Twelve Keys –– Clavis X

The original source material is generally attributed to Basil Valentine. Current revision is made from the translation included in ‘The Hermetic Museum’ originally translated by Elias Ashmole and edited by A.E. Waite.



The Tenth Key


X – The Tenth Key

In our Stone, as composed by me and by those who have long preceded me, are contained all elements, all mineral and metallic forms, and all the qualities and properties of the whole world. In it we find most powerful natural heat, by which the icy body of Saturn is gently transmuted into the best gold. It contains also a high degree of cold, which tempers the fervent heat of Venus, and coagulates the mercury, which is thereby also changed into the finest gold. All these properties slumber in the substance of our Stone, and are developed, perfected, and matured by the gentle coction of natural fire, until they have attained their highest perfection.

If the fruit of a tree be plucked before it is ripe, it is unfit for use; and if the potter fail to harden his vessels in the fire, they cannot be employed for any good purpose.

In the same way you must exercise considerable patience in preparing our Elixir, if it is to become all that you wish it to become. No fruit can grow from a flower that has been plucked before the time. He who is in too great a hurry, can bring nothing to perfection, but is almost sure to spoil that which he has in hand. Remember, then, that if our Stone be not sufficiently matured, it will not be able to bring anything to maturity.

The substance is dissolved in a bath, and its parts reunited by putrefaction. In ashes it blossoms. In the form of sand all its excessive moisture is dried up. Maturity and fixity are obtained by living fire. The work does not actually take place in the Bath of St. Mary, in horse- dung, in ashes, or in sand, but the grades and regimen of the fire proceed after the degrees which are represented by these. The Stone is prepared in an empty furnace, with a threefold line of circumvallation, in a tightly closed chamber. It is subjected to continued coction, till all moisture and clouds are driven off, and the King attains to indestructible fixedness, and is no longer liable to any danger or injury, because he has become unconquerable. Let me express my meaning in a somewhat different manner. When you have dissolved your earth with your water, dry up the water with its own inward fire. Then the air will breathe new life into the body, and you will have that which can only be regarded as that Great Stone which in a spiritual manner pervades human and metallic bodies, and is the universal and immaculate Medicine, since it drives out that which is bad, and preserves that which is good, and is the unfailing corrective of all imperfect or diseased substances. This Tincture is of a colour intermediate between red and purple, with something of a granite hue, and its specific weight is very considerable.

Whoever gains possession of this Stone, should let his whole life be an expression of his gratitude towards God in practical kindness towards his suffering brethren, that after obtaining God’s greatest earthly gift, he may hereafter inherit eternal life.

Praise be unto God everlastingly for this His inestimable gift.

  1. September 29, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Just to thank you for adding these last two keys, much appreciated.

  2. James Raedan
    October 6, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    This key is particularly redolent with indications of praxis. Xiaoyaoxingzhe definitely deserves our thanks for posting this.

  3. March 30, 2014 at 5:26 am

    Dear Xiaoyao Xingzhe,

    I would like to ask for clarification regarding the emblem accompanying the passage. The passage itself, alongside the support to be found elsewhere on the site, seems very helpful and even, heaven forfend, clear.

    In the interests of showing willing, I will now join some dots… incorrectly.

    Working from the outside in (often fruitful), we have the latin surrounding the triangle.

    *I am born of Hermogene(s)

    This could be a reference to a Greek philosopher. Though I’d then be inclined to note the name could be broken down further into Hermes and Genius perhaps? Perhaps this is indicating the supra-historical reach of the lineage and Work on one level, Valentine’s own lineage on another. On yet another it may point to the origin of the Stone itself ( a point which seems to recur elsewhere in the emblem).

    *Hyperion elected me

    This seems to relate directly to “Praise be unto God everlastingly for this His inestimable gift.” The mention of Hyperion, as Father to the Sun, seems like an acknowledgement of the source and a subtle declaration of, as the passage to the side indicates, “dependence upon God (in whose hand are all things)”. What is not said, for example, is anything akin to “I raised myself by my own power”. It seems there are multiple subtleties here concerning the relation between the individual soul and the Universal soul as source and receiver of Essence but also pointing beyond that.

    * Without Jam Suph I must perish

    Tempting as it was to leave this as Iamsoph (I am Soph), one suspects that is not the wordplay we are looking for here. Jam Suph is the Red Sea but also indicates the power of God used to part it, which allowed Moses and his people to pass from bondage to the Promised Land. This seems, again, an acknowledgement of dependence but also an indicator of praxis insofar as it points to discernment and the separation of one thing from another (the gross from the subtle in the service of the One).

    Before entering the emblem proper, where it will all become much less clear, I wanted to note the clear indications of radiance in the diagram. It has been quite subtly and deliberately done, leaving one with the impression of both light and dimensionality, Ray and Creation. I imagine standing with the central Hebrew quad above the head and the two circles descending, somewhat like the hoops of an old-fashioned skirt, and the triangle forming the base as it touches earth.

    We then have Sun, Moon, and Mercury. Indicating trinities which are explored, with much more skill than I can bring to bear here, elsewhere on the site as Spirit/Soul/Body, and Sulfur/Salt/Mercury.

    We also have three pieces of Hebrew, and the fourth in the centre, The meaning of these is not at all clear and I wonder if you can say more regarding them? (I’m aware however that this may well go beyond the intended scope of the site). Also, if you could clarify and correct, where possible and necessary, my own contemplations above that would be greatly appreciated.

  4. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    April 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    The value in these emblems lies in the contemplation that opens up their meaning, and so (if you have been simply waiting for “an answer” and not looking for yourself) the value of the exercise has been all mine.
    This also applies to the meaning derived from the figure, which is certainly open to different interpretations. However, the validity of that interpretation must lie in its ability to assist you in moving forward, and random association is bootless. I was not able to see where the suggestions you advanced did much in that regard.

    The main thrust of the emblem is summed up in the “comment” to Question 52 of the Catechism.

    The Hebrew letters, although I did spend a bit of time on them, do not appear to be other than suggestive, and what they suggest could well have been seen just from the fact of the downward-pointing triangle. This, of course, suggests the Seal of Solomon, the upper part of which is here not manifest. This un-manifested part, the upward pointing part, symbolises the Mountain within which is the Mine: the Mine being the lower aspect, the downward pointing triangle.

    This downward pointing inverted triangle is the heart. Seyyid Hossein Nasr says, in an article entitled The Throne of the All-Merciful:

    “The root QLB also means to turn upside down. The heart on its corporeal level is in a sense suspended upside down, its traditional symbol being an inverted triangle.”

    Around this downward pointing radiant triangle are the words “NATVS SVM EX HERMOGENE.” (top: I am born from Hermogenes),
    “Hermogenes” itself means “born of Hermes.” The Hermetic Art is what is born of Hermes, thus “I am a product of the Hermetic Art.”

    “HYPERION ELEGIT ME.” (right side descending: Hyperion elected me.),

    Of Hyperion we are told that he was the first to understand, by diligent attention and observation, the movement of both the sun and the moon and the other stars, and the seasons as well … (Diodorus Siculus)

    Hyperion chooses (elects) the heart for diligent attention and observation.

    and “ABSQ IAMSVPH COGOR INTERIRE.” (left side, ascending: Without Iamsoph I am destined to perish.)
    A. E Waite glosses this as Jamsuph (pronunciation Yam Suph) meaning the Red Sea, and the meaning of the Red Sea is explained in Question 52 of the Catechism.

    Inside the vertices of the triangle are the symbols of the Sun on the left, the Moon on the right and Mercury at the bottom.

    In many alchemical illustrations the arrangement has the mercury at the top, with the sun and moon below.
    This shows the successful completion of the union of male and female, gold and silver. Sun is the masculine aspect, Moon is the feminine aspect, “and Mercury is the keystone between them” as Burckhardt says on page 193 of Alchemy.

    Burckhardt recounted earlier in the book:
    “The sign of Mercury is the only one that contains the figures of both the sun and the moon. Quicksilver contains in its lunar ‘water’ the fiery germ of the sun, just as the original power of the soul bears within it the germ of the essential Spirit. For the alchemists quicksilver is the ‘mother of gold’ and the primum agens of their work. … The moon is analogous to the soul in its state of pure receptivity, and the sun is analogous to the spirit, or, more exactly, to the soul transmuted and illumined by the spirit, representing the perfect union of spirit, soul, and body.” (Alchemy, pp. 89-90)

    Our arrangement, with mercury at the bottom, is different, the mercury here relating to vitality that needs to be lifted up in order to facilitate union.

    The Verse on Threefold Sophic Fire says:
    But when the Blood and Mercury you have found,

    And it by dextrous hidden Art have bound;

    Then Nature learn sweetly to imitate,

    As she will teach you how to circulate;

    In her Circulations your Pattern see

    Always; and from this Pattern never flee.

    The circles in the middle suggest this circulation, obviously, within the mine, but there is also a reference to this in Michael Maeir:

    A single circle in the middle of the triangle shows the philosophic mercury, the material prima: it is simple, it is the beginning middle and end of the work.
    The two-fold circle is the circulus duplex, representing the passive and active principle, for which the following commentary appears:
    The double description of the circle points to that twofold Mercury about which Bernhardus Trevisanus speaks, namely the active, working Mercury and the passive suffering Mercury, or Sulphur and Mercury. For both Mercuries are of the same origin, of the same character and essence, which is already easily derived from the circular form of both of them. Here it is not of importance that the inner circle is smaller in its appearance than the outer one. For this is just a sign of perfection and excellence. For as something becomes more visible, it also becomes proportionately more voluminous and corporeal; however as something becomes more hidden and out-of-sight, it is also proportionately more spiritual, more perfect and more noble. The smaller circle, however, which exists in a hidden state, acts upon the larger circle and makes the larger one equal to itself.

  5. April 5, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you, Xiaoyaoxingzhe. I found your answer to be quite liberating. A gift gratefully received and appreciated.

    Be Well!

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