The triangle, with its simple and geometrically perfect shape, is a symbol loaded with meanings both in psychology and in various cultures and belief systems. It primarily represents stability and the idea of balance. Triangles with the base at the bottom suggest solidity and firmness, while those with the point downward may symbolize instability or change.
In religious and spiritual symbolism, the triangle has considerable importance. For example, in Christianity, the equilateral triangle has been used to represent the Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This representation underlines the idea of three distinct but inseparable entities forming a unity. In Eastern cultures, the triangle is often a symbol of aspects of spirituality and meditation, and can represent concepts such as the balance between mind, body and spirit.
Meaning of the Triangle in Alchemy
In alchemy we can find a profound meaning of the triangle. In its most basic form, the triangle is seen in alchemy as a symbol of the three primordial principles: sulfur, mercury and salt. These are not to be understood in their literal chemical terms, but rather as metaphorical representations of essential aspects of the alchemical process. Sulfur symbolizes combustibility and volatility, often associated with the active, masculine nature. Mercury, representing fluidity and change, is seen as the feminine and passive principle (passive means receptive or open, it does not refer to lack of activity). Finally, salt symbolizes solidity, stability and preservation, being the element that mediates between sulfur and mercury.
These three principles, represented by the vertices of a triangle, are fundamental in alchemical theory for the transmutation of substances, including the famous attempt to convert base metals into gold. This symbolic process, often represented by the creation of the philosopher’s stone, is both a spiritual and physical quest, pointing toward the purification and perfection of both matter and the spirit of the alchemist.
In addition to representing the three principles, the triangle in alchemy also symbolizes the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Although it may seem contradictory, alchemists often used three-sided geometric figures to represent the four elements, with one of the elements being represented by the entire triangle and the other three by each of its vertices. For example, a triangle pointing upwards represents fire, and one pointing downwards symbolizes water. When these two triangles are combined, they form the hexagram symbol, known as the Seal of Solomon, which represents the union of opposites and the harmony of the elements.
On a more esoteric level, the triangle in alchemy can also be interpreted as a map of the alchemical transformation process. The triangle, with its three sides and three vertices, can symbolize the three main stages of the alchemical work: nigredo (decomposition or death), albedo (purification or washing) and rubedo (illumination or perfection). Each stage is key to the realization of the magnum opus, or the great work, which is the alchemist’s ultimate goal.
The symbolism of the triangle also extends to the representation of the microcosm and macrocosm, a fundamental concept in alchemy. The triangle can represent the relationship between man (the microcosm) and the universe (the macrocosm), with the alchemical process serving as a means of understanding and affecting this relationship. The idea of “as above, so below” encapsulates this notion that the processes and structures of the universe are reflected in the individual and vice versa.