Alchemy is child’s play, God’s game in the garden. The human physical and existential organism is wondrously subtle and infinitely textured, more to be breathed, yearned and died with, than to be figured out. It always drew the shy and enquiring alchemical minds to the mystery, like bees to the flower.
Here are some playtimes and discoveries around Basil Valentine’s “Golden Tripod” in the Hermetic Museum 17th century. They dropped into my delighted journal for poem-making, a number of years ago, and asked for a little revision now.
Alchemical Journal, 26 February 2002
The definition Paul Foster Case gives for the “Incombustible Oil” of alchemy is: “It cannot be found in the animal kingdom because there its nature is too completely veiled. It is incombustible because no fire can burn the essence of fire. It is mineral because it is the essential substance for whatever is mined.”
The incombustible oil is the living fire itself, the pure First Matter. It is only when the lower mercurial imp gets hold of it that it thickens and dies. If a Narcissus beholding the pure spring – spirit, soul and salt balm – weds it to himself and becomes ‘so proud he hardly knew himself’, un-firing oils of pride and small purpose are bred – a cold bed.
We should sing and eat the First Matter and digest it and let it pass through our gut – it is not enough to merely read or think it. Sound vibrates into wave patterns. Thoughts are things. Spiral, whorl, desert storms and water pass through sand; ripples coalesce, grains are atoms, sand dunes travel like stars. You can tap the sand on a membrane or whisper to it, forming patterns: the Glory of the World?
Alchemical apperception is a terrific amount of beauty to hold. When tired or too high or tense or worried or complaining, the third eye doesn’t operate. It needs nourishment and daily practice. The amount of beauty in Aleph breaks and shatters a conventional organism; the whole cellular body must change, to confect it.
Blood carries the substance which spirals through our bodies – the distilled moisture of the moon to marry to the light of the sun.
The One Thing, heart’s desire, spirals towards us by gravitation – a mental power (condenser). Self AWARENESS directs gravitation. Without this, firmly planted, every effort or prayer is flimsy. Key One in the nuptial chamber ‘flows’ through the Tower of alchemy as gold and steel. With consciousness, an adept commands gravitation.
Recall childhood: Daniel the donkey in the Yorkshire moors, the smell of the sack tied round him in winter; and the Doctors beach near Hartland in North Devon: hot sun, great rocks like up-ended books, sea-channels, the taste of joy, hunger and thirst, a piece of cheese for lunch, a scorching sunburn all day long between my shoulder blades. Recall some of the flavours in your own …
The desire nature is situated at the well of the throat; the core of human sexual desire is here, as well as hunger or longing. Within the belly it manifests. To change the copper into white, raise it to the moon centre behind the root of the nose and by creative imagination (key Three, Empress) to the level of clear recollection (key Two, Priestess).
Our gold is the same as our Stone – the stars of our inner heart, invisible to the eye’s external seizure.
Its female principle is the subconscious power to be fertilised and to multiply.
In the East it is said that without his shakti, Siva the Purusha cannot move or manifest. The King is stillness. His Queen is the centrifugal life-giving force of that stillness. The King is silence. His Queen is the sound-wave. The King is water. His Queen is the ripple of a breeze, a wave or tempest.
The spirit, the soul and the astral correspond to the three lower Worlds, whose holy place of meeting is Malkuth of Beriah, Tifareth of Yetzirah and Kether of Assiyah. Here the anointing takes place.
Reflect on thought forms, ways of thinking, of feeling and relationship: responsibility with the sharp edges. Be clear.
In Svetasvatura Upanishad it says: Even as fire is not seen in wood and yet by power it comes to light as fire, so Brahman in the universe and in the soul is revealed by the power of OM – primordial sound. The soul is the wood below that can burn and be fire, and OM is the whirling friction-rod above. Prayer is the power that makes OM turn around, and then the mystery of God comes to light.
God is found in the soul when sought with truth and self sacrifice, as fire is found in wood, water in hidden springs, cream in milk, and oil in the olive.
There is a Spirit who is hidden in all things, as cream is hidden in milk, and who is the source of self knowledge and self sacrifice.
And now my digest of the story in Basil Valentine’s “Golden Tripod”. I put the Mage’s words into free verse. The story begins:
“Take a quantity of the best and finest gold – the best of your inner treasure – and separate it into its component parts (Four Worlds of the tree of Life), by love of the Art. Do it the way an anatomist dissects the human body. Very carefully, change your gold back into the currency before it became the world’s gold: go upstream.
“You shall find the seed – beginning, middle and end – from which our gold and its female principle are derived. You shall discover the pure and subtle spirit, the spotless soul and the astral salt and balsam. When these three are united, we may call them the mercurial liquid: Hermetic mind.
“This water was examined by Mercury, found by him in his excitement to be pure and spotless, and espoused by him as his wife. Of the two was born an incombustible oil; Mercury became so proud he hardly knew himself. He put forth eagle feathers, devoured the slippery tail of the Dragon (South node) and challenged Mars to battle.
“Captured by harsh planetary aspects, our Mercury was jailed by Vulcan, smith of the metals, until a woman should liberate him. All the planets led by Saturn, agreed he was a scoundrel and must be destroyed and burnt. Vulcan performed the execution. But the beautiful Moon appeared in the sky, all attired in silver and waters, and pleaded heartbreakingly for her husband the Sun – the secret Fire – trapped in Vulcan’s prison through conjunction with crafty Mercury. He, the fire in the oil, could not glow or burn. Their child could not warm the heart and grow. Lady Moon, like our Mother Isis, pleaded for her dismembered Osiris.
“Venus too arrived, in her most beautiful dress, and wheedled with Vulcan in the Chaldean tongue – language of astrologers – “A woman will liberate the prisoner from planetary deadlock, sweeten the aspects so they yield!” – But Vulcan (her husband in the Greek mythology) turned to her his deaf ear.
“Then the skies opened. Out poured a mighty beast; with many thousands of young. Like a tidal wave it drove Vulcan before it, swept him forth; and opening its great mouth swallowed also Venus its own fair mother. It roared: ‘I am born from her. Then she received into herself my seed and filled the Earth with it. My mother and my wife the same, her soul is devoted to mine, of one bond; so I must eat, replenish my own with her blood.’”
The blood is the soul. The creature is born, weds and consumes the matrix, the One materia. Its voracious offspring followed it into ‘a certain chamber’, eating up all the incombustible oil also, digesting it with the greatest ease and propagating into every part of the world.
“The learned men and elders of the violet land all gathered, perplexed. Then a Great Mage came forth into their circle. Is he the higher Mercury, quicksilver of the wise? He wore the girdle of life – the serpent swallowing its tail – around his loins, snowy locks, silver beard and crown of elven jewels. His feet were bare, and his words penetrated to the depth of the human soul.
He summoned silence, then spoke:
“Awake, and open your eyes to behold light
where before they beheld darkness.
Two stars God-given lead men to wisdom.
Gaze upon them steadily
and follow their lights to the secret of knowledge.
“The bird Phoenix from the sunny fiery South at high noon (midheaven)
plucks out the mighty beast’s heart from the East at dawn (ascendant).
Give the beast from the East wings
that it feel itself the same as the bird from the South.”
The tight right-angle aspect or planetary ‘square’ is eased by unifying the character of the protagonists. Like the Bird of Light, the animal nature must allow itself to be destroyed to be reborn. It must dissolve and meld with spirit at the point where they converge. The spirit needs the power to manifest that is in earth, the dreaming earth.
The Mage Continued …
“The animal from the East must lose its lion’s skin and wings.
Then it must plunge in primordial salt tears of the vast ocean
and emerge thence in renovated beauty.
“Plunge your volatile mind, your demons and distractions
in a deep spring whose waters never fail.
Their Mother is hidden within the spring.
Let them become as she.
Let them be born of Three,
of spirit, soul and salt, thrice distilled and great.
Hungary is my native land …”
and an earlier fragment from my Poems of Eclipse …
… I was born
among poppies, spiked speedwell and wild grasses,
primeval plain of sky and thistle flowers
ere the zig zag Tisza river, led by a hungry donkey, flowed …
In hypnos, Princess Erzebet’s little goldfish lost
when the royal Danube spilled
was in the dreaming Tisza found,
where fishers whittled reed flutes in the sun for grandchildren
and – telling tales of war in which they fought,
sucked mightily at long stemmed pipes
with yellow tassels.
I saw a path through almond trees
along the violet crease of your eyelid,
to the land you say you could enter.
I saw in silvery light that gleams around the clouds
wild horses roam, breath taking, undulating
floating patchwork cloth of meadows
whose margin into faery fades.
At home my pebbles, pictures and old porcelain
mismatch the elven valour of Arpad:
my grey and shabby fields – old Angol travelling east –
in sunrise drown.
Like all that lives,
we are a metaphor.
The river current does not concern itself with local agonies
of wave systems estranged, which in fast flowing course
carrying Karmic seed, collide, and through each other pass
the rivers of rebirth in seminal flood; but only with awareness.
A curve of the current is seen,
pushing at and into the rocky bend
while carrying sky-light, leaf-mould, colours of stone
and silt along a bed of generations to the sea.
The waters here scour deep and fast
deep fish of life to see: my urgency awakes.
Children of gods, in metaphor long buried gold
emerge from the rock, they are bursting to be told.
Their wake is somewhere in the curacy
of long years of tales from no man’s lland
on rock ledges shelved and waiting in a dark room.
No man is an island. We fall deep.
We are ignored by the main stream of the dreaming world,
for the glory of pure gold,
in the rain on a sunlit street or rock
has no currency to be held.”
Then the Great Mage went on:
“Hungary is my native land.
The sky and the stars are my habitation.
The earth is my spouse.
Though I must die and be buried,
yet Vulcan causes me to be born anew.
Therefore Hungary is my native land
and my mother encloses the whole world.”
Touching the riverbed … the smith Vulcan is a driver, he drives the sword through fire and water. Vulcan’s wife Aphrodite – Venus – encircles with her womb the sky and waters.
The Great Mage is the Sun, the spirit of fire and renewal, to find in ourselves. Fire lives in the twig as combustibility, and in the rock as gems and precious stones. Fire lives in the rock as coal and as amber from long buried trees. Fire is present, latent, sleeping and awake: the heart of the earth and mystery of our blood’s kindling, body warmth and auric radiance. Fire is the heart of a star in the rose, the buried Sun whose veins are twigs and trees, their fraction in the sky. Their cumulonimbus flints convecting one another, strike sparks, to flash and flow as lightning to kindle the earth.
The thunder is the voice of the secret fire. It pierces and breaks the heavens. The fire spills forth, seizes and is gathered into dark lumps of earth. And the earth must then with wings soar heavenward, until singed it falls and drowns.
Reduce the Red Sea by boiling. The earth reappearing is ‘all in all’, re-appareled in the meld and heart of every element. By this, the dragon is released and contained. It shall ‘ascend with wisdom from Earth to Heaven, then again descend to Earth, and unite together the powers of Above and Below. Let all ignorance and obscurity fly from you.’
When everyone there had started to understand, the Mage spoke some more:
“Let that which is above be below,
let that which is visible be invisible,
let that which is below become that which is above,
let the invisible become visible, and the impalpable, palpable.
“Here is the perfection of our Art
with no defect or diminution.
“That in which death, life, destruction and resurrection dwell
is a round sphere with which the goddess of fortune drives her chariot,
imparting wisdom’s gift to men of God.
Its name here on earth and for human understanding, is the All in All.
“Let him who would know All in All
give earth great wings and let it fly up through the air
to heaven’s region – BERIAH.
Then singe its wings with fierce heat – divine AZILUTH –
and make it fall into the Red Sea – YETZIRAH –
and there be drowned.
“Dry up the water with fire and air –
evaporate Yetzirah by Aziluth and Beriah –
till earth – ASSIYAH – reappears as All in All.
“If you cannot through this process find it,
look around you. Look on nature.
The All in All is gravity of all metals and minerals derived from salt and sulphur.
Their mutual attraction is born of mercury.
“More I may not say
since all is comprehended in the all.
“My brothers, you are blessed
if hearing the wise, you find this Stone,
its power to heal and regenerate leprous and imperfect bodies.
“It has kept the vital fire in me so long alight
that I weary of life and long to die
“for I am bound to render thanks unto God’s wisdom,
mercy and gracious Gift
now and ever more. Amen.”
And the old man vanished. And all who heard him went back to their homes and meditated on his words, day and night.
The Great Mage was Master Rakoczy, Saint-Germain. He appeared also in medieval Britain, through Merlin’s form. In alchemy, the body through giving thanks and through repeated drenching in the fountain of life, becomes intangibly yet effectively cleansed and spiritualised. It acquires a form of renewal without having to die and start all over again. Old murks are cleared out at source, as the atomic lattice through Spirit is redefined.
It is a homeopathic process of gradual tincture. Slowly, steadily, the molecular web and cellular memory are modified through purification by the inner fire. Their composition is altered to support the higher frequencies, while maintaining the same general appearance. Robust physical health might not be inevitable, yet it is a by-product of this kind of work, particularly if not itself the main aim.
The Key to the golden Life is lightly touched in all matters.
27 February 2002
I dreamed this morning I was shown four jars containing coloured liquid. I cannot recall the first two from left to right; but the third one’s contents were radiant apple-green and the fourth one was reddish-brown and cloudy like pale old paint-water. This one was ‘humanity’. A voice came, at some point: “Darkness it hath, that is good, (but) darkness it is not.”
There are wonderful names which awaken me with bells. Beleriand, Belisarius, the Bells of Rachmaninov and of Liszt. There was a small grey dream-pony a few weeks ago called Bellarus: and in Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham, Bellomarius was the greatest of all the dragon slayers in the realm.
My activity all this life is to clean the cupboard. I spent a long time looking for someone there. The Magyar puszta symbolises a clear and open horizon within, filled with sky. Like Narnia through the wardrobe, it has no hedge. A door opens to it at the end of Liszt’s “Christus” when Jesus rises from the tomb. There is a captive inside, who strives to come forth, rattling chains, moving stones. An opus of his soul lay unread on shelves, buried under sheaves of litany and litigation.
There is someone to see right through and beyond, to a common source. There is a tree filled with white blossom in my window.
My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.
This blog is a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.
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