As we practice it, Alchemy is part of the Hermetic tradition of Western spirituality. This lineage traces its origins into history and beyond, into the legend of the semi-divine Hermes, revered under many names throughout time. The traditions that bear the name Hermetic follow the principles set forth in the brief but important Emerald Tablet of Hermes. This text begins with a familiar phrase: “that which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above”, or “as above, so below”.
That precept is the basis for all the Hermetic traditions, as well as being the model for how followers of the Hermetic arts relate to creation and our place in it. The practice of Qabalah is a further elaboration on Hermetic philosophy, and systematizes the relationship between what is below and what is above into a ten-fold structure of Sephira, or spheres.
Each of the Sephira is ruled by an archetypal or planetary energy, and each serves as a collection of things which are ruled by that planet. So, for example, Yesod, the Sephira of the Moon, contains the metal silver, qualities of cool stillness and calm reflection, the subconscious, and herbs like artemisia and lotus.
Western ceremonial Magick makes use of these correspondences in ritual, so that if one desired inner peace and quietude, qualities under the Moon’s rulership, a ceremony would be designed incorporating other aspects of the Moon’s manifestation in the world. An object of silver might be used, along with purple-coloured robes, a pool of water would bring reflection, and lunar herbs, oils, or Spagyrics might be used for further toning.
A deity with Lunar qualities, such as Diana, might even be invoked in word or image to bring another level of intelligence to the working. This creates a sphere of energy in which so many of the Moon’s influences are brought to bear that all of the Moon’s character manifests, bringing the qualities of inner peace and stillness to the practitioner.
In Magick, the theatrical aspects of the ritual help the adept move outside the self and be more in contact with the energy being called, so that the desired outcome can manifest from the etheric into the physical. The peak of a ceremony is the top of that path of energy built by every action in the ritual, and this climax is the point where the physical and etheric states open and expand, connecting to with each other to create results.
From both a Magickal and Alchemical standpoint, the design, building, and performance of the practice, whether ceremony or lab operation, creates a pathway to the climax of that operation or ritual. And so, these same principles and elements of working are used in our Alchemical lab, and the intricacies of ceremony and energy are also used to create directed action when we work there.
Like the ceremonial adept, we are also calling in a higher intelligence to charge the operation. In the lab work, this character is not a deity, but the intelligence of the plant we are working on, which we access through our inner knowledge of that plant’s qualities and energies. Just as with the invocation of Diana, it is important for us to know that plant’s likes, dislikes, gifts, and abilities so that its energy will feel welcome in our space. As the adept meditates on an image of the deity, placing before it the foods and items that being prefers so that the image will become animated by the being, we are working to connect with the plant’s own intelligence and will so that its higher being will animate the medicine we create.
If you would like to understand a bit more about each of the planet’s energies as we work with them, be sure to read this article. For the practices and methods we use to invoke the proper energies and bring in the plant intelligences, read our next article in this series.