March 27, 2011 § 3 Comments
I’ve been mixing around trying to get a handle in the world of work which has lead to a slacking in my post frequency, but thankfully the applicability of the Art in all walks of life has been a keen guide. It really is amazing how versatile the implications of the Alchemical Art truly are.
One of the interesting items that Dennis points out in Chapter 8 regarding the Three Essentials is the parallels between the alchemical conception of nature and Einstein’s famous equation E=MC2. Despite contemporary skepticism in terms of the applicability of ancient traditions the Art remains a fundamental key to fully understanding all realms of science.
A quick glance through the history of scientific paradigms shows that many, if not most, of the truly great scientists have had some acquaintance with Alchemy. There are the obvious examples from the 18th century back, such as Newton, Kepler, and Bacon, but even into the 20th century thinkers as diverse as Arthur Young, who helped develop Bell Helicopters and David Bohm, who helped define quantum physics, were acquainted with Hermeticism and Alchemy in one way or another.
When not directly engaged in Alchemy, the ubiquity of the Art is such that scientists are often either proving or expanding upon alchemical ideas. Dee’s Hieroglypic Monad is a mathematical and symbolic Rosetta Stone that integrates potential relationships and interactions across cosmology, metaphysics, mythology and philosophy. Celestial and earthly secrets are encoded in this simple cruciform glyph:
Beyond it’s potency as a symbol, it also points to how a simple figure can be unpacked to demonstrate an incredibly diverse array of information. Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica is a preeminent example of the ancient “Ars Memoria,” or art of memory, in which mnemonic devices were constructed to aid in the synthesis of large amounts of knowledge.
Thought of alchemically the process of making the glyph is itself follows the process of the Great Work, from separating the individual elements of an idea, identifying their essence, coalescing these ideas into a single figure, and then exploring the elements in regards to the whole. Meditating on Dee’s process, and the very idea of the Monad, is almost as powerful as the glyph itself.
I also have to note an appreciation for how Dennis has set up the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy in such a way that each idea presented in the previous chapters is slowly developed, explored and expanded upon as the book progresses. The presentation of the theoretical Art, it’s historical roots, it’s philosophical aspects, and now moving into it’s practical representations, follows a pattern similar to an 18th century model of learning used by the Gold und Rosenkreuz, who, according to Christopher Mckintosh, were instrumental in keeping the alchemical tradition active during the height of the fundamentalist rationalism during the Enlightenment era. The Order proved instrumental in disseminating alchemical ideas throughout Germany, Poland, Sweden and Russia.
The planetary schema detailed in Chapter 10 provides a wonderful tool for integrating mythologically active cosmological principles into the day to day. This is very helpful for aligning conscious activity to the natural order. As Franz Hartmann states in his study of the life of Paracelsus:
“Alchemy and Astrology are sciences which are at the present time very little understood, because they deal with spiritual things, which cannot be known to persons who are not in the possession of spirituality. Chemistry deals with physical matter; alchemy deals with their astral principles. Astronomy deals with the physical aspect of the bodies of planets and stars; astrology deals with the omnipresent psychic influences which their souls exert upon each other, and upon the Microcosm of man.
Chemistry is a science that may be learned by any one who has ordinary intellectual capacities, and a certain amount of skill required for its practical application. Astronomy may be studied by any one who is able to comprehend mathematics and possesses logic and physical sight. Alchemy is an art which cannot be understood without spiritual or soul knowledge. Astrology is incomprehensible to those who cannot realise the true character of the stars. The books treating of alchemy and astrology will easily be understood by persons who know the things of which they treat, but to those who are not in possession of such knowledge they will be incomprehensible.”