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Gently grasping the First Matter


I thought I'd share some of my recent alchemical understanding***disclaimer--I do not have an external alchemical teacher, so take it with a grain of salt.....or better yet, experiment yourself and prove me wrong if you can! =)****

The old alchemical sages write that you can't be "told" about what the First Matter  is, but that you must "discover" it. In my own work I've found this to be true--knowing the First Matter involves having Gnosis of it. Not simply knowing what one manifestation of  it is. Recently Alchemists (and our own GH Fra LES) have "revealed" the First Matter....well, they haven't, really. They've given us another excellent tool with which to gain understanding of the First Matter, but these gentlemen--these Wizards--are subtle, and as Paul Foster Case suggests, what they say that seems most plain and straightforward should be studied the most closely! They are of course telling us the Truth, and explicitly, but hearing the truth and having understanding of it are different things.

It is more than identifying it, because it isn't just an object. It is particular permutations of the One Power, and discovering it is easiest if you have an understanding of how the One Power manifests as the Three Alchemical Principles (Sulfur, Mercury, Salt) within the Four Qabalistic Worlds (Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, Assiah).

The Three Alchemical Principles

Sulfur-Desire, Passion, Expansion, Growth. Combustible.

Mercury- Mind, LVX, Reflection, Fluidity, Movement

Salt-Solidifying, Crystallized. Solid.

The Principles are the same thing-the One thing-in different states of manifestation. It is important that you don't only think of them as the same as the LVX, as subtle energy. They are and they are not; they are states of being, matrices. They can be manipulated and altered with the Mind. What they are (or can be perceived as) depends upon the plane of manifestation. They are Principles in Atziluth, Energies in Briah, Symbols and mental Structures in Yetzirah, and physical substances (within the body) in Assiah. It's important to understand that when something descends into manifestation it doesn't lose it's qualities from  the previous Qabalistic worlds; all of the worlds exist simultaneously in each Thing, and so when referring to any of the Three principles it has to be understood as a single but  multi-faceted thing, like a gem.  If you were to look at yourself and draw out your own Mercury, you would find a different Mercury (but the same) for each level of your own being. Within your Self, the Alchemical  Mercury--"Our" Mercury--is the Mind, The Sphere of Sensation, the Etheric Body, the Blood.

For example, when we perform Solutio we are dissolving things within our Alchemical Mercury; this is meditating, and dissolving things within our Mind, which is a droplet in the vast Macrocosmic Sea of Mind that makes up all of existence. This is why in Alchemical literature the sages speak of Nature "revealing" herself, and the emblems show a woman representing Nature divesting herself of clothes. (this, again, from Paul Foster Case).  As we meditate deeper and deeper (slowly increasing the "temperature" of the water), we begin to enter into the Macrocosmic Argent Vive (living silver, Mercury) and the subject of that meditation  is freed of it's objective nature and dissolved within that Greater Water. Then it's True nature is perceived by the Alchemist.  This dissolution occurs on all of the levels-what was begun Above continues below. What is dissolved into the Mind also dissolves into the Sphere of Sensation, the Etheric body, and then the Blood. The refinements that occur within Alchemy are operative on all of the levels. Refining, say, the Metals as they exist within the Mind will affect them as they exist within the Sphere, and within the etheric body, and finally the metals as they exist within the physical body.

So, when the initiated Alchemists say to us "The First Matter is the Body", we have to keep in mind what the Body actually is before assuming understanding. The "Body" is more than flesh, and so is the First Matter. The Qabalistic Four worlds are macrocosmic And microcosmic. The planes exist simultaneously in all places, in all things, at the same time. It's deceptive to say that the First Matter is any One thing, because it is many things and the One thing all at works and studies and says "AHA! At last, I understand! The First Matter is my Mind!", or "The First Matter is the Sphere of Sensation!", or "The First Matter is my Etheric Body!" or "The The First Matter is my Body!" Each of those things is True, and each is a lie because it isn't the whole Truth. This is, in my opinion, why alchemical understanding can't be transmitted by words alone. Images are better at communicating complicated truths, but still aren't perfect. It's the combined weight of study and meditation that allow for the Gnosis event that leads to grasping the First Matter. Reading about it is not enough-even stated plainly. So, the alchemists can plainly state the truth of the Royal Art without concern for it's becoming profaned. It can only be reached from atop a mountain of meditation and study. But it can be reached.

I imagine that what is truly held sacrosanct by the current Orders that have alchemical understandings are the processes that they use, especially if they've developed very sophisticated ones. You can find different processes within the alchemical texts, especially if you've been able to grasp the First Matter and come to understand the nature of the Metals and Principles, the various Dragons and Hermaphrodites and Virgins.  Which one works best? What does each process accomplish? What were the results for the alchemist who attempted it? These are all questions that can only be answered within the arms of a group possessing a living alchemical tradition, and so these traditions have great value. It must be incredibly easier to have a process given to you that you Know will work in the expected fashion, with the experiences of past alchemist's to guide you.

I hope you are all well, and that someone disagrees with me enough to spark a debate! Nothing fertilizes the mind like the blood spilled in a healthy argument.




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