Distillation in Alchemy
In Western laboratory alchemy, the process of distillation involves continuously boiling a substance and collecting the condensation of the vapors. For instance, distilling fermented grapes can produce the pure alcohol spirit of wine. The glass beakers used in distillation looked like a pelican’s body with a long neck. The hot vapors traveled through the glass tunes and back to the glass body. A symbolic image in medieval alchemical art was a mother pelican pecking it’s own chest open so blood flowed out and down to feed its young.
In personal alchemy, distillation recycles thoughts and regurgitates emotions to find meaning. Unconsciously, to organize our lives and make sense of it all, we mull over events and personal interactions to find peace and meaning. Eventually, a fresh idea can emerge, causing us have new insights and develop new models of thought.
The spiritual alchemist, in a quest for self-improvement, will undertake this process consciously. The intentional act of unlocking psychic energy and calming it back down will cook the ego and begin to clear out impurities. Over time, a new self emerges after many cycles of opening one’s true self and letting go of the aspects that don’t serve the highest good.
Taoists have many practices for distillation. The Microcosmic Orbit or “Circulation of the Light” is one example. In this practice, one awakens awareness in the navel area through breathing and gentle pressure. This light of consciousness is heated by intention, visualized as traveling up the spine, around the head, and back down the front-midline of the torso, returning to the navel. Over months and years of this practice, energy condenses in the acupuncture channels of the orbit and distills into an ever-flowing source of vital energy.
The Alchemist’s Tao Te Ching:
Transforming Your Lead Into Gold