Cramer’s Emblems

October 4th, 2011

Six of forty emblems from Daniel Cramer’s 1617 The Rosicrucian Emblems of Daniel Cramer, each presenting a contemplative exercise working upon the heart process of a Rosicrucian meditator. Prefaces Cramer:

“And so, Reader, you have the work of death and life,
The embossings of the Holy page, and a short epigram.
These will be able to show and teach your mind
What your state was once and what it may become today” (p16).

Emblem 2: I INCREASE

“‘But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience.’ (Luke 8:15)

“I am not a road, or a thorn, or a stone, but the best earth;
And sweet ears of corn will rise from the bossom of my heart” (p25).


“‘In thy light shall we see light.’ (Psalms 36:9)

“I see the light in your light, let darkness be far away,
He is wise who gains wisdom from the book of the Lord” (p29).

Emblem 15: I MEDITATE

“‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.’ (Galatians 6:9)

“The centuries fly by, the days pass away,
Every man must work for the good, while there is an hour of time” (p40).


“‘The words of the Lord are pure words as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.’ (Psalms 12:6)

“The brick and hearth witness to the quality of gold;
The same may testify to the goodness of the mind” (p62).


“‘…we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left.’ (Numbers 20:17)

“Not in this place, not in that;
The heart will go more safely in the middle.
He who rushes from the mean, runs to destruction” (p63).


“‘By ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.’ (Matthew 10:16)

“He whose heart is saved by simplicity, whose eye by wisdom,
Will be both serpent and dove to God” (p64).

Its Vegetable Nature

December 22nd, 2009

An emblem from Honoratus Marinier’s ca. 1790 Alchemical Manuscript of the Seven Keys (McLean’s edition).

From key two, the wedding of Apollo and Diana (p16). Click for larger version.

“This [emblem] shows Diana [the moon goddess] seated on the tomb of her dear husband Apollo [the sun god], where his ashes have been enclosed, which she swallows as a sign of the overwhelming love she bears him. Her garments shine with all the colours found in nature. Hercules is to be found on one side of the sepulchre, and Vulcan on the other. I shall explain what takes place in the glass sphere during the multiplication, which lasts about nine or ten months. Here Vulcan represents the external fire and Hercules the patience of the practitioner which overcomes all obstacles. The fixed remains in the bottom of the egg and all the liquid gradually becomes viscous, but before its total coagulation one may see through the view holes of the athanor or furnace, in a glimmer of light, all the colours of nature. One must not dwell on these, especially as they are not real, proceeding as they do from a reflection of light. It is after the conjunction of our two beautiful and precious substances has taken place that can be seen in due time in a far more marvellous fashion all the colours of the rainbow, mainly the blessed green, an infallible sign of the vegetable nature of our Stone…” (p17, translated from the French).

The Mercurial Bird

September 13th, 2009

Three illustrations of Mercurial birds, representing the volatile nature of alchemical work.

Emblem 9 (of 12) from the 1752 Hermaphrodite Child of the Sun and Moon by unknown alchemist L.C.S., reproduced by Adam McLean (p42).

Translates Mike Brenner in McLean’s edition: “A soaring eagle with heart aflame, with the Sun and Moon at the threshold of its wings, bears tokens of dominion: the crown of influence, the sceptre of the king, and the globe of the empress.

“Its buoyancy in flight and its flaming heart show the ethereal nature of this eagle: wet outside, fire inside. It is our Liquid Mercury.

“The Sun and Moon seek solace under the shadow of these wings, basking in the pleasing radiation from the flaming heart.

“To win the Crown of the Earth, fuse the power of the sceptre and the globe…” (p42).

Copperplate 7 (of 19) from Johann Conrad Barchusen’s 1718 Elementa chemiae, appearing in Johannes Fabricius’s 1976 collection, Alchemy (p18).

Comments Fabricius: In plate 7 “the deluge [cf. the biblical Flood] leaves only a small patch of land, on which the Hermes bird descends [beneath the symbol of Mercury]. The chaotic situation is emphasized by the emergence of the seven planets on the horizon, a symbol of universal disorder. As indicated by the sign of sulphur, the sinking island is set on fire by sulphurous flames from the hellish interior of the earth. Yet the alchemist’s sinking island is ‘supported’ by a sealed chest of drawers emerging from the sea and containing immense riches of silver and gold. Although the adept’s world has become a sinking island, it has been simultaneously transformed into a treasure island” (p18).

Second woodcut of the 1550 Rosarium philosophorum, also appearing in Fabricius’s Alchemy (p24).

In this depiction “the king, standing atop the sun and representing the spiritus, meets the bride of his choice, resting on the moon and representing the anima. The rose branches crossed by king and queen bear out their mutual love, but the court clothes suggest the restrained nature of their initial encounter.

“The two roses at the end of each branch refer to the four elements, two of which are active and masculine (fire and air), while two are passive and feminine (water and earth). Their ordered arrangement in a ‘rosie cross’ suggests the abatement of the prima materia and its warring elements. The fifth flower is brought by the dove of the Holy Ghost, a parallel of Noah’s dove carrying the olive branch of reconciliation in its beak. Descending from the quintessential star, the bird reconciles the masculine and feminine elements, just as its third branch equates the rose branches with the three pipes of the mercurial fountain, now transformed into a stem of roses.

“The dove is the agent effecting the rapprochement between king and queen, just as the bird indicates the spiritual and heavenly nature of their love. The unusual character of this affair is further stressed by the partners’ left-handed contact. This uncustomary gesture points to the closely guarded secret of their infringement of a general taboo. Actually, the royal couple engages in ‘unnatural’ and illegitimate love, the secret of which is of an incestuous nature: the bride is the king’s own sister. Hence the ‘Rosarium’ admonishes: ‘Mark well, in the art of our magisterium nothing is concealed by the philosophers except the secret of the art…'” (p24).

Five paintings from the Pneumo-Cosmic Manuscript, an enigmatic sequence of 52 such alchemical illustrations. Neither the author nor the date of the work are known (although the paper establishes a terminus a quo of mid to late 18th century), and no explanatory text is provided beyond a brief introductory paragraph (see below). The present edition was reproduced from a manuscript in Glasgow University’s Ferguson collection and hand-bound by Adam McLean.

“A work of natural magic, fashioned with an admirable brush of pneumo-cosmic nature. The characteristics of the universal prototype of Chaos, through the artful ape of Nature, have been represented to itself in many images, and preserved to eternity the memory of this matter” (title page, from the Latin).











Stolcius on the Stone

March 2nd, 2008

Four emblems from The Hermetic Garden of Daniel Stolcius. This 1620 collection includes 160 emblems appearing in Mylius‘s Opus Medico Chymicum, each accompanied by a four line Latin verse composed by Stolcius. The present edition was hand-colored and -made by Adam McLean.

The selection of emblems below concerns the Philosophical Stone.

Emblem 27: Mitigo, the Philosopher.


However men and beasts despise the Stone, yet it is loved by the wise.

However men and beasts trample the Stone,
It still takes no notice of them all.
For only at the hands of philosophers is it investigated;
These it loves and delights in them especially.

Emblem 62: Author of the Philosophical Rhymes.

Philosophical Rhymes

You shall visit the interior of the Earth.

He who seeks the Stone shall search the interior of the Earth.
And there shall find where the Medicine lies hidden,
There recognize the many headed Dragon,
There see what may become the Lion by our Art.

Emblem 100: Petrus, Monk and Philosopher.


The fiery little light lives in the Earth, and water cannot extinguish it, for it is heavenly.

This heavenly radiance is hidden in caverns in the ground.
Yet still the moist wave cannot put it out.
Seek it. Revolve the whole world, like Atlas, in your mind.
Perhaps you will find it.

Emblem 107: Hortulanus, Philosopher and Chemist.


Only he who knows how to make the Philosopher’s Stone, understands what they say concerning the Stone.

Only he who knows how to produce our Stone,
Hears the mystic words of the hidden chorus.
Then, in the amazing, different cycle of the Elements, he perceives,
And obtains by entreaty, the longed for riches of Hermogenes.

Geometry of the Opus Alchymicum

October 21st, 2007

Three etchings reproduced in Johannes Fabricius’s Alchemy: The Medieval Alchemists and Their Royal Art.

Riddle of the sphinx

Emblema XXXIX of Michael Maier’s 1618 Atalanta fugiens (see earlier post).

“The foreground figures illustrate the riddle of the Sphinx: What is that which walks on four in the morning, on two at noon, on three in the evening? Answer: Man. The geometrical signs inscribed on the three foreground figures refer to the opus and to the composition of the philosopher’s stone [says Maier]: ‘The true meaning is: first one should consider the square, or the four elements; from there one should advance to the hemisphere, which has two lines, the straight and the curved one, representing Luna, who is made white; after that one should pass to the triangle, which consists of body, soul, and spirit, or Sol, Luna, and Mercurius'” (p32).

Basil Valentine’s Tenth Key

Basil Valentine‘s Tenth Key, 1599. The Latin inscriptions read: ‘I am born of Hermogenes. Hyperion elected me. Without Jamsuph I am compelled to perish’.

The above “shows Basil Valentine’s emblem of the third coniunctio and the production of the stone. Its trinitarian design merges the sun and moon (top corners) in the sign of Mercurius philosophorum (bottom corner). The Trinity is inscribed with a radiant double-circle… symbolizing the philosopher’s egg. Its ‘nesting’ in heaven is expressed by the name of the Highest inscribed in the stone’s centre”.

“Basil Valentine’s ‘election’ by Hyperion is a reference to solar rebirth, Hyperion in Greek mythology representing the Father of the Sun. The text reads: ‘In our stone, as composed by me and by those who have long preceded me, are contained all elements, all mineral and metallic forms, and all the qualities and properties of the whole world. In it we find the most powerful natural heat, by which the icy body of Saturn is gently transmuted into the best gold. It contains also the highest degree of cold, which tempers the fervent heat of Venus and coagulates the living Mercurius, which is thereby also changed into the finest gold. The reason for this is that all the properties are infused by nature into the substance of our great stone, and are developed, perfected, and matured by the gentle coction of natural fire, until they have attained their final perfection'” (p165).

Squaring the circle

Emblema XXI of Michael Maier’s 1618 Atalanta fugiens. ‘Here followeth the Figure conteyning all the secrets of the Treatise both great & small’.

“Above, the alchemist performs the squaring the circle [see earlier post], thereby turning the two sexes into one. The motto repeats a saying of the ‘Rosarium’: ‘Make a circle out of a man and woman, derive from it a square, and from the square a triangle: make a circle and you will have the philosopher’s stone.’ As informed by the text, the triangle denotes the unity of body, soul and spirit. Of this operation Petrus Bonus says: ‘In this conjunction of resurrection, the body becomes wholly spiritual, like the soul herself, and they are made one as water is mixed with water, and henceforth they are not separated for ever, since there is no diversity in them, but unity and identity of all three, that is, spirit, soul and body, without separation for ever'” (p198).

Five of 200 emblems collected and explained by George Wither in his 1635 Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne (2003 Kessinger facsimile).

“For, when levitie, or a childish delight, in trifling Objects, hath allowed them to looke on the Pictures; Curiositie may urge them to peepe further, that they might seeke out also their Meanings, in our annexed Illustrations; In which, may lurke some Sentence, or Expression so evidently pertinent to their Estates, Persons, or Affections, as will (at that instant or afterward) make way for those Considerations, which will, at last, wholly change them, or much better them, in their Conversation” (pA2).

No force

“What cannot be by Force attain’d, By Leisure, and Degrees, is gain’d” (p49).

Before and behinde

“He, that concealed things will finde, Must looke before him, and behinde” (p138).

Each day a line

“Each Day a Line, small tasks appeares. Yet, much it makes in threescore Yeares” (p158).

Unmoov’d abides

“True Vertue, whatfoere betides, In all extreames, unmoov’d abides” (p218).

The garland

“The Garland, He alone shall weare, Who, to the Goale, doth persevere” (p258).

Reverse and obverse of the Great Seal of the United States, engraved on the back of the American dollar bill, with Campbell’s description from The Inner Reaches of Outer Space (see earlier post).

Great Seal of the United States, Reverse

“Whereas behind the pyramid there is only a desert to be seen, before and around it are the sprouting signs of a new and fresh beginning… a ‘new order of the world’ (novus ordo seclorum)” (p126).

“There at the summit of a symbolic pyramid (the World Mountain) we see an eye within a radiant, upward-pointing triangle (the World Eye, God’s Eye, Eye of Spirit). It is at that point of rest (stasis) at the summit where the opposed sides come together” (p125).

Great Seal of the United States, Obverse

“In the radiant disk above the American bald eagle’s head the stars of the original 13 states are composed to form a Solomon’s seal symbolic of the union of soul and body, spirit and matter. Each of the interlaced equilateral triangles, one upward turned, the other downward, is a Pythagorean tetraktys, or ‘perfect triangle of fourness,’ of nine points, four to a side, enclosing a tenth representing the generative center (‘still point of the turning world’) out of which the others derive their force. The upward triangle is of spiritual, the downward pointing, of physical energy. Thus interlaced, the two represent the physical world as informed by the spiritual” (p128).

“When viewed as outlining a pyramid, the upward pointing triangle matches the pyramid on the reverse of the Seal, with the single point at its apex corresponding to the Eye out of which the expanding form of the universe has proceeded. As symbolized in the traditional Pythagorean tetraktys, the energy emanating from that initial point (which is of the opening both from and to Eternity [cf. prajna eye]) yields, first, duality (2 points: measure and chaos, subject and object, light and dark, odd and even, male and female, etc.), which then relate to each other in three ways (3 points: either a dominant, b dominant, or a and b in accord), whence derive all the phenomenal forms in the field of space-time (4 points: 4 quarters of the earth and heavens). There is a verse in the Tao Teh Ching: ‘The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things'” (p128).

“Connotations of the same order pertain, of course, to the downward turned tetraktys, with its single point at the apex opening also from and to Eternity; so that, ‘What is above is below,’ and the energy of the Spirit (however named), whether from without (as from the Eye, the apex above) or from within the world (the apex below) is one” (p128).

Continuing on the theme of the last plate of the last post, four engravings from three works of the master miner Goossen van Vreeswijk: De Roode Leeuw (The Red Lion), 1674; De Groene Leeuw (The Green Lion), 1674; and De Goude Son (The Golden Sun), 1675. These engravings are also collected in de Rola’s anthology (see previous posts), bringing the total here to just 14 of his collected 533.

To make the Bird fly

“‘To make the Bird fly’ is to free the Spirit from its material prison, that it may soar in the alchemical sky and bring back Below the benefits of what is Above. The whole Work, and I have repeatedly stated, is a series of Dissolutions” (p251).

Make the Earth fly

“‘Make the Earth fly’, enjoin the authors; and indeed the Dissolution of our chosen Subject opens the portals of the Garden of the Wise. In rising from the Earth below to the Sky above, the Subject acquires the strength that is strong of all strength” (p245).

The Hermetick Labyrinth

Regarding the path, “the Hermetick Labyrinth symbolizes the material realization of the Great Work. The maze expresses two main difficulties: how to reach its centre and how to get out again. To reach the centre, one must first acquire sure knowledge of the Subject of the Art, and of its preparation, which is accomplished at the central pavilion. The return journey — when the chances of getting lost are greatly increased — signifies the mutation of the prepared Matter with the help of Fire. One sees Fire leading Matter on, guided by Ariadne’s thread. The thread is the Possibility of Nature: the fact that like produces like” (p251).

Pray and Work

As for method, “the result of assiduous studies, speculations and theories will be verified by practice. The spiritual dimension of Alchemy can only be attained by using one’s hands. Ora et Labora sic habebis: ‘Pray and Work, thus thou shalt receive'” (p264).

Drawing again from de Rola’s anthology (see earlier post), seven emblems by Balthazar (Baltzer Schwan) from Johann Daniel Mylius‘s 1622 Philosophia reformata.

These engravings illustrate application of the alchemical formula Solve et Coagula — ‘Dissolve the Fixed and Coagulate the Volatile’ — towards the ultimate conjunction of those opposing principles: the Philosopher’s Stone. The descriptions below are de Rola’s.

tyranny of the external Fire

“Without help from the Volatile, the Fixed is never sublimated; and conversely, the Volatile in growing Fixed grows more and more resistant to the tyranny of the external Fire” (p180).

the fleeing maiden

“Every fixation of the Volatile (the fleeing maiden caught by the monster) is followed by a volatilization of the Fixed until Perfection is reached” (p180).

The First Silver Perfection

“The First Silver Perfection is reached at the end of the Putrefaction” (p181).

the Green Lion

“Here is the Universal Dissolvent, the Green Lion or Mercury of the Wise, without which nothing can be achieved” (p181).

Three faces of the Stone

“Three faces of the Stone: the Philosophick Child, the purified Matter; the Old Man in the sphere, the Materia Prima; and the union of the three Principles, Mercury, Sulphur and Salt” (p182).

Philosophick Mercury

“This emblem (equivalent in significance to the image of a Mermaid or Siren) shows the union of Sulphur (our Fish) and of the first Mercury (the Woman), from which results Philosophick Mercury” (p182).

birds fly

“Here are the components of the Secret Fire: the fiery Water and the watery Fire which, excited by the ordinary Elemental Fire, cause the Birds to fly” (p182).