In ancient Egypt, there were the neteru, gods, like Thoth, Osiris, Isis, Seth and Anubis who provided the heka (magic) to effect major transformations. Their myth reads like an alchemical recipe. With the fall of the Egyptian empire, philosophers went to Alexandria to learn the Art. Among the teachings they acquired are the thirteen alchemical formulas contained in Hermes Trismegistus’ Emerald Tablet. As the Greeks rose to prominence, their mythology absorbed the Egyptian gods through a process of syncretism.
Thoth became Hermes and other Greek gods took on the powers of their ancestral spirits. Like Hermes, Prometheus is a thief who steals fire from the gods so that the alchemist’s ovens continue to burn brightly in the night. Hephaestus is crippled as he works at the forge, his secrets secured. Zeus replaces Re, Dionysis, Osiris. Then, like a blazing phoenix arising from the flames, Mercurius appears. More than the previous gods, Mercurius, the Latin version of Hermes, is an alchemical god of the mind, a divine trickster. In this seminar, we ask whether this god is truly different from all the others or an avatar that is one face among many who came before him?
Do these gods collectively represent the emergence of a divine, alchemical archetype? As we study each of these numinous deities we will be asking many more questions that are important to all practitioners of the Work. Why does the Art require any god at all? How do these gods function in our work?
What are the dark sides of these gods? Do they merely exist in our mind or are they found in our substances and operations? Are the gods immortal or must their powers be periodically rejuvenated? How might we pay them homage?
One alchemical recipe states emphatically, “Without God, no man nor woman is Great.” Unlike our ancestors we do not accept gods at face value. By asking these questions and recalling the rich mythology of the alchemical gods, we hope to receive sacred knowledge that will bring forth the divine ingredient that informs our work and infuses our lives with great, transcendent value.