The Alchemical Mass of Melchior

Orig. text in full:

Introitus. Our Lord, fount of goodness, inspirer of the sacred art, from whom all good things come to your faithful, have mercy.

Christe. Christ, Holy one, blessed stone of the art of the science who for the salvation of the world hast inspired the light of the science, for the extirpation of the unbelievers, have mercy.

Kyrie. Our Lord, divine fire, help our hearts, that we may be able, to your praise, to expand the sacraments of the art, have mercy.

Graduale. He descends like rain upon the fleece, and as showers falling gently upon the earth. Allelujah. O blessed creator of the earth, whiter than snow, sweeter than sweetness, fragrant at the bottom of the vessel like balsam. O salutary medicine for men, that cureth every weakness of the body: O sublime fount whence gushes forth truly the true water of life into the garden of thy faithful.

Ave Maria. Hail beautiful lamp of heaven, shining light of the world! Here art thou united with the moon, here is made the band of Mars and the conjunction of Mercury. From these three is born through through the magistery of the art, in the river bed, the strong giant whom a thousand times a thousand seek, when these three shall have dissolved, not into rain water… but into mercurial water, into this our blessed gum which dissolves of itself and is named the Sperm of the Philosophers. Now he makes haste to bind and betroth himself to the virgin bride, and to get her with child in the bath over a moderate fire. But the Virgin will not become pregnant at once unless she be kissed in repeated embraces. Then she conceives in her body, and thus is begotten the child of good omen, in accordance with the order of nature. Then will appear in the bottom of the vessel the mighty Ethiopian, burned, calcined, discoloured, altogether dead and lifeless. He asks to be buried, to be sprinkled with his own moisture and slowly calcined till he shall arise in glowing form from the fierce fire… Behold a wondrous restoration and renewal of the Ethiopian! Because of the bath of rebirth he takes a new name, which the philosophers call the natural sulphur and their son, this being the stone of the philosophers. And behold it is one thing, one root, one essence with nothing extraneous added and from which much that was superfluous is taken away by the magistery of the art… It is the treasure of treasures, the supreme philosophical potion, the divine secret of the ancients. Blessed is he that finds such thing. One that has seen this thing writes and speaks openly, and I know that his testimony is true. Praise be to God for evermore.

Theatrum Chemicum Vol III. 1602.


In early sixteenth-century Transylvania, the mysterious Nicolaus Melchior Cibinensis wrote an alchemical text in the form of a mass. His Processus sub forma missae was dedicated to Wladislas, King of Hungary and Bohemia. All the components of the Christian liturgy are in the text (Introitus Missae, Kyrie, Graduale, Versus, Offertorium, Secretum, etc..), however contained in the Mass is very unorthodox material: vitriol, saltpetre, the philosophers’ stone, marriage with the moon or with mercury, and the ‘sperm of philosophers’ wishing to copulate with the virgin; and the section entitled Sequentia Evangeli “contains an elaborated chemical process in which the matter perishes, revives, copulates, conceives, and rejuvenates” (Kiss, 144).  Jung’s brief interpretation of the text in Psychology and Alchemy, focusing on the Christ-lapis parallel, is as follows: the “praeclera” may mean the aqua vitae, however this is not clear (399). The Virgin is identified with the arcanum of the Art, and the “sequence” is an alchemical paraphrase of a hymn to Mary (401). Melchior associates the offertory with the builders rejected stone, followed by the Secret, finally leading to the alchemical oblation; from which we can deduce that the offering is the opus, or alchemical art (404).

Jung concludes that the regeneration of the Ethiopian is equal to the transubstantiation sans the Consecration, where Melchior includes the mystery in grenio virginis – the transubstantiation as related to the Virgin, or the hydrolytic Moon, philosophical water, or ‘mistress of moisture’ of Senior; thus the prima materia is the Water, and the stone is the lapis, or Christ (consumed, produced, perfected); and the transubstantiation is equivalent to the transmutation of metals which occurs during the alchemical opus (404). On further note, as Jung states in Mysterium Coniunctionis:

…the aqua benedicta, the lustral water, wherein the birth of the new being is prepared…The aqua permanens…and the terms oleum, oleaginitas, unctuous, unctuositas, all refer to the arcane substance which is likewise Mercurius. The idea is a graphic reminder of the ecclesiastical use of the various unguents and the consecrated water…a possible reference to the commaxtio of the two substances in the chalice of the Mass (454).

We see the overlapping of the ecclesiastical with the alchemical: in the transubstantiation of the Mass is the alchemical equivalent of the production of the lapis. The reformatory nature of the text, it’s being in one sense heretical, and the combination of the religious with the alchemical hints at the conflict inherent in the mind of the author: he need find a way to combine his alchemical observations, his participation mystique, experience of the religious, faith in Christ, and dedication to the Church, etc…As the stone is frequently referred to as being grown like a child in the womb of its mother, being the “uterus” and it’s elemental contents the “fetus”, it is easy to see the connection a religious mind would make between the lapis as Christ and as philosopher’s stone, where Mary, the Lunar Virgin mother, signifies the vas hermeticum in which the stone/Christ is born. In the following sections I will focus on the main alchemical components derived from a reading of the Alchemical Mass, their interpretation according to Jung, and relationships to corresponding alchemical concepts.

I. King Sol & Queen Luna

The Graduale contains the first Alchemical reference: the vessel. It contains a pure and fragrant transformative substance at the bottom of the vessel. The vessel, being the retort, vas hermeticum, rotundum, etc…It “cures every weakness of the body” and gushes forth the “true water of life”. Alchemically this “true water” is Adam, Mercurius Duplex, “that other Mercurius” of John Dee, which as the prima materia is the first substance in the alchemical admixture, the ‘water’ or ‘Sperm of the Philosophers’. To Ave Maria: here the masculine, shining light of the world – Sol, King Sol, Ego-consciousness – is “united with the moon” or feminine (anima) – Luna, Queen of Sheba, daughter of the Philosophers. The Moon’s antithetical nature is “a prototype of individuation,” according to Jung in Psychology and Alchemy; for she is a “prefiguration of the self[…]mother and spouse of the sun, who carries in the wind and the air the spagyric embryo conceived by the sun in her womb and belly” (175). The Moon has a duplicitous nature, an outer feminine and inner masculine light, hidden as fire, hence “Luna is really the mother of the sun, which means, psychologically, that the unconscious is pregnant with consciousness and gives birth to it. It is the night, which is older than the day:

Part of the darkness which gave birth to light,
That proud light which is struggling to usurp
The ancient rank and realm of Mother Night (176).

From the darkness of the unconscious comes the “light of illumination, the albedo” (177). Luna is the Father-Mother of the Gnostics: the opposites contained in potentia. Sol as the masculine principle of Mercurius is the active projection of the Unconiscious (97). The passive part is Luna, bearing her light from the Sun. Mercurius is then represented as Nous: the diurnal life of the Psyche, regarding which Jung states that “the duality of our psychic life is the prototype and archetype of the Sol-Luna symbolism” (97). The Sun-Sol symbolism as an anthropomorphic device has been long-used, for example with the Egyptians elevation of the Pharaoh to god-status. Jung explains that the “elevation of the human figure to a king or a divinity, and on the other hand its representation in subhuman theriomorphic form, are indications of the unconscious character of the pair of opposites”, and that they “do not belong to the ego-personality but are subordinate to it”, for the “pair of opposites constitute the phenomenology of the paradoxical self, man’s totality” (6).

The apotheosis of the king is represented as renewal via the rising of the sun: a dominant of consciousness has been produced, psychic potential is reversed, and consciousness is no longer under dominion of the unconscious, “in which state the dominant is hidden in the darkness, but has now glimpsed and recognized a supreme goal”(Psychology and Alchemy, 355). The Gnostic Sophia, corresponding to Alchemical Mother, is like Ripley’s Mother Luna – the maternal aspect of the night; so, King Sol’s apotheosis has made her visible: “made the unconscious conscious”, thus primarily the anima becomes visible (356).

In both Sol and Luna are roundness, a wholeness, etc…a ‘mystic dawn’ in each new birth as the moon waxes and wanes, with the moon as the connecting-link between the concept of Virgin Mother and Child, for in the “sublunary world her roundness corresponds, as the mirror-image of the sun, to the Anthropos, the psychological self, or psychic totality” (356). Luna, or woman is the true carrier of that longed-for wholeness which the Alchemists seek, and their Consciousness is the Sun: rising and setting, entering and leaving dreams, viewed in “outer space” by the Observer as a planet, whereby the Ego undergoes object-subject perceptual alterations during the Opus – with the ego/king as object and king as ego-consciousness. The ego is both subject and object of its own knowledge, and psyche is a “constellation” consisting of other “luminaries besides the sun” (357). So we see here a projection of the transformation process: “the aging of a psychic dominant is apparent form the fact that it expresses the psychic totality in ever-diminishing degree,” and

the confrontation is expressed, in the alchemical myth of the king, as the collision of the masculine, spiritual father-world ruled over by King Sol with the feminine, chthonic mother-world symbolized by the aqua permanens or by the chaos,” (359)

or by King Sol’s counterpart, Luna. One must confront their darkness, the Moon’s alternating phases, the setting of the sun, the sol niger. This is, or can be dangerous, as Jung states in Mysterium Coniunctinus:

For [the Alchemists] the dark side of the world and of life had not been conquered [by Christ’s crucifixion]…[in] their eyes the fire-point, the divine center in man, was something dangerous, a powerful poison which required very careful handling if it was to be changed into the panacea (55).

As Dorn has stated, “there is nothing in nature that does not contain as much evil as good,” and so in the Sol/Luna symbolism we have (as with Mercurius, and nearly every Alchemical symbol) a commingling of opposites; here, luminosities bearing both the light of the Self as Truth, and in their absence, or descent representing the more Shadowy substances which appear to be slumbering, however are perpetually active whether or not we’re consciously (egoistically) aware. Luna, Mars, and Quicksilver correspond to the three principle colors of the fusion of the Medicine, as described in Giovanni Lacinius, Pretiosa margarita novella’s “Summary of the Rosary of Arnold de Villa Nova,” written in Venice, 1546:

In the conjunction of the Stone, expect three principal colours, first the black, then the white, then the red. Take care that the tincture does not become red before it becomes black, for then it will perish by combustion, and that none of the colours appear before their proper time, or out of their proper order. Should the red appear before the black, or before the white, decoct the whole in white water till the proper colour is restored. Note also that decoction by inhumation obviates the error of combustion, and restores lost humidity. If the medicine does not combine properly, correct by dissolution. The purification and dissolution are brought about, not by common, but by mercurial water. [1]

II. Mercury

On Mercury and Dew/Rain, in A.E. Waite’s Collectanea Chemica, London, 1893 “On The Philosopher’s Stone”:

Sendivogius calls it heavenly water, not wetting the hands; not vulgar, but almost like rain water. When Hermes calls it a bird without wings, figuring thereby its vaporous nature, is it well described. When he calls the sun its father and the moon its mother, he signifies that it is produced by the action of heat upon moisture. When he says the wind carries it in its belly, he only means that the air is its receptacle. When he affirms that which is inferior is like that which is superior, he teaches that the same vapor on the surface of the earth furnishes the matter of rain and dew, wherewith all things are nourished in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. This now is what the philosophers call their Mercury and affirm it to be found in all things, as it is in fact. [3]

In Eirenaeus Philalethes “Three Treatises”, Tres tractatus de metallorum transmutatione…Amsterdam, 1668; section Metamorphosis of Metals, Mercury is described at length [2]:


It follows, then, that water must be the first principle of all things, i.e., of all concrete bodies in this world; earth is the fundamental element in which all bodies grow and are preserved; air is the medium into which they grow, and by means of which the celestial virtues are communicated to them. The seed of all things has been placed by God in water.


The seed is stirred into action by its form (i.e., a certain appropriate celestial influence) coagulates the material water, and passes through a series of fermentative processes (fermentation being the principle of all transmutation), until it has produced that for the production of which it was specially suited. If the seed is metallic, there; generated from it first a dry liquid, which does not wet the hand viz., Mercury, the mother of all metals. Mercury may be described as the true first matter of metals; for not until the elemental water has become Mercury can it be affirmed with any degree of certainty that a metal or mineral must result from it. Water is, in itself, potentially the seed of either an animal vegetable, or mineral; but Mercury is metallically differentiated water, ie., it is water passed into that stage of development, in which it can no longer produce anything but mineral substances. Mercury, then, is the common seed of gold, silver, copper, tin iron, lead, etc.; their difference is only to be sought in the degree of their digestion.”


…CHAPTER VII: we conclude that Mercury alone is the true Key of our Art; for it is in truth the dry water described by the Sages, which, though liquid, does not wet the hands, nor anything else that does not belong to the unity of its substance. Mercury is our doorkeeper, our balm, our honey, oil, urine, may-dew, mother, egg, secret furnace, oven, true fire, venomous Dragon, Theriac, ardent wine, Green Lion, Bird of Hermes, Goose of Hermogenes, two-edged sword in the hand of the (Cherub that guards the Tree of Life, &c., &c.; it is our true, secret vessel, and the Garden of the Sages, in which our Sun rises and sets. It is our Royal Mineral, our triumphant vegetable Saturnia, and the magic rod of Hermes, by means of which he assumes any shape he likes.

Mercurius/Hermes is “trines et unus,” the Spirit in the Bottle, the “guardian of the many-sounding tongue,” and “prophet to mortals,”; he is the “Logos become world,” the godhead found Above and Below: celestial and in the sewers. Hermes becomes the demon of the mysteries celebrated by all tenebriuones (obscurantists), and Wotan the demon of forest and storm; Mercurius becomes the Soul of the metals, the metallic man (homunculus), the dragon (serpens mercurialis), the roaring fiery lion, the night raven (nycticorax), and the black eagle – the last four being synonyms for the devil (Psychology and Alchemy, 198).

As Quicksilver/Water, Mercurius is Hydrargyrum (Hg), or argentum vivum – thus vulgarism, the crudus materialis – differentiated from the mercurius philosophicus; the Aqua manus non malefaciens; the Aqua aura, or golden tinctured water as Mercurii caduceus (208). As fire, Mercurius is the ignis elementaris (“divine fire”); the “highly vaporous” and “invisible fire, working in secret,” whose “heart” is in the North Pole; the “universal and scintillating fire of the light of nature, which carries the heavenly spirit with it,” and the source of mystical knowledge second only to the holy revelation of scriptures (210). Hermes thus is seen as a god of revelation. Ignis mercurial is likened to the abysmal fires of hell, as an internal component of the deity: as God is coincidentia oppisitorum; and is said to be located in the center of the earth or belly of the dragon, as Jung says:

Mercurius, the revelatory light of nature, is also hell-fire, […] a rearrangement of the heavenly, spiritual powers in the lower, chthonic world of matter [and] in it [(the fire/hell)] he rejoices like the salamander (210).

Spirit/Soul Mercurius is “that indefinable and elusive thing which attracts unconscious projections, like a servus/cerus fugitivus (fugitive slave or stag) (211). He is the pneuma, spiritus as “air in motion”; aureus, volans (a gaseous state of aggregation); the “stone uplifted by the wind,” a “visible yet impalpable spirit”, the “spirit of the word become body

within earth”: wherein he is the Soul as the intermediate nature, the in-between, as media substantia (213). For Soul is higher than “spirit” as gas/air, being a “subtle body” whose characteristic is to animate and be animated; thus Mercurius is likened to the anima as rostra anima, aqua rostra; depicted as the Spiritus Phtonis – a serpent sign, representing the in-between, mediating & uniting spirit and body like a glue (or gum); and is the supra-celestial light as the anima mundi, in other words, Truth – the original spirit above the Waters i.e., the Holy Spirit in Genesis; anima mundi as Plato’s (Timaeus’) World Soul and the Christian Holy Spirit, harkening again to Mercury as Duality (214).

His dual (“duplex”) nature is seen in the duplicitous versipellis (changing of his skin, shifty-nature), often depicted as two dragons, signifying a “twin” aspect via the two natures/ substances/dragons’ being winged & wingless (219). He is the Pantopthalmos: common and philosophic; dry and earthy; moist and viscous; containing passive and active elements; Good and Evil; hermaphroditic; begotten of the prima materia; at the heart of the microcosm (of Adam), the Philosophic Ambisexual Man; the cabalistic Adam Kadmon; the Anthropos as psychologically the ‘Self’; simultaneously the Senex & Puer (220). Quicksilver is akin to the planet Mercury which corresponds to the Gold of the Sun; he is the “spirit” of quicksilver as a planetary spirit conjured as a paredos (“familiar”), and in the role of Mystagogue acts as an agent of neutrality, being the process that begins with evil and ends with good (220; 228)

Mercurius is the thrice-greatest Hermes/Thoth as compiled by A.E. Waite’s massive Hermetic corpus. Jung elucidates the triune, quarternitus, and dual aspects of this deity/godhead/ mystery. He is both Devil as Lucifer the light-bearer, bane to the Alchemist, and god of revelations. As hidden away in the vas hermeticum by the Master alchemist (presumably) according to fairy tale, he appears both malefic (denoting the Saturnine/Senex qualities) and benevolent. He is a spirit released, hidden away, beneath the earth, in the belly of the dragon, or ‘neath the tree, near it’s roots. Mercury as the metallurgist is the thrice-begotten of Self, the prima materia materialized; the three-headed serpent. As Hermes he is the young guide of thieves and wanderers, bearing the keys to Immortality at the intersection of the crossroads (a trickster, much like the Voudoun Exu). He is like Wotan, a wind-god, and as Thoth, the pneuma, life-breath, and great scribe: begetter of knowledge and mysteries. Hermes is the mercurial spirit of darkness, and ethereal vapor of Light, the bringer of misfortune and harbinger of wealth in the form of spiritual, individuated, and psychic phenomena.

As was the case with Paracelcus, accruing knowledge and wisdom of the heavenly Art, the medicine of the lapis philosophorum, divulging scintillating intelligence from Thee Scintillating Intelligence, as Da’at, the in-between Hermes, signified by the interrelated psychic and physiological components of the Body with the Astrological Bodies, the heavens as Above so Below, symposium of the stars, a composite reflection of our inner Self, where malady mirrors the hermetically sealed reality, as a visage of the abyss and prescient knowledge of the Collective Soul, the anima mundi, etc…undergoing the process of individuation, via the projected psychic contents transfiguration in the alchemical mass, opus, or vas via mens, was a dangerous task, and one needed Mercury as substance, element, familiar, concept, mythologem, and most importantly Guide in order to navigate profitably the chaos of the Unconscious. The Christian faith, revelation, and apocalypse needn’t be at odds with the Hermetic Work, the Great Work, the Magnum Opus of the Alchemist, as the Puer and as the Senex reveal, for God is both Man and in Man, as the Anthropos is the Self.

III. Mars

In Tarot and Individuation, Mars & Iron is aptly summarized by Irene Gad as follows:

…begotten in the earth by the virtue of all the stars and planets but especially by the contribution of the pole star, called the Great Bear. It is the metal of Mars, the god of war, hot, choleric, and bilious. Mars was also called Daemogorgon, a god of the earth, or a “terrible god and iron” (165).

The “band of Mars” (copula martialis) is produced in the retort along with the “conjunction of Mercury” (Mercurii coniunctio). The ‘band’ of Mars etymologically as a blood-marriage: binding, copulative, and a uniting bond; furthermore, “band” as in reference to a militant troop, or faction of soldiers – as Mars is associated with War, battalions, Vulcan and Ares. Iron is the metal ruled by Mars and red is its corresponding color. The alchemical process unfolds as the three substances merge, in ‘conjunction’ with Mercury or quicksilver. In the Coelum Philosophorum, following the coagulation of ‘six occult metals’, becoming ‘corporeal’ and yet imposing ‘great hardness and weight,’ thus:

It is very difficult and laborious for a prince or a king to be produced out of an unfit and common man. But Mars acquires dominion with strong and pugnacious hand, and seizes on the position of king. He should, however, be on his guard against snares; that he be not led captive suddenly and unexpectedly. It must also be considered by what method Mars may be able to take the place of king, and Sol and Luna, with Saturn, hold the place of Mars. [4]

And Joseph Caezza, discussing Hermeticism and the Golden Fleece, says of Mars:

Ares, known to the Romans as Mars, also indicates the element Iron, rich in philosophical sulfur, the source principle of the luminous animating functional fire of Nature. It comprises the compliment of philosophic mercury. Iron finds use in purifying stibnite, the chief ore of antimony in the classic reduction process: Sb2S3 + 2 Fe = 2Sb + Fe2S3 .

Again, Mars/Ares is the color Red. Red plays an important role as one of the three primary Alchemical colors. As with the Philosophical Tree whose veins are of a ‘rose-colored’ and ‘bloody’ hue, per crucem ad rosam, the Rose is the lapis as Christ, the filius macrocosmi (292). In the Rosarius the five petals of the rose correspond to the five senses; are vehicles of Christ’s love; represent the rosa mystica (Mary) and healing effect of Eros; thus the rose as lapis is the Servator Cosmi (preserver of the cosmos), and the manifestation of a kind of Eros which “unifies the individual as well as the multitude in the sign of the rose and makes them whole, and is therefore a panacea and an alexipharmic” (296). The rose is the symbol of the Rosicrucian Order and the “compensatory Logos [joined to Love] as a light that shines in the darkness,” for “solicitude for the spiritual welfare of erring sheep can explain even a Torquemada” as “love alone is useless if it does not also have understanding,” (296-297).

IV. Aqua Permanens

The chief function of the aqua pontica (aqua permenans) is ablution, the alchemical “lato,” or cleansing of the impure body (235).In ‘Mysterium’s’ section on “The Regeneration in Sea-Water”, Jung comments on the “mystery of baptism” and it’s corresponding stage in the opus as solutio, signifying the “total dissolution of the imperfect body in the aqua divine,” it’s submersion, mortification, and burial; while the putrefaction takes place in the “grave”, and the “foul smell that accompanies it is the stench of graves” (236). Chemically dissolution into the spirit, the body’s volatilization or sublimation, corresponds to evaporation; to the expulsion of evaporable elements like quicksilver, lead, sulphur, etc…(238). Psychologically it corresponds to the conscious realization and integration of unconscious content, for the alchemist, such content as is projected into the chemical tincture. As Jung as stated, “healing comes only from what leads the patient beyond himself and beyond his entanglement in the Ego,” therefore the Alchemist (patient), need project his corrupted ego-consciousness, Sol, into the mythological baptismal fountain of the vas hermeticum in order to experience a rebirth of consciousness, a purification, or an albedo (302).

V. Ethiopian

In Mysterium, Jung’s exegesis on Michael Maier’s journey explains that the four rivers of the Garden of Eden (Paradise being a symbol of totality), and their four directions are symbolic of the four basic functions of consciousness: sensation, intuition, thinking, and feeling (210). The river in alchemy is often depicted as the Nile with seven mouths, representing the seven planetary spheres (and their corresponding functions) as “limbs of the gods,” being the “real ‘consolamentum’ of Egypt, the life-giving water, the aqua permanens which ‘kills and vivifies'(269). Giants have been mentioned as the offspring of the Nephilim, and the pneumata sklera giganton (“hard spirits of giants”) are connected with the pneuma; Zosmios also mentions that ‘evil spirits’ emerge from the bodies of slain Giants. Perhaps these ‘evil spirits’ which rise as the pneuma signifies an alchemical process beginning in the ‘river bed’. This begins as the mercurial water, the aqua permanens, prime arcane substance, mingles with the elements, initiating the begetting process of the ‘blessed gum’ & ‘Sperm of the Philosophers’, for Mercurius

occupies a middle position between the volatile (air, fire) and the solid (earth), since it occurs in both liquid and gaseous form, and also as a solid in the form of ice. Mercurius shares his “aquaeositas” with water, since on the one hand he is a metal and amalgamates himself in solid form with other metals, and on the other hand is liquid and evaporable (503).


The deeper reason why he is so frequently compared with water is that he unites in himself all those numinous qualities which water possesses. Thus, as the central arcanum…the aqua permanent dominated alchemy from those remote times when it was still the holy and blessed water of the Nile…(ibid).

And so the process is beginning to unfold, in that the materials are present in the retort, and the prima materia is both noumena and phenomena, transferred and projected, objective and subjective, material and immaterial residing in the retort. The fire is to be lit, the ‘virgin bride’ or Lunar essence must “bathe with child over fire”. Ripley, in Stanzas 15-17 from Francis Barret’s ‘Lives of Alchemystical Philosophers’ discusses the four alchemical fires (note: Four, another quaternary symbol):

15. Foure Fyers there be whych you must understond,
Naturall, Innaturall, against Nature, alsoe
Elementall whych doth bren the brond.
These foure Fyers use we and no mo:
Fyre against Nature must doe thy bodyes wo;
That ys our Dragon as I thee tell,
Fersely brennyng as Fyre of Hell.

16. Fyre of Nature ys the thyrd Menstruall,
That Fyre ys naturally in every thyng;
But Fyre occasionat we call Innaturall,
And hete of Askys and balnys for putrefying:
Wythout these Fyres thou may not bryng
To Putrefaccyon for to be seperat,
Thy matters togeather proportyonat.

17. Therefore make Fyre thy Glasse wythin,
Whych brennyth the Bodyes more then Fyre
Elementall; yf thou wylt wyn
Our Secret accordyng to thy desyre
Then shall thy seeds both roote and spyre,
By help of Fyre Occasionat,
That kyndly after they may separat. [6]

Ethiopeia comes from the Greek “aitho,” ‘I burn’ and through the root ‘ai’ is etymologically related to the words “ember,” “aestus,” “ether,” and “ethyl”; furthermore related to Cepheus, king of ‘Ethiopeia’ – cognate of Greek ‘either’ and Latin ‘aether’. The first-born elemental god of the bright, upper air of heaven was called Aither, the Greek Protogenos. Therefore, we can see the relation of Ethiopeia in one sense to the airy, ethereal vapors, and in a duplex fashion, to the fiery, burning nature; while it’s opposite, earthly heaviness is signified in the alchemical process. In another sense, the Ethiopian, or Aithiopos, signifies the nigredo stage of the alchemical process. The Ethiopian, being black-skinned, signifies the dark, shadow essence: mortificatio, melancholia; Saturnine and leaden (heavy). So continues the process through which the elements and the alchemist (projecting his unconscious contents into the vas hermeticum) must undergo: intimating a separation of mens and spiritus. As both are the airy and earthy processes, whereby the elements are separated, which denotes the Above/Below, Ascent/ Decent, of both chemical/physical matter and spiritual/intellectual faculties. “Aithiops” is the prima materia of the nigredo stage: capuut mortuum or kaput corgi, the head of the black Osiris (i.e., the Ethiopian), and blackness as a starting point of the work – pregnatio; thus the head as a vessel of transformation unravels the psychic contents without which the process could not continue (Jung, 513). Consequently, the Ethiopian appears, and is

…burned, calcined, discoloured, altogether dead and lifeless. He asks to be buried, to be sprinkled with his own moisture and slowly calcined till he shall arise in glowing form from the fierce fire…

And, as Jung states in Mysterium Coniunctionitis:

In Aurora consurgens “sulphur nigrum” stands side by side with “vetula,” the first being a synonym for spirit and the second for soul. Together they form a pair roughly comparable to the devil and his grandmother…The “black sulphur” is a pejorative name for the active, masculine substance of Mercurius and points to its dark, saturnine nature, which is evil. This is the wicked Moorish king of the Chymical Wedding, who makes the king’s daughter his concubine (meretrix), the “Ethiopian” of other treatises, analogous to the “Egyptian” in the “Passio Perpetuae,” who from the Christian point of view is the devil. He is the activated darkness of matter, the umbra Solis (shadow of the sun), which represents the virginal-maternal prima materia. (38-39)

So we can see in the Alchemical Mass, as in other alchemical texts, the process has begun, the prima materia is undergoing the first stages of transformation, following the combination of previously mentioned elements, and the matter is being activated, heated, arising, vaporizing, coagulating. Psychologically this signifies the meeting of one’s anima/animus, and the darkness of ones shadow, living through a sol niger, and coming to terms not with Who one is, but What one is. It’s a prerequisite and necessity for the spirit and body to separate in order to be reunited, thus the process has begun, both in the vessel, and in the alchemist. Through the ‘bath of renewal’ the chemicals are ‘reborn’ as Sulphur, and finally the stone of the philosophers appears:

And behold it is one thing, one root, one essence with nothing extraneous added and from which much that was superfluous is taken away by the magistery of the art… It is the treasure of treasures, the supreme philosophical potion, the divine secret of the ancients.

With the production of the stone comes salvation, as imbibing the transubstantiated body and blood of Christ provides forgiveness; in the alchemical process is mirrored the religious purification of the body corporeal and spirit incorporeal; through undergoing the varying stages and degrees of chemical alterations – projected unconscious contents become conscious, pneumatic, and numinous; the Alchemist experiences individuation in the form of a Chemical Mass, and in this case, dedicated to and represented by the mystery of Theotokos.




Alchemical Citations (in order of appearance):

[Main text:] Cibinensis, Melchior. “An Alchemical Mass.” An Alchemical Mass. Adam McLean, n.d.

  1. Lacinius, Giovanni. “Summary of the Rosary of Arnold De Villa Nova.”Pretiosa Margarita Novella. N.p.: n.p., 1564. N. pag. Web. <>.
  1. Philalethes, Eirenaeus. “Philalethes – Metamorphosis of Metals.” Tres Tractatus De Metallorum Transmutatione. Amsterdam: n.p., 1668. N. pag. Web. <>.
  1. Waite, A.E. “On the Philosophers’ Stone.” Collectanea Chemica. London: n.p., 1893. N. pag. Web. <>
  1. Paracelsus, Philippus Theophrastus. The Coelum Philosophorum, or Book of Vexations. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Web. <>
  1. Caezza, Joseph. “Hermeticism and the Golden Fleece – Joseph Caezza.”Hermeticism and the Golden Fleece – Joseph Caezza. Adam McLean, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
  1. Barret, Francis. The Lives of Alchemystical Philosophers. London: Macdonald and Sons, 1815. <>

Psychology citations:

Gad, Irene. Tarot and Individuation: A Jungian Study of Correspondences with Cabala, Alchemy, and the Chakras. Berwick, Me.: Nicolas-Hays, 2004. Print.

Jung, C.G. Psychology and Alchemy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1977. Print.

Mysterium Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1977. Print.

KISS, FARKAS GÁBOR. LÁNG, BENEDEK. POPA-GORJANU, COSMIN. “The Alchemical Mass of Nicolaus Melchior Cibinensis: Text, Identity and Speculations”. AMBIX, Vol. 53, No. 2, July 2006, 143–159.


Image from an illustration of an alchemical laboratory by Jan Van der Straet (1523-1605). Here.

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