Luis Silva, aka Vasilius, is a renowned Catalan alchemist, as well as a law graduate and local police inspector. He has spent more than twenty years working hard in the search for the philosopher's stone, an exceptional substance that the sages have dreamed of for many centuries. With him we talked to build a bridge between two hermetic sister sciences: alchemy and astrology.
Pablo: It is an honor to be able to establish this dialogue with you, Luis. I thank you in advance for the goodwill you have had. It is not often that an alchemist and an astrologer have the opportunity to exchange visions about their respective chores, even though both sciences belong to the same philosophical niche. As an astrologer I always put a great emphasis on the worldview that underpins my practice, since it is not possible to execute the technique correctly if it is not well rooted in the paradigm that supports it. On this, I think it is essential to emphasize that one of the reasons why current search engines deviate so frequently by spurious paths is precisely the lack of clarity in the principles on which the building of the hermetic arts stands. All praxis is the result of a theory, and remember that theory is a Greek word that means contemplation. In a platonic sense, there can be no good practice without keeping us in a state of contemplation of the Idea. For traditional astrology this is absolutely fundamental. What could you tell me about alchemy?
Luis: Thank you Pablo, the honor is mine. Of course, this is a great opportunity to combine astrology and alchemy from the point of view of hermetic philosophy, a fact that is certainly not common. Alchemy and its sisters, astrology and cabal, are based on philosophical principles that are its foundations since ancient times. It took me many years to discover that alchemy was a branch of philosophy, especially of natural philosophy. Anyone who reads the old alchemy treaties will be able to verify that the old alchemists did not call themselves alchemists, they were called philosophers. By etymological definition a philosopher is a lover of Sophia, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom. The Greek word phyllo means 'love to' or 'in love with'. But at the same time the Greek word sopho also means science or art. Thus, an alchemist is a philosopher, a lover of wisdom who practices a science and an art called alchemy. And, moreover, he is a natural philosopher, that is, a scrutiny of natural mysteries. Nature is full of secrets and the alchemist philosopher seeks them to be wise and to awaken, to sublimate in alchemical terms, to be more and more subtle, more soul; In short, spiritualize and discover that it is much more than ego and sensitive matter.
Pablo: One of the things that attracts my attention is the possibility of complementation, because while alchemy tries to make the dense subtle, astrology aims to illuminate the soul's path in its journey through this world, in order to warn you about of the dangers and obstacles that you have to face later. Having a previous map of the territory to travel is much less likely to get lost, crashed or deviated. The astrologer works by offering a lamp in the dark. In this sense, the astral maps are valuable because they allow one to understand that there are things whose occurrence we cannot avoid and, nevertheless, we can prepare ourselves spiritually and morally to face the periods of adversity, also taking advantage of the favorable cycles for the strengthening of The virtues themselves. Astrology tries to take care of the way we face destiny, while alchemy tries to elevate human nature itself; but both operate within the framework of a search for a deep knowledge about existence.
I believe that life has no other meaning than to seek wisdom, duly balanced with the love of God and all his creatures, including human beings. If astrology is going to allow you to develop the patience, humility, strength, faith and perseverance necessary to overcome yourself, I think it is a gift of enormous utility. If, on the contrary, it will make you gloomy and pessimistic, it is better that you stay away from it. As the power that moves the Sun, the Moon and the stars is the same that sustains the human soul, I think it makes a lot of sense to look up at the same time, look inward. Alchemy does something similar, because it works with the external matter to purify the soul inside. We know that it is a long work with laboratory operations, but that in parallel it enters the field of spiritual improvement. Hence, it is so important to keep in sight the philosophical aspects of the hermetic sciences.
Luis: We said that the true alchemist is a philosopher. Pythagoras (5th century BC) brought us the philosophy that he inherited from his long stays in Egypt and Persia. The great philosopher divided it into three parts: Logic, Physical and Ethical. Under the concept of Logic, Pythagoras tried to show us the notion of logos or God, defined as a great intelligence, a power, a dynamism to which basically three functions were assigned: he is creator, computer and sustainer of the universe. He himself maintains the creation, through his emanation, that the ancient Greek philosophers called pneuma (breath or breath of life, vital breath or fire). This pneuma was called by the alchemists "soul of the world" or spiritus mundi . It is the Holy Spirit of the Christian religion, the prana of the Hindus, the chi or the oriental ki, and so on. All matter has its pneuma, its motor or animator principle. This motor spirit, integrated into each subject, the ancient Greek philosophers called logoi spermatikoi, that is, the sperm of the logos, the seed of God individualized in any of the three natural kingdoms. It is the vital breath, the soul that is nothing but the key to life. Ancient philosophers do not conceive a matter without soul, without its animating spirit. Both matter and soul are one. Moreover, for them matter is nothing more than a densified soul. Today, in scientific terms, we would say that matter is densified energy.
For its part, the concept of physics or physis is nature. The ancient philosophers, thanks to observation, discovered secrets that nature keeps in its bosom. Thanks to this they discovered, for example, the four elements; fire, water, air and earth, and how they work creating and transmuting matter; or the three principles of all things; Sulfur, mercury and salt. The alchemist is fundamentally a natural philosopher, a teller of natural mysteries. It is capable of making the intangible physical, of fixing the pneuma or universal spirit of the world in a concrete matter. The metaphysical becomes physical or tangible, and with it can transmute matter. Prove that natural philosophy is true.
Finally, the ethos or Ethics. All alchemist philosophers emphasize that becoming an adept (from the Latin adeptus, the one who has achieved) is a Donum Dei, a gift from God; hence the good classic alchemy texts refer to Ethics, respect for the Creator and the ethical behavior that should govern the life of any alchemist philosopher.
In alchemy we find images that show a student in front of the closed door that overlooks the garden of the philosophers, or Sofia's palace. It usually has three bolts that correspond to the three knowledge necessary to enter Eden: that of Logic or knowledge of God, that of Physics or knowledge of nature, and that of Ethics or self-knowledge. Those are the three keys that allow us to enter the garden or palace of wisdom, and that lead us to wake up.
Pablo: It is fascinating that way of looking for the transcendence that natural philosophy proposes to us, since it keeps spirit and matter well linked. However, at least since the publication of the works of Carl Gustav Jung, there is a somewhat distorted idea about the task of alchemy, since many people think that it is a purely psychological and intangible issue, a work with dreams and the imagination. However, the hermetic tradition shows us that throughout history the alchemists have worked materially within the framework of a laboratory. In astrology something similar happens, because from people like Alan Leo and Carl Jung himself, the astrologer's work began to be understood as something purely psychological, far from the thematic concretion with which traditional astrologers have worked for more than two thousand years. I think it is important to be transparent about how things have been done in the hermetic philosophy, without therefore trying to close the door for other people to do something different. Of course, everyone is free to choose their own path, but what can you tell people, after many years of experience, about the true nature of your science? How to help them understand that there is no matter without spirit or spirit without matter?
Luis: Alchemy is both physical and spiritual science. According to its ancient classical texts, the objective of this science is to elaborate the famous philosopher's stone. But it is clear that whoever manifests it in his laboratory has revealed the most important natural secrets and that makes him wise. It can then transmute matter, convert lead into gold. But that is not really important. The alchemist seeks his own transmutation. The intake of the true philosopher's stone helps you in that process of personal transmutation. Adepts say that this medicine influences the soul, the recharge of its essence, makes it vibrate and is reached more quickly upon awakening. The person then becomes an awake soul, a very intelligent person who is above matter, who can even live between the two worlds, the material and the spiritual. The search for the stone itself is the attempt to enter the palace of Sofia we were talking about. The theory is supported by practice and the laboratory itself is both a place of work and prayer. The word 'laboratory' already tells us where we really need to be: in a place of work (labor) and prayer (oratory). Although alchemy is not linked to any religion, good alchemists usually have a small altar in their laboratory. The ancient Stoics already affirmed the close union between spirit and matter, there is no one without the other, they are two sides of the same coin, two different forms of manifestation. Moreover, according to them all matter is nothing more than spirit or densified soul. Einstein changed the term spirit to energy or force. There is no force without matter, nor matter without force.
Pablo: In the astrological tradition the same thing happens, because the destiny of the soul unfolds in the physical world, through the incarnation in matter. It is not possible to live in time, face destiny, pass tests, learn from experiences and correct character without the opportunity offered by the dense body. We see that alchemy also embraces the world by its two extremes.
With regard to physical substance, I know that you work with dew as a raw material. There are many reasons to choose it over other materials such as cinnabar, stibin or galena. The idea of using alchemically the water of the dew is attractive or, as some Arabs poetically call it, the tears of dawn. It is said that the humidity suspended in the atmosphere during a full moon night in the spring months receives all the influence of the stars, that spiritus mundi or pneuma we were talking about. In astrology, the spring days have remarkable virtues, especially that of the vernal equinox, because with the celestial map of that day much of the future is determined for a specific locality. We call the astral figure of that equinox the "Revolution of the world", and we review it in advance to know how the year is coming, in order to prepare. We do the same with the astral chart of the moon immediately before said equinox. But one thing that seems fascinating to me is that at the same time, which determines so many things in astrology, you alchemists are collecting dew with hanging fleeces, staked sheets and other gadgets. What is special about dew to get up early in the morning to scrub the grass and squeeze the cloth?
Luis: You just have to move from power to act. Collect dew on these auspicious nights and discover for yourself that we have before us something that softens the skin a lot and quickly heals small wounds. It is not running and grinding water. Very old dermatological properties have been given to dew. The ancient Egyptians strolled and lay naked in the wheat fields full of dew. Our witches did the same. The dew collected in its proper time is a greasy water, it can be perfectly checked when we rub our hands with it. And in that fat that the philosopher knows how to collect, the pneuma or spirit of the world is fixed, that is what the adepts tell us. It is the force that plants gather to wake up in the spring from their winter lethargy, and that they treasure in autumn to withstand the harsh winter. If you know how to bleach this black earth and then redden it, it is a source of satisfaction for the alchemist. The philosopher's stone is near.
Pablo: Taking up the issue of the opportune times for the collection, in traditional astrology there is a way to apply the art that consists in choosing the astrologically most propitious moments to do something successfully, having the stars in favor. The ancients called him "Elections." On the other hand, alchemy is also known as "celestial agriculture", and since every harvest has its right moment, what do you think would happen if the dew collection and the start of laboratory work were carried out at times especially chosen according to the affability and benevolence of heaven? It would be a beautiful way to make these two hermetic sciences work together, don't you think?
Luis: It's like that, Pablo. This universal divine force, imponderable to this day by official science, manifests itself more intensely in the auspicious seasons of spring and autumn, although especially in spring, and on full moon nights. It is in those moments when the dew is more charged with that celestial spirit. On the other hand, many alchemists take celestial cycles into account in their work.
Pablo: I think that the celestial influence is a reflection of the divine will. It is said that it is not possible to reach the philosopher's stone without God's help. Man alone is incapable of such a feat. Astrology points out that there are many things that cannot be specified if they are not previously signed in the natal figure, that is, in the disposition and quality of the stars at birth. In this skeptical age it is a bit strange for people like us to argue that man cannot do whatever he wants and always get his way. Maybe they consider us somewhat dodged for the time. The point is that in my trade it is not easy to work from a traditional perspective, because usually people have the idea that whenever one proposes it, it is possible to achieve anything. Something similar also happens in alchemy, because the artist himself cannot carry out the "great work". He needs something else. Hence, pray and labor are taught, and not only labor . What do you think of this modern idea that people do what we want without God's will intervening at all?
Luis: As I said before, the alchemist philosophers were very clear that becoming an adept is a gift from God. You have to earn it. In the first place, we must move from power to act, to manifestation. Time to work. Secondly, keep in mind that the philosophical work is a work of nature, it is she who does it, even if she needs the hands of the alchemist artist. There must also be a communion between the alchemist and his work, if the alchemist vibrates with love, his work will vibrate, because he will transfer his passion. Respecting the Creator is also fundamental. Although alchemy is not a religion, nor is it proselytizing, it adapts to the belief in the existence of a creative intelligence to which respect is due. No doubt in the "great work" God's will intervenes.
Pablo: Yes, that respect for the divine is an irreplaceable pillar. Without him things start to go very wrong. For example, in the world of wizards there are sorcerers, in that of astrologers there are the stars, and in that of the alchemists there are blowers. Does this not have to do precisely with the lack of observance of the divine will, with forgetting the subjection to that higher order in hermetic work? I think that human beings lack humility, especially in the face of Divinity. We have become too proud, too arrogant in the face of the mystery of life. I observe a promising spirit in modernity, the result of enlightened thinking that underlined both individualism. That excess is choking us as a society. Your work, Luis, a wonderful quixot, is a way of keeping alive that way of looking and living, which put God and nature as central axes in the life of man.
Luis: Of course, Pablo. It is the eternal struggle between ego and soul. But the road is clear, it is always towards awakening. Nicholas Valois was an alchemist of the fifteenth century. He left several famous phrases, one of them comes to say that matter is neither created nor destroyed, it just changes shape and place, law that scientists have long accepted. But I keep another of his phrases, much simpler: Patience is the ladder of philosophers and humility is the door to his garden . You have to be patient, go up grade to grade in knowledge. It is not the way of a day. Ars longa vita brevis tells us a famous alchemical proverb. On the other hand, humility is the gateway to the philosophers' garden. You have to be humble, but in the whole term expression. As Miguel de Cervantes said well: humility is the basis and foundation of all virtues, without it, there is none that is.
My thanks to Luis Silva for his time and kindness.
Pablo Ianiszewski's Twitter: @cubicado
Luis Silva's personal site