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Secret Fire: The Relationship Between Kundalini, Kabbalah, and Alchemy
11 March 1997
The following exercises are designed to assist in freeing the most potent energy known to humanity and resident in creation. They are not designed for someone with little or no esoteric experience. In general, it would be advisable to have at lest one to two years of practical, daily experience with the Middle Pillar and/or Pentagram Rituals; in addition, an equal amount of time with the Hexagram Rituals. Several working of the 32nd through 24th Paths on the Tree of Life would also be desirable, and regular practice of once a week or so of “Rising on the Planes”. Common sense, a willingness to “Make haste slowly”, and a balanced lifestyle may be the best protection against any unpleasant side effects of these, or other, esoteric practices. It is very important that you keep a diary of your practices and experiences with the exercises given.
The amount of time it will take to experience the Secret Fire is unknown, although preparation is the best guarantee of success. The amount of time given to each exercise should not exceed more than 15 or 20 minutes in the beginning, and then 30 or 45 minutes after the first half year or so. It is also strongly advised that anyone undertaking these exercises also maintain a regular, daily usage of spagyric tinctures for each of the planetary qualities of the day it is used. This additional, slow, and methodical cleansing of the subtle psychic channels will aid in relieving some of side-effects of esoteric work. The nightly application of “Dream Yoga” is also suggested, as this will attune the student to the qualities of the day while sleeping, aid in interior contacts, and may shed light on particular problems of the Work.
While this may seem like a lot of work, it is not. Tinctures are fairly easy to make, all that is required is their regular use. This takes no more time than swallowing a vitamin. Dream yoga is done as we are falling asleep anyhow, no additional time required for this either. What is does take is regularity, commitment, and perseverance. Qualities that assure, albeit confer, adepthood. Best of luck in your practices. In the Bonds of Esotericism,
Ora et labora,
In the Western esoteric practices there is an apparent knowledge gap regarding the role of esoteric practices and their effects on the subtle, and not so subtle, bodies of practitioners. In the East, all practices, whether designated as such or not, are designed to awaken the semi-dormant energy resident in all creation, and ‘living beings’ in particular. This energy is known as “Kundalini”, “The Serpent Fire”, and the “Dragon” depending on tradition. Extreme care has been taken, despite contradictions between systems, to chart the effects of exercises on this latent energy, and how it ‘flows’ through the physical, emotional, and psychic body, at what stages, and in relation to which exercises. Such a detailed analysis is lacking in modern Western estotericism.
For modern kabbalists, the most common introduction to ceremonial magic is through the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar Exercise. The purpose of this paper is twofold: to show how this, and related exercise can stimulate the Secret Fire, and to suggest exercises for its regulation by esoteric students who are engaged in a Hermetic path, such as general studies or alchemy, who may have experienced its awakening and are in need of simple and direct exercises for its regulation.
The majority of modern esoteric students are familiar with the Middle Pillar exercise, as such, it will be the fundamental basis for much of this article. In addition, the Sepher Yetzirah, and a limited number of alchemical references will be made.
The basis of kabbalah is that through increasing levels of density, humanity came into its present state of physical incarnation and psychic evolution. Through rituals, exercises, and meditations, the energy latent in creation generally, and the body of the practitioner in particular, can be “awakened”, purified, and directed. This energy can then be used for spiritual development, psychic expansion, or physical health and improvement.
Creation - “In the Beginning …”
Creation is seen to have taken place, in Western kabbalistic and alchemical terms, in the following process.
The Divine mind of God, the Absolute, or in Hebrew the Ain Soph Aur (Limitless Light), through a series of expansions and contractions establishes the boundaries of Creation. The first world is the most subtle, and closest to the original state of non-existence, and is Atzilooth. This is called the world of Fire, because of the lively, undefined, and almost uncontrollable nature of fire. Next is Briah, or the World of Archetypes and forms as our human mind can grasp them. It is symbolized as the World of Air, and is the result as a barrier world that is formed by the creation of the next World, Yetzirah, or Water. This is the highly psychic and emotionally charged world immediately behind the veil of material existence, or Assiah. Also known as the World of Earth, because of the solid, concrete nature of material life.
The purpose of this scheme, is to show that creation occurs in increasingly dense levels of energy-matter, from the most subtle, or Fire, to the most dense, or Earth. Within this context of increasing density, there also arises a series of ten planes or levels of consciousness which combines with energy-matter, known as Sepheroth, or spheres of being. They occur in a pattern of: unity, reflection, polarity, reflection, polarity, unity, reflection, polarity, unity, and finally materialization. This basic idea of unity-polarity-and re-harmonizing, is the basis of kabbalistic and alchemical practices, and is derived from the observation of Nature.
Each World is a reflection to a denser or more subtle degree than the one before or after it. Each Sepheroth is a reflection, in part, of what proceeds or follows it. However, since each reflection is only partial, or slightly distorted, each Sphere takes on its own unique characteristics. Only the so-called “Middle Four Sphereoth” have the ability to harmonize or reflect in total all of the energies of creation, on some level.
This ‘zigzag’ of Creation is called the “Lightning Flash”. The return of energy from dense matter, back through the various stages, Sepherith, and Worlds of Creation is known as the “Path of the Serpent” because of its reverse, or complimentary ‘zigzag’ nature back up this diagram called the Tree of Life.
For the alchemist, somewhere between the third and fourth level, or sphere of creation, energy takes on the characteristic that will allow for the formation of matter at some future state, or level ten. This energy is called Prima Materia, Chaos in the Bible, Spiritus Mundi (Spirit of the Earth), and others. Here, duality is made complete, and genuine polarity exists, as opposed to simple the potential, or idea, of polarity that had existed previously. Energy is divided into active and passive modes, with the active energy constituting the energies of life, and the passive one the energy of matter. In “The Golden Chain of Homer”, the active energy is called Niter and the passive energy is called Salt.
The energy of Life manifests in two forms, Fire and Air. While both are predominately active in nature, fire is the more active of the two, with Air being slightly passive because of the partial Water Element in its makeup. Potential Matter manifests its energy as Water and Earth. These Elements have nothing to do with the material bodies of the same name, and as such are capitalized and called “Elemental” to distinguish them from the earth we walk on, water we drink, air we breath, and fire we cook with. They are in fact, energetic states, each with their own unique characteristics, as well as each of the previously mentioned ten levels of consciousness within them. The Elements also have preferred ways of interacting with each other, to form the Three Principles of alchemy. There are in fact, forty different ways energy-matter-consciousness can manifest in our world.
The Three Essentials are the alchemical principles of Sulpher, Mercury, and Salt. Like the “Elements” these principle concepts are to be thought of a “Philosophical” and not literally as chemical elements or compounds. The Alchemical Sulphur, or Soul, of a things predominates in the animating principles of energy (Fire) and intelligence (Air); Alchemical Salt, or the physical body of a thing, predominates in unconscious forces, psychic, and instinctual intelligence (Water) and solid matter (Earth); Alchemical Mercury, or general life force, predominates in intelligence (Air) and instinctual forces, and psychic energy (Water), as such it is the link, or bridge, between the higher forces of Sulphur and the lower body of matter.
In the mineral realm the dominant energy is that of Earth, a little Water, and very little Air or Fire. In the vegetable realm, the dominant energy is Water and Air, but little Fire and Earth. In the animal realm, the dominant force element is Fire, then Air, but little Earth. These qualities need to be understood as they have been defined for the following information to be of any use to the practicing, or aspiring, Hermeticist. For example, using the above definitions, we can say that the plant realm has an abundance of instinctual energy (Water) and intelligence, i.e. a specific function (Air), but little direct energy (Fire), as this is received passively from the sun; and little hard, physical, matter (Earth).
In the East as in the West, the idea of principle Elements and Philosophic Principles are expressed in more or less the same manner. This original undifferentiated energy from creation is often called in Indian philosophy, and modern occult, and New Age circles, as akasha, or Spirit. However, akasha, consists of two (2) aspects, one active as we have noted, Niter, and the other passive, Salt. The energies of Niter are also referred to as the force of Kundalini, or spiritual forces. In alchemy, this is the Secret Fire. To the Salt, belongs the force of Prana, or Vital Energy.
The function of the Vital energy is to maintain physical life forms and existence. It is completely instinctual and unconscious and is heavily influenced by cosmic cycles, astrological pulses, and other natural phenomena. The function of the Secret Fire is to increase in humanity, the only place where it is present, its sense of self, or “I”. At the lowest level or functioning, this is the ego, at its highest, it is Divinity incarnate, as both are two sides of the same coin. One is ‘self’ in relation to the physical world and others; the other is ‘self’ in relationship to all of Creation and as a co-creator.
In the vast majority of humanity, this Secret Fire, or liberating energy of self-consciousness, lies dormant, asleep at the base of the spine, coiled like a serpent. Only a small amount manages to escape, reaching a sepherothic level, or so-called chakra, thus creating a loci of consciousness for each person. If it reaches the top of the skull, and beyond, a spiritual awakening can occur, allowing for a descent and re-ascent of the energy, during which the psychic centers can be awakened allowing for the manifestation of psychic powers and related phenomena.
The Secret Fire ascends as a result of a temporary weakening of the Vital Energy in the physical body. This is why so many spiritual awakenings take place under great physical stress, times of illness, or near-death-experiences. When the Secret Fire will ascend through the various psychic-physical currents causing it to be enveloped in a sphere of luminous light.
The experiencing of the Secret Fire, as a result of the suppression of the physical body’s Vital Energy, can create condition which manifests in various forms:
-Some perceive the bright light as an angel, their Higher Self, or “Holy Guardian Angel”, others as a spiritual teacher.
-Astral projection may result, along with perception of the immediate surroundings.
-Uncontrolled physical movements may also result, typical of so-called ‘kundalini phenomena’: shaking, rapid breathing, swinging of the torso, uncontrolled giddiness, and sitting straight upright in the Pharonic position.
After a period of time, the energy will descend, and return to the base of the spine.
The effects of this awakening will take some time for the consciousness of the individual to adjust to, and not limited to the ‘non-physical’ realms. The physical body, although to a lesser degree, is also changed and improved in functioning, constituting a genuine “re-birth’ on several levels. However, it is up to the mind, or sense of “I”, of the individual, to cooperate with this influx of power if more permanent changes in consciousness are to be made.
As we can see, the concept of kundalini, or the Secret Fire, is linked to two polar concepts: that of the undifferentiated creative energy, and the second, as the seed of this energy locked on each cell of material creation, and focused in humanity at the base of the spine.
When this energy rises as a result of psychic experiences, and not because the physical weakness, can cause the Vital Energy of the body to be concentrated on various areas of the body, creating physical and psychic disturbances. If the energy becomes concentrated in the head, it can create the illusion of a spiritual awakening, as well as the well known “hot and cold” flashes, or currents, up and down the spine. The effects of the Secret Fire however, and not its re-distributive effects on the Vital Energy, can create the following phenomena:
Intense pains suggestive of an illness
Crawling sensations of ants or small bugs over the skin, as well as a ‘jumping’ sensation of the energy
A feeling of crystal clear calmness and tranquillity, rise from center to center to the top of the head
Ascending in the famous ‘zigzag’ or Rising Serpent pattern
The energy can skip a center or two
The energy can reach the top of the head in a flash of light
The character attributes of both positive and negative are exaggerated and sexual power is increased.
If the energy rises to the top of the head, then it becomes possible to work directly on the Vital Energy within the body, and use it, as a means of enhancing the psychic experience and spiritual awakening.
In short, the psychic centers must first be awakened by the Secret Fire and purified, before the energy of the physical body, can be concentrated upon them.
Thus, our psychic exercises, and esoteric meditations are designed to prepare our minds, bodies, and consciousness for the liberation of the Secret Fire buried deep inside us. Through a progressive cleansing of the blood, nervous system, and endocrine glands, the ‘chains’ of the Vital Energy upon the Secret Fire are reduced and eliminated, allowing the ever present power and energy, a veritable pressure waiting to be released, to spring into action. Thus, the Serpent doesn’t really sleep, it is we who are asleep to its presence and potential blessing.