The Alchemical Tradition
Ancient alchemical traditions once thrived in the Middle East, Egypt, India, China, and Europe. These traditions held that certain precious metals (including copper, silver & gold) could be transformed into a fine white powder (elixir = powder in Arabic) that had miraculous spiritual and healing properties when ingested.
Although the historical texts that specifically describe alchemical practices date back only about 2000 years, virtually all alchemical traditions held that their knowledge was very ancient, and had been passed down as an oral tradition among initiates since the very foundations of human civilization. There are tantalizing allusions to these lost traditions in spiritual texts of many ancient cultures. A brief overview is presented below.
The Biblical Tradition
In John's Book of Revelations:
REV 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden Manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Those who have consumed the white powder of gold typically report the experience of a spiritual sound deep in their awareness. This spiritual sound cannot be heard by the ordinary ear. It can only be heard by the spiritual ear. Is this spiritual sound the new name, "which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it"?
For forty years, the Israelites consumed the white Manna in order to spiritually prepare themselves for entry into Canaan, the Promised Land (a higher state of consciousness?).
Exodus 16:15 "And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is Manna: for they knew not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the Bread which the LORD hath given you to eat."
Exodus 16:31 "And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey."
Exodus 16:33 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of Manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations.
Exodus 16:34 As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.
Exodus 16:35 And the children of Israel did eat Manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat Manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan. (Until they approached Cosmic Consciousness, for the last step into it cannot be made by the personality).
If the Manna represents an allusion to the alchemical white powder (elixir), then the Biblical legend of the golden calf may be an allusion to an ancient alchemical process. According to the Book of Exodus, Moses took the golden calf, burnt it in the fire, ground it to a powder, and cast it into water for the Israelites to drink as an expiation for their sin.
Exodus 32:20 And he took the (golden) calf which they had made, and burnt it with fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.
We know from Biblical records that Moses was the adopted son of a royal Egyptian family. Is it possible that the Divine Bread or Manna had its roots in ancient Egyptian alchemy?
The Egyptian Tradition
The ancient Egyptian texts state that when the Pharaohs spiritually prepared themselves to enter the abode of the Immortals (the Egyptian "Promised Land") they were fed divine "Bread". The sacred white substance called "Bread" was prepared in the "House of Life" by the Egyptian high priests, and was considered "food of the gods".
In the Egyptian texts, there is a deep connection between the divine "Bread" and the all-seeing "Eye of Horus" also known as the Udjat ("Whole One"). For example, the Pyramid texts specifically state "Thy Bread-cakes shall come from the Eye-of-Horus." Another text states: "I am Thoth who brings you the bright Eye-of-Horus in its name of White Bread."
All-Seeing Eye of Horus
In general, the Udjat represented the divine healing power of the gods. It represented wholeness, health, and spiritual vision. Its function is clearly depicted in the ancient myth of Osiris, where Horus is said to have used the mysterious power of the Udjat to resurrect his father Osiris. After his resurrection, Osiris ascended through the sky to attain Eternal Life among the gods.
The idea that the Eye of Horus was related to a divine substance that could be ingested is also indicated in the ancient Coffin texts, which state: "If Nu be hungry, Nekhbet will be hungry; if Nu be thirsty, Nekhbet will be thirsty," (Spell 863). This litany ends by mentioning the Eye of Horus as the cure. "Your thirst and hunger are satisfied with the consumption of the Eye of Horus" (Spell 936). Later in the same text it is stated: "I live on Bread of white emmer washed down with Ale of red barley... I testify concerning the Eye of Horus to him." (Spell 1013).
The spiritual power of the White Bread is clearly indicated in the Egyptian texts. The Book of the Dead states: "Let there be given to him Bread and Ale which have been issued in the Presence of Osiris, and he will be for ever like the Followers of Horus." The Followers of Horus were considered semi-divine sage-priests. Again, the texts state: "I eat Bread. I drink Ale.... That which is an abomination unto my Ka shall not enter my body. I will live upon that whereon live the gods and the Spirit-souls. I shall live, and I shall be master of their (Bread) cakes." "Now the subsistence of Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, is among the Bread and the Ale which are made for your mouths... Behold, I shall be with Osiris, and my perfection shall be his perfection among the Great Gods."
It should be noted that the sacred or divine Bread used by the Egyptians was not shaped like an ordinary loaf of bread. It was shaped into a conical or pyramidal cake, resembling the cap-stone of the pyramids. There was thus a deep connection in the Egyptian mind between the Pyramids or "Houses of Eternity" and the White Bread. This is made explicit by the use of the hieroglyphic symbol of the White Bread to indicate the gift of Life, a gift that is also indicated by the Ankh.
The Ankh and the pyramidal loaf of Bread are synonymous symbols, indicating the gift of Life.
The symbol of the White Bread was also used in the hieroglyph that meant "Peace, Contentment, Offering". It was represented by a cup that contained the sacred Bread placed on a reed mat. This constituted the hieroglyph "Hotep", which can be found as an inscription over every tomb in ancient Egypt.
"Peace, Contentment, Offering"
Many pharaohs and noble persons in ancient Egypt included the word "Hotep" in their name. For example, the famous Egyptian high-priest, who was the patron of Egyptian medicine and the first architect and builder of an Egyptian Pyramid was named Imhotep.
The First Pyramid Builder
The symbolic connection between the sacred Bread and the Pyramid is made explicit by the pyramidal shape of the Bread-cakes and the capstone of the Pyramids, called the Benben.
The Benben was the proverbial "Philosopher"s Stone" of ancient Egypt. It symbolized the primordial mound that rose above the waters of the Abyss in the very beginning. It was also revered as the "seed of the gods", the "ashes of the Phoenix (benu bird)", and the embodiment of Ra-Atum, the Sun-God.
The Egyptian word for gold is "Neb", which is just the inverse of "Ben". Is it possible that the sacred capstone (Ben) and the sacred White Bread were produced from an inverted form of gold (Neb) that appeared as a fine white powder?
The Vedic Tradition
The ancient Vedic tradition in India also sang the praises of a mysterious sacred substance called Soma, the nectar of immortality. It was prepared and consumed by the Vedic priests in order to attain health, longevity, spiritual illumination, and entry into the abode of the immortal gods.
Rig Veda 8:48 "I have tasted, as one who knows its secret, the honeyed (Soma) drink that inspires and grants freedom, the drink that all, both Gods and mortals, seek to obtain, calling it nectar. We have drunk the Soma, we have become immortal; we have gone to the light; we have found the gods... These glorious (Soma) drops are my health and salvation: they strengthen my joints as thongs do a cart. May these droplets guard my foot lest it stumble and chase from my body all manner of ills. Far-famed Soma, stretch out our life-spans so that we may live... Make me shine brightly like fire produced by friction. Illumine us... Enter within us for our well-being. With hearts inspired may we relish the Juice like treasure inherited from our Fathers! Lengthen our days, King Soma, as the sun causes the shining days to grow longer... It is you, O Soma, who guard our bodies; in each of our limbs you have made your abode. Our weariness and pains are now far removed; the forces of darkness have fled in fear. Soma has surged within us mightily. We have reached our goal! Life is prolonged! The drop that we have drunk has entered our hearts, an immortal inside mortals."
In this tradition, Soma is also closely related to gold. Although modern scholars have traditionally assumed that the Soma was an hallucinogen produced from plants, some scholars have now begun to suggest that the concept of Soma involves a metallurgical or alchemical allegory. In the ancient Rig Veda, Soma is said to have been fetched from heaven by a divine Eagle who extracted it from a bronze (or metal) fortress. (Rig Veda 8.100) The Eagle who fetched the Soma from Heaven may very well be a Vedic reference to the divine Phoenix. The fact that the Soma was kept in a metal fortress provides a clue that the Soma had its true source in the metals.
However, the Vedic texts generally state that Soma has mountains (girau) and stones (adrau) for his body. Soma is also described as dwelling in the mountains (giristha) or growing on the mountains (parvata_vrdh: RV. 9,46). Terrestrial mountains are the abode of Soma (RV. 9,2). The texts state that the Soma was plucked from the rock (adri) by the mountain dwellers and then bought by the priests (kavis) who prepared the Soma. The Sanskrit term kavi not only means priest-poet, but also smith, metallurgist, or alchemist.
Although the Soma is said to grow on or in the rocks in the form of shoots or stalks (amshu), this term can easily be interpreted as the veins or stalk-like protrusions that are often found associated with certain ores, such as quartzite gold. The texts state that the Soma was specifically plucked from two rocks (adrau) which are either reddish brown (aruna) or yellow (hari) in color, colors that are typical of gold bearing ores. For example, quartzite deposits often contain native yellow gold veins and protrusions, which gives them a yellow or golden color, while gold-platinum ores often appear as reddish-brown mineral veins. Because these veins appeared to be growing on or in the mountain rocks, they were compared to the stalks of a plant to be plucked from the rocks.
Once the ores were collected by mountain dwellers and bought by the priest-metallurgists, the ores would be crushed and washed free of impurities. The crushing or pressing of the Soma is abundantly described in the Rig Veda. It involved the use of grinding stones, which were said to make a loud noise. The use of grinding stones instead of a mortar and pestle was a common practice in ancient metallurgy.
It appears that several stages of grinding, washing, cooking and filtering were involved. A woolen fleece (avi) was used as the filter. The use of woolen filters was also very common in ancient metallurgy, and were often used as a means of collecting gold particles from running streams. The grease or oil on the fleece would capture the tiny flecks of gold, but would not capture particles of sand or grit, which would be wetted by the water and washed away. Some have speculated that the Greek myth of Jason and Argonauts who sought the Golden Fleece had its origin in this ancient practice. The use of a woolen filter during the washing of the crushed ores would thus allow the priest-metallurgists to collect the gold particles.
After crushing, washing, and filtering the Soma would be cooked in water. As the juice began to mature, it was said to become clothed in robes of milk. In other words, it assumed a white appearance, resembling milk or the moon. Due to its white color it was often referred to as the Milk of Heaven or the Milk of the Gods, and was compared to Divine Semen, indicating its creative spiritual potency.
It is interesting to note that when the monatomic elements are placed in water they form a permanent suspension that looks exactly like pure white milk.