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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Theurgy, Poimancres Transformation and dkvino Historiography of Alchemy by Hereward Tilton Poikandres mastirs which write of this soleyne werke, Thei made theire bokis to many men ful derk, In poyses, fivino, and in methaphoris alle-so, Which to scolers causith peyne and wo.

Thomas Norton, The Ordinal of Alchemy Introduction In late antiquity and the Middle Ages the ambiguous and often surreal sym- bolism of alchemy was purposefully employed to protect closely guarded secrets of laboratory practice, which most commonly concerned the manipula- tion and simulation of precious metals.

Enigmatic figures such as the green lion, the black sun and the hermaphrodite were elements of a cipher language for poimmandres initiated laboratory poiimandres usually the tracts utilising this language were readily recognisable as recipes, but the extended allegories of Arabian and Hellenistic Egyptian provenance provided a further level of abstraction in the relationship of sign to referent.

The ever-shifting significance of alchemical symbolism over time estab- lished another obstacle to the interpretation of alchemical texts, as one symbol came to indicate a multitude of processes, while the number of symbols signify- ing a single process steadily proliferated.

And an equally perplexing source of ambiguity was the Hermetic doctrine of correspondences, which could pose the added difficulty of determining the level of the microcosm or macrocosm to which alchemical symbols alluded — in the words of the Tabula smaragdina: With the rise of the Western esoteric traditions in the Italian Renaissance and ensuing Reformation, the significance of alchemical symbolism becomes ever more multivalent.

As a subject of contemporary scholarly study, today Western esotericism encompasses a number of historically related traditions emerging in the wake of the Renaissance humanist reception of Hermetic, Neoplatonic and Gnostic currents of thought and their assimilation with a syn- cretizing Christian interpretation of the Jewish Kabbalah. Hereward Tilton tions the symbols of alchemy were applied extensively to subjects other than laboratory alchemy, most notably to processes of personal, inner transformation from a base, earthly condition into a more spiritual, moral or divine state.

Indeed, such is the diversity of these phenomena — ranging from alchemi- cally conceived theurgy through Protestant alchemical allegory to the ingestion of alchemically produced entheogens — that I will be proposing the use of a more specific and nuanced terminology in diivno keeping with historical lines of descent. What is more, the teachings of St. Paul — eel a bulwark dicino ortho- doxy — concerning the transfigured body of the resurrection formed an impor- tant focal point for the introduction into early modern Christian doctrine of poimandrs erodox magical and alchemical conceptions of divinised nature.

This is manifestly not the case. In its English form it was first popularised at roughly the same time by the founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Petrovna Blavatskyand the noted occultist Arthur Edward Waiteyet their conceptions of the phenomena to which it referred were quite distinct. These words were directed primarily against the theories of Ethan Allen Hitchcockwho in his Remarks upon Alchemy and the Alchemists had argued that all alchemy was a mystical pursuit, couched in pseudo- chemical language in order to deflect charges of heresy from the Church.

This nineteenth-century conception of alchemy as a more or less exclusively spiritual, divini pursuit arose as a natural concomitant of the progress of Enlightenment science and the collapse of laboratory alchemical paradigms, in particular the decline in the plausibility of metallic transmutation.

Poimandrew such the views of Blavatsky, Wilder and Hitchcock are part of a broader post- Enlightenment re-evaluation of the esoteric traditions typical of nineteenth-cen- tury occultism, which is associated with a significant lull in the practice of lab- oratory alchemy.

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Clearly this was a relatively late development. Nevertheless, the Freemasonic appropriation of alchemical symbolism such as we find it, for example, in the Rite Ecossais philosophique, cf.

The influence of Freemasonry is also evident in the work of another exponent of the exclusively spiritual interpretation of alchemy, Mary Anne Atwood In her anonymously published Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic MysteryAtwood proposed that alchemical symbolism reflected a calculated effort to mislead those seeking in the outer world a perfection that was only to be found within the human being.

At the end of the Suggestive Inquiry another work by Atwood is advertised: This poem was never published, and indeed, for reasons that are still not entirely clear, Atwood recalled most copies of her Suggestive Inquiry and destroyed them.

Here I will briefly consider some prominent examples of the role of alchem- ical symbolism and practice in eighteenth-century Freemasonry, where we find that the external laboratory and internal subjective work are united by their common subject a substance of divine origin pervading the universe. Amongst the Hermetically inclined Freemasons of the eighteenth century this panentheistic vitalism went hand-in-hand with that other mainstay of the defunct scientific paradigm, the doctrine of correspondences: Morienus Romanus, the composer of an important Arabic text on the transmutation of metals, was purportedly among their num- ber de Tschudi Hence that unhewn stone which for the Freemason denotes unenlightened man is known to the alchemists as Iliaster the Paracelsian term for undifferentiated primordial mat- ter de Tschudi Thus de Tschudi thought of alchemy and Freemasonry as parallel symbolic systems, the former referring to laboratory work and the latter to subjective transmutation.


These two systems are related not only by virtue of the correspondence of the macrocosm to the microcosm of man, but also because both work with one and the same prima materia shared by men and metals alike, as well as one and the same animating and transmuting principle. While this process is abstruse and complex, the instructions for gathering the universal Chaos are fairly simple, and involve placing an unnamed poisonous substance in a glass away from the sun and covering it with a paper lid!

The separation of corporeal and spiritual compo- nents which ensues is paralleled with the ascent of the human spirit and its uni- fication with the resurrected, glorified body at the end of time. Starck seems — initially at least — to have welcomed the employment of alchemical doctrine within the Templer-Klerikat grades as a quasi-scientific defence of the articles of Christian faith against the onslaught of rationalist Enlightenment philosophy.

Poimandres – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre

Indeed, as the Stone seems to have been the very means of the promised heavenly poimahdres, it is necessary to investigate the higher grade teachings of the Gold- und Rosenkreuz, where we discover a curious hybrid alchemical-magical literature with roots in the Renaissance.

With the revival of Neoplatonic, Hermetic and Kabbalistic theurgy in the course of the Renaissance there arose a distinction between theurgy involving benevolent spirits and goetia involving malevolent spirits Agrippa von Nettesheim The procedure involves adding fresh blood to the rotting flesh of a virgin or child, and gestating the mass together with a sal sapientiae microcosmi for a number of months in a glass vessel.

In this way an artificial reincarnation takes place, as wl in limbo are magnetically attracted to the new body and will willingly serve their master upon birth rl the alchemical vessel. Should there be any doubt that we are dealing here with a profoundly black magic, it is even sug- gested one procure the flesh of a man who has not died in polmandres grace of God In this work Vulcan is assisted by a force that separates and orders the material at hand, which Paracelsus calls the Archeus: The Archeus, the inner Vulcan, follows suit; it knows how to distinguish poimadres and to circulate and distribute them according to the arts of sublimation, distillation and reverberation.

These arts are also within man just as they are present in external alchemy, which is its model.


Within this sub-category of the alchemy of inner transformation are the alchemically produced entheogens: The most prominent of these substances is the solvent and anaesthetic diethyl ether, which we find depicted as a life-giving elixir granting visions of otherworldly spirits well into the nineteenth century. Diethyl ether is one of the best mediums for creating gold colloids Macquer Dunstan by their friend and fellow courtier Edward Dyer in his Epitome of the Treasure of all Wells,4 which in places appears to constitute a type of early psychedelic literature.

While one recent author has rather implausibly suggested that the Angelical Stone was a type of hallucinogenic mushroom Rogers In theurgical terms reminiscent of Agrippa cf. I Hermes having a flying bird within my minde that with her peircing clawes doth soo enclose my marble hearte that when she starts up in the wind she gripes and straines my stonish hearte within her feete that holds soe hard as where I stand now 4 Hence the initials upon the titlepage f.

Cadena Áurea La Tabla Esmeralda de Hermes Trismegisto « Cadena Aurea

It would appear the true title of the work is The Abridgment or Treasure of my Harte given at f. She shall from them soe lift up my body, and place the same soo high in heaven, that all the last the brightnes of my stonish hearte within my body soe shall shine as itt shall make both dym and darke the burning lighte of the sun and the moon. Agrippa von Nettesheim Another sub-category of alchemical theurgy might be termed alchemically conceived theurgy, in which we find the symbols of alche- my utilised to describe the theurgical processes themselves, in particular the gnostic heavenly ascent and angelification or self-deification; the close relation of alchemically assisted theurgy to theurgy conceived alchemically is evident in the words of Dyer cited supra, which encompass both sub-categories.

In the remainder of this paper I will chart the formative role of Renaissance esotericism in the emergence of the hybrid alchemical-theurgical literature in question. In light of this exploration, we find that — contrary to the assertion of Principe and Newman Integrating Neoplatonic and Hermetic currents of thought and practice with a heterodox Christian interpretation of the Jewish Kabbalah, this central esoteric tradition of the Renaissance must figure henceforth in scholarly histori- ographies of alchemy; in this regard the present paper is very much consonant with the anti-eclectic historiography proposed by Hanegraaff Fludd referring to himself in the third person responds thus: Fludd does not deny that the pious and just [iustus] man is a spiritual alchemist.

But does Mersenne understand or discern the true alchemist? He, indeed, is someone who can distinguish falsehood from truth, vice from virtue, darkness from light, the impure stain of sin from the purity of the god-like soul, and separate them with the fire of the divine genius.

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For by this way and no other is leprous lead transformed into gold — with the necessary washing and cleansing, to be sure.

Thus with tears, penitence and abstinence, sin is separated from that scintilla of supercelestial life, from that true gold so I declare procured by Christ. Thus the son of darkness, assisted in his own activity by a divine act of the Word, arises and is exalted into the son of God and light. Thus the impious and unrighteous man, glorified by this spiri- tual alchemy, is elevated from the darkness into the light sphere of piety and right- eousness. My translation Non negat Fluddus hominem pium et iustum esse Alchymistam spiritualem.

At scitne Mersennus, vel novitne verum Alchymistam? Est equidem ipse, qui falsum a veritate, vitium a virtute, tenebras a luce, impuram peccati labem ab animae Deiformis puritate distinguere, et igne divini ingenii separare potest. Hac enim et non alia via vertitur plumbum leprosum in aurum: Sic lacrimis, et poenitentia, atque abstinentia, peccatum ab illa super- coelesti vitae scintilla, ab auro dico vero et a Christo emendo, separatur.

Sic tene- brarum filius in sua propria industria divino verbi actu operante et assistente, exsur- git atque exaltatur in filium Dei ac lucis. With regard to the macrocosm, Fludd was firmly wedded to the Ptolemaic system: In microcosmic matters Fludd was similarly medieval, adhering to the Galenic conception of the human body as the site of the distillation of ever-finer spiritus.

Within the body the four humors correspond to the sublunary elements of earth, water, air and fire, above which lie the seven planetary spheres.

The planets and their spirits rule over particular organs and members, and the highest faculties in man, ratio, intellec- tus and mens, correspond and grant access to the supernatural empyrean realm of God and His angels figures 2, 3. This is my Servant Poimandres, whom I have chosen.

This Poimandres is my supreme and waxing child, in whom I am well pleased to cast out demons and pro- claim my judgment and truth to the heathen. Do not hinder him, but hear and obey him with all fear and veneration; thus speaks the Lord your God and Father of every talisman of all the world, Jesus of Nazareth. Hic est puer meus Pimander quem ego elegi.

The novelty divlno the Renaissance reading of the Tabula smaragdina lies in its embrace of this dan- gerous ambiguity amidst a decline in ecclesiastical authority and doctrinal cohesion — thus the text becomes integrated with a syncretizing humanist appropriation of ancient diviho by men who were, first and foremost, theur- ep rather than laboratory alchemists.

That is not to say there were no laboratory workers among this new wave of hermeneuts. Referring to the Tabula idvino as a concise statement of the secrets poimansres alchemy, magic and theology alike, Lazzarelli calls Hermes the father of all three disciplines, which constitute three distinct classes of magic as set forth in the Picatrix: Ritter and Plessner Thus poimanxres De verbo mirifico Reuchlin expresses a negative view of the art of alchemy: It is also, after Reuchlin and Pico, one of the principal sources of the Christian Cabalistic tradi- tion in toto Secret Although De harmonia mundi was eventually placed on the Index Stecca Promoting a familiar critique of Scholastic philosophy and the limits of human reason, Zorzi felt metaphor provided the best way to communicate the deepest mysteries of Christian inspiration — hence his recourse to alchemical symbolism.

For Zorzi, deification occurs through the creation of a harmony between the human spirit ruach and the higher immortal soul neshamah mediating between man and God. G vii recto; cf. This harmony leads to a union of ruach with neshamah, from whence the mediating higher soul leads the human spirit dviino eventual blissful union with God.

However, the spirit of man may also be led downwards to union with its lower, animal soul nepheshand this process is described by Zorzi in both alchemical and Kabbalistic terms. When the human spirit ruach is conjoined with the subtler neshamah it may pass through these aper- tures, but if instead it is conjoined with the lower soul nephesh it is too gross to pass through the holes and descends back down into the vessel Zorzi G vi verso e, G vii recto. V poimahdres verso, 3: Nevertheless, his notion of theurgy is certainly con- ceptualised on the model of alchemy.

Yet such assertions are not borne out by the sources.

Thus when Trithemius does draw a parallel per similitudinem between the inner life of the celestial philosopher and the progression from and return to the monad Trithemius A vi verso ,9 it is on the model of neo- Pythagorean philosophy, and not on the model of alchemy. But here he confesses that, having extracted the quintessence from a given amount of gold, he was unable to pro- duce any increase in the net amount of gold when applying it to another metal.

While this frank admission lent him something of a reputation as an abortive alchemist Maier What is more, for Agrippa a parallel exists between the magical function of the spiritus mundi and the divine transformative power operative in theurgy, the magical art dealing with the supercelestial realms.