Discussion in 'Esoterica' started by ramonmercado, Apr 4, 2011.
Some beautiful images at the link.
Edit to amend title.
IIRC horse-dung was used by alchemists as a source of heat and stayed on the outside of the glass! Mind you, having tasted a few infusions which claim to have ancient medicinal roots, it might well be an ingredient! :?
Another interesting (sounding) book on Alchemy.
I am writing a paper on Ben Jonson's 'The Alchemist', critical opinion considers the playwright to be hostile towards the practice. Jonson certainly immersed himself in alchemical texts as can be seen in the discussions within the play about the matter. A question I have is what is the significance of the date? The plot unfolds over roughly a two hour period, at a house in Blackfriars the date of the action is revealed within the play as 1 Novemeber 1610. The date of first performance was intended to also be around this time, (also in Blackfriars) but was postponed due to an outbreak of the plague in London. Any suggestions?
November 1 is All Hallows Day/All Saints Day.
Yes it is, this however bears no relation to the play, I think there is a more carnivalesque connection, feast of fools, celebration of the trickster or somesuch.There is nothing in the play to indicate the traditional associations of all souls day. I have vague memories of the massacre of the innocents being commemorated on this date but nothing definite, thanks for the interest though.
Theatrical presentations were often part and parcel of the celebration of public holy days. May be that Jonson wrote this one specifically for a first performance on, or about, All Hallows.
Hmmm, obviously it's a possibility but is All Souls not a bit Catholic for London in 1610? My thinking is that it's the fundamental action that relates to the date, the conning of the gullible, the religious the vain and the plain greedy, classic trickster behaviour. The 'gulls' are from quite a wide cross section of society and the only religious figures in the play, the Anabatists are portrayed as hypocritical megalomaniacs.
According to the Wikipedia entry for The Alchemist, it was one of the first plays to be performed at the 'winter playhouse' of, The King's Players (with Jonson in charge), in Blackfriars, having apparently been first performed in Oxford, earlier in the year. The King's Players subsequently performed it for the King.
So, although the new puritan morality may have been encroaching in other areas, for the time being, theatre had never had it so good.
More interesting is how much importance Jonson gave to setting the play in a contemporary setting. It's not set in some far distant past, or mythical wood, it's set in the contemporary London of Jonson's time, at the end of the recent plague epidemic, very much in the here and now, even setting it in Blackfriars, where the play itself was probably being performed. Jonson may have adapted dates and settings according to when and where the play was actually performed, but the First of November date and setting it in Blackfriars may have had a special significance both for Jonson and for the King's Players, in their new winter quarters.
see, Ben Jonson: A life, Ian Donaldson, OUP, Chp. 3, pgs 245-246.
Jonson's young daughter died at six months, in November 1593 and his eldest son died of the plague at the age of seven in 1603 and Jonson was moved enough to write short commemorative poems.
Perhaps, setting the play on All Saints, at the end of a plague outbreak, was also a way of commemorating the dead and looking to the future? Very much a traditional take on All hallows Eve and All Saints. Also, one of the playwright's plays celebrating the City of London, which the urbanite Jonson loved and defended many times. See, The Rise and Fall of Merry England, Ronald Hutton, OUP Chp.5 pgs 166 -167, all wrapped up with a heavy dose of satire, warning of Man's greed and gullibility, but still ultimately optimistic for the possibilities of London's citizen's to live and mix together. Turning the base metal of rogues, scallywags and fools into the gold of a modern urban citizenry.
It's also worth noting that Jonson seems to have converted to Roman Catholicism in 1597, whilst in prison for killing someone in a duel, at some great personal risk to himself and only converted back to Anglicanism in 1610, apparently quite reluctantly. He even made his way to Paris in 1612 to attend a debate about the nature of the Eucharist.
See: Ben Jonson: Catholic Poet Robert S. Minolas
All Saints Day, the 1st of November 1610, would have fallen on a Monday, In England this seems to mean that the Catholic obligation to attend Mass would have have fallen on the adjacent Sunday. Perhaps, after the recent plague epidemic, thoughts of saints and sinners, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. weren't too far away from Jonson's thoughts, when it came to staging the play?
The obligatory solemn Mass of All Saints, or All Hallows, was, amongst other things, intended to pray for the souls of the dead in Purgatory. Isn't that the purpose of the fires of Purgatory? To purify those who have died in a state of grace of their sins and transform them into pure souls worthy of Salvation and the Beatific Vision of Heaven. Very much one of the metaphysical roots of the theory of alchemical transmutation.
Cloning, the Golem and the alchemical goal of creating a homunculus are among the arcane matters addressed in Artificial Men: Alchemy, Transubstantiation and the Homunculus by Mary Baine Campbell.
Not an easy read but it explores some wonderfully strange regions, suggesting that the quest for perfecting the little man was a means of circumventing the unpredictable otherness of male-female reproduction.
edit: Reworded and expanded. Removed reference to the Mandrake, which is not mentioned in the article.
Veteran alchemy scholar Adam Mclean has uploaded a three-part study of alchemical symbolism onto Youtube.
His pace is deliberate but the images - in HD - are sumptuous. He deplores the way these illustrations are torn from their contexts and sets out to distinguish between the signs, the symbols, the sequences and the emblems.
#Alchemy symbols from 1652-3. Also note the mistake in 'finis' #17thcentury #RareBooks
12:16 PM - 4 Aug 2018
It'll be 'FIN', not 'FINIS' misspelled as 'FIN S.I'.
Dunno what 'S.I' means but it' not part of the same word.
Tell them at Marsh's Library @MarshsLibrary
Yeah, I'll do that next time I drop by.
Vsit it in person!
Horse dung was actually used as a thermometer by Alchemists. It is a little known fact that the size of a pile of horse dung is regulated by its temperature.
As for FIN S.I
Regard it as a typographical error at thy peril.
That is no mistake either. Sry Ramonmercado, you have to be outed.
It was meant for the likes of Thee! Don't expose our secrets to the profane!
Avertat caelestes intellectus ipsorum obtutibus offerantur, qui ambulant in Orphei semita!
Careful! Some of them might look that up and find our celestial pathway.
Separate names with a comma.