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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy

and the Occult Arts by Herbert Silberer

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Title: Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts

Author: Herbert Silberer

Release Date: January 9, 2009 [Ebook 27755]

Language: English



OCCULT ARTS*** Hidden Symbolism of ALCHEMY and the OCCULT ARTS (Formerly titled: Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism) by Dr. Herbert Silberer Translated by Smith Ely Jelliffe, M.D., Ph.D.

Dover Publications, Inc.

New York Contents Translator's Preface..................... 3 Part I. The Parable...................... 5 Section I. The Parable.................. 5 Section II. Dream And Myth Interpretation....... 21 Part II. Analytic Part..................... 37 Section I. Psychoanalytic Interpretation Of The Parable. 37 Section II. Alchemy................... 88 Section III. The Hermetic Art.............. 113 Section IV. Rosicrucianism And Freemasonry...... 133 Section V. The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation... 163 Part III. Synthetic Part.................... 179 Section I. Introversion And Regeneration........ 179 A. Introversion And Intro-Determination..... 179 B. Effects Of Introversion............. 207 C. Regeneration.................. 235 Section II. The Goal Of The Work............ 256 Section III. The Royal Art................ 284 Notes............................. 317 Bibliography......................... 326 Index............................. 344 Footnotes.......................... 371 [ii] This Dover edition, first published in 1971, is an unabridged and unaltered republication of the work originally published by Moffat, Yard and Company, New York, in 1917 under the title Problems of Mysticism and its Symbolism.

International Standard Book Number: 0-486-20972-5 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 74-176356 [iii] Translator's Preface Prominent among the stones of a fireplace in my country den, one large rounded giant stands out. It was bourne by the glacial streams from a more northern resting place and is marked by a fossil of a mollusk that inhabited northern seas many million years ago. Yet in spite of the eons of time that have passed it can be compared with specimens of mollusks that live to-day. Down through the countless centuries the living stream has carved its structural habitations in much the same form. The science of Paleontology has collected this history and has attempted a reconstruction of life from its beginnings.

The same principle here illustrated is true for the thought-life of mankind. The forms in which it has been preserved however are not so evident. The structuralizations are not so definite.

If they were, evolution would not have been possible for the living stream of energy which is utilized by mind-stuff cannot be confined if it would advance to more complex integrations.

Hence the products of mind in evolution are more plastic—more subtle and more changing. They are to be found in the myths [iv] and the folk-lore of ancient peoples, the poetry, dramatic art, and the language of later races. From age to age however the strivings continue the same. The living vessels must continue and the products express the most fundamental strivings, in varying though related forms.

We thus arrive at a science which may be called paleopsychology. Its fossils are the thought-forms throughout the ages, and such a science seeks to show fundamental likenesses behind the more superficial dissimilarities.

The present work is a contribution to such a science in that it shows the essential relationships of what is found in the 4 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts unconscious of present day mankind to many forms of thinking of the middle ages. These same trends are present to-day in all of us though hidden behind a different set of structural terms, utilizing different mechanisms for energy expression.

The unceasing complexity of life's accumulations has created a great principle for energy expression—it is termed sublimation—and in popular parlance represents the spiritual striving of mankind towards the perfecting of a relation with the world of reality—the environment—which shall mean human happiness in its truest sense. One of the products of this [v] sublimation tendency is called Mysticism. This work would seek to aid us to an understanding of this manifestation of human conduct as expressed in concrete or contemplated action through thought. It does so by the comparative method, and it is for this reason I have been led to present it to an English reading public.

Much of the strange and outre, as well as the commonplace, in human activity conceals energy transformations of inestimable value in the work of sublimation. The race would go mad without it. It sometimes does even with it, a sign that sublimation is still imperfect and that the race is far from being spiritually well. A comprehension of the principles here involved would further the spread of sympathy for all forms of thinking and tend to further spiritual health in such mutual comprehension of the needs of others and of the forms taken by sublimation processes.

For the actual work of translation, I wish to express my obligations to friends Wilfred Lay, and Leo Stein. Without their generous and gifted assistance I would not have been able to accomplish the task.


NEW YORK, Oct. 27, 1917.

–  –  –

The Parable.

In an old book I discovered an extraordinary narrative entitled Parabola. I take it as the starting point of my observations because it affords a welcome guide. In the endeavor to understand the parable and get a psychological insight into it, we are led on to journey through these very realms of fancy, into which I should like to conduct the reader. At the end of our journey we shall have acquired, with the understanding of the first example, the knowledge of certain psychical laws.

I shall, then, without further prelude introduce the example, and purposely avoid at the outset mentioning the title of the old book so that the reader may be in a position to allow the narrative to affect him without any preconceived ideas. Explanatory interpolations in the text, which come from me, I distinguish with square brackets.

[1]. As once I strolled in a fair forest, young and green, and contemplated the painfulness of this life, and lamented how 6 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts

–  –  –

collegium, of which I was heartily glad.

[5]. But they said I could not be a real colleague till I learned to know their lion, and became thoroughly acquainted with his powers and abilities. For that purpose I should use diligence so as to subdue him. I was quite confident in myself and promised them I would do my best. For their company pleased me so well that I would not have parted from them for a great deal.

[6]. They led me to the lion and described him very carefully, but what I should undertake with him none could tell me. Some of them indeed hinted, but very darkly, so that the (Der Tausende) Thousandth one could not have understood him. But when I should first succeed in subduing him and should have assured myself against his sharp claws, and keen teeth, then they would conceal nothing from me. Now the lion was very old, ferocious and large, his yellow hair hung over his neck, he appeared quite unconquerable, so that I was almost afraid of my temerity and would gladly have turned back if my promise and also the circumstance that the elders stood about me and were waiting to see what I would do, had allowed me to give up. In great confidence I approached the lion in his den and began to caress him, but he looked at me so fiercely with his brightly shining eyes that I could hardly restrain my tears. Just then I remembered that I had learned from one of the elders, while we were going to the lion's den, that very many people had undertaken to overcome the lion and very few could accomplish it. I was unwilling to be disgraced, and I recalled several grips that I had learned with great diligence in athletics, besides which I was well versed in natural magic [magia] so I gave up the caresses and seized the lion so dextrously, artfully and subtlely, that before he was well aware of it I forced the blood out of his body, yea, [004] even out of his heart. It was beautifully red but very choleric.

I dissected him further and found, a fact which caused me much wonder, that his bones were white as snow and there was much more bone than there was blood.

8 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts

–  –  –

on my hat. But there seemed to be in the same place a wall, surrounding a great garden. In the garden were lads, and their lasses who would gladly be in the garden, but would not wander widely, or take the trouble to come to the gates. So I pitied them. I went further along the path by which I had come, still on the level, and went so fast that I soon came to some houses, where I supposed I should find the gardener's house. But I found there many people, each having his own room. They were slow. Two together they worked diligently, yet each had his own work. [The meaning may be either that working alone they were slow, but in twos they worked diligently; or two of them worked together and were diligent.

Both amount to the same thing as we shall later realize.] But what they did, it seems, I had myself done before and all their work was familiar to me. Especially, thought I, see, if so many other people do so much dirty and sloppy work, that is only an appearance according to each one's conceit, but has no reason in Nature, so it may also be pardoned in you. I wished, therefore, because I knew such tricks vanished like smoke, to remain here no longer in vain and proceeded on my former way.

[10]. After I had arrived at the gate of the garden, some on one side looked sourly at me, so that I was afraid they might hinder me in my project; but others said, “See, he will into the garden, and we have done garden service here so long, [006] and have never gotten in; we will laugh him down if he fails.” But I did not regard all that, as I knew the conditions of this garden better than they, even if I had never been in it, but went right to a gate that was tight shut so that one could neither see nor find a keyhole. I noticed, however, that a little round hole that with ordinary eyes could not be seen, was in the door, and thought immediately, that must be the way the door is opened, was ready with my specially prepared Diederich, unlocked and went in. When I was inside the door, I found several other bolted doors, which I yet opened without trouble. Here, however, was a passage way, just as if it was in a well built 10 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts

–  –  –

I should have gladly known what the meaning was. But as I noticed that the miller would not leave I went away, and there was in front of the mill a lofty paved hill, on which were some of the previously mentioned elders who walked in the sun, which then shone very warm, and they had a letter from the whole faculty written to them, on which they were consulting.

[In our modern mode of expression, the elders had directed a letter to the sun, and so I find the passage in an English version of the parable. This generally bungling translation is nevertheless not in the least authoritative. And although an acceptable meaning is derived from it, if one regards the sun as the just mentioned “prince,” yet I believe a freer translation should be given... the elders walked in the warm sunshine;

they consulted about a letter written to them by the faculty.] I soon noticed what the contents must be, and that it concerned me. I went therefore to them and said, “Gentlemen, does it concern me?” “Yes,” said they, “you must keep in marriage [008] the woman that you have recently taken or we must notify our prince.” I said, “that is no trouble as I was born at the same time as she and brought up as a child with her, and as I have taken her once I will keep her forever, and death itself shall not part us, for I have an ardent affection for her.” “What have we then to complain of?” replied they. “The bride is content, and we have your will; you must copulate.” “Contented,” said I. “Well,” said one, “the lion will then regain his life and become more powerful and mighty than before.” [12]. Then occurred to me my previous trouble and labor and I thought to myself that for particular reasons it must not concern me but some other that is well known to me; then I saw our bridegroom and his bride go by in their previous attire, ready and prepared for copulation, which gave me great joy, for I was in great distress lest the thing might concern me.

[13]. When, then, as mentioned, our bridegroom in his brilliant scarlet clothes with his dearest bride, whose white satin coat shot forth bright rays, came to the proper marriage 12 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts

–  –  –

the faculty seal impressed on it and I was enjoined that I should guard them here, and spend the winter before the door;

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