Although these parameters may seem trivial platitudes and certainly are from an architectural point of view, they are not from a symbolic point of view. Durer’s treatise has always been on the list of books to read for an alchemical researcher. The narration here could become very complex and imply the archaic concept of moving from chaos to the cosmos. Which in Alchemy is expressed with the terms of Microcosm and Macrocosm. But what if the symmetry could be temporal and not spatial? We are talking about numerical accretion from a point.
In 1568, also in Venice, the book Della Perspectiva by Daniele Barbaro was printed. Archbishop of Aquileia, a very important diocese for Venetian culture, belonged to a family famous for their erudition. So much so that they could be defined as belonging to the so-called “black nobility”, nobiltà nera.
To a less specialized audience, Perspettiva is known for its famous rendering of a Planisphere. Even this complex geometric figure is not treated by Barbaro very differently from the enlargement of a human body from an initial point.
In his book, the archbishop of Aquileia devotes much space to Dürer’s treatise on symmetry, and he tells us the painter had found an ancient tool that allowed him to shape the proportions in the movements of any body. I want to underline again if it were still needed, that it is not on this simple stringed instrument that Barbaro draws attention to but on the symbolic theory that arises from it. Everything is based on the concept of seeing. At the beginning of the third chapter, Barbaro gives us some clues:
“The eye cannot see except along straight lines. Therefore it is necessary that from all the points which are on the surface of the thing seen, it is possible to draw some straight lines to all the points on the surface of the eye: which is nothing more than to send and receive rays, so that the likeness of the thing seen, called by natural species visible, may reach the eye. And from this, it follows that the species of thing opposite to see, which is called an object, are in this way ordered, arranged on the surface of the eye, and received in the soul… “
In De Radiis by al-Kindı (9th century), which appeared in the Latin West at the end of the 12th century and was widely disseminated and discussed in the following century, there is an important contamination of the term spirit with that of ray… Everything, in the elementary world, emits rays in every direction, «instar siderum»: but above all the «stars», i.e. the celestial bodies, emit rays of various nature directed towards the terrestrial world. With this universal radiation, vision, the magical powers of things and astral influences are explained at the same time («stellarum dispositio mundum Elementorum disponit […] nulla substantia, nullum accidens hic subsistit quod in coelo sua modo non sit figuratum »), through the actio in distans process, which can be evident to the senses – such as the attraction of diamonds towards iron or the reflection of images by mirrors – or imperceptible.
Al-Kindı ̄ does not fail to apply this theory to man: man is a microcosm because he is endowed with a spiritus imaginarius, with an imagination capable of acting by virtue of «radii conformes radiis mundi».
In Renaissance painting, perspective indeed had the symbolic value of evoking these long stellar rays. In Alchemy we could call them external influences, Cosmos, or better Macrocosm. Better yet, the archetype. Whoever wonders what relevance all of this has in Dürer’s drawing depicting Apollo, should be remembered that in Greek mythology, the god Apollo was the architect par excellence.
Blow against Blow
Greek mythology often makes Apollo and Hermes/Mercury interact with each other. One of their favorite meeting places is music: Hermes made the first Lyra with pieces taken from pieces of animals and vegetables, for example, the turtle’s shell, and then gives it to Apollo.
Apollo is the most important among musician-gods. His role as an esoteric Sun deity puts him in communication with the chthonic world, hence the presence of divination and prophecy in his sanctuaries, through the intermediary of priestesses, the Sibyls. Ultimately he was a deity of sudden death. It would be too banal to say he goes back and forth between unknown and forbidden worlds, although he does. Nevertheless, Apollo is neither Pan nor Dionysus nor Orpheus, he is Apollo the esoteric Sun, the Soul to a certain extent.
Mythology predicts numerous instances where Apollo and Mercury meet, but what interests us here is their encounter in the world of music, or rather sound, an aspect so neglected and misunderstood yet so important in Alchemy. Apollo-the-sun is the orchestra master not only of Olympus, but of the whole solar system, and we can grasp why: the sun is the sky’s middle note. Representing the common string between the two worlds, he connects what is above to what is below. And this seems the direction that Durer suggests to us. Hermes/Mercury is different, unlike Apollo; it’s difficult to find a common denominator for him. In Greek mythology, he’s omnipresent, but no great sanctuaries have been built for him. Yet the list of his epithets is endless. but he becomes a key deity when it comes to uniting opposites.
The philosopher Heraclitus uses the allegory of the bow and the lyre to explain a fascinating phenomenon: ‘The common people do not understand how Harmony consists of opposing tension, like that of the bow and the lyre’. Ancient Greek translators have had a certain difficulty interpreting his neologism παλίντροπος: the strings of the bow and lyre exert traction on the wood of the instrument, and reciprocally the wood also stretches the strings. The phenomenology of the dual task in the opposite sense of wood and string was only intuitable for the ancient philosophers. And the intuition was conveyed with the expression ‘blow against blow’.
Just like musical harmony (invisible, incorporeal, absolutely beautiful, an ultimately divine thing) is the ephemeral product of the combination of opposites where the material instrument of the lyre is mortal and made, so it can be said of the soul tied to the body: our body is strung inwards and its unity is maintained by heat and cold, dryness and moisture and similar qualities, it is the combination and harmony of these that compose our soul; the soul would therefore be mortal (it is the Soul which, in what is called death, must be destroyed first) – Plato, Phaedo, 85e-86d, XXXVI . They do not understand how that which differs with itself in agreement: Harmony consists of opposing tension, like that of the bow and the lyre. – Heraclitus, fr. 125 = 51 DK What went forward goes backward; opposites intertwine with each other – Sophocles, Trackers, 112-116.
Apollo, the Alchemists’ Ultimate Goal
Apollo’s name is often found in alchemical treatises. For instance, Augurello starts his “Art of Making Gold” by invoking Apollo – along with Venus and Hephaestus, the other two patrons of Alchemy – calling on him as Phoebus, the light.
Greek mythology tells us that Apollo was, first of all, a god of light, a sun-god-without sun, however, being the astronomical sun represented by a special divinity, Helios. From this arose his epithets: Phoebus, the “brilliant”; Xanthus, the “fair”; Chrysocomes, “of the golden lock”‘; as such, he delighted in “high places, the frowning peaks of high mountains, wave-lapped, beetling promontories”. This god of the light was the son of Laton or Leto – probably a double of the Asiatic Lada – who was undoubtedly a divinity of the night.
However, according to the oldest traditions, Apollo was the god of thunder instead. It is intriguing to know that some historians of symbolism in music give thunder the meaning of “constructor of fire”. Not ordinary fire, of course.
Although alchemical light is not the light object of Einstein’s Nobel prize, it is not totally foreign to it. Maybe the two lights share some physical aspects and even corpuscles and waves, but maybe not. Maybe the alchemical light and the light subject to physics laws don’t even love each other and operate just in the absence of each other, even though the sun and stars are huge sources of alchemical light. If we can admit to being rather accustomed to the common light laws of physics (I mean the current state of the science), very little is known about the alchemical light, which is both evident and obscure. In the case we are examining, the presence of Apollo would point to “the light vehicle of the soul” (psuchês lepton ochêma ) as in the 5th century, in Carmen aureum 26, Hierocles of Alexandria says.
But let’s get back to the Alchemical light: it can be visible to our eyes (or better, detectable to our brain) when the first Mercurius, in certain paths, shines into the vessel, and even in a more spectacular way when metallic gold is involved. While it can be imperceptible in other paths, but none the less it makes its effects felt.
You may have already read on this site that the soul of metals is extracted from the spiritus or Mercurius, the first to come out, and which may, to some extent, be given the characteristics of the Greek god Hermes. Still, we can say the same of the soul-Apollo? Let’s analyze all the symbolic impersonations of Apollo in Alchemy or all the situations in which Apollo is officially nominated with his name. In the so-called philosophical stairs, Apollo is not only the final step, but many also call the perfect red the name of Apollo (Mars being the unripe red). And by final step, we mean the Philosophers Stone; However, Apollo can also be the supreme regime of fire; He can be a representation of Sulfur, i.e. of the Soul extracted by the Spirit; ultimately, Apollo can be our central Sun, not to be confused with the astronomical sun (which has a central inner Sun too, like everything in Alchemy); additionally Apollo can represent the metallic gold, called the sun of the earth.
Artemis/Diana, Apollo’s sister, the chief hunter to the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus, is also born from thunder/fire and night. Like all the divine huntresses, she represents a dissolving character. She can be our Universal Dissolvent/Mercurius/Spirit, who extracts the Soul/Sulfur from the body. She is also the chief of the divine lunar personages, to the extent of representing the Moon. Apollo cannot be studied without his twin, the Moon.
The fact that Apollo and Artemis were being given birth in a place where the sun’s rays never penetrated and that their mother Leto/Latona – who seems to have always been one of the deities of the night – gave childbirth after nine days and nine nights of atrocious suffering, would be enough to paint Apollo as our alchemical first matter, Prima Materia, achieved during the nocturnal dark and after nine repetitions or days. Additionally, the fact that he had not been nourished with his mother’s milk but with nectar and sweet ambrosia to his lips makes Apollo our perfect red (see an Opus Magnum scheme).
In Dürer’s drawing, Apollo stands outside the Sun, he is looking at the Sun, and his name appears inverted. One could say that he is looking at his mirror, his double, which would make sense if representing the soul: as though Apollo went back and forth to and from himself). But holding the scepter of the initiate.
A theory, almost retaken by German Aureae Roseae Crucis and Italian Neoplatonic academies, states that Secret Fire tends to pulsate, resonating in the interior of the bodies hosting it. The theory tells us that in every independent body there is an inner central and invisible Sun, which tends to communicate with the largest inner central Sun, hidden in our solar system star, the Sun indeed. And this communication would be back and forth, to and from, like huge breathing or heart beating. I have already dedicated an article similar to an image from the Voynich Manuscript corroborated by some Compass der Weisen and Symbola Aureae Mensae engravings.
Some ancient cultures, especially the Roman ones, were known for flipping the sacred names or at least the names that had to remain secret for reasons of unassailability from external agents. For example, it has been handed down to us that the secret name of Rome could be Amor. However, in this case, we do not know if it was a real inversion of the name of the city or the tout court adoption of the name Love since Amor in Latin means precisely Love. in fact, it should be remembered that mystery world was hidden into the symbolism of romantic themes (see also Il Mistero dell’Amor Platonico nel Medioevo, Tome I ). Also, in magic squares, we have combinations of names and their inverses. In any case, I would like to get to the heart of the matter; I’m not interested in making a case study on the subject.
Why were sacred names reversed symbolically? We have mentioned above the Alexandrian school of the fifth century; let us now call into matter the school of Athens, Iamblichus, to be precise. And I will quote from an essay by Gregory Shaw Iamblichus and the Foundations of Late Platonism: “… Without the Many, the One could not be one, as Plato’s Parmenides taught. This essential Pythagorean principle, that higher beings must be inverted – in some sense negated – and thus veiled, to reveal themselves, underlies all Iamblichean metaphysics and helps to explain his embrace of the senses in theurgic ritual. In his discussion of Egyptian and Hermetic theology, Iamblichus maintains that the material principle of divinity extends into sensible existence. He says: God produced matter (hulê) out of the division of materiality from substantiality, which the Demiurge, receiving as a living substance, fashioned into simple unshakeable spheres and organized the last of this into generated and part of myself that is the living mortal being is made complete.”
The other figure in Durer’s drawing is unfinished. She is presumably a woman. With her arm raised to protect herself from the solar splendor, art critics have assumed that she is Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo, the goddess who hunts by night, perhaps an impersonation of the moon.
Porphyry speaks of Artemis as one of the three Olympian goddesses representing the moon’s phases, the other two being Selene and Hecate. Respectively 6 days, 3 days, and 15 days, However, these aspects should not be taken with the pretense they are true and exact.
Durer represented Apollo’s sister, albeit barely sketched, only in her opposite aspect of her brother. She prefers to live at night, often called the Six Day Moon, but the German artist doesn’t offer her many other possibilities. Yet Artemis/Diana is one of the main goddesses of Olympus. In fact, despite her dark and shy fame, just like a cold celestial body, Artemis/Diana is one of the three Olympic deities who send souls to bodies: the other two are Hera and Demeter. While Apollo, Mercury, and Venus withdraw the soul from the mortal remains. Thus we learn that of the twins, she, the lunar goddess, sends the souls, and the sun god withdraws them instead. This may seem like a contradiction to the above, but we must keep in mind that Pluto, or Hades, is the place/time where transmutations/incarnations take place.
Artemis represents not only the night light of the moon but also the sound aspect of our satellite. We know from Martianus Capella, that the moon is responsible for the deaf noises heard on earth. Our planet is silent. Artemis represents not only the night light of the moon but also the sound aspect of our satellite. We know from Martianus Capella, that Artemis-the-moon, the noisy goddess with a golden spindle is responsible for the deaf noises heard on earth. Our planet is silent. While Apollo is the master of the orchestra of the solar system.
In her being opposite and complementary to her twin, Artemis also symbolizes the great dark north (see the myth of Callisto, transformed by Artemis into a Bear). The Italian painter Parmigianino painted a fresco, in Fontanellato, which mixes the myth of the unfortunate Actaeon with the story of Callisto: in fact, the clothes worn by the deer are feminine, suitable for a nymph. And the role of clothes in the myth is not negligible.
At this point, it is important to mythologically analyze the role of Leto, the mother of the twins. In his On Simulacra, Porphyry says that Leto is the sublunar air that lights up during the day and goes out at night. The Neoplatonist philosopher then approaches the name Leto with Letho, that is, oblivion. Since Artemis was born before her brother Apollo, darkness is fundamental to daylight and therefore predates the world’s arrangement. The theologians derive everything from the night. During the night, sleep, dreams, and oblivion manifest themselves.
- Arturo Reghini, Sacred Pythagorean Numbers. Part 10;
- Augurello and the Art of Making Gold. Second Book 1;
- See also Orthelius Commentary on Maria Prophitissa. Part 1 , Franz Kieser and the two Perceivable Lights ;
- Voynich Manuscript and the Unknown Part of the Rhythm ;
- See also Atalanta Fugiens and the Golden Apples ;
- See also Busa di Manna, the Sinkhole , Nuisement and the Sun resisting capture;
- See also Thesaurus Hermeticum & the Dry Pythagorean River , Two Stars in Venetian Geocentric Sky and The Pythagorean Thigh in the Northern Sky .
- Il Mistero dell’Amor Platonico nel Medioevo, Tome I .