Tag Archives: Allegory

We are bees of the invisible… Rilke from a letter to Halewicz


“We are bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the invisible, to store it in the great golden hives of the invisible.”

Rilke often refers to the invisible, especially in his Duino Elegies, which he wrote during a particularly mystical period of his life. In a letter to his Polish translator Witold Hulewicz in November 1925, he wrote: ‘We of the present are never satisfied by the world of time…transience everywhere plunges into the depths of being…it is our task to print this temporal, perishable earth so painfully, passionately and deeply into ourselves, that its essence is resurrected again, invisibly, within us…the Elegies show this, the work of endlessly converting the visible, tangible world we love into the invisible vibrations and tremors of our own nature…’

He was quite passionate about the “Temple within” and the interior life, whereas he saw the outside world as transitory and fragile.

In another letter, written in 1925, commenting on his Elegies, he wrote: “‘…the Angel of the Elegies is that creature in whom the transformation of the visible into the invisible, which we perform, appears already complete.’ [..] ‘that being who attests to the recognition of a higher level of reality in the invisible – Terrifying, therefore, to us because we, its lovers and transformers, still cling to the visible’.

Here are some good links on Rilke’s work and his letters




I became a little (more) obsessed with Rilke after reading a chapter focusing on his work in this book:

(edited to include more details from comments)

originally posted 2012


Visualization in Medieval Alchemy – alchemy as a science and an art aimed at the transformation of species

In Arabic classifications of science and philosophy, which were adapted in the twelfth century, alchemy was defined as a sub-branch of natural philosophy (scientia naturalis), sharing this definition, above all, with medicine. Thus, about ten years after the first translation of an alchemical text into Latin (Morienus, De compositione alchimie), Dominic Gundissalinus described alchemy as belonging to physics in his De divisione philosophiae (ca. 1150).[6] It was a science and an art aimed at the transformation of species

In the thirteenth century, representatives of Platonically-oriented cosmology and natural science such as Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253) defended a systematic use of geometrical representation. Following Grosseteste, “all causes of natural effects must be expressed by means of lines, angles, and figures, for otherwise it is impossible to grasp their explanation”.[24] The corresponding theory of knowledge was neo-Platonic and Augustinian. The intelligible order underlying the physical, corporeal world was thought to be apprehensible by the divine part of the soul, by the ‘eye of the soul’, and geometrical figures (as well as number patterns) were used as ‘ladders’ leading to eternal truths.

The early fifteenth-century Aurora consurgens marks a further step in the elaboration of pictorial metaphors combined with glass vessels. The oldest and most spectacular copy of this document dates from the 1420s (Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, ms. Rh. 172). On a purely pictorial level, an inventive and high-quality artist developed a core of recurrent alchemical metaphors that relate to human and animal procreation, the dismemberment of bodies (symbolizing calcinations and putrefaction) and motifs such as the eagle and the dragon, which denote mercury as a volatile and as a solidified substance, respectively.[75] In and around glass vessels, the artist metaphorically depicted stages of operation relating to the alchemical art of transformation as well as cosmological and philosophical principles of the art, such as “two are one” and “nature vanquishes nature”. Two or more principal metaphors are frequently combined within a single picture, reflecting the increasing use of chains of metaphors. For instance, one of the illustration combines the motifs of Mercury decapitating the sun and the moon with a vase filled with silver and gold flowers

Figure 11: Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, ms. Rh. 172, fol. 27v. Aurora consurgens (ca 1420-30). Mercury in the form of a serpent decapitating the Sun and the Moon. Gold and silver flowers in a vessel on the fire.

For the full article from which these extracts were taken, go to the link below

Source: HYLE 9-2 (2003): Visualization in Medieval Alchemy

Max Ernst – La femme 100 tetes




“Max Ernst’s collage book “La femme 100 têtes”, originally published in 1929. directed by Eric Duvivier
The book consisted of a surrealist picture per page, with a little legend. But the story depended on the ability of the reader to interpret the collages, and was not relying that much on the legends. The book was about a woman who was living among ghosts and ants, and was an allegory of the immaculate conception.”

Writing Against Captivity: Phillis Wheatley’s Illimitable Imagination

“One of her most interesting poems, ‘On Imagination’, employs art as a means of freeing the mind and the muse, conceptualized as a figure she calls Fancy. Her poem proposes an alternative hierarchy where Fancy acts a deity that enjoys unfettered freedom, despite the tight poetical structure of the heroic couplet form, likely read in the works of the near-contemporary and widely read British poet, Alexander Pope. In ‘On Imagination’, Wheatley constructs a liberated world outside of slavery, flying on the wings of Fancy, another word for the imagination, to free herself from the bonds imposed by Winter, an allegorical figure representing slavery.”
Follow the link for full article – Jaq

Interesting Literature

By Laura Linker

Phillis Wheatley (1753-84), an eighteenth-century black slave taught to read by her owners, composed over 100 poems in her lifetime, many of them drawing on the Bible as a source of infallible authority. The first slave to publish a book, Wheatley often urges America to repent of its participation in the slave trade. (She was also the originator of ‘Columbia’ as a term for America, which she invented in her 1776 poem ‘To His Excellency George Washington’.) Steeped in western canonical authors, including Ovid, Virgil, Shakespeare, and Milton, she draws on classical and religious allusions to challenge legal and social limitations that denigrate slaves, adopting established poetical forms only to use them as sites of resistance. Her poetry demonstrates remarkable technique and learning.


One of her most interesting poems, ‘On Imagination’, employs art as a means of freeing the mind and the muse, conceptualized as a figure…

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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!


Echoes of Gilgamesh in the Jacob Story


Echoes of Gilgamesh in the Jacob Story  – Esther J. Hamori

“It was popular for some time to seek apparent Near Eastern parallels to bibli-cal narratives. The methodology employed was at times problematic, and conclusions were often overstated, as similarities between texts explicable in any number of ways were attributed to direct relationship.
For some biblical texts, of course,there is stronger evidence for Near Eastern influence. I propose that this is the casein regard to one text for which a Near Eastern counterpart has not previously been suggested: the story of Jacob’s wrestling match in Gen 32:23–33 (Eng. 32:22–32).There is reason to believe that the Israelite author knew some form of Gilgamesh,and particularly the scene of the wrestling match between Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
The case presented here is not simply one of a shared motif or logical group-ing of elements, but one of an unexpected and striking series of correspondences
“The final outcome of the match is shared by the two texts as well. In each casethe victor is blessed by his attacker. It should be noted immediately that this is nota usual context for a blessing. As Westermann has observed, this is in fact the only place in the Tanakh in which a blessing is acquired through a struggle.

Furthermore, the two blessings are similar in both form and content. Jacob’s attacker declares: “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with human beings, and have prevailed” (Gen 32:28). This can be divided into two parts. First, the divine opponent makes a declaration regarding the identity and legacy of Jacob in relation to God; second, he affirms that Jacob has prevailed over all others. Enkidu’s blessing of victorious Gilgamesh follows the same pattern: “As one unique your mother bore you, the wild cow of the sheep-folds, Ninsunna! Your head is extolled above men; kingship of the people Enlil hasdecreed for you” (P 234–39). Again, the first statement is in regard to the identity and legacy of Gilgamesh in relation to his mother, the goddess; the second statement affirms that Gilgamesh prevails over all others. In both cases, the force of the blessing is clear: the hero will continue to prevail as the divinely appointed father or leader of his people.”

Full Paper: http://www.academia.edu/1213087/_Echoes_of_Gilgamesh_in_the_Jacob_Story_JBL_130_2011_625-42

With thanks to History of The Ancient World

Masters of Fire: Italian Alchemists in the Court of Philip II



“Also present at Philip’s court, and presumably a member of
Fioravanti’s circle, was an Italian aristocrat named Lorenzo Granita, a
native of Salerno. Fioravanti claims that Granita, who he says was the
equal of Ramon Lull, Arnald of Villanova, and John of Rupescissa,
showed Fioravanti a method for making a philosopher’s stone that would
transform any metal into the finest twenty-two carat gold. Fioravanti
does not claim that Granita actually made gold in his presence; instead, he
reports, Granita showed him a manuscript containing a Spanish poem that
held the secret of the philosopher’s stone.

Fioravanti, according to his
own admission, stole the manuscript and reprinted the verses at the end of
Della fisica so that anyone might learn how to make gold.
The poem has been recently studied by Elena Castro and José
Rodriguez, who identify it as the product of an adept from Valencia called
Luis de Centelles and written between 1550 and 1560. Although
Fioravanti calls the work a “recipe” for making gold, it is in fact an
elaborate allegorical poem that uses the analogy of courtly love to
symbolize an alchemical process that results in the “perfection” of matter.
The theme of the poem is the devotion of the poet to a woman—“who
dwells in the heavens and is, without doubt, the daughter of the Sun”

(Toma la dama que mora en el çielo | ques hija del sol sin duda ningua)—
which symbolizes prime matter. Just as, through a series of displays of

devotion, the poet’s love ascends and is perfected, the poet-alchemist

submits matter to a series of alchemical manipulations and converts it into
something ideal and perfect. The symbolic “matrimony between man and
woman” (matrimonio de hombre y muxer) becomes a metaphor of the
alchemist operating on matter. Strongly influenced by the alchemical
writings attributed to Ramon Lull and Arnald of Villanova, the poem
describes a progression of operations that parallel those detailed in the
Testamentum of pseudo-Ramon Lull—solutio, ablutio, congelatio, fixatio,
and multiplicatio—leading to the elixir, a “medicine” of transmutation and
universal healing It is far from clear whether Fioravanti understood
these obscure allegorical verses, for he made no effort whatsoever to
explicate them. Nevertheless, he could not conceal his enthusiasm for
having discovered—or, as he admitted, stolen—the secret that all the
alchemists had been looking for.”

Full article (pdf) http://www.williameamon.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Masters-of-Fire.pdf