Lustre of the Stone

I begin in silence and secrecy as we prepare to receive the invitation that confers divine blessing on our work, before moving on to consider the nature of allegory and discuss texts and images whose true meaning reveal the science and art necessary to locate by its lustre the prima materia. That is the living ore, granted to us by God to begin, in his name, the Greatest of Work.

Silence and Secrecy

Before I discuss the paradoxical relationship between our hermetic science and the secrecy and silence required of its practitioners, let us look on the face of silence.

Tomb of Jacob Robles, Pere Lachaise cemetary in Paris.
Tomb of Jacob Robles, Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

In my paper Radiance of Nature, which was included in the pamphlet published by the SRIA Province of Greater London to mark the winter solstice of 2020, I included, though did not discuss, the face of silence.

The illustration which I used was part of a memorial sculpture created for the tomb of Jacob Robles and situated in the Jewish section of the Parisian cemetery of Pere Lachaise. The artist who created and carved this work was Antoine-Augustin Preault (1809-1879), of whose extraordinary life as a revolutionary and artist of the romantic movement, it was said that he was:

possessed by the fever of poetry, the drunkenness of beauty, the horror of vulgarity, and the madness of glory

We see around the carved figure a wreath of ivy. As an evergreen plant that persists throughout winter, ivy has had spiritual significance for many traditions. To Christians it represented the eternal life of the soul after the death of the body, for Preault, a passionate Romantic, he knew ivy as a symbol of the ephemeral nature of human life and its achievements.

Within the wreath of ivy is the face of silence. His features are idealised and powerful, their origin is in the gothic age, but reimagined and revived by an artist of the romantic era. As we all look at that face it reveals its identity to each of us. For me I see in those robes and shroud the face of Virgil as he is depicted by Gustave Dore in his illustration of the Divine Comedy. Silence gazes at us from his world to our own.

Let us now look more closely at the face of the sculpture. We know from its name that it is the head of a man. This is appropriate because silence, in the ancient Greek world, was personified by the god Harpocrates. However, that name originated from the transliteration of the hieroglyph for the ancient Egyptian god whose name means ‘Horus-the-Child’, ‘the new-born sun’, and ‘the first strength of the winter sun’. Both Harpocrates and Horus-the-Child hold a finger to their mouths. For the Greeks, this sign was the gesture of silence, but for the Egyptians it represented the hieroglyph for child. So, our Art reveals that it is in silence that the Son of the Sun is born.

Preault positions each of the fingers of the right hand very carefully. If we look closely, we see that it is not the forefinger, as we would expect, that is placed on the lips but the middle finger. The chin then rests on the bent fourth or ring finger. For the Romans, the middle finger represented Saturn, death, but became through the influence of Christianity to represent resurrection in the name of Christ. The fourth finger upon which his chin rests alludes to the divine world that we hope to know through our work in this world. Thus, in silence we die but with the hope that through our work we will be reborn in the Son of the Sun.

As well as his characteristic gesture, the other symbol that designates Harpocrates is the rose, the gift of Aphrodite, its meaning is that the knowledge of the gods should be kept secret through silence. In every respect, the rose of the Rosicrucian acts as a constant reminder that secrecy and silence is required of us by those who freely share with us their knowledge.

The Paradox of Silence and Secrecy

Let me briefly consider the paradox of silence. In all societies, associations, and traditions that practice hermetic science, obligations, pledge or vows, are required of the aspirant. These concern what we will learn and prohibit its disclosure to the profane world, and those unworthy individuals we may meet.

And yet we find texts published by authors some of whom are anonymous, others that attribute their works to our masters, and by those masters themselves. Indeed, here I am, within a study group of our Society presenting a paper on our art yet acknowledging our tradition of secrecy and silence. It is a paradox.

Let me recall three recent examples. First, Mary Ann Atwood who in 1850 published anonymously her most famous work ‘A Suggestive Enquiry into the Hermetic Mystery’.  Second, Voyages en Kaleidoscope written by Irene Hillel-Erlanger and published in 1919 shortly before her death. Lastly, Jean-Julien Champagne whose publication of the achievement of the ‘blue and red glass of Chartres’ was halted only by his death. All adepts, they believed in the sanctity of secrecy and silence, and the reality of the traditional penalties exacted for any breach of their vows.

The Beginning of our Work

Without doubt, silence and secrecy is the beginning of our work. As many have said, any art that places philosophical gold at its heart can be misunderstood and would require of its students silence and secrecy. These reasons and other rational explanations are of course convincing but are not all, there is a deeper purpose.

All the vows, obligations, and promises that we freely enter into are binding and the penalties exacted for their breach are immediate and final. Silence and secrecy form a covenant between the initiate and all that is, a holy trust. It is a first test, one that if met is the foundation of those that are in the initiates future. Its breach closes off all future progress and opens up a terrible path to darkness and death.

We should recall the moment in our Zelator ceremony when the lighted taper is extinguished.

As the light of this taper, so shall your light be extinguished from amongst us if you fail.

Therefore, the precaution that all true adepts have taken is to cloak their written or visual art within an allegory whose meaning is never explicit, but which works as a riddle whose solution is found through the changing perception of the aspirant. Curiously, once initiated, the aspirant can only speak of knowledge gained in the language of allegory.

We cannot speak of what we do not know but when we know we cannot speak. We are ‘trans-muted’- that is ‘muted’ by change.

Preaults sculpture is itself an allegory. The figure is frozen in a fixed gesture and expression. He cannot tell us of what he has seen, knows, or wishes to warn us of. But by opening our heart to the sculptor’s intention, rendered in stone, we may begin to hear a silent voice and the knowledge it communicates.

The contemplation of an image and meditation on its meaning is a silent task, its hope is to reveal the secrets of the image. This reveals a further truth- that our work takes place in a laboratory of silence.

If it is only possible, only permissible, to speak and write allegorically of our art it necessarily follows that those who purport to state our methods and philosophy openly and directly are a danger to themselves and to others. To themselves because knowledge without knowing is a path of ignorance and darkness. To others who are attracted to the apparent simplicity of an explicit methodology may find themselves condemned to endless, repetitive, laboratory practice.

A Choice of Allegories

If my argument is correct that truth can only be communicated through allegory, then it is important to briefly consider what an allegory is and how we recognise it. The definition of allegory is:

a story, poem or image that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning

This is of course at once a definition that we would all agree but at the same time is quite slippery- can we further agree which texts or images do have a hidden meaning? Some texts helpfully tell us that they are allegories, famously the rituals of Freemasonry which are ‘mysteries veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols’. Some authors are very clear that their works are not allegories – JRR Tolkien detested allegories and was insistent that his work, The Lord of the Rings was an alternative history and not an allegory. But in our post-modern world texts have been liberated from their authors. It is readers who are free to choose whatever hidden meanings they may find in the text.

If allegories conceal truth and wisdom, which texts should we seek and where are they to be found? To approach an answer to this question I thought that I would compare two hugely different texts and two contrasting works of visual art. The first text is well known to you but perhaps not to a wider audience, the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz. The second is a text much more widely known, intended for children, and according to its author signifying nothing, that is the Hunting of the Snark. The first work of visual art is a painting by Joseph Wright of Derby entitled The Alchemist in Search of the Philosphers Stone. The second is a poster by Theophile Steinlen promoting the Chat Noir Café.

Let us begin with the Chemical Wedding - what does it tell us about our work?

The Wedding

I have used the edition published by Adam McLean consisting of his commentary and a translation by Joscelyn Godwin, which I would recommend as an excellent introduction to the text. In his otherwise measured commentary, McLean makes the bold assertion that the text is one of the greatest hermetic, Rosicrucian, and alchemical allegories, or to be more direct, the truest guide to Our Art and the Great Work. To be sure the reputation and fame of the text as a foundation document of Rosicrucianism is assured but why then does McLean believe that it was, and is, so much more important. How can this be?

No explanation of a text can begin without its author. It is now accepted that the author of the Chemical Wedding was Johann Valentin Andreae (1586-1654). He was a highly educated Lutheran priest who had travelled widely throughout Europe before settling near Stuttgart in 1614 where he published over 20 works, many of which took myth and allegory as their themes. The Chemical Wedding is not listed in his works and is now thought to have been written when he was a student at Tübingen University in 1604/5. It was only published after the Fama in 1614 and Confessio in 1615. The relationship of Andreae to the authors of those works and the wider nascent Rosicrucian movement, or his purpose in publishing his student work is the subject of controversy. Its impact, however, was profound. An alchemical and hermetic allegory was placed at the centre of what otherwise would have been a movement for spiritual and social renewal.

What of the text, Andreae described it as a ludibrium, a lampoon that poked fun at alchemy as unworthy of serious study. Indeed, as a theologian he seems to have had no more interest in hermeticism or alchemy than would be expected of a well-educated academic of his time. Because we see so much of our art in his book, we forget his genius was as a writer, particularly in the creation of his protagonist, Christian Rosencreutz. The Fama and Confessio are altogether too serious to portray him, as Andreae does, as a man full of humanity. He experiences anxiety, distress, ridicule, happiness, and despair during the events of the wedding despite being the guest upon which all depends. Andreae’s triumph was literary, we want to read the text, to find out what happens to our hero, to experience what he experiences. That way we enter his world, his truth. The other characters in the Chemical Wedding are much less developed and some just cyphers depending on their contribution to the narrative.

Despite his stated ambiguity, Andreae constructs an elaborate structure for his story. Part of which is very direct- seven days, seven parts of the altar, seven gifts received and bestowed by Christian Rosencreutz, and seven acts of the play performed on the fourth day. Much though is enigmatic, for example the sleeping Lady Venus. There are dreams and nightmares, masques and drama creating a sense that both we and Christian Rosencreutz are permitted knowledge of only some of the events of the wedding, so heightening the quality of mystery and suspense.

Is this book just a highly successful work of literature whose language and concerns happen to be highly alchemical?  This argument presupposes that great works of the alchemical canon are themselves about alchemy. They are not they are alchemy. To read and understand them is a transformation or transmutation.  Andreae book is such a gesture, it uses the language of alchemy to communicate those transformatory spiritual truths that he regards as of the highest importance, the spiritual and active divine principles that form all that is - it is these truths that are the meaning within the allegory.

The First Day

And this day shall be a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations…Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread. And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation.

Exodus 12

‘On an evening before Easter Day, I (Christian Rosencreutz) sat at my table and as was my custom was in my humble prayer, conversing with my Creator, considering many great mysteries, and being ready in my heart to prepare with my Paschal Lamb, a small unleavened, undefiled bread.’

‘I took courage and persisted in my meditation till somebody touched me…I looked and beheld a fair and glorious lady…in her right hand she bore a trumpet of beaten gold and in her left a bundle of letters. She had large and beautiful wings, full of eyes throughout. At length she drew out a small letter, which with great reverence she laid down upon the table. As I examined it carefully, I found it closed with a small seal on which was engraved a small cross and the motto In hoc signo + vinces.

An Invitation

So begins the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz. The revelation it describes corresponds to that represented in the first plate of the Mutus Liber. As you look at it, I will read the commentary written by Armand Barbault in his book Gold of a Thousand Mornings.

‘This plate, the Annunciation, is the most important image in the book. No one can hope to accomplish the Great Work if he has not been vouchsafed revelation. if he has not been called in some way by the divinities or the higher powers that preside over our work. A glance at the plate shows a figure asleep against the side of a rock which is surrounded by the elements of nature. The entire picture is encircled by a crown of roses showing that the individual has been chosen to receive the Annunciation. Jacobs Ladder rises from his feet. On the lower rungs of the ladder is an Angel blowing a trumpet towards the sleeping man revealing his mission to him. At the top of the ladder, a second angel is also blowing a trumpet directed at the first angel……. The shrouded landscape symbolises the need for slow unobtrusive preparation of the individual, much of which is done whilst he is asleep. Profound knowledge cannot be transmitted until the individual has been properly prepared.’

Gold of a Thousand Mornings, Armand Barbault

This helps us to understand the events at the beginning of the first day, as they are experienced by Christian Rosencreutz. The prayer and meditation and the ‘conversation’ with his Creator- is the silent preparation for the events that are to come. The vow of silence, symbolised by the wreath of roses in the Mutus Liber, is as Barbault informs us, necessary for any progression in the Great Work.

For Christian Rosencreutz the revelation unfolds in the form of a wedding to which he is invited. It begins with the invitation itself and the angel who delivers it. The winged female figure is an angel. Or rather the angel appears as a woman because angels are spiritual beings who can manifest as either gender. The spiritual being the author has chosen to depict in a garment of blue has the attributes of the angel of the Annunciation who appeared to Mary as Gabriel and now appears in a feminine form to Christian Rosencreutz.

You are highly favoured; the Lord is with you.

1 Luke xxvii

But where is the second angel as the creators of the Mutus Liber depict? In the description of the angel observed by Christian Rosencruetz, it is stated that her wings were covered by eyes. This one point is an important distinction because the presence of many eyes is not a feature of an Archangel but of a Cherub. Cherubim are those angelic beings closest to God who transmit His will to other spiritual beings and to those Angels and Archangels who communicate directly with beings in the material world.  The single angel seen by Christian Rosencreutz is in fact twofold, an Archangel in this world, and within and behind it a Cherub. Therefore, the First Day of the Chemical Wedding and the first plate of the Mutus Liber are entirely consistent in the way they render initiation into the Great Work of Alchemy.

In Hoc Signo Vinces

Now we understand the importance of the heavenly messenger, let us consider the invitation. The invitation is closed or sealed with the words In hoc signo + vinces ‘in this sign thou shalt conquer’. These words were seen in the sky as part of a vision experienced by Constantine before fought the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. I wrote of these words in my paper published in the pamphlet produced by the SRIA Province of Greater London in December 2020 where I considered the iconography of the Labarum, which is the image you see now. Whilst we cannot be sure of the vision Constantine experienced, or indeed if the event was a creation of later writers, a representation of that vision was incorporated into the Labarum, or Imperial Standard which was used after his vision by Constantine and all future Emperors of the Romans. In particular the Christogram which surmounts the labarum and is formed of the Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P), that is C and R in the Latin alphabet.

The sign on the seal is the symbol of our Saviour who will both protect and guide Christian Rosencreutz during his perilous journey and is the truest hope of his ultimate success. Chi Rho also reveals that he who has issued the invitation acknowledges that our brother CR is a rose cross Christian, representative of all those who seek the knowledge of the attributes represented in his name. Therefore, we too understand that the invitation which Christian Rosencreutz receives comes directly from God and presages a divine revelation.

Of the invitation itself, the symbol that accompanies the text and is often overlooked is the Monas Hieroglyphica. It represents the unity of the Cosmos and is a composite of various esoteric, astrological, and alchemical symbols. In the illustration I have used you see the four elements, planets, and secret fire. Its presence reinforces an interpretation that the Chemical Wedding is of the greatest significance and concerns not just a symbolic union of masculine and feminine but of the principles that form all that we see. Christian Rosencreutz must now follow the path into the labyrinth of the allegorical wedding.

An Everlasting Memorial

Christian Rosencreutz writes in the book within the chapel of the royal palace following his investiture as a Knight of the Golden Stone:

The height of knowledge is to know nothing. Brother Christian Rosenkreutz. Knight of the Golden Stone. In the year 1459.

What are we to understand from this memorial? It is a reference to the saying ‘I know that I know nothing’ derived from Plato’s account of the life of Socrates, also called the Socratic Paradox. Because Socrates did not claim to know what he did not know he was regarded by his contemporaries, and even the Pythia of the Temple of Delphi as the wisest of men. Socrates insight is regarded as the basis of Western Philosophy. That we should seek a teacher, a master of our art, who can share with us what we do not know.

Paradoxical Ambiguity

It is paradoxical that the ambiguity of the text has been key to its success. At once a highly complex and sophisticated work of literature and also a lampoon- a humorous work of satire and irony.

If my argument holds true, then it raises some thorny questions. How can we know from the external form of the allegory what truths it may contain? Do only allegories using the language of alchemy and hermeticism contain the truths of those arts. Or should we look more widely, be open to those allegorical texts we would otherwise dismiss, for those truths that illuminate our art?

The Hidden Dangers of the Snark

Could we find a text more different than the Hunting of the Snark, a work of nonsense, which was written by Lewis Carroll for an audience of children and published on April Fool’s Day 1876? As I stated earlier, no text can be considered without its author whom I shall refer throughout by his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll. Like Andreae, Carroll was highly educated, a gifted mathematician, and ordained deacon, who held a lectureship in mathematics at Christ Church College, Oxford. He remained there throughout his life, publishing twelve books on geometry, algebra, and matrix theory. He was a member of the Society for Psychical Research and had an interest in emerging fields of knowledge that we now regard as ‘esoteric’. Where Andreae lived through the turmoil following the Reformation, Carroll endured the crisis between science and religion that engulfed society following the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859.

Of his books, Alice In Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass are two of the most successful works in the English language and finest of the literary nonsense genre. I presented two papers on these books to the Metropolitan College in 2007 explaining why nonsense is not necessarily no-sense. In its literary form it refers to a style of writing that descends from Latin parodies, religious masques, and political satire combined with oral folk traditions. It shares its energy with the festivals of boy bishops and the muddy entertainments of the court of miracles beloved of Victor Hugo and Fulcanelli.

Words, meanings, and purposes are used and dispensed with. Its nonsensicality is like that of an unsolved riddle, when you solve a riddle you understand its meaning.

Therefore, Andreae’s description of his work as a lampoon and Carroll’s of his as nonsense are the same. This is because they share a philosophic tradition of courtly drama, masques, and satire, and because we make sense of their work by seeking and knowing its meaning.

A Drama in Eight Fits

The Hunting of the Snark is a poem described by Carroll as an ‘agony in eight fits’ as if each verse is wrenched from a brain in turmoil. It recounts the journey of ten crew to a mysterious island in search of the Snark. However, they find something far more terrible, the Boojum, which causes one of their number to ‘softly and suddenly vanish away.’

Its success also depends on its illustrations by Henry Halliday- it is his work you see of the crew in pursuit of the snark.

As with the Chemical Wedding, any protestations of it being nonsense are at variance with the sophistication of its construction. Again, numbers are at the fore:

  • The rule of three-when anything is stated three times it is true- the triple cry of the Bellman when proclaiming the law.
  • Five points or marks by which the Snark is identified.
  • Eight fits.
  • The ten crew all whose descriptions begin with B, of which one is not illustrated so alluding to the ennead, nine enclosing one, three times three that is the perfect triangle. The truth of truth.
  • Forty-two which pervades the Alice books and the Hunting of the Snark. Lewis Carroll when asked his age would often reply 42.

Whilst the poem is a much shorter text, Carroll also humanises his characters, for example the baker, who fades into oblivion at the end of the poem is the only character aware of that risk when they embark.  His fate, like that of Christian Rosencreutz is utterly predetermined. Dreams and ritual engage the characters on their journey. Their destination, the island where the terrifying Jabberwocky had been slain, is of uncertain location.

If it can be said that Andreae looked forward to a future shaped by hermetic philosophy and theology guided by reformed Christianity, Carroll foreshadowed the existential anxiety and surrealism of our modern age where science causes religion to ‘softly and suddenly vanish away’. Each of his ten travellers are written with ‘the’ capital T’ and capital ‘B’. Their predetermined fate is to be the ‘To Be’ or ‘not To Be’.

Carroll satirised the folly of pure intellect, of trying to find meaning by simply thinking about it when we live in a world that our imagination partly creates.

So, we discover that neither the Chemical Wedding nor the Hunting of the Snark are what we thought they were, that is an alchemical allegory or a nonsense poem for children. They are works whose literary and philosophical origins arise from a classical and gothic philosophy encompassing irony, diplomacy, and concealment. Truth is hidden beneath the mask, within a drama or masque, expressed through riddles and puns.

Both follow the form of ancient classical literature. The protagonist, the hero, undertakes a journey from innocence, through experience to knowledge. What the hero comes to know as we discover in their narrative, determines whether their story, and our life, is a tragedy, comedy, or initiation.

What Sidney Williams writes in his book ‘The Handbook of the Literature of Rev C Dodgson’ can be said of both the Chemical Wedding and the Hunting of the Snark.

They describe with infinite care the impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature.

An Alchemist Revealed

Let us now look at an image from the imagination of a visual artist. The Alchemist in Search of the Philosophers Stone which was painted by Joseph Wright of Derby between 1771 and 1795.

It depicts the German alchemist Hennig Brand who in 1669 discovered a method that involved the progressive concentration of urine into a viscous liquid from which he extracted red oil leaving a spongy black mass. The red oil was reintroduced, mixed with the black solid, and the resulting substance heated for 16 hours until it emitted a white gas. The white gas was then collected and condensed into a solid that tended to burn with intense white light. That discovery is depicted in Wrights painting, with Brand kneeling at the appearance of what he believed to be.

a king most pure… born into the world…. you see his star… follow it to its crucible… you will see the Son of the Sun.


However, Wright’s painting is not so straightforward as it seems. For a start Wright was a painter of the enlightenment and industrial revolution, science, and technology, so the painting is unlikely to be a straightforward history painting of alchemy. In fact, the event which he has chosen to illustrate was not the discovery of the philosopher’s stone but that of the element, Phosphorus. The approach that Brand had chosen for his research led him to unknowingly discover a technique for the isolation of Phosphorus from Sodium Phosphate found in urine. It is illustrative of the bifurcation of chymestry into esoteric alchemy and scientific chemistry, the triumph of chemistry and the fall of alchemy into obscurity.

Yet if we linger on the painting it slowly becomes clear that virtually nothing, we see is what it appears, certainly not Henning Brand, his laboratory, or apparatus. In fact, the painting is not set in the later seventeenth century when those events took place but within a much older vaulted chamber through whose gothic windows a full moon glows. The laboratory is divided by a green curtain, outside of which are two assistants melting lead rather than engaged in the large-scale concentration of urine. On the screen from which the curtain hangs are books, vessels, and a globe. One open book displays a horoscope which appears to refer to the events depicted in the painting. In front of the curtain and hidden from the view of his assistants Brand kneels and gazes into heaven. His head has little or no likeness to Brand but is almost identical to the depiction of Gaspar, one of the three Kings painted by the artist Peter Paul Rubens. He is clothed in the robes of the wise magus rather than as a laboratory worker. The gestures of his hands resemble the traditional positioning of those of St Francis of Assisi as he receives the marks of the stigmata. His upraised right arm also indicates that the holy space in which he is placed, is separate from that of his assistants.

So rather than diminish or satirise Henning Brand, the iconography of the painting sanctifies the alchemist as a wise and holy man, a saint who seeks God, and approaches Him through the materia of His creation before finally kneeling before Him at His Incarnation. So, we find unexpected layers of meaning in the image, some of which seem elusive and incomplete within a work that is almost intentionally mysterious. It unexpectedly reveals truths about alchemy as perhaps the true cost of the industrial revolution was becoming known.

Its mystery disturbed those who admired Wrights work-it was not a simple homage to science and dismissal of superstition, and perhaps for that reason the painting was not sold during the painter’s lifetime and was finally acquired by the City of Derby.

A Cat

And so, let us move to my final image, the famous poster by Theophile Steinlen created in 1896 to promote a tour by the cabaret which performed at the Chat Noir Café and whose master of ceremonies was the incomparable Rudolph Salis. His personality- ironic, theatrical, flamboyant, and erudite created a crucible for bel epoque occultism. At his café artists, philosophers, musicians, and intellectuals mixed with politicians, and aristocrats such as the family of Comte Ferdinand de Lesseps. Together they listened to the ironic and humorous cabaret with its puppetry and theatricalities. And at their usual table would have been members of the College of the Fraternity of Heliopolis discussing their work as they listed to the café band under the baton of Erik Satie.

It was said that the curious atmosphere of the café influenced Steinlen’s portrayal of the cat. He has turned what appears to be carefully positioned decorative lettering into a halo, or circle of light, behind the head of the cat. When a halo is depicted by red lines, as it is in this poster, it signifies fire. Such iconography recalls the goddess Bastet who was depicted as a cat with a solar disc about her head which refers to Ra, her father. She carried a sistrum, a musical instrument used in temple dances. The whiskers and eyebrows, in four groups of two and three are greatly exaggerated and conspicuously angled.

Is an Egyptian goddess concealed beneath a black cat on a bel epoque poster? Is she the inspiration, the muse of the café, dancing and singing to the beat of her sistrum, and thereby illuminating the patrons through comedy and music? Perhaps, perhaps not, but it seems even the sign of a café can include a small fragment of the meaning of our art. Similarly, we should never underestimate those who may visit us in the most unlikely surroundings.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13 v ii

A Final Thought

And so, as this paper comes to a close, I hope that you now have a greater understanding of the invariable laws fixed for all aspirants to our art.

Silence is the womb, within which we are prepared as we sleep and meditate until that moment when a heavenly messenger announces that our labours have the blessing of heaven.

Our work is undertaken in silence and secrecy not for reasons of concealment from this world but because they are necessary conditions for our being to change in conformity with the materia with which we work. 

Allegory is the source of our knowledge and the language we use to communicate our achievement. Its finest expression is found in great art and literature but, it seems, it can be formed from images and words that we may never know in full or in context, containing meaning hidden within ambiguity.

It is our task, not just to see meaning within the form of art and text but to see meaning in all that is around us, all that is. Through attending to such abstraction, we will be led to perceive the golden dawn of the Son of the Sun, the beginning and the end of the transmutation of both the artist and the materia of all that is.

From all this I understood that tomorrow I must sit by my gate

The seventh day, The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz

Frater Stephen Goulder

Metropolitan College & London College of Adepts

Hamon le Strange College

July 2021


The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, Translated by Joscelyn Godwin. Introduction and commentary by Adam McLean. Magnus Opus Hermetic Sourcebooks.

Gold of a Thousand Mornings. Armand Barbault

Hunting of the Snark. Edited with notes by Martin Gardner.

First Day. Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz. A paper presented to the MSG by Mark Russell on the 20 June 1998.

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