Tag Archives: alchemy

The Gates of Paradise are guarded by a pair of peacocks


Originally, the phoenix was identified by the Egyptians as a stork or heron-like bird called a benu, known from the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian texts as one of the sacred symbols of worship at Heliopolis, closely associated with the rising sun and the Egyptian sun-god Ra.

The Greeks identified it with their own word phoenix φοίνιξ, meaning the color purple-red or crimson (cf. Phoenicia). They and the Romans subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle. According to the Greeks the phoenix lived in Phoenicia next to a well. At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well, and the Greek sun-god Helios stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen to its song. Featured in the painting Heracles Strangles Snakes (House of the Vettii, Pompeii Italy) as Zeus, the king of the gods.



Stunning in its beauty, the Peacock is considered the manifestation of the celestial Phoenix on earth. Its mesmerizing colors and the “thousand eyes” look on its tail is considered to promote abundance and good luck in feng shui, as well as enhance one’s protection and awareness.




In alchemical writings we meet a seemingly bewildering multiplicity of animal symbols – red lions, white eagles, stags, unicorns, winged dragons and snakes. Although at first glance all this complex mass of symbolism seems tortured and confused there is an inner coherence to these symbols, which the ancient alchemists used in specific ways reflecting their esoteric content.

In this article I wish to consider a particularly tight knit group of these animal symbols, the birds of alchemy – the Black Crow, White Swan, Peacock, Pelican, and Phoenix – which are descriptive of certain stages of the alchemical process.

With the Peacock stage, the alchemist has entered into the inner experience of the astral world, which initially appears as ever shifting patterns of colour. This experience is often symbolised in alchemy by the appropriate image of the peacock’s tail with its splendid iridescence of colour. In terms of this series of five stages, the turning point is reached with the Peacock. Up until this point the alchemist has experienced aspects of his being which he was formerly unconscious of – the etheric forces and the astral body. Essentially these experiences have happened to him, although he had to make himself open to the experiences through entering into the initial Black Crow state, however, in order to progress he must begin to work upon his inner being.

Birds in Alchemy



The peacock is a symbol of immortality because the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death. As such, early Christian paintings and mosaics use peacock imagery, and peacock feathers can be used during the Easter season as church decorations. This symbol of immortality is also directly linked to Christ.

The peacock naturally replaces his feathers annually; as such, the peacock is also a symbol of renewal.

Early belief held that the Gates of Paradise are guarded by a pair of peacocks.

The peacock has the ability to eat poisonous snakes without harm.

Both Origen and Augustine refer to peacocks as a symbol of the resurrection.

Pythagoras wrote that the soul of Homer moved into a peacock—a hyperbole to establish the respect and longevity of the Greek poet’s words.

“By the Peacock” was a sacred oath, because the peacock was thought to have the power of resurrection, like the Phoenix.

A necklace of Amethyst, peacock feathers, and swallow feathers were a talisman to protect its wearer from witches and sorcerers.

Christians thought, in early times, that the peacock’s blood could dispel evil spirits.

Peacock Symbolism



All the clips you missed (via Gawker)

After his monologue Letterman took a seat and eviscerated every part of Leno’s address to his audience last night, including his plea that we not blame O’Brien. “Nobody is blaming Conan,” Letterman said emphatically. Letterman then said that what’s going on now is “vintage Jay,” the same man he’s known for 35 years. At the end of his statement, Letterman had this to say about Leno: “You get fired, you get another gig! Don’t hang around waiting for somebody to drop dead.” Game. Set. Match:  Vintage Jay 

“Nobody is blaming Conan,” Letterman said.


The word “jay” has an archaic meaning in American slang meaning an impertinent person.

The term jaywalking was coined in 1915 to label persons crossing a busy street carelessly and becoming a traffic hazard.  The term began to imply recklessness or impertinent behavior as the convention became established.



I’ll always be a word man, better than a birdman… – Jim Morrison



Bill Hicks on Jay Leno


Recorded in 1993, the track “Artistic Roll Call” from Bill Hicks’ Rant in E-Minor is as true today as it was back then:

Here’s the same bit via Howard Stern

(via disinfo)





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The Alchemical Dream

In The Alchemical
a film produced by Sacred Mysteries and directed by Sheldon Rochlin, visionary
author and counterculture luminary Terence McKenna relates some of the curious
history of European alchemy, and the attempted creation of a religious utopia
based on alchemical principles. Dressed as the famed Hermetic magician John Dee,
McKenna strolls wistfully through the crumbling ruins and sweeping castle vistas
of Eastern Europe discussing the lost secrets of alchemy. He gives us a tour of
the last remaining alchemical laboratory in Heidelberg, and tells a fascinating
story of political intrigue and bohemian experimentation in the 16th century.

The alchemists were after what McKenna describes as a “magical theory of
nature.” They used precise and calculated methods that would pave the way for
the future intellectual development of some important sciences such as
chemistry, biology, phenomenology, and psychology. Their intention was to
transform the human spirit and the physical body itself into something divine
and wholly other, something resembling the odd and spectacular alchemical art of
the time. They experimented with myriad combinations of special chemicals,
magical formulas, and complex distillation processes designed to produce the
fabled “philosopher’s stone”: a metaphorical goal which can be read in many
ways. In essence, the alchemists were trying to bring heaven down to earth by
merging spiritual mysticism with the physiological exploration of alchemical

According to McKenna, the group of European alchemists who centered around
John Dee and the British court of Queen Elizabeth I in the late 1500’s believed
that the spiritual philosophy of alchemy was so profound and full of potential
that it should be embraced as the popular religious paradigm of the day. The
Christian preacher Martin Luther had started a Protestant reformation in 1517
with the 95 Theses and now, a century later, Dee felt that the world was ready
for an alchemical reformation. With this idea of a religious reformation in
mind, Dee and a group of court alchemists traveled to the palace of King
Frederick V of Bohemia in 1618 with the intention of establishing a new
alchemical kingdom.

This alchemical dream lasted for about a year before the Austrian dynasty of
the Hapsburg family got wind of the reformation plan and disapproved of
Frederick’s kingship, quickly dispatching an army to lay siege to the kingdom of
Bohemia and Frederick’s court. After a brief period of fighting Frederick was
defeated at the Battle of the White Mountain on November 8th, 1620, and the
Bohemian hopes of establishing an alchemical religious state were destroyed.
While the bulk of alchemical knowledge was lost to Western civilization after
this time, the intellectual threads of this esoteric philosophy can still be
found in the modern world.

As McKenna points out, this attempted reformation was not entirely dissimilar
to what happened in the social climate of America in the 1960’s with the
re-introduction of sacred plants into Western culture and the social upheaval
that occurred simultaneously. McKenna describes the drug revival of the 60’s as
a sort of “failed alchemy” whose ideal was to transform the human spirit, but
wound up as a splintered and marginalized movement, similar to alchemy. However,
although alchemy was lost to Western civilization for a few centuries, some of
the basic ideas can still be found scattered here and there in some esoteric
religious practices, mystical writings, transpersonal psychology and art history
books: themes of creativity, diversity, synchronicity, unions of opposites, and
personal psycho-spiritual exploration which were all an essential part of the
alchemical endeavor.

So while the dream of European alchemy may have apparently died in the 16th
century, the underlying motivation of the alchemists – a desire for innovative
and genuine spiritual experience – is a fundamental human characteristic that
can be traced through many different cultures and time periods. As an example of
this, at the end of The Alchemical Dream, McKenna makes an interesting
historical footnote about a young solider named Rene Descartes who was part of
the invading Hapsburg army which defeated the Bohemian kingdom. Shortly after
this time, Descartes was visited in a dream by an angelic apparition who
instructed him with a piece of advice which would fundamentally alter our world.
The angel said to him, “The conquest of nature is to be achieved through
measures and numbers.” Descartes would go on to become one of the most
influential scientists and philosophers of his day. For McKenna, this is a
perfect example of how the spirit of alchemy (the spirit of inner human
creativity) will continuously reappear at opportune moments and direct the
course of human events in mysterious ways which we can only begin to understand.

A trailer for the film is available on Google video. 

For more information or to request a screening, visit Sacred Mysteries.

via Reality
Sandwich | Tristan Gulliford

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