Civilisations throughout the ages have always recognised water for its life imparting properties, but only the elect have ever been able to know the alchemical secrets of water. Water in the metaphorical sense represents the morality in human behaviour. Though water may normally flow in the downward direction of a slope in our plain observation, however the alchemical water or morality always moves against the slope.
The ancient teachers had various interpretations for describing the role of human lives in the physical world, but some also considered the impact of this world on the souls of human beings because of their sojourn on Earth. Those ancient mystics considered the world to be a stage for the development and ascension of human soul to a greater level of glory as indicated by the pilgrimage of their alchemical water. Therefore, the mortality of man tends to defy his ambitions for materialistic progress, as it renders all such progress vain in time. A man philosophically must try to peek into the invisible realm so as to satiate the need of his mind to explore the unlit land, to find answers that his mere sharp senses for sights and sounds could not discover, and to understand the ultimate mystery of nature; death!
All the intellectual developments that have resulted in the formation of modern society have been the products of man’s efforts to extend his vision into the unknown. Man has constructed microscopes and telescopes, built machines that give him insights into the atomic and molecular structures, as well as into the galaxies at great distances. This is the very extrapolation of vision that allows an alchemist to distinguish between a strong acid and drinking water, and consequently to employ the two substances though apparently looking alike in their physical appearances, but are very different in their respective chemical natures. Therefore, the human destiny is in the process of formulation according to the depths of alchemical vision possessed by man, and guided by his moral efforts to further the dimensions of this vision. The destiny of man is essentially the product of an alchemical process driven by the functions of the alchemical water.
The properties of water in themselves represent the greatest enigmas of nature. The Greek adepts used to define water as ‘cold and wet’, in contrast to the element earth that was ‘cold and dry’. The water represents the opposite polarity of earth, and hence the astrological earth signs in a zodiac occupy placements that are opposite to the astrological water signs. On the contrary, the elements of air and fire are ‘hot and wet’ and ‘hot and dry’ in their characteristics respectively, thus forming a different elemental pair of polar opposites.
The polarity of an element is fundamentally the limit imposed by different qualitative properties of that element on each other. For example, the density of water decreases with the rise in temperature, but if the temperature rises too high so as to reach the boiling point of water, then the water shall loose all of its density and turn into the vapour phase (element air). Similarly, water turns into ice (element earth) at very low temperatures. Therefore, the threshold points beyond which the variation in any qualitative property completely nullifies the existence of the elemental condition represent the range of polarity. Water as a universal solvent performs numerous alchemical functions such as dissolution through corrosion and erosion, purification through sedimentation and crystallisation, precipitation and quenching. Of these processes, purification and precipitation usually requires lower temperatures of water, whilst dissolution and quenching works well with the hot water.
Metaphorically, it symbolises the extent of adherence to a moral creed whereby any coherent natural existence could be viable, and the human integrity would have any meaning at all. It should be morally appropriate to seek warmth and to preach the code of obtaining heat in extremely cold regions of the world, but to exemplify the same code as the word of God in some extremely hot area ought to be a gross misappropriation of morality. The significance of moral values or teachings is relative to the immediate working environment of the practitioner, and therefore morality must always guide humanity according to the alchemical principles of elemental polarity.