The Virgin as Philosopher’s Stone

23 12 2009

I will propose you a similitude of gold. The ethereal heaven was shut from all men, so that all men should descend to the infernal seats, and be there perpetually detained. But Jesus Christ opened the gate of the ethereal Olympus, and has now unlocked the kingdoms of Pluto, that the souls may be taken out; when by the co-operation of the holy spirit in the virginal womb, the virgin Mary did by an ineffable mystery and most profound sacraments conceive what was the most excellent in the heavens and on the earth; and at length brought forth for us the saviour of the whole world, who out of his super abundant bounty shall save all who are able to sin, if the sinner turn himself to him. But she remained an untouched and undefiled virgin: whence mercury is not undeservedly compared to the most glorious saint the virgin Mary. For mercury is a virgin because it never propagated in the womb of the Earth and metallic body, and yet it generates the stone for us; by dissolving heaven, that is, gold, it opens it, and brings out the soul; which understand you to be the divinity, and carries it some little while in its womb, and at length in its own time transmits it into a cleansed body. From whence a child, that is, the stone, is born to us, by whose blood the inferior bodies being tinged are brought safe into the golden heaven, and mercury remains a virgin without a stain, such as is was ever before.

-attributed to Marsilio Ficino in a treatise on alchemy





Notes on alchemy

12 11 2009

Mercury was, for them, the seminal essence of a god who (pro-)creates the universe sexually; indeed the origin myth of mercury tells us that quicksilver first arose when Siva spilled his seed at the end of a long bout of lovemaking with his consort, the goddess Parvati. This seed once spilled, became polluted through its contact with the earth. The alchemist’s craft therefore consists of returning mercury, through a series of chemical reactions of incredible complexity, to its original pristine state. Once he has perfected it in the laboratory, the alchemist may then ingest this mercury, which then transforms him into an immortal human, a “second Siva”.

-David Gordon White, “The Ocean of Mercury: An Eleventh-Century Alchemical Text” in Religions of India in Practice
Read the rest of this entry »