Lily and the Pyramid of the East by Jaq White

Here’s a little autobiographical story I wrote back in 2002; I labelled it an allegorical, metaphysical fairy tale. Make of it what you will!


The Black Sophia and the Black Madonna


The Black Sophia, Aurora Consurgens

The black figure represents the LUNAR Sophia, who has decended into matter and become caught in it.
“The black depths have covered my face and the earth is corrupt and sullied in my works, and darkness has fallen upon it, as I am sunk in the mire of the depths, and my substance has not been opened” ( From C.G Jung, Mysterium Conjunctionis)

According to Fulcanelli: ” In Hermetic symbolism, the black Madonnas represent the virgin earth, which the artist must choose as the subject of his work. It is the Prima Materia in its mineral state, and it comes from the ore-bearing seams buried deep beneath the masses of stone” (Fulcanelli, Le Mystere des Cathedrales.) Sophia in Gnosticism and in the Cabala bears both features of a virgin bride and those of the womb, the mater materiae. The seed that falls into it, according to the Aurora Consurgiens, produces a threefold fruit. And this fruit in her body is the tripartate Caduceus, the Christ-Mercury, the healing serpent, the curing water that flows into Hades to awaken the dead bodies of the metals and free his mother-bride.” From Alchemy & Mysticism,  Alexander Roob

The Cosmic Cycle and the Black Madonna – by Jaq White

Here’s the content of the article I wrote that was published in Astraea magazine a few years ago. Copyright Jaq White.



In this article Jaq White examines the alchemical
symbolism in the ancient phenomena of the Black Madonna.

The Cosmic Cycle and the Black Madonna
Jaq White

“Nature comprehends the visible and invisible Creatures of the Whole universe. What we call Nature especially, is the universal fire or Anima Mundi, filling the whole system of the Universe, and therefore is a Universal Agent, omnipresent, and endowed with an unerring instinct, and manifests itself in fire and Light. It is the First creature of Divine Omnipotence.” (The Golden Chain of Homer Of the Generation of things, Part I Chapter 1 – What Nature is.)

The alchemists and medieval philosophers sought to imitate Nature and the Divine, and expressed the various stages of inner transmutation that leads to enlightenment and the “Philosopher’s Stone”, known as Spiritual Alchemy, through art and symbols. In paintings and illustrations there are depictions of a snake biting its own tail in a circular symbol known as the Ouroboros. In alchemic symbolism this represents, among other things, the final unifying stage of our dual nature, and becoming one with the Divine. It is the symbol of the All, the One. Another way of demonstrating the work needed to attain this inner unity is the image of two serpents apparently devouring one another. In some, the upper serpent is winged, which signifies the Universal World Spirit – the lower serpent signifies matter, the Virgin Earth, the earthly state. The upper winged snake is the Cosmic spirit that brings everything to life, that kills everything and takes all the forms of nature. It is at the same time everything and nothing. When the two serpents are united, they are said to have “devoured one another” and the result is the Ouroboros; one single serpent, devouring its own tail, to express the continuous cycle through the aspect of time.

The word alchemy is thought to originate from the Ancient name for Egypt (Khem), the Black Land. The Ancient Egyptians were skilful workers in metals – there are scenes of metal-working found at Thebes and other locations, and the best known metals have identifiable hieroglyphic symbols that are defined by the determinative “of the earth/ground”. The Egyptians knew to employ quicksilver (Mercury) in the process of separating gold and silver from the native matrix, and the resulting (black) oxide was thought, allegedly, to possess powers. This black powder was identified with the underworld form of Osiris – those in the underworld are often depicted with black face and hands – and credited with similar magical properties. Alchemy is related to the black of Osiris through the connection of the black (fertile) earth, the belief that all light comes out of the dark, and all life comes out of the black; the colour black is associated with the source of creation. The alchemists were obsessed with the prima materia. They called it the black virgin, because its colour was black and it was virginal in the sense that no alchemical transmutation had been performed on the material.
The alchemist Nicolas Flamel wrote that the lower snake is the fixed and constant masculine element, and that the upper snake is the volatile and the black or dark woman. In alchemic terms, the first is linked with sulphur, warm and dry. The other is linked with quicksilver or the cold and moist. This employment of the quicksilver in practical metal-working has been referred to above, with regard to the Egyptians, and the same ideas are at work on the spiritual level, with the two snakes.

In what is believed to be the earliest known alchemical text – attributed to one Kleopatra of 4th Century Alexandria, there is an image of an Ouroboros with its head and upper half portrayed as black, and its tail and lower half shown as a speckled white. This correlates with the upper half or upper, winged snake as the Cosmic Spirit that takes all forms of nature, and is the volatile, black feminine aspect, while the lower half, or lower snake, can be identified with the fixed and constant masculine, the earthly state and matter.

Many well-known medieval alchemists were Christians, and some of the most beautiful illustrations involved symbolism representing well known Christian icons, such as Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Mother Mary, and Adam. They also included Gnostic figures such as Sofia, the female aspect of the divinity, also known as Wisdom. It is pertinent at this point, to mention that in Gnostic beliefs, the Holy Spirit is female.

Many of the grand medieval cathedrals and churches in Europe keep unusual statues of the Virgin and Child – a black-skinned Mary nursing a black-skinned infant Jesus. These are known as the “Black Madonnas”, or “Black Virgins” and tend to be kept in the crypt or some other underground vault.
There are many known examples of statues and paintings of the Black Madonna, perhaps as many as 300 in France alone, and a surprising amount of the paintings and statues have an association with St. Luke, the patron Saint of painters – he is attributed with painting them whilst in the presence of the Virgin Mary, who revealed her mysteries to him during the sitting. He has also been credited with carving at least one of the statues – the wooden statue of Montserrat which, legend has it, was hidden in the Holy Grotto to hide it from the Moors. However, carbon dating suggests the statue originated in the 12th or 13th Century. Hiding the statue to keep it safe is the main reason given for these Madonnas being found in crypts and grottos. The unusual colouring of the Madonna is often explained as due to decay. There are claims that some of the statues were made from a black stone, probably obsidian, that was then given a pale skin-coloured covering to depict the recognised image of the Madonna and Child. As the pale skin colour wore off and the black base was exposed, this Madonna was then relegated to the crypt. In some churches (for example in Poland and Russia) there are iconic paintings of Mary and the Infant Jesus, also claimed to be by the hand of St. Luke, where the blackened skin has been attributed to smoke from candles, or ageing.

Comparisons have been made of the image of the Christian Madonna and Child with almost identical depictions of Isis, Goddess of Ancient Egypt, nursing her infant son, Horus. The Mother Goddess was also widely venerated by Europeans, albeit under many different guises. Nowadays, many of these goddesses are linked with Isis and, in some cases, temples in France have been attributed to Isis; for example, the town of Issoudun is so named because it is believed there was a Temple of Isis under the main hill. If so, the goddess might easily have been assimilated by Europeans into their pantheon of deities due to the similarity with Earth and Mother Goddesses such as Nertha. Pagan temples to Isis and other Mother/Earth Goddesses would in time be replaced by Christian churches, and images of the various Goddesses of the Earth were replaced by images of the Virgin Mary, Mother Mary, or Mary in other guises (Queen of Heaven etc.) Symbolically, caves, grottos and crypts have been associated with the womb – a cave representing the womb of Mother Earth in mythology. There are goddesses connected with the Cave-Mother symbolism, and among these Cave-Mothers we might include Mary, who gave birth in a rock-cut shelter.

Some believe that these statues of the Black Madonna are not Christian in origin; rather, they are representations of Isis and Horus that when discovered, were wrongly identified as the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus – if so, this would certainly create the need for explanations as to why the statues were originally hidden. However, there is another possibility; the Black Madonna might never have depicted Isis but might well be an esoteric – possibly medieval – Christian symbol.


The link with medieval alchemy and esoteric or Gnostic Christianity has been demonstrated, and the use of the symbol of the Ouroboros shows an understanding of the Cosmic Cycle, as in the coupling of the above and the below, of matter and spirit in earthly man. The circular motion of the snake eating its own tail illustrates the continuity of time, and endless development.

This Cosmic Cycle is incorporated in the Christian Holy Trinity; albeit in completely masculine terms, with God as heavenly father, heavenly Holy Spirit and the divine son made of earthly matter. This was enabled through the coupling of the male Holy Spirit and the “living” Virgin Mary. In Egyptian mythology, the living Isis only conceives her son Horus after the death of Osiris. He procreates from the spiritual world, when he becomes God of the Underworld. This can be explained in alchemical terms, with the masculine Osiris, the black virginal prima materia and fixed male, uniting with the black, volatile, female, spirit of Isis his wife, conceiving and producing the Divine child Horus,
the Earthly representative of his father Osiris. The serpents have devoured one another, the Ouroboros is realised and so the Cycle continues.

The serpent has long been perceived as an enemy of Christians, and the use of serpent symbolism in Christian iconography is generally to portray sinfulness, temptation, and the fall of mankind. The serpent as a symbol of the Divine state of man would not have been acceptable, and is still not acceptable to many Christians. However, in the “Black Madonna” we have the same trinity expressed. The Black Virgin is, like Osiris, the father and the divine, male essence. The Black Mother is, like Isis, the mother and the divine, female essence, and the product of their union is the Ouroboros, Horus – the Christ.

The Black Madonna could be another representation of the All, the trinity – and an esoteric Christian symbol of the Cosmic Cycle.

PH Runge’s Der Kleine Morgen, 1808 and Jakob Boehme’s Aurora


“..for a lily blossoms upon the mountains and valleys in all the ends of the earth..” Jakob Bohme – Signatura Rerum (The Signature of All Things)

Fig. 2. Der Kleine Morgen. Collection Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

“The painting consists of two separate parts, an interior and an exterior painting or “frame” that are connected to each other. The interior parting is dominated by a female figure that has often been interpreted as “Venus” or “Holy Mary”, while the child has been seen as “Eros” or “Jesus Christ”.12 Taking the exterior painting, I believe that the painting illustrates the Golden Age before the fall into matter as it is described in Jacob Böhme’s Aurora. The female figure illustrates Sophia, the divine wisdom while the child stands for the first man, the androgynous Adam. The idea of light, the fiat lux, is central to the painting. The top part is held in transparent primary colors, while the foreground already shows non-transparent features. The central axis of both the interior and the exterior picture is light and can therefore be understood as God (and his “female part” Sophia) being the central axis of all. The obvious reflection of light on the child’s body is mere a combination of internal and external light, of the sun and the divine glimpse inside the child.

The frame illustrates the fall into matter and the salvation of nature. At the bottom, the sun is darkened and two children – male and female – are fleeing from it, heading toward two other figures in the corners. Those are trapped under the roots of a plant, showing the entrapment into matter and their bodies fail to show the inner light. It is important to state here that even in this dark corner Runge does not use black, but only a very dark brown. He shows that, even in the darkest place, black (or evil) has not succeeded in taking over the world and that there is still hope for salvation.

Thus, the plant grows upwards, toward the lighter spheres and the red flower of the amaryllis bears a child, raising its arms. Its body reflects the light of the inner painting, the light of Sophia. In the top part of the frame you can see a lily and a winged child kneeling on its blossom. It has lost its sexual features and is bowing towards the top center of the exterior painting: Rays of light surrounded by small heads are reflected on a blue background. Taking the copper-print version of Der Morgen into account, which can be understood as an earlier work on the same theme, these rays symbolize God (fig. 3). In the copper-print, Runge uses the Hebrew name, while in the color version God “loses” his specific Jewish-Christian connotation and becomes a universal concept.” From

Jakob Boehme’s Aurora – Illustrated pdf file


Jakob Boehme
That is the
Dawning of the Day in the Orient
Or Morning­Redness
in the Rising of the SUN.
  That is
 The Root or Mother of
       Philosophy, Astrology &  Theology
 from the true Ground.

   Or  a Description of Nature

The Language of Birds in Old Norse Tradition

Special individuals capable of understanding the language of birds are spread throughout the medieval Icelandic literary corpus.This phenomenon has received surprisingly little academic attention and is deserving of detailed, extensive, and interdisciplinary study.
Capable of flight and song, birds universally hold a special place in human experience. Their effective communication to people in Old Norse lore offers another example of their unique role in humanity’s sociocosmic reality.

Odin_hrafnarHuginn and Muninn sit on Odin’s shoulders in an illustration from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript

Birds consistently offer important information to individuals associated with kingship and wisdom. The wide chronological and geographical range of this motif will be explored as well as the fascinating theoretical questions regarding why birds are nature’s purveyors of wisdom. With their capacity to fly and sing, birds universally hold a special place in human experience as symbols of transcendence and numinous knowledge; Old Norse tradition reflects this reality.

For the full article, see the pdf file:

The kabbalistic-alchemical altarpiece in Bad Teinach


The kabbalistic-alchemical altarpiece in Bad Teinach – Copyright Adam McLean From the Hermetic Journal 12, Summer, 1981, pages 21-26.

“The Kabbalistic-Alchemical Altarpiece in a small church in the town of Bad Teinach near Calw in Germany, is, I believe, of the greatest esoteric value.

I have at present little information on its outward history, though it is dated 1673 and seems to have been prepared at the instigation of Princess Antonia (1613-1679), so I will therefore concentrate in this article on the symbolism of the painting.
The painting’s central panel, which is all we shall concern ourselves with here, shows us a Rose Garden surrounded by a hedgerow bearing red and white roses. Outside the garden in the background on the left is a four-square military camp, while on the right we see a city founded on a circular plan. In the centre foreground, a bowered gate opens into the garden and a female figure is seen standing upon the threshold, pausing at her entry to gaze at the wonders before her. She bears in her right hand her flaming heart, while on her left she leans upon a staff in the form of an anchor cross. Thus she represents the Soul of Man standing at the threshold of spiritual illumination, with the fire of enthusiasm and love burning within the heart, and the anchored foundation of the Soul in the central mystery of the Cross of Christ.
The Soul gazes into the garden, and here we are reminded of the Rosarium or Rose Garden of the Virgin, the medieval picture of the enclosed domain in which the human soul can commune with the Sophia-Wisdom aspect of the Spirit. Within this Rose Garden are two realms – a circular garden and a domed Mystery Temple. The soul must first traverse the circular garden before the soul reaches the outer court of the Temple which stands upon a podium of seven steps.


The garden is centred upon the figure of the resurrected Christ, standing upon a rock and holding his Cross. From his body there flows a stream of blood forming a pool at the centre of the circle. Around him the garden is segmented into three rings of twelve flower beds each bearing their own particular plants, and we see 12 figures standing around the circumference of the inner ring (which is within the pool of the Christ Blood). These twelve figures are constellated with an array of symbols which are too complex to analyse here, but for example they appear with various animals, they hold symbolic objects, have certain colourings and they each stand at sacred trees which grow at the boundary of the inner ring. These trees are as follows, counting clockwise from the figure just to the right of the Christ :-

Laurel – Cypress – Willow – Fig – Cedar – Fir – Olive – Apple – Pomegranate – Almond – Palm – Oak.”

For the rest of the description, please see here:

The reinvention of the night (By Tim Blanning)

The reinvention of the night – By Tim Blanning


“In 1710, Richard Steele wrote in Tatler that recently he had been to visit an old friend just come up to town from the country. But the latter had already gone to bed when Steele called at 8 pm. He returned at 11 o’clock the following morning, only to be told that his friend had just sat down to dinner. “In short”, Steele commented, “I found that my old-fashioned friend religiously adhered to the example of his forefathers, and observed the same hours that had been kept in his family ever since the Conquest”. During the previous generation or so, elites across Europe had moved their clocks forward by several hours. No longer a time reserved for sleep, the night time was now the right time for all manner of recreational and representational purposes. This is what Craig Koslofsky calls “nocturnalisation”, defined as “the ongoing expansion of the legitimate social and symbolic uses of the night”, a development to which he awards the status of “a revolution in early modern Europe”.

The case is well made, supported by an impressive range of archival and printed sources, mostly French, English and German. [..]

At the heart of [t]his argument is the contrariety between day and night, light and dark. On the one hand, the sixteenth century witnessed an intensification of the association of the night with evil – “Night, thou foule mother of annoyaunce sad / Sister of heavie Death, and nourse of Woe”, as Edmund Spenser put it. In part this derived from the excited religious atmosphere. While Hans Sachs hailed Martin Luther for waking humanity from the darkness of superstition, Thomas More repaid the nocturnal insult by identifying Lutherans with the dark night of heresy. Closely linked to confessional strife was the intensification of disputes over witchcraft. The witch-hunter’s manual Malleus Maleficarum of 1486 had paid little attention to the night; a century later the night was well and truly diabolized. The Devil was now believed to be responsible for all “phantoms of the night”, especially those resulting from sorcery, so witchcraft confessions typically focused on two nocturnal acts – the diabolic pact, often consummated sexually, and the Witches’ Sabbath, also a riot of sexual licence. Peter Binsfeld, the suffragan Bishop of Trier, explained in 1589 that after his expulsion from Paradise, the Devil became dark and obscure and so performed all his foul deeds at night.

Christian disapproval of the night is as old as the New Testament. Unsurprisingly, St Paul’s epistles equate darkness with evil, as does John’s Gospel – “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness”. However, there was another albeit less obtrusive theological tradition advocating a path leading to God that was not brilliantly lit. Especially influential was Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the fifth-century Syrian thinker, who proclaimed: “I pray we could come to this darkness so far above light!”. Those words are taken from his treatise The Mystical Theology and in the early modern period, too, it was the mystics who valued darkness. To the fore were two sixteenth-century saints – Teresa of Avila (1515–82) and John of the Cross (1542–91). In his poem “Dark Night”, John praised his subject in language eerily anticipating the second act of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde: “Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the dawn, Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the Beloved!”.

The only light that John of the Cross trusted was the light that burned inside himself, in his heart. It was always those who preferred personal introspection to institutional dogma who found the dark side congenial. In his “Hymn to Christ” of 1619, John Donne wrote: “Churches are best for prayer, that have least light; / To see God only, I go out of sight: / And to ’scape stormy days, I choose / An everlasting night”. Koslofsky draws on what seems to be an encyclopedic knowledge of the devotional literature of the period to demonstrate the popularity of this sort of belief. The benign image of the night also appealed to Protestants persecuted by Catholics and vice versa, for it was the time best suited for clandestine gatherings. And of course there was a biblical text at hand to lend support – John 3:1–3 – which tells of Nicodemus, who “came to Jesus by night”.

Eventually the Catholic Church caught up, introducing new nocturnal practices, such as the devotion of the Forty Hours and lay processions during Holy Week. Immensely popular, they played a prominent role in the public piety of the seventeenth century. The former commemorated the forty hours between Christ’s death and resurrection and necessarily lasted through at least one night. The public prayers and processions in darkness made “the site [of the devotion] more venerated through this clear dark obscurity”, in the paradoxical words of one advocate.

It was the secular authorities, however, who made most use of ceremonial chiaroscuro. This is very much the domain of Alewyn, who wrote that the shift from street to court and from day to night represented “the sharpest break in the history of celebrations in the West”, although Koslofsky has plenty to add on his own account. In the sixteenth century, he points out, the main media of royal representation were the jousts and tournaments held in the daytime, such as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the Anglo-French spectacular of 1520. By the time of Louis XIV, all the major events – ballets de cour, operas, balls, masquerades, firework displays – took place at night (a major exception, of course, was hunting, about which Koslofsky has nothing to say). When was the “art of illumination” discovered in the Holy Roman Empire? asked a Saxon writer in 1736, and concluded that it must have been towards the end of the previous century.

The kings, courtiers – and those who sought to emulate them – adjusted their daily timetable accordingly. Unlike Steele’s friend, they rose and went to bed later and later. Henry III of France, who was assassinated in 1589, usually had his last meal at 6 pm and was tucked up in bed by 8. Louis XIV’s day began with a lever at 9 and ended (officially) at around midnight. The ladies of his court – and plenty of the men too – adapted their maquillage to take advantage of artificial lighting to draw attention to their rosy cheeks, white bosoms, jet black eyebrows and scarlet lips. As with so much else at Versailles, this was a development that served to distance the topmost elite from the rest of the population. Koslofsky speculates that it was driven by the need to find new sources of authority in a confessionally fragmented age.

We found it pleasant to be able to go, after midnight, to the far end of the Faubourg Saint-Germain

More directly – and convincingly – authoritarian was the campaign to “colonize” the night by reclaiming it from the previously dominant marginal groups. The most effective instrument was street-lighting, introduced to Paris in 1667, Lille also in 1667, Amsterdam in 1669, Hamburg in 1673, Turin in 1675, Berlin in 1682, Copenhagen in 1683, and London, where private companies were contracted to provide the service, between 1684 and 1694. This had little to do with technological progress, for until the nineteenth century only candles and oil lamps were available. Most advanced was the oil lamp developed in the 1660s by Jan van der Heyden, which used a current of air drawn into the protective glass-paned lantern to prevent the accretion of soot, and made Amsterdam the best-lit city in Europe. In one of the many well-chosen illustrations in the book, a nocturnal street scene from Leipzig in 1702 shows a row of van der Heyden lanterns allowing mixed couples to promenade, friends to recognize and greet each other, and even one solitary individual to read a newspaper.

At the end of the street is the reassuring sight of a nightwatchman, now able to see and protect the respectable citizens. They were the great beneficiaries of the great illumination; the victims were those to whom the streets had belonged when darkness ruled – students, the young in general, servants, vagrants, prostitutes and drinkers. All those, in other words, who had prompted Milton to write: “when night darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons of Belial, flown with insolence and wine”. It was not a victory the authorities won easily (if indeed they ever did). The previous occupants responded with a Kristallnacht of lantern breaking, for which draconian penalties were inflicted – the galleys in France; amputation of a hand in Vienna (where twelve nightwatchmen were murdered between 1649 and 1720).

Yet gradually European towns and cities became safer places when the sun went down, and this security promoted forms of social activity beyond whoring, brawling, gambling and drinking. As Koslofsky very reasonably argues, almost all the work on the public sphere has concentrated on locations and institutional forms, and has neglected time. Coffee houses were open all day, of course, but it was at night that they came into their own. As the London pamphlet Character of Coffee and Coffee-House claimed in 1661, “they borrow of the night”. Most served alcohol and many were frequented by prostitutes, but in general they served as respectable meeting places for the upper and middle classes. Moreover, as well as promoting a critical body of public opinion, they could also on occasion be the focus of more concerted political agitation. It was at the Turk’s Head coffee house in New Palace Yard at Westminster that James Harrington’s Rota Club met nightly in 1659–60 to discuss the future of the Commonwealth. Charles II tried to close coffee houses in 1675 for being “the great resort of Idle and disaffected persons”, a verdict echoed by the patrician town council of Frankfurt am Main in 1703 when taking action against their own political opponents.

If educated urban men certainly benefited from this colonization of the night, it is much less clear how women fared. On the one hand, greater security encouraged them to go out at night. In 1673, Madame de Sévigné described an evening spent chatting with her friends until midnight at the home of Mme de Coulanges, after which she escorted one of the party home, even though this involved a journey across Paris. She wrote that “We found it pleasant to be able to go, after midnight, to the far end of the Faubourg Saint-Germain”, adding that the new street lighting had made this possible: “we returned merrily, thanks to the lanterns, safe from thieves”. In John Vanbrugh’s unfinished play A Journey to London (written in the early 1720s), Lord Loverule grumbles that his wife, Lady Arabella, was in the habit of staying out until the small hours despite knowing that he liked to retire at 11. She replies tartly that: “my two o’clock speaks life, activity, spirit, and vigour; your eleven has a dull, drowsy, stupid, good-for-nothing sound with it. It savours much of a mechanic, who must get to bed betimes that he may rise early to open his shop, faugh!”. Her husband’s further observation that early to bed and early to rise is healthy attracts the crushing rejoinder “beasts do it”.

If these examples might seem to point towards emancipation, they refer only to aristocratic ladies with the means, the carriages and the self-confidence to roam about cities after dark. For the great majority, the new sites of nocturnal activity – the clubs, coffee houses, Masonic lodges and the like – were almost invariably “men only”. Only in Paris, where coffee houses boasted a distinctly aristocratic decor, could women expect a welcome. Elsewhere in Europe, the exclusion of women prompts Koslofsky to endorse Joan Landes’s verdict that “the bourgeois public is essentially, not just contingently, masculinist”. It was the lot of women to be relegated to the “private core of the nuclear family’s interior space”, as Habermas has put it.

It was different in the countryside. Only where the witch-hunters had been especially busy was colonization achieved, and then only temporarily. It had always been the educated who had demonized folk beliefs, while the common people had made no automatic association between the night and evil or temptation. Particularly resistant, for example, in many parts of northern Europe was the “spinning bee”, a nocturnal gathering of women to exchange gossip, stories, refreshment and – crucially – light and heat, as they spun wool or flax, knitted or sewed. It could also be a site of courtship, as young men could be admitted to add spice to these gatherings. Indeed, an illustration from Nuremberg depicts a regular orgy under way, including a priest “taking care of the cook”. Repeated attempts to put a stop to spinning bees and other nocturnal activities got nowhere. As Koslofsky argues, the nocturnalization promoted by state power and a deepening public consumer culture was much less effective in the countryside, because what he also calls “a powerful combination of discipline and distinction” was much less in evidence than in the towns.

The same could be said of the dark forces of the night. Street lighting had made life more difficult for criminals, but also for those who believed in ghosts, devils and things that go bump. Addressing an imaginary atheist in a sermon in 1629, John Donne invited him to look ahead just a few hours until midnight: “wake then; and then dark and alone, Hear God and ask thee then, remember that I asked thee now, Is there a God? and if thou darest, say No”. A hundred years later, there were plenty of Europeans prepared to say “No”. In 1729, the Paris police expressed grave anxiety about the spread of irreligion through late-night café discussions of the existence or non-existence of God.”

The Glass Bead Game

“Anyway, in the isolation of Castalia, a new art or science will be perfected. It will arise first in the music academies, where a system of glass beads of different sizes and colors, strung on a frame like an abacus, is used to represent musical themes and the rules of counterpoint, allowing themes to be reversed, transposed, and developed. Problems and challenges in music theory can be set and solved with the game in interesting ways. Soon other disciplines, philology, physics, begin to see ways to employ and expand the symbol sets. “Mathematicians in particular played it with a formal strictness at once athletic and aesthetic.” (“Strict” and “strictness” are ubiquitous words in the book.) From Chinese beliefs that music can model the structure of heaven and earth—and from the expressive possibilities inherent in Chinese ideograms—come further developments, until it will be possible for players of the evolved game to deploy a language of symbols (the glass beads themselves long since given up) to unveil the real relations among far-flung products of intellectual endeavor: perhaps a first theme of a Scarlatti sonata evoking an equation mentioned in an Arab manuscript, answered by an oddity of Latin grammar in one direction, a fragment of Parmenides, or a rule in Vitruvian architecture in another. When players begin to practice meditation techniques, games will become at once more personally expressive and more universal. Top players will introduce new symbol sets—alchemical emblems, the I-Ching; in weeks-long festivals their games induce in observers ineffable experiences of insight.”


Taken from

Herman Hesse’s Nobel Prize Winning Novel,

The Glass Bead Game

lays the foundations for an Artistic/Conceptual Game, which integrates all fields of Human and Cosmic Knowledge through forms of Organic Universal Symbolism, expressed by its players with the Dynamic Fluidity of Music. The Glass Bead Game is, in Reality, an Age Old metaphor for what has been called, the “Divine Lila” (Play or Game of Life). This metaphor has been expressed by every great Wisdom Tradition known to man, and its players, the Magister Ludi (Masters of the Game), use as their instruments Ancient and Modern modes of Symbolic Wisdom traditionally presented through Sacred Art, Philosophy, Magick and Cosmology. For a more detailed elaboration of our vision of the GBG, see:


David Bowie’s “Sunday” from the album Heathen with text from Hermann Hesse’s novel “The Glass Bead Game”

“Nothing remains
We could run when the rain slows
Look for the cars or signs of life
Where the heat goes

Look for the drifters
We should crawl under the bracken
Look for the shafts of light
On the road where the heat goes

Everything has changed

For in truth, it’s the beginning of nothing
And nothing has changed
Everything has changed

For in truth, it’s the beginning of an end
And nothing has changed
Everything has changed

In your fear
Of what we have become
Take to the fire
Now we must burn
All that we are
Rise together
Through these clouds
As on wings

In your fear
Seek only peace
In your fear
Seek only love
In your fear
Seek only peace
In your fear
Seek only love
In your fear
In your fear
As on wings

This is the trip
And this is the business we take
This is our number
All my trials
Lord, will be remembered

Everything has changed” – Bowie