Lecture XII 7th February, 1941
We stopped last time in the middle of a sequence of quotations from the “Allegoriae Sapientum”.
We come now to the third of these four sentences:
“Item. The mountain with the sanctuary exclaims:
‘I am the black of the white and the white of the black’.”
You will remember that we have often spoken of the symbol of the mountain.
We met the world mountain, Mount Meru, in the Tibetan text, “Shri Chakra Sambhara Tantra”, and understood it as a symbol for the Self of the Yogin, who is transformed into Buddha in the course of
the meditation, and who then sits as Buddha in the sanctuary on the summit of Mount Meru.
The idea here is very similar, this mountain also has a sanctuary on it: but in this text the mountain is personified: “it exclaims” (in Latin “clamat”), it is so to speak an animated being.
We also met the mountain as a symbol of the Self in Richard of St. Victor.
You remember he says: “The complete knowledge of the reasonable mind is a great and high mountain”, and: “Dost thou desire to see Christ in transfiguration?
Ascend the mountain, learn to know thyself. “HONORIUS OF AUTUN, a celebrated savant of about the same date (he died in 1152) , says: “The mountains are patriarchs and prophets, who tower
above human merits, through the sacred transformation of their life, as mountains tower above the plain.”
He adds that the mountains are also angels.
We find a kind of personification of mountains in this passage also.
SHRI RAMANA MAHARSHI makes use of the same symbol in a hymn.
He is still living and is one of the greatest and wisest of the Indian Yogins.
He lives in the south of India at a place called Tiruvannamalai.
There is an old temple there, with a mountain in the immediate neighbourhood called Arunachala.
Chala means mountain and aruna red (red of the morning.) – the mountain of the dawn.
He lives, as is the custom in India, in a sort of hermitage with his pupils and wrote a hymn to this mountain, which is intimately connected with his religious experience.
There is an excellent German translation by Prof. H. Zimmer, from which I will read you some passages.
Prof Zimmer intends publishing a book on this Shri Ramana Maharshi.
The “eight verses” on the Mountain of the Dawn (Arunachala), God and the Self:
“Hearken ! It stands there motionless as a mountain. Its effect is mysterious , beyond human understanding.
I have realised since I was a child that the mountain of the Dawn was incomparable in majesty, but when someone told me that it was the same as Tiruvannamalai, I did not understand what that meant.”
(He refers here to the temple.)
“As it drew me to it and filled my soul with peace, I came close to it and saw: it stands unmoved.
‘Who is the one that sees’? – it was thus that I enquired within myself, and I observed that the one who saw vanished and what then remained. No impulse rose in me that said: ‘I saw’, – how could the thought arise: ‘I have not seen’? Who has the power to express in words, what thou in the olden days couldst express silently with thy gracious form? Thou standest there as a mountain, radiating from heaven to earth, only that thou mayest silently reveal thy supernatural being. When I come near to thee, and contemplate thee as a created being, thou standest as a mountain on the earth. But when someone searches with his mind for thy true form, which is without form, he is like one who wanders over the earth and looks towards the omnipresent sky. To remain motionless in thy boundless being, means to lose oneself, as a sugar doll loses itself when it falls into the sea of sweetness: it dissolves in it. When I experience what I really am – how is my being different from Thee, in that thou restest as the soaring Mountain of the Dawn? He who goeth out to search for God, and does not know of thee as existence and pure intensity, resembles one who goes out with a lamp in order to search for the darkness. Only that thou mightest give thyself to be recognised as existence and pure intensity, dost thou dwell under many names and forms in many faiths. And if men still do not attain knowing thee, they are as the blind who do not see the sun. 0 great Mountain of the Dawn, jewel without equal, dwell in me and shine as myself; thou one, beside whom no second is real. Thou permeatest all beings and revelations, thou art like the cord on which the jewels are strung. As a jewel is cut and polished, so the impure mind longs to be refined on the polishing wheel of the pure mind, in order to lose its spots; then it receives the light of thy grace and gleams like a ruby, whose fire no outer thing can harm. 0 gracious and blinding Mountain of the Dawn – is there anything besides thee? Thou art Thyself: the One Being, always aware as the heart, shining in its own light. There is a mysterious force in thee, outside thee it is nonexistent. It is from it that the ghostly apparitions of the mind steal out, like a mysterious, subtle, dark fog; and it is the light of thy perceptive being which shines on them and illuminates them, catching their mirroring surfaces and reflecting them. It is thus that they appear inwardly as images, whirling round each other in the swirling hurrying Karma, it is thus that they develop into psychical realities, and are carried outward into the external world as outer reality: then are they enlarged by the outward going senses, and move like the pictures of a passing film. Visible or invisible, 0 mountain of grace, they are nothing without thee. Is no ego impulse present, then no other impulse is present. If other impulses arise, then ask: To whom do they come? – and the answer is ‘To me’ – But when a man ceases not to ask: ‘where does the ego come from’? and, diving inwards, attains the dwellings of the mind, the heart, that man will become the highest ruler sitting in the shade of the only parasol of royal size. 0 shoreless sea of grace and light, called ‘Mountain of the Dawn’, thou dancest motionless in the court of my heart! In that place there is no more dream and no more waking, nor is there any other twofold thing, no inner and outer, no right and wrong, no birth and death, no joy and sorrow, nor is there any light and darkness.”
There is the same union of the opposites in this last sentence that we found in the passage from the Allegoriae: “I am the black of the white and the white of the black.”
We shall not be mistaken if we assume that this sentence refers to the thing which these old writers called the “lapis philosophorum” (the philosophers’ stone) , which was far more meaningful to them than
anything we can possibly understand by stone; it was in fact the mountain which symbolises the Self.
We come now to the last “Item” sentence in our sequence:
“Item. Take up the wisdom in thee, with all thy strength, and thou wilt draw eternal life from it, till thy mind is established and thy sloth has left thee ; then at last life arises. He who drinks of this thing publicly,
dies, but he who drinks the earth, lives.”
Drinking this thing is drinking this mystery.
This passage is very central in several respects.
Life first arises when the spirit is established, when it has become firm.
The verb “congelare” is used, congeals, becomes firm, freezes.
This is a “terminus technicus” in alchemy, the alchemist endeavours to establish, make firm or congeal, the volatile, that is, the spiritual, and, on the other hand, to make solid substances volatile or fluid.
This establishing or making the spirit firm is a sort of process of crystallisation.
The lapis is really a volatile or spiritual substance, a “spiritus” which has become firm, which has taken on an eternal, unchangeable form.
What this means practically is a question which we will not go into at present.
“He who drinks of this thing publicly dies.”
You will remember I read you a similar passage from the same treatise in the last lecture: “He who drinks the remedy outwardly dies.”
“Publicly” apparently means outwardly.
To drink it outwardly, before the public, is harmful, but “he who drinks the earth lives.”
The earth, in the alchemistic sense, means the body and in a double sense: chemical bodies (substances), minerals etc., and the human body.
There are many passages where it is impossible to make out which of the two is meant; this is intentionalin some cases, one is not meant to understand.
At any rate we shall not be mistaken in this passage if we take “terra” (earth) as “corpus” (body) , and then the English language is rather at a disadvantage in this respect.
The German word “Korper” is more widely used for substances than the English word “body”.
It would mean: He who drinks the body, takes over the life or essence of the body.
You have heard on several occasions that the alchemists laid great stress on the material substances and on animated bodies.
If my interpretation is correct, we have here a reason why the alchemists were right to veil their secrets.
This idea stands opposed to the attitude of Christianity in those days, which held that the body only existed in order to be mortified.
So we could assume, that this was at any rate one of the reasons why the alchemists used such mysterious language.
Our next passage comes from the sixteenth century.
A Dutch alchemist, THEOBALDUS DE HOGHELANDE, wrote a very interesting treatise in which he says of alchemistic philosophy:
“Nothing more marvellous and sublime has been given to man, except the divine word.”
And in other passage:
“Who bends his back over books in order to study them, and begs God, like Solomon, for wisdom and not for riches, that man will unceasingly rule in his (or the) kingdom till his death.”
Here again study is emphasised, investigation through books.
One should ask God for enlightenment, for wisdom, and one should not ask for riches, not for ordinary gold.
It is said of the man, who acts in this way, that he “inregno regnabit”, which can be he reigns in his or in the kingdom.
In other words, presumably the man who follows these observances faithfully is initiated, and thus, through the meditation, is raised to the rank of a king.
This is the mystic elevation in rank which we find in the old mystery cults, in the Isis mysteries, for instance, as they are described by Apuleius.
We come now to some quotations from a German doctor, GERARDUS DORNEUS, who practised in Frankfurt, also in the sixteenth century.
He says of alchemy:
“It is truly a Herculean labour, transcending man’s mind, body and age, and it is only to one in millions that the victory is given.”
Dorneus says in another place:
“Reason and mind can be brought to the fullest perfection of the world through this art. It is a metaphysical work.”
The Latin is “ad extremam huius mundi perfectionem.”
The surprising word is “mundi” (of the world) .
One would expect the purpose of this art to be leading the people who practice it to their own highest perfection.
But that is not mentioned, it is the perfecting of the world.
This gives us an important hint about the mysterious nature of the alchemistic opus.
In spite of the fact that it is performed by man and in man, yet it is not for man, in the sense that it does not perfect or complete the alchemist himself.
The goal is perfecting the world.
This means: they endeavoured to produce a substance which would give the world the possibility of reaching an optimum of existence.
They tried, so to speak, to crown the whole of creation.
The panacea, the medicina catholica, is not only intended to heal plants, animals and men, but also to ennoble all bad and base substances; everything which nature has left incomplete should be transformed into the most perfect state imaginable.
This is undoubtedly a highly ambitious claim, it is difficult to imagine such a possibility at all.
But it is a metaphysical opus, which is not really performed on the level of this world, but mysteriously in the Beyond.
It is this metaphysical work which the passage refers to, but we will not go any further into it at present, you will hear more about it later.
Dorneus says further:
“That with which we are concerned is not God, the creature is the image of the human mind, neither alive nor dead.”
He speaks as if someone had said it was God that he was trying to produce; but he denies this.
The alchemistic art is divine but it is not God, it is “creatura est animi hominis imago nee viva nee mortua”.
And it is through this, that the miraculous effect happens.
It is evidently this “creatura ” which is created by the alchemists, let us say the “lapis philosophorum”.
Dorneus uses the word “imago”, an image of the human mind or spirit, and says further that it is “neither living nor dead”.
This is a thoroughly supernatural image of man; for an image is dead, or else alive, but it cannot be both at once, unless it is supernatural.
So here again we have a union of the opposites, like the mountain in the “Allegoriae Sapien tum”, there black and white, here living and dead; a union of life and death, a “nonexisting existence” as the Indians would call it.
This is a passage, where you can see for yourselves, that ideas, which are in full bloom in the East, are also to be found in medieval meditations, ideas which touch the foundation and origin of our existence.
Here they are applied to the “creatura” which the alchemist produces in his retort.
So apparently he is trying to catch an image of the human mind in the retort.
He must surely have a suspicion somewhere that it is a matter of his own- mind, that what he sees happening in the retort is also happening in him, he must intuit that the process is a projection?
But even if the alchemist suspects a projection – and the term has even been used – the projection is still an absolutely concrete and real thing in itself, according to the idea that if we assume something it will really happen.
These are magic notions, which are based on the belief in the almighty power of thought.
In Tibet this art is actually practised through such meditation, as I have told you before.
There is a training in managing these psychical elements as projectiles, the Yogin or magician can learn how to produce magic effects in the outer world, and how to draw back the projectiles afterwards.
It is even assumed that people can be killed in this way.
We find the same idea with the primitives.
The North Californian Indians, for instance, believe that medicine men can send out icicles, which can kill their enemies.
But the medicine man runs a great risk, because when the enemy is dead the icicle, angry and full of the lust of killing, will return to him.
So he must keep himself informed (through the ghosts in the bush) about the state of the dying man; and when death is near he must make a sort of scarecrow of his clothes and to hide near it in the bush.
Then when the man dies and the icicle returns to find the medicine man, it will spend its deadly force on his clothes; and when it is tiring he can catch it in the clothes and tame it further by rubbing it, till it is so tired, that it will lie quietly in his pocket.
These are primitive ideas, which are still alive in alchemy; and a projected idea does really correspond to a psychical reality.
I do not pledge myself to prove the damage which such projections can still bring about, but it is a field which is open to future psychologists.
. . . . “Whoever is constantly exalted by the simple knowledge of this pure simplicity, that man will perform wonders.”
This simplicity or simple knowledge plays a certain role in alchemy, even in the very ancient texts.
The thing which the alchemists were searching for is quite simple and uncomplicated.
Therefore it is eternal, and beyond change.
It is necessary to be very simple in order to recognise it, for it is simple and direct beyond words.
Dorneus says in another place:
” This, our philosophy, is heavenly not earthly, like that highest principle, which we call God.”
Here he is saying the same thing again; alchemistic philosophy is as divine as the thing we call God, but it is not God.
It is evidently concerned with the highest knowledge, but in its own most peculiar way.
We come now to some passages from another very famous alchemist, HENRICH KHUNRATH, who, like Dorneus, was both a doctor and philosopher.
wrote the famous “Amphitheatrum Sapientiae”, of which many copies still exist.
In another book (Von Hylealischen Chaos 1597) he tells us that the art of alchemy has a moral effect:
“This art either finds or makes a God-fearing, devout man. In this art, one learns to know God, nature, the creature and also oneself. Alchemy is the gift and arcanum (secret) of God, it is the sister of philosophy, it has its being in God, by inspiration ”
He formulates it somewhat differently in the “Amphitheatrum”, he does not say so directly that one learns to know God through the art, but rather through the result of the art.
This result is usually called the “lapis philosophorum”, but Khunrath calls it “filius naturae” (the son of nature) in the following passage: “God himself is to be known through the son of nature.”
In another passage of the “Amphitheatrum” he calls it the “filius macrocosmi” (son of the great world) and draws a parallel between it and Christ who is the Son of Man and therefore the ” filius microcosmi” (son of the small world).
The “filius” produced by alchemy is intended for the whole of the physical world and the universe, whereas Christ himself was incarnated by God for man.
On the other hand, the salvation of man, according to the alchemists, is not necessarily included in the “filius macrocosmi”.
You can see from this what a grandiose idea it was, which inspired the old alchemists. Khunrath says further: “Harmony of re-birth, both of men and of our stone.”
This re-birth is a renewal of something in nature, a mystery of nature, which appears as the “filius macrocosmi ” and a renewal also of man.
If an artist gives birth to a masterpiece, he gains a sort of re-birth himself; it is something of that kind which is meant here.
“Paulus Tarsenis (Paul of Tarsus) says: ‘Cupio dissolvi et esse cum Christo.
Therefore, my dear philosopher, thou must catch the spirit and soul of the magnesia, and purify these as well as the body, and lead back the pure soul to the body . . . . then it will receive life again and thereafter it will never die.”
Here again our expectation is disappointed, it is not “dear philosopher, fish up thy spirit and transform it”, but that ” of the magnesia “.
What is this magnesia?
It is the white sub stance, the secret, the mysterious substance from which the soul must be extracted.
This soul is the filius naturae, a soul which lives in the materia, the anima mundi; and this must be extracted, and must then be purified as well as the body.
You see the confusion here, how the body could be taken to refer to the chemical substance itself, that is to the mystical magnesia, by which the alchemists undoubtedly understood a mineral substance; or it might refer to the alchemist’s own body.
In this case one is inclined to think that it is the alchemist’s body which must be purified.
One must catch and extract the soul of the magnesia; and the body of the magnesia, or perhaps that of the alchemist, must be purified.
The soul must then be led back to the body and re-united with it.
So that nothing short of a separation and re-uniting of soul and body is undertaken, not in the body itself, but projected into the materia.
The body receives life again through this, and in a more perfect, incorruptible form: “thereafter it will never die.”
We find one of the simplest and most beautiful insights into the inner being of alchemy in a verse by SALOMON TRISSMOSIN.
He is of local interest to us here as his book, “AUREUM VELLUS”, was printed in Rorschach in 1598, but we know very little about him, except for a few biographical details which were published in his book.
His SPLENDOR S OLIS is a famous manuscript with very interesting pictures, three copies of it exist: one in London, one in Berlin and one in the possession of the King of Egypt.
The verse is:
(Study and search of what thou art,
And what is in thee, thou wilt see,
Thy study, learning, whole and p art,
It all doth come from inside thee,
For what outside us we do ken
Is also in us, so Amen.)
Here he has let an alchemical secret ” out of the bag’. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 99-106