On the significance of Spagyric and Alchemy in Naturopathy
By Peter Hochmeier
What man daily practises in great skill and small gesture - the expression itself - is already part of his nature. One view only can tell an even long story, a sign with the hand can decide over life and death. The space inhabited by man expresses its own language; the characteristic of man reveals the unfolding of spirit in nature.
Similarly the plant expresses itself only dreamy and unconscious. The glance of the blossom silently narrates, its site is the place where it grows, and its growth process gives signs to those who can observe it.
When man sees a plant, then he keeps still for a moment to understand its language. Inside he lets re-sound the plant's picture and starts to remember. And the more he is able to recollect the great Oneness of all beings, the clearer the plant speaks to him about the secret of joy, to be part of the great art-work, a part of the earth's body and thus to be part of man's body.
Right from the beginning man was involved with living on earth, as a guest, and to disengage from it in appropriate time. And thus he came himself more and more into the earthily material body and through that he had to deal with the things of nature. When the body was properly used it supported the indweller's purpose, whereas wrong dealing attracted illness and suffering.
This inborn knowledge presupposes realising, understanding of the natural being which basis is pausing and perception on the other hand. That even leads to the "right handling with the natural things" expressed in Paracelsus words, emanating from "recognising in the light of nature". The "one who knows about naturopathy", in the sense of nature, is lead by the signatory knowledge towards observing and understanding, becomes a spagyric towards an appropriate access and reaches through understanding towards the high art of alchemy.
In the late european Middle Ages, in the beginning of modern time, one would be vainly looking for the "great time" of alchemy which one, due to the considerably literature, would willingly like to displace into this epoch. Already at that time in the occident, this art was only fragmentary known. Just a few practitioners such as Flamel, Paracelsus, Glaser or Agricola were able to talk with competence about the alchymic processes, whereas the huge amount of alchymic and pseudo-alchymic books which circulated since the invention of book printing, belie the true circumstances in this centuries.
While altogether, old sciences were still in a full counterfeit bill in large parts of Asia, they had already mainly expired in Europe. The direct access to their depths and values was locked and the later, modern technological achievements were not able to soothe the trauma of loss of holistic, integral art.
Possible roots of Alchemy disappear in the depth of the past, which is not to fathom. Nevertheless they remain vivid to bring forward flowers and fruits in different periods and regions of the world, time and again. Without doubt one can describe this art of responsible dealing with living nature and the aspiration of man to make a sublimating contribution, regarding the aspect of healing, as "handcraft". Alchemy itself is no spiritual path for finding God and especially not a system of magical practices. Alchemy is not dealing with "supernatural" but "natural things".
The purpose of Alchemy was always refining in terms of healing which one should reach in all respects, concerning man in its entirety as well as all the other kingdoms of nature, animals, plants, minerals and metals. It is documented in innumerable "particular works" that in these work-processes here and there opportunities for substancial transmutation "were on the way". And many an alchemist playfully achieved "just for finding out if it works" good results in this matter, but which rarely paid off the effort. Agricola writes in his "Chymic Medicine" (Leipzig 1638/39) something about such "peaces" which he practised himself without making a fuss about it.
He sniggered at those "many Laborantes" of his time who probably searched in almost all things on earth for this purpose. And they invented many instruments but without accomplishing approximately that which the "elder ones achieved in only one simple oven".
Also in Ayurveda alchemy was ever a fix element of healing art and not a separated independent issue. The transmutation of metals is by no means a desirable intention although the procedures for it are traditional till today. During the 20th century only such as this larger documented transmutation appeared to have been of significance. This transmutation was accomplished in order to provide Gold to Mahatma Gandhi for financing of the independence-movement, especially for the construction of spinning wheels and the salt-project. In this case the experts (Rasa Vidyas) consider the application of high alchymical processes as acceptable in a carmic sense.
Today the transformation of the so called "chemical elements" in nature and laboratories is a proven factum since cognisance from nanometric research. That which for some seems to be new cognisance therein, is but a confirmation of ancient traditions. And that which those accomplish with immense -and actually "inartificial" - needs "only some time" according to the latter.
The probably most accurate explanation for the term "Alchemy" gives Paracelsus: "Appropriate handling with the natural things". He describes "the weaver, the farmer, and the grape farmer" as well as alchemists as, in the ideal sense an iatrochymic doctor or healer - provided that they learn from living nature and act in a refining way out of this knowledge.
"It's so much up to the Alchemy, because of the great hidden virtues in the things of nature. Unless the Alchymist is putting forth nature they are not apparent for anyone. Otherwise you are like someone who sees a tree in winter but you do not recognise what kind of tree it is, and you do not know what is within the tree - as long as summer is coming and the sprouts one after another open up. And by now the bloom, then the fruits and what else is in it. Thus the virtue inside things is hidden for man unless he by the alchymist achieves awareness of the same as during the summer. And that is the very art without that everything else has a hole." (according to Paracelsus ‘Paragranum')
Generally speaking Spagyric and Alchemy are two words for one and the same thing. There might be some differences, so that one associates with alchemy still a deeper insight into the nature of powers and things, as well as more challenging laboratory work than with spagyric. Others associate with spagyric a kind of plant-alchemy as well as simply the work with minerals while for them alchemy has to do mainly with minerals and metals. However, this difference is put into perspective thereby because today the encroachment towards nature of metals is more understood in a chemical than in a spagyric respectively alchymic way. The dousing of industrial acid over a so called "pure" metal does not results in an alchymical product.
On the other hand "the elder ones" (Tölde, Kunckel, Paracelsus ...) described plant-works which by all means lead to high alchymical preparations such as Quintessences, Elixirs, Arcanas, philosophical Tinctures etc.
The term alchemy one can also associate amongst others centrical between the terms of spagyric and hermetic. Whereas the former mainly indicates laboratory practice and the finding of remedy while hermetic includes the understanding of nature and cosmology of ancient traditions which again forms the basis of spagyric.
"Hermetical sealed" is to the ignorant the "language of nature" as well as the correlations between the effect of powers and material expressions. That turns - as we already remarked - the signatory knowledge (in Paracelsus words) into "an art without which everything else has a hole". It is the Alpha and Omega in the art of healing - Alpha concerning the diagnostic approach of a person and concerning the knowledge of the affects of plants and stones; and Omega regarding the "harmonious" preparation of remedies and the "holistic approach" of concepts in therapies. The signatory knowledge - the understanding of signs within things and processes - is a directory in all the phases of alchymical works. As "understanding the language of nature" it is a nature given help for orientation concerning "the interaction with things in nature".
By means of spagyric, alchymical, respectively hermetic processes, the subtler forms of expression of powers which effect in a natural thing, are divided from their coarse form of appearance, are purified and then coagulated again. Freed from phlegm and scoriae, one reaches those parts or fractions which are generally called Sulfur, Mercury and Sal respectively (after the separation of elements) they are called earth, fire, water and air. Of course, this are not the philosophic principles or elements by themselves but just their typical manifestations, hidden in things like wateriness, steam, fire, smoke, oil, salt etc. In the same proportion the powers or principles in the growing plant affect, they are still existent in a subtler form in medicaments.
Thereby no "active ingredients are extracted" but that thing which is taken from nature approaches its original idea. It can be compared with a thought from Ayurvedic medicine, that man is born to this world with an hidden idea, a clear plan and as an entire being. In this respect "disease" comes from disconnecting oneself more and more from this original quality and loosing oneself in matter. The Buddhists thinking that ignorance is the deepest root of all diseases means the same. According to Thurneisser spagyric remedies result from "the reduction of or bringing back each thing into its first form or into its first being without absence or missing of something which was there before, but henceforth to understand in a mostly spirited way."
In Ayurveda the alchymic development of healing power from minerals and metals is prescribed for thousands of years. Today these preparations correspondingly are still more or less common. This is due to the fact that India was much less troubled by some devastations of the dark, "iron age" (Kali-Yuga) than the "West". According to the need and the level of art, high-quality Bhasmas from minerals and metals are prepared. Some Rasa Shastris (Rasa Vidyas) work highly up until the fixation of mercury or until the "great stone". Often they are surprisingly similar in their understanding and procedure; such as in the most ancient traditions which give us the idea of common roots of the "art" in a true understanding of nature.
Especially Alchemy reveals this entity of knowledge about nature because it advances the peak of the mountain holding the knowledge of being in its natural substances; in its application for healing art and then especially in the laboratory practice of opening and developing the interacting forces. Probably everywhere in the world water, alcohol, vinegar have a corresponding usable, dissolving force; mineral has its own density or poisonousness and fire its own heat. Everywhere the power of the same planets, luminaries and elements affect inside "natural things", in the plants and minerals, in the organs of the body and they all inscribe their signatures into them.
In >Turba Philosophorum<, it is said that "All the art is only man and woman" and further it states that "The entire nature consists of five elements". The yellowishness and flammability of sulphur identified this probably in each corner of the world as expression of the fire element. A smith forging the metal has found everywhere the same principles whether 6000 years ago in Central Asia or 3000 years ago in Middle Europe. In order to learn "to associate appropriately with things in nature", man has visited the "school of nature" ever since the beginning.