Two of the major concerns that have obsessed man since the world is a world are intelligence and wealth. In other words, by a sort of derivation of the instinct of self-preservation, he wanted to understand what his role was in this life and wanted to own, control, dominate his environment. At least this is the point of view, the angle under which one has almost always wanted to explain the genesis of Alchemy.

However, there is another point of view, less external, less scientific, but perhaps more poetic; and since Alchemy is, at least for us, the Great Art of Poets, we will resort to this point of view when analyzing some of the symbols we intend to address. It is neither more nor less than the biblical myth of the Fall that, however, we cannot dissociate from its glorious counterpart: Redemption. In other words, it is the destruction of the Temple and its reconstruction. By the way we can read (Mt. XXVI-61): "I can destroy this Temple and rebuild it in three days." Three days that undoubtedly allude to the three great steps of the work, symbolized by the three colors black, white and red. Later we will touch the symbolism of three, so important in hermetic science.

The intelligence of the relationship, mysterious and secret, between the things of Heaven and those of the Earth, between the seasons, the stars, the moon and the planets and the multiple aspects of their own life, on the one hand, and the desire to to obtain power - we read 'gold' - quickly and easily, on the other hand, can certainly be at the base of what has been called `` alchemy '', and without a doubt it was and is with many alleged alchemists.

We say "presumed" exprofeso because after the study of the texts, when it has been possible to deepen a minimum in the subject, when a certain familiarity has been reached with its theories and symbols, when "softly and with great industry" you have become impregnated of its language and its essence, it becomes clear that Alchemy has nothing or almost nothing to do with all that.

"Gold is immortality" affirms a famous aphorism of the Brâhmana [1] and for both Hindus and our medieval alchemists, gold is something like the 'mineral light' or the 'coagulated light'.

If we remember that for the ancient Egyptians the flesh of the immortals, of the gods and even of the pharaoh was of gold, perhaps we consider, at least, the possibility that perhaps the gold sought by the alchemists was not ultimately the metal that we know by this name. [2]

There is, for both the magician and the alchemist, an obvious relationship between light and gold, between the star-king and the precious metal. They are in the same 'signature' [3]. To designate sunlight, Pindar spoke of the 'golden power of the sun' [4] and many of the poets of antiquity express the same with similar images.

The Egyptians, in whom according to the same alchemists must see the precursors of the hermetic science, believed that there is in the solar rays a life-giving fluid, giver of immortality. It will be however the medieval alchemists who will declare more openly that said fluid must be captured and its volatile state fixed or 'coagulated' in order to be exploited. As we can see below, all or almost all the fundamental symbols of Hermetic Science will allude to this mysterious fixation.

And returning to the subject of gold, let's point out that for the alchemists there was gold and gold. Not without reason Juan Bautista Beckeri, not to be confused with Daniel Beckeri, author of a spagyric pharmacopoeia, wrote in his Underground Physica (1669):

“False alchemists only seek to make gold; true philosophers only want science; the former only make tinctures, sophistication, ineptitudes and the others inquire about the principle of things. ”

In his Novum Lumen Chymicum, [5] the Cosmopolitan pointed out that man's immortality has been the main cause for which the Philosophers have sought this Stone.

Starting, then, from the hypothesis that the Philosopher's Stone exists or has existed, its main application was to obtain the Elixir capable of providing immortality to those who swallow it in the right conditions. And this golden immortality is the same as the one Br noshhman or the ancient Egyptians were talking about.

And before entering the subject, remember that this immortality should not be seen as an indefinite prolongation of our fallen state, with its ailments, diseases and weaknesses. The immortality advocated by the alchemists is the restitution of the divine state of man, the one he possessed before the Fall, his resurrection in the golden world of light, the Olam Hab de la c bala, which our wise authors of the Golden Age translated by `` future world '' or `` coming world ''.

From it, we will see, the subtle hermetic-alchemical symbol speaks subtly of what constitutes, in the most genuine sense of the word, the tradition of the West.

We designate by 'hermetic-alchemical-symbolic symbolic' both the set of symbols derived from the Corpus Hermeticum attributed to the Egyptian god Toth that later the Greeks would identify with its Hermes and the Romans with its Mercury, like those that the operational or speculative alchemists of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance have left us.

According to tradition, Hermes Trismegisto was `` three times great, '' write of the gods and divinity of Wisdom. This has been interpreted in many different ways. It is not the time now to stop excessively at this point; Let us only indicate the presence of number three, a true constant throughout the alchemical symbolism. Symbol of the union of Heaven and Earth, of the transcendence of the duality represented by the two or by the opposition one and two, [6] the three is reunited in the three colors b S sics of the work: black, white and red.

If red is, in a way, a symbol of gold or light, it corresponds to the glorious Incarnation or the Resurrection Body; the white refers to the Albedo, necessary purification of the matter of the Great Work, symbolized by black. On the other hand, and therefore we said that the symbolic hermetic-alchemical could constitute, in the most genuine sense of the word, the tradition of the West, the black symbolizes precisely that West from which the new East is to be born. The darkness from which the light will be born.

Mercury is the scribe of the gods and the messenger between Heaven and Earth, which gives it its transcendent character. Divinity of Wisdom is because it deals with writing it, and, above all, because Wisdom is nothing but the union of Heaven and Earth.

As Egyptian beliefs penetrated within the framework of Greek culture, through several authors among which Plutarch of Queronea (his treatise on Isis and Osiris exerted a great influence on medieval alchemists), was attributed to Hermes- Toth a whole literature written in Greek, more or less inspired by the Egyptian astrological-magical teachings.

Other hidden teachings, particularly those referring to the secret virtues of stones and plants or those related to the regeneration of man, are also found in this Corpus Hermeticum. Its diffusion in antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was enormous and we do not hesitate to affirm that from the Corpus Hermeticum and the famous Tabula Smaragdina or Emerald Table, almost all the hermetic and alchemical symbolism whose main elements we propose were developed expose.

Some modern authors [7] point out that, when talking about hermetic tradition, it is not "only the doctrines included in the Alexandrian texts of Corpus Hermeticum". And certainly, in the formation of this symbolism other elements have contributed, to a greater or lesser extent, from Christianity, early Christian sects, the Hebrew cabal and not a few Islamic authors. We will also have, in passing, what we mean to them.

It is at least curious that all this literature, extremely extensive, ended up crystallizing in what has been called the alchemical tradition. This gives it, whether we want it or not, an importance that, at least for us, Westerners, makes it worthy of deepening it, trying to free ourselves from the typical prejudices we pointed out at the beginning of this work.

Not a few have certainly been historians who wanted to see in Alchemy a kind of chemistry in a child and underdeveloped state, and in its symbolism a cryptic or secret language, reserved for Initiates', deliberately dark or obscured for fear of the profane, Always anxious to 'steal his secrets'.

The works of Evola, Faivre, Tristan, Van Lennep or Jung, to name just a few modern and well-known authors, would suffice to dispel this error or, at least to put things in their place, if they had not already done so. The same alchemists.

Although most of them have resorted to manifestly chemical language, it is they themselves who warn us that we should never take their words "to the letter":

“It is known, one of them writes, that our art is a kabbalistic art, that is, it can only be revealed orally and that it overflows mysteries… whoever tries to explain what the philosophers have written through the ordinary and literal meaning of the words, you will find yourself locked in the meanders of a maze from which you can never leave ”[8].

Another excellent author already cited, the Cosmopolitan [9] wrote that:

"The good authors, at the beginning of their books, hide this science."

There is, then, we must admit, a deliberate attempt to prevent the uninitiated, the profane, from entering the King's Closed Palace, but this concealment is undoubtedly due to reasons other than those attributed to him. It is based more on respect than on envy, more on the love of the symbol, the mystery, the object of the alchemist's search, than on the children's desire to hide their findings. If the alchemists had not wanted anyone to access their knowledge, the almost one hundred thousand books dealing with this Art would not have been written.

On the other hand, if in many occasions the texts seem dark and complicated to us, it is because we often do not have the intellectual and symbolic baggage necessary to approach them because we also lack the essential interior light to illuminate them and because we lack the simplicity of spirit that Let your light penetrate us.

A rational exposition of the symbols, the study by 'university' methods, can be sterile if they fail to get us involved. The symbols used by former alchemists are something like variations on the same theme. They belong to what Guénon called "fundamental symbols of Sacred Science", a different science from the one taught in our classrooms.

The Caduceus, for example, which is the hermetic attribute par excellence, the Hermes wand entwined with two snakes, evokes at the same time an archetypal symbolism such as that of the wand (remember the rod of Moses -Ex. XVII, 5 and 6-, the pilgrim's bordón de Santiago, or if we want, the clubs of the Spanish deck), and that of the number three (the two snakes and the rod), which as we saw applied to Hermes-Mercury, three times great, and again refers to the Great Work.

One of the many explanations that have been given of the symbol of the Caduceus is the one that affirms that Mercury caused two snakes that fought between them to curl in it. It is again about the two principles, of Heaven and Earth, of the fixed and of the volatile, and the rod does nothing but dissolve the fixed and fix the volatile by joining them.

Caduceus, from kerykeion, comes from the verb kerykeio, publish, announce. On the other hand, in astrology, Mercury is the ruler of the sign of Gemini, the third zodiac sign composed of two twin brothers (we see here again two and three), a sign to which the spoken and written word belong, the publications, etc…

For the alchemists the announcing role of the Caduceus is due to its association with the Star, another of the most important symbols of its collection. The Star results from the conjunction of the triangles of Water and Fire (another way of speaking about heaven and Earth or Above and Below), which many authors relate to the Star of the Magi, [10] which announced and led to the birth of Christ, symbol for them of the Stone, the Lapis Philosophorum. [11]

The Caduceus has also been related to the Rooster, which announces to us the day, an animal that the Gauls devoted precisely to Mercury.

If we remember that in ancient times this bird was immolated to Priapus and Aesculapius to obtain the cure of the sick, a practice that even today is performed in certain Brazilian and Haitian rites, we will not be surprised that the caduceus is the symbol of doctors and pharmacists in several European countries.

The symbolic correspondences between the Caduceus and the three columns of the cabalistic tree have already been pointed out by various authors. The columns of Rigor and Misericordia correspond to the two snakes. They are what is known in the Midrashim as "good inclination" and "bad inclination" or if we prefer, "good customs" and "bad habits" of the symbolic Franco-Masonic, which is not in any way opposite to alchemistry.

The central column, called "justice" corresponds exactly to the Caduceus stick, which is that of Freedom, once the 'good' and the 'bad' inclinations are transcended. It is the rod that separates and unites (solve et coagula).

Another attribute of Mercury, no less rich in content, is the lyre. For Cirlot, [12] is a "symbol of the harmonious union of cosmic forces." On the other hand, as a symbol of the poets, the lyre indicates that the hermetic art is a poetic and divine art, of poetry, "I do".

Based on mythological accounts, the famous anthropologist Jean Servier [13] considers the lira as "a symbolic altar that unites Heaven and Earth." Music, like the Word is the fruit of this union, of this cosmic fertilization. Let us not forget the relationship between the voice (or the word) and the rooster. Isn't a rooster called a rocking sound?

The celestial aspect of the lyre can be seen in its seven strings, which correspond to the seven planets or to the seven steps of the Great Work or, in the case of the Timothy of Miletus lyre, of twelve strings, to the twelve zodiacal signs or to the twelve operations of the Great Work. The terrestrial and receptive aspect we must see in its form.

The birth of Mercury took place on a mountain because, writes Dom Pernety: [14] The philosophical mercury is always born in the heights . After birth, Mercury was washed with the water collected from three sources (again number three) because, says Pernety, the philosophical Mercury must be purged and washed three times in its own water, so Miguel Maier writes: [15]

Look at that woman how she washes her clothes. Imitate her, her art will not betray you.

The two snakes that we have previously associated with Heaven and Earth are, for Pernety, Male and Female and represent the two mercurial substances of the Work, one fixed and one volatile, the first one warm and dry and the second frì ayh meda, which philosophers call snakes, dragons, brother and sister, husband and wife, agent and patient . It is the fixed substance and the volatile one that, Pernety writes have apparently opposite qualities, but the golden rod given to Mercury by Apollo agrees with these snakes .

That Mercury was born in a mountain has been subject to various interpretations. For some alchemists the mountain is a symbol of the furnace or atanor. For others, the mountains correspond to metals, and finally, for Kabbalists, the mountain is a symbol of the adept himself. But if we go back to what we said at the beginning, if we associate the caduceus of Mercury with the star of the Magi, fruit of the union of Heaven and Earth, we will see that it is the same. Theophany takes place in the Mountain because it is the place where Heaven joins Earth. On the other hand, we can see in the symbolism of the mountain and the cave (another way of saying The manger ) to the two connected triangles being the one of Water or the cave ( which also corresponds to the heart) in the center of the mountain.

Delving into the exciting hermetic symbolism of the Star of the Magi, also called the Seal of Solomon or Star of David, we will see that if outside it presents its six points (symbol of the outer man, created the sixth day according to the cabalistic tradition and whose points must be limated or pulidas' [16]), inside is the hexagon, symbol of the bee, in Hebrew Dbrah, which, according to the cabal, refers to Dabar (the Word). It is the Abandoned or Lost Word, the Verbum Dimissum, that Word of which the Gospel of St. John (I-14) states that flesh was made and dwells among men.

On the other hand, the two triangles, which correspond as we have seen to the fixed and the volatile, to the philosophical sulfur and mercury, when united, realize the integral union of the four elements.

The main symbol of hermetic art is, as we have seen, this union in which after the dissolution of the fixed takes place the fixation of the volatile. It is the Chemical Weddings, [17] the marriage of the King and Queen. Transposing this symbolism to another plane, it is our initiatory union with the angel, with our celestial counterpart that has to dissolve our filth and coagulate and exalt how much of divine there is in us; it is the Awakening of the Lost Word, or muted or, in other words, of the Sleeping Beauty of the Forest, of the same Forest of which Dante speaks to us at the beginning of his Divine Comedy that constitutes the principle of the Work of Regeneration.


[1] See Dictionnaire des Symboles by Jean Chevalier, Volume III, p. 323 Ed. Seghers, Paris, 1973. Castilian edition in Ed. Herder, Barcelona 1986.

[2] Ibid volume III, p. 322. And also Mayassis, Le Livre des Morts de l'Egypte Ancienne is a Livre d'Initiation, Ed. BAOA, Athens 1955.

[3] See in this regard our presentation of the Treaty of Signatures by Oswaldus Crollius, Ed. Obelisco, Barcelona 1982.

[4] Pythias IV - 257.

[5] We use the excellent and recent edition of ed. Retz.

[6] See Tao Te King cap. 42

[7] Notably Evola in his book The Hermetic Tradition, Ed. Martínez Roca, Barcelona 1975.

[8] Livre Secret du trés ancien Philosophe Artephius traitant de l'Art Occulte et de la Pierre Philosophale, Bibliothéque des Philosophes Chymiques, Paris, 1741. We used the reissue of this treatise by Ed. L'Echelle, Paris 1977.

[9] See note 5.

[10] Notably Limojon de Saint-Didier in Le Triomphe Hermétiene.

[11] For many Christian alchemists, one of whose most interesting exponents is Dom Belin, author of Les aventures du Philosophe inconnu, Apologie du Grand Oeuvre and Traité des Talismans (published in Ed. Obelisk), Christ is neither more nor less than a Philosopher's Stone symbol.

[12] See his Dictionary of Symbols, several editions, article "lira".

[13] L'homme et l'invisible, p. 151. There is a Castilian translation of this excellent book in Ed. Monteávila, Caracas 1970.

[14] Des Fables grecques et Egyptiennes dévoilées et réduites à un même principe. Volume II, p. 165. Paris 1786.

[15] Atalanta Fugiens, Emblem III. We use the excellent edition of Etienne Perrot, Paris 1970.

[16] This is, after all, the etymological and authentic sense of scholarship, of erudere, polishing.

[17] See in this regard the excellent Rosicrucian novel. The Chemical Weddings of Christian Rosenkreutz, several editions.

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