Rosicrucian Alchemy as Another Version of the Magnum Opus
Dear friends and readers,
This blog post explores the realm of Rosicrucian alchemy, and triggers a debate concerning how much of that alchemy is supposed to be based on outer laboratory alchemy or internal work.
I question if Rosicrucian alchemy really is the same as the broader Royal Art?
Few people have actually defined Rosicrucian alchemy within its own context. Instead most authors draw upon the broader range of available materials. Here we’ll look at alchemy within the context of source materials only, so as to specifically define the Rosicrucian Royal Art.
At present I’m also writing the alchemy section for the Golden Dawn Review.
A critical question arose during the process: Not only do we need to compare what the original G.D did in terms of alchemical work, but we also need to see how that compares to actual Rosicrucian alchemy. In previous reviews of Amorc and the Martinist Order I’ve stated that alchemy must be present for any organization to really call itself Rosicrucian.
Now I feel this is not enough. Not all alchemy is equal.
After all, did the Rosicrucians really even mean laboratory alchemy? Did they mean making some sort of elixir or powder that would help one achieve immortality? Is what modern Rosicrucian Orders doing even in line with what the original Rosicrucians intended? Have they lost their way?
Narrowing Down to Rosicrucian Source Documents
It would be all to easy to discuss the wide array of alchemy, documents and practices. But not all alchemical authors meant the same thing, or offered the same process. Some alchemical documents are images only, as if by unlocking their meaning we might find the Philosophers Stone.
It is has always been clear that alchemy has two natures: an operative art and a psycho-spiritual.
But none of this helps us unless we look at these arts through the Rosicrucian lens.
As with my other posts we should only consider early Rosicrucian documents.
This means ignoring everything else. The lens then however becomes quite narrow, as the early Rosicrucian documents appear within a very narrow timeframe, 1611 to about 1618.
This phase represents the early ‘authentic’ R.C period. The later phases are of no use to us for our enquiry. This also includes the much glorified Golden Rosenkreuzer phase for rejection.
This leaves us with the FOUR main manifestos:
- The Reformation of the Whole Wide World by Order of Apollo.
- The Fama Fraternitatis.
- The Confessio Rosae Crucis.
- The Chemical Wedding of C.R.C
The Primacy of the Pansophic Manifestos
After that there are also three more secondary manifestos:
- The Pandora of the Sixth Age 1617.
- The Mirror of Wisdom of the Rosy Cross 1618.
- The Pegasus of the Firmament 1620.
These three documents are by Daniel Mogling. By rights they should actually be considered as Rosicrucian manifestos, or as the most AUTHORATIVE commentaries/expansions to the original manifestos. Most people have ignored them in their Rosicrucian studies. That’s stupid.
This is why in my own Pansophic Order we have seven manifestos, and NOT three.
There are several reasons why these have primacy (after the manifestos) in RC studies.
The first reason is their use of Pansophy. JV Andrea and his circle not only wrote the first three manifestos but they also clearly made use of Pansophy in private letters. I’ve written quite a bit about Pansophy, but for new readers Pansophy comes in three forms:
- A Utopian Quest for a Golden Age.
- An Educational Thesaurus Model of the Universe.
- A Hermetic Rendition of Boehme’s Sophianic Theosophy.
The first one of these is based on establishing a Christian utopia, or at least a Hermetic one depending on which version you read, Bruno’s, Campanella’s or Andrea’s. The second is thought to be a education system from Comenius, BUT it’s really a means to arrive to utopia, coupled with a universal divine language. The third of these is an alchemical mysticism, and sees Boehme’s mysticism through pagan images, for example the Sophia of Boehme becomes the Venus figure who appears in the Chemical Wedding. In short Pansophy is both utopian and alchemical.
Now, in letters between Andrea and Comenius there is plenty of mention of Pansophy, so we know the manifesto writers were working on it internally amongst themselves.
Outwardly they wrote the first three manifestos,
the Fama, Confessio and Wedding as a kind of exoteric Rosicrucian statement, but inwardly they were calling their ESOTERIC system:
‘Pansophy the Wisdom of the Rosy Cross.’
Thus the three Pansophic manifestos are expansions of the earlier works, providing us with the ACTUAL mysticism of Rosicrucians, which was not elaborated upon before.
Let’s be clear here. The mysticism of the R.C is not really clear in the three original manifestos. There is mention of alchemy, Cabalah, magic to some degree. BUT, they mostly are allegories and the actual practices or any in depth applications remain veiled.
Daniel Mogling’s Pansophic manifestos are supremely important for two reasons:
Firstly they show insider access to information known only to the manifesto writer circle (Thubingen circle). In doing so they must be seen as an extension of the three original manifestos. Not only do they mention Pansophy directly, but several insights prove their connection.
For example, the Fama was based upon the Italian ‘Reformation of the Whole Wide World by Order of by Apollo’ document. That document was further based on Bruno’s version, which mentions Apollo’s appointed Pegasus in the Firmament, awaiting him for the day of reformation. Moglings third document is called the ‘Pegasus of the Firmament.’ In fact the Apollo document having these symbols and the last document of the Pegasus make for a complete series, start to finish.
Furthermore, the Chemical Wedding was based on another earlier document titled the Hypnoerotmachia, where also Venus appears. Mogling’s version of his Pegasus document also draws on other elements from the same document, such as the Temple of Wisdom, which are left out in the Chemical Wedding, thus proving insider knowledge to source documents and workings.
What these points prove is that the Pansophic manifestos are a RELIABLE source.
(I might also add here that the myth of Andrea writing the wedding as a boy is a story that should be discarded. While he did write a story of a Christian knight, the original story was more akin to the Fairy Queen legend, and later in his adult life these elements from the Hypnoerotmachia were added. It simply is not possible that a boy wrote such a multi layered document drawing from so much literature. People really out to stop repeating the ‘Andrea as a boy wrote it’ story.)
The second reason for the primacy of the Pansophic manifestos is simple: they give the actual operative alchemical system and schedule of study for Rosicrucian students. Really.
While the first three manifestos are very symbolic, especially the Fama and Wedding, though the Confessio does tell us some rules and aims of the Order. Still we are left with little actual instruction for becoming a proper Rosicrucian student ourselves.
On the other hand the Pansophic manifestos tell us exactly which books to read and study, which authors to ignore and disregard as false, and which alchemical authors in particular to pay attention to. The Pegasus outlines this in particular.
Given the insider knowledge present in the Mogling documents we, as Rosicrucian students, should take the advice given in the Pansophic manifestos quite seriously.
The Pansophic manifestos show that the Rosicrucians
basically left us with a reading list to bring us up to scratch.
What’s more it provides the operative alchemical system of initiation.
Yep, you read that right, the keys to alchemy, or at least an inner alchemy, are all there.
What the Source Documents Say on R+C Alchemy
Now, the first manifesto is explicit in its statements against broader alchemy.
The Fama directly attacks the ‘godless and accursed art of gold making.’ But still the Fama goes on to say that gold making is possible, but is rather a byproduct (Parergon) rather than their main work (Ergon). So far we are not entirely sure if outer laboratory alchemy is to be disregarded though.
The remaining parts of the manifestos don’t help in defining the exact art of the R.C. Now we must turn to the Pansophic manifestos because we know that they are a RELIABLE source of information.
The Pegasus tells us to pay attention to Michael Maier. That is quite interesting because Maier practiced outer laboratory alchemy. But;
Michael Maier was also the first person
to coin the word Spiritual Alchemy
Spiritual alchemy as a term has be thrown around a lot, so much so that its best to avoid its use. Today spiritual alchemy can mean anything, from Jung to Kundalini Yoga. But, we do know that Maier certainly meant something other than outer laboratory work.
Now, our very best resource is the Pandora manifesto itself.
It goes on to elaborate two key ideas; the Ergon and the Parergon.
The later term appears in the Fama:
‘That the true Philosophers are far of another minde, esteeming little the making of Gold, which is but a parergon; for besides that they have a thousand better things.‘
Now, the Pandora also offers the All Important KEY.
That key is this diagram and its meaning outlined in the Pandora document.
The upper part of the diagram contains the word ‘Ergon’ which translates to mean ‘work’ and the lower has ‘Parergon’ means byproduct. But these are the Greek equivalent to what is the Opus, or work.. rather Magnum Opus, and Parergon as ‘para-ergon’ means secondary, subordinate or incidental work, and has been used at times to denote something trifling along the way which might be picked up in the process of reaching the true prize.
When the manifestos apply Parergon to gold making they intended to instill pious motivations for their alchemy. Consider that while Maier did laboratory alchemy all of his work was dedicated to the creation of effective chemical medicines for the healing of the sick.
But all of that remains the Parergon, and not the Ergon or Great Work.
The image was the title page for the Mirror of Wisdom of the Rosy Cross. Both the Mirror and the Pandora elaborate on its teaching. The first thing we should point out is that it is actually an elaboration of Khunrath’s famous alchemist image showing the Ora of the Labora.
Let’s really look at the above diagram.
On top of the hill stands a tabernacle, showing the four letter name of God. The alchemist is titled ‘cum Deo’ which means ‘with God. More importantly the word Ergon appears, telling us that the Great Work is a spiritual alchemy, achieved through prayer and mysticism.
Below the hill we find the Parergon, (lettered around the angel) or secondary work, being undertaken.
There are two caves or openings for the Parergon. On the left the Soul Alchemy is portrayed and on the right we find Physical Alchemy. These two caves or grottos are quite important.
The left side of the soul alchemy shows a male figure wading through the waters of the unconscious. It clearly shows a process of purification as denoted by the garments in the tub which are being washed. Importantly there is a dawning sun, a Golden Dawn, in that grotto.
On the right the domain of physical alchemy is covered. We see a furnace, vessels and the figure clasp the flask to his CHEST, as if to say that the transmutation occurs over the heart, or at least that the vessels of alchemy might apply to the body, organs and inner physical systems.
I might add that the letters T.S.C are Theophilus Schweighart Constantiensem, which was a pen name for Daniel Mogling.
Now, unlike the left figure which is in the sun, the right hand figure is in a DARK cave, indicating some sort of limitation or crude element to the outer work. Notice also that the word ‘Labora’ is in the left cave written upon the book next to the lake, while the Ora appears above the hill.
ALL IMPORTANT to our figure is the winged female Sophia.
She represents the spiritual potential for the alchemist, as notice the solar and lunar potential forces merging into her, creating a kind of pregnancy. Most people know that by merging the sun and moon in alchemy you create a Mercury, but here a pregnancy occurs.
Taoist alchemy also creates a divine child within the subtle forces of the inner alchemist. Boehme also states that when we achieve the Virgin in his own mysticism then Sophia will become pregnant in us and give birth to a child Christ within, making us ‘sons of God’ again.
Adam McLean also relates this Sophianic figure to the Parergon, or physical alchemy as well.
That describes the diagram as far as we may see by observation. Fortunately the Pansophic manifestos spend a lot of time explaining its meaning and here it gets interesting.
Pansophic Inner Alchemy
Mogling’s Pandora is also titled the Mirror of Grace, where his other is titled the Mirror of Wisdom. On the cover page he tells us that the Mirror of Grace applies to the body and perfect health.
In chapter 1 we read ‘Seek God first of all: seek first the Kingdom of GOD, and let that be your Ergon and your beginning in the Rosicrucian philosophy.’
In chapter 2 he tells us: ‘God shows you the path that you must follow if you are to take care of both your soul and your body, namely “Love thy neighbour”. But how exactly do you do that?
Go into yourself, contemplate your whole fabric and artificial structure as the Heavenly Father gave it to you when He formed you after the image of the Microcosm and… Compare it with the Macrocosm.’ Truly esoteric, he applied the ‘love thy neighbour’ teaching to the body.
Now, brilliantly chapter 3 tells us: ‘How to combine the two forms of cognition (Ergon/Parergon) in a Pansophical concordance’ then giving the ultimate KEY ‘In Chapter 1 you learned about the Ergon, which is the primary goal and objective of the whole Art, while Chapter II showed you how to implement the Parergon: you must arrange this in such a way that it is in complete tune and melody with the Microcosm, the Macrocosm and the Ergon.’
Thus he says the Ergon (Great Work) and Parergon (Secondary) apply to worship and some cosmic art to do with the body and its health, whereby the soul must love it as its neighbour. In his own way Mogling is letting the secrets of the brotherhood out of the box, hence he calls it the Pandora.
The remainder of the treatise offers two letters he addressed to the R.C apparently from before he found them and a Rosicrucian allegory. The next treatise is even more telling.
The Mirror of Wisdom of the Rosy Cross is the actual treatise for the above mystical image.
Now if you actually read the Mirror of Wisdom carefully Mogling tells us outright that the College of the Rosy Cross, its actual location, is a place with no windows or doors, and yet is right under your nose, and is the place where all the mysticism of the Rosicrucians is carried out.
Need I really say more? Read the chapter for yourself 🙂
Of the image of Sophia and her pregnancy in the image we read ‘Thou shalt see its theory in the figure on the page: His father Sun (which Trismegistus says), Mother Moon; he bore the wind in his belly, his nurse is the earth. This is the matter and subject of our philosophy or of our general physiology.‘ PHYSIOLOGY…
Lastly there is one more indications that speaks against the actual practice of laboratory alchemy for the making of the Philosophers Stone. He mentions that the entire figure of the hill also represents a skull. The two caves are eyes. He says that through the right eye man can ‘see into eternity’ but through the left eye man can see into ‘time and creatures.’
Here the right eye is the man in the waters, doing some sort of purification of his ‘outer garment’ which is being washed, and the right eye is the alchemist laboratory, which is not only darkened but by relating it to time indicates that the outer alchemical work is limited and not eternal.
He also states that without achieving the Ergon no success can be had in the Parergon.
My conclusion is that Rosicrucian alchemy is in fact an internal art of alchemy, which should be used throughout the body, using its natural forces and correspondences to the universe.
Several Rosicrucian bodies do this, particularly those using the Arcana Arcanorum, which involves sexual energies in the art of regeneration, creating both a lunar and solar body.
But Mogling directly tells us that Rosicrucian alchemy is a very different art indeed.
In Chapter 2 of the Mirror of Wisdom he warns us not to read the writings of ‘all and sundry’ naming even Ramon Lully and Paracelsus, and writes in order to steer the reader from the broad array of authorities in this ‘literary empire’ and proceed instead ‘in a Rosicrucian manner.’
This has been the point of this entire post.
Is Rosicrucian alchemy really internal?
You be the judge. I think he opened Pandora’s Box on the real secret.