Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy - A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery by Mary Anne Atwood (2005).pdf

(4094 KB) Pobierz
45533066 UNPDF
Mary Anne Atwood
Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy ~
A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery
with a Dissertation on the more Celebrated of the Alchemical Philosophers
Part I
An Exoteric View of the Progress and Theory of Alchemy
Chapter I ~ A Preliminary Account of the Hermetic Philosophy, with the more Salient Points
of its Public History
Chapter II ~ Of the Theory of Transmutation in General, and of the First Matter
Chapter III ~ The Golden Treatise of Hermes Trismegistus Concerning the Physical Secret of
the Philosophers’ Stone, in Seven Sections
Part II
A More Esoteric Consideration of the Hermetic Art and its Mysteries
Chapter I ~ Of the True Subject of the Hermetic Art and its Concealed Root.
Chapter II ~ Of the Mysteries
Chapter III ~ The Mysteries Continued
Chapter IV ~ The Mysteries Concluded
Part III
Concerning the Laws and Vital Conditions of the Hermetic Experiment
Chapter I ~ Of the Experimental Method and Fermentations of the Philosophic Subject
According to the Paracelsian Alchemists and Some Others
Chapter II ~ A Further Analysis of the Initial Principle and Its Education into Light
Chapter III ~ Of the Manifestations of the Philosophic Matter
Chapter IV ~ Of the Mental Requisites and Impediments Incidental to Individuals, Either as
Masters or Students, in the Hermetic Art
P art IV
The Hermetic Practice
Chapter I ~ Of the Vital Purification, Commonly Called the Gross Work
Chapter II ~ Of the Philosophic or Subtle Work
Chapter III ~ The Six Keys of Eudoxus
Chapter IV ~ The Conclusion
Part I
An Exoteric View of the Progress and Theory of Alchemy
Chapter I
A Preliminary Account of the Hermetic Philosophy, with the more Salient
Points of its Public History
The Hermetic tradition opens early with the morning dawn in the eastern world. All pertaining thereto
is romantic and mystical. Its monuments, emblems, and numerous written records, alike dark and
enigmatical, form one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the human mind. A hard task
were it indeed and almost infinite to discuss every particular that has been presented by individuals
concerning the art of Alchemy; and as difficult to fix with certainty the origin of a science which has
been successively attributed to Adam, Noah and his son Cham, to Solomon, Zoroaster, and the
Egyptian Hermes. Nor, fortunately, does this obscurity concern us much in an inquiry which rather
relates to the means and principles of occult science than to the period and place of their reputed
discovery. Nothing, perhaps, is less worthy or more calculated to distract the mind from points of real
importance than this very question of temporal origin, which, when we have taken all pains to satisfy
and remember, leaves us no wiser in reality than we were before. What signifies it, for instance, that
we attribute letters to Cadmus, or trace oracles to Zoroaster, or the kabalah to Moses, the Eleusian
mysteries to Orpheus, or Freemasonry to Noah; whilst we are profoundly ignorant of the nature and
true beginning of any one of these things, and observe not how truth, being everywhere eternal, does
not there always originate where it is understood?
We do not delay, therefore, to ascertain, even were it possible, whether the Hermetic Science was
indeed preserved to mankind on the Syriadic pillars after the flood, or whether Egypt or Palestine may
lay equal claims to the same; or, whether in truth that Smagardine table, whose singular inscription has
been transmitted to this day, is attributable to Hermes or to any other name. It may suffice the present
need to accept the general assertion of its advocates, and consider Alchemy as an antique arifice
coeval, for aught we know to the contrary, with the universe itself. For although attempts have been
made, as by Herman Conringius (1), to slight it as a recent invention, and it is also true that by a
singularly envious fate, nearly all Egyptian record of the art has perished; yet we find the original
evidence contained in the works of A. Kircher (2), the learned Dane Olaus Borrichius (3), and Robert
Vallensis in the first volume of the Theatrum Chemicum (4), more than sufficient to balance every
objection of this kind, besides ample collateral probability bequeathed in the best Greek Authors,
historical and philosophic.
In order to show that the propositions we may hereafter have occasion to offer are not gratuitous as
also with better effect to introduce a stranger subject, it will be requisite to run through a brief account
of the Alchemical philosophers, with the literature and public evidence of their science; the more so,
as no one of the many histories of philosophy compiled or translated into our language advert to it in
such a manner as, considering the powerful and widespread influence this branch formerly exercised
on the human mind, it certainly appears to deserve.
This once famous Art, then, has been represented both as giving titles and receiving them from its
mother land, Cham; for so, during a long period, according to Plutarch, was Egypt denominated, or
Chemia, on account of the extreme blackness of her soil: --- or, as others say, because it was there that
the art of Vulcan was first practiced by Cham, one of the sons of the Patriarch, from whom they thus
derive the name and art together. But by the word Chemia, says Plutarch, the seeing pupil of the
human eye was also designated, and other black matters, whence in part perhaps Alchemy, so
obscurely descended, has been likewise stigmatized as a Black Art (5).
Etymological research has doubtless proved useful in leading on and corroborating truths once
suggested, but it is not a way of first discovery; derivations may be too easily conformed to any bias,
and words do not convey true ideas unless their proper leader be previously entertained. Without being
able now, therefore, to determine whether the art gave or received a title from Cham, the Persian
prince Alchimin, as others have contended, or that dark Egyptian earth; to take a point of time, we
may begin the Hermetic story from Hermes, by the Greeks called Trismegistus, Egypt’s great and far-
reputed adeptest king, who, according to Suidas, lived before the time of the Pharoahs, about 400
years previous to Moses, or, as others compute, about 1900 before the Christian era (6).
This prince, like Solomon, is highly celebrated by antiquity for his wisdom and skill in the secret
operations of nature, and for his reputed discovery of the quintessential perfectibility of the three
kingdoms in their homogeneal unity; whence he is called the Thrice Great Hermes, having the spiritual
intelligence of all things in their universal law (7).
It is to be lamented that no one of the many books attributed to him, and which are named in detail by
Clemens Alexandrinus, escaped the destroying hand of Dioclesian (8); more particularly if we judge
them, as Jamblicus assures us we may, by those Asclepian Dialogues and the Divine Poimander,
which yet pass current under the name of Hermes (9). Both are preserved in the Latin of Ficinus, and
have been well translated into our language by Dr Everard. The latter, though a small work, surpasses
most that are extant for sublimity of doctrine and expression; its verses flow forth eloquent, as it were,
from the fountain of nature, instinct with intelligence; such as might be more efficacious to move the
rational skeptic off from his negative ground into the happier regions of intelligible reality, than many
theological discourses which, of a lower grade of comprehension, are unable to make this highly
affirmative yet intellectual stand. But the subjects treated of in the books of the Poemander and
Asclepias are theosophic and ultimate, and denote rather our divine capabilities and promise of
regeneration than the physical ground of either; this, with the practical method of alchemy being
further given in the Tractatus Aureus, or Golden Treatise, an admirable relic, consisting of seven
chapters, attributed to the same author (10). The Smaragdine Table, which, in its few enigmatical but
remarkable lines, is said to comprehend the working principle and total subject of the art, we here
subjoin: from the original Arabic and Greek copies, it has been rendered into Latin by Kircher as
follows: ---
Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis / The Smaragdine Table of Hermes
"True, without error, certain and most true; that which is above is as that which is below, and that
which is below is as that which is above, for performing the miracles of the One Thing; and as all
things were from one, by the mediation of one, so all things arose from this one thing by adaptation;
the father of it is the Sun, the mother of it is the Moon; the wind carries it in its belly; the nurse thereof
is the Earth. This is the father of all perfection, or consummation of the whole world. The power of it
is Integral, if it be turned into earth. Thou shalt separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the
gross, gently with much sagacity; it ascends from earth to heaven, and again descends to earth: and
receives the strength of the superiors and of the inferiors --- so thou hast the glory of the whole world;
therefore let all obscurity flee before thee. This is the strong fortitude of all fortitudes, overcoming
every subtle and penetrating every solid thing. So the world was created. Hence were all wonderful
adaptations of which this is the manner. Therefore I am I called Thrice Great Hermes, having the
Three Parts of the philosophy of the whole world. That which I have written is consummated
concerning the operation of the Sun".
This Emerald Table, unique and authentic as it may be regarded, is all that remains to us from Egypt
of her Sacred Art. A few riddles and fables, all more or less imperfect, that were preserved by the
Greeks, and some inscrutable hieroglyphics are still to be found quoted in certain of the alchemical
records: but the originals are entirely swept away. And, duly considering all that is related by the
chroniclers of that ancient dynasty, her amazing reputation for power, wealth, wisdom, and magic
skill; --- and, even when all these had faded, when Herodotus visited the city, after the priestly
government of the Pharoahs had been overthrown by Cambyses, and that savage conqueror had
burned the temples and almost annihilated the sacerdotal order, --- after the influx of strangers had
been permitted, and civil war had raged almost to the fulfillment of the Asclepian prophecy, --- the
wonders then recorded by the historian of her remaining splendor and magnificence; --- what shall we
now conclude, when, after the lapse of many more destroying ages, we review the yet mightily
surviving witnesses of so much glory, surpassing and gigantic even in the last stage of their decay?
Shall we suppose the ancient accounts fallacious because they are too wonderful to be conceived; or
have we not now present before our eyes the plain evidence of lost science and the vestiges of an
intelligence superior to our own? For what did the nations flock to Memphis? For what did
Pythagoras, Thales, Democritus, and Plato become immured there for several solitary years, but to be
initiated in the wisdom and learning of those Egyptians? For what else, but for the knowledge of that
mighty Art with which she arose, governed, and dazzled the whole contemporary world; holding in
strong abeyance the ignorant, profane, vulgar, until the evil day of desolation came with self-abuse,
when, neglecting to obey the law, by which she governed, all fell, as was foretold, and sinking
gradually deeper in crime and presumption, was at last annihilated, and every sacred institution
violated by barbarians, and despoiled? "Oh, Egypt! Egypt! Fables alone shall remain of thy religion,
and these such as will be incredible to posterity, and words alone shall be left engraved in stones
narrating thy pious deeds. The Scythian also, or Indian, or some other similar nation, shall inhabit
Egypt. For divinity shall return to heaven, all its inhabitants shall die, and thus Egypt bereft both of
God and man shall be deserted. Why do you weep, O Asclepias? Egypt shall experience yet more
ample evils; she was once holy, and the greatest lover of the gods on earth, by the desert of her
religion. And she, who was alone the reductor of sanctity and the mistress of piety, will be an example
of the greatest cruelty. And darkness shall be preferred to light, and death shall be judged to be more
useful than life. No one shall look up to heaven. The religious man shall be counted insane; the
irreligious shall be thought wise; the furious, brave; and the worst of men shall be considered good.
For the soul, and all things about it, by which it is either naturally immortal, or conceives it shall attain
to immortality, conformable to what I have explained to you, shall not only be the subjects of laughter,
but shall be considered as vanity. Believe me, likewise, that a capital punishment shall be appointed
for him who applies himself to the Religion of Intellect. New statutes and new laws shall be
established, and nothing religious, or which is worthy of heaven or celestial concerns, shall be heard or
believed in the mind. Every divine voice shall, by a necessary silence, be dumb: the fruits of the earth
shall be corrupted; and the air itself shall languish with a sorrowful stupor. These events, and such an
old age of the world as this, shall take place --- such irreligion, inordination, and unseasonableness of
all good" (11).
Such is the substance of a prediction which, as it was supposed to have reference to the Christian era,
has been abused and reputed a forgery by the faithless learned of modern times. It is, however,
difficult to conceive why it should have been considered so obnoxious, for the early history of
Christianity certainly does not fulfill it; it was a falling off from Divinity tha was predicted, and not
such a revival as took place upon the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles. At that period
philosophy too flourished, and the Spirit of the Word was potent in faith to heal and save. If the
prediction had been a forgery of Apuleius, or other contemporary opponent of Christianity, the early
fathers must have known it, which they did not as is plain from Lactantius, and St Augustine
mentioning, without expressing any doubt about its authenticity; and though the latter (then adopting
probably the popular notion) esteemed it instinctu fallacies spiritus (12), he might subsequently
perhaps have thought otherwise, had he lived so long. Christianity was yet in his time glowing, bright,
efficacious, from the Divine Fountain; faith was then grounded in reality and living operation, and the
mystery of human regeneration, so zealously proclaimed, was also rationally understood. The
fulfillment, with respect to Egypt, appears to have taken place in part long previously, and in part to
have been reserved to later times, when sacred mysteries, too openly exposed to the multitude, became
perverted and vilified by their abuse.
But this prophecy carries us out of all order of time: it will be necessary, in tracing the progress of our
science, to pass again to Egypt. The period of her true greatness is, as is well known, shrouded in
oblivion; but, during the long succession of the Ptolemies, the influx of strangers, so long before
successfully prohibited, became excessive: her internal peace was destroyed, but her Art and Wisdom
spread abroad with her renown: foreigners obtained initiation into the mysteries of Isis; and India,
Arabia, China and Persia vied with her and with each other in magian skill and prowess.
Pliny informs us that it was Ostanes, the Persian sage accompanying the army of Xerxes, who first
inoculated Greece with the portentous spirit of his nation (13). Subsequently the Greek Philosophers,
both young and old, despising the minor religion of their own country, became anxious to visit the
eastern temples, and that of Memphis above all, in order to obtain a verification of those hopes to
which a previous spirit of inquiry and this new excitement had abundantly given rise.
Amongst the earliest mentioned of these, after Thales, Pythagoras, and a few others, whose writings
are lost, is Democritus of Abdera, who has been frequently styles the father of experimental
philosophy, and who, in his book of Sacred Physics, treats especially of the Hermetic art, and that
occult discovery on which the systems of ancient philosophy appear to have been very uniformly
based (14). Of this valuable piece there are said to be several extant editions, and Synesius has added
to it the light of a commentary (15). Nicholas Flamel also, of more recent notoriety, has given extracts
from the same at the conclusion of a very instructive work (16). That its authenticity should have been
disputed by the ignorant is not wonderful; but the ancients are nowhere found to doubt about it. Pliny
bears witness to the experimental fame of Democritus, and his skill in the occult sciences and practice
of them, both in his native city of Abdera and afterwards at Athens, when Socrates was teaching there.
" Plenum miraculi et hoc pariter utrasque artes effloruisse, medicinam dico, magiciemque eadem
aetate, illam Hippocrate hanc Democrito illustrantibus ", &c (17). Seneca also mentions his artificial
confection of precious stones (18); and it is said that he spent all his leisure, after his return home, in
these and such-like hyperphysical researches. (19)
During the sojourn of Democritus at Memphis, he is said to have become associated in his studies with
a Hebrew woman named Maria, remarkable at that period for the advances she had made in
Philosophy, and particularly in the department of the Hermetic Art. A treatise entitled Sapientisima
Maria de Lapide Philosophica Praescripta is extant; also Maria Practica, a singularly excellent and
esteemed fragment, which is preserved in the alchemical collections (20).
But amongst the Greeks, next Democritus, Anaxagorus is celebrated as an alchemist. The remains of
his writing are unfortunately scanty, and even those to be found in manuscript only, with exception of
some fragments which have been accidentally translated. From these, however, we are led to infer
favorably of the general character of his expositions, which Norton, our countryman also, in the
Proheme to his quaint Ordinal of Alchemy, lauds, thus holding him up in excellent comparison with
the envious writers of his age.
"All masters that write of this solemn werke,
Have made their bokes to manie men full derke,
In poysies, parables, and in metaphors alsoe,
Which to schollors causeth peine and woe;
Forin their practice wen they would assaye
They leefe their costs, as men see alle daye.
Hermes, Rasis, Geber, and Avicen,
Merlin, Hortolan, Democrit and Morien,
Bacon and Raymond with many moe
Wrote under coverts and Aristotle alsoe.
For what hereof they wrote clear with their pen,
Their clouded clauses dulled; from manie men
Fro laymen, fro clerks, and soe fro every man
Zgłoś jeśli naruszono regulamin