Part 2 of 2 (Chapters VII-XI) [Part 1]
A Treatise on Spiritual Alchemy
By E. J. LANGFORD GARSTIN
This copy was scanned by hermetics.org. from the original 1930 copy.
From the very outset, then, we are to regard prayer, with which we include the proper use of invocations, ceremonial and ritual where necessary, as not the least important part of the sacred rites, both purificatory and telestic. And the Alchemists tell us, no less than the Hierophants of the Mysteries, the Prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New, that without it nothing may be accomplished. Norton, in the first Chapter of his Ordinal, says :
"Maistryefull merveylous and Archimastrye
Is the tincture of holi Alkimy :
A wonderful Science, secrete Philosophie,
A singular grace & gifte of th' almightie;
Which never was founde by labour of Mann,
But it by Teaching, or Revelation begann.
It was never for Mony sold ne bought,
By any Man which for it sought:
But given to an able man by grace,
Wrought with great Cost, with long laysir and space.
Also no man coulde yet this Science reach,
But if God send a Master him to teach:
For it is soe wonderfull and soe selcouth,
That it must needes be tought from mouth to mouth,
For God's Conjunctions Man maie not undoe,
But if his Grace fully consent thereto,
By heipe of this Science, which our Lord above
Hath given to such Men as he doth love;
Wherefore old Fathers conveniently
Called this Science Holy Alkimy,"
And Hermes, in the Tractatus Aweus, declares that "This science and art I have obtained by the inspiration of the living God alone, who judged fit to open them to me His servant." While Zachary, in the Opusculum, is equally definite. "For no one," he says, "ever acquired this art by chance, but by prayer rather than by any other means."
Basil Valentine calls this prayer the Invocation of God, and his commentator Kirchringius gives us some analyses of it, which we may with profit scrutinise. "Every man knows," he says, " that hath entirely devoted himself to this business, how effectual prayer is, and how often those things which he long sought and could not find, have been imparted to him in a moment, as it were, infused from above or dictated by some good genius. That is also of use in solving riddles and enigmatical writings; for if you burn with a great desire of knowing them, that is prayer: and when you incline your mind to this or that, variously discussing and meditating many things, this is co-operation: that your prayer may not be, for want of exertion, a tempting of God ; yet all endeavour is vain until you find a solution. Nevertheless, if you despair not, but instantly persist in desire, and cease not from labour, at length, in a moment, the solution will fall in; this is revelation, which you cannot receive unless you pray with great desire and labour, using your utmost endeavour ; and yet you cannot perceive how from all those things of which you thought, which were not the solution of the enigma, the solution itself arose. This unfolding of the Riddle opens to you the mystery of all things, and shows how available prayer is for the obtainment of things spiritual and eternal as well as corporeal and perishing good : and when prayer is made with a heart not feigned, but sincere, you will see that there is nothing more fit for the acquiring of what you desire."
But prayer must not be considered, in the invocations of the mysteries, or in one's private meditations, as being used with any deluded notion of influencing the Gods and changing their minds, as if they were vacillating entities like ourselves, subject to flattery and capable of being swayed by a petition adroitly addressed. Nor should anyone suppose that the purpose of the Rituals and Formulæ is to force the Gods to this or that manifestation of their powers, as if man should set himself up to be higher than they, for
indeed it is far otherwise.
But there is an essential something in us that is divine, or mental essence if this term be preferred, something at least that is or can be vividly aroused in and by prayers; and this, when fully aroused, longs ardently and strenuously for its counterpart, and becomes united to the absolute perfection, though this latter consummation is not to be understood as an immediate result, but rather as the outcome of prolonged and concentrated endeavour.
It may be argued that it is not necessary to pray to God or to the Gods, as pure mental or spiritual essences would require neither praise nor adulation, which could be addressed properly only to God made in man's image, and that prayers for material needs should not be made, on the ground that what is good for us will be given, and that what we want is known before we ask it. But this is a mistaking of the whole rationale of prayer, which is, at least to a great extent, that the very act of praying benefits us in and of itself, and not because it is heard or received through any sense-faculty.
For if we judge ourselves honestly and fairly, comparing ourselves with the Gods, then the very consciousness of our own nothingness leads us to a form of supplication of, or meditation on, the Divine nature, so that, as lamblichos puts it, "We are led from supplication to the object of supplication, and from the familiar intercourse we acquire a similarity to it, and from imperfection we quietly receive the Divine Perfection." And if there is any relationship, however remote, between our meditation and the reality, it will serve as a bond or link to draw us nearer to our source, " For there is not anything which is in the least degree akin to the Gods with which the Gods are not immediately present and conjoined."
There are thus three main types of prayer, the first of which involves a collecting and concentrating of our thoughts, which of itself will lead gradually to a contact with and genuine knowledge of God. Next comes that which effects the "binding in communion with a single mind." Lastly, in the most perfect form of prayer, the degree of elevation is such that the mysterious union is sealed and its validity assured.
The first of these, as lamblichos says, relates to illumination, the second to a general completion of effort, and the third to complete fulfilment by means of the Fire or Supreme Deity.
These stages are parallel with those enumerated by Proklos, which are the contact, the approach and the perfect union. They are preceded by the knowledge of the different ranks of the divine beings to which they belong, and the bond of union by which we become adopted by the Gods.
It may be as well, in view of the way in which this branch of our subject is usually misunderstood, to say something about the so-called " propitiations of anger," for when we understand what view the Theurgists took of the anger of the Gods, the matter is plain enough. Far from regarding it from the apparently obvious standpoint, they held that, as far as it related to the Gods, it was a turning away on our part from their beneficence, much as if we were deliberately to cut ourselves off from the sunlight by shutting ourselves away in the dark. The object of the "propitiation," therefore, was to turn ourselves back to the participation of the supernal natures, to lead us once more to the enjoyment of the communion we had interrupted and once more to bind harmoniously together both those participating and the essences participated.
Thus we learn that prayers are an integral and indispensable part of the Sacred Rites of the Mysteries, and that continual exercise in them nourishes the mind, as it were, and renders what has been termed the receptivity of the soul more spacious. At the same time it accustoms us to the irradiations of that Light towards which we are striving, and by degrees makes clear the arcane knowledge of the Supernal Wisdom, gradually but steadily drawing the sublimated soul to the very summit of all possible progress.
To be brief then, and at the risk of seeming to be redundant, just as prayer is not supposed to influence or change the minds of the Gods, but rather to effect a somewhat in us that brings us into contact with the Higher Powers, so also the Invocations were not assumed to have any compelling force upon the Divinities, but to turn us towards the participation of the superior nature and to create a binding link between those participating and the essences participated.
On which point Proklos is clear when he says: "In the invocations and at the Autopsia, the Divine Essence seems after a manner to come down to us, when we are really extending ourselves to it instead."
It may appear to some that we have dealt with this whole section at undue length, but in our opinion this is not so, for we hold it to be of considerable importance in the work. In conclusion, however, we should perhaps make it clear that prayer does not of necessity involve at all times the use of verbal expression, or the direction of the prayer to a personal entity. Both these types are a stumbling-block to many, and we do not find that they are as a rule insisted upon by the majority of our authorities. But there are other, wordless methods, meditation, aspiration and the like that should be practised, "For if," says Vaughan in his Coelum Terrae, " thy desire leads thee on to the practice, consider well what manner of man thou art, and what it is that thou wouldst do ; for it is no small matter. Thou hast resolved with thyself to be a co-operator with the living God, and to minister to Him in His work of generation. Have a care, therefore, that thou dost not hinder His work." "Settle not in the lees and puddles of the world " ; he says also in his Anima Magia Abscondita, "have thy heart in heaven and thy hands upon the earth. Ascend in piety and descend in charity. For this is the Nature of Light and the way of the children of it."
We now come to the most difficult part of our inquiry, for we are beginning to grasp the magnitude of the task that we propose for ourselves, which is nothing less than the purification of the spiritual nature to a point where it may be raised, exalted or sublimated to a real union with its higher counterparts; from which mystical marriage, as itis sometimes called, is born that which is more than human, that which may be termed divine, the risen Osiris or Christ, which is truly at one with the Eternal Gods, with True Being.
And such an undertaking involves an ascent from World to World by analogous processes in each, by becoming perfect in each. Step by step we must climb that Jacob's ladder which stretches from earth to the super-celestial regions, purifying and purging at every stage, dissolving, distilling, calcining, imbibing, coagulating, subliming, until the goal is reached, a goal so far beyond our most vivid imaginative speculations that all attempts fail of describing.
For, as Porphyry tells us in his Auxiliary to the Perception of Intelligible s, " When you have assumed to yourself an Eternal Essence, infinite in itself according to power ; and begin to perceive intellectually an hypostasis unwearied, untamed, and never failing, but transcending in the most pure and genuine life, and full from itself ; and which likewise, is established in itself ; to this essence, if you add a subsistence in place, or a relation to a certain thing, at the same time you diminish this essence, or rather appear to diminish it, by ascribing to it an indigence of place or a relative condition of being ; you do not, however, in reality diminish this essence, but you separate yourself from the perception of it, by receiving as a veil the phantasy which runs under your conjectural apprehension of it. For you cannot pass beyond, or stop, or render more perfect, or effect the least change in a thing of this kind, because it is impossible for it to be in the smallest degree deficient. For it is much more sufficient than any perpetually flowing fountain can be conceived to be. If, however, you are unable to keep pace with it, and to become assimilated to the whole Intelligible Nature, you should not investigate anything pertaining to real Being ; or if you do, you will deviate from the path that leads to it, and will look at something else ; but if you investigate nothing else, being established in yourself and in your own Essence, you will be assimilated to the Intelligible Universe, and will not adhere to anything posterior to it.
"Neither therefore should you say, I am of great magnitude ; for omitting this idea of greatness, you will become universal, as you were universal prior to this. But when, together with the universe, something was present with you, you became less by the addition; because the addition was not from truly subsisting Being, for to that you cannot add anything. When, therefore, anything is added from the subjective self-hood, a place is afforded to poverty as an associate, accompanied by an indigence of all things. Hence, dismissing non-being (the subjective self-hood) you will then become sufficient; for when anyone is present in himself, then he is present with true Being, which is everywhere ; but when you withdraw from yourself, then likewise you recede from real Being; of such great consequence is it for a man to be present with that which is present with himself, that is to say, with his rational part, and to be absent from that which is external to him."
It must be our present purpose, therefore, having sketched briefly the objects proposed, and emphasised the seriousness of the undertaking, to attempt some investigation of the methods by which these ends may be attained, the modus operand! of the Hermetic Practice.
This is usually divided into two parts, termed the Gross and the Subtle, but as Morien says: "You shall know that the whole work of this Art ends in two Operations hanging very close together, so that when one is complete, the other may begin and finish, this
perfecting the whole Magistery."
An analysis of the works of the Philosophers shows that these two operations are again sub-divided, broadly speaking, into two for the first and three for the second, though these are themselves each multiple and are infinitely varied by the different authorities, who complicate matters still further by frequent introversions of the order of the work, scattering their instructions apparently at random through their books, as they themselves freely confess, in order that they may not be too apparent to the uninitiated.
These five principal divisions of the process may be tabulated as Preparation, Solution, Conversion, Separation, Reunion; though it must be remembered that each stage includes operations similar to what has gone before, recapitulations, repetitions and so forth, so that our classification is in no wise as simple as it appears.
Before proceeding to any attempt at analysing them, we would like to place before the reader a quotation from the Azoth of M. Georgius Beatus, who was, as we are informed by Vaughan in his Coelum Terrae—though he does not mention his name—one of the Fratres R.C. This extract sets forth more clearly than many the whole matter, though we are bound to admit that his meaning will in many places be more apparent to the student who has already some familiarity with the Holy Qabalah. Nevertheless, an intelligent comparison with what we have set forth in the preceding chapters should serve to elucidate the majority of his points, while what we have yet to say will be of service, we hope, in considering the remainder. He says:
"I am a goddess for beauty and extraction famous, born out of our proper sea which compasseth the whole earth and is ever restless. Out of my breasts I pour forth milk and blood : boil these two till they are turned into silver and gold. 0 most excellent subject, out of which all things in this world are generated, though at first sight thou art poison, adorned with the name of the Flying Eagle. Thou art the First Matter, the seed of Divine Benediction, in whose body there is heat and rain, which notwithstanding are hidden from the wicked, because of thy habit and virgin vestures, which are scattered over all the world. Thy parents are the sun and moon; in thee there is water and wine, gold also and silver upon earth, that mortal man may rejoice. After this manner God sends us His blessing and wisdom and rain, and the beams of the sun, to the eternal glory of His name.
"But consider, 0 man, what things God bestows upon thee by thus means. Torture the Eagle till she weeps and the Lion be weakened and bleed to death. The blood of this Lion incorporated with the tears of the Eagle is the treasure of the earth. These creatures use to devour and kill one another, but notwithstanding their love is mutual, and they put on the property and nature of a Salamander, which if it remains in the fire without any detriment, it cures all the diseases of men, beasts and metals.
"After that the ancient philosophers had perfectly understood this subject, they diligently sought in this mystery for the centre of the middlemost tree in the Terrestrial Paradise, entering in by five litigious gates. The first gate was the knowledge of the True Matter, and here arose the first and that a most bitter conflict. The second was the preparation by which this Matter was to be prepared, that they might obtain the embers of the Eagle and the blood of the Lion. At this gate there was a most sharp fight, for it produceth water and blood and a spiritual, bright body. The third gate is the fire, which conduceth to the maturity of the Medicine. The fourth gate is that of multiplication and augmentation, in which proportions and weight are necessary. The fifth and last gate is projection. But most glorious, full rich and high is he who attains to the fourth gate, for he hath got an universal Medicine for all diseases. This is that great character of the Book of Nature out of which her whole alphabet doth arise. The fifth gate serves only for metals.
"This mystery, existing from the foundation of the world and the creation of Adam, is of all others the most ancient, a knowledge which God Almighty—by His Word—breathed into Nature, a miraculous power, the blessed fire of life, the transparent carbuncle and red gold of the wise men, and the Divine Benediction of this life. But this mystery, because of the wickedness of men, is given only to few, notwithstanding it lives and moves every day in the sight of the whole world, as it appears by the following parable.
"I am a poisonous dragon, present everywhere and to be had for nothing. My water and my fire dissolve and compound. Out of my body thou shalt draw the Green and Red Lion ; but if thou dost not exactly know me thou wilt—with my fire—destroy thy five senses. A most pernicious, quick poison comes out of my nostrils which hath been the destruction of many. Separate therefore the thick from the thin artificially, unless thou dost delight in extreme poverty. I give thee faculties both male and female and the powers both of heaven and earth. The mysteries of my art are to be performed magnanimously and with great courage, if thou wouldst have me overcome the violence of the fire, in which attempt many have lost both their labour and their substance. I am the egg of Nature, known only to the wise, such as are pious and modest, who make of me a little world. Ordained I was by the Almighty God for men, that they may relieve the poor with my treasures and not set their minds on gold that perisheth. I am called the Philosophers' Mercury; my husband is gold philosophical. I am the old dragon that is present everywhere on the face of the earth. I am father and mother, youthful and ancient, weak and yet most strong, life and death, visible and invisible, hard and soft, descending to the earth and ascending to the heavens, most high and most low, light and heavy. In me the order of nature is oftentimes inverted—in colour, number, weight and measure. I have in me the light of Nature ; I am dark and bright; I spring from the earth and I come out of heaven; I am well known and yet mere nothing ; all colours shine in me and all metals by the beams of the sun. I am the Carbuncle of the Sun, a most noble, clarified earth, by which thou mayest turn copper, iron, tin and lead into most pure gold."
Let us, however, now proceed to our investigation of the various stages of the work. Firstly we have the preparation, which, as we have sufficiently indicated, involves as careful and thorough a purification of the whole nature as a constantly directed will, aided by prayer, meditation and aspiration can bring about. To this must be added systematic study to know the Matter, to understand what it is with which we are to deal, and to an elucidation of this we have devoted the greater part of what has gone before.
But to recapitulate, we may say with Synesius, as in Chapter VII, "that the Quintessence is none other than our viscoas, celestial and glorious soul, drawn from its minera by our magistery." And with Paracelsus that " that which we see is only the receptacle ; the true element is a spirit of life that grows in all things, as the soul in the body of man. This is the First Matter of the elements, which can neither be seen nor felt, and yet is in all things. And the First Matter of the elements is nothing else than the life that the creatures have; and it is these magical elements which are of such an excellent and quick activity that nothing besides can be found or imagined like them."
But even these pre-requisites do not suffice, for a knowledge of the matter must be supplemented by a knowledge of the elements—that is theoretically, for at this stage we have not advanced to any really practical experimentation such as will lead to first-hand knowledge. But when the philosophers speak of a knowledge of the elements, they do not mean corporeally, but spiritually and wisely, "non corporaliter, sed spiritualiter et sapienter."
Then, again, some study of cosmogony and cosmology must be undertaken, for without this, seeing that man is but the microcosm, it is not possible for him safely to obtain sufficient knowledge of himself to proceed to subsequent stages except by practising an amount of introspection that is dangerous.
We shall also see later on a further necessity for this latter class of knowledge, apart from the value of it in teaching the aspirant self-understanding by means of the parallels between the macrocosmic universe and himself.
All these are indispensable, and without them no one is advised to apply himself to this work, else, as we are plainly told, he will lose his labour and stray far from the true path. Let the aspirant to the mastery of the Alchemic Art, therefore, pledge himself from the very start to a life of stern endeavour and rigid application.
We now come to the second part of the first or Gross Work, which is Solution, and a study of the Alchemical writers will soon assure us that this is the most important part of the work, and the key to all the rest.
Here, also, more have erred than in any other part, and it is well said " Qui scit Salem et ejus solutionem, scit secretum occultum antiquorum philosophorum," Who knows the Salt and its solution, knows the hidden secret of the Ancient Sages.
"Here lies the knot," says Vaughan, "and who is he that will untie it?" In reply to which we may quote Raymond Lully, who tells us that it was never put to paper "Because it is the office of God only to reveal this thing, and man seeks to take away from the Divine Glory when he publishes, by word of mouth or in writing, what appertains to God alone. Therefore thou canst not attain this operation until thou hast first been approved spiritually for the favours of Divinity. For this secret is of no human revelation, but for that Benign Spirit Which breathes where it wills."
Despite this somewhat damping information, there is yet much that we can do, for we can at least discover, from a careful perusal of their instructions, what the solution is, and we should therefore not be unduly discouraged, for this is undoubtedly a step towards ascertaining how it might be done.
Eudoxus, in his second Key, gives us an inkling as to what it is, giving us hints how to find out the secret, encouraging us to believe that we can do so. "The Second Key," he says, "dissolves the compound of the Stone and begins the separation of the Elements in a philosophical manner : this separation of the elements is not made but by raising up the subtle and pure parts above the thick and terrestrial parts. He who knows how to sublime the Stone philosophically, justly deserves the name of a philosopher, since he knows the Fire of the Wise, which is the only Instrument which can work this sublimation. No philosopher has ever openly revealed this Secret Fire, and this powerful agent, which works all the wonders of the Art: he who shall not understand it, and not know how to distinguish it by the characters whereby it is described, ought to make a stand here, and pray to God to make it clear to him : for the knowledge of this Great Secret is ra:her a gift of Heaven, than a Light acquired by the natural force of reasoning; let him nevertheless read the writings of the philosophers; let him meditate; and above all things let him pray: there is no difficulty which may not in the end be made clear by Work, Meditation and Prayer. Without the sublimation of the Stone, the conversion of the Elements and the extraction of the Principles is impossible; and this conversion ... is the only way whereby our Mercury can be prepared. Apply yourselves therefore to know this Secret Fire, which dissolves the Stone naturally and without violence, and makes it dissolve into Water in the great sea of the Wise."
This is, perhaps, more enlightening for those who have some Qabalistic training—and indeed it is our opinion that Alchemy is virtually a closed book for those who have not some such key to help them—and for the benefit of those who have not, we would point out that the Great Sea is a title of Binah, the Great Mother Supernal, the third Sephira, whose analogue in the divisions of the Soul is Neshamah. To this Sephira is also referred—in the Alchemical Qabalistic Treatise known as Ash Mezareph or the Purifying Fire—Sulphur, whose fiery nature causes it to be used frequently as the symbol of the Secret Fire of the Adepts. If then we take the compound of the Stone as Salt, we have here brought together the three well-known principles of Salt, Sulphur and Mercury.
And if it should be objected that we have but slight grounds for assuming salt to be thus referred, we reply that we have the support of Khunrath in his Amfhitheatrum. "The philosopher's stone," he says, "is Ruach Elohim, which moved upon the face of the waters, the firmament being in the midst, conceived and made body, truly and sensibly, in the virgin womb of the greater world, namely that Earth which is without form and water. The Son, born into the light of the Macrocosm, mean and of no account in the eyes of the vulgar, consubstantial nevertheless, and like his father the lesser world, setting aside all idea of anything individually human: universal, triune, hermaphrodite ; visible, sensible to hearing, to smell, local and finite ; made manifest by itself regeneratively by the obstetric hand of the Physico-Chemical Art: glorified in his once assumed body, for benefits and uses almost infinite; wonderfully salutary to the microcosm and to the macrocosm in universal triunity. The Salt of Saturn, the Universal son of Nature, has reigned, does reign, and will reign naturally and universally in all things; always and everywhere universal through its own fusibility, self-existent in nature. Hear and attend ! salt, that most ancient principle of the Stone ; whose nucleus in the Decad guard in holy silence. Let him who hath understanding understand; I have spoken it—not without weighty cause has Salt been dignified with the name of Wisdom: than which, together with the sun, nothing is found more useful."
Considering the foregoing and remembering what Basil Valentine has told us in previous chapters, the nature of this solution should now be getting tolerably clear, nevertheless the descriptions given are so helpful in the incidental information that we may gain from them, that we will venture to give two, the first of which will be from the same source as that we have just concluded.
"In the first act of the physico-chemical works," says Khunrath, "by diverse instruments and labours and the various artifice of the Hands and Fire, from Adrop (which in its proper tongue is called Saturn., i.e., the Lead of the Wise) "—and is thus the prime matter of the Stone, Salt, Saturn and Lead being alternatively interchangeable in their reference to Chokmah, the second Sephira—" our heart of Saturn, the bonds of coagulation being dextrously released, the Green Duenech and the Vitriol of Venus, which are the true matters of the Blessed Stone will appear. The Green Lion, lurking and concealed, is drawn forth from the Cavern of his Saturnine Hill by attractions and allurements suitable to his nature. All the blood copiously flowing from his wounds, by the acute lance transfixed, is diligently collected, ule and lili; the mud earth, wet, humid, stagnant, impure, partaking of Adam, the First Matter of the creation of the Greater World of our very selves and of our potent Stone, is made manifest—the Wine which the Wise have called the Blood of the Earth, which likewise is the Red of Lully, so named on account of its tincture, which is the colour of its virtue, thick, dense and black, blacker than black, will then be at hand; the bond by which the soul is tied to the body and united together with it into one substance is relaxed and dissolved. The Spirit and the Soul by degrees depart from the body and are separated step by step ; whilst this takes place the fixed is made volatile, and the impure body (of the Spirit) from day to day is consumed, is destroyed, dies, blackens and goes to Ashes. These Ashes, my Son, deem not of little worth ; they arc the diadem of thy body ; in them lies our pigmy, conquering and destroying giants."
If much of the symbolism of the above seems too involved for the taste of some, our second quotation should appeal to them more. On the statement of Thomas Vaughan it is from another Frater R.C., who was known by the title of Sapiens, and avoids much of the usual terminology of the Alchemists. " The state of true being," he says, " is that from which nothing is absent ; to which nothing is added and nothing still less can harm. All needful is that with which no one can dispense. Truth is therefore the highest excellence and an impregnable fortress, having few friends and beset by innumerable enemies, though invisible in these days to almost the whole world, but an invincible security to those who possess it. In this citadel is contained that true and indubitable Stone and Treasure of Philosophers, which uneaten by moths and unpierced by thieves remaineth to eternity—though all things else dissolve—set up for the ruin of many and the salvation of some.
"This matter which for the crowd is vile, exceedingly contemptible and odious, yet not hateful but loveable and precious to the wise, beyond gems and tried gold. A lover itself of all, to all well-nigh an enemy, to be found everywhere, yet discovered scarcely by any, though it cries through the streets to all: Come to me all ye who seek and I will lead you in the true path. This is that only thing proclaimed by the true philosophers, that which overcometh all and is itself overcome by nothing, searching heart and body, penetrating whatsoever is stony and stiff, consolidating that which is weak, establishing resistance in the hard.
" It confronts us all, though we see it not, crying and proclaiming with uplifted voice: I am the way of truth ; see that ye walk therein, for there is no other path unto life : yet we do not all hearken unto her. She giveth forth an odour of sweetness, and yet we perceive it not. Daily and freely at her feasts she offers herself to us in sweetness, but we will not taste and see. Softly she draws us towards salvation and still we reject her yoke. For we arc become as stones, having eyes and not seeing, ears and not hearing, nostrils refusing to smell, a tongue that will not speak, a mouth that will not taste, feet which refuse to walk and hands that work at nothing. 0 miserable race of men, which are not superior to stones, yea, so much the more inferior because to the one and not to the other is given knowledge of their acts. Be ye transmuted—she cries—be ye transmuted from dead stones into living philosophical stones. I am the true Medicine, rectifying and transmuting that which is no longer into that which it was before corruption entered, and into something better by far, and that which is no longer into that which it ought to be. Lo, I am at the door of your conscience, knocking night and day, and ye will not open unto me. Yet I wait mildly; I do not depart in anger ; I suffer your affronts patiently, hoping thereby to lead you where I seek to bring. Come again, and come again often, ye who seek wisdom: buy without money and without price, not with gold and silver, nor yet by your own labours that which is offered freely.
"0 sonorous voice, 0 voice sweet and gracious to ears of sages. 0 fount of inexhaustible riches to those who are searching after truth and justice. 0 consolation to those who are desolate. What seek ye further, ye anxious mortals ? Why torment your minds with innumerable anxieties, ye miserable ones ? Prithee, what madness blinds you, when within and not without you is all that you seek outside instead of within you? Such is the peculiar vice of the vulgar, that despising their own, they desire ever what is foreign, nor yet altogether unreasonably, for of ourselves we have nothing that is good. Or if indeed we possess any, it is received from Him Who alone is eternal good. On the contrary our disobedience hath appropriated that which is evil within us from an evil principle without, and beyond this evil thus possessed within him, man has nothing of his own ; for whatsoever is good in his nature belongs to the Lord of goodness. At the same time that is counted to him as his own which he receives from the Good Principle. Albeit dimly that Life which is the Light of men shineth in the darkness within us, a Life which is not of us, but of Him Who hath it from everlasting. He hath planted it in us, that in His Light Who dwelleth in Light inaccessible, we may behold the Light. Herein we surpass the rest of His creatures; thus are we fashioned in His likeness, Who hath given us a beam of His own inherent Light. Truth must not therefore be sought in our natural self, but in this likeness of God within us.
"True knowledge begins when after a comparison of the imperishable with the perishable, of life and annihilation, the soul—yielding to the superior attraction of what is eternal—doth elect to be made one with the higher soul. The Mind emerges from that knowledge and as a beginning chooses voluntary separation of the body, beholding with the soul, on the one hand, the foulness and corruption of the body, and on the other the everlasting splendour and felicity of the higher soul. Being moved thereto by the Divine inbreathing, and neglecting things of flesh, it yearns to be connected with the soul, and that alone desires which it finds comprehended by God in salvation and glory. But the body itself is brought to harmonise with the union of both. This is that wonderful philosophical transmutation of body into spirit and spirit into body about which an instruction has come down to us from the wise of old: 'Fix that which is volatile and volatilise that which is fixed; and thou shalt obtain our Mastery.'That is to say: Make the stiff-necked body tractable, and the virtue of the higher soul herself, shall communicate invariable constancy to the material part so that it will abide all tests. Gold is tried by fire, and by this process all that is not gold is cast out. 0 pre-eminent gold of the philosophers, with which the Sons of the Wise are enriched, not with that which is coined.
"Come hither, ye who seek after so many ways the Treasure of the Philosophers. Behold that Stone which ye have rejected, and learn first what it is before you go to seek it. It is more astonishing than any miracle that a man should desire after that which he does not know. It is a folly to go in quest of that, the truth of which the investigators do not know; such a search is hopeless. I counsel therefore all and sundry scrutators that they should ascertain in the first place whether that which they look for exists before they start on their travels; they will not be frustrated then in their attempts. The wise man seeks what he loves and loves only that which he knows: otherwise he would be a fool. Out of knowledge therefore cometh love, the Truth of all, which alone is esteemed by all just philosophers.
"Ye toil in vain, all exposers of hidden secrets in Nature when—taking another path than is—ye endeavour to discover by material means the powers of material things. Learn therefore to know Heaven by Heaven, not by earth, but the powers of that which is material discern by that which is heavenly. No one can ascend to that Heaven which is sought by you unless He Who came down from a Heaven which you seek shall not first enlighten. Ye seek an incorruptible Medicine, which shall not only transmute the body from corruption into a perfect mode but so preserve it continually; yet except in Heaven itself, never anywhere will you discover it. The celestial virtue, by invisible rays meeting at the centre of the earth, penetrates all elements and generates and maintains elementated things. No one can be brought to birth therein save in the likeness of that which is also drawn therefrom. The combined foetus of both parents is so preserved in Nature that both parents may be recognisable therein, in potentiality and in act.
"What shall cleave more closely than the Stone in philosophical generation ? Learn from within thyself to know whatsoever is in Heaven and on earth, that thou mayest become wise in all things. Thou seest not that Heaven and the elements were once but one substance and were separated one from the other by Divine skill for the generation of thyself and all that is. Didst thou know this, the rest could not escape, unless indeed thou art devoid of all capacity. Again, in every generation such a separation is necessary as I have said must be made by thee before starting out in the study of true philosophy. Thou wilt never make out of others that one thing which thou needest unless first thou shalt make out of thyself that one of which thou hast heard. For su'ch is the will of God, that the pious should perform the work which they desire, and the perfect fulfil another on which they are bent. To men of bad will there shall be no harvest other than they have sown ; furthermore, on account of their malice, their good seed shall be changed very often into cockle. Perform, then, the work which thou seekest in such a manner that so far as may be in thy power, thou mayst escape a like misfortune.
"So do therefore, my soul and my body: rise up now and follow your higher soul. Let us go up into that high mountain before us, from the pinnacle of which I will show you that place where two ways meet, of which Pythagoras spoke in cloud and darkness. Our eyes are opened; now shines the Sun of Holiness and Justice, guided by which we cannot turn aside from the way of truth. Let thine eyes look first upon the right path, lest they behold vanity before wisdom is perceived. See you not that shining and impregnable tower ? Therein is Philosophical Love, a fountain from which flow living waters, and he who drinks thereof shall thirst no more after vanity. From that most pleasant and delectable place goes a plain path to one more delightful still, wherein Wisdom draws the yoke. Out of her fountain flow waters far more blessed than the first, for if our enemies drink thereof it is necessary to make peace with them. Most of those who attain here direct their course still further, but not all attain the end. It is such a place which mortals may scarcely reach unless they are raised by the Divine Will to the state of immortality; and then, or ever they enter, they must put off the world, the hindering vesture of fallen life.
"In those who attain hereto there is no longer any fear of death ; on the contrary they welcome it daily with more willingness, judging that whatsoever is agreeable in the natural order is worthy of their acceptance. Whosoever advances beyond these three regions passes from the sight of men. If so be that it be granted us to see the second and the third, let us seek to go no further. Behold, beyond the first and crystalline arch, a second arch of silver, beyond which there is a third of adamant. But the fourth comes not within our vision till the third lies behind us. This is the golden realm of abiding happiness, void of care, filled with perpetual joy."
This solution, we may then judge, was a dissolution or loosening of the vital bond—but not a breaking of it —whereby the soul or spirit, or soul and spirit, might be freed from the body and its bondage, whence arose, presumably, that teaching of Plato and Plotinus that it is the business of philosophers to study how to be dead, explained by Porphyry, who says that "there is a twofold death, the one, indeed, universally known, in which the body is liberated from the soul; but the other peculiar to the philosophers, in which the soul is liberated from the body."
This, of course, will involve us in a consideration of the mantic states of the mysteries, but we prefer to postpone this to our study of the second stage of the Subtle Work, devoting our attention in the meantime to the first stage, Conversion.
"Convert the elements," says Arnold, "and you will find what you seek ; for our operation is nothing else than a mutation of natures, and the method of conversion in our Argent Vive is the reduction of natures to their first root."
Conversion is a curious word, and is usualiy taken to mean a changing from one state or thing to another. The ordinary meaning of the Latin converto from which it is derived is to turn round, and we take it that when the Alchemists spoke of this conversion as part of the process, they meant that for a true and perfect manifestation the natural order of procedure ought to be turned round or introverted. it also implies the sense con-version, meaning the imposing of a Higher Order on one's own nature, but this is rather the object than the method.
Now the natural procedure is the descent into matter and the ascent out of it, while the Hermetic process involves an inversion, or more properly a conversion or turning round of this, so that by converting you reduce it back into its first original, but plus the intensification brought about by evolution and experience, bringing it back again afterwards into a fresh reunion with its caput mortuum.
This, of course, foreshadows the two remaining processes, of the Subtle Work, but as we have already pointed out, there is no exact and sharp division anywhere, as each stage, after the first, involves both those which have preceded it and those which are to
It is not, therefore, necessary to linger over this process, but to pass on to the next stage, Separation, of which Paracelsus says that it is " the greatest miracle in philosophy, and that magic the most singular by which it is accomplished ; very excellent for quickness of penetration and swiftness of operation, the like whereof Nature knows not."
In one of his indirect allusions to this part of the work, Vaughan, in the introduction to his Anthroposophia, tells us that the soul " Hath many ways to break up her house, but her best is without a disease. This is her mystical walk, an exit only to return. When she takes the air at this door, it is without prejudice to her tenement."
Sendivogius, in his New Light of Alchemy, says that "The searcher of this Sacred Science knows that the soul in roan, the lesser world or microcosm, substituting the place of its centre, is the king, and is placed in the vital spirit in the purest blood. That governs the mind, and the mind the body; but this same soul . . .which operates in the body, governing all its motions, hath a far greater operation out of the body, because out of the body it absolutely reigns."
And Vaughan, in the latter part of the Anthroposofhia Theomagica, confirms this, telling us that whereas while enclosed in the body she imagines whatever she will, " If she were once out of the body she could act all that she imagined. ' In a moment,' saith Agrippa, ' whatsoever she desires, that shall follow.' In this state she can ' act upon the macrocosm,' make general commotion in the two spheres of air and water, and alter the complexions of times. Neither is this a fable, but the unanimous finding of the Arabians, with the two princes Avicebron and Avicenna. She hath then an absolute power in miraculous and more than natural transmutations. She can in an instant transfer her own vessel from one place to another. She can—by an union with universal force—infuse and communicate her thoughts to the absent, be the distance never so great. Neither is there anything under the sun but she may know it, and—remaining only in one place—she can acquaint herself with the actions of all places whatsoever. I omit to speak of her magnet, wherewith she can attract all things—as well spiritual as natural. ' Finally' " (says Agrippa) " ' there is no work in the
whole course of Nature, however arduous, however excellent, however supernatural it may be, that the human soul, when it has attained the source of its divinity—which the Magi term the soul standing and not falling—cannot accomplish by its own power and apart from any external help.' But who is he—amidst so many thousand philosophers—that knows her nature substantially and the genuine, specifical use thereof? This is Abraham's' great secret, wonderful exceedingly, and deeply hidden, sealed with six seals, and out of these proceed fire, water and air, which are divided into males and females.' " (Sepher Yetzirah, Cap. iii, sect. 2.) " We should therefore pray continually that God would open our eyes, whereby we might see to employ that talent which He hath bestowed upon us but lies buried now in the ground and doth not fructify at all. He it is to whom we must be united by 'an essential compact' and then we shall know all things ' show forth openly by clear vision in the Divine Light.' "
Vaughan, apart from his great admiration of those whom he terms "The most Illustrious and Truly Regenerated Brethren R.C.," was a great adherent of Agrippa, and we may therefore venture to give an extract from this source, which we do not find in Vaughan's works. It is taken from the Third Book of Occult Philosophy, and bears immediately upon our context.
He tells us that the soul of man, being estranged from the corporeal senses, adheres to a divine nature from which it receives those things which it cannot search into by its own proper power : for when the mind is free, the reins of the body being loosed, and going forth as out of a close prison, it transcends the bonds of the members, and, nothing hindering, being stirred up in its proper essence comprehends all things. And therefore was man said to be made in the express image of God, seeing that he contains the Universal
Reason within himself, and has a corporeal similitude also with all. Whosoever, therefore, shall know himself, shall know all things in himself, but especially he shall know God, according to whose image he was made.
This, then, we may conclude, is the Death alluded to by Pythagoras in the Eighth Dictum of the Twba, where he says that it " consists in the separation of the soul from the body."
We are thus led to a plain understanding of one of the profound mysteries of Alchemy, perhaps the greatest and most profound, continually revealed by them, and as continually obscured again, but quite unmistakable if we do not wilfully refuse to see. And as it deals with the mantic states of mystic trance, it was usually accompanied by stringent warnings as to its dangers.
These are twofold, for not the least among them are those which await the unenlightened experimenter, who, not understanding the nature of the trance state that he endeavours to induce, adopts methods that are undesirable in the extreme. Following these are the dangers that await even the aspirant who may have discovered the right road, but penetrates, as it were, into a strange country of whose ways and inhabitants he is completely and woefully ignorant.
So great are both these categories, that we do not feel justified in pursuing our inquiry further without devoting some small space to a consideration of them.
Among the first class of risk that we have enumerated is that of being misled into the supposition that mesmerism or hypnotism has anything to do with the sacred trance. At first sight this is quite a plausible hypothesis, and some modern writers have devoted considerable space to elaborating the remarks of the Alchemists concerning the " Work of the hands " into arguments in favour of such a supposition.
We cannot too strongly repudiate and condemn any such suggestion, which, to our way of thinking, is pestilent in the extreme, sapping, as it does, the very faculty which it is most desirable should be fostered in the subject, the Will, which is the precious Salt, Lead or Saturn of the Adepts. Apart from which the states of lucidity achieved by such methods differ fundamentally from those at which we are aiming.
Neither can we admit as much more desirable the practice of inducing auto-hypnotic states by the prolonged staring at talismans and symbols, or in placing these upon the forehead in an attempt to obtain visions. Allied with these methods, we would also strongly discourage the student from such other methods as gazing into crystals, bowls of water or ink, magical mirrors and the like, which may, indeed, produce in certain subjects a degree of mediumship, but nothing more, and mediumship is not what we are seeking.
Lastly, and most emphatically, we would warn anyone against attempting any of the invocations or evocations of talismanic and ceremonial magic as set forth in the textbooks and grimoires dealing with this subject. The results, if any are achieved—and unfortunately they can be—are likely to be exceedingly unpleasant and dangerous.
Even where the results obtained by the methods outlined in the three preceding paragraphs are not actually dangerous, they are not likely to be useful, but, on the contrary, are almost certain to be misleading. In illustration of which statement we will quote a few extracts from Iamblichos, who, in his work on the Egyptian Mysteries, deals exclusively with Theurgic Magic.
He tells us that "When there occurs some errancy in the theurgic technique "—as when, for example, some published textbook on Magic is used, which, if it be not purely evil, is admittedly defective somewhere —" the Images which ought to be at the Autopsia are not, but others of a different kind. These, the inferiors, assume the guise of the more venerable orders, and pretend to be the very ones which they are counterfeiting, and there will be a great mass of falsehood flow forth from the perversion.
"We say the same things now in regard to phantasms or apparitions. For if these are not themselves genuine, but others of the kind are so, that really exist, they certainly will not be among the self-revealing spirits, but are of the kind that display themselves ostentatiously as genuine. These participate in deception and falsehood after the manner of the forms that appear in mirrors, and attract the understanding to no good purpose in regard to matters . . . that will be among fraudulent deceptions. . . . On the other hand the gods and those that come after the gods reveal true likenesses of themselves, but never project apparitions such as are formed in water or in mirrors.
"Thou mayst not associate in the mind the spectacles of the gods that are superlatively efficacious with the apparitions got up by technical magic. For the latter have neither the energy nor the essence nor the genuineness of the objects that are beheld, but only project bare phantasms that seem real.
' I shall wonder if any one of the theurgic priests who behold the genuine, ideal forms of the gods should consent to allow them at all. For why should anyone consent to take idola or spectral figures in exchange for those that have real being, and be carried from the very first to the last and lowest? Do we not know that all things which are brought into view by such a mode . . . are really phantoms of what is genuine, and that they appear good to the seeing, but never are really so?
"The individual creating the spectral figures employs in his procedures neither the revolutions of the heavenly bodies nor the powers that exist in them by nature ; and in short he is not able to come in contact with them. But as he follows an art, and does not proceed theurgically, he deals with the last and most inferior emanations, manifestly, from their nature, about the extreme part of the universe.
"The projector of spectral figures trusts in spectres destitute of soul, only animated with the outward appearance of life, holding together externally a framework of diversified complexion, and absolutely ephemeral in duration. Nothing of the things thus fashioned by man is unalloyed and pure. They are wanting in all, being brought together from manifold and incompatible substances. When any such multitude of auras accumulated from many sources has been mingled together, it is shown to be feeble and fleeting. They vanish more quickly than the idola seen in mirrors. For when the incense is placed upon the altar, the figure is immediately formed from the vapour as it is carried upwards, but when the vapour becomes mingled and dispersed into the whole atmosphere, the idolon is immediately dissolved and not a trace of it remains.
"Why then should this juggling be desired by the man that loves manifestations that are true? If they know that these things about which they are engaged are structures formed of passive material, the evil would be a simple matter. . . . But if they hold to these spectral figures as to gods, the absurdity will not be utterable in speech or endurable in act. For into such a soul the divine ray never shines; for it is not in the nature of things for it to be bestowed upon objects that are wholly repugnant, and those that are held fast by dark phantasms have no place for its reception. Such-like wonder-making with phantasms will, therefore, be in the same category with shadows that are very far from the truth."
The second class of dangers should be tolerably obvious from what we have already indicated, but not the least of them is illusion. As, however, we shall have to deal with these in our consideration of the nature of the trance state, we will not now dwell further upon them.
We now, therefore, come to the trance state itself, and it should by now be abundantly clear that by this we mean the sacred state of divine trance, and not any psychic, somnambulistic or hypnotic states.
The principal characteristic of the mantic trance, as it is frequently called, is that in every stage of it complete self-consciousness and self-control are retained, although there is obtained what Plato calls a "divine release from the ordinary ways of men."
The earlier stages are sometimes called muesis, from muo, to close the eyes, for, as Synesius says in the Aegyptiacus, "There are two sets of eyes in the Mysteries. The Lower are closed when the Higher are opened," a statement that has misled many into speculations regarding hypnotism that we have before mentioned.
These states are connected with the noetic nature and lead naturally to the knowledge of spiritual
realities and the acquirement of certain powers; and they are designed to lead up to and culminate in the true re-birth, the birth from above as it is often called.
Though self-consciousness is maintained, the mind is drawn away from the things of sense, the spiritual sight, hearing and so forth becoming stimulated when, as the Oracle describes it, "No longer are visible unto thee the Vault of the Heavens, the Mass of the Earth; when for thee the Stars have lost their Light and the Lamp of the Moon is veiled and around thee is the Lightning Flash."
Yet until, as we have repeatedly emphasised, the mind and body have been as far as possible purified by prayer and meditation and the pursuance of the Sacred Rites, the danger remains that the phrenic, lower or psychic nature may play an undesired part and lead to illusions and self-deceptions, which are described as intrusive figures from the Underworld, seeking to draw away the attention of the candidate from the truth.
Ancient and mediaeval writings are full of descriptions of these appearances, which are even said to have material efficacy in Divine works under the guidance of those who understand and can control them; whence the saying of the Oracle, " Nature persuadeth us that there are pure Demons, and that the germinations even of evil matter can be alike useful and good."
Nevertheless the soul is liable to be led away into oblivion by these in the early stages, so that the further injunction is necessary, " Let the immortal depth of thy soul be predominant, and all thine eyes extend upwards. Stoop not down, for a precipice lieth beneath the Earth, drawing through the ladder which hath seven steps, beneath which is the Throne of dire Necessity."
This is why Vaughan, speaking of the First Matter, says, " The eye of man never saw her twice under one and the same shape." And Lully, that the first principles of the Art are " Fugitive Spirits, condensed in air, in shape like divers monsters, beasts and men,
which move like clouds hither and thither."
But apart from such apparitions, there are more subtle forms of illusion arising from memory, desire, imagination, emotion and so forth, which, while not necessarily alarming, and probably not tending to arouse the suspicions in any way, are at the same time totally inaccurate and misleading.
The following letter quoted by Vaughan in his Lumen de Lumine as being from the Fratres R.C., bears on all these points in a most interesting manner. We give only the middle portion of the letter, which is the part that actually illustrates them. It runs as follows:
"There is a mountain situated in the midst of the earth or centre of the world, which is both small and great. It is soft, also above measure hard and strong. It is far off and near at hand, but by the providence of God it is invisible. In it are hidden most ample treasures, which the world is not able to value. This mountain, by envy of the devil, who always opposes the Glory of God and the felicity of man, is compassed about with very cruel beasts and ravenous birds, which make the way thereto both difficult and dangerous; and therefore hitherto, because the time is not yet come, the way thither could not be sought after nor found out. But now at last the way is to be found by those that are worthy-—but notwithstanding by every man's self-labour and endeavour.
"To this mountain shall you go in a certain night when it comes most long and dark; and see that you prepare yourselves by prayer. Insist upon the way that leads to the mountain, but ask not of any man where it lies, only follow your guide, who will offer himself to you and will meet you in the way. Truly you shall not fail to know him.
"This guide shall bring you to the mountain at midnight, when all things are silent and dark. It is necessary that you arm yourself with a resolute, heroic courage, lest you fear those things that will happen and fall back. You need no sword or other bodily weapons, only call upon your God sincerely and from the depths of your mind.
"When you have discovered the mountain, the first miracle that will happen is this: A most vehement and very great wind that will shake the whole mountain and shatter the rocks to pieces. You will be encountered then by dragons, lions and other terrible wild feasts ; but fear not any of these things. Be resolute and take heed that you return not, for your guide, who brought you hither, will not suffer any evil to befall you. As for the treasure, it is not yet discovered, but it is very near.
"After this wind will come an earthquake, which will overthrow those things that the wind had left, and make all flat. Be sure you fall not off.
"The earthquake being passed there will follow a fire that will consume all the earthly rubbish and discover the treasure. But as yet you cannot see it. After all these things and near daybreak, there shall be a great calm, and you shall see the Day-Star arise and the dawning will appear and you shall perceive a great treasure.
"The chief est thing in it and the most perfect, is a certain exalted tincture, with which, if it served God and were worthy of such gifts, the whole world might be tinged and turned into most pure gold."
Now these states of Manteia were in no sense haphazard or undirected ; for before venturing far, if at all, with them, the aspirant was supposed, as we have already indicated, to study carefully the theoretical aspects of what he was to do, and to familiarise himself with the systems of cosmogony and cosmology held by the school in which he was studying, as far as any such system could be grasped theoretically. Also it was necessary for him to have some academic acquaintance with the Orders and Hierarchies of Essences he was about to encounter, together with the tokens and signs by which he might recognise and be recognised, and by virtue of which he might claim such instruction and enlightenment as his degree of spiritual attainment would enable him to assimilate.
And it should be clearly understood that the Hierophants and candidates of the true Mystery Schools were no mere dilettante dabblers and experimenters, satisfied with visions of the Astral World, or the planes immediately contiguous to ours, against which they were warned by the Oracle in no uncertain terms :
"Stoop not down into the Darkly Splendid World, wherein continually lieth a faithless depth, and Hades wrapped in clouds, delighting in unintelligible images; precipitous, winding ; a black ever-rolling abyss, ever espousing a Body unluminous, formless and void."
They sought to penetrate into the further Worlds, the Yetziratic and even Briatic, and to rise ever higher through them until they beheld the Divine Light, that Light which was formless, which was the true stage of Epopteia or Beholding.
Although we are not considering the Eastern views on these subjects in this short survey, nevertheless the following descriptions of this Light, taken from the Bardo Thodol, or Thibetan Book of the Dead, are so apt that we do not hesitate to give them.
"Thy guru hath set thee face to face before with the Clear Light; and now thou art about to experience it in its Reality in the Bardo state, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like unto a transparent vacuum without circumference or centre. At this moment know thyself and abide in that state. . . . Now thou art experiencing the Radiance of the Clear Light of Pure Reality. Recognise it. ... Thy present intellect, in real nature void, not formed into anything as regards characteristics or colour, naturally void, is the very Reality, the All-Good. . . . Thine own consciousness, shining void and inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth nor death and is the Immutable Light."
But to reach any of these states, or even to assist in the preliminary purifications, the practice of the exercises of the Mysteries was necessary, which were in some measure connected with the process of solution or separation that we have been discussing. And in this connection we ought perhaps to mention an error that appears to be very prevalent concerning them. We have already dealt with it to some extent in Chapters III and IV, though limiting it at the time to sex practices.
We would now, therefore, extend this to physical exercises generally, such as one reads of in certain forms of yoga. The exercises of the Mysteries of Greece and Egypt were of a different order, being purely spiritual, and were intimately connected with that ritual which was a preliminary to the earlier mantic states. They were neither physical nor intellectual, but were linked with the Alchemical volatilising of the fixed and fixing of the volatile with which we have all along been dealing, and with which we shall deal again, both in the next stage of the Subtle Work, and in the section on dew which summarises the whole procedure.
When Syncsius says " Intellect above all things separates whatever is contrary to the true purity of the phantastic Spirit; for it attenuates this spirit in an occult and ineffable manner, and extends it to Divinity" he is not speaking of the natural intellect, which cannot do this, but of the Mind in the sense which we have previously outlined in Chapter II. And with this clue we must, for the time being, remain content.
We now come to the last of our three stages of the Subtle Work, which we have termed Reunion. This process is also the Alchemical Coagulation and the fixing of the volatile. As the Smaragdine Tablet says, " The power of it is integral if it be turned into earth." And Senior, that " the highest fume should be reduced to the lowest; for the divine water is the thing descending from heaven, the reducer of the soul to its body, which it at length revives."
And Trismosin, after discussing the putrefaction and decoction, quotes Hermes as saying, " It is indeed needful that at the end of this World, Heaven and Earth should meet and come home." And again, in the Fourth Parable of his Splendor Solis, he quotes Senior thus : " The Spirit dissolves the body and in the Dissolution extracts the Soul of the Body, and changes this body into Soul, and the Soul is changed into Spirit, and the Spirit is again added to the Body, for thus it has stability."
Khunrath, likewise, in his Amphitheatrum informs us concerning the whole of the second or Subtle Work as follows: "In the Second Operation, which takes place in one circular, crystalline vessel, justly proportioned to the quality of its contents, also in one theosophic, cabalistically sealed furnace or Athanor, and by one fire, the body, soul and spirit, externally washed and cleansed and purged with the most accurate diligence and Herculean labours, and again compounded, commingle, rot of themselves and without manual co-operation, by the sole labours of nature, are dissolved, conjoined and reunited; and thus the fixed becomes volatile wholly; these three principles also are of themselves coagulated, diversifiedly coloured, calcined and fixed; and hence the world arises renovated and new."
While Eudoxus, in his Fourth Key—if we may be pardoned for thus multiplying authorities—says "The Fourth Key of the Art is the entrance to the Second Work (and a reiteration in part and development of the foregoing) : it is this which reduces our Water into Earth ; there is but this only Water in the World, which by a bare boiling can be converted into Earth, because the Mercury of the Wise carries in its centre its own Sulphur which coagulates it. The terrification of the Spirit is the only operation of this work. Boil them with patience; if you have proceeded well, you will not be a long time without perceiving the marks of this coagulation; and if they appear not in their time they will never appear; because it is an undoubted sign that you have failed in some essential thing in the former operations ; for to corporify the Spirit, which is our Mercury, you must have well dissolved the body in which the Sulphur which coagulates the Mercury is enclosed. But Hermes assumes that our mercurial water shall obtain all the virtues which the philosophers attribute to it if it be turned into earth. An earth admirable is it for fertility—the Land of Promise of the Wise, who, knowing how to make the dew of Heaven fall upon it, cause it to produce fruits of inestimable price. Cultivate then diligently this precious earth, moisten it often with its own humidity, dry it as often, and you will no less augment its virtue than its weight and its
And this in part is the meaning of the fable of Osiris, who, his parts having been gathered together again and preserved in a chest floating upon the waters of the Nile for a time, emerged therefrom resuscitated, and came forth immune from all ills or harm and beyond all comparison more powerful than before.
In short this reunion is the key to the Mystical Rebirth in the deathless Solar Body, admirably preluded in a quotation from the lost Gospel of Phillip given by Epiphanius, "I have united myself, assembling myself together from the four quarters of the universe, and joining together the members that were scattered abroad," and elaborated in the Apocalypse in the allegory of the birth of the Man-child.
For the whole process we have been studying is manifestly connected with the attainment by the soul of the candidate to the highest level to which his spiritual development can aspire, and by the absorption of the soul when in this state of all the wisdom, power and purifying energy which it can assimilate. It then returns to the body, which is its proper earth, purging it by the radiations of the energy thus acquired.
This process being constantly repeated, the level is gradually raised, for the purging at each return ensures further projection at the next solution, which is the augmentation of the power of the stone which is so much spoken of in the later stages of the work.
Thus the purifying and vivifying energy is absorbed in ever increasing amounts, while at the same time the power of maintaining the contacts is steadily developed, which also assists in the general growth of the soul.
In such a manner, by successive stages, the aspirant is said to progress towards union with his Higher Self, and because of these various stages of development, there were different forms of the sacred rites. This not unnaturally adds to the difficulties of gleaning any information relative to them, for the records do not in any way plainly set them forth by stages, but intermingle the accounts the one with the other, as the Alchemists at all events admit quite openly, so that their meaning shall remain unintelligible to those
without the Key.
We have above mentioned the augmentation of the stone, which we have seen to be intimately connected with the constant repetitions of the process. Eudoxus is quite definite in this assertion, saying in his Sixth Key that "The Multiplication of the Stone is by reiteration of the same operation, which consists bur in opening and shutting, dissolving and coagulating, imbibing and drying; whereby the virtues of the Stone are infinitely augmentable."
The others are unanimous in their agreement with this thesis, and indeed it should be so obvious to the ordinary intelligence that we will waste no more time on it.
It will perhaps be of assistance to the student in the course of his own researches if we devote some small space to the consideration of some of the commoner terms in use among the Alchemists, and in so doing we shall in a measure recapitulate and review what has gone before.
And if it should seem to anyone that according to our description of it, the work is shorter than they expected, it must not be forgotten that the fermentative process of the first work—and indeed all the processes of both works—has to be gone over again and again, repeatedly and with the greatest care. Hence the Alchemists' command to the student to dissolve, distil, incerate, calcine, sublime, and fix the Occult Nature, and hence are we told that the Gold is to be tried seven times in the fire, so that the initial process alone comprises a death, a resurrection, a purification, a separation, an exaltation and a sublimation.
And in passing through the various stages, the First Matter, the Mercury of the Adepts, the Quintessence, is alluded to under a multitude of terms and by a variety of descriptions. As Agmon says in the concluding section of the Turba, which Arnold de Villa Nova borrowed for his Speculum, " It is also a stone and not a stone, spirit, soul and body; it is white, volatile, concave, hairless, cold, and yet no one can apply the tongue with impunity to its surface. If you wish that it should fly, it flies ; if you say that it is water, you speak the truth ; if you say that it is not water, you speak falsely. Do not then be deceived by the multiplicity of names, but rest assured that it is one thing, unto which nothing alien is added. Investigate the place thereof, and add nothing foreign. Unless the
names were multiplied, so that the vulgar might be deceived, many would deride our wisdom."
At times it is called an essential oil; at others a sharp vinegar; again a Dragon, a Chameleon, a Phoenix, a Salamander. Sometimes it is mineral, sometimes vegetable, sometimes animal; now it is Fire or Light, then Earth, Air or Water; at other times it is Magnesia, Azoth, Antimony, Ether or Ens. Frequently it is resolved into its elements, or three component parts, Salt, Sulphur and Mercury, which are Spirit, Soul and Body ; Active, Passive and Resultant; Father, Mother and Son ; Attraction, Repulsion and Circulation.
Planetary terms are frequently used. The Sun for the Active, the Moon for the Passive; Saturn for the Self-willed Life, the Will at one stage of the operation; Venus, the Celestial Light of Nature ; Vulcan, motion.
Again Salt is Will at another stage, whose analogue is Weight. The Brazen Body is the impure, natural born Spirit. The Orient Animal is the Will clothed in Light, which the Oracle describes as "Having put on the complete armed vigour of resounding Light, with triple strength fortifying the Soul and Mind."
The principle of Body is severally referred to as Caput Mortuum, Pigmy, Diadem of Body and Duenech.
The Vulture, Crow and Raven are synonymous terms for the Spirit of Life, though they appear to be used as indicative of different stages in the process, just as are the various colours so often alluded to.
The Philosophic Earth is that where the Magnesia, Terra Adamica or Red Root is sown; where it dies and corrupts in order that it may renew itself as Salt. And here there appears to be a manifest contradiction, for the Earth of the Wise is another name for Mercury; but this is nevertheless explicable, seeing that it conceives into itself the very seed, sperm or ferment by which it is nourished and brought to perfection.
The Red and White are Soul and Spirit, which emerge in union from the blackness of the mystical death, and we are told that when the Artist sees it he knows that he has the Great Arcanum.
Many interesting points arise from the consideration of Water, Air and Fire, and with these we will deal in the next chapter.
"In the beginning the Elohim created the substance of the Heavens and the substance of the Earth. And the Earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the Abyss and the Ruach Elohim vibrated upon the face of the Waters."
Such are the first two verses of the Book Berashith—which we call Genesis—according to the Hebrew. On these words alone, and their implications and meanings, a book might be written, but we would only here draw the reader's attention to the word Ruach, whose implications we have to some extent discussed in an earlier chapter, adding here the fact that the gender of the word is feminine, which will explain some of the allusions in many of the previous quotations. Also to the words Abyss and Waters, which are both rendered by the same word in the Hebrew. This word is Thehom, and contains in itself the two ideas of "the formless" and "water," whence it might aptly be translated here as "formless waters."
This is the Virgin Water of the Alchemists, and Thomas Vaughan tells us that when the philosophers practised upon the Chaos itself, that is to say upon the Formless and Void, they opened it and saw the Pre-existent Countenance of the Triad, and saw that all things here below, the Water of Mundane Life as it is elsewhere called, was a Thick Water, which is a term much used in Alchemy.
The apparent stark absurdity of the statement that the philosophers practised upon the Chaos will be elucidated later. For the moment we will consider this Thick Water. We find it mentioned in 2 Maccabbees, i, 19-22, where the Sacred Fire was buried in a
secret pit. On the return from the captivity it was found to have turned to a thick water, from which, however, the Fire was extracted.
In support of this analogy we find that the Sepher Yetzirah, or Book of Formation—which, as we have said, is one of the oldest books of the Qabalah, and is attributed by legend to Abraham, though its author in all probability was Rabbi Akiba—in describing the Creation says that Fire was derived from Water.
There is, of course, an obvious analogy between Thick Water and Gum, which is another term for it. It is also called White Mercury—Mercury giving quite a good parallel—and we note that there is a White Gum and that Permanent Water is White. Permanent Water is also called Igneous, while Mercury is Water of Sulphur, which may very well be taken to mean "containing Sulphur or Fire," and Hermes in the Golden Treatise says "Conserve in that Sea the Fire."
This Water, then, that is to say Permanent Water, is the First Matter, "which is that waterish substance which wets not the hands." "It looks like a Green Lizard," says Lully, "but its most prevalent colour is a certain inexpressible azure." Hereby he denotes it; watery nature, both by the colour blue, and the fact that the Lizard probably represents Scorpio, which in good symbolism is Aquila, the Eagle, the Kerubic Emblem of Water and the Alchemical Emblem of Distillation. Lully continues, "The predominant element in it, however, is a certain fiery, subtle earth, whence it is often called earth, causing much confusion; but this is the viscous or slimy part." And as it is said to be impregnated by the Sun it is spermatic and is called a Sperm of Earth.
This is also Sperm of the World, Catholic Magnesia, the Twofold Mercury or Azoth, Vinegar, Clean Water, Divine Water, Sea Water, Virgin's Milk and Mist. And here we would remind the student of the Mist that went up from the earth and watered the whole
face of the ground mentioned in Gen. ii, 6.
We will now take the analogy of Gum, which gives us a good parallel—being a vegetable excretion—especially if we consider the idea of the Sperm or Seed just mentioned. This will also afford us the promised elucidation of the apparent absurdity of operating on the Chaos, for according to Vaughan the original. Seminal Viscosity, Sperm or Seed from which the World was made, disappeared in the Creation, for it was the Waters of Creation upon which the Spirit or Ruach Elohim brooded or vibrated in the beginning, transforming it into the World. The World, however, now yields us a secondary seed, which is the very same essence or substance with the primitive general one—the description of which, by the way, tallies rather well with ectoplasm. This Seed, says Vaughan, is abstracted in its heavenly, universal form by vegetables, which attract it at their roots as it comes from the air in Dew. This Sperm is generated from the mixture and marriage of the inferior and superior natures in the vapours.
Let no one be misled by any such statements into thinking that any common vegetables are meant, for it is quite otherwise. As well might the Tree of Life be mistaken in the same way. We are dealing here, as we have dealt all along, with one only thing; one matter, one vessel, one furnace, one laboratory.
But to resume. We have thus been led up to a consideration of Dew, a most important symbol, than which, perhaps, no better symbol of the Alchemical process can be quoted. The Alchemists, in their use of it, regard the air as a vast circulatory, whose upper reaches are extremely rarified. In it is involved all the idea of the action of opposites on one another, for fire and water, that is to say heat and moisture, are always busy with one another, and according to Anaxagoras in the Turba, the thickness or spermatic part of the fire falls into the air. The thickness or sperm of the air, and in it the thickness and sperm of the fire, falls into the water, and all these fall upon the earth, with which idea we should compare either body, soul and spirit, or the Qabalistic notion of the triple division of the soul as outlined in Chapter II.
Now the water is here to be taken as the middle nature between the air and the earth, the former, in ancient symbolism being hot and moist, and the latter cold and dry, while the water is cold and moist.
On a higher level the air is the reconciler between the water and the fire, so that thus the air becomes what we have already termed it, a vast circulatory where the inferiors and superiors meet like agent and patient, or, as some of the Alchemists express it, where
Sulphur and Mercury are mingled.
Here things are said to be resolved into general principles by the action of wind, which is, of course, vibration, contrition and so forth. This resolves them into moisture, the prime element of creation, as it were, which then descends as dew, so that we have a perpetual rarefaction and condensation, or circular process going on, that which is generated in the air being taken up by the water, which acts as the body.
Now by dew, however, is not meant common dew, as with all substances treated of in Alchemy; but it serves to illustrate the sublimation of the volatile part, which, ascending, is acted upon by that which is its higher counterpart, of which it absorbs something, and then, becoming refixed, descends again into earth or body which it is able to some extent to purify, having
been itself in some measure purified.
We have not treated this section in nearly as full a manner as it deserves, but it may nevertheless be seen from what we have said that water is sometimes called fire, and why this should be.
This fire involved in air, which is collected up by the water, is called Starry Milk or Air of Luna, so that water is like a flying bird, and the milky moisture which is found in her crystal breasts is called Milk of Birds, and thus some of the philosophers have said that "Birds do bring their Stone unto them." Fish are said to do the same thing, for they live in the Water.
And the air, which involves in itself a fire, is the Pneuma, Breath, Spirit or Ruach. But the symbol of Ruach Elohim is Fire, which, in the Soul is the Qabalistical Neshamah, the Higher part, by the Fire or Sulphur of which the Nephesch or lower part must be purged.
Now following the analogy of Dew and the evaporation of water from the earth into air, which it, as it were, dissolves and which contains fire, we must distil from the gross earth of our material natures the Nephesch, the subtle or watery part, which shall dissolve the volatile or airy part or Ruach, containing the Fire, Neshamah. When this falls upon the earth as dew it will commence its purification.
There is in the Qabalah much about this Dew, but it is too technical for anything but a passing reference. It is said that from it the dead are raised up, and by dead is meant, in the mystical language of the Zohar, fallen.
To explain the sublimation of the essences with the matter in the foregoing, Vaughan and others postulate the Archeus or Central Sun, " For where the rays of the one and the other meet, the central, breaking through to meet the celestial, suffers a sort of ecstasy," says Vaughan, " So then, in winter, the face of the earth being as it were sealed, Magnesia is generated, but in spring and summer it ascends more freely."
This compounding of watery and airy natures has doubtless given rise to the term Green Stone, though some say it should be Green Lion. This curious beast is also the Poisonous Dragon of whom Hermes says in his Golden Treatise, " In every nature there is first the needful water, then the oily tincture and lastly the foeces or earth which remains below. But a Dragon inhabits all these, and they are his habitation, and the blackness is in them, and by it he ascends into the air. But while the fume remains in them they are not immortal. Take away, therefore, the vapour from the water, and the blackness from the oily tincture and death from the foeces; and by distillation thou shalt achieve a triumphant reward, even that in and by which the possessors live."
Now the Water, the Oil and the Earth are the hidden intrinsical natures, and in this sense every element is threefold. The Dragon is the self-willed spirit, as we have already said, which in its normal mode, resulting from the fall, is a poisonous nature and destroys all that it touches. This poison is the fume which is to be taken away. It is not one with the blackness which is in them, for this has a practical meaning linked with the dissolution at the end of the quotation, here given as distillation.
The oily tincture is Sulphur, for Hermes adds in the next paragraph, " The temperate unguent, which is Fire, is the medium between the foeces and the water, and is called the perscrutinator of the waters. For the unguents are called Sulphurs, because between fire and oil and the sulphurs there is close propinquity; even as fire burns so does sulphur also."
The Dragon, to revert to him again, is salt in the impure state, also our Green Lion, so that this latter is synonymous with all those other terms which have been given in Chapter IV, and also with the Magical Earth, the Flos Salts Aibi or Flower of White Salt, the
White Sand and so on, for it is not specified always at what stage it is alluded to, and it must be borne in mind that in the Great Work nothing is added, only superfluities removed.
And this Magical Earth is that in which is the recreative fire, the " Land of Havilah where good gold is," which is Martian and Fiery. This is the Fire that coagulates the parts, and the Salt is the water that wets not the hands, the Magnesia that was exhibited in the Mysteries.
Thus we come at length to the end of our investigation, and we can but hope that it has not proved too disappointing to the reader, and that it will not be thought that too liberal a use has been made of quotations. Our object has been throughout to lead him to a study of this most fascinating and—as we consider it—all important subject, and to persuade him that the writings of the philosophers, despite their envious complexity, will well repay him for the pains to which he may be put in their perusal.
We may therefore, perhaps, be forgiven if we conclude by giving him two further extracts, which we will leave to his consideration without comment. The first is from the Fourth Parable of the Splendor Solis of Trismosin.
"This (Dissolution) the Philosophers give to understand in the following Signature or Figure : They saw a man black like a negro sticking fast in a black, dirty and foul smelling slime or clay ; to his assistance came a young woman, beautiful in countenance, and still more so in body, most handsomely adorned with many-coloured dresses, and she had wings on her back, the feathers of which were equal to those of the very finest white Peacock, and the quills were adorned with fine pearls, while the feathers reflected like golden mirrors. On her head she had a crown of pure gold, and on the top of it a silver star ; around her neck she wore a necklace of fine gold, with the most precious Ruby, for which no king would be able to pay; her feet were clad with golden shoes, and from her was emanating the most splendid perfume, surpassing all aromas. She clothed the man with a purple robe and lifted him up to his brightest clearness, and took him with herself to Heaven."
The second is a recipe for the Medicine from Thomas Vaughan. This has unfortunately been described by a modern commentator in the following terms : "I must confess to a feeling that this recipe is a jest or a kind of parody on the ridiculous processes given by pretenders in Alchemy." We feel that the intelligent and not merely superficial reader will take a different view, and that the measure of his approval will indicate the measure of his understanding. It is given thus :" R/. Ten parts of celestial slime. Separate the male from the female and then each from its earth, naturally, however, and without violence. Conjoin after separation in due, harmonic, vital proportion. The soul, descending straightway from the pyroplastic sphere, shall restore its dead and deserted body by a wonderful embrace. The conjoined substances shall be warmed by a natural fire in a perfect marriage of spirit and body. Proceed according to the Vulcano-Magical Artifice till they are exalted into the Fifth Metaphysical Rota. This is that Medicine about which so many have scribbled but so few have known."