Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review of the Suggestive inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery

     Written in and around the Victorian era, the text is a great introduction to the subject of Alchemy and spirituality. Though many may have to find a background in these subjects in order to comfortably read through the work, much misunderstood terminology and concepts can easily be found on the internet so as to enable you to flow through the title.
     The fortunes of the periods English, coupled with older styles of speaking as well as much reference to the Latin that many of the ancient texts were written in, grants a vehicle for prose and poetry which elucidates the art. Written by father and daughter who belonged to a secret society in England which catered to the likes of Thomas Taylor and Bulwer-Lytton, through the efforts of Thomas South and his daughter Mary Anne Atwood ( married another serious seeker), we have an invaluable writing passed on to posterity.
     In the Atwood/South book, the chapter on the theory of Transmutation begins with a quote from villanova; "That there abides in nature a certain pure matter, which, being discovered and brought by art to perfection, converts to itself proportionally all imperfect bodies that it touches".
     Another quote makes this proposal more material; " As the Philosopher who in the Book of Meteors did wryte, That the lykeness of bodyes metallyne be not transmutable. But afterwards he added theis words of more delyte. Without they be reduced to their beginnyng materiable; Wherefore such bodies as in nature be liquable Mineral and metalline may be mercurizate, Conceive ye may theis science is not opinable, But very true by Raymond and others determinate,"
     "Trust not, says the adept, those imposters who tell you of a sulphur tingens, and I know not what fables; who pin also the narrow name of Chemia on a science ancient and infinite. It is the Light only that can be truly multiplied, for this ascends and descends from the first fountain of multiplication and generation. This light (discovered and perfected by art) applied to any body, exalts and perfects it in its own kind : if to animals, it exalts animals; if to vegetables, vegetables; if to minerals, it refines minerals, and translates them from the worst to the best condition; where, note by the way, that every body hath passive principles in itself for this Light to work upon, and therefore needs not to borrow any from gold or silver."
    The authors go on to say; "This last advice is given to correct a common error, that the alchemists extracted the Form out of these metals to transmute and increase with. Gross misconception of their initial principle has indeed caused their positions frequently to appear ridiculous; as of the common talk, for instance, of weighing and proportioning the elements so exactly as to constitute them into lasting accord; of consolidating the metalline vapour by heat artificially introduced, or by rays of the sun and moon drawn to simultaneous co-operation, and several such like imputed follies, far from their minds, who protested against such misunderstanding, having assumed to themselves another method of generating metals, by which they were enabled to follow nature independently, and help her to exceed the ordinary limits of her law: not by the condensation of imaginary vapours in the mines, or by the assistance of the great luminary or lunar light, but by working, as it is said, the only universal living and occult nature by and through itself, scientifically, which contains within itself the true original of all these, even of the whole manifested existence."
     Much is said to define what the stone is, and how it is used in this chapter on the theory of transmutation. This quote from Lucerna Salis says much;

     " A certain thing is found in the world,
       Which is also in every thing and in every place.
       It is not earth, nor fire,  nor air, nor water,
       Albeit it wants neither of these things,
       Nay it can become to be fire, air, water, and earth;
       For it contains all nature in itself purely and sincerely;
       It becomes white and red, is hot and cold,
       It is moist and dry and is diversifiable every way.
       The band of Sages only have known it,
       And they call it their salt.
       It is extracted from their earth;
       And has been the ruin of many a fool;
       For the common earth is worth nothing here,
       Nor the vulgar salt in any manner,
       But rather the salt of the world,
       Which contains in itself all life:
       Of it is made that medicine which will preserve you from
                     all maladies.
          Atwood goes on to say; "It is only in her manifold changes that nature is known and made apparent in ordinary life; but since these alchemists profess to have enjoyed another experience, and through their Art to have discovered her in her simple essentiality, to be that total which works all conditionedly throughout existence, it will therefore be requisite to consider their whole doctrine with reference to this presumed unity, and by no means be led aside by their metaphoric language into a common misconstruction of its meaning; but since, according to the old maxim, All is Mercury which the wise men seek; let us seek therefore if we may be able at all to identify this mercury, and whether the same ancient material be yet on earth.
     Further on we read; "That there is a fluid or vitalizing principle invisibly permeating all things, and resident in the air we breathe, common experience indicates, for life cannot subsist without air, nor in all kinds of air; but there is some one quality or ingredient in the atmosphere which is a secret food of life, and on which it immediately depends; what this aliment is, though many names have been invented,  the moderns in default of knowledge are not agreed; and seeing it escapes the test of their closest vessels and analyses and that it can be neither seen, heard, felt, not naturally understood, the ancient theory of the One Element has been very much derided.
     It continues; " there is a distinct substance universally diffused, though sensible only in its mixed forms and powerful effects ; that it is the alone pure and active source of all things, and most firm bond of the natural elements, giving life to all bodies, penetrating and sustaining all things, and enlivening all ; that this almighty Ether moreover is always at hand ready to break forth into action on predisposed subjects; fermenting, producing, destroying, and governing the total course of nature.
     Speaking on this etheric fire they go on to write; " the phenomena of Mesmerism have helped to force again on the minds of the more observing portion of mankind the supposition of a "New Imponderable," or "Od-ic force", yet, few believe; and we pass it now to continue our research concerning that elder Quintessence of the magi which they introduce, not as a being of speculation merely, but of experimental science; not perceptible only in mingled forms, in the common air or elementary water, but as an essence compact and tangible without heterogeneity; in which pure estate, the Kabalists, also describing, call it, Lumen Vestimenti, the Vehicle of Light; and the Greeks, Eleutheros the Free Ether, (where Luther the founder of protestantism arrives at his moniker editors note.) that is to say, freed from the prison of gross matter, and able to work of itself intimately
by virtue of its own included light. Thus Zeno defines it, Ignem esse artificiosum, ad gignendum progredientem via; as a plastic fire, ever generating by rule. And Cicero, as that coelestis altissima aethereaque natura, id est ignea aquae per se omnia gignat, that most heavenly high ethereal igneous nature, which spontaneously begets all things.

      The light of life ; the vital draught
      That forms the food of every living thing,
      And e'en the high, enthroned, all-sparkling eye
      Of ever-mounting fire; th' immense expanse,
      The viewless Ether in his genial arms
      Clasping the earth; Him call thou Lord and Jove. (Euripides)"

    " Truth is nowhere manifested upon the earth because her forms or sulphurs are perplexed
, and the passive spirit of nature is included and impure. She is moreover specified everywhere, and does not consequently, as a true passive, reflect without difference another impressing image from without truly to itself. But by the Hermetic dissolution the right recipient is said to be obtained,  the pure is separated from the impure, the subtle from the gross, and the agent and the patient are one identity, as in the Emerald Table it is graven,

              That which is below is as that which is above,
              and that which is above is as that which is below,
              for the performing of the miracles of the One Thing
              whence all the rest proceed by adaptation.

     And on this unitary basis of production the metamorphosis of species is not so entirely ridiculous. Have we not example in the common process of fermentation, the mild juice of grapes converted into wine, and milk into butter and cheese and whey; and these each proceeding out of one thing without requiring the addition of anything different: but only by operation of their own ferment they become changed into different specific natures? Just so is the Vital Spirit said to be, by the art of Alchemy, promoted from one form of being into another by its own prepared must or leaven and as such, in turn, it reacts convertively on the elements of its original extraction; having previously passed on, through many stages, from imperfection to perfection."

     The great difference between nature and the hand of man is described; " There remains the great difference however, that whereas, in these familiar examples, imprisoned nature rests necessarily within the limiting law of her species; the will of the philosophic Proteus is free to be drawn without hinderance to form itself about the universal magnet of its own infinite self-multiplicative Light; which being transmuted, transmutes ; and multiplying, multiplies its proper substance freely, in proportion to the virtue which it has acquired in the fermentation. And hence it may be better conceived, perhaps, how this fermented Spirit or Stone,  (as is the crystalline perfectness of its essence it has been called,) when brought into contact with the crude life of nature whence it sprung, transmutes, i.e., attracts the same away from other forms into intimate coalescence with its own assimilative light. and notwithstanding metals and all things in the world, as the adepts say, derive their origin from the same Spirit, yet nothing is reputed so nearly allied to it as gold ; for in all other metals there is some impurity, and therefore, a certain weight is lost in transmuting from them; but in gold there is none, but the Formal Light is wholly swallowed up in it without residue, dissolving intimately, gently, and naturally, as they compare it to ice in warm water; an excellent simile, by the way, inasmuch as the  commingling natures differ in estate only and were originally one.
     And I say to you, adds Sendivogius, that you must seek for that hidden thing, out of which is made, after a wonderful manner, such a moisture or humidity which doth dissolve gold without violence or noise, but sweetly and naturally; if you find out this you have that thing out of which gold is produced by nature,. And although all metals have their origin from thence, yet nothing is so friendly to it as gold; it is even like a mother to it ; and so finally I conclude."
     As you can see, searching the classics and a coherent use of the alchemists of merit is what you can expect in this well pointed text. The effort expended to make a coherent cast for the practice of Alchemy is quite noteworthy.  This from the chapter called ' the true subject' is most conclusive as to what the art is.
     " Man then, shall we conclude at length, is the true laboratory of the Hermetic art; his life the subject, the grand distillatory, the thing distilling and the thing distilled, and Self-Knowledge to be the root of all Alchemical tradition? Or, is any one disappointed at such a conclusion, imagining difficulties, or that the science is impracticable because it is humanly based?-- or some may possibly think the pursuit dangerous, or inexpedient, or unprofitable scientific investigation having been so long and successfully carried  on in every adverse direction?
     Further on we read; " Yet on no ground with which we are now actually acquainted could it be proved that man is a perfect microcosm,  wherein, as  it was said, the great world and all its creatures might be summarily discerned : we have no evidence of any such thing; our affinities with external nature are bounded in sense, and our knowledge of her integral operations is proportionately defective. All that we do know is learned by observation, and we should be hardly induced, from anything we are commonly conversant with, to conclude that Self-Knowledge would be a way to the knowledge of the Universal Nature. Yet this was taught and believed formerly, not either as if it were an arbitrary conceit, but as a truth understood and proved beyond speculation."
     I take this excerpt to make the point that we are able to observe; "the Universal Reason so magnified and its ethereal vehicle, very meagre evidence is afforded to the senses or this life. Yet man they say, is demonstrated to be a compendium of the whole created nature, and was generated to become wise and have a dominion over the whole of things; having within him, besides those faculties which he exerts ordinarily and by which he judges and contemplates sensible phenomena, the germ of a higher faculty or Wisdom, which, when revealed and set alone, all the forms of things and hidden springs of nature become intuitively known and are implied essentially. This Being, moreover, or Faculty of Wisdom, is reputed so to subsist with reference to nature as her substratal source, that it works magically withal, discovering latent properties as a principle, governing and supplyine all dependent existence; and of this they speak magisterially, as if in alliance they had known the Omniscient Nature and, in their own illumined understanding the structure of the universe."
     The authors make the effort to explain the reason for the pursuit of Alchemy, and explain the true subject. It is the Alchemist himself that is the prime mover in the science, that he must transform himself, body mind and soul, in order to make the stone. That this art is between the mineral, the vegetable and the animal, as ruled over and influenced by the man who has perfected his soul, is the great legacy left to us by generous Alchemical writers of the past.
     The chapter on the mysteries informs us of the efforts of Pythagoras, Iamblicus and other classical writers who attempt to describe the rescue of the soul, a soul which most never recognize the value or even existence of.  She points out how the mesmerism of her era shows much similarity to the psychic and spiritual states that transform the physical and psychological being of those who have the will to improve themselves. That the nature of the human being is not to settle upon his present state of consciousness, but to enter into a higher state unknown to most is the essential human discovery
      The next chapter on the mysteries continued explains the power of the Free Spirit which can expatiate into the whole circumference of its sphere and reveal hidden things, exhibiting  a variety of gifts; it can philosophize also more or less well according to the direction, natural purity, and relaxation of the sensual bond. In order to make the stone, this bond must be relaxed and improved upon so that will is in control of the physical and can allow the spiritual to take control as desired. Unless the physical is controlled the spiritual cannot roam freely. For this a concentrative energy is needed, and an intellect penetrating into other spheres, rather than discursive in its own.
     There are many ways known and practiced of entrancing the senses, and the key of the Hermetic vestibule may be said to be already in our hands, which are able to dissolve the sensible medium and convert it to the experience of another life.
     She goes on to explain; " We adopt the term dissolve here in accordance with the old doctrine; varying theories have been proposed to explain the change that takes place in the vital relationship of the patient in the mesmeric trance; some have thought the sensible medium is drawn away by a superior attraction of life in the agent; others, that it is overcome, or included, or arrested, or to be dissolved; and , in default of better authority, shall we not suppose it so to be dissolved, or that it ought to be, the alkali by the acid, the dark dominion of the selfhood by the magnetic friction of its proper light, the sensible or animal into the vegetable, the cerebral into the ganglionic life?  Corpora qui vult purgare oportet fluza facere, says the author of the Rosarium, that the compact earthy body of sense be rarified and flow as a passive watery spirit. The beginning of the work, says Albertus Magnus, is a perfect solution; and all that we teach is nothing else but to dissolve and recongeal the spirit, to make the fixed volatile and the volatile fixed, until the total nature is perfected by the reiteration, both in its Solary and Lunar form. (taken in part from Alberti Secret. Tract. Artis Aurifere)"
     What the Alchemists are getting act is that the art is both spiritual and physical, but to make the physical transformation you must transform the physical body and its influence over you, so that you can perceive the macrocosm and find the universal agent.
     They say : " In our vestibule, therefore, the Phantastic Spirit, which is the natural vehicle of our life, is situated : and in a similar manner the commonly diffused Ether is as a vestibuleor vehicle in respect of the universal soul of the world, which is occultly suspended in Nature, and may be called her temple ; as an outward shadow, guarding the Light within of both worlds, so is that Ether then the Sphinx of the Universe. And she is all things passively which the internal light is impassively. By her animal form, combined with the human face and summit, is indicated the twofold capability and diffusion of such a life; for she is the summit of the irrational mind relying on instinct, and the basis whereon to build the rational and transcend opinion in indivisible science. Her wings are images of the elevating power which the imagination possesses,  by which likewise she is rendered capable of divine assimilation and or returning within and upward to a region of vivid intellection everywhere resplendent with light."
     What is being said is that etheric force, light and all its forms or types must be worked up, as with foods, they must be cooked, they must be purified, or rarified. Thusly the universal agent is evolved, and manufactured. To say at which end of the process it is the universal is debatable. Processed by the will of man, it becomes useful, so effectively that is the universal, but without the etheric force as it occurs in nature there will be no agent, so they say that the raw stock of the stone is the agent. Yet the finished product changes the gold into the seed which transforms base metal, and the perfected ethers in this state of the universal agent can be used to heal, to enforce the will of the wielder. Thusly Gods Will is projected through the universe, and creation occurs and becomes manifest.
     The Atwoods go on to say; " Such was the Door-keeper of the Egyptian Mysteries; agreeably also do we find the art of Alchemy directed upon the same enigmatical source.

      A Nature to search out which is invisible,
      Material of our Maistry a substance insensible.

     This Material, whilst yet immanifest, they worked, and worked with by itself alone; joining self to self, as the advice runs - vita vitam concipit, natura naturam vincit ac superat patefacit, gignit et renovat; item natura natura laetatu et emendetur, as men also now prove, mesmerising one another, but without the important knowledge how to alter and amend the Thing. This mesmerism, in respect to our Mystery then may be regarded as a first key which, opening into the vestibule, affords a view within the sense's prison, but of the labyrinth of life only. Facts vary at the circumference, and appear often so contradictory that reason is at a loss, even if otherwise admitted capable, for the stable materials whereon to base judgment ; and each succeeding theory yields to some unforeseen diversity of the Spirits manifestation."
     There are many levels at which our adepts speak. This from the Marrow of Alchemy by Eirenaeus is aptly quoted in the book;
     The matter first of metals Mercury
     A moisture is which wetteth  not the hand
     Yet flows, and therefore is named water dry,
     The vulgar is at every ones command,
          But this is not the water we desire,
          For in our water is our secret fire.
     This Matter while its life it did retain,
     Was apt all metals e'en to procreate,
     The life when gone, then dead it doth remain
     Till a new soul shall it reanimate.
          This Matter is to metals all of kin
          All which do hide a Mercury within.

     He then who knows the parts of Mercury
     And can its superfluities decrease,
     And with true sulphur it can vivfy;
     For dead it is, though fluent, he with ease
           May gold unlock and after recongeal
           Both to an Essence which all griefs can heal
     Lo: here a spring of wealth, a Tree of Life,
     No wealth so great, no sickness here is rife,
     Here is a map, thou seest the creations all.
     Abridged, and reduced to their perfection.
          Here thou beholdest in a Subject Small,
          From this world's misery a full protection.

     O Mercury, thou wonder of the world !
     How strange thy nature is and how compact!
     A body dost possess which doth enfold
     A Spirit inexpressible to act,
          Our mysteries ; this only we desire,
          This is our water, this our secret fire.

     For Argent Vive is gold essential
     Only unripe, which if thou canst prepare
     By art, it gives the secret menstrual :
     The mother of our stone which is so rare
          Our oil, our unguent, and our marchasite;
          Which we do name also our fountain bright.

     O crystal fountain ! which with fourfold spring
     Runs down the valleys with its pearly drops
     Distilling, with the which our noble king
     Is washed and carried to the mountain tops
          Where he the virtue of the Heavens receives,
          Which never after him, when fixed leaves.

     This is our May-dew which our earth doth move
     To bring forth fruit, which fruit is perfect gold :
     This is our Eve, whom Adam doth so love,
     That in her arms his soul, strange to be told,
          He doth receive, who erst as dead was seen,
          And quickened first appears in colours green,

     How this? Even thus, in Saturn there is hid
     A soul immortal which in prison lies,
     Untie its fetters, which do it forbid
     To sight for to appear, then shall arise
          A Vapour shining, like pearl orient,
          Which is our Moon and sparkling Firmament."

    The authors share with you their discovery; " By such a vital and mysterious process is the First Matter of the adepts said to be generated and produced by an emancipation of the Fontal Source; and this is Diana, and that refulgent Light which eclipses every other light but that of its proper Reason, and strikes the irrational intruder blind." (See Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast.) " For she is the wholeness of the Fundamental Nature at once personified, the knot link of all the elements of being, inferior as superior, which she contains within herself. - A light more splendid than the Sun and gold, and more beautiful than the Moon or silver, and more diaphanous than the purest crystal; inasmuch transcendant, says the acute Helvetius, that that most recreant Beauty can never be blotted out from my mind, though it should be rejected by all, and disbelieved by fools and the illiterate.  For though our art is unknown, we do assert, according to experience, that this mystery is to be found; but only with the great Jehovah saturninely placed in the centre of the world. There, within most intimately, the Abyss of the Spagiric artifice is disclosed ; there, as in a crystalline diaphaneity, the Miracle of the whole world. There in that region no longer fabulous but by art made natural, is seen the Salamander  casting out the etherial waters, and washing himself in the flames; there the river Numitius, in which Aeneas, bathing, was absolved from his mortality, and by command of Venus was transformed into an immortal god."
     I could go on to include the entire book, so very much is found within it for the true beginning student. In the end, only God teaches, and the dumb stay mute. I would like to say there is much more wealth here, it is a good, if not the best introduction to Alchemy, and Alchemy is the way to God in His fulness. Many men have known the art in different parts of the world, for if the enlightened soul is there he has realized that Jehovah is the universe, and the sleeper must awaken to discover this universe. The fire that does not burn, and the water which doth not wet the hands.
      I will comment upon the rest of this work in future posts. The book itself is quite affordable and quite available, and God is everywhere!

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