The Mirror of Nicolas Flamel

“Books are mirrors; you only see in them what you already have inside you,” is a quote by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

I believe those words describe exactly what Nicolas Flamel discovered in the mysterious book of which he gazed upon.

The story of Nicolas Flamel dates back to the 1300’s and recounts a fabulous tale of determination and devotion to a man’s search for wisdom and understanding.  First known as a quiet, small bookshop owner along the streets of Paris, Flamel, later in his life, became known as a charitable, esteemed man with wealth beyond most.

Both he, and his wife Pernelle, became dedicated to the helping of others.  They gave their later acquired riches to the founding of hospitals and those in need; instead of expanding their own status.  The change of wealth from a meager bookseller to one which allowed generous giving of gifts is said to have resulted from the knowledge realized from a mysterious book.

The book first appeared to Flamel in a dream.  It was held by an angelic being who stated, “Look well at this book, Nicolas.  At first you will understand nothing in it, neither you nor any other man.  But one day you will see in it that which no other man will be able to see.”

Sometime after, as the story goes, the book was offered to him by an unknown man who came into his bookstore. Nicolas immediately recognized the ancient looking tome from his dream, and bought it.  Filled with symbols, images, and writings he could not understand (like the dream predicted), Nicolas eagerly sought to discern its hidden meaning.  After years and years of looking at the puzzling pages, and journeying far and back, he finally learned the secret.

The full account of the story can be read on the alchemylab website entitled; Nicolas Flamel.  Basically, the story is of the mystifying book and how it initiated the legend of Flamel.  It is believed the book contained the secret to the Philosopher’s Stone.  Flamel is thought to have succeeded in using this for the turning of lead to gold a few times in his life.  The first of which, was claimed to be accomplished on January 17th at noon.  The belief in this transformative power, discovered by Flamel, gains support by there being proof of his existence, and his sudden added and sharing of riches.

This story was related in the introduction of the Maranatha puzzle.  The section, which included the tale, ended by saying that although the book of Flamel’s was lost, the secret within, wasn’t.  The solving of the Maranatha puzzle challenged readers to find the same secret within its puzzle book.

This is actually quite fascinating, if you think about it.  Here, a totally different book, claimed to hold the same secret of a lost other.  Could it?

In older times there was a genre of books written to offer knowledge on various topics called Speculum Literature or Mirrors.  They were created to educate readers on a whole array of subject matters.  Some of the most widely known are those from the middle ages; like the Mirrors for Princes which reflected how a prince should behave, rule, and act.  Other titles include Mirror of Alchemy, Mirror of Human Salvation, and The Great Mirror.  All endeavored to teach.

The word Mirror comes from the Latin word mirari for ‘to wonder at.’  Could it be said the book of Flamel was a Mirror of Self?  A mystical form of Speculum Literature?  It’s interesting to note that Francis Bacon is known to have said ‘Wonder is the seed of knowledge.’

To be given a book which defies understanding upon initial glance would cause wonder and initiate the quest for wisdom.  It can definitely be said the book did that.

The Angel in Flamel’s tale said, “Look well at this book, Nicolas.  At first you will understand nothing in it, neither you nor any other man.  But one day you will see in it that which no other man will be able to see.”   To know what ‘no other man will’?  Sounds as if he was being informed he would come to ‘know thyself’.  ‘No other man will’ ever be able to see what you yourself may see in the ‘mirror’.  To know thyself is considered one of the most highest and significant forms of wisdom.  It is also the least known.

The book caused Flamel to wonder, study, research, and explore the unknown.  It was after his exploration, journey and finding of a teacher, that he was able to gain understanding.  Like Proverbs 4:5-7 encourages, ‘get wisdom, get understanding’, Flamel did so.  He was determined to discover what was hidden within.  Only then, only after years of seeking did he comprehend.  He saw what no other man could see.  He learned the meaning of what was written.

There is another intriguing aspect of the story.  To know thyself is to know what’s on your heart.

In Hebrews 8:10, the Lord declares, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.”

Did Flamel come to discern the meaning and writing of his heart?  Did this ‘book’ reflect and reveal a Truth found in every man’s heart; but of one, which only he, himself, could see; like the Angel in the story states?

Curiously, Nicolas and Pernelle were also claimed to have gained longevity of life.  Proverbs 3:1-4 states:

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart; for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

Nicolas obtained knowledge. The benefits of wisdom, as stated in Proverbs, are the same benefits Flamel’s legend expresses he received.  Although many stories claim he gained immortality, his life was ‘prolonged’.  He had prosperity and his name and life is respected.

Flamel’s legend can be taken allegorically.  In the book, On Becoming an Alchemist by Catherine MacCoun, she refers to the story and states, “If you can uncover the hidden meaning of the various components; the beloved wife, the clueless scholars, the pilgrimage, the cemetery, the blood of the innocents, and so forth, you will be able to discern some sort of spiritual path leading to a result that is described metaphorically as ‘gold.’”

Symbolic journeys are often found within stories.  Following and realizing them yourself, like a Labyrinth, creates the sensations and wisdom often given in initiation rites.  As the book of Flamel’s has never been found, one cannot confirm what all it may have held.  Although descriptions and portrayals of it exist, the entirety remains a mystery.  What it truly revealed to Flamel is unknown.

It may have worked on many levels; both a spiritual, inner changing of lead to gold and an actual, outward change of base metals.  The internal transformation is believed by some to precede the other.

What is clear, though, is Flamel’s life was dramatically changed by his perseverance to understand the secret writing.  Whether it was a ‘mirror’ or not, is for each of us to decide.  As the beginning quote of; “Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you,”  seems to want a person to question, ‘What writing is already inside you?



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9 Responses

  1. Madmonk says:

    What Flamel story is telling you, is all you need is a “Desire”. The result / outcome of that desire is not your concern. The result is given to by a higher force.


  2. Leigh says:

    It is things want,Good information.

  3. Mark says:

    I Have seen the book, and I can sort of understand it from the perspective of Flammels Illustration at the Top.

    For me, the Angel which inspired Flammel in the Story represents the “Highest” understanding. However, the question that I have to ask myself is: “HOW is the understanding of the Angel LINKED to the understanding of the VESSELS,” because for me, these represent two completely DIFFERENT types of understandings.

    The Zohar mentions the Vessels. Likewise, the Number TEN represents this type of Universal Concept for the understanding of the Vessels from the perspective of other Religions. The Zohar describes Ten Sepherate, in Hinduism, we have the “Ten Avators of Vishnu,” and in Tantra, there are the “Ten Mahavidyas”
    (Great Vehicles) which others argue are in some way linked to the understanding of the “Ten Avators of Vishnu.”

    The first Incarnation of Vishnu represents a FISH (Matsaya). When we Hear the word Matsaya, notice that it sounds like “MATTS EYE YAH,” MATT possibly being a reference to the Egyptian Ghoddess MATT, the Consort (or Wife) of Thoth. So it is POSSIBLE that Matt and Thoth might be some reference to Adam and Eve.

    If my Guess is Correct regarding the understanding of the Second Vessel (or Incarnation) representing KURMA, the TURTLE, then it makes sense to me that a VERTICAL LINE needs to be drawn WITHEN the OVAL (of Vessica Pisces) representing the EYE so that it becomes Divided into Two Turtle SHELLS. In The Zohar, the SHELL (Klipot) represents a reference to the OTHER SIDE.

    So it’s POSSIBLE that the Serpent in The Bible really represents a reference to a TURTLE which was hiding in it’s Shell, the Meaning of “Onto Your Belly you will Go (Mate), the Lowest of the Beasts of the Field. So I am assuming that when Turtles Mate, they do it “Face to Face” or “Belly to Belly.”

    The Third Vessel, representing the understanding for the BORE (VARAHA) might represent the understanding for a Horizontal LINE which is drawn through the Center of the OVAL representing the symbol for the CROSS.

    It’s my belief that the SECRET of the VESSELS is LINKED to the understanding of GENESIS 1. For example:

    “And Darkness fell upon the FACES of the Waters.”

    This represents a reference to the FACES of Adam and Eve turned SIDEWAYS so that they are Facing Each Other, representing the CONCEPT for the ACTUAL VESSEL (The Grail Cup/Cup of Blessing)

    Next, it is mentioned:

    “And the Spirit of GOD MOVED upon the Surface of the Waters.”

    Basically, the FACES turned (or moved) from SIDEWAYS to facing FORWRD so that TWO CIRCLES were Revealed, the Circle on the Left representing the Face of Eve, and the Circle on the right representing the Face of Adam.”

    Next, “And GOD SAW the LIGHT, and the LIGHT was GOOD.”

    This represents the understanding for the TWO Crcles being overlapped, with the Eye of Vessica Pisces being revealed.”

    However, we have to be CAREFUL in our understanding of that Secret. Notice that when we regard the Faces as a type of MIRROR of ourselves, the Woman’s LEFT EYE becomes Overlapped with the Males Right Eye. What is supposed to come to mind is “The WOMAN SAW,” a reference to the Woman’s LEFT Eye
    Which appears WITHIN the EYE of Vessica Pisces. However, the verse mentions “And GOD SAW the LIGHT , and the LIGHT was GOOD (Right).

    So is it POSSIBLE that this was some reference to the Males RIGHT Eye which ALSO appears WITHIN the Eye of Vessica Pisces? I DON’T think it is. Rather, I think that the Serpent (Turtle) TRICKED EVE into entering into the EYE of Vessica Pisces making her believe that this was the SOURCE of the LIGHT.

    It was probably at this point that FLAMMELS VISION caught FIRE, and he recognized the fact that something
    Seemed a little FISHY about the Story. My GUESS is that ANOTHER HORIZONTAL DARK OVAL needed to be drawn (at some point) WITHIN the EYE of Vessica Pisces so that it resembles the eye of the Serpent, and that TWO MORE WHITE OVALS needed to be be drawn OUTSIDE of Vessica Pisces.

    Basically, my understanding of what Flammel saw when looking into the MIRROR of the SELF is that each of
    The TWO SEXES Sees GOD DIFFERENTLY, which is WHY there are TWO O’s in the word GOOD, and Only ONE in the word GOD.

    • Maria Rigel says:

      I think the angel in Flamel’s story is just a literary device to tell the story. I think there was no angel, and probably no book either. It was just a way of explaining that some books can’t be read by everyone.

  4. Maria Rigel says:

    Two things to remember here. First, scholars say the book by Nicolas Flamel probably wasn’t written by Nicolas Flamel, but a couple of centuries afterwards by an unknown author. Second, Duncan said clearly that it wasn’t about actual transmutation of metals, but about philosophical (or spiritual, if you prefer that term) transmutation.

    • Maria Rigel says:

      And I don’t think that in this book it’s both philosophical and real transmutation. I don’t rule out that real transmutation might be possible, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t what’s described in this book.

  5. Maria Rigel says:

    I don’t think the truth in Flamel’s book is found in every man’s heart, but it may well be a truth about nature (so, theoretically at least, accessible to everyone). The angel didn’t say that only Flamel could see this truth, he said that only Flamel would be able to read the book. And I don’t think this was meant literally, I think it what was meant is that only masters would be able to read the book.

  6. Maria Rigel says:

    The date of 17th January at noon is relevant at the latitude of the Languedoc and Rennes le Chateau. It’s about the angle of the sun.

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