Sunday, August 27, 2006

Alchemy & Alchemists - Another Revised Version

I have about a week to revise a book I wrote back in 2000 on alchemy. As usual with these things, it's going slowly.

To help me get my rewrite done, I've been reading Patrick Harpur's The Philosopher's Secret Fire, and will then move on to Jean Cooper's book about Chinese alchemy. I've also ordered a book on Indian tantric alchemy from Amazon, plus a dictionary of alchemical symbols. I'm hoping both will arrive in the week.

When I started writing the book - the first version, that is - back in July 2000, I thought it was possible to sum the whole subject up in one book. It was only in doing a second, revised edition in 2003, that I realised that it's an impossible task. Alchemy is a life's work, and is also the work of life. Anyway, the 3rd edition is due out in October, and will hopefully be slightly more modest in its aims...

Still, it has at least got me back in the Zone after spending a summer with the Gnostics, so my thoughts are back with Elias again. I bet he's been wondering where I've been. Come to think of it, that makes two of us...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

It was 340 Years Ago Today

...that Sgt Pepper... Sorry, couldn't resist.

Today is in fact the 340th anniversary of the creation of one of the alchemical medallions that Elias shows to Helvetius when they meet for the first time.

Here is a world premiere of a draft of the scene:

"The man handed Helvetius one of the pendants. On it were inscribed the words AMEN. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord our GOD, for all things are full of his Power. It felt heavy enough to be real gold, and when Anna came back with his purse, Helvetius compared the pendant with a gold coin. It seemed dull and lifeless against the medallion: had the man really made it himself? The inscription on the second pendant, when it was offered to him, seemed to confirm it: The wonderful wonder-working wisdom of JEHOVAH in the Catholick Book of Nature. Made the 26th day of August 1666.

Helvetius's mind began to reel. The date seemed somehow full of portent: what had he himself been doing on that day? Was he in England, concerned with the goings-on at Ragley? Was that the day of Lady Anne’s collapse and Greatorex’s attempts to revive her? Or was it a day like too many others when nothing of import had happened, when his own soul-gloom descended upon him as he tried to balance the books? Why had he not been aware that on that very day, this man had attained the mastery? People had come and gone about their business as he himself had, all of them unaware. All of them unaware. "

And happy birthday, Chris!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Hack in Space

Well, nearly finished the Gnostic tome. Just need to finish up the section on Jung, add a bit about Gnosticism in literature - e.g. Hesse's Demian, Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, the complete works of Philip K. Dick - and a section on the Matrix movies and computer games, then it's more or less done, thank God (the real one!).

Am yearning to return to Elias and write something that I really want to write. Although I am extremely sympathetic towards the Gnostics, it's still a commissioned book and not one I would have written otherwise. Have been doing almost nothing but the Gnostics for the past few weeks and am as a consequence feeling a bit adrift from reality in general.

I've also been toying with the idea of getting a collection of poems out via But that's another post, or even blog. Right, time for yet another coffee, and then it's either back to Jung, or I might watch The Matrix, which I've never seen all the way through. (Only seen the second film so far. Just bought the Ultimate Matrix Collection - 10 DVDs with 35 hours of bonus material!)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Mystery of Time

I am listening to Keith Jarrett's remarkable 1977 album SPHERES (originally a double LP called HYMNS SPHERES containing twice as much music as the current CD). I've rarely been as transported to the age of Elias as I have with this album. If anyone has the original double LP, please let me know. I'd love a copy! This is music about time, it seems to me. More than that, I can't say at present. (I'm not sure Keith could, either, come to think of it.)

I'm not sure what music will appear in the novel. The oldest extant complete opera, Peri's Eurydice (1600) is hermetic; Monteverdi a practicing artist (in the alchemical sense as well as musical). Work by Lully may also appear, and, given my current enthusiasm for Keith Jarrett's organ music, an organ improvisation may also appear.