Vasily Kafanov:

All content & writing by Brad Jaeger © The NACHTKABARETT

Contents :



In the center of the sacrificial offering plate, both cup and womb, lie sleeping the Genesis lovers, the innocence of humanity; father and mother alike, Adam and Eve united as one. Dichotomy courses throughout uniting man and woman, hand above and below, with sun and moon presiding over the alchemical union. Thematically representative of Glass & June, insofar that "their fates had intertwined long before they were lovers, their moment extending back before their eyes first met, and that bond was eternal".

Hands are positioned above and below the offering plate, mirroring the alchemical truth, As above, so below, recalling Christ as the Baphomet: one hand signifying those who ascend, and the other, those who are damned. Man is born betwixt both, and pulled equally by both forces.

In the upper left hand corner lays a diagram of a triangle - representing the trinity - encircled by two spiral entities; two manifestations of will, describing two separate aspects of the creator. In the center of the triangle lies the tetragrammaton ; a Greek word meaning "the four lettered name of God", or IHVH as it is transliterated into Latin and pronounced "Yod He Vav He" (as the Hebrew language contains no vowels in its written form, only consonants). In 1611, when English translators of the Bible made the original Hebrew readable in their own language, it was from a variant pronunciation of IHVH from which they derived the name 'Jehovah'

The Tetragrammaton

The outer spiral reads:

by a Soft, Meek or Tender Lubet, represented by this finer Circling Line: Which Lubet goes: along with (but secretly and incomprehensibly to) the Desire through.

The inner spiral reads:

by a Sharp, Harsh or Strong Desire, represented by this Grofs and Dark Circling Line: Which Desire is turning out, together with the Lubets (yet not mixed more...

The spiral closest to YHVH reads:

This Abyssal Nothing will introduce itself into - Something Viz into Nature; that is into Proper ties: and through Nature into Glory & Majesty . This now is done.

Kafanov's source for this particular symbol would have been D.A. Freher's "Paradoxa Emblemata", an 18th century manuscript:

Left: A plate from Freher's "Paradoxa Emblemata", who wrote of it: "[Alpha] and [Omega], the eternal beginning and the eternal end, the first and last. Unground without time and space. Chaos. Mirror eye of eternity."

Right: As on the cover of Machina

Freher would further make the distinction between two prominent facets of God, writing that "the unground leads itself into a spiral into a will, and this splits into the two spheres of love and wrath."

The bottom right hand corner reveals the alchemical treatise, "It is finished when seven are one", further denoting the dissolution and reduction of dichotomy and the multitude into unity, reducing all to one for the purpose of transcendence.

"It is finished when seven are one": a famous hermetic maxim. This image is also derived from the Paradoxa Emblemata. For a more in depth explanation of the symbol, please refer to its inclusion in Plate XII






Immersed in mercurial water, the homunculus (Latin, "little man), having undergone the calcinations of the sun, is heated to the point of sophic putrefaction. The alchemist's flame underneath is closely guarded by three black crows (or ravens), themselves associated with the process of putrefaction.

Traditional depiction of the Homunculus

Depicting Nigredo, the stage of alchemical decomposition, all matter is cooked to a uniform and singular state of blackness. An early step towards the ultimate goal of vitriol, the philosopher's stone, Nigredo/Putrefaction/Blackness has been regarded as the moment of greatest personal suffering (marking spiritual and personal death), the culmination of a low which serves as the impetus for great personal transformation.

The round bottom flask, stuffed with three feathers, is presided over by Sol and Luna, and surrounded by the four elements, as the homunculus holds a serpent in his left hand, and a cup with three smaller serpents in his right.

Title of the plate may be a pun, as proof is the term for the ethanol levels in alcohol. The homunculus inside, is quite literally seen in the mixture as living in proof. This would not be surprising, as the function of the homunculus was to illustrate the use or purpose of an inner system, sometimes serving to personify the base metal(s) used in the alchemical process (in this particular case, Mercury).

The inspiration for The Soul as Living Proof is derived from the sixth of thirteen images in the first book of the Cabala Mineralis Manuscript:

Left: Sixth image from the Cabala Mineralis Manuscript, Book I. The image is accompanied by the text, "Of the calcination of our sun, having been watered with new mercury, two parts in weight, the common sun is made one body, black and not porous."

Right: The final goal of the alchemist, vitriol, the philosopher's stone. Referred to in this text as the 'stone of the wise' and 'medicine of the third order', it served as spiritual allegory for the final transformation - the transcendence of the alchemist.





I do not wish to suggest that any plate is merely a visual depiction of any particular track off of Machina, as that is both not the case and also a gross oversimplification. However in this instance, a great deal of the visual iconography largely correlates with the track of Glass and the Ghost Children.

Uniting the song and the plate are subtle allusions to the second of four major stages of the alchemical process, known as Albedo. In order to understand the evocation of Albedo in this plate, I'll quickly summarize the former (Nigredo). We'll examine Nigredo in more detail in later plates where it is directly evoked.

Nigredo, the blackness, is the process of putrefaction and decomposition to the state where all material is reduced to the primal matter from which it sprung. This reduction to a uniform black matter signified the death of the old, with the intention of bringing forth new life. Antoine-Joseph Pernety would poignantly summarize Nigredo in his Mytho-Hermétique (1758), "Everything that has live[d], dies; everything that is dead putrefies and finds a new life".

The personal or spiritual death that the alchemist undergoes in Nigredo is the necessary precedent for the arising of Albedo. Albedo (Whiteness) overcomes Nigredo (Blackness), when darkness surrenders to the light and new life emerges. While Albedo is the beginning of new life, it is important not to confuse this with enlightenment or attainment of oneness with divinity, as this is not the case. Albedo is still a life unfulfilled, and a great deal of time in the Albedo stage must be spent washing away impurities and returning to our naturally hermaphroditic and androgynous state from which we are born.

Lyrically, Billy/Zero/Glass' desire to continue on, even after suffering the blackest black --personal and spiritual death-- allows the formation of a new life worthy of enlightenment and unity with the divine:

I want to live
Don't want to die

I want to live
I want to try

To further the connection between plate and song, the figure in the center is seemingly locked in pious observance:

All in prayer
Prayer in all

While another figure seemingly dances around the steeple of the church to the left, the center figure releases a white dove radiating pure and untarnished light.

Bird imagery was often evoked by the alchemists to denote stages of the alchemical process. The white dove, as seen above, was an allusion to Albedo.

Furthermore, skeletons (and bones in general), were also symbols used to depict Albedo, as bones are both white and only visible in full upon death. It is not surprising then that in the same plate a skeleton and two interlocking bones appear.

As if to further the notion of rebirth through Albedo, the bones at the base of the skeleton seem to form the symbol for infinity, referencing the cyclical nature of life and death.

Another lyrical allusion is present when Billy sings:

Black rooms are calling
To men in leather coats
White labs are cooking up
The silver ghost

This is relevant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the lyrics quite literally refer to the alchemical practice of cooking materials. Secondly, the references to black and white are made quite clearly. This verse is heavily laden with alchemical references and talks of the transition from Nigredo to Albedo, with the end result being the emergence of the “silver ghost” (a metaphor for pure and unbridled spirit). The verse is also of importance, as it reinforces the dichotomous union of Nigredo and Albedo, represented by their colours (black and white, respectively).

A particularly obscure lyric that the track ends on, "As she counted the spiders/As they crawled up inside her" may also be an Albedo reference. On Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music, there is a track entitled "White Spider", in which parallel lyrics appear.

And every little spider
That crawled up inside her

And furthermore, "White spider/Where will you crawl?"

Coupled with the line, "You've gotta walk through hell" also present in White Spider, Billy Corgan seems to be evoking an excerpt from the Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake, an artist who seemingly has had significant influence on Machina (so much so, that when Billy Corgan had his personal gallery of selected artists available on the official website between Sept 24th, 2001 - November 26th, 2002 (aprox), William Blake was one of the three recognized artists).

And now the excerpt from Heaven and Hell:

"By degrees we beheld the infinite Abyss, fiery as the smoke of a burning city; beneath us at an immense distance, was the sun, black but shining; round it were fiery tracks on which revolv'd vast spiders, crawling after their prey; which flew, or rather swum, in the infinite deep, in the most terrific shapes of animals sprung from corruption; & the air was full of them, & seem'd composed of them: these are Devils, and are called Powers of the air. I now asked my companion which was my eternal lot? he said, 'between the black & white spiders.'"

If this connection is an accurate one, then this further serves as an allusion to the emergence of Albedo through Nigredo. Even in Blake's beautiful words, we see a similar level of alchemical dichotomy: an infinite abyss, a black sun, and of course, the black and white spiders.

If this is confusing, not convincing, or should you be seeking a supplemental reason for the numerous references to arachnids, one can also make note of a simpler allusion between spiders and one of Billy's artistic heroes, David Bowie. Take into account the lyrics in If There is a God:

And if there is a God
I know he likes to rock
He likes his loud guitars
And his spiders from Mars

The spiders in this particular sense quite obviously refer to David Bowie's, 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars', another concept album which deals with much of the same subject matter as that of Machina. I'm personally of the opinion that spiders serve a dual purpose as both a nod to one of the greatest artists of all time, as well as to the more esoteric elements to which I have outlined, but that is up for you to decide.

Getting back to the central figure of plate III, a book rests atop the figure's head, further mirroring lyrics in Glass and the Ghost Children, "Knowing is it's own answer/Love something in a book".

A woman, an almost Mrs. Gulch like figure from the Wizard of Oz who is seen riding her bicycle in the tornado before transforming into a wicked witch, transverses the head of prayer, the back wheel forming an L in the center over the ear, like a pair of stereo headphones. If this is indeed a nod to the fantasy of early cinema, one can easily argue that the word "OZ" which appears just slightly above and to the left of the woman's head, is likely non coincidental.

Bicycle riding woman. The word "OZ" spelt out vertically on the top, straight above the handle bars of the bike.
Above: Mrs. Gulch & her Transformation into a Wicked Witch

Another noticeable element to the plate is the dual faced stone mason to the right of the central figure's head. The mason can be seen crafting a wheel of light. Indicative of this is the dot in the middle of the wheel, which doubly signifies it as a symbol for Sol, the Sun. The two faces of the mason also denote a duality and dichotomy recurrent in much of alchemy (Microcosm and macrocosm, black and white, sun and moon, man and woman, heaven and hell, fire and water, earth and air, and so forth, ad infinitum).

To the right of the bicycling woman's hair is a trumpeting messenger from above, perched on a staff with the symbol of the sun at its right end, and a crescent moon on its left. The staff itself intersects another mercurial staff, noticeably marked with a winged flare (just to the right of the trumpeter), and a base comprised of the symbol for alchemy. The trumpeting messenger recalls the Book of Revelation, in which the seven angels with the seven trumpets come forth from heaven, sounding their horns and unleashing plague after plague of misfortune upon the remaining inhabitants of the Earth.

This apocalyptic revelation seems to be enforced by a path which begins before a large tower, which then continues upwards in a literal stairway to heaven. This broken civilization with the audacity to try and reach God's abode is mirrored in the biblical tale of Babylon and the tower of Babel, in which a tower is constructed with the intention of breaching the heavens. For those who've read the tale, you are well aware that it ends badly.

Incidentally serving as social commentary, to the tower of Babel's far left lies a far more modern looking cityscape, similar to our own, drawing parallels between the doomed civilization of Babylon, and our own.

As such, a stern truth is spelt out in Latin, partially obstructed by the church's steeple, set to remind us, "NIL SINE DEO", (Nothing without God)

Numerous ever watching eyes and a great beast watch as an amused serpent, perhaps the Ouroboros itself, breaks the cyclical cosmic nature of its being and heads towards the hands of the devout and pious worshipper, whose mouth is sealed with a double cross.

A hexagram is also set to the immediate left of the woman riding a bicycle. The hexagram has a plethora of occult connotations, but the most related in context of the plate would be that the hexagram itself is a geometric depiction of one of alchemy's most dear concepts: "As above, so below". The hexagram is composed of two equilateral triangles, one upright, and one upside down. Furthermore, an upright triangle is the universal alchemical symbol for fire, whereas an upside down triangle is its inverse, water. Together they present both a union of opposites and a reflection of the correlation between microcosm and macrocosm.

A final pertinent symbol worth noting at this time is the crown resting beneath the hand of the devout central figure. Adorning the crown is a small cross, and the inscription, "LOVE", as God is love.




An angel of light bears a customized staff which incorporates the elements of sulfur and mercury, a balance of the wet and dry alchemical principles. This is reinforced by the receding waters in the background, revealing a dry and barren earth. As sulfur is normally described as a dry and fixed element, and mercury as a wet and volatile one, the union of the two brings alchemical balance to this pictorial equation. Its successful binding produces a beacon of great white light.

The concept of uniting mercury and sulfur can be found in a wide volume of alchemical texts and treatises. One such example, below:

Viridarium Chymicum, D.Stolcius von Stolcenberg, Frankfurt, 1624.

Above left: An illuminated figure wielding the opposing elements: sulfur and mercury, bringing them into balance.

Above right: The symbol of sulfur positioned above the sun, mirroring sulfur's dry quality; the symbol of mercury positioned above the moon, mirroring mercury's liquid quality.

According to one of the father's of alchemy, Paracelsus, sulfur and mercury are two of the vital ingrediants in the Tria Prima (Three Primes). Paracelsus states that sulfur is the omniscient vitality and spirit of life, whereas mercury bridges the fluid connection of the principles above and below (also known as the 'high' and 'low' principles). In this depiction, only salt, the third of the Tria Prima, is absent.

Upon closer inspection, the staff is more intricate that it may initially seem. The principle of Sol, represented by the circle, is found within the triangle, the domain of spirit. In this context, the light produced is evidently perfect and pure in spirit, a sublime quality which radiates its sublime quality on anything its rays touch.

A subtle beam of this spirit energy is visible, penetrating through the center of the circle, moving it's way up along the staff until it escapes as a brilliant and shining orb.

The interwoven hilt, much like on many representations of the caduceus, snakes up the rod intertwined, denoting balance and union of these two elements (sulfur and mercury).

While the background is aesthetically pleasing, it is comprised of primarily non-esoteric symbols, with the exception of some shapes and figures that are of note for their alchemical significance. These include triangles (fire), inversed triangles (water), and quartered wheels (earth). Once again, opposing elements reinforce the separate nature of the elements, brought together and united through the alchemical work.




Glass and June are shown in tight embrace, holding onto a moment of sincere emotion against all odds. An ominous and potentially threatening winged figure in the sky watches over their happiness, as numerous trees have burst into flames, like the 'firebrand' described in The Book of Amos. This is a sinister garden, though in it blooms a single sunflower; a telling sign of hope. As common in many plates, the all-seeing-eye watches overhead.

In the background of the plate are four burning sticks (once trees, no doubt). My particular interest in the bible predisposes me to think of a small passage in The Book of Amos, though I will freely admit that this parallel is one that is of my interest and may not necessarily have been the intention of Vasily Kafanov.

Amos is largely regarded as one of the first prophets – a simple man of simple background (he was a farmer). YHWH speaks to him and instructs Amos to preach of judgment and that the upcoming Day of the Lord will not be how the people have interpreted it, but rather, that it will be a day of judgment against the nations that have freely fostered sin. The charge is (as usual): idolatry, obsession with the material, and not owing their dues to the LORD, or forsaking him in their hearts.

11. I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
The Book of Amos - 4:11 (KJV)

The only reason I've shared this particular passage is due to the 'firebrand' reference, which is what the background of Glass and June is comprised of. If there's any direct semblance of a connection here, it would be on account of the false security that the people felt before the judgment, which could feasibly relate to Glass & June's focus on each other, perhaps to a sacrilegious extent, as it could be seen as diminishing their love for God. Indeed, it doesn't take long before one figures out that Glass' devotion to June is for more resolute than his devotion to God.

As previously mentioned, a winged figure, adorned with a skirt, feathers, and helm or mask stands atop a crescent moon, hovering over their happiness. Whether benevolent or malevolent is undetermined, but I lean more to the later, due to the sinister atmosphere that surrounds all of Glass & June.

The black-winged figure, hidden in the background of the plate.

A couple other symbols are prominent

Above left: the coil, otherwise known as the spiral of life. Defined by its undeterminable beginning or ending, it similarly relates to Glass & June whose fate at this moment is, like the coil, undetermined.

Above center: The all-seeing-eye. For more information on the eye, please see Plate XI – The I of the Mourning

Above right: The symbol of sulfur. It is one of the tria prima (three primes), which are: sulfur, mercury, and salt. Sulfur, like its counterparts, is one of the divine qualities, otherwise known as "the heavenly substances". Sulfur is a masculine hot and dry substance; the counterbalance to mercury's feminine cold and wet qualities. Sulfur marks the aspiration and potentiality for enlightenment (which can only be realized by the living gold: the philosopher's stone)