A Lost Text By Zosimos Reproduced in an Old Alchemy Book H. S. El Khadem American University, Washington DC 20016
An Arabic translation of a text entitled "Keys of Wisdom," by the famous fourth century alchemist Zosimos, has been found in an Alchemy book written by a twelveth century Kurd, named Al-Tughra'i. The book starts with a discussion of the "four elements" (fire, air, water, and earth) and the "four natures" (hot, cold, moist, and dry), and continues with their quantitative estimation. This is followed by a determination of their ratios, which is needed to moderate the properties of metals and to form the elixirs used in transmutation. Although today's chemists disagree with most of these concepts, they must marvel at some of the ideas found in the present text. For example, Zosimos correctly understood the relationship between heat and movement, and in a remarkable statement he explains why, during distillation, vapors rise against gravity, by saying: "Motion is due to heat for without heat there would be no motion." This statement is true today and is taught in most thermodynamics text books. Alchemists also distinguished between distillation, and "smoking" (pyrolysis), and recognized the importance of the first in purification. Furthermore, they correctly believed that the physical properties of substances are directly related to their chemical composition and developed a highly sophisticated system to characterize compounds by means of nine tastes, three smells, and a multitude of colors.
Source: "The Alchemy Key"
According to The Gospel of Mary, one of the Nag Hammadi texts discovered in 1947, Jesus taught her secrets that He failed to reveal to his apostles. Interestingly enough, several Gnostic sects, such as the Ophites, held that Mary Magdalene and the noted first century alchemical author known as Mary the Jewess were one and the same individual.
Whoever she was, Mary the Jewess was an accomplished practical alchemist and the inventor of a series of technical devices still in use today, such as the hot ash box for steady heat, the dung box for prolonged heat and the double boiler, still called the "bain-marie" in French. None of her writings have survived, but she is quoted with the utmost respect by Zosimus and the other early compilers of alchemical texts. (Zosimus considered her to be Miriam, the sister of Moses. He was of course, as always, going for the most ancient tradition.)
Zosimus' own sister, Theosebia, had a considerable reputation as an alchemist in her own right. But the most important of all the early female alchemists is Cleopatra, author of the classical Chrysopeia, or Gold-Making. In this work, collected with the "Isis the Prophetess" story in the 11th century Codex Marcianus, we find the earliest image of the Ouroboros serpent, biting it own tail. This masterful symbol of the cosmic cycle is half black and half white and encloses a brief Greek phrase meaning "the sum of all philosophy." On the same manuscript page, under a serpent-like crescent moon, we find a line of eight-rayed stars. This is similar to the Gnostic Ogdoas, a grouping of the celestial forces, the ancient Egyptian neters, in an eight-fold pattern.
According to Zosimus of Panopolis, a fourth century alchemical apologist, the "sons of God" mentioned briefly in Genesis taught the alchemical arts to their human lovers in gratitude for having sex with them. Tertullian, an early Church Father, agreed with this and thought that these "fallen angels," or Nephilim, had the evil intention of seducing human woman with the joys of "mundane pleasures."
Zosimus was just repeating the accepted wisdom of the Jewish and Christian sages of that era. As he warmed to his subject though, Zosimus related the story of the first alchemist, Chemes, who wrote the teachings of the fallen angels in a book called Chema. The nephilim used this book to instruct the daughters of men in the spagyric arts and therefore the art itself came to be called Chemia. This was indeed the Greek word for alchemy, to which the Arabs added the article, al, of their own language.
"Al Chemia," as a name for the substance of the mystery, is both revealing and concealing of the true nature of the work. "Al-khemi," another Arabic derivation from the Egyptian for "the black," also refers to the darkness of the unconsciousness, the most prima of all materia, and to the "Black Land" of Egypt. In this sense, we can see Zosimus' "Khemes" as simply the "Black One," or Osiris. (Perhaps even taken from Osiris' original title of Khenti-Amenti, "Lord of the Western Darkness.") His "Khema" is no mere book, but the civilization of Egypt itself, its monuments, history and literature.
Zosimus is suggesting therefore that alchemy is at the core of an ancient pre-deluge science, one that was revealed to mankind through sexual contact with semi-divine entities.
Possibly the earliest surviving alchemical manuscript, "Isis the Prophetess to Her Son Horus" found in the Codex Marcianus, a medieval (11th century) collection of Greek fragments. This work seems to be a unique blend of Hebrew mysticism and Egyptian mythology that could only have come from Alexandria early in the first century of the Christian Era.
Isis tells Horus that while he was away fighting and defeating Set, she was in Hermopolis studying angelic magick and alchemy. She relates that "after a certain passing of the kairoi and the necessary movement of the heavenly sphere, it happened that one of the angels who dwelt in the first firmament saw me from above. . ." The angel, a being of the lower realm between the earth and the moon, is enflamed by passion, but can't answer her questions about alchemy. He bargains on another encounter by offering to bring a higher angel who will tell her everything she wants to know. The first angel shows Isis the magickal sign of the higher angel, a bowl of shining water and a moon sign that resembles the emblem of the moon-god Khonsu of Thebes.
At noon the next day, the angel returns with the higher angel, here called Amnael, who also finds Isis desirable and is willing to trade information for sex. He reveals the mystery of his sign and then swears her to a great oath. In this oath, we find echoes of the great mystery and the keys to its explication. "I conjure you in the name of Fire, of Water, of Air, and of the Earth; I conjure you in the name of the Height of Heaven and the Depths of Earth's Underworld; I conjure you in the name of Hermes and Anubis, the howling of Kerkoros and the guardian dragon; I conjure you in the name of the boat and its ferryman, Acharontos; and I conjure you in the name of the three necessities and the whip and the sword."
After this oath, Isis is never to reveal the secret to anyone but her son, Horus, her closest friend. The knowledge will make them one, as the knowledge has now made Isis and the angel one.
And then a curious thing occurs. When the mystery is revealed, it seems strangely flat, as if something is left unsaid in the answer. Horus is told to watch the peasant, who may or may not have been the boatman Acharontos, and then is given a lecture on "as you sow, so shall you reap." Horus is told to realize "that this is the whole creation and the whole process of coming into being, and know that a man is only able to produce a man, and a lion a lion, and a dog a dog, and if something happens contrary to nature, then it is a miracle and cannot continue to exist, because nature enjoys nature and only nature overcomes nature."
Isis goes on to relate that she will now give the secret of preparing certain "sands." She says that "one must stay with existing nature and the matter one has in hand in order to prepare things. Just as I said before, wheat creates wheat, a man begets a man and thus gold will harvest gold, like produces like. Now I have manifested the mystery to you."
Last edited June 21, 2011 (history)
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