Of all the systems that exist for explaining how the process of spiritual growth unfolds, the one that allows us to make the most sense of our own life experiences is the system known as alchemy. We also find precious help and consolation in the explanation alchemy gives of why bad things may sometimes happen to good people. And, as you may guess, this is something we are particularly interested in at the moment, since some pretty tricky things are happening to us personally! (See our last two letters.)
Commonly, we hear people jumping to the conclusion that, if a person is having difficult experiences in their life, then that must be because they have somehow attracted them, be it through negative karma, or through vibrations that are too low, or through negative beliefs, thoughts or feelings. Well, we would like to suggest that all these explanations are in fact only part of the truth. Actually, everybody on this earth – even the best and most happy person – has negative karma of some kind, or has at least some negative beliefs, thoughts or feelings buried somewhere in them. Nobody is perfect! Yet bad things do not happen to everyone. And, as we’ve no doubt all observed, it’s quite often the good people who tend to have more difficult and painful experiences, while the ‘bad’ ones remain unscathed by anything major. Why is this? Well, leaving aside pure chance, and any plans we may have made before we were born regarding the life experiences we were willing to have, either for our own learning and/or to serve others, alchemists offer another, highly logical answer to this puzzling question.
Transformation into pure spiritual gold
As you may already know, alchemy is the process through which the base metal of our ordinary, human self is gradually refined and transformed into pure spiritual gold. This has the most far reaching effects, not just on our subtle bodies, but on our physical body as well, and not just on ourselves, but on the world around us too.
The whole process is unleashed when our deepest, most heartfelt desire – born of love – is to become utterly re-formed, so that every part of our being is fully aligned with the plan which our higher, divine self has for our being and our life. When that desire, which the ancients called the ‘holy desire’, is truly and deeply felt, it attracts towards us experiences which will speed up the process of our evolution, so that it can even be possible to liberate the spiritual gold from the dross of our earthly nature within a single lifetime. Now if you think about it, you’ll realise that this accelerated process of refinement and purification cannot always be a ‘walk in the park’. Actually, it can be more like a walk in an avalanche, in real life!
Facing our inner darkness
The holy desire calls light into the darkest places in our being, as well as in the world around us; places where our inner ‘monsters’ may have been sleeping peacefully for ages, not bothering anybody. But when the light touches them, up they leap, ‘seeking whom they may devour’. And that’s why, in the first of the three main alchemical phases, known as the black phase, or nigredo, all the old, the familiar, and the safe is stripped away from us and we are brought face to face with our own inner darkness in a series of challenges through which our discernment, and our love and devotion to what is right, in preference to what is easy, will be put to the test again and again.
Hearing the light
During the next stage, known as the white phase or albedo, our love and devotion to the light we are attracting through the holy desire have been proved to such an extent that the light can play a real role in our consciousness and life. When this stage is reached, the light and darkness within us have become so polarised that it is almost as if there are two consciousnesses within our system – a higher one, whose guidance we seek to follow, and a lower one, made up of all our old habits of thinking, feeling and acting. These habits or patterns, commonly known as the ‘ego’ or lower mind, generally have no intention of going quietly, and try every trick in the book to hold on to their position of power in our system (and the observant among you will have noticed that there are forces like this in the world at large as well!). This brings about a further process of purification and learning, not to mention suffering, as we seek to hear and obey the light, or higher consciousness, and not the lower one, whose demands may become increasingly shrill.
Expressing the higher self
During the third and final stage, known as the red phase or rubedo, the light in us feels more like our own consciousness, and less like some higher being helping us. At this stage we may feel as though we have been left alone, to ‘fly by the seat of our pants’ as it were. But that’s really only because the higher consciousness is more integrated, and now the task is for it to completely subsume the lower mind, or ‘ego’. Still not easy, but nevertheless, this is the phase of completion and full expression of the higher, divine self in the physical life. Lead is turned into gold.
In practice, these three phases do not unfold in a linear fashion, but more in spirals and layers, with a fair amount of travel forwards and backwards, much like a shuttle on a weaving loom. But nevertheless, we hope you see the point. The higher our vibrations, the more polarised and pronounced the light and darkness within ourselves and in our environment become…. until finally, all has been brought to brightness, and peace prevails.
Choosing for your soul
So the next time you wonder what’s wrong with you, because so many bad things are going on in your life, perhaps you could say to yourself instead, ‘Maybe something is very, very right,’ and realise that it’s a matter of consciously choosing what is good and true for your soul, rather than what is easy for your ordinary, earthly self. In this way, you’ll find that your spiritual progress will shift to the next level.
Wishing you all the love, discernment, courage, persistence and guidance you need to bring your path to a good ending.
Ann, Geoff, Sarah, Martyn and the Cygnus Team
What inspired us to write about alchemy in this issue was reading Breast Cancer – Hanging On By a Red Thread, in which Kathy Jones – who co-founded the Goddess Temple in Glastonbury – describes her experience of recovering from breast cancer. Kathy endured – and courageously survived – the ravages of conventional treatment, as well as using a number of alternative therapies. But most importantly, she saw and dealt with the whole experience as an alchemical process and, along the way, received many synchronistic confirmations that she was right in her understanding.
We were also inspired by seeing the latest Harry Potter* film, believe it or not. It was our friend, Hans Andrea, who created the site www.harrypotterforseekers.com, who first pointed out to us how dazzlingly perfect an allegory of the alchemical process J K Rowling’s incredible creation is. Since then, it has just blown us away, and we never tire of reading the books or watching the films, because there’s always more to discover! And when we think about how all those powerful, archetypal spiritual currents have been stimulated within the consciousness of millions of people because of their enthusiasm for Harry Potter, just like the moving pictures in the story, we get more excited still! Surely, as Bruce Lipton, Penny Peirce and Andrew Harvey say in their features in this magazine, the whole world is going through an alchemical process at this time.
Andrew Harvey, in the extract we have chosen from his book, The Hope, uses a quotation from The Gospel of Thomas which we think expresses in a nutshell the whole process of alchemy: ‘The seeker should not stop until he finds [the holy longing]. When he does find, he will be disturbed [nigredo]. After having been disturbed, he will be astonished [albedo]. Then he will reign over everything [rubedo].’ How blessed we are to have access to such inspiration!
*All the Harry Potter books are available from Cygnus at half price or less. Please click here or call us on (01558 825500) for details.