Part 1 of 2 (Chapters I-IV) [Part 2]
The SECRET FIRE
An Alchemical Study:
By E. J. LANGFORD GARSTIN
The Secret Fire of the Alchemists has been described by them as "The All in All," and, next to the solution of the Sophic salt, it is said to be the greatest difficulty in the whole art, Without knowledge of the Fire nothing can be attained, even if the Matter be known.
This copy was scanned by hermetics.org. from the original 1932 copy.
Edward John Langford Garstin was a prominent member of the A:.O:., a later development of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He was the author of two published works primarily on Spiritual Alchemy. The other being "Theurgy" (1931), which we also plan to publish in the near future.
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THEURGY : OR THE HERMETIC ART
In a previous work entitled Theurgy, or the Hermetic Practice, we have endeavoured broadly to indicate the Telestic or
Perfecting ground of Alchemy in its Spiritual aspect. In the present short treatise the object we have proposed for ourselves is a more particular consideration of one of the great principles underlying the Art than was previously possible.
In this we shall employ much the same methods as those brought to bear in the more general analysis, and would, therefore, reiterate our previous statement that our attention has been focussed principally upon the Egyptian, Semitic and Greek systems, rather than upon the sacred and mystical writings of the East. Also that of these three, the Qabalah has been our chief guide.
That the Qabalistic Tradition is of extreme antiquity is steadily becoming more and more evident, and in this connection we would refer the reader to The Tittled Bible, by Dr. Moses Gaster, whose researches regarding the relationship between the Tittles and the Oral Law are of very great interest and importance.
At the same time we do not wish to suggest that the value of this Key is in any sense directly proportional to its age, for it is, on the contrary, our firm opinion that its worth is an inherent quality, independent of its date, but self-evident to those who are familiar with it. And though the Sephiroth have been described by some as arbitrary distinctions and a gratuitous multiplication of entities, we feel that such criticism arises rather from a lack of familiarity with the subject than from any real understanding.
For the word " arbitrary " is an assertion that we are convinced requires considerable qualification, so that the alleged "gratuitous multiplication" hardly arises. At the same time the Qabalah deals with Mathesis, or the doctrine of the Whole, as well as with Ontology, or that of the Parts or Singulars, of which latter the whole creation is an example, the apparent, real or material being, as Oken phrases it in his Physio-Philosophy, the ideal, non-apparent or spiritual in a state of definition and limitation of Form, dissevered and become finite. While, therefore, the ideal, which is the object of our quest, exists under an indefinite, eternal, single form, the Real exists, ipso facto, under the form of multiplicity.
This fact we cannot afford to ignore, and we conceive ourselves, consequently, to be justified in taking the system of the Sephiroth with their connecting Paths as having some real existence in the sense outlined above. The even greater reality that they may assume as a result of study and further knowledge, hardly falls within the scope of our present subject; but if they do nothing more than furnish us with a key to the Art under investigation, they will have fulfilled their purpose as far as we are here concerned.
Many secrets appear to have been carefully concealed by the old Alchemists, and not the least jealously guarded of these was their Fire. This is described as the all in all and, next to the solution of the sophic salt, it is said to be the greatest difficulty of the whole Art.
Obscurity of terminology is a charge frequently laid against alchemical writers, and it would be idle to deny the truth of such assertions. On the other hand the difficulties arising from such methods are largely superficial, at least as far as the genuine student is concerned; for familiarity with the so-called "envious" style adopted by the various authors, coupled, it must be admitted, with some glimmering of understanding as to the end proposed, enables the careful and methodical reader to gather together the scattered clues, which were deliberately distributed through the different portions of their works.
Nor can the masters of the Art be blamed if the unskilled practitioner, taking their recipes and instructions literally, fails to achieve any result; for time and again the warning is repeated not to mistake the shadow for the substance, not to imagine that in the preparations of the apothecary is to be found the First Matter.
Nevertheless, even though armed with some clue or intuition as to the meanings which underlie the written words, progress is not easy ; for some essential was always reserved, without knowledge of which nothing can be accomplished. These reservations varied to some extent, however, with the different authorities, so that much may be discovered by meticulous comparison; but it would appear that with regard to two points at least, there was complete unanimity. These were the secrets of the Fire and of the Solution, which, in fact, are mutually dependent upon one another.
Since, however, without the knowledge of the Fire, nothing can be attained, even if the Matter be known to the student, it may be of interest to see what information concerning it may be gleaned from a study of a few of the sources available. Such an inquiry, owing to limits of space, must of necessity be more or less superficial, as anything in the nature of a complete survey would require a volume of some considerable size. On the other hand, although thus circumscribed, it is to be hoped that the present endeavour will prove of assistance to some, while its very condensation may render it more acceptable than the more diffuse and prolix originals.
Let us, as a preliminary, make it quite clear that in our present quest, at any rate, we are concerned with Spiritual and not Material Alchemy. Indeed, we would give it as our considered opinion and firm conviction that the physical practice is impossible for those who have not already made some progress along theurgical lines, and may, in fact, prove to be full of danger.
Nor need the reader suppose that the imposition of such limits to our inquiry is in the nature of a restriction. On the contrary, it will be obvious that the problem we are to investigate is the greater of the two, and infinitely the more important. And that it was thus regarded by the philosophers is everywhere apparent when we come to study their writings seriously. Not that the work has not been dealt with from the point of view of physical transmutation, to deny which would be an absurdity, but simply because allusions to the spirit and to the Spiritual are of constant occurrence even in the more material treatises.
As bearing on the foregoing, we will, before proceeding to our main theme, quote an extract from the New Pearl of Great Price, by Peter Bonus of Ferrara, edited by Janus Lacinius, the Calabrian Minorite Friar. He says: "Our Art is more noble and precious than any other science. Art or system, with the single exception of the glorious doctrine of Redemption through our Saviour Jesus Christ. it must be studied, not, like other Arts, for gain, but for its own sake; because itself has power to bestow gold and silver, and knowledge more precious than either gold or silver. It may be called noble, because there is in it a Divine and supernatural element, it is the key of all good things, the Art of Arts, the science of sciences. There are, according to Aristotle, four noble sciences: Astrology, Physics, Magic and Alchemy — but Alchemy bears the palm from them all. Moreover, it is a science which leads to still more glorious knowledge; nor can there be found a branch of human wisdom, either speculative or practical, to equal it. We naturally desire, says Aristotle (de Animal., 10), to know a little of a noble and profound science, rather than to understand thoroughly some commonplace branch of knowledge. Our Art frees not only the body, but also the soul from the snares of servitude and bondage; it ennobles the rich, and comforts and relieves the poor. indeed, it may be said to supply every human want, and to provide a
remedy for every form of suffering."
Now three principles are everywhere admitted to be the foundations of this Art, namely the Salt, the Sulphur and the Mercury of the Adepts; and it will be at once apparent that, from its very nature, this Sulphur, which we know in advance to be no common Sulphur, will be our principal interest, although it is, naturally, impossible to deal with it entirely apart from the others.
Even though this is the case, before proceeding to attempt any detailed analysis of the many statements about Sulphur to which the Sages have committed themselves, it may be as well to review some of the information relating to this subject, which is to be found outside the purely Alchemical writings, amplifying it where need be, however, by reference to the latter. From such considerations we may hope to find some clue to the maze that confronts us, some guidance enabling us to penetrate its dim recesses.
With this object in view, it will be necessary for us to devote a certain amount of space to Fire when considered in its principal aspects, such as Divine, Creative, Spiritual, Solar, Purificatory, Sacrificial, Baptismal and Elemental, together with its symbolical forms as Lion and Serpent. In addition to these we must also mention Kundalini Shakti and its Western counterpart, the Speirema.
And such a search, although at first sight a departure from a theme avowedly alchemical, is none the less in harmony with it. For the Great Work, though variously described as Alchemy, Theurgy or Yoga; as the Telestic, Spagyric or Separative Art; as Esotericism, Occultism or Mysticism; is everywhere in essence one and the same, a striving towards union with the Higher. Nor is it possible to make those distinctions between the Mystic and the Occultist that have from time to time been attempted; as when it is averred that the former follows the path of Love and the latter the path of Power and Knowledge. For such alleged differences are, in reality, purely superficial, the true Occultist — as distinguished from the dilettante dabbler, the merely curious, and those in search of power only — is of necessity a Mystic, and, to succeed in his quest, must be every whit as much actuated by the power of Love as the earnest Mystic, who says he is not an Occultist — who, again, must be distinguished from those whose mysticism is merely a cloak for idleness or woolly-mindedness.
We will, we trust, be pardoned these remarks by those to whom they will seem too obvious, as well as by any to whom, unintentionally, they may give offence, but Alchemy and Magic are out of favour in these days. And though, in the light of modern scientific discoveries, the former is, as it were, a candidate for rehabilitation, the latter is still looked at askance, despite the fact, which passes unrecognised, that many of the processes of Alchemy cannot be brought to a successful conclusion without the aid of the despised Magic.
And lest, after such a statement, we may be asked why we have omitted the Magical Fire from our catalogue of the principal aspects of Fire, which we have proposed to discuss, we hasten to assert that we have not, in fact, been guilty of any such neglect, as we shall hope to show in the chapters which follow.
On examining the Bible we find that without any apparent regard for portraying Him as being wrathful or otherwise, the appearances of God to mortal man seem almost always to have been in Fire or Flame, frequently synonyrnous with what is termed the Glory of the Lord. And the same applies to His Angelic Messengers in many cases, as, in fact, it is written (Ps. civ, 4): "He maketh His Angels
spirits (winds or breaths) and His Ministers a flaming Fire." Such instances are very frequent, as when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire on Horeb (Exod. iii, 2) and the Lord called to him out of the burning bush (ibid. 4), and when the Lord descended upon Sinai in Fire (ibid. xvii, 18).
The appearances, also, of the Angel of the Presence Divine, who is Metatron, and of that Divine Person who represented God, namely the Shekinah, were always in brightness—if not actually in Fire—and surrounded with Glory. And the Lord or His Angel led the Children of Israel through the wilderness under the form of a Pillar of Fire (Exod. xiii, 21). Furthermore God appears to have
shown himself to Isaiah, Ezekiel and St. John in the midst of Fire (Isa. vi, 4; Ezek. i, 4; and Rev. i, 14), and the second coming of the Messiah is expected by some in a similar fashion (II Thess. i, 8). The Throne of God is as a fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire, and a fiery stream came forth before Him (Dan. vii, 9-10), while the Word of God is compared to a fire (Jer. xxiii, 29): "Is not My Word like as a fire?" while the Word is the Second Person, as is instanced by the Proem to the Fourth Gospel.
It is not, therefore, surprising that Fire was taken not merely as a symbol of the holiness and justice of God, but that some of those of old were given occasion to imagine that God dwelt in fire and that the heaven world was primarily a realm of fire. To strengthen this impression, fire from heaven appears frequently to have fallen upon the victims sacrificed to the Lord, as a mark of His presence and approbation. It has even been hazarded, though entirely without evidence, that in this manner the acceptance of Abel's sacrifice was expressed. At least when the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, a fire passed through the divided pieces of the sacrifice and consumed them (Gen. xv, 17) ; and fire fell upon the sacrifices that were offered at the dedication of the Tabernacle (Lev. ix, 24), upon those of Manoah, the father of Samson (Judges xiii, 19-20), upon the holocaust of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple (II Chron. vii, i) and in many other instances which it would be tedious to mention. We also refrain from indicating examples of the wrath of God, which are as obvious as they are numerous.
Such stories, ideas or descriptions, therefore, being current—and not merely among the Jews—the Eastern peoples, and particularly the Persians, evinced a tendency to worship the fire itself, or rather, taking fire to be God's symbol, and the visible manifestation of His presence, they worshipped Him in or through fire. Such a cult is to be found among the Assyrians and Chaldeans, and in some measure among the Egyptians, whence it spread westwards among the Greeks, who brought it to Rome.
Away from the East we recognise it as Vesta, who was worshipped at Troy, and brought by Aeneas into Italy :
Manibus vittas, Vestamque potentem,
Aeternumque adytis effert penetralibus Ignem.
(Aeneid ii, 296).
And though it was Numa who instituted the order of the Vestal Virgins, the practice was in force among the Albans long before his time.
Vesta is, of course, properly an Oriental word, and it has even been suggested that it derives from the Hebrew ASh, Ash, Fire, which root is distinguishable in the Phoenician Astarte and in Ashtoreth. In any event the Hebrew letter Sh (Shin), which is one of the three Mother Letters of that alphabet, is referred to the element of Fire. Qabalistically it is the symbol of RVCh ALHIM, Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of the Elohim, which vibrated upon the face of the waters in Gen. i, 2, the two being, by Gematria, numerically
equivalent as Sh is 300, while the total numeration of RVCh ALHIM is the same. And this is feminine, as is indicated in the genders of both words, and amplified in the Sepher Yetirah, or Book of Formation, i, 9 : " AChTh RVCh ALHIM ChIIM, Achath (feminine, not AChD, Achad, masculine) Ruach Elohim Chiim, One is She, the Spirit of the Elohim of Life." We may also remark that AShH, Ashah, is Woman, while with other pointing it means Fire, though this is usually in the sense of Sacrificial Fire. According to the Zohar I, fol. 7oa, in Lev. i, 17, we should read Woman and not Fire, which makes the passage read "The offering is a woman." This is to be taken as symbolising the union of the male and female principles, for the offering itself was a male.
In any event the custom seems to have been more or less general from the very earliest times, to maintain a constant and ever-burning fire in honour of the God or Gods, and Porphyry suggests that this was because Fire was most like the Gods, not actually, but in their appearance to mortals, the brightness which was characteristic on such occasions not being most like them themselves, but like the Divine Halo, Splendour or Glory in which they appeared enveloped.
It is thus possible to envisage how the practices of fire-worship originated, first in the vision, or in the attempted description of such vision, and how they altered in the gradual mistaking of the symbol for the reality, a process with which we are all too familiar in the history of religion, culminating in a false magic based on mistaken analogies, and the dreadful and degrading ceremonial in regard to a fire reverenced as the actual, extreme physical form of God, including the awful rites of human sacrifice as a means of
Nevertheless, before such depths were reached, there can be no doubt, in fact it is quite apparent, that a high and pure form of religion using fire as a symbol of Divinity, existed in ancient times, and, indeed, still exists ; traces of it being discoverable even in Christianity, though the main stream is naturally to be found in the Parsi religion, which is the lineal descendant of the ancient religion of Persia, the religion of Zoroaster. In the former, however, we may still trace it in the New Testament, as in the Revelation of St. John, and in the likening of the Holy Ghost to Fire, who descended upon the disciples in the form of tongues of flame (Acts ii, 5) ; also in the lights and incense employed in High Anglican, Roman and Greek Orthodox Churches.
Coming, on the other hand, from generals to particulars, and to considerations more in harmony with our main theme, we arrive at the Fire-Philosophers, Philosophi per ignem, or Theosophists, as they were alternatively called, who appeared during the sixteenth century. They were also known as Paracelsists, after Theophrastus Paracelsus, Bombast of Hohenheim, the celebrated physician and chemist, who was one of the prime movers of this sect, among whom have been numbered such distinguished men as Robert Fludd, the English Rosicrucian, Oswald Croll, Severinus, Khunrath, Jacob Boehme and many others. With the exception of Fludd, it may be mentioned, none of those others we have named were said to be Rosicrucians; but of Paracelsus we are told in the Fama Fraternitatis (Thomas Vaughan's English Translation, p. 10) that he had diligently read their Book " M."
These all taught that human reason was an insufficient guide, and that by its means the true wisdom was unobtainable. According to their teaching the only means of arriving at the truth was by interior illumination through the noetic or epistemonic faculty of direct cognition, and they sought, therefore, after the divine light or fire, through which such understanding can be obtained. This is that light or fire of the mind, which is spoken of in the Divine Poemander of Hermes Trismegistus thus :
" Then, said I, Who art thou ? I am, quoth he, Poemander, the Mind of the Great Lord . . . and I am always present with thee . . . and whatsoever thou wouldst learn I will teach thee. . . . And straightway, in the twinkling of an eye all things were opened to me; and I saw an infinite Light, all things were become Light, both sweet and exceedingly pleasant. And I was wonderfully delighted in the beholding it. . . . Then from that Light a certain holy Word joined itself unto Nature, and out flew the pure and unmixed fire . . . upward on high. It was exceedingly light, sharp and operative withal, and the air, which was also Light, followed the spirit, and mounted up with the Fire. . . . Then said he, I am that Light the Mind thy God . . . and that bright and lightful Word from the Mind is the Son of God. . . . Conceive well the Light in thy Mind, and Know It . . . (it) is innumerable and the truly indefinite ornament or world, and . . . the fire is comprehended or contained in and by a most great Power and constrained to keep its station. . . . And let him that is endued with Mind know himself to be immortal . . . let (him). . . mark, consider and know himself well. Have not all men a mind? Have a heed what thou sayest, for I, the Mind, come into men that are holy and good and pure and merciful, and that live piously and religiously, and my presence is a help unto them and forthwith they know all things . . . . But to the foolish, and evil, and wicked, and envious, and covetous, and murderers, and profane, I am far off, giving place to the revenging Demon."
But in addition to these more recondite mysteries, there is something mysterious also about the purely physical flame, the " Kitchen Fire " of the alchemists, apart from its colours and multiform shapes, as of serpents, wreaths, spires, stars, sparks and so forth; for what is Fire? It is hardly sufficient to reply that it is an effect of combustion; that it is heat, light and motion, a combination of chemical and physical forces in general, for this is no real explanation. Fire, and the lighting of a fire by a flame, is a great scientific difficulty, though we are so accustomed to the phenomena that the majority of people never give it a thought.
That such apparently unresolvable problems were presented even by this most material, this mundane expression of Fire, was but natural to the Fire-Philosophers; something to be expected; rather would it have been curious were it not so, for it was but the physical manifestation of their Arcane and Holy Fire, the nature of which transcended all human intellect.
Can we not, then, begin to understand something of the wonder and glory of their vision of the Secret and Sacred Flame, and sympathise when they demanded that it should be regarded with other eyes than those of the flesh, and pointed out that to the chemists it was a mystery regarding which, despite all their mechanistic ingenuity, they were rerforce silent? Were they not justified in asking the anatomists and physicians to describe that spark or flame of life, which alone, burning upright in the human clay,
animated it and made it live? For the principle of life and mind escaped, and still escapes, the most penetrating researches of Science.
It is, indeed, not surprising that our more primitive ancestors, as well as the Magi and the later Illuminati, adopted this mysterious principle as the type and image, as nearly as it could be expressed in visible symbol, of God and of the Soul or Spirit. On the contrary, if we are honest with ourselves, it is not unlikely that we may even admit that it is preferable to the anthropomorphic ideas, which have for so long dominated the minds of the bulk of humanity.
Perhaps some of the finest expressions of the Fire Philosophy, which we have had under consideration in the previous chapter, are to be found in the Chaldean or Zoroastrian Oracles. These, unfortunately, exist only in a fragmentary form as quotations in the books of various writers, principally the later Platonists, but it has been established that although such quotations are generally vaguely introduced as sayings of the Chaldeans, the Oracles, the Gods, etc., they existed at one time as a single poem. The date or origin of this is unknown, but the philosopher Porphyry considered it to be very old. In any event it should be remembered that the Chaldean Magi preserved their Occult wisdom by a continual Oral Tradition from father to son, just as the Qabalah was passed on in Israel.
These Oracles are so full of a majestic and lofty inspiration and imagination—using the latter term in its true sense of "the power of seeing images," as distinct from its usual meaning of "speculation"—that we will quote many of them in extenso, with such comments as may be found necessary. Those we shall use are to be found principally in the works of Porphyry, Proclus, Psellus, Damascius, Simplicius, Julian and Synesius, while one or two are anonymous. The principal translations of them are in the collections of Kroll, Cory, Mead and Westcott. We have selected the more poetical translations, with a few emendations, as being the more suitable to the subject, and have arranged them in a rather different order to some versions, wirh a view to getting more sequence. They will repay careful study, as they are a fruitful source of inspiration, and, like so many mystical writings, contain more meanings than words.
"There is above the Celestial Fire an Incorruptible Flame, always sparkling; the Spring of Life, the Fountain of all Being, the Original of all things! This Flame produceth all things, and nothing perisheth but what It consumeth. It maketh Itself known by Itself. This Fire cannot be contained in any place; It is without body and without matter. It encompasseth the Heavens. And there goeth
forth from It a little Spark, which maketh all the Fire of the Sun, of the Moon and of the Stars. Strive not to know more of Him, for that is beyond thy capacity, how wise soever thou art.
"There is in God an Immense Profundity of Flame! Nevertheless the Heart should not fear to touch this adorable Fire, or to be touched by it; it will never be consumed by this so sweet Fire; whose mild and tranquil Heat maketh the Binding and Harmony and the Duration of the World. Nothing subsisteth but by this Fire, which is God Himself. No Person begat Him. He is without Mother. He knoweth all things and can be taught nothing. He is Infallible in His designs and His Name is unspeakable."
Qabalistically speaking, this is Macroprosopus, the Vast Countenance, which is Kether, the Crown or First Sephira, the first manifestation of the Ain Soph Aur or the Limitless Light. He is the whole world of Atziluth, or pure Deity, which is above the Heaven World or Throne—which is called Briah and comprises the next two Sephiroth—the habitat of that Sacred Flame which is Ruach Elohim.
From this Supreme and Unimaginable Source streams forth all Mercy and Benignity, so that when Microprosopus, the Lesser Countenance, looks upwards to Macroprosopus, the Vast Countenance, the Influx passes over, and those below are mitigated. He is spoken of as Hoa, He, not as Ateh, Thou, and He is beyond all time and space and form. Of Him Eliphas Levi has aptly said: "He is the Space containing the Universe, but the Universe is not His space."
But to continue:
"For not in Matter did the Fire which is in the Beyond first enclose His power in acts, but in Mind; for the Former of the Fiery World is the Mind of Mind. Who first sprang from Mind, clothing the one Fire with the other Fire; binding them together so that He might mingle the Fountainous Craters, while still preserving unsullied the Brilliance of His own Fire. And thence a Fiery Whirlwind drawing down the Brilliance of the Flashing Flame, penetrating the Abysses of the Universe; for thencefrom downwards all extend their wondrous rays, abundantly animating Light, Fire, Ether and the Universe. From Him leap forth all relentless thunders, and the whirlwind-wrapped, storm-enrolled Bosoms of the All-Splendid strength of Hecate, Father-begotten; and He Who encircleth the Brilliance of Fire, and the strong Spirit of the Poles, all Fiery beyond."
Hecate, of course, is the same Goddess as Proserpine and Diana, and is connected with Luna and Isis. Mr. Mead says that she seems to have been the best equivalent the Greek mystics could find in the Hellenic Pantheon for the mysterious and awe-inspiring Primal Mother of Oriental mystagogy. She is the ineffable power of the Paternal Mind, he says, and fills all things with Intellectual Light. She is the Great Mother or Life of the Universe, the Magna Mater, or Mother of the Gods and all creatures. She is the Spouse of Mind. This is comparable with the Great Supernal Mother of the Qabalah, Binah, who is Aima Elohim.
Here may be seen the tremendous importance attached by the ancients to the unthinkable Mind, of which we shall see more anon in these Oracles. And we are reminded of the saying of the Rabbi in the Zobar, "Thought is the Principle of all that is." (Zoh., Part I, fol. 246—La Kabbale, Franck), where it is first spoken of as unknown and shut up in itself, then developing itself forth and becoming
Spirit, when it takes the name of Intelligence and is no longer immured within itself. At this stage, therefore:
"The Mind of the Father whirled forth in re-echoing roar, comprehending by invincible Will Ideas omniform, which, flying forth from that One Fountain issued; from the Father alike was the Will and the End; (by which yet are they connected with the Father, according to alternating Life, through varying vehicles). But they were distributed into other Intellectuals. For the King of All previously placed before the Polymorphous World a type incorruptible, the imprint of whose form is sent forth through the World, by which the Universe shone forth, decked with Ideas all various, of which the Fountain is One, One and Alone. From this the others rush forth distributed and separated through the various bodies of the Universe, and are borne in swarms through its vast Abysses, ever whirling forth in illimitable radiation. They are Intellectual conceptions from the Paternal Fountain, partaking abundantly the brilliance of Fire in the culmination of unresting time. But the Primary, self-perfect Fountain of the Father poured forth the Primogenial Ideas. These being many ascend flashingly into the shining worlds, and in them are contained the Three Supernals."
One can sense here the tremendous, whirling, fiery life emanating those archetypal forms, which were the inner worlds, on which the universe is based. And while the Qabalisitic World of Atziluth, pure Deity, is the Archetypal World, the World of Briah, composed of the Sephiroth Chokmah and Binah, Wisdom and Understanding, the Father and Mother—who, be it understood, are not themselves the Supreme, but, with Kether, form the Three Supernals—is the Creative World, the Throne, as we have said before. In Revelation (xxii, i) the River of Life is said to flow forth from the Throne of God, and this is the same as the Qabalistic River Nahar, which issues from Binah. The primary movement of creation, too, is given in the name of the Order of Angels attributed to Kether, which is Rashith Ha-Galgalim, the Beginnings of Whirling Movements.
"The Creator of all, self-operating, formed the World, and there was a certain mass of Fire; and all these, self-operating, He produced, so that the Kosmic body might be completely manifest and not appear membranous. And He fixed a vast multitude of unwandering Stars, not by a strain laborious and hurtful, but to uphold them with stability void of movement, forcing Fire forwards unto Fire.
"And He congregated the Seven Firmaments of the Kosmos, circumscribing the heaven with convex form. He constituted a septenary of wandering Existences, suspending their disorder in well-disposed zones. He made them six in number, and for the seventh He cast into the midst thereof the Fire of the Sun, into that centre from which all lines are equal. That the swift Sun may come around that centre, eagerly urging itself towards that centre if resounding Light.
"As rays of Light his Locks flow forth, stretching to the confines of space. The wholeness of the Sun is in the Supermundane Orders, for therein a Solar World and endless Light subsist. And his disk is in the Starless, above the Inerratic Sphere, and he is the centre of the Triple World. The Sun is Fire, and the Dispenser of Fire, he is also the Channel of the Higher Fire."
In these sections is outlined the secondary creation, that of the Elohim and of Tetragrammaton Elohim, for the Qabalah deals with another and prior creation than that which is here described, which latter is the Demiurgic creation of the Gnostics, the creation of Yetzirah and Assiah, the two lower worlds of the Zohar, the Formative and Material respectively, known also as Microprosopus and His Bride.
We also note the distinction between the "Sun visible to sense" as Philo terms it, and the hidden Sun which is "the centre of the Triple World." In a sense this Sun is Microprosopus, through Whom, as we have previously indicated, the Divine Influx descends, so that He is "the Channel of the Higher Fire."
And if we might enlarge yet a little farther, we would say that in these and the preceding sections a distinction is made between the Mind in its more potential aspect, and the Mind in operation, which is the Formative Mind. These are the "Hidden" and "Manifested" Fires of Simon Magus, mentioned in The Great Announcement, where he says:
"The hidden aspects of the Fire are concealed in the manifest, and the manifest produced in the hidden. . . . And the manifested side of the Fire has all things in itself which a man can perceive of things visible, or which he unconsciously fails to perceive; whereas the hidden side is every thing which one can conceive as intelligible, or which a man fails to conceive." It is therefore called the Ever-living or Holy Fire, and was taken to be both intelligible and immaterial as well as sensible and material, according to its plane of operation.
And lest any should doubt that a Second Father is intended, let him hear what follows:
"The Father hath hastily withdrawn Himself; but hath not shut up His own Fire in His Intellectual Power. All things are sprung from that one Fire. For all things did the Father of all perfect, and delivered them over to the Second Mind, Whom all Races of Men call First. The Mind of the Father, riding on subtile guiders, which glitter with the tracings of inflexible and relentless Fire. The Soul of the All, being a brilliant Fire, by the power of the Father remaineth Immortal, and is Mistress of Life and filleth up the many recesses of the Bosom of the World. The Channels being intermixed therein. She performeth the Works of Incorruptible Fire."
Here we have the Second Mind, which is Chokmah, Wisdom, otherwise called Ab, the Father, the Second Sephira, to which is attributed the Element of Fire; and Binah, Understanding, Who is called Aima, the Mother, the Great Productive Mother, the Mistress of Life, previously alluded to as Hecate. And in the Channels, which are so frequently mentioned, may we not see an analogy with the Paths of the Tree of Life of the Qabalah, which, with the Sephirorh themselves, are thirty-two in number?
Appropriately enough the Oracle continues:
"But these are Mysteries which I evolve in the profound Abyss of the Mind. Such a Fire existeth, extending through the rushings of Air, or even a Fire Formless, whence cometh the Image of a Voice, or even a flashing Light, abounding, revolving, whirling forth, crying aloud. Also there is the Vision of the fire-flashing Courser of Light, or also a child borne aloft on the shoulders of the celestial steed, fiery, or clothed with Gold, or naked, or shooting with the bow shafts of Light, and standing on the shoulders of the Horse. But if thy meditation prolongeth itself thou shalt unite all these Symbols in the form of the Lion."
In the above we make acquaintance with the supreme mystery of the Theurgist, his Formless Fire, which is the ultimate secretum secretorum, wherein is the Voice that is not a Voice, but is the very Word of the Self-transcending Self, whose Apocalyptic Image is Aries, the Lamb of God. Balancing this we have the other two signs of the fiery triplicity, Sagittarius and Leo. We learn more about this Theurgic Epopteia in what follows.
"Then when no longer are visible unto thee the Vault of the Heavens, the Mass of the Earth ; when to thee the Stars have lost their Light, and the Lamp of the Moon is veiled; when the Earth abideth not, and around thee is the Lightning Flame; then call not before thyself the Visible Image of the Soul of Nature! For thou must not behold it ere thy soul be purged by the Sacred Rites. Since ever dragging down the Soul, and leading it from Sacred Things, from the confines of Matter arise the terrestrial dog-faced demons, never showing a true image unto mortal gaze.
"So therefore, first the Priest who governeth the Works of Fire, must sprinkle with the Water of the loud-resounding Sea. And when, after all the Phantoms, thou shalt see that Holy and Formless Fire; that Fire that darts and flashes through the hidden depths of the Universe: Hear thou the Voice of Fire."
Here the allusion is to the Sacred Trance, the Mantic state, when, after the Alchemical Solution, the Soul or Spirit, withdrawing from the lower vehicles, penetrates into the hidden worlds. Therefore the warning not to attempt to draw the Veil of Isis until the necessary purgations have been successfully performed, for She is not lightly to be profaned. Nor must the soul be led away by the delusive and phantasmal appearances which beset it on its passage through the Astral World "wherein continually lieth a faithless Depth, delighting in unintelligible Images."
In view of the nature of our further inquiry, it would be inappropriate if we did not revert to the idea of the Three Supernals, that Sacred Triad which is almost everywhere to be encountered in the Religions of the world. The Oracle deals with them at some length as follows:
"Where the Paternal Monad is, the Monad is enlarged and generateth Two. And beside Him is seated the Duad, and glittereth with Intellectual Sections; also to govern all things and to Order everything not Ordered. For in the whole Universe shineth the Triad, over which the Monad ruleth. This Order is the beginning of all Sections.
"For the Mind of the Father said that all things should be cut into Three. Whose Will assented, and then all things were so divided. For the Mind of the Eternal Father said into Three, governing all things by Mind. And there appeared in IT, in the Triad, Virtue, Wisdom and Multiscient Truth. Thus floweth forth the Form of the Triad, being pre-existent. Not the First Essence, but that whereby
all things are measured.
"For thou shalt know that all things bow before the Supernals. The first course is sacred; but in the midst thereof another, the Third, Aerial, which cherisheth Earth in Fire. And the Fountain of Fountains and of all Fountains. The Matrix containing all. Thence abundantly springeth forth the Generation of Multifarious Matter."
Examining these sayings in the light of what we have previously put forward, the Three Supernals are the first three Sephiroth, Kether, Chokmah and Binah, of which the first is the Vast Countenance, the Father of All, Himself emerging from the Triadic Veils of the Negative existence. This is the Paternal Monad, for Kether is the number One. The Duad referred to would seem to imply the next two Sephiroth, Wisdom and Understanding, for they are the Intellectual Sections or parts, the Elohim governing and ordering, under the power of the Supreme, throughout the Universe. These, then, represent Virtue, Wisdom and Multiscient Truth, which latter is the Understanding. From these "abundantly springeth forth the Generation of Multifarious Matter."
Before leaving the subject of the Oracles, we would venture to instance two more sayings bearing on the Theurgic side, and consequently upon our main theme. They are as follows:
"If thou extendest the Fiery Mind to the work of Piety, thou wilt preserve the flexible body.
"The Telestic life, through a Divine Fire, removeth all the stains, together with every foreign and irrational nature which the Spirit of the Soul attracteth from generation."
The Fiery Mind is that quality in Man which is the counterpart of the Divine Understanding, Binah; that which, according to the Qabalistic division of the Soul is termed Neshamah; while the flexible body would appear to be what is more commonly called the Subtle Body. Telestic, as we have elsewhere indicated, means perfecting, and was applied to the Theurgical practices. Such a life, we learn, removes "all stains, together with every foreign and irrational nature." Compare this with that saying of St. Thomas Aquinas: "The Stone is One, the Medicine is One, to which we add nothing, only in the preparation removing superfluities."
Much more might be said about this remarkable and inspiring poem, but it would not fall properly within the limits of the inquiry we have proposed for ourselves, and we must pass on to other and more immediate correspondences, remarking only, in passing, that the passages we have selected, are those which actually bear closely upon our main theme; and that the very scanty notes we have supplied, are designed particularly to draw the attention of the reader to those ideas to which we shall have occasion subsequently to refer.
We will now turn our attention to the Purificatory Fire, with its subsidiary correlative the Sacrificial Fire, the prime object of which latter, except in certain cases of a propitiatory nature, usually wrongly conceived, was as a rule connected with the purging and cleansing of the spiritual nature, symbolising the destruction of the impurities and defilements of the soul.
Porphyry, in his letter to Anebo (lamblichos, De Mysteriis), says that he is in doubt in regard to the sacrifices, what utility or power they possess in the world and with the Gods, and for what reason they are performed, appropriate for the beings thus honoured, and advantageously for the persons who present the gifts. He also adds that the Gods require that the interpreters of the oracles observe strict abstinence from animal substances, in order that they may not be made impure by the fumes from the bodies ; yet they themselves are allured most of all by the fumes of the sacrifices of animals.
Such questions cannot but appear essentially reasonable, but Abammon the Teacher, in his reply, makes it perfectly clear that they are founded on a misconception, and proceeds to deal with the problem raised at considerable length, going into elaborate detail about the various types of sacrifices and the objects for which they were celebrated. It will suffice if we bring out some of the main points briefly, for with many of them we are not here concerned.
In the first place he points out that the higher Divinities are not in any way affected by such exhalations, and adds that their purpose "is by no means to offer them for the sake of honour along in the same way that we honour benefactors; nor for the sake of grateful acknowledgment of benefits which the Gods have bestowed upon us; nor yet as a first-fruit or gift by way of recompense for older gifts which the Gods have made to us," going so far as to state that "the offering of anything belonging to the realm of matter is alien and repugnant to the Divinities of the supra-material world." With this we may well compare (Isa., i, 11-14): "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me saith the Lord? I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs or of goats. Who hath required this at your hand? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; your appointed feasts my soul hateth." And (Amos v, 22): " Yea, though ye offer me your burnt offerings and meat offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offerings of vour fat beasts." Also (Jer. vi, 20); "To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me." Lastly (ibid. vii, 22): "I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices."
Abammon points out that the true sacrificial fire is a type illustrating the process—or one of the processes—which inducts the soul towards the higher, for as fire transforms all hard and refractory materials to luminant and tenuous bodies, so the characteristics in us become like the Gods. We are therefore led up by the sacrificial Fire to the Fire of the Gods in the same way that Fire rises to Fire, by leading and drawing upward those qualities which drag downward and are opposed to the divine and celestial essences.
Marsilio Picino, the Italian Platonist, says, according to Wilder, that the Fire which is kindled by us is more like heaven than what is left behind. It is made participant of light, which is something incorporeal, the most powerful of all things, and, as if alive, perpetually moving, dividing everything, yet not itself divisible; absorbing all things into itself, yet evading every alien mixture; and suddenly, when it is fully set free, flying back to the celestial fire which is latent everywhere.
"As the Gods cut the matter away with the electric fire, and separate from it whatsoever things are non-material in their essence, but yet are firmly held and fettered by it," says Abammon, "and as they likewise evolve impassive natures from the impassible—so also that fire that is with us, imitating the operation of the divine fire . . . releases us from the bonds of generated existence, makes us like the Gods, and likewise renders us fit for their friendship, and our material nature near to the non-material essence."
This is why, speaking of the kind of sacrifices most proper, he says : "The human being is everywhere sacred." This never meant originally that human sacrifices were to be offered, although when religions became debased such practices were instituted, owing to the ignorant or evil-minded mistaking the symbol for the fact. But it signified that the most acceptable sacrifice to the Superior Divinities is everywhere the human or material part of man; his desires, lusts, passions and so forth. As it is written (Ps. li, 17) : "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart 0 God, thou wilt not despise."
This is what Plotinus means (Ennead iii., 6, sect. 5) when he says: "To purify the soul is to isolate her, preventing her from attaching herself to other things ... in raising her from the things here below to intelligible entities; also to wean her from the body; for in that case she is no longer sufficiently attached to it to be enslaved to it, resembling a light which is not absorbed in the whirlwind (of matter).... To purify the soul is to ... hinder her from inclining towards lower things, or from representing their images to herself; it means annihilating the things from which she is thus separated, so that she is no longer choked."
The Sacrificial Fire, then, we may conclude, was in essence a Purificatory Fire, at least in the higher Theurgical sense that we are considering, and therefore a Spagyric or Separating Fire, truly Telestic or Perfecting in its nature, and we have therefore to turn our attention to the mystery of the Baptismal Fire, concerning which, as a matter of fact, we have comparatively little data.
It is obvious that in the New Testament two forms of Baptism are indicated, namely those of Water and of Fire, for John the Baptist says (Matt. iii, ii): "I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I. ... He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with Fire." This prophecv is taken by many to have been fulfilled when the Holv Spirit descended upon the Disciples ar Pentecost in the form of Tongues of Fire (Acts ii, 3). It is, however, only fair to say that the Church Father Origen does not subscribe to this view, for in Horn. xxiv in Luke he says: "The apostles were baptised with the Holy Ghost after the ascension (of Jesus); but where and when they were baptised with Fire, the scripture does not say." This, naturally enough, raises the point of whether there may not be three Baptisms intended, but for the moment we will restrict our attention to two, namely Water
And the Holy Hierotheos, dealing with this point says (The Book of the Holy Hierotheos, Discourse iii, 4): "Now concerning Holy Baptism, my son, for my part I say that no man can be saved if he be not accounted worthy of Holy Baptism; but it is easy for us to learn from our Lord that there is a Second Baptism; for when he wished to teach the band of the Apostles the secret of this Baptism, he spoke thus, 'For I have a Baptism to be baptised with which ye know not.' "
We must here advise the reader that Hierotheos indicates that this Baptism, which is of Fire, took place with the majority of mankind after they had left the physical body, there being but few who, in life, could attain to the degree of separation necessary to receive this Sacrament. The quotation from the sayings of Jesus will not be found in the Gospels, unless, as Mr. Marsh, the translator of the book, suggests, it is a combination of Luke xii, 50 with John iv, 52. It may, however, come from some other
Hierotheos continues: "Now if there were no other Baptism than Baptism with water, would not the Apostles have said, ' We ourselves. Lord, saw thee baptised ' ? So it is evident that He spoke of the Second Baptism of which Divine Minds are accounted worthy in the regions which are above the heavens; for therein Minds are accounted worthy to be baptised with Spirit and with Fire and not with water. ... It is evident to us, therefore, 0 my son, that the Baptism with water is the Baptism of the body, and that it is only the symbol and type of the glorious and real Baptism, of which all divine Minds are accounted worthy in the place that is above the heavens. And let us, therefore, hope to be baptised in the heavens, inasmuch as it is known to us that this, verily and holily, is the great and divine Baptism. Now the former (Baptism) gives repentance, but that which is above unites (us) with the Good."
Now John baptised in Jordan, but there is also a heavenly Jordan, which is one with that River of Life proceeding from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. And this, as we have elsewhere shown, is the same as the Qabalistical River Nahar, flowing forth from Binah, the Great Supernal Mother. This is the River of Spirit, Ruach, whose symbol is Fire. And we would remind the reader again that the letter Sh (Shin), which is one of the three Mother Letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and is referred to the element of fire, is, among the letters, the symbol of Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of the Elohim, the Spirit of God, as it is translated in Gen. i, 2, or the Holy Ghost, RVCh ALHIM and Sh being numerically equivalent; and that these agree in their least numeration with NHR, Nahar, the River.
The preceding paragraphs should be compared with what Origen has to say regarding the Baptism by Fire (ed. Lommatzsch, v, p. 179 ff.); " Even as John was waiting at the shore of the Jordan for those that came to be baptised . . . even so the Lord will stand in the River of Fire beside the Flaming Sword, and will baptise in this River everyone . . . who is still in need of purgation." Now the Flaming Sword is a familiar symbol of the Tree of Life of the Qabalah, for it is usually portrayed in the form of a flash of forked lightning, and thus traces out the ten Sephiroth (which form the Tree) in their natural order. Compare also (the Zohar II fol. 247a): "The Soul is thereupon led to the ' River of Fire,' through which all souls must pass to be purified. ... If the soul is worthy and comes up out of the river, it is again clad in its garment and brought to the High Priest, Michael, who offers it as a burnt offering to the Ancient of Days, before Whom it remains eternally." Concerning this river the Midrash tells us that "if even the angels bathe in this stream of fire to renew themselves, how much more should the children of man long after this purification."
We do not find any actual account of the Baptism of Fire in the Book of the Holy Hierotheos, but in the Pistis Sophia, Book III, chap. 114, we read: "Now, therefore, he who shall receive the mysteries of the baptism, then the mystery of them becometh a great fire, exceedingly fierce and wise, which burneth up the sins and entereth into the soul secretly and consumeth all the sins which the counterfeiting spirit hath implanted in it. And when it hath finished purifying all the sins which the counterfeiting spirit hath implanted in the soul, it entereth into the body secretly and pursueth all the pursuers secretly and separateth them off on the side of the body. For it pursueth the counterfeiting spirit and the destiny and separateth them off from the power and from the soul, and putteth them on the side of the body, so that it separateth off the counterfeiting spirit and the destiny of the body into one portion; the soul and the power, on the other hand, it separateth into another. The mystery of the baptism on the contrary, remaineth in the midst of the two, continually separating them from one another, so that it maketh them clean and purifieth them, in order that they may not be stained with matter."
This Fire, we learn later on (in the Fifth Book), is the Fire which He came to cast on the earth (Luke xii, 49), and the Living Water—vide supra concerning the River of Life—that the Samaritan woman should have asked for (John iv, lo-n and 14); also the Cup of Wine of the Eucharist.
According to Hierotheos, this Baptism takes place after the second Ascent, and after it there is nothing at all to prevent the Mind from becoming in everything like Christ, for which reason it puts away the designation of ' Mind ' and is called ' Christ,' and is considered worthy, divinely and holily, to effect unification with the Good. Now this unification is not the highest stage, as we have explained in our Theurgy, for beyond it is what is termed ' Commingling.' We need, therefore, not be surprised to learn that Christ is nothing else than the Mind that is purified, and that at the unification Christ is no longer worshipped, "but those Minds are worshipped which are accounted worthy of Unification; and Christ is no longer their Head, because Christ is ' the Head of them that sleep,' but of those that have been awakened Christ is no longer the Head."
At first sight, indeed, such statements may, to some, appear rather startling, but it must be remembered that they are taken out of their context, which it is naturally impossible to give here at any length. We would therefore explain that Christ, as the Son, is Microprosopus, the Lesser Countenance, and is to be regarded as the Perfection of Being in each of the four Worlds; that is to say, the perfect Microcosm in each. It is therefore a different aspect of a Universal Spirit that is described in the different stages of this remarkable book, and this is the key to its apparent lack of sequence, and to many of its seeming contradictions.
At the epoch in its evolutional history which is under consideration, the Soul, having transcended the world of Assiah, the material world, and having passed through the various stages of the Yetziratic World, or world of formation, stands on the threshold of the Briatic World "and sets out to pass beyond the place of Sacraments," says Hierotheos, "being divinely and highly exalted to see the Essences that are above these; and perhaps it also sees Christ preparing the way before it "—by which is meant the Christ of Briah, the formless and creative world of the Elohim—"and other Essences also, which say to it, ' come up on high and take thy seat.' . . . With wondrous pomp, then, the divine Mind is exalted as far as (the place) where it finds ' appearance ' "—that is to say form—" no more; and it also says,' There is no appearance before my eyes ' " (Job iv, 16—LXX and Pesh.) "and it burns holily and divinely, in spiritual contemplation, to come to the Tree of Life, and to be united with it. These things it does with divine comprehension and mystical understanding of the significance of its journey; and so in glory (most) glorified, it arrives at the Essence which is called ' Universal.' "
We must here point out that the Universal Essence is not the Supreme, nor would we expect it to be so if this were the World of Briah as we have asserted. But Hierotheos tells us that this Essence exists after separation from One (which is Kether) and before the distinctions of Form (Yetzirah). We note also the coincidence—if it be nothing more—of the words used, comprehension and understanding, which are so similar to Wisdom and Understanding, namely Chokmah and Binah, the Sephiroth comprising this world of Briah, and further the desire of the Soul to be united to the Tree of Life, which, in Revelation (xxii, 2) grew on either side of the River.
We will now revert to the question previously raised concerning a triple Baptism. This, though not named as such, is hinted at by the Holy Hierotheos in the Commingling, which is above Unification. But here, as in the Pistis Sophia (Book V, chap. 143), the order is Water, Fire and then Spirit, so that Origen would appear to have been mistaken in his statement previously quoted by us at the beginning of this chapter. Again, in The Book of the Great Logos, otherwise described on its first page as The Book of the Gnoses (pl.) of the Invisible God, we are given descriptions of the three Baptisms in this order. The Baptism of the Spirit is, of course, that of the "Pneuma" or "Ruach," both of which mean Wind, Breath, or Air, and the third Baptism is alluded to in such terms in various allegories and accounts of the Mysteries. For example, in the Sixth Book of the Aeneid Souls are described as being purified by being exposed to the winds; and to this passage the learned commentator Servius adds: " Every purgation is effected either by water or by fire or by air; therefore in all the Mysteries you find these three methods of cleansing; they either wash you with water or disinfect you with sulphur (burning) or ventilate you with wind; the latter is done in the Dionysiac Mysteries."
Now a little earlier we have pointed out that Fire and the letter Shin are symbols of the Ruach or Spirit, and it may be thought that we are here contradicting ourselves by separating the two Baptisms. But we are not guilty of any such carelessness, for as the First Baptism, that of Water, is, by its cleansing nature, symbolic of the further purgation by Fire, so is the Second Baptism, that of Fire, the type and symbol of the Third Baptism, that of the Pneuma, Ruach, Spirit or Air, the last stage in the apotheosis of Man. But with this last we are not immediately concerned and we must leave this subject, despite its extraordinary interest, and proceed to consider our next point.
We come now to the stage where we must consider the Solar aspects of fire, for it is but natural that among those who regarded fire in the way we have attempted to indicate in the earlier chapters, the Sun should be regarded as a very special symbol of the ideas they held. And this we find to be the case in very many instances, and especially among the Egyptians and Persians, to whom, principally, we will confine our attention.
Ra, and the personification of his various forms, together are the greatest of all the Gods of the Egyptians, and it is he who must be regarded truly as the Father of the Gods. Solar worship in Egypt is of extreme antiquity, and appears to have been universally practised, and at a very early period the adoration of Ra was connected with the cult of Heru, the Hawk-God, who personified the height of heaven, and seems to have been a symbol and type of the Sun. Strictly speaking his worship is probably the oldest in Egypt, older even than that of Ra himself, but from all practical points of view the latter was the oldest of all the Gods of Egypt, for the first act of creation was the appearance of his disk above the abyss of the waters of creation.
This idea is, of course, almost identical with the Qabalistic doctrine of the appearance of the Vast Countenance, the "Head desired by all desires" of the Siphra Dtzenioutha or Book of Concealed Mystery, which Head is, as it were, the first limitation of the boundless Light, although the Sun is more usually typified by the sixth Sephira, Tiphareth or Beauty, which represents Microprosopus, the Lesser Countenance. On the other hand, the analogy is quite reasonable, for the Vast Countenance emerged, as it were, above the Chaos or Ocean, the Waters of Creation, the Tohu Ve-Bohu of Gen. i, 2, for this was the fragments of those prior worlds which were unable to subsist until the Head, which is Kether, or the ten Sephiroth of the World of Atziluth, was fully conformed.
In any event Ra was much more Macroprosopus than Microprosopus, for he was regarded as the maker and creator of everything including heaven and the Gods. He was One, self-begotten, self-created and self-produced. He was the God of the unborn, the living and the dead. He had existed for ever, and would exist for all eternity. From him flowed forth all life and light, and he was right, truth and goodness personified.
On the walls of royal tombs of the nineteenth and twentieth Dynasties at Thebes are to be found inscribed the Seventy-Five Praises of Ra, which are really quite remarkable. It would be inappropriate to quote them here at length, but excerpts from one or two may prove interesting.
Ra is described as the "Creative Force, who spreadest out thy wings. . . The World-Soul that resteth on his high place. Thou art he who protecteth thy hidden spirits, and they have form in thee. . . . Thou dost give breath to the souls in their places, and they receive it. ... Thou raisest thy head and thou makest bold thy brow, thou ram. . . . Praise be to thee, 0 Ra, exalted Sekhem (Power); thou art the Soul exalted in the double hidden place. . . . Thou art the Soul who movest onwards. . . . Thou, 0 Ra, hast created the things which exist, and the things which do not exist, the dead and the Gods and the Spirits. . . . Thou art the doubly hidden and secret God, and the souls go where thou leadest them, and those who follow thee thou makest to enter in. ... Thou art the Aged One. . . . Thou art the Soul on high. . . . Thou sendest forth the light, and thou lookest upon the hidden places. . . . Thou art the Lord of Souls who art in the House of thy Obelisk. . . . Thou art indeed the Lord of Souls. . . . Thou art the Lord of Light, and declarest the things which are hidden, and thou art the Soul that speaketh with the Gods."
And in the legend of Ra and Isis, which is to be found in the Turin Papyrus, the title reads: "The Chapter of the God Divine, self-produced, the maker of heaven and earth and the breath of life, of fire, of gods, of men, of beasts, of cattle, of reptiles and creeping things, of the fowl of the air and of fishes, the king of men and of gods, in form One, to whom one hundred and twenty years are but a year; his names are many and unknown, yea, even the gods know them not."
In the foregoing quotations we would lay stress on the aspect of Ra as the World Soul, the source of souls, giving breath, which is Pneuma, Ruach or Spirit, to souls. Even when he is described as the Ram, the Egyptian word is Ba, which also means Soul. We would also note that the Ram is Aries, the Exaltation of the Sun, which is in harmony with the description given, " Thou raisest thy head and thou makest bold thy brow."
But when we come to "the double hidden place," "the Soul who movest onwards," " who art in the house of thine obelisk," we are irresistibly reminded of the theories of Mr. Marsham Adams regarding the connection between the so-called "Book of the Dead" and the Great Pyramid. And here we touch upon the telestic side of our subject once more, for according to Mr. Adams the Pyramid was used as a Temple of Initiation, and the Grand Gallery corresponded to the Hall of the Two Truths. What is this but " the double hidden place," and what is the Initiate but "the Soul who movest onwards" ; and is not " the House of thine Obelisk " the Pyramid itself?
On the other hand, the "doubly hidden and secret God" suggests the Qabalistic " Concealed of Concealed," while the " Aged One" resembles the " Ancient of Days." Further parallels, we have no doubt, will also occur to the thoughtful and observant student, but we must pass on to other considerations.
We are naturally attracted to the Magian or Magusasan tradition, and the Mysteries of Mithra. Unfortunately, the information we possess is very meagre, although at one time this cult was most widely spread throughout the Roman Empire. This is primarily because the secrets of these Mysteries were most jealously guarded, so that not even the most enterprising of Church Fathers was able to get possession of their carefully concealed rites and doctrines with a view to denouncing them publicly, and thus, all unconsciously, preserving something of their wisdom for posterity.
It may, however, be helpful to remember that Simon, who is said to have been the earliest Gnostic Heretic, was called Magus, or the Magian, and that, as Mr. G. R. S. Mead suggests, there may be some connection between the Aeons and the Amshaspands in the Avestas. Then, too, the Zoroastrian or Chaldean Oracles have come down to us in some part at least, and we know that these were highly esteemed by Porphyry, who, like most of the philosophers of the Later Platonic School, was an initiate of the Mithraic Mysteries, wherein alone, it was claimed, was to be discovered the Arcanum Arcanorum.
Apart from this, it is generally held by most students of the Zend and Pahlavi books, that the Avestan tradition is in the main stream of Mazdaean descent, and it has been suggested by Darmsteter that Avestan Mazdaism is a development and an attempted systematisation of the cult of the Zoroastrian Magi.
Mithra, even in the Zend books, is placed almost on an equality with the Supreme, and in the earliest days was regarded as the God of Light and Lord of the Heavenly Light. He is not the Sun, but the Sun is his Chariot or Charioteer. He is also Heat and Life, and corresponds in some cases to the Orphic Eros. He is Agathodaimon, the Good Spirit, and not merely does he bestow material benefits, but spiritual. Mithraism was thus a Mystery of Spiritual Regeneration and Rebirth, and from the one Ritual which is preserved to us, we can see that it was a Magical Religion, using Theurgic Practices as its basis, all else being but subordinate.
Zozimus, one of the earliest of the Alchemistic writers, in a treatise On Asbestos says: "And if thou dry it in the sun thou shalt possess the mystery that no man can impart, in which no one of all the wisdom-lovers hath ventured to initiate in words; but only by the sanction of their own divinity have they imparted its initiation. For this they have called in the scriptures the chief of all mysteries ; the Stone that is no Stone, the unknowable unto all, the that which hath no honour yet is of greatest honour, the that which none can give but God alone, the one thing in all our operations which is superior to all that is material. This is the remedy which doth contain all power—the Mithraic Mystery."
Here we have a direct allusion to our Secret Fire, our Incombustible Sulphur, for it has been said by Porphyry that "a dry soul is best," implying that the lust of generation moistens the soul, making it watery, while the Fire dries and lightens it. This is the Sacred Living Fire, to be adored and tended in the shrine of the innermost nature. As Proclus says, apparently basing himself upon the Oracles : "Let us then offer this praise-giving to God— the becoming like unto Him. Let us leave the Flowing Essence and draw nigh to the true End ; let us get to know the Master, let all our love be poured forth to the Father. When he calls us, let us be obedient; let us haste to the Hot and flee the Cold ; let us be Fire ; let us ' fare on our Way through Fire. 'We have an' agile Way' for our Return. 'Our Father is our Guide,' who ' openeth the Ways of Fire,' lest in forgetfulness we let ourselves flow in a downward stream."
It is probably needless to point out that the "Flowing Essence " is the River of Generation, the same as is the "downward stream," the divine creative powers turned earthwards.
The Symbol of this force is, of course, the Serpent, with which we shall have to deal in rather more detail a little later on. For the moment we will merely point out that the Good Serpent, which is Fiery and even Solar, reappears in Alchemy as the Lion, for the two are one, though the stages they represent are different. As we said in our Theurgy (chapter iv, page 57): "In Astrology the sign Leo is the Kerubic Emblem of Fire, while the form of the sign is the glyph of a serpent, and the Hebrew Letter Teth, to which it is referred in the Sepher Yet^irah or Book of Formation (probably the oldest book of the Qabalah), means a serpent and is also a glyph of one. . . . Leo is also the Astrological House of the Sun."
Now one of the Grades of the Mithraic Initiation was called the Leontica or Lion Grade, and in this was celebrated a honey-rite. It will be remembered that in the story of Samson (Judges xiv, 8), "There was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the Lion." The letter Teth, to which, as we have said, the Sign of Leo is referred, is stated to be the Foundation of Taste, which is alleged to have some connection with Samson's saying (ibid. 14): "Out of the strong came forth sweetness." We may also remark that in the highest grade, that of the Fathers, the Initiates were called Eagles or Hawks, which is reminiscent of the forms of Ra and Horus.
Limits of space prevent any detailed description of the Mithra Ritual, but the curious reader can refer to the complete translation published in the Echoes from the Gnosis Series, by G. R. S. Mead. We will merely give two short extracts from the invocations and pass on. They are taken from the first and third invocatory utterances respectively.
"0 Primal Origin of my origination ; Thou Primal Substance of my substance ; First Breath of breath that is in me; First Fire, God-given for the Blending of the blendings in me, of fire in me. ... Translate me now ... by virtue of the Deathless Spirit ... in order that I may become reborn in Mind. . . . Initiate, and that the Holy Breath may breathe in me ; in order that I mav admire the Holy Fire."
"Hear me ... 0 Lord, Who with Thy Breath hast closed the Fiery Bars of Heaven; Twin-bodied; Ruler of the Fire; Creator of the Light; 0 Holder of the Keys; In-breather of the Fire; Fire-hearted One, Whose Breath gives Light; Thou Who dost joy in Fire; Beauteous of Light; 0 Lord of Light, Whose Body is of Fire; Light-giver, Fire-sower ; Fire-loosener, Whose Life is in the Light; Fire-whirler, Who sett'st the Light in motion; Thou Thunder-rouser; 0 Thou Light Glory, Light-increaser; Controller of the Light Empyrean; 0 Thou Star-tamer!"
Now one of the most extraordinary and awe-inspiring of the sculptured symbolical figures that we find in the ruins of the Mithraea, is that which Mr. Mead has described as "the mysterious Aeon, transcending Gods and men. He is the Ever-living One, the Lord of Life and Light—the Autozoon, He that gives life to himself, and is the Source and Ender of all lives. He is Zervan Akarana, Boundless Time, and also Infinite Space, the Ingenerable and Ineffable, the Pantheos."
It must be remembered that this account of the statue is conjectural, and that, therefore, its signification may have been somewhat different; but before discussing any other possible meanings it may have had, it will be as well to describe the general form in which it is found.
The body, which is that of a lion-headed man (the head being thickly maned) is frequently engraved all over with the signs of the Zodiac, and bears a bolt or solar emblem on its breast. The feet vary in form, being sometimes human and sometimes animal. From the shoulders spring two pairs of wings, the one pair pointing upwards, while the other pair hang down. A great serpent is coiled round the body, usually in seven coils, and the head of the serpent lies on, or overhangs the head of the image—in one case bending round into the mouth. In either hand is a key, and in the right hand there is also frequently a rod or sceptre.
This should be compared with the remarkable Orphic Cult-Image in the Royal Museum at Modena, which is said to represent the birth of the God Phanes-Dionysos from the World-Egg. This sculpture was later used as a Mithraic Symbol, where, of course, it is supposed to have represented the birth of Mithra.
Here the whole figure is human, and is surmounted by a globe. Only one pair of wings are portrayed, and the Zodiacal signs form an oval surround. The Serpent coils about the image, as in the previous case, and the bolt, or solar emblem is on the breast. The left hand holds a long staff, while the right is furnished with a torch. The feet are those of an ox, and are standing in fire, while the globe surmounting the head rests in a nest of fire.
Now while the sculptures may quite well have represented the Aeon or the birth of Phanes-Dionysos or Mithra from the World-Egg, it is quite conceivable that they were rather types of the Initiate, the awakened man, and in particular the lion head suggests this when we remember that one of the highest grades was the Leontica. Furthermore the Zodiacal symbols, and the emblem of the Sun on the breast suggests the deathless Solar Body, while the serpent may well be a representation of the Speirema or Serpent Coil, now fully aroused, the wings pointing out the spiritual and volatile nature. The keys, of course, would be those of knowledge, and in the other figure are symbolised by the torch. The staff, rod or sceptre, naturally enough, represents power.
This, again, is conjectural, but in any event the re-born man is the true Microcosm, the image of the Creator. On the other hand, the serpent suggests—especially when in conjunction with the Solar and Zodiacal symbols present in both examples—a number of considerations which we must now proceed to discuss.
Continued in Part 2 (Chapters V-XI)