Paracelsus warns us outright in The Tincture of the Philosophers:
"Now, if you do not understand the use of the Cabalists and the old astronomers, you are not born by God for the Spagyric Art, or chosen by Nature for the work of Vulcan, or created to open your mouth concerning Alchemical Arts."1
The most profound elements of true alchemy involve transmutations within our deep subconscious levels. Number and pictorial symbolism are the language of that subconscious mind. Word books and sites, like this one, may only point the way toward a superficial understanding of what is implied behind the glyphs, paintings, drawings and woodcuts of early genuine alchemists. The “use of the old astronomers” is astrology, and the “use of Cabalists” employed number to gather pictorial imagery (see GEMATRIA). The use of number was extended to simple geometric shapes. The squares, circles, triangles, and multiples of these, used alone or in combination with numbers, letters or text, served to convey ideas far more explanatory and meaningful, and with profoundly deeper effect, than pages of script.
A simple point [.] for example, hinted ideas of a unified beginning, solidarity, and came to symbolize the number 1. To extend a point in a straight line, horizontally or vertically, required two hand motions, the initial point [1st] and its lateral movement [2nd]. A straight line, then, came to represent the number 2. The full circle of experience was symbolized by number 22. This was deduced from the twenty-two Hebrew/Chaldean letter-glyphs of the alphabet, and later reinforced by imagery within the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot. Subsequently half of that, a semi-circle, came to represent number 11. With these four basic numeral glyphs, anyone is able to reduce to number almost all the geometric symbolism used by the sages throughout the history of esoterica.
When reduced to number, shapes may then be compared with corresponding ideas behind the numbers within letters, words and/or phrases of the three most common languages used by classical writers. A plethora of imagery surfaces from the depths of our collective awareness. The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians would have no value to anyone perusing those pages if some time and effort were not invested toward understanding the simple arithmetic of the Pythagoreans. All the geometric symbols hold purpose. If we have not compiled some number reference dictionary through the course of our gematria studies, we have then no hint as to the reasons for most of those symbols. They remain conundrums. But we may still feel the power of those pictures without knowing why. Because they are symbolic archetypes in Universal Nature, they strike chords vaguely familiar in the deep subconscious. Ultimately we may become aware of their sublime implications if a stirring of those memories has occurred. If and when we take the time to investigate further, those deep memories begin to loosen and rise to the surface toward self-consciousness like floating relics from a sunken wreck jarred loose from the ocean’s sandy bottom.
Then, symbols combined with other symbols evoke even more ideas, ad infinitum. From the above suggestions, simple geometric symbols used in astrology may now be investigated in a new light. The Sun glyph, for example, is a simple point surrounded by a full circle. In number this glyph reduces to 23 (a full circle, and a point). The Latin, aes, meaning 'ore,' contains 23 by summation of its letters. Ore is the fiery-water, the First Matter, sought in the mines of the alchemical "spiritual mountain." The Hebrew word חיה, kiah, sums to 23, and translates as 'Life-Force.' Can we deny its association with the Sun? Ore, the Life-Force, is the invisible ocean of Limitless Light. When the invisible Limitless Light gathers and coalesces about a point in fourth dimensional space, the 'dark' side of creation, it bursts into the 'day' side as the core of our galactic system, spewing out physical suns that populate the galaxy.
At the bottom of the title page in Secret Symbols, there is a geometric glyph of an equal-armed cross fully encircled. In astrology this is a glyph of our Earth. The cross within a circle is also the Hermetic symbol of the Central Self. Numerically it sums to 26, the number of IHVH. We may conclude our Central Life, whom Qabalists call Ben, the Son, is identical with God, Yahweh. A cube, symbolic of our manifest universe, also sums to 26 when its parts are tallied as 6 faces, 12 edges and 8 corners. The implications seem to suggest that the symbol for our Inner Self and the symbol for our physical world are different manifestations of the same One-God, IHVH.
The symbol for Venus totals the same. Alchemists understand Venus as the power of imagination to coagulate Prima Materia. Many alchemists have even called the First Matter, Venus. The power to manifest imagery instantaneously is a power of the Central Self, seated in Tiphareth. Our world is 'frozen imagery' from and within the Universal Mind Matter. The power to manipulate the Prime Substance is identical with the Central Source that creates a universe made of Itself.
The symbol for Alchemical Salt is a full circle with a single line diameter. This sums to 24, the same value as a cube again, if we consider each of the twelve lines that constructs the cube as number 2. Our physical universe, the cube, is nothing less than the coagulated Great Salt Sea of Awareness, Alchemical Salt. Keep in mind that those astrological symbols for all the planets are essentially constructed of circles, semi-circles and straight lines. Work out the number value for as many as you can.
Finally, as a useful example of Occult Geometry, please refer to Part I, page 3, in The Secret Symbols. The title of the page is “The Mystery of the Number Three.” The words surround an equilateral triangle. Triangles may be considered as number 3, or each side may count as 2. At the bottom of the page we are told: “The following figure is one of the keys.” The figure has five elements: a straight line; a red, fire triangle; a large number 3; a blue-green water triangle; and another straight line. To sum up, all elements total 13. Words and phrases totaling 13 in Hebrew, Greek and Latin are most common and need not be repeated again here. The hieroglyph may also be reckoned as 19, reducing to 10, then to unity. But if we have dismissed gematria, this most basic exercise in the Alchemical Art is futile; then please reread Paracelsus' quotation at the beginning.
1 Paracelsus, Theophrastus, The Tincture Of The Philosophers. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1985, pg. 8.