The Allegory of Zosimos
The composition of the waters, and the movement, and the growth, and the removal and restitution of bodily nature, and the splitting off of the spirit from the body, and the fixation of the spirit on the body are not operations with natures alien one from the other, but, like the hard bodies of metals and the moist fluids of plants, are One Thing, of One Nature, acting upon itself. And in this system, of one kind but many colours, is preserved a research of all things, multiple and various, subject to lunar influence and measure of time, which regulates the cessation and growth by which the One Nature transforms itself.
And saying these things, I slept, and I saw a certain sacrificing priest standing before me and over and altar which had the form of a bowl. And that altar had fifteen steps going up to it.
Then the priest stood up and I heard from above a voice say to me, "I have completed the descent of the fifteen steps and the ascent of the steps of light. And it is the sacrificing priest who renews me, casting off the body's coarseness, and, consecrated by necessity, I have become a spirit."
And when I had heard the voice of him who stood in the altar formed like a bowl, I questioned him, desiring to understand who he was.
He answered me in a weak voice saying, "I am Ion, Priest of the Adytum, and I have borne an intolerable force. For someone came at me headlong in the morning and dismembered me with a sword and tore me apart, according to the rigor of harmony. And, having cut my head off with the sword, he mashed my flesh with my bones and burned them in the fire of the treatment, until, my body transformed, I should learn to become a spirit. And I sustained the same intolerable force."
And even as he said these things to me and I forced him to speak, it was as if his eyes turned to blood and he vomited up all his flesh. And I saw him as a mutilated image of a little man and he was tearing at his flesh and falling away.
And being afraid I woke and considered, "Is this not the composition of the waters?" I thought that I was right and fell asleep again. And I saw the same altar in the shape of a bowl and water bubbled at the top of it, and in it were many people endlessly. And there was no one whom I might question outside of the bowl. And I went up to the altar to view the spectacle.
And I saw a little man, a barber, whitened with age, and he said to me, "What are you looking at?"
I answered that I wondered at the boiling water and the men who were burning but remained alive.
And he answered me saying, "The spectacle which you see is at once the entrance and the exit and the process."
I questioned him further, "What is the nature of the process?"
And he answered saying, "It is the place of the practice called the embalming. Men wishing to obtain virtue enter here and, fleeing the body, become spirits."
I said to him, "And are you a spirit?"
And he answered, saying, "Both a spirit and a guardian of spirits."
As he was saying these things to me and the boiling increased and the people wailed, I saw a copper man holding a lead tablet in his hand. He spoke aloud, looking at the tablet, "I counsel all those in mortification to become calm and that each take in his hand a lead tablet and write with his own hand and that each bear his eyes upward and open his mouth until his grapes be grown."
The act followed the word and the master of the house said to me, "Have you stretched your neck up and have you seen what is done?"
And I said that I had and he said to me, "This man of copper whom you have seen is the sacrificial priest and the sacrifice and he who vomited out his own flesh. To him was given authority over the water and over those men in mortification."
And when I had seen these visions, I woke again and said to myself, "What is the cause of this vision? Is this not the white and yellow water, boiling, sulphurous, divine?"
And I found that I understood well. And I said that it was good to speak and good to hear and good to give and good to receive and good to be poor and good to be rich. And how does the Nature learn to give and to receive? The copper man gives and the water-stone receives; the thunder gives the fire that flashed from it. For all things are woven together and all things are taken apart and all things are mingled and all things combined and all things mixed and all things separated and all things are moistened and all things are dried and all things bud and all things blossom in the altar shaped like a bowl. For each, by method and by weight of the four elements, the interlacing and separation of the whole is accomplished for no bond can be made without method. The method is natural, breathing in and breathing out, keeping the orders of the method, increasing and decreasing. And all things by division and union come together in a harmony, the method not being neglected, the Nature is transformed. For the Nature, turning on itself, is changed. And the Nature is both the nature of the virtue and the bond of the world.
And, so that I need not write to you of many things, friend, build a temple of one stone, like ceruse, like alabaster, like marble of Proconnesus in appearance, having neither beginning nor end in its building. Let it have within, a pure stream of water glittering like sunlight. Notice on what side the entry to the temple is and take your sword in hand and seek the entry. For thin-mouthed is the place where the opening is and a serpent lies by it guarding the temple. First seize him in your hands and make a sacrifice of him. And having skinned him, cut his flesh from his bones, divide him, member from member, and having brought together again the members and the bones, make them a stepping stone at the entry to the temple and mount upon them and go in, and there you will find what you seek. For the priest whom you see seated in the stream gathering his colour, is not a man of copper. For he has changed the colour of his nature, and become a man of silver whom, if you wish, after a little time, you will have as a man of gold.
Then, again wishing to ascend the seven steps and to behold the seven mortifications and, as it happened, one day only did I ascend the way. Retracing my steps, I thereupon ascended the way many times. And on returning, I could not find the way, and becoming discouraged, not seeing how to get out, I fell asleep.
And I saw in my sleep a certain little man, a barber, wearing a red robe and royal garments, and he stood outside of the place of the mortifications and said, "What are you doing, Man?"
I said to him, "I stand here because I have missed every road and am lost."
He said, "Follow me".
And going out, I followed him. And being near to the place of the mortifications, I saw the little barber man leading me and he cast into the place of the mortifications and his whole body was consumed by fire.
Seeing this, I fled and trembled from the fear and I woke and said to myself, "What is this that I have seen?" And again I took thought and determined that this barber man is the man of copper. It is necessary for the first step to throw him into the place of the mortifications. My soul again desired to ascend -- the third step also. And again, alone, I went along the way, and as I drew near the place of the mortifications, again I got lost, losing sight of the path, and stood, out of my mind.
And again I saw an old man of hair so white my eyes were blinded by the whiteness. His name was Agathodaemon. And the white old man, turning, looked on me for a whole hour.
And I asked him, "Show me the right way."
He did not turn toward me but hastened to go on the right way. And going and coming in this manner he quickly effected the altar. As I went up to the altar I saw the white old man. He was cast into the mortifications. O Creator-gods of celestial natures -- straightaway the flames took him up entire, which is a terrible story, my brother. For from the great energy of the mortifications his eyes became full with blood.
And I questioned him saying, "Why do you lie there?"
And he opened his mouth and said, "I am the man of lead and I am withstanding an intolerable force."
And then I woke out of fear and sought in myself the cause of this fact. And again I reflected and said to myself, "I understand well that thus must one cast out the lead -- truly the vision is concerning the combination of liquids."
And again I knew the theophany and again the sacred altar and I saw a certain priest clothed in white celebrating those same terrible mysteries and I said, "Who is this?"
And answering he said to me, "This is the priest of the Adytum. He wishes to put blood into the bodies, to make the eyes clear, and to raise up the dead."
And again I fell asleep for a while and while I was mounting the fourth step I saw one with a sword in his hand coming out of the east. And I saw another behind him, holding a disk, white and shining and beautiful to behold. And it was called the meridian of the Sun and I approached the place of the mortifications and the one who held the sword said to me, "Cut off his head and sacrifice his meat and muscles part by part so that first the flesh may be boiled according to the method and that he might then suffer the mortifications."
And waking, I said, "I understand well that these matters concern the liquids of the art of the metals."
And the one who held the sword said "You have fulfilled the seven steps beneath."
And the other said at the same time as the casting out of the lead by all the liquids, "The Work is completed."
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