THE ALCHEMY OF
The soul in the Sanskrit language and in the terms of Vedanta is called Atman, which means happiness or bliss itself - not that happiness belongs to the soul, but the soul itself is happiness. Today we often confuse happiness with pleasure. Pleasure is only an illusion of happiness, a shadow of happiness, and in this delusion man perhaps passes his whole life, seeking after pleasure, and never finding satisfaction. There is a Hindu saying that man looks for pleasure and gets pain. Every pleasure which is seeming happiness in outward appearance promises happiness, for it is the shadow of happiness, but just as the shadow of a person is not the person and yet represents the form of the person, so pleasure represents happiness but is not so in reality.
According to this idea one finds that there are rarely souls in this world who know what happiness is; they are constantly disappointed in one thing after another, but the nature of life in the world is such; it is so deluding that if man were disappointed a thousand times he would still take the same path, for he knows no other. The more we study life, the more we realize how rarely there is a soul who can honestly say, "I am happy". Almost every soul, whatever his life's position, will say that he is unhappy in some way or another, and if you ask for a reason he will say perhaps, "I cannot attain to the position, power, property, possessions or rank, for which I have worked for years". He is craving for money perhaps, and does not realize that possessions give no satisfaction; or perhaps he says he has enemies, or those whom he loves do not love him; there are a thousand excuses for unhappiness that the reasoning mind will make.
But is even one of these excuses ever entirely correct? Do you think even if people gained their desires they would be happy? If they possessed all, would these things suffice? No; for still they would find some excuse for unhappiness, and all these excuses are as coverings before man's eyes, for deep within is the yearning for the true happiness which none of these things can give. The one who is really happy is happy everywhere: in a palace or a cottage, in riches or poverty, for he has discovered the fountain of happiness which is situated in his own heart; so long as a person has not found that fountain, nothing will give him real happiness. The man who does not know the secret of happiness often develops avarice. He wants thousands; and when he gets them they do not satisfy, and he wants millions; and still he is not satisfied - he wants more and more. If you give him your sympathy and service he is still unhappy; all you possess is not enough - even your love does not help him, for he is seeking in a wrong direction, and life itself becomes a tragedy.
Happiness cannot be bought or sold, nor can you give it to a person who has not got it. Happiness is in your own being, your own self, that self that is the most precious thing in life. All religions, all philosophical systems, have taught man in different forms how to find it by the religious path, or the mystical way, and all the wise ones have in some form or another given a method by which the individual can find that happiness for which the soul is seeking.
Sages and mystics have called this process Alchemy. The stories of the Arabian Nights which symbolize these mystical ideas, are full of the belief that there is a philosopher's stone that will turn metals into gold by a chemical process. No doubt this symbolic idea has deluded men both in the East and West; many have thought that a process exists by which gold can be produced. But this is not the idea of the wise; the pursuit after gold is for those who are as yet children. For those who have the consciousness of reality gold stands for light or spiritual inspiration. Gold represents the colour of light, and therefore an unconscious pursuit after light has made man seek for gold. But there is a great difference between real gold and false. It is the longing for true gold that makes man collect the imitation gold, ignorant that the real gold is within. He satisfies the craving of his soul in this way, as a child satisfies itself by playing with dolls.
But a man does not depend upon age for this realization. A person may have reached an advanced age and be still playing with dolls: his soul may be involved in the search for this in1i.tation gold, while another in youth may begin to see life in its real aspect. If one studied the transitory nature of life in the world, how changeable it is, and the constant craving of everyone for happiness, one would certainly endeavour, whatever happened, to find something one could depend upon. Man placed in the midst of this ever-changing world yet appreciates and seeks for constancy somewhere - he does not know that he must develop in himself the nature of constancy; the nature of the soul is to value that which is dependable. But think, is there anything in the world on which one can depend, which is above change and destruction? All that is born, all that is made, must one day face destruction. All that has a beginning has also an end; and if there is anything one can depend upon it is hidden in the heart of man, it is the divine spark, the true philosopher's stone, the real gold, which is the innermost being of man.
A person who follows a religion, and has not come to the realization of truth, of what use is his religion to him if he is not happy? Religion does not mean depression and sadness. The spirit of religion must give happiness. God is happy. He is the perfection of love, harmony and beauty. A religious person must be happier than the one who is not religious. If a person who professes religion is always melancholy, in this way religion is disgraced, the form has been kept, but the spirit is lost. If the study of religion and mysticism does not lead to real joy and happiness, it may just as well not exist, for it does not help to fulfil the purpose of life. The world today is sad and suffering as the result of the terrible war; the religion which answers the demand of life today is that method of morals which invigorates and gives life to souls, which illuminates the heart of man with the divine light which is already there, not necessarily by the outer form, although for some a form is helpful, but the first necessity is the showing forth of that happiness which is the desire of every soul.
Now as to the question of how this method of alchemy is practised, the whole process was explained by the alchemists in a symbolical way. They say gold is made out of mercury; the nature of mercury is to be ever moving, but by a certain process the mercury is first stilled, and once stilled it becomes silver; the silver then has to be melted, and on to the melted silver the juice of a herb is poured, and then the melted silver turns into gold. Of course this method is given in outline, but there is a detailed explanation of the whole process. Many child-souls have tried to make gold by stilling mercury and melting silver; they have tried to find the herb, but they were deluded, they had better have worked and earned money.
The real interpretation of this process is that mercury represents the nature of the ever-restless mind. This is realized especially when a person tries to concentrate; the mind is like a restive horse, when it is ridden it is more restive, when in the stable less restive. Such is the nature of mind, it becomes more restless when you desire to control it, it is like mercury, constantly moving.
When by a method of concentration one has mastered the mind, one has taken the first step in the accomplishment of a sacred task. Prayer is concentration, reading is concentration, sitting and relaxing and thinking on one subject are all concentration. All artists, thinkers, and inventors have practised concentration in some form; they have given their minds to one thing, and by focusing on one object have developed the faculty of concentration; but for stilling the mind a special method is necessary, and is taught by the mystic, just as singing is taught by the teacher of voice production; the secret is to be learnt in the science of breath.
Breath is the essence of life, the centre of life, and the mind which is more difficult to control than a restive horse, may be controlled by a knowledge of the proper method of breathing. For this, instruction from a teacher is a necessity; since the mystical cult of the East has become known in the West, books have been published, and teaching, which had been kept as sacred as religion has been discussed in words which cannot truly explain the mystery of that which is the centre of man's very being. People read the books and begin to play with breath, and often instead of receiving benefit they injure both mind and body; there are also those who make a business of teaching breathing exercises for money, and so degrade a sacred thing. The science of breath is the greatest mystery there is, and for thousands of years in the schools of the mystics it has been kept as a sacred trust.
When the mind is under complete control, and no longer restless, one can hold a thought at will as long as one wishes. This is the beginning of phenomena; some abuse these privileges, and by dissipating the power, before turning the silver into gold they destroy the silver. The silver must be heated before it can melt, and with what? With that warmth which is the divine essence in the heart of man, which comes forth as love, tolerance, sympathy, service, humility, unselfishness, in a stream which rises and falls in a thousand drops, each drop of which could be called a virtue, all coming from that one stream hidden in the heart of man, the love element. When it glows in the heart, the actions, the movements, the tones of the voice, the expression, all show that the heart is warm. The moment this happens the man really lives; he has unsealed the spring of happiness which overcomes all that is jarring and inharmonious: the spring has established itself as a divine stream.
After the heart is warmed by the divine element, which is love, the next stage is the herb, which is the love of God; but the love of God alone is not sufficient, knowledge of God is also necessary. It is the absence of knowledge of God which makes man leave his religion, because there is a limit to man's patience. Knowledge of God strengthens man's belief in God, throws light on the individual and on life. Things become clear; every leaf on a tree becomes as a page of a holy book to one whose eyes are open to the knowledge of God. When the juice of the herb of divine love is poured on to the heart, warmed by the love of his fellow man, then that heart becomes the heart of gold, the heart that expresses what, God would express. Man has not seen God, but man has then seen God in man, and when this is so, then verily everything that comes from such a man comes from God Himself.