Thursday, July 25, 2013

Alchemical Operations (II)

by Walter Lang (1976)

The material of the Egyptian Book of the Dead was said to be old already when it was assembled by Semti in the First Dynasty some five thousand years ago.

Perhaps due to the second law of thermodynamics (which may be as relevant in biology and psychology as it is in dynamics) the evolutionary ferment of Egyptian alchemy began to involve. Maybe the mechanism of its degeneration was a shift in the level of will from which it proceeded. An evolutionary technique would thus become increasingly enlisted for involutionary ends. Alchemy, God-orientated, would become magic, self-dedicated. Such would be the dying Egypt against which Moses inveighed.

As always, however, knowledge of the technique was compressed; a torch was lit; an ark was launched. Before Egypt became totally submerged in idolatry, the Great Secret was transmitted.

The seeds of alchemy were scattered. Some fell on good ground and flourished; some fell on stony ground and died.

Egypt seems to have sown chiefly in Greece and Israel, perhaps also in China.

Strange as the idea may be, Greece appears to have made less of her chances than she might. The Glory That Was Greece may have been a poor shadow of the Glory That Might Have Been.

Also, Greece stood to Rome as parent to offspring, and Rome proved to be a delinquent child and a degenerate adult in the community of human cultures. The plant of alchemy flowered only briefly in Greece and the seeds that blew to Rome never germinated at all.

The transmission from Egypt to Israel was initially one of great promise but again the promise was not realized. Whether wilting of the plant in Israel was due to the Dispersion or whether the Dispersion was a consequence of the Jewish failure to manage their alchemical inheritance, is not known. The Elders of Jewry at any rate were unable to find conditions within which their inheritance could be brought to its full actualization.

To ensure its survival in some measure, they were obliged to compromise dangerously. They externalized some of it in the Zohar and maintained a small initiated inner circle. It may be that this circle, very greatly depleted, survived in Europe in isolated pockets like Cracow until the thirties of the present century.

While Greece sowed abortively in Rome during her lifetime, she also sowed posthumously—and successfully in Arabia. Here the alchemical energy chanelled through the esoteric schools of Islam and through exceptional individuals like Jabir externalized in the veritable explosion of Mohammedan art and science of the eighth to twelfth centuries.

The wave of Islam's expansion reached Spain where two streams appear to have joined up. In Seville and Granada there were initiated Jews who carried the Egyptian transmission. They met Arab initiates who carried the Greek transmission and the latter were perhaps reinforced from a permanent powerhouse from which all evolutionary operations are directed.

If it is true that some 'beads of mercury* were reunited through Mohammed, two more were reunited in Spain. Out of this confluence grew a very large part of the whole of Western civilization which we have inherited and whose origin hardly one man in a million has ever suspected in seven centuries.

The current which flowed from the beads of mercury which were reunited in Spain flowed into an immense invisible force field over Europe. The nature of this noumenal structure can never be glimpsed and its functions in a higher dimension cannot even be imagined. It externalized into the common life in a series of culture components which in aggregate constitute a large part of Western civilization.

A selection of these factors at random would include the Christian pilgrimage (based on the form established by the Cluniacs to St. James of Compostella); the Crusades; Heraldry; the orders of chivalry (cheval-ry: from the horse as a glyph of the alchemical 'volatile'?); castle architecture; the Gothic cathedrals; illumination and embroidery, the Troubadours, Albigenses, Cathars and Minne-sanger; the Courtly Romances; the Arthurian Quest Theme (reuniting the Celtic pre-Christian Grail Quest); the Cult of the Virgin in Catholicism; the theological philosophy of Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas; the cosmology of Bacon; the devotional systems of St. Francis, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa; the Wandering Players, Jester, harlequinades and Mystery Plays; specialized dancing; falconry and certain ball games; Free-masonry and Rosicrucianism; gardening (the Spanish Gardens); playing cards; die Language of the Birds concept; the Craft Guilds; archery; some medicine like immunology (Paracelsus) and homoeopathy, and cybernetics (Raymond Lully).   All the foregoing were the externalized forms of a major alchemical operation at an invisible level. Only one aspect however, that of chemical alchemy, used the terminology which has been subsequently identified with the word.

For some hundreds of years alchemy existed in Europe as a real science of transformation at many levels. At one level it was concerned with the ultimate transformation of human souls.

Perhaps because Christianity had rejected the wisdom component of its total revelation—a decision in which Constantine was probably crucial—alchemy, being concerned with the totality, had to operate in disguise. Precisely because orthodox religion was defective in the wisdom component, any modality which contained it was, ipso facto, heresy.

The genuine Christian alchemists—estimated to number four thousand between 1200 and 1656—readopted a chemical code which had served in similar circumstances in the past. A certain principle of nature (rendered in the codex attributed to Hermes, 'as above, so below') ensured that the alchemical process at its hidden level could be represented with full integrity by the terminology of a lower discipline. This lower discipline—metallic chemistry—was all that the common fife of Europe ever understood by the word alchemy.

Since Jung's work in alchemy began to infiltrate modern psychology, alchemy as a 'mental' or at any rate a non-physical process, has become a fashionable acceptance. Typical of the 'reductionist' attitudes of the twentieth century is the current belief that alchemy has now been explained. It is 'nothing but' an early and crude study of psychology and perhaps of ESP. Dazzled by the success of science in providing a label for everything, few have bothered to inquire whether the aphorism of Hermes 'as above, so below' might not require a process valid at mental level to be equally valid at physical level.

A label has been affixed, and therefore the mystery is no more. No-one, it seems, notices any conflict between the Jungian 'psycho-logical interpretation' and the documented historical record of men like Helvetius and the Cosmopolite (Alexander Seton?) who demonstrably did make tangible yellow twenty-two carat gold. That which is above is as that which is below' might never have been written.

Throughout the whole European record of Alchemy, its genuine practitioners appear to have been under certain obligations which may in fact apply to 'artists' in the Work of every age. It seems that they are required to leave behind them some thread which those who come after may use as a guide line across the web of Ariadne. The indications provided must be in code and the code must be self cancelling; that is, an inquirer who does not possess the first secret must be infallibly prevented from discovering the second. 'Unto him that hath . . .' is nowhere better exemplified than in the attempt to study alchemical texts.

Given that the inquirer knows the first secret, search and unceasing labour may wrest from the code, the next step following but the searcher will need to have made progress in his own personal practice before he is able to unravel a further step. Thus the secret protects itself.

In the course of his work the alchemist may come to understand that certain familiar legends have a wholly new, practical and unsuspected meaning. He may suddenly discover what Abraham was required to sacrifice and why; what the star in the East really heralds; what the Cross may symbolize; and why the veil of the Temple was rent.

The strictly alchemical aspect of The Great Work has been quiescent in Europe for about three centuries but rare and exceptional individuals still find their way through the maze—perhaps by making contact with a source outside Europe—and achieve one or other of the degrees of the Magnum Opus.

Few such instances come to the knowledge of the outside world but one exception to the general rule is the case of the modem alchemist who has come to be known as Fulcanelli.

In the early 'twenties, a French student of alchemy, Eugene Canseliet was studying under the man now known as Fulcanelli. One day the latter charged Canseliet with the task of publishing a manuscript—and then disappeared.

The manuscript was the now famous Mystere des Cathedrales and its publication caused a sensation in esoteric circles in Europe. From internal evidence the author was a man who had either completed, or was on the brink of completing, the Magnum Opus. Interest in such an individual, among those who knew what was involved, was enormous.

For nearly half a century, painstaking research has gone on in an effort to trace the vanished Master. Repeated attempts by private individuals to pick up the trail—and on at least one occasion by an international Intelligence agency—have all ended in a blank wall of silence.

To most, the conclusion seemed inescapable: Fulcanelli, if he ever existed, must be dead.

One man knew better—Fulcanelli's former pupil Canseliet. After a lapse of many years, Canseliet received a message from the alchemist and met him at a pre-arranged rendezvous. The reunion was brief for Fulcanelli once again severed contact and once again disappeared without leaving a trace of his whereabouts.

One circumstance of the reunion was very remarkable—and in an alchemical sense of the highest significance. Fulcanelli had grown younger. Canseliet has told the present writer: The Master' (when Canseliet had worked with him) was already a very old man but he carried his eighty years lightly. Thirty years later, I was to see him again, as I have mentioned, and he appeared to be a man of fifty. That is to say, he appeared to be no older than I was myself'.

One other possible appearance of the mysterious master alchemist is reported by the French researcher Jacques Bergier.

While working as assistant to Andre Helbronner, the noted physicist who was later to be killed by the Nazis, Bergier was approached one day by an impressive individual who asked Bergier to pass on to Helbronner a strange—and highly knowledgeable— warning. This was to the effect that orthodox science was on the brink of manipulating nuclear energy.

The stranger said it was his duty to warn that this same abyss had been crossed by humanity in the past with disastrous consequences. Knowing human nature, he had no hope that such a warning would have any effect but it was his duty to give it. The mysterious stranger then left. Bergier is convinced to this day that he was in the presence of Fulcanelli.  

Treatises have been written to prove that Fulcanelli was a member of the former French Royal Family, the Valois; that he was the painter Julien Champagne; that he was this or that occultist.

Not a few were driven to the conclusion that Fulcanelli was a myth and that no such person had ever existed. This theory is a little difficult to sustain in view of the existence of Mystere des Cathedrales. This work is authoritatively accepted as the work of a man who had gone far—very far—in the practice of alchemy.

The myth theory is also untenable against the testimony of Canseliet. In September 1922, in a laboratory at Sarcelles and in the presence of the painter Julien Champagne and the chemist Gaston Sauvage, Canseliet himself made an alchemical transmutation of 100 grammes of gold using a minute quantity of the Powder of Projection given to him by his teacher. Thus there is a European, alive at the present time, who personally testifies not only to the existence of Fulcaneli but to the veridical nature of an event which modern science regards as an absurd myth. Legend has it that this transmutation took place 'in a gasworks'. The account seems the plainest possible statement of a purely physical event. Alchemists, however, warn repeatedly that when their descriptions seem plainest the camouflage factor is highest. The alerted reader will certainly consider here that a gasworks is a site where a volatile substance is produced from a heavy mineral and will recall that alchemy is a process of 'separating the fine from the gross'.

In being allowed to perform an alchemical operation with energy lent him by another, Canseliet thus joins a remarkable band of privileged—and perhaps bewildered—people who through history have recorded the same experience. These include Johann Schweitzer (whose experience was investigated by Spinoza) Professor Dienheim of Fribourg in 1602 and Christian II Elector of Saxony, in the following year.

But for all practical purposes Fulcanelli has vanished as though he never existed. Only his contributions to the literature of alchemy remains, Mystere des Cathedrales.

It has long been believed that the Gothic cathedrals were secret textbooks of some hidden knowledge; that behind the gargoyles and the glyphs, the rose windows and the flying buttresses, a mighty secret lay, all but openly displayed.

This is no longer a theory. Given that the reader of Mystere des Cathedrales has even begun to suspect the first secret, Fulcanelli's legacy is at once seen as an exposition of an incredible fact: that, wholly unsuspected by the profane, the Gothic cathedrals have for seven hundred years offered European man a course of instruction in his own possible evolution.

About one thing it seems impossible to have any doubt. The unknown who wrote Mystere des Cathedrales KNEW. Fulcanelli speaks as one having authority. By pointing to a glyph in Notre Dame or a statue in Amiens and relating an unknown sculptor's work to some ancient or modem text, Fulcanelli is indicating steps in a process he has himself been through.

Like all who truly KNEW, from Hermes through Geber and the Greek and Arab artists to Lully, Paracelsus and Flamel, Fulcanelli masks and reveals in equal measure and like all before him, he is wholly silent on the initial step of the practice.

But in his method of repeatedly underlining certain words and perhaps in some curious sentences on the rose windows, he suggests, as explicitly as he dares, the mightiest secret that man may ever discover.

*Behold,' said Boehme, 'he will show it to you plain enough if you be a Magus and worthy, else you shall remain blind still.'

-- from the Introduction to Fulcanelli's Le Mystere des Cathedrales.

Alchemical Operations (I)

by Walter Lang (1976)

TWO UNIVERSES: the universe of science and the universe of alchemy.

To the scientist, alchemy is a farrago of medieval nonsense which enlightened materialist method has rightly consigned to the discard.

To the alchemist, the scientific universe is no more than an abstraction from a much greater whole.

Behind science, says the alchemist, there is Science. All unsuspected, except by a negligible few in every age, there exists a technology of noumena as superior to the technology of phenomena as a supernova is to a candle flame.  

To the alchemist, all the phenomena of the universe are combinations of a single prime energy inaccessible to ordinary senses. Only a minute cross section of the total cosmic spectrum is 'bent' by the senses and so rendered tangible. Science has defined this minute abstraction as its total concern and is therefore condemned to turn endlessly inside a nutshell of its own making, learning ever more and more about less and less.

Since alchemists are popularly regarded as at best deluded and at worst deranged, a claim that alchemy is not only science but Science, not only a religion but Religion, is apt to be dismissed out-of-hand as derisory.

The scientific standpoint begins by being consistent. Man has certain senses and he has developed extensions of his senses which he calls instruments. So equipped, he investigates the universe around him—and occasionally—the universe inside himself.

As there is no sensory evidence for any other kind of universe, why drag one in? Dragging in hypotheses which are unnecessary to explain encountered facts is an affront to the principle of Occam's Razor and therefore to scientific good sense.

In so far as any discipline is entitled to define its own concerns, this is entirely legitimate. What is not so tenable is to imply that because science has selected one possible universe, the universe of fact, and has been superbly successful in charting it, no other universe can possibly exist. Science, to be fair, does not exactly say this but it is very happy to see the implication accepted.

The situation is really the Plato's cave allegory one stage up. In Plato's cave, the shadow men live in a seemingly logical world. To them, a more solid world, and one inhabited by men with real eyesight, is a hypothesis unnecessary to explain the shadow world they five in. The shadow men say in effect: 'We know nothing of this superior world you talk about and we don't want to know. We have our own terms of reference and we find them satisfactory. Please go away.'

This is precisely the attitude of modern materialist science to alchemy: 'In terms of the universe we measure and know, your supposed universe is nonsense. Therefore we have no hesitation in asserting with complete confidence that your ideas are delusional.'   In effect: 'No case, abuse the plaintiff's counsel.'

But is there no case? For some thousands of years, some of the best intellects of all cultures have been occupied with the ideas of alchemy. Weighed solely on statistical probability, does it seem likely that an entirely imaginary philosophy should attract ceaseless generations of men?

The impasse is worse than it need be because of an almost accidental factor. Alchemy, so far as science has heard, is concerned with making gold and such an activity is so associated with human credulity, cupidity and unscience generally that ordinary philosophy begs to be excused from involvement in anything so obviously puerile.

Is alchemy concerned with making gold? Only in a specific case within a total situation. Alchemists are concerned with gold in much the same way that Mesmer was concerned with hypnotism. The twentieth century took a single aspect of 'Mesmerism', truncated even that, and used the fragment for its own egoistic ends. It declared that it had investigated Mesmerism, exposed its ridiculous pretentions and rendered what was left 'scientific'.

Goethe has a word for this process:
Wer will was Lebendiges beschreiben und erkennen, Sucht erst den Geist hinaus zu treiben. Dann hat er, zwar, die Teile in der Hand, Fehlt leider nur das geistige Band.

  Truly science drives out the spirit from the whole and proudly displays the separate bits. Dead, all dead.


If alchemy isn't gold making, what is it? Wilmshurst has deemed it as 'the exact science of the regeneration of the human soul from its present sense-immersed state into the perfection and nobility of that divine condition in which it was originally created'.

However, he immediately goes on to offer a second definition which clearly implies that, as with gold making, soul-making is again only a specific case. By inference, a general theory of alchemy might be ventured. Alchemy is a total science of energy transformation.  

The action of an Absolute in differentiating a prime-source substance into a phenomenal universe is an operation in alchemy. The creation of galactic matter from energy and the creating of energy from matter is alchemy. God is an alchemist.
The decay of radium into lead with the release of radioactivity is alchemy. Nature is an alchemist.
The explosion of a nuclear bomb is alchemy. The scientist is now an alchemist.
All such energy transformations are fraught with great danger and the secrecy which has always surrounded Hermeticism is concerned with this aspect among others.
Nuclear energy was undoubtedly foreseen thousands of years ago. Chinese alchemists are said to have told their pupils that not even a fly on the wall should be allowed to witness an operation. 'Woe unto the world,' they said, 'if the military ever learn the Great Secret.'
The Military have learned the great secret—or at any rate one specific aspect of it—and woe indeed to the world, for in the arrogant alchemy of nuclear science there is no place for Goethe's geistiges Band.

But if it has taken Western technology so long to uncover a single aspect of the subject, how is it that Bronze Age Egypt and Pythagorean Greece reputedly knew the whole science? Here even the most guarded speculation must seem outrageous.

Materialist science is content—or was until very recently—to suppose that life began as an accident and that once the accident happened, all subsequent steps in evolution would, or at any rate could, follow as the mechanical consequence of the factors initially and subsequently present. Perhaps the process was improbable but it was possible.

Recent consideration however, appears to show that by its intrinsic nature, chance expressly excludes such a possibility.

For evolution to take place, there is required at every step a shift away from less-organization towards more-organization. The mechanistic view asserts that this enhancement of organization, this negative entropy, could be progressively established from the mechanical consolidation of favourable' variations. Recent work in applying mathematical theory to biology suggests that there is a very big hole indeed in this particular bucket.

Even if an increase in order arises fortuitously, this accidental shift must survive if it is to be built upon by the next similar accident. But its survival is by no means assured. Indeed it appears to be vulnerable to collapse in proportion to its achievement.

Even in the case of primitive life forms and certainly in higher life forms, the number of possible combinations present at every stage is enormous—so enormous as to require that entropy must always increase at the expense of chance arisings in the contrary direction.*

Statistically, evolution could not happen. As it demonstrably did happen, it must have done so not merely against probability but actually against the possibilities present in a closed system. The conclusion seems unavoidable: the evolutionary process was not a closed system.

By extension, evolution and its present end-product, man, must have been contrived by forces outside the system (the biosphere) in which it occurred. Such an operation, involving the conscious manipulation of energy levels, may be taken as an operation in alchemy.

Whether the 'artist' who accomplished this great work was a single Intelligence or a consortium of Intelligences seems immaterial: but the myths and classical traditions of demigods is in the highest degree suggestive.

If it is an acceptable proposition that man was the result of a carefully contrived alchemical operation by Higher Powers is it not at least possible that he was given, in addition to consciousness, an insight into the transformation technique that produced him? On this assumption, modern man might have, in his own subconscious, fragmentary data which exceptional individuals could recover and assemble into a technology of alchemy. Inevitably such men would be aware of other men who had made the same immense leap and such groups would combine to create schools of alchemy.

 There are other theories. One of the most arcane of human traditions suggests that the humanity of our Adam was not the earth's first human race. Some very advanced alchemists have hinted at a range of previous humanities in excess of thirty. If this is the true but wholly unsuspected history of our planet, much knowledge may have been selectively accumulated span of existence which imagination is inadequate even to visualize.

At each successive apocalypse, an ark would go out, encapsuling not only the germ plasm necessary to found the next humanity but with it also, some vehicle, some psychological micro-dot, containing the totality of accumulated knowledge.

On this assumption the technique of alchemy would have reached us as a transmission from ancestors whose existence we do not even suspect.

A third possibility is that the Master Alchemists who made man in a solar laboratory have an interest in yet another transformation: the alchemization of man into planetary spirit. Their work may not yet be done. On this assumption, isolated scraps of suitable material would from time to time be selected for further processing in a solar alembic.

The base metal in this case would consist of exceptional human beings and since they would be at the level of incipient conscious energy, they would co-operate in their own transformation.

Whether any, or a combination of all these possibilities is the explanation of the presence of alchemy throughout human history, it is clear that alchemy existed at the dawn of the human story we know.

* The difficulties inherent in any theory of 'fortuitous' evolution have been indicated by a number of distinguished specialists, among them Professor H. E. Blum (Form and Structure in Science, 1964 and in Nature Vol. 206, 1965) and by Maurice Vernet (The Great Illusion of Teilhard de Chardin). The mathematical and philosophical arguments against the arising of man by the accumulation of accidental increases in order—that is, by mechanical evolution—are developed with great power by J. G. Bennett in The Dramatic Universe (London 1966). These arguments contribute to his unified theory in which man is seen as the work of high (but limited) Intelligences.

-- from the Introduction to Fulcanelli's Le Mystere des Cathedrales