The seal of the VITRIOL, the most complete representation of the alchemical process on a seven-year basis (represented here in a colour version) in its most iconic representation. The origin of this acronym can be traced back to the founder of the Rose+Cross Fraternity, Christian Rosenkreutz (1378 – 1484), but the seal in question appears in Basil Valentine, Azoth of 1613, a year before the publication of the first Rosicrucian manifesto, the Fama Fraternitatis (1614). It was then re-proposed in the Musaeum Hermeticum of 1635 by Lucas Jennis.
Know thyself in the VITRIOL
“Gnothi seauton – Nosce te ipsum – Know thyself.”
– Registration on the portal of the Oracle of Delphi
The warning that dominates the entrance to the Oracle of Delphi, sacred to Apollo, invites the human being to know himself to understand the prophecies made by the priestess of Delphi in the depths of the Adito, the inaccessible chamber of the Temple. Divination itself is the fruit of an act of self-knowledge. The medium woman who acts as a link between the underworld and the higher world, draws her divinatory powers from the corpse of the mythical Python serpent, defeated by Apollo and buried in a crack in the ground in Delphi, a city consecrated to her animal totem, the dolphin.
[The enemy dragoness] turned into an Apollonian snake, and Pythia, the priestess who was a priestess in Delphi, took her name. Many depictions show the Python serpent living peacefully alongside Apollo, both guarding the omphalos.
– Kárl Kerényi, The Gods of the Greeks, op. cit., p. 136.
The woman makes herself a vase for revelations from the bottom up. The name given to the priestess herself, the Pythia or Pythoness, indicates the link between what is hidden in the bowels of the Earth and what lies above, in the world of knowledge. The putrescence of the reptile allows the inferior substance, heated by the ether of light emitted by the God Apollo, to sublimate into vapors that allow the Pythoness to connect to the plot of destiny of whoever questions the Oracle. The laurel she holds in her hand is a symbol of the poetic nature of these divinations. Apollo became the protector of poetry when he received as a gift from Hermes, the psychopompic god of hermeticism, his lyre made of sea turtle: the seven notes are the symbol of the wisdom that comes from the sea, the turtle, which travels between the shores of Egypt and Greece. Hermes engraved it in his Smaragdina Table.
The tripod on which the Pythoness sits is then a symbol of the tripartition of all creation and therefore of the spiritual world that is its origin and cause: it is the fundamental living truth of the Trinity that allows the connection between what lies above and what lies below, through a median connection, the Sphere of the Sun, again Apollo, to be precise. Apollo is the revelation of Christ in the Greek age, while Python is the revelation of Lucifer: Lucifer-Python is knowledge condensed on itself, Christ-Apollo is wisdom unfolded towards his neighbor. But before the coming of Christ, at the time of the ancient Greeks, a conscious relationship with clairvoyance was not possible, so mediums such as the Pythoness were needed. But after the Mystery of Golgotha, the serpent lost its ancient hypnotic power.
This brings us back to the sevenfold Rosicrucian motto of V.I.T.R.I.O.L., pronounced by Christian Rosenkreuz himself, which is an invitation:
V.I.T.R.I.O.L.: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem
By visiting the interior of the Earth and doing what is right we will find the hidden stone. It, in a non-uple version of the motto (V.I.T.R.I.O.L.V.M.) tells us that it is “Veram Medicinam”. So if we dig deep inside ourselves, we can find the rotting carcass of the Snake: it is our Shadow and as such it contains all that we are not, all that is left in the Darkness instead of coming out into the sunlight. And it is precisely from this substance that, by doing the right thing, that is, with the participation of the light of consciousness, we will be able to synthesize the true medicine, in other words, the Philosopher’s Stone.
There are several numerosophical orders that it is necessary to understand in order to enter into the process of VITRIOL:
- The One
Numbers are the Pythagorean key to the Great Opera. Each key is not locked in itself, but the meanings of each one refer to each other: each key is a mystery that must be understood imaginatively. Alchemy in fact has as its inspiration the Divine Sophia, as a revelation of the Holy Spirit: therefore what it develops is the Imagination, that is, the conscious dream, in which symbols become living images of the animic-spiritual world.
The initials of the occult phrase that revolves around the figure “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem” make up the acronym V.I.T.R.I.O.L. The phrase means “Visit the interior of the Earth, and by doing the right thing, you will find the occult stone, the true medicine”. The Stone, the Lapis, is the inner Christ built from the first material of the astral body, etheric and physical through the I. We also find a novenary version of it, in which we add Veram Medicinam, forming the acronym V.I.T.R.I.O.L.V.M.: n this version we specify the use of the Philosopher’s Stone, which is of healing, just as Christ healed the sick. Healing is to be understood as the reintegration of the individual into the divine to a heenico state but maintaining his individuality.
The seven single words allude to the inner processes that allow one to move from one phase to another of the Great Work, also called the Rota of the Sator (sower), in Christianity is represented by the Chrismon surrounded by the Alpha and the Omega (which also alludes to the wheel of the Tarot, the sacred imaginative book of the Tarot). The wheel is placed at the boundary between man and the world of the elements, thus demonstrating that the Great Work is both an external and internal process. Externally it is quaternary and relates to Nature; but internally it is septenary and relates to the soul. Such is the secret of the “quadrature of the circle”.
The division by seven of the Great Work follows the occult sequence of the planets:
The seven planets are arranged according to their sequence in the Astral World and not in the Physical World (which is instead: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Earth-Moon, Venus, Mercury, Sun), reaffirming once again that the septenary belongs to the soul. Thus there is a division into three distinct worlds:
- Physical World or World of the Elements, the Quaternary, which takes the outermost portion of space in a square shape. It contains allegorical images alluding to the correspondence between top and bottom, right and left, spirit and matter (binary);
- Astral or Soul World, the septenary, which takes the central and median circular portion with respect to the entire human figure (quinary);
- Spiritual World, the one and triune, placed in the center of the figure, in which appears the face of the bearded man surrounded by a triangle facing downwards.
The settenary deals with the archetypes, the planetary rays, the heptalpha (seven-pointed star), the Seven Elohim that govern the manifestation in the outer (physical) world, but also the Seven Archangels that govern the internalization in the inner world (soul). As a whole, the Astral World acts as a membrane between the physical and spiritual worlds, in which images are formed, always referable to one of the seven planetary archetypes.
The sequence of the seven planets begins and ends with Saturn, which is first and eighth. This means that when the phases of the seven planets are completed, one arrives at Vulcan, that is, the occult and inner Saturn: Saturn’s outer fire becomes Vulcan’s inner forge. By the law of the upper eighth, the seventh stage is the recapitulation on a higher plane than the previous six stages: thus Vulcan is the upper eighth of the cosmic week that proceeds from Saturn to Venus.
In the circles we see another representation of the septenary:
- The crow towers over the skull. The death of the ego in the nigredo, the black work in which the personality dies and the soul (crow) is freed from the body (the skull or caput mortuum). The profane has just begun his journey into the interior of the Earth;
- The crow looks at the dead image of himself. The soul sees what it was, its dead reflection in matter, and becomes aware of it. Here we face the Double or Shadow;
- The soul that has conquered consciousness, is double, second soul (feeling) and spirit (thinking). They fight the Shadow to redeem the dead image of the soul, they save what can be spiritualized;
- The soul and spirit hold the Crown, which is what can be saved of the body: it is the phantom of Christ. Now the Crown must be placed again in the body so that the process may be moral, that is to say, that it may relate to good or evil, otherwise it would become completely abstract and thus Luciferic. It is the albedo the purification in which the spirit dawns, the profane is now a disciple;
- The Crown becomes the new tree of life of the soul, in which life and knowledge are no longer antithetical, soul (feeling) and spirit (thinking) rest on its branches and can act in unison;
- The tree blooms in the roses of the soul (the vices redeemed by virtue) which are the red dye. The garden of the soul is inhabited by the unicorn of the spirit, the white dye. The vegetable and animal forces are now purified;
- The earth of the body has been redeemed, the caput mortuum is now the place of new life. The resurrection of the diamond body takes place. It is the rubedo, the material life is finally over and the spiritual life can begin: the disciple is now an initiate or philosopher. His face is the face of the Risen One, the Christ.
For the initiate, the symbol of death of the profane, the skull, becomes the symbol of initiation itself. He whose image is associated with the skull, is initiated. He has therefore passed through mystical death and has risen to new (spiritual) life, just as Christ has passed through the Mystery of Golgotha (the Mount of the Skull). The ego of Christ is now in him and death does not fear him at all.
To deepen the Septenary, you can read the article on the 7 Ineffable Secrets of the Occult
Then we focus on the subdivision by five, the quinary, symbolized by the pentalpha, given by the four limbs plus the wings of mercury.
- The foot on the left is placed on the earth, it is the Boaz column of the Temple of Solomon, that of the venous (blue) blood of the Tree of Life;
- The foot on the right is placed on the waters, it is the Jachin column of the Temple of Solomon, that of the arterial blood (red) of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (note the analogy with the fourth apocalyptic seal of Steiner);
- The hand on the left holds the torch of initiation, indicating the consciousness of the ego;
- The right hand holds a bladder full of air. The image also refers to the feather which is a symbol of lightness, that is, the heart of the one who keeps himself pure in his interiority. The psychostasy or “weighing of the soul” in the Afterlife: in ancient Egypt the goddess Maat, justice, weighed the heart of the deceased against a feather, Thoth or Hermes took note of it in the “book of life”. It can also be interpreted as an hourglass indicating time (Saturn), dominated by the Initiate, who lives in the dimension of the Eternal;
- The wings of mercury at the top indicate the sublimation of intellectual (dualistic) thinking into spiritual (monistic) thinking, the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. It is therefore also the ether or quintessence, as crowning of the other four essences of the elements (Fire: ether of heat, Air: ether of light, Water: ether of sound, Earth: ether of life).
The human body stands as the Temple of Mysteries, where the Hidden God is revealed, whose ark is veiled by the Mysterium Magnum of creation. The Veil is torn only when the inner Christ appears at the end of the Great Work, which coincides with the making of the Man-Spirit. Thus man consciously conquers his access to the Sancta Sanctorum of Creation. The centre of this human pentalpha is in fact the very face of man, the Person, the philosopher or initiate, whose yearning is for the Trinity, symbolized by the triangle that inscribes the face itself.
We now come to the quaternary of the four philosophical elements, the square:
- At the top left is the fire salamander, placed above the Sun, which is the celestial fire;
- Above right is the eagle (sylph) of the air, placed above the Moon, which is the astral mirror;
- Bottom right is the sea in which a water fish swims (or dolphin, Undin or Indian makara;
- Bottom left is the land where the Shadow of Evil, the Dragon, lurks. But at the same time there is the Lion who is the spiritual courage to overcome the “test of the Dragon”, to win the Guardian of the Threshold. He waits within the Sacred Mountain of initiation, where it is necessary to penetrate with introspection to fulfill the VITRIOL.
The Quaternary is the outer world, where all opposites collide and attract each other, multiplying the forms of creation, but remaining essentially equal to themselves. After Creation occurred in Genesis, transmutation must now take place in the soul of man in order to be sublimated in the spirit (the central face).
The circle is in turn inscribed in a downward-facing triangle, this speaks of the ternary:
- Below we see the cube of the physical-etheric body: the cube is also the Father. It is surrounded by the five stars that symbolize the pentalpha, that is, man incarnated in the physical. There are also the wandering planets (minus the luminaries, which are at the top left and right): Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury;
- On the left we see the masculine Sun in relation to the soul: the Sun is the Son;
- On the right we see the Moon in relation to the spirit: the Moon is the Holy Spirit.
Sun and Moon thus reach the Rebis, uniting in the alchemical marriage, which gives rise to the body, below. This is the ternary manifested in the bodies of man.
But the ternary can be seen as internal, that is, the Tria Before Paracelsus:
- The Glyph of Sal within the ray of Saturn (1), is the cube of the Earth or will of the Father. It is the crystallizing, contracting, condensing force at the base of matter;
- The glyph of Sulphur in the ray of Mars (3), the solar forces of the Son. It is the all-pervasive soul of things, the agent of fluid transformation, dissolution;
- The glyph of Mercur in the ray of Mercury (6), the lunar forces of the Holy Spirit. It is the all-pervading spirit of things, which causes combustion, volatility.
1 + 3 + 6 = 10, that is, the foundation of material Creation, Malkuth, the Kingdom of the Tree of Life. The Tria Prima are the occult foundation of quaternary matter, of the four elements, which, by division, spring from these. Once again this inner ternary leads back to the face of the philosopher who must discern the First Trios in order to understand the foundation of creation.
A classic example can be given to illustrate them in the external world. When you burn a vegetable (or a material thing) and prepare it to make it a spagyric remedy:
- Sal is the ashes that remain, the physical body of the plant, the remains of the thing;
- Mercur is the smoke that rises and the alcohol used in spagyric preparations that provides the medium through the thing;
- Sulphur is the flame that burns, the essential oils that are released in the combustion in which the active ingredient of the plant is contained, the thing itself.
Finally, extending the ternary to the septenary, one can also see it as a mirror of cosmic, septenary evolution:
- The cube is the metamorphosis of the Ancient Saturn in which the physical body is created through the sacrifice of Thrones or Spirits of Will;
- The Sun is the metamorphosis of the Ancient Sun, in which under the Son the etheric body is created through the sacrifice of the Dominations or Spirits of Wisdom;
- The Moon is the metamorphosis of the Ancient Moon, in which under the Holy Spirit the astral body is created through the sacrifice of the Virtues or Spirits of the Movement;
- The circular centre in which the septenary is placed, is the metamorphosis of the present Earth, since only in this period are the seven planets present. The spirits of the planets are the Seven Elohim, the Spirits of Form, who have moulded the physical body of man in Genesis and given their own substance to the I;
- The central face presents the Triune Before, which in this case represent the triple spirit. The Sulphur is the Spiritual Self in the metamorphosis of Jupiter;
- Mercur is the Vital Spirit in the metamorphosis of Venus;
- Sal is the Spirit-Man in the metamorphosis of Vulcan.
To learn more about these aspects, you can read the article on The 7 Metamorphoses of the Earth
To learn more about the Settenary, you can read the article on the 7 Ineffable Secrets of the Occult
So we have a triple ternary:
- The ternary of the metamorphoses of the Ancient Saturn, Ancient Sun, Ancient Moon;
- The ternary of the triple man according to body, soul and spirit;
- The ternary of the Tria Prima in matter Sal, Mercur, Sulphur.
To deepen the Ternary and its relationship with the Trinity, you can read the article The 3 Logoi of the Holy Trinity
Here we come to the track, the principle of polarity present in the quaternary, the physical world:
- Left is the male half, the King or the Emperor of the Tarot: he governs the solar fire through the attribute of the crown, spiritual thinking. He rules the astral air through the sword. The shield protects him, it is his faith in the spiritual world. His steed is the Lion, the initiatory courage. He is the personification of the alchemical process of coagulation (union of fire and earth);
- On the right is the female half, the Queen or the Empress of the Tarot: she governs the water of feeling by riding the fish, but also the astral light she collects through the lunar crown. She carries an arch that is the sacred weapon of Diana, the counterpart of Apollo (and Janus Two-Faced), as well as linked to the element Air (the eagle). The Moon is a cup, the Holy Grail, ready to welcome the spiritual Sun, being fertilized by it. They are the horns of the Egyptian goddess Athor. She is the personification of the solution (union of air and water).
“Solve et coagula” is the motto that indicates the balance between the two extreme processes of both the Creation of the macrocosm and the Great Work in the microcosm. Thus we have a parallelism between the two halves of the seal (right and left), the two ways of alchemy (wet and dry) and the two main alchemical operations (solve and coagulate):
- The Wet Way is in relation to the Moon (right side): the main operation is the solution, “solve”, through the elements water and air. In fact the water is humid and cold; the air is humid and warm. The tumultuous feelings that stir in the marine abysses of the soul are analyzed by the aerial intellect. From the raw material the Elohim shaped the Cosmos by multiplication: separating the dense from the thin, the cold from the warm, the only one from the dry. The Empress of the Tarot is the one who governs the lunar phase of the solution. She corresponds to the Old Testament and the dominion of Jehovah, the lunar Eloah.
- The Dry Way is in relation to the Sun (left side): the main operation is the coagulation, “coagulate”, through the elements earth and fire. In fact the earth is dry and cold; fire is dry and hot. The inner fire incubates the New Earth, penetrated by the previously sublimated spirit: it is the Earth that becomes the Sun. The Emperor of the Tarot is the one who governs the solar phase of coagulation. He corresponds to the New Testament and the liberation of Christ, the solar Eloah.
Keeping the solution and coagulation in balance allows to create a new order of the microcosm, given by the I ( Christ ), corresponding to the order of the macrocosm originally given by the Spiritual Hierarchies in the Creation of Genesis (Jehovah) and at the same time overcoming it. For this reason the alchemy of man is the continuation of the work of Creation by God and the Hierarchies. With the exercise of alchemy, man learns to become a future god.
6. The One
We are now in the Spiritual World. From the seven phases, the VITRIOL, one must finally pass to the circular unity of the circle: the circle is the reverberation of the central point of origin. The symbol of the Sun is that of the First Logos. The point is the origin of the Whole (in Kabbalah, Ain), it becomes aware of itself by limiting itself within the circle (Ain Soph) of creation. Between the point and the circle the space is filled by the light (Ain Soph Aur) and in it the creation coagulates, as crystallization of the light itself.Ain, Ain Soph, Ain Soph Aur
In the figures this point is located at the center of the two eyes of the central face, it is the third eye of clairvoyance, the eye of God. From the divisive consciousness of the lower ego (dualism) one passes to the transcendent consciousness of the higher I (monism).
The purpose of going through the seven alchemical phases is to reach the center which is the face of the Macroprosopo, the Deus Absconditus, the Monad or the One, whose descent into the microcosm is symbolized by the triangle with the point downwards: God who incarnates himself as I, after losing consciousness of himself in the physical world (the quaternary), reintegrates his individuality into the divine macrocosmic in a conscious way (from the septenary to the superior octave which is One).
He is One and triune like the three Indian guna. In Eternity he manifests himself as Father (will, consciousness, sattwa), Son (feeling, life, rajas) and Holy Spirit (thinking, form, tamas). In Spirit he manifests himself as Spiritual Self, Vital Spirit and Man-Spirit. In the soul as sentient soul, rational soul and conscious soul. In the body as astral body, etheric body and physical body.
The personified God is the “I” who becomes a creator after having accomplished the Great Work, the achievement of Vulcan, the Man-God. From God to I in God; from unconsciousness to consciousness to self-consciousness. From material evolution, the fall into matter; from spiritual evolution, the ascent to the spirit, passing through the Turning-Point of Times, Christ. “Not I, but Christ in me!” At this point the I is Christified, the inner Christ is born through the door of the purified human soul, the Divine Sophia.
From allegory to symbol
The collection of western mandalas known as The Mysterious Figures of the Rosicrucians, from 1785, contains everything that in about one hundred years has spilled onto the stage of history through the publication of the Rosicrucian Posters since 1614. The figures also contain a symbolic version of the VITRIOL, already published by Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg in his Viridarium Chymicum of 1624, originally expressed in allegorical form and ten years earlier by Basil Valentine in Azoth of 1613. The seal becomes more and more like a diagram, showing how what had originally been elaborated through the rational soul (700 B.C.-1400 A.D.), in the foundation of the Rosicrucian current, is now reproposed in its most suitable form for a conscious soul in its infancy (1400 A.D.-3500 A.D.).
The outer circle presents the phrase of the VITRIOL, as in the previous one. The seal can be divided according to two symmetries, upper-lower and right-left.
- Half superior and heavenly: it is the world of causes (archetypes). There are the seven planets, Sun and Mars on the left determine the celestial male side, while Moon and Venus determine the celestial female side. The two waters of the Sun and the Moon must become the solilunar water inside the cup offered by the androgynous Mercury. The two divine hands on the right and left sides make the gesture of the panthean hand, or mudra of light, the gesture that corresponds to the solar initiation of Christ. Both point upwards, coming from below, indicating the celestial and superior origin of the earthly and inferior world, its reflection. The hands point towards Mercury, which represents the universal center, the connection between the upper-lower and male-female part. The alchemist’s work consists in bringing together high and low, right and left, celestial and terrestrial, male feminine, in the new conscious unity of Mercury.
- Half inferior and terrestrial: it’s the world of effects. We recognize the lower half by the presence of the chains that indicate both the emanation from the upper half and the binding of the atoms of the world of the elements. In the lower half there is the terrestrial reflection of the archetypes of the seven planets, consisting of the seven-pointed star placed in the central shield: these are the seven metals. The central shield is linked to the two lateral shields representing the terrestrial aspect of the celestial planets, inverting the male and female sides: the eagle is air and intelligence, female; the lion is fire and will, male. The eagle is the terraqueous globe, that is, the etheric-physical world. The lion is the celestial globe, that is, the astral world. The four elements are represented by: The pentacle in the shield in the center = earth; the cup at the top = water; the eagle in the shield on the left = air; the lion in the shield on the right = fire. In the lower center is the symbol of planet Earth, which is the inverse reflection of the symbol of Mercury. Inside the Earth symbol there is the vitriol symbol: the center of the lower part is the outer circle, the esoteric VITRIOL and the chemical vitriol. The corrosive force of acid allows one to enter deeply into the earthly element, extracting the spiritual which is both within the Earth itself and within the body of man. The same image is repeated in the green lion about to devour the Sun, the royal water is the only one capable of dissolving even the gold, the Sun in the Earth’s sphere. This will allow to sublimate again what is noble in the Earth in order to elevate it to the celestial sphere.
The point of reflection and center with respect to the entire seal of the VITRIOL, is a circle. The empty space at the center reminds the observer that the center of consciousness to be conquered through the VITRIOL corresponds to the encounter between the Mercury of the celestial sphere and the Earth of the terrestrial sphere. A white space in which the central point, the Hidden God, will appear, which is both the origin before and the ultimate goal of the Great Work. This is the true Lapis, the Philosopher’s Stone. It is the unmentionable Sun of the Suns, the only one that everyone can only pronounce by himself:
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, I am the I am.