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Alchemy: The Hermetic Art

"The School of Light and Colour" from Confessions of a Split Mind

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The Formative Stages of Group Therapy as an Alchemical Process

Western alchemy emerged from the Alexandrine marriage of Aristotelian natural science to Gnostic and Egyptian mythology as well as Hermeticism and Neo-Platonism. It has always been a philosophical storehouse for a plethora of religious and mystical ideas in the manner that the cosmopolitan Alexandria was the transmutational receptacle for knowledge arriving from the four corners of the wo ..

The Black Art E-Book now available for download

The Black Art (2013), the fourth e-book, is now available for download for all subscribers to www.paulkiritsis.net (http://www.paulkiritsis.net/). It contains all of my work on the subject of alchemy, including the following: a lucid presentation on the formative principles (the four elements, the seven planets and metals, and the tria prima); a historiographical analysis on the inau ..

The Black Art: E-book

The Black Art (2013), the fourth e-book, will soon be available for download. It contains all of my work on the subject of alchemy, including the following: a lucid presentation on the formative principles (the four elements, the seven planets and metals, and the tria prima); a historiographical analysis on the inauguration and interaction of alchemy with other disciplines/traditions ..

Carl Jung and Alchemical Symbolism (Part Four)

Initially Jung’s historiography of alchemy as a sequence of pseudochemical operations exemplifying an unconscious projection of individuation was very convivial, something which shouldn’t come as any great surprise given its notorious reputation as an intellectual cul-de-sac for contemporary historians of culture. Nevertheless in the aftermath of Jungian sensationism, rad ..

Carl Jung and Alchemical Symbolism (Part Three)

In the second part of Psychology and Alchemy we encounter intellectual fruits hoping to unearth correlations in support of an inherently self-regulating psyche, a ten month labour that involved the examination of fifty-nine dreams and visionary experiences belonging to the unconscious life of Nobel prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Paoli with whom Jung had collaborated to pioneer the  ..

Carl Jung and Alchemical Symbolism (Part Two)

Roughly twenty years after the circulation of Waite’s texts, the Sinologist Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930) sent Jung a cryptic Chinese Taoist treatise entitled, The Secret of the Golden Flower. In a first perusal of the text Jung was struck by the ample use of mandala symbolism –the wheel of life or magic circle–which cropped up repeatedly in the psychedelic dream ..

Carl Jung and Alchemical Symbolism (Part One)

As a major interpreter of the Western esoteric tradition–most notably alchemy, astrology, and the Gnostic sects of antiquity–Car Gustav Jung’s (1875-1961) opinions were informed by the cultural milieu of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Contrary to the tapering, reductionist view of eclectic contemporary scholars who have contributed the ongoing mytholog ..

Beneath the Dark Veil of Isis: The Discoveries of Thomas Lethbridge

Nowadays, the name of Thomas Charles Lethbridge (1901-1971) might raise a curious glace from a member of the British intelligentsia. Who was this enigmatic man? Educated at Cambridge University, Lethbridge took a degree in archaeology and laboured under the wing of Louis Clarke, the then curator of the Cambridge Archaeological Museum. For a while he remained contented with an exalted ..

The Spiritual Sun: Disidentification from the Realms of Convention

The last plate of the alchemical Splendor Solis series is also the most unfathomable. This picture is a lot like the inaugurating one with the black sun in that we are once again some distance outside the walls of an anonymous city. We can no longer perceive bubbly children at play or a group of conscientious women going about their domestic choirs. There’s no motherly love, no ..

Women’s Work: Integral Mechanisms of Consciousness

The third picture of the third series of plates belonging to the Splendor Solis collection of alchemical images initiates a dramatic departure from both the images of sol niger (the black sun) and the tranquil haven of children at play. Gone are the mystifying sentiments prompted by a harrowing vision of desecration and the transcendental electricity that is generated when children c ..

Child’s Play: A Fundamental Key to Transformation

The third and final collection of images from the Splendor Solis series features four beautiful illustrations encapsulating the entire alchemical process: an image of the black sun (already discussed in a previous post); a scene depicting ten children engaged in free play; an outdoor scene featuring a group of women washing and putting out white blankets and bed sheets to dry; and an ..

Beleaguered by the Black Sun: Three Dreams (Part Three)

Who doesn’t like summer I tell myself, stepping into a pair of black denim shorts, a sleeveless red T-shirt, and my favourite brown sandals. It’s that time of the year when the sun is at its zenith and the soul is unfettered by the monotonous conditions imposed by Western lifestyle. When the centrepiece of our solar system is cheerful, the heart and soul also shine with t ..

Beleaguered by the Black Sun: Three Dreams (Part Two)

God knows how I’ve gotten here, but it seems as though I’m in a subterranean kitchen of some sort. Two strange features of the room is that it has been covered over in jet black paint and that there is a complete absence of air vents installed to divert any vapoury by-products of cooking liable to facilitate oxidization. The rectangular shaped room features a range of sin ..

Beleaguered by the Black Sun: Three Dreams (Part One)

I awake, complacent in my bed. Turning my head sideways, I see that the patterned blinds and curtains had been drawn to allow slivers of morning light to enter my room. It appears that the aurora has arrived. I decide to lie there for a few minutes and soak up the auric atmosphere, the sight of the sun as it ascends to the topmost echelon of the heavens from the eastern horizon. At s ..

The Black Sun: A Decisive Symbol of Transformation and Renewal

One of the most interesting yet seldom acknowledged images that crop up in alchemical manuscripts is that of the black sun. For those unfamiliar with alchemical symbology in general, the pairing of two words qualitatively irreconcilable may seem very bizarre. How can a source of omnipresent physical light that sustains organic life all over our planet be linked to the colour black or ..

Paracelsian Alchemy: The Origin of Christian Theosophy

Before attempting to explain how alchemy facilitated the emergence of Christian theosophy, it would be wise to define what is meant by the term ‘theosophy’. As an esoteric gnosis within Christianity, the latter is a speculative system closely allied to Hermeticism and Platonism that perceives God’s creation in the context of an emanationist cosmology. In such a wor ..

Alchemy in Jacob Boehme's Theosophy

During the Early Modern Period the world was undergoing a major transition from a geocentric to a heliocentric cosmogony; from an occult and animistic landscape to a mechanistic and reductionist one defined by mechanistic processes that operated independently of any conscious and creative force. The indeterminate space left vacant between Copernican limelight and the N ..

The Role of Mesmerism in the Rebirth of Spiritual Alchemy (Part Two)

Englishwoman Mary Anne South (1817-1910) was a leading figure in the reinvigoration of the spiritual interpretation of alchemy during a Victorian era where every layperson seemed to be captivated by the occult. She grew up around her father, a wealthy and erudite gentleman who lived at Bury House, Gosport in New Hampshire and immersed himself in the psychic revolution of the nineteenth ce ..

The Role of Mesmerism in the Rebirth of Spiritual Alchemy (Part One)

The name Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) is often evoked with respect to the evolutionary history of hypnosis. In actual fact he’s something of an ancillary pioneer, having stumbled upon the technique completely by chance. But save for this remarkable discovery he was also responsible for the foundation of a philosophical system that would facilitate the mid-nineteenth century emerge ..

The Therapeutic Wheel: an Alchemical Process

Depicted above is a pie chart showing the individual stages of the alchemical process in relation to psychotherapy. The stages do not always proceed in this particular order and the time spent in each one depends on variant factors. ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Rubedo

According to alchemical doctrine, the unremitting addition of mercury to the prima materia in the alembic or retort and the repeated cycles of distillation to which it is subjected spurs a violent reaction, causing it to attain a deep red hue that can be likened to blushing. Fiery red is a colour of rage, anger, passion, emotion and activity, as well as the unconscious will to dominate, s ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Sublimatio

Alchemists have always understood sublimatio as an ascending movement of the cyclic process of purification that releases the pure spirit from the primordial slime or prima materia in the alchemical vessel, the vas or alembic. In defining the process, the fourth-century Greek bishop Synesius explains that “when our stone is in the vessel, and that it mounts up on high in fume, ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Coagulatio (Citrinitas)

In the alchemical opus coagulatio transcribes the process whereby a liquid is chemically transposed into a solid state. The allusion to hardening and of going from an unconditional to a conditional state of existence is inexplicable linked with creation as a churning act of incarnating spirit or coming into being. All cosmogonic myths attempting to explain the origin of the uni ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Solutio

Solutio comes under the mediation of the ethereal element of water and pertains to chemical liquefaction. Think of this alchemical operation as dropping a piece of ice into a bottle of tepid water. Gradually the ice cube will melt and become a part of the larger body of water. This re-joining and becoming one with a parent membrane typically personified as a goddess, a woman, or an earthy ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Mortificatio

The seventh stage of the therapeutic process is a recapitulation of the first (the nigredo) where the matter in the alembic is gradually reduced to its primordial, undifferentiated state of prima materia by manner of incineration. Alchemists often imagined that the vapour condensing at the top of the vessel during this phase was the liberated ‘soul’ of the metal, chemical, or  ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Conjunctio

Conjunctio has always been used in alchemy as a symbol of culmination and is probably the most common and celebrated image of the Great Work. It means to unite or bind and together with the separatio forms the rotational cycle by which the prima materia (i.e. lead, mercury, salt, water, earth, etc.) is distilled of elementary impurities until it attains the refined, dense, and scint ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Albedo

During the alchemical rotation, the putrefying black matter in the alembic wrought by the nigredo phase undergoes an intrinsic change expressed visibly as a pattern of white flecks and eventually becomes white. In describing this pivotal transformation, the seventeenth century alchemist Eirenaeus Philalethes pronounced that “when by continuance of decoction the colour changeth to wh ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Calcinatio

Calcinatio, the fourth phase of the therapeutic process, is primarily concerned with the unconditional acceptance of warring opposites within one’s psyche. Alchemy understands this procedural aspect of the Work as a chemical reduction of metals like copper and iron into granular powders, ashes, or dust. Writing specifically about this phase of alchemical transformation in ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Separatio

Known as separatio, the third alchemical phase involves a differentiation of the prima materia into the elements of fire, air, water, and earth. The refinement of coarse and impure chemical substances into more subtle, unalloyed ones in the alchemist’s vessel through repeated cycles of distillation otherwise known as solve et coagula (dissolution and coagulation) is a chief ex ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Fermentatio

The nigredo phase in the therapeutic process is usually followed by the fermentatio. In alchemical terms the latter involves a conjunction of the masculine and feminine formative forces–Sol and Luna or Philosophical Sulphur and Philosophical Mercury–in the hermetically sealed alembic. Fermentatio is one and the same with sowing seeds in fertile fields that will confer good f ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: Prima Materia and Nigredo

In transpersonal psychology, each stage of the alchemical opus corresponds with a particular juncture in the psychotherapeutic journey. For the most part everything begins with the prima materia, the base substance of which all created matter is hewn. Alchemists across the ages have agreed that it is elementary and ubiquitous in nature. The prima materia is to be found everywhere an ..

A Psychological Interpretation of the Emerald Tablet

The Emerald Tablet, otherwise known as the Tabula Smaragdina in Latin, is a condensed and apocryphal summation of Alexandrian alchemy that was reintroduced to the Latin West sometime during the thirteenth century. Esotericists and occultists frequently refer to it as the ‘Bible of all alchemists’, as fundamental to the Hermetic Art as what Biblical Scripture is to Christian ..

Therapy as an Alchemical Process: A Short Introduction

Carl Gustav Jung’s persistence in deciphering the cryptic, convoluted, and exasperating imagery presented in many ancient, medieval and Renaissance alchemical manuscripts was instrumental in eliciting a renewed twentieth century interest in alchemy as a corroborating aspect of depth psychotherapy. In the last few centuries preceding this phenomenon alchemy had fallen in ..

Dr. Paul Kiritsis Releases the The Riddle of Alchemy Competition Results

Greetings Down the Rabbit Holers, I would like to thank everybody who subscribed to my website and subsequently took part in The Riddle of Alchemy competition. The four winners all correctly identified the alchemical treatise Atalanta fugiens and its author Michael Maier as the origin for the torso of the woman used for the butterfly goddess on the cover of the e-book  ..

The Riddle of Alchemy: A Secret Desire Transformed (e-book)

I have just finished writing an e-book called "The Riddle of Alchemy: A Secret Desire Transformed" that will very shortly become available for download from this website if you subscribe to it. The e-book examines and puts forth something of immense importance that the Hermetic Art might be trying to tell us about the nature of the universe and the relationship between the unconscious and ..

Western Alchemy: Child of Greek Philosophy

For centuries the Hellenes had busied themselves with the technai, the crafts, and specifically the endeavour to mimic the handiworks of their gods, the twelve Olympians. In classical myth the god responsible for the crafts was Hephaestus, the lame son of Hera. He was, amongst other things, a goldsmith, an armorer, a builder, an architect, a worker in bronze, and an inventor of  ..

Esoteric Symbol Fourteen: Salt of the Tria Prima

Maria the Jewess, a legendary alchemist of the first centuries ce, reputedly quoted that “One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.” While the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) localized the axiom to the sphere of analytical psychology as symbolic recognition of the lifelong process of individuation or self-actualizatio ..

Esoteric Symbol Thirteen: Mercury of the Tria Prima

In hindsight, the external articulation and vibrant eccentricity of a vital essence for all living things in the universe is an innovation that probably originated with the Swiss physician, alchemist and philosopher Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim or Paracelsus (1493-1541). In championing an alchemy that imparted cyclic conversion to the Aristotelian structure of matter and was ..

Esoteric Symbol Twelve: Sulphur of the Tria Prima

Sulphur first appears as a generative force in an eighth to tenth century tractate entitled Liber misericordiae within the alchemical compendium Corpus Jabirianum attributed to the Arab polymath Jabir ibn Hayyan, the Pseudo-Geber (c. 721-815). According to Pseudo-Geber’s theory, all substances in the cosmos are comprised of Philosophical Sulphur and Mercury (termed Philosophical to  ..

Dr. Paul Kiritsis reviews thirty books, articles and online sources

Titus Burckhardt, Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul (Shaftesbury, UK: Element Books, 1986). In this text Titus Burckhardt proceeds along the path hewn out by Julius Evola in The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art in presenting alchemy as a cosmological and metaphysical system replete with symbols that chart  ..

Esoteric Symbol Eleven: Saturn or Lead

Saturn or lead represents the first rupture of the prima materia, the initial expression of manifesting consciousness. This we can discern by looking at its esoteric symbol, a cross mounted atop a lunar crescent. In the pictorial representation the fourfold differentiation of elements latent in the prima materia are in a state of passive abasement and have not as yet succumbed to the infl ..

The Greek Gods and Goddesses: Hephaestus

Hephaestus was the Olympian god of fire and the artisanal crafts, particularly metallurgy which involved the smelting and pouring of metals into casts under searing temperatures. His relation to fire also connected him to lava and volcanic eruptions. Two of his major epithets, Chalkeus (Coppersmith) and Klutotechnes (Renowned artificer) like the god with the aforementioned traits in ..

Esoteric Symbol Ten: Jupiter or Tin

The formative force of the cosmos actively expressed by the planet Jupiter and passively by the metal tin represents a rupture that stands much closer to the feminine aesthetic pole of lunar consciousness than to the masculine aesthetic pole of solar consciousness. We know this by looking at the relative position of the geometric figures on the esoteric symbol that expresses this pow ..

Esoteric Symbol Nine: Mars or Iron

Comprised of active planetary and passive metallic energies, the Martian formative force stands near the centre of a cosmological schema in which the masculine aesthetic, symbolized by the Sun or gold, and the feminine aesthetic, symbolized by the moon or silver, inhabit each end as polar opposites. Quite like Venus or copper, Mars or iron is a blunted expression and impure reflecti ..

The Contribution of Alchemy to the Renaissance

Contrary to what the occult dilettante or historical romanticist may think, the esoteric undercurrent known as Hermeticism has never been a distinctive philosophical edifice in its own right, nor has it competed for cultural prominence against the major monotheistic religions–Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Perhaps the best way to grasp it is to return to the cultural  ..

Esoteric Symbol Eight: Mercury or Quicksilver

In contradistinction to the other four planetary forces and their metals which symbolise unique ruptures in the prima materia or first substance, the volatile and elusive mercurial power is a synonym for the entire cosmological process of becoming–in other words the coming-to-be of pure forms, of intellect or incarnated light from the receptive and creative mirror of the pri ..

Esoteric Symbol Seven: Venus or Copper

Thus far we have discerned that the metal gold and the Sun represent the active, masculine aesthetic polarity on the cosmological totem pole of pure consciousness. Alternatively, the metal silver and the moon are exoteric markers for the passive, feminine aesthetic polarity on the same cosmological design. Planets and metals are active and passive manifestations of generative powers on a  ..

Esoteric Symbol Six: The Moon or Silver

At the lowermost point of the ethereal cosmological ladder lies the passive, feminine pole. Anyone can penetrate the veil of corporeal appearances and see as well as understand the cosmological truths directly beneath by studying two intimately connected features–a primary source of light and its reflecting or refracting surface. The sun, for example, expresses the central qual ..

Esoteric Symbol Five: The Sun or Gold

Perhaps the esoteric worldview is encapsulated best by a sixteenth-century alchemo-mystical didactic treatise entitled the Splendor Solis. According to an old legend, the mysterious author of this text, Solomon Trismosin, imparted the secrets of the Philosopher’s Stone and spagyrical methods to Paracelsus of Hohenheim (1493-1541ce), thus enabling him to pioneer the field  ..

Esoteric Symbol Four: Air

For centuries, people in the ancient world believed that water could be transmuted into air through fire. We can probably safely attribute this to the fundamental properties attributed to the ethereal element by the classical philosophers. Air is hot and wet, linking it to both fire and water on the wheel of elemental rotation where the underlying theory of shared characteristics explains ..

Esoteric Symbol Three: Earth

The formulation of the four ethereal elements of fire, water, earth and air is more often than not attributed to the speculative thought of Empedocles of Acragas (492-432bce). It was generally agreed amongst most Pre-Socratic philosophers that these four primary differentiations were the first spawn of a basic substance known as the prima materia that has existed for time immemorial ..

Esoteric Symbol Two: Fire

Fire is the most revered of the four ethereal elements. In ancient times, its inextricable connection to the sun rendered it of utmost importance as the source of life and all creation. In the temples of many solar deities, fire would burn unremittingly in the innermost sanctuary, or the holy of holies, where it symbolised the undefiled first matter, the Empyrean of God. Heraclitus of Ep ..

Esoteric Symbol One: Water

In the esoteric language, the four elements are not to be confused with the four corporeal manifestations of the same name. They are merely the initial or primary differentiations of the primal virginal substance of all creation, the prima materia. All of them exhibit two of four secondary properties–hot, cold, dry and moist. This theory came down to us through the Aristotelian doct ..

The Elixir of Life

Much of the quixotic appeal of alchemy derives from its fantastical ambitions to perfect nature, to make “gold” of detritus and stardust. For humanity as a whole, the fascination with such a tradition no doubt stems from an inherent curiosity as to whether or not limitations imposed by Mother Nature herself can ever be transcended. This question of paramount importance h ..

The Magnum Opus

To understand the motivation behind alchemy we must travel back to the second century ce, a time when pseudepigraphic writings aimed at nurturing a philosophical and theosophical coherence of the world were ripe. The majority of these syncretised Gnostic, Stoic, Platonic and Aristotelian elements and were attributed to such historically unverifiable figures as the thrice-greatest Hermes T ..

Alchemy: A Historiographical Analysis (Part Two)

Much emphasis nowadays is placed upon Ptolemaic Alexandria as having provided the cultural humus out of which alchemical theory and practice arose. However a frequently ignored fact is that during this time the dual quest for the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life had already evolved into a full-fledged denomination of inquiry for the Chinese. As a matter of fact, it just so ..

Alchemy: A Historiographical Analysis (Part One)

In contemporary times the word “alchemy” is most often connected with a transformation or change of some sort and has even been used in a pejorative sense by the scientific community as a synonym for “pseudoscience”, but lying deep inside the kernel of the word itself is both the potentiality of a quest and the fulfilment or culmination of that quest. It is an arch ..

Minoan Lunar Consciousness (Part Two)

Other than adding credibility to the Hermetic tenet of “what is above is like that which is below”, the said experiments introduce alchemical esotericism into the cosmological equation as foremost of the methods through which Minoan consciousness and its foreign modes of thought might be interpreted. Alchemy itself remains an entirely holistic and humanistic science which  ..

Minoan Lunar Consciousness (Part One)

Much speculation surrounds the Minoan civilisation, especially when it comes to issues surrounding racial identity and socio-political concerns hoping to pinpoint the period in which the first Minoans actually settled Crete. What remains certain is that these peoples evolved into a highly sophisticated matriarchal culture and probably reached their apogee during the latter stages of the T ..