It is not my intention, in this treatise, to comment on the practice of alchemy in terms of the methods employed in the physical transmutation of base metals into gold; there are quite a nunber of manuals treating on that subject already. Nor do I intend to comment on the mechanics of alchemical philosophy; the divine art of alchemy is not something that can be verbally explained in the finite bounds of a single treatise (although some foolhardy persons may try). My prime intention is to comment on the alchemical foundations of the art concept of sHNn.
A prefatory comment about the primary motivation of alchemy, per se, is necessary at this time. Alchemy is, more than simply a scientific course of study into the transformation of one metal into another, a philosophic enquiry into the transformation of man’s knowledge from a state of earthly ignorance into a state of divine realization. The art of alchemy encompasses a mystical experience, which is obtained only through a sincere devotion to searching for an answer to the question of ‘what is reality?’; and as such it is metaphysical by nature. A major facet of the alchemcal art is that it is cyclical. The process of alchemy does not stop at the answer to the metaphysical question, should it be obtained. Attainment of knowledge of what reality is transmutes into action; the knowledge of reality is utilized to, in turn, reproduce that reality.
The list of the twelve processes which comprise the art of alchemy,(from Calcination to Projection), illustrates this concept. The cycle begins with the desire, which is in turn followed by a self examination of the desire and study of the basic elements necessary to realize the desire. A series of processes follow which are intended to clarify and substantiate the desire into a tangible entity. The addition and deletion of elements (which possess, respectively, positive and negative qualities) eventually result in the creation of the desire in a pure, essential manifestation of reality; but even at this point the process is incomplete because a manifestation of reality is not reality ~ it is merely a mirror of sorts by which reality is reflected. The cycle acquires completeness only by the utilization of the manifestation to assist in the creation of the actual. The so~called ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ is not the transmuted reality; it is rather the catalyst to effect the transmutation. Should the cycle be stopped with the creation of the Stone, the alchemist would possess merely a representation instead of a reproduction of that which was desired. The cycle proceeds from the desire to the eventual creation of the desire to exist in its own right as a tangible entity.
SHNN was devised by L. Smith as an alchemical method to produce ART. The essence of shNn has nothing to do with merely being recognized as an ‘art style’. Art Style pertains to imagery and is applied to a body of works which are similar in imagery. SHnn does not acknowledge any one style over another; it embraces all styles of imagery. The essence of sHNN consists of the action of the art process, the method.
The essence of sHNn consists of the processes employed to create an art of purity, regardless of style or imagery. It is in this realization that the alchemical basis of shNN is evident.
shnn advocates the process of transmuting the desire for art into the realization of the existence of ART. Art does not exist merely in images of reality. Art only exists when the basic elements (which comprise all visual things) are arranged in such a way that a total entity, resplendent in its own attributes, exists. shNN functions, in this cycle from desire to ART, as the Philosopher’s Stone: the catalyst to effect the transmutation.
Three theories held to be valid in alchemy include:
1. The ‘as above, so below’ concept.
2. The existence of certain basic elements from which all things derive.
3. The acceptance and advocacy of change.
(There are others, including the general acceptance of Taoism, Aristotlean and Hermetic theory etc., but they would require more explanation than I feel is necessary in this treatise.)
The ‘as above, so below’ concept basically states that man is the reflection of god and that god is the reflection of man; that the Microcosm of man is a duplicate of the Macrocosm of the universe. This concept is the driving force of Gnosticism and it permeates practically every religious and philosophical form of thought throughout the world. It is found in Judaism and Christianity. (e.g. God created man in His Image), and is the basis of trains of thought to be found in certain of the Eastern religions. (e.g. The personality of Godhead is perfect and complete. And because He is completely perfect, all emanations from His, such as this phenomenal world, are perfect and complete). This concept has physical correlations in the molecular composition of the human body as compared to the stellar composition of the universe. Religious theory and belief concur with physical phenomena to provide substance for this concept.
Operating under the assumption that the ‘as above, so below’ concept is valid, it follows that the knowledge of the Microcosm will lead to a coincident knowledge of the Macrocosm. The quest of that knowledge encompasses the motivation and impetus of alchemy. A primary avenue of that quest lies in the realization that there exist duplications of all things in both the micro and macroscopic realms. If such duplications exist, there must logically exist some sort of linking element to effect the duplication.
The belief that there exist certain basic elements from which all things derive stems from many sources, most notably from Aristotle and Plato. Plato borrowed from earlier sources to construct his theory that all things are composed of the four basic elements of fire, air, earth and water, which in turn all derive from one primary matter. His student, Aristotle, expanded this theory to produce four essential qualities of hot, cold, wet and dry. He proposed that it was the combination of these qualities which would produce the basic elements (fire is hot and dry; air is hot and wet; earth is dry and cold; water is cold and wet). Combinations of the essential qualities produce the basic elements, which in turn, in combination, compose all things to varying degrees. The differences between any two things exist in the varying proportions of the elements.
The ‘scientific’ techniques of alchemy developed out of the experimentations to discover and reproduce the combinations of the elements as they exist in varied things. Gold became the ideal goal because of its dual significance to the alchemist. It was, on one hand, a coveted precious metal, while on the other it had symbolic virtues of being so close to the heavenly realm. While the overt activity of the alchemist appeared to be (and in some cases was, in fact) the reproduction of actual gold, the subconscious activity consisted of the attempt to discover the pathway to reach the heavenly realm which gold represented.
The acceptance and advocacy of change is the theory that predominantly characterizes alchemy. It is the change from one state to another state which defines transmutation. Alchemists believe that by transmuting the proportions of the elements which comprise one thing, another wholly different thing might be created.
If it is valid to assume that all things consist of the same basic elements, but in different compositional arrangements, then in order to transmute one thing into another, the alchemist would simply need to know the particular compositional arrangement of two particular things and the method by which to rearrange the composition of one to produce the other. While the composition is an integral part of the process to be known, the method by which to change the composition is an equally integral part of the process.
The processes which comprise the art of alchemy eventually came to be standardized through the ages. Different authors may argue about the number of processes which comprise the art of alchemy, but they concur with the theory that the process of change (i.e. transmutation) is the essential process necessary to effect the alchemical art.
ShNN calls on the artist to embrace alchemy as a means to reach the True Art.
In order to obtain a knowledge of the macrocosm, the shNn~alchemist needs to acquire and assimilate a knowledge of the microcosm.
ShNn is a twofold process:
1. A minute perceiving or study of reality at any one time and space ~ the limits of which are imperceptible ad infinitum ~ with the purpose of naively experiencing what things exist.
2. An interpretation and translation of the things perceived in reality, resulting in the representation of those things (and consequently of reality as a perfect whole) in a form of sensory perception.
Reality consists of a random quantity and arrangement of chaotic and ordered elements. These chaotic and ordered elements exist as essential qualities of the basic design and compositional elements in varied combinations. They are evident in a myriad of opposites: mountains covered with the textures of jaggedness, furriness and haziness stand out against smooth skies; slender, arching lines of telephone networks cast shadows onto straight highways; hard edged rectangular forms of house walls stand beside circular, uneven forms of bushes and trees; orchestral melodies are mingled with the throaty roar of automobiles; sulphurous fumes drift through fragrant gardens. The variety is limitless.
SHnn maintains that ART should also consist of random quantities and arrangements of chaotic and ordered elements, in order that ART might reproduce reality and exist as a microcosm of the macrocosm of reality surrounding the artist. This end can only be effected if the shnN~alchemist can achieve the means of a serious experience and perception of the randomness of the reality.
As above, so below. The knowledge of the macrocosm or reality yields the devised existence of the microcosm of the artwork which, in turn, yields the knowledge of the macrocosm of ART.
There are certain basic design and compositional elements which exist (and from which all art derive). The design elements consist of: line, shape, texture, tone and color. The compositional elements consist of directional flow and rhythm, balance and dominance and subordination.
All things in the sensory realm exist as varied compositions of any or all of the basic design elements ~ objects are defined by shape and color; line marks boundaries between objects and gives definition and variety to texture; texture emphasizes tactile differences between objects; objects possess substantiality in tone; etc. These elements are essential in order to permit and facilitate recognition of each and every individual thing from another.
shNN maintains that an understanding of the attributes of each basic element is necessary in order to create any thing.
All things which exist in time and space affect and influence all other things which exist in time and space (in terms of position and coincident time) ~ a single note in a musical composition is defined by the note immediately preceding and the note immediately following it; direction of a line on a surface is influenced by the other elements surrounding it and also by the supporting surface itself; an individual color is recognizable by the color or lack of color it is near; an object’s size is defined by the apparent or actual size of objects in its vicinity; etc.
The compositional elements are not essential in relation to the quintessential attributes of the design elements, but they are vital to the definition of those design elements.
ShnN maintains that the compositional elements are necessary in order to provide the design elements with relativity.
Change is the process which enables the basic, essential elements to exist in randomness. Change enables line to transmute into shape, shape to transmute into texture, texture to transmute into tone, tone to transmute into color, color to transmute into line, and so on.
sHNn maintains that change (the essence of transmutation) must exist in order that chaos and order might exist at the same time as separate entities and in unity.
This manifesto, in itself, was produced by the alchemical process. The desire to express my most current philosophies concerning the sHNN concept manifested itself through the self~examination of what things hold validity for my art form. By examining the directions my art has been going in, and attempting to recognize what things have been influencing those directions, I came to the realization that the concept of transmutation held the most validity in regard to the SHNn concept. In order to bring this realization into tangible form, I set about studying the available sources on the art of alchemy while also studying my own art in retrospect. From the variety of information that I gathered, I corrected, compared and evaluated everything in an attempt to obtain a set of basic elements which would enable me to express the vague thoughts I possessed.
After weeks of assessing all of the information and experimenting with the various resulting combinations of theories and ideas, I was able to prepare a preliminary outline as a supporting surface. All of the concepts which I recognized to embody the essence of what I wanted to express existed as a unified foundation on which to elucidate.
The elucidation took the form of utilizing my knowledge of grammar and syntax to effectively set the ideas in a literary form. I fed the preliminary draft with descriptive phrases to graphically illustrate my point. As subsequent drafts were prepared I added necessary elements while deleting any that either distracted attention from the primary concept or impaired the impact.
The actual transmutation existed during a period of two days in which my inspiration reached a point of peaking and merged with a subconscious acknowledgement that the manifesto contained only those things which were necessary and conducive to exist as a statement of the concept of SHnn. The chaos of the random theories existed with the order of the layout and literary style in a form of an harmonious entity. As such it exists as an elemental form waiting to be read and utilized by the reader to spur the creation of