The Doctrine of Correspondence

Such was the process by which the alchemists of old endeavored to elaborate into the perfection of full activity the arcane potentialities which reside in metallic substances, and such also, on the same Hermetic theory, was the operatives sequence which obtained for a similar achievement in all kingdoms of Nature. This is the practical or experimental side of the great doctrine of correspondences. How does evolution proceed in the development of a life-bearing globe? Answer this question, and you indicate the process in the development of a man from the formless chaos of the fetus to the complete stature of the mature humanity. Such also is the process in the development of mind in man, and of soul, and of spirit. The speculative side of the same doctrine creates by analogy a conception of the worlds unseen by an argument from the known to the unknown. It may appear to be arbitrary dogma, but it is enforced by our entire inability to conceive the invisible order except upon the supposition that it is analogically like unto the visible. We have no other ground to go upon. Man is inevitably anthropomorphic. It is impossible to understand him subsisting in a disembodied mode; it is impossible to conceive him subsisting without an environment; and it is equally impossible to imagine that environment except as a sublimated and exalted prototype of the present world. If the experience of time is to be stultified utterly in the timeless, our present life is devoid of an assignable raison d’etre. As long as man remains man he must be at least analogically like unto himself, and there must be a ground for comparison, that is, a feature of likeness, a similitude, between his future and actual surroundings. Otherwise, he will not be man. The practical side of correspondences must stand or fall by the test of experiment. It is possible, however, to indicate a rigorous analogy between Hermetic operations in chemistry, the avowed process of metallic elaboration, and the development of the arcane potencies which reside in the subject man. Were we asked to state why in the abstract twice two are four, it would be mathematically pertinent to answer, because there is no reason that they should not be so. It is thus also with the Hermetic dogma. It may be taken as true theoretically, because nothing can be assigned against it, and just as everything, in fact, irresistibly points to the figure 4 as the sun of multiplication between two and two, so everything in experience points to the application of analogy towards things unseen, because it is impossible to conceive the unseen otherwise than by the help of analogy.

The nature of the analogy between the alchemical development of metals and of man, once admitted as true, in the sense that the Mystics conducted both operations along lines that were analogically similar, casts a flood of light upon the problems of esoteric evolution. Taken in its most obvious and initial aspects, we shall find our aspiration towards a condition of visible and illuminated glory for the perfect, developed man abundantly foreshadowed, nor is the source and reason of this physical illustration concealed. The process of sublimation reveals that the body is spiritualized and the spirit is made corporeal, the result being a glittering whiteness. In other words, there is such an interchange of activity established between the inner and outer man as conduces towards a unification of elements. The analogy has a deeper meaning than the development of the physical man, for soul is necessary to illustration, and it is really the profounder operation upon which the surface work follows. The analogical chemistry of Spirit is the Grand Work of evolution, and its principles have been elaborated by a writer who has preceded us. The anonymous lady who was the first to discern in the processes of alchemy the history of the Soul’s evolution deserves to be distinguished by a title which will commend itself to the Hermetic student, and to be called the modern Pernelle, fitting helpmeet for a new Nicholas Flamel! We refer to that epoch-making book which was published in 1850, under the title, A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery and Alchemy. Without being committed to the entire scope of its doctrine, we gratefully acknowledge that it has been a source of help and leading, and has chiefly impelled our researches into the transcendental activities of Azoth, and the supreme mystery of spiritual evolution.