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THE BLACK ART
By David Cherubim
(Frater Aurora Aureae)
Written in 1994 e.v.
Anno IVii (Year 90).
Donated to the Thelemic
Order of the Golden Dawn.
Copyright © 1999 e.v.
of the Golden Dawn.
All rights reserved.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
In this scientific and technological age, the ancient Art and Science of Alchemy is looked upon as mere rubbish of the past, a dark and fanciful cloud upon the sky of history. Yet this, I venture to say, is not the case at all; and this I shall endeavor to demonstrate to you through words of practical insight and wisdom, since Alchemy, in our modern school of thought, is the True Science of every wise and practical WoMan who lives upon the face of the earth.
Alchemy is comparable to the Great Sun of the Ages which ever shines bright in the infinite sky. It is not the fault of the Sun if we cannot see it; it is due to own lack of vision. Yet the Sun ever shines bright for those who have eyes to see, and in seeing the Sun we become enlightened!
Now the word Alchemy is an Arabic term consisting of the article "al" and the adjective "khemi". Aleister Crowley, the eminent Golden Dawn Magician of the 20th century, stated that this word means "that which pertains to Egypt," and that a rough translation of it would be "The Egyptian Matter."
Traditionally, Alchemy is supposed to have originated in ancient Egypt. Alchemists, also called Hermetic Philosophers, recognize Hermes Trismegistus, or "Thrice-great Hermes", as the legendary founder of their Royal Art, and Hermes Trismegistus is identified with the ancient Egyptian God Tahuti (Thoth in the Coptic). Alchemy is called, among other things, the Black Art in reference to its alleged Egyptian origin. It is also called the Hermetic Art or Hermeticism in respect of its legendary founder.
The ancient Chinese were performing Alchemy as early as 500 B.C. But the science of Alchemy in China was originally a spiritual system, dedicated to a mystical end; it was later in the course of history that it took on other forms, whereas in ancient Egypt the Art of Alchemy originated as a metallurgical craft. The teachings of Alchemy as a spiritual science can be found in the sacred writings of the Chinese Sage Lao Tze, who was the founder of the Grand Philosophy of the Tao. Alchemy plays a vital part in esoteric Taoism. It is, in fact, the secret tradition of Taoism, its inner teaching as opposed to its outer philosophy.
In the Buddhist Mahayana Avatamsaka Sutra reference is made to the alchemical Elixir of Life. It is written in this Sutra: "There exists a Hataka juice or essence. One measure of this solution can transform one thousand measures of bronze into pure gold." In the Hindu Atharva Veda, which is older than 1,000 B.C., there are also mystical words concerning the Elixir of Life. The systematic procurement of this celebrated Elixir constitutes the Magnum Opus or Great Work of Alchemy.
There is a legend which claims that Alchemy was originally the Sacred Art of the Sons of God mentioned in Genesis before the Great Flood. These were the "Fallen Angels" or "Fallen Stars" of God who mated with the women of earth and taught them their Sacred Craft. There is another legend based on Genesis which states that Abraham was the founder of Alchemy, as well as of the Qabalah; that the Wisdom of Alchemy was transmitted to his son Ishmael who was born from Hagar, so that the Arabs and Sufis are the true holders of the sacred keys of the alchemical Art; whereas the Qabalah, which was transmitted to Abraham's son Isaac, who was born by Sarah, became the sacred tradition of the Jewish people.
Putting aside all legend and myth, the actual foundations of the philosophic principles of Alchemy are to be found among the ancient Greeks, Byzantines and Arabs. The principal Greek school for Alchemy was founded by Zosimos in Alexandria around the 4th century A.D. Zosimos asserted that Alchemy was the Sacred Art of the Egyptians. Alchemy traveled from Alexandria to Byzantium in the 5th century and it was eventually adopted by the Arabs. After conquering Egypt in the 7th century the Arabs continued their alchemical researches, and from the 7th to the 11th centuries Alchemy was introduced to all the countries that they conquered. From the 9th to 11th centuries Spain especially became one of the great Hermetic centers of the world.
Alchemists assert the famous Tabula Smaragdina, the Emerald Table of Hermes, to be the chief exposition concerning their alchemical operation by which they achieve the Great Work of the Sun. Legend has it that this Emerald Tablet was discovered by soldiers of Alexander the Great in the hands of Hermes' mummy in the Great Pyramid of Gizah, which was, according to legend, the Tomb of Hermes himself. Hermes was supposed to have engraved the sacred words which were discovered upon the Emerald Tablet. The earliest record of the philosophy of the Emerald Table can be found in the Leyden Papyrus which dates back to approximately 300 A.D. and was discovered in the year 1828 in the tomb of an anonymous Egyptian Magician of Ancient Thebes.
Love is the law, love under will.
THE EMERALD TABLE
BY ALEISTER CROWLEY
Utter the Word of Majesty and Terror!
True without lie, and certain without error,
And of the essence of The Truth. I know
The things above are as the things below,
The things below are as the things above,
To wield the One Thing's Thaumaturgy -- Love.
As all from one sprang, by one contemplation,
So all from one were born, by permutation.
Sun sired, Moon bore, this unique Universe;
Air was its chariot, and Earth its nurse.
Here is the root of every talisman
Of the whole world, since the whole world began.
Here is the fount and source of every soul.
Let it be spilt on earth! its strength is whole.
Now gently, subtly, with thine Art conspire
To fine the gross, dividing earth and fire.
Lo! it ascendeth and descendeth, even
And swift, an endless band of earth and heaven;
Thus it receiveth might of duplex Love,
The powers below conjoined with those above,
So shall the glory of the world be thine
And darkness flee before thy SOVRAN shrine.
This is the strong strength of all strength; surpass
The subtle and subdue it; pierce the crass
And salve it; so bring all things to their fated
Perfection: for by this was all created.
O marvel of miracle! O magic mode!
All things adapted to one circling code!
Since three parts of all wisdom I may claim,
Hermes thrice great, and greatest, is my name.
What I have written of the one sole Sun,
His work, is here divined, and dared, and done.
THE BLACK ART
An Official Publication of the
Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn
(Order of the T.·.G.·.D.·.)
ALCHEMY IN THEORY
ALCHEMY IN PRACTICE
DE MAGNUM OPUS SOLIS
(ON THE GREAT WORK OF THE SUN)
ALCHEMY IN THEORY
Alchemy is called the Royal Art (Ars Regia). Of this there are three basic types. These are Artisinal Alchemy, the Outward Work; Mystical Alchemy, the Inward Work; and Sexual Alchemy, which, after a certain manner, partakes of both these methods of attainment. Artisinal Alchemy is dedicated to producing the "external gold" of material splendour, whereas Mystical Alchemy is dedicated to producing the "internal gold" of spiritual splendour. In either case, the actual object of the Great Work is one: to manufacture the Stone of the Philosophers. It is with this stone that the Alchemist performs his transmutations, whether such be spiritual or material in kind.
In a nutshell, Artisinal Alchemy is the art of transmuting base metals into gold. To attain success with this material form of Alchemy, when combined with the mystical aspect, is said to be an outward sign of the accomplishment of the inward work of Spiritual Transformation; this is, in fact, its only justification in the world of Magick. For gold is a material symbol of a spiritual reality, typified by the Sun of Light. Gold is the perfect metal of all metals, the most exalted form of the mineral kingdom. It is, in fact, the alpha and omega of the mineral kingdom. In the Philosophy of Alchemy it is asserted that all base metals are imperfections of gold, and that all metals are ordained by Nature to become the Perfect Gold of the Sun. The base metals are but accidental phenomena due to an unfavorable environment in Nature. The Alchemist seeks to remove from all base metals their disorderly imperfections or base characteristics to bring them to their true state of natural order and to transmute them into the Living Gold of Sol.
Whether or not the Alchemist can actually convert base metals into gold, I cannot honestly say. I have never witnessed nor have I ever attempted to perform this type of alchemical operation, at least not in this incarnation. My principal justification for even writing about this particular branch of Alchemy is that this material form of Alchemy is symbolical of the spiritual and psychological aspect. In fact many have denied the validity of Artisinal Alchemy, stating that such is purely symbolical of an interior operation that is spiritual and psychological in kind. This may in fact prove true to many of you, but from the scientific and magical point of view it would be but an act of folly to deny the possibility of transmuting base metals into gold. Thus did Eliphas Levi, the famous French Magus of the 19th century who Aleister Crowley claimed to be in a past life, write the following words: "Yes, gold can be made really and materially by means of the Stone of the Sages." History fully supports the possibility of this phenomenon. We cannot ignore the experiences of those in the past who have either succeeded in this sublime work or who have witnessed it first hand.
Let us, for example, take into account Johann Baptista van Helmont, the famous Belgian Physician and Chemist who coined the word ‘gas’ from the Greek word ‘chaos.’ He claimed to have performed an actual transmutation of mercury into gold, and he recorded and published this fact in his work "The Garden of Medicine." In 1618 this scientist was one day visited by an unexpected stranger who gave to him a few grains of powder. Concerning this powder, van Helmont recorded: "I saw and handled the Philosopher's Stone. It was a saffron-coloured powder, very heavy, and it glittered like splinters of glass." Van Helmont also recorded that the stranger was seeking to "convince an illustrious scientist whose work is an honour to his country." Van Helmont was, indeed, convinced of the validity of the operations of Artisinal Alchemy after successfully performing a transmutation with the powder, whereas he previously denied the possibility of this phenomenon.
Let us also take into account Helvetius (Johann Friedrich Schweitzer), the Physician-in-ordinary to the Prince of Orange, who was a vicious opponent of Alchemy. But on the 27th of September, in the year 1666, a stranger appeared unto him who had with him a small ivory box which contained a powder the color of pale sulphur. Regarding this powder, the stranger said: "You see this powder, well, Sir, there is enough of the Philosopher's Stone here to transmute forty thousand pounds of lead into gold." This stranger did not give to Helvetius any of the powder, nor did he perform a transmutation with it, but he did show Helvetius some gold which he said was the product of a transmutation performed by an Adept. Helvetius was not convinced, however, and demanded a demonstration. The stranger refused his request, but did say that he would seek to obtain permission from the Adept, and if the Adept agreed he would return in three weeks time.
Helvetius, it should be noted, did manage to pilfer a few grains of the powder under his fingernail, but with it he achieved nothing. When the stranger returned in three weeks, he confessed this fact to the stranger who laughed and told him that if an actual transmutation was to be achieved the powder must be wrapped in either a lump of wax or piece of paper to protect it from the fumes rising from the base metal, which would otherwise take from it the power of transmutation. He departed shortly after this, saying that he would return the next day. But he did not return. Through the insistence and impatience of his wife, Helvetius inevitably attempted the transmutation without the assistance of the stranger, and, to his utter surprise, it worked! He had first transmuted an old piece of lead piping which he put in a crucible over a fire. When the lead pipe melted his wife dropped the powder on to it, which was contained and protected in wax; and at the end of a quarter of an hour the lead was successfully transmuted into gold. After this became a known fact, the transmutation was successfully performed under strict scientific observation in the official laboratories.
It has been asserted that the famous Alchemist Eirenaeus Philalethes was the stranger who appeared unto van Helmont in 1618 at his laboratory in Vilvorde and who visited Helvetius in 1666 at The Hague, which is near Amsterdam. It is believed by some that his real name was Thomas Vaughan. However, it is known that Vaughan died in 1666, and it was in this same year that Philalethes appeared in Amsterdam after many years of traveling, at which time he gave to Jean Lange his book "The Open Door into the Secret Palace of the King" to be translated into Latin. Sir Isaac Newton, the father of Classical Physics, took this book to heart and studied it for over 20 years. This Alchemist was also much respected by Robert Boyle, a famous British Physicist and Chemist who enunciated the law of the compressibility of gases and who discovered the part played by oxygen in combustion. Boyle also financed the publication of Newton's "Principia" and he has been called the father of modern Chemistry and the harbinger of the "Scientific Method". Boyle himself was a lover of Alchemy, but always skeptical at heart, yet he did attempt to transmute base metals into gold, but to no avail, which fact he admitted in 1661 in his important treatise called "The Skeptical Chymist".
Moreover, let us take into account the infamous Sir Edward Kelly, whose real name was Talbot. Sir Aleister Crowley asserted that he was Talbot in a past life. Talbot was born at Worcester, England, in 1555. After breaking the law and having his ears cropped, he departed from Worcester for Wales where he purchased for one pound sterling an alchemical manuscript and two forms of a powder, one white and the other red, from a man who took them from the tomb of a Catholic Bishop. Being unable to understand the manuscript, he secretly returned to London and contacted the astrologer Dr. John Dee, who was able to decipher it, and by it they successfully performed a transmutation. This resulted in the development of a most peculiar relationship between Kelly and Dee which has left its strange mark on history.
Now Kelly was not a very modest man, and he saw no harm in boasting of his power. He performed public transmutations in Prague, the capital of Bohemia. As a result of this he was invited to perform a transmutation in the court of the Emperor Maximilian II of Germany, who, because of Kelly's success, conferred upon him the rank of Marshal of Bohemia. But soon he was imprisoned by the Emperor for not being able to make more of the powder by which he performed his transmutations. Dee, seeking to help Kelly, told the Emperor that he would assist Kelly to make more of the powder, and the Emperor released Kelly. They failed, however, in their efforts; and Kelly, out of frustration, killed a guard and was again imprisoned by the Emperor. Yet in jail he wrote an alchemical treatise called "The Stone of the Sages", which he sent to the Emperor promising to reveal the secret of the powder if the Emperor would set him free. The Emperor, however, did not believe him. Kelly therefore attempted to escape from jail, but he only managed to brake both of his legs and two ribs in the process. He died as a result of these injuries in 1597.
Now with regard to Mystical Alchemy, its formula and operation is spiritual and psychological in kind. The famous Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung and the well-known Golden Dawn Magician Francis Israel Regardie were both inclined to interpret the operations of Alchemy from a purely psychological point of view. Jung wrote a well known book called "Psychology and Alchemy" (1953) and Regardie wrote an illuminating book called "The Philosopher's Stone" (1938). Both of these authors make it an evident fact in these books that they envisage Alchemy to be nothing more than a psychological operation dedicated to a mystical end. Jung was completely fascinated by Alchemy, and he invested an immense amount of his time investigating the symbols and principles of this Art. Regardie himself was an Adept of Alchemy, and though he envisaged Alchemy to be a psycho-mystical process of initiation, he nevertheless did expound the sexual secrets of Alchemy in his magick book "The Tree of Life" (1932), yet with the essential, magical point of view that this physical aspect of Alchemy is also dedicated to a spiritual cause.
From the point of view of Mystical Alchemy, the Philosopher's Stone is not a powder or any sort of material object, but rather is it a spiritual object, being a symbol of the True Self. The Mystical Alchemist, also called the Alchemystic Philosopher, does not seek to manufacture the Philosopher's Stone to produce the material gold of Nature, but rather to produce the Divine Gold of the Spirit. To attain the Philosopher's Stone is, in this particular case, the attainment of enlightenment, which is the illumination of the aura or Soul of Nature with the Divine Light of Sol, and with this comes the power to illumine the world which is the Divine Gold of the Spirit.
The Eastern System of Kundalini Yoga affords us a basic clue into the interior operations of Mystical Alchemy. Kundalini Yoga aims at the awakening of various centers of psychic force in the Ethereal Body. These are called Chakkras or Cakkrams. Although there is literally a Chakkra for every nerve in the body, there are seven in particular which are of vital importance in the Science of Kundalini Yoga. These Chakkras are symbolized by seven Wheels ascending the spinal column which the Yogi endeavors to initiate into whirling motion, to awaken their subtle energies and vitalize his consciousness with their occult currents of power. This is accomplished by way of awakening the Primary Nerve Current known as the Kundalini or Serpent Power. The Serpent (Kundalini) is a phallic symbol, representing the creative force of reproduction or Sexual Energy. The Kundalini is Sexual Energy -- the Libido -- also called Shakti (Power) in the Sanskrit tongue. It is by this Sexual Power that the Chakkras are literally transformed into veritable centers of cosmic radiation, illuminating the soul, mind and body of the Yogi with the Celestial Light of the Sun.
The seven Chakkras, which are also called Padmas or Lotuses, are the occult centers of psychic energy in the human body. They are not really a part of the human body, but rather correspond to certain parts of it, thus we call them occult (secret). The Chakkras are secret centers which generate Prana and are a part of what is termed the Subtile or Ethereal Body. As Lotuses they exist upside down until the awakened Kundalini strikes upon them and makes them right side up. In this they are slain and transformed, purified and consecrated. It is an essential object of the training of the Magician in the New Order of the Golden Dawn to awaken the Kundalini, and thereby accomplish this inner work with the Chakkras. Any proper system of initiation must necessarily awaken the conscious experience of these centers at some level, as they represent the true initiation of the soul.
There are seven steps to this internal initiatory operation of Yoga. These seven steps correspond with certain alchemical, astrological and magical principles. The number seven is of great importance in Hermeticism. Note that there are seven letters in the words Sulphur, Mercury and Vitriol, which are names for the three alchemical Principles. There are also seven alchemical Metals which are linked with the seven traditional Planets of Astrology. And to correspond with these and other important concepts of the Septenary, there are seven Steps of Initiation in the New Order of the Golden Dawn. The symbol of the New Order of the Golden Dawn is, in fact, a Gold Cross (4) surmounted by a White Triangle (3), giving us the number seven. This symbol represents the Great Work of Alchemy. Such is also the alchemical symbol for Sulphur which denotes the SECRET FIRE of Alchemy. This SECRET FIRE, which is the First Matter of the Great Work, is the Kundalini or Serpent Power of Yoga.
Moreover, the Cross represents the four Grades of Zelator, Adeptus Minor, Adeptus Major and Adeptus Exemptus; and the White Triangle represents the three grades above the Abyss called Magister Templi, Magus, and Ipsissimus. In alchemical terminology the Cross represents the four so-called Aristotelian Elements called Fire, Water, Air and Earth; and the Triangle represents the three Principles of Trimaterialism called Sulphur, Salt and Mercury. The Cross further represents the four elemental Chakkras of Yoga called Muladhara, Svadhistthana, Manipura, and Anahata; and the Triangle represents the three higher Chakkras called Vishudhi, Ajna and Sahasrara.
Muladhara is the Root Chakkra, Svadhistthana is the Navel Chakkra, Manipura is the Solar Plexus Chakkra, Anahata is the Heart Chakkra, Visuddhi is the Throat Chakkra, Ajna is the Pineal Chakkra, and Sahasrara is the Crown Chakkra. In Alchemy these Chakkras are linked with the seven Metals called Lead, Iron, Tin, Quicksilver, Copper, Silver and Gold. These Chakkras are also linked with the seven traditional Planets of Astrology called Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Luna, and Sol.
The seven Metals and seven Planets correspond with the seven Chakkras as follows: Lead and Saturn correlate with the Muladhara Chakkra; Iron and Mars correlate with the Svadhistthana Chakkra; Tin and Jupiter correlate with the Manipura Chakkra; Quicksilver and Mercury correlate with the Anahata Chakkra (or alternatively the Sahasrara Chakkra); Copper and Venus correlate with the Vishudhi Chakkra; Silver and Luna correlate with the Ajna Chakkra; and, lastly, Gold and Sol correlate with the Sahasrara Chakkra (or alternatively the Anahata Chakkra).
Of the seven Chakkras, only six are visible to the inner eye of the Yogi. Sahasrara, the so-called seventh Chakkra, is an invisible and ineffable centre which cannot be classified as a Chakkra per se. Yet it is with this Invisible Chakkra that the Yogi or Magician seeks to integrate himself. For this so-called Chakkra represents the True Self of the Yogi or Magician which, in Alchemy, is symbolized by the Stone of the Philosophers.
Now there are innumerable centers of Prana in the Subtile Body called Nadis which are commonly defined as Nerves. Prana is the vital, creative energy in Nature which animates and maintains all life and it is the subtle link between the visible and the invisible. Nadis are subtle nerve channels of Prana. The word Nadi is derived from the Sanskrit root "nad", which signifies motion. The various petals of the Chakkras are Nadis. Prana moves or circulates in the Nadis, governed by the currents of the Sun and Moon. Purification of the Nadis is one of the most fundamental exercises of Yoga proper.
There are three principal Nadis of Yoga. These are called Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. Of these three the latter is the most important. Sushumna starts in the lowest Chakkra Muladhara (5 cm. above the anus and 5 cm. behind the penis). Within the Sushumna is another Nadi called the Vajrini which contains yet another Nadi called the Citrini. The inmost part or centre of the Citrini is called the Brahma Nadi. However, it is not really a Nadi, but a vivara, that is, a hollow passage. The opening of the Citrini initiates the process or makes open the gate through which the Kundalini can enter the Kula Marga or Royal Road to the Crown Chakkra. Such is called Brahma-Dvara.
The Kundalini is asleep, closing with Her mouth the entrance to the Sushumna, until She is awakened in the Muladhara Chakkra. When the Kundalini (Shakti) is awakened, by way of proper initiation, She enters the Royal Way in the Sushumna and rises through it to unite in orgasmic ecstasy with Her lover Shiva who is concealed in the Brahmarandhra (Sahasrara Chakkra). In Her ascension to the Brahmarandhra She pierces with puissant passion the various petals of the Chakkras which, in effect, blossom into beautiful and fragrant Lotuses of Light. And when Shakti embraces Shiva in the Sahasrara, then are all the Chakkras made one in the blissful, eternal blossoming of the Supernal Lotus of infinite petals.
Ida and Pingala, like Sushumna, start in the Muladhara Chakkra and rise to the Ajna Chakkra, but, unlike the Sushumna, they rise with an inverse, serpentine movement. Ida is to the left of the Sushumna and its nature is lunar and feminine. Pingala is to the right of the Sushumna and its nature is solar and masculine. When Ida and Pingala meet at the Ajna Chakkra they enter the Sushumna, making a triple knot, and again they are separated and, ergo, annihilated. That is, they are discharged of their Prana which then rises through the Sushumna to penetrate and kindle the Sahasrara Chakkra, allowing for the ecstatic, orgasmic embrace of Shakti and Shiva which, as you might gather, constitutes the greatest victory in Kundalini Yoga.
In the Science of Alchemy, the seven Chakkras are linked with the seven Planetary Metals; Sushumna, Ida and Pingala are linked with the three alchemical Principles called Mercury, Sulphur and Salt; and Kundalini is linked with AZOTH, the SECRET FIRE of Alchemy which is the Prime Agent of the Caloric Operation of the Sun. This SECRET FIRE, or the AZOTH of the Sages, is the Serpent Power which transmutes the base metals into the Perfect Gold of the Sun. AZOTH is also a name for the Stone of the Wise, and this gives us a clue into the nature of the SECRET FIRE itself. It is written in the Sixth Key of Exodus: "Our Stone is an Astral Fire which sympathizes with the Natural Fire, and which, as a true Salamander receives its nativity, is nourished and grows in the Elementary Fire, which is geometrically proportioned to it."
AZOTH was the name of the Grand Secret postulated by Eliphas Levi, which he also called the Great Magical Agent, concerning which he wrote: "This Agent, disguised by the ancient philosophers under the name of the First Matter, determines the forms of modifiable substance, and we can really arrive by means of it at metallic transmutation and the Universal Medicine. This is not a hypothesis; it is a scientific fact already established and rigorously demonstrable."
Basil Valentine, a fifteenth century German monk of the Order of Saint Benedict, employed the word AZOTH for the SECRET FIRE, which is not the common fire of Nature, but the Inner Fire of Spirit which cannot be seen with the eyes. In paradoxical language, it is a Watery Fire or a Fiery Water. It is the Universal Sperm of Creation, the Semen of Shiva, the Seed in the Metals, the Prime Agent (Primus Agens), also called Virgin's Milk and the Water of the Wise. It is the Alkahest of Paracelsus who was the famous German Swiss-born Alchemist, Rosicrucian and Physician of the 16th century. It is the Fire Water, Hell Water, of Johann Baptista van Helmont, which purifies and dissolves the metals, and which he described as a salt. Eliphas Levi defined it as the Fluidic and Living Gold of Alchemy. Such is also called Philosophical Mercury, concerning which Roger Bacon, a famous Alchemist of the 13th century, said: "I could transmute the seas, were there enough Mercury."
This SECRET FIRE is both male and female, solar and lunar, fiery and watery in nature. Ergo, it is also called the SECRET WATER and is symbolized by the Great Sea. It has been said: "Chemists use fire for burning; we use water." This Secret Element has a double nature; it is a dry heat combined with a warm moisture. The first real task of the Alchemist is to discover this Fire-Water Element. Thus it is called the First Matter of our work. However, it is not only the First, but also the Last Matter of our work. Thus did Eliphas Levi call it "the efficient and final principle of the Great Work." Note, in this connection, that the word AZOTH is composed of the first and final letters of the Qabalistic Alphabet, that is, Aleph and Tav. For it represents the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End of Our Royal Art.
To transmute the base metals into the Perfect Gold of Nature or, in other words, to open and transform the Chakkras, the Alchemist must discover for himself the SECRET FIRE of Alchemy, the AZOTH of the Sages, the Serpent Power or Kundalini of Yoga, which is the Great Arcanum itself. No one can reveal to another the mystery of this SECRET FIRE; it can only to be discovered for and by oneself. It is with this SECRET FIRE alone that the Alchemist purifies the seven Metals and extracts from them the three Principles of Alchemy called Sulphur, Salt and Mercury.
The SECRET FIRE of Alchemy is sometimes called Mercury, but also Sulphur or Salt. This, however, is a blind, but it is also a clue into the nature of AZOTH. It serves to indicate its primary nature, which is threefold. AZOTH contains within itself the three Principles of Sulphur, Salt and Mercury, which are not actual chemical substances, but rather are they the three modes of the operation of The One Thing. Depending on the context of its nature and application, this SECRET FIRE can be given the name of any one of the three Principles.
Now according to the Alchemist Raymond Lully (1229-1315): "In order to make gold we must first have gold and mercury." To this he added: "By Mercury, I understand that mineral spirit which is so refined and purified that it gilds the seed of gold and silvers the seed of silver." Eliphas Levi, commenting on this, said: "Doubtless he is here speaking of OD, or Astral Light. Salt and Sulphur are serviceable in the work only for the preparation of Mercury; it is with Mercury above all that the Magnetic Agent must be assimilated and as if incorporated." Levi's OD, or Astral Light is, of course, the SECRET FIRE, which is the Prime Agent of Our Majestic Work which, when combined with gold, produces more gold. In this regard, let us diligently take into account the illuminating words of Philalethes: "In addition to gold, which is the body and the male element in our Work, another sperm is needed, which is the spirit, the soul, or the female. This element is fluid Mercury; it looks like ordinary quicksilver but is purer and more tenuous."
The Mercury referred to above as the SECRET FIRE is not the Mercury which goes to make up one of the members of the alchemical Trinity of Principles. Rather is it the Philosophical Mercury, whereas the Mercury of Trimaterialism is called Philosophers' Mercury or Quicksilver. The only similarity between these two Mercuries is that neither of them has any link with the chemical Mercury. Other from this they are separate substances, though quite often, as we have witnessed above, the word Mercury is used in a general manner, even for Philosophical Mercury.
Philosophical Mercury is the Salt or Sulphurated Mercury which is extracted from the First Matter by the successful application of the SECRET FIRE. Eliphas Levi wrote: "To know how to extract from all matter the pure Salt which is concealed in it is to possess the secret of the Stone." In this may you consider that the Salt to be extracted from the First Matter is dual in nature; it is a synthesis of Mercury and Sulphur. The Greek letter Upsilon represents this dual nature of Salt. It is divided into two branches which spring from one root. The two branches are symbols for Sulphur and Mercury, whereas the root symbolizes Salt. In color symbolism, one branch is red and the other is white, and the root is black. Salt is the foundation or root of this work; and it is the means whereby Sulphur is united with Philosophers' Mercury. Levi informs us: "All that is material contains Salt, and all Salt can be converted into pure gold by the combined action of Sulphur and Mercury."
Zosimos of Panopolis, a famous Alchemist who lived in the 4th century, said: "Our Gold which possesses the desired quality can make gold and tint into gold. Here is the great mystery -- that the quality becomes gold and it then makes gold." And what is this Gold which we must have to make more gold? In the "Rosarium Philosophorum" (1550), written by an anonymous author, it is said: "Aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi" (Our gold is not the common gold). And Roger Bacon informs us: "Gold is the perfect substance, composed of mercury, that is pure, homogeneous, brilliant, red; and of equally pure, stable, red sulphur that is incombustible. Gold is perfection."
It was the famous Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan), an Islamic Alchemist and Sufi of the 8th century, who proposed that all minerals are composed of Sulphur and Mercury. Then came Al-Razi, another Islamic Alchemist, who proposed a third elemental ingredient. Eliphas Levi proposed that these three alchemical Elements, when volatilized and fixed alternately, compose the AZOTH of the Sages. Paracelsus said that everything in Nature is composed of these three Elements. In the Qabalah these three Elements are OD, OB and AOUR, which are the three modes of the operation of The One Thing -- the Active, Passive, and Equilibrated -- represented on the Caduceus of Hermes by the twin Serpents and the central globe on the staff around which the twin Serpents entwine.
As stated above, Salt is a synthesis of Sulphur and Mercury, which are also called Gold and Silver, Sol and Luna, Fire and Water. The seven Metals are formed from the combination of Sulphur and Mercury in the Salt of the Metals, and the difference between the Metals is based on the proportion of these two Principles in their composition. But Mercury is outwardly Mercury and inwardly Sulphur, and Sulphur is outwardly Sulphur but inwardly Mercury. Each one of the three Principles are dual in nature, and are therefore similar in their essential composition. Thus to possess knowledge of the nature and application of one of these Principles is to possess the knowledge of all three Principles. We are therefore instructed to discover and extract the Salt from the Metals and through this are we able to extract the Sulphur and Mercury from the same. This Salt is like unto a secret seed or sperm which contains the other two Principles. Such is the First Matter of Our Majestic Work which makes for the sublime conversion of the Elements which, may you note it well, constitutes the attainment of the Great Work. As Arnold of Villa Nova, a 13th century Alchemist, declared: "Convert the Elements, and you shall have what you desire."
In the Golden Treatise of Hermes Trismegistus it is written: "In the caverns of the metals there is hidden the Stone that is venerable, splendid in colour, a mind sublime, and an open sea." The caverns of the metals can be linked with the Chakkras of Yoga. To extract the stone from the caverns of the metals is, in Kundalini Yoga, the extraction of the Prana from the Chakkras that is accomplished by the Kundalini which is our SECRET FIRE. This stone, or Heavenly Salt, is represented by a Cube made of six squares. Such is the Folded Cross of six squares which is the Rosicrucian Cross with the Rose in its centre. The Rose is hidden in the centre of the Cube or Folded Cross; it represents the Great Secret itself. By the unfolding of the Cube is this Great Secret revealed. Recall, in this regard, that the stone contains and is the product of Sulphur and Mercury. The Rose that is in the centre of the Cube is the Secret of the Union of Sulphur and Mercury. To unfold the Cube, which is to extract it from the metals, and to acquire the Rose on the Cross, is to also extract the Sulphur and Mercury from the metals. In terms of Kundalini Yoga, the unfolding of the Cube is the opening of a Chakkra by the Kundalini which extracts from it the Prana which contains in itself the currents of the Sun and Moon.
From the point of view of Jungian Psychology, Sulphur and Mercury are the Animus and Anima. Animus is Sulphur or the Fiery Masculine Principle of the Sun, and Anima is Mercury or the Watery Feminine Principle of the Moon. Just as Sulphur is outwardly Sulphur but inwardly Mercury, and just as Mercury is outwardly Mercury but inwardly Sulphur, so is the Animus the Soul of a Woman and the Anima the Soul of a Man. And just as the Anima is unconscious in man and the Animus unconscious in woman, so is Mercury concealed in Sulphur and Sulphur concealed in Mercury. Sulphur and Mercury are, in Oriental Philosophy, the celebrated Yin and Yang. In the symbol of Yin and Yang it will be observed that Yang contains Yin and Yin contains Yang. The Child of the interplay of Yin and Yang, and also the source of their balanced activity, is the Mystical Tao. This Tao, which is the Salt in metals, is also the Stone of the Philosophers that is obtained by extracting the Salt from the metals, and from this Salt do we extract the Sulphur and Mercury to reunite them in the Hermetic Vessel. In psychological terms, such is the attainment of the balance between the two extremes of consciousness, or the two aspects of the Psyche, which, in other terms, is the cultivation of harmony between the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain which are the Sulphur and Mercury of our neurological system.
Let us now take into account the history of the development of the theory of the so-called Aristotelian Elements which play such an important role in the Philosophy of Alchemy. This theory commenced with a Greek Philosopher named Thales (640-546 B.C.), who proposed that all things were composed of one element, which he claimed to be Water. Anaximines (560-500 B.C.), a contemporary of Thales, agreed with his theory, but proposed that the element was Air. Heraclitus (536-470 B.C.) proposed that the element was Fire. Empedocles (490-430 B.C.) proposed that there was more than one element, and that Water, Air and Fire, to which he added another element called Earth, were the primary elements of the Universe. Plato (428-348 B.C.) proposed another element which he said was the true Primary Element of which the other four elements were made. This fifth element Aristotle called Hule.
Plato proposed that Hule was the prime matter of the Universe with four fundamental properties of hot, cold, moist, and dry, and that it was the combination of these properties in pairs which produced the four elements. Fire is hot and dry, Water is cold and moist, Air is hot and moist, and Earth is dry and cold. Aristotle later proposed another fifth element, the Quintessence or Ether, which he claimed to be like fire. The theory that all things were composed of these primary elements remained strong till the 17th Century, when Robert Boyle published "The Skeptical Chymist" in 1661, in which he made a critical examination of the Aristotelian theory of the elements.
From the point of view of modern day science, this theory of the ancients is a closed book. But from the point of view of Hermeticism, this theory is still a useful tool to be applied in the operations of the Great Work, particularly in that branch of Hermeticism called Mystical Alchemy. This, as we shall see, is a most practical point of view, for the application of this ancient theory takes on a new meaning in the works of Mystical Alchemy, since in this branch of Hermeticism the so-called Aristotelian Elements are interpreted in a different light than that of ancient science, though the theory of these elements is still proposed in a similar manner as it was done by the ancients.
Putting aside all modern day criticism of this theory, let us each judge for ourselves whether or not this ancient theory still holds any value for us today when applied to the Great Work. The elements of this theory, as they are proposed in Hermeticism, are not the elements which the ancients thought to compose the Universe, but rather do they denote empirical principles which play a vital part in the constitution of our existential lives. Let us therefore interpret this theory in the illuminating light of metaphor, and not in the literal sense when we approach it in this lesson where it is applied to the practical applications of Mystical Alchemy.
Now from the point of view of Sexual Alchemy the Great Work is to manufacture the Philosopher's Stone by the skillful application of the sexual act between a man and a woman. In this material form of Alchemy the simple adage holds true: "It takes two to tango!" This constitutes the fundamentals of Sexual Alchemy, which we call Our Master Work and the Labour of Hercules, but most especially the Mass of the Holy Ghost. The whole secret of this Magnum Opus is symbolized by the Union of the Rosicrucian Rose and Cross. This symbol is the same as the symbol for Venus, which is a modification of the Egyptian Ankh, which is itself a combined symbol of the Cross and Circle. The Cross symbolizes the Masculine Principle and the Circle or Rose symbolizes the Feminine Principle.
The formula of this Great Work is further represented by the geometrical symbol of the Hexagram. This ancient symbol of Eastern origin is composed of two interlaced triangles indicating the Union of Fire and Water. It also indicates the union of the Phallos and Kteis. The upright triangle is the Phallos, whereas the inverted triangle is the Kteis. And these two triangles united into a single figure symbolize the Child of the Phallos and Kteis, which we call Our Lapis Philosophorum, the Stone of the Philosophers. The Hexagram is a geometrical symbol of the Stone of the Philosophers, also called Lapis Mercurius, the Stone of Mercury. Ergo, it is a symbol of what we call "the Mystery of Mysteries" and "the Secret of Secrets", which is also symbolized by the Hermetic Androgyne or Hermaphrodite who is the Mercury of the Sages. Fire and Water united produce the element of Air which is symbolic of the Mercury of the Sages, or of the Mercury that is produced by the Secret Union of Sulphur and Salt.
Such is the magical formula of the Rose and Cross, which is the central mystery of the True Rosicrucians; and by the proper use of this magical formula we may accomplish the Great Work and transmute the base metals into the Perfect Gold of the Sun. In the symbolism of the Rosy Cross, the Rose is synonymous with the Moon and the Cross is synonymous with the Sun. The Adept of Sexual Alchemy is one who accomplishes the Great Work of uniting the Rose and Cross or Sun and Moon to produce the Stone of the Philosophers, the Elixir of Life, and the Medicine of Metals.
Another important symbol of Sexual Alchemy is the Triangle surmounted by a Cross. Eliphas Levi wrote: "Now the Triangle surmounted by a cross signifies in Alchemy the end and perfection of the Great Work." And in the Neophyte Ceremony of the New Order of the Golden Dawn, it is proclaimed to the Candidate: "The Cross surmounting a Triangle has many special meanings. But principally it represents the Stone of the Wise, the Medicine of Metals, and the Elixir of Life, which is the object of the Great Work, the Knowledge of which is concentrated in the Secret Sanctuary of our Holy Order. This Stone of the Wise is the Secret of Secrets, the Grand Arcanum of the Sacred Mysteries. By its power, all manner of miracles can be accomplished. By its power, the Adepti of Magick can attain eternal youth, perfect joy, and true wealth. But most especially can it assist you in the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel and in the accomplishment of your True Will."
In a duly constituted Temple of Initiation in the Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Sun (Hadit), the Moon (Nuit), and the Child of Their Mystick Union (Ra-Hoor-Khuit), are represented by three Officers in the Temple who are called the Royal Prince, the Royal Princess, and the Very Honoured Hierophant. The Prince is the Sun, the Princess is the Moon, and the Hierophant is the Child of Their Holy Union. In all the Initiation Ceremonies of the New Order of the Golden Dawn, the Great Work is impressed on the mind of the Candidate by way of these three principal Officers, who also represent the three Principles of Sulphur, Salt and Mercury.
In the Neophyte Ceremony of the Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn, it is proclaimed by the Royal Prince: "I am the Royal Prince of the Sun who stands beside this Neophyte to signify his/her Male Self, the Force of Light in action in his/her soul; and I am the Secret Flame within the heart of this Neophyte, ever burning bright to nourish him/her with Life and Beauty and the Eternal Wisdom." It is then proclaimed by the Royal Princess in the same ceremony: "I am the Royal Princess of the Moon who stands beside this Neophyte to signify his/her Female Self, the Force of Darkness in the soul of Nature; and I am the Secret Aspiration of the soul of this Neophyte, ever seeking to nourish him/her with Love and Bliss and the Eternal Understanding."
The Very Honoured Hierophant then proclaims in the same ceremony: "In thee ever, O Neophyte, are the Royal Forces of the Sun and Moon, and in thee ever do they seek union, so that without that union there is no true equilibrium in the soul. Thou shalt do well to know and unite these two Forces within thyself, so that thou mayest be without suffering and attain true harmony within."
Moreover: "Let the Sun and the Moon unite, and let them bear an Hermaphrodite! Let a Child be born from this holy union. And lo! it shall be the Stone of the Wise, and the Medicine of Metals. And so shalt thou perform the Great Work of the Sages. And so shalt thou accomplish the Supreme Goal of the Adepti of Light."
Continue to Alchemy in Practice II
Alchemy in Theory: Text
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