Three Talks on The Animation of Matter
Teacher: Brian Cotnoir
Length: 2 hrs each lecture, 6 hrs total
Brian Cotnoir presents Three Talks on the Animation of Matter. The enlivening of matter, the en-souling of inert substance, and life both natural and artificial were subjects of great importance in alchemy and various mystic traditions and continues to be so today with our advances in genetics, AI, and robotics. These three talks will explore the philosophies and practices of bringing matter to life.
- The Homunculus – the Alchemy of Blood and Artificial Life.
The Homunculus is a miniature form of human life artificially created. After briefly outlining some very basic alchemical ideas and medieval theories of reproduction we will look at how these ideas were put into practice by examining the 13th century Liber Vaccae (Book of the Cow) a collection of, as one scholar said, “elaborate experiments in unseemly generation and obstetrics.” The homunculus is mentioned again by the 15th century alchemist Paracelsus who, alluding to the secrets of the philosophers, reveals the method of making a homunculus and its talismanic use, which will again be revealed in tonight’s talk.
- Alchemy, Theurgy, and the Roots of Ritual Practice. Or, How to Animate a Statue.
Alchemy and theurgy have as their goal the ascent of the soul through a material practice. Alchemy does so with matter and theurgy through material symbol and ritual. Where they overlap is in the purification rite known as the animation of statues in which a god is embodied.
Although mentioned in the Corpus Hermeticum; in Iamblichus’ On the Mysteries; even in a Neo-platonic commentary on Euclid; as well as other hermetic and gnostic texts, nowhere is the practice described.
Tonight’s talk will examine the mentions and stories throughout the Greco-Roman world, the Greek Magical Papyri, Chaldean Oracles, the practices of poetry, music, theurgy and alchemy. And from this an outline will emerge of what this animation entailed and perhaps some ideas for deepening practice.
- The Golem and How He Came to Be.
A golem is a man of clay brought to life through the power of the word – the written word. Of all the legends and stories of golems, perhaps the most famous is the story of Rabbi Loew and the Golem of Prague. Rabbi Loew, as the story goes, in the 16th century during the reign of Rudolph II, in Prague using secret practices from the kabbalah, brought to life a clay man to defend against anti-Semitic attacks. This story has resonated for generations and has been retold many times in a variety of media. What truths are there in this story, how did this Golem come to be?
Tonight’s talk will look into the mystical practices of Judaism that are at the heart of the legends, and how the story evolved through the 20th century. And perhaps, as well, see what we can learn from these tales in this time of robotics, drones, and artificial intelligence.
Brian Cotnoir is an alchemist, artist, and award-winning filmmaker. A contributor to Frater Albertus’ Parachemy, he is also the author of a series of Alchemy Zines. His books include Alchemy: The Poetry of Matter (2017), The Weiser Concise Guide to Alchemy, Alchemical Meditations, On the Quintessence of Wine, and the Emerald Tablet, his translations of and commentary on, the earliest Arabic and Latin versions of this seminal text. His Emerald Tablet was part of the Language of the Birds: Occult and Art show in 2016 in New York City.
He occasionally gives talks and has presented workshops and seminars around the world on various aspects of alchemical theory and practice based on his research.
His film work has been screened at Museum of Modern Art, Sundance Film Festival, HBO, PBS and other international venues.
Khepri Press, launched in 2014 with the publication of the Emerald Tablet, is the vehicle and portal for his alchemical work.