Tag Archives: Symbolism

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


The Romantic Symbolism of Trees

abbeydeadtreesCaspar David Friedrich, “Abbey among Oak Trees” (1809-10)

The Romantic Symbolism of Trees by Allison Meier

“As with the Victorian language of flowers, specific trees have their own symbolism. Reverend William Gilpin, an artist and cleric, stated it “is no exaggerated praise to call a tree the grandest, and most beautiful of all products of the earth.” In the form of the tree, artists found expressions of life, death, and the great beyond.

A Dialogue with Nature includes work both from the Morgan’s works on paper holdings, and the Courtauld Gallery in London, and emphasizes this “cult of nature.” Here are some of the meanings of trees in Romantic art that are evoked in the exhibition, as well as in the landscape tradition of the time.”

Link to the full article http://hyperallergic.com/131541/the-romantic-symbolism-of-trees/

forest sunset

Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910) Sunset in a Forest

I wish I had time to upload my folder of Trees in art.. maybe in a future post.. ~ Jaq

The Turning Sky | Lapham’s Quarterly

“The god Horus is a falcon (the word for which in hieroglyphs is qhr, the falcon’s cry). In the third surviving column of text, remarkably, the falcon is marked with a triangle, the hieroglyphic designation for the star Sirius. As if it were a mathematical proof unfolding before my eyes, I saw that if the falcon marked by the triangle is Sirius, the fire is the light of dawn in which the gods—the things marked holy by the hieroglyphic prayer flags—are stars. The baboon’s penis is in actuality a familiar sight: the Sword of Orion (the three stars under Orion’s belt), which rises directly before Sirius on the path of rising stars. The hieroglyphic lines on the wall express an immediate, visual moment in the physical world: the dawn rising of Sirius signaling the rising of the Nile, the key moment of the Egyptian agricultural year. The clear, repetitive, and simple hieroglyphic lines read not as a magic spell but as a finely machined poetic riddle: The Sword of Orion opens the doors of the sky. Before the doors close the gate to the path over the fire Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark, As a falcon flies, as a falcon flies, may Unis rise into this fire, Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark. They make a path for Unis. Unis takes the path. Unis becomes the falcon star, Sirius. That this was the case was borne out by the text as I translated further. Beautifully constructed verses presented one vivid astronomical reference after another: Taurus (“Would that the bull break the fingers of the horizon of earth with its horns. / Come out. Rise.”), the full moon (“the face, the head, the eye”), the North Star (“the axis at the center of the wheel”), the Dippers (“the arms of night”), the Milky Way (“the ladder to heaven”). The verses of the Pyramid Texts map the night sky as a detailed seasonal clock reliably predicting the most critical resource of all: water. Egyptian civilization came out of radical climate change—cattle herders whose grazing land was rapidly becoming desert as the water dried up in the climate shift of the Neolithic, much as is happening in Texas and around the world today.

The verses present a sequence of poetic images in which the human body is transformed back into its elements in the visible universe of the turning sky. The remnant essence of a human life rises as a star in the east: “moses” (the hieroglyphic word for infant) in “the field of rushes” (the eastern stars at dawn). The infant star is the child of “she who gave birth but did not know it” (the sky). The sky is a flood of cool darkness across which sail the stars: Sirius and its evil twin, “the detested wild dog Set,” the second brightest star in the sky, Canopus, the rising of which signals the autumn rains with their deadly flash floods and thunderstorms. Through this glittering wetland of stars wanders the golden calf, the golden crescent horns of the moon.

This extraordinary convergence of poetry, science, and religion resides not only in the writing but in the pictures within the words themselves. Osiris is a phonetic rendering of a hieroglyphic rebus: the seat of the eye, the universal corpse in which resurrection is not a religious mystery but an inevitability of nature. In the Pyramid Texts, hieroglyphic vocabulary is rich with images: The body is a tree. The snake is the life in it. The fruit of the tree is the eye. What is being expressed is the intelligence of nature itself in the ongoing process of creation: the death, decay, and rebirth of plant and animal life in the cyclical year. One familiar religious trope after another appears not as literal historical fact used to proscribe, threaten, and dictate the parameters of human life but as poetic imagery used to bring to life the awareness of our fragile and beautiful world. The richness of these images is echoed in the Book of Job: “As for the earth, out of it cometh bread, and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and it hath dust of gold.” The Pyramid Texts are not magic spells or religious prescription any more than this. Instead, the text takes up a key question: Where shall wisdom be found?

…over the fire
Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark,

As a falcon flies, as a falcon flies, may Unis rise into this fire,

Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark.

They make a path for Unis. Unis takes the path.

Unis becomes the falcon star, Sirius.


Would that the bull break the fingers of the horizon of earth with its horns.

Come out. Rise.

Poetry and religion arise from the same source: the perception of the mystery of life. Early Egyptian writing belongs to this eternal language. The vehicle at work is associative thinking, in which metaphors act as keys to unlock a primeval human sense of the integrated living world. The meaning may not come across on the pedantic level, but on the poetic level it is transparent.”

Source: The Turning Sky | Lapham’s Quarterly

Susan Brind Morrow

Susan Brind Morrow’s translation and analysis of the Pyramid Texts, The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts, was published in 2015. She received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 2006.

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

Gerald Massey – Wikipedia


In regard to Ancient Egypt, Massey first published The Book of the Beginnings, followed by The Natural Genesis. His most prolific work is Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, published shortly before his death. Like Godfrey Higgins a half-century earlier, Massey believed that Western religions had Egyptian roots.

Massey wrote:

The human mind has long suffered an eclipse and been darkened and dwarfed in the shadow of ideas the real meaning of which has been lost to moderns. Myths and allegories whose significance was once unfolded in the Mysteries have been adopted in ignorance and reissued as real truths directly and divinely vouchsafed to humanity for the first and only time! The early religions had their myths interpreted. We have ours misinterpreted. And a great deal of what has been imposed on us as God’s own true and sole revelation to us is a mass of inverted myths.

One of the more important aspects of Massey’s writings were his assertions that there were parallels between Jesus and the Egyptian god Horus, primarily contained in the book The Natural Genesis first published in 1883. Massey, for example, argued in the book his belief that: both Horus and Jesus were born of virgins on 25 December, raised men from the dead (Massey speculates that the biblical Lazarus, raised from the dead by Jesus, has a parallel in El-Asar-Us, a title of Osiris), died by crucifixion and were resurrected three days later.

Christian ignorance notwithstanding, the Gnostic Jesus is the Egyptian Horus who was continued by the various sects of gnostics under both the names of Horus and of Jesus. In the gnostic iconography of the Roman Catacombs child-Horus reappears as the mummy-babe who wears the solar disc. The royal Horus is represented in the cloak of royalty, and the phallic emblem found there witnesses to Jesus being Horus of the resurrection.

Herbert Cutner notes that per the pamphlet Paul the Gnostic Opponent of Peter written by Gerald Massey, he proves quite clearly to any unbiased reader that “Paul was not a supporter of the system known as Historical Christianity, which was founded on a belief in the Christ carnalized; an assumption that the Christ had been made flesh, but that he was its unceasing and deadly opponent during his lifetime; and that after his death his writings were tampered with, interpolated, and re-indoctrinated by his old enemies, the forgers and falsifiers, who first began to weave the web of the Papacy in Rome.”

Source: Gerald Massey – Wikipedia

image: Gerald Massey 1856



I have written other books, but this I look upon as the exceptional labour which has made my life worth living. Comparatively speaking, ‘A Book of the Beginnings’ (London, 1881) was written in the dark, ‘The Natural Genesis’ (London, 1883) was written in the twilight, whereas ‘Ancient Egypt’ has been written in the light of day. The earlier books were met in England with the truly orthodox conspiracy of silence. Nevertheless, four thousand volumes have got into circulation somewhere or other up and down the reading world, where they are slowly working in their unacknowledged way.

Probably the present book will be appraised at home in proportion as it comes back piecemeal from abroad, from Germany, or France, or maybe from the country of the Rising Sun. To all lovers of the truth the writer now commends the verifiable truths that wait for recognition in these pages. Truth is all-potent with its silent power If only whispered, never heard aloud, But working secretly, almost unseen, Save in some excommunicated book; ‘Tis as the lightning with its errand done Before you hear the thunder.

For myself, it is enough to know that in despite of many hindrances from straitened circumstances, chronic ailments, and the deepening shadows of encroaching age, my book is printed, and the subject-matter that I cared for most is now entrusted safely to the keeping of John Gutenberg, on this my nine-and-seventieth birthday.


Full text at link

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


The Hermetic Papers of A. E. Waite and his idea for The Hermetic Text Society



‘The Hermetic Text Society was a pipe-dream of Waite’s that never proceeded further than the issuing of this breathtaking prospectus’, A.E. Waite’s bio-bibliographer R.A. Gilbert intriguingly observed with reference to a 14-page pamphlet issued by Waite in 1907.  Searching the Internet for ‘The Hermetic Text Society’ only yields a few references, all to the now sadly defunct American periodical Cauda Pavonis: The Hermetic Text Society Newsletter. Of Waite’s Hermetic Text Society’s ‘pipe-dream’ there is not a trace on the world wide web; in print, fortunately, there is Gilbert’s brief but informative description of Waite’s ‘grandiose affair’ in the biography which he published in 1987.  

At the time Waite laid down his plan for a Hermetic Text Society, he had already been in control for a few years of the Isis Urania Temple of the collapsed Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which he had re-named ‘The Independent and Rectified Rite’ (with the implicit and tacit addition of ‘of the Golden Dawn’). Waite had diverted the Order away from magic towards mysticism, altogether in line with his belief that there was a secret tradition underlying all esoteric paths, whether mystical, alchemical, kabbalistic, Rosicrucian, masonic or other, which led to direct experience of God. On the professional side of his life, he was wrapping up his career as a commercial manager for Horlick’s, manufacturers of malted milk. Waite wrote in his autobiography Shadows of life and thought that at this time, prospects ‘of a new life’ opened before him: these prospects were related to definitively establishing himself as an authority and an exponent of the ‘secret tradition’. His Hidden church of the Holy Graal, published in 1909, was to be its first product.

Gilbert writes that the idea for the Hermetic Text Society had been suggested to Waite by the gnostic scholar G.R.S. Mead, who had reviewed Karl von Eckartshausen’s The cloud upon the sanctuary in the translation of Isabelle de Steiger for the Theosophical Review in 1903. Waite had written an Introduction for the book, which had caused Mead to enthuse: ‘If only someone – and why not the scholarly mystic who writes this Introduction? – would play Max Muller to the “sacred books” of the Christian mystics from the XIVth to the XVIIIth centuries, what a feast there would be for hundreds of thousands of starving souls!’ – Cis van Heertum for The Ritman Library

more text at the link http://www.ritmanlibrary.com/collection/hermetica/the-hermetic-text-society-fl-1907/

What is Alchemy? by A.E. Waite
The Introductory Notes are taken from “Hermetic Papers of A.E.Waite”, edited by R.A Gilbert (Aquarian Press,1987). The text of “What is Alchemy?” reproduced here is scanned from the periodical “The Unknown World”, and formatted and corrected by hand at[Adepti.com]
THERE are certain writers at the present day, and there are certain students of the subject, perhaps too wise to write, who would readily, and do, affirm that any answer to the question which heads this paper will involve, if adequate, an answer to
those other and seemingly harder problems- What is Mysticism? What is the Transcendental Philosophy? What is Magic? What Occult Science? What the Hermetic Wisdom? For they would affirm that Alchemy includes all these, and so far at least as the world which
lies west of Alexandria is concerned, it is the head and crown of all. Now in this statement the central canon of a whole body of esoteric criticism is contained in the proverbial nut-shell, and
this criticism is in itself so important, and embodies so astounding an interpretation of a literature which is so mysterious, that in any consideration of Hermetic literature it
must be reckoned with from the beginning; otherwise the mystic student will at a later period be forced to go over his ground step by step for a second time, and that even from the starting point. It is proposed in the following papers to answer definitely
by the help of the evidence which is to be found in the writings of the Alchemists the question as to what Alchemy actually was and is. 

The Vessels of Hermes – an Alchemical Album (ca.1700)


The contents of Box 14 from the Manly Palmer Hall Collection of Alchemical Manuscripts, a huge collection of esoteric works amassed by Manly Palmer Hall, a Canadian-born author and mystic, perhaps most famous for his The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928). Most of the material in the collection was acquired from Sotheby’s auctioneers on a trip he made in the 1930s to England and France – bought very cheaply due to the economic conditions of the time. The material in Hall’s collection dates from 1500 to 1825, and includes works from the likes of Jakob Böhme, Sigismond Bacstrom, Alessandro Cagliostro, George Ripley and Michael Maier. The creator of these particular watercolours featured below is unknown. A typewritten note in the back, in French, translates as follows:

ALCHEMICAL ALBUM – The Vessels of Hermes – quarto atlas containing five beautiful colour plates very artistically executed and with explanatory caption. Vol. half vellum.




For more images and full article, see The Public Domain Review: http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/the-vessels-of-hermes-an-alchemical-album-ca-1700/

Those heights are not conceivable or comprehensible by minds not completely free

I’m re-posting this old nugget as it is directly related to the 2 most recent that I have posted; Know Thyself: self-observation for the purpose of understanding ourselves “both as Individuals and Part of the Whole.”

This was Tavaglione’s introduction to his tarot deck. In creating the Stairs of Gold Tarot, he was inspired by these words from Dante’s Paradiso, “I saw a stair the colour of gold, on which shone a ray of Sun, which raised itself so high that my eyes could not see the top….”

“I would do nothing else but pick flowers, and wander through meadows and gardens, gathering all the beautiful and most coloured my eyes and my spirit could see…but it happened that when I picked the first coloured diamonds, my curiosity flew up and I would “know” and I would “learn”.  And while at first my questions were limited only to their aspect, and I would know many Petal-Facets had the Diamond-Flowers I was picking, later I would know their Inmost Secret Light, their Why.

As I could not study all the Flowers my eyes took in, I devoted myself to the nearest ones, trying to understand with them, all the others, seeking inside them the Key that would permit me to open every other Door.
And then I realized that the more I penetrated the “Particular”, the more I descended to the “Depth”, the more I rose to the “General”.  So to understand that infinity of the Flowers around me, I began to study, with great care, One of Them, that could mean the most to me, the nearest one: myself.
And I tried to discover how many facets had that Flower-Diamond; its Cut, its Axis, it’s Colours, its Transparency, its Scent, to penetrate its innermost recesses, the “Secret Rooms” where are preserved the Most Intimate Values, the Hidden Treasures concealed by Veils.
To reach them I found it was anything but simple, because still before entering, I should curb the Beast that guarded them, the Animality always excluded from any Architecture, and any Rationality of Thought, bestial and resentful, because of its inferiority, it must be subdued by Fight and physical Strength or by Command and Moral Strength: once curbed it will be a tractable companion, but like every subdued wild beast, it will always assault us, when hesitating.
After the Beast, there is the Labrynth, consisting of 78 rooms, and 3×7 = 21 Gates; in every Room there are Prizes and Traps, Traps playing on what remained inside us, of the false ideas or the mental distortions that follow us from the preceding rooms, with which we must do away, and the Prizes playing on our Intuition and Illuminations that let us know, on the grounds of what we have learnt till now, what awaits us in the next room and that will be clear only in the future.
The 21 Gates are unforeseen gleams on the future and though one can find some difficult ties to reach and pass them, he has the Certitude of his Growth and the Consciousness of his accomplished conquest, that instill new life into his desire to go on Knowing and infuse him with new courage to face future difficulties.
The Utmost Gate, that closes the Utmost Room, the Sancta Sanctorum, is the Gate of Totality, the Conclusion that leads to our Essence, complete of everything Spiritual and Material.  When we will overcome that Utmost Barrier, we will be Ourselves, at the height of our Beings conscious of our Liberty, both as Individuals and Part of the Whole, Then behind the Veil, stretched between the Two Colums, the Black one and the Red, we will foresee the Roots of the Tree, that through its 10 points, will lead us up to heights where neither the most presumptuous of men can imagine, because those heights are not conceivable or comprehensible by minds not completely free.”
– Giorgio Tavaglione: Introduction to The Stairs of Gold Tarot Deck.
12 Pendu