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V.I.T.R.I.O.L. [Paracelsus]

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Paracelsus - The Treasure of Treasures for Alchemists Source

Paracelsus his Aurora, & Treasure of the Philosophers.

As also The Water-Stone of The Wise Men; Describing the matter of, and manner how to attain the universal Tincture. Faithfully Englished. And Published by J.H. Oxon. London, Printed for Giles Calvert, and are to be sold at the Black Spred Eagle, at the West end of Pauls, 1659.

The Treasure of Treasures for Alchemists.

By Philippus Theophrastus Bombast, Paracelsus the Great

Nature begets a mineral in the bowels of the earth. There are two kinds of it, which are found in many districts of Europe. The best which has been offered to me, which also has been found genuine in experimentation, is externally in the figure of the greater world, and is in the eastern part of the sphere of the Sun. The other, in the Southern Star, is now in its first efflorescence. The bowels of the earth thrust this forth through its surface. It is found red in its first coagulation, and in it lie hid all the flowers and colours of the minerals. Much has been written about it by the philosophers, for it is of a cold and moist nature, and agrees with the element of water.

So far as relates to the knowledge of it and experiment with it, all the philosophers before me, though they have aimed at it with their missiles, have gone very wide of the mark. They believed that Mercury and Sulphur were the mother of all metals, never even dreaming of making mention meanwhile of a third; and yet when the water is separated from it by Spagyric Art the truth is plainly revealed, though it was unknown to Galen or to Avicenna. But if, for the sake of our excellent physicians, we had to describe only the name, the composition; the dissolution, and coagulation, as in the beginning of the world Nature proceeds with all growing things, a whole year would scarcely suffice me, and, in order to explain these things, not even the skins of numerous cows would be adequate.

Now, I assert that in this mineral are found three principles, which are Mercury, Sulphur, and the Mineral Water which has served to naturally coagulate it. Spagyric science is able to extract this last from its proper juice when it is not altogether matured, in the middle of the autumn, just like a pear from a tree. The tree potentially contains the pear. If the Celestial Stars and Nature agree , the tree first of all puts forth shoots in the month of March; then it thrusts out buds, and when these open the flower appears, and so on in due order until in autumn the pear grows ripe. So is it with the minerals. These are born, in like manner, in the bowels of the earth. Let the Alchemists who are seeking the Treasure of Treasures carefully note this. I will shew them the way, its beginning, its middle, and its end. In the following treatise I will describe the proper Water, the proper Sulphur, and the proper Balm thereof. By means of these three the resolution and composition are coagulated into one.


Take mineral Cinnabar and prepare it in the following manner. Cook it with rain water in a stone vessel for three hours. Then purify it carefully, and dissolve it in Aqua Regis, which is composed of equal parts of vitriol, nitre, and sal ammoniac. Another formula is vitriol, saltpetre, alum, and common salt.

Distil this in an alembic. Pour it on again, and separate carefully the pure from the impure thus. Let it putrefy for a month in horse-dung; then separate the elements in the following manner. If it puts forth its sign1, commence the distillation by means of an alembic with a fire of the first degree. The water and the air will ascend; the fire and the earth will remain at the bottom. Afterwards join them again, and gradually treat with the ashes. So the water and the air will again ascend first, and afterwards the element of fire, which expert artists recognise. The earth will remain in the bottom of the vessel. This collect there. It is what many seek after and few find.

This dead earth in the reverberatory you will prepare according to the rules of Art, and afterwards add fire of the first degree for five days and nights. When these have elapsed you must apply the second degree for the same number of days and nights, and proceed according to Art with the material enclosed. At length you will find a volatile salt, like a thin alkali, containing in itself the Astrum of fire and earth2. Mix this with the two elements that have been preserved, the water and the earth. Again place it on the ashes for eight days and eight nights, and you will find that which has been neglected by many Artists. Separate this according to your experience, and according to the rules of the Spagyric Art, and you will have a white earth, from which its colour has been extracted. Join the element of fire and salt to the alkalised earth. Digest in a pelican to extract the essence. Then a new earth will be deposited, which put aside.


Afterwards take the lion in the pelican which also is found [at] first, when you see its tincture, that is to say, the element of fire which stands above the water, the air, and the earth. Separate it from its deposit by trituration. Thus you will have the true aurum potabile3. Sweeten this with the alcohol of wine poured over it, and then distil in an alembic until you perceive no acidity to remain in the Aqua Regia.

This Oil of the Sun, enclosed in a retort hermetically sealed, you must place for elevation that it may be exalted and doubled in its degree. Then put the vessel, still closely shut, in a cool place. Thus it will not be dissolved, but coagulated. Place it again for elevation and coagulation, and repeat this three times. Thus will be produced the Tincture of the Sun, perfect in its degree. Keep this in its own place.


Take the vitriol of Venus4, carefully prepared according to the rules of Spagyric Art; and add thereto the elements of water and air which you have reserved. Resolve, and set to putrefy for a month according to instructions. When the putrefaction is finished, you will behold the sign of the elements. Separate, and you will soon see two colours, namely, white and red. The red is above the white. The red tincture of the vitriol is so powerful that it reddens all white bodies, and whitens all red ones, which is wonderful.

Work upon this tincture by means of a retort, and you will perceive a blackness issue forth. Treat it again by means of the retort, repeating the operation until it comes out whitish. Go on, and do not despair of the work. Rectify until you find the true, clear Green Lion, which you will recognise by its great weight. You will see that it is heavy and large. This is the Tincture, transparent gold. You will see marvellous signs of this Green Lion, such as could be bought by no treasures of the Roman Leo. Happy he who has learnt how to find it and use it for a tincture!

This is the true and genuine Balsam5, the Balsam of the Heavenly Stars, suffering no bodies to decay, nor allowing leprosy, gout, or dropsy to take root. It is given in a dose of one grain, if it has been fermented with Sulphur of Gold.

Ah, Charles the German, where is your treasure? Where are your philosophers? Where your doctors? Where are your decocters of woods, who at least purge and relax? Is your heaven reversed? Have your stars wandered out of their course, and are they straying in another orbit, away from the line of limitation, since your eyes are smitten with blindness, as by a carbuncle, and other things making a show of ornament, beauty, and pomp? If your artists only knew that their prince Galen - they call none like him - was sticking in hell, from whence he has sent letters to me, they would make the sign of the cross upon themselves with a fox's tail. In the same way your Avicenna sits in the vestibule of the infernal portal; and I have disputed with him about his aurum potabile, his Tincture of the Philosophers, his Quintessence, and Philosophers' Stone, his Mithridatic, his Theriac, and all the rest. O, you hypocrites, who despise the truths taught you by a true physician, who is himself instructed by Nature, and is a son of God himself! Come, then, and listen, impostors who prevail only by the authority of your high positions! After my death, my disciples will burst forth and drag you to the light, and shall expose your dirty drugs, wherewith up to this time you have compassed the death of princes, and the most invincible magnates of the Christian world. Woe for your necks in the day of judgment! I know that the monarchy will be mine. Mine, too, will be the honour and glory. Not that I praise myself: Nature praises me. Of her I am born; her I follow. She knows me, and I know her. The light which is in her I have beheld in her; outside, too, I have proved the same in the figure of the microcosm, and found it in that universe.

But I must proceed with my design in order to satisfy my disciples to the full extent of their wish. I willingly do this for them, if only skilled in the light of Nature and thoroughly practised in astral matters, they finally become adepts in philosophy, which enables them to know the nature of every kind of water.

Take, then, of this liquid of the minerals which I have described, four parts by weight; of the Earth of red Sol two parts; of Sulphur of Sol one part. Put these together into a pelican, congelate, and dissolve them three times. Thus you will have the Tincture of the Alchemists. We have not here described its weight: but this is given in the book on Transmutations6.

So, now, he who has one to a thousand ounces of the Astrum Solis shall also tinge his own body of Sol.

If you have the Astrum of Mercury, in the same manner, you will tinge the whole body of common Mercury. If you have the Astrum of Venus you will, in like manner, tinge the whole body of Venus, and change it into the best metal. These facts have all been proved. The same must also be understood as to the Astra of the other planets, as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Luna, and the rest. For tinctures are also prepared from these: concerning which we now make no mention in this place, because we have already dwelt at sufficient length upon them in the book on the Nature of Things and in the Archidoxies. So, too, the first entity of metals and terrestrial minerals have been made, sufficiently clear for Alchemists to enable them to get the Alchemists' Tincture.

This work, the Tincture of the Alchemists, need not be one of nine months; but quickly, and without any delay, you may go on by the Spaygric Art of the Alchemists, and, in the space of forty days, you can fix this alchemical substance, exalt it, putrefy it, ferment it, coagulate it into a stone, and produce the Alchemical Phoenix7. But it should be noted well that the Sulphur of Cinnabar becomes the Flying Eagle, whose wings fly away without wind, and carry the body of the phoenix to the nest of the parent, where it is nourished by the element of fire, and the young ones dig out its eyes: from whence there emerges a whiteness, divided in its sphere, into a sphere and life out of its own heart, by the balsam of its inward parts, according to the property of the cabalists.


Animal Symbolism in the Alchemical Tradition

Adam McLean Source

Alchemy, as I perceive it, is a spiritual tradition, a means for exploring our inner space and the layers which clothe the precious essence of our innermost soul. It is a path, a way, a practical method for investigating the substance of our being, by meditating upon chemical processes. The alchemists worked with their retorts, heating, calcining, subliming, distilling substances, watching all the while the transformations within their experiments. They used events in their experiments as seed images for meditations, forming visual mantras from chemical changes. The alchemists reflected and mirrored these outward events into their interior world. They saw the processes in their flasks as an interaction and linking of the spiritual and the material. The spirit rose up, separating from the substance at the bottom of their flasks and descended again to spiritualise the material into an essence or tincture. As the alchemists reworked these experiments over in their souls, they further drew parallels with the greater laboratory of Nature. They saw the work within their flasks as a kind of microcosm of macrocosmic Nature. The living energies and beings in Nature were metaphorically drawn into their retorts, as they began to picture the living alchemical processes through animal symbols. For example, a black toad was a good image for the seething black mass of substance digesting in the flask, while a white eagle was a beautiful way of describing the white steam or fumes which rose up into the neck of the flask from the substance being heated below.

I would just like us to consider some of the more important of these animal symbols. Alchemists were, of course, individualists who worked alone, rather than being members of sodalities or secret orders, yet despite their writings being a result of their own experiences, the animal metaphors rapidly developed into a universal language. In the centuries before the invention of printing, key alchemical manuscripts, often with beautiful illuminated illustrations, circulated quite widely. Works like the Aurora Consurgens (attributed to Thomas Aquinas), the Buch der Heiligen Dreigaltigheit, the works of Ramon Lull, Roger Bacon, Arnold of Villa Nova, exist in many manuscript collections from this period, and with this exchange of ideas a quite coherent set of metaphors emerged in the European Alchemical tradition. It was the coherence and universality of this set of alchemical symbols that lead Carl Jung to the concept of the collective unconscious. The alchemists though pursuing their inner work independently as individuals, nevertheless found in their interior descent a coherent language of symbols.

At the core of this was a vision of an alchemical process occurring through a cycle of colour changes, from an initial blackness to the perfection of the quintessence.
The alchemist envisaged each stage of the process being heralded by a colour change and a meeting with certain animals.

Blackening - Black Crow, Raven, Toad, Massa Confusa.
Whitening - White Swan, White Eagle, skeleton.
Greening - Green Lion.
Rapid cycling through iridescent colours - Peacock's Tail.
White Stone - Unicorn.
Reddening - Pelican feeding young with its own blood, cockerel.
Final transmutation - Phoenix reborn from the fire.

The phase of Blackening which usually marked the beginning of the work, was brought about either by heating the prima materia in the process of Calcination (the 'dry way' of the alchemists), or by the process of Putrefaction, a slow rotting or digestion over a period of weeks or months (the so-called 'wet way'). The Black Crow or Raven was often associated with this Calcination, for on vigorous heating the calcined material would usually carbonise and layers would flake off and move like a crow's wings in the flask. The Toad was a better symbol of the Putrefaction, the decaying mass slowly pulsating and shifting as gasses were given off, while the substance rotted down to a black mass. Another symbol of this stage was the dragon, a familiar inhabitant of the alchemists flasks. The dragon is however a more complex symbol and is also used when winged as a symbol for the spiritualising of the earthly substance. Thus to the alchemists the dragon appeared at the beginning and at the end of the work.

The alchemists paralleled these experiences in their souls as a withdrawal into the darkness of their interior space, a darkness pregnant with possibility. We have to a great extent lost the sense that still lived in the medieval and renaissance alchemists, that this darkness contained all potentialities. Like children we fear the dark, and for twentieth century humanity darkness often holds only an existential dread - philosophers of science have in the last decade brought us this terrible image of the 'Black Hole' which swallows up and annihilates everything that comes into its orbit. Perhaps we do not gaze enough at the blackness of the heavens. For if we look deep into the blackness of space on a clear night, we will sense more stars hidden between the known visible stars, especially in the vast star fields of the Milky Way. Cosmic space is pregnant with the possibility of other worlds as yet unseen. It is this image of blackness we must try to recover if we are to become alchemists. An echo of this perhaps remains in the often used phrase "a profound darkness". In alchemy, to meet with the black crow is a good omen. Thus in the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, as our hero sets out on his journey of transformation, he meets with a Crow which by a turn of fate decides which among the various paths open to him is the one that will lead him to the Castle of the King.

The temporary phase of whitening which followed on the black stage was symbolised by the white eagle or white swan. As the black mass of the calcination was reacted with other substances and heated, it took on a white crust or dusty layer which sometimes puffed up and flew in a cloud in the flask, as heat exploded bubbles of gas out of the black substance below. This was the White Eagle of the dry way. In the wet way, the dark putrefying matter sometimes began to form white patches, often fungal growths floating on the surface, or white crystals growing out of the mass. This could be pictured as the White Swan, which was at home upon the surface of the water yet fed off of the dark mud at the bottom of the stream or lake. Its whiteness contrasting with the mud on which it is observed to feed, made it a fine symbol of how spiritual purity could be gained from the unpromising primal material.

The whitening is a phase when we sense or have a prevision of the end of the work. It is a polar swing from out of the blackening - the appearance of seeds of the future development of the work. It is that stage of catharsis after some intense experience of being consumed in the crucible, when we glimpse the appearance, however fragmentary, of a new possibility - a flickering light in our souls which draws us towards its promise of change. We all experience these alchemical phases in our inner life, though nowadays, immersed as we are in twentieth century images which often lack a spiritual core, we often fail to recognise these to be of any value, but if we are able to use the alchemical view of inner transformation, which we might need to mould and shape to suite our present consciousness, we can gain much inner perception and growth. For our blackness becomes a pregnant space, and a mere fleeting show of the whiteness, is a significant step towards out goal of integration of the spiritual and the material in our beings.

Thus in alchemy these two phases so fundamentally linked, were sometimes seen as the chaining of a toad and an eagle. The eagle of the spirit is held down by the earthly weight of the toad, while the earthly part of our being (the toad symbol) is lifted up towards the spirit. The hermetic philosopher Michael Maier incorporated this symbol into his coat of arms. The image of the earthly dragon bearing wings was sometimes used to express this same idea. If we can sense within our souls the need to link the spirit and the material, the spiritualising of the material and the materialising of the spirit, then we truly have made progress through the blackening to the stage of the whitening.

At this point the alchemists would often encounter the Peacock's Tail, a sudden appearance of a rush of colours, an iridescence on the surface of the material in the flask, which made some think they had achieved their goal. This could arise through the formation of a layer of oil on the surface of the watery mass (in the wet way) or some oxidation-reduction reactions, say on the surface of liquid metal (in the dry way). It was a fleeting show of colour changes, that pointed to the fact that one was on the right path, and reabsorbed the energies released in initial emergence of the polarities. It was a midway point of the process, which could be seen as a false conclusion. Many people who have this experience in their inner life often falsely assume they have reached the end of the work, and attained inner transformation and enlightenment. The inner vision of the PeacockÕs Tail, beautiful though it may be, is merely a digestion of the polarities of the black and white stage. These must be transformed further into spiritual tinctures, if we hope to have any permanent transformation within the soul.

Not all alchemists used the symbolism of the Peacock's Tail, and another stage often met at this point in the cycle was the meeting with the Green Lion. Physically the Green Lion was usually a name for vitriol, or the sulphuric acid created by distilling the green crystals of iron sulphate in a flask. Iron sulphate was formed when iron ores rich in sulphides were left to oxidise in the air, so was readily available to medieval alchemists. The sharp penetrating sulphuric acid could create major chemical changes in many materials even to the extent of dissolving metals like iron, and copper. The Green Lion could also be the nitric acid formed from heating saltpeter or nitre and iron sulphate. Nitric acid when mixed with the acid derived from common salt, hydrochloric acid, produced aqua regia, a greenish tinged liquid that could dissolve even the noble metal gold. The Green Lion devouring the sun is a famous image in alchemy being depicted in many manuscripts and engravings, and can be thought of as aqua regia dissolving the solar gold and forming a solution which could readily tinge metals with gold.

To other alchemists who worked primarily with vegetable matter and processes, rather than the mineral work, the Green Lion was an image of the green raw energy of nature, "the green fuse which drives the flower" as Dylan Thomas elegantly expressed it in one of his poems. Here the Green Lion which devours the sun is the green pigment chlorophyll. The green leaves of the plant are formed out of the energy of sunlight. Alchemists often attempted to create living processes in their flasks and looked especially for precipitates or crystallisations which resembled leaves or plant forms. The Green Lion here could be a plant sap extract which was often the prima materia for their alchemical work. The Gryphon, half-eagle and half-lion, was sometimes associated with the end of this stage. The eagle nature of the Gryphon gave this hybrid being an ability to ascend in the flask, so it marked, in a sense, the spiritualisation of the Green Lion.

In the work with minerals, the metal antimony was referred to as the Grey Wolf, because when molten it greedily swallowed up many other metals, such as copper, tin and lead, by forming alloys. In this sense it behaved like metallic mercury which also readily amalgamated with metals. The Grey Wolf of antimony became especially important in early 17th century alchemy - its curative properties being popularised through the writings published under the name of Basil Valentine. To an extent it became an analogue for the work with minerals of the Green Lion of the work with plant substance.

After the Peacock's Tail or the greening of the Lion, alchemists looked for the appearance of a stage of whitening then a reddening in their flasks marking an new integration of the polarities which had emerged in the initial blackening and whitening and then been digested.

The white stage was the formation of the white tincture or stone, and was derived from though not to be confused with the earlier whitening which followed the calcination or putrefaction, for to have proceeded to this stage meant one was on a higher level of spiritual attainment. This was often pictured as the appearance of a queen dressed in shining white robes in the flask. The white tincture marked a process of inner change when the alchemist was able to experience and bring into an integrated harmony the feminine component of the soul. Often this sexual element is stressed in alchemy. The Rosarium Philosophorum, a key work of the mid 16th century, shows the coupling of the male and female as a central facet of the process. Regrettably, some 20th century commentators have sought to link this symbolism with the practice of so called 'sex-magic', in which people seek to use the sexual act as a basis for magical working. The alchemical manuscripts and books do not seem to support such an interpretation at all. The male and female copulating in the flask were for the alchemists symbols for aspect of our inner being uniting together. They saw metals, plants and minerals as being masculine and feminine in some degree and projected the transformations of these in their retorts into their inner space, in order to explore their own masculine and feminine natures. Acids, for example, which could penetrate and dissolve metal ores, were seen as masculine. Substances exhibited a femininity when they were connected with the forces of growth and nourishment of processes in the flask and the melding of substances together into a new unity. Metallic Mercury was seen as hermaphrodite as it both dissolved and brought together other metals into an amalgam.

The White Stone was sometimes symbolised by the Unicorn, partly because of its white horn, but also because the Unicorn could only be tamed by the touch of a pure woman. Thus the White Tincture can only be experienced by purifying the feminine forces within our beings.

The reddening or formation of the Red Stone was pictured through the symbol of the Pelican. The white pelican bird with its long bill reaching down over its breast, was in medieval times mistakenly observed piercing its breast with its bill and feeding its young on its own blood. What actually happens is that the bird regurgitates food it has caught earlier and its young feed on this ground up fish, bits of which fall onto the breast of the pelican and it appears as if its breast is bleeding. This myth of the sacrificial act of the Pelican in feeding its young on its own blood, was more powerful than the prosaic reality and during medieval times the Pelican became a symbol for ChristÕs sacrifice of his blood. Alchemists also took this symbol aboard and readily incorporated it into their symbolic menagerie.

The reddening marked the formation of the Red Tincture, which transformed the masculine forces of the soul, ennobled them, and brought them into a new harmony and was often symbolised by the appearance of a Red King in the flask. In our inner work, we begin to possess the red tincture when we have entered on the task of transforming the raw energies of the masculine component of our souls, sometimes pictured by the alchemists as a knight brandishing a sword, into a more creative force.

The tinctures in alchemy relate also to the substances of the Mass, the red wine, the blood, and the white wafer, the body of Christ. Administration of the Sacraments was seen as spiritualising the souls of the partakers. In alchemical terms these white and red stones or tinctures served much the same purpose, though the alchemists achieved this, not through the intermediacy of a priest but by their own inner work of transmutation. Here alchemy links directly with the Grail stories which use similar parallels between the Grail and the Sacraments. The red tincture was occasionally symbolised by a stag bearing antlers. The stag being seen as a noble masculine animal. This links in with the Unicorn as a symbol of the white or feminine tincture. In some alchemical illustrations, such as that of the late 16th century Book of Lambspring, the Stag and Unicorn meet in the forest of the soul as part of the process of inner transformation.

The final stage of the work was often symbolised by the Phoenix rising from the flames. This goes back to the Greek myth of the Phoenix bird which renewed itself every 500 years by immolating itself on a pyre. This is thus a kind of resurrection and was paralleled with the symbol of Christ rising from the tomb. In interior terms its marks the rebirth of the personality from out of the crucible of transformation. The alchemists in meditating on processes in their flasks threw themselves into a sea of strange experiences, and as they worked these within their meditations and sought to grasp the inner parallels and significance of each of the stages of the process they had embarked upon, in a sense they experienced an inner death and rebirth in attaining the Philosophers' Stone. This stone was actually experienced as the formation of a solid ground within the shifting sea of their inner world. Once this solid ground in the soul was found, the alchemists were able to take hold of their lives in a creative way, they could root their personality on a solid foundation or ground of inner experience.

One symbol of the stone was that of the Ouroboros, the snake holding its tail. As we begin the work, we are all rather unformed (the 'Massa Confusa' or confused mass is a good image) and often victims at the mercy of the sway of polarities in the soul, psychic energies that constantly shift from one pole to another, from joy to despair, from overbearing positivity to deep melancholy and negativity, from light to dark, energy to inertia. Our consciousness naturally follows the cycle of wakefulness and sleep, reflecting the cycle of day and night and the Seasons in Nature. This duality becomes reflected in many of our inner experiences. The snake often was used as a symbol for duality - its long drawn out body separating the polarities of head and tail. Sometimes the figure of a winged dragon was used here in place of the snake, in order to close the circle with the dragon at the beginning of the work. When the snake or dragon seized its tail it united the polarities into a circle, a symbol to the alchemists for achieving solidity amongst the dualistic energies of the soul forces. The creation of the Philosophers'stone, was the formation of solid inner ground upon which the alchemical philosophers could build their personalities, and experience the full potentiality of being human.

Thus alchemists could pursue their cycle of inner transformation as embarking on a journey in which they met with archetypal animal figures. The steps on their journey were paralleled in their experiments in their flasks, and the detailed images of processes of change were worked together with the animal archetypes of that stage into a mandala-like picture which they used as the basis for their meditations.

And still the Gryphon has not entered the thread...

Concerning The Red Lion and the White Eagle


Let us begin this practical part of our lesson with the subject of Mystical Alchemy. As previously explained, the Philosopher's Stone in this branch of Alchemy is not a powder or any sort of material object; it is rather a spiritual object, being a symbol of the True Self. To acquire this stone in Mystical Alchemy is to attain the ideal identity of our inmost nature. In the Philosophy of Magick, such is called "the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel." It is by this attainment alone that the Mystical Alchemist is able to transmute all base metals into the Perfect Gold of the Sun, conforming all things to his/her True Will. But there are various forms of alchemystical practice to attain the Stone of the Philosophers and to effect this Supreme Transmutation.

Mystical Alchemy can be practiced through the Eastern techniques of Kundalini Yoga. However, there is a form of Occidental Kundalini Yoga. Such is one of the central mysteries of the royal system of initiation in the New Order of the Golden Dawn. This system, as previously explained, is sevenfold, having seven principal grades or steps of initiation. Each one of these initiatory steps directly corresponds to the awakening of one of the seven Chakkras. The actual alchemical process begins with the First Grade of the Zelator.

In the Thelemic Ceremony of the Zelator, the Hierophant proclaims the following to the initiate: "The word Zelator is from the ancient Egyptian Zaruator, signifying `Searcher for Hathoor.' Hathoor is otherwise called Het-Heru, that is, the House of Horus. This House of Horus is Nature Herself, the Temple of the Elements, of which you are a zealous student." Moreover, the Hierophant proclaims: "Zelator is further the title of the assistant of an Alkhemist who must keep the Fire burning in the Athanor or Alkhemical Furnace. The Alkhemist of the Operation is the Inner Self, the Athanor is the human body, and the Fire is the Sacred Flame of the True Will. As a Zelator you must keep this Fire burning in your body and brain, by constant dedication of yourself to the Great Work of doing your True Will, that you may fulfill the Law of Thelema."

Unknown to many, the twenty-two Atu of Thoth or Major Arcana of Tarot symbolically describe a form of Occidental Kundalini Yoga or an alchemical operation of Self-Transformation. They represent particular stages in the Great Work, or stages in what is called the "process of individuation" in the field of Psychology. The Tarot is, to all intents and purposes, a symbolic book of Self-Initiation, a method and means of realizing by oneself the wisdom of one's True Self without the guidance of a visible teacher, but by way of an invisible teacher who is, in fact, the One Teacher of which every visible teacher is only a symbol. In Tarot this One Teacher is Thoth, who is the Mercury of the Sages.

In the Masonic book "Morals and Dogma", by Albert Pike, we find the following comment on page 777: "He who desires to attain to the understanding of the Grand Word and the possession of the Great Secret, ought carefully to read the Hermetic philosophers, and he will undoubtedly attain initiation, as others have done; but he must take, for the key of their allegories, the single dogma of Hermes, contained in his Table of Emerald, and follow, to class his acquisitions of knowledge and direct the operation, the order indicated in the Kabalistic alphabet of the Tarot." This comment contains one of the most important clues to the practical understanding of the Royal Art and Science of Alchemy. In my own opinion, for whatever worth it may hold for you, without Tarot the Art of Alchemy is a meaningless operation, and this extends to all other fields of the Hermetic Science. Thus did Eliphas Levi declare: "All secrets of the Qabalah and Magic, all mysteries of the elder world, all sciences of the patriarchs, all historical traditions of primeval times, are enclosed in the Hieroglyphical Book of Thoth."

It has been said that the word Taro is derived from the Egyptian terms Tar (Road) and Ro (Royal). Thus the Tarot is the Royal Road of Initiation. To travel this regal road we work with the twenty-two Atu of Thoth in accordance with the Qabalistic scheme of the Tree of Life, commencing our alchemical journey with the Serpent's Tail at the place of Atu XXI at the Path of Tav on the bottom of the Tree of Life, and we end at the Serpent's Head at the place of Atu 0 at the Path of Aleph at the top of the Tree of Life. The Serpent embraces within its coils the twenty-two Paths and it ascends from Tav to Aleph. Such is the Path of Initiation by which the Mystical Alchemist can attain the Stone of the Philosophers to effect the Supreme Transmutation. The Serpent in this operation is, of course, the SECRET FIRE of Alchemy or the Kundalini of Yoga without which nothing can be accomplished.

There is, however, another method of traveling the Royal Road, but concerning this I must maintain a certain degree of silence, lest I reveal what must be discovered for and by oneself. Yet the nature of this secret operation is so obvious that it is like a light that is so bright that it makes one blind. In this tarotic alchemystic operation the Qabalistic scheme of the Tree of Life is not employed in the same manner as it is in the operation that is explained in the above paragraph. It is rather an operation that is independent of the system of initiation that is outlined on the Tree of Life, yet it does in fact partake of the mysteries of this system after another manner. But this operation is only for the few, and thus it is concealed beneath the veil of the obvious. It is only revealed to them who are duly prepared to execute its formula. To others it will seem a meaningless path.

Astrology, the Science of the Stars, also has a story to tell us. In this science there are seven traditional Planets and twelve Signs of the Zodiac. As previously explained, the seven traditional Planets are linked with the seven Chakkras of Yoga and seven alchemical Metals, and they also represent seven stages in the Great Work. Most sevenfold systems of initiation are based on the astrological model of the seven traditional Planets. The alchemical Metals themselves grow in the bowels of the earth under the magical influence of the Planets. In the Mithraic Mysteries the initiate climbed seven metallic steps representing his ascent into the seven Planetary Spheres, and Zosimos defined Alchemy as the Mithraic Mystery.

The Signs of the Zodiac also represent distinct stages in the Great Work, but there are twelve of these stages instead of seven. These twelve stages are defined by the nature of the Zodiacal Signs themselves which have planetary and elemental attributions. The Circle of the Zodiac, called the Path of the Sun, is the Circle of Initiation, containing twelve distinct Signs or stages. Like the images of the Atu of Thoth, the Signs of the Zodiac are images of archetypes in the Collective Unconscious which can be systematically evoked and consciously experienced for the attainment of the Philosopher's Stone.

In each of these methods the principal theme is the realization of a single object: the True Self. Such is the Indivisible Self of the Universe, the One without a second. The great secret of Alchemy can be summed up in a few simple words: "All is One." This is the meaning of the Greek motto "en to pan" which, note it well, is composed of three words with seven letters, which relate to the Three Principles and Four Elements of Alchemy, to the seven alchemical Metals or Interior Stars, and to the seven Steps of the Great Work which are the seven Grades of Initiation. One of the symbols of the Great Work is Ouroboros, a Serpent forming a Circle by swallowing its own Tail and which bears this Greek motto upon it. The Circle that is formed by this Serpent gives us a clue into the nature and operation of the Great Work itself.

Now this Oneness or Unity of All is concealed in a secret substance called First Matter (Prima Materia), which is not matter in the common sense, as it is perceived by our human senses; it is the potential rather than the actual; it is matter in its metaphysical sense. According to Thomas Vaughan: "If thou dost know the First Matter, know also for certain that thou hast discovered the Sanctuary of Nature." In the Yoga System of Patanjali, the First Matter is called Prakriti, the primal source of the three Gunas or Qualities of Nature. Prakriti is the Soul of the World (Anima Mundi), also called the Great Mother. In the Qabalah, She is Neschamah, the higher Soul of Nature whose formless form remains pure and unchanged behind all change and diversity in form. She is the eternal essence in all things, the secret substance of all visible and invisible objects in Nature.

"The squaring of the circle" is one of the most important interpretations and definitions of the Great Work of Alchemy. The Circle represents Unity, the First Matter of our work, and the Square represents the Four Elements of Nature which emanate from and return to the Circle. In Alchemy it is asserted that the metals are composed of the Four Elements, which the ancient philosophers called Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. The actual differences between the metals are the result of the particular proportions in which the elements are combined in the metals. Gold itself is the natural result of a particular combination of the elements. The other metals of Alchemy are also combinations of the elements. By extracting and purifying the elements in the base metals, thereby reducing the metals to their pure state of Prima Materia, and then by skillfully converting the actual proportions in the combinations of the elements which constitute the life of the metals, the metals can be transformed into gold.

By purifying an object of the Four Elements we are left with a fifth element which we call the Quintessence and the First Matter of our work. In WoMan this fifth element is called his/her Spirit. Now in Mystical Alchemy the elements represent the human senses. Fire is the sense of sight, Water is the sense of taste, Air is the sense of smell, Earth is the sense of touch, and Spirit is the sense of sound. The fifth element of Spirit, unlike the others, has a direct link with our True Self, which is the Crown of our alchemystical work. To attain this fifth element we must first purify or deprogram ourselves. Then must we recreate or reprogram ourselves in accordance with our True Will. When the True Self is attained through its so-called purification, or, in other words, when we rise above the elemental senses, it is then that we are able to properly recreate ourselves, to reprogram our systems, or to recombine the elements to fit in with our new perspective. But first we must purify our systems; only then are we truly fit and freely able to properly consecrate ourselves to the Great Work, to reprogram ourselves in accordance with our True Will, and to effect the Supreme Transmutation.

To deprogram ourselves is not really an act of elimination but of purification. In this case the elemental senses are to be purified. The senses, as commonly applied in the world, are material in nature, causing an identification of consciousness with the material plane at the expense of the spiritual. But we cannot realize our True Self if our senses are bound to the material world; they must become the vehicles of our True Self. The senses must be purified and then magically dedicated to the Great Work if we are to attain the same; and this dedication must not be partial, but whole. For the senses are the instruments which we must use in the operation of the Great Work; they are the essential, creative vehicles of our True Self which need to be completely lustrated and then magically consecrated to the True Self for the proper execution and essential fulfillment of its True Will which is the attainment of the Great Work itself.

What is needed first is for you to realize your True Self beyond your elemental senses by eliminating your identification with them and their innumerable desires, and in this profound realization is the very act of purification. If a WoMan can witness something, it means that he/she is beyond that thing, for awareness is transcendence. We are always witnessing our senses in the form of desires, usually becoming identified with them. We take into account no measure of the True Self which is beyond the senses and desires, but instead we become slaves to our senses. But if we go within and acknowledge our True Self beyond our senses, and become a witness rather than an animal, then do we transcend our senses and gain the power to master them. The True Self is the ultimate source of the elements, therefore we must be the True Self to master them. But this does not mean that we have to give up our senses with all their delicious desires. It is all a matter of what we are identified with, our True Self or our desires. We are not our desires, but they are a part of our personality which is the divine expression of our soul.

The laboratory wherein to perform and accomplish this alchemystical work is naturally the Body of WoMan. And since a WoMan's body is his/her own and not another's, it is a simple fact of Nature that only that WoMan can work upon him/herself to accomplish the Great Work. No person can do the work for us; we must all do it by our own individual efforts. Mystical Alchemy is a personal science, a sublime and effective system of Self-Initiation. Only you, as a single individual, can calculate and follow your way up the Great Mountain of Hermetic Attainment. It is entirely a matter of your own practical application and devotion. All essential guidance is within you, in the inmost centre of your heart where your own Holy Guardian Angel, or Inner Self, resides. To depend upon any other thing than your own Holy Guardian Angel to accomplish the Great Work is to insult your Angel who is with you to instruct and guide you. All essential wisdom by which to achieve the Great Work is to be ascertained only within you; nowhere else will you find the Truth.

But enough of all this mystical talk! Let us now tackle the more mundane aspect of Alchemy. Such is contained in the ancient Science and Art of Sexual Alchemy, which was the great secret of the Egyptian Magicians, the Gnostics, the Ophites, the Initiates of Mithras, the Knights of the Temple, the Freemasons, and the Brethren of the Rosy Cross. Aleister Crowley envisaged Sexual Alchemy to be the flower of Magick and the key to the future progress of humanity. By it we are able to partake the Supreme Sacrament of the Golden Dawn, to create dynamic changes in accordance with our True Will, and to make Light, Life, Love and Liberty our chosen lot. Members of the New Order of the Golden Dawn are instructed in the mysteries of Sexual Alchemy by way of "ceremonial symbolism," which impresses on their minds the universal formula of the Great Work by which they may become Adept in Our Royal Art to accomplish their True Will.

In Sexual Alchemy there are certain emblems linked with the Tetragrammaton. These are the Red Lion for Yod (Fire), the White Eagle for Heh (Water), the Serpent for Vav (Air), and the Gluten for Heh final (Earth). The Red Lion is the male operator, the White Eagle is the female operator, the Serpent is that which swims in the Blood of the Red Lion, and the Gluten is the Menstruum of the White Eagle. The Egg which is laid by the White Eagle is fertilized by the Serpent. The instrument or apparatus of the male operator is the Athanor or Furnace. The instrument or apparatus of the female operator is the Cucurbite or Retort. Now when the Blood of the Red Lion is one with the Gluten of the White Eagle, and when the Serpent and the Egg are perfectly fused, then is the Stone of the Philosophers manufactured. In this the Lion exchanges his Red Blood for the White Gluten of the Eagle. The Red Lion turns White, and the White Eagle turns Red. The Fire burns up the Water and the Water extinguishes the Fire. Such is the consummation of the Royal Marriage of the Sun and Moon in the Hermetic Vessel.

Basil Valentine wrote: "Let the Lion and Eagle duly prepare themselves as Prince and Princess of Alchemy -- as they may be inspired. Let the Union of the Red Lion and the White Eagle be neither in cold nor in heat...Now then comes the time when the elixir is placed in the alembic retort to be subjected to the gentle warmth...If the Great Work be transubstantiation then the Red Lion may feed upon the flesh and blood of the God, and also let the Red Lion duly feed the White Eagle -- yea, may the Mother Eagle give sustainment and guard the inner life."

I would now like to present to you an alchemical ritual called "The Ceremony of the Sun and Moon." This ritual contains the whole secret of the Great Work from the point of view of the material plane. It is a Sexual Ceremony designed to unite the Sun and Moon to produce the Stone of the Philosophers. This ritual is specifically designed for the use of two participants. These are the Priest of the Sun and the Priestess of the Moon. In this ritual the Sun and Moon are invoked in the Priest and Priestess who then unite in ecstasy to produce the Philosopher's Stone. It is the Official Thelemic Marriage Ceremony of the Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn, composed by my own hand in the year 1991 e.v. by the magical inspiration, and under the guiding light, of the Sun and Moon. As such, it is a unique contribution to the Magick of Thelema, and it is the first ceremony of its kind to openly reveal the secrets of Sexual Alchemy. For it is a True Ceremony of the Rose and Cross, only to be understood by those men and women of the earth who live and breathe in the Secret Sanctuary of the Gnosis. Such are the Holy Brothers and Sisters of the Rosy Cross, whose names are writ with blood in the Stone of Eternity.

What was radical yesterday is moderate today ⊕ What is radical today is moderate tomorrow
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Old Tuesday, June 13th, 2006   #2
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Re: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.

I find this to be very interesting. I had read a scientific study (one of those shunned types) where a scientist was able to extract the end result of the above instructions. No one could tell him what it was, and some refused to help him. I will see if I can find it.

I can't seem to be able to post the text on it. There is a bunch of new-age stuff near the bottom but the research is very interesting.

When you precipitate Rhodium out of solution, you add bromade as the oxidizer, then you do a neutralization of the acid, and the hydroxide precipitates out of the solution. You filter it, dry it, oxidize it, hydrogen reduce it, and you should have metal. (Standard procedure). But we neutralized the solution of the pure Rhodium, got a red brown dioxide, filtered that out, dried it, and heated it in a tube furnace under oxygen up to 850 degrees for an hour to dehydrate it, and we’d get this red brown idoxide. Then we put it back in the tube furnace and hydrogen reduce it to a gray powder, and then take the gray powder in a tube furnace at 1000 degrees under argon, and it turned snow white.
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Old Tuesday, June 13th, 2006   #3
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Re: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.

Originally Posted by Adam McLean

Alchemists were, of course, individualists who worked alone, rather than being members of sodalities or secret orders, yet despite their writings being a result of their own experiences, the animal metaphors rapidly developed into a universal language.
That is a rather wide-sweeping statement to make, isn’t it? And what does he mean by “individualists working alone?” It might appear that many had no fellowship or contact with anyone but it would be totally foolish to assume so. In almost every case the Great Work has been preserved by spiritual masters who have directly initiated others. In a select few cases it so happened that someone discovered the way on his own. In other cases we have found so-called alchemists who could speak the language of alchemy but who have never really practiced the true art or who were only lucky enough to have penetrated the outer mysteries.

Going back further it cannot be doubted that the hermetico-alchemical royal art was practiced in the temples by initiates (priests, or seers) before having to go underground when in the time of Christianity seers were put to death. After the “fall of heathenism” there arose throughout the centuries many thousands of “secret orders” that we cannot possibly identify them all.

It is much more accurate to say that those alchemists that typically did not have any sort of fellowship were responsible for distorting our art into either something that was no longer a truly sacred science or into something that missed the mark of a proper initiation and so to the “black arts.”

Surely, animal metaphors were already existent in early mythologies in the time when the sacerdotal art was practiced in the temples and guarded by a hierarchy. The symbolism has not really changed much. So I truly wonder what McLean is on about.
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Old Wednesday, June 14th, 2006   #4
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Re: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.

Originally Posted by Utopian
That is a rather wide-sweeping statement to make, isn’t it?.
Agreed, but let us take height for his subjectivity. It is all old stuff, that can be found at 1000 other sources too.
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