The Golden Treatise of Hermes Trismegistus concerning the Physical Secret of the Philosopher's Stone, in Seven Sections


The Golden Treatise of Hermes Trismegistus, concerning the Physical Secret of the Philosopher's Stone. In seven Sections.

Even thus saith Hermes: I have not ceased to experiment, neither have I spared any labour of mind; and this science and art I have obtained by the inspiration of the living God alone, who judged fit to open them to me His servant.1) To those enabled by reason to judge of truth He has given power to arbitrate, but to none occasion of delinquency.2)

For myself, I had never discovered this matter to any one, had it not been from fear of the day of judgment, and the perdition of my soul, if I {105} concealed it. It is a debt which I am desirous to discharge to the faithful, as the Author of our faith did deign to bestow it upon me.3)

Understand ye then, O sons of Wisdom, that the knowledge of the four elements of the ancient philosophers was not corporally or imprudently sought after, which are through patience to be discovered according to their causes and their occult operation. For their operation is occult, since nothing is done except it be compounded, and because it is not perfected unless the colours be throughly passed and accomplished.4)

Know, then, that the division that was made upon the Water, by the ancient philosophers, separates it into four substances; one to two, and three to one; the one third part of which is colour, that is to say—a coagulating moisture; {106} but the two third waters are the Weights of the Wise.5)

Take of the humidity an ounce and a half, and of the Meridian Redness, that is the soul of gold, a fourth part, that is to say, half an ounce; of the citrine Seyre, in like manner, half an ounce; of the Auripigment, half—which are eight—that is three ounces; and know ye that the vine of the wise is drawn forth in three, and the wine thereof is perfected in thirty.6) {107}

Understand the operation, therefore, decoction lessens the matter, but the tincture augments it because Luna after fifteen days is diminished; and in the third, she is augmented. This is the beginning and the end.7)

Behold, I have declared that which had been concealed, since the work is both with you and about you; taking what is within and fixed, thou canst have it either in earth or sea.8) {108}

Keep, therefore, thy Argent vive, which is prepared in the innermost chamber in which it is coagulated; for that is Mercury which is spoken of concerning the residual earth.9)

He therefore, who now hears my words, let him search into them; I have discovered all things that were before hidden concerning this knowledge, and disclosed the greatest of all secrets.10)

Know ye, therefore, Enquirers into the rumour, and Children of Wisdom, that the vulture standing upon the mountain crieth out with a loud voice, I am the White of the Black, and the Red of the {109} White, and the Citrine of the Bed ; and I speak the very truth.11)

And know that the chief principle of the art is the Crow, which in the blackness of the night and clearness of the day, flies without wings. From the bitterness existing in the throat, the tincture is taken; the red goes forth from his body, and from his back is taken a pure water.12)

Understand, therefore, and accept this gift of God. In the caverns of the metals there is hidden the Stone that is venerable, splendid in colour, a mind sublime, and an open sea. Behold I have declared it unto thee; give thanks to God, {110} who hath taught you this knowledge; for He loves the grateful.13)

Put the matter into a moist fire, therefore, and cause it to boil, in order that its heat may be augmented, which destroys the siccity of the incombustible nature, until the radix may appear; then extract the redness and the light part, till the third part remains.14)

Sons of the Sages! For this reason are philosophers said to be envious; not that they grudge the truth to religious or just men, or to the wise; {111} but to the ignorant and vicious, who are without self-control and benevolence, lest they should be made powerful in evil for the perpetration of sinful things; and in consequence philosophers are made accountable to God. Evil men are unworthy of wisdom.15)

Know that this matter I call the Stone ; but it is also named the feminine of magnesia, or the hen, or the white spittle, or the volatile milk, the incombustible ash, in order that it may be hidden from the inept and ignorant, who are deficient in goodness and self-control; which I have nevertheless signified to the wise by one only epithet, viz., the Philosopher's Stone. Include, therefore, and conserve in that sea, the fire, and the heavenly Flyer, to the latest moment of his exit. But I adjure you all, Sons of philosophy, by our Benefactor who gives to you the ornament of His grace, that to no fatuous, ignorant, or inept person ye open this Stone.16) {112}

I have received nothing from any, to whom I have not returned that which he had given me, nor have I failed to honour and highly respect Him.17)

This, son, is the concealed Stone of many from poverty and straights, to a free and ample fortune.18)

My Son, before all things I admonish thee to fear God, in whom is the strength of thy undertaking ; and the bond of each separated element. {113} My Son, whatsoever thou hearest, consider it rationally. For I hold thee not to be a fool. Lay hold, therefore, of my instructions and meditate upon them, and so let thy heart be fitted, as if thou wast thyself the author of that which I now teach. If thou appliest cold to any nature that is hot, it will hurt it: in like manner, he who is rational shuts himself within from the threshold of ignorance; lest supinely he should be deceived.19)

Take the flying volatile and drown it flying, and divide and separate it from its rust, which yet holds it in death; draw it forth, and repel it from itself, that it may live and answer thee, not by {114} flying away into the regions above, but by truly forbearing to fly. For if thou shalt deliver it out of its straitness, after this imprisonment, and in the days known to thee shalt by reason have ruled it, then will it become a suitable companion unto thee, and by it thou wilt become to be a conquering lord, with it adorned.20)

Extract from the ray its shadow and impurity by which the clouds hang over it, defile and keep away the light; since by means of its constriction and fiery redness, it is burned. Take, my son, this redness, corrupted with the water, which is as a live coal holding the fire, which if thou shalt withdraw so often until the redness is made pure, then it will associate with thee, by whom it was cherished, and in whom it rests.21) {115}

Return then, O my son, the extinct coal to the water for thirty days, as I shall note to thee; and, henceforth, thou art a crowned king, resting over the fountain as known to thee, and drawing from thence the Auripigment dry, without moisture. And now I have made glad the heart of the hearers, and the eyes looking unto thee in hope of that which thou possessest.22) {116}

Observe, then, that the water was first in the air, then in the earth; restore thou it, also, to the superiors by its proper windings, and alter skilfully before collecting; then to its former red spirit let it be carefully conjoined.23)

Know, my son, that the fatness of our earth is sulphur, the auripigment, siretz, and colcothar, which are also sulphur; of which auripigments, sulphurs, and such like, some are more vile than others, in which there is a diversity; of which kind also is the fat of glewy matters, such as are hair, nails, hoofs, and sulphur itself, and of the brain, which too is auripigment; of the like kind also are the lion's and cat's claws, which is siretz; the fat of white bodies, and the fat of the two oriental quicksilvers, which hunt the sulphurs and contain the bodies.24)

I say, moreover, that this sulphur doth tinge and fix, and is the connection of the tinctures; oils also tinge, they fly away, which in the body are contained, which is a conjunction of fugitives with {117} sulphurs and albuminous bodies, which hold also and detain the fugitive Ens.25)

The disposition sought after by the philosophers, son, is but one in our egg; but this in the hen's egg can, by no means, be found. But lest so much of the Divine Wisdom as is in a hen's egg should be extinguished, its composition is from the four elements adapted and composed.26)

Know, my son, that in the hen's egg is the greatest proximity and relationship in nature; for in it there is a spirituality and conjunction of elements, and an earth which is golden in its tincture.27)

The son, enquiring of Hermes, saith—The sulphurs which are fit for our work, whether are they celestial or terrestrial? And he answers, certain of them are celestial, and some are terrestrial.28) {118}

The Son—Father, I imagine the heart in the superiors to be heaven, and in the inferiors earth. But saith Hermes—It is not so; the masculine truly is the heaven of the feminine, and the feminine is the earth of the masculine.29)

The Son—Father, which of these is more worthy than the other, to be the heaven or to be the earth? He replies—Each needs the other; for the precepts demand a medium. As if thou should say that a wise man governs all mankind, because every nature delights in Society of its own kind, and so we find it to be in the Life of Wisdom where Equals are conjoined. But what, rejoins the son, is the mean betwixt them? To whom Hermes replies—In every nature there are three from two, first the needful water, then the oily tincture, and lastly the feces or earth which remains below.30) {119}

But a Dragon inhabits all these and are his habitation ; and the blackness is in them, and by it he ascends into the air. But, whilst the fume remains in them, they are not immortal. Take away therefore the vapour from the water, and the blackness from the oily tincture, and death from the fæces: and by dissolution thou shalt achieve a triumphant reward, even that in and by which the possessors live.31) {120}

Know, my son, that the temperate unguent, which is fire, is the medium between the fæces and the water, and is the Perscrutinator of the water. For the unguents are called sulphurs, because between fire and oil and the sulphurs there is a very close propinquity, even as so the fire burns, so does the sulphur also.32)

All the wisdoms of the world, son, are comprehended in this my hidden Wisdom, and the learning of the Arts consists in discovering these wonderful hidden elements beneath which it hides completed. It behoves him, therefore, who would be introduced to this our hidden Wisdom, to free himself from the vice of arrogance and to be just and good, and of a profound reason, ready at hand to help mankind, of a serene countenance, to be courteous, diligent to save, and be himself a guardian of the secrets of philosophy open to him.33)

And this know, that except one understandeth how to mortify to induce generation, to vivify the Spirit, to cleanse and introduce Light, until they fight with each other and grow white and freed from their defilements, as blackness and darkness, he knoweth nothing, nor can he perform anything; but if he knoweth this, he will be of great dignity, so that the kings shall reverence him. These secrets, son, it behoves us to guard and conceal from the wicked and foolish world.34) {121}

Understand also, that, our Stone is from many things and of various colours, and composed from four elements, which we ought to divide and dissever in pieces, and segregate in the limbs; and mortifying the same by its proper nature, which is also in it, to preserve the water and fire dwelling therein, which is from the four elements and in their waters, to contain its water: this, however, is not water in its true form, but fire, containing in a pure vessel the ascending waters, lest the spirits should fly away from the bodies; for, by this means, they are made tinging and fixed.35)

O, blessed watery pontic form, that dissolvest the elements! Now it behoves us, with this watery soul, in order to possess ourselves of the sulphurous Form, to mingle the same with our Acetum. For when, by the power of the water, the composition is dissolved, it is the key of the restoration; then darkness and death fly away from them, and Wisdom proceeds.36) {122}

Know, my son, that the philosophers bind up their matter with a strong chain, that it may contend with the Fire; because the spirits in the washed bodies desire to dwell therein and rejoice in them. And when these spirits are united to them, they vivify them and inhabit them, and the bodies hold them, nor are they separated any more from them.37)

Then the dead elements are revived, the compounded bodies tinge and are altered, and operate wonderful works which are permanent, as saith the philosopher.38) {123}

O permanent watery Form, creatrix of the regal elements ! who, having united to thy brethren and by a moderate regimen obtained the tincture, findest rest.39)

Our most precious stone cast forth upon the dunghill, being most dear is made altogether vile. Therefore it behoves us to both mortify two Argent vives together, and to venerate the Argent vive of Auripigment, and the oriental Argent vive of Magnesia.40) {124}

But when we marry the crowned king to our red daughter, and in a gentle fire, not hurtful, she doth conceive a son, conjoined and superior, in it, and he lives by our fire.41) But when thou shalt send forth fire upon the foliated sulphur, the boundary of hearts doth enter in above it, let it be washed from the same, and the refined matter thereof be extracted. Then is he transformed, and his tincture by help of the fire remains red, as flesh. But our son, king-born, takes his tincture from the fire, and death even and darkness, and the waters flee away.42) {126}

The Dragon, who watches the crevices, shuns the sunbeams, and our dead son will live; the king comes forth from the fire and rejoices in the espousal; the occult treasures will be laid open and the virgin's milk whitened. The son, already vivified, is become a warrior in the fire and over the tincture super-eminent. For this son is himself the treasury, even himself bearing the Philosophic Matter.43)

Approach, ye sons of Wisdom, and rejoice let us now rejoice together; for the reign of death is finished and the son doth rule, and now he is {127} invested with the red garment, and the purple is put on.44)

Understand ye Sons of Wisdom, the Stone declares: Protect me, and I will protect thee; give me my own, that I may help thee.45)

My Sol and my beams are most inward and secretly in me. My own Luna, also, is my light, exceeding every other light; and my good things are better than all other good things; I give freely and reward the intelligent with joy and gladness, glory, riches, and delights; and what they ask about I make to know and understand and to possess divine things.46)

Behold, that which the philosophers have concealed is written with seven letters: for Alpha follows two, viz.: Yda and Liber; and Sol, in {128} like manner follows: nevertheless, if desirous to have dominion to guard the Art, join the son to Buba, which is Jupiter and a hidden secret.47)

Hearers, understand: and then let us use our judgment, for what I have written I have with most subtle contemplation and investigation demonstrated to you; the whole matter I know to be one only thing. But who is he that understands the true investigation and inquires rationally into this matter? There is not from man anything but what is like him; nor from the ox or bullock; and if any creature conjoins with one of another species, that which is brought forth is like neither.48)

Now saith Venus: I beget light, nor is the darkness of my nature; and if my metal were not dry all bodies would desire me, for I liquify them and wipe away their rust, and I extract their substance. Nothing, therefore, is better or more venerable than I and my brother being conjoined.49) {129}

But the king, the ruler, his brethren attesting, saith: I am crowned, and I am adorned with a diadem; I am clothed with the royal garment, and I bring joy and gladness of heart; for, being chained to the arms and breast of my mother, and to her substance, I cause my substance to keep together; and I compose the invisible from the visible, making the occult matter to appear. And everything which the philosophers have hidden will be generated from us.50)

Hear then these words, and understand them; keep them, and meditate thereon; and seek for nothing more: Man is generated from the principle of Nature whose inward substance is fleshy, and not from anything else. Meditate on this letter and reject superfluities.51) {130}

Thus saith the philosopher: Botri is made from the Citrine, which is extracted out of the Red, and from nothing else; and if it be citrine and nothing else know it will be thy Wisdom. Be not concerned if thou art not anxious to make extract from the Red. Behold, I have written to the point, and if ye understand I have all but opened the thing.52)

Ye sons of Wisdom! burn then the Brazen Body with an exceeding great fire; and it will imbue you with the grace which ye seek. And make that which is volatile so that it cannot fly from that which flies not. And that which rests upon the fire though itself a fiery flame, and that which in the heat of the boiling fire is corrupted is Cambar.53) {131}

And know ye that the Art of this permanent water is our brass, and the colouring of its tincture and blackness is then changed into the true red.54)

I declare before God, I have spoken nothing but the truth. The destroyers are the renovators, and hence the corruption is made manifest in the matter to be renewed; and hence the melioration will appear and each side is a signal of the Art.55)

My son, that which is born of the crow is the beginning of this Art. Behold, I have obscured the matter treated of, by circumlocution, depriving it of light. I have termed this dissolved, and this joined, this nearest I have termed furthest off.56) {132}

Roast those things, therefore, and boil them in that which comes forth from the horse's belly, for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one days. Then it becomes the Dragon eating his own wings and destroying himself; this being done, let it be put in a furnace, which lute diligently, and observe that none of the spirit may escape. And know that the periods of the earth are in the water which is bound until you put the bath upon it.57)

The matter being thus melted and burned, take the brain thereof and triturate it in most sharp vinegar till it become obscured. This done, it lives in the putrefaction; the dark clouds which were in it before it died in its own body will be changed. This process being repeated, as I have described; it dies again as I said, thence it lives.58)

In the life and death thereof we work with the spirits; for as it dies by the taking away of the spirit, so it lives in the return and is revived and rejoices in them. Being arrived then at this, that which ye have been searching for is made apparent. I have even related to thee the joyful signs, that which doth fix its own body.

But these things, and how they attained to the knowledge of this secret, are given by our ancestors in figures and types: I have opened the riddle, and the book of knowledge is revealed; the hidden things I have uncovered and have brought together {133} the scattered truths within their boundary, and have conjoined many various forms, even I have associated the Spirit. Take it as a gift of God.59)

It behoves us to give thanks to God, who bestows liberally to the wise, who delivers us from misery and poverty. Along with the fulness of his substance and his provable wonders I am about to try and humbly pray God that whilst we live we may come to him.60)

Away then, O sons of Science, with unguents extracted from fats, hair, verdigrease, tragacanth, and bones, which are written in the books of our fathers.61) {134}

But concerning the ointments which contain the tincture, coagulate the fugitive and adorn the sulphurs, it behoves us to explain their disposition more at large. It is the Form of all other unguents in which is the occult and buried unguent, and of which there appears to be no preparation. It dwells in his own body, as fire in trees and stones, which by most subtle art and ingenuity it behoves us to extract without combustion.62)

And know that the Heaven is joined mediately with the Eart; but the middle nature, which is the Water, is a Form along with the Heaven and the Earth. But the water holds of all the first place which goes forth from the Stone; the second is gold; but the third is our almost or medial gold which is more noble than the water with the fæces.63)

But in these are the smoke, the blackness, and the death. It behoves us, therefore, to drive away the vapour from the water, the blackness from the {135} unguent, and death from the faeces, and this by dissolution. Which being done we have the sovereign philosophy and secret of all hidden things.64)

Know ye then, sons of Science, there are seven bodies—of which gold is the first, the most perfect, the king of them, and their head—which neither the earth can corrupt nor the fire devastate, nor the water change; for its complexion is equalised, and its nature regulated with respect to heat, cold, and moisture; nor is there anything in it which is superfluous, therefore the philosophers have preferred and magnified it, saying that this gold, in relation of other bodies, is as the sun amongst the stars, more splendid by his light; and as, by the will of God, every vegetable and all the fruits of the earth are perfected through it, so gold, which is the ferment Ixir, vivifies and contains every metallic body.65) {136}

For as dough, without a ferment, cannot be fermented, so when thou hast sublimed the body and purified it, separating the uncleanness from the fæces, thou wilt then conjoin and mix them together, and put in them the ferment confecting the earth with the water until the Ixir ferment even as dough ferments. Think of this, meditate and see how the ferment in this case doth change the former natures to another thing: observe, also, that how there is no ferment otherwise than from a kindred nature.66)

Observe, moreover, that the ferment whitens the confection and hinders it from combustion, and holds the tincture lest it should fly, and rejoices the bodies, and makes them intimately to be joined and to enter one into another, and this is the Key of the philosophers and the end of their works; and by this science bodies are meliorated and the operation of them, God assisting, is consummated.67) {137}

But, through negligence and a false opinion in the matter, the operation is perverted, as bad leaven on the dough, or curds for cheese, and musk among aromatics.68)

The colour of the golden matter points to redness, and the nature thereof is not sweetness; therefore we make of them Sericum, i.e., Ixir; and of them we make the encaustic of which we have written, and with the king's seal we tinge the clay, and in that have set the colour of heaven which augments the sight of them that see it.69) {138}

The Stone, therefore, is the most precious gold without spots—evenly tempered, which neither fire, nor air, nor water, nor earth is able to corrupt the Universal Ferment rectifying all things by its composition, which is of the yellow or true citrine colour.70)

The gold of the wise, concocted and well digested, with the fiery water, makes Ixir; for the gold of the wise is more heavy than lead, which, in a temperate composition is the ferment {139} Ixir, and, contrariwise, becomes distempered by an equal composition.

For the work begins from the vegetable, next from the animal, as in the egg of the hen, in which is the great support; and our earth is gold, of all which we make seriacum, which is the ferment Ixir.71)

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There are three things said to be necessary for the attainment of the Hermetic science: viz., study, experience, and the divine benediction; and these depend upon each other: study is required for the theory, and this for entering into the central experience which, in the Universal Spirit, is not found without God.
Without theoretic knowledge and a right principle to begin with, many have wearied themselves in experimenting, even with the right subject, in vain ; but the true intention once discovered, the whole truth opens, as practice succeeds to theory, alternating in the philosophic work. You must know, says Geber, that he who in himself knows not natural principles is very remote from our art, because he has not a true root whereon to found his intention; but he who knows the principles and the way of generation, which consists according to the intention of nature, is but a very short way from the completement. (Sum of Perf. book i.) See also Norton's Ordinal Proheme, and chapters i. and iv. ; and the Introitus Apertus ad Occlusum Regis Palationem, cap. viii. &c.
Our author hereby declares that it was conscience which moved him to disclose his dearly-acquired knowledge, but in such terms only to the world that the studious might understand and follow in his steps. He nowhere, therefore, addresses the ignorant, lest his instruction should be abused, but the predestined sons of wisdom, to guide them, already initiated, further into the practice of his high art.
Here we have a premonitory opening of the philosophic work which Hermes calls a knowledge of the elements; which elements, however, are not commonly to be understood; non corporaliter, as the Scholiast explains, sed spiritualiter et sapienter,—not corporally but spiritually and wisely; for the properties of the Universal Spirit are abstrusely included in all existence, and to be understood only by its own intimate analysis and introverted light. But nothing is done except the matter be decompounded; for there are many heterogeneous images and superfluities adhering to this subject in its natural state, which render it unfit for progress; these therefore must be entirely discharged; which, say the adepts, is impossible without the theory of their arcanum, in which they show the medium by which the radical element is discovered and set free to the accomplishment of its inclusive law. See The Scholium—Paracelsus 1st book to the Athenians. R. Lullii Theoria et Practica, cap. iii. Norton's Ordinal, cap. v. Ripley's Third Gate, &c. Introitus Apertus ad Occlusum Regis Palatio, cap. viii.
The philosophic water then, being divided into four parts or hypostatic relations, they are called elements. First, the one part, being divided, produces two, which are as agent and patient in the ethereal world; further afterwards, from their conjunction, three are said to be made manifest as body, soul, and spirit, which co-operating together in the unity of the same spirit, beget all things, giving birth to the whole substratal nature. The differences of the colours, observes the Scholiast, Hermes divides into two threes, i.e., into three red spirits and three white, which have their growth all from the same identical water, and are resolved into the same again. By considering, therefore, that this water or mercury of the adepts has, within itself, its own good sulphur, or vital flame, thou mayest perfect all things out of mercury; but if thou shalt know to add thy weights to the weights of nature, to double mercury and triple sulphur, it will quickly be terminated in good, then in better, until into best of all. See the Scholium; Sendivogius' New Light of Alchemy, p. 117; Arnoldi Speculum, Disp. viii.
The proportional working of the philosophic matter upon its parts is indicated by adepts under variously perplexed forms and measures. Those distinctions which Hermes makes of the humidity, the southern redness, soul of gold, seyre, citrine, auripigment, the vine of philosophers and their wine, have no other signification, says the Scholiast, but that the Spirit should be seven times distilled, which after the eighth distillation is converted by force of the fire into ashes, or a most subtle powder which, by reason of its purity and perfection, resists the fire. Neither wonder, he adds, that eight parts and three ounces are equivalent; for by the former section the one part is divided into two, to each of which there are added three parts, which are the true philosophic proportions called also by Hermes the Weights of the Wise. See the Scholium; Ripley's Epistle; Introit. Apert. cap. vii.; Norton's Ordinal, cap. v.
Understand here the diminution and increase of that ethereal light, which is the passive luminary in the Philosophic Heaven, whose changes and manifest operations are described as wonderfully parallel with those of the familiar satellite, by which the philosopher analogically indicates her. Some divide the operation of the philosopher's stone into two parts; the former Hermes calls decoction, which dissolving the matter discharges also its impurities by a proper rule; until, being at length on the verge of annihilation, i.e., freed from every exteriorly attracting form, it prepares, as Democritus in the fable of Proteus alludes, to restore itself through a powerful inbred revolutionary force. Then follows what is called the Second Work, which is only, in continuation of the First, to perfect the newly informed embryo and multiply its vivific light. In such few words, therefore, Hermes professes to comprehend the whole of the artificial process of working the Spirit.
Herein is the work commended and suggested to true inquirers, that they may forsake the beaten road of experiment, and seek to know intrinsically within themselves the substance of that Universal Nature in which they, with all beings in common, as it were, unconsciously live; which, in the natural order of generation, is made occult, abiding throughout invisibly. And as was explained in the theory concerning other gross elementary bodies, that the true original cannot be made manifest except they be reduced into it; so with respect to man, that which is sown, (viz. the catholic germ of his existence which comprehends all things, according to the Hermetic tradition, and mystery of the whole causal nature, with the faith and assurance of a better life,), is not quickened except it die. That which is within, viz. the causal light, must be drawn forth by art and fixed; and that which is without, viz. the sensual spirit of life must be made fluxile and occultated before reason can become into that Identity by which the powers of the Universal Nature are made manifest and intrinsically understood. But intending to enlarge inquiry on this head, we defer our comments.
Our Mercury, says the wise Scholiast, is philosophic, fiery, vital, running, which may be mixed with all other metals and again separated from them. It is prepared in the innermost chamber of life, and there it is coagulated, and where metals grow there they may be found, even in the ultimate axle of each created life. If you have found this argent vive, then, which is the residuum of the philosophic earth after the separation, keep it safely, for it is worthy. If you have brought your mercurial spirit to ashes or burnt it by its own fire, you have, continues our informant, an incomparable treasure, a thing more precious than gold; for this is that which generates the Stone, and is born of it, and it is the whole secret which converts all other metalline bodies into silver and gold, making both hard and soft, agent and patient, putting tincture and fixity upon them. See the Scholium, Maria Practica, circa finem; Introit. Apert. cap. iv. and v.; Khunrath, Amph. Isag. in fig.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, says the Divine Teacher; and some men the Scriptures have compared to dogs, yea greedy dogs, wolves and foxes; these are unfit to be admitted to the Causal Knowledge, lest, handling the powerful machine of nature recklessly or unjustly for selfish ends, they subvert the order of final causes, and, rifling her treasury, turn again and rend her. Hermes leaves the Mystery thus, therefore, to unfold itself through study and faithful experiment, that the mind by searching and patient investigation may be prepared and able to appreciate the truth when found. We, also, intending to explore the Intellectual Ground more fully hereafter, follow in its own wilful order the Hermetic mind.
The vulture, according to our Scholiast, is the new born quintessential spirit or Proteus; the mountain upon which the vulture stands is a fit vessel placed in a well-built philosophic furnace encompassed with a wall of fire. In him all the multifarious virtues of nature are declared to be held in capacity, as in rapid evolution he passes about his axis, making the light manifest without refraction in every variety of its colourings and creative imagination.
The vulture and the crow are interpreted to be one and the same thing, only differing somewhat in estate. Whilst the Spirit of life appears active and devouring in the process, it has been called the vulture, and when it lies in a more obscured and passive condition, the crow. The vulture is the first sublimed quintessence not yet perfected by art; the crow is also in the infancy of that work wherein the revivified spirit is united with its solar ferment. The blackness of the night is the putrefaction of the same, and the clearness of the day signifies its resurrection to a state of comparative purity. It flies without wings, being borne and carried by the fixed spirit; and the bitterness existing in the throat occultly indicates the death of the first life, whence the soul is educed; which is also the red and living tincture taken from the body; and the thin water is the viscous humidity made by the dissolution which radically dissolves all metals, and reduces them into their first ens, or water.
Montis in excelso consistit vertice vultur
      Assiduè damans, Albus ego atque niger,
Citrinus, rubeusque feror nil mentior: idem est
      Corvus, qui pennis absque volare solet
Nocte tenebrosá mediâque in luce diei,
      Namque ortis caput est ille vel iste tusæ.
—See The Scholium—Atalanta Fugiens Emblema, xliii.
Our author here, repeating his exception of the unintelligent, at the same time eloquently identifies the philosophic matter, calling it mens sublimis et mare patens. It is hidden in the caverns of the metals; that is to say, in the central motion of the mineral life, where the spirit is first coagulated and conceives itself into a concrete form. It is called a stone, say the adepts, because its generation is seen to be like that of stones, and it is a true mineral petrifaction: therefore Alphidius writes—Si lapis proprium nomen haberet lapis esset nomen ejus; and Arnold—Est lapis et non lapis spiritus, anima, corpus, quem si dissolvis dissolvitur, et si coagules coagulatur, et si volare facis volat; est enim volatilis, albus ut lachryma oculi. It is a stone and no stone, spirit, soul, and body, which if thou dissolvest, it will be dissolved; and if thou coagulatest, it will be coagulated; and if thou dost make it fly, it will fly, for it is volatile and clear as a tear, &c. See Arnoldi Speculum—Khunrath Amph. Isag. in fig. cap. iii.
Many ways are mentioned by adepts of acting with their matter as by sublimation, calcination, coagulation, inceration, fixation, &c.; which may all however be comprehended under the first term rightly understood; for the Hermetic sublimation, repeatedly operated over and over again, is the occasion of many changes in the matter and effects, which, though differently designated, are in their source the same. This sublimation is not, therefore, exactly to be conceived by analogy with the ordinary chemical process, which is a mere elevation of the subject to the top of the vessel; but the Hermetic sublimation is said to change the matter, qualifying cap. iii. and meliorating each time that it succeeds urging on life, as it were, to the utmost exercise of vivacity, to save itself from death and a total disseveration. Concerning the peculiar nature, origin, and artificial excitation of the philosophic fire, we may more effectively inquire hereafter.—See Ripley Revived, p. 263; Lumen de Lumine, p. 58; Introit. Apert.
The monitions to secrecy are no less stringent than frequent in the writings of adepts, modern as well as ancient. Thus, Raymond Lully, in his Thesaurus, gives the following charge:—Juro tibi supra animam meam quod si ea reveles, damnatus es: nam a Deo omne procedit bonum et ei soli debetur. Quare servabis et secretum tenebis illud quod ei debetur revelandum, &c. And Norton writes—
So this science must ever secret be,
The cause whereof is this, as ye may see:
If one evil man had hereof all his will,
All Christian peace he might easily spill;
And with his pride he might pull down
Rightful Kings and Princes of renown.
Wherefore the sentence of peril and jeopardy
Upon the teacher resteth dreadfully.
See Lullii Testam.; Aquinas Thesau. Alchim.; Norton's Ordinal, cap. i. and viii.; R. Bacon, Speculum.
The philosophic matter has indeed received many perplexing appellations, some more, some less significative of its real origin and essence; but in the concrete form, and for reasons before given in part, it has been properly called the Stone. In this same universal matter of the Stone also Hermes includes all its multinominal ingredients. In its flowing, humid state it is called the sea of the wise, passive to all impressions and influences of the light. By the fire and heavenly bird are signified, says the scholiast, the external and internal agents in the Hermetic work, by either of which it is conserved and nourished to the end.
In friendship, gratitude, and reciprocity of benefaction, say the adepts, consists the chief art of operating with their matter; and no man, for reasons hereafter explicable, can operate the Hermetic artifice alone.
So saith Arnolde of the New Towne,
As his Rosary maketh mencione;
He sayeth right thus withouten any lye
There may noe man Mercury mortifye,
But it be with his brother's knowledging.
Lo, now he which first declared this thing
Of philosophers' father was, Hermes the King.
See Chaucer's Tale of the Chanon's Yeoman. Theat. Chem. Brit, page 254. Arnoldi Rosarium, circa finem.
The consummate union of the purified spirit with its course is thus covertly indicated by Hermes as the true cornerstone of his philosophy; and that tincture of many dyes which, being dissolved renews itself, and dying survives itself, until its Final Cause is fully manifest and accomplished. This is the elixir of Light from the central essence, so set free, that it is said to prolong life, and cure disease and moral indigence and physical defects, mingling with the common breath of nature the efficacy of an exalted life and love.
Further suggestions are now given concerning the true subject and operation of the Hermetic work. Having previously shown that the way to the attainment of the magistery is by communion with the ruling Spirit of nature; entering yet deeper as the work progresses towards the Causal discovery, Hermes admonishes the student earnestly to fear and obey its Law; lest, being transgressed in any part, man should work evil instead of good through its means.—The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding;—and this, in the most profound sense, is said to be proved in Alchemy, and that they only who have become conversant by experience in the Fontal Nature have truly and properly understood what it is, and why God is to be feared. Ingrafted in that root, writes our scholiast, the true understanding will grow up in thee, and fill thee, even as the body is rilled, with life. Thou must enter with thy whole spirit into the centre of nature, and there behold how all things are begun, continued and perfected. But thou must first enter into that Spirit which is the Framer of all things, which pierces through and dwells in that central root; and by entering into that, it will, as a vehicle, carry thee into the same root where all things are hidden, and reveal to thee the most recondite mysteries, and show thee, as in a glass, the whole work and laboratory of the most secret nature. Hermes, therefore, recommends him who is rational, and desires the further instruction of his reason, to shut himself within, away from the distractions of sense and this life's ignorance, and learn to open to himself the door of a higher consciousness, lest in the outward acceptation of words or things he should be deceived. Having premised thus much, he proceeds to detail the process by which the spirit is carried on from each succeeding dissolution into a more perfect form of being.
These images, indicating the mode of rational operation with the freed spirit and its soul, will appear inevitably obscure. The entire process is repeated many times before perfection is arrived at; and instructions for each, according to the arising phenomena, are given by the scholiast at full length.
A shadowy darkness passes always along with the philosophic body, moving in its own light until it is thoroughly purified from sensual defilements. Now that the clearness may be manifest throughout without obscurity, says the scholiast, the body must be repeatedly opened and made thin after its fixation and dissolved and putrefied, and as the grain of wheat sown in the earth putrefies before it springs up into a new growth or vegetation, so our Magnesia, continues he, being sown in the Philosophic Earth, dies and corrupts, that it may conceive itself anew. It is purified by separation, and is dissolved, digested, and coagulated, sublimed, incerated, and fixed by the reciprocated action of its own proper Identity, as agent and patient, alternating to improve. The water spoken of by Hermes is the passive spirit, the redness is its soul, and the earth begot betwixt them is the substance or body of both—the spirit thereafter penetrates the body, and the body fixes the spirit—the soul being conjoined, tinges the whole of its proper colour, whether white or red. This process is given in the following enigma, by the excellent author of the Aquarium Sapientum, or Water Stone:—
Spiritus ipse datur pro tempore corpori, at ille
Exhilarans Animam Spiritus arte cluet.
Spiritus ille Animam subito si contrahit ad se,
Nullum se abjungit segregat aque suo.
Tunc tria consistunt et in una, sede morantur,
Donec solvatur, nobile corpus, opus.
Putrescat nee non moriatur, separat istis:
Tempore at elapso Spiritus atque Anima
Æstu conveniunt extremo sive calore,
Quisque suam sedem cum gravitate tenet.
Integritas præsto est, nulla et perfectio desit
Amplis lætitiis glorificatur opus.
See the Scholium, and Aquarium Sapientum, Musaeum Hermeticum, p. 95.
Here again the allusions will appear wilfully obscure to the uninitiated, for the master presupposes not only a knowledge of the Matter, but of the Vessel also in which it is scientifically concocted ; but we must pass on. The life of the coal is fire, which being extinct, becomes a dead body; nor of coal alone, but of all other things light is the life, and it is heat that conserves it. But the essence of life, says the scholiast, is nothing else than a pure, naked, unmingled Fire not that indeed which is corrupting and elementary, but that which is subtle, celestial, and generating all things. The same is of metals their first matter containing the three principals, the Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury, of which so much has been spoken and ignorantly misapplied. By the crowned king, Hermes signifies the first manifested resplendence of the vital tincture; the well is, as the catholic spirit of life, inexhaustible; at the bottom, or centre rather, of which subsists the occult Causality of all; even from this, the true efficient wheel, is drawn, according to tradition, that auripigment of philosophers which is the multiplicative virtue of their stone. When thou shalt see thy exhalations to return, teaches the adept, and by continuance of them on thy body, light shall begin to appear with such admirable colours as never were seen by the eye of man in so little a room before; then rejoice, for now our king hath triumphed over the miseries of death, and behold him returning in the East, with clouds, in power and great glory. Here thou mayest rest and bait, and enjoy the glory of thy white elixir; now is the time at hand in which that of the poet is fulfilled.
Ne te pœniteat faciem fuligine pingi
Adferet hæc Phœbi nigra favilla jubar.
See Eirenseus, Riply Revived; Vaughan, Lumen de Lumine, p. 58, &c.; Anthrop. Theomag. p. 22 ; and the Scholium.
Convert the elements, says Arnold, and you shall have what you desire; that is to say, separate the matter into its essential relationships, and join them again together in harmonious proportion.—See Arnoldi Speculum sub initio, Basil Valentine's Stone of Fire, Smaragdine Table, &c.
Hermes alludes here in part to the various manifestations of the spirit in this natural life, and the vegetable growth of it in animal bodies. The occult luminous principle of vitalization he calls sulphur, auripigment, &c, hiding it also under a variety of other covertures.
A distinction is here made by our author of the different estates and uses of the philosophic sulphur, or Light, as it becomes developed in the Hermetic work.
Hermes divides the matter into four parts, as was before seen, comparing also its vital composition to that of a hen's egg, which answers in all respects, excepting the catholicity, to the compound simple of this art.
Est avis in mundo sublimior omnibus, ovum
Cujus ut inquiras, cura sit una tibi.
Albumen luteum circumdat molle vitellum,
Ignito (ceu mos) cautus id ense petas:
Vulcano Mars addat opem: pullaster et inde
Exortus, ferri victor et ignis erit.
See Atalanta Fugiens, p. 41, Epigramma viii. and the Scholium.
The Alchemists uniformly recommend us to observe nature, that from analogy we may be better able to imagine and judge of the proper method of experimenting, and learn to co-operate with her Spirit effectually to regenerate it. For particulars of the Hermetic similitude, see the Scholium.
A short dialogue hereupon ensues between Hermes and his son; the father explaining that the distinctions of lights or sulphurs in the process ought not to be indifferently understood, as if they were all of one quality or idea. For the spirit, though one in essence, is extremely diversified in its conception, as also according to the degree and order of its rectification by art.
The purified sulphur, fixed and incombustible, is the generating seed of the universal nature, according to the adepts ; but the mercury (which is the recreated body of the spirit, passive and pure) is sometimes called the earth of the wise, conceiving into itself the same seed by which it is also nourished, digested, perfected, and brought to birth—that is, to a visible manifestation of its intrinsical virtue and light. But the son's allusion is intimate to the art, and particular. See the Scholium.
When, by their strong attracting law, the active and passive relations are conjoined in the Spirit, they become equalised in their progeny; and as the mystical problem of the Trinity includes three in one and one in three—agent, patient, and offspring universal and co-equal; so these three are found to be in all created things imitatively, the paternal, maternal, and proceeding ens of life. And there are the Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury of the Adepts, without which, they say truly, nothing ever is or can be vitally substantialised. And thou hast in these three principles, says Sendivogius, a body, a spirit, and an occult soul; which three (being of one only substance in a triple relationship), if thou shalt join them together, having been previously separated and well purified, will without fail, by imitating nature, yield most pure fruits, &c. When the adept speaks therefore of a natural triplicity, he speaks, reiterates Vaughan, not of kitchen-stuff, those three pot-principles of water, oil, and earth—or, as some call them, salt, sulphur and mercury; but he speaks of hidden intrinsical natures, known only to absolute magicians, whose eyes are in the centre and not on the circumference, and in this light, every element is threefold.—See Anthrop. Theomag. p. 22; Sendivogius, New Light of Alchemy, Digby's Ed. p. 3; and the Scholium.
The dragon is the self-willed spirit, which is externally derived into nature, by the fall into generation. And by it, says the scholiast, Hermes especially signifies the blackness of the matter on its first ascension, which is operated with difficulty on account of its thick glutinous body, which has to be resolved, by force of the philosophic art, into an aerial and vaprous substance; and during this process, we are informed, the powers of the Philosophic Heaven are wonderfully shaken and defiled, insomuch, that like a poisonous dragon it destroys all that it touches, and hence it is said to have its houses in darkness, and to possess blackness and mortality and death; for the root of this science is a deadly poison. Therefore, says Hermes, take away the vapour from the water, and the blackness from the oily tincture, and death from the fæces, that the component principles may be pure, and by dissolution thou shalt possess a triumphant reward, even that in and by which the possessors live. Thus, the evil of the original sin is said to be discovered by a radical dissolution of the spirit, and without this discovery and the arising evil, it cannot return to its pristine purity and the immortality of its first source. Cause, therefore, adds a no less subtle than experienced adept, such an operation in our earth, that the central heat may change the water into air, that it may go forth into the plains of the world and scatter the residue through the pores of the earth; and then, contrariwise, the air will be turned into water, far more subtle than the first water was. And this is done thus: if thou give our old man gold or silver to swallow, that he may consume them, and then he also dying may be burned, and his ashes scattered into the water, and thou shalt boil that water until it be enough, thou shalt have a medicine to cure the leprosy (of life). See the Scholium; Sendivogius, New Light, p. 35; Maria Practica.
The knowledge of this secret sulphur, says the Scholiast, and how to prepare it and use it in this work includes the whole art of perfection. It is the stirrer-up of the whole power and efficacy and purifier of the matter; hence Hermes calls it the Perscrutinator, eminently distinguishing the Rational Ferment, concerning which it will be our purpose to inquire hereafter.
The whole paragraph will speak plainly for itself when it is understood, which we leave for the present therefore unexplained.
The principles of the art of working the matter are here repeated. The two contrary natures of light and darkness must contend together, as it were, in mortal strife, and the war must be waged unceasingly for the destruction of the foreign life until it succumbs, grows white, as Hermes says, in order that the internal agent may return to vivify the whole and yield the abundant tincture of its light.
The catholic nature is multifarious in its conception, and passes in the art through a strange variety of forms and appearances: but she operates her proper progress necessitously under the threefold law of life; the ingress, egress, and alternating action of which, under dominance of either of its principles, constitutes the whole phenomena of the Hermetic process.
Great is the reputed virtue of this Aqua Philosophica, which distils itself finally to manifestation by the Art of Life; for, as common water washes and cleanses things outwardly, so this inwardly effects the same, even itself purifying itself from its inbred defilements, so that no vestige of evil remains. And, being conjoined in consciousness with the central Efficient, it becomes all powerful, and the key of every magic art. The preparation of it is not known to many, says the Scholiast, and a very few have obtained it; because the well is deep out of which it is drawn; nor do the vulgar chemists understand it. Nor can this secret be truly learned either from a master at all, but practice reveals it by the instinct of nature. See the Scholium and Lumen de Lumine, p.67.
This may again remind the reader of the passage from Dernocritus, where, describing the universal experiment, he says that that method of working with nature is the most effectual which makes use of manacles and fetters, laying hold on her in the extremest degree. And this constriction, according to the scholiast's teaching, is not made by chance, but by means of the affinity which is between the body and its spirit, as Maier also alludes, in his Emblems—Naturam natura docet, debellat ut ignem; for they both proceed from one fountain, though, of the two, the agent, because it vivifies and holds the particles of the matter together, is representatively superior in operation, to compel the Protean Hypostasis of Nature to enter into his true Form.
Nam sine vi non ulla dabit praecepta, neque ilium
Orando flectes : vim duram et vincula capto
Tende. Dolicircum hæc demum frangentur inanes.
See the Georgics, lib. iv. 397; Maieri Atalanta Fugiens Emblema, xx.; Dernocritus, in the Fable of Proteus; Aquarium Sapientûm Enigma; and the Scholiast on Hermes.
The bodies of the metals, explains our Scholiast, are the domicils of their spirits, which when they are received by the bodies, their terrestrial substance is by degrees made thin, extended, and purified, and by their vivifying power, the life and fire hitherto lying dormant is excited and made to appear. For the life which dwells in the metals is laid, as it were, asleep (in sense), nor can it exert its powers, or show itself, unless the bodies (i.e., the sensible and vegetable media of life) be first dissolved and turned into their radical source; being brought to this degree, at length, by the abundance of their internal light, they communicate their tinging property to other imperfect bodies, transmuting them into a fixed and permanent substance. And this, he adds further, is the property of our medicine, into which the previous bodies (of the spirit) are reduced; that, at first, one part thereof will tinge ten parts of an imperfect body, then one hundred, then a thousand, and so infinitely on. By which the efficacy of the creative word is wonderfully evidenced, Crescite et multiplicamini. And by how much the oftener the medicine is dissolved, by so much the more it increases in virtue, which otherwise, without any more solution, would remain in its single or simple state of perfection. Here there is a celestial and divine fountain set open, which no man is able to draw dry, nor can it be exhausted should the world endure through an eternity of generations.—See the Scholium; Introit. Apert. cap. viii.; Trevisanus Opusculum circa finem.
The fixed watery Form of the philosophic matter, which Hermes here apostrophises, is the same as was before celebrated only more mature; this is the fountain which Bernhard Trevisan mentions, of such marvellous virtue above all other fountains in the whole world, shining like silver and of cærulean clearness. It is the Framer of the royal elements, says Hermes, i.e., it draws to itself the rubified light of its internal agent permeating the same throughout the whole essentiality. Separate, says Eirenseus, the light from the darkness seven times, and the creation of the philosophic mercury will be complete, and this seventh day will be for thee a sabbath of repose; from which period, until the end of the annual revolution, thou mayest expect the generation of the supernatural son of Sun, who comes about the last age into the world to purify his brethren from their original sin.—See the Scholium; Trevisanus, end of his Opusculum; New Light of Sendivogius, 10th Treatise; and the Introit. Apert. cap. iii. &c.
The same catholic nature, which in its preternatural exaltation appears so very precious in the eyes of the philosopher, is in the common world denied; abiding everywhere in putrefactions and the vilest forms of life. It is likewise despised by mankind, who are, for the most part, unconscious even of its subsistence, much more are they not ignorant of the method of exculpating it and handling their life to good effect? Hermes, indeed, gives instruction, as did Moses also, but under a veil, which it may be hardly expedient to look through at this stage of our investigation.
We have signified from the testimony of the adepts already, though without particularizing, that light or sulphur, as they call it, is the true form or seed of gold, and the concentering virtue of their philosophic stone. Thus far, then, the theory of the Hermetic process may be supposed to run by the analogy of nature; grain, being cast into the common earth, grows and fructifies and brings forth its increase, and this eduction is in its middle principle, that is to say, in the specificative form by which it is intrinsically generated and made to be that particular kind of grain and no other. Thus, the aurific seed, if truly such can be found to be the specific seed of gold, needs only to be planted in its proper etherial vehicle, well prepared and fallow to bring forth its virtue in manifold increase.
Ruricolæ pingui mandant sua semina terræ,
      Cum fuerit rostris hæc foliata suis.
Philosophi niveos aurum docuêre per agros
      Spargere, qui folii se levis instar habent:
Hoc ut agas, illud bene respice, namque quod aurum
      Germinet, ex tritico videris, ut speculo.
But the Alchemical art has been continually compared to agriculture; and the analogy, indeed, appears to bear throughout so intimately as to suggest and, almost without deviation, point out the method of its application. The body is gold, says the author of the New Light, which yields seed, our lune or silver, not common silver, is that which receives the seed of the gold, afterwards it is governed by our continual fire for seven months (philosophical), and sometimes ten, until our water consume three and leave one; and that in duplo or a double. Then it is nourished with the milk of the earth, or the fatness thereof, which is bred in the bowels of the earth and is governed and preserved from putrefaction by the salt of nature: and thus the infant of the second generation is produced; and when the seed of that which is now brought forth is put again into its own matrix, it purifies it, and makes it a thousand times more fit and apt to bring forth the best and most excellent fruits. But, before the metallic light is brought to this ultimate perfection, it must many times, therefore, suffer itself to be eclipsed, and die and corrupt, as the adepts teach, according to the similitude of nature yet, with this difference, that whereas the produce of common husbandry exhausts and deteriorates rapidly the earth whence it springs, and is always terminated in its kind without progression, the etherial seed, on the other hand, tends always to improve its generation, fertilizing by the return of each successive growth, and enriching its maternal soil; and this process, according to Hermes, is repeated seven times before the final resurrection of the Quintessence into a permanent form of life.—See the Scholium; Maieri Atalanta Fugiens Epigramma vi.; Sendivogius, New Light, Treatise 9 and 10.
The new-born Quintessences are here shown to be reunited for fructification and to be further promoted, and, as the fable relates of Isis, that she brought forth Horus, even feeding him with fire; so. it happens in the Hermetic work. And this is wonderful, observes the scholiast, that the parents, who were before the nurses and feeders again by the law of the same spirit, are to be nursed and fed. It is nourished with a gentle heat, not in the vulgar way of decocting, but conformable to the heavenly fire. But when we say, adds the adept, that our stone generated by lire, men neither see nor do they believe there is any other fire but the common fire, nor any other sulphur or mercury—thus they are deceived by their own opinions, saying that we are the cause of their errors; but it is not so. The philosophers uniformly distinguish their own especial fire as magical, creative, vital; whereas the common element is without sagacity or discrimination. Our fire is a most subtle fire, inhabiting in himself an infernal secret fire, and in its kind extremely volatile. Some call it the miracle of the world, the nucleus of the superior and inferior forces of nature, &c.—See the Scholium, Lumen de Lumine, p. 58.
O happy gate of blackness, cries the sage, which art the passage to this so glorious a change. Study, therefore, whosoever appliest thyself to this Art, only to know this secret, for to know this is to know all, but to be ignorant of this is to be ignorant of all. For putrefaction precedes the generation of every new form into existence. It is the business of the philosophic fire not only to vivify, but also to depurate and segregate the heterogeneity of its vehiculum, which being done there appears at length in the fæces, a most pure and rubicund tincture of the colour of flesh and blood. And as flesh is nothing but blood coagulated, abounding with a full and vigorous spirit, so, adds the adept, likewise our tincture is of blood coagulated, which blood is the boundary or satisfaction of hearts, as Hermes alludes, the object sought for, and which satisfies when attained.—See Scholium, and Ripley Revived, 5th Gate.
The nature and origin of this Dragon was before discussed, which becomes occultated in the rising of the internal light to manifestation.
Si fixum solvas faciasque volare solutum,
Et volucrem figas, facient te vivere tutum
Solve, Coagula, Fige.
O Nature, cries the experimental adeptist, how dost thou interchange thy being, casting down the high and mighty and again exalting that which was base and lowly? O death how art thou vanquished, when thy prisoners are taken from thee and carried into an estate and place of immortality? The son, says Hermes, has gotten the Tincture, for is he not in truth the whole quintessential nature concentrated, as it were personified, bearing in hand the golden light of life to perpetualise it universally.—See the Philosophical Epitaph of W. C. title page, and Ripley Revived.
The internal light, once made manifest to sense, so far is ready for the perscrutination of another life into which it must be induced to enter, to suffer again, and die in order to transmute the foul material into itself. Hermes proceeds, in the next chapter, to describe the work, which, in principle, differs nothing from the foregoing but in the images and delineation of phenomena only.
The fermenting light by constant addition of the spirit, leavens more and more, increasing as it tends to the perception of its final cause in life. As Solomon, speaking of the Divine Wisdom, says, Exalt her, and she shall promote thee, she shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her, &c. Proverbs iv. 8, 9.
The vital light, as we have before explained, is centrally hidden in nature until it is drawn forth; but re-entering from without inwards, when freed again, will it not then probably meet itself in a yet more profound experience? This is the problem proposed for the truly intelligent, that they may inquire into the Hermetic method of Self-Knowledge, which alone can enable man to know and understand and possess divine things.—If thou seekest for her as silver, and searchest for wisdom as for hidden treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs ii. 4, 5. But we postpone the examination of this mystical ground, suggesting so much only as, in proceeding, we find requisite to elucidate the Hermetic mind.
The seven letters are taken to signify the necessary phases through which the philosophic material passes in order of colour and qualitative virtue; some call them planets, others metals, (for the radical life of the spirit is indeed mineral); and the rest of Hermes' allusion is to the conjunction of active and passive principles for the reproduction of light out of the whole.
The profound significance of the first monition to use our reason may be better appreciated on inquiry; for Hermes has chosen to conceal the philosophic vessel. I say to you, writes Maria, laconically, that this science may be found in all bodies; but philosophers have thought fit to say little of it, because of the shortness of life and the length of this art. They found it most easily in that matter which most evidently contains the four philosophic elements. It is prepared in the innermost chamber of life, says the wise Scholiast, and there it is coagulated; and where metals grow, there they may be found.—See Maria Practica, and the Scholium.
All here is to be understood etherially, according to the principles before laid down. Venus personifies the central light of nature, which is occultated in her generations, and in metalline bodies is more especially bound on account of their terrestreity, and therefore they gladly adhere to this moist spirit, that it may vivify them. And when she appears, writes a no less experienced adept, the artist is rejoiced, and thinks perhaps his work is finished, and that he has the treasure of the world in hand; but it is not so: for if he tries it, the light still will be found imperfect, alone, and transient, without the masculine tincture to fix it in manifestation. Hence the fable of Mars and Venus taken together by Vulcan, as will be hereafter explained, in the last extremity of life.—See the Scholium; Freher's Analogy; and Democritus, in Flammelli Summula.
By the king, the Rational Efficient is signified ; by the brethren, the inferior degrees of illumination in the spirit, which are finally gathered up into accord with their first source, This same reason, being artficially constrained, lest it should escape the fiery ordeal, returns, fastening, as Hermes says, upon the wheel of its proper life, as it were, introverting the natural channel and order of generation, whereby a door is marvellously opened into the most intimate recess of life. See the Scholium; Introitus Apertus, cap. viii.
With what force and earnestness does the master here speak, as if the whole ground of the mystery lay in these words. And truly not in vain, observes the Scholiast, does he bid to understand them, and meditate upon them, and to inquire after nothing else. Man, it is said, was created of the dust of the earth; that is, interprets the adept, of the arising quintessence of the universal nature; but the understanding has never reached us, who, without self-investigation, are unable to perceive the reality of those things which are spoken out of an experimental knowledge of Life.
By the term Botri is here signified the Philosopher's Stone. The red root is the Terra Adamica, called sometimes Magnesia by the wise, and Salt after the purification.
The self-willed hypostasis of nature must die, as we before explained, in order to evolve her universal being ; and this also must suffer and die necessarily in order to multiply the perfection of its first form. Thus, in his own operative language, as it were pyrographically, does Democritus exemplify the Hermetic process at this juncture, when the innate evil being made manifest, the will proceeds to operate its proper solution in life.—Drawing the Fixed Brass out bodily, writes our Abderite, thou shalt compose a certain oblong tongue, and placing it again upon the coals, stir Vulcan into it : now irradiating with the Fossil Salt, now with the incessant Attic Ochre, adorning now the shoulder and the breast of Paphia, till she shall appear more manifestly beautiful, and throwing the glaucus veil aside, she shall appear entirely golden. Perchance, it was when Paris gazed on such a Venus, he did prefer her both to Juno and Minerva.—But when the artist seeth, adds a more modern experimentalist, the masculine tincture rise from death, and come forth out of the black darkness together in union with the white virginal spirit, he will then know that he hath the great arcanum of the world, and such a treasure as is inestimable.—See the Scholium; Democritus in Flammelli Summula; and Freher's Analogy.
By a conjunction with its own permanent prepared spirit, the albified water is made red. Adonis ab apro occiditur, cui Venus occurrens tinxit rosas sanguine.—See the Scholium; Atalanta Fugiens, Emb. xli.
Thus, even as the Hermetic material is one the art is one; and the stone is also one mineral spirit, exalted by fermentation intrinsically in its proper kind; and as leaven makes leaven, and every ferment begets its own exaltation; as vinegar makes vinegar, says the Scholiast, so this art beginning in our Mercury, likewise finishes in the same. It is a kind of Proteus, indeed, which, creeping upon earth, assumes the nature of a serpent, but being emersed in water, it represents itself as a fish; and presently being in air, and taking to itself wings, it flies as a bird; yet is, notwithstanding, One throughout the multiformity of nature. With this the artist works, and with it he transacts all the necessary operations of our Stone.
The philosophic work is not considered to begin until after the dissolution; the preliminary preparation of the matter being very generally termed the gross work. The manner of obscuring the truth, by repetitions and circumlocutions, has been everywhere adopted by the Alchemists; the nature of the process gives room for this, and our author set an example, imitating the devious instinct of the spirit in his illustrations.
The process of the dissolution is here gone over again, with certain practical instructions, which the Scholiast explains under another veil. The matter, he says, is to be decocted in the philosophic furnace called Athanor, with a continual fire. And the vessel which holds the matter must be exactly sealed, lest the penetrative mineral vapour should expire and leave the dead body. And this may be done with the lutum Sapientiæ?, or Hermetic seal, about which he gives particular instructions, and how the orifices and junctures of the philosophic vessel must be encircled, so that no breath may go forth.
The cerebral, or superior life of the Spirit, is obscured during the purification, and for the revealment of its true mineral radix or source.
In a scientific association of the Spirit the Hermetic Art has been said summarily to consist—
Ut ventus qui flat est ille qui clat.—Qui capit ille sapit.
He who shall have received so much grace from the Father of Lights, as to obtain in this life the inestimable gift of the philosopher's stone; who carries about with him, as the Scholiast expresses it, even in his own breast, the treasury of universal nature; has need not only to be grateful but to be watchful of every temptation, lest he should be drawn, even unwittingly, to abuse it; for he is then proven indeed, and taught how, in the midst of so much abundance of power, wealth and happiness, he should humble himself and sink away from every appetite of self love into the single adoration of the divine goodness; for in this humble state, God only is to be met with, as the law of reason proves in its ordinary development, much more so in the awakening of its objective light.
The fixed sulphur of adepts, according to our Scholiast, is the true balsam of nature, which the dead bodies of the metals imbibe, and are as it were throughly moistened with, to preserve them perpetually from distemper and rust. The more anything abounds with this balsam, the longer it lives and is preserved from perishing. From things, therefore, abounding with a balsam of this kind, the universal medicine is concreted, which is most effectual to preserve human bodies in a state of health, and to root out diseases, whether accidental or hereditary, by propagation, restoring the sick to health and integrity.—See the Scholium and Lucerna Salis towards the end.
Here again we are reminded of the simplicity of the matter worked with, and its formal light. But if, in the natural world, the spirit is invested with multitudinous and various forms externally introduced, it behoves the artist to extract these, therefore, and to dissolve without destroying the continental life.
The two invisible poles of the Spirit are here especially signalised by Hermes, and that consummate medium which brings them forth into manifestation. The water alluded to is the mercurial quintessence, as it is first born in a humid and vaprous consistency; which being successively informed by the central light becomes golden and aurific, communicating its tincture; and as fire by means of fuel increases continually, and a small seed drawing strength and sustenance from the earth and air grows to be a large and prolific tree; so this wonderful being, essentialised in its proper vehicle or understanding substance, is said to increase, transmuting the catholic nature into itself. Our gold is not common gold, says the adept, but a depurated substance, in the highest degree perfected and brought to an astral or heavenly complexion. This is the Elixir, Ixir, or true Ferment tinging and fixing, and without which bodies cannot be made pure.—See the Scholium, Lucerna Salis, &c.
By an artificial dissolution of the vital bond, by means of Alchemy, the Causal principle of nature is said to be developed into reminiscence and to arise in the experience of the recreated life. Modern philosophy is far removed from such investigation, nor is it easy, perhaps, without habitual study, to conceive the possibility of an experiment that would lead into such a science of nature as the ancients propose.
The gold of the philosophers, or living gold, as they sometimes call their luminous concrete, is here alluded to throughout; for though the dead metal also is eminently endued above other metals with the colour of its formative virtue, yet this does not fructify, being imprisoned, or meliorate anything beyond itself. But as the solar luminary is the medium that perfects all sublunary nature, subliming by his beams of light and heat, so does our soul of gold, writes the Scholiast, which is the true aurific principle, even as a medium, perfect all the other seven bodies; i.e., to signify here, according to Hermes, the inferior spheres of vitality in which it moves. For though the virtues of the philosopher's gold are manifold, when applied to external nature, restoring her energies, and converting her circumferential manifestations into their central whole conditionedly, yet these things are not so much denoted of the paragraph which refers to the spontaneous operations in the divine Law in life.
This is a very favourite analogy with the alchemists, and eminently suggestive; Hermes, therefore, advises us to meditate here, that we may imbibe the principle of perfecting in our understanding and observe that except the paste of flour be leavened, or any liquor receive the ferment of its own advanced virtue, it will not be exalted; but die and corrupt in the inferior elements of its nature. See the Scholium and Basil Valentine's Chariot of Antimony throughout, and the Stone of Fire.
In saying that the ferment whitens the confection, our author may be thought to contradict what has been before stated; but he only confounds the order of his instruction, retrograding at the latter end, for the fermentive light is indeed white before the multiplication of its internal form has rubified it, and the silvery spirit is made manifest before the solar ray. Take the white, clear, and dignified herb, says Maria, which grows upon the little mountains, grind it fresh when it is arrived at its determined hour, for in it is the genuine body which evaporates not, neither does it at all flee from the fire. But, after this, it is necessary to rectify Kibric and Zibeth (the soul and spirit) upon this body; i.e., the two fumes which comprise and embrace each other in the two luminaries, and to put them upon that which softens them, which is the accomplishment of the tinctures and spirits, the true weights of the wise: then, having ground the whole, put it to the fire: admirable things will then be seen. There is nothing further required but to maintain a moderate fire after which it is wonderful to see how, in less than an hour, the composition will pass from one colour to another, till it comes to the perfect red or white: when it does, then abate the fire and open the vessel, and when it is cold, there will appear in it a body clear, shining like a pearl or the colour of wild poppy mingled with white. It is then incerating, melting, penetrative, and one weight of this body cast upon twelve thousand of the imperfect metal, will convert it into gold. Behold, the concealed secret and these two fumes are the root of the Hermetic science; which, being of one root, are separated, dissolved, and re-united so often until their fermentive virtue survives the utmost efforts of art or nature any more to decompose.—See the Scholium and Maria Practica, and Freher's Analogy, end.
An unskilful artist may doubtless make errors in this art as in any other, either in chemistry or in housewifery, without understanding the proper method and matter of fermentation. The remark of the master, therefore, needs not further illustrating.
The apparition of the new light to the outward qualifications of the spirit is not welcome or sweet at first, but causes a terrification of the whole circumferential life. The wrathfulness is mightily exasperated by this appearance of love, says the theosophist, and presseth violently to swallow it up in death; which actually it doth: but perceiving that no death can be therein, the love sinketh only down, yielding up itself unto those murderous properties for awhile and displaying among them its own loving essentiality. Thus is found, at last, a poison to death and a pestilence to hell; for the wrathful properties are terrified at this entering of love into them, which is contrary to their quality, and renders them weak and impotent, so that they lose at length their own will, strength, and predominance. See Freher's Analogy at the end. By the King's seal, Hermes signifies the great Law of Light or universal reason, which is finally impressed upon the regenerated vitality of nature.
This most precious Stone, are we at length to conclude then, is Light essentialised artificially in its proper substance, and exalted by fermentation into an immutable magnet, able to draw and to convert the radical homogeneity of nature into its own assimilative accord? Yet this is an ultimate promise only, and the reward of ardent and continual toil; the art offers many intermediate benefits by the way, alluring health, science and riches, of her mineral stores. Our stone, says the adept, drives away and cures all sorts of maladies whatever, and preserves any one in good health to the last term of his life: it tinges and can change all metals into silver and gold, even better than those which nature is accustomed to produce: and, by its means, crystals may be transformed into precious gems. But, if the intention be to change metals into gold, it is requisite they should be first fermented with the most pure gold; for otherwise the imperfect metals would not be able to support its too great and supreme subtility; but there would ensue loss and damage in the projection. The imperfect metals, also, ought to be purified, if any one will draw profit therefrom. One drachm of gold is sufficient for the fermentation in the Red, and one of silver for the fermentation in the White; and the artist need not be at the trouble of buying gold and silver for this fermentation, because, with one single very small part, the tincture may be afterwards augmented more and more; for if this medicine be multiplied and be again dissolved and coagulated by the water of its mercury, white or red, of which it was prepared, then the tinging virtue will be augmented each time by ten degrees perfection which may be reiterated at will.—See Lucerna Salis, Khunrath Amphitheat. circa finem.
The seven chapters of the Golden Treatise are here concluded; which are a fair example of the Alchemical writings in general, and less sophistical than many, which may be considered perhaps as a small recommendation of the rest. For, although the discourse is sententious, and analogies are dispersed throughout with philosophic tact and plausibility, yet the whole is covered with an obnoxious veil: for neither does Hermes discover the true Art, either whence, when, or how the Matter is to be taken; but the philosophic vessel, with the whole apparatus for working the Spirit to perfection, is wrapped up under an ambiguous disguise. It is impossible almost to convey an adequate idea of the extent to which the mystification has been carried: the literature of Alchemy has not its parallel in the entire range, but is the problem of contradictions by excellence, as it were, framed after the pattern of the cruel Sphinx herself; so that the very abundant evidence which, under other circumstances, would be advantageous, becomes burdensome in this inquiry, occasioning a difficulty of discretion where to believe and vindicate the true light. In these easy reading days, too, when the fruits of science are laid open and books are made suitable for the instruction of the “meanest capacities,” few are disposed to study for anything—even the most lucrative gain—still fewer will there be found of a mind ready to exert itself about the traditional report of bygone wisdom. We had not ourselves, thus singly without modern precedent, ventured within the confines of this magic wild, but for the theoretic promise of possibility held out; having observed also much of the doctrines and tangled enigmas to unfold and arrange themselves slowly, yet in peculiar order, by the leading of a certain experimental clue. By this we hope to point out, as we discern them, the disjecta membra long since mangled and concealed there, and to discover the abode, at least, of that queenly Tsis who is alone able to gather them together into the beauty and perfection of their original form.