by Dan Hoy on Jan.19, 2013
Isaac Newton writing on alchemy is like Jon Leon writing on the female image. I discovered this after reading James’ post yesterday and then paging through The Alchemy Reader from Cambridge University a few hours later. I’ve read Newton’s boringly fascinating work on Biblical prophecy but don’t remember him hitting the same kind of tonal impossibility he hits here, though I probably just missed it. I haven’t read his more well-known science writing. Regardless, in his writing on alchemy, at least, he creates a web of artfully banal tropes & action in order to pierce it with the crystal blue image of infinity. And he does it with a gesture that is both kidding and completely serious. This is perhaps the prototypical alchemical operation, or philosopher’s stone, and it’s also Leon’s modus operandi: somewhere beyond irony.
From The Commentary on the Emerald Tablet, Newton’s thoughts on the best known work attributed to Hermes Trismegistus:
This is the source of all the perfection of the whole world. The force and efficacy of it is entire and perfect if, through decoction to redness and multiplication and fermentation, it be turned into fixed earth. Thus it ought first to be cleansed by separating the elements sweetly and gradually, without violence, and by making the whole material ascend into heaven through sublimation and then through a reiteration of the sublimation making it descent into earth: by that method it acquires the penetrating force of spirit and the fixed force of body. Thus will you have the glory of the whole world and all obscurities and all need and grief will flee from you.
From Leon’s collection Right Now the Music & the Life Rule:
The wide view is pink and red. She is biting keys. For a normal looking person she is attractive. She is wearing a unitard by whom it would not be difficult to guess made it, designed the thing. Her breasts spill out into the unitard and are mid-size. She looks like a pretentious one. There is probably a jeep parked outside. The sofa is leather. It is big. Her hair is cut Godard-like like a lot of them these days. All the hideousness of war lies elsewhere. We can forget the world here and yet simultaneously be reminded of it. She has a subconscious bravado. Right now the music and the life rule. She is the real Venus de Medici.
From The Key, Newton’s instructions for producing the “philosophical mercury” or universal solvent necessary for the preparation of the philosopher’s stone:
The mercury should be washed (say ten times) with nitre and distilled vinegar and likewise dried (twice), and the mortar should be constantly heated just so much as you are able to bear the heat with your fingers. Grind the mercury 1/4 of an hour with an iron pestle and thus join the mercury, the doves of Diana mediating, with its brother, philosophical gold, from which it will receive spiritual semen. The spiritual semen is a fire which will purge all the superfluities of the mercury, the fermental virtue intervening. Then take a little beaten sal ammoniac and grind with the mercury. When it is fully amalgamated, add just enough humidity to moisten it, and this one philosophical sign will appear to you: that in the very making of the mercury there is a great stink. Finally, wash your mercury by pouring on water, grinding, decanting, and again pouring on fresh water, until few feces appear.
And from Jon Leon’s “The Promise”, currently my favorite piece of his, appearing in the new issue of Sang Bleu:
As a young boy reading the adventures of Giacomo Casanova I knew that I had found the meaning of life. There is no higher calling than to worship pussy. A careful consideration of female sensation is the most divine pursuit. I revel in wet pussy. The wetter I can get the pussy the more pure I feel. The more cleansed and holy I become. I am a giver of life. I give back to women all the power and liberation the marketplace has stripped from them. The more they pulsate the harder my cock gets. At times my cock is so hard it feels like it will break away from its foundation and begin to work its magic in a peculiar detachment from my body. I think of my cock as a sacred altar wherein the gift of milk and honeysuckle is returned with intense and prolonged multiple orgasms that bring a wave of sensation that can rock the very foundation from which capitalism develops. Most women who sleep with me end up blacking out at some point during our love making. As do I.
Newton’s alchemical manuscripts remained “unknown” until the 20th Century, at which point they were purchased by John Maynard Keynes. That John Maynard Keynes became the private steward of Isaac Newton’s long lost alchemical papers is something my brain is still trying to wrap itself around. There is some secret buried here.