October 29th, 2007
The figure presents Valentine’s “vision of the great stone, the Benedictine superman supporting as Atlas the cosmic globe with its multitude of stars, the earth occupying the centre. The Sun is in Pisces, the moon in Aquarius, the circular work at its end. The inscription reads: ‘Seek this poster with diligence: therefore it has been shown to you. The earth is the source of the elements; they come forth from the earth and return to it again.’ The flying scroll is inscribed: ‘Visit the interior parts of the earth; by rectifying thou shalt find the hidden stone'” (p208).
“The three-headed bust of an antique philosopher conveys ‘prudence,’ the infans philosophorum with ABC ‘simplicity.’ The union of these modes testifies to the Benedictine’s attainment of the highest lucidity of which the human intellect is capable. The state of mind is that of child and genius. Says an alchemical treatise: ‘The work is not brought to perfection unless it ends in the simple… for man is the most worthy of living things and nearest to the simple, and this because of his intelligence’ [Liber platonis quartorum]” (p208).
The woodcut “is accompanied by the verse” (p208):
I am the one who carries heaven | and earth
While studying both with the utmost diligence.
First I display prudence, | then simplicity,
That my day’s wages may follow soon.
“The stone… may be amplified by a passage in the ‘Rosinus ad Sarratantam Episcopum,’ one of the oldest alchemical texts in Arabian style: ‘This stone is below thee, as to obedience; above thee, as to dominion; therefore from thee, as to knowledge; about thee, as to equals… This stone is something which is fixed more in thee [than elsewhere], created of God, and thou art its ore, and it is extracted from thee, and wheresoever thou art it remains inseparably with thee… And as man is made up of the four elements, so also is the stone, and so it is [dug] out of man, and thou art its ore, namely by working; and from thee it is extracted, that is, by division; and in thee it remains inseparably, namely by knowledge. [To express it] otherwise, fixed in thee: namely in the Mercurius of the wise; thou art its ore: that is, it is enclosed in thee and thou holdest it secretly; and from thee it is extracted when it is reduced [to its essence] by thee and dissolved; for without thee it cannot be fulfilled, and without it canst thou not live, and so the end looks to the beginning, and contrariwise’ [Artis aurif.]” (p208).