The number seven is prevalent in alchemical symbolism throughout the world. Its ultimate significance represents balance, completion and discovery of the higher self. But there are many layers to its meaning.
Seven is one of the most sacred numbers and features in the myths, stories and architecture of every ancient culture around the world.
In the Bible, God created the heaven and earth in seven days, there were seven tablets in the Babylonian creation myth and seven original gods of Egypt. Seven promises are given at Hindu weddings, the same number of skies are found in Islamic traditions, ancient Rome was built on seven hills, and…the list goes on!
This significant number features in myth and religion so often because it is clear there are seven steps to “heaven” or in other words, enlightenment. Legend says that when the Buddha was born, he stood up and took seven steps before raising his hands and saying, “Worlds above, and world’s below, there’s no one in the world like me.”
This obviously didn’t happen, it’s an alchemical metaphor. But the message is clear – everyone is unique in their own way. One of the challenges in life is to discover your uniqueness and find your true self.
In order to understand your true self, you should learn the seven processes of alchemical transformation. Unlike popular believe, alchemy relates to the body, spirit and soul, and not the transformation of base metals into gold as alchemy has come to be known in orthodox teachings.
Essentially, alchemy is the transformation of energy, but ancient sages disguised it as a scientific myth to fool common men who were not initiates of the Great Work! Many scientists and businessman hoping to get rich on gold have fallen for the alchemy myth.
But the wise men of ancient cultures knew the seven stages of purification related to progressive perfection when transmigrating the soul.
Ancient philosophers also considered seven was a sacred number and associated it with God-consciousness, the number of the Universe. It is the connection with the source and commonly found in nature; music, rainbows, stars of Pleiades, and the seven celestial planets recognised by the ancients to name a few.
More significantly, it is found in the seven chakras of the human body and these important energy fields must be nurtured in order to transmigrate the soul in search of understanding.
The seven is often depicted as a combination of the three and the four; the three principles of manifestation found in the upper three chakras (creativity, light, spirit) combined with the natural elements of the four lower chakras; air, fire, water, earth.
The process of alchemical transformation
There are seven steps required to turn base matter into spiritual gold. The same principles described for scientific alchemy are the same as the alchemical transformation of consciousness. All you do is switch the focus from metal to the psycho-biological processes of man.
Calcination is a chemical process that involves heating a substance until it turns to ashes. For example, alchemists used to make sulphuric acid from Vitriol. When applied to psychology, the first step towards purification is defeating the ego. This requires the initiate to give up bad habits, clean out their system of old beliefs that no longer serve them, learn to discipline yourself and accept that you have faults.
Once you have accepted your weaknesses you can move on to the next stage of the process – dissolution. This is the breaking down of old structures, identifying your weaknesses and turning them into strengths. In the tarot, this process is represented by The Tower which indicates it is time to knock down old forms so that you can rebuild a specific part of your character or aspect of your life.
You are clearing out things you don’t need so you can make space for good things to come in. This may be an addiction, an attitude or a certain way of life. Ultimately the dissolution process involves deconstructing the ego in order to liberate the true self.
In chemistry, separation involves removing unworthy material. This could involve adopting new attitudes and behaviours to replace the weaknesses identified in the dissolution stage. It requires the initiate to identify which parts of their character are out of sync.Often this will come over time, but you can make a start with identifying which of the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues are not balanced. Bear in mind that you can be too virtuous as well as too sinful. For example, you may be too generous and should be a little more selfish.
The chemical process of conjunction is achieved when you successfully bring the compounds worked on during separation together so they are in sync. Psychologically, this step represents the connection of the male and female mind, the good with the bad, the light with the dark. When you reach this point, you are fully prepared to handle the remaining lessons towards enlightenment.
In chemical alchemy, once the compound has been re-joined, the fermentation process begins. This is like the proverbial holy child, created from the coming together of the male and female principles. It is the birth of a new idea having used the male, analytical side of your brain in equal measure with your emotions which in alchemical symbolism is represented by the mother goddess. She teaches nurturing to ensure survival.
The distillation process in chemistry purifies the compound. And so too the alchemical process. It is the final stage of washing out impurities left over from inflated egos and the alternate personalities you develop as a defence mechanism. The aim is to free yourself of any sentimentality until you are able to transfer that energy into the pineal gland, or third eye.
The final operation of transformation in alchemy is coagulation and is the final ultimatum of truth. It is at this stage the individual realises he is at one with the Universe and everything in it – even if you don’t have a profoundly spiritual experience. That typically takes many more years of practice and the continuous search for the absolute truth which is found in the eighth and ninth stages. This is known as the Philosopher’s Stone and means the initiate has connected with the Absolute and understands the self with deeper understanding – a bit like Neo at the end of Matrix 3.
By actively addressing the problems in your life with a structured plan, you can take more control and have more power over your thoughts, emotions and actions. Your life is in your body, spirit and soul – what are you going make of it?