"The etymological root of the verb “admonish” is mindful observation and measured reflection.
The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word *men- refers to a “state of mind” and also means “to think” (Latin mens, Greek menos—literally the life-force, energy or power given to thought). It is the etymological root of the English mind (Sanskrit mana/s) and also the root of the Latin monere “to warn, admonish”. Importantly, monere also means “to advise, counsel, guide, teach, instruct” (cf. the English noun mentor “one who advises” and the Sanskrit mantr “one who thinks / advises / counsels;” a related English verb monitor means “to observe, check”).
I have postulated (via comparative philology) that the PIE *men as “state of mind” can also mean “to observe, reflect, measure, reckon” with a resulting knowledge that may be used to “guide, counsel, advise, teach, tutor, etc” (Latin monere); compare the Afro-Asiatic (AA) *m-n “to count, reckon, think, know.” Thus, from an anthropological perspective, PIE *men and AA *m-n would lead to e.g. knowledge, technical skills and expertise in the fields of e.g. craftsmanship, building, language, writing, etc (note the Spanish mana “skill/ability”), which mani-fested in works by “hand” (Latin manus, from the PIE *man- “hand”; the manuscript is the manus-script “written by hand”). Likely related is the Latin manus “good”, from the PIE *ma- “good”.
So there appears to be a link between the observing, reflecting, thinking, reckoning, knowledgeable mind (PIE *men, AA *m-n) and the giving of (good/measured) “advice, counsel, guidance, teaching, instruction” (Latin monere), which also mani-fests in skilled works accomplished by “hand” (PIE *man). Note also that the Old English mund means “hand, protection, guardianship” and is cognate to the Latin manus and root PIE *man—the latter referring to the human being (male or female).
So, at what stage did the thoughtful and skilled guidance, counseling, advice, teaching, instruction—linked to the “thinking”, “state of mind” *men- and transferred to the skilled hand *man/manus, which became the Latin monere (to advise, warn)—later descend into the ill-advised and unskilled hitting/punishing as “admonishment” by “hand/fist” (*man/manus)? In other words: “to warn and admonish”—etymological root *men—is derived from the meaning “to advise, counsel, guide, teach”, and primarily by way of either the thoughtful spoken word or through the skilled work of the hand (writing, craftsmanship, etc), but NOT a punishment by hitting, punching, striking, etc.
All of this is ironic, considering that one of the draconian methods of school punishment was striking the hands with the measuring ruler (an ill-directed mens and the misuse of ratio) and corporeal punishment in general."
There are many forms of astrology; the bottom two are what I'd call Quack astrology. They are basically neo-platonic and plotinian development of The One and other kabbalistic superstitions.
There is also a practical astrology that helps you see where you are bing debilitated and how to raise that Aspect of self, much like medicinal imbalance of humors under old Hippocratic systems. Wearing a pearl is suddenly not going to make someone with heavy choleric temperament calm down, because the body is made of sheaths - broadly, the physical, the astral, the causal. The more sheaths that are 'conscious', awakened, enlivened, one becomes more mindful and then experience change at the rational level. We have subconscious facets that are nurtured by minerals, temperature, color, etc.
There is also a more serious occult astrology that enables the Seer to understand his nativity, his past and therefore his future, and his scope in the world and his interaction with it.
The universe began as a burst of energy, a release of heavy gases, minerals, chemicals and gradually concentrating to matter, to metals. As far as the spread of constellations is stable or moves stably in the sky, a 'regularity', we can afford to formulate a stable basis for the very way in which the genes themselves are coded. Medicine and astrology were for this reason originally a unit. We carry within us the very history and the map of which planet influences the genetic evolution of which organ, and that's why in medical astrology, just by a birthdate, one is able to pronounce the possibility of what kind of disease is likely to appear or which organ has a chance of being affected. The discovery of new moons and new dwarf planets may tell us more of our human body we are yet indistinct.
My gene carries the astral influence of not just the environment outside in terms of the constellation influencing that particular moment, but also the astral influence of both my parents and my grand parents and ancestors and so forth. Two people under two astrological signs come together to procreate in a fashion that bears that unique imprint of how they interacted, shaped, formed, moulded, approached, nurtured each other, etc. in interation with their outer environment. A gene is a whole history of not just the chemical DNA but the epigenetic manner in which they behaved under that stellar influence and whatever was selected or given scope. *Because* certain traits were developed under certain planetary influences, one either found some species totally unfit within a given environment and the adaptive advantage in others. Where the adaptive potential manifests and the brain to discern this, yet again depends on strong and weak influences of whatever planets. Its *because* strength is variegated and distributed in different forms, psychic types I, N, E, S, T, J, P, etc. could be formulated as an observable science to personality forms. What combination produces what kind of personality and what kind of intelligence and where does its scope play out most is empirical. These determine ideals and ideals in turn determine what kind of intelligence or personality combination is objectively superior to the rest. Ranks.
Since the revolution of the outer planets take a century to revisit, it takes generations to accumulate, and study patterns, by which time other environmental influences have changed and need to be factored into other combinations. This is a mammoth task, but we still have succeeded in extracting some distinct patterns on whole cultures that behave like organisms too. Planets are composed of gases with distinct chemical properties that we have identified and that enable us to see the correspondnce in our own humours and temperament.
When they say a man can change his stars, this has nothing to do with free will. For e.g.., excess sugar in the blood under the influence of a strong Venus could be over-riden by sacrificing to Mars - boxing, exercising, aggression, bringing sugar levels down, giving away goats - abstaining from meat-carb. and so forth. This is pure science. There is a natural organic adjustment and healing that can be brought about, studying the relation of how things interact, much like any family members to keep a home harmonious.
I'm neither a believer of Intelligent Design or a hippie humanitarian Panpsychist like the author of this excerpt, but I acknowledge this particular quote; the Ego of some people are more "spread out", and their self-consciousness is more comprehensive, more discerning, more reality incorporating:
"The breathing, sensing body draws its sustenance and its very substance from the soils, plants, and elements that surround it; it continually contributes itself, in turn, to the air, to the composting earth, to the nourishment of insects and oak trees and squirrels, ceaselessly spreading out of itself as well as breathing the world into itself, so that it is very difficult to discern, at any moment, precisely where this living body begins and where it ends." [1996: 46–7]
To be inspired is to breathe into oneself more and more of the world…
"J.S. Morrison (1981: 91) points out that ‘The mantis [diviner] is listed in the Odyssey among the common craftsmen (demioergi) who were always welcome at a prince’s table. The others are: the carpenter, the singer, the doctor and the herald’. That changed long ago, but the astrologer was still welcome, as such, at some princes’ tables until at least the eighteenth century." [Roy Willis and Patrick Curry, Astrology, Science and Culture]
Anyways, back to some quack forms and the basis of their development:
Aristotelian and Ptolemaic Astrology
"Especially as formulated in Ptolemy’s highly influential Tetrabiblos (second century CE), this ‘school’ is related to the previous one and retains both the Platonic quest for universal truth and certain knowledge, and its rational systematicity, e.g. a hierarchy proceeding from cosmic perfection through to chthonic mutability. In a move with far-reaching consequences, however, that system is recast as a causal and material system; the planets are no longer considered semi-autonomous spiritual entities, but merely transmitting the will of God, who now affects without being affected. But He is also now confined to the ultimate sphere.
This development places correspondingly more emphasis on astrology as a kind of natural philosophy: not only systematic but fully rational and natural. Here the planets are treated not as signs but as universal and unidirectional causes – the dominant metaphor for which is ‘influence’ (see North 1986) – and only our imper- fect knowledge of them and their effects prevents us being able to comprehend and predict all phenomena in this imperfect sublunary world. Each individual is imprinted with a specific set of attributes determined at, and therefore assessible by, the moment of birth – the ‘seed moment’, in Ptolemy’s metaphor – and what happens subsequently is a function of that given and the subsequent ‘ambient’ on Earth – itself ultimately astrologically determined. Here indeed we have the cosmos as ‘the Machine of Destiny’ (Cornelius 2003: 169–72), with astrologers, at least potentially, its technician-priests. (Actually, there was another version, harder and tighter because less mediated, in Stoic determinism, which Ptolemy also incorporated into his model in order to undercut Aristotle’s inconveniently sharp distinction between the super- and sub-lunary worlds.)
A careful examination of Ptolemy’s rhetoric shows a series of promises that certain knowledge derived from universals can indeed be applied to even minute particulars, alternating with qualifications admitting the problems in doing so in practice. (This is a rhetorical strategy that will be duplicated by advocates of modern systematicity.) For example, after presenting the case for the powerful influence of the planets, Ptolemy is careful to admit other non-astrologiccal determinations: the country of birth, its customs, rearing of children, etc. In the next breath, however, he suggests that these too are ultimately functions of the surrounding cosmic conditions or ‘ambient’, which is itself astrologically deter- mined.
A later version devised by St Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) in the mid-thirteenth century provided the basic framework for astrology for the next four centuries. A synthesis of Aristotelian/Ptolemaic astrology and Christian theology, Thomism introduced considerations of angelology at every level of the system, as well as qualifying the unmoved Mover as the Christian God; but having thus ‘guaranteed’ its spirituality, Aquinas cemented its Aristotelian rationalism firmly into place, remarking that ‘Reason in the man is rather like God in the world’. (Opuscula 11, De Regno). He drew a sharp distinction between natural and judicial astrology, and confined astrological influence – and therefore legitimate astrological knowledge – to the material world, both human and natural (the weather, crops, epidemics, etc.), arguing that ‘nothing stops any man from resisting his passions by his free will’ (quoted in Tester 1987: 181), and even citing the astrological maxim that ‘The wise man rules his stars’. The specific individual prognostications of judicial astrology therefore offended both human free will and God’s omnicompetence. However, he admitted that without the inclination and ability to resist, such influences were commonly transmitted via the body to the soul; hence astrologers do often make true predictions.
In practice, astrologers frequently transgressed the terms of this compromise to make the kind of specific judgements they were always asked for – and were pilloried for doing so, when caught at it, by the Church. Note, however, that Aquinas’ concern is predicated on the assumption that judicial astrology necessarily involves prediction of a predetermined fate and not, as has been suggested, insight into or advice concerning the present; in the latter case, the so-called problem of free will does not arise.
On the one hand, the Thomist arrangement gave astrology a new lease on life without which it might conceivably have diminished into just another popular mantic practice. On the other hand, that extension was bought at the price of strict limits (if only intermittently enforced) on what was permitted; and even that was constrained by a determinism and quasi-materialism which is a far cry from divi- nation. In the Neo-Platonic Renaissance, as already described, there was a qualified return to the latter. But not long afterward, and more influentially in the longer run, the Protestant Reformation (and to some extent Catholic Counter-Reformation) largely stigmatized astrology en tout as a survival of pagan astral idolatry; and any successes, while still not denied as such, were attributed, after St Augustine, to the intervention of demons.
This ‘school’ grew out of the Theosophical astrology of Alan Leo at the beginning of the twentieth century; it was most influentially developed by Dane Rhudhyar, Liz Greene and Stephen Arroyo, among others (and more recently Hillman 1997). It is psychological not in the sense of the academic social science but rather in the popular apprehension of that term which, significantly, is closer to the original meaning of psyche as soul: an individuality partaking of, and mediating between, spirit and matter. The rise of psychological astrology was part of the ascendency of the ‘possessive individualism’ of modern capitalism (MacPherson 1962). In its most basic populist version – the ubiquitous sun-sign columns of tabloid newspapers and magazines, which date from the 1930s – even the self is arguably a kind of possession, whose nature is marked by one of the twelve solar signs.
This was a new development. Although even simpler than the older astrology of nonliterate rural people, it no longer depends on phenomena observed in daily life (lunar phases, eclipses, etc.) but on a mass-produced literary artefact, however often crude, which is a daily feature of modern urban life. And however paradoxic- ally, the way mass consumption has been accompanied by an atomized individualism is also reflected in astrology; the Sun, formerly one planet among others, has become elevated to unprecedented importance as a symbol of the self. Even among the small number of people who take the further step of consulting an astrologer, the sun-sign remains a common starting-point, on the part of both client and astrologer, that receives far more attention than it would have received 150 years ago, compared (say) to that of the Ascendant or the Moon.
Despite its extreme youth compared with all but the scientific school, psych- ological astrology should be mentioned for two reasons. One is that it is now the dominant kind of astrology among contemporary practitioners. The second is that in many ways, it is a development and renewal of neo-Platonic/Hermetic astrology, with its emphasis on self-knowledge and self-transformation, but unevenly and inconsistently secularized. The tensions and contradictions of this school are thus very close to those, already mentioned, of the neo-Platonic astrologers. (We should add, however, that psychological astrologers have borrowed from Ptolemy the metaphor of an originary ‘seed moment’ of birth.)
That characteristic can partly be attributed to the figure who exercised the strongest, albeit largely indirect, influence on its formation: C.G. Jung. Caught between the conflicting demands of a thirst for mainstream recognition requiring sober scientific probity, on the one hand, and his wild subject matter requiring very diffferent virtues (essentially metic) on the other, Jung never succeeded in resolving his ambivalence, both personal and theoretical, as to whether his subject matter was spiritual or psychological, objective or subjective, some combination of all four, or neither/both; hence, for example, the unconscious as ‘psychoid’. Perhaps, as Liz Greene (1984: 278) argues, the term is indeed apposite, because archetypes have ‘a unity which encompasses, and transcends the opposition of, psychic and physical, inner and outer, personal and collective, individual and world’. In any case, Jung’s ambiguity bought a significant breathing-space for spirituality among modern Western people at a time when scientific secularism was the dominant ideology.
There is a parallel here, both strategic and substantive, with the way both Ptolemy’s and Aquinas’s earlier ambiguous accommodation purchased a new lease of life for astrology in a fundamentally Aristotelian cosmos. To some extent, both share the price, namely acceptance of the basic (and fundamentally anti-divinatory) premise that the perceptible cosmos runs entirely on ‘natural’, material and even mechanistic principles with no direct spiritual input or dimension (and in the case of the fully scientific cosmos, none whatsoever). The result is an astrology, like a world, divided into those bits which can be naturalistically appropriated and a ‘supernatural’ remainder – at best inexplicable, but from a scientific-theoretical point of view, impossible, and therefore fraudulent.
Archetypal/humanistic/transpersonal astrologers often try to claim scientific support in woolly ways that are easily disposed of by their critics, in which case they fall back on an inexplicable supernaturalism, often of ‘New Age’ provenance. But they tend to shrink from recognizing and reclaiming what at their best, they actually practise: ‘concrete magic’. Ultimately, they fail to contest the modernist carve-up, merely claiming the so-called subjective or spiritual half of the equation as their own; and even that is first domesticated into secularist safety. The birth- chart is thus seen as a map of the psyche, now understood to be not so much the soul as the Self; the planets are no longer divinities but psychological functions (cognition, volition, affection, etc.), and the symbolic elements aligned, somewhat awkwardly, with Jung’s four-fold psychological typology (intuition, feeling, thinking, sensation). But the so-called outer world is largely either ignored or reduced to a reflection of the so-called inner, and the latter’s unconscious contents are ‘projected’ onto the former (see Hyde 1992: 85–6). Thus astrologer Howard Sasportas (1985: 20): ‘the philosophical premise upon which psychological astrology is based is that a person’s reality springs outward from his or her inner landscape of thoughts, feelings, expectations and beliefs’. And compared to a world without binding regulations about which aspect of it is prior, or real, or permissable, this is certainly a kind of impoverishment; half of enchantment, so to speak, is the world!
In this arrangement, not only is the Cartesian split accepted but there is still a unidirectional determinism at work, albeit a subjective/spiritual one. The need for participation is still recognized (unlike in scientific astrology), but only in a constrained way that does not really amount to negotiation: one’s fate is only ‘transformed’ by recognizing and accepting the pre-existent unconscious forces revealed by the birthchart. The primacy of the latter is another feature shared with psychological astrology’s materialist and objectivist Ptolemaic twin. In other words, the only way to get what you want is to accept what fate offers, and con- vince yourself that that is what you really want too.6 And since fate is what most psychological astrologers claim to be able to find in the birthchart, then by implic- ation, fate is ultimately determined with, if not by, the stars.7
However fluffy, then, this is still a Machine of Destiny. Consequently, psych- ological astrologers are forever having to ‘save’ the client’s ‘free will’ (and their own fallibility) with recourse to the tired old Ptolemaic-Aquinian formula, dressed up in Aquarian garb, that the wise man (now ‘person’) rules his stars. The latter version stems almost entirely from Alan Leo, who replaced ‘inevitable destiny’ with ‘character reading’, and ‘influence’ with ‘tendency’. His motto was ‘Character is destiny’ (see Curry 1992). But this doesn’t solve the problem, because its starting- point is still skewed; Leo’s move was simply a refinement, with character as an intervening variable between the stars as fates and one’s personal destiny that they have fixed. If, however, the stars cannot state immutable facts, let alone predict future facts – because there are none – but only ever advise courses of action in relation to a constantly shifting future, the entire dilemma, even in its soft ‘human- istic’ version, is unnecessary.
Another way to understand modern psychological astrology is suggested by one of the touchstones of divination, namely pluralism. Applying this test, we once again find ambiguity. On the one hand, polytheistic pluralism survives to the extent that the Sun is not allowed to swell into undue dominance. On the other, that is exactly the impetus given to psychological astrology by Jung and his heirs in their emphasis on the archetype of the Self (easily translated as the Sun) and what follows: a tacit valuing of monotheism over polytheism and integration/unity over diffusion/multiplicity. And the former values are, of course, those that disenchant.
In a fascinating new development within psychological astrology, James Hillman (1997; also 1981) has recently suggested applying the pluralism he has been developing within archetypal psychology since the 1980s. This involves a significant break with the monistic emphases of Jung as just noted, and a move toward a genuine (and uncomfortably agonistic) pluralism of the kind embraced by Weber, James and Berlin among others. In such an astrology, each planetary deity would receive its due without any attempt – virtually a reflex, among astrologers no less than anyone else – to arrive at an overarching meta-principle which would magically accommodate all differences and reconcile all conflicts; and the inevitable conflicts would just have to be borne with! (That was just what Weber, after Machiavelli, saw as developing character, and criticized Christianity for discouraging.)" [Roy Willis and Patrick Curry, Astrology, Science and Culture]
There is nothing super-natural or other-worldly about astrology. It is your very self, your body, your history, your nature, your past.
We are our past as much as we are consciousness forces of our inheritance.
We carry our past as much as the potentials of the past ever-unfolding are unfolding as we grow, interact with the world.
A sociologist explains human behaviour via the Social interactions of natural and man-made systems with an evolutionary basis to organizational dynamics. The focus is on external realities and terrestrial earth forces expunged into the world and society. A psychologist explains human behaviour via internal realities, and forces sustained and at play in the internal world, in the organizational form of memory, emotions, sensations, traumas, temperaments, dreams, cognition, subconscious and unconscious imprints. An astrologer explains human behavior via anatomical pressures that govern the very morphology of his being, his make-up, with an evolutionary basis focussed on universal forces at play in the world. The focus is not just forces of nature present on earth, but our universe and solar-system as a whole. This is not super-natural, but nature of Visible planets verified by empirical observations and explorations into outer-space.
In this sense, Astrology is like top dog that has in common a bit with both sociology and psychology. It connects external realities with internal realities via evolution explained not just at the terrestrial level, but the celestial level. What psychology means by unconsciousness archetypes that grow and crystallize into social structures, the emotional regions of the 'underneath' - Water/Intuition, and sociology - physical forces on the Earth/Instinct, is shed light on by occult realities of the 'above' - Aether/Impulse.
It is a logical consequence that the birth of philosophy in greece began with astrological study of stars, not just in the sky, but as the deeper reality within oneself cognized by supra-conscious facultites - the inner-eye and so forth. Philosophy - Fire/Intelligence.
While a sociologist and a psychologist focus on human Attitude to the outer-world and self/inner-world respectively, an astrologer focuses on human Aptitude within the outer and inner world. Disposition, Discipline, Capacity resp.
A criminal, for example, is explained by a sociologist in terms of human systems and institutional influences, cultural history or lack, genetic potentials, etc. A psychologist explains him in terms of internal anxieties, nurture theories, libidinal balance, in short via pain/pleasure, i.e. security/insecurity, trust/distrust. An astrologer explains him via planetary pressures that have shaped his very make-up, given his capacity and what he is Prone to do where and when.
Neotenic features on the whole maybe explained sociologically by evolutionary advantages, but it cannot explain why two siblings living in the same environment, in the same home, exposed to the same climate and opportunities do not attain to the exact same facial shape? How the gene codes for one individual and how it does for another owe to neuro-chemical interactions under planetary pressures. Skull-shape and the predominance of humours and the Mode in which, which genetic factors are inherited and to what extent, and what is passed on from how far of our atavistic history owe to planetary pressures. Astrology codes our deepest anatomy and the very Modality of our nutrition. That is to say, sociology explains behaviour and organizations via cost-benefits: evolutionary advantage/disadvantage, and consequently psychology in terms of our adaptive fitness/unfitness, coherence/incoherence. Astrology determines the very Mode of what one is Prone to considering an advantage or a disadvantage beyond pain/pleasure. In this manner, it charts our fortune/misfortune, our growth/debility, our experiencing something as a success or failure - what survives and what doesn't, what is able to adapt in what environment and what doesnt, where a given Capacity finds its favouribility to Emerge into a Disposition that sociology or psychology can explain owes to our Mode of interacting with and within a given world.
An optimistic person can be explained sociologically to this or that climate and genetic factor and social advantage, etc., and psychologically by the presence of chemical factors like seratonin and its smooth functioning owing to that climate or genetic history,,, and astrologically, by good placements of beneficent planets that pre-dispose this person to a certain shape and physique, a capacity that demand the predomination of seratonin production. A good philosophical scientist will see how they are all so interlinked.
The question, 'how can planets and things far away affect us?' is a false form. The tides of the earth occur precisely because of such a distance from the Moon. The tides of a woman's menstrual blood or human emotions in general is similarly affected by the cycle or periodicity of the Moon. The very shape of the eye-organ owes to the function of perceiving light from such a distant star and the pressures of multiple wavelengths and frequencies that interplayed to make us sensitive to a certain range. Visible stars and planets affect visibly; invisible stars and planets affect the subtler sheaths our body revealing both the enduring and dynamic aspects of our self.
Those who think Astrology is a pseudo-science either because it champions free-will, or because it champions pre-determinism, are both flawed. Just as genetic limits and gender limits do not translate to static absolute be-ings, the stamp of astrology, while tempering an individual with definite properties, characteristics, is only so, as an unfolding possibility, since the combination of planets and earth-environments are in constant change. And so how clearly and powerfully one interprets a chart itself falls to an aptitude for astrology. Just as not everyone is capable of Philosophy, even though the world is open to all, there is a disposition, a discipline and a capacity that makes some naturally skilled at it, and others not so. Astrology is likewise an elite science. Even if it is open to everyone, not everyone is capable of it.
While I have already excerpted the abuse of hermeneutists, its a fact that how we interpret the world is a direct expression of the Quality of our will-to-power. Some people are able to See more, apprehend and comprehend more than others. The Self is not an adaptive or self-adjusting conserving mechanism primarily, but a self-creating, self-asserting, will-to-excess at bottom. How we interpret the world, a word, a symbol, a chart, a person reveals our quantity, quality, foundation and motive of our WTP. Our standards.
Is it escapism that makes us denyingly creative?
Or is it our affirmative strength that makes us shape our world, our reality?
Not to just passively pass by and survive in this world, but to shape it, raise it with our 'brilliant' passion;
"Life is not the adaptation of inner circumstances to outer ones, but will to power, which, working from within, incorporates and subdues more and more of that which is "outside". [WTP, 681]
A self that disciplinedly sees itself as a continuity of the world is engaging in a philosophical activity. Such philosophy is a self-indulgence and that self-indulgence is not the same as solipsistic self-regarding. Self-indulgent subjectivism does not preclude Objectivity. Objectivity is self-indulgent Subjectivism to its maximum severity, maximum Presence.
A person with poor WTP cannot interpret beyond his limits and imposes his own limitations as a chart reading. Another more skilled is able to see aspects and advantages and what the meaning of events in one's life can signify. It enlarges options, frees scope for movement and self-determination.
And when some sociologists in the world discredit astrology, this is what they do not like. That astrology gives the power for self-formation away from the sheltering of human social influences. A self-knowledge that does not Reactively depend on the trends of society, but deep introspection and understanding patterns connected to larger-than-human-systems realities, is what they fear.
Fake gurus who give sooth-sayings and emotional upliftments for a fee are just as corrupt as religious figures, and some real gurus happen to go wrong owing to erroneous charts generated by poor software inputs, and their reports come out bad. But as N. pointed out, such false religions are still not in themselves bad. They serve the necessary function of keeping passive those weaklings, whose aggressive assertions and 'freedom' would only drag the world back down into barbaric stupidity. Naturally N. was hated for affirming the usefulness of keeping some creatures at some times dumbed down. Evolutionarily, the freedom of the slavish become a costly affair at the expense of the higher types. He thus affirmed the necessity of Xt. in special times to tame barbaric animals - like their offshoot Jihadists we see today.
The question then naturally as to who is higher and who is lower, and who decides that ushered in post-modernity, where anything can claim to be a standard and anything claiming to be a standard can be slandered.
This open contest while moving to chaos, also churns out those who separate by their quality. Subjectivists show the quality of their objectivity - their spirit-form, and Objectivists show the quality of their inner subjectivity - their soul-content.
Astrological consultancies are like a second opinion you ask of a guru as a check to your own results, much like getting a second opinion from different doctors. Astrological remedies have in fact helped many from becoming fools and wasting resources in hospitals and fake-doctors or psychologists scamming for money. A simple exclusion or inclusion of a herb may have been all someone needed. Before spending 10 therapy sessions just to get to the root of the complex, an astrological chart can instantly show where the block is at, or where the complex knots are. The ancient Finns, are said to have offered food to rivers and streams for signs before their journey - such omens must have had an ecological wisdom undocumented,, like the fish coming up to eat it may have been indication of good lands or fertile soil for trade/propserity ahead.
Fake is everywhere. There are fake sellers even in Vastu/Feng Shui architects, but this hardly makes the science itself as something false. The direction of sun and winds impact what activity we do in what room and all that has a scientific and practical wisdom to it.
Astrological divination on the other hand is pure self-initiation, exploration, and while open to all, not all are capable of the highest self-understanding or have the passion for it. Astrology leaks information even more than finger-prints.
Two last points.
A successful outcome is not criterion or guarantee that a hypotheis is objective. It only spells out objectivity within the parameters considered. If the latter are pleasure/pain based no matter the vast quantity of sample, this spells out objectivity only within that enclosed system. Likewise, a successful prediction or remedy is not guarantee the astrological guru has been very objective. Without considering the costs/loss in other aspects of the self, the overall consideration, immediate success is no qualifier to verify the objectivity of the chart interpretation. All charts are worked on by astroNomical observations and data inputs pooled from across the world. Accuracy of self-understanding or a prediction or interpretation is dependent on these 'scientific' tables of planetary positions - time, latitudes, longitudes, spin, direction of motion. This is an observational process like in any other scientific field that becomes more accurate with time.
And two. In modernity, it seems mythology is being transposed upon newly discovered asteroids, designating them with arbitrary names and then astrology readings are retranslated back into interpretations with mythological symbolisms. This is absurd and pure self-referential reloop. Modern science funded by political agendas throwing out disinformation with no quality control, no standard to check, and money and liberal happiness is all that matters,,, astrology in the future has a good chance of totally being debunked as nonsense. Its already getting there through quack astrologers excerpted in prv. post. Ancient designations as to how did one know what was called monday was really a Moon's day?, for eg., dont seem arbitrary as most of their superstitions were founded on natural phenomena - perhaps beginning with menstruation. Robert Briffault wrote something on this, that I haven't read yet. The calendrical division of months too, ascribing each month to a certain planet must have been based on seasonal indications, marks of eclipses, etc. and mythology and shapes of constellations corresponding to each other. Its not just because a constellation is shaped like a scorpion, one had scorpion attributes, but the flourishing or potency of certain species or temperaments in a certain month must have been the underlying basis to the correspondence. Everything is a metaphor referencing visible realities. Or so we study the ancients and the accuracy of history.
An individuals potentials, his expression of them as personality, shaped in circumstances as character, is not determined by the stars. It is determined by the genes, and the cosmos, during gestation, and after birth, are part of the factors we call nurturing, is that which determines how this inherited potential will develop, and how it will express itself. Two individuals born in the same city on the same date, of different ancestry, will have a passing resemblance mostly based on the socioeconomic memetic conditioning, and secondly due to the earthly environmental conditions affecting fetus, like weather, and then this background cosmic radiation/energy.
_________________ γνῶθι σεαυτόν μηδέν άγαν
Lyssa Har Har Harr
Gender : Posts : 9031 Join date : 2012-03-01 Location : The Cockpit
An individual's potential and their Mode of expression is Precisely and definitely shaped by the stars, and not only directly, but the astrological factors in the genes of his parents, who carry the genes of their parents, etc.
While on the one hand, no two people can share the exact same time/place of birth, they are good enough to encompass personality types that Jung categorized or astrological archetypes, for which Linda Goodman is well known even by a layman. There is nothing superficial about it. These are strong distinct patterns across the globe forming templates, and not lcds.
So not natural selection but star selection. Not traits selected because of environmental conditions, but the stars shining from above.
Not experiences passed on with genes but stars affecting personalty, despite genetics? Two children born in the same neighbourhood on the same date will be exactly alike...or nearly so?
Astrologically speaking I and my cousin born only one month apart, less than a month, he born in January and I in February should have very little in common, since we have different stars shinning down on us, despite sharing 1/4 the same genes. Yet the reading could apply to him....and if he were not told and given the exact same reading the Priest gave me on ILP, he would say....yeah I'm kind of like that.
According to you, the differences between I and my cousin are not due to the mother side inherited, but that month difference.
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Last edited by Satyr on Fri Apr 08, 2016 3:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
Lyssa Har Har Harr
Gender : Posts : 9031 Join date : 2012-03-01 Location : The Cockpit
So, reading one's chart is a reading of the entire earthly circumstances, which will have to be placed within the memetic circumstances, determining the genetic inherited factors. A general hypothesis, when you know the time and place, as determined by the stars, and the socioeconomic conditions as determining by the reading's time and place, and then...genetics.
What percentages would you give each? I give 80% to genes....15% to memes, and the rest to those vague un-measurable and unknown factors like stars and cosmic energies and whatnot.
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Lyssa Har Har Harr
Gender : Posts : 9031 Join date : 2012-03-01 Location : The Cockpit
If the general archetype could be categorized across the world, on the corollary, there is also a uniqueness of time/space. In the case of twins delivered, there is a genetic distinction with different inclinations, owing to planetary influences that determine what and how each are coded. One ends up male/female depending on how the possibility of the planets of the parents interact and unfold through the carrying months. Likewise placements of planets indicate pre-dispositions to infertility, and proneness to health-risks, etc.
The composition of genes are themselves products of astral forces.
We carry our entire past.
Exactly...meaning every cosmic configuration, every genetic code of experiences was inherited. Not the 9 month period of gestation and birth overpowering it all.
Earth rotating around sun, sun rotating around the centre of the galaxy, the galaxy moving away from other galaxies...all in motion. nothing static. Earth's climate, the geography of the place of birth, the socioeconomic cultural effects, all affecting the inherited sum total of all that, as past/nature. A African born in the same house as a Caucasian to different parents, no the same date and time, is not going to share a personalty with the white boy.
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Gender : Posts : 21890 Join date : 2009-08-24 Age : 53 Location : Flux
No, all data if it is not directed by will to deceive, if not faked, pretended, is helpful. Not what one says, but what one does....how (s)he behaves when he feels safe, or when he is in the throws of erotic thymotic passion, or unaware someone is observing, or does not care.
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Lyssa Har Har Harr
Gender : Posts : 9031 Join date : 2012-03-01 Location : The Cockpit
Lead, a primary common metal, had to be broken up, changed, driven up the scale, towards silver or gold; it had to change its colour. So fire was invoked; and under its action the lead was reduced to a fluid state. The fluidity thus brought about was what constituted the primary level, in which new potentialities were actively present... Also the liquefaction of lead involved its blackening. So the blackness of the liquid condition above all expressed the attainment of a primary level, a state of chaos. . .
Somehow the Primary Black had to be transformed into White or Yellow, which expressed the nobler metals. This could be done, it was believed, if one could find a metal which had certain affinities with both the lower and higher substances, which sympathized with both of them and which exerted its attractive power in both directions (downwards and upwards).
By using the right kind of metal, in the right kind of proportions, one could swing the balance towards the upper levels and thus transform the material into the higher. . . The two materials, that of primary matter or liquid blackness and that of the alloying and transforming addition, must have something in common, some element of harmony...
But if that were all, a state of equilibrium was created and nothing happened; the first level was not transcended. So one nature must conquer the other. The conquering act was the moment of transformation, when the equilibrium was broken and a new relationship established. The new fused substance existed at a higher level and involved the creation of a new quality, which revealed itself in the colour-change. But that was not enough. The new state must be stabilized, so that it might provide the basis for yet another upward movement. (Lindsay, 1970, pp. 116–117; cited in Schwartz-Salant, 1995, pp. 8–9)
Jung, Carl wrote:
The division into two was necessary in order to bring the ‘one’ world out of the state of potential into reality. Reality consists of a multiplicity of things. But one is not a number, the first number is two, and with it multiplicity and reality begin. (Jung, 1955–1956, par. 659)…
The nigredoor blackness is the initial state, either present from the beginning as a quality of the prima materia, the chaos or massa confusa, or else produced by the separation (solutio, separatio, divisio, putrefactio) of the elements. If the separated condition is assumed at the start, as sometimes happens, then a union of opposites is performed under the likeness of a union of male and female (called the coniugium, matrimonium, coniunctio, coitus), followed by the death of the product of the union (mortificatio, calcinatio, putrfactio) and a corresponding nigredo. From this the washing (ablutio, baptisma) either leads direct to the whitening (albedo), or else the soul (anima) released at the ‘death’ is reunited with the dead body and brings about its resurrection, or again the ‘many colours’ (omnes colores), or ‘peacock’s tail’ (cauda pavonis), lead to the one white colour that contains all colours. At this point the first main goal of the process is reached, namely the albedo, tinctura, alba, lapis albus etc., highly prized by many alchemists as if it were the ultimate goal. It is the silver or moon condition. The albedois, so to speak, the daybreak, but not until the rubedois it sunrise . . . the rubedo then follows direct from the albedoas the result of raising the heat of the fire to its highest intensity. The red and the white are King and Queen, who may celebrate their ‘chymical wedding’ at this stage. (Jung, 1937a, par. 334)
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Lyssa Har Har Harr
Gender : Posts : 9031 Join date : 2012-03-01 Location : The Cockpit
"The Egyptians have left us a particular statue in which three heads rose from the same bust; one of a wolf who looked behind him, the other of a lion who looked to one side, and the third of a dog who looked ahead, in order to indicate that things of the past afflict us by the memory of them, but not as much as things of the present torment us in fact, while the future always promises better things. Accordingly this emblem contains a wolf who howls, a lion who roars and a dog who laughs.
CES. What does the motto written above it express?
MAR. Notice that over the wolf is the word, I am; over the lion, Modo, and over the dog, Praeterea, words which represent the three parts of time.
CES. Now read what is written on the tablet.
MAR. I intend to do precisely that.
A wolf, a lion, and a dog -- at dawn, in the brightness of day, and in the dark of evening -- represent the things I have spent, the things I retain, and the things I shall gain of all that has been given me, is given to me, and can be given to me.
For the things I have done, do now, and must do, in the past, present, and in the future, I repent, am tormented, and am assured, in regret, in suffering, and in expectation The harshness of my past experience, the bitterness of its fruit, and the sweetness of hope are a menace, an affliction, and a solace to me.
The years I have lived, the time I live now, and shall live, -- the past, present, and future -- make me tremble, excite me, and sustain me.
What has gone by, what happens now, and what will follow, holds me in much fear, in too much martyrdom, and yields me sufficient hope.
CES. This is precisely the head of a frenzied lover; and very likely of all mortals who are afflicted, whatever may be the manner or mode of their affliction; for we cannot say, nor ought we to say that such a destiny corresponds to all in general, but only to those destinies which were or are laborious. For example, it behooves one who has sought a kingdom and now possesses it to feel the fear of losing it; it behooves one who has labored to acquire the fruits of love and to know the special favor of the beloved to feel the bite of jealousy and suspicion. And with respect to our condition in this world, if we find ourselves in darkness and misfortune, we can safely prophecy light and prosperity; if we live in an era of felicity and enlightenment, without doubt we can expect a succession of affliction and ignorance.
For example, Mercury Trismegistus saw Egypt in such a great splendor of science and of prophetic wisdom that he esteemed men to be the brothers of both demons and gods, and consequently to be most inspired; nevertheless to Asclepius he made that prophetic lamentation which announced that there must follow a dark age of new religions and cults, and that Egypt's present splendor would become only a fable and a matter for condemnation.
Similarly, when the Hebrews were slaves of Egypt and exiled in the desert, they were comforted by their prophets who assured them of liberty and the conquest of a fatherland, but when they enjoyed a state of power and tranquillity, they were menaced by captivity and dispersion. And today there is no evil or dishonor to which we may be subject, that we may not expect honor and goodness tomorrow.
The same befalls other generations and states. If these states endure and are not ever annihilated, they must pass from evil to good, from good to evil, from baseness to splendor, from splendor to obscurity by a necessary force of the mutations of things. For this vicissitude occurs in accordance with the natural order. And if one should find another order which would alter or correct the present one, then I would consent to it, and would have no way in which to dispute it, for I judge only by the light of my natural reason.
MAR. We know that you are not a theologian but a philosopher, and that you treat of philosophy, not of theology.
"We shall do well to bear in mind the early religious significance attaching to aeroliths. They fall to earth charged with celestial sanctity; in a way, they represent heaven. This would suggest why so many meteorites were worshipped or identified with a deity. The faithful saw in them the 'first form', the immediate manifestation of the godhead. The Palladium of Troy was supposed to have dropped from heaven, and ancient writers saw it as the statue of the goddess Athena. A celestial origin was also accorded to the statue of Artemis at Ephesus and to the cone of Heliogabalus at Emesus (Herodian, v, 3, 5). The meteorite at Pessinus in Phrygia was venerated as the image of Cybele and, following an in junction by the Delphic Oracle, it was transported to Rome shortly after the Second Punic War. A block ofhard stone, the most ancient representation of Eros, stood side by side with Praxitele.s' sculptured image of the god (Pausanias, ix, 27, i). Other examples could easily be found, the most famous being the Ka'aha in Mecca. It is noteworthy that a certain number of meteorites are associated with goddesses, especially fertility goddesses such as Cybele. And here we come up against a transference of sanctity: the celestial origin is forgotten, to the advantage of the religious notion of the petra genitrix.
But the heavenly, and hence masculine, essence of the meteorites is none the less beyond dispute, for certain silex and neolithic tools were subsequently given names like 'thunderstones', 'thunderbolt teeth' or 'God's axes'. The sites where the)' were found were thought to have been struck by a thunderbolt, which is the weapon of the God of Heaven. When this God was ousted by the God of Storms, the thunderbolt became the sign of the sacred union between the God of the Hurricane and the Goddess Earth. Th is may account for the large number of double-axes dis covered in this period in the clefts and caves of Crete. These axes, like the thunderbolt and the meteorites, 'cleaved' the earth; they symbolized, in other words, the union between heaven and earth. Delphi, most famous of the clefts of ancient Greece, owed its name to this mythical image; 'delphi' signifies in fact the female generative organ. Many other symbols and appellations liken the earth to a woman. Put this analogy served as a kind of archetypal model in which priority was given to the cosmos. Plato re minds us (Menex., 2J8A), that in the matter of conception it is the woman who imitates the earth and not the earth woman.
The 'celestial' origin of iron is perhaps attested by the Greek sideros, which has been related to sidus,-eris, meaning 'star', and the Lithuanian svidu, 'to shine', and svideti, 'shining'. The use of meteorites was not, however, calculated to promote an Iron Age proper. While it lasted the metal remained rare (it was as precious as gold), and its use was more or less ritualistic. Before a new landmark in his evolution could be inaugurated with the Age of Metals, man had to await the discovery of smelting. This is especially true of iron. Unlike copper and bronze, the metallurgy of iron very soon became industrialized. Once the secret of smelting magnetite or hematite was learnt (or discovered) there was no difficulty in procuring large quantities of metal because deposits were rich and easy to exploit. But the handling of telluric ores differed from that of meteoric iron as it did also from the smelting of copper and bronze. It was not until after the dis covery of furnaces, and particularly after the perfecting of the technique of the hardening of metal brought to white heat, that iron achieved its dominant position.
The belated appearance of iron, followed by its industrial triumph, had a tremendous influence on the rites and symbols of metallurgy. A whole series of taboos and magical uses of iron are due to this victory and to the fact that it superseded bronze and copper, which were representative of other 'ages' and other mythologies. The smith is first and foremost a worker in iron, and his nomadic condition-for he is con stantly on the move in his quest for raw metal and for orders for work-puts him in touch with differing populations. The smith becomes the principal agent in this spread of myths, rites and metallurgical mysteries. This ensemble of facts introduces us to a vast new mental world.
The Kitara divided ores into male and female: the former, hard and black, are found on the surface; the latter, soft and red, are extracted from inside the mine. The mingling of the two 'sexes' is indispensable to fruitful fusion.3 This is of course an objectively arbitrary classification, for neither the colour nor the hardness of ores always corres ponds to their 'sexual' qualification. But it was the total union of reality which matttred, for it justified the rite, namely the 'marriage of the metals', and this last made possible a birth.
In Vedic India the sacrificial altar (vedt) was looked upon as female and the ritual fire (agni) as male and 'their union brought forth offspring'. We are in the presence of a very complex symbolism which cannot be reduced to a single plane of reference. For, on the one hand, the vedi was compared to the navel (nahht) of the Earth, the symbol par excellence of the 'centre'. But the nahhi was also established as being the womb of the Goddess (cf. Shatapatha Brahmana, I, 9, 2, 21). On the other hand, fire itselfwas looked upon as the result (the progeny) of a sexual union: it was born as a result of the to-and-fro motion (compared to copulation) of a stick (representing the male organ), in a notch made in a piece of wood (female organ; cf. Rig Veda, III, 29, 2 sq.; V, II , 6; VI, 48, 5). The same sexual symbolism of fire is found in a number of primitive societies.4 But all these sexual terms convey a cosmological conception with a hierogamous base. It is from a 'centre' (navel) that the creation of the world starts and, in solemnly imitating this primary model, every 'construction', every 'fabrication', must operate from a starting 'centre'. The ritual production of fire reproduces the birth of the world. Which is why at the end of the year all fires are extinguished (a re-enactment of the Cosmic night), and rekindled on New Year's Day (this is an enactment of the Cosmogony, the rebirth of the world). For all this, fire does not lose its ambivalent character: it is either of divine origin or 'demoniac' (for, according to certain primitive beliefs, it is engendered magically in the genital organ of the sorceress).
An analogous symbolism was connected with the triangle. Pausanias (II, 21) speaks of a place in Argos called delta which was considered to be the sanctuary of Demeter. Fick and Eisler have interpreted the triangle as meaning 'vulva', and this interpretation is valid if the term is allowed to retain its first sense of 'matrix' or source. It is known that for the Greeks delta was a symbol for woman. The Pythagoreans regarded the triangle as the archi geneseoas because of its perfect form and because it represented the archetype of universal fertility. A similar symbolism fur the triangle is to be found in India.
If streams, galleries of mines, and caves are compared to the vagina of the Earth-Mother, everything that lies in the belly of the earth is alive, albeit in the state of gestation. In other words, the ores extracted from the mines are in some way emhryos: they grow slowly as though in obedience to some temporal rhythm other than that of vegetable and animal organisms. They nevertheless do grow-they 'grow ripe' in their telluric darkness. Their extraction from the bowels of the earth is thus an operation executed before its due time. If they had been permitted the time to develop (i.e. the geological rhythm of time), the ores would have become ripe metals, having reached a state of 'perfection'.
But we are in a position to appreciate even at this point the responsibility assumed by the miners and metallurgists by their intervention in the obscure processes of mineral growth. They had at all costs to justify their intervention, and to do this they had to claim that they were, by their metallurgical procedures, superseding the work of Nature. By accelerating the process of the growth of metals, the metallurgist was precipitating temporal growth: geological tempo was by him changed to living terr.po. This bold conception, whereby man defends his full responsibility vis-a-vis Nature, already gives us a glimpse of something of the work of the alchemist.
From the immense mass of lithic mythology, two kinds of belief concern our research: the myths concerning men born from stone and the beliefs regarding the generation and ripening of stones and ores in the bowels of the earth. Both beliefs have implicit in them the notion that stone is the source of life and fertility, that it lives and procreates human creatures just as it has itself been engendered by the earth.
Deucalion threw the 'bones of his mother' behind his back to repopulate the world. These 'bones' of the Earth-Mother were stones; they repre sented the Urgrund, indestructible reality, the matrix whence a new mankind was to emerge. That the stone is an archetypal image expressing ahsolute reality, life and holiness is proved by the fact that numerous myths recount the story of gods born from the petra genitrix analogous to the Great Goddess, the matrix mundi.
The second group of beliefs, those relating to the genera tion of ores and stones in the belly of the earth-deserve particular attention. Rock engenders precious stones. The Sanscrit name for Emerald is afmagarhhaja, 'born from rock', and the Indian mineralogical treatises describe its presence in the rock as being in its 'matrix'.2 The author of the Jawaher · nameh (The Book of Precious Stones) distinguishes diamond from crystal by a difference in age expressed in embryological terms: the diamond is pakka, i.e. 'ripe', while the crystal is kaccha, 'not ripe', 'green', insufficiently developed.3 A similar conception was preserved in Europe up to the seventeenth century. De Rosnel wrote in the Le Mercure lndien (1672, p. 12): 'The ruby, in particular, gradually takes birth in the ore-bearing earth; first of all it is white and gradually acquires its redness in the process of ripening. Thus it is that there are some which are completely white, others half white, half red. . . . Just as the infant is fed on blood in the belly of its mother so is the ruby formed and fed.'" Bernard Palissy himselfbelieved in the maturation of minerals. Like all fruits of the earth, he wrote, 'minerals have a different colour at maturity from that at their beginning'.
Mines were allowed to rest after a period of active exploitation. The mine, matrix of the earth, required time in order to generate the new. Pliny (Nat. Hist., XXXIV, 49) wrote that the galena mines of Spain 'were reborn' after a certain time. Similar indications are to be found in Strabo (Geography, V, 2), and Barba, the seventeenth-century Spanish writer, also refers to them: an exhausted mine is capable of re-creating its deposits if it is suitably blocked up and allowed to rest for fifteen years. For, adds Barba, those who think that metals were created at the beginning of the world are grossly mistaken: metals 'grow' in mines.
Ores 'grow' and 'ripen'; this picture of subterranean life is sometimes described in terms of life in the vegetable world. The chemist Glauber goes so far as to say 'that if the metal reaches its final perfection and is not extracted from the earth, which is no longer providing it with nourishment, it may well, at this stage, be compared to an old and decrepit man. . . . Nature maintains the same rhythm ofbirth and death in metals as in vegetables and animals.'
Indeed, metallurgy, like agriculture-which also pre supposes the fecundity of the Earth-Mother-ultimately gave to man a feeling of confidence and pride. Man feels himself able to collaborate in the work of Nature, able to assist the processes of growth taking place within the bowels of the earth. He jogs and accelerates the rhythm of these slow chtonian maturations. In a way he does the work of Time. The alchemist takes up and perfects the work of Nature, while at the same time working to 'make' himself. It is indeed interesting to follow the symbiosis of metallurgical and alchemical traditions at the close of the Middle Ages.
In the preface to his Dere Metallica, 1530, Agricola attributes the Berghiichlein to Colbus Fribergius, a distinguished doctor - non ignobilis medicus - who lived in Freiburg among the miners whose beliefs and practices he expounds and interprets in the light of alchemy.
The author recalls the belief, widespread in the Middle Ages, that ores are generated by the union of two principles, sulphur and mercury.
"Furthermore, in the union of mercury and sulphur with the ore, the sulphur behaves like the male seed and the mercury like the female seed in the conception and birth of a child' (ihid., p. 388). The smooth birth of the ore demands the 'quality peculiar to a natural vessel, just as the lodes are natural in which the ore is produced' (ihid., p. :.88). ' Convenient ways or approaches are also required by means of which the metal or mineral power may have access to the natural vessel, such as animal hair' (ihid., p. 388). The orienta tion and inclination of the lodes are connected with the points of the compass. The Berghiichlein recalls the traditions accord ing to which the stars control the formation of metals. Silver grows under the influence ofthe moon. And the lodes are more or less argentiferous, according to their situation in relation to the 'perfect direction', marked by the position of the moon (ihid., p. 422). The ore of gold, as might be expected, grows under the influence of the sun. 'According to the opinions of the Sages, gold is engendered from a sulphur, the clearest possible, and properly rectified and purified in the earth, by the action of the sky, principally of the sun, so that it contains no further humour which might be destroyed or burnt by fire nor any liquid humidity which might be evaporated by fire . . .' (p. 443). The Berghiichlein likewise explains the birth ofcopper ore by the influence ofthe planet Venus, that ofiron by the influence of Mars and that of lead by the influence of Satum."
This text is important. It bears witness to a whole complex of mining traditions, deriving on the one hand from the primitive conception of mineral embryology and, on the other, from Babylonian astrological speculations. These latter are subsequent, obviously, to the belief in the generation of metals in the bosom of the Earth-Mother, as is, too, the alchemical notion taken up by the Berghiichlein, of the forma tion of ores resulting from the union between sulphur and mercury.
The 'nobility' of gold is thus the fruit at its most mature; the other metals are 'common' because they are crude; 'not ripe'. In other words, Nature's final goal is the completion of the mineral kingdom, its ultimate 'maturation'. But since gold is the bearer of a highly spiritual symbolism ('Gold is im mortality', say the Indian texts repeatedly), it is obvious that a new idea is coming into being: the idea of the part assumed by the alchemist as the brotherly saviour of Nature. He assists Nature to fulfil her final goal, to attain her 'ideal', which is the perfection of its progeny-be it mineral, animal or human-to its supreme ripening, which is absolute im mortality and liberty (gold being the symbol of sovereignty and autonomy). The earth is compared to the belly of the mother, the mines to her matrix and the ores to embryos. A whole series of mineral and metallurgical rites derives from it.
A mine or an untapped vein is not easily discovered; it is for the gods and divine creatures to reveal where they lie and to teach human beings how to exploit their contents. These beliefs were held in European countries until quite recently.
- In Finistere a fairy (groac'k) is believed to have disclosed to man the existence of silver-bearing lead…
- 'The White Lady', whose appearance was followed by landslips…
It is sufficient to recall that the sinking of a mine or the construction of a furnace are ritual operations, often of an astonishing primitivism. Mining rites persisted in Europe up to the end of the Middle Ages: every sinking of a new mine was accompanied by religious ceremonies (Sebillot, op. cit., p. 421).
If the tempering of a sword was looked upon as a union of fire and water, if the action of alloying is a marriage-rite, the same symbolism was necessarily implicit in the smelting of the metal.
In the myth of the dismemberment of Indra, we are told that, intoxicated by an excess of soma, the body of the god began to 'flow out', giving birth to every kind of creature, plant and metal. 'From his navel, his life-breath flowed out and became lead, not iron, not silver; from his seed his form flowed out and became gold.' (Shatapatha Brahmana, xii, 7, 1, 7). A similar myth is found among the Iranians. When Gayomart, the Primordial Man, was assassinated by the corruptor, 'he allowed his seed to flow to earth. . . . As the body of Gayomart was made of metals , the seven kinds of metal appeared from his body .'
A similar myth was probably shared by the Greeks. P. Roussel had already drawn attention to a Greek proverb, handed down by Zenobius, which would point to the existence of a legend concerning the origin of iron. 'Two brothers put their third brother to death; they bury him beneath a mountain; his body changes to iron.'
That was the point of departure for the great discovery that roan can take upon himself the work of Time.
Fire turned out to be the means by which man could 'execute' faster, but it could also do something other than what already existed in Nature. It was therefore the manifestation of a magico-religious power which could modify the world and which, consequently, did not belong to this world. This is why the most primitive cultures look upon the specialist in the sacred-the shaman, the medicine-man, the magician as a 'master of fire'. Primitive magic and shamanism both carry the notion of 'mastery over fire', whether it is a question of involving the power to touch live coals with impunity or of producing that 'inner heat' which permitted resistance to extreme cold.
We may note, how ever, that to produce fire in one's own body is a sign that one has transcended the human condition. According to the myths of certain primitive peoples, the aged women* of the tribe 'naturally' possessed fire in their genital organs and made use of it to do their cooking but kept it hidden from men, who were able to get possession of it only by trickery. These myths reflect the ideology of a matriarchal society and remind us, also, of the fact that fire, being produced by the friction of two pieces of wood (that is, by their 'sexual union'), was regarded as existing naturally in the piece which represented the female. In this sort of culture woman sym bolizes the natural sorceress. But men finally achieved 'mastery' over fire and in the end the sorcerers became more powerful and more numerous than their female counterparts. As ' masters o f fire', shamans and sorcerers swallow burning coal, handle red-hot iron and walk on fire. On the other hand, they have great resistance to cold; shamans in the Arctic regions as well as the ascetics in the Himalayas, thanks to their magic heat, show an incredible resistance. The mastery over fire and insensibility both to extreme cold and to the temperature of burning coals, translated into ordinary terms, signify that the shaman or yogi have gone beyond the human condition and have achieved the level of spirits.
Like the shamans, the smiths were reputed to be 'masters of fire'. And so in certain cultures, the smith is considered equal, if not superior, to the shaman. 'Smiths and shamans come from the same nest', says a Yakut proverb. 'The wife of a shaman is worthy of respect, the wife of a smith worthy of veneration', says another.2 And a third: 'The first smith, the first shaman and the first potter were blood brothers. The smith was the eldest and the shaman came in between. This explains wJ-.y the shaman cannot bring about the death of a smith.'3 According to the Dolganes, the shaman cannot 'swallow' the soul of a smith because the latter protects it with fire; but on the other hand, it is possible for the smith to get possession of the soul of a shaman and to burn it in fire.
The identification of shamanism with the art of the smith likewise appears in the ceremonial spectacles of certain shamanic initiations. In their dreams or initiatory hallucinations the future shamans watch themselves being torn to pieces by the 'demon'-masters of the initiation. Now these traditional spectacles entail, directly or otherwise, gestures, tools and symbols belonging to the sphere of the smith. During his initiatory sickness, a Yakut shaman has looked on as his own limbs have been detached and separated with an iron hook by demons; after all kinds of operations (cleansing of bones, scraping offlesh, etc.), the demons have reassembled the bones and joined them with iron. Another shaman has had his body cut into small pieces by the Mother Bird ofPrey who possessed an iron beak, hooked claws and iron feathers. Another, also during his initiatory hallucinations, has been rocked in an iron cradle. And finally, from a long autobiographical account by an Ava-Samoyede shaman, we extract this episode. The future shaman, during his initiation sickness, saw himself penetrate to the interior of a mountain where he beheld a naked man operating a bellows. On the fire was a cauldron. The naked man seized the shaman with an enormous pair of tongs, cut off his head, sliced his body into small fragments and threw the whole lot into the cauldron, where it was left to cook for three years. In the cave there were also three
anvils and the naked man forged his head on the third anvil, the one reserved for the best shamans. Finally he rescued his bones, reassembled them and covered them with flesh. Accord ing to another source, a Tungus shaman, during initiation, had his head cut off and forged with metal pieces. It is also worth remembering that the shamanic costume is loaded with iron objects, some of them being imitations of bones and tending to give him the appearance of a skeleton.
What is especially significant is the fact that the symbolism of the 'thunderstone', in which pro jectiles and stone missiles are compared with the thunderbolt, underwent a great development in the mythologies of metal lurgy. The weapons which the smith-gods or divine-smiths forge for the celestial gods are thunder and lightning. This was the case, for example, with the weapons presented by Tvashtri to lndra. The clubs or cudgels of Ninurta are called 'world-crusher' or 'world-grinder', and are compared with thunder and lightning. Just as thunder and lightning are the weapons of Zeus, so the hammer (mjolnir) of Thor is the thunderbolt. The clubs 'jump' from the hands of Baal, for Koshar has forged arms for him which can be hurled to very distant points (Gaster, op. cit., p. 1 5 8 ). Zeus hurls his thunder bolt afar.
This concatenation of images is very significant: thunder bolt, 'thunderstone' (mythological souvenir of the Stone Age), and the magical weapon with a long-distance strike (some times returning like a boomerang to its master's hand; cf. Thor's hammer). It is possible to detect here certain traces of the mythology of homo faber, to divine the magic aura of the manufactured tool, the exceptional prestige of the artisan and workman and, above all, in the Metal Age, of the smith. It is in any case significant that, in contrast to pre-agricultural and pre-metallurgical mythologies, where, as a natural pre rogative, God is the possessor of the thunderbolt and all the other meteorological epiphanies, in the myths of historic peoples, on the other hand (Egypt, the Near East and the Indo-Europeans), the God of the hurricane received these weapons - lightning and thunder - from a divine smith. It is difficult to avoid seeing in this the mythologized victory of homo foher, a victory which presages his supremacy in the industrial ages to come. What clearly emerges from all these myths concerning smiths who assist the gods to secure their supremacy is the extraordinary importance accorded to thefohrication of a tool. Naturally, such a creation retains for a long time a magical or divine character, for all 'creation' or 'construction' can only be the work of a superhuman being. One final aspect of this mythology concerning the maker of tools must be mentioned: the workman strives to imitate divine models. The smith of the gods forges weapons similar to lightning and the thunderbolt ('weapons', naturally possessed by the celestial gods of pre-metallurgical mythologies). In their turn, human smiths imitate the work of their super human patrons. On the mythological level, however, it has to be emphasized that the imitation of divine models is superseded by a new theme: the importance of the work of manufacture, the demiurgical capabilities of the workman; and finally the apotheosis of thefoher, he who 'creates' objects.
We are tempted to find in this category of primordial ex periences the source of all mythico-ritual complexes, in which the smith and divine or semi-divine artisan are at once archi tects, dancers, musicians and medicine-sorcerers. Each one of these highlights a different aspect of the great mythology of 'savoir faire', that is to say, the possession of the occult secret of 'fabrication', of 'construction'. The words of a song have considerable creative force; objects are created by 'singing' the requisite words. Vainamoinen 'sings' a boat, i.e. he builds it by modulating a chant composed of magic words; and when he lacks the three final words he goes to consult an illustrious magician, Amero Vipunen. 'To make' something means knowing the magic formula which will allow it to be invented or to 'make it appear' spontaneously. In virtue of this, the artisan is a connoisseur of secrets, a magician; thus all crafts include some kind of initiation and are handed down by an occult tradition. He who 'makes' real things is he who knows the secrets of making them. In the same way we may look for an explanation of the function of the mythical African smith in his capacity of civilizing hero. He has been enjoined by God to complete creation, to organize the world and to educate men, that is, to reveal to them the arts. It is especially important to underline the role of the African smith in the initiations at puberty and in the secret societies. In both cases we are dealing with a revelation of mysteries or the knowledge of ultimate realities. In this religious role of the smith there is a foreshadowing of the celestial smith's mission as civilizing hero; he collaborates in the spiritual 'formation' of young men; he is a sort of guide, the earthly counterpart of the First Counsellor who came down from heaven in illo tempore.
It has been noted that in early Greece, certain groups of mythical personages-Telchines, Cabiri, Kuretes, Dactyls were both secret guilds associated with mysteries and cor porations of metal-workers. According to various traditions, the Telchines were the first people to work in iron and bronze, the Idaean Dactyls discovered iron-smelting and the Kuretes bronze work. The latter, too, were reputed for their special dance which they performed with a clash of arms. The Cabiri, like the Kuretes, are given the title of 'masters of the furnace' and were called 'mighty in fire'; their worship spread all over the eastern Mediterranean. The Dactyls were the priests of Cybele, the goddess of mountains as well as of mines and caves and having her dwelling inside the mountains.
The horse and its rider have held a considerable place in the ideologies and rituals of the 'male societies' (Mannerbiinde); it is in this connection that we shall meet the blacksmith. The phantom horse would come into his workshop, sometimes with Odin or the troop of the 'furious army' or 'savage hunt' (Wilde Heer), to be shod.1 In certain parts of Germany and Scandin avia the blacksmith until quite recently participated in initiatory scenarios of the Mannerbiinde type. In Styria he shoes the 'war-horse' or 'charger' (i.e. the Hobby-Horse) by 'killing' him in order to 'revive' him afterwards (Hofler, p. 54). In Scandinavia and north Germany, shoeing is an initiatory rite of entry into the secret society as well as a marriage rite (ihid., pp. 54-5). As Otto Hofler has shown (p. 54), the ritual of shoeing and that of the death and resurrection of the 'horse' (with or without rider) on the occasion of a marriage marks both the fiance's break with bachelordom and his entry into the class of married men.
Smith and blacksmith play a similar role in the rituals of Japanese 'male-societies'. The smith-god is called Ame no ma-hitotsu no kami, 'the one-eyed god of the sky'. Japanese mythology presents a certain number of one-eyed and one legged divinities, inseparable from the Mannerbiinde; they are the gods of the thunderbolt and the mountains or of anthro pophagous demons (Slawik, p. 698). It is known that Odin was also represented as an old one-eyed man, short-sighted or even blind.1 The phantom-horse which came into the blacksmith's shop was one-eyed. Here we come up against an intricate mythico-ritual motif, a scenario of the Mannerbiinde in which the infirmities of the characters (one-eyed or one-legged, etc.) recall the initiatory
mutilations or describe the appearance of the masters of initiation (short, dwarfish, etc.). The divinities who bore some infirmity were put into contact with 'strangers', the 'men of the mountains', the 'underground dwarfs', that is to say, with mountain populations surrounded by mystery, generally dreaded metal-workers. In Nordic mythologies the dwarfs were renowned for their admirable smithcraft. Certain fairies enjoyed the same prestige. The tradition of a people of small build, dedicated wholly to metallurgy and living in the depths of the earth, is also found elsewhere. To the Dogons, the first mythic inhabitants of the region were the Negrillos, who have since disappeared underground: but, being indefatigable smiths, the resounding clang of their hammers is still to be heard. The warrior 'male-societies' both in Europe and in central Asia and in the Far East (Japan), performed initiatory rituals in which the smith and blacksmith had their place. It is known that after the conversion to Christianity of northern Europe, Odin and the 'Savage Hunt' were compared with the devil and the hordes of the damned.
The 'mastery of fire', common both to magician, shaman and smith, was, in Christian folklore, looked upon as the work of the devil: one of the most frequently recurring popular images shows the devil spitting flames. Perhaps we have here the final mythological transformation of the arche typal image of the 'master of fire'. Odin-Wotan was the master of the wut, the furor religiosus (Wotan, id est furor, wrote Adam von Bremen). Now the wut, like other terms in the Indo-European religious vocabulary (furor, ferg, menos), signifies the anger and extreme heat provoked by an excessive ingestion of sacred power. The warrior becomes heated during his initiation fight; he produces a 'heat' which is not un reminiscent of the 'magic heat' produced by the shamans and yogi. The divine smith works with fire while the warrior god, by his furor, magically produces fire in his own body. It is this intimacy, this sympathy with fire, which unites such differing magico religious experiences and identifies such disparate vocations as that of the shaman, the smith, the warrior and the mystic.
The principal representative of Taoist Zen alchemy is Ko Ch'ang Keng, also known as Po Yu Chuan. Here is how he describes the three methods of esoteric alchemy (Waley, Notes, p. 16 sq.). In the first, the body plays the part of the element lead, and the heart that of mer cury; 'meditation' (dhyana) provides the necessary fluid and the sparks of intelligence the necessary fire. Ko Ch'ang Keng adds: 'By this method a gestation which normally requires ten months can be achieved in the twinkling of an eye.' The detail is revealing; as Waley points out, Chinese alchemy estimates that the process by which a child is engendered is capable of producing the Philosopher's Stone. This analogy is implicit in the writings of Western alchemists (they say, for example, that the fire under the receptacle or container must burn continuously for forty weeks-the period necessary for the gestation of the human embryo).
Like so many other Chinese spiritual techniques, they derived from the proto-historic tradition to which we have referred (p. 1 ro) and which included, inter alia, recipes and exercises for the purpose of achieving perfect spontaneity and vital beatitude.
The aim of 'embryonic respiration' was to imitate the breathing of the foetus in the womb. 'By returning to the base, the origin, we drive away old age, we return to the condition of the foetus', says the preface to T'ai-hsi K'eou Kiue (Oral Formulae for Embryonic Respiration).
Side by side with the chemical significance of the 'fixation' (or 'death') of mercury, there is a purely alchemical (yogi tantric) meaning. To reduce the fluidity of mercury is equiva lent to the paradoxical transmutation of the psycho-mental flow in a 'static consciousness', without any modification and hence without 'becoming'. In alchemical terms, to 'fix' or to 'kill' mercury is tantamount to attaining to the citta V[ttinirodha (suppression of conscious states), which is the ultimate aim of yoga. Hence the limitless efficiency of 'fixed' mercury. The Survarna Tantra affirms that by eating 'killed mercury' (nasta-pista), man becomes immortal; a small quantity of this 'killed mercury' can change to gold a quantity of mercury 1oo,ooo times as large.
Transmutation, the magnum opus which culminated in the Philoso pher's Stone, is achieved by causing matter to pass through four phases, named, from the colours taken on by the in gredients: melansis (black), leukosis (white), xanthosis (yellow) and iosis (red). Black (the nigredo of medieval writers) sym bolizes death, and we shall return again to this alchemical mystery. But it is important to emphasize that the four phases of the opus are already mentioned in the pseudo-Democritean Physika kai Mystika (fragment preserved by Zosimos) that is, in the first alchemical writing proper (second to first century B.c.). With innumerable variations, the four (or five) phases of the work (nigredo, alhedo, citrinitas, ruhedo, sometimes viriditas, sometimes cauda pavonis) are retained throughout the whole history of Arabian Western alchemy.
[It] recalls not only the dismemberment of Dionysius and other 'dying Gods' of the Mysteries (whose passion is, on a certain plane, closely allied with the different moments of the vegetal cycle, especially with the tortures, death and resurrection of the Spirit of Corn), but that it presents striking analogies with the initiation visions of the shamans and, in general, with the fundamental pattern of all primitive initiations. It is known that every initiation comprises a series of ritual tests symbolizing the death and resurrection of the neophyte. In the shamanic initiations, these ordeals, although undergone 'in the second state', are of an extreme cruelty. The future shaman is present, in a dream, at his own dismemberment, decapitation and death.
Ruska considers that to the Greek alchemists, 'torture' did not yet correspond to an actual operation but was symbolic. It is only with the Arab writers that 'torture' has reference to chemical operations. In the
Testament of Ga'far Sadiq, we read that dead bodies must be tortured by fire and by all the Arts of Suffering in order that they may revive; for without suffering or death one cannot achieve eternal life. 'Torture' always brought 'death' with it -mortificatio, putrefactio, nigredo. There was no hope of 'resuscitating' to a transcendent mode of being (that is, no hope of attaining to transmutation), without prior 'death'. The alchemical symbolism of torture and death is sometimes equivocal; the operation can be taken to refer either to man or to a mineral substance. In the Allegoriae super Librum Turbae we read: 'Take a man, shave him and drag him on to the stone until his body dies' (accipe hominem, tonde eum, et trahe super lapidem . . . donee corpus eius moriatur). This ambivalent symbolism permeates the whole opus alchymicum.
At the operational level, 'death' corresponds usually to the black colour (the nigredo) taken on by the various ingredients. It was the reduction of substances to the materia prima, to the massa confusa, the fluid, shapeless mass corresponding on the cosmological plane-to chaos. Death represents regression to the amorphous, the reintegration of chaos. This is why aquatic symbolism plays such an important part. One of the alchemists' maxims was: 'Perform no operation till all be made water.' On the operational level, this corresponds to the solution of purified gold in aqua regia. Kirchweger, the supposed author of the Aurea Catena Homeri (1723) - a work which, incidentally, had a great influence on the young Goethe -writes: 'For this is certain, that all nature was in the begin ning water, and through water all things were born and again through water all things must be destroyed.' The alchemical regression to the fluid state of matter corresponds, in the cosmologies, to the primordial chaotic state, and in the initiation rituals, to the 'death' of the initiate.
The Western alchemist by endeavouring to 'kill' the ingredients, to reduce them to the materia prima, provokes a sympatheia between the 'pathetic situations' of the substance and his innermost being. In other words, he realizes, as it were, some initiatory experiences which, as the course of the npus proceeds, forge for him a new per sonality, comparable to the one which is achieved after successfully undergoing the ordeals ofinitiation. His participa tion in the phases of the opus is such that the nigredo, for example, procures for him experiences analogous to those of the neophyte in the mltlatton ceremonies when he feels 'swallowed up' in the belly of the monster, or 'buried', or symbolically 'slain by the masks and masters of initiation'.
Our aim was simply to show that the spiritual crisis of the modern world includes among its remote origins the demiurgic dreams of the metallurgists, smiths and alchemists." [Forge and the Crucible]
Metaphorical approach to Hercules' 12 labours and the Zodiac.
"The labors of Hercules make the ascending path of initiation. It is a path that ‘spins' in the Zodiac. Therefore the zodiac is not the ‘wheel' but the path ‘spins' in it. The first trial to overcome is fear, getting rid of the dread that stops us at our lower nature. This is what Hercules fights against before entering the sign of the Capricorn; he has learnt that the animal (individualism of lower nature) must be sacrificed at the fire of intelligence.
The trials, then, are an initiatory journey that produces the definitive change in human nature, through many little inner changes.
Aries (21 st March-20 th April) by capturing the man-eating mares, Hercules reacts instinctively but he learns the control of the mind. The journey towards the change starts from an indistinct spiritual push expressed as a sense of justice that leads him to save the others.
Taurus (21 st April-20 th May) Hercules captures the Cretan bull ; in other words he learns that desire must become genuine aspiration by dominating sexual energy. This energy must not be repressed but addressed to the right goal. The sexual spur and the power of attraction are the fundaments of the big illusion but, eventually, energy itself causes illumination.
Gemini (21 st May-20 th June) Hercules, by picking the golden apples of knowledge , knows himself. He subdues the three aspects of the lower nature: the physical body, desire and reason. The progress was so far subjective and characterized by desire; it now starts turning into mental power.
Cancer (21 st June-20 th July) Hercules' capture of the running Diana, a sensitive hind difficult to find, symbolizes the participation of shifty intuition, which is a higher intellectual faculty. In the previous cycles experience has turned instinct into intellect; now the initiate must turn the intellect into intuitive faculty where all the lower powers must be developed and sublimed.
Leo (22 nd July- 21 st August) Hercules kills the Nemean Lion . Through this trial Hercules shows Eurystheus, the master observing him, that he's able to kill personality even when it is characterized by the courage of the sign. In a real sense, the initiate demonstrates he's able to subordinate to the superior will even the most courageous lower nature, such as the one symbolized by the lion. He gives the warranty of the strength of his proposition.
The first five labors of Hercules complete the so-called Probationary Path. The killing of the Nemean Lion represents its acme.
Virgo (22 nd August-21 st September) Hercules accomplishes his sixth labor by obtaining the girdle of Hippolyte, the Amazonian Queen. In Aries, at the beginning, Hercules started the probationary Path with a partial failure. The first labor of this new journey as well is ‘accomplished, but badly accomplished'. The morale for both is that it is easier to make mistakes at the beginning. Therefore the candidate must never lower his guard because there's always the danger of making mistakes. Sometimes virtues can become a problem and a high initiate can lose the Path as well. The failure, though, is only temporary. Although we have other chances, it is better to remember that there is always a consequence to a mistake. A delay in the cycles is always a great loss.
Libra (22 nd September-22 nd October) Hercules captures the boar , an impulsive animal that represents the mobility of emotional mind. The capture of emotiveness by the force of will balances the couple of opposites and proofs that the inner balance is reached and we are ready to enter the next sign.
Scorpio (23 rd October-22 nd November) Hercules enters the supreme trial, which is supreme for the present humankind as well. The problem is to emancipate from illusion, to free oneself from the fog and the mental miasmas that hide reality behind the theatres of appearances. In this sign Hercules successfully overcomes the biggest trial by slaying the Lernaean Hydra . After demonstrating he's able to manage desire by re-establishing the balance in his mind, the direction of his mind is univocal because it's not held by appearance.
Sagittarius (23 rd November-22 nd Dicember) Hercules improves his one-way direction. Like in Aries he captured the man-eating mares and subdues them to his purposes, he now kills the Stymphalian Birds ending once for all the tendencies to use the thought in a destructive manner.
In Capricornus (23 rd December-20 th January) Hercules, with the killing of Cerberus, becomes an initiate, a semi-god, man and Son of God able to work in the Infernal regions, on Earth and in the Sky. In the symbolism of the three-headed dog is described the definitive transfiguration of the earthly personality. Transfiguration is in fact the first of the major Initiations.
Acquario (21 st January-19 th February) Hercules reroutes the river and cleans the Augean Stables. He puts the purifying water at service of man. The water of understanding purifies the heart of the initiate. This is the meaning of the sign of Aquarius, which we entered a few years ago. It is symbolized by a Man who carries a jug of water on his shoulders. This is the symbol of the servants of humankind; for mystics it is also the symbol of the Savior of the world.
Pisces (20 th February-20 th March) Hercules captures the Red Cattle , put them in a golden bowl and skin them in the Temple. Such is the beauty of the sign in which man becomes the savior of the world by transcending and redeeming the animal essence in humankind.
On the path of self-conscience the character and the nature of Hercules are put to the test, until the qualities that characterize his materiality are transmuted and reveal the soul. This turns him into a semi-god, like any other initiate.
This consciousness is the realization of the Path that Hercules reaches with will power and intelligence, accepting that suffering is the biggest purifying force."
Coronatio or, more properly, enthronement: a divinizing operation taking place on the seat of a regent or archetypal human form, in a flame-ridden, quadrangular (sometimes cuboidal) space, often described as a mountain, to which subterranean, infernal features may be associated.
Copulatio: effectuation by a female initiatrix. This agent is presented as a luminous, divine hypostasis and is identified with the ceremonial space itself. Further, she is described as the cause and substance of the material universe through the recurring symbols of a tree (organic growth) and the act of weaving (fabrication).
Corporatio: As a consequence of the preceding, the incumbent initiate perceives cosmic corporeality (the universe as coherent, organic unit) and epiphanically identifies the universal ensemble with his own body (the two being anatomically analogous).
Oecumene: A political ethic of respect for boundaries derives from this ordeal, given that each social entity is experienced as an organ in a common body whose health would be adversely affected by tumorous aggression. In Western terms this ethic is properly denoted the principle of subsidiarity."
René Schwaller de Lubicz and the Hermetic Problem of Salt
"Just as sulphur and mercury react to form a salt (cinnabar; mercuric sulphide), so too, for Schwaller, do meta-physical and proto-physical forces react to form the concrete world of visible, physical reality. Whereas sulphur was traditionally seen to impart soul, and mercury spirit, salt imparted but also embodied the principle of fixedness and solidity. Salt was conceived as the bedrock of physical existence, both the immutable principle and corruptible “body” of any phenomenon. According to this schematic, salt is both the formative force and physical product, noumenon and phenomenon, straddling the realms of eternity and transience. The meaning of the hermetic problem of salt thus inheres in its role as juncture between metaphysical and physical realities. This, it is argued, cuts to the very core of the conception of matter in alchemy, irreversibly complicating the dualistic notions of “spiritual” versus “material” so central to empirical-historical dichotomization. Comments de Lubicz:
"with the notion of salt, we are reaching a point that represents the limit of rational and irrational, where metaphysics and physics meet; it is a moment that can only be described as transcendent, yet it must remain inseparable from the concrete. It is not something that can be explained. But it can be shown, yet there is no guarantee that even when shown, you will see. For actually, the entire universe and every detail of it is such a juncture of transcendency with concreteness. So why don’t you see it right here and now?"
For Schwaller, the ‘Hermetic problem of Salt’ hinges upon a metaphysics of perception, and germane to this perception is the observation that the mineral kingdom is a spiritual presence. The mineral kingdom, the most “material” of all phenomena, was for Schwaller the maternal, nourishing matrix of metallic life (the “womb” of metallogenesis), as well as the paternal foundation for biological life (the “skeleton” of biological genesis). As such, the most enduring part of the animate body—the incorruptible mineral ashes of the bones that endure the death of the entity to survive all putrefaction and combustion—were seen to contain the agent of all transmutations. These alkaline salts, mythically identified with the phoenix that rises from its ashes and the alchemical salamander that ‘lives in fire and feeds on fire’, were regarded as the key not only to individual immortality, but also to the qualitative mutations (leaps) between kingdoms and species.
With unusual specificity, Schwaller held that the human femur contains an incorruptible nucleus upon which the most vital moments of human consciousness could be permanently “inscribed”. Te fixed salt, ‘which compared to the chromosome is extremely fixed or even indestructible’, was seen by Schwaller as more permanent than DNA and accorded a key role in his esoteric theory of evolution (genesis). Contrary to the Darwinian theory (where only the characteristics of the species are able to be preserved through genetic transmission), Schwaller maintained that the salt located in the femur is the precise mechanism by which individual characteristics—the vital modes of consciousness—are able to be preserved and transmitted beyond the death of the individual. Tis salt was therefore central to the alchemical process of rebirth (palingenesis). Within the wider framework of Schwaller’s cosmology—in which material genesis is conceived as the visible index of the evolution of consciousness—the alchemical salt forms the “magnet” that draws primordial matter through the existential vehicles of the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms towards the ultima materia (or telos) of ‘spiritual concretion’. As such it formed the hidden link—the invisible bond in the chain of continuity—in the otherwise apparently discontinuous process in which the generation and corruption of evolving forms is situated. As will be seen, salt for Schwaller acts as a centre of gravity, a point of densification which condenses primordial, unformed energy into solid materiality to form a “core” or “nucleus” that evokes, in proportionate reaction to the force of densification, a force of energetic expansion. These two “directions of force”—one inward and contractive; one outward and expansive—share a common centre, a nexus of centripetal and centrifugal activity. Simultaneously, these two forces constitute a unified whole that exists as a balance or neutralization of the two energies. Tis bi-fold energy is reflected in all kingdoms in the dense inner and soft outer levels of all bodies: the nucleus versus electron cloud of the atom (mineral); the trunk or stem versus the leaves (vegetable); and the bones versus the organs and flesh (animal). Te salt in the femur is thus the primordial link in the chain of being. The aim of this hieratikē technē is to liberate the consciousness of an entity by rendering its body—its vehicle of expression—increasingly immortal.
Heaven knows a civilised life is impossible without salt and so necessary is this basic substance that its name is applied metaphorically even to intense mental pleasures. We call them sales [wit] ... But the clearest proof of its importance is that no sacrifce is carried out without the mola salsa.
Since Paracelsus (1493-1541), salt has played a role in alchemy as the physical “body” which remains after combustion, the corporeal substance that survives death to reinaugurate new life. It was both ‘corruption and preservation against corruption’ (Dorn); both the ‘last agent of corruption’ and the ‘first agent in generation’ (Steeb). As such, the alchemical salt functions as the fulcrum of death and revivification. The idea that the agent, instrument and patient of the alchemical process are not separate entities but aspects of one reality prefigures the significance accorded to ‘the hermetic problem of salt’. Just as in chemistry a salt may be defined as the product of an acid and a base, alchemically, salt is the integral resolution to the primordial polarities embodied in the mineral symbolique of cinnabar (HgS), the salt of sulphur and mercury. In the alchemy of Schwaller de Lubicz, salt forms the equilibrium between an active function (sulphur, divinity, peiras) and its passive resistance (mercurial substance, prima materia, the apeiron), aspects which are latently present in the primordial (pre-polarised) unity, but crystallised into physical existence as “salt”. With Schwaller’s concept, one is dealing with a juncture of the metaphysical and proto-physical. As will be seen, however, this also inheres in the body as a fulcrum point of death and palingenesis.
Visser, in an extraordinary study of the elements of an ordinary meal, aptly encapsulates the cultural purview of salt in the following words:
Salt is the only rock directly consumed by man. It corrodes but preserves, desiccates but is wrested from the water. It has fascinated man for thousands of years not only as a substance he prized and was willing to labour to obtain, but also as a generator of poetic and of mythic meaning. The contradictions it embodies only intensify its power and its links with experience of the sacred.
European languages derive their word ‘salt’ from Proto-Indo-European *sāl- (*sēl-) refected directly in Latin as sal, ‘salt, salt water, brine; intellectual savour, wit’, Greek hals, ‘salt, sea’ (cf. Welsh halen) and in Proto-Germanic as *saltom (Old English sealt, Gothic salt, German Salz). In addition to its mineral referent, sal also gives rise to a number of cognates that help crystallise its further semantic and symbolic nuances. Saltus, saltum, ‘leap’, derives from the verb salio, ‘leap, jump, leap sexually’, whence Saliī, ‘priests of Mars’ from the ‘primitive rites (practically universal) of dancing or leaping for the encouragement of crops’; saltāre, ‘dance’, salmo, ‘salmon’ (leaping fsh), (in)sultāre, (‘insult’, literally ‘leap on, in’; fguratively, ‘taunt, provoke, move to action’), all from Indo-European *sēl-, ‘move forth, start up or out’, whence Greek ἁλλομαι, άλτo, ἁλμα (hallomai, halto, halma), ‘leap’; Sanskrit ucchalati (*ud-sal-), ‘starts up’. Importantly for the alchemical conception, alongside ‘leap’ one fnds the meanings at the root of English ‘salve’ (balm, balsam), derived from Indo-European *sel-p-, *sel-bh-, and giving rise to Cyprian elphos (butter), Gothic salbōn, Old English sealfan; in Latin: salus, ‘soundness, health, safety’; salūbris, ‘wholesome, healthy’; salūtāre, ‘keep safe, wish health, salute’; salvus, ‘safe, sound’; salvēre, ‘be in good health’; salvē, ‘hail!’; cf. also *sēl-eu-; Avestan huarva, ‘whole, uninjured’; Sanskrit sarva-, sarvatāti, ‘soundness’ and Greek ὁλοειται, ὁλος (holoeitai, holos), ‘whole’. Tese meanings are further connected to solidus, sollus, sōlor, with an ultimate sense of ‘gathering, compacting’, hence ‘solidity’.
In particular, it pertains to Schwaller’s conception of salt as the fixed imperishable nucleus (solidus) regarded as the hidden mechanism underpinning the ontological ‘leaps’ or mutations of visible evolution (contra the Aristotelian dicta, natura non facit saltum, ‘nature does not proceed by a leap’). For Schwaller, the seemingly disconnected leaps of biological mutation are in fact bound by a hidden harmony grounded in the saline alchemical nucleus.
A number of studies have pointed to the crucial role of salt as a significant shaper of civilization. Perhaps the earliest point of departure for this is the fact that salt only rises to especial prominence with the emergence of an agricultural economy. Salt intake, initially bound to blood and meat, had to be supplemented. Comments Darby:
When man first learnt the use of salt is enshrouded in the mists of the remotest past. Parallel to the Ancient Greek’s ignorance of the seasoning, the original Indo-Europeans and the Sanskrit speaking peoples had no word for it. Tis apparent lack of salt-craving in early people could have been a result of their reliance on raw or roasted meat. Later, when with the invention of boiling the sodium content of meat was reduced, and when the shift to an agricultural economy introduced vegetables in increasing amounts, sodium chloride became a basic need to provide an adequate sodium intake and, more important still, to counterbalance the high potassium content of plants. Commodity histories show that salt was not always the easily available resource it is today; it had to be striven for; it required effort and ingenuity (perhaps even wit). It created trade and war; it was used as pay and exploited as a tax. Nor did salt have the current stigma of being an unhealthy excess (a problem symptomatic of modern surfeit). Quite to the contrary, salt was typically a sign of privilege and prestige. ‘Salt like speech is essentially semiotic’, Adshead remarks; ‘As such it could convey a variety of meanings, of which the clearest in early times was social distance: high cooking, low cooking, above and below the salt’. Considerations such as these help contextualize many of the ancient values surrounding salt, some of which have become proverbial. In the New Testament, for instance, but also elsewhere, the sharing of salt (often with bread at a table), represented a deep bond of trust, of communal solidarity, while the spilling of it was considered a grave faux pas.36 Indeed, if salt was as freely available for liberal exploitation as it is today, such ethical and social implications would scarcely carry any weight at all.
Most of salt’s social meanings reflect its deepest functional value as a preservative. Just as salt keeps the integrity of plants and meats intact, so salt was seen to keep the integrity of a body of people together. As a prestige substance that could preserve food through the death of winter and bind people in communal solidarity, salt was highly regarded; during Roman times, salt even became a form of currency, whence our word ‘salary’ (from Latin salārium, ‘salt money’) after the Roman habit of paying soldiers in pieces of compressed salt (hence the phrase: ‘to be worth one’s salt’). Because of its integrating character, salt bridges opposites. Paradoxically, however, the more one attempts to pin salt down in a strictly rational manner, the more the contradictions it embodies abound.
‘There are totally different opinions concerning salt’, writes Plutarch who preserves a number of contemporary beliefs, including the view that salt possesses not only preservative qualities, but animating and even generative power:
Some include salt with the most important spices and healing materials, calling it the real ‘soul of life’, and it is supposed to possess such nourishing and enlivening powers that mice if they lick salt at once become pregnant.
Consider also whether this other property of salt is not divine too [...] As the soul, our most divine element, preserves life by preventing dissolution of the body, just so salt, controls and checks the process of decay. Tis is why some Stoics say that the sow at birth is dead flesh, but that the soul is implanted in it later, like salt, to preserve it [...] Ships carrying salt breed an infinite number of rats because, according to some authorities, the female conceives without coition by licking salt.
The connection of salt to the soul, a balsam to the body, will be explored in more detail when the alchemical contexts of salinity are examined. Its fertilizing, generative power, on the other hand, bears obvious comparison to salt’s known capacity to stimulate the growth of the earth—a leavening function extended to the role of the Apostles in the Christian Gospels: ‘Ye are the salt of the earth’. And yet too much salt will make the earth sterile.
In ancient times, oferings to the gods were made with salt among the Israelites: ‘with all thine oferings thou shalt ofer salt’, but without salt among the Greeks: ‘mindful to this day of the earlier customs, they roast in the fame the entrails in honour of the gods without adding salt’. The Egyptian priests favoured rock salt in sacrifices as purer than sea salt; and yet ‘one of the things forbidden to them is to set salt upon a table’; they ‘abstain completely from salt as a point of religion, even eating their bread unsalted’. Although the Egyptians ‘never brought salt to the table’, Pythagoras, who according to the doxographic traditions studied in the Egyptian temples, tells us that:
It should be brought to the table to remind us of what is right; for salt preserves whatever it finds, and it arises from the purest sources, the sun and the sea.
The understanding of salt as a product of sun and sea, i.e. of fire and water, ouranos and oceanos, touches on its broader esoteric and cosmological implications, not all of which were peculiar to Pythagoras. These aspects become central in alchemy, where, as will be seen, salt acts as the earthly ligature between fire (sun) and water (sea), the arcane substance whose patent ambiguities stem from its role as embodiment and juncture of opposites: purity and impurity, eros and enmity, wetness and desication, fertility and sterility, love and strife.
Above all, salt is ambiguous. While some of these ambiguities may be attributed to the unevenness of the sources, and while some points of contradiction may be cleared up upon closer examination (the negative Egyptian views on salt, for instance, mainly seem to apply to times of ritual fasting), this does not eclipse the overarching sense that salt, by its very nature, defies strict definition.
From numerous ancient sources describing the nature of salt, one arrives at the view that salt’s piquant efect was seen to extend beyond the sensation on the tongue.49 Salt stimulated not only the appetite but desire in general. And because desire polarizes the religious impulse more than anything else—a path of liberation to some, a hindrance to others—it is understandable why the Egyptians, according to Plutarch, ‘make it a point of religion to abstain completely from salt’. Equally, one can understand how salt, as an aphrodisiac, was connected specifically to the cult of Aphrodite, the goddess of desire par excellence. As Plutarch notes, the stimulating nature of eroticism evoked by the feminine is expressed using the very language of salt:
"For this reason perhaps, feminine beauty is called ‘salty’ and ‘piquant’ when it is not passive, nor unyielding, but has charm and provocativeness. I imagine that the poets called Aphrodite ‘born of brine’ [...] by way of alluding to the generative property of salt."
Plutarch is referring to a tradition preserved by Hesiod. Our own language still preserves this deep association between salt and provocative beauty. Latin sal lies, phonetically and semantically, at the root of words such as salsa and sauce (both meaning ‘salted’), whence the deep connection between sexuality and food implicit in the habit of referring to provocative objects of desire as ‘saucy’ or ‘sassy’ (both derivations of sal). And so the most stimulating favours—the saltiest, those that that make us salivate—are the ones most readily appropriated to express our desire.
The ancient etymology of Aphrodite as ‘brine-born’ (from aphros, ‘sea-spume’) is deeply mired not only in desire but also enmity, the twin impulses that Empedocles would call ‘Love and Strife’ (Philotēs kai Neikos). Aphrodite, one learns, is born from the primordial patricide (and perhaps a crime of passion). Hesiod’s Theogony tells us how the goddess Gaia (Earth), the unwilling recipient of the lusts of Ouranos (Heaven), incites the children born of this union against their hated father. Not without Oedipal implications, Cronus rises surreptitiously against his progenitor and, with a sickle of jagged flint, severs his father’s genitals:
And so soon as he had cut of the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam (aphros) spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. [...] Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and the foam-born goddess [...] because she grew amid the foam.
As will be seen, these two primordial impulses prove pivotal to the alchemical function of salt that is met in Schwaller—the determiner of all afnities and aversions. And if Aphrodite is connected to salt’s desire-provoking aspect, it will come as no surprise to find that her ultimate counterpart was associated with just the opposite: war and strife. As is well known, Aphrodite is paired with Ares among the Greeks (as Venus is to Mars among the Romans), but the origins of her cult are intimately bound to Ancient Near Eastern origins;55 moreover, in her Phoenician incarnation (Astarte), she embodies not only eros and sexuality, but war and strife. Presumably because of these traits, the Egyptian texts of the early Eighteenth Dynasty saw ft to partner her with their own untamed transgressor god, Seth-Typhon—a divinity who, like Aphrodite, was associated specifically with sea-salt and sea-spume (aphros).
‘Sea’, writes Heraclitus, ‘is the most pure and the most polluted water; for fshes it is drinkable and salutary, but for men it is undrinkable and deleterious’. For the Egyptians, anything connected with the sea was, in general, evaluated negatively. Sea- salt in particular was regarded as impure, the ‘spume’ or ‘foam’ of Typhon (ἀφρος τυφωνις, aphros typhônis). Plutarch explains this by the fact that the Nile’s pure waters run down from their source and empty into the unpalatable, salty Mediterranean.59 Tis natural phenomenon takes on cosmological ramifications: because of the southern origin of the life-giving Nilotic waters, south became the direction associated with the generative source of all existence; north on the other hand—culminating in the Nile delta where the river is swallowed by the sea—was regarded as the realm in which the pure, living waters were annihilated by the impure, salty waters. Comments Plutarch:
For this reason the priests keep themselves aloof from the sea, and call salt the ‘spume of Typhon’, and one of the things forbidden to them is to set salt upon a table; also they do not speak to pilots; because these men make use of the sea, and gain their livelihood from the sea [...] Tis is the reason why they eschew fish.
While sea salt was avoided, salt in rock form was considered quite pure: Egyptian priests were known to access mines of rock salt from the desert Oasis of Siwa. Arrian, the third century B C E historian, remarks:
There are natural salts in this district, to be obtained by digging; some of these salts are taken by the priests of Amon going to Egypt. For whenever they are going towards Egypt, they pack salt into baskets woven of palm leaves and take them as a present to the king or someone else. Both Egyptians and others who are particular about religious observance, use this salt in their sacrifces as being purer than the sea-salts.62
Thus, like the arid red desert and the fertile nilotic soil, the briny sea was contrasted with the fresh waters of the Nile to oppose the foreign with the familiar, the impure with the pure, and, ultimately, the Sethian with the Osirian. So too, sea salt and rock salt.
The deeper implications of the Typhonian nature of seawater emerge in the Greek Magical Papyri where the Egyptian deity Seth-Typhon is found taking on many of the epithets typically accorded by the Greeks to Poseidon: ‘mover of the seas great depths’; ‘boiler of waves’; ‘shaker of rocks’; ‘wall trembler’, etc.—all intimating the vast, destructive powers deriving from the ocean’s primal depths. This numinous power must be understood as the potency underpinning the materia magica prescribed in the invocations to Seth-Typhon, where, among other things, one finds the presence of seashells or seawater in Typhonian rituals. One does not have to look far before one realises that magic employin shells from the salt-sea forms part of a wider genre within the magical papyri—spells that have the explicit aim of efecting intense sexual attraction. The role of Typhon in such spells is clear: he is invoked to efect an afnity so strong that the person upon whom this agonistic and erotic magic is used will sufer psychophysical punishments (e.g. insomnia: ‘give her the punishments’; ‘bitter and pressing necessity’, etc.) until their desire for the magician is physically consummated.
Interestingly, the premiere substance sympathetic to Seth-Typhon was iron: the metal most drastically corrupted by salt. Moreover, iron and salt-water are the primary constituents of human blood, a microcosmic recapitulation of the primordial salt ocean (mythologically conceived: the cosmogonic waters; evolutionarily conceived: the marine origin of species). Blood is the symbol par excellence for intense passion, and its two poles are love and war, a fact which precisely explains Seth-Typhon’s overwhelming functions in the magical papyri: eros and enmity. Again, it is no surprise that intense sexual attraction (desire, affinity, union) and intense hatred (repulsion, aversion, separation) evoke Empedocles’ principles of ‘Love and Strife’—the functions governing the unification and separation of the four elements. Moreover, the connection of Seth with redness, blood, eros, war and the like equates with everything that the Indian sages placed under the rubric of rajas, the excited passions, which, as has been seen, are distinctly associated with the stimulating power of salt.65 Be that as it may, the same divine energeia fed and informed the functions of the Greek and Roman war gods, Ares and Mars, both of whom take the association with iron in the scale of planetary metals, as did Seth-Typhon among the Egyptians.
Seth is not only connected to salt, but to the power of the bull’s thigh, the instrument by which the gods are ritually killed and revivified. Here the connection of Seth to the power of the thigh suggests the pivotal role played by this god in the quintessentially alchemical process of death and rebirth, of slaying and nourishment.
Between Acid and Alkali
In the middle ages, the meaning of the term ‘salt’ was widened to include substances that were seen to resemble common salt (e.g. in appearance, solubility and so forth). Chemically speaking, a salt is a neutralization reaction between an acid and a base. Te two have a natural affinity for each other, one seeking to gain an electron (the acid), the other seeking to lose one (the base). When this occurs, the product is a salt. While more complex chemical definitions of salt can be given, this one, advanced by Guillaume Francois Rouelle allows one to perceive the broader principles that motivated the alchemists to select salt as the mineral image of the interaction of sulphur and mercury (cinnabar, HgS, a salt in the chemical sense formed from sulphur and mercury). As Mark Kurlansky points out:
It turned out that salt was once a microcosm for one of the oldest concepts of nature and the order of the universe. From the fourth century B.C. Chinese belief in the forces of yin and yang, to most of the worlds religions, to modern science, to the basic principles of cooking, there has always been a belief that two opposing forces fnd completion—one receiving a missing part and the other shedding an extra one. A salt is a small but perfect thing.
More precise chemical defnitions specify that a salt is an electrically neutral ionic compound. Here, the same principle of perfect equipoise between opposing energies prevails. Ions are atoms or molecules whose net electrical charge is either positive or negative: either the protons dominate to produce an ion with a positive electric charge (an anion, from Greek ana-, ‘up’), or the electrons dominate to produce an ion with a negative electric charge (a cation, from Greek kata-, ‘down’). When anions and cations bond to form an ionic compound whose electric charges are in equilibrium, they neutralize and the result is called a salt.
The chemical defnition opens up the conception of salt beyond that of mere sodium chloride. Chemically, the coloured oxides and other reactions of metals—of especial significance to the alchemical perception—are often salts (the metal itself taking the role of base; oxygen the acid). Alchemically, or at least proto-chemically, because the reactions of metals were coloured, they were important signifiers of the metal’s nature, often seen as an index of its spirit or tincture (ios, ‘tincture, violet/purple’). Te seven planetary metals were often signifed by their coloured salts or oxides: e.g. lead is white; iron, red (rust); copper is blue/green; silver is black. Gold remains pure (unreacting) but its tincture was identified with royal purple (seen in the red-purple colour of colloidal gold, gold dust, ruby glass etc.)
In the Greek “proto-chemical” texts that Marcellin Berthelot brought together under the rubric of alchemy, several different salts are distinguished and listed in the registers alongside the lists of planetary metals and other chemically significant minerals. In addition to salt (halas), one fnds common salt (halas koinon) and sal ammoniak (halas amoniakon). More importantly, however, is the signifcant prefiguration of the tria prima and tetrastoicheia (four element) relationship that is found in Olympiodorus (late fifth century C E ).71 Olympiodorus depicts an ouroboric serpent to which some important symbolic nuances are added. In addition to the usual henadic (unitary) symbolism of this ancient motif, the text displays its serpent with four feet and three ears. The glosses to the image inform us that ‘the four feet are the tetrasōmia’ (the four elemental bodies) while the three ears are ‘volatile spirits’ (aithalai). As will be seen in the balance of this thesis, this relationship of unity to duality, duality to trinity, and trinity to quaternary is pivotal to the hermetic physics that Schwaller would attempt to convey in terms of an alchemical Farbenlehre (cf. the Pythagorean tetraktys).
The four elemental bodies have been interpreted as lead, copper, tin and iron, (Pb, Cu, Sn, Fe), while the three sublimed vapours have been identified with sulphur, mercury and arsenic (S, Hg, As).72 Although salt is not included in this depiction, what is significant is that here one fnds the exact framework in which salt would later be situated as one of the three principles (tria prima: sulphur, mercury, salt) alongside the four Empedoclean elements (tetrastoicheia: fre, air, water, earth); here salt may be seen to replace arsenic due to its more integral relationship to sulphur and mercury in the form of cinnabar (mercuric sulphide, HgS): the salt of mercury and sulphur. In regards to the metaphysical and cosmological nuances of the symbolism, it may be noted that the three ears are outside the circle while the four legs are inside, a fact that coheres with the view of the trinity as creative and therefore standing outside of creation, while the four elements, being created, are circumscribed within (cf. the distinction in Neoplatonism between hypercosmic and encosmic forces, or in Eastern Orthodox theology between uncreated and created energies).
Salt is both the ‘root of the art’ and ‘the soap of the sages’ (sapo sapientum) and is described as ‘bitter’ (sal amarum). Perhaps the most interesting signification in the Rosarium, in light of the role salt would take as the pivot of death and revivification, is the description of salt as ‘the key that closes and opens’.
Here one begins to meet the same duality of function that gives salt its inherent ambiguity. However, its identification with the function of a key (clavis) helps considerably in conceiving salt with more clarity. Te Gloria Mundi would later reveal that salt ‘becomes impure and pure of itself, it dissolves and coagulates itself, or, as the sages say, locks and unlocks itself’.85 Here one gains a good intimation of the function that salt would be later accorded in the traditions that emerge in Schwaller. Perhaps the most concise encapsulation, in relation to the idea of salt as the pivot of death and palingenesis, is Johan Christoph Steeb’s remark that sal sit ultimum in corruptione, sed & primum in generatione, ‘salt is the last in corruption and the first in generation’.
Contrary to the habit of many scholars of alchemy to attribute the sulphur-mercury- salt theory to Paracelsus, the triad in fact emerged as an alchemical motif before Paracelsus. As both Eberly and Haage inform us, it was Abu Bakr Muhammad Zakariyya Ar-Razi (d. 925) who added the third principle of salt to the primordial alchemical principles (sulphur and mercury) inherited from Greek antiquity (implicit in the exhalation theory of metallogenesis), and already existing in Jabir’s system.77 Tis and related traditions must be recognised as clear precursors to Paracelsus’s conception of the tria prima.
Although it is important to recognize that the essential structure of the tria prima was already in place before Paracelsus (indeed, it is inherent to the composition of cinnabar), it is undeniable that the triad of sulphur, mercury and salt is raised by Paracelsus to a previously unparalleled prominence. Paracelsus was hardly one to follow ancient authorities merely at their word. Indeed, it is imperative to recognize from the start that Paracelsus learnt much of his knowledge about minerals directly from the mines. While Paracelsus travelled widely, he lived and worked chiefly in southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland. If anywhere is to be regarded as “Paracelsus country”, it is the Alpine regions of Salzburg and its surrounds. Now, Salzburg, as its name (‘salt mountain’) attests, has long been the chief source of sodium for the surrounding regions: that is to say, rock salt, mined from the mountains, not sea salt. To this day in Austria and southern Germany common table salt is sold in an iodized form (Jodsalz) because its rock form, which is pure sodium, lacks the beneficial “impurities” that accrue to sea salt (iodine being an essential nutritional mineral).
In Paracelsus’ writings, the tria prima are often compared to the three aspects that are present during the process of combustion (i.e. fre, smoke, ash): ‘Whatever burns is sulphur, whatever is humid is mercury, and that which is the balsam of these two is salt’.87 Paracelsians also employed the tria prima to represent the composition of the human microcosm: spirit (mercury), soul (sulphur) and body (salt), and this correlation was extended to some extent to the Christian trinity: father (sulphur), holy spirit (mercury), son (salt).88 ‘In this manner’, states Paracelsus, ‘in three things, all has been created [...] namely, in salt, in sulphur, and in liquid. In these three things all things are contained, whether sensate or insensate [...] So too you understand that in the same manner that man is created [in the image of the triune God], so too all creatures are created in the number of the Trinity, in the number three’.89
Given the foregoing, it is tempting to oversimplify the meaning of salt as the “physical body”, but if this were the case, if salt was merely representative of corporeality, any mineral could have served the function of “body”. It does not answer the question: why salt? One key to answering this question—while also avoiding the narrow bind of oversimplifcation—lies in Schwaller’s observation that salt is the ‘foundation and support of the body’ and the ‘guardian of form’.90 Tis is underscored by the fact that Paracelsus describes salt as a balsam:
God, in his goodness and greatness, willed that man should be led by Nature to such a state of necessity as to be unable to live naturally without natural Salt. Hence its necessity in all foods. Salt is the balsam of Nature, which drives away the corruption of the warm Sulphur with the moist Mercury, out of which two ingredients man is by nature compacted. Now, since it is necessary that these prime constituents should be nourished with something like themselves, it follows as a matter of course that man must use ardent foods for the sustenance of his internal Sulphur; moist foods for nourishing the Mercury, and salted foods for keeping the Salt in a faculty for building up the body. Its power for conservation is chiefly seen in the fact that it keeps dead flesh for a very long time from decay; hence it is easy to guess that it will still more preserve living flesh.
Moreover, in German, Balsam possesses the meaning of something that heals or preserves, and it is easy to see how this balsamic function is specific to salt, a substance which is still used widely to preserve the flesh of plants and animals. Indeed, salt is a salve (from Latin sal), and it is worth noting in this connection that Balsam forms the German word for mummification (Balsamierung, ‘em-balm-ing’), and that one of the main substances used by the Egyptians for preserving their mummies was a salt (natron), which served as an anhydrous (drying) agent, desiccating the flesh and therefore preventing putrefaction.92 Once again, the function of salt it to preserve, and yet at the same time, salt also corrodes or is corrosion.
Quite apart from common table salt, or any other purely chemical salt for that matter, the medieval alchemists refer to the ‘Salt of the Philosophers’ or ‘Salt of the Sages (Sal Sapientie)’. One thing that distinguishes what is often designated as “our Salt”—i.e. “philosophical salt”—from common chemical salts is the fact that it is seen to possess the ability to preserve not plants but metals. Basil Valentine, in Key IV of his Zwölf Schlüssel, states:
Just as salt is the great preserver of all things and protects them from putrefaction, so too is the salt of our magistry a protector of metals from annihilation and corruption. However, if their balsam—their embodied saline spirit (eingeleibter Salz-Geist)—were to die, withering away from nature like a body which perishes and is no longer fruitful, then the spirit of metals will depart, leaving through natural death an empty, dead husk from which no life can ever rise again.
It is the clavis which binds and unbinds, preserves and corrupts. It itself does not undergo the process which it enacts, embodies or disembodies. Importantly, however, as one learns from Schwaller, salt acts as the permanent mineral “memory” of this eternal process of generation and corruption.
Perhaps the most interesting and influential synthesis of esoteric theological and cosmological ideas on salt are those that crystallize in the tradition of Jacob Boehme, where salt emerges as a spiritual-material integrum central to a trinitarian theosophia. Here one learns that earthly or material salt recapitulates a heavenly potency called by Boehme salliter; this heavenly salt is an explosive force of light and fire likened to gunpowder (sal-nitre, cf. Paracelsus’ ‘terrestrial lightning’). For Boehme, this heavenly and earthly salt are indicated by the two “halves” of the conventional salt symbol, which resemble two hemispheres, one turned upon the other (one “giving” and the other “receiving”). These theories reach a magnificent depth of expression in Georg von Welling’s Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Teosophicum. Welling, an alchemist for whom the books of theology and nature were thoroughly complementary, worked as a director of mining in the town of Baden-Durlach (a position that allowed him to explore his extensive knowledge and passion for both the practicalities and the mysteries of geology). His monumental Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum explores how the rich relationship of salt as fire/air/sulphur on one hand, and water/earth/mercury on the other, is played out in all its intricacies to convey the mysterious dynamic of the fire-water juncture embodied in heavenly and earthly salt (Welling uses the Hebrew term for heaven, schemajim, literally, ‘fire-water’ alongside the superimposed alchemical triangles of fire and water to form the Star of David). In his initial chapters, Welling describes the common symbol of salt as a ‘cubical’ figure and thus the figure of an ‘earthly body’; ‘its form is diaphanous or transparent, like glass’; it is ‘malleable and fluid and all bodies penetrate it with ease’. ‘Its taste is sour or acidic and a little astringent’; it is of a ‘desiccating nature and character’; moreover, it is ‘cooling’ and yet ‘in its interior there is a natural or genuine fire’.
As Magee has demonstrated, hermetic influences in general, and Paracelsian and Boehmian ideas in particular, fed into and informed the work of G. W. F. Hegel. ‘According to an ancient and general opinion’, writes Hegel, ‘each body consists of four elements.
To this, Hegel adds: ‘It should not be overlooked [...] that in their essence they contain and express the determinations of the Concept’. According to Magee, this admission is highly significant, for Hegel is saying that ‘if the alchemical language of Paracelsus, Böhme, and others is considered in a nonliteral way, its inner content is, in essence, identical to his system’ (i.e. the ‘determinations of the Concept’).
Interestingly, despite Boehme’s known influence on mainstream academic philosophers such as Schelling and Hegel, it is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra that emerges from the modern German academic tradition with the most abiding insights into the phenomenon of salt. Curiously, although it possesses no apparent connections to esoteric or alchemical discourse, Zarathustra as a whole is nevertheless pervaded with a pronounced hermetic ambiance; somehow, Nietzsche’s remarks on salt penetrate right to the heart of its mysterium. At the end of book three, Zarathustra not only speaks of salt as binding opposites, but also connects this to a desire for eternity which cannot be satisfied through simple procreation:
"If ever I drunk a full draught from that vessel of foaming spice, in which all things are well-blent: If ever my hand fused the nearest to the farthest, fire to spirit, desire to suffering and the worst to the best:
If I myself were a grain of that redeeming salt that makes all things in the vessel well-blent:— —for there is a salt that binds good with evil; for even the most evil is worthy to be a spice for the final over-foaming—
O how should I not be rutting after eternity and after the conjugal ring of rings— the ring of recurrence! Never have I found the woman by whom I wanted children, for it would be this woman that I love: for I love you, O Eternity!
For I love you, O eternity!"
Salt as the redeeming juncture of opposites is framed by Nietzsche in terms that evoke the themes of autonomous morality expressed in his Jenseits von Gut und Bösen. Running deeper, however, is the surprising link that Nietzsche makes between salt and a desire for eternity that cannot be met through procreation; here one recognizes not only the Indo-European ‘path of the fathers’ versus the ‘path of the gods’, but also the two paths in alchemy known as la voie humide and la voie sèche—the wet and the dry ways. Nietzsche taps directly into the crux of the human œuvre. Genetic continuity, i.e. continuity of and through the species, does not satisfy the soul’s desire for eternity; only the desire that is fixed in the salt, deep in the bones, has the capacity to survive biological generation and corruption. Nietzsche’s love for eternity expresses the same reality that Schwaller articulated in terms of the saline nucleus in the femur: the path of eternity, palingenesis and resurrection, hinges not on the chromosomes but upon a fixed mineral salt.
Unity manifests itself as Trinity. It is the “creatrix” of form, but still not form itself; form emerges through movement, that is, Time and Space.99
—Schwaller de Lubicz
Schwaller’s understanding of the tria prima as the creatrix of form is essentially consonant with the trinitarian conceptions of Egyptian (and later Pythagorean) cosmogonic theology. Here, the creator’s divine hypostases—Hu, Sia and Heka— manifest as the extra- or hyper-cosmic forces that exist before creation; they are the forces necessary to the establishment of creation rather than creation per se.
"Te Trinity, that is to say the Tree Principles, is the basis of all reasoning, and this is why in the whole “series of genesis” it is necessary to have all [three] to establish the foundational Triad that will be[come] the particular Triad. It includes first of all an abstract or nourishing datum, secondly a datum of measure, rhythmization and fixation, and finally, a datum which is concrete or fixed like seed. Tis is what the hermetic philosophers have transcribed, concretely and symbolically, by Mercury, Sulphur and Salt, playing on the metallic appearance in which metallic Mercury plays the role of nutritive substance, Sulphur the coagulant of this Mercury, and Salt the fixed product of this function. In general, everything in nature, being a formed Species, will be Salt. Everything that coagulates a nourishing substance will be Sulphur or of the nature of Sulphur, from the chromosome to the curdling of milk. Everything that is coagulable will be Mercury, whatever its form." [SCHWALLER, ‘Le monde de la trinité’, Notes et propos inédits I, 65-6]
The image of coagulation—with Sulphur as the coagulating agent, Mercury as the coagulated substance, and Salt as the resulting form—is used repeatedly by Schwaller. The formal articulation of this idea, as published in his mature œuvre, connects the motif to the embryological process:
In biology, the great mystery is the existence, in all living beings, of albumin or albuminoid (proteinaceous) matter. One of the albuminoid substances is coagulable by heat (the white of the egg is of this type), another is not. The albuminoid substance carrying the spermatozoa is of this latter type. Te albuminoid sperm cannot be coagulated because it carries the spermatozoa that coagulate the albuminoid substance of the female ovum. As soon as one spermatozoon has penetrated the ovum, this ovum coagulates on its surface, thus preventing any further penetration: fertilization has occurred. (In reality, this impenetrability is not caused by a material obstacle, the solid shell, but by the fact that the two equal energetic polarities repel one another). Te spermatozoon therefore plays the role of a “vital coagulating fire” just as common fire coagulates the feminine albumin. Tis is the action of a masculine fire in a cold, passive, feminine environment. Here also, there are always material carriers for these energies, but they manifest the existence of an energy with an active male aspect and a passive female aspect that undergoes or submits to it. Ordinary fire brutally coagulates the white of an egg, but the spermatozoon coagulates it gently by specifying it into the embryo of its species. Tis image shows that the potentiality of the seed passes to a defined effect through the coagulation of a passive substance, similar to the action of an acid liquid in an alkaline liquid, which forms a specified salt. Now the sperm is no more acid than the male albumin, but it plays in the animal kingdom [animalement] the same role as acid; ordinary fire is neither male nor acid and yet it has a type of male and acid action. Tis and other considerations incline the philosopher to speak of an Activity that is positive, acid and coagulating, without material carrier, and of a Passivity, a substance that is negative, alkaline, and coagulable, also without material carrier. From their interaction results the initial, not-yet-specified coagulation, the threefold Unity, which is also called the “Creative Logos” (Word, Verbe) because the Logos, as speech, only signifies the name, that is, the definition of the “specificity” of things.
To salt as the mean term between the agent and patient of coagulation, he occasionally adds other revealing expressions, such as the following:
In geometry, in a triangle, the given line is Mercury, the Angles are Sulphur, and the resultant triangle is Salt.
Whereas here, Schwaller identifes Salt with a ‘datum’ or ‘given’ which is ‘fixed like seed’ (une donnée concrète ou fxée comme semence), elsewhere he identifies the active, sulphuric function with that of the seed (semence). What this means is that the neutral saline product, once formed, then acts in the sulphuric capacity of a seed and ferment, but also foundation:
It can only be a matter of an active Fire, that is, of a seminal “intensity”, like the “fire” of pepper, for example, or better: the “fire” of either an organic or a catalyzing ferment. Te character of all the ferments, i.e. the seeds, is to determine into Time and Space a form of nourishment—in principle without form; clearly, therefore, it plays a coagulating role. Te coagulation of all “bloods” is precisely their fixation into the form of the species of the coagulating seed, the coagulation being, as in other cases, a transformation of an aquatic element into a terrestrial or solid element, without desiccation and without addition or diminution of the component parts." [SCHWALLER, ‘La semence’, Notes et propos inédits I, 44]
In the identification of both sulphur and salt as semence, one discerns a specific coherence of opposites that, in elemental terms, is described by the expression ‘Fire of the Earth’. Te salt is described in the passage quoted above as a seed (semence). Tis seed “becomes” seed again through the process of tree and fruit (growth, ferment, coagulation). It is at once a beginning and a finality (prima and ultima materia). Te reality described is non-dual. Beginning and end partake of something that is not describable by an exclusively linear causality; and yet it is seen to “grow” or “develop” along a definite “line” or “path” of cause and effect; at the same time it partakes of a cyclic or self-returning character; and yet, for Schwaller, it is not the circle but the spherical spiral that provides the true image of its reality: a vision which encompasses a punctillar centre, a process of cyclic departure and return from this centre (oscillation), as well as linear “development”, all of which are merely partial descriptors of a more encompassing, and yet more mysterious, reality-process. Te fundamental coherence of this vision to the Bewußtwerdungsphänomenologie of Jean Gebser consolidates the significance of Schwaller’s perception for the ontology of the primordial unity which is at once duality and trinity. For Gebser, consciousness manifests through point-like (vital-magical), polar-cyclic (mythic-psychological) and rectilinear (mental-rational) ontologies, each being a visible crystallization of the ever-present, invisible and originary ontology which unfolds itself not according to exclusively unitary, cyclic or linear modalities of time and space, but according to its own innate integrum.
Tus there is no contradiction in finding the presence of fiery sulphur in the desiccating dryness of the salt, for it is precisely in the one substance that the sulphuric seed (active function) and saline seed (fixed kernel) cohere. Te fixed, concrete seed- form (itself a coagulation of mercury by sulphur) contains the active sulphuric functions (the coagulating rhythms) which it will impose upon the nutritive mercurial substance (unformed matter). ‘One nature’, as a Graeco-Egyptian alchemical formula puts it, ‘acts upon itself’.
Among the various perspectives that have been surveyed on the nature and the principles inherent to salt, it is perhaps the Pythagorean statement—‘salt is born from the purest sources, the sun and the sea’—that pertains most directly to the deeper meaning of Schwaller’s hermetic phenomenology. Salt for Schwaller was placed in a septennial relationship comprising the tria prima and the four elements. Elementally, salt was situated by Schwaller at the end of a progression beginning with fire and air and ending in water and earth. Fire and air form a triad with sulphur; air and water form a triad with mercury; water and earth form a triad with salt. But salt was also understood to join the end of this progression to a new beginning, to a new fire/sulphur, exactly as the octave recapitulates the primordial tonos in musical harmony. For Schwaller, it was precisely this ‘juncture of abstract and concrete’ (fire and earth) that was identified with the formation of the philosopher’s stone (or at least the key to the formation of the philosopher’s stone):
One begins to see the hermetic “problem” of salt, i.e. its mysterium. Salt partakes of something that stands between water and fire (Pythagoras’ ‘purest sources’) in a way that is intimately related to earth, to which it imparts its dryness. Here one finds an imbroglio that suggests at once an element and a principle. Its connection to fire is felt in the hermetic associations of the elements (the sulphuric triad, fire and air, is characterized by heat; the mercurial triad, air and water, is characterised by humidity or wetness, while the saline triad, water and earth, is characterized by dryness: thus the desiccating quality of salt can only come from fire). Visser’s remarks, once again, prove cogent and penetrating:
Salt, once isolated, is white and glittering. It is the opposite of wet. You win it by freeing it from water with the help of fire and the sun, and it dries out flesh. Eating salt causes thirst. Dryness, in the pre-Socratic cosmic system which still informs our imagery, is always connected with fire, heat, and light.
Thus, inherent to salt is an equal participation in fire, sulphur and heat (+) and water, mercury, and wetness (–), such that it may be analogized with a chemical neutralization reaction in which the positive and negative values become electrically equalized. Tis neutral condition is for Schwaller the very ground of being in which we are existentially and phenomenologically situated (‘everything in nature, being a formed Species, will be Salt’). Thus, to see existence—reality as we know it—as a neutralization reaction between an active sulphuric function (divinity, logos, eidos) and passive mercurial substance (prima materia), to perceive the coagulating sulphur and the nourishing mercury through the “cinnabar” of all things, this is to “find” the philosopher’s stone. It is fundamentally, for Schwaller, a metaphysics of perception.
The Parisian alchemists of the fn-de-siècle and the early Twentieth century looked not to Atwood (et al.), but to the texts of Basil Valentine, Nicolas Flamel, and later, Cyliani, as exemplars of the alchemical tradition. For Schwaller, these seemingly bewildering texts not only masked a distinct laboratory process (a fact that has been increasingly recognized by scholars through specific studies of Early Modern alchemists such Newton and Philalethes), but ran deeper still: behind the operative process and the physical manipulations, these texts preserved (and required) a method of perception based on struggle and breakthrough that mirrored the perceptual effort necessitated in the reading of the symbolic language of nature herself (hence the importance of the idea of the liber naturae, the ‘book of nature’ along with its signatura). It was precisely this efort to think according to a deeper symbolic imperative that gave Schwaller the clavis hermeneutica to the text of the Pharaonic temple. While scholars see the idea of a monolithic esoteric, hermetic or alchemical tradition as historically problematic, merely an identity construct, Schwaller saw the breakthrough to the perception of an actual ontological reality that eludes a purely quantitative epistemology as the true test of a hermetic adept. For Schwaller, the perception of this reality, at once abstract and concrete, the very bedrock of existence, at once material and spiritual, did not need a historical transmission because it was ever-present, therefore perennially available to human perception. To “discover” this ontological bedrock was equivalent to “finding” the stone, which was seen more as the process underpinning and embodied in materiality per se—the mineral kingdom being regarded as the first material manifestation of spirit —than as a peculiar piece of isolatable matter. For Schwaller it was this fundamental mode of reality-apperception, rather than rigid points of technical or doctrinal exegesis, that formed the true hidden current of continuity within the hermetic tradition, indelibly marking all “good” texts and adepts. But it also had a material application or proof, and this formed the experimentum crucis (and here it should be noted that the term experimentum, in Latin as in French, means both experiment and experience). Alchemy for Schwaller thus centred on a metaphysics of perception but also a material proof that this perception was germane to the very structure of matter and existence as we known it.
The thing that is sown is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable. Te thing that is sown is contemptible, but what is raised is glorious. Te thing that is sown is weak, but what is raised is powerful. When it is sown it embodies the soul (psyche), when it is raised it embodies the spirit (pneuma).
[I Corinthians 15: 42-44]
Having surveyed the ambivalent yet ultimately integrating symbolism of salt, we are now in a position to understand the hermetic application of this principle to the aims of hieratic alchemy: the transmutation of the physical corpus into an immortal resurrection body: an act of spiritual concretion in which the body is spiritualized and the spirit corporified.
As the words of the sixth century Syrian theurgist, Iamblichus, make clear, the decidedly anagogic nature of the divine energies (theon ergon) emerge as central to the metaphysics of perception:
[T]he presence of the Gods gives us health of body, virtue of soul and purity of mind. In short, it elevates everything in us to its proper principle. It annihilates what is cold and destructive in us, it increases our heat and causes it to become more powerful and dominant. It makes everything in the soul consonant with the Nous [mind, consciousness]; it causes a light to shine with intelligible harmony, and it reveals the incorporeal as corporeal to the eyes of the soul by means of the eyes of the body.
Schwaller is one of the few modern (Western) alchemists to possess what Corbin, in reference to Jaldakī, called a ‘very lucid consciousness of the spiritual finality and of the esoteric sense of the alchemical operation accomplished on sensible species’. This spiritual finality, in the metaphysical purview of Islamic illuminationist theosophy, is no less than the creation of a resurrection body (corpus resurrectionis). In Schwaller’s alchemy one sees very clearly that all the intensifications made on material species occur through an inscription on the entity’s indestructible nucleus (alchemically, a mineral salt); because this nucleus is the foundation of the body, the more intensifications it experiences, the more its essential (primordial but also future) body will approach the perfect equilibrium of an indestructible (and paradoxically, incorporeal) physical vehicle until the point is reached where, ultimately, luminous consciousness itself becomes its own perfect body. Thus, the abstract and the concrete, the volatile and the fixed, are ultimately conjoined through a process of intensifcation registered permanently in the being’s incorruptible aspect—the salt in the bones or ashes (cf. the Hebrew luz or os sacrum).
What is the nature of this spiritual body? In a remark by Saint Gregory the Sinaite, the spiritual body is equated with the process of theōsis (deification) and thus becomes amenable to a theurgical interpretation:
The incorruptible body will be earthly, but without moisture and coarseness, having been unutterably changed from animate to spiritual, so that it will be both of the dust and heavenly. Just as it was created in the beginning, so also will it arise, that it may be conformable to the image of the Son of Man by entire participation in deification.
Robert Avens, in a preface to a discussion of Corbin and Swedenborg’s contributions to the understanding of the spiritual body, helps situate the deeper meaning that pertains to the “matter” of the resurrection body:
It seems clear, then, that whatever Paul might have meant by the expression “spiritual body”, he did not mean that the resurrected bodies were numerically identical with the earthly bodies—a view that was advocated by most writers for the Western or Latin church. Te crucial question in all speculations of this kind has to do with Paul’s treatment of “matter”. We are naturally perplexed with the notion of a body that is composed of a material other than physical matter. Probably the best that can be said on this score is that Paul had chosen a middle course between, on the one hand, a crassly materialistic doctrine of physical resurrection (reanimation of a corpse) and, on the other hand, a dualistic doctrine of the liberation of the soul from the body.
Thus, the resurrection body, like the alchemical salt, forms a paradoxical ligature between abstract and concrete, metaphysical and physical, spirit and body. While orthodox theologians such as Seraphim Rose draw on this and other passages to emphasize the Patristic doctrine that the body of Adam, the body that one will return to in resurrection, was (and is) different to one’s current, corruptible body, the ultimate nature of the “matter” of the resurrection body must remain a mystery. In this respect, Gregory of Nyssa’s remarks, from a treatise entitled ‘On the Soul and Resurrection’ may perhaps be taken as final:
The true explanation of all these questions is stored up in the treasure-houses of Wisdom, and will not come to the light until that moment when we shall be taught the mystery of Resurrection by the reality of it. [...] to embrace it in a definition, we will say that the Resurrection is “the reconstitution of our nature in its original form”.
The original form he refers to is, of course, the Adamic, i.e. adamantine body, with obvious parallels to the Indo-Tibetan vajra (diamond) body. As Rose emphasizes, the only thing that is certain is that the resurrection body will be different from its current, i.e. corruptible, form. As to whether it is “spirit” or “matter”, or a nondual state that embraces yet supersedes both (per Corbin’s mundus imaginalis, which spiritualizes bodies and embodies spirit), it is perhaps best to remain apophatic.
For Moule, the Pauline resurrection theology was ‘perhaps wholly novel and derived directly from his experience of Christ—namely, that matter is to be used but transformed in the process of obedient surrender to the will of God’. ‘Matter is not illusory’, continues Moule; it is ‘not to be shunned and escaped from, nor yet exactly destined to be annihilated [...] Rather, matter is to be transformed into that which transcends it’. These remarks approach the essence of the (nondual) alchemical œuvre in a way that confirms what one may call its theurgic and perhaps even tantric sense insofar as it recognizes and embraces the body and matter as a vehicles or foundations for liberation. In short, macrocosmically and microcosmically, material substance is to be transformed into a spiritual vehicle and instrument." [Light Broken Through the Prism of Life]
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