One wheel is not enough for our works, but two overwhelm comprehension. On this Amiens cathedral quatrefoil Fulcanelli’s words can make us loosing sleep.
Fulcanelli dedicated a paragraph of his “The Mystery of Cathedrals” to this low relief in the Amiens Cathedral West Facade. As the french author pointed out, this puzzling quatrefoil received an entirely different interpretation from some authors.
The most accepted being that of the prophecy of Ezekiel who, while dreaming, saw four winged beasts, as St. John was to do later, and then some wheels, one within the other. In fact it is the vision of these wheels which is represented here.
We cannot deny the West facade of the cathedral was carved epitomizing biblical references, but strangely enough just some secondary, and not important details, of the Bible are represented. Besides in a very disorganized, and not “telling a story”, way. So only those who tend to take all for granted can affirm to be only before a biblical events gallery . Let’s have a close up at the two wheels: they are not one within the other, but intermingled, in such a way to appear like those impossible visions knowing as paradoxical optical effects.
We have already encountered in this site the wheel allegory as standing for solar as well as our Secret Fire working (1), but here they are two of them. Too much but, from an alchemical point of view, just sufficient for us to have a complete process. Let’s hear directly from Fulcanelli’s words now: “Among the allegories characteristic of the style of Amiens, I would first mention the ingenious interpretation of the fire of the wheel. The philosopher, who is seated with his elbow resting on his right knee, appears to be meditating or keeping watch (pl. XXXIII).…………Naively taking the words literally, the artist has reduced the vision to its simplest expression.
The prophet ( Ezekiel) is seated on a rock and seems to be sleeping, leaning on his right knee. In front of him appear two cart wheels and that is all. This version contains two errors. The first shows an incomplete study of the traditional techniques, of the formulas respected by the latomi in the execution of their symbols. The second, a graver one, results from defective observation. In reality, our images were accustomed to separate, or at least to underline, their supernatural attributes with a bank of clouds. An example of this may be seen on the face of the three piers of the porch, but there is nothing of that here. Moreover, our character has his eyes open, so he is not asleep, but appears to be keeping watch, while the slow action of the fire of the wheel takes place close to him. Further, it is well known that in gothic scenes illustrating visions, the scholar is always shown facing the phenomenon; l G. Durand, Monographic de l ’Eglise cathedrale d’Amiens. Paris, A. Picard, l90l.
………….his ( the philosopher’s) attitude and his expression invariably bearing witness to surprise or ecstasy, anxiety or bliss. This is not the case in the subject in hand. The wheels are, then, and can only be, an image, whose meaning is hidden from the profane, and which is put into the picture in order to veil something as well-known to the initiate as to the character himself. Moreover he is not at all absorbed in any preoccupation of this kind. He is awake and keeps watch, patiently, but a little languidly. The hard labors of Hercules are accomplished and his work has been reduced to the ludus puerorum (children’s play) of the texts, i.e. to keeping up the fire, which can easily be undertaken and carried out successfully by a woman spinning with a distaff. As for the double image of the hieroglyph, we must interpret it as the sign of the two revolutions, which must act in succession on the compound in order to ensure for it the first degree of perfection. Unless one prefers to see in it an indication of the two natures in the conversion, which is also achieved by means of gentle and regular heating. This latter thesis is adopted by Pemety.
Actually, linear and continuous cooking demands the double rotation of one and the same wheel, which is a movement impossible to convey in stone and which justifies the necessity of having two wheels overlapping in such a way as to form only one. The first wheel corresponds to the humid phase of the operation called lixiviation in which the compound remains melted until a light film is formed.
This, as it gradually becomes thicker, gains in-depth. The second period, characterized by dryness then begins with a second turn of the wheel and is completed and perfected when the contents of the egg, which has been calcined, appears granulated or powdery, in the form of crystals, sand or ashes. The anonymous commentator of a classic work says concerning this operation, which is veritably the seal of the Great Work, which the philosopher boils with gentle solar heat in a single vessel a vapor, which thickens little by little’. But what can be the temperature of the external fire, suitable for this cooking?”
Why Fulcanelli says to be an error from defective observation. In reality the artist exactly carved in conformity with the rules assigned to him by his customers. We don’t have to forget the quatrefoil had been sculptured in 1220, a period in which artists were not allowed to have personal views, as was in renaissance. So there was no error, the wheels had to appear as being intermingled.
Retake Fulcanelli’s words “the philosopher is awake and keeps watch, patiently…..the hard labors of Hercules are accomplished and his work has been reduced to the ludus puerorum, or children play…”
From an Opus magnum scheme we can see that the labors of Hercules, or preliminary works, end up with the achievement of our Secret Fire/Mercurius, and then we are in the Main Work taking care of this very substance cooking and washing itself, and passing through the essentially main three colors Black-White-Red. I don’t know Fulcanelli, but this stage is called “Rota” or rotations, that’s to say like the ancient latin definition of wheel. The Wheel Fire, as we have already seen in Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit and Secret Iconography of the Wheel (2) is the Secret Fire, at first as Mercurius and secondly as Sulphur, which is the matter and the agent of the whole movement.
“This, as it gradually becomes thicker, gains in depth. The second period, characterized by dryness then begins with a second turn of the wheel and is completed and perfected when the contents of the egg, which has been calcined, appears granulated or powdery, in the form of crystals, sand or ashes. “
Fulcanelli is well renown to be a dry path, or way, master. Very hardly we found humid-wet path allusions in his books. So why he has taken this example and walked a way he scarcely knew, or at least he didn’t like? Pay attention to the word “Melted”, in fact he was not compelled to use this definition, as there are no such things as a melting process in a humid path ( at least in that process). Perhaps he wanted to point at the passage from element Air, or even Water, to element Earth in order to suggest a sudden change of state. We know that the film forming on the surface is a kind of dryness. We can find a similar procedure in Hollandus, How Urine Salts Extract a White and Red Dye and the salt forming in the occasion can be defined a dry state, or Earth, or the first Wheel.
The second wheel, according to Fulcanelli, heads directly to formation of the alchemical Egg.
“The anonymous commentator of a classic work says concerning this operation, which is veritably the seal of the Great Work, which the philosopher boils with gentle solar heat in a single vessel a vapor, which thickens little by little’. But what can be the temperature of the external fire, suitable for this cooking?” .
The Seal of the Great Work is to make fix the volatile and to make volatile the fix (3). The french author is, as usual, very helpful only at already learned readers. The procedures he has mentioned are not immediately subsequent, some other works are in between (the Egg represents the last cooking). But, at least we have understood that in the second wheel too we have to pass from element Air, or Water, to Earth. Nevertheless it is here very difficult to understand how these two stages can actually be two “rotations” intermingled with each other. They are two different works even if with, and by, the same mercurial, then sulfurous, substance.
Anyway Fulcanelli fails to makes us grasp why these two wheels are actually intermingled, in such a way that they cannot rotate, but together. As a matter of fact in the Amiens low relief they are so merged that the first wheel appears to become the second, and the second one inevitably becomes the first. So there is a back and forth movement involved here, while the processes presented by the french author don’t seem to fulfill this requirements. As a matter of fact we know that every alchemical process is bound to be repeated at least for a given number of times. We need a kind of back and forth processes, which is the ultimate purpose of Alchemy, or better its normal working. In fact a movement from element Earth to Air, from fixed to volatile, or flowing, also need a return to be really fulfilled.
The film formation on the surface has to be performed more than one time, and the same with the Egg formation. This characterizes all our processes inside the vessel, because in so doing our Secret Fire is extracted from raw matter. Hidden under this Air-Water to Earth movement and return there are also what we call our rotational transmutations of passage through colors (4), which are our simplest, and most didactic, way to explain a cycle of processes. In fact too much often in many paths passages an external fire other than our perfect Secret Fire is required. Fulcanelli artfully asks himself what kind of heat is suitable for that cooking, since our Secret Fire is able to cook itself.
But why has Fulcanelli provided such an example? Humid-wet path and dry paths are only apparently so different, in fact he/she who can understand the similitudes between the two paths, has understood the alchemical processes at large. What is sure is that very rarely the medieval scholars did intend a way which didn’t provide a general view on Alchemy. The reason was very simple: they were uniquely interested in preserving Alchemy and diffuse it. While In Fulcanelli age, and here I don’t mean the Fulcanelli milieu at large, they tended to put on display a certain delight in solving conundrums, so that a ” I’m more clever than you” effect was a sure side effect.
A part from that I’m not satisfied with Fulcanelli examples: I fail to see where and when the second wheel, or the Egg, comes back to the first wheel. And where and when the second wheel cannot rotate but with the first one. Are not the mere wheel rotations sufficient to suggest that? Unless……here the wheels are also taken not only as a rotational tool, but as a solar symbol, as we have seen in Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit. Don’t be amazed, since every alchemical symbol stands for at least three different meanings.
So I’m quite sure that, on that Amiens west wall, a back and forth movement other than a merely laboratory one was also silently implied. We will see, in a more ancient environment than the french Cathedral, how Byzantine scholars did represent two separate wheels which cannot rotate but together.
- See also Trisulti Carthusian Monastery and the Yearbook Wheel ;
- See also Wenceslaw Lavinius and the Sky and Earth Properties , Stoll, the Lacinius Translator on Male and Female Elements , Philosophia Reformata, Father Sun & Mother Moon , Cesare Ripa & the Hot Frozen Ouroboros World Machine;
- See also Kamala Jnana, Introduction to a Live Secret , Kamala Jnana from Black to White , Artephius Secret Book and Secret Fire , Guido Montanor & Latin Verb Tingo-Tinxi;
- See also Hortulus Hermeticus, Beware of the Red Laton ;