e
em inently the p e r f e c t emancipation
o f h i s w i l l which . . a s s u r e s f u l l
power over t h e G r e a t Magical Agent,
T h i s M agical A g e n t, which th e old
H e r m e t i c p h i l o s o p h e r s d i s g u i s e d under
t h e name o f t h e F i r s t M a t t e r o f t h e
Magnum o p u s , d e t e r m i n e s t h e s p e c i e s
o f m o d i f i a b l e s u b s t a n c e , a nd m e t a l l i c
t r a n s m u t a t i o n , as w ell as the u n i
v e r s a l m e d i c i n e , ca n be r e a l l y
a t t a i n e d by i t s means. T h i s i s no
h ypothesis, it is a fact already
t e s t e d , and r i g o r o u s l y dem on
strable. '
T h u s we may u n d e r s t a n d t h e G r e a t
Work t o be t h e s e c r e t o p e r a t i o n
d e s c r i b e d in th e books of the t r u e
alchemists. In order to understand
t h e w o r k , we m u s t know w h a t a l c h e m y
r e a lly is. To a r r i v e a t t h i s u n d e r
s t a n d i n g , we b e g i n w i t h t h e common
ly accepted e x o te r ic definition of
th e Hermeli'' A r t , given in W ebste r's
New I n t e r n a t i o n a l D i c t i o n a r y :
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GREAT 'YORK: 1
* *A l c h e m y , - - T h e m e d i e v a l c h e m i c a l
s c i e n c e , whose g r e a t o b j e c t s were
the t r a n s m u t a t i o n of the baser met
a l s i n t o g o l d , and t h e d i s c o v e r y o f
t h e u n i v e r s a l c u r e f o r d i s e a s e s and
means o f i n d e f i n i t e l y p r o l o n g i n g
life.
So f a r as i t g o e s , t h i s d e f i n i t i o n
is true. F u ll success in the Great
Wo r k d o e s g i v e t h e s e who a t t a i n i t
e x t r a o r d i n a r y power o v e r p h y s i c a l
c o n d i t i o n , e n a b l i n g them t o a c h i e v e
the p ra ctical re su lts of m etallic
tra n s m u ta tio n , cure of a l l d is e a s e s ,
and trem endous p r o l o n g a t i o n o f th e
s p a n o f man s p h y s i c a l e x i s t e n c e .
Ye t t h e d e f i n i t i o n i s m i s l e a d i n g , b e
c a u s e i t makes i t a p p e a r t h a t t h e
v a r io u s o p e r a t i o n s of alchemy are
d ire c te d p r im a rily to these o b jec
t i v e s , whereas the t r u t h i s t h a t the
G r e a t Work, as E l i p h a s L e v i s a y s ,
h a s t o d o , f i r s t o f a i l , w i t h man
himseIf.
The P h i l o s o p h e r s S t o n e , w h i c h i s
t h e H e r m e t i c Symbol f o r t h e t h i n g s
made by t h e G r e a t Work, i s n o t a
physical substance manufactured in a
chemical lab o ra to ry . It is a tr a n s
m u t e d a n d p e r f e c t e d s t a t e o f human
personality. By m e a n s o f t h i s
transform ed p e r s o n a lity , the tru e
S tone o f th e Wise, are effected the
w o r k s o f p o we r w h i c h g i v e an a l c h e m
i c a l a d e p t c c . c . r a nd o v e r a l l f o r m s
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GREAT WORK: 1

and f o r c e s o f t h e p h y s i c a l p l a n e .
I t is t r u e t h a t s u cc ess in the
G r e a t Wo r k e n a b l e s a n a l c h e m i s t t o
t r a n s m u t e m e t a l s and c u r e d i s e a s e s
b y me ans o f a p h y s i c a l t i l i n g , e x t e r
n a l t o h i s body. Ye t he c a n n o t make
t h i s t r a n s m u t i n g a g e n t , nor p e r f e c t
t h e U n i v e r s a l M e d i c i n e , u n l e s s he
h i m s e l f h a s become t h e t r u e S t o n e .
The r e c o r d s o f H e r m e t i c A r t i n c l u d e
the h is to r ie s of several persons,
n o t t h e m s e l v e s a d e p t s , who b y o n e
m e a n s o r a n o t h e r c a me i n t o p o s s e s
sion of the e x te rn a l physical agent
we h a v e j u s t m e n t i o n e d . Sometimes
t h e y r e c e i v e d i t as a g i f t , some
ti m e s t h e y found a c e r t a i n q u a n t i t y
of it. Always t h e y were t h e worse
for t h e i r unm erited a c q u is i t i o n of
unusual power. While t h e i r supply
of the agent l a s t e d , they e f fe c te d
m a r v e l o u s c u r e s , a n d p e r f o r m e d me
t a l l i c transmutations. Because th ey
c o u l d n o t make t h e s u b s t a n c e w h e r e b y
they achieved these r e s u l t s , not
h a v i n g become t h e H i d d e n S t o n e , when
t h e i r s u p p l y was e x h a u s t e d t h e y
could not re p le n ish i t . Moreover,
s i n c e t h e y had n o t under gone t h e i n
n e r t r a n s m u t a t i o n w h i ch e n a b l e s one
t o e mp l o y t h e e x t e r n a l a g e n t w i s e l y ,
t h e i r f o o l i s h d i s p l a y of power
b r o u g h t d i s a s t e r upon them.
A lche m ic al books are hard t o u n
derstand because they are i n t e n t io n -
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GREAT WORK: 1

ally cry p tic . They a r e w r i t t e n in


veiled language, fu ll of obscure
synbols, T h e i r a u t h o r s use enigmas,
c i p h e r s , b l i n d s and v a r i o u s o t h e r
devices, in o rd er to conceal t h e i r
t r u e meaning from u n i n i t i a t e d r e a d
ers. True sag es, Jean d'E spagnet
t e l l s u s , n e v e r a c t u a l l y l i e , b u t he
a d d s : T r u t h l i e s h i d i n o b s c u r i t y ;
f o r P h i l o s o p h e r s n e v e r w r i t e more
d e c e i t f u l l y - - t h a n when p l a i n l y , n o r
mor e t r u l y - - t h a n when o b s c u r e l y . ' '
The t r u e i m p o r t o f a l c h e m i c a l
l i t e r a t u r e is the harder to discover
because t h e r e are t h r e e c l a s s e s of
alchemical books. The f i r s t c l a s s
comprises th e w o r k s o f g e n u i n e
adepts, l i n k s in the c h a in o f o r a l
t r a d i t i o n which t r a n s m i t s Herm etic
S c i e n c e from one g e n e r a t i o n t o a n
other. Th e s e c o n d c l a s s c o n s i s t s o f
b o o k s w r i t t e n b y p e r s o n s who m i s
understood th e w r i t i n g s o f t r u e
a d e p t s , and s u p p o s e d t h e m o t be no
mor e t h a n e x p l a n a t i o n s o f p r o c e s s e s
whereby p h y s i c a l m e t a l s m i g h t be
tr a n s m u t e d by c h e m i c a l means. To
the th ird class b elo n g w o r t h l e s s
p r o d u c t i o n s o f c h a r l a t a n s who h a d
nothing to t e l l , but w rote t h e i r
s p u r i o u s v o l u m e s i n o r d e r t o make
g o l d by t h e p r o c e s s o f e x t r a c t i n g i t
from th e p u r s e s o f t h e i r dupes.
F ortunately, the oral t r a d i t i o n
o f Hermetic S c i e n c e has n e v e r d i e d
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GREAT ti Cl .X* 1
out. A d e p t s l i v e t o d a y who a r e as
f u l l y v e r se d in the m ysteries of the
G r e a t A r t . as f u l l y s k i l l e d in its
p r a c t i c a l a p p l i c a t i o n , as w e r e any
w h o s e n a m e s h a v e c o me d o w n t o us
from the p a s t .
F r o m s u c h l i v i n g w i s e men t h e s e
i n s t r u c t i o n s come t o y o u , b e c a u s e
t h e D u i l d e r s o f t h e Adytum form a
l i n k in the long chain o f o r a l t r a
dition, We a r e t h e h a p p y p o s s e s s o r s
o f keys t o t h e c r y p t i c m eaning o f
t h e i m a ge s and s y m b o l s o f t h e t r u e
sages. We s h a l l u s e t h o s e k e y s t o
g i v e you a c l e a r e x p o s i t i o n o f a l
c h e m i c a l d o c t r i n e , f r e e f r o m many
b l i n d s which were n e c e s s a r y in l e s s
lib e ra l periods of history.
We do n o t p r e t e n d t o r e v e a l a l l
the s e c re ts of Hermetic Science.
T h e r e i s mu6h t h a t we a r e o b l i g e d t o
hold in re s e rv e . What we do commun
i c a t e , how ev er, i s f r e e from d e l i b
e r a t e d i s t o r t i o n s o f meaning.
What y o u r e a d h e r e i s a f a i t h f u l
t r a n s m i s s i o n of r e c e i v e d knowledge.
A g r e a t d e a l o f i t has b e e n t e s t e d
b y t h e p r a c t i c e o f t h o s e who a r e i m
mediately responsible for putting it
i n t o your hands. We do n o t s e t o u r
s e l v e s up a s ^ e p t s i n a l c h e m y , who
h a v e a t t a i n e d co t h e c o m p l e t i o n o f
t h e G r e a t w' c r k . We do c l a i m t o h a v e
d e f i n i t e e x p e r i m e n t a l knowledge of
the fact that these principles real-
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GREAT WORK: 1

ly work. We e n j o y t h e f u r t h e r
p r i v i l e g e o f h a v i n g b e f o r e us th e
e x a m p l e o f l i v i n g a d e p t s who h a v e
c o m p l e t e d t h e G r e a t Wo r k , and a r e i n
f u l l p o s s e s s i o n o f a l l th e beneffts
accruing therefrom . It is re a lly
from them t h a t t h i s i n s t r u c t i o n
comes t o you.
Y o u r own s u c c e s s i n t h e G r e a t
Work d o e s n o t d e p e n d on y o u r a c
c e p t a n c e o f our c l a i m . I f you p u t
the i n s t r u c t i o n i t s e l f to the t e s t s
o f r e a s o n , i n t u i t i o n and e x p e r i m e n t ,
you w i l l d e m o n s tra te i t s t r u t h .
F u r t h e r m o r e , you w i l l f i n d o u t f o r
y o u r s e l f , l o n g b e f o r e you a t t a i n t o
t h e f i n a l g o a l o f t h e G r e a t Work,
t h a t t h e r e r e a l l y i s an I n n e r S c h o o l
o f a d e p ts , the c u s to d ia n s of the
m y s t e r i e s o f A g e l e s s Wisdom, and
t h a t t h e s e s t u d i e s i n T a r o t and H e r
m e tic S c ie n c e o r i g i n a t e in t h a t
Inner School.
The g r e a t e r number o f a l c h e m i c a l
b o o k s now e x t a n t w e r e w r i t t e n a f t e r
th e t w e l f t h c e n tu r y , but the b e g in
n i n g s o f t h e G r e a t A r t may be t r a c e d
t o a much e a r l i e r p e r i o d . F o r exam
p le , a fundam ental d o ctrin e of
alchemy is t h i s :
1T h a t which i s above i s as t h a t
w h i c h i s b e l o w , and t h a t wh ich i s
below i s as t h a t which i s above, f o r
the performance of the m iracles of
t h e One T h i n g .
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GREAT WORK: 1
T h e s e w o r d s , you w i l l r e m e m b e r ,
a r e f r o m The E m e r a l d T a b l e t o f H e r
mes. T h ey a r e q u o t e d a g a i n and
a g a i n by a l c h e m i s t s . T radition
a s c r i b e s t h e m t o Hermes T r i s m e g i s -
t u s , and o c c u l t r e v e r y has r u n w i l d
concerning the p e r s o n a lity of th a t
shadowy E g y p tia n a d e p t. Sober
s c h o l a r s h i p , however, conc lu de s t h a t
The E m e r a l d T a b l e t i s a c o m p a r a t i v e
l y modern w or k , composed l o n g a f t e r
the beginning of the C h r i s t ia n Era.
Y e t i t s d o c t r i n e i s much o l d e r ,
fo r i t i s s t a t e d e x p l i c i t l y in the
Hindu Katha U p m is h a d , T h e Ka t h a
U p a n i s h a d , m o r e o v e r , i s b y no me ans
t h e o n l y I n d i a n book c o n t a i n i n g d i s -
t i n c t ex p ressio n s of alchem ical
doctrine. A l i t t l e f a r t h e r o n , we
s h a l l s e e t h a t I n d i a had a s e c t
w h o s e i d e a s w e r e b a s i c a l l y t h e same
a s t h o s e o f some o f t h e W e s t e r n a l
chemists.
We s h a l l s e e a l s o t h a t t h e o b
j e c t s o f yoga and a l c h e m y a r e t h e
same. We s h a l l fi nd, t o o , t h a t y o g i s
and a l c h e m i s t s a r e a g r e e d in t h e i r
d e s c r i p t i o n s o f p h e n o me n a . E a s t may
b e E a s t , a n d We s t W e s t , b u t h o w e v e r
f a r a p a r t t h e y may b e i n s o me r e
s p e c t s , t h e y do m e e t o n t h e common
ground of ex p e rien ce the East c a l l s
y o g a , and t h e W e s t , a l c h e m y .
So f a r as c a n be l e a r n e d , J a c o b
Boehme, t h e m y s t i c a l a l c h e m i s t o f
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G o e r l i t z , Ge r m a n y , n e v e r me t a H i n d u
i n t h e f l e s h ; b u t wh e n we r e a d h i s
M y s t e r i u m P a n s o p k i c u m , we know t h a t
h i s w o r d s , b a s e d on h i s own d i r e c t
p e rc e p tio n of the inner nature of
t h i n g s , w o u l d of f er l i t t l e d i f f i c u l t y
t o an E a s t e r n o c c u l t i s t . In th e
F i f t h Text of t h i s l i t t l e t r e a t i s e ,
the fourth paragraph says:
* And t h u s we a r e a b l e t o r e c o g
n i z e an e t e r n a l s u b s t a n t i a l i t y o f
N a t u r e , i d e n t i c a l w i t h w a t e r and
f i r e , w h i c h a r e a s i t w e r e mi xe d t o
g e t h e r ; where th e n t h i s g iv e s a
lig h t- b lu e co lo r, lik e the flash of
f i r e ; where i t h a t h a f or m as a r u b y
mixed w i t h c r y s t a l i n one s u b s t a n c e ,
o r as y e l l o w , w h i t e , r e d and b l u e ,
m i n g l e d i n a d a r k w a t e r ; where i t i s
as b l u e in g r e e n , yet each h a th i t s
l u s t r e and s h i n e s . And t h e w a t e r
c h e c k s t h e f i r e , s o t h a t t h e r e i s no
c o n s u m i n g t h e r e , b u t an e t e r n a l e s
s e n c e o r s u b s t a n c e i n t wo m y s t e r i e s
u n i t e d one i n a n o t h e r , and y e t t h e
d i s t i n c t i o n o f t wo p r i n c i p l e s a s t wo
kinds of l i f e . ' 1
T h i s may be m y s t e r i o u s e n o u g h t o
a r e a d e r who h a s n o k n o w l e d g e W h a t
ever concerning the s u b t l e r m anifes
t a t i o n s of the Life-pow er. Yet t h e
c o l o r s mentioned a r e p r e c i s e l y th o se
we f i n d i n H i n d u b o o k s d e a l i n g w i t h
the T a ttv a s , or su b tle p r in c ip le s
b eh in d the g r o s s e r forms o f s e n s e -
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p e r c e p t i o n w h i c h make up o u r a w a r e
ness of the physical universe.
T h e r e i s t h e m i x t u r e o f r e d and
w h i t e , o r ' ' r u b y mixed w i t h c r y s t a l
i n one s u b s t a n c e , T h i s we come
upon a g a i n and a g a i n in t h e y o g ic
d e s c r i p t i o n s of Prana. There is
y e llo w , which yogi* c a l l the c o lo r
o f t h e P r i t h i v i T a t t v a ; w h i t e , which
t h e y a s s o c i a t e w i t h t h e Ap a s T a t t v a ;
r e d , which t h e y a s s i g n to t h e Tejas
o r Agni T a tt v a ; b l u e , the c o l o r they
g i v e t o t h e Vayu T a t t v a ; a n d t h e
dark w a te r, a deep b l u i s h - g r e e n ,
which c o r r e s p o n d s e x a c t l y t o c e r t a i n
d e s c r i p t i o n s o f wh a t H i n d u s c a l l t h e
' m i x i n g bowl o f t h e e l e m e n t s , or
Akasha, wherein the other T attv as
a r e mingled.
A l l t h e s e c o l o r s a r e mentioned in
Rama P r a s a d s b o o k , N a t u r e ' s F i n e r
Forces. They a r e spoken o f a l s o in
A r t h u r A v a l o n s S e r p e n t Power. The
l a t t e r , h o w e v e r , i s a w o r k t o be
read with c a u tio n , because it is
f u l l o f b l i n d s , such as the l i s t o f
c o l o r s o f t h e T a t t v a s on p a g e 1 4 3 ,
w h i c h a s c r i b e s w h i t e t o A k a sh a and
smoky t o Vayu. B ut t h e same
l i s t a l s o a t t r i b u t e s w h i t e t o Apas,
s o t h a t i f we u n d e r s t a n d s m o k y
t o mean 1 b l u i s h , ' t h e same c o l o r s
a r e m e n t i o n e d a s t h o s e g i v e n by
J a c o b Bo e hme .
The point is that alchemists and
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GREAT WORK: 1

yogis are speaking of something they


have s e e n f o r t h e m s e l v e s . They
a g r e e b e c a u s e t h e y know t h e s ame
f u n d a m e n t a l r e a l i t i e s * s e e t h e s ame
things.
We do n o t know j u s t whe n t h e e a r
l i e r U panishads were f irst put i n t o
w riting* but i t i s g en e rally agreed
t h a t t h e y a n t e d a t e * by s e v e r a l c e n
t u r i e s * t h e B u d d h i s t i c p e r i o d which
began in the s ix th century* G
F u r t h e r m o r e * we know t h a t I n d i a n
l i t e r a t u r e wa s t r a n s m i t t e d o r a l l y
f o r a l o n g t i m e b e f o r e i t was w r i t
ten. Out o f t h e d i s t a n t p a s t , t h e n ,
we h e a r t h e v o i c e o f a H i n d u w i s e
man s a y i n g :
As b e l o w s o a b o v e , a s a b o v e s o
b e l o w ; he p a s s e s f r o m d e a t h t o d e a t h
who f i n d s h e r e t h e l e a s t s h a d o w o f
variety. T h e r e i s no v a r i e t y i n
THAT. I t s h o u l d be g r a s p e d by t h e
mi nd a l o n e . He* i n d e e d , p a s s e s f r o m
d e a t h t o d e a t h who f i n d s h e r e t h e
l e a s t shadow of v a r i e t y .
That the d o c t r i n e s of alchemy
w e r e k n o w n i n I n d i a l o n g a g o we
l e a r n f r o m S wa mi V i v e k a n a n d a , who
writes:
T h e r e wa s t h e s e c t c a l l e d t h e
r,asci.yanas. T h e i r i d e a wa s t h a t
i d e a l i t y , knowledge, s p i r i t u a l i t y
and r e l i g i o n were a l l v e r y r i g h t *
h u t t h a t t h e b o d y was o n l y a n i n
s t r u m e n t by w h i c h t o a t t a i n t o a l l
- 10 -
GREAT WORK: 1
these. I f t h e b o d y b r o k e now a n d
t h e n i t w o u l d t a k e s o much more t i m e
to a t t a i n the goal. For instan ce * a
man w a n t s t o p r a c t i c e Yoga* o r w a n t s
t o b e c o me s p i r i t u a l . B e f o r e he has
a d v a n c e d v e r y f a r he d i e s . T h e n he
t a k e s a n o t h e r b o d y and b e g i n s a g a i n *
t h e n d i e s * a n d s o on* an d i n t h i s
way much t i m e w i l l be l o s t i n d y i n g
and b e i n g b o r n a g a i n . I f t h e body
c o u l d b e made s t r o n g a n d p e r f e c t we
s h o u l d have more tim e t o become
spiritual. S o t h e s e R\ z s a y a n a s s a y ,
f i r s t make t h e b o d y v e r y s t r o n g , and
t h e y c l a i m t h a t t h i s b o d y c a n be
ma de i m m o r t a l . T heir idea is th a t
i f t h e mind i s m a n u f a c t u r i n g t h e
bo dy * a nd i f i t be t r u e t h a t e a c h
mind i s o n l y one p a r t i c u l a r o u t l e t
t o t h a t i n f i n i t e e n e r g y , and t h a t
t h e r e i s no l i m i t t o e a c h p a r t i c u l a r
o u t l e t g e t t i n g a n y a mo u n t o f powe r *
why i s i t i m p o s s i b l e t h a t we s h o u l d
keep our b o d ie s a l l the time? We
s h a l l have t o m a n u fa c tu re a l l the
b o d i e s we s h a l l e v e r h a v e . As s o o n
a s t h i s b o d y d i e s we s h a l l h a v e t o
manufacture another. I f we c a n do
t h a t , why c a n n o t we d o t h a t j u s t
h e r e a n d n o w, w i t h o u t g e t t i n g o u t ?
The t h e o r y i s p e r f e c t l y c o r r e c t . If
i t i s p o s s i b l e t h a t we l i v e a f t e r
d e a t h , and make o t h e r b o d i e s * why i s
i t i m p o s s i b l e t h a t we s h o u l d h a v e
t h e power o f making b o d i e s here*
w ithout e n tir e ly d isso lv in g th is
- 11 -
GREAT WORK: 1
body, sim ply changing i t c o n t i n u
ally? They a l s o th o u g h t t h a t in
m e r c u r y a n d s u l p h u r wa s h i d d e n t h e
m o s t w o n d e r f u l p o w e r , and t h a t
by c e r t a i n p r e p a r a t i o n s o f th e s e a
man c o u l d k e e p h i s b o d y a s l o n g a s
he 1 i k e d . ' '
- - R a j a Yoga, p a g e s 2 0 7 - 2 0 8 .
I n 1 8 7 9 , D r . W i l l i a m A. P . M a r
t i n , who h a d b e e n a m i s s i o n a r y i n
C h i n a , p u b l i s h e d an a r t i c l e i n t h e
China Rev iew, o f f e r i n g e v i d e n c e t h a t
a l c h e m y was known a n d p r a c t i c e d i n
China at l e a s t th re e c e n tu r ie s be
fore the C h r i s t i a n Era. He b e l i e v e d
C h i n a t o be t h e s o u r c e o f t h e a l
c h e m ic a l d o c t r i n e , which p asse d
t h e n c e t o B y z a n t i u m and A l e x a n d r i a ,
and so e n t e r e d E u r o p e . Dr. M artin
c i t e d many a n c i e n t t e x t s t o show t h e
following points of s im ila r ity be
tween Chinese a l c h e m ic a l l i t e r a t u r e
and b o o k s w r i t t e n b y W e s t e r n a d e p t s :
( 1 ) The d o c t r i n e t h a t t h e r e i s a
s e e d o f m e ta ls ; (2) th e id e a t h a t
a l l t h i n g s c o n t a i n an a c t i v e p r i n c i
p l e w h e r e b y t h e y ma y a t t a i n t o a
c o n d itio n of h igher development;
( 3 ) t h e f a c t t h a t a l c h e m y wa s p e r
p e t u a t e d i n C h i n a by o r a l t r a d i
t i o n , s u p p l e m e n t e d by b ooks w r i t t e n
i n f ig ur a tiv e language; (4) t h e f a c t
t h a t in C h i n a , as i n E u r o p e , a l
che my i s i n s e n a r a b l e f r o m ma gi c and
a s t r o l o g y ; (5) t h e c o m b i n a t i o n of
- 12 -
GREAT WORK: 1

the idea of transm uting metals with


t h a t o f making a u n i v e r s a l m edi
c i n e ; (6) t h e e s t i m a t i o n o f th e
s e c r e t of making g o l d as b e i n g i n
f e r i o r to th a t of the E l i x i r of
L i f e ; (7) t h e i n c u l c a t i o n of s e l f
c u l t u r e and s e l f - d i s c i p l i n e as
being re q u ire d fo r success in the
w o r k ; ( 8 ) the, . c o n c e a l m e n t o f t h e
t r u e m a t t e r s o f t h e w o r k b y n a me s
which were a l s o used in t h e W es t,
in c lu d in g le a d , s u lp h u r, mercury
and c i n n a b a r ; ( 9 ) t h e d o c t r i n e t h a t
a l l m etals are composite; (10) the
presence in Chinese te x ts of the
s ame s y m b o l i c t e r m s w h i c h a p p e a r i n
t h e books o f W estern a l c h e m i s t s - -
s u c h as., t h e ' ' R a d i c a l P r i n c i p l e , ' '
th e Green D r a g o n , '' th e ' 'T r u e
M e r c u r y , ' ' and s o on; ( 1 1 ) t h e f a c t
t h a t t h e r e w e r e t wo A l c h e m i c a l p r o
c e s s e s , t h e f i r s t i nwa r d and s p i r i
t u a l , t h e s e c o n d o u t w a r d and m a t e r
i a l , r e s u l t i n g in the p ro d u c ti o n of
two e l i x i r s , a g r e a t e r and a l e s s
er.
T his a c c o u n t of Dr. M a r tin s
e s s a y i s c o n d e n s e d f r o m A. E .
W a i t e ' s S e c r e t T r a d i t i o n in A l
chemy. D r , W a i t e d o e s w h a t he c a n
t o minimize t h e im por ta nce o f t h i s
e v i d e n c e t h a t t h e C h i n e s e wo r k e d a t
a l c h e m y b e f o r e i t was known i n t h e
Western world, because i t c o n f l i c t s
w i t h D. W a i t e s e n d e a v o r t o s how
- 13 -
GREAT WORK: 1

t h a t the g r e a te r p a r t of Western
a l c h e m i c a l w r i t i n g s w e r e w r i t t e n by
d e l u d e d men who h a d no o t h e r o b j e e t
than the s a t i s f a c t io n of a sordid
l u s t f o r g o l d and t h e a t t a i n m e n t o f
physical immortality. We find o u r
s e l v e s o f t e n in c o n f l i c t w i t h Dr.
W a i t e s o p i n i o n s , b u t we g l a d l y
a c k n o w l e d g e h i s m e r i t s a s an i n d e
f a t i g a b l e and s u c c e s s f u l m i n e r f o r
a l l e o r t s o f i n f o r m a t i o n on e s o t e r
ic subjects. Not t h e l e a s t o f t h e
t r e a s u r e s he h as r e s c u e d from
o b s c u r i t y is t h i s essa y of Dr.
M a r t i n s.
I n o u r n e x t l e s s o n we s h a l l c o n
s i d e r some o f t h e c l u e s t o t h e
en ig m atic w r itin g s of the Western
a lc h e m ists, the b e tte r to prepare
you t o f o l l o w t h e e x p l a n a t i o n s o f
t h e i r c r y p t i c d o c t r i n e , which w i l l
b e c o n s i d e r e d a t l e n g t h , a s we p r o
ceed with t h i s c o u rs e.

-14-
1 T*
\

J
.

. 'li M
THE GREAT WORK

LESSON TWO

WESTERN ALCHEMY may b e t r a c e d t o


t h e d a y s when A l e x a n d r i a was a m e e t
i n g - p l a c e f o r t h a t g r o u p o f me mbe r s
o f t h e I n n e r S c h o o l who l a t e r t r a n s
f e r r e d t h e i r a c t i v i t i e s t o F e z , and
from the l a t t e r c i t y i s s u e d th e e a r
l i e s t versions of Tarot. Alchemical
p h ilo so p h y is tin g e d w ith ideas
b r o u g h t t o A l e x a n d r i a by w a n d e r i n g
t e a c h e r s from I n d i a , P e r s i a and
China. T his a c co u n ts f o r the mix
t u r e of Hindu t h o u g h t , Egyp t i a n
m a g i c , and G r e e k p h i l o s o p h y i n t h e
H e r m e t i c , t e a c h i n g v e i l e d b y t h e s y m
b o l i s m o f a l ch e my and T a r o t .
Besides t h e s e , th e r e is the unmis
t a k a b l e i n f l u e n c e o f He br e w e s o t e r i c
tradition. T h i s i s m e n t i o n e d , by
Z o z i m u s , one o f t h e e a r l y G r e e k a l
c h e m i s t s , who s a y s :
T h e r e a r e t w o s c i e n c e s a n d t wo
w i s d o r n s - - o n e o f t h e E g y p t i a n s and
one o f t he He b r e ws , t h e . l a t t e r b e i n g
r e n d e r e d mor e s o l i d b y D i v i n e J u s
tice. S c i e n c e a n d w i s d o m a,t t h e i r
b e s t r u l e o v er lo w er s c i e n c e s and
i n f e r i o r w i s d o m s : t h e y come down
from remote ag e s. Their generation
s e e k s n o t h i n g f r o m m a t e r i a l and c o r
ru p tib le bodies: i t operates apart
from f o r e i g n i n t e r v e n t i o n , s u s t a i n e d

- 1 -
THE GREAT WORK: 2

by p r a y e r a n d g r a c e . '
Yet t h e w r i t i n g s o f Zo zi m us and
o th e r a lch e m ists of his period
abound in r e c i p e s fo r making the
b a s e r m e t a l s a p p e a r t o be g o l d a n d
silver. T h e s e r e c i p e s a r e t h e s ame
as th o s e in t h e L eyd en P a p yru s,
which is a p e r f e c t l y f r a n k account
of various devices for giving a
f a l s e a p p e a r a n c e o f g o l d and s i l v e r
t o s u c h m e t a l s a s l e a d , c o p p e r and
tin. From t h i s t h e F r e n c h w r i t e r ,
B e r t h e l o t , arg u es t h a t alchemy b e
g an as f r a u d , and somehow th e
a l c h e m is ts d e p a r te d from t h i s
s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d , i f s o m e wh a t d i s h o n
e s t b e g i n n i n g , and began t o dream o f
t r a n s m u t a t i o n and p h i l o s o p h i z e upon
it. Dr. W aite a p p e a r s t o embrace
t h i s v i e w , p e r h a p s w i t h some r e
serves.
The t r u t h i s t h i s : Th e s a g e s do
n o t l i e , b u t o f t e n t h e y do g i v e
re cip es fo r the s o r t of f a ls e tin g e -
i n g we h a v e d e s c r i b e d . He who t r i e s
out the r e c i p e s w ill get r e s u l t s of
a s o r t , b ut n o t o f t h e s o r t which i s
t h e t r u e c o n c e r n o f t h e G r e a t Wor k.
In a l c h e m i c a l books o f the e a r l i e r
p e rio d , the s o p h i s ti c a t io n s of the
f a l s e t i n g e r s were the b l i n d s fo r
the t r u e work. He who knows how t o
r e a d t h e b o o k s knows how t o s e p a r a t e
t he s u b t l e from t h e g r o s s , t h e wheat
o f w i s d o m f r o m t h e chaf f o f c h e m i c a l
recipes.
- 2 -
TI!E GREAT WORK: 2

Z o z i m u s p u t s us on t h e t r a c k o f
t h e -means t o e f f e c t t h i s s e p a r a t i o n
when lie s p e a k s o f t h e s u p e r i o r i t y o f
t h e Hebrew w i s d o m . Lo n g a f t e r h i m
came P a r a c e l s u s , who w r o t e :
* ' I f you do n o t u n d e r s t a n d t h e u s e
o f t h e C a b a i i s t s and t h e o l d a s t r o n
o m e r s , y o u a r e n o t b o r n b y God f o r
t h e S p a g y r i c a r t , o r c h o s e n by N a
t u r e f o r th e work of V u lc a n , or
c r e a t e d t o o p e n y o u r mo u t h c o n c e r n
ing Alchemical A r t s . '
T h e s e w o r d s *frofti t h e s e c o n d c h a p
t e r o f h i s T i n c t u r e o f the P h i l o s
o p h e r s mike i t p e r f e c t l y c l e a r t h a t ,
from the very beg in n in g o f Western
a l c h e m y to the day o f one o f i t s
g r e a t e s t European a d e p t s , the t r a d i
t i o n was c o n t i n u e d t h a t t h e e s o t e r i c
d o c t r i n e o f I s r a e l i n c l u d e s t h e most
i m p o r t a n t k e y s to t h e s e c r e t o f the
Great Art.
Y e t t h e r e i s o n l y one t r e a t i s e on
alchem y which i s d e f i n i t e l y p a r t o f
Q abalistic lite ra tu re . This is a
d i f f u s e d , conf used volume, n o t a l t o
g e t h e r w i t h o u t m e r i t , b u t by no
m e a n s one o f t h e mor e i m p o r t a n t a l
chemical te x ts . I t i s named E sh
m e t z a r e p h ( S p UD 2?X) , o r C l e a n s i n g
F i r e , and c o n s i s t s o f f r a g m e n t s
s c a t t e r e d t h r o u g h t h e f i r s t v o l u me o f
K n o r r von R o s e n r o t h ' s K a b a l a h Denu-
data. I n 1714 t h e s e were c o l l e c t e d
an d t r a n s l a t e d i n t o E n g l i s h by an
-3-
THE GREAT WORK: 2

u n k n o wn s t u d e n t wh o c a l l e d h i m s e l f
The L o v e r o f P h i l a l e t h e s . I t was
r e p r i n t e d , w i t h p r e f a c e , n o t e s and
e x p l a n a t i o n s , by 1 S a p e r e A u d e , ' '
( D r . W. Wynn V V e s t c o t t ) , i n 1 8 9 4 .
I f we c o n s i d e r w h a t P a r a c e l s u s
m e a n s by t h e u s e o f t h e C a b a l -
i s t s , we s h a l l h a v e l i t t l e d i f f i
c u l t y i n u n d e r s t a n d i n g why t h e r e a r e
s o f ew Q a f a l i s t i c t r e a t i s e s on a l
che my. The H o l y Q a h a l a h i s a me t hod
f o r d i s c o v e r in g the hidden s p i r i t u a l
meaning of th e B i b l e . The s u b j e c t -
m a t t e r o f tiie Q a b a l a h i s p r i m a r i l y
the s e c r e t d o c t r i n e behind the l e t
t e r of the Pentateuch.
lienee t h e use o f t h e C a b a l i s t s ' '
i s t h e me t h o d w h e r e b y t h e i n n e r s i g
nificance o f t h e S c r i p t u r e s o f I s r a e l
is revealed. T h i s method i s b a s e d
on c o r r e l a t i o n s betw een num bers,
l e t t e r s and words .
D r . W a i t e a n d many o t h e r s d i s m i s s
th is n u m b er-letter system, called
G e m a t r i a , a s b e i n g o f no r e a l v a l u e .
The f a c t r e m a i n s t h a t the m y s t i c a l
th eses of the Qabalah are develop
ments o f m a t e r i a l worked out from
t h e t e x t o f t h e Hebr ew S c r i p t u r e s by
G e m a t r i a , N o t a r i q o n , and o t h e r p r o
c e d u r e s c o n s t i t u t i n g w h a t i s known
as th e L i t e r a l Q abalah, This is
made e v i d e n t f r o m b e g i n n i n g t o e n d
o f t h e Z o h a r , now a v a i l a b l e i n a n

- 4 -
THE GREAT WORK: 2
e x c ellen t English tran slatio n * p ub-
l i s h e d by t h e S o n c i n o P r e s s ,
Gematria is in d is r e p u te because
i t has been abused. By p e r v e r t i n g
i t , o n e may make a n y w r i t i n g w h a t
e v e r y i e l d any m e a n i n g one w i s h e s t o
e x t r a c t from i t , and f a n a t i c s and
c h a r l a t a n s have so m isused the
L i t e r a l Q a b a l a h a g a i n and a g a i n .
Ye t t h e f a c t r e m a i n s t h a t t h e same
m ethods, employed w ith due d i s c r e
t i o n and d i s c r i m i n a t i o n , d o g i v e us
k e y s t o t h e t r u e i m p o r t o f many p a s
s a g e s in the Old T e s t a m e n t. Mo r e
t h a n t h i s , t h e r e i s n o t one o f t h e
p h i l o s o p h i c a l t h e s e s so a d m i r e d by
w r i t e r s l i k e D r . W a i t e , who d i s m i s s
e s G em atria a l t o g e t h e r , which is
n o t , a s we h a v e s a i d , a d e v e l o p m e n t
o f m a t e r i a l d r a w n f r o m t h e B i b l e by
t h i s very method. I t i s as i f one
should profess adm iration fo r gold,
a n d a t t h e same t i m e d e c l a r e t h e u t
t e r w o r th le s s n e s s of mining t o o l s ,
w h e n one p r o c l a i m s t h e m y s t i c v a l u e
o f Q a b a l i s t i c i n t u i t i o n , and a t the
s a m e t i m e d e s p i s e s t h e m e t h o d s by
w h i c h t h e m a t e r i a l s on w h i c h t h a t
i n t u i t i o n is e x e r c i s e d were g a t h
ered.
A mo r e i n t e l l i g e n t a p p r o a c h t o
G e m a t r i a h a s b e e n made by F r e d e r i c k
B l i g h B o n d a n d D r . T h o m a s S i m e ox
L e a , whose w o r k s , t h o u g h d e v o t e d t o
a s tu d y o f the Greek Gematria in the
-5-
THE GREAT WORK: 2

New T e s t a m e n t , a n d i n t h e C o p t i c
G nostic books, are f u l l of valuable
su g g e stio n s fo r the stu d en t of a l
chemy. They say:
* ' A b o u t t h e f i f t h c e n t u r y B. C.
t h e r e began to appear in the S yro-
P h o e n i c i a n c e n t e r e a s t o f the Medi
t e r r a n e a n t r a c e s o f a mode o f w r i t
ing in which th e l e t t e r s of the
alphabet serve a ls o the purpose of
numerals. Though coming from t h i s
c e n t r e , t h e o r i g i n of t h e method i s
n o t b e l i e v e d t o be P h o e n i c i a n b u t t o
be t r a c e a b l e t o a more E a s t e r n
source. From t h i s p a r e n t i n f l u e n c e
t wo s y s t e m s a r e d e r i v e d . These are
t h e G r e e k and t h e He b r e w, Both s y s
tems a t t a i n e d a high d e g re e of
development about the t h i r d c e n tu r y
S . C. Both langua ge s a r e c o n s t r u c t
ed w i t h g r e a t s k i l l , and a r e e v i
d e n t l y t h e work o f h i g h l y i n s t r u c t e d
men a n i m a t e d b y a c l e a r p u r p o s e .
Though c o m p i l e d from o l d e r and f a r
less perfect m ateria l, they re p re
s e n t s o m e t h i n g f a r more t h a n t h e
n a tu ra l evolution of th at m aterial.
T h e y s hew s y s t e m , b u t t h e y a l s o shew
p e c u l i a r i t i e s , sometimes having th e
ap pearance of i n t e n t i o n , f o r which
no a d e q u a t e r e a s o n has y e t been o f
fered. T h e i r a l p h a f e t s , w h i c h a r e
also numerals, ex h ib it unexplained
f e a t u r e s , s ome o f w h i c h may h e d e
s c r i b e d as m y s t e r i o u s . It is
- 6 -
THE GREAT WORK: 2

s c a r c e ly reasonable t o suppose t h a t
t h e e le m e nt of chance has i n any a p
p re c ia b le degree entered into th e ir
framing. And t h i s i s t h e mor e u n
l i k e l y in t h a t t h e r e i s e v i d e n c e of
a c o n t r a r y b e l i e f a mo n g t h e s e p e o
p l e s , who s h e w e d a p e c u l i a r r e v e r
ence for t h e i r alphabets, a s c rib in g
t o e a c h l e t t e r i t s own m y s t i c a l v a l
u e , and, t o th e w hole, a body o f
sy m bol ic t e a c h i n g in which th e p r i n
c i p l e s o f Number, S ound, and a l s o
Form as c o n n e c t e d w i t h e a c h l e t t e r ,
a l l played t h e i r p a r t .
- - P r e l i m i n a r y I n v e s t i g a t i o n , pp, 5 - 6
I n The A p o s t o l i c G n o s i s , vol. 1,
pp. 22-23, they w rite:
11 . . . W e ma ke a v e r y l i m i t e d
u s e o f Roman l e t t e r s as n u m b e r s , b u t
fo r a l l ordinary purposes, the Ara
b i c n u m e r a l s w h i c h we e m p l o y a r e
u s e d f o r c a l c u l a t i o n o n l y and a r e
not a s s o c ia te d in our thoughts with
words o r l e t t e r s in o ur l a n g u a g e .
B u t i f we h a d b e e n t r a i n e d a s
c h ild r e n to add, to s u b t r a c t, to
m u l t i p l y a n d d i v i d e by me a ns o f t h e
l e t t e r s o f o u r a l p h a b e t , how d i f f e r
e n t l y s h o . U d we r e g a r d t h a t a l p h a
bet. In stin ct, habit, association
o f l o n g s t a n d i n g wo ul d form an i n
e v i t a b l e and i n d i s s o l u b l e l i n k
b e t w e e n t h e l e t t e r and t h e number.
The l e t t e r s o f a word woul d a p p e a r
t o us as a n u m b e r , and t h e d i g i t s o f
-7-
THE GREAT WORK: 2

c e r t a i n l y as i t ru n s l i k e a g olden
t h r e a d through t h e t a p e s t r y , s t r a n g e
and o f t e n o u t w a r d ly r e p e l l a n t , of
t h e Hebrew S c r i p t u r e s , We m u s t
never fo r g e t t h a t , a f t e r a l l , the
New T e s t a m e n t i s n o t l e s s d i s t i n c t l y
Hebrew t h a n t h e r e s t o f th e B i b l e .
It disguises i t s e l f a l i t t l e in .its
Greek g a r b , b u t t h ro u g h o u t the Gos
p e l s , t h e A c t s , t h e E p i s t l e s a nd t h e
Book o f R e v e l a t i o n , t h e t h o u g h t i s
H e b r a i c , even thou gh the words a r e
Greek.
We f i n d o u r s e l v e s u n a b l e t o a c c e p t
t h e i d e a t h a t t h e New T e s t a m e n t i s a
f r a g m e n t a r y c o r r u p t i o n o f a Wi s dom
T e a c h i n g now l o s t . No r i s i t p o s
s i b l e f o r o n e who h a s s u f f i c i e n t
knowledge of S e m itic tu rn s of
t h o u g h t t o draw any o t h e r c o n c l u s i o n
f r o m a p e r u s a l o f t h e New T e s t a m e n t
in the o r i g i n a l than th a t those
books a r e a H e l l e n i z e d p r e s e n t a t i o n
o f i d e a s e s s e n t i a l l y He br e w i n t h e i r
i m m e d i a t e o r i g i n s , h o w e v e r much i n
d e b te d t o o l d e r forms of A geless
Wi s dom t h e He br e w t h o u g h t i t s e l f may
he.
On t h e o t h e r h a n d , i t s h o u B d a l s o
he u n d e r s t o o d t h a t many c u r r e n t s o f
d o c t r i n e f l o w t o g e t h e r t o make t h e
m i g h t y s t r e a m o f wi s dom p r e s e n t e d i n
t h e New T e s t a m e n t . The i d e a s a r e
p r e d o m i n a n t l y , b u t by no me a n s e x
clu siv ely , Semitic. What we mean t o
s u g g e s t i s t h a t t h e New T e s t a m e n t i s
THE GREAT WORK: 2

o f a n u mb e r wo u l d s u g g e s t a word.
And s o i t wa s a t t h e c o m m e n c e
ment o f o u r e r a , b e f o r e t h e i n t r o
duction of the Arabic numerals. And
with the Greeks, t h i s a s s o c ia tio n of
l e t t e r and n um b e r was o f t h e m o s t
intim ate nature. The c o i n i n g o f
words fo r th e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s of
p r e f e r e n c e s i n n u mb e r commenced v e r y
e a r l y a n d much o f t h e t r a d i t i o n i s
a s s o c ia te d w ith the Pythagorean
s c h o o l s , in which the numbers are
o f t e n r e c o g n i z a b l e as c o n v e n tio n a l
symbols of r a t i o . Terms used in
m u s i c , and i n a s t r o n o m y and c h r o n o m -
e t r y b e t r a y a l i k e i n f l u e n c e , and
t h o s e names o f d i v i n i t i e s w h i c h a r e
s y m b o l s o f p l a n e t a r y t i m e s and s e a
s o n s c a n o f t e n be i d e n t i f i e d by t h e i r
G e r n a t r i a o f n u mbe r . . . More t h a n
a l l e l s e , t h e n o t i o n of number-sym
b o l i s m e n t e r s i n t o , and c o l o u r s ,
r e l i g i o u s nomenclature. And we h a v e
abundant p r o o f from the F a th e rs of
the church t h a t the e a r l i e s t symbol
i s m o f God t h e F a t h e r was o f a g e o
metrical n ature,*
A l c h e m y e m p l o y s t h e s a me s y s t e m ,
and t h e ma i n r e a s o n t h e r e a r e s o few
b o o k s on a l c h e m y w r i t t e n i n H e b r e w
i s t h a t the g r e a t t e x t s are in the
Bible i t s e l f . Nor a r e t h e y t h o s e o f
t h e Ol d T e s t a m e n t o n l y . Th e H e r m e t
ic d o c trin e perm eates the sacred
l i t e r a t u r e of C h r i s t i a n i t y j u s t as
- 8 -
THE GREAT WORK: 2
a ll of a piece with the Old, but
t h i s is f a r from sa y in g t h a t t h e B i
b l e i s n o t f u l l o f d o c t r i n e which i s
mo r e a n c i e n t t h a n wh a t a p p e a r s f r o m
the su rfa ce, l i t e r a l reading of the
text. E g y p t a n d C h a l d e a a nd P e r s i a
and I n d i a , p e r h a p s C h i n a a l s o , have
ha d t h e i r s h a r e i n m a k i n g t h i s l i
b r a r y o f A g e l e s s Wisdom. O n c e we
know how t o p e n e t r a t e b e h i n d t h e
o u t e r v e i l o f w o r d s and s y m b o l s , we
find o u r s e l v e s i n t h e p r e s e n c e o f t h e
same m y s t e r i e s w h i c h a r e t h e s u b
j e c t - m a t t e r of a l l s a c r e d books.
Thus i t is t h a t th e anonymous
authors of the R o sic ru cia n mani
festoes, after p lain ly intim ating
th a t t h e i r d o ctrin e is a mixture of
Herrnet i c i s m a n d Q a b a l a h , a s s e r t t h a t
i t i s a l s o d e f i n i t e l y C h r i s t i a n , and
t h a t t h e B i b l e a g r e e s w i t h i t on a l l
points. Fr om t h i s , a n d f r o m c e r t a i n
w ritings of the la t e r alchem ists, i t
was i n f e r r e d b y t h e i n g e n i o u s a u t h o r
o f Remarks upon A l c h e m y and t h e A l
c h e m i s ts , G en eral Ethan A l l e n H i t c h
cock, th a t the r e a l o b je c t of the
G r e a t Wo r k wa s n o m o r e t h a n m o r a l
p e r f e c t i o n , and t h a t t h e c o m p l i
c a te d symbolism o f th e t r u e s a g e s
was a d o p t e d t o a v o i d r e l i g i o u s p e r
secution. T h o s e who s e e a l c h e m y i n
th is lig h t are of the opinion th a t
the Hermetic Art is merely a system
of s p i r i t u a l d is c i p l in e , leading to
i l l u m i n a t i o n and r e g e n e r a t i o n .
- 10 -
THE GREAT WORK: 2

O t h e r s , l i k e Mrs. Atwood, whose


S u g g e stiv e In q u iry is em inently
w o r t h r e a d i n g , advance the view t h a t
t h e G r e a t Wo r k i s a p s y c h o l o g i c a l
p r o c e s s a k i n t o mesmerism, in which
t h e s u b j e c t o f t h e work i s a s e n s i
t i v e , who i s t r a i n e d by t h e o p e r a t o r
s o as t o b e c ome c l a i r v o y a n t .
N e ith e r of th e s e n otions is c o r
r e c t , but n e i t h e r i s wholly f a l s e .
Moral d i s c i p l i n e i s c e r t a i n l y p a r t
o f the s e l f - t r a i n i n g of every al -
c h e m i s t , and t h a t t r a i n i n g i n c l u d e s
a l s o t h e a p p l i c a t i o n o f l a ws and
f o r c e s w h i c h w e r e made known t o t h e
w o r l d by t h e d i s c o v e r i e s o f Me s me r ,
B r a i d , and t h e i r s u c c e s s o r s . The
G r e a t W o r k , h o w e v e r , i s mor e t h a n
s e l f - d i s c i p l i n e , mor e t h a n t h e e x
a l t a t i o n o f human c o n s c i o u s n e s s
i n t o a s t a t e o f m y s t i c v i s i o n , and
v e r y mus t mor e t h a n t h e m a n i p u l a t i o n
o f e c t o p l a s m w h i c h one A m e r i c a n
f r a m e r o f a l c h e m i c a l t h e o r i e s of f er ed
n o t l o n g s i n c e a s t h e t r u e mean
ing o f t h e a l c h e m ic a l books.
The G r e a t Wor k i s a p h y s i c a l wo r k .
I t d o e s a c t u a l l y o p e r a t e on p h y s i c a l
s u b s t a n c e s c o n t a i n e d in the bowels
of the e a r t h . H e r e h a f i t h a s made
us s p e a k i n a p p r o v e d H e r m e t i c f a s h
i o n , y e t , t h o u g h t h e r e i s mo r e i n
w h a t h a s j u s t b e e n s a i d t h a n w i l l be
d i s c e r n e d by some r e a d e r s , we h a s t e n
t o add t h a t t h e s u b s t a n c e s an a l -
- 11 -
THE GREAT WORK: 2

c h e m is t works w ith are a c t u a l l y


f o u n d i n t h e i r n a t u r a l s t a t e as
forms of the p h y s i c a l m a tte r which
c o n s t i t u te s the s tr u c tu r e of t h i s
planet.
The l a b o r a t o r y o f an a l c h e m i s t ,
however, is a hidden l a b o r a t o r y . In
t h e books o f genuine a d e p t s , the
v e s s e ls of the a r t are in v a ria b ly
c a l l e d ' s e c r e t . So are th e p r o
cesses. Thus B e rn a rd o f T r e v i s a n
w r i t e s : D i s s o l u t i o n i s the whole
m y s t e r y o f t h e a r t , a n d i s t o be
a c c o m p l i s h e d , n o t as some have
t h o u g h t , b y me a ns o f f i r e , b u t i n a
w h o l l y a b s t r u s e manner, by t h e h e l p
o f M e r c u r y . ** In t h i s q u o ta tio n ,
t h e a d j e c t i v e a b s r r u s e has t h e
now o b s o l e t e m e a n i n g : c o n c e a l e d ,
h idden.
Thomas C h a r n o c k g i v e s a h i n t t o
t h e sam e e f f e c t i n h i s B r e v i a r y : * I
t h i n k few p o t t e r s i n t h i s r e a l m h a ve
a t a n y t i m e made s u c h c u n n i n g w a r e ,
a s f o r o u r s c i e n c e we f a s h i o n a n d
prepare. Few, i n d e e d , f o r a l l
t h a t a l c h e m i c a l b o o k s a b o u n d in p i c
t u r e s o f a l e m b i c s , r e t o r t s , and a l i
manner o f s t r a n g e - 1 ooking v e s s e l s ;
b e c a u s e i n t r u t h , u n t i l t h e S to n e i s
ma d e , t h e o n l y l a b o r a t o r y i s t h e a l
c h e m i s t s own b o d y , a n d t h e s e c r e t
v e s s e l s are organs of t h a t body.
Alchemy is p r i m a r i l y an i n t e r i o r
operation.
- 12 -
THE GREAT WORK: 2
Y e t by no me a ns i s i t w h o l l y m e t a
physical Actual physical m aterials
a r e worked up on, and t h e o p e r a t i o n
has f o r i t s o b j e c t t h e making o f a
m i n e r a l p r o d u c t , w h i c h may t r u l y be
c a lle d a stone. T his Stone is a
p r o d u c t o f a r t , though the m a t e r i a l s
c om po s in g i t a r e drawn from n a t u r e .
Th e G r e a t Work may be d e s c r i b e d c o r
r e c t l y as b ei ng a p s y c h o - p h y s i o l o g i
c a l t r a n s f o r m a t i o n , c a l l e d Hermetic
B e c a u s e i t i s d i r e c t e d b y human
self-consciousness.
As a l l r e a d e r s o f t h e s e p a g e s h a v e
learned in the course of t h e i r Tarot
s t u d i e s , s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s was p e r
s o n i f i e d by t h e E g y p t i a n s a s T h o t h ,
by t h e G r e e k s a s H e r m e s , a n d by t h e
Romans a s M e r c u r y . T h u s i t b eco m es
ev ident t h a t what Bernard of T re v i-
s a n means by s a y i n g t h e w ork i s
p e r f o r m e d by t h e h e l p o f M e r c u r y i s
p r a c t i c a l l y w h a t t h e H i n d u s a g e we
q u o t e d i n L e s s o n 1 had i n mi nd when
h e s a i d : ' 1 I t s h o k l d be g r a s p e d by
t h e mi n d a l o n e . '
D i s s o l u t i o n i s s a i d t o be t h e
whole m y s t e r y o f alchemy b ec au se t h e
G r e a t Wo r k e n a b l e s u s t o c o n t r o l
t h o s e f u n c t i o n s o f our b o d ie s whi ch
d i s s o l v e , o r b r e a k down i n t o t h e i r
c o n s t i t u e n t e l e m e n t s , the forms of
m a t e r i a l s ta k e n from our e n v i r o n
ment. The s e c r e t v e s s e l s o f t h e
a l c h e m i s t a r e o r g a n s o f h i s own
-1 3 -
THE GREAT WORK: 2

body, to g e th e r w ith t h e i r etheric


and a s t r a l c o u n t e r p a r t s .
Th e G r e a t Wo r k , t h e n , i s r e a l l y a
chemical o p e r a t i o n , performed under
th e d i r e c t i o n of man's s e l f - c o n
scious intelligence. I t b eg in s in
m an s m ind , b u t i t i s r e a l i z e d by
means o f changes effected in h is
p h y s i c a l body. In consequence of
t h e s e c h a n g e s , he b e c o m e s a new
c r e a t u r e , a b le to e x e r c i s e powers
w h i c h a r e unknown t o t h e a v e r a g e
human b e i n g . '
When an a l c h e m i s t , w o r k i n g i n h i s
s e c r e t l a b o r a t o r y , has d i s s o l v e d th e
o l d c r e a t u r e a nd c o a g u l a t e d t h e new
c r e a t u r e in i t s p l a c e , his p h y s ic a l
o r g a n i s m e n a b l e s h i m t o e f f e c t , by
means p u r e l y m e n t a l , t r a n s f o r m a t i o n s
i n t h e m o l e c u l a r and a t o m i c s t r u c
t u r e of the p h y s i c a l su b s t a n c e s
c o n s t i t u ti n g his environment. Be
c a u s e o f the change in h i m s e l f , and
t h e powe r i t p l a c e s a t . h i s d i s p o s a l ,
he r e a l l y c a n m a n u f a c t u r e a p h y s i c a l
s u b s t a n c e whi c h h a s r e m a r k a b l e h e a l
i n g p r o p e r t i e s , a n d w h i c h may b e
employed fo r the tr a n s m u ta tio n of
the b aser m etals in to a c tu a l gold
and s i l v e r .
H i s a b i l i t y t o do t h i s , h o w e v e r ,
is never abused. N o r d o e s he go
about th e world c a l l i n g a t t e n t i o n t o
h i s seemingly mirac ulo us powers. To
say th at a p erfected alchem ical
-14-
THE GREAT WORK: 2

a d a p t c a n , and s o m e tim e s d o e s ,
transm ute base metals i n t o g old, is
simply t o s t a t e a f a c t . To s u p p o s e
t h a t such m e t a l l i c tra n s m u ta tio n is
t h e ma i n o b j e c t o f t h e G r e a t Work i s
t o be g r o s s l y m i s t a k e n . T h e Wor k
h a s a f a r h i g h e r a i m.

-15-
* j.

*
J
f 1 rj c1 h P i D i /
vu M r W ' J V J X .
THE GREAT WORK

LESSON THREE

THE PRI NCIPAL p i e c e o f a l c h e m i c a l


a p p a r a t u s i s a f u r n a c e , c a l l e d an
athanor. E l i p h a s L e v i s a y s : We
a r e a l l i n p o s s e s s i o n o f t h e chem
i c a l i n s t r u m e n t , t h e g r e a t and s o l e
a t h a n o r wh i c h a n s w e r s f o r t h e s e p a r
a t i o n o f t h e s u b t l e from t h e g r o s s
and t h e fixed fr om t h e v o l a t i l e .
T h i s i n s t r u m e n t , c o m p le te as the
w o r l d and p r e c i s e as m a t h e m a t i c s , i s
r e p r e s e n t e d by t h e s a g e s un d e r t h e
em bl em o f t h e p e n t a g r a m , o r five-
p o i n t e d s t ar . , which i s t h e a b s o l u t e
s i g n o f human i n t e l l i g e n c e . I will
f o l l o w t h e e x a m p l e o f t h e w i s e by
f o r b e a r i n g t o name i t ; i t i s t o o
easy to g u e s s i t . ' '
T h e r e i s no n e e d t o d a y f o r e v e n
the s l i g h t concealment Levi thought
advisable. The a t h a n o r i s t h e human
organism. L i k e many o t h e r a l c h e m i
c a l t e r m s , i t s name i s o f C h a l d e a n
o r i g i n , a nd comes t o u s t h r o u g h t h e
He b r e w. It is i n riK, E t h Ha - No u r ,
Essence o f F i r e .
Thus B e r n a r d o f T r e v i s a n s p e a k s
t r u l y when he s a y s t h e G r e a t Work i s
n o t p e r f o r m e d by means o f fire, and
s o do o t h e r s a g e s t e l l t h e t r u t h
whe n t h e y i n s i s t t h a t t h e f i r e em
p l o y e d b y t h e m i s no common f i r e . ' 1
- 1 -
THE GREAT WORK 3

I t i s the e s s e n c e o f fire, m a n i f e s t e d
a s t h e h u ma n b o d y a n d i t s f i n e r
c o u n t e r p a r t s , and t h u s t h e a t h a n o r
i s def i ne d a s a s e l f - f e e d i n g , d i
g e s t i n g f u r n a c e , i n whi ch an e q u a b l e
heat is m a in ta in e d .'
T his definition i s a p e r f e c t de
s c r i p t i o n o f the body, which fe e d s
i t s e l f , d i g e s t s what i t f e e d s u po n ,
and m a i n t a i n s w i t h i n i t s e l f an e v e n
temperature. The r e f e r e n c e t o f e e d
i n g and d i g e s t i o n i s p a r t i c u l a r l y
significant. For t h e a c t u a l b a s i s o f
t h e Gr e a t Work i s d i r e c t l y c o n n e c t e d
w ith the p r o c e s s e s whereby the
p h y s i c a l b o d y i s b u i l t f r om f o o d .
N o tic e that Eliphas Levi g iv e a
p la i n hint that the athanor i s the
human body when he s a y s i t i s ' . com
p l e t e a s t h e w o r l d , t h a t i s , as
t h e l i t t l e w o r l d , or microcosm.
The n he s a y s i t i s p r e c i s e as
m a t h e m a ti c s , to intimate that the
G r e a t Work i s a c o u r s e o f t r a i n i n g
i n c o n s c i o u s co m plia n ce w ith laws
having t h e i r b a s is in mathematics.
F i n a l l y , he t e l l s u s t h e a t h a n o r i s
s y m b o l i z e d by t h e p e n t a g r a m .
Some r e f e r e n c e t o t h i s i m p o r t a n t
f i g u r e h a s b e e n made i n o u r o t h e r
p u b l i c a t i o n s , b u t h e r e we may b e g i n
by p o i n t i n g ou t t h a t e v e r y five-
p o i n t e d s t a r i s a development o f t h e
pentagon, or regular polygon having
f i ve e q u a l s i d e s . A pentagon i s the
- 2-
THE GREAT WORK 3

central figure in e v e r y p e n t a g r a m .
I t s fi ve equal sid es symbolize the
balance and e q u a l p r o p o r t i o n o f five
aspects o f r e a l i t y , r e p r e s e n t e d by
t h e five sides.
T h e s e five a s p e c t s o f r e a l i t y a r e
t h e f i ve p h a s e s o f m a n i f e s t a t i o n
known i n a l c h e m y as t h e q u i n t e s s e n c e
and t h e fo u r e l e m e n t s . The f i f t h
esse n ce, or q u in te s s e n c e , c o r r e
sponds to the e t h e r o f s p a c e . Th e
f o u r e l e m e n t s a r e fire, w a t e r , a i r
and e a r t h . In t h e fi gure o f t h e
pentagram, the upper point c o r r e
sponds to the q u in te s s e n c e , th e
r i g h t lower p o i n t is a t t r i b u t e d to
fire, t he r i g h t u p p e r p o i n t t o w a t e r ,
t h e l e f t u p p e r p o i n t t o a i r , a nd t h e
l e f t lower p o i n t to e a r t h .
E a c h o f t h e five l i n e s o f a p e n t a
gr a m i s d i v i d e d i n e x a c t e x t r e m e a nd
mean p r o p o r t i o n . T h i s may b e def i ned
as t h e d i v i s i o n o f a n y q u a n t i t y i n t o
t wo s u c h p a r t s o r p o r p o r t i o n s t h a t
the measure o f t h e l e s s e r p a r t b ea rs
t o the measure of the g r e a t e r p a r t
t h e s a me r e l a t i o n t h a t t h e m e a s u r e
o f the g r e a t e r p a r t b e a rs to the
whole q u a n t i t y . The o c c u l t m e a n i n g
o f t h i s p r o p o r t i o n i s e x p re s s e d in
t h e H e r m e t i c axiom: N a t u r e i s to
man a s man i s t o G o d . ' T h i s a x i o m
is the p h ilo s o p h ic a l b asis of the
G r e a t Wor k. I t d e f i n e s man a s t h e
g r e a t e r p a r t ( g r e a t e r in power,
-3-
THE GREAT WORK 3
t hough l e s s i n mas s ) ; n a t u r e as t h e
l e s s e r p a r t , because nature i s sub
o r d i n a t e t o man; God as t h e ALL, o r
whole, s u p e r i o r t o man a s m m i s
s u p e r i o r t o n a t u r e , and b r i n g i n g
n a t u r e to f u l l p e r f e c t i o n through
human a g e n c y .
It i s p e r f e c t l y true that the a l
c h emi s t s e e k s t o transmute t h e h s s e r
metals into gold. When he s p e c k s o f
t h e s e v e n m e t a l s , h o w e v e r , he means
s o m e t h i n g o t h e r t h a n t h e common
p r o d u c t s o f the mine. Thus G e o r g e
R i p l e y warns h i s r e a d e r s , in h i s
Co mp o u n d o f A l c h y m i e , n o t t o w a s t e
time in f r u i t l e s s ex per im en ts with
' 'mean m e t a l s d i g g e d o u t o f th e
m ine.
O t h e r s a g e s make u s e o f t h e same
d i s t i n c t i o n , s p e a k i n g a l w a y s o f our
M e r c u r y , o u r S u l p h u r , o u r Go l d and
S i l v e r , t o show t h e y a r e a l l u d i n g t o
something p e c u l i a r to the a l c h e m i c al
operation. The a l c h e m i c a l m e t a l s
h e a r t h e names o f t h e s u n , t h e moon,
and t h e five p l a n e t s known t o t h e o l d
a s t r o n o m e r s , and i n t h e o l d e r b o o k s
a r e a l m o s t a l w a y s d e s i g n a t e d by
t h e s e names.
T h is i s one reason P a r a c e ls u s
i n s i s t s t h a t o n e mu s t b e a c q u a i n t e d
with the ideas o f the old astrono
mers in o rd er to su c c e e d in the
G r e a t Work. The a s t r o n o m i c a l names
o f t h e m e t a l s are us ed a l s o in her-
-4-
THE GREAT WORK 3

a l d r y , as h a s b e e n shown i n o u r
b o o k l e t , The G r e a t S e a l o f t h e U n i t
ed S t a t e s , The h e r a l d i c c o l o r s a r e
o f t e n u s e d by a l c h e m i s t s , h e n c e i t
i s i m p o r t a n t t o know t h e m. The c o r
respondences are:
LEAD.......................SATURN_____BLACK
IRON.......................MARS...............RED
T I N .......................... JUPITER. . .BLUE
GOLD....................... SUN................. YELLOW
COPPER..................VENUS............ GREEN
SI LVER..................MOON. . . . . . WHITE
QUI CKSI LVER. . . MERCURY.. .ORANGE
The c o l o r s a r e t h o s e w h i c h , in
wh a t i s c a l l e d t h e Q u e e n S c a l e , ' 1
are a t t r i b u t e d to the spheres o f the
p l a n e t s on t h e T r e e o f L i f e . In
TAROT FUNDAMENTALS a n d TAROT I NT ER
PRETATI ON, you have l e a r n e d the
c o r re s p o n d e n c e s of th e s e to th e
seve n i n t e r i o r s t a r s , which a r e t h e
same as t h e s e v e n c h a k r a s o f t h e
yogis.
You w i l l r e me mb e r t h a t S a t u r n c o r
responds to a n e r v e - c e n t e r at the
base of the sp in e , the s a c r a l p l e x
us. Mars i s r e p r e s e n t e d in th e
p h y s i c a l body by t h e p r o s t a t i c g a n
glion. The s u n g o v e r n s t h e c a r d i a c
plexus. Ve n u s i s a t t r i b u t e d t o t h e
pharyngeal plexus. Th e moon c o r r e
sponds to the cav ern o u s g a n g lio n ,
w h i c h l i e s on e i t h e r s i d e o f t h e
sella turcica, the pro tec tiv e cover
ing o f th e p i t u i t a r y body. Mercury
-5-
THE GREAT WORK 3

is r e p r e s e n t e d by t h e p i n e a l gland.
I n t h a t p o r t i o n o f t h e G r e a t Work
w h i c h h a s t o do w i t h t h e t r a n s f o r m a
tio n of the alchem ist him self, the
ma k i n g o f t h e P h i l o s o p h e r s ' S t o n e i s
a p r o c e s s whereby the v i b r a t o r y a c
t i v i t y o f t h e s e i n t e r i o r s t a r s i s so
modified t h a t th e low er r a t e s o f
v i b r a t i o n are transmuted ( l i t e r a l l y ,
* c h a n g e d a c r o s s 1 ) and s u b l i m a t e d ,
o r l i f t e d up. This transm utation of
t h e s u b t l e f o r c e whi c h wo r k s t h r o u g h
th e i n t e r i o r s t a r s has a t r i p l e
consequence. I t le a d s to s p i r i t u a l
illum ination. I t gives the p e r f e c t
e d a d e p t a new b o d y w h i c h i s a b s o
lu te ly healthy. I t e n a b l e s hi m to
e x e r c i s e po we r s which re ma in l a t e n t
i n m o s t human b e i n g s .
His h e a l t h i s th e r e s u l t o f p e r
f e c t c o m b i n a t i o n and c o - o r d i n a t i o n
o f c h e m i c a l and e l e c t r i c a l e n e r g i e s
w h i c h m a i n t a i n t h e form and f u n c
t i o n s of his p h y s ic a l body. This
c o n d itio n of ra d ia n t v i t a l i t y is
communicable. When i t i s e s t a b
l i s h e d , an a l c h e m i s t c n p r o j e c t
h i s own r a t e o f v i b r a t i o n u p o n t h e
bodies of other persons, inducing a
v i b r a t i o n l i k e t h a t o f h i s o wn
organs. T h i s i s one method o f H e r
metic healing.
H i s m e n t a l and s p i r i t u a l v i b r a
t i o n is a lso com m unicable. By
p r o j e c t i n g h i s own s t a t e o f c o n -
- 6 -
THE GREAT WORK 3

s c i o u s n e s s on t h e m i n d o f a n o t h e r ,
he c a n r a i s e t h e l e v e l o f t h a t p e r
s o n s c o n s c i o u s n e s s , so t h a t i t
a p p r o x i m a t e s h i s own. Of s u c h s p i r
i t u a l c o n t a g i o n , th e B i b l e , and th e
sacred w ritings of other relig io n s,
af f or d many n o t a b l e e x a m p l e s .
When t h i s i s d o n e , an a c t u a l f o r c e
is projected. This is the alchemi
c a l p o w d e r o f p r o j e c t i o n , by
means of which base m e t a l s ,
d e l u d e d , i g n o r a n t men and women, may
be tra n s m u te d i n t o g o l d , e n
lightened, lib era te d p e rso n alities.
George R i p l e y war ns a g a i n s t mi su s e
of t h i s powder. He s a y s t h e m e t a l s
on w h i c h p r o j e c t i o n i s made m u s t
f i r s t be p r o p e r l y c l e a n s e d .
Wha t he m e a n s i s o b v i o u s when we
understand the figurative language.
The work o f p r o j e c t i o n r e f e r s t o t h e
t r a n s m u t a t i o n o f t h e m i n d s and b o d
i e s o f an a d e p t ' s d i s c i p l e s . By i t
an u n w r i t t e n a nd u n s p o k e n s o m e t h i n g
p a s s e s f r o m t h e m i n d o f h i m who
knows t o t h e m i n d s o f t h o s e he i n -
structs. The p u p i l i s t h e m e t a l t o
be t r a n s m u t e d , and t h e m e t a l mus t be
cleansed. T h a t i s , t h e mind o f t h e
p u p i l , and h i s body a l s o , must be
purified b e f o r e th e h i g h e r s e c r e t s of
the a r t ar e communicated. These are
n e v e r c o mm i tt e d t o w r i t i n g , nor can
t h e y be t o l d by means o f o r d i n a r y
speech. The k n o w l e d g e i s b e y o n d t h e
-7-
THE GREAT WORK 3

lim its of exoteric verbal expres


sion.
Alchemy aims a t a s t a t e o f c o n
s c i o u s n e s s which i s re fle c te d i n t o
t h e p h y s i c a l p lane as p e r f e c t v i b r a
tory equilibrium. This equilib riu m
a l r e a d y e x i s t s i n n a t u r e , a nd i t i s
t h e b u s i n e s s o f an a l c h e m i s t t o man
i f e s t i t through his p e r s o n a lity .
T h u s we a r e t o l d t h a t e q u i l i b r i u m i s
t h e b a s i s o f t h e G r e a t Wor k, and a l l
H e rm e tic books admonish us to i m i
ta te nature.
The p e r f e c t l y b a l a n c e d s t a t e o f
p e r s o n a l i t y i s t h e new m i n d ' o f
t h e i n j u n c t i o n : Be ye t r a n s f o r m e d
by t h e r e n e w i n g o f y o ur m i n d . It
i s a new u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f l i f e ,
f o u n d e d on a new t y p e o f e x p e r i e n c e .
A prominent c h a r a c t e r i s t i c o f t h i s
experience is th a t i t is permeated
with the q u a l i t y of e t e r n i t y , hinted
at in the R o s ic r u c i a n i n q u i r y :
We r e i t n o t an e x c e l l e n t t h i n g t o
l i v e a l w a y s s o a s i f you h a d l i v e d
f r om t h e b e g i n n i n g o f t h e w o r l d , and
s h o u l d s t i l l l i v e to t h e end t h e r e
of?' Such a s t a t e o f c o n s c i o u s n e s s
i s a t t a i n a b l e , and t h a t l o n g b e f o r e
p e r fe c t adeptship is reached. One
of the e a r l i e s t f r u i t s of the p ra c
t i c e o f t h e G r e a t Work i s an i n n e r
c e r t a i n t y of i m m o r t a l i t y , which
r i p e n s l a t e r i n t o definite knowledge,
b e y o n d t h e p o we r o f w o r d s t o e x p r e s s
o r communicate.
-s-
THE GREAT WORK 3
Yet alchemy i s not e x c l u s i v e l y
concerned with consciousness. What
is aimed at in th e p erfo rm an c e o f
t h e G r e a t Work i s mor e t h a n a s t a t e
o f m i n d , mo r e t h a n a p h i l o s o p h i c a l
or m etaphysical r e a liz a tio n . In
s a y i n g t h e G r e a t Work u n f o l d s a new
k i n d o f c o n s c i o u s n e s s , we mean you
t o u n d e r s t a n d t h a t he i n whom t h i s
unfoldment occurs i s th ere b y enabled
t o e x e r c i s e a l l t h e p o w e r s t h a t go
with it.
He d o e s a c t u a l l y find h i m s e l f a b l e
t o command t h e s p i r i t s o f t h e
e l e m e n t s , t h e s u b t l e f o r c e s whos e
i n t e r p l a y produces the various ap
p ea ran c es of the p h y sic a l world.
T h i s command e n a b l e s hi m t o t r a n s
form h i s c o r r u p t i b l e p h y s i c a l body
i n t o a body i n c o r r u p t i b l e . By t h e
sa me m a s t e r y , he c o n t r o l s c o n d i
tions. He c a n a l t e r t h e a p p e a r a n c e
o f t h i n g s r o u n d hi m, and e v e n c h a n g e
t h e i r a t o m i c s t r u c t u r e , by r a i s i n g
or low ering t h e i r r a te s of v i b r a
tion. I t i s by s u c h c o n t r o l t h a t h e
perform s the secondary o p eratio n
w h i c h e n a b l e s hi m t o make an a c t u a l
p h y s i c a l s u b s t a n c e w h i c h may b e em
p l o y e d , e v e n b y p e r s o n s who a r e n o t
th e m s e lv e s a d e p ts , to tran sm u te
m e t a l s and h e a l d i s e a s e s .
N e v e r t h e l e s s , man h i m s e l f i s t h e
prim ary s u b je c t of the Great A rt,
I t i s u s e l e s s t o t r y t o ma k e t h e
-9-
THE GREAT WORK 3
P h il o s o p h e rs ' Stone out si de o n e s e lf
b e f o r e one has c o m p le te d th e first
p a r t o f t h e o p e r a t i o n , w h i ch makes
the o p e r a to r h im s e lf the L iv in g
Stone.
Thus i t som etim es hap p e n s t h a t
d ilig e n t, in tu itiv e students learn
from t h e boo ks what m a t e r i a l s a r e
employed f o r the s e c o n d a ry o p e r a
t i o n , and w h a t p h y s i c a l p r o c e s s i s
fo llo w e d in making the e x t e r n a l
Stone. Yet s o m e t h i n g alw a y s goes
wr o n g w i t h t h e i r a t t e m p t s . This is
inevitable. There i s wanting t o the
p e r f e c t i o n o f t h e i r wor k t h e p o w e r
we h a v e j u s t d e s c r i b e d . One mu s t be
t h e S t o n e b e f o r e o n e may make i t .
No s e c r e t f o r m u l a ca n e n a b l e u s t o
control the su b tle forces of nature
u n l e s s we b e g i n by c o n t r o l l i n g t hem
within ourselves. Our m i n d s mus t be
c h a n g e d , s o t h a t we may p e r c e i v e a nd
u n d e r s t a n d t h i n g s h id d e n from the
uninitiated. Ou r b o d i e s m u s t be
transmuted, because they c o n s t i t u t e
t h e Vase o f A r t , i n whi ch t h e whol e
o p eratio n is performed. In t h e i r
n a t u r a l s t a t e they cannot receiv e
and s p e c i a l i z e t h e h i g h - t e n s i o n c u r
r e n t s o f t h e e s s e n c e o f fire, which
would d e s t r o y t h e p h y s i c a l o r g a n i s m
o f an a v e r a g e p e r s o n .
Al c h e my , t h e n , i s t h e W e s t e r n v e r
s i o n o f what H i n d u s c a l l y o g a . This
i s i n d i c a t e d by v a r i o u s p o i n t s o f
- 10 -
THE GREAT WORK 3

i d e n t i t y b e t w e e n t h e t wo s y s t e m s o f
p h i l o s o p h y and p r a c t i c e .
Obviously, the alchemical metals
a r e t h e s a me a s t h e c h a k r a s o f t h e
yogis. We h a v e n o t i c e d a l s o t h e
r e m a r k a b l e s i m i l a r i t y o f i d e a s and
l a n g u a g e i n Th e E m e r a l d T a b l e t a n d
i n a p a s s a g e from t h e Ka t h a Upani -
shad. T h e s e a r e b y no m e a n s t h e
only close resemblances.
F u n d a m e n t a l i n a l c h e my i s t h e d o c
t r i n e t h a t all th in g s whatsoever are
m anifestations of three p rin c ip le s:
S u l p h u r , M e r c u r y and S a l t . They a r e
n o t t h e common p h y s i c a l s u b s t a n c e s .
T h e i r n a m e s i n d i c a t e t h r e e wa y s i n
w h i c h t h e One T h i n g m a n i f e s t s i t
self. One i s i d e n t i f i e d by a q u a l i t y
l i k e a q u a l i t y p o s s e s s e d by S u l p h u r .
A nother has c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s like
those of Q u ic k s ilv e r. The t h i r d h a s
p r o p e r t i e s resembling those of S a lt.
Sulphur, or brimstone, burns e a s i
l y , and h a s c h o k i n g f u m e s . For
c e n t u r i e s i t has been a s s o c ia te d
w i t h t h e f i r e s o f h e l l , and w i t h t h e
s e e t h i n g p a s s i o n s t h o s e fires t y p i f y .
M e r c u r y i s l i q u i d and flowing, and
the s u r f a c e o f each g l o b u l e o f t h i s
metal is a m irro r reflecting i t s en
vironment. I t s r a p i d move me nt , l i k e
th a t of a l i v i n g c r e a t u r e , accounts
f o r t h e name Q u i c k s i l v e r , i n w h i c h
q u i c k m eans b o t h l i v i n g and
r a p i d , a s we may s e e f r om t h e F r e n c h
- 11 -
THE GREAT WORK 3

argent v iv e , liv in g s i l v e r .
S a l t c r y s t a l l i z e s in p e r f e c t cubes,
and, s i n c e t h e days of P y t h a g o r a s ,
c u b e s h a v e b e e n t y p e s o f e a r t h and
the physical plane. S a l t has a ls o
the pro p e rty of a r r e s t i n g d i s s o l u
tio n , or d i s i n te g r a t i v e chemical
change. The q u a l i t y o f S u l p h u r ,
t h e n , i s fiery and p a s s i o n a t e . That
o f Mer cury i s v i t a l and r e f l e c t i v e .
T h a t o f S a l t i s a r r e s t i v e a nd b i n d
ing.
Compar e t h e s e a l c h e m i c a l d o c t r i n e s
w i t h t h e yoga t e a c h i n g . Th e y o g i s
affirm t h e e x i s t e n c e o f t h r e e gu n a s ,
o r q u a l i t i e s , e n t e r i n g i n t o t h e com
p o sitio n of all things. Wherever
t h e r e i s a f or m, t h e r e a r e t h e t h r e e
qualities. T h e i r n a me s a r e S a t t v a ,
R a j a s and T a ma s .
I n t h e f o u r t e e n t h c h a p t e r o f The
Bhagavad-Gita t h e i r c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s
are fully described. T h e r e we r e a d
t h a t R a j a s i s t h e embodiment o f d e
s i r e , and t h e p r o d u c e r o f t h i r s t and
r e l i s h ; t h a t i t t i e s t h e ego t h r o u g h
a t t a c h m e n t to a c t i o n ; t h a t from i t
are born gre ed , i n i t i a t i o n of a c
tion, e n e rg y in g r e a t w o r ld ly
a c h i e v e m e n t s , u n r e s t and t h i r s t .
T h e same c h a p t e r s a y s t h e q u a l i t y o f
Sattva is illum inative; that it is
transparent, or lig h t-tran sm ittin g ;
t h a t i t t i e s t h e ego t h r o u g h a t t a c h
ment t o h a p p i n e s s and k n o w l e d g e ;
- 12 -
THE GREAT WORK 3
t h a t when i t i s d o m i n a n t t h e r e i s
th e i l l u m i n a t i o n o f knowledge at
e v e r y g a t e o f t h e b ody, and t h u s t h e
s e n s e s and f a c u l t i e s a t t a i n t h e
f u l l e s t m a n i f e s t a t i o n o f p o we r . As
t o t h e q u a l i t y o f T a n a s , we a r e t o l d
t h a t i t i s born o f i n s e n s i b i l i t y ;
t h a t i t t i e s up t h e e g o by means o f
h e e d l e s s n e s s , l a z i n e s s and s l e e p ;
t h a t i t v e i l s t h e power o f d i s c r i m
i n a t i o n , and i s t h e c a u s e o f s p i r
itual blindness. We may r e p r e s e n t
t h e s e t h r e e q u a l i t i e s by t h r e e
E n g lis h words: D e sir e ( Ra j a s ) ;
I n t e l l i g e n c e (. Sattva); I n e r t i a (Tan
as). The same t h r e e words m i g h t be
u s e d i n p l a c e o f t h e n a me s o f t h e
a l c h e m i c a l p r i n c i p l e s . S u l p h u r , Mer
c ur y and S a l t .
A g a i n , a l c h e m i s t s r e c o g n i z e five
p h a s e s o f m a n i f e s t a t i o n , o r f i ve
c l a s s e s o f e x p r e s s i o n f o r t h e One
Thing. The f i r s t o f t h e s e i s t h e
q u i n t e s s e n c e , o r fi fth e s s e n c e , so
n a me d b e c a u s e i t i s a f i f t h t h i n g ,
e x t r a c t e d by t h e a l c h e m i c a l o p e r a
t i o n from t h e f o u r e l e m e n t s . Yet
a lc h e m is ts agree that the q uin
t e s s e n c e i s a l s o the root or source
o f th e four e l e m e n t s : fire, w at er,
a i r and e a r t h .
T h e i r t e a c h i n g i s t h e same as t h a t
o f t h e y o g i s , who c a l l t h e f i v e
c la sse s of expression Tattvas. The
T a t t v a s are: Akasha ( q u i n t e s s e n c e ) ;
-13-
THE GREAT WORK 3
T e j as o r A g n i ( f i r e ) ; A p a s ( w a t e r ) ;
Kayu ( a i r ) ; P r i t h i v i ( e a r t h ) . Fur
th e r m o r e , yoga p h i l o s o p h y s t a t e s
t h a t t h e f i ve T a t t v a s a r e s u b t l e
p r in c i p l e s of sensation; th a t every
T a t t v a h a s i t s own p e c u l i a r p r o p e r
t y ; a nd t h a t t h e r e i s a c y c l i c e b b
a n d flow o f t h e T a t t v a s , i n r e g u l a r
s e q u e n c e , t h r o u g h a l l t h i n g s and
creatures.
Yoga p r a c t i c e a i ms t o c o n t r o l t h i s
c y c l i c flow o f t h e T a t t v a s . Sim ilar
l y , i n a l c h e m y we h e a r o f a w h e e l o f
the elements, with the q u in te s s e n c e
a t the c e n te r . This is i l l u s t r a t e d
b y Key 10 o f T a r o t . Concerning the
wor k t h i s Key s y m b o l i z e s , R i p l e y , i n
h i s Compound o f A l c h y m i e , w r i t e s :
Bu t f i r s t o f t h e s e e l e m e n t s make
thou r o t a t i o n ,
And i n t o Wa t e r t h y E a r t h t u r n
first of a l l ;
Then o f t h y W a t e r make A i r by
levigation;
And A i r make F i r e ; t h e n MASTER
will I thee ca ll
Of a l l o u r s e c r e t s , g r e a t and
small;
The Wheel o f t h e E l e m e n t s t h o u
ca nst turn about,
T ru ly conceiving our w r i t i n g s
without doubt.
L e v ig a tio n i s a term used in a l
che my t o i n d i c a t e v a r i o u s p r o c e s s e s
f o r making a substaruce smooth, f r e e
-14-
THE GREAT WORK 3

from grit, or impalpable, like a


v e r y fine p o w d e r . Here, R i p l e y i n
t e n d s i t t o r e p r e s e n t t h e work w h ich
transforms alchemical " w a t e r ' into
a l c h e m i c a l * a i r , so t h a t i t b e
c o me s i n v i s i b l e and i n t a n g i b l e .
{

I'
.

t*

I
f r j c 1 /' J
n 0 1/
bjvLy- A . j \ .
THE GREAT WORK

LESSON FOUR

PREPARATION FOR t h e p r a c t i c e o f
alchemy i s , in a l l e s s e n t i a l s , the
same as p r e p a r a t i o n f o r t h e p r a c t i c e
o f yoga. I t i s , first of a l l , a
moral or e t h i c a l p r e p a r a t i o n . Evil
t e n d e n c i e s a r e t o be o v e r c o m e , a n d
p o s itiv e v ir tu e s developed. The
g r o s s f u n c t i o n s o f t h e body a r e to
be purified. Then comes t h e finer
purification of i n t e r i o r ce n te rs.
The o b j e c t o f t h e s e yoga p r a c t i c e s
i s p r e c i s e l y wh a t i s m e n t i o n e d by
B a s i l V a l e n t i n e i n The T r i u m p h a l
C h a r i o t o f A n t i m o n y , wh e n h e i n
s t r u c t s h i s r e a d e r s how t o p r e p a r e
f o r t h e G r e a t Work.
I n v o c a t i o n of G o d , says he,
wi t h a c e r t a i n h e a v e n l y i n t e n t i o n ,
drawn from t h e d e p t h s o f s i n c e r e
h e a r t and c o n s c i e n c e , l i b e r a t e d fr om
a m b i t i o n , h y p o c r i s y and a l l o t h e r
v i c e s which are in a ffin ity w ith
these, including arrogance, luxury,
boldness, petulancy, oppression of
t h e p o o r , and s i m i l a r e v i l s . All o f
t h e s e a r e t o be e r a d i c a t e d f r o m t h e
h e a r t , t h a t when a man d e s i r e s t o
p r o s t r a t e h i m s e l f b e f o r e the Throne
of Grace, in o r d e r to o b t a i n h e a lt h ,
h e may do s o w i t h a c o n s c i e n c e f r e e
from u n p r o f i t a b l e weeds, so t h a t h i s
- 1 -
THE GREAT WORK 4
b o d y may be t r a n s m u t e d i n t o a h o l y
t e m p l e , o f God a n d p u r g e d f r o m a l l
uncleanness. '
T h i s i s e x a c t l y w h a t we fi nd i n
d e s c r i p t i o n s of th e p r e l i m i n a r y
p r a c t i c e s o f yoga. Observe t h a t the
o b j e c t i v e i s not wealth, but h e a lt h .
That i s , wholeness or completeness.
B a s i l V a l e n t i n e i s su p p o sed to
h a v e b e e n a monk o f t h e B e n e d i c t i n e
O r d e r , a n d h e may w e l l h a v e u n d e r
s to o d t h a t h e a l t h in th e sen se of
c o m p l e t e n e s s i s t h e e x a c t meaning o f
t h e H e b r e w n o u n D^, S h a l o n , w h i c h
has s p e c i a l m y s tic a l significance in
Qabalah. A t any r a t e , he i s p e r
f e c t l y c l e a r as t o what i t i s t h a t
i s t o be t r a n s m u t e d , a n d h i s c h o i c e
o f t h i s p e c u l i a r l y alch e m ic al verb
c a n n o t be l i g h t l y p a s s e d o v e r . If
words have any meaning w h a te v e r ,
B a s i l V a l e n t i n e t e l l s us h e r e t h a t
t h e o b j e c t o f t h e G r e a t Work i s t h e
tra n sm u ta tio n of the a lc h e m is t s
body, and t h e i n i t i a l s t e p t o t h i s
end a 1' c e r t a i n h e a v e n ly i n t e n
t i o n , t h a t i s , a r e a c h i n g i nward
t o heaven.
Any y o g i w o u l d u n d e r s t a n d w h a t he
m eans h i s r e a d e r s t o g a t h e r from
th e s e words. F u r t h e r m o r e , yoga
p r a c t i c e a i m s t o do a n o t h e r t h i n g
w h i ch a l c h e m i s t s e n d e a v o r t o accom
plish. The fire o f a l c h e m y i s s a i d
t o be a s e c r e t fire, w h i ch i s o f t e n
THE GREAT WORK 4

compared to a s e r p e n t o r a d ra g o n .
In yoga p r a c t i c e , l i k e w i s e , the
ac tive p r i n c i p l e of the operation is
s a i d t o be a f i e r y f o r c e , c o i l e d i n
the S a t u r n c e n t e r a t th e base of the
spine. I t i s n a me d K u n d a l i n i , t h e
c o ile d serpent-power.
Yoga p r a c t i c e r a i s e s t h i s s e r
p e n t p o we r , s t a g e by s t a g e , t h r o u g h
t h e s e v e n c h a k r a s we h a v e i d e n t i f i e d
with the m e ta ls . The p r a c t i c e i s
t h e r e f o r e r e a l l y a p r a c t i c e of sub
l i m a t i o n , w h i c h l i f t s up a n d b r i n g s
in to a c ti v e m a n i f e s t a t i o n the hidden
powers o f the s u b c o n s c i o u s l i f e o f
man. Yoga c a l l s f o r t h t h e p o w e r s o f
t h e u n d e r w o r l d , whos e r u l e r , t h e
E g y p t i a n s b e l i e v e d , was O s i r i s . Al
chemy d o e s t h e s ame.
F urtherm ore , P a r a c e l s u s , l i k e the
r e s t o f the sages, d e c la r e s th a t the
G r e a t Wor k i s p e r f o r m e d b y t h e a i d
o f M e r c u r y , and t h a t t h e o n l y o t h e r
a g e n c i e s o f the a r t are the powers
o f t h e s un and moon. I n l i k e ma n n e r
t h e yoga s y s t e m r e c o g n i z e s t h e p r i
ma r y i m p o r t a n c e o f t h e p o we r p e r s o n
i f i ed by t h e god M e r c u r y , f o r , a s t h e
Upani s had t e l l s u s , t h e o b j e c t o f
y o g a i s s o m e t h i n g w h i c h i s t o be
g r a s p e d by t h e mi nd a l o n e . Yogis
r e c o g n i z e a l s o t wo o t h e r a g e n c i e s .
On e , h o t a n d f i e r y , t h a y c a l l P r a n a
or Surya, Surya meaning s u n .
The o t h e r a g e n c y , c o l d and m o i s t , i s
-3-
THE GREAT WORK 4

named R a y i , a n d i s a l w a y s t e r m e d t h e
lunar c u r r e n t .
The p o i n t s o f c o r r e s p o n d e n c e b e
t w e e n yoga and a l c h e m y a r e t h e r e f o r e
t hese:
1. Both system s ag ree t h a t a l l
t h i n g s a r e e x p r e s s i o n s o f one f u n d a
mental energy.
2 . B o t h af fi rm t h a t a l l t h i n g s com
b i n e t h r e e q u a l i t i e s : a. Wisdom,
S a t t v a , or M ercury; b. D e s i r e ,
R a j a s , o r S u l p h u r ; c . I n e r t i a , Tam-
as, or S a lt.
3 . . Bo t h r e c o g n i z e five modes o f e x
p r e s s i o n ; Akas h a , S p i r i t , o r the
q u i n t e s s e n c e ; Te j as o r A g n i , f i r e ;
A p a s , w a t e r ; Vayu, a i r ; Pr i t h i v i,
earth.
4. Both sy ste m s m ention seven
p rin c ip a l veh icles of a c tiv ity ,
c a l l e d c h a k r a s by y o g i s , and m e t a l s
by a l c h e m i s t s .
5. B oth s a y t h e r e i s a s e c r e t
f o r c e , fiery i n q u a l i t y , whi c h i s t o
be r a i s e d fr om one c h a k r a o r m e t a l
t o a n o t h e r , u n t i l t h e power o f a l l
seven i s sublima te d in the h i g h e s t .

6 . Yoga s a y s P r a n a o r S u r y a ,
s u n , R a y i , moon, and S a t t v a , w i s
dom, a r e t h e t h r e e m a i n a g e n c i e s i n
t h e work. Alchemy s a y s t h e whole
o p e r a t i o n i s a wo r k o f t h e s u n a n d
moon, a i d e d b y M e r c u r y .
-4-
THE GREAT WORK 4

7. In b o t h s y s t e m s , p r e p a r a t i o n
f o r t h e work i s t h e e s t a b l i s h m e n t o f
p h y s i c a l p u r i t y and e t h i c a l freedom
from l u s t , a v a r i c e , and o t h e r a n t i
so cial tendencies.
8 . According to both systems, suc
c e s s e n a b le s a d e p ts to e x e r c i s e
e x t r a o r d i n a r y powers, to h e a l a l l
d i s e a s e s , and to c o n t r o l a l l th e
f o r c e s o f n a t u r e , so as to e x e r t a
d e t e r m i n i n g i n f l u e n c e on c i r c u m
stance.
The b a s i s o f a l c h e m y , l i k e t h e
b a s i s o f y o g a , i s t h e i d e a t h a t man
is a d i r e c t consequence of the p e r
f e c t l y f r e e , unmodi f i ed S p i r i t whe nce
a ll things proceed. This is the
tru e essence of his being. The
G r e a t Work i s t h e d i r e c t i o n o f e n
e r g y d e r i v e d from t h a t e s s e n c e ,
a c c o r d i n g t o t h e p e r c e p t i o n s o f an
awakened i n t e l l i g e n c e .
Th e i n t e l l i g e n c e w h i c h a i d s t h i s
wo r k i s t h e s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s o f
man, w h i c h , t h o u g h n o t t h e h i g h e s t
le v e l of 1 i f e - e x p r e s s i o n , has t h i s
p o we r : i t c a n p e r c e i v e t h e t r u e or -
d e r o f n a t u r e , by d i s c e r n i n g t he
p r i n c i p l e s behind the v e i l of s u r
face appearances.
In i t s a b i l i t y t o d i s c o v e r p r i n
c i p l e s , and i n i t s power t o c o n t r o l
by s u g g e s t i o n t h e f o r c e s o f t h e s u b
conscious l i f e , self-co n scio u sn ess
-5-
TOE GREAT WORK 4
c o m b i n e s t h e t wo g r e a t e s t p o t e n c i e s
known t o u s . By t h e r e c o g n i t i o n o f
t h e p r i n c i p l e s o n w h i c h t h e human
body and t h e t h i n g s i n i t s e n v i r o n
me n t a r e c o n s t r u c t e d , t h e i n t e l l i
g e n c e o f man i s a b l e t o i n v e n t a n d
carry in to execution novel a p p l i c a
tions of th ese p r in c ip le s , not
p r o v i d e d by n a t u r e a p a r t from t h e
i n t e r v e n t i o n o f human s e l f - c o n
sciousness. T h u s man i s a b l e t o
b r i n g a b o u t a f i ne r a d j u s t m e n t , and a
b e t t e r o r g a n i z a t i o n , not only o f his
e n v i r o n m e n t , b u t a l s o o f h i s own
personal organism.
The r e s u l t o f s o d o i n g i s t h e p r o
d u c t i o n o f a new k i n d o f human
b eing, c a p a b le of r e c e iv in g the
i nfl ux o f f o r ms o f e n e r g y wh i c h woul d
d i s i n t e g r a t e an o r d i n a r y human b o d y ,
and a b l e t o e x p r e s s m o d e s o f c o n
s c i o u s n e s s q u i t e unknown to th e
g r e a t e r n u m b e r o f men a n d women.
Th e a l c h e m i s t h i m s e l f i s t h e s u b
j e c t o f the primary o p e r a tio n of the
G r e a t Wor k. His l a b o r a t o r y i s his
own p e r s o n a l i t y . The s e c r e t v e s s e l s
of t h a t l a b o r a t o r y are organs o f his
own b o d y , k i i s p r a c t i c e e n a b l e s hi m
to d e m o n s t r a t e t h a t his p e r s o n a l i t y
is a field f o r t h e o p e r a t i o n o f t h e
Sun. S t e p by s t e p , i t g e n t l y and
g r a d u a l l y a l t e r s h i s mi nd and body
u n t i l he r e a c h e s t h e s t a g e o f i l
l u m i n a t i o n w h e r e i n he p e r c e i v e s
- 6 -
THE GREAT WORK 4
d i r e c t l y t h e t r u t h t h a t he i s l i v
i n g t h e e t e r n a l l i f e o f t h e On e
Power whi ch b r i n g s a l l t h i n g s i n t o
m a n i f e s t a t i o n , and s u s t a i n s and
governs e v e r y th in g in the u n i v e r s e .
At t h e c o m p l e t i o n o f t h e G r e a t
Wo r k , t h e a l c h e m i s t h a s s o t r a n s
m u t e d h i s p e r s o n a l i t y t h a t he e x
p re s se s nothing but the inwardly
p e r c e i v e d i m p u l s e s o f t h e One P owe r .
W h a t e v e r he t h i n k s , s a y s o r d o e s , he
k n o ws t o b e a d i r e c t e x p r e s s i o n o f
t h e One W i l l .
He d o e s n o t b e l i e v e t h i s . He
k n o w s i t ; a n d h e k n o ws i t wh e t h e r
h i s c o n t e m p o r a r i e s u n d e r s t a n d him o r
not. As a r u l e , h e i s v e r y d i s
c r e e t , a n d i s c a r e f u l t o m a k e no
p r o f e s s i o n of a d e p t s h i p , o f t e n con
c e a l i n g h i s t r u e s t a t u s from even
h i s c l o s e s t f r i e n d s and r e l a t i v e s .
F o r a d e p t s h i p i s a way o f b e i n g ,
and a way o f l i v i n g , i n c o m p r e h e n s i
b l e t o p e r s o n s who a r e n o t t h e m
selves adepts. An a d e p t knows t h e
t r u e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f even t h e t i n i e s t
d e t a i l s of h i s d a i l y l i f e , and in
a l l t h i n g s a c t s a s an a d m i n i s t r a t o r
of the e t e r n a l laws o f Being, fo r
the furtherance of the Great Plan.
To t h i s h i g h g o a l d i r e c t y o u r
aspiration. I t may s e e m f a r b e y o n d
you now. Ye t t h e Wi sdom o f t h e Ages
p ro c la im s t h a t whosoever w ill per-

-7-
THE GREAT WORK 4

s i s t i n t h e G r e a t Wor k, c a r r y i n g i t
o u t s t a g e by s t a g e , w i l l c e r t a i n l y
comp 1 e t e i t .
T h is co m p letio n i s the C o n fe c
tio n of the P h ilo so p h e rs S to n e .
T h e v e r b c o n f e c t m e a n s t o com
p o s e f r o m v a r i o u s i n g r e d i e n t s , and
th u s the c o n f e c tio n of the Stone
me a ns f o r a l c h e m i s t s t h e c o m p o s i t i o n
o f s o m e t h i n g by a r t .
Bellows a l c h e m i s t s , '' c h a r l a
tans, and t h o s e d e l u d e d by t h e
c r y p ti c w ritin g s of true sages into
t h e f a l s e b e l i e f t h a t t h e Work i s a
p h y s i c a l o p e r a t i o n , p e r f o r m e d i n an
e x t e r n a l l a b o r a t o r y , suppose the
S t o n e t o be a p h y s i c a l o b j e c t .
What t r u e a l c h e m i s t s h a v e i n mi nd
i s t o be g a t h e r e d from t h e w r i t i n g s
o f o n e o f t h e b e s t among t h e m, J a c o b
Boehme. F o r Boehme was n o t , a s many
have e r r o n e o u s l y supposed, merely a
m y s t i c , y i e l d i n g to th e s p i r i t of
h i s age i n h i s use o f a l c h e m i c a l
terms. He was a r e a l a l c h e m i s t , a s
t r u l y a member o f t h e g r e t i t c omp a n y
o f s a g e s a s a n y o t h e r whom we s h a l l
quote in th e s e pages. T h u s w h a t he
has to say about the P h i l o s o p h e r s '
S to n e d e s e r v e s o u r most c a r e f u l
consideration. The f o l l o w i n g q u o t a
t i o n s a r e t a k e n f r om h i s T h r e e f o l d
L i f e o f Man. .
* The o l d A d a mi c a l flesh o f d e a t h
c o m e t h n o t t o t h e h e a v e n l y f l e s h: No,
- 8 -
THE GREAT WORK 4
i t belongeth to the e a rth , to death;
b u t t h e e t e r n a l flesh i s h i d d e n i n
t h e o l d e a r t h l y man, and i t i s i n
t h e o l d man, a s t h e A r e i n i r o n , o r
as t h e gold in t h e dark s t o n e . This
i s th e n o b le s t o n e , (L a p is P h i l -
o s o p h o r u n ) , t he- P h i l o s o p h e r s S t o n e ,
wh i c h t h e Magi find, w h i c h t i n c t u r e t h
n a t u r e , and g e n e r a t e t h a new s o n i n
the old. He who f i n d e t h t h a t , e s -
t e e m e t h more h i g h l y o f i t t h a n o f
t h i s outward world . . .

' * He who h a t h i t , and k n o we t l i i t ,


i f he s e e k e t h , he may find a l l t h i n g s
w h a t s o e v e r a r e in hea v en and in
earth. I t i s th e S t o n e which is
r e j e c t e d o f t h e b u i l d e r s , and i s t h e
c h i e f c o r n e r s t o n e ; upon w h a t s o e v e r
i t f a l l e t h , i t g r i n d e t h to powder ,
a n d k i n d l e t h a fire t h e r e i n . All
u n i v e r s i t i e s s e e k i t , b u t find i t n o t
by t h e i r s e e k i n g ; s o m e t i m e s i t i s
f ound by one t h a t s e e k e t h i t r i g h t
ly. But o t h e r s ( t h a t s e e k i t in
s e l f , a n d f o r t h e i r own g a i n ) d e
s p i s e i t , and c a s t i t away, and so
i t remaineth hidden s t i l l .

H e r e i t may be n o t e d t h a t i n H e
brew, t he s t o n e which t h e b u i l d e r s
r e f u s e d i s D M n . l )DHD )3K , e h b e n
mas u h a - b o n a i n , and t h a t b y t h e n u
m e ric a l c o r re sp o n d e n c e s of words,
t h i s p ra se is e q u iv a le n t to
T ) K, a u r g e n o z , t h e H i d d e n L i g h t ,
and to ) CT) n , K h u r u m A b i v , o r
- 9-
THE GREAT WORK 4
H i r a m Abi f f , t b e name o f t h e c e n t r a l
figure in t h e leg en d o f F reemason ry.
J a c o b Bo e h me s a y s f u r t h e r : I n
t h i s Stone th e re l i e t h hidden, what
s o e v e r Gpd a n d t h e e t e r n i t y , a l s o
h e a v e n , t h e s t a r s , and e l e m e n t s c o n
t a i n , and a r e a b l e t o do: T h e r e
n e v e r was f r o m e t e r n i t y a n y t h i n g
b e t t e r o r more p r e c i o u s t h a n t h i s ,
and i t i s of f e r e d by God, and b e s t o w
e d u p o n man; e v e r y one may h a t e i t
t h a t doth d e s i r e i t ; i t i s in a sim
p l e f o r m , and h a t h t h e p o w e r o f t h e
whole D e it y in i t . ' '
In v a r io u s p l a c e s in our le s s o n s
o n T a r o t , i n T h e T r e e o f L i f e , ..nd
i n The M a s t e r P a t t e r n , you have
f o u n d r e f e r e n c e s t o t h i s same S t o n e ,
under i t s usual Q a b a listic t i t l e ,
P K , Ehben. T h e r e you h a v e be e n
to l d th a t the Stone re p r e s e n ts the
u n i o n o f t h e c e n t r a l Ego i n ma n ,
Q a b a l i s t i c a l l y t e r m e d J2 , B e n , t h e
Son, w ith th e cosmic L ife-p o w er
s e a t e d i n t h e s e c o n d S e p h i r a h , wh i c h
p o w e r i s d e s i g n a t e d 3K, A b , t h e
Father.
Boehme s p e a k s o f f i n d i n g ' t h i s
S t o n e , b u t he a l s o , l i k e a l l t r u e
alchemists, teaches his readers that
the finding is als o a m ak in g ,
or a confection. In one s e n s e ,
t o be s u r e , t h e t r u e S t o n e a l r e a d y
e x i s t s w i t h i n each of us, but only
- 10 -
THE GREAT WORK 4
in i t s ele m ents. T h e s e mu s t be d i s
c o v e r e d , a nd t h e n b r o u g h t i n t o t h e
p e r f e c t u n i o n s u g g e s t e d by t he p r e s
e n c e o f t h e t wo w o r d s , 2X, A b , a n d
] 2 , B e n , i n )3N, E h b e n , S t o n e .
Th e i n i t i a l s t a g e o f t h e wo r k i s
known t o a l c h e m i s t s a s ' t h e d i s
c o v e r y o f t h e F i r s t M a t t e r , ' ' and t o
th is discovery the next eight l e s
s o n s o f t h i s s e r i e s w i l l be d e v o t e d .

- 11 -
nC 1
A- \,\/n,D 1/
O Jv L j~ \ j
THE GREAT WORK

LESSON SI X

THE FI RST MATTER ( 2 )

The a u t h o r o f The Glory of the


World w r i t e s :
I ma k e k n o wn t o a l l i n g e n u o u s
stu d e n ts of t h i s Art t h a t the sages
a r e in th e h a b i t of u sin g words
w h i c h may c o n v e y e i t h e r a t r u e o r a
f a l s e im p re ssio n ; the former to
t h e i r own d i s c i p l e s a n d c h i l d r e n f
th e l a t t e r to the i g n o r a n t( the
f o o l i s h ^ and t h e u n w o r t h y . Bear in
mind t h a t t h e p h i l o s o p h e r s th e m
s e l v e s n e v e r make a f a l s e a s s e r t i o n .
The m i s t a k e ( i f a n y ) l i e s n o t w i t h
t he m* b u t w i t h t h o s e w h o s e d u l n e s s
makes them slow t o a p p r e h e n d th e
meaning. H e n c e i t comes t h a t * i n
stead of the w aters of the Sages,
these inexperienced persons take
p y r i t e s , s a l t s * m e t a l s * and d i v e r s e
o t h e r s u b s t a n c e s whi ch* t h o u g h v e r y
e x p e n s i v e , a r e o f no u s e w h a t e v e r
f o r our p u r p o s e . F o r no o n e w o u l d
d re am of b u y i n g t h e t r u e M a t t e r a t
t h e o p o t h e c a r y s ; na y* t h a t t r a d e s
man d a i l y c a s t s i t i n t o t h e s t r e e t
as w o r t h l e s s r e f u s e .
J u s t now t h e r e i s s p e c i a l n e e d
t h a t t h e G r e a t Work b e p e r f o r m e d b y
I a l l who a r e q u a l i f i e d t o u n d e r t a k e

- 1 -
THE GREAT WORK: 6

it. We a r e i n t h e m i d s t o f a c r i
s i s i n human a f f a i r s , s u c h a s t h e
r a c e has n o t fa c e d in m i ll e n i u m s .
E v e r y a v a i l a b l e m e a n s i s b e i n g em
p l o y e d t o i n c r e a s e th e number of
persons having in s ig h t s u f f i c i e n t to
d ea l with t h e problems b e s e t t i n g us,
and power a d e q u a te f o r th e work
w h ich must be done t o s o l v e t h e s e
problems. T h u s T h o s e Who Know a r e
making i t e a s i e r fo r e a r n e s t i n
q u ire rs to learn the se c re t.
I t i s j u s t as im p o s sib le as ever
to t e l l the s e c re t. Every seeker
m u s t make t h e d i s c o v e r y f o r h i m
self. Wha t c a n , a n d w i l l , b e d o n e
i s t o h e l p i n q u i r e r s t o dr a w t h e i n
f e r e n c e s which w i l l p r e p a r e them to
make t h e d i s c o v e r y . Be o n y o u r
guard! As y o u p r o c e e d w i t h t h i s
l e s s o n , y o u may c ome t o a p o i n t
w h e r e you w i l l s a y : Why, o f
course! The F i r s t M a t t e r i s - - - - '
w h a t e v e r you may d e c i d e .
You may c o n c l u d e t h a t i t i s t h e
e th er of space. You may s u p p o s e i t
t o b e t h e same a s A k a s h a . We do n o t
say t h a t e i t h e r of these conclusions
i s wrong. We s i m p l y w a r n you t h a t
no s u c h i n f e r e n c e i s t o be m i s t a k e n
f o r t h e d i s c o v e r y o f t h e F i r s t Mat
ter.
S u p p o s e you we r e a t the entrance
to an u n l i g h t e d room, perishing of

- 2-
THE GREAT WORK: 6

hunger. S u p p o s e you f o u n d on t h e
door a c r y p t i c d e s c r i p t i o n of the
c o n t e n t s o f t h e r oom, f r o m w h i c h you
drew t h e c o r r e c t i n f e r e n c e t h a t a l l
ma n n e r o f g o o d t h i n g s t o e a t w e r e on
a table inside. C o u l d you e a t t h e
i n ference ?
So i t i s w i t h t h e F i r s t M a t t e r .
By u s i n g r e a s o n , y o u may b e a b l e t o
d e t e r m i n e what i t must b e . We s h a l l
do wh a t we c a n t o a i d y o u r e f f o r t s t o
c o me t o a c o r r e c t i n f e r e n c e a s t o
what t h e F i r s t M a t t e r i s . Yet t h e
d i s c o v e r y i s more t h a n a r e a s o n e d
conclusion. It is direct percep
t i o n , and go es beyo nd r e a s o n .
Remembering what P a r a c e l s u s s a i d
co n c ern in g the use o f th e .Q a b a l -
i s t s , 1 we s h a l l e m p l o y Q a b a l a h
f r e e l y in our endeavor to e l u c i d a t e
th e meaning of w r i t i n g s of the
adepts. I f you a r e u n f a m i l i a r w i t h
Q a b a l i s t i c methods, they w i l l prob
a b l y seem f a r f r o m a n y mode o f t h i n k
i n g t o whi ch you a r e a c c u s t o m e d . As
you p r o g r e s s , p r a c t i c e w i l l make t h i s
kind of th in k in g e a s i e r .
At f i r s t , , h o w e v e r , i t may b e w e l l t o
c o n c e n t r a t e mo r e p a r t i c u l a r l y on t h e
c o n c l u s i o n s t h a n on t h e m a n n e r i n
which th e y a r e r e a c h e d . As you p r o
c e e d , you w i l l b e g i n t o u n d e r s t a n d
t h e Q a b a l i s t i c method; b u t a t f i r s t
you w i l l do w e l l t o d e v o t e m o s t o f
your time t o p o n d er in g i t s r e s u l t s .
-3-
THE GREAT WORK: 6

COMMENT ON THE WORDS OF THE SAGES.

A ll sages are agreed t h a t the


F i r s t M a t t e r i e o n e * a nd* a s A n a s -
t r a t u s says* c o n t a i n s w i t h i n i t s e l f
a l l th a t is needed.. A vailing o u r
s e l v e s h e r e o f t h e Q a b a l a h * we f i n d
t h a t t h e He b r e w wo r d f o r o n e i s
THK, a c h a d o r e c h u d , a n d t h a t b e
c a u s e t h e sum o f t h e v a l u e s o f i t s
l e t t e r s i s 13* i t c o r r e s p o n d s t o
irD , bohu, e m p t i n e s s , c h a o s .
This is applied, in Genesis 1:2, to
t h e f i r s t s t a t e o f t h e e a r t h , where
the A uthorized Version tra n s la te s
bohu as v o i d . H e r e we f i n d a
p o i n t o f a g r e e m e n t w i t h o t h e r s who
c a ll the F ir s t Matter a c h a o s.
Yet t h i s i s not a l l . The number
13 i s t h e v a l u e a l s o o f H Jil, h e g e h ,
meaning sound, m u tte rin g , thought
o r m u s i n g . Wha t i s i n t i m a t e d i s
t h a t t h e p r im a r y chaos i s t h e s t u f f
t h o u g h t s a r e ma d e o f * a n d t h a t i t
i s , m o r e o v e r , a mode o f v i b r a t i o n
c l o s e l y r e l a t e d to sound.
A n a s t r a t u s g o e s on t o s a y : I t s
b i r t h i s i n t h e s a n d . The He b r e w
f o r s a n d i s 711'i, k h o o l , a n d t h e
r o o t o f t h e noun i s a v er b* s p e l l e d
w i t h t h e same l e t t e r s * me a n i n g * t o
tu rn round, to tw ist* to w h i r l .
In a l l p r o b a b ility * the connection
i s from a n c i e n t o b s e r v a t i o n o f d e s -
-4-
THE GREAT WORK: 6

e r t ' w h irlw in d s , to s s in g th e sand


i n t o s p i r a l , s h a p e s ' ; s e e m i n g t o be
- a l i v e , t o w h i c h may b e t r a c e d t h e
t a l e s about g e n i i .
T h i s word k h o o l , m o r e o v e r , has a
meaning d efin itely r e l a t e d . t o the
F i r s t Matter., -fot o f t e n a l c h e m i s t s
c a l l t h i s tjie ir Phoenix, and, a c
c o r d i n g t o . G e s e n i u s , t h e word ^IH,
i n J o b 2 9 : 1 8 , wa s u n d e r s t o o d b y t h e
J e w i s h Rab bi ns as b e i n g a r e f e r e n c e
to th is mythical bird.
The o r i g i n o f t h e F i r s t M a t t e r i s
a c t u a l l y a s p i r a l , t w i s t i n g motion
l i k e t h a t made v i s i b l e by s a n d i n a
d e se rt storm. I t i s a l s o a motion
d i r e c t l y c o n n e c t e d w i t h s o u n d and
with thought. Thought - fo rce is a
r e a l f o r c e , and t h o u g h t - s u b s t a n c e a
r e a l subsjtance. He who w o u l d p e r
f o r m t h e G r e a t Work mu s t n e e d s l e a r n
th a t thoughts are r e a l l y things.
A g a i n , j l f l i s c o m p o s e d o f . He b r e w
l e t t e r s whose v a l u e s a r e 8 , 6 and
3 0 , s o t h a t t h e word i s t h e number
4 4 , w h i c h i s t h e v a l u e o f t h e noun
71, dam, ' b l o o d . T h i s t a k e s u s a
s t e p n e a r e r t o w h a t we a r e s e e k i n g ,
f o r i t i s f r o m b l o o d t h a t we d e r i v e
t h e s u b s t a n c e we u s e i n t h e G r e a t
Wo r k . That substance is something
w h i c h a c t u a l l y moves i n s p i r a l s
t h ro u g h our b o d ie s . I t is said to
be t h e d i s t i l l e d m o i s t u r e o f t h e
- 5 -
THE GREAT WORK: 6
moon, j o i n e d t o t h e l i g h t o f t h e
su n s because i t is id e n t i c a l with
t h e l u n a r and s o l a r c u r r e n t s of
Prana d e s c r i b e d by y o g i s . And
A nastratus agrees with o th er adepts
wh en he s a y s t h i s u n i o n o f s o l a r
l i g h t and l u n a r m o i s t u r e i s con-
g e a l e d s or brought in to a s o l i d
s t a t e by a p r o c e s s i n v o l v i n g a g r a d
ual loss of heat.
Man s c o n c e p t i o n s o f r e a l i t y a r e
l a r g e l y d e r i v e d from s e n s a t i o n s of
m a s s , w e i g h t and s o l i d i t y . Actually
a s o l i d i s f r o z e n mind-stuff. Solid
i t y i s an i l l u s i o n . We t h i n k o f
g o l d a s b e i n g s o l i d b e c a u s e we a r e
accustomed t o seein g t h i s m etal a t a
te m p e r a tu re below t h a t a t which i t
crystallizes. We t h i n k o f m e r c u r y
as a l i q u i d because our o rd in a r y
experiences of t h i s metal are sensa
tio n s of i t s appearance at a tem
p e r a t u r e above i t s p o i n t o f c r y s
tallization. By t h o u g h t - c o n t r o l l e d
use of energy w ith in u s f i t i s p o s
s i b l e to congeal mind-stuff in to
p h y s i c a l f o r m s , and t h e s u b s t a n c e on
which t h i s o p e r a t i o n i s p e r f o r m e d i s
the F i r s t Matter.
Th u s R o s i n u s t e l l s u s t h a t t h e o b
j e c t o f our d e s i r e i s t h e one t h i n g
o u t o f w h i c h a l l t h i n g s a r e made.
T h i s one t h i n g i s t r a n s f o r m e d from
i n v i s i b i l i t y i n t o v i s i b i l i t y by wh a t
we c a l l w e i g h t , o r g r a v i t a t i o n . The
- 6-
THE GREAT WORK: 6
d i c t i o n a r i e s s a y g r a v i t a t i o n i s an
unknown T o r c e s b u t th e m akers o f
d ic tio n a rie s are not alih em ists.
T h e s a g e s know w h a t l e x i c o g r a p h e r s
have yet to d is c o v e r . T h e y know
g r a v i t a t i o n i s a mental power, work
i n g a t t h e l e v e l o f a w a r e n e s s which
psychology c a l l s se lf-c o n s c io u s n e s s .
In s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s r e s id e s the
power which d e t e r m i n e s w e i g h t and
proportion. I t does no t m a t t e r t h a t
f e w h uma n b e i n g s a r e a w a r e o f t h i s
fact. Ig n o ran ce o f a f a c t does not
erase it. I t s i m p l y p r e v e n t s us
from using th e f a c t . Wha t a l c h e m
i s t s m ean, us t o u n d e r s t a n d whe n t h e y
s a y t h e G r e a t Wor k i s p e r f o r m e d b y
t h e a i d o f M ercury i s t h a t one of
t h e p o w e r s o f human s e l f - c o n s c i o u s
ness is t h i s a b i l i t y to d ir e c t the
' unknown f o r c e o f g r a v i t a t i o n .
F o r M e r c u r y wa s t h e Roman g o d c o r
r e s p o n d i n g t o t h e G r e e k Hermes and
the Egyptian Thoth, p e r s o n if y in g the
f o r m - d e t e r m i n i n g power of s e l f -
consciousness. T h i s i s why M e r c u r y
i s r e p r e s e n t e d i n T a r o t by t h e Magi
cian. Ma g i c i s t h e . a r t o f u s i n g t h e
power o f s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e s s t o co n
geal in v is ib le , formless substance
i n t o t a n g i b l e , p h y s i c a l forms.
T h a t t h i s p o w e r d w e l l s i n human
b e i n g s as a p o t e n t i a l i t y of s e l f -
c o n s c i o u s n e s s we l e a r n f r o m t h e
yogis. Yo g a e n a b l e s o n e t o d i r e c t
-1-
THB GREAT WORK: 6
a n d a d a p t modes o f 1 i g h t - v i b r a t i o n
from t h e s e l f - c o n s c i o u s l e v e l * T h is
i s e v i d e n t when we r e me m b e r t h a t a l l
yoga p r a c t i c e b e g i n s w ith a c t s of
conscious a tte n tio n .
On e o f t h e p o w e r s o f a y o g i i s
that of levitation. He c a n make h i s
own b o d y l e v i t a t e , a n d h e c a n a l t e r
th e weight of o b je c ts o u ts id e his
body. T h a t i s , he c o n t r o l s g r a v i t a
tion. So d o e s an a d e p t i j i a l c h e m y ,
a n d b y s u c h c o n t r o l t h e G r e a t Work
is accomplished. Without i t , more
o v e r , i t i s i m p o s s i b l e t o ma ke t h e
p h y s i c a l a g e n t o f t r a n s m u t a t i o n we
mentioned in the f i r s t of t h e s e l e s
sons .
P a s s i n g now t o o u r s e c o n d q u o t a
t i o n f r o m t h e T u r b a , we m u s t b e on
our gua r d. I t says: In t h i s world
i t i s d i s c e r n e d by r e a s o n w i t h o u t
t h e c l i e n t s t h e r e o f , which a r e t h e
senses. Here i s a good example o f
alchemical su b tlety . This world
i s t h e w o r l d o f man s s e n s a t i o n s .
Thus i t i s q u i t e t r u e t h a t i n t h i s
w o rld the F ir s t M a tte r.is p e r
c e i v e d by r e a s o n a l o n e . Yet t h i s
r a ti o n a l p ercep tio n i s only a p r e l
ude t o t h e a c t u a l d i s c o v e r y o f the
F ir s t M atter. Thus i t i s e v i d e n t
t h a t t h e d i s c o v e r y i s n o t ma d e i n
t h i s w o r l d . N o r i s i t ma de b y
THE g r e a t WORK: 6

the exercise of physical sensation.


The p o i n t i s t h a t t h e r e a r e o t h e r
w o r l d s t h a n t h i s , t o w h i c h man h a s
access through the unfoldment of a
h i g h e r kind of p e r c e p t i o n to which
r i g h t reasoning i s but the i n t r o d u c
tion. R e a s o n i n g p r e p a r e s t h e mi nd
f o r t h i s h i g h e r knowledge.
The q u o t a t i o n f r o m t h e T u r b a g i v e n
i n L e s s o n 5, page 8 , i s more e x
p l i c i t t h a n any o f t h e o t h e r s . It
s a y s t h e t i n c t u r e i s made f r o m 1 o u r
c o p p e r ; 1 and t h e n e x t q u o t a t i o n ,
f r o m Th o ma s V a u g h a n , i n d i c a t e s t h e
s ame t h i n g whe n i t ' c a l l s t h e F i r s t
M atter*a certain soft, p ro lific
Venus.
As an a l c h e m i c a l m e t a l , c o p p e r i s
t h e same a s t h e V e n u s c e n t e r , and
t h i s is t h e yoga l o t u s , o r ch a k ra ,
s i t u a t e d at the well of th e t h r o a t .
I t i s t h e c e n t e r o f what Hinduism
c a l l s Kama Manas , t h e d e s i r e n a t u r e .
To c h a n g e t h i s copper into
w h i t e i s to r a i s e t h e a c t i v i t y
o f t h e Venus c e n t e r t o t h e l e v e l o f
t h e Moon c e n t e r b e h i n d t h e r o o t o f
t h e nose. To make v i s i b l e c o i n s
i s to produce t a n g i b l e p h y s ic a l r e
s u l t s as a c o n s e q u e n c e o f t h e o p e r a
tion.
T h i s w i l l be b e t t e r u n d e r s t o o d by
r e a d e r s who h a v e s t u d i e d T a r o t i f
t h e y rem em ber t h a t t h e s u i t o f c o i n s
-9-
THE GREAT WORK: 6

or p e n t a c l e s r e f e r s t o the plane of
concrete, manifested re s u lts . To
ma k e o u r c o p p e r i n t o w h i t e
i s t o u t i 1 i ze t h e d e s i r e f o r c e o f
c r e a t i v e i m a g i n a t i o n w h i c h T a r o t
s y m b o l i z e s as t h e E m p r e s s , and r a i s e
i t to the h ig h er le v e l of c le a r
r e c o l l e c t i o n p i c t u r e d by t h e High
Priestess.
A c t i v e d e s i r e i s t h e raw m w t e r i a l ,
b u t i t has t o be p u r g e d o f t h e s e p
a r a t e n e s s which i s mixed w ith i t .
We m u s t r i d o u r d e s i r e o f t h e q u a l
i t y of personal attachment. T h e n we
c a n s e e c l e a r l y how w h a t we w a n t
p e r s o n a l l y ma y b e p u t i n t o r i g h t
r e l a t i o n with o th e r elements of the
cosmic p a t t e r n . The u r g e o f p e r
s o n a l d e s i r e has t o be t r a n s f o r m e d
in to the w ill for m anifestation of
c e r t a i n a s p e c t s of cosmic law.
Our c o p p e r s p e r s o n a l d e s i r e * ha s
t o be s u b j e c t e d t o f i r e * o r t o t h e
in flu x of s p i r i t u a l energy. I t has
t o b e b r o k e n up* o r a n a l y z e d i n t o
i t s component e l e m e n t s . I t has to
be d e p r i v e d o f t h e b l a c k n e s s o f i g
n o r a n c e and a t t a c h m e n t. Then i t
becomes c l e a r white* b e c a u s e i t i s
t r a n s f o r m e d i n t o r e c o g n i t i o n o f som e
asp e ct of the g r e a t p a t t e r n of u n i
v e r s a l l a w , s y m b o l i z e d i n T a r o t by
t h e p a t t e r n on t h e v e i l b e h i n d t h e
H i g h P r i e s t e s s * a n d by t h e b o o k o r
s c r o l l on h e r l a p .
- 10 -
THE GREAT WORK: 6

What i s m e a n t by t h i s i s t h a t wh a t
we c o n c e i v e a s a p e r s o n a l d e s i r e i s
i n v a r i a b l y t h e d r i v e o f some u n i
v e r s a l t e n d e n c y w h i c h we a r e a b l e t o
bring into m anifestation. To d o
t h i s t o t h e b e s t a d v a n t a g e , we mu s t
a n a l y z e w h a t we d e s i r e u n t i l we s e e
t h e p r i n c i p l e s i t embodies. T hen we
m u s t p u r g e i t o f a t t a c h m e n t and
i g n o r a n c e , and r e l a t e i t t o t h o s e
p r i n c i p l e s of u n i v e r s a l law w h i c h
g i v e i t cosmic, as w e l l as p e r s o n a l ,
significance. T h i s i s wh a t i s me a nt
by changing our c o p p e r' 1 in to
w h ite , th a t is to say, into
' our s i l v e r . '
A f t e r t h i s i s d o n e , we m u s t a g a i n
turn it into redness. Red i s t h e
c o l o r o f Mar s, and a lwa y s r e f e r s t o
action. When t h e w h i t e o f c l e a r
p erce p tio n of t r u t h is permeated
w i t h t h e re d n e ss o f a c t i o n , then t h e
T i n c t U E e i s made, and t h e s i l v e r i s
tra nsm uted i n t o t h e gold o f complete
realization. Hence, a t t h e end o f
t h e q u o t a t i o n we r e a d , T h e n r u l e
i t . Wh a t i s t o b e r u l e d i s t h e
purified desire nature. To r u l e i t ,
we m u s t a c t , f o r r u l e r s h i p i s t h e
c o n t r o l of a c t i v i t y .
Do n o t b e c o n f u s e d . Early in t h i s
p a r t o f o u r e x p l a n a t i o n we s p o k e o f
the r e l a t i o n of copper to a cen
t e r in the t h r o a t . This i s a c l u s
t e r o f n e r v e s and g l a n d s which a r e
- 11 -
THE GREAT WORK: 6

b r o u g h t u n d e r c o n t r o l b y t h e w o rk we
have j u s t o u tlin e d * No a t t e m p t a t
d i r e c t c o n c e n t r a t i o n on t h e t h r o a t
c e n t e r s h o u l d b e made* The w i s e
y o g i and t h e w is e a l c h e m i s t l e a v e
such a tte m p ts t o tyros* T hey u n d e r
s t a n d t h a t , in th e long run* the
q u i v k e s t and s a f e s t way i s t o s e t up
b e h a v i o r p a t t e r n s o f t h o u g h t and a c
t i o n wh i c h w i l l a u t o m a t i c a l l y i n s u r e
the desired function of the centers
involved in those patterns*
What a l c h e m y h a s t o s a y a b o u t c o p
p er goes even deeper t h a n th is* One
o f t h e a n c i e n t S e m i t i c names f o r
copper is N a ch a s h , and t h i s i s
a l s o t h e nam e o f t h e s e r p e n t i n t h e
B i b l i c a l a l l e g o r y o f Eden. The num
b e r o f t h i s w o r d i s 358* w h i c h i s
also the value of , Messiach or
M e s s i a h , The A n o i n t e d * * c o r r e
s p o n d i n g t o t h e E n g l i s h noun C h r i s t .
Wh a t h a s t o b e t r a n s m u t e d * ma d e
w h i t e , and t h e n t i n c t u r e d w i t h r e d
n e s s , i s t h i s s ame s e r p e n t power*
I n t h e Hebrew a l p h a b e t i t i s r e p r e
s e n t e d by T e t h t t h e s e r p e n t . In
Tarot i t i s p i c t u r e d as a red lio n ,
t a m e d b y a woman r o b e d i n w h i t e , a s
s hown i n Key 8 *
One h a s o n l y t o r e a d t h e a l l e g o r y
of the F a l l t o see t h a t the s erp en t
p e r s o n i f i e s t h e pow er o f s e n s a t i o n t o
- 12 -
THE GREAT WORK: 6

arouse d esire. What t h e I n n e r


S c h o o l h a s a l w a y s known a n d t a u g h t
i s t h a t wh e n t h i s p o w e r i s r i g h t l y
u n d e r s t o o d and p r o p e r l y d i r e c t e d , i t
may b e t r a n s f o r m e d i n t o t h e i n s t r u
m e n t a l i t y of l i b e r a t i o n .
Because the t r u t h here in tim a te d
i s e a s i l y m i s u n d e r s t o o d i t i s always
reserved. To e x o t e r i c r e l i g i o n i s t s
i t i s anathema, because they cannot
u n d e r s t a n d what seems t o them t o be
a b la s p h e m o u s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f g o o d
and e v i l .
T h e y do n o t n o t i c e t h a t t h e s t o r y
o f the F all p la in ly declares that
t h e d i s a s t e r was a c o n s e q u e n c e o f
a t t e m p t i n g t o s u s t a i n l i f e by a s s i m
i l a t i n g k n o w l e d g e o f good and e v i l .
T hat is to say, the e r r o r in e a ti n g
t h e f o r b i d d e n f r u i t i s t h e v e r y one
these exoteric re lig io n ists perpetu
ate. T h ey i n s i s t t h a t c e r t a i n f o r ms
o f a c t i v i t y are e s s e n t i a l l y good,
a n d t h a t o t h e r f o r ms a r e e s s e n t i a l l y
bad.
W ere t h i s t r u e , i t wo u l d b e n e c e s
s a r y t o be a b l e t o d i s t i n g u i s h good
f o r m s f r o m b a d , and t h e s a d e x p e r i
ence of ages dem onstrates the u t t e r
i m p o s s i b i l i t y of t h i s . We c a n n o t
g a i n our l i b e r t y by t h i s m i s t a k e n
u s e o f our power t o d i s c r i m i n a t e .
To a t t e m p t i t i s t o e a t t h e f o r
b i d d e n f r u i t , and t h e i n e v i t a r l e
p en alty is death.
-1 3 -
THE GREAT WORK: 6

The h i g h e r wisdom r e a l i z e d t h e
r e l a t i v i t y o f w h a t h u ma n i g n o r a n c e
s u p p o s e s t o be a b s o l u t e . Man c a l l s
w h a t e v e r he f e a r s , w h a t e v e r see m s t o
th rea ten his comfortable se c u rity ,
whatever in his experience appears
t o have a d i s i n t e g r a t i n g e f f e c t upon
h i m , I ' e v i l . Wha t h e L i k e s , w h a t
s e e m s t o h i m t o ma ke f o r s e c u r i t y ,
w h a t he t h i n k s he u n d e r s t a n d s and
can u s e t o p r o m o t e what he c o n c e iv e s
t o b e h i s w e l f a r e , he b e l i e v e s t o b e
' g o o d . A ll too o fte n , i t tu rn s
o u t t h a t he i s m i s t a k e n .
I f we c o u l d l i v e f o r m i l l e n i u m s ,
we n e v e r c o u l d a r r i v e a t a b s o l u t e
c e r t a i n t y , e i t h e r as t o o b j e c t i v e s ,
o r a s t o w ays t o a t t a i n t h e m , d i d we
h av e t o be c e r t a i n of a l l t h e good,
and e q u a l l y c e r t a i n o f a l l t h e e v i l .
T h u s i t i s e v i d e n t t h e r e m u st b e a n
o t h e r w a y, a n d t h a t way i s t h e
met hod of o c c u l t s c i e n c e .
The w i s e s e e t h e r e l a t i v i t y o f h u
man s t a n d a r d s b a s e d o n s u p e r f i c i a l
experience. T hey u n i t e t o p r o c l a i m
t h a t appearances of e v il are a c tu
a lly in d ic a tio n s of u n realized
p o t e n c i e s , l e a d i n g t o p o s i t i v e good.
T h e y s a y t h e s e r p e n t p o w e r may b e
transformed into the instrument of
liberation. T h e y s how u s e x a c t l y
w h a t mu s t b e d o n e i n o r d e r t o e f f e c t
th is transformation.
-1 4 -
THE GREAT WORK: 6

I n L e s s o n 7 we s h a l l c o n t i n u e o u r
c o mmen t s on t h e w o r d s o f t h e s a g e s ,
concerning the F ir s t Matter. In so
d o i n g we s h a l l a v a i l o u r s e l v e s o f
many c l u e s f r o m t h e H o l y Q a b a la h .

-1 5 -
_-J
r1
j J J r '.

C10 A-j r \ r ; 1/
v j Jv L J"\ J JVj\.
THE GREAT WORK

LESSON NINE

THE FIRST MATTER ( 5 )

THE FIRST MATTER i s o f t e n c a l l e d


Ma g n e s i a , and i s s o d e s c r i b e d i n t h e
g l o s s a r y t o Mr. W a i t e s t r a n s l a t i o n
o f the Hermetic w r i t i n g s o f P a r a c e l
sus. This d e s c r ip t io n is taken,
a l m o s t v e r b a t i m , from t h e w r i t i n g s
o f Thomas Va u g h a n .
*Mag nes ia. T h i s term, which i s
o c c a s i o n a l l y u s e d by P a r a c e l s u s i n
i t s a l c h e m i c a l , a s d i s t i n c t from i t s
c h e m i c a l s e n s e , h a s r e c e i v e d many
e x p l a n a t i o n s from t h e a d e p t s . It is
t h e m a t t e r o f t h e S t o n e , wh i c h t h e
p h i l o s o p h e r s s o me t i me s c a l l t h e i r
r e d , and s o me t i me s t h e i r w h i t e mag
nesia. In the first p r e p a r a t i o n the
chaos i s b lo o d - r e d , because the
c e n t r a l s u l p h u r i s s t i r r e d up and
d i s c o v e r e d by t h e p h i l o s o p h i c a l f i re .
In the second i t i s e x c e e d i n g l y
w h i t e and t r a n s p a r e n t l i k e t h e h e a v
ens. I t i s s o m e t h i n g l i k e common
q u i c k s i l v e r , b u t o f s uc h a c e l e s t i a l
and t r a n s c e n d e n t b r i g h t n e s s , t h a t
n o t h i n g on e a r t h t a n be c ompar ed t o
it. I t i s a c h i l d o f the elem ents,
a p ur e v i r g i n , from whom n o t h i n g has
b e e n g e n e r a t e d as y e t . When s h e
- 1 -
THE GREAT WORK 9

b r e e d s , i t i s by t h e fire o f N a t u r e ,
whi ch i s her husband. She i s n e i
t h e r a n i ma l , v e g e t a b l e , nor m i n e r a l ,
nor i s s he an e x t r a c t i o n from t h e s e ;
s he i s p r e - e x i s t e n t t o them a l l , and
i s t h e i r mother. She i s a pure,
simple substance, yield in g to noth
ing but l o v e , because g e n e r a t i o n i s
h e r a i m, and t h a t i s n e v e r a c c o m
p l i s h e d by v i o l e n c e . She p rod uc es
from h e r h e a r t a t h i c k , h e a v y , snow-
w h i t e w a t e r , wh i c h i s t h e La c V i r -
g i n i s ( V i r g i n s M i l k ) , and a f t e r
wa r d s b l o o d from h e r h e a r t . Lastly
she p r e s e n t s a s e c r e t c r y s t a l . She
i s o n e and t h r e e , b u t a t t h e same
t i m e s h e i s f o u r and five. She i s
t h e C a t h o l i c Ma g n e s i a , t h e Sperm o f
t h e Worl d, o u t o f wh i c h a l l n a t u r a l
t h i n g s are g e n e r a t e d . Her b o d y i s
i n a s e n s e i n c o r r u p t i b l e ; t h e common
e l e m e n t s w i l l not destroy i t , nor
d o e s s h e mi x w i t h them e s s e n t i a l l y .
Ou t wa r d l y s h e r e s e m b l e s a s t o n e , and
y e t s h e i s no s t o n e . The p h i l o s o
p h e r s c a l l h e r t h e i r w h i t e gum, wa
t e r o f t h e i r sea, water of l i f e ,
mo s t p ur e and b l e s s e d w a t e r ; s h e i s
a t h i c k , permanent, s a l t i s h wate r,
whi ch d o e s n o t wet t h e hand, a dry
w a t e r , v i s c o u s and s l i m y , and g e n e r
a t e d from t h e s a l i n e f a t n e s s o f t h e
earth. F i r e cannot d e s t r o y her, for
she i s h e r s e l f fire, h a v in g w i t h i n
h e r a p o r t i o n o f t h e u n i v e r s a l fire
- 2-
THE GREAT WORK 9
o f N a t u r e , and a s e c r e t , c e l e s t i a l
s p i r i t , a n i m a t e d and q u i c k e n e d by
Go d . She i s a middle n a t u r e , b e
t ween t h i c k and t h i n , n o t a l t o g e t h e r
e a r t h l y , not w h o l l y i g n e o u s , but a
me*an a e r i a l s u b s t a n c e , t o be f o u n d
e v e r y w h e r e and a t a l l s e a s o n s .
In t h e s t a t e m e n t : She i s o n e and
t h r e e , b u t a t t h e same t i me s h e i s
f o u r and f i v e , find s e v e r a l c l u e s
t o t h e a r c a n a o f He r me t i c S c i e n c e .
The F i r s t M a t t e r i s i n i t s e l f a
perfect unity. He n c e The E m e r a l d
T a b l e t s a y s : A l l t h i n g s d r e from
o n e , by t h e m e d i a t i o n o f o n e , . : .
and a l l t h i n g s have t h e i r b i r t h from
t h i s one t h i n g by a d a p t a t i o n . ' ' An
o t h e r s a y s o f the F i r s t Mat t e r , I t
i s a commonly d i f f u s e d s u b j e c t . ' '
S i m i l a r l y , A n a s t r a t u s s a y s t h e mat
t e r i s o n e , and c o n t a i n s w i t h i n
i t s e l f a l l that i s needed. The same
d e c la r a t io n , with v a r ia tio n s o f
w o r d i n g , i s made by a l l s a g e s .
The F i r s t M a t t e r i s a l s o t h r e e ,
because i t contains within i t s e l f
t h e t h r e e p r i n c i p l e s : S u l p h u r , Mer
c u r y and S a l t . These are not th re e
t h i n g s o f wh i c h t h e F i r s t M a t t e r i s
c ompos e d. The F i r s t Ma t t e r i s n o t a
com position. It is a p erfectly
homogeneous u n i t y . R at her are the
t h r e e p r i n c i p l e s t o be u n d e r s t o o d as
b ei ng t h r e e a s p e c t s o f the nature o f
t h e One T h i n g , i n s e p a r a b l e from i t ,
-3-
THE GREAT WORK 9
and from one a n o t h e r - S u l p h u r , Mer
c u r y and S a l t a r e t h r e e w a y s i n
whi ch t h e F i r s t Ma t t e r m a n i f e s t s i t
s e l f , t h re e phases o f i t s b eh a v i o r .
T h e F i r s t M a t t e r i s s a i d t o be
f o u r , b e c a u s e i t i s e x p r e s s e d as t h e
f o u r e l e m e n t s : f i r e , w a t e r , a i r and
earth. T h e s e , as The Book o f Tokens
s a y s , are r e a l l y s u b t l e , i n v i s i b l e
e n t i t i e s , and s h o u l d n o t be u n d e r
s t o o d to s i g n i f y anything l i m i t e d to
the p h y s i c a l p la ne . From Yoga p h i l
o s o p h y we l e a r n t h a t fire i s t h e
s u b t l e p r i n c i p l e o f s i g h t , w a t e r t he
s u b t l e p r i n c i p l e o f t a s t e , a i r the
s u b t l e p r i n c i p l e o f t o u c h , and e a r t h
the s u b t l e p r i n c i p l e o f s me l l .
Each p r i n c i p l e h a s a l s o a c h a r a c
t e r i s t i c property. The p r o p e r t y o f
f i re i s e x p a n s i o n ; t h a t o f w a t e r i s
c o n t r a c t i o n ; t h a t o f a i r i s l ocomo
t i o n ; and t h a t o f e a r t h i s c o h e s i o n .
E ve ry p r i n c i p l e has a l s o a c h a r a c
te r is t ic taste quality. F i r e i s hot
and p u n g e n t ; w a t e r i s c o o l , a s t r i n
g e n t , b i t t e r ; a i r i s a c i d , s o u r and
sharp; e a r t h i s sweet.
T h e s e l a s t s h o u l d be compared wi t h
J a c o b B o e h me ' s d o c t r i n e t h a t i n t he
Prim ar y S u b s t a n c e t h e r e i s a two
f o l d fire, h a v ih g the q u a l i t i e s o f
b i t t e r n e s s and s h a r p n e s s . Boehme
knew n o t h i n g o f Yoga p h i l o s o p h y as
s u c h , b u t he had t h e s ame k i n d o f
- 4 -
THE GREAT WORK 9

e x p e r i e n c e as t h a t which i s th e
b a s i s o f Yoga d o c t r i n e . He wa s , i n
f a c t , a European Yogi. It is s i g
nificant, th e r e f o r e , th at in a l l his
a tte m p ts to e x p l a i n h is philosophy
he e m p l o y e d a l c h e m i c a l l a n g u a g e .
The s u b t l e p r i n c i p l e s o f Yoga
p h ilo so p h y are sometimes c a lle d
e t h e r s , a s i n Rama P r a s a d ' s
b oo k, N a t u r e ' s F i n e r F o r c e s , where
we r e a d t h a t T e j a s ( f i r e ) i s t h e l u
m i n i f e r o u s e t h e r ; t h a t Apas ( w a t e r )
i s t h e g u s t i f e r o u s e t h e r ; t h a t Vayu
( a i r ) i s t h e t a n g i f e r o u s e t h e r ; and
t h a t Pr i t h i v i ( e a r t h ) i s t h e o d o r -
i ferous ether.
We d i s l i k e t h i s c o n f u s i n g u s e o f
t h e w ord e t h e r . I n t h e e s o t e r i c
t e a c h i n g , t h e r e a r e s a i d t o be s u b
d i v i s i o n s o f t h e e t h e r , and t h e s e
a r e s ome t ime s l o o s e l y d e s i g n a t e d as
t h e f i r s t , s e c o n d , t h i r d and f o u r t h
e t h e r s ; but th e term p r o p e r l y b e
longs only to the g r o s s e s t m anifes
t a t i o n o f A k a s h a , a n d _ A k a s h a , a s you
l e a r n e d f r om L e s s o n 3, i s i d e n t i c a l
with the alchemical Quintessence.
T h e S a n s k r i t name f o r p r i n c i
p l e is T a ttv a , sometimes s p e l t
Tattwa. I t s l i t e r a l meaning is
r e a l i t y . T h i s meaning c a r r i e s a
genuine significance. It indicates
th a t the T a tiv a s are not merely
hypothetical e n titie s . T h ey a r e n o t
-5 -
THE GREAT WORK 9

j u s t human n o t i o n s o r n a me s . The y
have a c t u a l b e in g . They are r e a l
f o r c e s w h i c h g i v e us o u r c o n s c i o u s
n e s s o f s i g h t , t a s t e , t o u c h and
sm ell. From t h e s e , and f r o m t h e
fifth p r i n c i p l e , out o f which they
a l l p r o c e e d o r a r e d e r i v e d , we f o r
m u l a t e our wh ol e a w a r e n e s s o f the
wo r l d s u r r o u n d i n g u s .
We p e r c e i v e n o t h i n g w h a t e v e r d i
rectly. A l l we know a r e v a r i o u s
combinations of sen sation s. Not
t h a t what we p e r c e i v e i n t h e w o r l d
r o u n d us i s u n r e a l . What we mus t
g r a s p i s t h a t t h e r e a l i t y i s n o t t he
same as o u r s e n s o r y p e r c e p t i o n s .
Our w o r l d i s a s y n t h e s i s o f s e n s a
tions. S e n s a t i o n i s a l l t h a t we
know, and s e n s a t i o n g i v e s no immed
i a t e r e po r t o f the re al world.
T h e F i r s t M a t t e r i s s a i d t o he
%ve, because i t in clud es another
p r i n c i p l e b e s i d e s t h e f o u r whos e a c
t i v i t i e s produc e i n us our o r d i n a r y
e x p e r i e n c e o f the p h y s i c a l world.
In a l c h e m i c a l w r i t i n g s t h i s p r i n c i
p l e i s c a l l e d t h e Q u i n t e s s e n c e , and
i s u s u a l l y s a i d t o be e x t r a c t e d ' *
from t h e f o u r e l e m e n t s i n t h e c o u r s e
o f t h e G r e a t Work. T h i s i s s a i d b e
c a u s e we d e r i v e o u r a w a r e n e s s o f t h e
Q u i n t e s s e n c e from o u r e x p e r i e n c e o f
the o p era tio n o f the other four.
The Q u i n t e s s e n c e , howeve r, i s n o t i n
i t s e l f an e x t r a c t i o n from t h e f o u r
THE GREAT WORK 9
other p r i n c i p l e s . I t i s not deri ved
f r om t h e m. T h e y a r e d e r i v e d f r om
i t.
The S a n s k r i t name f o r t he Q u i n t e s
sence i s Akasha. Akasha i s s a i d to
have n e i t h e r t o u c h , t a s t e , c o l o r nor
odor. I t s fundamental q u a l i t y i s
that of space. Here we e n c o u n t e r a
difficulty. There i s a dif ference b e
t ween a b s o l u t e s p a c e , or A k a s h a , and
r e l a t i v e s p a c e , s u c h a s we o r d i n a r
i l y conceive. R e l a t i v e s p a c e , as
E i n s t e i n has i n d i c a t e d , i s c u r v e d
and f i n i t e . I t may n o t be v e r y e x a c t
to sa y t h a t A k a sh a , or a b s o l u t e
s p a c e , c o n t a i n s r e l a t i v e s p a c e ; but
t h i s i s as n e a r a s we c a n come t o
the truth o f the matter, c o n s i d e r i n g
t he l i m i t a t i o n s o f human s p e e c h .
Akas ha, moreover, is the s u b t le
p r i n c i p l e o f sound. This i s not o r
d i n a r y s o und, t h e a t m o s p h e r i c v i b r a
t i o n w h i c h we h e a r . I t is the
o r i g i n a l power o f v i b r a t i o n . It is
the u n d i f f e r e n t i a t e d L i f e - p o w e r , the
source o f a l l other m a n ife s t a tio n s .
For t h i s u n m a n i f e s t r e a l i t y we can
f rame no a d e q u a t e d e f i n i t i o n . To us
i t s e e ms t o be N o - T h i n g , o r we find
o u r s e l v e s t h i n k i n g o f i t as b e i n g
p e r f e c t l y empt y s p a c e . T h i s i s why
t h e s a g e s o f I n d i a s a y t h e f undamen
t a l q u a l i t y o f Akas ha i s pure s p a c e .
Because space i s omnipresen t, they
-7-
THE GREAT WORK 9

teach also that Akasha is all-


pervading.
Rama P r a s a d s a y s : The A k a s h a i s
t h e mo s t i m p o r t a n t o f a l l t h e T a t -
t vas. I t m u st; as a m a t t e r o f
c o u r s e , p r e c e d e and f o l l o w e v e r y
c h a n g e o f s t a t e on e v e r y p l a n e o f
life. Wi t h o u t t h i s , t h e r e can be no
m a n i f e s t a t i o n or c e s s a t i o n o f f or ms .
I t i s o u t o f Akas ha t h a t e v e r y f o r m
c o m e s , and i t i s i n Ak a s ha t h a t e v
e r y form l i v e s . The A k a s h a i s f u l l
o f f or ms i n t h e i r p o t e n t i a l s t a t e .
I t i n t e r v e n e s b e t w e e n e v e r y two o f
t h e fi ve T a t t v a s .
H e r e , by t h e wa y , i s a h i n t f o r
T a r o t s t u d e n t s as to the p l a c e o f
th e Fool in the whole s e r i e s of
maj or t rumps . J u s t as 0 i s t h e l i g -
i c a l p r e d e c e s s o r o f 1, s o , i n the
T a r o t pack, the Fool p r e c e d e s the
M a g i c i a n , numbered 1 . The power t h e
Fo ol r e p r e s e n t s i s , however, t h a t
w h i c h p r e c e d e s e v e r y n u m b e r , and
f o l l o w s e v e r y number a l s o . Between
e v e r y two numbers t h e r e i s t h e z e r o ,
s o t h a t what i s t o be u n d e r s t o o d by
t h e s e r i e s , 1, 2 , 3, 4 , i s r e a l l y
0 , 1, 0, 2 , 0, 3 , 0, 4, 0 - - a n d so
on, through a l l e x t e n s i o n s o f the
series. I t is noteworthy, also,
t h a t t h e z e r o s i g n , an o v a l , i s t h e
Hi ndu s ymbol f o r A k a s h a .
Many s y m b o l s r e f e r t o t h e i d e a
t h a t the F i r s t M atter i s one,
- 8 -
THE GREAT WORK 9

wh i c h i s a l s o t h r e e , f o u r and f i v e .
Among them i s t h e G r e a t P y r a m i d , one
s t r u c t u r e , r e p r e s e n t i n g by i t s t r i
a n g u l a r f a c e s t h e n u m b e r t h r e e , by
i t s s q u a r e b a s e t h e n u mb e r f o u r , a n d
by i t s a p e x a n d f o u r c o r n e r s ( a l s o
i t s s i d e s and b a s e ) t h e n u m b e r f i ve.
The a p r o n worn by F r e e m a s o n s , and
s i m i l a r a p r o n s wo r n i n o t h e r c e r e
m o n i a l o r g a n i z a t i o n s b a s e d on t h e
W e s t e r n T r a d i t i o n , a r e a l s o s y m b o ls
o f u n i t y , r e p r e s e n t i n g t h e number
t h r e e b y a t r i a n g u l a r f l ap, t h e num
b e r f o u r by t h e s q u a r e s h a p e o f t h e
a p r o n s t h e m s e l v e s , and the number
f i v e by the f o u r c o r n e r s o f the
s q u a r e a p r o n and t h e fifth p o i n t
t h e a p e x o f t h e t r i a n g u l a r flap.
Yet a n o t h e r symbol o f t h e F i r s t
M a t t e r a n d o f t h e G r e a t Work i s t h e
c e le b ra te d Pythagorean t r ia n g le ,
s a c r e d t o O s i r i s , I s i s and H o r u s ,
h a v i n g th e s e p r o p o r t i o n s :

IS IS
In t h i s t r i a n g l e t h e figure i t s e l f
i s t h e On e , - r e p r e s e n t i n g t h e a l l -
pervading F ir s t Matter. The v e r t i -
-9-
THE GREAT WORK 9

cal l i n e , descending, is that of


O s i r i s , t h e F a t h e r , and i t s d i v i
s i o n s are a t t r i b u t e d to th e th re e
p r i n c i p l e s , M e r c u r y , S u l p h u r and
Salt. The h o r i z o n t a l l i n e i s t h a t
c o r r e s p o n d i n g t o I s i s , and h a s f o u r
u n i t s , r e p r e s e n t i n g the elem en ts
f i r e , w a t e r , a i r and e a r t h . The
ascending hypotenuse, corresponding
t o H o r u s , t h e S o n , c o n t a i n s five
u n i t s , and s h o ws t h e five s t a g e s i n
the development o f the L i f e - p o w e r ' s
mani f e s t a t i o n .
The f i r s t s t a g e i s t h a t o f t h e mi n
eral. Then comes t h e p l a n t . After
the p la n t i s the animal. Above t h e
a n i m a l i s t h e n a t u r a l man. Ab o v e
t h e n a t u r a l man i s t h e man who has
made h i m s e l f t h e s u b j e c t o f t h e
G r e a t Work, he who i s a d e p t , m a s t e r
and ma g u s . He c o m p l e t e s t h e G r e a t
Work b y b e c o m i n g o n e w i t h t h e F a
t h e r , e v e n as t h e l i n e o f Horus in
t h i s t r i a n g l e c o m p l e t e s i t s e l f by
a r r i v i n g a t t h e p o i n t where t h e l i n e
a t t r i b u t e d to O s i r i s b e g i n s to
descend.
I n L e s s o n 7 we d i s c u s s e d t h e a l
c h e m i c a l m e a n i n g o f ] 2 Ht e h b e n .
S t o n e , wh i c h c o mb i n e s t h e wor ds 2K,
Ab , F a t h e r , and Ben, Son. We
have a l s o mentioned e l s e w h e r e that
t h e number o f t h i s word i s 5 3 . This
i s t h e numbe r o f HOP., khanmaui, t h e
H e b r e w p o e t i c a l name f o r ' S u n . ' '
- 10 -
THE GREAT WORK 9

The same number, 53, i s t h a t d e s i g


n a t i n g t h e d e g r e e s f o r m e d by t h e
angle o f the Pythagorean t r ia n g l e
wh e r e t h e h y p o t e n u s e , a s c r i b e d t o
Horus, j o i n s the v e r t i c a l l i n e a s
cribed to O s ir is . T h u s , on t h i s
t r i a n g l e , t h e number 53 d e f i n e s t h e
union o f th e Son, Horus, with the
Father, O s i r i s . That i s , O s i r i s i s
Ab, and Ho r u s i s | 3 f Be n. Both
are s o l a r d e i t i e s .
S in ce the angular r e l a t i o n s h i p b e
t we e n t h e h y p o t e n u s e and t h e v e r t i
c a l l i n e i s 53 d e g r e e s , t h e a n g l e
formed by t h e b a s e and t h e h y p o t e n
u s e m u s t n e c e s s a r i l y b e o n e o f 37
degrees, i n a s m u c h as t h e t h r e e
i n t e r i o r a n g l e s o f any t r i a n g l e a l
ways t o t a l 180 d e g r e e s , and i n t h i s
t r i a n g l e , t h e a n ^ e b etw e en t h e v e r
t i c a l l i n e and t h e b a s e i s a r i g h t
a n g l e , o r a n g l e o f 90 d e g r e e s .
The a n g u l a r r e l a t i o n o f t he h y p o t
enuse to the ba se i s al ways t h a t o f
3 7 d e g r e e s , a t a n y p o i n t on t h e
hypotenuse. And a t any p o i n t on t h e
hypotenuse the angle in r e l a t i o n to
t h e v e r t i c a l l i n e i s a l w a y s 53 d e
grees. The r e l a t i o n o f t he e v o l v i n g
forms o f t h e L i f e - p o w e r t o Mother
N a t u r e , whe nc e t h o s e f or ms r i s e , i s
a l w a y s t h e s ame . The same l a ws and
f o r c e s a r e a t wor k i n t h e s t o n e as
in the p e r f e c t maste r. The di f l fer-
- 11 -
THE GREAT WORK 9
e n c e s are d if f e r e n c e s in form, in
range o f e x p r e s s io n . In th e s t o n e ,
the d i r e c t i o n or im pulse o f those
l a w s and f o r c e s i s a l s o t h e same a s
i t i s in the m aster. A l l the f o r c e s
o f n a t u r e move t o g e t h e r t o w a r d t h e
p e r f e c t u n i o n o f t h e Son w i t h the
F a t h e r , and t o w a r d t h e p e r f e c t
u n io n , a l s o , o f th e powers o f the
F a t h e r and t h e Mo t h e r i n t h e m a n i
f e s t a t i o n o f t h e S o n.
Thus t h e P y t h a g o r e a n t r i a n g l e i s a
summary o f t h e f u n d a m e n t a l s o f a l
chemy, s h o w i n g t h e d e s c e n t o f S p i r i t
i n t o N a tu re as th e c a u se o f th e
a s c e n t o f c o n s c i o u s n e s s t h r o u g h five
g r e a t s t a g e s , ba ck t o p e r f e c t i d e n
t if i c a t i o n w ith the Prim al S o u r ce.
I t may b e t o o much t o s a y t h a t t h e
a n c i e n t E g y p t i a n s had a l c h e m y i n
mind when t h e y a d o p t e d t h i s t r i a n g l e
a s a symbol f o r t h e i r H o ly F a m i l y .
We m e r e l y p o i n t o u t t h a t t h i s t r i
a n g l e was u s e d by a l c h e m i s t s t o sum
m arize t h e i r d o c t r in e , because i t s
m a th e m a tic a l p r o p e r t i e s are such
t h a t i t l e n d s i t s e l f e a s i l y t o such
sym bolic in t e r p r e t a t io n .

- 12 -