Posts Tagged ‘alchemy’

Experience and Authority

May 12, 2009 5 comments

There is, in alchemy, a very pronounced tension between the need for and value of authority —whether embodied in texts or in the person of a guide— and the need for and value of first-hand experience and discernment. Either one without the other creates imbalance.

Count Michael Maier provides the balancing perspective:

If anyone will not acknowledge the force of reason, he must needs have recourse to authority.

The phrase ‘force of reason’, as Maier is using it, refers to the power of the rational soul to ‘remember’ (in the Platonic sense of anamnesis) true reality when exposed to it. The purpose of authority should be to awaken the ‘memory’ and ‘taste’ for the experience of reality in the soul of the disciple so that his/her practice is founded upon accurate theory, in order that theory may then be confirmed and further informed by accurate practice.

Context and Guidance

May 12, 2009 39 comments

Another factor which contributes to the current lack of success in interpreting alchemical texts is the loss of the proper context: a group of students under the discipline of a guide with firsthand experience of the fruits of alchemical practice. Such a guide would need a solid working knowledge of a sufficient range of alchemical texts, be able to support all interpretations of these texts through reference to the literature of the Hermetic/Alchemic Tradition, and have intimate knowledge and experience of the states, stages, and stations mentioned in the texts. It is probably needless to say that the opportunity for such study is exceedingly rare in these times, and never common in any time.

Qualities and Requisites

May 12, 2009 2 comments

Alchemy —like any science— requires certain qualities in its students: sincerity, earnestness, compassion, austerity, and discipline, to name but a few. It also requires a background in those traditional literatures on which it is based. For alchemical texts written in European languages this would most likely include (at the very least): Torah, New Testament, the Gnostic, Apocryphal and Inter-testamental scriptures, the Corpus Hermeticum, the Timaeus of Plato, the Enneads of Plotinus, etc. Whomsoever enters into the study of alchemy without the necessary qualities and requisites is about as likely to succeed as one who would begin the study of physics without any knowledge of math or scientific methodology.

Paradigms and Templates

March 4, 2009 6 comments

Existing paradigms for reading and interpreting alchemical texts are less than adequate. For the most part these paradigms concern themselves with reading and interpreting these texts according to literary/mythological, psychological, chemical/herbal, or occult templates; or some eclectic amalgamation of these. Such interpretive templates and the reading paradigms which rely on them are foreign to alchemical theory and practice and their use should be re-evaluated by scholars and practitioners alike.

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