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Chapter II from The Secret Fire: An Alchemical Study

An Alchemical Study:
The Secret Fire of the Alchemists has been described by them as "The All in All," and, next
to the solution of the Sophic salt, it is said to be the greatest difficulty in the whole art,
Without knowledge of the Fire nothing can be attained, even if the Matter be known.
Perhaps some of
the finest expressions of the Fire Philosophy, which we have had under
consideration in the previous chapter, are to be found in the Chaldean or Zoroastrian
Oracles. These, unfortunately, exist only in a fragmentary form as quotations in the books of
ous writers, principally the later Platonists, but it has been established that although such
quotations are generally vaguely introduced as sayings of the Chaldeans, the Oracles, the
Gods, etc., they existed at one time as a single poem. The date or origi
n of this is unknown,
but the philosopher Porphyry considered it to be very old. In any event it should be
remembered that the Chaldean Magi preserved their Occult wisdom by a continual Oral
Tradition from father to son, just as the Qabalah was passed on i
n Israel.
These Oracles are so full of a majestic and lofty inspiration and imagination
using the latter
term in its true sense of "the power of seeing images," as distinct from its usual meaning of
that we will quote many of them
in extenso,
with such comments as may be
found necessary. Those we shall use are to be found principally in the works of Porphyry,
Proclus, Psellus, Damascius, Simplicius, Julian and Synesius, while one or two are
anonymous. The principal translations of them are in
the collections of Kroll, Cory, Mead and
Westcott. We have selected the more poetical translations, with a few emendations, as being
the more suitable to the subject, and have arranged them in a rather different order to some
versions, wirh a view to getti
ng more sequence. They will repay careful study, as they are a
fruitful source of inspiration, and, like so many mystical writings, contain more meanings than
"There is above the Celestial Fire an Incorruptible Flame, always sparkling; the Spring o
Life, the Fountain of all Being, the Original of all things! This Flame produceth all things, and
nothing perisheth but what It consumeth. It maketh Itself known by Itself. This Fire cannot be
contained in any place; It is without body and without matter
. It encompasseth the Heavens.
And there goeth
forth from It a little Spark, which maketh all the Fire of the Sun, of the Moon and of the Stars.
Strive not to know more of Him, for that is beyond thy capacity, how wise soever thou art.
"There is in God an
Immense Profundity of Flame! Nevertheless the Heart should not fear to
touch this adorable Fire, or to be touched by it; it will never be consumed by this so sweet
Fire; whose mild and tranquil Heat maketh the Binding and Harmony and the Duration of the
rld. Nothing subsisteth but by this Fire, which is God Himself. No Person begat Him. He is
without Mother. He knoweth all things and can be taught nothing. He is Infallible in His
designs and His Name is unspeakable."
Qabalistically speaking, this is Macro
prosopus, the Vast Countenance, which is Kether, the
Crown or First Sephira, the first manifestation of the Ain Soph Aur or the Limitless Light. He is
the whole world of Atziluth, or pure Deity, which is above the Heaven World or Throne
which is called Bri
ah and comprises the next two Sephiroth
the habitat of that Sacred Flame
which is Ruach Elohim.
From this Supreme and Unimaginable Source streams forth all Mercy and Benignity, so that
when Microprosopus, the Lesser Countenance, looks upwards to Macroproso
pus, the Vast
Countenance, the Influx passes over, and those below are mitigated. He is spoken of as Hoa,

He, not as Ateh, Thou, and He is beyond all time and space and form. Of Him Eliphas Levi has aptly said: "He is the Space containing the Universe, butthe Universe is not His space."But to continue:"For not in Matter did the Fire which is in the Beyond first enclose His power in acts, but in Mind; for the Former of the Fiery World is the Mind of Mind. Who first sprang from Mind, clothing the one Fire with the other Fire; binding them together so that He might mingle the Fountainous Craters, while still preserving unsullied the Brilliance of His own Fire. And thence a Fiery Whirlwind drawing down the Brilliance of the Flashing Flame, penetrating the Abysses of the Universe; for thencefrom downwards all extend their wondrous rays, abundantly animating Light, Fire, Ether and the Universe. From Him leap forth all relentless thunders, and the whirlwind-wrapped, storm-enrolled Bosoms of the All-Splendid strength of Hecate, Father-begotten; and He Who encircleth the Brilliance of Fire, and the strong Spirit of the Poles, all Fiery beyond."Hecate, of course, is the same Goddess as Proserpine and Diana, and is connected with Luna and Isis. Mr. Mead says that sheseems to have been the best equivalent the Greek mystics could find in the Hellenic Pantheon for the mysterious and awe-inspiring Primal Mother of Oriental mystagogy. She is the ineffable power of the Paternal Mind, he says, and fills all things with Intellectual Light. She is the Great Mother or Life of the Universe, the Magna Mater, or Mother of the Gods and all creatures. She is the Spouse of Mind. This is comparable with the Great Supernal Mother of the Qabalah, Binah, who is Aima Elohim.Here may be seen the tremendous importance attached by the ancients to the unthinkable Mind, of which we shall see more anon in these Oracles. And we are reminded of the saying of the Rabbi in the Zobar,"Thought is the Principle of all that is." (Zoh.,Part I, fol. 246—La Kabbale,Franck), where it is first spoken of as unknown and shut up in itself, then developing itself forth and becomingSpirit, when it takes the name of Intelligence and is no longer immured within itself. At this stage, therefore:"The Mind of theFather whirled forth in re-echoing roar, comprehending by invincible Will Ideas omniform, which, flying forth from that One Fountain issued; from the Father alike was the Will and the End; (by which yet are they connected with the Father, according to alternating Life, through varying vehicles). But they were distributed into other Intellectuals. For the King of All previously placed before the Polymorphous World a type incorruptible, the imprint of whose form is sent forth through the World, by which the Universe shone forth, decked with Ideas all various, of which the Fountain is One, One and Alone. From this the others rush forth distributed and separated through the various bodies of the Universe, and are borne in swarms through its vast Abysses, ever whirling forth in illimitable radiation. They are Intellectual conceptions from the Paternal Fountain, partaking abundantly the brilliance of Fire in the culmination of unresting time. But the Primary, self-perfect Fountain of the Father poured forth the Primogenial Ideas. These being many ascend flashingly into the shining worlds, and in them are contained the Three Supernals."One can sense here the tremendous, whirling, fiery life emanating those archetypal forms, which were the inner worlds, on which theuniverse is based. And while the Qabalisitic World of Atziluth, pure Deity, is the Archetypal World, the World of Briah, composed of the Sephiroth Chokmah and Binah, Wisdom and Understanding, the Father and Mother—who, be it understood, are not themselvesthe Supreme, but, with Kether, form the Three
Supernals—is the Creative World, the Throne, as we have said before. In Revelation (xxii, i) the River of Life is saidto flow forth from the Throne of God, and this is the same as the Qabalistic River Nahar, which issues from Binah. The primary movement of creation, too, is given in the name of the Order of Angels attributed to Kether, which is Rashith Ha-Galgalim, the Beginnings of Whirling Movements."The Creator of all, self-operating, formed the World, and there was a certain mass of Fire; and all these, self-operating, He produced, so that the Kosmic body might be completely manifest and not appear membranous. And He fixed a vast multitude of unwandering Stars, not by a strain laborious and hurtful, but to uphold them with stability void of movement, forcing Fire forwards unto Fire."And He congregated the Seven Firmaments of the Kosmos, circumscribing the heaven with convex form. He constituted a septenary of wandering Existences, suspending their disorder in well-disposed zones. He made them six in number, and for the seventh He cast into the midst thereof the Fire of the Sun, into that centre from which all lines are equal. That the swift Sun may come around that centre, eagerly urging itself towards that centre if resounding Light."As rays of Light his Locks flow forth, stretching to the confines of space. The wholeness of the Sun is in the Supermundane Orders, for therein a Solar World and endless Light subsist. And his disk is in the Starless, abovethe Inerratic Sphere, and he is the centre of the Triple World. The Sun is Fire, and the Dispenser of Fire, he is also the Channel of the Higher Fire."In these sections is outlined the secondary creation, that of the Elohim and of Tetragrammaton Elohim, for the Qabalah deals with another and prior creation than that which is here described, which latter is the Demiurgic creation of the Gnostics, the creation of Yetzirah and Assiah, the two lower worlds of the Zohar, the Formative and Material respectively, known also as Microprosopus and His Bride.We also note the distinction between the "Sun visible to sense" as Philo terms it, and the hidden Sun which is "the centre of the Triple World." In a sense this Sun is Microprosopus, through Whom, as we have previously indicated, the Divine Influx descends, so that He is "the Channel of the Higher Fire."And if we might enlarge yet a little farther, we would say that in these and the preceding sections a distinction is made between the Mind in its more potentialaspect, and the Mind in operation, which is the Formative Mind. These are the "Hidden" and "Manifested" Fires of Simon Magus, mentioned in The Great Announcement,where he says:"The hidden aspects of the Fire are concealed in the manifest, and the manifest produced in the hidden. . . . And the manifested side of the Fire has all things in itself which a man can perceive of things visible, or which he unconsciously fails to perceive; whereas the hidden side is every thing which one can conceive as intelligible, or which a man fails to conceive." It is therefore called the Ever-living or Holy Fire, and was taken to be both intelligible and immaterial as well as sensible and material, according to its plane of operation.And lest any should doubt that a Second Father is intended, let him hear what follows:"The Father hath hastily withdrawn Himself; but hath not shut up His own Fire in His Intellectual Power. All things are sprung from that one Fire. For all things did the Father of all
perfect, and delivered them over to the Second Mind, Whom all Races of Men call First. The Mind of the Father, riding on subtile guiders, which glitter with the tracings of inflexible and relentless Fire. The Soul of the All, being a brilliant Fire, by the power of the Father remaineth Immortal, and is Mistress of Life and filleth up the many recesses of the Bosom of the World. The Channels being intermixed therein. She performeth the Works of Incorruptible Fire."Here we have the Second Mind, which is Chokmah, Wisdom, otherwise called Ab, the Father, the Second Sephira, to which is attributed the Element of Fire; and Binah, Understanding, Who is called Aima, the Mother, the Great Productive Mother, the Mistress of Life, previously alluded to as Hecate. And in the Channels, which are so frequently mentioned, may we not see an analogy with the Paths of the Tree of Life of the Qabalah, which, with the Sephirorh themselves, are thirty-two in number?Appropriately enough the Oracle continues:"But these are Mysteries which I evolve in the profound Abyss of the Mind. Such a Fire existeth, extending through the rushings of Air, or even a Fire Formless, whence cometh the Image of a Voice, or even a flashing Light, abounding, revolving, whirling forth, crying aloud. Also there is the Vision of the fire-flashing Courser of Light, or also a child borne aloft on the shoulders of the celestial steed, fiery, or clothed with Gold, or naked, or shooting with the bow shafts of Light, and standing on the shoulders of the Horse. But if thy meditation prolongeth itself thou shalt unite all these Symbols in the form of the Lion."In the above we make acquaintance with the supreme mystery of the Theurgist, his Formless Fire, which is the ultimate secretum secretorum,wherein is the Voice that is not a Voice, but is the very Word of the Self-transcending Self, whose Apocalyptic Image is Aries, the Lamb of God. Balancing this we have the other two signs of the fiery triplicity, Sagittarius and Leo. We learn more about this Theurgic Epopteia in what follows."Then when no longer are visible unto thee the Vault of the Heavens, the Mass of the Earth ; when to thee theStars have lost their Light, and the Lamp of the Moon is veiled; when the Earth abideth not, and around thee is the Lightning Flame; then call not before thyself the Visible Image of the Soul of Nature! For thou must not behold it ere thy soul be purged by the Sacred Rites. Since ever dragging down the Soul, and leading it from Sacred Things, from the confines of Matter arise the terrestrial dog-faced demons, never showing a true image unto mortal gaze."So therefore, first the Priest who governeth the Works of Fire, must sprinkle with the Water of the loud-resounding Sea. And when, after all the Phantoms, thou shalt see that Holy and Formless Fire; that Fire that darts and flashes through the hidden depths of the Universe: Hear thou the Voice of Fire."Here the allusion is to the Sacred Trance, the Mantic state, when, after the Alchemical Solution, the Soul or Spirit, withdrawing from the lower vehicles, penetrates into the hidden worlds. Therefore the warning not to attempt to draw the Veil of Isis until the necessary purgations have been successfully performed, for She is not lightly to be profaned. Nor must the soul be led away by the delusive and phantasmal appearances which beset it on its passage through the Astral World "wherein continually lieth a faithless Depth, delighting in unintelligible Images."

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