The Black Madonna

August 24, 2011 § 3 Comments

The Black Madonna phenomenon is a continuing enigma in the study of Medieval Christianity.  They appear in churches from Eastern Europe to Spain, no different than other statues of the Madonna and Child except that they are inexplicably made of black or dark brown material.  In alchemical lore they play a part in the fact that Nicolas Flamel’s definitive pilgrimage found him traveling to a site in Spain where one of the icons of the Black Madonna is venerated.

Theories about the origins of these icons abound, from the mundane idea that these are merely standard depictions of the Madonna having lost their original patina, or that were simply carved from materials that were black and left as is, to a whole host of esoteric explanations regarding secret cults and heterodox visions of the Divine.

I hope that it is apparent to any student of the Mysteries that such explanations are never clear cut, and more than finding some empirical fact that will explain these phenomenon, it is important to meditate on them, and discover how they provide intimate keys to understanding the beauty and complexity of our shared existence.

Jaq White, on her site Stairs of Gold, provides an intriguing mediation on the significance of these figures.  The following is an excerpt from her article, The Cosmic Cycle & the Black Madonna, the whole of which is highly recommended:

“Some believe that these statues of the Black Madonna are not Christian in origin; rather, they are representations of Isis and Horus that when discovered, were wrongly identified as the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus – if so, this would certainly create the need for explanations as to why the statues were originally hidden. However, there is another possibility; the Black Madonna might never have depicted Isis but might well be an esoteric – possibly medieval – Christian symbol…

This Cosmic Cycle is incorporated in the Christian Holy Trinity; albeit in completely masculine terms, with God as heavenly father, heavenly Holy Spirit and the divine son made of earthly matter. This was enabled through the coupling of the male Holy Spirit and the “living” Virgin Mary. In Egyptian mythology, the living Isis only conceives her son Horus after the death of Osiris. He procreates from the spiritual world, when he becomes God of the Underworld.

This can be explained in alchemical terms, with the masculine Osiris, the black virginal prima materia and fixed male, uniting with the black, volatile, female, spirit of Isis his wife, conceiving and producing the Divine child Horus,  the Earthly representative of his father Osiris. The serpents have devoured one another, the Ouroboros is realised and so the Cycle continues.

The serpent has long been perceived as an enemy of Christians, and the use of serpent symbolism in Christian iconography is generally to portray sinfulness, temptation, and the fall of mankind. The serpent as a symbol of the Divine state of man would not have been acceptable, and is still not acceptable to many Christians. However, in the “Black Madonna” we have the same trinity expressed.

The Black Virgin is, like Osiris, the father and the divine, male essence. The Black Mother is, like Isis, the mother and the divine, female essence, and the product of their union is the Ouroboros, Horus – the Christ.

The Black Madonna could be another representation of the All, the trinity – and an esoteric Christian symbol of the Cosmic Cycle. “

For the entire article click here.

David – Chapters 14-17 (Practical Alchemy)

August 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been quite awhile since the last reflection. As promised The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy has been much more a journey than a simple reading. My life has been moving in a number of directions this year, so it seems best to reflect as reflection comes rather than forcing anything. Suffice to say that underneath the swell of circumstance, the wisdom gained through Dennis Hauck’s introduction to the alchemical art, and the off roads it points to, has been invaluable.

In chapters 14-17 of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy we are presented with the practical nature of the art. Prior chapters, for as many full and profound revelations they hold, serve merely to massage our world view, preparing us for the reality that, yes, alchemy does involve material preparations, but, no, it is not proto-chemistry.  For within the Art, everything is alive with spirit, from a sliver of silver to a fully realized human being, everything participates in universal Life.

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The Arcanum Experiment

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Early alchemists divided their chemicals into major and minor arcana. The major arcana consisted of the four compounds: Vitriol, Natron, Liquor Hepatis, and Pulvis Solaris. Three out of the four consisted of dual ingredients that were easily separable. Vitriol could be broken down into sulfuric acid and iron. Natron appeared as sodium carbonate and sodium nitrate. Pulvis Solaris was made up of the red and black varieties.

Thus, the seven chemicals comprising the minor arcana were: Sulfuric Acid, Iron, Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Nitrate, Liquor Hepatis, Red Pulvis Solaris, and Black Pulvis Solaris. The alchemists believed that these secret chemicals could be combined in the Arcanum Experiment, the single laboratory experiment that would demonstrate the archetypal forces and evolution of the universe.

Ideally, such an experiment should succeed on many levels, not only corroborating the deepest philosophical and psychological principles, but also providing concrete evidence of their veracity. The Arcanum Experiment exposed the hidden principles connecting heaven and earth, offering a framework in which to explain both microcosmic and macrocosmic events.”

– from Sorcerer’s Stone: A Beginner’s Guide to Alchemy, by Dennis William Hauck

“”The fifth rubric brings all the reactions together as the single arcanum, the united chemicals of the arcana. You have “obtained the Glory of the whole universe” by understanding the operation of the four elements on all levels: in the experiment, in our own souls, in nature, in the universe. “All Obscurity will be clear to you” points beyond the four elements to knowledge of the arcanum, your perfected soul, and the Quintessence that becomes your Stone.”

– The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation,
 By Dennis William Hauck


The ancient Egyptian Arcanum Experiment will be performed publicly
for the first time in modern history at the International Alchemy
Conference on September 16, 2011. The highly symbolic chemical
experiment demonstrates all the basic principles of alchemy and
imparts a metaphysical understanding of its operations to those
who witness it. The experiment was part of the Alexandrian
initiation process, and its secrets were encoded into alchemical
engravings, the Emerald Tablet, the Tarot, and other Hermetic

In ancient Alexandria, alchemists performed chemical
demonstrations to develop early alchemistic philosophy and
discover the underlying principles in the creation of the universe,
which they believed had to be the basic pattern for all
transformations. Many ingenious experiments were performed to
determine the nature of the First Matter and the proper order of
the appearance of the Elements, but the most important and
impressive experiment was the Arcanum Experiment.

The Arcanum Experiment used seven secret ingredients called the
Arcana: Vitriol (sulfuric acid and iron), Natron (sodium carbonate
and sodium nitrate), Red Pulvis Solaris (a sulfur-mercury compound),
Black Pulvis Solaris (a sulfur-antimony compound), and Liquor
Hepatis (a sulfur-ammonia solution). The dramatic unfolding of the
Arcanum Experiment – from the initial heavy purple cloud to a
flash of light and the final manifestation of a precipitate –
replayed the creation of the universe in a glass retort and was
instrumental in developing alchemical theory. Because of the toxic
fumes generated in the live demonstration, a video recording of
the complete experiment will be featured. Samples of the actual
ingredients will be available to participants.

During this intensive 3-hour workshop, the chemical mythology of
the ancients will be reviewed, and ancient initiatory techniques
will reveal a powerful spiritual technology that is as relevant
today as it was thousands of years ago. By connecting at the
archetypal level with the Arcana through guided visualizations and
meditations on the experimental evidence as well as relevant
alchemical drawings, participants will be given the opportunity to
experience these universal truths firsthand.

All participants receive a sample jar of purified sulfur, the
basic ingredient in the experiment. Also included is a free
70-minute DVD on the operations of alchemy revealed in the Arcanum
Experiment and how they were encoded in the Tarot, the Kabbalah,
Taoist alchemy, and other Hermetic disciplines. A Certificate of
Completion will be issued (2 credits in the Alchemy Study Program

The workshop will be conducted by author and practicing alchemist
Dennis William Hauck. The experiment was performed at his
laboratory in Sacramento, California. Hauck was initiated into
alchemy while in graduate school in Vienna and has since translated
a number of important manuscripts and published seven books on the
subject. His bestselling The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy
(Penguin Alpha 2008) is considered the best introduction to alchemy
available today, and his The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal
Transformation (Penguin 1999) presents his original research about
the mysterious artifact that inspired alchemists for centuries.
His other books include Sorcerer’s Stone: A Beginner’s Guide to
Alchemy, Alchemical Guide to Food and Herbs, Secret of the Emerald
 Tablet: The Arcanum Experiment. His website is

The Arcanum Experiment Workshop is Friday, September 16, 2011,
2:30-6:00 PM at the Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA.
Space is limited, so register early. $55.  You can reserve a spot at

International Alchemy Guild, P.O. Box 22309 , Sacramento, CA 95822, United State

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