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Observations placeholder

Borri, Giuseppe Francesco - Between Crucibles and Salamanders - Massimo Marra



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

From Giuseppe Francesco Borri, between Crucibles and Salamanders - by Massimo Marra. Translated by Carlo Borriello
Commentary on  Cabalistical commerce with the elemental world, [a magical and fantastical narration] and  La chiave del gabinetto

Borri’s alchemy can be framed as a magical-cabalistical conception of reality, populated by otherworldly and immaterial entities - Undines, Salamanders and Gnomes - whose friendship is a part of the work of the natural philosopher, who, thanks to these creatures’ obedience, can obtain knowledge and power.

Without understanding the very deep mixture between magic and alchemy that enlivens Borri’s pages, it would be impossible to interpret correctly the universe and the alchemical cosmology proposed by Borri. Borri’s Gabala has nothing to do with the Jewish kabbalah…. Perhaps it is much closer to pagan relics that in the 17th century probably were still alive in the folklore and popular religion of many parts of Europe.

Apart from the belief in the ability to couple and procreate with immaterial entities, Borri’s elemental's background is essentially magical. 

Borri’s universe is populated by elemental spirits, that give life to fire, air, earth and water. More than a century before, the De Occulta Philosophia by Cornelius Agrippa (a text that surely had deeply influenced Borri’s Chiave) after having listed more than thirty different species of mundane and elemental demons, dares to state that "the Platonians affirm that there are as many legions of them as are stars in the sky…" (La Filosofia occulta o la Magia, trasl. by A. Fidi, ed. Mediterranee).

On the other hand, we find an echo of this magic gabala, that characterizes such works as Il conte di Gabalì or La Chiave del gabinetto, in writings attributed to Paracelsus, considered as the father of Renaissance alchemy. Borri quotes openly Paracelsus’ theory, and he uses it profusely. …..

Apart from this strong magical-cabalistical connotation, Borri’s alchemy is rather normal, reporting faithfully the precipitate of ideologies and traditions typical of the 17th century.

The source of the experience

Borri, Giuseppe Francesco

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps