‘The alchemists disagreed on just about every aspect of the Great Work, except one: that it is impossible to succeed without the secret.’
– Patrick Harpur.
I am reminded of ‘The Riddle of the Elements.’
The Ancient Greek Philosophers would each in turn trumpet the virtues of a particular Element claiming that it alone was primary and the source of the others, all the time, knowing full well that the solution to the riddle lay in sourcing the Four from a Fifth Element of an entirely different and more spiritual realm known as the Quintessence.
The Alchemists appear to be engaged in a similar process, describing the First Matter in terms of three ‘Spirituous Essences’, though the solution this time may be of a different order –
One in Three rather than Four from One.
They also seem to be describing the various products of a process at each stage of its operation simultaneously, thus for e.g. they might have described the process of evaporating sea-water as… Water… and… Salt… as well as its catalyst…Heat or… Fire…
Why would they do this?
To widen the scope of a mind mired in linear time?
Possibly, certainly, when one realises that the Fruit is in the Seed and not vice versa, or that the Body is in the Mind… a perspective is instilled, which opens up wide vistas to the Imagination.
Indeed, this technique only seems strange to a mind which habitually regards its own reality as an actuality.
As magicians for e.g. we might ask, in Tarot,
How is the ‘High Priestess’ ‘The Empress’?
Or, how is ‘The Fool’ ‘The Magus’?
Or indeed, in the case of ‘The Fool’, how does this key equate with any of the other major keys?
But here the equivalencies seem at the very least, much easier to accept, if not actually natural, simply because we work with these energies in an ‘Imaginal Realm’.
What the Alchemists are really doing is describing the lower in terms of the higher and in some cases what we are reading is, as it were, a Fourth Dimensional description of a Three Dimensional event.
The event itself appears to be an internal unification or better; a re-unification of polarised energies or ‘opposites’, or even, as the Alchemists would have it, a marriage, or wedding but what is the product of that wedding?
THE STONE OF MERCURIOUS
Fire in the Sea
Blood from a Tree…