Twelve Keys – Clavis II

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 Second Key

II – The Second Key

In the houses of the great are found various kinds of drink, of which scarcely two are exactly like each other in odour, colour, or taste. For they are prepared in a great variety of different ways. Nevertheless they are all drunk, and each is designed for its own special use. When the Sun gives out his rays, and sheds them abroad upon the clouds, it is commonly said that he is attracting water, and if he do it frequently, and thereby cause rain, it is called a fruitful year.

If it be intended to build a palace, the services of many different craftsmen must be employed, and a great variety of materials is required. Otherwise the palace would not be worthy the name. It is useless to use wood where stone is necessary.

The daily ebb and flow of the sea, which are caused by the sympathetic influence of heavenly bodies, impart great wealth and blessing to the earth. For whenever the water comes rolling back, it brings a blessing with it.

A bride, when she is to be brought forth to be married, is gloriously adorned in a great variety of precious garments, which, by enhancing her beauty, render her pleasant in the eyes of the bridegroom. But the rites of the bridal night she performs without any clothing but that which she was arrayed withal at the moment of her birth.

In the same way our bridal pair, Apollo and Diana, are arrayed in splendid attire, and their heads and bodies are washed with various kinds of water, some strong, some weak, but not one of them exactly like another, and each designed for its own special purpose. Know that when the moisture of the earth ascends in the form of a vapour, it is condensed in the upper regions, and precipitated to the earth by its own weight. Thus the earth regains the moisture of which it had been deprived, and receives strength to put forth buds and herbs. In the same way you must repeatedly distil the water which you have extracted from the earth, and then again restore it to your earth, as the water in the Strait of Euripus* frequently leaves the shore, and then covers it again until it arrives at a certain limit.

When thus the palace has been constructed by the hands of many craftsmen, and the sea of glass has absolved its course, and filled the palace with good things, it is ready for the King to enter, and take his seat upon the throne. But you should notice that the King and his spouse must be quite naked when they are joined together. They must be stripped of all their glorious apparel, and must lie down together in the same state of nakedness in which they were born, that their seed may not be spoiled by being mixed with any foreign matter.

Let me tell you, in conclusion, that the bath in which the bridegroom is placed, must consist of two hostile kinds of matter, that purge and rectify each other by means of a continued struggle. For it is not good for the Eagle to build her nest on the summit of the Alps, because her young ones are thus in great danger of being frozen to death by the intense cold that prevails there.

But if you add to the Eagle the icy Dragon that has long had its habitation upon the rocks, and has crawled forth from the caverns of the earth, and place both over the fire, it will elicit from the icy Dragon a fiery spirit, which, by means of its great heat, will consume the wings of the Eagle, and prepare a perspiring bath of so extraordinary a degree of heat that the snow will melt upon the summit of the mountains, and become a water, with which the invigorating mineral bath may be prepared, and fortune, health, life, and strength restored to the King.

*note – The Euripus Strait (Greek: Εύριπος, pronounced [ˈevripos]), is a narrow channel of water subject to strong tidal currents which reverse direction approximately four times a day. Water flow peaks at about 12 km/hour, either northwards or southwards, and lesser vessels are often incapable of sailing against it. When nearing flow reversal, sailing is even more precarious because of vortex formation. The Swiss scholar Francois-Alphonse Forel helped to solve this enigma owing to his study of limnology and the discovery of the seiche phenomenon. – see wikipedia for more on this subject.



  1. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    October 25, 2011 at 1:26 am

    I believe I have discovered another functional aspect of the alchemical illustrations here, and that is to alert one to patterns in the text.
    For example, in this illustration, the spirals are repeated several times. This not only confirms what you pointed out about the previous illustration, but also suggests polarity, ie, a back and forth action between two parts or poles.
    Then, when we look at the text, this “action between two poles” is borne out in almost every paragraph (not to mention the complexity illustrated when you bring up the seiche phenomena!).
    So we turn from below to above, and back; from outer to inner, and back; we run and return, there and back again.

  2. October 30, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Yes, this is an important insight. Alchemy has a system of three degrees, two of which are involved in this alternatiion.

    The first degree is the result of establishing that first, brief and tenuous contact with the Source such that we become fully aware that we are not our bodies, nor our minds and that even our best intentions fall utterly short of the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We become aware of the fact that we cannot know the ultimate outcome of any thought, word or deed and because of this, even our best intentions harbour the seeds of ignorance and evil. If in that moment of contact we have the sincere and earnest desire to establish greater rapport and harmony with the Source and are willing for the self to die to all it holds dear, even to its very own selfhood, then we experience the first fruit of alchemy

    The second degree is the result of grateful and ever more consistent remembrance of the Source—not in a cold and dryly epistemological sense, but in a warm and joyful affective sense which yet retains an element of gnosis within it. This degree is experienced as a foretaste of enlightenment while yet fully in the world without having finally and completely severed ties to those blind passions that make us the foolish creatures we are, yet having fully and truly re-established our connection with the Source. Here, we run and return between our foolish and passionate selves with our limited calculative designs and the occasional and momentary realization of unity with the perfect Wisdom and absolute Compassion of the Source which flash of realization manifests in our lives as an instant of more or less perfect conformity with ‘His’ Infinite and Perfect Design. Here we can, without being perfect, yet begin to serve perfectly because quite in spite of our usual state of imperfection, we experience moments of union and long stretches of after-effect.

    The function of alternation involved in both the Black Work (or Nigredo) and White Work (or Albedo) is a very important part of the living reality of Alchemystical Laboratory Work, yet it is not the only, or even the primary function.

    The third degree is the full realization and manifestation of enlightenment experienced as uni-dual presencing of being in the world and not of it. It is a state in which the Adept does not merely alternate between human and Divine, physical and material, enlightenment and illusion, but integrates them into a seamless manifestation. This degree is that which almost all of us associate with Alchemystical Adepthood: the final and complete severance of the control the subconscious can exert on the consciousness due to the Light thrown upon both by the Source. What one does not know, can hurt one by usurping the reins of action from below consciousness in times of stress. Full Alchemystical Adeptship permits the elimination of this possibility because Light and Life from the Source completely fills the Adept such that no shadow remains. All the patterns of human misunderstanding do remain (otherwise one would have no way to understand or serve humanity) but these patterns are illuminated such that the Adept can learn from them without ever being caught off-guard by them and they can never again control even a single moment of the lives of such Adepts. Needless to say, Adepts of this degree are few and far between.

    Even in the golden age of Alchemy, meeting with one who had completed the Red Work (or, Rubedo) was considered to be a rare and wonderful thing.

    This all has to do with the degree to which we allow ourselves to let go of our selves. In Adepthood, there is still a polarity in that the Adept lives within the complete continuum that was ever there, but the Adept floats freely within it so that he/she can be wherever they need to be within that continuum in order to be of greatest benefit to the world without the need of intending to be so, being concerned about being so, and especially without being egotistically invested in being so. They are no longer simply themselves, but rather agents of the Source.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Make a sincere, earnest, concise and cogent inquiry.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: