Thomas Vaughan: From ‘Lumen de Lumine’ – About Thalia & Viridity
‘Thalia, Muse of Comedy & pastoral poetry with face of Poppaea’; wall paintings from ‘triclinium A’ in the luxury inn in Agro Murecine (modern Moregine); first century CE. This inn, with five triclinia (dining rooms), may have been built specially for Nero; the paintings in this triclinium also depict Apollo with cithara leading the muses, and may contain portraits of Nero, Poppaea, and Agrippina the Younger, now in display at Naples, National Archaeological Museum (“Stories from an Eruption” exhibit). Picture Credits: Sailko @ Wikimedia Commons.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA are two extracts from Thomas Vaughan’s ‘Collected Works’:🌿The first excerpt is from his ‘Lumen de Lumine‘, where the Welsh Philosopher meets with the Muse Thalia, followed by a note in which Clément Rosereau, the translator of the French edition of the ‘Complete Works of Thomas Vaughan’, describes Thalia, also called: ‘The Green’.🌿The second extract is from Thomas Vaughan’s English translation of the German ‘Fama Fraternitatis‘ where in his foreword he explains the concept of ‘Viridity'(Viriditas in Latin, literally “greenness,”).🌿 ‘The figure of Thalia in Vaughan’s allegorical presentation is not only veiled physically in this description, but is also hidden to the majority of Vaughan’s readers through their spiritual incapacity. Thalia represents not merely nature, but transformed nature, the nature that the alchemists hoped their labours were bringing about, the Paradise that, as Jacob Boehme had argued, was “in the world. . .swallowed up in the Mystery. . . but. . . . not altered in itself.” Thalia’s head was “overcast with a thin floating Tiffanie”. It is a hermetic platitude that the phenomenal world both conceals and reveals the divine nature. Here, insofar as “tiffanie” is a veil it hides or overcasts; but it also reveals, for “tiffany” is etymologically related to “theophany,” as Vaughan was linguistically alert enough to know. Thalia, then, represents the possibility of earth’s transformation, and this conception has a bearing on the endeavours of the alchemists…She is “the virgin, clad in flowers and green,”…and also the Eternity in which all Nature will rest when death and pain are destroyed.’ (From an article by Alan Rudrum). We have added an appendix, in order to honor the memory of the recently departed, humble and generous, François Trojani (1940-2023), by sharing his commentary of the ‘Thalia’ card of the Mantegna Engravings Series. We encourage you also to read this text by Gustav Meyrink, especially when he is talking about ‘Chidder the Green’…Finally, you can discover the post Nalan prepared about ‘Viriditas‘.
From Thomas Vaughan’s ‘Lumen de Lumine’,
‘Now had the Night spent her black stage, and all Her beauteous, twinckling flames grew sick, and pale. Her Scene of shades, and silence fled; and Day Drest the young East in Roses: where each Ray Falling on Sables, made the Sun and Night Kisse in a Checquer of mixt Clouds, and Light.
I Think it were more plaine, and to some Capacities more pleasing, if I should expresse my self in this popular, low Dialect. It was about the Dawning or Day-breake, when tyr’d with a tedious solitude, and those pensive Thoughts which attend it, after much Losse and more Labour, I suddainly fell a sleep.
Here then the Day was no sooner borne, but strangled; I was reduc’d to a night of a more deep tincture than that which I had formerly spent. My fansie placed me in a Region of inexpressible Obscuritie, and as I thought more than Naturall; but without any Terrors.
I was in a firm even Temper, and though without incouragements, not only resolute, but well-pleas’d. I moved every way for Discoveries, but was still intertained with Darknesse and silence, and I thought my self translated to the Land of Desolation. Being thus troubled to no purpose, and wearied with long Indeavours, I resolved to reft my self, and seeing I could find nothing, I expected if any thing could find me. I had not long continued in this humor, but I could heare the whispers of a soft wind, that travail’d towards me, and suddainly it was in the Leaves of the Trees, so that I concluded my self to be in some Wood, or Wildernesse.
With this gentle Breath came a most heavenly, odorous Ayre, much like that of sweet Briars, but not so rank and full. This perfume being blown over, there succeeded a pleasant Humming of Bees amongst Flowers, and this did somewhat discompose me, for I judged it not suitable with the Complexion of the place, which was darke and like Midnight. Now was I somewhat troubl’d with these unexpected Occurrences, when a new Appearance diverted my Apprehensions.
Not far off on my right hand, I could discover a white weake Light, not so cleare as that of a Candle, but mystie, and much resembling an Atmospheare. Towards the Center it was of a purple colour like the Elysian Sun-shine, but in the Dilatation of the Circumference, Milkie: and if we consider the joynt Tincture of the parts, it was a painted Vesper, a Figure of that Splendor, which the old Romans called a Sol Mortuorum.
Whiles I was taken up with this strange Scene, there appeared in the middle purple Colours, a suddain Commotion, and out of their very Center did sprout a certaine flowrie Light, as it were the flame of a Taper. Very bright it was, sparkling, and twinkling like the Day-star. The Beams of this new Planet issuing forth in small Skeins and Rivulets, look’d like Threds of Silver, which being re∣flected against the Trees, discover’d a Curious, green Vmbrage, and I found my self in a Grove of Bays. The Texture of the Branches was so even, the Leaves so thick, and in that conspiring order, it was not a wood, but a Building.
I conceived it indeed to be the Temple of Nature, where she had joyn’d Discipline to her Doctrine. Under this shade and skreen did lodge a number of Nightingals, which I discovered by their whitish Breasts. These peeping thorough their leavie Cabinets, rejoyced at this strange Light, and having first plum’d themselves, stirr’d the still Ayre with their Musick. This I thought was very pretty, for the silence of the Night, suiting with the solitude of the place, made me judge it heavenly. The Ground both neer and far of, presented a pleasing kind of Checquer, for this new star meeting with some drops of Dew, made a Multitude of bright Refractions, as if the Earth had been paved with Diamonds.
These rare, and various Accidents kept my soul busied, but to interrupt my Thoughts, as if it had been unlawfull to examine what I had seen, another more admirable Object interpos’d. I could see between me and the Light, a most exquisit, divine Beauty. Her frame neither long, nor short, but a meane decent Stature. Attir’d she was in thin loose silks, but so green, that I never saw the like, for the Colour was not Earthly. In some places it was fansied with white and Silver Ribbands, which look’d like Lilies in a field of Grasse. Her head was overcast with a thin floating Tiffanie, which she held up with oneof her hands, and look’d as it were from under it. Her Eys were quick, fresh, and Celestiall, but had something of a start, as if she had been puzzl’d with a suddaine Occurrence.
From her black Veile did her Locks breake out, like Sun-beams from a Mist; they ran dishevell’d to her Brests, and then return’d to her Cheeks in Curls and Rings of Gold. Her Haire behind her was rowl’d to a curious Globe, with a small short spire flowr’d with purple, and skie-colour’d Knots. Her Rings were pure, intire Emeralds, for she valued no metall, and her Pendants of burning Carbuncles.
To be short, her whole Habit was youthfull and flowrie, it smelt like the East, and was thorowly ayr’d with rich Arabian Diapasms. This and no other, was her appearance at that Time: but whiles I admir’d her perfections, and prepar’d to make my Addresses, shee prevents me with a voluntarie Approach. Here indeed I expected some Discourse from her, but she looking very seriously and silently in my face, takes me by the hand, and softly whispers, I should follow her.
This I confesse sounded strange, but I thought it not amisse to obey so sweet a Command, and especially one that promised very much, but was able in my Opinion to performe more. The Light which I had formerly admir’d, proved now at last to be her Attendant, or it moved like an Vsher before her. This Service added much to her Glorie, and it was my only care to observe her, who though she wandr’d not, yet verily she followed no known path. Her walk was green, being furr’d with a fine small Grasse, which felt like plush, for it was very soft; and purl’d all the way with Daysies and Primrose. When we came out of our Arboret and Court of Bayes, I could perceive a strange Clearnesse in the Ayr, not like that of Day, neither can I affirme it was night. The stars indeed perched over us, and stood glimmering, as it were on the Tops of high Hills, for we were in a most deep Bottome, and the Earth overlook’d us, so that I conceived we were neer the Center.
We had not walk’d very far, when I discovered cerraine thick, white Clouds, for such they seemed to me, which fill’d all that part of the Valley, that was before us. This indeed was an Error of mine, but it continued not long, for comming neerer, I found them to be firm solid Rocks, but shining and sparkling like Diamonds. This rare and goodly sight did not a litttle incourage me, and great desire I had to heare my Mistris speake (for so I judged her now) that if possible, I might receive some Information. How to bring this about, I did not well know, for she seem’d averse from Discourse; but having resolv’d with my self to disturb her, I ask’d her if she would favour me with her Name. To this she replied very familiarly, as if she had kown me long before.
Eugenius (said she) I have many Names, but my best and dearest is Thalia: for I am alwaies green, and I shall never wither. Thou dost here behold the mountains of the Moone, and I will shew thee the Originall of Nilus, for she springs from these Invisible Rocks. Looke up and peruse the very Tops of these pillars and Clifts of Salt, for they are the true, Philosophicall, Lunar Mountains. Didst thou ever see such a Miraculous, incredible thing?’
For a slightly modernized edition of this text,
@ Adam McLean’s wonderful alchemical garden,
Via-HYGEIA’s English translation
of Clément Rosereau’s note about ‘Thalia’, page 351/352
of his French edition of ‘Thomas Vaughan’s Collected Works’.
‘Thalia comes from the Greek ‘thalia’ (Θάλεια), which is in the literal sense means a young shoot-as thallo means to grow, to bloom, to grow green, abundant in goods. Pierre Grimal’s ‘Mythological Dictionary’ indicates that Thalia was one of the three Graces, presiding with her sisters to plants. Thalia is also one of the nine Muses, in charge of Comedy and bucolic poetry-the function of a Muse is to instruct, according to the rules of the Art.
It is no coincidence if, at the beginning of his adventure, Philalethes meets this guide. His treatise, ‘Lumen de Lumine‘ starts by evocating the mysteries of plants and their growth. ‘The Green’ Thalia will make her ‘elect’, by the greenness of her persuasive speech; she will teach him, ‘according to the rules of the hermetic Art on the open, or the light of the Light’. She will teach the returning green of spring, true regeneration.
Philalethes will write in his diary, ‘Aqua Vitae‘, inscribed to the date of April 9 1659, that when his deceased wife appeared in a dream, it was ‘clothed of green silk flowing down to the ground.’
At the beginning of Louis Cattiaux’s ‘Message Rediscovered‘, the title of the column on the right of Chapter One is precisely ‘The green shoot’. Do we not say that it is the ‘green stories’ that have the virtue of bringing back life?’
From Thomas Vaughan’s foreword
to his English translation of the German ‘Fama Fraternitatis’-
About the word ‘Viridity’
‘The Subject then is the Salt I have spoken of formerly, it is the Body of the Universal Spirit, ‘the vehicle and ethereal body of the creative Word‘. It is the Sperm of Nature, which she prepares for her own Light, as if we should prepare Oyl for a Lamp. A strange Substance it is, but very common, and of some Philosophers most properly called, Salina virens, & Mirabilis (‘admirable green salt’). And here it will not be amiss to speak something of the Cabalists Linea viridis, or ‘green Line’, a Mystery not rightly apprehended even by some of the Mekkubalim (traditional Cabalists), but certainly the Modern Rabbis know it not at all. It is the last Midah or Propriety of the Sephiroth, for it receives and includes all the Influences of the Sephirotical Order. (note: Midah in Hebrew means measure, but also quality, virtue. The last Midah or Sephira of the tree of Cabbalah is called Malkuth, the Kingdom. The Alchemists equals it to the Kingdom Jesus talks about.)
It encompasses the Heavens, and in them the Earth, like a green Rain-bow, or one vast Sphere of Viridity, and from this Viridity (note: Thalia, in ‘Lumen de Lumine’) the divine Influences are showered down like Rain through the Æther into the Globes of the fixed Stars: for what the Air is to the Globe of the Earth, such is the Æther to the Globes of the Stars, and here lies a Secret of the Mekkubalim, for they tell us, there is a double Venus, ‘in duplici Aere’ (In a double atmosphere). But of this enough.
I will now speak of the Philosophers Secret, and blessed Viridity, which is to be seen and felt here below. It is the Proteus of the old Poets; for it the Spirit of this green Gold be at Liberty, which will not be till the Body is bound, then will he discover all the Essences of the Universal Center.
‘Diverse appearances will try to trick you, and even mouths of monsters: in deed, it will suddenly appear as a hairy, spiky boar, and then dreadful tiger, a scaly dragon, or a lioness with a tawny neck; it will produce sounds like the sour crackling of the flame, and by that will try to escape its fetters; or it will seek to vanish by flowing away from all sides under the shape of tiny fillets of water.‘ (‘Georgics‘, IV, 406-410)
But this is Poetry: let us now hear the same Scene described by a most excellent, and withal a severe Professor of Philosophy, Johannes Chrysippus Fanianus from Basel:
‘‘But after the spirit has fallen through perishable courses amidst which it is dispersed, it is presently purged from all impurity, and changes into innumerable forms, here into herb and there into stone, or perchance into some extraordinary animal but now and then into a clod, a pearl, some gem or metal· and sweetly glittering with blushing flames, it passes continually through a myriad changes of colours, and live always an operator and magus of prodigies, never wearying with the toil thereof but ever young in strength an energy.’ …/…
In order to honor the memory of the recently departed
humble and generous François Trojani (1940-2023),
here is his commentary of the ‘Thalia’ card
of the Mantegna Engravings Series:
‘Thalia, or the Sixth Muse, was presiding over Comedy. Its etymology derives from the word Thallen, Thallein, ‘to bloom’. She is said to make plants bloom. She was overseeing banquets. She is often represented crowned with ivy and holding a mask in one hand. Here, she is playing a violin or pochette. An abundant vegetation is displayed at her feet; she listen with great care, the ear strained, the sound produced by her violin. Four ideas rise from the composition of this card: her violin, the bow, the flowers, the leaves in shape of little hearts. Her violin is a reminder of the plant ‘Remore‘, a violet (shaped like a violin) that blooms at the spring of the Alchemical Work. It is our ‘rebis’ or first matter of the Magisterium. The bow is the mean or principle that will ‘animate’ this rebis or violet. As for the leaves in shape of little hearts, it is the image of our sulfur produced by our Philosophical Coction. By the absorption of the mercury, symbolized by the flowers, the sulfur will be clothed of the properties that will remove it away slowly from its metallic genus. It will multiply, redden, overflow with blood in the likeliness of the multitude of little flowers in shape of hearts bearing here witness. As for the banquet, another of Thalia’s attributes, ‘it expresses, as we know, a communal sacrificial rite, and especially the Eucharist. By extension, it is the symbol of the Communion of the Saints-the celestial bliss in the sharing of the same grace and life.’ Here, it symbolizing the elixir or red, the elixir of life and the blood of nature.’
We will share more from François Trojani, soon.