"All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.” ~ Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde 1854-1900 - Dorian Gray.
THE Great mysteries of alchemical Art and its hidden secrets have fascinated, inspired and perplexed many great minds over the centuries, and continues to fascinate, inspire, and perplex to the present day. Especially when it comes to the secret esoteric meanings and processes of many of these mysterious etchings, drawings and paintings; and why the alchemist hid there processes and formulas within the rich iconography and sybolism of imagery and Art.
For there is no doubt that the "Royal Art" of Alchemy has influenced the Arts in all its forms over the centuries. Thus the relationship between alchemy and Art is inextricably intwined, as both are infused with the same artistic spirit. For it cannot be denied that the great mysteries of Alchemy and its mysterious Diagrammatic forms and images, has had a significant influence on many great Artists over the centuries.
Intriguingly alchemy and the visual Arts have rather a lot in common. For instance, the alchemists played an important role in the development of materials and techniques used by many Artists. For rather a lot of inventions came from alchemical procedures over the ages, such as the metal alloys for sculpture and architecture, oil paints for painting, also effects in glassmaking and even the chemical processes used in photography, all came from the alchemists laboratories.,
Thus you see then, that the alchemy of Art and the Art of alchemy has transformed our visual culture from antiquity, to the present day, as the alchemists legacy still permeates the world to this day. Especially when it comes to the visual Arts. For the great mysteries that the alchemists where trying to convey through there use of mystical alchemical images and diagrams, and their use of religious and spiritual iconography, mythology and symbolism. Has inspired many great Minds, Artists, Musicians, Writers and Poets through the Ages. For instance, the surrealist artisans of the twentieth century, who like the alchemists of auld, used there psychological projections of the unconscious mind in the creation of there Art.
On that point, it's important to note, that the aim of alchemical Art acts to express and convey the complexity of the human soul in all its hellish and heavenly glory. As certain aspects of alchemical Art focuses on the spiritual order of things, and how higher levels of consciousness can be attained through certain processes and procedures, that are represented and characterised by symbolic talismanic artistic objects and artistic visions that thy within the unconscious mind of the alchemist. Therefore the Aim of alchemical Art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but there inward significance. As the alchemists tried to reveal and express to us the deepest spiritual aspects of our psyche and G'd through the use of rich imagery and mysterious symbolism, forms, patterns.
"Art is not about what you see, but how it makes you feel." ℵ☉Ω
Another reason for the alchemists using Art and Diagrams in their writings, as it was seen to be a way of communicating and expressing the secret meanings of what they wanted to get across to those who are initiated in the Royal art of Alchemy. As it's well known that some of the great alchemists in Europe would share there works, findings and texts with one another. But there were a couple of problems with this. One was that not all spoke or wrote in the same language. Consequently, because of this a lot of information could be lost in translation unless they all spoke a language readily available to them, such as Latin, Hebrew or Greek. Which would help with the flow of information. But there was problem in using such easily decipherable languages, as one could leave their secrets open to the uninitiated and to those who would do them harm for knowing such information. Therefore to get around these problems in a safe manner without giving away their secrets or being burned at the stake for Heresy. The alchemists would communicate in allegory, parables, symbols and greatly used the use of images and art in there writings.
For many alchemists, kabbalists and occultists have greatly used archetypal iconography and allegorical imagery, illustrations and Art, to help depict and convey the deeper concepts that couldn't be put in to words. As it would help in explaining the deeper meanings they was trying to get across to one another. Intriguingly, the alchemists of the late middle ages seen that the use of Art and imagery, was not only a great help in conveying the secrets of their science and its procedures and processes. But it was also seen as a great way of opening the mind, as the alchemists of auld seen that the use of symbolic imagery and archetypal motifs opened up doors or gateways in the mind. Intriguingly it was the alchemists of the early renaissance period who first began to approach certain alchemical procedures and operations as internal workings. As the beginings of modern day psychology also has its roots in alchemy. For the duel nature of these teachings comprise both of chemical process and the parallel mystical components that provide insights into the transcendental nature of the psyche and the personal transformation and transmution of the soul into metaphorical Gold.
Thus the symbolic imagery of alchemical Art is seen to work on various levels of the subconscious and unconscious mind. As all the visual arts work on the imagination, and to give us a sense and value to higher concepts and perceptions of the soul, as the act to convey and express that which is inexpressible. George Bernard Shaw put it beautifully when he stated: "You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.”
The images of Hermetic, Rosicrusion and Alchemical artists such as Robert Fludd 1574-1637. Heinrich Khunrath 1560-1605, and Athanasius Kircher 1602-1680. Are perfect examples of this style of Art. As their vibrant drawings and etchings, and their use of symbolism and archetypes in their imagery helped other alchemists to breakthrough the surface of the subconscious and unconscious. Helping them to interpret their visions and projections into visuals. As it was these pioneers who first showed us how the visionary Art plays an important role in revealing the hidden processes of the soul's journey. As well as translating the subtle nature and essence of the psyche. Also how art opens up to us Higher levels of awareness and consciousness, which helps us in expanding the mind, and soul.
On that point, it's important to illustrate again that the visual arts are not just about what you see, it's also about how it makes you Think and Feel. As art speaks to us on a different level of the mind, for it evokes in us deeper thought and Contemplation. As Leonardo da Vinci, stated so eloquently: "Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” As art assaults the senses and the conscious mind, it interrogates the subconscious and unconscious and reveals the truth of the human soul in all its hellish and heavenly glory. Therefore we will always learn more about the great mysteries of life and the soul from the ARTS, than we would from scientific psychology.
"Thus by the power of Art are We awakened and re-awakened." ℵ☉Ω
Images by - Lohmuller Gyuri - Thomas Wijck - Robert Fludd - Heinrich Khunrath - Athanasius Kircher.
By Paul francis Young.