Nicolas Flamel and the Swan’s Song

The belief in Nicolas Flamel discovering the Philosopher’s Stone, giving the ability to turn base metals to gold, has caused many to investigate his life. What secrets are found depends mainly on the seeker.  Although still searching, I am intrigued by Flamel’s giving heart and his fearless attitude towards death.  His known riches were spent on helping others and it seems he recognized death as inevitable.

The stories of Flamel portray him as always an avid student. His acquirement of the legendary book of Abraham the Jew only spurred him ever deeper to seek the wisdom he craved.  Hidden within the pages of this ancient book, a secret is believed to have been discovered by Flamel. The secret to transmute lead to gold.  Becoming wealthy after realizing the knowledge the book contained, the Flamel’s lives(both he and his wife, Pernelle) were shown to be ones of philanthropy.  They gave to the less fortunate, helped build hospitals, and repaired churches. The gold was used to better the world around them, instead of used to better just themselves.

Another interesting element told in the stories of Flamel is his preparation for death.  He is described as a person at peace, and although not waiting around for death, he is said to not have feared it any longer.  The stories include how he designed his own tombstone, happily strolled the Cemetery of the Innocents, and lived life with an acceptance his time would come.

The above may sound strange, but in Plato’s dialogue, Phaedo, some understanding to why Flamel lived his life in such a way is found.  In the dialogue, Socrates, after being sentenced to death, presents his reasoning for not fearing his own soon to be end. He says to those around him, “…those who practice philosophy in the right way are in training for dying and they fear death least of all men.”

Previous to Socrates’ statement, this right way of philosophy is explained.  I will not begin to try and offer a paraphrase.  It is best read from the source.  But, it would seem to me Flamel practiced this way.  He was a ‘lover of wisdom’ and in the belief death presented the highest form of wisdom, death would not be resented.

It would also seem this Philosopher’s way, described in Phaedo, provides some explanation of Flamel’s attitude towards living life.  His kind ways uplifted him. If a stone could be likened to the heart, it would seem Flamel certainly had the ‘philosopher’s stone’.

In relation to Flamel’s story, I was fascinated with another section in Phaedo, as well; the mentioning of the song of the swan.  Various tales of the swan’s song are often told, but in Phaedo, Socrates relates, “They sing before too, but when they realize they must die they sing most and most beautifully…”

Time is relative. To compare our time on Earth to Eternity makes today seem like seconds, years like hours, and a life only a day.  It reminds me of one of the ten paradoxes of Hui Shi.  He said, “Heaven is as low as earth; mountains and marshes are on the same level.”  The statement implies that different perceptions depend on scales.  When the scale is so vast, any difference is meaningless and non-existent.

With this in mind, I am led to consider that if a person fully recognizes death is inevitable, and perceived near, may he not sing like a swan?  Were the hospitals that Flamel helped provide, or even the wall Gilgamesh is said to have built once realizing ‘death is inevitable’, songs of the Swan?  Are they now frozen music?

As today marks the end of a year, and the beginning of another, resolutions are commonly made. Mine will be to try and better know time is now, and realize that each day should be lived as if to be sung by a swan.



Alchemylab, Nicolas Flamel, reviewed Dec. 2012

Cooper, John, editor, Plato: Complete Works, Hackett Publishing 1997



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20 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    I can always trust Jkyles keen instincts to direct me towards some subject which is worthy of further exploration. Actually, the Swan can be considered a Sacrad Bird in the teachings of Hinduism.

    The Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Speach and Wisdom) is said to ride upon a Swan (her vehicle/chariot). Saraswati is usually depicted with some Musical Instrument in her hands such as a Vina (A type of stringed harp) or a Sitar (a type of stringed banjo or guitar). 

    The Idea here is that in Music there is Wisdom, and because Saraswati is the Goddess of Speach, the IDEA of “The SONG” should come to mind. But if you are JUST some follower of Hindism, such an Idea is NOT likely to come to mind because this fact is never mentioned.

    However “The Song” (of Solomon) is mentioned in The Bible: “I am the Rose of Sharon .. “The LILLY of the Valley. As the Lilly Amoungst the Thorns, so is my Love amoungst the Daughters (Hebrew Baths).” 

    In The Bharata, the SEAL which matches the Description for The Lilly (Mukula) represents all FIVE fingers touching at the tips. This also goes by the Decription of a FLOWER BUD (Unopened Flower). From this point, the fingers are stretched out with tension placed on them which reoresents the Seal matching the Description for The LOTUS (Allapadma). The Seal matching the description for the THORN represents the Index Finger being pressed into the Palm of the Hand. So for me, the Thorn is really just some reference to the FINGERNAILS, which The Zohar mentions are Impure. 

    In Hinduism, SARAswati is desribed as “The Daughter (Heb. Bath) of the Himalayas.” She is said to be fond of taking BATHS because she represents everything that is PURE in nature (for example, the Swan, The Bath and The LOTUS). SARAswati’s Husband (Consort/Accompnier) is BRAMA (ABRAM). “A GARDEN (Rose garden/flower bud) ENCLOSED (Mukula) is my Daughter (misinterpreted as Sister) my Spouse (Wife), a SPRING (of water/bath) SHUT OFF, a Fountain SEALED! (Song of Solomon). 

    This brings us to “The SONG,” and how it RELATES to the understanding of the SWAN. Hinduism mentions The HAMSA, which means “The SPOTLESS SWAN.” What exactly is it? I kind of liken it to a BREATHING EXCERCISE (Song). When Air 
    Is Exhaled out of the Mouth, the Sound HAM 
    Is spposed to be made. And when Air is Inhaled through the Nose, the sound SA is supposed to be made. Yogananda reccomended that others practice this Breathing Excerise, but changed the name of it to “Haung Sau Breath Meditation.” 

    There is also a HAMSA in Hebrewism. The Hebrew word Hamsa literally means FIVE, and represents a “PALM shaped Amulet,” also known as “The Hand of Fatima.” Some of the Hamsa’s have Symbols placed on them. At the tips of the Fingers, we find the LOTUS’s (flower buds/Mukula), However the 
    Amulet looks like an OPEN HAND (Lotus/Alapadma). Of the LILLY, the Zohar mentions It’s relationship to “The Cup of Blessing,” which is raised using “Five Fingers.” 

    In WIKPEDIA, there is a really fascinating article about the Hebrew HAMSA. You might want to read it (in full):

  2. Madmonk says:


    What we are talking about about here is subject of orientation. How does a person oreintate themself towards the goal. Truths about how the material and spiritual world work must be realised.

    what im sayin is behind all these events there lies a simple truth that unlocks the persons mind.


    • Madmonk says:

      I am student of Kabbalah and have been for 5 years. I wanted to defined what i believe and partly know from exprience what wisdom Kabbalah means and its essence with in this world.

      I think this video sums up my views on Zohar, Kabbalah and how simple this material world is. I have been taught that nothing in this world really matters its all iilusions and one must focus on the goal. That goal is develop a very specific desire within the heart, its the desire to return to God. How does a person develop this desire by studying the Zohar, Torah, which draws the light and develops this desire/point. Its just like watering a seed.But you water the desire with light that is drawn. Everything i learn from the light as this desire/point develops is a gift from God. For me this how i define spiritual work.

      A simple process of developing a very specific desire via study of texts. All this work is carried out in the heart its simple exchange between the desire and the text. I just need to be concerned about drawing the light and feed my desire. Everything else is taken care for me, just like a baby.The babies only concern is eat everything else is taken care for it.

  3. Mark says:

    Actually, Madmonk, Often we can have some “basic understanding” that represents the “starting point” for the persuit of some Spirutual Goal. At first, the CONCEPT might seem simple enough to us, but then we begin to realize that there might be different 
    ways to go about persuing it.

    For example, lets say for a moment that we manage to string together TWO Basic Concepts. In this particular case:

    1. The tips of the five fingers (of a single hand) joined together followed by the Opening of the fingers of the Hand. (The blooming of a Flower Bud)

    2. The Inhaling of the breath through the Nose verses the Exhaling of the Breath through the Mouth.

    However, before I begin to go about explaing HOW I would persue this Concept, PART of the understanding of the Concept 
    has to do with PURITY. Anytime, I attempt to do some type of Spiritual work envolving my hands, I wear a pair of GLOVES. 

    The act of SEEING plays a role in the understanding of Spiritual Secrets too. Most of thr time, I prefer to close my eyes while performing them. Although sometimes, I like to try them with Only my right eye open. 

    That being said, HOW would I go about “orientating” myself around the Unfoldment of these TWO basic CONCEPTS (hands and Breath)? Either you can use Two Hands or just One. If it is just One, then it is the Right Hand. Sometimes you just have to experiment with these things to see which works best for you. 

    Common sense tells me that when a flower bud is CLOSED, it is NOT Fragrent. So I know right away NOT to Inhale the Air through the Nose while the tips of the five fingers are joined together. So do I exhale the Air through the Mouth while the fingers are closed?

    No. Again, Common Sense tells me that the opening of the Flower Bud represents one part of the breath, and the Closing of the Flower represents the other part of the Breath. So I am more likely to try inhaling the breath through the Nose as I open the fingers up all the way, and exhaling the breath through the Mouth as I begin closing the fingers back to the starting point (flower bud). 

  4. jkile says:

    All such wonderful added thoughts!

  5. Nate Beck says:

    Hello everyone.

    Thought I’d drop in for a quick visit.

    Love the article Jenny, thanks again.

    I’m excited to see this site grow and I try to recommend it to others as much as I can.

    I love your comments about death as I can relate how fear of death is a distant feeling for me, being a believer in Jesus Christ who conquered Death, Hell and the Grave! How many, I wonder, were able to come to terms with that kind of fear relating to the whole Mayan calendar/2012 fiasco? Have we learned anything at all about apocalyptic scenarios? If you knew the day of your death, how differently and carefully would you live your life? How differently would you view your life’s purpose, your duty to God and the truth; your love and attitude toward family and friends; work and food; and love itself? All interesting questions one should ponder more often than not.

    Well, I thought I would remind everyone that N. Flamel accomplished his transmutation on January 17th at midday. Everyone here no doubt already knows the significance of that notorious date as far as Rennes-le-Chateau goes.

    Well, I think it’s about to get a lot more significant. For, I remind everyone here, we are still awaiting Duncan Burden’s next article on the Maranatha mystery and we’ve got 13 days to go til that strange day arrives.

    On that day, you will find me under the midday sun drawing frozen music! My fear will be fear of nothing, and that includes death.

    I love you guys and I wish you all the best for another happy year.

    Your friend,


  6. Mark says:

    I think that what is important is the fact that irregardless of what we believe, it makes us feel good to have some place to go where we can share in what we believe. 

    I think I “might” understand what you are talking about, even though I don’t understand “exactly” what you are talking about. It is possible that what you are trying to say to me is: “This is not as much about my methods. Rather it’s more about the fact that perhaps I am not understanding the “Essence” of the Teachings. So if I don’t understand the desire part, then I am not understanding the most important part.”

    However, I have been on “The Path” since 1986. If there is some “Simple” Understanding, then that is the understanding that is going to make sense to everybody. Then one day, that leads to the virtue of having some desire, but not acting on it like the baby.

    However, God is not like our Parents. We are all “infants” in our understading of the truth. And a baby is at the “Mercy” of the world! Does a baby really know what Love is? We can’t really be certain of the answer to that question. But we do know that the baby would starve to death were it not for the fact that the food was being provided. 

    Everybody wants to believe that God is like the “Nurturing Parent” who leads the baby directly to the loving tit. But at some point, the baby better wake up and smell the Milk! Uaually it all begins with the baby being hungry to know the truth. Then, eventually, that hunger leads to despiration. Sometimes the person’s worst fears can help to guide the person towards the truth. So it is usually when we are at the Mercy of Life, that we learn the most. 

    Niether am I trying to say that your understanding of Kabballah and Desire as the “Essence” of the teachings is not the correct understanding. For I will admit that you could be right. This has been hinted at in other Religions too. Neither does it mean that I don’t engage in that mode of thinking from time to time, too. For certainly, I am not holier than thou! Even milk can satisfy a persons hunger for a while. But withoit some  
    Cheese, the person would probably be hungry all of the time. 

    • Madmonk says:

      I only presented info incase there was someone who wanted to learn about the method of Kabbalah. Its for people who feel a need to find a new way of life (this was me 5 years ago)

      In fact, persuasion is contrary to the laws of nature. This is because a person’s only freedom of will is to change himself, and it is forbidden to deprive him of this opportunity

  7. Mark says:

    Of all the sentences in that “Very Humble” post that you wrote, the one that makes me feel the worst is the first. Here I was asking you to share, and I went about acting like I really didn’t care. So please forgive me. But at least now, humility is with me. 

    By the way, I consider that to be some good thing. But fhat “Ego Monster” inside of me is always looking for some Wedding Ring. So thank you for teaching me a valuable lesson. Am I really a Psycho? Na! I just prefer to keep other people guessing!

  8. Mark says:

    Madmonk, you are right. I think that I was trying to change you, and I apologize for that. However, I do agree with a lot of the things that you mentioned, such as life being 
    an illusion. 

    I used to read “The Zohar” a lot. Much about 
    The understanding of Kaballa comes from the Zohar. What’s weird is that there was this one time when I was reading The Bible, when I actually saw the phrase ” … And give it to Rabbi Shimon …” Rabbi Shimon’s name 
    Also appears in The Zohar. However like a fool, I never attempted to write down what Book or what page that passage appeared on. I did a Bible Search using both the words Shimon and Rabbi, but never could locate the passage. I think I even tried “Strong’s.” 

    What’s also weird is that there is this story (or legend) that the person who found the Zohar and wanted to have it published was invited to Rome by the Pope that had planned to have the person executed because he was angry that he was publishing it for some reason. However, the person never went. And the very next day, the Pope was found dead. I don’t know if the 
    Story is really true. It could just be some type of urban legend. 

    The Study of Kaballah is based on the Sepheret. The word Sepheret means Circle (or Sphere). And there are ten of them. The understanding in Hinduism is similar. The Hebrew word Chakra also means circle. However, there are only 7 of them (the seven major ones). 

    Some of my favorite passages in The Zohar pertain to things like “the hidden candlelight that is found on the inside of the fingers when they are bent, how the palm of the hand represents a map of the Constellations, the passages regarding the flower buds and the Lilly, the lock and the key as they relate to the understanding of Chesed (the right hand), and how the Creator created this POINT which is in some way associated with Keter (The Crown).

    The Zohar is Huge! However, my own way of studying it is to enter some Search term using the Search Engine at “The Zohars website.” The Zohar is one of the reasons why I understand Religion the way that I do. 

    • Maria Rigel says:

      Thanks for insisting on the Zohar! I finally checked it out, and there’s definitely something quite interesting there. But I find it too hard to read.

      This passage at the beginning I find interesting:

      Rabbi Hizkiyah opened (began): “It is said, as a rose among thorns” (Shir HaShirim, 2:2). He asks, “What does a rose represent?” He answers, “It is theAssembly of Israel, meaning Malchut. For there is a rose, and there is a rose.Just as a rose among thorns is tinged with red and white, so does the Assemblyof Israel (Malchut) consist of judgment and mercy. Just as a rose has thirteenpetals, so the Assembly of Israel consists of thirteen properties of mercy,surrounding it on all sides.

      My thoughts:
      1. The rose among thorns reminds me of the crown of thorns of Christ. Possibly the same thing?
      2. The white and red associated with the rose is at least as old as the Zohar.
      3. The thirteen petals of the rose are probably 12+1, ie 12 and a center. Which fits with the idea of the rose being the hexagram, with 12 points, plus the center.

      • Mark says:

        It’s an interesting theory and kind of makes sense because each of the six sides of the Hexagram are sharp, like a thorn. So you added the point in the center to give it 13 points
        (12 + 1). There is also the idea in The Zohar “He Created Six.”

        My guess would be that there are geometrical and non-geometrical ways for understanding what this means. The Covent (Brit) is a reference to the “Covent of Circumscision. Just so your following me, here is the version of The Lilly that I am quoting from;


        “After the light was created, it was concealed and enclosed in the Brit (Covenent) that entered The Lilly and Fructified it. This is referred to as a tree bearing fruit whose seed is within it, and this SEED is the Brit.”

        My own understanding is that Seed, Womb, and Fish all have the same shape. There is a similar idea in Hinduism where Brahma gave birth to the Creation (Elements or Tatvas). These were all born from an Egg. The name of this egg is Hranyagarbha (The Golden Egg), and it’s the aspect of Brahma referred to as Saguna Brahman.

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  10. Maria Rigel says:

    There’s something that’s usually said in the funeral of a master mason that seems appropriate here: “Remember the soul is immortal”. I don’t know how much comfort the Holy Grail may provide in the face of death, but I do know that all life is one, so one shouldn’t worry too much about death.

  11. Maria Rigel says:

    I’d like to point out that the claims of Nicolas Flamel about the gold and what he did with it are just that, claims. Duncan said that the gold was philosophical, rather than real gold, so it’s impossible to tell if it would have been even possible to do the good deeds described with philosophical gold.

  12. Maria Rigel says:

    I think now that Nicolas Flamel’s book could be described as a “swan song”. I suspect the intention behind the book could be what’s called “crossing the abyss”.

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