by Mateo Sol
In many ways,
Shamanism is the same as Alchemy...
They both approach spiritual development through a psychic
involvement with matter. But while European alchemy became entrapped
in an obsession with metals and purified elements, shamanism fixated
its attention in the living energies of plants, animals and spirits.
It is perhaps because of this reason that alchemy became synonymous
with gaining wealth and immortality. For those who confused the
metaphors of the original alchemy with reality, the practice became
a pseudo-science of transforming lead into gold.
For others, however,
alchemy remained the secret science of illumination and inner
The Science of
Non Est Aurum Vulgi:
Our gold is not
Whether you understand
Alchemy as a science or as a
alchemy is ultimately concerned with transformation and change.
While physical alchemy is concerned with altering and transforming
the properties within matter, spiritual alchemy is concerned with
freeing your spiritual self which is trapped within you by the
unrefined parts of yourself (e.g. your fears, personal beliefs,
Spiritual alchemy is
vastly more multi-faceted.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of spiritual alchemy is its
objective: to free you from your core wounds, core beliefs, soul
loss and other self-destructive personality structures in order for
you to live freely and unobstructed.
Existing in "pure being,"
or soulful awareness is the ultimate state of transformation - the
gold - of spiritual alchemy. It attempts to restructure your
personality and the various levels of attachment, avoidance and
identification you possess.
These days, we can thank famous psychologist C.G. Jung for
the continued interest in alchemy.
Much of his theory is
heavily steeped in the rich symbolism of alchemy, creating a
colorful and sophisticated roadmap by which we can learn to get
ourselves "out of our own way," stop being our own enemies, and
allow our fullest potential to unfold.
Prima" - Gold and the Philosopher's Stone
Jung is commonly recognized as the main advocate and promoter of
He argued that he had
noticed many of the symbols found in alchemy texts mysteriously
showing up in the dreams of his patients - most of whom had no prior
knowledge of Alchemy.
He concluded that alchemy was a superb expression of the universal
symbols of life, and was therefore a highly effective tool for
...are the most commonly
known symbols relating to Alchemy.
Materia Prima (or "first matter"), is an Alchemic symbol that
reflects the notion that all the universe originated from a
primitive, formless base.
The idea of a "Materia
Prima" can be traced back to Aristotle who understood that
there is a force that holds all other forms in existence together
but is itself invisible - these days, we call it "Spirit."
This invisible womb or
unseen force is a field of pure potential that can only come into
existence when it is embodied into a "form."
In Alchemy, the "Materia Prima" or primal material is that which is
left over after we have reduced matter into its purest essence.
This is a powerful
psychological symbol because it describes the internal process of
arriving at a "core realization," or in other words becoming aware
of the root cause of a belief or trauma within us.
The 7 Stages
of Spiritual Alchemy
The Latin expression "solve et coagula" is derived from "solve,"
meaning to break down and separate, while "coagula" describes the
process of bringing elements back together (coagulating) into a new,
Interestingly, "solve et coagula" is a wonderful psychological
metaphor: by pursuing Gold (or listening to our intuitive "higher
calling") we "break down" limiting parts within us that are in the
way of our transformation (Philosopher's Stone) into a free and
whole being (coagulation).
While there are no universal stages of alchemy due to the sheer
number of different schools out there, these are some of the most
widely accepted stages:
Calcination is the process of heating and decomposing raw matter
- or in other words, breaking down parts of ourselves that are
in the way of our own happiness.
Often we'd rather be
right or fulfill an idea of "perfection" than be truly happy, so
we continue neglecting the exploration of ourselves.
The stage of Calcination represents the stage in our lives where
we begin breaking down
our egos, self-doubt,
stubbornness, self-sabotaging behavior, pride and arrogance, and
put it aside so we can find out what is underneath.
Once we have broken down all of our personality characteristics
that were in the way, we are left with the process of
dissolution which is the beginning of feeling less
identification with our false sense of self.
Once we are free from
our pride or self-doubt, we can take one step back and truly
observe our positive and negative qualities.
Suddenly, our inability to take responsibility for our many
faults, avoidance of traumatizing memories, and other inner
tensions rise to the surface, causing us to become aware of how
our behavior might be affecting others.
This is the beginning
Sometimes this stage
of transformation is brought about accidentally by illnesses and
misfortunes in our lives that cause us to really pay attention
to what we're doing, shocking us out of our avoidance patterns
(such as workaholism, drugs and TV watching).
Separation is the stage where we make our thoughts and emotions
more defined by isolating them from other thoughts and emotions.
A simple example is
our attempt to free our heart from resentment while trying to
The process of separation involves truly becoming aware of our
authentic feelings for a person, or for ourselves.
In this stage we
honestly experience our anger, frustration or disappointment
towards another or ourselves, rather than reverting back to the
old habit of dutifully trying to "forgive" or "forget" because
it is the "right" or comfortable thing to do.
Separation is closely
shadow work in that we must
allow all feelings and thoughts within us to surface side by
This helps us to
isolate particular elements of our character in order to
honestly see and assess them.
After the purification and clarification of the first three
stages, we must properly combine the remaining elements within
us through the process of "Conjunction."
While in the previous step we separated and learned to
distinguish all the separate feelings and thoughts within us,
Conjunction provides the inner space - the simmering - that is
required for us to truly and honestly accept all the parts of
our authentic self.
When we experience
this stage of spiritual alchemy, all of our unconscious thoughts
and feelings bubble up to the surface and into the light of
Fermentation is the beginning of our process of rebirth. This
stage can be compared to the death of a grape, which then
becomes the birth of wine.
While the first four
stages involved working with aspects of our old personality, in
the stage of Fermentation we begin to experience moments of our
more "refined" self.
Fermentation occurs in two parts:
Putrefaction is the
decomposition of our former selves; the process of inner death
by which the old elements of our conscious and unconscious minds
are allowed to rot and decompose.
(Some call this stage
the dark night of the soul, as
it can be followed by troublesome mental states such as
On the other hand, Spiritization is the stage by which we begin
to look at the world in a new light. With the right guidance and
with enough inner work, Spiritization involves
letting go of all the aspects
of ourselves and our lives that don't serve or contribute to our
This is when we taste
moments of great inner peace and stillness.
Once we begin our Spiritization we must find a way to continue
to integrate all of these spiritual realizations into our lives
in order to allow them to become permanent.
Distillation is the
level of further purification.
One example of Distillation is finding ways to live from a daily
place of inner peace - even in the most mundane circumstances.
With enough repeated
practice of constantly dying and being reborn in the present
moment without entering again into the habits, identifications
and cycles of the mind, we experience a strong and profound
In the East, this is
what is mostly defined as
Similar to the blood's ability to form clots and stop bleeding,
Coagulation is the moment when we've "broken open the head," or
in other words, we have become free from the mind and have
allowed our consciousness or Soul, to connect with the Materia
Prima: the Spirit.
The meeting point between two opposites such as the spiritual
self and raw matter, heaven and hell, and life and death, is the
point where existence become self-aware.
This is the moment
when our lives are without duality; when matter becomes spirit,
or the spirit is manifested in material form.
In the stage of
Coagulation, the physical universe is not separate from the mind or
spiritual reality; it is a reflection of it.
Alchemy's greatest achievement is to create an interrelationship
between mind and matter, between self and world.