“The Magi in their wisdom asserted that all creatures might be brought to one unified substance, which substance they affirm may, by purifications and purgations, attain to so high a degree of subtlety, such divine nature and occult property, as to work wonderful results. For they considered that by returning to the earth, and by a supreme magical separation, a certain perfect substance would come forth, which is at length, by many industrious and prolonged preparations, exalted and raised up above the range ov vegetable substances into mineral, above mineral into metallic, and above perfect metallic substances into a perpetual and divine Quintessence, including in itself the essence of all celestial and terrestrial creatures. The Arabs and Greeks, by the occult characters and hieroglyphic descriptions of the Persians and Egyptians, attained to secret and abstruse mysteries. When these were obtained and partially understood they saw with their own eyes, in the course of experimenting, many wondrous and strange effects. But since the super-celestial operations lay more deeply hidden than their capacity could penetrate, they did not call this a super-celestial arcanum according th the institutions of the Magi, but the arcanum of the Philosopher’s Stone according to the council and judgement of Pythagoras.” ~Paracelsus
It was the goal of the Magi, the Mystics, and the Spiritual Adepts of the various ancient Mystery schools and Gnostic schools to helps all of us return to a state that Paracelsus is calling “one unified substance”. Where Paracelsus goes astray is in thinking that all of this was material in nature rather than spiritual. The only “substance” that is truly unified is spirit.
Purifications and Purgations
Purification ceremonies were practices by Magi and mystics. The Essenes used ritual bathing. Others may have used steam or smoke. Today, a lot of new-age types use sage smudging for the purification of their environment and themselves.
Purgation may also have been used, but was more of a mental thing than a physical. While purging the body of some things may have been helpful, it is purging the mind of false beliefs and teachings that is important in preparing one for spiritual development.
While purifications and purgations are helpful—sometimes even necessary—for spiritual growth, they do not do the job alone. The most important thing is awakening the spirit and soul using the light of the spiritual sun.
Returning to the Earth
I think that either Paracelsus does not really understand the function of the spiritual growth methods used by the Magi and Mystics, or he has simply worded this poorly. We don’t want to dig further down into the earth and into the realm of matter. That is the direction we head in by default and it is the wrong direction to go in if we want to achieve eternal life in spirit. What he means (I think) is that we need to pull spiritual energy down to us while we are still trapped in matter and on Earth, and use that energy to awaken our spiritual faculties to rise to higher levels of being and consciousness. That is where we find the unified substance. Looking for it in matter is like looking for fish in a tree.
The divine quintessence that is found in all beings, all things, is spirit. Everything that is made of matter has a spiritual self as well. Spirit can exist without matter, but matter cannot exist without spirit, at least not in the third dimension where we are. It is that spirit in all things that is the unified substance. When St. Francis had his spiritual awakening one morning while watching the sunrise from his bedroom, he recognized this fact. He says that on a spiritual level, all beings are the same. This is why he started referring to animals, plants, the moon, and the sun as his brothers and sisters. He was talking about the spirits in those beings, not the physical bodies. He understood that the unified substance is spirit.
Paracelsus says that these Magi and Mystics “obtained and partially understood” the mysteries of the universe and the unified substance. Why does he say Partial? Because no one still living in physical form achieves complete knowledge of the mysteries, though some have learned a great amount of it. But we all learn it eventually, as the path of spiritual development continues long after the death of the physical body.