Saturday, June 28, 2008

Essential Substances

I just finished reading Richard Rudgley's book, Essential Substances: A Cultural History of Intoxicants in Society. The book is a light read. Rudgley surveys time and place, describing the intoxicant use of different societies, including interesting details (fun facts) about the complexes of tools and rituals which accompany drugs. Although Essential Substances isn't as rigorous as his Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age, it demonstrates, as Lost Civilizations does, his ability to see through stone walls of bias, hypocrisy and stereotypes. Rudgley, in Essential Substances, extends his exposure of dogmatic, anthropological research by reminding us that drugs, while condemned in American society, are nearly ubiquitous in time and place, and we can't understand our ancestors and neighbors unless we understand their intoxicant use, which differs dramatically from the modern, American experience.

Mr. Rudgley, write me another. Send me an email, because I have a topic for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These blear'd eyes
Have wak'd to read your several colours, sir,
Of the pale citron, the green lion, the crow,
The peacock's tail, the plumed swan.

Thou hast descry’d the flower, the sanguis agni?

Ben Jonson
The Alchemist

Three things suffice for the work: a white smoke, which is water; a green Lion, which is the ore of Hermes, and a fetid water… the stone, known from the chapters of books, is white smoke and water.

Michael Maier
Atalanta Fugiens

Of this self-same body, which is the matter of the Stone, three things are chiefly said; that it is a green Lion, a stinking Gum, and a white Fume.
Having twelve pounds of Green Lion thus brought into gum, thou mayst believe…

St. Dunstan (pseudo) Philosophia Maturata

A green Gum called our green Lyon, which Gum dry well, yet beware thou not burn his Flowers nor destroy his greenness.

Sir George Ripley
The Bosome-Book of Sir George Ripley

You will see marvelous signs of this Green Lion, such as could be bought by no treasures of the Roman Leo.

The Treasure of Treasures

Beware therefore of many, and hold thee to one thing. This one thing is naught else but the lyon greene..

Bloomfield’s Blossoms

I know well this Lyon Greene…

Hunting of the Greene Lyon

Upon the delicate leaves thereof it retaineth for our use that sweet heavenly honey which is called the manna, and, although it be of a gummy, oily, fat, and greasy substance, it is, notwithstanding, unconsumable by any fire.

Gargantua and Pantagruel

This is called the blessed stone; this earth is white and foliated, wherein the Philosophers do sow their gold…
The fourth color is Ruddy and Sanguine, which is extracted from the white fire only.

Jean d’Espagnet
The Hermetic Arcanum

O how many are the seekers after this gum, and how few there are who find it! Know ye that our gum is stronger than gold, and all those who know it do hold it more honorable than gold… Our gum, therefore, is for Philosophers more precious and more sublime than pearls…

Turba Philosophorum

Therefore I affirm that the Universal Medicine for bodies is the philosophic gold, after it has been separated and drawn to the highest state of perfection. Our common gold has absolutely nothing in common with the philosophic gold we use to begin our task. In that respect common gold is dead and clearly useless.

Philip a Gabella
Consideratio Brevis

By gold I mean our green gold- not the adored lump, which is dead and ineffectual.

Thomas Vaughan
Aula Lucis

Take the fire, or quicklime, of which the philosophers speak, which grows on trees, for in that God himself burns with divine love.

Gloria Mundi

It appears then that this Stone is a Vegetable, as it were, the sweet Spirit that proceeds from the Bud of the Vine…

Count Bernard Trevisan
Verbum Dismissum

Trust my word, seek the grass that is trefiol. Thou knowest the name, and art wise and cunning if thou findest it.

The Sophic Hydrolith

You ought to know concerning the Quintessence, that it is a matter little and small, lodged and harbored in some Tree, Herb, Stone, or the like…

The Tomb of Semiramis

It contains the fire of Nature, or the Universal Spirit; with Air as its vehicle it contains Water, which must be separated in the beginning of the work, and also earth which remains behind in the form of caput mortuum, where the fire has left it, and is the true Red Earth wherein the fire dwelt for a while. The subject, duly collected, should not be less than eight nor more than sixteen ounces: place it in a china or glazed basin and cover it loosely to keep the dust out.

Sigismond Bacstrom
Rosicrucian Aphorisms and Process

Long have I had in my nostrils the scent of the herb moly which became so celebrated thanks to the poets of old… this herb is entirely chemical. It is said that Odysseus used it to protect himself against the poisons of Circe and the perilous singing of the Sirens. It is also related that Mercury himself found it and that it is an effective antidote to all poisons. It grows plentifully on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia…

Michael Maier
Septimana Philosophica

Our secret fire, that is, our fiery and sulfurous water, which is called Balneum Mariae… this water is a white vapor.

The Secret Book of Artephius

Know the secret fire of the wise, which is the one and sole agent efficient for the opening, subliming, purifying, and disposing of the material.

Letter to the True Disciples of Hermes

Study, then, this fire, for had I myself found it at the first, I should not have erred two hundred times upon the veritable material.

John Pontanus
The Secret Fire

No philosopher has ever openly Revealed this secret fire, and this powerful Agent, which works all the Wonders of the Art.

The Hermetic Triumph

Mercury, i.e. the white flower, can be used and applied to the tinctures of all planets.

The Little Peasant

Our true and real Matter is only a vapor…
This Green Dragon is the natural Gold of the Philosophers, exceedingly different from the vulgar, which is corporeal and dead… but ours is spiritual, and living…
Our Gold is called Natural, because it is not to be made by Art, and since it is known to none, but the true Disciples of Hermes, who understand how to separate it from its original Lump, ‘tis also called Philosophical; and if God had not been so gracious, as to create this first Chaos to our hand, all our Skill and Art in the Construction of the great Elixir would be in vain.

Baron Urbigerus
Aphorismi Urbigerani

“This stone is of delicate touch, and there is more mildness in its touch than in its substance…. Of sweet taste, and its proper nature is aerial.”
Khalid said: “Tell me of its odor, before and after its confection.”
Morienus answered: “Before confectioning, its odor is very heavy and foul.
“I know of no other stone like it nor having its powers. While the four elements are contained in this stone, it being thus like the world in composition, yet no other stone like it in power or nature is to be found in the world, nor has any of the authorities ever performed the operation other than by means of it. And the compositions attempted by those using anything else in this composition will fail utterly and come to nothing.
“The thing in which the entire accomplishment of this operation consists of the red vapor, the yellow vapor, the white vapor, the green lion, ocher, the impurities of the dead and of the stones, blood, eudica, and foul earth.
“Begin in the Creator’s name, and with his vapor take the whiteness from the white vapor.
“The whole key to accomplishment of this operation is in the fire, with which the minerals are prepared and the bad spirits held back, and with which the spirit and body are joined.
“In answer to you question about the white vapor, or virgin’s milk, you may know that it is a tincture and spirit of those bodies already dissolved and dead, from which the spirits have been withdrawn. It is the white vapor that flows in the body and removes its darkness, or earthiness, and impurity, uniting the bodies into one and augmenting their waters.
“Without the white vapor, there could have been no pure gold nor any profit in it.”

The Book of Morienus

Let it be sublimed in an high body and head…

Search of Perfection

Our Subject cannot be called the fiery Serpent of the Philosophers, nor have the power of overcoming any created thing, before it has received such Virtue and Quality from our Green-Dragon…

Baron Urbigerus