Alchemy. Ancient Authors & Hidden Evidences
Ancient treatises translations and commentaries as well as presentations of hidden evidences in myths, art, nature and science history in an attempt to reunify disconnected cultures and prove that Alchemy has a good chance to be the basis of all ancient religions myths.
Deprive the body of body and that which has no body provide a body. Rosarium Philosophorum.
In ancient Greek there was a pun on θεῖον (Theîon), meaning “from Gods, Sacred“ and θεῖος (Theîos), meaning Sulphur. In fact there is no difference between spiritual and operative Alchemy, they are exactly the same thing and their goals are exactly the same: “Spirit is the best solvent”. Nevertheless any natural mass isn’t reputed to contain any Spirit. While any mind (of any consistency) is commonly reputed to contain a certain amount of it. Under “Spirit” I mean a real physical entity dwelling both in the sky and in the depth of the earth and bodies. Our Alchemical works suggest to have Sulphur/Soul extracted by Mercurius/Spirit. So it is hardly a purely contemplative and imaginative Opera.
They who know what Spirit/Secret Fire is and what it is for, know what Alchemy is. Not what Alchemy is for, yet. Metals killed in a certain way can germinate again, as their forms endure over the 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 this notion can be extended to reigns other than mineral.
This takes us back to very ancient times, when the places of Nature were sacred just because of the trails left by Water, Wind, Steam, Rock, Sun, Moon and Stars. But, at that time, our sacred substance was materially and effectively extracted with the help of the Sky and Earth.
When the nature of the gods disappears, there appears the nature of things. Cicero.
First of all, the name.
It is now generally accepted that alkimia or al-kemi comes from the word kmt (“land of Egypt”). What is less known is the etymology from hmnw (Khemenu), a city known by Greek name Hermopolis. Al-khemenu or al-khemet, so to say. Khemenu means “The Eight”; it was the City of Ogdoad or eight primeval gods (four couples, one of which was “water”, another “air” or “hidden power”, the third “darkness”, and the fourth “eternity”.
The main temple of Thoth was placed exactly in the city of Khemenu, it contained the famous Chamber of Darkness, and the ritual, described in the “Book of Thoth”, was held there. Interestingly enough, the patroness of the city was the goddess Wenet. Her name means “the swift one”, and her symbol is the running hare. Moreover, if you look at her name, it obviously starts with the hieroglyph wn, which is a picture of a running hare. There’s no generally accepted explanation why this “woman-hare” was attached to the city of Thoth. Then, if we move forward to the process itself, there is a whole bag of familiar symbolism – snakes, toads, lions etc. But it is really overwhelming. Judaic and Christian myths are but a small fables, bricks really, in the immense monument of their cosmology… We can’t help but do feel like ignorant pygmies before the vastness of Egyptian tradition.
Difficulty is to restore the relevance between that original Alchemy and what we know as Alchemy in European tradition.
An Apprentice's Speech whether to Change the Alchemy Name
Must we continue to use the name “Alchemy”, after the havoc made in this name, or would be better to give it proper burial and start again, with a new name?
Since the vulgar era the name which has defined the sacred art has taken the connotations of science for making gold, or maximum the elixir of long life. And not to mention a form of sub-conscious yoga that has taken over the symbology. Under these alluring goals, the Alchemy name has come down to our days. Enriched only of self appointed brotherhoods. During this era “Alchemy” lost on the way its sacral role of boundary with the unknown worlds. Whose lost knowledge, already in classical age, remained only the ancestor worship.
In the book I once planned to write, but I have never written, the character of the apprentice, that’s to say the one who still sees with pure eyes, posed this dilemma to a drowsy meeting of wise:
“The first alchemists didn’t give any laws, dates, identities of the founders. Neither did they give names and symbols. Nor doors and borders.....
They built the invisible on invisible foundations and probably felt safe in what they believed to be strong fortifications. Given that the human mind cannot tolerate a world of indistinct but only sudden jumps, their hunters went through them without even seeing them. Only when the remains of the predators lost in their quest began to settle over, became apparent to the many the mysterious existence of the first invisible alchemists. Nonetheless the Sun and the Moon had to enter and leave the known world countless times before their spider web began to tremble with the first stirrings of a warning.
The best hiding place for a tree is a forest. But what the first alchemists lacked was precisely a forest. This was the job of the predators, who loved poetry as well as obtaining certainty from metaphors. In a few centuries a whole forest of symbols germinated. It is easy to imagine that the general derision started with the luxuriant proliferation of the hiding place.
I’m coming to the conclusion. The predators’ forest was immediately given laws, dates, founders, names, symbols, doors and borders. They wanted one thing and one thing only: to become a form of power.
Now I wonder how the first alchemists are going to drive away those whom they nurtured to the point of disguising themselves inside them? And went still further, thanking their predators for the name they had created to define them.
They thought to be smart because they had given their raptorial invaders only the finger to point at them. And now, they cannot even reject that name and begin anew. In fact, for a long time now, we have made a deity of that definition and write it with the capital A.
Despite of all this, the first alchemists continue to flaunt their tranquility. As always. But we shouldn’t be surprised with it.
Back then we were still feared, whereas today we are scoffed at. And it has been for a long time now, so it feels like we eventually have enough. I don’t ask you to look at yourself in a mirror to see if the time has arrived, I have not asked for the floor for this reason, but to convince you to start changing the name of the things. And with the name, I hope, their destiny.”
From above: scenes from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, attributed to Andrea Mantegna’s school; Greek vascular art portraying Dionysus offering a hare to Demetra and Persephone, Amassis painter c. 560–515 bc; South-Arabian pre Islamic iron age altar incense burning, now Louvre Museum.