Welcome toComplain about shame networkfront page

to bring in boats that were in distress, often due to the

source:iostime:2023-12-04 23:53:49

In aiming to establish this, I may be thought to be endeavouring to establish a counter-thesis to that of the preceding essay on alchemy, but, in virtue of the alchemists' belief in the mystical unity of all things, in the analogical or correspondential relationship of all parts of the universe to each other, the mystical and the phallic views of the origin of alchemy are complementary, not antagonistic. Indeed, the assumption that the metals are the symbols of man almost necessitates the working out of physiological as well as mystical analogies, and these two series of analogies are themselves connected, because the principle "As above, so below" was held to be true of man himself. We might, therefore, expect to find a more or less complete harmony between the two series of symbols, though, as a matter of fact, contradictions will be encountered when we come to consider points of detail. The undoubtable antiquity of the phallic element in alchemical doctrine precludes the idea that this element was an adventitious one, that it was in any sense an afterthought; notwithstanding, however, the evidence, as will, I hope, become apparent as we proceed, indicates that mystical ideas played a much more fundamental part in the genesis of alchemical doctrine than purely phallic ones--mystical interpretations fit alchemical processes and theories far better than do sexual interpretations; in fact, sex has to be interpreted somewhat mystically in order to work out the analogies fully and satisfactorily.

to bring in boats that were in distress, often due to the

As concerns Greek alchemy, I shall content myself with a passage from a work _On the Sacred Art_, attributed to OLYMPIODORUS (sixth century A.D.), followed by some quotations from and references to the _Turba_. In the former work it is stated on the authority of HORUS that "The proper end of the whole art is to obtain the semen of the male secretly, seeing that all things are male and female. Hence [we read further] Horus says in a certain place: Join the male and the female, and you will find that which is sought; as a fact, without this process of re-union, nothing can succeed, for Nature charms Nature," _etc_. The _Turba_ insistently commands those who would succeed in the Art, to conjoin the male with the female,[1] and, in one place, the male is said to be lead and the female orpiment.[2] We also find the alchemical work symbolised by the growth of the embryo in the womb. "Know," we are told, ". . . that out of the elect things nothing becomes useful without conjunction and regimen, because sperma is generated out of blood and desire. For the man mingling with the woman, the sperm is nourished by the humour of the womb, and by the moistening blood, and by heat, and when forty nights have elapsed the sperm is formed.... God has constituted that heat and blood for the nourishment of the sperm until the foetus is brought forth. So long as it is little, it is nourished with milk, and in proportion as the vital heat is maintained, the bones are strengthened. Thus it behoves you also to act in this Art."[3]

to bring in boats that were in distress, often due to the

[1] _Vide_ pp. 60 92, 96 97, 134, 135 and elsewhere in Mr WAITE'S translation.

to bring in boats that were in distress, often due to the

[3] _Ibid_., pp. 179-181 (second recension); _cf_. pp. 103-104.

The use of the mystical symbols of death (putrefaction) and resurrection or rebirth to represent the consummation of the alchemical work, and that of the phallic symbols of the conjunction of the sexes and the development of the foetus, both of which we have found in the _Turba_, are current throughout the course of Latin alchemy. In _The Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosencreutz_, that extraordinary document of what is called "Rosicrucianism"--a symbolic romance of considerable ability, whoever its author was,[1]-- an attempt is made to weld the two sets of symbols--the one of marriage, the other of death and resurrection unto glory-- into one allegorical narrative; and it is to this fusion of seemingly disparate concepts that much of its fantasticality is due. Yet the concepts are not really disparate; for not only is the second birth like unto the first, and not only is the resurrection unto glory described as the Bridal Feast of the Lamb, but marriage is, in a manner, a form of death and rebirth. To justify this in a crude sense, I might say that, from the male standpoint at least, it is a giving of the life-substance to the beloved that life may be born anew and increase. But in a deeper sense it is, or rather should be, as an ideal, a mutual sacrifice of self for each other's good--a death of the self that it may arise with an enriched personality.

[1] See Mr WAITE'S _The Real History of the Rosicrucians_ (1887) for translation and discussion as to origin and significance. The work was first published (in German) at Strassburg in 1616.

It is when we come to an examination of the ideas at the root of, and associated with, the alchemical concept of "principles," that we find some difficulty in harmonising the two series of symbols-- the mystical and the phallic. In one place in the _Turba_ we are directed "to take quicksilver, in which is the male potency or strength";[2a] and this concept of mercury as male is quite in accord with the mystical origin I have assigned in the preceding excursion to the doctrine of the alchemical principles. I have shown, I think, that salt, sulphur, and mercury are the analogues _ex hypothesi_ of the body, soul (affection and volition), and spirit (intelligence or understanding) in man; and the affections are invariably regarded as especially feminine, the understanding as especially masculine. But it seems that the more common opinion, amongst Latin alchemists at any rate, was that sulphur was male and mercury female. Writes BERNARD of TREVISAN: "For the Matter suffereth, and the Form acteth assimulating the Matter to itself, and according to this manner the Matter naturally thirsteth after a Form, as a Woman desireth an Husband, and a Vile thing a precious one, and an impure a pure one, so also _Argent-vive_ coveteth a Sulphur, as that which should make perfect which is imperfect: So also a Body freely desireth a Spirit, whereby it may at length arrive at its perfection."[1b] At the same time, however, Mercury was regarded as containing in itself both male and female potencies-- it was the product of male and female, and, thus, the seed of all the metals. "Nothing in the World can be generated," to repeat a quotation from BERNARD, without these two Substances, to wit a Male and Female: From whence it appeareth, that although these two substances are not of one and the same species, yet one Stone cloth thence arise, and although they appear and are said to be two Substances, yet in truth it is but one, to wit, _Argent-vive_. But of this _Argent-vive_ a certain part is fixed and digested, Masculine, hot, dry and secretly informing. But the other, which is the Female, is volatile, crude, cold, and moyst."[2b] EDWARD KELLY (1555-1595), who is valuable because he summarises authoritative opinion, says somewhat the same thing, though in clearer words: "The active elements . . . these are water and fire . . . may be called male, while the passive elements . . . earth and air . . . represent the female principle.... Only two elements, water and earth, are visible, and earth is called the hiding-place of fire, water the abode of air. In these two elements we have the broad law of limitation which divides the male from the female. . . . The first matter of minerals is a kind of viscous water, mingled with pure and impure earth. . . . Of this viscous water and fusible earth, or sulphur, is composed that which is called quicksilver, the first matter of the metals. Metals are nothing but Mercury digested by different degrees of heat."[1c] There is one difference, however, between these two writers, inasmuch as BERNARD says that "the Male and Female abide together in closed Natures; the Female truly as it were Earth and Water, the Male as Air and Fire." Mercury for him arises from the two former elements, sulphur from the two latter.[2c] And the difference is important as showing beyond question the _a priori_ nature of alchemical reasoning. The idea at the back of the alchemists' minds was undoubtedly that of the ardour of the male in the act of coition and the alleged, or perhaps I should say apparent, passivity of the female. Consequently, sulphur, the fiery principle of combustion, and such elements as were reckoned to be active, were denominated "male," whilst mercury, the principle acted on by sulphur, and such elements as were reckoned to be passive, were denominated "female". As to the question of origin, I do not think that the palm can be denied to the mystical as distinguished from the phallic theory. And in its final form the doctrine of principles is incapable of a sexual interpretation. Mystically understood, man is capable of analysis into two principles-- since "body" may be neglected as unimportant (a false view, I think, by the way) or "soul" and "spirit" may be united under one head-- OR into three; whereas the postulation of THREE principles on a sexual basis is impossible. JOANNES ISAACUS HOLLANDUS (fifteenth century) is the earliest author in whose works I have observed explicit mention of THREE principles, though he refers to them in a manner seeming to indicate that the doctrine was no new one in his day. I have only read one little tract of his; there is nothing sexual in it, and the author's mental character may be judged from his remarks concerning "the three flying spirits"--taste, smell, and colour. These, he writes, "are the life, soule, and quintessence of every thing, neither can these three spirits be one without the other, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one, yet three Persons, and one is not without the other."[1d]

[2a] Mr WAITE's translation, p. 79.