“The quest of alchemy, in short, was to literally embody the materia prima and its transmutative powers as fully within lower diversified matter as was possible in the earthly Philosophers’ Stone.” —Joseph P. Farrell, The Philosopher's Stone: Alchemy and the Secret Research for Exotic Matter (p. 37).
The yoga we practice is not for ourselves alone, but for the Divine; its aim is to work out the will of the Divine in the world, to effect a spiritual transformation and to bring down a divine nature and a divine life into the mental, vital and physical nature and life of humanity. Its object is not personal Mukti, although Mukti is a necessary condition of the yoga, but the liberation and transformation of the human being. It is not personal Ananda, but the bringing down of the divine Ananda -- Christ's kingdom of heaven, our Satyayuga -- upon the earth.
-- Sri Aurobindo (source)
In my previous piece (Part 1) I explored the topic of alchemy. If you haven’t read that piece yet please do so first as it forms the necessary context for this one. In that piece I reviewed how alchemy perennially has a twofold quality of both a technological (“chemical”) and spiritual side to it. Traditionally alchemy is thought of to be the quest to turn lead (the basest metal) into gold (the highest metal).
I listed a number of spiritual traditions such as Carl Jung, orthodox Christianity, shamanic traditions, Hegel’s Idealism, Tantra, and Kabbalah as examples of the psycho-spiritual dynamics of alchemy in that more traditional sense. Each of those traditions in one way or another argues for turning the lead of unawakened consciousness into the gold of spiritual awakening. In addition each of those traditions, in enigmatic ways, argue that the breakdown phase (“nigredo”) was necessary in order to eventually achieve an even greater unification, something more powerful that occurs by having transmuted division, illusion, and duality.*
Then, most interestingly, through the research of Joseph P. Farrell I looked at the possibility that there was another, perhaps even deeper, level to alchemy. This level was taking the already pure metal of gold and then alchemically firing it until it became something purer than pure (indestructible), aka The Philosopher’s Stone itself. The goal of alchemy according to these alchemists (e.g. Philalethes and Paracelsus) was not so much turning lead into gold as the releasing of the prime matter (materia prima) in substances.
Farrell’s research involves investigations into whether such a secret research agenda has been ongoing in the contemporary world for the confecting of the Philosopher’s Stone on a technological level. I ended the last piece wondering whether there would be a spiritual equivalent to this second (or deeper) level of alchemy? I believe there is and that the great spiritual teacher Sri Aurobindo points us in that direction.
A brief word on this materia prima aspect of alchemy however is necessary before moving on officially to Aurobindo.
The prime matter is the sea that all of creation springs from as a non-separate underlying unity. This teaching is that of non-duality covered elsewhere on the site. In particular the prime matter is said to be a generating source for all the diversity of creation, all of which are manifold expression of The One. This view forms the basis for sympathetic magic (and alchemy) in that all beings and processes and states (including but not limited to matter) are conditions of The One Condition of all conditions. Hence there is a unifying thread or substrate through all beings, as they all share the same Source. Consequently by touching into this universal field one could affect at a distance other expressions of The One, like shaking on one end of a vast netting and someone (or something else) experience the “shaking” on their end of the rope.
Which brings us back to the quotation from Dr. Farrell with which I started the piece:
“The quest of alchemy, in short, was to literally embody that materia prima and its transmutative powers as fully within lower diversified matter as was possible in the earthly Philosophers’ Stone.” (my emphasis)
As it relates to the more technological side, Farrell, as mentioned, examines multiple contemporary phenomena as potential examples of such a Philosopher’s Stone (see his book on the philosopher's stone for more on that).
If we are to take the same idea and apply it at the spiritual level however we have the notion of the human being becoming the Philosopher’s Stone—that is, literally embodying the prime matter fully within lower diversified matter as much as possible.
From a spiritual standpoint, such an embodiment would constitute a divinization of matter. This divinization angle brings us directly to Sri Aurobindo for that was the core of his teaching. Aurobindo’s texts span volumes and volumes across a multitude of expressions, all however with a unifying core teaching. No justice could ever be done to the vast scope and breath of Aurobindo’s vision in any one piece. Mention should also be made to Mirra Alfassa, aka The Mother, originally Aurobindo’s chief disciple, later co-teacher, and eventual successor.**
One of Aurobindo’s key teachings is known as the Triple Transformation. These three transformations or forms of awakening for Aurobindo were the psychic (soul), the spiritual (traditional non-duality), and the Supramental (embodiment of prime matter). The third is the key contribution of Aurobindo.
The first transformation of the psychic—which has been covered elsewhere on the site—allows each person’s path to be a sovereign and individual whole. The soul-psychic realization helps to ensure the spiritual realization of Oneness does not override the unique expression and manifestation of each being.***
The second transformation is spiritual realization or enlightenment—covered elsewhere on the site under the rubric of non-duality through the example of Neoplatonism. Aurobindo of course came from the Indian tradition so he will cite the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Advaita tradition (rather than Neoplatonism) but those two traditions are essentially Western and Eastern cousins (see especially Proclus who would have fit right at home in India).
It’s the third transformation—the supramental realization—where Aurobindo’s genius and unique creativity comes most fully to the fore. For Aurobindo much of the spiritual traditions of humanity consist of a desire to transcend or negate material existence. Aurobindo called this the (spiritual) ascetic negation. The other great negation for Aurobindo was the philosophy of materialism (scientisim). While the ascetic appreciated the spiritual it often denied the value of the material. Conversely materialism in theory appreciates the material but denies the spiritual, thereby reducing the material to materialization and scientific technocratic control measures.
For Aurobindo the only way forward was the path of spiritual realization leading to the deeper incarnation into flesh, thereby bringing the spiritual into the material, transforming the material into an increasingly divinized materiality that would allow the spiritual or divine reality to shine through more and more transparently. This outlook is clearly alchemical in nature.
By arguing for a kind of “post-enlightenment” spiritual path—namely the third transformation of the supramental—Aurobindo was essentially advocating for Philalethes’ version of alchemy: starting with gold (psychic & spiritual realization) and then purifying it further to the Philosopher’s Stone (Supramental).
For Aurobindo this third realization calls down The Supermind (or Supramental). The Supramental is the bridge between the Ultimate, traditionally named in the Indian tradition as Satchitananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss) and the realm of creation.
Here again is the quotation from Aurobindo cited at the beginning of the piece:
The yoga we practice is not for ourselves alone, but for the Divine; its aim is to work out the will of the Divine in the world, to effect a spiritual transformation and to bring down a divine nature and a divine life into the mental, vital and physical nature and life of humanity. Its object is not personal Mukti, although Mukti is a necessary condition of the yoga, but the liberation and transformation of the human being. It is not personal Ananda, but the bringing down of the divine Ananda -- Christ's kingdom of heaven, our Satyayuga -- upon the earth. (my emphasis)
By mukti, Aurobindo means traditional spiritual enlightenment. Notice that such enlightenment is “a necessary condition” but is not “the object”. That is the second spiritual transformation spoken of earlier. The true yoga for Aurobindo is “to bring down a divine nature and a divine life into the mental, vital, and physical nature and life of humanity.” That is The Supermind (or Supramental).
It is not a super-mind but rather supra-mental, i.e. greater than or beyond the mental rational form of consciousness as such. For Aurobindo the mental realm of humanity always consists of what he called The Ignorance (avidya in Sanskrit). For Aurobindo, the mental consists of creating divisions between various things in order to categorize and conceptualize them. The Supramental, in some fashion, however would retain diversity without conceptual division. The Supramental would, he argued, involve some sort of “all at once knowing”, a comprehensive lucidity (which he called The Integral).
Aurobindo’s reference in that quotation to Christ’s kingdom of heaven on earth is very intriguing here in that Aurobindo is combining traditional non-dual spiritual realization with apocalypticism (for more on the apocalyptic, see my earlier piece on the subject). In true apocalyptic fashion, the entire created order finds culmination and liberation in Aurobindo’s vision. For Aurobindo the Supramental is a cosmic form of evolution. Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri brings in astronomical, celestial, and terrestrial evolution in a breathtaking scope.
Alchemy—as detailed in an earlier piece on transhumanism—is rooted in apocalyptic thought. Or rather they are two flowerings of the same root. The key difference is that for Aurobindo, it is humans who must realize the Divine in order to bring the divine “down” to manifestation. It will not happen without human participation in some predetermined status by an omnipotent external deity who will enforce such a reality.
Aurobindo sought to unite the timeless eternal realization of the spiritual with the evolutionary nature of creation into a new synthesis—a most rare spiritual alchemy in other words. He was not looking to only turn lead into gold symbolically and spiritually—that work is included in his first transformation of the psychic. He was not even simply looking to stay in realization or play with the forces of realization in material form, though again that would be included in his second transformation (Tantra Yoga).
He was suggesting that humans might participate in the very transformation of materiality itself so that it might become itself divinized. This divinization would apply to all domains of life. Like Rudolf Steiner, Aurobindo sought to re-create poetry, drama, politics, science, and education along the lines of the spiritual.
A further quality of Aurobindo’s alchemical-apocalyptic side is his courage to call out occulted forces opposed to the descent of the Supermind. The Mother (Mirra Alfassa) was particularly adept in this form of the work. In the terminology of a prior piece on this site, Aurobindo and The Mother were both wake and woke simultaneously (a very rare combination).
In the companion piece to this article there was the enigmatic ancient Egyptian description of “washing gold”, which Joseph Farrell interpreted to mean something more like “purifying” gold, which was even more enigmatic given that gold is already considered pure. From the alchemist Philalethes there was a clear understanding that the deepest art of alchemy was purification of gold into it’s white powder form of the Philosopher’s Stone. Not turning lead to gold but rather gold into the stone/elixir of Life.
In exactly the same way, Sri Aurobindo, argued that the true spiritual alchemy was neither soul nor spiritual realization (though both were necessary) but rather taking spiritual realization (gold) and turning it into the descent of the Supramental (white powder Philosopher’s Stone).
Here’s the quotation I cited at the beginning of the piece from Joseph Farrell:
“The quest of alchemy, in short, was to literally embody that materia prima and its transmutative powers as fully within lower diversified matter as was possible in the earthly Philosophers’ Stone.”
This view is precisely Aurobindo’s. The materia prima for Aurobindo is the Supramental, which is the physical form of The Ultimate (Satchitanada). The Supramental is transmutative as in Aurobindo’s vision it will bring an entirely different world. The “lower diversified matter” for Aurobindo is not metal or stone or some elixir but rather the human being. Therefore the embodiment (incarnation) of this spiritual alchemy is bringing down the Divine into form. Such a realizer for Aurobindo becomes themselves a transmuter of the very fabric of creation, just as in alchemy the Philosopher’s Stone is then in turn able to turn “lead into gold.”
* Though, as I briefly alluded to, the same process can be used for sinister purposes. Particularly the attempt to putrefy (“negredo”) collective human consciousness through social engineering, psychological warfare, genetic experimentation, surveillance, AI/transhumanism, etc. For more on that technocratic nightmarish alchemy see this piece. See also Farrell’s text co-authored with Scot de Hart entitled Transhumanism: A Grimoire of Alchemical Agendas
** Her talks collected and published as The Mind of the Cells is a criminally under appreciated and unknown spiritual masterpiece.
***A fourth transformation, which Aurobindo doesn’t name, but which is covered in great detail on this site would the notion of bio-physical-emotional regulation, particularly through traumatic experience.