The Alchemist of Notre-Dame

Where better to start a series of articles on the Hermetic tradition than with the Alchemist of Notre-Dame?

As Fulcanelli (in Le Mystere Des Cathedrals) says:

“If, moved by curiosity or simply wishing to give some purpose to a summer stroll, you climb the spiral staircase leading to the high parts of the building, you should make you way slowly along the path, hollowed out like a channel at the top of the second gallery. Once you are in the vicinity of the main axis of the majestic building, at the reentrant angle of the North Tower, you will see in the middle of the procession of monsters, a large and striking stone relief of an old man. This is he – the alchemist of Notre Dame.”

This character, to Fulcanelli, is the wise old man of the Hermetic tradition, Hermes Trismegistus, the Thrice Great. He is turn looks back/aside to the Greek god Hermes, of endlessly rich and subtly wise character.

Karl Kerényi, speaking of the Greek Hermes, saw the Hermetic as a third configuration, an alternative to the dualism of the Apollonian versus the Dionysian. (This dualism was originally Nietzsche’s construct.)

Why does this matter? Because the Hermetic way can be a third way, an alternative and powerful course of inner inquiry for the contemporary soul.

“Hermes, my Favourite Divinity.”

… So wrote Kerényi, a great investigator of the Greek gods, in a letter to Thomas Mann.

I plan to write more on Hermes, on Hermes Trismegistus, and on the Hermetic tradition in general, in future articles.