Glossary of Alchemical
Symbols and Terms
used in the Symbols and Alchemy Pages
Click on one of the links below to go directly to a particular term
Astral literally means “starry”, from the Latin word astrum, but we use it to mean the desire world. The astral plane is here, all around us, but we can’t see it or perceive it with our senses. We can sense it with our emotions though. That’s because we have an astral body.
Astral substance is made of astral atoms. In the physical world we’re used to atoms staying where they are in our body, but astral atoms move around with extremely great speed. They are like brightly coloured sparks constantly on the move.
The energy that moves them is emotion and thought. When we feel a deep craving for something, we attract astral atoms of a certain quality, depending on what we want. If we want something really selfish, we’ll attract atoms of a low vibration, and the colours of the atoms (to those who can see them) will appear dark, murky and unclean. When we desire things that are noble, unselfish, or altruistic, we will attract atoms that radiate beautiful, bright colours that are a joy to see.
The purest longing with the highest vibration is the longing for God. This attracts a stream of very radiant and supernal astral substance, called “the Living Water”. This substance is like a bright light and drives all unclean and ignoble forces away. This is why Harry’s Patronus is able to drive away Dementors. Harry’s stag symbolises the thirst for the Living Water, and the ensuing inflow of divine Light drives away all the forces of darkness.
Our astral body is much bigger than our physical body, and doesn’t have that shape. It is egg-shaped and sticks out from the physical body. Some people who are clairvoyant or astrally sensitive can see astral substances and so they can see what we are really like. A very selfish or evil person will have a dark astral body with angry flashes of light, while a very kind, unselfish person will have a radiant astral body of very beautiful colours. A person who is touched by God, and in whom the Divine Spirit dwells, will have a breathtakingly beautiful body of a dazzling golden light.
When we die, by which we mean when the physical body dies, the astral body keeps going for a few years. Our astral body is attracted to a plane that is in harmony with our astral body. Hence, if we are evil, our astral body will automatically be attracted to a plane that is dark, murky and feels terrible. We will meet other dead people there who are just like us. This is where the idea of hell comes form.
If we are selfless people, like Harry Potter, our astral body will be attracted to a world of light and love, and we will be surrounded by our beloved friends and selfless, loving people. This is where the idea of heaven comes form.
All the astral planes are in the same place seen geographically, and what separates them is the rate of vibration. A person can enter planes of a lower vibration rate than his own astral body, but not planes of a higher rate.
The astral plane is filled with objects and surroundings that have been created by the people living there. It’s possible to create objects by thought, and a good description of this can be found in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in the first D.A.D.A. lesson. The film of this scene can give us a good idea of astral creation too. The students there use their imagination to turn the boggart into a funny object, and that’s exactly what we can do in the astral plane.
Another film that can give us a good idea of life in the astral plane is What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams.
When we die our astral body usually takes on the shape of our deceased physical body, because this is what we think we look like.
For further reference see The Rosicrucian Cosmo-conception by Max Heindel, Chapter 1, the section, The Desire World.
We especially recommend The Astral Body by Arthur E. Powell.
The entire Divine Universe consists of seven Cosmic Planes. These planes all occupy the same space and interpenetrate each other, being of different rates of vibration. The First Cosmic Plane has the highest vibration, the Seventh the lowest. Each plane is a complete universe in itself and contains life-forms of eternal glory, beauty and power.
The Sixth Cosmic Plane is known as "The Kingdom of Heaven".
The Seventh Cosmic Plane contains a sub-plane which is not part of the Divine Creation but is a temporal-spatial, dualistic universe known as "dialectics". This sub-plane of the Seventh Cosmic Plane did not exist from the beginning but was created as a result of "the Fall". This was an event that occurred, and is still occurring, when many microcosms turned away from the Divine Plan, and started creating their own plan, which was aimed at their own glory rather than that of God. This resulted in the concept of "death" for the first time. Hence this universe is known as "the universe of death". It is the world in which we, mortal humans, live and die.
The original Seventh Cosmic Plane still exists in untainted glory, and is known as "Paradise".
The Etheric Plane is actually part of the Physical Plane, but it is too light and elusive to be detected by our senses. Its primary function is to give life to physical bodies. Our physical body is alive when there is an etheric body penetrating it. As soon as the etheric body leaves the physical body, death sets in. This is why there is a very tiny loss of weight upon death. The etheric body also keeps the body functioning and healthy. If our etheric body doesn’t function properly, our physical body will get sick.
There are four states of ether: chemical ether, life ether, light ether and reflecting ether.
Chemical ether is especially active in the assimilation and excretion of food.
Life ether is primarily active in the propagation of the species.
Light ether is active in generating blood heat, and in sensory perception.
Reflecting ether is responsible for mediating between thought and the brain. It also keeps a permanent record of everything that happens.
Our etheric body is slightly larger than the physical body, and so it protrudes slightly.
The etheric body and the physical body, showing the nervous system
The Etheric Plane is populated by various creatures which we know from myths and legends. Creatures like elves, gnomes, merpeople, pixies etc are etheric. They are mentioned in fairy tales because people used to have etheric sight, but this disappeared when we humanity became as materialistic as we are today.
JK Rowling emphasises the Etheric Plane in Part 2 of the Septology. Dobby the house elf plays a very large role, and we see gnomes at the Burrow. In the Gilderoy Lockhart’s first lesson we see Cornish pixies.
Dobby symbolises the etheric body of the alchemist. At an advanced stage, the alchemist is able to detach the etheric boy from the physical, symbolised by Harry setting Dobby free. The physical body has to be kept alive though, and so a minimally functioning part of the etheric body stays in the physical body. This is personified by Kreacher, and explains why he functions so poorly as a house elf in Part 5. We see him becoming very cooperative in Part 7, because Harry, the New Soul, cares for him so well.
For further reference see The Etheric Double by Arthur E. Powell.
This word is used to indicate the divine force that comes into our world to liberate the sleeping Child of God in the heart of every seeker. This force is like a sweet rain that drops on the parched desert soil to germinate a seed that has been buried there for thousands of years. It is sent into the world by "The Masters of Compassion", a brotherhood of Children of God who have succeeded in turning the lead of their earthly selves into the Gold of the Holy Spirit. These liberated people radiate into the world the Divine Light which has been transmuted to a vibration rate that can be felt by seekers and calls them to return to God, but is totally imperceptible to "muggles", i.e. people unsusceptible to the Force. The effect of the Gnosis on a seeker who opens his heart to it is as a healing, sanctifying spirit. This spirit is personified by Albus Dumbledore. He also symbolises the brotherhood, who were once fallen microcosms like ourselves, and so had intimate acquaintance with Grindelwald, symbolising the force that wants to execute a plan that is in disharmony with God's Plan.
The word "Gnosis" is also used to describe the knowledge emanating from the divine force itself. When this force of liberation radiates into our world, it brings not only energy for the alchemical process, but also the knowledge. When the Gnosis is born in the heart of a seeker, his head can also open up to the force which will give him direct knowledge.
Historically various people have opened themselves to the Gnosis and so were able to give the teachings contained in the world's great scriptures, holy books and other writings containing aspects of the Truth.
The human body is a temple created by God. However the earthly body we have now is a ruin compared to the indestructible and incorruptible body of the original human race before the Fall. Harry Potter is a symbolic instruction manual on how we can return to our former glory. The way to do this is to apply an alchemical process which radically changes our whole being from the lead of earthly nature to the Gold of the Divine Spirit.
One of the most important organs in the body is the medulla oblongata. It controls breathing and the heart beat, among other things. But its most important function is to act as gate keeper to foreign forces wanting to enter the body. It is personified by Neville Longbottom. If you write his name and the organ underneath each other you'll see the similarity.
When an alchemist has completed the process of purification and transmutation, he is ready to receive the Divine Spirit. God is ready to live in the human temple again. It is the medulla oblongata that forms the gate through which the Divine Spirit Enters. Hence in Book 7 Neville performs a magical act of essential importance to Harry. Neville invokes Gryffindor’s sword from the hat and decapitates Nagini. This act symbolises the entry of the Divine Spirit into the medulla oblongata as the gate to the spinal column, and the death of the old serpent-fire.
The human microcosm is basically an invisible force field. It’s called a microcosm because it’s really a micro-cosmos – a cosmos or world in miniature.
In the above diagram you can see that it’s spherical in shape. We all have this force field around us. Its centre is in the heart. When we die, this force field continues to exist. It has a separate consciousness, which is personified in Harry Potter by Voldemort.
You can see that the perimeter or “ring” has 7 layers. Six of them are represented by lines, while the inner one is represented by a circle of stars. This symbolises the fact that we live in “the seventh plane” of our microcosm. Just like the cosmos, our microcosm has seven planes or levels of existence, in increasing vibration rate. The top six planes are latent, and our microcosm is active only in the seventh plane.
The seventh ring (counting inwards) is represented by stars because if we could see it with clairvoyant eyes we would see hundreds of “stars” in our microcosmic ring, just like the night sky. These stars contain astral energy and are the concentrations of our talents, our likes and dislikes, our hopes, aspirations and dreams. They are connected to our brain with lines of force, and this explains why we’re all different, and why some people show great talents at an early age.
Just like the stars in the sky, they can be grouped into 12 constellations which have a determining influence on our lives. In the diagram they are represented by the 12 large blue stars. In Harry Potter they are personified by Death Eaters. This is why some of them have the names of stars, e.g. Bellatrix and Regulus.
In the middle of the microcosm you can see the human personality with his four vehicles or bodies: the physical, the etheric, the astral and the mental bodies.
The mathematical centre of the microcosm is represented by 7 small circles. This resembles a flower with six petals. In Harry Potter this is personified by Lily.
In the earthly human being this “flower” is shut firmly inside a bud. This centre is actually the nucleus of the microcosm and was created by the Universal Sevenfold Spirit billions of years ago. It can also be seen as a seed which contains all the potential for a divine life, in total ecstasy, without suffering, death and evil.
The diagram shows a golden ray touching the flower. This is symbolised in Harry Potter by Sirius. Seen from within, this ray of light looks like a bright star. In the sky, Sirius is the brightest star of all.
This bright microcosmic star is actually a concentration of light in the sixth ring. As long as the 12 stars in the seventh ring shine brightly, the person living in the microcosm is quite satisfied with life on earth. However there comes a time in the life of every microcosm when the living person begins to get tired of the endless cycle of birth and death, accompanied by suffering and boredom. His heart begins to ache with the pointlessness of life. Then, suddenly, a miracle happens. The bud of the Lily begins to open very slightly. The person begins to long for God – symbolised by the stag: James. And James’ friend is Sirius. Lily and James marry, and have a son: Harry. The seed gives rise to a plant. The seed dies so that the plant may live. But Harry still has the bright star in the microcosmic sky: Sirius, his God-Father.
also called the auric being or the higher self
Every human being is surrounded by a force field. This field reflects all his inner qualities, as well as his health and his past and future. When the human being dies, this force field remains, and eventually finds a baby in a family with which it has affinity. It "adopts" the baby as its own and pours into it all its energy. The force field is therefore immortal. It also has consciousness and intelligence.
In the centre of the force field there is a latent nucleus left over from the time when the human being lived in great majesty in another, perfect universe, and in the Love of the Original Spirit, where it was not susceptible to death and decay.
Harry Potter is essentially the story of the original divine human being coming back to life out of the latent nucleus and replacing the present force field with a new one that surrounds him with a brilliant light like a golden sun, and turns him into an everlasting, perfect and compassionate child of the Original Spirit. The process of the new human being coming to life is called alchemy, and Jo has componentised every aspect of this tremendous and exhilarating process of turning the lead of the earthly person into the gold of the heir of GODric Gryffin d'OR.
In Harry Potter the conscious force field is called Voldemort and the new human being is called Harry, son of the Potter of the universe. The potential new force field that is to replace the old one is called Sirius. Every character in the Septology is an aspect or a component of the process of alchemy.
When the soul of the new human being is first born in the heart of the mortal one, the nucleus begins to radiate a dazzling, supernal light into the force field. This means that the darkness in the centre of the old force field is driven to its outer boundaries. This is symbolised as Voldemort being driven out of his body and going to Albania.
During many years the alchemist has to struggle against the old force field continually trying to reassert itself and to kill the new soul, which will kill the old force field if it doesn't take action. The alchemist discovers that his personal Voldemort has hidden himself in many places in his body, his soul and his consciousness. These are symbolised by the Horcruxes. Harry Potter describes, in a graphic and exciting way, the intense struggle of the alchemist to surrender his whole being to the new, immortal soul, which is growing in goodness and grace, and will finally annihilate the old force field to replace it with the Inner God. One by one the Horcruxes are destroyed, and Voldemort's grip becomes weaker and weaker, although he doesn't realise this until it's too late. There comes a final struggle, in which Voldemort mobilises all his troops and all his magical power to destroy the new soul once and for all. But once again Voldemort faces a force that is invincible and omnipotent: Love. The divine nucleus of the force field opens up and emits a force in which Voldemort cannot survive. He ends up destroying himself.