Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hans Holbein - Dance of Death

Death is holding the flask!

The Art of Christian Cabala

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jenny Rampling podcast on Alchemy and Patronage in Tudor England

I met Rampling in Philly at the CHF conference in 2005 and I was very impressed with her work on alchemical emblems. We should be grateful to have somebody like her working on this era, the Ripley scroll, and the alchemical illustration in general. Check out the second podcast on this list.
(from this link you need iTunes, but it's free)
or use this direct download link provided by Anechoic (look at it in a video player to see the slideshow of the images she's discussing)

here's a partial transcription of the first minute or so

in talking about alchemy today, I want to stress variety. When we think about alchemy we think about transformation and change... specifically the transmutation of base metals gold... As I hope to convince you today, there's a little bit more to alchemy than that... variety in the goals and pursuits of alchemy, in the occupations of its practitioners, in the way way that its mysterious processes were interpreted... Alchemy was not a monolithic entity... practiced by courtiers and artisans, physicians and priests, merchants and scholars... practitioners from a range of backgrounds were nevertheless concerned to present themselves as heirs to a single unified and ancient tradition of privileged knowledge... for all their personal diversity individual alchemists often adopted similar styles of self-presentation... by appealing to long-established conventions, not only of technical writing, but also poetry and art...
like historians alchemists were continually concerned about funding

and here's another lecture from Rampling - The Mirror of Alchemy:  Images and Reflections of the Medieval Alchemical Cosmos, including examples of work by the fifteenth-century English alchemist George Ripley and the Elizabethan mathematician and astrologer, John Dee.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Collection of Tweets on Alchemy, Renaissance Magic, Esotericism, Philosophy, Literature

The One and the Many Gods

SEP Schopenhauer article revised
RT @EPButler Disentangling the intelligible from the phantasmatic's
as important for developing the phantasm as for grasping intelligibility

"If Athens is where the Greeks learned power accrued to one who knew
how to write, Alexandria learned the reader has special power as well."

"Whose is the cunning hand that set them up? A Puzzle Maker of
infinite cunning and infinite resources!" via

How Philosophers Saved Myths: Allegorical Interpretation and
Classical Mythology

Der Kommentar des Proklos zu Hesiods ‘Werken und Tagen’

Metaphor, Allegory and the Classical Tradition: Ancient Thought and
Modern Revisions

Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria

Feminine Personification of Wisdom:Study of Homer's
Penelope,Cappadocian Macrina,Boethius'Philosophia+Dante's Beatrice

Proclus: the theurgical power...gathers benefits of
divination+purificatory power of ritual+all activities whatsoever of divine

Offering to the Gods: A Neoplatonic Perspective

Edward Butler, Polycentric Polytheism+the Philosophy of Religion non reductive crosscultural comparison between deities

Butler:polycentric nature of NP theology theoretical articulation for
henotheistic practices w/in polytheism w/o invoking “mono tendencies.”

Thoth article in Edward Butler's Theological Encyclopedia of Ancient
Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Leen Spruit on Pico' theory of intelligible species

Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition by Glenn Magee

Dawson: "Only when God or meaning is present to the text but less so
to the world or [vice versa] does the allegorical imagination emerge."

"ancient literary critics rarely concerned with the interpretation of
a whole literary work...focus on the level of the word or the gloss."

The trouble, according to Silk, is that theorizing about poetry has
gone on without theorists giving thought to actual poems.

Crowther: metaphor is essentially predicative and its "basic purpose"
is "the cognitive elucidation" of what is being described

"for Plato, metaphor could have a heuristic function in a
conversation in which neither party was able absolutely to enlighten the

Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Egyptians: A Theological
Encyclopedia by @EPButler

Hellenismos and the Future of Paganism: An Interview with Rebecca

RT @EPButler The beauty of #Bruno is that he reads everything, then does
such original things with it that "influence" seems beside the point.
"[Bruno] rejected hylomorphism in favor of a monism in which the
universal, infinite, and eternal substance was identical with God+nature."

Giordano Bruno in Paul Oscar Kristeller's Eight Philosophers of the
Italian Renaissance

Giordano Bruno, His Life and Thought, with an annoted translation of
his Infinity of Worlds Dorothea Singer

Sicut sensus non potest sentire sine sensibili, ita anima non potest
intelligere sine phantasmate.–Aquinas, Sentencia libri De anima, III.12

Speculative Medievalisms: A Laboratory-Atelier

"... second intentions, carradoths, antitheses, metempsychoses,
transcendent prolepsies, and such other light food." -Rabelais

Gatti: One of the most original aspects of Coleridge's interest in Bruno regarded his dialectic.

Where did Philip K. Dick get his ideas about Giordano Bruno? (under construction, would appreciate any leads)

Giordano Bruno as supplement to Deleuze
RT @aureliomadrid: eriugena (part of the) periphyseon PDF @t3dy
Kripal: Grof begins, like William James, with a "methodological
principle of excess." Esalen p.256

McKenna: “[John] Dee is the last person to be able to unify into
one world view science,+mathematics,+magic,+astrology all together.”

"Modern science is an incredibly demonic enterprise." -Terence
McKenna on Alchemy and Renaissance Magic as influences in the history of

RT @davidbmetcalfe "I breached the veil of ISIS and all I got was
this cheaply printed pamphlet on intra-psychic vampires..."

"Human beings are co-partners with deity in the project of being.
This is the basis of all magic." -Terence McKenna
@davidbmetcalfe all they did at Eleusis was hold a stupid ear of corn
up to my head and speak the Word.

"Flaming giraffe equals Masculine apocalyptic monster. Cat angel
equals divine heterosexual monster. Hourglass equals metaphysical
monster.” -Dali

The Glass Bead Gamification #lessinterestingbooks

@davidbmetcalfe Archon is a virus?

RT @erik_davis: Hilarious and deeply weird take-down of human
potential. Dylan Moran.

RT @philo_quotes: The human body is the best picture of the human soul. ~ Wittgenstein

Paracelsus Celebration website by Allen Debus, dean of alchemical
studies in the history of science

The Problem with Propitiation Thelema and Faith blog

RT @Lyndon_M: "I searched for God and found only myself. I searched
for myself and found only God." - Sufi Proverb (via... ...

Zurich Paracelsus Project

Alchemical allegory in Rabelais
"our only way to arrive safe at the queendom of Whims was to trust to
the whirlwind and be led by the current." -Rabelais, G+P Bk.5 #fnord

Ficino and Neoplatonic Theories of Language
James Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man

"The inner nature of everything may therefore be known through Magic
in general, and through the powers of the inner (or second) sight." -PC

"[Alchemy] is like unto death, which separates the eternal from the
mortal, so that it should properly be known as the death of things." -PC

Paracelsus on inner seeing

“Just as outer seeing is suited to the farmer, inner seeing, which
is secret seeing, is suited to the physician." -Paracelsus

Paracelsus "was the first to imagine that the body worked like an
alchemical laboratory+that it was chemical in nature"

chart of alchemical symbols in unicode

Test for Unicode support in Web browsers Alchemical Symbols

Proposal for Alchemical Symbols in Unicode

RT @fredgibbs: #histsci + #dh = awesome. RT @dhnow: Resource:
Alchemy, Text Analysis, and Networks! Oh my!

RT @rmathematicus: Contrary to the claims of many sources Paracelsus
was probably not born on 11/11

Muehlberger: "In antiquity, some Christians believed that angels were
minds, or intellects, detached from bodies,"

Muehlberger: "In a way, angels were like computers---very, very good
at figuring things out and getting things done..."

"...because they had rational minds but did not have the difficulty
of having desires and passions, like humanity."

Angels in Christianity Evolved Over Time,New Research Shows

RT @erik_davis: Play well! Pre-guru Tim Leary on behavior change and
the games of human culture:

RT @erik_davis: Dark and wacky Harold Bloom oped on Mormonism,
Romney, politics and the poetry of American religion:

RT @erik_davis: Comic Patton Oslwalt on LSD and the pagan conspiracy
of Lucky Charms.

Jinn according to Quran and Sunnah Surat al-Jinn
-- 72nd sura of the Qur'an

Stela of Ashurbanipal carrying a basket on his head

Stela of Ashurbanipal

The Babylonian Visual Image in the Routledge
Babylonian World

Studies in the History of the Exact Sciences in Honour of David
Pingree Pingree bio at wikipedia

Witchcraft, Sorcery, Rumors and Gossip

Alchemical Symbolism through questions

in Image and Reality... "Rocke also suggests that imagistic thinking
is often at the heart of creative thinking in all fields."

Paracelsus on the Unconscious

"Paracelsus is credited as providing the first clinical/scientific
mention of the unconscious."

"Resolute imagination is the beginning of all magical operations."
[attributed to?] Paracelsus

"drawing philosophical conclusions by consulting intuitions may be
problematic bc those intuitions aren't consistently held across cultures"

Philosophy of Religious Experience

"These capacities for conscious deliberation, rational thinking and
self-control are not magical abilities."

"Kripal: way for parapsychologists to test+experiment on
aspects of paranormal experiences." via

RT @davidbmetcalfe: Rice prof speaks on paranormal, consciousness in

Aquinas was able to reconcile the diversity of ideas with God’s
simplicity. The solution involves viewing ideas as nonbeings relative to

"Divine ideas are exemplar causes in the likeness of which God
produces creatures. Ideas belong to God’s practical knowledge."

alchemical texts on Scribd

THERE are many points in alchymical history which have been purposely
passed over as affording nothing worthy of remark

RT @erik_davis: Thelema is magickal (de)construction. RT @t3dy:
Burroughs admired Crowley for his application of a...hermeneutic of susp...

Biblical Israel's History viewed from the inside and out.

I think Burroughs admired Crowley for his application of a methodical
(if occult) hermeneutic of suspicion to the idea of Control.

beginning of a translation of John Dee's Mathematical Preface to
Euclid into readable contemporary English

John Dee translated Euclid "that you may thereby recreate some
profit: and moreover to excite and stir up others learned, to do the like."

quotes about alchemical images

" alchemical authors say, speaking metaphorically." -Albertus Magnus

“ . . unlike the arbitrariness of linguistic signs, pictorial forms
can preserve original knowledge.” -Barbara Obrist on alchemical images

review of Torijano's "Solomon the Esoteric King"

Visualizing Angelic Visions
Kabbalistic / Qabalistic Tree of Life Diagrams

RT @satfeed: Idries Shah: On Sufi Knowledge
"Plotinus’s heirarchy of Being is more famous than his thinking of
any unity at all as a kind of profusion." The Cone

Melancholy Saturn on his Chariot

The Cone of Plotinus: Ontologies of Profusion and Particularization

Diagramming Plotinus

Lab Full of Flasks

Mysterium Magnum: Michelangelo's Tono Doni

Ficino's translation of Plotinus on Numbers

Dogma vs. Ideation: Methods of Plotinus

Plotinus proposes three Hypostases of God, each progressively
‘inferior’ but still fully divine:
Porphyry and Plotinus (illuminated)

Dan Merkur on Active Imagination in Paracelsus

@globalinfowatch check out Merkur's Gnosis on Paracelsus, or his
online papers such as "The Angelic Stone" and "Nectar"

Trithemius gives a functional account of an angel

Agrippa on Natural Magic in De Vanitate

Farinella on the influence of Proclus on Giordano Bruno's Art of

Michael Maier cites Ficino in his discussion of the philosopher's

Proclus and John Dee's Heiroglyphic Monad an
excerpt from Calder's thesis

Alchemical emblems re-purposed as music theory comics

John Dee on the powers of Mathematical Mind

a few scholarly passages on Giordano Bruno's Art of Memory

Brian Copenhaver on the influence of Proclus on Ficino

Paola Zambelli on Bruno as a reader of forbidden books Zambelli on H. C. Agrippa

notes from Johannes Reuchlin "On the art of the Kabbalah" Reuchlin on techniques and names

Proclus, Elements of Theology, 109 propositions in Latin

Hakan: "by understanding how the different parts of the universe are
related, the wise man can become a magician."

Hakan on al-kindi "everything that existed in actuality in the
universe emitted rays in every direction"

Dee's copy of the Neoplatonist-Plotinus De rebus philosophicis libri
LIIII. in enneades sex distributi (London, Royal College of Physicians)

"Dee’s “Hieroglyphic Monad” became an instrument by which the
mind was able to transcend dianoetical reasoning..."

Writing about various nebulous concepts of magic, which I don't think
Pico intended to invoke, has been the most difficult thing about my MA

"That 'occult blind' you can’t figure out may not be intentional?
It just may be a mistake." via @sarahveale

Invocatio (formerly known as X, Y and Zen) a
blog mostly about western esotericism

"Miracles act to "prove" a particular revelation. But what do
paranormal experiences prove? Well, nothing yet..." Jeffrey Kripal

Paranormal America Interview with Jeffrey Kripal

"I want this book to challenge the common assumptions people
make about profound, life-changing, mind-blowing mystical experiences."

"Pico did not intend to marry or conjoin the two [magic+kabbalah] but
rather to subjugate both to Christianity..." Idel,Kabbalah+Hermeticism

"Let us come to wisdom and union only by the way of intellectual
speculation or by sudden intuition, but not by magical actions" Y. Alemanno
Moshe Idel on Kabbalistic theurgy and Magic

2011-11-11 02:04:38
t3dy: RT @APassion4Jazz: " #Jazz #music is a language of the emotions."
Charles Mingus

RT @john_overholt: Fantastically useful online exhibition: Signs &
Symbols: Decoding Mediaeval and Renaissance Iconography ...

Dan Merkur on Dante and Gnosis problem of
Theosophy Hermeticism vs Gnosticism

Alchemical texts were powerful tools for doing some kind of spiritual
operation, but not for comforting readers with shallow New Age truisms

I don't think alchemical texts were designed to deliver the kinds of
easy answers that these spiritual alchemists find, but to instruct+play

These spiritual alchemy readings that I'm complaining about really
argue that we should ignore alchemy texts, since we already know the plan
What haunts me about spiritual alchemy readings is that they do such
violence for the texts, while spuriously claiming to let them speak.

Khunrath, Maier, Fludd, the later Rosicrucian alchemists, were rooted
in the Paracelsian developments. Marvelous/orignal/novel developments.

Paracelsian alchemy was a new development. It wasn't a fulfillment of
ancient deep roots,but result of interface of gnosis/theosophy/science

A spiritual alchemy reading should get alchemical matter theory
right. It does no good to interpolate anachronistic modern spiritualities.

Since alchemical matter theory was not nonsensical, but in fact a
sophisticated set of signs+discourse practices, this is where to start.

The spiritual alchemy lineage of Atwood-Silberer-Jung is based on
radical assumption that alchemical matter theory was nonsense. Not true.

Problematic "Spiritual Alchemy" readings tend to rely on implicit
anti-science bias to persuade their victims. Alchemists weren't anti-sci.!

Alchemy as an art/science was primarily concerned with generating
knowledge about matter. Spiritual metaphors are based on that knowledge.

The crucial point I'd like to make about "Alchemical Spirituality" is
that it's stranger than even obscurantist interpreters claim it to be.

Historians of Science aren't stripping spirituality/symbolism away
from alchemy. However, "spiritual alchemy" strips the art/science aspect.

Fundamentals of Symbolism Part II From the Renaissance to Modern
Times discusses Pico, Ficino, Plotinus

Alchemy of the Sun (updated)
Neoplatonist Spectrum of Consciousness diagram

Lesser-Known Intellectual Trends in the Early Renaissance: Humanism,
Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism

Metaphors of Mixture in Neoplatonism Gersh, From
Iamblichus to Eriugena

Triumph of Aquinas, and a link to Iconography of St. Thomas

Routes of Mystical Traditions: Antiquity to St. Teresa of Avila

I can't figure out where Neoplatonism comes into this article on
"Neoplatonism and Alchemy" cool chakra diagrams though

Islamic Platonists and Neoplatonists

Diagram of Renaissance Esotericists influenced by Neoplatonism

Arthur Versluis on the "sympathetic empiricism" approach to the study
of Esotericism and Mysticism

"at minimum, the study of esotericism,+in particular mysticism,
requires some degree of imaginative participation in what one is

Ficino on the Sight of the Beloved (longer version) posts tagged Ficino on the excellent Reditus

"It always happens that lovers fear and worship in some way the sight
of the beloved." -Marsilio Ficino, commentary on Plato's Symposium

Merkur on Dante and Angels, Allegory, encounters between Gnosis and

Merkur on the Problem of Theosophy for Christian Mysticism

Eriugena: East and West

"Eriugena had successfully pushed Platonism about as far as it could
go without turning into a theosophy." Daniel Merkur, Gnosis p.241

Paracelsus invented not only spiritual alchemy but medical
Gnostic trends have been recognized in his thought from 16th c.

Merkur: "The tradition of spiritual alchemy...originated when
concept of ethereal bodies was blended w/the alchemy of

Introduction to the Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism: interview with
Daniel C. Matt (translator of the Zohar)

Scholarly articles on Alchemy

Geoffrey McVey, Syracuse University, Rethinking the Magic of Giordano
Bruno (anybody know how to get ahold of this text?)

Pico della Mirandola and Henry of Ghent
(clippings from an Amos Edelheit paper)

Henry of Ghent Blog All things pertaining to the
solemn doctor

Churton claims that Crowley was “a major thinker, as significant as Freud or Jung”.

as Tobias Churton puts it, without irony, “Crowley wanted to help us” (ibid)

review of recent Aleister Crowley biographies by Kaczynski and

RT @VesselofHermes: Honey & the Elements

Alchemical Caves Saturn Sigils Lion Tree of Life

Alchemical and Esoteric tweets archive

Want to do a PhD on Western esotericism? Two vacancies in Amsterdam

Idealism in the West Podcast on Renaissance Platonists Marsilio
Ficino and Pico della Mirandola

"The death of his daughter grieved Crowley." -biographer Lawrence

Is "forging" a check an alchemical operation?

RT @eliothahn: RT @HermeticLibrary Renaissance Neo-Platonism

An excellent podcast series by David Beardsley covers the history of
Platonic Idealism in the West Socrates to T.Taylor

RT @BobDobbs_: Codex Seraphinianus: semi-licit copy of a
semi-legendary book of the weird
"...magic spells are not mere metaphors for encryption schemes." Erik
Magic, Memory,+the Angels of Information

"spaces of allegory remain fundamentally phantasmic+metamorphic, as
if the very rigidity of their codes produces a surreal countermovement."

"Such allegorical knowledge maps take an interesting turn
when they become allegorical narratives."

"By doing certain things certain results follow..." -Aleister
Crowley, Liber O (appended to Magick in Theory

"It is immaterial whether they exist or not. By doing certain things,
certain results follow..." Crowley on gamification of magical entities

syllabus for Gordan Djurdjevic's course on Western Esotericism

Abraham Abulafia stars in Swiss exhibit on Comparative
via @avisolo

alchemical cutup of Voynich Manuscript, Ripley Scroll, Rosarium

Rosarium Philosophorum

The Ripley Scroll #Alchemy

Cramer's Emblems #alchemy

Make the birds fly

Green Lion Devouring The Sun -- Five Versions

Alchemical Heraldry from Pauvert

lovely phoenix illustration on The English Emblem Book Project

Alan Moore reads "Robert Anton Wilson" via @CatVincent

Psychology's Magician (on Carl Jung)

Renaissance Magic at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Magic, by Tanya Luhrmann

Pico's angelology is interesting, and perhaps even philosophically shocking, but for reasons other than his enthusiasm for magic+kabbalah.

Pretty much everything Pico had to say about angelology had nothing to do with his (equally interesting!) concept of magic.

Pico took very seriously the notion that any post-Biblical figure's philosophizing was up for debate. This debate was a religious project.

Pico dared to criticize even Pseudo-Dionysius. He's working post-Aquinas, taking those thomistic/scholastic PsD. modifications into account.

I think it's pretty clear that even if we go with the most skeptical interpretation of Agrippa, a Pseudo-Dionysian theology underlies it all

Pico in being so ruthlessly critical of Ficino obviously misses much of value, but as a result carves out a unique territory for his new RM.

Each of the Renaissance Magicians seems to be misinterpreting the other RMs he's reading, but in good magical faith.

I want to know more about how Agrippa understood Trithemius. How did these guys manage to make such a profound impact on each other so fast?

Noel Brann gets it right with his "Magical Theology" approach to Trithemius, but it's clear that he's running into lots of problems.

Keeping in mind the errors of Frances Yates, I think she was absolutely correct to emphasize problem of "religious magic"/"magical religion"

Same goes for Agrippa's reading of Pico/Reuchlin. They share a magical religious faith but differ in their scientific method.

Understanding Pico's influence on Reuchlin is tricky, since he moves in such a different direction. We should compare their versions of PsD.

The problem with looking at "Christian Cabala" as simple succession from Pico on is that at each step of the way it gets radically refocused

Agrippa followed Pico in applying a critical method to the magic tradition of Ficino, but he was working to purify that same religious magic

For renaissance magicians like Ficino+Pico, the exaltation of the magus was a contemplative experience of the glory of God, not a power trip

"Crowley defended Rodin against the critical backlash+subsequently befriended the sculptor a few years later... published a collaboration"

RT @gary_singh: Rodin and America: Influence and Adaptation | Silicon Alleys | Metro Newspapers #esoteric #crowley ...

RT @VesselofHermes: Stages of Ascension in Hermetic Rebirth, Dan Merkur, University of Toronto via @eglinski

Why study Renaissance Magic notes from a religious studies grad student

Hymn-Singing from Plethon to Ficino (subjective to theurgic?)

Magic Square: SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS (or rotate your own)

Michael Keaton should play Giordano Bruno. A Roman Lead Curse Tablet

It's the Great Cthulhu, Charles Dexter via some kind soul whose handle I misplaced on the clipboard

Schuon on Islamic Esotericism/Sufism via "Henry Corbin" on Facebook

I'm quite looking forward to Egil Asprem's "Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic+Modern Occulture" due in May.

Walker: "Ficino is the earliest Renaissance writer I know of to treat the effects of music seriously and practically."

Ficino to Pico in a letter, "What wonderful things! A work beyond belief to those who have lost the memory of truth."

Szonyi: Contexts for Dee's Angel Magic

important research on Dee+grimoire magic in Clucas' interdisciplinary studies

very excited, Laus Platonici Philosophi: Marsilio Ficino and his
Influence (2011) Edited by Stephen Clucas, Peter J. Forshaw and Valery Rees

@DebHarkness did groundbreaking research into Dee's
Angelology -- check out Claire Fanger's review

Monday, November 14, 2011

Questions about Alchemical Symbols

Questions about Alchemical Symbols

Why did alchemists use astrological symbols of the planets to describe metals?

Why did alchemists use so many bizarre and monstrous animals?

How did alchemists use color? (color codes, alchemical materials)

Why are alchemical images so violent?

Why did alchemists use such disturbing sexual symbolism?

Why did the alchemists use such a confusing variety of symbols?

Is there a logic behind the construction/design of the shapes of alchemical symbols?

Philip K. Dick and the alchemists

letter to Claudia Bush (Exegesis p. 176)

what happened to me in March is exactly that "in the twinkling of an eye"23 rebirth or transformation, much like an abrupt chemical process ... as the alchemists so realized. But it must as I say be touched of adventitiously—which is the role Christ plays or did play, his work being already done. He set it in motion. It can't be turned back. He died, but he died knowing he did it. And of course he shared—he was the first to share—in the fruits of his own secret. He did add, though, that most of us would laugh at all this, finding it incredible and impossible and senseless, not to mention stupid. It never meant anything to me until March, and in March when it happened to me I couldn't relate what had happened to anything I'd ever been taught about God or religion. I thought god was up there in the sky. However, he is not; he is a spark which can fuse the total mind in each of us into something entirely new which was not there before (a description of irreversible chemical processes), burning off the dross and making stable (or as the Bible says, uncorruptible) the valuable contents. You can readily see the analogy between this and a chemical reaction in which the results are spectacular, as with ignited gunpowder. There is no way to anticipate the results based on a study of the three prior constituents, and if I told you what would happen unless you had seen it you probably wouldn't believe me. Fire is the adventitious element added; in the case of the transformation I went through, it is also a kind of fire: seen as chromatic phosphene activity. Probably this is radiation phosphene stimulation; the Soviets say that such radiation stimulating phosphene activity can come here—and does—from sidereal space. I believe it. This is the catalyst. The valuable aspect of the external catalyst is that it keeps the process within the control of who it is who controls these things; it isn't going to simply occur at a random time for no reason at all. The universal mind dispatches a Mediator—which is what Christ is called, correctly—to trigger it off; or anyhow the fish sign or any Logos triggering agent.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Quotes about Alchemical Images

“Visualization in medieval alchemy is a relatively late phenomenon. Documents dating from the introduction of alchemy into the Latin West around 1140 up to the mid-thirteenth century are almost devoid of pictorial elements. During the next century and a half, the primary mode of representation remained linguistic and propositional; pictorial forms developed neither rapidly nor in any continuous way. This state of affairs changed in the early fifteenth century when illustrations no longer merely punctuated alchemical texts but were organized into whole series and into synthetic pictorial representations of the principles governing the discipline.”

“ . . unlike the arbitrariness of linguistic signs, pictorial forms can preserve original knowledge.”
Barbara Obrist, Visualization in Medieval Alchemy

"What the world could express only imperfectly, or not at all, the alchemist compressed into his images; and strange as they are, they often speak a more intelligible language than is found in his clumsy philosophical concepts."
Mircea Eliade, M. The Forge and the Crucible, p.223.

Often in attempting to grasp within our thought the ideas illustrated by the images or sense with our feelings the symbolic patterns that are worked into such esoteric documents, we can get lost and discouraged if we merely jump headlong into the mass of symbolism. We need some esoteric tools (in computer terms, a disassembler) to unravel the code and label some of the more obvious structural elements. Once we have an entry point into the esoteric code we can work this into meditative exercises that slowly reveal the spiritual essence woven into the allegorical emblematic structure.
-Adam McLean, Notes on the Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine

"there exists a range of deployments for alchemical emblems, showing greater or lesser reliance on pictorial representations, showing greater or lesser originality and coherence, and directed to a variety of purposes and audiences. 210
Deknamen are frequently woven into extended allegories or parables that recount the (often bizarre) transactions of a whole host of creatures. 211
the use of sexual imagery in alchemy results, paradoxically, from two opposing desires on the part of its creators: the desire to explain and the desire to conceal. 213
alchemical authors were aware of the metaphorical nature of their language and imagery
These potential ambiguities were not a drawback for alchemical purposes, but were in fact an asset given the specific needs of alchemical writers--particularly, the need for secrecy. 217
By drawing on an ever-expanding web of transumptive relationships, alchemical writers could disguise the identities of chemical substances with a host of Decknamen. 218
-Lawrence Principe, Revealing Analogies