How do you desire earthly things without losing the path? What is meant by purifying onself in the transmutation process?
First of all I think we need to change our idea of who or what God is. Or rather, to keep it short, what God isn't. We need to throw overboard the idea of a personal God. I don't think anyone nowadays believes in the old man with the beard, but even the most advanced alchemists can't get rid of the idea that God is a sort of super person watching their every move and thinking (lovingly) about them. Subconsciously we argue, "What will God think of me if I do something He doesn't like? He is sure to be disappointed in me if I commit a sin."
In my opinion everyone is welcome to imagine the kind of God they like, but what we're doing here is creating our own God. The argument of the humanists and atheists is that humanity has created God, and I think they're right. As long as we're creating any sort of idea of what God is like, we're creating a false image, which will lead us in the wrong direction. One of the laws of the universe is that a creator is bound to his own creation, and if we want to be liberated we have to liberate ourselves from created images of what God is like.
The answer, in my opinion, to the question of what God is like, is that we don't know. The only way we can find out is to become God, by surrendering to the God asleep in the heart. When the Soul becomes conscious we'll KNOW. Until then all we can rely on is the experience of the inner God gradually waking up and shining in our heart.
If we need a working model of God we could think of Him, without making a picture, by using the analogy of a kind of invisible sun. This is totally unlike what God is REALLY LIKE, but this analogy can teach us a few things. For example the idea that God doesn't judge. If you commit a sin, a really evil, egregious sin, will the sun stop shining on you? Of course not. What a ridiculous question. Well, it's equally ridiculous to think that God will hide His face form us because we do something evil. And so we need to throw the idea of "sin" overboard.
In order to answer your question I must ask you to get rid of the ideas of good and evil, sin, and a personal God. Good and evil are human inventions. God as people think of Him on earth is a human invention. Sin is a human invention.
What we need to understand is that there is only action and consequence. Every action has a consequence - not a good or a bad consequence - just a consequence according to natural law. People on earth will define your action according to their personal beliefs, and your actions will be lauded by some and condemned by others, but God and the Liberated Entities Who have united with God will not. God will continue to radiate His Love to you, and the Brotherhood of Compassion will watch and wait for you to yearn for Liberation.
I think we could say that every action we perform either brings us closer to God or moves us away from Him further. Or perhaps I should say IT. I love the Chinese way of calling IT Tao, meaning 'that". As I say, Tao will keep shining Its Love on us no matter what we do, but when we don´t follow the Divine Plan, we start hiding ourselves in the shadow. And if we persist, we start crawling into a cave, away from the sunlight. The position we´re in now is that we´re deep down, miles down, in a mine that has hundreds of passages going everywhere, but all equally dark. This is the situation Christian Rosycross finds himself in in his dream.
Liberation simply means crawling out of the cave into the sunlight.
I hope it´s clear to you that all this has nothing to do with sin or guilt.
So why do we need to purify our desires? How does this fit in with the above?
A desire is an action! Actions have consequences, as I said above.
The law of nature is that "what you desire, you get." This is not an arbitrary law that rewards the good and punishes the bad, nor does it have anything to do with luck. It is an impersonal law, just like the law of gravitation.
Do you want liberation above all else? OK, you'll get it. Do you want to have a nice life in the dark cave? Do you want a gilded cage with a comfortable sofa to lie on and eat chocolates? OK, you'll get it. Not straight away, but if we desire this intensely, we'll get in eventually. In both cases enormous sacrifices will need to be made, of course. There is always the law of inertia to slow things down.
Let's see how this works. When we desire something, our astral body immediately responds by changing vibration. At the same time, our astral body attracts astral atoms from the surrounding atmosphere which harmonise with the particular desire. An observer could see a bright band of colour appearing. This is because every desire (and emotion) has a particular colour and brightness. This is all according to natural laws. A person with selfish, greedy desires will have an astral body with dark, murky colours, and a person with more unselfish desires will have one with bright, clear colours. Have a look at the pictures of the astral body on our Glossary Page. Can you see the two pictures of astral bodies? They're what I'm talking about.
Every desire is an astral state and has a definite vibration rate. Now within our fallen universe extremely high vibration rates are possible. It's possible to cultivate our desires and so create an astral body which is extremely radiant and beautiful. Accordingly such a person will have very noble and highly refined emotions, and after death will live in one of the upper devachans. Yet he is living in the cave, albeit a very comfortable one. But the real sunlight, the Light of the Eternal Sun, will not reach him, and he will still be tied to the wheel of reincarnation and karma.
The only way to get back into the Sunlight is to leave the cave altogether, including the most luxurious suites. By itself, the astral body is not capable of doing that. However, right in the centre of the astral body there is a dormant centre. We call this symbolically the Lily, or the Rose. We could also call it a seed, or a spark. This spark we could compare to a tiny fragment of the Real Sun. Alchemy is simply feeding the spark with oxygen and fuel so that it will turn into a small version of the Real Sun in our astral body. The Light and Heat and all the other types of radiations will fill our astral body and our whole microcosm, and lift us out of the cave. This is because the key vibration, i.e. the base vibration, of the Spark is higher than any found in the cave, our fallen universe.
But to turn the Spark into a Fire we have to attract oxygen and fuel. These two things can't be found in our universe. They have to be attracted from the Real Sun, from the Divine Universe, which we call the Sixth Cosmic Plane. The Spark can do that, because it was made there; it belongs there. It's vibration rate is of the dizzyingly high levels of the Divine Universe.
So the situation for the beginner on the Path of Liberation is this: His astral body probably looks like the second picture in our two on the website. But even if it's pretty polluted, it's still possible. In his heart he has a spark which is beginning to burn more brightly, and it causes him to feel a deep yearning to turn the spark into a fire. At the same time he starts to experience a feeling of imprisonment, a feeling to leave the narrow confines of the gaol, which, to the spark in his heart, feels suffocating and pitch black. What does he need to do? He needs to purify his astral body so the oxygen and fuel can get in. Whenever his thoughts and desires turn to the yearning spark, oxygen and fuel are pouring in. Whenever his mind turns to earthly things, and he feels desires for earthly things, his astral body shuts itself off from the inflowing oxygen and fuel, and his spark is deprived of them. Transmutation in alchemy means feeding the Spark as continuously as possible so it can grow and fill his whole microcosm.
Of course in the beginning every alchemist feels a mixture of desires. Transmutation isn't a process you can do overnight. It takes many many years. Purification means gradually attuning the astral body in such a way that it can desire only the oxygen and fuel of the Kingdom of God. This is a long, arduous struggle. It takes a whole lifetime.
This is the meaning of the story of the Quest of the Holy Grail. The astral body is centred in the heart region, and so when we say you must purify your desires, it's another way of saying purify your heart, which is symbolised by the Holy Grail. Percy Weasley symbolises this region of the body, especially the heart chakra. His ambitions for the Ministry of Magic symbolise the earthly desires he is chasing. Before Harry defeats Voldemort, Percy comes back to Harry and the other Weasleys.
His girlfriend is called Penelope Clearwater. That is very significant! The astral world is symbolised by the element 'water', and when the water is clear, it means it's pure, completely transparent and without any other substance. In other words our astral body must be turned into what is often called the glass sea, or crystal lake. It must be cleared of all earthly desires.
I hope it's clear what we need to do if we want to achieve liberation. Our astral body needs to be emptied of all the astral substance of the Seventh Cosmic Plane and filled with the atoms of the Sixth. Then the Golden Sunlight of the Real Sun will fill our astral body, raising it out of mortality, into the Divine Plan, where everything is eternal and perfect. That is making the Philosopher's Stone!
How do we achieve this? Not by suppressing our earthly desires. That way we get to the medieval ideas of shutting ourselves in monasteries, castigating ourselves to "kill the desires of the flesh", with hours of kneeling on stone floors, etc.
No, the only way to purify the astral body is to SUBSTITUTE the lower vibrations with the higher ones. This means we don't try to create a vacuum, because the astral body is a fiery body, and it has to burn! No, the solution to this is to substitute all the other desires by the one deep yearning so well described in Psalm 42 and symbolised in Harry Potter by the stag.
This is a job we have to do ourselves. No one can help. No one can give us advice. The only way to achieve this is to turn our mind to the yearning in the heart, and then surrender to it, lock stock and barrel. Then the pure oxygen and the pure fuel will enter our astral body and our heart, and fan the spark.
To give you some consolation: what happens is that after a while, your heart will become purified, and the Grail will begin to form itself in your heart. Your lake will become crystal; your sea will become like glass. You will start to feel the Divine Fire burning in your heart. Then, if you feel an earthly desire, no matter how innocent, you will experience pollution in your heart. It will feel like dirty washing up water (or worse) flowing into your heart instead of the pure, clear water of the River of Life. This will feel so horrible that you will turn your mind upwards, and lift your eyes to the hills, where your help will come from, and your Inner Lord will restore the flow of the pure water.
So to sum it all up; your life is in your own hands. The Path is in your own hands. No one will tell you to hurry up, or assess your progress. There is no examination with the possibility of failure. God doesn't judge you when you trip and fall. There is only the Real Sun outside the cave and the Spark in your heart, and the oxygen and fuel which the spark in your heart can attract. No one will tell you what to do or how to purify yourself. You must learn to open your heart to Tao and experience what will purify your astral body and what will defile it.
And there's no point in feeling guilty if you have a wonderful day at the beach. There's absolutely nothing wrong with us enjoying ourselves. However we have to realise it's just a momentary thing and will be over very quickly. We have to realise that the enjoyment of the senses is very habit forming and before we know it it has trapped us into addiction. The things we enjoy in this life usually turn into our masters rather than our slaves.