Light Broken Through the Prism of Life: René Schwaller de Lubicz and the Hermetic Problem of Salt

Aaron Cheak (2011). Light Broken Through the Prism of Life: René Schwaller de Lubicz and the Hermetic Problem of Salt PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Aaron Cheak
Thesis Title Light Broken Through the Prism of Life: René Schwaller de Lubicz and the Hermetic Problem of Salt
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-11
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Richard Hutch
Philip Almond
Total pages 484
Total colour pages 14
Total black and white pages 470
Language eng
Subjects 21 History and Archaeology
Abstract/Summary The life and work of the Alsatian hermeticist and Egyptosophist, René-Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961) attests to the continued presence of a distinctly nondual current of alchemical precept and practice in which material transmutation and spiritual transmutation are not separate nor merely coincidental endeavours but two indispensably linked sides of the same coin. The link, for Schwaller, was perceived as a juncture of meta-physical and proto-physical forces, a process conceived in terms of an alchemical “salt” (a neutralisation reaction between an “acid” and a “base”). This thesis demonstrates that Lubiczian alchemy, by centring on the esoteric formation of all “bodies”, to include the hidden “nucleus” of continuity between metallurgical, biological and spiritual corporeality, speaks directly to the perception of alchemy as a nondual, operative-spiritual process. Before examining Schwaller’s work proper, part one of this thesis deals with methodological and historiographical considerations at some length. I begin by detailing the “hermetic problem of salt” through cultural-historical, mythographical, chemical and alchemical lenses in order to introduce the phenomenon of salt as an “abstract concretion” resulting from polarised opposites (acid and base, fire and water, sun and sea, sulphur and mercury, etc.) The juncture of opposing principles perceived in the “hermetic problem” of salt anticipates the methodological discussion, which examines the dichotomy between history and phenomenology, along with the materialist and metaphysical sympathies of these methodologies. Form mirroring content, the method employed in this thesis seeks to establish a “neutralisation reaction” between such extremes, encompassing both empirical-historical and eidetic-phenomenological approaches. The guiding model for this synthesis is the Heraclitean palintonos harmoniē (counter-stretched harmony), in which inherently opposed tensions are viewed as integral rather than antithetical to the deeper vitality of the whole. Following from this, the broader argument of this thesis is based upon the perception that the modern academic caricature of alchemy as either operative (reducible to chemical explanations) or spiritual (reducible to psychological explanations) is in many respects a false dichotomy. In support of a more integrative premise, detailed examples are adduced from both eastern and western branches of alchemy (i) to argue for the revision of rigidly dualistic biases within the historiography of alchemy and (ii) to lend support to the adoption of a more nuanced critical apparatus that is able to come to terms with nondualistic currents within the plurality of alchemies. Upon these premises, the life and work of Schwaller de Lubicz is turned to as a modern exemplar of this nondual current in alchemy. Part two of this thesis focuses on Schwaller de Lubicz’s life and work, his colour theory, and his alchemy. Through a detailed bio-bibliographical survey, the keys to Schwaller’s intellectual development are presented and situated within their relevant contexts. I examine his artistic, Theosophical, socio-political, initiatic, alchemical and Egyptological milieus. As a student of Matisse, Schwaller had a life-long interest in colour and light. For this reason, the colour phenomenon is presented as a guiding thread for the dynamics of Lubiczian alchemy in general and the “manipulation of salt” in particular. The colour theory is examined with reference to Newton’s Opticks, Goethe’s Farbenlehre and ultimately to the operative work on stained glass that Schwaller undertook with Jean-Julien Champagne (alias Fulcanelli). The work on colour, metals and stained glass is for Schwaller a propadeutic for understanding the process by which spirit (light, colour) transforms the bodies in which it is incarnated (matter, substance). Ultimately, the “hermetic problem of salt” is seen to centre directly upon the mineral register of an entity’s consciousness (palingenetic memory); because this imperishable register of consciousness is also the determiner of an entity’s form, salt is consequently regarded as the mechanism of evolution, resurrection and palingenesis. The deeper dynamics of Lubiczian alchemy thus concerns the role of this “fixed nucleus” in the formation of bodies, from mineral to human. In particular, I examine the principles of Schwaller’s metallurgical alchemy in order to understand how the “spirit of metals” acts as a fiery metallic seed (sulphur) that “coagulates” a nutritive substance (mercury) into a bodily form (salt). This understanding is applied to the stained-glass work. I then look at his meta-biological alchemy, in which it is not the genetic seed but the palingenetic mineral salt that forms the determining principle in the biological entity’s evolution. In essence, Schwaller’s “hermetic problem of salt” is understood as the fulcrum not only of individual immortality, but also of the qualitative mutations (leaps) between kingdoms and species. More specifically, the kingdoms of nature are seen to emerge alchemically through ‘qualitative exaltations’ induced by the divine seed-ferment (sulphur) upon the primordial materia (mercury) giving rise to a neutral centre of gravity: the saline magnetic nucleus or ‘styptic coagulating force’, the spiritual locus of physical form. In the final analysis, Schwaller’s alchemy is quintessentially nondual in the sense that it encompasses both operative and spiritual processes. These are not separate but deeply interrelated realities. Through the idea of salt, Schwaller offers a holarchical explanation for the continuities between mineralogical, biological and spiritual bodies, and thus a theory for the material mechanism by which consciousness transforms phenomenal form. To approach this kind of alchemy as exclusively chemical or psychological is thus completely inadequate and reinforces the necessity for a nondual critical apparatus.
Keyword rené schwaller de lubicz, alchemy, nondualism, salt, colour theory, ontological mutation.
Additional Notes 37, 50, 208, 224, 230, 277, 285, 298, 318, 322, 324, 325, 368, 476.

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Created: Wed, 07 Dec 2011, 15:32:50 EST by Mr Aaron Cheak on behalf of Library - Information Access Service