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Aesch Mezareph

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The Purifying Fire is perhaps the first Kabbalistic text on Alchemy, that attempts to combine the two systems. The extant version is a Latin translation and intepretation by Knorr von Rosenroth, forming part of his Kabalah Denudata published in Sulsbach in 1677-84.

Rosenroth was the first European occultist to extend the Rennaissance interest in Jewish Kabbalah and make it not only compatable with Christianity, as the Italians had done, but integrate it fully into the contemporary Hermeticism of his time. His work had a major influence on the Rosicrucian court at Sulsbach, and in particular on the 18th century Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross, through whom the ideas were passed on to the Occult Revival of the 19th century and its Neo-Rosicrucian Orders (including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn).

The Kabalah Denudata consists mostly of portions of the Zohar translated from Aramaic into Latin, familiar to modern readers as the source of MacGregor Mathers' The Book of Concealed Mystery, The Greater Holy Assembly and The Lesser Holy Assembly. It ends with the Aesch Mezareph, which W. W. Westcott translated from Latin to English following the success of Mathers' work. According to Westcott it was still extant in Aramaic in his time and was once found accompanied by the lost Chaldean Book of Numbers refered to by Madame Blavatsky. The first English version was probably translated by Thomas Vaughan.

The text itself attributes Alchemy to the prophet Elisha, whose name reduces to 411 or 6, as it says does the word Tohu or Void. This prophet was a healer, who healed Naaman (of the North) by immersing him seven times in the Jordan (running North to South) and purified with the power of Salt, he also had the power to raise the dead. He was the disciple of Elijah, who ascended to heaven and became the angel Metatron. All of this is given alchemical significance in the text. Thus Elisha appears to be both the archetypal alchemist and the root of the work. The text continues in this opaque, metaphorical style, drawing on grammatia, Biblical reference and the Zohar. It describes how metals are to be purified by Mineral Water or Mercury (associated with the River Jordan, as Salt is with the Dead Sea and Sulphur is with the Red Sea, from which the Salt of Wisdom is extracted and through which Solomon gathered Gold), all through the agency of a transforming Sulphurous Fire. The purified metals (archetypally Gold, though the work is not focused on any particular metal) make the alchemist rich and and bring him a horde of treasure. Though it is made clear this is the Treasure of the South (Natural Wisdom) not the Treasure of the North (Material Wealth). These directions seem to reflect the Egyptian practise of placing north at the bottom of a map and south at the top.

The work proceeds by defining each of the seven metals and alchemical principles in terms of the ten Sepheroth, each with its own correspondences and magic square or kamea.

What is interesting for the modern reader is that the author states that the set of correspondences he gives is just one, and others are equally valid, the truth being a mysterious thing. "If any hath placed these things in another order, I shall not contend with him, in as much as all systems tend to the one truth". He then gives an alternative set of attributions:

        Primary Attributions                          Secondary Attributions
        Metallic Root - Kether                         Quicksilver - Kether
           Lead - Chokmah                                 Salt - Chokmah  
            Tin - Binah                                  Sulphur - Binah  
           Silver - Chesed                                Silver - Chesed               
            Gold - Geburah                                Gold - Geburah
            Iron - Tiphereth                              Iron - Tiphereth
        Brass - Hod and Netzach                              Tin - Hod
           Mercury - Yesod                                Copper - Netzach
          Medicine - Malkuth                                Lead - Yesod
                                                      Metallic Woman - Malkuth

The text goes onto suggest the equivalence of systems is explicable due to the fact that each metal and principle is actually found in every sepheroth and each system reveals a set of aspects.

It then connects each metal with each sepheroth through the usual obtuse mix of Biblical quotation and grammatia, revealing how the metal has different form in each sphere. Though suggests it has a proper place in one. The process of purification of the metal is described in a mix of alchemical and Qabbalistic symbolism, sometimes as a passage through the aspects and sepheroth, though not consistantly.

One guarded mystery in the symbolism appears to involve the Qlippoth which are seen as four fold entities within matter, paralleling the elements (equated here with Sulphur, Aether, Quicksilver and Salt), the letters and the worlds. These are linked to primeval Edomic forces, associated with the North (Naaman is also linked with Naamah), Geburah and Gold. Thus making them a beginning and an end.

Whether the synthesis of Kabbalism and Alchemy actually helps either is an open question by the end of the text.

An appendix to the modern translation also gives suggestive Hebrew names for alchemical terms.

Thel (ThL) - Dew, Melach - Salt, Mug - Solve, Qba - Coagula, Adam - Red, Aretz - Matter.

The full text can be found here : http://www.alchemywebsite.com/aesch.html

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