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Meditation is an age-old human activity that is designed specifically to get beyond the illusions of social falsity and personal ego and contact the essence of Self. It is the art of focusing consciousness by directing your attention inward, without regard to the demands of the external world, in order to move beyond ego and achieve union with your spiritual core. In the Hermetic view, the creation of the universe took place through meditation – the focusing of the mind of God. “All things have come from this One Thing,” says the Emerald Tablet, “through the meditation of One Mind.” The source of that One Mind is the same for everyone, and it can be found in meditation. That is a profound idea. In fact, just saying that people could make contact with the divine through meditation and private prayer was enough for the medieval Church to burn several famous alchemists at the stake.
It should also be noted that alchemistic meditation is different from other forms, because it is often an active instead of a passive discipline. The alchemist’s meditation seeks to actually work with the transcendental powers beyond our everyday world to create something truly new. The object is not always to still the mind; sometimes alchemistic meditation requires us to fill our minds with chaotic and energies images and follow them back to their divine source. Each group of alchemical meditations has specific goals in mind, much the same as the desired results from the corresponding operation in laboratory work.
There are three basic types of alchemistic meditations that correspond to the three magisteriums (or accomplishments) in alchemy. As we learned in Module 1, these are the Lunar, Solar, and Stellar levels. They are the three accomplishments that made Hermes “Thrice Greatest” and correspond to the three levels of reality – the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.
Lunar Meditation is cultivating the stillness and the darkness within to discover the deeper essence we all possess. It is an introverted journey to the underworld of matter and body to seek out the light trapped there that is our essence. During lunar mediations, we plumb the depths of soul in a deeply relaxed state that seeks connection with unconscious or dormant powers. The ultimate goal is to retrieve those sparks of light buried in matter and bring them together in a holistic entity that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Solar Meditation is a more extroverted journey into the realm of light and consciousness. It is soaring with spirit towards the light Above. During solar meditation, we attempt to break the shackles of ego and cultural controls to seek higher consciousness. By exposing the self-deception in our thoughts and using mantras and other “gimmicks” to lull our everyday ego mind into submission, we purify and increase our personal consciousness
Stellar Meditation requires the merging of Lunar and Solar consciousness in the most powerful of all the alchemists’ tools. By retrieving the sparks of light trapped in our bodies and uniting them with the light of consciousness freed from egotistical or societal control, we create a brilliant beacon to the universe. Through stellar meditation, we connect with the source of all spiritual power, far beyond our primitive, anthropomorphic ideas of heaven or hell. During this kind of meditation, we attempt to merge with the One Mind of the universe to take on its Greater Identity. This state requires a truly free and purified consciousness, free of psychological, genetic, and social restraints to our being. The void created by this “death” of our worldly personality is automatically filled by a higher presence that becomes our true guide in alchemical transformation. It is at this level of mind that Hermes speaks directly to us.
The Dragons of Alchemy
The focus of most the alchemists’ meditations, whether they were seeking purification, insight, or spiritual power, all had to do with dragons. Alchemists both East and West believed in dragons, if not in the real sense then certainly as archetypal energies that are part of the very fabric of the universe. In fact, if you do not understand the nature of the Dragon, much of the advanced alchemical wisdom will be beyond your grasp.
In the Grail legends, Merlin takes a young King Arthur into the dark woods to instruct him in natural magic. But the young man is terrified by the wild sounds, threatening growls, and glowing eyes that hide in the forest. “What are you afraid of?” Merlin says. “Shall I tell you what’s really out there? The Dragon – a beast of such power that if you were to see it whole and all complete in a single glance, it would burn you to cinders. Where is it? It is everywhere; it is everything! Its scales are in the bark of trees. Its roar is heard in the wind. And its forked tongue strikes like lightning. And there is only one thing you can do to survive the Dragon. Be still. Rest in the arms of the Dragon.”
The Dragon is a composite of the features of many animals and represents the chaotic matrix of creation of which the life force is part. Dragons derive their power from the primordial Black Hole from which all things sprung, the One Thing, the formless Tao, the unrelenting chaos of the First Matter. In modern physics, the Dragon is the unknowable quantum foam from which atomic particles are created, the underlying strings of pure, wild energy that become physical reality.
There are three steps in dealing with the dragons of alchemy, and the steps correspond to the Three Phases of alchemy. The first is called “Facing the Dragon,” and it occurs during the Black Phase (Nigredo) of alchemy. This difficult stage is the beginning of true transformation. An old alchemical saying states: Opponere Draconem est prehendere Vitam (“To face the Dragon is to seize life itself.”) Why is it so hard to face the dragon? Because we are afraid to. We want to live in the illusory but comfortable world of personal ego and civilization. The Dragon is the underlying chaos in our bodies, our lives, our culture, and the whole universe. Humans are afraid to face that fact. Individually, the most important step in facing the dragon is to acknowledge the darker side of reality, all the suffering and stupidity that is around us. Our great spiritual leaders, from simple shamans to Buddha and Christ, all began their spiritual journey by realizing how much chaos and suffering there is in the world.
Once you do face the Dragon, there is nothing to do but accept it and try to understand it. In dealing with the Dragon, you must not challenge it directly or it will ruthlessly destroy you. To gain control of the Dragon, you must go to its primal level to surrender yourself, while bringing with you a higher state of consciousness or awareness. So the second step in dealing with the dragons of alchemy is called “Surrendering to the Dragon.” That challenge begins during the White Phase (Albedo). During this stage of purification, we have to not only acknowledge the chaos in the world but also the chaos within ourselves. The Dragon is never all good or all bad; it is just all things in all ways. That means the darkest parts of you, all the habits of thought and body in which you are trapped, are part of the Dragon. And all the best parts too. You have to give into this process in which good and bad, positive and negative, health and sickness, life and death, heaven and earth, are poles of existence. The universe is not just about you or your comfort. There is a greater pattern, and the Dragon is what fulfills it. This idea is often expressed in the symbol of the Ouroborus, the Dragon (or Serpent) eating its own tail. It is also sometimes depicted as two dragons, a lighter colored one on top with wings and a darker colored one on the bottom with feet.
The last step in handling Dragons is the most difficult and dangerous. It is the act of “Unleashing the Dragon” and marks the Red Phase (Rubedo) of alchemy. If you are not pure of spirit and free of ego-fused thoughts and emotions (like greed and ambition or guilt and shame), you will be destroyed by the Dragon and all will be lost. But if you are free of falsity and devoid of ego, there is a chance the Dragon will allow you to transform into something completely new. Oddly, the real trick to unleashing the Dragon is not to confront it but to disappear before it notices you. The idea is not to hide from it, but to become transparent to it, like a completely empty cup waiting to be filled with this tremendous energy, which normally would wipe out any content or “Salt”.
This unleashing of the Dragon into our bodies and the world is the final goal of Great Work. The alchemists wanted to be masters of the life force, and they knew that the life force was carried and protected by dragons. In Taoist alchemy, advanced techniques of Unleashing the Dragon center on the microcosm of the body. Disciplines like Tai Chi and Chi Kung seek to allow the Dragon to live and circulate within us without our interference. To do this, we have to become transparent to the life force, so it moves without resistance or control. This feeling of energetic “flow” is often experienced by athletes. The same experience occurs on mental and spiritual levels too and is felt as boundless creativity.
Visit The Alchemy Guild, for guided lessons with Master Alchemists where they will elaborate on how the Dragon is the real focus of all the operations of alchemy. They will show how the Dragon reacts to our presence and efforts at each stage, and how to avoid the pitfalls of ego and falsity that bring the fiery Dragon’s breath that will destroy us. No alchemist will ever achieve his or her goals by confronting the Dragon, by trying to slay it or chain it up. The only way is to face the Dragon, surrender to it, and unleashing its power by becoming part of it. If you become invisible to yourself, if you become the purest life force possible, the Dragon will embrace you, for the Dragon is attracted to and protects the pristine energy of the life force and destroys all salted imperfections, including your own ego. As Merlin advised: “Be still. Rest in the arms of the Dragon.”
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