Alchemy Academy archive
December 2000

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Subject: ACADEMY : Nigredo
From: Susanna Ĺkerman
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000

Dear John,

Have you seen Dan Merkur's recent 'Gnosis: An Esoteric Tradition
of mystical visions and unions', SUNY, Albany 1993, that works
with spiritual projections into the otherworld - the mundo imaginalis.
He does not deal with nigredo per se but approaches
Taoist Alchemy as in his "The otherworld as western esoteric
category" pp. 75-94 of Antoine Faivre and Wouter Hanegraaffs
'Western esotericism and the science of religion', Peeeters,
Louvain 1998. On p. 87 Merkur cites some sources on the
develoment of inner alchemy in Taoism based on as he says
"the ecstatic practise and imagery of shamanic ascensions."
He should know since he has earlier worked on Inuit
shamanism. He cites sources for how inner alchemy developed
so that the "visions of perfecting one's chemical composition
were beleived actually to confer longevity". The relationships
of the imaginary otherworld and the inner world is explored by
Merkur and by projection you can construct the same
relationships and constructions for nigredo and similar
prerequisites of ecstatic states.

Perhaps Marsilio Ficino's vision of the Saturnian melancholist
belongs to the same area. Richard Popkin once told me that
he thought that the elaborate visions of Jakob Boehme's
philosophy is based on a manic depressive experience, in
which case nigredo-like states would play a role. Perhaps this
is to go too far, but clearly the plunge into the abyss is
preparatory for a lot of creativity, in some happy cases where
one does not get entirely engulfed in the blackness...

Susanna Akerman

Subject: ACADEMY : Ape, homunculus, fertility
From: José Rodríguez
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2000

Dear Susanna,

Thank you for the additional commentaries concerning your
article on the "Porta Magica". It's really interesting for me
because I have not got a lot of scholarly studies or resources
dedicated to this monument.

Concerning Newman I know the article that you are looking for.
Here is the reference:

WILLIAM R. NEWMAN, (1999), "The Homunculus and His
Forebears: Wonders of Art and Nature", in: Anthony Grafton &
Nancy Siraisi (Editors), «Natural Particulars: Nature and the
Disciplines in Renaissance Europe», (Dibner Institute Studies
in the History of Science and Technology.), The MIT Press,
Cambridge, Mass, ISBN: 0262071932

Thank you very much again for sharing your ideas.

José Rodríguez

Subject: ACADEMY : Alchemy & "Barock"
From: Stefan Alexe
Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2000

Can anyone help me with a matter related to a research about
mythological aspects in the german Barockpoetik? I am working
on the problem concerning the influence of mythological
elements in the german & austrian poetry. Mythology finds its
use in the context of imitatio veterum and is thus connected with
the problem of allegory.

Does anybody know if there are german and (especially) austrian
alchemists involved also in literature or poetry?

Certainly, alchemistical writings are documented, but I do not
know if this is the case in the special context of literature (also
theory of poetry) - for instance poems describing in an
allegoric way alchemistic procedures (maybe still under the
cover of "fiction").

I would appreciate any help!

Best regards,

S. Alexe

Subject: ACADEMY : Neapolitan alchemy
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2000
From: Rafal T. Prinke

This is obviously a question to Massimo Marra. I would be
grateful for your help in identifying the Italians mentioned in
an early text by Sendivogius (with authobiographic elements).
It was discovered and published only in 1968 and my English
translation can be found on my Web page at:

The persons mentioned in the text who seem to have been
contemporary to (young) Sendivogius are:

1) Jacobus Boncompagnus, the duke of Sora and Arpino

This one was rather easy to identify - he was the illegitimate
son of Pope Gregory XIII.

2) Wernalcon, a great man from Naples

3) abbot Iacobo Busenelo in Venice

4) Grumi in Padua

The last two were known personally to Sendivogius and he worked
with them.

Best regards,


Subject: ACADEMY : Political alchemy
From: Erik Ringmar
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000

I'm interested in the influence of alchemy on Renaissance

There seems to be an obvious affinity between man
understood as manipulator of the elements and man as a
political manipulator of people. Yet, I would like some more
concrete evidence of how this connection worked. I've read
Peter Donaldson's Machiavelli and the Mystery of State, but it
was not as helpful on this point as I had hoped. Would anyone
have any suggestions for further readings?


Erik Ringmar

Subject: ACADEMY : Gold- und Rosenkreutz
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000

Thanks so much for the information you have provided, Susanna
and José. In fact I met an old friend of yours at the AAR conference
in Nashville, Susanna, and I passed on a copy of my paper to
him which he said he would give to you.

I have some apparently unrelated questions which someone
might know something about...

Does anyone know if there are alchemical elements in the
higher grades of Freemasonry to this day? Whilst the Gold-
und Rosenkreutz was influential for continental Freemasonry
in the 18th century, I don't know the extent to which alchemical
conceptions have infiltrated Freemasonry as a whole.

Hereward Tilton

Subject: ACADEMY : Testament of Cremer
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000

Does anyone know of any manuscripts of the Testament of
"John Cremer, Abbot of Westminster" dating before the 17th
century? It seems this is a pseudonymous author, but I don't
know how to date his work. Also... are there any other alchemical
tracts under this name apart from the Testament?

Hereward Tilton

Subject: ACADEMY : Political alchemy
From: Robert Palmer
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000

Dear Erik,

Here's a few titles, which while not specifically about the
influence of alchemy on statecraft, should nevertheless point the
way. One is a new book published by Thames and Hudson, I
believe entitled RUDOLPH II, all about the famous Hermetic
Monarch and his court. Lots of fantastic info on his alchemical
collections and the magic/alchemy of folks like Dee, Kelley,
Laski and Sendigovius. Also recommended would be Dame
Yates book on the Academies, ASTRAEA, and for political
machinations of the hermetic sort, her ROSICRUCIAN
ENLIGHTENMENT (as well as all of her books, which are
erudite and well researched). For political intrigue check out
John Bossy (though take his central thesis with several
grains of salt) and JOHN DEE by Richard Deacon (another
one to take with a grain of salt, but in places compelling. This
is the one with the 007/Dee cipher "mystery"). While not
directly related one should not ignore the many biographies
of Cagliostro. There is some relative information on politics,
alchemy and the art of reading in William Sherman's JOHN

I'm sure there is more, but these are a few titles off the top of
my head. Hope they at least foster new leads in your search.

Best of luck to you.

Robert F. Palmer

Subject: ACADEMY : Political alchemy
From: Jon Marshal
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000

I guess a lot depends upon what you mean by renaissance.

But just to add to the books mentioned by Robert Palmer.
There is Sargent's book *The Life and Lyrics of Sir Edward Dyer*,
the companion of Kelly, who was contacted by Burghley to get the
philosopher's stone to help provide finances to defeat the Armada...
There is plenty of alchemical politics of that kind throughout history
- but its probably not what your after.

There is also the Hartlib circle interested in utopia, and with
contacts in the British Parliament in the 1640s - they bring
Commenius to the UK reform the world. Alchemy, reform of
agriculture etc is an important part of their method cf. Turnbull
*Hartlib, Drury and Commenius* , Chapter 5 in Trevor-Roper's
*Religion, the Reformation and social Change* and the Circle's
interest in alchemy is touched in almost every book that discusses
Alchemy in the UK. Eirenaus Philalethes specifically discusses
alchemy as a way of reforming the world by making gold less

It has been suggested that Winstanley the digger was influenced
by alchemy see Mulder *Alchemy of Revolution*, and Hayes
*Winstanley the Digger*. I think this is probably true but don't find
these arguments that convincing.

There is a large anti-alchemical stream in the conservative
reaction to the Commonwealth as is instanced in the attacks on
'enthusiasm' - such as the Henry More/Thomas Vaughn debates
which have been discussed all over the place.

For the secret society side see also Dickson *The Tessera of

There is also heaps of politics involved in the medical disputes
between alchemists and physicians which occur after Paracelsus
largely in the late 15th Century to 1680 in the UK - as each side
tries to mobilise forces hostile to the other.


Subject: ACADEMY : Gold- und Rosenkreutz
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000
From: M. Evans

The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Masonry has
some Alchemical symbolism. The Knight of the Sun/Prince
Adept 28th degree is probably the most notable, containing
a blend of Kabbalistic and Alchemical symbolism.

Subject: ACADEMY : Gold- und Rosenkreutz
From: Peter Kelly
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000

You may find some information regarding alchemy and
freemasonry among the 1600 titles stocked by kessinger
publishing ( They deal
mainly with fascimiles of rare out of print books on freemasonry,
and also on alchemy. You can download the first 10 pages,
free, of any of their titles.

Peter Kelly

Subject: ACADEMY : Khunrath's laboratorium
From: Chris Pickering
Date: 28 Dec 2000

I don't know what value this has, but I came across something
interesting in a booklet on pinhole cameras.

"One interesting illustration taken from a 19th century English
Encyclopedia, depicts a portable Camera Obscura from 1611.
This was used by Thomas [Johannes !] Kepler (1571-1630) to
observe the movements of the planet Mercury."

The reproduced illustration is reminiscent of the tent found in the
famous engraving in Khunraths 'Ampitheatrum' (1602) of the
adepts "laboratorium". Both are conical in shape and contain a
table at which the work is undertaken. Of course Khunrath is
concerned with consulting spirits and Kepler with the visible
heavenly bodies. But there remains the tantalising possiblity
that Khunrath was influenced by the use of such a tent by others.

The residents of Mortlake remembered (for John Aubrey's "Life")
how John Dee displayed an eclipse in a camera obscura
(although this could well have been a darkened room) and Dee
believed very much in the use of astronomical or celestial
influences, controlled by optics, in alchemy. The recorded history
of the camera obscura begins with a drawing of one made in
1544 by Dee's good friend Gemma Frisius. And Dee had a link
with both Kepler and Khunrath.

Athanasius Kircher also describes the camera obscura in
'Ars Magna Lucis et Umbra' (1646) but I have not seen this and
do not know whether it is seen as anything more than an
optical device.

Chris Pickering

Subject: ACADEMY : Neapolitan alchemy
From: Massimo Marra
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000

Dear Rafal,

Unfortunately I am very busy in this period, and I don't check
my mail every day.
Actually, I have no informations about these alchemists, but
I have read your translation of Sendivogius and I will send
you a message on the Alchemy group if I find some
information during my researches. The Neapolitan alchemical
tradition is very rich and, by the way, there is no study
focused on this very important center of alchemical studies.

A Merry Christmas to you and all the members of this group.

Massimo Marra

Subject: ACADEMY : Neapolitan alchemy
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2000
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear Massimo,

> Actually, I have no informations about these alchemists, but
> I have read your translation of Sendivogius and I will send
> you a message on the Alchemy group if I find some
> information during my researches.

Thank you very much. Concerning the "Wernalcon" of Naples,
an Italian friend suggested it may be the misspelt surname
"Vernaleone" - the letter W in Polish has the same value as V
(which is not used in Polish at all), while "e" may easily
be misread as "c".

There is a mention of one Giovan Paolo Vernaleone,
who fits chronologically and is said to have followed
the "tradizione magico-ermetica", on the Web page at:

There is too little information on that page to be sure, however.

All my best wishes to you, the whole list and - especially -
Adam McLean for the New Year/Century/Millenium!

Best regards,