Schoolmen well could laugh at the alchemical doctrine of the first matter so long as the various elements of chemistry remained indivisible. Now, however, they know that the ancient alchemists were right; for all the so-called elements are composed of positive electric charges, called positrons, and negative electric charges, called electrons, which are positive and negative concentrations of the universal field, commonly called ether.
The nucleus of an atom embraces one or more proton, which is a combination of positrons and electrons having one more positron than electron, and thus carrying a positive electric charge. The nucleus of an atom may also embrace one or more neutrons, which is a combination of an equal number of positrons and electrons, and is thus electrically neutral.
Around the nucleus, to balance the positive charge on each proton, revolve as many electrons as there are protons in the nucleus. The number of protons in the nucleus is the element’s atomic number. Uranium, the heaviest natural element, has 92 protons. Remove four of these and the result is radium, which has 88 protons. From uranium remove 10 protons, or from radium remove six protons, and the result is lead, which has 82 protons. From uranium remove 13 protons, or from lead remove three protons, and the result is gold, which has 79 protons. From gold remove 53 protons and the result is iron, which has 26 protons. From iron remove 25 protons and the result is hydrogen, which has only one proton, and is the lightest chemical element.
The usual approach of the alchemist to the problem of transmutation, however, was not the attempt to knock protons from an atom having more than the desired metal. Instead, the attempt was made to build up the precious metal by bringing together, under proper circumstances, other metals that would furnish electrons and protons in proper number and under such conditions that these protons and electrons would enter into combination in the numerical proportions of the desired metal. If gold was desired it was necessary to furnish 79 protons and 79 electrons. Although not all the electrons and protons of metals thus brought to the combination might enter into the final product, enough must be available that would enter into the process to build up the necessary 79 pairs.
But merely bringing together silver and lead and tin and other ingredients does not produce gold. The proper ingredients must be present in certain proportions, it is true. But before being transformed into gold they must be reduced to a state which makes recombination of the protons and electrons possible. This is called reducing them to the first matter. The energy used in the process is variously called the universal solvent, the alcahest, the sophic fire, the supreme secret of alchemy, azoth, and the Water of Pythia.
In metallic alchemy the first matter is, of course, field, commonly called ether. And the force applied must be of an electromagnetic nature. It must be an energy which is capable temporarily of overcoming the affinity of the positrons and electrons for each other. These building blocks of the atom must be freed from their present attractions so that they may recombine in a different arrangement.
In spiritual alchemy we are dealing with something still more recondite. We are dealing with spiritual elements. They therefore must be reduced to their spiritual components. That is, a force must be applied that so overcomes their previous internal attachments that they are free to recombine in a different arrangement. This energy, for want of a better name, we term the spiritual light.
To better illustrate what I mean, let us have recourse to simple mathematics. Let us suppose, for example, that the transcendent gold for which we seek is represented by the number 1. The alchemist, then, let us say, has at hand only fractions, representing the other elements from which synthetically he hopes to produce gold. After much research and study he may decide that there are three fractions in his possession that if properly combined will give him the desired gold.
Let us assume these three fractions, representing metals, are 1/2, 1/3, and 1/6. Each of these fractions is a distinct numerical element, differing from the other two. Try as we may we find it impossible to combine them, while they still express their individuality, into one element. Merely to add them as they stand is to produce only a mechanical mixture. Thus do metals, if added together without being first reduced to the first matter, united, not in transmutation, but in an alloy.
But if we reduce these three fractions to their first matter, to a common denominator, they may be added together to give a new and distinct individuality. That is, they may be transmuted. Thus reduced 1/2 becomes 6/12, 1/3 becomes 4/12, and 1/6 becomes 2/12. Now added together their sum is 12/12. This is no longer spoken of as a fraction, but is the integer, number 1. Here the number 12 is the universal solvent. The alcahest on the mental plane is the astral light. On the spiritual plane it is the spiritual light. As in this instance we reduced to twelfths, so in like manner the alchemist operating on any plane seeks to reduce his metals by using the common denominator, or Water of Pythia, of that plane.