One wheel is not enough for our works, but two overwhelm comprehension. Fulcanelli’s words can make us lose sleep on this Amiens cathedral quatrefoil.
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 is 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. The vision of these wheels is represented here.
We cannot deny that the cathedral’s West facade was carved, epitomizing biblical references. Still, strangely enough, just some secondary and not essential details of the Bible are represented 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 of the two wheels: they are not one within the other but intermingled in such a way to appear like those impossible visions known as paradoxical optical effects.
We have already encountered on this site the wheel allegory as standing for solar as well as our Secret Fire working (1), but here 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, 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 cartwheels, 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 expression invariably bear witness to surprise or ecstasy, anxiety or bliss. This is not the case with the subject in hand. The wheels are, then, and can only be, an image whose meaning is hidden from the profane and put into the picture to veil something as well-known to the initiate as to the character himself. Moreover, he is not at all preoccupied with this kind of thing. He is awake and keeps watch patiently but a little languidly. The arduous labors of Hercules are accomplished, and his work has been reduced to the texts’ ludus puerorum (children’s play), i.e., to keeping up the fire, which can quickly 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 to ensure the first degree of perfection. Unless one prefers to see an indication of the two natures in the conversion, which is also achieved through gentle and regular heating, this latter thesis is adopted by Permety.
Linear and continuous cooking demands the double rotation of 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, appear 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 the external fire temperature be suitable for this cooking?”
What 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 the 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. Then we are in the Main Work taking care of this very substance, cooking, washing, and passing through the essentially primary 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 the 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, begins with a second turn of the wheel and is completed and perfected when the contents of the egg, which has been calcined, appear granulated or powdery in the form of crystals, sand, or ashes. “
Fulcanelli is renowned as a dry path, or way, master. Very hardly we found humid-wet path allusions in his books. So why has he taken this example and walked away 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 the element Air, or even Water, to the element Earth to suggest a sudden state change. 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 as a dry state, Earth, or the first Wheel.
The second wheel, according to Fulcanelli, heads directly to the 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 the external fire temperature be 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 to 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 also, in the second wheel, we have to pass from the element Air, or Water, to Earth. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to understand how these two stages can be two “rotations” intermingled. They are two different works, even if with, and by, the same mercurial, then sulfurous, substance.
Fulcanelli fails to make us understand why these two wheels are intermingled so that they cannot rotate but together. 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 requirement. We know that every alchemical process is bound to be repeated at least some times. We need a kind of back-and-forth process, which is the ultimate purpose of Alchemy, or better, its normal working. A movement from the element Earth to Air, from fixed to volatile, or flowing, also needs a return to be fulfilled.
The film formation on the surface has to be performed more than once, and the same with the Egg formation. This characterizes all our processes inside the vessel because our Secret Fire is extracted from raw matter. Hidden under this Air-Water to Earth movement and return, our rotational transmutations of passage through colors (4), our simplest, most didactic way to explain a cycle of processes. Too often, an external fire other than our perfect Secret Fire is required in many paths passages. Fulcanelli artfully asks himself what kind of heat is suitable for that cooking since our Secret Fire can cook itself.
But why has Fulcanelli provided such an example? Humid-wet paths and dry paths are only so different; in fact, he/she who can understand the similarities between the two paths have understood the alchemical processes at large. What is sure is that medieval scholars very rarely intended a way that didn’t provide a general view of Alchemy. The reason was simple: they were uniquely interested in preserving Alchemy and diffusing it. While In the Fulcanelli age, and here I don’t mean the Fulcanelli milieu at large, they tended to display a particular delight in solving conundrums so that an ” I’m more clever than you” effect was a sure side effect.
I’m not satisfied with Fulcanelli’s 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 as a rotational tool and solar symbol, as we have seen in Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit. Don’t be amazed since every alchemical symbol has at least three meanings.
So I’m pretty sure that a back-and-forth movement other than a mere laboratory one was also silently implied on that Amiens west wall. In a more ancient environment than the french Cathedral, we will see how Byzantine scholars represented two separate wheels that 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 ;