June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
“The acceptance of the essential unity of the universe and the cousinhood of all things in nature opened up an experience of the world that was very different from technical prescriptions. Alchemical work became an immersion in a sacramental activity, and it was termed the Great Work in which prayer and contemplation played an essential part.”
– from Alchemical Medicine for the 21st Century, Clare Goodrick-Clarke
“The vast field of spagyrics presents itself rather like a mosaic that is only slowly completed by the collaboration of the reader.”
– from Spagyrics, Manfred Junius
Study which centers on the very essence of truth finds it’s most valuable expression in a fully engaged life of practice. In Alchemical Medicine for the 21st Century, Clare Goodrick-Clarke brings us a vital exploration of the humble, yet profound, art of spagyrics, the Paracelsean alchemical approach to discovering the quintessence of the vegetable kingdom.
As she explains in the introduction “The word spagyric (German spagyrik) comes from two Greek verbs: spao (to separate) and agyro (to unite), in accordance with the alchemical maxim solve et coagula, et habebis magisterium—“dissolve and bind, and you will have the magistery.” As the two Greek verbs suggest, the process of separating and combining imply a synthesis in which the finished whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Spagyrics formed the core of Paracelsus’ practical medicinal work, and draws benefits from his synthesis of folk herbalism, academic theory, esoteric philosophy and practical experience.
While many are familiar with herbalism, and the use of natural remedies, as alternatives to pharmaceuticals or invasive medical treatments, these are not the sole means of participating in the beneficial medicinal aspects of plant life. .
“We stand at the threshold of a new era of medicine and at a point where it may be useful to engage with what has been known in the past about the importance of phytomedicines in all their various forms.”
– from Alchemical Medicine for the 21st Century, Clare Goodrick-Clarke
Goodrick-Clarke clearly demonstrates the expansion of contemporary medical practices possible through the application of Alchemical insights. Offering no illusory cure all, she shows that it is in our relationship with the whole that we become healthy. This is medicine for living, and a living medicine, whose preparation, application and influence works to ground us in the very life of the world around us.
May 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Alchemy, like any true Science operates in sequential steps. As Dennis illuminates in Chapters 11-13 of his Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy, the most common division of these steps in the Western tradition is Nigredo, Albedo and Rubedo, the blackening, whitening and reddening stages.
These specific steps seem to have been codified from the Paracelsian Alchemical tradition carried forward by esoteric Masonry during the 18th and 19th century which has produced the most visible efforts in the Art and has provided the basis for so much of what we know today in practice. As with any Traditional exposition the divisions themselves are valuable more for their symbolic resonance than any hard line rule. Other models add additional levels to the process of Transmutation, but such additions usually only explore additional insights into the process which add detail, but do little to change the overall focus of the Great Work.
With these concepts in mind it’s interesting to go back and examine works such as Dante’s Divine Comedy. Here we find the Nigredo (descent into Hell), Albedo (journey into purgatory) and Rubedo (ascension into Heaven) laid onto a Christianized (with heavy influence from Greek and Islamic metaphysics) model. This same structure can be seen in the historical evidence from the practices of Mediterranean Mystery cults, Meso-American spiritual traditions, and Eurasian shamanic practices. The descent into the underworld (often via dismemberment or disintegration), purification and return forms a common motif for innumerable initiatory and religious traditions.
As becomes apparent through reading Dennis’ exploration of these phases, the integration of the process on all levels is demonstrated by astrological, chemical, spiritual, material, mythic and natural symbolism to show the reality of these processes at every level of existence.
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.”
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