Tag Archives: Mark Stavish

Alchemical Works

Hermetic Library Fellow Mark Stavish reviews Alchemical Works: Eirenaeus Philalethes Compiled edited by S Merrow Broddle in the archive of Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly.

Eirenaeus Philalethes Broddle Alchemical Works

Looking for a little late night alchemical reading? Well, then, you’ve come to the right place. How about enough reading for, say, the next 40 nights? Better still. Alchemical Works: Eirenaeus Philalethes Compiled is not only a mouthful, it is also an alchemical month’s worth of some heavy duty reading on the laboratory aspects of the Great Work by one of the 17th century’s leading exponents of the Art.

As the introduction suggests, over 300 years after the first publications of Philalethes, the identity of this nearly mythological adept is still unknown. Philalethes is the latinization of the Greek phrase for “Lover of Truth”, and if he is judged by what he has written, which according to his prefaces, suggests kindness, modesty, and a philanthropic attitude – the reputed hallmarks of spiritual attainment – it is a fitting name. Legendary for having achieved the Philosopher’s Stone at the age of 23, in 1645, his additional pseudonyms describe him as a Citizen of the Cosmos, or Cosmopolita, the term by which he is best known.

An associate of Boyle, Starkey, and other lesser alchemists and pseudo-alchemists, some of them well known, Philalethes’ writings were the basis for Isaac Newton’s experiments in alchemy, particularly his search for the Philosophic Mercury in 1675. In addition, Philalethes is best known for putting forth the idea of metallic seed which was “diffused throughout the metal, and contained in all its smallest parts…”, an idea similar to today’s atomic theory.

Included in this volume are all of Philalethes’ works available in English, indexed and complete, with the original format preserved. A partial look at the contents shows: The Marrow of Alchemy, Parts 1 and 2; Ripley Revived; An Exposition upon the First Six Gates of Sir George Ripley’s Compound of Alchemie; Experiment for the Preparation of the Sophick Mercury, by Luna, and the Antimonial-Stellate-Regulus of Mars, for the Philosopher’s Stone; A Breviary of Alchemy; and more, for a total of 17 tracts.

Don’t expect to be able to pick up this book, head to your basement with a chemistry kit and make Star Regulus or Ignis-Aqua, however. Like all philosophers of the Hermetic arts and sciences, Philalethes writes in what his modern equivalent, Fulcanelli, calls “the language of the birds”. Like any language, symbolic language is clear to those who know its definitions, grammar, and syntax, but is meaningless to anyone who hasn’t done the Work needed to understand it.

Never fear, though, there is help. While there may not yet be a Yellow Pages for alchemists, some preliminary reading in the field will help clear away many of the obscurities presented in Philalethes’ works. Several introductory books on the actual laboratory techniques of alchemy do exist, along with suggestions for practical experiments in the field. The Alchemist’s Handbook by Frater Albertus, Manfred Junius’ Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy, In Pursuit of Gold: Alchemy Today in Theory and Practice by Lapidus, and Gold of a Thousand Mornings by Armand Barbault are all more valuable in conjunction with Alchemical Works: Eirenaeus Philalethes Compiled than a dozen psychological analyses of the text.

If you are looking for an authentic alchemical text to guide you, complete with references and historical background to give it weight, Alchemical Works is one of the best buys for the money. It is an expensive book at $60.00, but is loaded with what many consider to be the essential readings on the subject of alchemy by one who is said to have made the Stone and completed the Great Work.

In the true spirit of Hermeticism, by the way, the publisher has included the following statement on the dust jacket: “This work was commissioned by a scholar of the Art who lovingly guided the stringent accuracy of the detailed restoration and publication of the material contained within. Consistent with the Hermetic Tradition, he wishes to remain – Anonymous.” Could it be? Nah…

Fifth International Conference of the ASE on Jun 19-22nd, 2014 at Colgate University

The Fifth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism on June 19th–22nd, 2014 at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The conference schedule has recently been posted and you will find quite a few presenters and presentations of interest including a couple by Hermetic library fellows:

· Mark Stavish, Israel Regardie and the Theory and Practice of the Middle Pillar Exercise
· Joscelyn Godwin, Esotericism in a Murky Mirror: Strange Practices in Central New York.

Do check out the whole schedule, but a selection of the other presentations, that catch my eye, includes:

· John L Crow (Thelema Coast to Coast), The Theosophical Shift to the Visual: Graphical Representations of the Human Body in the Literature of Second and Third Generation Leadership in the Theosophical Society
· Simon Magus, The fin de siècle magical aesthetic of Austin Osman Spare: Siderealism, Atavism, Automatism, Occultism
· David Pecotic, Building Subtle Bodies — Gurdjieff’s esoteric practice of conditional immortality in the light of Poortman’s concept of hylic pluralism in the history of religions
· Richard Kaczynski, Inventing Tradition: The Construction of History, Lineage and Authority in Secret Societies
· Wouter Hanegraaff, The Transformation of Desire in Machen’s & Waite’s House of the Hidden Light
· Sarah Veale, Disenchantment of the Vampire: Balkan Folklore’s Deadly Encounter with Modernity
· Gordan Djurdjevic, “In Poison there is Physic”: On Poisons and Cures in Some Strands of Esoteric Theory and Practice.

Book Review – The Forbidden Book by Guido Mina di Sospiro and Joscelyn Godwin

Hermetic Library fellow Mark Stavish recently reviewed Joscelyn Godwin, another Hermetic Library fellow, and Guido di Sospiro’s The Forbidden Book, a recently available for the first time in English fiction novel. Both the novel and the review may be of interest. Mark Stavish posted his review to Amazon and also to his email list, but gave me permission to share it with you here:

The Forbidden Book is a wonderful page turner in the style of Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code and The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, only unlike these bestsellers, di Sospiro and Godwin deliver the goods, not only in story, but for many readers, in esoteric content as well. Opening with a bang, literally, and a large one at that, The Forbidden Book takes its readers into an occult world just below the surface of our own. Occult in both the general and specific meanings of the word in that not only are we introduced to the world of magic and alchemy, and sex magic at that, but also into a world view not generally known, that of Traditionalism. Our unlikely hero Leo Kavenaugh is of course a professor, and an instructor of Italian at that. The damsel in distress and love interest is the lovely Orsina, who was once his teaching assistant and now married to a wealthy industrialist. However, while the plot set-up is predictable, its unfoldment is clean and enticing all the way to the end as the mystery around the forbidden book, The Magical World of the Heroes, written by Cesare Della Riviera in 1605, unfolds and family secrets around forbidden power, incest, hubris and greed embodied in Orsina’s uncle Baron Emanuele are revealed. All of this is against the background of a modern Europe on the brink of civil war as religious tensions break through the veneer of cafe culture, and the politics of identity assert themselves via shade of Colin Wison’s book The Mind Parasites, where mind control is not about controlling all people, but is about controlling the right people.

For our readers, the Della Riviera’s book is a real work, not unlike the Hypnoerotomachia Poliphili which was translated by Joscelyn Godwin (1999), and formed the basis for Caldwell and Thomason’s novel. Many in the English speaking world first became introduced to The Magical World of the Heroes as it was mentioned in Introduction to Magic — Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus, Guido Stucco’s translation of the collected works of the UR Group, an Italian esoteric lodge centered around the teachings of Julius Evola. Evola, a self-styled Baron, advocated a philosophy which believed that the modern world is essentially decadent and that traditional norms, hierarchies, and values are the only means of restoring sanity through political and occult methods.

I found The Forbidden Book a fascinating and a wonderful first novel for this pair of brilliant scholars, showing that deep thinking, scholarly skill, and creativity can go hand-in-hand and create a novel that one can be pleasantly read in an afternoon or two. While I did not particularly enjoy reading The Forbidden Book in its electronic form, Disinformation has been bought by Red Wheel/Weiser and a paperback edition will be released in early 2013.

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

“The writings of Von Durckheim combine depth psychology, Christian mysticism, and Zen practices in such a fashion as to allow for the realization of one’s interior life with Christ, a purpose in harmony with both Psychosynthesis, and tradition Western esoteric Pathworking. His writings are a significant contribution to this area, even though they use the language of orthodox Christianity, and are a valuable tool for bridging this gap between psychology, mysticism, and even esotericism.” [via]

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

“These sudden flashes of insight and alteration of consciousness can in some instances be called initiations, some being minor, and others more significant. Unfortunately, the concept of initiation in esoteric circles is filled with many misconceptions, and in psychology, it has no equivalent term or phrase, although several might be suggested.” [via]

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

“The initiator, and/or initiatic team, would proceed to create a condition wherein the energies of the psyche would be awakened and brought to the surface of consciousness. However, for this to work effectively, it requires that those energies being awakened in the initiate already be alive and well in the psychic body-consciousness of the initiator. This is a critical point, and the failure of this condition being met, is the principle cause for esoteric initiations as a whole being of questionable value.” [via]

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

“Until this century, the most common method of esoteric learning was either through a teacher-student relationship, or affiliation with an esoteric lodge. The principle means of instruction and initiation was often ritualistic, and would involve one or more persons who has experienced ritual or its equivalent previously.” [via]