Apollo, the Alchemists’ Ultimate Goal
Apollo’s name is often found in alchemical treatises. For instance, Augurello starts his “Art of Making Gold” by invoking Apollo – along with Venus and Hephaestus, the other two patrons of Alchemy – calling on him as Phoebus, the light.
Greek mythology tells us that Apollo was first of all a god of light, a sun-god-without sun, however, being the astronomical sun represented by a special divinity, Helios. From this arose his epithets: Phoebus, the “brilliant”; Xanthus, the “fair”; Chrysocomes, “of the golden lock”‘; as such he delighted in “high places, the frowning peaks of high mountains, wave-lapped, beetling promontories”. This god of the light was the son of Laton or Leto – probably a double of the Asiatic Lada – who was undoubtedly a divinity of the night.
However, according to the oldest traditions, Apollo was instead the god of thunder. It is intriguing to know that some historians of symbolism in music give thunder the meaning of “constructor of fire”. Not ordinary fire, of course.
Although alchemical light is not the light object of Einstein’s Nobel prize, nevertheless it is not totally foreign to it. Maybe the two lights do share some physical aspects, and even share corpuscles and waves, but maybe not. Maybe the alchemical light and the light subject to physics laws don’t even love each other, and operate just in absence of each other, even though the sun and stars are known as huge sources of alchemical light. If we can admit to being rather accustomed to the common light laws of physics (I mean the current state of the science), very little is known about the alchemical light, which is both evident and obscure. In the case we are examining, the presence of Apollo would point to “the light vehicle of the soul” (psuchês lepton ochêma ) as in the 5th century, in Carmen aureum 26, Hierocles of Alexandria says.
But let’s get back to the Alchemical light: it can be visible to our eyes (or better, detectable to our brain) when the first Mercurius, in certain paths, shines into the vessel, and even in a more spectacular way when metallic gold is involved. While it can be imperceptible in other paths, but none the less it makes its effects felt.
You may have already read on this site that the soul of metals is extracted from the spiritus or Mercurius, the first to come out, and which may to some extent be given the characteristics of the Greek god Hermes, but we can say the same of the soul-Apollo? Let’s analyze all the symbolic impersonations of Apollo in Alchemy, or rather all the situations in which Apollo is officially nominated with his name. In the so-called philosophical stairs, Apollo is not only the final step but many also call the perfect red by the name of Apollo (Mars being the unripe red). And by final step, we mean the Philosophers Stone; However, Apollo can be also the supreme regime of fire; He can be a representation of Sulfur, i.e. of the Soul extracted by the Spirit; ultimately Apollo can be our central Sun, not to be confused with the astronomical sun (which has a central inner Sun too, like everything in Alchemy); additionally Apollo can represent the metallic gold, called the sun of the earth.
Artemis/Diana, Apollo’s sister, the chief hunter to the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus, is also born from thunder/fire and night, and like all the divine huntresses she is a representative of a dissolving character. She can be our Universal Dissolvent/Mercurius/Spirit, the one who extracts the Soul/Sulfur from the body. She is also the chief of the divine lunar personages, to the extent to represent the Moon. Apollo cannot be studied without his twin, the Moon.
The fact that Apollo and Artemis were being given birth in a place where the sun’s rays never penetrated and that their mother Leto – who seems to have always been one of the deities of the night – gave childbirth after nine days and nine nights of atrocious suffering, would be enough to paint Apollo as our alchemical first matter, Prima Materia, achieved during the nocturnal dark and after nine repetitions or days. Additionally, the fact that he had not been nourished with his mother’s milk, but with nectar and sweet ambrosia to his lips, makes Apollo our perfect red, indeed (see an Opus Magnum scheme).
In Dürer’s drawing Apollo stands outside the Sun, he was looking at the Sun and his name appears as being inverted. One could say that he is looking at his mirror, his double, and that would make sense if representing the soul: as though Apollo went back and forth, to and from himself). But holding the scepter of the initiate.
A theory, almost retaken by German Aureae Roseae Crucis and Italian Neoplatonic academies, states that Secret Fire tends to pulsate, resonating in the interior of the bodies hosting it. The theory tells us that in every independent body there is an inner central and invisible Sun, which tends to communicate with the largest inner central Sun, that hidden in our solar system star, the Sun, indeed. And this communication would be back and forth, to and from, like huge breathing or heart beating. I have already dedicated an article running along similar lines concerning an image from the Voynich Manuscript corroborated by some Compass der Weisen and Symbola Aureae Mensae engravings.