A modern exploration of the Mysteries.
(Formerly titled: Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism)
by Dr. Herbert Silberer
Translated by Smith Ely Jelliffe, M.D., Ph.D.
Dover Publications, Inc.
Lucifer, Lucifer stretch your tail,
and lead me away, full speed through the narrow passage,
the valley of the death,
to the brilliant light, the palace of the gods.”
“Albedo is also symbolized by the morning star Venus/Aphrodite. Venus has a special place in the Great Work. In ancient times Lucifer was identified with the planet Venus. Originally Lucifer has a very positive meaning. In the Bible we find 2Petrus 1:19 “…till the day arrives and the morning star rises in your hearts”. In Revelation 12:16 Christ says: “I am the shining morning star”. Here Christ identifies himself with the Lucifer! We find the same in mystic literature. In ancient times Lucifer was a positive light being. It was just one man who changed all that: when a certain Hieronymous read a phrase from Jesaja 14:12 (Jesaja talking to a sinful king of Babylon): ” How did you fall from heaven, you morning star, you son of the dawn; how did you fall to earth, conqueror of people”. Hieronymous used this phrase to identify Lucifer with the dragon thrown out of heaven by Michael. By the interpretation of this one man, Lucifer was tuned from a shining light being into the darkest devilish being in the world.
We find Lucifer in alchemy associated with impure metals polluted by rough sulfur. It means that the light being Lucifer in ourselves is polluted by what the alchemists call ‘superfluities’, ‘dross’, caused by man himself.
Mercury and Lucifer are one and the same. One talks about Mercury when he is pure, it is the white sulphur, the fire in heaven. As ‘spiritus’ he gives life. As ‘spiritus sapiens’ he teaches the alchemist the Great Work. Lucifer is the impure Mercury. Lucifer is the morning star fallen from (the golden) heaven. He descended into the earth and is now present in all humans. Lucifer is Mercury mixed with impure elements. He dissolved ‘in sulfur and salt’, ‘is wrapped with strings’, ‘darkened with black mud’. Keep in mind we are always talking about our consciousness. Lucifer represents our everyday consciousness, all the (psychological and other) complexes have clouded our pure consciousness, Mercury.
The light of Mercury that appears to us as Lucifer, because of the distortion caused by the impurities, gives the impression of what the alchemists called ‘red sulfur’. The red sulfur of Lucifer, as traditional devil, is actually an illusion. It does not exist by itself because it is only an image, a distorted image of Mercury. We ourselves caused the impurities, the blackness that veils our true light being.
Red sulfur is the same as what is called Maya in eastern philosophies. Maya is the world of illusions, or the veil that prevents us from seeing and experiencing true reality, where the eternal light is. By the impurities of Maya, man has become ignorant. He has forgotten his origin and thinks he is in a world which in actuality is an illusion.”
"The Grand Rosicrucian Alchemical Formula"
"In the heavens and surrounded by both an outer and an inner aureole and by hierarchies of celestial beings are the radiant symbols of the Holy Trinity: (the father?), the Lamb (the Son) and the Dove (the Holy Ghost). The respective dignities of the heavenly host are determined by the number and arrangement of their wings. The glory of the Godhead and the invisible world is concealed from the inferior creation partly by a line and partly by the circle of the starry heavens, itself obscured by clouds. Five birds—a crow (Saturn, lead); a swan (Jupiter, tin); a cock (Mars, iron); a pelican (Venus, copper); and the pheonix (Mercury, quicksilver)—occupy the half circle directly within the band of the starry heavens. The upper half of the blue circle containing the five planetary signs is occupied by the zodiacal signs. In the green circle appear the words: "The solar year, the stellar year, and the year of winds"; in the yellow circle, "The mercury of the sages, corporeal mercury, and common, or visible mercury"; in the orange circle, "Combustible sulphur, fixed sulpur, and volatile, or ethereal sulphur"; in the red circle, "Elementary salt, earthly salt, and central salt"; and in the violet circle, "Four kinds of fire are requisite for the work." The white central triangle contains the figure of the solar mercury.
The entire upper section of the plate is an esoteric diagram of the constitution of the threefold spiritual sun. In the lower foreground is a hill upon which grow a number of trees, each bearing the symbol of an alchemical substance. (For details consult Basil Valentine’s table of alchemical symbols.) At the lower right and represented by a nocturnal scene is the inferior world, while at the lower left and represented by a diurnal scene is the superior world. Thus water is symbolized by the right side of the plate and fire by the left side. Under the wings of the phoenix are two circles containing the symbols of fire and air; under the wings of the eagle are two other circles containing the symbols of earth and water. The human figures, one male and the other female, both attached to the superior world by a golden chain and bearing upon their bodies the symbols of the creative forces, stand for the divine (male) and human (female) principles in every creature. The spirit and will are represented by a lion rampant; the soul and intuition by a deer with twelve lights or stars upon its horns and bearing a trifoliate leaf symbolic of the threefold division of all natural things.
In the center of the picture is the figure of philosophic equilibrium and the accomplishment of the magnum opus. The double-bodied lion emphasizes to the initiated the necessity for the final union of all diversified parts; also that light and darkness (symbols of all natural opposites) are two bodies with a single head. Upon this strange creature which he has fabricated by his art and which symbolizes the reconciliation of apparently irreconcilable elements, stands the alchemistic philosopher. The stars upon his robe reveal the luminous nature of the purified and regenerated adept, and with the maces (the illumined intellect) he destroys the illusion of light and darkness and uniting the various scattered parts of the cosmos, fashions therefrom the philosophic androgyne. In the Hermetic Museum this plate is accompanied by the following quotation:
"By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and their hosts by the breath of His mouth. The spirit of the Lord hath filled the world. All things are satisfied with They goodness, O Lord. Thou turnest away They face, they are troubled. Thou turnest away Thy Spirit, they die and return again to their dust. Thy sendest forth Thy Spirit and they are created, and renewest the face of the earth. Thy glory is for everlasting."
In the Hermetic Museum a free rendering of the Emerald Table of Hermes (q.v.) is also annexed to this plate.
Only by profound contemplation and familiarity with the principles of mediaeval alchemy may the true spirit of chemical mysticism be discovered. In the above plate is set forth the complete key to the regeneration of the metals, the transmutation of earthliness into celestial splendor, and the mystery of generation which has been so sadly and ignorantly misinterpreted by the sciolists of the twentieth century.”
-“The Secret Teachings of All Ages,” Manly P. Hall.
"This symbol, a winged staff entwined by twin serpents called a caduceus, has been nearly universal, found in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India, where it is a symbol of harmony and balance.
The symbol may have originally been a symbol of the sovereignty of the Goddess Tanit, and has been used as an emblem of the goddess Ishtar and the Sumerian creator god Enki.
The most recognizable form is the Kerykeion, or herald’s wand, an emblem of authority carried by couriers for safe passage, and most often associated with the Greek Hermes and the Roman Mercurius. It has been mistakenly utilized as a symbol of the medical industry in the place of the wand of Asclepius (Asculapius).
In the Hermetic Tradition, the caduceus is a symbol of spiritual awakening, and has been likened to the twin Kundalini serpents of Hindu mysticism.”
* * * *
The caduceus from Greek κηρύκειον kērukeion ”herald’s staff”) is the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology. The same staff was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves.
As a symbolic object it represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name.
By extension of its association with Mercury and Hermes, the caduceus is also a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals. This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times. The caduceus is also used as a symbol representing printing, again by extension of the attributes of Mercury (in this case associated with writing and eloquence).
"The Orphic egg is usually represented as an egg surrounded by a coiled serpent. The egg symbolizes the belief in the Greek Orphic religion that the universe originated from within a silver egg. The first emanation from this egg, described in an ancient hymn, was Phanes-dionysus, the personification of light:
“ineffable, hidden, brilliant scion, whose motion is whirring, you scattered the dark mist that lay before your eyes and, flapping your wings, you whirled about, and through this world you brought pure light.””
The Hermetic Seal of Light:
"This symbol, often referred to as the synthesis of alchemy or the Hermetic Seal, hearkens back to ancient Pythagorean philosophy, wherein the square, circle, the and the triangle are the emblems of the material body, the soul, and the spirit, the three elements believed to be necessary for alchemical transformation.
Alchemically, these are Mercury, Salt, and Sulfur. In Atalanta Fugiens, it is written, “Make of man and woman a circle; thence a square; thence a triangle; form a circle, and you will have the Philosopher’s Stone,” a hidden geometrical formula for creating an octave and a golden rectangle.”
The Alchemical Cross.
"The gruesome symbol of a crucified serpent is an old alchemical drawing representing the “fixing of the volatile,” or, making the elixir of mercury, a legendary curative, by removing the ‘volatile’ or poisonous element. The picture is derived from the biblical story of Moses, who erected a brazen snake as a charm against plague.”
"A symbol for the alchemical element Sulfur, (Brimstone) which is spiritually analogous to the human soul. Alchemically, sulfur has the qualities of masculine, hot and dry. Combined with Mercury (feminine, cool and moist), the pair were considered the parents of all metals.
Alchemical drawings often portray Sulfur as the sun. (In some views, sulfur and salt are the parents of Mercury) The symbol of sulfur is often used as an identifying symbol by Satanists, due to sulphur’s historical asociation with the devil.
This glyph is often referred to incorrectly as the “pontifical cross of Satan” by Christian tract writers, due to its adoption as an emblem of Satanism by Anton LaVey in the 1960s. The emblem has no history as a symbol of Satanism outside of LaVey’s usage, and the attribution is most likely a product of anti-Catholic sentiment, as it is often compared in this context to the Catholic Pontifical Cross.”
*In a previous post it is mentioned how Sol in many respects represents the rational mind and it’s journey to knowledge, whereas Luna represents the intuitive mind, or the mind of the heart. In this way, we can look at this drawing as the battle between rational thought and intuitive sense; the conflict between the material world and the spiritual one.
“The most basic tenet of alchemy is that there are two primary ways of knowing reality. . . . The first way of knowing is rational deductive, argumentative, intellectual thinking that is the hallmark of science. . . . The alchemists called this solar consciousness, and assigned it many code words, such as the King, the Sun, Sulphur, Spirit, the Father, and ultimately the One Mind of the universe. . . . The alchemists called the other way of knowing lunar consciousness. This intelligence of the heart is a non-linear, image-driven intuitive way of thinking that is an accepted tool of the arts and religion. Among its many symbols are the Queen, the Moon, the metal Mercury, the Soul, the Holy Ghost, and ultimately the One Thing of the universe.”