The Great Work (part 2)
As above, so below.
Astrology and alchemy are very closely connected. The Hermetic dictum “as above, so below” establishes astrology as a central pillar of Hermetic thought.
Paracelsus repeatedly stresses the importance of working with the stars. He emphasizes the planetary correspondences with regard to disease and medicines. If a patient has a disease of the heart, for example, then it reflects a weakness or imbalance of martial energies, as may also be indicated by a blood problem. The corresponding medicine should therefore be made from a plant ruled by Mars, such as a nettle, or from iron, the metal of Mars. This is what Paracelsus means when he says “Medicine is without value if it is not from Heaven.” The map of the heavens is a map of the Earth, and those who can read the heavens will understand the workings of all things on the Earth.
In the following pages, we will examine the roles and attributes of the seven ruling planetary bodies and how they resonate within us. Lists of correspondences are given, which help us to tune into the energies of the planets and to observe their signs in nature.
As an exercise, it is very helpful to meditate on a planet on its corresponding day. We may contemplate its attributes and correspondences while burning an appropriate incense. Then we can actively visualize the planet’s symbol before allowing our minds to empty and passively receive any impressions that may be waiting for us.
Saturn, Child Killing Dragon
Saturn is the guardian of the threshold, often portrayed as a dragon, between the material and the spiritual world, where eternity becomes time and space. In alchemical symbolism, Saturn is represented as the skeletal figure of death or Old Father Time, mercilessly cutting down the old or unworthy with his scythe. As a planet of restriction and inhibition he can be a severe taskmaster, causing isolation, depression, and calamity until we master ourselves.
Jupiter, Three Birds
Jupiter is the fire of nature, the warmth in all things. The alchemical process of sublimation is symbolised by the story in which Jupiter, in the form of an eagle, carries his cup-bearer, Ganymede, up to Heaven. Jupiter’s seduction of Danae in the form of a golden shower symbolizes the distillation of philosophical gold. Jupiter is expansive, generous, warm, and jovial, but also has the tendency to excess. He rules harmony, law, and religion.
Mars ,Triple-headed Bird
The fiery, red “iron planet“ represents the intensely masculine, active, dynamic principle.
Determination, willpower, courage and passion are the positive and ruthlessness, destruction, and brutality the negative aspects of Mars. In alchemical symbolism Mars is often represented as a warrior wielding a sword. With Venus, Mars is associated with the cauda pavonis (peacock’s-tail) stage of the Great Work. This dazzling display of colours precedes the albedo, the white stage of the Work.
The Sun, Triple-headed Dragon
The Sun, usually referred to by its Latin name, Sol, is vitality and consciousness. It is the individual soul as opposed to the spirit, which is represented by the Moon. It is equated with gold, the perfected metal, and with the Red Lion, or Red Tincture, the Philosopher’s Stone itself. Paired with the Moon or, as the Red King, with the White Queen, it is sulfur, the hot, dry, masculine principle, the active, engendering seed, called the Father of the Stone.
As a planetary sphere, the Sun’s influence is benign, but if overemphasized it can engender pride and self-centeredness. In the Great Work it is associated with the processes of coagulation and conjunction. It signifies the rubedo, the reddening stage of the Great Work.
Venus, The Peacock
Venus, to the Indians known as the male god Sukra, possesses the Elixir of Immortality, known in Western alchemy as the White Lion or White Stone. Being a teacher and physician, this planetary deity has some of the attributes of the Egyptian Thoth. Venus is associated with the process of fermentation and the cauda pavonis (peacock’s-tail).
Melville, Francis: The Book of Alchemy. Fair Winds Press.
Compiled by Simone Anliker.