WITH DR. JEFFREY MISHLOVE
Transcribed by Joyce Rosenfield
Jeffrey Mishlove: Welcome, this is Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U. And today I'm going to talk about the most ancient and venerated of all the mystical teachings in the world, the hermetic teaching. The Emerald Tablet, the maxim that virtually anybody that has ever studied the western esoteric tradition has encountered at one point or another: as above, so below.
"as above, so below". What does it mean? Does it suggest in the obvious sense, as it is on earth, so it is in heaven? That there is war and pollution in heaven? Could that be it? Or is it that, as it is in heaven, so it could be on earth -- that we could create a heaven on earth?
It's a puzzling thing, and it comes from one of the most ancient teachings, the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus of the corpus hermeticum. It's attributed to the ancient Egyptian god Thoth, who is also known in Greek as Hermes, the initiator into the mysteries. And this teaching is the basis of gnosticism, of hermeticism, of alchemy, of astrology.
It suggests a direct link from the human level to the level of the divine.
You could also view it in terms of Hindu cosmology, which says "Atman is Brahman". The great self of the whole universe is equivalent to the self that exists within each of us.
one finds it as well in the teachings of the Jewish Kabbala, which suggests that the higher universe is Adam Kadmon, the universal Man, the universal organism, the macrocosm. And as that macrocosm contains all the divine attributes, the emanations or sephirot of the Tree of life, so do we, made in god's image, serve as a microcosm. We contain the same divine spark, the same divine attributes as is in the whole.
That's the basis for alchemy and the western tradition of ceremonial magic as well, because these traditions also say that we have divine attributes, we are divine creators, we can transmute the "metals" by transmuting our own soul. We have the possibility of creating our lives in a divine way.
Well, all of that sounds like very nice high-falutin' language, but how does it really translate into our lives? Does it have any meaning at all really, or is it just abstract metaphysics, the kind of abstract metaphysics that caused twentieth-century philosophers -- particular the logical positivists in the early Wittgenstein -- to turn away from the physics altogether, and say, "This is just mumbo-jumbo. It's meaningless. A lot of hot air signifying nothing at all, really, and we would do much better to build a modern world that eschews all such metaphysics."
What is the relationship between metaphysics and meaning -- in particular, "as above, so below" -- particular hermetic metaphysics?
The word hermetic is an interesting word in our language. It comes from the name of the Greek god Hermes, and Hermes was not only the initiator into the mysteries, but also a trickster. It's important to keep that in mind.
And here's another thing that is very important to bear in mind when considering hermetic wisdom, because the word hermetic has another meaning in our language, a completely different meaning. We use the term hermetically sealed when we refer to a space capsule, for example -- going into outer space, [one] is hermetically sealed, and that means Ain't nothing gonna get inside or outside the space capsule.
No oxygen is going to leak out, and no meteorites or any gases or substances from the outside are going to get in! And hermetically sealed is as perfect a seal as we can make. When something is "hermetically sealed", you can count on that seal remaining intact under all sorts of stress and duress.
Now what does this have to do with esoteric teachings? What does this have to do with "as above, so below", with the meaning of the mysteries, and the mystery schools, and the mystery traditions?
Isn't it interesting that the word "hermetic" has taken on this usage in modern science and engineering. How is it related to mysticism? How is it related to alchemy? How is it related to the esoteric traditions, because the word "hermetic" in both cases derives from the god Hermes, and it's related because these traditions were to be kept secret, in fact, so secret, in the Greek Eleusinian mystery schools and many of the other mystery school traditions of ancient times, it was considered such an offense to reveal the secret teachings, to reveal the mysteries, that the vow one took upon entering in on those schools was that one would protect the mysteries with one's life.
And even today, scholars have a hard time knowing exactly what it was that made those mystery schools so powerful, such an enormous influence on the ancient cultures.
If you were in ancient Greece, and a philosopher in the school of Plato, for example, there's a good likelihood you would have been initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. We know something about the mysteries. They have to do with the mystery of life beyond death. That has to do with the myth of Demeter and Persephone, the goddess who was stolen by Hades, and forced to live half of her life in the Underworld, and whose mother travels down to the depths of Hades, to rescue her daughter, and brings her back half of the time.
It's the mystery of fertility, and mystery of winter, and the mystery of death and rebirth. Well, that's all fine, but the truth is, the people who were initiated into these mysteries came out with a feeling of conviction beyond any doubt, that they understood the immortality of the human soul.
moderns such as ourselves, scholars trying to piece together what this is all about, have a hard time imagining how somebody listening to these myths and stories could leave the mysteries with that level of conviction, right down to the bones.
You see, things went on: rituals, initiation processes went on that far transcend the words and stories that have been left to us over the ages regarding what the mysteries were really about. There is a level of Initiation that can only be communicated perhaps in an altered state of consciousness.
I've interviewed Professor Charles Tart on this program and he coined the word, and published in Science magazine, the term, state-specific sciences. And it's very possible, in my mind, that the ancient mystery schools had inculcated exactly that. A state-specific science.
How they induced the states that they worked with, we're not quite certain. They may have used potions, substances, visionary vegetables, ritual, drama, cultural impact, perhaps even telepathic impact of the Initiates themselves, the use of initiatory chambers in which people spent time in darkness, like the great pyramids may have been in Egypt. It's hard to know for sure.
But one thing I can say about the mysteries -- and it's related to the modern attitude toward metaphysics in general -- is this. This is a profound truth, that sometimes the most sublime things can also seem like the most ridiculous.
one of the reasons that the esoteric traditions have remained esoteric, one of the reasons that the mysteries have remained mysteries is that, to the uninitiated, they seem absurd, trivial, wacky! And we have that attitude today in our culture, towards things that are New Age, towards things that seem to be related to the intuitive arts.
The truth is, from the secular perspective, there are many things about these disciplines that are indeed wacky. And there are many abuses of them that are indeed wacky. And there are many popularizations of deep mystical truths that are indeed wacky and ridiculous and absurd, and so it is this veneer of the irrational that serves to shield and to protect the wisdom of mysticism in the western esoteric tradition, which, while not irrational at all, in the sense of going against reason, it is a-rational in the sense of going far beyond "reason"!
Let me read to you from the Emerald Tablet. I have four different translations that I can go through, and these words are considered the fountain of western esoteric teaching.
And I'm reading now from a very early translation quoted by Manly Palmer Hall.
It is true, no lies, certain, and to be depended upon,
The superior agrees with the inferior,
The inferior with the superior.
as all things owe their existence to the Will of the Only one,
so all things owe their origin to the one Only thing,
The most hidden by the arrangement of the Only god.
The Father of that Only one thing is the sun.
Its Mother is the moon.
The wind carries it in its belly,
Its nurse is a spiritus earth.
That one Only thing is the Father
Of all things in the universe.
Its power is perfect
After it has been united to a spiritus earth.
Separate that spiritus earth
From the dense or earth
By means of a gentle heat,
With much attention --
And now we're getting into the alchemy of the soul --
In great measure it ascends
From the earth up to the heaven,
And descends again newborn on the earth,
And the superior and the inferior are increased in power
By this: Wilt thou partake of the honors of the whole world?
And darkness will fly from thee.
This is the strength of all powers.
With this thou wilt be able to overcome all things
And to transmute all, what is fine and what is coarse.
In this manner the world was created,
The arrangements to follow this road are hidden,
And for this reason I am called thrice-great Hermes,
one in essence but three in aspect.
In this trinity is hidden is hidden
The wisdom of the whole world.
It is ended now, what I have said about
Concerning the effects of the sun,
The finish of the Emerald Tablet.
I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U and I'll be back with more hermetic wisdom after these messages from Wisdom Radio.
Jeffrey Mishlove: I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U on Wisdom Radio, and we're talking today about alchemy, the Emerald Tablet, the great esoteric teachings of the western tradition. And the Emerald Tablet is said to be an actual inscription on a large emerald stone. I just read to you, before our break, one translation of that. The original Emerald Tablet has not survived.
It is said that at one time it was in the possession of the great Greek philosopher, Apollonius of Tyana, who lived around the time of Christ. It was said to have been in the possession, at one time, of Pythagorus and of the Egyptian esoteric masters. But it has become lost in history, possibly destroyed during the burning of the library of Alexandria, [date: circa _______ ], either by the Romans or later by the Christians, who conquered Egypt.
Scholars today are very, very uncertain about the corpus hermeticum, which includes the Emerald Tablet and many, many other teachings.
some say, "Well, this is just rehashed Platonic Greek philosophy." Other say, "No, the teaching goes back, perhaps as far as 10,000 years."
You can look at it from the inside or from the outside, but one thing we do know is that this hermetic teaching had an enormous influence throughout history. Today its influence is almost forgotten but during the Renaissance, for example, many of the great scholars and playwrights were deeply imbued with an understanding of hermeticism.
It runs through and through Shakespeare and Francis Bacon and Marlowe and the other great writers of the Elizabethan tradition. And it's mystical to its core. It's the basis of Rosicrucian teachings. It's the basis of astrological teachings. It's the basis of alchemical teachings. It can be found in the teachings of Hinduism and Judaism, as well.
What I'd like to do, to give you more of a sense of the western esoteric tradition, is to quote some more from the corpus hermeticum, from another part of that same body of work, that includes the Emerald Tablet, to give you a sense of what the fundamental western esoteric idea is all about.
This is from a book known as Libellus, the Eleventh Volume, in which the god Hermes is speaking directly to lost souls. He offers them this astonishing advice:
If then you do not make yourself equal to god,
You cannot apprehend god, for like is known by like.
Leap clear of all that is corporeal, and make yourself groan
To a like expanse with that greatness which is beyond all measure.
Rise above all time and become eternal.
Then you will apprehend god.
Think that for you too, nothing is impossible.
Deem that you, too, are immortal
And that you are able to grasp all things in your thought,
To know every craft and science,
To find your home in the haunts of every living creature.
Make yourself higher than all heights
And lower than all depths.
Bring together in yourself all opposites of quality,
Heat and cold, dryness and fluidity.
Think that you are everywhere at once --
On land, at sea, in heaven,
Think that you are not yet begotten,
That you are in the womb, and that you are young,
That you are old, that you have died,
That you are in the world beyond the grave.
Grasp in your thought all of this at once,
All times and places, all substances and qualities
And magnitudes together.
Then you can apprehend god.
But if you shut up your soul in your body
And abase yourself and say,
"I know nothing, I can do nothing,
I'm afraid of earth and sea, I cannot mount to heaven,
I know not what I was, nor what I shall be,"
Then what have you to do with god?
so the fundamental lessons of these esoteric teachings is the discovery of that divine spark within us, within our human soul. And this is really a teaching that has come down to us through the ages and it is an aspect of a very important strand in American culture known as transcendentalism, and the New thought movement.
The teachings of Religious Science today, for example, are very much in this vein. They say, No god. god is perfect, and when we experience the perfection of god, and integrate that and hold that thought in our mind, then we know everything is perfect, here in this realm as well: as above, so below. And so it is.
And healings of a spiritual nature and cures of a physical nature are thereby effected, by holding those healing thoughts.
That is the fountain of esoteric wisdom right there. It can so simple, and yet it can be so difficult. That which is the most sublime can seem to be the most absurd. The divinity within us, which is as close to us as our own breath, can seem to be as removed from us as the universe itself.
This is the paradox of life. And it is the ability to hold that paradox, to contain within our awareness, a sense of our divinity, and a sense of our mortality at the same time, that puts us on the edge of hilarity! Not because we think it's absurd, but because we laugh with the belly-laugh of the gods!
I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, and I'll be back after messages.
Jeffrey Mishlove: hello, again! I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U, and my topic today is the Emerald Tablet, the ancient alchemical axiom, "as above, so below". Now in the first Segment of our program today, I read to you a version of that teaching, translated and published by Manly Palmer Hall in his wonderful book, "The Secret teachings of All Ages".
Here's another book, called The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation by Dennis William Hauck, whom I hope to have as a guest in a future Virtual U program, and he has two different translations of this. I'm repeating these translations of the Emerald Tablet because each of them contains a certain nuance. Each of them contains a different emphasis, a different idiom, slightly different language, and I think by listening over and over again to this teaching, it begins to affect us in different ways.
Deep ways, ways that we're not always conscious of. Because while it seems to be almost a scientific formula, it reaches, it transcends the rational mind, it's not irrational, but it transcends. Here is the version that Dennis Hauck says is compiled from several early Latin and German versions:
In truth, without deceit, certain and most veritable,
That which is below corresponds to that which is above.
And that which is above corresponds to that which is below,
To accomplish the miracles of the one thing.
And just as all things have come from this one thing,
Through the meditation of one Mind,
so do all created things originate from this one thing,
Its father is the sun, its mother the moon.
The wind carries it in its belly.
Its nurse is the earth.
It is the origin of all.
The consecration of the universe,
Its inherent strength is perfected
If it is turned into earth.
Separate the earth from fire,
The subtle from the gross,
Gently, and with great ingenuity.
It rises from earth to heaven
And descends again to earth,
Thereby combining within itself
The powers of both the above and the below.
Thus will you obtain the glory of the whole universe,
All obscurity will be clear to you.
This is the greatest force of all powers
Because it overcomes every subtle thing
And penetrates every solid thing.
In this way was the universe created.
From this comes many wondrous applications
Because this is the pattern.
Therefore I am called thrice-greatest Hermes,
Having all three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe!
Herein have I completely explained
The operation of the sun.
If we begin to think about the Emerald Tablet as we hear it -- and I'm going to repeat it a few more times during the course of this program (it's subtle and it's deep) -- one of the paradoxes is the idea of the one thing that is the source of everything!
Everything comes from it, but its father is the sun and its mother is the moon. How can the one thing which is the source of everything also have a father and a mother?
It's a paradox. And what we're looking at is something that -- It's a paradox because irrespective of Aristotelian logic, it would seem to be a logical impossibility. From the perspective of other logical-systems, we can begin to grasp it. so when I call it a-rational, I don't mean irrational. I just mean, it's not what we would think of as western Aristotelian logic, where A and not-A cannot both exist simultaneously.
That is, the one thing can't be the source of everything and still have parents, the sun and the moon, the masculine and the negative principles. It's the same idea in the Chinese yinyang symbol, actually, which is another classic symbol of wholeness. And yet, within the wholeness is duality.
so duality and unity, in effect, co-exist. It would seem to be an absurdity to say you can have duality, that the universe is fundamentally composed of two principles, positive and negative, male and female, and yet also one. But that is what the teaching is suggesting, unity within duality, duality within unity, paradox contained within wholeness.
And the relationship here between the Male and the Female, the sun and the moon, suggests something quite profound. All throughout life, we have the masculine and the feminine energies, even at the subatomic level, we have the Positive and the Negative charges. Even at the quark level, we have polarities of charges. We have "strange quarks" and "charmed quarks", we have "up quarks" and "down quarks".
There's always this sense of duality and unity playing with each other, throughout the material universe. We humans partake of these essential cosmic principles. It's in our molecules, it's in our genes. It's part of who we are, not just in our individual lifetimes, but who we are in the billions of years of evolution of our bodies. Cosmic principles are embodied within us.
And when we learn to harmonize ourselves with those principles, we incorporate the creative power of the gods/gods.
I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U. I'll be back again with more esoteric teachings after these messages.
Jeffrey Mishlove: Welcome back to Virtual U! I'm your host, Jeffrey Mishlove, and we've been talking today about the axiom of hermeticism, as above, so below. It's one of the fundamental teachings of alchemy, astrology, of yoga, the Rosicrucians, of the Neo-Platonists, of virtually all esoteric traditions -- the Kabbala, the tao, you just can't escape it.
And yet, it's sort of elusive. It's hard to understand precisely what it means. I want to delve into that a little deeper because it transcends western Aristotelian logic, and yet at the same time, if it's going to have meaning for us, we have to consider what the world would be like if as above, so below were not true.
For many people, indeed it is not true. For many people, you might say, heaven is heaven and earth is earth, and never the twain shall meet!
I'm on earth, god is in heaven, I wish god were down here but he's not. Or, you might say, conversely, what do you mean, "as above, so below", which are we? Is this the "above" world or the "below" world? What about the hellish worlds?"
Could be a lot worse than it is here. How can they be as above, so below? They seem to be so different.
In our conventional theological thinking, heaven and earth are worlds apart from each other. And yet, we also have the idea, from Alexander Pope, one of our great poets, that we keep heaven and hell within us. heaven and hell are states of mind that we take with us, and when we die, we have what we take with us, certainly nothing material, but our state of mind that we do take -- heaven and hell.
Another perspective is offered by the great scholar of the world's religions, Houston Smith, whom I've had the privilege to interview on a number of occasions, and in one of these interviews Houston/Huston explained it to me this way. He said, in the physical sciences, in the modern view of things, you have up and down, you have right and left, you have north and south, you have quantitative ways of measuring things.
But science is not very good at measuring qualities. Science has no handle at all on that which is good or evil. That which is -- well, true or false, science does have a handle on -- but it doesn't have a concept of Justice. It doesn't have a concept of meaning. as far as science is concerned, meaning exists in the measurement, or things have no inherent meaning whatsoever, accoding to science.
According to Positivist philosophy, there is no meaning inherent in anything! meaning is something arbitrary which we humans assign to the world but has no absolute value at all. That's modernism and post-modernism. That's sort of the deconstructivist post-modern view of the world.
Houston Smith said that in the primordial spiritual traditions of the world, meaning is something that is equated with god, equated with the divine. It correlates with god. The closer you are to god, the more meaningful everything seems! The further we are from god, the less meaningful everything appears. The more we are alienated, we live in a world of meaninglessness. And it's that alienation, sociologists claim, that results in crime, war, violence, economic catastrophes and mass outbreaks of mental illness.
Alienation is the social disease of the twentieth century. Alienation is what leads to drug abuse and divorce. It leads to the breakdown of social contracts. And what is alienation fundamentally if it is not alienation from meaning?
Let's think about this now, in the light of as above, so below. god is the source of all meaning, according to the primordial spiritual traditions, and according to the modernists, the post-modernists, meaning is just something arbitrary that we humans ascribe to the world about us.
According to their cousins, however, the existentialists, meaning is the act of creativity that we have when we define our lives. It's not just arbitrary because we have in essence, a divine spark. We have a divine gift to assign meaning, to create meaning, to make our lives, lives of meaning and lives of value -- lives that stand for something!
It's a divine attribute, in effect, that we assume -- of course, we can be alienated from our own actions, from our own stances, from our own meanings. But when we discover that divine spark within us, when we harmonize with the esoteric wisdom of as above, so below, then meaning flows from us.
Not because we're forcing it, not because we're using our own ego-will to make meaning where there really is none, and where we don't believe in our hearts that there is, but because we're in the flow, we're in the grace of our own divinity. We're in harmony with the gods and with the one thing. And meaning is a part of our life as intimate and as integral to who we are as the very breath we breathe.
I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U, and I"ll be back again after these messages.
Jeffrey Mishlove: The music that you're listening to now, the Virtual U theme music, was composed by Gary Takesian, and then produced for Virtual U by Lars Spivock.
[ ... ] Tell your friends about Virtual U on Wisdom Radio.
Once again, let me leave you with a great thought from the hermetic tradition, the Emerald Tablet: as above, so below, as below, so above. Think of it often. It has the power to transform your life.
Jeffrey Mishlove: Welcome back to Virtual U. I'm your host, Jeffrey Mishlove, and we've been talking this past hour about the western esoteric tradition, about the hermetic axiom, as above, so below, about the Emerald Tablet, about the search for meaning, and about the clash of various philosophical systems, from post-modernism to existentialism to the great mystical traditions of this planet.
If you'd like to know more about Virtual U, this radio program, I invite you to log onto my website, www.mishlove.org. [?.com?] My name is Mishlove. On that website I have a list of all of our program topics and all of our wonderful guests, past, present and future, as well as their websites.
What an opportunity it is to delve more deeply into the wisdom traditions of humanity, so I invite you to log on and I invite you to become a regular listener of Virtual U. This program is carried on Wisdom Radio every weekday at 8 PM Pacific time, which is 11 PM, of course, eastern time, and wherever else you are in the world, you can calculate accordingly.
My guests include leading thinkers and philosohers, psychologists, healers, spiritual teachers, scientists, artists and visionaries.
I will be back again at six and a half minutes after the top of the hour, with more discussion about western esotericism and the Emerald Tablet, and the mysteries of Hermes the thrice-great (Trismegistus), the initiator.
Until then, I wish you well. I urge you to stay tuned to Wisdom Radio, breathe deeply, relax, enjoy yourself, take a break for a few minutes and join me again at six and a half minutes after the hour. I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U.
Jeffrey Mishlove: Welcome back to Virtual U. I'm your host, Jeffrey Mishlove, and we've been talking today about esoteric wisdom, the mystery traditions the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus (thrice-great Hermes) -- Boy! It sounds so obscure! And yet these traditions have really been at the very core, at the very heart of esoteric teachings, not just in the West, but in yoga, of the Aryan, of the Vedic teachings, of the Chinese taoist teachings, we're really getting down here to the core of mysticism.
And yet, one of the issues that I know people have about such abstractions, such obscurities, is How do we make sense of it in our own lives? And I'm blessed because I have a spouse, a dear wife, who often asks these questions.
You see, in my family, as you might imagine, I'm kind of the abstract person. I'm the Sagittarian with my head up in the clouds, thinking about the philosophy quite a bit of the time, and my wife, who is a Taurus, Dr. Janelle Barlow, is the practical one in the family.
I'm here on Wisdom Radio propounding mystical teachings, while my wife, Janelle Barlow, is out in the business world, on her feet eight hours a day, in front of middle-managers, typically, and corporations, teaching stress management, and time management and creativity and customer service.
I think there are some important lessons that come out of this marriage and I'd like to try and expound on it a little bit, building on some of the ideas that were presented in the first hour of our program today.
You see, in the workaday world, many people complain of alienation. Many people complain that their lives lack meaning, that their jobs lack meaning, and this is not a new observation. It was seized upon by Karl Marx. It was largely the basis of his Communist Manifesto, of his premise that under a capitalist system, the workers are alienated because they do not control or own the products of their labor.
Because workers are alienated from the products of their labor, they are alienated from a life of meaning, and they will rise up and overthrow their capitalist masters, in order to reclaim meaning in their lives.
That is my thumbnail capsulation of communism and Marxism. In the twentieth century, we have seen that drama performed. Now communism is losing its sway as a powerful social and philosophical force. It played itself out in the twentieth century. But alienation has not. The issue of alienation is still a very real issue today.
It's why the dialog that was initiated by Marx, and even before Marx, it was highlighted by Hegel in the nineteenth century, who developed what was known as the dialectic. You get an idea, and that idea creates, by the force of logic, an antithesis -- an opposite idea. Every idea has its own opposite.
And then, when the opposite and the original idea interact with each other, what you get is a synthesis -- a new idea that attempts to synthesize. And then the synthesis forms an opposite, and they develop an antagonistic kind of struggle with each other and a new synthesis is formed, and then a new opposite, and a new synthesis, and thus is the flow of history.
It's not so different from the idea that we were discussing earlier of unity within duality that is highlighted in the Emerald Tablet, the corpus hermeticus, the wisdom of the ancients, attributed to the Egyptian god Thoth, and to the Greek god Hermes. And the ancients actually did believe that these teachings came down to us from the gods.
But let me not get too far ahead of myself, because in our modern life we have this issue of alienation, and my wife, Janelle Barlow, deals with this a lot in her corporate workshops. For example, she had a woman come up to her in one seminar and said, "You know, I hate my job. I work in one of those fast photo places, one-hour photo. And I'm standing there all day by a machine, pulling out photographs, by smelly chemicals, and I just can't stand it!"
And my wife said to her, "Yeah, but don't you get paid well? What about the money?" and she said, "No, it's minimum wage!" and my wife said, "Yeah, but you get to look at all of the photographs, don't you enjoy seeing the photographs that come out?" and she said, "No, the truth is, people take terrible photographs. If you've seen one, you've seen them all, practically. How many babies do I want to look at. They all look the same after a while. Furthermore, half of them come out unfocused. Furthermore, people can't even aim their cameras right. Half of them come out with the heads cut off.
"This is no fun looking at those pictures! People -- you know, they should just give away one picture at all the tourist locations. People don't need to take separate shots every time they go visit the golden Gate Bridge! Why, the tourists look so small in them, you can't see them anyway. Why don't they just buy post-cards?"
Well, my wife was getting discouraged. How are you going to help a person like that overcome their sense of alienation?
Then somebody else stood up [at the seminar] and he said, "You know, I was a nuclear physicist in Russia, and I was able to emigrate. I went to Israel and they didn't have any jobs for me, so they told me, "Take this broom and sweep. Sweep the streets." I became a street-sweeper with a broom after having a career as a nuclear physicist, he said.
For a while, I found that job discouraging.I felt it was beneath my station in life, but then I began to think about what this job really meant. Besides, it was a good exercise in humility for me, but on top of that I began to appreciate the fact that clean streets meant something to people. They helped improve the sanitation.
And other people in the seminar began to chime in, and said, "Yeah, you know, I like clean streets too. There's probably less crime when the streets are clean, and the whole city is more beautiful and enjoyable when the streets are clean. You can be proud of yourself if you are a street-sweeper. You are performing a service that everyone appreciates. You're not just some lowly guy sweeping. You are creating a more beautiful city."
as the group got involved in thinking along these lines, the woman my wife had originally talked to, in one-Hour Photo, said, "Yes, come to think of it, I notice that sometimes we lose people's photographs, and when that happens, boy, they get upset. They come in and they say to me, 'I can't replace those pictures. I'll never have them again.' And they're hard to find. If we lost people's pictures, we have a very difficult time recovering them, because somebody else probably got them and threw them out. They don't usually return them to us, and people are very, very disheartened.
"Those pictures mean a lot to the people who take them," she said. "And I realize I'm not just working for minimum wages by a smelly one-hour photo machine. It's not just that. I'm helping to preserve people's memories, that's what I'm doing."
And so you see, it takes just a slight shift of emphasis, a slight shift of our attention, to create new meaning in our lives. And that ability to shift our awareness is a divine attribute. It's the attribute that god gave in the Book of Genesis when he gave them the power to name all of the plants and the animals. It's not just a question of finding a word, a sound to use, a label. It's a question of creating meaning.
As above, so below. As the gods live in a heaven full of meaning, we have that capacity as well, ourselves. As above, so below. To me, the ability to find and create meaning in our lives is one of the most important human attributes that we have, and it's one that we take for granted. It's so close to us, we don't always notice the meanings that we ascribe to things unconsciously. The ways in which we give a negative slant to the events and circumstances of our lives.
The ways in which we steal away our own power. We disempower ourselves by ascribing to external circumstances, meanings and powers that deny us our ability to choose, to take responsibility for ourselves. We do that sometimes subtly, unconsciously, and then we get lost in the prison that we create by these meanings, without any sense that we also have the power to rearrange meanings.
To reclaim our ability to see things clearly. To reclaim our ability to define our situation in life in the way that restores our power to us, our healing power. Our creative power.
The ancients understood that this process of reclaiming our divinity, of reclaiming our creativity, of reclaiming our ability to ascribe meaning to all of the circumstances of our lives in an empowering way, this is alchemy. This is the process of inner transformation.
It was a classical process that in the ancient world, was combined with a knowledge of science. We think today that the alchemists were the precursors of the modern chemists, just as the astrologers were the precursors of our modern astronomers. But what we often forget, when we look down on alchemy and astrology, is that these disciplines had an under-standing that knowledge was not just something obtained by observation of the external world, true knowledge was obtained by work on the soul.
By an inner transmutation, an inner transformation, an inner alchemy, that as we purify ourselves, as we distill our essence, as we dissolve away our impurities, we see things more clearly.
I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U, and after these messages, I'll be back with more discussions on Inner alchemy.
Jeffrey Mishlove: Welcome back to Virtual U. I'm Jeffrey Mishlove. We've been talking about the Emerald Tablet, about alchemy, about hermeticism, about the mythical figure of Hermes Trismegistus, the great initiator. The word "alchemy" comes from Arabic -- al is a well-known Arabic prefix, and the word chem actually is derived from the Egyptian, having to do with the mud of the Nile and the transformational powers of that mud.
Of course, it was the source of [agricultural] fertility in the ancient Egyptian world. And alchemy goes back to ancient Egypt. one of the people I'm affiliated with, in the organization of which I'm the President, the Intuition Network, Dr. Katherine O'Connell, has been a student of alchemy in Egyptian traditions.
She tells a wonderful story that illustrates the subtle principles of alchemy, because many of the alchemical teachings come to us in dreams. Dr. O'Connell's a psychologist and had been attending a conference in the Charleston, south Carolina area, a conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams, and she had been studying Egyptian alchemy, and Egyptian homeopathy.
At that conference, while she was there, she had a very powerful dream.
The dream told her that there was a cave that she should visit, near Charleston, the city where the conference was. She got a very specific idea of where the cave was, and although she didn't know the local area, she began to talk to people, and she got a map, and she talked to taxi-drivers, and they told her that there was a place that she could go to.
They believed there was a cave, and they went out some twenty miles away, and came to a church called The Red Marble Church. And there, in the vicinity, was a cave, known as the Red Marble Cave. She visited that cave and actually picked up some red marble from the cave, and came back with it.
Then she began delving into her books. (She had a collection of books of original Egyptian alchemical teachings). She began researching what red marble meant in the Alchemical tradition and she learned that in the ancient Egyptian practice, they made a homeopathic potion out of red marble!
You take the red marble and you dissolve a tiny, tiny amount of it in water and then you dilute it and dilute it and dilute it, according to homeopathy. So much so that there may not be a single molecule of the original red marble left in the water. But according to the principles of homeopathy, the essence is still there.
The spiritual essence. sometimes people say, "It's the electromagnetic essence, or the etheric essence." We don't have a good scientific handle on it, I can assure you of that, but the "essence" of the red marble is still there, and according to homeopathy, these essences that are nonphysical in nature, truly have potencies for healing and for causing other spiritual and psychological effects.
So the red marble, interestingly enough, according to the Egyptian alchemical texts, had the effect of inducing dreams. Dreams that are true.
I think this is a wonderful story, because it goes full circle. She had a dream, a true dream about a cave there in south Carolina, and that dream led her to find a real cave, where she discovered the red marble which, according to her books that included ancient teachings -- the dream led to the potion, the potion led to dreams!
You can purchase this potion from Dr. Katherine O'Connell, and if you log on to my website, www.mishlove.com, I will refer you to Dr. O'Connell's website, and you can learn more about how to obtain the red marble homeopathic potion that was developed through this alchemical process.
It's another example of the principle that I was attempting to elucidate earlier, how sometimes the most profound teachings can seem to be the most ridiculous. An alchemical potion! A homeopathy remedy so dilute there isn't a single molecule left! It defies Aristotelian modern, materialistic thinking, and yet I find, as a person trained in western science -- I have my Ph.D. from the university of California -- we just can't discount these things, as much as my training would want me to. As much as my background says, "Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a Newtonian world where you could really rely on the Cartesian-Newtonian-Aristotelian ideas that you can't have both A and no-A at the same time.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could just eliminate all paradox from our lives?
I truly feel that way, and I think like many intellectuals, I do struggle to eliminate paradox when I can. But there are times when I also embrace paradox, and when one delves into these mystical teachings, embracing paradox gets you a lot further than denying it.
I'll be back after these messages.
Jeffrey Mishlove: This is Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U. We've been talking these past hours, about the Emerald Tablet, and earlier I read two different translations of the Emerald Tablet, and I'd like to read another. This one was translated by my friend, Dean Brown, who is a regular guest of Virtual U.
Dean is a linguist, among his many other talents. He spent years studying different translations of the Emerald Tablet. From these he synthesized his own. It's in a more modern idiom than the translations I read earlier and it gives us a more approachable interpretation of this ancient, esoteric document.
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus:
In truth, cerain and without doubt,
Whatever is below is like that which is above.
And whatever is above is like that which is below.
Just as all things proceed from one alone,
By meditation on one alone,
so they are born from this one thing, by adaptation.
Its father is the sun and its mother is the moon,
It is the father of every miraculous work in the whole world.
Its power is perfect.
If it is converted into earth,
Separate the earth from the fire,
And the subtle from the gross, softly and with great prudence,
It rises from earth to heaven,
And comes down again from heaven to earth,
And thus acquires the power of the realities above
In the realities below.
This is the power of all powers,
For it conquers everything subtle
And penetrates everything solid.
Thus is the world created.
From this and in this way
Marvellous applications are made.
For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus,
For I possess the three parts of wisdom of the whole world.
Perfect is what I have said of the work of the sun."
Here we have heard the origins of alchemy, the origins of magic, origins that have become deeply entwined in Kabbalistic thought, and taoist thinking, and in yoga, a very, very ancient teaching. The mingling of heaven and earth.
There is a taoist exercise in taoist yoga where one breathes, and in breathing with the inhale, one visualizes that one is inhaling the chi energy, the subtle vibration, the golden, heavenly light, and drawing it down into the body and circulating it through the body with each breath, up and down, from the base of the body up through the crown chakra, circulating it and then returning it back into the heavens.
It's a wonderful healing exercise, which is very, very similar in nature to the concept here of the Emerald Tablet, that it rises from earth to heaven, and comes down again from heaven to earth.
This is something that we do in meditation, uniting heaven and earth within us, because we, the human being, the human being are really the incorporation of heaven within an earthly form.
That is what we are, in effect.
You could say there are two great myths about who we are as humans. one is the Darwinian myth. We have arisen from the slime. We are [going] from dust to dust. We are mud, we are slime, we are bacteria evolved to a higher level. And it's from the material up to the spiritual. Like Jacob Bronowski's title of his great series, The Ascent of Man.
We are, in effect, the ascent of material form toward the spiritual.
The other view, the esoteric view, is that we represent the descent of spirit into matter. All the great mythologies of the world talk about spirit descending into matter. In effect, we are really both. That again is the paradox that's expressed in the Hebrew Star of David -- the descending and ascending triangles.
It's expressed in the riddles of zen, and in the riddle posed by the Chinese yinyang, the duality within unity.
I'd like to also read one more version of the Emerald Tablet. This is in a very, very modern idiom. It was written by Dennis William Hauck, whom I hope one day, and expect to have as a guest on Virtual U. He says this is the Emerald Tablet for the twenty-first century. He really puts it into modern language. He writes:
Truly, without hype, religious exploitation or commercial consideration,
You can experience higher truths.
You are as much a part of the material as you are of the mental
And you are as much a part of the mental as you are of the material,
In order to accomplish the miracles of light.
And just as all things come from light
Through the concentration of consciousness,
so do all created things originate from light
Through their transformation of thought.
Its father is energy, its mother [is] matter.
The spectrum carries it in its belly.
Its nurse is the planets.
It is the origin of all,
The consecration of the universe.
Its inherent strength is perfected
If it is materialized.
Separate matter from imagination,
The subtle from the gross,
Gently, in deepest meditation.
The light rises from the planets to heaven
And returns again to the planets
Thereby containing within itself
The powers of both the mental and the material.
Thus will you obtain the light of the whole universe,
All darkness will be illuminated to you.
This is the greatest force of all powers
Because it overcomes every mental thing
And penetrates every material thing.
In this way the universe was created.
From this come many wondrous manifestations
Because this is the formula.
Therefore, this deals with all three parts of reality
And shows the underlying relationship of energy, matter, and light.
Herein is completely explained
The fountain of consciousness.
And I'll be back, after these messages.
Jeffrey Mishlove: Welcome back to this final Segment of Virtual U. I'm your host, Jeffrey Mishlove, and we've been talking about as above, so below, the Emerald Tablet, the fountain of esoteric wisdom. We've covered so many different points. We've talked about the relationship between meaning and philosophy, and the heavenly, divine power of the gods to create meaning.
We think of meaning as being close to god. The closer we are to the divine, the more meaningful everything becomes, and yet we humans have that divine power of ascribing, creating meaning in our own lives.
We do that when we are connected with our deepest self, with the source, with the oneness within us, with our own divine spark. When we're disconnected from that divine essence within ourselves, life seems meaningless. We are alienated from truth, alienated from a sense of certainty about things, alienated from an appreciation, moment by moment, from that which is blessed and loving and blissful, and surrounds us each instant, no matter where we are.
When we're alienated from that, we experience depression, dullness, the cloying anomie, a sense of disconnect, a sense of being called to reconnect, a yearning for connection.
We engage in an alchemical process of reconnecting with this creative essence, this essence that has the power to transform and transmute our lives.
That alchemical process is one of purification of the soul, of the spirit. It is one of letting go of false ideas and false values. It is one of distillation of the soul, an alignment of the personality with the soul.
It is one of balancing the masculine and the feminine energies. It is recognizing that the one thing, the wholeness of who we are is both masculine and feminine, is both the sun and the moon, is both the macrocosm and the microcosm. That we contain within ourselves the four divine elements of earth, air, fire and water, these spiritual forces that interpenetrate all of the realms.
It's a recognition that the fundamental principles of process, the metaphysical principles of evolution and growth that can be seen throughout nature in every kingdom -- animal, vegetable, mineral, subatomic and human -- also exist within our own soul, within our own psyche.
There are many other mysteries to be unfolded because the ancient science of alchemy that was predicated upon this wisdom from the Emerald Tablet in what is now known also as the corpus hermeticus, was a science based on the fundamental principle that we discover the universe within and without ourselves, as we gain the ability to have mastery over the physical universe, so we also gain the ability to have mastery over ourselves.
Alchemy is both inner and outer. We transform ourselves as we transmute the Elements.
If the twentieth century in which we live is a century of tragedy and warfare and genocide and enormous social dislocation, and alienation, in part I think it is due to the fact that the science that we have developed over the last three or four hundred years has lost touch with its alchemical roots.
We have acquired mastery over nature without placing equal emphasis on mastery over ourselves.
As we move out of this dark century into centuries that are more enlightened, I expect that we will come to a time when self-mastery will be as well known and understood and taught, as mastery of the universe. That the esoteric sciences need no longer be esoteric and secret. They will be sacred but not necessarily secret.
Because they will be the birthright of all humanity. That's what Wisdom Radio is doing today. It is taking the hidden teachings and making them publicly available to all.
And the fundamental hidden teaching, ironically enough, is about our own divine nature. as above, so below means that god is as close to us as our own breath, and in fact, in every ancient language, whether it's Hebrew or Greek or Sanskrit, the word for spirit and the word for "breath" are the same.
"Prana" in Sanskrit. "Pneuma" in Greek. "Nefesh" in Hebrew. Because our breath, what could be more intimate, moment by moment, with each of us in our own breath, and so it is the intimacy of the spirit within us. And that spirit is our connection to the universal, our connection to the divine.
And there is a sense in which, when we open our awareness up to that connection, we can say in all sincerity and honesty, to put it simply, in the words of one great Religious Science minister, Michael Beckwith, "God is my best friend. God is my closest friend. I'm with god moment by moment."
Thus we carry within us the magic of being secure in our ability to understand, to see meaning, not that we force meaning through egotistical ascribing -- this is this and that is that -- that could be psychotic, but we allow the meaning of nature and spirit to reveal itself to us moment by moment, and that meaning carries with it a healing power.
A power to do as the Kabbalists say, to heal the earth, tikkun olam, to transform this planet into a world that works for everyone.
I'm Jeffrey Mishlove, host of Virtual U.
Iím Jeffrey Mishlove: The music that you're listening to now, the Virtual U theme music, was composed by Gary Takesian, and then produced for Virtual U by Lars Spivock.
(....) And once again, let me leave you with a great thought from the
hermetic tradition, the Emerald Tablet: As above, so below; as below,
so above. Think of it often. It has the power to transform your life.
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