Israel Regardie & the Philosopher’s Stone: The Alchemical Arts Brought Down to Earth by Joseph C. Lisiewski
reviwed by David Rankine for the Esoteric Book Review
Joseph Lisiewski is an author people tend to love or hate. I am in the former category, as I respect his refusal to pander to any sort of fashion, and his insistence on excellence over mediocrity in all things. His manner of writing is as precise as his scientific background, and does not take prisoners; rather he reports with a clinical objectivity, even when describing his own involvement. And this is where the book is unique, for Joseph Lisiewski was in the unique position of forming a triumvarate with Frater Albertus and Israel Regardie for many years, united through a shared love of alchemy, arguably the most esoteric of the magical sciences.
This book has four threads running parallel through it, all interwoven and linked to each other. Those threads are the relationships between Regardie and Albertus, Regardie and Lisiewski, and Ablertus and Lisiweski, as well as the complex alchemical work they undertook to explore some of the most obscure and challenging areas of alchemy. This final thread challenges the reader by exploring the way that both scientific and mystical competence are required to achieve successful results in physical alchemy. The scientific detail here may go over many people’s heads, but I suspect for any neophyte alchemists it will be invaluable as a guide to good practice.
Israel Regardie’s involvement with alchemy has not been widely publicised, rather it has been almost entirely eclipsed by his publication of the Stella Matutina Knowledge Lessons and Ceremonies in his most famous work, The Golden Dawn. Regardie’s dissatisfaction with much of the magical community and its practices is somewhat better known, but it is still fascinating reading to see how such a significant figure viewed events, both in his own life and in the developments around him. Regardie’s passion for alchemy unfortunately resulted in him twice poisoning himself with antimony, a risk to the practising alchemist, and a reminder to always be careful. Regardie bemoaned his lack of a scientific background, but it was his spiritual confusion more than anything which caused many of his experiments to fail, despite the passion, time and energy he put into them. Yet his dedication and encouragement were also obviously factors in encouraging the author on his path, so perhaps this is an example of Regardie’s magic in action, not inward, but outward in catalysing those around him.
Lisiewski does not shy away from showing us the darker sides of his friends (and himself), and in doing so he provides a fascinating glimpse into what drives an alchemist, and how powerful those forces can be, not only in pursuing a goal relentlessly, but also in causing friendships to explode, as was the case between Regardie and Albertus. Lisiewski remained friends with both men, and acted as the bridge between them, refusing to forsake either. This was to serve him well, as they effectively counterbalanced each other, with Regardie providing the voice of calm to prevent him being carried along by the drive and enthusiasm of Albertus when it was not in his best interests. The events between the men and the workings of the Paracelsus Research Society make for an engaging and thought-provoking read that is hard to put down!
The actual alchemical work, which resulted in the production of miniature creatures and a homunculus (which died during the process) are a testament to dedication and scientific thoroughness which many occultists would benefit from studying. This is not a light read, it is magic at the cutting edge, both in the practices and the people within. This is an excellent book which you absolutely should read if you are serious about your esoteric interests.