Alchemy is a seventeenth-century name given to the ancient knowledge of what we are made of, having a pervading presence in Sacred Scriptures. It has its place in one of the seven pillars of the house of wisdom (Proverbs 8:12, 9:1), enlightening us on the indissoluble link between matter and spirit. The doctrine of the four elements air, earth, water, and fire dealing with their essences and combinations is central to it.
Common to the 4 religions—Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianism, and Islam—are the 4 elements of alchemy that should not be confused with the chemical ones derived from them. This essay only addresses how the 4 elements of alchemy are present in the deep structure of matter. A detailed Scriptural account of how they became what matter is today is one of the topics discussed at length in “Fundamentals of the Creation.”
Being Genesis 1:1, a description of the basic building block of Creation, it is worth noting the early presence of the number 4. Particularly, in word 1 את (tav alef) representing God as origin and finality and whose gematria value is 401. In religion 2, Zoroastrianism, it is hard to miss the binary type of tetramorphisms that the Zend-Avesta in Yasna LVII presents as the essence of Sraosha (the messenger of Ahura Mazda and incarnation of his word). He appears in a quadriga with four horsemen and a glorious countenance: “white and bright, beautiful and powerful.”
In connection with number 4, it is desirable to choose a suitable basis of representation to lay out the scriptural accounts of Creation and the irreducible representations of the tetramorphic symbolisms in the 4 religions we consider here. However, this quaternary formulation goes beyond these 4 religions, as the Pythagorean Tetractys and the four-headed god Brahma from the Hindu triad demonstrate. The chosen basis should also be amenable to representing the four elements of alchemy and their exteriorizations in physical matter.
As Genesis 1:1 suggests, the quaternary basis of representation should contemplate two domains: heaven and earth. If one of the four directions corresponds to heaven—and to the element air of alchemy— it is possible to associate it, as Sacred Scriptures do, with the Holy Spirit. The lower triad represents the earth where earthly creatures dwell. Curiously enough, Planet Earth is also Planet number 3, the planet in which ternary traits of Creation, as a whole, resolve their pending issues.
The unitary element of alchemy belonging to the lower triad is earth. Air and earth are considered masculine for being numerically odd. Together they form what R. Levi (the third century AD) called the masculine upper waters. The previous definition, albeit symbolic, points to an important feature of this configuration representing Priesthood. The rule for the upper waters is that they cannot pursue opposing goals.
The binary element of alchemy in the lower triad is water, considered the archetype par excellence of the feminine. Three pairs complement earth configurations, each having two components with opposing attributes—labeled as chiaroscuro contrast. For example, consider juxtaposed opposites—like in counter-polarization and counter-rotations— whose most conspicuous representative is the physical vacuum in all excitation states. The Zend-Avesta describes water in Yasna XXX as two primal spirits with opposing endeavors. The Buddhist three-pronged vajras portray a physical vacuum as two divergent masculine components in opposition (the straight ones), sided by two feminine counter-rotations (the curved ones).
When opposites alternate with cyclical permutations, we get rotations or waves. Primordial waters, reigning at the beginning in most cosmogonies, are examples of the feminine archetype. According to Genesis 1:2, at the beginning: “the Spirit of God (air) was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
The fourth element of alchemy is fire, considered masculine for being numerically odd. The use of primary colors to identify the 3 aspects of fire is merely a matter of convenience due to the analogies involved. Its 3 interrelated components always appear as a trio of cyclical permutations analogous to those of the chiaroscuro contrast in water. However, number 3 is fundamental to the creation ruling in many aspects, including God´s immanence. Therefore, it is an issue to deal with great care and not only in connection with the alchemical element. Religious literature and traditions consider fire as a means to purify evil, and sometimes they stress its ternary trait.
The connection between number 3 and evil in the Hebrew Bible is not as evident as in other Scriptures written after Zoroaster reformed Mazdeism. Probably the most relevant association is in the Book of Genesis where the wrongdoings of the serpent deifying God are recounted in chapter 3:1-6. In the sacred book of religion 2, the Zend-Avesta is where we find the most detailed account of the connection between igneous evil and number 3. According to Yasna IX, the dragon Dahaka has three mouths, three heads, six eyes, thousands of powers, and an awesome force and is the devil of the lie.
In the Christian sacred books, we find some direct and indirect references, like in the episode of the triple temptation to Jesus in the desert reported by 3 of the 4 Gospels: (Mark 1:12,13), (Mathew 4:1-10) and (Luke 4:1-9). But probably the best known Christian association between the number 3 and evil appears in the Apocalypse of John: “whoever has knowledge let him obtain the figure of the beast because it is the number of a man. The number is 666.” By man, John refers to the ternary formula of the human being (1&2) totaling 3 as that of the igneous Satan. The number 666 corresponds to the vertices of 3 primordial hexagons (blue, green, and red, or their anti, yellow, magenta, and cyan) or the 3 sets of 6 “colored” polygons of the 6 days creation in the 3 earthly planes xy, yz, and zx.
The Koran establishes in the “Sad” surah that fire is the substance from which the jinns are made, including Iblis/Satan, their maximum representative. The surah also gives a detailed account of how and why Iblis/Satan defied God’s order to bow before his human creation and became the root of evil and sin. In the Koran, there are a few indirect references regarding the ternary trait of Iblis/Satan, like in “Those Sent Forth” surah, where its fire is described as a formation of three columns of smoke. However, during the annual pilgrimage (Hajj), at least once in a lifetime, Muslims must go for three days to Mina, where three pillars are stoned. The three monoliths al-Aqaba, al-Wusta, and al-Ula mark the place of the triple temptation to the family nucleus of Abraham against a test imposed by God. The patriarch, by command of the archangel Gabriel, stoned Iblis/Satan for tempting him, his wife Hagar, and his son Ishmael to disobey the divine order.
Advocates of perennial philosophy may want to compare the above to Xiuhtecuhtli, the ancient Aztec god of fire, permanently residing in the midst of 3 stones—like in today’s traditional Mexican home fires—framed within the four corners of the cosmos. These stones may signal the “3 gates of hell” to which the Bhagavad Gita refers.
Regarding the transcendence of God, nothing will be said in this series of essays, which only deals with his immanence. The immanent aspect of God is like absolute freedom of expression in action made light that the archetypal elements of alchemy refract in many ways. Feminine archetypes, for example, obliterate the refracted absolute freedom of expression due to internal destructive interferences. Free will is present in every odd combination of the elements of alchemy, in the image of God the 1.
The archetype of the human being consists of the indissoluble union of a unitary element and a binary one. There are then two main versions, the heavenly one formed by air and water and the earthly one formed by earth and water. The masculine (odd) and the feminine (even) enjoy free will due to their ternary formulation.
The archetypal human being formula 1&2 is of the utmost importance for the Sacred Scriptures, judging by its presence in the aspect ratios of the Tabernacle built by Moses to house the most sacred and King’s Solomon Temple. The priesthood institution represented by the upper or masculine waters 1&1 defines the aspect ratios of the holy of holies in both. The components of the upper waters must concur with the same objective, in stark contrast with the lower or feminine waters, where they oppose one another.
The archetypal human formula 1&2 is the recipe for the projection powder to fulfill the great work of spiritual alchemy. Mystery has always surrounded the true intentions of the masters of alchemy and their secret formulas. Besides some outstanding Catholic clerics well acquainted with the deep secrets of occult sciences and alchemy—like Gerbert of Aurillac (Pope Sylvester II) and the Dominican Albert the Great—there was a large number of savants sometimes protected under the umbrella of secret societies. In any case, most traditions hold that their quest was to produce gold, a religious and cultural symbol for incorruptibility, sanctity, and eternal life.
If the human formula defines the relationship between God and his Creation, one would expect some transitivity in its physical deployment. As expected, it is possible to find the 1&2 formulation at the root of the physical forthcoming of Creation in field and particle generations. Here, we conceive of fields as ever-expanding arrays of possible locations for the source. Quantum field theory offers a probabilistic description of the behavior of physical fields and elementary particles, fully compatible with these expansions of possibilities far from their origin.
Beyond the field expansion, defining new possibilities for the occurrence of the source is the dynamic realization of its displacement through the so-called particle-wave duality. The particle formation corresponds to the unitary masculine component, while the wavy phenomenon—with its sequentially opposed real-valued functions—is the feminine one.
Charged physical particles like electrons have their divergent field or masculine behavior coupled to their wavy or feminine companion consisting of vacuum excitations. The coupling of matter and light, described by quantum electrodynamics, addresses these issues with great accuracy. The embedment of the alchemy element fire in the four directions is not observable because the cyclical permutations of color charges keep everything neutral. By convention, the electron charge is negative.
The proton is a subatomic particle with a positive charge but not an elementary one since it has 3 valence quarks (uud). Each quark has a different color charge due to the dislocation in the lower or spatial triad of the cyclically permuted ternary attributes of protoelement fire (recall slide 8). Spatial dislocation of attributes, in general, is a consequence of an unprecedented event fully developed through several chapters in the book “Fundamentals of the Creation.”
The color charges and the strong force between them—described by quantum chromodynamics—are the earthly—xyz— and material representations of what Christian theologians call constitutive relationality in their modeling of the imago Dei of the triune God. The neutron also has 3 valence quarks endowed with color charges, one up and two down (udd), with a net electric charge equal to zero.
Electrons, protons, and neutrons are the sole building blocks of all chemical elements existing in the Universe. The main ones for life are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon. The last three represent faithfully the religious architecture, and the numerical features of their atomic orbitals reproduce the elemental archetypes of alchemy. These chemical elements constitute a link for the interiorization and exteriorization channels of archetypal configurations.
The atomic orbitals responsible for chemical bonds, shown in the previous slide, allow functional groups (in the chemical sense) to exteriorize the configurations of the elements of alchemy endlessly. Attaining coherence in the downstream alignment of these 4 elements starting from the source is what alchemists call great work.
The exteriorization of the elements of alchemy—through functional groups—grows to a staggering scale. One of the countless examples worth mentioning is the exteriorization of the human formula 1&2 in sex hormones. It is even possible to identify both of the human configurations, the heavenly and the earthly one. The upper waters or masculine ones are represented by testosterone, while a pair of cyclically acting feminine hormones exemplify the lower waters.
Genetics is another crucial example of how archetypes of alchemy work their way through increasing complexity. There are 2 types of nucleotides biochemically paired, representing the upper and lower waters. The element fire of alchemy is present in the 3 of them, having the amino-functional groups (–NH2) attached.
There are, however, 2 systems with adenine, guanine, and cytosine in the lower triad. These 3 nucleotides represent the earthly human and fire archetypes. One of these systems, known as messenger RNA (mRNA), came first in life evolution, having the nucleotide uracil as the fourth component representing air/Holy Spirit/time. The other system pertains to DNA, where thymine (5-methyl uracil) represents the quintessence/Anointed One/perpetuity. The ordering, uracil first, thymine second, also applies to their archetypes as John the Baptist declaration confirms: “after me will come One more powerful than I” (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16, John 1:27). In the Gospels, John the Baptist and Jesus appear as historical representations of the Holy Spirit and the Anointed One (Christ, from the Greek Christós) (Matthew 3:16–17, Mark 1:10–11, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32–34).
The Holy Spirit, identified by Judeo-Christian tradition as the agent of prophecy and by some Muslim thinkers as Gabriel, the agent of revelation, has its parallel in the biochemical role of the messenger RNA transferring vital information from DNA. Accordingly, the DNA molecule gives life a sense of permanence and would correspond to the Anointed Ones acting from perpetuity. The previous interpretation only applies to natural representations of the elemental archetypes within the context of the 4 nucleotide bases. The reader should be careful not to extrapolate these interpretations to lower or higher levels of complexity without consideration of the new stereochemical and functional contexts. Beyond the molecular representations is the intriguing exteriorization of the human formula 1&2 in the pair of allosomes.
Organs and metabolism are next in the exteriorization path to rule human behavior and beliefs. The human formula has its role in this, but there are numerous organic insinuations regarding the entourage of human existence. The nearly symmetrical human body is one of the most evident reproductions of the feminine trait of Creation in its wholeness.
The set of all 1&2 (human) archetypally isomorphous formulations within an individual constitutes the so-called human soul. The human archetype has taken advantage of every biological mutation to tighten its grip on carbon-based life. As a result, the human soul is a local and organic manifestation of its archetypal precursor. Its structure allows the interiorization/exteriorization of archetypes’ deeds through various channels while ensuing coherence all the way through.
Unsurprisingly, human belief systems project themselves beyond human biology as extensions of the archetypal realms. But could it be different? Is human nature capable of escaping archetypal domination? Can carbon-based biology detach from its origin and go beyond its quaternary basis of representation?
Despite the subversion of the original plan, Creation’s overarching ultimate goal is the projection of the source through any path toward the empyrean. Because the dark sky beyond the stars is the receding back of God, and the originating source is its forthcoming front side.
The previous slides on alchemy are just but a small sample of what you will find in “Fundamentals of the Creation.” This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the origins and meanings of the mysteries and symbols of religion and esotericism.
If you enjoyed this post, don´t miss…
Alchemy last update: May 5th 2021.