Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Part 2 - Examination of a Mystical Figure Sheds Some New Light on Esoteric Beliefs of Ephrata Cloister

In the first installment of this blog, I introduced the Mystical Figure in Jacob Martin’s papers at Ephrata and established how it was based on a figure in a work by Johann Gichtel that was published in 1696. In this installment I will explain the meaning that Gichtel had for these illustrations.  As I explained earlier, the illustration and writing by Gichtel depict planetary symbolism and the process of spiritual transformation on the body. I also explained that the Gichtel illustration was part of a series of 4 plates depicting a three-stage change in spiritual illumination.  Perhaps it wouldbe  helpful to show all of the 4 Gicthel plates side-by-side, and interpret their meaning. Most of the information for this analysis comes from an excellent book, Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition, (1999) by Arthur Versluis.

Plate 1

Plate 2



                                                   Plate 3                              Plate 4

The 4 plates above come from a treatise published by Johann Georg Gichtel in 1696: EinekruzEroffnung und Anwesung der dreiPrinzipien und Weltenim Menschen – (“A brief Opening and Demonstration of the three Principals and Worlds in Man”) As I explained in the last blog, the illustrations and accompanying text by Gichtel depict planetary symbolism and the process of spiritual transformation on the body - from a darkened earthly state to a higher regenerated state.Another way to think of Gicthel’s publication is to think of it as guide along a spiritual path that he himself followed from the dark or wrathful world of fallen man to divinely regenerated man.

According to Arthur Versluis, these are very rare illustrations, the only illustrations he has encountered that depict both the planetary symbolism of the human body and its relationship to the entire process of spiritual transmutation. It has been observed that some of the plates, especially Plate 1 resemble Chakras. However, Versluis cautions against applying eastern disciplines to a subject better addressed in the sphere of Christian Theosophy. Gichtel probably had no knowledge of eastern or tantric disciplines. I will now concentrate on describing what Gichtel depicted in these Plates.

Plate 1

This illustration shows man in the unregenerate state. Man is subject to his elemental self.
This is “finstere mensch” - Earthly Darkened or Sinister Man. Here we see the planetary energies in fallen humanity, manifesting as anger, envy and so forth. In this plate man is wholly subject to his human nature - his elemental self. Unregenerate man is a prisoner to emotional reactions, to desire, envy, jealousy, and anger. “Finstere mensch” carries love in his heart; he is capable of love, but he has not yet realized this potential in himself.  To realize it, he has to turn anger into love; he must transform negative emotions into positive ones through a spiritual process of transmutation.  Unregenerate man possesses the potential for spiritual realization which he must strive for. Gichtel’s 4 illustrations depict this process of striving.  If I was to give this process another name, I would call it spiritual alchemy.
Besides the planetary influences, the 4 elements also had an effect on certain organs or regions of the body:   *The Heart is associated with Fire.  *The Liver is associated with Water.  *The Lungs are related to Earth. *The Bladder is associated with Air.
The planetary symbolism of the body also has a relationship to the elements: *The Moon is related to the generative organs which are associated with Water.  *The Sun is related to the Heart (body’s center) which is also associated with Love.
The heart usually radiates outward and is dry and warm – but in the illustration the man’s heart is encircled by a cold damp serpent. As a result, “finstere mensch” is a prisoner to emotional reactions, to desire, jealousy, and anger.
The planetary symbolism is also linked in a particular order: *The inward spiral shown above also extends in an outward direction starting from the sun. *The Spiral moves outward from sun (masculine) to Venus (feminine) to Mars (masculine) to Mercury (feminine)  to Jupiter (masculine) to the Moon (feminine) to Saturn (masculine). *So, this spiral path follows a natural and astrological polarity both inward and outward.

Verslius also observes that the seven planets correspond to the seven forms or emanations of eternal nature. Jacob Boehme describes them as the seven properties or qualities of eternal nature. It is a very significant part of Boehme’s philosophy. 
Plate 2

Awakening Man
Here we have “Awakening Man” – engaged in spiritual struggle.His body is now only partly subject to the “finster welt” or “Dark World”.In this illustration man is striving toward spiritual illumination. He had made vast improvements, but he still has a way to go towards full spiritual illumination.

                                                   Plate 3                                        Plate 4
Illuminated Regenerated Man, Front & Back

In these 2 plates we see Illuminated Regenerated Man, from the front and back. You will notice that there are 4 plates, but only 3 Stages.
Both of these illustrations show hell and Satan in the generative regions of the body. So man is never completely free from the dark regions influences as illustrated by the lines of smoke that reach up from below in Plate 4.  In this illustration, man is no longer subject to planetary influences only.  He has gone beyond this limiting factor.
The most significant illustration is Plate 3 – illuminated man from the front.  In this illustration, the sun/heart/Jesus illuminates the whole body with its rays. Where Mercury sat before has been replaced by Jehovah. Where Saturn (top of head) and Jupiter (fore head) once sat can now be found the Holy Spirit.  In the area of the throat, once influenced by Mars is now Sophia.  The darker region still exists, but it is confined to the generative regions.   The process of regeneration and transmutation to a higher state has gone as far as it can in with the human body.

Some Observations Concerning These Illustrations
It’s important to note that the these illustrations depicting the process or physiology of the soul and spirit  represent a form of spirituality not separate from the body as in earlier Christian Mystical accounts of the spiritual process. These illustrations represent a spirituality firmly grounded in the body.  The body need not not be rejected. Great spiritual truths can be realized here on earth in our current human bodies.
Another characteristic of Gichtel’s spiritual path that distinguishes it from other earlier examples of Christian mystical experience is the use of images and illustrations depicting spiritual transformation through the means of spiritual physiology- A spiritual change achieved by planetary and elemental influence on the physical body.

In this blog-post we have described what Johann Gichtel intended to portray in these illustrations. In the third installment of this blog, I will compare the Jacob Martin illustration with its counterpart by Gichtel and show how previous interpretations of the “Mystical Figure” by another author are incorrect. I will then address the most challenging aspect of my research - attempting to discover the significance that this “Mystical Figure” held for Jacob Martin from Ephrata. 

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