I don’t mean here to excessively elaborate on how different Emblemata Sacra is amid the other religious treatises on meditations on the heart of his time, but it substantially presents many anomalies. To an extent, as said above, that historians of religions today judge Cramer’s book closer to Alciati Emblemata than Van Haeften’s Scola Cordis and, if compared to the latter, they say that more than a teaching to the heart Cramer’s book is about the heart speaking. A researcher in Alchemy could instead set this book on the same shell of Achille Bocchi’s Symbolicarum Quaestionum de Universo Genere, Pierio Valeriano’s Hieroglyphica sive de Sacris Aegptiorum and Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, that’s to say emblems books known for bordering on esoteric wisdom. I’m not alone in this opinion, as Adam McLean himself published a translation of Cramer’s Emblemata with the title ”The Rosicrucian Emblems of Daniel Cramer”, Grand Rapids, 1991. Although the Rosicrucian membership of Cramer is to be proved, as it is to be documented what kind of Rosicrucianism McLean refers to. But the title McLean gave Cramer’s book remains emblematic.
Emblemata Sacra main iconographic theme, the heart, is not referred to the cardiac muscle, of course. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, sacred writing where often the image of the thing is the same word that it designates, the heart is depicted with a vase, and that is rather enigmatic, as a vase is intended to be filled with something. But this would discord with the heart being considered from antiquity as the most internal point and consequently, the most hidden. In the later Hieroghypics of Horapollo Nilous the symbol of the human heart is associated with fire and smoke (into a vase), as we can see on the left image. As said above, we can hardly find any explicit mention of the heart in the sacred books the Christianity is based upon, only from the baroque age, the theology of piety assigns to the primary human muscle, the popular organ of passion for antonomasia, the source of the necessary driving for the imitation of Christ. The Christian Sacred Heart is a symbol of devotion, faith, the receptacle of love, the metaphor of detachment from worldliness, consolation of human tribulations, and divine reward for human sufferings. The success of these hopes and meditations depends on the degree of intensity of the religious awareness of the believer, so it is expected only in humans. The counterpart, the judge, the divine sacred heart depends on Epiphany, from the Greek theophàneia, composed of theos (“god”) and phainein (“manifest”), literally means a manifestation of divinity in sensible form. In a philosophical sense, the theophany is a manifestation of divinity through his works.
But, if we take a glance at some baroque age Christian books on the school of the heart, we can observe that the vicissitudes, trials, and tests necessary for a human heart to reach perfection look very similar to the vicissitudes, trials, and tests necessary for a raw mineral to reach the perfection of the final Philosophers Stone. This is a common iconographic theme for the mystics, theologians, and religious writers of the seventeenth century. And we should not be surprised with this as in the same period the books on lab Alchemy mushroomed either in the guise of medicine treatises or signed by disguised authors. Christianity and Hermeticism share many symbols, and given that Hermeticism is a much more ancient doctrine than Christianity, it is not difficult to imagine who has taken the other one’s symbolism. In Alchemy the heart symbol stands for the hidden magnet in every organized body, the densest receptacle of Secret Fire, the place from which it is received and broadcasted to the universe, the bearer of life and death, and is not the monopoly of human beings but all organized bodies, from the simplest salts to the stars. It does not depend on the degree of belief or awareness, it is an ineffable physical entity. It is our Apollo/Artemis.
The property of this central inner heart of transmitting and receiving was called in the medieval south Europe Amor Cortese, or Platonic Love, and the secret brotherhoods who practiced this esoteric doctrine were known as Fedeli d’Amore. The Divine Comedy of Dante, Petrarca’s poems, the Provencal troubadours’ songs, and sagas of love, all these literary forms dealt precisely with this ancient belief, disguised as common love between two human beings. But the themes of courtly love were peculiar to the Middle Ages; after the reform of the church, and the consequent beginning of the Inquisition, this wave was already treated with suspicion. Between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Europe was inflamed by religious struggles, and suddenly everything was cloaked in burning declarations of faith; natural philosophy and medicine treatises began with statements of faith, while Alchemy books were written by authors hidden by pseudonyms, but even anonymous no longer call upon the love of knowledge, but faith in Jesus Christ. The German Rosicrucians were born in this challenging age and took on immediately a cautious attitude of devotion to the divine. Never like in this age the name of God was so often cited in the books of any discipline, never like in this era were written more Christian panegyrics, and never like, and despite censorship and Inquisition, were written so many treatises on Alchemy.
The iconography of the humble human heart burning love to the pitiful Sacred Heart of Jesus was born in this era, and it soon became synonymous with ardent mysticism. The symbol of heart was adopted by theologians, and also by popular mystics like Jakob Böhme and Valentin Weigel, who often adopted the theme of the Sacred Heart to represent the sky-to-ground communications, but their mystical imagery was very contemplative and free from alchemical complications. Daniel Cramer’s book appears to run along similar lines, the protagonist remained always a humble human heart, burning to love to the sky, but whose story extravagantly assumes the typical themes of medieval courtly love. Therefore the heart faces challenges, fights, and yearns for a reunion with his beloved. If we can imagine a young knight in place of a heart muscle, the story fits in all respects to the love poems of the troubadours.
Religious faith, and even modern psychology, believe in the transmutation of the human psyche, that is respectively to achieving union with the divine and greater awareness. Emblemata Sacra could firstly appear to run along similar lines, but some emblems with too many extravagant and unfit details, which cannot in any way be related to the Christian theology of piety: I mean emblems 17, 20, 35, and 42, and instead, to an alchemist’s eye, cannot but being explicitly aimed at alchemical works, and not as stations for the human perfection. The other emblems of the two series not only put on display several hearts, but also crosses, roses, lilies, grapes, sunflowers, cups, suns, water sources and streams, seas, caves, furnaces, obelisks, skulls, eyes, hands from above emerging from clouds, doves, owls, bees, honeycombs, spiders with their webs, dolphins, butterflies, apes, stags, sheep, salamanders, lions, flies, cocks, frogs, toads, dogs, bulls, mirrors, lenses, feathers, sacrifices, mothers with children, anchors, boats, shells, candles, torches, hourglasses, scales, treasures, trees, roots, axes, swords, arrows, shields, bird traps, boots, crowns, Globus crucigers, incense burners, fumes – almost all symbols playing a major role in alchemical imagery, and having very little room in biblical imagery. But the most characterizing of all alchemical symbols was carefully avoided: the moon. The moon is absent from all Cramer’s symbolic imaginary. And this is no coincidence, as in the renaissance-baroque Christian iconography, unlike in the Middle Ages, the moon was already banned. Serpents and dragons were still allowed as symbols of the dark forces to fight, but not the Moon. In fact, since Pope John XXII “Spondent quas non exhibent” bull issued in the first half of the fourteenth century against any form of Alchemy, the moon became the most prohibited among Christian symbols, when in the Christian imagery they came back to assume the symbolic characters originally taken from the ancient solar religions. In the gallery below I published the fifty emblems of the first series along with the most salient and short written explication, while the emblem 42 has been analyzed in more detail in the article incipit.
Emblemata Sacra emblem 42 demonstrates three points: the first, the importance of sound in Alchemy, the necessity of finding the ”light which is heard with ears” as a real imperative; second, that Daniel Cramer was supplied with an uncommon knowledge; third, that may be the legend that wants the German Aureae Roseae Crucis keeper of uncommon and hugely ancient knowledge is not that insane, even if not documented. Mind, I’m not talking of Rosicrucians here, I’m not pointing at those who wrote the Fama Fraternitatis, or the Testamentum Fraternitatis Aureae Rose Crucis. I’m not talking about a group of seventeenth-century overexposed fellows who played the game of secret societies and who loved writing books, even rather interesting ones. I’m talking here of persons who didn’t like to appear in public and had real connections with ancient Egypt.
Finally, just a glance at Emblemata Sacra frontispiece: no iconographic themes taken from religious texts, but the four theological virtues, traditionally interpreted in an alchemical sense by many alchemists. One for all, Fulcanelli.
Next page you can find all the Emblemata Sacra First Series engravings.