Dampierre-sur-Boutonne. A vessel for honorable purposes, another for dishonorable. Fulcanelli here evades the double sense of Vas Naturae and Vas Artis.
Les Demeures Philosophales: ” One is the vessel of Nature, of the same red clay Gods, used to make Adam’s body; the other is the vessel of the Art, whose matter is pure gold, bright, red, incombustible, fix, diaphanous and of incomparable éclat. And they are our two vessels, which really represent two distinct bodies containing the metallic spirits, the only agents we need”. So, why is one honorable, the other dishonorable?
The emblem belongs to the second series of caissons of the second-floor gallery in Dampierre-sur-Boutonne castle. The drawings by J.J. Champagne render the whole sequence for Fulcanelli’s book “Les Demeures Philosophales”, or Dwellings of the Philosophers. In the high-relief, a vessel appears of precious and sophisticated manufacture, the other as a cheesy and minor object. Fulcanelli can soon distinguish a metallic specimen ( the elegant vessel) from an earthenware ( the humble one), but to be honest both vessels could seem either earthenware or metallic. And there is nothing in the latin motto to support his hypothesis: ALIVD . VAS . IN . HONOREM . ALIVD . IN . CONTVMELIAM, taken from St. Paul to Timothy, ch II, 20.
According to the french author the dishonorable clay vessel, I presume the one used to shape Adam, is or is considered, hugely worthless in comparison to the chiseled metallic gold representing our metallic salt. He defines the first as ” Vessel, or salt, of Nature”; the other, “Vessel, or salt, of the Art”. But Fulcanelli cannot forget what in Alchemy are instead universally known as Vessel (Vase) of Nature and Vessel of Art. In fact, we know that the Vas Naturae, a vessel of Nature, is the Philosophical Egg (1) to be placed inside the Vas Artis, or vessel of Art, prepared by the alchemist before the last cooking in the third work (see an Opus Magnum scheme). So the Vessel of Art is not all a salt, but a handmade device to host the Egg. In this regard the vessel of Nature can seem as more valuable than the vessel of Art, nevertheless, the work of the alchemist cannot be considered dishonorable, as the vessel of Art is indispensable to contain the vessel of Nature. I think that the shape, and consequently the function, of the two vessels in the high-relief, have prevented Fulcanelli from considering the Last Cooking.
We must admit there is a Salt of Nature and a Salt of Art, but that well before the last Cooking. During the preparatory works, we can add salts “of nature”, anyway only during the specific magnetizing phase. If continuously added, these salts of nature can prevent the formation of the alchemical embryo. During the main work we can only use salts prepared by the Art, or must we think he managed to work with the lucky celestial Manna, a raw matter as ready for alchemical use as easy to be found in very ancient times? Fulcanelli climbs the mirrors philosophizing that one seems humble because doesn’t come from metallic gold but is valuable instead. The other does come from metallic gold and so….is worthless in comparison. He forgets that these two salts are no more raw matter/Materia Tertia, but two alchemically prepared salts, pure essences, no more matter, but seeds of matter. Both are more than honorable.
In fact, Fulcanelli soon abandons the idea of two salts and thinks up: “… two matters, or better one matter in two states of its evolution, but they still symbolize our two paths based on the employ of two different bodies. The first path utilizing the vessel of the Art is long, exhausting, thankless, accessible only to lucky persons, nevertheless taken in great honor because it is the most written about. This is the honorable vessel, set aside for the noble use of precious substances, which are the gold exalted by the Mercurius Philosophorum (calcined gold dissolved into alcahest).
The second path asks nothing but, from the start to the beginning, the use of gross earth, widely spread, very cheap since 10 francs are more than enough to have it in great quantity. That’s the earth and the path of poor, simple, and humble people, who are touched by the smaller events of nature. Extremely easy, it asks but the attending of an artist, as the mysterious work gets accomplished by itself and is finished in seven or nine days at longest. This path, ignored by almost all practitioner alchemists is entirely performed into a single refractory earthenware crucible”. Strictly speaking, Fulcanelli is right, besides the fact that in Venice in the 1980s was easier and cheaper to buy gold foils from an antique dealer than to find a quintal of the earth ( from my direct experience). Anyway, I open a parenthesis: never underestimate the earth-clay. Easy to work with, and very generous to get the perfect black. But really, if one manages to get gold foils for little money, nothing is more astonishing than the light and colors only our Sun on Earth can give. Apart from that, really, Fulcanelli cannot think that we take this explanation for the two Dampierre vessels as a sound one.
I’m amazed that he doesn’t recognize that one of the two containers has such a form as to pour a liquid, a carafe. The other one, on the contrary, seems fit to hold a liquid, a tankard. So, apparently, we have a magnificent pouring vessel, that pours into a more than humble, dishonorable, vessel. In this case, we have to admit that we are before a “dissolving” phase, not a marriage between equals, between seeds of matter /honorable matters. So from Fulcanelli’s words, the dissolvent seems to be much more valuable than the solute: an honorable Mercurial Dissolvent alcahest going to dissolve the metallic calcined/dishonorable raw matter. But, Fulcanelli instead states that the most honorable vessel is that which may seem the most dishonorable, because: ” it costs nothing, it is available everywhere, but nobody can know it without revelation”. An honorable, but overall considered dishonorable, a matter which is to dissolve a dishonorable, but overall considered honorable, matter. This a trivial riddle, among all interesting aspects of Alchemy.
We can start our research anew by thoroughly analyzing the latin inscription. Honorem, accusative of Honos/Honor-Honoris, means honor-esteem-reward-award-funerary honors, but also “sacrificial victim”; Contumeliam, accusative of Contumelia-Contumeliae, in addition to all the modern English meanings as insult-outrage, in latin, also stood for damage-shock, i.e. Caesar: “… naves factae ex robore ad quamvis vim et contumeliam perferandam…..oak wood made ships, so to resist any violence or shock”. Thus one vessel could belong to a victim, and the other to an offender. In fact in the Dwellings of the Philosophers paragraph Fulcanelli at times talks of agent and patient, but just to run along the above-mentioned lines. To reinforce the feeling that Fulcanelli probably didn’t look up in a latin dictionary before writing the piece, is the fact, as Canseliet tells us, that Fulcanelli used to read the french translations of the latin treatises, when available, unlike Canseliet who was instead very good at latin.
So, what could these two vessels symbolize? Let’s ask for help with greek mythology. Look at the picture on the left, the statue represents Dionysus. He is holding two objects: a drinking cup, called kantharos, and an… egg. Yes, an egg. And they, in my opinion, might be the main candidates to give a sense to the two vessels in the Dampierre high-relief. The ancient drinking cup-kantharos is unquestionably a vessel. While the egg very hardly doesn’t symbolize our philosophical Egg, also called the Vessel of Nature. Might the scene represent the last cooking, when a vessel of Art does contain a vessel of Nature, and when the philosophical Egg undergoes a series of “multiplications”, getting dissolved in our Mercurius Philosophorum? Perhaps, but, in this case, the Kantharos cup should not stand for the container/vessel of Art, but seems fit to “multiplicate”, to enhance by dissolutions. So, we should drop Fulcanelli’s idea of Vas Naturae et Vas Artis. Both in Dionysus’s scene and Dampierre’s panel perhaps we are before a dissolution, a “multiplication”. In Dionysus, nothing is known about the salts composing the Egg.
The subject described in the Dionysus scene is not easy to be handled. The field is surely alchemical, but really controversial. The most controversial, indeed. So controversial, that I even dare to name it. Let’s put it in an evocative way: in very ancient times some religious, better sapiential, environments did believe in a sort of immortality. Some texts say that to perform this work we need to prepare something from ourselves and then, very alchemically, “Dissolve” this “something”.
In the Dionysus representation, the “Something” could be represented by the Egg, while the “Dissolvent” by the carafe (2). In fact, the weird ancient use of Libations on funerary salts had always been a part of funerary rites. Especially in ancient Egypt. Should the operation be performed with salts or a philosophical Egg? I let you all the final considerations (3).
On the left is the whole series from which the high relief was taken. The image immediately before the one we are examining could belong to the Philosophical Egg process: in fact, something seems to be about to come out, and the Egg is going to reveal the “eighth” sound (4). Nevertheless, the key question is: since undoubtedly the panel of the two vessels is part of the main theme, are the other panels describing a general alchemical last cooking, or there is something more?
If the original latin author meant to use the term “Contumelia” as dishonorable, and not as an offender, we can say that the use of the Philosophers Stone for trivial uses is really a dishonorable practice. And probably the definition of trivial could cover all the uses unrelated to the Dionysus scene (5).
Finally, there is the fact of the humble, or less important, vessel standing on the top of a small earthen mound. Also, Fulcanelli notes it but doesn’t give an explanation. Is the jug in a raised position just to balance the difference in size? Or the jug, or what it represents, should rise to a position higher than the ground? Is it just to emphasize the nature of the egg? Are there fumes involved?
Special thanks to the site http://www.archerjulienchampagne.com for providing Jean Julien Champagne’s Dampierre caissons drawings. Who knows, maybe he illustrated his own book…
- See also Hieronymus Bosch and the Concert in the Egg , Canseliet, the Art of Music & Weight , Piero della Francesca and the Philosophical Pendent Egg , Nicaise le Febvre and the Egg inside the Egg ;
- See also Dionysus, Universal Dissolvent and Kykeon ;
- See also Testamentum Fraternitatis Roseae et Aureae Crucis. Part 2 .
- See also Brouaut’s Frontispiece, the Organ Pythagorean Proportions ;
- See also Elias Ashmole and the Prophetic Red Stone .