The letter G at times appears in Hermetic literature. Five points of view: Reghini, Fulcanelli, Guénon, Valmont de Bomare and two clues from an uncertain tradition and the art of Grammatica.
From the most complex explanations on the origin of the symbol to the simplest ones, and perhaps the most intriguing. But how came that a common letter G was selected to represent our missed out factor?
I usually insert an author’s excerpt in his precise contest. But this time, due to the complexity of the topic, I will quote different authors in the same article. As a matter of fact, the letter “G” has hardly ever been acceptably disclosed by any author, and it seems crucial to gather as much information as possible, while trying to assemble the puzzle.
I have chosen Valmont de Bomare as main thread on letter “G” because, among the above mentioned philosophers, he provides 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 capital “G”. Of course, being a scientist. Or, better, I should say a “natural philosopher”, as those interested in physics, until eighteenth century, used to define themselves. While Reghini, Fulcanelli and Guénon, although in a very evocative way, take uncertain etymologies to explain the mystery, Valmont de Bomare, differently from the others, overtly publish his thought without needing to veil it. Of course, being a scientist. 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 themselves to hint at it. My exploration will start from the most convoluted theories, ending with the most simplified.
“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 inner of the pentagram, it is also said that the companion’s task is to know the letter G and its meaning as well. All the rituals, we say all, take care to remember that the letter G is the Geometry initial, and the Scottish ones also observe that it is the initial of God. Other rituals and catechisms say 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 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 it was attributed the pursue of something as much essential as forbidden.
“G” as Hermetic Heart. Guénon talks 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 cavern and 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 inner 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 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…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 out 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.
“G“ as seventh letter. From Fulcanelli again: “… 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“. But when referring to an alphabet for the seventh letter, Fulcanelli omits again 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. The reader should take notice that usually it needs 6 operations to get the right purification.
“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, that 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.
Eventually 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.