|The illustration for Michael Maier's 21st alchemical Emblem|
from Atalanta Fugiens, by Swiss engraver, Matthäus Merian, 1617.
(All images in this post can be clicked for their original, larger size.)
The Philosopher's Stone
"Make of the man and woman a Circle, of that a Quadrangle, of this a Triangle, of the same a Circle and you will have the Stone of the Philosophers.
...In like manner the Philosophers would have the Quadrangle reduced into a Triangle, that is, into a Body, Spirit and Soul, which three appear in the three previous colours before Rednesse: that is, the Body or earth in the Blacknesse of Saturn, the Spirit in the Lunar whitenesse as water, and the Soul or air in the Solar Citrinity. Then the Triangle will be perfect, but this again must be changed into a Circle; that is, into an invariable rednesse, by which operation the woman is converted into the man and made one with him, and six the first of the perfect numbers is absolved by one, two having returned again to an unity in which there is Rest and eternall peace."
"The theoretical roots outlining the stone’s creation can be traced to Greek philosophy. Alchemists later used the classical elements, the concept of anima mundi, and Creation stories presented in texts like Plato's Timaeus as analogies for their process. According to Plato, the four elements are derived from a common source or prima materia (first matter), associated with chaos. Prima materia is also the name alchemists assign to the starting ingredient for the creation of the philosopher's stone. The importance of this philosophical first matter persisted throughout the history of alchemy. In the seventeenth century, Thomas Vaughan writes, "the first matter of the stone is the very same with the first matter of all things".
- From the Wiki entry for Philosopher's Stone.
"Dr. Sigismund Bacstrom believed that if a physician could establish harmony among the elements of earth, fire, air, and water, and unite them into a stone (the Philosopher's Stone) symbolized by the six-pointed star or two interlaced triangles, he would possess the means of healing all disease. Dr. Bacstrom further stated that there was no doubt in his mind that the universal, omnipresent fire (spirit) of Nature: "does all and is all in all." By attraction, repulsion, motion, heat, sublimation, evaporation, exsiccation, inspissation, coagulation, and fixation, the Universal Fire (Spirit) manipulates matter, and manifests throughout creation. Any individual who can understand these principles and adapt them to the three departments of Nature becomes a true philosopher."
- From the The Secret Teachings of all Ages by Manly P. Hall, 1929.
"Associated with spontaneous symmetry breaking is the phenomenon of symmetry restoration. If one heats a system that possesses a broken symmetry it tends to be restored at high temperature. ... Above the critical temperature the system exhibits rotational symmetry. Such a transition from a state of broken symmetry to one where the symmetry is restored is a phase transition. We believe that the same phenomenon occurs in the case of the symmetries of the fundamental forces of nature. Many of these are broken at low temperatures. Very early in the history of the universe, when the temperature was very high, all of these symmetries of nature were presumably restored. The resulting phase transitions, as the universe expanded and cooled, from symmetric states to those of broken symmetry have important cosmological implications."
|A contemporary glyph for Maier's diagram shown in his 21st emblem (above).*|
Symmetry is a word that has tremendous importance in the world of science - in physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and, yes, even philosophy - in which its definition varies somewhat, but, ultimately, refers to the similar phenomenon one finds in art and geometrical figures. Basically, it refers to physical parts, properties, or processes which are equivalent in two or more directions. The circle is a figure which, for instance, is geometrically equivalent in all directions, and is thereby described as having rotational symmetry. The Philosopher Stone glyph shown above - a modern interpretation of German alchemist (and counsellor to Emperor Rudolf II) Michael Maier's emblem (circa 1617) (artist unknown) - has bilateral symmetry, in that if a line is down its center, each side is exactly equivalent to the other, although seen in reverse. This can also be referred to as reflective symmetry as one side effectively mirrors the other.