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Thread: What the heck is Alchemy?

  1. #31
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    Part 2 - the dirty part.

    2. The Chymical Wedding, and what comes after…

    I’m going to show a few pictures, some of them might be questioned by somebody with an overactive sense of propriety, but, really, there are pretty mild. If there’s a problem take them down. Personally, I’d print them out and hang them on the wall, but that’s just me… However, Giordono Bruno, who, in 1600, was burned for heresy and the practice of Alchemy, was also accused of having lewd books - they probably had pictures like this in them.

    The chymical wedding, the sacred wedding, the marriage of the sun and moon, the Heiros Gamos, the grand conjunction, the mysterium coniuntionis - these are some of the names for an important concept in Alchemy. The simple explanation for the symbolism of the conjunction is that it represents the “union of opposites,” using the male/female polarity of human reproductive sexuality as it’s base.

    Here is a picture representing the Grand Conjunction:



    In this picture, the royal couple (notice that they are each crowned - this indicates that it is the GRAND conjunction, not just any conjunction) are taking a pleasant tumble, apparently in a puddle. What is actually happening here is that two opposites are being joined into one (reconciling duality in a nice, pleasant way). The puddle (actually, they are rising OUT of it) represents - on the physical level - a liquid solution from which something, produced by the combination of chemicals in the solution, is coming out (possibly as a precipitate - but since it’s rising, it may be a gas).

    On the non-physical level, the water represents… well, if you’re a Jungian, the easiest way to say it is “the unconscious,” but the Alchemists (who never bothered to read Jung) would tell you that it represents that part of the mind which cannot be observed in operation. It is as if the things in it were fish in the sea. You can see the surface of the water, you can see the edges, you know that there is something happening in there, but you can’t see the fish. So, in the nonphysical sense, it represents something arising out of the darkmind/subconscious. In this case, the Grand Conjunction is a mental operation.

    Compare it to this picture, with a similar theme:



    Here, the couple is not crowned, indicating that this in a minor conjunction, not a Grand Conjunction. The Grand Conjunction is the culmination of the first work in Alchemy (there are three total). Minor conjunctions are part of what gets you there.

    This picture is titled “Solutio Perfecta” (perfect solution). In it, the couple depicts a combination of chemicals. Arranged around them are little portraits of the four elements, personified, to indicate that the solution is in perfect balance. The little kid standing in the neck of the bottle is the “one” which is made by combining the two opposites, and the flower buds coming out of the bottle indicate that the solution is “coming to life” (the red wings on the kid indicate that it is the “red” stage of the operation - rubification = making it red = “for the blood is the life” = return to life).

    These ideas are depicted in other ways too. Here’s a common one.



    The winged lion is female, the non-winged one is male. Illustrations like this are generally used to illustrate this concept (here taken from The Golden Testament):

    The Son - “Father, I imagine the heart in the superiors to be heaven, and the inferiors earth. But saith Hermes - “It is not so; the masculine truly is the heaven of the feminine, and the feminine is the earth of the masculine.”

    The Son - “Father, which of these is more worthy than the other, to be the heaven or to be the earth? He replies - “Each demands the other, for the precepts demand a medium.”


    Roughly, the idea being expressed here is that the physical and the non-physical (the unwinged lion is physical/tied to the earth, the winged lion is non-physical/able to fly away/flights of the imagination) each are necessary because each gives a “medium” - something to work in/through - to the other.

    This next picture shows a special type of conjunction.



    In this picture the female is bedding down with a poisonous serpent, in a shallow grave. What generally happens is that they are buried, then, after a time period (3 days, 3 months, or 3 x 3 months in special cases. Three is a special number in Alchemy. Notice that the teacher, Hermes, is Hermes Trismegistus = “the three times great”) they are dug up.

    When dug up, it is discovered that they are both dead (surprise!), the snake and woman having struggled until they are chopped into pieces by each other, and the woman drowns in the serpent’s poison, while the snake drowns in her blood. When this happens, each neutralizes the other. This is used, generally, to represent an extraction of plant chemicals in a solvent, and/or a mental operation in which the original contradictory thoughts combine, and, in combining, destroy each other, giving rise to new thinking.

    But back to the Grand Conjunction…

    Here’s what you end up with after the conjunction:



    In this picture, Hermes and Aphrodite are making out on the floor like a couple of teenagers. Apparently they’ve done this before because their baby is standing on the hill behind them. That little fellow is the Rebus - a two headed Hermaphrodite, representing the state in which the two opposites work together, each supporting and amplifying the other (a synergistic relationship).

    So this kind of thing runs all through Alchemy - as I said, it’s a central concept. And the really interesting thing (to me) is that, once you understand the language, the meaning of the text is not only clear, but highly lucid. The symbolic representations are used to depict very precise relationships and procedures.

    (incidentally, a Rebus - spelled with a “u” in the fourth place rather than an “i” - is a picture made out of words which depicts the thing the words that make it up name or describe. There’s a bit of a pun going on here…)



    Also...how do you see the elements in terms of alchemy?

    ETA: I found this quote in a review of Atwood's book "this is to be accomplished by understanding the Elementals of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Of these, the first three are the Principles. Air symbolizes the conscious mind. Earth symbolizes the primeval mind. Water symbolizes the subconscious mind. The term "Elementals" includes Fire that symbolizes sentience. To "know thyself" in this way was the beginning of their philosophy." Is this basically accurate? Can you expand on it if it is? (this makes alot of sense to me)
    Uhmmm… kind of right. All four elements are exactly equal - fire is no more special than is air, but no less, either (go back to the bit of text I quoted about the lions - none are superior, all are exactly equal, and equally necessary).

    What they symbolize, though, is pretty much as Atwood says (I’ve read her name in footnotes, but I’ve never read anything she wrote. I suspect that she was bending things a bit to fit some kind of schemata she was advocating. Treat her as suspect, until you know what she’s selling), although they really represent related clusters of things, not just the things she tells you.

    To get to the four elements, you begin with ONE - the original chaos (This Chaos is chaos because you can not differentiate between any things within it. They are all mixed together).

    Out of the one, you pull TWO - as soon as you begin to make sense of something, you are bound to think in duality, hence “two.” (male/female)

    Out of two, you get THREE - if you pair any two things, you make a third thing - the combined two, plus each individually. (Spirit, Soul, Body)

    Out of three you get FOUR - the possible “moods” or “tones.” Each of the four is a different combination of the previous three (earth, air, fire, water).

    Combine the four in all of the infinite number of possible proportions and you get INFINITY - all that is possible.

    Out of infinity, you get ONE. Infinity is the perfected form of Chaos, so out of infinity, you get back to the original chaos, but in a cleaned and ordered form - i.e.: comprehensible.

    Hermes sez: "Every thing comes out of the one, returns to the one, and never leaves the one."

    1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to infinity to 1 (the snake bites it's own tale - it's the Oroborus)



    _____________________
    This was probably more info than you were looking for. I hope I’ve helped, but if the info you were searching for isn’t in there, let me know. I could continue to babble for days…
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

  2. #32
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    So...what is the significance of the Emerald Tablet, and how is it interpreted and used?
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

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  3. #33
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    The Emerald Tablets are the reputed first and most perfect expression of Alchemical knowledge. Everything else which has been written is - theoretically - an elaboration on the tablets, or a clarification.

    Depending on who you want to listen to, they were handed to the Egyptians by Hermes (Thoth-Hermes. In the Hermetic arts, they are generally considered the same thing), or they were found by Alexander the Great who established Alexandria specifically to study them, or they were found by Noah's son after the flood in the hands of a mummy in a cave which somehow didn't get flooded, or they were written by Adam, or they were on a tablet that Moses decided not to share...

    I've even heard that they came from aliens...

    None of these stories are likely to be true. They do all convey a similar idea - the knowledge is very old, and was given to humans by a divine power. The idea that a divine power is still involved in learning this art/science is clear when you notice that many Alchemical manuscripts explicitly state that, without divine assistance, the subject is impossible to learn.

    Interestingly enough, it doesn't seem to matter much if "god" is named Allah, Yahweh, Zeus, or Betty Boop. It didn't matter much to the Alchemists themselves, and all those deities don't seem to care either. They help out just the same. Generally the deity in European works is referred to as "the living God" which takes care of the name problem rather nicely, and is... rather descriptive...

    I'm glad that you didn't ask me to explain what they mean...

    The point that everybody picks out is the "as above, so it is below'" and this really is a central idea in Alchemy. It also includes the idea of "the one thing." There are ideas in there that you'll see expresses throughout the entire history of Western Alchemy, so it really is a foundation document.

    Fortunately, it's a lot shorter than most holy books - you can read it in about 2 minutes, write it on a half sheet of notebook paper, and spend the next twenty or thirty years figuring out what it means. Figuring it out is pretty much what Alchemists do - figure out the meaning, and learn to apply it.

    "The Sun is it's father, the Moon it's mother, the Wind hath carried it in it's belly, the Earth is it's nurse" comes from the E.T.s I have some nice illustrations of this - I'll try to post them when I get home. The illustrations date from the mid 16th century, the earliest confirmed date of a copy of the E.T.s is around 700 a.d., from a Middle Eastern source, so you can see that they've had a long shelf life.
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

  4. #34
    Member shebani's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    Hello all, hope everyone is well. I have continued to read and study every day. I still do not feel quite ready to do physical work, but have decided that I will start my own herb garden this spring. Recently I read The Herbalist's Bible- John Parkinson's Lost Classic Rediscovered, Herbal Healing for Women- R. Gladstar, some of the herb books on my reading list. I would love any suggestions for the beginning garden, if you have them. The area is fairly shaded, located in a yard interior of a forest.
    I have also been studying stones and their properties. It is all so very fascinating. So much to learn. An interesting thing I read, I believe it was by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz or maybe his wife, but it stated that if you undertake this endeavor, your entire body will become the battleground, oh what truth I know this to be!
    But so worth it. Any other reading suggestions would be fantastic.

  5. #35
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    All the varieties of mint are good for shaded areas, if it's damp. The balm-y herbs, too, lemon balm, bee balm, also chives.

    If you are on the edge of a forest, Our Lady's Rose (a.k.a. wild rose, rambling rose) has a long history of use & association with female deities from Isis to Mary, as the name indicates, and is easily started from cuttings, if it isn't already growing where you are.

    Woodruff too, although I understand that it has some toxic properties.
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

  6. #36
    Member shebani's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    Thank you B. for the suggestions. It is a damp area. My idea is to create a space in the TET pattern, borders around the circle.

    - - - Updated - - -

    louxor-dieu-thot.jpg
    .....................

    - - - Updated - - -

    One thing that I got out of Parkinson's book was not to overlook what we think of as common household cooking herbs.

    - - - Updated - - -

    https://m.youtube.com/?#/watch?v=HfNKRHoIBU4

  7. #37
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    VERY VERY VERY COOL!

    Isaac Newton's previously ignored writings on Alchemy (he wrote more about Alchemy than on any other subject) are now being translated and published on the web.

    In addition, his instructions are being followed, and his experiments replicated. You can see photos of the experiments themselves, the results, and there are instructions for replicating them (even a school chemistry unit!). There is also a long analysis of how Newton's pursuit of Alchemy led directly to his discovery of the wavelengths of light.

    Chemistry of Isaac Newton: http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/newt...93998C6E35BAF4
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

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