[From Gnosis website] Alchemy today is often referred to as the mother of chemistry. Books by medieval alchemists contain instructions on the use of various substances, such as mercuryt, sulfur, and salt. These and other substances are to be heated, combined, and recombined in various elaborate ways, so that the final product is gold. The image of the alchemist laboring in his laboratory, trying in vain to turn lead into gold, is ingrained in contemporary thought and culture. Unfortunately, the efforts of the medieval alchemists are believed to have been futile.
What is not well-known, however, is that the authentic alchemists of the middle ages, such as Paracelsus, Nicholas Flammel, Cagliostro, Count St. Germain, Basil Valentine, and others, were using their alchemical language in a veiled manner. They had a secret knowledge which was to be revealed only to the initiated, and so they spoke and wrote about it in a coded form. They were very successful at hiding the true meaning of their secret, since almost any treatise on medieval alchemy is difficult to understand and almost impossible to decipher. This secret was known not only by the alchemists but also by all great mystery schools of the past, which also veiled the secret using their own particular symbolism.
The Secret of Alchemy
Alchemy is one of the cornerstones of the Gnostic Esoteric Work. In his writings, Samael Aun Weor unveils the secret of alchemy and discusses its importance in detail. The metals that the alchemists refer to are not things found in the world around us, but rather are substances found within our own bodies and psyches. The core of the alchemists' long and cryptic discourses, when unveiled, is a straightforward sexual concept. It consists of the transmutation of the sexual energies, or secretions, through the practice of the sexual act between husband and wife, but without ever wasting the sexual energies (i.e. never reaching climax or orgasm). The idea of intercourse without reaching orgasm may seem at first unusual, but if it is practiced correctly it gives us the ability to achieve self-realization.
In modern society the sexual energies and spirituality going hand-in-hand seems like a contradiction. This is not so, however, when sexual alchemy is performed correctly. A hermetic axiom states "As above, so below", and by practicing alchemy we are using the same primary forces of creation that the Creator uses in order to bring everything into existence, only we are using these forces at a different level of being. Through sexual alchemy we create the esoteric vehicles and virtues that enable us to reach the Divine. Transmutation gives us large quantities of energy. Instead of the sexual energies being wasted through orgasm, they are transmuted or transformed into a finer, more potent form of energy. The physical, psychic, and spiritual energies that accumulate through sexual transmutation are of an extremely powerful nature, and it is energy of this quality that we need to successfully progress in the Gnostic Esoteric Work.
The Ninth Sphere: Transmutation
Sexual transmutation through the practice of sexual alchemy has often been referred to in Gnosis as working in the "Ninth Sphere." The number 9 esoterically represents the work with the sexual energies. Card number 9 of the tarot, "The Hermit", signifies the alchemical work. The 9th sephiroth of the Kabballistic Tree of Life is Jesod. Jesod means "Foundation", and it is in this sephiroth that the sexual forces, which are the living foundation of our physiology, gravitate. The Gnostic teachings stress that it is impossible to attain self-realization without working in the Ninth Sphere. Birth, one of the 3 Factors for the Revolution of Consciousness, denotes the creation of those vehicles and virtues that enable us to achieve "yoga", or union, with the Divine. To "be born", however, is an entirely sexual matter, and involves working in the Ninth Sphere.
Awakening of the Kundalini: One of the main objectives of the alchemical work is the awakening of the Kundalini, that powerful, serpentine energy of Oriental philosophy that is found at the base of the spine. The Kundalini is currently found dormant in most people, but it is only through its awakening and subsequent ascent through the spinal canal that it is possible to achieve true Birth. As the Kundalini ascends, vertebra by vertebra, through each of our lunar bodies, it results in the awakening of the spinal chakras, the creation of the solar bodies, and the manifestation of inner virtues. To awaken the Kundalini, and to subsequently keep it ascending, requires great amounts of energy. This energy is obtained only through the practice of sexual alchemy. Contrary to what many schools believe, meditation alone is inadequate to awaken the Kundalini. The Kundalini is sexual in nature, and meditation, although being a very powerful technique to obtain information, cannot provide the quantity nor the quality of energy needed to awaken the Kundalini and make it rise along the spine.
The Merits of the Heart and the Ascent of the Kundalini
The awakening and ascent of the Kundalini is governed by certain universal laws that must be adhered to. These are not blind or mechanical laws, but rather conscious laws. The Kundalini is under the control of the Divine Mother and the fires of the heart, and only develops through work in the Ninth Sphere and by the merits of the heart. These are merits obtained through a process of sanctification and purification. The Kundalini will not rise even by a single vertebra if the merits of the heart required for that vertebra are lacking. These merits are obtained through the daily observation, comprehension, and elimination of the negative psychological elements constituting our ego. By disintegrating these psychological defects a degree of consciousness is freed, and virtues opposite to the eliminated defects are then manifested. This disintegration process, however, requires a special kind of energy. This energy is to be obtained through sexual transmutation and working in the Ninth Sphere. In addition, sacrifice for humanity is required in order to earn the "cosmic capital" which gives us the right to eliminate the ego and obtain the merits of the heart. Currently we all have many karmic debts, and we pay back these debts through sacrifice for humanity. This is why the Three Factors for the Revolution of Consciousness (Birth, Death, and Sacrifice) are absolutely necessary for spiritual growth, and why we must practice them in a balanced manner.
A complete study of alchemy, the Ninth Sphere, the Kundalini, and the merits of the heart involves a great deal of further explanation, much more than can be presented in just a few paragraphs. The investigation of these topics requires both intellectual and intuitive comprehension, and also a need to change out way of thinking and feeling. This is done in a gradual manner and with an open mind. Through the practice of the psychological techniques that Gnosis offers, we become more receptive and increase our ability to grasp the profound concepts contained in the Gnostic Doctrine.