Click HERE if you want to join Alchemy Forums!

Patrons of the Sacred Art

+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 15

Thread: Symbolism of the Latin letters

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    1,349

    Symbolism of the Latin letters

    Probably a lot of us know that there is a tradition in many cultures of giving a meaning to the letters.

    An example could be Qabalah and its tradition of studying the correspondences of the Hebrew letters, their shapes, their gematria, etc.

    Another example could be the studies of the Greek Alphabet (i.e, Marcus the Gnostic, Zosimus, or even Plato).

    ... But the studies on the Latin Alphabet are very unusual.

    i.e, the Ars Magna of Llull doesn't fit at all into this category, because his correspondences are arbitrary and similar to the correspondences of modern logic (At least it is my opinion that Llull didn't see that the Latin letters had a specific meaning and his system of logic was based on correspondences that he considered to be arbitrary).

    __________________________________________________ __

    I do know a few studies on the Latin Alphabet.

    I'm posting them:

    Jakob Böhme analyzes the word "IEHOVA" in his Clavis (or "Keys")

    His interpretation is as follows:


    I

    I is the effluence of the eternal, indivisible Unity, or the sweet
    gracefulness [wholeness, holiness] of the ground of the divine power of
    becoming somethingness.

    E

    E is a threefold I, where the Trinity shuts itself up in the Unity; for
    the I goes into E, and joins IE, which is an outbreathing of the Unity in
    itself.

    H


    H is the Word, or breathing of the Trinity of God.

    O


    O is the circumference, or the Son of God, through which the IE and
    the H, or breathing, out-speaks; from the compressed light of the
    power and virtue.

    V


    V is the joyful effluence from the breathing, that is, the proceeding spirit of God.

    A


    A is that which is proceeded from the power and virtue, viz. the
    wisdom; a subject of the Trinity; wherein the Trinity works,and wherein
    the Trinity is also manifest.

    ___________________________________

    Berend Coenders van Helpen in his Escalier des sages ou la philosophie des anciens ("The Staircase of the wise or the philosophy of the ancients") analyzes the 5 vowels this way:

    O: the perfect circle and a symbol of the "first being"
    I: the perfect line
    V: (he is using the latin alphabet, thus the "V" instead of "U" as a vowel)... two lines that show two opposed qualities.
    A: Three lines and the Holy Trinity.
    E: Four lines and the 4 elements.

    He also explains that the number of straight lines in the vowels is 10:
    I = 1, V = 2, A = 3, E = 4... thus making some sort of Tetractys.

    He also analyzes the words "DEVS", "IESVS" and "MARIA", giving complex geometrical correspondences for each letter and extracting a 24 from the straight lines contained in these letters (something that reminds me a lot of Marcus the Gnostic!).

    _________________________________________

    Several alchemical texts use some words as a Notariqon (the most obvious example would be the famous "Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem for "V.I.T.R.I.O.L."... but such thing doesn't involve a true study of the letters that is similar to the case of Qabalah or the System of Marcus).

    __________________________________________

    The tradition of Martinism has a short analysis of the letters S and I, giving them a meaning that is similar to the seal of Cagliostro:



    But Martinism doesn't really have a deep analysis of the Latin Alphabet as a whole.
    ___________________________________________

    The letters of the word "LVX" become a formula in the Golden Dawn tradition, giving them a numerical value (L = 50, V = 5, X = 10.... thus 65) and correspondences with Egyptian Gods and then positions in the Zodiac.

    Same thing than Martinism... the only Latin letters that receive an analysis are L, V and X in this tradition... and there isn't any suggestion that the Latin letters as a whole have a specific meaning... so it's a very restricted analysis (same thing for Martinism).
    ___________________________________________

    Of course, we have Rimbaud, though his famous poem was mostly about his subjective vision of the vowels.

    Vowels

    A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
    I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:
    A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies
    which buzz around cruel smells,

    Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,
    lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley;
    I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips
    in anger or in the raptures of penitence;

    U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,
    the peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrows
    which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;

    O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,
    silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels:
    O, the Omega! the violet ray of His Eyes!

    ______________________________________________

    Do you know of other texts that study the Latin letters in a way that is similar to Qabalah or the Greek System of Marcus?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Bridger Mountains
    Posts
    1,528
    Blog Entries
    4
    I like the practice of letters

    Franz Bardon's Key to the True Qabala is one I recommend, if you haven't read it yet.

    He bases his study on a 'quadripolar' formula, taken from his understanding of the Tetragrammaton and the Hebrew letters, but applied to the Latin letters.

    For example, A manifesting in the Akasha is the highest illumination and highest wisdom, as well as the highest purity of these ideals. In the Mental it manifests as the enlightened mind. In the Astral, as the control of the Air principle and of abilities and skills corresponding to the Air element. In the Physical, the control of air spirits and storms.

    In addition, he gives colors and correspondences to the body, as well as one-letter, two-letter, three-letter and four-letter formulas.
    Last edited by Kiorionis; 05-03-2016 at 01:31 AM.
    Art is Nature in the flask; Nature is a vial thing.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    1,349
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiorionis View Post
    I like the practice of letters.
    Franz Bardon's Key to the True Qabala is one I recommend, if you haven't read it yet.
    My interest in this area is caused by the lack of a *myth* related to the letters that became the standard for the Western civilization (with a few exceptions, like Greece).
    My interest is based on the idea that it's something that was not accomplished... but I am interested in the attempts to do it.

    i.e, I respect Böhme a lot, but his analysis of "Iehova" is almost laughable for me... van Helpen did it better, but his experiment was also somehow flawed (in my opinion, of course).

    But it is interesting for me how *we* failed to create a system with our most typical symbols of communication (the Latin letters)... and find examples of persons who tried to do something with them.

    (And also the links with XX century avant-garde artists and movements... lie Raoul Hausmann's phonetic poems or the Lettrism)

    I never touched a book by Bardon; I always had the prejudice that he was a terrible author... but this is certainly a prejudice and I recently saw Salazius name-dropping Bardon and then you. Our prejudices are often silly (specially in this case, because I have never read a single sentence by him). So I will certainly get the book you suggest and murder my silly and unjustified prejudice.

    I think I have some sort of fetish with the idea of language as a "Prima Materia" for a strictly philosophical branch of something that is very close to Alchemy (I don't dare to call it "Alchemy", though I can't give it a name).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Bridger Mountains
    Posts
    1,528
    Blog Entries
    4
    My interest in the letters is to sublimated consciousness through the permutation of the letters, among other things

    I don't recommend you read Bardon for his style, but only for his information on the subject of letters.
    Art is Nature in the flask; Nature is a vial thing.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    London
    Posts
    2,578
    Not being a subject I am conversant with, what meanings are you looking for in letters and words.

    Is this perhaps the same as the information hidden in the words of the past; if I may give a modern day example however crude.

    "he hoovered up his dinner like it may be his last"

    Where the word "hoover" is a corruption of a vacuum cleaner company name brought into common day use to mean to suck something up.

    Almost every name created has some purpose in its construction...

    or am I missing a deeper perspective; i.e. The Word, Logos, other?

    The reason I ask is so that I may better enjoy the posts.

    Ghislain

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    1,349
    Quote Originally Posted by Ghislain View Post
    Not being a subject I am conversant with, what meanings are you looking for in letters and words.

    Is this perhaps the same as the information hidden in the words of the past;
    When it comes to language, we have several levels of meaning and different (philosophical) ways to understand that meaning.

    I.e, a way to divide those levels of meaning could be (and I am simply inventing a system ad hoc):
    1-The language itself.
    2-A book.
    3-A Chapter of the book.
    4-A Paragraph of the book.
    5-A Sentence of the book.
    6-A word.
    7-A Letter.

    My invented system doesn't exclude other systems, such as the Pardes ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pardes_(Jewish_exegesis) )... I am simply using it to explain something to you. So don't take it too seriously, it's just something I've just invented as to explain, not a real "system".

    It is my understanding that Western Mysticism (and Western Culture) has two main sources: the Greek Culture and the Jewish Culture (Of course, none of them was a Creatio ex Nihilo and both of them were influenced by other cultures -Egyptian, Babylonian, Sumerian, etc). This is especially true if you consider that Christianity is what happened when the Greek Culture and the Jewish Culture found each other.

    It is interesting for me that both of these cultures (Greek and Jewish) developed a system of understanding language that arrived to the 7th level (of the "system" that I have just invented ad hoc): letters... even making this 7th level become the core or the base of all the other upper levels.

    Now... the Standard Alphabet for the Western Civilization became the Latin Alphabet...
    It is interesting for me that the Latin Alphabet has often been analyzed till the 6th level of my "invented system", that is, words... but there are very few examples of persons who tried to analyze the 7th level: letters (i.e, the Tradition of Western alchemy has a VERY rich corpus of analysing and using the 6th level... a HUGE corpus of a "jargon" of words that mean something else than the obvious, etc).

    If you look at Greek and Jewish examples, then you will find how Marcus the Gnostic dreamt of a God composed by LETTERS who created a Macrocosm and a Microcosm (man) using LETTERS... whilst the Sepher Yetzirah follows and identical procedure. There is something funny for me in both of these cases: for Marcus it was obvious that God created the Macrocosm and the Microcosm speaking Greek... whilst for the Sepher Yetzirah it is obvious that God did the same, but speaking Hebrew.

    It is interesting for me that nobody created a rich system that does the same with the the Latin Alphabet... Even if we can find isolated examples of some persons who tried to arrive the the 7th level (Böhme, van Helpen)... but the cases I know are very very very far from the imaginery of Marcus or the Sepher Yetzirah.

    Or even that some Western Mystics have tried re-create the language of God, but none of them even thought of using the Latin Alphabet (i.e, John Dee's Enochian, Hildegard von Bingen's Lingua Ignota or Leibniz trying to rebuild the language of Adam and God).

    Quote Originally Posted by Ghislain View Post
    Almost every name created has some purpose in its construction...

    or am I missing a deeper perspective; i.e. The Word, Logos, other?

    The reason I ask is so that I may better enjoy the posts.
    I don't know if words have a purpose in their construction (it's almost like the medieval debate between Nominalists vs. Realists).

    ... And yes, I'm looking for a deeper perspective that you can relate to the idea of the LOGOS.

    And, as to give a better explanation... I do NOT believe that "God" speaks any language, I don't believe that "God" created any correspondence between the letters of any Alphabet and any given ideas, etc...
    But I do believe that we, humans, have a long history of trying to understand "God" by several different means and one of them is language.

    I.e, I was just naming the case of Van Helpen and his "Ladder of the Wise"... a book in which he analyses some of the Latin Letters to understand "God".

    I give these systems a great value and at the same time I think they are "false"... We need them to "understand God", but we can only "understand God" when we give the final step and throw these systems to the trashcan.

    Wittgenstein had an amazing phrase about it, which can be related to the "ladder" of Van Helpen:

    "My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright."

    So I am specially interested in finding sources that have used the Latin LETTERS as the steps of this "ladder", even if I agree with Wittgenstein in the idea that we have to throw away the ladder after climbing it.

    Another way to say it... I am very interested in what we (Westerners) have done with our standard Alphabet... and the "Myths" we have created about it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    London
    Posts
    2,578
    Still a little bemused, as I have always looked at letters as tools to construct a word that has meaning; I have never looked at the letters as having a meaning of their own.

    I have read a little on the subject and how Hebrew letters are constructed from lines and shapes which have meaning of their own, but only brief encounters and no real understanding.

    Could you give me an example of what you mean that I may see it more clearly?

    I see many other letters and symbols in other languages such as Chinese where the symbol can represent a word or a group of words; does Chinese also have singular letters? Were our letters once words in their own right?

    We see on a daily basis words corrupted from their original meaning with that corruption becoming commonplace and often included into a dictionary with the corrupted meaning.

    As children we create new words that our parents have difficulty understanding, and now as parents we are considered out of touch when we hear our children using words we once knew the meaning of, but are now being used in a completely different context.

    So if we trace this backward to the origin, how much of this corruption does one have to overcome?

    Please be patient, I am sure I will get it soon

    Ghislain

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    1,349
    Quote Originally Posted by Ghislain View Post
    Still a little bemused, as I have always looked at letters as tools to construct a word that has meaning; I have never looked at the letters as having a meaning of their own.
    Well... the best examples I know can be read online:

    An example in Greek would be Marcus. No text of Marcus has survived, but thankfully we have a text by one of his enemies that wanted to show how horrible were his ideas... and explained very well the ideas of Marcus and why they were "heresies" (this person is *Saint* Irenaeus). Here's the 2 chapters he wrote about the system of Marcus (there is another chapter about Marcus in the same book, but it's unrelated to this subject and simply explains how "evil" was Marcus):

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103114.htm
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103115.htm

    [the "negative" tone of the text is simply because it is written by a person who hated Marcus so much that wanted to show how sinister he was... but it's *funny* how the text that wanted to destroy him became one of the main sources, probably the best one, to understand how amazing was Marcus and what kind of idiot was Iraneous]

    As for the Hebrew version of this same thing, the most relevant text is probably the Sepher Yetzirah, but it may be a bit hard to follow because the English translations use a system of transliterations that is quite impossible to understand if you are not familiar with this system of transliteration and the Hebrew letters:

    http://www.psyche.com/psyche/txt/kaplan_sy_short.html

    (the text is not specially complicated, but it gets complicated to read it with all the letters transliterated to English).

    I will show you a classical graphic example, so you will get it:

    The first letter of the Hebrew Alphabet is the Aleph and this is how it looks:

    The letters have a numerical value in Hebrew... the value of the Aleph is 1.

    But, as you know, you can also spell the name of a letter (i.e, the letter "Z" is spelled "Zee" for the Americans and "Zed" for the British)... and it is possible to spell the letters in Hebrew too.

    "Aleph" in Hebrew is spelled using three letters: Aleph, Lamed and Peh or "ALP" using a standard transliteration.

    Since ALL the letters have a numerical value, you can add the value of the letters:

    Aleph = 1
    Lamed = 30
    Peh = 80

    1 + 30 + 80 = 111

    So Aleph is considered as the number "1", but it also contains the number "111", which is taken as a triple manifestation of its unity.

    ... but it is possible to go further:

    The name that in English is written as "Jehovah" is written as in Hebrew. This word in Hebrew has 4 letters: Yod Heh Vau Heh... or "YHVH" using the standard transliteration. So we can assign a numerical value to this name by adding the individual value of its 4 letters:

    Yod = 10
    Heh = 5
    Vav = 6
    Heh = 5

    10 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 26

    The symbol of the letter Aleph, has often been analyzed as the "meeting" of three letters that got united to make a single letter.

    This is the letter Yod:
    This is the letter Vav:

    ... So, the symbol for the letter Aleph: has often being understood as being composed by a Yod above, a Vav in the middle and a Vav below (or a Vav surrounded by two letters Yod).

    So, if you add the values of these letters you get:

    Yod = 10
    Vav = 6
    Yod = 10

    10 + 6 + 10 = 26... and 26 is the number of YHVH ("Jehovah").

    So the letter Aleph equals 1, but also 111, but also 26 (same as "Jehovah").

    And these are just a few things that can be said about the letter Aleph, it would be possible to write several pages on the meanings that this letter has received... but the same thing is true for the other letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.

    ____________________________________________

    The Greek System and the Hebrew System are quite similar (my own theory is that the Hebrew system was somehow *inspired* by the Greek System and it clearly has a strong neo-platonic influence)... but for historical reasons, the Hebrew System (a.k.a. Qabalah) was by far better preserved than the Greek system (probably because the Greek System was very linked to Christian Gnosticism and the early and not so early Christians were quite obsessed with murdering the Christian Gnostics and burning their books... They didn't like the Jews either, but they were more concerned with destroying Gnosticism... whilst they probably they didn't care much about destroying Jewish literature because they couldn't understand the Hebrew language, so a tale for kids and an "esoteric" book looked identical).

    ________________________________________

    So it is interesting for me that we have these systems, but nothing like that seems to have existed for the Latin letters... Even if it's possible to find isolated examples of persons who tried to do something similar, but the examples I know are somehow "poor" or even almost like a comedy (I love Jakob Böhme, but his analysis of the letters of "IEHOVA" is, as to use an internet slang: LOL and WTF?).

    I am interested in finding classical sources that tried to do something with the Latin letters... I think nobody accomplished anything incredibly interesting with the study of the Latin letters, but I am interested in the "failures" and seeing how different persons tried to give them a meaning.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    London
    Posts
    2,578
    I have seen this breakdown of the Hebrew letters before and didn't understand the relevance then as I do not now.

    What does it mean that Aleph could be 111 or 26?

    Are these texts not just a metaphor for the power within words?

    Words can start wars or bring peace, they can have great meaning or be completely empty. They can hold secret messages to those that understand or nothing to those that don't.

    Do you believe there is more power in letters and words than this and if so could you explain why?

    Ghislain

    P.S. does this representation of numbers for letters have anything to do with numerology?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    1,349
    Quote Originally Posted by Ghislain View Post
    I have seen this breakdown of the Hebrew letters before and didn't understand the relevance then as I do not now.

    What does it mean that Aleph could be 111 or 26?

    Are these texts not just a metaphor for the power within words?

    Words can start wars or bring peace, they can have great meaning or be completely empty. They can hold secret messages to those that understand or nothing to those that don't.

    Do you believe there is more power in letters and words than this and if so could you explain why?

    Ghislain

    P.S. does this representation of numbers for letters have anything to do with numerology?
    Those are lots of questions! LOL.

    I'll try to answer.

    I only "believe" in a symbolical way... not in a literal way. The system for the Greek letters and the system from the Hebrew letters contradict each other if you get too literal.

    I think of these systems as philosophical systems.

    They are compatible with the idea of "the Logos was made flesh" (the Word was made flesh, the Reason was made flesh, the Sense was made flesh, etc).

    My point of view is that the neo-platonic / neo-pythagorean influence is very strong in these systems... and they dreamt of a God that made sense and created a Universe that makes sense and a language that makes sense... and some persons started to investigate the "atoms" of these languages (the letters) as to find Gnosis.

    So I find this idea very interesting and it's not because I believe that such thing is "true"... I simply see it in the same way that I can see a work of art.

    I.e, This is a work by Basquiat:



    It isn't "true" of "false"... it's simply an artistic or philosophical perception.

    I do believe that we have to transcend language... but also that language it one of the key tools to transcend language.

    As to answer if I believe that there is a power is letters and words... I probably should state my main point of view:

    God did not write ANY book. All the books were written by humans.
    God did not invent ANY word. All the words were invented by humans.
    God doesn't support ANY Religion. All the Religions were invented by humans.

    And yet it is fascinating to study what *we* created, even if you perceive it as a "work of art" that is neither true or false... it simply has a subjective meaning.

    The study of the letters can become like a door to get into very deep subjective meanings... and it's a path that makes everything a bit more "relative".

    And, yes, this is related to "numerology", though the study of numbers is older than the study of letters. The school of Pythagoras was heavily based on numbers. I also like a lot the neo-pythagorean jewish Philo of Alexandria, who created a proto-Qabalah (and, in my opinion, this is very subjective, he invented to core concepts of Christian Gnosticism)... he devoted a lot of time to study the numbers, but he didn't study the letters and yet his influence on Qabalah is quite obvious.

    Such thing doesn't mean that I give an equal value to anything that is called "numerology"... some modern systems are very silly.
    i.e, -Which on is your birth date?
    -25th June 1981
    -Oh, so 25 + 6 + 1981 = 2012 = 2 + 0 + 1 + 2 = 5... your number is 5!

    I don't really give any value to these modern systems.

    Pardon me for not giving a better reply... I have flu and fever... so my brain is operating very slow.

+ Reply to Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts