Twelve Keys — Clavis IX

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 Ninth Key


IX – The Ninth Key

Saturn, who is called the greatest of the planets, is the least useful in our Magistery. Nevertheless, it is the chief Key of the whole Art, howbeit set in the lowest and meanest place. Although by its swift flight it has risen to the loftiest height, far above all other luminaries, its feathers must be clipped, and itself brought down to the lowest place, from whence it may once more be raised by putrefaction, and the quickening caused by putrefaction, by which the black is changed to white, and the white to red, until the glorious colour of the triumphant King has been attained. Therefore, I say that though Saturn may seem the vilest thing in the world, yet it has such power and efficacy that if its precious essence, which is excessively cold, be reduced to a metallic body by being deprived of its volatility, it becomes as corporeal as, but far more fixed than, Saturn itself. This transmutation is begun, continued, and completed with Mercury, sulphur, and salt. This will seem unintelligible to many, and it certainly does make an extraordinary demand upon the mental faculties; but that must be so because the substance is within the reach of everyone, and there is no other way of keeping up the divinely ordained difference between rich and poor.

In the preparation of Saturn there appears a great variety of different colours; and you must expect to observe successively black, grey, white, yellow, red, and all the different intermediate shades. In the same way, the Matter of all the Sages passes through the several varieties of colour, and may be said to change its appearance as often as a new gate of entrance is opened to the fire.

The King shares his royal dignity with noble Venus, and appears in splendid state, surrounded by all the dignitaries of his court. Before him is borne a beautiful crimson banner, in which there is an embroidered representation of Charity in green garments. Saturn is the prefect of the royal household, and in front of him Astronomy bears a black standard, with a representation of Faith in yellow and red garments.

Jupiter is the Grand Marshal, and is preceded by a banner of grey colour, borne by Rhetoric, and adorned with a variegated representation of Hope.

Mars is at the head of military affairs, and executes his office with a certain fiery ardour. Geometry carries before him a crimson banner, on which you may behold Courage in a crimson cloak. Mercury holds the office of Chancellor; Arithmetic is his standard bearer, and his standard is of many colours; on it may be observed the figure of Temperance in a many coloured robe.

The Sun is Vice-Regent, and is preceded by Grammar, bearing a yellow banner, on which Justice is represented in a golden robe Though Venus seems to cast him into the shade by the gorgeous magnificence of her appearance, he really possesses more power in the kingdom than she.

Before the Moon, Dialectic bears a shining silver banner, with the figure of Prudence wrought into it in sky-blue, and because the husband of the Moon is dead, he has transferred to her his task of resisting the domination of Queen Venus. For among all these there is enmity, and they are all striving to supplant each other. Indeed, the tendency of events is to give the highest place to the most excellent and the most deserving. For the present state of things is passing away, and a new world is about to be created, and one Planet is devouring another spiritually, until only the strongest survive.

Let me tell you allegorically that you must put into the heavenly Balance the Ram, Bull, Cancer, Scorpion, and Goat. In the other scale of the Balance you must place the Twins, the Archer, the Water-bearer, and the Virgin. Then let the Lion jump into the Virgin’s lap, which will cause the other scale to kick the beam. Thereupon, let the signs of the Zodiac enter into opposition to the Pleiads, and when all the colours of the world have shewn themselves, let there be a conjunction and union between the greatest and the smallest, and the smallest and the greatest.

If the whole world’s nature

Were seen in one figure,

And nothing could be evolved by Art,

Nothing wonderful would be found in the Universe,

And Nature would have nothing to tell us.

For which let us laud and praise God.


  1. James Raedan
    October 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm
  2. November 1, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Hi XiaoyaoXingzhe,
    To recap…I come back here regularly to absorb the writings, and this has helped my understanding somewhat. But in clearing away preconceptions,i am increasingly finding that there is no framework left to engage with these writings, or indeed to relate to other people.

    So in ‘turning the light around’ to experience essence as light, is there a point or stage where meditation (and its blackening) turns to contemplation, or does this happen spontaneously after having stopped the monkey chatter of the mundane mind.

    It feels as though I know less about spiritual life than at the start, and the advice I give freely to others seems imprudent, in short, there is little to work with of concrete certainty, so what would one do with that?

    Thankyou, Otove

  3. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    November 2, 2012 at 12:57 am

    One of the prominent Sufis of Central Asia was examining candidates who wanted to become disciples.
    “Anyone,” he said, “who wants entertainments, not learning, who wishes to argue, not study, who is impatient, who wants to take rather than to give — should raise his hand.”
    Nobody moved. “Very good,” said the teacher, “now you will come and see some of my pupils, who have been with me for three years.”
    He led them into a meditation-hall, where a row of people were sitting. Addressing them, he said “Let those who wish to be entertained, not to learn, who are impatient and want to argue, the takers and not the givers — let them stand up.”
    The whole row of disciples got to their feet.
    The sage addressed the first group. “In your own eyes, you are better people now than you would be in three years’ time if you stayed here. Your present vanity helps you even to feel worthy. So reflect well, as you return to your homes, before coming here again at some future time if you wish, whether you want to feel better than you are or worse than the world thinks you to be.”
    from A Veiled Gazelle, by Idries Shah

  4. xiaoyaoxingzhe
    November 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Otove, at this stage you may find the book by Idries Shah called “Thinkers of the East” to be useful for you to read.

    But this advice comes with a warning: the book will be of benefit only if you can restrain yourself from quoting it for a period of one year and one day from the time you first open it.

  5. November 21, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Thinkers of the East is a thought provoking collection of koan like stories, thankyou for suggesting it,

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