esothemes

Reflections, revelations and proposals esoteric: Themes to elucidate the depths of human potential.

Tag: Spiritual Alchemy

The Alchemical Precepts of the Emerald Tablet

The Emerald Tablet, for all its condensed form, is the quintessential foundation text of Esoteric Alchemy. It has undeniably influenced the proliferation of Hermetic wisdom in Europe since its translation into Latin during the Late Middle Ages. Regardless of its historic and cultural framework, this document, in my view, is a summarized exposition of psychophysical dynamics of human esoteric potential. In other words, the arena of transformation described is the human body itself. The agent of transformation is something that acts upon our embodied nature.

In esoteric practices, it is important to remember that everything is a function of awareness. The body is, therefore, not just an aggregation of cells, tissues and organs, but our experience of embodiment. This includes feelings, sensations and unbiased, unconditioned thought-forms comprising our state of being. The occult corpus calls this the subtle body, distinguished from the gross or coarse/dense body representing our objectified material nature. To explore this possibility, we examine the precepts this highly condensed document offers us. The primary source for this analysis is a recent translation from Arabic

First Precept- Above and Below Establish Each Other: In most translations the reference appears to be the relation between the heavenly and terrestrial domains- the lofty (spiritual) and the grounded (material) reality frames- which are identified as self-similar. Let us look at this in terms of the subtle body reference frame. The domain represented by the head leads to stimulating the transformation potential in the lower body (abdomen and pelvis), and conversely the latter stimulates the former. In Tantric terms, the crown (Shiva) and root (Shakti) centers of the human frame mirror each other and conduct the same power of transformation. In terms of alchemy practices known in China (used in Taoist traditions especially), we can speak of the relationship between the upper and lower cinnabar fields.

Second Precept- The Singular Principle: A single principle underlies all creation and is the reason behind the first precept and all the processes of manifestation. This singular principle, moreover, is the foundation of all esoteric accomplishment, magic and “supernatural” manifestation. In some translations, this is called the one mind, in others the one thing or simply unity. To get a handle on what this is, let us call this essence and label it X. This is a mystery, but one to be cultivated- fermented, if you will- as well as embodied and applied. The singular principle X is the crux of the work of the sun and the central theme of the Tablet. It is a universal presence, and enters the field of human embodiment in a specific manner. The next precept sheds light on what that is.

Third Precept- Generators and Carriers: As X enters human embodiment it is literally born (again) in us, and it takes root to grow and mature. In this process it, therefore, has both parents and carriers (nurturing agents). The paternal sun fertilizes and impregnates the maternal moon that gives birth to it. The vital breath, labeled wind carries- and according to some versions of text nourishes- it within its matrix. Then earth, the densest aspect of the subtle frame, nurtures and nourishes it as if it were its nurse. The universal force X in this manner fulfills its nature in the subtle incubation chamber of our material being. This dynamic is coherent with traditions of alchemy both east and west.

In alchemy, the sun corresponds to the anima principle. European Alchemists likely used the term in the Christian sense, meaning soul;the individualized and immanent essence of our self-awareness and felt sense of personal being. We tend to associate this with the emotions of the heart. The moon represents the spiritus principle, which is closer to the idea of mental will or the power of consciousness. It became associated with mental activity, and the head. As a feminine and receptive dynamic of awareness, the moon is the receiver of spirit, the essence of consciousness and the mover of mind. The sun represents the heart as the center of identity and our sense of self, the very power of physical embodiment. While we can visualize both of these concepts in terms of wind/breath, the latter is an independent representation of life force, similar to eastern concepts such as prana and chi, both connected directly to respiration. Finally, earth is the sphere of the elements as forces behind the functioning of the physical body, whose belly/womb is the abdominal area. It is the most formative and densest dynamic of the subtle body- closest to physical function and still being non-corporeal. This is the alchemical corpus.

Synthesis of Lunar, Solar and Elemental (Earth) Principles to establish the subtle body mapping in the form of a Solar (Alchemical) Mercury glyph. This is the representation of the AZOTh Principle we call X here.

If we combine the principles, we get an interesting glyph as shown below. This is a glyph of the planet Mercury, only with a dot in the circle. This Mercury is a representation of the human subtle body where the three principles enter a working synthesis. We are speaking here of an awareness frame or state of being. The alchemical term is AZOTh. Alchemists say that all we need is AZOTh and Fire to accomplish the Work, while Renaissance occultist John Dee depicted this notion in his Hieroglyphic Monad.

The solar principle associated with the heart- the heart-felt awareness frame is our center of identity as an experienced felt sense as opposed to a mental conception. This is projected into the head to fertilize the receptive (contemplative) nature of the mind to fortify the sense with consciousness. Using the breath (wind)- specifically the sensation of inhale and the power of attention, we guide this amplified felt sense at the level of the belly where the elemental nature of our being nurtures it. We find parallels with Chinese internal alchemy practices, dealing with the transformations taking place in the lower cinnabar field.

John Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad as a depiction of AZOTh+Fire in relation to the synthesis of Alchemical Mercury described in the Emerald Tablet

Fourth Precept- Relation between X and Earth: Earth is where the singular principle actualizes its nature and potential. As indicated above, earth in the context of subtle body experience likely denotes the central abdominal area (navel), corresponding to the oriental lower cinnabar field. Here we nurture X, according to the previous precept, while it finds its perfected manifestation according to this one.

Within this earth, and via the activity of X, we extract/cultivate a certain fire. The text tells us that this is tantamount to the subtle being separate from the gross. The fire is itself an aspect of X, itself a universal principle of creation. Our work is to own, individualize and awaken its potential in our being. Although of the subtle body, the localized earth is still denser and static, whereas fire is mobile and energized. Interestingly, there are also similarities to the Tibetan esoteric practice known as Tummo.  

Fifth Precept- Extraction and Circulation of Subtle Fire: The power of X resides in the lower cinnabar field where we focus in a manner to extract the subtle aspect from the denser one. Fire then comes out of it, and through the power of our attention, we lead it upward through the body (presumably through a vertical path parallel to the spine), reaching the head where it absorbs the higher consciousness of the lunar (contemplative) consciousness in the form of spiritual light. This it brings to the lower regions to illuminate and further catalyze AZOTh, and our transformation.

The text declares X as a power or force that overcomes all things subtle and penetrates all things gross. This is a power of awareness, not to be confused with a mental formation, or an abstraction of consciousness. We can loosely call it consciousness energy, a cultivated version of the prime dynamic that marked the beginning of our process. It is likely similar to the power of consciousness known as śakti in yoga traditions when married to the awakened individualized universal consciousness associated with śiva.  

One Arabic translation affirms that the microcosm and macrocosm are the same, hence insinuating that the human frame of embodiment is indeed our frame of operation. A shorter translation stops the cycle when it reaches the top and from there illuminates the world, very much akin to the Kundalini activation process.

In conclusion, this installment barely scratches the surface on how the process of inner cultivation is to take place. While there are marked similarities with other traditions known today, the Hermetic way is by not identical to them. Chinese inner work begins in the lower cinnabar field, and shifts cultivation to the chest area and then the head, all the while using attention to circulate the felt sense through specific pathways at or right below the skin. Indian systems have similar circulation practices, but most of these involve cultivating fire at the base of the spine and using contemplative focus to project it into the head and above. The cultivation practices implied in the Sepher Yetsira vary as well, as we shall see.

That being said, the information provided here and in other installments, outlines a possibility that allows one to view the texts, and alchemy as a whole, in a more tangible light, liberated from its cryptic allusions. In this manner, the aspiring occultist can grasp and apply the precepts into coherent practice. To that end, and since this exposition is insufficient as a practical guide, more will be posted on the matter in future installments. It is my hope that the information provided overall will contribute to bring the interested reader closer to realizing even greater accomplishments than those before us aspired.

Notes on the Ten Sepirot Belimah

Before we elaborate on each of the ten steps of esoteric cultivation offered in the SY (Earliest Recoverable Text), it would be useful to do a quick paraphrase so the reader has an idea regarding where we are going with our exposition. Let us start with a description of sephirah anatomy. Each of these ten accounts of restraining (contemplation practices), has a title, followed by a two-part theme that constitutes our main target of focused attention. The title amounts to the meaning of the word for the corresponding number value of a given account. This, along with the preliminary contemplation practice involving the depth or mystery of the account’s conceptual label sets the stage for the main practice.

The first thing we do is look at the general structuring of the accounts themselves. As already mentioned, we are to organize the stages of practice in terms of serial pairs, defined by the labels we have been given as mysteries or unfathomable depths. In this manner, the first two depths are complementary as first and last. The next two- loosely and inaccurately translated- as good and bad follow. Then we have the complementary directions in the space around the practitioner (up/down, front/back, left/right).

In the center of these is the practitioner. Their strength in the practice of deep contemplation is the embodiment of the covenant of alignment so as to attain the mystical state of awareness necessary for success. The aforementioned covenant means the requisite level of proficiency in contemplation cannot be bypassed or glossed if the aspirant wants the process of cultivation to give up is fruits. This takes time, and cutting corners will at best severely dilute the power of our subsequent specified practices. As with the alleged practitioners of old, taking a path such as this is a matter of serious commitment; hence the allusion to the biblical covenant itself.

That being said, and given one has attained a level of experience that allows one to access deep states of awareness more or less easily, one can focus that ability to specific themes of focus. The stages are addressed in pairs, with contemplation practice being holding them together. That means after each pair is worked, the two are worked together. To work each pair we address the depth of each. This can be taken as the mystery theme behind the corresponding process. The number value complements this and can be understood as coupled with it. Thus, if the number one (AChD) is understood as a dynamic of self-reflection, the depth or mystery theme of the account is that of cause, where RAShITh literally means: first. These two words tell us what the account is addressing: the mystery of cause in terms of the self-reflecting dynamic of the number one. At the same time, such simple descriptions do not do the theme itself justice. Only contemplation on their connection can. In that sense, both the number and the mystery theme represent the tone that emerges from our experience of AIN.

The next part of the account is two-fold and establishes the framing of the account, or the way we relate to the procedure. The first represents the context, likened to a coal, and the second to the power that drives it, like the flame causing the coal to burn. At the same time, the relationship is reversed. The second part is context and fuel to the first, which is its driving force. We, therefore, treat these two parts as if each one were ignited within the other, which is its fuel. Let’s return to our example of the first account and just show the two-fold main body of the corresponding verse:

  1. Elohim [Power/Powers] of Life,
  2. …She is the Sanctifying Spirit [Intelligence] of This.

                                Alternate: It is this: the Sanctifying Spirit.

We have two interlocking themes here; the powers of life, and the sanctifying intelligence. The latter, depending on the translation details, is either a part of Elohim of Life or another name for it. Either way, the Spirit (RVCh) is of dedication to a specified purpose- entity or circumstance.

We will thoroughly explore the meanings apparent and implied from the above phrasing. In this analysis we aim to look at the framing of contemplation practice for the ten verses of accomplishment in general.

Clearly, before we can apply we need to understand. Before we can understand we need to approach in the most coherent manner, respecting the hints given to us in the text we have already analyzed for the Earliest Recoverable Text of the SY. Embedding the first and second parts of the verse into each other may appear like a questionable feat of conception. It makes sense because of the insight such a paradoxical coupling inspires. It also makes sense because it demands a thorough understanding of the two parts of each account or the flame in the burning coal will go out.

In the above example, we are challenged to not just have a sense of intellectual meaning, but to experience directly in and through contemplation what Elohim of Life is- at least to the one contemplating. If the translation is ambiguous or exhibits more than one rendering, we need to examine the options in relation to the first part of the account. Our touchstones of meaning are the number of the account, and the depth or mystery of the corresponding quality associated with the account.

The tactic of using complex contemplation practices to attain esoteric accomplishment is not uncommon in formal cultivation systems such as Indian yoga. In this case, we are weaving two parts of a single practice defined by a combination of the esoteric meanings of its corresponding number and a conceptual quality meant to trigger a gnosis experience in relation to the given verse. It is noteworthy that, from a cultivation perspective, if one masters a given account (sephirah), they can tune into its power directly by focusing on its corresponding number.

In that sense, the system may not simply be one of one-shot mastery of an end-goal. Such states of accomplishment are rare, and quite unlikely just the result of a pre-structured process of cultivation. There are many who can apply esoteric gnosis, but few who abide in it perpetually. One could, therefore, master the ten accounts as a series of steps to enter a state of esoteric empowerment for a specified purpose. Living in perpetual gnosis would be the goal of a mystic, and it may indeed have been the nature of the singular adept described in verse 2.V. For most disciples of the revived system, however, it would be much easier to selectively enter the hallowed state, so as to temporarily gain abilities a lay person would consider supernatural.

It is realistic to surmise, furthermore, that the aforementioned application could have been a precursor to that state of perpetual gnosis whose accomplishment would be considered more a matter of divine grace than diligent practice. Even if the aspirant did not or could not attain that final state of grace, they probably could activate a lesser or more temporary gnosis in order to heal someone, or divine the future or to acquire enhanced oratory capacity. It would be as simple as counting from one to ten for a master of the process. One could even perform feats of magic, such as constructing a golem, for example.

It goes without saying that our analysis is speculative, but also that this speculation is founded on text interpretation in the context of esoteric practices of other traditions past and present. The practice of condensing the power of a phrase (meant to activate either through ritual or some form of cultivation application) into a single word or even a gesture, is known as anchoring in the modern manipulative practice of Neurolinguistic Programming. Our accounts are. therefore, tapestries of potential meant to be weaved from a number of interacting strands of practice, themselves an outcome of progressive accomplishment.

They also relate to each other in at least three ways. 1) The first four are distinct from the last six. 2) The activation of each is dependent on feedback with its paired verse (the next or the previous). The test to see if one activates the first account is to easily be able to practice the second one, while the latter’s success depends on the quality of the former’s activation. 3) The accounts are progressive in a serial manner, which is how we can serially number them. In this way, each one sets the foundation for the next whether it is its polar pair or not. Keeping in mind the prerequisites and framings for each account, and how they are to be approached. We can proceed to a more in depth immersion by addressing them in the pairs emphasized by the text itself.

Basic Practices toward Sephirot Actualization in the Book of Formation

With the posts surrounding the ten sephirot we aim to examine and describe themas they are presented in the Earliest Recoverable Text of the Sepher Yetsira (Manual of Shaping). Our perspective addresses the sephirot as ten practices, with the verses leading up to them involving their prerequisites practices. Their persistent application is meant to lead the aspirant to a state of mastery (wisdom).

In previous installments we diverged into the biblical story of Eden- the fall from grace therein and the role of the two trees, of life and of knowledge of tov and raa. The Tree mapped in QBLH, is a map of both microcosm and macrocosm. This is likely the truth regarding the two Trees of Eden as well. The other tree can be seen as a different mode of the Tree of Life. It represents the same awareness of the micro and micro cosmos’ from a dualistic perspective; the perspective of material world embodiment. This information will serve us as we collect the specifics of our ten accounts and ultimately integrate the practices outlined.

In our exploration of the text, we come to the third and fourth verses. The first two verses opened us to the concepts of the Covenant and the significance of the number ten in this work- as opposed to nine and eleven. To this point we are not given specific practices. We are told the conditions of practice, that the accounts are paired, and that the work involved is with the power of the word. We are also told that the practices are of a revived esoteric tradition involving a master, which means the wisdom is probably far older. In this installment we briefly examine the next two verses, which also provide preliminary information regarding the nature of our work:

III. Ten reckonings of restraining: Restrained is your mouth faced with speech. Restrained is your heart-mind faced with fantasy. And if [ever] it ran, your heart-mind returned to the standing place it pacified. It is said: “[it is] run and [so] return [it]”. And regarding this matter the Covenant was established.

IV. Ten reckonings of restraining: Rooted is their end in their beginning and their beginning in their end, like a flame in a burning coal, which is the framing of each one, and AIN is second to it [the framing]. And before one/each, what are you reckoning?

The third verse justifies the label given to our ten accounts. They are reckonings and listings of practices involving restraint. The idea is clarified in the verse at the onset. Restraint is a part of contemplation practices exemplifying most every spiritual tradition on Earth, specifically corresponding to concentration practice- dharāṇa– in yoga traditions. Focus requires restrained speech, ditto with imagination and verbal thought. The third verse also manages to describe a fundamental tenet of esoteric cultivation in a few words: run and return. Basically, if you fall off the horse of maintaining concentration, just get back on.

The author of the verse could not emphasize the importance of the tenet enough. The Covenant could not be established without it, because the Covenant is an alignment that demands mystical states of awareness and higher consciousness. Simply put, without a strong focus, there can be no alignment. In yoga, contemplation/meditation and hence illumination and spiritual liberation, are out of reach without the ability to focus. If meditation were just about focusing awareness, however, any predator on the hunt would be a sage, and any talented sniper a spiritual giant. Focusing awareness is a prerequisite, and not the only one.

We are informed the reckonings are phrases with two parts, something confirmed if we examine the phrases. In some reckonings the first part involves an extraction of one state- or energy- of awareness from a preexisting one. These can be symbolized by elements, such as air, water and fire, and extracting one from another is likely a practice of focus in itself. This is an example of the beginning of a particular account. The second part describes what is to be done with that state. The reckonings, all of a similar format, don’t work unless we get what verse four is telling us.

So for each account we identify the two parts, and know that to activate the particular step, we need to take the first as the power source- flame of a burning coal- of the second.

That is how each account is framed, and AIN is second to that, which means it comes after we take care of that requisite. We have already discussed the meaning of AIN here. The conclusion was that AIN, in the context of cultivation, is a state of awareness that comes after consistent and deep contemplative practice. Practice aims at that state, which prevails when there is no more need for restraint, as it is described in the previous verse at least.

The final piece of information we are given here is in the form of a question. Before (each) one, what do you reckon- what have you figured out? In other words, how are you prepared in the face of each, or any, of the SPIRVTh BLIMH? The author is giving us a head’s up that prerequisite information is being supplied.

In decoding these verses we note the condensed and specific nature of the instructions given. One can only imagine how condensed an even earlier version of the SY was in content, which to me supports the idea that the work was done for teachers as fundamental notes in a time when the oral tradition was threatened. It happens when those in the know are put to death.

In the next installment, our process goes even deeper. The next two verses to be examined are the last before the text dives straight into the accounts themselves. As we will see in the next installment, these are more specific in the instructions they offer. We will examine these instructions, and do a review of the cultivation material offered in the six verses before the SPIRVTh are directly addressed in the context of that wisdom.

Introduction to the Ten Sephirot Belimah

We have already examined the thesis statement of the SY, and have been introduced to the text in general. The twelve verses that follow are self-contained in their concise yet in-depth coverage that has laid the foundation of much of QBLH philosophy and modern Western occultism. The central theme of this portion of the SY is an esoteric process described by the first three words that begin seven of those verses: OShR SPIRVTh BLIMH. If we want to unravel the allegedly cryptic wisdom of this portion of the text, it is imperative we explore the meaning of the elusive entities known as SPIRVTh.

The advantage of using the Earliest Recoverable Text (ERT) is its liberation from layers of conception representing the crusty residues of centuries of editing. This streamlined version of the SY encourages exploration unburdened by the assumption that everything has to be coded in elaborate complication where ancient occultism is involved. Our own context of meaning- that of esoteric cultivation rather than religious exegesis- facilitates in validating this view. What appear, therefore, to be twilight languages and elaborate allegorical codes are simply descriptions of esoteric means and outcomes that are made clear when one has basic (even if only theoretical) knowledge in the subject matter. There is no need to complicate things with talk of “initiations” and “mysteries”. What we have in this particular text, in this aspirants view, is occult “trade talk”- not the encoded vocabulary of concealing knowledge from outsiders who would either persecute the holders of it or corrupt its principles.

In that sense, there is no need to concoct elaborate stories of creation and complex maps outlining the conceptions of this section to emphasize the religious element over that of inner alchemy. We can simply take the text at face value with but rudimentary theoretical knowledge of basics of contemplation and sensate visualization to come to our understanding. Namely, the ten sephirot belimah amount to steps or processes of esoteric cultivation; exercises where each builds on the previous to construct an elaborate subtle body from a core of established mystical communion, itself the result of extended practice in contemplation and inner focus.

Let us examine each of the three words of OShR SPIRVTh BLIMH, starting with the first term. At the basic level OShR is the word for the number ten. If we interpret it letter by letter, however, we get a sense of the qualitative tone of the word. The letter-signs describe a vision or well-spring; the glyph of Ayin being that of an eye or top-down view of a fountain. The other two letters denote authority (Shin.Resh), a person, divinity, or an awareness (head or mindset) that nourishes and sustains. Such a vision or eye or fountain can describe a revelation or some bestowed treasure, material or not.

The letter-by-letter interpretation may appear to contradict my statements about avoiding complications, but such an interpretation is neither cryptic nor does it complicate our understanding. On the contrary, it complements the immediate meaning and supports it. We will explore this in the next installment using a specific verse of the twelve as an example. Suffice it to say that the word for the number ten Shin as Sin, whereas the first pronunciation defines OShR in the sense of growing rich. Both versions give the sense of accumulation (ten fingers or generally of wealth). We use discretion when choosing to examine a term letter-by-letter. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, after all. Numbers and certain terms of esoteric import, however, demand a deeper level of examination. The words that follow OShR  are often mystified in Cabalistic thought. can keep all this in mind as we examine the other two words.

The word SPIRVTh is the plural of SPIRH, itself a noun form of the verb SPR, which we encountered in the first verse as well as being the title of the work. SPR as a noun means scroll or document. As a verb, the lexicon ascribes a list of meanings to the latter root, such as to account, to count, to reckon, to recount, to relate and to rehearse. SPIRVTh are therefore accountings, reckonings, relatings etc. In other words, the word, which is never found in the singular in any version of the work, is simply a product of keeping an account or relating something. I prefer to the word reckoning, as it conveys a more deliberate intent than a simple description. So far things are rather straightforward, and there is no need to examine the letter-by-letter meaning of the word or its root. The latter simply conveys the transmission of knowledge as patterns of information. The next word should also be straightforward. Yet it has not been taken that way in the traditions that referenced the SY as source material.

Most commentators prefer the interpretation of BLIMH as the compound word BLI (without) and MH (what), interpreted as nothingness, or ineffable. Such a designation is likely at least one reason why the SPIRVTh have been mystified as worlds unto themselves rather than packets of knowledge (esoteric teachings). From the perspective of a concise text designed to convey advanced applications- as opposed to philosophical or religious abstractions- the paradoxical meaning is somewhat redundant despite the alluring Zen-like impression it conveys. The alternative interpretation of the word BLIMH parallels that of its preceding sister term. Namely, it is a noun form of the verb root BLM, meaning to restrain, to curb, to reign in. Literally, the term refers to muzzling. It is understandable that the former interpretation is preferred to the latter when mysterious Zen-like allusions are compared to a reference to some sort of bondage.

If we, however, look to the text itself- and this is obvious with the ERT- the fourth verse goes something like: “Ten Reckonings of Restraint: Restrain your mouth from speech; restrain your heart-mind from fantasy…” To those in the know, the reference is to the mental discipline necessary for successful contemplation. Certainly, a modern practitioner would think twice before associating meditation with muzzling the mouth and heart. The the necessity for at least a gentle curbing or reigning-in of the tendency to lose focus, on the other hand, is a necessity for anyone having attempted such a practice in any of its forms.

There is, moreover, the association between the concept of AIN and the ineffable. AIN is a term of indeterminate comprehension; one of those esoteric labels that asks for a deeper letter-by-letter analysis to its conventional meaning of negation. Interestingly BLIMH, AIN, and the standard expression LA are translated as terms of negation without much distinction between them. Something is lost in doing that, however, and that something is context. Rather than practicing simplicity we engage in a selective reductionism that ends up backfiring. Perhaps BLIMH does have a double meaning, emphasizing that the SPIRVTh are not things, even as it conveys some sort of reigning in. Regardless, in today’s QBLH we end up with circles forming a pattern that is either mapped on a human body like the cakras of Indian Yoga; or used to map anything and everything but what a straightforward interpretation would give: paths of wisdom as actual esoteric teachings.

In contrast, AIN is anything but a simple no or nothing. It represents a state of advanced contemplation, emerging from the practice of reigning in our common mental habits. This will be discussed in greater detail in subsequent installments regarding the twelve verses pertaining to the ten reckonings of restraining. Suffice it to say that of the aforementioned verses, the first six describe practices and fundamentals of contemplation that serve as a prerequisite for the actual ten steps or paths of advanced esoteric cultivation. This is where the text reference AIN, and where by rendering it as an esoteric term in itself instead of a simple negative, the meaning of the verses in the context of esoteric cultivation is much clearer.

To anyone familiar with such practices, it goes without saying that the intricate subtleties one must master for even the basic steps cannot be conveyed in a few lines, however concise or condensed. The “manual” that is the SY was more likely addressed to the teacher rather than the student; a kind of reference frame from which to elaborate for the special case of each individual. In addition, if a community of esoteric practice was under severe social stress- as in being under siege or some other form of acute and violent persecution- a few short verses may have been all that could be put into writing in the hopes that later generations could build upon that very basic foundation. This is mere speculation, of course, but not without some basis in the history of the period the original was thought to be compiled (the first or second century of the Common Era).

In the next installment we will organize the twelve verses of interest into three sections. This will facilitate the exploration of the particulars of the esoteric system our analysis will be revealing. The teachings are not limited to the ten accounts, and may constitute one of the earliest formal methods of internal alchemy on record for Western civilization. This wasn’t so much lost or repressed, but instead hidden in plain sight until the Earliest Recoverable Text extracted its core meaning from centuries of gloss.