David – Chapter 4

January 30, 2011 § 6 Comments

Figures of Nicolas Flamel

Chapter 4 of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy has yet again provided rich ground for the intrepid seeker to dig into, and a host of companions to guide us in the Art.  Having traveled from Alexandria, through the Islamic world, we find ourselves in the Middle Ages at the full flowering of European culture.  The stone has been set in the great cathedrals, and the European alchemists pursue the Art with diligence.

“In every spot where the flowers of legend grow, underneath there is the solid earth of truth.”

from the Alchemy Lab’s page on Nicholas Flamel

As I did with Apollonius in a prior chapter, in Chapter 4 I became enamoured with the story of Nicholas Flamel whose very name speaks to the victory for the people deeply engaged in the Art. His presence gave wealth to the surrounding community.

Portal of the Tower of St. James

From his small shop at the base of the Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie I joined him on his journey to Sant’Iago de Compostela. Raising my self in imagination” in the Church-yard of the Innocents, in the fourth Arch, entering by the great gate of St. Dennis Street, and taking the way on the right hand,” as I read his Explication of the Hieroglyphic Figures, the fruit of his labors.

Today all that is left of the Church of St. James is the tower in which Flamel’s remains are housed. Pilgrims still travel West on their way to Sant’Iago de Compostela, adorning their hats with sun like shells to mark their journey. The vine of tradition still allows those who seek access to an entrance into the way.

It is for those who would seek to separate the matter from it’s root that the truth withers. As Flamel says in his Summary of Philosophy: “Now if any one plucks this unripe fruit from the tree, then its first forming would be frustrate, nor would it grow larger nor ripe; for man knows not how to give substance, nourishment, or maturity, so well as internal nature, while the fruit yet hangs on the tree, which feeds it with substance and nourishment, till the determined maturity is accomplished.”

For me this was a most illuminating chapter.

St. Dennis

Ora, lege, lege, relege, labora et invenies

(Pray, read, read, re-read, work and discover)


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§ 6 Responses to David – Chapter 4

  • Willi Paul says:

    from: Nicholas Flamel – The Book of Abraham the Jew:

    “Wisdom has various means for making its way into the heart of man. Sometimes a prophet comes forward and speaks. Or a sect of mystics receives the teaching of a philosophy, like rain on a summer evening, gathers it in and spreads it abroad with love. Or it may happen that a charlatan, performing tricks to astonish men, may produce, perhaps without knowing it himself, a ray of real light with his dice and magic mirrors. In the fourteenth century, the pure truth of the masters was transmitted by a book. This book fell into the hands of precisely the man who was destined to receive it; and he, with the help of the text and the hieroglyphic diagrams that taught the transmutation of metals into gold, accomplished the transmutation of his soul, which is a far rarer and more wonderful operation.”

    Hi David –

    Some powerful ideas in just the first paragraph re: Nicholas Flamel! But you know me; not much for the past per se,… I wish to bring alchemy& myth into the here and now and transmutate these forces with sustainability, music, etc.

    I would love to know which of the following change agents you predict will rise in these times? Who specifically?

    a prophet?
    a sect of mystics?
    a charlatan?



  • David says:

    Good questions, and an excellent selection from the Alchemy Lab page on Flamel.

    Re: the past

    “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8

    Re: here & now

    “Even though the moon passes quickly it is beyond beginning, middle, or end. Thus, there is first-month moon and second month moon. The first and second are both the moon. Right practice is the moon. Right offering is the moon. Snapping the sleeves and walking away is the moon.

    Round and crescent are not the cycle of coming and going. The moons do and do not use coming and going: go freely and grasp firmly coming and going. Creating wind and stream the moons are as they are.” – Dogen discourse on the moon

    Re: transmutation

    “If therefore you would gather fruits from argent vive, viz. pure sol and luna, if they be disjoined from their mercury; think not that you, like as nature did in the beginning, may again conjoin and multiply, and without change, augment them. For if metals be separated from their mine, then they, like the fruit of trees too soon gathered, never come to their perfection, as nature and experience makes it appear. For if an apple or pear be once plucked off from the tree, it would then be a great vanity to attempt to fasten it to the tree again, expecting it to increase and grow ripe; and experience testifies, that the more it is handled, the more it withereth. And so it is also with metals: for if you should take the vulgar sol and luna, endeavoring to reduce them into argent vive, you would wholly play the fool, for there is no artifice yet found, whereby it can be performed. – Though you should use many waters, and cements, or other things infinitely of that kind, yet would you continually err, and that would befal you, which would him that should tie unripe fruit to their trees.” – Nicholas Flamel, Summary of Philosophy

    Re: change agents – What changes in the eternal?

    “Now actualizing the buddha ancestors means to bring them forth and look at them respectfully. It is not limited to the buddhas of the past, present and future, but it is going beyond buddhas who are going beyond themselves. It is taking up those who have maintained the face and eye of buddha ancestors, formally bowing and meeting them. They have manifested the virtue of the buddha ancestors, dwelt in it, and actualized it in the body.” – Dogen discourse on the buddhas ancestors

    Re: will rise

    “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

    He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.” – Matthew 12:38-42

    Re: A prophet

    “If a doubt arises and you think that plum blossoms are not Gautama’s eyeballs, consider whether anything other than plum blossoms may be seen as eyeballs. If you seek the eyeballs elsewhere, you will not recognize them even though you are facing them, because meeting is not consummated. This day is not this day of an individual; it is this day of the great house. Realize right now plumb blossoms as eyeballs. Stop seeking any further!”
    – Dogen discourse on Plum Blossoms

    Re: A sect of mystics

    ‘Today Sufism is a name without a reality, but formerly it was a reality without a name.’ – Hujwiri, 11th Century Sufi of Lahore, quoting Fushanji, 10th century

    Re: A charlatan

    “Various masters of different generations made great noise in reveiling the tradition, but they did not even come close to the neighborhood of venerable ancestor Dongshan. The reason is that they mistakenly talked about cooling off and warming up without understanding cold or heat in the everyday activities of buddha ancestors. What did you learn about cold or heat from the old master? How sad that the ancestor way has declined.

    Only after you understand the meaning of cold and heat permeating the moment of cold and heat and activating cold and heat, should you attempt to reveil the tradition to explain the words of the venerable ancestor. Otherwise you are not as good as those who know nothing. Even in the secular world the understanding of sun and moon, and how to abide with all things, varies according to sages, learned people, and ignorant people. Don’t think that cold and heat in the buddha way are the same as the cold or heat that ignorant people talk about. Investigate directly.” – Dogen discourse on poetic imagery

    Re: aliens

    What is outside that which is?


  • Willi Paul says:

    I’m in wrong Century, hear?!

  • What great research and enlightening info. There is a ring to Flamel’s comments and style of truthful experience. If anyone turned lead into gold, it was this man.

  • Willi Paul says:

    Hi Dennis –

    How about love into music?


  • David says:

    Alchemy has always had an element of music in it and vice versa:


    Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugien’s contains 50 alchemical emblems accompanied by 50 fugues – here’s a link to Fugue XLVI – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsFiilfB8RE

    Mozart’s Magic Flute has alchemical imagery and allegorical themes – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h018rMnA0pM

    Bach – Contrapunctus II & IV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7Kskdi-1FQ

    Medieval Virelai Music – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2Pb_jpSyiE

    Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Scriabin…Killing Joke.

    Alchemy as traditionally practiced throughout the world is the very Art of Nature. It’s inescapable for any artist serious about what they do, and most of Western culture’s musical heritage is deeply intertwined with the Art.

    As discussed in CIGA alchemists seek to connect with the ‘prima materia’, the prime matter of the universe, the core of vitality in the creative matrix of existence. Without this no Art can be complete, so all of the great artists from every culture have in some way accessed this.

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