The Second Day
by Jack Courtis
I was hardly out of my cell and into the forest when methought the whole Heaven and all the elements had already prepared themselves for this marriage. The birds chanted more pleasantly than before and the young fawns skipped so merrily. They rejoiced my old heart and moved me to sing. With a loud voice, I thus began:
On Day One, CRC tells us that he is in his house. Then he gives us his dream of the dungeon. Now he speaks of his cell. If the cell of CRC is analogous to Plato’s cave, then going out into the forest is entering a higher level of reality. Thus he is in communion with the alchemical process of personal transformation; Heaven (Quintessence) and all the elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth). In this instance, the elements are the 4 steps of descent and Heaven is the single step of redescent, mentioned in the Emerald Tablet. He has already told us that he is taking with him bread, salt and water, hence the 3 steps of ascent. The present emphasis on the descending processes points to where he is going - the Above. The paradox is that CRC must draw upon the downward flow, in order to rise up.
With mirth thou pretty bird rejoice,
Thy Maker’s praise enhanced.
Lift up thy shrill and pleasant voice,
Thy God is high advanced.
Thy food before he did provide,
And gives it in a fitting side,
Therewith be thou sufficed.
Why should thou now unpleasant be,
They wrath against God venting?
That he a little bird made thee,
Thy silly head tormenting?
Because he made thee not a man,
Oh peace, he hath well thought thereon.
Therewith be thou sufficed.
What is it I’d have poor earthly worm,
By God as if He were indicting,
That I should thus against Heaven storm
To force great arts by fighting?
God will out-braved be by none,
Who’s good for naught, may hence be gone,
Oh man be herewith sufficed.
That he no Caesar hath thee framed,
To pine therefore is needless
His Name perhaps thou had defamed
Whereof he was not heedless
Most clear and bright
Gods eyes do shine,
He pierces to thy heart within,
And cannot be deceived.
In his song, CRC refers to God being "high advanced". What does he mean? Surely God is far beyond notions of advancement? And who is the bird? The voice of Nature, the great feminine principle who appears on Day One as both the fair and glorious lady with the trumpet; and also as the saviour of CRC from the dungeon. Be not deceived by CRC’s banter, calling the bird "silly" and so on. We see our attitudes in the bird and it is we who are silly. The song of CRC is the preparatory admonition to the candidate for initiation. Note well - "who’s good for naught, may hence be gone". At the beginning of a mystery initiation, all the profane are ordered to leave the temple. Note also that God is said to have "bright eyes". If we refer back to Day One, we recall the Father of Lights. Each sefira on the Tree of Life can be likened to a sphere of brilliant light. However, the Tree is not what God looks like; it is the way in which He operates. Finally, we should reflect that the language of Nature, as the great feminine, is called the Language of the Birds.
Thus sang I from the bottom of my heart throughout the whole forest, so that it resounded from all parts, and the hills repeated my last words, until at length I came upon a curious green heath, wither I betook myself out of the forest. Upon this heath stood three lovely tall cedars, which by reason of their breadth afforded an excellent and desired shade, whereat I greatly rejoiced; for although I had not gone far, yet my earnest longing made me very faint, and I hastened to the trees to rest, but as soon as I came somewhat closer, I noticed a tablet fastened to one of the trees, on which (as afterwards I read) in curious letters the following words were written:
If the forest is the manifestation of Nature, the heath is the place for the commencement of the inner journey in search of the feminine. The 3 cedars remind us of the 3 pillars of the Tree of Life. The tablet immediately resonates to that other tablet that leads to the discovery of the tomb of CRC in the Fama Fraternitatis. The 7-sided tomb is found in sefira 7, Netzach on the Tree, and is attributed to Venus. It gives us the inner journey as a compendium. Here in the forest, the tablet will lead us on the inner journey, but with the appearance of being out in the open. In the Language of the Birds, the truths of initiation are both obvious and obscure.
God save thee, stranger! If thou hast heard anything concerning the nuptials of the King, consider these words. By us doth the Bridegroom offer thee a choice between four ways, all of which, if thou dost not sink down in the way, can bring thee to his royal court.
Consider this, the Bridegroom (1) by the cedars (3) gives a choice of four (4) ways, to the destination (royal court) of the candidate. This is truly the "work of the Sun" mentioned in the Tablet of Hermes. The ways are the alchemical elements. They are the 4 levels of reality, and (after another manner) the 4 disciplines in each of 3 groups. As the Master once said, "those with eyes, let them see".
The first is short but dangerous, and one which will lead thee into rocky places, through which it will be scarcely possible to pass. The second is longer, and takes thee circuitously; it is plain and easy, if by the help of the Magnet, though turnest neither to left nor right. The third is that truly royal way which through various pleasures and pageants of our King, affords thee a joyful journey; but this so far has scarcely been allotted to one in a thousand. By the fourth shall no man reach the place, because it is a consuming way, being practicable only for incorruptible bodies.
If given the choice we shall all avoid the first path. Who in our present self-indulgent society, addicted as we are to instant self-gratification, wants to work this hard? The second path is more difficult than it looks. Clearly, we must navigate between the pairs of opposites by turning neither left nor right. But we need the Magnet. What is that? This is a cryptic reference to the Stone of the Wise. This requires us to develop our psychic centres in a particular way. Who amongst us has done that? We all want the third path, but are we worthy enough to be one in a thousand? Do we really understand how much work that takes? Who among us has done the "work of the Sun"? The fourth path requires of us an incorruptible body. That is the vehicle of consciousness we call spirit. For a candidate to function consciously in his spirit is so rare, that he will be consumed if he tries this path unprepared. For practical purposes there are three paths available to the average person.
So, which path?
Choose now which thou will travel of the three, and persevere constantly therein, for know which thou shalt enter, that is the one destined for thee by immutable Fate, nor canst thou go back therein save at great peril to life. These are the things which we would have thee know, but, ho, beware! Thou knowest not with how much danger thou does commit thyself to this path, for if thou knowest thyself by the smallest fault to be obnoxious to the laws of our King, I beseech thee, whilst it is still possible, to return swiftly to they house by the way thou camest.
First, we must choose. Nothing is given to us freely. We must commit ourselves. Secondly, we must persevere. That is why we must prepare ourselves by the practice of the 12 Spiritual Disciplines. Thirdly, our immutable Fate is our karma. We are here because of who we are and what we have done. Fourthly, the inner journey once begun, cannot be reversed without great danger. Finally, there is the warning given to every candidate for initiation into the mysteries. If we have not performed the 12 Disciplines, reconciled the 7 Pairs of Opposites and oriented ourselves to Divine Providence, if we still have the smallest fault, turn back now!
As soon as I had read this writing all my joy vanished and I who before sang merrily, began now inwardly to lament. For although I saw the three paths before me, and understood that hence forward it was vouchsafed me, to make choice of one of them, yet it troubled me that in case I went the stony and rocky way, I might get a miserable and deadly fall. But taking the long one, I might wander out of it through by-ways, or be otherwise detained in the great journey. Neither dared I hope that I among thousands should be the very one who should choose the royal way. I saw likewise the fourth before me, but it was so inundated with fire and exhalations, that I dare not (by much) draw near it, and therefore again and again considered, as to whether I should turn back, or take any of the paths before me. I weighed my own unworthiness, but the dream still comforted me, that I was delivered out of the tower, and yet I dared not too confidently rely upon a dream. I was so perplexed that I suffered a very great weariness.
Well might CRC be troubled. He voices our concerns precisely. But the dream comforts him, as it should comfort us. Intuitively, "we know" and this knowledge is the foundation (Yesod on the Tree of Life) of our inner journey. We only need courage.
Hunger and thirst seized me and I presently drew out my bread, cut a slice of it, which a snow-white dove of whom I was not aware, sitting upon the tree, espied and therewith (perhaps according to her wonted manner) came down, and betook herself very familiarly with me. I willingly shared my food which she received, and so with her prettiness did I again refresh myself. But as soon as her enemy a most black raven perceived it, he straight darted himself down upon the dove, and taking no notice of me, would have torn away the dove’s meat. She who could not otherwise guard herself but by flight; whereupon they both together flew towards the south, at which I was so hugely incensed and grieved, that without thinking what I did, I made haste after the filthy raven, and so against my will ran into one of the aforementioned ways a entire field’s length; and thus the raven being chased away, and the dove delivered, I then first observed what I had inconsiderately done, and that I was already entered unto a path, from which under peril of great punishment I dared not retire.
From the Emerald Tablet, we discern that the 4 paths that CRC has encountered, are the 4 steps of descent. He now reaches for his bread, symbolically, one of the 3 steps of ascent. That brings the dove as his vehicle of consciousness, spirit (that is a higher aspect of himself from Above to Below), and its polar opposite, the raven. Where we cast a light, there also is our shadow. The raven is the alchemical process of dissolution and the dove is the personal spirit inspired by the Above. By chasing this pair of opposites, CRC irrevocably commits himself. It is not "against his will" of ordinary consciousness, because it accords with the greater will of his spirit. He has ascended and the Above has responded. Moreover, the correct choice of path cannot be made by the intellect. It has to be inspired.
And though I had still herewith in some measure to comfort myself, yet that which was worst of all to me, was, that I had left my bag and bread at the tree, and could never retrieve them. For as soon as I turned myself about, a contrary wind was so strong against me, that it was ready to fell me. But if I went forward on my way and I perceived no hindrance at all. From whence I could easily conclude, that it would cost me my life, in case I should set myself against the wind, wherefore I patiently took up my cross, got up on my feet, and resolved, since so it must be, I would use my utmost endeavour to get to my journey’s end before night.
In the bag he has left behind is his bread. This implies that we must choose one path of ascent and keep to it. This is confirmed by the wind that blows in one direction. Note the mention of a cross being taken up. On the surface it is a play on words because CRC is understood to mean: Christian Rose Cross. He takes up an aspect of himself, in full awareness. However, this warrants a closer look. What is a rose cross? Remember the stone mentioned 3 times in Day One? If it is thought to be in the shape of a cube and (paradoxically) hollow, then it can be flattened out into a cross of 6 squares. Tradition tells us that fixed to the central square, there emerges a red rose of 5 petals. The Rose Cross. This is the mystery of the pentagram, the Below, and the hexagram, the Above. Once we take up our cross in full awareness, we too shall be CRC. To do this we must go on the inner journey, in order to find what we already have.
Although many apparent byways showed themselves, yet I still proceeded with my compass, and would not budge one step from the Meridian Line; howbeit the way was often so rugged and unpassable, that I was in no little doubt of it. On this path I constantly thought upon the dove and raven, and yet could not search out the meaning, until at length upon a high hill I saw far in the distance a stately portal, to which, not regarding how far it was distant both from me and the way I was in, I hastened, because the sun had already hid himself under the hills. I could elsewhere see no abiding place, and the following I verily ascribe only to God, who permitted my eyes not to be distracted, but to come to rest upon a gate, and to which I now made mighty haste.
The Meridian Line is a subtle reference to Greek metaphysics and particularly, the mathematics of Pythagoras and Plato. The doctrine of the Mean, involves a study of irrational numbers and the geometry for generating those numbers. That is beyond the scope of this commentary. It is sufficient to note that Plato taught that there is an aspect of reality so abstruse, that we can only grasp it by the contemplation of numbers "in themselves". For the purpose of this commentary, this is the focus on the level of reality Creation. This is the level of pure ideas in the abstract. The form of those ideas exists on the next lower level of Formation. At that level, we deal with images, symbols, metaphors, parables, myths, koans, etc. And what is the compass that CRC uses? It is the function by which we orient ourselves to Divine Providence. It is a psychic centre properly developed when we are capable of following the Meridian Line. We can do that when we can perform the 12 Disciplines and the 7 Reconciliations. We have work to do.