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Practical Alchemy – Konstantin Serebrov (2006)

By some accident I ran into the name of Serebrov. He was (is?) said to be a Russian esotericist working with Alchemical symbolism. Out of curiosity I looked to see what books he has available and found a Dutch publisher that has a lot of his books. As a matter of fact, it seems that this Dutch publisher also takes care of (the) other languages. At first glance it seems that there are more books in Dutch than there are in English. I happen to have picked one that is available both in Dutch and English. Originally they were written in Russian.

The books are divided over series. Practical Alchemy is the third of a series of three, so perhaps not the best introduction. The book is written as a story around a gathering of spiritual seekers who meet up frequently and the book is a report of one such camp. As teachers we have the I-character (Serebrov?) and “Master G.” who is presented as Serebrov’s teacher. In the book there are a host of students, ‘green’, ‘doubting Thomasses’, more experienced, etc.

Right from the start the reader is presented with all kind of jargon. “Horizontal karma”, letting “the wheel of karma rotate in opposite direction”, “energetic cocoon”, “kundabuffer”, “Schooltemperature” and most of all: “reconsideration” (word in English, but with Dutch conjugations, suggesting that the word is in English in the original texts), “deleting personal history” and “cutting ethereal lines”. Some of these phrases are explained along the way, some are not.

Serebrov appears to have been active in the Russian ‘esoteric underground’ of the 1980’ies, where he was acquainted with the systems of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Castenada and with some Eastern systems. He is a not uncritical follower, but the students in the book do speak about “tensegrity” and “magical passes”. There are all kinds of exercises that are recommended to students, some daily. These exercises are oddly specific. Think of a person, breath in, pull in energy a few inches below your belly button, turn your head from left to right and back five times, breath out half of the air in your lungs, etc. And there are many such exercises, sometimes explained, sometimes only mentioned. (“Do daily Tao exercises.”)

There is quite some attention to all kinds of spiritual paths. Serebrov wrote about Yoga, Tao, Alchemy, etc., but the Orthodox Church is half of the path to God. The book gives a wee bit of an idea of the ‘Russian spiritual underground’, but stresses that real progress can only be made in a school lead by a real master, hence: “Master G.” and his followers, such as Serebrov. Yet it is remarkably hard to find information about the school, when and where they meet, etc. G. seems to be a man named Iurii or Vladimir Stefanov who introduced Guénon in Russia. Interesting.

For a large part, Practical Alchemy is yet again book for spiritual seekers with some exercises and the suggestion that the only true path is presented. This is poured into a story with characters many people can relate to. Amusing are the ‘Russian elements’ such as Wodka which flows abundantly.

What about the reason I bought this book in the first place? Yes, there is ‘spiritual Alchemy’ here. There are 21 beautiful pen drawings, with fairly simple Alchemical symbology, but still recognizable. Several of the major symbols are used to explain the spiritual path, the phases of Alchemy, the king and queen, etc. Serebrov does have an odd explanation of the ouroborous as the lower self, though. The Alchemical element actually is interesting, but the whole ‘packing’ is a bit too fluffy to my liking. On the other hand, much of what I read is dry and academic, so a few notes on the spiritual path are good reminders.

I am not immediately planning on getting other Serebrov books, but I am just going to see what is available and decide then.

2006 Serebrov Boeken, isbn 9077820043

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