A study of alchemy that has been in process for almost as long as I have been alive will be released on September 1, 2015. The Tantric Alchemist: Thomas Vaughan and the Indian Tantric Tradition will be published by Ibis Press. It represents an interest of mine since 1968, when I read Kenneth Rexroth’s Foreword to the University Press edition of A. E. Waite’s The Works of Thomas Vaughan.
Vaughan was a seventeenth century Welsh alchemist who is notable for having a female partner, his wife Rebecca. Rebecca Vaughan was an equal participant in the Work, and Thomas refers to her contributions fondly and often. She died mysteriously about seven years into their marriage, and Thomas Vaughan died about seven years after that, also under mysterious circumstances. These circumstances were characterized by Kenneth Rexroth as “unguided autonomous nervous system experiments.” He referred to Chinese and Indian alchemical practices and then left it at that, saying he would not describe what they were doing because “it killed them.”
That was pretty much the only encouragement I needed to begin a lifelong quest to understand the alchemical writings of Thomas Vaughan (Rebecca did not leave any writings behind), and in order to do that I had to make a study of Chinese, Indian, and Greco-Egyptian alchemical sources. What eventually transpired was a system for decoding alchemical texts and the alchemical process itself.
Those who have read my previous works on Tantra and alchemy — Tantric Temples:Eros and Magic in Java as well as Stairway to Heaven and The Dark Lord — will find in this book an elaboration of this theme and, hopefully, a clarification. As I wrote the Introduction to the book I was forced to realize that I had begun this search almost fifty years ago! Only my readers will be able to judge whether or not the search was worth the effort, and the wait.