The New Chemical Light
Drawn from the Fountain
of Nature and from Manual Experience
A Treatise Concerning Sulphur
Leschi genus amo"
In this sentence: "I love the Divine Race of Leschi,"
all the letters of the Author's name are found transposed,
to wit: Michael Sendivogius
Upon all genuine Seekers of the
great Chemical Art, or Sons of Hermes, the Author implores the
Divine Blessing and Salvations.
When I considered in my mind the
great number of deceitful books and forged Alchemistic "receipts",
which have been put in circulation by heartless impostors, though
they do not contain even a spark of truth -- and how many persons
have been and are still daily led astray by them? -- it occurred
to me that I could not do better than communicate the Talent committed
to me by the Father of Lights to the Sons and Heirs of Knowledge.
I also wish to let posterity see that in our own age, as well
as in ancient times, this singularly gracious philosophical Blessing
has not been denied to a few favoured men. For certain reasons
I do not think it advisable to publish my name; chiefly, because
I do not seek for praise for myself, but am only anxious to assist
the lovers of philosophy. The vainglorious desire for fame I leave
to those who are content to seem what they, in reality, are not.
The facts and deductions which I have here briefly set down are
transcribed from that manual -- experience, graciously bestowed
upon me by the Most High; and my object is to enable those who
have laid a sound foundation in the elementary part of this most
noble Art, to advance to a more satisfying fullness of knowledge,
and to put them on their guard against those depraved "vendors
of smoke," who delight in fraud and imposition. Our science
is not a dream, as the vulgar crowd imagines, or the empty invention
of idle men, as the foolish suppose. It is the very truth of philosophy
itself, which the voice of conscience and of love bid me conceal
In these wicked days, indeed, when
virtue and vice are accounted alike, the ingratitude and unbelief
of men keep our Art from appearing openly before the public gaze.
Yet this glorious truth is even now capable of being apprehended
by learned and unlearned persons of virtuous lives, and there
are many persons of all nations now living who have beheld Diana
unveiled. But as many, either from ignorance or from a desire
to conceal their knowledge, are daily teaching and inducing others
to believe that the soul of gold can be extracted, and then imparted
to other substances; and thereby entice numbers to incur great
waste of time, labour, and money: let the sons of Hermes know
for certain that the extracting of the essence of gold is a mere
fond delusion, as those who persist in it will be taught to their
cost by experience, the only arbitress from whose judgment seat
there is no appeal. If, on the other hand, a person is able to
transmute the smallest piece of metal (with or without gain) into
genuine gold or silver which abides all the usual tests, he may
justly be said to have opened the gates of Nature, and cleared
the way for profounder and more advanced study. It is with this
object that I dedicate the following pages, which embody the results
of my experience, to the sons of knowledge, that by a careful
study of the working of Nature they may be enabled to lift the
veil, and enter her inmost sanctuary. To this final goal of our
sacred philosophy they must travel by the royal road which Nature
herself has marked out for them.
Let me therefore admonish the gentle
reader that my meaning is to be apprehended not so much from the
outward husk of my words, as from the inward spirit of Nature.
If this warning is neglected, he may spend his time, labour, and
money in vain. Let him consider that this mystery is for vise
men, and not for fools. The inward meaning of our philosophy will
be unintelligible to vainglorious boasters, to conceited mockers,
and to men who smother the clamorous voice of conscience with
the insolence of a wicked life; as also to those ignorant persons
who have fondly staked their happiness on albefactions and rubrefactions
and other equally senseless methods. The right understanding of
our Art is by the gift of God, or by the ocular demonstration
of a teacher, and can be attained only by diligent, humble search,
and prayerful dependence on the Giver of all good things; now,
God rejects those who ho hate Him and scorn knowledge. In conclusion,
I would earnestly ask the sons of knowledge to accept this Book
in the spirit in which it was it was written; and when the HIDDEN
has become MANIFEST to them and the inner gates of secret knowledge
are flung open not to reveal this mastery to any unworthy person;
also to remember their duty towards their suffering and distressed
neighbours to avoid any ostentatious display of their power; and
above all, to render to God, the Three in One, sincere and grateful
thanks with their lips, in the silence of their hearts, and by
refraining from any abuse of the Gift.
Simplicity is the Seal of Truth
As after the completion of the
preface it was found that it did not cover the whole of the space
allotted to it, I have, at the publisher's request, there set
down the "last will and testament of Arnold Villanovanus"
which I once turned into Latin verse. I am conscious that the
style of my versification is wanting in neatness and elegance;
but this defect was partly caused by the necessity of adhering
strictly and faithfully to the Author's meaning. Testament of
Arnold de Villanova
It is said that Arnold de Villanova
a man who was as a credit to his race, signified his last will
in the following words:
"It has its birth in the earth,
its strength it doth acquire in the fire, and there becomes the
true Stone of the ancient Sages. Let it be nourished for twice
six hours with a clear liquid until its limbs begin to expand
and grow apace. Then let it be placed in a dry and moderately
warm spot for another period of twelve hours, until it has purged
itself by giving out a thick steam or vapour, and becomes solid
and hard within. The 'virgin's milk ' that is expressed from the
better part of the Stone is then preserved in a carefully closed
oval-shaped distilling vessel of glass, and is day by day wondrously
changed by the quickening fire, until all the different colours
resolve themselves into a fixed gentle splendour of a white radiance,
which soon, under the continued genial influence of the fire,
changes to a glorious purple, the outward and visible sign of
the final perfection of your work."
what she is, and what manner of men her Disciples ought to be
Many Sages, Scholars, and learned
men have in all ages, and (according to Hermes) even so early
as the days before the Flood, written much concerning the preparation
of the Philosopher's Stone; and if their books could be understood
without a knowledge of the living processes of Nature, one might
almost say that they are calculated to supersede the study of
the real world around us. But though they never departed from
the simple ways of Nature they have something to teach us, which,
in these more sophisticated times, still need to learn, because
we have applied ourselves to what are regarded as the more advanced
branches of knowledge, and despise the study of so "simple
" a thing as natural Generation. Hence we pay more heed to
impossible things than to those objects which are broadly exhibited
before our very eyes, we excel more in subtle speculations than
in a sober study of Nature, and of the meaning of the Sages. It
is one of the most remarkable features of human nature that we
neglect those things which seem familiar, and are eager for new
and strange information. The workman who has attained the highest
degree of excellence in his Art, neglects it, and applies himself
to something else, or else abuses his knowledge. Our longing for
an increase of knowledge urges us ever onward towards some final
goal, in which we imagine that we shall find full rest and satisfaction,
like the ant which is not endowed with wings till the last days
of its life. In our time, the Philosophical Art has become a very
subtle matter; it is the craft of the goldsmith compared with
that of the humble workman who exercises his calling at the forge.
We have made such mighty strides in advance that if the ancient
Masters of our science, Hermes and Geber and Raymond Lullius,
were to rise from the dead, they would be treated by our modern
Alchemists not as Sages but as only humble learners.
They would seem very poor scholars
in our modern lore of futile distillations, circulations, calcinations
and in all the other countless operations wherewith modern research
has so famously enriched our Art though without understanding
the sense of the ancient writings. In all these respects, our
learning is vastly superior to theirs. Only one thing is unfortunately
wanting to us which they possessed, namely, the knack they had
of actually preparing the Philosopher's Stone. Perhaps, then,
their simple methods were after all the best; and it is on this
supposition that I desire, in this volume, to teach you to understand
Nature so that our vain imaginations may not misdirect us in the
true and simple way. Nature then, is one, true, simple, self-contained,
created by God and informed with a certain universal spirit. Its
end and origin are God. Its unity is also found in God, because
God made all things. Nature is the one source of all things: nor
is anything in the world outside Nature, or contrary to Nature.
Nature is divided into four "places" in which she brings
forth all things that appear and that are in the shade; and according
to the good or bad quality of the "place" she brings
forth good or bad things. There are only four qualities which
are in all things and yet do not agree among themselves, as one
is always striving to obtain the mastery over the rest. Nature
is not visible, though she acts visibly; she is a volatile spirit
who manifests herself in material shapes, and her existence is
in the Will of God.
Students of Nature should be such
as is Nature herself -- true, simple, patient, constant, and so
on; above all, they should fear God, and love their neighbors.
They should always be ready
to learn from Nature and to be guided by her methods, ascertaining
by visible and sensible examples whether that which they propose
to perform is in accordance with her possibilities. If we would
reproduce something already accomplished by Nature, we follow
her, but if we would improve on her performance, we must know
in and by what it is ameliorated. For instance, if we desire to
impart to a metal greater excellence than Nature has given to
it, we must take the metallic substance both in its male and its
female varieties, else all our efforts will be in vain. It is
as impossible to produce a metal out of a plant, It is most important
for us to know her "places" and those which are most
in harmony and most closely allied, in order that we may join
things together according to Nature, and not attempt to confound
vegetables with animals, or animals with metals. Everything should
be made to act on that which is like to it -- and then Nature
will perform her duty. as to make a tree out of a dog or any other
the operation of Nature in our Substance, and its Seed
I have already said that Nature
is one, true, and consistent, and that she is known by her products,
such as trees, herbs, &c. I have also described the qualifications
of a student of Nature. Now I will say a few words about the operation
of Nature. As Nature has her being in the Will of God, so her
will, or seed is in the Elements. She is one, and produces different
things but only through the mediate instrumentality of seed. For
Nature performs whatsoever the sperm requires of her, and is,
as it were only the instrument of some artisan. The seed if anything
is more useful to the artist than Nature herself; for Nature:
for Nature without seed is, what a goldsmith is without silver
and gold, or a husbandman without seed corn. Wherever there is
seed, Nature will work through it, whether it be good or bad.
Nature works on "seed" as God works on the free will
of man. Truly it is a great marvel to behold Nature obeying the
seed not because she is forced to do so but of her own will. In
like manner, God permits man to do what hat he pleases not because
He is constrained but of His good and free bounty. The seed, then,
is the elixir or of anything, or its quintessence, or its most
perfect digestion and decoction, or, again, the Balm of Sulphur,
which is the same as the radical moisture in metals. We might
say much more about this seed, but can only mention those facts
which are of importance in our Art. The four elements produce
seed, through the will of God and the imagination of Nature; and
as the seed of the male animal has its centre or storing place
in the kidneys, so the four elements by their continual action
project a constant supply of seed to the centre of the earth,
where it is digested, and whence it proceeds again in generative
motions. Now the centre of the earth is a certain void place wherein
nothing is at rest; and upon the margin or circumference of this
centre the four elements project their qualities. As the male
seed is emitted into the womb of the female, where only so much
as is needed is retained while the rest is driven out again, so
the magnetic force of our earth-centre attracts to itself as much
as is needed of the cognate seminal substance, while that which
cannot be used for vital generation is thrust forth in the shape
of stones and other rubbish. This is the fountain-head of all
Let us illustrate the matter by
supposing a glass of water to be set in the middle of a table,
round the margin of which are placed little heaps of salt, and
of powders of different colours. If the water be poured out, it
will run all over the table in divergent rivulets, and will become
salt where it touches the salt, red where it dissolves the red
powder, and so on. The water does not change the "places,"
but the several places differentiate the water. In the same way,
the seed which is the product of the four elements is projected
in all directions from the earth-centre, and produces different
things, according to the quality of the different places. Thus,
while the seed of all things is one, it is made to generate a
great variety of things, just as the seed of a man might produce
a man if projected into the womb of a female of his own species,
or a monstrous variety of abortions, if projected into the wombs
of different female animals. So long as Nature's seed remains
in the centre it can indifferently produce a tree or a metal,
a herb or a stone, and in like manner according to the purity
of the place, it will produce what is less or more pure. But how
do the elements generate the sperm or seed ? There are four elements,
two heavy and two light, two dry and two moist, but one driest
and one moistest of all; and these are male and female. By God's
will each of these is constantly striving to produce things like
to itself in its own sphere. Moreover they are constantly acting
on one another, and the subtle essences of all are combined in
the centre, where they are well mixed and sent forth again by
Archeus, the servant of Nature, as is more fully set forth in
the Epilogue of these twelve Treatises.
the true and first Matter of Metals
The first matter of metals is twofold,
and one without the other cannot create a metal. The first and
principal substance is the moisture of air mingled with warmth.
This substance the Sages have called Mercury, and in the philosophical
sea it is governed by the rays of the Sun and the Moon. The second
substance is the dry heat of the earth, which is called Sulphur.
But as this substance has always been kept a great mystery, let
us declare it more fully, and especially its weight, ignorance
of which mars the hole work. The right substance, if the quantity
of it which is taken be wrong, can produce nothing but an abortion.
There are some who take the entire body for their matter, that
is, for their seed or sperm; others take only a part of it: both
are on the wrong track. If any one, for instance, were to attempt
the creation of a man out of a man's hand and a woman's foot,
he would fail. For there is in every body a central atom, or vital
point of the seed (its 1/8200 part), even in a grain of wheat.
Neither the body nor the grain is all seed, but every body has
a small seminal spark, which the other parts protect from all
excess of heat and cold.
If you have ears and eyes treasure
up this fact, and be on your guard against those who would use
the whole grain as seed, and those who strive to produce a highly
rarefied metallic substance by the vain solution and mixture of
different metals. For even the purest metals contain a certain
element of impurity, while in the inferior the proportion is greater.
You will have all you want if you find the point of Nature, which
you must not, however, look for in the vulgar metals; it is not
to be found therein, for all these, and common gold more especially,
are dead. But the metals which we advise you to take are living
and have vital spirits. Fire is the life of metals while they
are still in their ore, and the fire of smelting is their death.
But the first matter of metals as a certain moisture mixed with
warm air. Its appearance is that of oily water adhering to all
pure and impure things; yet in some places it is found more abundantly
than in others because the earth is more open and porous in one
place than in another, and has a greater magnetic force. When
it becomes manifest, it is clothed in a certain vesture, especially
in places where it has nothing to cling to. It is known by the
fact that it is composed of three principles; but, as a metallic
substance it is only one without any visible sign of conjunction,
except that which may be called its vesture or shadow namely,
are produced in the Bowels in the Earth
The metals are produced in this
way: after the four elements have projected their power and virtues
to the centre of the earth, they are, in the hands of the Archeus
of Nature distilled and sublimed by the heat of perpetual motion
towards the surface of the earth. For the earth is porous, and
the air by distillation through the pores of the earth is resolved
into a water out of which all things are generated. You should
know that the seed of metals is the same, in the first instance,
as the sperm of all other things, viz., a vaporous moisture. Hence
it is foolish to seek the dissolution of metals in the first matter,
which is nothing but a vapour, and in so doing philosophers have
not comprehended the first matter, but only the second, as Bernard
Trevisan well argues, though in a somewhat obscure manner, for
he addressed himself to the Sons of the Doctrine. For my part
before openly explaining this theory, I would warn all men not
to seek that which exists everywhere by itself in a soft volatile
form by so many circulations, calcinations, and reiterations of
hard gold and silver, which can never be changed back into their
Let us follow the real meaning
of the writers of Alchemy whose works we read, and remember that
if Art would produce any solid and permanent effect, it must follow
in the footsteps of Nature, and be guided by her methods. It must
trust itself to the guidance of Nature as far as Nature will lead,
and go beyond her by still adhering to her rules. Now I said that
all things are produced of a liquid air or a vapour which the
elements distil into the centre of the earth by a continual motion,
and that as soon as the Archeus has received it, his wisdom sublimes
it through the pores, and distributes it to each place, producing
different things according to the diverse places in which it is
deposited. Some think that each metal has its own seed. But this
is a great mistake for there is only one Seed. The sperm which
appears in Saturn is the same as that which is found in gold,
silver, copper, &c.; their difference is caused by the place,
and by the time during which Nature was at work upon them, the
procreation of silver being achieved sooner than that of gold,
and so with the other metals. The vapour which is sublimed by
heat from the centre of the earth, passes either through cold
or warm places. If the place be warm and pure, and contain adhering
to it a certain fatness of sulphur, the vapour (or Mercury of
the Sages) joins itself to its fatness, and sublimes it together
with itself. If in the course of its further sublimation this
unctuous vapour reaches other places where the earth has already
been subtilized, purified, and rendered moist by previous ascending
vapours, it fills the pores of this earth, and with it becomes
gold. But if this unctuous moisture be carried to impure and cold
places, it becomes lead; if the earth be pure and mingled with
sulphur, it becomes copper. For the purer the place is, the more
beautiful and perfect will the metal be. We must also note that
the vapour is constantly ascending, and in its ascent from the
earth's centre to its superficies, it purifies the places through
which it passes. Hence precious metals are found now where none
existed a thousand years ago, for this vapour, by its continual
progress, ever subtilizes the crude and impure, and as continually
carries away the pure with itself. This is the circulation and
reiteration of Nature. All places are being more and more purified:
and the purer they become the nobler are their products. In the
winter this unctuous vapor is congealed by the frost. At the return
of spring it is set free, and is the Magnesia which attracts to
itself the kindred Mercury of the air, and gives life to all things
through the rays of the Sun, the Moon and the Stars, thus bringing
forth grass, flowers, and the like, for Nature is never idle Even
during a single moment. This then, is the only true account of
the generation of Metals. The earth is purged by a long distillation,
and when the unctuous or fatty vapour approaches, the same are
procreated, nor are they ever otherwise begotten notwithstanding
the imaginations of those who misinterpret on this point the writings
of the philosophers.
On the generation
of all kinds of Stones
The substance of stones is the
same as that of all other things; and their quality is determined
by the purity of the places in which they arise when the four
elements distil their vapour to the centre of the earth, the Archeus
of Nature expels and sublimes it in such a manner that it carries
with it in its passage through the pores of the earth, all the
impurities of these places up to the surface, where they are congealed
by the air, all that pure air engenders being congealed by crude
air, their ingression being mutual, so that they join one with
another, since Nature rejoices in Nature. Thus rocks and stones
are gradually built up and generated. Now the larger the pores
of the earth, the greater is the quantity of impurities carried
upward; and thus the earth is most completely purified under those
places where there is a great accumulation of stones or rocks
at the surface, and in this manner the procreation of metals becomes
easier in these places. This explains the fact that metals are
scarcely ever found in plains, but nearly always in the bowels
of rocky hills. The plains are often moist with elemental water
which attracts to itself the rising vapour, and with it is digested
by the rays of the Sun into the rich clay which potters use. In
places where the soil is gross, and the vapour contains neither
unctuousness nor sulphur, it produces herbs and grass in the meadows.
The precious stones, such as diamonds,
rubies, and emeralds, chrysopras, onyx, and carbuncle, are all
generated in the same manner as ordinary stones. When the natural
vapour is sublimed by itself without sulphur or the unctuosity
of which we have spoken and reaches a place where there is pure
salt water (i.e., in very cold places, where our sulphur cannot
exist, for could it exist, this effect would be hindered), diamonds
are formed. The unctuous sulphur which rises with the vapour cannot
move without warmth and is instantly congealed. When it reaches
a slightly cold place, leaving the vapour to continue its upward
movement without it. Colours are imparted to precious stones in
this way. When the unctuous sulphur is congealed by the perpetual
motion, the spirit of the water digests it in passing and purifies
it by the water of the salt, until it assumes a red or white colour.
This colour is volatilized by so many repeated distillations,
and at length is borne upward with the purifying vapour, which
by its aid is able to enter imperfect bodies, and thus to pervade
them with colour; the colour is united to the partly congealed
water and fills all its pores so that the two are absolutely one.
For water which has no spirit is congealed by heat, and water
which has a spirit is congealed by cold; but he who knows how
to congeal water by means of heat, and to join to it a spirit,
is like to discover something a thousand times more precious than
gold, or anything which is in the world. Let him separate the
spirit from the waters in order that it may putrefy, and that
the grain may appear. Then let him purge off the dross, and reduce
the spirit to water. This union will produce a branch which bears
little resemblance to the parent stem.
the Second Matter and Putrefaction
We have spoken of the first matter
of all things, and after what manner they are born by Nature without
seed, that is, after what manner Nature receives the matter from
the elements whereof she engenders seed. We will now consider
this seed and the things evolved from it. Everything that has
seed is multiplied thereby, but not without the aid of Nature
for seed is nothing but congealed air, or a vaporous humour enclosed
in a body; and unless it be dissolved by a warm vapour, it cannot
work. Now, the nature of this seed which is produced out of the
four elements, is threefold: it is either Mineral, or Vegetable,
or Animal. Mineral seed is known only to the Sages. Vegetable
seed is common and vulgar, as we see in fruits. Animal seed is
known by imagination. But vegetable seed exhibits most clearly
the process by which Nature evolves natural objects out of the
four elements. Winter is the cause of putrefaction: it congeals
the vital spirit in trees, and when the heat of the Sun, which
magnetically attracts moisture, sets it free, the natural heat
(of the tree) which is thereby stirred up, drives a subtle vapour
of water towards the surface, and makes the sap to flow, always
separating the pure from the impure, though the impure may sometimes
precede the pure. That which is pure is congealed into flowers,
the impure becomes leaves, the gross and thick hardens into bark.
The bark of the tree remains fixed;
the leaves fall when the pores are obstructed by heat or cold;
the flowers receive a colour according to the quality of the natural
heat, and bear fruit or seed. We may instance the apple, wherein
is the sperm, whence the tree does not spring; but in this sperm
is the seed or grain interiorly, whence the tree is born even
without sperm, for multiplication is not of the sperm but of the
seed. Thus we see how Nature, without our help, creates vegetable
seed out of the four elements. But how about Minerals? Nature
brings forth Mineral or Metallic seed in the bowels of the earth.
This is the reason why so many will not believe in its existence
-- because it is invisible. And on this account the vulgar unbelief
is not so greatly to be wondered at: for if they hardly understand
that which is openly before their eyes, how should they know anything
about that which they cannot see. Yet, whether they believe it
or not, the fact remains the same, and it is most true that which
is above is as that which is below, and that which is born above
has origin from the same source which is at work down below, even
in the bowels of the earth.
What prerogative have vegetables
above metals that God should give seed to the one and withhold
it from the other? Are not metals as much in His sight as trees?
It is certain that nothing can grow without seed; for that which
has no seed, is dead. The four elements must either bring forth
metallic seed or produce metals without seed. In the latter case,
they cannot be perfect: for nothing is complete without seed.
He who can bring himself to believe that metals are destitute
of seed, is unworthy to understand the mysteries of our Art.
The metals then really contain
their own proper seed; and it is generated in the following way.
The vapour which (in the manner repeatedly described rises from
the earth's centre, and is called Mercury not on account of its
essence but on account of its fluidity, and the facility with
which it adheres to anything, is assimilated to the sulphur on
account of its internal heat; and, after congelation, is the radical
humour. Thus metals are indeed generated out of mercury; but those
ignorant persons who say that this first substance of metals is
ordinary mercury, confound the whole hole body with the seed that
is in it, seeing that common mercury, too, contains metallic seed,
as well as the other metals. Let us illustrate the matter by the
analogy of the human body. Therein it is certain that there is
a seed whereby the species of mankind is propagated. That body
(which may be likened to common mercury) contains seed, which
is not seen, and of which the quantity is very small in proportion
to the size of the whole body: the process of generation is performed
not by the whole body, but by this seminal "congealed watery
vapour." But as no vital generation could take place if the
body were dissected in order to get at the seed, as the murdering
of the body would kill the seed -- so ignorant Alchemists may
be said to murder the body and kill the seed of metals, when they
dissolve their bodies, whether of gold, silver, or lead, and corrode
them with aqua fortis, in order to obtain the metallic seed. All
multiplication is performed by means of male and female seed;
and the two (which by themselves are barren) must be conjoined
in order to bring forth fruit, i.e., a new form. Whosoever, therefore,
would bring forth any good thing must take the sperm or the seed,
and not the entire body.
Take, then, the living male and
the living female, and join them in order that they may project
a sperm for the procreation of a fruit according to their kind,
for let no one presume to suppose that he can make the first matter.
The first matter of man is earth, and there is no one so bold
as to dream that he can create a man. God alone can perform this
artifice. But if the second substance (or seed) which is already
created, be put in the proper place, Nature will produce a new
form of the same species. The Artist only separates what is subtle
from its grosser elements, and puts it into the proper "vessel."
Nature does the rest. As a thing begins, so it ends. Out of one
arise two, and out of two one -- as of God the Father there was
begotten God the Son, and from the two proceeded God the Holy
Ghost. Thus was the world made, and so also shall it end. Consider
carefully these few points, and you will find, firstly the Father,
then the Father and the Son, lastly, the Holy Spirit. You will
find the four elements, the four luminaries, the two celestials,
the two centrics. In a word there is nothing, has been, and shall
be nothing in the World which is otherwise than it appears in
this symbol, and a volume might be filled with its mysteries.
I say, therefore, it is the attribute of God alone to make one
out of one, you must produce one thing out of two by natural generation.
Know, then, that the multiplying sperm is the second substance,
and not the first. For the first substance of things is not seen,
but is hidden in Nature or the elements: the second substance
is occasionally seen by the children of knowledge.
the Virtue of the Second Matter
But in order that you may the better
know this second matter, I will describe to you its virtues. Nature
is divided into three kingdoms, the mineral, the vegetable, and
the animal. It is manifest that the mineral kingdom could subsist
of itself were there no vegetables or animals in the world; the
vegetable in like manner, is independent of the animal and mineral.
These two kingdoms were created in independence. The animal kingdom
alone depends for its subsistence on the two others, and is the
most noble and excellent of all; and seeing that it is the last
of the three, it governs the two others, because virtue expends
itself at the third, even as it is multiplied in the second. In
the vegetable kingdom the first substance is the herb or the tree,
which you cannot create, but which is produced by Nature alone.
The second substance is the seed which you see, by which herbs
and trees are propagated. In the animal kingdom the first substance
is the beast or man, whom you cannot create; but the seed, or
second substance, by which they are propagated, you know.
In the mineral kingdom, too, you
are unable to create a metal, and if you boast that you can do
so, Nature will laugh at your pretensions; given even the possession
of that first matter which is vaunted by the philosophers, namely,
the centric salt, you cannot multiple it without gold; but the
vegetable seed of metals is known only to the Sons of Science.
In the case of plants, the seed is seen outwardly, and is digested
by warm air. In animals the seed appears inwardly and outwardly,
and is prepared in the kidneys of the male.
Water is the seed of minerals,
in the very centre of their heart and life; and the "kidneys
of its digestion" are fire. The receptacle of vegetable seed
is the earth; the receptacle of animal seed the womb of the female;
and air is the receptacle of water -- the mineral seed. The receptacles
of seed are the same as congelations of bodies; digestion is the
same as solution, and putrefaction the same as destruction. The
specific property of seed is to enter into union with other substances
belonging to the same kingdom, because it is subtle, and, in fact,
air congealed by fatness into water. It is recognizable by the
fact that it does not become naturally united to anything outside
the kingdom to which it belongs. It is not dissolved, but only
congealed, as it does not need solution but only congelation.
Hence it is necessary that the pores of bodies be opened to admit
the sperm, in the centre of which lies the seed (which is air).
When it enters its proper womb it is congealed, and congeals the
pure or mixed substance which it finds. So long as there is any
seed in the body the body lives; when it is all consumed the body
dies; and any emission of seed weakens the body, as may be seen
in the case of dissolute persons, and of trees which have been
too richly laden with fruit. The seed, then, is invisible, but
the sperm can be seen, and is even as a living soul, which is
not found in dead things. It is extracted after two manners, of
which the first is gentle and the second violent. Nothing is produced
without seed, but everything comes into being by means of seed.
Let all sons of knowledge remember that seed is vainly sought
in dry trees, and that it is found only in those which are green.
operates trough our Art in the Seed
Seed in itself produces no fruit,
if it be not placed by Nature or Art in its own proper womb. Though
seed in itself is the most glorious of all created things, yet
the womb is its life, which causes the putrefaction of the enclosing
grain or sperm, brings about the congelation of the vital atom,
nourishing and stimulating its growth by the warmth of its own
body. All this is constantly and regularly being enacted (by months,
years, and seasons) in the above said three natural kingdoms.
The process can be hastened artificially in the vegetable and
mineral, but not in the animal world. In the mineral kingdom,
Art can do something which Nature is unable to perform, by removing
the crude air which stops up the outward pores of minerals, not
in the bowels of the earth but in the circumference. The elements
vie in projecting their seed into the centre
of the earth in order that it may
there be digested. The centre, by a caloric movement, emits it
into the womb; of these wombs there are an untold number -- as
many as there are places, and one place always purer than another.
Know that a pure womb will bring forth a pure form of its own
species. For instance, as among animals there are wombs of women,
cows, mares, bitches, so in the mineral world there are metals,
stones, and salts. Now salts principally demand consideration,
with their localities, according as they are less or more important.
On the Commixtion
of Metals, and the Eliciting of the Metallic Seed
We have spoken hitherto of Nature,
of Art, of bodies, sperm and seed. Let us now proceed to the practical
enquiry, how metals should be mixed, and how they are mutually
related. For as a woman is generated in the same womb, and out
of the same seed as a man, and the only difference is in the degree
of digestion, and the purity of the blood and salts, so silver
is produced from the same seed, and in the same womb as gold;
but the womb of the silver had more water, and, as it were less
digested blood than that of gold, according to the times of the
celestial moon. But if you would understand the sexual union of
the metals and their manner of emitting and receiving seed look
at the celestial bodies of the planets. You will see that Saturn
is higher than all the rest, to whom Jupiter succeeds, then Mars,
the Sun, Venus, Mercury, while the last place is occupied by the
Moon. The virtues of the planets descend, but do not ascend; and
so as experiences teaches us, Mars is easily converted into Venus,
but not Venus into Mars, which has an inferior sphere. Also Jupiter
may be quickly transmuted into Mercury, because Jupiter has a
higher place; the one is second after the firmament, the other
second after the earth. Saturn is the highest, the Moon lowest;
the Sun combines with all, but is never ameliorated by its inferiors.
There is a great correspondence
between Saturn and the Moon, the Sun being medial between them;
as also between Mercury and Jupiter, Mars and Venus, which all
have the Sun as their centre. Most operators know how to transmute
iron into copper, or Venus, without using gold, they also know
how to change Jupiter into Mercury some can prepare the Moon (silver)
out of Saturn; but if they could prepare gold by these changes,
their secret would be worth knowing indeed. For this reason I
repeat that it is important to know the mutual correspondence
of metals, and their possibilities of union. There is one metal
which has power to consume all others, for it is, so to speak,
their water, and almost their mother, and is resisted only by
the radical humour of gold and silver, and ameliorated by it.
This metal is called Chalybs (steel).
If gold is united to it eleven times, and emits its seed, it is
weakened even unto death; but the Chalybs (steel) conceives and
brings forth a son much nobler than the father; and when the seed
of the son is placed in her womb it purifies it, and renders it
a thousand times better fitted to produce excellent fruit. There
is another Chalybs (steel) which is like this one, and created
as a thing by itself by Nature this steel is able, with its wonderful
virtue, to elicit from the rays of the " sun " that
which so many have sought, and which is the chief principle of
On the Supernatural
Generation of the Son of the Sun
We have treated of
those things which are produced by Nature and have been created
by God, so that those who are searchers of this science man comprehend
more easily the possibility of Nature, and the utmost limit of
her powers. I now go on to speak about the method of preparing
the Philosophers Stone. The Stone or Tincture is nothing other
than gold digested to the highest degree. Common gold resembles
a plant without seed; but when such a plant is matured, it produces
seed-and so, when gold is ripened, it produces its seed, or the
Tincture. If any one asks why gold and other metals do not commonly
produce seed I answer because the crudity of the ore, which has
not sufficient heat, prevents it from being matured. In some places
pure gold is found which Nature has been striving to mature, but
which has not attained to ripeness on account of the crudity of
the air. An analogous case is that of the orange tree, which bears
no fruit in northern latitudes, because it has not sufficient
warmth, while in warmer countries it ripens the most delicious
fruit, and a like result it is possible to produce in colder countries,
by means of artificial heat. The same thing happens with metallic
natures, and so gold may be made to produce seed, by a wise and
judicious Artist who knows how to assist Nature. Should he act
independently of Nature, he would err, for in this science, as
in all others, we can do nothing but supplement Nature, nor can
we otherwise aid her than through the agency of heat or fire.
Now, in order that
Nature may be enabled to work upon a congealed metallic substance,
wherein the spirit does not appear, the body must be dissolved
and its pores opened. Now there are two kinds of solution, the
violent and the natural; and under the former head come all those
methods of solution which are in vogue among the vulgar herd of
modern Alchemists, and the same are cold and useless. Natural
solution takes place when the pores of the body are gently opened
in our water, so that the digested seed can be emitted and placed
in its womb. Our water is a water which does not wet the hands;
it is a heavenly water, and yet not rain water. The "Body"
is gold, which gives out the seed. Our silver (not common silver)
is that which conceives the seed of the gold. There it is digested
by our continual fire, for seven or even ten months, until our
water consumes three, and leaves one; and this is something twofold.
Then it is nourished with the milk of earth, or the fatness of
that which is formed in the breasts of the earth, and is regulated
and conserved by the putrefaction of the surrounding substance.
In this way that infant of the second generation is born. Now
us advance from theory to practice.
the practical preparation of our Stone or Tincture by means of
Our discourse in preceding chapters
has been enlarged by appropriate examples which well facilitate
the understanding of the practice, which, in accordance with natural
procedure, must be performed as follows: take eleven grains of
our earth, by as many doses, one grain of our gold, and two grains
of our silver. Here you should carefully bear in mind that common
gold and silver are of no use for our purpose, as they are dead.
Those which I ask you to take are the living metals. Expose them
to the heat of our fire, and there will come out of them a dry
liquid. The earth will first be dissolved into a water which is
called Mercury of the Sages, and this water will dissolve the
bodies of the gold and silver, and consume them, till only the
tenth part with one part remains, which is the radical metallic
Then take the water of saltpetre
from our earth, in which is a living river and a flowing wave.
Let this water be clear, and pour on it the radical humour: expose
the whole to the fire of putrefaction and generation, which is
not the same as that of the first operation. Regulate the heat
judiciously, until there appear colours like those of the Peacock's
Tail, and then continue to apply this well-regulated heat until
the colours resolve themselves into a pronounced green. Be not
weary but continue till the rest of the colours have manifested.
When you observe at the bottom ashes of a brown colour, while
the water is almost red, you should open the vessel and dip a
feather into it. With this feather smear a morsel of iron, and
if it becomes tinged, pour into the vessel as much of a certain
water (which we will describe hereafter) as there is of crude
air which has entered in, and then again subject it to coction
over the same fire, until it colours the feather again. Further
than this my experience does not go. The water I have mentioned
is the menstruum of the world from the sphere of the Moon and
so carefully rectified that it has power to calcine the Sun. Herein
have I desired to discourse everything to your understanding and
if sometimes you will take my meaning rather than my words, you
will find that I have revealed all, more especially as regards
the first and second work. It remains for me to say a few words
about the fire. In the first operation the fire should be of one
degree and continuous and should pervade the whole substance with
an even warmth. In the second operation we need a natural fire,
which digests and fixes the substance. Behold, I say unto you
the truth! I have unfolded the regimen of the fire if only you
understand Nature. But it is needful also to speak a few words
concerning the vessel, which ought to be such as is indicated
by Nature; and two of these vessels suffice. In the first operation
the vessel should be round; in the second it should be somewhat
smaller; it should also be of glass in the form of a vial or egg.
But, know, above all things, that fire employed by Nature is one
and its differences are determined by differences of distance.
The vessel of Nature is also one, but we use two in order to accelerate
the development of our substance; its material is one, but consists
of two substances. If you would produce anything, look at the
things that are produced.
If you cannot understand those
which are continually before your eyes, it will go hardly with
you when you seek to produce those which are as yet unseen. Remember
that God alone can create; but He has permitted the Sage to make
manifest things that are hidden and concealed according to the
ministry of Nature. Consider I pray you the simple water of the
clouds. Who would believe that it contains in itself all mundane
objects, hard stones, salts, air, earth, and fire? What shall
I say of the earth, which seems simple enough and, and contains
water, fire, salts, air, and much besides? O, admirable Nature,
who knowest by the means of water how to produce the wonderful
fruits of earth, who dost give life to them and nourish them by
means of air! Everything depends upon the faculty of seeing which
we bring to the study of nature. Common eyes, for instance, discern
that the sun is hot; the eyes of the Sage see that the sun itself
is cold and that it is only its movements which produce heat for;
its effect is felt at so great a distance in space. The heat of
the sun is the same as our natural fire; for as the sun is the
centre of the planets and thence scatters its heat downward in
all directions, so in the centre of the earth there is a sun of
the earth, which by its perpetual motion drives heat or rays upward
towards the surface of the earth. This inward heat is much more
powerful than elemental fire but it is tempered and cooled by
the water which pervades and refreshes the pores of the earth;
otherwise all things would be consumed by its fierceness. In the
same way, the fierce rays of the sun are tempered and assuaged
by the air of the intermediate atmosphere, without which everything
would be consumed, and no generation would be possible.
But I must now proceed to explain
after what manner the elements act upon each other. In the centre
of the earth, then, there is a central sun, of which the heat
pervades the whole earth to its surface by reason of the movement
thereof, or by the motion of the firmament thereof. This heat
changes the water of the earth into air (or vapour), which being
much more subtle than water, is violently driven upward through
the pores of the earth. But when it reaches the colder atmosphere
it is once more condensed into water and in some places we do
indeed see this water or condensed, air driven highly up into
the air by the force of the central fire: just as a kettle of
water when exposed to gentle heat sends upward a gentle stream
of vapour and air, while the steam thickens and the upward movement
becomes more intense when the fire is kindled into a blaze. By
this action of the "central sun" the elements are distributed
over the earth and each finds the place where in can grow. This
upward current of air is not always noticeable because in many
places there is not enough water to make it perceptible: an empty
kettle gives out no steam I say, then, that fire or heat is the
cause of the motion of the air, and the life of all things; and
the earth is their nurse, or receptacle. If our earth and air
were not cooled by water, the earth would be parched up, as it
is even now in some places where the pores of the earth are closed
up, and be obstructing the movement of the water would be placed
at the mercy of the two kinds of solar heat. In this way the destruction
of the world will one day be brought about. Now in our Art you
should closely imitate these natural processes. There should be
the Central Heat, the change of the water into air, the driving
upward of the air, its diffusion through the pores of the earth,
its reappearance as condensed but volatilized water. Then you
must give our Ancient One gold and silver to swallow and consume,
till he himself is burnt to death and his ashes are scattered
into the water, which you must then subject to coction for a sufficient
space of time. The result will be the Medicine which is a cure
for leprosy. But be careful not to take heat for cold, or cold
for heat. Mix only things which are like each other, and separate
contrary elements by means of heat. If you do not follow the guidance
of Nature all your efforts will be in vain. I swear by God that
I have spoken to you as a father should to his son. He that hath
ears, let him hear, and he that hath sense, let him understand.
the Stone and its Virtue
We have spoken sufficiently in
preceding chapters concerning the production of natural things,
the elements, the first and second matters, bodies and seeds,
as also of their use and virtue. I have written also of the Philosophical
Stone, and shall now speak of its virtue, in so far as experience
has discovered it to me. Before, however, I proceed to describe
the virtues of the Stone, I will, for the better understanding
of our Art, once more recapitulate what has already been said.
If any one doubts the reality of our Art, he should read the books
of those ancient Sages whose good faith no one ever yet called
in question, and whose right to speak on this subject cannot be
challenged. If you will not believe them, I am not so foolish
as to enter into a controversy with one who denies first principles:
the deaf and dumb cannot speak. Why minerals alone should be excluded
from God's primal benediction, when He bade all things increase
and multiply after their kind, I am unable to see; and if minerals
have seed they have it for the purpose of generic propagation.
The Art of Alchemy is true in its nature. Nature is true also,
but a true Artist is rarely found. Nature is one, our Art is one
but the workmen are many. Nature, then, generates things through
the Will of God out of the first Matter (the product of the elements)
which is known to God alone. Nature produces things, and multiplies
them out of the second substance which is known to the Sages.
All elements are mutually dependent, though they do not agree
when joined, but the queen of all is water, because it is the
mother of all things --and over it broods the spirit of fire.
When fire acts on water, and strives with it, the first matter
is evolved. Thus arise vapours of sufficient denseness to combine
with earth, by means of that crude air which from the very beginning
was separated from it. This process is going on ceaselessly, by
means of perpetual motion. For motion causes heat, as you may
know by continued friction of any substance. Motion causes heat,
heat moves the water; the motion of water produces air, which
is the life of all living things. Thus all things grow out of
water, out of its more subtle vapours are produced light and subtle
things; out of its "oil," things of greater weight;
out of its salt things far more beautiful and precious than the
rest. But as Nature is often hindered by the impurity of this
vapour, fatness, and salt, from producing perfection, experience
has taught us to separate the pure from the impure. Therefore,
if you would ameliorate Nature, and produce a more perfect and
elaborated subject, purge the body by dissolution of all that
is heterogeneous, and unite the pure to the pure, the well-digested
to the well-digested, and the crude to the crude, according to
the natural and not the material weight. For you must know that
the central saltpetre never contains more earth than is required
whether it be otherwise pure or impure. But it is different with
the fatness of the water, which is never found pure. Art purges
it by the action of twofold heat, and then again combines its
of these Twelve Treatises
I have composed, O friendly reader,
the preceding twelve treatises for the benefit of the students
of this Art; in order that they might understand the operations
of Nature, and after what manner she produces all things which
are in the world, before they put their hands to any experiment.
Otherwise, they might be trying to open the gate without a key,
or to draw water with a sieve. For in regard to our Holy and Blessed
Art, he for whom the sun shines not, walks in thick darkness,
and he who does not see the light of the moon, is involved in
the shades of night. Nature has her own light, which is not visible
to the outward eyes. The shadow of Nature upon our eyes is the
body. But where the light of Nature irradiates the mind, this
mist is cleared away from the eyes, all difficulties are overcome,
and things are seen in their very essence, namely, the inmost
heart of our Magnesia, which corresponds to the respective centres
of the Sun and Earth. The bodily nature of things is a concealing
If you dressed a boy and a girl
of twelve years of age in exactly the same way, you would be puzzled
to tell which was the boy and which the girl, but when the clothes
are removed they may easily be distinguished. In the same way,
our understanding makes a shadow to the shadow of Nature, for
our human nature is concealed by the body in the same way as the
body by the clothes. I might in this place discourse fully and
philosophically of the dignity of man, of his creation and generation
but I will pass over these themes and touch briefly on his life
alone. Man is made of earth, and lives through air; for air contains
the hidden food of life, of which the invisible spirit, when congealed
is better than the whole hole world. Truly wonderful and admirable
are the ways of Nature, who shews to us day by day the light of
truth. I have set down in these twelve Treatises that which she
has revealed to me in order that the God-fearing reader may more
easily understand that which I have seen with my eyes, that which
my hands have performed, without any fraud or sophistication.
For without the light and knowledge of Nature it is impossible
to attain to the perfection of this Art, unless it be revealed
to a man by the Spirit, or secretly by a loving friend. The substance
is vile and yet most precious. Take ten parts of our air; one
part of living gold or living silver; put all this into your vessel;
subject the air to coction untiit becomes first water and then
something which is not water. If you do not know how to do this
and how to cook air, you will go wrong, for herein is the true
Matter of the Philosophers. You must take that which is, but is
not seen until the operator pleases.
This is the water of our dew, which
is extracted from the saltpetre of the Sages, by which all things
grow, exist, and are nourished, whose womb is the centre of the
celestial and terrestrial sun and moon. To speak more openly,
it is our Magnet, which I have already called our Chalybs, or
steel. Air generates this magnet, the magnet engenders or manifests
our air. Thus Hermes says that its father is the Sun, its mother
the Moon, and that the winds have fostered it in their womb, that
is to say, the salt Alkali (called by the Sages salt of Ammonia,
or vegetable salt) is hidden in the womb of Magnesia. The operation
thereof is as follows: -- You dissolve condensed air, and in it
a tenth part of gold; seal it up and expose it to our fire, until
the air is changed into powder and there will be seen, given the
salt of the world, a great variety of colours. The rest of this
process and the method of multiplication you will find fully set
forth in the writings of Lullius, and other of the ancient Sages,
so therefore I do not dwell on them being content to treat only
of the first and second matters. This I have done frankly, and
with open heart. Think not that any man in this world has spoken
more fully and clearly than I have. I have not learnt what I tell
you from books, but by the experiment of my own hands. If you
do not understand it at first, or are unable to accept the truth,
accuse not my work, but blame rather yourself, believing that
God will not reveal this secret unto you.
Take it, then, in all earnestness,
read and again read it, especially the Epilogue of these twelve
Treatises, and diligently consider the possibilities of Nature,
the action of the elements, and which is chief among them, especially
in the rarefaction of air or water, by which the heavens and the
whole world were created. This I admonish you to do, as a father
admonishes a son. Do not wonder that I have written so many Treatises.
I am not in need of books for myself but was impelled to record
my experience by pity towards those who are wandering astray in
the darkness of their own conceits; and though I might have set
forth this secret in few words, I have written at great length
in order to equip you with that knowledge of Nature, without which
you could not hope to succeed in this Art. Do not be put out by
the seeming contradictions with which, in accordance with the
custom of the Sages, I have had to conceal my real meaning a little.
There is no rose found without thorns. Revolve diligently in your
mind all that I have said about the way in which the elements
distil the Radical Moisture to the centre of the earth, and how
the terrestrial and centric sun again raises and sublimes them,
by its continual motion, to the surface of the earth. Note also
the correspondence which has been affirmed between the celestial
and the centric Sun for the celestial Sun and Moon have a special
power and a wonderful virtue in distilling upon earth by their
rays. For heat is easily united to heat, and salt to salt. As
the central sun has its sea and crude perceptible water, so the
celestial sun has its sea of subtle and imperceptible water (the
atmosphere). On the surface of the earth the two kinds of rays
meet and produce flowers and all things. Then rain receives its
vital force out of the air, and unites it to that of the saltpetre
of the earth. For the saltpetre of the earth is like calcined
tartar, and by its dryness, attracts air to itself -- which air
it dissolves into water. For this saltpetre itself was once air,
and has become joined to the fatness of the earth. The more abundantly
the rays of the sun descend, the greater is the quantity of saltpetre
generated, and so also is the harvest on earth increased.
All this does experience daily
teach. I have willed thus to set forth solely for the benefit
of the ignorant the correspondences which exist between all things,
and the efficacious virtue of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. The wise
have no need of such instruction. Our substance is openly displayed
before the eyes of all, and yet is not known. Oh, how marvellous
is our heaven, and our water, and our mercury, and our saltpetre
which are in the world sea, and our vegetable, and our fixed and
volatile sulphur, and our dead head, or dregs of our sea, and
our water that does not wet the hands, and without which no mortal
can live - without which nothing is born or generated in the whole
world! It is lightly esteemed by men, yet no one can do without
it: for it is more precious than all the world beside, and, in
short, it is nothing but our pontic-water which is congealed in
the sun and moon and extracted from the sun and moon, by means
of our chalybs (steel) through the skill of the Sages by a philosophical
artifice and in a surprising manner . . . . . I did not really
intend to publish this book, for reasons that are named in the
preface; but my love for earnest students of this Art got the
better of my caution. So have I sought to make known my good-will
to those who knows me, and manifest unto the initiated that I
am their companion and equal, and that I desire their acquaintance.
I doubt not that there are many persons of good conduct and clear
conscience who possess this great gift of God in secret.
I pray and conjure them that they
should preserve even the silence of Harpocrates. Let them be made
wise by my example, and take warning from my dangers. Whenever
I have revealed myself to the great, it has always been to my
peril and loss. But by this work I now shew myself to the Sons
of Hermes, while at the same time I instruct the ignorant, and
direct lost seekers into the right path. Let them know that the
secret is here as plainly expounded as it ever will be. I have
kept nothing back except the secret of extracting our "salt
of Ammonia," or " Mercury of the Sages " out of
our "sea water," and the great use to which it is put.
If I have not expressed myself very plainly on these points, it
is only because I may not do so. The secret can only be revealed
by God, who knows men's hearts and minds, and He will vouchsafe
this knowledge, in answer to earnest and importunate prayer after
a repeated careful perusal of this Book. The vessel, as I have
said, is one, or two at most will suffice; and if you have knowledge
of Nature, a continuous fire, and the right substance, you ought
to succeed. Let me caution you, in conclusion, not to be led astray
by those who waste their time and money on herbs, animals, stones,
and all kinds of minerals but the right ones. Farewell, good reader,
and may you long enjoy the results of my labours, to the glory
of God, the salvation of your soul, and the good of your neighbour.
TO THE RIDDLE OF THE SAGES
to the Sons of Truth
Though I have already given unto
you, O Children of Science, a full and exhaustive account of our
Art, and of the source of the universal fountain, so that there
seems no further call to say anything, having, in the preceding
Treatises, illustrated the mode of Nature by examples, and declared
both the theory and the practice, so far it is permitted me to
do, yet there may be some of my readers who think that I have
expressed myself here and there in too laconical a fashion. I
will therefore once more make known from beginning to end the
entire process, but in the form of a philosophical enigma, so
that you may judge how far I have been permitted to attain by
God. There is an infinite number of books which treat of this
Art, but you will scarce find any which contain a more clear explication
of the truth than is here set down. I have, in the course of my
life, met with a good many who fancied that they had a perfect
understanding of the writings of the Sages; but their subtle style
of interpretation was in glaring contrast with the simplicity
of Nature, and they laughed at what they were pleased to call
the rustic crudeness of my remarks. I have also frequently attempted
to explain our Art to others by word of mouth; but though they
called themselves Sages, they would not believe that there is
such water in our sea, and attributed my remarks to temporary
insanity. For this reason I am not afraid that my writings will
reveal anything to unworthy persons, as I am persuaded that it
is only by the gift of God that this Art can be understood. If,
indeed, subtlety and mental acuteness were all that is necessary
for its apprehension, I have met with many strong minds, well
fitted for the investigation of such subjects. But I tell you:
Be simple, and not overwise, until you have found the secret.
Then you will be obliged to be prudent, and you will easily be
able to compose any number of books, which is doubtless more simple
for him who is in the centre and beholds the thing itself, than
one who is on the circumference only, and can only go by hearsay.
You have a clear description of the matter of all things, but
I warn you that if you would attain to this knowledge you should
continue in earnest prayer to God, and love your neighbour. In
the second place, you should not be ready to imagine all manner
of subtleties and refinements of which Nature knows nothing. Remain
rather in the way of her simplicity, for therein you are far more
likely to put your finger on the subject than if you abide in
the midst of subtleties.
In reading my book, do not stick
too closely to the letter of my words but read them side by side
with the natural facts which they describe. You should also from
the first fix your eyes steadily on the object of your search,
and the scope and aim of our work. It is much wiser to learn with
your mind and your brain first than by bitter experience afterwards.
The object of your search should be to find a hidden thing from
which, by a marvellous artifice, there is obtained a liquid by
whose means gold is dissolved as gently and naturally as ice is
melted in warm water. If you can find this substance, you have
that out of which Nature produced gold, and though all metals
and all things are derived from it, yet it takes most kindly to
gold. For all other things are clogged with impurity, except gold
wherein there is no uncleanness, whence in a special manner this
matter is, as it were, the mother of gold. If you will not follow
my instructions, and be warned by my cautions, you can derive
no benefit from my book. I have spoken as plainly as my conscience
would permit. If you ask who I am: I am a Cosmopolitan. If you
know me, and wish to be good and honourable men, keep my name
a secret. If you do not know me forbear to enquire after my name,
for I shall make public nothing more than appears in this writing.
Believe me, if my rank and station were not what they are, I should
enjoy nothing so much as a solitary life, or to have joined Diogenes
in his tub. For I behold this world full of vanity, greed, cruelty,
venality, and iniquity; and I rejoice in the prospect of the glorious
life to come. I no longer wonder, as once I did, that the true
Sage, though he owns the Stone, does not care to prolong his life;
for he daily sees heaven before his eyes, as you see your face
in a glass. When God gives you what you desire, you will believe
me, and not make yourself known to the world.
or Enigma of the Sages
way of an Appendix
Once upon a time, when I had been
for many years of my life sailing from the Arctic to he Antarctic
Pole, I was cast ashore by the will of God, on the coast of a
certain great ocean; and though I was well acquainted with the
properties of that sea, I did not know whether there was generated
near those shores that little fish Edieneis, which is so anxiously
sought, even unto this present, by men of high and low degree.
But as I watched the Naiads and Nymphs disporting themselves in
the water, being fatigued with my previous toils, and overwhelmed
by the multitude of my thoughts, I was lulled asleep by the soft
murmur of the waves; and as I slept sweetly and gently, I beheld
a marvellous vision I saw ancient Neptune, with a trident in his
hand, rise, with venerable aspect, from our sea, who after a friendly
salutation, carried me to a most beautiful island. This island
was situated in the southern hemisphere, and contained all that
is required for man's use and delight. It appeared a more pleasant
and delightful abode than Virgil's Elysian fields. The shores
thereof were fringed with verdant myrtles and cypresses. The meadows
were studded with a large variety of beautiful and fragrant flowers.
The slopes of the hills were clad with vines, olives, and cedars.
The roads were overhung by the intertwining branches of laurels
and pomegranate trees, which afforded grateful shade to the wayfarer.
The plains were covered with groves of orange and lemon trees.
In short, the island was an epitome of earthly beauty. Concealed
under a rock, Neptune shewed me two minerals of that island, gold
and chalybs (steel). Then I was conducted to an orchard in the
middle of a meadow, which was at no great distance, the same being
planted with a great variety of beautiful trees. Among these he
shewed me seven enriched by particular names; and two of them
towered above the rest. One bore fruit which shone like the sun,
and its leaves resembled gold; the fruit of the other was whiter
than lilies, and its leaves were like fine silver.
Neptune called the first the Solar,
and the second he Lunar tree. The only thing which it was difficult
to obtain in the island, was water. The inhabitants had tried
to get it from a spring by means of a conduit, and to elicit it
from many things But the result was a poisonous water, and the
only water that could be drunk was that condensed out of the rays
of the sun and moon. The worst of it was, that no one could attract
more than ten parts of this water. It was wonderful water! I can
tell vou; for I saw with my eyes and touched with my hands its
dazzling whiteness, which surpassed all the splendour of the now.
While I stood wrapt in admiration, Neptune vanished from my sight,
and there stood before me a tall man, on whose forehead the name
of Saturn was inscribed. He took a vessel, and scooped up ten
parts of the water, in which he placed fruit from the Solar tree;
and the fruit was consumed like ice in warm water. So I said unto
him: "Lord, I behold here a marvellous thing. This water
is small in quantity; nevertheless, the fruit of this tree is
consumed therein by a gentle heat. To what purpose is all this?
"He graciously replied " My son, it is true that this
thing is wonderful. But this water is the water of life, and has
such power to exalt the qualities of this fruit, that it shall
afterwards, without sowing or planting -- only by its fragrance
-- transmute the six trees which remain into its own nature. Moreover,
this water is as a woman to the fruit: the fruits of this tree
can putrefy nowhere but in this water; and though the fruit by
itself be wonderful and precious -- yet when it putrefies in this
water, it brings forth out of this putrefaction a Salamander that
endures the fire; its blood is more precious than all treasures,
and has power to render fertile ix trees such as you see here,
and to make their fruit sweeter than honey" Then I said unto
him: "Lord, how is this thing done?" He replied: "I
have already told thee that the fruits of the Solar tree are living,
and they are sweet; but whereas the fruit while it is cooked in
this water can inform but one part, after its coction has been
completed it can inform a thousand."
I then enquired whether the fruit
was boiled in this water over a fierce fire, and how long? He
answered this water has an inward fire, and when this is assisted
by continuous outward warmth, it burns up three parts of its own
body with this body of the fruit, until nothing but an incredibly
small part remains, which, however, possesses the most marvellous
virtue. This is cooked by the wise Master first for seven months,
and then for ten. But in the meantime, on each fiftieth day, a
variety of phenomena is witnessed." Again I besought him
whether this fruit was cooked in several waters and whether anything
was added to it. He made answer: "There is no water, either
in this island or in the whole country but only this kind alone
that can properly penetrate the pores of this fruit; and you should
know the Solar tree also grew out of this water, which is collected
by magnetic attraction out of the rays of the Sun and Moon. Hence
the fruit and the water exhibit a wonderful sympathy and correspondence.
If any foreign substance were added to the water, its virtue would
only be impaired. Hence nothing should be put into the water but
this fruit. After its decoction the fruit has life and blood,
and its blood causes all barren trees to bring forth the same
precious fruit." I asked whether the water was obtained by
any secret process, or whether it was to be obtained everywhere?
He said: "It is found everywhere, and no one can live without
it, but it is best when extracted by means of our Chalybs (steel),
as which is found in the belly of the Ram. If you ask what is
its use, I answer that before the due amount of coction has been
performed, it is deadly poison, but afterwards it is the Great
Medicine, and yields 29 grains of blood, each one of which produces
864 of the fruits of the Solar tree." I asked whether it
could be still further improved. "The Sages say," he
returned, "that it can be increased first to ten, then to
a hundred, then to a thousand, then to ten thousand times its
own quantity, and so on." I asked whether that water was
known by any particular name. He cried aloud saying: "Few
know it, but all have seen it, and see and love it; it has many
names, but we call it the water of our sea the water that does
not wet the hands." "Do they use it for any other purpose?"
I enquired; "and is anything born in it?" "Every
created thing," he replied, "uses it, but invisibly.
All things owe their birth to it, and live in it. Nothing is,
properly speaking, in it, though itself mingles with all things.
It can be improved by nothing but the fruit of the Solar trees
without which it is of no use in this work." I was going
to ask him to speak more plainly when he began to cry out in such
a loud voice that I awoke out of my sleep, and Saturn and the
hope of getting my questions answered vanished together. Be contented,
nevertheless, with what I have told you, and be sure that it is
impossible to speak more clearly.
If you do not understand what I
have said, you will never grasp the writing of other philosophers.
After a while, I fell into another deep sleep, in which I saw
Neptune standing over me, congratulating me on our happy meeting
in the Garden of the Hesperides. He held up to me a mirror, in
which I saw the whole of Nature unveiled. After we had exchanged
a few remarks, I thanked him for conducting me to this beautiful
garden, and introducing me to the company of Saturn; and I heartily
besought him to resolve for me the difficulties and doubts which
Saturn had left uncleared. "For instance," I said, "
I have read and believe that for every act of generation a male
and a female are required; and yet Saturn spoke of generation
by placing the Solar fruit in the water, or Mercury of the Sages.
What did he mean? As the lord of the sea, I know that you are
acquainted with these things, and I entreat of you to answer me."
He said, "What you say about the act of generation is true;
and yet you know that worms are produced in a different way from
quadrupeds, namely by putrefaction and the place or earth in which
this putrefaction occurs is feminine. In our substance the Mother
is the water of which so much has been said, and its offspring
is produced by putrefaction, after the manner of worms. Hence
the Sages call it the Phoenix and Salamander. Its generation is
a resurrection rather than a birth, and for this reason it is
immortal or indestructible Now, whatsoever is conceived of two
bodies is subject to the law of death; but the life of this fruit
is a separation from all that is corruptible about it. It is the
same with the Phoenix, which separates of itself from its corruptible
body." I enquired whether the substance was compound in its
nature. "No," he said, "there is only the Solar
fruit that is put into the water which must be to the fruit in
the proportion of ten to one. Believe that what was here revealed
to you in a dream by Saturn after the manner of our island, is
not a dream, but a bright reality which will stand the test of
broad daylight." With these words he abruptly left me, without
listening to my further questions; and I awoke and found myself
at home in Europe. My God shew to you, gentle reader, the full
interpretation of my dreams! Farewell!
To the Triune
God be Praise and Glory!
between Mercury, the Alchemists, and Nature
On a certain bright morning a number
of Alchemists met together in a meadow, and consulted as to the
best way of preparing the Philosopher's Stone. It was arranged
that they should speak in order, and each after the manner that
seemed best to him. Most of them agreed that Mercury was the first
substance. Others said, no, it was sulphur, or something else.
These Alchemists had read the books of the Sages, and hence there
was a decided majority in favour of Mercury, not only as the true
first matter, but in particular as the first matter of metals,
since all the philosophers seemed to cry with one voice: "O
our Mercury, our Mercury," &c., whatever that word might
mean. Just as the dispute began to run high, there arose a violent
wind which dispersed the Alchemists into all the different countries
of the world -- and as they had arrived at no conclusion, each
one went on seeking the Philosopher's Stone in his own old way,
this one expecting to find it in one substance, and that in another,
so that the search has continued without intermission even unto
this day. One of them, however, had at least got the idea into
his head that Mercury was the substance of the Stone, and determined
to concentrate all his efforts on the chemical preparation of
Mercury saying to himself, for this kind of discourse is very
common among Alchemists, that the assembly had determined nothing,
and that the dispute would end only with the confection of the
Stone. So he began reading the works of the philosophers, and
among others that of Alanus on Mercury, whereby he became a philosopher
indeed, but not one who had reached any practical conclusion.
Then he took (common) Mercury and began to work with it. He placed
it in a glass vessel over the fire, where it, of course, evaporated.
So in his ignorance he struck his wife and said "No one but
you has entered my laboratory; you must have taken my Mercury
out of the vessel." The woman, with tears, protested her
innocence. The Alchemist put some more Mercury into the vessel,
and kept close and jealous watch over it, expecting that his wife
would once more make away with it. The Mercury rose to the top
of the vessel in vaporous steam.
Then the Alchemist was full of
joy, because he remembered that the first substance of the Stone
is described by the Sages as volatile; and he thought that now
at last he must be on the right track. He now began to subject
the Mercury to all sorts of chemical processes, to sublime it,
and to calcine it with all manner of things, with salts, sulphur,
metals, minerals, blood, hair, aqua fortis, herbs, urine, and
vinegar. All these substances were tried in succession, everything
that he could think of was tried; but without producing the desired
effect. Seeing that he had still accomplished nothing, the poor
man once more began to take thought with himself. At last he remembered
reading in some authors that the matter was so contemptible that
it is found on the dung hill; and then he began to operate on
his Mercury with various kinds of dung. When all these experiments
turned out failures, he fell into a deep sleep, and there appeared
to him an old man, who elicited from him the cause of his sadness,
and bade him use the pure Mercury of the Sages. When the Alchemist
awoke he pondered over the words of the old man, and wondered
what he could mean by "the Mercury of the Sages". But
he could think of no other Mercury but that known to the common
herd, and went on with his efforts to purge it; for which purpose
he used, first, the excrements of animals, then those of children,
and at last his own. He also went every day to the place where
the old man had appeared to him, in the hope that he might be
able to ask him for a more detailed explanation of his meaning.
At times, he would pretend to be asleep; and because he thought
that the old man might be afraid to come to him in his waking
hours, he would swear to him, and say: "Be not afraid to
come, old man I am most certainly asleep. See, my eyes are tightly
shut". At length, from always thinking about that old man,
he fell into a fever, and in his delirious visions he at last
saw a phantom in the guise of that ancient standing at his bedside,
and heard him say "Do not despair, my friend. Your mercury
is good, and your substance is good, but it will not obey you.
Why do you not charm the mercury, as serpents are charmed? "
With this, the old man vanished. But the Alchemist arose, with
these words still ringing in his ears: "Serpents are charmed"
-- and recollecting that apothecaries ornament their mercury bottles
with images of serpents, he took up the vessel with the mercury,
and repeated the formula of conjuration "ux, ux, ostas,"
etc., substituting the word mercury for the name of the serpent:
"And thou mercury, most nefarious beast." At these words
the Mercury began to laugh, and said to the Alchemist "Why
dost thou trouble me, my Lord Alchemist?"
Alchemist: Oho, do you call me
your lord? Now I have touched you home. I have found a bit to
bridle you with; wait a little, and you shall soon sing the tune
that I bid you (Then as his courage increased, he cried angrily):
I conjure you by the living God -- are you not that Mercury of
Mercury: (pretending to speak in a whimpering and frightened tone
of voice): Master, I am Mercury.
Alchemist: Why would you not obey me then ? Why could I not fix
Mercury: Oh, most high and mighty Master, I implore you to spare
your miserable slave! I did not know that you were such a potent
Alchemist: Oh, could you not guess as much from the philosophical
way in which I operated on you?
Mercury: I did so, most high and mighty Master, but I wished to
hide myself, though now I see that I cannot hide myself from my
most potent Lord.
Alchemist: Then you know a philosopher when you see him, as you
now do, my gallant?
Mercury: My most high Lord, I see, and to my own great cost, that
your Worship is a high and mighty and most potent philosopher.
Alchemist: (with a smile of satisfaction): Now at last I have
found what I sought (To the Mercury, in awful tones of thunder):
Now mind that you obey me, else it will be the worse for you.
Mercury: Gladly, Master, if I can for I am very weak.
Alchemist: Oho, do you begin to make excuses already?
Mercury: No, but I am very languid.
Alchemist: What is the matter with you?
Mercury: An Alchemist is the matter with me.
Alchemist: Are you laughing at me, you false rogue?
Mercury: Oh, no, no, Master, as God shall spare me, I spoke of
an Alchemist - you are a philosopher.
Alchemist: Of course, of course, that is quite true. But what
did the Alchemist do?
Mercury: Oh Master, he has done me a thousand wrongs; he belaboured
and mixed me up with all manner of disagreeable and contradictory
things, which have stripped me of all my powers and so I am sick,
even to death.
Alchemist: You deserved such treatment, because you would not
Mercury: I never yet disobeyed a philosopher, but I cannot help
laughing at fools.
Alchemist: And what is your opinion of me?
Mercury: Oh, Master your Worship is a great man, and mighty philosopher,
greater by far than Hermes, both in doctrine and wisdom.
Alchemist: Well, I won't praise myself, but I certainly am a learned
man. My wife says so, too. She always calls me a profoundly learned
Mercury: I quite believe you. For philosophers are men whom too
much learning and thought have made mad.
Alchemist: Tell me, what am I to do with you? How am I to make
you into the Philosopher's Stone?
Mercury: Oh, my master philosopher, that I cannot tell. You are
a philosopher, I am the philosopher's humble slave. Whatever he
wishes to make me, I become, as far as my nature will allow.
Alchemist: This is all very fine, but I repeat that you must tell
me how to treat you, and whether you can become the Philosopher's
Mercury: Mr. Philosopher, if you know, you can make it, and if
you don't you can't. From me you cannot learn anything with which
you have been unacquainted beforehand.
Alchemist: You talk to me as to a simple person. Perhaps you do
not know that I have lived at the courts of great princes, and
have always been regarded as a very profound philosopher.
Mercury: I readily believe you, my Master for the filth of your
brilliant experiments still cleaves to me.
Alchemist: Tell me then, are you the Mercury of the Sages?
Mercury: I am Mercury, but you should know best, whether I am
the Mercury of you philosophers.
Alchemist: Tell me only whether you are the true Mercury or whether
there is another?
Mercury: I am Mercury, but there is also another.
With these words the Mercury vanished.
The Alchemist shouts and calls aloud, but there is no answer.
At last he is fain to derive some little comfort from the thought
that he has had speech of Mercury and therefore must be very dear
to it. With this thought he once more sets himself to sublime,
distil, calcine, precipitate, and dissolve the Mercury in the
most awful manner, and with different sorts of waters. But his
efforts turned out failures, and mere waste of time. Then he began
to curse Mercury and to blaspheme Nature for creating it. When
nature heard this, she called Mercury to her, and asked him what
he had done to the Alchemist, and why he would not obey him. Mercury
humbly protested his innocence. Nature admonished him to obey
the Sons of Knowledge who sought to know her. Mercury promised
that he would do so, but added: "Mother Nature who can satisfy
fools?" Nature smiled, and departed. Mercury indignant with
our Alchemist, returned also to his own place. The philosopher
presently appeared with some excrements of swine, and was proceeding
to ply Mercury therewith, when the latter thus wrathfully accosted
him: "What do you want of me, you fool? Why did you accuse
Alchemist: Are you he whom I so
much desire to see?
Mercury: I am; but blind people cannot behold me.
Alchemist: I am not blind.
Mercury: You are as blind as a new-born puppy. You cannot see
yourself: how then should you be able to see me?
Alchemist: Oh, now you are proud and despise me because I speak
humbly. Perhaps you do not know that I have lived at the courts
of princes, and have always been called a philosopher?
Mercury: The gates of princes stand wide for fools; and it is
they that fare sumptuously in the palaces of the great. I quite
believe that you have been at court.
Alchemist: You are, undoubtedly, the Devil, and not a good Mercury,
if you speak like that to philosophers.
Mercury: Now, in confidence, tell me whether you are acquainted
with any philosophers.
Alchemist: Do you ask this of me, when you are aware that I am
myself a philosopher?
Mercury: (smiling): Behold the Philosopher! Well, my philosopher,
what do you seek, and what would your have?
Alchemist: The Philosopher's Stone.
Mercury: Of what substance would you make it?
Alchemist: Of our Mercury.
Mercury: Oh, my philosopher, then I had better go: for I am not
Alchemist: You are none but the Devil, and wish to lead me astray.
Mercury: Well, my philosopher, I think I may return the compliment:
you have played the very devil with me.
Alchemist: Oh, what do I hear? This is most certainly the Devil.
For I have done everything most scientifically, according to the
writings of the Sages.
Mercury: Truly, you are a wonderful operator; your performances
exceed your knowledge by as much as they defy the authorities
which you have in your books. For they say that substances should
be mixed only with substances of a kindred nature. But you have
mixed me, against Nature, with dung and other foul things, and
are indifferent about defiling yourself so long as you can torture
Alchemist: I do nothing against Nature: I only sow the seed in
its own proper earth, according to the teaching of the Sages.
Mercury: You sow me in dung; at the time of the harvest I vanish,
and you reap dung. Verily, you are a good husbandman!
Alchemist: Yet the Sages say that their substance is found on
Mercury: What they say is true, but you understand only the letter,
and not the spirit of their injunctions.
Alchemist: Now I see that you are perhaps Mercury. But as you
will not obey me, I must once more repeat the words of conjuration:
Ux, ux, ostas ----
Mercury: (laughing): It is of no use, my friend; your words are
as profitable as your works.
Alchemist: They say true when they call you a wonderful and inconstant
and volatile substance.
Mercury: You call me inconstant. But to the constant I am also
constant, and to the man of fixed resolve, I am fixed. But you,
and the likes of you, are continually abandoning one substance
for another, and are ever vagabonds in experiment.
Alchemist: Tell me truly, are you the Mercury which, side by side
with sulphur and salt, the philosophers describe as the first
principle of all things, or must I look for some other substance?
Mercury: The fruit, when it falls, lies near the tree that bore
it. I am the same that I was except in the matter of age. In the
beginning I was young, and I remained so as long as I was alone.
Now, I am old, and yet I am the same as ever. I am only older
than I was.
Alchemist: I am glad that you are old. For it is a constant and
fixed substance that I require, and this also have I invariably
Mercury: It is in vain that you come to the old man whom you did
not know as a youth.
Alchemist: What is this you say ? Did I not know you when you
were young? Have I not subjected you to all manner of chemical
processes, and shall I not continue to do so till I have prepared
the Philosopher's Stone?
Mercury: Woe is me! What shall I do? I already scent the foul
odour of dung. Woe is me! I beseech you Master Philosopher, not
to ply me with excrements of swine -- the foul smell will drive
me hence. And what more do you want of me? Am I not obedient ?
Do I not mingle with all things that you ask me to amalgamate
with? Do I not suffer myself to be sublimated, precipitated, amalgamated,
calcined? What more can I do ? I have submitted to be scourged
and spat upon till my miserable plight might move a heart of stone.
I have given you milk, blood, flesh, butter, oil, and water. I
have done all that any metal or mineral can do. And yet you have
no pity on me! Woe is me !
Alchemist: Oho, it does you no harm, you rascal, you deserve it
all richly, for not changing your form, or for resuming the old
form after a mere temporary change!
Mercury: I do whatsoever you make me do. If you make me a body,
I am a body. If you make me powder, I am powder. How can I be
more obedient than I am ?
Alchemist: Tell me, then, what you are in your centre, and I will
not torment you any more.
Mercury: I see there is no escape from speaking fundamentally
to you. If you will, you may now understand me. With my form which
you see you have nothing to do. My centre is the fixed heart of
all things, immortal and all-pervading. I am a faithful servant
to my master, and a faithful friend to my companions, whom I do
not desert, and with whom I perish. I am an immortal body. I die
when I am slain, but rise to stand before the judgment seat of
a discriminating judge.
Alchemist: Are you then the Philosopher's Stone?
Mercury: My mother is such, and of her is born artificially some
one thing -- but my brother who lives in the citadel has in his
gift that which the Sage desires.
Alchemist: Tell me, is your age great ?
Mercury: My mother bore me yet I am older than my mother.
Alchemist: How in all the world am I to understand you if you
answer my questions in dark parables? Tell me in one word, are
you that fountain concerning which Bernard Count of Trevisan,
Mercury: I am no fountain but I am water, and the fountain surrounds
Alchemist: Since-you are water, is gold dissolved in you?
Mercury: Whatever is with me, I love; and to that which is born
with me I impart nourishment. That which is naked I cover with
Alchemist: I see plainly that it is impossible to talk to you.
Whatever I ask you, your reply is foreign to the point. If you
do not answer my questions better, I will torment you again.
Mercury: Have pity on me. Master, I will gladly tell you all I
Alchemist: Tell me are you afraid of the fire?
Mercury: I myself am fire.
Alchemist: Why then do you seek to escape from the fire?
Mercury: Because my spirit loves the spirit of the fire, and accompanies
it wherever it goes.
Alchemist: Where do you go when you ascend with the fire?
Mercury: Every pilgrim looks anxiously towards his country and
his home. When he has returned unto these he reposes, and he always
comes back wiser than he left.
Alchemist: Do you return, then?
Mercury: Yes, but in another form.
Alchemist: I do not understand what you mean, nor yet about the
Mercury: If any one knows the fire of my heart; he has seen that
fire (proper heat) is my food; and the longer the spirit of my
heart feeds on fire, the fatter will it be: its death is afterwards
the life of all things belonging to my kingdom.
Alchemist: Are you great?
Mercury: My body, as you must know, can become one drop out of
a thousand drops, and, though I am always one, you can divide
my body as often as you like. But my spirit, or heart, always
produces many thousands of parts out of one part.
Alchemist: How is this to be brought about? After what manner
should my operation be performed on you?
Mercury: I am fire within, fire is my food and my life; but the
life of fire is air, for without air fire is extinguished. Fire
is stronger than air; hence I know not any repose, and crude air
can neither coagulate nor restrain me. Add air to air, so that
both become one in even balance; combine them with fire, and leave
the whole to time.
Alchemist: What will happen then?
Mercury: Everything superfluous will be removed. The residue you
burn in fire, place in water "cook," and when it is
cooked you give as a medicine, and have no fear.
Alchemist: You do not answer my questions. Wife, bring the excrements
of swine, and we will see whether we can get the better of his
In his utmost extremity, Mercury
called in the help of Nature, amidst much lamentation and mourning
over these threats of our admirable Alchemist. He impeaches the
thankless operator; Nature trusts her son Mercury, whom she knows
to be true and faithful and comes full of wrath to the Alchemist,
calling him imperiously before her.
Alchemist: Who calls me?
Nature: What are you doing to my son, arch-fool that you are?
Why do you torment him? He is willing to give you every blessing,
if you can understand him.
Alchemist: Who dares to rebuke so great a philosopher, and a man
withal so excellent as I am?
Nature: O fool, and of all men most insensate, I know and love
all philosophers, and am loved of them. I take pleasure in aiding
their efforts, and they help me to do that which I am unable to
accomplish. But you so-called Alchemists are constantly offending
me, and systematically doing despite to me; and this is the reason
why all your efforts are doomed to failure.
Alchemist: It is not true. I, too, am a philosopher, and understand
scientific methods of procedure. I have lived with several princes,
and with more than one philosopher, as my wife can testify. Moreover,
I possess at this very moment a manuscript which has lain hidden
for some centuries in a certain wall. I know very well that I
am almost at the end of my labours, and am on the point of composing
the Philosopher's Stone; for it was revealed to me a few days
ago in a dream. I have had a great many dreams, nor do I ever
dream anything untrue; my wife knows it.
Nature: It is with you as with a great many of your fellows: at
first they know everything, but in the end their knowledge turns
Alchemist: If you are truly Nature, it is you who serve for the
operation of the work.
Nature: That is true; but it is performed only by those who know
me, and such do not torment my children, nor do they hinder my
working. Rather they clear away the impediments, that I may the
sooner reach the goal.
Alchemist: That is exactly what I do.
Nature: No; you do nothing but cross me, and deal with my children
against my will. Where you should revive you kill; where you should
fix, you sublime; where you should calcine, you distil; and thus
my obedient son Mercury you torment in the most fearful manner.
Alchemist: Then I will in future deal with him gently, and subject
him only to gradual coction.
Nature: That is well, if you possess understanding; otherwise,
you will ruin only yourself and your possessions. If you act in
opposition to my commands, you hurt yourself more than him.
Alchemist: But how am I to make the Philosopher's Stone?
Nature: That question does not justify your ill treatment of my
son. Know that I have many sons and daughters, and that I am swift
to succour those who seek me, provided they are worthy.
Alchemist: But who is that Mercury?
Nature: Know that I have only one such son, he is one of seven,
and the first among them; and though he is now all things, he
was at first only one. In him are the four elements, yet he is
not an element. He is a spirit, yet he has a body; a man, yet
he performs a woman's part: a boy, yet he bears a man's weapons;
a beast, and yet he has the wings of a bird. He is poison, yet
he cures leprosy; life, yet he kills all things, a King, but another
occupies his throne; he flees from the fire, yet fire is taken
from him; he is water, but does not wet the hands; he is earth,
and yet he is sown; he is air, and lives by water.
Alchemist: Now I see that I know nothing; only I must not say
so. For I should lose the good opinion of my neighbours, and they
would no longer entrust me with money for my experiments. I must
therefore go on saying that I know everything; for there are many
that expect me to do great things for them.
Nature: But if you go on in that way, your neighbours will at
last find you out, and demand their money back.
Alchemist: I must amuse them with promises, as long as I can.
Nature: And what then?
Alchemist: I will try different experiments; and if they fail,
I will go to some other country, and live the same life there.
Nature: And then?
Alchemist: Ha, ha, ha ! There are many countries, and many greedy
persons who will suffer themselves to be gulled by my promises
of mountains of gold. Thus day will follow day, and in the meantime
the King or the donkey will die, or I myself. Nature: Such philosophers
are only fit for the gallows. Be off, and take with you my most
grievous curse. The best thing that you can do, is to give yourself
up to the King's officers, who will quickly put an end to you
and your philosophy!
The Author's Anagram:
Angelus Doce Mihi Jus (Angel, Teach me Right.)
As I am not at liberty to write
more plainly than the Ancient Sages, gentle Reader, you may possibly
be dissatisfied with my Book, particularly as you have so many
other philosophical treatises ready to your hand. But you may
be sure that no necessity is laid upon me to write at all, and
that if I have come forward it is only out of love to you, having
no expectation of personal profit, and no desire for empty glory,
for which reason I here refrain, as I have before done, from revealing
my identity to the public. I was under the impression that in
the first part of this work I had already given a lucid account
of our whole Art. But my friends tell me that there is one point
with which I have not yet fully dealt, and vehemently urge me
to write this second treatise about Sulphur. The question is,
whether even this Book will convey any information to one before
whom the writings of the Sages and the Open Book of Nature are
exhibited in vain. For if you could incline your ear to the teaching
of Nature you would at once be able to emancipate yourself from
the tutelage of printed volumes; in my opinion it is better to
learn from the master himself than from one of the disciples.
In the preface to my twelve Treatises,
and again in the twelfth chapter, I have already hinted at the
reason why there is now so great a multitude of books on this
subject, that they confound and hinder the student instead of
helping him. The confusion is rendered worse confounded by the
ill-will of the Sages, who seem to have set pen to paper for the
express purpose of concealing their meaning; and by the carelessness
with which some of the more important volumes are copied and printed;
the sense of a whole passage is often hopelessly obscured by the
addition or omission of one little word (e.g., the addition of
the word "not" in the wrong place). Yet the student
may get information even from these books (as the bee obtains
honey even from poisonous flowers), if he reads them by the light
of natural fact, and with constant reference to the utterances
of other Sages. One writer explains another. Yet some of them
are so closely beset with the difficulties of an obscure phraseology,
that it is almost impossible to understand them, except by reading
them side by side with the facts of Nature; for their interpreters
and commentators are more hopelessly unintelligible even than
the writers whom they take upon themselves to explain; the exposition
is more difficult than the text. If you would succeed in this
study, keep your eyes fixed on the possibilities of Nature, and
on the properties of the natural substance. It is universally
described as common and easy of access and apprehension, and it
is so, but only to those who know it. He who knows it can discover
it in the dunghill; he who does not will fail to find it even
in gold I have no desire to praise myself, but this one thing
I will say, that the reading of my Books, in combination with
a careful study of Nature, and of the writings of other genuine
possessors of this Stone, must in the end open up to you the understanding
of this secret.
If I have planted another tree
in the dense forest of Alchemistic literature, I have done so,
not in order to obstruct the path of students, but in order to
aid and refresh them by the way. Let not the diligent and God-fearing
enquirer despair. If he seek the inspiration of God he will most
surely find it. This knowledge is more easily obtained of God
than of men. For His mercy is infinite, and He never forsakes
those who put their trust in Him; with Him there is no respect
of persons, nor does He despise the humble and contrite heart.
He has showered the fulness of His mercy even on me, the unworthiest
of all His creatures, in shewing to me His wonderful power and
ineffable goodness, which I am utterly unable to declare. The
only way in which I can, in a small degree, at least prove my
gratitude, is by succouring my struggling brother students with
friendly counsel and assistance. Rest assured, then, gentle Reader,
that He will grant this boon to you, if you wait upon Him day
by day with earnest prayer, and in the power of a holy and loving
life. He will throw open to you the portals of Nature; and you
will be amazed at the simplicity of her operations. Know for certain
that Nature is wonderfully simple; and that the characteristic
mark of a childlike simplicity is stamped upon all that is true
and noble in Nature. If you would imitate Nature, you should take
her simplicity for your model in all the operations of Art.
If my Book does not please you,
throw it away, and take up some other author; it is short, so
that you need not spend much time in reading it through. Only
persevere: to the importunate knocker the door will at length
be opened. The times are at hand when many secrets of Nature will
be revealed to men. The Fourth or Northern Monarchy is about to
be established; the Mother of Knowledge will soon come; and many
things will be brought to light that were hidden under the three
preceding monarchies. This fourth kingdom God will found by the
hand of a prince who will be enriched with all virtues, and endowed
with wisdom greater than that of Solomon. In his time (to adopt
the words of the Psalmist) mercy and truth will meet together;
peace and justice will kiss each other; truth will spring up from
the ground, and righteousness will look down from heaven. There
will be one Shepherd and one fold; and knowledge will be the common
property of all. For those days I, too, am waiting with longing.
Pray to God that it may come soon, gentle Reader. Fear Him, love
Him, and- read carefully the books of His chosen Sages-and you
will soon see, and behold with your own eyes, that I have spoken
The Second Principle SULPHUR is
by no means the least important of the great principles, since
it is a part of the metals and even a principal part of the Philosopher's
Stone. Many Sages have left us weighty sayings about this substance:
for instance, Geber himself ("Sum of Perfection," bk.
I, chap. 28), who says: " It illumines all bodies, since
it is the light of the light, and their tincture." But seeing
that the ancients regarded it as the noblest principle, before
we proceed to speak about it, we must first explain the origin
of the three principles. The origin of the principles is a subject
which has hitherto been but scantily discussed in the works of
the Sages; and the student who knows nothing about it, is as much
in the dark in regard to this matter, as is a blind man in respect
to colour. I therefore propose to make this point which my predecessors
have neglected, the subject of my treatise.
Now, according to the ancient Sages
there are two principles of things, and more particularly of metals,
namely, Sulphur and Mercury; according to the Moderns there are
three: Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury, and the source of these principles
are the elements; of which it therefore behoves us to speak first.
Be it known to the students of this art that there are four elements,
and that each has at its centre another element which makes it
what it is. These are the four pillars of the world. They were
in the beginning evolved and moulded out of chaos by the hand
of the Creator; and it is their contrary action which keeps up
the harmony and equilibrium of the mundane machinery; it is they
which, through the virtue of celestial influences, produce all
things above and beneath the earth. We will say a few words about
each of them in due order of succession: and first of all about
the nearest element, Earth.
Earth is an element of considerable
quality and dignity. In this element the other three, especially
fire, are latent. It is admirably adapted both to the concealment
and to the manifestation of things committed to it. It is gross
and porous. specifically heavy, but naturally light. It is also
the Centre of the World and of the other elements; through its
centre passes the axis of the earth to both poles. It is porous,
as we have said, like a sponge, and produces nothing of itself;
but it receives all that the other three project into it, conscientiously
conceals what it should hide, and brings to light that which it
should manifest. Whatsoever is committed to it putrefies in it
through the action of motive heat, and is multiplied by the separation
of the pure from the impure. Heavy substances are hidden in it.
Light substances are driven by heat to its surface. It is the
nurse and womb of all seed and commixtion; and these seeds and
compounds it faithfully preserves and fosters till the season
of maturity. It is cold and dry, but its dryness is tempered with
water; outwardly it is visible and fixed; inwardly it is invisible
and volatile. It is a virgin substance, and dead residue of the
creative distillation of the world, which God will one day calcine,
and after extracting the humour, create out of it a new crystalline
earth. In its present state it consists of a pure and an impure
The first is used by water for
producing natural forms; the latter remains where it is. It is
also the storehouse of all treasures, and in its centre is the
Gehennal fire, conserving the machine of the world, and this by
the expression of water, which it converts into air. This fire
is produced by perpetual motion, and the influences of the Stars;
it is aided by the Solar heat, which is tempered by the atmosphere,
and the two together mature the growth of all things. For this
reason the element of earth has fire intrinsically, and the earth
is purified by this inward fire, as every element is purified
by that which is in it. The inmost part, or centre of the earth,
is then the highest purity mixed with fire, in which there is
ceaseless motion, and we have shewn at some length in the twelve
Treatises that it is, as it were, an empty space, into which the
other elements project their products. It is enough for us to
remember that this elementary earth is like a sponge, and the
receptacle of all other elements.
Water is an element of great specific
gravity, full of unctuous moisture. Outwardly it is volatile inwardly
it is fixed, cold, and humid It is tempered by air, and is the
sperm of the world, in which the seed of all things is conserved.
There is a great difference between sperm and seed. Earth is the
receptacle of sperm, water the receptacle of seed. Whatever the
air, under the influence of fire, distils into the water, is imparted
by the water to the earth. There is always an abundance of sperm
awaiting seed, in order that it may carry it into the matrix,
which is performed by the movement of the air, excited by the
imagination of fire. Sometimes sperm has not a sufficient quantity
of seed, for want of heat to digest it Sometimes, when there is
no seed, the sperm enters the womb alone, but is ejected again
without producing any fruit. At other times conception does not
take place, even when there is plenty of seed in the sperm, because
the womb is rendered barren by a superfluity of bad sulphur and
malignant phlegm. Water is capable of commixtion with all things,
by means of its volatile surface; it purifies and dissolves earth;
air is congealed in it, and thus intimately united to it. It is
the Solvent of the World, because by the action of heat, it penetrates
the air, and carries with it a warm vapour which causes the natural
generation of those things with which the earth is like a womb
When the womb has once received
a due portion of seed, Nature never rests until the natural form
(whatever it may be) has been produced. The humid residue, or
sperm, is putrefied in the earth by means of warmth, and out of
it worms and other things are generated. An intelligent Artist
will readily understand how great a variety of wonders is performed
by Nature through this element, as a sperm, but the said sperm
must be operated upon, having already within it an imagined astral
seed of a certain weight. For Nature produces pure things by means
of the first putrefaction, but things far purer by means of the
second, as you see in the case of wood, where vegetable fibre
is produced as the result of the first putrefaction, while the
putrefaction of wood engenders worms and insects-natural forms
endowed with sentient life; and it is clear that animate creatures
endowed with sense and motion belong to a higher creative level,
and are moulded of a purer substance than plants.
Water is the menstruum (solvent)
of the world, and exists in three degrees of excellence: the pure,
the purer, and the purest. Of its purest substance the heavens
were created; of that which is less pure the atmospheric air was
formed; that which is simply pure remains in its proper sphere,
where, by the Will of God, and the co-operation of Nature, it
is guardian of all subtle substances here below. It has its centre
in the heart of the sea; its polar axis coincides with that of
the earth, whence flow forth all springs and fountains of water,
which are presently swollen into great rivers. This constant movement
of water preserves the earth from combustion, and distributes
the seeds of things throughout its length and breadth. Yet all
water courses return to the heart of the sea. As to the ultimate
fate of this water opinions are divided. Some say that all water
is generated in the stars, and the sea does not overflow its shores
because the water is consumed by fire as it reaches the heart
of the sea. But this hypothesis is contrary to Nature's methods
of working: Nature produces like out of like -and how can the
stars, which are air and fire, produce water? Moreover, the safety
of this earth depends on the equilibrium of the four elements;
if at any time the total quantity of one element exceeded that
of the others, the universe would relapse into chaos. Hence, if
the stars generated water, they must manifestly produce an equal
quantity not only of air and fire, but also of earth-which is
manifestly absurd. It is much more reasonable to suppose that
the waters are chained down, as it were, to the foundation of
the earth by the circumambient air, and that they are constrained
by it to continue in a ceaseless movement towards the Arctic pole-because
no vacuum is possible in Nature; which is also the reason why
there is a Gehennal fire in the centre of the earth, which is
presided over by the Archeus (the first principle) of Nature.
For in the creation of the world
God first of all separated the quintessence of the elements from
the weltering mass of chaos; and out of it He evolved fire, the
purest of all substances, giving to it the most exalted place
in the universe, and making it, in a special manner, the dwelling-place
of His Sacred Majesty. In the centre of chaos was kindled that
fire which afterwards distilled and carried upward the purest
substance of water But because this most pure fire now occupies
the firmament, and surrounds the throne of God, the waters have
been condensed into a body beneath it; and thus the sky is formed,
while the water which now forms the atmospheric air and the lower
firmament is due to the action of a lower and grosser fire As
the water of the firmament cannot pass the bounds of that highest
and celestial fire, so the lower fire cannot pass through the
atmospheric air to the earth; nor can the air pass the bounds
of this lower fire The water and the earth were formed together
into one organic mass Only one part of this water was volatilized
into air, in order to protect the earth from the fierce and consuming
heat of the sun If there had been a vacuum in the air, all the
water would have evaporated; but as the space below the firmament
is already filled up with air, the great bulk of the water is
kept below, near the centre of the earth, by the pressure of the
air These natural conditions continue to operate day by day, and
through their normal action the world will be preserved from destruction
during the good pleasure of the Creator The central fire is kindled
day by day by the universal motion and influence of the celestial
bodies This fire heats the water and a certain quantity of the
water is dissolved into air; the air day by day keeps down by
its weight the residue of the water, and causes it to form one
mass with the earth And as the equilibrium of the world is thus
naturally preserved by the Creator, so every natural generative
process in the world must repeat the same conditions on a small
scale Thus the elements below act in perfect unison with the elements
above, which God created of a far greater purity and excellence,
and the example of obedience to their influences, which is set
by the whole universe, is imitated on a small scale by the constituent
parts of the world below But let us now proceed to explain the
flux and reflux of water There are two Poles-the Arctic Pole in
the north, and the Antarctic Pole, or the southernmost point of
the earth The Arctic Pole possesses the property of magnetic attraction;
the Antarctic Pole that of magnetic repulsion Thus the Arctic
Pole attracts the waters along its axis, and then they are again
repelled by the Antarctic Pole along its axis; and, as the air
does not permit inequality, they are once more forced back to
their centre, the Arctic Pole In this their continual course from
the Arctic to the Antarctic Pole, they pass through the middle
(i.e., along the axis) of the earth, are diffused through its
pores, and break out here and there as springs and fountains,
which are swollen into rivers, and return to the Point whence
they first flowed forth This universal motion is incessantly proceeding
The waters then, are not generated by the stars and consumed in
the heart of the sea; but they flow forth from the centre of the
sea into the whole earth, and are diffused through all its pores
On this principle the Sages have constructed conduits and aqueducts
since it is well known that water cannot rise higher than the
level of its spring or fount If this were not an actual fact,
art would vainly found its practical conclusions upon it; and
the natural principle involved is illustrated in the process by
means of which wine is drawn out of a cask.
It may be objected to our view
that if the water of our springs were derived from the sea, it
would be salt, and not sweet, as we actually find it to be The
answer to this objection lies in the fact that the sea water,
in its passage through the pores of the earth, gradually deposits
all the salt which it contains, and thus wells forth from the
ground in a sweet and fresh condition It should, however, be remembered
that some of our springs-called mineral or saline springs-actually
do exhibit all the original saltness of the sea water which has
not passed through earth calculated to retain its mineral element
In some places we also meet with hot springs, which are caused
by the passage of the water through certain spots where large
deposits of sulphur have been set afire by the central heat of
the earth; every one who has tasted this water must have observed
its sulphureous flavour Something closely analogous happens when
the water passes through large deposits of iron, or alum! or copper,
and acquires their taste Thus the earth IS a great distilling
vessel, formed by the hand of an all wise Creator, on the model
of which all Sages have constructed their small distilling vessels;
and if it pleased God to extinguish the central fire, or to destroy)
the cunning machinery, this universal frame would relapse into
chaos. At the end of time, He will kindle the Central Fire into
a brighter flame, will cause all the water to evaporate, will
calcine the earth-and thus the earth and the water will be rendered
more subtle and pure, and will form a new and more glorious earth
The operations of the earth and the water are always performed
in combination, and are mutually dependent, since they are the
two tangible elements, in which the other two work invisibly.
Fire keeps the earth from being submerged, or dissolved; air keeps
the fire from being extinguished; water preserves the earth from
combustion. This is what the Sages call the equilibrium of the
elements, and it illustrates the aid which they render to each
other. Fire is closely associated with earth, and air with water.
It will suffice if we remember that elementary water is the sperm
and menstruum of the world, and the receptacle of seed.
The most noble element of air is
inwardly heavy, visible, and fixed, outwardly light, volatile,
and invisible. It is hot and moist, Is tempered by fire, and is
nobler than earth or water. Air is volatile, but may be fixed,
and when fixed, renders all bodies penetrable. Its purest substance
has been formed into the vital spirits of animals, that which
is less pure into the circumambient atmosphere, and the grosser
residue has remained in the water, and associates with it as fire
with its kindred earth. In the air the seed of all things is formed,
as it were, in the body of the male, and is projected by its circulative
motion into its sperm, which is water. It contains the vital spirit
of all creatures, is the life of all, and penetrates and forces
its seed upon all, as the man does upon the woman. It nourishes,
impregnates, conserves the other elements; and we are taught by
daily experience that it is the life not only of minerals, animals,
and vegetables, but also of the other elements. We see that water
becomes foul and unwholesome without a supply of fresh air; without
it fire is extinguished-as is well known to Alchemists who regulate
the temperature of their fire by the supply of air. Air is also
that which conserves the pores of the earth. In short, the whole
universe is kept fresh and sweet by air, and it is the vital element
of man, beast, plant, and stone.
It contains the seed of all things
which is forced up, into vegetables for instance, through the
pores of the earth by the action of fire, and thus the tree is
built up atom by atom out of the vital element of congealed air.
This vital force has remained in it ever since the time when the
Spirit of Life brooded over the waters in the air. The magnetic
power of life which air undoubtedly possesses, was put into it
by God at the Creation. As the magnet attracts to itself hard
steel, and as the Arctic Pole attracts to itself the water, so
the air, by means of the vegetable magnet which is in the seed,
draws to itself the nutriment of the menstruum of the world (which
is water). This power of attracting water is in a certain part
(viz., the 280th part) of all seed. If, then, any one would be
a cunning planter of trees, he should take care to turn the point
of attraction towards the North; for as the Arctic Pole attracts
water, so the vertical point draws to itself the seminal substance.
If you would know what the point of attraction in a tree is, submerge
it entirely in water; that point which always appears first, will
be the point of attraction. In the air, then, is the seed and
the vital spirit, or abode of the soul of every creature.
Fire is the purest and noblest
of all elements, full of adhesive unctuous corrosiveness, penetrant,
digestive, inwardly invisible, fixed, hot and dry, outwardly visible,
and tempered by the earth. Of its purest substance was created
the Throne of the Almighty; of that which is less pure, the Angels;
out of fire of an inferior purity were created the stars and the
heavenly luminaries; that which was less pure still was used to
bear up the heavens; that which is impure and unctuous -- that,
namely, which we have termed the fire of Gehenna -- is in the
centre of the earth, and was there inclosed and shut up to set
this lower world in motion. Though these different fires are separate,
yet they are also joined together by natural sympathy.
This element is the most passive
of all, and resembles a chariot when it is drawn it moves; when
it is not drawn, it stands still. It exists imperceptibly in all
things; and of it is fashioned the vital rational soul, which
distinguishes man from all other animals, and makes him like God.
This rational soul was divinely infused into his vital spirit
by God, and entitles him to be regarded as a microcosm, or small
world by himself. But the fire which surrounds the Throne of God
is of an infinitely pure and simple essence, and this is the reason
that no impure soul can know God, and that no human eye can penetrate
this essential fire, for fire is the death and destruction of
everything composite-and all material substances are of this nature
What I said about the restful passivity of fire, applies in a
certain sense to the eternal calm and unchangeableness of the
Divine Nature. For as the fire sleeps in the flint, until it is
roused and stirred up from without, so the power of God, which
is a consuming fire, is only roused to action by the kindling
breath of His Almighty Will. How calmly and solemnly does not
even an earthly monarch sit enthroned in the pomp and state of
his royalty! His courtiers hardly venture to move, and all around
is calm and still. But when he rises what a stir of motion and
activity does he not cause! All that are about him arise with
him, and presently you see him sweeping along in grand and stately
majesty. Yet the pomp of an earthly prince is but a faint reflex
of the glory of the King of Kings. When He utters the voice of
His Will, all heaven is roused, the world trembles, and thousands
of angels speed forth on His errand. But it may be asked how I
come to have this knowledge about heavenly things which are removed
far beyond human ken. My answer is that the Sages have been taught
of God that this natural world is only an image and material copy
of a heavenly and spiritual pattern: that the very existence of
this world is based upon the reality of its celestial archetype;
and that God has created it in imitation of the spiritual and
invisible universe, in order that men might be the better enabled
to comprehend His heavenly teaching, and the wonders of His absolute
and ineffable power and wisdom. Thus the Sage sees heaven reflected
in Nature as in a mirror . and he pursues this Art, not for the
sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which
it reveals; he jealously conceals it from the sinner and the scornful,
lest the mysteries of heaven should be laid bare to the vulgar
gaze. If you will but rightly consider it, you yourself are an
image of God, and a little picture of the great world.
For a firmament you have the quintessence
of the four elements attracted to the formative womb out of the
chaos of seed, and bounded by your skin; your blood is fire in
which lives your soul, the king of your little universe) acting
through the medium of the vital spirit; your heart is the earth,
where the Central Fire is always at work; our mouth is your Arctic,
and your stomach your Antarctic Pole, and all your members correspond
to some part of the greater world as I have set forth at some
length in my work on the Harmony of the Universe and in the Chapter
on Astronomy. In the microcosm of man's nature the soul is the
deputy or Viceroy of the Creator. It governs the mind, and the
mind governs the body: the mind is conscious of all that is conceived
in the soul, and all the members understand the mind, obey it,
and wait eagerly to carry out its behests. The body knows nothing
of itself; all its motions and desires are caused by the mind;
it is to the mind what the tool is to the craftsman. But though
the rational soul operates in the body, a more important part
of its activity is exerted on things outside the body: it rules
absolutely outside the body, and therein differs from the vital
spirits of brute beasts. In the same way, the Creator of the world
partly acts in and through things belonging to this world, and
is thereby, in a sense, included in this world. But He absolutely
transcends this world by that infinite part of His activity which
lies beyond the bounds of the universe, and which is too high
and glorious for the body of the world. The great difference between
the soul's extracorporal, and God's extramundane, activity, is
that man's rational activity is purely imaginative and mental,
whereas God's thoughts are immediately translated into real existences.
I might be mentally in the streets of Rome, but my journey would
be purely imaginative; God's conceptions are at once objective
essences. God, then, is included in the world, only as the soul
is enclosed in the body, while it has power to do things which
far transcend the capacity of the body. By material relations
such as these you may know God, and learn to distinguish Him from
the material manifestations of His power. When once the gates
of knowledge have been flung wide for you, your understanding
will be enlarged.
We said that fire was the quietest
of all elements, and that it is stirred by a kind of motion well
known to the Sages. The Sage should be perfectly acquainted with
the generation and destruction of all things; he is familiar with
the creation of the heavens, and the composition and commixtion
of things terrestrial; yet, though he knows everything, he cannot
make everything. He knows the anatomy and composition of the human
body-yet he cannot make a man. This is a mystery which the Creator
has kept in His own hand. Nature cannot work till it has been
supplied with a material: the first matter is furnished by God,
the second matter by the Sage. But in the philosophical work Nature
must excite the fire which God has enclosed in the centre of each
thing. The excitation of this fire is performed by the will of
Nature, and sometimes also by the will of a skillful Artist who
can dispose Nature, for fire naturally purifies every species
All composite substances are purified
by fire, as all substances that are not fixed owe their purification
to water It is the property of fire to separate and divide composite
substances; and this separation means a purging away of the impure
from the pure. This element also acts secretly, by marvellous
means, not only in opposition to the rest of the elements, but
also to all other things For as the reasonable soul was made of
this most pure fire, so the vegetable soul was made of the elementary
fire which Nature governs The fire which is contained in the centre
of any given thing acts in the following way Nature provides the
motive power, which stirs up the air; the air stirs up and rouses
the fire, which separates, purges, digests, colours, and brings
every seed to maturity, and expels the matured seed through the
sperm into places or wombs, either pure or impure, more or less
hot, dry, or humid; and according to the nature of the place or
womb, different things are produced (cp. the Twelve Treatises).
So the Most High God has ordained that, in the economy of the
universe, one thing should be at enmity with another, and that
the death of one thing should be the life of the other; that one
thing should consume what another produces, and evolve out of
it some higher and nobler form of life. The elementary separation
of all living things is death; and hence it is necessary for man
to die, as his body is compounded of the four elements, which
cannot hold together for ever. In spite of this fact, our science
furnishes an incontestible proof of man's original immortality.
It is certainly true that all composite substances are liable
to decomposition; that this decomposition, when it takes place
in the animal world, is called death; and that the human body
is a substance compounded of the four elements.
But it is also true that the elements
of Paradise, where man was created, are not subject to this law,
seeing that they arc most sure and incorruptible heavenly essences,
and if man had remained in this pure and celestial region, his
body would have been incapable of natural decay. Adam, however,
in an evil day for our race, disobeyed his Creator, and straightway
was driven forth to the beasts, into the world of corruptible
elements which God had created for the beasts only. From that
day forward his food was derived from perishable substances, and
death began to work in his members. The pure elements of his creation
were gradually mingled and infected with the corruptible elements
of the outer world, and thus his body became more and more gross,
and liable, through its grossness, to natural decay and death.
The process of degeneration was, of course, slow in the case of
Adam and his first descendants; but, as time went on, the seed
out of which men were generated became more and more infected
with perishable elements. The continued use of corruptible food
rendered their bodies more and more gross-and human life was soon
shortened to a very brief span indeed. In some favoured climes,
where men eat and drink moderately, they still sometimes live
to a green old age; but in our latitudes men abridge the term
of their natural existence by grossly filling themselves with
an excess of elementary corruptible food, and thus, before their
time, become like "the beasts that perish." When the
pure and essential elements are joined together in loving equilibrium,
as they are in our Stone, they are inseparable and immortal, like
the human body in Paradise; whence also our philosophical treasure
has been compared to the creation of man, an analogy which modern
wise men, who take ail things literally, have understood as referring
to the corrupted generation of this present order, which is produced
from corruptible elements.
It was the recollection of man's
immortality in Paradise that first set Sages a-thinking whether
those pure and essential elements might not be obtained in this
world, and united in one body. At length a merciful Creator made
known to them that the desired conjunction of such elements existed
in gold. It could not be found among the animals who are sustained
by corruptible food, nor in vegetables, because they exhibit the
elements in a state of inequality and contention. When corruptible
elements are united in a certain subject, their strife must sooner
or later bring about its decomposition, which is, of course, followed
by putrefaction; in putrefaction, the impure is separated from
the pure: and if the pure elements are then once more joined together
by the action of natural heat, a much nobler and higher form of
life is produced. In the strife of the elements, which follows
when a body has been broken up by the victory of water, earth
and air unite with fire, and together they overcome the water,
digest, cook, and ultimately congeal it-which is the beginning
of a new life. For if the hidden central fire, which during life
was in a state of passivity, obtain the mastery, it attracts to
itself all the pure elements, which are thus separated from the
impure, and form the nucleus of a far purer form of life. It is
thus that our Sages are able to produce immortal things, particularly
by decomposition of minerals; and you see that the whole process,
from beginning to end, is the work of fire.
Thus, then, we have briefly set
forth as much as will serve our purpose concerning the four elements.
Truly the description of each might be extended into a large volume,
but we postpone all amplification for our Treatise on Harmony,
which, God helping, if our life be spared, will be opportune to
a more large discourse upon natural things.
the Three Principles of All Things
The three Principles of things
are produced out of the four elements in the following manner:
Nature, whose power is in her obedience to the Will of God, ordained
from the very beginning, that the four elements should incessantly
act on one another, so, in obedience to her behest, fire began
to act on air, and produced Sulphur; air acted on water and produced
Mercury; water, by its action on earth, produced Salt. Earth,
alone, having nothing to act upon, did not produce anything, but
became the nurse, or womb, of these three Principles. We designedly
speak of three Principles; for though the Ancients mention only
two, it is clear that they omitted the third (Salt), not from
ignorance, but from a desire to lead the uninitiated astray. Whoever
would be a student of this sacred science must know the marks
whereby these three Principles are to be recognised, and also
the process by which they are developed. For as the three Principles
are produced out of four, so they, in their turn, must produce
two, a male and a female; and these two must produce an incorruptible
one, in which are exhibited the four (elements) in a highly purified
and digested condition, and with their mutual strife hushed in
unending peace and goodwill. In every natural composition these
three represent the body, the spirit, and the hidden soul; and
if, after purging them well, you join them together they must,
by a natural process, result in a most pure substance. For though
the soul is most noble, yet it cannot reach the goal without the
spirit which is its place and abode; and if it is your desire
to bring it back to a given place. both the soul and the place
must be purged and washed from all impurity, so that the soul
may dwell in glory, and nevermore depart. Without these three
Principles, the Artist can do nothing, since even Nature is powerless
without them. They are in all things, and without them there is
nothing in the world, neither, indeed, can be. Their origin being
such as we have described, it is from these, by an imitation of
Nature, that you must produce the Mercury of the Philosophers,
and their first matter, bearing in mind the laws which govern
natural things, and especially metals. Do not think that Salt
is unimportant because it is omitted by the Ancients; they could
not do without it, even if they did not name it, seeing that it
is the Key which opens the infernal prison house, where sulphur
lies in bonds. The three Principles are necessary because they
are the immediate substance of metals. The remoter substance of
metals is the four elements, but no one can produce anything out
of them but God; and even God makes nothing of them but these
three Principles Why, then, should the Sage lose time and labour
over the four cements, when he has the substance made ready to
his hand by Nature ? It is surely less troublesome to go three
miles than four, and as these three Principles exist in all things.
and, according to their proportions, etc., produce either metals,
or plants or animals, it is best to use them as our first substance.
The body is earth, the spirit water, the soul fire or sulphur
of gold. The Spirit augments the quantity of the body, the soul
the virtue. But because in the matter of weight there is more
of spirit than of fire, the spirit is uplifted, oppresses the
fire, and attracts it to itself in such a way that both augment
in virtue, and the earth, which is mediate between them, augments
The Artist should determine which
of the three Principles he is seeking and should assist it so
that it may overcome its contrary. Afterwards he must seek by
his skill to supplement what has been wanting in Nature and thus
his chosen Principle will obtain the necessary victory. The element
of earth is nothing but a receptacle, in which fire and air carry
on their strife through the mediation of air. If water predominate,
temporal and corruptible things are produced; if fire obtains
the victory, it produces lasting and incorruptible things. So
you know which of the elements ought to receive your aid. Moreover,
though fire and water are in all things, they can produce nothing
without air and earth. Their activity is aroused by external heat
(in Nature, the Central Fire of the earth), and in their struggle
they are assisted each by that which is like to it. By this strife
they are subtilized in the pores of the earth, and when they ascend
to the surface they produce flowers and fruit, in which they closely
associate together as friends; and the more they are subtilized
and purified in their ascent, the more excellent are the fruits
which they produce.
When the purification has thus
been performed, let water and fire become friends, which they
will readily do in their earth which ascends with them; and the
process will be the more speedily and perfectly accomplished,
if you combine the two in their proper proportions-thus improving
upon Nature In all natural compounds fire is always the smallest
part; but it is aided and stirred up by the action of outward
fire; and according as fire is overcome or obtains the mastery.
imperfect or perfect things are the result. The outward fire does
not enter into the composition as an essential part of it, but
only by the effect which it helps to produce. The inward fire
is sufficient, if it only receive nutriment from the outward fire,
which feeds it as wood feeds elemental fire; in proportion to
the quantity of nutriment the inward fire grows and multiplies.
Care should be taken, therefore) that the outward fire is not
so fierce as to devour instead of feeding, the inward fire. Gentle
coction will be the best means of attaining perfection, and of
adding excellence to weight But as it is difficult to add to a
compound substance, I would advise rather to produce the same
effect by removing that which is present in an excessive quantity.
Remove that which is too much, and let the compound develop itself
naturally. But many artists sow straw instead of grain; others
sow both; many throw away that which the Sages love; others begin
and do not persevere to the end; they look for short and easy
labour in a difficult Art. But we say that this Art consists in
an even mingling of the virtues of the elements-in the natural
equilibrium of the hot, the dry, the cold, and the moist-in the
conjunction of the male and female, the female having engendered
the male, i.e., of fire and the radical humour of the metals.
If you understand that the Mercury of the Sages contains within
itself its own good Sulphur, digested and matured by Nature, you
can accomplish the whole process by means of Mercury alone; but
if you know how to add the supplement which our Art requires to
the natural proportions of substances, to double the Mercury,
and to triple the Sulphur, you will all the more quickly produce,
first the good, then the better, and finally the best-though only
one sulphur appears, and two mercuries (which, are, however, of
the same stock); they should not be crude nor too much digested,
yet well purged and dissolved (if you understand me).
It is really unnecessary to describe
the matter of the Mercury and the Sulphur of the Sages, as it
has already been as plainly delineated by the Ancients as is consistent
with our vow. We do not altogether say that the Mercury of the
Philosophers is a common thing, or that they have openly called
it by its name, and that the matter from which Mercury and Sulphur
are philosophically extracted has been plainly pointed out. For
the Mercury itself is not found above ground, but is extracted
by an artifice from Sulphur and Mercury conjoined, in short, Sulphur
and Mercury are the ore of our quicksilver, and this quicksilver
has power to dissolve, mortify, and revive metals, which power
it has received from the sulphur (which has Some of the properties
of an acid). In order to put you on the right track, I will also
tell you the difference between our quicksilver and common mercury.
Common mercury does not dissolve gold and silver so as to amalgamate
with them; but when our quicksilver dissolves gold and silver,
it almagamates with them in inseparable union, as water is mixed
with water. Common mercury has bad combustible sulphur, which
turns it black; our quicksilver contains incombustible, fixed,
good, snow-white and red sulphur. Common mercury is cold and humid;
our quicksilver is hot and humid. Common mercury blackens other
bodies; our quicksilver renders them white and pure as crystal.
Common mercury is changed by precipitation into a yellow powder
and bad sulphur; our quicksilver is converted by heat into snow-white,
good, fixed, and fusible sulphur. Common mercury becomes more
fusible, our quicksilver more fixed, the more it is subjected
to coction. Our quicksilver possesses such marvellous virtue that
it would by itself be sufficient for our purpose, if subjected
to gentle coction; but in order to accelerate its congelation,
the Sages add to it its well digested and matured sulphur.
We might well have cited philosophers
in confirmation of the points of our discourse, but as our writings
are more clear than are theirs, we have no need of their support.
Whosoever understands them will understand us better. If you would
practise our Art, learn first to hold your tongue, and study the
nature of minerals, metals, and vegetables. Our Mercury may be
obtained from all things, as everything has it; only from some
substances it is more easily procured than from others. Our Art
is not a matter of luck or accident, but is founded on a real
knowledge, and there is only one matter in the world by which,
and of which, the Stone of the Philosophers is prepared. The substance
is indeed to be found everywhere, but the method of its extraction
out of some matters would take a lifetime, and if you begin your
search without a due knowledge of natural things, more especially
in minerals, you will be working in the dark and in blindness.
It is, indeed, possible to set about our Art in a casual manner;
and some who actually operate on our quicksilver, begin at the
wrong end, and thus fail in bringing it to perfection, because
they are quite in the dark about its real nature. Yet after all,
we must confess that a right knowledge of our Art is the gift
of God alone, and is granted to diligent students in answer to
earnest and importunate prayer. To the Master it may appear easy
enough; but to the beginner it must seem at first very hard and
uphill work. He should not, however, despair, for in due time
he will receive the reward of his diligence and aspiration; even
in the dangers which the knowledge may bring upon him, he will
be kept from harm by the loving hand of Providence, as I can testify
from personal experience. We have with us God's Ark of the Covenant,
which contains the most precious of earthly things, and is guarded
by the holy Angel of the Lord. We heard that our enemies had fallen
into the snare which they had laid for us; that those who sought
our lives had been enclosed in the meshes of death; that those
w ho attempted to rob us of our goods had lost all that they possessed;
and that those who strove to blacken our reputation, died in shame
and dishonour. Such is the care which God has of us, Who, from
our childhood, has kept us safe under the shadow of His wings.
And the feeling uppermost in our minds is the humbling consciousness
of our utter unworthiness: we do not deserve the very least of
His great mercies. But one thing we do and will] do: our hope
and trust always have been, are, and will be, in Him alone. We
will not put our confidence in men or in princes: we will place
ourselves in the hands of One who remains unchanged when all earthly
power and greatness have passed away.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning
of wisdom: never did Sage utter truer word than this; and if we
would attain to the knowledge of this glorious science, if we
would be able to use it well when we possess it, we must wait
on God continually. and importune Him with earnest prayer. But
to proceed with our description of the Matter. We said that it
was quicksilver, and quicksilver only: whatever is added, is gained
from this same substance. We have repeatedly affirmed that all
things earthly are evolved out of three principles. But for our
purpose they must be purged of their impurities, and then recombined;
that which is wanting is added-and thus imitating and assisting
Nature we arrive at a degree of perfection such as Nature is unable
to attain, on account of the impurities with which her operations
are clogged. Do not suffer yourself to be confounded by the apparent
contradictions which the Sages have introduced into their writings
for the purpose of keeping their secret. Select only those sayings
which are agreeable to Nature; take the roses, leave the thorns.
If you wish to produce a metal, your fundamental substance should
be metallic; only a dog can beget a dog; without wheat you will
vainly plough your field; and all your endeavours in this Art
will be in vain, unless you take your radical humour from a metal.
There is one substance, one Art, one operation It is as erroneous
to suppose that any of the particular benefits of our Stone can
be enjoyed before the Stone itself has been prepared, as it would
be absurd to imagine that you can have a branch without a root
or tree. If you have water you can cook in it various kinds of
meat, and thus obtain broth of different flavours; but there will
be no broth unless you have both the water and the meat In metals,
then, as in all other things, there is only one first substance,
but the universal substance is modified in a vast variety of ways,
according to the course of its subsequent development. Thus one
thing is the mother of all things. This great fact ought always
to be borne in mind in studying the works of the Sages; for nothing
but mistakes and disappointment can result from a slavishly literal
interpretation of their books. It is a pity that, instead of humbly
studying and following Nature our Alchemists are so ready to adopt
any fancy or notion that happens to pass through their minds.
They seek to attain the end not only without a middle part, but
without so much as a beginning. But how can anyone who sets about
our Art in so casual and haphazard a manner expect anything but
disappointments? Let our Alchemists have done, then, once for
all, with their sophistical methods, to which they ascribe so
great an importance-with their dealbations, rubrefactions, fixations
of the Moon, extractions of the soul of gold,-and let them place
themselves under the unerring guidance of Nature For though the
soul of the metal has to be extracted, it must not be killed in
the operation; and the extraction of the living soul, which has
to be reunited to the glorified body, must be carried on in a
way very different from the violent method commonly prevailing
among Alchemists. Wed not propose to multiply wheat without seed
corn. But let us, in concluding this part of the subject, earnestly
inculcate on the student's mind the necessity of having seed that
will germinate and grow, and to avoid the use of seed which has
been killed by an excess of fiery heat.
Among the three principles the
Sages have justly assigned the first place to Sulphur, as the
whole Art is concerned with the manner of its preparation. Sulphur
is of three chief kinds: that which tinges or colours; that which
congeals mercury and essential sulphur, which matures it. The
properties and preparation of this Sulphur we propose to describe,
not in a set treatise, but in a dialogue like that which brought
out the essential properties of Mercury. We will only say, by
way of preface, that Sulphur is more mature than the other principles,
and that Mercury cannot be coagulated without it. The aim and
object of our Art is to elicit from metals that Sulphur by means
of which the Mercury of the Sages is, in the veins of the earth,
congealed into silver and gold; in this operation the Sulphur
acts the part of the male, and our Mercury that of the female.
Of the composition and action of these two are engendered the
Mercuries of the Philosophers.
In our former dialogue we gave
an account of the meeting of Alchemists, which a sudden tempest
brought to so abrupt a close Among those who took a prominent
part in the proceedings, was a good friend of the first Alchemist;
he was not a bad man, or an impostor, but, as they say, nobody's
enemy except his own; yet he was foolish withal, and though really
very ignorant, had no small opinion of his own wisdom and learning.
He had at the meeting been the foremost champion of the claims
of Sulphur to be-regarded as the first substance of the Stone,
and was satisfied that he would have been able to make good that
claim, if the meeting had not been prematurely broken up. So when
he got home he resumed his operations on Sulphur in a very confident
spirit. He subjected it to distillation, sublimation, calcination,
fixation, and to countless other chemical processes, in which
he spent much time and money. without arriving at any result whatsoever.
His failures at length began to prey on his health and spirits,
and in order to recruit the former, and raise the latter, he fell
into the habit of taking long walks in the neighbourhood of the
town where he lived. But wherever he went he could think of nothing
but Sulphur. One day, with his mind full of this besetting idea,
and being wrought almost to an ecstacy he entered a certain verdant
grove, in which there was abundance not only of trees, herbs,
and fruits, but also of animals, birds, minerals, and metals.
Of water there was indeed a great scarcity; it was carried to
the place by means of aqueducts, and among these was a conduit
flowing with water extracted from the rays of the moon ; -- but
this water was reserved for the use of the Nymph of the grove.
In the grove there were two young men tending oxen and rams, and
from them he learned that the grove belonged to the Nymph Venus.
The Alchemist was gratified enough, but all his thoughts were
absorbed by the subject of Sulphur, and when he remembered the
words of the Sages, who say that the substance is vile and common,
and its treatment easy, when he recollected the vast amount of
time, labour, and money which he had vainly spent upon it, he
lifted up his voice and in the bitterness of his heart, cursed
Sulphur. Now Sulphur was in that grove, though the Alchemist did
not know it. But suddenly he heard a voice which said: "my
friend why do you curse Sulphur? "
He looked up in bewilderment nobody
was to be seen. "My friend, why are you so sad?" continued
Alchemist: Master, I seek the Philosopher's
Stone as one that hungers after bread.
Voice: And why thus do you curse Sulphur?
Alchemist: My Lord, the Sages call it the substance of the Stone;
yet I have spent all my time and labour in vain upon it, and am
well nigh reduced to despair.
Voice: It is true that Sulphur is the true and chief substance
of the Stone. Yet you curse it unjustly. For it lies heavily chained
in a dark prison and cannot do as it would. Its hands and feet
have been bound, and the doors of the dungeon closed upon it,
at the bidding of its mother, Nature, who was angry with it for
too readily obeying the summons of every Alchemist. It is now
confined in such a perfect labyrinth of a prison, that it can
be set free only by those Sages to whom Nature herself has entrusted
Alchemist: Ah! miserable that I am, this is why he was unable
to come to me! How very hard and unkind of the mother! When is
he to be set at large again?
Voice: That can only be by means of hard and persevering labour.
Alchemist: Who are his gaolers?
Voice: They are of his own kindred, but grievous tyrants.
Alchemist: And who are you?
Voice: I am the judge and the chief gaoler, and my name is Saturn.
Alchemist: Then Sulphur is detained in your prison?
Voice: Yes; but I am not his keeper.
Alchemist: What does he do in prison?
Voice: Whatever his gaolers command.
Alchemist: And what can he do?
Voice: He can perform a thousand things, and is the heart of all.
He can perfect metals and minerals, impart understanding to animals,
produce flowers in herbs and trees, corrupt and perfect air; in
short, he produces all the odours and paints all the colours in
Alchemist: Of what substance does he make the flowers?
Voice: His guards furnish him with vessels and matter; Sulphur
digests it; and according to the diversity of the digestion, and
the weight of the matter, he produces choice flowers, having their
Alchemist: Master, is he old?
Voice: Know, friend, that Sulphur is the virtue of the world,
and though Nature's second-born-yet the oldest of all things.
To those who know him, however, he is as obedient as a little
child. He is most easily recognised by the vital spirit in animals,
the colour in metals, the odour in plants. Without his help his
mother can do nothing.
Alchemist: Is he the sole heir, or has he any brothers?
Voice: He has some brothers who are quite unworthy of him; and
a sister that he loves, and who is to him as a mother.
Alchemist: Is he always the same?
Voice: As to his nature, it is always the same. But in person
his heart only is pure: his garments are spotted.
Alchemist: Master, was he ever quite free?
Voice: Yes; in the days of the great Masters and Sages whom Nature
loved, and to whom she gave the keys of the prison.
Alchemist: Who were these wise adepts?
Voice: There have been very many, and among them Hermes, who was
one and the same with the mother of Sulphur. After him there were
kings, princes, a long line of Sages, including Aristotle and
Avicenna. All these delivered Sulphur from his bonds.
Alchemist: What does he give to them for delivering him?
Voice: When he is set free, he binds his gaolers, and gives their
three kingdoms to his deliverer. He also gives to him a magic
mirror, in which the three parts of the wisdom of the whole world
may be seen and known at a glance: and this mirror clearly exhibits
the creation of the world, the influences of the celestial virtues
on earthly things, and the way in which Nature composes substances
by the regulation of heat. With its aid, men may at once understand
the motion of the Sun and Moon, and that universal movement by
which Nature herself is governed-also the various degrees of heat,
cold, moisture, and dryness, and the virtues of herbs and of all
other things. By its means the physician may at once, without
consulting an herbarium, tell the exact composition of any given
plant or medicinal herb. But now-a-days men are content to trust
to the authority of great writers, and no longer attempt to use
their own eyes. They quote Aristotle and Galen, as if there was
not much more to be learned from the great Book of Nature which
is spread open before them. Know that all things on the earth
and under the earth are engendered and produced by the three principles,
but sometimes by two, unto which the third, nevertheless, adheres.
He who knows these three principles, and their proportions as
conjoined by Nature, can tell easily by their greater or less
coction, the degrees of heat in each subject, and whether they
have been well, badly, or passably cooked. For those who know
the three principles know also all vegetables by sight, taste,
and odour, for these senses determine the three principles, and
the degree of their decoction.
Alchemist: Master, they say that Sulphur is a Medicine.
Voice: Nay, you might rather call him a physician, and to him
who delivers him out of prison, he gives his blood as a Medicine.
Alchemist: How long can a man ward off death by means of this
Voice: Until the time originally appointed. But many Sages who
did not take it with proper caution, have died before that time.
Alchemist: Do you call it a poison then?
Voice: Have you not observed that a great flame swallows up a
small one? Men who had received the Art by the teachings of others,
thought that the more powerful the dose they took of our Medicine
the more beneficial would be the effect. They did not consider
that one grain of it has strength to penetrate many thousand pounds
Alchemist: How then should they have used it?
Voice: They ought to have taken only so much as would have strengthened
and nourished, without overwhelming, their natural heat.
Alchemist: Master, I know how to make that Medicine.
Voice: Blessed are you if you do! For the blood of Sulphur is
that inward virtue and dryness which congeals quicksilver into
gold and imparts health and perfection to all bodies. But the
blood of Sulphur is obtained only by those who can deliver him
from prison; and therefore he is so closely imprisoned that he
can hardly breathe, lest he should come to the Palace of the King.
Alchemist: Is he so closely imprisoned in all metals?
Voice: In some his imprisonment is less strict than in others.
Alchemist: Why, Lord, is he imprisoned in the metals so tyrannously?
Voice: Because if he once came unto his royal palace, he would
no longer fear his guards. He could look from the windows with
freedom, and appear before the whole world, for he would be in
his own kingdom, though not in that state of highest power whereto
he desires to arrive. Alchemist: What is his food?
Voice: His food is air, in a digested state, when he is free;
but in prison he is compelled to consume it in a crude state.
Alchemist: Master, cannot those quarrels between him and his gaolers
Voice: Yes, by a wise and cunning craftsman.
Alchemist: Why does he not offer them terms of peace?
Voice: He cannot do so by himself: his indignation gets the better
of his discretion.
Alchemist: Why does he not do so through some commissary?
Voice: He who could put an end to their strife would be a wise
man, and worthy of undying honour. For if they were friends, they
would help, instead of hindering each other, and bring forth immortal
Alchemist: I will gladly undertake the duty of reconciling them.
For I am a very learned man, and they could not resist my practical
skill. I am a great Sage, and my Alchemistic treatment would quickly
bring about the desired end. But tell me, is this the true Sulphur
of the Sages ?
Voice: He is Sulphur; you ought to know whether he is the Sulphur
of the Sages.
Alchemist: If I find his prison, shall I be able to deliver him?
Voice: Yes, if you are wise enough to do so. It is easier to deliver
him than to find his prison.
Alchemist: When I do find him, shall I be able to make him into
the Philosopher's Stone ?
Voice: I am no prophet. But if you follow his mother's advice,
and dissolve the Sulphur you will have the Stone.
Alchemist: In what substance is this Sulphur to be found ?
Voice: In all substances. All things in the world -- metals, herbs,
trees, animals, stones, are its ore.
Alchemist: But out of what sub stances do the Sages procure it?
Voice: My friend, you press me somewhat too closely. But I may
say that though it is every where, yet it has certain palaces
where the Sages can most conveniently find it; and they worship
it when it swims in its sea and sports with Vulcan (god of fire),
though there it is disguised in a most poor garb. Now is it in
a dark prison, hidden from sight. But it is one only subject,
and if you cannot find it at home you will scarcely do so in the
forest. Yet, to give you some heart in your research, I will solemnly
assure you that it is most perfect in gold and silver-most easily
obtained in quicksilver.
With these words Saturn departed,
and the Alchemist, being weary with walking, fell into a deep
sleep, in which he saw the following vision: He beheld in that
grove a spring of water, near which Salt and Sulphur were walking
and quarreling, until at last they began to fight. Salt dealt
Sulphur a grevious wound, out of which there flowed, instead of
blood, pure, milk-white water, that swelled into a great river.
In this river the virgin goddess, Diana, came to bathe; and a
certain bold prince, who was passing by, was inflamed with great
love towards her; which she, perceiving and returning, pretended
to be sinking under water. The prince bade his attendants assist
her; but they excused themselves, saying that the river, though
it looked small and all but dried up, was most dangerous. "
And," said they, ' many of those who have passed here before
have perished in it." Then that prince threw off his thick
cloak, plunged into the river, and stretched out his arm to save
the beautiful Diana; but she grasped it so convulsively that they
both sank under water together. Soon afterwards their souls were
seen rising upward above the water, and they said, " We have
done well, for in no other way could we be delivered from our
stained and spotted bodies."
Alchemist: (speaking): Will you
ever return into those bodies?
Souls: Not while they are so polluted-but when they are cleansed,
and the river is dried up by the heat of the sun.
Alchemist: What do you do in the meantime?
Souls: We soar above the water till the storm and the mists cease....
Then the Alchemist thought that he saw a great number of his fellows
come to the spot where the body of the Sulphur lay slain by the
Salt; and they divided it among themselves, and gave a piece to
him also. Then they went home, and began to operate on their (dead)
Sulphur, and are at it to this day. Presently Saturn returned,
and the Alchemist said: Master, come quickly, I have found Sulphur
-- help me to make the Stone.
Saturn: Gladly, my friend. Prepare the quicksilver, and the sulphur,
and give me the vessel.
Alchemist: Oh, I do not want Mercury. It is a delusion and a snare,
as my friend the other Alchemist discovered to his smart.
Saturn: I can do nothing without quicksilver.
Alchemist: Oh no, we will make it of Sulphur only.
So they set to work on that piece
of dead Sulphur, and sublimed, calcined, and subjected it to all
manner of chemical operations. But they produced nothing save
little bits of sulphurous tow, such as they use for lighting fires.
Then the Alchemist confessed the fruitlessness of his endeavours,
and bade Saturn set about the work in his own way. Then Saturn
took two kinds of quicksilver, of different substance but one
root, washed them with his urine, and called them the sulphurs
of sulphurs; then he mixed the fixed with the volatile, after
which he placed them in a proper vessel, and set a watch to prevent
the sulphur from escaping; afterwards he placed them in a bath
of very gentle heat -- and thus they made the Philosopher's Stone,
which must always follow as the outcome of the right substance.
Then the Alchemist took it in his hand, admired its beautiful
purple colour, and danced about with it, shouting aloud with joy
and delight. Suddenly the glass slipped out of his hand and broke
into a thousand pieces; the stone vanished; and the Alchemist
awoke with nothing in his hand but some pieces of sulphurous tow.
There are a good many Alchemists who, having an extremely favourable
opinion of themselves, and fancying that they can hear the grass
grow, rail against this Art, because they think that if the Stone
were not a mere delusion, they could not have failed to find it.
We, for our part, are not over anxious to rob these people of
their comfortable conviction. But to men who were worthy (men
both of high and low degree) we have repeatedly proved the reality
of our Art by incontestable ocular evidence. Let me warn those
who wish to follow the true method in studying our Art, airways
to read with constant reference to natural facts, and never, under
any circumstances, to do anything contrary to Nature If the Sages
say that fire does not burn, they must not believe it; for Nature
is greater than the Sages; but if they say that it is the property
of fire to dry and heat things, they will accept this statement,
because it is in accordance with the truth of Nature --- and the
facts of Nature are always simple and plain. If any one came and
taught you to make this Stone, as though he were giving you a
receipt for making cheese out of milk, he might speak more plainly
than I have done; but I am compelled to veil and conceal my meaning
because of the vow which my Master exacted of me.
My last words shall be addressed
to you who have already made some progress in this Art. Have you
been where the bridegroom has been married to the bride, and the
nuptials were celebrated in the house of Nature? Have you heard
how the vulgar have seen this Sulphur, as much as have you who
have taken such pains to seek it? If you wish that even old women
should practise your philosophy, shew the dealbation of these
sulphurs, and say openly to the common people: Behold, the water
is divided, and the Sulphur has gone forth; when it returns it
will be whiter than snow, and will congeal the water. Burn the
Sulphur with incombustible sulphur, wash it, and make it white
and purple until the Sulphur becomes Mercury, and the Mercury
Sulphur, and you can proceed to quicken it with the soul of gold.
Our Mercury must be corrected by means of Sulphur-otherwise it
is unprofitable. A prince without a people is a wretched sight-and
so is an Alchemist without Sulphur and Mercury. If you understand
me, I have spoken.
The Alchemist went home, bewailed
the broken Stone, and his folly in not asking Saturn about the
Salt of the Sages, and the way of distinguishing between it and
ordinary salt. The rest he related to his wife.
Conclusion Every student of this
Art should first carefully read what is said-in this and other
Treatises -- about the creation, operation, properties, and effects
of the four elements; otherwise he cannot apprehend the nature
of the three principles, or find the substance of the Stone, or
understand its development. God has created the elements out of
chaos; nature has evolved the three principles out of the elements;
and out of these principles she makes all things, and gives power
to her beloved disciples to produce marvelous preparations. If
Nature produces metals out of the principles, Art must follow
her example. It is one of the rules of Nature to act through intermediate
substances; and this book should enable the student to judge what
substances are intermediate between the elements and metals, and
between meals and the Stone. The difference between gold and water
is great, that between water and mercury not so great, and that
between gold and mercury very small, for mercury is the habitation
of gold, water the habitation of mercury, and sulphur is that
which coagulates mercury. The whole arcanum lies hidden in the
Sulphur of the Sages, which is also contained its the inmost part
of their Mercury, which has to be prepared in a certain way that
shall be described on another occasion.
I have not written this Treatise
with the object of refuting the ancient Sages, but only for the
purpose of correcting, explaining, and supplementing their statements.
After all, they were only men and they sometimes did make assertions
which can now no longer be maintained. For instance, when Albertus
Magnus says that gold was once found to have developed in the
teeth of a dead man, he is out of harmony with the possibilities
of Nature; for an animal substance can never develop into a mineral.
It is true that animals and vegetables contain sulphur and mercury,
as well as minerals; but these principles are animal and vegetable,
not mineral. If there were no animal sulphur in man, the mercury
of his blood could not be congealed into flesh and bones; and
if plants contained no vegetable sulphur, their mercury or water
(sap) would not be congealed into leaves and flowers. The three
kinds of sulphur are essentially the same, but, like the three
mercuries, they are differentiated according to the three kingdoms,
and cannot act outside their own kingdoms. Each kind of mercury
can be coagulated by none but its own sulphur, and if gold was
found in the teeth of a dead man it must have been introduced
in an artificial manner-either as gold, or in the shape of some
other metal which by the gradual action of its own metallic sulphur
on its metallic mercury, was afterwards transmuted into gold.
It is mistaken impressions and superstitious notions, like this
one of Albertus Magnus, that we have set ourselves to correct
in this Treatise, by stating once for all the true facts of animal,
vegetable, and mineral development.
painstaking student be satisfied to have received a true account
of the origin of the Three Principles. There is no greater help
towards a successful end than a good beginning. I have in this
Treatise started the student on the right road, and given him
clear and practical directions. With God's blessing, and by dint
of diligent and persevering study, he may now fairly hope to reach
the glorious goal. But I, having told out all that is lawful for
me to utter, now commit myself to the mercy of a loving Creator,
who will receive me to Himself; and I commend the gentle and pious
Reader to the same great Father of All, to whom be praise and
glory, through the endless succession of the ages.