Alchemy Throughout The Ages p.117
Questions and Answers p.128
The Positive Alchemist - Cockren - back cover
(continued from page 80)
When did the grand cycle of the present age start? Contemporary historical and archaeological research tends to go definitely beyond the classicists to recognize in the Persian area the real origin of our present civilization. Persopolis, which was plundered and destroyed by Alexander during the 4th Century B.C., represents the familiar climax of that particular historical epoch. Long before that time, large settlements existed in the north-eastern part of Iran "in which art and science had found a safe haven. We may assume with certainty that the foundation of our culture is to be found in ancient Iran!
From there the impulses radiated not only to Ur in Chaldea but also to the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, and to all other ancient peoples found at the periphery of Eastern historical traditions. The Iranian era was oriented toward the cosmos and in its beginnings it was universally unlimited in its spiritual breadth and freedom.
The Egyptian epoch which only unfolded later was referenced to the Sun and is to be considered as the remnant of a much older grand culture which is historically not verifiable. However, it is evident that Egypt, as a former colony of an ancient and lost race, took over the heritage of its matrix and was able to lead it to new creative heights.
The Occident was impregnated and enriched by the remnants of preserved wisdom. Even though the ancient Egyptians were versed in crude metallurgy and the melting of glass, the existence of alchemy in its narrow sense cannot be substantiated with the exception of the Tabula Smaragdina, which will be dealt with later.
Out of the historical obscurity of the Iranian times of over eight thousand years ago, a mythical figure stands out, namely Zoroaster,** the wise teacher of mankind, His name, which has been modified by several languages, is in its latest version more familiarly known as Zarathustra. Was he perhaps already an alchemist? He is credited with the growing of important cultivated plants such as wheat and grape vine. These two also touch at the origin of Holy Communion which was later to become indigenous with 'Christianity and which in the meantime has embraced the globe as a sacramental act of civilization.
The achievements of this ancient sage as a cultivator were more significant than what is commonly known under this classification. He was not only concerned with variations of that which existed, which can be obtained through selection and hybridizing. It was the ability to permanently mold those forces which had previously produced acridity, denatured juices, and excessive sprouting into sweetness and aroma. generous germination and fruit bearing in a plant. To ennoble a genus of plants, to raise it up to the usefulness and joy of mankind, this was his essential accomplishment.
In order to create something entirely new in the biological sphere it is insufficient to deal only with the selection of seeds and seedlings and the preparation and fertilizing of the soil by adding the ashes (salts) of certain selected plants. To prevent being stuck with immature results, one has to utilize the vibrations in resonance of the activating individuality whose consciousness reaches into the ranae of subtle matter. This is the key to the secret why in our contemporary times those uninitiated in the great work have been unable to reach ultimate mastery or, if propitious circumstances prevailed, negative result, still manifested. Forces of a chemical nature can he applied according to prescribed formulas. However, to be a successful alchemist it is not enough also to he a worshipper. Man must have learned to stand in humility before his creator and to go through life in an even-tempered calm and not to lose his inner balance through daily iniquities. Whoever meets such prerequisites is able to obtain, like the adepts of former times, prudent guidance and the blessing of the highest universal consciousness for truly creative accomplishments. It is credible that the ancient Iranian sage was such a blessed personality. We are justified in counting him among the fathers of alchemy.
Already prior to Alexander's conquest, Iranian knowledge and wisdom were flowing in a western direction. For example, the Greek mind subsequently became impregnated by Oriental consciousness. Out of the blending of the Iranian, Babylonian. and Egyptian genii emerged the integrated culture of later Hellenism. This in turn created important preconditions for theevolution of occidental alchemy.
As proof of the antiquity of the tradition of alchemistical knowledge, the Tabula Smaragdina*** is often quoted with the authorship credited to Hermes Trismegistus. Encyclopedias report that this name was assigned by the ancient Greeks to an Egyptian god who is also known by the name of Thoth (our knowledge of the pronunciation of ancient names of this kind rests upon a weak foundation). More definite knowledge is not readily available. Perhaps the threefold wise Hermes really lived as a human being among the Greeks and considered himself to be the reincarnation of the ibis-headed Egyptian god from whom all original wisdom is supposedly derived.
The term hermetic is part of contemporary linguistic usage; Hermes has thus left his mark upon common language. The concept hermetically sealed signifies the completion of a line of thought. Hermetic art, as alchemy is referred to since ancient times. consists in large part of bringing about processes of development and transmutation within tightly sealed vessels, comparable to evolving life within the uterus of a mother.
Identical texts of the Tabula. as transmitted by the Greeks, have been found in more recent times during the opening of Egyptian burial grounds in Thebes which proves its pre-Grecian origin. The relevant papyri are preserved in Stockholm and Leyden. The text and its meaning cannot he dealt with in this paper.
However, old alchemistical writings not only refer to Hermes, but also to Isis, Horus, Agathodaimon, Moses, and other gods and men cited. One may tend to include also Solomon, the wise king, in this list. But this places us well at the limit of our possibilities to lift the darkness of the historic and prehistoric past.
It remains to point out that the invention of the distillation apparatus and the discovery of the chemical properties of sulphur, especially the reaction of suphur vapors on metals, fall into the 1st Century of our chronology. For the old practitioners it must have been a great experience to recognize how out of the blending of mercury and sulphur something completely different, namely a red mercury sulphide, manifested, which presented itself as totally different in its properties and color.
At the end of the classical period it came to that mental strangulation which in its biased earthly orientation is known as the Ptolernaic System. Only Copernicus, whose 500th birthday was celebrated in 1973, was able to break these mental chains.
It is with the 2nd Century that the essential alchemy comes forward in more precise terms. Its practice goes back to artisans and physicians and its theory is formulated by gnostic -neoplatonic philosophers. It seems that the alchemistical tradition has found its way now out of the Greek area via Egypt where probably only the Greek-formed Coptic circles were comprehended. Important and revealing historical evidence has been lost with the destruction of the library at Alexandria.
The ancient cultural heritage reached in the ensuing centuries the Arabic conquerors who, kindled by Islam, prepared themselves to assume cultural leadership for a considerable time. And once more the world of that time was enriched with mental goods by Iran. Since the middle of the 8th Century, astrologers, astronomers, alchemists, and physicians migrated from the large cities of northeast Persia, which were located on the old overland route to India, to the new cultural centers. Texts in the Arabic language contain evidence of Iranian heritage. Philosophy now experienced through the Islam a mystical recast.
Two personalities stand out primarily around the 9th Century in the field of alchemy: the physician al Razi and the scholar Dschabir ibn Hajjan. In Razi we find a practitioner who left objective and thorough records. Dschabir had mastered numerous areas of learning, including the physics of that time. His writings became known in the Occident under the pseudonym of Geber. Comparisons with Indian translations of the writings of both of these Arabs have led in recent times to the realization that Geber was not a specific alchemist. It is probable that a great part of the literary legacy of Razi has been published under the name of Geber. What took place outside the periphery of our old world? Were alchemists also in existence in the Far East?
Indians, Tibetans, and the Chinese were supposed to have practised alchemy for millenia. In Delhi a rust-free iron column of 6,000 kg has existed for 2,300 years. about its size and rust-free property only unsuccessful conjectures have been made.
All of this still lies outside of the evolving mental horizon. However, it is to be expected that a more extensive interchange of ideas with the help of modern publications will present quite a few surprises.
Alchemy of the Occident
Due to the influence of Rome the peoples of the Occident were bound together by unifying structural traits which enabled them to transcend numerous differences, especially with regard to law, Roman-Christian religion, and Latin. The Occident had matured to assume the cultural leadership. There is no need to point out that Arabic science was superior to the Christian at that time. It is understandable that the Arabs guarded their secrets within confined groups as much as possible. It was not until the Moors were defeated by the Germanic tribes and the great centers of learning of the Spanish Islam fell into Christian hands that their mental wealth became available to the Christian Occident. The most important base was harboured at Toledo which was conquered in the year 1085. Gerhard von Cremona founded there the famous school of translators, through which, among other things, the until then unknowm works of Aristotle were made available in Latin to the West.
However, the oldest handed-down alchemistical recipe of the Occident did not originate through this source but out of contacts with the Byzantine (East-Roman) Empire. It is found in the Schedula Diversarium Artium, one of the most valuable technical writings, now about 1,000; years old, of the entire Middle Ages. It was not until the middle of the 12th, Century that the alchemy of the Middle Ages began to flourish. About 100 years later, i.e., around 1250 A.D., it was already established in the whole Occident. Popes and kings came under its spell. Not only scientists and personalities of all educated ranks but also scoundrels and jugglers of fortune became devoted to alchemy although neither sceptics nor adversaries were short in supply.
The ethos which emanated from alchemy was adhered to by only a few. Speculation for material gain became predominant. All efforts were oriented toward that mysterious and secret universal tincture with which presumably all diseases were curable and with which all common metals could be transmuted into gold. The latter seemed to be of greatest interest. One learned to differentiate between the so-called gold bugs and the gold birds. The former were descriptive of the pseudoalchemists who were either unable to make gold or who had gotten hold of a little of the tincture and were thus able to put on a show until they ran short of it. The latter were representative of the genuine alchemists who were in possession of the formula for the gold tincture and worked accordingly. The former were only gold-glittering; what mattered to them most was to cunningly catch the others so that they may lay the golden eggs in a gilded cage as long as desired.
But even the few genuine alchemists became numerous in the course of time. One can assert that an impressive number of distinguished names of famous alchemists of the Middle Ages are historically provable. To deal with their individual destinies would go too far. We therefore have to confine ourselves to pointing out a few facts.
The Dominican Bishop Albert von Bollstedt emerged during the 13th Century as a representative of universal knowledge. Under the name of Albertus Magnus he became the mental focal point among the scientists of his century. On the basis of his own experiments, he verified the feasibility of the transmutation of metals.
Around the year 1480 a man was born who made public appearances as an alchemist and who finally faced a dreadful end, namely Dr. Faustus, whose life induced Goethe to write in poetic freedom the world famous drama Faust.
The 15th Century was subsequently enriched by a new mysterious personality: Basilius Valentinus. Under his authorship the most important work of alchemy was published, The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony. The alleged author is said to have lived in a Benedictine monastery at Erfurt, Germany. However, one looks in vain for a monk by that name. Original handwritten manuscripts have never been found. None of his congenial contemporaries had heard of him. His writings were not published until the year 1602, about one and a half centuries later; they exhibit such startling insights as to shed doubt about their backdated origin. Much that is contained in his book is also to be found in the earlier writings of Paracelsus (1493-1541) who has been accused of plagiarism. It took several centuries to recognize the genius of this constantly persecuted individuality.
If one sufficiently ascertains the totality of this event, one arrives ultimately at an inner assurance. With a probability approaching certainty one can state today that behind Basilius Valentinus stands Theophrastvon Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus! His abundant mental legacy has still not been sufficiently evaluated. The reforms in medicine which were initiated by him will cause discussions and actions in the ensuing decades and centuries. He belongs to us and we belong to him. He has shown the way out of mystical speculations to practical and systematic applications as well as to new research and rewarding tasks.
In the time span from 1600 - 1750. the final stage of the old alchemy, conditions became critical. The genuine alchemists, in the face of massive attacks by the natural sciences, further withdrew into the underground. But at the same time they also emphatically demonstrated their alchemistical mastery to the public.
The occurrences of these times of the gold makers provide enough material for a series of detective stories. But it is also evident that the transpiring of these events took place systematically. The existence of secret orders is evident. None of the truly knowledgeable disclose their secrets; they rather endure torture or agonizing death. Never does an adept personally perform the various tasks at public demonstrations. All of the work such as the procurement of essential utensils. components, and ingredients is left to outsiders in order to remove from the very beginning any suspicions of secret manipulations. Often times. the tincture with instructions is played into the hands of seemingly suitable laymen. In all instances the gold tincture referred to is actually a powder or a solid substance the color of which varies from a light yellow to a deep red depending upon its method of preparation whereas for the tinging of silver a white powder is used.
The technical terms for the conversion of metal are to tinge or to transmute. Sometimes these powders were dissolved in oil. In a few instances they were enclosed in wax prior to their application. Generally, only minute quantites of the tincture are required, the magnitude of which is in a proportion of 1: 50 to 1: 20,000 depending upon the quantity of metal to be tinged. They preferred to transmute mercury and lead, sometimes also tin, copper, iron, sulphur of antimony. and silver. The diverse applicability of most tinctures does not in any way limit their efficaciousness. The application administered was determined by then prevailing circumstances. In all cases, the substances to he transmuted had to be heated, made red hot, or even had to be liquified sometimes. As soon as the tincture is then adaed, the transmutation takes places from an instant to a quarter of an hour, usually under a roaring and sizzling noise, accompanied by an inflating and bubbles, until it comes to rest.
Prominent and exalted persons were often present. The repertoire ranges from the German Emperor Rudolph II in Prague to the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, in Berlin. from the Brantian physician van Helmont to the officials of the court of Vienna. Protocols, having attested signatures with references to Year, day and hour of occurrence testify to this. Indeed. the Scottish nobleman Alexander Seton has performed transmutations in at least eight major German cities and repeated them in numerous other localities within a two-year period. He was arrested in 1604 in Dresden. was tortured and finally succumbed to his sufferings a few months later.
Even today textbooks contain references that Johann Friedrich Boettger discovered porcelain by chance during useless alchemistical experiments, which saved him from the gallows. The fact that prior to this he had in his possession the genuine tincture. that he demonstrated transmutations in Berlin and Dresden, and that he was incarcerated when it became evident that he was unable to produce the tincture, is discreetly suppressed. The mysterious stranger from whom he had obtained the tincture, was wise enough to keep himself in the background and only briefly to appear on the scene under the name of Laskares, as an alleged Greek monk. For up to twenty years later he is suspected to have stood behind similar occurrences without a clear trace of him being evident.
The attitudes of the educated people in the natural sciences can be depicted with a short quotation. The following sentence is to be found in Mayer's Konversationslexikon of 1894:
". . . The question if ever gold has been made has to be answered in the negative despite attested to testimony to the contrary."
A commentary is unnecessary.
The red thread going through the history of alchemy has not been torn till today. The hermetic art has not lost its fascination to those people who are uninhibited and awakened. We are reminded by Frater Albertus of references to the Ingaleses, a married couple who lived in the United States.****
As another example, according to a newspaper report of the year 1927, we took note that a transmutation from lead into gold took place in the apartment of a Dr. Jaegerloh in Breslau, Germany, on the 17th of May, 1923, between 11 and 12 o'clock in the morning. It is also known among congenial individuals that Demeter Georgiewitz Weitzer (1873-1949) of Salzburg, Austria, known under the pen name of G.W. Surya, a researcher of the occult, had produced the gold tincture on several occasions. During the second World War, deeply depressed over the then existing conditions in the world and of his own fate, he tossed the alchemistically produced gold from a bridge into the river. His confidante at that time, the sole witness of that occurrence is probably still alive today. Attention has to be called to another individual who was able to transmute matter in a sovereign manner on his own accord through inner knowledge. As an alchemist he was known under the name of Volpierre. He passed through transition in 1952 and was put to rest in a village cemetery in the vicinity of Mainz, Germany.
We can be assured that men are living in the present who have mastered the great mystery. They are not necessarily dependent upon the advances of our civilization. The old masters have proved that much can he achieved with very simple means, as long as the right guidance is at hand.
* Translated by Siegfried G. Karsten from "Der Weg der Alchemie durch die Jahrtausende."
** About 600 B.C.
*** It was first conveyed in the Christian Occident in the 11th Century in the Latin text by the British alchemist Hortulanus.
**** Richard and Isabella Ingalese were engaged in alchemistical research since 1911. In the year 1917 they were able to produce a white stone, the tincture stone in 1920. After a devoted laboratory practice of fifteen years, involving many sacrifices, the stone had been perfected for medicinal purposes and was used with results that surpassed expectations. See Frater Albertus, Praktische Alchemie im Zwanzigsten Jahrhundert (Salt Lake City: Paracelsus Research Society, 1970).
None ever truly attained to the fruits of this philosophy as the wise declare, without rectitude of intention and the blessing of God on a well tried experience: and it is the reiterated assertion of this grateful truth that has encouraged us, by a natural faith, to pursue the inquiry and recommend it to others who are desirous of instruction. To say that the pursuit is without danger to the illinformed would be presuming too much... But there are many degrees of success in the legitimate path, and every step is progressive where the Rule of Reason is pursued.
-Mary Anne Atwood
Questions and Answers
Q. Basil Valentine, on page 168 of "THE TRIUMPHAL CHARIOT OF ANTIMONY," deals with the preparation of an oil of antimony. Please explain the portion which says, ". . . and dissolve the sublimed substance in a moist place. Sweeten by removing the salt added to it . . . "
A. This refers to the solution by humidity. To sweeten simply means to wash out all acrid matter (alkaline substance) so that a neutral mineral remains, free from its former salts (which helped to sublimate the substance in question).
Q. What is the best temperature to macerate with ether?
A. Below its boiling point in a cool place. Ether distills at approximately 35o Centigrade, the exact degree varying slightly depending on the altitude.
Q. Please elaborate on the Spirit of Sulphur.
A. The Spirit of Sulphur (not to be confused with the Oil of Sulphur) is a clear, light, sour-tasting liquid of a viscous nature. It shows a high addity reading of pH1 and below, yet strangely it is not corrosive to the system as is ordinary sulphuric acid. The Spirit of Sulphur is not mere suphuric acid.
Q. According to Bode's law, alternating negative and positive areas occur in a planet's ray at varying distances. Is it possible that the earth at times may be in a minus area and at other times in a plus area of a ray? For example, in the Moon's movement between its apogee and perigee the earth's location might change from a minus to a plus area of the Moon's ray. If this supposition is correct, would it not be quite important to know when the polarity of the earth's location changes?
A. The Moon's polarity in itself is negative (magnetic) and the Sun's positive (as are Jupiter, Venus, etc.). It is the alternation between the two that produces the electromagnetic field of energy. Their interplay can be at times more negative and/or positive as terrestrial influences show.
Q. What importance should be attached to the influence of the fixed stars?
A. The fixed stars are suns and as such they must certainly influence earth in some measure. Their influence is said to he especially noticeable when an exact degree relationship (trine, square, etc.) can be established in relation to planetary positions found in a personal chart.
Q. If the Sun revolves around the star Alcyone, does the Sun receive rays that it absorbs and steps down for us, or do we receive only rays from the Sun?
A. The Sun not only receives rays from its central source, Alcyone, but from all the suns (stars) making up the zodiacal signs. They are stepped down by the Sun as we face these signs and come under their direct influence (modified by the Sun) at such times.
Man's work is not merely to exist on this earth, to scratch ignorantly at its surface, to mutilate Nature in every possible way, to fight and rob his neighbour, but to develop the powers surrounding him, to manipulate those forces that he may truly and deservedly claim his right to inherit the earth. A garden which has been neglected for years and is overgrown with weeds, when taken over by an intelligent human being who will work hand in hand with Nature, may once again become a thing of beauty and joy. Thus the earth, which is man's garden, must be sown and cultivated by him, perfected by his art.