Twelve Keys – Clavis III

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 Third Key

III – The Third Key

By means of water fire may be extinguished, and utterly quenched. If much water be poured upon a little fire, the fire is overcome, and compelled to yield up the victory to the water. In the same way our fiery sulphur must be overcome by means of our prepared water. But, after the water has vanished, the fiery life of our sulphurous vapour must triumph, and again obtain the victory. But no such triumph can take place unless the King imparts great strength and potency to his water and tinges it with his own colour, that thereby he may be consumed and become invisible, and then again recover his visible form, with a diminution of his simple essence, and a development of his perfection.

A painter can set yellow upon white, and red or crimson upon yellow; for, though all these colours are present, yet the latter prevails on account of its greater intensity. When you have accomplished the same thing in our Art, you have before your eyes the light of wisdom, which shines in the darkness, although it does not burn. For our sulphur does not burn, but nevertheless its brilliancy is seen far and near. Nor does it colour anything until it has been prepared, and dyed with its own colour, which it then imparts to all weak and imperfect metals. This sulphur, however, cannot impart this colour until it have first by persevering labour been prevailed upon to abjure its original colour. For the weaker does not overcome the stronger, but has to yield the victory to it. The gist of the whole matter lies in the fact that the small and weak cannot aid that which is itself small and weak, and a combustible substance cannot shield another substance from combustion. That which is to protect another substance against combustion must itself be safe from danger. The latter must be stronger than the former, that is to say, it must itself be essentially incombustible. He, then, who would prepare the incombustible sulphur of the Sages, must look for our sulphur in a substance in which it is incombustible — which can only be after its body has been absorbed by the salt sea, and again rejected by it. Then it must be so exalted as to shine more brightly than all the stars of heaven, and in its essence it must have an abundance of blood, like the Pelican, which wounds its own breast, and, without any diminution of its strength, nourishes and rears up many young ones with its blood. This Tincture is the Rose of our Masters, of purple hue, called also the red blood of the Dragon, or the purple cloak many times folded with which the Queen of Salvation is covered, and by which all metals are regenerated in colour.

Carefully preserve this splendid mantle, together with the astral salt which is joined to this sulphur, and screens it from harm. Add to it a sufficient quantity of the volatility of the bird; then the Cock will swallow the Fox, and, having been drowned in the water, and quickened by the fire, will in its turn be swallowed by the Fox.

 

 
 

  1. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    November 14, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Just looking at the first paragraph, I thought I would apply the discussions of water and fire that appear on this site and see what sort of sense I could make from it:

    By means of water fire may be extinguished, and utterly quenched. If much water be poured upon a little fire, the fire is overcome, and compelled to yield up the victory to the water.

    This made sense to me when I remembered this: “Water is also spoken of as the ‘substance of desire’, appetence; a flux or flow toward a thing. It is desire that bleeds one of substance.” On the other hand, the “fire” is often used interchangeably with “sulphur”. When I followed your recommendation and studied the use of the word sulphur, I found that it was used in two prime ways (the first is here, the second is farther below): The first was reference to fire, heat, or burning. Sulphur produces combustion, and shortens the process of working by clearing away superfluity and leaving the essence. This activity is referenced when sulphur is regarded as the masculine agent (that which acts upon something), and one of its names is the Active Intellectual Agent. This relates to the uses of the word Sulphur as meaning the Divine Essence, the Divine Spiritual Nature that lives in the Human Spirit, hidden deep in the brain, or similarly called the spiritual seed in the soul, a spiritual fire that has Form (light).

    Thus in our first sentences, “Water (ie externally-directed desire that bleeds one of substance) can overcome the Fire (the Divine essence working within us).”

    Interestingly, this one-for-one attribution and “translation” seems to take a rich and meaningful phrase and turn it into a dead cliché.

    Perhaps this is because at the very same time the opposite meaning can be seen living within these sentences. Water can also be “The Source of Life”, while Fire (as Sulphur) itself can represent the sensuous appetites, as I found when I did my sulphur study: The second consistent aspect in the use of the word ‘sulphur’, which is in reference to “corrupt forms”: the sensuous appetites, the self will. It is the “animal” vitality within the blood, which maintains life and can be raised and refined in the service of the Transcendental Spirit, but all too often is used in service to the senses turned outward. And here is the second place where burning can occur, as our vitality is burned out and destroyed instead of being transformed.

    Thus “Water, the Divine influence, can overcome Fire, the burning self-willed appetite.”

    So in the one sentence we have two circulating meanings, each of which can be supported by the literature. Yet I believe that the emphasis here is on the first meaning, as the second meaning is brought out more clearly in the following sentences.

    Going on:

    In the same way our fiery sulphur must be overcome by means of our prepared water. But, after the water has vanished, the fiery life of our sulphurous vapour must triumph, and again obtain the victory.

    The reason I think that the emphasis here is on the meaning “Water, the Divine influence, can overcome Fire, the burning self-willed appetite” is because of the use of the words “prepared water.” (And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.)

    In a crafty way, the second time “sulphur” is used in these sentences, it seems to refer now to “the spiritual seed in the soul, a spiritual fire that has Form (light).”

    But why does it say “the water has vanished”? Does not yang always need yin?

    Also the last bit of the paragraph is harder for me, especially the “tinging with his own colour”:

    But no such triumph can take place unless the King imparts great strength and potency to his water and tinges it with his own colour, that thereby he may be consumed and become invisible, and then again recover his visible form, with a diminution of his simple essence, and a development of his perfection.

    Can you help me out, please?

  2. November 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    This is a very competent raeding indeed! So, that must mean I only need to point the way to the understanding of the phrase “tinging with his own colour.” Which you actually touched upon.

    When you indicate that: “the second time ‘sulphur’ is used in these sentences, it seems to refer now to ‘the spiritual seed in the soul, a spiritual fire that has Form (light)’” – you have said much that needed saying. Combine that with the first two sentences of the next paragraph and you have said all that one needs to say about why the “King” must “tinge” the water “with his own colour” (i.e. red, or crimson).

    Now, finish your raeding…

  3. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    November 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    This took me a while to make any sense of, but then it came together as below (which I am sure could be refined or expanded).

    The ‘King’ is the gold within a person, the most noble part of ourselves, with which we must identify, and that turning toward the Good, the Beautiful and the True imparts a great strength and potency to the Water of Life (‘tinging it with his colour’), and overcomes the lower fires that burn in the blood, transforming them and the whole self until the ‘self’ of the self-will vanishes, and one flows with the unfathomable power of the One. Not my will, but Thy Will be done. This is the fiery life of our sulphureous vapour.

    But then comes the discovery that, although the illusion of a separate self has vanished (‘a diminution of his simple essence’) and one has realised one’s Oneness, one nonetheless remains a free agent (‘recover his visible form’) who can work creatively to further the Will of the One (‘development of his perfection’).

  4. November 26, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I will leave the refinement for you to do on your own and for yourself simply because you can. Now it is all a matter of gradual integration. This, though, is the longest part of the WORK. Integration and raeding competency go hand and hand as we can see here. As your integration progresses and you experience the states and stations discussed, your raedings will get better and better. Of course, if you start to take pride in this, both the integration and the raeding will suffer. One does not kill the ‘ego’, so much as merely return it to its proper place within the whole so it does not usurp a position or function that is not its own.

  5. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    November 28, 2011 at 1:15 am

    I thought about your comments and the implication that one’s progress and level of integration is perceptible by one’s ability to raed the literature, and suddenly a vista opened for me.

    So the (genuine) alchemical literature is:
    a) a means of training and guiding perception
    b) a gauge of progress
    c) a record of what is possible
    d) a demonstration and declaration by an author of his achievement
    e) a mirror in which the raeder can observe his impatience, frustration, lack of clarity, doubt and mistrust
    f) a deflection for those who may not (at the time of approach) have the qualities necessary to utilise the (relatively demanding) technology of raeding as a means of spiritual refinement
    g) a means to judge the underlying motivations of a potential student
    and
    h) a “clown’s costume” adopted to protect the serious seeker from the religious thought police (which has had the follow-on effect of whittling away the seeker’s ego).

    Any others?

    If the above is so, it is very much like the multiple facets of a diamond, many sides but one whole! Fascinating.

  6. December 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    It is all that … just as you say.

  7. James Raedan
    February 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    With regard to the two aspects of water and fire mentioned in the first comment (above), it is well to reflect on the words of Jacob Boehme, from the seventh chapter of his Signatura Rerum:

     

    When Adam was created in paradise, the heavenly Mercury did then lead him; his life burned in a pure oil, therefore his eyes were heavenly; and his understanding did excel nature, for his light shined in the oil of the divine essentiality; the external waterish property was not manifest in his oil; he was iliastrich, that is, angelical, and became in the fall cogastrish, that is, the watery nature in the mortal property was manifest in his oil, and penetrated, so that the mercury in him became an anxious poison, which before in his oil was an exultation of joyfulness.

  8. March 12, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Hi James, I have faithfully studied alchemy for about 3 years, but fail to find it’s axis.

    I can de-scribe and circumscribe but fail to find the initial point for understanding.

    Some light on the practice of alchemy would be greatly appreciated

  9. March 12, 2012 at 3:34 am

    Actionable Intelligence-

    “Intelligence that can be used… to make
    decisions. As opposed to metaphysical (passive) intelligence
    valued for the purity of its insight.”

    Is this related to the prima materia?

  10. James Raedan
    March 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    In what follows I have placed single quotes around technical terms to indicate their special nature within an alchemical context.

    I am not aware of the use of the term Actionable Intelligence in any alchemical source-text and do not find it particularly useful within an alchemical context, although the term and definition provided would have some value within a so-called ‘Military Intelligence’ context.

    Be that as it may, given your definition, it would be safe to say ‘no’: the term bears no relation to ‘Prima Materia’.

    If you are referring to the term ‘Active Intellect’ – this would relate to the ‘metaphysical intelligence’ from your quote – which is indeed valued for the ‘purity of its insight’, but it is not passive, unless the ‘Psyche’ has dominion over the ‘Heart’. ‘Active intellect’ is, or rather should be active in relation to the ‘Psyche’. All intelligence can be used as the basis for making decisions, but your use of the term Intelligence has more to do with the lesser reason of the ‘Psyche’ (ratiocination at the level of opposites), which in a spiritually mature person is found to be passive in relation to the ‘Intellect’ (which is a direct knowing of things as they are).

    When our primary experience of intelligence is associated with the process of thinking, we tend to view such intelligence as active. This is because we are ‘upside down’ in this life and the lower intelligence or lesser reason has usurped the place of the higher intelligence (‘Intellect’ properly so called). It is not as common to have experience of the ‘Active Intellect’, and we thus often devalue it and assume it is passive in relation to the ‘activity’ of the intelligence we commonly experience.

    However, it is precisely the activity of the intelligence that indicates its passivity, while it is the restfulness of the ‘Intellect’ that indicates its active nature.

    The ‘Intellect’ is, or should be, passive in relation to ‘God’, just as the ‘Psyche’ with its intelligence is, or should be, active in relation to the body.

    My I suggest that, rather than tackling the alchemical texts directly, you make use of the Cyclopaedia. This will provide some background, introduce technical terms and review contexts in which the terms morph as regards their signification. The value of soaking in this material is inestimable and indicates a willingness to prepare yourself for conversation. Without a shared background of technical terms very little of any worth can develop from conversation.

    I have officially retired from active teaching and have turned this site over to my friend, student, and co-worker Xiaoyaoxingzhe who is presently oversees and otherwise engaged at the moment, so I have taken the liberty of commenting. In the future, it is to Xiaoyao that questions should be addressed.

    Best wishes to you.

  11. March 19, 2012 at 4:25 am

    thanks James, this site is a valuable asset, your reply was helpful to!

  12. March 19, 2012 at 5:04 am

    Ohhhhh i see! Like Nan in’s cup, whilst pouring intelligence is active, but is passive, like the cup (Intellect) until poured.

    One thing to either James or Xiao please. How does one move from symptomatic reasoning to causative knowing using alchemical methods?

  13. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    March 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Welcome otove, and thank you for the questions!

    “Active” and “passive” are certainly terms employed in alchemy. Their meaning and relationship can be drawn out by having a look at and thinking about the Cyclopaedia term “Principle”. The term Intellect is also defined there.

    “Intelligence” appears less, but is used several times in the Meditations of The Greek Master; though it may be better, as James says, to get some grounding in the Cyclopaedia terms before venturing there.

    “How does one move from symptomatic reasoning to causative knowing using alchemical methods?”

    Well, at least you are consistent! This is, of course, the same question you asked before: “Some light on the practice of alchemy would be greatly appreciated.”

    The answer, too, will be the same, although like your question, in different words: A traveller had heard of a treasure, but it was to be found only by crossing a barren waste wherein lay many dangers: quicksand, fire-pits, and savage beasts. There was a map, but the place-names on it were strange and seemed to mean nothing. He met someone who claimed to have made the journey, and that person gave the traveller a guide whereby he might recognise each place when he came to it.
    What should that traveller do?

    Nan In’s cup, all over again!

  14. March 21, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Thank You, Time to begin earnest!

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