Friday, 3 March 2017

Isidore Kozminsky: The Magic and Science of Jewels and Stones

An early photograph of Samuel Kozminsky's jewellery store, Melbourne, Australia

Kozminsky's at 421 Burke Street - sumptuous, tasteful, illustrious, iconic - has been the premiere jeweller in Melbourne Australia for over 166 years. The business was founded by Samuel Kozminsky, a Prussian Jew from London, during the gold rushes of the 1850s; Jews like Mr Kozminsky very sensibly realised that there was a better trade to be had in the Australian colonies making gold rings than there was in the backbreaking and largely thankless task of digging the stuff out of the ground like the Irish. Kozminsky prospered; the Irish didn't. Over the years, and with several relocations in the central business district of Melbourne, Kozminsky's became an institution serving the better end of the city's clientele. The premises at 421 Burke St. feature an upstairs Salon known to poets, artists, politicians and other notable persons. It is with great regret, then, to hear that the store has now closed its doors. The final day of trade was February 10th 2017. 

It is from this same family of Prussian Jews that one of Australia's  most important but least acknowledged occultists came - Isidore Israel Kozminsky. He was born in Mortlake, Victoria, in 1870 and, through the family business, developed a deep interest in the occult lore and properties attending the precious metals and stones. This gave him a good knowledge of astrology, numerology, Qabala and similar arcane arts, and it was on these matters that he wrote numerous books. Among them, most importantly, is 'Zodiacal Symbology and its Planetary Power' which concerns, as the title suggests, the esoteric symbolism of each of the three hundred and sixty degrees of the tropical zodiac. It is one of the few works that treats this subject in a systematic way and is preferred by many to the so-called 'Sabian Symbols' promoted by a certain group of American astrologers. Much is written on the twelve signs of the zodiac, on other divisions, and on the planets, but the most basic unit of astrological symbolism is the degree, symbolic of the ideal solar day. What are the powers and pitfalls of each of the three hundred and sixty zodiacal degrees? Isidore Kozminsky wrote a definitive account in 1917. 

The following are some samples of the so-called 'Kozminsky Symbols' each consisting of a simple static image of an allegorical nature. Although not traditional, and mostly mediumistic in origin, they present a certain cogency, resembling the type of images found in the Chinese and other systems of divination whereby cosmic forces are anthropomorphised for mnemonic purposes:

19 Taurus - An archer, dressed in red, firing arrows at the Moon. 

5 Gemini - Little children playing near an old wrecked ship on the seashore.

8 Virgo - A man, holding a pen in his right hand and a sword in his left, standing at the entrance to a palace.

24 Virgo - A colossal giant holding a woman in his hand.

15 Libra - A man who has just left the banquet table in a dazed condition, holding his hand to his head as if trying to remember something.

7 Sagittarius - A large ship on a calm sea in a dark starless night, a black bird of the raven order sitting on the mainmast top.

25 Sagittarius - A ruined castle by a waterfall, near which is a naked woman holding a bunch of grapes to an old philosopher who, seated on a rock, is studying a manuscript.

25 Cpricornus - A man, gaudily attired, opening a document in the centre of which is a dagger.
27 deg. Pisces - A horse running with flames issuing from his nostrils.

30 deg. Pisces - A man trudging along a rough road, dragging a mass of heavy chains. A strong horse in a cart standing idly near.

Kozminskly's masterwork, all the same, was his comprehensive account of the esoteric character of gems, crystals and stones, namely, The Magic And Science Of Jewels And Stones, first published in 1922. 

This is a hefty and encyclopaedic work extending over 434 pages and, as far as the present writer is aware, it remains the finest and most comprehensive book on the subject. No one had a knowledge of jewels and stones - both in science and in superstition - to match Isidore Kozminsky. It is a work of great erudition but, most impressively, of penetrating curiosity. Dr Kozminsky is quite evidently enchanted by the entire crystal realm and is convinced of the power and magic of it all; he has devoted his life to reading and pondering over the vast engagement of humankind with this realm and its extraordinary treasures, drawing upon every culture and all ages, in order to realise the identity of each jewel and to know something of its essence. Dr Kozminsky was awarded a doctorate in science, but his curiosity extends far beyond the usual confines of science and scientistic explanations. He has a great respect for what he calls "the philosophy of old" and thinks it just as likely that the ancient sages of Greece or Hindoostan can tell us about the reality of jewels and stones as much as can the modern geologist or physicist. The most endearing feature of the book is that accurate scientific data and scientific classifications are reported side by side with arcane accounts gathered from a vast assortment of cultural sources. 

Most impressive is Dr Kozminsky's vast command of the relevant symbolism of heraldry, this forming a significant part of the book. Then there is an entire chapter concerning 'Stones in Shakespeare's Plays' which is surely the last word on the topic. Learned in Jewish law and familiar with Jewish esotericism, Dr Kozminsky also provides a brilliant in-depth account of jewel symbolism in the Bible, most especially in the Torah and the scriptural attribution of certain stones to certain tribes and modes of the Israelite priesthood in the Book of Exodus. These are famous Biblical passages, and much-loved by occultists of every age, but Kozminsky's must surely be one of the most proficient and capable accounts ever composed. Yet his inquiry also extends just as capably into oriental religions: the chapter entitled 'Stones in Various Mythologies' stands out for special praise. Certainly, Dr Kozminsky has no great insight into the metaphysical significances of the stones he so loves, but the breadth of his inquiry as a testament to man's enduring fascination with such stones and their magickal allure, and we can forgive him for being theosophical rather than, say, Guenonian. It is a beautiful book; a treasury of treasures. 

These days, as readers will be aware, crystals and gemstones form a staple of the New Age movement with crystals used for healing and sundry purposes by New Age savants. The Magic and Science of Jewels and Stones concerns the same matters but from an era prior to the 'Aquarian' constructions of the 'New Age' in popular occultism during the 1960s and 70s. In this, it is rather more substantial and sane than almost every new work on the subject one could possibly examine. The New Age is spiritual sago, and few areas of the New Age are as sloppy and mushy as crystals and stones. Who has not walked into a New Age bookstore, or come across a New Age stall at a market or fete, and seen the array of expensive coloured stones and gems sitting on display ready to bring atunement and balance to your chakras? Dr Kozminsky offers much more. This is a work of scholarship which is at the same time made interesting by the author's open mind to the subtle and esoteric powers of the many sublime wonders of mineral formations in the strange bosom of the Earth. Any reader who would acquire a serious knowledge of stones and gems and the like, beyond the syrupy sludge of New Age charlatanism and neurotic delusions, would do well to start here and to regard Kozminsky as the standard text. 

The attributions of gems to nations according to "old philosophy" is as follows and differs considerably to more recent accounts of such attributions:


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One of the most interesting features of the book, and the one feature above that that makes it a work of enduring importance, is Dr Kozminsky's analysis of various famous nativities in terms of astrological correspondences with gems and precious stones. In these sections the author reveals a truly unique astrological talent that, as he well understands, conforms to the fact that astrology and alchemy, the astral and the mineral, are, as it were, sisters. The modern astrology is too fixed upon the stars or upon some mathematical abstraction; how many astrologers approach their art through the lens of the planetary metals and the world of astral gemstones? This is actually the place where an integral astrology ought to begin. Dr Kozminsky, that is, has an alchemical understanding of the mineral realm and is able to apply it to astrology since the ancient and occult teaching is that these treasures which we find in the Earth are seeds of the stars, embryonic forms derived from stellar essences. This fable is at the core of astrology and alchemy both. Dr Kozminsky is able to read a horoscope through the agency of and in terms of the planetary and zodiacal gems and stones, the stellar through the mineral. In this book he demonstrates through many examples how it is done. One does not expect to find such an important key to astrology in a book on gemstones, and yet here it is. If one studies it carefully, The Magic And Science Of Jewels And Stones provides a master key to an integral mode of astrological analysis. Unless it is linked in this or similar ways to the mineral world, astrology is a phantasm of the night. 

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Dr Kozminsky married outside of the Jewish faith and appears to have used the name 'Francis Coton' during his married life. Members of his family grew up unaware that they were Jewish and that the Dr Kozminsky to whom Francis Coton might sometimes refer was in fact himself. He was a man, in that sense, with a double life. This forms some of the background to Tangea Tansy's lovely family history, 'A Break in the Chain' (The Early Kosminsky's), the 'break' referring to the break in Jewish lineage that occurs when a Jew marries a Gentile woman. See here

Suitably, there is no authoritative account of Dr Kozminsky's demise. He moved with his family from Australia to London in 1935. By one account he died in 1940 after tripping down an escalator in the London underground. A different account relates that he died of pneumonia in a bomb shelter in 1944. It has not been possible for the present writer to find evidence to support either account, nor any to confirm the report - mentioned here and there on some dubious webpages - that Kozminsky was ever a leading member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This is not an outlandish proposition in itself - a man of his station and interests would have been welcome in that company, and there was no obstacles to a Jewish gentleman joining such an irregular masonic organisation (as we see in the case of Israel Regardie) - but the Kozminsky's did not relocate to England until 1935 which is some decades after the period in which the Golden Dawn was a viable occult fraternity. He was certainly not a member of the Order in its heyday. 


Harper McAlpine Black

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