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Forged in Ecstasy: A Brief Survey of Psychoactive Metals and Minerals Part 1 By Frederick R. Dannaway www.sacredmetallurgy.


Intoxicating Visionary Ethnometallurgy and Ethnomineralogy In the ancient world, the lines that divided poison and medicine blurred to correspondences of magical power-substances either ingested or

used symbolically. Novel plants, minerals or metals were likely assayed by ingesting small amounts and noting the effects or else giving it to the infirmed among them and observing the reactions. Those that could navigate the threatening natural world and safely mediate telluric currents spoke to the gods or became immortals or the gods themselves. Such a mythology is found in China with the Divine Farmer Shennong who tasted and classified hundreds of herbs by their safety, instituting civilization to a population at the mercy of their own ignorance of the natural world and its poisons. Outside but overlapping the realm of nourishment and medicine were substances of strange energies that became enshrined in the ceremonies of priests, the alchemical temples of elixir-cults, and the mystery traditions of archaic metallurgical guilds. The noted sinologist and biochemist Joseph Needham logically stated that plant cults preceded metal cults and when the magico-medical theorists turned to the depths of the earth, the cults of metals and minerals was born. The role of the ancient shaman-priest-smith as master of fire and civilizing hero knows the secrets of creation (Eliade 1962). Yogis and Daoist hermits could, like the blue-throated Shiva, swallow poisons and transcend the mundane world with their focused ascetic fury. The modern terms describing psychoactivity and psychopharmacological properties are sometimes too neat and distinct to contextualize the exploitation of toxic substances in the ancient world. There was little to no demarcation of a substances inherent classification as a poison or panacea or substances relegated to the shamans or the gods. The early texts of medicinal effects describe entheogenic herbs with acutely toxic metals and dangerous minerals that were prescribed for effects that must be classified as being psychoactive in nature. Although the modern connotations of the term psychoactive deal with primary actions on neuroreceptors, the term fails with certain toxins (like arsenic and nicotine and the tropane alkaloids) that are potentially deadly poisons and yet exhibit drastic pharmacological effects from erotic stimulation to the entheogenic to the infernal. These would include compounds and elixirs ingested to achieve senses of well-being (antidepressant) which must be largely understood as an experienced phenomena since the toxic substances in many cases were further dooming the patient. The holy fool or divine madmen of India, Arabia and China might have some pharmacological basis in their ingestion of toxic elixirs. Other effects would today be classified as inducing ecstasy, or having an aphrodisiac effect or to what may be called a nootropic giving a definitive psychoactive response in terms of cognition or altering moods. Other

preparations would induce a stupor or coma, or slowly kill the person all of which, in many esoteric circles, might have been interpreted as success in achieving the abode of the gods or some subtle spiritual immortality. The ingestion or inclusion of toxic, literally intoxicating, substances intentionally or inadvertently became a spiritual tradition that spanned ancient India and China into the Arab and European alchemical cults. This paper would confine the research to instances of induced poisonings that were interpreted in a religious or of conveying a sense of health or aphrodisiac or similar effects. This is in contrast to examples of ancient miners being poisoned by noxious fumes compared with Daoists mystics that would intentionally concentrate these fumes and derive spiritual inspiration from the effects. It may well be that a decline in spiritual ascensions and magical flights would correspond with the diminished use of toxic substances. A further speculation is that the yoga of India and the similarly yogic features of Daoists evolved to mimic the effects of these substances or to brace the body for their effects. It can then be said the tradition of inner alchemy (Neidan) in China was born of the gradual frustration with elixirs and the recognition that these initial profound and positive effects belied dangerous and fatal outcomes, as elixir-poisoning deaths became stock endings in Chinese literature. Though the use of dangerous metals and minerals persisted even unto the time of Newton whose late-life madness has been linked to mercury, arsenic, lead, antimony and gold in his occult alchemical experiments all which can induce psychiatric symptoms (Klawans 1990; Grosbois et al 1980; Endtz 1958). This article would argue that examples of Tantric/Daoists and mad Sufi alchemists bent over retorts to Paracelsus and the divine ecstasies of holy fools may have been inadvertently toxic effects from alchemically prepared metals and minerals. The neurological effects of poisoning may produce anything from visions and inebriation, such as are experienced with tropane alkaloids or alcohol, to endorphin-released highs from systemic toxicity. Tropane alkaloids are linked to witches flight, or transvection, and its interesting to note that Ayurvedic and Rasayana alchemists of India describe certain preparations of mercury as having the same effects of the tropane containing Datura (Puri 2002). These are often described in various myths of smiths or alchemists taking magic flights, to fully visionary episodes replete with demonic hells and colorful immortal inhabited heavens.

The Dao of Metals It may be suitable to preface this section with some remarks on the cult of immortality in China and the role of visionary experiences. The notion of a physical, corporeal immortality was surely a strain on Daoist ontology but the reality of a corpse or intentional self-mummification (consuming toxic metals and minerals) must have confronted notions of eternal life in the present body. In fact, this type of immortality ranked rather low in the celestial hierarchy of many Daoist sects. To die of elixir poisoning, or to drift into a coma from the elixir, was often taken as a sign of success. So was the wasting away of the physical body or the ability to abstain from food while fasting from the toxins that suppress the appetite. Swooning into a deep death-like state would have the adept soaring in visions while dead to those around him. There is the famous tale of the adept and his untrusting servant that illustrates such a phenomena: The alchemist Wei Boyang, the putative author of the alchemical classic Zhouyi cantongqi, entered the mountains with three disciples to concoct a divine elixir. When the elixir was ready, Wei fed it to a dog, which died on the spot. Wei then ingested the elixir and died. One of the disciples, who refused to think that his teacher could have concocted a bad elixir, also ingested the elixir. He immediately died. The other two disciples, preferring to live out their normal life spans, left the mountain without taking the elixir. As soon as they left, Wei got up revived the faithful disciple and the dog, and together they left the world as immortals (Eskilden 1998). A nearly identical story is related about the alchemist Siddha

Bhoganathar. Here the effects of the elixir induce a near death-like coma from which the drinker later recovers. This resurrection mythology, of a dead initiate reborn, would find symbolic associations with cinnabar and resurrecting mercury in alchemical cosmologies from India and China and into Arabian and European laboratories (Needham 1983). To swoon metals is common term in both Chinese and Indian alchemy and certain preparations indeed cause the elixir drinker to swoon as well. Alchemical adepts seem cognizant of the difference between toxic effects and magical effects, or the unpurified use of mercury, and effects that must be relegated as psychoactive more than neurodegenerative, at least initially, though cumulative effects that lead to death were still interpreted as success. It can be said that the evolution of Chinese alchemy proceeded from trying to find some safe way to ingest magical substances such as gold and mercury from the earliest textual sources of magical metal bowls and cups to colloidal suspensions of metals to complex elixirs using psychoactive plants and alchemically prepared metals and minerals. The many tales of visionary, shamanic flights to celestial abodes is suggestive that to glimpse the other-world was to achieve immortality upon ones final demise (even if the elixir instigated the death). The subtle souls of the adept persist and the toxic effects of the elixirs are merely transmuting the base and coarse existence to heavenly realms, and the wasting away of the adept was considered proof that the tonic was working. This remained until the inner alchemical traditions, born of frustration and dead ends, began incorporating the old terms. The oldest technical sense of the term for immortal was hsien, which in archaic pictographs was a man with wings or a feathered immortal (Needham 1974). Transvection of adepts were induced by elixirs composed of complex admixtures of plants, minerals and metals, which contain or mimic alkaloids associated with sensations of flight and shamanic technologies. Magical crane birds are seen to frequent the alchemical furnaces of adepts bearing them aloft in clouds of the vapor or billowing fumes. Elixirs containing arsenic and mercury blur the lines of incantations to make ghosts and spirits appear with the ingestion of chemical substances and drugs and magical/medical arts (Needham 1976). As Needham notes of the alchemical liturgical tradition of proto-chemistry the submission of semi-magical substances such as cinnabar, sulphur or the arsenical sulphides, to the fire, took place in these liturgical stoves, with startling results both chemical and physiological (Needham 1974). The earliest meanings of hsien with man and mountain (where cinnabar is found) and of feathered immortals also associates with intoxication as Needham (1974)

writes, the most ancient meaning of hsien was of drunken dancing in capering with immortals taking elixirs only to depart dancing, hovering away. Ko Hung in his genies pharmacopeia describes many immortals, even the Yellow Emperor, rose into the sky and became genie after taking his elixir (Ware1966). Likewise Ko Hung describes visions of fairy children, magical flights, spirit maidens and genie that appear after consuming metallic elixirs as well as other visionary or intoxicating effects. Magical banquets, familiar in many alchemical contexts throughout the ancient world, appearing all the way to Scotlands master alchemist Michael Scott, are also abundant in the literature. Buddhist overtones, like the axis-mundi of the mountain Sumeru, are found in quite ancient Taoist texts that speak of the Mountain of the Birdmen (jen-miao, the immortals) called Hsu-mi (Sumeru) linking these traditions with feathered adepts or magical flying and immortality. Buddhists called mercury amrtadhatu the metal of immortality and the earliest Mahayana texts translated into Chinese have consistent themes (Subbarayappa 1999) suggestive of a semantic switch from soma to amrita meeting the indigenous Chinese alchemy. Needham (1974) writes that one would hardly like to rule out the whole vision of the Taoist adept Chhu Yuan in his shamanic Journey to remoteness described the product of delirium caused by mineral drugs and hallucinogenic plants. Needham (1976) records some comments on the relative safety of mercury ingestion, in the context of much more toxic substances that were consumed. Its likely the vapor from operations in enclosed laboratories and caves that would be the most detrimental but also most visionary. Needham (1976) notes, in language that mirrors examples in Tantra as discussed below, the word Fei or flying the technical term for sublimation and distillation. The ease of mercury in subliming and its volatile nature often finds it often associated with flight, perhaps the vapors inciting those with a spiritual mind to visions of transvection. Though certainly, as Needham records, the various alchemical traditions remained entwined with clear overlap of techniques and combinations of internal and external alchemies. The traditions of outeralchemy (weidan) and inner alchemy (neidan) met at the incense burner where the earliest records record use of hemp, antimony, mercury, arsenic, and literally hundreds of aromatic and intoxicating substances. The burning of cinnabar in enclosed temples (with the ritual instructions to dont look around in order to concentrate fumes as noted by Needham) maybe had been the precursor to its revered use in alchemy. The incense burner is the

missing element in the origins of Chinese alchemy (Needham 1972). These inhalations were done in enclosed rooms, the actual submission of the semi-magical substances such as cinnabar, sulfur or the arsenical sulfides, to the fire, took place in these liturgical stoves, with startling results both chemical and physiological (Needham 1972). Hemp and lead were primary ingredients of the incenses used by the alchemical/visionary Daoist Mao Shan sect, and inspired oracular texts with flights through vast spiritual realms (Welch 1970). The ingestion of colloidal preparations of metals, the concentrated exposure to fumes and compounding of elixirs were used to facilitate erotic rites, induce visions of ancestors and ghosts as well as for divination by spirits. The full scope of the use of psychoactive substances and entheogenic plants in China has not yet been written. The closest thing is the five volumes in the immense life work of Joseph Needham on alchemy in China. This wide-ranging history of alchemy has Needham suggesting Amanita muscaria as a high Daoist secret sacrament as well as affirming the widespread use of all types of psychoactive plants from Cannabis to various Solanaceae to mysterious laughing mad stones that he surmised were hallucinogens. Amongst discussions of alloys and decoding of key alchemy terms is a chart of various elixirs, their ingredients and their efficacies which are mainly concerned with immortality, magic flight and visions, of which Needhams suggests the result is from mercury or arsenic poisoning. Elixirs such as the magic elixir (shen tan) or the nine fold radiance elixir (chiu kuang tan) are credited with raising the dead, invisibility, foreknowledge, perpetual youth, longevity, telepathic knowledge. Under the comments section of the chart (see below) Needham again suspects various minerals and metals as poison-induced visions. Other such potions are Master Hsienmens elixir, which was a wine fortified with colloidal cinnabar, realgar (arsenic sulphide), malachite, magnetite, orpiment (arsenic disulphide) as well as countless other elixirs containing many other metals and minerals. The crucibles and elixir pots (hu), and elixir ting was often depicted with the magical birds about to take off for the upper regions with the alchemists and their reaction-vessels on board (Needham 1974) as also the fumes of mercury were described as flying when distilled. The prototypical distillation apparatus in China was gourd shaped and Immortals carry their elixir drugs in a gourd. The gourds role in alchemy, from ancient metallurgical guilds in China (Girardot 1983) to the gourd shaped rasa khumba (elixir pot) or the kamandalu of Indian Yogi to European and Islamic alchemy that called their alembics cucurbits (Dannaway 2012). Realgar and orpiment were intentionally taken, as have other

preparations of arsenic have been throughout the ancient world. Ernest Von Bibra (Ott 1995) has an entire entry for arsenic in the groundbreaking Plant Intoxicants: A Classic Text of the Use of Mind-Altering Plants where its stimulation and bronchodilating effects for mountain climbers is compared to coca, opium and hashish. This would surely aid the mountain-wandering Daoist hermit. Fasting, high-altitudes, simultaneous stimulation and sublimation of internal energies with sexual yoga, and ingesting or inhaling many other psychoactives would potentiate the psychoactive effects. Ernst von Bibra (Ott 1995) lists arsenic as imbuing a robust feeling and as an aphrodisiac. The use of arsenic, and likewise strychnine and antimony, must be classified as something of a recreational drug for Europeans but as a sacred substance in certain religious cults. The bronchodilating and stimulating effects would be extremely useful for the sustained yoga practice and sexual alchemical operations. Arsenic was burnt in incense burners with mercury and lead and psychoactive plants like hemp, and described as pouring out purple vapors, through which could dimly be seen Nine Jade maidens. The adept Tu then ingests certain drugs and sitting down to gaze in meditation at a blank wall, Tu found himself undergoing the torments of a variety of Buddhist hells, and was eventually reincarnated in another body before breaking the spell by a burst of uncontrollable emotion. Thus having failed to master these terrifying apparitions, Tu awoke (Needham 1980). The concentration of vapors in Daoism by way of magical incenses will find a correlation in burning of the substance in Indian alchemy (bhasma) where the ashes were the more prized object that the smoke, being smeared on the yogis body. Many bhasma rasayana exist of a metallic basis, such as mercury, and are proven and time-tested aphrodisiacs. Its known that lots of Ayurvedic products can test high in heavy metals. Arsenical sulphides with cinnabar and sulphur persisted as ingredients in combinations with powerfully toxic or psychoactive plant roots for demon-killing elixirs discussed by Needham in the context of hallucinogenic smokes intentionally experienced in closed or sealed rooms (Needham 1974, Dannaway 2011). Quasi-magical pharmaceuticals composed of toxic plants and minerals produced, as Needham notes, a feeling of initial exhilaration which served as bait to further experimentation inveigling the believer further and further beyond the danger-line of irretrievable intoxication (Needham 1974). These baiting effects, like certain mushrooms, induce well-being, banish dark moods, increase appetite and bolster sexual powers with the aspirant steadily increasing in dosage until visions, sensations of flight or even death ensues. But adepts were aware of the toxic nature of

metallic elixirs in various alchemical texts, even in early periods, and it might be said that Chinese and Indian alchemy was chiefly concerned with how to ingest power substances with a marginal amount of safety. Elixirs of arsenic with mercury and lead are mentioned in many elixir recipes that are concerned with magical flights and conversation with immortals. The adept, like the mercury in his still, swoons (the technical term employed for the fixing or killing mercury in alchemy nearly universally), and the comatose adept experiences visions and either returns to mundane existence or dies. Both outcomes could be regarded as successful in the hierarchical levels of hsien immortality from corporeal to celestial immortals. Yet early, before common era alchemical texts confirm that the carcinogenic effects of heavy metals and minerals in elixirs were well understood (Needham 1980), which suggests a demarcation between effects that clearly poisoned the adept (heat sensations, purging, and death) and visionary exploitation of power substances (trance, transvection, visionary stupors). Needham (1980) records of a Cyclically Transformed Elixir of lead with the addition of a Scarlet Medicine, and the old text reads as you look on, you will see every color flying and flowering, purple clouds reflecting at random, luxuriant as the colors of Nature-- it will be as though you were gazing upwards at a gathering of sunlit clouds. It is called Purple Gold, and it is a marvel of the Tao. Needham writes that this, and many other examples, may well be analogous to the use of hemp and hallucinations. The initial exhilaration of these herbo-metallic drugs stimulated visions, sexual potency as well as a general sense of well being before the would-be adept went further and further beyond the danger-line of irretrievable intoxication (Needham 1974). Again, death of the adept was not always a sign of a failure but of his subtle spirit mounting to the heavens. The moon, as a symbol for immortality in waxing and waning, is linked with soma and the Chinese myth of the elixir being pounded in mortar and pestle by a rabbit on the moon. Astrotheological notions and timing also formed cosmologies on death and, like the nightly death of sleep, the adept would either revive or die to be reborn in more subtle realms. These potions and elixirs were in great demand for their aphrodisiac effects, which Emperors and such needed to fulfill the sexual duties of a large number of wives and concubines, the pressure of which may have birthed the Daoist bedroom arts of delayed ejaculation and similar techniques. To persist past the poisonous effects that manifested after the initial bliss would lead, often enough in the tests, to becoming feathered and bird like until one could mount the air and fly into the empyrean. The

ingredients for these touted medicines, sometimes called the Five Formula, could contain all manner of toxic and psychoactive plants as well as blue vitriol, that was thought to warm the uterus, and so too magnetite, actinolite and fluorspar. Stalactic calcite and quartz strengthened sexual potency and mica was thought to increase semen, and the pharmacopoeias blur the line between addressing vitamin and mineral deficiencies (such as iron supplements, zinc, etc.) and psychoactive or intoxicating effects that produced visionary, shamanic flights (Needham 1974). The effects of some mineral-metal drugs on sexual potency reached levels of embarrassing (heng pu wei hsieh) much like some modern side effects from drugs like Viagra in which there is a persistent erection. Other elixirs certainly incorporated strychnine and Nux vomica to lacquer and toxic animals and venoms from snakes and toads all of which produced profound psychoactive and physiological effects.

Below: an antimonial cup or pocula emetic or calices vomitorii. Wine was kept in them for 24 hours, and tartaric acid reacted with the metal cup giving laxative or emetic effects. These are similar to the mercury parad amrit cups where Tantric and Hindu believe that the mercury/silver amalgam, which they have purged of poison and is stable at room temperature, will impart its miraculous powers to milk stored inside of it. 17th century European antimony cup on the left, then a Tantric mercury cup. This is made of silver and mercury amalgamated together (which has been purified, shodhana, of toxins by piercing the toxic sheaths). The fixing of the volatile mercury with silver is thought to impart aphrodisiac effects, and many swear by them. They can range from 30 dollars to 400 dollars, a tremendous gap considering. Cheap imitations are made, and yet some doctors seem to have gained high respect for their products.

The earliest Chinese accounts of alchemy were of consuming foods and beverages on metals alloyed with toxic herbs and metals, which then evolved to the mentioned colloidal tonics, alloys and incenses, and to the smearing of Indian yogis with the ashes (bhasma). Medicine cups, as seen above, were carved of realgar, which administered minute doses of arsenic. As the arsenic sulphides and arsenolite (arsenic trioxide) were aphrodisiac, lifting impotence (Yang shih pu chu) and, combined with cinnabar, also averted hunger, lightened the body, and said to be good for longevity, if taken too much causes fever or mineral poisoning (shih fa). Such medicinal cups, touted to increase health and sexual prowess, are still found in the Indian alchemical alloys of mercury and silver that are termed parad (mercury) amrit cups of which more will be discussed below. Realgar (Arsenic sulphide) cups were used in China for medicinal and aphrodisiacal purposes and these persisted into Europe well into the premodern era, though often carved of antimony (Thomson 1925). Needhams research discusses the conflating of terms for mineralogical and mycological terms that resulted in episodes of adepts swooning into a coma, or taking flight to magical heavens or demonic hells in patterns distinctly shamanic. Likewise, plants and metals were equally conflated in alchemical terminology, perhaps intentionally to occult the real ingredient from the uninitiated. Putrefaction of corpses subjected to mercury and arsenics was remarkably inhibited offering some earthly proof of the incorruptibility of the adept who remains in this world only as a mummy. Many such mummies are installed in temples as objects of worship, and indeed ingesting pieces of mummies in alchemical contexts persisted well into European alchemy (Needham 1974).

Chinese Cinnabar and Indian female metal smith:

Cinnabar and Soma The candidates for the Vedic Soma plant are many. These range from various mushrooms to Cannabis to the Ephedra plant while some imminent Indian scholars have suggested that the entire Rig Veda is a proto-alchemical riddle of metallurgical operations. Certainly gold was ubiquitous in the ceremonies described in the Rig Veda, and its connections to immortality are thus archaic. Dr. Kalyanaraman and others speculate that the soma ritual and plant are cryptic references to alchemical processes centering on alloying gold and silver. Many of the most cherished herbal medicines, like the blend of the three fruits or triphala, are the highest sources of ascorbic acid which played a part in making colloidal gold elixirs. Herbs were used in gold making or aurification as well as in compounded herbo-metallic medicines. They do not introduce mercury into the amalgam but discuss mercury in later contexts. Cinnabar was not found in substantial amounts in ancient India but was found in certain springs, which may be the source of legendary magic waters. It is admittedly speculative, but cinnabar could have been bought with gold as the soma is thus described in the Rig Veda as purchased by the Mujavats, a mountain tribe of ancient Afghanistan rich in mercury. The Vedic rites of soma are linked with metallurgical allusions, such as with the term kavis, which links the production of soma with metal smiths, Kalyanaraman (2004) sees evolving into the Buddhist, Jain and Tantric alchemical cults. If it was mercury that was bought and mixed into the electrum that Kalyanaraman suggests, the resulting product of which was the soma chalice, drona, called the fortress of metal or trough of armor (Rig Veda X.101.7-8). Cinnabar has been found at Mahenjo-Daro and Harappa excavations (Marshall 1931; Goldwater 1972; Ray 1948).

There is also drona mountain mentioned in the Shahnamah of Firdausi (550 C.E.) where a shining herb of immortality is found (shining indicates the similar cryptograms in alchemy where plants or herbs were used for metallics like mercury that literally shine). The heroic man Drona, born of a fire (possibly a Soma fire) ascends to heaven in a chariot (White 2011). These may refer to the cinnabar rich mountains of Kashmir and China that supplied mercury to India and Tibet (White 1996). One of the manifold names for mercury in India was cinapista or Chinese Powder reflecting the country of origin like many another names for cinnabar/mercury (White 1996). Likewise, the drona mountain that contained the osadhi herbs (able to revive the dead) mentioned in the Padma Purana, Wasson suggested were fly agaric mushrooms, but in the context of Needhams work on mercury may indicate the ores of shining cinnabar. Kalyanaraman discusses how plants may have been substituted for the metallurgical soma (and particularly how the osadhi herbs mentioned in Patanjali are linked to metallurgical operations, as he does also with linking metal and mineral veins with plant etymological morphemes) and the Rig Veda (X.72.2) links the (vegetable juice) osadhi as in possession of the metal smiths as jaratibhih osadhibhih (Kalyanaraman 2004). I would suggest that perhaps the metallurgical qualities in the form of an alloy was used to construct the cup which would impart its effects to magical, possibly entheogenic, herbal infusions that it held. This blurring of the magical cup and the contents it held seems to have been quite pervasive in all Indo-Iranian groups that birthed the Holy Grail myths (Littleton and Malcor 2000) as well as the Chinese alchemical magical vessels that infused the contents with immortal energies or toxic and psychoactive effects of metals and minerals. The Rig Veda hymn (X.119.8) called the Labasukta describes a winged creature that flies into the sky after drinking soma, which accords with the common theme of magical flights invoked by consuming some drug, be it mineral, metal or plant based, or more likely, some combination. The Susruta Samhita mentions soma as an elixir, which lengthens life with superhuman energy and moving about space freely (Subbarayappa 1999). This ancient Indian example of a winged immortal flying through the air after consuming a possibly herbo-metallic drug is striking. In the so-called Hymn of the Long-Haired Sage or the Keshin Hymn Rig Veda X.136, mentions these flying ascetics who drink with Rudra from the Cup of poison. Eliade (2009) places the themes of these verses, the ability to fly, references of horses on the wind, and the poison shared by Rudra as distinctly shamanic. This possibly alloyed, or surface-

glazed alloy must be emphasized in the context of the earliest Chinese alchemy that produced magical vessels to eat and drink from and which form associations that last, as we shall see, into Islamic, Christian and Jewish alchemical cults. It is curious that mercury, virtually absent from India, should have such a prominent role that suddenly blossomed in the Vedic contexts that stressed purity. To assign mercury as the seed of the god Shiva (Harabija) or semen of Shiva (Siva virya) and to praise mercury as the king of all rasas, the maharasa seems to indicate a much more ancient familiarity and knowledge of cinnabar and mercury. From where this proto-alchemy derived is not well understood. But if, as Needham and others suggest, the idea of a plant of immortality came from Sumerian legends of the Epic of Gilgamesh, it is curious to note that globules of mercury were found in the tombs of the elite, suggesting truly archaic associations. Again, archeological finds of mercury in Mohenjo-Daro excavations that speak to its use in vastly ancient times. Current alchemical scholarship is largely based on many unproven and mistaken assumptions on which cultures influenced primarily, and one can read that it was Arabs that brought alchemy to India and China when it clearly existed there already and greatly influenced Islamic and European alchemy. It seems counterintuitive that various Yogic and Daoist alchemies in India and China just spontaneously and systematically blossomed without a very ancient prehistory at the roots. Certain herbal preparations and artisan-born gilding and surface alloying of ritual cups of plant drugs may have evolved or been confused when the plant soma technology and identity was obscured.

Parad Lakshmi statue

Nagarjuna parad lingam and some erotic, ecstatic visual context

The Yoga of Metals Yoga (literally union, fixation) and alchemical metallurgy share quite similar modes of expression in terms of technique and terminology. Even the term yoga may have been of the metallurgical process of joining metals in alloys and amalgams, and its practice fuses man to the divine. This union of opposites is familiar to all students of alchemy, and is retained in the associations of wedding and welding in uniting or fusing together. The bellows breath of Daoism or Indias pranayama, the hermetically sealing of the personality (as metals in a crucible), steaming or distillation of vapors and the analogous steaming of semen in Tantra and Daoist practices all share symbolic associations. The power of flight was one of the eight siddhi of yoga as well as a goal in preparing certain mercury pills or elixirs. The Samadhi of the ascetic and fixation of the volatile mercury, the swooning of mercury, the purging of impurities and transmutation to higher states all blur distinctions that in China became separate traditions of inner (neidan) and outer alchemy (weidan). Indias yogis and tantrikas never quite separated the traditions, with the taking of elixirs persisting even into modern times whereas in China the growing concerns of elixir-poisoning largely, but not entirely, relegated the alchemical techniques to internalized processes in the body. The internalization of alchemical processes occurred in India as well, but for the most part mercury and similar substances continued to be consumed. Some sects worshipped alloyed, or fixed mercury, with silver in the forms of rasalinga, the phallus of Shiva composed of mercury and silver. The rubbing of ashes all over the body by yogis accords with the bhasma if calcined metals, especially mercury and cinnabar may have been the original tilak mark on the center of the forehead in India. Yoga and Daoist practices clearly appropriated alchemical nomenclature into their respective systems and cosmologies. Early Ayurvedic texts do not mention mercury, such as the Caraka Samhita, but it perhaps would not be expected to as its occult use as soma or a later soma-substitute would cast the technology of rendering it magical a guarded secret. One persistent association from India to China was that alchemically prepared mercury will induce flight or at least the vision of flight. The Rasendra of Mangala of Sriman Nagarjuna states that when bound, mercury affords the power of flight (White 1996) which is crucial in the theory of alloyed mercury that is stable at room temperature. The Rasarnava discusses a pill of mercury, (again stabilized mercury) that gives the power of flight, while other texts such as the above cited by Nagarjuna Kakacandesvarimata cite a solidified pill of mercury, or leech mercury

that is an aphrodisiac when placed into the vagina (White 1996). Nagarjuna is also said to make elixirs that allowed him to fly in the air in the text Prabandacintamani (Eliade 2009). Other texts that White cites speak of ingestion of mercury as turning a man into a sexual animal and saints telling mystical stories in a mercuryprovoked delirium Clearly profound effects where felt from certain preparations that ranged from increased sexual energy to visionary experiences of flights or meetings with divinities and immortals. Mercury if bound and rendered incapable of movement, renders the body light enough to move in the atmosphere (Mukherji 1998) and this immobilized state would accord with the goals of yoga in stilling both mind and body. The purifications of the toxins from mercury, and there are least five kinds of mercury in most rasayana texts, and the four colors of mercury depend on the soil of the deposit. Preference is given to white in the matter of curing diseases; to the red in the matter of removal of senility and prevention of diseases; to the yellow, in the matter of transformation and incineration of metals; and to the black, in the matter of attainment of power to move in the air (Mukherji 1998). One of the foundational siddhis, Korakkar or Gorakh (a fellow disciple of legendary alchemist Nagarjuna) of the south Indian traditions, was said to have held an animated mercury pill called bohi which he held in his mouth which gave him the power of flight (White 1996). This is likewise treated of at length in Whites (2011) Sinister Yogis. Tantric texts such as the Kautukacintamani of Pratapadeva of the 9th and 10th century links alchemical preparations with magical flight culminating into what blossoms in the Khecari Vidya or the aviators science of the 14th century (White 1996). The Khecari Vidya, also styled the Arcane Science of Flight, represents a major theme in Siddha alchemical literature. The above mentioned Rasarnava specifies that mercury produces different reactions in its various alchemical states, Oh Goddess! Swooned, mercury like the breath, drives away disease; killed it revives itself; bound, it affords the power of flight (White 1996) again linking bound or thermo-stable alloyed mercury and flight. The pills or gutika were not swallowed so much as held in the mouth, under the tongue or to a hollow cut in his palate (White 1996). Khecari is the power of flight by mercury when it reaches a perfected, stable, solid state and mercury is rendered khecari by refining, stabilizing, and fortifying in a red female sulfur. The yogic and alchemical parallels overlap as the fixing of breath and the fixing of mercury give the power of flight. The flying up, evaporation of steam and the joining with the divine ether microcosmically intertwine yogic

and alchemical processes. The mercury pills that enable the alchemist to fly, or at least to have sensations of flight or visionary flying, were called khecari gutika. These pills may have other ingredients such as orpiment, sulfur, and realgar, as the Khecari Vidya of Adinatha recommends. Cannabis was certainly used by key Siddhi (White 1996) and likely other herbs like henbane, opium and certain hallucinogenic mushrooms (Dannaway 2009). Other than flying, and also in yoga, the yogi goes into a narcotic deep sleep, the turiya or cataleptic state (Eliade 2009). Other descriptions have beautiful goddesses and celestial consorts appear to tempt or stimulate the chastely ascetic yogi.

Conclusion The above is but a glimpse into a world where toxic, magical and psychoactive substances were actively sought out and consumed in a variety of matters. This is not to reduce alchemy to toxic stupors but to suggest that at least some of the visionary episodes may be the result of such exposure. Elixir poisons are said to have prompted a shift to internal alchemical practices though certainly the metallurgical alchemy continued. Nevertheless, the lifespans of famous alchemists as a whole exceed the average populations mortality rate as shown in a chart in Needham. We pursue the research of alchemy on the premise that authentic traditions existed and continue, and that many of the examples cited above may have

inadvertently and dangerously strayed from the path. Part 2 of this paper will continue this line of inquiry into Islamic and European alchemical traditions, exploring various Persian, Greek and Egyptian examples. For the dedicated researcher we do our best to reproduce some scans from Needham in a chart known as Table 111 Chemical preparations and elixirs described in the Pao Phu Tzu (Nei Phien) circa 320 A.D. These scans are visible if the document magnification is 150-200%. Apologies for the scans that are slightly hard to read and slightly askew. This is a very intriguing list of elixir ingredients and their effects with Needhams telling comments such as visions or visions suggesting toxic effects and suggestions of Hg poisoning (visions).

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I am black, but comely, daughters of Jerusalem, As the tents of Kedar, As the curtains of Solomon. Song of Solomon 1:5