Everything you thought you knew seems like child’s play, and you are granted insight into the true nature of reality.

You are entering a period of objectivity and genuine gnosis that raises your consciousness above the mundane concerns of everyday life. In chemical terms, Distillation is the boiling and condensation of a solution to increase its concentration and purity. The alchemists believed that Distillation released the essence or “spirit” of a substance. For instance, distilling a solution of fermented grapes produces the spirit of wine. The alchemical symbol for Distillation is the alembic, which is a hood that fits over the boiling fluid, condensing the rising vapors and directing the purified condensate to a collecting vessel. Repeated Distillation produces an extremely concentrated solution called the “Mother of the Stone.”

In psychological terms, Distillation is a repeated separation and recombination of the subtle and gross aspects of the personality. This agitation and sublimation of psychic forces is necessary to ensure that no impurities from the inflated ego or submerged id are incorporated into the next and final stage of transformation. To make sure that no traces of imperfection remain, the product of Fermentation must undergo repeated Distillation before it can be reborn permanently on a higher level. “It rises from Earth to Heaven and descends again to Earth,” says the tablet of this distilling process. Psychological Distillation consists of a variety of introspective techniques that raise the content of the psyche to the highest level possible, free from sentimentality and emotions, cut off even from one’s personal identity. The process continues until peace, well-being, and knowledge bond to the personality.

Since this stage is a break with the worldly personality, it is important to stay oriented during this disconcerting process by identifying with a part of you that is always centered both Below and Above. This one point is at the center of the cross of our crucifixion in matter, where the Below and Above meet in the physical manifestation of spiritual reality. Spiritually, then, Distillation can be seen as the purification of our primal or unborn Self — all that we truly are and can be. Distillation is a rejuvenating immersion in the womb of the primordial forces of the universe that marks the final death of ego and the birth of the transpersonal Self. Undistilled people are still subject to emotional extremes and influenced by the forces of lust and greed. Once distilled, however, a person gains astonishing equanimity and unflappable one-pointedness. Distilled persons become highly intuitive and undeniably psychic when they take the larger view to which they are privy. In alchemy, distilled emotions are the raw energy that can be directed by purified thought to perform miracles —  the magic switch that perfects matter, that turns on the genetic code to begin our further evolution as sentient beings. 

Chinese alchemists became proficient at spiritual Distillation thousands of years ago. In a discipline called “Circulation of the Light,” the aspirant is taught to concentrate on the light of the inmost region and, while doing so, to free himself from all outer and inner entanglements. During the first stage of this Distillation, mercurial or watery consciousness is used, and the light is gathered by quieting the body and mind through breath awareness and meditation. The fermented light of the True Imagination is a kind of seed energy scattered throughout the body, and the object is to bring it all together in a vessel, such as a retort or an oven, visualized in the abdominal cavity just below the navel. In the second phase of the Circulation of the Light, sulfuric or fiery consciousness is used to initiate the movement of the accumulated light energy. With concentration fixed at the level of the abdominal vessel, the practitioner wills and feels the light circulate up the “channel of function” through the chest cavity to the “precious cauldron” at the center of the brain. There, the light energy is distilled and accumulated, and any unconverted energy returns to the navel area via the “channel of control” that runs down the back along the spine.

The adept repeats the Circulation of the Light daily for months or even years until enough of the “light” collects to crystallize in the cauldron within the brain. According to Chinese alchemists, the subtle matter distilled through this process congeals into a Golden Pill, which is the adept’s passage to perfect health and even immortality. Sometimes, the adept is able to bind awareness to this light energy, so it can be followed upward as it is distilled from the body in a union of the individual’s consciousness with the infinite consciousness of the One Mind of which we are all part.

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