Rosicrucian Library
 

Commentaries on the
Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians

of the 16th and 17th Centuries

by Jack Courtis

  - Introduction:  Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians and the Kosmic Internet
  - Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis  - (Book One, 12th diagram)
  - On the "Interpretation and Explanation of the Tabula Smaragdina
    Hermetis"
text - (Book One, text accompanying the 12th diagram)
  - Mons Philosophorum (Book One, 6th diagram)
  - Primum Mobile (Book Two, 12th diagram.)
  - Virgin Sophia (Book Two, 1st diagram)
  - Figura Divina (Book One, 21st diagram)
  - The Hermetic Philosophy (Book One, 8th diagram & text)


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INTERPRETATION
and EXPLANATION of
the TABULA SMARAGDINA HERMETIS

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This picture, plain and insignificant in appearance,
Concealeth a great and important thing.
Yea, it containeth a secret of the kind
That is the greatest treasure in the world.
For what on this earth is deemed more excellent
Than to be a Lord who ever reeketh with gold,
And hath also a healthy body,
Fresh and hale all his life long,
Until the predestined time
That cannot be overstepped by any creature.

"This picture", is the diagram above. It is very far from plain and insignificant as we have seen from the previous article on the Emerald Tablet. It conceals and contains a great and important secret because mere words cannot describe or explain it. Only disciplined meditation on the diagram, will reveal it. When discovered, it will indeed be a great treasure more valuable than gold, because it is the Elixir that gives us life until our predestined time. What is the relationship between the Elixir and VITRIOL? This is the answer.

All this, as I have stated, clearly
Is contained within this figure.
Three separate shields are to be seen,
And on them are eagle, lion, and free star.

These are the three alchemical principles of Mercury, Sulfur and Salt. Note that they are linked by a chain, that is they are a differentiated unity. Meditate upon this.

And painted in their very midst
Artfully stands an imperial globe.
Heaven and Earth in like manner
Are also placed herein intentionally,

The imperial globe is the alchemical symbol for VITRIOL. Heaven and Earth are identified with it, because they are the great polarity of the Above and the Below and this polarity is part of the secret. It is highly significant that we are told they are placed here intentionally. And have you noticed the word "artfully"? Alchemy is called the "Art". Therefore the imperial globe of VITRIOL is placed here by "art", that is by deliberate alchemical means. We are being told the obvious. That means there is something we have completely failed to understand. It is part of the secret. Another subject for meditation.

And between the hands outstretched towards each other
Are to be seen the symbols of metals.

 The hands are another symbol of duality. So now we have: (Above + Below) + (hand + hand). Remember the 4 downward steps of the first process described in the Emerald Tablet? Also significant is the fact that the symbols of the 7 metals are between the polarity of the hands. That is because polarity is the driving mechanism of the whole scheme.

And in the circle surrounding the picture
Seven words are to be found inscribed.

We already know that the 7 words are the anagram of VITRIOL. They are a formula for a guided visualization that takes us to a precise location in the inner landscape, for a specific purpose. Reading about it will not do it. We must live it.

Therefore I shall now tell
What each meaneth particularly
And then indicate without hesitation
How it is called by name.
Therein is a secret thing of the Wise
In which is to be found great power.
And how to prepare it will also
Be described in the following:

This is a promise to tell us how to transform the Stone of the Philosophers, into the Philosophers' Stone. They are at opposite ends of a spectrum. But this implies a unity between them and a continuity. So why are they different although connected? What is there to prepare?

The three shields together indicate
Sal, Sulphur, and Mercurium.
The Sal hath been one Corpus that
Is the very last one in the Art.
The Sulphur henceforth is the soul
Without which the body can do nothing.
Mercurius is the spirit of power,
Holding together both body and soul,
Therefore it is called a medium
Since whatever is made without it hath no stability.
For soul and body could not die
Should spirit also be with them.
And soul and spirit could not be
Unless they had a body to dwell in,
And no power had body or spirit
If the soul did not accompany them.

Here are our 3 vehicles of consciousness: Salt is the body; Sulfur is the soul; Mercury is the spirit. The qualities of Salt are multiplicity and action; the qualities of Sulfur are unity and will; the qualities of Mercury are duality and wisdom. We must combine all these qualities for effective and successful living. Our 3 vehicles are a differentiated unity. All the parts must function together. Have you noticed the difference in spelling between Mercurium and Mercurius? Like the Stone, they are related but not the same. They point to something that has to be experienced, not read.

This is the meaning of the Art:
The body giveth form and constancy,
The soul doth dye and tinge it,
The spirit maketh it fluid and penetrateth it.
And therefore the Art cannot be
In one of these three things alone.
Nor can the greatest secret exist alone:
It must have body, soul, and spirit.

The secret of the Art is the combined effect of all 3 vehicles of consciousness. But where is the "I" that drives them? Where is the divine spark? What is the "fourth"?

And now what is the fourth,
From which the three originate,
The same names teach thee
And the sevenfold star in the lower shield.
The Lion likewise by its colour and power
Showeth its nature and its property.
In the Eagle yellow and white are manifest.

We are directed to the 3 and the 7. There are the three vehicles and the seven pointed star. The star is Salt, which we understand to be the body. The seven points are the 7 chakras and they are the connection between body and soul. Thus 3 (principles) + 7 (chakras) = 10 = 1 + 0 = 1. The text is telling us that the "fourth" is the ONE, that is, the divine spark. The separate reference to the eagle and the lion, is pointing to the polarity of the Above and the Below. This polarity is the driving force of the entire scheme.

Mark my words well, for there is need of care:
The imperial orb doth exhibit
The symbol of this highest good.
Heaven and earth, four elements,
Fire , light, and water, are therein.
The two hands do testify with an oath
The right reason and the true knowledge,
And from what roots are derived
All of the metals and many other things.

We already know that the imperial orb is the alchemical symbol for VITRIOL. From its inherent nature are derived the 7 metals. These are our 7 chakras. Truly, in VITRIOL is the answer.

Now there remain only the seven words,
Hear further what they mean:
If thou dost now understand this well
This knowledge shall nevermore fail thee.
Every word standeth for a city
Eac
h of which hath but one gate.
wpe25.gif (910 bytes)   The first signifieth gold, is intentionally yellow.
 wpe30.gif (873 bytes)   The second for fair white silver.
 wpe31.gif (881 bytes)   The third, Mercurius, is likewise grey.
 wpe32.gif (895 bytes)   The fourth for tin, is heaven-blue.
  wpe33.gif (877 bytes)  The fifth for iron, is blood-red.
 wpe34.gif (882 bytes)   The sixth for copper, is true green.
 wpe35.gif (883 bytes)   The seventh for lead, is black as coal.

Let us recall the 7 words: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem. Each word is a city with one gate. What is a city? It is an organic whole comprising of physical buildings (like a body), animated by living beings such as people, animals and plants (like a soul) and directed by abstract principles such as laws and government (like a spirit). And what is the one gate? There is only one way to enter this city, that is, to understand each of the 7 words. Here is the clue:

  • The first word is Visita and is attributed to the Sun. This is the heart chakra.

  • The second word is Interiora and is attributed to the Moon. This is the brow chakra.

  • The third word is Terrae and is attributed to Mercury. This is the crown chakra.

  • The fourth word is Rectificando and is attributed to Jupiter. This is the navel chakra.

  • The fifth word is Invenies and is attributed to Mars. This is the sacral chakra.

  • The sixth word is Occultum and is attributed to Venus. This is the throat chakra.

  • The seventh word is Lapidem and is attributed to saturn. This is the base chakra.

There is only one gate for each city because there is one way to understand what we are being told. This is the order in which we are to stimulate the chakras:

Heart Þ brow Þ crown Þ navel Þ sacral Þ throat Þ base

Gold       silver        mercury       tin        iron       copper        lead

There is something wrong here. We are told to go from gold to lead, when the whole point of the Art is to transmute lead into gold. Has the author of the text made a mistake? Why has he reversed the order? Could it be that this is a deliberate reversal, to alert us to the fact that the true order (the "one gate" mentioned in the text) is different from that given? Has the truth been jumbled so that "only those with eyes" will see?

Mark what I mean, understand me well:
In these city gates, indeed,
Standeth the whole ground of the Art.

This is a clear warning that a correct understanding of the doctrine is essential for the Art to be performed successfully.

For no one city alone can effect anything,
The others must also be close at hand.
And as soon as the gates are closed
One cannot enter any city.

No one city/word/metal/chakra alone can achieve anything. All must work together. However if understanding fails, then all gates are closed and the chakras cannot function.

And if they had no gates
Not one thing could they accomplish.

If we had no chakras, then we would not even be alive, let alone engaged in the Great Work.

But if these gates are close together
A ray of light appeareth from seven colors.
Shining very brightly together
Their might is incomparable.

When the 7 chakras function correctly, the ray of light that comes from them in a unified way, is very bright and intense. Surely its power is incomparable.

Thou canst not find such wonders on earth,
Wherefore hearken unto further particulars:
Seven letters, and seven words,
Seven cities, and seven gates,
Seven times, and seven metals,
Seven days, and seven ciphers.
Whereby I mean seven herbs
Also seven arts and seven stones.

The repetition of the number 7 serves to emphazise the subtle doctrine of analogy. The Above is like the Below but is not the Below. Seven letters are like seven words; seven times are like seven metals; but the times are not the metals; the ciphers are not the days. Only meditation will lead to true understanding. The point is this. As we progress into higher levels of reality, we are moving into unfamiliar territory. We literally do not know what to expect. However we have a map like the diagram and we navigate by it. A map is not the terrain, it is like the terrain. A map is a symbolic representation, an analogy, of the actual terrain. By following the map we can chart a course in unknown places. By meditation we gain understanding, by imagination we make the journey.

Therein stands every lasting art.
Well for him who findeth this.
If this be too hard for thee to understand
Hear me again in a few other particulars:
Truly I reveal to thee
Very clearly and plainly, without hatred or envy,
How it is named with one word
Vitriol, for him who understandeth it.


We do understand vitriol now don't we? It is the basis for the Art and for the Great Work.

If thou wouldst oft figure out
This Cabbalistic way with all diligence,
Seven and fifty in the cipher
Thou findest figured everywhere.
Let not the Work discourage thee,
Understand me rightly, so shalt thou enjoy it.

We are told bluntly that to figure all this out, we must understand rightly. The right way is kabalistic and the clue is in the numbers 7 & 50. Simple isn't it? If we look at this literally, we are being told that 57 is key. What does that mean? Let us try this kabalistically:

7 + (5 x 10) = 57
                    = 5 + 7
                    = 12

Quite clearly, this is not ordinary mathematics. This requires a different form of logic and a radical change of perspective. That is precisely what is expected of us. If the diagram is the map, the numbers are the compass: 5 elements (aether, air, fire, water, earth); 7 chakras; 10 sefirot on the Tree of Life; 12 signs of the zodiac.

Besides that, note this fully,
There is a water which doth not make wet.
From it the metals are produced,
It is frozen as hard as ice.
A moistened dust a fuller wind doth raise,
Wherein are all qualities.
If thou dost not understand this,
Then I may not name it for thee otherwise.

What is this water that does not wet, from which the metals (chakras) are produced? It is the Dew of the Philosophers. It contains the Salt that acts upon the Sulfur and the Mercury of the Prima Materia. It is the contents of the cup in the diagram. Note that the Sun and the Moon are pouring a liquid into a cup supported by Mercury. This is the Elixir. This is all clear enough isn't it? Bad luck if it isn't, because the author of the text will "not name" it for us.

Now I will instruct thee
How it should be prepared.
There are seven ways for this art,
If thou neglectest any of them thou workest in vain.
But thou must, before all things else, know
Thou hast to succeed in purification.
And although this be twofold,
Thou art in need of one alone.

This "water" is prepared in 7 steps. If we ignore any one of them, we shall fail. We must purify first. The secret of purification is in the alchemical koan, solve et coagula, that is;

  • Solve: dissolve, separate, break down and analyze.

  • et: join the two steps back together.

  • Coagula: synthezise the purified parts.

Something is taken, separated, purified and put back into the "one alone" that we need. This is the "One Only Thing" mentioned in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. Note well, this is the relationship between the Stone of the Philosophers and the Philosophers' Stone. But what of the "water"? When our 7 chakras are functioning properly, the flow of energy through them looks like water; but it is water that "does not wet". First we must purify, then we must take the 7 steps. Clear enough isn't it?

The first work is freely done by it
Without any other addition,
Without distilling something in it,
Simply through its putrefication.
From all of its earthliness
Is everything afterwards prepared.

The process is "putrefication". It is the separation of the vehicles of consciousness, body and soul. Normally, we regard this as physical death. However if we consider it to be a projection of consciousness arising from deep meditation and guided visualization, we get closer to the mark.

This first way hath two paths,
Happy is he who goeth on the right path.
The first extendeth through the strength of fire,
With and in itself, note this well.
The second extendeth further
Until one cometh to treasure and to gain.
This is done by dissolving,
And again by saturating, I inform you:
This must be undertaken first of all,
So comest thou to the end of the fine art.

The "first way" of purification has two paths because the One Only Thing must be separated into two parts. One way is by "fire" and the other way is by "dissolving and saturating". We must choose the right path. Only meditation will show us the way.

After the whole purification hath been completed
It will be prepared and boiled in the sun
Or in the warm dung of its time,
Which extendeth itself very far
Until it becometh constant and perfect,
And the treasure of the Wise is in it.

Remember, we are dealing with the Dew of the Philosophers. After purification, it is prepared either by boiling in the sun, or in warm dung. Dung? Yes, this is the continual slow heat that comes from organic substances when they putrefy. It takes time and patience and is unpleasant. This is an analogy for a particular kind of meditation requiring patient self-examination. Note the doctrine of analogy again and also note that to examine ourselves requires us to delve into that part of our being that is filthy and stinks. Do you still want to proceed? The treasure of the Wise is in the dung heap.

The other ways are very subtle
And many mighty one fail therein,
For here is the purpose of the distillation
And the sublimation of the Wise Men.
The separation of the four elements
Is also called by the Wise Men
Air, water, and rectified fire.
The earth on the ground hath mislead many,
Having been deemed a worthless thing,
Although all the power lieth in it.

Distillation is the evaporation and subsequent condensation of the Dew. This purifies and concentrates its volatile essence. Remember that the Emerald Tablet tells us to "separate the subtle from the gross". Sublimation is the analogous (that word again) process as applied to solids. In this case it is a reference to the Prima Materia. The Tablet also tells us to "separate the earth from the fire". Hence the special mention above of "rectified fire" and the "earth….deemed worthless…..although all the power lies in it". The distilled Dew is the sublimated Prima Materia.

Some know not how to separate it
From their Cortibus, therefore they fail.
It was cast behind the door,
But the Wise Man taketh it up again,
Purifieth it snow-white and clear:
This is the ground, I say in truth.
But if thou dost wish to separate it,
Note that it is of no little importance,
For if they are not prepared
Then you are in error, that I swear.

What is the Dew purified "snow-white and clear"? The energy flows from the 7 purified chakras combine into one white and clear light.

Therefore thou must also have some vinegar
Which is revealed to the Wise Men,
Wherewith thou wilt effect the separation,
So that nothing earthly remaineth in it any more,
Till body and soul have to be separated,
Otherwise called fire and earth
And after they are thus purified,

Alchemical vinegar is the "water that kills and vivifies". It transmutes the vehicle of consciousness the body, into the vehicle of consciousness the spirit. This involves the separation of body and soul, as vehicles of consciousness. Note that purification is associated with separation. Remember also that the Emerald Tablet associates the process of separation (Earth from Fire/ subtle from gross) "with great judgement and skill", with the three ascending steps from the Below to the Above.

          wpe36.gif (1343 bytes)
And thereupon followeth the mixture, observe!
And so it cometh to a wondrous strength,
The finished figures with the unfinished.
And if the fire be likewise rightly controlled,
It will be entirely perfect
In much less time than a year.

The three pointing hands are showing us something crucial. What was separated, is now mixed and strong. Right control of the fire is the analogy (yes, that word again) for disciplined meditation. There are 12 months in a year, but if we do this right, it will take "much less time than a year". If we use numbers as an analogy for a compass, we are being pointed in a significant direction. There are 12 signs of the zodiac. What is numerically less than 12 but still alchemically significant? How about the 7 planets? They are the 7 chakras Above, analogous to our 7 chakras Below.

Now thou hast the entire way in its length
On which are not more than two paths.
From these one soon wandereth and goeth astray,
Else it all standeth clear and plain.
The one is the water of the Wise Men,
Which is the Mercurius alone.
The other is called a vinegar,
And it is known only to a very few.
And this vinegar doth circle
Away from the philosophical iron.

Now everything is "clear and plain". Of the two paths, one is the water of the Wise, the Dew, and the other is the vinegar. The Dew is linked to the principle of Mercury, which is the analogy for the vehicle of consciousness, the spirit. Vinegar is the water that kills and vivifies and is said to move away from the philosophical iron. This metal is the analogy for the sacral chakra and is therefore linked to sexual fluids. We can understand why such fluids "vivify", but why do they "kill"?

It is Lord Aes whom it maketh glad.
Therefore they have combined so closely
Many hundred forms and names are given
After each hath chosen it.
One way springeth from the true source,
A few have worked on it for a whole year.
But many through their art and craft
Have shortened so long a space of time.
And quickly is the preparation set free
As Alchemy doth point out.

The preparation is set free by Art. All of this implies that we are responsible to perform the Great Work. No one else will do it for us. Note well, the Great Work is analogous to what Christians call Salvation.

The preparation alone
Maketh this stone great and glorious.
Although there is but one matter
It lacketh nothing else.
But when it is clarified
Its name hath misled many.
However, I have revealed enough to thee
In many ways, forms, and fashions.
There are many names; I say
Let not thyself be misled from the true way.

The preparation which up to now has been concerned with the water of the Wise and the vinegar of the Philosophers, is suddenly related to a "stone great and glorious". Is this the Stone of the Philosophers or the Philosophers' Stone? Since it lacks nothing and has been clarified, we can infer that it is the Philosophers' Stone. It is called many things but we must not be misled by them.

In their scriptures the Elders write
That it is a draught, a great poison.
Others call it a snake, a monster,
Which is not costly anywhere.
It is common to all men
Throughout the world, to rich and also to poor.
It is the property of the metals
Through which they conquer victoriously.

Now the Stone is called a "great poison" and a "snake or monster". All of us have it for little cost and through it, the metals (7 chakras) "conquer victoriously". The poison of the snake leads to victory. That is perfectly clear isn't it? Is this the kundalini serpent coiled in the base chakra that can poison us if wrongly released, or lead to victory if rightly prepared?

The same is a perfection
And setteth a golden crown upon it.
Now the practice is completed
For him who understandeth it and knoweth the matter.

The "golden crown" is a good description of the Crown chakra in its proper functioning. When that occurs, we have true understanding and knowledge because we then function at a much higher level of consciousness through our rectified vehicles of consciousness.

Only two things more are to be chosen
Which thou wilt find by now
If thou dost follow the right way
And attend carefully to thy work.
The composition is the one
Which the Wise Men kept secret.

If you know the composition, remain silent.

The nature of the fire also hath hidden craft;
Therefore its order is another.
With that, one should, not deal too much
Or else all execution is lost.
One cannot be too subtle with it.

If you know the nature of the fire, remain silent.

As the hen hatcheth out the chick
So also shall it be in the beginning,
And time itself will prove it.
For just as the fire is regulated
Will this treasure itself be produced.
Be industrious, constant, peaceful, and pious,
And also ask God for His help:
If thou dost obtain that, then always remember
The poor and their needs.

We must act with the patience and care of a mother hen, to regulate the fire, so as to produce the treasure. All clear now? By the way, our own efforts are not enough. Ask God for help and remember those in need.

Solve et Coagula

 

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Copyright © 1998 by Stepney Nominees Pty Ltd (ACN 008 869 485) Trustee for Courtis No4 Trust