“That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do ye miracles of the one thing.” - The Emerald Formula
The Emerald Tablet is a short and cryptic Hermetic text credited to Hermes Trismegistus, a legendary amalgam of the Egyptian God Thoth and Greek God Hermes. According to legend, the tablets were found in a cave in the hands of a corpse seated on a golden throne, however their first appearance in recorded literature began around the 6th century AD. Western alchemy seems to be based almost entirely upon different interpretations of these tablets. There have been many translations over time, including this one by Sir Isaac Newton circa 1680:
1) Tis true without lying, certain & most true.
2) That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do ye miracles of one only thing.
3) And as all things have been & arose from one by ye mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.
4) The Sun is its father, the moon its mother,
5) the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth its nourse.
6) The father of all perfection in ye whole world is here.
7) Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
7a) Separate thou ye earth from ye fire, ye subtile from the gross sweetly with great industry.
8) It ascends from ye earth to ye heaven & again it descends to ye earth and receives ye force of things superior & inferior.
9) By this means you shall have ye glory of ye whole world & thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
10) Its force is above all force. for it vanquishes every subtile thing & penetrates every solid thing.
11) So was ye world created.
12) From this are & do come admirable adaptations whereof ye means (Or process) is here in this.
13) Hence I am called Hermes Trismegistus, having the three parts of ye philosophy of ye whole world.
14) That which I have said of ye operation of ye Sun is accomplished & ended.
While it has become popular to joke that the father of both calculus and thermodynamics was misguided in his love of alchemy, I think our modern understanding of Alchemy lacks the depth required to fully "grok" its deeply symbolic nature.
Symbolism is an ancient data compression technology that has a way of transcending both time and culture. Symbols are concepts compressed into sigil form. Once seen, they sit in the subconscious like files waiting to be unzipped and are a huge part of the interlocking web of associations that makes up our cultural conditioning. Although these concepts are universal, each culture has its own symbolic "language", different sigils that represent a common idea. The concept of "eternity" for instance, is expressed through the infinity symbol, the endless knot of the Buddhists and the Oroboros of the Egyptians. Alchemy is one of these universal systems with an interlocking web of symbolism that is common throughout many cultures and religions. It represents the idea of transmutation.
Transmutation, which is the goal of alchemy, is universal and occurs in everything from chemical elements to psychological processes. One element transmutes into another under specific conditions, similar to how a thought or belief changes with circumstance.
I tend to internalize rather than externalize and so I find myself most interested in psychological transmutation. After all, the ultimate goal of any magical work is to "know thyself". Working the 7 steps of the Emerald Formula to change your personality engages all of your symbolic associations as the self gradually "unravels". I can say from experience that it gets very, very weird in there.
Universal concepts will naturally align like parallel streams of evolution, so it's not surprising that the Emerald formula aligns with the archetypes of the 7 Classical Planets and their associated magic squares. We also find parallels to the 7 days of creation in the Old Testament(which is the calendar week), the 7 chakras, 7 notes of the musical scale, the 7 Greek vowels, Shakespeare's 7 ages of mans development, etc. This 7 phase format is woven so deeply into our symbolic and waking world that the pattern is difficult to ignore, regardless of your cultural background.
Calcination: Tuning your Focus
The Emerald Formula operations begin with Calcination and the planet Saturn.
It’s no coincidence that the magic square of Saturn is the most basic possible magic square, an order 3 with a magic constant of 15. At the time of these correspondences Saturn was considered the farthest planet from the Sun, so the inner alchemy begins in the dimly lit, farthest reaches of the psyche. Saturn represents the concept of limitation and its associated metal is Lead, a dense, toxic, heavy metal. To this day, Lead poisoning is known as "Saturnism". It is a symbol of the heavy, toxic and stubborn nature of the belief systems we have adopted that constrict our potential. Because of the inert nature of these things, an intense purification process is required and Saturn is the gatekeeper to this journey.
Kabbalah refers to these belief systems as Qlipothic demons, literally "husks surrounding holiness". Ancient people had a beautiful way of personifying nature, giving all of creation a human face. Angels and demons were actually thought to be ideas that have life in and of themselves, similar to Dawkins meme concept (albeit expressed in different words and symbols). Kabbalists believed that we co-create with ideas, birthing new ones that literally follow us around, so being possessed by a demon meant you were co-creating with a destructive idea. Most modern interpretations of religion seem to have had the concept of personal responsibility stripped away which leaves the mainstream population with little more than a proverbial after-life insurance policy.
Burning through your first layer of bad ideas/husks/demons is the 'calcination of the soul'. A deliberate and controlled burn like the cleansing of an overgrown forest is needed to clear the overgrown thoughts we have cloaked ourselves in throughout life. It is the process of illuminating our shame, guilt, fear, rage, reactionary and fulfillment seeking behaviors. Since Saturn and calcination correspond to the root chakra in Vedic sciences, we could also look at it from the perspective of survival. When life challenges us with traumatic events it’s easy to form beliefs about ourselves, others and/or life in general. “People will always let you down”. “My mother didn’t love me”. “Nice guys finish last”, etc. These blanketing beliefs are what must be exposed in order to reach the deeper, underlying emotions surrounding them.
Saturn in its purest form represents self-discipline. It is both the task master and father time. I have found that the date, time, and location of doing my magic square work is essential for directing my focus. We are constantly co-creating with a mysterious force of nature and so semi-conscious action yields semi-conscious co-creation. The intentions of our hearts are elusive things when weighed against the traumas, fears, biases and latent self loathing within each of us. Only through honest introspection and self knowledge are we freed to consciously co-create with life rather than unconsciously manifesting our fears and ultimately, feeling victimized by circumstance.
So, be aware of your fears and know that with magic you have the power to create a storm that can both nourish and devastate the landscape of your life. Just like a virus infects the body, bad ideas infect the spirit and we all have them. The most basic elements of our beings are thoughts and those thoughts exist in a hierarchy that allows our foundational beliefs to seep through into our most inane desires. Your fears are connected to your desires and are present in every reaction to every person and situation you encounter. Focus on these things and realize they are there. Before experimenting with diagrams (which serve as externalizations of internal desire) experiment with your inner fire by concentrating your thoughts on one thing.
How long can your cracked vessel hold that burning fire of consciousness?
In my life I’ve observed a wildly symbolic nature which undoubtedly was always there, just outside of my awareness. When I began the calcination process, I went back to the square of Saturn to learn self discipline and ended up in the town of Eden, Arizona. I stayed there for almost 2 months in the midst of searing Arizona summer, burning through my emotional baggage and learning to sit still with discomfort. Within the first week of my visit, a forest fire broke out on the mountain that overlooks Eden. It burned the entire time I stayed.
Dissolution: The Floodgate of Emotion
Moving closer to the light, we approach Jupiter and the operation of Dissolution where the white ash of calcined beliefs enter the waters of emotion. Jupiter and dissolution work with the metal tin, or aluminum. Aluminum is a light and superficial metal which lacks substance and mirrors the inflated gaseous nature of Jupiter, our largest and least substantial planet. In its "positive" form Jupiter is a symbol of an expansion of consciousness. In its "negative" form it represents the inflated ego.
The ego always attempts to remember itself in an exalted light, so being a safe place for yourself to come unglued is VERY important. Negative self talk is the work of your qlipothic demons, the destructive beliefs you hold. Remembering our painful memories with objective compassion creates a safe internal space. It allows genuine emotions to bleed out into solution over time, as if returning to the womb. I like to think of Dissolution as the fall of the Berlin wall of the psyche, the personas iron curtain.
Constructing a “Black Mirror” was a daunting but illuminating exercise that was the alchemical prelude to my Jupiter diagram. I made a list of my wrong doings, my mistakes, regrets and what motivated those actions(or inactions). It took years, but maintaining focus on such an unpleasant task was a wonderfully difficult thing. The Black Mirror exercise, like all magical work, is about Knowing thyself. The matter at hand can be dark indeed when staring into our own black mirror with the focused fire of Calcination. Inner work is not for the faint of heart, we all have done things we struggle to love ourselves through. These self judgements rob us of the expansive joy that Jupiter can also symbolize. Allowing space for error consequently allows space for compassion, vulnerability, forgiveness and growth. These are things we all desire to have externally yet too often we deny it to ourselves and therefore others.
Jupiter offers us each a vast spectrum of expansion determined by how open we are willing to become. Do we make excuses for our past behaviors by blaming others or can we rise to meet them and expand?
Separation: Dismembering the Self
Mars, the warrior planet rules Iron, the hard brittle metal which gives Martian soil it’s distinctive red color. Mars rules the operation of Separation and has a distinctly masculine, assertive energy.
The ability to separate from dominating emotions is prerequisite to separating from psychological hang ups, or even physiological responses. To step outside of an experience and see emotions as a separate force allows you to have an objective perspective. Emotions unbridled and/or misunderstood cause us to react rather than respond. They cause us to lose our physical equilibrium with anxiety, the racing mind pushes us toward avoidant behaviors.
Separation is likened to alchemical aeration. Bringing your traumas out into the light to re-member and acknowledge during calcination and dissolution prepares those burdens to be inspected, validated and discarded now.
I feel that humanity as a collective is nearing the end of the phase of Separation. We are beginning to understand the nature of duality, our mainstream entertainment is just barely beginning to reflect a new depth of experience and a separation from the beliefs of the past. Conversely, our individual sense of separation and barriers of the past are also breaking down. Even the genders blend more everyday in a bizarre and traumatic attempt at separating the self from the biological spacesuits we call our bodies. It is part of the process and rather than judge or fear these changes in others we must learn from them within ourselves. Each person you encounter is a mirror of your own blind spots. As we approach the phase of Conjunction(which corresponds to the heart), humanity is at a crossroad where we either open our hearts to one another and our collective trauma or we continue in this illusion of separation.
The meditation work of this stage is a simple breathing exercise which changes the rhythm of your heartbeat. I was taught this by my doctor as a child because my resting heartbeat was dangerously high due to Graves disease. He hooked me up to heart monitors and showed me how simple it was to slow my own heart beat by breathing through the abdomen rather than the chest. Not only did my pulse slow significantly, the classic image of spikes on a heart monitor became a rolling wave when I altered my breathing.
Practice inhaling through the nose, expanding only the abdomen as if you draw your breath deep into your belly(or Solar Plexus). Exhale through the mouth. That’s it…Just practice making it a constant habit. This simple abdominal breathing technique calms the heart which will need this nourishing calm to prepare it to open in the next alchemical phase, Conjunction.