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The Journey through the Great Work

by Athos A. Altomonte

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Introduction – Pax et Cultura

« Civilization is the first manifestation of the real human quality in the animal-man, the first influence of the part, or spark, of the Soul imprisoned into the bonds of personality. Culture is the second stage that shows a higher degree of development of personality, the cultural, esthetical values and the gradual development of mind. Illumination is the third stage. The mind starts being gradually illuminated by the influence of the Soul. » - Considerator

‘To every man there

openeth A way, and ways and a way.

And the high soul climbs the high way

and the low soul gropes the low:

And in between, on the misty flats, The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth A high way and a low,

And every man decideth. The way his soul shall go.'

From a poem by John Oxenham

I decided to compile this work under the ideal formula of Pax et Cultura by tracing, as a reporter, a journey as complete and rational as possible, where to place all the various philosophical, esoteric and traditional elements which, if properly placed and observed from the right angles, represent the ideal itinerary that man carries out in his ‘Journey' from the personal Work up to the goal, shared by the whole humankind and universal for all Kingdoms of Nature , called the Threshold of the Great Work.

In order to achieve this goal, the work has been divided into three segments. In the first it appears that we try and divulge a light esotericism; in actual fact we try and create a common language between the writer and the reader, with symbolic terms and meanings of the esoteric Tradition.

In the second segment we face more definitely topics which are considered more complex. With a system of thorough semantic, scientific, philosophic, modern and archaic historic analysis, we will represent in a global view Principles, Laws, Canons, Methods and Instruments that make the Body of the initiatory Tradition. Finally, in the third segment we will face the most reserved topics of the initiatory Order with terms and symbols which, in the meantime, should have become familiar to the reader, too.

This journey starts by introducing the mind of the researcher to a first simple interpretation of the so-called ‘cosmic drama', offering him various elements of knowledge through a pictorial ‘language' that is easy to read. Later on, the competence and ability of the researcher will face the ‘Mystery' of the Meaning of Life through a symbolic and scientific ‘language'.

Here appears, then, the itinerary that the initiatory Order places between the Lesser and Greater Catechisms, in a kind of natural selection of an intellectual order, called ‘the three Thresholds of Initiation'.

It is appropriate to highlight how in the Principles of Initiation the conclusion of the Personal work of Man finds its natural outlet in the Great Work of the Universe and this manifests itself for the Humankind in the evolution of the Planetary Logos of which we are the life*.


* If we want to make a comparison, the Kingdoms of Nature are to the Planetary Logos what the ethereal energy and blood are to the evolution of man.

This Threshold between personal Work and Great Work appears understandable to any man who has reached the borderline ( the egoic barycenter ) between the personal microcosmic conscience ( Psyche ) and the universal macrocosmic conscience ( Soul ). In the esoteric Commentaries this Bridge is called ‘ Unity among all the levels of conscience of self separated from the Initiate, with the body (of light) of the Triad or of the true Self.'

In the esoteric thought this personal realization means to manifest individually the 5 th Kingdom of Nature , the spiritual one.

This Kingdom with its essence, which is traditionally translated with the term ‘light', makes the Top of the Pentalpha flaming , symbol of Man, illuminating the tops of the four Kingdoms of Nature below, enclosed in this symbol ( the Mineral, Vegetable, Animal and Human Kingdoms ). The flaming Pentalpha is indeed the symbol of the microcosmic Man that has reached the Threshold that gives access to the Great Work , but the hermetic Philosophy reminds us that, in order for this to happen, man must first subdue his own lower domains and subject them to his own Will ( of the Psyche ), ruled and enlightened by the light of the igneous element ( the Fohat ), viz. the Fire of the spirit*.

The lower domains, as we will see, have been divided into: domain of the Form of the material body; domain of the instinct; domain of the reason and logic of the lower mind; domain of intuition and Intellect of the superior mind, up to the rejoining with the borderline (egoic barycenter) which connects the previous domains with the superior domains of the individual sphere. The latter and highest level of Personality is called Pure Reason.

This is the journey that man carries out inside himself, like in the occult teaching contained in the precept:

V. isita I. nteriora T. errae R. ectificando I. nvenies O. ccultum L. apidem.

The initiatory Journey leads every single Personality to join back the strength of his own Ego, the true Self, up to being able to re-affirm, on earth ( in the Physical Body ) the celestial Alliance which, hidden in the Real Secret ( XXXII degree – esoteric – of the Scottish Rite ) is placed in the Triangle of the Tabernacle of the Temple ( in the inner Temple is the trinitary Triangle of Strength of the three greater Center of man. Center of Heart, Center of Throat, top of the Head ). This inner alliance involves the Trasfiguration of the Personality of the Initiate.

In the symbolic language of the Lesser Catechisms this goal corresponded to ‘ having reached the top of the Mountain of Initiation '.


* The initiatory Doctrine reminds us of the constitution of two esoteric philosophies , that of Fire and that of Stone.

The Philosophy of Fire . This name was given to the philosophy of the Hermeticists up to the Rosicrucians. They considered Fire as a symbol of deity and source, not only of material atoms, but as the animator of the psychic and spiritual forces of the human Sphere. Fire, as well as the occult physiology of man, is seven-fold, viz. made of a three-fold criterion and a four-fold aspect.

The three-fold criterion is represented by 1 ) a visible flame ( Personality and its physical vehicle, whose expression is thought ), 2 ) a metaphysical flame, which therefore is invisible physically ( the Soul, whose expression is luminosity ), 3 ) a spiritual flame ( the Monad, whose expression is spirituality ).

The four aspects are given by a ) heat ( life ), b ) light ( mind ), c ) electricity ( the molecular forces of form, which is dense, energetic and psychic ), d ) synthetic essences ( archetypes of any form ) that come from the prime cause ( the Archetype One ) from its existence and manifestation.

In order to have a better understanding of the Metaphysical Thought of the Hermeticists, it is interesting to study the assumption that when a flame is extinguished on an objective plane, this is true only on that plane and not on the super-sensitive planes.

The Philosophy of Stone. In Alchemy the ‘stone' was also called ‘dust of projection', viz. a criterion able to turn ‘metal' into pure gold. This is the symbol of the transmutation of the lower nature of man, which leads him to the re-integration with his own primitive and spiritual nature. For the Initiate this criterion is the appropriate use of the Act of Will ( projection – therefore motion – of thought-form-sound ).

Alchemy. The scientists that reformed the science of physics on the basis of Democritus's atomic theory, as it was formulated by J. Dalton, forgot that Democritus of Abdera was an alchemist and a hermetic philosopher.

Alchemy was a sacerdotal science grafted in the human knowledge from ancient times; its presence is contained in many documents and Indian, Chinese and Egyptian papyruses. The presence of this science, which became initiatory for kings and priests of the Mediterranean basin, is found in all those treaties generically called hermetic from the name of the author of the Emerald Tablet, Hermes Trismegistus. Alchemy reached Europe in the eighth century thanks to the Arab scientist Geber, which kept the Arabic term Ul-chemi (al-chemy). Many misunderstandings about this science would be cleared if researchers would consider, like the esoteric Doctrine reminds us, that it was addressed not only to the study of the physical elements but also of the ‘ hidden spirit ' in three expressions of ‘life', the Cosmic, Human and Earthly life (atomic, psychic and physical).

The Misterium Magnum and the menstruum universal , through which we reach the achievement of the summum materiae and of the lapis philosophorum , in the past have always been hidden to the non introduced with elements of vulgar Operations such as the elixir of long life of the physical vehicle and the transmutation of metals in pure gold.

Terms such as sulfur, mercury and salt are meant as their physical essence, rather than the meaning designated by hermetic philosophy of spiritual, mental and ethereal substances. In Alchemy (see Spiritual Alchemy ), by the Silver of the Philosophers and the gold of the Wise men it was certainly not being referred to the humble, as much as precious, metals, but to the evolution of the ‘vile' elements associated to Saturn's lead ( the time of trials on the physical plane ) of the human essence at the basis of the Quaternary fire, water, air and earth, up to the transformation ( transmutation ) of these into the inner Trinity of Man, also called Triad. This is why in this work you will find a constant reference to topics such as Spiritual Alchemy, Mental Alchemy, the transmutation of the vulgar metals of man ( his thoughts, models and lower emotions ) up to reaching their natural conjugation in the modern science of psycho-synthesis and its psycho-dynamic instruments.

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