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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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Then the father said, “The one that brings me the most beautiful ring shall be king,” led the three brothers out and blew three feathers into the air for them to follow. The two oldest again went east and west, and Simpleton's feather flew straight ahead 172 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts and fell down near the door in the earth. So he went down again to the fat toad and told her that he needed the most beautiful ring. She immediately had her big box fetched and from it gave him a ring that glittered with jewels and was more beautiful than any goldsmith upon the earth could have made. The two eldest laughed about Simpleton, who was going to look for a gold ring, but they took no trouble, and knocked the pin out of an old wagon ring and brought the ring to the king. But when Simpleton showed his gold ring the father again said, “The kingdom belongs to him.” The two eldest did not cease importuning the king till he made a third condition and declared that the kingdom should go to the one that brought home the fairest woman. Again he blew the three feathers into the air and they flew as before.

So Simpleton without more ado went down to the fat toad and said, “I have to take home the fairest woman.” “The fairest woman, hey? She is not right here, but none the less you shall have her.” She gave him a hollowed out carrot to which were harnessed six little mice. Then Simpleton sadly said, “What [222] shall I do with it?” The toad replied, “Just put one of my little toads in it.” So he took one by chance from the circle and put it in the yellow carriage, but hardly had she taken her seat when she became a surpassingly beautiful maiden, the carrot a coach, and the six little mice, horses. So he kissed the maiden, drove away with the horses and took them to the king. His brothers came afterwards. They had not taken any trouble to find a fair lady but had brought the first good looking peasant woman. As the king looked at them he said, “The youngest gets the kingdom after my death.” But the two oldest deafened the king's ears with their outcry: “We cannot allow the Simpleton to be king,” and gained his consent that the one whose woman should jump through a ring that hung in the middle of the room should have the preference. They thought, “The peasant women can do it easily, they are strong enough, but the delicate miss will jump herself to death.” The old king consented to this also. So the two Section V. The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation. 173 peasant women jumped, even jumped through the ring, but were so clumsy that they fell and broke their awkward arms and legs.

Then the beautiful woman whom Simpleton had brought leaped through as easily as a roe, and all opposition had to cease. So he received the crown and ruled long and wisely.

I offer first a neat psychoanalytic interpretation of this narrative. Like the dream, the fairy tale is regularly a phantastic fulfillment of wishes, and, of such indeed, as we realize, but [223] which life does not satisfy, as well as of such as we are hardly aware of in consciousness, and would not entertain if we knew them clearly. Reality denies much, especially to the weak, or to those who feel themselves weak, or who have a smaller capacity for work in the struggle for existence in relation to their fellow men. The efficient person accomplishes in his life what he wishes, the wishes of the weak remain unfulfilled, and for this reason the weak, or whoever in comparison with the magnitude of his desires, thinks himself weak, avails himself of the phantastic wish fulfillment. He desires to attain the unattainable at least in imagination. This is the psychological reason why so many fairy stories are composed from the standpoint of the weak, so that the experiencing Ego of the fairy tale, the hero, is a simpleton, the smallest or the weakest or the youngest one who is oppressed, etc.

The hero of the foregoing tale is a simpleton and the youngest.

In his phantasy, that is, in the story, he stamps his brothers, who are in real life more efficient, and whom he envies, as malicious, disagreeable characters. (In real life we can generally observe how suspicious are, for instance, physically deformed people. Their sensitiveness is well known.) Like the fox to whom the grapes are sour, he declares that what his stronger fellows accomplish is bad, their performance of their duty defective, and their aims contemptible, especially in the sexual sphere, where he feels himself openly most injured. The tale treats specifically [224] from the outset the conquest of a woman. The carpet, the ring, are female symbols, the first is the body of the woman, the ring is the 174 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts vagina (Greek kteis = comb = pudenda muliebria). (The carpet is still more specifically marked as a female symbol in that the brothers take it from the body of a shepherdess. Shepherdess—a coarse “rag”—coarse “cloth”—in contrast to the fine carpet of the hero.) The simpleton is one who does not like much work. When he also ascribes negligence to his brothers he betrays to us his own nature, in that his “feather,” i.e., himself, does not go far, while his brothers' feathers go some distance. In order to invalidate this view of himself the distribution of the feathers is put off on chance, as if to a higher determining power. This has always been a favorite excuse with lazy and inefficient people.





One of the means of consoling himself for the unattainableness of his wishes is the belief in miracles. (Cf. my work on Phantasy and Mythos.) The simpleton gains his advantage in a miraculous manner; roasted pigeons fly into his mouth.

In his erotic enterprises he sticks to his own immediate neighborhood. He clearly bears within himself an Imago that holds him fast. [This is an image, withdrawn from consciousness and consequently indestructible, of the object of one's earliest passion, which continues to operate as a strongly affective complex, and takes hold upon life with a formative effect. The most powerful Imagos are those of the parents. Here naturally the mother imago comes to view, which later takes a position in [225] the center of the love life (namely the choice of object).] Whither does he turn for his journey of conquest? Into the earth. The earth is the mother as a familiar symbol language teaches us.

Trap door, box, subterranean holes, suggest a womb phantasy.

The toad frequently appears with the significance of the uterus, harmonizing with the situation that the tale presents. (On the contrary frog is usually penis.) The toad's big box (= mother) is also the womb. From it indeed the female symbols, in this connection, sisters, are produced for the simpleton. The box is, however, also the domestic cupboard,—food closet, parcel, Section V. The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation. 175 bandbox, chamber, bowl, etc.,—from which the good mother hands out tasty gifts, toys, etc. Just as the father in childish phantasy can do anything, so the mother has a box out of which she takes all kinds of good gifts for the children. Down among the toads an ideal family episode is enacted. The mother's inexhaustible box (with the double meaning) even delivers the desired woman for the simpleton.

The woman—for whom? Doubtless for the simpleton, psychologically. The tale says for the king, because the female symbols, carpet, ring, the king desires for himself, in so many words, and the inference is that the woman also belongs to him. The conclusion of the tale, however, turns out true to the psychological situation, as it does away with the king and lets the simpleton live on, apparently with the same woman. It is clear as day that the simpleton identifies himself with his father, [226] places himself in his place. The image, which possesses him from the first is the father's woman, the mother. And the father's death—that is considerately ignored—which brings queen and crown, is a wish of the simpleton. So again we find ourselves at the center of the Œdipus complex. As mother-substitute figures the sister, one of the little toads.

We have regarded the story first from the point of view of the inefficiency of the hero, and have thereupon stumbled upon erotic relations, finally upon the Œdipus complex. The psychological connection results from the fact that those images on which the Œdipus complex is constructed appear calculated to produce an inefficiency in the erotic life.

The anagogic interpretation of Hitchcock (l. c., pp. 175 ff.) is

as follows, though somewhat abridged:

The king plainly means man. He has three sons; he is an image of the Trinity, which in the sense of our presentation we shall think of as body, soul and spirit. Two of the sons were wise in the worldly sense, but the third, who represents spirit and in the primitive form, is called conscience, is simple in order to typify 176 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts the straight and narrow path of truth. The spirit leads in sacred silence those who meekly follow it and dies in a mystical sense if it is denied, or else appears in other forms in order to pursue the soul with the ghosts of murdered virtues. Man is, as it were, in doubt concerning the principle to which the highest leadership in life is due. “Go forth and whoever brings me the finest [227] carpet shall be king after my death.” The carpet is something on which one walks or stands, here representing the best way of life according to Isaiah XXX, 21. “This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.” The three feathers are, of course, the three principles. Two of them move at once in opposite directions [towards the east and towards the west, as many writers on alchemy represent the two principles or breaths, anima and corpus or [Symbol: Gold] and [Symbol: Silver]] and so come even at the outset away from the right path. The third, symbol of the spirit, flies straight forward and has not far to its end, for simple is the way to the inner life.

And so the spirit will speak to us if we follow its voice, at first quite a faint voice: “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart that thou mayst do it.” (Deuteronomy XXX, 14.) Yet the soul is not free from sadness, as the man stands still on the lower steps of the ladder that leads up into eternal life. Simpleton is troubled in his heart and in the humility of this affliction he discovers “all at once” a secret door, which shows him the entrance into the mystical life. The door is on the surface of the earth, in abasement, as the third feather determined it in advance. As Simpleton discreetly obeyed it, he strolled along the path that the door opened for him. Three steps, three fundamental forces. So Christ had to descend before he could rise. The hero of the story knocks as Christ knocks in the gospel (i.e., on the inner door, contrasted with the law of Moses, the [228] outer door). The big toad with her little ones in a circle about her signifies the great mother nature and her creatures, which surround her in a circle; in a circle, for nature always returns Section V. The Problem Of Multiple Interpretation. 177 upon herself in a cycle. Simpleton gets the most beautiful carpet.

The other two beings that we call understanding and feelings (sun and moon of the hermetic writings) look without, instead of seeking the way within; so it comes to pass that they take the first best coarse cloths.

To bring the most beautiful ring is to bring truth, which like a ring has neither beginning nor end. Understanding and feeling go in different directions, the simpleton waits meekly by the door that leads to the interior of the great mother. [The appearance of this conception in the anagogic interpretation is also important.] In the third test, the search for “the fairest woman,” the crown of life, conceived exoterically as well as esoterically, the carrot represents the vegetative life (body, the natural man), and the six mice that draw it are our old friends the six swans or virtues, and the highest of these compassion—or love—goes as the enthroned queen in the carriage. The uninitiated man is almost in doubt and asks, “What shall I do with a carrot?” Yet the great mother replies, as it were, “Take one of my fundamental forces.” And what do we see then? The toad becomes a beautiful maiden, etc.

The man now all at once realizes how fearfully and wonderfully [229] he is made. Filled with reverence of himself he is ready to cry, “Not my will but thine be done.” Still another test remains. We must all go through a sort of mystical ring, which hangs in the hall (of learning). Only one in the whole universe is in a condition to accomplish it, to endure it without injury. The beautiful delicate maid with the miraculous gift is the spirit [spiritus or [Symbol: Mercury] of alchemy].

We shall add that the two interpretations externally contradict each other, although each exhibits a faultless finality. I should note that I have limited myself to the briefest exposition; in a further working out of the analysis the two expositions can be much more closely identified with the motives of the story.

First, then, the question arises, how one and the same series of images can harmonize several mutually exclusive interpretations 178 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts (problem of multiple interpretation); yet we have discovered in the parable three practically equivalent schemes of interpretation, the psychoanalytic, the chemical (scientific), and the anagogic.

Secondly, the question presents itself more particularly how can two so antithetic meanings as the psychoanalytic and the anagogic exist side by side.

–  –  –

Introversion And Regeneration.

A. Introversion And Intro-Determination.

The multiple interpretation of works of fantasy has become our problem, and the diametrical opposition of the psychoanalytic and the anagogic interpretation has particularly struck us. The question now apparently becomes more complicated if I show that the psychoanalytic interpretation contains an analogue that we must take into consideration. The analogue is presented by the remarkable coexistence of symbolism of material and functional categories in the same work of imagination. In order to make myself intelligible, I must first of all explain what these categories are.



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