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
The Hermetic Practice
It has been our endeavor, as clearly as the limits prescribed by evidence and our understanding would enable us, to discuss the ground and practical pretensions in general of the Hermetic Mystery. To explain all would require an extensive range and a closer opportunity of experience than has hitherto been granted us. Nor with these auxiliaries, perhaps, should we become more intelligible, since caution very usually increases with observation, and the truth has been so intricately, arbitrarily, and in many folds enveloped, and the cloud of witnesses is such that it might puzzle Apollo himself to explicate the whole Enigma intelligibly to the world. To induce research, therefore, we pretend only to have signalized the Light, that any one fortunately perceiving, might be led along by its attracting presence to the discovery of Truth. Evidence has constantly preceded, neither have we ventured many assertions of our own; but the reputable witness of individuals of various ages and nations, whose names are renowned in philosophy, have been gathered together in aid of this Inquiry, and in support of the dignity of the Hermetic Science; which they have not only judged to be true, but many add their personal experience in conformation, attesting the reality of the Philosopher’s Stone.
The confection of this miraculous substance, moreover, they have helped us to trace in theory from its foundation in the free Ether, through an artificial process of elaboration, into manifest effect. And the principle of Transmutation, they have shown to be relating not to Species but to their Universal Subject, whose concentrated virtue the Stone likewise itself is.
And Man was the proper laboratory of the whole Art; not only the most perfect chemical apparatus, devised by Nature for the distillation of her Spirit, but having besides the whole fermentative virtue, motive, and principle of vital melioration and every requisite complete within himself, for the rectification and furtherance of her prescribed Law; mind and manual efficacy, as it is narrated, by the Divine Will, to effect all things, though concealed in this life by the external attraction and obstructive energies of cause.
This hidden capacity it has been shown to be the purpose of the hermetic artifice to explore; and that adepts well-skilled, as they profess, in the vital analysis of bodies, by such means discovered the life of man therein circulating to be a pure fire incorporated in a certain incombustible ethereal vapour; also, that the Universal Efficient was in this fire, and the diverse kingdoms of nature, as it were, bound together in the threefold enchantment of his natural Identity; one of which only, the animal life, being developed to consciousness, the other two, viz., the vegetable and mineral, are known only to those who have entered experimentally within to prove the hypostatic action and passion of the working essences in life.
Partly, also, on the authority of the Ancients, coupled with certain other arguments, not altogether speculative, we have been thence led to regard the Mysteries celebrated at Eleusis and the rest, in a more important light than heretofore; not as mere external ceremonials, pictured scenes of suffering and beatitudes, but as real inductions of the Understanding Spirit to its Source.
And with the development of these Mysteries we have been enabled to connect Alchemy; and with these both, in their preliminary practice, the modern art, called Mesmerism, strikingly accords; which we have proposed suggestively, therefore, as a first key opening to the vestibule of this Experiment, where sits the Sphinx with her eternal enigma, still to perplex intruders, and open to philosophers only the inner halls of Light.
Bearing these things in mind, by the assistance of the Greek Ontologists, we have ventured, intimately pursuing their course, to follow mysterious Nature through many intricate windings and circumstantial difficulties, into her Initial Source; and there observed her, after operating voluntarily about her own annihilation, to survive and establish a stable monarchy upon her redeemed Light.
Particulars, also, of the metaphysical experience we have attempted to delineate, and to show the catholicity and casual reference of the Hermetic Work throughout.
From impediments likewise described, and rare intellectual conditions, it has been shown why the Divine Experiment has been so seldom attempted and more rarely brought to a legitimate conclusion on this earth. And why philosophers, in all ages, considering the unfitness of the multitude, and fearful consequences that might ensue from individual abuse, have concealed their knowledge, communicating almost by word of mouth only the practical device.
If we have been freer in our expositions, the spirit was not the more reckless, but because the thresholds of ignorance are already overpast, and experiment is in need rather of a motive to dignify it than of practical machinery. What if the darkness should contend with and prevail awhile, yet there in the center the light will kindle and increase, and gain strength to radiate upwards through the whole circumference, despite every effort of ignorant selfishness and folly to prevent. So reason instructs that we should have faith in humanity as in the ultimate realization and prevalence of good. But that class are all now incredulous who were formerly dreaded in their belief; and under that safe guardianship we leave them, happily supine in the conviction that our conduct will neither be attractive or intelligible, much less practically useful to the profane multitude of mankind. For although this Art of Alchemy is eminently experimental and practical in its consequences, yet it is wholly unsuited to minds commonly so styled practical, who are impatient of every proposition that is not immediately applicable to the affairs of life. For these the hermetic Art is no more suited than they for it; it needs a philosopher, one of the antique mould, a true lover of Wisdom, who, for her sake, will devote everything else, studious, simple, ardent, and withal suscipient of appearing truth.
They who in a kindred spirit have pursued this Inquiry, may have divined many things which will be hidden from the indifferent and thoughtless reader; for we have spoken of principles with reference to practice, and in an order indirectly indicative of the genealogical method of ascent; even that artistic fabrication of the Fire which Prometheus received from Vulcan, and Minerva disseminated providentially for the sake of her luminous radix, lest it should be smother in our irrational alliance, and perish ungratefully without return.
In the course of this vital experiment the ancients discovered the whole of the philosophy they teach, the quintessence of Universal nature and her fruitful springs: by this pyrotechnical induction, powers were revealed to conscience, the whole regenerative original and those temptations which the Reason also, purified and singled out by Art for the encounter, is able entirely to withstand.
And that ray of motive Light, pure, vital, and efficient, we have shown to be the true Form of Gold, the alone universal principle of increase and perfection, the same which in the circulatory system, becoming dominant, is made concrete in life; and is the transmutative ferment --- even the Philosophic Stone.
And this is the grand Hermetic secret, that there is a Universal Subject in nature, and that Subject is susceptible of nourishment in Man; and this is the greatest mystery, of all mysteries the most wonderful, that man should be able not only to find the Divine Nature, but to effect It.
The philosophers sought after Wisdom for her own sake; for her beauty and bright divinity they wooed her, and gained with her an ample dowry, gold, silver, and the glittering treasures of her creative light in abundance. And some have dwelt gratefully on these intermediate benefits, recording them, but were, above all, careful to celebrate the primary attraction which led them in for the discovery of life. And we have omitted many things, to which, to the many, might be more attractive, even than gold or silver, or a more remote prospect of immortality; for every desire is, in the magic region, made prolific, embodying itself, by the ethereal conception, as a principle to enact its voluntary accord. But to allure by particular promises, however rich or real, which might restrict to individual interests a virtue which is infinite, forms no part of our design; man is sufficiently bounded already in all --- how many ways is he not fettered, by the poverty of his imagination and the littleness of his love?
Having then run cursorily through the circuit of the Hermetic Tradition, without attempting, however, to include the whole length, which would embrace a far wider field of philosophical inquiry than is commonly imagined, it may be proper, in conclusion, to consider the several bearings of the same with respect to other sciences, and their comparative value to mankind at large.
Between the physical and Moral sciences, commonly so called, though there are links found indicative of a radical relationship, yet each are throughout their departments divergent, and the class of mind usually occupied by either is distinct. The former, based externally, having the senses for chief evidence, makes practical utility its end and only value; whilst the latter, having its evidence and object alike within mind, attaches less consequence to worldly benefits, misprising the lights of sense also as inferior and comparatively insecure. And thus Philosophy stands divulsed at this day, the Spiritual unable to prove itself absolutely, or the Material to disprove the other practically; they accordingly maintain on either side a negative, though relatively assured, ground. But the Hermetic Science, supposing this indeed to be well founded, would include both in the ample compass of its experiment, as passing from whither extreme of Mind and matter, to prove them, it arrives at the Catholic Effect of Life. And here the external and internal worlds are said to blend together in confluence harmony, establishing each other, and leaving reason nothing more to doubt or the senses to desire, but a fulfillment under the Law.
If then, in contrariety to every popular prejudice, and on the evidence only of defunct philosophers, we can yet imagine this Art of Alchemy to be real, and an experimental foundation of science, notwithstanding all the learned cavils and clamours of disappointed chemists that have been raised against it; --- if it be true that there is a Subtle Nature pervading the universe, which is the All in every thing and susceptible of artificial alteration through all; and if man by his especial prerogative of Reason and rectitude of purpose is able, by a development of these, to advance and bear the life within him through dissolution into a new birth, superior to nature and beyond the reach of elementary discord to destroy; and if all this has been accomplished, passed through in the conscious experience, and proved demonstratively in facts, visible deeds, and effects; them these things supposed, and experience being the admitted test of philosophy, will it not follow that theirs was the right and true philosophy, which at the vertex of a double ignorance has been forgotten and despised?
For the experienced of intellect would, under the supposition, be esteemed pre-eminently above that of sense, inasmuch as the one revelation is naturally superior and acknowledged, even in this life, before the other; and that kind of evidence would be necessarily preferred by all which is universally inclusive and leading out from the Causal Fountain into natural effect. But by no reason that comes from sense will such an evidence be obtained, nor shall we ever learn, without Identic co-operation, how Nature works, or by what occult virtue the grain of wheat is even instigated, so that it grows and bears its abundant increase upon earth. All our knowledge without the experience is empirical, the result only of observation of remote effects. And therefore Alchemy has been declared to be the only true glass of the mind, which shows how to enter, and to touch, and to discover the Truth in her own simplicity and univocal demonstration. Neither does it therefore brig so many arguments, as might be, to prove itself, since the evidence is self-sufficient, and without itself cannot, however truly imaginable, be known. Such a demonstration would stand above all common sense conclusions, above imagination, above opinion, and all logical proof, which is barren without self-knowledge, and isolated and erring upon the plain of Truth.
Yet this logical faculty is the only guide we now can boast of, which, if stable in its own criterion, yet being dependent on externals for matter and practical pursuit, fluctuates, and hence many evils arise and those diversities of opinion which distract mankind. The world, so imperfectly ruled, has instituted a sort of free-will standard of its own; men will believe as they like, see or not see, assume as suits their convenience, or reject their own criterion at pleasure, even the testimony of their own highly esteemed sober senses, when these do not tally with their pre-conceived prejudices, interests, or hopes. But it is evident, irrespective of all particular objections that true science does not consist in the exhibition of phenomena, neither can anything short of the Causal Discovery fulfill the Idea of Truth. The doubt would not rest therefore about the superiority of Causal science, if it were possible, but whether it be truly possible or not. If the philosophy of the Ancients is without a true foundation, if there is not any other essence of things besides that which is apparent and has a sensible subsistence, then the Physical will indisputably be the first and only science; but if otherwise there is proved to be a certain immutable Being of all, pre-existent to sensibles, which can be proven in intellect and confirmed in sensible phenomena, as the Alchemists and Greek physicians assert, then this will be prior, surer, and the best philosophy.
To those in whom the spirit of observation has been wholly drawn to externals, it may have seemed a ridiculous thing to speak of life and intellect independently, as apart from their manifest operations; still more so to enter on specific idioms and modes of spiritual subsistence, seeing we have no tangible proof calculated by any means to satisfy the searchers of exact science; that as life is nowhere seen apart from organization, or moral consciousness from either, they are phenomena little likely to be discovered apart or practically understood --- Against such an opinion we have no present demonstration to offer; our own assertion would have nothing to the authorities already cited; inquiry is the only antidote of rational skepticism. For this we have laboured to supply means; and the natural subsistence of Universals in the human mind may afford a ground of probability whence to proceed into their proof. That we are deprived of the power of apprehending the ancient doctrine of internal Wisdom is not proof that it is untrue; there is a strongly enchanted fortress about it, whose forces yield not either to impertinent curiosity or the peremptory demands of sense. Nor can all the negative evidence of sensual certainty in array disprove, or for an instant nullify, assertions which belong to another Experience and another probability of Art and Nature.
But, it will be objected, that which has never been in our thought, things so far above us, are nothing to us? Truly, if beyond our possible attainment, they would be indifferent; but benefits are not the less real because unexpected, or promises to be cast away because the means of fulfillment are not immediately discernable. The evils of this life are manifold, and a prospect of escape, or melioration even, will not be obnoxious to those who are fortunately able to perceive it. Neither let it be supposed, that because the Wisdom of the ancients transcends, that it by any means contradicts human reason, but quite otherwise; that was, in truth, the basis of their philosophy, which is with us the boundary and summit of our knowledge. That Faith alone, indeed of all else, remains to us in common --- in that we are, we have a witness which believes and infers, a reality beyond present experience; and hence it is in vain that metaphysicians, inductively arguing, have sometimes endeavored to reduce the Idea of Cause to mere antecedence or juxtaposition in time. The instinct of human nature is constantly opposed to them, and believes, heedless of all doubt and difficult discussion. For Power is latent everywhere, and we feel it in the shadow, and recognize its presence spontaneously in every action of life. Striking upon this Faith therefore, in default of its true object, and taking to witness some of the closer records of transcendental experience, we have hoped to awaken the imaginative centers to such an accord as might stir Reason from her long lethargy to seek for genuine reminiscence in her root of Light.
Though from our birth the faculty divine
Is chained and tortured, cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d.
And bred in darkness, lest the light should shine
Too brightly on the uninstructed mind,
The beams pour in, and truth and skill may couch the blind.
Were t not that the ancients acknowledge and uniformly insist on the use of means for removing the barriers by which the Divine Light is here held in thralldom, we might more consistently despair of their Wisdom; but it was avowedly a thing acquired, the reward only of peculiar and arduous discipline; not such as mere school logic or the mathematics now afford, but as different and far above as was the promise and ultimate aim. No modern institutions, either secular or religious, furnish anything analogous, no effectual means of moral elevation, no rites of purifying or awakening efficacy to the mind. We plant and increase knowledge, and give precepts and devise examples, and draw forth the observing faculties to their superficial contentment; but all our circumstantial labours do not rectify the mind, or turn the inbred inclination out of life. Circumstances indeed do modify, and, according as they are well or ill devised, improve or deteriorate the habitual character of mankind; but they do not recreate; no power that is not vital can touch the evil that is inbred, or even discover it truly without introspective proof. That which generation binds dissolution only can unloose --- the evil must be met by its proper antidote, overcoming darkness by Light in the hypostatical alliance; every accessory means of melioration will be preparative to this which restores the human mind to integrity and universal science.
Man has never been observed to advance himself individually through adventitious acquirements; but, on the contrary, the increase of luxury, to which thought is now applied, enervates the moral character, fosters selfishness by competition, fraud, and emulous hate. Institutions, framed by the same defective pattern, multiply the evil, as every advance we make in externals leads us further off from the First Source. And until Wisdom shall have effected that individual reformation, which above all things we now need, it is vain to look in externals for a perfection and felicity which have not been imaged there. We may alter, and improve, and educate, and prepare the way with advantage; but the notion will be variable, and every plan defective without the Exemplary Light.
But some one will consider the discovery impossible, or, if possible, yet that this Wisdom is too difficult perhaps in the pursuit? To the former objection, supposing it to be inveterate, we oppose nothing, having nowhere undertaken to convince, but only to promote investigation. Incredulity is the strongest barrier of possibilities over the world, no doubt wisely provided to prevent a too rapid movement of mind into practice, before it is well prepared and disposed to the pursuit of truth. With respect to the difficulties of the pursuit, we have nowhere denied them, or that they are insuperable to the common herd of mankind. Without an earnest desire of discovery, the liveliest faith will be frustrated, and labour will be vain unless reason give direction to the persuasion of faith. But how hardly can these wither subsist without the other? Since faith is the very attracting loadstone which hope pursues, and desire and reason, and the whole willing armament of Mind, to which, in her allied forces, nothing is impossible; or what apparition of difficulties would deter conviction steeled to the purpose of her Motive Light?
Or does any one, persisting to calumniate this Philosophy, say it threatens to sacrifice important temporal interests for the sake of visionary and remote gains? Such objections however will not be rational, but spring out of the baser affections of humanity and short-sighted sense. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing, nor does any transitory good suffice to human desire; above all, there is no selfish object worthy the pursuit of Intellect; nor is any worldly recompense found corresponding to its need. But the proper object of the rational faculty is in its Source, which lies profoundly buried in this life of sense. And this it is the province of Hermetic Artifice to resuscitate and bring through self-knowledge into the experience of life. For this same Root of Reason is Wisdom, and that saving Salt which philosophers were wont anciently to excavate and by so many circulating media to exalt. The diadem of Wisdom is with this Stone, which, as a halo or crown of light, the regenerate soul puts on as a new body, wherein it can rule over the elementary world and pass through it, overcoming evil and falsehood, and ignorance and death.
To the faculty of Reason, therefore, nothing is more attractive than this philosophy, which immortalizes it; yet, will it be argued, there are other faculties of the human mind equally real, if not as important, and which ought not to be despised? Neither, we reply, is any faculty of the soul repudiated in that supernal alliance; but all are present together in that supernal alliance; but all are present together in obedience to their rightful rule and habitude; or if any one is refractory during the passage, it is the occasion of suffering to the better natures, which are all engaged voluntarily in the restitution of their King. But if they all must be sacrificed for the sake of him who is their source, would not this be expedient, rather than that he should continue in an illegitimate thralldom under all? Such is not the ultimate necessity of the case however; for the brethren all are renewed together with him, and every dignified sentiment is set in accord, to testify and maintain the triumphant Monarchy of Light.
And what more alluring to a cultivated Imagination than this pursuit, which abounds in ideality and the beautiful symbolism of universal truth, which discovers the occult springs of Classic inspiration, tradition, mythology, fable, and every graceful remain?
And will not Veneration, too, be intimately invited by the prospect of its own antique worshipful Idea --- there where, in the presence of Divinity, true awe is felt, and man discovers and knows the perfect goodness, which profanely without the temple’s veil he cannot, or unless the understanding is absolutely conjoined?
And are not Hope and Benevolence interested in this research, and Justice longing for an equilibrium, and Self-respect and Fidelity, and every honourable motive herein allied? And to know the First Truth of things really and experimentally, and to revolve the Causal Light in permanence of intellection, is not this the highest privilege that man may propose to himself? And when we are told that all things are added to that felicity, that the springs of Universal Nature, with her growth and fruits, are at our delegate disposal, if we can believe, what else is worthy our whole desire? And what kind of science, supposing it real, would be so conclusive as this, which exhibits all things in their constructive Causes, such as no other science does. Or other conviction can do, but that only which, Identically penetrating, enters into the Whole of Existence?
Let no one therefore conceive that this philosophy is unattractive, which has occupied the best faculties of the best minds, and at the summit of their capacity. Nor are the rewards so remote, either as indolence and adverse inclination may cause them to appear. But if inferior interests should yet complain, as in danger of their present dominion, and pride or avarice, or ambition or ignorance, accustomed to rule in this life, should disdain the subaltern station which the Divine Law assigns to them, let not one enlist or be drawn by promises, however alluring, lest they be deceived and swallowed up in the gulph of their own overwhelming delusion. As who would wish it should otherwise, unless it were to generate evil by the viperous progeny of self-love?
Should it be considered, on the other hand, that the research of Causes is altogether impious, and above the destined capacity of man, and vain, since, as Job says, no one by searching can find out the Almighty to perfection --- we would observe, with respect to this last assertion, that it is easily explicable; for though it is eminently true that man, searching in his own will alone, is incompetent to the Divine Discovery, yet, by conditionating, in obedience to the Divine Will, he comes into the integral alliance and power.
With respect to the charge of impiety, should this persist, the evil is inherent in the preposterous idea; nor can we be at the pains just now to vindicate the most sacred science from such an aspersion; but recommend those who really think in this way, with the rest already warned off, to desist from inquiry, nor give heed to the subject as long as the fatal suggestion lurks; lest it should become manifested forth in some practical form of pusillanimity, or faithless attempt to interrogate the profundity it fears. These is nothing impure, or of itself impious, in this Art of Wisdom, long distinguished as holy. But to him that esteems a thing unclean, as St Paul says, it is unclean, for the thought will defile it. Hone soit qui mal y pense. Let not this good then be evil spoken of. All things are indeed pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth the bread of life with offense.
The Art of Alchemy is of all Arts distinguished as holt, since it has been piously occupied, and aided the most devout minds, in times past, to the attainment of their common end. Not that we would insinuate that human salvation is dependent on a mere art --- far otherwise; the Divine Will operates its fulfillment alone; but the Art is said to be a remedy of imperfect souls, and offers the means of assimilation; whether a knowledge of these means is absolutely necessary, we dare not take on ourselves to determine --- the power of God is infinite; but Adepts declare that He has always revealed them to his elected children.
If doubt yet further should arise about this Wisdom; seeing she did not reveal herself in common arts and the discoveries of human invention; it may be plainly observed that such particulars are foreign to the Divine purpose, they are foolishness to her; she teaches an Art which supersedes all these and comprehends every liberal science in sublime freedom of intellection and every subordinate discovery in her revealed accord. Yet who will now believe?
It is by the searching and proving of His own Identity, not otherwise, that man can arrive at the assurance of this Wisdom, which is above science, art, and every other kind of faith; which includes all knowledges, arts, and every particular which the inquiring Spirit seeks within itself. This is that Well of Heraclitus in which the Truth yet lies profoundly hidden; whence also those philosophic tears. This is that Nothing which Socrates knew, on account of which the oracle pronounced him to be the wisest of mankind; which Democritus, beholding, laughed at other things: it was this which warned Friar Bacon from the error of his ways, and convicted Agrippa of the vanity and confusion of his youth, when at length in his manhood he came to know that to know Nothing was the most happy life. For he who in such wise knows Nothing --- no one apostate particular --- has the All, and, being composed of the whole, he is able to discern, to make, and to effect the whole; but falling off from this, in becoming dividual, he ceases to be the Universe: returning again, however, into the Universal and abandoning the selfhood, he raises himself on high, and governs the world.
And when we consider the highly elevated philosophy of the Platonic successors; the profound yet simple metaphysics of the Hebrew Kabbalah, as it has been partially transmitted, with a persuasion of reality unequaled in modern language; the soul-stirring syllables of the Hermetic and Chaldaic Fragments; the refined enthusiasm of the Middle Age Adeptists; and all these and many more separately agreeing in the same divine tradition; and added to these all, the Christian doctrine of fulfillment in the Gospel; we cannot but feel regret, mingling with the satisfaction these things might otherwise afford, that so early and great a promise of the human mind should have been blighted, not only, but forgotten almost in the world. Or can we recall such lights without reflection, and incuriously believe that knowledge was once granted to man by revelation, but has since, we cannot tell why, passed away for ever? Are we the children of a second fall, or what spell holds us that we no longer aspire even to understand the language of our Fathers, or desire to pass into the life of those elder times, when Man, not yet always the poor servant and interpreter f Nature, moved under his God, her Lord and Master? Are we not all born of one generation, in the same surrounding world; that identical sun now enlightening us as formerly shone upon the bards and hallowed sages of Asia Minor? Yet, whilst they so many centuries ago bear testimony to a knowledge of their Creator and his intimate works, we continue still in uncertainty, blind and baffled everywhere about the beguilements of sense. No longer careful for ourselves, life is wasted on externals, which, always ungrateful, yield new burdens and perplexities in proportion as they increase. Theoretic science is everywhere condemned; but there is no such thing at this day; since, with all her extolled artifice, array of disciplines and powers, the Wisdom of Antiquity has disappeared from amongst men.
And to what are we arrived without her? Even at the proudest pinnacle of external science, the whole physical nature explored, and facts of all generations accumulated together before our eyes, what would we be wiser without the Causal knowledge of these things? What single advantage have we gained by misprising the ancients? Those low, literal, spiritless interpretations of poetic fable and philosophy --- what satisfaction have they afforded? Or of what use will they ever be but to memorialize our ignorance to future generations? It is true, they have flattered our self-complacency for a while into a belief that former Wisdom was foolishness, and that men never lived in reality who were more knowing, religious, and virtuous than ourselves. But then the evil far outlives the temporary gratulation of those conceits ---conceits which have stripped the Ideal Standard of all excellency, and shorn the imagination of its brightest hopes of beauty, goodness, and immortal truth. All has been swept away with a remorseless hand; all veneration and faith in ideality, whilst sense has been the acknowledged beacon light, and worldy utility the highest good.
Is it not full time to return, when things are arrived at the precipice of self-oblivion, when experimental philosophy labours for selfish aggrandizement, and self is least of all served in the attempt; when thought wastes its eternal substance in the pursuit of time; and the idea of Truth is mangled in the reckless machinery of Error? Has not Lord bacon himself, the leader of this exterminating chase, whilst endeavoring to supersede the bare exercise of logic, and clear the field of Learning in his Inauguration, recommended the pursuit of Causes above every other, and taught, by his own energetic example, to inquire of the ancients, and to experiment after their hidden Wisdom, though he knew it not, but only burned about the lights which they had bequeathed? What more, then, should we add to exhort, extol, or explicate, having studied to revive these lights and relics of the Sacred Art long buried in oblivion? If their witness is disbelieved, addition would be useless; if otherwise, we await the result. --- It would be as impossible in an exposition of this kind to conciliate all tastes, as to draw divergent prejudices into accord. There is one pleasure of a horse, another of a dog; a goat differs from either in his natural choice; and in man every various inclination is to be found, and a multifarious understanding in the affairs of life; so that those arguments which to some would be convincing, by others are not discerned, or needed by many more who are endowed with an instinctive faith and appreciation. Truths which are grateful to certain persons are odious to hers, according as they may be constituted or habitually trained. In this Inquiry, therefore, we have sought to attract those chiefly to whom such a pursuit would be naturally pleasing, and such as have been customarily esteemed worthy of the reward.
With respect to the practical benefits, our hopes, though not enlarged, are vigorous and of the most grateful kind; for those to whom it is addressed the Light will attract, and to them will not be moderately useful, if they advance by it to the true end.
That the subject is worthy of inquiry from the highest order of minds, we repeat our persuasion, and at the same time entertain a belief that the period is not far distant when this will be obtained, and the truth, by these means, be so manifestly presented before the eyes of all, that contrary prejudices, and doubts, and false interests, will be merged in the revelation of power and irresistible fact.
The catholic torch, miraculously kindled, kindles the Light of Universal Nature, and either externally or internally, morally or physically, or in all these ways, according to the application, works from thence through every part, diffusing energy, life and joy, in either if the three kingdoms, as we have shown, by its voluntary assimilation, increasing and promoting things to their utmost boundary of strength. But, above all, it rejoices in the Mind of Man, when, in conscious rectitude of thought and action, he bears it in comprehensive superiority elect over the rest --- when, including all in the catholic perceivance of this Reason, he submits his own omnipotence to the omniscience of its Rule --- when Nature opening up to him the vast resources of her essence and the mystery of the most wonderful creation, with every temptation of self-idolatry laid open to view, oblivious of all else in admiration and love of so much Wisdom and integral perfection, he co-operates with the First Cause.
Some may consider we have opened too much, others too little of a mystery irrelevant to the common understanding of mankind, and no doubt our conduct is blameworthy in other respects; yet those for whom we have laboured will not prove ungrateful if they attain to the end of our proposed discovery. For the discovery of the Causal Nature is doubtless of all parts of knowledge the worthiest to be sought after, if it be possible to be found; and, as to the possibility, they are computed for ill discoverers that think there is no land because they discern nothing but sea. --- Believe it, then, beyond the turbulent sea of sense, there is a haven and signal marks to direct where the Promised Land is to be found. And Life is the nucleus of the whole Hermetic Mystery, and the Key thereof is Light; the golden ore of which, likewise, we have lavishly shown. If, however, the Key is wanting, how may we presume to enter; or, without it, explain the intricate intelligence of those mirific wards which were constructed by it, and for it to pass through, and for it alone? They, we repeat, who can understand the language of the philosophers, will understand their Art; for this we have opened the way only, which if any one will consent to travel in, we assure him of success, but not otherwise; for neither was this research undertaken indiscriminately, nor can it be prosecuted without a congenial Sight. But he who desires to enter, let him search for the Root of Reason rationally, and hold by it, and conspire with It, if he would have Truth at last. He who knows the first entrance, and how to render the fixed tincture of life volatile, and to return it, being free, is already admitted to the temple of Divine Science, and joins in with the whole conclave; because, through all the interior recesses, the method is allied. Let him search into the enigmas, peruse the fables, and consider the parables and maxims of the wise Adepts. They all tend to one discovery, and declare the same, and even in their inconsistencies will be instructive to him who has the Key. And he who sets himself in this wise to the comprehension of the whole philosophy, will be a competent judge of our labours, how much assistance we have added towards the recovery of lost Wisdom, and with what sincerity we have opened the way permeating into those antiquated abodes of Light.