So much does God like a procession if it is done in devotionNicolas flamel
The term procession is unusual if applied to operative Alchemy. And it is even less intuitive to understand the connection with the “Procession” described by Neoplatonists.
Hypnerotomachia Poliphili presents nine unquestionable processions – since we can only call processions those parades of walking ladies and gentlemen with exotic animals – or exotically decorated – carrying carts and chests that someone from the school of Mantegna has elegantly engraved so similar to those spectacular cortèges seen in Renaissance Venice.
This is just a “station” of the entire procession of alchemical works. From the chest/ark carried by unicorns, we acknowledge the scene is about the achievement of Mercurius. The festive multitude of characters and animals counts the repetitions and reiterations faced. And so for all operations.
Now let’s look at the image below:
The caption reads: “a symmetrical arrangement of an equilateral triangle” – we can see how much it resembles Tetraktys – is taken from the book Le Temps Roi des Rois, Time king of kings, by Jacques Thomas. It is not about classical Alchemy; instead, it describes the concept of “Time as a universal principle, fragmented at particular times in the Genesis”. The book’s subtitle is Time, the mobile image of eternity. And The Chain of Worlds: A Mathematical Illustration is the subject of the chapter. The same author will say that geometrical arrangement is called a “procession”. But, later in the chapter, we predominantly find mathematical formulas. The conclusion is entrusted to Plato’s evocative ability: “… the rhythm of numbers, which we call Time (Timaeus 37 d.)”. The approach to geometry has faded to the point of becoming uncertain.
Although it is a simple presentation page and, among other things, focused on some particular aspects, I do not mean to follow the method of extrapolating passages out of their context, especially if they concern Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy. The Neoplatonist who dealt most extensively with processions is Damascius, a Proclus student (to be more precise, a student of Syrianus student of Proclus). His Treaty of First Principles is divided into three parts: On the Ineffable and on the One, On the Triad and Unity, and The Procession of Unified. A careful reading of the titles will have already given an idea of the development of the issue: we learn that the procession is understood as a chain of the same divinity and that it cannot exist without a special glue. Only this neglected but sticky substance can give intelligibility of mathematical formulas for their own sake.
Thus, the procession starts from one, and to one, it should return. It is easy to understand that, in this case, the term procession is misleading because it means a mass departure. It doesn’t even help the sense of abstract ineffability that only mathematics can give – not even philosophical conjectures reach certain heights. The use of formulas is a peculiarity caused by syncretism and the method of comparative mythologies: today, the mathematical formula has taken on the same degree of a fetishistic object that artworks had in the European Renaissance.
Luca Pacioli, a Renaissance man who was a pupil of Piero della Francesca and a close friend of Leonardo da Vinci treats mathematics as if it were a sort of perspective. In De Viribus Quantitatis, on the powers of quantity, he identifies numbers as lines, not dots. This concept contradicts the notion we have always been taught of numbers as points in space. Further, Pacioli introduces the four basic operations – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – as geometrical concepts. And he emphasizes the continuous nature of the “linear” quantities instead of purely numerical ones.
Historical sources make it clear that ancient arithmetic and geometry did not have the task of describing or simulating real things but instead providing a foundation for reality. In the numbers, relationships, and geometric figures, it was found what kept the world from instability and evanescence.
“Without the Many, the One could not be one”. Now we have some more elements to try understanding this sentence from Plato’s Parmenides.