Philosophia Reformata by Mylius features a massive use of Suns and Moons, very often presented together with man-woman symbolism, which on the other hand are Sun and Moon synonymous.
This multiple symbolic use grants to Philosophia Reformata a great capacity for rule of three. For instance engravings number nineteen, first series, allows far beyond meanings than Atalanta Fugiens number twenty-one, which might appear simile at first sight.
As a matter of fact Sun and Moon represent the foundation of hermetic symbolism (1) and Philosophia Reformata puts on display they are not opposite. The very concept of contraries and their unification is an alchemical nonsense. Since in Alchemy, and thus inside a vessel, we only require women turning into men and viceversa. Or at least substances not so alchemically different from each other, since Secret Fire is only subjected to densities.
If you are not a new (and wellcome) visitor you might have already read of the alchemical rule of three in this blog (every symbol stands for at least three different concepts). Alchemists do sometimes admit their nasty rule as a cryptography key, but what they do not love to let us know is that, more than often, cases may go far beyond than three. In fact if you get back at my post “ Sun and Moon at the turn of first millennium”, there you can find a short planned summary on the varied meanings of this allegory, to notice that cases are well over three. Now that we are ready to afford all the alchemical symbolism finesse aroused around Sun and Moon, we can have a sight at Philosophia Reformata and appreciate how Mylius (and engraver Balthazar-Baltzer Schwab) could conceive the whole Sun and Moon iconography to be huge and diverting.
The huge hermetic pictures imaginary is the right place to exploit the wanted contradictions aroused around Sun and Moon symbolism, since very hardly hermetic writings have contributed to bring it to light, tending to burden it instead. Think of the enigmatic Tabula Smaragdina incipit: “ The Sun is its Father, the Moon its Mother”, which states all and nothing. While pictures cannot but focus on single items. And since Sun and Moon tend to arrange a specified set for every represented scene, one can perceive that succeeding in a right interpretation is of huge importance.
But let’s start now with the two Philosophia Reformata and Atalanta Fugiens engravings comparison. Unlike many favorable and common viewpoints, Atalanta Fugiens emblem number twenty-one, or the famed circle squared, seems rather conforming to a Rosarium Philosophorum sentence about geometrical symbolism to paint our alchemical work. In fact Atalanta emblem, here on the left, stands rather for alchemist work to achieve Philosophical Egg. Here our craftsperson is operating on a Sun/man and a Moon/woman inside a circle, thus our outlook is narrowed on those two, or three, salts necessary to complete our works, on Mercurius Duplicatus (2) indeed. But it is not so easy, since our two characters may stand for both Mercurius Philosophorun (3) and Mercurius Duplicatus. In fact little is the difference between them, but the last one being a double of the first. Hence the name “duplicatus” or double. Nevertheless in this case we are before Mercurius Duplicatus, since the brick wall supporting our layout clearly depicts a “Stone Egg”, and when one is so ambitious certainly needs a Mercurius Philosophorum duplication, or triplication (4).
While Philosophia Reformata is all about outer Sun and Moon replacing our artisan-person. In fact they are getting hold of the Egg, rather than constitute it. And so here Mercurius Duplicatus is delegated to be just a part of the whole representation. The whole being represented by Sun and Moon iconography at large. That’s to say Alchemy at large. Since Sun and Moon symbolism is all encompassing, and all represents. But what is the sense of an all comprehensive symbolism? Just to better hidden our Mercurius Duplicatus, of course.
The inner circle means an inner matter to be brought to circumference, or outer. That’s to say a Secret Fire extraction from raw matter or Materia Tertia. In fact woman Mercurius extracts Secret Fire/Mercurius from man, or Mercurius with a raw metal powder inside (5). To cut short the inner circle involves dissolving and volatilizing actions.
Square is nothing less nothing more than the very circle made square, operation better known as the squaring of the circle. Or the fixation of a too volatile and difficult to handle Mercurius. The operation involved is here a triangle, or getting a salt out of that. Resulting in a Mercurius Philosophorum indeed. Triangle stands for Solve et Coagula (6) operations. The same operation causes a four elements usage, hence a quadrangular.
The outer circle stands for the circulation, not so apparent though, inside the Egg which can now be made. About the supporting brick wall role we have already said. The alchemist’s pair of compasses points at inner circle circumference to draw the outer one, intending that Secret Fire/Mercurius extracted from raw matter causes a Philosophical Egg to be made.
The whole operation is well described in Rosarium Philosophorum Cyriaci Iacobi 1550 : “ make a circle out of man and woman and draw a quadrangular on it, and out of quadrangular a triangle, make again a circle and so you will have your Philosophers Stone”.
In Philosophia Reformata number nineteen, first series, the scene is different. In the picture on the top we can see the Egg outer scene, or from outside. Alchemist work is here replaced by Alchemy work, that’s to say by all those conditions causing alchemical processes being so difficult. Mylius has provided a very merciful frontispiece, here on the right, for his Philosophia Reformata, plenty of axioms, while operations are in the very pictures collection inside treatise. Three of these little outer cameos dispense the three different phases in which number nineteen can be divided, and we can take advantage of them to better explain the main, and more difficult, picture. Which may be intended as a compendium of all three of them.
So on the left here we have a quite canonical Sun Path: an astronomical sun orbiting around our earth. Which is not our planet, of course, but our Egg, or Microcosm. In fact if you come back to main Philosophia Reformata number nineteen you can notice how the brick wall is not yet being built and so Philosophers Stone is far yet.
The sun orbiting earth is the Ecliptic (7). Astronomical sun stands here for magnetization and the external influences, or signatures, we need to observe. Moon is also very important in this phase, since solar beams are preferably gathered from less dangerously pulsing astronomical moon, indeed represented with equal solar honor in nineteen engraving. While in the frontispiece cameo seems quite in a peripheral placement, to better represent that through astronomical moon we always gather astronomical sun.
We can also observe the earth eclipse or the shadow formed by every obstacle preventing solar beams. This can be interpreted in more than one single meaning. In fact it may stand either for our black putrefaction phase, or making a terrestrial salt out of solar beam, or the solar light spectrum polarization. Each of them are Alchemy keys and axioms. In Philosophia Reformata number nineteen we can notice the same shadows or earth eclipse caused by man and woman. Next cameo will say something about who they are.
In Philosophia Reformata frontispiece cameo on the right there is a recurrent alchemical iconography: Sun and Moon are thrashing with sticks what may seem a winged dragon, that’s to say Secret Fire/Primitive Mercurius to be extracted from raw matter. Here Sun and Moon are standing for our alchemical operation of Solve et Coagula. Moon/woman dissolves and volatilizes, while man/Sun on the contrary sublimes and fixes. One is getting water, the other earth. These are the alchemical, and chemical, main tools to have our works carried out. Philosophia Reformata nineteen puts on display a man/Sun and a woman/Moon getting hold of the alchemical globe/earth to point at the same concept.
Finally the last cameo presents the same Atalanta Fugiens number twenty-one circle/Egg iconography as aforementioned, except that if we attentively look at the circle in Philosophia Reformata Frontispiece cameo we can notice we are before a 3D circle, a sphere or unquestionably an Egg. So much more clear than a brick wall.
In Philosophia Reformata picture nineteen, we have discovered that two major couples of Sun Moon, that’s to say Astronomical and Solve et Coagula tools are working on another couple man/Sun and woman/Moon, or our Philosophical Egg. The first two, or our Secret Fire/Mercurius have finally been fixed and duplicated in an Egg.
Father and Mother are not only synonymous with Sun and Moon, but point at their seminal capabilities. That’s to say at their taking part in Mercurius Duplicatus. Hoping for an alchemical birth.
Below Atalanta Fugiens emblems forty-five and twenty-five can now finally be unified in the intelligible and comprehensive Philosophia Reformata number nineteen. J.Daniel Mylius provided a real mind-mapping for father Sun and mother Moon (8).
- See also Codex Marcianus Ouroboros;
- See also Atalanta Fugiens and Mercurius Duplicatus;
- On the topic see also Basilius Valentinus Azoth, or Introitus Apertus chapter two;
- See also Cabala Mineralis and the three Salts Enigma;
- See aso Atalanta Fugiens and the Golden Apples;
- See also Basilius Valentinus and Solve et Coagula tree;
- See also San Miniato Sun Path or the Sky as Seen from Earth , Pietro Perugino and the Lady of the Wind , Santi Pupieni and the Raising Black-New Moon ;
- For other meanings on Sun-Moon symbology see also Two Stars in a Venetian Geocentric Sky and Sun & Moon at the Turn of the First Millennium ;