Category Archives: The Work

Visualization in Medieval Alchemy – alchemy as a science and an art aimed at the transformation of species

In Arabic classifications of science and philosophy, which were adapted in the twelfth century, alchemy was defined as a sub-branch of natural philosophy (scientia naturalis), sharing this definition, above all, with medicine. Thus, about ten years after the first translation of an alchemical text into Latin (Morienus, De compositione alchimie), Dominic Gundissalinus described alchemy as belonging to physics in his De divisione philosophiae (ca. 1150).[6] It was a science and an art aimed at the transformation of species

In the thirteenth century, representatives of Platonically-oriented cosmology and natural science such as Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253) defended a systematic use of geometrical representation. Following Grosseteste, “all causes of natural effects must be expressed by means of lines, angles, and figures, for otherwise it is impossible to grasp their explanation”.[24] The corresponding theory of knowledge was neo-Platonic and Augustinian. The intelligible order underlying the physical, corporeal world was thought to be apprehensible by the divine part of the soul, by the ‘eye of the soul’, and geometrical figures (as well as number patterns) were used as ‘ladders’ leading to eternal truths.

The early fifteenth-century Aurora consurgens marks a further step in the elaboration of pictorial metaphors combined with glass vessels. The oldest and most spectacular copy of this document dates from the 1420s (Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, ms. Rh. 172). On a purely pictorial level, an inventive and high-quality artist developed a core of recurrent alchemical metaphors that relate to human and animal procreation, the dismemberment of bodies (symbolizing calcinations and putrefaction) and motifs such as the eagle and the dragon, which denote mercury as a volatile and as a solidified substance, respectively.[75] In and around glass vessels, the artist metaphorically depicted stages of operation relating to the alchemical art of transformation as well as cosmological and philosophical principles of the art, such as “two are one” and “nature vanquishes nature”. Two or more principal metaphors are frequently combined within a single picture, reflecting the increasing use of chains of metaphors. For instance, one of the illustration combines the motifs of Mercury decapitating the sun and the moon with a vase filled with silver and gold flowers

Figure 11: Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, ms. Rh. 172, fol. 27v. Aurora consurgens (ca 1420-30). Mercury in the form of a serpent decapitating the Sun and the Moon. Gold and silver flowers in a vessel on the fire.

For the full article from which these extracts were taken, go to the link below

Source: HYLE 9-2 (2003): Visualization in Medieval Alchemy

Conciatore: Primordial Matter

I feel that the more perfect the art the most simple it is; so the authors [of alchemy] most unanimously agree that the ‘primordial material’ [prima materia] of the [philosopher’s] stone is something vile [base] and not bought with money, but easy to find. Moreover, the manner of work must imitate nature, which in order to produce gold makes use of the singular or simple material, which is the seed of gold, of a single vessel, which is the ‘womb of the earth’ [seno della terra] and of a single natural and vital fire, which is the sun.

via Conciatore: Primordial Matter.

with thanks to

The Hermetic Papers of A. E. Waite and his idea for The Hermetic Text Society

 

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‘The Hermetic Text Society was a pipe-dream of Waite’s that never proceeded further than the issuing of this breathtaking prospectus’, A.E. Waite’s bio-bibliographer R.A. Gilbert intriguingly observed with reference to a 14-page pamphlet issued by Waite in 1907.  Searching the Internet for ‘The Hermetic Text Society’ only yields a few references, all to the now sadly defunct American periodical Cauda Pavonis: The Hermetic Text Society Newsletter. Of Waite’s Hermetic Text Society’s ‘pipe-dream’ there is not a trace on the world wide web; in print, fortunately, there is Gilbert’s brief but informative description of Waite’s ‘grandiose affair’ in the biography which he published in 1987.  

At the time Waite laid down his plan for a Hermetic Text Society, he had already been in control for a few years of the Isis Urania Temple of the collapsed Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which he had re-named ‘The Independent and Rectified Rite’ (with the implicit and tacit addition of ‘of the Golden Dawn’). Waite had diverted the Order away from magic towards mysticism, altogether in line with his belief that there was a secret tradition underlying all esoteric paths, whether mystical, alchemical, kabbalistic, Rosicrucian, masonic or other, which led to direct experience of God. On the professional side of his life, he was wrapping up his career as a commercial manager for Horlick’s, manufacturers of malted milk. Waite wrote in his autobiography Shadows of life and thought that at this time, prospects ‘of a new life’ opened before him: these prospects were related to definitively establishing himself as an authority and an exponent of the ‘secret tradition’. His Hidden church of the Holy Graal, published in 1909, was to be its first product.

Gilbert writes that the idea for the Hermetic Text Society had been suggested to Waite by the gnostic scholar G.R.S. Mead, who had reviewed Karl von Eckartshausen’s The cloud upon the sanctuary in the translation of Isabelle de Steiger for the Theosophical Review in 1903. Waite had written an Introduction for the book, which had caused Mead to enthuse: ‘If only someone – and why not the scholarly mystic who writes this Introduction? – would play Max Muller to the “sacred books” of the Christian mystics from the XIVth to the XVIIIth centuries, what a feast there would be for hundreds of thousands of starving souls!’ – Cis van Heertum for The Ritman Library

more text at the link http://www.ritmanlibrary.com/collection/hermetica/the-hermetic-text-society-fl-1907/

What is Alchemy? by A.E. Waite
The Introductory Notes are taken from “Hermetic Papers of A.E.Waite”, edited by R.A Gilbert (Aquarian Press,1987). The text of “What is Alchemy?” reproduced here is scanned from the periodical “The Unknown World”, and formatted and corrected by hand at[Adepti.com]
THERE are certain writers at the present day, and there are certain students of the subject, perhaps too wise to write, who would readily, and do, affirm that any answer to the question which heads this paper will involve, if adequate, an answer to
those other and seemingly harder problems- What is Mysticism? What is the Transcendental Philosophy? What is Magic? What Occult Science? What the Hermetic Wisdom? For they would affirm that Alchemy includes all these, and so far at least as the world which
lies west of Alexandria is concerned, it is the head and crown of all. Now in this statement the central canon of a whole body of esoteric criticism is contained in the proverbial nut-shell, and
this criticism is in itself so important, and embodies so astounding an interpretation of a literature which is so mysterious, that in any consideration of Hermetic literature it
must be reckoned with from the beginning; otherwise the mystic student will at a later period be forced to go over his ground step by step for a second time, and that even from the starting point. It is proposed in the following papers to answer definitely
by the help of the evidence which is to be found in the writings of the Alchemists the question as to what Alchemy actually was and is. 

The Vessels of Hermes – an Alchemical Album (ca.1700)

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The contents of Box 14 from the Manly Palmer Hall Collection of Alchemical Manuscripts, a huge collection of esoteric works amassed by Manly Palmer Hall, a Canadian-born author and mystic, perhaps most famous for his The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928). Most of the material in the collection was acquired from Sotheby’s auctioneers on a trip he made in the 1930s to England and France – bought very cheaply due to the economic conditions of the time. The material in Hall’s collection dates from 1500 to 1825, and includes works from the likes of Jakob Böhme, Sigismond Bacstrom, Alessandro Cagliostro, George Ripley and Michael Maier. The creator of these particular watercolours featured below is unknown. A typewritten note in the back, in French, translates as follows:

ALCHEMICAL ALBUM – The Vessels of Hermes – quarto atlas containing five beautiful colour plates very artistically executed and with explanatory caption. Vol. half vellum.

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For more images and full article, see The Public Domain Review: http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/the-vessels-of-hermes-an-alchemical-album-ca-1700/

Jung’s Active Imagination | Reality Sandwich

“More abstractly,  it’s a method of consciously entering into a dialogue with the unconscious, which triggers the transcendent function, a vital shift in consciousness, brought about through the union of the conscious and unconscious minds. Unexpected insights and self-renewal are some of the results of the transcendent function. It achieves what I call that elusive ‘Goldilocks’ condition, the ‘just right’ of having the conscious and unconscious minds work together, rather than being at odds. In the process it produces a third state more vivid and ‘real’ than either; in it we recognize what consciousness should be like and see our ‘normal’ state as at best a muddling-through”

by Gary Lachman

Jung’s Active Imagination | Reality Sandwich.

Those heights are not conceivable or comprehensible by minds not completely free

I’m re-posting this old nugget as it is directly related to the 2 most recent that I have posted; Know Thyself: self-observation for the purpose of understanding ourselves “both as Individuals and Part of the Whole.”

This was Tavaglione’s introduction to his tarot deck. In creating the Stairs of Gold Tarot, he was inspired by these words from Dante’s Paradiso, “I saw a stair the colour of gold, on which shone a ray of Sun, which raised itself so high that my eyes could not see the top….”
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“I would do nothing else but pick flowers, and wander through meadows and gardens, gathering all the beautiful and most coloured my eyes and my spirit could see…but it happened that when I picked the first coloured diamonds, my curiosity flew up and I would “know” and I would “learn”.  And while at first my questions were limited only to their aspect, and I would know many Petal-Facets had the Diamond-Flowers I was picking, later I would know their Inmost Secret Light, their Why.

As I could not study all the Flowers my eyes took in, I devoted myself to the nearest ones, trying to understand with them, all the others, seeking inside them the Key that would permit me to open every other Door.
And then I realized that the more I penetrated the “Particular”, the more I descended to the “Depth”, the more I rose to the “General”.  So to understand that infinity of the Flowers around me, I began to study, with great care, One of Them, that could mean the most to me, the nearest one: myself.
And I tried to discover how many facets had that Flower-Diamond; its Cut, its Axis, it’s Colours, its Transparency, its Scent, to penetrate its innermost recesses, the “Secret Rooms” where are preserved the Most Intimate Values, the Hidden Treasures concealed by Veils.
To reach them I found it was anything but simple, because still before entering, I should curb the Beast that guarded them, the Animality always excluded from any Architecture, and any Rationality of Thought, bestial and resentful, because of its inferiority, it must be subdued by Fight and physical Strength or by Command and Moral Strength: once curbed it will be a tractable companion, but like every subdued wild beast, it will always assault us, when hesitating.
After the Beast, there is the Labrynth, consisting of 78 rooms, and 3×7 = 21 Gates; in every Room there are Prizes and Traps, Traps playing on what remained inside us, of the false ideas or the mental distortions that follow us from the preceding rooms, with which we must do away, and the Prizes playing on our Intuition and Illuminations that let us know, on the grounds of what we have learnt till now, what awaits us in the next room and that will be clear only in the future.
The 21 Gates are unforeseen gleams on the future and though one can find some difficult ties to reach and pass them, he has the Certitude of his Growth and the Consciousness of his accomplished conquest, that instill new life into his desire to go on Knowing and infuse him with new courage to face future difficulties.
The Utmost Gate, that closes the Utmost Room, the Sancta Sanctorum, is the Gate of Totality, the Conclusion that leads to our Essence, complete of everything Spiritual and Material.  When we will overcome that Utmost Barrier, we will be Ourselves, at the height of our Beings conscious of our Liberty, both as Individuals and Part of the Whole, Then behind the Veil, stretched between the Two Colums, the Black one and the Red, we will foresee the Roots of the Tree, that through its 10 points, will lead us up to heights where neither the most presumptuous of men can imagine, because those heights are not conceivable or comprehensible by minds not completely free.”
– Giorgio Tavaglione: Introduction to The Stairs of Gold Tarot Deck.
12 Pendu

Both the landscape and its beholder – Simone de Beauvoir

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Formerly, I had been quite satisfied with myself, but I had taken very little trouble to increase my self-knowledge; from now on, I would stand outside myself, watch over and observe myself; in my diary I had long conversations with myself. I was entering a world whose newness stunned me. I learned to distinguish between distress and melancholy, lack of emotion and serenity; I learned to recognize the hesitations of the heart, and its ecstasies, the splendor of great renunciations, and the subterranean murmurings of hope. I entered into exalted trances, as on those evenings when I used to gaze upon the sky full of moving clouds behind the distant blue of the hills; I was both the landscape and its beholder: I existed only through myself, and for myself… My path was clearly marked: I had to perfect, enrich and express myself in a work of art that would help others to live.
― Simone de Beauvoir

The Sabians and their role in the development of astrological, alchemical and magical traditions

“In what is now southern Turkey stand the remnants of a city called Harran. Part of long ago Babylon, Harran was once the site of the Temple of the Moon god-Sin, one of seven temples in seven cities sacred to the seven classical planets.  Unlike the other great celestial temples, though, the Temple of the Moon in Harran continued to host astral rites long after the coming of Muhammed. From the 6th until the 11th centuries C.E., a wild Hermetic syncretism bloomed, tended carefully by a people who called Hermes their prophet, and themselves Sabians.”

“In alchemy, Jābir ibn Hayyān was known to have spent time among the Sabians, and his work displays the unique fusion of astrology, Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism, Aristotelianism and Galenic medicine developed in Harran.  Jabir’s work hugely influential work spawned a plague of pseudonymous books, and more than 3000 texts have come to be attributed to him.”

Jabir_ibn_HayyanJabir ibn Hayyan was a prominent polymath: a chemist and alchemist, astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geographer, philosopher, physicist, and pharmacist and physician. Born and educated in Tus, he later traveled to Kufa. Jābir is held to have been the first practical alchemist.

As early as the 10th century, the identity and exact corpus of works of Jābir was in dispute in Islamic circles. His name was Latinized as “Geber” in the Christian West and in 13th-century Europe an anonymous writer, usually referred to as Pseudo-Geber, produced alchemical and metallurgical writings under the pen-name Geber.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C4%81bir_ibn_Hayy%C4%81n

 “The Sabians of Harran played a crucial but often under-recognized role in the transmission and development of astrological, alchemical and magical traditions. Harran acted as a crucial bridge for the Hermetic arts and sciences, ferrying them from the decay of Byzantine Rome all the way to the shores of Medieval Europe half a millennia later.  Many all of the greatest Arabic astrologers, alchemists and magicians can be shown to have spent time in Harran.  Without them, astrology would not have survived the West’s dark ages, nor would the complexities of alchemy or the high cunning of astral sorceries have been passed on.

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Harran hosted what were perhaps the sole inheritors and practitioners of Babylonian astral magic at a time when both the Christian and Islamic worlds were being steadily purged of them.  Yet the Sabians were not pagan fundamentalists.  Hellenistic influences abound in what record we have of the Sabians’ practice.  They embraced the metaphysics of Neo-Platonism, the experimental philosophy of Hermeticism and the science of Hellenistic astrology, forging a sophisticated framework for the Babylonian astral magick they inherited.  The Gayat Al Hakim, also called the Picatrix, a legendary planetary grimoire, emerged from this elegant syncretism, and may testify to its intricacies best.”

For full article at Clavis Journal, see here: http://clavisjournal.com/the-shadow-of-harran/

Alchemical Psychology, Part III – Silver

I can’t recommend this post highly enough.. wonderful, wonderful x

The Ptero Card

White and silver share a lot of the same qualities but Hillman breaks up the next chapter into two parts starting with silver; all things lunar and reflective. Silver allows reflection and is the means by which we mediate between psyche and the physical. The risk here is one of identifying with depersonalized images, becoming cold and detached from human life rather than using images as a bridge beween the psychic and physical worlds.

“The cool, silver psyche, though seemingly “unrelated,” can establish relations between the most burning issues and hold them together, yet without fusing them into a false compromise (amalgam). It mediates, attaching molten factions by means of its own detachment.”

042Hillman begins the chapter with a very startling idea that may be difficult for many moderns to hear. Particularly those who prefer to stave off pathological states by avoiding the black and blue stages whenever and however possible, but without…

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Rosarium Philosophorum; when you make the two into one..

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When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the Kingdom.

    Gospel of Thomas, 22

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(images: Rosarium Philosophorum)

The combination of substances and the union of opposites is a key element in the alchemical process. This is often represented as a mystical marriage of the lunar element representing the feminine, Sophia (wisdom) and the solar element, the male, Logos (knowledge/reason). These two opposing elements meet and are joined in what is known as the ‘chemical wedding’. This union creates something bigger and more powerful than the individual parts – the perfect integration of male and female energies – the hermaphrodite.