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Henri Coton-Alvart: About The Septenary

Henri Coton-dit ‘Alvart’,

collection particulière,

Editions Le Mercure Dauphinois.


🌿Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is another excerpt from Henri Coton-Alvart’s posthumous collection of writings, ‘Les Deux Lumières’ (The Two Lights), published in 1996 by his grandson Vincent Coton and his friend and disciple Henri La Croix-Haute @ Editions Dervy. From page 163 to 170. The additional introductory text is by Henri La Croix-Haute, his disciple and close friend, excerpted from ‘Propos sur les ”Deux Lumières” de Henri Coton-Alvart (from ‘Considerations upon Henri Coton-Alvart’s “The Two Lights”), published by Le Mercure Dauphinois in 2001, page 32 to 33. English translation by Via-HYGEIA from the original French🌿 Again, we repeat the obvious: The quality of this book is such, that it is difficult to understand why it hasn’t been translated in English yet, fully. We offer to our Bibliotherapy friends a taste of Henri Coton-Alvart’s wisdom, hoping someone will respond to this challenge and will bring into the English speaking world the fascinating work of this elusive scientist, alchemist and philosopher🌿


A short introduction:

About The Septenary

by Henri La Croix-Haute

The Septenary was symbolizing the living world in the eyes of the ancient philosophers, better gifted than us in the composition of a synthesis they were approaching instinctively-‘synthesis, which is nothing other than the inescapable analysis of the Ternary, foundation of all phenomena or noumena‘. Henri Coton-Alvart writes in his ‘Les Deux Lumières’, page 163: ‘The phenomena is a thought or a fact coming from the senses, while the noumena is a thought or a fact originating from the consciousness.

The notion of Balance (A Via-HYGEIA note: in French ‘la notion d’équilibre‘) that we comprehend similar to the flail of a scale is, in reality, grounded upon three words: Activity-Resistance-Reaction. In every expression of life, there is a force, an activity that meets an opposition, a resistance: Mass or density. If the space is free, a movement is generated, and if it is not, then it becomes an immobilized potentiality. ‘Energy is only measurable by inertia and reciprocally, because there are only tree Might directly measurable: Length, mass and time.’

Mass, the only matter without qualitative character, is what resists to energy, and we can measure it only by the other. We ought not to confuse matter and body, because the body is composed of distinctive characters that are not material but purely qualitative. While the matter of a plant or of an animal is available to us, the universal first matter, the Hyle of the Greeks, is inaccessible.

The Ancients, in practicing the know thyself and in examining the animal, plant and mineral realms, had established the Ternary: Spiritus (Hermes, Mercury, the Intelligence, the messenger, the binder and the forms), Animus (Helios, Sun, energy, might and activity), Corpus (Kybélê, the Moon, matter, receptivity, resistance and passivity); each, isolated or bound to the others, giving seven possible forms of alliances between them, the ‘Septenary’.

The numbering 4+3 that Saint John uses in the ‘Apocalypse’ would be the result of a vision he had of Zoroaster, associating the quaternary of ancient Persia (4 periods of the history of the world) to the septenary of the Chaldeans who submitted human life to the astrological influence of the 7 planets and the 7 days week to each  phases of the Moon. (See Frantz Cumont in his article, ‘The end of the world according to the Magi’, published in 1931 in the ‘History of Religions Magazine’).


About The Septenary


Henri Coton-Alvart

During the eras that preceded the obscuration of the mind, some men conceived a metaphysics congruent with physics. They were less familiar than us of some of its precisions. Nevertheless, a synthetic view-that we are lacking-allowed them an understanding much closer to the connection between causes and effects.

Lacking of a terminology, of a verbal code, they used the symbol-whose only value is that we know what it evokes. The generalized ultimate summary of understanding was expresse by a few numbers-wich were not to represent quantities but qualitative distinctions in the bosom of unity.

Understanding once tarnished,  the usage of numbers was considered superstitious if not confined to arithmetic. It is a fact that the abuse of the superstitious mind did relegate numbers to the jumble of pseudo-magical dreams. For instance, the number Seven is given by some of these irrational minds mysterious and imaginary properties. The septenary has nothing mysterious by itself, but our own mis-conceptions. I want to try to put this concept into the limelight again: ‘The Septenary is nothing else than the inescapable analysis of the Ternary’.

And the ternary is the essential foundation of all manifestation, of all phenomena and all noumena. Everything lies upon these three terms:

Activity – Resistance – Reaction

Physics, biology, chemistry, etc., testify of these three terms at each steps of their functioning: Acid, foundation, salt. Worker, matter, oeuvre. Male, female, child. String, bow, sound. The knower, content, knowledge… There is no end quoting ternaries!

This generality is such that it is begging to be examined in its numerous particularisations. It is here that modern analysis of modern sciences offers a field of study that the Ancient were lacking, who less than us, ventured into the particular. Therefore, they surely are our mentors in metaphysics, having focused their meditations upon the Universal-which loses its meaning the further we get ourselves lost in fragmentation.

These three terms, Activity, Resistance and Reaction, in their forms, vary in an infinite manner throughout the manifested world. Resistance, for instance, is an universal notion that designate matter, but also the female, opacity or rigidity. We ought to work out to chisel the functional term that is never alone; the two others are present at the potential and constitutional levels.

Therefore, what do we mean when we call matter, matter? We ought not to confuse matter and body. Every body is matter, but with a series of distinctive characters that are not material, but purely qualitative. The only matter without distinctive character is mass, isolated from any other quality, such as density, color, extent, etc…, because all of these qualities can vary when mass varies itself. Pure mass, that we can’t see anywhere, is a metaphysical being. Though, it is no less a factor of all that is corporeal. Mass is what resists energy. We can measure one only through the other, as we are going to see a while later.

Some hermetists, especially Bernard Trevisan, wrote extensively in order to find out what was intended by ‘Prima Materia‘, the First Matter. He makes the distinction between-on one hand-the universal first matter, root of everything corporeal, and-on the other hand-what he calls the proximate first matter.

The universal first matter, that the Greeks called Hyle, is inaccessible to us; while the proximate first matter of a plant or an animal is accessible to us; it is its seed and its food. Metals’ first matter was called Mercury. A sculptor’s first matter is either stone or wood, but the first matter of a stone is something else than what the wood’s first matter would be. We would have to go back quite far in this succession of organized states to reach the non-organized pure mass, the Hyle, first state of the Resistance to Activity. And there, we sure did stray from our journey and quest for the root of the bodies!

There is a limit, that we wisely should set ourselves to put at the beginning of an organization cycle, such as the seminal state.

Naturally, if we are reluctant to admit our very own limitations and to acknowledge that our vision is limited, we still have the resource to satisfy ourselves with free hypothesis that explain everything. The explanation then mascarades as knowledge, an answer is duly provided and there is no need to further investigate. So much for that!

But, for us, the question is still a burning one and we did not learn anything from the above explanation that is providing so many glittering hypothesis. The invention of the word ‘gravitation’ did not help us to learn what are the dynamics at the heart of the fall of a body; even though we ‘suppose’ that the blind inert mass knows that another body lies nearby and that it know the square of such a distance and ultimately has the power to come closer. To believe this, we need a faith much firmer than the faith that believes in miracles! This fable is attributed to Newton, who protested and claimed he did not accept this hypothesis. Newton new how to recognize his own limits and was more keen to acknowledge his own ignorance than to be satisfied with a sophism.

Whatever we may think, we are obliged to notice that there is a force, an activity that meets a resistance-mass-that attaches itself to it, and from this a movement is generated if the space is free, or becomes an immobilized potentiality if the space isn’t.

We cannot see pure isolated force and it is the same with pure isolated mass. We do not see electricity; we only see reactive effects of a resistance that it may meet. Everything that is manifested encompasses these three terms, that i call (without finding better words): ActivityResistanceReaction. We will only have pre-dominance of one or an other in each phenomena or in every being. Hence, an egg is in itself very complex; it lies upon the three terms, but passivity is predominantly functional in it; the others are constituants. After fecundation, activity would replace passivity and become pre-dominantly functional.

In every being Nature presents us, minerals included, we ought to consider:

Directing Intelligence,

Directed energy,

Shaped or formed matter.

Hence, the good old ternary of the Ancients: SpiritusAnimusCorpus. Here, opinions matter little. That we may be a deist or a materialist, even if we stipulate that energy and organisation are properties of matter, we are still obliged to notice that this matter behaves in an intelligent matter or that it produces energy. The ternary, Spiritus-Animus-Corpus persists. Then we attribute to matter all the attributes of God. It is really but a Mind game, as nothing changes in the reality of the world.

Let’s examine the ternary. How would it present itself to analysis?

  1. Intelligence, alone without any expression.
  2. Energy, alone without direction.
  3. Matter, alone within its inertia.
  4. Intelligence bound to energy, without matter.
  5. Intelligence bound to the body without movement.
  6. Energy bound to the body, without organisation.
  7. Intelligence bound to energy and to the organized body.

We can seek an eight, but there is any. The number seven therefore is no mysterious virtue. It is the ternary, in all of its possible aspects: (a), (b), (ab), (ac), (bc), (abc). In the absolute, (a), (b), (c), are themselves not manifested and are unfathomable.

(a) is the Reason of the World.

(b) is the Soul of the World.

(c) is the universal first matter.

The hermetists attributed the Reason of the World to Mercury, the Soul of the World to the Sun, and pure Substance to the Moon.

(a+b) is the angelical state, formatting and not formed. It is found in all seeds, it its tropism, in all directed active force, in desire. It was called Venus.

(a+c) is the intelligence located in non-living matter, found in the mineral world, where the characteristic form does not change. It was attributed to Saturn. Consistency of the characters of minerals.

(b+c) is the intelligence bound to the body, the mass in movement without direction, nor organisation. It is found in the fall of grave (Via-Hygeia note: Grave, natural mixture with continuous granularity, of stones, gravel and sand, used in the construction of roads and the making of concrete), in an explosion, dilatation or contraction. It is called Mars.

Finally, (a+b+c), is the body organized according to an intelligent will, living and growing according to regulated modifications, is called Jupiter.

-The Sun, Soul of the World, spread its rays without specific directions or inhibitors. It is the source of all energy and life.

-The Moon-that we ought not to consider in its satellite role, but more like the sub-lunar world as a whole, which means the Earth-is the Passive that receives this solar might and mercurial form, so to become alive and organized.

-Mercury-the dual-natured messenger, able to direct, share or reduce, the available solar energies and to make them penetrate or exit the earth, also known as the conveyor of the souls (Via-Hygeia note: similar to Charon, also in charge of gathering and conveying the new dead souls into the Underworld)-is the agent that says yes or no in the relationships between activity and passivity. Therefore, this is why we see in all the graphic hermetic texts, the Sun and Moon always represented with Mercury between them.

Upon the pediment of the temple in Delphi was chiseled the inscription: ‘Know thyself‘; it is giving us a very good advice but, sadly, it wasn’t often followed. Within our very own interiority, we can acquire some notions of what external nature does not show us. I have said earlier that the absolute, the alone intelligence, life alone, matter alone, are unfathomable. It is not completely exact. There is in us a part of absolute-or at least an image of it. It is in ourselves that we can find a sample of what alone intelligence (that does not express itself) may be, when an obvious knowledge rules when our consciousness is at rest, without descending in its applications, nor even expressing itself through a mental image.

It is in ourselves that the sensation of life and of energy puts them into our reach, make us touch them point at them  in their essence, better than any explanatory speech we would invent.

It is by the imprisonment into the matter of our body that the knowledge of Mass comes better than a formula given by the study of physics. The lived and meditated examination of our being provide us a certain approach of Mercury, of the Sun and of the Moon.

-Venus is the assembling of intelligence (Mercury) and of life (Sun). In any desire or want that are not followed by realization, we have an example of what Venus is. The emotion, that is a movement of life under the effect of a thought, proceeds from Venus.

-Mars (force + matter) and Saturn (thought + matter) are recognizable as such both in the external world and the world inside of us: The chaotic burning of the muscular force in a non directed or pre-defined movement or act, contraction, trismus (Via-HYGEIA note: Trismus is a condition of restricted opening of the mouth, due to muscle rigidity. It is as painful restriction in opening the mouth due to a muscle spasm, however it can also refer to limited mouth opening of any cause); all tell us directly about the nature of Mars, alliance of the Sun and the Moon, without Mercury. The bent spring, the choc, the pressure of gases, the liberation of energy are effects of Mars.

-As for Saturn, we see him in everything that is built and not alive; made by nature or by human industry. The crystalline building imprints a thought in matter, the snow flake, the building of a house, of an object, are the fixation of an intelligence (Mercury) in a body (Moon) that then does not change quality anymore.

-Only Jupiter gathers the Sun, the Moon and Mercury. Every complete living being bears his mark. He is organized by Mercury, animated by the Sun, and embodied by the Moon. Such is mainly the plant gifted of logical, coherent properties, intelligently organized, gifted of life and energy, multiplying faculties and autotrophic (Via-HYGEIA note: capable of self-nourishment) abilities so to grow bodily and numerically.

In Saturn, there is constructive thought and constructed matter. Only life is missing. The Sun has the ability to animate and complete him.

In Mars, there is the power of life and material support. He lacks a directing intelligence. Mercury has the ability to complete and direct him.

In Venus, there is thought and life. Only a body is missing for her realization. Moon has the ability to complete her.

Saturn has constructed the mineral world, sound and stable. His quality is permanence, due to a lack of life.

Jupiter has constructed the plant world, by giving life to Saturn; autotrophic constructive world, that by itself creates living matter.

Mars has constructed the animal world, by giving movement to matter-that has lost its saturnian permanence; destructive world, that only lives by spoliation and is not self-sufficient.

Venus and Mercury, on the other side of Earth-Moon, close to the Sun, rule upon immaterial, intellectual and sensitive worlds, which three natural realms are more or less dependent of the many respective properties.

It is obvious that everything that exists in formed nature is at the same time material, energetic and intelligible; even those made artificially by human industry. But, one or the other of these three terms can be either predominant, or either deficient in all degrees. A plant is a slow movement that cannot be compared to the movement of an animal, which does possess a certain proper intelligence other than the one that build it; we cannot compare it the the human intelligence that is favorized by the spirit of Mercury.

We ought to see in these lines a metaphysical essay and not a categorization of things.

As in the field of colorimetry, we can designate a color given by the coefficient of blue, yellow and red that compose it; without ever seeing one or another of these three colors in its absolute purity. From these three fundamental colors, seven other colors are generated from the spectrum, then follows infinite ternary blends.

The success of physical sciences is due to the quantitative measure of the observed phenomena and to the relationships of these measure between them. From this process was born a particular science, metrology, that fixes and defines the units used in all branches of physics.

We could only establish three Greatness directly measurable:

Length, mass and time. A surface is described as such: L x L.

A volume is described as such: L x L x L.

Speed, the ratio of a travelled distance,

is described as  as such:

And, so it goes

for all measures.

But in order to define in dynamics the unity of force (animus) we take the force which applied to a 1 gram mass, communicate to it an acceleration of 1 centimeter/second. Force is only measure by the resistance it provokes. Then, how do we measure the unity of this very mass? ‘It is the gram, a mass that at the level of the sea, bears the same acceleration under the effect of gravity than 1 cubic centimeter of water.‘ This time, it is the gravitational force that determine mass!

As seen further above, i repeat that energy is only measured by inertia, and reciprocally. Sun and Moon. Their ratio, knowable and intelligible, is Mercury. And here is an example:

-Moon -the dead weight of a car.

-Sun- the power of the engine.

-Mercury-The conductor that engages or disengages  intelligently, to ensure the good functioning of the whole. The logical defect of this ternary would be: Chaos.

We cannot meditate enough upon this Ternary, which brings us directly to the Septenary world, luminous when considered from above, but superstitious and cheating when considered from below.











About the Book and the publisher: 🌿More about and from Henri Coton-Alvart: 🌿
Henri Coton-Alvart: About The Septenary

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