A Modern Alchemical View of the Philosopher's Stone

by Richard and Iona Miller (aka Philo Stone), ©1981

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We all have an Observer Self, which dispassionately looks at ourselves from an elevated perspective.  It is from the eyes of this self that we "see" into the visionary world.  The scientist is a diminutive form of this unbiased viewer which is archetypal in nature.

In mysticism, the observer observes himself, in science, the world of things.  The observation disturbs the experiment and uncertainty is created in the measurement.  Within all observable phenomena there exists that part which is not empirically observed.  This is primarily due to the choice of position in observation (location in space--viewpoint).  The unconscious of the observer influences the result of the experiement despite any conscious intent.

The mystic has a priori ideas about the spiritual nature of reality.  His observer-bias leads him to experience his spiritual world within his own cultural metaphors.  It is a sort of  "I wouldn't have seen it, if I hadn't believed it" consciousness.  The beliefs are more fundamental than, and condition, the experiential consciousness-journeys the aspirant enjoys.

The marriage of psyche and spirit means a blending of rational and intuitive styles of consciousness, a dance of mutuality where each enhances the other.  The word, 'psychology', is composed of the roots psyche and logos.  It is an interaction between the imaginative anima and psychological intellect.  Anima consciousness mediates the implicate order, logos allows us to articulate on limited, or explicate, aspects of existence.  In its attempts to explain, it gives voice to soul.  The logos principle gives speech to psyche.  Therefore, the mandate of psychology is to harken to the speech of the soul.

The secret and key of psychological work requires the airy imagination of the soul, that is, the capacity of imagining events "outside" of the natural bodily perspective of empirical and material literalism but in regard to a subtle or fantasy body of psychic reality.  Being-in-soul requires being in a body too, but this body is built of soul stuff; it is a "breath body."  Fantasy images are this stuff, this "subtle body."  The key to the entire psychological opus...is body-building via imagination.(1)

This body-building is a creative act of fantasy.  Within it, the many do not become one but become psychic material.  An example of this process is memory.  Anima and matter unite when psychic experiences are encoded in the brain cells of the physical body, or any cells.  Psychic experiences encompass all the manifestations of the imaginal life: there is fantasy in behavior, emotions, thoughts, convictions, etc.  When you de-literalize your own fundamental beliefs about body, self, and world you learn to see through the mundane aspects of existence into the depths of its archetypal meaning and value.

Karl Pribram has suggested that memory is not stored in a particular cell, but is enfolded over the whole.  This storage system resembles a hologram in its function.  It might be considered as an information-processing system, but Pribram suggsts that it is probably best not to speak of information-processing, but of image-processing.  The term 'information' suggests that the sensory input has become divided into sections or alternatives, whereas image-processing implies a more holistic mechanism at work.

In therapy, this is why experiential therapies work on trauma.  By moving through the imagery of what the experience is like, catharsis becomes possible.  The image may be visual or visceral--it is a multi-sensory gestalt which includes all aspects of the psychophysical being.  One example is muscle memory, or embedded tissue memory.  Under imagery processing techniques these memories become available for review and transformation.

This holographic system is one view which is part of the more general "holographic concept of reality."  In this new existential paradigm, we are not separate chemical entities, but interconnected webworks of wave-fronts in space.  This is why, from the perspective of psyche, self and environment tend to meld together and synchronicity becomes the norm.  The image is psyche and all forms of perception come through imagery.  Consciousness always relates through metaphors of body-perception.  It "sees" or "hears" with inner analogs of the natural senses.  This connection of mind and body is rightly called psychosomatic.

Physicist David Bohm comments on the nature of mind and body:

In the implicate order we have to say that mind enfolds matter in general and therefore body in particular.  Similarly, the body enfolds not only the mind but also in some sense the entire material universe...So we do not say that mind and body causally affect each other, but rather that the movements of both are the outcome of related projections of a common higher-dimensional ground.

As a human being takes part in the process of this totality, he is fundamentally changed in the very activity in which his aim is to change that reality which is the content of his consciousness.  To fail to take this into account must inevitably lead one to serious and sustained confusion in all that one does.(2)

The realm of imagination is psychic reality.  'Psychic' means physical and mental.  A life lived within the realm of imagination experiences the relationship between soul and spirit.  This may be seen as a psychosomatic activity which supercedes a one-sided rationalism.
(1) James Hillman, "Anima II," Spring Journal 1974, Spring Pub., Dallas.
(2) David Bohm, WHOLENESS AND THE IMPLICATE ORDER, pp. 209-10.


Hermetic philosophy combines diverse disciplines.  Hermes is the archetype of Magick, alchemy, and psychology.  As physics drops its antiquated Apollonic orientation, it too may be seen as a mercurial path delving into the unknown.  Science, in general, has traditionally been ascribed to the realm of Mercury.

Whether known as Hermes, Mercury, or Thoth, this archetypal power is Lord of Magick.  He is a guide of souls into the underworld, or psyche.  He is also a messenger of the gods, or archetypes.  Communication between gods and men is generally through a Hermetic process.

Hermes is known as the maker of synchronicity. Personalities dominated by Hermes' perspective seem to be interested in the hidden side of things, the implicate aspect.  They are carriers of the secret lore, of things that aren't on the surface.  They expound and speculate about the nature of the unknown, transcending the ordinary boundaries of human understanding.

In its highest form, this Hermetic motivation may be seen in the activities of the physicists, psychologists, and occultists.  In alchemy, Hermes is known as the spirit Mercurius.

Mercurius is a relevant symbol in our investigation of the Philosopher's Stone.  The nexus of the Diamond Body is formed by superimposition of ALEPH and TAU.  In Figure  , Aleph is seen as the vertical axis with Tau being the center point, corresponding to the heart-center.  Jung quotes from the "Aurelia Occulta" which calls Mercurius "Azoth":

For he is the A and O that is everywhere present.  The philosophers have adorned (him) with the name Azoth, which is composed of the A and Z of the Latins, and the alpha and omega of the Greeks, and the Aleph and Tau of the Hebrews.

Israel Regardie, in THE TREE OF LIFE, (pg. 62) has equated Azoth with the Anima Mundi, which is the World Soul of Alchemy.  He relates Azoth directly to electromagnetic (EM) fields.  The phenomenon was known in the past as the Astral Light.

Mercurius, as an arcane substance, has diverse elements.  The identity between Mercurius and the Philosopher's Stone becomes evident through the key words which describe him.  This opens speculation on the relationship between Mercurius and the Diamond Body and V.E.M.  The multiplex contents include:

analogue of Christ
beginning, middle, end of work
child of the sun and moon
chthonic part of godhead
consists of opposites
husband and wife
life principle of tree
personification of unconscious
prima materia
redeeming psychopomp
represents individuation process
revealer of divine secrets
spirit and soul of bodies
ultima materia

Mercurius is also cognate with the anima mundi.  Since Mercurius is the soul of the gold and silver, the conjunction of these two must be accomplished.  This is the sacred marriage of the magician and his magickal sister.  Mercury, as lapis, is prima materia and ultima materia: the goal of the Great Work.  This magickal child is the intitial and end product.  He is 0, The Fool, whose brand of lunacy James Hillman (1980) so aptly describes:

Insanity is essential to soul-making...brighter awareness through lunacy.  Alchemical soul-making proposes that the final idea of Sun conjoined with Moon means nothing less and no other than a conditon of being in which solar brilliance and awareness and moon-madness are marvelously conjoined.  The Mysterium Coniunctionis is illumined lunacy.(1)

We can develop both our mediumistic sensitivities and our psychological awareness.  Thus, through meditation and imagination, we become adequate vessels to contain relationships with archetypal energies or powers.  Because of the fundamental nature of psyche and the archetypal patterns, we can neither do nor imagine anything that is outside of the scope of the Gods.

In his four-fold nature, Mercurius quadratus, represents the lapis with the four elements.  These elements correspond with the cardinal directions.  They could also be seen as the four Jungian functions: intuition, thinking, feeling, and sensation.  Mercurius forms the mid-point of the cosmic quaternity and represents the quinta essentia, the unification of the four elements.

This enfolds the implicate essence of the physical world, i.e. anima mundi, a modern representation of the Self, Self-as-Many.  Hermetic philosophy attached the greatest importance to the Stone.  Its importance surpassed all other concepts and symbols.

Alchemists strove for total union of opposites in symbolic form.  This may be viewed metaphorically as the Vector Equilibrium Matrix.  This union was characterized as material and spiritual, living as well as inert, masculine/feminine, young/old, and morally neutral.

This state is created through interaction of man and God.  It is the re-union of the spirit and the body, which takes place in the retort, or vessel.  The transformation culminates in the Chymical Marriage.  Insights gained should be made real.  The value of the Stone remains latent if it is not properly applied.

Both the soul and Mercurius were considered to be round in alchemy.  Remember, the Diamond Body matrix represents 12 around 1 closest-packed-spheres.  Jung states that "In alchemy Mercurius is the rotundum, par excellence."  Mercurius represents totality and wholeness.  Gerhard Dorn, seventeenth century alchemist, called Mercurius "the true hermaphroditic Adam and microcosm."  Mercurius is thus seen as androgynous.

Mercurius, as the anima mundi, is inherent in all things in a latent state.  The anima mundi is the feminine component of Mercurius.  The conjunction is not always a direct union.   The soul mediates between body and spirit, through the medium of Mercurius.  Jung elaborates on his nature in Mysterium Coniunctionis:

In my special study of the subject I have pointed out that outwardly Mercurius corresponds to quicksilver but inwardly he is a "deus terrenus" and an anima mundi--in other words, that part of God which, when he "imagined" the world, was as it were left behind in his Creation or, like the Sophia of the Gnostics, got lost in Physis.  Mercurius has the character which Dorn ascribes to the soul.  He is "good with the good, evil with the evil," and thus occupies a middle position morally...In a psychological sense Mercurius represents the unconscious, for this is to all apearances that "spirit" which comes closest to organic matter and has all the paradoxical qualities attributed to Mercurius.(2)

We can summarize the various qualities of Mercurius as the Philospher's Stone.  These key descriptors must be satisfied by our contemporary model of the Stone.  The lapis is a double thing formed of the union or coniunctio of opposites.  It is:

 1. called the androgyne and immortal child.

 2. the unchangeable quality of the union of spirit and matter.

 3. a rotundum, or round thing.

 4. central circle, which is stone, gem, and yet not (naught).

 5. composed of body and soul united to form a spirit.

 6. Mercurius, a living being; the product of an act of fertilization.

 7. fathered by the sun; mother is the moon.

 8. a babe, stone, or pearl.

 9. the mystical marriage: alchemist and his wife/soror mystica; wise man and prophetess; great mother and magician.  Coniunctio.

 10. able to multiply itself indefinitely (i.e. its geometry is expandable or contractable).

The Royal Marriage, or coniunctio is not accomplished by will.  The Diamond Body includes marriages or union of opposites in all directions, between top (ego) and bottom (Self), between the four directional points, yielding six connected vertices.  This figure is an octahedron.

The center is the point of immediate concern.  It represents the fine point of the soul.  It is both conscious and unconscious.  It is bi-sexual.  The transforming image combines opposites in one eloquent symbol.  The Diamond Body resolves the multiplicity of archetypes into ordered groupings in imaginal space.  This matrix, which extends in all directions including time, represents a diffuse awareness.

Psychologically, it creates and perpetuates a state of ultimate equilibration.  It is a natural preparation for death, freeing one of emotional entanglement.  A person who gains the ability to live with his instincts can also detach from them in a natural way.  This form of integration is not heroic.  There is no self-conquest toward perfection, but self-acceptance and relationship.

The Diamond Body visualization technique co-ordinates the manifold contents of the psyche.  Realization of ALEPH-TAU unites us with the unconscious levels of our being.  It is an ultimate aesthetic act.  It sets up the conditions necessary for "immortality" of the soul by giving it access to sacred time and space.

The figure graphically depicted as the octahedron-within-a-cube (The Diamond Body) is a minimum structural matrix of the universe.  The vector equilibrium matrix is a reciprocal depiction.  Through it man is able to metaphorically experience macrocosm and microcosm.

The Diamond Body is a generator of magickal energy.  It is an imaginal time/space machine.  When the magician imagines himself within the matrix and centers in ALEPH-TAU, he is co-equivalent with Hermes/Mercurius--he is Lord of Magick.

(1) James Hillman, "Silver and the White Earth", Spring 1980, Spring Pub., Dallas.
(2) C.G. Jung, MYSTERIUM CONIUNCTIONIS, p. 490-91.


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