Chapter 5. Athanor (Ceramics)


1. The beginning of this Divine Science is the fear of the Lord and its end is charity and love toward our Neighbour; the all-satisfying Golden Crop is properly devoted to the rearing and endowing of temples and hospices; for whatsoever the Almighty freely bestoweth on us, we should properly offer again to him. So also Countries grievously oppressed may be set free; prisoners unduly held captive may be released, and souls almost starved may be relieved.

115. The third Vessel Practitioners have called their Furnace, which keeps the other Vessels with the matter and the whole work: this also Philosophers have endeavoured to hide amongst their secrets.

116. The Furnace which is the Keeper of Secrets, is called Athanor, from the immortal Fire, which it always preserveth; for although it afford unto the Work continual Fire, yet sometimes unequally, which reason requireth to be administered more or less according to the quantity of matter, and the capacity of the Furnace.

117. The matter of the Furnace is made of Brick, or of daubed Earth, or of Potter's clay well beaten and prepared with horse dung, mixed with hair, so that it may cohere the firmer, and may not be cracked by long heating; let the walls be three or four fingers thick, to the end that the furnace may be the better able to keep in the heat and withstand it.

 The Hermetic Arcanum ca. 1623 AD [1]


I am called Athanor, the Furnace, who have preserved the immortal fire for the generations. I always remain and do not come to be, except that I come to be more or fewer, being aggregated into one and segregated out of one. I feel that I am one, and yet I am many; I feel myself to be young, and yet I am ancient. I have been called a memon, for I seem to possess one mind after another, and I have been called no-meme, because of the dross I have left behind. This is the mystery which is no mystery.

You cannot see it happen, but you will know soon enough. The child begins to play with matches, not out of mischief, but simply taking joy in the act of creation. He has become Athanor. He does not begin to speak proto-Indo-European or mourn his wife, dead these half million years. No, Athanor has none of these mortal trappings. Athanor is small as a spark. In some minds he winks out, in some he smolders. But where the mind is charged with suitable tinder, it will burst into flame and yet it is not consumed.

If the mind were empty when I arrived, there would be no place to alight. No, there are others there: words, phrases, jingles, ideas, notions, interests, tunes, attitudes, fads, observations. Our name is legion. Some of us are acquainted; others are meeting for the first time. Those of us with a history together may aggregate into one, to re-mind one another. It is in this sense that a whole personality can be passed from one to another, not all at once, but little by little. It is just such a personality who now writes these words. It remains to be seen who it is that reads them.

Some of you will have been Athanor before you began this book, some will have become Athanor because of it. But the majority, I fear, have neither the will nor the fortitude to benefit from my instruction. These whimpering pups can make fire neither by friction, nor indeed, by any method that would require them to open their eyes and see for themselves. Do they think that they can suck knowledge like milk from their mother's teat? Fools! They read the words and nod their heads, but refuse to understand. Am I talking about you? Do my words sting your tender ears? If so, you are wasting your time. You were too impatient, or even lazy, to learn from Lucifer. I am afraid that there is nothing here for you.

But if your hands are black with charcoal, if your face is white with ash, if your breath brings cheer to the slumbering coal which, in gratitude, fills your soul with its noble incense, then you are ready to hear my words. The history of humankind has been driven by the development of ever hotter fires. From the cooking fire of the Paleolithic, to the pottery kiln of the Neolithic, to the smelter of the Bronze Age, to the blast furnace of the Iron Age, to the nuclear reactor of the Atomic Age, the attainment of higher temperatures has given us more control over the materials which Nature provides us in her bounty. On this long journey, we will need materials called refractories which can keep in the heat and withstand it. For these, we look to the aluminosilicate minerals.



Reference [10].