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The Alchemical Wedding of the Zelator
Jaunty Mystical Discourse No II, SRIA

© Bro. Jean-Michel David, PM (VII° SRIA)

At the beginning of the Zelator ritual, when the Aspirant first enters hoodwinked, he does not — cannot — even see the four elements, and, as the conductor claims on his behalf, he is in darkness. Yet his desire towards pure light and knowledge leads him to the four Ancients at the Gate of Life.

It is only after being tested by the elemental Ancients that he will be able to enter their courts, and there mingle. Before he can enter their courts, however, — and here I jump to the end of the first part of the Zelator ritual — the Aspirant is isolated and taken to a place outside the temple in which he is supposed  to meditate on the principles of the order and the trials that have so far taken place. More significantly — he is given a M___T___ — a circle divided into four — the symbol by which Malkuth is traditionally represented.

He is then told to place his initials thereon — the initials of his Motto, which, at some level, represents his psyche’s aspirations, his Soul’s endeavour to will his psyche towards the Spirital.

His M___T___ thus links his psyche, by his motto, to the spiritual realm through the letters … … … …, and to the physical realm, represented by the quartering of the token — impressing upon the aspirant the union — or act of uniting or alchemically wedding — the spiritual realms with the physical via his Soul.
When the Aspirant is re-admitted into the Temple, seeking more light, he is placed in the West, within the pillars of the elements, and is told to reach the centre with the seven steps of wisdom.

Seven: the world — the whole — was created in seven days, & the work was complete.


Being a master mason, his only prior two encounters with the number seven is, firstly, his knowledge of the four cardinal and three theological virtues mentioned or implied in the first Craft degree, and the number of steps on the winding staircase leading from the first degree to the inner chamber of the second - with the symbolic number of years implied for the building, completing and dedication of the Temple, and the seven liberal arts and sciences, namely grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.

In the Zelator ritual, as the aspirant takes each step, his left foot symbolically tramples the seven deadly sins, and with his right symbolically works on the seven cardinal and theological virtues. Our brethren of former times would have made these associations more easily than we do, the seven virtues and sins being then more in common parlance.

This is the Gnostic alchemical aspect of this section of the ritual, whereby through one's own efforts one reaches the centre.

Having reached the centre, however, one switches from the gnostic magical element to the mystical: one humbly submits to the grace of God as one stretches out his arms.

One can visualise the well prepared Master Mason saying these words to himself as he takes the steps, enters the centre, and opens his arms:

I trample Pride, that my inner Strength shine forth;
I trample Gluttony, that Temperance guide all my acts;
I trample Avarice, placing my Faith in the Divine;
I trample Anger, and strive for Charity towards my fellow man;
I trample Lust of outcomes, that my soul rest in Hope;
I trample Envy, and strive for Justice;
I trample Sloth, and act with Prudence.

Immortal hope strengthens virtue.

O my God, may you find your creation worthy of thine Divine Love. May this flesh be worthy of being a vessel of thy Will.

Forsake me not, Father almighty.

In the Zelator ritual, the aspirant learns that seven has additional designations to these virtues and sins he may justly be expected to have linked, however effective that aspect alone would be.


Seven refers also to the traditional celestial bodies: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, & Saturn. It is only after taking the seven steps that the new Zelator reaches the centre.

It is only after completing the steps of the seven planets corresponding to the seven sephiroth below Hockmah (Cf diagramme 1): from Malkut to the Moon and Yesod with the first step, Mercury and Hod with the second, Venus and Netzah with the third, the Sun and Tifaret with the fourth, Mars and Geburah with the fifth, Jupiter and Hesed with the sixth, and Saturn and Binah with the seventh; It is only after passing through these that the Zelator finds himself in the centre of the Zodiac, in Hockmah.

Diagramme 1

Within Hockmah, the Zelator becomes a complete Tree of Life as he stretches out his arms. On his right is the pillar of strength, of Severity, & on his left that of love, of Mercy. His erect body representing the central pillar, that of Mildness.

Surrounded by the four elements, standing in Hockmah, in the position of the sacrificed one — as Tifaret — and as the completed Tree, the Aspirant stands.

A newly made Zelator.

Kabalistic lore informs the attentive listener that within each sephirah lies a whole tree. We must not therefore assume that the Aspirant has completed his journey upon the Tree of Life, but merely begun.

When placed within the centre, within the circle of the Zodiac, let us remember that he is surrounded by the four elements.

A sign that this ritual is well grounded, and based within Malkut. Standing with his arms outstretched, he has completed the Tree contained within Hockmah of the Tree within  Malkut — diagramme 2 visually depicts this.


Diagramme 2

The Tree to be completed is within Malkut. The Supernals, once entered, are each accessible to each other. Thus, although the Aspirant only takes seven steps, and thereby may be supposed to have reached only Binah, he stands directly in the centre of the sphere of the zodiac, ie, in Hockmah, and completes the Tree within by his outstretched arms. He his therefore symbolically implored to work in order to achieve Divine integration by working up and within the Qabalistic Tree.

Let me briefly re-explain this, suggesting that you read each sentence in conjunction with the above diagramme: Within each Sefirah lies a whole Tree. So, within Malkut lies a whole Tree. Now the Sefirot of this Tree are no exceptions, and must therefore each contain a whole Tree. The one that concerns us this time is Hockmah, and we see within it another whole Tree with Man depicted as in our ritual.

Kabalistic lore informs us that the Tree is Adam Kadmon, or archetypal man. Additionally, Christian Hermeticism links Jesus to Adam, Jesus being the second Adam. For a variety of reasons, a man standing with outstretched arms symbolically links himself, and thus symbolically becomes, a representation of Christ, the second archetypal Adam, and thus the whole Tree of Life.

Thus, the Aspirant becomes the whole Tree contained within Hockmah of the Tree within Malkut.

So what is the ritual's significance?

At one level, the symbolic integration of the Self, or, Kabalistically speaking, the return to the Divine by awakening the Tree of Life contained within this physical frame: a re-awakening of the Inner Temple to the Spiritual for which it is intended.

Being in Malkut, the initiate can be seen as the Bride, another name by which Malkut is known. The Bride, in another context, can be understood as the Anima, the feminine aspect within each of us. Kabalistically, this signifies that we are to recognise our receptive selves in order for the Divine to flow into us in order that our Temple not made with hands be filled with Divine Grace.

Yet the ritual itself doesn't unite the Bride and Groom, for the Groom, according to that same Kabalistic lore, is Keter.

The initiate is led to the closest point — to Hockmah. He must himself take the final step to integration, to unification within Keter.

The Alchemical Marriage — or Union — thus becomes the work of the Zelator.


Within the Alchemical tradition, one finds references to the seven stages of transmutation necessary prior to arriving at the Philosopher's Stone. These seven stages — the seven steps — differ, at least superficially, with various authors. Samuel Norton's 1630 publication, the Catholicon Physicorum, gives the first stage as Corporeal Matrimony. The first step: — the integration of the Self within the body! Only a few years later, Michelspacher incorporated in his book, Cabala, what is here reproduced as diagramme three, and similar diagrammes occur in Rosicrucian literature calling the hill the Mountain of the Adepts, or the Athanor.

Michelspacher stage 3

Diagramme 3

Observe that in this Rosicrucian diagramme published in a presumably Qabalistic book, are obvious seven steps which lead to the centre. The centre, as in the Zelator ritual, is found encircled by the wheel of the Zodiac, which is itself found within the four elements.

Note that the centre one reaches after completing the seven steps is buried deep within the mountain — deep within the psyche — whose chamber holds both the archetypal male & the archetypal female — the archetypal Sun & Moon.

The goal?


They need to fuse into one another for the Phœnix to rise from the ashes of the fusion — to rise above the chamber in which male & female, Sun & Moon, are separate.

Within a Christian context, this can also be understood that both the baptism of water, represented by the Moon, and fire, represented by the Sun, need to take place for transformation to occur.

Once risen, it surfaces and presents itself to the world as Hermes, or Mercury.

Mercury, the hermaphrodite¹ — according to the Alchemical gnostic tradition, the unified Self — the one who has taken the final step into Kether & achieved the alchemical union.

Hermes, or Mercury, is surrounded by the six other planetary personifications.

On his right — i.e., on the left-hand side of the diagramme — are the Sun, Mars, & Venus, and on his left are the Moon, Jupiter, & Saturn.

These are in full view of the world, in full view of the Aspirant. They are astrological illustrations of the seven alchemical steps necessary for integration to take place.

In our ritual, we are instructed to take the seven steps in order to enter the centre. Once the centre is entered, however, one needs to take the actions required, uninstructed as to what they are, if one is to emerge an integrated being.

In the fourth diagramme, you will see that the symbols used to represent the planets personified on this diagramme all include, except for the Sun and Moon, the glyph of the Earth, which is a cross (sometimes modified to an arrow, as in the case sometimes of Mars and Mercury).


Diagramme 4

The Sun is represented by a circle, the Moon by a crescent, and the other planets by combining these with the Earth in various ways.

Both Mars and Venus combine, in different ways, the Sun, the inner Self, with material manifestation. These are found, in both diagrammes, on the right-hand side of Hermes, under the Sun itself. They symbolise the Will and the Emotions of the individual respectively.

Relating this to the Qabalistic Tree, one must master the Emotions of Netzah and the Intellect of Hod to enable one to pass through the veil, Paroketh, and reach the Sun, Tifaret.

Remember, as on this illustration, that the right was considered the active, or masculine — Sun — side, and the left the feminine, or passive and dark — Moon — side.

Thus, we find both Jupiter and Saturn combine the Moon, the unconscious, with material manifestation, and both are found under the Moon, on the left-hand side of the hermaphrodite. Being unconscious, they symbolise aspect of ourselves acquired either socially or genetically. Respectively, they represent the tendency to comply and react in a socially appropriate manner, and the tendency to want the social structures modified… broken down … improved, according to the individual concerned. Qabalistically, they represent Mercy & Severity, i.e., Hesed and Geburah². These oppositions are illustrated with diagramme five, which again comes from Michelspacher’s Cabala.

As the text earlier mentioned illustrated, the first alchemical step is Corporeal Matrimony.

But it is not until the inner — Sun — self, and the sub-conscious — Moon — self are divested of these extraneous, though useful, functions, that these same said Sun and Moon can be reached, divested of their material plane aspects — but then, the sole function of reaching these in their pure state must be to fully re-integrate both …with the body — as illustrated by the symbol of Mercury — the unified Self!

Diagramme 5

Kabalistically, one must ascend the central pillar of the Earth (Malkuth), the Moon (Yesod), and the Sun (Tiphareth), for one to be able to reach the point of highest unification: Kether³.

Hence— and now we return to the Mountain of the Adepts  diagramme — both the outside of the Mountain & the Inner Chamber illustrate the same process — the Alchemical Marriage.

The wheel of the Zodiac, having 12 signs, expresses, as the Zelator ritual informs us, 'the cosmogony of Nature'. — I.e., it represents cosmic genesis, the harmonious emanation of the universe, or, more simply still, the wheel of the Zodiac represents creation — or, as the Qabalistic Tree depicts it, the initial emanation of Kether, being Hockmah.

One needs to be have reached and be within the sphere of the Zodiac, within creation, for the Alchemical Marriage to be made possible, and for Adeptship — for remember that the mountain is the Mountain of Adepts, and Mercury, as Hermes, is the archetypal Adept — one needs the Alchemical marriage, the divine Union, the integration of the Self within Kether, to occur for adeptship to be achieved.

The newly made Zelator is later again confronted with the Conjunctio  when his M___T___ is transmuted by the element of Fire. Like Mercury of our diagramme, the transformation is through the raising of these ashes. Remember that these ashes are those that symbolically represent his body, his psyche, and his Soul and Spirit.

Additionally, the Zelator is told that his light will be extinguished should he fail. Fail what? His own alchemical wedding. For it is with the fire of his own inner spiritual flame that he — like the Phoenix of the third diagramme — must burn to ashes the material aspects attached to his Sun and Moon, and arise from his own ashes a new and transmutted, and thus an initiated, being — a Mercury, a Hermes, an Adept.

The western esoteric tradition, through symbolic initiation, works with subtlety — hence the importance of every aspirant being initiated partaking of the ritual. To observe, whilst his substitute, oft called a 'representative', undergoes the transformation, is a lamentable aspect of the current trend within the Western esoteric initiatic tradition.

The unconscious cannot fail but to register the symbols encountered in the Zelator ritual as the aspirant participates in the rite, whereforth the process of integration begins anew.

The symbols leading to the steps of the matrimonial altar have, for the Zelator, & hence for each of us, been sown.

The question is not whether we shall take that final step, the step leading to the divine, but when!

(October 1992, revised Sept 1993, minor revisions Dec. 1995)

This paper was initially written following my initiation into the S.R.I.A.. As a result of critical feedback from Fra. Rev. Neville Anderson, V°, I thought it prudent to make some revisions.

Jean-Michel David


1 - [return to text] Hermaphrodite = Hermes + Aphrodite = unification of male and female gods, as opposed to androgene = man + woman = unification of male and female mortals.

2 - [return to text] Note that these representations are not the same as those earlier mentioned: the earlier ones were based on the ascent of the seven planets in their traditional astrological order, whereas these associations are based on the energies of the Sefirot and the alchemical ramifications of the planetary energies. Note that there is no absolute agreement as to where the planets are placed, and I, for one, place them all in a circular pattern in Da’at with the Hebrew double letters. There is some justification for this to be found in the Sefer Yetzirah.

3 - [return to text] Keter is, incidently, sometimes associated with Mercury.

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