Home ~ Alchemy Index
Mary A. ATWOOD
Hermetic Philosophy and 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
Concerning the Laws and Vital Conditions of the Hermetic Experiment
A Further Analysis of the Initial Principle, and its Eduction into Light
Deus, cum solus fuisset in principio, creavit unam substantiam; hanc primam materiam nominamus. --- Mylius Phil. Reform., Pars. VI, Lib. 1.
The philosophy of the Kabalah, as delivered in the only genuine Hebrew remains and their commentaries, is eminently comprehensive and sublime; and these characteristics are mainly dependent on its very great simplicity. All things therein are psychically derived: and, according to the doctrine of an essential emanation, the whole physical universe is extended and corporified, as it were, by a multiplication of the indeficient unit into its parts, under the intelligible Law of its own proceeding Light. Into the Method of this Philosophy, or the many beautiful particulars arising out of its material, space does not allow us to enter; they who are desirous may conveniently examine for themselves, either in the Latin editions of Rosenroth (1); or to begin with, Franck’s very excellent history of the Kabalah, which contains, besides numerous translated passages from the Hebrew, commentaries and notes, that we have read with no less instruction than delight (2).
The Initial Principle, however, which we have been discussing, and to which it will be necessary to confine inquiry for the present, is in the Zohar designated by the name of Wisdom, or the Supreme Crown; that is to say, after it has become into manifest Being; but in the Beginning, for reasons metaphysically explicable, the divine hypostasis is distinguished by the epithet of Unknown, and described according to its negative absoluteness, in the sum of two or three paragraphs, as follows:
All things before they became manifested were concealed in the unknown and incomprehensible Infinite, and this subsistence, whence all proceeded, was but as an interrogation, an imperceptible sufficience, having neither mind, nor figure, nor self-comprehension, or Being, properly so called; but when the Unknown would manifest himself, he begins by producing a point; but, whilst the point of Light remains within subjective and inseparate, he is unknown, and as the Unity of things to be developed only by the separation of them in Himself: in this sense he is called the Ancient of Days, the White Head, the Old Man by excellence, the Mystery of Mysteries, Which is before all things --- whose emanation is All (3). And thus the hypostatic vision is more prominently delineated. He is, says the Rabbi Ben Jocahi, speaking of the same, the Mystery of Mysteries, and most unknown of the unknown; yet he has a form or idiom which belongs to him; but, under this form by which he is seen, he remains still unknown. His clothing is white, and his aspect that of a countenance unveiled... From his head he shakes a dew which awakens the dead, and brings them to new life; wherefore, it is written, Thy dew is the dew of light. It is this which nourishes the most exalted saints, the manna which descends into the field of sacred fruits; the aspect of this dew is white, as the diamond is white, the colour which contains all (4).
This white appearance of the primeval splendour in the abyss, is very constantly notified; thus we reading the Apocalypse, of the White Stone with the new name written upon it; and in the vision of the Son of Man, of the snowy whiteness of his glory, whose hair was like wool, and white as snow (5). And I beheld, says the prophet in Enoch, the Ancient of Days, whose head was like wool, etc. (6). But these, and all such revelations, will be esteemed fanciful or figurative, perhaps, or arbitrarily, since they are not commonly conceivable, and the worldly mind is shut out from the imagination even, of occult truth. They only who have entered experimentally within to know themselves, have been satisfactorily able to recognize the ground; and they only who are gifted with an approximately faith, to discriminate their universal testimony from amongst so many fanatical delusions, will be inclined, or able either, to advance to the contemplation of their proofs.
But to continue. As all colours in their prismatic unison are white, just so is the Universal Nature, described as appearing in the evolution of her Fontal Light; and Paracelsus gives it as a reason, that there should be a simple ground of all diversity without confusion whereon to recreate: --- Omnia in Dei manu alba sunt; is eas tingit ut vult: --- all things in the hand of God are white, says the Magian, He colours them according to His pleasure. Agreeably, the author of the Lucerna Salis writes: --- he matter will become white like a hoary man, whose aged complexion resembles ice; it will also whiten more afterwards, like silver. Govern your fire with a great deal of care, and afterwards you shall see that in your vessel your matter will become white as snow. Then is your elixir perfect as to the white work. This agrees with the descriptions of Arnold, Lully, Artephius, and the rest cited in the Theory, which, in the original verse, runs thus: ---
Acquiret canitiem viri senis,
Albicabitque fere ut argentums,
Summa dilignetia ignem rege
Videsbisque sequenter materiam in vitro
Albere omnino candore nivali
Et tum confectum est elixir ad album (7).
The same Sendivogius, in his New Light, call the Water of our Sea, the Water of Life, not wetting the hands; and believe me, he says, for I saw it with my eyes, and felt it --- that water was as white as snow (8). And Eireanaeus, but we will not enlarge; for is not this the Matter already defined so often by the old Alchemists, saying, it is no common water, but an unctuous mineral vapour, universally subsisting? Bodies, therefore, say they, are to be turned into such a vapour, and this vapour is the Stone known and proven in the Book of Life --- Sumatur lais in capitulis notus; --- Such is the subtle phrase of the Arabian; and this is the Matter everywhere alluded to, and so often denoted in the Mysteries; which in demoniacal forms is at first in vision made apparent, nor known until the eye of mind, regardant and purifying, meets its First source. For are we not all verily, "such stuff as dreams are made of"? Yet the discovery of it is no dream, if we may believe the experienced; but, on the contrary, every phantastic desire and imagination is alienated and merged in intellectual contact of the Thing itself, which is our Identity. This is the true Hermetic material, which is celebrated by all is disciples; that recommended by Orpheus to be taken in the cave of Mercury, and carried in both hands away; and this is the power borne by the Centaur Cheiron, the monster tutor of heroes, cloud-begotten, sprung from out of the nebulous impure ether, with a duplicate real, and promise of a more perfect life to come. The same in Silenus is satirically personified the most venerable preceptor of the God of Wine; and this is Pan, and the foundation of the great Saturnian Monarchy of the Freed Will, which was once circumscribed in Intellect, for the manifestation of its Light.
This same, the Arabians call Flos Salis Albi --- the Flower of White Salt, and thus the substant hypothesis is said very truly to be designated; and this is the white sand, Quellum, which Van Helmont speaks of as manifesting itself forth in a vivid vital soil, which spade or mattock never pierced (9). This is the true magic earth wherein is the recreative fire, even that "Land of Havilah, where good gold is"; and this fire binds the parts thereof spontaneously to himself, coagulates them, and stops their flux; and this salt is the Water that wets not the hands; and that identical Magnesia that was exhibited in the Mysteries; the White Island of Vishnu; the Lord of Radha; the White Paradise, which the author of the Round Towers, with an exclusiveness, pardonable for its enthusiasm, mistook for his Emerald Home (10).
The Platonists have declared true Being to be white, and all that Plato says, in Phaedo, about Tartarus is, according to Olympiodorus, to be understood ethically and physically: ethically, in that Tartarus is the place of the soul’s trial, where the balance of existence is struck, and imperfections are made manifest; physically, in that it is the wholeness of existence. And what is written about rivers and seas by Plato, which is ridiculous in an external sense, is to be psychically understood, as when he says that the taste and colour of these waters is according to the quality of the earth through which it flows; this also indicates, adds our exponent, that souls, in which reason does not preside as a charioteer, are changed according to the subject temperament of the body; but when reason has the dominion, the soul does not yield, but, contrariwise, assimilated herself to the Supreme virtue (11). And her first motion towards this from her ultimate artificial recessure is the true origin of matter, according to these philosophers, and the primary cause of all, when the generative virtue is drawn up into intellectual alliance with the medial life and light.
In the third book of Reuchlin, De Arte Cabalistica, we read, Nihil est in principio nisi Sapientia. --- Nothing is in the beginning but Wisdom, or Sapience. --- It is this which we are accustomed to call the Three Persons in Divinity, the which is an Absolute Essence, that, whilst it is retracted in the Abyss of darkness, and rests still and quiet, or, as they say, having respect to nothing, is for this cause termed by the Hebrews, Ain, i.e., to say, Nihil quoad nos; nothing or no entity as respects us. Because we, being affected with inability in the conception, do judge and imagine of those things which do not appear immediately as if they were not at all. But when it has showed itself forth to be somewhat indeed, and that it does really in the human apprehension exist, them, continues the Kabalist, is dark Aleph converted into light Aleph; as it is written, The night shineth as the day, the darkness and the light are all alike to Him: --- Tenebrae sunt ei sicut ipsa lux.
Si tu, Deus meus, illuminaveris me
Lux fiunt tenebrae meae.
So Paradise was opened in the Seer, and by that kindling of Divine enthusiasm in conjunction with its source, the soft lenient Light was created, which he celebrates, and whence all things are said to emerge, and whither they return; but without our cognizance, who are chained to these exterior surfaces, content with the bare tradition of a life to come. But in that Place, whither he was snatched up, the prophet describes them, and what he beheld of the Radical Essence, and the manifold glories of that mystical Adamic Soil. And this I beheld, says he, the secret of Heaven and of Paradise according to its divisions, and there my eyes beheld the secrets of thunder and lightning, and the secrets of the winds, how they are distributed as they blow over the earth. The secret of the winds and of the clouds; there I perceived the place whence they issues forth, and I became saturated with the dust of the earth. There I saw the wooden receptacles (the vegetable or medial life) out of which the winds became separated, and the receptacles of the snow, and the cloud itself which continued over the earth before the creation of the world (12).
This nebulous apparition of the Catholic Embryo before its birth, some modern Kabalists have explained to be an absolute concentration of Divinity within its original identity; which, as a cloud before the falling shower, gives birth to the primitive Ether, which is the pure attracting vacuum, or understanding whereby the central efficient is drawn forth to will and operation. Dionysius styles it caligo divina, because, as he says, it is obscure and humanly incomprehensible, though visible indeed. The author of the Lumen de Lumine calls it, from the Kabalists, Tenebrae activae, and describes it as beneath all degrees of sense and imagination --- a certain horrible, inexpressible chasm (13).
Non-being, which nor mind can see
Nor speech reveal; since, as of Being void,
‘Tis not the object of the mental eye;
But there thy intellectual notions check
When in this path exploring (14).
For its End is infinite; as the Oracle forewarns, --- Stoop not down, for a precipice lies below in the earth; --- it is nothing as respects the consciousness before it is conceived. Nothing, as Dionysius adds, of those things that are, or of those that are not, in an empty destructive sense; but it becomes that only True Thing of which we can affirm nothing, whose theology is negative; but which constitutes the perfect possession of the most happy life. This Boehme also declares --- God, incomparably good and great, out of nothing created something, and that something was made one thing in which all things were contained, both celestial and terrestrial. And this first something was a certain cloud or darkness, which was condensed into water; and this water is that One Thing in which all things are contained (15).
Now here we do not read either that all things came of nothing absolutely, but that God of nothing created something which was made that one thing in which are all. And this One Thing appears to be nothing less or more than that Identity which is made in the regeneration by the reprocedure into experience out of the dissolute void of life when artificially induced. As respects the creature, therefore, it may be considered as the first divine manifestation out of the abyss, when the Spirit is brought forth into a new circulatory confine, displaying its universal properties internally according to the magnetic virtue, action, and passion of the Microcosmic Heaven. And there is in the Celestial Light, continues the same author, a Substance like water which yet is no water, but such a spirit or property: but it burns more like a kindred oil, and is called by many the Tincture. And this Tincture is the source of the material world, and gives to all essences virtue to grow: it is also in all metals and stones; it causes silver and gold to grow, and without it nothing could grow, but with it, all things: amongst all the children of nature it only is a virgin, and has never generated anything out of itself; neither can it generate, yet it makes all things that are to be impregnated: it is the most hidden thing, and also the most manifest; it is the friend of God and playfellow of virtue; it suffers itself to be detained of nothing and yet it is in all things; but if anything be done against the right of nature, then it readily flies away: it continues in no kind of decaying of anything, but abides constantly with life. The way to it is very near, yet no language can express it: nevertheless it meets them that seek it aright in its own way. It is powerful, yet of itself does nothing; when it goes out of a thing it comes not into it again naturally, but it stays in its ether. It is not God, but it is God’s friend; for it works not of itself. It is in all things imperceptibly, and yet it may well be overpowered and used, especially in metals: there it can of itself, being pure, make gold of iron or copper, and makes a little grow to be a great deal. For it is as subtle as the thoughts of ma, and his thoughts do even arise from thence. All things are thence arisen through the Divine Imagination and do yet stand in such a birth, station, and government. The four elements have likewise such a ground or original; but the understanding and capacity is not in nature’s own ability without the Light of God; but it is very easy to be understood by those who are in the Light, to them it is easy and plain (16). --- I have myself seen this knowledge, continues our author in another place, with those eyes wherein life generates in me, for the new man speculates into the midst of the astral birth or geniture, and thus, he adds, in explication the method of his experience. --- At last when, after much Christian seeking and desire, and suffering of much repulse, I resolved, he says, rather to put my life to the utmost hazard than to give over and leave off; the gate was opened to me, so that in one quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many years at the University; at which I did exceedingly admire, and knew not how it happened to me; and therefore, I turned my mind to praise God for it. For I saw and knew the Being of beings, the Bysse, or ground or original foundation; and the Abysse, that is without ground, or fathomless or void; also the birth or eternal generation of the Holy Trinity, the descent and original of this world and of all creatures through the Divine Wisdom, and I knew and saw in myself all the Three Worlds, viz., first, the divine angelical, or paradisiacal; and then the dark world, being a procreation or extern birth or, as it were, a substance expressed or spoken forth from the internal and spiritual worlds. And I saw and knew the whole Being, and working essence in the evil and in the good, and the mutual original and existence of each of them; and likewise how the pregnant generatrix or fruitful bearing womb of eternity brought forth, so that I did not only greatly wonder at it, but did also exceedingly rejoice. Albeit, I could very hardly apprehend the same in my external man, and express it with my pen. I saw as in a great deep in the Internal; for I had a thorough view of the universe as in a chaos wherein all things are couched and wrapped up, but it was impossible then for me from time to time, as a young plant, and came forth into the external principle of my mind... And thus I have written not from instruction or knowledge received from men, nor from the study of books, but I have written out in my own book which was opened in me, being the noble similitude, the book of the most noble and precious image of God; and therein I have studied as a child in the house of its mother, which beholdeth what the father doth. I have no need of other books, my book hath only three leaves, the same are the Principles of Eternity. Therein I can find all whatsoever Moses and the Prophets, Christ and his Apostles have taught and spoken. I can find therein the foundation of the world and mysteries; and yet not I but the Spirit of God doeth it according to the measure as he pleaseth (17).
Here we have modern testimony agreeing in all particulars with the most ancient Kabalah and profound experimental divinity; nor this alone, but other favoured individuals, amongst whom Van Helmont relates, how by a mysterious hand he was led along into a perception of the simple element of nature. --- And while I variously wandered that I might view the Tree of Life, says the physician, at length without the day and beyond the beginning of the night, I saw, as in a dream, the whole face of the earth even as it stood forsaken, and empty or void at the beginning of the creation; then afterwards, how it was, while, as being fresh, it waxed on every side green with its plants; again, also, as it lay hidden under the flood. For I saw all the species of plants to be kept under the waters: yet presently after the flood, that they did all enter into the way of interchanges enjoined to them, which was to be continued by their species and seeds, etc. For in the sky of our Archaeus, aspectual Ideas are deciphered as well from the depth of the starry heaven of the soul itself, as those formed by the erring or implanted spirit of the seven bowels (18).
Here is this sphere those mighty wonders are,
Which, as the sporting of the Deity,
Themselves display; wonders indeed they are
Which do exceed man’s comprehending far
Here ‘tis that God himself t’ himself displays,
From whence the sense arises up in joys,
A thousand things for aye arise,
Eternal waters and eternal skies (19).
Basil Valentine also, before proceeding to a description of the Philosophic Matter, opens his discourse in effect as follows: --- When at a certain time an abundance of thoughts, which my internal fervent prayer to God suggested, had set me loose and wholly free from terrene business, I purposed in myself to attend to those spiritual inspirations of which we have need for the more accurate scrutiny of nature. Therefore I resolved to make myself wings, that I might ascend in high and inspect the stars themselves, as Icarus and is father Daedelus did in times past. But when I soared too near the sun, my feathers with its vehement heat were consumed, and I fell headlong into the depths of the sea. Yet to me, in this my extreme necessity, invoking God, help was sent from heaven which freed me from all peril and present destruction. For one hastened to my assistance who commanded the waters should be still; and instantly in that deep abyss appeared a most high mountain upon which at length I ascended; that I might examine whether, as men affirmed, there was indeed any friendship and familiarity between inferiors and superiors, and whether the superior stars [i.e., Ideae Divinae Mentis] have acquired strength and power from God, their Creator, to produce any one thing like to themselves on earth. And having searched into things, I found, [viz., in the metaphysico-chemical analysis] that whatsoever the ancient masters had so many ages committed to writing and delivered to their disciples, was true as truth itself. In very deed, that I may expound the matter in a few words, I found all things which are generated in the bowels of the mountains to be infused from the superior stars as light, and to take their beginning from them in the form of an aqueous cloud, fume, or vapour: which, for a long time fed and nourished, is at length educted into a tangible form by the elements. Moreover this vapour is dried, that the wateriness may lose its dominion, and the fire next by help of the air retain the ruling power --- of water, fire; and of fire, air and earth are produced; which notwithstanding are found in all things consisting of body before the separation of them: but this water therefore containing all, which by the dryness of its fire and air is formed into earth, is the first matter of all things (20).
In this allegory the whole metaphysico-chemical analysis of the Universal Subject is displayed --- the separation, introspection and reunion of the vital elements in their ethereal accord. And for this reason adepts have concluded this Identic Salt to be the true grain, since it cannot be annihilated, but survives the wreck of the whole dissolute Being throughout --- the seed not only of this world but o the next. For all things, whether organized or otherwise, decay and pass away into other elements; but this mystical substance, this root of the world, returning immediately upon the dissolution of its parts, renews them; nor will then be quiet, but Proteus-like runs from one complexion of light into another, and from this colour to that, transmuting himself before the regardant eye into a strange variety of forms and appearances, exhibiting the universal phenomenon of nature in recreant display as he runs forth from green to red and from red to black, receding thenceforth into a million of colours and transmigrating species.
Verum,ubi correptum minibus, vinclisque tenebis;
Tum variae illudnet species, atque ora ferearum;
Fiet enim subito sus horridus, atraque tigris... (21)
And when he has departed from the fragile labyrinth through which he was dispersed, says the adept, and is moreover purified from every impurity, he raises himself likewise into an infinity of forms: one while into a vegetable, and then into a stone or into some strange animal; now he transmutes himself into the sea, becoming a pearl, or a gem or a metal, beautifully shining with red flames, and iridescent with myriads of colours; and thus he lives perpetually the worker of miracles, an indefatigable magian, by no means wearying in his labour but growing young evermore and increasing daily in vigorous display and strength (22). And these miraculous alterations will not cease, as Democritus hints, until the Matter has worked out its own restitution and is brought by Art into the supernatural fixity of its Final Cause; and that mode of binding is said to be best which makes use of manacles and fetters; as Hermes also says --- The philosophers chain up their matter with a strong chain or band when they make it to contend with fire (23).
Nam sine vi non dabit praecepta, neque illum
Orando flectes: vim duram et vincula capto
Tende. Doli circum haec demum frangetur inanes (24).
To arrest this imaginative flux of freed vitality, we may well conceive that it need the whole voluntary force of the central magnet; and that this alone, which is its proper reason, can compel it to repose. Reuchlin, concerning the two catholic natures contained in the mirific Word, alludes to this, saying, --- One nature is such that it may be seen with the eyes, felt with the hands, and is subject to alteration almost at every moment: you must pardon, as Apuleius says, the strange expression, because it makes for the obscurity of the thing. This very nature, since she may not continue one and the same, is accordingly apprehended of the mind under such her qualification more rightly as she is not than as she is; namely, as the thing is in truth, that is, changeable; the other nature or principiating substance is incorruptible, immutable, and always subsistent (25).
And this, adds an ancient and much esteemed Adeptus (26), is the work which I have sometimes seen with a singular and most dear friend; who showed me certain large furnaces, and those crowned with cornues of glass. The vessels were several; having, besides their tripods, their sediments or caskets; and within was a holy oblation or present, dedicated to the Ternary. But why should I any longer conceal so divine a thing? Within this fabric (i.e., the consecrated vessel), was a certain mass moving circularly, or driven round about, and representing the very figure of the great world. For here the earth was to be seen standing of itself in the middest of all, compassed about with most clear waters, rising up to several hillocks and craggy rocks, and bearing many sorts of fruit, as of it had been watered with showers from the moist air. It seemed also to be very fruitful of wine, oil, and milk, with all kinds of precious stones and metals. The waters themselves, like those of the sea, were full of a certain transparent salt --- now white, now red, then yellow and purpled, and, as it were, chamletted with various colours, which swelled up to the face of the waters. All things were actuated with their own appropriate fire; but in very truth imperceptible as yet, and ethereal. But one thing above the rest forced me to an incredible admiration, namely, that so many things, and diverse in kind, and of such perfect particulars, should proceed from one only thing; and that, with very small assistance: which being strengthened and furthered by degrees, the artist faithfully affirmed to me that all those diversities would settle at last into one body. Here I observed that fusil kind of salt to be not different from pumice stone, and that quicksilver, which authors call mercury, to be the same with Lully’s Lunaria, whose water gets up against the fire of nature, and shines by night, but by day has a glutinous, viscous faculty (27).
Here we have the whole Hermetic laboratory --- furnace, fire, matter, and vessels, with their mysterious germinations, subtly depicted and set apart. For this clarified hypostasis (shall we not believe in it?), is the stage of all Forms, and here they are spontaneously produced, not in mere imagination, or as we might conceive imaginatively, or, as in a dream, shadowly; but as the true Genesis of Light.
Haec dedit Argenti Rivos, Aerisque metalla
Ostendit venis, atque plurima fluxit
Haec genus aere virum; Marsos Pubemque Sabella
Assemtuque; Malo Ligurem volcosque verutos
Extulit; Haec Decios Marios, magnosque Camillos;
Salve Magna Parens frugum Saturnia Tellus
And though these images, with the rest, may appear extravagant, and Virgil refers all the compliment to his native soul; yet the truth, gathering strength by detail, may plead through the whole accord. Such are a few only of the remarkable declarations of individuals who, by an experimental ingress, as they acknowledge, to the Vital Radix, have discovered the catholic original of nature, intellectual and material, with the ground of every phenomenon, through the arising spectacle of the Creative Majesty within themselves. Many might be added of good repute and accordant; but numbers would not ensure more credence for them, who ought, on their own authority, to be believed; and have been and will be always by those who are able to glance freely, without imaginative hindrance, into the capability of mind; and, by analogy of their own clear reason, can judge of that fontal revelation which, when entertained in consciousness, becomes efficient, and in consciousness, becomes efficient, and, in its simultaneous energy, divine. Hence, they will perceive that from no idle dreaming the conviction of those sublimated souls arose, who were not alone superior to the dictation of folly, but were freed moreover from the liability of error which besets ordinary minds: for they had passed the turbulent delusions, not of sense only but of the selfhood, and having combated every sinister disguise in opposition, were proved and reproved, previous to being admitted to the apperceptive vision of the Causal Truth which they describe, when Light meeting Light, apprehends itself alone; and develops the triple mystery of its creative Law throughout, from the infernal motive wheel which is the origin of the mineral kingdom, through the whole intermediate paradisiacal vegetable growth, up to the final concord of the Divine Image in man. For as Life passes through the philosophic fermentation, its substance is entirely transmuted, and the threefold property is developed, with a dividing of the heterogeneous parts, by an extinguishing of the forms and properties of the Medial Spirit. And not only is it resolved into these three principles, which Van Helmont also calls Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury, but there is a procedure towards a radical destruction, almost annihilating the components of the former life, which at length, in its extreme exigence, draws a new seed to begin a New Generation. --- Ands this is the way of the recedure to the Night of Hippocrates, leading thenceforth into the Day of Orpheus.
It is not a little remarkable that the same ideas, even to their expression, are to be founding the metaphysics of modern Germany as in the Kabalistic commentators and mystics of the middle ages. Yet the surprise which this might otherwise awake is diminished, when we consider the universal characteristic of Reason; whence it happens accountably that that truth which common logic arrives at by abstraction as an inferential necessity, is the same which the Rabbis, ontologically experimenting, and guided by the same Law, affirm out of their own more proving observation and experience. And thus we may illustrate the point.
All things, says the German philosopher (Hegel), have their commencement in pure Being, which is merely an indeterminate thought, simple and immediate; for the true commencement can be nothing else: but this pure Being is no other than a pure abstraction, it is a term absolutely negative, which may also in its immediate conception be called non-Being (28).
Such is the conclusion rationally arrived at by sensible abstraction; Kant, Fichte, but more especially Schelling whose intellectual penetration appears to have passed beyond these two, carried metaphysics into the same void non-entity at last. Hence the skeptical result of their transcendental labours, which, too far surpassing sense and its phenomena to accept their proof, stopped short nevertheless of objective realization on their own ground; there being arrested, faithful and as it were in view, without a means of passage to the promised shore. Yet so it is, that very hypostasis which bounds reason in transcendental abstraction, when met by contact of the inquiring light within, is that Absolute Identity which it seeks after, which, before all duality of consciousness, is the fortitude and life of all. But let us revert to the learned Rassbi’s advice concerning the true nature of Divine Inversion; for Ben Jochai and his disciples also affirm that God created all things out of nothing, and this not dubiously, sed quasi auctoritatem habens; but in what sense this nothing is to be understood, we are thus, differently than by the German, informed.
When the Kabalists affirm that all things are drawn forth from nothing, they do not intend, says the Rabbi, from nothing in the common-sense acceptation of that word; for Being could never be produced from non-Being (deficiently understood), but by non-Being they mean that which is neither conceivable as cause nor as essence, but yet is in fact the Cause of causes: it is that which we call the primitive non-Being; because it is anterior to the universe: and by it we do not signify corporeity either, but that Principle or Wisdom on which it is founded. Now if any one should ask what is the essence of Wisdom, and in what manner she is contained in non-Being, no one can reply to this question: because in non-Being, there is no distinction (as of subject and object in the consciousness by which it can be truly said to be known), no mode of true existence; neither can we, therefore, comprehend, so to say, how Wisdom becomes united to life (29).
Now this doctrine is precisely in accordance with the Hermetic philosophy, and these definitions of the primitive non-being, perfectly corresponding with the Platonic theology, and Aristotle’s discourses concerning the origin of things and incomprehensible nature of the objective contact in Identity. And as to the dogmas of the rest, as of Thales, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Parmenides, Empedocles, and others, which men have been accustomed neglectfully to run over; it may not be amiss, as Lord Bacon advise, to cast our eyes with more reverence upon them (30). For, although Aristotle, after the manner of the Ottomans, thought he could not well reign unless he made away with all his brethren; yet, to those who seriously propose to themselves the inquiry after truth, it may not be displeasing to regard the positions of those various sages, touching the nature of things and their foundation. Nor ought we, in this our state of inconceptive ignorance, to conclude, as many have done, that these men spoke ill, or arbitrarily, imagining causes whereof to make a world, for it was not so: their elements, atoms, numbers, mathematics, physics, and metaphysics, or by whatever names their principiating ideas were distinguished --- all their philosophy, in short, was confessedly established, and belonged to an experience and method of observation, unknown to the profane multitude. For they discovered, and have asserted, that there are methods by which an ascent may be affected from the oblivious bondage of this existence, and, through a gradual assimilation, to a survey more or less immediate of the Causal Source.
And thus, neglectful though it has seemed in general of facts, and common-sense observation, these Greeks too derived nature mediately from a certain Intellect in energy, but without distinction, fixing her true Being in the Law of Universals. Those even who appear to differ, as for example, Thales, and the physiologist Empedocles --- substituting elements as principles, do so in the choice of expression chiefly, and in the manner of regarding; for the substance alluded to by them all is the same; for the substance alluded to by them all is the same; for the substance alluded to by them all is the same; as we may judge by their definitions, which agree not with any material of elements, or intellect, or atoms, that we discern or understand at all; but we they speak, as before said, out of another perception of tings, exhibiting the phenomena of the substantial world. It may not be improper here to delay a short time, in order to point out to the more studious, how it happens, that so many mistakes have arisen about their doctrine, and that language apparently divergent, may, nevertheless, harmonize at its source.
For that these philosophers have discoursed variously, is very certain; some saying indeed of the Initial Principle, that it is one and finite, others infinite; some, as Heraclitus, according to essence, have denominated it to be fire; another, as Thales, looking to the first material manifestation, teaches that all beings have their beginning from water; whilst Timaeus, with no less reason or authority, mentions a certain earth as antecedent, and the most ancient element; but Anaxagoras, rather regarding the perfection and origin of the One Thing in consciousness, calls it Intellect; as Plato likewise, in the Parmenides, derives all things transcendentally, proving the perpetuity of Being in itself. But whilst these celebrate Mind as precendential, and those desire to indicate the subsistence of Matter, in either case it is the same; for the mind is not without the matter (the universal element we mean), nor that matter without the mind; but all things, however various in manifestation, are consubstantial in their Cause.
And with respect to the number of principles and elementary transmutations, we may plainly perceive that it is not the common elements, or abstracts either, they contend about; but their investigation concerned the prior Elements of Life; which some, openly distinguishing, call the Celestial Elements; as Plato, in Phaedo, speaking of earth, for instance, calls it the most ancient element within the heaven; and Proclus informs us what we are to understand by the heaven; --- Heaven, he says, is the intellectual contact with the intelligible, for there is an intelligible which may be conjoined to intellect, and is its true end (31). But this is in allusion to the highest sphere of ethereality, which Aristotle triply distinguishes, first, as the essence of the ultimate circulation of the universe; second, as that which is in continuity with it; and third, as that body which is comprehended by the last circulation. For, he says, we are accustomed likewise to call that heaven, which is composed from every natural and sensible body (32). That is the arising Spirit of the Universal nature which, persisting separately, bounds as it were, by an invisible summit, every corporeal subsistence, and in the conscious alliance only becomes known .The same is called by Hermes, a Quintessence; and the Hermetic philosophers, speaking of their earth, locate it even as Plato does, within their heaven; and in order to distinguish from the feculent dead soil, call it magical, the Earth of the Wise, Olympus, Our Earth, etc., and of the other elements the same, as we have shown already in our Exoteric Theory, and elsewhere. Which the initiated poet, in his Metamorphoses, neither unaptly signaliszes in the arising circulation of Mature from the four concentering winds.
Haec super imposuit liquidam et gravitate carentem,
Aethera, non quicquam terrenae faecis habentum (33).
But Plato yet more plainly alluding to the Etheral Quintessence, in Timaeus, says, that of four elements the Demiurgus assumed One Whole from wholes, in all things perfect and free from old age and disease (34). As Aristotle again, where he says, that the world, being composed from all sensible matter, is one alone and perfect; cannot mean this world, which is neither uniform nor free from age or disease, or perfect in any way; what other, therefore, should they either mean but the ethereal; which art once taught them to segregate, and establish upon the ruins of this mortal and dislocated existence?
That Empedocles likewise taught a twofold order of natural procedure --- the one intelligible, and the other sensible; --- deriving the latter as an image from the former as an exemplar, is evident, from the whole tenor of his Physics. For he identifies all things in respect of their source; making elements there to subsist as qualitative virtues, which, multiplying into being, become distributive powers, of which the sensible elements and this world are the remote subjects and emanation; contrariwise, also, receding from effect to cause, he shows how the universal frame is borne along in perpetual interchange.
How many things to one their being owe,
Fire, water, earth and air immensely high,
And each with equal power is found endued,
And friendship equalized in length and breadth.
All things in union now thro’ love conspire,
And now thro’ strife divulsed are borne along,
Hence, when again emerging into light,
The One is seen, ‘t is from the many formed.
All mortals, too, so far as they are born,
Of permanent duration are deprived;
But, as diversified with endless change,
Thro’ this unmoved for ever they remain,
Like a sphere rolling round its center firm (35).
Anaxagoras, and certain others of the early Greek school, alluding to this absolute subsistence of things, assert, that matter likewise is the progeny of mind; and the Alexandrians go so far as to explain the manner of its descent and efflux; as if they too in alliance had known these things, and by analogy, through their own, the structure of the universe; observing so many fine distinctions and such a subtlety of ontological operation as was extremely difficult to delineate by words, or consistently in writing to unfold, Many, therefore, adopted fables, symbols, similitudes, enigmas, and the license of poetry they also called in aid, as well on this account, as to veil their meaning from vulgar misprision and debate. But Aristotle preferred an abstruse style of diction to every other disguise, that he might be comprehensible to the profound only; as, when writing to Alexander about the publication of his Acaomatic Ethics, he avows that none but his own pupils would be able to understand them (36).
And with respect to those strictures on the writing of his predecessors, we are disposed to take them in a particular application only; his most erudite translator, Thomas Taylor, having also shown that their reference has been alienated and widely misunderstood. The Aristotelian philosophy is built on similar grounds, and arrives at the same conclusion as those whom it rebukes; but the method is different, and herein the Stagyrite lays claim to superiority, rather than by professing any new basis of argument or superior knowledge. The differences that arose in philosophy owing to men regarding the same nature from diverse points of view, and the contradictions that occur in language, offended his accurate genius; and he was desirous that they should harmonize in the expression of that truth in which they, by co-knowledge, were agreed. That thereas, for instance, Pythagoras would explain essence in number and define it by mathematical reasons, as Plato by Ideas, mingling these with geometric symbols; Parmenides and others, by atoms, elements, and by so many various ways; he complains that they deliver nothing clearly, nor carry their principles duly and comprehensively through their whole system; but shift from one assertion to another, that is apparently, varying their speech. Thus, in the beginning of his Metaphysics; --- There are some, he says, who have discoursed about the universe as if it were indeed one nature; yet all of them have not discoursed after the same manner: but their assertions are of a different nature; for the physiologists who contend that Being is one, when they generate the universe, at the same time add motion; but these men assert that the universe is immovable. Thus, Parmenides appears to have touched upon the One according to Reason; but Melissus, according to Matter; hence the former asserts that the universe is infinite; but the latter that it is finite. But Xenophanes, who was the first that introduced this doctrine, did not assert anything clearly, nor does he appear to have apprehended the nature of either of these; but looking to the whole heaven, he says, the One is God. These men therefore are to be dismissed, two of them indeed as being a little too rustic, --- viz., Xenophanes and Melissus, but Parmenides appears to have seen more than these where to speak (37).
Such like defect of method and incorrectness of diction does the Stagyrite complain of, sparing none of his predecessor; but his opposition is uniformly directed to the letter rather than to the spirit of their doctrine; for he was strenuous in asserting the causality of mind, and praises those as in the highest degree gifted who perceived this; in his Metaphysics throughout, evincing a magnificent appreciation of the Intellectual ground. But he was desirous, as we have said, to methodize philosophy; and accordingly undertook, by establishing a system of universal logic, to correct the imperfection of common thought and speech. The design was noble, and carried out to the original intention and on its own intimate basis, was no doubt valuable to fix experiment and assist in defining and unfolding, by means of the categories, as by a congenial channel, the birth of the Divine Intellect into life and manifestation.
That was the syllogism so important to be sought after, which also is according to Aristotle the true object of philosophy; in the universal terms of which every other science is implicated, and without which nothing permanent is said to be endued. When, losing this substantial ground and aim therefore, the Organon began to work upon itself, it grew weak and wore out gradually, as Bacon observed it in his day becoming worse than useless, since it occupied an intellect that might have been better employed, and substituted for truth the least salutary kind of satisfaction in the display of scholastic subtlety and aimless dispute.
The same has happened with the Pythagoric numbers, and those mathematics which had all their original keystone in the Arch of Heaven; or how else should numbers have been established as the causes of things if they had not been allied in idea to something better than themselves? All things naturally produce their similars, numbers beget numbers, letters and words constitute phrases, and lines superficial forms only. They may, by composition, be made, in their way, to represent degrees and kinds of things; but this is the utmost of their abstract capability. They cannot produce themselves, or anything else, into substantive appearance. We may exhaust all their combination, divide, add up, and multiply figures to infinity, we shall have figures and nothing more; nothing solid, long, short, or square, not the smallest grain of sand without the Efficient which is in all.
This being obvious therefore, we judge that when the ancients established numbers as the causes of things and derived from them the gods themselves, with all their hosts of power and material dependencies, they had some very different idea attached from that which modern theorems or their probations supply. Or shall it be believed that Pythagoras was so wanton and vain-glorious as to sacrifice a hecatomb, when he discovered that the subtendent of a right-angled triangle is equivalent to those parts which contain it; or that Thales, when, as is related, he did something of the same kind about the inscription of the circle, gained nothing more than a flat demonstration for his pains? Or are not rather the hecatomb, and the theorem separately symbolical, and alike relating to the discovery of that miraculous Psychical Quintessence, known to the wise as the Tincture of the Sapphiric Mine which, being in its own threefold segregated essentiality equal to the whole dissolute compound whence it arises, cast off the superfluity, sacrificing the old nature to begin anew? Charon does not ply the Stygian Lake without a recompense, neither are the secrets of the highest causes approached without a mean of expiation; but the vicarious dedication of huge beasts will not avail whilst their Prototypes remain feeding and fattening in the Philosophic Field.
The habit of exhibiting points of abstruse philosophy by mathematical reasons has been general in every age; but in order to derive from them or from numbers anything substantive, it is necessary that the point or unit should be established as something absolute; that every dependent partaking, whether multiplied, added, or divided amongst each other, may be essentialized in the same. Hence Zeno said (of Elea, not the stoic) that if any one should undertake to demonstrate the philosopher’s Unit, he would unfold Being. For the One of these philosophers is the Fountain of all being; and just as there is a descent from unity into multitude, and all that multitude is implied in the One; and this furthermore fills all and each of its dependent multitude --- as one is in two, and two in three, and three in four, and four in five --- and still that unit, which is in the beginning, is implied in all and all in each, and every part of each in all, from the equilibriate eternal center to its infinite extremes. And as the smallest fragment of the loadstone remains perfect in two poles, and each particular spark of fire contains the principle and developing force of the entire kindred element, so may we not conceive every portion of existence to be continent and comprehended proportionally of the Great Whole?
All those amongst the Greeks who have written concerning this Whole, and who appear to have arrived at an experimental conception of its reality in the self-knowledge, unanimously assert that it is simple, and not so much therefore an object of reason as of contact and intuition. They contend moreover, with the Alchemist, that there is a certain pure matter subsisting about Intelligibles which is universal, and the proved origin of every vital and corporeal existence; that though occult in nature, it can be made manifest to sense even, and exhibited in divine and practical effects. But it was forbidden by the mandate of the Mysteries that their revelation should be communicated to the profane; and the modern Alchemists are, with few exceptions, silent respecting the metaphysics of their Art; the Neoplatonists were, however, more communicative, since forbearing direct allusion to the Practice, they feared less to speak of Principles and the procedure of mind. Their writings appear indeed as so many auxiliaries to the perception and images are admirably adapted to stimulate that faith, dormant as we now are in the corporeal darkness, glows notwithstanding responsive to the truth within.
If we desire to investigate principles and the highest causes, let us inquire now therefore of them briefly, how we may begin to learn; and concerning this pure Mater whether it is, what it is, and after what manner it ought to be conceived of, what the perception of it resembles, and what relation it bears in general to the reasoning power, and finally how it comes forth our of the Causal fountain to be in effect? The following summary gathered from the scientific conduct of Plotinus and Porphyry may not be acceptable to the philosophically inquisitive reader.
That it is necessary there should be a certain Subject of bodies which is different from them, is sufficiently evinced by the continual mutation of corporeal quantities; for nothing that is transmuted is entirely destroyed; since if such were the case there would be a certain essence dissolved into nonentity; and this persisting, there would be no remaining ground of generation. But change arises, from the departure of one quality and the essence of another; the subject-matter however --- that which receives the forms and reflects them --- always remains the same and proceeding and receding continually into itself.
This therefore Corruption manifests (especially the artificial), for corruption is of that which is composite, and so each sensible thing is made to consist of matter and form and their union in corporeality. This too Induction testifies, demonstrating that the thing which is corruptible is composite. Analysis likewise evinces the same thing, as if for example an iron pot should be resolved into gold, but gold into water; and the water, being incorruptible, will require no analogous process (38).
But the elements, continues Plotinus, are neither form, not matter, but composite and therefore corruptible; and since everything manifest is corruptible, and yet a certain subsistence remains, it is necessary there should be a Nature primarily vital which is also formless, indestructible and immortal, as being the principle of other things. Form indeed subsists according to quality and body in manifestation; but matter according to the subject which is indefinite, because it is note form. This Indefinite is not therefore everywhere to be despised, not that which in the conception of it is formless, if it applies itself to things prior, i.e., to the divine exemplaries, and the most excellent life. Neither should it be considered by any one as incredible that there is a certain pure and divine Matter mediately subsisting between primary and secondary causes and their gross effect; but it is rather requisite to be persuaded by philosophical assertion that such is the case, and that by means of the Theurgic Art it is made manifest and imparted through arcane and blessed visions. So far do the ancients likewise extend matter even to be gods themselves; and no otherwise according to them can a participation of superior Being be effected by men who dwell on earth, unless a foundation of this kind be first established. For this Matter, as Iamblichus relates, being connascent with the gods by whom it is imparted, will doubtless be an entire and fit receptacle for the manifestation of Divinity. He moreover adds, that an exuberance of power is always present with the highest causes; and at the same time that this power transcends all things, it is nevertheless present with all in unimpaired energy. Hence, the first illuminate the last of things, it is nevertheless present with material natures immanifestly (39).
Since then, it becomes necessary simply to refer Being to all things, and all things sympathize thereby internally with each other; but consciousness in this natural life of ours is separated off from the antecedent essentiality, so that we perceive in reality nothing of our true selves; hence the ancients have declared this life to belittle better than a diminution of existence; for by no ordinary process of rational contemplation is the mind able to conceive of this nature or the infinitude of true Being. But if any one wish to discover the One Principle he must become first assimilated to it, as Proclus in the sixth book, on the Parmenides of Plato directs --- he must raise himself to that which is most united in nature, and to its flower and that through which it is Deity; by which it is suspended fro its proper foundation and connects and unites and causes the universe to have a sympathetic consent with itself. --- I have also, says Plotinus, investigated myself, as one among the order of beings, and the reality is testified by reminiscence; for no one of real being subsists out of intellect nor as sensibles in place; but they always abide in themselves, neither receiving mutation nor corruption (30). And again in his treatise treatise concerning the Descent of the Soul, the same author relates, --- Often when by an intellectual energy, I am roused from body and converted to myself, and being separated from externals, retire into the depths of my essence, I then perceive an admirable beauty, and am then vehemently confident that I am of a more excellent condition than of a life merely animal and terrene. For then especially, I energize according to the best life and become the same with a nature truly Divine; being established in this nature I arrive at that transcendant energy by which I am elevated beyond every other intelligible, and fix myself in this sublime eminence as in an ineffable harbour of repose. But after this blessed abiding in a Divine Nature, falling off from Intellect into the discursive energy of reason, I am led to doubt how formerly and at present my soul became intimately connected with a corporeal nature; since in this deific state she appears such as she is herself, although invested with the dark and overflowing vestiment of body. And since there is a twofold nature, one intelligible and the other sensible, it is better indeed for the soul to abide in the intelligible world; but necessary from its condition that it should participate of a sensible nature; nor ought it to suffer any molestation because it obtains only a middle order in the universality of things; since it possesses indeed a divine condition, though it is placed even as in the last gradation of an intelligible essence, bordering, as it were on the regions of sense. For our souls are able alternately to rise from hence, carrying back with them an experience of what they have known and suffered in their fallen state; from whence they will learn how blessed it is to abode in the Intelligible world; and by a comparison, as it were of contraries, will more plainly perceive the excellence of a superior state. For the experience of evil produces a clearer knowledge of good, especially where the power of judgment is so imbecile that I cannot without such experience obtain the science of that which is best (41).
These things supposed then, we proceed to amore intimate consideration of the Material Principle which, according to these philosophers, the Divine experience imparts; that we may judge how far they agree or whether they differ at all in their definitions from those of the foregoing Hermetic philosophers and adepts.
These Greeks wishing indeed to exhibit, as well as words might enable, the peculiarities of this Matter when they assert that it is one, immediately add that it is all things, by which they signify that it is not some one of the things with which sense brings us acquainted; and in order that we may understand that the Identity of every Being is something uncompounded, and that the mind should not fall into the error of coacervation, they say it is one so far as one; depriving the idea of multitude and dual, i.e., reflective, contemplation. When likewise they assert that it is everywhere, they add incontinently that it is nowhere; so on endeavoring by means of contrary peculiarities to gather the mind up into a neutrality about itself; at one and the same time exhibiting these in order to exterminate from the apprehension those notions which are externally derived, and such ordinary reasoning as tends to obscure rather than elucidate the essential characteristics of real Being. Neither is there any absurdity in their conduct of the understanding so far, or even in an external sense considering one thing to be many, since every center bears a circumference of radii, and each dependent number differs from the One.
But since the ethereal element is described by so many ablative characteristics, since they assert it is neither form, nor quality, nor corporeal, nor reason, nor bound; but a certain Infinity; how therefore ought we to conceive, asks Plotinus, of that which is infinite? What is its idiom in the intellection, or how is such an image to be entertained by the reasoning power? Shall we say it is indefiniteness? For if the similar is perceived by the similar, the Indefinite also will be apprehended by the Indefinite: Reason however in such an apprehension, will become bounded about the Indefinite, that is to say, will pass out from itself into an undefined void of thought. But if everything is known by reason and intelligence, and not otherwise, and here reason is bounded so that it cannot be said to have intelligence; but as it were, a deprivation of intellect is implied, how shall we conceive such a state of being to be genuine, or believe it even to be at all? Yet Plato, in Timaeus, informs us that Matter is indeed to be apprehended, and that by a sort of defective or ablative reasoning; and Aristotle has been at some pains in his Metaphysics to explain the conceptive idiom of Materiality. I mean, he says, by Matter, that which of itself is neither essence nor quantity, nor any one of those things, by which Being is defined. For there is something of which each of these is predicated, and from which Being and each of its predications are different; but Matter, being the last of things (extant without identity), has neither essence nor quantity nor anything else in its perception, at least of those things which subsist according to accident. Or if any one from this suppose Matter to be essence, he will err; for a separate subsistence as this or that particular thing especially belongs to what we call essence, (that is to say, composition of subject and object is necessarily implied in the idea of true intelligence), which is both posterior and anterior to the subject sought; which therefore is in a certain respect manifest only, being one and void in respect of other things; Matter, therefore, concludes the logician, is made veritably manifest only be negation and in defect of true Being; so that, to pass into contact with it, is to be in a certain respect ignorant (42).
Since, then, they assert this subject-matter to be somewhat; and real, notwithstanding all its inverse and irrational characteristics; ought we not to analyze yet more profoundly therefore, not slighting reason indeed, but passing through it, beyond every bound and finite probability in order to conceive that kind of ultimate ignorance, which is the Infinity of Life? Whether shall we conceive it to be an all-perfect oblivion, or such an ignorance as in the absence of every knowledge is present? Or does the indefinite consist in negation simply, or in conjunction with a certain interrogative affirmation? Or shall we suppose it to be like darkness to the eye, obscurity being the ground of every visible colour? Or to this, also, the wise ancients have compared the estate of Being verging to annihilation: and as the sensual eye without light sees nothing but darkness, becoming in a certain respect and for the period one with it; so the mental eye, observant of no attracting object, thought, reflection, and all that in sensibles resembles light being submerged, and not being able or having the motive to bound that which remains, is said to become wholly into that obscure oblivion which is the Original of Life: a crass, obscure vacuity --- as the Descent Virgil describes it --- vast, endless, horrible --- and Parmenides and the rest cited to prove the same initial nonentity of all; having the same relation to true Being, indeed, as silence to sound, as night to day, or as body rude or misshapen bears to any artificial form with which it may afterwards become endued. And as body rude or misshapen bears to any artificial form with which it may afterwards become endued. And as that which is above all degrees of intelligence is a certain infinite and pure light, so is this darkness, therefore, to be conceived at the opposite extreme of the magnetic chain, which is extended a non gradu ad non gradum: and this is that ladder of Celsus and of Zoroaster which reaches from Tartarus to the highest Heaven. Just as in the ascending series of causes, it is necessary to arrive at something which is the Final Cause of all; so in descending analytically it is equally necessary to stop at the contrary conclusion, which is this proved, in the experience, to be the last and lowest effect, in which all the attributes of the First Cause are not only deficient but reversed.
When therefore the mind is in the Night of Matter, shall we suppose that she is affected in such a manner as if she understood nothing? By no means, says the philosopher --- but when she beholds Matter she suffers such a passion as when she receives the being of that which is formless; and her perception of the Formless Subject is obscure, and vast, and infinite, as we have shown, where descending into the bosom of the Mysteries, Intellect, having already analyzed and separated the component parts of Being, becomes dismayed about the sensation of her extreme life. Then indeed she understands obscurely, and sinking into the Abyssal Subject, feels, but understands not her intellection any more; until, pained with the void of the retreating infinitude (such being the divine decree), and as if afraid of being placed out of the order of things, the soul retracts, rallying about her last deserted Unit, and not enduring any longer to stop at nonentity, becomes into true Being. So true is it, that Death is the way of Life, and that the fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom.
For Self-knowledge is impossible unless every other knowledge is deprived; as this selfhood likewise is obliterated in the overwhelming attraction, which raises it into the First Cuase. And thus extremes are said to be present at the new birth, when Light springs forth to manifestation out of the abyssal Darkness, which is then alone before its Creator; and is brought forth by Him for a First Matter to give contrasting substance to his revelation, andunderstanding to His Act. --- As the motto simply expresses it --- Deus, cum solus fuisset in principio, Creavit unam substantiam, Hanc primam materiam nominamus.
And since it is given us in theory to understand that such an hypostasis is in the beginning without all affirmation, being neither in life, nor intellect, nor reason, nor bound, for it is infinite; nor power from itself, but falls off from the consciousness of all these; sought we therefore to conceive of the First Matter, which cannot either receive the appellation of Being, since it is not known in energy, but flies from him, indeed, who wishes intently to behold; for the thought, as circumscribing boundary, eludes the Infinite, and thus the desire it, in this instance, diametrically opposed to the presence of the thing desired. When therefore, as the Platonist and the Kabalist teach, it is unknown, or known as nothing; it is rather probably present, but is not perceived by him who strives self-actively to comprehend it. And this the poets signify in the story of Actaeon, who for his presumptuous intrusion was disgraced by the goddess and hunted thereafter by his own distracted thoughts; but to the sleeping Endymion she vouchsafed her willing presence, and the vast benefits of her love.
Quaeres multum et non invenies;
Fortasse invneies cumnon quaeres.
When you have assumed to yourself an Eternal Essence, says Prophyry, infinite in itself according to power; and begin to perceive intellectually an hypostasis unwearied, untamed, and never failing, but transcending in the most pure and genuine life, and full from itself; and which, likewise, is established in itself, satisfied with and seeking nothing but itself; and which, likewise, is established in itself, satisfied with and seeking nothing but itself; to this essence, if you add a subsistence in place, or a relation to a certain thing, at the same time you diminish this essence, but you separate yourself from the perception of it, by receiving as a veil the phantasy which runs under your conjectural apprehension of it. For you cannot pass beyond, or stop, or render more perfect, or effect the least change in a thing of this kind, because it is impossible for it to be in the smallest degree deficient. For it is much more sufficient than any perpetually flowing fountain can be conceived to be (43). If, however, you are unable to keep pace with it, and to become assimilated to the whole Intelligible Nature, you should not investigate anything pertaining to real Being; or if you do, you will deviate from the path that leads to it, and will look at something else; but if you investigate nothing else, being established in yourself and in your own Essence, you will be assimilated to the Intelligible Universe, and will not adhere to anything posterior to it. Neither therefore should you say, I am of a greater magnitude; for omitting this idea of greatness, you will become universal, as you were universal prior to this. But when, together with the universe, something was present with you, you became less by the addition; because the addition was not from truly subsisting Being, for to that you cannot add anything. When, therefore, anything is added from non-n\being (i.e., from the subjective selfhood) a place is afforded to poverty as an associate, accompanied by an indigence of all things. Hence, dismissing non-being, you will then become sufficient; for when any one is present with that which is present in himself, then he is present with true Being, which is everywhere; but when you withdraw from yourself, then likewise you receded from real being: of such great consequence is it for a man to be present with that which is present with himself, that is to say, with his rational part, and to be absent from that which is external to him (44).
Add to this, that contraries are always consubsistent in the Divine Original --- the small, the great, the deficient, and the exceeding; for as a mirror is, to external images, passive, neither able to itself to withhold, nor yet to pass away, so is this ethereal glass to intellect, subsisting according to processure and in defect of all imagination. Hence, every imagination concerning it will be false, either that it should appear in the conception as any particular thing, or contrariwise as nothing; for it is both; and the subsistence, which is the reality of it, may be felt indeed, not known --- but as an escape of consciousness into its primal source without ideal limitation. Thus it is said to be formless, variable, incorporeal, infinite; neither mere power, or perfect action, but a weak superstantial prolific nature, as it were nothing in the Idea yet in Being all things --- whence every form of life, increase, and materiality also are derived. And Ideas, as they enter into and depart from it, are seen as images which pervade without dividing, like shadows in water, or more exactly as in a dream; or as if we should conceive imaginations sent into a percussive mirror or reflective vacuum on the understanding
And the Passive Nature ought indeed to be a thing of this kind, pure and indeterminate; that it may reflect, without self-hindrance or refraction, the Divine Light throughout; that there may be no falsehood or commixture of images, but the Truth only, and alone, and by itself should be made manifest in life. Such was the Matter so often celebrated by the Alchemists, the Quintessence of Plato, the Water of Thales, the Non-Being of Parmenides, and that Abyss of the Kabalists, styled also by them Unknown, Void, Nothing, Infinite, until returning by its Rational Boundary in the Freed Will to consciousness, t makes manifest the Life, Wisdom, Plenitude, and Supreme Cause of all. And concerning this matter ecclesiastics of different orders are happily agreed: Pierce the Black Monk, with the Benedict Valentine; the experimentalist Friar Bacon, with the Greek Divine; Synesius, with the Canon Ripley, Morien, Lully, and Albertus Magnus; the Mahomedan princes Calid, Geber, and Avicenna, with Paracelsus and the Christian brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, who, having searched into Nature by their proper Reason experimentally, found Her’s; and used it; giving thanks, and adoring the perfection of the Almighty Creator in his discovered Light.
For in the natural world there is no such Matter to be found; but the purest is defiled with the imagination of Forms externally introduced. Nothing therefore is generated truly; i.e., we mean, simply so as to represent the Formal Agent alone; or can be; for Nature is bound magically, nor is she able of herself to loosen the bond of coagulation by which her Inner Light and principle of perfection is everywhere shut up. She cannot enter into the True Light; for, as the adept says, she has no hands (45), nor intellect sufficient, nor a free will to vindicate her final purpose in life. It is therefore she proceeds to generate in monotonous retrogression, always circulating into herself. If indeed things beheld in nature were such as the Archetypes, whence they are derived, it might be said that matter is passive to their reception; but that which is seen as that which sees is falsified, and nothing possesses a true similitude; all is mixture and an adulterous manifestation, so far as the phenomenon of the external Nature is concerned. Without the magical solution and human aid to fortify, the Spirit is not able to forsake her extraneous forms even, much less can she conceive herself singly in the Universal anew. Wherefore she reads this important lesson to Madathan, who thinking, in his ignorance, to make the Philosopher’s Stone without dissolution, receives this check: --- An tu nunc cochleas vel cancros cum testis devorare niteris? An non prius a vetustissimo planetarum coquo maturari et preparari illos oportet? Dost thou think, says she, to eat the oysters, crabs, shells and all? Ought they not first to be opened and prepared by the most ancient cook of the planets?
If any one now, therefore, by hazard should lightly propose to himself to probe this Matter; yet without risking anything, or devoting his life, as philosophers did formerly, to the pursuit; but thinks the times are altered, and that his mind, being on the alert, will discover it, or that some entranced sleepwalker will reveal the truth to him, if there be any, without delay; let him be advised by these monitions; since Life and nothing but Life, and no other Fire but that of Intellect, sublimed and fortified in its efficient source, discovers the True matter of the adepts; and this, as we are abundantly instructed, by a dissolution of the Vital Spirit and alienation of its natural bind --- Flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, neither doth corruption inherit corruption; the sting of death is sin, but the strength of sin is in the Law of dual generation.
Debit modo ergo Lapidem solvas,
Et nequaguam sophistico,
Sed potius secundum mentem sapientum,
Nullo corrosivo adhibito... (46)
All that is performed in the Proto-chemic artifice may be comprehended in three terms --- solution, sublimation, and fixation.. Solution dissolves and liquifies the included Spirit; sublimation volatilizes and washes it; and after calcinations there is a reunion into a more permanent form of Being. And these processes are reiterated many times, and many labours of body and mind have to be undergone, as in the Practice will be demonstrated; and as Hermes himself assures, that to obtain the blessed Lunary of Diana, he had suffered much, and toiled incessantly. For the spirit is in the beginning, even in the seat disposed subjects, terrestrial, heavy, fantastic, and proves rebellious everywhere at its Source. And, as in the Sphinx’s fables, we read that when vanquished, she was carried within the temple upon the back of an ass, this is to signify the simple estate of Being to which such a nature is to be reduced by deprivation of all passion, will, imagination, purpose, or reflective thought. Neither, perhaps, is the patient suffering that has afterwards to be endured, in bearing and bringing forth the burden of the divine mystery, unaptly represented under this same guise of an ass; for it is not until the conquered elements return under the humiliating cross of dissolution that the catholic Wisdom is made manifest, and brought to hand. Agrippa, in his Vanity of the Sciences, has written many things in favour of this asinine condition, which is very necessary, he says, for a disciple of Wisdom to undergo; for this beast is an example of fortitude, patience, and clemency, and his influence occultly depends on Sephiroth, i.e., Hochma. He liveth on little forage, is contented with whatsoever it be; is ready to endure penury, hunger, labour, stripes, and persecution; is of a very simple, indifferent understanding, yet withal has an innocent, clean heart; without choler, and peaceful, bearing all things without offense; as a reward for which virtues, he wanteth lice, is seldom sick, and liveth longer than any other beast. --- So runs the parallel according to the magician’s mind; and the ass, he goes on further to observe, does also many labours above his part; for he breaketh the earth with the plough, draweth many heavy carts and water in mills, grinds corn, etc.; and these things willingly, for against his will he does not go. All which qualifications are, in their similitude, very applicable and necessary to be found in the Philosophic Subject; and without which it does not serve to carryout into operation the Divine behests. But many wonderful stories are related of this allegorical ass in former times, and of his qualifications, which the familiar quadruped is no more known to exhibit; nor is he even treated with that kind of consideration which tradition has secured in certain instances for things less celebrated and as unworthy. For did not the Saviour signalize this beast above every other, making choice of it on the occasion of his greatest earthly triumph? Of Abraham, too, the Father of the Faithful, we read that he constantly traveled with his asses; and that one, ridden by the prophet Balaam, was notoriously clear-sighted and, more discerning than his master, intelligibly spoke. A story, little less astonishing, is related of Ammonius, the philosopher, that he admitted an ass daily to be the auditor of his lectures, and join in fellow scholarship with Origen and the Greek Porphyry. Who would believe it? Yet this same ass has been accounted a worthy companion of the wise in all ages, and has borne the burden of the mysteries from time immemorial. Jews, Ethnics, Christians, have in turn, identifying, honoured him; neither, perchance, had Apuleius honoured him; neither, perchance, had Apuleius of Megara been admitted to the mysteries of Isis, if he had not first of an inquisitive philosopher been turned into an ass. There is no creature, concludes the panegyrist, that is so able to receive divinity as an ass, into whom if ye be not at length turned, ye shall in no wise be able to carry the divine mysteries (47). For nothing that is defiled by information, or inconstant, or impassive, or selfish, or impure can attract Divinity. All mixed unguents are hateful to Minerva.
The goddess scorns
All mixture of her pure and simple oil (48).
And, as in the mysteries, the Aspirant entering into the interior to behold the Adytum, leaves behind him all the statues in the temple; so must the mind be prepared to depart from all images and intellections, whether self-originating or impressed, before it can entertain the simple Unity of Light within. The wise hierophants indeed appear to have signified by these illustrations the order in which Divinity is perceived. For, as when returning after the association within, which was not with a statue or mere mental image (but with the reality which these images represent), the statues again present themselves as secondary objects to view; so likewise, subsequent to the Divine Union, there recurs That also which was in the mind prior to the union, exalted and multiplied. And that which thus remains to him who passes beyond all things, is That which is prior to all things, and the First Matter. For the soul does not willingly accede to that which is entirely non-being, but running back from thence in a contrary direction, but running back from thence in a contrary direction, it arrives not at another thing but at itself. And as in the Divine conjunction, whilst it lasts, there are not two things as of subject and object in the consciousness, but the life understanding and the light understood are one; whoever thus becomes One by mingling with the Efficient, will have a remnant of it with himself; according to the eloquent tradition of Plotinus, where, discussing this union, he treats it as no mere spectacle or theoretical figment, but as a true experimental ingress of the understanding essence to its source. And the light and energy which are there, he says, are of the First Light shining primarily in itself, which at one and the same time illuminates and is illuminated. But if any one should inquire what the nature is of this First Light, which is the foundation of every intellect and primarily knows itself, such a one should first become established in Intellect, when he will e able through it, as an image, to behold the Archetype. And this, continues the philosopher, may be effected if you first separate body from the man and its defilements; and That which becomes generated of intelligence, after everything foreign is removed, is the original of all. For this primary motion of the ebbing life from its ultimate recessure recreates and so the Generative Virtue, which was alienated, becomes re-united to mind.
And here we observe the rule of thought to be invariable, whether theoretic or in actual operation; whether, according to strict analysis, reason becomes bounded about its own inversion, as with common logic is the case; or, experimentally proving, it effects that inversion, strictly followed either way, it arrives at the same Truth, though in different relations, the one in light, the other in life, the one by inference, the other in Absolute Identity, proving the First Source. The differences and inconsistencies that occur in the ancient writers and those faults which now to verbal writers and those faults which now to verbal critics are most apparent, vanish for the most past in their right understanding, and might cease to be regarded as such, could we but for an interval only enter into their original light. The proud spirit of modern science might then be taught to venerate the Wisdom it has so long in ignorance despised; even to honour the very contradictions, which not from levity or indistinctness of thought arose, but from such an excessive subtlety and refinement of reason rather, as, seeking to find utterance, was blurred by inadequate reception, and the duplicity of common speech.
(1) Kabbala Denudata, seu Doctrina Hebraeorum Transcendentalis et Liber Zohar Restitutus. Franckfurt 1684.
(2) La Kabbale, ou Philosophie Religieuse des Hebreux, par Ad. Franck. Paris, 1843.
(3) Zohar, part 1, Franck’s Translation, pp. 175, 185, etc.
(4) Zohar, part 3, fol. 12, 8 recto in Franck., p. 170.
(5) Revelation of St.John, Chap. 1:14; chap. 2:17.
(6) Book of Enoch, chap. 46:1, etc.
(7) Lucerna Salis, p. 153, 12 mo.
(8) Philosophical Parable.
(9) Oreatrike, chap. 9.
(10) See the Round Towers of Ireland; an estimable work, by H. O’Brien, chap. 22, p. 327.
(11) See Taylor’s Dissertation on Aristotle, Book 2, p. 319.
(12) Book of Enoch, chap. 46 and 41.
(13) Lumen de Lumine, the chapter on Matter, in int.
(14) From the Fragments of Parmenides, given at the end of Taylor’s Disssertation on Aristotle.
(15) Generation of the Three Principles.
(16) See Boehme’s Works, Vol. 1, p. 97, 41 fol.
(17) See Boehme’s Works, Turned Eye, in Vol. 2.
(18) Oreatrike, Chap. 60 and 96.
(19) Pordage, Mundorum Explicatoio, p. 320
(20) B. Valentine, Stone of Fire, in int.
(21) Georgic, Lib. 4:405.
(22) Fama et Confessionis, R.C., Preface. Ubi vero spiritus excessit, etc
(23) Tract. Aur., cap. 3.
(24) Georgic, lib. 4:397.
(25) Reuchlin de Verbo Mirificao. And in the Coelum Terrae of Vaughan.
(26) Grasseus. Theatr. Chem. 6:294.
(27) See, in Lumen de Lumine, the Extract, p. 69. Also, the Parable of Sendivogius, and Paracelsus’ account of the magical separation of the Elements, and vision, in their native place. Helmont’s Imago Mentis, in the beginning; and his Tree of Life. Genesis 2, Deut. 8, 9, etc.; and, in Exodus, Moses’ Description of the Promised Land. Job 28, etc.
(28) Das reine Seyn macht den Anfang... etc. --- Encyclopedie des Sciences Phil. 86 and 87. See M. Franck’s observations on this point, and La Kabbale, p. 187, etc.
(28) See La Kabbale, p. 214. Comment. Abram den Dior on the Zephir Jezirah, p. 67, etc.
(30) Adv. of Learning, lib. 3, sec. 5.
(31) On the Theology of Plato, pp. 236, 240, etc.
(32) See his Treatise on the Heavens, Book 1.
(33) Ovidii Metam., lib. 1:67.
(34) Proclus on the Theology of Plato, Book 5, p. 365.
(35) Empedocles, Physics, cap.1.
(36) See the Commentary of Simplicius in Plutarch’s Life of Aristotle, and the note, p. 4, to Taylor’s Dissertation.
(37) Metaphysics, sub init.
(38) Here Plotinus doubtless makes an allusion to the mystical analysis; drawing his comparison also from thence. For by no other analysis either is a pot resolved into gold, or gold into a water which is indissoluble. But what he says is perfectly conformable to the hermetic doctrine, both in an internal and in an external sense; for, by a reducation of the iron spirit in the blood, it becomes cleansed from its foreign oxide and aurified --- that is, illuminated by contrariation of its Form. The radical moisture of the metal likewise, obeying the fermentive virtue of such a test when applied, may be made to pass away, as the tradition runs, from its own Form into that which is more integral and perfect. All things may be reduced to gold according to this doctrine, as Albertus Magnus in his book De Minerabilis asserts, and where also he is cited by Becher in his Physica Subterranea, p. 319: --- Light, which is the formal essence of all things, and most abundant in gold, is found in the ultimate alchemical analysis of every existing thing. --- that all metals, likewise, may be reduced into water, that is, into their first pure matter, is the doctrine of Plato and Aristotle. See Taylor’s Translation of the Timaeus of the former, and the Meteors of the latter, and the Select Works of Plotinus, p. 38, note.
(39) Iamblichus on the Mysteries, chap. 23, sect. 5, and Plotinus’ Select Works --- of Matter, and of the Impassivity of Incorporeal Natures.
(40) Select Works, p. 294.
(41) See Plotinus on the Descent of the Soul, last of the five treatises rendered by T. Taylor.
(42) Aristotle’s Metaph., Book 9, p. 221; Book 9, p. 237, etc.
(43) The Mind of Divinity, says Trismegistus, which becomes known by the Divine Intention in the understanding, is most like unto a torrent running with a violent and swift stream from a high rock, whereby it glides away also from the understanding of such as are either hearers or dealers in it. --- Asclepius, cap. 1 end. See also Vaughan, Lumen de Lumine, where, discoursing with nature in her mineral region, the artist describes the same Matter as if he had been an eye-witness of the whole supernal procedure from its source. --- A fat mineral nature it was, he says, bright like pearls, and transparent like crystal; when I had viewed it and searched it well, then it appeared somewhat somewhat spermatic; and herupon I became informed that it was the First Matter and very natural true sperm of the greater world. It is invisible in nature and therefore there are few that find it; many believe that it is not to be found (for the world is made up of many divers dark and particular and contrary qualities, and the first unity is occultated in its generation and does not appear). But that stream was more large than any river in her full channel; and notwithstanding the height and violence of the fall, it descended without any noise, the waters were dashed and their current distracted by the saltish rocks, but for all this they came down with a dead silence like the still soft air. Some of the liquor, for it ran by me, I took up to judge what strange woolen substance it was that did steal down like snow. When I had it in my hand, it was not common water but a certain kind of oil of a watery complexion. --- Lumen de Lumine, pp. 7, 8, etc. This same, Sendivogius in his New Light, calls the water of our sea, the water of life, not wetting the hands; and believe me, he says, for I saw it with my eyes and felt it, that water was as white as snow, etc.
(44) Porphyry’s Auxil. to the Perception of Intelligibles, sec.3.
(45) Filium Ariadne, p. 61.
(46) Lucerna Salis Phil., p. 36, cap. 3.
(47) Vanity of the Sciences, chapter next in conlusion. Apuleius, Metapmorphoses, or Golden Ass.
(48) Callimachus’ Hymn to Minerva.