Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 17, Vol. 2. Autumnal Equinox 2009
Alchemy Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1: Alchemical Feminine, Paul Hardacre, ed. Salamander and Sons, Northern Spring/Southern Autumn, 2009. 96 pages. $30/year - 2 issues.
review by J. S. Kupperman
The Alchemy Journal is published annually for the International Alchemy Guild since the year 2000. The issue here under review focuses on the Alchemical Feminine who is variously depicted in this issue as the soror mystica, Yin, Binah and the Shekhinah or presence of God. This issue consists of twelve feature articles, a hymn to Kali, several book reviews and an interview with the administrator of the late Frater Albertus’ Paracelsus College.
The articles are quite short, sometimes being only three or four pages in length, one a few are as long as ten pages. The subjects vary greatly. I admit that, based on the book published by Salamander and Son, which I have been fortunate enough to review in this and previous issues of the JWMT, I was surprised to see relatively few articles on practical alchemy. There is one of these, the Salts of Life by Karen Bartlett. This is on the use of biochemic cell salts in spagyric processes. Another of the articles appears to be a lengthy add for the Modern Mystery School, which also has a full add on the back cover of the journal. The remaining ten articles focus on a range of subjects from internal alchemy to the role of women in the art to the ways the feminine principle has been depicted in classical alchemical texts.
Again, to my surprise, the majority of these articles were heavily influenced by modern hermetic ideology and Theosophy. This is in no way a bad thing. In fact, it shows the absolute diversity of modern alchemical practice and though I may have disagreed with various authors interpretation of supposedly traditional kabbalistic ideas, the articles are interesting, well written and both internally consistent and consistent with the theoretical backgrounds of the various authors.
Of these several articles two stand out as my favorite. The first of these is Steve Kalec’s The Seed in Spring. This brief entry, only two pages in length, rather poetically describes the turning of the seasons in alchemical terms. As he points out this is entirely fitting; alchemy is a replication of a natural process after all. The second of these is Rubaphilos Salfluĕre’s Mater Alchemæ. This five page article neatly connects the hermetic qabalah of the Order of the Golden Dawn and that order’s Neophyte or first initiation with alchemical principles.
I do have two critiques of the Alchemy Journal. The first is that some of its articles portray very modern interpretations of old mystical ideas as being traditional and ancient. I found this to be especially true of where Jewish mystical ideas from kabbalah were discussed. Second, and this is more of a pet peeve than anything else, there are very few foot notes in the articles and nearly no citations. It would be nice, for instance, for an author who is claiming to speak from some ancient text or teaching to cite that text. Neither of these issues, however, are overly detrimental and are, in fact, in keeping with how occult writing has been done for the last few hundred years.
In the final analysis the Alchemy Journal is a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in alchemy. With its wide variety of approaches to the subject it does not matter what your interest in the art is; allegorical, psychological, spiritual, physical or a combination of those. There will be something in the journal for everyone. Further, the articles are written in such a way that anyone can read them, you do not need to be an adept; even a rank novice can understand them. Available by subscription, the Alchemy Journal is a valuable addition to the library of anyone engaged in the Western Mysteries.