If we continue analyzing the role of Adam as uprooted from the Genesis story, having isolated him from the narrative context as a fish caught in dim waters, we will find ourselves in a cul-de-sac when trying to give a role to Eve.
If Adam was created on the sixth day, as a matter-light coming out of the dark-wild chaos, the rib symbology unravels his need to look at himself in a mirror: Eve. As I stated in the first part of the article, Eve cannot, alchemically, but being Adam’s personification. And we will see how the rib symbol may hint at this possibility.
In Traité du Feu et du Sel, or Treatise on Fire and Salt, by Blaise de Vigenère, we can find on page four an interesting excerpt from Corinth. 15: “The first earth man is terrestrial, the second sky man is celestial, the first man Adam has been made in the living soul, the last Adam in giving life spirit. So man is an image of the world ”. Thus we have been introduced to a sort of Trinity. Namely a molecular support, a living soul, and a spirit of life. That’s what mineral Alchemy is, indeed. That’s to say a Soul to be extracted from its body, a spirit of life-giving life to the body.
Let us, therefore, approach the topic from an alchemical point of view. Alchemists do recognize the existence of a Mercurial Spirit of Life, traditionally assigned to the woman, and a Sulfurous Soul, traditionally assigned to the man. Hence the symbolism of the Sun and the Moon. But why, in the Genesis tale, Eve/Mercurius extracted from Adam/Sulphur, when alchemically it was the contrary, in fact, Mercurius/Spirit of Life was the first to be extracted from the raw matter, and just after, in its turn, Mercurius/Spirit of Life extracted the Sulphur/Soul? In the mythological pair Eros-Psyche there is a reverse of sex, with Eros clearly a Mercurial character, in spite of his male sex, and Psyche representing the Soul, in spite of her being a woman (2). In the most ancient mythological tales we can observe the undifferentiated Spirit of Life’s role played by male characters, and the Soul, on the contrary, played by women. This was because the ancient attributed to the Spirit of Life/Mercurius an exuberance and energy typical of young men, while the static and thoughtful Soul was given a woman appearance. This can astonish the Greek-Roman thought, but it is not foreign to cultures as the Islamic one, for instance, where to women is attributed the brain, with the barren and end in itself thought and to men the heart, with generosity and courage and then the yearning for the divine.
In light of that, it is of primary importance to grasp who, or what, Adam is. According to the prevalent opinion among researchers in Alchemy, Adam is said to represent our perfect red or the end of the second (main) work. Dom Pernety in his Dictionnaire Mytho-Hermètique says: “Adam is a name Philosophers gave their Magisterium when it is perfectly red, because their material is the Quintessence of the Universe and the raw material of all the individuals of nature, has a perfect relationship with Adam in which God picked the purest essence of all beings, and besides, Adam, which means red, expresses the color and the qualities of the Magisterium“.
Even Fulcanelli, in his “The Philosophical Dwellings”, handles the topic. After having stunned us in his usual symbolic maze, he lightheartedly makes us understand that the final explanation of this Genesis scene could actually be different from the one he started with, in fact, he catalogs two kinds of Adam: the red Adam and the primitive Adam. Fulcanelli analyzes the personage of Adam so much thoroughly, to get to isolate him from the context of the Genesis narrative, and when it comes to Eve, Fulcanelli confesses that she puts a strain on his certitudes ( but we know he was not so skilled with regard to female characters, for his own admission). And as for the rib, he doesn’t even mention it but instead describes a particular process giving off a “lenticular” object, which we will see in the second part of the article.
Almost all of the baroque age alchemical dictionaries give similar explications. Fulcanelli seems to run along these lines too. Nevertheless, when giving Adam the meaning of either the perfect Red (1) or the Magisterium from gold (in both cases not the precursor of the white Magisterium) we are then at odds when trying to give a role to Eve. Dom Pernety not even attempts to remedy this and, with nonchalance, maybe he hopes the reader has not seen the word Adam before looking up for Eve. In fact in his “Dictionnaire” we can find out Eve as the “Magistère des Sages, lorsqu’il est parvenu à la blancheur” or the Magisterium when reaching the Whiteness. But the alchemical colors tend to go from white to red and over again. Not the other way around. There aren’t blood drops giving origin to white lambs, in Alchemy, but white lambs suddenly stained with blood. In the second work, after the union of the two Mercurii, and the second putrefaction, a whiteness does eventually appear, and then orange and red, then a black phase again. That will go around until we reach what we consider the supreme red, the perfect red. The Red Magisterium. Concerning gold, it is red when simply dissolved in Mercurius/Universal Dissolvent (before turning black), and becomes all white when the Mercurius/Universal Dissolvent is extracted.
In “Dwellings of Philosophers”, Fulcanelli does not comment on the scene of Eve’s “extraction” from Adam. The French alchemist honestly tells us that the figure of Eve puts a strain on his certitude, so he rather prefers the set of the expulsion from Eden. Caused by the snake and Eve, of course. Nevertheless, this will be equally interesting to us, as it will provide his interpretation of the figure of Adam.
The path Fulcanelli seeks confirmation to seems to be a certain dry path (I used the adjective “certain” here, but I should have rather used “uncertain” instead, as there are no certainties about the dry proceedings he followed). The problem with dry paths is that they are generally poorly suited for explaining the teaching of Alchemy in general. And I have my doubts that the myths of the past have been designed by the ancient scholars to point out particular hidden dry processes, as Fulcanelli assumes. I rather think they wanted to pass on the ancient idea of Alchemy in general, and not play guessing games with posterity. But we can hardly read in the French Alchemist’s two books about the general didactic path at all. This aspect, as well as his barely concealed misogyny, should teach us not to nourish many hopes when reading the promising title of the chapter “The alchemical myth of Adam and Eve”. In fact, here we will discover two Adams: Adam and “the Adam”, and, since Adam’s pregnancy could no longer be kept hidden, eventually even Adam’s child, “the little fish Echeneis” who, ultimately, Fulcanelli made us understand to be the real Adam. And Eve? Ah, yes… she is the barely visible wife of the first, the lover of the second, and the mother of the third. Neither the daughter, and nor the sister, but only the kinship reveals Adam’s symbolic independence. Mind you, I have not written importance, but independence. In Alchemy, the symbolic Adam is independent of Eve, but only for a short time. We can further say that the alchemist is free from taking action only for a short time.
But let’s listen from “the Alchemical Myth of Adam and Eve”: … Adamus, Adam’s Latin name, means made of red earth; it is the first being of nature, the only one of human creatures who have been gifted of the two natures of the androgyne. We can therefore consider him, from the hermetic point of view, as the basic material joined to the mind in the same unit of the created substance, immortal and perdurable. But when Yahweh Elohim, according to the Mosaic tradition, gave birth to the woman by individualizing, in distinct and separate bodies, these primitive natures previously combined in one body, the first Adam had to become specific, losing its original constitution and became the second Adam, imperfect and mortal. Adam the prince, who is never found anywhere in any configuration, is called by Greeks Αδαμος or Αδαμας, a word meaning, on the earth plane, the hardest steel, indomitable and still a virgin, which characterizes the profound nature of the first heavenly man and the first earthly body as being lonely and not subjected to the hymen’s yoke”. Then Fulcanelli quotes an excerpt from Plato’s “Timaeus” regarding “Adamas”: “Of all the water we called fusible, he said, the one having the most tenuous and equal parts; which is the densest; this unique kind which color is bright yellow; the most precious of goods, gold actually, formed by its filtering through the stone. The gold knot becomes very hard and black because of its density, which is called Adamas. Another body, neighbor of gold for the small portions, but several species, whose density is lower than the density of gold, which contains a very thin low earth alloy, which makes it harder than gold, which is lighter at the same time, through the pores of its mass is buried, it is one of those brilliant and condensed waters called airain. When the portion of earth it contains is thereby separated by the action of time, it becomes visible to itself and is given the name of rust.” A millennium later Rulandus would write: “Adamas, in Arabic Subedhig, in Latin Adamas (Pliny, 1. 37, c. 4), the diamond, which is found both apart from gold and in gold, contrary to the opinion of the ancients, who knew it only as native in gold among the metals of Aethiopia”… Native in the most Perfect Gold”. Of course, the diamond is not native to gold, but in carbon. Anyway, Rulandus here paraphrases, with the scientific roughness of his age, the ancient motto that wanted the alchemical gem for antonomasia, the Philosophers Stone, native in the most Perfect Gold, that’s to say the Perfect Red. That, alchemically, is totally correct.
Fulcanelli gives Adam all the roles, keeping Eve in the background as a wife, lover, and mother. And, in the meantime, he is aware not to be able to make Eve follow Adam. It is during Eve’s role as lover, when the metal will be dissolved until becoming a dissolvent itself, i.e. having undergone a “reincrudation”, that Fulcanelli finds out an object which looks very similar to a rib. That item doesn’t lead to Eve’s birth, in fact, it is Adam’s and Eve’s child, but, once it is born, the French alchemist decides to shed some light on it. It goes without saying that this tiny body is just peculiar to some dry paths, anyway, it is really worth to be read about ” … effective generator of the stone, which was named Cain … it’s a tiny body – given the volume of the mass from which it comes, – having the outward appearance of a bi-convex lens, often circular, sometimes elliptical. Of earthen rather than metallic appearance, this lightweight button, infusible but very soluble, hard, brittle, crumbly, black on one side, white on the other, purple in its fracture, received various names relating to its form, its color, or some chemical peculiarities. This is the secret prototype of the popular swimmer of the king’s cake, the little fish called Echeneis…”.
Or Remora. Name of a small fish to which the ancients attributed the property to stop a vessel in his tracks, though sailing under full sail. Hermetic Philosophers have given the name of Remore and Echeneis to the fixed part of the material of the Work, in allusion to the alleged power of the fish, because the fixed portion stops the volatile part by fixing it. An object leading to the Stone, and, according to Fulcanelli, the real Adam. Not Eve, yet.
To Eve, the courtesy of the French alchemist gives the honor to be the Universal Dissolvent, with these words: “… without which nothing in Alchemy can be done”. But, in my opinion, to make Adam able to generate, even if for division, that honor should go to Adam instead. In fact, he is created on the sixth day, as a matter-light coming out of the dark-wild chaos. Of course, if we want to continue to call this light, simply matter-light, in fact, it is something that unites bodies and exhales from them.
As said in the first part, from very ancient times, sexual symbolism has been a simple way to explain complex situations. Alchemically, the feminine was simply the one who attracts the male, the male he who stirs the female. We know that in later times a reversal of sexual roles did occur, so the universal dissolvent took a feminine appearance. While at the dawn of times, the energy and exuberance of what we know as “mother”, was instead a young man’s prerogative. Adam, indeed.
At this point, our research cannot but become once again purely philological, and so we have to resume: Eve in Hebrew is Ḥawwāh, meaning “living one” or “source of life”, and is related to ḥāyâ, “to live”. The name derives from the Semitic root ḥyw. In Genesis 2:18-22, the woman is created to be ezer kenegdo, a term that is notably difficult to translate, to the man. Kenegdo means “alongside, opposite, a counterpart to him”, and ezer means active intervention on behalf of the other person.
It is known that Alchemy is not only the science and art of Secret Fire but what the laypersons tend to ignore is that it is almost the science and art of the Secret Fire partitions. So far, I have referred to the Eve creation myth utilizing expressions such as ” extraction and giving birth”. But, if you remember what I said on male mythological child delivery, the right term is ” division” instead. In fact, I have also presented as examples the “divisions” of Zeus when giving direct birth to his children Hermes, Athena, Dionysos, and Hephaestus. And what Andrea Pisano clearly puts in the display is Adam’s active intervention in the Genesis scene, as a father. Significantly different from the later renaissance iconographic themes of Eve being created by Yahweh Elohim alongside Adam in vague circumstances.
It is also known that ancient mythology dealt with the union of soul and body concealing it in fanciful love stories among divinities, especially the most gentle. But it is also known that many of those tales described instead the turbulent intercourses between Mercurius and Sulphur into the alchemical vessels, especially the most violent and indecent of them, and specifically those implying births. Especially weird births. So, despite the sapiential literature had always seen Genesis tale as “the embodiment of a soul”, I mean to take decisively another path, the lab Alchemy path, that treats instead of the “disembodiment of a soul”, or the extraction of a Soul/Sulfur from a body, by means of Spirit of Life/Mercurius. And that can be successfully performed only in an alchemical vessel. So the Genesis tale may be, alchemically, a tale to be read in reverse: not the construction of the human being, but her/his destruction with the final extraction of the soul. This idea is not a personal theory of mine, but the alchemical idea par excellence, the same you can find in Fulcanelli’s book ( well disguised, of course). And, to this extent, Lab Alchemy does provide a clear explication of Adam’s partitions or Even-rib of Adam.
Thus, from what was said above, I will not examine the branch of Alchemy dealing with the union/love of soul and body, and here let me open a parenthesis to specify that, anyway, in Alchemy would exist the union of Soul/Sulphur and Spirit of Life/Mercurius, before even think to introduce the body/flesh. So don’t expect me to resume Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine’s medieval diatribe on body and soul. If you remember, Thomas Aquinas rejected the theory of St. Augustine about the Body and Soul created together but stated that, since the Soul (Adam, according to the medieval fathers of the church ) appeared to be created before the body ( Eve), so the Soul initiated the movements of the Body. Even if the case, this unsophisticated thought was based on the Christian necessity to make tabula rasa of ancient knowledge. So, I will resume Fulcanelli instead. But not along his thematic stream, in fact, if you remember, the French alchemist denied the possibility of Eve as being the double Adam. To be more precise, Fulcanelli honestly confesses that Eve puts a strain on his certitude. Of course, after having given Adam all the roles……nevertheless, to thoroughly examine his position, the main glue into which he got stuck was his persistent theory of “Adam as red earth”.
As we have seen in the philology section above, the “red” quality attributed to Adam seems to be rather marginal and, almost meaning “healthy outdoorsy red color”, the adjective was supposedly used to strengthen Adam’s identification as a male character. In fact, ancient artists used to paint male characters in different and darker colors than female characters. How many times we have seen red men and white women in Attic vascular art and in Egyptian frescoes, or dark-colored men and light-colored women in Indian art? Color differentiation for sexes was as common in ancient times as unimaginably sexist today. For those not familiar with Alchemical processes: it is the white woman to give birth to the red man, never the contrary. The red man can only give birth to the alchemical child par excellence, the Philosophers Stone. But, honestly, this seems an excessive honor to Eve, who cannot be too much different from Adam, as she is not portrayed as a step above. To summarize, If you attribute the red color to Adam, then simply you should have Eve disappearing. Which is what Fulcanelli does, indeed.
So, letting aside the red color, Adam is almost earth. The alchemical earth, the departure point from which all begins, the end of the preparatory works: the achieving of our Mercurius. The outcome of the alchemist’s efforts and manual making. As Mercurius is the most manual, as well as exhausting, artist’s achievement. From Mercurius’s achievement, the path can really be descending ( for the skilled alchemist). In fact, Yahweh Elohim can take a rest, after a hard six days long job. After a series of six repetitions, on the seventh day, the Artist can see the result of his effort: the young and agile Adam/Mercurius is done. A role lately offered to alchemical ladies personages, but in very ancient times graciously granted to men, instead. Maybe the symbol of cock could demonstrate how those ancient reminiscences were still in use in the modern alchemical lexicon: the cock is traditionally attributed to the roman god Mercurius, but the ancient greeks designated him with the term αλεχτορ, which means both “virgin” and “young spouse”. There lie the roots of this change of sex for our mercurial character. For us modern, only Eve, as a woman, is entitled to play the mercurial role. This misconception is the source of our problems in defining Eve’s role in the Genesis tale.
If you remember, in the first part, we talked about two parts to join. In fact, returning to the philology of the word “rib”, the term צלע or ṣelaʿand most often translated as “side” in general, we recall another meaning of rib as an ancient symbol of symmetry: if the bending rib is linked with the spine and vertebra, so Adam’s body can be conceived as spherical. Or at least composed by two parts perfectly specularly opposed, so as, once folded, to form a single unit. And I used the example of the Roman architectural structure of the mundus, conceived as a concavity in the ground that had to match the top, and imaginary, concavity was a spherical union of the earth and the higher world or sky. And I have also mentioned an archetypal world or macrocosm to be united with an earthly microcosm. This subject would take us a long way, but here we are examining the alchemical side.
But let’s get back to Adam, now that we know he can instead embody the role the modern alchemists give instead to Eve. So, Adam is born at the end of the sixth day, as the apex of the increasingly encouraging steps of Primitive Mercurius in the Genesis tale. In fact in the tale there are switches from the state of pure land, then pure vegetation, then animal kingdom, and finally human perfection. It is commonly said that Alchemy is Genesis in small. Our Mercurius does clearly appear only from the end of the sixth repetition.
Now the newly born alchemical earth/Adam can rest for a while, and the artist admires him into the container. Adam is shining. But now he should give generation, and give birth to the alchemical embryo. We know that, in Alchemy, only males can give birth to a child. While only women can be coupled to provide the foundation of procreation. We can therefore understand that, during the alchemical works, the conquest of defined sex is only temporary. It is male in one phase and becomes female in the next when it comes to mate. It is not difficult to orientate, just think that the alchemical lexicon has always been inspired by the social culture of the ages gone through. Put it simply, when people used to think of womankind as incomplete and imperfect gender, the alchemical female could only reflect the working-in-progress state, the ephemeral, often volatile. She is still always conceived as a flight of stairs, never a restful, and rather definite, landing. Then, of course, the female is also the one who dissolves and incorporates, engulfing the male side that shakes and finally fixed her. Often, having to give up the common fire, alchemists cooks with Mercurius. And also with sulfur. So, divisions, doublings, and additions become the general Alchemy leitmotif. Cleopatra the alchemist used to say that we can define the alchemical works through the common life commitments of her era: weddings, copulation, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. We can today summarize with the statement “Mercurius does wash and cook.”
In order to do so, Adam must be divided into many parts, at least into two-three parts. If not, the alchemical generation cannot take start. So Eve is Adam, and cannot be other than Adam. She is Adam divided into numerous himself, which then will turn into herself. As, only in this way, Eve will fulfill what the philology binds to her as Ḥawwāh, meaning “living one” or “source of life”. If not, Adam is certainly going to be sterile, as he will neither be able to “wash” nor “cook”.
And ready to be divided into two specular parts. Mercurius/Adam is divided by Yahweh Elohim into two, one part (Eve) will dissolve gold, this way turning the metal into its primordial mercurial state, while the set aside Mercurius (Adam) is waiting for his spouse to reach her in the alcove bed that will bring them to a new dark. And in this way, the metallic gold will be brought to a complete dispersion, hence the black color is the characteristic mark phase of a supreme gold dispersion. Technically this is known as “reincrudation” (1), the foundation of the alchemical generation. In fact, the successful exit from the black alcove bed will be the rotation of colors, and the beginning of the main, or second, work (see an Opus Magnum scheme). The entire colorful spectacle is produced by the coming out of the Secret Fire, contained in both Adam and Eve, from potential to act. The light of that, we can grasp the meaning of what the ancient philology suggested for the word “Eve” as “ezer kenegdo” ( In Genesis 2:18-22, the woman is created to be “ezer kenegdo” to the man). In fact, Kenegdo means “alongside, opposite, a counterpart to him”, and ezer means active intervention on behalf of the other person. So, Eve is Adam divided into two. The most difficult part of the scheme would be to explain that from the division on, Adam disappears to let room for two Eves. In fact, tradition let the serpent complete the job.
This is what is called Mercurius Duplicatus (2), double Mercurius. The alchemical marriage is one of the meanings of the alchemical androgyne. When the alchemical pair, Adam and Eve, are putrefying together or turning black, Eve can extract all the Secret Fire from Adam and vice versa Adam with Eve. That’s the foundation of the second, main, work. If successful, out of the dark alcove bed, there will be the rotation of colors.
The second level panels beautifying the bell tower in Piazza Maggiore appear to be composed of three scenes, here the hint is not the number three, of course, but to grasp why Andrea Pisano elected an unexpected scene to conclude his Genesis narrative: the starting panel, from the left, represents the creation of Adam, then in the middle the creation of Eve, and, to conclude his trilogy, Pisano sculpted the scene he entitled ” the works of our ancestors”. So, Andrea Pisano voluntarily ignored the scene of the expulsion of the alchemical pair from Eden, notoriously caused by the serpent temptation, and directly arrived at its consequence: the first couple sentenced to “work” to get a living. This would be a too-long concept to be developed, but it is enough to know that the continuous “washings and feeding” on the alchemical child head to color rotations. Those, along with the upbringing of the child, are considered common “works” for a pair of parents. Our alchemical works.
Previous Part at Andrea Pisano and the Weird Birth of Eve Rib. Part 1.