Aerial - The Album Apr 12, 2009 3:00:33 GMT
Post by tannis on Apr 12, 2009 3:00:33 GMT
TWO SUNS: Aerial and Splendor Solis
~ Splendor Solis. Image 1 - A Sick Sun and A Healthy Sun
~ Splendor Solis. Image 3 - The Knight on the double fountain
Like The Ninth Wave, Aerial Sea has seven tracks. Seven is the traditional number associated with undergoing a complete process over time, as in the seven days of the week, and the alchemical opus was often described as having seven stages. The Stairway of the Seven Planets figured prominently in late Classical initiation rites, symbolizing the ascent of the soul to the sun-god, or the solification. The author of Aurora Consurgens used seven parables, which alluded to the seven stages and to the seven planets. Seven stars were associated with the whitening, or purification, of the prima materia: After thou has made those seven (metals) which thou has distributed through the seven stars (and has appointed to the seven stars) (and) has purged them nine times until they appear as pearls (in likeness) - this is the Whitening. [And Aerial Sky has nine tracks.]
The knight (Splendor Solis, image 3) has stripes of different colors on his breast-plate: black, white, yellow, and red. This is the first statement of the stages of the alchemical process, represented by colors. Black represents the nigredo or blackness - the initial chaos or undifferentiated state - which turns into white, or albedo, representing rebirth or sense of renewal; yellow announced a transitional stage from the white, and the red, the rubedo, represents the final result of transformation. [The gray or silver is associated with spirit and with Luna, the changeable. Silver also denotes Mercurius at the beginning of the work.] Throughout the paintings of the Splendor Solis, we shall encounter this color symbolism.
We also encounter this color symbolism throughout the Aerial color brochure, 'Design by Kate and Peacock'. [The color symbolism is also present on the front cover to The Kick Inside.] The peacock is an alchemical symbol, and features in the Splendor Solis. Alchemists also speak of the cauda pavonis ("Peacock's Tail"). So maybe Kate's Peacock is also her alchemical Muse.
On the mythological level, nigredo signifies the difficulties man has to overcome on his journey through the underworld. Hercules had to accomplish twelve, almost impossible, tasks. The pilgrim traditionally encounters shadows, monsters, demons. Psychologically, nigredo is a process of directing oneself to find self-knowledge. A problem is given full attention and reduced to its core. This is not done so much in an intellectual way, but especially by feeling the emotions. By really going into to it, one causes putrefaction, the decomposition of that in which one had been stuck. The confrontation with the inner reality is often painful, and can lead to depression. ‘Melancholia’ is another term for nigredo. As melancholy can arise when alchemically working on oneself, the alchemists advised the use of music to lift the soul. But once in the depth of the darkness, with the discovery of the seed of the problem, the seed in the ‘prima materia’, the white light is born (=albedo, whiteness, the next phase). (KaTe sings Pi to 137 decimal places. The Number 137 corresponds with light, the ONE WHITE or Whole light that consists of THREE primary rays, the red, green and blue, or SEVEN spectrum colours.)
Irgendwo in der Tiefe
Gibt es ein licht."
Being deep in nigredo, a white light appears. We have arrived at the second stage of the Great Work: albedo, or whiteness. The alchemist has discovered within himself the source from which his life comes forth. The fountain of life from which the water of life flows forth giving eternal youth. The source is one: male and female are united. In alchemical images we see a fountain from which two streams of water flow into one basin.
Rubedo is the continuation of albedo. That is why they are often seen connected to each other, like the White Queen and the Red King. Once the inner light has been discovered it must be made into the only reality in our consciousness. After having descended into the unconscious, into the darkness, into the underworld, we found the Light, we found the volatile Spirit. Now the volatile Spirit, or quicksilver, has to be fixated or coagulated. This means that our conscious, or attention, must completely penetrate our unconscious, or soul, or everything that lies hidden in ourselves. By doing this we fixate (that is bring it into the conscious) the volatile and make it durable. When everything in ourselves has been purified and the Light appears, we have to fixate this Light and make it durable so it remains always present. In Christianity, rubedo corresponds with the resurrection of Christ. Jesus ‘fixates’ the light garment of Christ. Jesus has left behind the old body and brought his inner divine self, the Christ body, into his consciousness, and made it his own reality. What Jesus did two thousand years ago, each of us can do the same, because we are all sons and daughters of the divine, and we all carry the divine essence, or the Christ body, within ourselves. When rubedo has been realized the alchemist has accepted his spiritual inheritance. He has become what he always has been, but never knew he was. He has realized his divine essence while still in his physical body. It is the same as what the gnostici called pneuma, the divine spirit in each man that is concealed in the deep darkness of the world, but can be made conscious again. When rubedo has been manifested man is master over both the physical as the spiritual world. He has become a King master over himself.
The attainment of rubedo, or redness, is symbolized by the transmutation into gold. Sometimes the alchemists talk about three kinds of gold. The first one is an astral gold, the center of which is in the Sun, it transfers this gold by its rays and with its light at the same time to all the lower planets. It is a fiery substance and it is a constant emanation from the stellar bodies, which permeates the entire universe. Space, the atmosphere on the planets, and the planetary bodies themselves are completely filled with it. We constantly absorb this astral gold by our breath. The astral gold particles then spread themselves all over our bodies. This alchemical description corresponds very well with what is called ‘prana’ in the eastern philosophies. The second kind is the elementary gold. It is the purest and most fixated part of the elements, and of all substances that are made thereof. All living beings of the three nature realms have this priceless elementary gold within themselves. It is also called the central fire of the earth. The third kind is the common metal gold. The alchemists also say that the elementary gold (pure consciousness) is the philosopher’s stone made pure and perfect by the Great Work.
Solar King and Lunar Queen meet
Aerial is about spiritual alchemy. The work begins with Aerial Sky, as indicated by the gray/silver coloring of Prelude/Prologue/An Architect's Dream/The Painter's Link. The black wave length of Sunset/Somewhere In Between suggest that these songs address 'death' (Every sleepy light must say goodbye/Goodnight mum). And this stage turns to white with Nocturn, signifying rebirth, resurrection, renewal. [The Ninth Wave: tracks 1-6 (nigredo); track 7 (albedo).] The golden yellow wave length of Aerial announces the transitional stage from the albedo (or perhaps the attainment of alchemical gold or The Philosopher's Stone). And the red, the rubedo, of Pianissimo represents the final result of spiritual transformation, as suggested by the birdsong at the close of the suite. With Pianissimo, the alchemist is transformed into the spiritual joys of birdsong.
[The higher understanding of the Eucharist and the mystic side of alchemy are concerned with the same subject, that is to say, with man, his conversion and transfiguration: the implicits are therefore the same, and of these things alchemy was the next witness in the world after the epoch of the Holy Graal.]
TWO SUNS: A SICK SUN AND A HEALTHY SUN
Aerial and Splendor Solis: citrinitas and rubedo
Aerial and Splendor Solis: citrinitas and rubedo
The symbolism of the first painting of the Splendor Solis (image 1), which is the frontispiece of the illuminated manuscript, informs us that this work does not concern itself with methods for the practical, concrete transformation of base metals into gold. For the author of the Splendor Solis, alchemy was a practice for the healing and transformation of the human soul. The world of this beautiful painting is full of the unexpected and the paradoxical, challenging our ordinary assumptions: a coat-of-arms proclaims weakness and disintegration, animals play musical instruments and show generosity to other species, and a two-dimensional image on a banner becomes three-dimensional, swirling out into the scene. As we look at it carefully, we begin to feel unsettled. The large, golden trompe-l'oeil frame conveys the great value of the painting within. On the upper part of the frame, the words, 'Arma Artis,' are inscribed in gold letters on a crimson background. 'The Arms of the Arts,' presumably tells us that the coat-of-arms in the banner below represents 'the art' of alchemy. Within the painting, we see two men engaged in conversation, standing upon verdant ground just beyond a high archway. Presumably, one of the men is the alchemist, and the other is his adept or student: alchemy, like analysis, involved relationship and discourse. As he speaks, the man dressed in black gestures toward the right with his left hand, while the other man, dressed in red, faces in that direction and looks intently, as if anticipating something or seeing something for the first time. They are separated from the viewer by a waterway, in which rapidly flowing, turbulent water has risen nearly to the level of the pavement. Yet the two men do not seem alarmed. Behind them lies a landscape with a town or fortress on a steep hillside in the distance, with a mountain still further away. They are standing just outside a gate to the city, implying that alchemy requires one to step outside the familiar structure of one's life and set out on a journey. Their relationship suggests that, although this journey will be solitary in the sense of being unique to the individual, it is undertaken with the counsel and companionship of one who has returned from his own journey.
This scene is analogous to the beginning of an analytic encounter between analyst and patient. The analysand might have been trying very hard to sustain a heroic over-achievement, represented by the knight's helmet. The patient's psyche is divided, as represented by the healthy (upper) sun and the (lower) sick sun. The sick sun is isolated, distorted, cut off from relationship, and morbidly subjective, suggesting self-doubt and self-loathing - a true description of a neurosis. The person so afflicted also has a healthy side, which may be projected onto the analyst as healer and carrier of consciousness during the course of work one the less healthy part. Thus, from a psychological point of view, the alchemical coat-of-arms might be viewed as the configuration of a certain schizoid condition that threatens to become paranoid and overshadow the personality. It might also refer to any defense which once served the individual (or was necessary for survival) but has outlasted its usefulness.
For example, a woman in analysis reflected on the defenses that had cut her off from herself, already in place by adolescence:
Patient: ...which is where I was when I was twelve, like the way he was treating me last night.
Analyst: It took you back to that emotional field.
Patient: Where there is a heavy coat of armor. (long silence)...
Analyst: Can you speak as an adult about the twelve-year-old?
Patient: Yes, I'd say he doesn't get it.
Analyst: What doesn't he get?
Patient: The fact that she can't express her true self to him because she hasn't the language. That his demands for her performance harden her, so that all he or anyone else will know is the exterior like a shell. It may be a beautiful shell like a turtle but he will never know the inside of her. (silence) Or it may be a hideous shell, but again he won't know what's inside. He won't know that her core is being twisted in unspeakable ways, and even more damaged by not acknowledging what we - she and I - plainly see. I guess I would also point out that although her mind has appeared functionally adequate that we know nothing about her underbelly.
This hidden thing that we know nothing about is the prima materia. But what could motivate a person to face something unknown yet attended with emotions of horror and shame? The symbolism of the coat-of-arms may help us here: the steady and balanced upper sun can be seen to represent some larger and wiser aspect of the patient's personality, not necessarily conscious, which helps to balance paranoid anxieties with hope for healing. It may also represent the strength, integrity, and perseverance necessary to gaze upon the unhealthy parts of herself. This aspect of the work is also supported by the analyst's steadiness. Note, however, that in the image, the healthy sun is not alone: although it shines by its own light, it exists in relation to the crescent moons below. This suggests an integrity that acknowledges the value of the changeable, related, vulnerable aspects of human life. [On Aerial, Bertie steps into KaTe's red shoes to play the role of The Sun (a sort of solar initiation rite of passage).]
The idea of the feminine as vessel is echoes by the golden frame, which is decorated with delicately rendered symbolic images of plant and animal life. These natural forms are in keeping with the first words of the text, 'The Philosopher's Stone is produced by means of Greening and Growing Nature.' In medieval times, flowers were thought to be the earthly counterparts to stars. In Greek alchemy, flowers signified spirits or souls, and the lapis was called the 'blossom of metal' and the 'well-formed flower sprouting from four branches [or elements].'
On the left side of the frame, an owl, associated with the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena (Minerva in Roman mythology) faces left. Two monkeys sit on a green ledge at the base of the frame. The monkey to the left reaches out and offers a fish to a heron, while another heron looks on from behind the monkey.
This scene contains parallels to the work of the alchemist. Like Hermes, the patron and mythical founder of alchemy (the 'Hermetic art'), a heron can travel from earth to realms both above and below. The heron's long neck evokes the long neck of a flask. A monkey is feeding the heron, just as the alchemist 'feeds' the prima materia to the resort, the vas Hermetica, and uses natural processes but in a conscious and deliberate way that both contains and intensifies them.
We note that the animals' activities are not 'natural.' In fact, they are going against their usual nature. For example, monkeys do not offer food to other species. Here, the monkey has transcended his instinctual nature, as humans can when they become more conscious. Animals in dreams often represent negative or destructive aspects of human instinct (for example, a greedy, impulsive monkey) or they may evoke emotional reactions in the dreamer (e.g., fear of attack). But animals in dreams can also represent positive aspects of our nature that have been wounded or repressed. In both their positive and negative aspects, animal figures in dreams may initiate the dreamer into a relationship to the unconscious and to the natural world. They become inner guides if they are valued.
The monkey facing toward the right is playing a lute. Music was important to the alchemists, both in theory and in practice. Theories of music employ mathematics and number symbolism, thus pointing toward an underlying, unseen order in the universe. In ancient Greece, the Pythagoreans discovered that, in a stringed instrument, there is a proportional relationship between the length of the string and the tone produced. They inferred that the motions of the planets produced sounds, and Plato later described a 'music' or 'harmony of the spheres.'
Musical theories and investigations: Pythagoras was very interested in music, and so were his followers. The Pythagoreans were musicians as well as mathematicians. Pythagoras wanted to improve the music of his day, which he believed was not harmonious enough and was too hectic. According to legend, the way Pythagoras discovered that musical notes could be translated into mathematical equations was when one day he passed blacksmiths at work, and thought that the sounds emanating from their anvils being hit were beautiful and harmonious and decided that whatever scientific law caused this to happen must be mathematical and could be applied to music. He went to the blacksmiths to learn how this had happened by looking at their tools, he discovered that it was because the anvils were "simple ratios of each other, one was half the size of the first, another was 2/3 the size, and so on." (See Pythagorean tuning; wiki.) The Pythagoreans elaborated on a theory of numbers, the exact meaning of which is still debated among scholars. Pythagoras believed in something called the "harmony of the spheres." He believed that the planets and stars moved according to mathematical equations, which corresponded to musical notes and thus produced a symphony.
PI, HERON and the HARMONY OF THE SPHERES
The alchemists believed that mathematical relationships based on musical ratios could be applied to relationships between elements and the planets to provide guidance about the ratios of ingredients in their preparations. John Read, the eminent Scottish historian of alchemy, speculated that: "in view of the alchemical belief in the beneficent influence of music, it is likely that the processes of the Great Work were sometimes performed to the accompaniment of musical chants or incantations. To the religious mystics among the alchemists, in particular, these processes partook of the nature of a religious ritual, and it would be natural for them to introduce music from one of these closely related activities to the other."
A new attitude toward the natural world is also reflected in the paintings of the Splendor Solis. To the early medieval perception, nature was regarded as chaotic and unhealthy; there was very little of what we today refer to as the appreciation of nature's beauty. However, in the golden trompe-l'oeil frame seen here, natural forms are at once generative, symbolic, and beautiful. They reflect the inquisitive and aesthetic spirit that had already begun to develop in the late Middle Ages, when poets like Dante and Petrarch began writing about nature and extolling its beauties. There is a suggestion of nature as a source of renewal and nourishment, especially signified by one monkey feeding a heron while the other monkey is playing music. Both monkeys look toward the right, as if looking toward the next picture, which will take us into a new stage of the transformation.
Before we leave this picture, however, we should reflect further on its depiction of an outworn persona, as represented by the helmet. This image of defended consciousness is about to be discarded, displaced, or transcended by the golden crown. The crown proclaims alchemy as the Kingly Art, but using the symbol of kingship is a different way, as a ruler with a broad view who considers his subjects rather than working solely to defend and promote his own interests. Psychologically, this refers to a perspective beyond keeping the ego safe: the larger view of transformation pertains to what Jung called the Self. The symbols in this painting tell us that the Self does not have a unified, conscious goal; it is shown here as an imaginal union of two complementary opposites, represented by solar strength and constancy willingly uniting with the lunar rhythm of change. This symbolism of the Self is compensatory to the lower image of self-doubt. It offers to both therapist and patient a promising image of the possibilities that might lie ahead if they can agree upon treatment.
from Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis, Joseph Lewis Henderson, Dyane N. Sherwood (2003)
"Kate and Peacock"
THE RED SHOES (1993): "Sleeve Design and Artwork: Peacock Marketing & Design"
AERIAL (2005): "Design by Kate and Peacock"
The art of alchemy was handed down through the centuries from Egypt and Arabia to Greece and Rome, and finally to western and central Europe. The word is derived from the Arabian phrase "al-kimia," which refers to the preparation of the Stone or Elixir by the Egyptians. The Arabic root "kimia" comes from the Coptic "khem" that alluded to the fertile black soil of the Nile delta. Esoterically and hieroglyphically, the word refers to the dark mystery of the primordial or First Matter (the Khem).
Simplified, the aims of the alchemists were threefold: to find the Stone of Knowledge (The Philosophers' Stone), to discover the medium of Eternal Youth and Health, and to discover the transmutation of metals. To the medieval alchemist’s mind the different elements were but the same original substance in varying degrees of purity. Gold was the purest of all and silver followed closely.
n.b. The Aerial KT sign is broken. Deciphering any other secret Aerial signs is impossible for the 'uninitiated'.
In the early days of alchemy, the astronomical signs of the planets were also used as alchemical symbols. Then in the centuries of medieval persecution and suppression every alchemist invented his own secret symbols. Charlatans, quacks and cheats took over and alchemy became, along with sorcery and witchcraft, infamous for fraud and extortion. In the 18th century scientists tried to pry loose the real achievements in chemistry, pharmacology and medicine from this confusing cornucopia of science and magic.
Kate Bush: "It must have been nearly ten years ago, when I used to go up to the Dance Center in London, that I went into Watkins' Occult Bookshop for a look, and there was this book and it said, A Book of Dreams, by Peter Reich. I'd never heard of his father, Wilhelm Reich, but I just thought it was going 'Hello, Hello,' so I just picked up the book and read it and couldn't believe that I'd just found this book on the shelf. I mean it was so inspirational, very magical, with that energy there. So when I wrote and recorded the song, although it was about nine years later, I was nevertheless psyched up by the book, the image of the boy's father being taken away and locked up by the government just for building a machine to try to make rain. It was such a beautiful book!"
CLOUDBUSTING - Watkins Book Shop
Long established British bookshop specializing in occultism, mysticism, comparative religion, parapsychology, esoteric psychology, and related topics, founded by John M. Watkins in 1894. Watkins was a friend of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and other leading occult figures of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The shop in Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, London, was a meeting place for such famous and varied individuals as A. E. Waite, William Butler Yeats and Aleister Crowley. Watkins also published texts in the fields of occultism and mysticism.
All through the prewar occult boom of the 1920s and 1930s and the more recent occult explosion of the 1960s, the Watkins Book Shop has been a central focus of occultism, with a strong emphasis on mysticism and Eastern religion. As familiar to British students of occultism and mysticism as the Weiser Bookshop in New York.
Many of your songs contain references to occult and esoteric philosophy. Is this a particular interest of yours, or are you just widely read?
"I don't think I am particularly interested in the occult, but I do have an interest in the human mind, and the unusual situations that occur, or are said to occur, to human beings in extreme religious or spiritual states. But surely we all have a curiosity for things that we know little about."
Kate's KBC article Issue 16
Do you believe in the paranormal?
KB: "Yes, I do."
Is that it?
KB: (Smiling:) "Yes."
Q, "Booze, Fags, Blokes And Me", December 1993
Elsewhere, in How To Be Invisible, is an occult formula for the would-be inconspicuous ("a pinch of keyhole...hem of anorak, stem of wallflower, hair of doormat"). Joanni is a rapturous meditation on St. Joan of Arc. And A Coral Room employs a plangent piano line, no more than that, to evoke the soul of Bush's departed mother in a vision of something lost beneath the water. It's sublime. And it deserves the title of art because it carries something that's both unique and universal.
The Lark Ascending, Word, Paul Du Noyer, December 2005 issue
Splendor Solis images
REVERIES OF THE AERIAL ALCHEMIST
House of the Sun