Table Talk 141-60

From Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery by Mary Anne Atwood:

141. If you seek a finite end first, i.e., before you seek the Universal — the Kingdom of God — which you are ordered to do, you will have to give up the former at every stage, if a right seeker; and unless you are wicked, and steal the first fruits of the spirit’s offering, all sorts of gifts are offered; you may stop in any of them; if you do, you commit idolatry. It is against God’s ordinance; that the real truth as expressed in the 1st and 2nd Commandments especially; though it is a breach of all, in the higher spiritualistic sense.


142. What it is that Nature strives to gain through man, because creation has lapsed into it? I suppose it is an escape from vacuity into entity, from the seeming and shadow into reality. There is no human misery which can compare to that.

143. Self-knowledge is the first contact of consciousness in the ground of life.

144. The First Matter is not to be found on earth, as the philosophers say; you must go back into the original of life from which it springs; go back in consciousness. It is immediately antecedent to the first consciousness. How beautifully Plotinus describes that generation of the First Matter as a recessure of reason behind itself into the indefinite intermediate between reason and the Absolute. This is merely the metaphysic of it. It is never realized so, it is merely intelligible so to the highest reason, for this First Matter thus presents itself as the extreme of bound and definiteness reverting to non-being.

145. The Hermetic Process is a regular inquisition into life. There is motion present with interrogation. Generally speaking the descriptions of the Matter as it appears to the eye of mind regardant of its own first sense, the whole process, all the descriptions, relate to the one universal entity of life, the omnia in omnibus before manifestation and individuality, the thing of which you may assert everything; Proteus.

146. There is a spirit-man within the natural man and his work is to move the Ether.

147. When the metal bond is broken, the Elias spirit is born and his work is to prepare for something higher. This is the analogue of the Work revealed in Holy Scripture, just as the Stone is the analogue of the Chief Corner Stone.

148. As the Divine Art works in and with the Universal Spirit, the Proteus mentioned above is mechanical as well as alchemical and uses instruments as well as vessels; as the heart and brain are its vessels, so are the hand and eye its instruments and vessels also, the eye particularly. Every member is in short working for the end proposed to fulfill the law of the head, the direction, I mean, given by the head; without taking all the powers and appliances you narrow the view of this art, which comprehends everything wanted here on earth analogically.

149. The reason why there are so many seeming contradictions in the descriptions given of the First Matter in its manifestations, is that the things said of it are transmutable adjective forms, which may become one another, and what they are at one moment they change from at another. Virgil alluded to this in the advice to Aristaeus as to the mode in which he should arrest and bind Proteus (c.f., Vaughan’s Aula Lucis, pp. 15-16).

150.When the consciousness is opened into rapport with the spiritual spheres, it comes into relationship with multiplicity of being and beings of good or evil character according to the state in which the vital spirit is within the blood. If a person in the inner life came suddenly into this outer life, and his senses were awakened into perception of the vastness and variety of things, he would be astonished at what he saw; just so would be the case with one coming into relation with the manifold world within.

151. As is nature to God, so is the outward Bible in my opinion to the inner: the letter to the spirit, the historical to the ontological. When St Paul says “the letter killeth”, he means that the living letter of the law is too powerful a test for man’s spirit. The Law of Eternal Justice cannot be met by the Mediatorial Sacrifice from which the new spirit arise.

I don’t like to say much here; it may seem to me preposterous rather. I half see it. It is talking too theoretically of the Christian Love which reconciles, of the Humility which was deeper than the pride which caused the Fall. We cannot imagine of the depths of that suffering, that utter self-abandonment.

152. The vision and experience of the inner life is the same to all who enter into it, after they have passed the phantasmagoric region and so far unriddled the sphynx of this world as to enter into its solution, i.e., in its dissolved essence which is the mercury of the Philosophers, Proteus. Thus Aristaeus went to Proteus to learn how he could get on after he had lost all his bees, all the faculties of his soul, with the generative life.

153. Nature reduced to the extremity of her last unit or monad turns upon her axis and rallies up into a new life, and displays all the powers of her center as light does in ether. All colors, all forms, all possibilities of being, are then brought before the seer.

154. If there were no art in the Divine world there would be none in this. The mystery is an art revealed to regenerating men, to advance them on to perfection; it is revealed, but by whom, whence, where?

155. You can’t get the medial center, the anima media, either of man or nature without its law, and that law is an impulse towards rectification and regeneration. As the seed of a natural object to its nature, so is the seed of spirit to spirit. This is alluded to by St Paul when he says, “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption”.

156. Every manifestation contains the promise of another superior to it, the germ or seed, as it were:

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas
Atque metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
Subjecit pedibus, etc.

These words are a grand declaration of a deep Hermetic truth, for when the individual light of life is lodged in its causal center, the whole of the evil nature adhering is precipitated to the extremities, destroying the downward gravitating attraction or rather overcoming it, and leaving all the threefold life freedom of ascent. This is a deep subject; I can hardly grapple it, it requires working out. That which relates us to the lower principle is cast out with the consciousness of the self-evolved power, for: —

157. In the Regeneration there is a wonderful birth of freedom to act every and realize every volition; this, so far as regards self-will, is given up under the Christ-life in its higher development and subjected to the Father’s Will.

158. What does the Reason(vernunft) seek? Causes, and, through secondary, the higher Cause, the punctum saliens of life, and there it finds its roots consciously. The Light which springs up in that alliance is the Divine aurific seed and true form of gold. That was the “Golden Bough” which Aeneas carried, and which took him safely through Tartarus.

159. In the great combat of Life internal on the plain of truth, the will on either side, that of the universal and the self center, sends forth all its troops, that I, the various powers, as they are called upon successively; the rational light keeping back to the last, and never aroused into action until deprived of its understanding essence which is taken captive by the rational light on the other side; not being able to subsist without this, the rational intellect goes forth to avenge it and die. This is predestinated from the first; the process, however, goes on over and over again; it is not concluded in this world.

This war is the war between two principles of the self-will and the Divine Will. We are born into the self-will, and by the Divine mercy shut up in nature in order that we may not feel the bitterness springing from the course of self-life, what Behmen calls the bitter anguish of the driving wheel of existence. All the whole scheme of Christianity is to redeem us out of that misery by the interposition of God’s grace between us and it.

160. Alchemy goes beyond nature; it takes her up and advances her beyond her created it and in this world.

Art, then, what nature left in hand doth take,
And out of one a twofold work doth make.

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