Article provided by IAG
The International Alchemy Guild (IAG) is a group of alchemists from around the world who come together to exchange views, news, and research in the Hermetic arts and all forms of practical and spiritual alchemy. In 1968, the renewed Guild opened a permanent office in Vienna, Austria, and in 1998, a branch office was opened in the United States. The current president is Austrian organic chemist Hans Schimmer.
Currently, the Guild has members in 23 nations with new branches being set up in Australia and India, as well as dozens of local chapters. According to its charter, the purpose and goals of this non-profit organization are as follows:
To serve as a repository of alchemical knowledge and techniques both ancient and modern.
To support Guild members in their practical and spiritual work in alchemy.
To provide a forum for exchange of new techniques and discoveries in alchemy.
To release alchemical knowledge to the general public at appropriate times.
The Guild presents alchemy conferences, including the annual International Alchemy Cofnerence in Las Vegas ( www.AlchemyConference.com ), other regional conferences, workshops, and tours around the world. The Guild disseminates free information about alchemy to researchers and the media, and publishes the free ezine, the Alchemy Journal. The Guild oversees the release of alchemical research to the general public and maintains an online Archives of original alchemy texts and modern research that contains nearly 25 gigabytes of information and is the largest library of its kind.
Membership is open to the general public, however, new members without previous work in alchemy are placed on a one year probation and their use of the Archives and participation in discussion groups is monitored. Complete information on the Guild membership policies is at www.AlchemyGuild.org .
The original Alchemy Guild was formed by a confederation of practicing alchemists from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia who trace their lineage back to a unique association of freethinking scholars who welcomed both spiritual and practical alchemists, as well as any of their fellow craftsmen who had been outcast or persecuted by political or Church authorities. This enlightened association was founded by a Renaissance nobleman and practicing alchemist named Wilhelm von Rosenberg, who founded the original “Alchymie Cech” (or Alchimie Gilde”) in 1576 in a small town midway between Prague and Vienna. Today, the International Alchemy Guild (IAG) carries on von Rosenberg’s work on an international scale with members in 23 countries.
Our founder, Wilhelm von Rosenberg, was born on March 10, 1535, in Schützendorf Castle in Austria. His parents ranked among the most powerful and influential people in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and held castles and properties throughout the north central section the realm. Wilhelm, their oldest son, was educated at a private school in Bohemia and spent the years from 1544 to 1550 at a bishopric college in Passau. After finishing his studies, he went to Vienna and was welcomed into the court of emperor Ferdinand I von Habsburg. Later, when Rudolf II took power, Wilhelm became a diplomat in his court. He would also become the highest royal officer in Prague in the service of emperor Maxmilian II.
But his aristocratic background and diplomatic service were not what distinguished Wilhelm from his fellow noblemen. What made this man remarkable was his relentless passion for deeper truths and the rebirth of knowledge that was taking place in Europe at the time. At the age of sixteen (1551), Wilhelm took control of the Rosenberg estate and moved into one of the family’s castles in the small town of Cesky Krumlov. He immediately ordered the castle renovated into the Renaissance style with many hermetic symbols included in the design. Before construction even began, however, he set out on a pilgrimage to Italy, seat of the new Renaissance culture. When he returned to his home the following year, he was seething with new ideas from the artists, alchemists, philosophers, and politicians he met there.
One of Wilhelm’s lifelong goals was to have a large family, and when he was secure in his power and settled into a magnificent home, he sought a bride. At the age of 22 (1557), he married Katherine of Brunschwig. She became pregnant two years later but died giving birth to a premature child, who also died in a few days. Afterwards, Wilhelm set out on another one of his spiritual journeys, this time visiting leaders of Renaissance thought in Germany. Then, in Berlin in 1561, he met and married Sophie von Branibor, who returned to Cesky Krumlov with him. Unfortunately, she became sick and died three years later before having any children. It would seem that Wilhelm’s efforts to start a family were doomed from the beginning. Yet for some reason, even as a child, he felt it extremely important to have a large family. As it turned out, his premonition would prove correct and have deeper repercussions that even he could have foreseen.
In 1566, Wilhelm decided to leave his home and accepted a commission to lead Czech troops against Turkish armies, which had been invading Hungary for nearly a hundred years. Wilhelm was gaining considerable respect for his bravery and honesty in the Hapsburg court, and in 1572, was appointed to lead negotiations over the Polish throne. He was so admired by Polish noblemen that he was himself nominated as a candidate for the throne. His lifelong diplomatic work was recognized in 1585, when Wilhelm was awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece (the highest imperial honor for noblemen) by King Philip II of Spain.
In 1578, Wilhelm married once again, but this time he was deeply in love and was sure his new bride would provide him with a child. In a lavish ceremony that lasted for several days, he wed Anna Marie von Baden at his castle in Cesky Krumlov. According to records found in the castle, his guests consumed 40 stags, 150 oxen, 546 calves, 654 pigs, 450 rams, 20 other large game, 30 large grouses, 2,050 partridges, 5,135 geese, 3,166 chickens, 18,000 carps, 10,209 pikes, 312,000 crabs, and 30,000 eggs.
But once again, Wilhelm’s bride died (1585) before she could present him with an heir. Wilhelm interred her corpse in St. Vitus Church in Cesky Krumlov in a crypt next to where he would himself be buried. Finally in 1587, a desperate Wilhelm married Polyxena von Pernstein. Tragically, she was unable to bear him any children. Despite his lifelong desire for a family, all four of his marriages were childless, and he had no direct descendents. When Wilhelm von Rosenberg died on August 31,1592, the family’s dominion passed over to his brother, Peter Wok von Rosenberg. The effects on the Alchemy Guild would be devastating.
As part of his passion for the Renaissance, Wilhelm von Rosenberg invited alchemists from throughout Europe to his castles in Cesky Krumlov, Trebon, Prachatice, and his palace in Prague. Hundreds of alchemists ended up working in Prague under the patronage of Emperor Rudolf II, and the city would remain the center of European alchemy for another two hundred years.
Wilhelm wanted to make his city of Cesky Krumlov a center for alchemical research, not only a home to practical alchemists who focused primarily on making metals and elixirs. He encouraged free thought and accepted alchemists who had been shunned by Rudolf II. Before long, Cesky Krumlov became known as an alternative hermetic haven, the “the Bohemian Mecca of alchemists.”
When Wilhelm was just 18 years old, he had met an outspoken physician and alchemist by the name of Tadeas Hajek (1525-1600). Hajek prepared a one-year astrological forecast for Wilhelm that proved astonishingly accurate, and they became good friends. Hajek accompanied Wilhelm during his campaign against the Turks and returned with him to Cesky Krumlov. Hajek planted new species of flowers and herbs and supervised the layout of Wilhelm’s gardens. He also continued his astrological research and, in 1580, published an influential book called A Treatise of Comets and Celestial Signs. Because of his honesty and extensive knowledge of the natural sciences, Hajek helped evaluate the work and results of the many alchemists who came to Cesky Krumlov.
The alchemist who practiced the longest in Cesky Krumlov was Anton Michael von Ebbersbach. A sample from his writings is shown at right. He joined Wilhelm in 1565. Anton is said to have been successful at producing gold and lived a lavish lifestyle in his mansion out of town near Kajovska. He claimed to have discovered a Water of Multiplication, which when used to water seeds of gold coins planted in the ground would cause them to multiply and grow. He also produced a variety of wonderful tinctures and elixirs. In 1587, he created his famous elixir “Conservationem Senectutis,” which was said to significantly slow down the aging process.
In recognition of his work, Wilhelm appointed Anton Michael director of the gardens in which the alchemists’ spagyric herbs and plants were grown. He was also made administrator of mines, from which metal ores were supplied to the alchemists. Finally, Anton was asked to help direct and organize the activities and research of the diverse alchemists in Cesky Krumlov. In 1576, he began holding meetings of alchemists that evolved into the first guild, known as the “Alchymie Cech” (or “Alchimie Gilde”). These early meetings were probably held at the castle in what is now known as Renaissance Room 3, which adjoins Wilhelm’s private chambers.
In 1588, as the discussions became more informal and lab oriented, it is thought they were moved to a large building bought by Anton for that purpose. The imposing red structure still stands at 77 Siroka Street in Cesky Krumlov. Today, it houses a café and a few small shops. The structure dates from the fourteenth century, but when Anton bought it, he made extensive renovations. He constructed a large meeting hall with a dramatic vaulted ceiling on the first floor and added an elaborate granite entrance portal in the middle of the building with many hermetic and alchemical symbols. As word spread of the alchemist conclave in Cesky Krumlov, many alchemists – both obscure and famous – moved to the city and set up laboratories or work on manuscripts.
Besides Tadeus Hajek, there was another physician-alchemist in Wilhelm’s court by the name of Vaclav Lavin. Lavin took his alchemical apprenticeship in France and was known for a remarkable “tincture of transformation” he developed, although his original formula has never been discovered. It is believed, however, that he never worked with the metals. One of the most influential alchemists in Cesky Krumlov was Bavor Rodovsky. His grandfather, Bavor the Senior, was a wizard who had transmuted metals into gold on several occasions. He passed his alchemical knowledge on to his grandson, who never attended a university but demonstrated extensive knowledge of alchemy, astronomy, and mathematics, as well as history and philosophy.
Bavor had set up a laboratory in Nechanic, but his alchemical work proved so expensive that he was imprisoned for debts in the Black Tower of Prague. Bavor appealed to Wilhelm to imprison him in Cesky Krumlov and allow him to pursue theoretical alchemy in his cell. In exchange, Bavor offered Wilhelm a translation of the rare manuscript Secreta Aristotelis (“Secrets of Aristotle”). In 1575, Wilhelm bought the book, which helped pay off some of Bavor’s debts and freed him from prison. Wilhelm then paid Bavor to work as an alchemist in Cesky Krumlov.
Even before Bavor had set up his lab, he had tried to persuade the great alchemist Theophrastus Paracelsus to join them in Cesky Krumlov or at least share some of his ideas with them. Although Bavor’s efforts to sign up the fiercely independent alchemist were unsuccessful, Paracelsus did visit the city on several occasions and probably attended a few Guild meetings.
However, other famous alchemists actually lived at Cesky Krumlov year round. The renowned Italian alchemist Claudius Syrrus came to work in the city under a formal contract with Wilhelm. The actual document reads in part: “The alchemist reserves the right to be spiritually and physically free and independent, and makes it a condition not to be disturbed by anybody, with the personal exception of Wilhelm von Rosenberg. Should the occasion arise that the Philosophical Stone is actually produced, it is arranged that Claudius Syrrus receives a half share of it.”
English alchemist and mathematician Dr. John Dee (shown at right) and alchemist-conjurer Edward Kelley spent several years in the Guild environs. They came to Bohemia in 1584, and Wilhelm made arrangements for them to stay with Tadeus Hajek in Prague. He gave them access to his laboratories and also introduced them to Rudolf II. John Dee carried out a transmutation of mercury into gold in front of Rudolf II, then offered Rudolf his crystal ball and a magical scrying mirror made of anthracite. However in June of 1586, there were accusations that the men were spying for England. Out of fear of being arrested by Rudolf II, both men left the country. When Wilhelm von Rosenberg heard of their plight, he offered them asylum in his south Bohemian dominion. John Dee and his family found a house in Trebon in September 1586. Dee loved the city and visited Cesky Krumlov frequently. He enjoyed his refuge so much that he named his son, born there in February 1586, Theodorus Trebonianus (Theodorus of Trebon). Edward Kelly also settled in Trebon and spent considerable time working in Cesky Krumlov.
John Dee left Trebon to return to England in March 1589, and Edward Kelley returned to Prague to work in the laboratories of Emperor Rudolf II. Eventually, Rudolf had him imprisoned, but the artful Kelley tried to escape twice. On the first attempt, he killed a guard. On the second attempt, he fell from a wall and died of his injuries. Dee returned to England to find his house and library ransacked by Christian mobs. He lost many precious manuscripts, which he insisted contained the secret of his transformations. That must have been true, for he and his family lived in abject poverty afterwards. Finally, he sought and received a small stipend from Queen Elizabeth on which to survive. Undoubtedly, both men would have been much better off staying in Cesky Krumlov.
Linhart Wichperger von Erbach was another famous alchemist who joined Wilhelm’s group of alchemists in 1566. There was also Jaros Griemiller, who practiced alchemy in the service of Wilhelm in the 1570s. Jaros had studied hermetic philosophy and was an adept at both practical and spiritual alchemy. In 1578, while working in Cesky Krumlov, he completed his most important book. Dedicated to Wilhelm von Rosenberg, Jaros’ illuminated manuscript became one of the fundamental Renaissance texts on alchemy. He called it the Rosarium Philosophorum (Rosary of the Philosophers), and it contains a description of the preparation of the Stone of Sages.
Another important alchemist at Cesky Krumlov was Jakub Horcicky Tepence, who was known by his Latin name Sinapius. He was born in 1575 in Cesky Krumlov and attended the Jesuit College founded there by Wilhelm von Rosenberg. Horcicky learned alchemical laboratory procedures from local pharmacist Martin Schafner and went on to study logic and physics at Prague University from 1598 to 1600. Influenced greatly by Paracelsus, Horcicky focused his work on making medicines from plants and took on a number of jobs in botanical gardens to learn more about herbs. During his work in the Jesuit garden in Prague, he grew medicinal plants from which he distilled different therapeutic tinctures, ointments, and so-called “theriacs” or tonic remedies. These medicaments were very popular and were known as “Horcicky Waters”. His tonics even cured Emperor Rudolf II of a disorder that other doctors were unable to remedy. Horcicky was then named the Emperor’s personal physician and the Chief Distillator of the Emperor’s Castle Laboratories. In 1608, Horcicky was granted knighthood with the right to use a coat-of-arms, which he designed containing many alchemical symbols. After the death of Rudolf II., Horcicky spent the last years of his life in seclusion in Prague’s Klementinum, where he died in 1622.
Another alchemist who practiced in Wilhelm’s enlightened circle was engineer-alchemist Jakub Krcin von Jelcany, who designed the pond and lake system in south Bohemia. He kept a separate laboratory near the town of Krepenice. Wilhelm’s brother, Peter Wok von Rosenberg (shown at right), was also an alchemist and wrote an important text on the art of distillation. There are no surviving records of the Guild or of how many members it enlisted, but it has been estimated that over a hundred alchemists were at one time or another associated with Wilhelm’s south Bohemian group.
In July 1592, Wilhelm von Rosenberg became deathly ill. His lead alchemist, Anton Michael, locked himself in his laboratory to try to make the fabled “Aurum Potabile” (an elixir of life force that restored youth and vitality) to save his dear friend. Within a fortnight, he wrote to Wilhelm announcing, “I already possesses the remedy and have it in my hands, and his Lordship may have it at any time.” But it was too late, and Wilhelm died a few weeks later on August 31.
Because Wilhelm had no children, his brother (Peter Wok von Rosenberg, shown at right) immediately took over control of the family’s lands. Peter was a reckless and unwise ruler who lost the family possessions and was forced to sell Krumlov Castle to Rudolf II just eight years after he took over. Always suspicious of other alchemists and jealous of the Guild’s power, Peter immediately set out to break apart what Wilhelm had so lovingly created. Within days of Wilhelm’s death, he confiscated Anton Michael’s lab, manuscripts, and other possessions and gave the Guild meeting hall at 77 Siroka Street to his personal secretary. Anton was imprisoned in a cell near the first gate of Cesky Krulov Castle and died there less than a year later on May 15, 1593.
Anton Michael von Ebbersbach, first “president” of the Alchemy Guild, was buried with all the honors of a nobleman in the Minorite Monastery in Cesky Krumlov, and his tombstone can be seen in the wall of the Cross Gallery there. However, it is said that Anton Michael’s spirit can still be felt in Cesky Krumlov. Yet his ghost does not haunt the castle cell where he died nor the fabulous manor house he loved so dearly. Anton Michael has returned to the old Guild hall at 77 Siroka Street. Many stories have been told of hearing his footsteps on the stairway or hearing his sighs and mumbled words echoing through the deserted hall. A few have even seen his apparition standing in front of the wooden doors on the Guild portal, gazing out into the street, as if waiting for a meeting to begin.