Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Review of Alchemical Sequences Coloured

Some of our favorite magic words are actually pictographic. Take, for example, the profoundly arcane Rebus figure of alchemy, conjoining the opposites, or the Ouroboros dragon who guards the treasure of the Great Work. Glasgow's Adam McLean is an authority on the symbolic language of alchemy. He shares his passion for the subject in a hardcover volume entitled Alchemical Sequences Coloured. It's a meticulous labor of love and a joy to behold and explore. Printed with extraordinary detail on high-quality, silky paper, the painstakingly hand-tinted emblems come to life, inspiring active study to unlock their mysteries. Each alchemical symbol is beautiful and intriguing in its own right, but together the symbols compose the basic elements of a grander allegorical literature. The very first page of McLean's emblems dispels the popular, romantic misconception of alchemists as gold-obsessed wizards. Two distinct yet complementary faces of alchemy become immediately apparent: the exoteric (empirical/methodical/experiential/scientific) and the esoteric (theoretical/psychological/poetical/mystical). Though there is no one correct definition of alchemy, it may be safe to say that McLean's emblems constitute knowledge meant to float outside of time like a message in a bottle. As Gustav Meyrink suggests in his mystical novel The Green Face, "What is of value is not the invention itself, but man's inventiveness, not the picture — it's value is measured in monetary terms at the most — but the ability to paint. Any one picture can fall to pieces, but the ability to paint will not be lost, even if the painter should die. What remains is the power that has come from heaven; even if it should sleep for centuries, it always awakens when the genius who can reveal its majesty is born." Indeed, McLean's ability to paint is the true genius of this book. Highly recommended!

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