The Golden Goal—Alchemy
Alchemy signifies the method/power/process of transmutation of one thing into something better—symbolically, lead into gold.
Gold in true alchemy is a metaphor for ultimate spiritual accomplishment. The genuine alchemist was not practicing a misguided form of chemistry, as modern scientists like to believe: he was engaged in a spiritual quest to transform gross matter (lead) into a vehicle for the spirit (gold).
This alchemist/Sufi tradition—of transforming matter into gold – is of an Ancient Egyptian origin, as reflected in their language as follows:
– Chaotic matter in the Egyptian language is called Ben, which has several related meanings: the primordial stone, the mound of creation, the first state of matter, opposition/ negation, it is not, there is not, and multiplicity.
– The mirror image of Ben is Neb (Ben spelled backwards), which also has several related meanings: gold (traditionally, the finished, perfected end product—the goal of the alchemist), lord, master, all, affirmation, and pure.
Thoth, the Ancient Egyptian neter (god), is recognized by all early (and later) Sufi writers as the ancient model of alchemy, mysticism, and all related subjects. The well-known Sufi writer Idries Shah admits the role of Egypt via Thoth and Dhu’I-Nun on Sufism and alchemy as follows:
” . . . alchemical lore came from Egypt direct from the writings of Thoth
. . . According to Sufi tradition the lore was transmitted through Dhu’i-Nun the Egyptian, the King or Lord of the Fish, one of the most famous of classical Sufi teachers. [The Sufis, 1964]
Thoth’s name appears among the ancient masters of what is now called the Way of the Sufis. In other words: both the Sufis and the alchemists recognize Thoth as the foundation of their knowledge.
Idries Shah also makes a direct reference to the Spanish Arab historian Said of Toledo (died in 1069), who gives this tradition of the Ancient Egyptian Thoth:
“Sages affirm that all antediluvian sciences originate with the Egyptian Hermes [Thoth], in Upper Egypt (namely Khmunu (Hermopolis)). The Jews call him Enoch and the Moslems Idris. He was the first who spoke of the material of the superior world and of planetary movements . . . Medicine and poetry were his functions . . . [as well as] the sciences, including alchemy and magic. [Cf. Asin Palacios, Ibn Masarra, p. 13] Masarra means Egyptian
Egyptian mysticism encompasses basically two types of spiritual experience:
- A quest for spiritual self-development in the form of ethical self-control and worldly personal religious insight. The aspirant who is able to purify himself is ready now for the second quest.
- The quest to find God in the manifested world as well as finding the manifested world in God. This is accomplished through gaining knowledge by using both intellect and intuition in order to transcend the limitations of our human senses.
[More detailed information about this subject in Egyptian Mystics: Seekers of The Way by Moustafa Gadalla.]
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