Levels of meaning in symbolic drawings
Ancient manuscripts and paintings with symbolic drawings and diagrams filled with mysteries from the dawn of science. These topics captured the interest of the public recently with bestselling books and popular movies about esoteric science, code breaking and symbols. It's easy to simply appreciate these works of art for the technical skill required to create such beautiful drawings, long ago.
Contents at a Glance
Natural science and the dawn of chemistry
Without television or the internet, our distant ancestors had lots of time to observe the cycles of nature and the movement of the stars. The scientific method was created by these early natural scientists who looked at the world in great detail and systematically recorded their observations.
These were the great philosophers of the medieval period, healers and pioneers like Paracelsus, who was the model for the modern medical doctor. So, next to the herbs and glass beakers, the simmering tinctures and and medieval cookbooks, rests the symbols for contemplating the eternal mysteries. The human skull to remind us of the one inevitable truth of existence. A raven with outstretched wings can be a metaphor for many things (that's the beauty of symbols).
Unicorn and Deer
Confrontation between a unicorn and a deer stag in the forest.
These mythical beasts can symbolize the sharp focus of the intellect (the single horn of the unicorn) and instincts of wild animals. The task of the alchemist is to merge these two principals together to achieve balance in the great work of alchemy.
The search for the "Philosophers Stone" is also a journey of self-understanding and discipline for the aspirant. By observing the behavior of the natural world, we may come to understand ourselves: As above, so below. The noted psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was deeply influenced by the writings of the alchemists and the ancient mysteries as it applies to human behavior and the common "archetypes" of human civilization. The author was a disciple of Jung and well qualified in esoteric studies and symbolism.
Ouroboros dragon biting it's own tail symbolizes the endless cycles of birth and rebirth. There are many deeper levels of meaning with all true symbols.
Clavis Artis: Key to the Arts
An inscription on the title page claims that the text was translated in 1236 BCE from the original Arabic language into German. Cryptic signatures on the page may also link the document to 'Rosa et Aurea Crucis, the Rosicrucians, a clandestine brotherhood presumably founded by Christian Rosenkreutz.
Authorities believe the book was actually published in the 17th or 18th century, and these fantastic watercolor illustrations may be from that period, added by an unknown artist, along with commentary about the alchemical text.
Remember your mortality and live life to the fullest
There's a legend of a wealthy king who paid a fool to whisper a phrase similar to this in his ear every hour so as to enjoy life to the fullest.
An ancient sage contemplates mortality with the help of a human skull. He's seated in his laboratory, reading from an old manuscript, surrounded by signs and symbols to remind him of the only certainty in life.The original quote was inscribed on a Roman sundial "Vivere disce, cogita mori", translated as Learn to live; Remember death.
Shirts and apparel
Pictures from medieval manuscripts and ancient books
Art of Distillation
Liber de Arte Distillandi by Brunschwig
The art of distillation is commonplace to us in the modern age. Without it how would we have beer and wine, medicine and petroleum products? In the middle ages of Europe, the processes to transform raw materials into a useful material was considered no less a miracle than the rising sun each morning.
Thoth / Hermes / Mercurius
The lineage of wisdom from Ancient Egypt
Mercurius and the moon goddess Luna
Symbols for the planets, moons and the stars in the night sky were created by nearly every culture throughout recorded history. The Greeks called our nearest neighbor Selene and the Romans called her Luna. Once her brother Helios (Sol) was finished with his day job, Selene steps out of a cool bath in the ocean to shepherd the evening sky. Mercury is the messenger of the Gods, with a special place in alchemy as the personification of the Egyptian Thoth, called Hermes by the Romans, holding aloft the caduceus symbol and a bag of gold in the other hand.
Tools in an alchemy lab
Beakers and retorts
The Key of Alchemy
Clavis Artis is translated as The Key of the Arts — the arts of alchemy and transmutation. Truly fantastic dragons and humans merge together in a symbolic progression through the sacred work, filled with emblems of the chemical processes. Only two copies of the illuminated manuscript exist, safeguarded by libraries in Rome and Trieste, Italy. The author is attributed as Zarathustra (Zoroaster), a magi from Persia — where the esoteric knowledge of the ancients was safeguarded while Europe was in the Dark Ages.
Popular alchemy books
Interpreting alchemy in the modern world
Manly Palmer Hall
The single best book about esoteric science
As the title suggests, this is an exhaustive collection of the beliefs and esoteric knowledge from the greatest antiquity to the present day. The pages are filled with the most fantastic symbolic drawings and excerpts from sacred texts from every culture in history. If you want to buy one book that has it all, without the hocus-pocus, then Secret Teachings is by far the best choice.
Stories of mysticism and esoteric science
The ouroboros dragon that bites it's own tail, the basilisk or wyvern dragon with wings, cimera and other wild bests of the imagination in the mediaval bestiary.
The Alchemist 10th Anniversary edition
Author Paulo Coelho
You never gain in a bargain
A wealthy money-lender is upset about the price he has to pay the skeleton who's making off with all his gold florins. The detailed woodcut is surrounded by an elaborate border.
Hard to imagine why he's making such a fuss. There are more bags of gold everywhere in the room - under the table, in big wooden treasure chests. The security is tight at this place, with two sets of bars on the window.
Author Dan Brown
Popular novels of mystery and symbolism
Titles listed in chronological order starting with Angels and Demons, and continuing with the thrilling adventures of Robert Langdon to the 2009 book The Lost Symbol.
Baby beaker t-shirt for the alchemy of growing up
10 different outfits from infant to teen sizes
Image of the sun with a glowing human face from a 15th C. woodcut. This "see-through" image of sunshine looks best on light colored fabric - but this sunny picture can be printed on dark col