The hidden meanings behind alchemy, smiths and warriors
of humanity, other faiths have taken over the ancient knowledge, among
which, the roots of
Alchemy which is not to be confused with a religion. The
essence of the alchemic way is generally
ignored, usually taken as a search for transforming metals into
gold. Such is but a corrupted belief.
It is not known, however, if the first alchemists were smiths or
perfumers, but traces of it can be found in almost all civilizations.
ALCHEMY. A METAPHOR PERHAPS...
Layman may think that it was the forerunner of modern chemistry.
Others, more inclined to a spiritual way will see in Alchemy a
metaphor for the
According to Dom Pernety (in Greek and Egyptian
Fables Revealed, 1786) " Vulgar chemistry is the art of
destroying compounds that nature have formed, while the chemistry of
the hermeticists is the art of working with nature to perfect them ".
The alchemist indeed perfects nature. In his eyes - in simple
terms - metals such as copper and lead are diseased (leprous) gold. His
work is to restore them to their original state, which leads one to
ask what is he seeking when he tries to turn lead into gold?
It is impossible to reach any kind of understanding without
appreciating that the best of the alchemists were not striving after
vulgar gold. The philosopher's stone was, in fact, the symbol of a
state of inner freedom. We are, therefore also in the realm of
Flamel himself shows in his Book of
Hieroglyphic Figures that, if religious feeling - to speak in
psychic terms - constitutes the "raw material" of the work, then
alchemy by its spiritual nature transcends religion and morality. The
alchemist exposes his own solitude and plunges himself into the
universe and then invents his own morality, becoming the child of
Flamel's short transcript of his book
Explication of the Hieroglyphic Figures'
On the last side of the fifth leaf there was a King, with a great
Fauchion, who made to be killed in his presence by some
Soldiers a great multitude of little Infants, whose Mothers wept at
the feet of the unpitiful Soldiers the blood of which Infants was
afterwards by other Soldiers gathered up, and put in a great vessel,
wherein the Sun and the Moon came to bathe themselves.
that this History did represent the more part of that of the Innocents
slain by Herod, and that in this Book I learned the greatest
part of the Art, this was one of the causes why I placed in their
Church-yard these Hieroglyphic Symbols of this secret science.
And thus you see that which was in the first five leaves. I will not
represent unto you that which was written in good and intelligible
Latin in all the other written leaves, for God would punish me;
because I should commit a greater wickedness than he who (as it is
said) wished that all the men of the World had but one head, that he
might cut it off with one blow.
Having with me, therefore, this fair book, I did nothing else
day nor night but study upon it, understanding very well all the
operations that it showed, but not knowing with what Matter I should
begin, which made me very heavy and solitary, and caused me to fetch
many a sigh. My wife Perrenella, whom I loved as myself, and had
lately married, was much astonished at this, comforting me, and
earnestly demanding if she could by any means deliver me from this
trouble. I could not possibly hold my tongue, but told her all, and
showed this fair book, whereof at the same instant that she saw it,
she became as much enamoured as myself, taking extreme pleasure to
behold the fan cover, gravings, images, and portraits, whereof,
notwithstanding she understood as little as I; yet it was a great
comfort to me to talk with her, and to entertain myself, what we
should do to have the interpretation of them. In the end I caused to
be painted within my Lodging, as naturally as I could, all the figures
and portraits of the fourth and fifth leaf, which I showed to the
greatest Clerks in Paris, who understood thereof no more than myself:
I told them they were found in a Book that taught the
Philosophers' Stone, but the greatest part of them made a mock
both of me and that blessed Stone, excepting one called
Master Anselme, who was a Licentiate in Physic, and studied hard
in this Science. He had a great desire to have seen my Book, and there
was nothing in the world he would not have done for a sight of it: but
I always told him I had it not; only I made him a large description of
the Method. He told me that the first portrait represented Time, which
devoured all; and that according to the number of the six written
leaves, there was required the space of six years, to perfect the
Stone; and then, he said, we must turn the glass, and seethe it no
more. And when I told him that this was not painted, but only to show
and teach the first agent, (as was said in the Book) he
answered me that this decoction for six years space was, as it were, a
second Agent; and that certainly the first Agent was there painted,
which was the white and heavy water, which without doubt was Argent
Vive, which they could not fix, nor cut off his feet, that is to say,
take away his volatility, save by that long decoction in the purest
blood of young Infants; for in that, this Argent Vive being joined
with gold and Silver, was first turned with them into an herb like
that which was there painted, and afterwards, by corruption, into
Serpents; which Serpents being then wholly dried, and decocted by
fire, were reduced into powder of gold, which should be the Stone.
This was the cause that during the space of one and twenty years, I
tried a thousand broulleryes, yet never with blood, for that
was wicked and villaneous: for I found in my Book that the
Philosophers called Blood the mineral spirit which is in the Metals,
principally in the Sun, Moon, and Mercury, to the
assembling whereof, I always tended; yet these interpretations for the
most part were more subtil than true. Not seeing, therefore, in my
works the signs at the time written in my Book, I was always to begin
again. In the end, having lost all hope of ever understanding those
figures, for my last refuge I made a vow to God and St. James of
Gallicia, to demand the interpretation of them at some Jewish Priest
in some Synagogue of Spain.
Whereupon, with the consent of Perrenella, carrying with me the
Extract of the Pictures, having taken the Pilgrims' habit and staff,
in the same fashion as you may see me without this same Arch, in the
Church-yard in the which I put these Hieroglyphical Figures,
where I have also set against the wall, on the one and the other side,
a Procession, in which are represented by order all the colours of the
Stone, so as they come and go, with this writing in French:
Much pleaseth God procession, If it be done in devotion.
is neither a list of recipes nor a dogma, or even a
religion. It is existential poetry. It is spiritual knowledge, refined
to the point where it can penetrate the dark corners where our
strongest and most urgent desires lurk.
In producing the black colour, the alchemist reaches the
center of the earth, where metals sleep.
The philosopher's gold
Thus the philosopher's gold, full of impurities, surrounded by
thick darkness, covered in sadness and mourning, must nevertheless be
considered the true and unique raw material of the Work,
even as its own true and unique raw material is mercury, from which
this gold, invisible, miserable and unnoticed sprang. (
Fulcanelli Les Demeures).
The physical philosopher's stone and the mystical
philosopher's stone are similar but not identical. To achieve
the second, is to be able to achieve the first supremely; having
achieved the first, one knows which may lead to the achievement of the
second, but it does not necessarily mean that the journey has been
made. The distinction is essential. (Savoret Qu'est ce que l'
We are, therefore, dwelling under the realms of
Esoterism may be defined as a doctrine, "according to which
knowledge cannot or must not be vulgarized, but only communicated to a few
Esoteric was the adjective applied to ancient Greece to teaching in
certain schools, and used also of any particularly well-qualified student;
the esoteric completed and deepened the doctrine. It could be applied to
any doctrine or body of knowledge which was transmitted by oral tradition
to qualified adepts.
Traditional esoterism constitutes at the same time in itself, a body of
knowledge, being at the same time doctrine and practice, implying for the
whole of the being, body, soul and spirit, a fundamentally different way
of existence, states R. Abellio in La Fin de
To be initiated is to set off on the trail of a hidden or
unsurpassed truth that is not perceived by all. Initiation is a ritually
transmitted process. The neophyte is led to the “center of the earth”,
into the womb of wombs, a place where he must meet with himself, where he
is led into a space-time equation where his psyche is that of a new-born
looking for his identity.
It is important to understand that an initiation does not convey new
powers but can be seen as operative poetry that tends to be purely
All kinds of initiations, as simple as baptism, or the coming of
age in a tribal society, or even in a more elaborate integration into an
esoteric society implies a symbolic rebirth, a new life, which carries the
annihilation of the former self as something can only be reborn, like the
phoenix from its own ashes.
Initiation is identified with the “original”. It embodies a paradox of
“becoming himself” through the exaltation of the inner self, by
identifying the self with the universe. In fact how can anyone contain
within himself that of which he is but a part? The answer may rest in the
fact the aim is not complete identification, but rather an analogy between
man, the microcosm and the universe, the macrocosm. Analogy is therefore
the first step of the journey, and all initiation rituals are devised to
create the awareness to the importance of analogy.
The simulation of the cosmos
The temples that we know of and all those we do not know of are
basically built under plans that confer them a hidden esoteric meaning.
The word “temple” derives from templum, the Latin word that refers
to a zone in the sky or in the earth marked out by an augur or a
soothsayer as a suitable place in which to take auspices.
The importance of temples, apart from the architectural style or
rules under which they were built, reside in the space where one is more
to relate with the universe, the divinity or entering into the
transcendental and symbolic significance of life that invokes creation.
In more symbolic terms the temple is the stage for the collective or
individual spiritual connection with the cosmos.
THE SWORD SMITH
In all civilizations and cultures, the one who works with fire and
metals, smelting them, changing their natural state have always been
considered at a special level. In some african cultures, the smith was
the uncircumcised one, the one who possessed the
physical atributes of masculinity and femininity, therefore considered
entire, possessing the essential atributes of the cosmos i.e.,
the opposites, the positive and the negative atributes of energy
that is common to the entire Universe.
In the Kongo nation that occupies a large part of
Western Africa the smith is cast away from the rest of the village,
living isolated. These primeval fears that required the smith to be a
chosen one, have a direct connection to the fact that
he dealt with what was taken from Mother Nature's womb in an act
For the Chinese, it was necessary that a sacrifice was to be
made before the smelting of metals could succeed. According to
Clarity and Virtue, an article by
anthropologist Carlos Morais José, Yu, the Great, knew the art
of melting metals. He knew how to distinguish between male and female
metals. The hares of Wou, of whose bile a pair of swords was made,
were a couple, hence each of the swords has a different sex. The
temper comes from the union of water and fire. At that very instant,
swords may some times transform into a dragon. Yin swords remain in
the creeks were they are tempered. Thus the tendency of swords to
plummet into the waters to seek for their lost partner. The most
famous waterway, where one finds Dragon Gorge, is named the Creek of
Swords precisely because it was there that a sword became a dragon and
took off into the air as it was about to be tempered.
It therefore seems that legends from the East or those of the
West, such as
Excalibur and the symbolism of
Avalon, drink from the same source of occult and symbolic
How much of an alchemist is a sword smith? At the very least we
know that he deals with as different elements as fire, metal,
water, air that feeds fire, earth that is both the
very first source for metal, and wood in any state, that
ignites into fire.
Yet, while an alchemist may be more concerned with the
and the spiritual paths initiated through the study of the
transformations of metals, it is also commonly known that the Japanese
smith would purify himself and wear priests clothes before starting
I am therefore led to believe that there was an initial
knowledge that, at some stage was common. In fact, today smiths use
salt baths that are undoubtedly related to the alchemic sulphur,
mercury and salt. There is undoubtedly a chain of knowledge instead of
Hence the unacknowledged reason behind which swords have
survived both as
and as tools for sword arts practices that are apparently
anachronic in the third millennium, when sophisticated weapons took
for long, the place of swords, and machines substituted agricultural
tools. But it is also interesting to acknwledge that in the digital
age we live in, the age of iron and steel has its place, being without
doubt the longest era of mankind.
Warrior, is he an initiate?
There is nothing in the world weaker, yet more supple, than water. But
to attack the strong, who will ever be as effective as water? The void
within it gives it the power to transform.
In other words, the only possible way for a man to become a
warrior is to undergo an experience of physical meeting with death,
which becomes an initiation.
This reality is somehow supported if the fighter or warrior starts his
life under the rites of initiation in which some form of suffering is
endured as a test and also as a rebirth.
The warrior is, in other words, dead. For it is through
this symbolic and anticipated death that will free the
warrior's mind. The texts below may lend some ideas supporting this
Shamanism incorporates rites that prepare warriors of different
origins at the time of their coming of age, for their duties, by
rituals that involved near death experiences or other painful ones
that would prepare the new warrior to understand the importance of his
Oglala Sioux warriors were
initiated by being hung by their pectoral muscles through spikes
skewered beneath for a large amount of time, enduring the pain and
suffering until some would reach a state of hallucination that would
provide them with visions of ecstasy.
A warrior initiate who undergoes such rites shows his wounds as
a concrete symbol of his masculinity and courage. There is a pride
associated with undertaking torture, tattoos, or any infliction of
pain without crying out. The Sioux Indians exemplify this by painting
a red circle around wounds as a point of interest. The warrior who has
undertaken the torture ritual is believed to possess superior strength
and courage. Having been so close to death and having endured great
pain without crying out during his scarring, a warrior would have
little to fear in battle. He has already been wounded, and is not
afraid of a wound. He has already been near death, and is not
afraid to die. The warrior can look at the wounds and the paint that
accentuates them as proof of his strength, masculinity, physical
prowess, and spirit to live. The wounds symbolize a metamorphosis
of the physical body to a higher plane.
Pain is also
present with the Masai of Tanzania, when the ritual of
initiation is endured by 13 years old who reach manhood by
To become a warrior, a boy must remain perfectly still and
stare at a fixed point throughout the entire procedure.
Their ears are cut at an early age with coal from the fire to
help prepare for the pain, while large earings are placed on the
In Northern Europe,
presided over the pre-christian teutonic
The warrior no matter where he comes
from, share a similar fate, that of death in battle as the ultimate
consequence of his life. It is understandable that, under these
circumstances, the concept and conclusion that the warrior is already
Shamanism is classified by anthropologists as an archaic
magico-religious phenomenon in which the shaman is the great
master of ecstasy. Shamanism itself, was defined by the late
Mircea Eliade as a technique of
ecstasy. A shaman may exhibit a particular magical specialty (such as
control over fire, wind or magical flight). When a
specialization is present the most common is as a healer.
distinguishing characteristic of shamanism is its focus on an ecstatic
trance state in which the soul of the shaman is believed to leave the
body and ascend to the sky (heavens) or descend into the earth
(underworld). The shaman makes use of spirit helpers, with whom he or
she communicates, all the while retaining control over his or her own
consciousness. (Examples of possession occur, but are the exception,
rather than the rule.) It is also important to note that while most
shamans in traditional societies are men, either women or men may and
have become shamans.
There are a number of relatively common practices and experiences in
traditional shamanism which are being investigated by modern
researchers. While the older traditional practices are ignored by some
researchers, others have begun to explore these older techniques. The
emergence of the new field of the "anthropology of consciousness" and
the establishment of Transpersonal Psychology as a "Fourth
Force" in psychology have opened up the investigation of research
into the nature and history of consciousness in ways not previously
possible. Outside of academic circles a growing number of people have
begun to make serious inquiries into ancient shamanic techniques for
entering into altered states of consciousness.
Traditional shamans developed techniques for lucid dreaming and
what is today called the out-of-the-body experience (oobe). These
methods for exploring the inner landscape are being investigated by a
wide range of people. Some are academics, some come from traditional
societies and others are modern practitioners of non-traditional
shamanism or neo-shamanism. Along with these techniques, the NDE or
near-death-experience have played a significant role in shamanic
practice and initiation for millennia. There
is extensive documentation of this in ethnographic studies of traditional shamanism. With
this renewed interest in these older traditions these shamanic methods
of working with dreams and being conscious and awake while dreaming
are receiving increased attention.
The ability to consciously move beyond the physical body is the
particular specialty of the traditional shaman. These journeys of Soul
may take the shaman into the nether realms, higher levels of existence
or to parallel physical worlds or other regions of this world.
Shamanic Flight, is in most instances, an experience not of an inner
imaginary landscape, but is reported to be the shamans flight beyond
the limitations of the physical body.
As noted in this article, the Call to shamanize is often
directly related to a near death experience by the prospective shaman.
Among the traditional examples are being struck by lightning, a fall
from a height, a serious life-threatening illness or lucid dream
experiences in which the candidate dies or has some organs consumed
and replaced and is thus reborn. Survival of these initial inner and
outer brushes with death provides the shaman with personal experiences
which strengthen his or her ability to work effectively with others.
Having experienced something, a shaman is more likely to understand
what must be done to correct a condition or situation.
Post-Shamanic: While shamanism may be readily identified among many
hunting and gathering peoples and in some traditional herding
societies, identifying specific groups of individuals who might be
called shamans is a difficult task in more stratified agricultural and
manufacturing based societies. A society may be said to be Post-
Shamanic when there are the presence of shamanic motifs in its
traditional folklore or spiritual practices indicate a clear pattern
of traditions of ascent into the heavens, descent into the nether-
worlds, movement between this world and a parallel Otherworld, are
present in its history. Such a society or tradition may have become
very specialized and recombined aspects of mysticism, prophecy and
shamanism into more specialized or more "fully developed" practices
and may have assigned those to highly specialized functionaries. When
such practices and functionaries are present or have teplaced the
traditional shamans found in historical or traditional shamanism the
use of Post-shamanic is appropriate.
More specifically, a society may be said to be Post-Shamanic
when at least 6 of the following 8 conditions have been
Shamanic ecstasy is still present, but light trance techniques
are also used to access the Otherworld.
Agriculture and some forms of manufacturing/crafts have
replaced hunting and gathering as the primary basis for the economic
life of the community.
The society has developed a highly stratified social structure
and very specialized occupations.
Religion and spiritual methodology has become more fully
developed and can no longer be properly referred to as "archaic." This
is expecially important for rituals, ceremonies and ecstatic
techniques which had traditionally been the domain of the shamans.
Mystical ecstasy and unitive visions have become at
least as important esoteric experiences and doctrines as
shamanic ecstasy, ascension and descent in the religious and spiritual
life of the community.
The shaman is no longer the primary escort for the souls
of the dead into their place in the next world (psychopomp). This role
generally either passes onto the priestcraft or clergy to perform
through ritual, is an object of individual or group prayer, or is
beleived to be done by gods of guardian spirits, angels or demons.
A professional clergy is present which regulates the religious
life of the community.
Other forms of healing, divining and counseling are present
have replaced shamans as the primary source of such services.
Post-shamanic motifs are found among many Indo-Eruopean,
Asian, African and some native peoples of
America. The use of
Post-Shamanic as a term makes examination of these parallel
traditons and possible survivals of earlier shamanic traditions
Therefore we may conclude that ancient warriors were submitted
to some form of
Initiation which provided them
an everlasting experience with death.
Medieval myth and legend, nothing has held more fascination or
mystique than the tradition-shrouded ceremony which preceded a
knighting ceremony. This initiation ceremony, known as the Vigil of
Arms, has captured the fantasy of knighthood long after the actual
practice became an anachronism. But what was this forgotten ceremony,
and what made it an intrical part of Medieval society?
There are two forms of vigil which were performed in
correspondence to knighthood in the Middle Ages. The first was
a standard vigil, a trial run for the lesser-experienced combatants on
the night before a tourney or joust. The other was the ceremonious
Vigil of Arms, which an esquire
was required to keep the night before he became a knight. It is this
latter ceremony which is the focus of so much secrecy and
Originally, during the Dark Ages, knighting was done on the
battlefield, or shortly thereafter. If a squire performed some act of
high bravery, he was knighted by his liege-lord directly after the
day’s battle, with no pomp or ceremony. Then, around the year AD
1200, the Catholic Church took over the dubbing of knights
and imposed its rituals and obligations on the event, turning the
knighting into both a ceremony and a sacrament.
Under the Church’s two-day ritual, the candidate for knighthood
took a symbolic bath, donned symbolic garments, and stood or knelt for
ten to twelve hours in a night-long sacred watch, or at prayer. At
dawn, mass was said in front of an audience of nobles. The candidate’s
sponsors then presented him to his feudal lord, and gave him his
armour and weaponry after a prayer and blessing had been said over
each piece of equipment. Then, the soon-to-be knight’s sponsors
attached his spurs. Then he knelt before his feudal lord and swore
homage before he was officially granted the rank of knight. The
knighting itself was straightforward, and is well-documented and
public. But what did this mysterious Vigil of Arms involve, and who
was it for?
Any esquire who had been deemed worthy of receiving his spurs
(hence the saying “to earn one’s spurs”) and who had obtained a
worthy sponsor, could be offered knighthood once he had undergone his
Vigil of Arms. Every part of this vigil had a significance, and
no part of it could be skipped, or the candidate would be declared
unworthy of the honour and responsibilities of knighthood. Every
action of the candidate, during the vigil, must reflect spiritual
purity and integrity, and his worthiness of the rewards of
There were six basic actions of the Vigil of Arms, every
one of them required for knighthood. First, the hair of the candidate
was cut, since sacrificing one’s hair was seen as a sign of devotion
to God. Generally, the cutting of a single lock was considered
sufficient, but some of the more holy orders of knights required their
candidates to be shorn in the fashion of a priest’s tonsure.
After his hair was cut, the candidate was bathed and put in a bed,
symbolising his having been cleansed of his past sins. Then, as a
symbol of his new purity, the candidate was dressed in a long white
tunic. A red garment with long sleeves and a hood was then placed over
the white tunic, indication that the candidate was now prepared to
shed his own blood in God’s service and the service of his liege-lord.
Then, a close-fitting black coat was put on over top everything else
to remind him that everyone eventually meets death, and that a knight
should never fear that death. Then, as the final preparation for his
night-long watch, the knight-to-be was required to fast for
twenty-four hours. This final step was meant to purify his body and
soul, humble him into his humanity, and remind him to always champion
the poor and meek. Then, prepared at last, he would enter the chapel,
kneel or stand before his weapons which were displayed on the altar,
and further humble himself before God in a holy watch of no less than
The purpose of the Vigil of Arms was to purify the
future knight and always remind him that his duty to God and
Church superseded all worldly duties or possessions. After that, he
was responsible to the duty imposed on him by his liege-lord, then by
his sponsors. He was also to champion the poor and misused, and to
hold all of these things above himself.
Whether for good or ill, the practice of the Vigil of Arms
died out of use along with feudalism in most parts of the world, and
knighthood became little more than a title of honour. However, the
basis of the Vigil of Arms remains in effect for some,
including candidates for the Papal Swiss Guard.