The Alchemy of Spiritual Awakening

the alchemy of spiritual awakening

This post is written by James Burgess, a writer and teacher of astrology. He has published works on Sabian Symbols and is currently working to promote Sabian Mysteries, a school to study this and related material.

The word alchemy is used as a metaphor for consciously creating dimensional shifts that psychologically and materially change our reality.

Choosing not to change is equivalent to inertia. Not changing, we are inert – some say ‘dead’. There is more to life than sticking with what is comfortable, and everyone has the ability to manifest dramatic change towards self-improvement.

Moving from cautious uncertainty about change, towards intimacy and the deepening of experience, occurs by appreciating possibilities and valuing potential more highly than the status quo.  

Alchemy is all about root-level change. Having fully realised that change is necessary, or preferred, then the decision to change is instant. Acting on decision leads to freedom – to a fresh start.

Such ‘Goodbye’ moments are powerful, especially those concerning major life decisions, like work, relationships, and where we live. These are often watershed moments.

We need a clear vision and the intention to do everything to manifest that change, including asking for help, and expecting success – yet also taking responsibility for everything caused by our actions, having deep self-awareness and consciousness of others.

Saying Yes to life is all about willingness to let go and take a quantum leap into the unknown, trusting the process and that all will be well, no matter what the outcome. 

The Alchemical Retreat

Stage 1- The Saturn Stage

A part of us is inert, dead, heavy as lead, and not able to receive or express light. It is this part that prevents us from being happy and true; it draws us into unhelpful situations where pleasure replaces joy, sentimentality substitutes for love, and delusion clouds truth. 

To discover this aspect of ourselves in order to deal with it properly, we must turn our attention upon ourselves and deeply reflect upon our imperfections. We meditate upon those aspects of life that we find troublesome or troubling, the things that bind us into unhappy, unfulfilling scenarios throughout life.

Our task is to identify and honestly own up to what is wrong. This is the Saturn stage of the alchemical process, sometimes called the ‘dark night of the mind’, when we reach unpleasant understandings about who we are. 

Stage 2- The Lunar Stage

Following this profound self-revelation, we seek other ways to be. Dissatisfied with who we are and what we have in life, we want alternatives and are somewhat lost and confused until we find a way forward. We come to discover a previously-hidden depth within the heart, a light that responds to our inquiry by becoming clear and strong.

As we follow that light, we unfold layer upon layer of new awareness of self. There is remembrance, a recognition of ancient wisdom that has been long forgotten, yet feels as fresh and certain as the dawn. Going further and further towards fully surrendering to the light, we rise.

As day after day of practice takes us on, we eventually reach a high level beyond all attachments to worldly concerns, yet with complete familiarity with the qualities and identity of the soul-self. This, in some ways, is like the Moon as we become the reflection of whatever light we can open to.

Yet before the breakthrough to full awareness, we have to endure the clearing of all the poisons of the mind. We are confronted during the ‘dark night of the soul’, with the terror of loss of self. We forget who we are, we can even lose track of the name used to identify our ego selves, so lost are we. Terror is the worst of all feelings, and we grasp whatever there is to hold on to. Thus, we discover that only light can endure the darkness – our true soul nature. 

Stage 3- The Solar Stage

With this as our own vision of reality, we can progress further into light, beyond that which is individual, towards pure Spirit. We meet and marry, soul and Spirit in holy union. This ‘conjunctio’ is the highest attainment, an absolute purification of self. 

The descent into life requires us to ‘fix’ our ego, creating a stable identity, an evolved personality, and a strong affirmation to hold our new life-attitude against any inclinations to revert back into previous patterns of habits and unconscious behaviour. 

The last stage, Knight’s Consciousness, speaks to a life lived with practical concerns, capably well-managed, yet with a dignity of bearing, a nobility of purpose, and with the aristocracy of soul clearly present. Our challenge is to be sensitive to the limitations of others as we open-heartedly maintain our own high state of spiritual awakening.

The alchemical process can be a particular event – a spiritual retreat led by a guide, perhaps repeated each year. However, the process can also be mirrored as the life journey of the seeker, with each stage reflected outwardly with events and inwardly as our spiritual evolution. 

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About the author

James Burgess

James is a writer living in Ireland with a background in Sufism and has been a teacher and counsellor in astrology since the 1980s. He is the originator of the 7 Words System, a universal cosmology with applications in all fields of life, and the founder of various camps in England, Germany, Baltic States and Russia, in particular the celebrated Unicorn Camps. He has published works on Sufism, Sabian Symbols and 7 Words and is currently working on a commentary about Dane Rudhyar’s contribution to Sabian Symbols.