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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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Section V. The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation. 165 Several particulars suggest the admission of the seeker into a hermetic fraternity, which, as far as I am concerned, might be called rosicrucian. There was also among the cabbalists, as apparently is shown by Reuchlin (De Vero Mirifico), an initiation into a mystery. Fludd (in his Tractatus theologo-philosophicus de vita, morte et resurrectione, Chap. XVI) apostrophizes the [212] rosicrucians: “With open eyes I saw from your brief answer to two men whom you intended, at the exhortation of the Holy Ghost, to choose to your cloister or house, that you possessed the same knowledge of the true mystery and the same keys of knowledge that unlock the Paradise of Joy, as the patriarchs and prophets of holy scripture possess.” And in another place, “Believe that your (the R. C. [Symbol: cross]) palace or abode is situated at the confines of the earthly paradise [locus voluptatis terrestris]....” In our parable it is a paradise of joy [pratum felicitatis] where the wanderer meets the company into which he desires admission. He must undergo examinations like every neophyte. The collegium sapientiae of the parable refers to the rosicrucian Collegium Sancti Spiritus, which is actually named in another passage of the book that contains the parable.

The blood of the lion, which the wanderer gets by cutting him up, refers to the rose-colored blood of the cross that we gain through deep digging and hammering. The wanderer picks roses and puts them in his hat, a mark of honor. The master is generally seen provided with a hat in the old pictures. “Rose garden” (the garden of the parable is quadrangular) was a name applied apparently to alchemistic lodges. The philosophical work itself is compared to the rose; the white rose is the white tincture, the red rose is the red tincture (different degrees of completion that follow the degrees of black). They are plucked in the [213] “alchemistic paradise,” but one must set about it in obedience to nature. Basilius Valentinus in the third of his twelve keys writes of the great magisterium: “So whoever wishes to compare our incombustible sulphur of all the wise men, must first take 166 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts heed for himself, that he look for our sulphur in one who is inwardly incombustible; which cannot occur unless the salt sea has swallowed the corpse and completely cast it up again. Then raise it in its degree, so that it surpass in brilliance all the stars of heaven, and become in its nature as rich in blood, as the pelican when he wounds himself in his breast, so that his young may be well nourished without malady to his body, and can eat of his blood. [The pelican possesses under its bill a great pouch in which he can preserve food, principally fish. If he regurgitates the food out of his crop to feed his young he rests his bill against his breast. That gave rise to the belief that it tore open its breast in order to feed its young with its blood. From early times the pelican is therefore used as a symbol of Christ, who shed his blood for mankind. The alchemists represented the philosopher's stone, the red tincture, as a pelican; for by its projection on the baser metals it sacrificed itself and, as it were, gave its blood to tincture them. The Christian and the hermetic symbolism are concurrent as in higher sense the stone Christ, i.e., the Messiah, is on our hearts.] That is the rose of our master with color of scarlet and red dragon's blood, written of by many, also the purple mantle of the highest commanders in our art, with which [214] the Queen of Salvation is clothed, and by which all the poor metals can be warmed. Keep well this mantle of honor.” It is interesting that dream parallels can support us in both directions on the path of hermetic interpretation. I have in the second section of this volume reported the “dream of the Flying Post.” I must now complete its interpretation. Stekel writes (l.

c, p. 399): “If we examine the birth and uterus phantasies, Mr. X. Z., the dreamer, turns out to be a base criminal. He struggles with conscious murder ideas. He is afraid he may kill his uncle or his mother. He is very pious. But his soul is black as the coal-dust-strewn street. His evil thoughts (the homosexual) pursue him. He enters the mill. It is God's mill that grinds slowly but surely. His weight (his burden of sin) drives the mill.

Section V. The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation. 167 He is expelled. He enters the Flying Post. It is the post that unites heaven and earth. He is to pay, i.e., do penance for his sins. His sins are erotic (three heller = the genitals). His sins and misdeeds stink before heaven (dirty feet). The conductor is death.... The wheel room refers to the wheel of criminals. The water is blood.” The perilous situation in the dream, God's mill, the blackness, the water or blood, which are their analogues, are found in the parable without further reference being necessary.

Especially would I select the unusual detail of the stinking, dirty feet, for which probably no one would see any association in the parable. It is found in the episode of the rotting of the bridal pair [215] in the receptacle. It is expressly stated that the putrefying corpses (i.e., the disintegrating sinful bodies of men in the theosophic work) stink. The opposite is the odor of sanctity. Actually this opposition recurs frequently in hermetic manuals. The conductor in the dream is described hermetically as a messenger of heaven [Symbol: mercury], Hermes, conveyor of souls. His first appearance in the life of man is conscience. This causes our sins, which would be otherwise indifferent, to stink. In alchemy the substances stink on their dissolution in mercurious purifying liquid. Only later does the agreeable fragrance appear.





If we find on the one hand that the parable appears as a hermetic writing, which allows us to develop theosophical principles from its chemical analogues, on the other hand the psychoanalytic interpretation is not thereby shaken. Consequently the question arises for us how it is possible to give several interpretations of a long series of symbols that stand in complete opposition. [If we were concerned with individual symbols merely, the matter would not be at all extraordinary.] Our research has shown that they are possible. The psychoanalytic interpretation brings to view elements of a purposeless and irrational life of impulse, which works out its fury in the phantasies of the parable; and now the analysis of hermetic writings shows us that the parable, like all deep alchemistic books, is an introduction to a mystic religious 168 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts life,—according to the degree of clearness with which the ideas [216] hovered before the author. For just as the psychoanalytically derived meaning of the phantasies does not occur to him, so possibly even the mystical way on which he must travel must have appeared only hazily before him. So no matter what degree of clearness the subjective experience may have had from the author's point of view, we have for the solution of our own problem, to stick to the given object and to the possibilities of interpretation that are so extraordinarily coherent.

The interpretations are really three; the psychoanalytic, which leads us to the depths of the impulsive life; then the vividly contrasting hermetic religious one, which, as it were, leads us up to high ideals and which I shall call shortly the anagogic; and third, the chemical (natural philosophical), which, so to speak, lies midway and, in contrast to the two others, appears ethically indifferent. The third meaning of this work of imagination lies in different relations half way between the psychoanalytic and the anagogic, and can, as alchemistic literature shows, be conceived as the bearer of the anagogic.

The parable may serve as an academic illustration for the entire hermetic (philosophy). The problem of multiple interpretation is quite universal, in the sense namely that one encounters it everywhere where the imagination is creatively active. So our study opens wide fields and art and mythology especially appear to invite us. I will depart as little as possible, however, from [217] the province chosen as an example, i.e., alchemy. But in two fables I shall work out the problem of multiple interpretation.

In the choice of the fables I am influenced by the fact that a psychoanalytic elaboration (Rank's) lies ready to hand, and that both are subjected to an anagogic interpretation by Hitchcock, who wrote the book on alchemy. This enables me to take the matter up briefly because I can simply refer to the detailed treatment in the above mentioned books. The two stories belong to Grimm's collection and are called the Six Swans, and the Three Section V. The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation. 169 Feathers. (K. H. M., Nos. 49 and 63.) Rank (Lohenginsage) connects the story of the six swans and numerous similar stories with the knight of the swan saga. It is shown that the mythical contents of all these narratives have at bottom those elemental forces of the impulse life that we have found in the parable, and that they are specially founded on family conflicts, i.e., on those uncontrolled love and hate motives that come out in their crassest form in the neurotic as his (phantasied) “family romance.” To this family romance belongs, among others, incest in different forms, the illicit love for the mother, the rescuing of the mother from peril, the rescuing of the father, the wish to be the father, etc., phantasies whose meaning is explained in the writings of Freud and Rank (Myth of the Birth of the Hero3 ). According to Hitchcock, on the contrary, the same [218] story tells of a man who in the decline of life falls into error, takes the sin to his heart, but then, counseled by his conscience, seeks his better self and completes the (alchemic-creative) work of the six days. (Hitchcock, Red Book.) It is incontestable that there is, besides the psychoanalytic and anagogic interpretation of this tale (and almost all others), a nature mythological and in the special sense, an astronomical interpretation. Significant indications of this are the seven children and the seven years, the sewing of clothes made of star flowers, the lack of an arm as in the case of Marduk, and the corresponding heroes of astral myths, and many others. One of the seven is particularly distinguished like the sun among the so-called planets. The ethically indifferent meaning of the tale alongside of the psychoanalytic and the anagogic corresponds to the chemical contents of the hermetic writings. As object of the indifferent meaning there always stands the natural science content of the spirit's creation. There is generally a certain relationship between the astronomical and the alchemistic Nervous and Mental Disease Monograph Series. Tr. by Jelliffe.

170 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts meanings. It is now well known that alchemy was influenced by astrology, that the seven metals correspond to the seven planets, that, as the sun is distinguished among the planets, so is gold among the metals; and as in astrology combustion takes place in heaven, so it occurs also in the alembic of the alchemists. And the fact that the sun maiden at the end of the story releases her six planet brothers, sounds exactly as when the tincturing power [219] of gold at the end of six days perfects the six imperfect metals and makes the ill, well.

In the second story I will emphasize to a somewhat greater degree the opposition of the two contrasting interpretations (psychoanalytic and anagogic), as I must return to it again. The story is suited to a detailed treatment on account of its brevity. I will first present it.

There was once a king who had three sons, two of whom were clever and shrewd, but the third did not talk much, was simple and was merely called the Simpleton. When the king grew old and feeble and expected his end, he did not know which one of his sons should inherit the kingdom after him. So he said to them, “Go forth, and whoever brings me the finest carpet shall be king after my death.” And lest there be any disagreement among them, he led them before his castle, blew three feathers into the air, and said: “As they fly, so shall you go.” One flew towards the east, the other towards the west, the third, however, flew straight ahead, but flying only a short distance soon fell to earth.

Now one brother went to the right, the other went to the left, and they laughed at Simpleton, who had to stay with the third feather where it had fallen.

Simpleton sat down and was sad. Suddenly he noticed that near the feather lay a trap door. He raised it, found a stairway, and went down. Then he came before another door, knocked and

listened, while inside a voice called:

[220]

–  –  –

Shrunken old crone, Old crone's little dog, Crone here and there, Let us see quickly who is out there.” The door opened and he saw a big fat toad and round about her a crowd of little toads. The fat toad asked what his wish was.

He answered, “I should have liked the most beautiful and finest

carpet.” Then she called a young one and said:

“Maiden green and small, Shrunken old crone, Crone's little dog, Crone here and there, Fetch here the big box.” The young toad brought the box and the fat toad opened it and gave Simpleton a carpet from it, so beautiful and so fine as up above on the earth could not have been woven. Then he thanked her and climbed up again.

The two others had, however, considered their youngest brother so weak-minded that they believed that he would not find and bring anything back. “Why should we take so much trouble,” said they, and took from the back of the first shepherd's wife that met them her coarse shawl and carried it home to the king. At the same time Simpleton returned and brought his beautiful carpet, and when the king saw it he was astonished and said: “If justice must be done, the kingdom belongs to the youngest.” [221] But the two others gave their father no peace, and said that it was impossible that Simpleton, who lacked understanding in all things, could be a king, and begged him to make a new condition.



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