“I had very soon seen that analytical psychology coincided in a most curious way with alchemy. The experiences of the alchemists were, in a sense, my experiences, and their world was my world. This was of course, a momentous discovery: I had stumbled upon the historical counterpart of my psychology of the unconscious. The possibility of comparison with alchemy, and the uninterrupted intellectual chain back to Gnosticism, gave substance to my psychology. When I pored over those old texts, everything fell into place: the fantasy-images, the empirical material I had gathered in my practice, and the conclusions I had drawn from it. I now began to understand what these psychic contents meant when seen in historical perspective.”



“The alchemist saw the union of opposites under the symbol of the tree, and it is therefore not surprising that the unconscious of present-day man, who no longer feels at home in his world and can base his existence neither on the past that is no more nor on the future that is yet to be, should hark back to the symbol of the cosmic tree rooted in this world and growing up to heaven – the tree that is also man. In the history of symbols this tree is described as the way of life itself, a growing into that which eternally is and does not change; which springs from the union of opposites and, by its eternal presence, also makes that union possible. It seems as if it were only through an experience of symbolic reality that man, vainly seeking his own “existence” and making a philosophy out of it, can find his way back to a world in which he is no longer a stranger.”

— C.G. Jung, Psychological Aspects of the Mother Type (via transformeverything)


The Trans-Saturnian 3 (Part 3)

The two symbols presented here represent the planet Pluto which was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh.

The planet is named after a Greek god named Pluto, who was the ruler of the underworld. ■
Again, notice the three ingredients for a planetary symbol: the elemental cross: the lunar crescent: and the solar circle.

The second symbol for Pluto is simply the first two letters of Pluto (PL) merged into one.

Again, the trans-Saturnian 3 are new discoveries that don’t fit perfectly into astrology, alchemy or Kabbalah. Though some attribute pluto to Kether, the highest sphere on the tree of life synonymous with god and the beginning of the universe.

It’s interesting that Pluto, a god of the underworld, was the name given to the last “planet” in our solar system as it sits on the edge between the light of the sun and the black abyss of space.

I was tempted to delve into the mythologies of the trans-Saturnian gods, however that is out of the scope of decoding symbols and would require an entire book!

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Book 4


The Trans-Saturnian 3 (Part 2)

This is the symbol for Neptune, the 8th planet from the sun that was officially named in 1846.

The planet is named after the Roman god Neptune, the god of the sea.

We can see 2 of the ingredients for a planetary symbol: a cross & a crescent. The two are stylized to create a 3 pronged trident, which is a symbol attributed to the god Neptune hundreds of years before the discovery of the planet.

The Roman Neptune would correspond with the Greek god Poseidon.

Again it is controversial to use Neptune in astrology, Kabbalah or Alchemy, but within Crowley’s book 4 Neptune is associated with Chockmah (the 2nd sphere on the tree of life). Though this doesnt make too much sense since Chockmah’s element is fire, and Neptune is clearly water. Syncretism is rarely orderly.

If you know any interesting facts about Neptunian symbolism comment below or PM me!

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Book 4


There is some confusion as to what magic actually is. I think this can be cleared up if you just look at the very earliest descriptions of magic. Magic in its earliest form is often referred to as “the art”.  I believe this is completely literal.  I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form is literally magic.  Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness.  The very language about magic seems to be talking as much about writing or art as it is about supernatural events.  A grimmoir for example, the book of spells is simply a fancy way of saying grammar.  Indeed, to cast a spell, is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness.   And I believe that this is why an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a Shaman.

Allan Moore 

The Gnostic Circle



The Gnostic Circle is an alchemical Key of knowledge from the Vedic
texts of ancient India revealing the primary role of Time in our
developmental process.
Most astrological systems are oriented toward
the individual’s egoic development, but the Gnostic Circle provides a
means by which we can perceive the imperatives of the Soul and its
hidden but primary influence in our lives.
It is the unifying
element of a complete astrological work-up which helps us to understand
the cyclic nature of our developmental process; where we have been in
the past, where we happen to be at the present moment and what we are
moving toward in the future.

“The Gnostic Circle is the most effective method for understanding
the transformation of human consciousness. It represents a vision of
wholeness and has only one objective: it deals with the soul or seed of
the divine in each created thing and reveals the process by which that
seed is made to flower in its process of becoming.” – Patrizia

Used in conjunction with the practice of yoga, the Gnostic Circle
reverses the long-standing perception of Time as the destroyer and
presents mankind with an entirely new awareness of Time as the
integrative mechanism by which a Divine purpose is expressed in the
world, thus it contains the highest wisdom of our age.

“The Gnostic Circle allows us to measure the progression of any event in time. And it provides the means of assessing an event’s relevance to time and place within a global and universal context. Above all, it permits us to appreciate the interconnectedness of events through a unified, spherical approach to Time.
Gnostic Circle is a yardstick which can be applied to any event and by
which that event or object may be made to reveal its intrinsic nature
and objective value.
In ancient literature and tradition, such a tool was sometimes referred to as the Golden Rod, or the Philosopher’s Stone.
value resided in the fact that because of its special relation to Time
and Space, it could provide an objective means to assess the
truth-conscious substance of any given situation or event or object.
a word, it could objectively reveal the element’s inner pulse and place
within the greater harmony of life on Earth and within the solar
The Vishaal Newsletter, – Oct 30, 1991

For each person there are two ways of being in the world, two
existential situations critical to our perception of life and reality.

  • The first and most common is an experience of the world from the historical perspective of linear time.
  • The second, and more rare, is the direct perception of non-linear time or cosmic cycles.

These modes of awareness represent two different worlds, one within the other.
or sacred time appears under the paradoxical aspect of whole time, an
eternal present which is connected with man’s deepest spiritual
dimension. It is based upon a perception that time does not proceed
endlessly in a straight line. Rather it is always and everywhere a
closed curve, although from our ordinary perception, we do not see that
it’s movement is either curved or closed.

To move beyond the illusion of linearity and recover a realization of
whole time one must undergo a process of yoga which illumines the
cyclical nature of the life experience.
This is most easily achieved
through the application of a cosmological model which highlights
certain essential relationships between man and the universe and which
unveils a common center.
In ancient times these cosmological models
were based upon the known universe which was believed to consist of six
planets and a central Sun. It was not until the 20th century, following
the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, that the complete
cosmological key could be revealed and man’s integral transformation
fully understood.

In ancient India, as in all other traditional societies, the
unveiling of this axis or ‘center’ was achieved through a disciplined
study of the archetypal language contained in the zodiacal hieroglyphs
and a knowledge of the principles of the Cosmic order.
Once these
foundations are laid, one’s lived experience becomes revelatory. The
awareness gradually shifts from the ordinary linear perspective of past,
present and future to an experience of time as a cyclical developmental
As the individual lives and repeats these cycles of whole
time, he becomes imprinted with their order and aligned with their
harmonies. The axis of his being gradually shifts from the pivot of ego,
to a higher perceptual center. For it is by observing the cycles of his
own microcosmic process, that man comes to know the macrocosm and the
principles of its evolution.
In the Veda, this realization is known as SWAR or Truth-Consciousness, and grants the seeker a direct and unequivocal perception of Unity.


‘The Gnostic Circle is merely the combination of the zodiac – the
occult circle which contains the knowledge of the evolution – and the
structural pattern of the solar system. The Circle of 12 is the zodiac,
and the Circle of 9 is our actual solar system, each orbit representing
one year of Earth life. The joint harmony of these two, superimposed or
synthesized in one circle, is what constitutes our key to the evolution
and flowering of the seed of the Spirit. In fact we can say that the
Gnostic Circle is mainly for this purpose. It shows mankind the ultimate
and ideal perfection that can be attained during this particular phase
of the evolution, during this great transition point from animal-mental
to the more divine mankind.’ – The Gnostic Circle p. 159, 1975, Patrizia Noreill-Bachelet


“The Pentagram signifies the domination of the mind over the Elements, and the demons of Air, the spirits of Fire, the phantoms of Water, and the ghosts of Earth; all are enchained by this sign. Equipped therewith, and suitably disposed, you may then behold the Infinite through the medium of that faculty which is like the soul’s eye, and you will be ministered onto by legions of angels and hosts of fiends…. It follows that, by means of the imagination, demons and spirits can be beheldd, really and in truth; but the imagination of the Adept is diaphanous, whislt that of the crowd is opaque…. The Pentagram is called in Cabbalah the Sign of the Microcosm…. By the Pentagram also is measured the exact proportions of the great and unique Athanor necessary to the confection of the Philosopher’s Stone and to the accomplishment of the [alchemical] Great Work.” – Transcendental Magic: It’s Doctrine and Ritual by Eliphas Levi

Circumambulating the Alchemical Mysterium: Introduction


L C H E M Y  may be described, in the words of Baudelaire, as a process
of ‘distilling the eternal from the transient’. As the art of
transmutation par excellence, the classical applications of alchemy have
always been twofold: chrysopoeia and apotheosis
(gold-making and god-making)—the perfection of metals and mortals. In
seeking to turn ‘poison into wine’, alchemy, like tantra, engages
material existence—often at its most dissolute or corruptible—in order
to transform it into a vehicle of liberation. Like theurgy, it seeks not
only personal liberation—the redemption of the soul from the cycles of
generation and corruption—but also the liberation (or perfection) of
nature herself through participation in the cosmic demiurgy. In its
highest sense, therefore, alchemy conforms to what Lurianic kabbalists
would call tikkun, the restoration of the world.

invariably, the earliest alchemical texts describe procedures for
creating elixirs of immortality—of extracting transformative essences
from physical substances in order to render metals golden and mortals
divine. Through this, the earliest alchemists innovated physical
processes such as distillation and fermentation, extraction and
refinement, and the analysis and synthesis of various chemical
substances. However, it must not be forgotten that the earliest contexts of ‘material’ alchemy were not proto-scientific, but ritualistic.
Whether one looks at the Taiqing (Great Clarity) tradition of
third-to-sixth century China, the Siddha traditions of early medieval
India, or the magical and theurgical milieux of Hellenistic Egypt, the
most concrete alchemical practices were always inseparable from ritual
invocations to and supplications of the divinities whose ranks the
alchemist wished to enter. Moreover, in east and west alike, the
alchemical techniques themselves were allegedly passed down from
divinity to humanity. Alchemy was a divine art (hieratikē technē).

stemming from the entheogenic properties of physical elixirs, or
developing independently, the desire to encounter the divine directly
through inner experience (gnōsis, jnāna) was soon cultivated
via internal practices of a meditative or metaphysiological character.
Here the elixir began to be generated within the vessels of the human
body in order to transform it into an alchemical body of glory. Thus,
the two basic traditions—external and internal alchemy; neidan and waidan,
laboratory and oratory—can, in the final analysis, be regarded as
complimentary approaches to the same end: the attainment of perfection
through liberation from conditioned existence.

these generalising remarks, and despite the unusual aptness of
Baudelaire’s phrase, it must nevertheless be conceded that the effort to
define alchemy to everyone’s satisfaction may well be impossible. On
one hand, alchemy needs to be defined in a way that encapsulates the
living breadth and depth of the world’s alchemical traditions. On the
other hand, such a definition must also be internally consistent with
the many specific, historically contingent (and at timescontradictory)
expressions of alchemy. Moreover, the very attempt to strike such a
‘golden mean’ between the universal and particular, between the
‘synchronic’ and the ‘diachronic’, is something of an alchemical act in
and of itself—the elusive, indeed transformative, point where ‘art’
becomes science and ‘science’, art. In this respect, alchemy may well be
seen to inhere precisely in such ‘nodal points of qualitative change’
(as Jack Lindsay called them in his landmark study of Graeco-Egyptian
alchemy), or in instances of
‘qualitative exaltation’ (as the twentieth-century alchemist, René
Schwaller de Lubicz, described them with regards to the ‘teratological
proliferations’ of biological species).

than offer a single, rigid definition (which will quickly become
restrictive), what I would like to do in this introduction is present a
series of linguistic, historiographical, and phenomenological
‘circumambulations’ around the alchemical mysterium. In so
doing, I seek to trace some of the more salient contours of the
alchemical landscape, and, if possible, glimpse the presence of its
elusive ‘centre’. One of the merits of approaching alchemy by
circumambulation is that it affords a much wider circumscription of the
phenomenon than the narrowly fixed parameters of disciplinal specificity
usually permit; it therefore allows a more eidetic or phenomenological
insight to develop—an approach that, in German philosophical traditions,
is seen to promote actual understanding (Verstehen) rather mere explanation (Erklären). As Hans Thomas Hakl points out in a recent study of Julius Evola’s alchemical works, circumambulatio is
precisely the approach taken in order to engender an actual experience
of the realities that allegedly underpin the multiplicity of Hermetic
symbols. It is, potentially, a
method of ‘knowledge by presence’ rather than simple ‘representational
knowledge’. Of course, such approaches, which are fundamentally
morphological in their method, are also ahistorical in character, and so
what must be offered here is not an exclusivelyphenomenological
approach, but a circumambulation that is also tempered in the fires of
historical rigour. Such an approach, in my experience, is fundamentally
more balanced than either of the extremes.

the same time, it must be recognised that there is an inherent tension
to this balance; a tension that requires one to embrace a Heraclitean
‘harmony of contraries’ between deeply opposed methodologies. In
circumambulating a centre, whether as an ‘essentialist’ or ‘relativist’,
the ultimate nature of the centre, indeed the substantial existence of
the centre itself, must remain an open question. As the Dao de Jingremarks,
‘thirty spokes meet in the hub of the wheel, but the function of the
wheel is in the empty part’. Without the concrete spokes of
empirical-historical data, we may not become aware of the centre, and
yet this centre, which is empty, is precisely the function (the
phenomenological Verstehen) around which the spokes revolve,
giving them their form, their function and thus their meaning. Both
aspects are interdependent and both must be equally accounted for. Thus,
before we open up to any deeper phenomenological perceptions, our
circumambulations must begin by first situating alchemy in its concrete
historical-linguistic and historiographic contexts.

Al-Kimiya (from essay: Circumambulating the Alchemical Mysterium)



historical purview of what came to be called alchemy includes an
undeniable current of influence stemming from Pharaonic and Hellenistic
Egypt on one hand, and another stemming from ancient China, medieval
India and Tibet on the other―currents that appear to have
cross-fertilised before converging in Arabic alchemy, whence the term
proper: al-kīmiyā. Scholars have long known that the word alchemy points to an Arabic transmission (alkīmiyā becomes Spanishalquimia, Latin alchimia, French alchimie, German Alchemie, etc.) [The Arabic definite article al- points clearly to this, yet the precise origin of the lexeme kīmiyā is far from certain. Academic consensus has generally favoured Greek sources, notably those published by Marcellin Berthelot,  suggesting an origin from the term chyma(‘that
which is poured out’; ‘flows, fluid’; ‘ingot, bar’; metaphorically,
‘confused mass, aggregate, crowd’; ‘materials, constituents’), whence chymeia, ‘the art of alloying metals’) named from its supposed inventor, Chymēs. As Harris observes in his 1704 Lexicon Technicum:

is variously defined, but the design of this Art is to separate
usefully the Purer Parts of any mix’d Body from the more Gross and
Impure. It seems probably to be derived from the Greek word chymos, which signifies a Juice, or the purer Substance of a mix’d Body; though some will have it to come from cheein, to melt. It is also called the Spagyrick, Hermetick, and Pyrotechnick Art, as also by some Alchymy.

idea of fluid essences, extracts or elixirs is clearly central to the
alchemical purview, and as will be seen throughout this volume, it is
also inherent to the very names for alchemy in Chinese and Indo-Tibetan
traditions (Chinese dao jindan, Sanskrit rasāyana, Tibetan bcud len).
In addition, the Greek etymology distinctly emphasises the idea of
metallic fusibility, and the idea that metals are fundamentallyfusible entities proves central to the alchemical perception. The word ‘metal’ itself (metallon, metalleion) is homophonous with—and most likely derived from—a whole series of words indicating ‘transformation’, such as metalloiōsis, which is formed from the preposition meta– (‘between, with, after; taking a different position or state’) and the substantive alloiōsis (‘alteration’ or ‘change’).

Whether derived from chyma, chymeia, Chymēs, or chymos, the term alchemy appears to
come to the Latin west from late Greek sources through the same kinds
of channels that preserved Platonic and Aristotelian texts, in Arabic
translation, after the fall of the Greek Academy. While the lines of
historical transmission are well known, matters are not quite as simple
as they first appear. Egyptologists and Sinologists have both brought
forward diverging evidence that the origins of alchemy lay not in Greece
but in the Ancient Near or Far East.

The Egyptian Etymology

In addition to the Greek etymology, the root kīmiyā has also been traced to the Egyptian name for Egypt, km.t (Coptic keme, kēmi), which Plutarch gives as chēmia,‘the blackest earth’ (malista melangeion).  The implications of this etymology are explored in detail elsewhere in this volume. Suffice
it to say for now that a wealth of theological and cosmological
significations deeply pertinent to alchemy emerge from Plutarch’s
identification of the name of Egypt with not only the blackness of the
soil, but also with the blackness of the pupil of the eye. On a basic,
symbolic level, this coheres with the fact that the Nilotic black earth,
which literally (and geographically) defined Egypt, was fertile soil—the
perfect receptor of life-giving seed; in the same way, the transparent
openness that forms the pupil of the eye is the perfect receptor of

As will be seen,
these significations directly tie the early conception of alchemy to
genuine Egyptian theological conceptions on one hand, and to the Greek
Hermetic corpus on the other, a point that has already been articulated
in some detail by Erik Iversen with regard to the Memphite cosmology of
the Shabaka stone and its clear recapitulation in the Corpus Hermeticum itself.  Furthermore,
as the late Algis Uždavinys makes abundantly clear, this current of
alchemy cannot be divorced from the numerous morphological continuities
that exist between Egyptian mortuary cult on one hand, and Homeric,
Orphic, Pythagorean, Platonic and hieratic Neoplatonic traditions on the
other.  And as scholars such as
Peter Kingsley have shown, these morphological connections are not
merely apparent: they are deeply rooted in a fine web of mutual
historical and geographical interactions between the initiatic
traditions not only of Egypt itself, but those of southern Italy and
Sicily (whence the Pythagorean current that would retain such a strong
presence in the Hermetic tradition down through the centuries, from
Bolus of Mendes to the Turba Philosophorum).

The Chinese Origin of the Chem- Etymon

Joseph Needham, in the alchemical volumes of his magisterial Science and Civilisation in China, makes a very plausible case for the Greek and Arabic borrowing of the Chinese term jin (‘gold’) or jin i (‘gold
juice, gold ferment’), terms explicitly linked to aurifaction,
aurifiction and elixirs for perfecting bodies, all of which appears to
place kīmiyā in an original context not only of Taoist
metallurgical practices, but also of traditions of physical immortality
(macrobiotics).  After one of the most lucid and thorough surveys of the existing etymological evidence for alchemy, Needham, concludes:

If some have found an influence of jin (kiem) on chēmeia (chimeia, chymeia) difficult to accept, there has been less desire to question its influence on al-kīmiyā.
No Arabic etymologist ever produced a plausible derivation of the word
from Semitic roots, and there is the further point that both jin i and kīmiyā could and did mean an actual substance or elixir as well as the art of making elixirs, while chēmeia does
not seem to have been used as a concrete noun of that kind. We are left
with the possibility that the name of the Chinese ‘gold art’,
crystallised in the syllable jin(kiem), spread over
the length and breadth of the Old World, evoking first the Greek terms
for chemistry and then, indirectly or directly, the Arabic one.

makes it saliently clear that alchemy is not simply a product of
Hellenistic culture. Although it is difficult to accept an exclusively Chinese
origin for alchemy, the copious evidence adduced by Needham and his
collaborators over four large volumes irrevocably transforms (and
complicates) the overall picture of the genesis of alchemy. In short,
not only must one come to terms with the Ancient Near Eastern influence
upon Hellenistic and Islamicate alchemical traditions, one must also
contend with the Ancient Far Eastern influences upon the intellectual
and technical history of alchemy. This is especially pertinent given the
attested lines of cultural exchange between the Asian, European and
African landmasses along the Silk Road, which were established during
the Han Dynasty (206 bce – 220 ce).

The most important Chinese term for alchemy was jindan,
or ‘golden elixir’, which was conceived in both an external sense (as a
macrobiogen) and an internal sense (as a spiritual embryo).  Jindan also
referred especially to cinnabar, the red salt of sulphur and mercury,
and the raw ingredient from which mercury was refined. As such, cinnabar
points to one of the most ancient and pervasive mineral theophanies of
the world’s alchemical traditions: the marriage of mineral sulphur and
metallic mercury to form a red crystalline stone (mercuric sulphide).
Around this naturally occurring substance, multiple layers of
historical, cultural and mythological meaning would accrue not only in
Chinese and Indo-Tibetan but also in Islamicate and European alchemical

With regard to
our previous remarks on metal as a quintessentially fluid substance, it
may also be added here that in ancient Chinese cosmology, metal (for
which jin was also a generic term) was regarded as one of the five elements (wu xing);
not only was it regarded as the ‘mother’ of the water element, the
metal element itself was defined precisely by its double capacity to melt and to solidify into new form (as in a mould). This
ability to revert from a solid form to an amorphous or liquid state,
and back again, is a very important principle. In the western alchemical
canon it would inhere in the formula: solve et coagula,
‘dissolve and coagulate’, a formula that possesses deep symbolic value
in regards to ontologies of ‘flux’ and ‘permanence’ (pointing to a more
paradoxical ontology embracing both ‘permanence in flux’ and ‘flux in
permanence’). It also underscores the universal value almost unanimously
given to mercury as the ‘essence’ of metals. For next to gold and
cinnabar, mercury figures as the most universal of all alchemical
substances in eastern and western traditions alike. When alchemically
refined, moreover, it came to be regarded less as a ‘substance’ per se, as more as the underlying principle of pure sublimity—of absolute volatility—with the unique power to penetrate and transform all things, especially minerals and metals (the most dense things).

The Hermetic Problem of Salt


Every individual rises again in the very form which his Work
(in the alchemical sense) has fixed in the secret (esoteric) depth of


S I N C E   P A R A C E L S U S  (1493-1541), salt has played a role
in alchemy as the physical “body” which remains after combustion, the
corporeal substance that survives death to reinaugurate new life. It was
both ‘corruption and preservation against corruption’ (Dorn); both the
‘last agent of corruption’ and the ‘first agent in generation’ (Steeb). As such, the alchemical salt functions as the fulcrum of death and
revivification. The idea that the agent, instrument and patient of the
alchemical process are not separate entities but aspects of one reality
prefigures the significance accorded in this study to ‘the Hermetic
problem of salt’. Just as in chemistry a salt may be defined as the
product of an acid and a base, alchemically, salt is the integral
resolution to the primordial polarities embodied in the mineral symbolique of cinnabar (HgS), the salt of
sulphur and mercury. In the alchemy of René Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz
(1887-1961), salt forms the equilibrium between an active function
(sulphur, divinity, peras) and its passive resistance (mercurial substance, prima materia, the apeiron),
aspects which are latently present in the primordial (pre-polarised)
unity, but crystallised into physical existence as “salt”. With
Schwaller’s concept, one is dealing with a juncture of the metaphysical
and proto-physical. As will be seen, however, this also inheres in the
body as a fulcrum point of death and palingenesis.

Leap, Salve, Balsam

‘Salt arises from the purest sources, the sun and the sea’.

order to understand the nature of alchemical salt one must first
understand the nature of common salt. In doing this, however, it is soon
realised that salt is anything but common; like many everyday things,
salt is so familiar that its singular peculiarity is taken for granted.
Visser, in an extraordinary study of the elements of an ordinary meal,
aptly encapsulates the cultural purview of salt in the following words:

is the only rock directly consumed by man. It corrodes but preserves,
desiccates but is wrested from the water. It has fascinated man for
thousands of years not only as a substance he prized and was willing to
labour to obtain, but also as a generator of poetic and of mythic
meaning. The contradictions it embodies only intensify its power and its
links with experience of the sacred.

European languages derive their word ‘salt’ from Proto-Indo-European *sāl- (*sēl-) reflected directly in Latin as sal, ‘salt, salt water, brine; intellectual savour, wit’, Greek hals, ‘salt, sea’ (cf. Welsh halen) and in Proto-Germanic as *saltom (Old English sealt, Gothic salt, German Salz). In addition to its mineral referent, sal also gives rise to a number of cognates that help crystallise its further semantic and symbolic nuances. Saltus, saltum, ‘leap’, derives from the verb salio, ‘leap, jump, leap sexually’, whence Saliī,
‘priests of Mars’ from the ‘primitive rites (practically universal) of
dancing or leaping for the encouragement of crops’; saltāre, ‘dance’, salmo, ‘salmon’ (leaping fish), (in)sultāre, (‘insult’, literally ‘leap on, in’; figuratively, ‘taunt, provoke, move to action’), all from Indo-European *sēl-, ‘move forth, start up or out’, whence Greek ἁλλομαι, άλτo, ἁλμα (hallomai, halto, halma), ‘leap’; Sanskrit ucchalati (*ud-sal-),
‘starts up’. Importantly for the alchemical conception, alongside
‘leap’ one finds the meanings at the root of English ‘salve’ (balm,
balsam), derived from Indo-European *sel-p-, *sel-bh-, and giving rise to Cyprian elphos (butter), Gothic salbōn, Old English sealfian; in Latin: salus, ‘soundness, health, safety’; salūbris, ‘wholesome, healthy’; salūtāre, ‘keep safe, wish health, salute’; salvus, ‘safe, sound’; salvēre, ‘be in good health’; salvē, ‘hail!’; cf. also *sēl-eu-; Avestan huarva, ‘whole, uninjured’; Sanskrit sarva-, sarvatāti, ‘soundness’ and Greek ὁλοειται, ὁλος (holoeitai, holos), ‘whole’. These meanings are further connected to solidus, sollus, sōlor, with an ultimate sense of ‘gathering, compacting’, hence ‘solidity’.

addition to its salvific, balsamic and holistic aspect, which must be
regarded as the meaning most central to the alchemical perception, the
significance of salt as both ‘leap’ and ‘solidity’ must also be
recognised as integral. In particular, it pertains to Schwaller’s
conception of salt as the fixed imperishable nucleus (solidus)
regarded as the hidden mechanism underpinning the ontological ‘leaps’ or
mutations of visible evolution (contra the Aristotelian dictum, natura non facit saltum,
‘nature does not proceed by a leap’). For Schwaller, the seemingly
disconnected leaps of biological mutation are in fact bound by a hidden
harmony grounded in the saline alchemical nucleus.

Although it is
the intention of this study to explore the deeper meaning of salt in the
work of Schwaller de Lubicz—alchemically configured as the determiner
of an entity’s form—a number of studies have pointed to the crucial role
of salt as a significant shaper of civilisation. Perhaps the
earliest point of departure for this is the fact that salt only rises to
especial prominence with the emergence of an agricultural economy. Salt
intake, initially bound to blood and meat, had to be supplemented.
Comments Darby:

When man first learnt
the use of salt is enshrouded in the mists of the remotest past.
Parallel to the Ancient Greek’s ignorance of the seasoning, the original
Indo-Europeans and the Sanskrit speaking peoples had no word for it.
This apparent lack of salt-craving in early people could have been a
result of their reliance on raw or roasted meat. Later, when with the
invention of boiling the sodium content of meat was reduced, and when
the shift to an agricultural economy introduced vegetables in increasing
amounts, sodium chloride became a basic need to provide an adequate
sodium intake and, more important still, to counterbalance the high
potassium content of plants.

Commodity histories show that
salt was not always the easily available resource it is today; it had to
be striven for; it required effort and ingenuity (perhaps even wit).
It created trade and war; it was used as pay and exploited as a tax.
Nor did salt have the current stigma of being an unhealthy excess (a
problem symptomatic of modern surfeit). Quite to the contrary, salt
was typically a sign of privilege and prestige. ‘Salt like speech is
essentially semiotic’, Adshead remarks; ‘As such it could convey a
variety of meanings, of which the clearest in early times was social
distance: high cooking, low cooking, above and below the salt’. Considerations such as these help contextualise many of the ancient
values surrounding salt, some of which have become proverbial. In the New Testament,
for instance, but also elsewhere, the sharing of salt (often with bread
at a table), represented a deep bond of trust, of communal solidarity,
while the spilling of it was considered a grave faux pas.
Indeed, if salt was as freely available for liberal exploitation as it
is today, such ethical and social implications would scarcely carry any
weight at all.

Most of salt’s social meanings reflect its deepest functional value as a preservative. Just
as salt keeps the integrity of plants and meats intact, so salt was
seen to keep the integrity of a body of people together. As a prestige
substance that could preserve food through the death of winter and bind
people in communal solidarity, salt was highly regarded; during Roman
times, salt even became a form of currency, whence our word ‘salary’
(from Latin salārium, ‘salt money’) after the Roman habit of
paying soldiers in pieces of compressed salt (hence the phrase: ‘to be
worth one’s salt’). Because of its integrating character, salt
bridges opposites. Paradoxically, however, the more one attempts to pin
salt down in a strictly rational manner, the more the contradictions it
embodies abound.

‘There are totally different opinions concerning
salt’, writes Plutarch (c. 46–120 CE), who preserves a number of
contemporary beliefs, including the view that salt possesses not only
preservative qualities, but animating and even generative power:

include salt with the most important spices and healing materials,
calling it the real ‘soul of life’, and it is supposed to possess such
nourishing and enlivening powers that mice if they lick salt at once
become pregnant.

Consider also
whether this other property of salt is not divine too […] As the soul,
our most divine element, preserves life by preventing dissolution of the
body, just so salt, controls and checks the process of decay. This is
why some Stoics say that the sow at birth is dead flesh, but that the
soul is implanted in it later, like salt, to preserve it […] Ships
carrying salt breed an infinite number of rats because, according to
some authorities, the female conceives without coition by licking salt.

The connection of salt to the soul, a balsam to the body,
will be explored in more detail when the alchemical contexts of salinity
are examined. Its fertilising, generative power, on the other hand,
bears obvious comparison to salt’s known capacity to stimulate the
growth of the earth—a leavening function extended to the role of the
Apostles in the Christian Gospels: ‘Ye are the salt of the earth’.
And yet too much salt will make the earth sterile.

In ancient
times, offerings to the gods were made with salt among the Israelites:
‘with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt’, but without salt
among the Greeks: ‘mindful to this day of the earlier customs, they
roast in the flame the entrails in honour of the gods without adding
salt’. The Egyptian priests favoured rock salt in sacrifices as
purer than sea salt; and yet ‘one of the things forbidden to them
is to set salt upon a table’; they ‘abstain completely from salt as
a point of religion, even eating their bread unsalted’. Although
the Egyptians ‘never brought salt to the table’, Pythagoras, who
according to the doxographic traditions studied in the Egyptian temples,
tells us that:

It should be brought to
the table to remind us of what is right; for salt preserves whatever it
finds, and it arises from the purest sources, the sun and the sea.

The understanding of salt as a product of sun and sea, i.e. of fire and water, ouranos and oceanos,
touches on its broader esoteric and cosmological implications, not all
of which were peculiar to Pythagoras. These aspects become central
in alchemy, where, as will be seen, salt acts as the earthly ligature
between fire (sun) and water (sea), the arcane substance whose patent
ambiguities stem from its role as embodiment and juncture of opposites:
purity and impurity, eros and enmity, wetness and desiccation, fertility
and sterility, love and strife. One thing that the present discussion
of the mythological and historical aspects of salt hopes to emphasise is
that none of these ideas are really born of speculation or abstraction;
rather, they are all intimately linked to the basic phenomenology of
the substance itself.

Above all, salt is ambiguous. While some of
these ambiguities may be attributed to the unevenness of the sources,
and while some points of contradiction may be cleared up upon closer
examination (the negative Egyptian views on salt, for instance, mainly
seem to apply to times of ritual fasting), this does not eclipse the
overarching sense that salt, by its very nature, defies strict