Third Order of the Golden Dawn
by Frater Lux E Tenebris
Representative of the
(Translated and Introduced by David Griffin)
by David Griffin
by David Griffin
Over the centuries, there have been many would be alchemists who have wasted their entire lives and fortunes in the misguided attempt to manufacture gold using alchemical transmutation. Initiates of Hermetic alchemy, known as Philosophers of the Art, have consistently mocked these individuals, calling them "Puffers" as a derisive reference to the manner that they puffed with bellows at the fires in their laboratories, having completely misunderstood the subtle allegories contained in Hermetic alchemical texts and images.
For alchemical initiates in modern times, the term "Puffer" has come to take on a wider meaning, due to new, more modern misunderstandings of the symbolism of the texts and images in the literature of Hermetic alchemy. Noteworthy as modern schools of Puffery are the modern schools of so-called "Spiritual" alchemy. This certainly does not include the "spiritual alchemy of Jacob Boehme" which is something else entirely. From the traditional point of view of the initiatic tradition of Hermetic alchemy, modern schools of Puffery include the psychological misinterpretation of alchemy of Carl Gustav Jung, the speculative, purely intellectual interpretation of Pat Zalewski, and even the meditative approach of Adam MacClean, who nonetheless remains a fine encyclopedist of alchemical texts and images.
In recent weeks, there has been an enlightening discussion delineating divergent modern approaches to alchemy in the Yahoo forum of our order. During this discussion, a "laboratory alchemist" has appeared who argues that true alchemy and the original alchemical texts and images refer exclusively to laboratory experiments. From an initiatic point of view,his modern Puffer has fallen into the same trap as the Puffers of old, namely a literalistic interpretation of the symbols and allegories of the texts and images of Hermetic alchemy. This approach to alchemy is the modern equivalent of the "gold cookers" of the 18th Century that the Philosophers so derided. In modern times, such individuals, however only see two possibilieies, their own literalistic misinterpretation of alchemy, or the equally misguided intellectual interpretations of the other schools of Puffery outlined above.
The initiatic tradition of Hermetic alchemy is something completely different, whose higher practices remain even today the most carefully guarded secrets of the Western Esoteric Tradition. In order to better illustrate the difference between true Hermetic Alchemy and the modern schools of Puffery, I have just finished translating the following monograph written by GH Frater Lux E Tenebris, representative of the Secret Chiefs of the Third Order of the Golden Dawn.
All the authors who have written works on the history of chemistry have stated, "Our chemistry derives, by direct lineage, from the old alchemy". Thus, the origin of one merges with the history of the other. For this reason, actual science would be indebted, in the positive factors on which it is based, to the patient labor of the ancient alchemists.
This hypothesis, which should be granted but a relative and conventional value, is currently accepted as a demonstrated truth - Thus consequently the science of alchemy, stripped of its own principles, loses all the functions that justify its existence, which to justify its very reason for being. Considered in this manner, from afar and through the mists of legend and the centuries, alchemy no longer appears except in a vague, nebulous form - without consistency.
Fulcanelli, the great alchemist, in his wonderful book "The Dwellings of the Philosophers" writes in this regard:
"But when proof would be necessary, when facts prove indispensable, we content ourselves rather to apply Hermetic principles. The School does not discuss, but rather cuts off. Nonetheless, we declare, in our turn, our aims to demonstrate that these scientists, in good faith, have but embraced and spread a hypothesis. They have erred due to ignorance and lack of profound study. In fact, they have understood only partially the books they have studied, and thus have confused appearance for reality."
At this point we declare clearly, because many educated and sincere people seem to remain unaware of this fact, that the true ancestor of our modern chemistry is but ancient spagery, and not the Hermetic science of alchemy itself. Indeed, between spagery and alchemy there lies a deep and profound abyss, as will be made clear in this brief monograph.
Still according to Fulcanelli, in the Middle Ages and probably in Greek antiquity, if we go back to the works of Zosimus and Ostantes, there existed two degrees, two levels of research in chemical science: the spagyric and the alchemical.
These two branches of a common esoteric art, Fulcanelli tells us, were widespread in the working class through practice in the laboratories. Metallurgists, goldsmiths, painters, potters, glass makers, dyers, enamel-bulls, distillers, potters, etc.., in the same way as pharmacists, needed to be provided with sufficient spagyric knowledge, which they then completed with the exercise of their profession.
Archemists instead formed a special category among the old chemists, a narrower and more obscure category: whose intended purpose had certain similarities with that of the alchemists, but the materials and the means which they disposed to reach this purpose were exclusively chemical materials and means.
Transmuting metals into one another, producing gold and silver starting from crude mineral or metallic salt compounds: forcing gold content departing from silver and silver content departing from tin, to become effective and removable. These were the things that Archemy proposed. Ultimately, assures Fulcanelli, these were, in truth, Spagerists perched in the mineral kingdom that voluntarily left aside the quintessence from animal and plant alkaloids.
They cultivated their knowledge in small numbers and privately, according to the rather disdainful words used by the true alchemists to indicate these occasional practitioners, unworthy of being called of Philosophers of the Art. Despite their faults, or rather precisely because of their faults, Fulcanelli says that it is exactly these who procured first Spagery, and then modern chemistry with all of its attendent facts, methods, operations, etc.
These are real founders of a science is wonderful and perfect, these men tormented by the desire to seek and to learn everything, these endowed this science of correct observations, of precise reactions, of skillful manipulation and laboriously acquired skill.
Alchemy, however, we repeat, has nothing to do with these successive acquisitions. Only the Hermetic writings, misunderstood by profane investigators, were the indirect cause of discoveries that their authors had never expected.
In this manner, Blaise de Vigenere obtained benzoic acid, by sublimating benzoin. Brandt was able to extract phosphorus while searching for the alkahest in urine. Basil Valentine, the prestigious Adept did not look with disdain at all spagyric experiments, set in order the whole series of salts of antimony and realized red gold colloid. Raymond Lull prepared acetone and Cassius purple gold. Glauber obtained sodium sulfate and Van Helmont recognized the existence of gas.
But, with the exception of Llull and Basil Valentine, Fulcanelli declares that all these researchers are wrong to classify among alchemists, as they were merely Archemists, or Spagyric sages. This is why a famous adept, author of a classic (Cosmopolitan) said quite correctly:
"If Hermes, the Father of the Philosophers, were to rise again today along with the subtle Geber and profound Raymond Llull, they would not be considered Philosophers the "vulgar chemists" or our day chemical from our vulgar (an epithet used by the author for the Archemists and Spagyrists who are not true alchemists (also called true Adepts - from Adeptus = that which is acquired). The "vulgar chemists" would not even consider these great Philosophers as among their disciples, merely because they do not know how to run all those distillations, circulations, calcinations, and all those countless other operations that our vulgar chemists have invented, merely because they have misunderstood the writings of those great allegorical philosophers!"
The books, with their confused text, enriched in cabalistic expressions, are the efficient and genuine cause of the gross contempt which we have reported. Despite the warnings and the solemn reproaches of the authors - disciples or researching students of the golden truth, insist on reading into these texts, meanings from modern, every day speech. They do not understand that these texts have been reserved from the beginning for initiates, and it is essential to possess the secret, initiatic key to unlock their true meaning.
The first work that needs to be done is precisely to discover this key.
Of course, these old treatises do contain, if not all of alchemy, at least its philosophy, its principles, and the art of applying them in accordance with the laws of nature. We must not ever forget, however, that alchemy is an Esoteric Science. Consequently, a living intelligence, an excellent memory, and even work and attention aided by a strong will are not enough to hope to become a gifted in this Art.
Nicolas Grosparmy writes:
"All those are dead wrong who believe that we wrote our books just for them, instead, we have written them to throw off anyone who does not belong to our tradition."
Another alchemist, more charitably, warns the reader with these words:
"Every prudent man should, first of all, learn the Science, and should proceed only if he succeeds to learn the operative principles and methods. Otherwise it is better not even to begin, so do not to insanely waste his time and riches ... Now, I beg those who read this book, to have faith in my words. I repeat once again that you will never learn this sublime science merely with the help of books. This can only be learned through divine revelation. It is for this reason, in fact, that it is called the Divine Art. It can also be learned with the assistance of a good and faithful Master; and since there are few whom God has bestowed with this grace, fewer still those who so teach. "
And finally, we can not overlook the poignant words of one author of the eighteenth century that explain in another way the difficulty of solving this enigma or finding the secret key:
"Here is the first and real reason why nature has hidden this open and royal palace from many Philosophers, even those equipped with highly acute intelligence. The cause is that, already since their youth, they have strayed from the simple way of nature through logical and metaphysical conclusions. Thus, deceived by the illusions contained in the best books, they imagine and swear that this is the deepest and most difficult to learn of any metaphysical Art, although ingenuous Nature advances by straight steps, simple in this path like in all of her others."
These are the opinions of Philosophers themselves about their works. We should not be surprised, therefore, that many scholars have misled themselves about this science, of which they were unable to assimilate even the most basic notions. We want to encourage Neophytes in the Ars Magna, Alchemy, to meditate on this truth proclaimed by imitation:
"These can listen to the sound of their words, but this does not indicate their meaning. In them there is only the letter, but it is up to the Lord to discover their meaning. They propose the mysteries, but it is up to Him to explain them. They show the way that should be followed, but it is He who gives strength to advance."
Here we must specify precisely that when we speak of God or He in Hermetic Science, we mean our Solar self, or particle of infinite being.
And this is the great obstacle against which our chemists have collided.
Fulcanelli affirms that if our scientists had understood the language of the ancient alchemists, they would have known the laws of Hermetic practice and the Philosopher's Stone, and a long time ago would have ceased to be regarded as a chimera.
We have said that to meet a Master of the alchemical Art, good and sincere, would constitute the equivalent of a divine gift. The Master are still here, but it is difficult to find him, and even if you find him unwilling to speak, you must be skillful to rob him of that which you wish to know.