E-pistle #18/08 – 1.618 & The Da Vinci Dram

By Ralfy Mitchell, UK

Members of the Masonic Order and associates are known to enjoy a dram or two at their regular social events/ceremonies, with hospitality amongst initiates held as a principled expectation and sign of “bon accord”.

The Mason’s came into being many moons ago evolving from mutual societies of academics and alchemists who sought amongst other things to preserve Gnostic and arcane knowledge originally in the possession of the aristocracy of ancient Egypt.  In fact some surviving rites are older than Egypt stretching back past Sumerian times (appox: 15.000 B.C.) to the period when the human race first started to think objectively and learn from what the world showed them. As happens, generations of orthodox vested interests (mainly those with power, wealth and insecurities) resented and persecuted unorthodox thinkers who could challenge their position in various ways, with a recent example of this to be seen in the way early european scientists like Galileo were sheltered from religious persecution because of their discoveries, …. by the hospitality of masonic orders.     In due time, with the part-stewardship of masons, scientific progress has evolved to the position it holds today as a rival and tangible option to dogmas and superstitions. Influential masons have included, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, John Dee, Francis Bacon, Debussy, and Isaac Newton, to name but a few of many,  and it is Da Vinci and Debussy who I now select as practitioners of a certain Gnostic/alchemaic tradition. This is the part where whisky becomes involved.

Distillation was invented by the Chinese around 4000 B.C., and refined by the nations of the middle east by 500 A.D. principally for the production of perfumes. To early european scientists, distillation meant following the Hermetic principle of logical refinement using machinery, in the pursuit of perfection/enlightenment (i.e. base metal into gold) associated mystically with the Philosophers stone, or “essence of life “.   The manufacture of this ‘essence’ proved rather hard to achieve, so they often settled for the refinement of beer or wine into spirit   ……… with which to drown the sorrows of their failure.
Alcohol may not have been the big enlightenment, but it was getting there !!!

This alchemic tradition of turning base metals to gold has, like so many other historical fables, been misunderstood over the passage of time.  It is not so much the actual physical change of something common to something precious, but the discipline of ideas and inspirations changing from passing notions to tangible and  significant understandings, thus human evolution and self-improvement can only occur through the transfiguration of basic thought into intellectual disciplines resulting in the human evolving into a better, greater self !!  and as a result, is nearer to God.

Are you still with me here ?

Distillation can therefore be seen as the physical expression of a greater awareness of the nature of reality and the universe.  Both Da Vinci and Debussy were aware of this as masons, and with their contemporaries, sought to further the hermetic/scientific philosophy within their work by using mathematic rules. Numbers are the alphabet of the language for understanding the universe, and by association, reality. Da Vinci used fibonacci numbers and golden ratio with a numerical reference of 1.618 (do a google to find out about these phenomena as describing it here would take too long, and get a bit dizzying!) to enhance the value of his paintings and drawings, and as a result gained a genius reputation by depicting life within his paintings so sensitively.

Debussy like-wise used golden ratio within his music like so many before him thus presenting natural harmonies in a particular melodious form. (Google  ‘Phrygian mode’) May I suggest that what Da Vinci offered in visual art, and what Debussy offered in audio/musical expression, good malt whisky offers in both smell and flavour…  A complex but balanced and harmonious experience for nose and taste, the smell of a figurative ‘landscape’ plus the chords and melodies of flavours, and in their own way, like great art and music, employing natural mathematical sequences which in their effect promote thoughtfulness, appreciation and enhanced use of the senses in experiencing life more fully and in greater depth, which is, in a way, a little bit of a distillation of our lives towards a personal enlightenment.

We humans are rather clumsy in assuming that our five senses cover the whole spectrum of life, and it is quite possible that there is more to reality than our senses can comprehend, thus scientists increasingly use numbers to know the universe  beyond our eyes and ears,  whilst, closer to home we can pour another glass of amber nectar into which we sink our nose and then wet our lips in the gentle pursuit of our own little ‘Golden Ratio’, … and in what I have just said, I’m sure all masonic brethren would agree.

P.S.  I am not, and never have been a Mason, just a curious passenger in life.