Suppose 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. In that case, alchemists will find themselves 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 an interesting excerpt from Corinth on page four. 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 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 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 how comes, in the Genesis tale, that Eve/Mercurius is extracted from Adam/Sulfur when alchemically it was the contrary? It is known that Mercurius/Spirit of Life is the first to be extracted from the raw matter, and just after, instead, it is Mercurius to extract the Sulfur/Soul. Yet Grek mythology provides us with a precedent: the pair Eros-Psyche, there is a gender reversal: Eros, who is a Mercurial character, despite his male sex, and Psyche representing the Soul, despite her being a woman. Especially in the most ancient mythological tales, we can observe the undifferentiated Spirit of Life’s role played by male characters, while 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. At the same time, the static and thoughtful Soul was given a woman appearance. This astonished the late Greeks, as well as the Romans, though. However, in modern times, the same idea is not foreign to cultures like the Islamic one, where it is attributed the brain to women, with the barren and an end in itself though, and to men, the heart, with generosity, courage, and the consequent yearning for the divine.
In light of that, it is important 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 perfectly gets to red. Since their material is the Quintessence of the Universe and the raw material of all the individuals of nature. The latter has a perfect relationship with Adam, in which God picked the purest essence of all beings. Besides, Adam, which means red, expresses the Magisterium’s color and qualities.”
Fulcanelli, Canseliet and Dom Pernety
We can hardly read in Fulcanelli’s books about the general didactic way. The path he seeks confirmation of seems to be a specific dry path. 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 ancient scholars have designed the myths of the past to point out particular hidden dry processes, as Fulcanelli assumes. Instead, they wanted to pass on the ancient idea of Alchemy in general and not play guessing games with posterity. This well-known aspect, as well as his barely concealed misogyny, should teach us not to nourish many hopes when discovering, in his “The Philosophical Dwellings”, the promising chapter titled “The alchemical myth of Adam and Eve”. After having stunned us in his usual symbolic maze, he lightheartedly makes us understand that the final explanation of this Genesis scene could be different from the one he started with.
Fulcanelli analyzes Adam’s personage so thoroughly to isolate him from the context of the Genesis narrative. When it comes to Eve, he confesses that she puts a strain on his certitude and prefers the set her expulsion from Eden. ( but we know he was not so skilled concerning female characters, for his admission). And as for the rib, he doesn’t even mention it but instead describes a particular process giving off a “lenticular” object.
Nevertheless, this will be equally interesting to us, as it will provide his interpretation of the figure of Adam. The French Alchemist catalogs two kinds of Adam: the red Adam and the primitive Adam. Further on in his exposition, he will mention further personifications of the main character, and we will discover “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 nor the sister, but only the kinship, reveals Adam’s symbolic independence. Pay attention; I have not written importance, but independence.
But let’s read 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. From the hermetic point of view, we can consider him 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 separated by 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 Perfect Gold”. Of course, the diamond is not native to gold but in carbon. Rulandus 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 correct.
As said before, the french alchemist gives Adam all the roles, keeping Eve in the background as a wife, lover, and mother. However, in the meantime, he is aware not to be able to make Eve follow Adam. During Eve’s role as lover, when the metal will be dissolved until becoming a dissolvent itself, i.e., having undergone a “reincrudation”, Fulcanelli finds an object which looks very similar to a rib. That item doesn’t lead to Eve’s birth. It is Adam’s and Eve’s child, but once it is born, the French alchemist sheds some light on it. This tiny body is just peculiar to some dry paths, anyway, it is 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.
Almost all of the baroque-age alchemical dictionaries seem to run along these lines. Nevertheless, when giving Adam the meaning of either the perfect Red or the Magisterium from gold – in both cases, not the precursor of the white Magisterium – they are inevitably at odds when trying to give a role to Eve. Dom Pernety does not even attempt to remedy this and, with nonchalance, may hope the reader didn’t look up the word Adam before searching for Eve. In fact in his Dictionnaire we can find 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 are suddenly stained with blood. In the second work, after the union of the two Mercurii and the second putrefaction, a whiteness eventually appears, and then orange and red, then a black phase again. That will continue until we reach the supreme red, the perfect red, or the Red Magisterium. Concerning gold, it is red when dissolved in Mercurius/Universal Dissolvent (before turning black) and becomes all white when the Mercurius/Universal Dissolvent is extracted.
And now Fulcanelli’s pupil Eugène Canseliet, the alchemist who is almost impossible to find in contradiction with himself and with a vast vision of the discipline. ALCHIMIE – Etudes diverse de Symbolisme hermètique et de Pratique Philosophale: Phonetically, Ἀθάμας, Athamas is the same word as Adamas Αδαμας, the delta δ replacing the theta θ of the Aeolian dialect of Boeotia. Athamas, therefore, renews the powerful personality of the primordial Adam to oppose him to the second, who would have been made of red earth by God. The scholar Ambrosius Calepinus affirms this in his Dictionarium regarding the Greek noun Adam: Idem est quod Ruber, quoniam a rubra terra factus est, the same one is red because it is made of red earth. We, therefore, have Nephele – cloud – Athamas’ wife, who represents the primordial state of the subject of the wise, soon replaced by Ino to indicate the slow progress of the same material towards the degree of ultimate perfection characterized by the coveted fur: a very fine net, a network.
Unlike Fulcanelli, Canseliet instead devotes time and reflections to the wives of Adam, wives in the plural because the second is Ino – alchemically a derivation of Nephele – who, unlike Nephele, has known parents: Cadmus and Harmony. Cadmus is the black earth, while Canseliet defines Harmony as Sal Armoniacum or the salt that creates harmony and unites the two opposites. It is also called a “seal”.
But Harmony is also the goddess of music, obviously as a union of opposites.
As mentioned before, Fulcanelli’s courtesy gives Eve the honor of being the Universal Dissolvent: “ 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. 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, matter-light is something that unites bodies and exhales from them.
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. As said in the first part, from 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. 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 puts on 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, 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, using 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/Sulfur 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.
As we have seen in the philology section above, the “red” quality attributed to Adam seems to be relatively marginal and, almost meaning “healthy outdoorsy red color”, the adjective was supposedly used to strengthen Adam’s identification as a male character. Ancient artists used to paint male characters in different and darker colors than female characters. How often have we seen red men and white women in Attic vascular art and 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 unfamiliar 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, you should have Eve disappearing, which Fulcanelli does.
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 be descending ( for the skilled alchemist). Yahweh Elohim can take a rest after a hard six-day 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 defining Eve’s role in the Genesis tale.
A conjecture now: if you remember, we talked about two parts to be joined in the first part. 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. Adam’s body could be conceived as spherical if the bending rib is linked with the spine and vertebra. 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.
Another conjecture: unless ‘side’ means an accompaniment, something that stands or does side by side. And that would take us too far.
But let’s get back to Adam now that we know he can 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. There are switches in the tale from the state of pure land, pure vegetation, animal kingdom, and human perfection. It is commonly said that Alchemy is Genesis in small. Our Mercurius does 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. At the same time, only women can be coupled to provide the foundation of procreation. We can 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 regarding mate. It is not difficult to orientate. Think that the social culture of the ages has always inspired the alchemical lexicon. When people used to think of womankind as an incomplete and imperfect gender, the alchemical female could only reflect the ephemeral, often volatile working-in-progress state. She is still always conceived as a flight of stairs, never a restful and definite landing. Then, of course, the female is also the one who dissolves and incorporates, engulfing the male side that shakes and finally fixes 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.”
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. Only in this way will Eve fulfill what the philology binds to her as Ḥawwāh, meaning “living one” or “source of life”. If not, Adam will undoubtedly be sterile, as he can neither “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”, the foundation of the alchemical generation. 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 colorful spectacle is produced by the coming out of the Secret Fire, contained in both Adam and Eve, from potential to act. And even though it may seem tedious, we still pick it up 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). 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 challenging part of the scheme would be to explain that from the division on, Adam disappears to let room for two Eves. Tradition let the serpent complete the job.
This is what is called Mercurius Duplicatus, 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 primary 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 composed of three scenes; the hint is not the number three. Still, 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”.
In fact, in the subsequent panels, the representations of the first human works follow through the example of their legendary “inventors” and according to the chronology recounted in the Bible: Adam digs the earth and Eve works at the spindle; Jabal is the first shepherd, Jubal invents music while Tubalcain is the father of metallurgy, Noah, drunk, is the initiator of viticulture. 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 child’s upbringing, 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.
See also Anaximander, Apeiron and Earthy Sea ; Blaise de Vigenère & Salt Sacrifice, Victim of Fire ; Sun & Moon at the Turn of the First Millennium ; The Genesis on a Small Scale .