It is obviously of prime importance that the names of wrong material, and wrong methods of working should not become anchored in the mind. Those who have allowed this to take place "will never be inclined again by their own genius to the plain way of nature and light of truth." Hermetic Arcanum (i.e.,without the aid of a guide or master). The philosophers' mercury "may be sooner met with by the force of the seeker's intuition, than be found by reason or toil." Ibid. ". . .some affirm that the concretes of the vegetable and animal kingdom; others, that minerals as antimony, sulphur, and marchasites, and the rest of the minerals; others, that metals themselves, gold and silver; but others of a more subtle wit, that vitriol and common salt be the subject of the glorious Stone:which opinions the sincere searcher of nature ought to leave free to their authors. . . For immediately this thing which composeth the stone is but one; which is divided into a fixed and a volatile, into an agent and patient, and so it is two; and although it be so divided, yet it doth by no means lose its unity. So also when it is divided into salt, sulphur, and mercury, and so is threefold, neither doth this division destroy its unity." Sanguis Naturae.
A list of things that are useless for the work should be made from all the books available. Animal and vegetable substances are ruled out first; then read the Golden Tract, the first treatise in the first volume of the Hermetic Museum, 1893 : and there will probably be little left to blunder over. Their mineral substance may not resemble anything metallic; it may be as dissimilar as is a gorgeous poppy to its tiny seed. Preconceived ideas are obstructive to progress; the mind should remain in a receptive, passive condition until a composite photograph emerges from the superimposed impressions.
"As soon as anyone discerns the intention of the philosophers, from the seeming sense of the letter, the dark night of ignorance will fly away, and a glorious morning of light and knowledge will break forth, etc." Hermetic Art. "An undetermined matter being the beginning of all metals and minerals it follows, that, as soon as anyone shall be so happy as to know and conceive it, he shall easily comprehend also their natures, qualities and properties." Urbigerus. ". . .despair and errors, which they (beginners) can never escape till they so far understand our writings, as to discern the subject matter of our secrets, which being known, the rest is not so hard." Ripley Revived.
Eirenaeus, in his commentary on Ripley, and in his four treatises in the Hermetic Museum, explains a large number of the obscure sayings of the writers. As a "set off" against these discoveries, he propounds other enigmas, apparently easier to be understood, but in reality much more misleading. The same applies to his instructions for doing the work; thus, in one place he advises closing the neck of the glass very securely with a thick layer of sealing wax; in another he says let the flame stream to the top of the vessel; and in another "if he be over-provoked, he will certainly break the vessel, and fly, and leave thee the ruins of thy glass, etc." The probable explanation is, that in cohobating a mixed fluid, the heat is gentle as a steam bath, and the glass temporarily stopped; when the fluid is distilled off, the dry calx can be calcined at a dull red heat; in the third case, the purified mixed confection is ripened up to the White Stone, and the heat must always be extremely gentle or "remiss," the glass neck having been closed by fusion.
The use of the words "horse dung" has also been difficult to explain by those who have not had access to a sufficient number of alchemic books. "This supernatural Fire, my Son, the Philosophers have hidden in their Books in parabolic expressions, naming the same by innumerable names, and especially they term it Balneum Mariae, a moist Horse-dung, Menstruum, Urine, Blood, Aqua Vitae, and the like." "And what is signified by Horse-dung, I mentioned before, viz., that by Horse-dung is meant the water of the Prima Materia, for it warm and moist like Horse-dung, but it is no common Horse-dung, as many ignorant persons do suppose and understand." Hydropyrographum Hermeticum. The author gives extracts in proof of this from Alanus, Alchidonius, Arnold Villaneuva, Alphidius, Aristotle, Hermes, Morienus.
This is the agent that dissolves and "putrefies" ordinary gold and silver, reducing them to "oily calces" suitable for use as ferments. It is the "Water and Spirit of the Prima Materia" and must be prepared first, for without it, no step can be taken in this art. Calcination: the student must judge by the kind of substance in use, as to the kind of calcination which is intended. The ordinary dry fire calcination is undoubtedly used, but if it be used on a tender, plastic material the whole vitality is burnt up. As they call this magic water their fire, it is evident that they will have no scruple—if they so choose—in calling its action upon a certain substance a philosophic calcination. Nearly all their work is done by retort and receiver; crucible work is rare, until they come to actual projection.
Their virgin and blessed water is also named Bird of Hermes, Vessel and Seal of Hermes, a melting and calcining Furnace, "for this Water dissolveth all Metals, and calcineth them." Their first water besides calcining, also "melts" the necessary substance; so that to "melt" our mineral base, or saturn, or antimony, or gold—i.e., "our unripe gold"—means to dissolve it by means of this Water which is their Fire. This water, which dissolves the mineral base in bulk, will also dissolve its separated parts in detail, and in the re-uniting of them acts as the flux, or medium of conjoining the parts; it is their solder; the priest which unites the red man and the white wife, yet "both were born in the priest's bed."
In Ripley's first gate, Eirenaeus has a parable of the King marrying, as his Queen, the daughter of a water bearer; "of which water bearer I told you that his body, his pitcher and the water in it, are all one". . ."the King and also his son, and he (the water bearer) is greater than both." These then are all different parts of one thing—the Prima Materia Gold is the sulphur of it—the King; the Queen is the salt of it; the water bearer, etc., is the fluidity which is necessary for intimately uniting these.
It is not, therefore, necessary—indeed, it is wrong—to unite two or more things to form our prima materia; but to find the one thing and separate the superfluities from it, re-uniting the remainder in correct proportions. "He who knows not how to make many things out of one, knows not how to conjoin many things into one." This wonderful agent is also their pestle, by which they accomplished pounding, grinding, trituration. Eugenius is ironic about the man who in this work "makes his philosophic contrition with a hammer." It is with this mercury they make their "amalgams"; as is mentioned elsewhere.
Sericon: "The gold of the wise, boiled and well digested with a fiery water makes Ixer. Red is the sure colour for the golden matter, and the nature thereof is not sweetness; therefore, we make of them Sericum, i.e., Ixer." Aureus. Crude or partially wrought things are considered to be sour, bitter, poisonous or harmful, dangerous to inhale: and wrought things, the contrary. That which comes out of Ixir is Elixer, i.e., drawn out of water.
Azoth:--Bernard Trevisan writes: "Azoth is not raw quicksilver (or argent vive) simply extracted out of the mine, but is that which is extracted by argent vive itself out of the dissolved bodies." "Wherefore if laton be an unclean body it is depurated by such an azoth. . .and by this laton purified by azoth, we make our medicine. Indeed this azoth is made of the elixir, because elixir is nothing else but a body resolved into a mercurial water, after which resolution, azoth is extracted out of it, i.e., in animated spirit. And it is called elixir from e which is "out of" and lixis which is "water," because all things are made out of this water, and the elixir is the second part in the philosophic work, as rebis is the first in the same work." Epistle to Thomas of Bononia.
It is essential to know and to memorize the order in which the products occur, or it will be impossible to know to what part of the work the writer refers. As they have mixed up the different stages, this is the only way of sorting them out; for the writer may have begun his treatise with the preparation of the ferment, using ordinary mercury, then gone to the other stages in any order. But the evident use of common mercury will have biassed the student's mind throughout the treatise.
The first stage (or ante first part), viz., the preparation of their crude mercury, and the selection and preparation of the base, is omitted. Afterwards the order is Solution, and formation of the Rebis or Sericum or Ixir; the Elixir in the sealed glass separates into the azoth above and the laton below; the azoth descends in dews, or rains, and ultimately whitens the laton, without the laying on of hands. The water precedes the oil; the spirit precedes the soul; elixir precedes azoth; rebis, is the chaos, the viscous humidity, and contains all. In the laton and azoth stage, the green lion has become a black lion and the volatilized azoth, eagles. These are intermediate stages, the dew or rain is a menstruum, a fire, a sharp vinegar, antimonial—saturnine—mercurial argent vive. Saturnine, for it comes out of darkness; antimonial, because it becomes like fine black minute atoms (like the powdered black variety of antimony tri-sulphide), it splashes all about in the glass; mercurial, for a volatile portion ascends from it.
Height, depth, width, altitude, profundity, latitude: the highest altitude is red, the second is white; profundity is black; latitude is extension in quality and quantity and powder to permeate other things. Whenever a writer speaks of the heavenly influences, such as those of the sun and moon; or speaks of sky, clouds, the earth, the sea, it is necessary to remember that he refers to the things which are in his laboratory. There he has his mountains and valleys; his heavens, earth and sea; the salt in the center of the earth; his snow on the hill tops.
It is only from a substance which is not "determined" in the direction of any one of the seven then known metals, that the alchemist made his rebis. All specificated or determined things are rejected. Thus Urbigerus (Aphorism 28) had no kind of metal in the calx in his retort, neither had he (Aphorism 37) ant "mercury, or any other kind of metallic substance" in the distilled fluid in the receiver. This axiom, or sine qua non for it amounts to that—is the center of the circle, from which a worker cannot err; and radiating out from that center are the determined things amongst which students can, and, do, wander for years, without apprehending the center, that broiling, frying company, who call themselves chemists, but are indeed no philosophers." She (nature) had in her bosom two things "not metalline" without doubt one was white and the other red. It is—he says—necessary to find the Lunaria plant growing on the top of India's mountain; this is quite a common symbol, and another writer says: "It is necessary to visit both the Indies"; all these, and other things occur in Section I. of Lumen de Lumine.
Unless one is enthusiastic in a wise and enduring way, the philosophy of alchemy is dreary reading, and is impatiently abandoned for practical work on immature ideas of the substance, and hazy notions of the working. In the philosophic desert is the trial, and also the reward. At the end of Euphrates—by Eugenius Philalethes—the commentator S.S.D.D. writes: "I will end as I began, by saying, I have read many alchemical treatises, but never one of less use to the practical alchemist, than this." Yet the practical man is, in that work, given open and plain information as to what he must avoid; the hints on the material are quite as plain as discretion would allow; and there are no false suggestions.
The reader is also well repaid by studying Coelum Terrae (by Eugenius); he there learns that he is not following the path traversed by the philosophers unless he gets white clouds condensing to "thick heavy water as white as any snow" followed by red. He will find where to look for the invisible white salt; the Mars that unites with this Venus (Venus the spouse of vulca, i.e., labour or toil). In his poem is the following: "Those sighs return to drops again"; what, in practice, is the signification of these sighs? They are mentioned by other writers, though presented in less poetic garb.
It is so with many other indications, mentioned as occurring in the laboratory work, which are apprehended by the ordinary five senses, and assessed at their proper value by the intellect. The theory of evolution implies the unity of nature; it therefore seems logical that gold could be made out of the white metals, lead and tin; and silver out of the red metals, iron and copper; by bringing these metals back to the point at which the paths began to diverge. Or, as the alchemist puts it, by adding citrinity to the white metals, and argent vive to the excessively red: a sort of leveling to the standard required. Geber mentions ten medicines for the five common metals—including mercury; five of these for introducing a solar quality, and five for introducing a lunar quality.
But the universal medicine is the best, and will make any metal gold or silver, according to the intention of the philosopher, and the quality of the medicine. The superfluities of the common metal go off in fumes. Men who have been ultimately successful write that they toiled unsuccessfully at the making of these ten particular medicines, when they were "Geber's cooks"; but after fruitless years, they turned their attention to the universal, and then accomplished the work.
It is necessary to distinguish between things that are possible to an accomplished master only, and those things that are within that capabilities of an earnest student. Eirenaeus, though making mistakes for several months, had the conviction that he was already a master; so that it is evident that to alight on the right material, makes clear to the mind the sayings of the philosophers; as has been mentioned. In every block of marble is a potential Venus de Milo, but it requires inspiration to see it, and a master to educe it into actuality. In the subject we seek is enclosed a Galatea, who must not only be made visible, but must also be infused with life. Having now given in the very words of alchemists of repute, direct contradiction to some of the more important misinterpretations of modern critics, the raison d'etre of this treatise is accomplished. Much more might be said, but considerations far more cogent than those of space forbid. I will conclude with a few extracts from Boehme: "Do not toil and trouble yourself in that manner and way which you mention, with any gold or minerals, it is all false. . .It is not of earth, stones or metals, and yet it is the ground of all metals; a doubled mercury, yet not quicksilver, or any other mineral or metal." As regards the working or process upon the correct materials, he says that a close parallelism exists between it and the life of Christ. "Now it behooves the wise seeker to consider the whole process with the humanity of Christ from his opening in the womb of his mother, Mary, even to his resurrection and ascension, The Magus must keep and observe this process also with his Alchymy." FINIS.