One in Essence, Three in Aspect

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

An exploration of the Emerald Tablet (using the Sigismund Bacstrom translation)

The Secret Works of CHIRAM – One in essence, but three in aspect.

It is true, no lie, certain and to be depended upon, the superior agrees with the inferior, and the inferior agrees with the superior, to effect that one truly wonderful work.

As all things owe their existence to the will of the only one, so all things owe their origin to the one only thing, the most hidden by the arrangement of the only God.

The father of that one only thing is the sun its mother is the moon, the wind carries it in its belly; but its nourse is a spirituous earth.

That one only thing is the father of all things in the Universe.

Its power is perfect,after it has been united with a spirituous earth.

Separate that spirituous earth from the dense or crude by means of a gentle heat, with much attention.

In great measure it ascends from the earth up to heaven, and descends again, newborn, on the earth, and the superior and the inferior are increased in power.

By this wilt thou partake of the honours of the whole world. And Darkness will fly from thee.

This is the strength of all powers. With this thou wilt be able to overcome all things and transmute all what is fine and what is coarse.

In this manner the world was created; the arrangements to follow this road are hidden.

For this reason I am called Chiram Telat Mechasot, one in essence, but three in aspect. In this trinity is hidden the wisdom of the whole world.

It is ended now, what I have said concerning the effects of the sun. Finish of the Tabula Smaragdina.

[See Manly P. Hall  – Secret Teachings of All Ages, 1977: CLVIII,]

Music: David B. Metcalfe Tin Whistle & Banjo

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Martin Rulandus on the 3 Essentials

February 27, 2011 § 3 Comments

In the deep considerations of the Hermetic and Paracelsian writings, that has well-nigh come to pass which of old overtook the Sons of Shem at the building of the Tower of Babel. For these, carried away by vainglory, with audacious foolhardiness to rear up a vast pile into heaven, so to secure unto themselves an immortal name, but, disordered by a confusion and multiplicity of barbarous tongues, were ingloriously forced. In like manner, the searchers of Hermetic works, deterred by the obscurity of the terms which are met with in so many places, and by the difficulty of interpreting the hieroglyphs, hold the most noble art in contempt; while others, desiring to penetrate by main force into the mysteries of the terms and subjects, endeavour to tear away the concealed truth from the folds of its coverings, but bestow all their trouble in vain, and have only the reward of the children of Shem for their incredible pain and labour. Unto both these classes I wish to come forward with help, that they may not only seek more diligently into the writings of the Hermetists, but that they may understand them better, and that in this manner the divine Art of Alchemy may be more successfully taken in hand. For which reason I have concluded to publish this Lexicon of Alchemy, formerly compiled, and enlarged and completed since by me.

From the dedication of the Lexicon of Alchemy, by Martin Rulandus (1612)


 

MERCURY — is mentioned everywhere, in every alchemical work, and is supposed to perform everything. Everybody wastes his brain and his money in endeavouring to produce a quantity of it. Now, Mercury is a thick gluey liquid, yet it does not stick, for it is of a dry nature, Moist and Warm Water, almost inseparably mixed with Earth, so that they either remain together, or depart together.

2. Speculum Alchimiae states that Mercury is Living Gold, and kills or makes alive, moistens and drys, warms and cools, becoming opposite things according to the measure of its regimen.

3. It is also called Vinegar, Oli, a Father of all Wonders, and the Chief Medicine; also Living Silver because it possesses a soul; also Bath, a continually Stagnant Water, Water of Sulphur, Burning Water, Water of Life, of Gold, of Saltpetre, Pure Water, White Karo, Vapour, Seed, Shade, Fiery, Poison, Fire, Ore, Lime, Azot, Gold, Orpiment, Lunar Saliva, Strftarna Boletorunr, Citronat, Juice, Wine of Souls, Brightness of the Sea, Heart of Salt, Kanderich, Colla Auriborites, Alum from Apples, Kuhul, Esbuit, Stomach, juice from Metallic Roots.

4. An essential of all metals, as it is in itself a poison to them all. It cleanses gold.

5. It is of the nature of silver, and of the spirit of the same, the White Stone, the Disappearing Water, Virgin’s Milk, the Proud Lady.

6. When he conquers, he is white; when overcome, he is red; he is a Powerful Water.

7. Mercury of the Body is White Earth.

8. Exuberatus is Earth of the Body, which, along with the Menstruum, has arisen over the bright part of the body.

9. Mercury of Mars is red yellow, even as Mercury of Venus.

10. Crude Mercury dissolves the bodies, but Mercury of the bodies effects nothing.

11. The Earth wherein to sow the grain. It is incombustible, whether it sustains the brightness of the fire, or whether it flows right away. It is an index of perfection that nothing should remain in the fire.

12. Trenes — Mercury is the Subject and Matter of the Stone. When you have amalgamated with it the calx of the perfected body, press it through a linen cloth, and again through a hare’s bladder. If it passes clean through, then all is well.

13. Rosin. Our Stone consists of fixed Mercury, which possesses in itself Soul, Spirit, and Body.

14. Lully says: Ordinary Mercury cannot be the Mercury of the Philosophers, no matter however prepared.

15. Bernard states that Mercury is in some fashion reckoned among the Metals, but it is the Medium for Uniting the Tincture; it is not itself the medicine, but an aid thereto; it is purified through sublimation, washed with salt and vinegar.

16. Mercury is the bane of all metals, even of all things, for he eats away and devours the vessels; all things immersed in him swim to the surface, except gold which, however, he attracts to himself and purifies. He conducts the feces with himself through the strainer, and leaves the gold pure.

17. Adam of Mercury is the Essence of Sulphur and Earth.

18. Theophrastic Mercury is hardened by the Sulphur of Metals, and is transformed into the nature of the sulphur of that metal with which it is hardened.

19.Mercury is extracted from the body by means of solution, distillation, sublimation, and subtilisation: it becomes a Tincture of Mercury of the Sun; it is volatile, nevertheless, has the property of fixing, and does not blacken like the ordinary Mercury.

20. You must always be careful to distinguish what is generally and particularly stated concerning Mercury, as to whether it be about ordinary Mercury, or about our Mercury. Do not make a mistake; otherwise, the information will be useless.

SULPHUR — In Arabic Chibur, Albusao, is a part of the Stone of the Philosophers, warm and dry in the fourth grade. It is the fat of the earth, thickened by a moderate cooking, until hardened and made dry. Rightly considered, it is produced from the purest, driest earth, wherein fire altogether prevails. It is a sort of warm and dry vapour, the cause and father of metals. To sum up, Sulphur is Earth Cooked by Heat, and changed by the watery, fiery, and earthy matters passing through it.

Sulphur is obtained in Germany from mountain mines and marshes. The latter is Apyron, or unforged Sulphur, because it has not come in contact with fire. This is also the simple, natural Sulphur, called, vulgarly, living Sulphur, because it produces Metals, and is one of their elements. Dioscorides praises Apyron, because it shines brilliantly, and is not stony. It abounds at Melon and Lipara. Its nature is heating, exciting, cooking. The species of Sulphur are as follows:

1. A Sulphur which solidifies into a cloddy earth. This is properly called living; it is the only genus employed by physicians; it is transparent, brilliant, compact, excellent.

2. Exceptionally fine.

3. Like to Goslarian Mica. Concerning all these, consult Pliny, Avicenna, and others. There is great affinity between Sulphur and Bitumen. In the Eolian Isles it is collected, and very readily kindles the fire. It is found in great abundance, and is exported to Italy, and thence to us. Concerning its sublimation, solution, and melting, consult the chemists, for these exceed my purpose.

Manufactured Sulphur is that prepared and perfected by art, that which has been treated by fire, burning Sulphur, the substance used everywhere. It comes imperfect from the mines. There are three species — Gleba, used by fullers; Ezula, employed in dyeing wool; while the third is Elychina.

Sulphur is a formative principle, partly gaseous, partly fiery, partaking of an ethereal nature; it is that whence strength proceeds, and life inheres in things. Hence it is called the Balm of Nature — Sal Terminator, Sulphur Informator — possessing plastic virtue. Mercury is an unctuous vapour. As for the essential form of Sulphur, chemists leave this to physicists. Although Mercury is a living, active, spiritual principle, which can be rarefied, it is a dry, acidulating, preservative Salt. Sulphur is strong-smelling, warm, and very pure. Note the peculiar significance of the term Mercury; it cannot be compared with liquid Quicksilver. The life of these elements is not Galenian or Aristotelian, but chemical. Consult Paracelsus.

Sulphur is the seed of the stone, and is of two kinds — an external, whereby the internal is born in Mercury, which, being earthy, combustible, useless, is removed as menstrual water from a child. The internal Sulphur is the power which makes and prepares the body and cannot be separated from it, because it is inherent, congenital in its very heart and substance. It is originally white, becomes red by means of heat, just as food in the belly by means of the liver, and is the form of the matter, the soul and ferment of the stone, the husband, king, and bridegroom — Red Arsenic, Burnt Ashes, our Gold, Philosophical Gold, Dry, Stony Water, Fire, Earth, Red Stone, Coagula, Mercury, Tincture.

Ordinary Sulphur, by whatever name we may call it, remains an enemy of all metals; consumes, blackens, and destroys; but Philosophical Sulphur is life-giving, matures, makes black, but destroys not, and is called Sulphur because it is never found in the perfect body.

Tercusculus in his Epistles says: Among metals there are two kinds of Sulphur — one can be separated, the other cannot just as in man there are two kinds of blood — one that becomes flesh, and another which departs by means of perspiration. Essential Sulphur is a real working of the air and of fire, which digests and cooks its proportioned and cognate earth and warm waters in a Mercury. The Mercurial Water is a Dissolved Gold; a Vitalising Water, Incombustible, Philosophic Gold, found in Sol and Luna.

SULPHUR RUBEUM — Arsenic.

SULPHUR — one of the three principles of which all substances are composed of an Oily and Inflammable Matter.

The general species of Sulphur are as follows :

1. White Liquid Sulphur, not unmixed with Alum, obtained at certain seasons during the overflow or inundation of a lake, and deposited on the surface of the earth. From this Sulphur there is a Natural Oil extracted.

2. Clay-like Neapolitan, from the Forum Vulcanium, as Pliny terms the
place, naturally concreted into a fibrous or capillary mass.

3. Pure, Native, Neapolitan, Clay-like Sulphur, not tried by fire.

4. Fossile Neapolitan, of the natural colour, but combined with a Greyish
Earth.

5. Clay-like, Neapolitan, Living Sulphur, in a Hard, Grey Atrament.

6. Living, Grey, Cloddy, Native Sulphur, in a White Earth.

7. Grey, Living, Native Sulphur, having a Grey, Petrine Cortex.

8. Living, Grey Sulphur, in a Grizzly-coloured Cortex.

9. Black, Living Sulphur, combined with a Soft and White Sulphur.

10. Black, Manufactured Sulphur, of poor quality.

11. Oil of Sulphur, similar to Liquid Bitumen, derived from Liquid Sulphur.

12. Oil of Sulphur, derived from Native Sulphur.

13. Elychnia — a Preparation of Sulphur, by Clarifying or Straining.

14. Sulphureous Neapolitan Earth, from which Sulphur is excocted in large
quantities.

15. A Stone of a Black and Ruddy Colour, which is the Parent of Sulphur. Sulphur-stone.

16. Sulphur, of Blue Colour, known to the people of Ausonia, and perchance to those of Spain.

SAL — In the Greek, Alas ; in the Arabic, Melech or Selenipum, is Brine or Muriate of Salt, from salt melted by cold or damp. Or it is the Terrene Principle, powerfully restricting, coagulating, and so also preserving. Thus it is closely related to Nature, and works well therewith. It is also Mercury.

The Salt of the Philosophers is the Stone of the Philosophers. Some would extract the Salt from all metals, and make the art to consist in doing so, which is wholly unnecessary, as Hermes says:

1. Every Salt is present in this art, that one alone excepted whereby the souls are extracted from the metals.

2. The First Matter is everywhere, and in all houses ; it grows in the sea and in all men.

3. There is another Salt of Vegetables, another of Animals, a third of Metals, which is the most acrid of all.

4. It is the best Balsam, purges, acts as an astringent, makes thin, cleanses, separates, alters, and stimulates the power of the seed. Therefore we say that Venus is born out of the sea.

5. Senior and Gratian state that Lime and Salt can be made out of all things-Salt out of Ashes, Water out of Ashes, Gold out of Mercury. Therefore have they sought for Gold in all things.

6. Everything which you would elevate and alter you must reduce to Salt and Alum, and this is the secret of preparing the Calcined Salt.

7. Everything that is capable of dissolution absorbs the nature of Salt and Alum, and after corruption assumes the Stone.

8. Salt which is fixed is used for holding the body together, and is extracted from calcinated things by means of putrefaction, until the whole composition alters its nature and assumes another.

9. Reinmund says: The Art requires Lime, that is, its proper earth, which, of all Minerals, possesses the greatest power of hardening the Mercury.

10. The Salt of the Metals dissolves the Mercury into a clear water in dung, and the same is mixed up and coagulates till the perfect medium is produced. Therefore, he that understands the Salt and its solution possesses the wisdom of the ancients. Therefore, place your whole reliance on the Salt. Count nothing else of importance. For Salt by itself is the most important secret which all the Wise have thought proper to conceal. Gebir says: You must know that this is a Salt, although at first it has by no means the appearance of a Salt, but it becomes like it during operation. It is white, bright, clear, and excellent. Then it becomes impure, and then pure again; it dissolves and coagulates; also it expands and it contracts.

Paracelsus in Paramiro affirms as follows: Salt produces coagulation ; it causes the given matter to thicken and to coagulate, till it assumes such a consistency that it can be touched, for nothing can be tangible without the presence of Salt. Now, there are many species of Salt, just as there are many kinds of Sulphur, and many kinds of Mercury.

Erika – Chapter 7

February 23, 2011 § 6 Comments

Essential blueprints.

I love this line from page 82:  “The Elements are really spiritual essences and originate in the higher realm Above, where they represent perfect images or cosmic ideals.”  Plato described them as “idea-forms.”  I’ve always thought of them as blueprints.  Many names, same gist.  The popular manifestation teachings (e.g. Law of Attraction, Abraham-Hicks, The Secret, etc.) have made accessible the hermetic maxim “As above so below.”  Journeying from the quintessential, etheric thought or idea to its physically formed structure has been greatly de-mystified, and I think that’s wonderful.

[Side-note:  Maybe we can find/create ways to get other noble ideas into the mainstream market.  Can you imagine wisdom or sustainability going viral?]

Personal alchemy.

From the beginning of this study, I said my intent was informal and non-academic.  I wanted to learn how to apply alchemical principles to bring about transformation in my life, here and now.  The Square of Opposition on page 86 gives that chance.  It’s a simple map to a balanced temperament.  My nature is dominantly Air, and I have long known my need for groundedness… earthiness.  I agree with Jung’s observation that a balancing of the elements is integrative work.  Probably for the duration of my lifetime.  I was surprised to learn that “we can only move around and not across the Square of Opposition… direct transformation of opposing Elements into one another is not possible.”  This is an incredibly helpful insight to/for me.  Did any of you work with the Square?

Matter in its most basic form.

All while enjoying this chapter, I kept hearing Carl Sagan’s famous words in my head and heart, “We’re made of star stuff.”  Since I didn’t get my own video reflection prepared this week, I’ll offer this instead for your stellar pondering 😉

David – Chapter 7

February 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

As a ground for reference the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy continues to prove a wonderful jumping off point to pursue further meditations on the Art.

Chapter 7 details the concept of the 4 elements, which we find integral, not only to the more recent Aristotelian empiricism, the basis for our contemporary science, but also to older streams of thought more closely tied to Traditional paths such as the Alchemical Art.

Empedocles is traditionally taught as the first (known) exponent of the theory of the 4 elements in the Western world. As Peter Kingsley details, Empedocles was also seen as the father of a very potent branch of Sufism which lead to the Illuminationist school of Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi, a school which shares many similarities to the Augustinian Christian tradition.  Note that neither Plato, nor Aristotle, are usually shown as teaching the unity of both the spiritual realm and the material, the unity of that which is above and that which is below, yet it is from the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions that we draw our contemporary understanding of Nature and Life. Note also that Augustine makes it very clear that he does not follow the Platonic tradition or Aristotelian tradition, and it is his separation from these traditions that marks the beginning of his life as a follower of Christ.  Similarly al-Din Suhrawardi is specific in citing Empedocles, despite the fact that many Sufi lineages are identified by contemporary scholars as NeoPlatonic in their metaphysical doctrines.

This is a very important distinction to make.  The inter-connection between  physics and metaphysics, which forms the basis of the ancient Tradition followed by Empedocles, passed on to the Illuminationist schools, and central to the Art, has not been the commonly taught in either the scientific or mystical doctrines that we are most familiar with today.  Those that follow the Platonic tradition give more credence to ideal spiritual forms, while those that follow the Aristotelian tradition give more credence to empirical forms. Professor Gordon Campbell points out that in contrast to this “Empedocles draws a close analogy between the cycle of the soul and the cycle of the cosmos itself. This is a hallmark of his work: frequently he uses the same language whether describing the journey of the soul or the cycle of the elements.

It is interesting to see what Empedocles says in his poems regarding his Tradition:

” By my instructions you shall learn medicines that are powerful to cure disease, and re-animate old age; you shall be able to calm the savage winds which lay waste the labours of the husbandman, and, when you will, shall send forth the tempest again; you shall cause the skies to be fair and serene, or once more shall draw down refreshing showers, reanimating the fruits of the earth; nay, you shall recall the strength of the dead man, when he has already become the victim of Pluto.”

This Tradition has carried through to this very day, and by this I mean that these statements represent the ultimate exposition of the Art and should not be taken as metaphor (as our kind Italian friend has pointed out.) In an attempt to understand this, and to understand why this is such an important point, we must come to a deeper realization of the Hermetic maxim:

“That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.

As Hans Nintzel, founder of the Restoration of Alchemical Manuscripts Society, reminds in an interview from 1997, “Patience is the ladder of the Philosophers and Humility is the key to their garden.“  The full quote from Louis Cattauix’s work The Message Rediscovered is worth reading:

Let us accept the good and the bad equally, and let us leave to the meditation of time the care of separating them within us, for the sages have said: Patience is the ladder of the philosophers, and humility is the gate of their secret garden.

Empedocles & the Doctrine of the Four Roots

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

The following is from An Essay on Pantheism, by John Hunt (1866)

To what school Empedocles belonged, is a question left undecided by Aristotle. With the Eleatics, he distrusted the senses. Regarding human and divine reason as one, he found in reason the source of knowledge. In placing the origin of the universe in material elements, he seems allied to the Ionic school; but he separates from them in assuming four original or root elements instead of one.*

Of these he makes fire the most important, and thus seems to approach Heraclitus. These elements are each original and eternal. They are mingled again by the working of two powers—strife and friendship. Men call these changes, birth and death, but in reality there is neither birth nor death. Nothing can be produced which has not always existed, and nothing which has once existed can ever cease to be.

This indeed is the fundamental doctrine of the philosophy of Empedocles. It is truly Eleatic. But to his doctrine of separating and co-mingling elements, he seems to have added the Becoming of Heraclitus, not however purely, for in Empodocles’ belief the elements do not change in themselves, but only in their relations. The four elements are eternal, yet not as material elements, but as ideal existences in the Divine mind. The world as revealed to the senses is but a copy. The world intellectual is the type. The latter, being the ideal, is the reality of the former, which is only phenomenal. The root elements exist eternally in the One.

The separating and uniting which we see incessantly at work arc caused by discord and friendship. As these root-elements are the original thoughts of the Supreme, and as these undergo continual transformations, so the being of the supreme One is interfused throughout the universe. His essence pervades all. All life and intelligence are the manifestations of the Divine Mind. God is not like anything which can be seen or touched, or imaged by human intellect. He is an Infinite Mind.

Here Empedocles joined with Xenophanes in opposition to the popular deities of the mythology. He was a great enemy to the gods of Homer. Karsten describes Empedocles’ theology as an apotheosis of nature and pre-eminently Pantheistic, that is, in the sense of merely worshipping external nature. But the verses of Empedocles evidently mean more than this.

Polytheism was an apotheosis of Nature; but the Pantheism of Empedocles was the worship of Being. His God is not the phenomenal, but the real, and is allied to the One of Parmenides. Only on this ground could he have opposed the worship of the popular deities. But we have seen in another place that this worship of Being had nearly the same origin as the worship of natural powers and objects. The one was the goal of reason, the other was the result of imagination. The one made the theology of the philosopher, the other that of the multitude.

Reason protested against Polytheism, which Empedocles could not have done had his theology been merely a deification of phenomenal nature. Tradition says that Empedocles proclaimed himself divine, and to prove it, leaped into the crater of Mount Etna. The mountain disproved his divinity by casting up his sandal. This may be true or it may be only the popular interpretation of his identification of the human and the divine Reason.

* Empedocles called the original uncreated universe a sphere or globe. It continued in its bosom the four elements—a syncretism of the primajval chaos. His love and hatred arc evidently suggested by the eternal strife, the Heraclitcan father of all things.—Professor Thompson’s Notes.

The following is from Paths of the Ancient Sages, Peter Kingsley:

In Syria a man called Shihab al-Din Yahya al-Suhrawardi was executed on direct instructions from the great Islamic ruler, Saladin. He was 38 years old.

His death and short life might seem to have nothing to do with Pythagoras, or the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece. But that’s not the case.

Suhrawardi has been known in Persia since his death as “The Sheikh of the East,” or simply as “He who was killed.” While still alive he taught and wrote about how he had discovered a continuous line of esoteric tradition: a tradition that started in teh East, passed to the early Greek philosophers, then was carried from Greece to Egypt where it traveled a long way up the Nile and eventually was transmitted from southern Egypt back to Persia.

…Suhrawardi was very serious about what he said. So were his successors – people who down to the present day claim they have perpetuated intact an esoteric tradition based not on theorizing or reasoning about reality, but on direct experience gained through spiritual struggle and specific techniques of realization.

For them this tradition was alive, incredibly powerful, Suhrawardi described it as an eternal ‘leaven’ capable of transforming whatever it touches, of raising people who are ready into another level of being. And just as yeast acts subtly, but irresistibly, transforming from the inside, unrestrainable precisely because it’s so subtle, the theologians in his time saw the only way to try and stop his teaching would be to kill him. But they killed nothing.

And Suhrawardi, like his successors among Persian Sufis, was quite precise about his ancestors. He mentions two early Greek philosophers, and a man from Sicily called Empedocles…

Empedocles lived in the 5th century BC and played a major role in transmitting Pythagoras’ teaching in Sicily. He used the language of the gold plates in the poetry he wrote, and through what he says he shows that the process of dying to be reborn doesn’t just refer to dying physically. Initiates had to die before they died – face the underworld before their physical death..

During the 9th century AD, 700 years after Empedocles’ teachings had been copied onto this papyrus, an alchemist in Akhmim wrote a work that was to have the profoundest influence on virtually every aspect of medieval alchemy. His name was Uthman Ibn Suwaid, and he wrote the work in Arabic.

It became known in the Islamic world as The Book of the Gathering; translated into Latin it came to be called the Turba philosophorum, or Gathering of the Philosophers. The book described a series of meetings between ancient Greek philosophers at four “Pythagorean conferences,” all of the dedicated to getting to the heart of the alchemical art. The meetings were presided over by Pythagoras himself. And in the text of one of the speakers at the gathering, Empedocles, outlines genuine aspects of the historical Empedocles’ teaching – about the fundamental importance of fire at the center of the earth – which until recently were either forgotten or completely distorted in the West.

The significance of those details is immense. What Empedocles wrote and taught during the 5th century BC played a crucial role in shaping Western philosophy, Western science, the history of Western ideas. But the simple fact is that a true understanding of what Empedocles had taught didn’t survive in the West. All that was left there of his teaching – about the mysteries of the world around us, about the nature of the soul – was empty theorizing and hollow ideas. The lived reality had moved elsewhere.

It’s strange, now, to look at the surviving evidence in Arabic texts about the existence of groups of alchemists who called themselves “Empedocles circles,” or “Pythagoras circles.” You find “Empedocles circles” mentioned again in descriptions of Islamic esoteric groups who saw Empedocles as their guide: who “regard themselves as followers of his wisdom and hold him superior to all other authorities.”Here were people who in spite of their culture, religion, language, took as their inspiration and teacher a man who had lived one and a half thousand years before them.”

David – Chapter 6

February 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

“Krishna, who are you?”

And there was a flash of light, bright as a thousand suns, and Arjuna saw Krishna’s cosmic form as Narayana, one of the great gods. There, all at once, were all of the planets and all of the stars and all of the gods and all of the demons and spirits, gandarvhas and apsaras, all of the sages and saints, all of the priests and warriors, all that is and all that ever was and all that will be. Arjuna saw, and felt, endless perfect love swelling to fill the everything that Krishna had become. And he saw all the gory deeds that were ever done and the carnage that must come with time; he saw Krishna tall as mountains, black as night, his eyes blazing as he waded through rivers of blood, the mangled corpses of Duryodhana and his brothers dangling from his bloody jaws.”

Bhagavad Gita

In Chapter 6 Dennis has provided a general outline for the Ground of the Work, the Prima Materia, that primal Matrix from which all Things emerge and eventually return.  More so Dennis has provided the direct warning, “if you look at this dragon in the face and attempt to take control of it, you will be destroyed.”

Rudolph Steiner in his work How to Know the Higher Worlds provides direction for those who seek entrance on the Path, who wish to come to Nature’s Fountain and drink:

There is a universal law among initiates that the knowledge due a seeker cannot be withheld. But there is also another universal law that esoteric knowledge may not be imparted to anyone not qualified to receive it…

Only a person who has passed through the gate of humility can ascend to the heights of the spirit. To attain true knowledge, you must first learn to respect this knowledge.

Cyril of Jerusalem is perhaps a bit more direct:

A certain man in the Gospels once pried into the marriage feasts, and took an unbecoming garment, and came in, sat down, and ate: for the bridegroom permitted it. But when he saw them all clad in white, he ought to have assumed a garment of the same kind himself: whereas he partook of the like food, but was unlike them in fashion and in purpose.

The bridegroom, however, though bountiful, was not undiscerning: and in going round to each of the guests and observing them (for his care was not for their eating, but for their seemly behaviour), he saw a stranger not having on a wedding garment, and said to him,

“Friend, how camest thou in hither? In what a colour! With what a conscience! What though the door- keeper forbade thee not, because of the bountifulness of the entertainer? what though thou weft ignorant in what fashion thou shouldest come in to the banquet?—thou didst come in, and didst see the glittering fashions of the guests: shouldest thou not have been taught even by what was before thine eyes? Shouldest thou not have retired in good season, that thou mightest enter in good season again? But now thou hast come in unseasonably, to be unseasonably cast out.”

So he commands the servants, Bind his feet, which daringly intruded: bind his hands, which knew not how to put a bright garment around him: and cast him into the outer darkness; for he is unworthy of the wedding torches. Thou seest what happened to that man: make thine own condition safe.

In a beneficent aspect we might recognize the Prima Materia in the Medieval concept of the “Dei Genitrix”:

Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus, exules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes
et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.

Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix.
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

English:

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us O holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

In Eastern traditions the more violent nature of the Prima Materia is shown by Krishna in the aforementioned section of the Bhagavad Gita, or in keeping with the Marian connection, Kali, the Dark Mother, the destroying face of Durga, the Great Mother.

At the dissolution of things, it is Kala [Time] Who will devour all, and by reason of this He is called Mahakala [an epithet of Lord Shiva], and since Thou devourest Mahakala Himself, it is Thou who art the Supreme Primordial Kalika. Because Thou devourest Kala, Thou art Kali, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya [primordial Kali]. Resuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art.

– Mahanirvana-tantra

In India the sect which is most closely tied to the Tantric worship of Kali is the Aghora. Sadhus in the Aghora tradition paint themselves in ashes from the cremation grounds and live in austere meditation. Aghora means Not-Terrifying, they are the Light in the Darkness. The extremity of their meditation is such that one of their initiatory rites is the consumption of human flesh, and they are known to use the skull caps of past initiates as drinking vessels. In this they physically take on the consuming aspect of Nature, the Cycle of Time as embodied in Kali, and come into direct experience of the Prima Materia.

He, O Mahakali, who in the cremation-ground, naked, and with dishevelled hair, intently meditates upon Thee and recites Thy mantra, and with each recitation makes offering to Thee of a thousand Akanda flowers with seed, becomes without any effort a Lord of the earth. 0 Kali, whoever on Tuesday at midnight, having uttered Thy mantra, makes offering even but once with devotion to Thee of a hair of his Sakti [his female companion] in the cremation-ground, becomes a great poet, a Lord of the earth, and ever goes mounted upon an elephant”

Our concepts of Light and Dark are often mislead by the ease of life in the Western world, but the Great Work encompasses and comes to the very root of existence. I don’t mention the Aghora for shock value, their practice is a legitimate method which has parallels in the many Memento Mori pictures we find in the Western Tradition. Even the much beloved Francis of Assisi is often portrayed meditating with a skull. He was blessed with the Stigmata, the physical expression of Christ’s Crucifixion through open and weeping wounds, as a sign of his sanctity, and passed on not long after. This Quest is not for the faint of heart.

Carl Jung’s work with alchemical archetypes, which touches on only one very basic level of the Great Work, was attended by strange occurrences around his house, visions, voices, knockings, and an eventual psychotic breakdown during which he was unable to function. This breakdown lead to the creation of the now well known Liber Novus (Red book), but we must remember that this work was considered by his estate to be so challenging to his legacy as a scientist that it’s taken nearly 80 years to see publication. Until 2001 they would not let anyone see it.

“Our Rabbis have taught, four entered into the Pardes. They were Ben Azai, Ben Zoma, Aher, and Rabbi Akiba. Ben Azai gazed and died. Of him it is written, “precious in the eyes of HaShem is the death of his pious ones”
(Tehilim 116, 15). Ben Zoma gazed, and went insane. Of him, it is written, “have you found honey, eat your share lest you become full, and vomit it up.” (Mishlei 25, 16). Aher became an apostate. Rabbi Akiba entered, and
exited in peace.

-Hagigah 14B

As our Italian friend Captain Nemo has pointed out:

“People love to forget that Nature does not need us, that she is without space and time, and that her teachings are always actual and a mystery to us.”

Erika – Chapter 6

February 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m less interested in why we’re here.  I’m wholly devoted to while we’re here.

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