Slow-cooker human recipe


For the recipe project, I will attempt a partial reconstruction of the recipe for making humans by Jabir Ibn Hayyan, reportedly written in his Book of Assembly. My inital reconstruction is based on my quick translation, sometimes aided by Ali Mohammad Isbar’s analysis of Jabir Ibn Hayyan’s Book of Assembly. The reconstruction will accompany an annotated version of the recipe that I will draft from my translations of Jabir’s original text, sourced from Adonis’s publication of the recipe in AlHayat Newspaper in 2003 (link & link).

Driving my curiosity in this recipe is a line of inquiry that weaves through my studio practice. I am interested in what we use as qualifiers to validate the personhood of an entity.

What I hope to do is to go over my translation and interpretation of the recipe, and annotate it with my questions, decisions, and discoveries, as I go through the attempt to reconstruct part of the recipe. I want to make clear where my own interpretation of a word comes in, and where directions weren’t clear and so I had to approximate meaning/instruction.

Figure 1: Jābir, ibn Hayyan, and ʻAlī M. Isbir. Kitāb Al-Tajmīʻ: Takwīn Insān Bi-Ṣināʻat Al-Kīmiyāʼ. Jablah, Sūriyā: Bidāyāt lil-Ṭibāʻah wa-al-Nashr, 2007. Print.

My current reconstructed translation of the written recipe:

To prepare the simulacrum, you need: 

  • 1 finger-thick vessel glass(preferred)/crystal/stone/a color, length to taste. 
  • Sperm from a man with attributes you want to imbue the product with. 
  • (sperm substitutes: soil from a specific mountain, or a piece of flesh from an animal with attributes you want to imbue the product with.) 
  • Medicines and drugs, to taste.

To prepare the womb, you need: 

  • Glass 
  • Wisdom Clay 

OR (if one believed that creation only occurs with growth of mold)

  • Hollow Copper Sphere 
  • Water 
  • Wisdom Clay

OR (iIf one believed that creation of the soul requires air)

  • Hollow, Semi-perforated Glass Sphere 
  • Hollow Copper Sphere 
  • Water 
  • Wisdom Clay 

To prepare the axis, you need: 

  • an iron column
  • a polished, concave mirror
  • a fire of a single fuel


  1. Work the finger-thick vessel into the form you desire the product to be. 
  2. Place the vessel inside the first level sphere. 
  3. Place the first level sphere into higher level spheres, until you arrive at the Clay sphere. 
  4. Leave it to dry and harden. 
  5. Polish its exterior until it is like the surface of a mirror. 
  6. Cut the final sphere in half, using a non-serrated knife. 
  7. Polish the inside, until the substances are as though they were one substance. 
  8. Using the components desired for the simulacrum, place everything in its appropriate location. note: make sure each limb/component is independent and can be attached and detached separately. 
  9. Mount one hemisphere on the metal column, then the other hemisphere, so that they are fixed and unmoving.
  10. Attach the column to the concave mirror so that it can move freely and infinitely.
  11. Caliberate the rotation exactly to that of the earth’s (any mistakes in this step will cause the creation to fail.)
  12. Use a fire from a single fuel.

Figure 2: a page from Kitāb al-Burhān fī asrār ‘ilm al-mīzān (The Book of the Proof Regarding the Secrets of the Science of the Balance) كتاب البرهان فى اسرار علم الميزان by ‘Izz al-Dīn Aydamir ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Jaldakī عز الدين ايدمر ابن عبد الله الجلدكى. The text refers to the illustrated vessels as “machines” (a word Geber uses that I was uncertain about its meaning until I found this.)

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