Alchemy discussion forum Home
 Search       Members   Calendar   Help   Home 
Search by username
Not logged in - Login | Register 
Alchemy discussion forum > Alchemy texts > Alchemy Texts > Rene Schwaller and the ordering of the 12 keys of Basil Valentine

Rene Schwaller and the ordering of the 12 keys of Basil Valentine
 Moderated by: alchemyd  
 New Topic   Reply   Print 
AuthorPost
Daniel_Burnham
Member
 

Joined: Tue May 13th, 2014
Location: NYC, New York USA
Posts: 17
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Tue May 27th, 2014 04:15 pm
 Quote  Reply 
To date, I have yet to see a complete analysis of the 12 keys. Adam McLean's discussion (http://www.alchemywebsite.com/twelve_keys.html) is certainly fascinating, as well as the discussion of the first 3 keys by Rubellus Petrinus (http://www.salamanderandsons.com/modern-magistery/the-great-alchemical-work.html).

Often not mentioned, however, are the comments made by the philosopher Rene Schwaller cited in the biography by Andre VandenBroeck (http://books.google.com/books/about/Al_Kemi.html?id=wg2nYIYpLAEC).

On page 83, Schwaller says the following: "This text is remarkably clear when put into the right order, and quite obscure in the order it presents itself. But note that the order itself is clearly indicated in the text. That is part of what makes it a masterpiece of esoteric writing."

Later, on page 92, VandenBroeck makes a "step in understanding" by recognizing the location of the correct order of the keys - the zodiacal discussion of the 9th key.

I am reiterating Schwaller's understanding, not stating this as fact. However, when one analyzes this section of the text some interesting results occur.

The ordering of the celestial zones at the end of the 9th key:

"Let me tell you allegorically that you must put into the heavenly Balance the Ram, Bull, Cancer, Scorpion, and Goat. In the other scale of the Balance you must place the Twins, the Archer, the Water-bearer, and the Virgin. Then let the Lion jump into the Virgin's lap, which will cause the other scale to kick the beam. Thereupon, let the signs of the Zodiac enter into opposition to the Pleiads, and when all the colours of the world have shewn themselves, let there be a conjunction and union between the greatest and the smallest, and the smallest and the greatest."

Making the assumption that the philosophical year begins at the vernal point, it is possible to assign astrological associations with the normal order of the 12 keys:

Ram / Aries: 1st key
Bull / Taurus: 2nd key
Twins / Gemini: 3rd key
Cancer / Cancer: 4th key
Lion / Leo: 5th key
Virgin / Virgo: 6th key
Balance / Libra: 7th key
Scorpion / Scorpio: 8th key
Archer / Sagittarius: 9th key
Goat / Capricorn: 10th key
Water-bearer / Aquarius: 11th key
Fish / Pisces: 12th key

The images of the keys might provide confirmation of the zodiacal association in some cases. For example, the scales of balance in the 7th key, the crowned lion of the 5th key, and the queen at her wedding ceremony (thus she is a virgin) in the 6th key.

Taken in order of mention by Valentine, the (esoteric) order of the keys based on 9th key:

1. Balance / Libra: 7th key
2. Ram / Aries: 1st key
3. Bull / Taurus: 2nd key
4. Cancer / Cancer: 4th key
5. Scorpion / Scorpio: 8th key
6. Goat / Capricorn: 10th key
7. Twins / Gemini: 3rd key
8. Archer / Sagittarius: 9th key
9. Water-bearer / Aquarius: 11th key
10. Virgin / Virgo: 6th key
11. Lion / Leo: 5th key
12. Fish / Pisces: 12th key

This is a possible ordering of the 12 keys as was understood by Schwaller. While speculative, it is certainly of historical interest in any case.

Last edited on Tue May 27th, 2014 04:15 pm by Daniel_Burnham

adammclean
Member


Joined: Fri Sep 14th, 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 605
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Mon Jun 2nd, 2014 10:54 am
 Quote  Reply 
This kind of modern interpretation I now find pointless.

Instead I take the view that the order of the Keys is completely determined by the printed versions. That is the clear source for the Twelve Keys rather than some contrivance in the mind of a modern esoteric writer.

As circumstances will have it, I have over the last two months been researching the various version of the Twelve Keys and will shortly be publishing this as the Imagery of the Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine which will show the various woodcut and engraved version printed together for the first time. These are all in the same order - so that is the reality, unless some manuscript were to turn up with them presented in a different order.

The statements of Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, et al, should be studied as part of modern esoterics. They are not part of historical alchemy. Such people seek to recontextualise the alchemical ideas of centuries earlier within a contrived set of ideas rooted in the late 19th century and twentieth centuries.

It is important to study alchemy within its proper context, otherwise ones studies merely degenerate into modern waffle and nonsense.

Daniel_Burnham
Member
 

Joined: Tue May 13th, 2014
Location: NYC, New York USA
Posts: 17
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Tue Jun 3rd, 2014 05:53 am
 Quote  Reply 
adammclean wrote:
Instead I take the view that the order of the Keys is completely determined by the printed versions. That is the clear source for the Twelve Keys rather than some contrivance in the mind of a modern esoteric writer.

As circumstances will have it, I have over the last two months been researching the various version of the Twelve Keys and will shortly be publishing this as the Imagery of the Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine which will show the various woodcut and engraved version printed together for the first time. These are all in the same order - so that is the reality, unless some manuscript were to turn up with them presented in a different order.

The statements of Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, et al, should be studied as part of modern esoterics. They are not part of historical alchemy. Such people seek to recontextualise the alchemical ideas of centuries earlier within a contrived set of ideas rooted in the late 19th century and twentieth centuries.

It is important to study alchemy within its proper context, otherwise ones studies merely degenerate into modern waffle and nonsense.


I agree with you that the approach of Schwaller is speculative (I said as much in the original post).

However, if you want to discuss context, then we must bring up the Scala Philosophorum and Ripley's Compound of Alchemy (based on the former). See, for example: http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/people/rampling/depicting_medieval_alchemical_cosmos.pdf
and
http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/people/rampling/establishing_the_canon.pdf.

There is a contextual precedent that exists prior to the publication of the 12 keys for portraying the alchemical work in 12 stages. Ripley added the zodiacal correspondences to his wheel (which were not, to my knowledge, present in the 12 stages of the Scala Philosophorum):

"One of the functions of Ripley’s Wheel is thus to model the shift of elementary qualities between extremes, via a mean. The figure efficiently incorporates the four elements and their secondary qualities, the compass points, seasons, dimensions (height, depth, and two ‘sides,’ or latitudes), signs of the zodiac, and, from medicine, the four administering virtues (digestive, expulsive, retentive and attractive) into the single, circular image." (Rampling, Alchemical Cosmos, p. 55)

Regardless of all this, the question of what exactly the zodiacal reference in the 9th key alludes to is a perfectly legitimate one. If the zodiacal reference does not relate somehow to the 12 stages (keys), then to what does it refer? I was hoping, by my post, to provoke a plausible counter-explanation of that particular passage.

And to clarify, Rene Schwaller was a professionally trained chemist, and practicing laboratory alchemist. How does one propose a cut off date as to what is or is not "historical alchemy"? Such an imposition seems rather arbitrary. For details on the life of Schwaller and his alchemical pursuits, see the Ph.D. dissertation by Aaron Cheak: https://www.academia.edu/1277494/Light_Broken_Through_the_Prism_of_Life_Rene_Schwaller_de_Lubicz_and_the_Hermetic_Problem_of_Salt_PhD_Dissertation_

adammclean
Member


Joined: Fri Sep 14th, 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 605
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Tue Jun 3rd, 2014 08:14 am
 Quote  Reply 
How does one propose a cut off date as to what is or is not "historical alchemy"?

There is a natural hiatus in alchemical publications. The momentum of books and manuscripts on alchemy rapidly diminishes at the end of the 18th century and through the 19th century we find only a few isolated examples. Interest in alchemy sets off again in the wake of the late 19th century French revival and the emergence of the Theosophical Society, et al. The modern period, from the late 19th century on, is characterised by speculation, reinterpretation, and recontextualising. This emerges out of modern syncretism and imagination.

There seems no way to assess or give any weight to various modern writers on alchemy. Allow one and one has to allow them all. There appears no clear way in which one can make any assessment of the validity of any of these modern interpretations, as they are entirely founded on individual imaginings and beliefs.

I have a massive folder in my Email box of cranks and nutters who write to me to tell me the secrets of alchemy as they see it. If one accepts modern speculation then one has to accept them all as being valid. There is no way to judge or assess views based on beliefs and self-convincing rhetoric.

I find it impossible to live in an ever changing fluid sea of vapid nonsense and instead focus entirely on the original writings. Few people share my view, as most people seem to enjoy such speculation and like to believe in the output of some modern writer, like fans of some celebrity.

I sometimes hold out hope that others might also want to ground themselves in the original writings, but I suspect this is against the spirit of our postmodern age. I struggle on publishing source material even although there is little interest in it. The source material for modern speculative alchemy is not the original writings of alchemists, but lies in the massa confusa of the twentieth century mindset. I leave this for others to pursue.

I did publish last year a transcription of an Alchemical Diary from late 17th century England. Sadly few people wanted to buy a copy. It seems strange to me that so few are interested in seeing what the actual alchemists of that time were doing, preferring perhaps to base their understanding of alchemy on modern speculative writings.

Daniel_Burnham
Member
 

Joined: Tue May 13th, 2014
Location: NYC, New York USA
Posts: 17
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Tue Jun 3rd, 2014 04:12 pm
 Quote  Reply 
adammclean wrote:
The modern period, from the late 19th century on, is characterised by speculation, reinterpretation, and recontextualising. This emerges out of modern syncretism and imagination.

There seems no way to assess or give any weight to various modern writers on alchemy. Allow one and one has to allow them all. There appears no clear way in which one can make any assessment of the validity of any of these modern interpretations, as they are entirely founded on individual imaginings and beliefs.


I will humbly disagree that if one "allows one" then you must "allow them all". We are not talking about every statement made by every 19th and 20th century interpreter of alchemical texts (though I agree with you that there is an abundance of wild speculation). This thread is speaking toward a particular passage, from one particular text (the zodiacal reference in the 9th key of the 12 keys). There is nothing, to my knowledge, within the source text itself that clearly explains the intention of the author with regard to this passage (please correct me if I am wrong). With this understanding, I agree with you that every interpretation is ultimately just speculation.

However, I have cited the example of Ripley to show that a zodiacal association with the stages of the alchemical work has been established prior to the publication of the 12 keys. This is in no sense founded on "individual imaginings or beliefs", but rather is demonstrable in a scholarly fashion.

In fact, this type of association does not begin with Ripley, but can be traced back to Stephanos of Alexandria and the Byzantine tradition.

"He names the zodiacal signs 'towers' and thus refers to the sacred art (of making gold) as having twelve towers and twelve signs divided in four groups of three towers (signs) each: vernal equinox and signs-towers Aries, Taurus, and Gemini correspond to air; summer solstice and Signs Cancer, Leo, and Virgo correspond to fire; fall equinox and signs Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius correspond to water; winter solstice and signs Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces correspond to earth."

The above quoted from Maria Papathanassiou's "Stephanos of Alexandria: A Famous Byzantine Scholar, Alchemist and Astrologer":
https://www.academia.edu/4426341/Stephanos_of_Alexandria_A_Famous_Byzantine_Scholar_Alchemist_and_Astrologer

Interestingly, Stephanos also seems to have been an early adopter of the word "key" to describe the transitions of the alchemical operation: "Stephanos uses the word 'key' to denote the passage from one element to another that has opposite qualities..." (from the above reference)

Suggesting that the zodiacal passage of the 9th key might refer to the stages of the operation is certainly speculative, but not at all out of context in my opinion.

adammclean
Member


Joined: Fri Sep 14th, 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 605
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Tue Jun 3rd, 2014 08:18 pm
 Quote  Reply 
I will humbly disagree that if one "allows one" then you must "allow them all".

I cannot see how one can judge between one person's belief
system and another. They are all equally idiosyncratic.

I go by what I read in Valentine's text of his Ninth Key
from which you quote. The main set of ideas presented
there relate rather to the planets. The signs are mentioned
in the final paragraph. Nowhere does Valentine associate
the signs with a sequence for his 'Keys', or am I blind to
such mentions. The keys are numbered so surely that is
the sequence.

What you present by de Lubicz et al, are their speculations
based on their belief system and not on the text itself.
Such speculations seem to me quite pointless, being
a mere indulgence of such authors. They are reading their
own agenda into the text.

'Valentine' himself must surely say the final word
on his work. I am not so postmodern as to suggest we
can read his text as we will, and that any and all
readings are of equivalent value.

I seriously doubt that Valentine (or whoever wrote his
texts) had Stephanos' ideas about 'Keys' in mind. A key
is a common enough idea for something that unlocks. A well
used idea in books of the time, I feel sure.
Surely that is sufficient as a source and we do
not have to go looking back to Greek alchemy. I am
not even sure if the writings of Stephanos were
available to people during the late 16th century.

Last edited on Tue Jun 3rd, 2014 08:20 pm by adammclean


 Current time is 05:17 am




Powered by WowBB 1.7 - Copyright © 2003-2006 Aycan Gulez