Lesson 4) The Structure of Nature

Hello again and welcome back! Can you believe we're already on Lesson Four? Time truly has gone too fast for my liking. Your midterm will be next week, and it will cover information from today and all the previous lessons. Be sure to study for it before you come to class next time.

How are your transmutations coming along? I saw some of you a few times during the past couple of weeks working on your projects. It's a little hard to stay awake in there sometimes but I can manage as long as I have my coffee. I should bring my Gobstones board next time for those of you who like to hang around. If you don't know how to play, I would be happy to teach you!

Let's shift gears again this week. You all definitely know enough about the seven planetary aspects, especially considering last week's lesson. Do you remember our good friend Paracelsus? As we learned in Year Two, Paracelsus created this chart called the Harmony of Elements and Organs, where he paired up the seven classical planets with different metals and certain organs in the body. Paracelsus was a leader in the development of medicine, as you may recall. Did you know that a lot of his research on medicine relied heavily on Hermetic alchemy?

In order to explain how Paracelsus came to create the Harmony of Elements and Organs, we have to talk about microcosm and macrocosm. Microcosm is a Greek compound word meaning small order, small world, or small ordered world. Going by that logic, Macrocosm is also a Greek compound word meaning large order, large world, or large ordered world. The concept of these two worlds have been found throughout the ancient world in various texts up through the Renaissance period, until the Muggle belief of alchemy declined, shortly after the seventeenth century when modern Muggle science began rising.

The general idea of microcosm and macrocosm is that there is a correspondence between people (microcosm) and the universe (macrocosm). There are similar patterns, structure, and nature between the two. According to this view, man is considered a smaller embodiment of the universe, while the universe is considered an anthropomorphic existence.

Although Hermeticism has been traced back to the first century, it had briefly disappeared until it was reintroduced back into Europe in 1460 C.E. by a monk named Leonardo di Pistoia. Cosimo de' Medici had sent Pistoia and other agents to search European monasteries for lost ancient texts. His intent was to gather these texts to create an academy of philosophical thought. The texts that Pistoia brought back took off in Italy and soon spread to the rest of Europe. Microcosm and macrocosm were also a popular concept in Scholasticism and Platonism.

Paracelsus looked at microcosm and macrocosm from a different perspective, compared to that of others. Many before him believed in the concept as an analogy for purifying the soul. Paracelsus believed that the average person's health was dependent upon the harmony between microcosm and macrocosm. According to Paracelsus, there is an inner heaven of stars within every person. Or in other words, the universe's macrocosm is represented in each person as a microcosm. He devised that every ailment in man must have a cure that comes from nature. Diseases were thought to be poison brought from the stars. Paracelsus didn't necessarily believe that the poison itself was negative, but that the dosage determined if it was lethal or not. What better way to expel evil than with more evil? Paracelsus became the father of toxicology because of this theory.

Paracelsus also believed that the body needed a balance of minerals to stay healthy, so he devised the Harmony of Elements and Organs. As I mentioned in Year Two, there are seven planets in the sky, seven metals in the Earth, and seven centers of the body. If you haven’t noticed, seven is a very important number in magic. Sets of seven are considered heavenly and are closely interrelated, as you will learn if you decide to take Arithmancy in the future. The chart merely shows the relationship between the three groups.

You may have also noticed that a majority of the metals in the chart are not the same metals that matched up with the seven planetary aspects. That's because they are part of a completely different concept known as the seven metals. They can also be known as the seven planetary metals or the seven commonly known metals. Although the planetary aspects do have a coinciding method of transmutation, I have found over years of being in the field that the seven metals are a more commonly accepted theory. They are in various manuscripts and associated with numerous symbols. It's actually confusing to find if past alchemists were talking about the metals in a physical form or in a purely symbolic form. Since I covered some of these metals in a physical sense in Year Two, today will be more about the spiritual side.

As we have learned so far this year, the Great Work is split into four main stages, however, not everybody conformed to this four stage rule. Some alchemists actually used the seven metals as stages to split up the process of the Great Work. That being said, the first stage was mercury, also known as quicksilver. Mercury was aligned with the planet Mercury. In this sense, mercury was the matter that had yet to be transformed. It needed to be worked on, molded, through the process of the Great Work. In other words, the matter is you: your body, your mind, and your divine essence within. Mercury is chaos.

Mercury is the heaviest natural metal and the only metal that exists in a liquid state at room temperature. Alchemists believed that every metal started out as a liquid when it was formed in the Earth. When the metal came out of the Earth in a solid state, that was its final form. Mercury, since it is a liquid at room temperature, was said to have kept its innocence and retained its original life force. It resisted turning into its final form. For that reason, the ancients gave it the name mercurius vivens, which translates to "living mercury." Paracelsus also deemed it as one of the Three Primes, as we know from Year Two. Mercury archetypes typically deal with communication, travel, learning, and memorization.

http://www.galleries.com/minerals/elements/lead/lead.jpgLead, paired with Saturn, is the second stage. This is a state of pure blackness. The matter begins to change, purify, and dissolve. Lead is considered to have the lowest rank of the base metals, but alchemists treated it with a great deal of respect. Why? That's because they treated Saturn with a lot of respect. When looking at the relationship between the planet and the metal, it's important to remember that alchemists believed that metals had the same virtue as their corresponding planet. That means that the relationship is one universal force with the planet being a celestial manifestation and the metal being a terrestrial manifestation.

It's said that lead carries all of its energy for its own transformation. Alchemists sought to set this hidden energy free. They believed that the ancient metal was some type of sleeping giant whose power and nature could encompass both the beginning and end of the Great Work. Lead is commonly depicted in drawings as Saturn (the god), Father Time, or a skeleton to represent death. These can either mean that the alchemist is physically working with the element lead, or that they are taking a leaden attitude to accompany their meditation.

The third stage is tin, corresponding with Jupiter. Near the end of the blackness is a gray color, almost resembling the light at the end of a tunnel. The blackness is almost purified to a bright white. One spiritual practice is taking a piece of tin outside at night and finding Jupiter in the sky. With the metal, become empty and let the planet into your divine essence to influence you. Eventually you will feel a resonating connection with Jupiter. What you are feeling is the connection with the metal and the planet and the relationship with the As Above, So Below concept we learned in Year Three.

Tin is a metal that does not oxidize and resists weathering. If you were to find tin utensils buried underground for a long time, they would still shine like they were brand new. Another interesting fact is that tin is distributed in an ecliptic at a 23.5º angle to the equator. This measurement is exactly where the track of the orbit of Jupiter hits the planet. Not only that, but the tin veins in the rocks zig zag in a lightning bolt pattern. It's oddly fascinating considering that Jupiter is the god of the sky. Coincidence? I think not.

Following tin is copper, which is aligned with Venus. This is described to be a citrine colored stage between the grayness and the whiteness. Venus and copper have been paired up for a very long time, as both are associated with love. Venus' moon occasionally appears during a lunar eclipse. During the eclipse, the moon takes on a copper color and the fertility of sowing crops is heightened.

Copper is often associated with balanced feelings, touch and speech, and an ascending mind. Some beauty elixirs also channel Venus. The Venusian elixirs tap into a person's aura and promote harmony and balance within the user's being as well as their interactions with others. These elixirs can also temporarily open the way to an astral realm connected to the most intimate nature magic. For those who specifically want to get into herbal alchemy, Venusian elixirs are very helpful.

Silver is the next stage up. The moon is known as silver's planetary twin. This stage specifically corresponds with Albedo. You can now see the light, as the matter has been purified. Silver is the metal that was considered the closest to perfection and second only to gold. Since medieval times, alchemists believed that the moon was the second most important celestial body in the sky. It was only fitting that they paired it up with silver. To them, the moon was the queen of alchemy and was associated with only the purest color, white.

The moon is associated with the unconscious self, as well as the soul. The unconscious self was seen as a reflection of the conscious self. Silver can affect the subconscious mind and allow the user to see into the past clearly, remove fears, enhance their imagination, and produce a feeling of grace and sensitivity. It can also be used to reduce stress, improve one's memory, balance emotions, and ward off melancholy.

The next stage is an orange or rust-red color. What metal is it? You guessed it, iron! Like in the seven planetary aspects, iron is once again associated with Mars. After the purified matter stays in a state of whiteness for a while, it starts to take on a red hue. Personally, I feel that this stage is the most like Citrinitas. Iron and Mars both rule our aggressive nature, courage, and hunger for power. You have to figure out how to channel the influence of Mars into divine qualities rather than a selfish fulfillment of the senses.

Iron is also known as a "holy metal" as it was used to make swords in the Crusades. It makes sense as Mars is the god of war, constantly conquering a new world. Iron has affinities with certain metals that alchemists dubbed "brothers of iron." These metals are cobalt, nickel, tungsten, vanadium, and manganese. Chromium does have an affinity with iron, but instead of being considered a "brother," alchemists referred to it as a "sister." These metals can combine with iron to make different types of steel.

Last but not least, gold is the final stage. And what classical planet could be more perfect to pair it up with than the sun? The matter has fully turned red at this point and has completed the transformation through the process of the Great Work. When the matter reaches this point, alchemists call it Red Sulfur. Alchemists were obsessed with gold's status of perfection. They believed that gold was the end goal for everything.

Gold can be used in spells, talismans, and rituals. It's often associated with authority, self-confidence, inner strength, creativity, power, hope, health, and wealth. There is a danger associated with this particular phase. At this point, the individual is at risk of getting so caught up in the workings of the Above that they forget their connection to the real world. Although the sun and gold have many positive traits, they can quickly turn into impurity, despair, lack of self-confidence, and poor self-esteem without a constant effort of staying pure and alive in the real world.

Whew. That's enough for today. Don't forget to keep working on your transmutation projects and to study for your midterm next week!

Alchemy isn't strictly scientific, it's spiritual too! This year will mainly focus on a branch of Alchemy developed from the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus. Learn how to seek your inner self and about the magnum opus itself!
Course Prerequisites:
  • ALCH-301

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