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ALCHEMY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY by H.P.Blavatsky

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ALCHEMY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY by H.P.Blavatsky Translated from La Revue Theosophique by Thomas Williams and republished in Theosophical Siftings Volume 4 THE language of archaic chemistry or Alchemy has always been, like that of the earlier religions, symbolical. We have shown in the Secret Doctrine that everything in this world of effects has three attributes or the triple synthesis of the seven principles. In order to state this more clearly, let us say that ev
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   ALCHEMY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY  by H.P.Blavatsky Translated from La Revue Theosophique by Thomas Williams and republished in Theosophical Siftings Volume 4    THE language of archaic chemistry or Alchemy has always been, like that of the earlier religions, symbolical. We have shown in the Secret Doctrine  that everything in this world of effects has three attributes or the triple synthesis of the seven principles. In order to state this more clearly, let us say that everything which exists in the world around us is made up of three principles and four aspects just as we have shown to be the case with man.  As man is a complex unity consisting of a body, a rational soul and an immortal spirit so each object in nature possesses an objective exterior, a vital soul, and a divine spark which is purely spiritual and subjective. The first of this threefold proposition cannot be denied, the second cannot logically be objected to, for if we admit that metals, certain woods, minerals and drugs possess inherent powers to produce effects on living organisms, then official science practically admits its truth. As for the third, of the presence of an absolute quintessence in each atom, materialism, which deals only with the anima mundi , denies it utterly. Much good may it derive from this agnostic attitude. We for our part, finding in materialism an undoubted proof of the existence of moral and spiritual blindness, make no account of the denial and, leaving the blind to lead the blind, proceed with our subject. Thus as with natural objects, so every science has its three fundamental principles and may be applied through all three or by the use of only one of them. Before Alchemy existed as a science its quintessence alone acted in nature's correlations (as indeed it still does) and in all its planes. When there appeared on earth men endowed with a superior intelligence they allowed this supreme power to have full and uncontrolled action and from it they learnt their first lessons. All that they had to do was to imitate it. But in order to reproduce the same effects by an effort of individual will, they were obliged to develop in their human constitution a power called Kriyasakti in occult phraseology. This faculty is creative, and is so simply because it is the agent on an objective plane of the first creative principle. It resembles a lightning conductor in that it conducts and gives a definite direction to the creative quintessence which otherwise, if led blindly into the lower planes, kills; [Page 4] but which brought down through the channel of the human intellect creates according to a predetermined plan. From this Alchemy was born; and magnetic magic, and many other branches of the tree of occult science. When in the course of ages nations grew up so intensely saturated with egotism and vanity as to be convinced of their complete superiority to all others living in the present, or who had lived in the past; when the development of Kriyasakti became more difficult and the divine faculty had almost disappeared from the earth, then they 2  forgot little by little the wisdom of their ancestors. They even went further and rejected altogether the tradition of their antediluvian parents, denying with contempt the presence of a spirit and of a soul in this the most ancient of all sciences. Of the three great attributes of nature they only accepted the existence of matter or rather its illusory aspect, for of real matter or substance even the materialists themselves confess a complete ignorance; and truly they are right, nor have they even the vaguest conception of what it is. Thus there grew up the science of modern chemistry. Change is the constant effect of cyclic evolution. The perfect circle becomes One, a triangle a quaternary and a quinary. The creative principle issued from the rootless root of absolute existence, which has neither beginning nor end, and of which the symbol is the serpent or perpetuum mobile  swallowing its tail in order to reach its head has become the Azoth of the alchemists of the middle ages. The circle becomes a triangle, emanating the one from the other as Minerva from the head of Jupiter. The circle hypothecates the absolute; the right line issuing from it represents a metaphysical synthesis and the left a physical one. When Mother Nature shall have made of her body a line joining these two, then will come the moment of awakening for the Cosmic Activity. Until then Purush, the spirit, is separated from Prakriti — material nature still unevolved. Its legs exist only in a state of potentiality, and cannot move nor has it arms wherewith to work on the objective forms of things sublunary. Wanting in limits, Purush cannot begin to build until it has mounted into the neck of Prakriti the blind, when the triangle will become the microcosmic star. Before reaching this stage they must both pass through the quaternary state and that of the cross which conceives, this is the cross of earthly mystics, who make a great display of this their beflowered symbol, namely: the cross divided into four parts, which may be read Taro, Ator, and Rota, Tora. The virgin, or adamic earth substance which was the Holy Spirit of the old Alchemists of the Rosy Cross, has now been changed by the Kabbalists, those flunkeys to modern science, into Na² CO³ Kali (?) and C² H6 O or Alcohol.  Ah! Star of the morning, daughter of the dawn, how fallen from thine [Page 5] high estate — poor Alchemy. All on this ancient planet, thrice deceived, is doomed to tire and, sliding into oblivion, to be destroyed; and yet that which once was, is and shall be for ever, even to the end of time. Words change and the meaning underlying them becomes quickly disfigured. But the ideas which are their root and parent shall endure. The ass' skin in which nature's queen wrapped herself in order to deceive fools as in the story of Perrault — for the disciple of the old philosophers will always recognise the truth, no matter under what garb, and will adore it, this ass' skin we must believe is more congenial to the tastes of modem philosophy and materialistic alchemists, who sacrifice the living soul for the empty form, than Royal Nature naked and unadorned. And thus it is that the skin only falls before Prince Charming, who recognises in the ring sent the marriage betrothal. To all those courtiers who hover round Dame Nature while cutting at her material envelope, she has nothing to present but her outer skin. It is for this reason that they console themselves by giving new names to old things, old indeed as the world itself, declaring loudly the while that they have discovered something new. The necromancy of Moses has in this way become modern Spiritualism; and the Science of the old initiates of the temple, the magnetism of the gymnosophists of India; the 3  healing mesmerism of Aesculapius the Saviour , is only received now on condition that it is called hypnotism, in other words Black Magic under its proper title. Modem materialists would have us believe that Alchemy or the transmutation of base metals into gold and silver has from the earliest ages been nothing more than charlatanism. According to them it is not a science but a superstition, and therefore all those who believe, or pretend to believe in it, are either dupes or impostors. Our encyclopedias are full of abusive epithets levelled at Alchemists and Occultists. Now, gentlemen of the French Académie, this may be all very well, but if you are so sure of yourselves, let us have at least some clear and irrefutable proof of the absolute, impossibility of the transmutations of metals. Tell us how it is that a metallic base is found even in alkalies. We know certain scientists, men of recognised ability even, who think that the idea of reducing the elements to their first state and even to their primordial essence (see for instance Mr. Crookes in his meta-elements) not so stupid as it seemed at first sight. Gentlemen, these elements when once you have admitted that they all existed in the beginning in one igneous mass, from which you  say the earth's crust has been formed, these may be reduced again and brought through a series of transmutations to be once more that which they srcinally were. The question is to find a solvent sufficiently strong to effect in a few days or even years that which nature has taken ages to perform. Chemistry [Page 6]  and, above all, Mr. Crooks has sufficiently proved that there exists a relationship between metals so marked as to indicate not only a common source but an identical genesis. Then, Gentlemen, I would ask you who laugh at alchemy and alchemists with a mirth bred of a consciousness of superior wisdom, how it is that one of your first chemists, M. Berthold, author of La   Synthèse , deeply read in alchemical lore, is unable to deny to alchemists a most profound knowledge of matter.  And again, how is it that M. Chevreul, that venerable sage, whose great age, no less than his living to the last in the full possession of all his faculties, has moved to wonder our present generation, which, with its over-weening self-sufficiency, is so difficult to penetrate or rouse; how comes it, we say, that he who made so many practical and useful discoveries for modern industry, should have possessed so many works on alchemy. Is it not possible that the key to his longevity may be found in one of these very works, which according to you is but a collection of superstitions as useless as they are ridiculous. The fact remains that this great savant , the father of modern chemistry, took the trouble to bequeath after his death, to the library of the Museum, the numerous works he possessed on this false science , and here in this act of his we have an unmistakable revelation of the estimation in which he held them. Nor have we yet heard that those luminaries of science attached to this sanctuary have thrown these books on alchemy into the waste paper basket as useless rubbish full of fantastic reveries engendered by the sick imagination of a diseased brain. Besides, our wise men forget two things — in the first place never having found the key to these hermetic books, they have no right to decide whether this  jargon  preaches truth or falsehood; and secondly, that wisdom was certainly not born for the 4
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