"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."


- Martin Luther




Luther's Rose


I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.



SOLI DEO GLORIA



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Christian Alchemy....What?



Daniel Gorman, regarding my last post, stated that: 
"You list "immutability" as an attribute of God; however, you do not list "mutability" as an attribute of man. The attributes you do list are all affected by man's essential mutability. For example, immortality is not an essential attribute of man. However, in his essential mutability, mortal man puts on immortality (1 Cor. 15:52, 53)."
He is right. The most important attribute of man is his mutability. If man were incapable of being changed, then there would be no hope for him. We, by nature, are dead in our trespasses in sin, and, if we were to remain that way would suffer in everlasting perdition. But thanks be to Christ, God has had mercy on us, and given us His Son's righteousness. As a result of this, we now have life in Him. Besides God's mercy and the Work of Christ on His cross, the only way any of this is possible is due to the fact that man's nature is capable of being changed from something dead to something alive by God's hands.

All this reminded me of something I read recently. The subject was regarding "Christian Alchemy", and the book was by John Warwick Montgomery; Principalities and Powers: A New Look At the World of the Occult. If you are interested on the history and subject of Christian Alchemy, then give what follows a read.

This passage comes from the 4th chapter titled, "The Stars and the Hermetic Tradition", under the subheading, "Alchemy: Gold From Dross":
Whether or not all such accounts represent reality, alchemy had another, and considerably more important side: spiritual transmutation, the search for a means by which the dross of one's base nature could be transformed into the gold of spiritual purity. Exceedingly important studies of this largely neglected aspect of the alchemical tradition have been made by religious phenomenologist Mircea Eliade and by analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. They have observed that the laboratory operations of the alchemist served as a "physical liturgy" - a ritual whereby the adept searched for the means to overcome the disjunction in himself (expressed as the opposing principles of "Sulphur" and "Mercury"). The discovery of the Stone of the Philosophers (often significantly termed the Elixir of Life or the Universal Medicine) would arise on the basis of the "conjunction of opposites" in the personality (symbolized by the alchemical marriage of Sulphur and Mercury). Thus would the alchemist achieve what Jung called "individuation": personal wholeness, salvation. Physical or metallic transmutation interlocked with this because of the fundamental hermetic belief that a "cosmic unity" embraced both the Macrocosm (nature) and the Microcosm (man). The Philosopher's Stone would therefore not only accelerate the organic and natural transformation of base metals into more "noble" elements but would also serve as the means to personal salvation and eternal life.


The redemptive side of alchemy was capable--as is anything related to human salvation--of two approaches, charachterized in Christian theology as "works-righteousness" and "salvation by grace through faith." Works-righteousness refers to any and all activities on the part of fallen man to save himself through self-effort; such attempts are doomed to failure because sin, like water, cannot rise above its own level, and the very activity of trying to save oneself is evidence that the sinner refuses to admit the extent of his self-centeredness. Salvation by God's grace, appropriated by faith, is the only way to life, for to rely on God is to see the true extent of one's own sinful incapacity and to go to the one pure source of lifegiving medicine. Alchemy outside the Christian tradition, and the Gnostic, "nature-philosophy" hermeticism of Renaissance Paracelsians and modern esoteric alchemists, is most definitely a variation on the theme of works-righteousness. By self-motivated religio-chemical technique, the adept harmonized the contraries within him, produced the Philospher's Stone, and transmutated his own existence to higher, more spiritual plane. Goethe's Faust is a characteristic example of the esoteric alchemist who by trying to save his own life ends up in a genuine devil's pact.


There were also, however, many Christian alchemists, who, losing their lives for Christ's sake saved them. Particularly in the epoch of the Protestant Reformation (the 16th and 17th centuries were the high point of alchemical activity in western history), alchemists imbued with Luther's central conviction that the just shall live by faith employed alchemical operations as a liturgy of biblical salvation. The Philosopher's Stone became "the Stone that the builders rejected": Christ Himself, who alone could achieve the conjunction of opposites in the individual soul and in the cosmos (the "chemical marriage" of Sulphur and Mercury displayed the Marriage Supper of the Lamb). Reformation alchemists produced outstanding works interrelating hermetic symbolism and Scriptural truth (e.g. Heinrich Khunrath's Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae of 1609, and the many writings of Michael Maier), and some of them, such as Libavius, contributed mightily to the development of today's chemistry.


Did "spiritual transmutation" work? The common rationalistic approach to the question is first of all to demythologize physical alchemy (metallic transmutations were merely "symbolic" of inner, existential transformation) and then to dispense with the spiritual claims of alchemists as subjective will-to-believe. This line of interpretation directly parallels the negatively critical approach to the Bible which first demythologizes the texts by eliminating their historical claims and then subjectivizes their message. But not all cases even of physical transmutation can be easily dismissed, as we have already noted. Where spiritual alchemy is concerned, Carl Gustav Jung made the striking discovery that the fundamental symbols and motifs employed by the old alchemists also appear in the dream life of the modern businessman! These common--indeed, universal--"symbols of transformation" represent what Jung calls archetypes of the collective unconscious: symbolic patterns describing every man's need to have his broken soul mended.


Thus the alchemists were engaged in a real--not a mythical or individual-subjective--quest. Did they find an answer? We know that the Christian alchemists did, for Christ was their Philosopher's Stone, and His historical resurrection from the dead establishes the veracity of His promise that "because I live, you shall live also" (Jn. 14:19) As for the esoteric alchemists who sought (and continue to seek, for many still exist, especially in France) a salvation that can be drawn from within themselves or achieved by technique, they too "have their reward" (Mt. 6:2, 5, 16). It would be fruitless to deny their claims to special spiritual experience. But salvation can be counterfeited, for the Evil One is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn. 8:44). The quest of the true Philosopher's Stone is dangerous: "whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Lk. 20:18). A broken and contrite heart will not be despised, and the path to salvation goes in that direction; while the arrogance and false security of self-salvation have no other end than the crushing weight of a millstone.


(Montgomery, John Warwick; Principalities and Powers; pgs. 101-104, Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1973)

2 comments:

Interesting posts you have, though I think Christianity is dead and will be redeemed and brought to fruition and perfection through Thelema. Check out my blog at http://christianityisdead.wordpress.com/ if you will. Love is the law, love under will. ;)

January 8, 2010 at 12:09 AM  

Drew Lomax opines, "The most important attribute of man is his mutability. If man were incapable of being changed, then there would be no hope for him. We, by nature, are dead in our trespasses in sin, and, if we were to remain that way would suffer in everlasting perdition. But thanks be to Christ, God has had mercy on us, and given us His Son's righteousness. As a result of this, we now have life in Him. Besides God's mercy and the Work of Christ on His cross, the only way any of this is possible is due to the fact that man's nature is capable of being changed from something dead to something alive by God's hands."

The corruption of man's nature (original sin) remains after baptismal regeneration. Only three things are needful for man's justification before God: the grace of God, the mercy of Christ, and the faith which receives the promise of the gospel. Other mutations (e.g., good works, sanctification, glorification, etc.) necessarily occur; however, they follow the saving mutation of the faith in Christ as Redeemer that the Holy Spirit works through Word and Sacrament.

January 12, 2010 at 6:19 AM