If there was one word most commonly used as a synonym for alchemy, it would be transformation. This is likely why we see the word “alchemy” used in all kinds of contexts that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual tradition, such as decorating your house, learning online marketing, or cooking an amazing dinner. Anytime something transforms, people call it alchemy.
But there is truth to this concept of transformation being at the root of alchemy, and this especially applies to the healing process and the therapeutic goal of medical alchemy. We are seeking transformational levels of healing. But what does that even mean? It just sounds like another catch phrase used in new age spirituality. But in the context of spagyric therapy, it is a physiological and spiritual reality, so let’s take a look at this concept of transformational healing, break down what it means and actually looks like, and show how spagyrics are designed to initiate this process.
Transformation and the Process of Healing
Let’s consider the concept of transformation and how it applies to the process of healing that we go through as humans. A general definition of this word is essentially a change in form or appearance, the turning from one state into another, or some sort of modification or alteration from an original state. In alchemy, the term has a slightly deeper meaning, for the transformation we are concerned with here is that the newer state of being is one that is in greater harmony with nature, it is improved and thus now exists in a “higher” or more evolved state of being. This could be seen as entering a greater state of self-organization and coherence with the inner and outer environment. Thus from the alchemical perspective, we are not simply seeking change for the sake of change, but rather are seeking change to make something better, and in the case of healing, that something is ourselves.
Everything in the world of alchemy is seeking harmony, or in the older terminology “perfection,” (which is certainly a relative term). This is oftentimes looked at through the lens of the Three Philosophical Principles of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt, or the soul, spirit, and body, respectively. In the process of transformational healing, it cannot only exist on one of these layers of being, but must reach into the essence of who we are, change our patterns of thinking and feeling, as well as influence the physical body.
In terms of the body, this means we must attend to the health of our constitution, organ systems, and tissues of the body. Each of us are born with various excesses and deficiencies, strengths and weaknesses, predispositions towards health and disease. In this way we are all unique, individual, and have different requirements to find physiological balance. Spagyric therapy is uniquely designed to target these various constitutional predispositions and strengthen the parts that are weak, tempering the parts that are in excess, and help each part of the body find its dynamic equilibrium. This typically begins with resolving current health conditions, acute symptoms, and chronic pestering problems, then moving into strengthening weaknesses, and finally into cultivating a lifestyle that helps us maintain our constitutional balance.
When we are crippled with disease or a health problem, we exist at a certain level of functionality and possibility. Say we have chronic pain that gets in the way of our ability to hike in the woods, enjoy tending a garden, or play with our kids. When we heal that pain, improve our mobility and physical strength, we have undergone a transformation, a physical evolution or change. Our capacities have increased, along with our tolerances and ability to do things that beforehand we could not. This shows a physical, or Salt, level of transformation.
The Mercury level represents our psychological and emotional being, of which we can all usually humbly admit to having some sort of inner work that can be done. We all carry patterns of thinking and feeling that at times feel discordant with a healthy way of being. Like our body’s, we all have certain temperamental predispositions: some tend to get angry and frustrated, others get depressed and sad, while others get nervous and anxious, among of course many other psychological and emotional challenges we face.
There are a wide variety of ways that we can express an imbalanced psychology, and the goal of spagyric therapy is to first become aware of these unhealthy expressions. Then we must understand what the other side of it is, the “light side” if you will, that it can be transformed into. Stubbornness can become a reliability. Nervousness can become creativity. Anger can become a strong willpower and drive to achieve. Everything has a light and a dark side, or a virtuous and a negative expression. The goal of alchemy is to transform these patterns into their most virtuous qualities.
But what creates these patterns that we often repeat throughout the course of our lives? As mentioned, they can be simply a part of our temperament and need constant attendance to keep in balance. But the root of these issues can also rest in the Sulfur layer of being, or the soul. When discussing healing, these are oftentimes instinctive reactions as the result of trauma. Whether it’s something extreme like physical abuse or something seemingly minor as being made fun of on the playground, we all have certain ways we’ve been traumatized, that something has pierced us to the core and deeply affected us in a way that, initially, seems negative. These traumas on the Sulfur level ultimately translate into patterns in our Mercury (thoughts and feelings) that tend to repeat themselves throughout our lives, which can then materialize into physical health problems. Thus, vital to the transformational healing process is that we unpack our trauma, look at it, and consciously transform it into something positive.
The theme of transformation is consistent throughout alchemy. From the turning of lead into gold, to the turning of poison into medicine, the same applies to our healing process. We must take our trauma, take the “negative” things we experience in our lives, and with the flame of awareness and the help us natural, philosophically prepared remedies, transform them into their most virtuous, positive modes of expression.
Archetypal Forces within People
One of the primary ways these patterns within a person are understood in alchemy is through the application of the old axiom of “as above, so below,” or the understanding that we as humans are a microcosm of nature. This involves looking at the grand archetypal forces of the natural world and seeing them within the Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur levels within a person. These can generally be distilled down to the patterns of the seven planets, the five elements, and the three philosophical principles.
In medical alchemy, whatever challenges a person is facing, whether it be of the soul, spirit, or body (and they are often related), the goal of the practitioner is to decipher what primary archetypal forces within the person are imbalanced. Perhaps there are certain excesses or deficiencies of an element, like Fire or Water. Sometimes there are specific planetary archetypes that are expressing themselves in an imbalanced way, such as Mars revealing itself through rage, Venus through relational manipulation, or Jupiter through addiction. These archetypal patterns often express themselves in the soul, spirit and body, and thus represent the dotted line that guides the practitioner to see the relationship between them.
In this way, the clinical spagyricist has a slightly different perspective of the holistic person and the healing process than other practitioners. Rather than just giving this herb to treat that symptom, which is a common approach amongst allopathic herbalists, alchemy focuses on understanding the core archetypal forces of nature within the person, how they are imbalanced, and correcting those imbalances with indicated alchemically prepared remedies. This approach aims to restore the balance of those forces, transforming how they express within the person from an unhealthy, imbalanced, potentially pathological state, into a virtuous healthy mode of expression on the levels of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt.
Spagyrics and Transformational Cycles in Nature
So, the medical alchemist aims to transform the archetypes within the soul, spirit, and body of the person they are treating by assessing the state of their inner cosmos and elemental forces. From there, they need remedies that are prepared in specific ways to target these natural forces, which is where spagyrics come in.
The very nature of spagyrics is founded upon the transformational processes in nature. Each step of the process, from distillation and fermentation, to calcination and dissolution, can all be directly observed in the natural world. Indeed, they are the basis of how nature transforms. In this way, the very nature of how spagyrics are prepared embodies the transformational processes in nature, which are then contained within the remedies themselves. The distinction here from other forms of preparations that use some of these processes, is that in spagyrics they are all used together. Certain essential oils are prepared via distillation. And wine is made via fermentation. But the spagyric is prepared by using many of these processes in a step-by-step fashion that mirrors natural processes.
The other facet of this within spagyrics is the timing in which they are prepared. It’s common in Eastern traditions to understand how certain times of day and seasons correlate to archetypal forces, such as the 5 Elements in Chinese Medicine and organ system times of day, or how the doshas of Ayurveda govern certain seasons and times of day. Few know that we have a similar model in the West, though it is viewed through the lens of the planets.
Through specific timing mechanisms, spagyrics are harvested and prepared at the specific times when planetary forces are at their peak energetic influence, and are thus infused into the remedies. This is especially true whenever distillation is occurring, for the still is a microcosm of the lower, middle, and upper worlds, thus as the Sulfur or Mercury of the plant is an invisible vapor in the upper world of the still, it is imprinted and infused with that planetary quality, which is captures as it slowly rematerializes on the condenser and drips into the receptacle. This is the method of potentization of remedies in alchemy, whereas in homeopathy this is achieved through dilution and succussion. Thus it is said that in herbalism we harvest plants, but in spagyrics we harvest planets.
This imbues the spagyric remedy with the energetic force of that specific planetary and elemental archetype. When someone consumes that remedy, that particular area of their astral body (synonymous with the meridians and points of acupuncture or the nadis and chakras of Ayurveda) becomes more active and is stimulated. If it is weakened it will be nourished. If it is stagnant it will be cleansed. If we consider the astrological birth chart, that area of the chart becomes activated, and whatever healing process that needs to occur for that archetype to express in its most virtuous way (whether in the soul, spirit, or body) will be initiated.
In this way the orientation of spagyric therapeutics is a bit different than standard approaches to herbal medicine. The goal of which is to gradually progress through each of the seven planets, five elements, and three principles to establish a smooth and even flow of the vital force. This means establishing health in the corresponding organ systems, balance in their psychological and emotional expression, and learning the lessons that need to be learned in order for the soul to progress on its evolutionary path. This supports the ultimate goal of the alchemical path, which is a greater harmony with nature externally and internally, living our life in accordance with our true nature, and learning, growing, and healing physically and spiritually.