Alchemical Aphorisms

Alchemical Aphorisms Cover Technical prescriptions, and in particular those that aimed at the Transformation of matter, tended to be sharpened and honed so as to sound, in their lapidary style, like keys to mysteries. Such aphorisms, often bordering on the abstruse, were a favored feature of Alchemical doctrine. For example, the first commandment requires secrecy and elitism: “One man to one man.” Pseudo-Democritus, on the subject of liberating the imprisoned soul, declared “Transform the nature and make the spirit that is hidden inside the body come out.” Maria Prophetissa said likewise, “Invert nature and you will find That Which you seek.” Transmutation was tied to the law of sympathy and antipathy: “One nature rejoices in another nature; one nature triumphs over another nature; one nature masters another nature.” One of Maria’s axioms that subsumed a complex alchemical procedure was read by Jung (1953, p. 23) in psychological terms, according to which the even numbers signified the female principle and the odd numbers the male, the latter overwhelming the former: “One becomes two, two becomes three, and by means of the third the fourth achieves unity; thus two are but one.” Maria focuses also on an analogy made between metals and humankind: “Join the male and the female, and you will find what you seek.” A well-known aphorism expresses the analogy between macrocosm and microcosm: “That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above.” Several maxims rest on the principle of antonymy. The symbol of the serpent biting its tail is used to circumscribe diversity in unity: “The All is one and the All is through itself and the All goes to itself, and if it had not the All there would be no All.” The philosophers’ stone is simply defined as “a stone that is not a stone.”

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