From knowledge to mental liberation, stage 9
The living athanor
Alchemy studies the energy of the matter.
Spiritual Alchemy studies the subtle energy of Man.
The alchemist transforms the substance of matter.
The spiritual alchemist transforms the substance by attracting subtle energy.
The word Athanor can be found in many hermetic languages; we must distinguish, though, the tool from its hermetic meaning. The athanor is the furnace used in ‘chěmia’, the science that studies structure and transformations of substances, determining their composition and properties. In a hermetic sense the athanor is Man, because different energies, which compose his physical and subtle structure, meet and transform inside him.
There is a principle of reciprocity that links man to the planet, to the universe and vice versa. It has always been thought that the universe was part of man and that man was a living atom of the universe. Participation starts from his aura which, through the planetary one, absorbs the solar energy it needs. Man gets his nourishments from the planetary substance, transforming food into physical and mental energy that he uses to concretize himself, the physical and mental form through which he acts.
Like the principle do ut des (give and receive), man lives on the energy that he receives. At the same time he contributes with his life to the life of the planet, giving back to it a value that equals the qualities he develops in himself.
This idea is not so obscure if we consider how strong the interaction between man and planet is. The physical man is made by planetary substance and his physical-energetic life depends on the planet. The planet, on its turn, is affected by man, which through himself can improve physical and subtle energies or disperse or intoxicate them.
Everything in man affects the planetary nature. What he does affects the physical substance; what he thinks impresses the subtle energy. Man’s reproduction affects the planetary life as well.
When man realizes the reciprocity between himself and the planetary and cosmic energy that allows him to exist, he also realizes (in his mind as well as in his heart) that he has a responsibility towards himself and the life of the universe. This thought develops a very peculiar morale; it is an ethical sensitiveness that in the past has been called living ethics.
Let’s try and resume its principles.
The principle of living ethics
As we have said before, man is born for a kind of investment of subtle (nuclear) energy and living (organic) matter, which allows him to be born, to grow and to gain independence by developing mind and conscience. A conscious and aware mind feels the sense of responsibility towards the investment made to animate and support it; it understands that reciprocity means giving as well as receiving, not by thanking but by doing something really useful. The return is profitable if we improve what we have used (nuclear energy and organic substance). The ‘fair restitution’ is to increase our own value and that of our existence, giving the fair acknowledgment to our origin, which is cosmic as well as planetary.
In the thought of being a portion of cosmic identity, the idea of identity itself widens and becomes the sum of two identities. One of them is physical (mind and conscience) and the other is subtle (soul and spirit). At this point we access the fundament of the living ethics, which says that the enrichment of the physical identity is to find its subtle counterpart.
Man is linked to the planet because he feeds on its substance; he feeds himself in order to support the planetary components that make his physical-energetic structure. In the mysteric iconography the flaming Pentalpha represents the relation between Man and the five kingdoms of nature.
1) the mineral kingdom gives consistence to the skeleton;
2) the vegetable kingdom to liquids and humors;
3) the animal kingdom is in the physical body;
4) the human kingdom is the thought;
5) the spiritual kingdom is reflected in the subtle spirit that animate the human conscience.
The Pentalpha becomes inflamed when the five components combine with each other, melting in the ‘Great Cup’ that Man is.
Man’s existence, whose true identity is the thought and not the body, uses lesser ‘athanors’. They are terminals that absorb energies and turn them into human properties. Let’s remember the main ones:
The spleen absorbs ethereal energy (in the east is the prana) turning it into vital energy;
The stomach absorbs the nourishment turning it into physical and mental energy;
The heart absorbs and gives off the emotional energy that, during its development, it transforms into sensitivity and then into intelligent sensitivity;
The brain amplifies impressions and sensations, which the mental faculties turn into thoughts.
Mental development starts from the consideration that «To want is to Be able to».
The interaction between brain, mental faculties and ability of thought creates an energetic concentration called will. Will is the only aspect able to ‘move’ any other aspect (intelligent will, will for good or will to do, to say, to reach this or the other goal, etc.).
Furthermore, will is the only aspect able to move itself. In other words, it is the will for will, namely the will to want (something).
the brain is not thoughts, but the organ that allows the thoughts to concretize and take shape on the physical plane (the old expression for its appearance is «to enunciate the fact», the modern one is «to verbalize the idea»);
thinking develops the brain and improves mental faculties;
increasing mental faculties strengthens the potentials of thoughts; as a consequence, a fortified thought goes back to increasing the brain’s potentials and faculties;
during the first stages of growth, mental faculties should undergo the control of a vigilant conscience, because an uncontrolled development is dangerous for ourselves and others. Mental safety uses attention and self-control to establish the right amount of self-criticism necessary to keep the psychic balance. We must point out that critical sense helps to correct and to improve, not to punish or mortify ourselves, which would lead to our reduction and regression.
Vigilant conscience organizes the will. At first the vigilant conscience can be replaced by a figure of support (the instructor); nothing and nobody can replace the personal will;
If the interactions between mental faculties and thoughts wasn’t stopped by the mundane distractions which are offered or imposed, the development of identity would easily go beyond the level of normal didactic;
In order to overcome conventional limits it is not sufficient to develop memory or to accumulate notions. It is necessary to light the intelligence and to reach the right amount of sensitiveness;
The keystone of an extraordinary development is the union between mind and heart. Indeed, mental flourishing is the fusion between intelligence and sensitiveness. An insensitive rationality or a dull idealism obscures the potentialities of mind and conscience, keeping their growth within its limits.
Each organ accomplishes its specific functions by developing an intelligence that establishes its properties. For a holistic system to work, because of its multiple inter-relations, it is necessary to have a complex network of links made by the nervous system, both central and peripheral.
The sensitive centers receive and produce sensations that they send to the brain; the latter interprets their code and replies suitably.
Sensations vary according to the automatisms and the nervous elaborations that the brain interprets somehow imperfectly.
Reason, or physical mind, is based on this imperfection; as a consequence it produces relative mental visions. This is the origin of imperfection and relativism that affect man’s behavior.
The qualities of mental vision determine a kind of mind; the clearer and wider is the vision, the better will the mental quality be.
Mental quality has different names in all languages, as a consequence of the different points of view from which a subject can be considered. The use of different or arbitrary words generates confusion for those who face a subject that could, in actual fact, be unique.
With regards to the mind, some definitions divide it in lower and higher mind, or physical-concrete and abstract mind, or physical and pure reason. These expressions don’t explain what the mind is and where it is, though.
Dreams reveal the physical mind
We often dream of wandering around the rooms of a house. This represents us. Our conscience thinks and moves in a house that is the physical mind.
In the dream we perceive the conscience wandering in mental corridors of which it doesn’t know extension or quality. The brain can’t translate the feeling of disorientation and it imagines itself moving in the rooms of a house or the streets of a city (*).
(*) it is very important to know what we are looking for and why, especially if this is a recurring dream. On one hand this would help us to know ourselves better; on the other hand it would explain the reasons for deep expectations or it would reveal the cause of fears and anxieties that we prefer to hide during the waking time.
Mind and superior mind
Mind and thoughts, although complementary, are two distinct identities. Mental faculty is one thing, the idea is another. It is like saying that the fountain and the water that issues from it are together but they are not the same thing.
Towards the inside. The house represents the mind that protects the thoughts, but that also imprisons it within the limits of its structures, lines of thought and guiding thoughts. The house has more or less rooms, exits and windows and they have different sizes.
The rooms (or in the case of the city, the streets) are the mental places built by the thoughts and their width shows the mental width. Therefore, if we are wandering through small rooms or narrow roads, it means that the thought is prisoner of mental narrowness.
Towards the outside. The dimension of the windows represents the mental opening towards a subject. Therefore they are not always open and not all the same. The external landscape (sky, earth, land?) shows the directions where our attention is pointed and what we see symbolizes the quality of thought.
The vision from above. It comes a time when the house doesn’t have any rooms or corridors; the walls disappear; the thought flies through the open roof, only tied to the thread of conscience. Even without a roof, the house-physical mind still exists; it has become, though, the tool of the superior mind, which uses it in the field of materiality. By loosing itself, the mind doesn’t hold the thought any more, but lets it free to explore and reflect on what it sees underneath.
The vision from above is the mind that reflects on what the thought observes and sends back. This marks the passage to the adult stage, where mind and conscience, now free from conditionings, recognize reality for what it is and not for what it has been said to be.
At this point, to man is not important what the mind is not any more, or even old obstacles that hinders the vitality of the superior conscience. What counts now is the mental flourishing that it can offer him, such as occasions for personal growth and inner progress.
To be explicit, to reach a good mental development means to conjugate the vision of the physical mind to the vision of the subtle mind. This match is not exclusive but annuls most of the conflicts between the physical and the metaphysical vision of the Idea.
This is what resolves the match between physical mind and subtle perception. If the metaphysics of the Idea is unperceivable (therefore invisible) to the physical mind, its reality is normal for the subtle perception. Vice versa, conceptual materiality is incomprehensible (therefore invisible) to the metaphysical vision; in order to understand it, the latter has to appeal to the physical mind. In other words, matching the two visions opens the mental horizon and the conscience widens embracing two realities. Furthermore, through the physical and metaphysical vision of the Idea, man can draw the right interpretation for any essence.
By Athos A. Altomonte
graphics by Fabio Gasparri