Full esoteric description of the picture, by Manly P. Hall:
GRAND ROSICRUCIAN ALCHEMICAL FORMULA
In the heavens and surrounded by both an outer and inner aureole and by hierarchies of celestial beings are radiant symbols of the Holy Trinity: י ה ו ה [JHVH] ( the Father), the Lamb (the Son), and the Dove (the Holy Ghost). The respective dignities of the heavenly host are determined by the number and arrangement of their wings.
The glory of the Godhead and the invisible world is concealed from the inferior creation partly by a line and partly by the circle of the starry heavens, itself obscured by clouds. Five birds - a crow (Saturn, lead); a swan (Jupiter, tin); a cock (Mars, iron); a pelican (Venus, copper); and the phoenix (Mercury, quicksilver)-occupy the half circle directly within the band of the starry heavens. The upper half of the blue circle containing the five planetary signs is occupied by the zodiacal signs.
In the green circle appear the words: ”The solar year, the stellar year and the year of winds.”; in the yellow circle: ”The mercury of the sages, corporeal mercury, and common, or visible mercury”; in the orange circle: ”Combustible sulphur, fixed sulphur, and volatile, or etherial sulphur”; in the red circle: ”Elementary salt, earthly salt, and central salt”; and in the violet circle; ”For kinds of fire are requisite for the work”. The white central triangle contains the figure of the solar mercury.
The entire upper section of the plate is an esoteric diagram of the constitution of the threefold spiritual sin. In the lower foreground is a hill upon which grow a number of trees, each bearing the symbol of an alchemical supstance. At the lower right and represented by a nocturnal scene is the inferior world, while at the lower left and represented by a diurnal scene is the the superior world. Thus water is symbolized by the right side of the plate and fire by the left side. Under the wings of the phoenix are two circles containing symbols for fire and air; under the wings of the eagle are two other circles containing symbols of earth and water.
The human figures, one male and the other female, both attached to the superior world by a golden chain and bearing upon their bodies the symbols of the creative forces stand for the divine (male) and human (female) principles in every creature. The spirit and will are represented by a lion rampant; the soul and intuition by a deer with twelve lights or stars upon its horns and bearing a trifoliate leaf symbolic of threefold division of all natural things.
In the center of the picture is the of philosophic equilbrium and accomplishment of the magnum opus [Great Work]. The double-bodied lyion emphasizes to the initiated the necessity for the final union of all diversified parts; also that light and darkness (symbols of all natural opposites) are two bodies with a single head. Upon this strange creature which he has fabricated by his art and which symbolizes the reconciliation of apparently irrencionciable elements, stands the alchemistic philosopher. The stars upon his robe reveal the luminous nature of the purified and regenerated adept, and with the maces (the illumined intellect) he destroys the illusion of light and darkness and, uniting the various scattered parts of the cozmos, fashions therefrom the philosophic androgyne.
In the Hermetic museum, this plate is accompanied by the following quotation: ”By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and their hosts by the breath of His mouth. The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the world. All things are satisfied with Thy goodness, o Lord. Thou turnest away Thy face, they are troubled. Thou turnest away Thy Spirit, they die and return away to their dust. Thoud sendest forth Thy Spirit and they are created, and renewest the face of the earth. Thy glory is for everlasting.” In the Hermetic museum a free rendering of the Emerald Table of Hermes is also annexed to this plate.
Only by profound contemplation and familiarity with the principles of medieval alchemy may the true spirit of chemical mysticism be discovered. In above plate is set forth a complete key to the regeneration of the metals, the transmuation of earthliness into celestial splendor, and the mystery of generation which has been so sadly and ignorantly misinterpreted by the sciolists of the twentieth century.