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Per Elementum Ad Elementa Ad Vertisement

April 8, 2011

Naturally, we are all well acquainted with the Aphorisms of Urbigerus. We all heard them read to us in the nurseries of our infancy. We all learned them by heart when we were schoolchildren. Who among us didn’t, at some point, find him or herself gazing longingly out the window at their friends frolicking in the sunshine while he or she was inside at a desk transcribing the subset of 31 aphorisms from the Circulatum minus Urbigeranum? (And who among us didn’t get a stern talking to from their parents or teachers for snickering at the use of the word “Astrums” in aphorism XXVI ! )

One hears the familiar words being expressed daily in popular song, sees them emblazoned on placards held proudly aloft at American football matches when the home team creates a touchdown, and sees them bringing a much needed smile to the faces of those stuck in traffic jams when espied upon bumper stickers.

“I had a heck of a time finding people who couldn’t recite the Aphorismi Urbigerani,” confided comedian Jay Leno when speaking of a particularly memorable “Jaywalking” segment he’d recorded for the late night talk show, “The Tonight Show”, which he hosts.

One even sees the engravings which accompanied the aphorisms being commercialised and used to sell laundry detergent or motorised vehicles on television, but I’ve recently come across an early, and rather rare, German translation of the text featuring some, admittedly, rather primitive audio-optoscopic illustrations by a 17th century  Saxon artist which caused me to see these well known aphorisms in a new light.

I give below some examples for comparison.

First, two engravings from the standard Henry Faithorne edition of 1690:


VI. When we call all these Operations ours, they are not all to be understood according to the common Operations of the Sophisters of Metals: but ours are really to transfigure our Subject, yet conserving its Nature, Quality, and Property.


XXXVIII. The above-mention’d Spiritus Mundi is yet a great Menstruum in extracting of Tinctures out of Metals, Minerals, Animals, and Vegetables, and in performing great things in the Art volatilizing all fix’d Bodies


And, here, three audio-optoscopic illustrations from the Bayern München edition of 1689:


XXIII. Our Mercury is call’d the Mercury of the Philosophers, because it is a Subject, which is not to be found ready prepar’d to our hand : for it must of necessity be made by our Philosophical Preparations, out of the first Chaos, and although it is Artificial, yet it is naturally prepar’d, Nature, which is imitated in the Preparation of it, contributing likewise thereunto.


LXVIII. Although we use our Mercury simplex in the Extraction of its own Soul out of its Body, and for the Clarification of the latter; yet, since it is a philosophical and perpetual Menstruum, it loses nothing of its connatural Prerogatives, nor does in the least diminish in Quantity, being our true Alkahest, as Paracelsus is pleas’d to call it.


XLV. To understand aright, how out of this our Chaos we are to form our Philosophical Microcosm, we must first of necessity rightly comprehend the great Mystery and Proceeding in the Creation of the Macrocosm: it being extremely necessary to imitate and use the very same Method in the Creation of our little one, that the Creator of all things has used in the Formation of the great one.

It is my hope that the preceding was of some interest to the honoured adepts and well-wishers of the noble Hermetic Art.

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