What if the inert metals that Alchemists worked with weren’t metals at all? What if turning lead into gold stood for something much deeper and much more valuable than generation of precious metals? What if the processes of distillation, transmutation, and transfiguration referred not to processes performed on minerals, but on man?
My first re-examination of Alchemy began by reading Paulo Coelho’s classic work The Alchemist. A story in which the character, a shepherd, receives guidance from an Alchemist on an epic quest to find lost treasure. This was an exceptional book that I highly recommend to everyone. Not to be missed.
The story discusses an emerald tablet which contains the secret to Alchemy. After a little independent research I was stunned at what I found. The Emerald Tablet is a real artifact! It was the manifesto and instruction manual for alchemy. Sir Isaac Newton, the founder of modern physics, calculus, and consequently science as we understand it today, was fascinated by this tablet. His translation, found among his alchemical papers, is included at bottom.
Soon I noticed the emerald tablet popping up in other places. Have you seen The Secret? In the introduction, while the narrator dictates that the secret has been repressed, a man furiously takes a charcoal rubbing off of… you guessed it! The Emerald Tablet! As I listened to famously successful people talk about themselves, many identified with Alchemists, including people like Jack Canfield, Anthony Robbins, and Bruce Lee. Carl Jung was purportedly an alchemist.
What is Alchemy, really?
Alchemy is the process of turning the normal (symbolized by lead) into the extraordinary (gold); of manifesting thoughts and ideas into reality. It is a process of creation and personal transformation. It is creating something, discarding all but the valuable, then creating again. A sort of evolution, alchemy is the distillation of the self. It is reducing and refining that which is valuable within you until there is nothing left but Self. True Self. Alchemy is a form of Yoga, or union. It is a process, a science, and an exercise.
In JKD, one does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum.
Who are Alchemists?
Artists, musicians, athletes, scientists, entrepreneurs, martial artists, yogis, dancers, and actors are alchemists. Writers are alchemists. Who else but an alchemist could wave an ink-filled wand over paper and produce scribbles so valuable that people will trade sums of money for it? Alchemists are creators. They make the unseen become seen.
How do I practice Alchemy?
Create! Make something. Anything! Look at your creation. Love it. What does it communicate about you? What areas of personal strength does it exhibit? What areas of weakness does it expose? Go back to work. Create again, this time it will be different than before, deeper, and more honest because you know so much more about yourself. Deepen your connection to the mystery of life, learn from your new work, then continue the process.
All I know is, if you don’t figure out this something, you’ll just stay ordinary, and it doesn’t matter if its a work of art or a taco, or a pair of socks! Just create something… new, and there it is, and its you, out in the world, out side of you and you can look at it, or hear it, or read it, or feel it… and you know a little more about… you. A little bit more than anyone else does… Does that make any sense at all?
Holly Kennedy in P.S. I Love You
The Emerald Tablet as translated my Sir Isaac Newton:
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 the miracles of one only thing.
3. And as all things have been arose from one by the 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 nurse.
6. The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
7. Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
7a. Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.
8. It ascends from the earth to the heaven again it descends to the earth and receives the force of things superior and inferior.
9. By this means ye shall have the glory of the whole world thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
10. Its force is above all force. for it vanquishes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing.
11a. So was the world created.
12. From this are and do come admirable adaptations whereof the means (Or process) is here in this.
13. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
14. That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished and ended.