Primal Matter In Alchemy

Primal Matter In Alchemy Cover The opus alchimicum, (“the alchemist’s labor”) centered on matter. Nobody knew, of course, what matter was, and it remained a secret of alchemy, although many chemical, mythological, and philosophical definitions were ventured in the course of time (Jung, 1953, p. 317). Thus, the Tabula Smaragdina (the revelation of secret alchemical teaching, of the ninth century but based on Hermetic sources) identified matter with God, because all created objects come from a single primal matter; and Comarius, an alchemist-philosopher (first century CE?) identified it with Hades, to whom the imperfect souls were chained (Jung, pp. 299, 319). Such perceptions of matter echo the alchemist’s craft: his operation was, in mythical terms, a replica of divine creativity, aiming at the liberation of imprisoned matter. The inherent anthropomorphic view of matter, the “vitalist hypothesis,” was going to play a fundamental role in the “sacred art,” alchemy: metals, that is, matter, were considered living organisms, which are born, grow, and multiply. With the alchemist’s preoccupation with matter and his belief that the divine soul is enchained in matter, he “takes upon himself the duty of carrying out the redeeming opus” (Jung, p. 306). Thus seen, the alchemist evolves into a priest.

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