One of the most famous engravings from European alchemy is a woodcut esoteric mandala designed by alchemical adept and doctor of medicine, Hienrich Khunrath, for his masterful treatise Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom published in 1604. The alchemical mandala engraving titled"The First Stage of the Great Work" is a circle that contains the alchemists' workshop where all the elements in it are drawn in perspective toward an offset center which is an open door above which is written in Latin "While sleeping, watch!"
On the left side the alchemist kneels in supplication near the opening of a Scythian-like tent. In the left foreground before the tent is a large censor with smoke billowing forth from it. In the smoke is written in Latin, "ascending smoke, sacrificial speech acceptable to God."
To the right of the center is laboratory equipment and high above everything else alone near the ceiling beams is a curious seven-leafed chandelier that is out of perspective compared to the converging lines in the beams.
The chandelier looks more like a seven-fingered marijuana leaf with a flame at the tip of every finger. The only other flame in the engraving is in the tent itself. The plaque below the flame in the tent says "Happy is the one who follows the advice of God." On the cross beam above the seven-fingered marijuana-leaf chandelier is written "Without the breath of inspiration from God, no one finds the great way." Khunrath, as did all the alchemical masters, chose his words well so that only the uninitiated would misinterpret his meaning. But we know the tradition of cannabis incense use, especially by the Scythians in tents.
Heinrich's cant, "ascending smoke, sacrificial speech acceptable to God," harkens back to the Akkadian Counsels of Wisdom ; from ancient Mesopotamia, "Sacrifice and (pious) utterance are the proper accompaniment of incense." In all probability Hienrich Khunrath knew nothing about the Akkadian Counsels of Wisdom . On the other hand Khunrath declared the entrance to eternal wisdom could be gained "Christiano-Kabalically, divino-magically and even physio-chemically."
He revealed the secret transforming substance was a red gum, the "resin of the wise ." Concerning the nature of the Stone Khunrath wrote: "[The] Cabalistic habitaculum Materiae Lapidis was originally made known from on high through Divine Inspiration and special Revelation, both with and without instrumental help, 'awake as well as asleep or in dreams.'" Khunrath said that one could "perfectly prepare our Chaos Naturae in the highest simplicity and perfection" through a[i] [b]"special Secret Divine Vision and revelation, without further probing and pondering of the causes…. So work even in the laboratory by thyself alone, without collaboration or assistants, in order that God, the Jealous, may not withdraw the art from thee, on account of thy assistants to whom He may not wish to impart it."
Khunrath is telling the reader that his words are Cabalistic, or in cant: esoteric meaning is hidden in his prose, analogical artwork and the slang of the day. In his day using marijuana for religious purposes was still considered diabolic and severely prohibited. One could still be dragged before the Inquisition accused of committing satanic rites, tortured into confessions leading ultimately to death and forfeiture of all properties. His warning to work alone and beware of impious assistants is always good advice - the profane naturally obstruct spiritual exploration.
However, such advice is imperative for survival if your religious sacraments and spiritual explorations are prohibited by the dominant orthodox paradigm controlling the state: beware of those with whom you would share the "especial Secret Divine Vision" for they may foolishly reveal incriminating evidence or worse, be informants working for the Inquisition that would turn you in for a percentage of the forfeiture (finder's fee) profits from the seizure of your personal property. Alchemists are, in fact, decided solitaries; each has his say in his own way. They rarely have pupils, and of direct tradition there seems to have been very little, nor is there much evidence of secret societies or the like.
Each worked in the laboratory for himself and suffered from loneliness. On the other hand, quarrels were rare. Their writings are relatively free of polemic, and the way they quote each other shows a remarkable agreement on the first principles, even if one cannot understand what they are really agreeing about. -Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy The Medieval alchemists communicated with one another through their writings. It was too dangerous for them to work together in communal laboratories, and by their independence from each other they were less vulnerable to attack from the prohibitionist Christian theocracy.>
They also communicated with one another across time through their writings. In Khunrath 's time hemp was a ubiquitous crop; its fiber was essential to global economic trade, for the sails of the world merchant fleets could be made from hemp fiber only-no other vegetable fiber sail cloth could endure the stresses of wind and salt air on long ocean voyages. Paradoxically, using hemp flowers as a religious sacrament was prohibited yet fields of hemp flowers could be found nearly everywhere.
The European hemp flowers routinely produce about one or two percent THC isomers (Tetra-Hydro-Canabinol , considered the psychoactive carbohydrate family of molecules in cannabis), whereas the resinous red hashish of Lebanon is about ten times more potent. Khunrath praised the "red resin of the wise," calling it the transforming substance. In the Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom Khunrath illustrates the alchemical process, the marriage of the sun and the moon, with a peacock standing on the two heads of the Rebis (opposite natures - sun and moon).
The inscription calls it the "bird of Hermes" and the "blessed greenness." Gerard Dorn, a contemporary of Khunrath discusses the plant Mercurialis whose properties were summarized from the Latin text by Carl Jung: Like the Homeric magic herb Moly, it was found by Hermes himself and must therefore have magical effects. It is particularly favorable to the coniunctio because it occurs in male and female form and thus can determine the sex of a child about to be conceived. Mercurius himself is said to be generated from an extract of it...
Did Dorn really mean that these magic herbs should be mixed together and that the air-colored quintessence should be distilled from the "Tartarus," or was he using these secret names and procedures to express a moral meaning? My conjecture is that he meant both, for it is clear that the alchemists did in fact operate with such substances and thought-processes, just as, in particular, the Paracelsist physicians used these remedies and reflections in their practical work. But if the adept really concocted such potions is his retort, he must surely have chosen his ingredients on account of their magical significance. - C. Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis Jung says there is no mention of the Mercurial plant in the "Tabernaemontanus, in which all the magico-medicinal properties of plants are carefully listed."
However he did say the mysterious plant "is closely connected with the 'tree of the sea' in Arabian alchemy and hence with the arbor philosophicia which in turn has parallels with the Cabalistic tree of the Sefiroth and with the tree of Christian mysticism and Hindu philosophy."
This prime matter which is proper for the form of the Elixir is taken from a single tree which grows in the lands of the West... And this tree grows on the surface of the ocean as plants grow on the surface of the earth. This is the tree of which whosoever eats, man and jinn obey him; it is also the tree of which Adam (peace be upon him!) was forbidden to eat... - Abu'l Qasim, Kitab al-'ilm
Jung connects the philosophical tree of the Arab alchemists with the Haoma tree that grows in the cosmic ocean of the Zoroastrian creation myth: We may note the curious fact that a lizard is concealed in the tree: "The evil spirit has formed therein, among those which enter as opposites, a lizard as an opponent in that deep water, so that it may injure the Haoma ," the plant of immortality. In alchemy , the spiritus mercurii that lives in the tree is represented as a serpent, salamander, or Melusina. - Jung, Psychology and Alchemy
Thank you Brother Chris Bennet for these wise words and this wonderful find.
Our Bibles tell us in Revelations if we keep the commandments we may have the right to the tree of life!