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Excerpted from Mind into Matter: A New Alchemy of Science and Spirit by Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D.
As a scientist and writer I am often concerned with how to offer new, speculative, and exciting concepts to my readers while staying true to my profession as a scientist. Apparently scientists who write books are expected to stay within certain limits of respectability; they should not stray too far from what their peers accept as established dogma. If they do, they are likely to be dismissed as cranks or just plain kooky.
But today as we enter a new millennium we are also entering a whole new way of existing in the world. The modern computer, the advent of quantum computers, breakthroughs in biology, high-speed global traveling, and near-instantaneous communication have opened up wide ranges of human knowledge. People from the various scientific, religious, and philosophical disciplines have begun building bridges between science, spirituality, shamanism, ancient magical practices, metaphysics, and the functioning of the human body, among other areas. So many bridges are being constructed, in fact, that it is difficult to determine just what we should believe. Should we only read and accept what card-carrying scientists tell us? Perhaps we should accept only the words of Nobel, Pulitzer, and other prestigious-prize winners. Good sense tells us that if we do, however, we are in deep trouble, for often these writers are no better than the average person when it comes to imaginative or speculative venturing. Worse yet, sometimes even the best minds become far too conservative or far too prejudiced.
While I am not saying that we should dismiss so-called “great minds” attempts to explain their ideas to a public eager to have them, I do say that there is much room for good inspired speculation by scientist-writers such as myself who in explaining the workings of science also offer their unabashed vision of what’s to come—even if that vision takes us far beyond the borders of acceptance, and particularly if this vision offers some basis for hope and inspiration.
In this speculative and imaginative book I attempt to go farther than I have gone before by offering new ideas based on some ancient visions. The old alchemists, in their attempts to make sense of the world, alter it, and discover its magical secrets, first brought forward the seeds of these ideas. Today, the modern form of these same ideas arises from quantum physics, neurobiology, and information theory. Such concepts deal with human beings, their minds and bodies, and their attempts to control, alter, and cope with their environments, whether those environments extend as far out as a distant galaxy or are as close as their own hearts and brains. The goal of modern scientists echoes that of the ancient alchemists.
Old legends preserved by authoritative teachers of Judaism assert that the angel at the gate of Eden instructed Adam in the mysteries of both Qabala and alchemy. In fact, the tenets of alchemy, Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, and Freemasonry are all inextricably interwoven with the theories of Qabalism. (1) And, they all had one common goal: the transformation of the base or common into the pure or rare. Or, to put it simply, transforming mind into matter.
Qabalism greatly influenced medieval thought, both Christian and Jewish. It taught that within the sacred writings there existed a hidden doctrine, which was the key to those writings. Eventually, however, the simple Qabalism of the first centuries of the Christian Era evolved into an elaborate theological system, which became so involved that it was next to impossible to comprehend its dogma. (2) Possibly, alchemy and Qabalism split off here. Certainly we can date the principles of alchemy back in time to the ancient Egyptians, for whom it was the master science. The Chaldeans, Phoenicians, and Babylonians were also familiar with the principles of alchemy, as were many people of the Orient. It was practiced in ancient Greece and Rome, and during the Middle Ages it was a science and a religion as well as a philosophy. Often seen as rebels against the religion of their day, alchemists would hide their philosophical teachings under the allegory of gold-making. In this manner they were able to continue their art and ways, receiving only ridicule rather than persecution and death.
Most modern dictionaries popularly dismiss alchemy as an immature, empirical, and speculative precursor of chemistry having had as its object the transmutation of base metals into gold. But, although chemistry did evolve from alchemy, the two schools of thought never really had much in common. Whereas chemistry deals with scientifically verifiable and objective phenomena, the mysterious doctrine of alchemy pertains to a hidden, subjective, abstract, and higher order of reality. This reality constitutes the basis of all truths and all spirituality. Perceiving and realizing this reality is and was the goal of all alchemists. They called this goal the Magnum Opus or Great Work—the Absolute Realization. It was seen as the Beauty of all Beauty, the Love of all Love, and the Highest High. To witness it required that consciousness be radically altered and transmuted from the ordinary (lead-like) level of everyday perception to a subtle (gold-like) level of higher perception, so that every object is perceived in its perfect archetypal form—the Absolute, the Holy of all Holies.
This transmutative process, the Magnum Opus, is at one and the same time, both a material and a spiritual realization. This fact is very often overlooked. Some commentators claim alchemy to be wholly a spiritual discipline, while others seem interested only in finding out whether gold was actually made and by whom. Both attitudes are misleading. It is essential to keep in mind that there are precise correspondences, fundamental to alchemical thought, between the visible and the invisible, above and below, matter and spirit, planets and metals.
In his book, Transcendental Magic, Eliphas Levi wrote:
The processes of “the creation of man by himself” begin with a primary or archetypal image of that man. Creating this image requires some doing. It appears to me that we must use symbolic tools to do so. I have discovered that the Hebrew letters themselves are just the tools needed. Chris Monnastre, in her introduction to the fifth edition of Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, explains:
The ancient mystics first saw these Hebrew letters, these symbolic doorways, as a universal code and thus they set out to completely grasp their meaning. Their goal was to create the image of the primordial human being, and to do this they had to allow the symbols to come alive within them and connect, providing new insights into spiritual and material existence. If they succeeded, they would become fully realized human beings.
This realization comes directly from the Biblical word that man and woman were created in the image of God. Hence, divine life must exist in the human being; and this divine existence must appear and be realized in each part of the human body. A fully realized mystic then becomes, in the image of God, the Adam Kadmon (). According to the mystics, from this Adam all human life originates.
Throughout its long history, Qabalism has attempted to tie two worlds or stages of human development together. The first world is primitive mythology and the second is spiritual revelation. (5) To attempt becoming spiritually enlightened without realizing the world of mythology within us is a serious mistake. People who attempt this often find themselves “in battle with the devil” or “in fear of evil.” Carl Jung referred to this mythological avoidance as the “shadow.” Isaac Luria’s sixteenth-century school of Qabala based in Safed, Israel clearly emphasized this. According to Isaac Luria, creation began when God withdrew Himself into Himself in an impossible to imagine self-referential loop. (6) From this withdrawal a divine light emanated and flowed into the first space ever to exist. Our own three-dimensional space was a later development of this primordial space. And the Adam Kadmon—the first being—came from this light. From his eyes, mouth, nostrils, and ears, unconfined primal light emanated. In a great overwhelming mystery, special vessels containing this primal light then appeared out of nothing. These vessels were primal or seed-like matter. But the primal material vessels broke, and chaos was liberated. From this, ultimately, man fell into space-time as a kind of mental projection of the Adam Kadmon.
Creating a New Vision out of Science and Spirit
And so today the mysteries still persist. As smart as we are in the modern world, we apparently can never pass behind the veil which divides the seen from the unseen except by engaging ourselves in the way appointed by the ancients—the Mysteries. The questions are as vivid today as they were to the early minds that first thought them. What are we? What is intelligence? What is our source? What is the point of Life? We still look for the tools of our personal transformation. Self-help books fill our shelves. And even with our material needs covered, many of us feel lost and hopeless, driving our way through an objectively stuffed universe with a vacancy in our hearts.
Did the ancients answer these questions? Who are we to say that they didn’t? With our modern “objective” science-oriented minds, are we even capable of understanding the discoveries of, the wisdom of, the ancient alchemists—even if it’s right before us? Physicist Wolfgang Pauli once put it that scientists went too far in the seventeenth century when they attempted to make everything understandable strictly as objective science. By denuding the subjective view from any firm ground, much was lost. In much the same way that modern dictionaries make alchemy a mere shadow of the chemistry to come, modern science has attempted to make the study of the subjective a mere reflection of the objective and reducible science of matter. Some of us, including many scientists, don’t agree with the new objective materialism. We believe in our heart of hearts, as did the alchemists that came before us, that something far richer than materialism is responsible for the universe.
So, can we in the modern world pass beyond the veil? In this book I affirm that we can. That armed with the ancient knowledge and the modern vision that comes from modern physics, particularly quantum physics, we can rediscover what the ancients may have known. All we need are a few basic concepts—a new way of seeing the old way. I have given a name to these new ways of seeing; I call them the new alchemy. So, perhaps we can call ourselves new alchemists.
You can certainly think of me as a new alchemist. Indeed, I find myself in complete sympathy with my ancient forebears. As I search through my memories, many recollections of this interest flood my mind. I realize that I have always been interested in magic and transformation.
I remember a particular day when I was playing in the front hallway of my apartment building. I was barely eight years old. I stood at the top of the stairwell and looked down wondering if I could fly down the nineteen or twenty stairs reaching to the ground floor from our first floor apartment. Without thinking, I skidded down the stairwell with my feet only barely touching the leading edges of each step. I was on the ground floor in a flash, and I had not slid down the banister, nor had I placed my feet on any of the steps.
When I grew older and remembered what I had done that day, I realized it was impossible. My feet just were not long enough to go from one step edge to the next without my falling flat on my face. Was this just a dream of super powers, or had I actually skidded down those stairs?
Throughout my early years I maintained my interest in magic and fantasy. That interest carried me into thinking about the world a little differently than my fellows. It led me into quantum physics and to my eventual writing of this book.
I am certainly not alone. I want the reader to realize that today, just as thousands of years ago, many individuals are attempting—sometimes together and sometimes alone—to discover the magical, arcane solution to the enigma of the universe. They seek a hidden, abstract and higher order of reality that would include the subjective as clearly as it does the objective.
This Book and the Story of You
In Mind into Matter we will explore how the mind enters into the body at the cellular, molecular, and neural-molecular levels and becomes ensnared almost—though not quite—believing that it is the body. The reality that mind dimly senses itself as beyond the body will offer a new insight into how the mind and body work as elements in an alchemical laboratory. Like no lab you may have ever realized, the alchemical lab appears very naturally in the world of our dreams and preconscious thoughts. In this lab we learn to develop a magical but ever-movable boundary, called real/imaginal, that divides our mind-body into separate selves, selves which appear to be body images in a real world around them.
Then, we will learn how to conduct experiments at the frontier of the real/imaginal realm. The outcomes of these experiments will result in new information and new transformational possibilities. We will experience this information entering our dreams and, possibly more importantly, during our waking thoughts. And this will lead us into a new vision of life and time. We will see how our brains act as time machines reaching into the future to obtain information and into the past to confirm the validity of these data. We will see how meaning arises from this future-to-present-to-past-to-present information transfer; and how this meaning alters and changes what we believe and what we experience manifesting physically in the world, both personally and globally. And finally, we will complete our journey with a new vision of mind, body, spirit, and soul, and a new alchemical understanding of how the forces of purpose, creation, and transformation within each of us, when used consciously, can enhance the meaningfulness of everyday life.
In short, my goal with this book is to show that within your own mind and body lies a majestic story filled with drama, pathos, humor, intelligence, fantasy, and fact. It is no less than the story of the entire universe, particularly its own creation, transformation, and ultimate purpose. And while most stories require a separated listener and a storyteller, in your story the listener and the storyteller are one. Here you will see that the way in which you go about telling a story to yourself—a story that includes you—actually points out that without you there wouldn’t be a universe! And we shall see how this story called you unfolds into a panorama of life, literally a you-niverse—our ultimate goal being to understand the sacred transmutation of mind into matter.
A Word about the Chapter Headings
Because of their symbolic meaning, as explained earlier, I have opened each chapter with a Hebrew letter-symbol. Each letter’s sacred meaning will, I believe, enrich our understanding of the material within it’s corresponding chapter, as well as our overall understanding of the new alchemy itself. Briefly:
There are twenty-seven Hebrew letter-symbols in all. They are arranged in three rows of nine letters with the top row containing the first nine letters. The other two rows are taken to be projections of these first nine and consequently have similar meanings. The difference in levels depends on the evolution of the symbol. Thus free spirit aleph () evolves into yod () trapped spirit or existence, and at the next level into qof () the cosmic aleph where the reconciliation of spirit with its trapped self occurs.
And thus we see that the Adam Kadmon in Hebrew,, has a symbolic meaning. Reading this name in Hebrew from right to left, the letters are aleph-dallet-mem (Adam), qof-dallet-mem-vav-nun (Kadmon). In brief, aleph meets resistance (dallet and mem) and finally transforms this resistance of consciousness into cosmic possibilities. The resolution of this is the impossible life-death principle merging with its cosmic destiny and quantum leaping through resistance and the existential resistance of consciousness in endless fertilization of cosmically enlightened Human Beings. Thus, the full realization of Adam Kadmon comes from the sacred transformation of mind into matter.
And, a Quick Word about the Chapters
The chapters in Mind into Matter each contain a particular thought concerning the overall process of mind’s transformation into matter. As such, each chapter can stand alone as, say, an essay. As the ancient mystics knew, this material is difficult for the human mind to comprehend, probably more so for us today when, as a culture, we’re so steeped in the mindset of “objective” science. So, I hope you’ll take the time to read and reread those chapters which you find the most difficult. I believe the recursive process will ultimately lead to your understanding of the science and spirit of mind’s transformation into matter. More importantly, I believe that once you leave the safety of our old, accepted beliefs, you will begin to see yourself and the story of your life from a new perspective.
(1) Today the words Qabalism and Hermeticism are considered to be synonymous terms covering all the arcana and esotericism of antiquity.
(2) Manley P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages: An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolic Philosophy. Being an Interpretation of the Secret Teachings Concealed within Rituals, Allegories, and Mysteries of All Ages Los Angeles: The Philosophical Research Society, 1988, p. 114.
(3) Eliphas Levi, Transcendental Magic, Chicago, 1910, quoted in Stanislas Klossowski de Rola, Alchemy: The Secret Art, New York, Thames and Hudson, 1973, 1997.
(4) Chris Monnastre, introduction to the 5th edition of The Golden Dawn, by Israel Regardie, St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1989, p. xxii-xxiii.
(5) Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, New York: Schocken Books, 1974, p. 22.
(6) Ibid., p. 265, 279.
(7) Aleph () has, as do the other of the first nine letters, three projections. The first projection is the letter itself. Aleph’s other two projections are yod () and qof (). These projections are forms of the seed-letter aleph. Hence yod is aleph in existence, the symbol for the existent real world of objects we take as “out there.” Qof is aleph in its highest realizable state, the so-called exalted or cosmic aleph. Similarly the other letters also have existent and cosmic projections.
(8) Dallet () is fundamental resistance and is extremely important, for without it no universe is possible. Dallet’s projections are mem and tav. Mem represents water or the first existent resistance necessary for consciousness to manifest, while tav represents cosmic resistance and is required in order that a single word come into existence.
© 2001 Fred Alan Wolf, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of Moment Point Press, Inc.
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