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Therefore the philosophers have married this tender young maiden to Gabricus, to have them procreate fruit, and when Gabricus sleeps he dies. The Beja [i.e., the white maiden] has [136] swallowed him and consumed him because of her great love.” Now as to the intra-uterine nourishment of the fetus by means

of the water of life:

Daustenius [Ros. vi.]: “... The fruit in the womb is nourished

only by the mother's blood.” Id. (Ros. x):

“Without seeds no fruit can grow up for thee:

First the seed dies; then wilt thou see fruit.

In the stomach the food is cooked tender From which the limbs draw the best to themselves.

When too the seed is poured into the womb Then the womb stays right tenderly closed.

106 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts

–  –  –

Later he says (Id., XI): “Lay the son by her that she suckle him.” [The water of life is therefore also the milk.] The new king is born, and now he and his consort appear in priceless garments (cf. Section 18 of the parable). The color change of the substance is expressed by means of the change of garments, like peacock's tail, rainbow. The process goes from black through gray to white, yellow, red, purple.

The end is reached with purple. The wanderer at the end describes the virtues of the philosopher's stone. We have already compared the great elixir with soma. In the old alchemistic book, which bears the name of the Persian magician, Osthanes (Berthelot, Orig., p. 52), the divine water heals all maladies.

Water of life,—elixir of life.

[137] Many readers will shake their heads over the psychoanalytic exposition of the parable. The gross development of sexuality and the Œdipus complex may seem improbable to him. The alchemistic hieroglyphic has now in unexpected manner shown after all, that these surprising things were not read into the parable by psychoanalysis, but rightly found in it, even though psychoanalysis has not by any means exhausted the contents of the parable. What might at first have appeared to be bold conjecture, as for example, killing of the father, incest with the mother, the conception of the red blood and white bones as man and woman, the excrementitious substance as procreative, the prison as the uterus, has all been shown to be in use as favorite figurative expression among the alchemistic authors.

The alchemists like to dwell on the process of procreation, and on infantile sexual theories. The deep interest that they show in these matters, and without which they would not have used them so much in their hieroglyphics, the meaning that these things must have, in order to be regarded as worthy to illustrate Section II. Alchemy. 107 the processes of the great work, and finally, the meaning that in some form or other they actually have in the emotional life of every man, all of this makes it evident that the line of imaginative speculations with which we have become acquainted, deserves independent treatment. In practice there was a fission, and procreation becomes an independent problem for alchemists.

Yet the followers of the art did learn from nature, in order that their art might follow the works of nature even to improve [138] on her; what wonder then if many of them set themselves to the artificial creation—generation—of man? Yet the belief in generatio equivoca has not long been dead. Must it not have seemed somehow possible, in view of the supposed fact that they saw insects develop out of earth, worms out of dung, etc., that they should by special artificial interposition, be able to make higher forms of life come out of lifeless matter? And of all the substances not one was indeed completely lifeless for the “animated” metals even, grew and increased. In short, if we regard the matter somewhat more closely, it is after all not so extraordinary that they made serious attempts to create the homunculus.

Generally Paracelsus is regarded as the author of the idea, which to the somewhat uncritical, could not, in my opinion, help being in the air. There are different views regarding the part played by Paracelsus. The instructions that he gives for the production of the homunculus are found in a work (De natura rerum) whose authorship is not settled. And supposing that Paracelsus was the writer, it must be considered whether he does not lay before the inquisitive friend to whom the work is dedicated merely a medley of oddities from the variegated store that he had collected from all sources on his travels among vagrant folk. We must accept the facts as we find them; the question as to whether it was Paracelsus or not would be idle.

Enough that there is a book by some writer who describes the [139] work and describes it in such a way that naïve scholarship could 108 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts have thought it quite consistent. The idea as such has appeared conceivable to us. Its form in the book mentioned appears clearly determined by alchemistic ideas. The reader will immediately perceive it himself as I give here some passages from the book.

(Cf. the Strassb. Folio Ausg. des Paracelsus, Vol. I, pp.

881-884.) A consideration of the production of the homunculus appears important to me because it shows the main content of alchemistic ideas in enlarged form and complete development, a content that gives, moreover, the very thing that psychoanalysis would here look for.

Paracelsus begins with the fact that putrefaction transforms all things into their first shape and is the beginning of generation and multiplication. The spagiric [One of the names for alchemy.

From ÃÀ½ (separate), and ±³µwÁµ¹½ (unite).] art is able to create men and monsters. Such a monster is the Basilisk. “The Basilisk” grows and is born out of and from the greatest impurity of women, namely from the menstrua and from the blood of sperm that is put into a glass and cucurbit, and putrefied in a horse's belly.

In such putrefaction is the Basilisk born. Whoever is so daring and so fortunate as to make it or to take it out or again to kill it, who does not clothe and protect himself before with mirrors?

I advise no one but I wish to give sufficient warning. [Many fables about the Basilisk were then current. The belief, too, was general that this terrible animal was produced from a hen's egg.

Herein lies, again, the idea of unnatural procreation.]... Now [140] the generation of the homunculus is not to be forgotten. For there is something in it, notwithstanding that it has till now been kept in mystery and concealed, and that not a little doubt and question there was among some of the old philosophers, whether it was possible for art and nature that a man should be born outside a woman's body and a natural mother. To which I give the answer that it is in no way contrary to the spagiric art and nature, but is quite possible; but how such accomplishment and occurrence may be, is by the following procedure: Namely that Section II. Alchemy. 109 the semen of a man is putrefied in a closed cucurbit per se, with the greatest putrefaction in a horse's belly for 40 days or until it comes to life and moves and stirs, which is easily to be seen.

[Horse's belly by metonomy for horse's dung. Horse manure or dung was an easily procured material that served the purpose of keeping warm at an even mild and moist heat a vessel that was put into it. Horse manure is then finally the gentle “moist heat” in general engendered by any means. In the preceding case surely the narrower meaning of animal belly or dung should not be overlooked. Here indeed this belly with its moist warmth has to act as an equivalent for a uterus.] After such a time it will look something like a man but transparent without a body. So after this it is daily fed whitish (weisslich) with the Arcano sanguinis humani [the water of life that nourishes the fœtus] and nourished about 40 weeks and kept in the even warmth of a horse's belly. [141] A real live human child will come forth with all members like another child that is born of a woman but much smaller. We call it homunculus and it should then be brought up just like another child with great diligence and care till it comes to its days of understanding. That is now the highest and greatest mystery that God has let mortal and sinful man know. For it is a miracle and magnale Dei, and a mystery above all mystery and should also be kept a mystery fairly till the judgment day, as then nothing will stay hidden, but all will be revealed.

“And although such a thing has hitherto been hidden from natural man, it has not been hidden from the fauns and the nymphs and giants, but has been revealed for a long time;

whence they too, come. For from such homunculi, when they come to the age of manhood come giants, dwarfs and other similar great wonder people, [Just like Genesis vi, 4] that were used for a great tool and instrument, who had a great mighty victory over their enemies and knew all secret and hidden things that are for all men impossible to know. For by art they received their life, through art they received body, flesh, bone and blood, 110 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts through art were they born. Therefore the art was embodied and born in them and they had to learn it from no one, but one must learn from them. For because of art are they there and grown up like a rose or flower in the garden and are called the children of fauns and nymphs because that they with their powers and deeds, not to men but to spirits are compared.” [It is characteristic that [142] Paracelsus passes immediately to the production of metals.] In the description of the generation of the homunculus the power of rotting material has been pointed out. There is clearly evident a feeding with a magisterium from blood (water of life) corresponding to the intrauterine alimentation. We note that from the homunculi come giants and dwarfs and wonderful beings.

The idea of palingenesis appears to have no little significance for the existence of the homunculus production. They imagine that a dead living being could be restored, at least in a smokelike image, if they carefully collected all its parts, triturated them and treated the composition in a vessel with the proper fire.

Then there would appear after a time, like a cloud of smoke, the faint image of the former being, plant, bird, man. The clouds vanish if the heating is interrupted. Further it would be possible, even if more difficult, to pass beyond this mere adumbration, and cause the former being to arise again from the ashes, fully alive. In the recipes for this an important rôle is regularly played by horse manure or some other rotting substance. Many authors tell fables of all sorts of wonderful experiments that they have made. One tells that he has reduced a bird to ashes and made it live again, another will have seen in his retort and coming from the moldering corpse of a child its shadow image, etc. We see here in actuality the mythical motive of dismemberment and revivification expressed in a naïve practice.

[143] It is quite noticeable that this practice follows the same lines as the mythical representation. All the constituent parts of the body that is cut into little pieces must be carefully collected and put in a vessel and (generally) cooked.

Section II. Alchemy. 111 The human child as result of cooking or else of a similar process in a vessel, is not infrequent in primitive myths. I could mention a Zulu myth (Frobenius, Zeitalt. d. Sonneng., I, p. 237) of a formerly barren woman. It was said that she should catch a drop of blood in a pot, cover it up and set it by for eight months, and should open it in the ninth month. The woman did as she was advised and found a child in the pot. The drop of blood, be it noted, came from herself. The numerous whale dragon myths (Frobenius) where it is very hot inside of the whale, belong here in motive. From the whale's belly comes indeed the baked young (sun) hero. [Who moreover generally gets nourishment in the whale-dragon's belly. Nutritio. Heart motive according to Frobenius.] It is interesting that the idea of cooking human beings occurs very clearly in a well analyzed case of dementia precox. (Spielrein in Jb. ps. F., Ill, pp. 358 ff.) In the strongly regressive phantasies of the invalid, fragments of all sorts of things are cooked or roasted and the ashes can become men.

A very interesting variant of the infantile theories of procreation of the living in dung is found in the book, “De Homunculis et Monstris” (Vol. II, pp. 278 ff. of the Strassburg edition of the works of Paracelsus). It is there maintained that [144] by sodomy as well as by pederasty (specifically coitus in anum and also in os is meant) the generation of a monster is possible.

As they did with alchemy in general, so charlatans also made use of the production of the homunculus. Their business was based on the great profits that were offered by the possession of a homunculus and that are equivalent to those of mandrake alum.

Mandrake alum gave a certain impetus to the development of the homunculus idea and practice. It can be shown that secrets of procreation seem partly to underlie this also.

It is easy to show the possibility that many a duffer was led toward the production of the homunculus by erroneous interpretation of the procreation symbolism occurring in the alchemistic writings. It was merely necessary, in their limitations, 112 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts to take literally one or another of the methods. In this way there actually occurred the most ludicrous blunders. Because the philosopher's egg was mentioned, they took eggs as the actual subject. Because the spermatic substance and seeds were mentioned they thought that the prima materia was human semen, and so arose the school of seminalists. And because it was written of the subject that it was to be found wherever men dwell, and that it was a little despised thing which men threw away not realizing its worth, and because they thought of putrefaction as such, they thought to find the real substance in human excrement, and so the school of stercoralists was founded. From the belief [145] in the healing and wonderworking power of excrement sprang moreover the famous filth pharmacy, that was held in no little esteem.

The homunculus topic is exceedingly interesting.

Unfortunately I cannot in the space of this book go into it thoroughly. I shall do so in another place.

–  –  –

The Hermetic Art.

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