Tag Archives: Alchemy

Becoming an Alchemist

Samuel Scarborough reviews Sorcerer’s Stone: A Beginner’s Guide to Alchemy [Amazon, Bookshop, Abebooks, Local Library] by Dennis William Hauck at Becoming an Alchemist in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition archive.

Hauck Sorcerer's Stone

Ever wanted to be an alchemist? Just how does someone understand those old alchemical drawings that describe the processes that are used to create fabulous elixirs and powders? The very word “alchemy” conjures up images of bearded old men in dark laboratories turning lead into gold, or creating some elixir for extended life. Can this apply to the modern magickal person; can we create that hidden gold or extend our lives?

Dennis William Hauck’s interest in alchemy began while he was in graduate school at the University of Vienna. Now he is the editor of the Alchemy Journal, an instructor in the Alchemy Home Study Program and with Flamel College. Mister Hauck serves on the Board of Governors of the International Alchemy Guild and regularly gives lectures worldwide on alchemy.

Dennis William Hauck, a practicing alchemist and one of the leading experts in the world on this ancient art and science, offers a basic introduction to alchemy in this book that is not full of the hidden meanings of some of those ancient texts on the subject, but has clear explanations. As a matter of course he explains just what those odd alchemical drawings from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries mean and how to decipher their codes so that you as a modern alchemist can follow their instructions. He also provides practical experiments, and moving meditations.

Mister Hauck has written a book with fifteen chapters and two appendices which follow a pattern of general history and overview, to the explanation of the planetary archetypes used in alchemy, and finally to the operations of alchemy where you can personally perform your own purification and alchemical operations. In this latter part, Mister Hauck looks at both Spiritual Alchemy, the method of meditation and study used to create within yourself the Great Work on a mystical level, and he looks at Practical Alchemy, the creation of elixirs and powders physically, as well as how to blend these two versions of alchemy together. The book is richly illustrated with many old alchemical drawings with explanations that are clear throughout. The two appendices are very helpful. The first one is a glossary of alchemical terms with clear definitions, and the second one is a list of resources for the practitioner from online sites, to books that are recommended for reading. The chapters of the book are:

  • What is Alchemy?
  • The Golden Thread That Runs Through Time
  • The Principals of Alchemy
  • The Kitchen Alchemist: Making Tinctures and Elixirs
  • Climbing the Ladder of the Planets
  • Saturn’s Child: The Base Metal Lead
  • Jupiter’s Rule: The Courtly Metal Tin
  • Mar’s Challenge: The Angry Metal Iron
  • Venus’s Embrace: The Loving Metal Copper
  • Mercury’s Magic: The Living Metal Quicksilver
  • The Moon’s Reflection: The Lunar Metal Silver
  • The Sun’s Brilliance: The Solar Metal Gold
  • The Operations of Alchemy
  • Personal Purification
  • Becoming an Alchemist
  • Appendix A: Glossary of Alchemy
  • Appendix B: Resources

Finally here is a book that helps break down some of the mystery of alchemy so that anyone can better understand this ancient art and science, which has been called the Royal Art of the Hermetic Tradition. Dennis William Hauck has made a great contribution to the oft-neglected art of alchemy with this book, and it should be included in any person’s library that is interested in the Hermetic Arts, the Western Mystery Traditions, and especially in Alchemy.

Two on Practical Spagyric Alchemy of Plants

Samuel Scarborough reviews Alchemist’s Handbook: Manual for Practical Laboratory Alchemy [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Frater Albertus and The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy: An Herbalist’s Guide to Preparing Medicinal Essences, Tinctures, and Elixirs [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Manfred M Junius at Two on Practical Spagyric Alchemy of Plants in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition archive.

Albertus Alchemist's Handbook

Junius The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy

For those interested in performing practical or laboratory alchemy there are two books written in the modern era that are indispensable. These two were written in the twentieth century by practicing alchemists. Both authors give good instruction as to what a budding alchemist will need for a modern alchemical workshop, and they even discuss some of the most basic techniques in spagyric (spa-geer-ic) or plant alchemy, which is traditionally the first type of alchemy that is worked with by an alchemist.

The first book that we are going to look at is, The Alchemist’s Handbook by Frater Albertus (Albert Reidel), a major contribution to alchemy in modern times. The author covers the basic principals of alchemy, gives directions for setting up a home alchemical laboratory with illustrations of the basic equipment, and also gives step-by-step instructions for working within the plant kingdom. The chapters of the book are as follows:

  • Forward
  • Preface to the First Edition
  • Preface to the Second Edition
  • Chapter I: Introduction to Alchemy
  • Chapter II: The Lesser Circulation
  • Chapter III: The Herbal Elixir
  • Chapter IV: Medicinal Uses
  • Chapter V: Herbs and Stars
  • Chapter VI: Symbols in Alchemy
  • Chapter VII: Wisdom of the Sages
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Alchemical Manifesto

The Forward to the book was written by the noted Golden Dawn magician Israel Regardie, in which he describes this book on alchemy as “… unique and a genuine masterpiece.” After this Forward there are two Prefaces that give the reader an idea as to how to best use the book and the material in it.

Chapter One is an introduction to alchemy. Frater Albertus describes alchemy in the most basic of terms so that anyone picking up this book will have a working idea as to just what alchemy is. He compares alchemy and modern chemistry, and discusses the prevalent attitudes towards alchemy in the modern day. The real meat of the book though comes in Chapters Two through Five, in which Frater Albertus describes how to set up an alchemical laboratory, the processes to gather the herbs to be used and to begin working with them alchemically. Also, he discusses the medicinal uses of the elixirs or tinctures that can be made using the herbs and processes discussed in the previous chapter. Then Frater Albertus discusses the planetary relationship that many herbs have and how to use this relationship in making elixirs and tinctures. Frater Albertus gives us a chapter on the various sigils and symbols used in alchemy along with their meanings. This section of the book is highly illustrated with these sigils and ciphers.

The rest of the book contains a basic description of the next phase of alchemy, metals, from a Rosicrucian document written in 1777. After this chapter, Frater Albertus gives his conclusions on how to continue the work. Finally, there is an appendix and a manifesto that help promote the use of alchemy in modern times.

The Alchemist’s Handbook should be on any alchemist’s shelf whether you practice spiritual alchemy or practical alchemy. The style of the heart of the book is like a textbook on chemistry in some regards, which is what Frater Albertus was aiming for as a means to demystify the art of alchemy. He brings the ancient art into the modern world by linking the old art of alchemy with the more modern practices of chemistry.

The second book that we will discuss is Manfred M. Junius’, The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy. Manfred M. Junius is a former biology professor who also served as the production manager of spagyrics for Australerba Laboratories and was head of the Australian School of Ayurveda in Adelaide. His training and knowledge of western alchemy came from many years of personal instruction from the Swiss alchemist Augusto Pincaldi.

The book is similar to Albertus’ The Alchemist’s Handbook, but has a bit more detail in the operations dealing with the plant kingdom and the making of plant elixirs. Junius gives a fairly good overview of what spagyrics are and how to obtain them in a step-by-step manner. The chapters are as follows:

  • Preface
  • Spagyria and Spagyrics
  • Advice of Basilius Valentinus
  • The Three Philosophical Principles and the Elements
  • Mercury, Sulfur, and Salt in the Plant World
  • The Extraction of the Three Philosophical Principles from Plants
    1. The Extraction of the Essential Oils, That Is, of the Volatile Sulfur
    2. Mercury
    3. Fixed Sulfur and Its Salt
    4. Salt
  • The Stars
  • Preparation of Spagyric Tinctures and Essences
  • Circulation
  • The Plant Magistery of Paracelsus
  • The Circulatum Minus Urbigerus
  • Elixir – Clyssus – Vegetable Stone
  • Alchemical Signs and Symbols
  • Old Weights
  • Epilogue: How Can We Heal?
  • Notes
  • Bibliography

Just to hit on the overall highlights of the book, the author gets to the real meat of the subject in chapters four through eight, in which he discusses in detail the making of a tincture from a plant using the various techniques available to the alchemist. These are covered in some detail in chapter five. In some cases, the details can be a bit overwhelming and having a practical class or two in general chemistry really helps to understand what Junius is discussing with these techniques.

Chapter six, The Stars, presents the idea that the alchemist should also be something of an astrologer too. Junius shows that astrology and alchemy are closely linked using archetypical forces of the universe. He discusses how the various astrological effects of Sol and Luna have on living organisms, and how in plant alchemy the effects of these two heavenly bodies, along with the other ancient planets has an affect on the alchemical operation. Junius gives a break down of each of the planets and the plants associated with them from an alchemical medicinal view. Further in the chapter, he discusses the use of the planetary hours to begin the alchemical operation and even the casting of astrological horoscope for the outcome of the operation.

In chapter ten, he looks at a classic work of alchemy, The Circulatum Minus Urbigerus, which was originally printed in 1690. The various aphorisms of the original are used to illustrate the practical laboratory technique that Junius later explains following these aphorisms. This chapter illustrates the ability of Junius to thoroughly discuss the material so that a person wanting to follow an older text would be able to.

Finally, in the epilogue, Junius approaches alchemical tinctures and elixirs pretty much as Paracelsus did over 450 years ago. Diagnose the illness, and treat it with the suitable tincture or elixir after creating it. He also cautions that this sort of work in the healing area should be undertaken only with great care, but that it could be done with the aid of those around the alchemist.

This book is full of various drawings and illustrations of alchemical as well as chemistry equipment showing not only what it looks like, but also some of the basic techniques used to create these tinctures and elixirs. There are also many older illustrations from older alchemical works showing the various phases and ideals of the work, not to mention Junius has included a rather in depth list of signs and symbols used in alchemy in one chapter that would be useful for the practicing alchemist. Even though there are some complex descriptions and techniques in Junius’ book, it should be on the bookshelf of any practicing alchemist, or more likely, like Albertus’ The Alchemist’s Handbook, will be open as a reference for the practicing alchemist.

The Tao & the Tree of Life

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus review The Tao & The Tree of Life: Alchemical & Sexual Mysteries of the East & West [Amazon, Weiser Antiquarian, Local Library] by Eric Steven Yudelove, foreword by Mantak Chia.

Yudelove Chia The  Tao and the Tree of Life

Author Eric Yudelove is a practitioner of both Taoist internal alchemy and occultist Kabbalah, and this book sets forth his effort to synthesize the two sets of theory while comparing and harmonizing their techniques. It is written with accessible language and a sometimes irritatingly informal tone, occasionally coming across as rather credulous about the metaphysical bases of the two disciplines at issue. In addition, Yudelove is an “initiated shaman” (initiatory pedigree not supplied) who claims that a sort of generic shamanism forms the substratum of all historical mysticisms.

His Taoist internal alchemy credentials are impressive, as he was a senior American student and long personal associate of Mantak Chia, whose instruction and publications represent the most conspicuous and widespread sources of technical information on this school of practice in the late 20th century. At certain points in The Tao & the Tree of Life Yudelove says he is revealing internal alchemy practices about which Mantak Chia had never written in his books, and this claim is ratified in the foreword by Mantak Chia himself. Of special note are the astronomically-oriented mediations discussed towards the end of the book, which Yudelove identifies with certain passages from the Thelemic Book of the Law.

When writing about Kabbalah (his preferred spelling), Yudelove distinguishes between the Jewish Kabbalah, an esoteric religious tradition, and what he calls the “Western Kabbalah,” a syncretist mystical system. (I think “Hermetic Qabalah” is a more accurate and telling label for the latter.) He emphasizes the value of the Western Kabbalah in this book. Here he surpasses Perle Epstein, whom he cites as the only prior writer to intimate the parallel between Kabbalistic and Taoist mediation. She had merely set apart a “Christian Cabala” which she deprecated relative to its Jewish antecedents. Yudelove’s foremost cited authority on Jewish Kabbalah is Ariyeh Kaplan, and for the Western Kabbalah he is openly indebted to both Aleister Crowley and Franz Bardon. Possibly more important, although only cited for one title in the appended bibliography, is Israel Regardie, whose publication of the “middle pillar ritual” is so important to Yudelove’s understanding of Kabbalistic practice. When Yudelove writes that “the Cherubim are the Angels of Yesod in the world of Assiah” (161) he is using Aleister Crowley’s correspondences in 777, but Crowley–who followed Maimonides in this attribution–notes that authorities differ and “there are many other schemes” (note to Col. C).

An interesting feature of the book is the colloquial review of some relevant literature of sex magic and sex mysticism available in the early 1990s. Yudelove praises Ashcroft-Nowicki’s Tree of Ecstasy, and he amusingly dogs Fra. U.D.’s Secrets of the German Sex Magicians: “It just makes me wonder what the German sex magicians were doing before Chia began to publish?” (131) Still, he admits of his own book, “This is not a scholarly, exhaustive work” (159). It is a very broad, practical overview of its subject.

The exception to this wide focus is the detail afforded in the appendices, which represent language developed by Yudelove for in-person instruction in both Taoist and Kabbalist meditations. These are very good, although not flawless. In particular “Taoist Meditation 2” has a passage in which various “points” are addressed, and for each there is the symptom of the point’s “open” (good) and “closed” (bad) functioning, in that sequence. These should really be reversed, so that the sequence reflects and guides improvement rather than suggesting and possibly fostering deficiencies.

As far as I have been able to tell, this 1996 Lllewellyn book was Yudelove’s first. He went on to publish more in the same vein. In 2005, he furnished a minor headline for the New York Post when he was subjected to arrest and multiple criminal charges for altercations he seems to have initiated at the Hustler Club strip joint on 51st Street. To the extent of my knowledge, he is still alive and in good health, so perhaps his claims are sound for the ecstasy and immortality supposedly conferred by his practices. Still, his recorded behavior indicates they are no guarantee of wisdom or beneficence.

The book is useful enough on its own terms, although best read in conjunction with related literature, for which the author helpfully provides a competent biography.

no man may be individually happy in a society in which there prevails, as today, turmoil, war, or economic oppression. We are too closely knit together. The pains of one part of society are bound to affect us all, just as the pain of one of our organs affects the harmony of our whole being.

Ralph M Lewis, The Conscious Interlude [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Lewis Conscious Interlude no man individually happy society turmoil war economic oppression pains one affect all harmony whole

The young men of France are studying alchemy, hoping to learn the secret of the transmutation of gold. If you will study your own spirit and its limitless powers, you will gain a greater secret than any alchemist ever held; a secret which shall give you whatever you desire.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, The Heart of the New Thought

What is of primary importance is that the master key to the initiatory method itself becomes a permanently installed fixture in the individual. Once we have learned the process of becoming something greater than we are, we can and eventually will, apply that same alchemy to ourselves to achieve the supreme attainment.

Lon Milo DuQuette, The Sons of Osiris: A Side Degree

Art and Alchemy at Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf through Aug 10th, 2014

Art and Alchemy: The Mystery of Transformation is an exhibit at Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf through Aug 10th, 2014 that may be of interest [British Library]. The exhibit includes four ‘Ripley Scrolls’ from the British Library, which four are also available as Digitised Manuscripts and which you can read about on the British Library blog, if you can’t make it to see them in person.

British Library Ripley Scroll Add MS 5025 detail
Detail of a hermetic illustrating stages in the alchemical process and the revelation of alchemical wisdom, Add MS 5025, f. 4r.

“For the first time in Germany, an exhibition spanning all epochs and genres will be introducing the exciting link between art and alchemy in past and present times. 250 works from antiquity to the present, encompassing Baroque art, Surrealism, through to contemporary art from collections and museums in the USA, Great Britain, France, Mexico and Israel reveal the fascination which alchemy exerted for many visual artists. Artists featured in the exhibition, such as Joseph Beuys, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Max Ernst, Hendrick Goltzius, Rebecca Horn, Anish Kapoor, Yves Klein, Sigmar Polke, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens and David Teniers the Younger invite visitors to explore the mystery of transformation.

Alchemy was invariably practised in secret, but was by no means a rare occurrence until well into the 18th century: Eminent personalities, including Paracelsus, Isaac Newton and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, were alchemists, too. It was not until the Age of the Enlightenment that alchemy was ousted and became intermingled with occultism, sorcery and superstition. In connection with 19th and early 20th-century psychoanalysis alchemy was brought to new life.

The exhibition was conceived by Museum Kunstpalast in cooperation with the research group ‘Art and Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe’ at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, as well as a group of experts at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, which also provided many pieces on loan. A Wunderkammer of curious and exotic treasures from flora and fauna is offered for visitors to explore. In an extensive accompanying programme the subject of art and alchemy will be expanded upon by means of lectures, talks and guided tours. For the exhibition, a studio for children was set up, where the theme of ‘The Alchemy of Colour’ is explored by taking a close look at colours, along with their archetypical elements and production.”

Omnium Gatherum: June 18th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for June 18th, 2014

Moon, clouds, smoke, skeleton hunt in the air from Restoring the Lost Sense: Jun 12, 2014, Craig Conley, Abecedarian
“Moon, clouds, smoke, skeleton hunt in the air” from Restoring the Lost Sense: Jun 12, 2014 — Craig Conley, Abecedarian

 

  • The Beast is Back — Erik Davis and Maja D’aoust interview Gary Lachman, Expanding Mind

    “Thelemic visions, magickal texts, and the tedium of transgression: a talk with occult historian Gary Lachman about his new biography Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World (Tarcher).”

  • Theosophical Attitudes towards Science: Past and Present — Egil Asprem

    As is typical for esoteric movements of the modern period, the Theosophical current exhibits a deep ambivalence towards the professionalized natural sciences. Active in the middle of the so-called “clash” between science and religion in the latter half of the 19th century, Blavatsky and the early Theosophists sought a critical reconciliation, guided by the quest for esoteric “higher truth.” The negotiation with science and religion was clearly present from Blavatsky’s first major work, Isis Unveiled (1877), which dedicated one volume to a criticism of each, and has continued to twist and turn in various directions until the present day.

    “Science” is, in short, a centrally important yet ambiguous “Other” for the entire Theosophical current.

  • Opting Out of the System — Inominandum, Strategic Sorcery

    The “system” is a house of cards that is perpetrated by force and fraud. I think that taking a stand against that in terms of magic and lifestyle is a worthy thing. But just like I say to people that reject materialism as anathema to spirituality: You must really live that view for it to have meaning.

    It is not a matter of your values and your magic being in line. It is a matter of making your life be about something.

  • Where the Occult & Pagan Community Lost the Plot — Nick Farrell

    The occult community is doomed to be hijacked by right-wing nut-jobs and other idiots because it has become paralysed by its own desire to be “spiritual.”

  • Theater as Plague: Radovan Ivšić and the Theater of the Weird — Jon Graham, Weird Fiction Review

    Like its counterpart in fiction, the theater of the weird exists on the margins of mainstream culture, where its deadly accuracy when targeting the shibboleths of the cultural consensus can be safely muffled before its subversive potency does any visible damage.

    For Ivšić, theatrical space offers the ideal spot for opening that space within the spectator that allows experience of individual singularity not as a rupture, but as a vitally essential difference that makes it possible for the world to breathe. He saw the play as the result of a dark conspiracy between the world and the individual, who intentionally withdraws from this relationship in order to return by means of the Trojan horse of fiction.

  • D&D Yoga — swi in collaboration with Sarah Dahnke and Eric Hagan [HT Erik Davis]

    D&D Yoga can be played in many ways. The varying flavors range from that of a guided narrative while people do yoga to a far more interactive experience where players are in conversation and play a more active role in the campaign. For the first trial, we thought it would be wise to veer closer to the guided narrative side of things. Players still made decisions and rolled dice to dictate a few directions that the story took but generally we wanted to see how the experiment would play out and then build from there. As we proceed into future events we are building more interactivity into the game.

  • Appeals Court Finds Scanning To Be Fair Use — NewYorkCountryLawyer, Slashdot

    scanning whole books and making them searchable for research use is a fair use

    the creation of a searchable, full text database is a ‘quintessentially transformative use’, that it was ‘reasonably necessary’ to make use of the entire works, that maintaining four copies of the database was reasonably necessary as well, and that the research library did not impair the market for the originals.

  • «Dracula è sepolto a Napoli, ecco dov’è la tomba» — Paolo Barbuto, Il Gazzettino

    «Il conte Dracula è morto a Napoli, è stato sepolto nel cuore della città ed è ancora qui»: c’è un gruppo di persone che da settimane percorre strade e vicoli a caccia del segreto.

    E non sono ragazzini sognatori, fanatici, esaltati, ma serissimi studiosi dell’università di Tallinn in Estonia. Sono convinti di ciò che fanno, sostengono di avere già in mano i documenti che provano la verità, così hanno avviato una campagna di ricerche sul territorio.

    “Count Dracula died in Naples, was buried in the heart of the city and is still here”: there is a group of people who for weeks along the streets and alleys in search of the secret.

    And kids are not dreamers, fanatics, exalted, but very serious scholars of the University of Tallinn in Estonia. They believe in what they do, they claim to have already got the documents to prove the truth, so they launched a campaign of research in the area.

  • From Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Songs Before Sunrise at “Save His Own Soul He Hath No Star” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti

    His soul is even with the sun
    Whose spirit and whose eye are one,
    Who seeks not stars by day, nor light
    And heavy heat of day by night.
    Him can no God cast down, whom none
    Can lift in hope beyond the height
    Of fate and nature and things done
    By the calm rule of might and right
    That bids men be and bear and do,
    And die beneath blind skies or blue.

  • Two giant planets may cruise unseen beyond Pluto” — Nicola Jenner, NewScientist; from the where-is-your-astrology-now dept.

    The monsters are multiplying. Just months after astronomers announced hints of a giant “Planet X” lurking beyond Pluto, a team in Spain says there may actually be two supersized planets hiding in the outer reaches of our solar system.

    When potential dwarf planet 2012 VP113 was discovered in March, it joined a handful of unusual rocky objects known to reside beyond the orbit of Pluto. These small objects have curiously aligned orbits, which hints that an unseen planet even further out is influencing their behaviour. Scientists calculated that this world would be about 10 times the mass of Earth and would orbit at roughly 250 times Earth’s distance from the sun.

    Now Carlos and Raul de la Fuente Marcos at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain have taken another look at these distant bodies. As well as confirming their bizarre orbital alignment, the pair found additional puzzling patterns. Small groups of the objects have very similar orbital paths. Because they are not massive enough to be tugging on each other, the researchers think the objects are being “shepherded” by a larger object in a pattern known as orbital resonance.

  • ‘A Funny Kind Of Relationship’ Alan Moore On Iain Sinclair — Nick Talbot, The Quietus

    Whilst not quite a household name, instead occupying a liminal status maintained by a principled refusal to be involved in any Hollywood adaptations of his work, Moore is widely regarded as the finest writer in the medium, and it is difficult to imagine how the comic book landscape would look without the enduring influence of his exceptional work. But it is equally difficult to imagine how From Hell (1989), his first major work beyond the costumed vigilantes and superheroes genre, and also his Magnum Opus, would have looked had he not discovered the work of Iain Sinclair. A quintessential writer’s writer, Sinclair is a Hendrix-cum-Kevin Shields of the English language, mixing scholarly historical research, formal training and technical linguistic virtuosity with a wildly impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness prose-poetry delivery that is dazzling, dizzying, and for those with literary pretensions, frankly dispiriting in its apparently effortless genius. Sinclair’s subject is predominantly London, most often East London, and the relationship between its history, its continually shifting cityscape and the psyche of those who inhabit it. Sharing similar concerns, themes and stylistic flourishes with Peter Ackroyd, both with works appearing in the eighties and nineties, this uniquely East London-focused micro-genre came to be dubbed ‘psychogeography’. Soon complemented by Will Self and others, the movement could be interpreted as a response to the corporatist regeneration of London’s East End by the Thatcherite Conservative government in the 1980s. The spatial and historical density of London allows for an unusually potent and apparently limitless store of inspiration, but what marks out Sinclair in particular is his ability to see patterns, sigils and correspondences where perhaps the rest of us see dog shit, broken fencing and inane graffiti.

  • Eating Flower Spirits” — Sarah Anne Lawless

    Summer flowers are brought inside, painted the colours of sarees and gypsy vardos, and fill tea pots and canning jars. Nighshade, poppies, red clover, comfrey, daisies, sage flowers, and foxgloves. Some from the yard, some escaped from gardens into the neglected back alleys of the old neighbourhood. I know that by taking them home I am consuming them, making their already short lives even shorter, but I try my best to ask sweetly for their blessings before I snip off their heads and bring them home. I try my best to let them know why and what will be done with their beautiful sacrifice – their souls burned up like incense to be eaten by my own beloved spirits – eaters of flowers.

  • What Athens Has Got To Do With Jerusalem: The Marriage of Greek and Jewish Themes in the Apocryphon of John” — Dan Attrell

    This paper presents a summary overview of how the Apocryphon of John, an apocalyptic work drawn from the Nag Hammadi Library, is explicitly the product of an syncretism between Greek language/philosophy and Jewish mythology/mysticism in the 1st century CE.

  • Coincidentia Oppositorum: Exploring the Dialogue in the Recent Historical Literature of Medieval and Early Modern European Alchemy — Dan Attrell

    The study of alchemy has posed a number of complications for historians. Among historians of science who wrote as late as the mid-20th century, alchemy was perceived to be a mystical philosophy, an obstacle to the progress of „rational‟ chemistry, and even a pathology of the mind. This rather out-dated tendency toward knee-jerk dismissals has, however, been recently curtailed as the wider community of medievalists and early modern historians began to understand alchemy on its own terms, having placed it firmly within in the context of an ‘alchemical worldview.’ The recent dialogue among historians concerning alchemy in Europe has chiefly been directed toward (a) understanding of what ‘alchemy’ actually meant to the people who lived amongst it or practiced it themselves; (b) determining to what extent alchemy was interrelated with the religious consciousness of its practitioners; and most noticeably (c) reconciling or collapsing a number of exaggerated, artificial, and misleading dichotomies within our modern perceptions of medieval and early modern alchemy. Was European alchemy a ‘theoretical’ or a ‘practical’ art? Was it a ‘spiritual’ or a ‘material’ pursuit? Was it a ‘medicinal’ or a ‘metallurgical’ practice? How and when was ‘alchemy’ differentiated from ‘chemistry’? Were they ‘on the fringes’ of learned society, or were they at the cutting edge of knowledge as defined by traditional institutions? Were alchemists outright ‘frauds’ (Betrüger) or misguided ‘fools’?

    These are all questions which a handful of historians have recently tackled and shown to be somewhat misguided. Such dichotomies arose from the dialogue of recent centuries wherein scholars and theorists from various disciplines began exploring and reconceptualising alchemy and its history; each angle, each discipline, each perspective offered some rather rigid model for understanding alchemy, and many of these models crystallized into opposing camps. Alchemy, however, was never a static or monolithic pursuit and thus eludes any attempt to give such simple definitions. In response to this problem, it is this paper’s goal to flesh out the most recent scholarly dialogue – to outline and synthesize the most pertinent points made in the recent historical literature concerning alchemy. What I hope to show is how the most recent historical research tells us that ‘alchemy’ meant many different things to many different people at many different junctures in history, even among the relatively isolated practitioners of Europe. With no source of official authority such as the Church or the University to govern alchemy as a branch of knowledge, the art was free to take on and accumulate a number of its practitioners’ idiosyncrasies. Free as it was, as a model to explore and communicate features of the known universe, European alchemy was a rich and dynamic practice which contained within itself all of the artificial polarities mentioned above.

  • Rewilding Witchcraft — Peter Grey, Scarlet Imprint

    We have mistaken social and economic change for the result of our own advocacy. Marching in lock-step with what used to be called mainstream, but is now mono-culture, we have disenchanted ourselves, handed over our teeth and claws and bristling luxuriant furs. I will not be part of this process, because to do so is to be complicit with the very forces that are destroying all life on earth. It is time for Witchcraft not to choose, but to remember which side it is on in this struggle.

  • London’s calling: the city as character in urban fantasy” — Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent, Spiral Nature

    Each of these series draws on what I would say are the main characteristics of London’s soul. It’s old – continually inhabited since before Roman times; it’s powerful — but nowhere near as much as its past as the heart of an empire; it’s stubborn — enduring centuries of hardship and prosperity, adapting to huge changes in population and traumas ranging from plague to fire to Nazi bombs to the very modern stresses of wealth inequality. London changes — it has to — but there’s some core of its personality that always remains.

    Of course, London as a whole is the sum of its parts, none of which are quite alike — the genius loci of Camden differs greatly from those of Catford and Chelsea. But each also touch the greater gestalt of the place. Inevitably, the best way to grasp the specific psychogeography of a place is to walk its streets.

  • Weekly Apocryphote: June 8-14 — April D DeConick, Forbidden Gospels

    You have not come to suffer. Rather you have come to escape from what binds you. Release yourself, and what has bound you will be undone. Save yourself, so that what is (in you) may be saved … Why are you hesitating?

 

If you’d like to participate in the next Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.

Arcana V

Arcana V: Musicians on Music, Magic & Mysticism, edited by John Zorn, from Hip Road / Tzadik, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

John Zorn Arcana V from Tdzadik Hip Road

“Mysticism, magic and alchemy all come into play in the creative process. For centuries musicians have tapped into things spiritual, embracing ritual, spell, incantation and prayer deeply into their life and work. Although the connection of music to mysticism has been consistent, well documented and productive, it is still shrouded in mystery and largely misunderstood. For this special edition, Arcana focuses on the nexus of mysticism and spirituality in the magical act of making music. Far from an historical overview or cold musicologist’s study, these essays illuminate a fascinating and elusive subject via the the eloquent voices of today’s most distinguished modern practitioners and greatest occult thinkers, providing insights into the esoteric traditions and mysteries involved in the composition and performance of the most mystical of all arts.

Contributors
William Breeze
Gavin Bryars
Steve Coleman
Alvin Curran
Frank Denyer
Jeremy Fogel
Sharon Gannon
Peter Garland
Milford Graves
Larkin Grimm
Tim Hodgkinson
Jerry Hunt
Eyvind Kang
Jessika Kenney
William Kiesel
Yusef Lateef
Frank London
Dary John Mizelle
Meredith Monk
Tisziji Muñoz
Mark Nauseef
Pauline Oliveros
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Terry Riley
Adam Rudolph
David Chaim Smith
Trey Spruance
David Toop
Greg Wall
Peter Lamborn Wilson
Z’ev” — back cover