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«***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HIDDEN SYMBOLISM OF ALCHEMY AND THE OCCULT ARTS*** Hidden Symbolism of ALCHEMY and the OCCULT ARTS (Formerly ...»

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In the religious symbol language of the church, the sacred numbers naturally began to disappear from that time. In the writings of Augustine begins the war on the symbolic language, whose use he declared a characteristic of the gnostics. In spite of the suppression the doctrines of the sacred numbers continued through all the centuries in religious use, in quiet but strong currents which flowed beside the state church. The sect names, which were invented by polemic theology for the purpose of characterizing methods that were regarded as imitations of the gnostics, are of the most varied kinds; it may be enough to remember that in all those spiritual currents, that like the old German mysticism, the earlier humanism, the so-called natural philosophy, etc., show a strong influence of platonic thinking, the doctrines of the sacred numbers recur, in a more or less disguised form, but yet clearly recognizable. (Keller, Heil. Zahl., p. 2.) As the old number symbolism constitutes a part of the hieroglyphics of alchemy, I shall pause a moment to consider them. The use of mathematical and geometrical symbols proceeds from the use of the simplest forms, points and lines, but in all cases where the object is not a representation in the flat but in space, both the points and lines are replaced by plastic forms, [185] i.e., forms of cylinders, spheres, bars, rings, cubes, etc. From this point it was but a short step to the use of trees, leaves, 142 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts flowers, implements, and other things that showed similarities in form. Pillars are specially noticeable for the symbolism of the ceremonial chamber. In all cases where points and lines occur in images and drawings, pillars are found in the plastic representation of thoughts and symbols. They form the chief element of the organization of cults in academies and museums, and justify the names of colonnade, stoa, portico, and loggia, which occur everywhere; besides the special designation like Ÿ0ºÅ ±0¿½v¿Â, etc.

For symbolism, too, which served as the characterization of the forms of organization and the building up of the fraternity into degrees, lines were useless, but in place of lines and points are found plastic forms which were at their disposal in carpenters' squares, crossed bars, etc. (Keller, l. c., p. 10.) As the circle symbolized the all and the eternal or the celestial unity of the all, and the divinity, so the number one, the single line, the staff or the scepter, represented the terrestrial copy of the power, the ruling, guiding, sustaining and protecting force of the personality that had attained freedom on earth.

The sun or gold symbol [Symbol: Sun] corresponds in alchemy to the divine circle and the same circle occurs in other symbols of the art, as in [Symbol: Copper] [Symbol: Mercury], etc.

Duality, the Dyas, represents in contrast to the celestial being the divided terrestrial being that is dominated by the antagonism [186] of things and is only a transitory, imperfect existence; the opposites, fluid and solid, sulphur and mercury, dry and wet, etc.

In the symbol of the trinity, which frequently occurs in the form of a triangle (three points united by three straight lines), is shown how the divided and sensuous nature is led by the higher power of the number 3 to a harmony of powers and to a new unity. The symbol of reason attaining victory over matter becomes visible. A representation of trinity is possible by means of the conventional cross. We can see in it two elements of lines which by their unification or penetration give the third as Section IV. Rosicrucianism And Freemasonry. 143 the point of intersection. More generally the cross is conceived as quinity (fiveness)—i.e., 4+1ness (in alchemy four elements which are collected about the quinta esentia). A cross in which unity splits into duality so that trinity results, is Y, which is called the forked cross. From unity grows duality, that is, nature divides into spirit and matter, into active and passive, necessity and freedom. The divided returns through trinity to unity. In alchemy we have the symbol REBIS, the hermaphrodite with the two heads. The ancient symbol was later conceived, by purposive concealment or by more accidental interpretation, as the letter Y, just as the symbol of the three lines [Symbol: fire] or [Symbol: fire with a line coming out top pointing left] and the like gradually appears to have become an A, as it is found frequently in the catacombs. Keller refers (l. c., p. 14) also especially to the reduplication of the carpenter's square, which is found likewise in the old Latomies (Gk. = quarries) and has [187] the appearance of two intersecting opened circles. I do not need to call attention to the masonic analogue; in alchemy we have here the interpenetration of [Symbol: fire] and [Symbol: Water], i.e., [Symbol: Star of David], which is among others the symbol

for the material of the stone. [[Symbol: Fire] and [Symbol:

Water] are the symbols for the elements fire and water. Fire and water, however, mean also the famous two opposites, that are symbolized quite as well by warm and cold, red and white, soul and body, sun and moon, man and woman.] With regard to the six points, in alchemy [Symbol: Star of David] is also called chaos in contrast to [Symbol: Star of David], which denotes cosmos, just as alum [Symbol: circle] on account of its lack of a center (God, belief, union), is incomplete beside [Symbol: sol].





In the catacombs the triangle is found also in multiple [five fold] combination, [Symbol: Star of David].

Four lines, somewhat in the form of a rectangle, define the limited space of the terrestrial world with the accessory meaning

of the holy precinct, house, temple. In masonry, [Symbol:

144 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts square] is well known as the lodge. The rectangle is related to the cube. I mention therefore in this place the cubic stone, the mighty masonic symbol, whose equivalent in alchemy will be discussed.

By a commonly used change of significance the number 5 is symbolized by 5-leaved plants (rose, lily, vine). “The flowers, however, and the garden in which they grow, early served as symbols of the Fields of the Blessed or the ‘better country’ in which dwell the souls passing through death to life; in antithesis to the terrestrial house of God, the temple built with hands, [188] which was represented by the rectangle [Symbol: rectangle], the holy number 5 denoted the celestial abodes of the souls that had attained perfection, and therefore represented both the House of Eternity or the City of God and the Heavenly Jerusalem. The holy pentagram in the form of the rose, not only in the ancient but in the early Christian world, decorated the graves of the dead, that in their turn symbolized the gardens of the blessed.

And the significance that the academies and loggia attributed to the pentagram placed in the rose is explained by the fact that their religious festival was closely connected with this emblem.

Already in the ancient world at the festival of St. John, the rose feast or rhodismus or Rosalia was celebrated, at which the participants adorned themselves with roses and held religious feasts.” (Keller, 1. c., p. 21.) As already mentioned, the cross, i.e., the Greek cross with its four equal arms, expresses the number five. It is interesting that already in the ancient number symbolism, rose and cross appear united, a fact which I mention here in view of the later connection of these two objects.

The semicircle or moon is an emblem of borrowed light.

Besides the circles or spheres, the symbols of eons (divine beings, powers) that are enthroned in the ether as eternal beings, the human soul—the psyche or anima, which does not coincide with reason or the purified soul—appears as a broken circle. As Section IV. Rosicrucianism And Freemasonry. 145 the sun and its symbol, the ragged circle, symbolize the eternal light, the half circle is, as it were, the symbol of that spark of light [189] that slumbers in the soul of man, or, as the alchemists often say, the hidden fire that is to be awakened by the process. If we reflect that in this symbolism the cross expresses a penetration, the alchemic symbol [Symbol: mercury] is explained. It is now quite interesting that the like connection appears in the subterranean places of worship in this form [Symbol: female with concave arc underneath it], (l. c., p. 27). Keller calls it a symbol of the all and the soul of man.

The number 7 (seven planets, etc.) also is of some importance in the old latomies. It is noteworthy besides that sun and moon usually appear as human forms; the sun wears on its head a crown or garland or beaming star, while the moon image is wont to carry the symbol [Symbol: Silver]. Alchemy, too, likes to represent [Symbol: Gold] and [Symbol: Silver] as human, and indeed frequently as crowned figures, sometimes as a royal bridal couple.

The ancient lore of the sacred numbers breathes a spirit that may be embodied in the following words: The soul of man, which through resignation or meekness, as they used to say then, is impelled onward to purity and union with the Eternal, has in itself a higher life, which cannot be annihilated by death. The doctrine of the infinite value of the soul... and of God's entering into the pure soul of man forms the central point of the thought of religious fellowship. Neither for sacrifice, which the state religions practice, nor for the beliefs in demons, by which the masses are controlled, nor for the idea of priesthood as means of salvation, was there a place in this system, and not a trace of such a belief is demonstrable in this religion of wisdom and virtue. (l. [190] c., p. 33.) Besides the early Christian ideal, which recognized and encouraged the connection between the teachings of Christ and the ancient wisdom of platonism, there was in early times another 146 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts which emphasized and endeavored to develop the antithesis more than the connection. From the time when the new Christian state church came to life, and sacrificial religion and the belief in devils and the priesthood were restored, a struggle of life and death developed between the church and the so-called philosophic schools. “The fraternity saw that it had to draw down the mask still further over its face than formerly, and the ‘House of the Eternal,’ the ‘Basilika,’ the ‘Academies,’ and the ‘Museums’ became workshops of stone cutters, latomies, and loggia or innocent guilds, unions, and companies of every variety. But all later greater religious movements and tendencies which maintained the old beliefs, whether they appeared under the names of mysticism, alchemy, natural philosophy, humanism, or special names and disguises, as workshops or societies, have preserved more or less truly the doctrine of the ‘sacred numbers’ and the number symbolism, and found the keys of wisdom and knowledge in the rightly understood doctrine of the eternal harmony of the spheres.” (Keller, l. c., p. 38.) Keller derives modern freemasonry from the academies of the renaissance, which, as we have just heard, continued the spirit of the ancient academies. Now it is interesting that the later [191] branches of these religious societies (after the renaissance) took among others the form of alchemy companies and further that such fraternities or companies [as are not called alchemical], still employed symbols that we recognize as derived from alchemy. The hieroglyphics of alchemy appear to be peculiarly appropriate to the religious and philosophic ideas to be treated of. Rosicrucianism was, however, one of the forms into which alchemy was organized. It is further important that in just those societies of the beginning of the seventeenth century which outsiders called “alchymists” or “rosicrucians,” the characteristic emblems of the old lodge appeared, as, for instance, the circle, the cubic stone, the level, the man facing the right, the sphere, the oblong rectangle (symbol of the Lodge), etc. (Keller, Zur Section IV. Rosicrucianism And Freemasonry. 147 Gesch. d. Bauh., p. 17.) These “alchymists” honored St. John in the same way as can be shown for the companies of the fifteenth century. I need not mention that modern masonry, in its most important form, bears the name of Masons of St. John.

From the beginning of the 17th century attempts were made inside the fraternity, as the company societies working in the same spirit may be called, to bring to more general recognition a suitable name for this company, which could also form a uniting bond for the scattered single organizations. The leaders knew and occasionally said that a respected name for the common interest would be advantageous. This view appears especially in the letters of Comenius. It was then indeed an undecided [192] question what nation should place itself at the head of the great undertaking. (Keller, in the M. H. der C. G., 1895, p. 156.) “As a matter of fact precisely in the years when in Germany the brothers had won the support of powerful princes and the movement received a great impetus, very decided efforts were made both to create larger unions and to adopt a unifying name.

The founding of the Society of the Palmtree [1617] was the result of the earlier effort and the writings of Andreaes on the alleged origin and aims of the rosicrucians are connected with the other need. The battle of the White Mountain and the unfortunate consequences that followed killed both attempts, as it were, in the germ.” (Z. Gesch, d. Bauh., p. 20.) Note by the way that the name of the “Fraternity of the Red Cross” was taken from symbols which were already employed in the societies.

In regard to this it is quite mistaken accuracy to maintain that it was correctly called “Bruderschaft des Rosenkreutz” and not “des Rosenkreutzes,” as the “Handbuch d. Freimaurerei,” p.

259, emends it. Vatter Christian Rosenkreutz is indeed evidently only a composite legendary personage as the bearer of a definite symbolism (Christ, rose, cross), (and may have been devised merely in jest). The name does not come from the personality of the founder but the personality of the founder comes from the 148 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts name. The symbols and expressions that lie at the foundations are the earlier.



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