Monday, July 16, 2012

The Azoth Mandala

Azoth is a term in philosophical alchemy that refers to latent, transformational energy. It has been equated with the life force and the “quintessence.” In effect, it is the key to philosopher’s stone —the perfected product and end goal of alchemy.

The word Azoth is derived from Middle English azoc, from Old French, from Arabic az-zā’uq, which translates as “the mercury” from the Persian (ie, Syriac) word for mercury: zīwag. The term also has come to represent A to Z (an adaptation on the idea of Alpha-Omega).

It is associated with the caduceus which in turn is the symbol of the Roman deity Mercury (which is loosely associated with the Greek deity Hermes and Egyptian Thoth.)  From the association with the caduceus, parallels with Kundalini lore are drawn.

The caduceus, like the shushuma of yogic lore, represents the line of ascent and descent between the macrocosm and microcosm, the divine and the mundane, the sacred and profane, and the celestial and the terrestrial. The 2 snakes intertwined around the caduceus represent afferent and efferent energies (“solar” and “lunar” lines of force). The wings at the top of the caduceus represent the polarized unity—the eclipse—of the solar and lunar forces, which results in numinous integration. Its parallel in the yogic traditions is the ajna chakra, which is depicted as an orb flanked by 2 lotus petals.

An interesting mandala, highly searchable on the Web if you type “Azoth” into the search engine, is the twelfth in the series of 14 plates within a 17th century alchemical picture book called Azoth of the Philosophers. Although traditionally attributed to one Basilius Valentinus, said to be a German monk and alchemist, it is more likely the product of some other mysterious character, considering that Valentinus might have been the invention of a late 16th century chemist named Johann Thölde (1565-1614). The whole Azoth series can be found at the Web site of the noted modern-day alchemist and archivist of alchemical texts Adam McLean at

The image is a mandala. The original presumably was a meditation on alchemical laboratory processes as well as a meditation on the transmutation from death and decay to numinous perfection. Like eastern mandalas and yantras, every part of the Azoth mandala is symbolic. A person needs to know what the symbols mean in context to understand and meditate on the image. The image (like all mandalas and yantras) can be thought of as a kind of labyrinth—a twisting path leading to the spiritual center of both the cosmos and the self (that is, the macrocosm and the microcosm).

The image consists of a 7-pointed star, representing the 7 planets known to the medieval world: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Sol, Mercury, and Luna. In Hermeticism, which is aligned with alchemy, the planets have symbolic themes that have correspondences with levels of human consciousness. Words that  hint at themes of the journey through the spheres are Visita, Interiora, Terra, Rectificado, Invenies, Occultum, and Lapidum (the Visit, the Interiorization, Earth, Rectification, Discovery, the Secret, and the Stone), which have meaning in relation to alchemical laboratory processes as well as the journey toward self-transformation and perfection.

Like chakras, the rays of the Azoth image and the planets they correspond with can be thought of as planes to be ascended through. Ancient and medieval Hermeticists , (pagan) Gnostics, and mystics in general seemed to think that this is what people did in the course of their spiritual journey, and regarded the planets as celestial deities or  rulerships  (archons) that having a hold on man’s character and fate, had to be psychodynamically worked through and atoned with in a path of return from matter to spirit, perfection, and freedom.

The triangle in the image depicts the alchemical trinity of sulfur, mercury, and salt. Sulfur corresponds with the solar principle (the vivifying, inspirational consciousness), mercury with the lunar principle (the spiritual essence that aspires to integration with and is the link between matter and the divine light of consciousness), and salt with matter and the body. Sulfur, mercury, and salt—or consciousness/soul (anima), spirit /life essence (spiritus), and form/the body (corpus)—are what a human is and they are what he or she, as a spiritual adept, is trying integrate to become a fully realized, conscious, and free person, in the context of hermetic alchemy.

In the image, the solar principle is symbolized by a king astride a lion in the lower left and also by the salamander in the upper left corner. The lower left quadrant of the mandala also represents the element earth (dryness, fixity; stability; crystallization, effect, and efficacy) and the upper quadrant represents the element fire (heat, activity, and transformation).

The lunar principle is symbolized by a queen holding shafts of wheat and riding a sea monster The lower right quadrant represents the element water (coldness, feeling, and generation) and the upper right quadrant, in which an eagle appears, represents air (humidity, thought, and inspiration).  The hand at left of the wheel holds a torch, the one on the right holds a fish’s bladder.

The bird at the top of the mandala represents the “quintessence”—the fifth element and divine essence of things to which the alchemical adept aspires. It is, thus, the Azoth and the philosopher’s stone itself: perfect, enlightened, volitional, and empowered being.

Who is the bearded man in the center of the image?  It is your spiritual ideal and aspiration. Modern-day alchemist Dennis William Hauck claims that medieval alchemists meditated on images like this mandala and that they sometimes placed a mirror in the center of the. See for to read Hauck’s in depth discussion of the  Azoth mandala.

This post is my most visited. I don't know why. Please leave a comment and let me know whether this information was informative, what you were looking for or not, what caught your eye, what your interest in Azoth is. . . .  

Digital collage after the 12th plate of the Azoth of the Philosophers copyright Dee Rapposelli

If you find this interesting, see check out The Seal of Secrets of the World click here to go to the page. Or read more on this blog here: pictorial guide/scrying the Olympic Spirits or here The Arbatel Working



    It's this that caught my attention, The image in the header of your post is also on this site. Just curious.

  2. the portal is open now

  3. :-D As explained, the image comes from the 12th plate of the alchemical book the Azoth of the Philosophers. I can't remember whether it is 15th or 16th century. Another, more popular version of this image comes up in Google image search when you to a search of the word "Azoth"

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