Alchemy Index

Mary Anne ATWOOD

Hermetic Philosophy & Alchemy:
A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery

Part I

An Exoteric View of the Progress and Theory of Alchemy

Chapter I ~ A Preliminary Account of the Hermetic Philosophy, with the more Salient Points of its Public History
Chapter II ~ Of the Theory of Transmutation in General, and of the First Matter
Chapter III ~ The Golden Treatise of Hermes Trismegistus Concerning the Physical Secret of the Philosophers’ Stone, in Seven Sections

Part II
A More Esoteric Consideration of the Hermetic Art and its Mysteries

Chapter I ~ Of the True Subject of the Hermetic Art and its Concealed Root.
Chapter II ~ Of the Mysteries
Chapter III ~ The Mysteries Continued
Chapter IV ~ The Mysteries Concluded

Part III
Concerning the Laws and Vital Conditions of the Hermetic Experiment

Chapter I ~ Of the Experimental Method and Fermentations of the Philosophic Subject According to the Paracelsian Alchemists and Some Others
Chapter II ~ A Further Analysis of the Initial Principle and Its Education into Light
Chapter III ~ Of the Manifestations of the Philosophic Matter
Chapter IV ~ Of the Mental Requisites and Impediments Incidental to Individuals, Either as Masters or Students, in the Hermetic Art

Part IV
The Hermetic Practice

Chapter I ~ Of the Vital Purification, Commonly Called the Gross Work
Chapter II ~ Of the Philosophic or Subtle Work
Chapter III ~ The Six Keys of Eudoxus
Chapter IV ~ The Conclusion


Part II

A More Esoteric Consideration of the Hermetic Art and Its Mysteries

Chapter 3

The Mysteries Continued

It s necessary that the soul, when purified, should associate with its Generator. --- Porphyry, Aux. to Intelligib.

We have so far developed the nature of the internal life only, as it was at first revealed to the aspirant in the Lesser Mysteries; and this was the only popular initiation open to all. It represented, according to the accounts, a new and fertile field of natural contemplation which every one was at liberty to appropriate, and where each roamed at pleasure without rule or subordination, and without that consent and sympathy which a uniformity of life produces.

Previous to the purificative rites little change, therefore, was effected. It gave a passing experience to the multitude, and in a few awakened the desire and hope of better things; just as amongst us Mesmerism, which of all modern arts is most pertinent to this philosophy as working in the same matter, affords entrance together with the imagination of another life. And more than this, in well-conditioned cases, we have proof of the intrinsic intelligence and power of the Free Spirit which can expatiate into the whole circumference of its sphere and reveal hidden things, exhibiting a variety of gifts; it can philosophize also more or less well according to the direction, natural purity, and relaxation of the sensual bond. But not all that men wonder at in the present day, the insensibility, the cures, the mental exaltation, nor much more of the same class which the trance spontaneously develops evening the best subjects, could satisfy the exacting reason of our forefathers; desirous rather to investigate the Thing itself, the subject of so many marvels, they passed the first phenomena to look for Causes, experimenting within.

Volo ovum philosophorum dissolvere et partes philosophici hominis investare, nam hoc est initium ad alia --- says the experimental Friar (1); and to concentrate the whole vitality, to turn the spiritual eye, to purify and analyze the total essence and draw forth the true Efficient and to know it in co-identity, this was their object and the Art of Theurgy. For it is not, as they say, that the Spirit is free from material bondage, or able to range the universe of her own sphere, that guarantees the truth of her revealments, or helps the consciousness on to subjective experience; for this a concentrative energy is needed, and an intellect penetrating into other spheres, rather than discursive in its own.

There are many ways known and practiced of entrancing the senses, and the key of the Hermetic vestibule may be said to be already in our hands, which are able to dissolve the sensible medium and convert it to the experience of another life (2). But the order in which the next solution, or resolution rather, was operated which was to translate the consciousness underneath this medium by obscuration, towards the Central Source, is known probably to very few in the present day, for it is entirely concealed from the world: they only, amongst the ancients who had fulfilled the previous rites and undergone all the required ordeals, were entrusted with the passport. It discovers a fearful mystery in the opening sensation of power, in a life which, at its entrance, is described as dark, delusive, and dangerous, and more corrupted far than the foregoing, but through which it is quite necessary to pass before inquiry can hope to meet its object in the Elysian light.

Tenent media omnia sylvae,
Cocytusque sinu labens circumfluit atro.
Betwixt these regions and that upper light,
Deep forests and impenetrable night
Possess the middle space; the infernal bounds,
Cocytus, with his sable wave surrounds (3)

We are aware that the descent to the Infernal regions and all those highly wrought descriptions of the poets, concerning the riches and powerful allurements of Pluto’s kingdom and Hades, have been looked upon, and very naturally, as purely imaginative, and the representations of the same in the mysteries as a pictorial or pantomimic show. But as we have hitherto been enabled to regard the minor celebrations from an esoteric point of view, showing their relationship to more modern experience and the Hermetic art, we hope to continue on our adventure, being not without precedent either or guiding authority over the same ground. For it is not absurd to suppose that men should have philosophized and composed so many excellent and sublime discourses from the contemplation of shadows only? But setting aside such a notion, neither do we conceive that by Hades, or that profound Lethe, the ancients understood a corporeal nature, or this fleshly existence of ours, or anything in fact with which the whole allusion is to a state of vital submersion in the Mysteries, when the consciousness is artificially drawn about the penetralia of its first life. Nor, if we may credit accounts, is the descent difficult, or so far off, but the infernal gates lie open to mortal men on earth; but because of the arduous nature of the re-ascent and for the sake of securing it, lest unprepared souls, presuming to enter, should be taken captive by deluding and fatal desires, and work irremediable evil there, every precaution has been instituted to keep the way a secret from the world, as well for its own sake as for the cause of justice and divine wisdom about to be revealed; wherefore the Sybil warns Aeneas of the danger of his undertaking in those memorable lines.

Facilis descensus Averni;
Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis:
Sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est. Pauci quos aequus amavit
Jupiter, aut ardens evexit ad aethea virtus,
Diis geniti potuere (4).

The grand requirement of the Mysteries after the first purificative rites (the inclination being already freed from the dominion and all the superficial progeny of sense), was that the will should conceive within itself a motive purely rational to withstand the temptations of its next including sphere; that it might be enabled to follow the true path upward, penetrating through darkness, and defilements, and dissolution even, to the discovery of Wisdom in her light abode. To this Aeneas accordingly directed by the Sybil, whom we follow, after her warning already given, to search for that well-distinguished, most mysterious golden bough.

Aurus et foliis et lento vimine ramus,
Junoni infernae sacer (5).

Without which as a propitiation he may not venture on the subterranean research. But it may be asked, why this myrtle branch was represented to be of gold. Not merely for the sake of the marvelous, Warburton tells us, we may be assured. A golden bough was literally part of the sacred equipage in the shows, a burden which the Ass, who carried the mysteries, we may believe, was proud of. But of what kind this branch was, Apuleius partly indicates in his procession of the Initiated into the Mysteries of Isis, where we find it connected with the Mercurial caduceus and treated as a most important symbol in initiatory rites (6); which we therefore understand ontologically, as a ray of living light, golden and flexible, the true Brancha Spiritualis of Raymond Lully. Intellectus naturam habens subtilem ad intellignedum res intellibiles (7); --- insinuating by rational penetration alone through the murky circumference of the chloric ether into its own congenial life, which is Proserpine, and that lapsed soul of ours, seated in her dark hypostasis unknown; whose vapor is so subtle and transient that nothing but the glance of its proper intellect by faith can arrest it. And those doves that lead the way too, are they not known to our Alchemists and those chosen seats?

But to be brief; it is only by exceeding zeal and piety of intention, such as is ascribed to Aeneas in search of his father, and a prevailing reason, that the seeking mind becomes fitted for establishment in her essence and percipient of her final duty to separate the good and reject the evil therein by birth allied; that she may know to what she ought to aspire, dismissing every other consideration, where Desires are Images and Will their Act. Thus Plato says, --- It is necessary that a man should have his right opinion as firm as adamant in him when he descends into Hades, that there likewise he may be unmoved by riches or any such like evils, and may not, falling into tyrannies and such other practices, do incurable mischief and himself suffer still greater; but that he may know how to shun extremes on either hand, both in this life as far as possible and in the whole hereafter (8). And again, in the Seventh Book of the Republic --- he who is not able by the exercise of his reason to define the idea of the Good, separating it from all other objects and piercing, as in a battle, through every kind of argument, endeavoring to confute, not according to opinion but according to essence, and proceeding through all the dialectic energies with an unshaken reason --- he who cannot accomplish this, neither knows he the Good itself, nor anything that is properly denominated the Good. And would you not say that such a one, if he apprehended any certain truth or image of reality, would apprehend it rather, through the medium of opinion than of science; that in the present life he is sunk in sleep and conversant in the delusions of dreams; and that descending into Hades, before he is roused to a vigilant state, he will be overwhelmed with a sleep perfectly profound (9). To fall asleep in Hades was indeed to be absorbed, without the encumbrance of body, in all its defilements; according to the philosopher, the direst evil that can befall any one; or, as Virgil has it, to be a king in hell.

But with all the earnings of difficulties, and dangers, and death, to be encountered, no hero or demigod occurs in the poets, but he sometime descended to the Infernals, and had free egress thereafter to the Elysian Fields; but two are described as suffering for the attempt --- Theseus and Pirithous, who, as Proclus admirably explains, were detained there --- the one because he was too much a lover of corporeal beauty, the other through his natural inability to sustain the arduous altitude of divine contemplation. In the sixth book of the Aeneid, Virgil has gracefully set forth the whole transaction of his successful hero, with the labors and difficulties, and appalling visions that attended on the outset of his pious research; all which has been shown by Warburton (10) and other learned commentators, to bear close allusion to the Mysteries, in which we have reason also to believe the poet himself was profoundly initiated, and whose allegoric conduct, therefore, we pursue as an inquiry of Intellect after its Paternal Source.

To continue, then, in order of the tradition: after the ordeal rites had been undergone, and the few who were found fit, selected for further initiation, the concession of more arcane mysteries succeeded.

Gressus removete prophani
Jam furor humanus nostro de pectore sensus Expluit (11).

As the consciousness passing the middle region, clear and rational from out the Aquaster, enters the Fire World, and the Sybil leads her hero to the dark descent.

Spelunca alta fuit, vastoque immanis hiatus,
Scrupea, tuta lacu nigro nemorumque tenebris;
Quam super haud ullae poterant impune volantes
Tnedere iter pennies: talis sese halitus atris
Faucibus effundens supera ad convexa ferbat,
Unde locum Graii dixerunt nominee Aornum (12).

And what does all this imagery point at, but the thickening darkness of the nether air verging to the chaos of matter and flowing out from the perpetual motion of the first life; destitute of elasticity, Aornus, heavy like that of an enclosed cave, and vast; dangerous, as it is said by some, giving forth a murky odor, like that of graves. It is the Black Saturn of the adepts, and that appearing corruption that precedes the mystical death and regeneration into new life: as describing the same ens, they call it lapis niger, vilis, foetens, et dicitur origo mundi et oritur sicut germinantia. Sendivogius calls it Urinus Saturni, with which he waters his lunar and solar plants; and another, --- Ex mari meo oriuntur nebulae, quae ferunt aquas benedictas et ipsae irrigant terras et educant herbas et flores. With this allusion, the Alchemists also call the Ether their mineral tree; for they were not so careful to hide this in general, seeing the true species was laid asleep in sense, and doubly locked up, as it were, within both corporeal and spiritual confines, and how far the world was off from the art of unfolding or profiting by it. The reception of Aeneas in Hades is next described.

Ecce autem, primi sib lumina et ortus,
Sub pedibs mugire solum, et juga coepta moveri
Sylvarum, visaeque canes ululare per umbram,
Adventante Dea (13).

And Claudian, to the same effect, poetizes the tremendous advent.

Jam mihi cernuntur trepedis delubramoveri
Sedibius, et claram dispergere fulmina lucem
Adventum testate  dei: jam magnus ab imis
Auditur fremitus terries, templumque remugit
Cecropium; sanctasque faces attollit Eleusin;
Angues Triptolemi strident, et squamea curvis
Colla levant attrita jugis
Ecce procul ternas Hecate variata figures
Exortur (14).

And all this, extravagant and fanciful though it should appear, has been echoed by philosophers, and the Greek descriptions agree in each remarkable particular. Plato, amongst others, likens the descent of the soul into these oblivious realms of generation to an earthquake and other strong convulsions of nature. Psellus, in his valuable commentary, describes the apparitions procured by the Chaldaic rites as of two kinds: the first called superinspection, when he who celebrates the divine rites sees a mere apparition, as, for instance, of light in some form or figure, concerning which the oracle advises, that if anyone sees such a light, he apply not his mind to it, nor esteem the voice proceeding thence to be true; sometimes, likewise, to many initiated persons, there appear lights in various forms and figures. These apparitions are created by the passions of the soul, in performing divine rites, mere appearances, having no substance, and therefore not signifying anything true (15). Which vaporous estate of universal-being, the poets also fabulously concealed under the satiric form of Pan, who exhibited himself in every variety of atrocious disguises of wild beasts, and monsters, and demoniacal appearances, that he might affright those who would captivate him.

Corripit hic subita trepidus formidine ferrum
Aeneas strictamque aciem venientibus offert.
Et ni docta comes tenues sine corpore vitas
Admoneat volitare cava sub imagine formae,
Irruat, et frustra ferro diverberet umbras (16).

For it is the imaginative spirit which is the maker of these images, as in dreams, only more intense. As moisture condensed in the air constitutes clouds, which the wind disposes in various forms, so our pneumatic vehicle, becoming humid and condensed beneath her heaven, presents many formidable apparitions to the inner sense, and all the race of demons, so much celebrated by antiquity, appear to have their origin in a life of this kind, viz., from an included vapor of the imagination: nor these, individually belonging, were seen only; but, as it is recorded, each by rapport in this state becomes conversant with the whole phantasmagoric universe of his sphere; hence the platitude of the descriptions and poetical crowding of images to the individual sense. Proclus, commenting on the First Alcibiades of Plato, asserts that material images, assuming the appearance even of things divine, constantly attended on the Mysteries, drawing towards them souls not yet sufficiently purified, and separating them from truth. And that such actually appeared to be the Musai, during the evaporative process of purification, and before the lucid vision of the light within, is further shown in the following passage of the same experienced theologist. In the most holy Mysteries, says he, before the presence of the god, the impulsive forms of certain terrestrial demons appear, which call the attention off from undefiled advantages to matter, And again, --- as in the most holy Mysteries, the mystics at first meet with the multiform and many-shaped genera which are hurled forth before the gods; but on entering the interior part of the Temple, unmoved and guarded by the sacred rites, they genuinely receive into their bosom divine illumination, and divested of the Divine Nature, the same method takes place in the speculation of Wholes (17).

For the reason of this life imitates, inasmuch as it is able, and obeys instinctively its motive light; and as the natural intellect is liable to error, so the spiritual also, not et perfected, is liable to be caught in the traps of these exterior spirits, which being, as Basil Valentine, in his Alchemical Chariot, observes, endowed with senses and understanding, know Arts, and have in themselves an occult operative life; giving testimony also of their virtue in the art of healing and other secrets, by which they deceive and detain the unwary from the search of better things (18).

The writings of the middle ages abound likewise with descriptions of these demoniacal natures; regular descriptions of them are given by Agrippa (19); and Trithemius (20); and Psellus (21); Proclus (22); Iamblicus (23); and Porphyry (24), allude to their material efficacy and operation in Divine Works, where desire, entering into those aerial forms, is said to vivify them; and the Chaldaic oracle even persuades that there are pure demons. --- Natura suadet esse demonas puros, et malae materiae germina utilia et bona, --- and that the germinations even of evil matter are of use (25). Synesius mentions them also as the progeny of matter, and as having an energetic virtue, but at natural war with the truth-seeking soul (26); and Proclus, in his Hymn to the Sun, designates them as

Demons who machinate a thousand ills,
Pregnant with ruin to our wretched souls,
That merged beneath life’s dreadful sounding sea
In body’s chain they willingly may toil;
Nor e’er remember in the dark abyss
The splendid palace of their sire sublime.

And it is the dread of such an oblivion there below that the oracle announces to intellect in those solemn tones --- Ducat animae profunditas immortalis oculosque affatim, --- Omnes sursum extende. Let the immortal depth of thy soul be predominant, and all thy eyes extend upwards; incline not to the dark world whose depth is a faithless bottom and Hades dark all over, squalid, delighting in images, unintelligible, precipitous, and a depth always rolling full of stupidity and folly (27).

Umbrarum hic locus est, somni noctisque soporae (28).

If the soul on its departure, says Porphyry, still possesses a spirit turbid from humid exhalations, it then attracts to itself a shadow and becomes heavy; and a spirit of this kind naturally strives to penetrate into the recesses of the earth, unless a certain other cause draws it in a contrary direction: as, therefore, the soul when surrounded with this testaceous and terrene vestment necessarily lives on the earth, so likewise when it attracts a moist spirit, it is necessarily surrounded with the image. But it attracts moisture when it continually endeavors to associate with nature, whose operations are effected in moisture, and which are rather under the earth: when however the soul earnestly desires to depart from nature (i.e., strives to penetrate centrally without exploring the intermediate spheres), then she becomes a dry splendor from exhalation (29). Hence that renowned saying of Heraclitus, that a dry soul is the wisest, for the soul looking at things posterior to herself beholds the shadow and images of her vaporous vehicle; but when she is converted to herself, she evolves her proper essence and irradiates the whole circumference with her own abundant oxygenating and dispersive light (30). Thus Hermes: Extract from the ray its shadow and its obscurity, by which the clouds hang over it, and corrupt and keep away the light; by means of its constriction, also, and fiery redness it is burned; take, my son, this watery and corrupted nature, which is as a coal holding the fire, which if thou salt withdraw so often until the redness is made pure, then it will associate with thee, by whom it was cherished and in whom it rests (31).

Visitabis interiora terrae rectificando, invneies
Occultum lapidem, veram medicianam.

Visit the interior of the earth rectifying, says the sage, and thou shalt find the hidden Stone, the true medicine: not the feculent dead soil, but our dark divulsed chaotic life from sense, which opened and rectified, dissolved and reunited, is changed from an earthly to a spiritual body, by rapport divine. In such a process it would seem the Alchemists discovered the hidden principles of nature, as, experimentally passing thought the animal and vegetable into the mineral circulation of her Law, they describe the life of all things here below to be a thick fire imprisoned in a certain incombustible aerial moisture;  --- Ignis rubber super dorsum ignis candidi --- which moisture in its native state, before it is purified by the inflowing light of reason, is that Hades we are treating of, the Purgatory of the wise, wherein the consciousness, becoming artificially wrapped by the Mysteries, continues for a while in a state of solicitude and painful amazement, unable of itself to discover, through so great a cloud of darkness, that Hypostatic Reality towards which it is instructed evermore to aspire. And until this attraction is found and finally established in union, the opposive powers display their mutual forces in discordant dissolute array, as the Alchemists, with all who have been profoundly experienced in this ground, relate each in his own instructive way, warning about the conduct through it, and the many real, though chimerical horrors and enticing phantoms that haunt around, guarding the secret chamber of their mineral soul. For, as the sage in Enoch declares it, lead and tin are not produces from earth as the primary fountain of their production; but there is an angel standing upon it, and that angel struggles to prevail (32).

Vaughan notes the same in the Regio Phantastica of his Hieroglyphic, and elsewhere, speaking of the mineral nature or First Matter, he says, The eye of man never saw her twice under one and the same shape; but as clouds driven by the wind are forced to this and that figure, but cannot possibly retain one constant form, so is she persecuted by the fire of nature (33); as, by the re-entering Light of Reason in the Mysteries, which is that Sulfur of adepts, causing all this manifold scenery in the disruption of life. O Nature! The most wonderful creatrix of natures, cries Hermes, which containest and separatest all things in a middle principle. Our Stone comes with light and with light it is generated, and then it brings forth the clouds, and darkness which is the mother of all things (34). Raymond Lully, also, in his Compendium of Alchemy, calls the first principles of the Art, Spiritus fugitives in aero condensators, in forma monstrorum diversorum et animalium etiam hominum, qui vadunt sicut nubes, modo hinc modo illuc; that is to say, certain fugitive spirits condensed in the air, in shape of divers monsters, beasts, and men, which move like clouds hither and thither.

In an outward acceptation such an announcement of principles would be absurd, or what possible interpretation could afford them a place in commonsense? Or whence, if they be true (and Lully’s name sands well for their defense), were they so probably brought to the cognizance of the philosopher, as from the self-inspection of them in life? But Lully, indeed, calls these chaotic forms first principles; not because they are permanent or their essence rational, in that unctuous dark condition, but because within the material extreme of this life, when it is purified, the Seed of Spirit is at last found: which the adept further describes as being found in the process a decompounded ens, extremely heavy, shining through the darkness like a fiery star, being full of eyes like pearls or aglets. For it is the whole Demogogon, as yet not actually animated by contact of his own returning light. The father of it, says Vaughan, is a certain inviolable mass, for the parts of it are so firmly united you can neither pound them to dust, nor separate them by violence of fire (35). This is the rock in the wilderness,, because in great obscurity and difficult to find the way of, compassed about with darkness, clouds, and exhalations, as it were dwelling in the bowels of the earth. --- Our viscous soul, as Synesius calls it, circulating in the midst of all her Adamical defilements, and which Plato compares to that marine Glaucus so deformed by the foreign weeds and parasites that had grown about him, that in every respect he resembled a beast rather than what he really was (36). In such a deplorable condition is the divine germ of humanity said to be beheld under the thousand evils of its birth.

Monstrum, horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptu.

There is a curious figurative account given in a letter circulated under the name of the Brethren of the Rosy Cross, which appears to have reference to this passage of initiatory progress in the Mysteries. It may be rendered thus: ---

There is a mountain situated in the midst of the earth or center 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 thither both difficult and dangerous; and therefore, hitherto, because the time is not yet come, the way thither could not be sought after by all; but only by the worthy man’s self-labor and investigation.

To this mountain you should go in a certain night, when it comes most long and dark; and see that you prepare yourself 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 (37).

This guide will 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 (38). You need no sword or other bodily weapon, only call upon you God, sincerely and heartily seeking Him.

When you have discovered the mountain, the first miracle that will appear is this: a most vehement and very great wind that will shale the whole mountain and shatter the rock to pieces. You will be encountered by lions, dragons, and other terrible wild beasts; but fear not nay of these things (39). Be resolute, and take heed that you return not, for your guide who brought you thither 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 which the wind had left. Be sure you fall not of. The earthquake beig passed, there shall follow a fire that will consume the earthly rubbish, and discover the treasure: but as yet you cannot see it (40). After all these things, and near daybreak, there shall be a great calm, and you shall see the day-star arise, and the darkness will disappear; you will conceive a great treasure; the chiefest thing, and the most perfect, is a certain exalted tincture with which the world, if it served God and were worthy of such gifts, might be tinged and turned into most pure gold.

And thus much of the concordance of these famous Christian philosophers who, if they had not promised gold, and proclaimed prodigies after an entertaining Arabian Nights fashion, would never, probably, have been thought of by the world, or inquired after, as they were, over Europe during the last century, but without success. For they who have this knowledge know where and how likewise to bestow it, discerning betwixt the lovers of mammon and of truth. Fearing the dangerous curiosity of the vulgar herd also, we observe, the Greeks pass by in silence the physical revealments of these Tartarean realms, or, poetizing the great experience, evaporate in fancy, as it were, the teeming life therein opened with its overflowing spirit and light of increase.

Let none admire
That riches grow in hell; that soil may best
Deserve the precious bane; and here let those
Who boast in mortal things, and wondering tell
Of Babel and the works of Memphian kings,
Learn how the greatest monuments of fame
And strength and art are easily outdone
By spirits reprobate (41).

And further, how these again maybe surpassed and vanish, as Aladdin’s rapid castle into air, before the discriminate radiance of celestial light. And as in the pursuit of other sciences and arts, though, and persevering labor and experience are required to ensure success, so should those delusive visions and errors which occur during the conscious transference to a more excellent condition of being be considered, in like manner, not as derogatory or casting a doubt at all upon the ultimate truths of divine science, but as obstacles rather contrary to it, as evil is to good everywhere adverse.

We do not, therefore, linger here any more to consider the different allotments, the longer or shorter periods which engage pure or impure souls in Hades, their habits or the triple path arising from their essences, all which is indicated in the Platonic discourses, and most of which is abound with symbolical theories and poetical descriptions concerning the descent, ascent, and intermediate wanderings, expiatory punishment and sacrifices and things of a similar import, which the rites enjoined, before the aspirants, by the Greeks called Mustai, were passed on by the Hierophant of the inner temple to its immortal abode: for such was Tartarus, the next beyond Hades, according to the Ethics, the alone eternal hypostasis to be redeemed from thence, from the oblivious realms of generation, into the Elysiam recollection of Wisdom in the highest consciousness. But the soul is said to be in Hades all the while that her hypostasis continues in darkness; that is, we would say, whilst she regards her image objectively, before attaining to the experimental knowledge. And here the Lesser Mysteries ended; the soul as it were, on the borders of the Stygian lake in view of Tartarus, which Euripides has elegantly styled also "a dream of death".

And the conformity between death and this next initiation, is strikingly exhibited in a passage preserved by Stoboeus from an ancient record; it has been well rendered by Dr Warburton, and runs thus: --- The mind is affected and agitated in death, just as it is in initiation into the Grand Mysteries. And word answers to word, as well as thing to thing: for ***** is to dies, and ***** is to be initiated; the first stage is nothing but errors and uncertainties; laborings, wandering, and darkness. And no, arrived on the verge of death and initiation, everything wears a dreadful aspect; it is all horror trembling, sweating, and affrightment. But this scene once over, a miraculous and divine light displays itself, and shining plains, and flowery meadows, open on all hands before them. Here they are entertained with hymns and dances, and with sublime and sacred knowledges, and with reverend and holy visions. And now become perfect and initiated, they are free, and no longer under restraint; but crowned and triumphant, they walk up and down in the regions of the Blessed (42).

But all, during the transition, is described as wearing a fearful aspect; and dread fills the sould about to relinquish her natal bond in life; neither may it be irrelevant to call in mind that repeated advice of Solomon, that --- the fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom; --- as the spiritual regard in the mysteries, already involuted, and drawing towards its end, with awe, begins to perceive itself in that Identic Source. And shall we not believe that it was out of the same intimate experience that the son of Dirach, inciting men to search after the Divine Wisdom, confesses, that --- at first she will walk with him by crooked ways, and bring fear and dread upon him, and torment him with her disciplines, until she may trust his soul, and try him by her law? Then she will return the straight way unto his, says the Divine teacher, and comfort him, and show him her Secret. The root of Wisdom, is to fear the Lord, and the branches thereof are long life; strive for the truth, even unto death, and the Lord shall fight for thee (43). So, likewise, we read, that there is in Alchemy a certain noble body, which is moved from one Lord to another; in the beginning of which there is suffering with vinegar; but, in the end, joy with exaltation. O happy gate of Blackness! Cries the adept, which art the passage to so glorious a change! Study, therefore, whoever appliest thyself to this art, only to know this secret; for to know this, indeed, is to know all, but to be ignorant of this, is to be ignorant of all. Take away, therefore, the vapor from the water, and the blackness from the oily tincture, and death from the faeces; and by Dissolution thou shalt possess a triumphant reward, even that in and by which the possessors live (44).

In the beginning of Phaedo, Plato, by Socrates, asserts, that it is the business of philosophers to study how to be dead. Plotinus, at the same time reprobating suicide, has the same doctrine; but Porphyry, in his Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Natures, explains the meaning of these others; for there is, says he, a twofold death, the one indeed universally known, in which the body is liberated from the sol; but the other peculiar to philosophers, in which the soul is liberated from the body: nor does the one entirely follow the other. That which nature binds, nature also dissolves; that which the soul binds, the soul likewise can dissolve: nature, indeed, binds the body to the soul, but the sol binds herself to the body. Nature therefore liberates the body from the sol, but the soul may also liberate herself from the body (45). That is to say, if she know how, and have the right disposition awarded, she may dissolve her own disposition awarded, she may dissolve her own conceptive vehicle, even the parental bond, and return consciously (the elementary principles remaining, nor yet suffered to depart) under the dominion of another law to life. That was the way to "precious death", spoken of by the Hebrews and Academics, this the "happy gate of blackness" celebrates by the old adepts, the "head of Hermes’ crow", which is in the beginning of the work; that which was fixed, viz., the sensual compact, is dissolved, and that which is dissolved is renovated, and hence the corruption and evil of mortality is made manifest in the ultimate circulation of the matter to be renewed, and on either side it is a signal of Art. And all without destruction to the mortal body (if perhaps some one values this), the willing life was made to pass out of its present oblivious fall, through regeneration, into the reminiscent consciousness of her Causal Source. As the truth-telling Oracle again declares that,

If thou extend the fiery mind to the work of piety,
Thou shalt preserve the flexible body likewise.

Even through death, re-entering into and fortifying it with the elixir of an immortal life. Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.

Seek thou the way of the soul,
Whence and by what order, having served the body,
He same from which thou dost flow, thou must return
And rise up again, joining action to sacred speech (46).

Suppose any one beginning at the top of an artificial edifice, should undertake to decompose it stone by stone, setting all aside, with the dirt and rubbish, as he proceeds, he would at last come to the earth which is at the foundation, and have space to build up anew; and thus it would appear to be in the Hermetic process. If any one should take the natural life as it presents itself, opening and analyzing the parts thereof, spiritually and wisely, one from another, graciously, as the mandate runs, --- Terra ab igni, subtile a spisso, suaviter cum multo ingenio, --- he would arrive finally at the basement, wherein is hidden the true alkaline original of life in this threefold essence separately contained. And this, the adept tells us, is the syllogism it best behooves us to look after; for he that has once passed the Aquaster, and entered the Fire World, sees what is both invisible and incredible to common men. He shall discover the miraculous conspiracy that is between the Prester and the Sun, the external and internal fire of life, the thing desiring and the thing desired. He shall know the secret love of heaven and earth, and why all influx of fire descends against the nature of fire, and comes from above downwards, until having found a body, it reascends therewith in perpetual interchange. He shall know, continues the adept, and see how the Fire Spirit has its root in the spiritual fire earth, and receives from its root in the spiritual fire earth, and receives from it a secret influx upon which it feeds. A body immarcessible, than which ther is nothing more ancient, vigorous, and young. The Salt of Saturn, that most abstruse principle of the Stone --- the most ancient Demogorgon --- aethero dempto --- deprived of light, whose perpetual motion emanates the first material universe, and is the mineral soul, This is the earth, distinguished by Anaxagoras, which abiding durably in the center, "hands loftily", but its Being is Tartarus;

And the light hating world, and the winding current
By which many things are swallowed up.
Stoop not down, for a precipice lies below in the earth;
Drawing thro’ the ladder which hath seven steps,
Beneath which is the throne of Necessity.
Enlarge not thou thy destiny,
The soul will, after a manner, clasp God to herself (47).

As Porphyry, in our motto head, declares that --- it is necessary that the soul when purified should associate with its generator; and the virtue of its after this conversion is said to consist in a scientific knowledge of true Being, which cannot be obtained either otherwise or without such a conversion.

O beatam quisque felix gnarus Dei
Sacroorum, vitam piat;
Ac animam initiat Orgyris
Bacchans in montibus,
Sacris purus lustrationibus (48).

But, perhaps, inquisitive reader, you will very anxiously ask, what was said and done? I would tell you, replies the Epidaurian, if it could be lawfully told. But both the ears and tongue are guilty of indiscretion. Nevertheless, I will not keep you in suspense with religious desire, nor torment you with a long continued anxiety. Hear therefore, but believe what is true; The priest, then, all the profane being removed, taking me by then, all the profane being removed, taking me by the hand, brought me to the penetralia of the temple. I approached the confines of death, and, having trod the threshold of Proserpine, I returned from it, being carried through all the Elements. At midnight I saw the Sun shining with a splendid light; and I manifestly drew near to the gods above and beneath, and proximately adored them. Behold I have narrated to you things of which, though heard, it is nevertheless necessary that you should be ignorant (49).

By no explanation, nor any familiar analogy do we here presume to aid the natural intellect to a conception that transcends it, and which can only be attained through the identical experience. Yet reason may, does perceive it, and which can only be attained through the identical experience. Yet reason may, does perceive it, but abstractly only as an inference; yet it is her true Hypostasis, for which, as Isis for Osiris, she is constantly seeking, her objective reality in the Great Unknown. The rude, uneducated reason, however, which serves sensibles without reflection, will not understand; but that only which, seeing something more in causation than mere antecedence, can reflect into the intelligible substance of her Law. For there the true Efficient is to be found, which is not externally developed; but, becoming conjoined in consciousness, the soul knows herself as a Whole which before knew but a part only of her human nature; and proceeding thus, by theurgic assistance, arrives at her desired end, and participating of Deity, perceives then and knows, as Plotinus gratefully expresses it, that the supplier of life is present; and free from all external perturbation and desire, percipiently included in the circular necessity of her Law, believes its revelation which is her very self.

This is the Introspection which Psellus speaks of, as distinguished from the Superinspection which takes place in Hades. When the initiated person sees the Divine Light itself without any form or figure; this the oracle calls Sacro Sancto, for that is seen with a beauty by sacred person, and glides up and down pleasantly through the depths of the world. This will not deceive; but as the Oracle in fine advises,

When thou seest a Fire without Form,
Shining flashingly through the depths of the World,
Hear the voice of Fire (50).

The same solemn and articulate instruction is given in an Indian record, translated by Sir William Jones, as follows: --- Except the First Cause, whatever may appear or may not appear in the mind, know that to be the mind’s maya (or image or delusion) as of light or darkness; as the great elements are in various beings entering, yet not entering, thus AM I, in them and yet not in them; even thus far may inquiry be made by him who seeks to know the principle of mind in union and separation, which must be every were and always (51). And in the book of Deuteronomy, fourth chapter, the unfigured form of the Divine Essence, is noted in several places; and in the book of Zohar, it is explained, that before the descent into creation Divinity has no form, and therefore it was forbidden to represent Him under any image whatever, even so much as a letter or point, and in this sense we are to understand the mandate, --- Take good heed unto yourselves, for ye saw no manner of similitude on the say that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire (52).

But then the revelations we have here gathered (and which are but a small part indeed of what has been described of the visions, and awful accompaniments which took place in the celebration of the Greater Mysteries) have been explained away as trifling exhibitions; orreries, as some say, contrived after the fashion of Walker’s or Lloyd’s Eidouranion; by those unfigured lights, it has been argued, were meant asteroids, whilst the figured are supposed agreeably to represent constellations of stars, grouped together in a more defined form. The whole, in fact, has been regarded as a moving panorama and illusory display of lights. But what extreme of trifling or fantastic folly has not modern imagination ascribed to the ancient mind? And how commonly mistaken and useless do not its best relics remain, for want of a corresponding intelligence in latter times? Allegories of recondite experience, truthful fables, symbols replete with instruction and refined emblems of art, have been either trivially interpreted, or condemned as futile without appeal; even those life-bound mysteries, those disciplines, purifications, sacred and primordial rites have gone for nothing, or as good for nothing, whilst Astronomy has been the imputed spirit of the whole.

On risk of some ridicule, therefore, and diletanti scorn, we continue by our clue, leaving the darker scenes of life’s drama, to look beyond, even upon that beautiful sun-lit horizon of the Maudeurentian, rising to intellectual radiance, as of the real life. Thus Proclus says, that to the wise indeed all things possess a silent and arcane tendency; and Intellect is excited to the Beautiful with astonishment and motion; for the illumination from it and its efficacy, acutely pervade through every soul, and as being the most similar of all things to the Good, it converts every soul that surveys it. The soul also, beholding that which is arcane, shining forth as it were to view rejoices in and admires that which sees, and is astonished about it. And as in the most holy Mysteries, prior to the mystic spectacles, those who are initiated are said to be seized with astonishment and dread, so in Intelligibles, prior to the participation of the Good, Beauty shining forth astonishes those that behold it, converts the soul to itself, and being established in the vestibules (of the good) shows what that is which is in the adyta, and what the transcendency is of occult being. Through these things, therefore, concludes the philosopher, let it be apparent whence Beauty originates, and how it first shines forth, and also that Animal (life) itself is the most beautiful of all intelligibles (53). But Apuleius no less directly indicates the nature of his own mysterious revelation where, speaking of the Intellectual contact which the wise have proved, when they were separated from body, through the energies of mind, he says (calling his divine master also to witness), that this knowledge sometimes shines forth with a most rapid coruscation like a bright and clear light in the most profound darkness (54). And Plato himself, speaking in like manner of the Intellectual Intuition, in his seventh Epistle, writes from long converse with this thing itself, accompanied by a life in conformity to it, on a sudden a light, as it were a leaping fire, will be enkindled in the soul, and will there itself nourish itself (55). And heaven, he adds in another place is the kindled intelligence of the First Intelligible, and sight looking to things above is heaven (56). And the sense of sight is celebrated by all these, therefore, as not only beautiful and useful for the purposes of this life; but as a leader in the acquisition of Wisdom. For it is not that very light which in us looks out beaming on our eyes that, directed within, and being purified also, and scientifically inquiring, discovers at last that other light which is the substance of its own, until light meeting light apprehends itself alone?

While thro’the middle of life’s boiserous waves,
Thy soul robust the deep’s deaf tumult braves,
Oft beaming from the god’s thy piercing sight,
Beholds in paths oblique a sacred light.
Whence rapt from sense with energy divine,
Before her eye immortal splendors shine,
Whose plenteous rays in darkness most profound,
Thy steps directed and illuminated round.
Nor was the vision like the dreams of sleep,
But seen whilst vigilant you brave the deep;
While from your eyes you shake the gloom of night,
The glorious prospect bursts upon your sight (57).

Open the compound creature; look up the elements; divide the elements, and you shall find the quintessential nature: open this, continues the adept, and you shall conceive the subtle altereity of the angelical spirit in which is the divine act, and immediate beam or Wisdom from God. In this work, therefore, there concurreth in the separation of the first, a sensible aspect, in the other we behold with intellectual eyes, so that you may observe how all is in everything, and everything in all. As Hermes alludes: Qui fornacem cum vase nostro construit, novum mundum conflat. He that maketh a furnace with our glass to it maketh a new world (58); --- a new hypostasis, and a new stone, ---even that Stone of the Apocalypse, the true crystalline rock without spot or darkness, that renowned Terra Maga in aethere clarificata, which carries in its belly wind and fire. Having got this fundamental of a little new world, says Vaughan, unite the heaven in triple proportion to the earth, and then apply a generative heat to both, and they will attract from above the star-fore of nature. So hast thou the glory of the whole world, therefore let all obscurity flee before thee (59).This is the true Astrum Solis gotten and conceived, the internal spiritual Sun which is the Perpetual Motion of the Wise, and that Saturnian Salt which, developed to intellect and made erect, subdues all nature to his will. For it is the whole Demogorgon, now actually animated, which before was made visible without its subject light; but at length becoming ignited, reflects from out the dark abyss of being, as a luciferous wheel, with its radiant sections, all comprehending in their law, as the Oracle again proclaims,

Fire, the derivation and dispenser of Fire,
Whose hair pointed is seen in his native Light:
Hence comes Saturn.
The Sun Assessor beholding the Pure Pole.

And this we take to be that midnight Sun of Apuleius, the ignited Stone of Anaxagoras (for which that philosopher has suffered such abundant disrepute, under error that his allusion was to the luminary of this world). This is the triumphal Chariot of Antimony, the Armed Magnet of Helvetius turned swiftly about the current axle of life, which is the Wheel of Fire signalized in Ezekiel, seen by the Hebrew prophets, Moses, David, and Zachariah, in which all things are transfigured; and this is the Stone with the new name written in the Revelation and that Salt which the Savior orders that we should have it in ourselves; and is the same with the Prester of Zoroaster which in the Chaldean sense means the Fire Spirit of Life, and is that Identity in all which sustains all by the efflux of His power --- the supernatural center of every living thing, the infinitely powerful and all-efficient making power.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was Life; and the Life was the Light of men. And the Light shineth in Darkness and the Darkness comprehended it not (60).

And that Light shining in darkness, if men had never known, how should they have asserted, do theologians invent such things in the present day? Neither did they formerly invent, but what they knew and had seen, declared. --- To as many as received the Spirit to them gave He power to become the sons of God, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. --- This therefore is that Power which is hidden in man, the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, if haply one might feel after Him and find Him. An enchanted treasury known only to the wisely simple who have subdued their will to the Law of Wisdom, as Abraham did, as soon as he had gotten the creature into his hands (61).

We omit many things here relating to the mystical death and regeneration, which may be better understood when we come to treat of the manifestation of the Philosophic Subject; adding merely at present, in conclusion from our doctors, that the grand perfection of their Art was to multiply the Prester and place him in the most supreme Ether, which is that Augean palace already prepared for him in the beginning; where, as in a suitable habitation, he abides shining, not burning as below, or wrathful; but vital, calm, transmuting, recreating, and no longer a Consuming Fire.

Intellige in scientia et sepias intellignetia: exprerire in illis, et investiga illa, et nota, et cogita, et imaginare, et statue rem integritate et fac sedere Creatorm in throno suo (62).

References ~

1. Roger bacon, De Mirab. Potest. Artis et naturae, Ars Aurifera, vol 2, p. 342
2. We adopt the term dissolve here in accordance with the old doctrine; varying theories have been proposed to explain the change that takes place in the vital relationship of the patient in the mesmeric trance: some have thought the sensible medium is drawn away by a superior attraction to life in the agent; others, that it is overcome, or included, or arrested, or destroyed; but the Alchemists, with one accord, say it ought to be dissolved; and, I default of better authority, shall we not suppose it so to be dissolved, or that it ought to be, the alkali by the acid, the dark dominion of the selfhood by the magnetic friction of its proper light, the sensible or animal into the vegetable, the cerebral into the ganglionic life? Corpora qui vult purgare oportet fluxa facere, says the author of the Rosarium, that the compact earthy body of sense may be rarified and flow as a passive watery spirit. The beginning of the work, says Albertus Magnus, is a perfect solution; and all that we teach is nothing else but to dissolve and recongeal the spirit, to make the fixed volatile and the volatile fixed, until the total nature is perfected by the reiteration, both in its Solary and Lunar form. --- Alberti, Secret. Tact.A rtis Auriferae.
3. Dryden’s Aeneid, lib. 6:130
4. Aeneid, lib. 6:126
5. Aeneid, lib. 6:136
6. Metam., lib. 11
7. Arbor, X, Scientiae Humanalis
8. Republic, Book X
9. Idem, Book 7
10. Divine L:egation, vol. 1
11. Claudian de Paptu Proserpineae, sub initio
12. Aeneid, lib. 6:237
13. Aeneid, lib. 6:255
14. De Raptu Prosepinae, sub initio
15. Pesllus de Oraculis, 14, 19.See also Oracula Chaldaeorum Deomes Sacrificia.
16. Aeneid, lib. 6:290
17. Proclus on the Theology of Plato, vol. 1, p.9; De anima et Demona, throughout.
18. Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, Kirchringius edit.
19. Occult Philosophy, book 2
20. De Spetem Intellignetia, etc.
21. Michaele Psello de Demonibus
22. Excerpta M. Ficini ex Graecis Procli Com. in Alcibiad.
23. De Mysteriis Aegypt-Chaldeor.
24. De Divinis atque Demonibus
25. Oracula Zoroastri
26. De Somni
27. Zoroastri Oracula Anima, Corpus, Homo.
28. Aeneid, lib. 6:389
29. Auxil. To Intelligib., sect. 1
30. Proclus on the Theology of Plato, book 1,cap. 3
31. Tract. Aur., cap.2
32. Book of Enoch, chap. 64: 7,8
33. Lumen de Lumine, Introd. Coelum Terrae, p. 90.
34. Tract. Aur., cap. 3
35. Lumen de Lumine,p. 68.
36. Republic, book 7
37. Themistus relates how, when entering the mystic dome, the initiated is seized at first with solicitude and perplexity, unable to move a step forward, at a los to find the entrance to that road which is to lead him to the place which he desires; till the conductor laying open for him the vestibule, he enters, etc. See Warburton’s Divine Legation, the Extract, col. 1.

The adepts, many of them, are at some pains to denote the peculiar disposition and appearance of this guide, and the Chaldaic oracle promises that the mortal, approaching the fire, will have a light from divinity.
38 Nunc animis opus, Aenea, nunc pectore firmo. Aeneid, lib. 6:260
39. Aeneid 6:285
40. Through fire the divine oracles more plainly teach, that those strains are all finally obliterated that accede to the soul from generation and which conceal the immortal principle in unconscious oblivion for the sake of vivifying the mortal sense. But the inquisitive light once entering as a ferment combats meeting its proper pole, and conjointly kindling with it, absorbs, transmutes, and occultates the surrounding medium into its own abyssal life. See. Tract. Aureus, cap. 4., and Eccles. 4:28; 1 Kings 19:11-12.
41. Milton’s paradise Lost, 1:676
42. Divine Legation 1:342
43. Eccles. 1:20; 4:17, 18, 28
44. Hermes, Tract. Aur., cap. 2; Ripley Revived, 5th Gate
45. Aux. to Intell., sect. 1, 8, 9
46. Oracula Chaldaica
47. Oracula Chaldaica
48. Euripides in Bacchis
49. Apuleius Metam., Book 11
50. Oracula Chaldaica, infine
51. Asiatic Researches, vol. 1, p.241
52. Deuteronomy 4:15; Zohar, part 2
53. Proclus on the Theology of Plato, Vol. 1, Book 3, Chap. 18
54. On the God of Socrates, in int.
55. Epistle 7; Taylor, vol. 5
56. The Cratylus, and in Timaeus
57. Porphyry’s Hymn to Plotinus, Select Works, Preface
58. See Fludd’s Mosaica,circa medio
59.Anima Maia; Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis
60. St. John, cap.1
61. Sepher Jezirah, in fine
62. Idem., Liber de Creatione, Authore Abraham, cap. 1

ÆTZI ~ The Lost Word (John 1:1, &c.):


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