Reading The Alchemists’ Council: Prima Materia and Prologue

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Breaking news! Thanks to the generosity and ingenuity of two readers, today marks a momentous time here at News from Council Dimension. Matthew Graybosch and Eric “Stile Tekel” Higby have begun their chapter-by-chapter read through of The Alchemists’ Council. Over the next several months, these two “outside world scribes” will offer their insights, anecdotes, quips, and analyses of the book. Honestly, I could not be more thrilled than I am with the discussion they offered us today in their introduction to The Rebel Branch Initiate’s Guide to The Alchemists’ Council, which focuses on the Prima Materia and Prologue. 

Both commentators have told me that they welcome my feedback on their post; therefore, I too will offer a few thoughts each week by way of response. If you have any questions or comments you would like to add along the way, feel free to do so either over at the host site or here in the comments.

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So let me start by saying that I adore Graybosch’s blend of serious scholarship and sense of humour. He has adopted the strategy I’ve always aimed for in my classes–that is, Chaucer’s “best sentence and moost solaas” (General Prologue/Canterbury Tales, line 798). I laughed aloud when he mentioned the “muggles” of the outside world and later defined conjunction as “Thunderdome.” On a more serious note, I believe his hypothetical example of conjunction (with players Barbara, Alice, Diane, and Claire) to be spot on. His concluding thought of that paragraph–“While Alice and Barbara remain unconjoined, all possibilities remain in play but unrealized”–made me wonder if one of the #CouncilCats is named Schrödinger.

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Regarding the question of whether or not I am aware of the tree connections to the names Aralia and Osmanthus, the answer is yes. The majority of the characters, including these two mythical beings, have names associated with trees. Indeed, this topic was explored in my most recent blog post regarding the pronunciation of the tree names: What if I Cannot Speak Musurgia Universalis?

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Graybosch also notes connections with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. These references too are on the mark. My background in medieval literature includes a postdoctoral fellowship that focused on alchemical texts. Thus, along the way, I read (or at least read about) all sorts of lore and literature involving alchemy, much of which has been transformed (and in some cases transmuted) into the mythology and rituals of The Alchemists’ Council. (If you would like to know more about my academic work on alchemy, see the link Alchemy Articles via the MENU above.)

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Higby’s penultimate paragraph is brilliant for the way in which it calls the reader into the book via the ritual of conjunction. Yes, “a binding of two is becoming one”: the reader and the book. After all, The Alchemists’ Council, in a metafictional sense, IS the book mentioned in the Epilogue. That discussion, however, is several weeks’ worth of analysis away. In the meantime, please find the nearest portal to join Graybosch and Higby on a journey of words about a book featuring manuscripts filled with inscriptions that have the power to change us all.

See you all next week!


Scroll to the bottom to see #CouncilCats Gallery. Or scroll to the top for menu items, including Book Reviews for The Alchemists’ Council.

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6 thoughts on “Reading The Alchemists’ Council: Prima Materia and Prologue

  1. Hello again, Cynthea. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my commentary thus far as well as Eric’s. You might also be interested in the fact that in my section on conjunction I included an illustration from the 15th century manuscript Aurora Consurgens, which is sometimes attributed to Thomas Aquinas. It’s identified as a representation of a hermaphrodite, but I thought it an apt visual symbol of the combination of two persons into one via alchemical conjunction.

    Also, I was listening to the Brazilian progressive metal act Angra’s Aurora Consurgens album while writing part of this week’s post. The album doesn’t deal with alchemy, however. Most of its songs deal instead with various mental illnesses (e.g. schizophrenia in “The Voice Commanding You” and depression in “Ego Painted Grey”).

    I’ll have Part 2, which will cover Chapter One, ready for next week. In the meantime, you might find the Alchemy Website interesting if you aren’t already familiar with it. 🙂

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    1. Yes, I’m familiar with the image from Aurora Consurgens and with The Alchemy Website. Indeed under “Related Resources” on the menu, you’ll see a link to the site and another conjunction / Rebis / hermaphrodite image. I had not heard of that metal group though–very interesting!

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  2. I should have expected as much. And I don’t see why Schrödinger’s cat couldn’t saunter into Council dimension and chase Lapidarian bees when the initiates or magistrates aren’t paying attention to him. 🙂

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