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Archive for the ‘Pharmacopeia’ Category

Black Melancholia // Saturn

In Alchemy, Art, History, Image, Myth, Pharmacopeia, Psychology on December 9, 2009 at 9:55 am

Certain poisons worked by an occult and specifick property and have their essence from the stars and celestial influence which is apt to destroy the strength of man’s body, because being taken but even in a small quantity, yet are so precious a quality that they kill almost in a moment.

::Ambroise Paré::

Ambroise Paré was a French surgeon renowned for his ingenious experiments.  He once used a solution of egg yolk, oil of roses, and turpentine for war wounds instead of boiling oil and cauterization.  In 1565, Ambroise Paré described an experiment to test the properties of the Bezoar Stone.  At the time, the Bezoar stone was commonly believed to be able to cure the effects of any poison, but Paré believed this to be impossible. It happened that a cook at Paré’s court was caught stealing fine silver cutlery, and was condemned to be hanged. The cook agreed to be poisoned, on the conditions that he would be given some bezoar straight after the poison and go free in case he survived. The stone did not cure him, and he died in agony seven hours after being poisoned. Thus Paré had proved that the Bezoar Stone could not cure all poisons.

Albrecht Dürer, Melancholia I

The Mütter Museum has an interesting exhibit up about Lead.  The quote above was a reference to the physical dangers of that element. In alchemy, the planet / diety associated with lead was Saturn/Cronus.  A Saturnine disposition has been a common ailment of artists and philosophers since the beginning of time and is better known by its  synonym:  Melancholia.  The name “melancholia” comes from the old medical theory of the four humours: disease or ailment being caused by an imbalance in one or other of the four basic bodily fluids, or humours.  Personality types were similarly determined by the dominant humour in a particular person. Melancholia was caused by an excess of black bile; hence the name, which means ‘black bile’ (Ancient Greek μέλας, melas, “black”, + χολή, kholé, “bile”); a person whose constitution tended to have a preponderance of black bile had a melancholic disposition. The other humors are yellow bile, blood, and phlegm.

In 1921 Swedish physician Fahråeus suggested that the four humours were based upon the observation of blood clotting in a transparent container. When blood is drawn in a glass container and left undisturbed for about an hour, four different layers can be seen. A dark clot forms at the bottom (the “black bile”). Above the clot is a layer of red blood cells (the “blood”).  Above this is a whitish layer of white blood cells (the “phlegm”, now called the buffy coat). The top layer is clear yellow serum (the “yellow bile”).

The print-maker and theorist Albrecht Dürer ties all this together with his masterpiece “Melancolia 1.”

The alchemist’s lot was such that he was often depicted as a melancholy and frustrated being, as, for example, by Chaucer, Weiditz, Brueghel, and Teniers. In a wider sense, melancholy was held to be an attribute of students or seekers after knowledge. The doctrine of melancholy, moreover, is inseparable from the Saturnine mysticism that permeates alchemy. One of the elements of Saturnine mysticism is measurement, typified by the compasses, balance, and hour-glass.

The polyhedron lying beside the foot of the ladder (representing the base metal, lead) may be an image of the Philosopher’s Stone, or more immediately, of the so-called ” Stone of Saturn,” which Saturn (or Kronos), “swallowed and spewed up instead of Jupiter.” Saturn, who is often represented in alchemy as an old man with an hour-glass upon his head, was addicted to swallowing his own children; for this reason, infants, usually shown at play, enter into the Saturnine elements of alchemy.

::John Read::

Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Children

Cronus envied the power of his father, the ruler of the universe, Uranus.   Gaia created a great adamant sickle and gathered together Cronus and his brothers to persuade them to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle and placed him in ambush. When Uranus met with Gaia, Cronus attacked him with the sickle by cutting off his genitals, castrating him and casting the severed member into the sea. From the blood and semen that spilled out from Uranus and fell upon the earth, the Gigantes, Erinyes, and Meliae were produced. From the member that was cast into the sea, Venus later emerged. For this, Uranus threatened vengeance.  After dispatching Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires, the Gigantes, and the Cyclopes and set the dragon Campe to guard them. He and his sister Rhea took the throne of the world as king and queen. This period of Cronus’ rule was called the Golden Age, as the people of the time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did the right thing, and immorality was absent.

Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, just as he had overthrown his father. As a result, although he sired the gods Demeter, Hera, Hades, Hestia, and Poseidon by Rhea, he devoured them all as soon as they were born to preempt the prophecy. When the sixth child, Zeus, was born Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save them and to eventually get retribution on Cronus for his acts against his father and children. Rhea secretly gave birth to Zeus in Crete, and handed Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, also known as the Omphalos Stone, which he promptly devoured, thinking that it was his son.  Once he had grown up, Zeus used a poison given to him by Gaia to force Cronus to disgorge the contents of his stomach in reverse order.

Cronus spent the last of his life as a prisoner of Tartarus, a dark, gloomy place that can be described as a pit of blackness.  Feelings of shame, fear, guilt and humiliation shackle us and keep us confined to the pit of darkness. Its mutations have become so ramified with time, so contradictory that soon one could no longer say just what melancholy was in the first place. Yet we all have a feeling for what it is being referred to, a sort of enormous black abyss which contaminates and sucks up everything in its vicinity.  Having recognised, for example, a sickle, a scythe, a broom, an oar, ankle shackles a crutch, or even an old man preparing to devour a child, the viewer would immediately recognize Saturn, who, in turn, he would automatically associate with melancholy.  If a picture contained devices alluding to geometry or mathematics, these too led back to the same theme, since in the Middle Ages, mathematicians and geometricians were regarded as melancholic. “The mathematician is a mirthless fellow,” wrote Martin Luther, and equipment related to that science is also visible in Dürer’s engraving.  Conspicuously present in the background of Dürer’s engraving is an enigmatic, eight-sided, and up to the present inscrutable polyhedron, one whose very inscrutability makes it mysterious, even uncanny. This polyhedron not only alludes to melancholy, it also radiates it, so to speak. It is no riddle, but rather a mystery. Nonetheless, by virtue of this polyhedron, Dürer’s image could be referred to as melancholic.  In place of transmissibility, the inexpressible aspect of melancholy moves to the foreground. In place of the concrete, the abstract.  Melancholy is the dark unknowable.

The Goya painting is also of note.  It is one of the series of Black Paintings that Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house sometime between 1819 and 1823.  Goya produced a series of 14 works, which he painted with oils directly onto the walls of the house. At the age of 73, and having survived two life-threatening illnesses, Goya was likely to have been concerned with his own mortality, and was increasingly embittered by the civil strife occurring in Spain.

Blackness, in alchemy means putrefaction or decomposition. The alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter. In depth psychology, Carl Jung interpreted alchemical blackness as a moment of maximum despair, that is a prerequisite to personal development.  James Hillman writes, “The rotting and blackening process of alchemy, dreadful wounds and suppurating sores, the ritual butchery of animals or their contagion and poisoning, and other such shocking imagery point to where something material is losing its substance and thrust, where a physical impulse or animal drive is descending toward the underworld.”

Every night and every morn

Some to misery are born.

Every morn and every night

Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.

::William Blake, Auguries of Innocence ::

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Dionysian Mystery and Laughing Gas Teeth

In Dreams, History, Image, Inner Space, Mystery, Pharmacopeia, Science on December 8, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Candy and Cronus take their toll.  I had my wisdom teeth extracted on the 4th.  I was given local anesthesia for my face as well as nitrous oxide and a general anesthesia to dip me into a semi-conscious state for the procedure.  The day before the operation I traveled to Philadelphia to visit the tter Museum.  This vast and eclectic collection of medical curiosities is managed by the prestigious College of Physicians and is truly a spectacular exhibition.   Glass cabinets line velvet walls providing temporary shelters for partial skeletal fragments, waxen fetal reproductions, medical journals and anatomy textbooks bound with human skin, and photographic documentation depicting an endless amount of bizarre cases that would keep Victorian scholars  baffled and intrigued for years.  That night I had a terrible nightmare wherein I was shrunk down to the size of a rodent and dissected in a dark amphitheater to a hostile (and possibly, sinister) public.  And reclining on that dentist’s chair at 7:45 in the morning, I could not help but think of all the butchering that had happened in the name of science and all those rusty, archaic instruments now resting in glass cabinets… waiting to be picked up, and used again.  As the gas kicked in, I briefly hallucinated the surgeon pulling out what could only have been some sort of bone-crushing device meant for extracting brain matter.  Those Bastards, I thought, they are going to butcher me here on this slab and sell the profitable parts to the Black Market… possibly even back to the Museum. I braced myself for a frontal lobotomy, but nothing came and eventually I lost interest as the drugs set in.  I was “awake” for the entire operation.  I heard the crunching, slicing, and whizzing of the drill used break up the teeth, sending tiny splinters across the room.  I distinctly recall the dentist informing me that they would “have to remove an infected molar, as well.”  I used my free arm to give him a big “O.K.” symbol with my hand and managed to mumble something to the degree of, “That’s totally fine with me, dude.”

Re-enactment of the first operation under anesthesia (ether). The actual operation took place on October 16, 1846; this re-enactment took place shortly afterwards.

After the operation I asked for my teeth back.  They told me that I could not have them because they were now a BIO-HAZARD.  “At least let me say goodbye to them… to my babies.”  They consented and brought me to the recovery lounge.  The nurse came in with an extended arm and opened her hand, palm up.  There they were, exposed to the open air:  five half-rotted teeth laying in a pool of blood on her cold, rubber glove.   And observing the teeth for the first time without possession and function, I appreciated them for what they truly were:  five overturned tombstones from a graveyard.  “Now that the gums are unplugged, the souls are bound to escape,” I told the nurse, but she seemed nonplussed.  It was probably too late, anyway.  The ghosts and demons once held at bay by those ivory monuments were now free to roam the far reaches of Earth and pursue their dark, inhuman desires.  “You fools,” I shouted as I was discretely escorted from the premises.  They were all doomed, but I didn’t care.  They had unleashed their own destruction, and there was no escape.  So be it.  Good luck and Godspeed, my babies… Godspeed.

I went home and turned on the television.  Twin Peaks was on the Chiller Network. It was the episode where David Duchovny plays FBI Agent Denise/Dennis Bryson.  It is unclear from the series whether Bryson would self-identify as a cross-dresser, a transvestite or transgender.  Bryson began wearing women’s clothing during a DEA undercover operation and found that it relaxed him. Bryson identifies as “Denise,” wears women’s clothing and presents female behavior during working hours and otherwise. When required for a sting operation, Bryson dons a man’s suit and goes by “Dennis.”  This was interesting for two reasons:

First, there is an obvious connection to Dionysus.  In Greek mythology, Dionysus is described as being womanly or “man-womanish”.  He is the god of duality and was raised by Hermes.  He has two separate origin stories that accent his “twice-born” character.  In one he is the offspring of Zeus and the mortal woman Semele.   The mortal demands Zeus to reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his godhood. He comes to her wreathed in bolts of lightning; mortals, however, can not look upon an undisguised god without dying, and she perished in the ensuing blaze. Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus by sewing him into his testicles.  In the other origin story, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the queen of the Greek underworld.  A  jealous Hera attempted to kill the child by sending Titans to rip Dionysus to pieces after luring the baby with toys. (See Dionysus and his Mirror)  Zeus drove the Titans away with his thunderbolts, but only after the Titans ate everything but the heart, which was saved, variously, by Athena, Rhea, or Demeter.  Zeus used the heart to recreate him in the womb of Semele, hence he was again “the twice-born.”  As a champion of androgyny, the allusion is obvious.

Two Denises

Secondly, “Denise” Duchovny in drag looks surprisingly like my mother, whose name is also “Denise.”  To further the coincidence, my mother was named after her older brother Dennis who died soon after childbirth.  Their visual similarity is superficial, of course, being two people with Czech/Slavic descent and similar hairstyles.  I was pondering the implications of these events and enjoying the “Percs” of the operation when it occurred to me that losing teeth was a powerful symbol of death and rebirth.  Also, the dream in which I was “transformed” and “dissected” was about a dramatic psychological change.   Manifestations of Dionysus are manifold in this reality and it is necessary to acknowledge and understand the intentions of this divine entity if one is to maintain psychological health.  Therefore, it is imperative that one give respect by honoring the god in the traditional way:  Bacchanalia.

Dionysus is a god who transcends boundaries,  subverting preexisting borders between life and death, man and woman, wilderness and society. The earliest rites took place in the wilderness – in the forests and woods, the marshes, and particularly high in the mountains, where the lower oxygen content was suitable for trance induction. Later the ‘priest’ would simply cast their staff into the ground, at any suitable location, and hang a mask and an animal skin from it, the circle drawn around this center becoming the sacred precinct for however long the staff remained.  Underground chambers were also often used for initiations, which may have originally taken place in natural caves, particularly those by the shoreline. Liminal boundary zones being especially sacred to Dionysos.  The Orphic texts of the late period record a boukolos, or ‘cowherd’, as an offerer of sacrifice, sayer of prayers, and hymn singer, who seems to have been the nearest thing they ever had to a priest. Other inscriptions record an archiboukolos, or ‘chief cowherd’ presiding over these boukoloi, and in some records there is also mention of boukoloi hieroi, ‘holy cowherders’ as well as hymnodidaskaloi,’hymn teachers’.  The cowherds were necessary because the “sacred wine” used in the ceremonies contained hallucinogenic mushrooms that grew on the feces of local cattle.

In intoxication, physical or spiritual, the initiate recovers an intensity of feeling which prudence had destroyed; he finds the world full of delight and beauty, and his imagination is suddenly liberated from the prison of everyday preoccupations. The Bacchic ritual produced what was called ‘enthusiasm’, which means etymologically having the god enter the worshipper, who believed that he became one with the god.

::Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy::

Traditional offerings to Dionysus include but are not limited to the following: musk, civet, frankincense, storax, ivy, grapes, pine, fig, wine, honey, apples, Indian Hemp, orchis root, thistle, all wild and domestic trees, black diamonds.

I call upon loud-roaring and revelling Dionysus,

primeval, double-natured, thrice-born, Bacchic lord,

wild, ineffable, secretive, two-horned and two-shaped.

Ivy-covered, bull-faced, warlike, howling, pure,

You take raw flesh, you have feasts, wrapt in foliage, decked with grape clusters.

Resourceful Eubouleus, immortal god sired by Zeus

When he mated with Persephone in unspeakable union.

Hearken to my voice, O blessed one,

and with your fair-girdled nymphs breathe on me in a spirit of perfect agape.

St. Germain

In Alchemy, History, Magic, Pharmacopeia, Plants on November 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm

◸◬◹ :: MAN / ELIXIR :: ◸◬◹

A man who knows everything and who never dies.  ::Voltaire::

The Count of St. Germain (fl. 1710–1784) has been variously described as a courtier, adventurer, charlatan, inventor, alchemist, pianist, violinist and amateur composer, but is best known as a recurring figure in the stories of several strands of occultism – particularly those connected to Theosophy and the White Eagle Lodge, where he is also referred to as the Master Rakoczi or the Master R and as one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, is credited with near god-like powers and longevity. Some sources write that his name is not familial, but was invented by him as a French version of the Latin Sanctus Germanus, meaning “Holy Brother.” 

Giacomo Casanova describes in his memoirs:

St. Germain gave himself out for a marvel and always aimed at exciting amazement, which he often succeeded in doing. He was scholar, linguist, musician, and chemist, good-looking, and a perfect ladies’ man. For awhile he gave them paints and cosmetics; he flattered them, not that he would make them young again (which he modestly confessed was beyond him) but that their beauty would be preserved by means of a wash which, he said, cost him a lot of money, but which he gave away freely.

Myths, legends and speculations about St. Germain began to be widespread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and continue today.  The list of his accomplishments is virtually endless:

He mastered all of the European languages. He was one of the best swordsmen of his day. He was a master violinist.  He founded Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry in England.  He also has been reincarnated several times.  Noteworthy physical embodiments include Samuel the Prophet, Merlin, Plato, Hesiod,Francis Bacon, Roger Bacon, Christopher Columbus, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Montaigne, Robert Burton, Cervantes, Valentine Andraes, Nicolas II, and Comte de Gabalis.

In 1930 Guy W. Ballard, hiking in northern California, met the Ascended Master Saint Germain on the side of Mount Shasta. His remarkable experiences are recorded in the books, Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence, written under the pen name of Godfre Ray King. First published in 1934, the books have never been out of print. This introduction was followed by more than 3000 Discourses by the Ascended Masters. Out of this dynamic and practical instruction the “I AM” Activity was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Ballard, under the daily direction of Saint Germain.

TRADEMARKS AND SERVICE MARKS OF SAINT GERMAIN FOUNDATION INCLUDE: The Ascended Masters Instruction on the “Beloved Mighty I AM Presence,”® The Ascended Masters’ Instruction , “Beloved Mighty I AM Presence,”® Daughters of Light®, Heart of Heaven , Honor Cross®, Honor Cross Design®, “I AM,”® “I AM” Activity®, “I AM” Ascended Master Youth , “I AM” COME!® “I AM” Emblem®, “I AM” Music of the Spheres®, “I AM” Pageant of the Angels®, “I AM” Reading Room®, “I AM” Religious Activity®, “I AM” Religious Broadcast®, “I AM” Sanctuary®, “I AM” School®, “I AM” Student Body®, “I AM” Study Groups®, “I AM” Temple®, “I AM” Violet Flame, The Magic Presence, “Mighty I AM Presence”, Minute Men of Saint Germain®, Music of the Spheres®, Saint Germain®, Saint Germain Foundation®, Saint Germain Press®, Saint Germain Press, Inc®, Shasta Springs®, Unfed Flame Design®, Violet Consuming Flame®, Violet Flame®, “The Voice of the “I AM” ®

And then there is St. Germain, the delectably potent potable whose 
taste is only exceeded by its pretentiousness.   I have had the luck to try this delicious drink in a cocktail and I would say that it IS delightful.  From the website:

IN THE foothills of the Alps, for but a few fleeting spring days, this man will gather wild blossoms for your cocktail.
 The blossoms in question are elderflowers, the man un bohemien,
 and the cocktail a stylishly simple creation made with St-Germain, the
first liqueur in the world created in the artisanal French manner from
freshly handpicked elderflower blossoms. Our story, however, does not
end there.

AFTER
 gently ushering the wild blossoms into sacks and descending the
hillside, the man who gathers blossoms for your cocktail will then
mount a bicycle and carefully ride the umbels of starry white flowers
to market. Vraiment.

There are no more than 40 or 50 men such as he, and in a matter of days
they will have gathered an…d bicycled to us the entirety of what will
become St-Germain for that year. You could not write a better story if
 you were François Truffaut.

/bɔ.na.pe.ti/