If Adam was created 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.

andrea pisano campanile giotto creation of adam eve and works

At this point, our research cannot but becoming purely philological. The following is a brief summa of the state of the philology art concerning the terms Adam, Eve and rib:

Adam, this is the Hebrew word for “man”. It could be ultimately derived from Hebrew אדם (‘adam) meaning “to be red”, referring to the ruddy color of human skin, or from Akkadian adamu meaning “to make”. According to Genesis in the Old Testament Adam was created from the earth by God (there is a word play on Hebrew אֲדָמָה (‘adamah) “earth”)…………The Hebrew word for earth is adama. Hebrew: אָדָם‎ ……… Its use as a common word in the Hebrew language is ׳āḏām, meaning “human”. Coupled with the definite article, it becomes “the human”……..Its root is not attributed to the Semitic root for “man” -(n)-sh. Rather, ׳āḏām is linked to its triliteral root אָדָם (a-d-m), meaning “red”, “fair”, “handsome”. As a masculine noun, ‘adam means “man”, “mankind” usually in a collective context as in humankind……….The noun ‘adam is also the masculine form of the word adamah which means “ground” or “earth”. It is related to the words: adom (red), admoni (ruddy), and dam (blood). According to a number of observers, the word Adam derives from Sanskrit word Adima, meaning “progenitor”, “first”, “primitive” in Sanskrit……….׳āḏām can also be rendered “mankind” in the most generic sense, which is similar to its usage in Canaanite languages. The use of “mankind” in Genesis, gives the reflection that Adam was the ancestor of all men. Kabbalistic works indicate that Adam also comes from the Hebrew word ‘Adame’, ‘I should be similar’, similar to God in having free will.

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.

Rib, the term צלע or ṣelaʿ, occurring forty-one times in the Tanakh, is most often translated as “side” in general. “Rib” is, however, the etymologically primary meaning of the term, which is from a root ṣ-l-ʿ meaning “bend”, a cognate to the Assyrian ṣêlu meaning “rib”. Also God took “one” (ʾeḫad) of Adam’s ṣelaʿ, suggesting an individual rib.

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’s 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 display is Adam’s active intervention in the Genesis scene, as father. Significantly differently from  the later renaissance iconographic themes of Eve being created by Yahweh Elohim alongside Adam in vague circumstances.

It is also known that the ancient mythology dealt the union of soul and body concealing it in fanciful love stories among divinities, specially 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, specially the most violent and indecent of them, and specifically those implying births. Especially weird births. So, despite the so called sapiential literature had always seen at Genesis tale as the ” 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/Sulphur from a body, by means of Spirit of Life/Mercurius. And that can be successfully performed only into 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 about Adam’s partitions, or Even-rib of Adam.

Thus, from what 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 I 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 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 the ancient knowledge. So, I will resume Fulcanelli instead. But not along his thematic stream, in fact, if you remember, the French alchemist denied the possibilities of Eve as being the double Adam. To be more precise, Fulcanelli honestly confesses that Eve puts a strain on his certitudes. Of course, after having given Adam all the roles……nevertheless, to thoroughly examine his position,  the main glue in which he got stuck into 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 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 color men and light color women in Indian art? The 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 gives 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 a 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 achievement on, 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, 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 lies the roots of this change of sex for our mercurial character. For us modern, only Eve, as 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.

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 in the end of the sixth day, as 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 the human perfection. It is commonly said that Alchemy is the Genesis in small. Our Mercurius does clearly appear only from the end of the sixth repetition on.

Now the newly born alchemical earth/Adam can rest for a while, 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 a 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, 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 the 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, breast-feeding. Which we con 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 bind 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” and  “cook”.

But, letting aside Alchemy for the moment, what does gives us this certainty? The presence of the rib, of course. And more specifically the philology of the word “rib”:  Rib, the term צלע or ṣelaʿ, occurring forty-one times in the Tanakh, is most often translated as “side” in general. “Rib” is, however, the etymologically primary meaning of the term, which is from a root ṣ-l-ʿ meaning “bend”, a cognate to the Assyrian ṣêlu meaning “rib”. But this just being a buzzing hint, we have to deepen our search. And so we can recall another meaning of rib as ancient symbol of symmetry. But a specular symmetry, an indispensable symmetry since 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. For instance, the roman “mundus” was conceived as concavity in the ground that had to match the top, and imaginary, concavity as spherical union of the earth and the higher world or sky.

And ready to be divided into two specular parts. Mercurius/Adam is divided by Yahweh Elohim into two, one part (Eve) will dissolve gold, in 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.


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