A Consideration of the More Secret Philosophy
by Philip à Gabella,
[Title page verso: 'May God give thee the dew of and the fatness of the earth' Genesis 27: 28]
The Consideration of Philip à Gabella upon secret matters, dedicated to the most distinguished nobleman Bruno Carolus Uffel, a knight of the order of Hass.
Those who seek the hidden and secret origins of all natural things must first trace back the perpetual sources and springs of the rivers and fountains to the oceans itself. They wonder at the ability of the waters to flow back and forth as if by a natural impulse. But does it seem appropriate to tell of those philosophical matters that relate to these secret origins praised by another author, to whom these things were passed on, if not to you (Noble Sir) and thence to me? For it seems right that natural reason would wish to trace the origin of all things in the world, to discover their derivation, and how they come to develop. I would thus appear ungrateful were I to offer these philosophical meditations to any name but yours, and so may this work, which exalts you as being its great originator, be presented to you. Just as the waters that flow from the great ocean always seek to return, similarly these contemplations flow back to you as I gladly offer you my work. And just as the salty waters of the ocean become clean and sweet during their long wanderings through the land, I hope that this treatise - more commendable for its value than for its great age - may be decorated by the deeds, the enthusiasm and the diligence of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. Whether my gift to you be rough-hewn or refined, I beg you to accept it kindly. The gods do not care for solemn pride or for prayers that are merely intended to impress. They think little of those who call upon them with a long procession of words and a fine speech. But you, Sir, if you have regard for my feelings and the prayers of a man who serves you well, then I beg to praise this attempt, made by one who has wished for some record of his respect and of his constant service to you in this work of a period of leisure. I wish to dedicate this work to the eternal memory of your name.
Preface to the Reader
How does it come about, gentle reader, that of nearly all the men who wish to learn and to gain wisdom, there is only one in every thousand who acquires through such study even a modicum of knowledge and wisdom? Perhaps it is because they fail to set themselves a specific goal in their studies as they are setting out on the path to knowledge, so that they know whether they are on the right path? For nothing results from their diligent attempts, if they do not at the same time hold steadfastly on the course that they have chosen as the right one. For when they have reached their goal they will find that all their pains and hard work will be worthless, if they have not first worked towards a fixed end, and directed all their thoughts and actions towards it. In such a way do sailors, when they have no harbour to make for, wander uncertainly across the vast ocean, unsure of their course, eventually arriving at an unsuitable harbour, or being wrecked on the shore. For those who do not chose a suitable goal are just like those sailors; they willingly run themselves aground or drive their ship onto sharp rocks. No sane man has ever doubted that this is a most fitting end to those mocked by Aeolus and Neptune, and those who bring sorrow to their friends and joy to their enemies. Therefore whoever wishes to know the daughter of alchemical wisdom, resplendent in her brilliant white dress, should, before he sets out on this crystal sea, first train his eyes and prepare his strength for the struggles ahead in the pyronomic art. He should, as it were, first colour himself with dyes, and then polish and smooth himself as if with pumice, tweezers and scrapers.
But is there not always something obscure in these books? I admit that there is, yet there is just as much - if not more - that can drive ignorance from the mind and lay the foundations of wisdom. What rose could be more beautiful, more sweet-smelling and more beneficial to the mind? Such roses still have spines that tear, and thorns that prick, but even small boys can be taught to avoid these when picking the flowers, and to shun the Hyblaean nectar, even though it is not deadly poison. Such a task is part of a teacher's duties, and such a teacher must show what is to be accepted and what discarded, what is worthy of praise and what of censure. But if anyone should accuse me of obscurity, he should also accuse Hermes, Plato, Seneca and many other philosophers, for it is upon their work that the present contemplation is founded.
It is truth that I present to you: Truth, whose brightness drives out all uncertainty. It is not Falsehood, which conceals the truth in the depths of obscurity. Both my own conscience and the learning of the ancient philosophers attest to that. May Plato be a friend to me, and Truth an even greater friend. I will neither write nor teach anything that has not been acknowledged by these ambassadors as being true. Time reveals all things, and you will see that what I say is correct, namely that:
The entire march of time reveals what is hidden,
yet also does it hide what is revealed.
There is nothing that will not be revealed, and nothing secret that will not be brought into the light. Plutarch in his Problemata wisely sought to discover why it was that in antiquity divine matter tended to arise in Saturn. This is considered important because the truth, which is generally hidden and secret is at the same time revealed here. Saturn is considered as both the Father of Time and a God, since Kronos can mean Saturn as well as Time.
Although it is often said that justice exercises truth a great deal, yet truth itself is not exhausted. Therefore time must always be given: the light reveals truth. I know enough of this philosophy to know that it is happy to have only a few judges. I prefer it to be judged by learned and good men, rather than the multitude. My aim is only to philosophise, not to observe the heavens; I hope to find the causes and the reasons for secret matters, and above all else acquire knowledge of M, which has its origin in the heavens. All things are moderated by a kind of harmony. All endeavours and all actions are governed by this premise, which has attracted the downcast eyes of some men, as they look uncertainly upon the earth, and has raised them to gaze upon the heavens:
He has given man a sublime countenance for,
whereas all other creatures lie flat and gaze
upon the earth, man can look upon the heavens,
He has ordered man, thus upright, to turn his
face to the stars.
Yet there are those who would hide themselves away with their philosophy, and take it with them, only to admire it. These would also carry off language into the shadows. How fitting is Paracelsus' description of them as men who would reap pollen, weave ropes from sand and unravel some unknown thread. Such a private study of philosophy can never hope to bear fruit.
Learn from this chapter, then, and mark it well. Light and motion are the most salient characteristics of the heavenly bodies. The Sun surpasses all the other planets, since it produces its own light. The Moon, on the other hand, exceeds all others with the speed of its motion. These two planets are therefore deservedly considered the most outstanding of all the heavenly bodies. The Moon is especially powerful, since it rules all aqueous bodies. And just as it follows the brilliant light of the Sun, which is also the principal source of heat, the Moon's motion and its control over humidity are similarly joined, as if by some wonderful analogy. Through another process of analogy we can discern a pattern in the year, by simply examining a single day. For each day comprises – by the grace of the Sun and the Moon – its own spring, summer, autumn and winter. All basic qualities are produced by the heat of the Sun alone, partly through themselves and partly by chance, yet they occur in a fixed order, for if we establish a beginning, a middle and an end to each unit of twelve, a pattern emerges. It is indeed beautiful to consider how, all over the earth, each year is like a single day. You may then consider the natural mysteries of the Trinity, and with reason may you then wish for the blackness of the many-hued night to enshroud your work. From this consideration comes about the first and simplest form and manifestation both of things non-existent and of things hidden in the folds of nature: this is produced from the straight line and the circle. It is through these that we are able to effect marvellous changes in the nature of things, if we urge nature on correctly by the artificial means of pyronomy (by nature I mean here everything created by the Grace of God). But we should not only use this process to produce those things visible and familiar in nature, but also to bring forth those which exist, like seeds, in the hidden places of nature. The wise man can learn about these also, but the ignorant man cannot. Now whatever emerges from this process throws out its beams all around, penetrating every corner of the world, and filling the world in its own way. And so every part of the world contains the beams of everything brought about by this process. Is it then by accident or by design that these objects project their own forms? Indeed it is by design, a far more powerful influence than chance. Those substances which comprise both body and spirit (or which are of spirit alone) are far superior to those which are purely corporeal and comprise changing and impure elements. How much finer are those first substances than those which only produce an imperfect form: for the perfect form will have the same name as the substance that produces it. But just as God has created all things, beyond all reason and the laws of nature (an act which it is not for us to contemplate), similarly it is impossible for anything to pass into nothingness unless it too is beyond the laws of reason and nature; even then it may do so only by His supernatural power.
From this second consideration of the ancient philosopher's work we turn to the star, represented by [symbol of circle with vertical line] . The circle cannot be produced without the straight line, nor the straight line without the point. Consequently things first came into existence through the point and the star, and whatever is on the periphery - however great it may be - cannot exist at all without the aid of the central point. Thus the central point of the hieroglyphic star represents the earth, around which both the Sun, the Moon and the other planets run their courses and make their impression. So much does she desire to be imbued with the sun's rays that she appears to have been transformed into him, and disappears from the sky until, a few days later, she reappears as I have shown her here [ Symbol of lens-like figure ]. By joining together this image of the Moon with its solar complement a single day was made from the evening and the morning. This is the first day according to the philosophers, on which light first appeared. For just as there is the law of first motion without which all would remain motionless, so there is the power of first and sensible form (that is, light) without which other forms would be unable to act. Next we see the Sun and Moon resting upon a rectilinear cross which [symbol of circle with horizontal radius] - by a most fitting hieroglyphic interpretation - can signify both the ternary and the quaternary. The ternary consists of two straight lines [ >] and a common point connecting them; the quaternary consists of four straight lines [symbol of number 4 composed of lines] , including four right-angles produced by repeating each line. The octonary (which I doubt many will have seen before) also presents itself here, in a most secret fashion, [symbol of double 8 composed of eight lines] and you should note this especially. According to the first fathers of philosophy the magical contemplation of the ternary encompassed body, spirit and soul. From this we obtain the remarkable septenary, consisting of two straight lines [sumbol of number 7 composed of two lines] sharing a common point.
In the third consideration we saw that the whole encompasses everything that we can perceive. Apart from this there are certain parts, a certain substance, that remain apart from the rest. Every natural thing desires this substance, just as art requires the touch of the artisan. Exactly what this substance is I shall now tell you. Parts of us - the hands, the nerves, the eyes - are substances that are strengthened when food is taken. Blood is also part of us, and it too is a substance, for it prepares other parts of the body and is equal in strength to those other parts. I would now ask you to pay close attention to what I say: of this whole machine (the body) a necessary part is air, for it is air that binds the heavens and the earth, that separates the heights from the depths, and yet also joins them. It receives a certain substance from the earth below, and at the same time time hermetically transfuses the strength of the stars to the earth. I consider this just as much a part of the world as I do the plants and animals. All the species of plants and animals are part of the universe since they are all part of the fullness of the universe. Even a single plant or animal may be considered a part of the universe since, although it is perishable, it is still a part of the whole at its death. In a similar way the air coheres with both the heavens and the earth, and is innate in both. For this reason the philosophers rightly call it the Hermaphrodite. Yet the natural part of any thing possesses unity, for nothing is born without unity or without the point. I do not think that you will ask out of ignorance how the earth is both part of the universe and a substance itself, but if you do then you will also need to know how it is that the heavens are also a part. This is because the universe cannot exist without either of them, for the universe is made of them, it comprises them and from both equally is nourishment distributed to all animals, all seeds, metals, minerals and all the stars. Everything is provided with as much strength as it requires, whether it be a single thing or even the world itself. And so it may be seen how it is that so many stars, however much they travel and however greedy they may be, are sustained day and night in their work and in their nourishment. For it is in the nature of all things to take as much nourishment as they require, The world, however, would desire the full amount of time that is allotted to it and seize it all in a single revolution. The philosopher provides a mundane rural analogy to explain this serious matter: he says that eggs absorb as many humours as they need to effect the birth of the animal. Thus it is agreed that the earth is ruled by nature, and in this example from the microcosm there exist veins and arteries, the former being channels for the blood, the latter for the spirit. There are similarly in the earth channels through which water flows, and others through which the air flows. It can thus be seen that nature has formed the earth in the likeness of the human body, and that both ourselves and our ancestors have named these channels of water 'veins'. But in us there is not only blood but many types of humour: some essential, some corrupt (these being thicker). There is the brain in the head, the marrow in the bones, mucus and saliva, tears and a lubricant in the limbs which makes them flexible. Similarly in the earth there are many different kinds of humours. Some of these are hardened by nature, and these become the earth of the metals. Of these metals gold and silver are the most sought after by the greedy. There are also those that are turned to stone by the action of petrifying liquid. All of these, since they contain the four elements, also contain their own seed. From each of these comes forth a pair: male and female. Air is considered to be male when it is gusty and female when cloudy and still. Fire is male when it burns with a strong flame and female when it is harmless to the touch. When the earth is especially hard and rocky it is considered male; when it is easy to farm it is female.