Friday, December 30, 2016

Roos. Alchemy and Mysticism (4)

Here are the other summary posts from Roos's Alchemy and Mysticism. I'm beginning the Macrocosm section of the book today at p. 34.

Roos opens the Macrocosm section with a quote from the Timaeus about God creating the world as an illustration of his own perfection: "By turning it he shape it into a sphere, giving it the most perfect form of all."

The first illustration is a weird and gorgeous walled courtyard from the Livre de Artephius, and there is also a quote from Janus Lacinius, Pretiosa Margarita novella which they have at Hathi, plus an English translation too: The new pearl of great price. Here is the full title: The new pearl of great price : a treatise concerning the treasure and most precious stone of the philosophers, or, the method and procedure of this divine art : with observations drawn from the works of Arnoldus, Raymondus, Rhasis, Albertus, and Michael Scotus / first published by Janus Lacinius, with a copious index. Unfortunately, both of these books are only sparsely illustrated, but I am including them here for future reference.

By Googling, I did find my way to the image itself at this amazing Pinterest Board: The Ritman Library. Here is Roos's comment on it: "In the courtyard: sulphur and mercury, the two basic components of matter. The three walls symbolize the three phases of the Work, which begins in spring under the zodiac sign of Aries and the decaying corpse. In summer, in the sign of Leo, the conjunction of spirit and soul occurs, and in December, in the sign of Sagittarius, the indestructive, red spirit-body emerges, the elixir or the drinkable gold of eternal youth."

The next image is also a walled courtyard that looks something like a labyrinth; it is from G. van Vreeswyk, De Goude Leeuw of 1676. I did not find that book online, but I did find a 1674 book at Google BooksDe groene leeuw, of Het licht der philosophen. Oh wait, here it is at the great Munich digital libraryDe goude leeuw of den asijn der wysen. But I'm not finding the image in Roos so I'll move on!

The next page is about the gnostic doctrine called Ophitism, and there's a Wikipedia article. The illustration is a modern reconstruction of their doctrine based on a sea monster at the heart of creation from which radiate out the spheres of the earth and other planets. Roos explains: "After death the earthly body remains behind as a shell in tartarus, and the soul rises through the region of air, Beemoth, and back up to the archontes, although these attempt to obstruct the soul's passage. hence, precise knowledge (gnosis) of the passwords and signs is required to open the way to sevenfold purification." Wild stuff, all new to me. There's even a separate article on the mystical drawings associated with this movement: Ophite Diagrams: "The Ophite Diagrams are ritual and esoteric diagrams used by the Ophite Gnostic sect, who revered the serpent from the Garden of Eden as a symbol of wisdom, which the malevolent Demiurge tried to hide from Adam and Eve."

Roos then moves on to the neo-Platonic cosmic hierarchies (like Pseudo-Dionysius) and also Dante's Divine Comedy. Here's a diagram from La Materia della Divina Commedia di Dante Alighieri, by Michelangelo Caetani (wrongly cited as Cactani in Roos), 1855, at Internet Archive.

Roos then includes medieval maps with the nested spheres ascending to God or Christ above them.

He then moves on to diagrams inspired by Isidore's four elements and how they can be combined in relation also to the four seasons and the four points of the compass. Then he shows how Fludd took this old tradition and merged it with Cabalistic diagrams, resulting in these diagrams of macrocosm and microcosm. Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atqve technica historia at Hathi Trust. So much gorgeous stuff here, including diagrams much more elaborate than the ones in Roos's book. Look at the frontispiece from Volume 1: Integrae Naturae Speculum, the Mirror of Nature as a Whole.

I found this detailed commentary online from Wayne Shumaker's Occult Sciences in the Renaissance (I found a used copy for just 90 cents at Amazon and have ordered it!): "The outer three circles, which contain symbols that represent cherubim, seraphim, and archangels, surround the sphere of the fixed stars, the sphere of the planets, and two additional spheres of fire and air. At the top, God’s hand holds a chain which descends to the figure of a nude virgin, Nature, pictured with starry hair in order to prevent identification as a pagan goddess. From her left hand, in turn, the chain descends to an ape, a symbol for Art; along the chain God’s powers and effects are transmitted. Nature guides the primum mobile and turns the fixed stars (the draftsman has found no pictorial equivalents of these functions); also, influences from the fixed stars pass through her hands to generate material substances, and the planets act as marculi, or “little hammers”, to produce earthly metals. Although pictured on one of her breasts, the sun is Nature’s heart, and her belly is filled with the moon’s body (corpore lunari repletur). The life and vitality of elemental creatures are born from her breast, which also feeds (lactat) the creatures constantly. The earth under Nature’s right foot stands for sulphur, the water under her left foot for mercury; the joining of these through her body symbolizes their union in whatever is generated or grows. The ape, Art, is “born from man’s talents” and helps Nature by means of secrets learned from diligent observation of her ways. The seven innermost circles represent animals, vegetables, minerals, the “more liberal arts”, “Art Supplementing Nature in the Animal Kingdom”, “Art Helping Nature in the Vegetable Kingdom”, and “Art Correcting Nature in the Mineral Kingdom”. The animals shown are, on the right, the fish, the snail, the eagle, and woman; on the left, the dolphin, the snake, the lion, and man. In the same order, the vegetables are flowers and roots, wheat; trees, grapes. The minerals are sal ammoniac, orpiment (Mercurial), copper (Venereal), and silver (Lunar); talc (if taleum is a mistake for talcum, glossed by Ruland as a “transparent, brilliant material – again Lunar), antimony, (Jovial), lead (Saturnian), gold (Solar). The more liberal arts are fortification, painting, perspective, geometry, music, arithmetic; motion, time, cosmography, astrology, geomancy. (The usual list included grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy). The arts which supplement or otherwise assist r correct nature are the following: in the animal kingdom, medicine, egg production, bee-culture, sericulture; in the vegetable kingdom, tilling and tree-grafting; in the mineral kingdom, distillation by means of retorts and distillation by means of cucurbits (gourd shaped vessels)."

More about Robert Fludd at Wikipedia: "Robert Fludd, also known as Robertus de Fluctibus (17 January 1574 – 8 September 1637), was a prominent English Paracelsian physician with both scientific and occult interests. He is remembered as an astrologer, mathematician, cosmologist, Qabalist and Rosicrucian apologist."

Definitely someone to learn more about in the months to come! Apparently his philosophy was based on macrocosm-microcosm parallels. You can see it intersecting with the human mind here in this wild diagram: De triplici animae in corpore visione. Click here for full size. I don't see the Latin transcribed online anywhere which surprises me; the commentary begins thus: "Hic demonstrantur tres animae visiones, videlicet quatenus illa est sensus, quatenus imaginatio, et quatenus ratio, intellectus, et mens." I will see if I can find time to work on that... there must be a transcription online somewhere!

These last two images are not in Roos but I could not resist including them; I am guessing they might show up in Roos's book later! 

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