Without the existence of fire there would be no material composition in the universe. To appreciate this statement thoroughly we must first analyze and agree upon what we mean by the term fire. We do not necessarily mean the violent chemical action that attends the combustion of the ingredients of fuel with the oxygen in the air, for this condition is only resultant after a primary state of heat is in existence.
We know that heat is due to the increased random motion and agitation of the molecules or atoms. In the beginning the vibrations which emanated from the Divine Source generated heat and motion before they manifested into a physical world or material form.
One source has defined fire as the deity which presides over Time (kala); Ether in its purest form, and hence, not matter but the unity of Ether, the second manifest deity in its universality. The same source gives the exoteric definition of fire as the most perfect and unadulterated reflection in Heaven as on earth, as the One Flame. It is life and death, the origin, and the end of every material thing. It is divine substance.
Fire as we know it is the result of a high rate of vibrations, and we know that by the use of this high rate of vibrations we can change many things. When fire burns a piece of wood then, it will eliminate from the wood all impurities and leave a very pure product — charcoal, which is used as a cleansing agent for the body, and as a base for medicine.
When used by the alchemists, fire was always presented as a material means for purging, purifying, cleansing, and regenerating certain minerals, metals, or material elements. There, fire was seen in its spiritual and mystical applications as a purging and purifying, and regenerating principle. It was through the heat of the flames that there came a newer, better, and higher form of revealed existence.
We first experience fire as heat, and we need therefore to explore the meaning of heat.
This has been the great question with the general scientific world for ages past: “What is heat?” — but the very best answer they could offer was that heat is a principle of nature, like light and electricity, and is best understood by its effects. Heat is a form of energy, manifesting itself to one’s objective senses as a sensation of hot and cold. We know that the great distributing station of energy is the “sun”. There is generated the entire supply of this earth. It could well be likened to an electrical generating plant where the electricity is obtained from the atmosphere, arrested, and distributed over certain lines for many forms and uses.
Just for the present all that is necessary for us to know is how and from where we get the heat. and not the original source. Of course it is understood before we go any further that future lessons will fully cover the question of the original source of heat. It is a known fact that we cannot produce fire without the presence of combustible materials, and even with these, we must first increase the rate of vibrations and then we will have the manifestation, which our five objective senses qualify or term as “fire” or heat.
Therefore, the word fire, when used as one of the four primal elements, means that condition existent at the time we become cognizant of the manifestation through objective faculties. There is heat in all that exists, though it may be imperceptible to the senses.
Fire has always been something more or less worshipped by primitive minds, and it still holds a great element of mystery for the child mind in youth, and for the speculative mind in adulthood. The basis for this is the fact that it is one of the great mysteries of life or of the universe, and we can see that this is so by the great emphasis given to it throughout all sacred literature including the Christian Bible. Did you ever stop to think how many passages in the Bible relate to fire, and how many of the wonderful miracles or visions, or transcendental experiences recorded in the Bible have association with fire? In all of the religions of today, fire and its symbolism are referred to, and we do not believe there is any intelligent clergyman or priest of any denomination who would willfully leave out of his Biblical reading, or text, the references to fire which he finds in the course of his reading, solely because someone might think he was paying homage to fire worshippers.
Of course, we are aware of the fact that in some countries, and among some primitive tribes, fire is still considered to be such a great mystery that it is worshipped in various forms as a mysterious expression of the gods or devils. That is merely an ignorant misunderstanding of a very wonderful principle, and we should not judge all mankind by this standard. It would be just as fair to say that all men in civilized lands were afraid of fire, or jump around fires, because we find children in civilized lands doing so.
Reverting to sacred literature, we find that fire was used on all the altars, and these altar fires were lighted with considerable ceremony. Usually the ceremony was like that given in Leviticus 1:7, “And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar and lay the wood in order upon the fire,” and throughout Jewish symbolism we find that the “ever-burning fire” symbolizes Jehovah’s continual sacrificial worship. We find that this is a modification of the heathen principles, where the idol Vesta had a fire called the Magian Fire.
Even the use of incense in the ancient Temples originated through the desire to have some small fire burning that could be easily handled and easily controlled. Later on, the mystics found that by using certain kinds of incense, in connection with the fire, certain rates of vibration would be released into the air and these would have an effect upon the vibratory conditions in the temple or room. This latter reason explains the use of incense in connection with our experimental work. We find in the Hebrew sacred literature the holiness of God which consumes sin as a thing that cannot abide in His presence.
Students of the Christian religion, by turning to the New Testament and reading Hebrews 10:27 and 12:29, will find this thought of the consuming power of fire fully explained, and that God is called a “consuming fire”. This will explain why, in some high ceremonies and masses of the Christian churches, fire was used as the symbol of the presence of God. In Revelation 1:14, you will find that the risen Lord’s eyes were “… as a flame of fire,” and the flame of fire is often used to mark the various manifestations of the Lord in the New Testament.
The holy ceremony of fire pervades all religious worship. It is a universal symbol, a visible representation of the Invisible. For, as the fire is everywhere, so God is everywhere, about us, and in us, and thus we are God-Lighted Men. As fire dissolves all things, dissipates all things, and causes them to become invisible, true philosophy could go no further and adoration was paid to the unknown God in the last image or form that was possible to man’s representation or imagination — the fire which was known as His shadow. In all this, we contemplate not the natural fire, but the mystical, the celestial, the Divine.
You must remember that the truly illuminated mystic is one who becomes aware of certain profound principles from an inward discovery, or an inward or inner revelation. Revelations from without, or externally received, are never as important to the real mystic as those received from within. Of course, that means the real revelations will be those that have to do with the spiritual self within the body, and come through Cosmic sources.
“Think of the shapes assumed by fire as the flame noiselessly creeps, entwining, spreading, and widening, now contracting and deepening. Mark its changefulness of color, as its increasing ardor grows. Mark the phantasms springing from the forge as the ponderous sledge strikes the anvil — subtle sparks flash out singly, in pairs, by scores, and then myriads, hastening into space, like the flashing guns of infantry. Behold aloft the glowing sky with myriad stars, a brilliant seal of reflecting flame. This latent’ heat of generic fires is found in the coldest flinty stone, in the thinnest, purest air, in oxygen, ozone, in every and all things–supernaturally magnificent, a royal element.”
So, in order that we may be regenerated, we must be purged of that dross or gross matter which keeps us from becoming purified or closer to the highest degrees of perfection. In one sense, all of our worldly experiences. trials, and tribulations, represent the fire of purification. In another sense, all of our burning desires and feverish anxieties to raise ourselves to a higher state, also constitute the fire of regeneration. Our physical bodies become purified as our minds become purified.
This is why fire was eventually used as a symbol of the principle of purgatory or hell. It would render man pure, after his sinful existence, and prepare him for his ultimate admission into Heaven. This allegory was used to carry out the ancient symbolism of fire as a purifying agent, but the translators of the ancient writings failed to see the allegory and believed that it referred to a place of fire in a literal sense, and for ages men looked upon hell and purgatory as being literal places. Advanced education on the part of science and the higher understanding of man, as he evolved during the past few centuries, have enabled the average person to realize that neither purgatory nor hell are literal places with literal fires, but spiritual and mental states, or conditions, in which a symbolical fire of a spiritual nature, rather than that of a physical nature, actually purifies the body and mind of man. We find St. Paul, in the New Testament, explaining this very well when he tells us that the fire of hell is to try the works of men, and that the fire of purgatory is to try the persons of men.
Fire is one of the most mystifying principles of nature. By “principle” of nature, we mean one of nature’s fundamental manifestations. The four fundamental manifestations of nature are air, earth, fire, and water. It is perhaps by fire that man has advanced himself to his present state more than through any one of the other manifestations. It is perhaps due to the fact that he has found it more simple to control and direct, and has been able to apply it to his own needs more easily than the other manifestations of nature.
In another mystical sense, fire is not only the purifying agent in nature. If you really knew, and could physically see with your physical eyes, what goes on when you light a match and apply it to the wick of a candle and the wick of the candle starts to burn and continues to burn, you would see practically half of the laws of nature being illustrated to you. All that you notice from a casual point of view, when the candle is burning, is that the wax around the wick disappears.
You think then that it is the wax that is burning. But if that is so, why is the wick necessary? Why will the candle cease to burn if you put a glass over it and make it airtight? Why must there be certain air vents in oil lamps upon your tables or in the oil stoves that heat your rooms? Why must air mix with the gas in order to burn in a gas stove? Something more than the gas, or the oil, or the wick is burning, and this invisible something, plus the laws that make it possible and that are being demonstrated, form a wonderful lesson from the alchemical point of view.
Think also how fire changes the nature of things. After you have burned the match, what have you left? Science tells us, and absolutely proves, that no material thing in the world is ever completely destroyed or partially destroyed, and that there is no more matter on the face of the earth today than there was at the beginning of time, and that, despite great catastrophes and changes and actions on the part of man, there will be just as much matter on the face of the earth a million years from now as there is today. Fire may consume but it does not destroy. When you light a match and let it burn to the last bit, you may have consumed the match but you have not destroyed the matter of which it was composed.
What makes a match? Not the wood alone, nor the sulfur on its end, nor other chemicals connected with the sulfur — a match is a device of wood with chemical elements added to it, made in a certain shape and for a certain purpose. The piece of wood without the chemicals at one end would not be a match, it might be a toothpick. On the other hand, the chemicals by themselves, without being attached to the piece of wood, would not constitute a match. When fire burns a match and leaves nothing but a piece of charcoal, you have destroyed only that which you know as a “match”. You have not destroyed any of the things that composed it. What you really have done is to change the nature of things that composed it, but the things themselves still remain. The piece of wood is now a piece of charcoal. The chemical elements have changed their nature into gas and passed off in invisible fumes that you can no longer see. During the process of changing you had a flame. The flame was the fire. The flame manifested the chemical changes that were taking place in the wood, and in the chemicals on the end of the wood.
A great process in the principles of alchemy is really contained in what occurs in the lighting and burning of a match. To show you how a simple process may contain some of the profound laws of nature, let us call your attention to the fact that in the early part of June 1926, a wonderful discovery was announced by Dr. C.E. de M. Sajous, Professor of Endocrinology at the University of Pennsylvania. He said that after twenty-five years of research he had just discovered that the heat in the human body is produced by the action of oxygen on phosphorus. When the match burns, as we have explained, the flame and the heat are the result of the action of oxygen on phosphorus.
The Doctor said that science has known for centuries that oxygen acts on the human body, but they have not known how. But after his long research he announced the discovery that lecithin, which is found in all the cells of the body, contains phosphorus, and that the oxygen in the air, acting on the phosphorus, releases the heat, and this heat maintains the temperature of the body. So you see that when you strike a match and burn it you are, in a simple way, applying one of the most profound principles of nature. Incidentally, you will see by this great discovery the knowledge that was possessed by the ancient mystics and what they meant by their allegorical writings, when they wrote of the “Philosopher’s Stone”, meaning the great secret force of life, or the great elixir of life. They held the idea that by the presence of the minerals in the blood of life, or in the body, the Philosopher’s Stone was located there. By this allegory you will see how carefully they veiled the exactness of their knowledge from the profane world.
Going back to the allegory of fire, as used in the Christian and some other religions, let us say that the torment of your mind, the crying aloud of your conscience, the torture of your soul’s conviction or self-condemnation as related to your sinful acts, constitutes the fire of hell and purgatory. The voice of God, or the Cosmic mind within you, decrying and chastising you when you have done wrong, is the fire of God or the fire of the heavens consuming your sin, purifying your soul, purging your mind, and refining your nature. Such hell-fire and such flames of purgatory are experienced here and now, sometimes daily and, by some unfortunate persons, almost hourly.
For this reason we should not have the mistaken idea that we may safely go through life in sin and error, committing unjust and unfair acts, and be free from the burning, consuming flames of the fires of hell or heaven until we reach a state beyond this life. No man has such freedom from the fire, but must suffer it in some way before he passes beyond. This is the true mystical point of view; and while it may be presented in a slightly different way from that presented by the Christian doctrines, or other religions, it is not inconsistent with what was taught by the Master Jesus, or the great Avatars of the past. We must bear in mind that Jesus reminded His Disciples of this and told them that the Kingdom of Heaven is within. We add to this that the fires of hell and the tortures of purgatory are ever present in this life, at every turn, and are the ultimate conclusion of every wrong act, every sinful commission or omission, and of every evil thought.