Revised: August 2019
Sal-Nitre is today’s modern chemical natron, which is sometimes found in saline lake beds when the water has evaporated. Its quality is white to colorless when pure. Because of this philosopher alchemists used it in their writings as another metaphor for the First Matter. The reference dates back to antiquity. Natron refers to the Natron Valley in Egypt from which natron was mined by the ancient Egyptians over thousands of years for use as a cleaning product for home and body. Combined with oil it made a soap. It was also used in their mummification burial rites when combined with certain spices and pitch. So it was used both as a cleaning agent and for purification.
For our purposes in the Great Work, initially the concept of alchemical Sal-Nitre can best be approached from the East. The Vedic term, Kama-rupa, most closely describes this fiery, astringent force. Rupa translates as body, and Kama as soul. Together they form the concept of an animal or physical body. In our physical universe the force of Kama-rupa upon the all pervasive Akasha is our visible Sun and all suns in the cosmos. The physical Sun and its solar spirit are Kama-rupa, or Sal-Nitre of Akasha. Within mankind the microcosm Madame Blavatsky defines Kama-rupa in the Secret Doctrine, Volume II:
"The principle of animal desire, which burns fiercely during life in matter, resulting in satiety; it is inseparable from animal existence."1
Kama-rupa or Sal-Nitre is the body of passions and desires. Sal-Nitre is the fiery material element in humanity that finds expression as his sensual attractions. So, with regard to the macrocosm again, Jacob Boehme wrote in Aurora, xiii. 94:
"When the Godhead stirred for the purpose of creating a world (such as our physical galaxy), it softly moved within the acrid quality and contracted the latter within the divine sal-nitre."2
But, “As above...so below.” Concerning the microcosm, Adam ha Rishon, Jacob Boehme wrote again in Aurora xvii, 21:
"When the devil saw that lust resided in Adam, he acted still more powerfully upon the Sal-Nitre in Adam, and infected it still stronger. Then it was time that the Creator should build him a wife, who afterwards did indeed caused the sin to be acted out, and who ate of the evil fruit."3
We must keep in mind that through Jacob Boehme's period the Roman Church wielded a very big stick. We must 'interpret' the esoteric message from his writings that placated religious authorities. Thus paradisiacal Adam and Eve (self-consciousness and subconsciousness) plunged into a physical manifestation, creating the history of the world culminating with the Path of Return through Homo Divinitatis (or Spiritualis). It is noteworthy Sal-Nitre sums to 88 in Latin Cabala Simplex. This is the number for Filius Dei, the Son of God, Adam Quodmon, the Grand Solar Son of whom all humanity shares a small part. Humanity is Sal-Nitre acting upon nature, our passionate desires acting upon the Waters of Life.
The ‘passionate-desires’ described above is initiated from Chokmah, the 2nd Sephirah, seat of the Universal Life-force, Qabalistically speaking, and is also the alchemists’ Virgin Sulphur. Stated correctly above it is the Root Desire of the One-Life to create a physical universe and all therein with Its outwardly expression. The root desires that work through us toward more and more of this physical life and world, are the same energies that, redirected, release us from sensations never-ending and bondage, to liberation.
The ancient Hebrew word Sal-Nitre is nether, נתר. Summing to 650 it equals the Hebrew word מים, Mim, ‘waters’, when the final Mem (ם) is valued at 600. The ‘waters’ of course refer to the Universal Ain Suph Aur. In the Greek Qabalah of the New Testament natron or nitre is νίτρον, nitron. This term sums to 310 and is equivalent to the Hebrew יש, ish, meaning ‘is, are, essence, being’.
All the above pulled together implies that Sal-Nitre, another metaphor for the Universal First Matter, is one quality of the Creator that outwardly manifests a physical universe and all therein, is also the same quality that creates our hellish states as well as the liberating essence within us that releases us from our bondage. It is damning to ourselves when misused or abused, or it can clean and purify self- and sub-consciousness. Please cross reference Sal-Nitre with KAMA MANAS.
1 Blavatsky, Helena P., The Secret Doctrine. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1974, Vol. II, pg. 593.
2 Boehme, Jacob, Aurora. Trans. by John Sparrow. Ed. by C. J. Barker & D. S. Hehner. Edmonds, WA: Sure Fire Press, limited 1992 ed.