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Lumen de lumineFrom Thomas Vaughan Lumen de Lumine, or a New Magical Light, London, 1651.
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It was about the dawning or daybreak when, tired with a tedious solitude and those pensive thoughts which attend it, after much loss and more labour, I suddenly fell asleep. Here then the day was no sooner born but strangled. I was reduced to a night of a more deep tincture than that which I had formerly spent. My fancy placed me in a region of inexpressible obscurity, and - as I thought - more than natural, but without any terrors. I was in a firm, even temper and, though without encouragements, not only resolute but well pleased. I moved every way for discoveries but was still entertained with darkness and silence; and I thought myself translated to the land of desolation. Being thus troubled to no purpose, and wearied with long endeavours, I resolved to rest myself, and seeing I could find nothing I expected if anything could find me.
I had not long continued in this humour but I could hear the whispers of a soft wind that travelled towards me; and suddenly it was in the leaves of the trees, so that I concluded myself to be in some wood or wilderness. With this gentle breath came a most heavenly, odourous air, 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 dark and like midnight. Now was I somewhat troubled with these unexpected occurrences when a new appearance diverted my apprehensions. Not far off on my right hand I could discover a white, weak light - not so clear as that of a candle, but misty and much resembling an atmosphere. Towards the centre it was of a purple colour, like the Elysian sunshine, but in the dilation of the circumference milky; and if we consider the joint tincture of the parts, it was a painted Vesper, a figure of that splendour which the old Romans called Sol Mortuorum. Whiles I was taken up with this strange scene there appeared in the middle purple colours a sudden commotion, and out of their very centre did sprout a certain flowery 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 - looked like threads of silver, which, being reflected against the trees, discovered a curious green umbrage; and I found myself 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 joined discipline to her doctrine. Under this shade and screen did lodge a number of nightingales, which I discovered by their whitish breasts. These, peeping through their leafy cabinets, rejoiced at this strange light, and - having first plumed themselves - stirred the still air with their music. 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 near and far off, presented a pleasing kind of checker, 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 unlawful to examine what I had seen, another, more admirable object interposed.
I could see between me and the light a most exquisite, divine beauty - her frame neither long nor short but a mean, decent stature. Attired she was in thin loose silk but so green that I never saw the like, for the colour was not earthly. In some places it was fancied with white and silver ribbons, which looked like lilies in a field of grass. Her head was overcast with a thin, floating tiffany, which she held up with one of her hands and looked as it were from under it. Her eyes were quick, fresh and celestial but had something of a start, as if she had been puzzled with a sudden occurrence. From her black veil did her locks break out, like sunbeams from a mist. They ran dishevelled to her breasts and then returned to her cheeks in curls and rings of gold. Her hair behind her was rolled to a curious glove, with a small short spire, flowered with purple and sky-coloured knots. Her rings were pure, entire emeralds - for she valued no metal - and her pendants of burning carbuncles. To be short, her whole habit was youthful and flowery: it smelt like the East and was thoroughly aired with rich Arabian diapasons. This and no other was her appearance at that time; but whiles I admired her perfections and prepared to make my addresses she prevents me with a voluntary 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 confess, sounded strange; but I thought it not amiss to obey so sweet a command, and especially one that promised very much but was able in my opinion to perform more.
The light which I had formerly admired proved now at least to be her attendant, for it moved like an usher before her. This service added much to her glory, and it was my only care to observe her, who though she wandered not yet verily she followed no known path. Her walk was green, being furred with a fine, small grass which felt like plush, for it was very soft, and pearled all the way with daisies and primrose. When we came out of our arbours and court of bays I could perceive a strange clearness in the air, not like that of day, neither can I affirm 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 bottom and the earth overlooked us, so that I conceived we were near the centre. We had not walked very far when I discovered certain thick, white clouds - for such they seemed to me - which filled all that part of the valley that was before us. This indeed was an error of mine; but it continued not long, for coming nearer I found them to be firm, solid rocks but shining and sparkling like diamonds. This rare and goodly sight did not a little encourage me, and great desire I had to hear my mistress speak - 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 seemed averse from discourse. But having resolved with myself to disturb her, I asked her if she would favour me with her name. To this she replied very familiarly, as if she had known me long before.
"Eugenius" - said she - "I have many names, but my best and dearest is Thalia, for I am always green and shall never wither. Thou dost here behold the Mountains of the Moon, and I will shew thee the original of Nilus; for she springs from these invisible rocks. Look up and peruse the very tops of these pillars and cliffs of salt, for they are the true, philosophical, lunar mountains. Did'st thou ever see such a miraculous, incredible thing?
This speech made me quickly look up to those glittering turrets of salt, where I could see a stupendous cataract or waterfall. The stream was more large than any river in her full channel; but notwithstanding the height and violence of its fall it descended without any noise. The waters were dashed and their current distracted by those saltish rocks; but for all this they came down with a dead silence - like the still, soft air. Some of this liquor - for it ran by me - I took up, to see what strange woollen substance it was that did thus steal down like snow. When I had it in my hands it was no common water but a certain kind of oil of a watery complexion. A viscous, fat, mineral nature it was, bright like pearls and transparent like crystal. When I had viewed and searched it well, it appeared somewhat spermatic, and in very truth it was obscene to the sight but much more to the touch. Hereupon Thalia told me it was the First Matter and the very natural, true sperm of the great world. "It is" - said she -
"invisible and therefore few are they that find it; but many believe it is not to be found. They believe indeed that the world is a dead figure, like a body which hath been sometime made and fashioned by that spirit which dwelt in it, but retains that very shape and fashion for some short time after the spirit hath forsaken it. They should rather consider that every frame, when the soul hath left it, doth decompose and can no longer retain its former figure; for the agent that held and kept the parts together is gone. Most excellent then is that speech which I heard some time from one of my own pupils. 'This world' - saith he - 'of such divers and contrary parts, would not have reached unity of form had there not been One who did join together such contrary things. But, being brought together, the very diversity of the natures joined, fighting one with another, had discomposed and separated them, unless there had been One to hold and keep those parts together which He at first did join. Verily the order of Nature could not proceed with such certainty, neither could she move so regularly in several places, times, effects and qualities, unless there were Some One Who disposed and ordered these varieties of motions. This, whatsoever it is, by which the world is preserved and governed, I call by that usual name God.'
"Thou must therefore, Eugenius" - said she - "understand that all compositions are made by an Active, Intelligent Life; for what was done in the composure of the great world in general, the same is performed in the generation of every creature, and its sperm in particular. I suppose thou dost know that water cannot be contained but in some vessel. The natural vessel which God hath appointed for it is the earth. In earth water may be thickened and brought to a figure; but of itself, and without earth, it hath an indefinite flux and is subject to no certain figure whatsoever. Air also is a fleeting and indeterminate substance, but water is his vessel; for water being figured by means of earth the air also is thickened and figured in the water. To ascend higher, the air coagulates the liquid fire, and fire incorporated involves and confines the thin light. These are the means by which God unites and compounds the elements into a sperm, for the earth alters the complexion of the water, and makes it viscous and slimy. Such a water must they seek who would produce any magical, extraordinary effects; for this spermatic water coagulates with the least heat, so that Nature concocts and hardens it into metals. Thou seest the whites of eggs will thicken as soon as they feel the fire; for their moisture is tempered with a pure, subtle earth, and this subtle, animated earth is that which binds their water. Take water then, my Eugenius, from the Mountains of the Moon, which is water and no water. Boil it in the fire of Nature to a twofold earth, white and red; then feed those earths with air of fire and fire of air; and thou hast the two magical luminaries. But because thou hast been a servant of mine for a long time, and that thy patience hath manifested the truth of thy love, I will bring thee to my school, and there will I shew thee what the world is not capable of."
This was no sooner spoken but she passed by those diamond-like, rocky salts and brought me to a rock of adamant, figured to a just, entire cube. It was the basis to a fiery pyramid, a trigon of pure pyrope, whose imprisoned flames did stretch and strive for heaven. To the four-square of the frontlet of this rock was annexed a little portal and in that hung a tablet. It was a painted hedgehog, so rolled and wrapt up in his bag he could not easily be discomposed. Over this stood a dog snarling and hard by him this instruction: Softly, or he pricks.
In we went, and having entered the rocks, the interior parts were of a heavenly, smaragdine colour. Somewhere they shined like leaves of pure gold, and then appeared a third inexpressible, purple tincture. We had not gone very far but we came to an ancient, majestic altar. On the offertory, or very top of it, was figured the trunk of an old rotten tree, plucked up by the roots. Out of this crept a snake - of colour white and green - slow of motion like a snail and very weak, having but newly felt the sun that overlooked her. Towards the foot or basis of this altar was an inscription in old Egyptian hieroglyphics which Thalia expounded, and this is it:
TO THE BLESSED GODS IN THE UNDERWORLD
From this place we moved straight forward till we came to a cave of earth. It was very obscure and withal dankish, giving a heavy odour - like that of graves. Here we stayed not long, but passing into this churchyard we came at last to the Sanctuary, where Thalia turning to me made this her short and last speech.
"Eugenius, this is the place which many have desired to see, but saw it not. The preparatives to their admission here were wanting. They did not love me but mine. They coveted indeed the riches of Nature, but Nature herself they did both neglect and corrupt. Some advantages they had in point of assault, had they but studied their opportunities. I was exposed to their hands but they knew me not. I was subject in some measure to their violence, but He that made me would not suffer me to be rifled. In a word, the ruin of these man was built on their disposition. In their addresses to me they resembled those pitiful things which some call courtiers. These have their antics and raunts, as if they had been trained amongst apes. They scrape - as one hath well expressed it - proportions mathematical, make strange legs and faces, and in that phrase of the same poet
'Vary their mouths as 'twere by magic spell
To figures oval, square and triangle.'
So these impudent sophisters assaulted me with vainglorious humours. When I looked into their hearts there was no room for me. They were full of proud thoughts and dreamed of a certain riotous happiness which must be maintained by my expenses and treasures. In the interim they did not consider that I was plain and simple, one that did not love noise but a private, sweet content. I have, Eugenius, found thee much of my own humour. I have withal found thy expectations patient. Thou canst easily believe where thou hast reason to thy faith. Thou hast all this while served without wages: now is the time come to reward thee. My love I freely give thee, and with it these tokens - my key and seal. The one shuts, the other opens: be sure to use both with discretion. As for the mysteries of this my school, thou hast the liberty to peruse them all; there is not anything here but I will gladly reveal it to thee. I have one precept that I shall command to thee, and this is it: you must be silent. You shall not in your writings exceed my allowances. Remember that I am your love, and you will not make me a prostitute. But because I wish you serviceable to those of your own disposition, I here give you an emblematical type of my Sanctuary, with a full privilege to publish it. This is all, and I am now going to that invisible region where is the abode of the immortals. Let not that proverb take place with you: Out of sight, out of mind. Remember me and be happy."
These were her instructions, which were no sooner delivered but she brought me to a clear, large light; and here I saw those things which I must not speak of. Having thus discovered all the parts of that glorious labyrinth, she did lead me out again with her clue of sunbeams - her light that went shining before us. When we were past the rocks of Nilus she shewed me a secret staircase, by which we ascended from that deep and flowery vale to the face of this our common earth. Here Thalia stopped in a mute ceremony, for I was to be left all alone. She looked upon me in silent smiles, mixed with a pretty kind of sadness, for we were unwilling to part. But her hour of translation was come, and taking - as I thought - our last leave, she passed before my eyes unto the eternal, into the ether of Nature.
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