Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Philosopher's Stone

"In the bodies of metals,
Of men, and of beasts.
From it the Sages derive their science,
And through it they attain the Heavenly Gift,
Which is called the Philosopher's Stone,
Possessing the power of the whole world.
This gift the Sages impart to us with loving hearts,
That we may remember them for ever."

Be warned and understand truly that
two fishes are swimming in our sea
[full double page image]

A wolf and a dog are in 1 house,
and are afterwards changed into 1

Here you straightaway behold a black beast in the forest

Hear without terror that in the forest
are hidden a deer and a unicorn

Here you behold a marvel - 2 lions are joined into 1

We hear 2 birds in the forest but
we understand them to be only 1

This surely is a great miracle and without any deception -
that in a venomous dragon there should be the great medicine

Here are 2 birds, great and strong the body
and the spirit; one devours the other

These images come from a curious handwritten 1607 manuscript known as 'The Book of Lamspring' (Tractatus de Lapide Philosophorum - how to obtain the philosopher's stone), translated into latin from german (I think) by Nicholas Barnaud Delphinas [at least that's what the secondary sources say - the site these images comes from, and indeed the text itself reads as Nicolaus Majus or Nicolaum Majum]

I have been very confused and spent ages searching around with different spellings but I finally found a complete english transcript of this 50 double-page oddity at Sacred Texts from whence the opening quote above derives.

So it appears that this is an allegorical work written for adepts and augmented with painted emblems which are described in the text. This is definitely a very early manuscript and there are more (not online I don't think) in other European repositories.

I'll leave the explication to Adam McLean from Levity -
"The Book of Lambspring is an important work that points us especially to the inner aspect of the alchemical process. The indications I have presented here are only hints at one possible way of entering into the Lambspring process. However, as with all such hermetic systems of inner exercises, we cannot entirely grasp it through our thinking and if we wish to work this process we must take an inner journey into the strange landscape of Lambspring's work. By studying the text and meditatively penetrating each emblem in sequence we will be able to experience the symbols working within our souls."


Anonymous said...

I’d mistakenly assumed that these designs originated with the 1625 printed edition of Lambspring / Lambsprinck…: even though I think I linked to that essay of Adam McLean’s at one time, I guess I can’t have read it! It’s very interesting indeed to see these images in an earlier manuscript form.

peacay said...

Thanks for pointing towards your post.

I had come across references for 'Abbott of Lamspring' and a couple of others that lead me to believe (along with what I understood to be the common title, 'The Book of Lamspring'; and the spelling at U.Salzburg's site) that Lamspring was a German town. So I didn't pursue spellings for that name. I was looking around on words from the manuscript and secondary sources - hugely confusing, believe me.

It's mysterious origins are in keeping with its subject matter anyway.

William Zeitler said...

English version at is now located here:

peacay said...

Thanks William, I updated the link.

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