West Of The Moon

It’s amazing —

— just how popular
a symbol the moon
was in
vintage postcards.

Depending on the card,
it could represent:

relationships,
sex,
social pressure,
unrequited love,
secret passion,
eternity– 

— and I guess the reason
it was used so commonly
was because using a
seemingly harmless
symbol like the moon
insures that you don’t
just have to come out
and say what you
really mean.

It’s got a mysterious,
numinous quality to it
that you wouldn’t get
with the simple and
relatively contemporary
iconography of
‘spooning’,
for instance.

And romance under
the moon has always
had a special nuance,
let’s face it.

Of course, it is a
very ancient symbol,
to be sure —
— as old as
humankind itself –

and over the centuries,
the emblem has stood
for:
the feminine principle,
spirituality
and the
supernatural,
the cyclical nature of life,
and the darker side
of human nature–
among other things.

There were several
ancient Goddesses
that were associated
with it:

including the
virgin huntress Artemis,
(who somehow also
represented maternity
and childbirth) —

and Hecate,
who was the
goddess of magic –
she ruled over the
special dominion
of the night.

Generally,
in the cards of the
early 1900’s —

I think you’ll get
a strong sense of
desire and passion –
perhaps even lust,
mixed with some
or all of the older
connotations, as well.

The real beauty of
a metaphor like this
is that you can give
it your own special
individual interpretation,
which makes the cards
great fun in any decade !

So, let your imagination
loose on these vintage
postcards and enjoy !!!!!!!

!!!!! HOY !!!!!!

The Daily Retro: The Language of Flowers

flers

Violets represent ‘Secret Love’
Forget-Me-Nots signify ‘Remembrance’
Pansies symbolize that ‘I always think about you’
Roses indicate ‘Passionate Love’.

for more on this subject,
see my post about Roses.

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A Musing

a1I’m dragging my feet tonight, I will so admit it.

( leg day, again )

Still, the blog must go on,

so I just started writing,

in the hopes that some stroke of genius will suddenly over-take me,

and I’ll end up with that ‘ all the great works of literature ‘ thing,

you know–
the one that an infinite number monkeys are supposedly capable of producing..

(hey —
I know what you’re thinking —
that we already HAVE monkeys working on this thing….. )

My mailbox is empty —
even after the weekend,
so no inspiration’s to be found there.

Oh, rats.visit

What I really need is for some beautiful Muse to appear right now outta nowhere,

…. and give me something really fun to write home about.

Yeah —
she’ll do —>

A Muse
Boy, I could use one of them right about now…

….. especially if she’s a redhead wearing a see-through-toga.

If that don’t make a man rise to the occasion,
well, I dunno what would.

Maybe I’ll spare y’all some of the more salacious details,
— when I do get back to writing, of course.

Ahem.

Muses are an interesting concept —

They were believed to have the ability to inspire one with a proficiency in a specific art or science,

—- since they themselves personified an individual discipline.

muchaThe Muses were a favorite subject of Alphonse Mucha,

and other artists of the ‘Art Nouveau’ movement,

—– so, don’t be surprised if there’s some of that on this post.

The idea of a muse is very old —

It goes back to the ancient Greeks,

who described them as the daughters of Zeus:
(the chief deity in the Greek pantheon),

and Mnemosyne
( she was the embodiment of ‘memory’).

They thought that there were nine muses altogether —

Clio was the goddess of history, inspiring visions of heroic deeds and legendary adventure — her emblem was the scroll.

Urania represented astronomy– her role was to arouse awareness of man’s place in the celestial environment, and encourage the study of the heavens. She was often represented symbolically by a globe and compasses.

aThalia was the muse of humor and natural verse–
she was thought to bring mirth and joy —
and her symbol was a comedic mask.

( She’d definitely be one of the sisters I’d invite to any wild weekend soiree I ever got to have out on the veranda at Mt. Olympus — )

…. along with Erato, the goddess of erotic writing,

(whose symbol was a stringed instrument similar to a zither) …..

And, Euterpe — the ‘giver of delight’ ,

who happened to be able to play two flutes at one time– her emblem.

There’s some dirty reference I can make, there, I’m pretty sure,

…. although the double-flute thing would be totally wasted on me…..

muse1But, in the end,

any good party has to have some music, ya know.

And where there’s music,
— there’s dance —

That’s why we’d invite their sister Terpsichore,

who always brought along her emblem, a lyre.

Despite the fact that the Greeks didn’t wear a lot to begin with,

they still appreciated a good striptease, and I’m thin…..

Ummm…

Sorry, I drifted off there, for a sec.

The great writer of such works as the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer, was thought to have been influenced by the muse of epic poetry, Calliope– and who is usually represented by a writing tablet in pottery from the era.

museMelpomene kindled the love of pathos and tragedy in literature and plays,

(her emblem was a tragic mask)

And, Polyhymnia, whose symbol was the veil, would encourage those interested in sacred poetry and prayer.

Taken together,

dancethe 9 Muses represented all the forms of arts, literature, and science of every day Greek life.

The Romans,
who considered themselves the ‘efficiency experts’ of the ancient world,

( and like all efficiency experts–
—took all the fun and joy outta the whole thing… )

boiled the number of Muses down to three:

Melete
(muse of practice )

Mneme (memory )

and Aoide (song) .

Man, those Roman guys could ruin a co-ed communal bath.

antiqueAnyway,

you probably already realized that the word ‘museum’ is derived from the Muses,

— as is ‘amuse’

and most importantly of all, MUSIC.

So the next time you’re bored,

you might want to call upon one of the muses to inspire you

You never know where one of those wild sisters could take you.

rome

.

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I hope you enjoyed this post —

…if you did ,
please let me know in comments or drop me an email.

HOY !!!

.

newmuses

The Art of Propaganda Posters

1

I have always been fascinated by the visual art of propaganda.

It is one of the oldest forms of visual communication —

…… older, even, than language itself.

From the earliest times, propagandists understood that the idiom of symbolism is a very effective way to provoke strong emotions.

The Pharoahs of ancient Egypt certainly used this principle–

What was the Sphinx, or the Great Pyramid,

…but a symbolic statement of their great wealth and strength?

Fear me” , they say–

Invade my lands at your own peril “.

And, a Maya skull rack —

skull rack…… a visitor from another village, friend or foe alike, would have no trouble interpreting it for what it is, and what it means.

All strong emotions like fear, pity, anger, hate, and love can all be manipulated through the use of some simple symbolic language.

And in no other medium, I believe, does the richness of symbolism come so vibrantly and clearly alive as in the great propaganda posters of the 20th century.

For a student of symbolism like myself, these posters are irresistable.

Of course, those who created them never intended for them to be analyzed –

–they are meant to cause a gut reaction —
an emotion —
that will lead you to an action — or to take up a cause.

You still see this kind of thing– all the time in fact—
TV is rife with moving image propaganda…
–that are really just expanded prop posters–

Examples?

ever see that ASPCA commercial with the abused animals in small cages ——

or the Christian Childrens Fund spot with starving kids searching a dump for food?

Now, you may say something like “well, those are good causes…”

But, for those of us interested in how symbolism works,
– we’re not really interested in what it says –
we care what it MEANS.

The cause isn’t germane-
because these kinds of images are used for all kinds of causes- good or bad.

It’s not enough to understand the image as it’s presented.

To understand how the message is communicated-
–and what is being communicated under the surface,

you can’t just take these kinds of images at face value…

………………. the harder you look, the more you’ll see.

This is an image from the Polish-Bolshevik War (1919-1921)

2

It’s a pretty simple image — a Polish cavalryman smiting a Russian soldier.

The legend says “Fight Bolshevism”

But look closer.

The communist is drawn as a wild-eyed fanatic –
– a barely human-simian barbarian cowering in fear ….

Set upon by the righteous and inevitable victorious onslaught of the noble –
— and clean cut– defenders of civilized society…….

……… the well equipped and fearless Polish Army.

Of course, this war was a result of very complicated and long standing issues, impossible to be properly understood based on either a short hub page or a propaganda poster.

But an explanation of that conflict’s causation is not the intended function of either.

The poster’s creator does not seek to explain the rationale of the regime’s decision to wage war.

The artist is simply trying to provoke anger, fear, and hostility through the use of symbolic imagery.

See?

American (Texaco) 1942

3

Here’s an example of reducing the enemy to the ridiculous.

Buckteeth, overlarge glasses, exaggerated features on a small face and frame,
and an ill fitting uniform — plus hands folded ……

Obviously, this Japanese Officer would like you to take the day off from the weapons plant and get some well earned rest.

But we see right through his nefarious scheme, and work extra overtime instead.

Psychologists suggest that portraying an enemy as cartoonish helps to create a feeling of:
1: confidence in victory- which improves morale —
2: a sense of superiority of the defending culture — which in turn, reiterates the importance of victory.

Makes ya run right out and sign up for some of that overtime…………….

China – 1955

4

Here you have the essence of what makes poster propanganda so persuasive…

all the emblems are here: beauty, youth, vigor, courage, homeland.

As usual, the legend only tells a small part of the overall message – translated it states:

“The motherland reconstructs, flowers are in full bloom, our vigilance is increased, we guard against tigers and wolves.”

Much of Chinese propaganda was directed at both internal and external targets-

you would see this kind of art on their international postage stamps for instance.

Its meaning to the outside world is meant as something like:

” Imperialists beware: we are reconstructing our society in the Maoist model.
The youth of both sexes from all regions of our land are well armed and united in the struggle against the aggressive and greedy enemies of our beautiful China.
We can do this without undue suffering or sacrifice – you are few and we are many.
We have no fear of you. ”

For the Chinese eye, it meant more like:
“Young people – your land is in danger –
– while your revolution is in full bloom- come defend her. ”

Interestingly, Chinese propaganda has both advantages and disadvantages when directed toward the West.

Ethical virtues in relation to their importance to the State are often assumed to be universally understood in their context, but, for good or bad, often fall flat when interpreted by modern Westerners.

But this same quality tends to express a feeling of nobility, simplicity, and purity which many Westerners find appealing.

The North Vietnamese used much of the Chinese propaganda iconography with high effectiveness against the French and U.S in the fifties and sixties.

United States – 1917.

5

The United States was neutral during the opening years of the
First World War…
However, there was a strong desire in certain economic and political domestic circles to turn around the isolationist tide, in favor of going to war against the Germans and Ottomans.

This poster is a later version produced for the U.S. market from a British poster of similar design, framing the war as a battle against the naked brute of mindless militarism, wearing a Prussian helmet.

Here, Europe has been ravaged, beaten down with the club of ignorant German ‘kultur’-

Lady Liberty is in danger of being carried away,
and our coastline is now at risk of being invaded.

Very effective, but believe it or not, a little highbrow for propaganda.

Italy – 1943

6

Despite the fact that Italy was an ally of Germany for most of World War II, most of the Italian people ( who had fought against the Germans in WW I ) were, shall we say, ambivalent about having German troops occupying a good deal of Italian territory.

This poster’s legend says it all: “Germany is truly your friend”

Now, you tell me.

If somebody’s really your friend, does he need to plaster posters reiterating his generosity and amiability all over your territory that he happens to be occupying ???

Look at the German soldier in the poster.

He is heavily armed, although his rifle is slung, his hand is out, but the other hand is in the ready position.

He is powerfully built, to indicate the strength of the German war machine.
(“It is useless to resist”)

He is smiling…. in that condescending “You can trust me, ya poor ignorant Itai bastards” kinda way.

As he approaches the foreground, the dark background is dispelled, as if the soldier is bringing light.

The Germans are, in essence, shown to be making the world “safe for fascism” .

It is interesting how differing political philosophies share much the same iconography and techniques of propaganda, isn’t it?

This, for instance, is the type of campaign you might call “winning hearts and minds”.

The U.S. used a similar campaign in South Vietnam…. and with similar results.

The problem with such a program is — by the time it becomes necessary to use one–
……………… it’s usually too late to be very effective.

Germany – 1944

Here’s an interesting way of stirring up resistance to the successful landings at Normandy.

This poster was produced in several languages… this one is in German and English.

7

You take all the nasty things you can say about an enemy, lump them all up in symbolic language, and print you as many posters as you can print.

Unlike the previous examples, there’s really nothing subtle about this poster….

It’s message is actually much simpler than the sum of it’s parts —

“The Americans will bring violence and ruin to your culture and your country.
Look what they’ve done to their own people.
Look who is controlling them.”

Of course,
The people who were exposed to this poster had also already been exposed to four years of Nazi brutality on an unprecedented scale, so, it wasn’t the most effective of campaigns, either.

Even propaganda has it’s limits.

Ahh well….
you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear all the time, right?

What Color is Your Rose?

doI never was someone who enjoyed the art of conversation all that much.

— for me, writing is better.

Writing gives you time to think-
time to compose —
time to edit.

Face to face conversation is more of extempore kinda thing —
…. and I’m just not all that glib.

BUT—
when there’s something really important to say–

Like:
I’m sorry“,
I love you“,
Yes, there’s a reason that kid looks like me“,
I miss you“,
“I’m sorry I ignored the safe-word last night“,
I lust you“,
I hated the guy, but I’m sorry your Daddy is dead“,
……….. or just a simple
I fucked up bigtime” ——

Well, in those times, I admit it — I’ll often let flowers do my talking.

Not just flowers, mind you — Roses .

And while it took me many years to learn it, there certainly is a symbolism to roses that is pretty important for us men to understand.

Giving roses is a subtle art —

— and like any art,
you have to learn the basics before you can pull off a masterpiece —

…. such as:

Explaining to whomever it may concern the presence of two sets of women’s panties under your bed–
sizes 4 in pink, and 9 in black, respectively….

Or informing your favorite feminine type person that you bought that vintage 1949 Vincent Black Shadow “C type” Motorcycle, despite her objections.

Or before telling her the real reason you booked the “party suite” at the Bellagio next weekend.

Ahem, well…..
if you’re a man over 30, I’m sure you can come up with plenty of appropriate occasions of your own.

I’m absolutely sure of it.

It ain’t easy staying out of trouble …
…. and life kinda sucks when you do manage it.

So, you have to have a plan, man.

Roses will work wonders, if you understand what they mean to a woman sensitive enough to appreciate their nuances.

I’m talking “Get Out Of Jail Free” card here, man.

get_out_of_jail_free

Let’s talk about the most common colors and their uses.

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RED: red

Deep red roses can be very problematic, unless you’re trying to impress her enough to marry her.

They represent romantic love, emotional sensuality, and ardent concupiscence.

( …. awwwwww—- look it up, Hemingway. )

When you give deep red roses casually, they’re probably writing checks for you that you ain’t ready to cash.

This is the .50 caliber handgun of roses — just too much gun for most occasions.

Lighter color reds still send the same messages, just not as passionately.

If you’re still signing your notes with ‘LUV YA’, you’re not ready for these babies.

In that case, you’ll probably want:

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YELLOW: yellow

Yellow roses are commonly called ‘friendship roses’,

and that’s basically what they’re saying.

Hey– you’re pretty cool —

I like hanging around your apartment, eating your food, playing with your dog, even sleeping in your bed, just as long as stuff don’t get really serious all of a sudden and you start thinking I’m gonna give up my other girl friends, my PlayStation, and my own apartment .”

Yeah… like that.

The rules are off, however, if you’re in Texas.

Ya see, there was this song ” Yellow Rose of Texas”, which kinda complicates things down there.

Getting a yellow rose down there can mean anything from “YEEEEEE-HAWWWW” to “Congratulations, We’re Pregnant“.

And by ‘we‘, she means ‘her‘, by ‘you‘.

So, congratulations.

coupon

Here’s a coupon for the next time you get the itch.

Now, be nice, and send her some :

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PINK: pink

Pink roses express gratitude… they’re the classic “Thank You” rose.

They certainly be used in a romantic way, especially after a particularly spectacular evening —

(….careful you don’t make the same mistakes as last time…. )

I appreciate you ” ,
I like that thing you do with your tongue” , and
You know, I could get to like being around you
……… are the most common messages sent by these roses.

… and more so, if you add a light red rose into the mix– but watch it, or you could get a new roommate.

If you’re sending them in response to receiving yellow ones, well, I think you already got at least two moving in.

In which case, you could send:

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WHITE: white

White roses in a bunch indicate innocence, purity, reverence and love in the whole Platonic sense of the word.

Or, I guess it could mean,
I was out of town that whole month” ,
I dunno.

One white rose means something different —
……….. it’s the rose a secret admirer sends to his lady love.

The proper response for the lady in question is to either ignore it, or wear it as a corsage to indicate curiosity or potential interest, in the hopes that the secret admirer will reveal himself.

Ok… it does seem a bit old fashioned, I guess.

And most people handle this kinda thing with emails these days,
……….. but what the hell.

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LAVENDER or PURPLE :   purple

These roses make ideal roses to give a girl on a first date, or when asking for one.

They can indicate infatuation, but usually nothing serious.

They’re usually more expensive than other roses,

…… and so they can be a way of telling the lady that you’re not just another cheap piker looking for a hand-out, or a hand-in.

Thus, giving lavender roses is a wonderful impression maker,

—– and might get you a date when even your devastatingly charmin’ personality and manly good looks might otherwise fail ya.

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CREAM:  cream

Cream colored roses are often the safest rose you can send, when you’re totally banjanxed on what else to send.

They’re kinda the non-committal,
how’s it hangin’ ” off the rose family.

They also include some of the most beautiful and scented varieties.

Whether you want to say:
Hey, I hope you can come to my pool party ” ,
or
Hey, thanks for letting me know about that whole communicable disease thing you exposed me to “,
………… it’s all pretty much covered by cream colored roses.

You can safely send em to your Aunt Margaret without her thinking you’ve gone completely over to the dark side.

( Well, the roses won’t let her in on it, anyway. )

Of course, what you write on the card might change the whole complexion of your relationship, but that’s on you.

( if you saw MY Aunt Margaret, you’d be thinking harder about this one… )

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ORANGE:  orange

Orange roses indicate fascination and inspiration —

… when you send them to a woman,
you are saying:
You are my muse, You inspire me“.

They are particularly good when sending them to an older or more mature woman that you are interested in.

( but, leave my Aunt Margaret outta this, please… )

It’s a way of expressing admiration for a lady –
for her intelligence, talent, personality, sense of humor,

….or maybe for her driving skills—-

when she swerved to avoid hitting you,
as you were riding a bit reckless on your motorcycle through the neighborhood.

Hey, that could happen, you know.

Hopefully, she will take them in the spirit in which they were intended,
—- and NOT send you these in response.

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BLACK: black

Black roses usually do not mean a funeral, but that doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook.

Someone who sends you one black rose is saying that maybe you should find another patch of ground upon which to settle, preferably in another galaxy, far, far away.

Basically, it means ” drop dead ” .

Thus, it does make an admirable response to aggressive unwanted advances.

A bunch of them could mean all kinds of things,
from a secret admirer who happens to be a vampire,
to the Róisín Dubh invitation for a Molly Maguires initiation,
…. but again, it’s not usually sent as a happy go-lucky kinda thing.

Just remember:
Anyone who goes to the trouble and expense of finding black roses means business.

So, be sure you leave your next of kin information somewhere they can find it.

And of course, just as roses can communicate a problem,
they can also communicate a potential offering to solve said problem.

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cashroses

You know what they say, roses talk.

HOY!

 

 

 

The Symbolism of Alchemy

Alchemy is so much more than arcane chemical experimentation, but a system of symbols and processes with a spiritual purpose.

2079286_f520

For the student of self, a wonderful source of helpful, instructive symbolic concepts is alchemy.

The great psychologist Carl G. Jung spent many years studying the esoteric, intentionally abstruse mass of literature relating to alchemy, determined to demonstrate that the true goal of alchemy, ‘The Philosophers Stone’, was not a literal substance to turn base metals into gold, but a symbolic process to turn base man into Actualized Self: the process of individuation. <*8>

On this subject, Gerhard Adler wrote: “… the best alchemists knew that they were aiming at the gold within themselves. In all their writings, there is a clear indication that the aim is Self.

Jung himself said that alchemy was somehow the mirror image of psychology.” <*6>

One need only study a few of the alchemical trestises such as “Compound of Alchemy” by George Ripley, and the anonymous “Mutus Liber”, to see that the individual processes of ‘TheGreat Work’ (as alchemists referred to it) were actually figurative representations of the personal mestastasies one must experience on the path to emotional, mental, moral, and spiritual growth.

For instance, “If we look into it,” John Beebe wrote, “theres a very basic mythological motif. <in alchemy> The motif of ‘conjunctio’, the coming together of male and female opposites, which creates a sense of wholeness – a sense of Self.” <*6> |

This product of ‘conjunctio’, alchemically represented by the symbol of the hermaphrodite, is brought about by the unification of the anima/animus (subconscious elements) and ego (conscious elements).

‘Conjunctio’ expressed in Tantric terms is the integration of the male principle Purusha, (or cosmic consciousness) with the female principle Prakriti, (or cosmic force of nature). <*17>

Each alchemical process would seem to have a corresponding psychological one: Rosemary Guiley compared the natural process of depression to “.. the alchemical cooking of sulfur (libido) to extract vapor (fantasies).”<*13> <vaporization>

These processes, although difficult and dangerous, are not destructive, but rather constructive: as Alexandra David-Neel wrote: “What is judged necessary is a sort of transmutation of the substance that makes up the disciple. The forces existing within him should be by no means destroyed, rather should be methodically directed along suitable <productive> channels.” <*10>

Ripleys’ final alchemical process, called “projection” can be compared to what in mystic meditation is called “Nirodh”; as his preceeding process, “exaltation”, describes “Nirvana”.

(Jung wrote “Nirvana is the liberation from opposites.”<*33>)

“Calcination”, or burning to ash, Ripleys’ first step, can be equated to the disillusionment or self-reproach that often motivates one to take up the “Great Quest”/”Great Work”.

That Ripley intended his writings to be interpreted allegorically was made obvious on the bottom of the famous “Ripley Scroll”, by an illustration of an indigent “puffer” (those who used chemical processes attempting to physically transmute lead into gold were called “puffers” because they used bellows to increase the heat in their furnaces) and the words: “Pity me who has squandered my oil <fuel> and labor.”

<It might be noted that, in 1941, at Harvard University, three scientists succeeded in transmuting mercury into a tiny amount of gold isotope.>

Alchemical references resonate throughout the worlds’ spiritual traditions as well. Guru Nanak, the first Sikh patriarch and leader, wrote: “… through Sangat (a form of congregational fellowship) one obtains the treasure of the Divine Name… just as iron rubbed against the Philosophers’ Stone turns to gold, so does dark ignorance transform into bright light in company of Good.” <*22>

In Taoism, there are 2 schools of alchemical thought: ‘Wai-Tan’ (or “School of the Outer Elixir”) which concentrates on attaining physical immortality, and ‘Nei-Tan’ (“School of the Inner Elixir”) whose goal is spiritual immortality.

The ‘Wai-Tan’s lead and mercury (the basic elements of alchemy) become the ‘Nei-Tan’s Yin and Yang “… the true lead and true mercury.” <Chang Po-Tuan in the Wu-chen p’ien>

Chinese Alchemy has also contributed much to Tibetan Buddhism, including the practice of Thumo Rheskiang (the internal generation of bodily warmth). Many important mystical traditions stem from the 3000 year old connection between Indian alchemy (called ‘Ayurveda’, or “the living wisdom”) and Hinduism, including Tantricism.

In Tantric philosophy, the forces governing the cosmos on the macro-level govern the individual being in the micro-level; mirroring the First Rule of golden age European alchemist and physician Paracelsus: “As is above, so below”.

Islam, too has been greatly influenced by alchemy; starting with the Arab conquest of Egypt in the 7th century A.D. As a matter of fact, much of the ancient Greek , Egyptian, and Indian alchemical texts and knowledge “rediscovered” by the West after the Crusades had been kept alive by the Arabs; and, three of the greatest early alchemists were also Islam’s leading scholar-physicians, Avicenna, Rhasis, and Geber.

(Interestingly, Gebers’ writings were so veiled in symbolism that the non-Romanized version of his name, Jiber, has lived on in the modern English language as “jibberish”.)

Another, Jaebir ibn Hayyan, wrote alchemical works in the 8th century that today are considered masterpieces of “symbolic” alchemy.

Alchemy then, is not an impracticable system for altering the rules of nature, but a very practical system for improving the nature of man.

This IS gold from lead, truly.

references:

6> Segaller & Berger, “Wisdom of the Dream”, 1989

8> C.G. Jung, “Collected Works”, Volume 8

10> Alexandra David-Neel, “Initiations & Initiates in Tibet”, 1932

13> Rosemary Guiley, “Encyclopedia of Dreams”, 1993

17> Mookerjee & Khanna, “The Tantric Way”, 1977

22> Nikki-Guninder Kaur Singh, “Sikhism”, 1993

33> C.G. Jung, “Collected Works”, Volume 7