Philalethes, summing up the memorable synonyms for Mercurius says that Mercurius is not only the key to the alchemical art, and that the two edged sword in the hand of the cherub who guards the way to the tree of life,’ but, also’ our true hidden vessel, the Philosophic garden wherein our Sun rises and sets’. This helps us understand the strange advice given by Johannes de Rupescissa: ‘ Have a vessel made after the manner of a cherub, which is the figure of God, and have six wings after the fashion of six arms turning back on themselves; and above a round head……and put within this vessel the said burning water’, etc. The definition of the cherub as’ the figure of God’ suggests that Rupescissa is referring here to the vision of Ezekiel, which was arranged in such a way that a horizontal section through it would provide a Mandela divided into four parts. This is the equivalent of squaring the circle from which according to one alchemical recipe the vessel should be constructed. The Mandela signifies the human or the divine self, the totality or vision of God [Jung aion: 241].
This choice of symbol is not arbitrary but is documented in alchemical literature from the first till the eighteenth centaury. The lapis is produced, as we have seen from the splitting and putting together of the four elements from the rotundum. The rotundum is a highly abstract, transcendent idea, which by reason of its roundness
and wholeness refers to the Original Man, the Anthropos [ Jung aion:246].
The round Hermetic vessel in which the mysterious transformation is accomplished is God , the [Platonic] world-soul and mans own wholeness. It is, therefore another counterpart of the Anthropos, and at the same time the universe in it’s smallest and most material form. So it is easy to see why the first attempts to construct a model of the atom took the planetary system as a prototype [ Jung aion:242]. Maria the Prophetess says: The Philosophers teach everything except the Hermetic vessel, because that is divine and is hidden from the Gentiles by the Lord’s wisdom; and they who know it not, know the true method, because of their ignorance of the vessel of Hermes’. Theobald de Hoghelande adds ;’ Senior says that the vision thereof is more to be sought after than [ knowledge of ] the Scriptures’. Maria the Prophetess says:’ This is the vessel of Hermes, which the Stoics hid, and it is no negromantic vessel but is a measure of thy fire [ mensura ignis tui]. It is clear from these quotations that the vessel had a great and unusual significance[ Jung aion :241].
According to the old view the soul is round and the vessel is round too, like the heavens and the world. The form of the Original Man is round according to Dorn who says the vessel ‘ should be made from a kind of squaring the circle so that the spirit and soul of the material, separated from the body may raise the body with them to the height of their own heaven. The anonymous author of the scholia to the ‘Tractatus aureus’ writes about squaring the circle whose four corners are formed by the elements. In the centre is a small circle. The author says ‘ Reduce your stone to the four elements rectify and combine them into one, and you will have the whole magistery. This one, to which the elements must be reduced, is that little circle in the centre of this squared figure. It is the mediator, making peace between the enemies or elements. In a later chapter he names the vessel ‘ the true philosophical Pelican [Jung aion: 239].
The constitution of the lapis rests on the union of the four elements which in there turn represent an unfolding of the unknowable inchoate state, or chaos. This is the prime material the Arcanum, the primary substance which Paracelsus and his followers called the increatum and regarded as co-eternal with God – a correct interpretation of the Tehom in Genisis 1:2 ‘ And the [ uncreated] earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God [ brooded] over the face of the waters’.
This primary substance is round [ massa globasa rotundum] like the world and the world soul and the world substance in one. It is the stone that has spirit in modern parlance the most elementary building stone in the architecture of matter, the atom, which is an intellectual model [ Jung aion :237].
To the scholiasts of the ‘Tractatus aureus’ it is the mid-point, the circulus exiguus’ and mediator’ which reconciles hostile elements and by ‘persistent rotation changes the angular form of the square into a circular one like itself. For Dorn the ‘ punctum vix intelligible’ is the starting point of creation. In Mylius the point is called the bird of Hermes’. ‘In the ‘Novum lumen’ it is the spirit and fire, the life of the arcane substance’. For Maier it is the ‘ purity or hedgmonity of the essence’. It is the’ punctum solis’ in the egg yolk, which grows into the chick. In Khunrath it represents Sapientia in the form of the ‘ salt-point’ in Maier it symbolizes gold’.[ Jung Aion: 221].
Zosimus called the rotundum the omega element which probably signifies the head. The skull is mentioned as the vessel of transformation in the Sabaen treaties ‘ Platonis liber quartorum’ and the ‘Philosophers’ styled themselves ‘ children of the golden head’ which was probably synominus with ‘ filii sapientiae’ and the lapis so that there is no difference between the vessel and its content [ Jung aion :238].
Elias Levi the 15th century commentator records a tradition that the Teraphim, which after her marriage to Jacob, Rachel stole from her father Laban, were mummified oracular heads, the head of Adam was among them. There is a record in the Talmud that a heretical sect of Jews named the Melchizadekians frequented Hebron to worship the body [consult the shade] of Adam which was buried in the cave of Machpelah. In St Pauls epistle to the Hebrews Melchizadeck was the sacred king of Salem who had neither father nor mother. Melchezadeck welcomed Abraham to Canaan [Graves White Goddess: 156].