Before discussing in detail the events which led up to this discovery, and the further application of it to the Tree of Life, it will be well if we spend a little time in considering the Nature of the Trinity, and its fundamental relation to all Systems of Religious and Philosophic thought.
Hermes the Thrice Greatest, like Solomon, is highly celebrated by antiquity for his wisdom and skill in the secret operations of nature, and for his reputed discovery of the quintessential perfectibility of the three kingdoms in their homogeneal unity; whence he is called the Thrice Great Hermes, having the spiritual intelligence of all things in their universal law.
It is to be regretted that no one of the many books attributed to him, and which are named in detail by Clemens Alexandrinus, escaped the destroying hand of Diocletian.
But we have one truly authentic record in the famous Emerald Tablet, which contains the one sole dogma of Hermetic Philosophy: "That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for performing the miracles of the One Things."
The Emerald Tablet, unique and authentic as it may be regarded, is all that remains to us from Egypt of her Sacred Art. A few riddles and fables, all more or less imperfect, that were preserved by the Greeks, and some inscrutable hieroglyphics, are still to be found quoted in certain alchemical records; but the originals are entirely lost.
There is little doubt that Ancient Egypt did at one time hold the true Key of the Mysteries. For what did Pythagoras, Thales, Democritus and Plato become immured there for several solitary years, but to be initiated in the wisdom and learning of those Egyptians? Yet Hermes himself is reported to have prophesied her fall, and the loss of her wisdom and learning; and this certainly was fulfilled. But, as I have endeavored to point out in my treatise, "The Egyptian Revival," there seems every reason to suppose that in this New Aeon, during this Aquarian Age, man will once more come into his own, and be directly informed by the true Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding in a way that has not been possible for many Ages. At least there seems every hope of the revival of the Universal Tradition of the Golden Age, despite the present world-crisis and the breaking up of the old civilization. But it is necessary that things should be destroyed in order that they may be renewed, as the Justified Osiris said in regard to His Body. So it is, perhaps, in regard to our pre-conceived ideas of the Body of the Universe, or of the Tree of Life, or some other pet theory; but so long as we receive something better in exchange for that with which we must part, what matter!
There is certainly no denying the importance of the "Three in One," as far as Hermes is concerned, for his very title of Thrice Greatest implies in what veneration such conceptions must have been held in his day.
In Alchemy we find three Principles-Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt; and Three great Stages of the Work - Discovery of the Formation of the Stone of the Wise, its Multiplication, and its Projection. These later stages have been very little understood.
In the Qabalah (from the three-lettered root QBL, meaning "to receive") we find mention of the Sacred Three Lettered Name of God IHV, implying Father, Mother, and Son. We find three Mother Letters in the Hebrew Alphabet, Aleph, Mem, and Shin, and these are in turn attributed to the Three Elements, Air, Water, and Fire, which correspond to the Alchemical Principles, and in admixture form Earth, or The Stone. We also find in the Sepher Yetzirah, the oldest Qabalistic treatise, that the "One created the Universe by means of the Three Sepharim, Number, Writing, and Speech." These correspond to the Three Mother Letters and to the Three Paths of the Middle Pillar of the Tree, as I have shown in "Q.B.L."
The Hindus venerate the Three-lettered Word AUM as the most sacred Name of God; their Deity has Three Aspects as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva; the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer. They postulate Three principles, Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva, or Activity, Inertia, and Peace.
The Christians believe in Three Persons in One God; The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; in Three that bear witness in Heaven, and in Three that bear witness on Earth. That man is three-fold; Body, Soul, and Spirit.
In fact the Importance of the Number Three, and of the Triangle, is a well nigh inexhaustible subject.
Many of these three-fold Ideas are summed up in a Fourth, representing the Materialized or Manifested aspect.
The Sides of the Pyramid are Triangular, but its Base is Square. The Word AUM is made continuous in sound by the addition of the nasal N, forming AUMN. The Hebrew IHV, becomes IHVH through the addition of the final He, or the Daughter. The Archetypal, Creative, and Formative Worlds become Manifest in Assiah, the Material World of the Qabalah. The tripartite Word INR, becomes INRI. The Trinity of Triads of the Tree of Life are summed up in the single Sphere of Malkuth, the Kingdom. Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt produce the Gold of the Alchemist. Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva act on Prakriti.
Three and Four together make Seven, another Sacred Number, as everyone knows.
Seven and three are Ten, and this is said to be the most Sacred and Complete of all, since it represents a return from One to the Primal Nothing of the Beginning. We find Ten Sephiroth on the Qabalistic Tree. The Four letters of the Sacred Name IHVH, when arranged in the form of a Triangle, make 10, thus:
and this became the basis of the Tetractys of Pythagoras, a figure composed of Ten Unit forms or Yods,
But here we begin to approach the Central Mystery once more, for this Triangle, with its ten Dots, gives us the idea of the Division of the triangle into others, thus:
and so we begin to get back to our Equilateral Triangle and Vesica as the Basis of the Tree of Life. But there is another interesting fact, viz.: -- than an Equilateral Triangle, so divided, having a base of, say, three inches, will contain nine triangles, the sides of which will each be one inch. Whereas a Square, whose side is three inches, will also contain exactly the same number of one inch squares, viz.: nine.
Again the numbers 1-9 may be so arranged in the nine squares, that they will add to 15 vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. This forms the basis for the construction of the Magick Squares of the Planets, etc.
But all these ideas are symbolized in the Tree of Life itself, which we will next examine in further detail.