Thanks be to God

The original source material is generally attributed to Basil Valentine. Current revision is made from the translation included in ‘The Hermetic Museum’ originally translated by Elias Ashmole and edited by A.E. Waite.

 

As a parting kindness to you, I am constrained to add that the spirit may also be extracted from black Saturn and benevolent Jupiter. When it has been reduced to a sweet oil, we have a means of robbing the common liquid quicksilver of its vivacity, or rendering it firm and solid, as is also set forth in my book.

Postscript

When you have thus obtained the material, the regimen of the fire is the only thing on which you need bestow much attention. This is the sum and the goal of our search. For our fire is a common fire, and our furnace a common furnace. And though some of my predecessors have left it in writing that our fire is not common fire, I may tell you that it was only one of their devices for hiding the mysteries of our Art. For the material is common, and its treatment consists chiefly in the proper adjustment of the heat to which it is exposed.
The fire of a spirit lamp is useless for our purpose. Nor is there any profit in “horse-dung,” nor in the other kinds of heat in the providing of which so much expense is incurred.
Neither do we want many kinds of furnaces. Only our threefold furnace affords facilities for properly regulating the heat of the fire. Therefore do not let any babbling sophist induce you to set up a great variety of expensive furnaces. Our furnace is cheap, our fire is cheap, and our material is cheap – and he who has the material will also find a furnace in which to prepare it, just as he who has flour will not be at a loss for an oven in which it may be baked. It is unnecessary to write a special book concerning this part of the subject. You cannot go wrong, so long as you observe the proper degree of heat, which holds a middle place between hot and cold. If you discover this, you are in possession of the secret, and can practise the Art, for which the CREATOR of all nature be praised world without end. AMEN.

  1. James Raedan
    August 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Spirit Lamp – a lamp that burns a volatile liquid fuel (contingent finite life) instead of oil (which may be read as Original Infinite Life).

    Horse-dung, here, simply means an external (rather than internal) source of heat and its moderation/regulation.

    This can be read profitably alongside the Epistle of John Pontanus.

  2. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    August 7, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    The Epistle (with your commentary) does point very directly to the nature and uses of fire in the work. Sometimes I have found extracting a few sections and contemplating them together will open up my understanding; for example the following:

    In the ‘sudden’ method, which is a method of affect and devotion (but not sentimentalism which is the death of true religion), a lay person relies on the commemoration (recollection or remembrance) of the Sole and Unique Essence of the one thing needful (una sola res) to accomplish the work of transformation such that ‘great struggle’ against the self is not required, just grateful and willing (but never willful) submission of that self to the fire. This entails realization and acceptance of the limitations of the self-nature and the hamartia and hubris involved in the exercise of self-will.

    Here, then, is the practice: take the matter and, with all due diligence, grind and pulverize it with a philosophic contrition next placing it upon the fire within the furnace. The degree and proportion of the fire must also be known, to wit: the external fire should only arouse [or dispose] the matter; and in but little time this fire, without putting a hand to it in any manner, will assuredly realize the work in its entirety, for it will purify, corrupt, engender and bring to perfection the whole working …

    This method does not proceed by fits and starts, nor does it require the accumulation of perfection in qualities and attributes, rather these are bestowed from the Source, by grace and not by industry, the moment we have seen and acknowledged the limitations of the self, forsaking it and its ways and giving up that self to the desire of the ‘one thing needful’ (una sola res) spoken of by the wise.

  3. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    August 8, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you very much, James, for your explanation of the “spirit lamp” and the “horse dung!”

    When I do a search throughout the site for OIL, it is primarily mentioned by Basil Valentine, and in the Verse on the Threefold Sophic Fire. In these places it appears with a number of qualifiers, as below.

    If it is appropriate, could you please expand a little on the meaning of the term Original Infinite Life, and (where it might be helpful) on the significance of the qualifying terms as they appear below? For example, what is the difference between “combustible oil” and “incombustible oil?”
    Similarly, “oil of Mercury” is mentioned several times. What should we know about this?

    QUOTES:

    … the spirit may also be extracted from black Saturn and benevolent Jupiter. When it has been reduced to a sweet oil …

    … the spirit of mercury or its oil …

    The spirit is fermented in the gold with its own proper oil …

    combustible oil
    oil of Mercury
    precipitate the Mercury with its own oil

    If you know how to find this spirit, you have the Salt of the Sages, and the incombustible oil, concerning which many things have been written before my time.

    Threefold Sophic Fire


    The Elixir gives our Second Fire complete,
    The Volatile is fixed by its Heat;
    Nor of Addition is here any need,
    Besides it can produce a living Seed;
    The living Seed of Metals here does lie,
    Not dead, discovered by the Artists Eye;
    This is that Gur, that noble Lunar Oil,
    For which so many vainly rove and toil;
    This Fire it is which made Pontanus wise,
    The Fire, which made Artephius so to rise.

  4. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    August 9, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    A search for “combustible” links it, not surprisingly, to fire, but also to “vegetable” and to “salt,” defining “vegetable” as the principle of growth.

    As our most ancient Stone is not derived from combustible things, you should cease to seek it in substances which cannot stand the test of fire. For this reason it is absurd to suppose that we can make any use of vegetable substances, though the Stone, too, is endowed with a principle of growth.
    If our Stone were a vegetable substance, it would, like other vegetables, be consumed by fire, leaving only a certain salt. Ancient writers have, indeed, described our Stone as the vegetable Stone. But that name was suggested to them by the fact that it grows and increases in size, like a plant.

  5. James Raedan
    August 9, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Your original question would require no less than a weighty tome to begin to answer. I am composing a few words pertinent to that end and hope to post something before too long.

    Until that time, understand that the use of ‘Original Infinite Life’ as a reading for ‘oil’ is a mnemonic aid set up by our own mentor. It applies only in certain instances of use.

    For now, let us focus on what our parent tradition (Tasawwuf) has to say…

    The techncial term ‘the oil’ is defined as “the original light for the Self’s preparation … success lies with God.”

    The technical term ‘the olive tree’ is defined as “the Self when it has been prepared, by the power of thought, for illumination by the Sacred Light.”

    The technical term ‘the glass’ is defined as “the heart, the lamp is the Spirit, the tree, from whose oil the glass is lit up–like a glittering star–is the Self. The niche for the lamp is the body.”

    When Spirit and Self are capitalized, they refer to the Divine Essence and Being respectively, or the corresponding individual aspect when working in conjunction with the Divine Will.

    This should provide material for meditation.

  6. James Raedan
    August 9, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    In regard to the definition of oil as given above, we can profitably recall what Jacob Boehme has said:

    “look well into whom you pour oil, for it is poison to many”.

    This indicates the two natures of oil, combustible and incombustible, and the way they act on different metals.

    The alchemystical philosophers warn us that we should not use ‘combustible’ oil (which is volatile and thus unstable) because it is in fact poison to all. Basil Valentine, for instance, says: “Seek your material in a metallic substance“, that is, not in a combustible substance.

    Incombustible oil, on the other hand, is only poison to the unregenerate due to the fact that it will dissolve or burn the scoria which attaches to them and to which they are attached.

    It has also been said that the process of transmission may only proceed safely when there is an auspicious connection between:

    “a master who possesses the potent elixir [or, incombustible oil] and a disciple who is like a receptive vessel [or lamp].”

    Surprising as it may be, this quotation is not from a western alchemical text but from a text of Indo-Tibetan origin by the Buddhist Master Shakya Shri Jñana in regard to the transmission of the ‘Vital Essence’ of Dzogchen. It may also be useful to consider what no less an authority than Nagarjuna has to say about the necessity of the presence of this essence or element:

    “If the element is present and one labors, pure natural gold will be seen. If the element is not present, no matter how one labors, one only exhausts oneself in weariness and pain.”

    And, once again, to bring forward a Buddhist source, in Jamgong Kongtrul‘s commentary on the Mahayana Uttara Tantra we find that mention is made of the combustible oil, (though not in those terms). The text relates the effects of oil to interference in the functional effectiveness of dyeing cloth:

    “Clean cloth is totally transformed by color, but never is cloth to be treated by oil.”

    Kongtrul glosses this bit of text as follows, relating cloth treated with oil to:

    “those who are blinded by their mental poisons and possessed of the nature of ignorance … all of this is produced by inferior views fixated upon ones very own…pollution …. one should not join ones mind with such fixated and opinionated views [just as] it is not suitable to [treat] cloth with oil.”

    Jacob Boehme likewise says:

    “have a care to pour oil into the wounds that require healing; and consider what Christ saith: How hard it is for that man to enter into the kingdom of God, who is entangled with worldly cares [that is, poisons or pollutions]…”

    Eugenius Philalethes asks rhetorically in this regard:

    “Did not [God] inform Moses of the composition of the oil and the perfume [that is, balsam]. Did he not teach him the symptoms of Leprosy [a wasting disease] and the cure thereof?”

    Basil Valentine instructs us to:

    “take a quantity of the best and finest gold, and separate it into its component parts by those media which Nature vouchsafes to those who are lovers of Art, as an anatomist dissects the human body. Thus change your gold back into what it was before it became gold; and thou shalt find the seed, the beginning, the middle, and the end-that from which our gold and its female principle are derived, viz., the pure and subtle spirit, the spotless soul, and the astral salt and balsam.”

    When Basil Valentine tells us that we must “take a quantity of the best and finest gold“, we may relate this to the aforementioned ‘receptive vessel’ which has pure qualities of loving-kindness unmixed with lesser (unworthy) views, aims and motivations.

    When he says “separate it into its component parts” he means salt [body], Mercury [soul] and sulphur [Spirit]; and when he mentions that we are to use “those media which Nature vouchsafes to those who are lovers of Art“, he is referring to the gradual and sudden methods of praxis.

    Elsewhere he says:

    “the salt [here meaning the body/form] is unprofitable, until its inward substance has been extracted. For the spirit alone gives strength and life. The body by itself profits nothing. If you know how to find this Spirit, you have the salt of the Sages, and the incombustible oil…”

    This is a clear reference to incombustible Oil as Spirit.

    When he teaches that we must “change [our] gold back into what it was before it became gold“, he means that we must change our contingent (individual) finite life back into the incombustible Oil of Original (universal) Infinite Life. For however so good our individual aims and motivations may seem, they pale in comparison with that Supreme Good mentioned by Plato:

    “Prayer is the ardent turning of the soul toward God; not to ask any particular good, but for good itself — for the Universal Supreme Good. We often mistake what is pernicious and dangerous for what is useful and desirable. Therefore remain silent in the presence of the divine, till the clouds are removed from thy eyes, and enable thee to see by the light which issues from the Divine, not what appears as good to thee, but what is really Good.”

    When Basil Valentine declares “thou shalt find the seed, the beginning, the middle, and the end–that from which our gold and its female principle are derived, viz., the pure and subtle Spirit, the spotless Soul, and the astral salt and balsam“, this has reference to the seed of our divine genesis which is the alpha and omega of our existence (and everything in between). He then defines his own terms, ‘gold’ and ‘female principle’ as the “pure and subtle Spirit” and the “spotless Soul” respectively. The so-called ‘astral salt’ relates to the subtle body, while ‘balsam’ is a preparation consisting essentially of oil holding aromatic resin in solution (which has a sweet and pleasing smell).

    We have mentioned the vegetable oil, which is combustible. We have mentioned the metallic (or mineral) oil, which is incombustible. But now I would say a brief word about the animal oil. Eugenius Philalethes calls it “the fuel of the vital, sensual fire, without which we cannot subsist“. Such a definition clearly relates it to spiritus.

    Oil of mercury, would be volatile or combustible just as the soul is. However, if the soul has been united with the spirit, then Oil of Mercury would be fixed or incombustible.

    Edit – Jupiter has multiple significations that relate closely together. He is described as being the “universal spirit diffused throughout nature“, he is also said to govern “the fire of nature, the principle of elementary fire“. Jupiter, as ‘tin’ is also related to the ‘grey’ color that appears midway between the nigredo and albedo (the black and white works). He is also related to the development of Justice and Mercy (or loving-kindness) due to decreased obsession with the illusory self.

    That is perhaps enough to begin with…

  7. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    August 10, 2014 at 4:37 am

    It is a banquet of life-saving nourishment to be savoured and slowly absorbed. Thank you!

  8. James Raedan
    August 10, 2014 at 6:22 am

    And, for you specifically, look for more in Chapter 8 of Cleary’s ‘The Ectstasy of Enlightenment’ which begins by mentioning that “The boat of compassion is filled with gold.” Chapter 1 is also worth a read.

  9. brkkuroi
    August 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Can the different elements(fire, earth , air and water) be seen as different aspects of one working reality in that the qualtiies (hot, wet, dry, and cold) can be found to be shared in common with another? Further , in the above passage it is stated that “you cannot go wrong as long as you observe the proper degree of heat which holds a middle place between hot and cold.” Is this middle place related to “opening pass” referred to taoist alchemy or the “mine’ where the imagination works as found in Paracelus( which I read about in the short catechism of alchemy on this site.)

  10. brkkuroi
    August 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Okay, I found the answer to the first part of my question in the eighth key : “At the same time each element is distinct though each contains the other.”

  11. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    August 14, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    The “middle place” in the degree of heat has to do with the “science of dosages” in alchemy, and in straightforward terms simply means to be neither too lacklustre nor too ardent.

    The “centre of the earth,” however, is identified with the mysterious pass in Question 17 of the Catechism, but I suspect you have seen that, since the Paracelsus quote regarding the Workshop of the Imagination you refer to appears in Question 15.

    As plainly as possible, most of the time we look outward, and take in images and forms passively, from the outside world. Other times, using imagination (note the lower case), we fantasize images. Both of these are “false” and passive. There is, however, the spiritual Imagination which is linked to the Nous, the aperture through we we are guided by an atemporal source. This is equivalent to the Daoist’s Mysterious Pass.

    Also note the definition of “Heart“:

    An incorporeal luminous substance located midway between the Spirit and the Self [or Soul, i.e nafs]. It is the means by which Humanity verifies Reality, and sages call it the Rational Soul. Its Inner aspect is the Spirit, while its vehicle and external aspect is the Animal [or vital, lower] Soul, which mediates between Heart and Body.

    The Philokalia states:

    In creatures endowed with Intelligence this Imaginative faculty of the Soul is an intermediary between the Intellect and the Senses.

    James once told me that “It is important to remember that in order to be free, images must not be borrowed but must arise from your Soul’s Desiring and flow into the performance of Acts engendered from interior need rather than external want.”

    Question 61 says:

    There are two primary parts of the Soul: sensory and spiritual. These are often further divided into specific powers: mentation, phantasy, appetite and sensation within the sensory part; and Intellect, Imagination, Desire and Will within the spiritual part. The crude humidity that must be attracted upward and within rather than downward and without is that of the soul’s sensory part with its mentation, sensation, appetite and phantasy. The author is stating that this can be accomplished through subtle contact with those who have previously succeeded in this work. The sensations and images stored up within the soul through the activity of the sensory part of the soul in conjunction with the body are the scoriae and excrements mentioned as being “rejected in projection.”

    .

  12. brkkuroi
    August 15, 2014 at 11:24 am

    More specifically, under question 15, I was thinking of this quote from Plotinus:” I gaze upon the One and the materia(the four elements) take form as if they fell from contemplation.” I am very interested in what you have said about “images must not be borrowed but must arise from your Soul’s Desiring and flow into the performance of Acts engendered from interior need rather than external want.” Taking what you have said that the fire should neither be “too ardent for too lacklustre” wouldn’t it also be true that the three different souls ( the rational, the affective and the sensitve) each have their own “food” and in fact, the rational soul is responsible for “balancing” the needs of these souls. To become aware of the “internal desires ” rather than “external wants” it seems to me would require the use of the Silence which Plotinus refers to in the first part of the quote or “stilling” the mental chatter which often stimulates the “external wants” while becoming aware of the the more subtle needs. As far as Desire is concerned, I think of that Hadith Qudsi” I was a Hidden Treasure and I LONGED to become known so I created the world that I might become known.” which seems to find a “resonance” with the beginning of Rumi’s Masnavi with the Tale of the Reed. Obviously, most of my post here is an extended response to your post but my question would be: am I understanding correctly?

  13. brkkuroi
    August 15, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I have reviewed my above post and I realize that it is a bit of a mess. So for a clarification:
    You said that the “Fire” has to be neither “too ardent nor too lacklustre”. So my question would be:does the fire have to be moderated according the needs of the various souls which you have referred to before i.e. the rational, affective and sensitive because each one of these souls, it would seem to me, has its own needs. Secondly, is it possible to become aware of the difference between “internal desires” as opposed to “external wants’ through the use of the Silence that Plotinus referred to in the quote in question 15?

  14. brkkuroi
    August 15, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Finally, it seems that the “fire’ which is neither “too ardent or too lacklustre” has to moderated according to the symbolic characteristics of the “wet” and the “dry.” In other words, too much “fire” and things are dried out and then die. Too little heat and then the superfluous desires i.e. the “wet” become too strong, and then there is leakage, and then also, eventually death. Is this an accurate understanding of how the “fire’ needs to be used?

  15. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    August 15, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Re-read “Principle” where much of the applicability to the various souls is explained and should now be more clear (with the usual caveat that these descriptions are merely expedient, not ‘real’).

    Remember it says in the “Essential Alchemy” pdf:

    True conscience derives from Love and this leads to submission to the beloved which, in turn, leads to union, which is true knowledge. Knowledge of the will of God is thus received through the medium of the intelligence of the heart, continually inclined thereto:

    Let thy conscience guide thee to increased necessity.

    ‘Conscience’ refers to the ‘burning’ that arises from giving in to ones ‘lower nature’ (the ‘fires of hell’ as it were); unbridled passions (desires) are referred to as a ‘burning’ in the ‘blood’ (hot-blooded); persons who permit anger and hatred to cloud their vision are referred to as ‘hotheads’; ‘passion,’ too, is sometimes spoken of as a ‘consuming fire’. Conscience is often hermetically indicated by ‘fire’ because it ‘burns’ away impurities (superfluities). Heat and fire, in addition to causing damage by ‘burning’ that which is flammable (that which has impurities), are also the transmutive agencies par excellence when employed upon that which is inflammable (relatively pure). As noted, true conscience is a deep willingness to participate in the manifestation of The Design on Earth.
    “Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” as the Lord’s Prayer has it.
    “As above, so Below” as Hermes indicates.

    Then, a few quotes from different sources:

    . . In other words, the alchemist should change the unfruitful waterless desert (which is located in a very secret place) into a flowering paradise . . . Due to the continuation of the warmth [the steady action of true conscience and purified desire], the parched earth [purified individual] drinks again all its eliminated moistness [spiritual appetance] . . . and finally becomes dry [the hermetic ‘dry water’, desiring only the Beloved] . . . Johannes Helmond

    In the Work we are often cautioned against using too much, or the wrong type of heat (or fire) lest we burn or singe our flowers. – Hermana Lucida

    The point in this doctrine, and, as I have said repeatedly, it is the essential starting point of Hermetic discipline (or philosophy), is, not to act upon the conscience through any of the passions, hope, fear, or any other passion, to improve man; but as far as possible to allay these or neutralize them, so as to open the way for the conscience to act freely, and according to its own essential, heavenly nature . . . – General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Alchemy and the Alchemists

    Paracelsus says:

    Q. By what is this fire nourished ?

    A. By the air.

    Q. What must be added to this fire so as to accentuate its capacity for incineration in the feminine species?

    A. On account of its extreme dryness it requires to be moistened.

    And finally, a few paragraphs from Nicolas Flamel’s Summary of Philosophy with some commentary by James

    XXXV
    And indeed the philosophers have a garden, where the sun as well morning as evening remains with a most sweet dew, without ceasing, with which it is sprinkled and moistened; – whose earth brings forth trees and fruits, which are transplanted thither, which also receive descent and nourishment from the pleasant meadows.

    Commentary by James:
    And indeed the love (Ishq) of wisdom creates an interior centre (through Zuhd, seclusion), where the freed objective consciousness (waṣl, the meeting – the ‘Morning’ and ‘Midnight’ Sun as one) in active and passive contemplations is present with Baraka (a most pleasant drizzle of Essence, dew), without ceasing, with which it (the new spiritual earth or substance) is blessed and sustained (Ajrat, the reward); whose Ground (Universal Life) brings forth spiritual sustenance (lahut) and knowledge (marifat), which are brought back to benefit this world, which also receives benediction and sustenance from the pleasant ground of Truth (Haqiqat).

    “The sun will no longer be your light by day,
    nor the moon shine on you by night;
    your God will be your Splendour (hod).
    Never again will your sun set,
    nor your moon withdraw her light;
    but the Lord will be your everlasting light
    and the days of your mourning will be ended.”
    – Isaiah LX: 19-20

    XXXVI
    And this is done daily, and there they are both corroborated and quickened without ever fading; and this more in one year, than in a thousand where the cold affects them. Take them therefore, and night and day cherish them in a distillatory fire; but not with a fire of wood or coals, but in a clear, transparent fire, not unlike the sun, which is never hotter than is requisite, but is always alike; for a vapour is the dew, and seed of metals, which ought not to be altered.

    Commentary:
    And this (process) is performed daily, the fruits of which may be corroborated and quickened without ever fading; and this more in a brief period through our art than otherwise through millennia of so-called nature-led evolution where life is lived as one ‘in the world, and of it’ [as a slave to one’s incessant and ever-shifting passions and allegiances]. Take the fruits of realization and in activity and passivity nurture them in an attentive atmosphere (one that discriminates wisely between the real and the false), but not through coarse means, but in an atmosphere of clarified, conscious, spiritual attention, not unlike that of the noetic consciousness, which pays no undue attention to anything, but attends to all things alike [without bias or subjective valuation]; for the spiritual appetence [desire raised above sense objects and self-will] is the coagulated Essence (Dew), and seed of qualities, which ought not to be evaporated.

    XXXVII
    Fruits, if they be too hot, and without dew or moisture, abide on the boughs, but without coming to perfection, only withering or dwindling away.

    Commentary:
    The results of realization (states), if they be paid undue attention, and are not accompanied with infusions of Baraka or Spirit, abide in the domain of spiritual experience, but do not come to perfection, gradually withering and dwindling away.

    “Chan Buddhists tend to downplay the feelings of such experiences as remoteness, clarity, and suffusion with light, for two main reasons. One is that such experiences are just signals of something and not goals in themselves. The other is that the impression they nevertheless create upon the mind can be so strong that ‘the spoils of war are lost through celebration’.”

    – Thomas Cleary, from commentary on a verse in
    The Secret of the Golden Flower

    Note – this relates to the first method of attentiveness mentioned by St. Symeon – lifting the gaze too high, thus indulging in states.

    XXXVIII
    But if they be fed with heat and due moisture on their trees, then they prove elegant and fruitful; for heat and moisture are the elements of all earthly things – animal, vegetable, and mineral.

    Commentary:
    But if the authenticating experiences of enlightenment be augmented and progressed with due attention [which is to likewise infer without undue attention] and due Essence (spiritual substance) from the centre of Universal Life, then they give their corroboration and further the transformative process, for attention and essence are the elements of all manifest qualities – animal, vegetable, and mineral [in reverse order: vitality, energy, and spirit].

    “The science of essence deals with mind; the science of life deals with the body . . . As the three centers interact, the quality and proportion of their mutual influence relate to the total state of mental and physical well-being . . . In terms of the individual, vitality is associated with the loins, energy with the thorax, and spirit with the brain.”

    – Thomas Cleary

  16. brkkuroi
    August 18, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Xiaoyaoxii, your lengthy response reminds of a phrase which you have used before( and one which I have found recently in a book, Dune, which I am reading.) “We exist only in order to serve. ” So I thank you for your service !One of the more difficult aspects of dealing with alchemical language is that I have found that there is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between a word and its meaning, rather a symbol may have a whole series of denotative as well as connotative meanings associated with it. Looking at this use of symbolic language and reviewing the Cyclopedia article on Principles, it strikes me that Mercury( or Hermes or quicksilver) is the connecting link between all the various qualities (hot, cold, wet, dry) and the various “states”of matter and form which result. In Greek mythology Hermes was the God of communication between the Gods and humans. In other words, he “translates” the language of the Gods into human terms ( and vice-versa) and he is also the God of commerce as well as language. In other words, language( and the symbols associated with language) is a kind of coin that allows “commerce” between different sections of a community to occur and allows for the “translation”(tarjuman) of the various desires in that community to occur. At the same time, Hermes was also the God of trickery and thieves, and it seems to me that the descriptions of “energy leakage” found at Al Kemi Notebook( and also described in some of Cleary’s taoist translations( part of which you have shared above) is also a reflection of the action of Mercury or Hermes or quicksilver. In other words, the action of mercury( which is associated with the soul) can be both positive and negative and can allow for “translations” between the various states and qualities, and this can either lead to higher development on the one hand or degeneration on the other. At the same time, the action of mercury ( or the soul) is important in that it allows for a certain degree of flexibility in attention or awareness so that “premature fixation” does not occur but where it has occurred mercury ( or the soul or the awareness) can direct the action of the fire ( and the “moistness) in the correct manner. An individual may be highly principled and even noble( and if I remember correctly Sayed Idries Shah has said that Sulpher is linked to the idea of nobility) but those “high principles” may be linked to inflexibility and thus lead to the “premature fixation” which I referred to above. This is only my initial reaction to what you have written. There is so much in what you have written that it will take me time – and pomegranates!- to assimilate it. I have only added this reaction to see if I’m on the right track to fuller understanding of what you have written. Am I on the ‘right track”?

  17. brkkuroi
    August 18, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Addendum; In the above passage , there should be this addition” but when it(premature fixation) has occurred mercury(or the soul or awareness or attention) can direct the action of the fire( and the moistness) in a manner that can rectify the situation.

  18. brkkuroi
    August 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    In the previous section on the “salt of the sages” it states that salt can either volatize or fix…I thought salt was solely a “fixative” but apparently not!

  19. James Raedan
    August 18, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    The ‘spirit of salt’ (salt acid) volatizes.

  20. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    August 19, 2014 at 1:19 am

    It is James’ unfailing service that deserves your thanks; I merely chose relevant selections to help you with your topic.

    Yes, the “right track” in general. But I have a sense that much of your approach is limited to intellectual understanding (with a small “i”), whereas you can and should allow room for unforced open access to a different teacher.

    Whosoever undertakes this study without having awakened to a new sensitivity that can place itself in contact with the spiritual stream which gave life to the Tradition in the first place, will succeed only in filling his [or her] head with words, symbols, and fantastic allegories. It is not a question of intellectual understanding but of a different way of thinking and feeling . . . a different way of perceiving and knowing.
    – Julius Evola (In The Hermetic Tradition, 1971)

  21. James Raedan
    August 19, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Basil Valentine calls the salt that volatizes ‘salt of the sages’, as in the following:

    “the salt is unprofitable, until its inward substance has been extracted. For the spirit alone gives strength and life. The body by itself profits nothing. If you know how to find this spirit, you have the salt of the Sages, and the incombustible oil…”

    This is why salt acid is called ‘spirit of salt’, it is the extracted spirit, inward substance, or essence of the salt (body / form) – which actually relates it to the Hermetic water.

    As you say, Hermetic hermeneutics is all very polyvalent, amorphous and ‘living’. To simplify, reify or concretize it into a simple one-to-one correspondence would be to ‘kill’ its active ferment.

    And you were right to thank Xiayao: he performs a great service by maintaining this site and providing focused attention to specific subjects in response to queries like your own.

  22. brkkuroi
    August 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Thank you for your response, James, you have already answered my next question.

    Xiaoyao; I completely concur with James statements regarding your role here. Your humility is a sign of your Devotion, Intelligence(Large “I” and “intelligence” as defined by the scholastics) and Simplicity(simplicity: as defined on this site and also by the scholastics) In Japanese, the word makoto (sincerity) includes all of these aspects(Devotion, Intelligence and Simplicity)and is considered a true virtue.(virtus; strength) There is nothing sentimental about true humility. I recognize,somewhat ruefully, the truth of your remarks concerning my approach. In the past, I have often wasted a good deal of time with the “intellectual” (small “i) and I certainly don’t want to treat these materials as “intellectual” play things. You have recommended that I should have “unforced open access to a different teacher.’ Your website was recommended to me by a Friend who said that your site is ‘unrivaled in competence and quality’ anywhere else on the internet.” Since I respect and value my friend’s judgement, I take your suggestions very, very seriously so my question would be two fold:
    1. By “unforced” are you making reference to the type of compulsive behavior that often attends someone who seeks a teacher. By ‘compulsive” I mean using a teacher for reasons of emotional dependency. By contrast, It seems to me that “unforced” refers to an approach which approaches a teaching with more balance ..neither slavish conformity nor exaggerated self assertion.
    2. By “open access” and a ‘different teacher” are you suggesting that I should look for a teacher in one of the “parent traditions” listed on this site such as sufism, taoism judaism, eastern orthodoxy etc.? Do you mean that I should find a teacher in one of those teachings so I can work better “in tandem” with this site?

  23. brkkuroi
    August 19, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    or.(on further reflection)..when you use the term “different teacher” are you referring to using a different function other than the “intellect”(small”i”)?.

  24. brkkuroi
    August 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    in other words, it strikes me that you could mean that I am using my intellect as my teacher…

  25. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    August 19, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    brkkuroi
    Your multiple responses illustrate the (small) problem: how about reflecting first, THEN responding 🙂

    Yes, by “different teacher” I was referring to that “small still voice” that becomes apparent when you quiet down and allow it to work. This is essential, as made plain in the quote that appears on every page on this site:

    For this practice they had a very good reason; they want to force those who seek this wisdom to feel their dependence upon God (in whose hand are all things), to obtain it through instant prayer, and when it has been revealed to them, to give all the glory to Him.

    “feel their dependence upon God” I am sure you have noticed how difficult it is to raed these materials. They are designed to frustrate the small i intellect, and to force you into allowing a different function to emerge.

    “obtain it through instant prayer” Read the section on Prayer, and remember the best is spontaneous, grateful, and thoughtless of self.

    “and when it has been revealed, to give the glory to Him.” Since you could not force your way through to understanding with the intellect, the understanding that comes is not due to your own efforts and is solely due to compassionate revelation. To take credit for that yourself, and begin to think “wow, I am really something!” is to start down a seriously deviating path. The best is to allow it to come gently, without forcing, allowing your access to open of itself, and then not greedily taking advantage of it.
    There is a Daoist text called the Treatise of Sitting Forgetting (Cleary has a translation in his Taoist Meditation) which says:

    Once insight has emerged, treasure it … it is not that producing insight is difficult, being insightful but not using it is hard. Since ancient times there have been many people who have forgotten their bodies but few who have forgotten their reputations. Being insightful but not using it is forgetting repute; few in the world can attain this, so it is considered difficult.

  26. brkkuroi
    August 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I have to confess that I laughed out loud when I read your dry, humorous remark (with the “smiley’ face…which was much appreciated, by the way) “how about reflecting first THEN responding.”. A very good example of adhab (chastisement) in that it was served up with a smile! It seems to me that, from looking at other interchanges on this page, that being open to the “small, still voice” is a matter of “clearing up the channel ” of the various forms of sludge that may have “banked” there. I would say “clearing up the channel” except that it may rather be a matter of “allowing” the channel to be “cleared” without forcing. The idea of “clearing up the channel” could be an example of the ‘self will” that is self defeating and contradicts the material on prayer which you have directed me towards. In addition, when reviewing my responses, it is interesting to me how LONG it took me to figure out what you were really saying (Obviously, some interior censor is at work)….that itself has been an eyeopener! Thank you again!

  27. brkkuroi
    September 12, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Xiaoyao, is very interesting to me how I, very subtly, misunderstood the above quote from Taoist meditation. I focused on the latter part of the quote “many people have forgotten their bodies but few who have forgotten their reputations” rather than on the first sentence” Once insight has emerged, treasure it”.
    In other words, I interpreted the quote moralistically i.e. “Don’t be an egotist! Forget your reputation!” whereas the really significant part of the quote, for me at this time, is “treasure it (the insight)”. In other words, allow the insight to be nurtured rather “spending” it on feeding the ego. The value, for me, in recognizing this mistake is that it really makes me aware that both the “moralist” and the “egotist” are much, much closer than may initially appear to be the case. And it seems to me that it is not a matter of “beating” the ego so much as “loosening” the rigidity of the ego and its opinions. Very interesting that the same quote can come to have a very, very different meaning at a later date.

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