OF THE MEANS BY WHICH NATURE ATTAINS HER ENDS
Plate XII – The Fourth Treatise, Firstly
Nature has evolved the Human Race and its Organisms up to the level Anthropological Sciences have labeled Homo Sapiens. This was achieved by and through the levels of the Universal Subconscious Mind, typically called Nature by those of us who would not give credence to a Super-Conscious Universe. But Nature is One Mode of that Super-Conscious Creator, is it not? Qabalists call Nature Binah, Neshamah, the World Soul, the Divine Soul. However, the erudite and esoterists, one of whom the original author of Splendor Solis must be, are aware of a much higher Order of Consciousness; that which lies deep within each of us.
The social and hard sciences currently opine that this is as far Mankind will be able to evolve. And to this esoterists would agree. But then, those same esoterists would disagree if it were declared that Mankind could not improve upon his multilevel being to a level one might deem, say, Homo Universalis, a Human as far above us currently as we are to Homo Erectus.
Nature has evolved us into this ‘cocoon’ state, if you will, but this Fourth Treatise is proffering “The Means By Which Nature Attains Her Ends.” ‘Her End’ is the Perfected Human and the Consciousness that will be able to reside therein. ‘The Means’ are the perfected Force-centers within the human organism itself. Imagine it so.
Like the Third Treatise, this Fourth is a composite of the next seven Plates to follow. However, unlike the Parables of the Third Treatise these seven Plates are merely numbered. And Plate XII is Firstly.
The following seven ‘glass retorts’ symbolically represent the Seven (interior) Metals of the Alchemists. These glass vessels are also suggesting the 'Secret Vessels', from which, through meditation, the 'Secret Fire' is extracted. In the manuscript they follow in the order of: Saturn (Lead); Jupiter (Tin); Mars (Iron); The Sun (Gold); Venus (Copper); Mercury (Quicksilver); and the Moon (Silver). All the vessels rest on a three-leafed wreath, very much like the one illustrated around the figure in the World Tarot Key designed centuries prior. This suggests that these wreaths may very well be deliberately symbolic of our human aura, like that in the ‘World’ Tarot. This is true in that the vortices of the Chakras have their origin on the surface of the human aura; appear as slight indentations on the astral vehicle; and terminate as points in the human spinal column and brain.
Each of the seven vessels are ‘sealed’ at the top, just below is the Crown of Kether around the neck. Kether suggests the Supernals, the The Higher Octaves of the Seven Metals, and represented by the Three Crowns in the Third Parable of Plate VII. What the seals suggest is that the ‘Secret Fire’, comprised of the conjunction of Rajas Guna (Sulfur, and the Self-consciousness) with Sattva Guna (Mercury and Super-consciousness) in each of the seven metals must be completed firstly, before the ‘Spiritual Fire’ of the Higher Octaves can be accessed. That Spiritual Fire is only granted by the Father Himself, also illustrated in the background of Plate VII.
The Metals are otherwise known as Force Centers, Assemblage Points, the Holy Inner Planets, or the most common of names, Chakras. Each of the seven centers has a three-fold mode or aspect of expression within it; the three Gunas of the Yogis. Perhaps this might also be the suggestion behind the 3-leafed wreaths under each retort. By now three modes should be somewhat familiar to one who has read through all of the above parables. The Three Gunas are called the Three Principles by alchemists: Sattva Guna is equivalent to the Mercury (or Argent-vive) Principle; Rajas Guna is as the Sulfur Principle; and Tamas Guna as to the Salt Principle. They reiterate the elements within Plate I being the Super-, Self- and Subconscious modes of the psychological sciences. They are, indeed, the very Three Modes of Material Nature. The Three compose our physical world and all therein. Galaxies even.
This Metal is actually the lowermost, and the ‘Firstly’ to be aroused. Of the seven Metals, Plate XII here is depicting Lead, the Inner Holy Planet Saturn, or the Muladhara Chakra of Yoga discipline, situated in a point in the base of the spine, at the sacral plexus.
Above the arch of the glass vessel is shown an elderly man, Saturn, not Mercury, riding a cart running on wheels depicting the astrological symbols of Libra, in which Saturn is exalted, and Capricorn, which Saturn rules. Mercury has never been personified as an elderly presence. Self-consciousness, which Mercury represents, is youthful. There is a strong affinity between Saturn and Mercury in the alchemical Great Work, which is why an elderly man is here holding the Caduceus of Hermes or Mercury resting against his shoulder. The Caduceus is the very symbol of Kundalini which has its source in the sacral plexus, the Saturn Chakra. Saturn is Kundalini, initially evoked by Mercury, an aspect of the child personality. This explains the coiled serpent next to the infant child sitting in front of Saturn. The scene depicts subtle Qabalistic and alchemical details concerning the raising of Kundalini, which may be the reason these very details are missing or completely ignored in the various descriptions of this plate. The two dragons pulling the cart are stages of the 'raw' left and right nerve currents of the sympathetic nervous system before beginning their ascent.
The 12th Path on the Tree of Life shows Mercury, the self-conscious mind, connecting Kether with Binah, the Sphere of Saturn. While it is often stated in Qabalistic literature that “Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether but after a different manner”, it might also be stated that “Binah is in Tau (32nd Path) and Tau is in Binah, also after a different manner”. And Mercury is the initiator of both, while being an aspect of the child personality. Meditate on this.
A second child, also representing human personality, works within the Glass Vessel. It is attempting to arouse the Secret Fire from within Lead by pouring Water into the Dragon’s mouth, and pumping bellows of Air into the lungs area. The Secret Fire (Kundalini) is very often depicted as a Dragon or Serpent. In meditation the chief procedure for balancing any of the Chakras has the aspiring personality practice deep, rhythmic breathing (Air) coupled with Imagination (Water), often additionally accompanied with color and sound vibrations for the advanced techniques.
The seven Metals are described in detail in The Mirror of Alchymy by Friar Roger Bacon. The Three Modes or Principles within each are also addressed. All three are ever present within each Metal but with varying degrees or intensities. Of the Nature of Lead, Bacon wrote:
“Lead is an unclean and imperfect body, engendered of ARGENT-VIVE impure, not fixed, earth and dross, being somewhat
white outwardly, but red inwardly, and of such a SULPHUR in part burning. It has not purity, fixation, color, and firing.”
Bacon quotes Basil Valentine in the same opus with:
“Saturn (Lead) is generated of little Sulphur, little Salt and much gross, unripe Mercury.”
For detailed commentary on the above, plus much more from Roger Bacon’s entire Mirror of Alchymy, click on the Articles section of the menu bar. His whole manuscript is worth your while.
There are color panels beneath the vessels in each picture. Whether these are implied to represent the corresponding color of the Force-center itself cannot be verified in that this red or red-orange hue under this vessel of Saturn is not the correct color associated with the Metal Lead in the Western Tradition. Perhaps it is a blind to hint a color associated with each, but not the particularly correct color for each.
The artistic scenes surrounding the vessels in their frames have been edited out to save space. They principally depict each planet’s governance over various human activities associated with that planet in astrological readings. The activities surrounding Saturn here are the many incidents ruled or governed by planet Saturn in an astrological Natal Chart. One can gaze through these scenes by viewing your own download of the entire manuscript.