Since it is not possible for everyone to follow its reactions in the laboratory, I am devoting this chapter to the manifestation of the Quintessence in everyday life, for it is not merely in the laboratory that this vital principle evinces itself, but through all phases and conditions of existence.
First, what of our food? The physicist has found that for a food to be really worthy of that name it must contain a certain vital essence, which he has called the Vitamine. Without this vital quality, which I believe to be this same Quintessence or Divine Energy, any type of food whatsoever is just so much dead matter. For instance, expeditions on which the men have subsisted entirely on a diet of tinned food have invariably shown that whilst ingesting the bulk of food necessary for the satisfaction of their hunger, they yet suffered from starvation since that food was devoid of its vital principle--the Quintessence or Vitamine. Most of us have read at some time or another of the sufferings of the early navigators who would sail for weeks without sighting land, living the while on dried food. From those islands which could provide anything in the way of fresh meat and fruit they would replenish their miserable stores, and for a time whilst these fresh provisions lasted, the crew would improve in health and vitality, but with the exhaustion of the supply would come depletion of vitality, scurvy, and other trials occasioned by a deficiency diet. Citrous fruits, in particular, were found to be extremely effective for combating scurvy, and British sailors at one time in their history were called 'limies' by reason of the citrous fruit included in their food quota.
This food problem, then, which we have confronting us is surely a proposition of vast dimensions. From all sides we are bombarded with demands for a fitter people, for an A 1 nation, but if this high standard of national health is to be attained, then the food problem of the people must be tackled in all seriousness. While the peoples of the world depend for their sustenance (as the greater part of our Western civilization does today) on a diet of highly refined food, from which all real food value has been extracted in the process of refinement, there is little hope of any improvement in their physical status, and this lack of vitally charged food may easily be a reason, and a very important reason, for such diseases as cancer and kindred complaints; infantile paralysis, sleepy sickness, and influenza. As a preventative to many diseases, medical men are now recommending Vitamin D, but actually this question of Vitamines is only touching the edge of a problem which is of very real importance and urgency to each one of us--the necessity for a diet incorporating in its constituents that vital energy or quintessence without which a food is no food at all.
From the food itself let us turn our attention to the digestion of that food in the human body. In the process of digestion we find a much more complex action taking place than physiology has so far been able to demonstrate. The process of ingesting food into the human stomach is really a mild form of poisoning, and in order to utilize to the best advantage the foodstuffs he is taking, the human being must transmute those foodstuffs, provided for him by the animal and vegetable kingdoms, into a form that the cells of his body can readily take up and assimilate. Without this process of change in digestion, man would probably die of poisoning! For an example of this changing process, take albumen. Albumen in the process of digestion is split up into its amino acids and then brought together again as a human albumen capable of absorption and assimilation by the cells of the human body.
Can any physiologist explain how this change takes place? Physiologically there is no explanation which would elucidate this process, but that it does take place is a fact. In its enactment we have an instance of transmutation, of man taking into his body a lower form of life for its transmutation into something higher, and what is that but an alchemical process? The transmutation of a lower substance into a higher, when it takes place in the body of man, is definitely a function of the unconscious part of the mind--a function not consciously performed by the ordinary individual owing to the fact that the Mind of Man, in the process of building form from the Amoeba upwards, has relegated such functions to the unconscious or subconscious part of the mind, leaving the surface consciousness to carry on with outside problems. Thus whilst all this work of digestion, circulation, breathing, etc., is being carried on by the deeper strata of the mind, the upper strata are free, as I have just said, to deal with the demands of everyday life. How many of us realize, I wonder, that here in this very process of digestion is taking place an act of magic which the average man cannot understand, complacently though he accepts it. Occultists have taught that this process of the transmutation of food in the human body can be helped by the conscious part of the mind (by what some schools would call auto-suggestion).
Thus we have an example of man as the medium through which a transmutation of a lower form of matter into a higher may take place.
To take another function of the human body--that of breathing. What has physiology to tell us of the process of breathing? We are taught that the most important function of breathing is the taking of oxygen into the lungs to revivify that venous blood which has lost its oxygen in its circulation of the body, and has to be replaced before it can pass on into the arterial circulation once more.
This is one function of breath, but another, which physiology has so far not touched, is the breathing in of the natural electricity or Vital Principle (the Quintessence) in the atmosphere, which the human body uses as nervous energy. Here again the unseen alchemist is at work, engaged in the absorption of the air around him and its transmutation into something higher for the work in his own body.
This question of breathing brings another in its train--the question of
The Heart's Action.
Is the heart, as physiology states, an instrument for the pumping of blood through the blood-vessels of the body? Impossible; it would require a much larger and more powerful organ than the heart to pump blood through some of the tiny blood-vessels in the body. The heart is the regulator of the flow, not the pump, the circulation of the body being an electrical process, with the arteries as the positive and the veins as the negative charges. The venous blood being negative is drawn to the lungs which are positive, and there re-charged with the air intaken by the lungs. After receiving its positive charge the blood is repelled from the lungs (since two positive charges repel one another) and flows through the heart to the Aorta, the rate of its flow being regulated by the heart's beat. The Aorta divides and sub-divides throughout the body, giving up its charge to the nervous system, which passage causes the blood once again to become negative, and necessitates its return (through the veins) to the lungs for re-charging. In these days of knowledge of electricity and magnetism, it is only logical to conclude that these so-called mechanical actions of the organs of the body are electrical.
The atom of oxygen is like a sponge that holds a certain amount of etheric force or electricity (the Quintessence), each atom enclosing within itself a charge of vital energy. The human body is a chemical laboratory and the so-called atoms of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc., contain within themselves charges of Vital Energy. The Yogi, in describing his breathing exercises, speaks of a certain vital principle of energy which he calls 'Prana,' which is in actual fact another instance of the manifestation of the Quintessence. In his system of breathing the mind is so centered on the act of breathing that this Quintessence of the air is consciously taken in for the revitalization of every part of his body. When you take a holiday in the mountains or by the sea, with beneficial results, the real benefit obtained is from this Quintessence or Vital Energy in the air which you breathe in.
The alchemist, by his laboratory process, is taking this Quintessence or Vital Energy from metals, since he has found in his experience that it is obtained from minerals and metals in a more perfect form than from plant life, the minerals being of the first manifestation.