Mary Anne ATWOOD
Hermetic Philosophy & Alchemy:
A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery
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
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
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
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
A More Esoteric Consideration of the Hermetic Art & Its Mysteries
Of the True Subject of the Hermetic Art, & its Concealed Root
Opus vobuscum et apud est, quod intus arripens et permanens in terra vel in mare habere potes. Tractatus Aureus, cap. 1
Hitherto we have regarded this mystic labyrinth of Alchemy from without, considering the superficial scheme only; before we enter, it may be well to offer the consenting reader our clue, lest, observing merely our indirect and sudden outset, he suppose the way mistaken, and losing faith accordingly, should decline to pass with us further to the end.
For the paths through which we would conduct him are dark, intricate, lonely, and in a measure fearful; far receding, and out of reach of this outer daylight, with all its corporeal witnesses and scenes. Nor has the way become smoother from beings so long a while untrodden. We shall have to thread many windings, to pass round and through thick tangles of doubt and overgrown prejudice, which time has accumulated and thrown up together at the gates; before we can hope to enter the sanctuary of Minerva, much less behold the sacred light which burns there before her pure presence for ever, refulgent and still.
No modern art or chemistry, notwithstanding all its surreptitious claims, has any thing in common to do with Alchemy, beyond the borrowed terms, which were made use of in continuance chiefly to veil the latter; not from any real relation, either of matter, method, or practical result. For though aqua fortis and aqua regia seem to dissolve metals, and many salts be found useful in analysis, and fire for the tearing in pieces of bodies; yet nothing vitally alternative is achieved, unless the vital force be present and in action. But modern art drives out, in fact, the very nature which the ancients prized; distilling and dissecting superficies, harassing forever, without the more evolving any true cause, just because their notion of experience and method of experimenting are superficial and essentially atheistic.
The pseudo-Alchemists dreamed of gold, and impossible transformations, and worked with sulfur, mercury, and salt of the mines, torturing all species, dead and living, in vain, without rightly divining the true Identity of nature; the means they employed were from literal readings of receipts; they had no theory whereby to direct their research, and making trial of nature; as if she were a thing of chance, by chance, found nothing. Some few, of superior imagination to these, who had glimpses of the Universal Subject, endeavored to draw light into focus of their vessels, to compress and entice the ether by mangetical disposition and attractions of various kinds; but their hopes were too vaguely based, there was no wisdom in their magistery, being ignorant of that internal fire and vessel of the adepts, so essential to the accomplishment of the Hermetic work. For how hardly should they divine without instruction, or interpret the dark hieroglyphic seal?
It is declared, in the ancient book of Tobit, to be honorable to reveal the works of the Lord; but good t keep close the secret of a king; and old adepts, as if emulous of the sacred ordinance, whilst they display all the grandeur and abundant riches of his monarchy, make little or no mention of the king at all. And whilst the light has remained so long under the bushel of ignorance, with the Divine Wisdom under the bark of the Law, it is deplorable to think how many worthy and truth-loving intellects have languished and perished for lack of knowledge; knowledge too that is attainable, since it has been attained. For their few sakes, we now write therefore, and feel emboldened to hazard evidence of the forbidden truth; and without, we trust, transgressing the spirit of the prophet’s advice, it may be allowed to lay open the regalia so far as we shall induce inquiry, and a more respectful consideration than heretofore.
The inquiries hitherto made by us, concerning the physical basis of the Hermetic Science, have helped to identify it with a matter now, at best, hypothetically conceived of only, since the means of proving it are unknown, and the obscure instructions of the ancients concerning the nature of their conceptive vehicle, has caused incalculable error and confusion; and though the says of gross credulity have passed away, and a more widespread education has helped to awaken the common sense of mankind to a perception of the improbable and ridiculous in most things, yet other obstacles supervene, as great, if not more obnoxious to the pursuit of causal science. The human mind, indeed, has been so long unaccustomed truly to know anything, or even think of, much less investigate, its own intrinsical phenomena, that to speak of them at the present time may subject us to every imputation of error and presumption. And why a barren period has supervened; and man has no longer any experience in the life of wisdom, nor yet surmises the virtue that is in him, to prove and magnify the Universal Source. Yet that was the foundation of the whole Hermetic magistery, whence it is said, that if the wise had not found a proper vessel in which to concoct it, the ethereal corner stone would never have been brought to light. This Hali declares and Morien, and Albert, saying, that the place is the principle also of the supernatural generation; and Hermes, vas philosophorum est aqua eorum; but they do not openly reveal either, as Maria concludes in her admonition, --- Philosophers have spoken sufficiently of all that is necessary concerning the work, with exception of the vessel; which is a divine secret, hidden from idolators, and without this knowledge no one can attain to the magistery (1).
Thus, it appears to have been a religious principle with the ancients, to withhold the means of proving their philosophy from an incapable and reckless world; and if by hazard, less prudent or envious than the rest, alluded openly in his writings wither to the concealed vessel or art of vital administration, his revealment was instantly annulled by false or weakening commentaries, or as quickly as possible withdrawn by means not less sure, because hidden from the world. Of the former expedient we have a notable example in Sendivogius, who, towards the conclusion of his treatises, referring to the honest Hermit Morien’s advice to King Calid, --- This matter, O king, is extracted from thee --- endeavors to draw attention off from it, by inveigling the reader into a doubt artfully raised about some gold found sticking between a dead man’s teeth (2). Such instances are not rare, and it has been found easy by such similar equivocations, without absolute denial, to protect from foolish and profane intrusion that living temple wherein alone the wise of all ages have been securely able to raise their rejected Corner Stone and Ens of Light.
When, however, the writings of Jacob Boehme appeared in Germany, some century and a half ago, the Alchemists who lived at that period, write as if they supposed their art could little longer remain a secret; a similar alarm had previously arisen amongst certain Rosicrucians about the books of Agrippa and Paracelsus’ disciples, and in both instances because those great theosophists spoke openly, applying the practice of Alchemy to human life; suggesting also, as did the latter, the method and medium of attraction. For, notwithstanding these, in common with the rest, teach that the Mercurial Spirit is everywhere, and to be found in all things according to the nature of each, yet they do not so much profess to have sought for it in many things, or that it may with equal advantage be drawn forth from all; since it is neither apt to become universal of its own accord, or in every Form of virtue sufficient for the Hermetic work. Therefore, they say, the best and noblest ought to be chosen to operate with, unless the searcher proposes to waste labor and ingenuity without obtaining his desired end. Besides, to search out the identity through all creatures and minerals, by way of experiment, would seem to be a matter of no small difficulty if we must need investigate each; but if one subject should be presented which contains all, and the comprehension of each subordinate form in a superior essence, then this one needs only to be investigated for the discovery of all. But the universal orb of the earth, adds the Moorish philosopher, contains not so great mysteries and excellences as Man reformed by God into his image; and he that desires the primacy amongst the students of nature, will nowhere find a greater or better reserve to obtain his desire than in himself, who is able to draw to himself the Central Salt of nature in abundance, and in his regenerate Wisdom possesseth all things, and with this light can unlock the most hidden and recluse mysteries of nature (3). As Agrippa, moreover, testifies, 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 it sown 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 man was said to be the express Image of God, seeing he contains the Universal Reason within himself, and has a corporeal similitude also with all, operation with all, and conversation with all. But he symbolizes with matter in a proper subject; with the elements in a fourfold body; with plants in a vegetable virtue; with animals in a sensitive faculty; with the heavens in an ethereal spirit and influx of the superior parts upon the inferior; with the angelical sphere in understanding and wisdom, and with God in all. He is preserved with God and the intelligences by faith and wisdom; with celestial things by reason and discourse; with all inferior things by sense and dominion; and acts with all, and has power on all, even on God Himself, continues the magician, by knowing and loving Him. And as God knoweth all things, seeing he has for an adequate object Being in general, or, as some say, Truth itself: neither is there anything found in man, nor any disposition in which something of divinity may not shine 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 man was said to be the express Image of God, seeing he contains the Universal Reason within himself, and has a corporeal similitude also with all, operation with all, and conversation with all. But he symbolizes with matter in a proper subject; with the elements in a fourfold body; with plants in a vegetable virtue; with animals in a sensitive faculty; with the heavens in an ethereal spirit and influx of the superior parts upon the inferior; with the angelical sphere in understanding and wisdom, and with God in all. He is preserved with God and the intelligences by faith and wisdom; with all celestial things by reason and discourse; with all inferior things by sense and dominion; and acts with all, and has power on all, even on God Himself, continues the magician, by knoweth all things, so man, knowing Him, also can know all things, so man, knowing Him, also can know all things, seeing he has for an adequate object Being in general, or, as some say, Truth itself: neither is there anything found in man, not any disposition in which something of divinity may not shine forth; neither is there anything in God which may not also be represented in man. Whosoever, therefore, shall know himself, shall know all things in himself; but especially he shall know God, according to whose image he was made; he shall known the world, the resemblance of which he beareth; he shall know all creatures with which in essence he symboliseth, and what comfort he can have and obtain from stones, plants, animals, elements; form spirits, angels, and everything; and how all things may be fitted for all things, in their time, place, order, measure, proportion, and harmony; even how he can draw and bring them to himself as a loadstone, iron (4).
And this the adept, Sendivogius, moreover declares: That nature, having her proper light, is by the shadowy body of sense, hidden from our eyes; but if, says he, the light of nature doth enlighten any one, presently the cloud is taken away from before his eyes, and without any let, he can behold the point of our lodestone, answering to each center of the beams (viz. of the sun and moon philosophical) for so far doth the light of nature penetrate and discover inward things; the body of man is a shadow of the seed of nature; and as man’s body is covered with a garment, so is man’s nature covered with the body. Man was created of the earth, and lives by virtue of the air; for there is in the air a secret food of life, whose invisible congealed spirit is better than the whole world. Oh, holy and wonderful nature! Which knowest how to produce wonderful fruits by water, out of the earth and from the air to give them life! The eyes of the wise look upon nature otherwise than the eyes of common men. The most high Creator, having been willing to manifest all natural things to man, hath even showed us that celestial things themselves were naturally made; by which his absolute power and wisdom might be so much the better known; all which things the philosophers in the light of nature, as in a looking-glass, have a clear sight of; for which cause they esteemed this art of Alchemy, viz., not so much out of covetousness for gold or silver, but for the knowledge’s sake; not only of all natural things, but also of the power of the Creator. But they are willing to speak of these things sparingly only, and figuratively, lest those divine mysteries, by which nature is illustrated, should be discovered to the unworthy; which thou, if thou knowest how to know thyself, and art not of a stiff neck, mayest easily comprehend, who art created after the likeness of the great world, yea after the image of God. Thou hast in thy body the anatomy of the whole world, and all thy members answer to some celestials; let, therefore, the searcher of this Sacred Science know that the soul in man, the lesser world or microcosm, substituting the place of its center, 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 sol, by which man differs from other animals and 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 in this respect, it differs from the life of other creatures which have only spirit and not the soul of Deity (5).
Such are the distinctive assertions of one esteemed an adept by his contemporaries, and who professes to ground them also on his own manual experience in the proto-chemistry of Hermes. And, whether they be entirely credited or not, these may help to elucidate the words of Trismegistus, where, in the first chapter of the Golden Treatise, he says, --- that the work is both in us and about us; and that the whole mystery is comprehended in the hidden elements of his Wisdom (6). And Geber, in the same sense, where he declares that he who in himself knows no natural principles, is very remote from this sacred science, because he has not the true root in him whereon to base his labor and intention (7). Observe, therefore, and take heed, says Basil, that all metals and minerals have one root from whence their descent is; he that knows that rightly needs not destroy metals in order to extract the spirit from one, the sulfur from another, or salt from another; for there is a nearer place yet in which these three, viz., the mercury, slat and sulfur --- spirit, body and soul --- lie hid together in one thing, well known, and whence they may with great praise be gotten. He that knows exactly this golden seed or magnet, and searcheth thoroughly into its properties, he hath the true root of life, and may attain to that which his heart longs for; wherefore I intreat, continues the monk, all true lovers of mineral science, and sons of art, diligently to inquire after this metallic seed, or root, and be assured that it is not an idle chimera or dream, but a real and certain truth (8).
It was from such an internal intimacy, and central searching of the mystery, that the Paracelsian Crollius tells us he came to know that the same light and mineral vapor, which produces gold within the bowels of the earth is also in man, and that the same is the generating spirit of all creatures (9). And Albertus Magnus, in his book of Minerals, after asserting that gold may be found everywhere, in the final analysis of every natural thing, concludes by showing that the highest mineral virtue nevertheless resides in man; for fire, which is the true aurific principle in the life of all, burns more than all glorious in him erect. --- Our Mercury is philosophic, fiery, vital --- which may be mixed with all metals and again be separated from them; it is prepared in the innermost chamber of life, and there it is coagulated, as the Hermetic phrase runs, and where metals grow where they may be found (10).
Remember how man, ys most noble creature
In Erth’s composycion that ever God wrought,
In whom are the fowre elements proportioned by nature,
A naturall mercuryalyte which cost right nought,
Out of hy myner by arte yt most be brought;
For our mettalls be nought ells but miners too,
Of our Soon and Moone, wyse Reymond seyd so (11).
And though the philosophers have chosen to say little about it, on account of the shortness of this work, as Maria says, yet they themselves found out these hidden elements, and themselves increased them. And thou, oh, Man, cries the Arabian Aliphili, even thou art he who through the breath and power of the water and earth in thyself, conjoinest the elements and makest them one; and thyself not knowing what a treasure thou hast hidden in thee, from the coagulation and consent of these powers, producest an essence, called, by us, the expert, the great and miraculous mystery of the world; that is the true fiery water. --- Eschva mayim, Erascha mayim, yea, it surmounts in its power, the fire, air, earth and water; for it dissolves radically, incrudates even the mature, constant, and very fixed, fiery and abiding mass and matter of gold, and reduces it into a fit black earth, like to black spittle; wherein we find a water and the true salt destitute of all odor, vehemency, and corrosive nature of the fire: there is nothing in the whole world besides to be found which can do this; to which nothing is shut; and though it is a precious thing, more precious than everything, yet the poor as well as the rich may have it in the same equal plenty. The wise men have sought this thing, and the wise men have found it (12).
And it behooves him, therefore, who would be introduced to this hidden Wisdom, says Hermes, to quit himself from the usurpations of vice, to be good and just and of a profound reason, ready at hand to help mankind; for these subtle chemical secrets may never be handled by the idle or vicious unbelievers of these matters in which they are only ignorant, who, being destitute of light, defile by an evil imagination the very Spirit that ought to be refined. --- Omne Aurum est aes, sed non omne aes est aurum: --- and the true physician, according to Crollius (whom Paracelsus called a natural divine) is true, sincere, intelligent, faithful: and being well exercised in the vital analysis of bodies, knows that there is no constant quality of any body which is not to be found in the salt, mercury, and sulfur thereof (13). And these three principles of attraction, repulsion, and circulation, the universal accord of life, are everywhere and in all.
Blood containeth the three things I have told,
And in his tincture hath nature of gold:
Without gold, no metal may shine bright;
Without blood no body hath light:
So doth the greater and less world still
Hold the circle according to God’s will.
Blood hath true proportion of th’ elements foure.
And of the three parts spoke of before;
For blood is the principle matter of each thing,
Which hath any manner of increasing.
The true blood to find without labour or cost,
Thou knowest where to have it, worthy wits be lost;
See out the noblest, as I said before,
And now of the Matter, I dare say no more (14).
Or, what more shall I say? (asks Morien, emphatically, discoursing with the Arabian monarch about the confection of the Stone, and after showing the distinctive supremacy of man in nature). The thing, O king, is extracted from thee, in the which mineral thou dost even exist; with thee it is found; by thee it is received; and when thou shalt have proved all by the love and delight in thee, it will increase; and thou wilt know that I have spoken an enduring truth (15).
Although few write so clearly to the purpose as those we have selected, yet the more modern class of adepts have in general left hints and suggestions to the same effect; they describe the life of man, as by their Art revealed, to be a pure, naked, and unmingled fire of infinite capability, differing from that of the prone creatures in form, educability, and capacity for melioration in itself. And though it might be supposed, according to the alleged diffusion of the Matter, that, if the Art of separating it were known, it might be taken anywhere (which in part also is true) yet we may consider the object was not simply to obtain the Matter or prove it only, but to improve, perfect, and bring the Causal light to manifestation. And in what our human circulatory system differs and occultly approximates, so that it can be made to comprehend all inferior existences, and supersede nature in her course, may be gathered from this philosophy; and may reasons are given why the most noble subject was chosen, and this only vessel for its elaboration. The foregoing evidence, however, without more defense at present, may help to lead on the inquiry to a more explicit ground.
Attraction is the first principle of motion in nature; this is generally admitted, but the origin of this universal attraction is occult and incomprehensible to the ordinary human understanding. Repulsion is the second principle, and a necessary consequence of the first by reaction. Circulation is the third principle, proceeding from the conflict of the former two.
All motion is derived from this threefold source in its reciprocal relations, which are diversified according to its qualifications with the matter. The attraction, repulsion and circulation in the sun and stars move the planets in their orbits; the same principle in each globe performs the rotation on its axis, and the satellites partake the same motion from their primaries. Every quantity of matter, solid, fluid, or gaseous, when separated from the rest by its quality or discontinuity, is possessed individually by the same principles, however infinite the variety of substances, natural or artificial, great or small; vegetable and animal forms and motions are no less evidences of these three principles than the heavenly and earthly bodies. Hence chemical affinity, called Elective Attraction, is ruled by the same laws; and it is found that when two matters unite, one is attractive and the other repulsive; when either attraction or repulsion predominates in a matter, the circulation is in ellipse; but when they are in equilibrium, a circle is produced. Repulsion, being produced in its origin by attraction, equals it, as reaction equals action: but in nature one principle is everywhere more latent or inert, or weaker than another; and there are degrees accordingly, in which either predominates in external manifestation; hence the different degrees of natural affinity for union. There are also degrees of strength, from harshness to mildness, and in the operation of the Three Principles, from the compactness of a hard rock to the loose adherence of the particles of a globule of mercury or dew, from explosion to expansion, and from a violent whirling motion to a gentle evolution. But the medium is always in the circulation produced from the action and reaction of centrifugal and centripetal forces, and the equality of these forms a circle, as was before observed, and which labors to harmonize the conflict of these two, and will succeed if the matter be duly qualified for it.
But, according to the Alchemists, there is but One Matter truly qualifiable or capable of qualifying matter to be harmonized in this way, since nature has fallen off from her original balance, and the wheel of human life turns forth, deviating from its axis, into a line which terminated finally in dissolution; which nothing but their Antimonial Spirit rectified by Art, being in bright lines of equal attraction and repulsion, as it were a perfect magnet in a star-like circle of irradiated circulation, can contrariate or withstand (16).
And the agent in the preparation of this spirit, continues Bohme, is the Invisible Mercury, and no process can finally fail where the invisible Universal Mercury, or spiritual air of Antimony, is present, condensed in its proper vehicle in any of the degrees of permanency; and the Principle of its operation consists in the power of harmonizing the three discordant principles of Attraction, Repulsion, and Circulation (17); and this is the vital spirit of the arterial blood, where the universal principles are in their natural generation unequally composed: the repulsive force so far predominating over the interior attraction, that the total circulatory life is expulsive, and drawn without to a debilitated consciousness away from its First Cause. Which inverse order of relationship and vital ignorance it is the object of the Hermetic art to remedy, and, by occultation of the opposive principle, to restore the true rector to his original rule. Sanquinem urinamque pariter dat nobis natura, et ab horum natura salem dat Pyrotechnia, quem circulat ares in salem Paracelsi. Hoc addam: sanquinis salem per urinaceum fermentum sic transmutari debere, ut ultiman vitam amittat, mediamque servet, salsedinemque retineat (18).
Si fixum solvas faciasque volare solutum
Et volucrem figas, faciunt tutum
Sove, Coagula, Fige.
This know, therefore, says Hermes, that except thou understandeth how to mortify and induce generation, to vivify the spirit, to cleanse and introduce light, until they fight and contend with each other, and grow white and freed form their defilements, rising, as it were, from blackness and darkness, thou knowest nothing, nor canst perform anything; but if thou knowest this, thou shalt be of a great dignity (19). All which our modern exponent, further illustrating the Hermetic process, confirms. For, in three months circulation, says he, by digestion, the powder becomes black, the opposition of attraction and repulsion ceases (in the vital spirit), and the attraction of the fixed which produced the repulsion of the volatile, is slain by the circulation which also dies itself, and all three enter into rest. Then there is no more compression or expansion, ascent or descent, but the action and reaction have, by the equilibriate radiation of forces and the subtlety of the spirit, formed a circulation which has consumed all discordant opposites, and sunk down black and motionless. And thus the head of Hermes’ crow is said to be in the beginning of this work; that which at first was fixed, viz., the sentient medium, is dissolved, and by the same process more profoundly operating, the original evil is made manifest in the matter to be renewed, and hence the principle of amendment and rectification also will appear, and on either side it is a signal of Art.
The same Three Principles gradually assume a new life, continues Boehme, infinitely more powerful in virtue, but without any violent contest, and in three months farther, mild action of the principles in harmony have produced a brilliant whiteness in the matter, which in three months more become a brilliant yellow, red, or purpling tincture: --- Approach, ye sons of Wisdom, and rejoice; let us now rejoice together, for the reign of sin is finished, and the king doth rule, and now he is invested wit the red garment, and now the scarlet color is put on (20).
That was the process of working with the Vital Spirit, so often reiterated by Hermes, Democritus, and the rest before cited, which also is many times passed through for the practical accomplishment. But every other matter labors for this perfection in vain; it can only attain to combustion, heat, and temporary light, and the consumption of the common elements in their analysis is a separation into gas and ashes; but this mystical nature revives, fortified from every successive dissolution, renewing its Whole resolutely from either extreme by union. This Spirit is so full of life, says the adept, that if the process fails in any stage, an addition of the same will renew it. The white or red powder is increased tenfold in strength and quantity by each digestion of it with fresh i, wet with gas water, or oil of this antimony, and each digestion is made in tenfold shorter time than the preceding from a week to a few hours. For this gold is endued with a magnetical virtue, which by the inspissate fulgor of its tincture, draws the divine increase after it; in which nature expends all her forces, but leaves the victory to Art, which by graduation to the full height, adds to the natural effulgence a supernatural light; for what else but light should multiply? Whence it has been called likewise the terrestrial or Microcosmic Sun, the triumphal Chariot of Antimony turned swift upon the current wheel of life; and this is the Stone of Fire seen in bright lines, of equal attraction and repulsion, when made manifest, as it were, an armed magnet included and circulating in a perpetual heaven (21). Know, therefore, and consider, says Basil Valentine, that this true tincture of Antimony, which is the medicine of men and metals, is not made of crude melted antimony, such as the apothecaries and merchants sell, but is extracted from the true mineral, as it is taken from the mountains; and how that extraction should be made, is a principal secret in which the whole art of Alchemy consists. Health, riches, and honor attend him who rightly attains it. --- Lapis noster inter duos monticulos nascitur; in te et in me at in nostri similibus latet (22). And when the mechanical part of the Three Principles passes into the hands of its proper manufacturers equally and generally in all countries, concludes Boehme, then will the school of adepts come out from this captivity, and will find their proper level as true physicians for the body and soul, dispensing the leaves of life for the healing of the nations. But now the Seal of God lieth before it, to conceal the true ground, unless a man knew for certain that it would not be misused; for there is no power to obtain, no art or skill availeth, unless one intrust another with somewhat (as Hermes and Arnold bear witness); yet the Work is easy and simple, but the wisdom therein is great and the greatest mystery (23).
The greatest mystery of all is in Existence, and the only mystery; and as fire and light are one and everywhere perceived after the same manner, so is life in every particular the same inscrutable Identity through all. Or does a vast and filled creation hang before our eyes, and we think it to be without a foundation? Do we ourselves exist and consciously breathe, denying a mystery; or rather, admitting this, does anyone doubt that it is discoverable? Does not everything imply a necessary cause, and is not each sustained still living in the same? And is it not absurd to suppose that we are entirely depending on externals, or that being in part self-dependent, we are so far depending on nothing? If, therefore, we contain within us a proper principle of being, why should not this, thus proximate, be known? Behold, says the apostle, He is not far off from every one of us; for in Him we live, and move, and have our being, --- And again, to those forgetful Athenians, --- God made man to the end that he should seek the Lord, if haply he might feel after him he should seek the Lord, if haply he might feel after him and find him (24). And is not this a promise worth the certifying, an end worthy to be sought out, to feel and know God? Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you; yet it remains hidden still: and that Philalethean Welshman, Vaughan, indeed advises that we give ourselves no trouble about these mysteries, or attempt to dabble in the subtle philosophy of Wisdom, until we have a knowledge of the Protochemic Artifice; for that by means of this, and this only, the true foundation is discoverable, and without it nothing can be intrinsically understood. It were a foolish presumption, he observes, if a lapidary should undertake to state the value or luster of a jewel that is shut up, before he opens the cabinet; yet men will presume to judge of invisible celestial things, which are shut up within the closet of matter, and all the while perusing the outside which is the crust of nature. But advise them to use their hands and not their fancies, and to change their abstractions into extractions; for verily as long as they lick the shell after their fashion, and pierce not experimentally into the center of things, they can do no otherwise than they have done; they cannot know things intrinsically, but only describe them by their outward effects and motions, which are subject and obvious to every common eye. Let them consider, therefore, that there is in nature a certain Spirit which applies himself to the matter, and actuates in every generation; that there is also a passive intrinsical principle where he is more immediately resident than in the rest, and by mediation of which he communicates with the more gross material parts. For there is in nature a certain chain or subordinate propinquity of complexions between visibles and invisibles, and this is it by which the superior spiritual essences descend and converse here below with the matter. But, he continues, have a care lest you misconceive me. I speak not in this place of the divine spirit, but I speak of a certain Art by which a Particular Spirit may be united to the Universal; and nature by consequence be strangely exalted and multiplied (25). And Agrippa speaks yet more specifically to this point, where, in the third book of his Occult Philosophy, he declares (calling Apuleius also to witness) that by a certain mysterious recreation and appeasing, the human mind, especially that which is simple and pure, may be converted and laid asleep from its present life so utterly as to be brought into its divine nature, and become enlightened with the divine light, and withal receive the virtue of some wonderful effects (26).
Both these passages are in allusion to the art of Alchemy; and this, persists Agrippa, is that which I would have you know; because in us is the Operator of all wonderful effects; who know how to discern and to effect, and that without any sin or offense to God, whatsoever the monstrous mathematicians, the prodigious magicians, the envious alchemists, and bewitching necromancers can do by spirits, in us, I say, is the Operator of miracles.
Not the bright stars of the skie, nor flames of hell,
But the Spirit begetting all doth in us dwell (27).
How many earnest and curious books there have been written relative to the powers of magic and transformations by spells, talismans, and circumstantial conjurations of all sorts, which, taken according to the letter, are ridiculous without the key. But the records of Alchemy are, above all, calculated to mislead those who have gone abroad thoughtlessly seeking for that perfection which was to be found only by experimentally seeking at home within themselves.
Quid mirum noscere mundum
Si possunt hominess, quibus est et mundus in ipsis
Exemplumque Dei quisque est in imagine parva? (28).
Man then, shall we conclude at length, is the true laboratory of the Hermetic art; his life the subject, the grand distillatory, the thing distilling and the thing distilled, and Self-Knowledge to be at the root of all Alchemical tradition? Or, is any one disappointed at such a conclusion, imagining difficulties, or that the science is impracticable because it is humanly based? --- Or some may possibly think the pursuit dangerous, or inexpedient, or unprofitable, scientific investigation having been so long and successfully carried on in every adverse direction? Behold we invite not the unwilling, nor will these studies be found to reward the sordid seeker after riches or gold only; such may find better employ and better emolument from the abundant offering of the precious metal upon the earth, nor do we anticipate that many will in the present day be attracted to our goal.
Yet, notwithstanding so much skepticism and the slur which ignorance has cast now for centuries upon the every early creed and philosophy, modern discoveries tend evermore to reprove the same; identifying light, as the common vital sustenant, to be in motive accord throughout the human circulatory system with the planetary spheres and harmonious dispositions of the occult medium in space; and as human physiology advances with the other sciences in unison, the notion of out natural correspondency enlarges, proving things more and more minutely congruous, until at length, the conscious relationship would seem to be almost only wanting to confirm the ancient tradition and lead into its full faith. Yet on no ground with which we are now actually acquainted could it be proved that man is a perfect microcosm, wherein, as it was said, the great world and all its creatures might be summarily discerned: we have no evidence of any such thing; our affinities with external nature are bounded in sense, and our knowledge of her integral operations is proportionately defective. All that we do know is learned by observation, and we should be hardly induced, from anything we are commonly conversant with, to conclude that Self-Knowledge would be a way to the knowledge of the Universal Nature. Yet this was taught and believed formerly, not either as it were an arbitrary conceit, but as a truth understood and proved beyond speculation.
It may be well to observe, however, and lest misunderstanding should at all arise in this respect, that it is not so much with reference to physical particulars, either to the perfection of his bodily constitution, or because he is composed of the four elements, that man was formerly distinguished; for these other animals and vegetables even partake, and often in a superior degree: but it was rather on account of a Divine Reason, on occult principle of Causal Efficience, said to be originally resident in his life, that man was made to rank so high in the cabalistic scriptures and schools of antique experience. And here we remark that the outer body, mentioned indeed, yet as amongst the last of things accordant; nevertheless we remark the outer body, mentioned indeed, yet as amongst the last of things accordant; nevertheless it is nearly all we are now able to observe; as, of the rest, the Universal Reason so magnified and its ethereal vehicle, very meager evidence is afforded to the senses or this life. Yet man, say they, is demonstrated to be a compendium of the whole created nature, and was generated to become wise and have a dominion over the whole of things; having within him, besides those faculties which he exerts ordinarily and by which he judges and contemplates sensible phenomena, the germ of a higher faculty or Wisdom, which, when revealed and set alone, all the forms of things and hidden springs of nature become intuitively known and are implied essentially. This Being, moreover, or Faculty of Wisdom, is reputed so to subsist with reference to nature as her substratal source, that it works magically withal, discovering latent properties as a principle, governing and supplying all dependent existence; and of this they speak magisterially, as if in alliance they had known the Omniscient Nature and, in their own illumined understanding, the structure of the universe.
Now if it be true that such an experience was ever granted to man on earth, it is now either wholly departed or the conditions are estranged. We can but with difficulty imagine, much less are we able to believe, ourselves capable of enjoying that free perspicacity of thought in universal consciousness which is cognizant by rapport with essential being. Man from his birth employs sense prior to reflection, and all our knowledge begins in this life with sensible observation; most persons pass on well contented with such evidence as legitimate, or, indeed, possible objects of knowledge. But some few there have been in all ages, exceptions to the multitude, intellects in whom the standard of reality has been too far unfolded to suffer them to yield implicitly to the conclusions of sense. It is not those who have studied the philosophy of the ancients that have denounced it as chimerical; our metaphysicians, without exception amongst those deserving the appellation, and who aspired after the same convictive truth, have lamented the inadequacy of natural reason, at the same time that they recognized the supremacy of its Law as measuring and determining sensible particulars; but they have not been able to redeem it from dependency on these; for every attempt of the unassisted reason terminates negatively, as the Subject Identity slides evermore behind the retardant mind; it is only able at best, therefore, to maintain a counter ground, whereby to prove the shifting evidence of its own and other earthly phenomena.
But although satisfaction is thus denied to modern inquiry, and philosophers have disputed about the conditions and difficulty of the Absolute ground, yet are there none found, even in latter times, so presumptuous as to deny the possibility, seeing it thus doubly implied, no less in the testimony of the highest reason than of tradition: and so they have honored the ancients afar off either in despair or admiration of their Wisdom, unable themselves to break the enchantment which isolates the reflective faculty, and disables it in the inquiry after that Fontal Nature which, by a necessary criterion, it craves.
For we may observe, that the evidence of reason, even in common life, is irresistible, or, more exactly to speak, intuition is the evidence and end of every rational proof. We believe in the phenomenon of existence spontaneously, but in a power of antecedents to produce their effects necessarily; in the idea of time, eternity is implied; with bound, infinity; as the unit is included in each dependent of a numerical series, and the mathematics have their evidence in intellectual assent; nor do we ever question the validity of the Law, which thus abstractedly concludes within us, though our inferences from external facts are for ever varying, and perpetually at fault.
Locke, discoursing upon the intrinsic superiority of the Intellectual Law in his Essay, observes that Intuitive faith is certain beyond all doubt, and needs no proof beyond itself, nor can have any, this being the highest of all human certainty. And it is this very truth, that a no less eminent French philosopher, Victor Cousin, has successfully employed within these few years, to shake the sensual system of Locke and Condillac to its foundation (29). And this subsistence of Universals in the human mind deserves to be profoundly considered by all who are interested in the pursuit of truth; for it includes a promise far beyond itself and stable proof of another subsistence however consciously unknown. Thus, if ordinary conviction is not attained by an assurance of reason to itself, and if, in the discovery of and assent to reason to itself, and if, in the discovery of and assent to universal propositions, there is no use of the discursive faculty or of external facts to witness; if, in short, we really know anything of self-evident intellectual necessity, independent of sensible persuasion, then does it not follow, there is a higher evidence of truth than the senses afford, and a superstantial nature of things implied which, though now latent and succeeding in order of time, is first in thought absolutely, and in the circular progression of nature may be so practically manifested at last? Aristotle compares the subsistence of Universals in the natural understanding to colors, since these require the splendor of the sun to discover their beauty, as do those the inspiring afflux of their frontal illumination: therefore, too, he denominates human reason, intellect in capacity, both on account of its subordination to essential intellect, and because it is from a new awakening, a divine recreation, as it were, that it conceives the full perfection of a life in accordance with its won intelligible beauty, goodness, and truth.
Thus strictly regarding the Intellectual Law, as it proves and orders inquiry in common life, we have an image, as it were, an embryo conception have and image, as it were, an embryo conception of that Archetypal Wisdom which the ancients celebrated as the occult essence of that Law. And here we remark the grand divergence between modern and ancient metaphysics: that same Law which the former recognizes but as an abstract boundary of thought only, having its object in sensibles, the latter proclaims absolutely to be the catholic subject of the great efficient force of nature, as known also, and proved in the human conscience, when this is purified and passed back into contacting experience with its source. And this was Wisdom, Intellect, Divination; and the true man, according to Plato and Aristotelians, is this Intellect; for the essence of everything is the summit of its nature. And as man is the summit of this sublunary creation, and reason is the highest faculty with which he is here endowed, should not this probably be the next in progress to make manifest the alleged divinity of his first source?
Lest doubt should still lurk, however, about such a divinity, and whether the notion is rightly conceived according to the teaching of the best philosophers, it may be well to bring them forward here, speaking for themselves.
Thus Aristotle, for first example, since he will not be rated altogether as an enthusiast, in the beginning of his Metaphysics, declares Wisdom to the highest science; adding that a wise man possesses a science of all things in intellect; not indeed derived from sensible particulars, but according to that which is universal and absolute in himself (30). In the Nichomachean Ethics, too, after showing Intellect to be that power of the soul by which we know and prove things demonstratively, he further distinguishes Wisdom as the true being of that Intellect; the science and intellection of things most honorable by nature; that though this par this small in bulk, yet it abounds in energy, and as much exceeds the composite nature of man in power as in this energy, which is the most delectable of all energies (31). And throughout the Metaphysics, but more especially in the Twelfth Book, he demonstrates the necessary subsistence of incorporeal (i.e., essential) being, and its efficacy in operation when by the help of certain mystical exercises and preparations, the human Understanding Medium is made to pass into contact with its Antecedent Cause; that then it becomes to be a life in energy, and enjoys the most exalted and excellent faculty of discernment, which was before occult, and the knowledge of which is inexpressibly blessed, and not to be conceived of by such as are not duly initiated and capable of this deification. --- True Intellect, he says, is that which is essentially the most essential of that which is most essential; and it becomes intelligible by contact and intellection; and that Intellect is the same with the intelligible, the understanding recipient of the intelligible essence (32). Which essence, too, is Wisdom, and the faculty we are discussing. But Plato yet more plainly declares that to know oneself is Wisdom and the highest virtue of the soul; for the soul rightly entering into herself will behold all other things, and Deity itself; as verging to her own union and to the center of all life, laying aside multitude and the variety of all manifold powers which she contains, she ascends to the highest watchtower of beings (33). According to Socrates, also, in the Republic, we read that Wisdom is generative of truth and intellect; and in the Theaetus Wisdom is defined to be that which gives perfection to things imperfect, and calls forth the latent Intellections of the soul --- and again, by Diotima, in the Banquet, that mind which is become wise needs not to investigate any further (since it possesses the true Intelligible); that is to say, the proper object of intellectual inquiry in itself; and hence the doctrine of Wisdom according to Plato may be sufficiently obvious.
But Wisdom, says the Pythagorean Archytas, as much excels all the other faculties as sight does the other corporeal senses, or the sun the stars: and man was constituted to the end that he might contemplate the Reason of the whole nature, in order that, being himself the work of Wisdom, he might survey the Wisdom of all things, which exist. Wisdom is not conversant with a certain definite existing thing but simply with all things; and so subsists with reference to all that it is the province of it to know and contemplate the universal accidents of things and discover the Principles of all Being. Whoever therefore is able to analyze all the genera which are contained under one and the same principle and again to compose and connumerate them, he appears to be wise and to possess the most perfect veracity. Further still he will have discovered a beautiful place of survey, from which it will be possible to behold Divinity and all things that are in coordination with and successive to Him, subsisting separately and distinct from each other, Having likewise entered this most ample road, being impelled in a right direction by Intellect, and having arrived at the end of his course, he will have conjoined ends with beginnings, and will know that God who is the principle, middle, and end of all things which are accomplished according to justice and right reason (34).
Here again we have a faculty discussed which is far above ordinary reason, since this verges to sensibles and is dependent on them; but Wisdom implies the whole of life, being returned into its principle, and coming into the consciousness of a vision at once powerful and sublime. Thus Crito, of the same school: God so fashioned man as to comprehend the Good according to right reason, and gave him a sight called Intellect, which is capable of beholding God. For it is not possible without God to discern that which is best or most beautiful; nor without Intellect to see God. And every mortal nature is established (in this life) with a kindred privation of Intellect; this however is not deprived by God but by the essence of generation (35).
The term Intellect, as it is here taken in its highest sense, is synonymous with Wisdom, and bears the same relation to our Intellectual Law as does this to the reasoning faculty, being the self-evident antecedent and end of its inquiry, which, according to these philosophers, is God. Pythagoras himself defined Wisdom as the science of truth which is in all beings (36); and Iamblicus in his life of this Samian, speaking of Wisdom, says that it is truly a science which is conversant with the first and most beautiful objects (i.e., the Divine Exemplars), and these undecaying, possessing invariable sameness of subsistence; but the participation of which other things also may be called beautiful (37). Proclus, Porphyry, the graceful Plotinus, and others of the Neoplatonists, too numerous to mention, dilate on the same asserted ground; and there is, according to all these philosophers, a Principle of Universal Science latent in human life, real and efficacious though cognizable only under certain conditions which they specify, and wherein reason becomes also into the substantive experience of her Law.
This is that which the Egyptians, industrious searchers of Nature, proclaimed upon their temple’s front, that Man should know himself: and this advice was meant experimentally and ontologically, though modern fancy has slighted it and taken every ethnic fable and mythology in a profane sense. And here we are reminded of a difficulty in endeavoring to make these positions respecting the nature of true Being obvious and of drawing them into a form related to sensible intelligence. Every science is difficult to treat of to the uninitiated mind, and this kind of speculation more particularly is irrelevant to many and naturally abstruse. Those to whom nature has granted such a ray of experience in the inner life as would otherwise appear favorable to a more profound investigation, are often indifferent to the rational ground, and remain accordingly satisfied in the dreams and deluding visions of an included imagination; others more awakened to reason on the other hand, but in whom the spirit of inquiry is wholly drawn to externals, disregard as vain every proposition that does not immediately address the senses or pander to some apparent individual interest; even the most reflective and educated class have rare inducements in these days, or permission of leisure sufficient to prosecute studies of an abstract nature. But we have adverted to the independent evidence of Universals in the human intellect by way of introduction chiefly, not on their own account abstractly considered, or so much because the ancients rested their proofs of internal science thereon; but because, having once derived a rational ground of possibility, we may be better enabled to proceed with the tradition of the Hermetic mystery and more tangible effects.
The doctrine of the Hebrew Kabalists is one of absolute Idealism; the whole world was before their eyes as an efflux of Mind, an emanation of the great superstantial Law of Light; and that sublime commentary the Liber Zohar, beams with the revelation of the celestial prototype in humanity; and kindling into reminiscence the fire which burns covertly throughout Holy Writ, addresses the Pentateuch to the understanding of mankind.
These Rabbis explain that in pursuance of a certain arcane (though not wholly inexplicable) necessity, creation falls away always for the sake of individual manifestation, from the consciousness of its primal source; that the principle of reunion nevertheless abides in the generated life of individuals and will in process of time operate to a restitution and higher perfection than could have been accomplished if such a fall into this existence had not taken place. Treating of and interpreting as divine symbols, the relations of the Old Testament, they dignify vastly the view of the whole scheme; and placing reason over the head of authority, and inciting man to self-inquiry as the foundation and comprehending identity of every other, they unite in one beautiful system the Religion of Intellect with the Philosophy of Life.
But it is above all by the supreme position which they assign to man in the scale of creation that these Kabalists arrest attention. The Form of man, says the Rabbi Ben Jochai, contains all that is in the heaven and earth --- no form, no world, could exist before the human prototype; for all things subsist by and in it: without it there would be no world, and in this sense we are to understand these words, The Eternal has founded the earth upon his wisdom. But we must distinguish the true man from him who is here apparent, for the one could not exist without the other; on that form in man, which is the Celestial Prototype, rests the perfection of faith in all things, and it is in this respect that man is said to be the image of God (38). For there is a wide difference between the idols of the human imagination and the ideas of the divine mind, between man as he is here known, the individualized multiplication of a blind will, and tat Motive Reason which is his life. And all this would appear less extravagant, perhaps, and impractical, if, instead of measuring the surfaces of things, we were to consider principles; if, instead of separating our shrunken understanding to contemplate and compare with the structure of this vast universe, we were to reflect contrariwise upon that wonderful existence which we share in common with all and which is at the basis of every specifical living thing. For there is no reason why man, in that he exists and contains, therefore, within himself the total Cause of existence, should not, if the revelation only were allowed, perceive and understand all, in that all-continental All which is in himself. There is a freedom, and explanatory breadth, too, in these writers that does not bear the impress of mere fancy, with a solemn earnestness of style that breathes only from conviction. That we cannot easily apprehend the magnitude of their doctrine is no criterion in such a case and its objections fail before the inference of reason and supporting experience.
God dwells, says the Jew Philo, in the rational part of man as in a palace; the palace and temple of the great self-existent Deity is the intellectual portion of a man of Wisdom; the Deity could never find upon earth a more excellent temple than the rational part of man (39). And again, --- the Logos, by whom the world was framed, is the seal after the impression of which everything is made and is rendered the similitude and image of the perfect Word of God; and the soul of man is an impression of this seal of which the prototype and original characteristic is the everlasting Logos (40). And what is Wisdom according to the ancient Hermes? Even the good, the fair, and the blessed Eternity; look upon all things through it, and the world is subject to thy sight. For this Mind in men is God, and, therefore, are some men said to be divine, for there humanity is annexed to divinity (41); when it is moved into the catholic Intuition of its Source.
Such then was Wisdom, and that high Intelligible which it behooves man to search after the one theme and bulwark of ancient science, which no historical teaching or observance of the accidents of nature could realize or improve --- namely, the standard of truth in a rectified intellect. And philosophy was a desire of this kind, an appetition of reason for its antecedent light; and if we may believe these sublime enthusiasts, Intellect does not extend herself towards the intelligible Cause in vain. Quotation were endless, and enough may recur to the memory of those who do not yet despair of philosophy, or limit their faith to the slow evidence of the senses and double ignorance of these days.
Or, if any one should further doubt of this Wisdom, seeing she did not reveal herself in common arts and sciences of more recent human invention, and regard the whole as an abstract creature of the imagination, he will err from the ancient tradition, which makes Wisdom, however far removed from sensibles, to be no inessential thing; but an affirmative operative hypostasis, informing, invigorating, and sustaining all things; in the words of the Stagyrite before cited, --- It is essentially, the most essential of that which is most essential. --- But Solomon, better than all and most beautifully in his panegyric, describes her: Wisdom, says the wise king, is more moving than any motion, she passeth through all things by reason of her pureness. For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; therefore, can no defiled thing fall into her; for she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness. And, being but one, she can do all things, and, remaining in herself, she maketh all things new; and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God and prophets, for God loveth none but him that dwelleth with Wisdom; for she is more beautiful than the sun and above all the order of the stars; being compared with the light, she is found before it, for after this cometh night; but vice shall not prevail against Wisdom; and if riches be a possession to be desired in this life, what is richer than wisdom which worketh al things? For she is privy to the mysteries of the knowledge of God and a lover of His works (42).
Assuredly, then, is it not our duty and best interest to learn the way, and seek to know every condition of this proffered alliance, since we are not destitute either of rational ground or precedent, nor is this the only place in Scripture where we have a promise with Wisdom of more substantial fruits? But as we observe the outer man to be unbelieving by nature and unpromising for much discovery, with his senses and servile intellect all dark within, we leave him here to work with his own instruments on his own ground; there to calcine, weight, and measure circumferences, from the first to the last round of material possibility; perchance, then, when all has been tried and found wanting to his reason, extremes coalescing, we may meet again.
Meanwhile we, who look directly onward to penetrate the mystery, seek not at random any longer in the outer world where so many before have foundered, albeit extacting their life’s blood, and calling the mumial vapor and every element to their aid; but we look within, or rather, that we may learn how to do so, inquire of the wise ancients to direct us about the true method and conditions of Self-Knowledge. For it is this, no common trance or day-dream, or any fanatical vision of celestials, that we propose to scrutinize, but the true psychical experience, catholic, even as the basis of that Law by which we reason, fell, and are one, uniformly living and alike all.
It is into the substantiality of this and for its practical evolution that we must inquire, if we would discover the true Light of Alchemy; and the Alchemists, as we have seen, propose such a reducation of nature as shall discover this Latex without destroying her vehicle, but the modal life only; and profess that this has not alone been proved possible, but that man, by rationally conditionating, has succeeded in developing into action the Recreative Force. But the way they do not so clearly shew, or where nature may be addressed in order to the rejection of her superfluous forms; what was their immediate efficient? Whence and whereon did they direct their fire? These things, with the laboratory, its vessels and various apparatus, they have disguised, as we have already shown, and as a natural consequence, by an incurious world have been misapprehended and despised. For as Geber, with his usual point, observes, men have thought the confection of fold impossible, because they have not know the artificial destruction according to the course of nature; they have proved it to be of a strong composition, but of how strong a composition they have not proven.
And all this because they knew not the verity
Of altitude, latitude, and of profundity (43).
For how should they, who have never glanced even in imagination toward the Causal Truth, believe in any other than remote effects? The well out of which she is drawn is deep, and not therefore to be fathomed by the plummet of a shallow reason; he must ascend in thought who would, descending, hope to penetrate so far as to the superstantial experience of things. For there it is yet hidden, the true light shut up as in a prison, the fountain of Universal Nature separated off from human understanding by the external attraction of it through the gates of sense.
When the soul is situated in the body, says the philosopher, she departs from self-contemplation, and speaks of the concerns of an external life; but, becoming purified from the body, will recollect all those things, the remembrance of which she loses in the present life (44); and Plutarch, who was well initiated in these mysteries, says, the souls of men are not able to participate of the Divine nature whilst they are thus encompassed about with senses and passions, any further than by obscure glimmerings, and as it were, in comparison, a confused dream. But when they are freed from these impediments and removed into purer regions, which are neither discernible by the corporeal senses, nor liable to accidents of any kind, it is then that God becomes our leader --- upon Him they wholly depend, beholding without satiety, and still ardently longing after that beauty which it is impossible for man sufficiently to express or think --- that beauty which, according to the old mythology, Isis has so great an affection for, and which she is constantly in pursuit of, and from whose enjoyment every variety of good things with which the universe is filled, is replenished, and propagated (45). And again, in the opening of the same admirable treatise, he observes, that to desire and covet after the Truth is to aspire to be a partaker of the Divine Nature itself; and to profess that all our studies and inquiries are devoted to the acquisition of holiness; the end of which, as of all ceremonial rites and disciplines, was that the aspirant might be prepared and fitted for the attainment of the knowledge of the Supreme Mind, whom the Goddess exhorts them to search after. For this Reason is her temple wherein the Eternal Self-existent dwells, and may there be finally approached, but with due solemnity, and sanctity of life.
But Psellus, in his luminous commentary on the Chaldaic Oracles, further declares that there is no other means of strengthening the vehicle of the sold but by material Rites; and Plato, in the first Alcibiades, calls the magic of Zoroaster the service of the gods; and the use of this magic, in the words of the above Psellus, is as follows: --- To initiate or perfect the human soul by the power of materials here on earth; for the supreme faculty of the soul by the power of materials here on earth; for the supreme faculty of the soul cannot by its own guidance aspire to the sublimest institution, and to the comprehension of Divinity: but the work of Piety leads it by the hand of God, by illumination from thence.
Synesius, likewise, in his Treatise on Providence, bears witness to the efficacy of Divine Works; and the Emperor Julian, in those arguments of his preserved by Cyril, shows that without such assistance the Divine union is neither effected not rightly understood: and all the accounts we read of the Eleusian Mysteries, in addition to the witness of these philosophers, confirms that Wisdom was the offspring of a vital experiment into nature, by certain arts and media producing the central efficient into conscious being and effect. If you investigate rightly, says Archytas, discovery will be easy for you; but if you do not know how to investigate, discovery will be impossible.
It is the more to be regretted and wondered at, on account of the importance attached to this discovery, that the Initiated were so profoundly silent upon these means; since mankind in general would seem to have been precisely in this predicament, they have not known how to investigate; and were it not for these scattered innuendoes and acknowledgments of an Art, we might well continue in ignorance to despair of their hidden ground: at all events, seeing how far we fall short of the perception in this life; either believing, we might regard the ancients as beings superiorly endowed; or otherwise disbelieving, deny, as many have done, the validity of their assertions. Yet as the case now stands involved in mystery, will it not be unjust to do either? For, being ignorant of the method, how should we presume to test the truth of this philosophy? Equally, also, will it not be incurious to yield an implicit faith? Let us inquire now, therefore, if fortunately a ray of light be left to guide us, whether it be possible to approach to a recollection of this ancient experiment, that we may become better judges of its merits; and lest gaining nothing by a tacit assent, and proving nothing by mere skepticism, we should deny something, and bolt ourselves continuously out from the sanctuary of truth in nature.
And here we would engage the reader’s attention for a brief interval (weighing well the substance of philosophical assertion against modern pride an our growing indifference), to consider the ground of this Hermetic mystery, and whether there be still an entrance open, as there was once said to be, to the shut palaces of Mind. Let us descend into ourselves, and believe in ourselves if we be able, that that which we are is worthy of our investigation; and we may discover, as we proceed, by their traditional light unfolding it, that the Wisdom of the ancients was not the outward, adventitious acquisition or vain display which it has been supposed to be, but a very real, substantial, and attainable good.
A spontaneous revelation of truth, if it was ever indeed enjoyed at all without experimental research, after the Hebrews ceased; nor was it longer possible for all, nor at every time, to partake of the Divine communion. This, therefore, as the Platonic Successor remarks, our philanthropic lord and father, Jupiter, understanding, that we might not be deprived of all communication with the gods, has given us observation through Sacred Arts, by which we have at hand sufficient assistance (46).
Here, then, we take up our clue to weave onward as we proceed, unraveling the Mysteries by their traditional light. He objects encountering this research may, as we before said, be appalling to some, nugatory to others, and, at first view, too opposed we fear to the opinions of all; but if, by chance, a less oblivious soul or intellect, more allied than ordinary to antecedent realities, should find familiar scenes recur, thrilling into reminiscence, as of some long past life forgotten; let such a one believe, and his faith will not betray him, the road whereon we are journeying is towards his Native Land.
1. See Maria Practica --- in fine --- Artis Auriferae, vol. 2; Morieni de Trans. Metal. Interrog. Et Resp.
2. See New Light of Alchemy, concluding chapter.
3. Centrum Naturae Concentratum
4. Occult Philosophy, Book 3, chap. 36 and 46
5. New Light of Alchemy
6. Tract. Aur., cap. 1 and 2
7. Sum of Perf., Book 1
8. See the Stone of Fire, Kirchringius; Ed. Webster’s Hist. of Minerals, the Extract.
9. Crollius’ Philosophy Reformed
10. Tract. Aureus. Text et Scholium, cap.1
11. Ripley’s Admonition of Erroneous Experiments
12. Centrum Naturae Concentratum
13. Phil. Refor,; Tact. Aureaus, cap. 2
14. Theat. Chem. Brit.
15. De Transm. Metal. Artis Auriferae, vol. 1 end
16. See Jacob Boehme on the Generation of the Three Principles
17. Idem, see Phillips Lives of the Alchemists
18. Arcanum Liquaris Alkahest Resp. 876, 78
19. Tract. Aur., cap. 2
20. Tract. Aur., cap. 3
21. Auru ex se virtutem... Tractatus de Vero Sale, Nuysement.
22. Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, by Kirchringius, English edition; M. Dunstani Tract. Secret. In init.
23. See Boehme’s Epistles, and early part of the Forty Questions, and his Discourse of the Three Principles before referred to, containing passages to the same effect.
24. Act 17: 27, 28
25. Anima Magia Abscondita
26. Book 3, cap. 48
27. Epistle to Trithemius at the end
28. Manilius Astronomicon, lib. 10
29. Elements de Psycologie, etc., Paris 1836
30. Metaphysics, book 1, cap. 2
31. Ethics, Book 10, cap. 7
32. Metaphysics, Book 12, cap. 7
33. See the First Alcibiades, page 90; and Proclus on the Theology of Plato, lib. 1, cap. 3
34. See the Fragment given by Taylor in his Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagorus
35. Idem, page 248
36. Idem, chap. 29
37. See the Fragment in Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagorus by Taylor, chap 2
38. Zohar, part 1, fol. 191, recto; part 3:144,recto
39. De Praemiis et Poenis, vol. 2, p. 428; De Nobilitate, p. 437
40. De Profugis, vol. 1, p. 549, l. 49; De Plantatione Noe, p. 332, l. 31.
41. See the Divine Pymander
42. Wisdom of Solomon, chap. 7
43. Investig. of Perf., cap. 3; Russel’s Geber; Bloomfield’s Camp of Philosophy, v. 27
44. Plotinus’s Select Works; Taylor, page 387, etc.
45. De Iside et Osiride
46. See Iamblichus on the Mysteries; Taylors’ Notes at the end; the Greek extract from Julian’s Arguments.
ÆTZI ~ The Lost Word (John 1:1, &c.):