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Introduction to Boehme’s Threefold Life of Man. By George W. Allen

Introduction to Boehme’s Threefold Life of Man.

By George W. Allen

There is a way, a wisdom, an operation which, taken, searched out and attempted, will lead him, teach him and form him so that he will not only reach the eternal (which all must do), but reach it to find himself in rightful relation to it, at home in it, conformed to it. Harmony with environment is heaven: the contrary is hell.” -George W. Allen

 Dreifaches_Leben Threefold Life

[..] If Boehme has been called the “Teutonic Theosopher,” this is only because he endeavors to penetrate into the depth of man’s nature, and seeks for facts which are not to be found upon the surface thereof.

 

There has been, without doubt, in all ages of the world much enquiry calling itself “theosophical” which has been illicit and disastrous. Ducklings that can safely cross a river might be lost in attempting to cross the Atlantic.

Everything depends on the spirit in which the enquiry is undertaken. If in a self-sufficient pride and confidence in our own powers, or out of mere curiosity and love of the wonderful and obscure, the enquiry is illicit and likely to end in spiritual and moral disaster.

One sort of spirit alone can undertake the enquiry with safety. It must be entered on for the one and only purpose of learning what we actually are, so that by this knowledge we may be enabled to shape our life and form our personal character in accordance with the eternal Fact.

Neither must we undertake to pursue the enquiry by our own natural and unaided reason and intellect. We must seek and expect guidance; that guidance which is ever afforded to those who seek it from a true motive, which is never a mere desire to explore and talk about the recondite and profound.

So narrow is the gate that leads to the real divine truth that no self-sufficiency can ever enter in.

Only the meek and lowly of heart, who desire to be able better to serve, rather than to pose as profound thinkers, can pass it and walk in the straitened way that will be found within. Such are known at once by this: that their whole interest is centered on what can be turned to practical account in life and conduct and character; and if, as they study, they do not find themselves becoming nearer to the divine character in love and sympathy and service, they feel that something is wrong. They are never so filled with wonders discovered as to rest content with this success; for they seek not truth for its own sake, but only for the sake of its good. They watch themselves closely, and turn aside from any knowledge that does not bear fruit in a greater earnestness in service, and in a character growing ever more pure and sympathetic and set on things above.

All this Boehme is careful to say again and again.

 

Understood in this sense, and fenced about by these safeguards, theosophy loses all its dangers, and the man who loves God, and is dissatisfied with the mere notional apprehension of Him with which most are content; who feels that he himself is more than he as yet knows, and would understand for what he was created, and to what end he is meant to arrive; who regards this life as needing to be interpreted rather than no more than it seems; who wishes so to live here that, after death, he may not find himself in a new and “other” world with every fiber of habit, every longing and liking, of a nature which, in that world, is impossible and must prove a torment—such an one need not despair.

 

There is a way, a wisdom, an operation which, taken, searched out and attempted, will lead him, teach him and form him so that he will not only reach the eternal (which all must do), but reach it to find himself in rightful relation to it, at home in it, conformed to it. Harmony with environment is heaven: the contrary is hell. If, of human writers, Kant is the man of philosophical first principles, Boehme is equally certainly the man of theosophical first principles. And if there appear signs (as surely is the case) that our Christian religion is not producing that national righteousness which its aim is to produce, and we suspect that we have not got our first principles right, there is no author (outside Holy Scripture) to whom it will be more profitable to go back.

 

It will be impossible in a brief introduction to enter on a full explication of Boehme’s marvelous system, for this would require a volume to itself. All that can be attempted is to indicate the general lines of that system, and to give some clue to the reader, whereby first difficulties may be surmounted, and the secret of Boehme indicated.

George W. Allen

Link to pdf. (can be read online) The Threefold Life of Man written by Jacob Boehme, 1620
http://www.jacobboehmeonline.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Threefold_Life_of_Man.87135427.pdf

THE THREEFOLD LIFE OF MAN
ACCORDING TO THE
THREE PRINCIPLES
BY JACOB BOEHME GORLITZ 1620
TRANSLATED BY JOHN SPARROW 1650
TRANSCRIBED BY WAYNE KRAUS 2013
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P.D. Ouspensky: Strange Life of Ivan Osokin – Ivan-Osokin.pdf

“At six years of age Ouspensky was reading on an adult level. Two books made a strong impression on him—Lermontov’s A Hero for Our Time and Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Notebook. Lermontov’s book is noteworthy since the ideas it expresses—the plasticity of time and questions of predestination, fate and recurrence—are those that would occupy Ouspensky throughout his life. As a young boy Ouspensky disliked school, finding the work dull. At sixteen he discovered Nietzsche, whose idea of eternal recurrence would remain a lifelong interest. He left school the same year. In 1905, at the age of seventeen, his mother died. That year he wrote his only novel (not published until 1915), The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin.”

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http://www.gurdjiefflegacy.org/archives/pdouspensky.htm

Strange Life of Ivan Osokin – Ivan-Osokin.pdf. old link didn’t work – updated to add working link

Strange Life of Ivan Osokin is a novel by P. D. Ouspensky. It follows the unsuccessful struggle of Ivan Osokin to correct his mistakes when given a chance to relive his past. The novel serves as a narrative platform for Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence. The conclusion fully anticipates the Fourth Way Philosophy which typified Ouspensky’s later works. In particular the final chapter’s description of the shocking realization of the mechanical nature of existence, its consequences, and the possibility/responsibility of working in an esoteric school.” – wiki

Eos – The Light of All-Seeing Dawn

T19.12Helios

 

Eosphoros, god of the morning star, Venus, leads the procession of the day: the chariots of Eos, the dawn, and Helios the sun. Eosphoros is depicted as a handsome young winged god with a shining aureole upon his head. Helios and Eos likewise appear as aureole crowned youths, each driving a four horse chariot (quadriga). Beneath the chariot wheels are dancing fish and dolphins, to indicate their dawn rising from the sea.

“The light of all-seeing Dawn (Eos).” -Theogony 404f“

When the young Eos (Dawn) showed again with her rosy fingers.” –Iliad 1.477

“The goddess Eos drew close to tall Olympos with her message of light to Zeus and the other immortals.” –Iliad 2.48-49

“Dawn (Eos) the yellow-robed scattered over all the earth.” –Iliad 8.1 & 24.695

“Eos rose from her bed, where she lay by haughty Tithonos, to carry her light to men and to immortals.” –Iliad 11.1

“Eos the yellow-robed arose from the river of Okeanos to carry her light to men and to immortals.” –Iliad 19.1-2

“Eos (Dawn) comes early, with rosy fingers.” –Odyssey 2.1, etc. (repeated many times)

“The goddess Eos, who had slept beside Lord Tithonos, was rising now to bring light to immortals and to mortals.” –Odyssey 5.1

“When Eos of the braided tresses had ushered in the third day.” –Odyssey 5.390, 10.144

“Forthwith came Eos in her flowery garment.” –Odyssey 6.48

“Eos appeared in her flowery cloth of gold.” –Odyssey 10.540, etc

“The ship [of Odysseus] in due course left the waters of the river Okeanos and reached the waves of the spacious sea and the island of Aiaia; it is there that Eos the early-comer (Erigeneia) has her dwelling place and her dancing grounds, and the sun himself has his risings [so therefore must be located in the far East]. We came came in; we beached our vessel upon the sands and disembarked upon the sea-shore; there we fell fast asleep, awaiting ethereal Dawn.” –Odyssey 12.1-6

“That brightest of stars appeared [Eosphoros] that most often heralds the light of early-rising Dawn (Eos Erigineia).” –Odyssey 13.93

“Eos in her broidered robe as she rises from the streams of Okeanos.” –Odyssey 22.195

“Rosy-fingered Dawn (Eos) when she appeared might have found them still in melting mood, but Athene of the gleaming-eyes turned her thought to another stratagem. She held back the night to linger long at the horizon, checking Eos of the broidered robe at the edge of Okeanos and bidding her not to yoke as yet the rapid horses that bring men light, Lampos and Phaithon, the young steeds of Eos … When it seemed to her [Athene] that Odysseus had has heart’s content of both love and sleep, forthwith she roused up Eos (Dawn) of the broidered robe from Okeanos to bring light to mankind again.” –Odyssey 23.244f

“There was an assembly on snowy Olympos, and the immortals who perish not were gathering after the hour of gold-throned (khrysothronon) Eos.” -Homeric Hymn IV to Hermes 326-328

“As when descends Eos (Dawn) from Olympus’ crest of adamant, Eos, heart-exultant in her radiant steeds amidst the bright-haired Horai (Hours).” -Quintus Smyrnaeus 1.48

“[Eos] Phaesphoros Erigeneia (she who brings Light to the world, the Child of Mists of Night) … began to climb Heaven’s broad highway.” -Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.185

“From Okeanos then uprose Eos (Dawn) golden-reined: like a soft wind upfloated Hypnos (Sleep) to heaven.” -Quintus Smyrnaeus 5.395

“Rose Eos (Dawn) from Okeanos and Tithonos’ bed, and climbed the steeps of heaven, scattering round flushed flakes of splendour.” -Quintus Smyrnaeus 6.1

“For Helios the Sun’s lot is toil … from the moment rose-fingered Eos (the Dawn) leaves Okeanos and goes up into the sky.” –Mimnermus Frag 12

“Lady (Pontia) Eos .. golden-armed (khrysopakhos).” -Greek Lyric I Sappho Frag 6

“Golden-sandaled (khrysopedillos) Auos [Eos].” -Greek Lyric I Sappho Frag 103

“Hesperos, bringing everything that shining Auos [Eos] scattered, you bring the sheep, you bring the goat, you bring back the child to its mother.” -Greek Lyric I Sappho Frag 104

“Lady Auos [Eos].” -Greek Lyric I Sappho Frag 157

“Rosy-fingered Eos.” -Greek Lyric II The Anacreontea Frag 35

“For the Pleiades, as we carry a plough to Orthria (Goddess of the Morning Twilight), rise through the ambrosial night like the star Sirius.” “I long to please Aotis (Dawn-goddess) most of all, for she proved the healer of our sufferings.” -Greek Lyric II Alcman Frag 1

“When white-cheeked Aos [Eos] climbs the heavens, early-born (Erigeneia).” -Greek Lyric III Ibycus Frag 284

“Aas [Eos], leaving the waters of Okeanos, drew from the sky the moon’s holy light.” -Greek Lyric IV Corinna Frag 690

“Gold-armed (khrysopakhos) Aos.” -Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides Frag 5

“On a dark-blossoming sea Boreas rends men’s hearts with the billows, coming face to face with them as night rises up, but ceases on the arrival of Aos (Dawn) who gives light to mortals and a gentle breeze levels the sea, and they belly out their sail before Notos’ breath.” -Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides Frag 13

“The lovely light of immortal Aous.” -Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides Frag 17

“White-horsed Aos as she brings light to men looks down.” -Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides Frag 20C

“Eos’ horses went racing up the sky today, bearing her all rosy from Okeanos’ bed.” -Theocritus Idyll 2.145f

“When Ge learned of this, she sought a drug that would prevent their [the Gigantes] destruction even by mortal hands. But Zeus barred the appearance of Eos (the Dawn), Selene (the Moon), and Helios (the Sun), and chopped up the drug himself before Ge could find it. ” -Apollodorus 1.34-38

“Radiant Eos with her bright eyes beheld the towering crags of Pelion [ie the mountain was touched by the light of Dawn].” –Argonautica 1.519

“At the hour when bright-eyed Eos comes up to light the eastern sky, and all the paths stand out and the fields glisten with dew.” –Argonautica 1.1280

“Eos (Dawn) arrived, showing herself betimes above the snows of Kaukasos.” –Argonautica 3.1224

“Eos’ (Dawn’s) celestial beams chased black Nyx (night) from the sky.” –Argonautica 4.1170

“And while the daring boy [Phaithon] in wonder gazed, Aurora [Eos], watchful in the reddening dawn, threw wide her crimson doors and rose-filled halls; the stars took flight, in marshalled order set by Lucifer [Eosphoros] who left his station last. Then, when Sol [Helios] perceived the morning star setting and aw the world in crimson sheen and the last lingering crescent of the moon fade in the dawn, he bade the nimble Hours go yoke his steeds.” –Metamorphoses 2.113f

“Aurora [Eos] rising with dewy hair.” -Metamorphoses 5.446

“When on his milk-white steed Luciferus [Eosphoros the Morning-Star] rides forth, or when, bright harbinger of day, Aurora [Eos] gilds the globe to greet the sun.” –Metamorphoses 15.88

“Tithonus’ wife [Eos] drops dew from her saffron cheeks and drives the time of the fifth morning.” –Ovid Fasti 3.403

“When Pallantis [Eos the dawn] next gleams in heaven and stars flee and Luna’s [Selene the Moon’s] snow-white horses are unhitched.” –Ovid Fasti 4.373

“Memnon’s saffron mother [Eos] arrives to view the widening earth on rosy horses.” –Ovid Fasti 4.713

“Hyperion’s daughter [Eos the dawn] expels the stars and lifts her rose lamp on the morning’s horses, cold Argestes (the North-West wind) will caress the topmost ears of corn.” –Ovid Fasti 5.159

“Aurora [Eos] had chased from heaven the dewy darkness, was carrying the sun’s torch far and wide over the earth.” –Aeneid 4.12

“And now was Aurora [Eos], leaving the saffron bed of Tithonus, beginning to shower upon earth the light of another day.” –Aeneid 4.585

“Tithonus’ bounteous wife [Eos], ruffling the sea with the new-born sunlight.” –Valerius Flaccus 1.310

“The fires of the maid Pallantidos [Eos daughter of the Titan Pallas] grow faint in the east, the land lightens.” –Valerius Flaccus 2.72

“Tithonus’ bride [Eos] dissolved the chill shadows and uncurtained the heavens.” –Valerius Flaccus 3.1

“And now Aurora [Eos the Dawn] rising from her Mygdonian [her husband Tithonos’] resting-place had scattered the cold shadows from the high heaven, and shaking the dew-drops from her hair blushed deep in the sun’s pursuing beams; toward her through the clouds rosy Lucifer [Eosphoros, the morning-star] turns his late fires, and with slow steed leaves an alien world, until the fiery father’s [Helios the Sun’s] orb be full replenished and he forbid his sister to usurp his rays.” –Thebaid 2.134

“The bright consort of Tithonus [Eos the Dawn] had shown in heaven her toil-bringing car, and Nox [Nyx, night] and Somnus [Hypnos, sleep] with empty [sleep-inducing] horn were fleeing from the pale goddess’ wakeful reins.” –Thebaid 6.25

“It was the time when Phoebus’ [Helios the Sun’s] fiery sister [Eos the Dawn], hearing the sound of his yoked steeds and the roar of Oceanus’ cavernous abode beneath the gathering dawn, collects her straying beams and with light flick of whip chases the stars away.” –Thebaid 8.271

“Not ye had the wakeful dawn put all the stars to flight from heaven, and Luna [Selene the Moon] was beholding the approach of day with fading horn, what time Tithonia [Eos the Dawn] scatters the clouds in hurrying rout, and prepares the wide firmament for the return of Phoebus [Helios the Sun].” –Thebaid 12.1

“Eos (Dawn) in her car was just speeding back from Okeanos in the East and marking great space of sky with slowly brightening light, dispelling night.” –Tryphiodorus 670

“So oft hath Tithonia [Eos goddess of the dawn] passed by my groans [from lack of sleep], and pitying sprinkled me with her cool whip [the dewy whip with which she chases away the stars].” –Silvae 5.4.1

“Aurora [Eos the Dawn] with her crimson trapping brandished her rosy arm and began to driver her chariot across the sky.” –Apuleius 3.1

“[Zeus to Helios:] ‘I will hide you and the daughter of the mists [Eos] together in my clouds, and when you are covered Nyx (Night) will appear in the daytime..” –Dionysiaca 7.280

“Eos had just shaken off the wing of carefree sleep and opened the gates of sunrise, leaving the lightbringing couch of Kephalos.” –Dionysiaca 27.1

“Farshooting Eos (Dawn) with crimson face leapt up sending forth her light.” –Dionysiaca 34.124

“The Wind [Euros the East Wind] left the rosy chamber of Eos (Dawn) his mother.” –Dionysiaca 37.70

“But when morning, the harbinger of Eos’ (Dawn’s) dewy car, scored the night with his ruddy gleams, then all awoke.” –Dionysiaca 37.86

 

Rosarium Philosophorum; when you make the two into one..

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When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the Kingdom.

    Gospel of Thomas, 22

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(images: Rosarium Philosophorum)

The combination of substances and the union of opposites is a key element in the alchemical process. This is often represented as a mystical marriage of the lunar element representing the feminine, Sophia (wisdom) and the solar element, the male, Logos (knowledge/reason). These two opposing elements meet and are joined in what is known as the ‘chemical wedding’. This union creates something bigger and more powerful than the individual parts – the perfect integration of male and female energies – the hermaphrodite.

The Curious Case of Hermetic Graffiti in Valladolid Cathedral

The Curious Case of Hermetic Graffiti in Valladolid Cathedral –  Eric W. Vogt

oFRONTIS_Fig_ATurning now to closely examine the frontispiece of Valladolid ms. 40/8 (Figure A), the investigator meets a wonderful confluence of related hermetic symbols. The total number of sides (twelve), the interpretation of the two symbols, the title and lyrics, form a complete whole. Reading from the outside inward, three nested squares frame the title and the hermetic symbols. The three squares allude to the marriage of ‘tertiary and the quaternary’. These concepts are familiar to students of number symbolism: the four elements distributed in groups of three among the twelve signs of the zodiac (four sides X three squares = twelve). The groupings of signs of like element are known as the triplicities; the lines connecting the conjunctions form four trigons, or equilateral triangles, around the zodiac. The conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter, to which we will return presently, describe these lines during their nearly 800-year cycle of conjunctions.

http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeV/CURIOUS.htm

Withdraw into yourself and look..

Plotinus:

‘Withdraw into yourself and look; and if you do not find yourself beautiful as yet, do as does the sculptor of a statue … cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is shadowed … do not cease until there shall shine out on you the Godlike Splendour of Beauty; until you see temperance surely established in the stainless shrine-(Ennead, 1, 6, 9).

Alfred Kubin – The Guardian 1902-304-alfred-kubin-el-guardian-gardien-the-guardian-1902-03-peninkwashwatercolour

The Tarocchi de Mantegna

The Tarocchi of Mantegna is one of the earliest known tarot or Tarocchi packs, “being dated to c.1465, contemporary with the Visconti-Sforza deck of the mid-fifteenth century which is recognised as the earliest tarot.”

In the words of Adam McLean:

The symbolism of these cards, or perhaps we should say ’emblematic figures’, would seem to derive from the Hermetic tradition which is now recognised as underlying the Italian Renaissance of the mid-fifteenth century. It was during this period that the Platonic Academies of the Medici’s were set up and Ficino and other scholars began translating texts such as the Corpus Hermeticum and the works of Plato, some of which were brought to the Court of Florence from Constantinople by Gemistus Plethon (c.1355-1450), a Greek scholar who was probably an initiate of a ‘Platonic’ Mystery School in the East. This reconstruction of hermetic and neoplatonic esotericism is reflected in such ideas as the Muses, the Liberal Arts, the Cardinal Virtues, and the Heavenly Spheres, and it is my view that the Tarocchi of Mantegna should be seen as an ’emblem book’ of this hermetic current. The fact that its designs show parallels with the later tarot decks should therefore be of the greatest interest both to students of tarot and of Hermeticism.

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For the full article, see here: http://www.levity.com/alchemy/mantegna.html

The Black Sophia and the Black Madonna

Aurora_26

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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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.
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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.

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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.

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica acquires works by René Guénon, including periodical “La Gnose”

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica has acquired “an almost complete run of a periodical edited by Guénon, La Gnose (1909-1912)”

The BPH recently managed to acquire some fifteen works by René Guénon to add to its collection of works by this French occultist. Among these works, which were written in the years 1909-1947, is an almost complete run of a periodical edited by Guénon, La Gnose (1909-1912). Guénon also published his first work in La Gnose. The Western Esotericism collecting area now holds some 50 titles by Guénon.

la-gnose2

René Guénon (* Blois 1886 – † Cairo 1951) started out as a follower of Gérard Encausse (better known under his pseudonym Papus), the foremost figure of the French occultist movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Guénon attended lectures at Papus’ ‘Ecole hermétique’ (Hermetic School), and also joined a variety of occult organisations in which Papus was actively involved, such as the ‘Ordre Martiniste’ (a gnostic movement inspiring its members to achieve an inner transformation). In 1908 he turned away from Papus and attached himself to the ‘Église gnostique’ (Gnostic Church) which had been founded in 1890 by Jules-Benoît Doinel after a spiritist séance in the home of Lady Caithness, herself the founder of the Société Théosophique d’Orient et d’Occident, a theosophical society independent of though inspired by Madame Blavatsky.

For a short bio of Rene Guénon, and to read the full article, see here:  http://www.ritmanlibrary.com/recent-acquisitions-2/