LET the lover of God understand us right, and see how the poison of the serpent and devil held humanity imprisoned in death. Attend to the sense and meaning; for we have not the ability to give this into your hands, that only belongs to God; but the gates shall stand open for you.
There was a poor soul that had wandered out of paradise, and into the kingdom of this world; where the devil met with it, and said to it, “Where are you going, half-blind soul?”
The Soul said: I would see and speculate into the creatures of the world, which the Creator has made.
The Devil said: How will you see and speculate into them? You will look upon their outside only, as upon a graven image, and cannot know them throughly.
The Soul said: How may I come to know their essence and property?
The Devil said: Your eyes would be opened to see them thoroughly, and not just outwardly, only if you eat the very essence from whence this world and these creatures themselves have come to be. Then you would be as God himself is, and know what the creature is.
The Soul said: I am now a noble and holy creature; but if I should do so, the Creator has said that I will die.
The Devil said: No, you will not die at all; but your eyes would be opened, and you would be as God himself, a master of good and evil. Also, you would be mighty, powerful, and very great, as I am; all the subtlety of all creatures would be made known to you.
The Soul said: If I had the knowledge of nature and of the creatures, I would then rule the whole world as I listed.
The Devil said: The whole ground of that knowledge lies in you. Do but turn your will and desire away from God and into nature and the creatures, and then there will arise in you a lust to taste; and so thou mayest eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and by that means come to know all things.
The Soul said: Well then, I will eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that I may rule all things by my own power; and be of myself a lord on earth, and do what I will, as God himself.
The Devil said: I am the prince of this world; and if you want to rule on earth, you must turn towards my image and desire to be like me, that you mayest get the cunning, wit, reason, and subtilty, that my image portrays.
Thus did the devil present to the soul the Vulcan in the Mercury, the power that is in the fiery root of the creature, that is, the fiery wheel of essence or substance, in the form of a serpent.
Upon which The Soul said: Behold, this is the power which can do all things.—What must I do to get it?
The Devil said: You are also such a fiery Mercury. Break your will away from God, then this hidden ground will be manifested in you, and you may work in the same manner. But first you must eat of the fruit of this world, wherein each of the four elements are in strife; the heat striving against the cold, and the cold against the heat; and so all the properties of nature work feelingly. Then you will instantly be as the fiery wheel is, and so bring all things into your own power, and possess them as your own.
The Soul did so, and what happened thereupon
Thus the soul broke its will off from God, and brought it into the root of life and power, and there presently arose in it a lust to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; and the soul did eat thereof. Which as soon as it had done, Vulcan, the artificer in the fire, instantly kindled the fiery wheel of its substance, and thereupon all the properties of nature awoke in the soul and exercised each its own lust and desire.
Upon this the devil drew near to the soul, and brought it on from one vice to another, for he had taken it captive in his essence, and set joy and pleasure before it therein, saying thus to it:
Behold, now you are powerful, mighty, and noble, endeavour to be greater, richer, and more powerful still. Display this knowledge, wit, and subtilty, that every one may fear you, and stand in awe, that you may be respected, and get a great name in the world.
The soul did as the devil counselled it, and yet knew not that its counsellor was the devil; but thought it was guided by its own knowledge, wit, and understanding, and that it did very well and right all the while.
Unio Mystica, Johfra
Serpent-Tree, lifted from a text of Boehme. Artist unknown.
Eve Tempted by the Serpent, William Blake