Alchemical Study Group - One


(From the Book)

One. According to the Pythagoreans, one is the monad, the One, the Allness, the Unity. It is the Unus Mundus, God, the beginning and end of all things, the Source and the Mystic Center. It is the spiritual unity which unites everything. One has within it both male and female principles, which spring from it in subsequent numbers. One added to an even number makes an odd, or masculine number, and one added to an odd number makes an even, or feminine number. No number can exist without one.

The number one in the Tarot, represented by the Magician in the Major Arcana and the aces in the Minor Arcana, points to beginnings, creation, light and matters of spirit and mind. It is an auspicious number, ushering in the promise of fulfillment and optimism.


One: primal unity

(From the Book: Basic Concepts of Alchemy)

The number one in alchemy is represented by the prima materia, the single, invisible, indestructible substance that Aristotle said was the alpha and omega of all matter; everything originates from the prima materia, and everything eventually returns to it.

The alchemists believed prima materia to be a living soul. As we noted in Chapter 1, this substance was known by various names, including the Anima Mundi, the quinta essentia and the Unus Mundus. In fact, Ruland's Lexicon of Alchemy lists 134 different names for the prima materia, amny of which contradict each other. For example, it is called both a medicine or panacea, and a poison.

In the Alchemical Tarot, we find the prima materia expressed in the Magician and the World cards. The Magician is the prima materia in the beginning of the opus; the World is the prima materia at the culmination of the opus.

In the World card, the prima materia has several expressions. It is the Anima Mundi, or world soul, depicted as woman with a numinous glow whose nudity symbolizes that she is the uncovered truth. It is the quinta essentia, depicted in the quincunx, an arrangement of five things in a square with one at each corner and the unifying element in the middle (like the number five on a die). It is the Unus Mundus, or the world of the one, symbolized by the design that unifies many images into one circular diagram (in fact, the circle alone may be used as a symbol of the Unus Mundus).

In Jungian terms, the initial prima materia refers to the unconscious. In its primal state before creation, the prima materia is called the "massa confusa," or the chaos on which the world of form was imposed. Likewise, the unconscious, when first encountered, seems confusing and illogical until the order of consciousness is imposed on it. The philosopher's stone has the power to bring whatever it is combined with back into a preformed state, so that its form may change or transform. This is also the goal of the psyche itself, which seeks to dissolve fixed aspects of the personality back into their undifferentiated state, so that they can transform into the higher state Jung called individuation. Individuation corresponds to the prima materia as Anima Mundi.


In his Alchemical Mandala McLean says (paraphrased) that one is the totality, it is the wholeness, from where he placed himself in the centre.

(Page 28, Mandala 1)