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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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Bata's heart later in the story is changed into a blossom of an acacia or a cedar. [I naturally lay no stress on the accident that the acacia occurs here. The point is that the tree is a symbol of life.] Bata is reconciled with Inpw and at parting relates to him that a mug of beer is to serve as a symbol of how the brother fares, who is dwelling afar off. If the beer foams he is in danger. Bata's wife has the acacia tree, on which Bata's heart is a blossom, felled, and as a result Bata dies. By means of the mug Inpw learns of [202] Bata's peril and departs to look for his younger brother. Inpw finds the fallen acacia and on it a berry that is the heart of his brother transformed. Bata comes to life again and transforms himself into an ox. His wife has the ox butchered on the pretext of wishing to eat its liver. Two drops of blood fall from the cut throat of the ox upon the ground and are changed into two peach trees. Bata's wife has the two peach trees felled. A chip flies into her mouth. She swallows it and becomes pregnant by it. The child that she bears is the reincarnated Bata. He therefore lives again in his son as the child of a widow.

The second fragment of the Physica et Mystica of Pseudo Democritus, that Berthelot cites (Orig., p. 151) relates that the master died without having initiated Democritus into the secrets of knowledge. Democritus conjured him up out of the underworld. The spirit cried: “So that is the reward I get for what I have done for thee.” To the questions of Democritus he answered, “The books are in the temple.” They were not found.

Some time thereafter, on the occasion of a festival, they saw a column crack open, and in the opening they found the books of the master, which contained three mystic axioms: “Nature pleases herself in Nature; Nature triumphs over Nature; Nature Section IV. Rosicrucianism And Freemasonry. 159 governs Nature.” The quotations show, to be sure, only superficially the interrelation of alchemy and freemasonry. The actual affinity [203] lying behind the symbolism, which, moreover, our examination of the hermetic art has already foreshadowed, will be treated later.

We could also posit a psychological interrelation in the form of an “etiological assumption” according to the terminology of psychoanalysis. It would explain the temporary fusion of alchemistic rosicrucianism with freemasonry. The rosicrucian frenzy would never have occurred—so much I will say—in masonry, if there had been no trend that way. Some emotional cause must have existed for the phenomenon, and as the specter of rosicrucianism stalked especially on the masonic stage, and indeed was dangerous to it alone, this etiological assumption must be such as to furnish an effective factor in masonry itself, only in more discreet and wholesome form. In masonry psychological elements have played a part which if improperly managed might degenerate, as indeed they did when gold- and rose-crossism was grafted on masonry. It appears to me too superficial to explain the movement merely from the external connection of rosicrucianism and the masonic system. Although the observation is quite just, it does not touch the kernel of the matter, the impulse, which only psychology can lay bare. Freemasonry must have felt some affinity with rosicrucianism, something related at the psychical basis of the mode of expression (symbolism, ritual) of both. Only the modes of expression of rosicrucianism are evidently more far reaching or more dangerous in the sense that they (the leadership of loose companions always presupposed) could sooner incite [204] weaker characters to a perverted idea and practice of it.

That rosicrucianism in its better aspect is identical with the higher alchemy, can no longer be doubted by any one after the material here offered. The common psychological element is shown when, as will be done in later parts of this book, we 160 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts go into the deeper common basis of alchemy and freemasonry.

Then first will the sought-for “etiological assumption” attain to its desired clearness. But already this much may be clear: that we have in both domains, structures with a religious content, even though from time to time names are used which will veil these facts. I add now in anticipation a statement whose clear summing up has been reserved for psychoanalysis, namely that the object of religious worship is regularly to be regarded as a symbol of the libido, that psychologic goddess who rules the desires of mankind—and whose prime minister is Eros. [Libido is desire or the tendency toward desire, as it controls our impulsive life.

In medical language used mainly for sexual desire, the concept of libido is extended in psychoanalysis (namely by C. G. Jung) to the impelling power of psychic phenomena in general. Libido would therefore be the inner view of what must in objective description be called “psychic energy.” How it could be given this extension of meaning is seen when we know the possibilities of its transformation and sublimation, a matter which will be treated later.] Now if the libido symbol raised up for an ideal is placed too nakedly before the seeker, the danger of misunderstanding [205] and perversion is always present. For he is misled by his instincts to take the symbol verbally, that is, in its original, baser sense and to act accordingly. So all religions are degenerate in which one chooses as a libido symbol the unconcealed sexual act, and therefore also a religion must degenerate, in which gold, this object of inordinate desire, is used as a symbol.





What impels the seeker, that is, the man who actually deserves the name, in masonry and in alchemy, is clearly manifested as a certain dissatisfaction. The seeker is not satisfied with what he actually learns in the degrees, he expects more, wants to have more exhaustive information, wants to know when the “real” will be finally shown. Complaint is made, for example, of the narrowness of the meaning of the degrees of fellowship. Much more important than the objective meaning of any degree is the Section IV. Rosicrucianism And Freemasonry. 161 subjective wealth of the thing to be promoted. The less this is, the less will he “find” even in the degrees, and the less satisfied will he be, in case he succeeds in attaining anything at all. To act here in a compensating way is naturally the task of the persons that induce him. But it is the before mentioned dissatisfaction, too, which causes one to expect wonderful arts from the superiors of the higher degrees; an expectation that gives a fine opportunity for exploitation by swindlers who, of course, have not been lacking in the province of alchemy, exactly as later at a more critical time, in the high degree masonry. Who can exactly [206] determine how great a part may have been played by avarice, ambition, vanity, curiosity, and finally by a not unpraiseworthy emotional hunger?

The speculators who fished in the muddy waters of late rosicrucianism put many desirable things as bait on the hook;

as power over the world of spirits, penetration into the most recondite parts of nature's teachings, honor, riches, health, longevity. In one was aroused the hope of one of these aims, in another of another. The belief in gold making was, as already mentioned, still alive at that period. But it was not only the continuance of this conviction that caused belief in the alchemistic secrets of the high degrees, but, as for instance, B.

Kopp shows (Alch. II, p. 13) it was a certain metaphysical need of the time.

It will have been noticed that with all recognition of its abuses I grant to rosicrucianism, as it deserves, even its later forms, an ideal side. To deny it were to falsify its true likeness. Only the important difference must be noted between an idea and its advocates alchemy and the alchemists, rosicrucianism and the rosicrucians. There are worthy and unworthy advocates;

among the alchemists they are called the adepts or masters and the sloppers and sloppy workers. Since in our research we are concerned with the hermetic science itself, not merely with the misdirections undertaken in its name, we should not let ourselves 162 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts be involved in these. And as for us the spiritual result (alchemy, [207] rosicrucian thoughts, masonic symbolism, etc.) is primarily to be regarded and not the single persons advocating it, the question is idle as to whether the earliest rosicrucians had an organized union or not. It is enough that the rosicrucians are created in the imagination, that this imagination is fostered and that people live it out and make it real. It amounts to the same thing for us, whether there were “so-called” or “real” rosicrucians; the substance of their teaching lives and this substance, which is evident in literature, was what I referred to when I said that rosicrucianism is identical with higher alchemy or the hermetic or the royal art. But I think the comparison holds true for the gold and rose-cross societies also, for the spiritual scope of this new edition is the same as that of the old order, except that, as in the fate of all subtile things, it was misunderstood by the majority. There were not lacking attempts to dissuade people from their errors. In the rosicrucian notes to the “Kompass der Weisen” (edition of 1782), e.g., “Moreover the object of our guiltless guild is not the making of gold.... Rather we remove the erroneous opinion from them [the disciples] in so far as they are infected with it, even on the first step of the temple of wisdom.

They are earnestly enjoined against these errors and that they must seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Also through all kinds of reforms we seek to set the wayfarer on the right path that leads to the original ideal. It appears that the [208] alchemistic preparation of the “work” is available only for the smallest circles. The multitude is blinded.

“Where do the Scottish masters stay?” “Quite near the sun.” “Why?” “Because they can stand it.”

–  –  –

The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation.

After what has been said it is clear that the Parable contains instruction in the sense of the higher alchemy. Whoever has attentively read this 4th chapter will certainly be in a position to understand the parable, in large part, in a hermetic sense. I do not wish to develop this interpretation now, for to a certain extent it develops itself without further effort, and what goes beyond that can be treated only in the second part of this volume. I shall limit myself now to a few suggestions.

In regard to the external setting of the parable as a piece of rosicrucian literature, we must remember that it was published in 1788, the time of the later gold- and rose-cross societies, and in a book whose theosophic and religious character is seen in all the figures contained in it as well as in the greater part of the text.

It is continually reiterated that gold is not common gold but our gold, that the stone is a spiritual stone (Jesus Christ), etc. The creation of the world, the religious duty of mankind, the mystic path to the experiencing of divinity—all is represented in detailed pictures with predominantly chemical symbolism. This higher conception of alchemy, that corresponds throughout to the ideal [210] of the so-called old or true rosicrucian, does not prevent the editor from believing in the possibility of miraculous gifts which are to be gained through the hermetic art. Many parts of the book make us suspect a certain naïveté that may go several degrees beyond the simplicity required for religious development.

As for the origin of the parable there are two possibilities.

Either the editor is himself the author and as such retires into the background, while he acts as collector of old rosicrucian manuscripts, that he now in publishing, discloses to amateurs in 164 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts the art, or the editor is merely editor. In either case the obligation remains to interpret the parable hermetically. The educational purpose of the editor is established. If he is himself the author, he himself has clothed his teachings in the images of the parable. If, on the contrary, the author is some one else (either a contemporary and so [Symbol: sun] R. C. [Symbol: cross], or an old hermetic philosopher, Fr. R. C.), the editor has found in the piece edited by him a subject suitable to his purpose, a material that voices his doctrines. We can evidently also rest satisfied, in order to evade the question of authorship, that the writing itself gets its own character from the hermetic interpretations, and shows in detail its correspondingly theosophic material. Nevertheless I desire to show the directing hand of the collector and editor.

Several controlling elements pointing toward a hermetic theosophic interpretation, which the reader probably looks for [211] in the parable, may be shown if I mention the ethical purposes that here and there emerge in our psychoanalytic interpretation of the parable. I might remind the reader that the wanderer is a killer of dragons like St. George; the holy Mary is represented standing over a dragon; also under the Buddha enthroned upon a lotus flower, there curls not infrequently a vanquished dragon;

etc. I might mention the religious symbolism of the narrow path that leads to the true life. Many occurrences in the parable are to be conceived as trials, and we can see the wanderer overcome the elemental world (Nature triumphs over Nature), wherein he is proved by all four elements and comes off victorious from all tests. The fight with the lion in the den can be regarded as a world test, the walk on the cloud capped wall (like the flying up in the vessel) as an air test, the mill episode (and the flood in the vessel) as a water ordeal, and the stay in the heated vessel as a fire ordeal. The old miller is God, the ten mill wheels are the ten commandments, and likewise the ten Sephiroth that create the whole world. We are also reminded of the Ophanim (wheels, a class of angels).



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