Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dan Merkur on Spiritual Alchemy

In the Paracelsian tradition of spiritual alchemy, initiates sought four specific mystical experiences in a deliberate sequence in order to inculcate a particular doctrinal orientation to mystical practice and metaphysics. Comparably complex mystical initiations have rarely been documented in the general history of religion. The literature occasionally suggests that a single technique of ecstasy, such as reciting a Hindu or Buddhist mantra, or the Muslim la illaha, or the Christian Jesus prayer, is able to induce several experiences en route to the desired experience of union. However, the use of multiple techniques to induce more than one desired experience is comparatively rare. One may point to shamanism (Merkur 1992) and Tibetan tantra (Hopkins 1977:191-2); but the gnostic tradition is the only instance in a Western culture that has been documented to date.

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