PDA

View Full Version : Rosarium Philosophorum and Rosary Practice



Karl
05-14-2011, 02:45 PM
It occurred to me recently that the Rosarium Philosophorum might originally have been intended to be images accompanying rosary practice. The rosary has 50 beads broken down into 5 sets of 10. The Rosarium Philosophorum is in 5 parts. The painting "The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary" by Goswijn van der Weyden predates the Rosarium by about 30-35 years. Mystery 11 and 15 seem to be the source images for the last two images in the Rosarium series:

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/images/hb/hb_1987.290.3a-p.jpg
http://www.levity.com/alchemy/images/ros19.gifhttp://www.levity.com/alchemy/images/ros20.gif

There are many variations on practices associated with the rosary but a common one is to recite Hail Mary on the 9 small beads and Our Father on the tenth bead. Each of the decades would have a different flavor and visualization to accompany it which would shift at the Our Father. I've read that one way of timing a distillation was with the recitation of a Pater Noster. I believe that doing these Christian mantras was intimate with the practice of alchemy. This idea is counter to what is commonly written about the Rosarium. For instance the wikipedia entry writes:

The term rosary in the title is unrelated to the Catholic prayer beads; it refers to a "rose garden", metaphoric of an anthology or collection of wise sayings.
I'm a Buddhist and doing mantras and visualization exercises is important to me in the practice of alchemy. It is interesting to me to find the possibility that there is a similarity in what might have been done in the Western tradition since the Middle Ages.
Thoughts?

True Initiate
05-14-2011, 10:01 PM
I'm a Buddhist and doing mantras and visualization exercises is important to me in the practice of alchemy. It is interesting to me to find the possibility that there is a similarity in what might have been done in the Western tradition since the Middle Ages.
Thoughts?

Yes, this sort of practices were used in the Western tradition as well.Just look at the term Laboratorium.
It is composed of two Latin words Labora meaning Work in the Lab and Oratorium meaning House of prayer.

Ora er Labora Pray and Work.

Karl
05-15-2011, 12:07 PM
Thank you, True Puffer, for responding. I'll take this opportunity to say how much I appreciated your thread Distillation Setup for Neophytes. It inspired me to assemble my own version:

http://i60.photobucket.com/albums/h19/karlcrosby/teapotsmall.jpg
which ultimately led to this:
http://i60.photobucket.com/albums/h19/karlcrosby/coppersmall.jpg

I have a rich selection of glassware but I really liked the DIY spirit in your teapot setup and the copper/compression fitting assembly has become wildly useful when fit to a 20 liter pot.


Yes, this sort of practices were used in the Western tradition as well.Just look at the term Laboratorium.
It is composed of two Latin words Labora meaning Work in the Lab and Oratorium meaning House of prayer.

Ora er Labora Pray and Work.

I'm not unclear on that point. What I'm interested in is the possibility that the Rosarium Philosophorum was not just a series of illustrations indicating process but were possibly intended for use with mantra in much the same way that Buddhist Vajrayana deity practice works. I'm aware of the existence of mantra/repetitive prayer practice to penetrate the "Cloud of Unknowing" in a Medieval Christian context but none of the sources I have read about the Rosarium series have suggested that might be at play in the intent and, in fact, deliberately disavow what seems to be an obvious association with the rosary.

True Initiate
05-15-2011, 06:37 PM
Wow, you have pushed the kitchen lab to another level.
I like it!

I am 100% sure that in medieval monasteries who were in reality schools of Magic and Alchemy they used combined system, unfortunately almost nothing came down to us.

Except the Bible, Science et Alchimie written by Roger Caro and The Practice of Ancient Turkish Freemasons written by Rudolf von Sebottendorff i have never heard of any other combined practice of Spiritual and Material Alchemy.

The Golden Rosicrucians have followed the Triune system of Astrology, Alchemy and Theurgy and this is the closest what i have found on this subject.

http://www.rosae-crucis.net/gurc.pdf.

vega33
05-15-2011, 08:49 PM
If you're interested in the symbolism and history as well as some info about possible connections, I highly re commend Eithne Wilkin's book "The Rose-garden Game". While primarily focussed on the European prayer beads, it also touches on the beads of other cultures such as the mala (of which I have two myself, one of which is a Japanese design)

As an adjunct to True Puffer's good advice about the word laboratorium, I can mention as well some information about the so called 'hortus conclusus'... aside from these enclosed rose gardens being symbolic of the Virgin Mary (often with the fountain at the center), they had symbology linking them with Eden such as the fourfold paths or quadrant design, and developed eventually into a concept of symbolic gardens complete with sacred architecture and statuary, such as those of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a clearly alchemical text, or those still extent in Portugal.

The rosary and the rose garden are linked with the concept of the temple, as well as the virgin wilderness of Eden. The very word temple comes from Greek "temenos", which was a plot of land set aside from profane uses and dedicated to a deity. It goes back to the concept of the sacred circle, originally marked out with the pole and measuring string, used in magick but so little understood, despite it being the backbone of ritual. This then evokes the Virgin's womb as well as the hermetic chest (cista) which used to be carried during the Mysteries, also associated with the fiery womb of Hekate in which the metals are formed. The idea of Fire turned inward instead of outward, or the Central Fire which in-forms and enlivens that which surrounds it, or alternatively the enclosure set aside to receive the emanations of the deity.

One could argue the rosary was associated with the rose-garden due to the fact that it is a place where life was cultivated carefully, and reminded the medieval mind of the importance of proper mental, physical and spiritual cultivation... ideas that apply equally to alchemical praxis as they do to prayer and spiritual work. Of course there is a lot more, the symbolism is so multi-layered, but it is best not to say too much, and leave the rest for Meditation.

Karl
05-15-2011, 11:13 PM
Those are great responses Vega33 and True Puffer.


Except the Bible, Science et Alchimie written by Roger Caro and The Practice of Ancient Turkish Freemasons written by Rudolf von Sebottendorff i have never heard of any other combined practice of Spiritual and Material Alchemy.

I'm having a hard time tracking down the Roger Caro book but found a link to the Von Sebottendorff:- http://www.american-buddha.com/cult.turkfreemasonsebottendorft.htm

I've been reading through the Freemasonry text. We sure don't talk about that content in lodge.


If you're interested in the symbolism and history as well as some info about possible connections, I highly re commend Eithne Wilkin's book "The Rose-garden Game". While primarily focussed on the European prayer beads, it also touches on the beads of other cultures such as the mala (of which I have two myself, one of which is a Japanese design)

This is a great lead. A little pricey through Amazon though. I believe I know a library likely to have a copy.


...I can mention as well some information about the so called 'hortus conclusus'...enclosed rose gardens ... developed eventually into a concept of symbolic gardens complete with sacred architecture and statuary, such as those of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a clearly alchemical text....

I've never heard of that book- at a glance the story is similar to Mozart's Magic Flute.


The rosary and the rose garden are linked with the concept of the temple, as well as the virgin wilderness of Eden. The very word temple comes from Greek "temenos", which was a plot of land set aside from profane uses and dedicated to a deity. It goes back to the concept of the sacred circle, originally marked out with the pole and measuring string, used in magick but so little understood, despite it being the backbone of ritual. This then evokes the Virgin's womb as well as the hermetic chest (cista) which used to be carried during the Mysteries, also associated with the fiery womb of Hekate in which the metals are formed. The idea of Fire turned inward instead of outward, or the Central Fire which in-forms and enlivens that which surrounds it, or alternatively the enclosure set aside to receive the emanations of the deity.

I was completely unaware of the function of the Cista Mystica- what is the Hermetic connection? I've found reference to it in the various Mysteries but I'm not sure how it might relate with Hermeticism. The incubator in the oratory seems like a related symbol.

Thank you both for your thoughtful responses. This gives me new threads to follow in the dark.

vega33
05-16-2011, 07:50 PM
This is a great lead. A little pricey through Amazon though. I believe I know a library likely to have a copy.

I got my secondhand hardcover copy from Archives Bookstore in Brisbane, while I was living there... it was a one off find, and even secondhand it was $AU75. A lot of alchemical material is not cheap, I have my German edition of Compass der Weisen from the library of Leonard Pembroke, for a couple of hundred, as well as the translation of Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum for over $100NZD. Several of the scholarly works I have on the mysteries or the Corpus Hermeticum probably total $50 or more each. If I was to total what I had spent in total on research over the 12-13 years I have been studying, it would most likely be in the tens of thousands (to say nothing of rare works lost due to fallouts with intentional communities in the US, but thats another story).


I was completely unaware of the function of the Cista Mystica- what is the Hermetic connection? I've found reference to it in the various Mysteries but I'm not sure how it might relate with Hermeticism. The incubator in the oratory seems like a related symbol.

"The Cults of the Roman Empire" by Turcan was one of the books I remember talking a lot about the cistaphores, as well as many other things I had never heard about prior to that. It was the first book where I read phrases such as "the manifestation of a henotheism quite different from the intransigent monotheism..." and relished the fact that the author seems quite uncaring whether people understood him or not, he just simply writes for the pleasure of sharing information.

My take on it (and it is only my take) is that the Mysteries and Alchemy are intimately related, and that there is a certain relationship between myths that exists which hints at a larger but simple mystery, most probably involving magnetism, and encompassing both the spiritual and physical fields at once. The problem with intransigent materialism in alchemy is that it simply doesn't seem compatible with the mindsets of the classical authors as expressed through their words, especially the pseudo-Hermes and the other Greek authors.

But getting back to the Hermetic chest... Dionsysus and Osiris. If you'll recall the writings of Plutarch he compared the two of them, saying how similar they were. Well, both of them were shut up inside a chest or womb of sorts and "born again". Dionysus was shut up inside Zeus' thigh (meros, femur), Osiris inside a chest by his brother Seth. Dionysus was torn apart by the Titans limb from limb, Osiris was cut into pieces by Seth. Osiris was re-membered by Isis, and Dionysus by Zeus by way of the heart being sewn up in his thigh. In the same way the grape is torn to pieces in the process of creating wine, and shut up in a chest (barrel). The Christian religion of course had the symbolism of being born again as well through immersion in the living waters (and through the second baptism of fire), which correspond to the waters of the womb, or alternatively the waters of the river Styx which Isis used in making the king's child immortal.

When you look at all the various similarities it seems as though the various mythos's tell the same story. With the Greek chest bearers, it is obvious the chest relates to the myth of their god... the cista mystica was used to house serpents. There are of course the usual Greek puns - Ophis (snake), Sophis (wise), phos i (the light). So what was really being hinted as shut up in the chest? Serpents, wisdom, or the light? :)

Karl
05-17-2011, 03:34 AM
"The Cults of the Roman Empire" by Turcan was one of the books I remember talking a lot about the cistaphores, as well as many other things I had never heard about prior to that. It was the first book where I read phrases such as "the manifestation of a henotheism quite different from the intransigent monotheism..." and relished the fact that the author seems quite uncaring whether people understood him or not, he just simply writes for the pleasure of sharing information.

Ha! Well, I admit I had to look up henotheism.


My take on it (and it is only my take) is that the Mysteries and Alchemy are intimately related, and that there is a certain relationship between myths that exists which hints at a larger but simple mystery, most probably involving magnetism, and encompassing both the spiritual and physical fields at once.

The Mithraic mysteries degrees being based on the seven planets does seem linked to the preparation of the seven basics. I find the possibility of a simpler unifying mystery really interesting. I had a dream some months ago about playing an ancient stringed instrument while doing an alchemical preparation. The dream suggested the importance of resonance in the work.