Tria Prima

The third chapter of Chemical Serpents is titled “Trinity”, with each of my illustrations for it concerning threes and trinities. You may have noticed that the first chapter, the second and this one, concern the one, then the one becoming two, and now the three, or the two becoming three. This theme carries forward throughout the book, with successive chapters concerning increasing quantities and their symbolism.

Tria Prima
Tria Prima © 2012 Janice Duke

Tria Prima means “Primary Three”. With this image I focussed on the trinity of Salt, Sulphur and Mercury, from hermetic alchemy, personified as three angels or helping spirits, with the symbol for each element painted on their faces (left, Salt; right, Sulphur; top, Mercury). This symbolism found its way into European Hermeticism during the Renaissance via Paracelsus, changing the duality of Sulphur and Mercury that had been used previously into a trinity. In Jungian psychology, which takes inspiration from alchemy and hermeticism, when the one becomes symbolised by two, Sun and Moon, King and Queen, Self and Other, Mind and Body, Conscious and Unconscious etc., it is a third principle that can resolve conflict and cause the two to unite and transform. This principle is equated with Mercury, the magician or spirit of the individual/group. The third principle forms a basis for mediation and balance, the creation of a circuit, represented in alchemy by a triangle with an element at each corner, allowing a flow of transformative power.

Artist and sorcerer Austin Osman Spare appears to approach something of this concept with his idea of “Neither-Neither”, in which opposites are transcended through a fierce form of contemplative meditation that leads the mind beyond its ability to conceive of oppositions and into an altered state of consciousness. Spare symbolises this in his “Kia Sigil”, which I reference in my image, below the more obvious triangle, embellished with the snake that forms it and three eyes within (one serpent becoming two eyes becoming a third eye).

There is a lot I could say about duality and the Aristotelian logic that plagues Western culture, splitting our world conceptually in two. That which we reject we tend to project beyond ourselves, to protect our fragile egos from associating with it and to make it something we are comfortable attacking. We cannot afford to allow ourselves to be so comfortable, smug and righteous as to believe we are nothing to do with whatever it is that annoys us in others. It has volumes to tell us about ourselves. Human consciousness longs for growth, the consciousness in each and every one of us. That growth requires that we look to the source of our conflicts, ourselves, and find the spirit to resolve them. In resolution we transform our consciousness and allow it to take wing.


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