The Alchemy web site on Levity.com
Alchemy Academy archive
October/November 2002

Back to alchemy academy archives.
Subject: ACADEMY : Some articles by Ahmad Y Hassan
From: Ahmad Y Hassan
Tue, 1 Oct 200

The Web site which is devoted to the publication of some of my
papers is now open. The address is as follows:

http://www.gabarin.com/ayh/

The pages need some corrections but interested scholars can
read now the article on potassium nitrates. A paper on
gunpowder and cannon is also available.

Best regards

Ahmad Y. al-Hassan

Subject: ACADEMY : Bibliographic question
Fri, 22 Nov 2002
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear all,

I have found an Italian Web edition of a short history of alchemy
by Giuliano Kremmerz, originally published in 1900. It is (if
I understand the Italian introduction) a translation of a series
of articles by F. Jollivet-Castellot which appeared in his
journal "Hyperchimie" in 1897-98. It is in four parts plus
bibliography. The part I am concerned with is the third one at:

http://www.armatadimiriam.it/Kremmerz/Biblioteca/Storia-Alchimia/storia_dellalchimia_3_parte.htm

where there is a short mention of Sendivogius including
a statement about a German edition of his treatise edited
by Conrad Schuler in 1604 (ie. the same year as the original
Prague edition). There reference for this statement is:
Luigi Esquieu, / Rosa Croce which is expanded in the bibliography
section as:

I Rosa+Croce, appunti storici. Di Luigi Esquieu,
Detken e Rocholl, Napoli 1900 (fuori commercio).

This is curious because the text of Jollivet-Castelot was
originally published earlier than that - so this work could
not have been quoted by him (unless there was an earlier
edition).

This edition Conrad Schuler edition is also listed in Bugaj's
bibliography (here dated 1605) - but with no reference to
his source. I have not, however, seen it in any other
bibliography or anywhere else.

Does anyone know or can check either of the above sources
(Jollivet-Castellot in "Hyperchimie" and Luigi Esquieu's book)?

Or perhaps that edition is mentioned elsewhere or actually
exists in a library somewhere?

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
From: Adam McLean
26th Nov 2002


A while ago I came across an illustration of a coin, a thaler,
in Janet Hoult's little book on Dragons, Glastonbury 1987.
This thaler bears the image of the crucified
snake, which reminded me of the illustration from the
Nicolas Flamel book of the hieroglyphic figures.

Does anyone know when the image of the crucified serpent
came into European culture? This seems to be a different
image from that of the classical caduceus or Biblical image
of the rod of Moses. Was this crucified snake image
seen before the Flamel image was created in the early
17th century?

I doubt whether anyone on here is an expert on coins, but
if anyone has seen this thaler before, please let me know
a reference and, if possible, a date.

I attach an image of the thaler.

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
From: Mike Dickman
Tue, 26 Nov 2002

Just a note on the image itself, which stems from a Kabbalistic
correspondence:

Very briefly, the Hebrew words NChSh, 'serpent', and MShICh,
'Messiah' have the same numerical value, 358. Based on this, the
crucified serpent become a rather profound symbolic shortcut for
what the Messiah is supposed to represent and do, viz., redeem the
Children of Adam.

m

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
Tue, 26 Nov 2002

My strong suspicion is that this is biblical, i.e. the Bronze serpent in
Numbers 21:

"Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many
Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke
against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes
away from us." So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, "Make
a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and
live." So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when
anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived."

I am not at home in front of my sources, but if memory serves me well this
serpent is called "naschashiron" (sp?). The gematria of the word may have
some significant connections. My inclination would be to reference Patai's
_Jewish Alchemists_ and look for a source there within the tradition of
Jewish alchemy.

Sincerely,


Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
From: Neil Mann
Tue, 26 Nov 2002

The brazen serpent raised by Moses (Number 21: 6-9) is a type of Christ's
crucifixion at Calvary: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3: 14-15).
The figure is seen in typological stained glass etc.
See, for example, the mediaeval glass in St Denis:

http://vrcoll.fa.pitt.edu/medart/image/France/sdenis/windows/Moses/sdmosesbrserp.html

and a 16th-century example from Milan Cathedral:

http://www.area.fi.cnr.it/bivi/eng/schede/Lombardia/Duomo/35serpente.htm

Sometimes the Old Testament "type" appears on one level, with the
event from Christ's life which it is seen to foreshadow on another. An
attractive, though late, example of this layering, with 6 pairs of images,
is found in the East Windows of Lincoln College, Oxford (enameled
glass, rather than stained, by Abraham van Linge, dating from 1629-31,
so no earlier than the Flamel):

http://www.lincoln.ox.ac.uk/images/chapel/eastwindow8.jpg

In Olivier Beigbeder's "Lexique des symboles" about symbols
in Romanesque art (Zodiaque, 1979), which I have in a Spanish
translation, he has a short section on the brazen serpent, in a
long article on the serpent in general, noting that, because of the dangers
of confusion concerning the image, it was seldom treated in stone and
reserved for materials that do not allow for ambiguity: glass, gold and
bronze altarpieces and cross-reliquaries. However, he notes one example in
Milan's Basilica of Sant' Ambrogio, a bronze serpent on a classical capital
of Byzantine origin. He also notes that it was often portrayed as a dragon
in order to avoid confusion with the serpent of Eden, as in the Saint-Denis
glass, the portable altars of Stavelot and Augsburg, and the cross of
Saint-Bertin. He cites Aquinas and Augustine on the symbol, noting
Tertulian's censure of the Ophites for focusing so exclusively on the image,
indicating an early use of it, and early problems with its use.


Neil Mann

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
Tue, 26 Nov 2002
From: M.E. Warlick

I'm in Rome and can't pick up the picture from this computer,
but I've seen crucified snakes in a painting by Lucas
Cranach the Elder, c. 1520 or so.

Sorry not to have more information than that with me.

M.E.

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
Tue, 26 Nov 2002
From: Rafal T. Prinke

> Was this crucified snake image
> seen before the Flamel image was created in the early
> 17th century?

It is the representation of the Brazen Serpent of Moses
(Numbers 21; 2 Kings 18:4), to which Jesus compared
himself (John 2:14) - and thence it became common
in Christian iconography to display this serpent
on a tau cross.

Here are some links to nice medieval Danish frescoes
which i found on the Web:

http://www.danish-medieval-art.net/top4/25-062.jpg

http://www.danish-medieval-art.net/top4/06-030.jpg

http://www.danish-medieval-art.net/top4/10-073.jpg

but the theme can be found in many other places. Here is
the Vatican fresco by Michelangelo:

http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/art/m/michelan/3sistina/5spandre/10_4pe4.jpg

Concerning the coin you have found, I quote from
on-line Catholic Encyclopedia, article Numismatics:

A similar superstition was connected with
the representation of St. Roch and St. Sebastian
or of St. Rosalia, as also of the cross with
the brazen serpent, as a protection against the plague.

You can find the whole article here:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11152a.htm

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: ACADEMY : Leonard of Maurperg
Wed, 27 Nov 2002
From: Rafal T. Prinke

There was a medieval alchemist Leonard of Maurperg whose
account of travels in search of the Philosophers' Stone
from the late 14th c. is extant. I cannot find out,
however, where and when it was published. The entry on
him in the _Lexikon des Mittelalters_ only gives one
reference to a French article published in the 1920's
(IIRC - I haven't got it at hand).

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
From: Ole Eldor
Tue, 26 Nov 2002

The tents in the background also suggest the Biblical version
of this snake symbol to me.


Subject: ACADEMY : Article on the Geber question
From: Ahmad Y Hassan
Wed, 27 Nov 2002

I like to draw attention to an article on the Geber Question that appeared
in the web site www.gabarin.com/ayh under the following title:

The Arabic Origin of Jabir's Latin Works - A New Light on the Geber Question.

Best regards.

Ahmad Y. al-Hassan

Subject: ACADEMY : Leonard of Maurperg
Thu, 28 Nov 2002
From: Marisa Addomine


There is one volume indicated as by Lonard de Maurperg (in Greek) at
University of Rome.

Here is the link

http://rmcisadu.let.uniroma1.it/isime/vol7l.htm

I am going on looking for something else.

I found a quotation from an Italian student, but no indication of a
given opus.

I also found this:

http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic/libscien/alchemy/alchebks.htm

It seems that these people have a copy.


A copy seems to be available at Istituto Italiano per lo Studio del
Medio Evo (Italian Institute for Middle Age studies) in Rome, as I
found indication of it on the catalogue at the following link:

http://www.isime.it/Repertorium/Lemmario/listal02.htm

I hope this will help.


Best regards

Marisa Addomine

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
From: Michael Martin
Thu, 28 Nov 2002

Just a little piece of serendipitous info. In looking through my young son's
Eyewitness book on Money I found an illustration and description of the coin
in question. It seems that silver medals with this image were carried in
Germany as protection against plague. This may not be totally relevant, but
then it might.

Michael Martin

Subject: ACADEMY : Leonard of Maurperg
Fri, 29 Nov 2002
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Dear Marisa,

Thank you for your reply. In fact I had seen the links
you indicated - the Italian ones seem to refer to
the Repertorium series which lists and identifies
medieval sources but does not contain them.

> I also found this:
> http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic/libscien/alchemy/alchebks.htm

This, on the other hand, is a Lovecraft fans site - not
a real university.

The most detailed information I found on the Web is in
an Ukrainian article abstract at:

http://www.icmp.lviv.ua/mau/abstracts.html

Here is the relevant part:

One of the most interesting sources on Armenian settlements
in Ukraine is a travel account of the alchemist Leonard of
Maurperg (probably, from Mailberg in Austria). In 1394 he visited
a town which he called Livovia and which was, according to him,
situated somewhere to the east from Cracow. Helena Polaczek
suggested that this town was Lutsk (Luceoria in Latin).
However Leonard's description better suits Lviv. In this town he
stayed with a certain Demetrius who lived on Armenian Street.
Following a usual route of Lviv Armenian merchants, the traveler
went to Caffa (now Feodosiia) which was the major commercial center
of Crimea, then visited Jerusalem, Tabriz and a mysterious
"Greek school" located three days of journey from Tabriz.
In all these towns Leonard vainly tried to obtain the secret
of the philosophical stone.

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
Thu, 28 Nov 2002

> It seems that silver medals with this image were carried in
> Germany as protection against plague. This may not be totally
> relevant, but then it might.

This is interesting. A work by the obscure Abraham Eleazar, published
in 1735 as _Age-Old Chymical Work_ describes a formula that fits with
your description:

"I Abraham Eleazar continue, dear brothers, to teach you. Dear brothers,
since our fathers with their idolatry sinned against the Lord in the
desert Moses made for them a brazen serpent, fastened it to a cross,
so that it should be seen by the whole people, and so that they
should recover the plague which they deserved and suffered.
Therefore know that I can fasten the serpent Phython to this cross
with a golden nail, you will lack nothing in wisdom. Therefore,
dear brothers, nature which the great Creator created is
unfathomable and this is the whole secret of the Art:
that we extract the spirit of Phython."

He goes on to describe the "multiplication of [Spirit] of "Phythonis
infinitum" [spirit of Phython to infinity] and likens it to the
transmutation of Gold and all metals into their own nature.

(Quoted from Raphael Patai _The Jewish Alchemists: A History and Source
Book_ p. 246).

Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
From: Mike Dickman
Sat, 30 Nov 2002

In Maier's Cantilenae, there is the following (Triad 6, Altus, the end
of the verse):

Of old, Socrates
Was, by means of a concave mirror,
Enabled to detect,
Hid atop a tall column,
A gigantic Serpent,
Regulus by name,
Mortal enemy of all men,
Whose poison was subtler than that of any other creature.

He so sited on the heights of a nearby tower
An image of the Monster,
That it could be clearly descried
And that the serpent therein would recognise himself.
To it he conjoined a concave mirror,
Of the most brilliant metals made
And burnished to a high sheen,
Which, by its magnetic power, had this virtue:
That it could gather poisons,
The most distant as the most near,
Without in any way altering in itself.
The Basilisk, on seeing in the mirror its own reflected image,
Swallowed the poison without noticing,
And was thus pierced by that self-same shaft that he himself had
loosed.

To know how to kill so mortal a Dragon,
And to draw forth, subtly and cunningly, all its venom
And make it enter into burnished metal is great art indeed.

Moses' setting the brazen snake upon the pole as a cure for the
plague may well also relate back to the gematria of the names
Nachash and Meshiach mentioned before.


Subject: ACADEMY : The crucified snake
Sat, 30 Nov 2002
From: Jon Gilbert

As ... wrote in his message on 11/26/02, the act of gazing
upon the brazen image of the snake, which itself is elevated on high
by a rod, is sufficient as anti-venom for actual snake-bites the
wayfarers were suffering. Yet some sources mention the snake as a
plague-remedy. Michael Martin noted on 11/28/02 that in
_Eyewitness:_Money_, Joe Cribb {1} has it that German soldiers used
these medallions apotropaically to ward off plague infection {2}.
Yesterday ... noted another source mentioning the snake as a plague
remedy:

>A work by the obscure Abraham Eleazar {2.5}, published in 1735 as
>_Age-Old Chymical Work_ describes a formula that fits with your
>description:
>
>"I Abraham Eleazar continue, dear brothers, to teach you. Dear
>brothers, since our fathers with their idolatry sinned against the
>Lord in the desert Moses made for them a brazen serpent, fastened it
>to a cross, so that it should be seen by the whole people, and so
>that they should recover the plague which they deserved and
>suffered." {3}

To recapitulate: Numbers 21 has the snake as a snake-venom remedy,
whereas Cribb and Eleazar have it as a plague remedy. Perhaps the
confusion arises because in Numbers 16:46-50, Moses tells Aaron:

"Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it,
and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them;
for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun."
[47]
Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the
assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he
put in the incense and made atonement for the people.
[48]
And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.
[49]
Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven
hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident.
[50]
So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting,
for the plague had stopped.

The censer of Moses and Aaron is the agent of immunity from the
plague. The plague began in the Levites' own censers earlier in the
chapter. {3.5} Compare this to how the snake of Moses is the agent of
immunity from the snake-bites, while the snake-bites began when the
Lord "sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people,
and many of the people of Israel died." (Num. 21:6) Jack Hayford, et
al. agree that this correspondence is significant: "As with Aaron's
censer in 16:47, the cause of the problem becomes the means by which
the sin is atoned." {4}

Therefore, Jesus represents himself as the snake of Moses (John
3:14-15), not because of anything to do with snakes in particular,
but because the snake, like the censer in this correspondence,
symbolizes the cause of the problem being involved in an act by which
the trouble is apotropaically warded off for those who believe. The
problem, of course, is the opposite of the cure: the cure is "eternal
life" {5}; the problem is death itself. This indicates that a snake
in general, as John has Jesus using it in this analogy, represents
death, or more generally, mortality, and hence, mortals. Considering
the symbol in this light, perhaps, better explains why soldiers would
take it to battle: to ward off death, but only for the specific group
that possesses this sign.

Note also that Jesus' use of this method to promise life is opposite
to the way that flattened censers are used as warnings/reminders to
ward off outsiders who are not descendents of Aaron from offering
incense (Num. 16:40), just in the same way that the use of the snake
is directed towards insiders (Israelites) to keep them from the harm
caused directly by God (the snakes were sent by God):

[Num. 16:36]
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
[37]
"Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, to pick up the censers
out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some
distance away.
[38]
"The censers of these men who sinned against their own souls, let
them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar.
Because they presented them before the Lord, therefore they are holy;
and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel."
[39]
So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were
burned up had presented, and they were hammered out as a covering on
the altar,
[40]
to be a memorial/reminder to the children of Israel that no outsider,
who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense
before the Lord, that he might not become like Korah and his
companions, just as the Lord had said to him through Moses.

This passage makes it clear why snake, instead of the censer, is used
with the anti-plague property by the German soldiers: the crucified
snake is a symbol of life and redemption. The Germans did not, I
imagine, use biological warfare at this point in history.

As for Eleazar and alchemy, he claims to know how to fasten the
serpent to the cross with a golden nail, and implies that in this act
there is the extraction of the spirit of the snake.

>"Therefore know that I can fasten the serpent Phython to this cross
>with a golden nail, you will lack nothing in wisdom. Therefore, dear
>brothers, nature which the great Creator created is unfathomable and
>this is the whole secret of the Art: that we extract the spirit of
>Phython." {3}

The action of crucifying the Phython {7} requires the golden nail of
wisdom as a means. If we assume{6} that Eleazar intended the
symbolism in the same manner as explained above, then it explains why
he invokes his "dear brothers;" the crucified snake is not intended
for Eleazar, but for his brothers, just as the snake was not for
Moses himself, but for the Israelites. Eleazar is attempting no less
than to save the souls of his brothers. The result of his action will
be a crucified snake that when gazed upon will remind his brothers of
the extracted spirit of the snake, which is the key to salvation.

What, then, is the "extracted spirit of the snake"? These were
"fiery" snakes (Num. 21:8); the bronze serpent was necessarily forged
in flame, as all bronze is at some point. On the day of Pentecost,
divided tongues likened to fire appear in Acts 2:1-4 to fill those
present with the Holy Spirit. Snakes have divided tongues; spirit
means breath; breath is required for speech; air is required for
breath; air is required for fire. Is the Phython the putrid element
to be purified alchemically?

What of sexual symbolism? Does the crucifixion of the Phython
represent a sort of ascetic continence? Or does the extraction of its
spirit in conjunction with its crucifixion represent something more
near to the Aristotelian mean with regards the frequency of sexual
emissions?

In any case I have more questions than I have started with, and I
hope that any aspect of this message would not lead you all to
believe that I think I know something about alchemy, since I'm rather
ignorant about it actually and am really just hoping to learn
something here. I hope this message helps in some way...

J.S. Gilbert



Footnotes
{1} Cribb, Joe. _Eyewitness:_Money_. DK Publishing 2000. (Eyewitness
books are a series of children's books. Each book in the series
"explore virtually every aspect of the world around us. Each provides
a comprehensive review of its title subject."
www.eduresources.net/favorites/eyewitness_books.htm.)
{2} No date or specific source was given for the German soldiers.
During which century did they use the silver medals with crucified
snakes in this way? It would have had to be during the plague, which
makes the War of the Three Henrys a candidate. Not only was that war
fought during plague years, but it was the last of the Wars of
Religion in France. Protestant Germans marched into France to join
the Huguenots, but were defeated by the Henri I de Lorraine, 3rd duc
de Guise. Perhaps there is some symbolism related
{2.5} What do we know about "the obscure" Abraham Eleazar? Eleazar
ben Judah of Worms (1160-1238) as a member of the Kalonymos family, a
prominent German mystics. He was a rabbi, Talmudist, codifier, and
was the co-author of _Sefer_Hasidim_, among numerous other works.
Perhaps the later Abraham Eleazar was following in this tradition of
German Jewish mystics, which could suggest how he shared the
snake-as-plague-cure meme with the Germans, although this is
admittedly a leap.
{3} ... quotes from: Raphael Patai _The Jewish Alchemists: A History
and Source Book_ p. 246.
{3.5} In the following chapter, Num. 17, the Lord commands Moses to
tell the children of Israel to get rods from their fathers' houses.
This mentioning of rods in close proximity with the censers could
have added to the confusion, since it is a rod to which the brazen
snake is attached in Num. 21.
{4} Hayford, Jack, et al. (Ed.s). _Spirit Filled Life Bible_. Nelson,
Nashville, 1991. p. 226 n. 21:9.
{5} Greek: "zn ainion".
{6} Given that his cognomen is identical to the name of the priest in
Num. 16, it is hard to imagine that he might not have read Numbers or
a similar text.
{7} Why "phy"-thon instead of "py"-thon? In some languages the "h" is
used to symbolize a hard consonant sound. But I could find no
references to the spelling with an "h" in a dictionary or
encyclopedia, after a cursory search.

I have used Britannica.com for some German and French historical information.