Monday, June 20, 2011

Alexander Seton, the Mysterious Alchemist

Near Edinburgh is the Collegiate Church of Seton. Here, around 1600, a Dutch sailor, Jacques Huyssen, shipwrecked and was welcomed by one Alexander Seton. A few years later, Seton arrived in the Netherlands, and in front of Huyssen and several other inhabitants of Enkhuizen, turned lead into gold, before doing further demonstrations across Europe.

The Setons & Alchemy

"Alexander Seton", the Scottish alchemist that set continental Europe ablaze ca. 1600 AD
Delivered at the Sauniere Society Conference, Newbattle Abbey, November 2002

In recent decades, most fame of Scottish noble families has gone to the Sinclairs of Rosslyn Chapel. However, we seem to be imprinting present interest upon past importance, for though important, the Sinclairs at least had to share the fame with two other families, the Douglasses and the Setons.
The latter were the true “heirs” of the Knights Templar, at least in the sense that they became the custodians of the Templar properties in Scotland upon the dissolution of the Templar order in 1307.

The Setons were also involved in the building of a collegiate church, which can still be visited. In state care since 1948, it is run by Historic Scotland, and is situated on the A198 between Longniddry and Prestonpans. Unfortunately, it is far less popular than Rosslyn Chapel. Approximately six people visit it per day, and there is the occasional day when no visitor turns up.
The church is no longer used for worship, though the occasional wedding is still held there. Next door is the privately-owned Seton House, built by Robert Adams in 1790, to replace Seton Palace, demolished in 1789.

One theory suggests that the family originally came from Flanders, when they were given land by King Malcolm III. The area was called a Sea-town, hence Seton. However, another theory is that they come from Normandy, from a family de Sei, hence Sei-town, or Seton.
The family is, as mentioned, one of the most distinguished. Their house in Seton was an almost required stop and occasional refuge for any passing monarch or important leader. They remained an important family until they suffered the fate of many Jacobites in the early 18th Century.

What is virtually unknown is that there is possibly more mystery connected with this family than with the Sinclairs of Rosslyn. After all, the “enigma” of Rosslyn Chapel is completely in the eye of the beholder. Nowhere is there evidence that the builder of Rosslyn Chapel left a message for future mankind that required decoding. The link between the Sinclairs and the Templars is also tenuous. But with the Setons, that link is explicit.

So what is this mystery of the Setons? It involves two characters, one Alexander Seton, the other David Seton… the former an alchemist, the latter at the origins of Freemasonry.

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