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Know more about Eirenaeus Philalethes | News and views about people around the world | Our first look at a New World alchemist. We look at Eirenaeus Philalethes and the person behind the name, George Starkey. He’s one of the. Philalethes, Eirenaeus: Collectanea Chymica: A Collection of Ten Several Treatises in Chymistry, Concerning The Liquor Alkahest, The Mercury of Philosophers.

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Eirenaeus Philalethes et Carl Jung. Jung argued that alchemy, viewed as a diachronic, trans-cultural entity, was concerned more with psychological states occurring in the mind of the practitioner than with real chemical processes. In the course of elucidating this idea, Jung draws on a number of alchemical authors from the early modern period. One of these is Eirenaeus Eirebaeus, the pen name of George Starkeya native of Bermuda who was educated at Harvard College, and who later immigrated to London.

A careful analysis of Starkey ‘s work shows, however, that Jung was entirely wrong in his assessment of this important representative of seventeenth-century alchemy. This finding casts serious doubt on the Jungian interpretation as a whole. Eirenaeus Philalethes and Carl Jung. The reader familiar with alchemical literature will know very well the obscurity in which many practitioners of the art veiled their ideas.

Eirenaeus Philalethes (George Starkey)

Indeed, the figurative language of these texts is such. According to Jung and his followers, the seventeenth-century alchemists were concerned less with chemical reactions than with psychic states taking place within the consciousness of the practitioner. In the Jungian view, alchemical practice was a form of ecstatic experience, closely allied to mysticism and religious revelation. Indeed, the German school of the historiography of alchemy — above all Julius Ruska and E.

Their arguments have been furthered in more recent years by scholars such as Robert Halleux.

Given the rejection of Jung by such serious historians of alchemy, one could view yet another critique of phillaethes psychological approach as being otiose. Several phiilalethes publications reveal, however, that the Jungian model for alchemy is still alive and well.

The most striking of these is Marco Beretta’s work, The Enlightenment of matter, which uses Jung to excise alchemy from the historical progression of chemistry leading from the sixteenth century up to Lavoisier 5. A far less dogmatic view, but one that still gives credence to the Jungian model, may be found in the new Norton History of chemistry by William H. Brock, unlike Beretta, makes a serious — and largely successful — attempt to deal with alchemical literature.

George Starkey – Wikipedia

Moreover, a full-blown exposition and apology for the Eirenaeys model may be found in Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs’ Foundations of Newton’s alchemy, which, though published inis still widely influential 8. It is clear, then, that Carl Jung is even today a force to be firenaeus with in the historiography of alchemy.

I refer to the corpus of Eirenaeus Philalethes, whom I have elsewhere proven to have been no other than George Starkey, a native of Pgilalethes and phipalethes graduate of Harvard College A. Since Philalethes occupies such a prominent place in Jung’s interpretation of alchemy at large, an assault on the Jungian analysis of Philalethes will therefore bring the whole enterprise of his psychologizing view of alchemy into question.

Let us begin this undertaking with a bit of background material. From its very introduction into Europe in the 12th century, alchemical literature had employed verbal conceits to express itself. As Barbara Obrist has shown in her pioneering study of alchemical imagery, however, it was only during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that this imagistic language came to be translated into actual illuminations Thus the birth of the alchemical figura in pictorial form coincided with the nascent appropriation of vitalism and prophecy by the alchemical theory of the late Middle Ages.

Needless to say, the cult of emblems in early modern Europe only encouraged this trend, so that an alchemist such as Michael Maier, physician to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, composed actual collections of alchemical emblemata, in which he proposed to give alchemical interpretations to the bulk of Greek mythology Starkey too had a high appreciation of Flamel, and he wrote his own Cabala sapientum, which is unfortunately not extant.


This phiallethes was apparently felt by Starkey’s readers, philaletbes the Opera omnia of Philalethes, published in in Modena, comes equipped with a cycle of twelve illuminations drawn from the corpus of the master The riddling image-language of early modern phioalethes often existed side by side with expositions of the images coined by their very authors. Although these efforts at decoding their own symbolism sometimes embroil authors such as Starkey in yet further obs.

Alchemical writers delighted in announcing that they were going to explain a riddle — only to give the answer in the form of a conundrum. What philslethes the reader supposed to derive from this allusive style of expression? The alchemists themselves maintained that a diligent reader eireenaeus decipher their language to arrive at a correct alchemical praxis. Perhaps surprisingly, Starkey’s Philalethes writings can indeed be decoded by diligently comparing passages in one text with those of another.

At a crucial point of the discussion, the alchemist would break off or change the subject, only to resume it at some seemingly unrelated or distant locus.

It was up phiallethes the reader to reassemble the pieces of the puzzle and fit it into an ordered whole.

Eirenaeus Philalethes (George Starkey) | History of Alchemy

But there is another element that the reader was meant to derive from his alchemical sources. This was the aura of authority that a contemporary figurative text acquired by employing the metaphors utilized by older authors. This requires some explanation.

Most alchemical texts were commentaries on older authors who were eirehaeus by the exegete to have been adepti. Eirebaeus Sendivogius, writing at the very beginning of the seventeenth century, said that the art had progressed so far in modern times that the old sages could not have conceived of the current plethora of alchemical techniques: Hence it was critical that an alchemist establish himself as a member of the elite fraternity of adepti that stretched back to the days of Zosimos and Hermes Trismegistus: The primary way of assuming the mantle of authority was two-fold.

On the one hand, one could cite strings of authorities in the form of suggested authors: Of greater imperative to the reader, however, was an author who could ;hilalethes decipher the traditional enigmata of the art. What Philalethes is doing here is establishing himself as the legitimate heir of Ripley’s alchemy: The longevity of alchemical imagery depended both on the alchemists’ belief that the old figurae concealed the phlalethes of the philosophers’ stone and on their own need to demonstrate their authority by showing that they could reveal that secret.

At the same time, however, their revelation of the secret could not be facile, for Starkey and his seventeenth-century peers were intent on retaining as much as they could for themselves. Alchemical secrets could be lucrative, and as such they were not to be disbursed lightly Hence by employing the twin strategies of figurative language and eireneus de la science, Starkey and his fellows managed to compose treatises of remarkable difficulty.

The problem is compounded by the fact that in the Philalethes treatises, not only the processes of alchemy, but also the theories are often encoded. Without a previous understanding of early modern alchemical theory, therefore, the reader is hopelessly eirenadus. In the following we shall introduce the reader to the striking visual imagery of one of the most obscure Philalethan texts — the Exposition upon the first six gates of Sir George Ripley’s compound of philaleths.

Then we shall decode its practice, using only texts within the corpus of Philalethes. As we shall see, the fustian language of Philalethes was not the product of a disordered mind, but a conscious reworking of traditional imagery intended — as the alchemist would say — both to reveal and conceal. These are the twelve gates of Ripley’s Compound of alchymie, the text that Philalethes is commenting, by which Ripley referred to twelve alchemical processes — calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, putrefaction, congelation, cibation, sublimation, fermentation, exaltation, multiplication, and projection Her name is Juno.

But the castle is guarded by a garrison, and Philalethes assures us that we must have eiremaeus guide, lest we be taken as spies. The guide receives a circumstantial description.


One can tell if he is happy or not by his countenance. There is a lesson to be drawn from this — that even the most humble tools and operations of alchemy will be allegorized in Philalethes’ conceit.

Let us therefore pass to the next scene of the play. Philalethes now takes the reader to a large room with hangings of mixed black, blue, and yellow. Within the eifenaeus is. As we shall see, Starkey is eeirenaeus the first stage in the alchemical great work, the production of the philosophical mercury that will lead to puilalethes philosophers’ stone. After that substance was prepared, it was supposed to be sealed up and heated, whereon it would die and rot.

This is the stage or regimen usually eurenaeus putrefactio The somber figure of Juno pictured earlier is also intended to convey the idea of death and mourning. But let us refrain from interpreting further until our alchemist has entirely unfolded the panoply of his invention. Philalethes then shifts abruptly to the first person.

While Philalethes is bemoaning his lost love, he suddenly hears a shrill voice beside him, and sees a brilliant light. Within it is the lady, but now accompanied by a king dressed in beaten gold. Despite the beauty of this vision, Philalethes is displeased, philalethss his lady is stark naked in the presence of the King.

The lady, sensing Eirenaaeus distress, asks him the cause of his anxiety. The alchemist replies that he is not sad, but amazed at lhilalethes spectacle before him. Comparing her own dominion to his, she relates the following:. The devil is subjugated to Nature, but Nature herself is the subject of the most humble creature — the worm. With these words, Nature begins an apology for her seemingly promiscuous ways. She then solicits the help of Philalethes, offering him not only dominion over herself, eirenasus the following reward:.

It goes without saying that the product derived from the King’s blood is the philosophers’ stone, in its dual role as universal medicine and transmuter of pgilalethes. The dissolution of his rival alarms him not a bit, but Philalethes is concerned about the fate of his lady. She informs him, however, that neither heat nor cold. Having been commanded to light the stove, Philalethes of course thinks of his erstwhile guide, whereon a voice informs him that the guide is now within the chamber.

Looking at the Water-bearer, Philalethes understands that it is he who is phillalethes guide, but what arrests the attention of the alchemist is the Water-bearer’s pitcher:. Philalethes then lights the furnace beneath the chamber, and the Water-bearer pours forth his water, now mixed with fire.

The Water- bearer then makes his exit by diving into the stream of water and disappearing.


She is naked, and her skin as bright as fine silver. Although she is tiny at first, she soon grows bigger, consuming all the water as she expands. The new lady, unlike the old, is pained horribly by the heat of the stove, and she repeatedly faints. He is at once covered with her sweat and tears, so that both take on the color of silver. But this is not enough:. Then said the King, I am very faint and weak [ The Queen, no doubt feeling a combination of guilt and disappointment, sheds so many tears that, mixed with the sweat, they produce a river, and so the two are drowned.

This horrible decay soon infects the water, which now grows black and thick, like turbid slime. His mind jolted into activity, he has a revelation:. Alarmed at the expectations being made of him, Philalethes asks the disembodied voice for further directions. But taking out his copy of d’Espagnet’s Enchiridion Physicae Restitutae, he observes that he can no longer read a single word of it He then encounters a blear-eyed man with corroded fingers, who merrily enquires the title of the book.