Books, Illustration

Lapis Philosophorum

Janice Duke shares her thoughts on ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, art she created for Chemical Serpents.

Janice Duke Illustration

For the last in this series of eight articles about the illustrations I produced for Chemical Serpents I would like to wrap up by discussing the cover. The cover art for Chemical Serpents is called “Lapis Philosophorum”, which means “Philosopher’s Stone”.

8_2 Lapis Philosophorum Janice Duke © 2012 Lapis Philosophorum © Janice Duke 2012

The Philosopher’s Stone has a history and mystery that goes back a lot further than the famous Harry Potter book. Reference to the stone can be found as far back as Cheirokmeta by Zosimos of Panopolis circa 300 AD, and some writers go further, claiming that its history goes back to the biblical Adam who is said to have gained knowledge of the stone directly from God. This knowledge is said to have been passed down through biblical patriarchs, providing the source for their longevity.

Regardless of this mythic claim, the theoretical roots of the stone’s creation can be traced to Ancient Greek…

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Books, Illustration

Gloriam Totius Mundi

Janice Duke shares her thoughts on ‘Gloriam Totius Mundi’, art she created for Chemical Serpents.

Janice Duke Illustration

The seventh chapter of Chemical Serpents is titled “Illumination”. To illuminate in literal terms is to supply or brighten with light, in metaphorical terms it is to enlighten. Enlightenment is something spiritual types often talk about without actually defining it very well. For one thing it is not a state that once attained is simply how you are forever, it is something to strive for and to actively maintain. Having said that, once a certain point is reached, an “awakening” had, it seems very difficult to “go back to sleep”, but it is far from impossible and all too easy to go crazy or at least become beguiled with strange notions, because you have become far more open to stimulus and must remain detached from much of it. Illumination is not an easy thing, it is not about being happy or fulfilled, it will not help you make more money…

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Books, Illustration

Axis Mundi

Janice Duke shares her thoughts on ‘Axis Mundi’, art she created for Chemical Serpents.

Janice Duke Illustration

The sixth chapter of Chemical Serpents is titled “The World Dragon Tree”. The image of the tree as symbolic of the cosmos is a ubiquitous one, with Yggdrasil and the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah providing enduring examples. Traditionally the tree has come to represent a bridge between the underworld and the heavens, with mankind somewhere in the middle or at the base. Dark entities lurk in the depths, while winged ones soar from high branches, and forbidden fruits grow that may enlighten and destroy.

Axis Mundi Axis Mundi © 2012 Janice Duke

Axis Mundi means “cosmic axis”, “world pillar”, “centre of the world” or “world tree”. To me trees are a symbol of the evolution of consciousness, that to embrace our highest heights requires we also embrace our darkest depths. The beasts that lurk in the underworld lurk within our own psyches, and to reject or fear them is to…

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Books, Illustration

Miracula Rei Unius

Janice Duke shares her thoughts on ‘Miracula Rei Unius’, art she created for Chemical Serpents.

Janice Duke Illustration

The fifth chapter of Chemical Serpents is titled “Macrocosm and Microcosm”. With my image for the chapter I primarily wanted to explore the chakra system of seven and the system of seven planets as symbolic ladders, connecting the individual with the all via meditation.

Miracula Rei Unius Miracula Rei Unius © 2012 Janice Duke

Miracula Rei Unius means “miracle of one thing” and is part of a phrase from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth, said to be the author of the Hermetic Corpus, a series of sacred texts that are the basis of Hermeticism. The full phrase goes: “Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius”, which means “Whatever is below is similar to that which is above. Through this the marvels of…

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Books, Illustration


Janice Duke shares her thoughts on ‘Quintessence’, art she created for Chemical Serpents.

Janice Duke Illustration

The fourth chapter of Chemical Serpents is titled “The Elements” and explores the concept of the Quintessence. Quintessence means “fifth element” or “soul”. Also known as aether, this was considered the highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy, the element that permeates all nature and is the essence of a thing in its purist and most concentrated form. This fifth element is generally considered transcendent, with the others – such as earth, air, fire and water – being immanent, the elements that make up the world.

Quintessence Quintessence © 2012 Janice Duke

The Vesica Pisces, a pointed oval formed by the meeting of two circles, is associated with the fifth element by various traditions. In Christian iconography, Christ is often shown inside a Vesica Pisces surrounded by the Tetramorph. This consists of four beings, a lion, an angel or man, an eagle and a bull, in Christian iconography said to…

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Books, Illustration

Tria Prima

Janice Duke shares her thoughts on ‘Tria Prima’, art she created for Chemical Serpents.

Janice Duke Illustration

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

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Books, Illustration

Solve et Coagula

Janice Duke shares her thoughts on ‘Solve et Coagula’, art she created for Chemical Serpents.

Janice Duke Illustration

The second chapter of Chemical Serpents is titled “Eggs and the Androgynous Child”, carrying the general theme of serpent symbolism from the previous chapter into its relation to eggs, their offspring and serpent-like mythic beings, with specific reference to the Philosophers Egg, the Cosmic Egg, the Monas Hieroglyph, and the figures of the Androgyne, Baphomet, N’Aton and Sophia.

Roman Caduceus

At this stage I would like to point out the smaller illustrations I created to accompany the entire text. Each image is different but unified with the others by being contained within a golden egg. The egg theme also extends to the full page images, which each reference eggs and form egg shapes within the image. To me, the egg is a powerfully spiritual symbol. It is a cocoon in which disparate elements merge and transform into a unified whole. It is a protective shell of limitations within which we grow and…

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