Vocatio Sol Aurum – The Calling of the Golden Sun

February 3, 2011 § 6 Comments

During a brief exchange on Twitter, author Peter Bebergal highlighted an interesting observation regarding the New York Times’ piece on Isaac Newton’s alchemical interests.  Newton pursued alchemy without any allegorical or spiritual intent, it was pure science.

The term alchemy,  as it is popularly used today, has a fairly open meaning. When used by skeptics it usually relates to the legendary search to transmute lead into gold, when used by others of a less skeptical bent it often pertains to the use of allegorical models to explain spiritual truths. What is missed in these interpretations is the real meat of the matter, what were the alchemists actually doing?

Stories can outgrow themselves, they become more than they were ever intended to be. In the case of alchemy it has become less. Through changing fads and fashions in science we’ve come to focus on specialized parts of the whole. The way we understand science today, as a highly specialized, compartmentalized, and in some ways myopic endeavor, is quite different from science as it was understood even as recently as the late 19th century.

Eliphas Levi may not have been the most accurate scholar or diligent scientist, but his dedication to the Royal Art of alchemy is without question. In his work, Doctrine and Ritual of Transcendental Magic, Levi provides a description of the alchemical quest, the Vocatio Sol Aurum (Calling of the Golden Sun), that seems closer to the scientific focus of Newton than either the skeptics image of the Puffer, or the common interpretation of mere metaphor and allegory:

“The disciples of Hermes, before promising their adepts the elixir of long life or the powder of projection, counselled them to seek for the Philosophical Stone. What is this Stone, and why is it so called? The Great Initiator of the Christians invites his believers to build on the stone or rock, if they do not wish their structures to be demolished, He terms Himself the corner-stone, and says to the most faithful of His Apostles, “Thou art Peter (petrus), and upon this rock (petram) I will build My church.” This Stone, say the masters in Alchemy, is the true Salt of Philosophy…it is the foundation of absolute philosophy, it is supreme and immovable reason. Before even dreaming of the metallic work, we must be fixed for ever upon the absolute principles of wisdom; we must possess that reason which is the touchstone of truth. Never will a man of prejudices become the king of Nature and the master of transmutations.”

As pointed out in the New York Times piece, it was Newton’s study of alchemy that lead to his deep understanding of optics. Professor William Newman, of Indiana University, has spent nearly a decade studying Newton’s alchemical ideas and he is under the opinion that it was Newton’s quest for alchemical truths that lead to many of his surprising scientific discoveries.

What hit me when Peter drew attention to the fact that Newton was focused solely on science was that it’s obvious. All of the surprise over Newton’s alchemical endeavors is based on a complete misrepresentation of alchemy and a misunderstanding of science. Alchemy, as classically practiced, is the ultimate science. It’s practitioners  do not pay lip service to the truth, or travel down paths dictated by their pleasures, whims or interests, they seek truth. Charlatans exist, so what? This takes nothing away from those who truly walk the path.

We’re surprised by this idea because science and commerce are so closely tied in our culture that we’ve come to think of organizations like pharmaceutical companies as scientific. They hire technicians seeking to turn lead into gold, not scientists who are seeking for truth. What we think of science today on the popular level is pure mechanism, and those we think of as scientists are mechanics, more often than not they aren’t even concerned with the craft of their mechanisms, just raw result.

Antonin Artaud addresses this in his preface to Theater and its Double:

“Never before, when it is life that is in question, has there been so much talk of civilization and culture. And there is a curious parallel between this generalized collapse of life at the root of our present demoralization and our concern for a culture which has never been coincident with life, which in fact has been devised to tyrannize life.

Before speaking further about culture, I must remark that the world is hungry and not concerned with culture, and that the attempt to orient toward culture thoughts turned only toward hunger is a purely artificial expedient.

What is more important, it seems to me, is not so much to defend a culture whose existence has never kept a man from going hungry, as to extract, from what is called culture, ideas whose compelling force is identical with that of hunger.

We need to live first of all: to believe in what makes us live and that something makes us live – to believe that whatever is produced from the mysterious depths of ourselves need not forever haunt us as an exclusively digestive concern.

I mean that if it is important for us to eat first of all, it is even more important for us for us not to waste in the sole concern for eating our simple power of being hungry.

If confusion is the sign of the times, I see at the root of this confusion a rupture between things and words, between things and ideas and signs that are their representation.”

By mocking the alchemist, and poking fun at Newton’s closet of supposed skeletons, we mask the fact that the real absurdity is our own understanding of science and progress, our complete dismissal of the true quest that has been written about since Gilgamesh was tooled onto a clay tablet.

A truly viable social system is one that is eternal, perpetuum mobile, achieved through the quest for reality beyond opinion and preference. Mechanically this may not be possible, but what if we saw things in a different light?




“Thus in divers things
They produce untold, precious fruit.
They perish never more,
And laugh at death.
By the grace of God they abide for ever…”

– Book of the Lambspring


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§ 6 Responses to Vocatio Sol Aurum – The Calling of the Golden Sun

  • David!

    Do you think Twitter is alchemic?


  • Captain NEMO says:

    Good Evening, Ladies and Sirs…!

    I’ve stumbled upon your site, and read about your interest in Alchemy.
    Please do forgive my rusty English, being far from US since several years.

    I’m studying the Art since more than thirty five years, and I do work in my Lab today, every Springtime. Please allow me a few words from my heart:

    • Alchemy is the most ancient Art, where Mother Nature acts and we, humble humans, do not know why and how. It is an Art to be rediscovered through a complete destruction of our beliefs, a total eradication of our Ratio (the real enemy to any true Knowledge), and a stable and continuous walking along the ancient paths of Mother Nature, following the few footsteps of the true good Masters. Alchemy has nothing to do with magic, religion, New Age enthusiasm, Psychology, Occultism, Wicca, Self teaching awareness, Group Meditations and so forth. Alchemy, and her Dame – Mother Nature – would not allow anyone to enter properly on the hidden paths in the Enchanted Wood without absolute humility, perseverance, Love, Faith and Surrender to Nature’s Project. Most of those who want just come near the path are rejected, some of them even with damages, some of them with a fatal illusion to have found the truth; the walk is very, very, very long and has to be done daily – I do mean, daily – but in total solitude. It’s an individual walk, all alone with a very elusive Lady.

    • Alchemy has originated possibly on the high plains of ancient Persia, through the Art of Fire, studying matter and its behavior here on Terra, discovering that that matter had a Prima Materia and that an Universal Spirit could be embodied in that Prima Materia and produce a new, peculiar, body: this Body, called the Universal Dissolvent, could perform incredible things on Terra. The most ‘external’ effect of this new Celestial body, which can be touched and weighted on a kitchen scale, was the Elixir, which is what we would call a crystal, red as the Phoenician Purple: porpora, in Latin, is pur puris, the pure of the pure; from greek pyr, fire, we say the Fire of the Fire. From Persia, the Art went to Sumer, then to Egypt, then to Greece. After Alexandria, Arabians got the flame, and the Art revived greatly; two paths resulted: one operative, one speculative. A new Philosophy was born. Then from the land of Ali Baba, the magical Lamp and its Genie, the Art, went to Europe, in Spain: with the Crusades, and the Knights of the White Mantle, the penetration of Art in Medieval Europe was two folded; Arabs text were translated in Latin and the European Tradition was born. Alchemy fell through various traps, and became intermixed with magic, theurgy, kabbalah, and all sort of science and/or philosophy aimed to discover the missing link to the Sky. The confusion was great, but a few humble men, after a life of faith and assiduous study, achieved some “particulars”. Those who achieved the real hidden goal, were possibly five, in five centuries. Then, after the Battle of the White Mountain, and the charitable efforts of the real and still unknown Brotherhood of the Rosae Crucis, mankind was driven willingly, with the consent of the Adepts, toward Illuminism. Sir Isaac Newton was chose by them to exactly drive people away from the ancient and Sacred Art of Nature with his beautiful Principia Mathematica; but Newton was an alchemist, and doing his wonderful job, kept its secret, personal, individual path. Then we pass through the wasteful and horrible age of Occultism, until – in France – a single man brought again the Light in Light: Fulcanelli.

    • Should I advise you of an extraordinary Adept to be studied thoroughly, I’d mention Eireneus Philalethe; he was British, but he was one of the first founding father of your Nation. His best known work is Introitus Apertus ad Occlusum Regis Palatium; in English, it’s An Open Entrance to the Shut Palace of the King. Be advised to dismiss any edition and/or translation of this work, as all those on the Web today. Quite a lot of Libraries of US Universities do keep a copy of this original edition, made by William Cooper in 1669.

    • For those who seriously want to study alchemy, I should advise to learn to read Latin and French, at least. Translations of Alchemy books NOT made by a proficient and practicing Alchemist are pure nonsense, and most of the students are condemned to stupid entrapments. When reading a good book of alchemy – and they are quite a few through centuries, possibly not over one hundred – you will find yourself entangled by Allegories, and strange wordings, and Symbols; they are there for the stupid, who will exercise their poor minds in astonishing interpretations, most of them really silly and totally unuseful. A fiery Dragon is a fiery Dragon, and if someone will eventually come to his lab on a particular night, will immediately recognize it, if the Grace of God is with him. The Dragon will not easily give access to the entrance of the Palace: it’s guarding a Princess and a Treasure. To be the Knight who may kill the Dragon does not mean to be simply a good man: you must be a real Knight, and a long and appropriate training, a veil, and a vow, should be performed as it was once upon a time. That’s a real thing. The combat is real. Mother Nature enters your Laboratory, and that’s not to play around with good manners and wordly, nice, New Age mantras. You may risk your real life. Remember that Alchemy is an Art done with your hands, with minerals, in a small Laboratory. Forget those who speak of Self, Enlightenment, Spiritual bodies, Angels in the bedroom, Mystical Visions and so on. These things do of course exists, but not in the form we may think of; they will come in light with time, but after when they will sense that the student is currently walking on the ancient paths. And this may happen only after at least two or three decades of continuous studying, learning how to switch off Ratio and to live life with simplicity, silence, Love and compassion.

    • Alchemy is an Art done in a laboratory, with simple equipment and minerals. Remember that when you speak to yourself of a passage in a book or with a faithful friend. What could be done on a small fire in Egypt or in Persia, shall be done at your home. Also, avoid as hell the immediate desire of ‘classification’: that’s chemistry, which has absolutely nothing to do with real Alchemy.

    • The correct rendering of one of the most famous sentence is this: “Ora, lege, lege, lege, relege, labora et invenies”. And that’s for a precise reason. Do follow these rules. Always. Deception is a most common accident all along the walk in the Wood. Trust your Heart and never, repeat, never, follow your mind. An alchemist is a man who knows how to live daily with quiet eyes and acceptance of anything may happen around, even if –as the Gauls loved to say – ‘the sky could fall on your head’. Remember that when an alchemist speaks ‘in clear’ it’s surely deceiving the reader; in time, you will find incredible operative teachings hidden in phrases which do not talk about alchemy in their writings. It’s anyway unuseful to look for these, because only when your heart will be capable of sound, this may happen. Don’t be mystical, but be Natural. It takes many, many, many years.

    • Last, but not least. Alchemy, being the Art of Nature, will bring the student in touch with the Realm of Sacred. Do not even try to come near it without due acceptance and respect. Alchemy is, like Moon, a harsh mistress. You can fool a man, not The Dame. Do not build silly New Age rituals, full of good words and harmonic intentions: they are nice, but that would always be an intellectual construction, your mind in action deceived under a nice new costume. We are dealing with what is Sacred: you would be rejected, once and for all. That’s why Alchemy is an individual and silent path: as Fulcanelli confessed, it happens one day to be compelled to dismiss all our clothes – personal, academicals, social, religious, whatever you may have wanted to be – and to sit down, again, at a new old school; to start all over again, from a real Tabula Rasa. Not one thing within and without you will be kept. That’s why you may travel for all your life; and – remember this – an alchemist has no warranty whatsoever to reach the goal. The Goal it’s secret and no one will ever come and tell you what it is. You must not desire to reach for it: you would lose it and stay, again, here. Arjuna, lamented himself with his god Krishna about the terrible sorrow of seeing familiars and friends in the enemy’s army before the Great Battle: how can I shoot my arrow? Krishna responded to aim with no desire, without wanting; just shot your arrow, and keep your posture. No Desire. Also: Sorrow is a lack of Knowledge. But, knowledge, to know how Nature works through all the Universes, all along the everlasting Process of Creation, is a devastating, terrible experience for us: Mother Nature has no ethics, no logics, and no do-ut-des, no anything familiar to us. The Laws of Nature are completely hidden to man, and they will always be: we just see, with Physics and other Sciences, some wonderful effects, and we do build wonderful ‘models’; these theories changes while our technology advances; but we may learn to ‘know’, and do not ‘comprehend’. That’s quite a mistake: in Latin, ‘comprendere’ means ‘to bring into’, into our heart. To stay and grow. So a new way of life will arise, in time.

    • An alchemist needs a special Grace from above: we may pray, but should not protest. They know, we don’t.

    I do hope my few words may be accepted and understood, being a simple student which is walking since quite a long time along the beautiful paths of the Enchanted Wood: Alchemy is real and not a vain intellectual or mystical exercise.

    Too much wanting I do see in the words of men: so, remember to smile to Mother Nature, accept the good and the evil, walk, trust the Sky, surrender to the lovely arms of the Damsel: but – first – purify yourself of all what life has put inside and outside you; as I said, it takes years. Do not run: “Praecipitatio a diabolo”…it’s very dangerous to run in the Enchanted Wood, even at the outskirts. The entries are very well guarded.

    And we are just nothing. A simple nothing compared to what you may encounter in the Enchanted Wood of our Lady Alchemy.

    I repeat: be wise, simple, silent, accept the good and the evil, trust the Sky, walk every day, and pray. For all your good or bad life.
    Do not expect anything: study and learn, without glares and statements of a new glory. We, all of us, are watched and weighted, step after step. Look around yourself, laying down on a green Springtime meadow…relax and be the Joy of Nature.
    Be it, nothing else.

    Sidera Veneris and Corniculatae Dianae Tibi Propitia Sunto

    Wish all the good, for all of you…

    Sempre di buon cuore

    Captain NEMO

  • Willi Paul says:

    Nemo – I good read, yours.

    You say (twice?) – “Remember that Alchemy is an Art done with your hands, with minerals, in a small Laboratory.”

    Utter Nonsense!


  • Captain NEMO says:

    Dear Willi,

    Yes, that’s it.
    But being an ‘Utter Nonsense’, you may think what your mind likes to tell you.

    Good Day, Sir

    Captain NEMO

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