The Alchemy of Sharing

(Speech given at the European Congress, Bosön, Sweden, July 1995)

What is Sharing?

The story goes that in the sixties, during a trade-union rally in a third-world country, the speaker intoned slogans in favor of sharing various goods. He invited those present to chant the slogans after him. He began with: 'We demand the sharing of land and cattle.' The crowd repeated '...blocks of flats and houses'. Then cars: : '!' they repeated. At a certain moment the speaker shouted: 'We demand also the sharing of bicycles and hen-houses.' Now, however, the crowd remained silent. In actual fact, they all already had bicycles and hen-houses!.

I am telling this story to show that this is not the kind of sharing we shall be considering--for true sharing is not something which should be demanded.

Sharing, the Basis of Cooperation

It is an accepted idea that surplus should be distributed to those who are less well off. In general, this idea leads to aid involving two persons, the giver and the receiver. The latter becomes, consequently, the debtor of the former, who is his benefactor. But such aid is not necessarily sharing.

This is so because, in this type of aid, a watertight division seems to separate two persons. It is created by the mind, certainly, but it often takes a very concrete form in the condescending attitude of the giver and the fatalistic attitude or the revolt of the receiver. Now, sharing implies a symbiosis in which two individuals or two partners both give and receive at the same time, although what is received is not necessarily of the same nature as what is given. In the same process, when the giver and the receiver are not aware of being one or the other but when they are actually both at the same time, they are moving together, unknown to themselves, in the same direction. Then sharing takes place.

Sharing is neither an idea nor an act. It is a state of mind, an inner attitude which governs the idea and the act. The spirit of sharing cannot arise where the feeling of separateness has not been recognized and to some extent overcome. Thus, it cannot germinate in a heart rendered sterile by 'the giant weed' of self, nor can it blossom in a mind which has become insensitive under the influence of purely theoretical knowledge. It can arise only when the 'I' is no longer predominant. It dawns with self-forgetfulness.

It is the origin of a dynamism which will soon involve partners who wish to cooperate and are therefore ready to learn together during such cooperation. In other words, the spirit of sharing which takes root in self-forgetfulness predisposes us to goodwill which alone makes cooperation possible.

What is cooperation in actual fact? From a political point of view, it is, in the first place, a situation where nations intending to use it to achieve their secret selfish ends find they have bitten off more than they can chew. Then, realizing that they cannot live in complete isolation, they reduce cooperation to something imposed on them by fate. The reason is simple; this kind of cooperation for political ends is not real cooperation because it lacks a valid foundation--the spirit of sharing. However, even at this stage, persons of goodwill are necessary in order to carry it out.

But, from the theosophical point of view, if the spirit of sharing is the starting-point of all cooperation, the latter--which means 'working together'--implies a certain awareness of the end to be achieved. In order to discover that end, we must examine the context in which we live.

Manifestation or Universal Alchemy

Theosophy teaches us that manifestation is a mixture of spirit and matter. We ourselves, at our present stage, are made up of spirit and matter. The whole subject of evolution and its stages would boil down to a question of the proportions between those two fundamental constituents. Indeed, nothing is pure matter and nothing is pure spirit; neither can exist independently of the other. To quote one of the Mahatma Letters:
In the book of Kiu-te, Spirit is called the ultimate sublimation of matter, and matter the crystallization of spirit. (Letter XXII, p. 138)
Manifestation, proceeding from the simple to the complex, passes through different stages of diversification. In the language of alchemy, that diversification is called precipitation. It is a condensation of spirit, which becomes more and more dense and complex. The whole action takes place on a multi-dimensional theater stage which is the universe. The action of manifestation is equivalent to the dance of Siva.

When this densification reaches the right proportion, the opposite process sets in. A kind of selection by a natural mechanism innate in the universe causes matter to begin to become spiritualized. If in the first half of manifestation spirit precipitated into matter by diversifying and crystallizing, in the second half matter 'dissolves' into spirit by unification and sublimation.

These two operations coexist simultaneously in the universe. Manifestation might therefore be considered the Work of the Great Alchemist, known in another connection as the Great Architect of the Universe. Since '...our earth (occupies) the lower turning point where spirit-matter equilibrates' (Mahatma Letters, Letter XIV, p. 78) and since an analogous situation exists in the human being at the turning-point in his evolutionary curve, diversification comes to an end and unification comes into play. Or rather, such a human being will make the spiritualization of matter possible.

Indeed, between crystallization and sublimation, matter is transmuted. The transmutation is the link between them, the only hinge in which spirit and matter can meet dynamically and the one be transmuted into the other. Thus, the human being who is at the turning-point in his evolution might--according to his destiny as a 'God in the becoming'--go beyond his present human stature.

Individual Alchemy: Self-Transformation

Alchemy postulates the existence of a Universal Solvent said to be capable of transforming base metals into gold and bestowing eternal youth and therefore immortality on human beings. Gold is considered by all civilizations the greatest material asset which one can acquire on earth. It is recognized by everyone and serves as a standard of reference in exchanges, just as does silver, to which it is however superior. It symbolizes excellence and authenticity. It is said in French that someone is 'as genuine as gold'. Thus it becomes the symbol of purity and truth. So to offer someone gold, e.g. in the form of jewellery, means to express one's esteem and support.

Thus Marpa, a Tibetan teacher in the eleventh century--who is called 'the Great Translator'--brought bags of gold dust to offer to the master yogi Tilopa in exchange for his teaching, said to bestow knowledge and wisdom. The story goes that, seeing those bags, Tilopa seized them and shook them out one after the other, thus scattering all the gold dust--to Marpa's great alarm. 'What am I to do with your gold?' he asked. (You will hear the end of the story at the end of this article!)

Material gold is, then, only a symbol. To speak of the transmutation of baser metals into gold is therefore the symbolic way of teaching the art of self-purification. The same holds good for youth and immortality which have little meaning at the physical level. Those two functions--making gold and acquiring eternal youth--are part of the outer aspect of the doctrine of alchemy. As for its true function, the latter is spiritual in nature: the transformation of what is impure in the human being--symbolized by base metals--into what is pure--represented by gold.

The consciousness of the human being thus sanctified is continually renewed, resulting in freshness in his inner and outer attitude to life. He seems to enjoy a youthfulness which is independent of the outer conditions of his existence. Indeed, such a being is united with his own spiritual Soul which is identical with the Eternal Universal Soul. Immortality refers to the immortality of the soul which is made possible by transmutation.

Transmutation requires Fire which burns everything that might hinder the progress of the spiritual Soul towards eternal and undivided divinity. Thus, in the words of HPB:

Man rises to glory through suffering in order to be made 'pliable and yielding', of impervious to the emotions and feelings of his physical senses. (Collected Writings, XII, 55)
Suffering is only the sensation felt by the 'I' when produced in its physical and psychic senses by the combustion of gross elements so that they may be sublimated into spiritual essence (gold) which is the deep and true nature of the human being. Flexibility is equivalent to the absence of that resistance which is created by the 'I' struggling against any change in order to preserve itself. The change involved may be considered to take place in order to dissolve all gross matter which is useless and harmful to the individual Soul in its pursuit of fusion with the One. Submission means letting go, which is the first stage in the long path leading to the surrender of the 'I'. The latter must finally abandon itself totally to the will of the Supreme whose dwelling-place is in the deepest depth of our being, in our spiritual heart.

The combustion of the base elements with a view to their sublimation is effected by the fire which, later on, HPB confirmed was equivalent to Ãlaya, 'the Anima Mundi, whose essence is Love' (Collected Writings, XII, 55). In the same way, the Universal Solvent is identified with

...divine spirit which removes every grosser nature, that its unholier principles may be removed... (quotation by HPB from Professor Wilder, Collected Writings, XI, 541).
How does one manage to transmute himself so that what is gross in him is sublimated into spiritual gold?

Sharing or the Transmutation of Individuals

A being has not truly begun to awaken as long as he has not begun to be aware of the presence of the other. That presence appears only when a new quality dawns in his consciousness. It is a quality of attention towards the inner and outer world in which he and the other exist, rather than an imaginary state or a desirable ideal. Sharing, as just described, comes into being when that consciousness enfolds both--oneself and the other--in one single movement which draws them in the same direction, towards their common origin, the Divine Spirit, the Eternal.

The Buddhist teaching recorded in The Voice of the Silence mentions dãna, giving, as the golden key which opens the first of the Seven Portals leading the aspirant to the other bank that of liberation from the cycle of rebirth. Dãna is defined as 'the key of charity and love immortal' (The Voice of the Silence), v. 207). Charity should be understood here in its inclusive sense as compassion of 'passion for all' and not in the restrictive sense of condescension. And is not immortal love the essence of Ãlaya?

Considering Ãlaya as one of the Masters, The Voice of the Silence advises:

Of teachers there are many; the MASTER-SOUL, is one, Ãlaya, the Universal Soul. Live in that Master as Its ray in thee. Live in thy fellows as they live in It. (The Voice of the Silence, v. 222).
For, he who, when the turmoil inherent in the 'I' is silent, lives in unity with a ray of the Divine Spirit, is immersed in It. He considers his companions as rays emanating from the same Divine Being and also immersed in It. Thus the heresy of separativity is abolished: there no longer is the one or the other, for both are immersed in the Self. That is also the condition laid down in the following commentary:

Before thou standest on the threshold of the Path; before thou crossest the foremost Gate, thou hast to merge the two into the One and sacrifice the personal to SELF impersonal, and thus destroy the 'path' between the two--antahkarana. (The Voice of the Silence, v. 222)
The awakening to the other takes place in antahkarana, the 'bridge', which links the lower mental to the Spiritual Soul. Awakening to Oneself is accomplished when that 'bridge', which is the materialization of the duality between the other and oneself, is destroyed. Henceforth the person is identified with the spiritual Soul, identical to the Universal Soul, Ãlaya. Dãna is in this sense the gift of oneself par excellence. It is not the individual who shares but his divine ray which calls him and inspires him. He only submits to its orders with a single end in view: the well-being of all. If sharing is lived in this way, it acts like the Universal Solvent. Ãlaya, the Master who dissolves all the dross, including the most stubborn--separativity--by the power of his immortal love.

Cooperation, the Great Work: Towards Living Oneness

The spirit of sharing incites the individual, in acting, to turn to the highest in himself if his action is to be true cooperation. It is essential to work together today, when the value of selfishness prevails everywhere, for the impact is strengthened and deepened by our working together. From the point of view of the occultist, cooperation contributes to speeding up the spiritualization of matter by allowing it to free itself from its dark density. The whole universe, in particular humanity, appears as a limitless crucible in which the Great Work is accomplished, quickened by the fire of Ãlaya.

What is at stake is the transmutation of matter in which everyone can participate actively by learning to burn away consciously and to sublimate within himself all that obstructs the fusion of the individual Soul with the Universal Soul. Cooperation is, therefore, inevitably accompanied by learning together while working together. The partners in cooperation will then be true companions in apprenticeship, pilgrim souls on the cyclic road of time which will lead each and all beyond themselves to their very hearts.

Soon the day will dawn when, like the yogi Tilopa who had no use for the gold offered by Marpa, we can exclaim: 'The whole universe is gold!' Does not that inestimable treasure lie all around us, at all times? Visible for those who see, it is hidden by the limitations of egoism. Sharing is thus the first step towards that treasure which lies within the very heart of each of us, everywhere, right to the very heart of the universe. It is also the first step--and the last--towards living Unity.


Miss Tran-Thi-Kim-Diêu is the Chairman of the European Federation of the TS.

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