Pass-Key Number Two: Ali Puli

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The second of Lapidus’ seven pass-keys consists primarily of lengthy extracts from Centrum naturae concentratum (or Concentrated Centre of Nature) by Ali Puli, The Asiatic Moor. Ali Puli was likely the nom de plume for Johann Otto von Hellwig (or von Hellbig), and the Centrum naturae concentratum manuscript – formerly owned and used by J.W. Hamilton-Jones for his 1951 translation into English under the title, The Epistles of Ali Puli (circa 1700 A.D.) – now resides in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam.

1735 portrait of Ali Puli – ‘Ali Puli een asiatische Moor’ – by Burghard de Groot

1735 portrait of Ali Puli – ‘Ali Puli een asiatische Moor’ – by Burghard de Groot

Lapidus begins by writing that “Most books on the subject of alchemy are in agreement that the three main PRINCIPLES used to produce the Philosophers’ Stone are gold, mercury and salt. The metals gold and mercury are well known, but no book gives any idea what kind of salt is used, and rarely indeed where it may be found. However, one alchemist has ventured to disclose this, the greatest secret of the art. He has gone further by writing a treatise dealing only with this mysterious salt, and goes into much detail to describe it, and describes its virtue and power to act in the work to produce the Philosophers’ Stone, and even hints how to prepare it for use.” Lapidus is, of course, referring to the treatise by Ali Puli. Based upon his study of Ali Puli, Lapidus opines that “this salt is the basis upon which everything depends from beginning to the end” and that “without the aid of this salt, nothing can be achieved.”

Lapidus quotes Ali Puli at length:

Is it not wonderful that from plants, fruit and vegetables, all the things that go to build animal and human bodies, should be born and grow out of these, and even create living creatures, with the seed that can grow in them? Why then should Nature stop its work at metals? These gold, silver, lead, tin, copper, antimony, and iron, the metals also used the salt of Nature. The alchemists of old certainly did not agree that Nature stops at metals and worked on and laboured to prove it true, and so at length, succeeded, with the aid of the salt of Nature. With this knowledge they produced the Philosophers’ Stone … Search for this natural law, of salt of Nature, in your researches, for this is the greatest secret, and in all books of alchemy, hidden with the greatest care … The salt of Nature is found everywhere, and in everything. From all substances however, it is not easily to be obtained, nor is it sufficiently powerful for all purposes. For the often mentioned Masterpiece of the Philosophers, it is as good as for many things. But it is necessary to choose the best that can be found in Nature … When the Artificer knows how to extract from the world, its inner central force or Salt of Nature, and also knows where to find an abundance of the Salt of Nature united to the astral focal seat in anything … then the truth of Nature is resident in him, and with this illumination he can perceive Nature throughout. If anyone should come to know the Little World properly, then nothing of the Greater World would remain unknown to him … I say to you, my disciples in the study of Nature, if you do not find the thing for which you are seeking, in your own self, much less will you find it outside your self. Understand the glorious strength resident in your own selves. Why trouble to enquire from another? In Man … there are things more glorious than are to be found elsewhere in the whole world. Should anyone desire to become a Master, he will not find a better material for his achievement anywhere than in himself … from an eager heart, moved by my own experience, I will cry out to my beloved fellow men: “Oh! Man, know thyself!” In you resides the Treasure of all Treasures … which by men of experience and intelligence, is named the Great Wonder of the World. It is in reality a burning water, a liquid fire, more potent than all fire, air, earth, or water. In its crude state it dissolves and absorbs solid gold. It reduces it into a fatty blackish or blackish-grey earth, and a thick, slimy, salt water; without fire, or acid, and without any violent reaction, which no other thing in the world can accomplish. Nothing is excluded from it … the Wise Men of old sought for and found it.

Ali Puli continues, elaborating upon this Salt of Nature:

… it is a Spiritual Water, a True Spirit, the Spirit of Life itself … This is the Foundation Stone, in truth, which is rejected by the careless ignorance of the Builders … Friends, I have shown you The Way, and now I will add with more sufficiency: The World containing the highest and most immediate element of the Wise Men for the achievement of the Masterpiece is Man himself … The Ore is the best and also the worst. The most precious, is a most turbid water. These are like Earth and Water, yet neither one nor the other is any good by itself. From these two, a Son, or a Seed, emerges, and from the three bodies [principles], there is formed the Spirit and Soul in Man … If the Artificer could find this … he could then separate the pure from the impure. He could make, without fire and without any extraneous matter, a Virgin Earth, without odour and without colour. He could divide and secure from it: Sal Centrale, Vitriolum Microcosmi, the Venus of the Sages; Sal Astrale; Mercurium Microcosmi, and Lunam Philosophicam [and produce the Philosophers’ Stone]. Once purified, he could produce a Son, better than his parents …

It is worth noting that this second of seven pass-keys – ostensibly comprised of lengthy extracts from the treatise of Ali Puli – bears extensive annotations in the hand of Lapidus. For example, where Ali Puli writes that all metals are born from the very volatile, sweet and sparkling Astral or Uppermost Salt and the Central Salt, the latter of which he describes as “a Vitriol of remarkable and inexpressible strength,” Lapidus has crossed out the word born and written quickened, as in “From these two kinds of Salt, all metals are quickened.” Where Ali Puli writes, “Here you have the Mine, in bodily form; and without any admixture you can make Gold and Silver from Quicksilver, Copper and Lead, etc.” Lapidus has written OR antimony, Mars and Venus, and Secret Fire, as in “… and without any admixture you can make Gold and Silver from antimony, Mars and Venus, and Secret Fire.” Where Ali Puli writes, “First learn Wisdom for the sake of your own soul, and all will be well with you … Wealth untold is brought to you. But first find the Natural Central Seat in Man; then your lawful labours shall prove as successful as you wish,” Lapidus has written Natural Central Salt of Nature beside “Natural Central Seat in Man.”

Throughout the remainder of the second pass-key, Lapidus quotes from the following sections of Centrum naturae concentratum: ‘Of Mercury and Vitriol or Sulphur’, ‘Of Salt’ and ‘Of Colours’.

Ali Puli describes the all-powerful Philosopher’s Mercury as “a true living Mercury, not to be named living, because he becomes a Quick-metal … yet he is living because in him is the living seed of gold; little in weight it may be, but great in vigour, for it can make ordinary fine gold become living gold, and ten or twelve times heavier; it can also expand in a very pervasive way.” He elaborates upon the birth of the living gold via the addition of Vitriol, rightly describing it as “a masterly operation in metallic substances.” This living gold is “capable of being multiplied out of the Mercury and water in the Vitriol, and increasing many hundreds or thousands of times,” and affecting metallic transmutation.

Ali Puli writes:

After maturation, or fixation, as it is now termed, one part of the tincture will transmute ten times more into gold than the tincture from a combination of Mercury and common gold would do … I have made metals to mature through an ingression of Mercury, and this quick-metal, which transmutes into fine gold, i.e. 100 parts of silver into fine gold, or 100 parts of copper into silver, many have called the Sulphur in Mercury, Sophorum or Universal, because they employed it for other uses as a tincture, but they did not know its origin … In order to make common gold pervasive, you must understand that Mercury alone provides the means for ingress for the Vitriol and the Sulphur into metals, and the contraction of this Mercury makes it mature. The moisture of the quick metal passes into the dryness of the Mercury and the whole becomes tincture. There is no such thing as a wet state in the world of Nature. Ignorant folk have understood the word moist to mean wet. A wet state destroys everything. Our water does not wet the hands, but it is moist. The saline liquors have nothing to do with this.

Where Ali Puli writes, “The moisture of the quick metal passes into the dryness of the Mercury and the whole becomes tincture,” Lapidus has written The moisture of the quick metal passes into the dryness of the GOLD, then the whole becomes tincture. Where Ali Puli writes, “There is no such thing as a wet state in the world of Nature,” Lapidus has written There is no such thing as a wet state in the world of metals.

Ali Puli articulates the difference between alchemical dissolution and putrefaction, highlighting that “… all that we therefore perform, happens through the process of a simple dissolution and coagulation; nothing comes about through any process of decay, such as people generally believe to be the case.” He elaborates upon the planting of a seed into soil; that it does not decay but is instead swelled and turned to slime via the vital salt sinking “down into the soil with the dew and the rain penetrating through the shell of the seed into the kernel”; that the vital image of the plant or tree arising from this dissolution eventually acquires an existence “in material form through its own vital salt, vitriol and water” and is coagulated as a result of being “constantly fed by the penetrating vital salt from dew and rain” percolating into the soil. “From this process there grows a large plant or a tall tree, provided the soil remains, wherein the nourishing sal centrale sustains and feeds it.”

Lapidus concludes the second pass-key with this paragraph regarding colours, as put forth by Ali Puli:

When the dissolving process of the gold has been completed and the separation of the water ends, the mass throws off all impure and extinct earth on to the edge of the glass vessel and appears white. Here it is to be noted that the substance does not change in one day, but requires much time, because each colour, in its growth, appears slowly, becomes strong, and gradually shades off. When the white colour begins to appear, the substance gradually turns into a powder … Here the maturing process starts and subsequently proceeds to coagulation (commonly called fixation) and … a further process follows … the longer this process takes the better the result – until at last the small corpuscles become firm and compact, the yellow colour comes along, ending with a red, and our task is finished.

This post is extracted from Paul Hardacre’s 15,000+ word paper, ‘The Lost Book of Lapidus’, presented at the 2012 Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle.

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy is available from Salamander and Sons.

Pass-Key Number One: Philalethes

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Long held among the foremost of mysterious and unknown adepts, Eirenæus Philalethes is now usually, but not universally, considered the nom de plume of the brilliant American doctor and alchemist George Starkey. Born George Stirk in Bermuda in 1628, this prolific Paracelsian iatrochemist and associate of the renowned chemist, physicist and natural philosopher Robert Boyle, is reported to have died during the Great Plague of London in 1665. During the course of his lifetime he authored close to thirty significant treatises. Among these, The Marrow of Alchemy is a long poem celebrated by sons of the art; extracts from which form the basis for the first of Lapidus’ seven pass-keys. Lapidus goes so far as to describe The Marrow of Alchemy as “the most outstanding and informative treatise on the art ever revealed so openly.”

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The Marrow of Alchemy, by Eirenæus Philoponos Philalethes – the edition pictured here consists of a manuscript written, in a quarto size journal of 198 pages, in the hand of J.W. Hamilton-Jones, from the collection of Paul Hardacre and Marissa Newell.

The Marrow of Alchemy, by Eirenæus Philoponos Philalethes – the edition pictured here consists of a manuscript written, in a quarto size journal of 198 pages, in the hand of J.W. Hamilton-Jones, from the collection of Paul Hardacre and Marissa Newell.

Lapidus begins by stating that although “… the art of alchemy is commenced by gold and mercury,” the greatest stumbling block placed in the path of the alchemical tyro is understanding what is meant by mercury. Quoting verses from the Philalethes poems, Lapidus states that the mercury referred to is not – at least at this stage of the work – “the common or metallic kind and is not even mercury, but called mercury to mislead … past experimenters of alchemy still come back to trying the ordinary mercury, or quicksilver, and never believing that there might be two kinds of mercury, one of which is not mercury at all, and because this is another way of misleading those researchers who still persist not knowing there is another, which is falsely named mercury.”

He continues to elaborate a few of the hundreds of names used by alchemists to describe this liquid, including water, Philosopher’s Mercury, metalline water, Secret Fire, Sophic Fire, maydew, flying stone, the crying bird of Hermes, venomous burning water, invisible fire, the mover, and the first agent.

Lapidus writes that this mercury or Sophic Fire has “the power to dissolve the strongest or hardest metals into water in a heat no more than that of a hot Summer’s day …” and that although “it is called by some adepts, our Secret Fire” it is not a fire. This Secret Fire or mercury “can change [metals] into a black liquid like mud in the short time of about 42 days, if left in a heat which must not fade out.”

Lapidus writes that common mercury or quicksilver is, indeed, an essential ingredient of the work, “but only in conjunction with the Philosopher’s Mercury which is the liquid Secret Fire.” The Secret Fire is a water which “must be prepared, before use, and produced by distilling a certain clear water from certain metals.” Lapidus continues that “… this water, which by the way is not water at all, will not finally become a metal, but must be used again and again as a catalyst to bring forward the work.”

Lapidus quotes from The Marrow of Alchemy:

But when that gold with its own Metalline mercury
is tempted and within a fit glass closed,
and in a due heat digested, bye and bye it
doth begin to act, for thus disposed,
it is like to good seed into good ground cast,
which shall augment itself in kind at last.

As then each earth for each seed is not fit,
so each metalline water for our art,
Tis not to be desired. They who hit
on our true water have the hidden part
of our rare stone, which if they can espouse,
and so with the sun digest, in its due house,

With a due fire, I may be bold to say,
that they may go to the Hesperian Tree,
and pluck its apples. These are such as may,
advance corporal gold to such degree,
that all metals which imperfect are,
it may enter, tinge, and fix to gold most rare.

Lapidus then continues to investigate the great secret of the water, that is, the Secret Fire or mercury. Again, he quotes at length from The Marrow of Alchemy:

But of this secret mercury; if you desire,
the secret for to learn, attend to me:
For this is a water which yet is fire,
which conquers bodies from their degree,
and makes them fly much like a spirit pure,
and this after fixing all flames to endure.

This water it doth flow from a fourfold spring,
which is but three, which two, and which but one,
is the only bath to bathe our king,
This is our maydew, this our flying stone;
our bird of Hermes in the mountains flying,
and without voice or note is always crying.

Lapidus assert that the above verses describe “the most important secret of the whole art of alchemy” and that “When this is known, and understood, the secret method of preparation for use will be simple and plain.” He continues that “The fourfold spring above is the water in which metals are soaking up the water, in a gentle heat, continuously sending up a vapour, which is the Secret Fire. When these metals are melted, what is left, after proper distillation is only one thing … Then the metals and the water will result in One only thing, a black liquid in 50 days.”

To affect this alchemical putrefaction – the signature of which is pitch black – the artificer must, of course, understand the art of preparing the Secret Fire. From The Marrow of Alchemy:

Tis Saturn’s offspring who a well doth keep,
In which cause Mars to be drowned, then
Let Saturn behold his face in this well.
Which will seem fresh, and young and tender, when
the souls of both are both together blended,
for each by the other need to be amended.

Then behold, a star into this well shall fall,
and with its lustrous rays the earth shall shine,
Let Venus add her influence with all,
for she is nurse of this stone divine,
The bond of crystalline mercury:
This is the spring in which our Sun must die.

Take thou that substance which is Saturn’s child;
This is the serpent which thou shalt devour,
Cadmus and his companions, though defiled they be.
Yet thou shalt with a gentle shower,
wash off its blackness till a moon appear,
shining most bright. Know then the day is near.

Philalethes mentions “Saturn’s offspring” and “Saturn’s child” which Lapidus identifies as a liquid, antimonial argent vive. Lapidus refers to and extols The Secret Book of Artephius in which Saturn’s offspring is identified as antimony, “a mineral participating of Saturnine parts.” Writes Lapidus: ”No other book has clarified this fact, and indeed it is Saturn’s offspring. Thus we have a sure start in alchemy. Add to this antimony, Mars and Venus, and the Secret Fire, and you have the fourfold spring of Saturn’s well.”
Lapidus then cautions the tyro that “There is an instruction here of which to be warned. It reads: ‘wash off its blackness till a moon appear.’ This is misleading advice, and on no account should this be done, for this blackness will eventually turn into whiteness. If the truth be told, the advice should be: WHEN THE WATER IS ALL DISTILLED OFF, pour back the clear water, and repeat a few times, so that the distilled water becomes more powerful to act its part. Each time the black matter may be left fairly firm and be stirred up with a firm wire, so that the water enters in.”

Lapidus again quotes from The Marrow of Alchemy:

Then take our mercury (which is our Moon),
And espouse it with the terrestrial Sun,
Thus man and wife are joined, and to them soon
add the reviving spirit: this when done
a noble game you soon shall espy, because
you have attended Nature’s noble laws.

Of the red man one: of the white wife three,
take thou, and mix which is good proportion.
Then of the water, four parts let there be,
This mixture is our lead, which unto motion
will be moved by a most gentle heat,
Which must increased be until it sweat.

Lapidus writes that “this last verse above clearly informs the searcher that having prepared the water, he may now mix it with the gold in due proportion … The red man, of course, is gold, and the white wife is the clear white water, the Secret Fire, and soon add a little more of the metalline mercury, and later a little more, and this may only be learned by slow careful experiment.”

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy, Lapidus

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy, by Lapidus

Lapidus closes the first pass-key with additional practical advice. He advises that, where possible, the metals used should be purchased in powder form to expedite the work. He also reminds the tyro to prepare a sufficient quantity of Secret Fire or mercury, and emphasises the importance of patience along with temperature control and not moving or opening the vessel once the work has begun.

This post is extracted from Paul Hardacre’s 15,000+ word paper, ‘The Lost Book of Lapidus’, presented at the 2012 Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle.

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy is available from Salamander and Sons.

The ‘lost book of Lapidus’ … found, at last!

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Dedicated students of alchemy will welcome the news that the ‘lost book of Lapidus’ – The Pass-Keys to Alchemy – has finally manifested, more than 30 years after it was penned by the enigmatic adept, David Curwen!

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy - Standard Hardcover Edition The Pass-Keys to Alchemy - Leather Bound Edition

Sincere thanks to all who have patiently endured the long wait, particularly those wise individuals who managed to secure one of the 119 hand-numbered copies of The Pass-Keys to Alchemy fully bound in red leather with gilt title and device, and silk bookmark ribbon:

Dan Coaten, Greg Kaminsky, Micah Nilsson, Thom Cavalli, Greg Brown, Paulo Figueiredo, Don Nance, Kevin Waddle, Paul Cowlan, Carlos Sorentino, Mark Corcoran, Zeyad Almajed, John Belongie, James Collins, David Greenhill, Peter Birrell, Vino Gormley-Veasley, Philip Campbell, Ben Fernee, Tom Ramsay, Brian Cotnoir, Laura Okazaki, Ethan Bok, Gudni Gudnason, Jason Caron, Robert Bartlett, John H. Reid III, Henry Hintz Jr., Stephen Jones, Peter van Suijlekom, Viktor Schiller, William Burkle, Adam McLean, Tony DeLuce, Hans Hammerschlag, Jeffrey Kupperman, Stan Marlan, Bruce Fisher, Dennis Hauck, Steve Kalec, Jeannie Radcliffe, Eileen Hansen, Paulette Harris, Allen Moore, Darcy Kuntz, Gabriel Maroney, Timothy Pucko, Lorraine Henrich, Christina Lozano, Yoko Tsukada, Marcella Hilferty, Peter Bilcliffe, phyllis livera, Joan Schweizer, Marcus Katz, Sue Ananian, Carolynn Ananian, Elizabeth Morgan, Khalid Alamoudi, Christiano Arnhold Simoes, Morten Dethloff, Paul Bradbury, Jeff Fails, Nancy Harte, Fritz Kienzle, Leland Byrd, John Mathiassen, Mario Velona, Noah’s Apothecary, Maria Griffin, M.T. Truelove, John Limbert, Juan Vargas, Marcus Pettus, Ethan Hall, Robert Wright, Marc Ziccardi, Jesse Hathaway, David Kazmierczak, Julie Amador, Jim Baldwin, Michael Thompson, Noe Escamilla, Ingo Lambrecht, Phoenix Aurelius, Benjamin Pybus, Russ House, Astra Jekabsone, Richard Forrest, Art Kompolt, Eddie LeBoeuf, Jason Meadows, Richard Nozell, Denis Pelletier, Oscar Rangel Martinez, Seth Van De Riet, Lenny Pedersen, Denise London and Sue Griffiths, Jeff McBride, Mitchell Thompson, Walter Sato, William Schuck, Daniel Hill, Simon Wright, Richard Torrens, Johann Plattner, Joshua Laudermilk, Patrice Maleze, and Scott Spencer.

Small batches of both the leather bound and standard hardcover copies have appeared within the past 48 hours, with the remainder of the print run arriving later this afternoon. Copies will ship during the coming week of 21-25 January 2013.

Copies of the standard hardcover edition of The Pass-Keys to Alchemy remain available.

Deluxe Spirits

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The Deluxe Edition of Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare – fully bound in black leather, and accompanied by Christopher Kramer’s limited edition print depicting the Werplon entity from Rosaleen Norton’s ‘Qlipha’ – has been shipping in small batches during this most festive of weeks. Copies will continue to ship into early 2013.

Many copies of the standard hardcover edition of Dark Spirits are also in transit to pre-order buyers, and only a few dozen copies remain available at the time of writing (36 copies, to be precise). Make Dark Spirits the final book you buy during 2012, and the first you read in 2013!

The Deluxe Edition of Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare

The Deluxe Edition of Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare

Christopher Kramer’s depiction of the Werplon entity from Rosaleen Norton’s ‘Qlipha’

Christopher Kramer’s depiction of the Werplon entity from Rosaleen Norton’s ‘Qlipha’

Dark Spirits are with us!

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In the poem accompanying the illustration ‘Black Magic’ in The Art of Rosaleen Norton, the Australian ‘Witch of Kings Cross’ wrote:

Panther of silence; god of Night; Lord of the wild inhuman stars:
You are my own; teeming soul of solitude.
Here is no loneliness, secret Master –
You, Dark Spirit are with me.

The welcome news for many admirers of the magical art of Rosaleen Norton and that of Austin Osman Spare – admirers who have patiently waited for many months – is that Dark Spirits is with us!

Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare

Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare

Small batches of the standard hardcover edition manifested on 05 December 2012 (the 33rd anniversary of Rosaleen Norton’s death), and have been arriving gradually since. The Deluxe Edition, fully bound in black leather, is due for delivery this day. As such, we happily anticipate shipping copies during the week of 17-21 December 2012.

Some (but not many) copies of the standard hardcover edition of Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare remain available.

Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare

Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare

The Dry Path of Alchemy

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Between 2007 and 2012, Juan D. Bermejo, Manlio Padovano, José Antonio Puche Riart, and Francisco Clemente Parra followed in the footsteps of that most enigmatic and illuminated of Hermetic Adepts, Fulcanelli, navigating the complex branching maze of the Great Work via the Dry Path. Guided by the two books attributed to the Master Alchemist – Le Mystère des Cathédrales (The Mystery of the Cathedrals, first published 1926) and Les Demeures Philosophales (Dwellings of the Philosophers, first published 1929) – these four determined lovers of wisdom documented their arduous alchemical journey in The Dry Path of Alchemy: Practical Development of the Work.

Both erudite and magnificently practical, The Dry Path of Alchemy consist of ten jargon-free chapters plus two appendices, profusely illustrated with 180 full colour photographs and more than 50 additional illustrations.

Naturally, the Dry Path begins with the preparation of Saturnia and the canonical salts, along with the collection of dew and confection of the Styx.

Chapter One of The Dry Path of Alchemy details how to obtain the First Mercury from stibnite, and elaborates upon the advantages and disadvantages associated with its canonical preparation from stibnite ore and from commercial antimony trisulphide.

The authors explain how, according to the interpretation of those who follow the antimony path, stibnite – called Saturnia by some ancient alchemists, and also referred to as the black dragon, the grey wolf and the son of Saturn – “must be purified (or purged, according to some modern texts) before proceeding to the separation, to release it from the siliceous gangue and other impurities that might contain.” Practical insights pertaining to the purification of the stibnite are elaborated. The canonical technique in which molten stibnite ore is guided towards immersion in the Styx – the “waters of oblivion” – is described, including the composition of said waters.

The Styx – the “waters of oblivion”

The Styx – the “waters of oblivion” (photographs copyright © Juan D. Bermejo, Manlio Padovano, José Antonio Puche Riart, and Francisco Clemente Parra)

The preparation of the Styx – a task involving the preparation of two salts, and their dissolution in dew – is described in even greater detail in Chapter Two. The harvesting, storage and canonical use of dew is discussed at length, as is the canonical preparation of salts (via passage through the mirror of Mars) towards the confection of the Martial regulus of antimony.

Canonical salts, almost dry

Canonical salts, almost dry (photographs copyright © Juan D. Bermejo, Manlio Padovano, José Antonio Puche Riart, and Francisco Clemente Parra)

This Martial regulus of antimony can be prepared using the earlier purified stibnite which, the authors note, “some alchemists call Philosophic Lead.” In these initial chapters the authors emphasise how, according to Fulcanelli:

… the fundamental matter of the alchemical work … is iron; the stibnite is a material used to open the metal and leave it ready to be decomposed into its own sulphur and mercury, and after opening it, it also permits that this can give you part of its tincture to do the great work. Fulcanelli describes it as a grinder, and he goes on to say that it grinds the reincruded metal into an impalpable powder which has a huge specific surface that enables the attack by acids (aqua regia), salt of Ammon (ammonium chloride) or adsorption (surface adhesion) of the antimony quintessence by the same process called eagles that we will explain in later chapters … The stibnite, if not the fundamental matter of the Great Work, eases the extraction of the quintessence, this being much more difficult by other procedures, such as the attack with mercuric chloride and salt over iron sulphate used by some modern alchemists with mediocre results.

In the eight chapters that follow, the authors outline the processes for obtaining the Martial regulus of antimony, treating the caput mortuum and obtaining the golden salt and Adamic earth, and purifying the regulus; unleashing the Green and Red Lions, animating Mercury, flying the Eagles, and forming the Island of Delos; along with the cooking of the Philosophical Egg and the ultimate ‘Crowning’ of the Work.

The Dry Path of Alchemy: Practical Development of the Work is being published in Red Lion and Green Lion bindings.

The Red Lion is strictly limited to 33 copies numbered by hand; is fully bound in red leather with gilt title and device, and silk bookmark ribbon, and is slipcased. Each of the 33 Red Lions includes a free and exclusive hand numbered print of the ‘Allegory of the Dry Path’. The Red Lion is now sold out.

The Green Lion is strictly limited to 167 copies numbered by hand; is fully bound in green leather with gilt title and device, and silk bookmark ribbon. Some copies of the Green Lion remain available for pre-order.

Genuinely ground-breaking, The Dry Path of Alchemy is a book that no serious student of alchemy can afford to be without.

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy

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My wealth let sons and brethren part;
Some things they cannot share –
My work well done, my noble heart,
These are mine own to wear.

The great 8th century Arabian alchemist, Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān

The great 8th century Arabian alchemist, Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān

So wrote the great 8th century Arabian alchemist, Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān, known in the West as Geber or Jabir. The son of the druggist Hayyān of Kufa, a city located on the western bank of the Euphrates River in what is now Iraq, Jabir was a man of exceptional intellectual calibre, embodying the early pinnacle of Islamic alchemy. A vast corpus is attributed to this great alchemical mind. It was in his Summa perfectionis magisterii (or The Sum of Perfection or the Perfect Magistery) that Jabir declared, “… in this book I have never taught our science explicitly. Had I described the order of its development, ill-intentioned persons might have understood it and have used it for pernicious ends.” The science that Jabir refers to is, of course, none other than the strand of occultism referred to as the Hermetic science of alchemy. Jabir was by no means the first, nor the last, of the Hermetic philosophers who endeavoured to protect the secrets of the art from the eyes of malignant and ignorant men. As recently as the time of the enigmatic Fulcanelli, the duty of the adept or initiate to ensure that the most sacred secrets of the art are not profaned has been clearly articulated. In his conclusion to Le Mystère des Cathédrales (or The Mystery of the Cathedrals), written in 1922, Fulcanelli elucidates upon this duty in no uncertain terms:

Nature does not open the door of the sanctuary indiscriminately to everyone … No one may aspire to possess the great secret, if he does not direct his life in accordance with the researches he has undertaken. It is not enough to be studious, active and persevering, if one has no firm principles, no solid basis, if immoderate enthusiasm blinds one to reason, if pride overrules judgment, if greed expands before the prospect of a golden future … By constant exercise of the faculties of observation and reasoning and by meditation, the novice will climb the steps leading to KNOWLEDGE. A simple imitation of natural processes, skill combined with ingenuity, the insight born of long experience will secure for him the POWER. Having obtained that, he will still have need of patience, constancy and unshakeable will. Brave and resolute, he will be enabled by the certainty and confidence born of a strong faith to DARE. Finally, when success has crowned so many years of labour, when his desires have been accomplished, the Wise Man, despising the vanities of the world, will draw near to the humble, the disinherited, to all those who work, suffer, struggle and weep here below. As an anonymous and dumb disciple of eternal Nature … he will remain faithful to his vow of silence. In Science, in Goodness, the Adept must evermore KEEP SILENT.

Three editions of Le Mystère des Cathédrales (or The Mystery of the Cathedrals), by Fulcanelli

Three editions of Le Mystère des Cathédrales (or The Mystery of the Cathedrals), by Fulcanelli

Bound, in many instances, by traditional vows of secrecy, it remains a point of honour for some initiates to maintain silence or, at the least, observe extreme discretion. Although many adepts and, indeed, students of alchemy would heartily endorse the validity of the continued obfuscation of the secrets of the Great Work from the broader public and the scientific community, lovers of the art are increasingly sharing their own opinions, unbound by oaths of membership of, and fealty to, any particular fraternal organisation, and viewing the supposed need for secrecy as a relic of the past. Reflective, to at least some degree, of the broader contemporary social phenomenon that is the erosion of privacy, such revelation or removal of the veil is seen by some as detrimental to the holy tradition of alchemy, and by others as integral not only to the preservation of the art, but to its recovery and restoration.

Lapidus, evidently, falls into the latter category of Philosophers by Fire. In his introduction to The Pass-Keys to Alchemy, he asserts that unless the art of alchemy is seriously investigated “it will forever remain a lost art” and that “This book … is indeed that which it claims to be, for it is the first time that such an alchemical treatise is written so clearly and truthfully … This book has been produced in an effort to clear up the seeming gibberish that writers have formed, and so to pave the way to study, and rearrange into a clear picture. It is fair to say that with the help provided, one might be amazed at the simplicity of this wonderful art, when it is known.”

Alchemists and Gold, by Jacques Sadoul (published by Neville Spearman Limited / G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1972)

Alchemists and Gold, by Jacques Sadoul (published by Neville Spearman Limited / G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1972)

In Alchemists and Gold, the erudite Jacques Sadoul writes that “An alchemist is said to be ‘grudging’ if he knowingly gives wrong information about his Art, and ‘generous’ if he reveals a truth.” By suggesting that The Pass-Keys to Alchemy – with its frank disclosure of great canonical secrets – could provide a starting point for serious alchemical investigations, Lapidus places himself among the ranks of the generous. By employing the structural approach that he has – which involves the quotation of extracts from renowned alchemical treatises by a range of authors, accompanied by insightful commentary and advice derived from decades of diligent toil in the laboratory – Lapidus with The Pass-Keys to Alchemy joins the likes of Dom Antoine-Joseph Pernety with his Dictionnaire mytho-hermétique (or Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary) and Dr. Sigismund Bacstrom with his Alchemical Anthology, both of which utilised a similar textual technique. By digesting the vast alchemical literature, disentangling the ingeniously knotted texts, presenting only the most essential passages drawn from the many thousands of volumes extant, and alerting the tyro to stumbling blocks and red herrings, Lapidus has done the student of alchemy a great service. As he did in his earlier published work, In Pursuit of Gold, Lapidus warns against the haphazard reading of too many alchemical books, in order to avoid confusion, and instead recommends the close study of his own generous writings, along with the texts of a limited number of acknowledged adepts (such as those detailed in the bibliography of In Pursuit of Gold), accompanied by practical experiment.

Lapidus continues in his introduction to The Pass-Keys to Alchemy that “This science of alchemy has been claimed to be just child’s play and a woman’s work: no doubt it is so, when the processes are known, but this can come true with patience and perseverance, and by trial and error in the experiments, as is usual in scientific investigation, and patience to await changes taking place … it is a fact that when one is conversant with the subject, it amounts to a natural simple process, carried out in metals.” That the whole of the alchemical work follows a purely natural process, and that the art can quicken the work of Nature – accomplishing within a year or even as little as a few months what Nature takes thousands of years or longer to achieve – is emphasised. Echoing Fulcanelli, among others, Lapidus writes that “[the alchemists] have always, in all their treatises repeated just set the conditions, and as in every other living thing, Nature will do the rest.”

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy … the ‘lost’ book of Lapidus, found

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy … the ‘lost’ book of Lapidus, found

Lapidus professes that, in the course of time, alchemy will not only be considered the most advanced knowledge of metals in existence, but that the art “will be called one of the greatest blessings to mankind in the form of a golden powder known as the Elixir of Life and the Philosophers Stone, the cure of most diseases that afflict mankind and could heal anyone, even on the point of death.”

In closing his introduction to The Pass-Keys to Alchemy, Lapidus highlights that “unlike so many other discoveries, which cost so much to carry on, alchemy and all that is necessary to carry on the work is well within the cost that an average person can stand. Space to experiment, a small room, and all the equipment and materials required can be bought for a few hundred pounds at most …” and that, although continuous heat is required, the acquisition and maintenance of such should not prove prohibitive to the pursuit of the Great Work. As Lapidus puts it: “… with close attention, patience and perseverance, in the experiments carried out, and with the teaching provided in this book, no serious researcher can fail to find the goal he is seeking.”

This post is extracted from Paul Hardacre’s 15,000+ word paper, ‘The Lost Book of Lapidus’, presented at the 2012 Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle. This professionally typeset, book-length paper is included gratis with every pre-order of The Pass-Keys to Alchemy.

The Pass-Keys to Alchemy is forthcoming via Salamander and Sons during December 2012.

Dark Spirits, Part Two: Austin Osman Spare

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Page spreads from Part Two of Dark Spirits

Page spreads from Part Two of Dark Spirits

Part Two of Dr. Nevill Drury’s much-anticipated Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare consists of three chapters examining the life, art, publishing ventures, sigil magic, and occult cosmology of the substantially misunderstood British visionary artist, Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956).

Chapter Four details the early life of Austin Osman Spare, a true Cockney born at home in Snowhill, near Smithfield, London, on 30 December 1886, within the sound of the bells of Saint Mary-le-Bow. From his relationship with his parents and siblings, to his teenage artistic emergence and early accolades – including being proclaimed a genius by John Singer Sargent, then President of the Royal Academy, and other notable artists of the day – to his study at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington and early bookplate commissions and illustrations, Drury sketches a life of Spare as an independent, eccentric urban visionary:

From his art student days onwards Spare always emphasised that he sought to be his own person, developing his own style, and he disliked being compared to other artists. In an anonymous article entitled ‘Boy Artist at the R.A.’ published in The Daily Chronicle during 1904 Spare was quoted as saying, ‘I never copy other people. I prefer to take my subjects from my own imagination and to draw them according to my ideas of what they should be.’

Acclaimed as the ‘darling of Mayfair’, and with his artworks receiving significant public attention, Spare turned his back on an unsuccessful marriage to the actress Eily Gertrude Shaw and “the ‘hypocrisy’ of the fashionable art set” and ventured into self-publishing numerous works including Earth: Inferno (265 numbered copies, 1905); A Book of Satyrs (300 copies, first edition 1907; 300 copies, second edition 1909); The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstasy (380 copies, 1913); The Focus of Life: The Mutterings of Aaos (650 copies, 1921), and Anathema of Zos: The Sermon to the Hypocrites (100 copies, 1927).

Despite being compared to notable graphic artists of the day, like Charles Ricketts (illustrator of Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx) and Harry Clarke (illustrator of Goethe’s Faust and Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination), Spare’s highly unconventional esoteric imagery was regarded by some as “medicine … too strong for the average man” and he was shunned by all but his most ardent friends and supporters – the latter including, most notably, the critic, editor, lyricist, translator, novelist, hymn writer, and poet Clifford Bax, with whom Spare co-edited a quarterly illustrated literary magazine entitled The Golden Hind; the journalist, drama critic and spiritualist Hannen Swaffer, with whom Spare would maintain a lifelong friendship; and his early patron Pickford Waller. Drury also elaborates upon Spare’s complex relationship with the so-called ‘Great Beast 666’ and self-styled messiah of the New Aeon, Aleister Crowley – a relationship which, he writes, “underwent dramatic shifts ranging from cordial friendship to passionate disdain.”

Drury describes how Spare “embraced his south London working class roots and maintained a series of studios in the Elephant and Castle region of The Borough,” and how during this period Spare created “an impressive body of realist portraits featuring ‘Southwark locals’,” along with “glamorous renditions of movie stars and celebrities, [painted] from existing photographs to create unusually slanted compositions that he referred to as ‘sidereal’ portraits.” Spare’s penchant for exhibiting his artwork in taverns or inns is also discussed:

Spare’s natural inclination to exhibit in popular drinking houses – a characteristic he shared with Rosaleen Norton – is indicative of his total lack of pretension during this phase of his life. With the Golders Green period now well behind him, he felt very much at home with ordinary run-of-the-mill workers, and this may be another reason why he eventually tired of Aleister Crowley who was, by contrast, very much an elitist and in no sense a man of the common people.

Having “suffered through a heavy German air raid which damaged his arm and utterly destroyed his studio in Walworth Road, along with much of surrounding Southwark,” during May 1941, Spare lived the rest of his days in Brixton with a female companion, Ada Millicent Pain. He exhibited works in London in November 1947 (paintings), October-November 1955 (paintings and drawings), and during 1952 and 1953. These would, however, be the last exhibitions of his lifetime. On 09 May 1956 Spare was rushed to hospital with a burst appendix, dying six days later due to complications arising from extensive abdominal inflammation.

Page spreads from Chapter Four of Dark Spirits

Page spreads from Chapter Four of Dark Spirits

Chapter Five consist of an extensive analysis of Spare’s Zos / Kia cosmology. According to Drury:

… Spare uses his concept of Kia to refer to the primal, cosmic life force which can be channelled into the human organism, Zos. In one of his later esoteric texts Spare refers to the life force as ‘a potency’, – and his magical technique for arousing the elemental energies latent within this life potency – a technique he termed ‘atavistic resurgence’  – involved focusing upon magical sigils which he employed as vehicles of his magical will. When the mind was in what Spare called a ‘void’ or open state – achieved, for example, through meditation, exhaustion or at the peak of sexual ecstasy – magical sigils could be used to send ‘commands’ to the subconscious mind. Later, these magical commands would be intentionally forgotten in order to remove them from conscious awareness but, in the meantime, according to Spare they would ‘grow’ within the seedbed of the subconscious mind until they became ‘ripe’ and manifested once again in the familiar world of conscious reality, thereby achieving the magician’s initial intent.

Spare’s magical philosophy is thoroughly examined, with influences ranging from archetypal mythic imagery from ancient Egypt and a fascination with the sexual energies of the subconscious mind to Taoism and the ‘reification’ of ideas and thoughts to visible, sometimes even tangible, appearance. The central importance of the ‘void moment’ to Spare’s magical process is also discussed, alongside his Death Posture technique and “creation and use of ‘sentient’ magical sigils that could act as vehicles or ‘messengers’ to the subconscious mind.” Spare’s influence upon the Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros – often simply known as The Pact, or the IOT – and subsequent role as ‘grandfather’ of Chaos Magick is also described.

Page spreads from Chapter Five of Dark Spirits

Page spreads from Chapter Five of Dark Spirits

In addition to developing his concept of the Death Posture and the Zos / Kia cosmology, Spare also explored the spontaneous creative process of automatic drawing. In his exposition upon Spare’s automatic art in Chapter Six of Dark Spirits, Drury writes:

It has been argued that Spare can legitimately claim to be the first Surrealist artist because his earliest atavistic artworks preceded the 1924 Paris Surrealist Manifesto by at least a decade … his attraction to automatic drawing is directly linked to the psychic automata, or elementals, which he believed surrounded him at all times.

The contents of the two major limited edition collections of Spare’s automatic art published since his death in 1956 – A Book of Automatic Drawing (Catalpa Press, London, 1972) and The Book of Ugly Ecstasy (Fulgur, London, 1996) – inform Drury’s critique of Spare as an artist now acknowledged as one of the key figures of the 20th century Western magical revival and one of its most original thinkers.

Page spreads from Chapter Six of Dark Spirits

Page spreads from Chapter Six of Dark Spirits

A seventh chapter sets out the parallels between the trance states associated with the Zos / Kia cosmology of Spare and the trance magic of the Australian visionary artist Rosaleen Norton.

Some copies of Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare remain available. Both the Deluxe Edition and the standard hardcover edition will be published on 05 December 2012 in order to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of Rosaleen Norton’s death.

In Pursuit of Lapidus

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By late 2009, the identity of Lapidus had already been disclosed – albeit rather discretely – in one of the more than 800 tables included in Stephen Skinner’s 2006 Tabularum Magicarum (or The Complete Magician’s Tables), where the pseudonym Lapidus was followed in brackets by the name David Curwen.

Although opinions regarding both Lapidus and his In Pursuit of Gold have varied widely since 1976, interest in both has remained, and during 2011 a revised, expanded and in some instances corrected edition of In Pursuit of Gold was published by Salamander and Sons. In his foreword to this second edition, Stephen Skinner elaborates upon his role in bringing In Pursuit of Gold to print, details the various others involved – including Neville Armstrong (then managing director of Neville Spearman Limited) and Stephen’s close friend Graham Knight – and shares his impressions of David Curwen, the man behind the Lapidus nom de plume. Stephen also describes how, in due course, he met David Curwen’s grandson, Tony Matthews.

The second edition of In Pursuit of Gold: Alchemy Today in Theory and Practice – the cover artwork was designed by Marissa Newell

The second edition of In Pursuit of Gold: Alchemy Today in Theory and Practice – the cover artwork was designed by Marissa Newell

A writer, editor and local historian, Tony Matthews contributed an extensive biographical essay entitled ‘Lapidus Unveiled’ towards the second edition of In Pursuit of Gold. Tony elucidates upon the man he knew as his grandfather, not only regarding his “lifetime of involvement in esoteric activities, including the study and practice of alchemy” and the origins of the name Lapidus, but also his Lithuanian Jewish family roots, early life, military service, and business pursuits, and the interconnectedness of these areas to his esoteric aspirations. From his birth as David Cohen at 8:00 p.m. on 10 April 1893 in the East End of London, one of eight children in all, and the youngest of four sons, to his death at a nursing home at Hemel Hempsted on 30 December 1984, aged 91, the life story of David Curwen is a fascinating one.

‘Lapidus Unveiled’ by Tony Matthews details the life of David Curwen (10 April 1893 – 30 December 1984)

‘Lapidus Unveiled’ by Tony Matthews details the life of David Curwen (10 April 1893 – 30 December 1984)

When the esoteric aspects of Curwen’s life are also considered – including his “close personal contact with the theosophists and occult thinkers of the early 20th century; with Indian gurus pursuing insight on higher planes; with Aleister Crowley and his Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.); with the inner secrets of Freemasonry, and finally with the works of the great alchemists since the Middle Ages” – his life story becomes not only fascinating, but utterly compelling. Those interested in Curwen’s correspondence with the Great Beast 666 – including their discussions on “alchemy, yoga and the tantric practices on which [Curwen] was an authority,” and Crowley’s incessant pressing upon Curwen for money – are referred to the excellent Brother Curwen, Brother Crowley: A Correspondence, edited and with an introduction by Henrik Bogdan, and with a foreword by Tony Matthews, published by The Teitan Press during 2010. The book also examines David Curwen’s influence upon Kenneth Grant, via his ongoing advice to Grant regarding tantric practices.

Brother Curwen,A Brother Crowley: A Correspondence (The Teitan Press, 2010)

Brother Curwen,A Brother Crowley: A Correspondence (The Teitan Press, 2010)

The second edition of In Pursuit of Gold also includes facsimiles of correspondence between David Curwen and the renowned alchemical historians Frank Sherwood Taylor (1897-1956) and Eric John Holmyard (1891-1959). At the time of the correspondence, during the 1950s, Taylor was then “director of the Science Museum in London and a founder of the Society for the Study of Alchemy and Early Chemistry.” A translator of Arabic and Latin texts, Holmyard was then chairman of the Society, and his “scholarly writings included accounts of the history of alchemy in relation to Islamic science.”

Letter from F. Sherwood Taylor to David Curwen, 01 August 1952

Letter from F. Sherwood Taylor to David Curwen, 01 August 1952

Letter from E.J. Holmyard to David Curwen, 09 August 1957

Letter from E.J. Holmyard to David Curwen, 09 August 1957

Also featured in the second edition of In Pursuit of Gold are numerous oil paintings by Curwen who “saw painting as a suitable medium for expressing his occult and spiritual ideas … from the 1950s until the early 1970s he painted many works in oil, sometimes giving a face to the unseen forces he believed to be directing the destinies of mankind.” Of his grandfather’s paintings Tony Matthews writes:

He portrayed the transmigration of souls in several works, seen variously from the perspectives of the contented and the despairing, from those seeking lost ones at séances and those struggling to hold back the inevitable march of time. He painted living worlds and dead ones, in one work contrasting life on Earth with the lifelessness of the Moon, revolving eternally in the cosmos. They were distinctly disturbing works, certainly not to everyone’s taste, but they reflected David’s own tortured soul and lifelong insecurity.

The Earth is Man’s Domain (The Ring Pass Not), David Curwen, year unknown, oil on canvas, 59.5 x 50 cm

The Earth is Man’s Domain (The Ring Pass Not), David Curwen, year unknown, oil on canvas, 59.5 x 50 cm

The address of David Curwen’s – or perhaps that should be Lapidus’ – laboratory in London is also disclosed in the second edition of In Pursuit of Gold.

And so, we finally come to The Pass-Keys to Alchemy. More posts will follow on this ‘lost’ book of Lapidus … found after 30 years!

Dark Spirits, Part One: Rosaleen Norton

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Part One of Dr. Nevill Drury’s long-awaited Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare consists of three chapters elaborating upon the life, magical cosmology, trance magic, and occult visions the notorious (or, some might say, notoriously unknown) Australian visionary artist Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979).

Chapter One offers a thorough portrayal of the 62 years of life of Rosaleen Miriam Norton, known to her friends as ‘Roie’ – from her birth during a violent thunderstorm in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 02 October 1917, to her death at the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Hospice for the Dying at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, on 05 December 1979. Norton’s childhood and adolescence – including family life and school – are detailed and discussed, along with her love of animals (her many pets included “an assortment of cats, lizards, mice, guinea pigs, a possum, an echidna, a goat, tortoises, dogs, and various toads” – spiders too), her early creative urges, and eventual enrollment at East Sydney Technical College, where she studied art for two years under the tutelage of the noted sculptor and head of the art school, Rayner Hoff. In an article published in The Australasian Post during February 1957, Norton said of her mentor:

He [Hoff] freed me from routine and let me spend my time at figure drawing and composition … and since for the first time I was encouraged to work continuously at my own art form, I became an exemplary student.

Drury details Norton’s stint as a cadet journalist and art model; her marriage to Beresford Conroy and relationship with her frater philosophicus, the poet Gavin Greenlees; the controversial exhibition at the Rowden White Library at the University of Melbourne, and publication of Norton’s and Greenlees’ collaborative work, The Art of Rosaleen Norton; her run-ins with police and judiciary, including vagrancy charges, obscenity trials (one magistrate deemed Norton’s artworks “obscene and an offence to chastity and delicacy”) and censorship, and being falsely accused – on more than one occasion – of holding a ‘Black Mass’ at her flat in Sydney’s Kings Cross; her scandalous relationship with the English-born orchestral musician and conductor, Eugene Goossens, and flaunting of the popular image of herself as the ‘Witch of Kings Cross’ during the 1950s and 1960s; and her almost complete obscurity and physical decline during the 1970s.

Page spreads from Chapter One of Dark Spirits

Page spreads from Chapter One of Dark Spirits

Chapter Two delves into Norton’s magical cosmology, including how her assertion that she was born a witch – replete with a range of bodily peculiarities she equated with ‘witch marks’ – informed her personal and artistic development, magical practice, and her belief in Pan-as-All, the metaphysical being who, in her view, ruled the world. Of the development of her instinctual ritual desire, Norton once remarked:

If the Kingdom of Pan had always been with me, it had been mostly in the background, overlaid by what was called reality: Now it had begun to emerge and pervade the latter. Awareness grew stronger and stronger that the tedious world of childhood didn’t really matter, because this held the essence of all that called to my inmost being: Night and wild things and mystery; storms; being by myself, free of other people. The sense of some deep hidden knowledge stirring at the back of consciousness; and all about me the feeling of secret sentient life, that was in alliance with me, but that others were unaware, or afraid of, because it was unhuman. So my first act of ceremonial magic was in honour of the horned god, whose pipes are symbol of magic and mystery, and whose horns and hooves stand for natural energies and fleet-footed freedom: And this rite was also my oath of allegiance and my confirmation as a witch. I remember my feelings on that occasion well, and they are valid today: If Pan is the ‘Devil’ (and the joyous goat-god probably is from the orthodox viewpoint) then I am indeed a ‘Devil’ worshipper.

According to Drury:

Norton’s cosmology is based upon an understanding that Nature and the cosmos are innately sacred. Divinity is ‘divided’ into a number of gods and goddesses, and these ruling deities – headed by Pan – are able to exist and function in more than one dimension of reality. Norton’s concept of a hierarchy of spirits headed by Pan – ‘whose body … is the … Earth’ – is reminiscent of the ancient Gnostic archons who were thought to rule different regions of the heavens, while also maintaining governance of the Earth. Archons were celestial rulers – ‘gate-keepers’ guarding entry to the higher spheres – and their powers transcended and encompassed all aspects of human activity. In Norton’s conception, Pan equated with the totality of human experience and existence – although she expanded his reach to embrace the totality, or ‘ground’, of all being. In a sense Pan, for her, embodied and represented the furthest reaches of the sacred universe – extending to infinity in all directions. It is all the more remarkable that Norton began to develop this concept of Pan while she was still an adolescent …

Drury expounds upon the other ancient deities and supernatural entities that provided inspiration and guidance to Norton – prominent among them Hecate, Lilith and Lucifer, the latter in his role as ‘The Adversary’. The role that a number of other magical beings from different cultural traditions – such as Bucentauro, Eloi, Makalath, Fohat, Erzulie, the Dubouros, Val, Kephena, Borzorygmus, Mwystingel, and Trudgepig – played in Norton’s eclectic and idiosyncratic pantheon is discussed, as is her ‘Familiar Spirit-in-Chief’ Janicot (a being she knew by many different names, including the Monk, Frater Asmodeus and Brother Hilarian). Norton’s knowledge and experiences of the sephiroth and qliphoth – including her terrifying encounter with the Werplon entity – are considered alongside her experiments with self-hypnosis, trance states and magical techniques of invocation. Discussion of Norton’s concept of the magical universe also features prominently in the second chapter of Dark Spirits.

Page spreads from Chapter Two of Dark Spirits

Page spreads from Chapter Two of Dark Spirits

Chapter Three examines how Norton incorporated elements from her magical practice into her visionary art –from her early compositions which “drew more upon graphic styles associated with popular conceptions of ghouls, demons and disembodied spirits …” to her more artistically accomplished and ‘authentic’ (in the sense that her art drew increasingly upon her personal mystical and trance experiences) work of the late 1940s and early 1950s, to her “increasingly more lurid and garish” works “crudely executed in oils” during the 1960s and 1970s. This chapter alone features 15 of Norton’s artworks (including four in full colour) with extensive annotations, and Drury’s expertise as an author and publisher of books on contemporary art is apparent.

Page spreads from Chapter Three of Dark Spirits

Page spreads from Chapter Three of Dark Spirits

And where does Austin Osman Spare fit into all this? Part Two of Dark Spirits – consisting of three chapters devoted to Spare – will be described in a later post.

Some copies of Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare remain available. Both the Deluxe Edition and the standard hardcover edition will be published on 05 December 2012 in order to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of Rosaleen Norton’s death.

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