Revised: November 2019
Of all the definitions found on this site Lion is perhaps the most important. It could actually be considered the very heart of this site and even the heart of Alchemy. Please read slowly, frequently and ponder its content often.
The vocabulary of occult terms included in the reprint of The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians offers the following definition for Lion:
“Leo. - (Alch.) Lion. The symbol of strength and fortitude; corresponding to Mars. 'The Blood of the Red Lion', the vehicle of the Life-Principle.”
This hints a great deal; and under 'Mars' in the same work:
“Mars – Power which endows beings with strength. See Leo.”
The author of these bits must have been well aware of the subsequent implications, and pointed the rest of us on a true path. Planet Mars on the Tree of Life not only is the connecting path between sphere 7, Desire, and sphere 8, Intellect. The Martial Influence is also connected to the fifth sphere, Geburah (Severity), which Qabalists tell us is the seat of Volition, the active force of the Primal Force rooted in Chokmah. This is a very important and relevant connection with Lion. When various religious and sectarian texts speak of the doctrine of ‘man's free will’ it is usually an unenlightened misunderstanding of the True Will seated within the heart of the True Human. Generic humanity (you and I, make no mistake) are not yet ‘truly human’, though we, and the social and anthropological sciences, believe ourselves to be so.
When generic humanity believes and mistakes this Will Force to be of personal origin, all manner of aberrations manifest. Millions of human-kind with separative wills of supposed personal origin then contest each other to the detriment and certain ruin of all. This is a Lion gotten out of hand. While it feels like a personal attribute, there is just ONE WILL in the entire universe, and It is absolutely free. To experience this absolutely free One-Will through our temporal physical bodies calls for the utter surrender of that ‘personal feeling’ and the taming of our rampant, transitory (and dippy) personality thoughts and desires. That genuine feeling of an erroneous separate, independent will-power is supplanted deep within us, however. Though we may even consciously determine to surrender it finally, its power still influences our actions from deep subconscious levels. Concerning this alchemist Delphinas taught in the Book of Lambspring:
"The Sages do faithfully teach us that two strong lions, to wit, male and female, lurk in a dark and rugged Valley. These the Master must catch, though they are swift and fierce, and of terrible and savage aspect. He who, by wisdom and cunning, can snare and bind them, and lead them into the same Forest, of him it may be said with justice and truth that he has merited the meed of praise before all others, and that his wisdom transcends that of the worldly wise."1
In classic alchemical literature ‘forest’ or ‘wood’ is the physical body, while ‘valley’ and ‘garden’ are symbols of subconsciousness. These two strong lions (really one with two levels of expression) must be united by sublimation into the ONE-WILL.
True ‘volition’, in the esoteric sense, is basically the Universal Will-Reproductive Force. Historically, through human-kind, conscious expression of ‘volition’ was/is the force behind separative egoism. Its subconscious expression was/is the procreative sex drive for repopulating the line of the species. The early, raw will/sex-force through a young personality is expressed through the Mars Center, the Svadisthana Chakra, a point within the spinal column at about the level of the prostatic ganglion. It is the root of our ‘fight or flight, and reproduce’ responses from the gonads. These lower uses of this ‘volitional’ force externally, for procreation and/or the imposition of our ‘personal’ will and desires, keeps us on the carousel of birth and rebirth into this physical world. All the loneliness and pain we suffer are the results of our separative, isolated state, while engaging in battle on some level or other with all the rest of human-kind trapped in the same condition.
The young, unruly Mars force, placating our endless merry-go-rounds of sensation-seeking, alchemists named the Green Lion, while yet admitting the Green Lion to be the basis of our Great Work. The fiery energy of the Mars Center in human personality receives its root influence from Virgin Sulphur, a metaphor for the root desire in all of Nature, seated within Chokmah on the Tree of Life. Yet ‘our’ Nature, unaided, most often fails. Alchemically speaking, left to its natural state the Sulphur mode in Mars (Iron) leans, almost magnetically, to placate its Salt tendencies. This is to say, that our conscious thoughts, desires and actions are naturally drawn to our subconscious habit patterns and base proclivities. Our raw will/sex force favors Salt; Leo = Sal in Latin gematria. Yet the Key of the Art is concealed within this Green Lion, and is the means of our salvation. Speaking of the Green Lion, Ripley says:
"He is the mean, Sun and Moon between."2
[Again] - "Learn then to know this Green Lion, and its Preparation, which is all in all the Art; it's the only Knot; untie it, and you are as good as Master: For whatever then remains, is but to know the outward Regimen of the Fire, for to help on Nature's Internal Work."3
Elsewhere Ripley, Sendivogius, with many other Masters in this Art called the Green Lion, Chalibs. This is where many tyro miners easily get confused. It calls for concentrated reading, studying and of course, meditation. Above, it was initially pointed out that the Lion-force is associated with Mars and Geburah, which in turn is rooted from Virgin Sulphur seated within Chokmah. Now comes Chalibs. Huh? But please remember, the many names given this primary and basic force all fall under one of the Triune Principles.
So Sendivogius rightly instructs:
"Again our Chalibs is the true key of our work, without which the Fire of the Lamp could not be, by any Art, kindled."4
Keeping this basic truth constantly in mind, we can never veer too far off course. Chalibs, or Chaylbs, is English for the Hebrew חלב, CheLeB, listed twice in a Hebrew dictionary. Given different vowel points, one definition is rendered as the noun and verb, 'milk' and 'to milk'; the other is 'fat' or 'fatness'. Its numeration is 40, that of the letter מ, Mem, 'water'. Alchemists, and all others who have witnessed the Universal Water, tell us repeatedly that it is a ‘white, liquid light’ and ‘milky’; and that it appears as a ‘dripping fatness’. Within the Water is Sulphur “without which the Fire of the Lamp could not be...”
Great. Now we’re in the Water, you say. Bear with me here. We must understand that though ‘Our Water’ (Sages proclaim) is variously composed, it is yet only ONE THING. Keep also in mind that ‘Water’ is one of the most common names for Prima Materia, the Qabalistic Ain Suph Aur, frequently described as a ‘milk-like ocean of light’ and similar metaphors (see WATER). In Hermetic Art by a Lover of Philalethes we find:
"What tho' he has conceal'd the Key of the Art under his Green Lion, as others have done under the Doves, Chalibs, secret Fire, etc., some under one figure, some under another, which best answered their purpose, viz., Concealing the Art from the Unworthy."5
Here is a little corroboration from our Eastern Brethren. Some readers may have had the good fortune to witness the series of intricate and astonishing bas-reliefs around the outside of the central temple complex in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, built in 1112 A.D. If you think that the western sages were making things up, think again.
"The southern section of the east gallery is decorated by the most famous of the bas-relief scenes at Angkor Wat, the Churning of the Ocean of Milk (Chalibs) where dozens of helmeted figures are churning up the sea to extract from it the elixir of immortality. Kundalini is represented by the serpent, Vasuki, the object of a tug of war between demons and gods (yours and my duel natures). Brahma (Kether), Shiva (Chokmah) and Vishnu (Binah) are all in there under different guises."6
Now some alchemists see the Green Lion as actual, some not. It is an aquamarine color spoken of by Dr. John Dee, and the 'green fog of the world' mentioned by the Yaqui Sorcerer, Don Juan Matus. It is the raw, primitive stage of Prima Materia, the ‘formative substance’ in the Qabalistic world of Yetzirah (human-kind’s collective subconscious). On very rare occasions this substance may appear in this, our physical world (Assiah). Just why cannot yet be explained, but there seems to be a thin veil that lifts for some inexplicable reason. It has been witnessed by some survivors in flights through or on sea-going vessels within the Bermuda Triangle. Their compasses go awry, then are restored when the phenomena passes or disappears.
This ‘foggy’ substance is actually the mind-stuff of the Universal Mind on our subconscious level, the Yetziratic World. It takes on its greenish hue within this level due to the saturation of all the negative thoughts, imagery, fears and skewed desires of collective human-kind through millennia. Through the alchemical process it must be ‘cleansed’ of this hue within our Glass Vessel to be of any value in our work. This is to say, performed within our ‘personal’ portion of the subconscious. This is where most of the Alchemical Process takes place. The unknown author of Hunting the Green Lion wrote most accurately:
"Whose Colour doubtless is not so, And that your Wisdom do well know; But our Lion wanting Maturity, Is called Green, from Unripeness, trust me..."7
"The Lion is the Priest, the Sun and Moon the Wed; Yet they were both born in the Priest's Bed."8
The Green Lion force, when matured and turned internally, serves as the heat of The Bath (see BALNEUM). The greenish or aquamarine fog is the portion of the First Matter we close off within our Glass Vessel and seal Hermetically. The Bath is where King and Queen (Sun and Moon) bathe and become wedded as one. The Bath is the HUMIDITY (see same) within the GLASS VESSEL (see same). The sublimated force of the Green Lion becomes the Red Lion, the ‘Priest’ who balances or blends the sexual polarities within us. The Tree of Life pictures this event with symbolism in the nineteenth path and letter TETH, The Serpent Power, Kundalini. In the Tarot Key the Woman in White does the Woman's Work, maturating the reproductive Lion force, heating the Vessel, uniting the opposites Mercy and Severity. Note that these three features on the Tree (spheres four and five together with path nineteen) are the same colors as the Three Principles. On the Tree the Lion is attributed to Mars and Geburah, the Eagle to Jupiter and Chesed, the Woman between. In The Hermetic Arcanum, d'Espagnet advises:
"Keep up and couple the Eagle and Lion well in their transparent cloister (Glass Vessel), the entry door being shut and watched (Hermetic Seal), lest their breath go out, or the air without do privily get in."9
In time, if we persevere with the Work, ‘the Eagle devours the Lion’ we are told repeatedly, as Mercury absorbs the Sulfurous Red Lion. Our personal Sulphur dries up, withers, dies, Caput Mortuum, and becomes Black as a Crow (the Black Stage). Becoming magnetized, so to speak, the Vessel gathers the Dew of Heaven. This turns the Matter into the White Stage. Jean d'Espagnet continues:
"The Eagle shall snap up and devour the Lion in this combination; afterwards being affected with a long sleep, and a dropsy occasioned by a foul stomach (other authors call this Assa Foetida, the Stinking Bath), she shall be changed by a wonderful metamorphosis into a coal black Crow, which shall begin to fly with wings stretched out, and by his flight shall bring down water from the clouds, until being often moistened, he put off his wings of his own accord, and falling down again he be changed into a most White Swan."10
Notice d'Espagnet says “she shall be changed...”, that is, our subconscious, astral body, temporarily separated from the physical vehicle; it returns, reunited, renewed as the True Human. Google William Blake’s most descriptive drawing titled: Reunion with Soul and Body. Should be clear.
The "Blood of the Red Lion" mentioned in the very beginning quotation above is the prepared blood inside the body of the alchemist, described in detail elsewhere throughout this work. Our blood, so charged with the sublimated reproductive force and by other operations, works in combination with the Heavenly Dew, the Eagle's Gluten. Paracelsus spoke truly, having said, and is often quoted:
"The Blood of the Red Lion and the Gluten of the Eagle is sufficient for our work."
However, we initially must mature and re-channel the reproductive energy flowing though us. This is the ‘Iron Key’ hinted by some sages. Alchemists tell us the means by which they accomplish this “are the Doves of Diana that overcome the Green Lion by gentleness.” For this, cross reference the definition of MEANS MINERAL.
Finally, there is this; the Riddle of the Sphinx. We gaze upon the Sphinx of Egypt and we wonder. Its head is disproportionate to its body; apparently sculpted down from something other. Some speculate it was a lion’s head originally; others opine a jackal's head. Regardless, someone down the line decreed it should be changed into what is now. And whether the head of this Sphinx is male, female or the face of some past Pharaoh is utterly irrelevant to the Qabalist who sees this very differently. The erudite know now, as the Hierophants who changed it knew then, that what they had constructed was a monumental stone symbol of the True Human’s conquest over the Lion Force; the beginning, middle and end of The Great Work in the Formative World. Compare its image with Tarot Keys Strength and Wheel of Fortune.
1 Delphinas, Nicholas Barnaud, The Book Of Lambspring. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1986, pg. 12.
2 Westcott, William Wynn, Short Enquiry Concerning The Hermetic Art. Edited by Westcott. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1983, pg. 12.
3 Ibid., pg. 31.
4 Ibid., pg. 31.
5 Ibid., pg. 31.
6 Paraphrased from Lonely Planet, Cambodia, Ninth Edition, pgs. 137-8.
7 Ibid., pg. 34.
8 Ibid., pg. 13.
9 d'Espagnet, Jean, The Hermetic Arcanum. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1983, pg. 18.
10 Ibid., pg. 18.