Michael Maier’s Maria Prophetissa By Peter Bindon, FRC
Στην πρώτη μας έκθεση αλχημείας σας είχαμε παρουσιάσει το έργο του Michael Maier Symbola aureae mensae duodecim nationum 1617 - Σύμβολα του χρυσού πίνακα των δώδεκα εθνών εκτύπωσα 8 συνολικά αλχημιστές για εσάς, μία από αυτούς ήταν και η Μαρία, και μιας και υπάρχει μια ωραία εργασία αποσυμβολισμού σκέφτηκα να τα συνδυάσω όλα αυτά και να σας τα παρουσιάσω εδώ μαζί με την δική μου παρουσίαση του έργου.
Ο Michael Maier στο βιβλίο Symbola aureae mensae 1617, μας προτείνει ένα είδος ιστορικής χειροτονίας της αλχημείας, χωρίς φυσικά να θέλει να καθορίσει την πραγματική της ιστορική εξέλιξη.
Ο συγγραφέας σκόπευε να μας δείξει την αρχική αλυσίδα των δασκάλων της αλχημείας μέσα από μια χρονική διαδρομή με αρχή τον Ερμή Τρισμέγιστο μέχρι και την δική του εποχή.
Για να διδάξει το πραγματικό νόημα της αλχημείας, ο Maier συγκέντρωσε τη μαρτυρία δώδεκα υποστηρικτών της, που ο καθένας από αυτούς ταυτίζεται με ένα έθνος και μια πνευματική παράδοση, από τον Ερμή Τρισμέγιστο μέχρι το Sendivogius.
Με τα εμβλήματα αυτά αναπλάθει μια φανταστική ιστορία μέσα από μια διαδικασία του να διδάξει πως μέσα στην ενότητα όλων αυτών των παραδόσεων βρίσκεται το μυστικό της αλχημικής συνειδητοποίησης, θεωρώντας το σαν τον πυρήνα όλων αυτών των παραδόσεων μέσα από διαφορετικές θρησκευτικές εκδηλώσεις.
Ζωγραφισμένο από τον Adam McLean.
Maria Prophetissa, is also known as the sister of Moses, and by other names, but is better understood by Rosicrucians as the Maria of the Gnostic tradition. She is reputed to have written a treatise titled Practica Mariae Prophetessae in artem alchemicam although this work may actually have an Arabic origin. It was consulted by a number of alchemists including Michael Maier. The illustration formed the frontispiece of his Symbola Aurae Mensae, published in 1617. In the illustration, Maria points towards the seedling that has fallen on the top of the Cosmic Mountain.
The effort required to ascend the mountain perhaps gave the ancients the inspiration to equate this feature with the furnace in which was confined the energy required to complete the alchemical process of transformation. The summit of the mountain is the location of the Philosopher’s Stone. On the Cosmic Mountain, the seed has sprung into life and produced five flowers, symbolic of the renewal of life in the appropriate season of the year. We will examine the flower itself later in this article when we extend the allegory of these symbols. For the moment, let us consider why there are five flowers. Five is the number of humanity, and this diagram symbolizes an activity of renewal recommended by the original author. Why is five the number of humanity? You will understand why if you can recall a remarkable sketch by Leonardo da Vinci in which a human figure is inscribed inside a circle that is touched in five places by the head, the hands, and the feet.
The five digits of the hands and feet emphasize this symbolic attribution of the number five, as do the five senses. The five-petaled rose placed in the center of the four -armed cross was for the Hermeticists, the symbol of quintessence, something that was above the four primal elements on the arms of the cross. For some mystical philosophers, the number five had a sinister or even evil meaning, although this interpretation is not necessarily that of the alchemists. This notion has generally derived from a Kabbalistic interpretation, which can be shown to relate to the five days of emptiness needed by the ancient Egyptians to synchronize their year of 360 days with the solar year of closer to 365 days. Rosicrucian interpretations of this illustration see the two urns as symbolic of air and earth respectively, two of the primal elements in which all that is created has its origins.
As the two elements mingle and unite, illustrating the principle of “as above, so below,” Maria intones one of the alchemical principles regarding unity and duality: “One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the three, and out of the third comes the One that is the fourth.” In the magicalreligious terms of alchemy, this saying can be interpreted in a number of ways reiterating Biblical creation. I will leave this interpretation up to each individual reader to produce simply observing that in the Rosicrucian systems of number symbolism, the even numbers are considered feminine and the odd numbers masculine. In the arcane language of alchemy, there is another level of meaning that we will now pursue. Maria Prophetissa is concerned with the combination of two aspects of the one special substance. She says: “Take gum from Spain, white gum and red gum, and join them in true marriage, gum with gum.”
What can this mean? There is a hint to how we might interpret her words in the colors of the substance she mentions. These refer to the alchemical White Queen and Red King. In addition, the alchemical symbol for gum is a strange combination of two small letters formed like the modern letter “g” in our alphabet, written side-by-side and joined by a small cross from which is suspended a tiny triangle. This symbol emphasizes the alchemical process that we must become involved with if we are going to decode the illustration. The allegorical meaning hidden in the drawing is further reinforced by the shape formed by the clouds of vapor emerging from the two vases. This can be interpreted as the union of the two equilateral triangles, one with its apex pointing heavenwards, the other apex pointing towards Earth. The upper triangle represents fire, the masculine active element, while the lower one refers to water, the feminine and nurturing aspect. When the alchemist is able to achieve the correct conjunction of these two primal elements, they give rise to the color red, symbolized by the alchemical rose, which is revealed to us as the two streams of white vapor part in their double triangular shape.
In some illustrations of this process, the rose that is produced has an outer row of red petals and an inner row of white ones, but in this case, the white aspect is symbolized by the vapors that stream out of each urn towards its opposite. The red rose was the alchemical symbol of successful completion of the “great work” which ultimately produced the Stone of the Philosophers, and it is partly because of this symbol of completion that the rose that adorns the Rosicrucian trifoliate cross is red and not some other symbolic color. What can we conclude from this array of symbols that could be useful to our Rosicrucian practice? The whole of the right hand side of the illustration thus revolves around symbols relating to the red cloaked man and the woman veiled in white. Symbolically, the red rose of completion can only be achieved when the white veil is drawn aside. The two urns, representing the vases of Hermes, have completed their task of containing the necessary elements of creation. These represent the dual nature contained within each of us.
Once parted, because the sublimation of the contents is complete, they reveal the penultimate stage of the transformative process. Maria, personifying the wisdom of times past, points to what is now evident, that in each human, regardless of their gender, there exists an aspect of the opposite. These two must be brought into harmonious balance when they can then complement each other forming a complete and harmonious whole. Once in this state, each individual can accomplish all that they desire. Achieving this blissful state is symbolic of having the Stone of the Philosophers in one’s grasp. This was the aim of the symbolical alchemists of times past and it is the aim of Rosicrucians today.
From Rosicrucian Digest Alchemy A.M.O.R.C