Ashmole, Elias

Elias Ashmole (1617–1692) was an English historian and scholar with an intense interest in Alchemy. Elias Ashmole is best known as the founder of the Ashmolean Library in Oxford.

Ashmole was born in 1617 to a Lichfield saddler. He studied law and then served as a Royalist in the Civil War. In 1673, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was one of its founding members. He was one of the first “speculative Masons” accepted into the London guild of “working Masons.” (See Freemasonry.)

Ashmole was intensely interested in alchemy, Astrology, Hermetic philosophy, magic, angel magic, and other esoteric topics. William Backhouse, his adoptive father, was an alchemist who one day took Ashmole aside and revealed to him the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone.

In 1652, Ashmole published Theatricum chemicum Brittanicum, a substantial opus on the study of alchemy. In it, he expounds on Hermetic and Neoplatonic principles. The Emerald Tablet —that which is above is like that which is below—contains the true cosmology, expressing the correspondences binding the celestial world and the earthly world together. The true alchemist is one in whom the spiritual descends into the material, creating a unity, or vinculum, which has the power to hold all celestial influences.

Ashmole believed in the transmuting powers of the Stone but held that its true power and purpose lay in spiritual transmutation, not changing base metals into gold and silver. He said:

And certainly he to whom the whole course of Nature lies open, rejoyceth not so much that he can make Gold and Silver, or the Divells to become Subject to him, as that he see the Heavens open, the Angells of God Ascending and Descending, and that his own Name is fairely written in the Book of Life.

He upheld the principles of natural magic. He considered medicine to be an Hermetic art linked to Solomon and Moses, who, along with hermes, are the only ones ever to have fully understood the nature and powers of the Stone. The Stone, he said, bears a relationship to scrying crystals, such as the one used by John Dee and Edward Kelly for contacting angels. Ashmole believed in an invisible angelscrying stone that:

hath a Divine Power, Celestiall and Invisible, above the rest; and endowes the possessor with Divine Gifts. It affords the Apparition of Angells, and gives the power of conversing with them, by Dreams and Revelations: nor dare any Evill Spirit approach the Place where it lodgeth.

Ashmole believed strongly in practical astrology — he kept a horoscope of Backhouse— and in the efficacy of magical tools, sigils, seals, and so forth. Ashmole also translated Fasciculus chemicus by Arthur Dee, published in 1650, a work aimed at adepts. For his own name, he used an anagram, James Hasolle.

See Also:


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written byRosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.

You may be also interested in :

Mystical Alchemy The Path to Enlightenment - Jacques Tombazian
Alchemy & Mysticism - Alexander Roob
The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy: An Herbalist's Guide to Preparing Medicinal Essences, Tinctures, and Elixirs - Manfred M. Junius
Alchemy :An Introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology - Marie-Louise Von Franz
Alchemy – Eric John Holmyard
Collectanea Chemica: On Alchemy and Hermetic Medicine –  Arthur Edward Waite
The Turba Philosophorum - Arthur Edward Waite
Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body - Taylor Ellwood
Gold: Israel Regardie's Lost Book of Alchemy - Israel Regardie
Herbs in Magic and Alchemy: Techniques from Ancient Herbal Lore - C. L. Zalewski
Real Alchemy: A Primer of Practical Alchemy – Robert Allen Bartlett
Alchemical Active Imagination: Revised Edition - Marie-Louise von Franz
Alchemy Unveiled - Johannes Helmond
The Tower of Alchemy: An Advanced Guide to the Great Work -  David Goddard
Dictionary of Occult, Hermetic and Alchemical Sigils – Fred Gettings
Arthur Edward Waite – The Secret Tradition in Alchemy: Its Development and Records
Magic and Alchemy - Robert Michael Place
The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structures of Alchemy -  Mircea Eliade
Alchemical Manuscript by Ancient and Mystical Order of Rose Cross
The Jewish Alchemists: A History and Source Book – Raphael Patai