Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gnosticism and Alchemy

Alchemy was a spiritual practice cloaked under a science mantle. In his Alchemical Catechism, Paracelsus clearly denotes that his usage of the metals was a symbol: “When the Philosophers speak of gold and silver, from which they extract their matter, are we to suppose that they refer to the vulgar gold and silver? By no means; vulgar silver and gold are dead, while those of the Philosophers are full of life”… Jung, who studied alchemistical symbols extensively, visualized Alchemy as the “Yoga of the West”. The Alchemist passed with the help of transformations through various levels of enlightenment – until the final perfect, healthy, incorruptible, and everlasting state. According to many (Jung included) the evolution from ignorance to enlightenment described by Alchemy was based on the Gnosticism philosophy which managed to survive the purges from the Christian church by using encoded alchemistic texts.

The philosophy called Gnosticism is not an easy one to follow least of all to understand. The dogmas Gnostics believed to were mostly pre-philosophical and even they had a hard time even explaining them.
According to the Gnostics, this world, the material cosmos, is the result of a primordial error on the part of a supra-cosmic, supremely divine being, usually called Sophia (Wisdom) or simply the Logos. This being is described as the final emanation of a divine hierarchy, called the Plêrôma or “Fullness,” at the head of which resides the supreme God, the One beyond Being. The error of Sophia, which is usually identified as a reckless desire to know the transcendent God, leads to the hypostatization of her desire in the form of a semi-divine and essentially ignorant creature known as the Demiurge.

Our desire to “understand” is the main source of the paradoxes with which we are engulfed. And alchemy tried to fight these paradoxes by unifying all antinomies into oneness. Our eagerness to “know” has created our theories. Our theories have created imaginary notions like “time” or “change” (see Harmonia Philosophica). And our imaginary notions have created the antinomies which we cannot comprehend no matter how much we try.

We have to become more open-minded and LESS knowledgeable if we are to find the lapis philosophorum

Harmonia Philosophica [English]

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