from Alchemy by Franz Hartmann, 1984.
It must never be supposed that the practice of alchemy consists only in the exercise of the mind, will, and imagination, or that the products obtained are imaginary and intangible or invisible to mortal eyes. The fact is that no alchemical process can be accomplished without the presence of visible and tangible matter, since alchemy is, so to speak, a spiritualizing of matter.
In fact, there is really no transformation of matter into spirit, as some people mistakenly believe, for each of the seven principles (the Emerald Formula) of the eternal nature is unchangeable, and remains forever within its own center -- in the same sense as darkness cannot be turned into light, although a light may be kindled within the darkness, in consequence of which the darkness will disappear. Likewise within each material form, there sleeps the divine spirit, the Light, which may become awakened to life and activity and illuminate the body and cause it to live and to grow. Of the qualities of the powers of that Light, or even of its existence, modern chemistry has no knowledge and no terminology to describe it.
In other words, there is visible matter and invisible matter. Or in alchemical terms, there is a tangible Water and a Water that is beyond the reach of perception by the physical senses; a visible Fire and an invisible Secret Fire. Neither of these can accomplish anything without the other, for in the practice of alchemy, as in the regeneration of man, that which is Above must be made to penetrate that which is Below, so that the lower may enter into a higher state of existence. If we wish to know nature we must learn to know God, and God cannot be know without knowledge of ones own divine self.
The spiritual substance of which external visible nature is an expression and manifestation has been called the Materia Prima (First Matter) by alchemists. It is the material for the formation of a new heaven and a new earth. It is like alchemical Water, or a crystalline ocean, if compared with our grossly materialized earth; it is at once Fire, Water, Air, and Earth -- corporeal in its essence and nevertheless incorporeal relative to our own physical forms.
In this primordial Chaos is contained the germ or seeds of potencies of all things that ever existed and of all that ever will exist in the future. It is the universal soul, or the Corpus of nature, and by means of the Secret Fire it may be extricated from all substances and be rendered corporeal and visible. It is both unity and a trinity according to its inherent aspects of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt. These three are distinct qualities characterizing the spirit of Light, and nevertheless they are nothing different from the essence of the Light. This Light is eternal nature, the Anima Mundi or Soul of the World.
The primordial matter contains the powers that form minerals and metals, vegetables and animals, and everything that breathes; all forms are hidden within its depths, and it is therefore, the true principium or beginning of all things. It is the play and battleground far all the hidden influences that came from the stars and the birthplace of the beings that inhabit the astral planes, as well as those that are born into the visible world. The First Matter is the womb of eternal nature from which everything that exists is born by the power of the spirit acting within. From its fertile soil are produced good and evil fruits, wholesome and noxious plants, harmless and poisonous animals, for the Mind of God is no distinguisher of persons nor favorer of any particular individual; each receives its share of life and will according to its capacity to receive, and each becomes ultimately that which its own character destines it to be.
(from Ether and Reality by Sir Oliver Lodge)
Apollonius of Tyana is said to have asked the Brahmins of what they supposed the Cosmos to be composed. "Of the five elements," came the reply. "How can there be a fifth" demanded Apollonius, "beside Water and Air and Earth and Fire?" "There is the Ether," replied the Brahmin, "which we must regard as the element of which the gods are made, for just as all mortal creatures inhale the air, so do immortal and divine natures inhale the Ether."
What you choose to call this unifying something is of no consequence. The Ancients sometimes spoke of the Ether, possibly as an addition to the usual four elements. Sir Isaac Newton adopted this term for the connecting medium of the whole universe. He believed the optical medium connects the particles together in a solid or a liquid, and the same medium connects the heavenly bodies together into systems and clusters and constellations and nebulae and Milky Way. All pieces of matter and all particles are connected together by the Ether and by nothing else. In it they move freely, and of it they may be composed. We must study the kind of connection between matter and the Ether (between manifested matter and the First Matter).
The particles emanating from the Ether are not independent of it; they are closely connected with it, and it is probable that they are formed out of it. They are not like grains of sand suspended in water (as our modern scientists believe); they seem more like minute crystals forming out of a mother liquor or supersaturated solution. Speculatively and intuitively we feel to be more in direct touch with the Ether than with matter. How we can act on matter is a mystery. How we are created and how we move our bodies, we do not know, yet we are apt to identify ourselves with our bodies.
But there is evidence that shows that we are really independent, that we continue in existence and can leave our bodies behind. Matter is not part of our real being, not of our essential nature. It is but an instrument that we use for a time and then discard. Probably we do not act directly upon matter at all. Our will, our mind, our psychic fife, probably act directly only upon the Ether, only through it, indirectly, on matter. Ether is our real primary and permanent instrument of creation. It is in connection with the Ether that our real being consists; and through it we are able to manipulate the atoms of matter, to move them, to rearrange them, and thus employ them to express our thoughts and feelings and to manifest ourselves to other individual entities who, in the long course of evolution have been enabled to construct and employ similar most ingenious, though always imperfect, instruments of manifestation. By means of the Ether, we can become aware of a multitude of existences, the whole animal and vegetable kingdom, of which otherwise we might have remained ignorant; by means of the Ether, our conceptions of existence have been enlarged and extended, the possibilities of friendship enhanced, the perception of a new realm of law and order attained.
And thus is our own nature enriched by the effort and experiences belonging to a new and most interesting -- though from our point of view imperfect and rebellious -- physical mode of existence.'
The Ether (First Matter of the alchemists) is the primary instrument of Mind, the vehicle of Soul, the habitation of Spirit. Truly it may be called the "Living Garment of God."
What do you think the First Matter represents?
"It seems you are missing a vital link in the chain of "ignition" of the First Matter. The subconscious is a vast storehouse of images/memories/associations and the human imaginative faculty certainly uses this as a primary resource. But there are many different levels, ie. personal, family, group, racial, planetary, etc., all going deeper and deeper towards the Source. To break through consciously to a level for which one is not prepared is most dangerous, and this is what the path of safe initiation is all about. Furthermore, to break though the various protective barriers requires relatively enormous internal energies. So, I would suggest that the "First Matter" is the energy generator which one has to find and activate before "ignition" of the imagination can occur. Thus, the imagination is the secondary, not primary aspect of this particular paradigm. Only when sufficient energy is available can one break through the barriers to access the next level and only then can the imagination, using this energy, come to the issue of free association and creative imagination. The combination of these brings about inner experience and a progressive comprehension of the true relationship between man and God. It is a process, not an event. The traditional safe methods are the esoteric aspects of all the great religions including alchemy. They all have one thing in common under different names: the alchemical marriage - Yoga - Union - the awakening of Kundalini - Christ in You . . . This is a long list having essentially the same meaning, although utilizing considerably different methods to bring about the transformation." - [email protected]
The First Matter is the primordial chaos that is fashioned into reality by the One Mind of the universe.
The alchemists pictured the First Matter as a seething chaos of Light and Darkness that the Emerald Tablet called the One Thing.
The Light of the One Mind fashions reality out of the darkness of the One Thing.
The archetypal forces of the One Mind act on the One Thing.
The First Matter is everywhere to be found.
To every natural form, rock, fruit, or flower, even the loose stones that cover the highway, I gave a moral life: I saw them feel or linked them to some feeling: the great mass lay bedded in some quickening soul, and all that I beheld respired with inward meaning.
- William Wordsworth
In one's self lies the imminent domain of a heritage that predates the worlds. We exist as a portion of light kept draped within a cloud of wonder, always seeking yet never finding that alchemical approach to change that seems unchangeable. Grasping at the wind, we search for an external fire that burns only within. Our future, our hope, our destiny lies in its change that results from a vibrating sound of harmony once discovered. That which is without is also within, that which one seeks has already been found. The key is to manipulate energy, thereby alchemically changing the exterior's reflection to imitate the inner gold of purity.
- John Panella