Ancient treatises translations and commentaries and presentations of hidden pieces of evidence in myths, art, nature, and science history reunify disconnected cultures and prove that Alchemy has a good chance to be the basis of all ancient religions’ myths.
“When the nature of the gods disappears, there appears the nature of things” – Cicero.
Hermes/Mercury, the contradictory polymorph, is Zeus’s main servant. When the ‘liar’ par excellence turns into the King’s mouth, he becomes unable to lie. Mercury is not the god of alchemists… he is Alchemy tout court. If Athena is the goddess of pristine Wisdom, Hermes/Mercury is the context, the assumption, and the element. If we fail to understand the god Mercury, we will never be able to interpret Alchemy.
“Deprive the body of body and that which has no body provide a body“ – Rosarium Philosophorum. Metals killed in a certain way can germinate again, as their forms endure over time in the materials that had made their graves.
This concept, known as Magisterium Corpi, is what Alchemy is for, and along with the key concept of Secret Fire, it can clash dangerously with certain religious beliefs. Because we can extend this notion to reigns other than mineral.
The assumption that alchemy is a proto-science born from the personal and reeling intellectual efforts of Neolithic people, and developed through the various ages of bronze
and iron up to the sophisticated acme of the Baroque period represents our crucial misunderstanding. It is increasingly clear that it may be just the opposite.
Alchemical mechanisms must have two characteristics that seem contradictory today: being “unstoppable” and “within the technical reach of the Neolithic”.
When it was more acceptable to look up to the sky to observe analogies and synchronism phenomena. And it was understood that under the words “sky and cosmos” some archetypal form was hidden, instead. And that everything travels together. Also because nothing travels but everything is duplicated.
Whatever it means, that’s first and foremost physics. We cannot avoid what was formerly called matter.
The alchemical Egg is a maximum concentration of processed matter. While, from the part of the Neoplatonists and Orphics, the symbol of the Egg represents what will be unified, as well as being means of unification.
The two elements which compose the name Demeter – Δημήτηρ – are an alteration or a more ancient form of a word meaning “Earth Mother”. Dom Pernety called her the prototype of any passive substance also containing its active agent. Proclus, a neo-Platonist who did not meddle in minerals, decided instead to give up divulging his master Syrianus’ notes on the chthonic aspect of the harvest deity, mindful of the age-old warning never to reveal anything about the Eleusine goddesses.
Damascius is thought to have surely found the scrolls, somewhere inside the school of Athens, and he has said to have made a book out of them of such length that he could believe he had hidden them again.
Canseliet often spoke of the “bird language” as a secret language encrypted for assonances: for instance, a commonly used word that sounded like an undisclosed operative term. It may seem bizarre, but the so-called bird language had a precise symbolic value in all ancient civilizations. Several stories, legends, and myths explain that the one who had overcome the human condition could get the knowledge of this “language” assimilated to the same “language of the gods”. And since birds represented the higher states of being or the angelic status itself, the “language of birds” symbolized not only the elevation towards transcendence but also the direct knowledge of celestial reality.
Only a pure human intellect can in fact become the receptacle of the memory, represented by the symbol of the heart, which I do not want to define as divine but rather archetypal.
The Alchemy books we still take as a point of reference today lead us to the first twenty years of the last century: the roaring 20s – which René Schwaller de Lubicz defined as “the era of necessary excesses” – Brave men, no doubt, who for the most part had no idea what they were up to, except the tremendous curiosity that drove them.
There is a book published in 1926 which is entitled exactly “Adam the Red Man” and René Schwaller de Lubicz is the author. So I learn there is a whole current of thought that indicates the completion of the “mystical marriage” in the real and physical union of a man of flesh and blood and a woman of flesh and blood.
The author takes inspiration from the biblical myth of Eve extracted from a body – Adam – already made and completed, and arrives at the conclusion that the human female cannot even be considered a complete human being since it is in fact just a rib. It should be noted how the scholar Schwaller takes allegories literally and does not even suspect for a moment that they could be only symbols. Perhaps Schwaller should have studied history a little more: he would have learned that while Mediterranean alchemy took examples from nature to explain, indeed to hide, the operations of physics (the sea, the sun, the moon, the earth, the wind ), Eastern alchemy took examples from the human body to explain the same operations.
Finally, Schwaller confesses that he paid J.J. Champagne for him to reproduce his interpretation of sacred union on minerals… I guess Champagne went through some pretty stressful times in that Parisian laboratory-equipped attic. Loneliness weighs in Alchemy, as in life, but freedom is priceless.
But in one thing Schwaller was absolutely right: Alchemy needs a doctrine on which to base itself, otherwise the search for the “how” will always prevail over the search for the “why”.
Philosophers such as Porphyry believed that their ability to think abstractly freed them from the constraints of the material realm. While, from Iamblichus’ point of view, their conceptual constructs had had the opposite effect: they were cut off from the divinity of the world and from communion with the gods. In this Iamblichus followed Porphyry’s teacher, Plotinus, who said: “Our concern is not simply to avoid error, but to be god.”
We know that Porphyry and Iamblichus had a very heated debate about sacrifices. However, what these rituals actually represented was probably already lost by the time of the Neoplatonists. In fact, already in earlier times, an imposture was made, and the king-priest replaced his sacrifice with that of a substitute, that is, an animal. The narrative here becomes very complex and involves the archaic concept of the transition from chaos to cosmos. Which in alchemy is expressed with the terms of Microcosm and Macrocosm.
One of the nine processions illustrating Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Each with different animals, carriages, banners, and characters. In Alchemy, quite simply, these scenes symbolically represent multiplications or, better, repetitions. Duplications.
In Philosophy, but I could call it Theurgy – although I prefer Philosophy – Plato’s Parmenides taught: “Without the Many, the One could not be one”. The interpretation of this sentence was a battleground for some of the neo-Platonists, certainly between Iamblichus and Porphyry. Ultimately, also in this case, it was all about duplication.
Better to risk with metals or in theurgic processions? I say this because brutally, and reduced to the bone, the difference between alchemists and theurgists has always been this. And, please, do not disparagingly call us “blowers, or those who blow on hot coals to raise the fire in the oven”.
There is nothing in heaven and on earth that is not also in man, said Paracelsus. We are talking about anatomy so tiny that it is invisible to our senses. And it all boils down, once again, to duplication. Without it, memory is not possible, and the transmission of chains becomes unfeasible.
We had to get to the study of elementary particles to understand the symbolism of the ancient sacrifices: An ancestral ritual of memory repetition through “nourishment”. In the end, it was just a banquet with the gods. Indeed, a communion. An exchange.
From above: Copper engraving, Nicola Tiberi 18th, Museo Civico Palazzo D’Avalos; Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, attributed to Andrea Mantegna’s school; miniature from Épître d’Othéa, Codex Bodmer 49; Daniel Cramer, Emblemata Sacra 1, engraving n. 42 Alta Cadunt; Greek vascular art portraying Dionysus offering a hare to Demetra and Persephone, Amassis painter c. 560–515 bc; Detail from Piero della Francesca, Pala di Brera or Pala Montefeltro 1572, Pinacoteca di Brera; Terracotta group of two seated women, perhaps Demeter and Persephone. Myrina c. 100 BC. British Museum, London; an example of how to draw a sparrow; Daniel Cramer, Emblemata Sacra, Emblem 7, Sum Constans; inside a venue, Paris 1920s; Reconstruction of the Cotilia lake; Achille Bocchi, Symbolicarum Quaestionum de Universo Genere, page II; Hypnerotomachia Poliphili; 1499; Jan van Eyck, the Arnolfini portrait aka Arnolfini wedding, 1434, National Gallery, particle fractal design (it has nothing to do with the content, but I liked it); Leonardo da Vinci, Il Cenacolo (the Last Supper) 1495-1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie Milano.