Primordial Alchemy and Modern Religion

Essays on Traditional Cosmology

Rodney Blackhirst

San Rafael, CA: Sophia Perennis, 2009.
320 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59731-083-3
Price: $20.95 US
Buy now on

Of all the traditional sciences it is alchemy—based as it is in metallurgy—that is directly concerned with the coming of the industrial order. In alchemical terms, modern man lives in the Ferric Age and his state is best analogized to the properties of the metal iron: hard, cold, unbending, but quick to succumb to corrosion and rust. The great ancient wisdom traditions of the world all anticipated this present age, for it was already implicit in the technological and other changes that brought on the dawn of history. These ancient traditions—dismissed as childish superstitions by the scientist—contain ideas essential to the self-understanding that contemporary man so desperately needs. This is the central contention of the writings brought together in Primordial Alchemy & Modern Religion. Drawing upon many unexpected sources—especially Plato and the ancient Greeks—these wide-ranging, generous essays provide timely reiterations of ancient alchemical traditions and trace some pivotal themes that have continued in the theology and symbolism of the modern religions. This work restores some important keys for the recovery of a lost heritage of primordial wisdom, offering fresh perspectives on aspects of the Western and Islamic alchemical traditions in particular, and at the same time exploring the most distant roots of the modern impasse.

Table of Contents



The Spangled Tortoise: The Peculiar and Unusual Feature in Hermetic Modes of Exegesis—[Introduction—Texts— Iconography—Astrology—Dreams—Homeopathy]—As Above, So Below: On Astrological Correspondences—The Circle & the Square: Signs, Symbols & Glyphs in Traditional & Modern Astrology—[Planetary Symbols and Glyphs—Square and Circle: Earth and Sky—The Mystery of the Center—The Horizontal and Vertical Axes—Space—Conclusion]—Astrology, Autochthony & Salvation—The Alchemical Symbolism of the Organs of Generation—[Sulfur, Mercury and Sal—The Face—Primal Sphere—Astronomical Symbols—Modes of Coition—Sexual Fluids—Insect and Snake—Hair—Conclusion]—Evolutionism & Traditional Cosmology


The Alchemy of Traditional Foods [Cooking and Cosmology—Categories of Food—Traditional Cooking Methods—Balance—The Potato—Bread—Drinks—Salt—Conclusion]—The Man-Plant: Central Themes in the Alchemy of Farming—Capitalism, Tradition and Traditionalism—The Diabolical Symbolism of the Automobile [Demiurgic—Jurassic Technology—Internal Combustion—Exoskeleton—Crustacean—Hephaestus" Workshop]—Notes on the Parmenides



Autochthony and the Symbolism of Islamic Prayer—The Mysteries of Wine & Spiritual Transformation in Sufi and Christian Perspectives—[Introduction—A Symmetry of Paradoxes—The Thirsty—Wine as Revelation—The Liver as Organ of Revelation—Practices—Conclusion]


There are many hidden treasures to be unearthed in this eclectic collection. From astrology and alchemy to horticulture and architecture, these essays demonstrate Rodney Blackhirst's concern with the reawakening of the scientia sacra. This collection challenges us to understand the symbolic language of these sacred sciences. With this understanding we commence the alchemical transformation that returns us to our primordial state.
Dr. Tim Scott, editor, Eye of the Heart

Rodney Blackhirst is one of the most arresting, insightful, and entertaining of writers on the ancient Greek heritage, the Abrahamic religions (in both their exoteric and esoteric dimensions), and traditional metaphysics and cosmology. In this rich and provocative assembly of writings, Dr Blackhirst guides us through a vast, fascinating, and sometimes strange terrain that seldom comes within the modern purview. His explorations encompass such subjects as Hermeticism, astrology, the more esoteric writings in the Platonic corpus, the philosophy of Parmenides, the symbolism of sexuality, the alchemy of farming, and various aspects of Christian and Islamic mysticism. This collection is nothing short of a feast for both mind and soul.
Harry Oldmeadow, author, Traditionalism, Journeys East

About the Author

Rodney Blackhirst, born in Melbourne, Australia in 1960, worked in various fields from bookselling to organic farming before returning to study and completing a doctorate in Greek philosophy and early Greek natural science. His thesis explored the mythological background of the legend of Atlantis and other aspects of Plato's major scientific work, Timaeus. He has since lectured in Philosophy and Religious Studies at La Trobe University, Victoria, where he offers a course in traditional cosmology. His approach has been influenced by such modern exponents of the perennial wisdom traditions as René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, S. H. Nasr, A. K. Coomaraswamy, Martin Lings, and Titus Burkhardt. His interests in traditional symbolism and the traditional science—especially alchemy—extend across both Western and Islamic civilizations. As well as the Platonic tradition he has deep interests in Islamic spirituality and Sufi Islam and has travelled and taught in Pakistan, India and Indonesia. He is married and is father of four children. He keeps chickens and grows vegetables.