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Alchemy

ALCHEMY: THE BLACK ART

on Feb 16, 2012 in Alchemy

ALCHEMY:

THE BLACK ART

By David Cherubim
(Frater Aurora Aureae)
Written in 1994 e.v.
Anno IVii (Year 90).
Copyright © 1999 e.v.
All Rights Reserved.
Issued by the
Order of the T.·.G.·.D.·.
(Thelemic Golden Dawn)
in association with the
Aleister Crowley FoundationINTRODUCTION
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
In this scientific and technological age, the ancient Art and Science of Alchemy is
looked upon as mere rubbish of the past, a dark and fanciful cloud upon the sky of
history. Yet this, I venture to say, is not the case at all; and this I shall endeavor to
demonstrate to you through words of practical insight and wisdom, since Alchemy,
in our modern school of thought, is the True Science of every wise and practical
WoMan who lives upon the face of the earth.
Alchemy is comparable to the Great Sun of the Ages which ever shines bright in the
infinite sky. It is not the fault of the Sun if we cannot see it; it is due to own lack of
vision. Yet the Sun ever shines bright for those who have eyes to see, and in seeing
the Sun we become enlightened!
Now the word Alchemy is an Arabic term consisting of the article “al” and the
adjective “khemi”. Aleister Crowley, the eminent Golden Dawn Magician of the 20th
century, stated that this word means “that which pertains to Egypt,” and that a
rough translation of it would be “The Egyptian Matter.”
Traditionally, Alchemy is supposed to have originated in ancient Egypt. Alchemists,
also called Hermetic Philosophers, recognize Hermes Trismegistus, or
“Thrice-great Hermes”, as the legendary founder of their Royal Art, and Hermes
Trismegistus is identified with the ancient Egyptian God Tahuti (Thoth in the
Coptic). Alchemy is called, among other things, the Black Art in reference to its

alleged Egyptian origin. It is also called the Hermetic Art or Hermeticism in respect
of its legendary founder.
The ancient Chinese were performing Alchemy as early as 500 B.C. But the
science of Alchemy in China was originally a spiritual system, dedicated to a
mystical end; it was later in the course of history that it took on other forms, whereas
in ancient Egypt the Art of Alchemy originated as a metallurgical craft. The
teachings of Alchemy as a spiritual science can be found in the sacred writings of
the Chinese Sage Lao Tze, who was the founder of the Grand Philosophy of the
Tao. Alchemy plays a vital part in esoteric Taoism. It is, in fact, the secret tradition of
Taoism, its inner teaching as opposed to its outer philosophy.
In the Buddhist Mahayana Avatamsaka Sutra reference is made to the alchemical
Elixir of Life. It is written in this Sutra: “There exists a Hataka juice or essence.
One measure of this solution can transform one thousand measures of
bronze into pure gold.” In the Hindu Atharva Veda, which is older than 1,000
B.C., there are also mystical words concerning the Elixir of Life. The systematic
procurement of this celebrated Elixir constitutes the Magnum Opus or Great Work
of Alchemy.
There is a legend which claims that Alchemy was originally the Sacred Art of the
Sons of God mentioned in Genesis before the Great Flood. These were the “Fallen
Angels” or “Fallen Stars” of God who mated with the women of earth and taught
them their Sacred Craft. There is another legend based on Genesis which states
that Abraham was the founder of Alchemy, as well as of the Qabalah; that the
Wisdom of Alchemy was transmitted to his son Ishmael who was born from Hagar,
so that the Arabs and Sufis are the true holders of the sacred keys of the alchemical
Art; whereas the Qabalah, which was transmitted to Abraham’s son Isaac, who was
born by Sarah, became the sacred tradition of the Jewish people.
Putting aside all legend and myth, the actual foundations of the philosophic
principles of Alchemy are to be found among the ancient Greeks, Byzantines and
Arabs. The principal Greek school for Alchemy was founded by Zosimos in
Alexandria around the 4th century A.D. Zosimos asserted that Alchemy was the
Sacred Art of the Egyptians. Alchemy traveled from Alexandria to Byzantium in the
5th century and it was eventually adopted by the Arabs. After conquering Egypt in
the 7th century the Arabs continued their alchemical researches, and from the 7th
to the 11th centuries Alchemy was introduced to all the countries that they
conquered. From the 9th to 11th centuries Spain especially became one of the
great Hermetic centers of the world.
Alchemists assert the famous Tabula Smaragdina, the Emerald Table of Hermes,
to be the chief exposition concerning their alchemical operation by which they
achieve the Great Work of the Sun. Legend has it that this Emerald Tablet was
discovered by soldiers of Alexander the Great in the hands of Hermes’ mummy in
the Great Pyramid of Gizah, which was, according to legend, the Tomb of Hermes
himself. Hermes was supposed to have engraved the sacred words which were
discovered upon the Emerald Tablet. The earliest record of the philosophy of the
Emerald Table can be found in the Leyden Papyrus which dates back to
approximately 300 A.D. and was discovered in the year 1828 in the tomb of an
anonymous Egyptian Magician of Ancient Thebes.
Love is the law, love under will.

THE EMERALD TABLE
By Aleister Crowley
Utter the Word of Majesty and Terror!
True without lie, and certain without error,
And of the essence of The Truth. I know
The things above are as the things below,
The things below are as the things above,
To wield the One Thing’s Thaumaturgy — Love.
As all from one sprang, by one contemplation,
So all from one were born, by permutation.
Sun sired, Moon bore, this unique Universe;
Air was its chariot, and Earth its nurse.
Here is the root of every talisman
Of the whole world, since the whole world began.
Here is the fount and source of every soul.
Let it be spilt on earth! its strength is whole.
Now gently, subtly, with thine Art conspire
To fine the gross, dividing earth and fire.
Lo! it ascendeth and descendeth, even
And swift, an endless band of earth and heaven;
Thus it receiveth might of duplex Love,
The powers below conjoined with those above,
So shall the glory of the world be thine
And darkness flee before thy SOVRAN shrine.
This is the strong strength of all strength; surpass
The subtle and subdue it; pierce the crass
And salve it; so bring all things to their fated
Perfection: for by this was all created.
O marvel of miracle! O magic mode!
All things adapted to one circling code!
Since three parts of all wisdom I may claim,
Hermes thrice great, and greatest, is my name.
What I have written of the one sole Sun,
His work, is here divined, and dared, and done.


ALCHEMY:
THE BLACK ART
An Official Publication of the
Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn
(Order of the T.·.G.·.D.·.)
CONTENTS
CHAPTER I
ALCHEMY IN THEORY
CHAPTER I I
ALCHEMY IN PRACTICE
CHAPTER III
DE MAGNUM OPUS SOLIS
(ON THE GREAT WORK OF THE SUN)
CHAPTER I
ALCHEMY IN THEORY


Alchemy is called the Royal Art (Ars Regia). Of this there are three basic types.
These are Artisinal Alchemy, the Outward Work; Mystical Alchemy, the Inward
Work; and Sexual Alchemy, which, after a certain manner, partakes of both these
methods of attainment. Artisinal Alchemy is dedicated to producing the “external
gold” of material splendour, whereas Mystical Alchemy is dedicated to producing
the “internal gold” of spiritual splendour. In either case, the actual object of the
Great Work is one: to manufacture the Stone of the Philosophers. It is with this
stone that the Alchemist performs his transmutations, whether such be spiritual or
material in kind.
In a nutshell, Artisinal Alchemy is the art of transmuting base metals into gold. To
attain success with this material form of Alchemy, when combined with the mystical
aspect, is said to be an outward sign of the accomplishment of the inward work of
Spiritual Transformation; this is, in fact, its only justification in the world of Magick.
For gold is a material symbol of a spiritual reality, typified by the Sun of Light. Gold is
the perfect metal of all metals, the most exalted form of the mineral kingdom. It is, in
fact, the alpha and omega of the mineral kingdom. In the Philosophy of Alchemy it
is asserted that all base metals are imperfections of gold, and that all metals are
ordained by Nature to become the Perfect Gold of the Sun. The base metals are but
accidental phenomena due to an unfavorable environment in Nature. The Alchemist
seeks to remove from all base metals their disorderly imperfections or base
characteristics to bring them to their true state of natural order and to transmute
them into the Living Gold of Sol.


Whether or not the Alchemist can actually convert base metals into gold, I cannot
honestly say. I have never witnessed nor have I ever attempted to perform this type
of alchemical operation, at least not in this incarnation. My principal justification for
even writing about this particular branch of Alchemy is that this material form of
Alchemy is symbolical of the spiritual and psychological aspect. In fact many have
denied the validity of Artisinal Alchemy, stating that such is purely symbolical of an
interior operation that is spiritual and psychological in kind. This may in fact prove
true to many of you, but from the scientific and magical point of view it would be but
an act of folly to deny the possibility of transmuting base metals into gold. Thus did
Eliphas Levi, the famous French Magus of the 19th century who Aleister Crowley
claimed to be in a past life, write the following words: “Yes, gold can be made
really and materially by means of the Stone of the Sages.” History fully
supports the possibility of this phenomenon. We cannot ignore the experiences of
those in the past who have either succeeded in this sublime work or who have
witnessed it first hand.


Let us, for example, take into account Johann Baptista van Helmont, the famous
Belgian Physician and Chemist who coined the word ‘gas’ from the Greek word
‘chaos.’ He claimed to have performed an actual transmutation of mercury into gold,
and he recorded and published this fact in his work “The Garden of Medicine.” In
1618 this scientist was one day visited by an unexpected stranger who gave to him
a few grains of powder. Concerning this powder, van Helmont recorded: “I saw
and handled the Philosopher’s Stone. It was a saffron-coloured powder,
very heavy, and it glittered like splinters of glass.” Van Helmont also recorded
that the stranger was seeking to “convince an illustrious scientist whose work is an
honour to his country.” Van Helmont was, indeed, convinced of the validity of the
operations of Artisinal Alchemy after successfully performing a transmutation with
the powder, whereas he previously denied the possibility of this phenomenon.
Let us also take into account Helvetius (Johann Friedrich Schweitzer), the
Physician-in-ordinary to the Prince of Orange, who was a vicious opponent of
Alchemy. But on the 27th of September, in the year 1666, a stranger appeared unto
him who had with him a small ivory box which contained a powder the color of pale
sulphur. Regarding this powder, the stranger said: “You see this powder, well,
Sir, there is enough of the Philosopher’s Stone here to transmute forty
thousand pounds of lead into gold.” This stranger did not give to Helvetius any
of the powder, nor did he perform a transmutation with it, but he did show Helvetius
some gold which he said was the product of a transmutation performed by an
Adept. Helvetius was not convinced, however, and demanded a demonstration. The
stranger refused his request, but did say that he would seek to obtain permission
from the Adept, and if the Adept agreed he would return in three weeks time.
Helvetius, it should be noted, did manage to pilfer a few grains of the powder under
his fingernail, but with it he achieved nothing. When the stranger returned in three
weeks, he confessed this fact to the stranger who laughed and told him that if an
actual transmutation was to be achieved the powder must be wrapped in either a
lump of wax or piece of paper to protect it from the fumes rising from the base
metal, which would otherwise take from it the power of transmutation. He departed
shortly after this, saying that he would return the next day. But he did not return.
Through the insistence and impatience of his wife, Helvetius inevitably attempted
the transmutation without the assistance of the stranger, and, to his utter surprise, it
worked! He had first transmuted an old piece of lead piping which he put in a
crucible over a fire. When the lead pipe melted his wife dropped the powder on to it,
which was contained and protected in wax; and at the end of a quarter of an hour
the lead was successfully transmuted into gold. After this became a known fact, the
transmutation was successfully performed under strict scientific observation in the
official laboratories.


It has been asserted that the famous Alchemist Eirenaeus Philalethes was the
stranger who appeared unto van Helmont in 1618 at his laboratory in Vilvorde and
who visited Helvetius in 1666 at The Hague, which is near Amsterdam. It is believed
by some that his real name was Thomas Vaughan. However, it is known that
Vaughan died in 1666, and it was in this same year that Philalethes appeared in
Amsterdam after many years of traveling, at which time he gave to Jean Lange his
book “The Open Door into the Secret Palace of the King” to be translated into Latin.
Sir Isaac Newton, the father of Classical Physics, took this book to heart and
studied it for over 20 years. This Alchemist was also much respected by Robert
Boyle, a famous British Physicist and Chemist who enunciated the law of the
compressibility of gases and who discovered the part played by oxygen in
combustion. Boyle also financed the publication of Newton’s “Principia” and he has
been called the father of modern Chemistry and the harbinger of the “Scientific
Method”. Boyle himself was a lover of Alchemy, but always skeptical at heart, yet he
did attempt to transmute base metals into gold, but to no avail, which fact he
admitted in 1661 in his important treatise called “The Skeptical Chymist”.
Moreover, let us take into account the infamous Sir Edward Kelly, whose real name
was Talbot. Sir Aleister Crowley asserted that he was Talbot in a past life. Talbot
was born at Worcester, England, in 1555. After breaking the law and having his
ears cropped, he departed from Worcester for Wales where he purchased for one
pound sterling an alchemical manuscript and two forms of a powder, one white and
the other red, from a man who took them from the tomb of a Catholic Bishop. Being
unable to understand the manuscript, he secretly returned to London and contacted
the astrologer Dr. John Dee, who was able to decipher it, and by it they successfully
performed a transmutation. This resulted in the development of a most peculiar
relationship between Kelly and Dee which has left its strange mark on history.
Now Kelly was not a very modest man, and he saw no harm in boasting of his
power. He performed public transmutations in Prague, the capital of Bohemia. As a
result of this he was invited to perform a transmutation in the court of the Emperor
Maximilian II of Germany, who, because of Kelly’s success, conferred upon him the
rank of Marshal of Bohemia. But soon he was imprisoned by the Emperor for not
being able to make more of the powder by which he performed his transmutations.
Dee, seeking to help Kelly, told the Emperor that he would assist Kelly to make more
of the powder, and the Emperor released Kelly. They failed, however, in their efforts;
and Kelly, out of frustration, killed a guard and was again imprisoned by the
Emperor. Yet in jail he wrote an alchemical treatise called “The Stone of the Sages”,
which he sent to the Emperor promising to reveal the secret of the powder if the
Emperor would set him free. The Emperor, however, did not believe him. Kelly
therefore attempted to escape from jail, but he only managed to brake both of his
legs and two ribs in the process. He died as a result of these injuries in 1597.
Now with regard to Mystical Alchemy, its formula and operation is spiritual and
psychological in kind. The famous Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung and the
well-known Golden Dawn Magician Francis Israel Regardie were both inclined to
interpret the operations of Alchemy from a purely psychological point of view. Jung
wrote a well known book called “Psychology and Alchemy” (1953) and Regardie
wrote an illuminating book called “The Philosopher’s Stone” (1938). Both of these
authors make it an evident fact in these books that they envisage Alchemy to be
nothing more than a psychological operation dedicated to a mystical end. Jung was
completely fascinated by Alchemy, and he invested an immense amount of his time
investigating the symbols and principles of this Art. Regardie himself was an Adept
of Alchemy, and though he envisaged Alchemy to be a psycho-mystical process of
initiation, he nevertheless did expound the sexual secrets of Alchemy in his magick
book “The Tree of Life” (1932), yet with the essential, magical point of view that this
physical aspect of Alchemy is also dedicated to a spiritual cause.
From the point of view of Mystical Alchemy, the Philosopher’s Stone is not a powder
or any sort of material object, but rather is it a spiritual object, being a symbol of the
True Self. The Mystical Alchemist, also called the Alchemystic Philosopher, does
not seek to manufacture the Philosopher’s Stone to produce the material gold of
Nature, but rather to produce the Divine Gold of the Spirit. To attain the
Philosopher’s Stone is, in this particular case, the attainment of enlightenment,
which is the illumination of the aura or Soul of Nature with the Divine Light of Sol,
and with this comes the power to illumine the world which is the Divine Gold of the
Spirit.


The Eastern System of Kundalini Yoga affords us a basic clue into the interior
operations of Mystical Alchemy. Kundalini Yoga aims at the awakening of various
centers of psychic force in the Ethereal Body. These are called Chakras or
Cakkrams. Although there is literally a Chakra for every nerve in the body, there are
seven in particular which are of vital importance in the Science of Kundalini Yoga.
These Chakras are symbolized by seven Wheels ascending the spinal column
which the Yogi endeavors to initiate into whirling motion, to awaken their subtle
energies and vitalize his consciousness with their occult currents of power. This is
accomplished by way of awakening the Primary Nerve Current known as the
Kundalini or Serpent Power. The Serpent (Kundalini) is a phallic symbol,
representing the creative force of reproduction or Sexual Energy. The Kundalini is
Sexual Energy — the Libido — also called Shakti (Power) in the Sanskrit tongue. It is
by this Sexual Power that the Chakras are literally transformed into veritable centers
of cosmic radiation, illuminating the soul, mind and body of the Yogi with the
Celestial Light of the Sun.


The seven Chakras, which are also called Padmas or Lotuses, are the occult
centers of psychic energy in the human body. They are not really a part of the
human body, but rather correspond to certain parts of it, thus we call them occult
(secret). The Chakras are secret centers which generate Prana and are a part of
what is termed the Subtile or Ethereal Body. As Lotuses they exist upside down
until the awakened Kundalini strikes upon them and makes them right side up. In
this they are slain and transformed, purified and consecrated. It is an essential
object of the training of the Magician in the New Order of the Golden Dawn to
awaken the Kundalini, and thereby accomplish this inner work with the Chakras.
Any proper system of initiation must necessarily awaken the conscious experience
of these centers at some level, as they represent the true initiation of the soul.
There are seven steps to this internal initiatory operation of Yoga. These seven steps
correspond with certain alchemical, astrological and magical principles. The number
seven is of great importance in Hermeticism. Note that there are seven letters in the
words Sulphur, Mercury and Vitriol, which are names for the three alchemical
Principles. There are also seven alchemical Metals which are linked with the seven
traditional Planets of Astrology. And to correspond with these and other important
concepts of the Septenary, there are seven Steps of Initiation in the New Order of
the Golden Dawn. The symbol of the New Order of the Golden Dawn is, in fact, a
Gold Cross (4) surmounted by a White Triangle (3), giving us the number seven.
This symbol represents the Great Work of Alchemy. Such is also the alchemical
symbol for Sulphur which denotes the SECRET FIRE of Alchemy. This
SECRET FIRE, which is the First Matter of the Great Work, is the Kundalini or
Serpent Power of Yoga.


Moreover, the Cross represents the four Grades of Zelator, Adeptus Minor, Adeptus
Major and Adeptus Exemptus; and the White Triangle represents the three grades
above the Abyss called Magister Templi, Magus, and Ipsissimus. In alchemical
terminology the Cross represents the four so-called Aristotelian Elements called
Fire, Water, Air and Earth; and the Triangle represents the three Principles of
Trimaterialism called Sulphur, Salt and Mercury. The Cross further represents the
four elemental Chakras of Yoga called Muladhara, Svadhistthana, Manipura, and
Anahata; and the Triangle represents the three higher Chakras called Vishudhi,
Ajna and Sahasrara.