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 of the symbol’s origin to the simplest ones, perhaps the most intriguing. But how was a standard letter G 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. The letter “G” has hardly ever been acceptably disclosed by any author. Gathering as much information as possible while assembling the puzzle seems crucial.
I have chosen Valmont de Bomare as the main thread on the letter “G” because, among the philosophers as mentioned above, he provides the most articulate, elongated, and lucid theory on the topic. More, he dedicates an entire chapter of his treatise on Mineralogy to a possible explanation for the capital “G”. Of course, being a scientist. Or, better, I should say a “natural philosopher”, as those interested in physics, until the 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, he was a scientist.
Nevertheless, his concept is the most disputable among those proposed in the article. But let’s start. Some quoted authors will prompt the letter “G”; others limit themselves to hint at it. My exploration will start from the most convoluted theories, ending with the most simplified ones.
“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. There was no need for a translation since Greek words were 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 remains the intriguing fact of geometry as a physical tool to evocate or even produce this unknown and essential factor. The old and hidden discipline of Sacred Geometry was attributed to the pursuit of something as much essential as forbidden.
“G” as Hermetic Heart. Guénon talks of the Egyptian downward triangle as a symbol of the heart, vase, and bowl. So, according to Guénon of the Grail, the ” Cavern Heart” is a well-known traditional expression. The term “Guha”, in Sanskrit generally designates a cavern ( I translated it from Italian, which is not a precise idiom. the Italian word cavern designates both cavern and cave). The word “Guha” is also put on the Heart’s inner cavity. The same word “Guha” derives from the root “Guh”, whose meaning is “to cover”, or “to hide”, and the equivalent of the greek Kruptos, from which the word Crypt, synonymous with cavern-cave… these ideas refer to the most inner point, consequently the most hidden”. To thoroughly examine the symbol of the Cavern-Heart will take away too much time and space. For the moment, you must know that we are before one of the most important and hidden symbols in Alchemy and Hermeticism. The alchemical Hearth has various synonyms beyond vase, bowl, and Grail (2): scarab, sun in earth, magnet, inner center, the seed of metals, our gold, our sun, and our moon… it is the reason why 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-sulfide, 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 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 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 a 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 glory in the center of a triangle. This symbol gives the same meaning as the letter “G”, a seventh of the alphabet, the initial common name of the wise subject, figured out by a bright star. This is the matter that Artephius called “saturnine antimony” (3) and Tullius 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 pieces of evidence 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 useful”.
Fulcanelli often uses to affirm and deny, even in the same chapter. Don’t worry about it: 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 (extraordinarily difficult) to achieve Mercurius Philosophorum. One out of the many. But “Antimonium” is also one of the symbol-words standings 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 Cavern-Heart as mentioned earlier synonyms list, along with Mercurius Philosophorum, Sulphur, and Secret Fire.
“G“ is the 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 it is, assuming the latin alphabet. But this shouldn’t be for granted since, especially in Alchemy, Greek and Arab alphabets take great importance regarding 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 is it a powerful magnet. He limits himself 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 notice that it usually needs six operations to get the right purification.
“G” as Gurh. Before directly reading Valmont de Bomare’s Mineralogie, let Canseliet 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 seem to believe in Valmont de Bomare’s Guhr. In the chapter entitled ” Hermetic Idiom and Cabala”, Canseliet tries 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 an Englishman has written Gulliver).
I spare you all Canseliet’s anagrams on Jonathan Swift’s book ( he couldn’t help even phonetically to rearrange the letters of his name: Canseliet = Quand sel y est, or when there is salt, in french) when he 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 entire text in the original Valmont’s work). Let’s instead read Canseliet’s 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 that 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 piles of earth or clays:
Tome 1, page 130: “Second order, that’s to say calcareous piles of earth. 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 of 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 in 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 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 in color and texture. Properties are taken by evaporation and mixing earthy and vegetal or metallic parts, making this grey aspect thick as mush. It is also believed that this guhr is a kind of powdered limestone 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, 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 the mountains. Marine animals’ bones mainly form this clay. Some waters, percolating through this clay, or calcareous earth, have fractioned and detached particles carrying them through subterranean conduits. These clayish waters have all the same detached parts 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 how the earth is suspended in the jiggling water and precipitates. From that, the difference in colors, densities, and purity.”
On page 345 of Mineralogie’s second volume, a dictionary defines the term Guhr: “from the german word Guhren, meaning spring from the earth like a water source. Guhr is whatever earth is reduced subtly by the friction of subterranean waters and is preferably found in subterranean cavities of mountains. That one hardened is often rich in metals; when reddish, it is often 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. Most 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 more exhaustive of his age. It is a pity that the Guhr is bound to disappear from scientific publications in 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 the first matter of minerals. I have already said on 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 a milky Mercurius and a greasy Sulphur formed all minerals and metals. 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 an alchemist to that of nature: what nature unifies; the alchemist has to divide.
Sabine Stuart Chevalier (6) imagines that Mercurius, once divided from its natural companion Sulfur, re-acquires the virginal status. She imagines the milky mercurial part as a woman deprived of a man and looking for, that to say, looking for another greasy Sulphur. But she fails to say that Sulphur is just the same as 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 for molecular purity; they were limited to testing 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 with that. It is strange because they went on to say that their ultimate goal was making a magnet. Just a few wrote that. For instance Philalethes in his Introitus Apertus ( 7).
And then I can get back to what was 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 is a liquid that can appear in almost every state—and is produced by weird tools, as said Reghini.
Valmont de Bomare has lived in a border age. An age in the second half of the eighteenth century in which alchemical terms and terms derived from ancient natural philosophy was the unique ones available to start to define things. When Valmont de Bomare begins investigating earth’s classification, he cannot but re-organize ancient concepts. He lacks parameters different from ancient unverified superstitions.
I think the ancient natural philosophy was nonscience because it seems to have used a parody of Alchemy’s keys as magic did. When science became an experimental discipline, the result was a serious setback to Alchemy’s credibility. As though Alchemy had been a natural phenomenon to be applied to all natural phenomena.
This thought could lead us to consider whether, in Nature, any alchemical process could occur. As far as I know, yes, but certainly not through the procedures 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.
It remains for us to give plausibility to picking up the latin letter “G” as a symbol for our, and I call it the name I prefer, Universal Magnet. And here, two paths are opened, an etymological and a morphological one:
Etymology: 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 seen in Jeremiah’s lamentations 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 to C, as gamelus becomes camelus, gragulus graculus, quingentum quincentum, and so on. Latins used to omit it before an 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.
Let’s finish with Morphology: an uncertain Masonic tradition says that the letter “G“ is a hypostasis of God, adding that the letter “G“ looks very much like the shape of an ear. Perhaps this may seem incomprehensible to most people, but those who know about the importance of sound in alchemy. In the book “the world of the Hittites“ by Margarete Riemschneider, one of the oldest representations of the mother goddess was two big ears.
Alchemy has an old saying: “ search for the light that can be seen with ears“.