Revised: June 2021
Of the Qualities of the Vessel and Furnace
The means and manner of working we have already determined. Now we will speak of the Vessel and Furnace, of what sort, and of what materials they must be made. Whereas Nature by a natural fire decocts the metals in the mines and she denies the like decoction to be made without a vessel fit for it. If it is our purpose to imitate Nature in concocting, why do we reject her vessel?
Nature, that is, through the Universal and ‘personal’ subconscious, “meditates” the chakras on the surface of the glass vessel. She does not “decoct” the “completed” vessel itself, except in a crude sense. The Glass Vessel is the human aura, which has been present since birth, but it, too, must be refined through meditation, and imagination. The 'image' of a perfect vessel in meditation is required. The “ragged edged” of the natural aura must be refined to bring the entire vessel to its perfect proportions of five units wide by eight units high (5/8ths, the Golden Mean). This is a perfect egg-shaped body of light substance. At a certain point in our evolution self-consciousness takes up the intention to cooperate with nature to perfect the aura. Self-consciousness does not do this directly, but through a series of meditation over time. Other authors of the Qabalah name this light body, כלי, klee, 'vase, or vessel.' Technically, and Qabalistically speaking, any desire can form a klee, a vessel or body of sorts, for the purpose of receiving light. At the level of the Magnum Opus, and the True Alchemy, however, the klee is a much larger body of imagined light-substance forming a very real egg-shaped body of Light surrounding the physical body. The human physical body is actually the 'yolk' of the Phoenix within this egg-shaped vase, the Glass Vessel. The gematria of כלי is 60, which equals the Latin, balneum, the 'bath.' The yolk is 'bathed' within the vessel, where the King and His Bride are conjoined.
Let us first of all see in what place the metals are made. It does appear evidently in the places of Minerals, that in the bottom of the mountain there is heat continually alike, the nature of which is always to ascend, and in the ascension it always dries up, and coagulates the thicker and grosser water hidden in the belly, or veins of the earth, or mountain, into ARGENT-VIVE. And if the mineral fatness of the same place arising out of the earth be gathered warm together in the veins of the earth, it runs through the mountain and becomes SULPHUR. And as a man may see in the foresaid veins of the place, that SULPHUR engendered of the fatness of the earth (as is before touched) meets with ARGENT-VIVE (as it is also written) in the veins of the earth, begetting the thickness of mineral water. There, through the continual equal heat in the mountain, in long process of time diverse metals are engendered, according to the diversity of the place.
The metals, like everything, are made of the universal mineral substance, AIN SUPh AUR, the Limitless Light. It is referenced as a mineral, but no mineral, and as a mountain (of spirit). It is simply indescribable (a stone, but no stone...a water that wets not the hands, and so on). In the previous chapter it was explained how Argent Vive and Sulphur are engendered by the co-mixture of prana (becoming Argent Vive) with chylus (becoming sulphur). “The continual, equal heat in the mountain” is the steady, sensible process of moderation in study, prayer, meditation, moral life, and sensible foodstuffs, by which “in a long process of time diverse metals are engendered.” Eventually, the energy flowing through all the chakras becomes balanced, transmuted, and sublimated.
What is a chakra? And how are they formed? Follow nature. Observe a caterpillar’s cocoon. Such a cocoon is formed of a single strand of silk, continually wrapped about the caterpillar. The single strand is barely visible by itself. We can see it mostly when sunshine reflects off it, it is that fine. However, repeated rounds of this single fiber, continually crossing itself, eventually wraps the caterpillar in a soft, tight, silk cocoon.
So, too, a single fiber-strand of invisible light energy, continually wrapped around the human body, forms an egg-shaped body of light. This is created and performed at profoundly deep levels of the sub-conscious, bordering the super-conscious, and prior to any physical incarnation. Alchemists name this depth of consciousness regio lucis, the 'region of light.' Some may refer to it as the astral plane (level). Qabalah calls the region the World of Yetzirah. It is the region where spirits descending to matter are incorporated. This single strand of light fiber, criss-crossing itself repeatedly, forms hubs of light energy at the intersections. There are hundreds of these intersections. But there are seven major intersections through which human consciousness perceives the physical phenomenon of this world, and defines its personality vehicle. The 'hub' intersections appear on the surface of the Glass Vessel as blurs of light with strands of radiation that appear like spokes of a wheel. The Hindu sages, therefore, called them chakras which means 'wheels.' Native Meso-American shamans labeled these intersections 'assemblage points' in that a considerable amount of light power is concentrated or assembled about these intersections. Generic humanity is unaware of this phenomenon, but more are becoming aware. The raw light energy flowing through these 'wheels' in people not concerned with the alchemical process is considered 'base' by genuine alchemists, shamans, Qabalists, magicians and wizards. Consistent meditation eventually heals and hones the light energy flowing through that aspect of the personality from the habitual subconscious involution qualities, to super-conscious, evolution qualities.
And in these Mineral places, you will find a continual heat. For this cause we are of right to note that the external mineral mountain is everywhere shut up within itself, and stony, for if this heat should escape, there should never be engendered any metal. Therefore, if we intend to imitate Nature, we must have such a furnace like unto the Mountains, not in greatness, but in continual heat, so that the fire put in, when it ascends, may find no vent, but that the heat may beat upon the vessel being close shut, containing in it the matter of the Stone. This vessel must be round and with a small neck and must be made of glass or some earth, representing the nature or close knitting together of glass; the mouth whereof must be signed or sealed with a covering of the same matter, or with lute. And as in the mines, the heat does not immediately touch the matter of SULPHUR and ARGENT-VIVE, because the earth of the mountain comes everywhere between. So this fire must not immediately touch the vessel, containing the matter of the foresaid things in it, but it must be put into another vessel, shut close in the like manner, so the temperate heat may touch the matter above and beneath, indeed wherever it may be, more aptly and fitly. Whereupon Aristotle says, in the light of lights, that Mercury is to be concocted in a three-fold vessel and that the vessel must be of most hard Glass, or (which is better) of earth possessing the nature of Glass.
The re-channeled reproductive energy heats the inside of the glass vessel. “Our glass” is the human aura – three-fold since it is composed of mercury, sulphur, and salt that co-mix and play within its limits. The space or area between the physical body (yolk) and the vessel’s shell philosophers compare with the white of an egg, the albumin. Alchemist Sir George Ripley exhorts us concerning the white water or liquor:
"...keep this water by itself in a glass well stopped...this liquor is called our blessed liquor, to be kept in a Glass Vessel very close stopped...keep pure by itself, it being called the basis and foundation of the work, Mars, our white fixed earth, or philosophers' Iron."1
Within the hermetically sealed (through sexual continence) limits of the glass vessel, re-channeled reproductive force from purified iron, the Mars center, directs heat into the white liquor. The liquor slowly turns from the “watery state” into a humid, white, smoke-like humor or vapor called “humidity.” This is the alchemical bath wherein the virgin seed of sulphur maturates the yolk. It actually appears like this from a fourth dimensional viewpoint. It is sometimes seen in the three dimensional world by those sufficiently clairvoyant. The humid bath creates a moist heat, a sweat, on the inside surface of the aura. Alchemical writers describe the glittery effect from corpuscular droplets of light on the inside surface of the glass vessel as “fishes’ eyes.” Of this, alchemist Nicholas Delphinas wrote and illustrated in The Book Of Lambspring. Under figure XIV is the caption:
“Here the Father sweats profusely, while oil and the true tincture of the sages flow forth from him.”2
In that picture a crowned king lies convalescing or sleeping in a cubical, canopied bed. The canopy suggests something inner. This is the stage after Saturn has swallowed his child (the Central Self within the Cube absorbs the separative child personality). Text accompanies the illustration:
"Here the Father sweats on account of the Son, and earnestly beseeches God, Who has everything in His hands, Who creates, and has created all things, to bring forth His Son from His body, and to restore him to his former life. God hearkens to his prayers, and bids the Father lie down and sleep. Then God sends down rain from heaven to the earth from the shining stars. It was a fertilizing, silver rain, which bedewed and softened the Father's Body. Succour us, Lord, at the end, that we may obtain Thy gracious gift."3
The Dew of Heaven (AIN SUPh AUR outside the vessel) is the “fertilizing, silver rain.” The dew comes from the stars, Masloth, the Highway of Stars, Chokmah, and the Virgin Sulphur. When AIN SUPh AUR, the universal First Matter outside the glass vessel, matches or aligns with the threadlike light-fibers inside the aura, perception is achieved. It is so explained in the Yaqui Indian tradition throughout that series of books recorded by Carlo Castaneda (see bibliography). It is, however, in perfect agreement with Western alchemical traditions. In The One Hundred Alchemical Aphorisms, Baro Ubigerus states under Aphorism 41:
"Our mercurial water has such sympathy with the astrums, that, if not kept very close, and hermetically sealed, it will in a very short time, like a winged serpent, fly away in a wonderful manner to its own sphere, carrying along with it all the elements and principles of metals, and not leaving so much as one single drop, or the least remainder, behind."4
The light-fibers within and without the vessel are the same. What the aspirant does through the alchemical process (more accurately, what is done for him and to him by Almighty God) is gather up and close off a portion of the Limitless Light and separate it from the vast, volatile, boundless expanse. The separated portion receives a cleansing inside the vessel because the First Matter, in its original state, is a citrine “gross, vile substance.” The moist heat of the re-channeled reproductive force “bathes” or washes the Subjectum within the vessel. This magnetizes the light-fibers within. The aura changes. When it is sufficiently changed, energy is re-aligned. If the cocoon is not hermetically sealed, there exists no “hard glass” edge to the vessel or klee, and all energies dissipate into the vast unknown. This is described as the “steam, vapors or smoke” escaping from the vessel prematurely. In a relative sense, it is exactly what happens to a person’s most brilliant, creative imagery that conforms to cosmic law, for example. One gets an idea out of Akasha, the Universal Sub-conscious “mind-stuff” equally diffused throughout space. Rather than keep silent concerning the image, and begin to work it himself, he brags about the ideas indiscriminately and loses the energy momentum to bring the idea through the planes into physical manifestation. He drops the project after having given it a boost of his personal energy. It fades back into Akasha (the collective unconscious) to be picked up by another life sufficiently receptive and energetically inclined to make it real in the world of form. Then the first person, upon seeing his image manifest as some object or process, brags later that he thought of it first.
In brief, the vessel and furnace Bacon is concerned with in this little chapter is the etheric aura surrounding the physical body.
1 Sir George Ripley, Five Preparations of the Philosopher's Mercury (Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1989), 7.
2 Nicholas Barnaud Delphinas, The Book Of Lambspring (Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1986), 33.
3 Ibid., 32.
4 Baro Urbigerus, One Hundred Alchemical Aphorisms (Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1986), 8.