Israel Regardie & The Philosopher’s Stone by Joseph C. Lisiewski (2008, Falcon Press)
Israel Regardie was a powerhouse when it came to mystical thought in the West. Born into an orthodox Jewish family, he traveled from his native England to the United States in the 1920’s. He would later travel back to England and become Aleister Crowley’s personal secretary for many years. When Regardie returned to the United States, he tried to locate the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn for spiritual instruction. He located an offshoot and learned much of what the Golden Dawn taught. He is known for his Garden of Pomegranates and a book on The Golden Dawn system of magick.
Albert Riedel, known to the world as “Frater Albertus”, was one of the few men to pursue the ancient art and science of alchemy in the twentieth century. After fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930’s, he eventually settled in Salt Lake City where he founded the Paracelsus Research Society. Until his passing in 1984, Riedel undertook research in alchemy and taught courses on alchemical principles based on the medieval understanding of matter. Many people attended his classes. I once heard that they always started with him bowing his head, closing his eyes and saying, “God is good”.
Few people know it but Regardie and Frater Albertus were associated over Regardie’s desire to learn alchemy. Regardie’ s interests were mostly in ceremonial magick, but he had much training in other areas. Albertus wanted him to travel to Salt Lake City and help out with his alchemical work. It never happened because Regardie had a psychotherapy practice in California and didn’t want to leave. The two would correspond over the years on many projects.
Israel Regardie & The Philosopher’s Stone, written by Joseph C. Lisiewski, is one man’s account of the great work of alchemy over a period of years. It details his relationship with both Frater Albertus and Israel Regardie. Along the way, we get a glimpse into the experimental process of alchemical and the author’s attempt to duplicate some of the ancient techniques written about in the vast treasure of private manuscripts at PRS. This is the most engrossing part. The author, trained as an engineer, uses the scientific method to get at the heart of the processes depicted in many of these old alchemical writings. This is not a “spiritual path” book; Lisiewski did the heavy lifting of building complicated laboratory ovens and experimental equipment to arrive at his conclusions.
Along the way, we get some interesting insights into the man who was Frater Albertus. Here he talks about a course that he took at PRS:
“My roommate (who I shall refer to as Curt) and I performed the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP) privately in our dorm room at the PRS in the wee hours of the morning. We chose that late hour since all the other students in the dorm were asleep, and owing to an early class start each day at 8:30 AM, we knew that Frater would be asleep also. We proceeded with the ritual at 3:00 AM. At 8:30 AM, Frater did not stroll into the large, luxuriously decorated and furnished lecture room in the main building, ready to teach, as was his custom. To say that he stormed in, utterly furious and almost out of control, would be an understatement. He raved and screamed, “There are two here who know better than to do Magic on these premises! A Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram! That foolishness has never been permitted here and never will be! How dare you two do such a thing in this special place! You know who you are, and your fellow classmates know who you are from your reputations, so I will not have to point you out. But hear this and remember you were told! If this ever happens again, I will insist you pack your things and get out of this Society, never to return! Have I made myself absolutely clear?!”
Anyone who wants a look at the long process of experimental alchemical laboratory work should have a look at this book. There are reasons given for every process used in it. There are points when you wonder why the author undertakes such rigorous collection of thunderstorm rainwater if he’s only going to later purify it by steam distillation and re-electrify it. Because of atmospheric contamination, much of the rainwater he collects is useless. However, I finally realized he was trying to limit as many variables as possible. At the surface, it may seem easy enough to use ordinary tap water for the processes, but what if there is some unknown substance which makes thunderstorm rainwater unique? If he’d used tap water, another variable would have been introduced.
Ultimately, the author tries to make “Gur”, the stuff of pre-adamic earth and use it to create a homunculus. He feels the homunculus was created in the past, yet has no physical evidence.
“This manuscript gave a process by which a man and woman—using the normal method of biological procreation—would conceive a fetus that would immediately be inhabited by an advanced soul personality. A soul that had reincarnated many times, and one adept in the magical arts and sciences. This child, when mature, would become aware of its own advanced nature and be able to pick up where it left off as it were, and once again resume its magical work in the world, and do so at a very early age. Regardie also reminded me that at one time he had shown me the manuscript in question: the privately printed document that gave the full rite for the creation of this Magical Child….”
There is an extensive amount of discussion about Regardie’ s own alchemical work in a small shed where attempts to create the various colors of glass based on Frater Albertus’ own notes and guidance. Unfortunately, much of this work involved the use of antimony trioxide, a very caustic and dangerous chemical. The author felt the work Regardie undertook might have shortened his lifespan. This is something anyone should think about when before duplicating an old alchemical process.
Israel Regardie & The Philosopher’s Stone is one of the best descriptions of the world of practical alchemy I have read. I recommend it highly for anyone who is interested in this area of research.
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