Goldmachen

If you write the term “Goldmachen” into the search box of a German opac of a university library and then use Fernleihe, chances are that among the results the historical literature prevails, and that the names Johann Gabriel DRECHSLER (book), Daniel Georg MORHOF (1639-1691) (Ger., Eng., NDB) (book), and of course Wilhelm von SCHRÖDER (1640-1688) (Ger., ADB) (book) will pop up.
The title Goldmachen. Wahre alchemystische Begebenheiten, Heilbronn s.a. (ca. 1940), may not show up in large numbers. It seems to me that it was published in a very limited edition only and I am too lazy now to work myself through the catalogues to verify whether it was reprinted later.
Alexander von BERNUS (1880-1965) (Ger., bibliography) was a poet and an alchemist. As a toddler he is adopted by the childless brother of his mother, the family moves to Manchester. From 1886 they live in Stift Neuburg (Ger., Eng.) near Heidelberg, it comes into his possession after the death of his adoptive father 1908. Here his only son Alexander Walter, called Alwar (born 1903) has a deadly accident while playing in the chapel of the abbey. In the same year, 1911, the marriage with Alwar’s mother, the writer Adelheid von SYBEL (1878-1966) (Ger.,) is divorced. They had married 1902, while Alexander was a student of literature (Literaturwissenschaft) and philosophy in Munich. These years in Munich before the first world war are defining, because he comes in contact with people who will later play an important role in art, science and culture, like WOLFSKEHL (Ger., Eng.; who dies in exile in NZ), the great Richarda HUCH (Ger., Eng.); his first poems are published together with works of Stefan ZWEIG (Ger., Eng.); WEDEKIND (Ger., Eng.), HESSE (Ger., Eng.; works; film), Thomas MANN (Ger., Eng.) among others are regular visitors in Neuburg – until 1926, when he gives it back to the Benedictine order.
He marries the Baltic artist Imogen von GLASENAPP (1876-1939) in 1912, a daughter is born 1913, they split in 1929. He meets his third wife Isolde (“Isa”) (1898-2001) (Ger.), they have a daughter Marina in 1933,  and during the war they move to the small baroque house Schloß Donaumünster (Ger.) near Donaumünster. Marina marries Peter FULD (1921-1962), lives later in Canada.

After 1911 von BERNUS becomes a member of the theosophical (Ger., Eng.), later the anthroposophical society (Ger., Eng.; Goetheanum), STEINER (Ger., Eng.) is a guest in his house and seems to have had an influence on BERNUS’ alchemistical work.
von BERNUS turns either already 1908 or after Alwar’s death 1911/12 towards alchemistic work and starts to develop spagyric remedies (Ger., Eng.; patent) in his laboratory in the abbey (SOLUNA; extensive German article). Basically he follows Paracelsus (Ger., Eng.) and works himself through the old Iatrochemie (Ger., Eng.) of the 16th and 17th century.
After his death Isa keeps his heritage together in the crumbling mansion. Alexander von BERNUS left behind circa one thousand poems, a large number of translations, some plays. And of course the laboratory and his receipts and formulae: As I understand it, they still produce today what he started to develop well before WWI.

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11 thoughts on “Goldmachen

  1. I am sorry LX – I did miss the subject! The 1940 book is edited by von Bernus. Besides his iatrochemical, that is: pharmaceutical research, he also did “pure” alchemistic work. He studied the old writers and built up an interesting collection of texts, both printed and in manuscripts, now in the Badische Landesbibliothek (the link must be in the text somewhere). The alchemistic work started well before WWI (maybe as early as 1908), but the still existing soluna-laboratory was founded as a company after WWI, I think 1921 in Heidelberg. Later his lab was in Stuttgart, until it was destroyed in a bombardement. Then he moved everything – and his family – to Donaumünster, where he died 1965. But the laboratory still works and produces the mixtures and drugs von Bernus created.
    I once had the text of the 1940 book in hand, years ago, and I can not remember it. It is even possible that I have a xeroxcopy here burried in the heap of paper that holds the materials for my would-be dissertation. I think that he did try the great permutation once.

    A very interesting question, dear Nurse Myra. I think poor Alwar fell.

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