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This Is the Source of All the Perfection of the Whole World: Isaac Newton & Jon Leon

by on Jan.19, 2013

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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: (continue reading…)

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