Alchemy of Light: Working with the Primal Energies of Life

Alchemy of Light: Working with the Primal Energies of Life

by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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The unique approach to spiritual life and awakening offered in this groundbreaking work reveals how humanity’s spiritual practices can be a catalyst for global transformation. Delving into the inner world of archetypes and drawing on the ancient tradition of alchemy, this reflective guide emphasizes the inner spiritual light of each individual as part of the


The unique approach to spiritual life and awakening offered in this groundbreaking work reveals how humanity’s spiritual practices can be a catalyst for global transformation. Delving into the inner world of archetypes and drawing on the ancient tradition of alchemy, this reflective guide emphasizes the inner spiritual light of each individual as part of the spiritual light of the world, and as a potent agent for global change. Spiritual seekers—those interested in higher consciousness, spiritual activism, spiritual service, and the connection between spirituality and everyday life—will learn how to recognize their own spiritual light and to work with it in service of life, expanding their spiritual horizon from their own individual journey to encompass the fate of all of life on this planet.

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"The author . . . parallels the prayer practices of Sufi and Christian mysticism with ease. . . . Vaughan-Lee's prayerful prose is poetic, inclusive, and intelligent." —Publishers Weekly (April 9, 2012)

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The Golden Sufi Center
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Alchemy of Light

Working with the Primal Energies of Life

By Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

The Golden Sufi Center

Copyright © 2013 The Golden Sufi Center
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-890350-25-3



For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

Psalms 36:9

When God created the intellect, He asked it "Who am I?" but the intellect was silent. So God daubed his eyes with the kohl of the light of divine oneness. Then the intellect said "You are God!"

Abû 'l-Husayn an-Nûrî


Our Higher Self carries a light that belongs to God. When we are born, we carry a spark of this light into our human incarnation; it illuminates the experiences of our early childhood, showing us a world that is fully alive, full of magic and wonder. But slowly, as the adult world closes around us, the spark of our Higher Self gets covered over by the dust and debris of the world, of our conditioning, our desires, our concern with success and failure, our need to compete; it "fades into the common light of day." It might reappear briefly, as the light of conscience that tries to point us in the right direction or the spark of intuition that comes unbidden into our consciousness. But mostly it is hidden, forgotten like the wonder of the world we saw as children. We no longer see the world by the bright light of what is real; we see "through a glass darkly," through the shadowy, distorting light of the ego.

But the moment can come when, through the grace of God, the spark within us rekindles and we see again with its light. This is the most precious moment in the life of a soul, when we reconnect with our divine nature, when the journey Home begins.

Our reawakening to this light can take many forms: we might meet a teacher, be inspired by a spiritual text, or in a sudden unexplained moment of truth experience our eternal nature. Whatever the outer form, inwardly the moment is the same: the Higher Self gives us an energy that comes into our heart and the spark of light that is our gift from God begins to glow. The light of the Self awakens and brings its divine consciousness into our life. In this light we glimpse our true nature and the divine in life all around us. Usually the glimpse lasts just for a brief moment, and then the shadows of our ego, our mind, and the world close around us again. But it is enough to turn us away from life's illusions, to draw us on the eternal search. This is the first step on the journey Home, the journey that can lead us to a full awakening to our divine nature, "the face we had before we were born."

The journey may seem serpentine, with many wrong turns and dead-ends, but this is part of the mysterious way the Self guides us. As Carl Jung says, "The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings." Though we rarely realize it, through this process we are working on our light, helping it to shine more brightly. This is the light that guides us on our way, that shows us the path we need to follow; without it we are lost, the journey is just a succession of illusions. When it becomes obscured through our ego or negative patterns, we stumble or lose our way; but then, through longing or despair, through the cries of our heart or the diligence of our practices, or simply through grace, we look to it again, and the light returns to guide us on, glowing brighter each time as our recognition of our need for it deepens.

As the journey takes us on our way, the light within us attracts us to the spiritual practices and the path that can help in its evolution. We might be drawn to music, because the nature of our light responds to music. Or we are drawn to a path of service, because our light can express itself most fully through helping others. Or we find that we are attracted to spiritual practices, to meditation, awareness of the breath, chanting, or to "inner work," because this is the way our light can free itself most easily from the dust that covers it. Many meditation disciplines and other spiritual practices are specifically designed to help reveal and brighten the light within us, to help us bring its higher consciousness into our life. And the processes of inner work, the psychological and spiritual work of purification and inner transformation, clear an inner space, uncluttered by negative psychological patterns or resistances, where we can have more access to our own light.

Through the wisdom and practical guidance of a path, we learn to see ourself and the world around us with this light. We learn to live a life that nourishes the soul rather than just the ego, that is truly creative and reflects our real nature. We also learn how to work with this light. Through the practice of spiritual discrimination, for example, we learn to distinguish between the light of the Self and the deceptive light of the ego; we see how the ego, frightened of losing its power and control, tries to obscure our real light and misguide us. We discover how subtly and easily we are betrayed by ourself and learn how to regain our true center when we have been misled. We recognize the attraction of the darkness of our lower nature; sometimes we have to choose between our darkness and our light, or fight against negative forces within us, confront and transform our anger and fears. We are taught the wisdom of humility and of learning from our mistakes, and we learn to avoid getting caught by arrogance or false humility that can keep us in the ego's shadowlands where our lower nature can so easily grip us.

Slowly the path and its practices free us from our negative tendencies and give us access to more and more of our light, more of its consciousness. And as we diligently work upon ourself through our devotions and inner work — as we "polish the mirror of our heart" — so the light within us grows. And this light works its mysterious chemistry, opening life in unexpected ways, revealing more of its magic and wonder. Also, as our light grows, we attract a higher light, a light from the inner world of pure spirit. This is the mystery of "light upon light" in which "light rises towards light and light comes down upon light."

The light within us and the light from above then work together, growing in strength and purity, helping us on our journey. In fact the journey is the light transforming us, revealing itself within and around us. What we think is our evolution is the evolution of the light of our true nature, expressing itself in our inner and outer life and expanding our consciousness. There is a great difference between a consciousness that sees with the reflected light of the ego and one that sees with the true light of the Self. The ego exists in a world of distortions and patterns of control that are antithetical to the Self. The light of the Self burns away these distortions, though this is often a painful process — to become free of the many chains that bind us, we have to lose what we have believed most precious.

All through this process the light within us grows and becomes more and more a part of our life. Usually this happens so gradually that we hardly notice it, though sometimes we go through times of transition when we are painfully or gladly made aware of our expanded consciousness, as when we have to leave behind a pattern that has protected us or a possession we have been attached to, or when we joyfully awake to a new revelation of our true nature and find life present in unexpected ways.

And so the journey continues, the eternal journey from darkness to light. This journey of the soul takes us Home, where it finally reveals that the light within us is the One Light. There is only one light — the light of the heavens and the earth is the light within our own heart. We are the light of God in the world. The light within our heart is His light. This simple truth of the unio mystica finally takes the wayfarer from the prison of the ego into the ever-expanding dimension of our divine nature and its true purpose; and into a direct experience of the oneness of life.


Traditionally, after the state of union comes the station of servanthood; unio mystica, the awareness of divine oneness, is followed by a deeper commitment to service, a deeper involvement in life. No longer bound by the ego, we are able to give ourself more completely in service to the divine. We are able to realize the deep joy and privilege of being in service to what is real. Then the real cooperative work begins as we work with the light of divine oneness in the world.

In the past, this work has been reserved for those who have made the whole journey, who have traveled the path from separation to union. But there are times in the destiny of the world when the doors of servanthood open wide and anyone who has access to her divine light, who has been awakened — if just for an instant — to her true nature, is called to help with the work of the whole. We have reached such a time now, a moment in our collective evolution when the light of spiritual consciousness is needed to heal and transform the world, and all who have access to their light — at whatever stage of the journey — are needed in this work.

At this time, the relationship of light upon light has evolved in a new way. The need of the divine that calls to us within our hearts is now calling our attention to the light of the world. The world is dying through the abuses of materialism, power, and greed. But now a new light is awakening at the heart of the world, at the core of creation, which contains the potential for a whole new revelation of the divine and a new way of living in relation to the whole of life. We are needed now — not just to cultivate the divine light within ourselves — but to use our light to reawaken life to its real nature and purpose. Our light is the catalyst for the future. The consciousness of oneness that belongs to the Self is needed to awaken the world to the living oneness that is its real nature, so that it can once again fulfill its divine purpose.

The first step in our journey is to take responsibility for our own light and to learn to recognize it, to value and work with it so that it grows within us. But the next step of spiritual responsibility is to realize that it is not "our light" and that it does not belong to us. It is the light of the divine within us and belongs to the whole of life. And at this time we need to offer it back to life, to bring the light of our higher consciousness into dialogue with the awakening light within life, to help the world take the next step in its evolution.

Life is struggling to realize its oneness. Ecologically, the planet is desperate for humanity to recognize life's interdependent unity, the organic patterns that only as a whole support life. We are stepping into the arena of global consciousness and yet we have not taken real responsibility for what that means — we are still seeking our selfish goals, which the planet can no longer support. And because our materialistic culture has forgotten the sacred nature of life, we have no collective awareness that this shift into global awareness needs a spiritual foundation. We cannot build a global civilization on the sands of scientific or material progress. Unless it has a foundation in what is real, nothing can evolve — the old patterns will just recreate themselves. Do we want a world covered with the strip malls of our outer world and inner desires? Or do we want to lay the foundations for a civilization that honors the sacred unity of all of creation, the oneness inherent within life and within our souls?

This may seem an idealistic choice, naively simple in the face of the complexities of our world, its myriad, seemingly intractable problems. But once we fully recognize the dangers of our present global predicament, we also realize that only if we return to the source of life can there be any future: the band-aids offered by a surface response are no longer viable. And the return to the source is a turning from complexity to simplicity: to the simple nature of life as essence, and to the power, the healing, and the transformative potential that belong to this essence. What we know in our own journey — that a time of real crisis presents us with the opportunity to return to our own center, where we often find a transformative energy and solution beyond our surface imaginings — is also true for the world. The global crisis we now face is an opportunity to return the world to the essence of life at its source. Once that essence is scattered into the "ten thousand things," it becomes fragmented and distorted and loses its primal power; it is only in the simple essence of life that we will find the wholeness and power the world needs in order to move beyond its current predicament.

If we return to the essence of life that is within each of us, we will discover that something new is being born. What is coming into existence is not a reiteration of past patterns, but a new paradigm, a new expression of the divine — life in its divine nature recreating itself once again. And we are a necessary part of this recreation; we are needed to participate in helping the world to be reborn. Without our conscious participation the recreation of the world will not realize its potential: the light of the world will not evolve.

Taking spiritual responsibility means recognizing that we each have a part to play in this rebirth: that life needs our light in order to evolve. Without the contribution of our light life will continue to stagnate, and the realization of its oneness will not fully incarnate; it will not become a part of our collective consciousness. Humanity will not take the vital step of realizing its role as guardian of the planet. An opportunity will once again have been lost.

But if we embrace this moment and accept our responsibility, then we can be part of what is being reborn and help in the wonder of recreation. We can help humanity and the world take a great step in their evolution and lay the foundations for a civilization that honors the oneness within all of life and all of humanity. And we can fully participate in how this civilization comes into being.


The way to work with our light in service to the whole begins with the simple recognition that our light is a part of the light of the world, part of the spiritual light of life. This simple affirmation frees our light from the grip of any self-centered patterns and returns it to the oneness of life. The Sufis say, "It is the consent that draws down the grace," and this consent — for our spiritual light to be used in service to the whole — opens the door to an understanding of how to be in service. In essence this understanding comes from a dialogue of light to light: the divine light of life speaks to our light and communicates to it the ways in which it needs our light to participate in the unfolding of the whole.

This may seem like an esoteric notion, outside the scope of ordinary life, but once we recognize that our light is a part of life, part of its organic nature, we realize how natural this process is. Our light is like an individual cell of the light of life, and the consciousness within life's organic wholeness will naturally communicate with each single cell, just as the consciousness within our body communicates with each of our physical cells. Our conditioning that we are separate from the whole of life, and that spirit and matter are separate, has denied us this natural communion with the whole. Once we are free of these misperceptions and affirm that we are a part of life, we can become open to a direct communication with life.

Learning to be receptive, to listen to the guidance that comes from within, is a basic spiritual practice. Taking this practice into the arena of service to the whole will mean learning to listen for the particular way life is asking us to participate. This request can come from the outer or inner world, but it will speak to us with the simplicity of life's essence, and it will be in tune with our own essential nature. We do not need to be other than who we are; we just need to be prepared to be fully alive and awake to the need of the moment — not to be caught in our expectations or images of spiritual service. Because each individual's light is unique, the way it can participate will also be unique. Life will speak to us in our own way, guiding us to the work that needs to be done.

There are many different arenas of spiritual work at this time in which our particular light can be of service. For example we could be attracted to the fields of healing or ecology — be connected to the energy body of the planet and given the tools we need to help to free it from inner and outer energies that are polluting it. Or one could be drawn into the world of business, and be taught to work with the energies of money and commerce, to free them from the darkness that binds them with greed. Some people are being asked to work inwardly in the archetypal or imaginal world. The participation of human consciousness is needed now to help give birth to the symbols of the next age, to create the symbolic foundation of life for the next era — this is shamanic work for the whole of life, in which our light can work directly with the soul of the world. Our light could also be directed into the spiritual body of the world where it can help to awaken centers of power that are needed for the earth's evolution. In all areas of this work, life will draw our attention to where it is needed, and our light, individually or as a group, will be taught how to work with the world as a living whole.


Excerpted from Alchemy of Light by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. Copyright © 2013 The Golden Sufi Center. Excerpted by permission of The Golden Sufi Center.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi teacher in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order and specializes in the area of dream work, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology. He is the author of several books, including The Circle of Love, Love Is a Fire, Spiritual Power, Sufism: The Transformation of the Heart, and Working with Oneness. He lives in Inverness, California.

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