Some spiritual traditions see desire as the root of all evil. We should not be lured by “women and gold”. . . As they see it, desire for the things of the world keeps us bound to the wheel of karma, running here and there looking for satisfaction we can never fully have, like Tantalus standing in a pool of clear water he can never drink, beneath a tree whose fruit he can never eat.
And yet, desire is the source of all creativity. Without it, life in all its abundance cannot express itself. As Goethe wrote, “[Nature] creates desires, because she loves movement,” and “to all stagnation, she has affixed her curse.” Desire fuels life itself, and when it disappears, so does life. But still, when it grabs the steering wheel and drives us off the road, we know how problematic it can be.
It is tantalizing to think we can quickly resolve this. But, as with all things on the path of initiation, it’s not so simple. It requires discrimination, observation, and a feeling for what is not readily apparent. Learning to transmute desire is one of the alchemical keys to experiencing the world’s magic. But what does transmutation really mean? It’s a question of vibration.
In the alchemical Tantric view, everything in the cosmos, at all levels of creation, results from the dance (a euphemism for the sexual union) of Shiva and Shakti — consciousness and energy/ matter. In Hermetic alchemical terms, it’s the union of the One Mind and the One Thing, the Sun and the Moon, Fire and Water. The world is constantly born and reborn through this union, occurring at all levels of creation, from the most subtle to the most dense.
In both the Tantric and Hermetic views, reality consists of a hierarchy of vibrations, descending from the infinite frequency of the Source to the sluggish thumping of the physical world. As in music, high frequencies are not “better” than low ones. What would music be without bass and drums? And, as in music, the highest vibrations are present in the lowest as overtones. That means Shiva, Shakti, and their unbegotten Source are present in everything, from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low. Without understanding this at some level, we cannot transmute.
The only problem with low vibrations is that we so easily and lazily resonate with them. That’s why fear, anger, and lust are such potent weapons in the hands of the media, politicians, and corporations. Once these emotions are triggered in us, their job is nearly done. Collectively, as a rule, we only hit below the belt. Rarely will we all vibrate together from the heart up, except maybe at a concert or a ceremonial gathering.
Instincts for sex, food, and territory keep us bound only to the material world. If we cannot transmute them to a higher vibration, that is all we will ever know. At this level, we are storytelling chimps, looking to hoard fruit and rise to the top of the hierarchy so we can make more of ourselves.
Some say that’s all there is to the story. The esoteric teachings of the Rosicrucians describe this as the work of “Ahrimanic beings,” spiritual beings drawn to us through resonance to convince us only matter is real. On the other hand, we might recognize spirit as the true reality and feel so above this messy world. But we can just as quickly go out of balance there, too. Rosicrucians see this as the work of “Luciferic” beings — beings of light who neither understand nor respect earthly existence.
The key is balance. When we live in balance, uniting Heaven and Earth in the heart, we resonate with the “Michaelic” beings of the center, who help us to blossom fully as spirit incarnate. Another way to say this would be that we walk the middle path of the Buddhists. This balance, along with an understanding of vibration, is necessary for transmutation to happen.
Let’s talk about sex. At the lowest end of the scale, it’s pure compulsion — nothing but a bomb cyclone between the legs. If we begin to open our consciousness around that energy, to invoke higher powers of consciousness, it will transmute. This is what happens when Kundalini rises. It’s sexual energy, but not so dense. At the highest level, Shiva and Shakti unite in perfect stillness and infinite movement. So, at one end of the sex spectrum, we have the Pam and Tommy sex tape, and at the other, a divine bliss pervading all things, absent of any physical sex or sexual fantasies. Between the two poles, there’s room to explore.
It’s not just about sex. While sex is the archetypal expression of desire (eros), par excellence, our passions go haywire at work, in the kitchen, in front of the TV, in creative projects. . . We get drawn magnetically into things, lose consciousness completely, and only come to our senses hours later.
What happens when we begin to open awareness around the compulsion? When the energy that has been siphoning off in dozens of directions begins to flow in a smooth, harmonious fashion? When we let go of the attachment to the outcome but act from the center? Magic — that’s what.
As an astrologer, writer, teacher, and coach Alex helps people to discover just what their consciousness is capable of. Weaving together practices from ancient and modern traditions, both Eastern and Western, Alex helps people let go of their limitations, discover powers they did not know they had, and open up to whole new dimensions of experience and manifestation. Alex lives in Benicia, CA and is currently pursuing a PhD in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Visit him at https://www.twentyfirstcenturyalchemy.com/