Mary Anne ATWOOD
Hermetic Philosophy & Alchemy:
A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery
An Exoteric View of the Progress and Theory of Alchemy
Chapter I ~ A Preliminary Account of the Hermetic Philosophy, with the more Salient Points of its Public History
Chapter II ~ Of the Theory of Transmutation in General, and of the First Matter
Chapter III ~ The Golden Treatise of Hermes Trismegistus Concerning the Physical Secret of the Philosophers’ Stone, in Seven Sections
A More Esoteric Consideration of the Hermetic Art and its Mysteries
Chapter I ~ Of the True Subject of the Hermetic Art and its Concealed Root.
Chapter II ~ Of the Mysteries
Chapter III ~ The Mysteries Continued
Chapter IV ~ The Mysteries Concluded
Concerning the Laws and Vital Conditions of the Hermetic Experiment
Chapter I ~ Of the Experimental Method and Fermentations of the Philosophic Subject According to the Paracelsian Alchemists and Some Others
Chapter II ~ A Further Analysis of the Initial Principle and Its Education into Light
Chapter III ~ Of the Manifestations of the Philosophic Matter
Chapter IV ~ Of the Mental Requisites and Impediments Incidental to Individuals, Either as Masters or Students, in the Hermetic Art
The Hermetic Practice
Chapter I ~ Of the Vital Purification, Commonly Called the Gross Work
Chapter II ~ Of the Philosophic or Subtle Work
Chapter III ~ The Six Keys of Eudoxus
Chapter IV ~ The Conclusion
The Hermetic Practice
Of the Vital Purification, Commonly Called the Gross Work
Dii sudoribus vendunt Artes --- Arcanum Ignis Aquae Resp. 6
Next to the preliminary aids already noted, and a sufficient theory to being with, follows the Preparation of the Philosophic Subject, which is performed, says the Monk Basil, by operation of the Hands, that some real effect may be produced. From preparation arises knowledge, even such as opens all the fundamentals of Alchemy and Medicine. Operation of the hands, continues he, requires a diligent application of itself, but the praise of the science consists in experience; but the praise of the science consists in experience; hence that notable maxim --- Physician, heal thyself. But the difference of these, anatomy (that which is spiritual) distinguisheth: operation shows thee how all things may be brought to light and exposed to sight visibly; but knowledge, i.e., experience reveals the practice and shows further how to proceed, and that whence the true practitioner is, and is no other than a confirmation of the previous work: because the operation of the hands manifests something that is good, and draws the latent and hidden nature outwards, and brings it to light for good. And thus, as in Divine things the way of the Lord is to be prepared, so also, in these (spiritual things, the way has to be opened and prepared, that no error be made from the right path: but that progress may be made without deviation in the direct way to health. --- Manual operation is chiefly required, therefore; without which, indeed, every other operation, like a ship without ballast, floats and is uncertain. But it is difficult to express this with a pen; for more is learned by once seeing the work done, than can be taught by the writing of many pages (1).
Although the Alchemists have written diffusely on the manual Practice, and delivered many Keys, whereby, as they say, we may enter into the sanctuary of philosophy and open her interior recesses; yet the first way of approach and shut entrance to these has not been unfolded, nor would it be possible, we think, for any one to discover the Practice from their books alone. For although it is called a play of children, and represented as a very trivial, slight, almost a ridiculous thing, one linear decoction throughout and dissolution by line, yet neither instinct nor reason would probably suggest, without instruction, the tractive artifice now made publicly easy of entrancing the senses in their own medial light.
But recent observation has proved various means of effecting this, and determining the natural life to an interaction of its beams, by the hand or eye of another mesmerizing, or by a passive fixed gaze; the virtues of ether and chloroform too are familiar, and in these days ignorantly preferred to the former expedients, since their effects are considered analogous and more easily supplied; which however are very different, as proved by the contrariety of their cause. For, whereas the one, overcoming in light, oxygenates, purifies, and sublimes the arterial blood, and in proportion the intellectual powers; the other contrariwise, by influxion of darkness, drowns the oxygenating spirit, prostrates and confounds the mental powers, and, further overwhelming, often produces syncope and death. But we have no space to dwell here on errors that daily experience promises to remove. The ancients appear to have been acquainted with other analogous means and media of curative repute; other revolutionary arts, too, by which the human spirit may be involuted and converted to its proper spheres. But to effect this was, as we have repeatedly shown, a beginning only of the Hermetic art; the medium in its natural state is volatile, immanifest, phantastic, irrational, and important, compared with what it subsequently is become. The Alchemists, we repeat therefore, did not remain satisfied with a few passes of the hand, or any first phenomena whatever, but they proceeded at once scientifically to purify, depriving the ether of its wild affections and impressures by a dissolution of the circulating body in its own blood. For this is that Brazen Wall celebrated by Antiquity, which surrounds our Heaven and must be scaled, and passed through before any one can hope to discern the equilibriate felicity of Being within. --- Take the occult Nature, which is our Brass, says Albertus, and wash it that it may be pure and clean; dissolve, distill, sublime, increate, calcine, and fix it; the whole of which is nothing else than a successive dissolution and coagulation to make the fixed volatile, and volatile fixed. The beginning of the whole work is a perfect solution (2).
Now, although there are many ways of including the sensible medium and of unfolding the interior light temporarily, yet for the Purification we read but of one way, called by the Adepts Manual, and their Linear way, which supersedes all other from beginning to end of the Dissolution. And, according to their general testimony, and for other explicable reasons, we judge that the Hand was the instrument employed, not only to impart the Spirit as a natural gift, but by a continual mechanic trituration, as it were, to dissolve and ultimately obliterate its innate defects. The Mercury of the philosophers, says Lully, comes not but by help of ingenuity, and the Manual operations of man. And Vaughan says, nature is not moved by theory alone, but by sagacious Handicraft and human assistance. --- Nature cannot of herself enter into the dissolution, says the author of the Filum Ariadne, because she has no hands. --- The Hand, says Van Helmont, is the instrument of instruments, which the soul likewise useth, as a means by which it bears its image into operation (3). We could bring together a multitude of passages showing the literal application of these, but have a doubt about the utility, since they would prove nothing to unbelievers; and those who are disposed to inquire for themselves, looking to context and probability, may be readily convinced. We are less than ever anxious at this late stage of inquiry to persuade others, or induce trial of the practice where theoretic power is deficient; but leave the incredulous therefore to their incredulity, until faith has independently established the fact over their heads. For neither will the preclude of Hermetic practice be attractive to the idle, but continual labor is exacted throughout the performance --- patience, toil, skill, unremitting attention, in the execution, and a free will to the discovery of error, without discordant slurring or disguise.
He that neglects the knowledge, being disheartened by the difficulties thereof, shall never find where the disease lieth, says Crollius, for these Chemical Secrets will never be fingered by those slothful or sottish despisers of them, by reason of their indisposition and unaptness for Manual operation. As also of the profane, lewd, and unworthy, there will be little danger of their apprehending and discerning Divine Mysteries; because they want the spirit of Wisdom, and are not quick of understanding in these things (4). --- Some indeed, amongst the ignorant and pseudo-chemists, says Eirenaeus, imagine that our work is a mere recreation and amusement from beginning to end, holding indeed the labor of this artifice in light account. In the work which they account so easy, however, we observe they reap an empty harvest for their idling pains; we know next the Divine blessing and a good principle to begin with, that it is by assiduity and industry that we accomplish the First Work. Nor is the work so easy that it should be considered as a mental recreation either (since a concentrated attention is necessary), but according to the labor we do likewise reckon the reward; as Hermes says --- I spared no labor either of mind or body; which also verifies that proverb of Solomon --- The desire of the idle shall cause him to perish. Neither is it wonderful that so many chemical students were in former times reduced to poverty, since they spared labor, but no expense. But, continues the same author, we, who know the truth, have worked, and we know beyond doubt that there is no work more tedious than our First Operation, concerning which Morien gravely warns King Calid, saying that many philosophers have been overcome with the fatigue of this work. Neither would I have these things understood figuratively, continues he; I am not speaking here indeed of the commencement of the Supernatural Work, but of things as we first find them: and to well dispose the matter, this truly is a labor and a work (5).
The work of philosophers, says Arnold, is to dissolve the Stone in its own mercury, that it may be reduced into its first Matter. --- Opus namque philosophorum, est dissolvere Lapidem in suum Mercurium, ut in priman reducatur materiam (6). This Labor has, by the author of the Hermetic Secret, Urbigeranus, and some others, been styled a labor of Hercules. For there is such a mass of heterogeneous superfluities adhering to our subject, that nothing short of dissolution can give it rest; and, these Adepts say, it will be entirely impossible to accomplish without the Theory of their Arcanum, in which they show the medium by which the Royal Diadem may be extracted from our Sordid Subject. And even when this is known, continual labor is required in the application, lest remaining in any part, of left alone, before the total solution of her enigma, the Sphinx should retrieve her dominion unawares and frustrate the work begun --- Tere, coque, et reitera, et non te taedeat --- Grind, coct, says the wise author of the Rosarium, and reiterate your labor and be not weary (7). Work not today and be sorry tomorrow; but lay sorrow aside and continue your labor steadfast unto the end, lest peradventure God hoodwink and make open the Light, says the Spirit to Dr Dee; the labor is equal to the work, and to fight against the Powers of Darkness requires great force (8). And let him who would learn, says Van Helmont, buy coals and fire, and discover those things which watching successive nights, and expenses, have afforded to philosophers (9). Kings and powerful princes have not been ashamed to set their hand to work in order to seek out, by their sweat and labors, the secret of Nature, which they have faithfully bequeathed 910).
Ardua prima via est; et qua vix mane recentes Enitantur equi (11).
Fresh horses there are verily needed to this Celestial Ploughshare and laborious assistance for a toil that is incessant, to clear the wasted field of human life, and harrow it for a more congenial growth: nor once nor twice; but many times the labor must be repeated, as each dying is renewed into a better life. This the wise poet, in his Georgics, teaches; and this recalls to mind the advice of Norton and his brother Adepts about the choice of servants, their capacities and qualifications, which moreover are tried in a double, single manifold, and triply complicated sense. All the operators, says Zachary, supply themselves with three or four, sometimes ten, furnaces or more --- as for solution, sublimation, calcinations --- and the matter passes through vessels innumerable; but not all would avail without a Method in their distribution; one would not advance in effect beyond another, unless the operation were altered; there is indeed but one way of working, in one matter, one linear way throughout, one vessel uniform throughout, except removal. Unicus operandi modu in unico vase, in unica fornacula, praeter a motionem, donec decoctio compleatur (12).
The Preparing Spirit dissolves the body of Light, and cleanses it from the corrupting causes, and extracts a Second Spirit subsisting and tinging in the body, and reduces the bodies by dissolution into itself; and these, says the Adept, are the advantages of the Spirit preparing its body and extracting from it the tinging spirit: for this Argent vive was at first gross, unclean, fugitive, being mingled with extraneous Sulfurs; but by the operation of Art it was cleansed and renewed, and coagulated by its own internal sulfur, red and white, and is double; not viscous, but acidulated, subtle, and very penetrative, resolving the bodies mineral.
But our evidence runs in advance; as we remark by the way that this Argent vive, which is decocted linearly, is generated pontically, as it were by a reciprocal alternation, distributing its advanced virtue by hand to hand. --- And know, say Eirenaeus, that the exact preparation of the philosophic Eagles may be considered the first degree of perfection in this Art, in the knowledge of which there is required also some sagacity of mind, For do not suppose that this science has become known to any of us by chance, or by a happy guess of the imagination; but we have worked and sweated daily, and passed many sleepless nights, much labor and sweating truly we have undergone in the pursuit of truth. You, therefore, that are but beginning, as a tyro, in this study, be assured that nothing can be achieved in the First Operation without sweating and much labor. In the Second, however, Nature alone operates, and without any imposition of hands, by the sole assistance of a well-regulated external fire (13).
Avicen, in Porta, wrote, if ye remember,
How ye shoulde proceede perfection the engender,
Trewly teaching as the pure truth was,
Comedas ut bibas, et bibas ut comeda;
Eat as it drinketh and drink as it doth eate,
And in the meane season, take it a perfect sweate.
Rasis set the dietary and spake some deale far,
Non tamen comedat res festinanter,
Let not your matters eate over hastily.
But wisely consume their foode leisurlie.
Hereof the prophet made wondrous mention,
If ye apply it to this intention
Visitasti terram et inebriasti eam,
Multiplicasti locupletare eam,
Terram fructiferam in salsuginem
Et terram sine aqua in exitus aquaram.
If I have plenty of meate and drinke.
Men must wake when they desire to winke;
For it is labor of watch and paines greate,
Also the foode is full costly meate.
Therefore all poore men beware, says Arnolde,
For this Art ‘longeth to greate men of the worlde.
Trust to his words, ye poore men all,
For I am witness, the soe ye finde shall.
Esto longanimus et suavis, said he,
For hasty men th’ end shall never see.
The length of clensing matters infected
Deceiveth much people for that is unsuspected.
Excess of one half quarter of an hour
May destroy all; therefore chief succour,
In primo pro quo et ultimum pro quo non
To know the simperings of our Stone,
Till it may no more simper do, nor cease,
And yet long continuance may not cause increase.
Remember that water will bubble and boyle,
But butter must simmer and also oyle;
And so with long leisure it will waste
And not with bubbling made in haste (14).
Frequent advises are given against haste in the preparation, lest the centers should be stirred up before the circumferences are ready to conceive them; and we may observe that Oedipus, he who of yore overcame the Sphinx, was lame and impotent in his feet, signifying by this (amongst other abstruse allusions) that we should not make too much haste to the solution of her riddle, lest she should expound herself without a proper understanding unawares --- Alciatus, painting a dolphin wreathed about an anchor, for an emblem, wrote these words --- Festina Lente --- Make not too much haste --- which admonition applies not only well to the common affairs of life, but especially to the trituration of the Philosophic Subject, which ought to be slow, gentle, and continuous.
Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo.
And therefore the Adepts, again and again, admonish and caution, lest by too great excitation the internal agent awakening should cause a disseveration in the Chaos, and the two Principles stand up one against the other, before the intended mastery is secure. --- Cause, therefore, wings to be prepared for the Matter by Juno, Bacchus, and Vulcan; but as you love your life, says Basil, permit it not to fly suddenly, rather deliver it to Mercury, to be instructed by him gradually to accustom itself to flying; yea, bind it with a cord, lest (as a bird got out of its cage and past your reach) it through ignorance approach too near the Sun, and like Icarus, having its unproved feathers burnt, fall headlong into the sea; but after you have detained it for its due time, loose its bonds towards which all sons of Art aim to arrive as to their long-desired and sought for harbor (15). Take the flying bird, says Hermes, and drown it flying; and divide and separate it from its redness, which holds it in death; draw it forth and repel it from itself, that it may live and answer thee not by flying away indeed to the region above, but truly by forbearing to fly. For if thou shalt deliver it out of its prison, after this thou shalt govern it according to Reason and according to the days specified; then it will become a companion to thee, and by it thou shalt become an honoured Lord. Extract from the ray its shadow and its obscurity, by which the clouds hang over it and corrupt, and keep away the light; by means of its constriction also and fiery redness it is burned. Take, my son, this watery corrupted redness, 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 who it was cherished and in who it rests (16).
He that would seek tincture most specious,
Must needly avoid all things wild and vicious;
Of manifold means each hath his property
To do his office after his degree,
With them hid things be outset
Some that will help, and some that would let.
Who would have trew worke may no labor spare,
Neither yet his purse, though he make it full bare;
And in the Gross Worke he is furthest behind,
That dayly desireth the end thereof to find.
If the Grosse worke with all his circumstance
Were done in three years it were a blessed chance (17).
This is meant chiefly in reference to the Second Operation, and the periods are often to be understood metaphorically with respect to the discovery of the philosophic Salt. Some have met the Light sooner, some later, and the natural periods are protracted by faulty conditions from the commencement, by the indisposition of patients, as by the ignorance of agents, which things are more or less implied. Years have been employed by some in the Preparation, the perplexity of the records have added to the natural difficulty, and to others it has never been vouchsafed. Eirenaeus, mentioning his case as remarkably favored, says that in the course of two years and a half the whole Arcanum was revealed to him. --- I made, says he, not five wrong experiments in it before I found the true way, although in some particular turnings of the Encheiresis I erred often; yet, so that in my error I knew myself a master, and in no less than two full years and a half, of a vulgar ignoramus I became a true Adept, and have the secret through the goodness of God (18).
It is to be imagined that the better foundation there is laid in theory from the commencement, other things being equal, the surer, easier, and more rapid would be the result; but from books, general principles only can be gathered, and instruction from particular experience. The working theory, as we long ago suggested, can be obtained through the practice only; for the way develops itself I the practice by rational inquisition of the Light within. And this may be a matter of gratulation to students, whilst adepts are so very abstruse and envious in their disguises, to learn that the Hermetic Art is not so much the offspring of natural intelligence as of involved thought. Ab actionibus procedit speculatio is a famous maxim of Aristotle’s and eminently applies to this philosophy, where each discovery opens into a new field of inquiry, and the fruit of contemplation is ever more sown in order to bring about the solution of its proper dilemma in the explanatory growth of truth.
Not all by reading, nor by long sitting still;
Nor fond conceit, nor working all by will;
But, as I said, by grace it is obtained:
Seek grace therefore, let folly be refrained (19).
See k grace; and, by importunity of reason, seek for the clue of Truth within the Spirit’s life; if haply she may find it, or we be able to discover whether she have it or not --- That which analyzes even must be analyzed; that, returning analytically, it may resolve the separable Selfhood and reiterate the same by alternation until it arrives at the inseparable Unit of Truth. --- Liber librum explicit --- And this is the way of rational permeation, by the Understanding of Nature, into her Causal Light.
So shalt thou instant reach the realms assign’d
In wondrous ships self-moved, instinct with mind;
No helm secures their course, no pilotguides;
Like man intelligent they plough the tides,
Conscious of every coast and evey bay,
That lies beneath the Sun’s all-seeing ray;
And, veiled in clouds impervious to the eye,
Fearless and rapid through the deep they fly (20).
And that court of King Alcinous, to which Ulysses became admitted, is the dominion of Intellect, which, in the description of these Phoeacian ships, also, is admirably signified; the hyperbole, in fact, would be absurd without other reference, and the well-illumined Taylor has shown, in his Dissertation, that the whole of the Odyssey is an allegory pregnant with latent meaning and the recondite Wisdom of antiquity.
Here again, then, we observe that it is not from a moderate study or a few spontaneous revelations of the Spirit’s virtue, or natural instinct, that we should presume to judge of the Hermetic Mystery; since brazen walls and adamantine are between, and all the breadth of that vast sea to be passed over before we can hope to set foot upon the royal coast; a sea ---
Huge, horrid, vast --- where scarce in safety sails
The best built ship, tho’ Jove inspires the gales (21).
Even with these advantages, and after the first floodgates and barriers are overpast, greater obstacles await him, and Herculean labors, who dares, approaching to the Nether confines, to make choice of Light. No one may hope, without toil and perseverance, to obtain it. Wisdom is the reward of voluntary and arduous research. Perseus passed through dangerous encounters, struggling with monstrous Chimera’s; and Theseus before Ariadne vouchsafed her love and assistance; Bacchus, Ulysses, Hercules, and the rest; Jason, also, passing through many hopes and fears, and performing dangerous feats and supernatural labors, before Medea led him to the Field of Mars.
For the Gross Worke is foule in her kinde,
And full of perils as ye shall finde,
No man’s wit can hi so avile
But that sometimes he shall make a faile:
As wellthe layman, so shall the clerke,
And all that labor in the gross worke.
Wherefore Anaxagoras said trewly thus ---
Nemo prima fronte reperitur discretus (22).
They all set forth expectant heroes only in the beginning, content also with the company of their rude deserts, and it is satisfactory to learn with all this prospective discouragment, that ---
He shall end it once for certaine
Shall never have neede to begin againe.
Much I might writeof the Nature of Mynes
Which in the gross worke be but engines;
For in this worke find ye nothing shall,
But handie crafte, called Art mechanical,
Wherein a hundred ways and moe,
Ye may commit a fault as ye therein goe
Wherefore believe what old Auctors tell;
Without experience ye may not do well.
Consider all circumstances, and set your deligte
To keep Uniformity of all things requisite;
Use one manner of vessel in matter and in shape,
Beware of Commixtion that nothing miscape.
And hundredth foultes in speciall
Ye may make under this warning generall.
Netheless this doctrine woll suffice
Tohim tha can in practice be wise.
If your ministers be witty and trew,
Such shall not need your workes to renew (23).
And here we may bethink ourselves how Flamel learned discretion from his Second Book, and how Eirenaeus promises a guide, and describes him too in his Ripley Revived. And, in Vulcan’s labors, says Khunrath, I have worked indefatigably with no small expense, but, thanks to God, my own alone; now in companionship, and now not; both happily sometimes, sometimes without success. But how should he do well who never has done amiss? What was wrong taught me what was right, from day to day one book throwing light upon another, I was enabled to interpret them. I observed what nature taught me by the ministry of art. O thou edifying Cabal of much profit! How hath she not advance me! Meanwhile, carefully keeping note of conversations, experiments, and conceptions of my own as well as others: when ye, my contemporaries, were idly dozing, I was watching and at work. Meditating earnestly day and night on what I had seen and learnt --- sitting, standing, recumbent, by sunshine and moonshine, by banks, in meadows, streams, woods, and mountains (24). And thus we read, in the Hermetical Triumph, how the Stone of Philosophers, which is a pure petrification of the Spirit, is prepared by those who trace nature with the assistance of the Lunar Vulcan, as we long ago suggested, is meant the first prepared Subject, which is also called Diana, and the secret natural interior Fire of Adepts, and because this same Lunar Caustic is brought into act by an exterior excitation. --- Sol est Fons totius caloris, Luna autem Domina Humiditatis. The ethereal humidity nourishes the Solar Light and educates it; and this is that Nemean Lion said to be born of her foam.
With respect to the rule of Investigation, however, having opened thus much, we would add a few remarks, for neither is it said to be expedient to inquire about Ends so much as about things pertaining to ends, the Artist holding his right intention from the beginning. This principle Aristotle, in his Ethics, astutely argues. For neither, he observes, does a physician consult whether he shall heal the sick, nor a rhetorician whether he shall persuade, nor the politician whether he shall persuade, nor the politician whether he shall establish an equitable legislation, nor does any one of the remaining characters consult about the End. But, proposing a certain end, they consider how and by what Medium it may be obtained. If also it appears that this end is to obtained through many media, they consider through which of them it may be obtained in the easiest and best manner. But if through one medium they consider how it may be accomplished, and through what likewise this may be obtained until they arrive at the first Cause which is discovered in the last place. For he who consults, continues the artful moralist, appears to investigate and analyze in the above-mentioned manner, as if her were investigating and analyzing a diagram (25).
Even so, in the Hermetic Inquiry, he who consults, the end being proposed which is not immediately in his power, investigates the Medium by which he hopes to obtain it; and if this Medium be not entirely enlightened, he explores another, and further till he discovers the first Medium which is immediately in his power, in the discovery of which inquiry terminates, and the work, beginning from thence, passes into accomplishment. That Medium, therefore, which is last in the analysis is first in generation being proved able to the accomplishment, and of the many called to the consultation of means few are chosen to proceed with the Philosophic Work. For philosophers were not wont to investigate trifles, but they inquired about such things as tend to purification and the method of perfecting life. And when things, thus truly eligible, are the objects of inquiry, the Divine Will being conciliated, Wisdom runs lovingly by her own rule to fulfill it; and hence our deeds and discourses extend their Hands, as it were, to assist us in our assent, and Will is the greatest power of purgation. And then That which from the first is efficacious returns into its proper Efficient, how much more will not those strokes, reverberating, be effectual to overcome?
Ille pius Cheiron justissimus omnes
Inter Nubigenas et Magni Doctor Achillis.
This is he who, in his double capacity of Power and Motive in alliance, corrects and educates the Heroic Fire, tames and directs its illimitable virtue, and rectifies the Armed Magnet by an infallible rule. And that Intellect rides through the abyss of sensual monarchy, secure in its Ether; and, as a ship upon the stormy seas is directed by the beacon-light, it follows until integrally related, when, center meeting center, the consciousness transcends in revolutionary Light.
We know that, in common life, the hands perform innumerable offices and image mind about, by material subjects, in a variety of ways. And as the mind more easily retains that which the hand before has noted by its exterior sense; so, in Hermetic works, the hand is found best able to express and impart what the mind has well premeditated; and thence, from its replenished members, thought carries itself by voluntary motion into effect. Such were those Dactyli Idaei, literally the Fingers of Mount Ida, so renowned in fable for their medicinal and magic skill, who worked, it is said, at the foot of the Parnassian Mountain to exhibit by their incessant fiery artifice the metallic veins therein imbedded (26). So Pallas is fabled, by the help of Vulcan, to have been brought forth from Jove; for, without the instrumentality of Motion, which the lame god personates, the Fabricate Intellect is not born. But if thereafter it should happen, says the wise Adept, that Pluto’s Palace should be exposed to any one together with Minerva’s Artifice, or if Vulcan stands together with her at the Altar there, the Association is ominous.
Coexistunt namque naturalia opera splendore,
Cnetro incitans seipsum lumine resonante.
Fontanum alium, qui Empyreum mudum ducit,
Centrum quo omnes, usque quo forte equales fuerint (27).
To instruct the ignorant is no part of the present object; but to stimulate the inquiry of such as are already enlightened, and to advance the faithful in the pursuit of truth, we conclude with such instruction as may be finally needful concerning this said hyper-physical Gross Work. The Second part of the Gross Work is described by Vaughan as one of the greatest subtleties of the Art; Cornelius Agrippa, he observes, knew the First Preparation, and has clearly discovered it; but the difficulty of the Second made him almost an enemy to his own profession. By the Second Work we are to understand, therefore, the Solution of the Philosophic Salt (i.e., the voluntary bond); which is a secret which Agrippa did not rightly know, as it appears by his practice at Malines, and as he confesses in the first book, of Occult Philosophy, that he could not increase the transmutative virtue, nor would Natalius teach him teach him for all his frequent and serious entreaties. This was it, adds his disciple, that made his necessities so vigorous and his purse so weak, that I can seldom find him at full fortune. But in this he is not alone: Raymond Lully received not this mystery wither from Arnold, but, in his first practices, he followed the common tedious process which after all is scarcely profitable. Here he met with a drudgery almost invincible. Ripley also labored for new inventions to putrefy this Red Salt which he enviously calls his Gold; and his Art was to expose it to alternate fits of heat and cold, but in this he is singular; Faber is so wise that he will not understand him. Let us return then to Raymond Lully, who became so great a master that he performed the Solution in nine days, and this secret he had from God himself since this is his profession. --- Nos, says he, de prima illa nigedine a paucis cognita ebnigmum Spiritum extrahere affectantes, pugnam ignis vincentum, et nos victum, licet sensibus corporis multoties palpavimus, et oculis propriis illum vidimus; etc... (28).
In the first act of the physico-chemical works, explains Khunrath, by diverse instruments and labors and the various artifice of the Hands and of Fire, from Adrop (which in its proper tongue is called Saturn, i.e., the lead of the Wise), our heart of Saturn, the bonds of coagulation being dexterously relaxed, the Green Duenech and the Vitriol of Venus, which are the true matters of the Blessed Stone will appear. The Green Lion, lurking and concealed, is drawn forth from the Cavern of his Saturnine Hill by attractions and allurements suitable to his nature. All the blood copiously flowing from his wounds, by the acute lance transfixed, is diligently collected ule and lili; the mud earth, wet, humid, stagnant, impure, partaking of Adam, the First Matter of the creation of the Greater World of our very selves and of our potent Stone, is made manifest --- the Wine which the Wise have called the Blood of the Earth, which likewise is the Red of Lully, so name on account of its tincture which is the color of its virtue, thick, dense, and black, blacker than black, will then be at hand; the bond by which the soul is tied to the body and united together with it into one substance is relaxed and dissolved. The Spirit and the Soul by degrees depart from the body and are separated step by step; whilst this takes place the fixed is made volatile, and the impure body (of the Spirit) from day to day is consumed, is destroyed, dies, blackens, and goes to Ashes. These Ashes, my Son, deem not of little worth; they are the diadem of thy body; in them lies our pigmy, conquering and subduing giants. In the Second Operation, which takes place in one circular crystalline vessel justly proportioned to the quality of its contents, also in one theosophic cabalistically sealed furnace of Athanor, and by one fire, the body, spirit and soul, externally washed and cleansed and purged with the most accurate diligence and Herculean labors, and again compounded, commingle, rot of themselves and without manual cooperation, by the sole labors of nature, are dissolved, conjoined, and reunited; and thus the fixed the fixed becomes volatile wholly; these three principles also are of themselves coagulated, diversifiedly colored, calcined, and fixed; and hence the World arises renovated and new (29).
Here then liest the Gordian Knot of the Hermetic Mystery --- and who is he that is bale to untie it, enquires the philosopher? --- He who knows the Salt and its solution, knows the secret of the Ancient Sages. And if it be again asked who? We have already named him, and openly; but this Light shining everywhere in Darkness, how hardly should it be comprehensible without Itself?
Janua clausa est, vah quae lamentabilis haec vox;
Orcina sed frustra pulsabitis ostia pugnis;
Vestrae namque Manus nequeunt diffingere ferru.
What then ought we to be doing, since hands and intellect are here alike incapable, and the truth of this discovery was never yet put to paper, and for this sufficient reason, that it is proper alone, as Lully says, to God to reveal it; since it is His alone prerogative, and no mortal can communicate it to another unless the Divine Will be with him. --- Not every messenger, says Van helmont, approacheth to the mine of Sontes; but he alone, who, being loosed from his bonds, has known the wars, being fitted forhis journey, a friend to the places and who has virtue. They err, therefore, who ascribe this single combat only to Corrosives; to wit, they too much trusting to Second qualities, as being ill secure, do sleep thereupon, and through a neglecting of specifical qualities, also appropriated ones (which are only extended on their proper object), being slighted, they have gone into Obscurity. For the Ostrich does not digest iron or little birds flints, through an emulous quality of corrosion; but there is a virtue of loosing the bars and bolts of Tartar. It is convenient to meditate about this virtue, continues the physician, and of what I have spoken; blessed be that God of Wonders, who hath sometimes converted the Water into Rocks, and at other times the Rocks into pools of Water (30). Who then shall ascend into the Mountain of the Lord, or who shall stand in His Holy Place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not given up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
We do not quote casually, or because the Scriptural phrase is popular; but because it is apt, as seen and proved on the Divine Ground; where man indeed may experiment, plough, plant, and irrigate, but cannot of himself (or in alliance, unless he dare a deadly sin), compel the Divine Blessing without its free accord. --- Wisdom was with thee, says the Hermetic Master; it was not gotten by thy care, or, if it be freed from redness, by thy study (31). So neither, it is written, is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God, that giveth the increase (32). He therefore must be propitiated, not by prayer and supplication alone, but by faithful and charitable works preparing the way before Him; nor would it be thought astonishing, perhaps, if Antimony should cause a sudden transpiration, or that an Iron Key should help to unlock a treasury of fine Gold. Desire leads into its object by fait immediately; but mediately, by just works, that hope is engendered which, kindling into faith immediately; by ecstacy, penetrates to its First Source. --- Our Antimony, says Basil Valentine, which is fixed, searcheth out fixed diseases and eradicates them; which purgers, not fixed, cannot do; but they do only carry away some spoil from diseases; or they may be compared to water which, driven by force through a street, penetrates not the earth itself. Fixed remedies purge not by the inferior parts, because that is not the true way of expelling fixed venoms; and that way they would not touch the kernel, as it may be called, or center of the disease; but by expelling sweat, and otherwise, they strike at the very inmost root of the disease, not contented with a certain superficial expulsion of filths. Therefore we admonish all and every one, that all venomous impurity is totally to be taken away from Antimony, before it can either be called a medicine truly or administered with safety --- in other words, that all arrogant self-will, sensuality, folly, avarice, and variability of purpose, all but the one voluntary faith to rectify and perfect, be removed from the mind of him who is to enter into the radical dissolution of Life. For the weapons of this warfare are not carnal, as the Apostle teaches, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the Knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (33). And for this cause, continues the monk, the good must be separated from the evil, the fixed from the unfixed, the medicine from the venom, with accurate diligence, if we hope by the use of Antimony to obtain true honor and true utility; but Fire only can effect that, and Vulcan is the sole and only master of all these. Whatsoever the Vulcan in the Greater Orb leaves crude and perfects not, that in the Lesser World must be amended by a certain other Vulcan, ripening the immature, and cocting the crude by heat, and separating the pure from the impure. That this is possible, no man will doubt; for daily experience teaches the same, and it very apparent in the corporeal aspect of colors which proceed from the Fire. For by separation and Fire, which perfects its fixation, venomosity is taken from the Medicine, and of good and evil; which however is a thing that none of the physicians either dares or can truly and fundamentally own or demonstrate, unless he who hath firmly contracted friendship with Vulcan, and instituted the Fiery bath of Love (34).
There is one operation of heat, says Vaughan, whose method is vital and far more mysterious than all other, and there be but few of that Spirit that can comprehend it: But because I will not leave thee without some satisfaction, I advise thee to take the Moon of the Firmament, which is a middle Nature, and place her so that every part of her may be in two elements at one and the same time; these elements also must equally attend her body; not one further off, nor one nearer than the other. In the regulation of these there is a twofold geometry to be observed, natural and artificial. Flamel also, speaking of the Solar and Lunar Mercury, and the plantation of the one in the other, gives this instruction, Take them, he says, and cherish them over a fire in thy Alembic; but it must not be a fire of coals, nor of any wood, but a bright shining fire like the Sun itself, whose heat must neither be excessive, but always of one and the same degree (35). Our operation, concludes Morien, is nothing else but extracting water from the earth and returning it again, so long and so often until the earth is completely putrefied; for by elevation of the moisture the body is heated and dried, and by returning it again it is cooled and moistened; by the continuation of which successive operations it is brought to corrupt and to lose its Form, and for a season to remain dead (36). This then is the true intention and manner of working to supply the right condition for attracting the Divine Seed, by action and reaction raising successively actives by passives, and, vice versa, passives by actives, until the spiritual ability is complete.
For what one doth concoct t’other will drive away;
But if thou canst each work perform apart,
And knowest them afterwards to reconcile,
Then thou art master of a princely Art
The very success will thy hopes beguile;
Thou hast all Nature’s works ranked on a file,
And all her treasures at command dost keep;
On thee the Fates will never dare but smile.
No mystery is now for thee too deep:
Th’ art Nature’s darling whether dost wake or sleep.
Pardon my plainness, of the Art, thou knowest
It was the fruit of my untamed desire
To profit any; and, without a boast,
No man above my candor shall aspire
My zeal was kindled by Minerva’s Fire (37).
But for an explanation of the whole difficulty, adds the same author, in his pe Entrance, attend to these instructions --- Take four parts of our Fiery Dragon, which bears in his belly the Magic Steel, and conjoin to nine parts of our Lodestone, that by a violent concussion they may be reduced in to a mineral water; reject the superfluous scum which swims upon it; leave the Shell and take the Kernel; and purge thrice with Salt and with Fire: which will be easy to do, if Saturn have chanced to regard his beauty in the glass of Mars. --- Hence comes the Chamelion which is our Chaos, in which all the Arcana are contained; not in act as yet, but in virtue (38). --- Non igitur externus solis coelestis calor est qui profundum terrae calefacit sed potius solis terrestris innatus calor; etc… (39).
Which Vulcanic action, to destroy life and to maintain it, Democritus before all, and as it were pyrographically, portrays, as --- Drawing the fixed Brass out bodily, instructs this Abderite, thou shalt compose a certain oblong tongue, and placing it again upon the coals, stir Vulcan into it; now irradiating with the Fossil Slat, 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 glaucous veil aside, shall appear entirely Golden. Perchance it was when Paris gazed on such a Venus, he did prefer her both to Juno and Minerva (40).
This evidence may suffice for the present occasion, which is to promote inquiry rather than pursue it. For when the inquirer has learned how he ought to begin with, having increased also his natural store of inclination and faith by practice in equal companionship and reciprocal benefaction, he will not despair; and even though the riddle should appear ever so intricate at first, it will solve itself at every stage, opening into new prospects within the veil of life. Labor to know causes, advises the philosopher; he that seeks rationally finds the true end, not otherwise; for such a conduct conciliates Minerva, and at her behest Jove prospers the undertaking. Everything depends upon the Motive, which is the true spiritual ferment; and according to the virtue of the fermenting principle is the result obtained.
Sie finis ab origine pendet.
The end depends from the beginning; and as the vine draws its sap from the foeculent impure earth, and yields a fluid fruit, which by the fermentive art is turned into wine, spiritualized, and advanced into a more permanent form of being; so in the Hermetic art, the philosophic matter, drawn in part from the heterogeneous air and defiled breath of vitality, is purified by successive interchanging of ferments, fretted, dissolved, and rectified into a consummate and immortal Form of Light. Bit Nature halts many times before this final rest, at each stage offering the fruits of her conceptive imagination to allure; if the artist be ambitious, however, and a true philosopher, he will accept of none of these, but will proceed, sacrificing all the intermediate benefits, again and again torturing her, and, with relentless hands, slaying the firstborn offspring until the Divine Perfection is attained. --- For other foundation can no man lay, as says the apostle, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the Day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by Fire; and the Fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any ma’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be save; yet so as by Fire. Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the Temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the Temple of God is holy, which Temple ye are (41).
It is vain to look in expectation, or believe ourselves in the hereditary possession, of a treasure, without so much as opening or suspecting even the casket in which it is shut up. The common elements of Nature obscure their Divine Original, and Chemistry and all our experimental physics drive it forcibly without the means of Identification. Yet as the experienced Chemist knows how, by a skillful application of his art, to analyze the common elements, and distill them to a high virtue and strength of refinement, so the Alchemists long since have taught by amore subtle apparatus and artifice, and tests more cogent than all, to rectify the Universal Element, and compress its invisible vapor into a tangible Form. By applying the proper voluntary corrosive they teach to obliterate its defilements; by gentleness to mollify its Durity; by beneficence to sweeten its acerbity; by justice to moderate its intensity, and to irradiate it with hope, truth, beauty, and universal intellection; supplanting the sensual dominion, and rectifying, until finally, by an actual subversion of the selfhood, they made their Sublimate sublime.
Thus he who, like Oedipus, is able to solve the Enigma of the Sphinx; in other words, to penetrate rationally the darkened essence of his natural understanding, will, by conversion illuminating its obscurity, cause it to become lucid throughout, and to be no longer what it was before. --- For Mind is the Key of this Hermetic Enigma, and no sooner does it attain to Self Knowledge, by proper inquiry within, than the Efficient proceeds out wards to image its motive in operation, so that that which before lay in speculation only is carried out in Life. But it is not until the right Motive is discovered, and until the mundification of the Spirit is completed in both kinds, and all things are reduced to a crystalline diaphaneity, that the Philosophic Work has been said truly to being. For, as was before observed, if any permanent confection is made or suffered to take place beforehand, the immature offspring does not abide.
He that would seek Tincture most specious
Must needly avoid all things wild and vicious.
The philosopher’s worke doe not begin
Till all things be pure without and within (42).
1. B. Valentine, Triumphal Chariot of Antimony; Kirchringius in Basil, idem.
2. Secret. Tact. Alberti mag. In fine; Ars Aurifera, p. 130.
3. R. Lully, Theoria et Pratica; Vaughan, Coelum Terrae; Le Filet d’Aridane; Norton, Ordinal; Helmont, Oreatrike, Introd.
4. Crollius, Phil., p.10
5. Introit. Apert., cap. 8; Morieni de Tans. Metal.
6. Arnoldi, Rosar., cap. 9, lib. 1
7. Rosar., cap.3
8. Dee’s Conversat., sub init.
9. Oreatrike, fol. P. 710
10. Digby’s Lucerna Salis, Dialog.
11. Ovidii, Metam., lib. 1, 64
12. Zacharius, Opusc. Lucerna Salis
13. Introitis Apertus, cap. 7
14. Ordinal, chap. 4
15. Kirchringius in Basilio, Latin, 12 mo., p. 160
16. Tract. Aur., cap. 2
17. Norton’s Ordinal, cap. 4
18. Ripley Revived, p. 87
19. See Kelly’s Verses in Ashmole’sTheatrum
20. Pope’s Homer’s Odyssey, lib. 8:55
22. Ordinal, cap. 4
24. Amph. Sap. Etern., in medio
25. Nichomachean Ethics, book 3, cap. 3
26. See Bell’s Pantheon, p. 209
27. Oracula Chaldeor; Mundus, Anima, Natura.
28. See the passage quoted in Vaughan’s Preface to the Fame and Confession of the R.C.
29. Khunrath, Ampith. Sap.Isag.
30. Oreatrike, cap. 6, p. 710
31. Tract. Aur., cap. 4
32. 1 Corinth., cap.3, v.7
33. 2 Corinth. 10:4, 5
34. Triumph. Char. of Antim.; Kirchringius
35. Coelum Terrae; Flamelli Summula
36. De Trans. Metal.
37. Eirenaeus, Ripley Revived
38. Introitus Apertus, cap. 7
39. Nuysement, Sal Lumen, the latin of Combachius
40. In Flamelli Summula, Quae ex Democrito colleguntur.
41. 1 Corinth. 3:11-17
42. Norton’s ordinal, cap. 4