There is a poem in an old treatise, the “Rosarium Philosophorum”, which speaks of the stone in a very interesting way.
The hermaphrodite appears here in its feminine aspect and is called the Empress, the first lady in the land.
We must keep in mind that the “Empress” is the philosophers’ stone:
“Here is born the rich and noble empress,
One with their daughter, so the masters say,
She multiplies, bears children numberless,
Immortal, pure and without spot are they.
Death and poverty are hated by this queen,
She doth surpass all jewels however rare,
And also silver, gold and physics all,
Nothing on earth that can with her compare,
To God of Heaven’s realm our thanks we call.”
(Then this hermaphrodite begins to speak herself.)
“Oh, might compelling me, naked woman,
For my first body was indeed unblessed,
To be a mother, never I began,
Till I myself was born again afresh. (A)
The strength of every root and herb I won,
And triumphed over every sickness too, (B)
And there it was that first I saw my son,
For we were born together there, the two. (C)
And of my son I pregnant was,
And b ore him on a sterile ground,
I was a mother, yet remained a maid,
They laughed at me for what they found,
That my own son my father was,
For God in truth hath willed it so,
The mother who gave birth to me,
Came as my child to earth below.
We are as one united naturally,
With master ease the mountain swallowed down, (D)
The four came forth, one yet again to be,
In our complete and more than perfect stone. (E)
And six in trinity bethought,
To an essential substance brought. (F)
And who can reach this kind of thought
A power by God Himself is taught,
All sickness can he bring to naught
In human body and retort.
Without God’s help no man may build,
Self-knowledge too must be fulfilled.
A fountain rises from my earth,
And brings two rivers there to birth,
One flows towards the rising sun,
The other where it sets doth run.
Two eagles rise, their feathers burn,
So naked down to earth return,
And yet again are feathered there ,
The sun and moon its subjects were. ” (G)
(A) This refers to the fact that the first form of the “stone”, the so-called prima materia, is a sick and sterile form, “unblessed” as the poem says. This is the corruptible form of the lead, which is discarded when,
as a result of the alchemical opus, she is born again a second time.
(B) All the three evils, death, poverty and sickness, are mentioned here.
(C) She has a son, and this son is herself, and therefore she was born at the same time, and is male and female, mother and son together. “Sie kam mit ihm selbander dar.” She came into the world at the same time that he did.
(D) This needs some elucidation. Mother and daughter, father and son are all to be regarded as one. All these figures are one and the same, a figure which begets itself. The mother is the daughter and her
own mother, the father is the son, who is also the father of the father. And this one being has been devoured by the mountain, taken into the gorge of the earth. This reminds us of “the One” in the “Tabula Smaragdina”, whose “strength is perfect when it has turned towards the earth.”
(E) The indistinguishable One has gone into the earth, the body, the Four are inside the body. You will remember that in the eastern texts we also met the problem of One containing Four. Through meditation, through Yoga, the Four are produced out of the One. In the alchemistic process, this is the stage of the separatio or divisio where the four elements are begotten. Separatio symbolises discrimination. One tries to distinguish the four aspects of the One. Discrimination is an act of consciousness. In the unconscious condition, in the mountain, everything is indistinguishably one. Consciousness is orientated towards the four cardinal points, it functions according to four categories. The four functions, as the four elements , arise from an incomprehensible unity. Unconscious contents, in order to become conscious, must also be discriminated by all the four functions. The four elements are again united and become “the On ” in the philosophers’ stone; the universal soul is liberated, the godhead restored. In meditation, in the stage of the coniunctio in the alchemistic opus, the Four, that is the extension into the world of consciousness, is contracted, and the four elements become One again. The philosophers’ stone, the Self, is being produced.
(F) This six is a doubling of three, which makes a well-known sign: the star of D avid. But this figure is to be understood here in its alchemistic sense, the upper triangle is fire and the lower water, a pair of
opposites. Where fire and water become one, there is a unio oppositorum, which is really an image of God, for God is the union of opposites. Fire is in itself a uniter of opposites and is a very ancient image for God.
(G) The two eagles fly up out of the streams and fall down again naked on to the earth.
The images in this poem are the purest alchemy.
The miraculous substance (as a coincidentia oppositorum, a union of opposites) has the power in itself to heal all illness in the metals, that is to make imperfect metals perfect, and to heal all sicknesses of the human body as well.
So it is a Saviour.
Naturally this can only be produced by the help of God, and this help is only given to the man who knows and sees through himself, only such a man is capable of producing the “stone”.
You will remember the passages from Richard of St. Victor and Hippolytus.
We saw there that the one who knows himself is on the way to God.
The complete consciousness of one’s own being has a transforming effect.
You will now be able to get some idea of what alchemy really means.
“A fountain rises in my earth ” means that it is from my body that a spring gushes forth.
This is an image which we already know from the New Testament, and it is possible that the passage in this poem was directly inspired by it.
This is uncertain, but it suffices to recall that Christ is spoken of there as the well of living water.
He himself is this fountain, or it is from his body that the living water arises. As JUSTIN THE MARTYR said: “As a spring of living mater from God . . . has this Christ bubbled up”
We might, therefore, almost assume that this idea of the alchemists originated in the New Testament – they frequently quote it literally – but we must not forget that the idea of the divine water is much older than the New Testament.
The hydor theion, the divine water, is a basic idea in Greek alchemy; Berthelot translates it as sulphur water, because the word “theion” is also sulphur.
But the old alchemists knew nothing about sulphur, what they called sulphur was an unknown, miraculous thing to them and so it was designated as divine.
Only the man who can see through himself can build this stone.
As to this self-knowledge, this real penetrating knowledge of our own being, do not make the mistake of thinking that it means seeing through the ego.
To understand the ego is child’s play, but to see through the Self is something totally different.
The real difficulty lies in recognising the unknown.
No one need remain ignorant of the fact that he is striving for power, that he wants to become very rich, that he would be a tyrant if he had the chance, that he is pleasure seeking, envious of other people, and so on.
Everyone can know such things of him or herself, because they are mere ego knowledge.
But Self-knowledge is something completely different, it is learning to know of the things which are unknown.
And when someone learns to know of these, he may say of himself that he is a fountain, from which two streams arise; one flows towards the East, where the sun rises, and the other towards the West, where the sun sets.
These are the opposites which we saw in our poem, two contrary streams flow from man and two eagles arise from them.
These are the volatile substances for the alchemist, he calls them spiritus, spiritual potentialities.
They fly up, fall down again, naked, are re-feathered below and fly up yet again.
These are ideas which we also found in the Tabula Smaragdina. ~Carl Jung, Modern Psychology, Alchemy, Pages 69-72.