Discover more from a sorcerer's notebook
The Philosophers Stone,
The Orphic Egg, and the Notebook that wont quit!
Welcome back seekers, tweakers, dabblers, meddlers, and the curious to another rendition of “a Sorcerers Notebook”, emphasis on the “a”.
A newsletter that dares to ask the question: how useful are the ramblings, mishaps, wrong turns, and burned constructs of one dabbler truly worth?
Well if you are tired of the constructs the church has handed you, or smart enough to intuitively sense that you don't want to try every mystical and esoteric byway or fork in the road, then I assume this Newsletter has some value.
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Enough business. Let’s get to today's topic. I want to say there are two ways to talk about it. One is the classic way that most western esoteric practitioners have discussed the concept, and one is the particular way that I have come to look at it.
But a quick reminder of how we talk about esoterica around here, and the categories we use: Things that can be seen, Things that can be heard, Things you can be taught, Things some know, Things I have done.
Today we talk: The Philosopher's Stone, the Orphic Egg, and other concepts of Prima Materia.
This is a thing that can be: Heard, Taught, and Known.
Rarely, before the first three occur, it may be: Seen.
In case you don’t remember these categories’ definitions:
Hearing is different from just listening and it’s the most common thing the majority of people tap into when they first enter the realm of the Spirit. Called the still quiet voice, or the inner voice, it is the first attempt to listen to what some have called a “higher self”, or spiritual double, or Divinity. Sometimes folks listen to their ancestors to hear messages. Some folks just hear messages. We are all listening to that voice in that realm, and we have all created ways to hear those messages, whether that's once a week in a congregation through the inspiration of one's pastor, sitting in an Ashram for weeks, or going on a spiritual retreat.
Taught or Teaching: Some of these are things you can teach and some of them are things I was taught. Some are things I don't think should be taught, which means this also serves as your “ethics” section. I mean, in the words of the great Bard and alright guy, Trey Anastasio: “If you got moral clarity, you aren't in deep enough.”
Knowing and the art of Knowing: hard to explain, particularly if you don't believe in reincarnation. Not if you have been reincarnated. The larger questions: is it possible, does it happen, and if so, what is its purpose? Knowings–or the practice of relearning your deep knowing–can often be mistaken for hearing. It sounds just as sure as the voice of the Divine, but it feels more like something you are remembering about yourself, the world, and your life. Typically, it doesn’t match your tradition’s teachings, nor does it really make any sense. You just… know. Think of knowing as you seeing a pattern in the stars for a second, or the outlines of the mountain before dawn; where, for one brief moment, there is a symmetry and a way things either were, are, or should be. That's knowing and we all have it. This is actually what I believe to be the curse of this path, if there is one. A constant sense that things are just slightly off, and with a little adjustment, all would be well. This is the danger every practitioner faces. Meddling I call it. Meddlers beware, your fate is typically worse than dabblers. Take it from someone who has been both.1
I will cover how this is a thing that may be Seen when I discuss what that means for this content, and why I think it’s rare.
So what is the Philosopher's Stone? It is, in my opinion, the main purpose of most forms of Alchemy. Not all.
According to the ole House of Clymer Handy dandy “A Compendium of Occult Law.”
“Gold became the symbol of the first matter and has so remained, because gold is the purest substance known to man and even resists fire, the universal cleanser, and gold was to matter that which the A Etheric Fire is to the Soul. Thus Initiation had two divisions:
In the first division only the propensities were purified; the “man” only was put through the crucible. This was a spiritual alchemy, a process of transmutation, a human Initiation.
The second Initiation led up to the mysterious operations of nature was an Initiation of the “Body”…………In the second division the Neophyte was taught to search for what led back to a new Golden Age, the Philosopher's Stone of turning failure to success and the Elixir which not alone prolongs life, but maintains health and well being.” 2
Pretty clear stuff right? Who couldn’t make straw into gold from this stuff?
The truth is that we have discussed my particular view of Alchemy, and I did suggest you read my favorite Alchemist Carl Jung, but in summary:
“Alchemy by my definition then? As it turns out, you are probably practicing it in some form. It is the combination of symbols, smells, matter, objects, and the human psyche in a dance with your own subconscious to change your experience of reality or the universe, or in hopes this altered state and perception of the universe would change the universe itself in some permanent, quantifiable, and measurable way for the practitioner”3
So what is the Philosopher's Stone, or The Orphic Egg, an older, but similar thought construct?
Well, let's turn to one of the Academy's experts on esoterica, Goodrick-Clarke. When discussing Alchemy as we know it today, its medieval Europe manifestations, and practitioners, he says:
“Despite its operational emphasis, medieval alchemy possessed a twofold nature, an outward or exoteric and a hidden or esoteric. External operations were largely focused on trying to prepare the philosopher’s stone, a marvelous substance capable of transmuting the base metals lead, tin, copper, iron, and mercury into the precious metals silver and gold. The stone was not only credited with the power of transmutation; also known as the elixir, it was believed to prolong human life indefinitely. As the preparation of the stone often involved notions of divine grace, alchemy developed an esoteric aspect as a spiritual discipline. In this context, the transmutation of metals became an outward symbol of the transmutation of fallen, sinful man into a pure and perfect instrument of God’s will. The outward practices and processes of the laboratory were simultaneously devotional exercises involving prayer and communion with God and angels and other intermediary spirits.”4
Why do I equate this with the Orphic Egg, or the “Cosmic Egg” symbol of these times? Well, the egg in my own personal alchemy is all potential meeting at one singular point. Life is to beget life. The egg represents the proper use of life, to create more life, it is also the sign of a life well lived, but also in simultaneity is the moment when all life is being gestated, while it can also still function as the door to all future growth and forms of that life. The egg is where creation and destruction meet. The future and the past collide and every possibility is still possible, and impossible.
Also, eggs contain sentient life, or the potential of sentient life, but more on that later.
The Philosopher's Stone, the Egg, is the search for the Prima Materia, in the way many esoteric practitioners searched for the Prima Theology, or Angelic language. It is a search for the fundamental substance that all creation, and thus destruction, comes from.
I’ll save the railing against perennialism, western enlightenment progressive teleological hells, and the eschatology we now suffer in for the dissertation.
But it is a noble idea, this utopia created from the ethereal tissues of applied science, nature, reason, spirit, elements, symbols, and facts, and I am obviously finding ways that work within my moral framework to apply these ideas to my life.
It also begs the question: what is the utilitarianism of this in my life?
A few things.
1. It helps me understand modern medicine, chemistry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the FDA. Why? Again we turn to Goodrick and Clarke. In a word Paracelsus. Yes, the Paracelsus your doctor swears by.
“Paracelsus was a dominant and controversial figure in sixteenth century medicine and alchemy. Today he is celebrated as the first modern medical theorist, the founder of iatrochemistry, homeopathy, antisepsis, and modern wound surgery. He rejected the scholasticism of ancient and medieval medicine in favor of a new medicine based on experiment, observation, and new philosophy. Nature and humankind were his sources; he believed that a pious Christian faith, the evidence of his own senses, and a system of correspondences between the macrocosm and the microcosm surpassed the book knowledge regurgitated from ancient authorities such as Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna. His radical approach to healing and medicine, his popular style, and his contempt for professional exclusivity and incompetence provoked the hostility of established authorities everywhere and led to his being called the “Luther of physicians.” In his work we see how alchemy, when combined with Hermetic and Neoplatonic ideas, becomes a key to explain the unity and interconnectedness of nature, man, and health.” 5
The endless search for a medicine, pill, or quick fix that chemically rights us but doesn’t take into account this micro/macrocosm view of the universe (as Paracelsus regularly argued for) is a result of one of the great ills of the modern age, colonialism, projected upon our perception of human health.
It is modern medicine's search for the second Initiation without first making sure each practitioner experienced the first. Thus the patient is never offered a holistic view of how their lived experience, the way we interact with nature, matter, the mind, disease, and healing all dance in the human experience.
It is the attempt to end suffering and pain in all human experience. This isn’t the natural order of things.
To remind you all where this comes from, well it is the enigmatic, indomitable, possible: 14th BCE sage, or messenger of the Olympus, or perhaps the one who you may meet, Thoth, or the fictional concept of the hidden and universal Master who comes to teach us all, the first Aeon, Hermes Trismegistus. All taken from the Emerald Tablets and one of the many factors of not only Parcelsus’ view of medicine but guides most modern esotericism. Here is a translation of the Emerald Tablets from eighth-century alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan (ca. 720–800) who according to Goodrick Clarke, developed Islamic alchemy consistent with Aristotelian doctrine.
“True, true. Without doubt. Certain. That which is below is as above, and that which is above is as below, to accomplish the miracles of the One. And as all things came from the meditation of the One, so are all things born from this One by adaptation. Its father is the Sun, its mother the Moon. The Wind carries it in its womb, its nurse is the Earth. It is the father of all the wonders of the whole world. Its power is perfect. If it be cast on Earth, it will separate the element of Earth from that of Fire, the subtle from the gross. With great wisdom it ascends from Earth to Heaven and descends again to Earth, so that it receives the power of things above and below. Thus you will possess the brightness of the whole world, and all darkness will flee you. This is the strength of all strengths, for it overcomes all that is subtle and penetrates all solid things. Thus was the world created. From this marvelous adaptations will be achieved, and the means are given here.
For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I possess the three parts of the wisdom of the whole world.”
2. It takes the symbols I am using firmly planted in the here and now. In this brown Earth. It gives me ontology, and dare I say a theological framework, to start building relationships with land/space and the natural world, and what my interaction does and does not mean, so I can hopefully start to find a more balanced approach to life. Because, you know, the impending eco-apocalypse and all.
What we think we know of Alchemy, and this Prima substance presupposes humanity’s dominance of this plane of existence and perceptual reality in general, as well as the cosmos. Or at least in most American interpretations it does.
To further problematize the search for this Prima Materia is Divine Immanence, an idea being proposed by Dr. Rita Sherma at the GTU, from a Shakti theological perspective, which harkens to many other older cosmological views. Simply put God, the Divine, The Goddess, or the Creative Intelligence, their/her/his it’s very self is matter, radically immanent in fact.
I’ll make it even more difficult to pin down what this Stone is. I believe that Dr. Sherma is not only right, but it also adds the further wrinkle that this Prima Materia is sentient, is Divine, and has agenda, plans, will, or perhaps ways of being and communicating. It is a fascinating prospect. It would be like if the Big Bang could talk, what would that moment say?
This is why I believe it is rare to See, or that this is a thing that can’t be Seen before the first three.
To remind you what I mean by Seeing:
“These are things that one can See, or that I believe can be seen. Or they are things that one can see. Sometimes it will also be things others have claimed to see. These will be in various states of either altered or unaltered consciousness, depending on one’s definition of that. Perhaps some of it is just unexplainable, but also practices or ways one can “see” are included in here. Some examples of the things you can also “see” are energies, certain forms of divination, and sensory or perceptual differences often categorized either as disabilities or preternatural abilities. Seeing does not require the physical ability to see.”6
It is either a separate ontological reality created by Alchemy and its adherents or a living Sentient piece of the Big Bang, either way, I think it is the kind of thing that would drive one slightly mad if Seen without some sort of ceremonial or esoteric container.
This is from experience and thus why this is also marked as a thing that can be Taught, meaning it also really pushes boundaries on what is humanities ethics around the ability to change their own “bodies”, perception, and its effects on the Natural world, (as above, so below) how that same relationship works in the other direction. What's the abuse of the natural world to the humanities collective psyche? While this is a thing I’ll never stop working with, I’m not sure it is as safe or ethical as the entire crux of one's path.
But that is simply one sorcerer's opinion, in one notebook.
Written in Love and Liberation
Rev/Awo Lenny Duncan.
Coming soon: Esoteric Cohort starting in Jan for those of you who want to dive deeper. This will consist of a once a month 3-hour cohort gathering where we start to explore what I am calling “A People's History of American Magic” which is my current research paired with practical uses, reading lists, and guidance on what most consider “proper” usage of the subject covered.
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A Compendium of Occult Law.Clymer 1938. Philosophical Publishing Company. Quakertown PA baby!
Clymer, besides being head of the oldest Rosicrucian fraternity in America, was also a chiropractic naturopath. This is his selection, arrangement and application of the most important Occult laws taught by the masters of initiation of the Great Secret Schools of the Past and Present-Hermetic, Rosicrucian, Alchemic and Aeth Priesthood, and the Practice of the Laws in the Development of the Fourfold Nature of Man in attaining success and mastership of all planes of activity” Or at least that's what the orders write about him on metadata. Clymer was Paschal’s apprentice, best friend, possible lover in my opinion, and deathbed confession murderer of his former teacher. Clymer is a lot, the first Magical house of the Americas to display all forms of a house crest and a lot more. This book is a great reference guide to create a shared language.
Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction. Oxford
University Press, USA, 2008
Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction. Oxford
University Press, USA, 2008