The letter G at times appears in Hermetic literature. Five points of view: Reghini, Fulcanelli, Guénon, Valmont de Bomare and a clue from art of Grammatica.
But, if is clear enough what the letter “G” might mean, among those only apparently different opinions, the same cannot be said on this symbol’s origin. in fact why has a common letter G been taken to represent our missed out factor?
I usually pick up an author and try to examine his/her excerpt inserted in a precise contest. But this time, due to the complexity of the topic, I will quote other authors in the same article. As a matter of fact the letter “G” has hardly ever been acceptably disclosed by any author. In this case it is vital to gather as much information as possible, and try to assemble the puzzle. And, as we will see, each of the authors I’m going to cite will bring a little bit.
I have chosen Valmont de Bomare to represent the main thread on letter “G”, because, among the above mentioned philosophers, he gives the most articulate, elongate and lucid theory on the topic. More, he dedicates an entire chapter of his treatise on Mineralogy to a possible explanation for “G”. Of course, being a scientist. Or better I should say a “natural philosopher”, as those interested in physics, up to eighteenth century, defined themselves. While Reghini, Fulcanelli and Guénon, although in a very evocative way, take uncertain etymologies to explain the mystery. And of course, being a scientist, Valmont de Bomare can, differently from the others, overtly publish his thought without needing to veil it. Nevertheless his concept is the most questionable among those proposed in the article. But let’s start. Some of the quoted authors will prompt the letter “G” , other limit to clearly suggest it.
“G” as Geometry. Arturo Reghini, in his “I Numeri Sacri nella tradizione pitagorica massonica”, or sacred numbers in the pythagorean masonic tradition, tries a pythagorean explanation: “………..and, since in rituals after 1737, the letter G appears in the interior of the pentagram, it is also said that the task of the companion is to know the letter G and its meaning as well. All the rituals, we say all, care to remember that the letter G is Geometry initial and the Scottish ones observe that it is the initial of God, other rituals and catechisms that it is the initial of gnosis, etc. generation” (1). Nevertheless Reghini omits here to say that Pythagoras was greek by origin, and consequently his preferred letter “G” should have been a greek ” Γ” ( γεωμετρία). Of course G could be a late latin translation for Γ. To tell the truth, there was no need for a translation, since the use of greek words was ubiquitous among renaissance and baroque age philosophers, but freemasons. So we are entitled to suppose that the latin letter “G” intended as Geometry was just a late masonic symbol. It still remains the intriguing fact of geometry as a physic tool to evocate, or even to produce, this unknown and essential factor. As a matter of fact, to the old and hidden discipline of Sacred Geometry was attributed the pursue of something as essential as forbidden.
“G” as Hermetic Heart. Guénon is talking of the egyptian downward triangle as symbol of heart, vase, bowl. So, according to Guénon, of the Grail as well: “the ” Cavern Heart” is a well known traditional expression. The term “Guha”, in Sanskrit, generally designates a cavern ( I translated from italian, which is not a precise idiom. In fact the italian word cavern designates both a cavern and a cave). This word “Guha” is also put on the Heart inner cavity. The same word “Guha” derives from the root “Guh”, whose meaning is “to cover”, or “to hidden”, and the equivalent of the greek Kruptos, from which the word Crypt, synonymous of cavern-cave……these ideas refer to the most interior point, consequently the most hidden”. To fully examine the symbol of Cavern-Heart it will take away too much time and space. For the moment, you have to know that we are before one of the most important and hidden symbol in Alchemy and Hermeticism. The alchemical Hearth has various synonyms beyond vase, bowl and Grail (2): scarab, sun in earth, magnet, inner centre, seed of metals, our gold, our sun, our moon……it is the reason what Alchemy is for: to call the universe.
“G” as Mercurius Philosophorum/Secret Fire. Fulcanelli in his Les Demeures Philosophales, Paris 1926, Chapter on Louis d’Estissac, while warning readers not to take for granted that the word “Antimony” stood for mineral stibnite, mentions the letter “G”: “In arab language Kohl means powdered antimony oxy-sulphide, that’s to say what the arab women did use to dye eyebrows black. Greek women used the same substance, which they called Πλατνοφθαλμον, that’s to say ” Big Eye”, because the usage of it made her eyes to look bigger. But don’t let you be charmed by the too easy poetic clue, since there was not the smallest particle of stibnite in the Greek playophthalmon (sublimed mercury sulfide), the kohl of Arabs and the Cohol, or Cohel, of Turks. The last two, in fact, were obtained by calcining a mixture of granulated tin and barb (oak apple). Such is the chemical composition of eastern women’s kohl, which the ancient alchemists used as standard for teaching the secret preparation of antimony.
Here is the solar eye which the Egyptians called “Ouija”. It still is among Masonic emblems, surrounded by a glory in the center of a triangle. This symbol gives the same meaning as the letter “G”, the seventh of the alphabet, initial common name of the wises subject, figured out by a bright star. This is the matter that Artephius called “saturnine antimony” (3) and the Tollius regulus of antimony, the true and only stibium of Michael Maier and all Adepts. As for the mineral stibnite, it has none of the qualities required (4) and, whatever one wants to try it, he never got out of it the secret solvent or philosophical Mercurius. And if Basil Valentine gives him the name of a pilgrim or traveler (στιδευσ ), it is because it must go through six cities before taking up residence in the seventh, if Philalethes assures us that it alone is our path (στιβια), there still are insufficient evidences to invoke that these teachers have sought to designate the common antimony as a generator of philosophical mercurius. This substance is too far from the perfection, purity and spirituality than radical humid, or seed of metals, which, moreover, could not be found in the earth to be really useful”.
Fulcanelli often uses to affirm and deny, even in the same chapter. Don’t worry about: this has always been his security lock. Of course in other paragraphs the french alchemist will talk of mineral stibnite shrouding it among obscure symbolism not to be easily recognized. Stibnite is just one of the paths (extraordinary difficult) to achieve Mercurius Philosophorum. One of the many. But “Antimonium” is also one of the symbol-words standing for Mercurius Philosophorum/Secret Fire at large, that’s to say prepared out of every raw matter (but some do contain more than others). The antimony of Wises, or little Sun, indeed. Antimony of Wises and Antimonium are to be added to the above mentioned Cavern-Heart synonyms list, along with Mercurius Philosophorum, Sulphur and Secret Fire.
When referring to an alphabet for the seventh letter, Fulcanelli omits to specify what is it, assuming the latin alphabet. But this shouldn’t be for granted at all, since, specially in Alchemy, Greek and Arab alphabets take a great importance when it comes to etymology and initials. Fulcanelli in his last phrase is rather sibylline. He doesn’t say this Mercurius/Secret Fire extracted from raw matter is far from perfection, nor it is a powerful magnet anyway. He limits oneself to suggest a celestial intervention: he didn’t feel like revealing this prepared magnet’s main purpose is to “attract” a star from the sky.
“G” as Gurh. Before directly reading Valmont de Bomare’ s Mineralogie, let’s Canseliet to introduce him. In his L’Alchimie Expliquée sur ses Textes Classiques, Paris 1972, or Alchemy explained on its classic texts, Fulcanelli’s disciple and friend seems to believe in Valmont de Bomare’s Guhr. On the chapter entitled ” Hermetic Idiom and Cabala” Canseliet is trying an etymology for the name Gulliver: ” So Gulli is the genitive of Gullus, which means boat, vessel, craft. Ver is the latin for springtime. So the spring of vessel ( I wonder why not the vessel of spring, since Gulliver has been written by an englishman).
I spare you all Canseliet’s anagrams on Jonathan Swift’s book ( he couldn’t help to even phonetically rearrange the letters of his own name: Canseliet = quand sel y est, or when there is salt, in french) when finally gets to Guhr: With the word Gurh, writes Valmont de Bomare, one means a grey-whitish liquid matter leaking from mountains…………( we will follow the full text in the original Valmont’s work). Let’s instead read Canseliet commentary: ” Concerning metals generation, it is never changed the alchemists theory according to it metals are perpetually produced in the deep of the earth, while it’ s thought that they had been formed together with the planet formation. It would be too naive for alchemists to argue that their water was the same we drink”.
Of course Canseliet doesn’t mention, in 1972, the necessity for this strange substance to undergo those formal examination Valmont would have made, if available in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Now, Valmont de Bomare “Minéralogie, ou Nouvelle Exposition du Règne Minerale” Paris 1774, or Mineralogy or New Exposition of Mineral Reign. The author is listing all the possible earths, or clays:
Tome 1, page 130: “Second order, that’s to say calcareous earths. Species 48. 4. Leaking clay, or clay’s Guhr.
It is specified for the term Guhr a grey-whitish liquid matter, or otherwise colored, which leaks from mountains: it is composed by mineral or earth substances so subtle to remain suspended in water, before precipitating. As there isn’t such a thing as pure guhr, we are here talking of calcareous or clayey guhr. It is observed that guhr does exist of all species. There is, for instance, a metallic guhr (guhr metallicum). We have: the white guhr – guhr cretaceum vulgare, Guhr album Wallerius. Lac lunae Betlehemicum Henckel ( or lake of Moon of Betlehem). This species of calcareous guhr is as white as milk, made by friction both in the bottom of mines and outdoor places. When the gurh is leaking, or resting, some particles sink to form a kind of incrustation, or calcareous ostéo-glue. Ashy guhr ( guhr cinereun Wallerius). This species is not different from the previous, but color and texture. Properties taken by evaporation and mixing of earthy and vegetal or metallic parts, which give this grey aspect, thick as a mush. It is also believed that this guhr is a kind of powdered limestone and moistened by water.
Flower of natural limestone ( calx nativa, Woodward. calx nativa aquis supernatans vel mixta, Wallerius. Flos calcis Kundmann. Cremor thermis supernatans, Hoffmann). This earth is commonly found in warm waters, or always mixed with water, or floating on the surface. It is the same as the previous species, but the metallic parts have been naturally separated by precipitation; for this reason it is exclusively found in thermal waters. The sometimes noticed phosphorescent property, is probably due to animal parts commonly encountered in clay.
The last species is made from mixed calcareous earths ( calx nativa humo mixta, Creta pulverulenta, humacea, alba vel cinerea, Wallerius. Terra aceldema Nieremberg). This kind has more calcareous than greasy parts. It is a little dry, rarely compact, rough and colored. We have observed that the clay of the first deposit form horizontal and parallel layers in mountains. This clay is mostly formed by marine animals bones. Some waters, percolating through this clay, or calcareous earth, have frictioned and detached particles carrying them through subterranean conduits. These clayish waters have all the same detached part of these conduits. They can take all colors and masses and there will be a difference between this kind and the clay precipitated and deposited. That’s the origin of mixed clays. The different areas are due to the way the earth is suspended in the jiggling water and precipitates. From that the difference in colors, densities and purity.”
On page 345 of Mineralogie second volume a dictionary provides a definition of the term Guhr: “from the german word Guhren, meaning to spring from earth like a water source. Guhr is a whatever earth reduced in subtlety by friction of subterranean waters, and which is preferably found in subterranean cavities of mountains. That one hardened is often rich in metals, furthermore when it is reddish, often it is a metal itself.”
Some ten years before, in 1764, Valmont de Bomare published “Dictionnaire Raisonné Universel d’Histoire Naturelle”, or Universal Explicated Dictionary of Natural History, in which the term Guhr was already present, with some differences: “The Guhr is a leaking or pappy mineral matter, which drips as stalagmite in caves. The most of mineralogists take it as the first matter and mumush of minerals. Maybe it is formed by decomposed minerals. At least Guhr is a sign of some metallic veins, furthermore the hardened and reddish one. When red it designates an iron vein, if green and blue a copper one, if white and blue a silver.”
Valmont de Bomare’s reports on guhr are the more exhaustive of his age. It is a pity than the Guhr is bound to disappear from scientific publications in the space of some decades. Modern mineralogy now applies molecular examination to classify substances, not only organoleptic checks. Nevertheless what’s interesting to us is the definition of Guhr as Materia Prima, or first matter of minerals. I have already said in this site, that the idea of a general primordial substance for the formation of minerals in mines is a superstition, which greatly affected alchemists as well. I presented the opinion of Michael Maier in Symbola Aureae Mensae, and Sabine Stuart Chevalier, so to cite some. The idea was that all minerals and metals were formed by a milky Mercurius and a greasy Sulphur. In Symbola Aureae Mensae the engraving number eight (5), dedicated to Aquinas, puts on display the supposed phenomenon occurring in the deep of the earth, comparing the work of alchemist to that of nature: what nature unifies, the alchemist has to divide.
Sabine Stuart Chevalier (6) goes further and imagines that Mercurius, once divided from its natural companion Sulphur, re-acquires the virginal status, in fact she imagines the milky mercurial part as a woman deprived of a man and looking for, that’s to say looking for another greasy Sulphur. But she fails to say that Sulphur is just the same Mercurius in a further and more fixed phase. To this extent came the necessity to create a whole system to unify Alchemy and Nature. Nowadays we treat this unifying system as superstitious. Ancient chemists did not know and search molecular purity, they really limited to test matters with their eyes.
In countless treatises alchemists main task was said to be the imitation of Nature. But the theories put forward are today nonsense. The imitation of nature is to a deeper level. Deeper than the molecular one. We know that our Secret Fire is extracted from raw matters to become Mercurius and worked till Sulphur. Ancient alchemists seemed to be content of that. It is really strange because they went on saying that their ultimate goal was the making of a magnet. To tell the truth just few wrote that. For instance Philalethes in his Introitus Apertus ( 7).
And then I can get back to what said above: this Mercurial-Sulphureus matter is our unique Prima Materia, first matter. Our Antimonium-Bright Star-Universal Dissolvent, as said Fulcanelli. Our vase-bowl-heart-graal, as said Guénon. Our magnet to call the universe. When Canseliet referred to the matter by which “metals are perpetually produced in the deep of the earth” he meant our seed of metals, not an uncertain leaking matter inside a mine ( at least I hope). The real Guhr, not the improbable pulpy mineral described by Valmont de Bomare. Our letter “G”, Tree of Life, indeed. A matter defined as liquid, but that can appear in quite every state. And produced by weird tools, as said Reghini.
Valmont de Bomare has lived in an border age. An age, the second half of the eighteenth century, in which alchemical terms, together with terms derived from ancient natural philosophy, were the unique available to start to define things. When Valmont de Bomare begins to investigate on earths classification, he cannot but re-organize ancient concepts. He lacks parameters different from ancient unverified superstitions.
My opinion is that the ancient natural philosophy was a non science, in the sense that it seems to have used a parody of Alchemy keys. As magic did. In fact when science became an experimental discipline, the result was a serious setback to Alchemy credibility. As though Alchemy had been a natural phenomenon to be applied to all natural phenomena.
This thoughts could lead us to consider whether in Nature any alchemical process could occur. As far as I know, yes, but certainly not by means of the proceedings described by Valmont. If not, every piece of rock extracted from a mine is a potential Philosophers Stone. When Alchemy is rather about destroying these pieces of rock to extract our potential Philosophers Sto.
Said that, it remains us to give plausibility to the picking up of the latin letter “G” as a symbol for our, and I call it with the name I prefer, Universal Magnet.
So let’s take Fulcanelli’s suggestion for granted on our turn and search the ancient art of Grammatica for the latin letter G, and this time without quotation marks. So I have looked up in Nuovo Dizionario Scientifico e Curioso Sacro-Profano, or sacred-profane scientific and curious dictionary, by Gianfrancesco Pivati, Venezia 1747, the definition of latin-italian letter G: ” seventh letter of our alphabet and the fifth of consonants. In oriental idioms is instead the third, as by Hebrews, Phoenicians, Chaldeans, Samaritans, Arabs, and Greeks who received it from Phoenicians. This order is very ancient, as it can be seen from lamentations of Jeremiah and Psalm 118. Hebrews call it Gimel or Ghimel, that’s to say camel, because it has a hump like a camel, In Arabic is gijm, by Syrians gomal.
The letter G is a mute letter , which we cannot hear the sound without the addition of a vowel. ……latins used to change it in C, as gamelus becomes camelus, gragulus graculus, quingentum quincentum, and so on. Latins used to omit it before a N, gnatus became natus, gnosco nosco. It was taken as P , magalia mapalia. For Q, aquina angina. it was also changed in R, aquagium aquarium and even in S, spargo sparsi, fingo finxi. The reason is G has a very bad sound. It is cacophonous”.
So, by Romans, Letter “G” is a letter to hide and with an inaudible sound. Kind of weird…….exactly like our Magnet.
- Arturo Reghini & Pythagorean Tetraktys 11;
- See also Italian Masonic Hermeticism, Initiation & Counter Initiation ;
- See also Artephius and Antimonium est de Partibus Saturni ;
- Fulcanelli & Antimony of Wises ;
- Symbola Aureae Mensae and the Supreme Purpose ;
- Stuart Chevalier and the Marriages of a Virgin ;
- Introitus Apertus vs Waite’s Open Entrance. Chapter 4 ;