It is not my intention to deal with the subject of sulphur in an esoteric manner. There is little or nothing fresh to be said from that point of view. It is handled in Aesch Mezareph in relation to alchemy, in Rosicrucian literature on material, and on higher planes; especially in the writings of Boehme. In alchemy, "sulphur" is that chemical substance which, in a masculine fashion, specificates or determines an undetermined matter in a certain matter in a certain direction. It is the active agent.
The common sulphur is not used in the alchemic universal work, i.e., it does not go into the hermetically sealed glass, it takes no direct part in making the "medicine" which transmutes. Sulphur was used with common mercury to break up common gold and to prepare it for making a gold ferment; but the mercury and sulphur must be evaporated away. Basil Valentine writes: "Take of pure gold which is three times cast through antimony, and of well purged mercury vive, being pressed through leather, six parts make of it an amalgama, grind twice as much of common sulphur, let it evaporate on a broad pan in a gentle heat under a muffle, stirring it still well with an iron hook; let the fire be moderate that the matter do not melt together; this gold calx must be brought to the colour of a marigold flower, then it is right."
Here the usefulness of sulphur ends : for the gold (and any sulphur and mercury adhering to it) is dissolved in aqua regia; and further prepared, so that it is impossible that any sulphur can be present. Roscoe, in his Treatise on Chemistry, Vol.II., Metals, Page 404, writes : "The substance termed calx of gold by the early chemists was nothing more than the finely divided metal." Apart from this, any compound of gold and sulphur is a dark coloured powder, and not the purple mantle described by the alchemist.
Enough has been said in other sections to convince an unbiased reader that common sulphur in any form or combustion does not "enter" into the work. The terms "sulphur and "salt" cannot be separately discussed—at least, not usefully—for they are intimately intertwined in theory and in practice; thus, the sublimed salt in the second process—and which is "much like the common sublimate"—is properly called the "Sulphur of Nature." In contradistinction to the volatility of philosophic mercury, sulphur is that which is fixed, and which gives fixity, or permanence of manifestation on the plane to which it belongs. It coagulates and fixes "mercury," and although sulphur is said to be made volatile by conjunction with the mercury, yet both this fixity and volatility are only relative or comparative, not absolute. It is a harmonizing of, or a compromise between the two qualities : each gives of its own, and partakes of the other's distinctive attributes. It is the ideal wedded state.
The sulphur is not "sulphur" only, it also contains its own inherent "mercury"; so also"mercury" contains its own inherent, but inactive, "sulphur." When sulphur is added to mercury it constitutes a true inoculation; this occurs twice in the work, by different sulphurs. Therefore the alchemist said—in Hermetic Arcanum, Canon 26 : "Nevertheless spiritual love polluteth not any virgin; Beia might therefore without fault (before her betrothal to Gabritius) have felt spiritual love, to the end that she might thereby be made more cheerful, more pure, and fitter for the union." This is rather unnecessary sophism.
The rebis consists of mercury and sulphur; the rebis is one body ; this rebis is divided by the alchemist into its constituent parts, each is "purified," and then the sulphur is restored to the mercury; thus the sulphur is its own, and not another. The second sulphur added to it, is a separate "determined" sulphur, viz., that of one of the perfect bodies. The first sulphur then is not a true inoculation, or it would be auto impregnation.
The second sulphur imparts its own proper colour, form, and attributes to the resulting new body, and determines or specificates it to silver, or to gold; if fermentation be rightly performed. This sulphur is true seed, for it remains with, and is built up into the body.
Sendivogius says: "There be some that suppose Saturn to have one kind of seed, and gold another, and so all the rest of the metals. But these are foolish fancies : there is but one only kind of seed, the same is found in saturn which is in gold, the same in silver which is in iron." These words apply to the common seed of metals before differentiation into saturn, gold, etc.; Sendivogius has here pushed back the enquiry to the beginnings of things in general. Hence the necessity for an already differentiated sulphur in the work.
Ripley says : "You must know of a certainty and believe me, that the Stone may be finished in the white and the red, both of which spring out of one root, without common gold, or silver." This is a further assertion of an evolutionary law; and evidently the gold and silver are added, merely for the purpose of effecting a considerable saving of time. Mercury and Sulphur are equally universal theoretically, for they are considered to be present in all tangible bodies. Yet, according to the writings of the alchemists, mercury seems to be the more abundant, or more in evidence. Frequently it appears to be feebly attached, evaporates with the aid of slight warmth, is volatile, and is therefore continually flying about, more or less free, unless—or until—"coagulated" by an appropriate sulphur. Hence the wings on the heels, helmet, and caduceus of Hermes : the union of Hermes and Aphrodita begets or produces Hermaphrodita, or Rebis.
If sulphur be the form, how is it that this inherent sulphur of x, in the Rebis, does not result in x sulphur again, in spite of the added sulphur of gold, or at the most we might expect a body containing the mixed sulphurs of x and gold. The answer is not far to seek; first, this sulphur of x will of itself—the conditions being favorable—ultimate in gold. These sulphurs are therefore akin. Now it is the presence of this crude, undetermined golden sulphur in the cheap and common substance x which makes the art possible, to any student, who is so favored as to use the right material, and the correct method.
Two or three extracts from Basil Valentine here given show that the golden-natured sulphur is also found elsewhere. "You will find that the nature of the golden sulphur resideth only in those metals which are comprehended among the red. . .the astrum of sol is found not only in gold, but may be prepared artificially out of copper and steel, two immature metals, both which as male and female have red tingeing qualities, as well as gold itself." "Such souls and goldish sulphurs are found most effectual in Mars and Venus."
"The tincture or antimonial sulphur is of wonderful efficacy, and is equivalent unto potable gold" "Antimony stands in a near relation and affinity unto gold, which is the reason why antimonial sulphur purgeth the soul of gold, graduating the same to a very high degree. On the other side, the gold can meliorate in a short time the soul of antimony, and can bring it to a firm fixation, exalting antimony and gold to an equal dignity and virtue," etc.
It is to be noted that he does not say here how you are to be rid of the tendency of these sulphurs to produce iron, copper, and antimony respectively. The metals mentioned contain impure sulphur also; the different varieties reputed to be present in each metal can be ascertained from the writings of Geber, Bacon, and others. Arnold, it is said, asserts that vulgar sulphur is the cause of all the imperfections present in metals. Boehme says : "The sulphur principle is an other thing than common suplhur."
The sulphur present in the White Stone is en route for the golden quality, and if not fermented with silver, can be rubified into the Red Stone by merely increasing the artificial external heat. But heat only will not rubify the sulphur of the white metals, lead and tin, into golden sulphurs. It is necessary to reduce them first, into what the alchemist calls the first or original condition, before anything can be done (except of course when "projection" is being performed).
As regards lead, Kelly says :"This is the tree of unwholesome fruits, on which must be inoculated the twigs of sol." As regards tin, Aesch Mezareph says : "In particular transmutations, its sulphurous nature alone doth not profit, but with other sulphurs, especially those of the red metals, it does reduce thick waters (duly terrificated) into gold." This is not the universal work, but a "Particular" one; no gold of plusquam perfection is formed; but bare gold. Many other particular works are mentioned by writers; thus: "If you extract the Salt out of Vitriol, and rectify it well, then you have a work which is short, and tingeth luna into Sol." (Valentine). In treating their vitriol, the mercury comes first, and the remainder or chaos contains the sulphur and salt; but in operating on vitriol of gold, the sulphur comes first, and the salt second, the undried remainder being the mercury of gold. But nearer to perfection the body is, the more difficult is the extraction of the sulphur.
Bernard Trevisan held the opinion that "in gold there is nothing but mercury coagulated by its own sulphur," and "the philosophers have affirmed sol to be nothing but argent vive matured" also "gold is nothing but mercury anatized, i.e., equally digested in the bowels of a mineral earth." Golden Tract says: "Internal sulphur is nothing but mature mercury." So that here everything is traced back to that one primary fluidity, on the which, the spirit of God moved at the beginning. But this is pure theory.
Sulphur is generally distinguished by the title of "red," thus—Turba : "Nothing is more precious than the red sand of the sea; it is the distilled moisture of the moon joined to the light of the sun and congealed." Flamel : "The fat of the mercurial wind joined to the scum of the red sea." Aesch Mezareph mentions that Solomon fetched gold from Ophir by way of the Red Sea.
In the generality of cases, the remakes are but as so many fresh enigmas to the student, who cannot without illumination distinguish whether the light is near or afar off. To the instructed, however, all things are clear; and the expounding or propounding of riddles is done with equal facility. Therefore, also, he can see that the erroneous paths he has trodden are being are being pressed by the feet of others. There seems to be no remedy but inspiration, and that can come but from one only source.
The analogy between the modus operandi of reducing common gold and their "unripe gold"—or proxima materia—each to its respective prima materia, is very striking. Gold is broken up by common mercury and sulphur; is then dissolved in aqua regia—of sal ammoniac (or other chloride salt) and saltpetre. "Unripe" gold is solved by a crude "mercury," and in the subsequent analysis, their philosophic sal ammoniac and saltpetre are produced. With these latter—and not with the common variety—the finely divided common gold )or perhaps its oxide), is reduced into its prima materia; and is then called the gold "ferment."
The White Stone in its perfection is—though a compound containing its own sulphur—are called mercury, or wife, or lune. The same remark applies to the Red Stone, before its fermentation by gold. Either Stone is called Beiya, or Bride; and the silver ferment for the one, and the gold ferment for the other, are each styled Gabritius, or Bridegroom, etc. Therefore when mercury is spoken of as the "seed of metals"—instead of the sperm—the saying can only be true on account of its sulphur; for this latter is the fire and seed. In Metamorphosis of Metals Eirenaeus says: "I am now speaking of metallic seed, and not of Mercury." The element water encloses those of air and fire, and these three in the form of a fluid "fall into the earth, and there they rest and are conjoined," and all together, when matured, constitute the mercury, or bride luna.