Corpus Alchemicum Arabicum II.2 The Book of Pictures”Mushaf as-suwar by Zosimos of Panopolis

Figure 1: (fol. 38a) Zosimos, with the sun on his head, and Theosebeia, with the moon on her head, in the hand of a three-headed being that is much larger than these two. Text and image show aspects of the psychological process that Zosimos experienced in his relationship with Theosebeia.

Figure 2: (fol. 99a) In an upper register we see Theosebeia, with the moon with a face on her head. In the picture to her left is Zosimos, with the sun with a face on his head.

He holds on a lead a man with two wings. In the lower register we see Theosebeia with a moon without face on her head. In front of her are two yellow vessels, one of them with Zosimos (with a sun without face on his head) and his white bull, the other one with just a green-white bull, as we read in the text.

The two levels, the upper spiritual and the lower human, are seen also in later Latin alchemy (see figure 8).

Figure 3: The dead man, with the sun on his head (no longer with a face), is Zosimos. The woman, with the moon on her head (and a face), who holds the dead body is the great or divine Theosebeia.

She holds the spirit that separated from the dead body of Zosimos on a chain. Above the two there is a symbol of the stone of the sages, described in the text as consisting of two parts.

The lower is described as sky blue, and the upper as yellow, and out of it pours the divine water (which also should be blue).

This is the divine water that revives the dead body (see complete picture on fol. 171b and 172a).

Figure 4: (fol. 157a) In the left part of the picture we see the resurrected Zosimos while his “Other-One” is on the right side.

This “Other-One” points with his left hand toward the earth below. With his right hand he shows what grows between the two of them.

The tree with the three twigs or branches seems to be a palm tree that can be understood as being a symbol for Zosimos” tree of life.

Figure 5: (fol. 210b) On the left half of the picture we see Theosebeia, represented with a (a new moon or moon crescent) on her head.

On the right side we see a hilä l woman with a larger head, carrying on her head a moon with a face. She can be understood as the «Other-One» or the greater woman in Theosebeia.

Between the two something like a small tree is growing. Around the head of Theosebeia we see some yellow colour, the same colour as on the robe of the greater woman.

Figure 6: The immortal dragon and the murderess of her husband, from M. Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618).

The parable is already found in the Mushafs-suwar.

Figure 7: King and queen standing on sun and moon from the “Rosarium cum figuris”, as this late medieval alchemical florilegium was called by earlier historians of alchemy in order to distinguish it from other Rosarium texts without pictures (Vadiana Library, St. Gallen, Ms 394a).

Figure 8: The 2nd picture of the Mutus Uber showing the Sun-king and the Moon queen in the hand of the great Mercurius, but well contained in the retort, a main achievement of alchemy which is to contain the archetypal world within and not to become possessed by it. In the lower part of the picture we see the adept and his soror mystica on their knees in front of the oven.

Figure 9: (fol. 153a) The huge alchemical oven with the small vessels on top is the same size as Zosimos and Theosebeia, showing that it is not the concrete

outer oven that is depicted, but that the oven is a symbol. It points to the fact that the distillation process is the best possible image for continuous pondering, as becomes clear from the text of the Mushafas-suwar (see fol. 59a).

The product of this distillation process is the red elixir, that is also shown condensed in the upper part of the head of Theosebeia. As Zosimos says in many places «the stone is called the brain» (see Berthelot, p a ss im ).

The elixir is distilled from the autonomous phantasies gravitating around the bodily urges, becoming in the end like a halo around Theosebeia’s own head and a scarf around her shoulders.

Figure 10: Another picture from the Mutus Liber, showing a woman with the moon on her head and a man with the sun on his head, symbolizing the divine aspects of the adept and his soror mystica.

The oven, also here in this picture of the 17th century, is of the same size as the humanized archetypal figures.

The similarity of this picture to Figure 9 on the opposite page is striking, leading to the hypothesis that the pictures of the Mushafas-suwar must have been known in some form to the author of this Mutus Liber.

The numbers 100, 1,000, 10,000 etc. point to the multiplicatio of the elixir as a result of the successful union of the opposites.

Figure 11: View of the alchemical oven with a distillation apparatus on top. The picture comes from a text written by Dorneus, a medical doctor and alchemist from the 16th century (Aurora 1577).

The oven is of the same size as the human being beside it, pointing to the symbolic dimension of the alchemical oven.

The elixir is distilled out of the human body, i.e. out of the mysterious urges and phantasies that emerge from the inner unconscious world of the individual.

To distil them is a symbol for pondering over those images, as we can learn from alchemical writings. The result of this patient work is the wisdom of the earth or the body (see fn. 73, p. 59).