Exploring alchemy in the early 20th century, part 2
The BPH holds the complete though short-lived runs of two alchemical periodicals published in England and in Germany within a few decades of each other: the Journal of the Alchemical Society (1913-15) and the Alchemistische Blätter (1927/28-30).
The Alchemistische Blätter. Erstes deutsches Fachblatt für alle Gebiete der Alchemie, (1)
Modern Germans and historical Britons
In the programmatic address to the reader, Barth announced that the periodical was to be divided into sections, relating to: 1) exact, scientific alchemy, 2) philosophical aspects of alchemy (Hermetic philosophy) and 3) mystical alchemy. The focus, however, was decidedly on the latter two approaches. Other areas of investigation would include alchemical symbolism and allegory, alchemical astrology, alchemical kabbalah and alchemical magic. The first issue opened with the text of the Tabula smaragdina; another Hermetic contribution was ‘Poimandres’, the first treatise of the Corpus Hermeticum, which was printed in instalments in the first three issues of the Alchemistische Blätter. The text was based on the German translation of the Corpus Hermeticum, first published in 1706 as Erkäntnüss der Natur; the edition used was the more readily available 19th-century edition Hermetis Trismegisti Einleitung in’s höchste Wissen: von Erkenntnis der Natur und des darin sich offenbarenden grossen Gottes, published by J. Scheible in Stuttgart in 1855. (8)
The French alchemical connection part 2
A motley crew
Another new departure manifested itself in the second issue of the Archiv für alchemistische Forschung, which according to the title-page was now asscoiated with the Zeitschrift für Weltdynamismus, the official organ of the ‘Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft “Das kommende Deutschland”’. Otto Wilhelm Barth was again the editor of this periodical, which was bound in with the second issue of the Archiv. (17)‘Das kommende Deutschland’ had been founded by ‘Johannes Täufer’ (ps.) in Berlin on 11 March 1930, as was noted in the Zeitschrift für Weltdynamismus, p. 15, to inform the German public of the possibilities offered by ‘biotechnics’, a revolutionary universal energy. Täufer was also the author of ‘Vril’. Die kosmische Urkraft, published in 1930 by the Astrologischer Verlag Wilhelm Becker. The mythic primal force of ‘vril’ had been the subject of a novel by Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873), The Coming Race (1870s). (18)‘Vril’ as a primal force was enthusiastically embraced by various occult and ariosophic circles, and ‘Das kommende Deutschland’ was no exception. In his inaugural address, Täufer appealed to
Täufer also instituted a college of further education for biotechnics (‘Volkshochschule für Biotechnik’), which opened its doors in Berlin on 25 March 1930.
The new departure did not lead anywhere: no further issues are known to have appeared of the Zeitschrift für Weltdynamismus, and Barth’s Alchemistische Blätter, too, discontinued publication.
Contents of the Alchemistische Blätter:
Vol. 1, nr. 1
Vol. 1 (1927), nr. 2
Vol. 1 (1927), nr. 3
Vol. 1 (1927), nrs. 4-6
Vol. 1 (1928), nr. 7
Vol. 1 (1928), nrs. 8-9
Vol. 1 (1928), nrs. 10-12
Vol. 2 (1930), nr. 1
Vol. 2 (1930), nr. 2
Cis van Heertum
1 Hermann Speckmann discussed the contents of the Alchemistische Blätter in Hermes. Informationsheft der Forschungskreis Alchemie 17 (2000) and 21 (2000).
2 One of the two copies of the Alchemistische Blätter in the BPH belonged to Heinrich Tränker (1880-1956), the founder of various occult societies, amongst which the Ordo Templis Orientalis. Tränker edited and published various (modern) Rosicrucian texts, including that of the 17th-century alchemical author Daniel Stolcius.
3 Oskar Weiss was entered in the Karslruhe address books as a magnetopath under the address Tullastraße 72 for the years 1926-1942. In the years 1926-1927, when Weiss advertised in the Alchemistische Blätter, there is an additional entry in the address book for Tullastraße 72, which now also housed a ‘Naturheilinstitut’, an institute for natural medicine. I am grateful to Ms Angelika Sauer of the Stadtarchiv Karlsruhe for the above information. Weiss also contributed an article on Paracelsian transmutation for the Alchemistische Blätter.
4 Franz Buchmann-Naga is the author of Schlüssel zu den 72 Gottesnamen der Kabbala, Leipzig 1925, re-issued in 1955 in an augmented edition as Schlüssel zu den 72 Gottesnamen der Kabbala. Praxis der kabbalistischen Invokation. Talismannische Theomagie.
5 There is no bibliographical record of this edition, which was also to include the publication of the ‘as yet unpublished parts 4-9 with 12 coloured plates’. Interested readers were requested to subscribe to the edition. The advertisement announcing the Geheime Figuren is also printed on the back cover of the following two issues.
6 The first issues of the Alchemistische Blätter were published by ‘Tartaros’ in Berlin. Tartaros was in fact O.W. Barth, who enclosed an information sheet in the March 1928 issue of the Alchemistische Blätter announcing that the publisher (i.e. Barth) was now the sole proprietor of the periodical.
7 Frick, Licht und Finsternis, II, p. 309.
8 For Aletophilus’ edition of 1706, see Lamoen 67.
9 ‘Aus dem unveröffentlichten Werk: Das “Grosse Werk” der Alchemie in der Beleuchtung der “Hermetischen Bruderschaft des Lichts”, von Elias Artista’.
10 Instalments of the Chimische Versuche über die Radicalauflösung der Körper, first published in Regensburg in 1801 (Faivre 97) were printed in both volumes of the Alchemistische Blätter. When the periodical was discontinued, in 1930, the first 65 (of 96) pages of Eckartshausen’s Chimische Versuche had been reprinted.
11 The engraving for the tenth key is printed upside down, which was irritably noted in pencil in the margin of the BPH copy once owned by Heinrich Tränker. The engravings were based on the Latin edition of Basilius’ Twelve keys (Practica cum duodecim clavibus et appendice), first printed in Michael Maier’s Tripus aureus (Frankfurt 1618, pp. 27-65) and reprinted in Musaeum Hermeticum reformatum et amplificatum (Frankfurt 1678, pp. 393-425). The second volume of the Alchemistische Blätter contained a ‘thorough explanation’ of the Twelve keys by Konrad Wiedmann.
12 This article had already appeared before, in another periodical with a similar title: Magische Blätter, published in Leipzig (first volume 1920). The periodical published a lot of the work of Bo-Yin-Ra (ps. of Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken). Spunda’s article appeared in the 4th volume (1923), pp. 17-19. Four years later, Alfred Müller wrote a lengthy reply to Spunda’s account of the Porta magica in the Alchemistische Blätter.
13 Ferdinand Maack’s death in 1930 was commemorated in a few obituaries in the second volume of the Alchemistische Blätter (Band II, Heft 2). One was signed by George Porges of the ‘xenologische Gesellschaft’ in Hamburg – Maack called himself a ‘xenologist’, as well as a ‘Rhodostaurologist’ – he had published an edition of Johann Valentin Andreae’s Chymische Hochzeit in 1913 (Geheime Wissenschaften 1).
14 First published in the Monatschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums (MGWJ) 69 (1925), pp. 13-30 and 95-110. The article was reprinted without the ‘Nachbemerkung’, which appeared in the MGWJ 69 (1925), pp. 371-374. The reprint of Scholem’s article in the Alchemistische Blätter was not included in the bibliography of Scholem’s published writings in Studies in mysticism and religion presented to Gershom G. Scholem, eds. E.E. Urbach, R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, Ch. Wirszubski, Jerusalem 1967.
15 ‘ Insbesondere haben noch im 19. Jahrhundert die französischen Theosophen der martinistischen Schule (Eliphas Lévy, Papus und viele andere) das Menschenmögliche an allgemeiner Konfusion aller okkulten Disziplinen mit der “sainte Kabbale” geleistet’, note 1 of the article. The first issues of the Alchemistische Blätter also announced the pending publication of the Kabbalistische Blätter, being the first German periodical in the field of Kabbalah and kabbalistic magic. Apparently this periodical never saw the light of day.
16 Betty Scholem-Gershom Scholem. Mutter und Sohn im Briefwechsel 1917-1946, ed. Itta Shedletzky, Munich 1989, letter 113. The Jerusalem National and University Library, which holds the Scholem archive, does not have any correspondence between Barth and Scholem.
18 Translated into German by Günther Wachsmuth as Vril oder eine Menscheit der Zukunft and published by Der kommende Tag Verlag in Stutgart in 1922. Vril was popular in occult circles: the founder of one of the modern Rosicrucian societies, Max Heindel (ps. Of C.L.F. Grasshoff) extolled the qualities of Bulwer Lytton’s novel in his pamphlet ‘The coming force – Vril! Or what?’ (Rosicrucian Christianity series 19), Seattle 1909.
The Journal of the Alchemical Society. Edited by Stanley H. Redgrove, London, H.K. Lewis, 1913-1915.
Alchemistische Blätter. Erstes deutsches Fachblatt für alle Gebiete der Alchemie. Monatschrift für das Gesamtgebiet der Hermetichen Wissenschaft in alter und neuer Zeit. Organ verschiedener Alchemistischer Gesellschaften, Logen, Schulen. Berlin, Otto Wilhelm Barth, 1927-28 and 1930
Faivre = Antoine Faivre, Eckartshausen et la théosophie chrétienne, Paris 1969
Frick= Karl R.H. Frick, Licht und Finsternis. Gnostisch-theosophische und freimaurerisch-okkulte Geheimgesellschaften bis an die Wende zum 20. Jahrhundert, 2 vols, Graz 1975-78
Lamoen = Frank van Lamoen, Hermes Trismegistus. Pater philosophorum. Tekstgeschiedenis van het Corpus Hermeticum, Amsterdam 1990.