Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia, the Society which gave way to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, is believed to have been formed from the ritual papers of the defunct German Ordens Gold und Rosenkreuzer, the first Rosicrucian Order to surface following the initial publication of the Rosicrucian manifestos in the early 17th century. Limited to Master Masons, Ordens des Gold und Rosenkreuzer was created by Hermann Fichtuld, a Freemason and Alchemist, and instructed its members in practical Alchemy. It is suspected that the idea for Fichtuld’s Ordens des Gold und Rosenkreuzer ultimately arose from Sigmund Richter’s cryptic 1710 Alchemical manuscript The True and Perfect Preparation of the Philosopher’s Stone, by the Brotherhood of the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross, a book which purports to name the mysterious prima materia or first matter of Alchemy by name, the first matter being the source from which will ultimately be prepared the lapis philosophorum. While Richter fails to deliver on providing the name of the prima materia, he does offer a description of the first matter that is unmistakable for those who possess the eyes to see it.
In John Hamill’s translation of Richter’s enigmatic manuscript we read that
“[the Prima] Materia… is found yearly which Jupiter [the Rain Bringer] fulminates with Thunder and Lightning from Heaven to Earth. Our dear Brother must collect this Spirit when it is fruitful… the stems arise from one Root and from one Tree.”
Once again, there is but a single thing in nature which at once satisfies all of these requirements: an entheogenic mycorrhizal mushroom; ostensibly, the infamous red and white Amanita muscaria.
Like all mycorrhizal fungi, Amanita muscaria mushrooms can grow and subsist only within and upon the root systems of select trees (The stems arise from one Root and from one Tree). Richter has correctly informed his readers that the fruiting bodies of Amanita muscaria appear only annually, during the rainy season (The Materia is found yearly which Jupiter [the Rain Bringer] fulminates… Our dear Brother must collect this Spirit when it is fruitful…). And, it was believed that flashes of lightning increased their number (...fulminates with Thunder and Lightning), a bit of mycological folklore that in 2010 was actually proven to be scientific fact. Yes indeed, the Amanita muscaria mushroom would appear to solve the problem of Richter’s curious prima materia.
To our knowledge, the first author to propose that the secret of the Alchemists’ materia and lapis may be the Amanita muscaria mushroom was researcher Clark Heinrich in his 1995 book Strange Fruit. And, as Heinrich ably demonstrates, Richter was not the first Alchemist to likely allude to the Amanita muscaria mushroom as being the materia, source of the lapis in Alchemy. Here follow a few descriptions from various Alchemical (and one Kabbalistic) manuscripts, all of which seem to point to the Amanita muscaria mushroom.
“Likewise [the Alchemists] have said that the fruit of their tree strives up to heaven [as opposed to down toward the earth], because out of the philosophic earth there arises a certain substance, like unto the branches of a loathsome sponge… The point about which the whole [Alchemical] art turns lies in the living things of nature… From a likeness not altogether remote they have called this material virgin’s milk and blessed rose-colored blood… For in the blood of this stone is hidden its soul.” – Theatricum Chemicum Brittanicum
“His soul rises up from [the secret substance] and is exalted to the heavens, that is, to the spirit, and becomes the red rising sun, waxing in Luna into the nature of the sun. And then the lantern with two lights [red and white], which is the water of life, will return to its origin, that is, to earth. And it becomes of low estate, is humbled and decays, and is joined to its beloved, the terrestrial sulphur.” – Consilium Coniugii
“The secret of secrets: Out of the scorching noon of Isaac, out of the dregs of wine, a fungus emerged, a cluster, male and female together, red as a rose, expanding in many directions and paths. The [red] male is called Sama’el, his [white] female is always included within him. Just as it is on the side of holiness, so it is on the other side: male and female embracing one another.” – Zohar Sitrei Torah 1:47b - 148b
“White-skinned lady, lovingly joined to her red-limbed husband, wrapped in each other’s arms in the bliss of connubial union, merge and dissolve as they come to the goal of [the perfected stone]...” – Rosarium Philosophorum
“[The stone’s] father is the [red] sun, its mother the [white] moon; the wind has carried it in its belly; its nurse is the earth. Its power is complete when it is turned toward the earth. It ascends from earth to heaven, and descends again to earth, and receives the power of the higher and lower things. So will you have the glory of the whole world.” – Tabula Smaragdina
Regarding this last quotation, Heinrich elaborates:
“Read as [an Amanita muscaria] metaphor the Tabula quotation reveals a hidden meaning: the secret substance’s father is the sun-like mature mushroom, whose ‘seed’ falls from his body to bring about the birth of his offspring. Its mother is the white, rough-textured ‘moon’ of the [egg-shaped] mushroom embryo, which seems to give birth to the solar cap. The wind carries the mushroom spores as well as the storms that bring about the birth. The earth ‘nurses’ the mushroom from egg to cup as the mushroom draws water from it. ‘When it turns toward the earth’ corresponds to the end of sporulation, when the upturned cap begins to dry out and turn back toward the ground; this is the optimal harvest time, because fully mature mushrooms have the highest concentrations of muscimol, the main active ingredient. Drying converts [the toxic] ibotenic acid to [the entheogenic] muscimol as well; once completely dry ‘its power is complete,’ but not before.”
Heinrich shows that Amanita muscaria mushrooms contain a potent poison called ibotenic acid. As the fruiting body matures, much of this acid is converted into the desired muscimol, the entheogenic agent of the fungus, and even more is converted upon drying. Therefore, fully matured specimens are prized over ‘green’ ones.
Even in the rituals we find potential allusions to the Amanita muscaria mushroom. Consider, for example, the following excerpt from the Practicus lecture, Practicus being the Grade wherein we as Rosicrucians are invited to investigate the Alchemical art.
“Many indeed were the processes devised, but there was a general consensus of opinion that the last three stages of the [Al]chemical process were marked by a series of colour changes, from Black through White to Red; this red matter was the Philosopher’s Stone, or Red Elixir, which could transmute Silver into Gold.”
In all probability, the “red [first?] matter” refers to the bright red pileus or cap of the mushroom, from which the Red Elixir or Philosopher’s Stone is prepared. It proceeds from the black earth as a small, white, egg-shaped mass. From this mass emerges the brilliant red fruiting body or mushroom proper. The color scheme may also relate to the mature mushroom specimen itself. Truly, one Alchemist and Rosicrucian apologist, Michael Maier, praised the Hermetic matter as follows:
“Thy face is red [and] thy bosom is whiter than purest snow. Thy feet are shod with black sandals…”
Such is an adequate description of a harvested specimen, with its brilliant red pileus facing the sun, its pure white lamellae and stipe below, and its bulbous volva at the base covered in the moist black remnants of the dank earth.
The transmutation of base metals into gold is another common Alchemical metaphor that refers to the illumination or enlightenment (hence gold) of the uninitiated man (i.e., base metal) that results from the proper application of the lapis philosophorum.
The Practicus lecture continues:
“The Alchymysts… endeavoured to produce from certain herbs an Elixir Vitae, which should have power to prolong life and restore health to the sick.”
This latter supposition stems naturally from the fallacious notion that the Alchemists’ lapis literally conferred upon its possessor the gift of physical immortality. But, the misguided quest for bodily longevity proceeds from a blatant misunderstanding of the traditional teaching. Even so, it should be noted that in the Practicus lecture the Elixir Vitae is specifically purported to be prepared not from minerals, stones, or metals, but from “certain herbs.”
Other Alchemical systems describe the color process as moving from black to red, and thence to white, as is reflected in the lecture for the Rose+Croix degree in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction. However, Societas Rosicruciana In Civitatibus Foederatis has opted to instruct Her Fratres in an alternate scheme. There is only one naturalistic explanation of which we can conceive for why that would be the case.
We close this investigation into the mycological nature of Richter’s prima materia with a poem by Clark Heinrich titled Our Water.
An aching heart
A king starts to waken
Harken back to olden days
An alchemist beckons again
What’s old is new, he says
And everything is shaken
Retort, vial and vas are broken
Even earth is quaking
A shaking hand betakes the potion
– this is not the time to weaken –
Puts the chalice to his lips
And pours the liquor down
He cries ‘Elixir!
Rosy blood of God!
Living waters truly!
Holy tincture of my Art
Lift me up to heaven’s door –
Cleanse my mind and heal my heart!’
Then having drunk he drinks once more
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 22-Jan-18 17:05 by P.D. Newman.
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