Archaeus is a Paracelsian term. He originated quite a few, much to the consternation of many students following his lead. Mr. Arthur Edward Waite assembled A Short Lexicon of Alchemy which explores some terms, primarily those of Paracelsus, and defined by their creator in his own enigmatic style. Other sources were also consulted for that lexicon. Unfortunately, most of the definitions were simply copied from the original source texts, and shed no extra light on the terms than when they were first written. Archaeus, however, shows bit of an exception. Concerning it, Mr. Waite recorded:
"According to one interpretation, this name is applied by the Spagyrists to the Universal Agent specialized in each individual; it is that which sets all Nature in motion, and disposes the germs and seeds of all sub-lunar beings to produce and multiply their species."1
The Greek root arche translates as 'beginning.' The Latin and later derivatives were to use arche as prefixes on other terms such as archaeology, Archeozoic and architect. All these prefixes imply the beginning, the primitive, the head or chief. Paracelsus uses Archaeus to describe an initial pattern from the Universal Life-Force that specialized "the germs and seeds of all sub-lunar beings." To cure an ailing human, Paracelsus would stimulate the Archaeus of the patient with the Archaeus of a corresponding medicinal plant. Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Palmer Hall contains a chapter on "Hermetic Pharmacology, Chemistry and Therapeutics." The following is from that chapter:
"There is one vital substance in Nature upon which all things subsist. It is called archaeus, or vital life force, and is synonymous with the astral light or spiritual air of the ancients."2
Paracelsus predates Eliphas Levi by 300 years. Levi defines Astral Light frequently in various ways, and equates it, as did others, with the Soul of the World (see ANIMA MUNDI). The quotation above continues:
"This vital energy has its origin in the spiritual body of the earth. Every created thing has two bodies, one visible and substantial, the other invisible and transcendent. The latter consists of an ethereal counterpart of the physical form; it constitutes the vehicle of Archaeus, and may be called a vital body (Yesod on the Tree). This etheric shadow sheath is not dissipated by death, but remains until the physical form is entirely disintegrated. These "etheric doubles," seen around graveyards, have given rise to the belief in ghosts. Being much finer in its substances than the earthly body, the etheric double is far more susceptible to impulses and inharmonies. It is derangements of this astral light body that cause much disease. Paracelsus taught that a person with a morbid mental attitude could poison his own etheric nature, and this infection, diverting the natural flow of vital life force, would later appear as a physical ailment. All plants and minerals have an invisible nature composed of this archaeus, but each manifests it in a different way."3
The chapter continues with further explanations of Paracelsus' process. The spelling of Archaeus is most enlightening. This Latin derivative totals 70. Iayin, יין, is 'wine' in Hebrew. Vinum is 'wine' in Latin. Each adds to 70 in its respective gematria. In the sacred and secret writings, wine has always been synonymous with blood. In the blood and everywhere else by its circulation, the Primal Life-Force, Archaeus, spreads throughout the physical body, duplicating the form of the Astral Body, and is detectable in all the cells of the physical structure as DNA. Concerning the subconscious body, some readers will note "etheric double" in the preceding quotation. A lengthy discussion of this same double is covered in the several books on Yaqui Indian Magic recorded by Carlos Castaneda. The descriptions of its formation, function and uses are explored in his earlier books. Crowley called it the Body of Light. Some alchemists call the physical body and its etheric counterpart REBIS (see same), the ‘two-thing’. The more familiar term in these times is simply, Astral Body. All the names are correct. It is made of the Astral Light as the above quotation claims. It is the AQUEOUS VESSEL (see same) of subconsciousness given its material form from the vital life substance, Archaeus. Paracelsus himself says of Archaeus:
"The first principle with God was the ultimate matter which He Himself made to be the primal, just as a fruit which produces another fruit. It has seed; and this seed ranks as primal matter. Likewise, out of the ultimate matter of minerals the primal element was made, that is, it was made into seed, which seed is the element of water...So, then, the element of water is the mother, seed, and root of all minerals; and the Archaeus therein is He who disposes everything according to a definite order, so that each comes to its ultimate matter, which at length man receives as a sort of artificial primal matter; that is, where nature ends, there the Art of man begins, for Nature's ultimate matter is man's primal matter."4
In view of the original meaning of arche, coupled with the clear indication in Paracelsus' quotation concerning the watery seed-essence, we may conclude the Primal Seed to be the watery limitless ocean of Living Light, AIN SUPh AUR, the watery Soul of the World. Paracelsus calls Archaeus "He." The primal masculine mode of the Limitless Light is held by Qabalists to be the second Sephirah of the Tree, Chokmah, Wisdom. In this sphere of influence is חיה, chiah, the 'Life-Force,' and כחמה, kachmah, the 'Power of Formation.' Chokmah is also AB, Father. This principle is the Architect, the Archaeus, whose power of formation "meditates" the matrices or archetypal patterns of all forms conceivable. These patterns are held in the seed and then impressed upon the seed substance, ‘water,’ then nurtured by the feminine principle in the third sphere Binah, Understanding.
Because of its impressibility, the Primal Mother Water has frequently been called ‘wax’ by many alchemists. It forms or gathers about the matrices of imagination set by Archaeus, AB, the Father. Archaeus is permanently instilled in our etheric bodies. This is the body of our subconsciousness, our ‘watery self’. It is the pattern or matrix for the tangible, physical counterpart. Qabalists assign this Vital Body to the ninth sphere, Yesod, since this ‘double’ is the Foundation of our earth bodies. Called Nephesh by Qabalists, it is the Vital Soul; yet is there Neshamah, the Divine Soul assigned to the third sphere, Binah. Both soul words translate to 'Breath, Spirit or Soul' in standard Hebrew dictionaries. Which is well, for esoterically they are primarily the same essence. We receive Archaeus from our Vital Soul, and the Vital Soul receives Archaeus from the Divine Soul. Our subconscious body forms the shape our physical body will take in this earthly world. The Divine Soul will shape the Vital Body it needs to make a physical body in any other world in the vast limitless universe. Anima Mundi is rightly equated with the third Sephirah, Binah and Understanding, and it contains Archaeus in her substance. Archaeus is rightly attributed to the second Sephirah, Chokmah and Wisdom and contains Anima Mundi in His Image. Reference with ANIMA MUNDI and MAYA-SHAKTI.
1 Waite, Dr. Arthur E., A Short Lexicon of Alchemy. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1990, pg. 11.
2 Hall, Manly Palmer, The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, 1977 ed., pg. 110.
3 Ibid., pg. 110.
4 Ibid., pg. 110.