I picked up The Alchemy of Freedom because I was looking for an accessible book about alchemy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually about alchemy nor was it accessible in my opinion.
But, everybody is ready at different times for different manners of spiritual teachings. Don’t let my incomprehension deter you if you find the description intriguing. I’m neither a genius nor a guru, just someone who studies religions and spirituality in a comparative, curious, meandering way. This could be the book that opens a door for you. It simply wasn’t that for me.
There are some gems hidden in these pages but I found it mainly to be a labyrinth of words. I’ve had a similar feeling when listening or reading the works of Eckhart Tolle. I feel like what Almaas is saying is worthwhile, so I made my way through it. But I just didn’t get the majority of it. Puzzling my way through this book was like grasping a cloud.
I had finished this book last week in preparation for writing a review the day it came out, but when I sat down to write yesterday, the words wouldn’t come. Rarely does reading a book leave me speechless.
I’ll pull some highlights to give you a feel for it. Reminder: this was a digital advance reader’s copy so the final published version could be slightly different.
I was able to comprehend Almaas’ thoughts about our “true nature” and most of the passages I highlighted talk about it: “Whether we recognize it as presence or awareness or emptiness, true nature is crucial to the process of awakening, realization, enlightenment, and liberation. It is the source of all spiritual experiences, insights, and transformations. There is no other source. Nothing can happen without it.” loc 116-133.
The bits of alchemy that Almaas did discuss were illuminating: “When we are experiencing ourselves as true nature, we realize that a human being is really the alchemical laboratory. The human being, the human consciousness, the human mind, the human heart are the instruments through which the magician works.” loc 186. Most books that discuss alchemy are symbols heaped upon symbols. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the topic, but it’s frustrating.
About the philosophers’ stone: “The alchemists spent millennia trying to find it. They considered it the final result of the magnum opus, the great work of spiritual and material transmutation. Some alchemists thought they could make it, others believed it had to be discovered. … I am not teaching anything about alchemy here; I am borrowing the idea because it fits with what I am trying to say about true nature. … We can only experience true nature in the manifold ways it presents itself, and yet it is always one thing.” loc 666
I felt like this next quotation encompassed my experience of this book: “Sometimes we can rapidly absorb a teaching, and other times we can’t get very far with it for a long time. But we don’t need to get into a mental struggle with the ideas and the notions. Although understanding is an important part of awakening, it need not happen immediately.” loc 922.
So, that’s a relief. Perhaps my awakening is still on its way. Until then, I’ll just chill where I am.
Thank you to NetGalley and Shambhala Publications for a free advance reader’s copy of this book.
And thank you for reading!