The moment one cracks a book on Alchemy, spirituality, metaphysics, symbolism, shamanism, meditation, etc, of any tradition, creed or persuasion, they are faced with a veritable summit of confusing and, at times, seemingly conflicting concepts, terms, ideas & vocabulary.  As a writer on these topics myself, I am not innocent of this pile-on myself.  Having spent years nose-to-page in the old dusty books that represented & formulated the foundational notions, theorems & working tools of the craft that I will broadly refer to as the umbrella term of 'Religion & Spirituality', I forget (sometimes) that many have neither the time nor the inclination to repeat my studies and one should not feel obligated to.  A lack of clarity is the fault of the writer, not his/her devout (or interested) reader.  That stated, time & space are insufficient, in the confines of the individual essay, to deliver adequate supporting definitions & explanations.

This humble jumble of text is intended to address this situation.  I shall attempt to provide something for an extended glossary-cum-roadmap.  Admittedly, I will seize full opportunity to infuse (& impress) my personal opinions, commentary & biases upon you, my dear reader.  I make no effort to be objective, for I feel this aim to be both nigh impossible and usually disingenuous.  Teachers teach, they do not force the reader to figure out everything on their own.  My brand or style is modeled after ancient philosophical methods, as dialectical as can be accomplished in a one-sided medium.  This involves a great deal of walking through thought processes.  I prefer to 'show my work' rather than presenting 'facts' with no mental evidence.  My conclusions are graciously meant to be 'take it or leave it'.  Disagree with me?  I should expect that at least one reader, somewhere to do so at some point along the way, and so this does not affront me.  Perhaps (God forbid) I am incorrect.  Perhaps I am not.  No harm, no foul.

I deem my work to be effective & complete when a reader reflects upon a previously unconsidered, inadequately considered or even unencountered topic, with the full force of their intellect & attention.  My statements, beliefs and arguments evolve, for I am an ever-growing person.  Chances are, if you take issue with my prior writing, I am likely in accord.

If it feels I am 'prattling on' as they say, please at least refrain from accusing me of poor delivery.  This dragging out of the process is (highly) intentional.  First of all, this is a tried & true means to increase one's attention span, a vital task in our digitally-distracted world.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, my writing style is designed to decrease one's heart rate.  Even were my words to be immediately forgotten, wiped from the mind, I intend that, at a minimum, the experience of reading be a healing, calm & stabilizing one.  Absolutely, one could attempt to create a distilled infographic of my writings, but this would dilute and defeat the overall purpose.  One may wander because one is lost or as a relaxing pastime.  Consider my writing the latter.  There may be less excitement, but hopefully more Joy.  Few write thusly in our contemporary era, most especially non-fiction, and I strive to preserve & revive this ailing art form.

Now that we have ambled and stretched our mental legs a bit, let us delve into chewier subject matter.  Symbolism, 'hidden' or otherwise, is nearly universally misunderstood, misinterpreted, and (rather thankfully) misapplied.  The mystery knowledge found in secret societies is, quite frankly, a steaming pile of rubbish.  The all-seeing eye, pyramids, alchemical symbols, vast compendiums of magical 'wisdom', while employed by those 'in the know', retain their True & original meanings, well buried in the sands of time, due largely to the intentional and/or ignorant application of innumerable 'sticky fingers' & telephone-game pass-downs.  This situation, instead of being hopeless, actually places the general populace at something of an advantage.  One who has not studied a subject beset by falsehoods has less mental clutter to clear on the road to Truth.  In fact, the (majority of the) best guides to 'Mystery' Wisdom & knowledge are publicly available.

I make an effort to avoid name-dropping, but in this case, the occasion warrants an exception.  Manly P. Hall shared a great deal of 'hidden' Wisdom, and while I do disagree with his interpretations on certain points, these minor quibbles do not prevent me from whole-heartedly endorsing his work.  If you have not read or heard of MPH, I highly recommend the pleasure.  He received his Wisdom in the same manner that I do, it all hailing from the same Source.  Societal changes in the period between his time & ours have barely impacted his delivery of Truth.  Like my own work, his requires significant investments of time, yet I assure you, the benefits & rewards will be immense.

I will cover more topics in time, but allow me to explore a few very basic & important ones here now.

I want to emphasize the fact that all of the following allusions refer to the very same twin opposing elements, found within each human being, throughout all of time:

Outer Man / Inner Man
Flesh / Spirit
Ego / Higher Self
Heart of Stone / Inner Spark
Rough / Perfect Ashlar
Serpent / Virgin
Base / Noble Metals
Death / Life
Bride / Bridegroom
Wineskins / Wine
Lamp / Oil
Etc.

This list could continue on indefinitely.  The process of merging these two elements, is a distinct procedure, however may be referred to as any term from the following (as an example, again, the list is endless):

Magnum Opus or Great Work (of Alchemy)
Theosis
Every mystical course of development, ever
Personal Growth
Self-Improvement
'Deification'
Gnosis
Becoming Christ-like
Taoist Cultivation
Indwelling
Being filled with the Holy Spirit
"Delivery from the bondage of corruption"
"Putting away childish things"
"Raised from the dead"
Merging with Christ Consciousness
Enlightenment
Finding Nirvana
Sacred Marriage (hieros gamos)
Ego 'death'
Unitive Way
Ascension
The Hero's Journey
Etc.

There is a specific method, although the paths & ways to empty this method are infinite in variety, as I attempt to reflect in my self-coined term: 'Creative Mysticism'.

The terms below, when employed correctly, represent a brief selection of the various titles, guises, 'flavors' and levels of ability of those assistive individuals who are further in their personal course of development than ourselves:

Alchemist
Wizard
Sage
Immortal
Arhat
Master
Guide
Medicine man
Shaman
A 'Christ'
Prophet
Priest
Seer
Psychic
Energy Healer
Minister
Etc.

I realize that this information may be a lot to absorb at one sitting, so I shall leave off for now.  Let this sink into your mind for a few days and I believe you will begin to gain further insights, with just this basic overview.