Evola, Julius. The Hermetic Tradition.
Short of it: the first half was quite good, but the second half was either incoherent or just plain wrong. Julius Evola correctly notes that the ancient teaching of alchemy wasn’t simply about transmuting metals. It was about developing the soul (or ascending to higher realms). Using alchemical language, he offers a manual for purifying the soul.
In the first half of the book he decodes numerous symbols. These discussions are often exhilarating and always exciting. They reveal a robust metaphysics which has strong affinities with Christianity and Torah/Prophets. For example, “chaos” simply means the realm of undifferentiated potentiality–prime matter. Saturn is heaviness, inertia. “The Tomb,” infamous in Plato, notes the body By itself and apart from the animating spirit, it is dead matter, the flux of chaos. The hermeticist does not want to escape the body because it is bad, but to temporarily separate to reestablish a dominating and causal solar principle.
All well and good. And then comes the second half. To be honest, I am not sure what he was getting at. And it’s probably best I didn’t.
Theses of Hermeticism (and many of these are quite insightful to a classical metaphysic)
En kai pan and Orobouros
- Unity: it is not a doctrine but an actual state. It is represented by a circle 🌕, a line that encloses upon itself. It is the realm of transcendence.
- Chaos: the realm of undifferentiated potentiality; prime matter.
- Solar principle: when the One takes on a center we get the solar principle, ⊙. This is the realm of form and the power of individuation. It is the power of differentiation, of coagula as opposed to solve (37).
- The lunar principle: that upon which the Solar operates. This is the world of changing and becoming, opposed to the uranian realm of being (35).
- Arsenikon: an alchemical element similar to sun. Its ideogram is 🕕, A cutting through of prime matter.
- Water principle: ∇, represents desire, pointing downward to the earth.
- Flame: △, oriented to the sun, to the world of forms.
- Earth: , the flat line represents the stoppage downward. It stops the fall of the waters.
- “Like is known by like.” To know the four elements man must have in himself the four elements.
- Air: breaks the ascending direction of fire.
- Saturn: principle of “heaviness” preceding man. Primordial individuation; Demiourgos. It is inverted gold, or lead. The Golden Age of yore symbolizes the eternal kingdom of being.
- Saturn carries the sickle, which is dissolution and the compass is the power to measure and set limits.
- Tomb of Osiris. This might explain what Plato meant by calling the body a tomb. By itself and apart from the animating spirit, it is dead matter, the flux of chaos. The hermeticist does not want to escape the body because it is bad, but to temporarily separate to reestablish a dominating and causal solar principle.
- Wheels: Chakras, in Hindu thought. Resembles a lotus, a key of life and regeneration.
Primordial Man: The original Form being reflected. The myth of Narcissus; cf. also Plotinus, Enneads, 6.4.14.