Defined through the centuries, Nature has three levels of interpretation in alchemical writings. The first examines Universal Nature. The First Dictum in Turba Philosophorum opens with one fictitious sage exhorting:
"I testify that the beginning of all things is a Certain Nature, which is perpetual, coequalling all things, and that the visible natures, with their births and decay, are times wherein the ends to which that nature brings them are beheld and summoned."1
It is clear the author is not speaking of the actual nature we may recognize through our outer, physical senses. He declares something 'perpetual' and anterior the actual 'great outdoors'. Nature, in the Latin Turba text, is natura. Its gematria sums to 67, and equals unus, 'one.' Moreover, it also sums to בינה, binah, the third sphere on the Tree, Understanding. By now, readers should recognize this Sephirah as the third Principle, Salt, but most frequently referred to as Water – the Permanent Water. This is the Great Salt Sea of Awareness and the actual substance of the Universal Subconscious Mind Matter equally diffused throughout eternity. Named Akasha by the Hindus, it is the 'stuff' of which our actual, physical Nature is composed. It also contains the Knowledge and Desire modes of the Universal One Life. Nature, implied by the above quotation is AIN SUPh AUR. Simply put Nature (and its laws) is the Nature of Ain Suph Aur unfolded from its primal state of a liquid ocean of light into all the outer forms we sense by any means whatever. Nature is God, and God is Nature. The terms are synonymous. Paraselsus opens his Alchemical Catechism with inquiries concerning Nature:
"Question. What is the chief study of a philosopher?
Answer. It is the investigation of the operation of Nature.
Q. What is the end of Nature?
A. GOD, Who is also its beginning.
Q. Whence are all things derived?
A. From one and indivisible Nature.
Q. Into how many regions is Nature separated?
A. Into four palmary regions.
Q. Which are they?
A. The dry, the moist, the warm, and cold, which are the four elementary qualities, whence all things originate.
Q. How is Nature differentiated?
A. Into male and female.
Q. To what may we compare Nature?
A. To Mercury.
Q. Give a concise definition of Nature.
A. It is not visible, though it operates visibly; for it is simply a volatile spirit, fulfilling its office in bodies, and animated by the universal spirit...the Divine breath, the central and universal fire, which vivifies all things that exist.
Q. What should be the qualities possessed by the examiners of Nature?
A. They should be like unto Nature herself. That is to say, they should be truthful, simple, patient and persevering."2
In light of various definitions concerning the First Matter, Mercury, the elements, and the Three Principles in this site and related texts on alchemy, we may conclude Nature yet another description of that Divine One Substance, imbued with the Life Breath of the Creative Powers.
However, the vocabulary of occult terms offered in The Secret Symbols presents a second level for the term Nature. This level is more descriptive of actual nature, which is as coalescence; 'frozen' images within AIN SUPh AUR. Nature is defined therein:
“The external manifestation of an internal creative power. The whole of nature can be nothing else but a thought of God, having been thrown into objectivity by the power of His Word [the power of sound vibration] and grown into forms according to the law of evolution. ‘The Nature of a thing’ means the summary of its attributes.”
Human personality is at present, on this planet at least, the highest vehicle of “form grown according to the laws of evolution.” With regard to the manufacture of the Philosophers’ Stone, however, the human body, housing soul and spirit, is the Nature an alchemist must improve upon by Art. In this sense the third level definition of Nature becomes more specific. In Alchemy, Dr. Franz Hartmann states in a list of Axiomata Hermetica:
"Nature must be aided by art whenever she is deficient in power. Art may be the handmaid of nature, but cannot supplant her mistress. Art without nature is always unnatural. Nature without Art is not always perfect."3
The natural human, unaided by Art, will never evolve beyond our so defined physical homo sapiens sapiens stature. Left to our own wiles, the energy through all seven base metals (chakras) would consume humanity and its environment in the search of more and better for the lower, selfish self, as we are presently witnessing. Elsewhere, in Part I of the Secret Symbols, we may read:
"Nature accomplishes the work in her own Fire and in her own vessel. She is governed by celestial influences. The Will is free and may toward the end of the work put certain limits to Nature, so that she may not go too far. The Will, being free, governs Nature, by attracting her, but if the Will is attracted by Nature, it ceases to be free, Nature will then counteract the Will and destroy the work."4
How many times have we read with regard to our studies in Alchemy that "nature unaided fails?" The celestial influences through 'interior stars', when balanced, transmuted and sublimated within Our Vessel, do attract the Will that directs its free flowing force toward union. Will-Force governs Nature when Mercurial tendencies give expression through the seven metals. Mercurial Metals give strength to a Will that places limits on the natural, base tendencies as our path toward union shrinks from vacillations to the left and right, becoming the 'Razor's Edge.' Making Mercury of "all our metals" calls for the application of Alchemical Art. This is not a natural process. Without Art metals gravitate to express Salt-ish tendencies. This is the natural way when “attracted by nature” as the quotation above describes. Salt baits and captivates a weak Will, which can no longer govern its captor. Conversely, Nature is magnetized to a strong Will, and supplies the Artificer with everything needed to keep a steady course. Will gains strength by steady, attentive application from 'Our Mercury' to sensible diet, studies, meditation and prayer for guidance. The final establishment of True Will is the King, returned to His Natural Throne.
1 Waite, Dr. Arthur E., Turba Philosophorum. Notes and commentary by Waite. London: William Rider & Son, Ltd., 1914, pg. 3.
2 Paracelsus, Theophrastus, Alchemical Catechism. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1983, pg. 3.
3 Hartmann, Dr. Franz, Alchemy. Edmonds, WA: Sure Fire Press, 1984, Axiomata #3.
4 Hartmann, Dr. Franz, The Secret Symbols Of The Rosicrucians. Trans. by Hartmann. Mokelumne Hill, CA: Health Research, 1969, pg. 8.