The three Gunas of eastern Vedic Philosophy are the three modes of material nature. It would seem strange to define a Vedic term in an alchemical glossary of the Western Tradition, but as the universe is one, many terms in occidental alchemy may be brought to light by traditions from all parts of the globe. These three modes of nature are exactly equivalent to the alchemical Mercury, Sulphur and Salt. When Life manifests into form, no matter what shape it takes, there are three main modes or qualities of its expression. The entire fourteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita is devoted to the description of these three qualities as it manifests through human personality. The first Vedic mode, called Sattva Guna, corresponds to the Alchemical Mercury. Sattva is translated most frequently as the 'Goodness or Intelligence' aspect of any one thing. The second quality, Rajas Guna, equivalent to Alchemical Sulphur, is frequently translated as 'Passion, Force or the Desire' aspect of the One. Lastly, Tamas Guna, equal to Alchemical Salt, translates as 'Inertia, Ignorance or the Body' quality.
These three Gunas, like the three Alchemical Principles, are defined in greater detail under their respective titles elsewhere in this site. Here they are treated as a whole, and generally. Every physical embodiment that can be seen, or remains unseen respective of the material plane, possesses all three modes or qualities, with any one predominating over the other two. If we are in the world and into worldly endeavors, our personalities are predominantly colored by one of these three modes.
Once again, Mexican Yaqui Indian knowledge agrees with both occidental and oriental classifications of personality expression. In The Power of Silence, Carlos Castaneda records a dialogue on pages 246-247 concerning the personalities of the entire human race falling into three principal categories or modes. In that discipline they are called the "Stalkers' System of Classification." You will discover these three categories agreeing totally with the explanation of personality types described under the three gunas in the fourteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita. Since there are three aspects to everything in material nature, these three qualities are also manifest within the seven planets, Metals or Chakras of the alchemist. Each metal or force center has its Alchemical Mercury, Sulphur and Salt mode of expression. It is the Sulphur aspect in each metal with which the alchemist works. When we purify this Sulphur, we redirect its natural affinity toward Salt which brings out the basest qualities in each of the seven metals. Therefore are we instructed by alchemists of all ages “to make Mercury of all our Metals,” by turning the desires expressed through them toward their Mercury or Sattva Guna. In this manner we become as the Bhagavad-Gita instructs, the 'Sattvic Human,' who, by virtue of this mode, is capable of becoming liberated.
Some eastern writings aver ridding the self entirely of Tamas (Salt) Guna. But since all expressions of the universe have Salt inherent in their very nature, this would be quite an impossible task. What is suggested is that one should work to purify the Salt tendencies. So throughout alchemical writings we are instructed “to wash our metals of Salt with Sulphur.” Our purified, redirected and dedicated desires (Rajas Guna or Sulphur), turned from the base Tamas or Salt tendencies in the Chakras (metals), toward the illuminating (Mercury) mode of those same metals do just that. Of the three-fold aspects of consciousness, Mercury is the Super-conscious, Sulphur is the Self-conscious and Salt is the Subconscious modes of our total consciousness. When we deliberately focus the self-conscious mind (Sulphur) to the purification of our subconscious tendencies (Salt), the Universal Mercury of the Super-conscious Self will fill our bodies through the seven force centers with its Light. The result aids our Way of Return through the Art of Spiritual Alchemy that releases us from delusions of self importance that create the self-reflection described by 'Stalkers' under the three categories. The Yaqui Sorcerer, the True Alchemist or the Vedic Yogi is utterly free of all three modes of self-reflection when union with the One, True Ego, the Central Self of Christ Consciousness is achieved. Cross reference with MERCURY, SULPHUR, SALT, SATTVA GUNA, RAJAS GUNA and TAMAS GUNA.