The initial phase of the alchemical journey corresponds to the process of calcination, the act of reducing the obstructive ego to ashes, clearing the path towards inner liberation. In the realm of chemical alchemy, this primary step signifies the application of intense heat to break down raw matter until it is reduced to ashes. In (spagyrics) the alchemy of medicines, plants are put through a calcination process to extract the salts they contain, which are later used in the preparation of medicinal tinctures due to their great healing and energetic value. Similarly, the soul’s inner light must be brought out through a series of rigorous stages that allow it to shed its impurities so that its spiritual salts can crystallize as the perfected forms of its living expression, and then be added back into the vessel of personality for doing sacred works.
These impurities are made of what are referred to as “vulgar salts” or “common salts”. Salt, corresponding to the descending current of the life-power, is the body or matter building inclination of Spirit. Bodies, matter and forms are good, but they are unfinished until they undergo the rectification described in the alchemical process. Above the world of form this salt is a pure, spiritual salt – a pure desire to embody. Spiritual salt at its root is the out flowing eternal love of the Divine Mother who gives birth to all forms through the womb of the Great Sea. Yet in a state of mis-identification with the temporal forms Her sacred gift and His – the vital energy constituting the higher Soul of all beings – has become enclosed in the husk of time and suffers the tragedy of disconnection, becoming captured by the very shells it built to clothe and express the One Life within the world of forms.
This stage of the operation is said to be concerned with lead, since lead is called the vulgar salt of other metals; silver, iron, copper, gold, tin, and mercury. Each of these metals, corresponding to aspects of the Self, is in a common state, a vulgar or fallen state, when the seed of vulgar salt is still within it. In psychological parlance the condition of the Self at this stage is one where the ego is infused into the Self system and rules over it. This means that the identity constituting the notion of the “I” is bound up in the illusion of time and form. The person believes he/she IS the limited skin encapsulated ego, subject to all the costs and consequences of this reality. As such the seven metals or seven stars are also bound up in the errors of this heavy laden condition.
To perfect the metals, meaning perfect the Self as a liberated vehicle of universal Spirit and restore the full connection between material bodies and their Source, we must bring up each of the metals from their lower, common forms, refining their luster and restoring their higher functions. Each of the metals correspond also with the seven interior stars (planets), the Moon is Silver, the Sun is Gold, Mercury is mercury, Venus is copper, Mars is iron, Jupiter is tin, and Saturn is lead. These interior stars or metals refer to specific aspects of the vehicle of consciousness, and have a lower, common state as well as a higher spiritual state. The higher state of each aspect is its true and undefiled state, and by the fullness of its season in time, possesses the capacities necessary to express the connection between matter and Spirit.
At a later time we will inspect the correspondences of the interior stars (metals) and their respective faculties of consciousness, but for now we will simply mention them to illustrate the main point. All sentient beings have these 7 facilities; Memory (jupiter), Volition (mars), Identity (the Sun), Desire (Venus), Intellect (mercury), Instinct (silver) and Body (saturn). Each of these facilities have a lower state and a higher state. The higher state of mercury – the intellect, for example is in full possession of the faculties of reason, observation and logic, such that the real nature of things is known, and the proper means to direct them is understood. Yet in their vulgar state, we are forgetful, we lack self control, we don’t know who or what we are, what the true causes of fulfillment are, and how to go about attaining them in a way that aligns with natural law.
This system of errors then builds a fortified enclosure around us – an ego, or persona that seeks to compensate for its limitations with its own ideas of meaningfulness and freedom. All types of suffering and false pleasure come from this near ubiquitous human condition. The lead of lead – that is the vulgar salt hiding in each of the metals – tarnishes and impoverishes the vital essence within, until the time when we take up the Great Work of spiritual transformation.
Calcination serves as the initiatory activity wherein we confront the stagnant energies of our false identity, its personas and the “vulgar salts” that inhibit us with so much heavy lead, bringing them to the surface for purification. Initially we seek only an escape from the suffering it causes, but quickly we realize, that aligning the material of our person-hood with the Spiritual, in the mysterium conjunctionus, not only frees us from suffering but also puts us in possession of capacities that enable wondrous works and a vision that gives us clear views into the unspeakable majesty of this eternal existence. During this often difficult stage, the ego grapples with an existential crisis, prompting a profound reconstruction of our worldview.
As spiritual alchemists, we must embrace and endure the discomfort of this process, recognizing that the attachments forged by the limited mind do not authentically mirror our inner essence. Through this awareness, we gain the strength to release them.
Gradually, we come to the realization that the ego mind does not define our true selves. We become attuned to the presence of the ego’s manifestations—self-doubt, self-sabotage, and pride—enabling us to dismantle these impurities. In a manner akin to chemical alchemy, where impurities are incinerated to ashes through the purifying fire, we embark on a journey of ego dissolution, perceiving it for what it truly is—a transient facade. The purifying fire of divine judgement speaking to us through the voice of our ascended conscience, reveals that those thoughts and actions generated by the transient facade of our egoism, are incapable of leading us to what is worthy of our soul.
Imagining our personas as good as we are inclined to do, and adhering to an idealized notion of righteousness, overshadows our pursuit of true fulfillment, deterring us from the profound journey of self-discovery. This is the erroneous identity we unwittingly nurture, one that vehemently and instinctively defends its existence. It is a vulgar gold, a fools gold, that tarnishes like silver, containing the lead of lead within it. To light the alchemical fires then and calcine our holy metals, catalyzes the process of dismantling our attachments to ego-driven beliefs in the shine that does not shine.
Our instinctive reflexes, which compel us to seek validation through worldly measures, and defend ourselves against exposure to the higher light and its refining judgement is revealed as an unachievable ambition. Only the truth is true and all things that come into the range of its light will be seen for what they are. The false is revealed as false, the inadequate is shown as inadequate, the unkind is shown as unkind, and mimicry is shown as mimicry. Yet the holiness of the essential spark of being, hiding beneath the layers of these facades is also revealed. Like a vein of gold, struck by the minor’s pick covered in mud, our will to seek and find, to uncover and liberate the precious from the mundane and the sacred from the profane shines out a glint of holy light.
As we confront the identity crisis this insight inevitably engenders, we initiate the breakdown of our constituting elements to their prima materia, the primal and raw material of our being. This phase embodies the alchemical act of burning “everything” to ashes, since the majority of material built up in us is combustible. What is imperishable by fire and contains the pure essence of the living spiritual gold lies hidden therein, though it is covered by the murk of matter, and its salty earth.
Calcination symbolizes the first part of the purification process where the heaviest of impurities are reduced to blackened remnants, much like the fleeting mirages of life that dissipate as we come closer to their source. No one fully entranced in the seduction of the mirage subjects themselves to the fire of calcination. For them the soul’s longing seems quenchable by the means promised by the illusions of the world. They have yet to be confronted by the ultimate betrayal of death, or haunted by the perpetual folly flowing out from the wake of their ignorance.
The purpose of this work is to refine our character and restore equilibrium to our existence. It represents the path to liberation from the clutches of the ego, which fiercely strives for survival.
Awakening from the dream of separation demands unwavering honesty, profound courage, and the readiness to relinquish all that does not authentically define us. It requires the audacity to embrace change and opt for the transformative journey of self-exploration.
During this vital stage of spiritual alchemy, it becomes imperative to perceive the ego for what it truly is and recognize the vastness of our existence beyond it. Understanding this facet is pivotal. Calcination acts as the crucible that immolates the ego’s staunch defenses against the unknown. As these defenses, along with ingrained beliefs and habitual patterns, are consumed by the alchemical fire, we may experience a profound sense of disorientation. We essentially undergo a death of the outdated patterns that no longer serve us. This space that opens up allows us to delve deeper into our authentic reality, revealing the essence of our being beyond the cacophony of the mind.
The ego, in essence, is the identification with form, primarily rooted in mental constructs. It encompasses our name, personality, and the intricate narratives we have woven, comprising memories, beliefs, ideas, and sensory experiences that shape our self-perception—our origin, our journey, our encounters. When we attach ourselves to a thought or narrative within our mind, the ego springs into existence. Duality, a fundamental characteristic of the ego thought system, emerges as it delineates life into words, concepts, and convictions that tend to supplant the essence of present moment awareness. Duality thrives exclusively in the realm of the mind, perpetuating the illusion of separation, wherein we erroneously believe we are distinct entities. It forms the divide between our authentic self and the illusion of who we perceive ourselves to be.
We exist ensnared in the labyrinth of the mind, often oblivious to the puppetry orchestrated by the ego’s narratives. However, it is essential to remember that we are not defined by the ego; it does not encompass our true essence. Thoughts are but ephemeral constructs, akin to any other material creation. But the ego fiercely safeguards its notion of separateness. Against this fact no complaint is warranted. Yet, the revelation that the entire framework of our beliefs is inherently flawed can be disconcerting, and resistance to this realization is a common however temporary reaction.
To expedite the whole sequence of our natural reactions, we might also look to find its sacred cause and positive purpose. Should we suddenly be thrown in to the full extant of our boundless togetherness, little would be left of a self to speak of it, much less to make lunch for your kids before school or kiss your spouse when he or she gets home. Our nervous system must gradually acclimate to the totality, or the totality will consume the wick it finds in us, snuffing us out along with its own flame.
The ego’s defenses preserve and protect us from what would regularly be physical death by spiritual illumination. A physical vehicle, made of common tissues, with electrical impulses mediated by vulgar salts can no more hold the full current of the upper light, than a thimble could hold the contents of the red sea.
The Great Work of alchemical transformation is not merely changing our minds to let in a deeper truth. If this were the case, many of us would have completed it already since we affirm a non-dual transcendent reality daily. This transformation is more than change in belief or a more accurate way of perceiving, its at least as much a physical and electrical transfiguration.
Our shift is as physiological as it is psychological. There is a chemical, and neurological basis for this transformation. The higher voltage currents of super-consciousness requires a body, a vessel that can properly conduct it. That portion of the work is governed by Luna, who builds the body from the etheric blue print of mental substance, and will safe guard the vehicle from annihilation by premature transcendence.
Our resistance to ego transcendence, and the limitations on the depth and degree of our knowledge and understanding is inseparably linked to the readiness of the vessel. This is a part of the mercy of Love’s Law. To the degree the chemical and neurological preparations are equal to our inner psycho-spiritual readiness, to that degree the higher light can be realized. The ego’s belief in separation and duality, informs the mind stuff of the etheric template and insulates the self system from the shock of direct revelation.
The Bible is full of references of accidental deaths from those who failed to make the necessary preparations before entering the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, came too close to the top of Mount Sinai or touched the Ark of the covenant inappropriately. The secret fire of illumination, or what the eastern sages call kundalini, can have devastating effects on the body and the mind if too much of it is allowed to flow freely through the vehicle while impurities still exist within the blood and nervous system.
But those impurities of mind, made manifest in the body, goad us on the path of evolution. We’ll continue to suffer so long as the separate self-sense persists. Living within the realm of duality, we unwittingly craft expansive domains of suffering for ourselves -however subtle- so that we will seek to transcend it. The self-inflicted anguish emerges as a consequence of our confinement to dualistic thinking, which stand in stark contrast to our souls intuition of the boundless unity of life.
Our daily existence becomes a theater of condemnation, and fear, with the depth of our entanglement in duality directly proportional to the intensity of our afflictions. These afflictions manifest in various forms, hatred, anger, depression, paranoia, anxiety, insecurities and a plethora of emotional states and compensatory responses to them. But this situation is unbearable to behold and its real cause so unpalatable that we shut it out of sight. Anything within us that we perceive as malevolent, wrong, sinful, or undesirable becomes subjected to suppression and denial. Consequently, the more we repress these energies, the more contorted and disruptive our inner landscape becomes. This profound suffering inevitably spills over into our interactions and relationships, casting a shadow over the world around us. It often seems as though we are engulfed in the pervasive influence of the ego, saturating nearly every corner of the spiritual domain.
It’s not uncommon to hear discussions centered around the notion of obliterating, killing, or eradicating the ego. However, this perspective is a reflection of a mind ensnared in a conflict dualism. The ego itself is merely a tool—a biological, physiological, and social mechanism essential for our survival in the physical realm. Without it, we would struggle to navigate the complexities of the world. It’s crucial to grasp that the ego isn’t intrinsically good or bad; whether it engenders pain or suffering depends entirely on how we wield it.
The ego serves as a vehicle for universal Spirit. It can function as a gateway through which the undifferentiated, generic human entity enters time and form. Even those who transcend the ego do not shed it entirely; rather, they cease to identify with it exclusively. They become identified with the one Ego seated in the higher Soul. In this light, the particular or individual ego becomes harmoniously blended with its cosmic counterpart offering a valuable service.
When we shift our conscious awareness, recognizing that the limited mind does not authentically represent our core essence, we gain the ability to relinquish our attachment to it. This revelation liberates us from the illusion of egoic identification. Simultaneously that purified state of comprehension encodes its patterns of wisdom into the etheric template building the body, bringing about a greater capacity of the mind-body vehicle to express the upper light in thought, word and deed.
In the first three phases of the Great Work of spiritual alchemy we are not merely burning the ego away, or terrorizing it with the fire of cruel judgements and finger wagging as it can sometimes seem. We are reducing its defenses of concealment and removing the barbed hooks of attachment so that we can begin to differentiate the ego from the Self. Being fused or confused with the Self, the ego is embedded into the psyche in a way that crowds out the light of the Soul and its wholeness and oneness with the All. Here we make significant progress toward the undoing its subconscious strongholds, bringing to light its hidden grip over our lives so that we can heal it, preparing the temple for what will inevitably be the Master’s return.