The Story of Alchemy views: 3888
Aurum nostrum non est aurum vulgi. (Our gold does not represent a pile of gold.)
Alchemy (Alchimie, Alchymie) is in no case only a false art of the creation of gold, as many do consider it today. It is rather an outside of church belief and learning about the breeding of the soul. Because of its unorthodox doctrines it uses notions of laboratory (even though there are some ideological representatives who do hope they can synthesize noble metals).
Before famous analytical psychologist Karl G. Jung (1875-1961) attention was majorly paid to alchemy's scientific and historical aspects. Therefore it was seen as a "delusive pre-chemistry". Its ideological share could barely reach some attention.
Primarily, alchemy is about widening of the spiritual empire of light by systematic repression of the material world which was accepted as terrestrial, difficult, and tenebrous. Symbolical and allegorical images such as those that among many appear in the late medieval handwritings and printed engraved books from renaissance and baroque, do not have for their goal to provide information to laymen, but to offer meditation help to experts. From Materia prima (ancient matter), through several levels of purification should derive the philosopher's stone (Lapis philosophorum). Its possession should, among everything else, enable the derivation of the metals of Sun and Moon from the ignoble metals of gold and silver and the creation of a universal medicine - panacea.
Many symbols connect this ideology with the images of the union of Rosenkreuzer and Free Masons.
The most significant alchemy symbols are definitely: the eagle, androgyne, lead, caduceus, unicorn, gold, hexagram, corals, toad frog, lion, moon, pelican, pentagram, peacock, Phoenix, quintessence, Saturn, sun, sulfur and quicksilver, pigeon.
Silver - a metal significant for alchemists. It is represented in their symbolism as the moon or Luna, which also represents "the queen" that is marrying "the king" and becoming androgyne. An androgyne is a bipolar creature. In alchemy androgyne represents embodied two basic alchemic elements - sulfur and quicksilver.
Sulfur and quicksilver in the symbolical language of alchemy represent two basic essences or two elements in the sense of a dual system according to which every matter is consisted of two parts: the burning one and the evaporating one - with different levels of pureness. If the goal is to synthesize gold, both part sought to be cleansed and the level of quicksilver should be increased for it is similar to the spirit. Paracelsus (1493-1541), or Basil Valentine, an alchemist whose historical existence could not be proven, as the third philosophical element added "salt" that should symbolize palpability. When a tree burns, flames come from sulfur, quicksilver evaporates as smoke, and salt is left in the form of the ash.
Caduceus - consists of a magical stick embraced from both sides by two snakes heading towards each other. It was believed at the top it had a pair of wings. Alchemy sees these snakes as symbols of two basic elements - sulfur and quicksilver. Here they are in balance.
Eagle - The king of birds. It has been said it could look straight into the Sun with no blinking, and the Sun would help him regain his youth.
Phoenix - tightly attached to the notions of immortality and revival. Its name comes from the Greek word for the color of red (fire red) and it is attributed to its power to rise from the ashes. It origins in Egyptian tradition from their bird Benu which was a Heron. It was said to be the bird of paradise, drinking dew, and then flying to the faraway lands to collect scented herbs it will it will set on fire at the altar where he will also burn and turn into ashes. After three days it will regain life. In alchemy it represents destruction and the new creation of Materiae primae on the journey to the philosopher's stone.
Lion - similarly to eagle, the king of beasts, and likewise can stare at the sun with no blinking. In ancient times it was considered the lion represented the sky, and every night it would swallow the sun. In alchemy on one hand it represents sulfur as Materiae primae, and on the other it represents the "red lion" or the direct symbol of the philosopher's stone. The green lion represents a very powerful solvent. Mainly the lion represents a very extreme characteristic, whether a positive, or a negative one. In a positive manner it represents the man as a hero, but in the negative one it represents the symbol of the devil's world.
Pelican - The fact these old animals feed their young ones by bending their peak towards their chest and bring them fish in their throats lead to the misleading concept of them tearing apart their own chest to feed their children with their own blood. In alchemy this symbol is some kind of retort whose beak is bent as oppose to their bulbous curveting in the lower part, and on the other hand it is a representation of the philosopher's stone, which sunk in liquid lead itself becomes liquid and soluble so it could turn lead into gold. That is why the pelican has become the symbol of unselfish streaming towards nobleness. In this sense it is illustrated by the Rosenkreuzer level in the Scottish system of free masonry. That is why the Knights of the Rose Cross are also known as Knights of the Pelican.
Unicorn - In alchemy it symbolizes the Materiae primae quicksilver. In unification with sulfur, symbolized by lion, it is suppose to merge into a higher unity.
Alchemy considers lead to be very similar to gold. Lead is the metal of the planet Saturn. In the mixture with the philosopher's stone it should produce gold - this would be a symbolical example of assimilation of the chthonic man towards the spirituality closer to the Sun. Gold in alchemy does not represent the metal itself, as we already said, but an esoteric knowledge, the ultimate level of spiritual development. Gold has the meaning of a moral estimate of a material, and that is how the alchemists understand it. And in almost all cultures it is tightly connected to the Sun, and therefore in alchemy these two are correspondent.
Quintessence - according to it the four elements of the ancient world of notions (earth, fire, water, air) should be complemented by the fifth ancient essence - a purely spiritual element of "ether" spirit of the world. His share in the world should cumulate through spiritual activity that leads to essence. This "fifth element" as a crown of every elementary realm is also represented as: dolphin in water, eagle in the air, phoenix in fire, and the man on Earth. But, at the same time it should overcome each individual element. A graphical representation of quintessence would be pentagram. Pentagram is the star with five rays that can be drawn in one try. Other names that were prescribed to it were: pentagulum, pentaculum, signum Pythagoricum (the symbol of Pythagoreans), signum Hygae (the symbol of Hygae, goddess of health), and signum salutatis (the symbol of health). Pythagora considered it a symbol of harmony among body and soul, and therefore it has become the symbol of health. As in alchemy it has been considered a representation of a secret Gnostic current, hidden from the official church religion. Traditionally if it is pointing up it represents "white magic" while the other way around it represents "black magic". It has also played an important role with the free masons as the "burning star" with flames in the angles and the letter G in the middle. The possibilities for the meaning of that letter are numerous: Gott (God), gnosis, geometry, glory. Hexagram on the other hand is a star consisting of six rays. It is consisted of two triangles and it is a symbol very well known today - as the star of David. The traditional interpretation is that one triangle represents water or female (turned upside down), and the other one representing fire or male (streaming upwards). Together they ought to represent a closed dual system in harmony. Now it is considered, according to the four elements theory, that hexagram made of one sign for air (triangle pointing upwards) and the other for earth (triangle streaming downwards) is consisted of four elements. In alchemy those are the elements included all creation. With free masons it symbolizes a unique entity, though pentagram is a much more often symbol.
Alchemy of Sorrow - Charles Baudelaire
One puts all nature into mourning,
One lights her like a flaring sun —
What whispers "Burial" to the one
Cries to the other, "Life and Morning."
The unknown Hermes who assists
The role of Midas to reverse,
And makes me by a subtle curse
The saddest of all alchemists —
By him, my paradise to hell,
And gold to slag, is changed too well.
The clouds are winding-sheets, and I,
Bidding some dear-loved corpse farewell,
Along the shore-line of the sky,
Erect my vast sarcophagi.
Charles Baudelaire - Alchemy of Sorrow
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