Notes on Alchemy the Cosmological "Yoga"of Medieval
By Maurice Aniane
Article appeared in "Material for
Thought"Magazine ,San Francisco,Ca.,Spring 1976, which we consider as the
most detailed and clear explanation of Alchemy work
( Opus Alchimicum ).
- Alchemy in
most "traditional"civilizations is none other than the science
of the sacrifice of terrestrial substances, the liturgy for transfiguring
those crafts which deal with "inanimate"matter. We find it
everywhere from archaic Mesopotamia to ancient China and in India
throughout the ages. In these traditions, "mythological" in
form, alchemy is not restricted to any particular place: if the Spirit is
everywhere, obviously it is also in a stone; when the one and only light,
that of Divine Intelligence, is manifest in the sun, in an eagle, and in
honey, it is surprising that it is also manifest in gold, that every metal
is gold which does not know itself, and even in its ignorance is a
"state"of gold? If man has no other role than to worship in the
undivided sanctuary of his body and of nature, is it surprising that he
should "transmute" lead into gold? Neither can sanctity be
divided, and the "miracle" of transmutation reveals its
- Alchemy in the metaphysical and mythological
traditions had no more importance than the dance which expressed the
sacred nature of rhythm, showed the worshipful circling of the dancers to
be the same as that of the stars, and, in the sudden immobility of the
body, "transmuted" time, the sleep of lead, into the pure gold
of a moment of eternity.
- However, alchemy was destined to have a
special significance in the realm of the "monotheistic"
traditions, and particularly in Christianity. Apart from traces of
folklore which still exists in some rural communities of Europe, alchemy,
or, more generally, Hermeticism, seems to have been the only cosmological
doctrine to survive in the Christian world. It has therefore been called
upon to play a major role "beneath" a religion which stressed
"contempt of the flesh" and shunned cosmology.
- In fact, during the early Middle Ages and up
to the beginning of Gothic Art, alchemy was no opposed to Christianity but
completed it. Through it the Eucharistic effusion radiated even into the
heaviest states of matter. It was no longer only bread and wine that were
transubstantiated, but stone, lead, the lime of bones and rocks. Vivified
by Christianity, alchemy gave the latter a "technical"
application in the "psycho cosmic" realm, which Christianity had
neglected because its aim was not to establish man in the world, but to
lead him out of it.
- So alchemy could not have survived in the West
without the tremendous initiatic effusion of Christianity: just as the
archaic house only exists because of the chimney by which it communicates
with "heaven", so there is no possible cosmology except around
the "central" state, through which one can find a way out of the
- But without alchemy Christianity could not
have been "incarnated"in a total order: there would have been
monks and saints; there would not have been the sacred idea of a nature
which could endow the arts and crafts, and heraldry, with their character
of "lesser mysteries".
- In a time when we are weighed down by
heaviness, it is perhaps urgent to remind Christianity that it not only
accepted but, in the centuries of its noblest incarnation, animated a true
"yoga" of heaviness.
Outline of the Doctrine
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The meaning of Gold
- Despite the insistence of historians of
science, alchemy was never, except in its degenerate aspects, a primitive
chemistry. It was a "sacramental" science in which material
phenomena were not autonomous, but represented only the "condensation"
of psychic and spiritual realities. When the spontaneity and mystery of
nature is penetrated, it becomes transparent: on the one hand it is
transfigured under the lightning-flashes of divine energies, and on the
other it incorporates and symbolizes those "angelic" states
which fallen man can only glimpse for brief moments, when listening to
music or when contemplating a human face. Symbols are not meant to be
"stuck onto" things: they are the very structure, the presence,
and the beauty of things such as they are in the process of perfection in
God. For alchemy, the science of symbol, there was no question, as has
sometimes been said, of a "material" unity of nature, but of a
spiritual unity, one could almost say a spiritual Assumption of nature;
for nature, ultimately, is none other than the place of a metaphysical
principle: through man it becomes the body of the Word and, as it were,
the bride of God.
- This Assumption of matter is the key to the
alchemical work, which simply helps substances "to plunge into the Father-nature,"
that is, to incorporate, according to their mode of being, the greatest
possible spiritual light. "Creatures must plunge into this
Father-nature and become Unity and only Son....," for
"...nature, which is God, seeks only the image of God."
"Copper, because of its nature, can become silver, and silver, by its
nature, can become gold: so neither one nor the other stops or pauses
until this identity is realized." For gold is the most perfect of
metals, the one whose luminous density best expresses the divine presence
in the mineral realm: through spiritual continuity each metal is virtually
gold and each stone becomes precious in God.
- This transfiguration of nature-memory of Eden
and expectation of the second coming ( Parousia )- can at present only
take effect in the heart of man, the central and conscious being of the
creation. Indeed, that being so, "the eye of the heart" can see
gold in lead and crystal in the mountain, because it can see the world in
- Alchemy, like all the "traditional"sciences,
was therefore an immense effort to awaken man to the divine omnipresence.
Its importance is to have emphasized this omnipresence in the darkest
heaviness: there where the pseudo-mystical, "idealistic"
perspective would be least likely to look for it; there, on the contrary,
where, according to the analogical inversion of a "sacramental"
vision, the divine omnipresence "contracts"and most strongly
withdraws into itself.
- If the production of metallic gold has
sometimes been achieved, then it was simply a sign. It
was no more of a miracle than that of a saint whose look transforms a
sinner. Just as the saint sees in the sinner the possibility of sanctity,
so the alchemist-sage saw in the lead the possibility of metallic
sanctity, that is, of gold. And this vision was "operative."
- But the alchemist did not seek to make gold.
That was not the true meaning of his work. His purpose was to unite his
soul so intimately with that of the metals that he could remind them that
they are in God, that is, that they are gold. The medieval alchemist
actualized the Word of Christ to the letter: he proclaimed the good news
to all creatures. "The stone is the Christ," all the Hermetic
texts of the Middle Ages hopefully repeat. Through his vision of Christic
Gold, the alchemist could transmute every "imperfect metal": but
he did it only rarely, for as a saint, he knew that the time for cosmic
transfiguration had not yet come.
- The true role of the alchemist was twofold: on
the one hand, he helped nature, suffocated by human decadence, to breathe
the presence of God. Offering up to God the prayer of the universe, he
achored the universe in being and renewed its existence. The texts call
him king; as secret king, he confirmed the order of
time and of space, the fecundity of the earth producing grain and diamond,
as did the kings of ancient societies, like the emperor of China up to the
beginning of the twentieth century. In the second place, the alchemist, on
the human plane, "awakening"substances and gold itself to their true
nature, used them to prepare elixirs which gave "longevity" to
the body and strength to the soul: "drinkable gold" was a gold awakened to
its spiritual quality, and reflected in its order the "immortality
medicine" as St.Ambrose said of the Eucharist.
- The true role of the alchemist was to
celebrate analogically a mass whose species were not only bread and wine,
but all of nature in its entirety.
The Logic of Alchemy
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- The logic of alchemy implies a twofold
movement: "vertically," it was a symbolic logic, leading
manifestation back to its principle, appearance to reality, word to God :
a logic of reintegration. " Horizontally," on the humano-cosmic plane,
it was a dialectic of complementaries which emphasizes everywhere the
living tension of contraries: a logic of war and love.
A logic of Reintegration
- Alchemy implied, in sensation itself, a
peaceful and detached love of the world. For the world of alchemy, like that
of the "mythological" traditions whose heritage is transmitted,
was a world at once living and transparent, a great a sacred body, an
immense Anthropos in all respects resembling the small one. Nature, it
could be said, was at once the body of God and the body of man. Everywhere
was life, everywhere soul, everywhere the holy breath of God. The blood of
the sun made the golden embryo grow in the matrix of the mountains. The
seven planets in the sky, the seven metals engendered by them on earth,
the seven centers of life which, from the sex to the head, gravitate in
man around the sun-heart, were so many embodiments of the same structure
of the Word; and the seven notes of the scale manifest also that
"music of the silence"which bathes creation, haloes the saints,
ands is immobilized in gold.
- That is why the alchemist, like the knight
whose "proud kiss" delivers Melusine from her ambiguous
condition, revealed in the nature which veils God the nature which makes
- "Learn that the aim of the science of the
Ancients which elaborated simultaneously the sciences and the virtues is
that from which all things proceed, God invisible and unmoving, whose Will
arouses the Intelligence; through the Will and the Intelligence the Soul
in its unity appears; through the Soul are born the distinct natures
which, in their turn, generate all the compounds. Thus one sees that a thing can only be
known if one knows what is higher than it. The
soul is higher than nature, and through it, nature can be known; the Intelligence
is higher than the Soul and by it the Soul can be known; finally, the
Intelligence can no more than direct us back to what is higher than it,
the One God, who encompasses the Intelligence and whose essence cannot be
- This text, which makes remarkably clear the
metaphysical background of alchemy, proves that it was essentially
"inner"; the "Science of Balance" weighs and satisfies
at once the desire of the Soul of the World which is concealed in each
"nature", and the desire of the Divine Spirit which is concealed
in the Soul of the World. The alchemist reverses cosmogony: dissolving material "hardenings" in
pure life, he makes in himself, by meditating on natural beauty and on
that "sympathy" which holds all things together, the unity of the
Soul of the World, until, in its center, which is in his own heart, he
causes the solar fire of the Spirit to rise. Then, the fire becomes
incarnate, through a higher Cosmogony in
which the Spirit, instead of involving itself in matter, embraces and transforms
it: transforms lead into gold, and the body of man into body of glory.
Alchemy is performed, as Henry Corbin has said, in a "physics of
A logic of War and Love
Back to the
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- Therefore, the proper domain of alchemy is
essentially that of the soul, that humane-cosmic environment psychic in
nature which links the world of "sensory" appearances to that of
"spiritual” realities. It is the "intermediate world" of
all the traditions, the "mesocosmos"of the Iranian alchemy of
Jabir (called Geber by the Latins). Now this "mesocosmos"is
governed by a logic of war, by essentially "dual" forces whose
never-ending struggle is that of the two serpents of the Caduceus. In this
domain, the alchemical work is wholly one of mediation: it strives to
transform war into love, so that it may culminate not in a sterile death
but in a glorious birth.
- The "mode of operation" of Nature in
the Universe of form consists of a continuous rhythm of
"coagulations” and "dissolutions." Form is impressed on
matter and matter dissolves it in order to offer itself to another form.
Everything is alternation, evolution and involution, birth, life, death,
and rebirth, solve
et coagula. "Nature disports
itself with Nature" in a play of perpetually interacting tensions
which neutralize each other at one moment by their very opposition, and
then destroy each other only to arise again in a new guise. Nothing
symbolizes this "world of dissimilarity" better than the dragons
which devour each other on the pillars of certain Romanesque churches.
- This never-ending war which presides over the
metamorphoses of nature as well as over the interactions between men is
related by alchemy to the polarization of the two "subtle” forces
analogous to the Chinese ying
and yang : Sulphur and Mercury.
- Common Sulphur, by
its igneous nature, and mercury, because it is elusive and cannot be
grasped, indeed embody these forces in their dynamic aspect. Gold and
silver "crystallize" them in their static aspect, just as do the
sun and the moon." These two poles on either side of the
"intermediate world" regarded as their "field of
force," participate closely in the two divine poles which preside
over "manifestation": Pure Action and Total Nature in Sufism,
Shiva and his Shakti in Tantrism. Sulphur, relatively active or essential, represents
Spirit in one way, while Mercury corresponds more directly to the passive
and feminine nature of the Soul.
- To Sulphur are
attributed two fundamental tendencies symbolized by "heat" and
"dryness". Heat or sulphuric
expansiveness affirms life, expands forms. Dryness or fixation incarnates
in the vital flux the divine "signature," which gives every
being its "face." Thus, the principle of Sulphur,
of Gold, and of the Sun is a principle of stability and of measure: a
heritage of Greek thought, it is the virile principle of the
"limit." But, by itself, it is only a receptacle which tends to
close up again over its emptiness: "...its aspect then is an acute
and terrifying harshness, in which its binding, astringent quality affirms
itself as exessive attraction, constricted and
hard"; it becomes a force of individuation which transforms a
necessary protection into a refusal of life. In the human being, it ends
by breeding abstraction and egoism. Therefore, in order that the seed may
die and the heart may melt, the intervention of the complementary force,
of the feminine principle, Mercury, is needed.
- To Mercury-alchemists also spoke of Water,
Silver, and the Moon- are attributed "cold" and
"humidity." Cold or mercurial "contractivity"
offers itself as a womb to the "fixing" will of Sulphur; it envelops form and gives them consitency and density. As for the humidity of
Mercury, it is the power which "dissolves" these forms once
their virtualities have blossomed.
- Mercury is untamed and necessary life, as
ambiguous as total Nature in which it intimately participates. It is the
"burning thirst" which, if unappeased, flares up and destroys
itself; it is the "viscous humidity" which is wasted or dissolved
in amorphous stagnation. In the human body, it manifests variously as
desire for pleasure, insiatiable motherhood,
dull laziness, and morbidity. But is is also the
humble service of life, the creative submission of the "Virgin of the
World," who is always the servant of the Lord.
- "This Water subsists throughout all
eternity," writes Boehme. "It is the Water of Life which penetrates even
death..." It is also in the
body of man and the body of the world. Nature, as seen by divided man, is
thus basically nothing but an inmense
battlefield strewn with corpses: corpses "precipitated"
endlessly, in the chemical sense, by the collision of the two great forces
which polarize the cosmic psychism. The sensory
world in its opacity is then only a "sepulchre"
in which the soul has buried itself.
- We now understand that alchemy is at the same
time a "science of balance" and an art of marriages. It
elucidates and utilizes the "cosmic sexuality" of Sulphur and Mercury, first "neutralized" in
Salt. The alchemists begins by dissolving these imperfect coagulations and
by reducing their matter to soul: then, between the Sun and the Moon
appearing in their purity, the alchemist brings about a hierogamy which will cause them to crystallize in a
perfect form: gold and the body of glory.
- Thus the stages of the Work appear in outline:
first "mortification," descent and dissolution in the waters, dissapearance into the womb of the Mother, the Anima Mundi, who devours and kills her Son, that is,
takes back into herself man who has gone astray in the individual
condition. This is the domination of Woman over Man, of the Moon over the
Sun, until the Soul, restored to its original virginity, the luminous center,
the Spirit is manifested. Then the regenerated Sun, the solar hero, is
born: in his turn, he subjugates the Moon to the Sun, Woman to Man, and
trough the consumation of "philosophical
incest," he makes his Mother into his Wife and also into his Daughter.
- "The Mother generates the Son and the Son
generates the Mother and kills her."
- "The Female must be made to mount the
Male, and then the Male to mount the Females."
- "Once the Little Child has become robust
and strong enough to combat Water and Fire, he will put the Mother who
gave birth to him into his own belly."
- These drastic writings introduces us to the phases of the Work.
of the Work
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- The alchemical texts divide the work into
three or four essential phases: "the work of blackening," Nigredo or Melanosis--"the
work of whitening," Albedo
finally "the work of reddening,"which
alchemists originally separated into two complementary moments, that of
gold ( Citrinitas or Xantosis )
and that of purple or transmutation of venom ( Iosis ).
The work of Blackening
- "The work of blackening" is
considered the most difficult of the operations, in comparison with which
the other stages seem "woman's work" or "child's
play." Through it man in fact separates himself from appearances and lets himself be drowned in the cosmic feminine nature,
the full power of which he wishes to awaken and master. The work of
blackening is thus at the same time a death, a marriage ( or
better, a parturition in reverse ), and a descent into hell.
- "A being frees himself from death through
an agony which is undergone in a vast impression of anguish, and this is
the Mercurial way." The work of blackening, which prepares Mercury,
that is, the world's subtle materia, presents
itself as a death to cosmic illusion in which the Mercurial waters are so
to say "congealed." This is why the texts call it
"separation" or "division." Man detaches himself from
his separate existence; he extracts his vital force from mental and bodily
attractions, from dream and from agitation. Painfully, quietly, he
re-collects it in himself as still water. He brings Mercury back to its
state of indeterminate possibility: this is the "return to materia prima."
- He does the same in the substances that he
handles in his global perception of thins: reversing the cosmogonic process of Genesis, he dissolves hardened
earth into the unity of primordial water. Through discretio intellectualis, he distinguishes the presence of subtle
forces and spiritual archetypes in the midst of the universe. He discovers
the naturae discretae , the
actual nature of things, that "latent inner basis" of which
Geber speaks and which one could call the "quantity" of the
World Soul that each thing has taken for itself.
- Then he perceives nature and his body as a
cosmic interplay upon which the illusion of individuality is no longer
- The discovery of this interplay is a marriage
in which cosmic femininity prevails over masculine objectification. It is
a liberating dissolution which draws the virile force back from separative modes of action and of knowledge in order
to bathe it in the baptismal water of universal life.
- In Gichtel's diagram
of the subtle centres, Saturn has to be united
to the Moon and Jupiter to Mercury. Saturn is lead, the concretion of the
spirit of weight: it will thus be above all the symbol of a certain way of
seeing the world, that particular vision which fixes appearances in their
opacity and separation, and keeps man in his illusion of being awake,
while he is only a sleep-walker possessed by a "leaden sleep." Gichtel clarifies this view by situating the Saturnian center in the brain and attributing to it,
following Macrobius, the ratiocinatio. This is why Saturn has to be
"dissolved" in the lunar center, situated in the sacral region
and representing to phusikon,
the totality of the vital energies. And Jupiter, ("Masculine"
center of the will, localized in the frontal region.) to praktikon, the vis agendi, the will to power, must be
"dissolved" in Mercury,
- ( "Feminine"center of the imagination, situated in the umbilical
region ) that feminine "imagination" which
sees nature as the scenery of a dream, perhaps the dream of God.
- This marriage in which the masculine is dissilved is often described as a
parturition in reverse. Just as in the cosmogonic
process of generation the Soul is "coagulated" in the human
mind, so in the process of regeneration that could be called "theogonic," the mental must be reabsorbed in the
potentiality of the Soul. Man enters the uterus of Woman and is there
- But this return to potentiality begins with a
return to darkness, a descent into hell. The chaos of "matter"is dark so long as its virtual content has
not opened: it blossoms spontaneously into the poisonous flower of the
world; man has rejected the enchantment of this flower; he must now take
into himself the force which made it bloom so as to make possible its
fulfillment in a new flower, pure and noble, which will again collect the
- The alchemist therefore descends into the
depths of "Matter," that is into the depths of life. He proceeds
to awaken the "inner Mercurial femininity" which lies asleep at
the root of cosmic sexuality, so as to make it into a force of
regeneration. In the desire which gives birth to metals in the womb of the
earth and to the child in the womb of a woman, a will for inmortality is at work. But so long as this desire is
oriented only toward the outside, inmortality is
fragmented in time, is ojectified in the chain
of generations. Outer birth so to say "syncopates" eternal
birth-cuts it up. As Evola writes: "Heterogenesis replaces
- The alchemist refuses to run away from this
mystery: he enters into it. He comprehends it, that is, "takes inti himself" the desire which everywhere links Sulphur to Mercury; he obliges it to wish for God.
- Visita Interiora
Terrae Rectificando Occultum
Lapidem : to describe the
"descent into hell," summed up in the word VITRIOL, alchemy has
preserved some very ancient symbols: it speaks of a night journey below
the sea in which the hero, often compared to Jonah, is swallowed by a
monster. But the belly of Leviathan becomes a matrix: an egg forms around
the imprisoned man; it is so extremely hot there that the hero loses all
his hair; ejected by the monster he springs forth from the primordial sea,
bald as a newborn babe.
- He is indeed reborn, and every detail of this
symbolism is weighty with significance: the sea mingled with night is the
dark materia , the
humidity of Mercury. The monster is Ouroboros,
the guardian of the latent energy, analogous to the serpent of Kundalini in Tantric doctrine. Finally, the heat is
that of passion: the hero's victory will lie in making it into a heat of
"self-incubation," a fervor of renewwal;
then the world is no longer a grave but a womb, fertilizing himself,
becomes the egg from which he will be reborn.
The work of Whitening
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- In the "work of whitening," the
alchemist deploys, by "elevating" them, the potentialities of
the materia whose force he has just captured ( one could say he opens up their "sattvic" dimension ). He in fact discovers them
not in their state of sensory obscurity, but in their subtle luminosity,
in the transparency of a purified humano-cosmic psychism, through which the light of the Intellect
filters more and more. Whereas ordinary man knows the elements only in
their "telluric" aspect ( since he knows them only through his
earthly senses-themselves made of earth ), the alchemist directly
perceives their "animic" substance ;
once the "spirits"of earth, water,
air, and fire have been revealed to him, he understands the "language
of the birds." He "rectifies" these ambiguous
"spirits," reabsorbs them into their angelic prototypes, turns
them toward God. Within him, the passions and their corresponding
instincts "are made cosmic," are pacified, and recover little by
little their primordial innocence. Heaviness is melted in life; life is
exalted and surpassed in pure adoration. Finally, cosmic
"matter," becomes transparent, is enraptured in the virginity of
the Soul of the World, eternally intoxicated with God. The alchemist whose
soul is the place of this exaltation sees nature from within, so to say in
its inmaculate conception. "Paradise is
still on earth, but man is far from it so long as he has not regenerated
- In the vegetal symbolism frequently employed
by alchemy, the work of whitening corresponds to the bursting forth of
spring: after black winter, all the colors are manifested in a profusion
of flowers, but blend little by little into the white offering of a lily.
- In animal symbolism, while the work of
blackening corresponds to the "flight of the raven," the work of
whitenning begins with the unfolding of the
"peackok's tail" ( pavonis )
and is completed in the paradisal vision of a
white swan sailing on a silver sea.
- Finally, in the mineral real, which is
properly that of the alchemist, the work of whitening is a
"baptism," a "washing"which
purifies the metallic substance and crystallizes it as silver, "our
quicksilver, which is pure, subtle, luminous, clear, like springwater, transparent as crystal, and free from all
- Thus the work of whitening has led the
alchemist from the black--which, according to the analysis of F.Schuon, properly represents "non-color,"
the root of all colored "forms"--to the white, which is
"supra-color," the synthesis of all forms and the promise of
- In Gichtel's
symbolic representation, the albedo
seems to correspond to the "marriage of Mars and Venus," that
is, to the union of the masculine center situated immediately above the
heart ( in the region of the larynx ) , with the
feminine center situated inm,ediately below it (
in the lumbar region ). Here Venus is the goddes
of Divine Love, not of the erotic; she is the "heavenly Venus,"
lovingly receptive to the spiritual presence. One begins to see the role shich these concepts must have played in the medieval
worship of the Lady, especially if we remember that alchemy often adopted
the symbolism of the "Quest" which always culminates in a
"feminine" image of the Soul of the World: the Golden Fleece or
the Chalice of the Grail. We also see how these concepts are the opposite
of any search for erotic pleasure, since they are above all concerned with
the restoration, in nature as in man, of a state of virginity. Alchemy
views the tru hero, the "son of the cosmos"and "savior of the macrocosm,"
as man when he is able to offer a virgin soul to the embrace of the trascendent Spirit.
The work of Reddening
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- In the perfect form of soul offered as a
chalice, in the crystal flower where matter is in ecstacy,
the Spirit suddenly bursts into flame. And gold appears, solar
consciousness of the omnipresence, the aurea apprehensio.
- Let there be no mistake: the fire here spoken
of in these texts is not ( or is not only ) one
of the elements. It is the fire which is "super omnia elementa" and
acts "in eis"
--one of the tongues of the fire of the pentecost. Xantosis--the appearance of the gold--which marks the
beginning of the "red work," implies a direct intervention of a trascendent power, a contact between cosmic life and
its supraformal pole.
- In Gichtel's
illustration, the dragon which enfolded the heart and restricted its
radiation to touch only objects of individual affirmation, is reborn after
being "dissolved" in the virginal purity of the soul and
transfigured by this contact with the divine: its own
"rectified" energy gives birth to gold, the solar vision of
- Then "philosophical incest" and the
great hierogamy of the nuptiae chymicae are celebrated: the Sun is united with the
Moon, the Sulphur "fixes"Mercury;
in man, the Spirit restores life and makes it fruitful.
- This is the ceremonial meeting of the Red King
and the White Queen. The King is crowned in gold, clothed in purple; he
holds a red lily in his hand. The Queen is crwned
in silver and holds a white lily. Near her a white eagle has alighted, a
symbol of Mercurial "sublimation"which
is to be "fixed" by the now-beneficent force of Sulphur, symboled by the
golden lion which walks close to the King.
- Alchemical realization in effect is
essentially "flesh-making"; related to the sanctification of the
craft and of the social authority, it does not escape from the world, but
seeks to enlighten it: it is indeed a "royal"realization
which demands "fidelity to the earth" and, after the ecstatic
"ascent" of "the work of whiening,"
the "descent" which makes man the Salvator macrocosmi.
- The symbolism which emphasizes the necessity
of this "return" is so profuse that it is bewildering. The
vessel in which the work is accomplished must remain
"hermetically" sealed, so that the subtle part of the compound,
called the "angel," cannot escape, but will be forced to
condense anew and to descend again and again until the residue is
transformed. Within the visible body there resides a spiritual body which Boehme compares to an "oil" which
must be set on fire so that it may become a "life of joy exalted by
everything."Alchemy emphasized al length and above all the heroic virility
which the work must arouse. The alchemist is a "solar hero" who
must make the ios,
the poison of life, into an elixir of longevity; he is the "lord of
the serpent and of the mother,""he binds the hands of the
virgin, that elusive demon,"he transforms
torrential waters into vivifying stone, he subordinates "nature which
delights in itself" to "nature which is able to surpass
itself." Through the accomplishment, as we have said, of a higher
cosmogony, he confers on cosmic sexuality the nobility of a liberating
love: love of man for the woman whom he wishes to guide toward her
perfection; of the craftsman for the matters whose secret beauty he
releases; of the king for his people whom he supports in the performance
of the "lesser mysteries," that is, in the transmutation,
through all human activity, of the cosmic order into a liturgy.
- That is why it would be better to translate rubedo as
"work in the purple"rather than
"work in the red."The purple results from the union of light and
darkness, a union which marks the victory of light. Purple is the royal
color. It is also, according to Suhrawardi, the
color of the wings of the archangel who presides over the fate of
humanity, whenever a wise man discovers the sacredness of all things; the
archangel has soiled one of his wings with shadow; the "Silent
One," by his presence alone, brings together the white wing with the
black wing and unites them in the purple.
- In Gichtel's design,
the firts movement toward the heart, which is
realized as an inner purification, is succeeded by an inverse movement of
outer unification. And this time the masculine centers absorb the feminine
- The Sun is projected onto Venus and transforms
her into Mars, penetrating animal energy and turning it toward holy inner
warfare. Mars in its turn fixes Mercury so as to extract Jupiter from it,
Jupiter the King who dispenses justice under the tree of peace: the Spirit
penetrates vegetal dream and transforms the nightmare of the world into a
Dream of God. Through Jupiter, the Sun descends into the root force of the
Water, of the Moon, and of Sex, in the night in which it is wrapped so
that it may be received by creatures. Fecundity is transfigured: it no
longer transmits anything but life. This is an eternalized autumn, the
appearance of man-frutified. Finally, there
arises a regenerated Saturn, heceforth the God
of The Golden Age: lead is transformed into gold, the conciousness
of the alchemist penetrates mineral sleep, in stones as well as bones;
returning to the Kabbalistic teaching relating to the luz, to the "tiny bone"which
"resists the fire,"and whose body by
wakening from his sleep in death the God who sleeps in the stone of bones.
"Such is the secret as it concerns chalk, the all-powerful limestone,
the titanic element: it is the incorruptible body, the only useful
one....Whoever has found it trumphs over
privation," that is, over the absence of God. As the apokatastasis of heaviness, the transfiguration of Saturn
is also the transfiguration of the Titans.
- From now on the silent presence of the
alchemist is a benediction on all beings. He is the secret king, the conciously central being who relates heaven and earth
and ensures the good order of things. Unum ego sum et multi
in me: He is a dead man bringing life. Dead to
himself, become inexhaustible nourishment, in him there operates the
mystery of "multiplication" and "increase." He is the
"panacea," the "elixir of life." "Drinkable
gold." From the Christic stone with which
it is identified there flows a red and white tincture
which comforts the soul and the body. He is the phoenix from whose
ashes a vast flock of golden birds take flight.
The "Humid Way"
and the "Dry Way"
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- The way which we have just described draws
natural energy into itself in order to transfor
it into fervor: this is the "humid way." The alchemists speak in
hidden terms--even more hidden than usually--of a rapid and dangerous way,
the "dry way." This uses a "contra-natural" fire
analogous, in the cosmological real, to the Vedantic
"Yoga of knowledge,"or, even better,
to the "direct path"of Tantrism. It goes "directly" from the
"ego" to the "Inner Man"without
passing through the cosmic mediation, by slowly taking into Itself the Soul of the World. It seems to start from a
still more radical "descent into hell," doubtless from an immediate becoming concious of the formidable energy which is asleep in
stones and bony systems(underline is ours); as in Tantrism
immediately before the awakening of Kundalini,
this conciousness takes on the appearance of a
torrid heat linked to the affirmation "I AM" which is no longer
individuated. This heat, that of
"quicklime," devours the psycho-vital objectivation
of Mercury to allow only the certitude of gold to subsist.
- The "dry way," which no longer
operates "with the slow fire of nature," seems to have
employed--in order to facilitae the traumas of
"disidentification" which dislocate
appearances--intoxicating potions, perhaps organic liquids mixed with
alcohol like the "urine of a drunkard." Urine, the symbolism of
which is to be found in Tantric alchemy, designated above all for the
alchemists, "the fire of lower nature," "UR Inferioris NAturae."
- The ancient character of alchemical ascetism explains why it has less to do with
renunciation than with detachment, less with escape from the world than
with a purified participation in its divine celebration. It can be said
that its aim is in fact the penetration of the cosmic ambiance, a "cosmicization" of the soul, to use the expression
of Mircea Eliade. Like
the vas Hermetis
which is its support for meditation and in a way its symbol, the soul of
the alchemist must become "round"so as
to "imitate" the spherical perfection of the cosmos; it must contain
the earth and its lower fire, heaven with its sun and moon. It must
"be homologized" to the world, so as to become, with it, the
"womb" and the "egg"from
which the Filius philosophorum, the miraculous stone, will be born.
- Since, according to the proverb, "one
cannot make gold except with gold," the alchemist will begin from the
grains scattered in ordinary life, "moments of suspension" or
"golden instants," which will sometimes rend our sleep and allow
a glimmer of the inner gold to filter through to us, through the mountain
of our ignorance.
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- To collect these grains of gold, the major
practice of alchemy seems to have been "imagination": not
imagination in the ordinary sense, but "true imagination"which
the texts carefully oppose to "fantasy." "Et vide secundum naturam, de qua regenerantur corpora in visceris
terrae. Et hoc imaginare per veram imaginationem et non
- True imagination actually "sees" the
"subtle" processes of nature and their angelic prototypes. It is
the capacity to reproduce in oneself the cosmogonic
unfolding, the permanent creation of the world in the sense in which all
creation, finally, is only a Divine Imagination. It is also the faculty of
interpreting Biblical tales and Greco-Roman myths as ever-present
realities whhich lead the universe back to God
through the mediation of sacred time in which there then exists but one
- The true imagination of alchemy is a vision:
it sees space as a symbol and time as a liturgy.
- "Horizontally," it penetrates the
subtle ambiance, it is "the star in man, the celestial body,"
the astrum being in this case an expression derived from
Paracelsus which signifies the Soul of the World.
- "Vertically," this imagination leads
cosmic life thus deciphered back to spiritual reality: it then takes the
name of "meditation,"
meditationis," and consits of the
prolonged and silent invocation of God or rather of the "inner
angel," of the "good angel": indeed, the aim of alchemy,
whose role must remain cosmological, is not union with trascendence,
but the establishment of a contact with it through the "angelic"
ray which unites the supraformal with the world
- Thus, when Hermetic authors speak of
"seeing with the eyes of the spirit," it is not a question, as
Jung believed, of a hallucinatory projection of the individual ( or collective ) psyche on chemical substances whose
true nature would remain basically unknown; it is a question of a "divination"of the mystery of things, first of the
still ambiguous mystery of the Soul of the Worls,
then of the luminous mystery of the Spirit. It is a question of no longer
seeing things as humanity-hereditarily and collectively-dreams them, that
is, in their sensory outerness, but rather as
God dreams them, that is, in their spiritual innerness.
- "God allows the intelligent philosopher,
through the mediation of nature, to make hidden things appear, and to free
them from darkness...These hidden realities are always present, but the
eyes of ordinary men do not see them--only the eyes of the intellect and
the force of the imagination, which perceive with true vision."
- The fallen soul dreams so as to forget the
absence of God, that is, death; it dreams so as to make itself a
substitute for paradise: it dreams the individual condition, the sensory
universe and the thousand forms in which they meet and seeks to turn them
for its pleasure, into the arts, sciences, and techniques of the profane
world. (underline is
ours).The soul must die to its dream in order to
rediscover God. That is why the properly spiritual methods seek to kill
the dream of the soul, whether throgh the
implacable question: "Who am I ? "or rather, in our time, by the invocation of the Divine
Name. Alchemy on the contrary, whose method is less spiritual than
"psycho-cosmic," makes use of the soul's need for dream; instead
of "violating the soul" by the drastic question or the
invocation, it expands its dream to the magnitude of the universe and
dissolves its individual prison through love for the beauty of the world.
When the place of the dream is no longer the separated soul but the soul
of the world, when the dream is no longer the "viscosity" of
appearances, but instead the virgin nature in its secret purity, then for
the awakening of the Gold, the appropiate
spiritual methods can intervene: "Who dreams?" it is asked; and
the stone itself proclaims the Divine Name.
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- This "true poetry" seems to have
become incarnate through meditation on the great bodily rhythms.
- The texts suggest methodic use of the
respiratory rhythm. After the manner of Galen and Averroes, they liken the
"vital spirit" to a substance of psychic nature permeating the
cosmic atmosphere and assimilated by man following a rhythm parallel to
that of breath. This concept is too close to the concept of prana for us to doubt that the alchemists knew
breathing exercises analogous to those of Yoga, and, more precisely, of
Tantric Laya-Yoga. In the symbolism of the latter, so ancient
that we realize why it should often be the same as the symbolism of
alchemy, bodily life is found to be partially conditioned by the contrary
action of two "subtle breaths," prana and apana: the first linked to the respiratory
function, the second to the sexual function. Prana tends
upward, toward an escape from the body; while apana acts upon it "like a cord which stays a
falcon in its flight"; and apana which always fall back downward, has to
"rebound" under the action of prana, "like
a ball when it strikes the earth." If one adds that prana is related to the sun and apana to the moon, it is not difficult to see their
opposition as an aspect of the duality Sulphur-Mercury,
and particularly of the two birds one of which, being
"volatile," has wings, and the other, being "fixed,"
does not, and whose perpetual interaction must be utilized and conciliated
by Art. But it is not so easy to say exactly what the texts refer to in
speaking about the "fixed" and the "winged" which, in
the real of human alchemy, might be transposed into respiratory
- It is easier to decipher the hyperborean
symbol of the swan which has come down to us both in alchemy and in Tantrism. In Laya Yoga,
the respiration "made cosmic" is symbolized by the calm movement
of the swan; we find this swan gliding over the silver sea of the pacified
Anima Mundi, at the zenith of the "work of whitening" : no doubt it refers to the state which the
alchemists, after the initiates of ancient Greece, prayed for: "May
the sacred breathing breath inb me !" Thus
nature as a rhythm of the Divine Respiration corresponds to nature as a
reflection of the Divine Imagination.
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- "The imaginative soul"is the "spirit of life,"say
the texts, and "it dwels in the
blood." Concentration on the blood through the circulatory rhythm and
the sensation of bodily hetat seems to havel played a major role in the ascetism
of alchemy.(underline is ours)
The blood is the "lamp of life," the support of the soul,
Mercury in its modality closes to Sulphur, with
which it is united in the heart. In a certain way, the alchemical work can
be brought back to transmutation of the blood, which, initially colored by
the dark sun of the ego , is illuminated by the radiation from the
heart of the world.
- The Arabic authors already spoke of a
"decomposition which, by means of a gentle fire, transforms nature
into blood." And, at the other end of the history of alchemy, Pernety affirms that dissolution, according to the
philosophers, takes place nowhere else but in their blood.
- The entire first half of the work, which
reabsorbs the sensory in the soul, is therefore transcribed as an inner
experience of dissolution of the body in the blood; then man feels himself
only as heat and pulsation, fervor and rhythm, that
is as pure life.
- "Male and female, the body and its
vital spirit are none other than the body and the blood...The dissolving of the body in its own blood is
the dissolving of the male by the female, it is the dissolving of the body
in its own spirit of life.... You will try in vain to obtain a perfect
dissolution of the body if you do not increase in it the influx of the
blood which is its natural menstruation, its femininity and its [vital]
spirit all in one, and with which it must unite so closely that they
constitute but one and the same substance."
- In Biblical symbolism interpreted by alchemy,
the blood is the Red Sea which has to be crossed
in order to leave Egypt, that is to leave the body. In a deeper sense, "blood is the fiery
sword which bars the way to the Tree of Life": its rhythm creates
space-time. To penetrate the mystery of the blood means to unite the heart
of man with the heart of the world, in which a non-spatial ray
"pierces" space and permits escape from it.
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- Finally, alchemy seems to have known a sacred
eroticism curiously similar to that of Tantrism.
Hermetic cosmology is in this realm closely linked, but in a way that is
quite difficult to state precisely, to the practices in "courtly
love," to provenćal love, and finally to
conceptions chivalry inherited from the old peasant societies of the West throgh the channel of initiations of young men and
which implied a "chthonic" and "feminine"symbolism
- Thus, apart from the patriarchal society of
the Middle Ages which chiefly emphasized the biological function of
marriage and saw in the perpetuation of the species the excuse for sins of
the flesh, another, more primordial tradition has survived: one which
emphasizes the positive symbolism of love and endows it with the aim of
- It seems that there must have existed an alchemical
marriage consecrated to the pursuit of the great work and similar to the
Tantric marriage of Tibet whose acknowledged aim is not the procreation of
children but illumination. Allusions to the sonor mystica, to the "consort in service," are
frequent in the alchemical texts; all the operations represented in the Mutus Liber are
performed by a couple who in end are transfigured into the hieros gamos of the Sun and the Moon; moreover, several
texts specifically state that the combined effort of a man and a woman is
necessary for the completion of the work; finally the almost mythical
renown of Nicholas Flamel and of Dame Pernelle emphasizes the importance accorded by the
alchemists to the spiritual marriage. In fact, it is clear that human love
could be expanded by alchemical ideas about cosmic sexuality ( and perhaps, secretly, about divine
"sexuality"). It is also clear that desire; experienced in
detachment and innocence, could help the "red man" and the
"white woman" to capture at its very source the femininity of
"matter." Foir western Christianity,
love can at best be sanctified. For alchemy, it
could become sanctifying.
- This union in the service of the work was not
easy. It implied at least three requirements.
- The first seems to have been an uncompromising
purity and an extreme "spiritual sensitivity," so that pleasure
might never close up on itself, but might awaken an ever-expanding love,
become less and less individual. Following the Platonic schema often used
by alchemy as well as by the trobadours, such
love leads from the beauty of the body to that of the soul and finally is
reabsorbed in "the love of God who created beauty."Thus the
unity of all the states of love"could lead
from the embrace which blindly transmits mort
(death) to the a-mors(deathless),
which, following the deep play on words of "the courts of love,"awakens the sense of eternity.
- The second requirement was therefore to
transpose this love into cosmic love. In the end, it was no longer this
man or that woman but the Sun and the Moon which were united "to give
birth to God."
- "In this second operation," wrote Flamel to a painter who had illustrated one of his
works, "you have to put together two natures, the masculine and the
feminine, and you have married them....that is, they form but one single
body, which is the Androgyne or Hermaphrodite of
the ancients. The man as outlined here certainly resembles me dowm to the last detail, and the woman depicts Pernelle in a lively manner. The painter had only to
represent the Masculine and the Feminine, but it pleased him to draw us,
here as them."
- Thus "the hermaphrodite"is
the aim, that is, the secret origin which impels man and
woman toward one another, just as in Eastern doctrines the child wishing
to be born reunites them in a purely carnal union. In order to
prepare this "passage to the end" the alchemical marriage was not
presented as a vague fusion, but as a meeting face to face slowly
transformed by the "Art"ino a union of
- The third requirement of this love, the union
of complementaries, relates the steps of the
alchemical work to the relation of man and woman: the
"dissolving" of the negative masculine in the positive feminine,
the "fixation"of the negative femine by the positive masculine. However, it is less
a question here of succesive phases than of a
constant interaction that brings about more and more noble "crystallizations"of love, until the final
transmutation is achieved. This interaction is the key to the
"operation with two vessels," between which a vivifying and
perfectly circulation has to take place: these "twins"( Gemini) were so arranged that the product distilled
from each, its "angel," might pour in order to purify it into
the opaque part of the other. A creative exchange which also seems to have
constituted one of the foundations of Provenćal love:
- "Everything takes place," writes R.Nelli, "as if Provenćal Erotica had tried to
graft onto man the dominant 'quality' of woman: compassion for the body,
'mercy'; and onto woman courage and masculine virtue."
- This graft, which seeks to actualize the androgyne in each partner, is wonderfully symbolized
by two miniatures in a fifteenth century manuscript which Jung has
reproduced in his work, Psychology
and Alchemy: during the "mortification"which
is a preparation for the marriage and which strikes
both sexes simultaneously, the
Tree of Life is seen to grow out of the belly of the man and out of the
head of the woman; as if man, in order
to become worthy of an authentic union, had to awaken the feminine part in
himself, has to renounce the reasoning of the head in order to feel the motion of his entrails; and as a woman had to awaken her masculine
part by freeing herself from the sensual and maternal despotism of her
belly to take part lucidly inthe vocation of man.
- Finally, it may be that alchemists knew, not
only of the marriage properly so-called, but of certain erotic
"techniques" similar to those of Tantrism
and intended to awaken the energy of sex without allowing to be wasted in
seminal emission The texts often present the Greco-Roman symbol of the : naked Diana"which
they liken to the Soul of the World, the vision of which is the goal of "the work in the
whitening." Now we know that the medieval "pure love," that
is love without carnal union, included the contemplation of the Lady in
the nude. As in Tantrism, where the
"denudation of the virgin" symbolizes "purification,"
the garments here represented the outer appearances. This practice implied a complete sublimation:
the texts predicted that the profane who dare to gaze lustfully at the
"naked Diana"would share the fate of Acteon-transformation into an animal which would be
devoured by the dogs.
- Finally alchemy may have employed a maithuna,
that is a ritual sexual union in which the sperm, in the moment of
emission, is abruptly stopped and must "reascend,"so
that the highest concentration of life which it embodies
might immediately enter into movement on the psychic plane and provoke a
- In a Hermetico-Kabbalist
text, the Asch-Mézareph, we
find a hint of a procedure of this kind in the reference to the biblical
symbolism of the thrust of Phinea's spear:
"The lance pierces at the same time the solar Israelite and the lunar
Midianite at their moment of their union and in locis genitalibus...The
point of force of the iron, acting on Matter, cleanses it of all its
defilement. Here the Israelite is nothing other than masculine Sulphur and the Medianite
should be understood as Water...Phineas's lancenot only kills the masculine Sulphur,
but also mortifies his wife; and together they are transmuted by minglin their blood in a single act of generation: it
is then in fact that the miracles of Phineas begin.
"Tantrism and Alchemy
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- As we have frequently noted, the resemblances
between Tantrism and alchemy are striking. This
should not be surprising if it is borne in mind that these two traditions
revitalize the same ancient symbolism, mytho-cosmic
in nature, and make "identification" with the world in its
positive aspect the first and necessary step of liberaqtion.
Just as alchemy has allowed the sacred character of the flesh of the world
to be maintained beneath the lofty ascetiscism
of Christianity, so Tantrism seems to have been
born from a lucid systematization of the concepts which underlie the
deeply poetic and chastely carnal rites ( and
myths) of Hindu daily life, but which Vedantic
speculation neglected more and more in favor of an apparently discursive
and discarnate expression of the mystery of unity. These common roots,
this partly analogous role, explain why the attitudes of Tantrism and alchemy coverge.
Both take the material
body as their point of departure in order to transfigure it, since it is
nothing other than the spiritual body identified with its own objectification by the process of cosmogonic
"desire". Thus the "diamond body" of Tantrism corresponds to the corpus glorificationis of Latin alchemy, and the symbol of the
diamond is identical to that of the "stone," which is also a
diamond. It is because the two traditions have a similar conception of
Nature: alchemy is clearly a "Shaktism"which
assumes, even in its final obscuration, the inmanent
power of the Principle so as to save man--according to the Tantric
saying--through the same means that habitually cause his downfall. Finally
in both cases its is the same assumption of positive sexuality, which
stops, explictly at least, on the cosmic plane
in alchemy, whereas it begins in divinis for Tantrism: the opposition of Sulphur
and Mercury thus appears as a relatively contingent application of the
metaphysical polarization between Shiva and his Shakti.(*)
- Under these conditions, its
is normal to observe the very great resemblances between the subtle
and that of alchemy. The multiplicity of nadis,
those currents of subtle force which furrow and "animate"the
organism, culminate in a duality, that of two opposed arteries called pingalČ and idČ . IdČ, whose
symbolic color is a very pale white, represents a "lunar"
current linked to the Shakti principle; pingalČ, a brilliant red in color, is a "solar"Shivaic current. These two nadis, which emerge from the sacral region and
intertwine around the vertebral column, correspond in alchemical language
to the two serpents of the caduceus, opposed to each other as are the
white, lunar Mercury and the red, solar Sulphur.
Just as the duality of idČ and pingalČ is
resolved at the moment of spiritual realization in the unity of the
central artery, hitherto virtual of the sushěmna, so
the two seroents wich
were fighting each other, now having been struck by the staff of Hermes,
entwine themselves around it, and heceforth
tame, bring to the god of twofold theugical
power to "bind" and "unbind." Cosmic nature in its
latent state, needing to be awakened ans
mastered, is symbolized, in alchemy as in Tantrism,
by a serpent coiled aroud itself: Ouroboros and Kundalini. Both traditions relate this serpent with
heaviness, sleep, and earth: to the Hermetic visita interiora
terrae corresponds the "descent"to the mulČdhČra-chakra, the subtle center which is at the root of
bodily existence and which corresponds to the tattva of
the "earth": Tantrism locates this chakra at
the base of the spinal column, and one might suppose that an analogous
localization was known to alchemy, since it, like Tantras,
relates the earth force to the sexual function, and often situates the
lunar center--which corresponds, as we have seen to phusikon, the
totality of the vital energies--at the base of the spinal column.
- There remains, in order to complete this brief
comparison of two subtle "physiologies,"the
problem of the "centers of life."
- "The quality of freedom passes through
the astringent quality [which can be likened to imprisonment in the hard
earth], rends the Body and emerges from the Body, outside and above the
earth [ the Body and the Earth seem analogous
here to the mulČdhČra-chakra ]
and thus advances persistently until a long stem has grown. The qualities [ the union of idČ and pingalČ] ascend through this stem [sushěmna]. There they generate the colors... A bud of
flowers on the stem later, which
is a new body, resembling the one
which originally had its roots in the Earth, and from then on assuming a
more subtle form."
- It seems ,
nevertheless, that a true correspondence cannot be established between the
subtle centres of alchemy and those of Tantrism, except for the four centers rising by steps
from the sacral region to the heart. Or rather, its is only in the case of
the heart that the correspondence is complete; the three lower alchemical
centers represent only the Shaktic,Mercurial modality of the corresponding chakras,
their Shivaic or Sulphurous modality being found in the alchemical
centers situated above the heart: for exemple,
the mulČdhČra-chakra is
identified, not with Gichtel's single lunar
center, but with the union between the lunar center and the Saturnian center, which is localized in the brain;
this chakra is in fact not only related to the vital
force of the Kundalini, but also to the
"god of the earth"symbolized by the
massiveness of the elephant and which corresponds most clearly to Saturn
and the heaviness of lead. The centers which alchemy places above the
heart consequently have nothing to do with the chakras
whose localization is approximately the same. In Tantric terms, the alchemical realization
stops at the heart. This difference is
easy to understand: Tantrism is an integral spiritual way, the last
"adaptation" of the Hindu tradition: the conquest of the heart,
that is, of the center of the human being in which the supreme center is
reflected, is thus in that context no more than a stage leading to the
"ascent" toward higher states of being. The heart marks the moment where the man who
has discovered his center "is made cosmic"; above, the highest chakras
symbolize the supraformal "heavens,"
and the passage to the fontanel, union with the trascendent.
- Alchemy, on the contrary, is a cosmological
science which has never claimed to be self-sufficient. It has always been
subordinate to a spiritual way of union properly speaking, whether one is
considering the "sacerdotal" part of the Egyptian tradition, of
Sufism, of Byzantine Hesychasm, or of the great
Western "intellectual" mystical tradition up to Meister Eckhart
and enven Angelicus Silesius. That is why it limits itself to establishing
a contact in the heart with the "solar" ray of trascendence and sees the dissolving of the world in
its center as subsequent to an equally important restoration.
- The alchemical realization is a "horizontal"realization in the direction of cosmic
breath. The Tantric realization assumes thiks
breath and absorbs it in a vertical which no longer has to do with space.
What finallaly corresponds to Tantrism is not medieval alchemy by itself alone, but
medieval spirituality complete with its alchemical underpinnings and its
purely Christian achievment.
- Thus the alchemical hollow Tree is no
identical with the Tantric Tre of Life: one
could say that it is the undoubled reflection in
the cosmic enviroment of the root of the latter,
since the trunk which ist lost in the heavens
leaves no other trace than the luminous center of the heart.
- Profoundly Christianized, situated at the
point where the initiations of the Guilds and of the oreder
of Chivalry come together, alchemy constituted in medieval Christianity
the central doctrine of the cosmic "lesser mysteries." Son of
God throgh the mediation of Christ, the craftsmanb or the emperor was equelly
father and mediator in relation to the world, through the archetype of
Hermes, always reprsented as an aged king.
- This alliance was broken by certain internal
disasters which need not to be assessed here and which took place from the
end of the twelfth century to the end of the fourteenth. "Metacosmic"in essence, Christianity became, in
the West at least, more and more "anticosmic":
the faithful forbidden to receive the wine, that is, blood, in the communion;
the long battle of moralizing usurpation waged by the papacy against the
sacred function of the Emperors; the autonomous and profane character
ascribed to nature by Thomism--all of them are aspect of this gradual
divorce of the sacred from life.
- For its part, alchemy became more and
more enclosed in a divinized cosmos: the dissapearance
from the texts of citrinitas (the Greek xantosis ), that is, the disappearance of the intervention of a trascendent influence in the formation of gold,
emphasizes this triumph of inmanentism.
- The opposition between the Filius Macrocosmi and the Son of God has made the modern
world possible. Their reconciliation may perhaps be foreshadowed by the
rediscovery of the profound meaning of alchemy and of the whole body of
- For "The Stone is the Christ
- “And I tell you that,
if these [ the disciples ] hold their peace, the stones would immediately
(*)Transcriber’s note: Potential energy to manifest needs a
potential difference- or, more plainly,-a separation of poles.
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