The Codification Of The Elements

   Taking up the metal which flows as a liquid (even though it be solid to the discerning eye) and introducing it by degrees onto the smoldering ash which lay in the alembic before me, I grew faint as the vapours assailed my senses. I paused for a moment as my thoughts moved beyond the bounds of time.

   Though I wasn’t fully aware of it at first, I must have fallen asleep because I was aroused by the touch of her hand nudging me on the shoulder ever so lightly. Hers was an indescribable beauty; I would do her an injustice to even attempt a description. My eyes, though weary from sleepless nights of watching the continuing calcination of my metal, were lured from their languid pain to dance the pas de deux with the radiance she exuded. I tried to rise from where I lay but found I could not; I could only watch her as she hovered above me! Under my breath I cursed myself for having indulged so deeply in my work that I should now be so weak with slumber. To be unable to embrace her was my misfortune.

   From whence she had come I could only surmise, for I had never before beheld such a rapturous beauty. She appeared more like a goddess than a mere woman. Her bearing and graceful movements were those of an ancient and long forgotten age ~ an age when deities moved among men and sweetened the air with their simple purity. In actuality, I cared not to surmise on her origins, nor did I wonder about her mode of entrance to my laboratory, despite the fact that I kept the door bolted while engrossed at my work, and would give admittance to only my faithful apprentice. The mode of her entrance into my laboratory did not concern me much; I was transfixed, as if in some opiated stupor, by her.

   As I watched her move about me I noticed that she was trying to direct my attention toward the alembic that I had so foolishly neglected. My heart sank with the fear that I might have ruined, through my indulgence with sleep, the fruit of my year~long labour. But my fears proved unfounded when I saw that the ash had been totally dissolved without apparent difficulty by the bitter mercurial water. The crucible now held a clear and sparkling liquid in its depths, while suspended above it a silverish, white vapour fumed and hissed, as the bird of Hermes is wont to do.

   I found myself very much enraptured with the vapour that soared endlessly in the sealed flask. My delight in the vapour was possibly equal to that I felt for the luminous lady. It held my gaze for a considerable amount of time and I should have forgotten her presence had she not taken me by the hand and led me to make a closer inspection of it, unencumbered by the weight which had formerly held me fast to the floor on which I lay. In so doing, my attention once more turned to her and I had the distinct feeling that she and the vapour were one and the same thing.

   To this point, no words had passed between us. The unexpected surprise of being aroused from my repose by such a goddess~like vision had dulled my power of speech. She, on the other hand, must have deemed it necessary not to interrupt my confusion and instead lingered in silence. Now, with the enchantment of her beauty wearing thin and my curiosity being aroused as to her seeming resemblance to the vapour in my furnace, I strove to speak.

   “What manner of ...?” is all I could get past my lips ere she waved her hand, motioning me to remain silent. She directed my attention once more to the alembic in which the silverish, white vapour still moved ceaselessly in undulating rhythm. Although I, in my youth, had served apprenticeship with more than one master alchemist, I had never seen this vaporous display ~ perhaps because of the fact that I did not then realize the import of attention to such detail. In any case I found myself at this time engrossed in the vapour’s every movement. As I crouched closer still to watch the spectacle my diaphanous visitor moved between me and the alembic and seemed to merge with the vapour. Dreamlessness could offer no similar apparition and I cried out to Jamir, my apprentice, to bear witness to whether I was awake or yet narcotized by the initial introduction of the bitter water to the ash. His lack of response afforded me no clue to my predicament.

   Resigning myself to the fact that I was either dreaming or the witness of a supernatural event, I calmed myself and returned my attention to the alembic. As I gazed into the crucible my peripheral vision told me that the walls of my laboratory were melting away. Whether my accustomed surroundings were being dissolved forthright, whether the vapour of the dissolution was expanding into the room to hang as a veil to block my sight, or whether I myself was dissolving into the vapour, I could not be sure. Whatever the modus operandi, I soon found myself standing upright in an intangible realm with the silverish vapours meandering round about me.

   I dared not move lest I should stumble into god~knows~what. As I could not see nor hear anything save the swirling clouds of the vapour I resolved to stand still. Presently the vapour parted before me and I beheld an environment quite unlike that of the hills and valleys wherein I had set up my workshop.

   A broad plane of transparent aspect stretched below my feet through which I could view yet more similar planes existing far infinitesimal reaches. They lay at varying angles to each other. Some were parallel while others seemed to intersect, yet none of them appeared to touch its neighbor. I looked above me and found the sky (if it would be proper to call it such) to be composed of the same phenomena. On all sides of me the planes lay, passing beside or through each other, though nowhere could I perceive any lines that their intersection would cause to form.

   Upon this landscape (which, for want of a better term I feel compelled to call it) rested forms of geometric solids which at one glance appeared transparent while at another seemed opaque. They were of many shapes and sizes. Some were forms that I could recognize. Others were structured in configurations unknown nor even guessed at by mortal humans. I was struck with awe as I surveyed the array spread out around me. Although there hung in the sky no sun such as the one I was familiar with, the expanses were lit with the radiance as of some omnipresent luminosity. This lighting was so very subtle that I at first was not aware of its presence and the absence of the familiar sun which smiles upon the earth. What drew my attention to this phenomena was the inescapable evidence that there were no shadows cast by the geometric solids which littered the area. There were patches of light and darkness, but these possessed outlines and shapes all their own, and were not relegated to mere mimicry of any causative shapes. The areas of light and dark consisted of so many tones that I scarcely could have pointed toward any particular location of a light source had I tried desperately; there seemed to exist no logic to the arrangement of the gradations.

   In some cases filling the bodies of the solids and in others merely suspended as if in mid~air, were colors which dazzled my eyes to the point of subliminal ecstasy. Prismatic sequences mingled here and there with colors known only in the arcane splendors of vanished Atlantis. I cried out loud when my eyes fell upon a hue conjured from the family of green, but distinctly superior to any green which could have possibly come from the earthly light spectrum. It filled my sight with blinding purity and brilliance. I nearly wept as I gazed upon reds too magnificent for human eyes to behold!

   As I stood there taking in all of these visual delights, I felt, coursing through my limbs, an endless series of changing tactile sensations. Though I had touched nothing since my transition to this otherworldly realm, I found myself smothered by a deluge of sensations which assailed me without respite.

   I realized that one particular sensation, which I can liken only to the touch of sunbaked brick, centered on my consciousness as my gaze simultaneously centered upon a system of colors which spread their beauty over a distant form which I took to be a mountain~like range. The more I stared at this range, the more intense the tactile sensation became until I noticed no other element before me.

   I must have passed into a state of hypnosis, for I was startled by a series of parallel lines which moved across the face of the range. I felt a coincident change in the sensations I was experiencing as this new textural element took over my attention. Lest I should succumb to their spell, as I had to that of the colors, I averted my eyes from the parallel lines and discovered that there were many other texturally prominent apparitions throughout the expanses wherein I-stood.

   From the space to my upper left came a line of no color toward me in unerring straightness. It appeared to grow from a single point above the horizon, although I could not tell just exactly where. It verged upon me at such a tremendous speed that I feared it would strike and pass straight through me! I jerked to the right and quickly turned around as it careened through the air beside my thigh. At a point only a few feet from where I stood it changed course without slackening its speed and aimed directly downward. In the short time it took me to turn around, it had extended far into infinity through the discombobulation of planes below.

   As if this sudden visitor had upset the order of things ~ if indeed there had been order ~ the multitude of colors, shapes and everything else that stagnated the view were set in motion. Tones and textures dissolved before my eyes into nothing. The geometric solid forms seemed to flatten into planar shapes. Colors were sucked in upon themselves until they were no more than small dots of their original brilliance and these, in turn, vanished one by one. Shapes split apart and fragmented into lines strewn everywhere I looked. Then the lines even fragmented into single points which faded from view. This all happened so quickly and with such apparent order that my breath was caught in my throat and I gagged violently.

   As I gasped for my breath, the milieu of transparent planes disappeared, and I found myself once again standing in my laboratory before the furnace. I was drenched with sweat. Either the ordeal I had just witnessed, or the heat of the furnace, in front of which I must have been standing the whole time, had caused me to perspire profusely. I took off my robe and turned to drape it over a chair. There at my back, and watching me intently, was the lady.

   Finally she graced me with speech. “I am called Athoeter” she began, “I have come to you, owing not to your invocation of me by the dissolution of my salts, but of my own volition to enlighten you on the aspects of the elements.” “Take heed to what I impart, for although many try to seduce me into revealing the Codification, I am mute to any but he who would invoke me with sincere desire.” She paused, allowing me to note the emphasis with which she chose her words.

   “Of point” she said, “I will tell you only little.” “For that which is at once all and nothing cannot be spoken of.” “Let it suffice for me to say that point is that which embodies the essence of Ether, and is that which is called the Quintessence, for it is The Essential Element.”

   As she spoke thus, the environs of the room once more faded from sight, and she and I stood in an abysmal void. Ahead of us I could see a single spot of light in the surrounding darkness. I tried to focus on it, but found I could not. It was there when I heeded it not, but utterly vanished when I tried to assess its nature by observation. Time and again I tried to focus on it, but found that in the trying I seemed to overlook it. “This” she began to say, “is point”, whereupon it burst as like an exploding star. The light it had held in its absolute denseness filled the void. And all the variant splendors which I had so recently been entertained with returned again to excite my senses.

   “The realm of the essential elements, in which we now stand, is comprised of various levels or orders.” Athoeter remarked with an air of nonchalance. “The levels are characterized by the inherent inclinations of the elements inhabiting them, according to the mechanics of their perceptual existence.” As if she could tell that her discourse had left me somewhat confused, Athoeter clarified her point. “In other words, the elements may be differentiated according to their inherent properties and correlated with the basic elements of alchemy in relation to the substantiality of their properties.”

   “Line, by its inherent property of being composed of many single points lying side by side, is, by its very nature, related to the Spirit in that it, like the spirit, is the firstborn of the Quintessence. Even as the Ether replicates and gives rise to the spirit, so does point replicate and give rise to line.”

   As she spoke, she pointed with her right hand to her outstretched left palm. While I looked upon it, the skin parted and separated, revealing the muscles and veins beneath, which resembled in every way that of a mortal body. Giving me no time to speculate on how she might thus be able to expose the inner workings of her physical being, she brought her cleft palm close to my face. Immobilized, I stared fixedly at the seething mass of blood and flesh. It filled my entire range of sight and I was soon lost in its vision. The cellular structures became increasingly larger until I was confronted by an immense, solitary cell.

   As I watched, the cell underwent convulsive movements as the intercellular structures appeared to double in size. In a swift motion the structures split and moved by even halves, to the opposite poles. Then the whole exterior of the cell, which had formerly encompassed roughly the shape of a circle, wrinkled and creased at its equator. A line formed at this equatorial position and tightened its grip as that of a noose around the neck of a hanged man. It continued to squeeze until suddenly the cell split in two and lay as two circles side by side. No sooner had this occurred than the whole scene vanished from sight and I again stood beside Athoeter in the nether realm. Without pause she continued her discourse.

   "Before all is Point. This Point to which I refer may be thought of in two ways: there exists what is called ‘the essence of point’, and there also exists the point which you can visualize as a minute dot.” “The essence of point cannot be seen, nor can it be fully understood. It is the manifestation of that which exists in a particular space at a particular time in the time / space continuum. In this capacity the essence of point exists as a precise measurement of both time and space, serving the purpose of giving the basic elements a reference mark from which they might proceed into perceptual existence.”

   “Notice that line in the distance”, she directed. I looked where she motioned, and noticed a thin, dark line stretched horizontally before us. It was of immeasurable length, disappearing far off to the distant reaches where I cold not follow with my naked eves. “Were I to speak with the tongue of the master physicians with whom you have had council in your youth, I would tell you that line has no end” she said. This I could easily perceive in this realm wherein all things were transparent, though they appeared at times to likewise possess substance.

   I understood the concept to which she alluded for I had studied the words of the Magi in my past. Still she continued her lecture as if to one who was ignorant of the meta~arts. “The viewer perceives only a fragment of the total when confronted with a visual line in a work. A master physician would argue, and perhaps rightly, that the line which appears in a visual work extends indefinitely through space and time toward infinity. The prime function of the essence of point is that it exists at either end of the visual line, defining its particular boundaries. A line which possesses a length of two inches is defined by two particular essences of point which exist in space two inches apart, at the same particular time.” As her words trailed off into silence I noticed the far reaches of the line dissolving into space. It was as if the line was as of some elastic substance stretched to its limits and then being allowed to draw back on itself. Though it did not alter in. general thickness, the line was most definitely becoming shorter until it was distinctly short, and from where I stood it eventually appeared no longer than a few inches in length. With an -abrupt motion the substance of the line itself dissolved from view, and for a moment I am sure I saw two spots of light where the ends of the line had once been. They appeared as an afterimage when one peers too long into a light and it is then extinguished. “It is imperative that the essence of point exists as a precise measurement of time and space; otherwise a visual line of two inches in length could not be perceived as such, since the absence of reference boundaries would negate the possibility of the line having ends.” Athoeter paused to smile at me. “It is because of the fact that the essence of point exists to define boundaries that the basic elements can be visually perceived. Do you not see why point is called the Alkahest? The essence of point functions to check the advance of a particular element beyond a definitive space and time into infinite proportions. Though indefinite in itself, it serves to define all visual things.”

   “The essence of point is the generative force behind the existence of the essential elements. It is the seed from which visual art grows and transmutes into reality. Though it is not an element per se, in the sense that line and color are elements, point functions in an elemental capacity. To be sure, it is the one pure elemental form, the Ether ~ pervading all things because of its omnipresence ~ of which reality is composed, holding the spark of transmutation carelessly in its judicious grip.”

   Filled to overflowing with the excitement of being permitted to view these revelations, I lost my composure and begged Athoeter to show me the essences of the other elements. I pained to know of line, of shape, of texture and tone. I wept that I might know of color. “You are tired, and because of this you become anxious. Visionary truth comes only to those who are impeccable in their prudence.” She would tell me no more and before I could respond I found myself alone in my laboratory.

   For months I nurtured the fire in the furnace keeping it as steady as possible in order to prepare the mother for her son, the king, to reenter her womb. All the while I obsessively watched the vapours as they writhed in the flask like a dragon disenchanted. And I dreamt anon of Athoeter.

   It was sometime after the fifth or sixth moon (I had lost track of time in my vigil) that one afternoon I felt singularly exhausted ~ owing perhaps to the fact that I ate and slept only meagerly, not wanting to miss the moment of conjunction, and would suffer Jamir to keep my watch for only short periods at a time.

   The lids weighed heavily upon my eyes as a familiar smell caressed my nostrils. I darted upright and alert in time to catch sight of the vapour emerging from the vessel. It took on her form and Athoeter stood before me. “With the marriage near at hand, so very near that it stifles me, I have come to impart to you the Codification. Your patience has bought your reward.” Her countenance was soothing to my tired spirit. I welcomed her with eyes that betrayed my respect.

   “I haven’t much time so pay heed to what I say now. There is not time enough for repetition.” So saying, she put into my hands a plate of holographic nature. With her breath she blew life into the plate and images profound sprang to my eyes. As Athoeter narrated, I watched the codification of the elements unfold.

   Lines of myriad configurations appeared in the air between the plate and myself. “Line embodies the essence of Mercury, the Spirit, in that it exists as the primary convergence of point into substantial form. In the process wherein numerous points converge to exist in close proximity to one another, line is created by the tension (or energy) passing kinetically from one point to another. This tension binds the individual points into a sequential, substantial form. Even as the cells of your body replicate and lie side by side, point in its ethereal quality multiplies itself. Inasmuch as line is defined by the property of length, the initial replication of one point into two gives rise to line. Because there exists such a degree of tension between those two initial points they draw yet more points to them, which are also undergoing the replication process, and line of various configurations makes its presence known.”

   “Mercury, as you no doubt are aware, is the pneuma or spark of divine life. It is fixed and unalterable in its efficacy. It is unswayed by emotion. Line in its embodiment of Mercury takes these attributes as its own.” “Line, the Mercury of Art, relates to Arcanum 1, 2 and 3 of the Tarot. The Spirit is manifested in the process whereby desire and motivation converge out of the abyss of ignorance to form a steadfast, fixed will, which is given direction and knowledge through the intervention of Gnosis upon its imperfection, and in turn proceeds to action in a steadfast and resolute manner.” With this, Athoeter closed the first chapter of the Book of the Codification, and the image of line was no more.

   Moving the plate to another angle she again blew animation into its vacantness. This time figurations of texture filled the space between the plate and my eyes. “Texture embodies the essence of Sulphur in that it exists as the magnification and clarification of the substantial form of point. The Sulphur is the Soul, which is the congealed breath of the Spirit.”

   “The Soul reeks of emotion and response and breeds on imagination. And the Sulphur, which is fiery and unstable, is so because of its attributes of emotion and passion. Texture is made apparent by the passive tension which exists in the space between separated points. This passive tension animates the perceptual existence of texture in a subtle way; it invites soliloquy between the essences of point of which it is comprised. Whereas line brings the essence of point into substance and being, texture animates the dialogue between the essences of point after they have found being. This dialogue is then communicated to man who, in his vanity, confers emotional response to the Ethereal being.”

   “Texture, the Sulphur of Art, relates to Arcanum 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 of the Tarot. The Soul reigns over those experiences of human will wherein emotion and response guide the actions of the adept. It stands at the side of will as it enters the dim confines of fatality, giving will the strength to sacrifice itself in order that it might be-transformed into an entity capable of accepting whatever precepts the continuing initiative of life hands out.” Having spoken thus, Athoeter fell silent, the image of texture faded from view, and the second chapter of the Book of the Codification was complete.

   Positioning the plate at yet another angle, Athoeter provided me with new images. Color of inexhaustible variety flooded upon me. I became immersed in the wellspring from which rainbows are born. “Color embodies the essence of Salt in that it exists as the glorification of point” she began. “The Salt encompasses the realm of the body, the inert, passive nature of life. The Quintessence manifests itself in the image of the Salt in order that it might glorify its presence in the life of all things.”

   “Color exists because visible light divides into a particular, ordered range of hues (the Spectrum). It is a pure sensory manifestation, and because Art is, by its inherent nature, a sensory process, color maintains a special position in the realm of the basic elements. Color is not influenced by the emotion of the Soul, nor is it subjected to the dictates of the Spirit in order to exist (although being the body incarnate, it manifests perceptions of both). Although it is given substance by line and imagery by texture, color stands apart from the two because it proceeds by the body’s natural ability to differentiate between the various nuances of the visible light spectrum.”

   “Color, the Salt of Art, relates to Arcanum 20, 21 and 0 of the Tarot. Through the renewal of being by the agents of death, a higher sphere of will, intelligence and action is opened to the adept. Depending upon which path he chooses, that of the Spirit or that of the Soul, the adept either passes into being with the Ether or else he returns to his earthly existence. Both paths lead to communion with the essence of point - the sole difference being that the path to reward is tread by will that accepts Knowledge and the path to expiation is tread by will that refuses Knowledge.” Having thus revealed all that she would concerning color, Athoeter closed the third chapter of the Book of the Codification.

   “These three elements which I have revealed to you” she said, “constitute the First Order of the Codification. Of the three elements of Alchemy: Mercury, Sulphur and Salt, do all things exist. And of the elements of Art: line, texture and color are as that of Mercury, Sulphur and Salt. All things which exist in the reality of art contain one or the other of these three elements or some aspect of them. By themselves, the Mercury, Sulphur and Salt are simply elements, but by their conjunction may the dream of gold, of the highest realization of reality, be brought into tangible existence.”

   Athoeter bade me glance yet further into her book of dreams, for I was to be shown the Second Order of the Codification. Breathing once more upon the plate which she held in front of me, she conjured new images. This time figures of shape floated in the air before me. They ranged from the simple and known geometries to complex forms inexpressible in words. “Shape embodies the essence of Mercury in conjunction with sulphur and salt in that it exists because of the union of the Spirit with emotion (or the Soul) and finds form in the passive body (or the Salt).”

   “Although shape is an essential element, it is not pure like line. Line itself is not dependent upon any other element, save the Quintessential element of Point; it is fixed. Shape, on the other hand, is mutable; it must rely on the existence of line in order for its own existence.’ Although it may take on the image of an indefinite number of configurations, shape must exist in subservience to line. It is because of this that shape must be relegated to lie in the Second Order of the Codification.”

   “Line of its own accord does not give rise to imagery, except in those situations where it may take upon itself certain aspects of the other elements, for it is the nature of the Spirit to abstain from imaginative things derived from emotion. Shape, being the firstling of line, derives its vital influences from that element. But shape is not the result of asexual activity on the part of line; it is the progeny of the conjunction of the Spirit (line) with the influences of the Soul (emotion) and the Salt (body). Imagery is born in this union and haunts shape with its illusion. It is the illusory simulation of things in reality that gives shape its capacity for imagery.”

   “Shape, the conjunction of the Mercury of Art with the sulphur and salt of reality, relates to Arcanum 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the Tarot. Will, motivated toward action by the knowledge bestowed upon it, finds realization in the contingencies of being, which are presided over by emotion. Through this realization it is confronted with the ordeal of choosing between good and evil inspiration. In the marriage, the Spirit, in joining with the Soul, submits to the laws of nature and is afforded the victory. The Spirit holds sway over this jointure and maintains equilibrium over the forces it has set into motion through the impeccable prudence of its wisdom in abstention from submission to the body, and thereby controls its own fortune.”

   As she finished this discourse the multitude of shapes unraveled and the lines left in the wake faded from view. And so went the way of the fourth chapter of the Book of the Codification.

   Making a final change in the angle of the plate, Athoeter said to me “I will now tell you of tone, which is the fifth and last of the essential elements, and which, like shape, resides in the Second Order of the Codification.” And a greyness pervaded the area wherein we stood. It fluctuated between the blackest of blacks to the purest of whites. “Tone embodies the essence of Sulphur in conjunction with mercury and salt in that it exists because of the reunion of the Soul with the Spirit in mimicry of the Salt.”

   “Tone, like shape, is mutable; it must rely on the elements of the First Order in order that it might be perceived as an element of its own accord. The degree to which some thing can be perceived varies according to the amount of light which is either absorbed or reflected from it; insofar as tone encompasses this attribute, it exists as the most subtle of the essential elements. Its presence is felt in all things though one might not be aware of it consciously.”

   “Tone derives its primary influence from the Sulphur in that it relies on the passive tension which exists between the separated essences of point to give it animation and perceptual existence. Being the firstborn of the Soul, tone exudes emotion and imparts subjective feeling to all things it touches. But because it is bred in the marriage of the Soul to the Spirit, tone is tinged with order, which is apparent in its subtle gradations. Texture, the Soul, is not so subtle in its gradations.”

   “Tone, because it embodies characteristics of visible light, exists in mimicry of the Salt. It does not derive directly from the Salt because it does not enter into the argument of the frequencies. Rather, it waits in the wings of color and pantomimes the action of color in color’s absence.”

   “Tone, the conjunction of the Sulphur of Art with the mercury and salt of reality, relates to Arcanum 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Tarot. Tone casts its shadow of ruin upon will when will aspires to commune with the Spirit to the detriment of all else. Because of its passion, it opens a pathway of hope through the disappointments which stalk the abyss of the Infinite so that will might reach the happiness of its eventual reward.”

   Athoeter gave me no time to respond before she secreted the plate of allusions in her vestments. As the vacillating tones dissolved into thin air she closed the fifth chapter of the Book of the Codification.

   “Frail alchemist” she said, “who strives to know Art, these two elements of which I have just spoken constitute the Second Order of the Codification. They (shape and tone) exist in the marriage of the opposites. Even as the son reenters the womb of his mother and comes forth as the black Crow, so do-the elements of the First Order commingle and bring forth that which is like unto themselves.”

   She had a sad countenance tinged by fate as she told me that she must of needs depart from my presence. “I have shown you much, too much I fear, of the particulars of the elements” she lamented. “I must go now, for the marriage is near at hand and I am called to sleep the fitful sleep of the Nigredo.” I stood there immune to her words as I watched her diffuse back into the vessel from which she had come. For a moment or two the vapours swirled-about in the alembic,. then all of a sudden they dove into the placid waters below. I thought I saw a faint sparkle of gold flash through the depths of the waters, but I was mistaken; it was only the reflection of light upon the tears that had formed in the corners of my eyes.