When we compare ourselves to the people of past civilizations it’s easy to discount their impact on our lives because most people today have little to no understanding of the foundations that were laid. The concept of writing, mathematics, and science itself all have building blocks that were first placed more than a millennium ago and we’ve continued to build upon the little that managed to make its way to Western Culture since their conception, as far back as 5,000 years ago. But what if those ideas had never been conceived? Then it goes without saying that nothing would be as we know it because nothing comes from nothing. Something would be here but it would look completely different from what we know today.
If you were to be asked what’s the greatest – most impactful invention to have ever been created, some would say perhaps the wheel, maybe the printing press, or even the light bulb. While these were all significant, they still exist on layers deposited in prior periods. In fact, it can be easily argued that the greatest foundational invention would have to have been the invention of the alphabet itself, which archeologists believe occurred when migrant workers from Cannan came together with the Egyptians at a temple in Serabit, Egypt, somewhere around 1820 BC. The temple was built to honor the Goddess of Turquoise known as Hathor, and the combined cultural collaboration sparked the creation of all of today’s alphabets from the Middle East to across the Arabic Mediterrane and Western Culture as a whole. It started with hyroglifs which essentially are symbols that represent products (barley, wheat, olive oil) being traded and taxed. The first step of discovering that invention could therefore be described as the process of creating symbols to represent objects being produced in the area. What’s interesting here is that because of trade and the rise of agriculture, both Egypt and Mesopotamia developed their own symbols at about the same time. The second process was to use the symbols not just as a representation of the objects but to use the sound made in the pronunciation of the objects the symbols represent. For example, the symbol for “bull” is and it’s pronounced “Alif”. The bull symbol, therefore, takes the “A” sound from “Alif”. By combining different symbols words can be created from the combination of those sounds and this simple, but the revolutionary process is known as the Rebus Principle. Once this occurred, it spread across the ancient world and now represents the building blocks for all written languages of the Middle East, Arabic Mediterrane, and Western Culture to name just three regions. Without Rebus, there is no written language.
The Lost Art of Alchemy
While the Rebus principle and its foundational structure were derived organically, alchemy is a process that originated in the great temples of Egypt, by the ruling class. For millennia, man, having heard myths about alchemy, has pondered the possibilities of its use. We’ve been presented with the fairytale ideas of incantations and spells capable of turning hard metals such as lead (Pd) into gold (Au) within popular culture. Curious inventors since the 1400s have also been trying to discover the formula to do just that, but they’ve missed the base understanding of what alchemic processes actually work to transform. At its base, these processes were designed to transform thought into higher levels of thought, not necessarily metals into other metals.
Origin of the Alchemic Principle:
The concept of Mental Alchemy dates back to ancient beliefs when students traveled across the Mediterranean to countries from Greece to Egypt, in a quest for the knowledge of the ages. One such doctrine was known as the Universal Principles of Reality which, in 1908, was captured by “New Thought” pioneer William Walker as a compilation of 7 Hermetic principles we now know as the Kybalion. Before however moving on to further explain how the alchemist leverage these 7 principles, it is important to understand what is meant by the wisdom of the ages.
Wisdom of the ages: Gradual advancement of thoughts
As modern humans living in the 21st century with cars, cell phones, and missions to Mars, it’s important to note that as a civilization, it has taken us roughly 600 years from the 1400s (The Renaissance) to the present day, for Western Culture to take from the little that remained of the ancient understandings (sciences, mathematics, the study of natural forces, and philosophy) to arrive at our current state of understanding. Just 600 years? Now, pause for a moment and take into consideration the fact that man emerged through the evolutionary process with our current cognitive capabilities, as far back as 230,000 years ago. This means a quarter of a million years ago homosapiens existed in Africa with the same brain size and processing capacity as that which we possess today. They could, however, not have had the same cognitive ability as present-day humans simply because that processing capability grows collectively through the layering of experiences. Man did not go from caves directly to condos. It was gradual learning of what a shelter is, before moving to techniques of construction that moved us from caves to lean tools, shacks, longhouses, etc., a gradual layering of understandings. This means our processing ability was enabled through a continual layering of experience thus providing the fuel for adaptation and survival through that span of time. If you advance that evolutionary process to the year 3,250 BC into the Nile Delta of Egypt then we arrive at a civilization that sprang along the banks of the river Nile – One people, one coalesced form of communication, culture, and belief system that existed alongside many others.
While we have achieved so much in our 600 years of the existence of Western Culture, 3,250 years before the emergence of the Christian church, that same sense of adventure and quest for understanding and survival, had emerged in both the Greeks and Egyptians and continued for more than 3,000 years up through the years connected to the birth of Christ.
This means layers of experiences and the development of deeper understandings of not just agriculture, astronomy, and astrology but also the esoteric operations of the universe. When you don’t have TVs and cell phones, you have a lot more time available in life to observe and contemplate and that’s exactly what the ancient oracles did. Practiced by the ruling classes, the teachings of the occult transferred down through generations of dynasties each one adding additional levels of understanding and protecting those teachings – preserving them for those who could understand. In fact, the word “hermetic” means sealed, airtight, or secretive for that reason.
Now consider man’s present-day ability to build upon ideas as modern man has done over the past 600 years and apply that to the ancient world. With such a vast amount of time they had for focused study, it is impossible to not gain insights and understandings of those focused areas, that are far above our ability to understand even today in Western Culture. For example, the ancient people possessed the ability to cut, transport, and build megalithic structures the size that would pose challenges for modern engineering today, 5,000 years later.
When combined with philosophies captured by Greeks on all levels of contemplation, these pieces of wisdom revealed a path. That path led to their understanding of patterns and alignments between geometry, architecture, medicine, meditation, and the ability to perform what today could only be believed to be the impossibilities of the ages. Today, we’ve lost those understandings of discovery that would have shed light on what is truly possible, when all of the dots are available for easy connection. The Principle of Correspondence mentions that you cannot get something from nothing and from something will always come something sub-similar. These breadcrumbs are the lawyers of sub-similar experiences that build upon themselves to provide the raw ingredients for all of our ideas. Without visibility to those layers, it becomes impossible to understand the origins and therefore the ideas themselves.
Edward Leedskalnin was one man who appears to have rediscovered aspects of those lost traditions when in 1923 he worked to build a castle known today as Coral Castle. It was constructed in Florida by Leedskalnine, with just very basic tools and little else that we would recognizable as heavy construction equipment today. Somehow, however, he was able to move 30-ton blocks of coral, all at night. He did this entirely by himself with what he described as a “Perpetual Motion Holder”. When Leedskalnin died, he took the secrets of Coral Castle with him to the grave. As a matter of fact, many men of faith are known for saying “the wealthiest place in the world is the cemetery” exactly because of Leedskalnins and all of the other innovators who have died over the millennium, taking their knowledge with them to the grave. Many believe Leedskalnin had arcane knowledge of magnetism and “earth energies” similar to what other peoples from around the world are believed to have possessed: Egyptians, the Incas of Machu Picchu in Peru, etc.
Ancient Egyptian Hermetic Principles are the secret ingredients for discovering new possibilities
Back to the discussion of Hermetic Teachings, these principles date back to the late Dynasties of the Egyptian Empire (roughly 20 AD) during its waning days of the Ptolemaic dynasty. This was at a period of time when philosophers began to recognize both the importance of those teachings and the changing political landscape as the Romans began to exercise greater power over Egypt. Philosophers came together from around the ancient world, to document the traditions and practices to ensure that they would be preserved for humanity. Then they were lost.
It was the Roman Catholic Church that, through deliberate action, worked to erase their existance along with the Oracle of Delphi in Greece and all other esoteric beliefs throughout the 4th and 5th centuries. In fact, many ancient occultist practices were either sent underground or lost entirely as Hermetic principles, only to re-emerge as teachings in every Abrahamic faith that exists today. This is because these principles represent a foundational structure for how we experience the world, whether we know it or not.
The concept of Alchemy is in fact one such principle that can be seen in actions and quotes throughout captured from the ancient world and lie dormant in translation. The Great Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is just one such ruler who was well aware of the practices of the ages. Somewhere around 161 BC, he once wrote,
“Our actions may be impeded . . . but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances the action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
While the words are potent without context, this statement is even more powerful for its Alchmetic origins. It provides evidence that Marcus Aurelius was both a believer in Alchemy, a practitioner of the Hermetic Principles, and, more specifically, possessed a deep understanding of the Principle of Correspondence. Aurelius in his many campaigns, often recognized the odds of potential defeat as he advanced towards battle but he was able to transmute those thoughts into solutions for victory. To better explain, it is important to know that Aurelius was a wealthy Roman citizen who would have added all of the privileges his position would have afforded him. He was also a scholar and therefore understood the importance of his education. As such, he would have studied under Greek philosophers in Egypt as it had been controlled by the Greeks since Alexander the Great founded and built the city of Alexandria back in 305 BC. While the Romans considered the Greeks to be feminine, they greatly valued and respected their formulas and practices of thought and creativity. They knew of their abilities in being able to “Think Differently”. Training in the Hermetic teachings would have been a very important part of the curriculum for the up-and-coming emporer who had been virtually hand-selected by the former Emporer Hadrian. The development of skills necessary to be a great Emporer would have been one of the most important aspects of Marcus’ training.
Marcus Aurelius would have learned the Principle of Vibration in that everything changes constantly. This principle would have taught him to understand that nothing remains constant and that if you can recognize the direction of that change then you can leverage the forces creating the change to influence the direction.
He would have also understood the influence of the principle of Rhythm in that everything occurs in cycles. Just as the heart beats in a rhythm, the season’s change, we are born, we grow, and we reach our peak before the decline. In Aurelius’ extensive military experience and in understanding warfare that happened in front of him, he would have had clear visibility to the pulsing and surging of the different units gaining and losing ground, areas opening as pressure was applied in some areas and relieved in others. Within his understanding of the principles, and the knowledge that everything operates according to cycles, he would have transcended that consideration and gained clarity to the impact of that rhythm. He would have automatically and instinctively worked to leverage it. He would have also known that rhythm aligns with the third principle of vibration. The key recognition here for Aurelius the alchemist is that by inherently embracing the cycles, he would have used the power of the 5th Principle of Polarity to focus extend, not on the overwhelming odds of defeat as Aurelius surely faced on occasion, but on the operation of triumph over a condition. In a subsequent statement to his most famous quote about the obstacle, he states:
“Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces—to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it—and makes it burn still higher.”
By understanding the circumstances as they were, in the situation that presented itself, the challenge would have been used as energy towards the solution. The Principle of Polarity states that everything has poles and those seemingly opposite things are actually the same, just existing at varying degrees. Marcus would have understood that the challenges being experienced and that on one end of the pole while at the opposite end lay the future, free of that challenge. By pursuing the end outcome that was sought, he knew that the challenge would create energy and fuel the development of solutions. Whatever is considered as part of the scenario becomes the fuel that energizes the solution. This occurs when the energy is focused away from the challenge and towards the solution sought with the end result being both a physical and mental action.
Brian Contnoir, a self-described alchemist, artist, and award-winning filmmaker in his latest film, The Kybalion, describes it this way. He suggests that from a rudimentary technique standpoint, it can be easy to understand how the architect can take the slide ruler, compass, T-Square, and other tools as well as geometric rules and theorems to perform exercises with pencil and paper to produce architectural designs on paper. The common point of note here is that everything in the universe can be aligned with common measures: inches; yards; cm, formulas, etc., because everything operates on rules. It’s the Principle of Cause and Effect that states chance is but another name for a rule that has not yet been discovered. By understanding the rules, It can therefore be understood that a practitioner of mental alchemy can become so skilled in the art of architecture that they can eventually move away from pencil and paper to produce designs directly in their heads. With practice, that person can also and easily become even more creative (released from the physical bounds of tools, measurements) where all designs remain in a cognitive state until the final designs are worked through before being placed on paper. This is a practice that Nicolas Tesla spoke regularly about. After he had reached a significant level of proficiency, he never designed anything on paper before he conceptually saw all of the working parts directly within his head. Only after that point did he capture them on paper for broadcast to the wider community.
Just like with Tesla and even Marcus Aurelius, Innovators use the same processes of mental alchemy to create. They are well aware of their space of knowledge and influence which means just as that architect would use the tools of their trade to capture and grasp the scale of measurement, the innovator using their tools of spreadsheets, project plans, sketch pads, formulas, and other ways by which parts can be measured against other parts, to produce ideas of measure. But that same innovator can also rise above the level of simple tools to use creative thought, experiments to transcend possibilities, and venture into areas never actually revealed – by incorporating reference points of experiences that had never been considered. It is because they work in the realm of the mind where obstacles and challenges are perceived as separate from their opposite poles of possibilities. The innovative alchemist either starts with:
- The least desired position of the pole, and focuses on it to leverage it as the starting point and as the fuel that moves him towards new possibilities. Facing a challenge and finding a solution to that challenge.
- Or the desired position of the pole, focus on the desired condition and being revealed the reference points of experience that connect the dots to a solution sought.
The innovator moves from an inner position of considering the obstacle – minimizing the risk of the possibility of defeat – to an outer position of focused attention on the outcome they desire – maximizing the opportunities and taking advantage of every lever that exists. In understanding that everything exists is in a state of polarity, just as every stick has two ends – all truths are dual. When the innovator becomes able to fix their mind on the principle of the opposite of what they are facing, the innovator can change the polarity and move it towards the state where he wants to be and reverse their own polarity.
People often seek inspiration for ideas directly within their line of sight without recognizing that it’s the diversity of views and perspectives, that power of the influence of your experience. Many people also operate so close to one end of the pole that they lose visibility to the fact that another end even exists. It’s a diversity of thought that directs the conclusions we draw from those experiences but when we operate too closely to one pole, that diversity is lost.
The Hermetic teachings themselves state that:
“The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of Understanding—The Kybalion.”
“When the pupil is ready to receive the truth, then will this little book come to him, or her. … The Law of Attraction, will bring lips and ear together – pupil and book in company. So mote it be!”
Remember, all Hermetic Principles (Mentalism, Correspondence, Vibration, Rhythm, Polarity, Cause and Effect, and Gender) work in harmony with each other. Many people will work to adopt 1 or 2 principles they feel will propel their lives forward by simply focusing on those laws or principles. Any serious practitioner of the Hermetic Teachings, however, will inherently understand that none work in isolation of the others. Attempting to apply one without the others is the equivalent of trying to fly a plane without windows. The effort would be fruitless. The seven principles work in harmony with the seven. If any are removed, harmony is lost and so too is understanding. The Universal Principles of Reality as captured in the Kybalion are just that, the fundamental building blocks of our cognitive experience and the understanding of these building blocks can open warehouse-sized doors that offer exponential opportunities for exploration. Entrepreneurs built steam engines to power an industrial revolution at the turn of the 18th century. It was the French innovator Nicolas Carnot (1796 – 1832) who examined the technology and worked to identify the laws that govern how steam creates energy -The First and Second laws of thermodynamics. His research led to the discovery that:
- Energy can be transformed from one form to another but can be neither created nor destroyed
- Energy will always disperse but the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease.
This is an example of how the entrepreneur leverages the steam engine to create things of production – motion – invention. It is the alchemist innovator who works to identify the laws that empower the opportunity and learns how to leverage those laws for their own bidding. It’s because they understand the principle of cause and effect in that everything operates according to processes or rules. By understanding the rules, the alchemist gains influence over the process.
So, new ideas and in turn innovation comes from the observation of experiences. Layers of experiences develop a deeper understanding of the “something”. Its when we transform our thought to higher levels, then we become open to even more discoveries. This is how future innovators leverage the process of Alchemy to create new and innovative things and you can do the same to advance your ideation journey.
Facebook : Think Different Nation
Instagram : Think Different Nation
Twitter : @TDN_Podcast