curtis fisher.

Alchemy, meaning and being.

- 5 Minute Read

One of my favorite books, The Alchemist, has this beautiful idea of "The Soul of The Universe."

I grew up atheist. This soul of the universe concept, at first, seemed like a fictitious narrative element for creating a good story. One of those "woo woo" ideas like chakras and holistic medicine.

As I've grown to become more self-aware, this concept has taken on new meaning.

The hierarchy of meaning

Words are an atomic unit of communication. With a single word, I can evoke meaning.

Encapsulating words, are sentences with which the words fit into. Sentences provide us a more robust tool than words. You can communicate more meaning per unit sentence, than you can per unit word.

Encapsulating sentences, are phrases with which sentences fit into. They provide complex structure to our sentences. The ability to move groupings of sentences around to construct stories.

Encapsulating those phrases are the thoughts and emotions that inspired the writing.

Encapsulating that is you, the observer. The one who is neither your thoughts nor your emotions.

And finally, at the highest level of the meaning hierarchy is the soul of the universe, encapsulating all meaning.

Each of those levels represent a whole unit of meaning. At the lower levels, meaning is represented in small, finite units. At higher levels, more meaning can be communicated. At the highest level, the soul of the universe, meaning is infinite.

Choose your own language

If the soul of the universe terminology doesn't resonate with your worldview, here are terms you might consider replacing it with:

  • Truth
  • The Absolute
  • The Logos
  • Brahman
  • God
  • Yahweh
  • Love

We are Soulsuits

The soul of the universe is permeating all around us as energy. Our bodies sense and ingest this energy, often in forms such as matter, light, sound, heat, and potential. We then redirect energy at our discretion for the purpose of self-creation.

In this understanding, Being is the process of understanding, channeling and distilling the soul of the universe.

Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.

Alan Watts

We rarely have the perfect words or the exact story to communicate the full depth of our experience. We are one infinite soul, observing itself through a finite Soulsuit.

You are multilingual

We took a bottom up, words -> the soul of the universe, approach to the hierarchy of meaning. Communication is the inverse of that approach; it is the process of condensing infinite meaning into finite language.

There are many forms of language we use to communicate in.

Symbolic Language

I chose a symbolic language, written english, to communicate the hierarchy of meaning. Symbolic languages are convenient for sharing ideas because they are the most widely accepted systems of shared-meaning we have created. Mathematical notation, programming, chemical symbols, logical symbols, and sign language are other forms of symbolic language we have created.

Expressive Language

Expressive languages are good for communicating emotions, feelings, and experience. Music, painting, dancing, and cinema are forms of expressive language that we commonly experience.

Mood as language

A calm person reading this article may understand the meaning totally different than a enraged person. Your mood might also infuse itself into other forms of communication. For example, when we are angry, we tend to sharpen the tone of our voice while speaking. When we are shy, we may adjust our body posture sub-consciously by turning our feet away from who we are talking to.

Deploying intuition & analysis

Personality is also an exceptionally powerful form of language. Like mood, our personality can affect how we derive meaning from the world around us.

If we are a relatively optimistic person, we may extract a positive meaning from things. A pessimistic person may extract a more negative meaning from the same things.

Two important skills for understanding and distilling meaning are intuition and analysis.


Intuition is the measure of our ability to identify meaning. When we intuit something, we understand it right away. It's an efficient operating form.


Analysis is the measure of our ability to communicate meaning. When we analyze something, we observe the component units of meaning that contribute to the whole. Analysis helps us find the right tools-words, scenes, musical notes, colors-to demonstrate meaning.

Final Thoughts

The Alchemist was an aptly named book to start on this journey of exploring meaning. As history recounts, alchemists conceived of a way to mutate lead into gold. They were able to extract the purest meaning of an object, its soul, and transmute that into anything they desired.

Whether or not we can turn actual lead into actual gold, I'm not certain. What I do believe, is that we have the power to shape our realities. We can use this understanding of communication and the meaning hierarchy to become better self-operators. In that sense, we posses a great power within us, the power to refine the raw lead of our being into the pure gold of our potential.