Secret Fire runs along a constant density scale from “solute” to “fixed” and vice versa. In fact we’ll see how the harmony of opposites mentioned by modern philosophers is, according to Anaximander, just an alternation of hot and cold. We have already seen in previous articles that this is, for alchemists, the alternation of the sky, or dissolved matter, and earth, or fixed matter. Movement and stasis. It is said that is the alchemist’s task to transform everything that is not yet embodied in a body. Secret Fire, or Mercurius, is also called the great sea, perhaps because it is hugely available, indeterminate and indefinite. This sea-matter is our Spirit of Life not yet defined as soul. Furtherly it is a sea because it tends to move like a snake, it flows.
Let’s see for a confirmation of what was said and how opposites are generated by separating from the original unlimited principle and, what’s more, what Anaximander meant by “opposite”, in subsequent ancient thinkers writings.
SIMPLIC. phys. 24,13 (from THEOPHR. phys. opin. fr. 2; Dox. 476): “Among those who say that (the principle) is one, infinite and in movement, Anaximander, son of Prassiade, milesian, successor and disciple of Thales, said that principle and element of beings is the infinite, having first introduced this name of principle. And he says that the principle is neither water nor any other of the so-called elements, but another infinite nature, from which come all the heavens and the worlds that are in there, ……..and having expressed that with rather poetic words. It ‘clear that, having observed the mutual change of the four elements, he thought not to posit anyone of them as substrate, but something other than these. According to him, therefore, the birth of things is not due to alteration of the element, but to separation of opposites [from infinite] because of the eternal movement.”
SIMPLIC. phys. 150, 24 : “Opposites are hot and cold, dry and wet, and so on……” See Aristot. phys. A 4. 187 to 20.
HIPPOL. ref. I 6, 1-7 p. 10 sg. [Dox. 559] : “ He said that the beginning of things was some kind of infinity, from which are produced the heavens and the ordering that there is in them. It is eternal and insenescente [B 2] and encompasses all the worlds. And he defines as time what determines the generation, the existence and destruction. (3) He says that principle and element of things is the infinite, having first given the name to the principle, and further that the movement is also eternal and it consequently formed the heavens…………(6) Living things come from humid evaporated by the sun.”
HERM. irris. 10 [Dox. 653] : “ Anaximander, a citizen of Thales, said that the eternal movement is a principle older than the humid and that it will produce certain things and others are destroyed…..
AËT. I 3, 3 [Dox. 277] : “ Anaximander, son of Prassiade, milesian, says that the principle of what exists is the infinite, which is where all things come from and by this are all destroyed. Thus infinite worlds are formed and then get destroyed in which from they come. It says it is unlimited because the generation tnever stops. But he is wrong because he does not say what is the infinite, if air or water or earth, or some other body. He is wrong because he admits the matter but suppresses the efficient cause. In fact, the infinite is nothing but matter, and matter can not be acting if there is no efficient cause.”
ARISTOT. Phys. 4. 203 b 3 sgg : “…. it is divine because it is immortal and indestructible, as required by Anaximander and the majority of physics.”
ALEX. metaph. 60, 8 : “ Aristotle adds in his research also the opinion of Anaximander, who argued as principle an intermediate between air and fire or between air and water.”
ARISTOT. Phys. A 4. 187 a 12 : “ Some, stating the being as one body that acts as a substrate, and which is either one of the three elements or another denser than fire and thinner than air, produce everything by condensation and rarefaction …
ARISTOT. Phys. A 4. 187 to 20 : “……. The others, however, argue that from one division does split the opposition inherent in it, like Anaximander.”
SIMPLIC. de cael. 615, 13 : “ Anaximander, neighbor and friend of Thales … first assumed the infinite, so that it could be used without saving in the production of things, he also assumed infinite worlds, each of which, it seems, comes from such an infinite primordial element.”
AËT. I 7, 12 [Dox. 302] : “ Anaximander argued that the infinite heavens are gods.”
AËT. II 1, 3 [Dox. 327] : “Anaximander, Anaximenes, Archelaus, Xenophanes, Diogenes, Leucippus, Democritus, Epicurus admitted that infinite worlds are produced and destroyed in the infinity in each rotation.”
CICER. de nat. d. I 10, 25 : “ Is Anaximander’s opinion that gods have been given birthing, that they born and die at certain ling intervals, and that they are the countless worlds.”
AËT. II 11, 5 [Dox. 340] : “Anaximander (says that the sky is derived) from the mixture of hot and cold.”
Yet Semerano goes on: Thales believes the stars are earthy (AËT II, 13, 1 = Dox. 341 = 11 A 17a DK) and so that the sun has an earthy appearance (Ibid., 20, 9 = Dox 349 = 11 A 17a DK) , and even that the moon is earthy in nature. Anaximene describes air as a dynamic cosmogonic element and associates ἄπειρον as a structural element.
The first part of the word ἄπειρον is αέρα, which is given a different meaning from earthy. Aristotle means αέρα as air and calls it the principle of simple bodies (Aristot. metaph. I, 3, 984a 5 = 13 A 4 D-K). At this point it is necessary to bring us back to the original semantic values of αέρα we can see in Homer: “…the goddess Hera, who secretly arrived with her chariot in the plain of Troy, must remain hidden from the human eyes and so spread a great vapor around her (Hom, 5, 776)“. To grasp the original affinity that binds αέρα to ἄπειρον we find in Aristotle an Orphic reference in which some Pythagoreans say that the soul itself is like an atmospheric dust (Aristot.dean.404a 18s.)
It is useful to recover the sense of the connections that at the origins binds “air” and ἄπειρον. Theophrastus (Phys. opin. fr. 2 = Dox. 476 = Simpl. phys. 24,26 =13 A 5 D-K) says that Anaximene affirms the unity of substance “which acts as a substratum: infinite, like ἄπειρον and not indeterminate, like that, but determined: it calls it air. Air differs among substances by rarefaction and condensation ». This particular aspect of rarefaction and condensation had already been detected by Aristotle (Simpl. phys. 149, 32 = 13 A 5 D-K).
With the air, asἄπειρον, Anaximene, in arguing around the reasons for creation, bears an explanatory reason intended to ensure the dynamics that animated the original element. He run to the aid of that principle which would seem destined to play a role without limits. The disciple of Anaximander seems to prevent the reserves of Aristotle and followers and anticipates the Democrito’s intuition that sees in the movement a structural property of the original principle itself, without the need for support. Anaximander must have already felt strengthened by the faith of Thales who felt the things animated by the divinity, ( Plat. legg. X, 899 B (cfr. 11 A 22 D-K) but he did not think it appropriate now to disturb the gods. The Phoenician Talete is struck by the same faith as Jacob, he can bend on the betilus, on the desert stone, to adore the same arcane spirit that moves the whole, like the one listening in the hollow of the shell the thousand echoes of abysmal oceans. Anaximander could have set a certainty in that faith, that “the soul is something capable of communicating motion” (Aristot. de an. I, 2 , 405a 19 = 11 A 1 D-K), that “the soul is substance in motion, without self-propelled end” (Aet. IV, 2,1 = Dox. 386a 10 = 11 A 22a D-K).
It is enought and that’s Alchemy, in my opinion. Pay attention to the sentence “ from the mixture of hot and cold” (4). That exactly how Secret Fire/ Mercurius works and operates, that’s the alchemical world machine. Observe how all things are born to be then destroyed, like in Alchemy, and be aware of Anaximander’s statement that the infinite heavens are gods. As far as rotations are involved, they are a hidden part of alchemical operations: it seems that Mercurius tends to rotate around another Mercurius. It is said that in so doing Secret Fire/ Mercurius gives life. It would be interesting to know what of Osiris-Isis myth was aknowledged by those sixth century b.C. greek physics.
- L’infinito: un equivoco millenario. Le antiche civiltà del Vicino Oriente e le origini del pensiero greco. Giovanni Semerano. Editore Mondadori Bruno 2005;
- See also Cesare Ripa, Wheels Spindles and Celestial Pointers ;
- See also Basilius Valentinus & Solve et Coagula Tree , Philosophia Reformata, Father Sun and Mother Moon , Wenceslaw Lavinius and the Sky and Earth Properties and Stoll, the Lacinius Translator on Male and Female Elements ;
- See also Codex Marcianus Ouroboros , Cesare Ripa & the Hot Frozen Ouroboros World Machine and Dorneus & the Third Level;