If we analyze the principles of thought on which Magic is based, they will probably be found to have something in common with some Alchemy keys.
The third chapter of the short edition of “The Golden Bough” by James G. Frazer, 1922, is dedicated to sympathetic Magic. The expression “Powder of Sympathy” is an already heard term in sixteenth-seventeenth-century alchemical treatises. To often describe our Mercurius Philosophorum or our Mercurius in a fixed, sometimes powdery, form.
But it is not a mere locution to arouse my interest in the chapter Frazer dedicated to sympathetic magic. Let’s read some lines and we will understand:
“The Principles of Magic.
Magic is based on principles of thought which will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed… “
Incredibly enough these two principles, or laws, can be applied to Alchemy as well and, what’s more, to our Secret Fire secret working. But Frazer, being unaware of that, misses every possibility to go deeper into it. And as a matter of fact, Magic itself lost any possibility to have a rational direction when deviated so far from Alchemy. Both James Frazer and Magic had a very dim idea of alchemical Secret Fire. In fact, Frazer just after his initial assertions runs along with the following lines:
“… The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed part of his body or not. Charms based on the Law of Similarity may be called Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic. Charms based on the Law of Contact or Contagion may be called Contagious Magic. To denote the first of these branches of magic the term Homoeopathic is perhaps preferable, for the alternative term Imitative or Mimetic suggests if it does not imply, a conscious agent who imitates, thereby limiting the scope of magic too narrowly… “.
And that’s magic, of course. Not Alchemy. Nevertheless further down he states:
“… For the same principles which the magician applies in the practice of his art are implicitly believed by him to regulate the operations of inanimate nature; in other words, he tacitly assumes that the Laws of Similarity and Contact are of universal application and are not limited to human actions. In short, magic is a spurious system of natural law as well as a fallacious guide of conduct; it is a false science as well as an abortive art… “. Frazer then goes on to differentiate into theoretical and practical magic, which I fail to see any further connection with Alchemy. More interestingly Frazer said that magicians try to imitate Nature. But both the author and Magic seem to stop here.
If we believe in the theory taking Alchemy as the foundation of all ancient arts and sciences ( not excluding religions and mythologies) we admit that Alchemy has been of inspiration to Magic too. My personal opinion is that Magic is a parody of some alchemical principles. Was Canseliet, an alchemist owing to the rational country for antonomasia, France, to states some decades ago: “ there is only a Magic… ” preferring not to put the phrase to a conclusion. But more than Canseliet James Frazer to enlighten the concept for us to understand, since his reducing the principles of Magic mainly into two helped us greatly. Let’s examine the first.
“The like produces like”, which to a certain extent is also the foundation of Homeopathy. Frazer called this law homeopathic, indeed. in fact, in Homeopathy a principle producing an effect can remove that effect. Let’s rewrite the sentence in a more understandable way: an alchemist should use alike to produce the like. That’s the Alchemy’s main purpose indeed, representing the Reincrudation theory: a metal, or/and a person, are reduced to Mercurius/Secret Fire. And this miracle is caused by the same Mercurius/Secret Fire in its dissolving action. Secret Fire can reduce to Secret Fire. The Seed of metals, the Mother of all metals reduces, and produces, other Seeds and Mothers of metals. Chaos reduced to another Chaos, perhaps always the same Chaos, due to the indetermination of Chaos/Mercurius (1).
For the rule of three, by which a symbol may stand for at least three different concepts, one can argue that a Sulphur too can produce another Sulphur. It is said in fact: “ Only gold can generate another gold”, but this gold is philosophical, that’s to say is gold reduced to its first Matter, and maybe even without the slightest use of a single molecule of our yellow noble metal inside. And if it is true that in Alchemy only the male does generate, while the female “opens”, so a Sulfur, that’s to say a more cooked Mercurius can certainly produce another Sulphur.
And now the second principle: “Things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed”. If the first principle was relatively easy to be understood, the same cannot be said of the second, which in fact seems to open more than one alchemical scenario. But I don’t mean to establish theories that I have never explored and that I should just take for granted. Thus I will not write as the confident Sendivogius: “. . . this natural world is only an image and material copy of a heavenly and spiritual pattern; that the very existence of this world is based upon the reality of its celestial archetype… ”, which is very poetic and quite everyone from the deep of our heart wishes to be really true. So I will not talk of cosmogonies, whose to be honest I have never seen the evidence, apart from my book reading, as well as talking of things I only must have faith in.
But I will tell you of Stars, the Sun, Moon, Secret Fire buried in the deep of the earth, and Mercurius Philosophorum made by alchemists. Which, with good likelihood, may all own to the same original thing before becoming Stars, Sun, Moon, Secret Fire, and Mercurius Philosophorum.
According to the second principle of magic, we have to admit that there are things belonging to the same original thing which have been then separated. We know that the impalpable Secret Fire dwelling in our molecules is the same as the Sun. As well as recognizing there is a kind of “Breathing” within the Sun and Earth. So might a little piece of Secret Fire from the Sun, once separated and arrived on Earth behave as the bulk of Secret Fire remained in the Sun? And what about a piece of Stars? Is a piece of Secret Fire once left the Sun still “feeling” as if it actually was the whole Sun? And conversely, is the Sun in its turn “feeling” as if it was a tiny vapor in the deep of the Earth?
Anyone who has seen a Mercurius Philosophorum can confidentially answer yes to all those questions. For example, you have to think of all the celestial as well as weather and timing requirements we are required to watch carefully to take our works to a conclusion (2). Not to mention the very “behavior” of this little piece of Sun, and Stars, we have the lucky chance to observe.
Alexandre Toussaint Limojon de Saint Didier talks of that aspect in his Triomphe Hermétique 1699. He says there is a real “chemistry”, or physics as we nowadays could say, between the Sun, Moon, and the Secret Fire in the deep of the Earth. Among the scarce engravings in his books, one is dedicated to this phenomenon which I will assign a whole article. For the moment be aware that the second principle on the magic of James Frazer might be as true as the first.
Frazer himself was very conscious and intrigued by this second law and, as was one of his habits to hidden concepts for the reader to discover, someone decided to put an evocative image of a mistletoe plant on the third edition of “ The Golden Bough” (image on the top). Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on apple trees and oaks and releases a gluing substance. Definitely a wonderful allegory of our Secret Fire “gluing” matter from a little parasitic alchemical plant once belonging to a major one.
- See also Atalanta Fugiens and the Golden Apples , Codex Marcianus Ouroboros , Kamala Jnana from Black to White , Cabala Mineralis and the Three Salts Enigma ;
- See also Fulcanelli and External Conditions , Andrea da Murano: a Painter and the Art of Fire , Voynich Manuscript and the Unknown Part of the Rhythm , Thesaurus Hermeticum and the Dry Pythagorean River ;