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«***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HIDDEN SYMBOLISM OF ALCHEMY AND THE OCCULT ARTS*** Hidden Symbolism of ALCHEMY and the OCCULT ARTS (Formerly ...»

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As we have now reached the excreta, I should like to remind the reader of the foul and stinking bodies that in the parable lie in liquid (Section 15) on which falls a warmer rain. The parable psychoanalytically regarded, is the result of a regression leading us into infantile thinking and feeling; we have seen it clearly enough in the comparison with the myths. And here it is to be noticed how great an interest children take in the process of defecation. I should not have considered this worthy of notice, did not the hermetic symbolism, as we shall see later, actually use in parallel cases the expressions “fimus,” “urina puerorum,” etc., in quite an unmistakable manner. In any case it is worth remembering that out of dung and urine, things that decompose malodorously and repulsively, fresh life arises. This agrees with [107] the infantile theory of procreation, that babies are brought forth as the residue of assimilation; we are to observe, however, still 84 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts other interrelations that will be encountered later. A series of mythological parallels may be cited. I shall rest satisfied with referring to the droll story, “Der Dumme Hans.” Stupid Jack loads manure (fæces, sewage) into a cart and goes with it to a manor; there he tells them he comes from the Moorish land (from the country of the blacks) and carries in his barrel the Water of Life. When any one opens the barrel without permission, Stupid Jack represented himself as having turned the water of life into sewage. He repeated the little trick with his dead grandmother whom he sewed up in black cloths and gave out as a wonderfully beautiful princess who was lying in a hundred years' sleep. Again, as he expected, the covering was raised by an unbidden hand and John lamented, that, on account of the interference, instead of the princess, whom he wanted to take to the King, a disgusting corpse had been magically substituted. He succeeded in being recompensed with a good deal of money. [Jos. Haltrich, Deut.

Volksmed. d. Siebenbürg, II, p. 224.] Inasmuch as the wanderer of our parable finds himself not outside but inside of the receptacle, he is as if in a bath. I note incidentally that writings analogous to the parable expressly mention a bath in a similar place, as the parable also does (Sec.

15). In dreams the image of bathing frequently appears to occur as a womb or birth phantasy.

[108] At the end of the 14th section, as the inmates of the prison die, his certain ruin stands before the wanderer's eyes—again a faint echo of his relation to the bridegroom.

We have already for a long time thoroughly familiarized ourselves with the thought that in the crystal prison the revivification of the dismembered comes to pass. Whoever has the slightest doubt of it, can find it most beautifully shown in the beginning of Section 15. The author of the parable even mentions Medea and Æson. I need add nothing more concerning the talents of the Colchian sorceress in the art of dissection and rejuvenation.

Section I. Psychoanalytic Interpretation Of The Parable. 85 In Section 18, “the sun shines very bright, and the day becomes warmer than before and the dog days are at hand.” Soon after (Sec. 19) the king is released from prison. It was before the winter (Sec. 14), but after that season, when the sun “shines very warm” (Sec. 11), consequently well advanced into autumn. Let us choose for the purpose a middle point between the departing summer and the approaching winter, about the end of October, and bear in mind that the dog-days come in August, so that at the end of July they are in waiting, then we find for the time spent in the receptacle nine months—the time of human gestation.

The newborn (Sec. 20) is naturally—thirsty. What shall he be fed with if not with the water from the mill? And the water makes him grow and thrive.

Two royal personages stand before us in splendor and [109] magnificence. The wanderer has created for himself new parents (the father-king is, of course, also himself) corresponding to the family romance of neurotics, a phantasy romance, that like a ghost stalks even in the mental life of healthy persons. It is a wish phantasy that culminates in its most outspoken form in the conviction that one really springs from royal or distinguished stock and has merely been found by the actual parents who do not fit. They conceal his true origin. The day will come, however, when he will be restored to the noble station which belongs to him by right. Here belong in brief, those unrestrained wish phantasies which, no matter in what concrete form, diversify the naïvely outlined content. They arise from dissatisfaction with surroundings and afford the most agreeable contrasts to straitened circumstances or poverty. In the parable especially, the King (in his father character) is attractively portrayed.

At first the “lofty appearance” (Sec. 19) of the severe father amazes the wanderer, then it turns out, however, that the king (ideal father) is friendly, gracious and meek, and we are assured that “nothing graces exalted persons as much as these virtues.” And then he leads the wanderer into his kingdom and allows him 86 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts to enjoy all the merely earthly treasures. There takes place, so to speak, a universal gratification of all wishes.

Mythologically we should expect that the hero thrown up from the underworld, should have brought with him the drink of knowledge. This is actually the case, as he has indeed gained [110] the thing whose constitution is metaphorically worked out in the whole story, that is, the philosopher's stone. The wanderer is a true soma robber.





Let us hark back to the next to last section. Here, near the end of the dream, the King becomes sleepy. The real sleeper already feels the approaching awakening and would like to sleep longer (to phantasy). But he pretends that the king is sleepy, thus throwing the burden from his own shoulders. And to this experience is soon attached a symbol of waking: the wanderer, the dreamer of the parable, is taken to another land, indeed into a bright land. He wakes from his dreams with a pious echo of his wish fulfillment on his lips... “to which end help us, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen.” It is quite prosaic to conclude this melodious finale by means of the formula “threshold symbolism.” To sum up in a few words what the parable contains from the psychoanalytic point of view, and to do this without becoming too general in suggesting as its results the universal fulfillment of all wishes, I should put it thus: the wanderer in his phantasy removes and improves the father, wins the mother, procreates himself with her, enjoys her love even in the womb and satisfies besides his infantile curiosity while observing procreative process from the outside. He becomes King and attains power and magnificence, even superhuman abilities.

Possibly one may be surprised at so much absurdity. One should reflect, however, that those unconscious titanic powers [111] of imagination that, from the innermost recesses of the soul set in motion the blindly creating dream phantasy, can only wish and do nothing but wish. They do not bother about whether the wishes are sensible or absurd. Critical power does not belong Section I. Psychoanalytic Interpretation Of The Parable. 87 to them. This is the task of logical thinking as we consciously exercise it, inasmuch as we observe the wishes rising from the darkness and compare and weigh them according to teleological standards. The unconsciously impelling affective life, however, desires blindly, and troubles itself about nothing else.

–  –  –

The tradition of craftsmanship in metallurgy, an art that was practiced from the earliest times, was during the speculative period of human culture, saturated with philosophy. Especially was this the case in Egypt, where metallurgy, as the source of royal riches and especially the methods of gold mining and extraction, were guarded as a royal secret. In the Hellenistic period the art of metal working, knowledge of which has spread abroad and in which the interest had been raised to almost scientific character, was penetrated by the philosophical theories of the Greeks: the element and atom ideas of the naturephilosophers and of Plato and of Aristotle, and the religious views of the neoplatonists. The magic of the orient was amalgamated with it, Christian elements were added—in brief, the content of the chemistry of that time, which mainly had metallurgy as its starting point, took a vital part in the hybrid thought of syncretism in the first centuries after Christ.

As the chemical science (in alchemy, alkimia, al is the Arabic article prefixed to the Greek Ç·¼µw±) has come to us from the Arabs (Syrians, Jews, etc.) it was long believed that it had an Arabian origin. Yet it was found later that the Arabs, while [113] they added much of their own to it, still were but the preservers of Greek-Hellenistic knowledge and we are convinced that the alchemists were right when they indicated in their traditions the legendary Egyptian Hermes as their ancestor. This legendary personage is really the Egyptian god Thoth, who was identified with Hermes in the time of the Ptolemies. He was honored as the Lord of the highest wisdom and it was a favorite practice to assign to him the authorship of philosophical and especially Section II. Alchemy. 89 of theological works. Hermes' congregations were formed to practice the cult, and they had their special Hermes literature.2 In later times the divine, regal, Hermes figure was reduced to that of a magician. When I speak, in what follows, of the hermetic writings I mean (following the above mentioned traditions) the alchemic writings, with, however, a qualification which will be mentioned later.

The idea of the production of gold was so dominant in alchemy that it was actually spoken of as the gold maker's art. It meant the ability to make gold out of baser material, particularly out of other metals. The belief in it and in the transmutability of matter was by no means absurd, but rather it must be counted as a phase in the development of human thought. As yet unacquainted with the modern doctrine of unchangeable elements they could draw no other conclusion from the changes in matter which they daily [114] witnessed. If they prepared gold from ores or alloys, they thought they had “made” it. By analogy with color changes (which they produced in fabrics, glass, etc.) they could suppose that they had colored (tinctured) the baser metals into gold.

Under philosophical influences the doctrine arose that metals, like human beings, had body and soul, the soul being regarded as a finer form of corporeality. They said that the soul or primitive stuff (prima materia) was common to all metals, and in order to transmute one metal into another they had to produce a tincture of its soul. In Egypt lead, under the name Osiris, was thought to be the primitive base of metals; later when the still more plastic quicksilver (mercury) was discovered, they regarded this as the soul of metals. They thought they had to fix this volatile soul by some medium in order to get a precious metal, silver, gold.

That problematic medium, which was to serve to tincture or transmute the baser metal or its mercury to silver or gold, was called the Philosopher's stone. It had the power to make the Information on this point will be found in Reitzenstein's “Poimandres.” 90 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts sick (base) metal well (precious). Here came in the idea of a universal medicine. Alchemy desired indeed to produce in the Philosopher's Stone a panacea that should free mankind of all sufferings and make men young.

It will not be superfluous to mention here, that the so-called materials, substances, concepts, are found employed in the treatises of the alchemists in a more comprehensive sense, we [115] can even say with more lofty implications, the more the author in question leans to philosophical speculation. The authors who indulged the loftiest flights were indeed most treasured by the alchemists and prized as the greatest masters. With them the concept mercury, as element concept, is actually separated from that of common quicksilver. On this level of speculation, quicksilver (Hg.) is no longer considered as a primal element, but as a suprasensible principle to which only the name of quicksilver, mercury, is loaned. It is emphasized that the mercurius philosophorum may not be substituted for common quicksilver. Similar transmutations are effected by the concept of a primal element specially separated from mercury. Prima materia is the cause of all objects. Also the material from which the philosopher's stone is produced is in later times called the prima materia, accordingly in a certain sense, the raw material (materia cruda) for its production. But I anticipate; this belongs properly to the occidental flourishing period of the alchemy of scholasticism.

A very significant and ancient idea in alchemy is that of sprouting and procreation. Metals grow like plants, and reproduce like animals. We are assured by the adepts (those who had found it, viz., the panacea) in the Greek-Egyptian period and also later, that gold begets gold as the corn does corn, and man, man. The practice connected with this idea consists in putting some gold in the mixture that is to be transmuted. The gold dissolves like a seed in it and is to produce the fruit, gold. The gold ingredient [116] was also conceived as a ferment, which permeates the whole Section II. Alchemy. 91 mixture like a leaven, and, as it were, made it ferment into gold.

Furthermore, the tincturing matter was conceived as male and the matter to be colored as female. Keeping in view the symbol of the corn and seed, we see that the matter into which the seed was put becomes earth and mother, in which it will germinate in order to come to fruition.

In this connection belongs also the ancient alchemic symbol of the philosopher's egg. This symbol is compared to the “Egyptian stone,” and the dragon, which bites its tail; consequently the procreation symbol is compared to an eternity or cycle symbol.

The “Egyptian stone” is, however, the philosopher's stone or, by metonomy, the great work (magnum opus) of its manufacture.



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