However strong and broad our vessels are, they need to be cleaned before we can actually begin the Great Work of transmutation. Like most cleaning work, it’s not a particularly sexy step, but necessary prerequisite to the process. The benefits of self-cleaning are improved hygiene, exposure to better alchemical products for transmutation (as you are energetically clean yourself), and better digestion and transmutation once the process begins. Cleaning is a crucial step.

What is the material to be cleaned? Primarily, it is the residue of past experiences on every level of being. When reality is glimpsed through the veils of the past, it can be incredibly difficult to see the present clearly and respond to the opportunities offered therein. Cleaning allows us to get a fresh start, to see the present for what it is and to metabolize it cleanly and clearly.

The process of cleaning your vessel is like a chef’s routine of cleaning their pans before cooking a new dish. Whether you’re working at a fine restaurant or your personal kitchen, you don’t want the moldy residue of your last meal infusing your new creations. The higher caliber ‘cooking’ you are doing, the cleaner your vessel needs to be. What you cook and eat determines the person you become in any moment.

The cleaning process has simple steps, repeated on everybody of existence. As you recall, building your vessel required two simple steps over every level of being: diet and exercise. When applied to your physical, energetic, emotional, mental, and wisdom bodies, diet and exercise build a strong vessel that can hold deep broad, intense experiences.

Similarly, cleaning your vessel can be done in three ways on every level of being: fasting, scraping, and purging. All three steps are means of removing the residue from past experiences so that you can be open to ‘cooking’ in the present and building your future. Let’s dive into what each of these steps can mean for you:



Your vessels will naturally ‘clean’ themselves if you fast – if you do not give your bodies outside food, they will metabolize the built-up residue of all your old, undigested meals.

Fasting is healthy on the physical level one day a week and even one weekend per month. Mice on a calorie-constrained diet are healthier and more active than mice who have ‘normal’ caloric intake. Fasting is one of the keys for enhanced vitalization, as it gives the digestive organs a rest and the body a chance to digest the un-metabolized material.

Fasting also provides a break from activity which leads to physical, energetic, emotional, and even mental quietness. This break from activity allows guidance from the higher wisdom body and bliss body to permeate the mind, allowing for greater clarity in decision making. Before you get cooking, you want to know what you want to eat, how to make it, and why you are going through all the effort. This period of silence and rest gives that answer. Many find this clarity nothing short of miraculous.

As you might guess, fasting happens on every vessel, not just the physical. You can fast energetically, emotionally, mentally, and even from wisdom, and all of these fasts will have similar benefits in their respective fields, adding clarity and restoring hunger and vitality.

Take time for uninterrupted ‘cave time,’ and try to schedule a weekend retreat every season, and a weekly retreat each year in order to reset your metabolism. The transition from winter to spring is a great time to refresh your system and receive the richness of the new year.



Old substances, patterns, or experiences which have built up over a long time can lead to plaque on one or more of your vessels. Left untouched, this residue can corrode your vessel, reducing your ‘cooking surface,’ and ability to absorb experience and turn it into useable fuel. Like a trip to the dentist, this area likely needs to be professionally ‘scraped’ to restore the full function of your vessel. After the scraping, better self-care (through diet and exercise) is recommended to restore your vessel to full function.

Scraping can include the strategic inclusion of medicinal elements to break stuck patterns and flush resistant pathogens out of your system. It could also include psychic ‘surgery,’ with strong counter-pressure from trusted allies who can push you out of a comfortable stasis and towards your vibrant, living edge. Scraping work must be trusted to a professional, and should not be attempted by others who do not have the capacity to sustain a vulnerable, ‘two-way’ relation. Friends shouldn’t let friends perform ‘surgery’ on their psyches without extensive training. And even stricter warning goes for self-proclaimed psychic surgeons – barring extreme circumstances, continual application of love heals far more reliably than sharpness in producing lasting change.



Purgation is the removal of an undigested substance from your vessel. Whether this comes through a sweating, excreting, vomiting, purgation removes an old, stuck substance and makes room for growth. Unlike scraping, which requires a sharp external impulse to dislodge stuck material, purgation typically comes after a long period of fasting and is driven by internal factors, ideally deliberately, intentionally induced.


Cleaning It All Out

When your body isn’t clean, you won’t be able to process new material, and your energetic, emotional, and mental state may be quite low. The following table describes various signs of residue, the three modes of cleaning, and a positive result of the work:

Body Signs of Residue Modes of Fasting Modes of Scraping Modes of Purgation End Result
Physical Body Sluggish body, difficulty digesting food, resistance to exertion. Restricted calorie diet, juice fast, water fast. Acerbic, spicy foods, purgative medicines, surgery (last resort) Sweatlodge, vomiting, enemas, salt water flush Heightened energy levels, stamina, enhanced mood.
Sensation Body Excessive guarding, feeling ‘burned out,’ numbness, aversion to pain and pleasure Meditation, sensory deprivation tanks, ‘yin’ yoga Reiki, ‘fire breath,’ aggressive Qi Gong (pushing energy through) Trauma release, shaking, energy flushes (with a trusted professional) Heightened sensation, broader spectrum of sensitivity.
Emotional Body Inability to feel, persistent unpleasant states, difficulty shifting between emotions. Meditation, restriction from media and communication, time away from relationship. ‘Psychic surgery,’ aggression if complacent, ‘opposite emotion’ is most effective. Ecstatic dance, primal release therapy, screaming, wild sex. More expressive, empathetic, intuitive, artistic, a broader range of emotions.
Mental Body Repeated thought patterns, easily distracted, inability to focus, ‘following’ others’ ideas. Meditation, Media restriction, solo ‘nature time,’ restricting thought. Non-verbal living. Aggressive mental counter-pressure, learning new languages/forms of thinking. Talk therapy, journaling, artistic creations as ‘shadow work,’ ‘putting it out there.’ Clarity, mental control, focus, initiating own projects.
Wisdom Body Subscribing to other belief systems, rigid mental structure, resistance to change, chronic negativity. Media restriction, meditation, extended solo retreats. Exposure to contrasting ideas, opening to new beliefs. Releasing beliefs which no longer serve. Mental wholeness, inclusiveness, flexibility and freedom.


Cleaning is great, but don’t overdo it!

Cleaning is only a part of the alchemical process, and like any isolated part, it can be destabilizing when out of balance with the whole. Importantly, cleaning does not give new nutrients on any level. Cleaning removes toxins, blockages, and residue, but doesn’t bring in new life. It is important to use cleaning when necessary and remember to continue moving in the path.

Excess fasting can lead to spiritual anorexia, where the nourishing substances of life are reduced to the point where the vessel is weakened. Treat fasting like a sacramental substance. Never fast to the point where your integral structure is threatened, always fast with a set purpose and intention, and be gentle with yourself through the fasting journey.

Excess addiction scraping can lead to spiritual sadism, with an addiction to authoritarian control and being ‘wrong’ in order to experience the thrill and closeness of being ‘punished’ and getting ‘better.’ Such types necessarily attract spiritual ‘sadists,’ often in the guise of the ‘teacher,’ ‘master,’ or ‘guru,’ to dispense punishment and enact their fantasies of superiority or control. Spiritual sadomasochism is sadly common in ‘self-improvement’ oriented spiritual circles, and can lead to a spiral of traumatic narcissism in both leader and follower. I recommend you learn how to lead your own process, contracting specialists to aid you only where necessary.

Excess purgation can easily lead to spiritual bulimia. This leads to a pattern of spiritual bingeing leading to purges. Those lost in the throes of spiritual bulimia experience a swinging pendulum of attachment and renunciation. The commonality between spiritual anorexia, sadomasochism, and bulimia is a pervading sense that we are not enough as we are. In any case, the obsessive focus on getting better would be better spent meditating on love and opening the heart.

Because our brains are plastic, we create greater sensitivity for that which we focus on. If your main focus is on cleaning your vessel and not creating love in the world, you will see more opportunities for cleaning – and hence, you will amplify your sensation and discomfort with ‘uncleanliness.’ This quickly creates a self-fulfilling prophecy – an aversion towards the unclean creates a world with more blockages and less love. We clean in order to create love and live lives of ever greater love. We clean not because we are dirty or ‘sinful,’ but out of the excitement for that much more love to feel and to give. 


Cleaning the past to ‘cook’ the future:

Let’s end with the metaphor of your alchemical kitchen to remind of the importance of healthy cooking. If you don’t clean your vessel, you may find you keep getting the taste of your last energetic ‘meal’ on your tongue. You might keep cooking the same thing. the belated fruits of starting a meal without clarifying your intentions. If your result ‘tastes’ bad enough for long enough, you might mistakenly come to rely on other chefs for your own cooking – an exercise which is both expensive and deprives a budding alchemical ‘chef’ of agency, creativity, and personal development. At worst, you may come to think that the Work isn’t for you, or even that alchemy isn’t real, because what you’re cooking tastes worse than the ‘food’ that our culture offers.

Those who deny subtle reality and responsibility for their own ‘cooking’ don’t escape the necessity of ‘eating’ on every level. Most merely rely on the food they are given by culture, which is often highly processed, mass-produced bait with the low-nutrient, addictive looping patterns of physical endorphins to stoke their appetite. Fed on such diets, many are still hungry on deep levels of their being, following empty desire without realizing the fullness which can be cultivated within. We all have the potential for a much, much better outcome through the process of alchemy, so long as we have whole vessels and clean them well.

This ‘cooking’ process, if clean and clear, works on the past, present, and future simultaneously: cooking with clean pans mean having a clean body, free from the residue of the past. Clean, sharp knives to prepare the meal come from having clean, clear intentions. And the food can be prepared for the future with a grateful heart, setting the intentions for development into the makeup of the cooking process.

A clean, working vessel can hold and process experience on every level: with it, you gain a healthy body which has the energy and stamina to harness life, a nervous system which can feel and transmute sensations, a heart which can experience and process the full spectrum of emotions, a mind which can hold, transform, and master complex thought, and access to an everlasting tapestry of profound wisdom. Once your vessel is constructed, it is important to clean each vessel before opening it to new material to transform with the fire of your will, the clarity of your intention, and the focus on your attention. If your lifestyle incorporates regular cleansing, your vessels will be ready for whatever meal life serves.


Read the Next Step in the Alchemy Series: Step Three: Opening Your Vessel