Mary A. ATWOOD
Hermetic Philosophy & Alchemy:
A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery
Revised Edition, with an Introduction by Walter L. Wilmhurst
Julian Press, Inc., New York
Library of Congress # 60-15990
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
An Exoteric View of the Progress and Theory of Alchemy
A Preliminary Account of the Hermetic Philosophy, with the more Salient Points of its Public History
The Hermetic tradition opens early with the morning dawn in the eastern world. All pertaining thereto is romantic and mystical. Its monuments, emblems, and numerous written records, alike dark and enigmatical, form one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the human mind. A hard task were it indeed and almost infinite to discuss every particular that has been presented by individuals concerning the art of Alchemy; and as difficult to fix with certainty the origin of a science which has been successively attributed to Adam, Noah and his son Cham, to Solomon, Zoroaster, and the Egyptian Hermes. Nor, fortunately, does this obscurity concern us much in an inquiry which rather relates to the means and principles of occult science than to the period and place of their reputed discovery. Nothing, perhaps, is less worthy or more calculated to distract the mind from points of real importance than this very question of temporal origin, which, when we have taken all pains to satisfy and remember, leaves us no wiser in reality than we were before. What signifies it, for instance, that we attribute letters to Cadmus, or trace oracles to Zoroaster, or the kabalah to Moses, the Eleusian mysteries to Orpheus, or Freemasonry to Noah; whilst we are profoundly ignorant of the nature and true beginning of any one of these things, and observe not how truth, being everywhere eternal, does not there always originate where it is understood?
We do not delay, therefore, to ascertain, even were it possible, whether the Hermetic Science was indeed preserved to mankind on the Syriadic pillars after the flood, or whether Egypt or Palestine may lay equal claims to the same; or, whether in truth that Smagardine table, whose singular inscription has been transmitted to this day, is attributable to Hermes or to any other name. It may suffice the present need to accept the general assertion of its advocates, and consider Alchemy as an antique arifice coeval, for aught we know to the contrary, with the universe itself. For although attempts have been made, as by Herman Conringius (1), to slight it as a recent invention, and it is also true that by a singularly envious fate, nearly all Egyptian record of the art has perished; yet we find the original evidence contained in the works of A. Kircher (2), the learned Dane Olaus Borrichius (3), and Robert Vallensis in the first volume of the Theatrum Chemicum (4), more than sufficient to balance every objection of this kind, besides ample collateral probability bequeathed in the best Greek Authors, historical and philosophic.
In order to show that the propositions we may hereafter have occasion to offer are not gratuitous as also with better effect to introduce a stranger subject, it will be requisite to run through a brief account of the Alchemical philosophers, with the literature and public evidence of their science; the more so, as no one of the many histories of philosophy compiled or translated into our language advert to it in such a manner as, considering the powerful and widespread influence this branch formerly exercised on the human mind, it certainly appears to deserve.
This once famous Art, then, has been represented both as giving titles and receiving them from its mother land, Cham; for so, during a long period, according to Plutarch, was Egypt denominated, or Chemia, on account of the extreme blackness of her soil: --- or, as others say, because it was there that the art of Vulcan was first practiced by Cham, one of the sons of the Patriarch, from whom they thus derive the name and art together. But by the word Chemia, says Plutarch, the seeing pupil of the human eye was also designated, and other black matters, whence in part perhaps Alchemy, so obscurely descended, has been likewise stigmatized as a Black Art (5).
Etymological research has doubtless proved useful in leading on and corroborating truths once suggested, but it is not a way of first discovery; derivations may be too easily conformed to any bias, and words do not convey true ideas unless their proper leader be previously entertained. Without being able now, therefore, to determine whether the art gave or received a title from Cham, the Persian prince Alchimin, as others have contended, or that dark Egyptian earth; to take a point of time, we may begin the Hermetic story from Hermes, by the Greeks called Trismegistus, Egypt’s great and far-reputed adeptest king, who, according to Suidas, lived before the time of the Pharoahs, about 400 years previous to Moses, or, as others compute, about 1900 before the Christian era (6).
This prince, like Solomon, is highly celebrated by antiquity for his wisdom and skill in the secret operations of nature, and for his reputed discovery of the quintessential perfectibility of the three kingdoms in their homogeneal unity; whence he is called the Thrice Great Hermes, having the spiritual intelligence of all things in their universal law (7).
It is to be lamented that no one of the many books attributed to him, and which are named in detail by Clemens Alexandrinus, escaped the destroying hand of Dioclesian (8); more particularly if we judge them, as Jamblicus assures us we may, by those Asclepian Dialogues and the Divine Poimander, which yet pass current under the name of Hermes (9). Both are preserved in the Latin of Ficinus, and have been well translated into our language by Dr Everard. The latter, though a small work, surpasses most that are extant for sublimity of doctrine and expression; its verses flow forth eloquent, as it were, from the fountain of nature, instinct with intelligence; such as might be more efficacious to move the rational skeptic off from his negative ground into the happier regions of intelligible reality, than many theological discourses which, of a lower grade of comprehension, are unable to make this highly affirmative yet intellectual stand. But the subjects treated of in the books of the Poemander and Asclepias are theosophic and ultimate, and denote rather our divine capabilities and promise of regeneration than the physical ground of either; this, with the practical method of alchemy being further given in the Tractatus Aureus, or Golden Treatise, an admirable relic, consisting of seven chapters, attributed to the same author (10). The Smaragdine Table, which, in its few enigmatical but remarkable lines, is said to comprehend the working principle and total subject of the art, we here subjoin: from the original Arabic and Greek copies, it has been rendered into Latin by Kircher as follows: ---
Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis / The Smaragdine Table of Hermes
"True, without error, certain and most true; that which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for performing the miracles of the One Thing; and as all things were from one, by the mediation of one, so all things arose from this one thing by adaptation; the father of it is the Sun, the mother of it is the Moon; the wind carries it in its belly; the nurse thereof is the Earth. This is the father of all perfection, or consummation of the whole world. The power of it is Integral, if it be turned into earth. Thou shalt separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, gently with much sagacity; it ascends from earth to heaven, and again descends to earth: and receives the strength of the superiors and of the inferiors --- so thou hast the glory of the whole world; therefore let all obscurity flee before thee. This is the strong fortitude of all fortitudes, overcoming every subtle and penetrating every solid thing. So the world was created. Hence were all wonderful adaptations of which this is the manner. Therefore I am I called Thrice Great Hermes, having the Three Parts of the philosophy of the whole world. That which I have written is consummated concerning the operation of the Sun".
This Emerald Table, unique and authentic as it may be regarded, is all that remains to us from Egypt of her Sacred Art. A few riddles and fables, all more or less imperfect, that were preserved by the Greeks, and some inscrutable hieroglyphics are still to be found quoted in certain of the alchemical records: but the originals are entirely swept away. And, duly considering all that is related by the chroniclers of that ancient dynasty, her amazing reputation for power, wealth, wisdom, and magic skill; --- and, even when all these had faded, when Herodotus visited the city, after the priestly government of the Pharoahs had been overthrown by Cambyses, and that savage conqueror had burned the temples and almost annihilated the sacerdotal order, --- after the influx of strangers had been permitted, and civil war had raged almost to the fulfillment of the Asclepian prophecy, --- the wonders then recorded by the historian of her remaining splendor and magnificence; --- what shall we now conclude, when, after the lapse of many more destroying ages, we review the yet mightily surviving witnesses of so much glory, surpassing and gigantic even in the last stage of their decay? Shall we suppose the ancient accounts fallacious because they are too wonderful to be conceived; or have we not now present before our eyes the plain evidence of lost science and the vestiges of an intelligence superior to our own? For what did the nations flock to Memphis? For what did Pythagoras, Thales, Democritus, and Plato become immured there for several solitary years, but to be initiated in the wisdom and learning of those Egyptians? For what else, but for the knowledge of that mighty Art with which she arose, governed, and dazzled the whole contemporary world; holding in strong abeyance the ignorant, profane, vulgar, until the evil day of desolation came with self-abuse, when, neglecting to obey the law, by which she governed, all fell, as was foretold, and sinking gradually deeper in crime and presumption, was at last annihilated, and every sacred institution violated by barbarians, and despoiled? "Oh, Egypt! Egypt! Fables alone shall remain of thy religion, and these such as will be incredible to posterity, and words alone shall be left engraved in stones narrating thy pious deeds. The Scythian also, or Indian, or some other similar nation, shall inhabit Egypt. For divinity shall return to heaven, all its inhabitants shall die, and thus Egypt bereft both of God and man shall be deserted. Why do you weep, O Asclepias? Egypt shall experience yet more ample evils; she was once holy, and the greatest lover of the gods on earth, by the desert of her religion. And she, who was alone the reductor of sanctity and the mistress of piety, will be an example of the greatest cruelty. And darkness shall be preferred to light, and death shall be judged to be more useful than life. No one shall look up to heaven. The religious man shall be counted insane; the irreligious shall be thought wise; the furious, brave; and the worst of men shall be considered good. For the soul, and all things about it, by which it is either naturally immortal, or conceives it shall attain to immortality, conformable to what I have explained to you, shall not only be the subjects of laughter, but shall be considered as vanity. Believe me, likewise, that a capital punishment shall be appointed for him who applies himself to the Religion of Intellect. New statutes and new laws shall be established, and nothing religious, or which is worthy of heaven or celestial concerns, shall be heard or believed in the mind. Every divine voice shall, by a necessary silence, be dumb: the fruits of the earth shall be corrupted; and the air itself shall languish with a sorrowful stupor. These events, and such an old age of the world as this, shall take place --- such irreligion, inordination, and unseasonableness of all good" (11).
Such is the substance of a prediction which, as it was supposed to have reference to the Christian era, has been abused and reputed a forgery by the faithless learned of modern times. It is, however, difficult to conceive why it should have been considered so obnoxious, for the early history of Christianity certainly does not fulfill it; it was a falling off from Divinity tha was predicted, and not such a revival as took place upon the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles. At that period philosophy too flourished, and the Spirit of the Word was potent in faith to heal and save. If the prediction had been a forgery of Apuleius, or other contemporary opponent of Christianity, the early fathers must have known it, which they did not as is plain from Lactantius, and St Augustine mentioning, without expressing any doubt about its authenticity; and though the latter (then adopting probably the popular notion) esteemed it instinctu fallacies spiritus (12), he might subsequently perhaps have thought otherwise, had he lived so long. Christianity was yet in his time glowing, bright, efficacious, from the Divine Fountain; faith was then grounded in reality and living operation, and the mystery of human regeneration, so zealously proclaimed, was also rationally understood. The fulfillment, with respect to Egypt, appears to have taken place in part long previously, and in part to have been reserved to later times, when sacred mysteries, too openly exposed to the multitude, became perverted and vilified by their abuse.
But this prophecy carries us out of all order of time: it will be necessary, in tracing the progress of our science, to pass again to Egypt. The period of her true greatness is, as is well known, shrouded in oblivion; but, during the long succession of the Ptolemies, the influx of strangers, so long before successfully prohibited, became excessive: her internal peace was destroyed, but her Art and Wisdom spread abroad with her renown: foreigners obtained initiation into the mysteries of Isis; and India, Arabia, China and Persia vied with her and with each other in magian skill and prowess.
Pliny informs us that it was Ostanes, the Persian sage accompanying the army of Xerxes, who first inoculated Greece with the portentous spirit of his nation (13). Subsequently the Greek Philosophers, both young and old, despising the minor religion of their own country, became anxious to visit the eastern temples, and that of Memphis above all, in order to obtain a verification of those hopes to which a previous spirit of inquiry and this new excitement had abundantly given rise.
Amongst the earliest mentioned of these, after Thales, Pythagoras, and a few others, whose writings are lost, is Democritus of Abdera, who has been frequently styles the father of experimental philosophy, and who, in his book of Sacred Physics, treats especially of the Hermetic art, and that occult discovery on which the systems of ancient philosophy appear to have been very uniformly based (14). Of this valuable piece there are said to be several extant editions, and Synesius has added to it the light of a commentary (15). Nicholas Flamel also, of more recent notoriety, has given extracts from the same at the conclusion of a very instructive work (16). That its authenticity should have been disputed by the ignorant is not wonderful; but the ancients are nowhere found to doubt about it. Pliny bears witness to the experimental fame of Democritus, and his skill in the occult sciences and practice of them, both in his native city of Abdera and afterwards at Athens, when Socrates was teaching there. "Plenum miraculi et hoc pariter utrasque artes effloruisse, medicinam dico, magiciemque eadem aetate, illam Hippocrate hanc Democrito illustrantibus", &c (17). Seneca also mentions his artificial confection of precious stones (18); and it is said that he spent all his leisure, after his return home, in these and such-like hyperphysical researches. (19)
During the sojourn of Democritus at Memphis, he is said to have become associated in his studies with a Hebrew woman named Maria, remarkable at that period for the advances she had made in Philosophy, and particularly in the department of the Hermetic Art. A treatise entitled Sapientisima Maria de Lapide Philosophica Praescripta is extant; also Maria Practica, a singularly excellent and esteemed fragment, which is preserved in the alchemical collections (20).
But amongst the Greeks, next Democritus, Anaxagorus is celebrated as an alchemist. The remains of his writing are unfortunately scanty, and even those to be found in manuscript only, with exception of some fragments which have been accidentally translated. From these, however, we are led to infer favorably of the general character of his expositions, which Norton, our countryman also, in the Proheme to his quaint Ordinal of Alchemy, lauds, thus holding him up in excellent comparison with the envious writers of his age.
"All masters that write of this solemn werke,
Have made their bokes to manie men full derke,
In poysies, parables, and in metaphors alsoe,
Which to schollors causeth peine and woe;
Forin their practice wen they would assaye
They leefe their costs, as men see alle daye.
Hermes, Rasis, Geber, and Avicen,
Merlin, Hortolan, Democrit and Morien,
Bacon and Raymond with many moe
Wrote under coverts and Aristotle alsoe.
For what hereof they wrote clear with their pen,
Their clouded clauses dulled; from manie men
Fro laymen, fro clerks, and soe fro every man
They hid this art that noe man find it can.
By their bokes thei do shew reasons faire,
Whereby much people are brought to despaire:
Yet Anaxagoras wrote plainest of them all
In his boke of Conversions Naturall;
Of the old Fathers that ever I founde,
He most discloses of this science the grounde;
Whereof Aristotle had great envy,
And him rebuked unrightlfully,
In manie places, as I can well report,
Intending that men should not to him resort,
For he was large of his cunnying and love,
God have his soul in bliss above; And such as sowed envious seede
God forgive them for their mis-deede" (21).
Aristotle is much blamed by Adepts in general for the manner in which he has not only veiled the knowledge which he secretly possessed, but also for having willfully, as they complain, led mankind astray from the path of true experiment. We hesitate to judge this question, since, however much the barrenness of his philosophy may be deplored, it appears improbable that any philosopher, much less one who took such pains as Aristotle, should designedly labor to deceive mankind. His idea was peculiar and appears itself unjust. He blames his predecessors for the various and contradictory positions they had made in philosophizing; i.e., apparently contradictory, as respects their language when taken in a literal sense; for he never quarrels with their true meaning, and carefully avoids disputing their general ground. His metaphysics indeed, which are the natural touchstone of his whole system, differ in no one fundamental aspect or particular that is essential from those of Anaxagoras, Plato and Heraclitus. Certain epistles to Alexander the Great on the Philosophers’ stone, attributed to Aristotle, are preserved in the fifth volume of the Theatrum Chemicum; and the Secreta Secretorum is generally acknowledged to be authentic. In the book of Meteors also a clearer intelligence of intrinsic causes is evinced than may be apparent to the common eye (22).
But the whole philosophy of Plato is hyperphysical; the Phaedrus, Philebus, and sevnth book of Laws, the beautiful and sublime Parmenides, the Phaedo, Banquet, and Timaeus have long been admired by the studious without being understood; a mystic semblance pervades the whole, and recondite allusions baffle the pursuit of sense and ordinary imagination. Yet the philosopher speaks more familiarly in his Epistles; --- and if the correspondence with Dionysius of Syracuse had concerned moral philosophy only and the abstract relations of mind, why such dread as is there expressed about setting the truth to paper? But the science which drew the tyrant to the philosopher was more probably practical and profitably interesting than abstracts would appear to be to such a mind. "Indeed, O son of Dionysius and Doris, this your inquiry concerning the cause of all beautiful things is endued with a certain quality, or rather it is a parturition respecting this ingenerated in the soul, from which he who is not liberated will never in reality acquire truth" (23). Wisdom must be sought for her own sake, neither for gold or silver or any intermediate benefit, lest these all should be denied together without the discovery of their source. There is a treatise on the philosophers’ stone in the fifth volume of the Theatrum Chemicum attributed to Plato, but the authenticity is doubtful; and since the principal Greek records of the art were afterwards destroyed with the remnant of Egyptian literature at Alexandria, we are not desirous to enroll either of these names without more extant evidence to prove their claim to the title of Hermetic philosophers. They are mentioned here in their series, because we hope to make it probable, as the nature of the subject comes to be developed, that the most famous schools of theosophy have in all ages been based on a similar experimental ground and profound science of truth in their leaders.
It was about the year 284 of the Christian era when, as Suidas relates, the facility with which the Egyptians were able to make gold and silver, and in consequence to levy troops against Rome, excited the envy and displeasure of the Emperor to such an extent, that he issued an edict, by which every chemical book was to be seized and burned together in the public market-place; vainly hoping, as the historian adds, by this shameful act, to deprive them of the means of annoying him any more. Thus Suidas also endeavors to account for the silence of antiquity with respect to the Egyptian Art (24). Yet, notwithstanding all this sacrilege, the art appears to have been continually revived in Egypt throughout the whole period of her decline; and, though the records are scanty, we have the memorable story of Cleopatra, the last monarch, dissolving her earring in such a sharp vinegar as is only known to philosophers on the ground of nature. Mystical tales, too, there are related to her pursuits with Mark Antony, and certain chemical treatises attributed to this princess are yet extant (25).
It will be unnecessary to delay our enquiry long at Rome; a city so pre-eminently famous for luxury and arms was not likely to arrive at much perfection in the subtler sciences of nature. Some failing attempts of Caligula there are recounted by Pliny (26) and Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Vitruvius, and other men noted of the Augustan Age, have been gravely accused of sorcery and dabbling in the black art. But the perpetual lamps best prove, and without offence, that the Romans understood something of chemistry and the occult laws of light; several of these are described by Pancirollus; and St. Augustin mentions one consecrated to Venus in his day, that was inextinguishable. But the most remarkable were those found in Tullia's (Cicero's daughter's) tomb; --- and that one near Alestes in the year 1500, by a rustic who, digging deeper than usual, discovered an earthen vessel or urn containing another urn, in which last was a lamp placed between two cylindrical vessels, one of gold the other of silver, and each of which was full of a very pure liquor, by whose virtue it is probable these lamps had continued to shine for upwards of fifteen hundred years; and, but for the recklessness of barbarian curiosity, might have continued their wonderful illumination to this time. By the inscription found upon these vessels, it appears they were the work of one Maximus Olybius, who certainly evinced thereby some superior skill in adjusting the gaseous elements, or other ethereal adaptations than is known at this day. The verses graven on the urn are as follows: ---
Platoni sacrum munus ne attingite fures:
Ignotum est vobis hac quod in urna latet.
Namque elementa gravi clausit digesta labore
Vase sub hoc modico Maximus Olybius
Adsit fecundo custos sibi copia cornu,
Ne pretium tanti depereat laticis.
Which have been translated thus :
Plunderers, forbear this gift to touch
'Tis awful Pluto's own ;
A secret rare the world conceals
To such as you unknown.
Olybius, in this slender vase,
The elements has chained.
Digested With laborious art,
From secret science gained.
With guardian care, two copious urn.
The costly juice confine, -
Lest through the ruins of decay,
The lamp should cease to shine.
On the lesser urn were these :
Abite hinc pessimi fures!
Vos quid voltis vestris cum oculis emissititiis?
Abite hinc vestro cum Mercurio petasato caduceatoque!
Maximus maximo donum Plutoni hos sacrum facili.
Plunderers, with prying eyes, Away!
What mean you by this curious stay?
Hence with your cunning patron god,
With bonnet winged and magic rod!
Sacred alone to Pluto's name
This mighty art of endless fame! (27)
Hermolaus Barbarus, in his corollary to Dioscorus, or some other, where he is treating of the element of water in general, alludes to a particular kind that is distinct from every other water or liquor, saying, ---There is a celestial, or rather a divine water of the chemists, with which both Democritus and Trismegistus were acquainted, calling it divine water, Scythian latex, &c., which is a spirit of the nature of the ether and quintessence of things; whence potable gold, and the stone of philosophers, takes its beginning: The ancient author of the Apocalypse of the Secret Spirit of Nature is also cited by H. Khunrath, concerning this water; and he devoutly affirms, that the ether in this praeter-perfect aqueous body will burn perpetually, without diminution or consumption of itself, if the external air only be restrained (28). There are also, besides those mentioned by Pancirollus, modern accounts of lamps found burning in monuments and antique caves of Greece and Germany. But the Bononian Enigma, long famous, without a solution, should not be omitted here, since this relic has puzzled many learned antiquaries; and the adepts claim it as having exclusive reference to the occult material of their art.
AELIA LAELIA CRISPIS
Nec vir, nec mulier, nec androgyna,
Nec puella, nec juvenis, nec anus,
Nec casta, nec meretrix, nec pudica,
Sublata neque fame, neque ferro, neque
Veneno, sed omnibus!
Nec coola, nec terris, nec aquis,
Sed ubique jacet!
LUCIUS AGATHO PRISCUS
Nec maritus, nec amator, nec necessarius,
Neque moerens, neque gaudens, neque flens,
Neque molem, neque pyramidem. neque sepulcrum.
Scit et nescit cui posuerit,
Hoc est sepulcrum certe. cadaver
Non habens, sed cadaver idem,
Est et sepulcrum! (29)
The following excellent translations appeared amongst some original contributions in the early number of a literary periodical, a few years since (30):
AELIA LAELlA CRISPIS
Nor male, nor female, nor hermaphrodite,
Nor virgin, woman, young or old,
Nor chaste, nor harlot, modest hight,
But all of them you’re told ---
Not killed by poison, famine, sword,
But each one had its share,
Not in heaven, earth, or water broad
It lies, but everywhere!
LUCIUS AGATHO PRISCUS
No husband, lover, kinsman, friend,
Rejoicing, sorrowing at life’s end,
Knows or knows not, for whom is placed
This --- what? This pyramid, so raised and graced,
This grave, this sepulcher? ‘Tis neither,
‘Tis neither --- but ’tis all and each together.
Without a body I aver,
This is in truth a sepulchre;
But notwithstanding, I proclaim
Both corpse and sepulcher the same!
All these contradictory claims are said by the alchemists to relate to the properties of their universal subject, as we shall hereafter endeavor to explain. Michael Maier has detailed the whole allusion in his Symbola (31). And N. Barnaud, in the Theatrum Chemicum, has a commentary on the same (32).
But to proceed; transferring our regards from Rome to Alexandria, we find many Christian Platonists and divines studying and discussing the Occult Art in their writings. St John, the Evangelist Apostle, is cited as having practiced it for the good of the poor; not only in healing the sick, but also confecting gold, silver and precious stones for their benefit. St Victor relates the particulars in a commentary, and the Greek Catholics were accustomed to sing the following verses in a hymn appointed for the mass on St John’s day.
Cum gemmarum partes fractas
Solidasset, has distractas
Inexhaustum fert thesaurum
Qui de virgis fecit aurum
Gemmas de lapidibus (33).
Looking to the general testimony of the Fathers, we observe that the early Church Catholic did not neglect to avail herself of the powers which sanctify of life and a well-grounded faith had gotten her. There is no doubt either that the Apostles, when they instituted and left behind them certain ordinances and elementary types, as of water, oil, salt and light, signified some real and notable efficacies. But our Reformers, mistaking these things for superstitions, and since they had ceased to have any meaning, turned them all out of doors; retaining, indeed, little more of the mystery of regeneration than a traditional faith. The Papists, on the other hand, equally oblivious, evinced only to what a length of human credulity and ignorance may be carried, by placing inherent holiness in those material signs, apart from the spirit and only thing signified; adding, moreover, to the original ordinations many follies of their own, they fell into a very slavish and stupid kind of idolatry. And since one of the most fertile sources of dissension that have arisen in the Christian Church has been about these very shadows and types of doctrines, it is to be hoped that, if ever again they should come to be generally reintroduced, it will not be on the ground of ecclesiastical persuasion, or any mere written authority, which, however high and well supported, has never yet been found sufficient to produce unanimity; but from a true understanding and cooperation of that original virtue, apart from which they do but mimic an efficacy, and gather unwholesome fruits. There is a curious story of an early Christian mission to China, related by Thomas Vaughan, in his Magia Adamica, showing how the faith became originally established there and elsewhere by its open efficacy, and the power of works, in healing and purifying the lives of men.
But we are at Alexandria, and during that grand revival which took place and continued there some centuries subsequent to the Christian epoch, Plotinus, Philo-Judaeus, Proclus, Porphyry, Jamblicus, Julian, and Apuleius, each professing a genuine knowledge of the Theurgic art, and experimental physics on the Hermetic ground. We shall have frequent occasion to quote their evidence hereafter; Heliodorus, Olympiodorus, Synesius, Athenagoras, Zosimus, and Archelaus, have each left treatises which are extant on the philosophers’ stone (34) The excellent Hypatia, also, should be mentioned amongst these, so celebrated for her acquirements and untimely end; it was from this lady that Synesius learned the occult truths of that philosophy, to which he ever afterwards devoted his mind, and which he never abandoned, pursuing it still more zealously when, converted to Christianity, he became a bishop of the Alexandrian Church. He was careful, however, to protect the mysteries of his religion from vulgar abuse, and refused to expound in public the philosophy of Plato; he and his brethren having unanimously bound themselves by oath to initiate none but such as had been worthily prepared and duly approved by the whole conclave (35). Of Synesius, we have the remaining Alchemical commentary on Democritus before mentioned, with an admirable piece commonly found appended to other treatises, those of Artephius and Flamel’s Hieroglyphics, for example, and translated into English, with Basil Valentine’s Chariot of Antimony and the useful commentaries of the adept Kirchringius (36).
Heliodorus was a familiar friend of Synesius, and brother adept; besides the writings already named, the mystical romance of Theagenes and Chariclea being attributed to him as an offence, rather than disavow it, as was required, he relinquished his bishopric of Tricca, in Thessaly, and went to pursue his studies in poverty and retirement.
Zosimus was an Egyptian, and reputed a great practitioner. The name of Athenagoras is familiar in Church history; his tract, which has been translated into French, and entitled Du Parfait Amour, shows him to have been practically conversant with the art he allegorizes.
The taking of Alexandria by the Arabs, in the year 640, dispersed the choice remnant of mind yet centered there; and it was not long afterwards that the Calif Omar, mad in his Mohamedan zeal, condemned her noble and unique library to heat the public baths of the city, which it is said to have done for a space of six miserable months. A wild religious fanaticism now prevailed; Christians and Mahomedans struggling for temporal supremacy: --- and here we may observe something similar to a fulfillment of the Asclepian prophecy, but the evil was more profusely spread even than was predicted; for religion had everywhere fallen off from her vital foundation; tradition and secular delirium had taken place of intellectual enthusiasm, and idle dreams were set up as oracles in the place of Divine inspiration. The priests, above all blameworthy, having forsaken the law of conscience, attempted to wield without it the rod of magic power. Confusion and licentiousness followed; and from gradual sufferance grew, and came to prevail, in the worst imaginable forms. Necessity, at length, compelled an abandonment of the Mysteries; Theurgic rites, no longer holy, were proscribed; and a punishment, no less than death, was menaced against him who dared to pursue the "Religion of Intellect". In the interim, those few who had withstood the torrent of ambitious temptation, indignant at the multiform folly, and observing by the aid of their remaining wisdom, that the ingression of evil was not yet fulfilled, hastened rather than delayed the crisis; and by burying themselves with their saving science in profound obscurity, have left the world to oblivion, and the deceit of outer darkness, with rare individual exceptions, to this day.
It is a peculiarity of the Hermetic science that men of every religion, time and country and occupation, have been found professing it; and Arabia, though she was guilty of so great a sacrilege at Alexandria, has herself produced many wise kings and renowned philosophers. It is not known exactly when Prince Geber lived; but since his name has become notorious, and is cited by the oldest authors, whereas he himself quotes none, he merits, at all events, an early consideration. Besides, he is generally esteemed by adepts as the greatest, after Hermes, of all who have philosophized through this art.
Of the five hundred treatises, said to have been composed by him, three only remain to posterity: The Investigation of Perfect, The Sum of the Perfect Magistery, and his Testament (37); and the light estimation in which these are held by more modern chemists, forms a striking contrast to the unfeigned reverence and admiration with which they were formerly reviewed and cited by the adepts, Albertus Magnus, Lully, and many more of the brightest luminaries of their age.
"If we look back to the seventh century (we quote from the address given at the opening meeting of the Faraday Society, 1846), the alchemist is presented brooding over his crucibles and alembics that are to place within his reach the philosophers’ stone, the transmutation of metals, the alkahest, and the elixir of life. With these we associate the name of Geber, the first authentic writer on the subject; from whose peculiar and mysterious style of writing we derive the word geber or gibberish".
Yet, notwithstanding this and much more that they descant upon, if our modern illuminati were but half as experienced in nature as they might be --- had they one ray even of the antique intellect they deride, how different a scene would not that remote age present to them? Instead of imagining greedy dotards brooding over their crucibles and uncouth alembics, in vain hope of discovering the elixir and stone of the philosophers, they would observe the philosophers themselves, by a kindred light made visible, on their own ground; experimenting, indeed, but how and with what? Not with our gross elements, our mercuries, sulfurs, and our lifeless salts; but in a far different nature, with stranger arts, and with laboratories too, how different from those now in use: --- of common fittings, yet not inferior either; but most complete with vessels, fuel, furnaces, and every material requisite, well adapted together and compact in one. Right skillfully has old Geber veiled a fair discovery, by his own art alone to be unmasked: his gibberish is not of the present day’s commonplace, tame and tolerable; but such ultra-foolishness in literality are his receipts, as folly is never found to venture or common sense invent. For they are a part of wisdom’s envelope, to guard her universal magistery from an incapable and dreaming world; calculated they are, nevertheless, though closely sealed, to awaken rational curiosity, and lend a helping hand to those who have already entered on the right road; but to deceive in practice only the most credulous and inept. They who have really understood Geber, his adept compeers, declare with one accord that he has spoken the truth, though disguisedly, with great acuteness and precision: others, therefore, who do not profess to understand, and to whom those writings are a mere unintelligible jargon, may take warning hence, lest they exhibit to posterity a twofold ignorance and vanity of thought.
Rhasis, another Arabian alchemist, was even more publicly famous than Geber, on account of the practical displays he made of his transmuting skill. Excellent extracts from his writing, which are said to exist principally in manuscript, often occur in the works of Roger Bacon.
The story of Morienus, how in early life he left his family and native city (for he was a Roman), to seek the sage Adfar, a solitary adept, whose fame had reached him from Alexandria; the finding him, gaining his confidence, and becoming at length his devoted disciple; --- is related by his biographer in a natural and very interesting manner; also his subsequent sojournings, after the death of his patron, his intercourse with King Calid, with the initiation and final conversion of that prince to Christianity. But the details are given at much too great length for extract in this place. A very attractive and esteemed work, purporting to be a dialogue between himself and Calid, is extant under the name of Morien, and copied into many of the collections (38). Calid also wrote some treatises: his Liber Secretorum, or Secret of Secrets, as it has been styled, is translated into English, French, and Latin.
Prince Averroes, and the notorious Avicenna, next demand notice. The latter became known to the world somewhere between the ninth and tenth centuries. His strong but ill-directed genius, so similar to that of Paracelsus, was the occasion of much suffering and self-desolation; but his name was illustrious over Asia, and his authority continued pre-eminent in the European schools of medicine until after the Reformation. He is said to have carried on the practice of transmutation, with the magical arts in general, to a great extent; but his Alchemical remains are neither lucid nor numerous, not those at least which are well authenticated (40).
Artephius was a Jew who, by the use of the elixir, is reported to have lived throughout the period of a thousand years, with what truth or credibility opinions may vary; he himself affirms it, and Paracelsus, Pontanus, and Roger Bacon appear to give credence to the tale (41), which forms part of his celebrated treatise on the philosophers’ stone, and runs as follows: --- I, Artephius, having learnt all the art in the books of the true Hermes, was once, as others, envious; but having lived one thousand years, or thereabouts (which thousand years have already passed since my nativity, by the grace of God alone, and the use of this admirable quintessence), as I have seen, through this long space of time, that men have been unable to perfect the same magistery on account of the obscurity of the words of the philosophers, moved by pity and a good conscience, I have resolved, in these my last days, to publish it all sincerely and truly; so that men may have nothing more to desire concerning this work. I except one thing only, which it is not lawful that I should write, because it can be revealed truly only by God, or by a master. Nevertheless, this likewise may be learned from this book, provided one be not stiff-necked, and have a little experience (42).
This Artephius forms a sort of link in the history of Alchemy, carried as it was in the course of time from Asia into Europe, about the period of the first crusades, when a general communication of the mind of different nations was effected by their being united under a common cause. Sciences, arts, and civilization, which had heretofore flourished in the East only, were gradually transplanted into Europe; and towards the end of the twelfth century, or thereabouts, our Phoenix too bestirred herself, and passed into the West.
Roger Bacon was amongst the first to fill his lamp from her reviviscent spirit; and with this ascending and descending experimentally, he is said to have discovered the secret ligature of natures, and their magical dissolution; he was moreover acquainted with theology in its profoundest principles; medicine, likewise physics and metaphysics on their intimate ground; and, having proved the miraculous multiplicability of light by the universal spirit of nature, he worked the knowledge to such effect, that in the mineral kingdom he produced gold (43). What marvel, persecuted as he was for the natural discoveries which he gave to the world, without patent or profit to himself, if he should appropriate these final fruits of labor and long interior study? Yet it does not appear that he was selfishly prompted even in this particular reservation; it was conscience, as he declares, that warned him to withhold a gift somewhat over rashly and dangerously obtained. His acutely penetrative and experimental mind, not content even with enough led him by a fatal curiosity, as it is suggested, into forbidden realms of self-sufficiency and unlawful peace of mind, and finally induced him to abandon altogether those researches, in order to retrieve and expiate in solitude the wrongs he had committed. We know that the imputation of magic has seemed ridiculous, and every report of the kind has been referred to the friar’s extraordinary skill in the natural sciences. The rejection of his books at Oxford has often been cited as an instance of the exceeding bigotry of those times, as indeed it was; and yet are we not nearly as far off perhaps from the truth in our liberality as were our forefathers in their superstition? An accusation of magic has not occurred of late, nor would be likely to molest seriously any philosopher of the present age; but then it did occur often during the dark ages, and who can tell whether it may not again at some future day, when men are even more enlightened and intimate with nature than they are now?
There are still remaining two or three works of Roger Bacon, in which the roots of the Hermetic science are fairly stated; but the practice most carefully concealed, agreeably to that maxim, which in his later years he penned, that truth ought not to be shown to every ribald, for then that would become most vile, which, in the hands of a philosopher, is the most precious of all things (44).
Many great lights shone through the darkness of those middle ages; Magians, who were drawn about the fire of nature, as it were, into communication with her central source. Albertus Magnus, his friend and disciple the acute Aquinas, Scotus Erigina the subtle doctor, Arnold di Villa Nova, and Raymond Lully, all confessed adepts. John Reuchlin, Ficinus the Platonist, Picus di Mirandola, blending alchemy and therapeutics with neoplatonism and the cabalistic art. Spinoza also was a profound metaphysician and speculator on the same experimental ground. Alain de l’Isle the celebrated French philosopher, Merlin (St Ambrose), the abbot John Trithemius, Cornelius Agrippa his enterprising pupil, and many more subsequent to these, great, resolute, and philosophic spirits, who were not alone content to rend asunder the veil of ignorance from before their own minds, but held it still partially open for others, disclosing the interior lights of science to such as were able to aspire, and willing to follow their great example, laboring in the way. Medium minds set limits to nature, halting continually, and returning, before barriers which those others over-leaped almost without perceiving them. Faith was the beacon light that led them on to conviction, by a free perspicuity of thought beyond things seen, to believe and hope truthfully, which is the distinguishing prerogative of great minds. But it will be necessary to regard this extraordinary epoch of Occult Science more in detail, with the testimony of its heroes, whose reputation, together with that of alchemy, has suffered from the faithlessness of biographers, compilers, commentators, and such like interference.
Most of the alchemical works of Albert, for instance, have been excluded from the great editions of his works, and the authenticity of all has been disputed, but without lasting effect; for in that long and laborious treatise, De Mineralibus, unquestionably his own, even if the rest were proved spurious, there is sufficient evidence of his belief and practice to admit all. Therein he describes the first matter of the adepts with the characteristic minuteness of personal observation, and recommends alchemy as the best and most easy means of rational investigation. "De transmutatione horum corporum metallicorum et mutatione unius in aliud non est physici determinare, sed artis quae est Alchimica. Est autem optimum genus hujus inquisitionis et certissimum, quia tunc per causam unius cujusque rei propriam, res cognoscitur, et de accidentibus ejus mimime dubitatur, nec est difficile cognoscere" (45).
This passage is one amongst many that might be adduced from his own pen to prove that Albert was an alchemist; but Aquinas’ disclosures are ample, removing all doubt, even if he himself had left room for any. Besides the treatise of minerals already mentioned, there is the Libellus de Alchemia, published with his other works (46); also, the Concordanditia Philosophorum de Lapide, the Secretum Secretorum, and Breve Compendium in the Theatrum Chemicum, all treating of the same subject. Albert’s authority is the more to be respected in that he gave up every temporal advantage, riches, fame, and ecclesiastical power, to study philosophy in a cloister remote from the world during the greater portion of a long life. An opinion has commonly obtained that the philosophers’ stone was sought after from selfish motives and a blind love of gain; and that such has been frequently the case there is no doubt; but then such searchers never found it. The conditions of success are peculiar, as will be shown. Avarice is of all motives the least likely to be gratified by the discovery of wisdom. It is philosophers only that she teaches to make gold.
"Querant Alchimiam, falsi quoque recti;
Falsi sine numero, sed hi sunt rejecti;
Et cupiditatibus, heu, tot sunt infecti
Quod inter mille millia, vix subt tres electi
Istam as scientiam" (47).
The true adepts have been rare exceptions in the world, despite of all calumny, famous, and favored above their kind. Let any one but with an unprejudiced eye regard the writings of those who may be believed on their own high authority to have succeeded in this art, and he will perceive that the motives actuating them were of the purest possible kind; truthful, moral, always pious and intelligent, as those of the pseudo-alchemists, on the other hand, were reckless and despicable. But more of this hereafter. Albertus died, "magnus in magia, major in philosophia, maximus in theologia" (48); and his learning and fame descended fully on him who had already shared it, his disciple, the subtle and sainted Aquinas.
The truth was not likely to die in such hands; Aquinas wrote largely and expressly on the doctrineof transmutation, and in his Thesaurus Alchimiae, addressed to his friend, the Abbot Reginald, he alludes openly to the practical successes of Albert and himself in the Secret Art (49). Vain, therefore, are attempts of his false panegyrists, who, anxious it would seem rather for the intellectual than the moral fame of their hero, have ventured to slur over his assertions as dubious. Aquinas is much too far committed in his writings for their quibbling exceptions to tell in proof against his own direct and positive affirmation. "Metalla transmutari possunt unum in aliud", says he, "cum naturalia sint et ipsorum material eadem". Metals can be transmuted one into another, since they are of one and the same matter" (50). Declarations more or less plain to the same effect are frequent, and his treatise, De Esse et Essentia, is eminently instructive. It is true he slurs over points and sophisticates also occasionally in order to screen the doctrine from superficial detection; for Aquinas was above all anxious to direct inquirers to the higher purposes and application of the Divine Art, and universal theosophy, rather than to rest its capabilities of quickening and perfection in the mineral kingdom, as at that period many were wont to do, sacrificing their whole life’s hope to the multiplication of gold. "Fac sicut te ore tenens docui, ut scis quod tibi non scribo, quoniam peccatum esset hoc secretum virissecularibus revelare, qui magis hanc scientiam propter vanitatem quam propter debitum finem et Dei honorem quaerunt". And again, "ne sis garrulous sed pone ori tuo custodiam; et it filiam sapientum margaritam ante porcas non projicies. Noli te, charissime, cum majori opere occupare, quia propter salutis et Christi praedictionis officium;et lucrandi tempus magni debes attendere divitiis spiritialibus, quam lucris temporibus inhiare" (51).
The pretensions of Arnold di Villa Nova have not been contested, nor are his writings the only evidence of his skill in the Great Art. Contemporary scholars bear him witness, and instances are related of the wonderful projections he made with the transmuting powder. The Jurisconsult, John Andre, mentions him, and testifies to the genuine conversions of some iron bars into pure gold at Rome. Oldradus also and the Abbot Panorimitanus of about the same period, praise the Hermetic Art as beneficial and rational, and the wisdom of the alchemist Arnold di Villa Nova (52) The works of this philosopher are very numerous. The Rosarium Philosophicum, esteemed amongst the best, is published in the Theatrum Chemicum, and at the end of the folio edition of his works. The Speculum, a luminous treatise; the Carmina, Questiones ad Bonifacium, the Testamentum, and some others are given entire in the Theatrum Chemicum, but have not been translated.
About this time and towards the close of the 14th century, an excitement began to be perceptible in the public mind. So many men of acknowledged science and piety, one after another, agreeing about the reality of transmutation, and giving tangible proofs of their own skill, could not fail to produce an effect; the art became in high request, and its professors were invited from all quarters, and held in high honor by the world. Lesser geniuses caught the scattered doctrines and set to work, some with sufficient understanding and with various success.
Alain de l’Isle is said to have obtained the Elixir, but his chief testimony has been excluded by the editors of his other works; soften and unscrupulously has private prejudice interfered to defraud the public judgment of its rights and true data. The rejected treatise, however, was printed separately, and may be found in the third volume of the Theatrum Chemicum (53). This philosopher also wrote a commentary on the Prophecies of Merlin, which are reported to have sole reference to the arcane of the Hermetic Art (54).
Raymond Lully is supposed to have become acquainted with Arnold, and the Universal Science, late in life; but when the fame of his Christian zeal and talents had already become known and acknowledged abroad, his declarations in favor of alchemy had the greater weight. Unlike his cloistered predecessors, secluded and known as they were by name only to the world, Raymond had traveled over Europe, and a great part of Africa and Asia; and with his former fame was at length mingled the discovery of alchemy and the philosophers’ stone. John Cremer, Abbot of Westminster, had worked for 30 years, it is related, assiduously with the hope of obtaining the secret. The enigmas of the old adepts had sadly perplexed and led him astray; but he had discovered enough to convince him of the reality, and to encourage him to proceed with the investigation; when, Lully’s fame having reached him, he determined to seek that philosopher, then resident in Italy; was fortunate in meeting with him and gaining his confidence, and not a little edified by the pious and charitable life Lully led there, and recommended to others. Desirous of becoming still more intimately enlightened than was convenient in that place, Cremer invited and brought over with him Raymond Lully to England, where he was presented to the king, then Edward II, who had also before invited him from Vienna, being much interested in the talents and reputed skill of the stranger, and now more than ever by the promise of abundant riches which the sight of Cremer’s gold held out to him. Lully, still as ever zealous for the promulgation of the Christian religion, promised to produce for the king all monies requisite, if he felt disposed to engage in the crusades anew. Edward did not hesitate, but complied with every condition respecting the appliance of the gold, provided only Lully would supply it. The artist accordingly set to work, soothe story runs, in a chamber set apart for him in the Tower, and produced 50,000 pounds weight of pure gold. His own words relative to the extraordinary fact in his testament, are these; --- "Converti una vice in aurum 50 millia pondo argenti vivi, plumbi, et stannic. I converted", says he, "at one time 50,000 pounds weight of quicksilver, lead and tin, into gold" (55).
The king no sooner received this, than breaking faith with Lully, in order to obtain more, the artist was made a prisoner in his own laboratory, and without regard at all for the stipulation, before engaged in, ordered to commence on his productive labors anew. This base conduct on the part of the king was much lamented by Cremer, who expresses indignation thereat openly in his Testament (56); and the whole story has been repeatedly recorded in the detailed chronicles of those times. But to be short, our hero fortunately escaped from his imprisonment, and a coinage of the gold was struck in pieces weighing about 10 ducats each, called Nobles of the Rose. Those who have examined these coins pronounce them to be of the finest metal, and the inscription round the margin distinguishes them from all others in the Museums, and denotes their miraculous origin. They are described in Camden’s Antiquities, and for the truth of the whole story, we have, besides Cremer’s evidence and the declarations of Lully, a great deal of curious allusion to be found in the books of Olaus Borrichius, R. Constantius, l’Englet Dufresnoy, and Dickenson. The last relates that some time after the escape of Lully, there was found in the cell he occupied at Westminster with Cremer, whilst it was undergoing some repairs, a certain quantity of the powder of transmutation, by means of which the workmen and architects became enriched (57).
Lully’s writings on Alchemy are, as the rest, obscure; and have only been understood with great pains and application even by those who have been so fortunate as to possess the key of his cabalistic mind. Whether his equivocal and contradictory language was so contrived to baffle the sordid chemists; or whether, as before said, he learned the art late in life, and was convinced at last only by Arnold exhibiting the transmutation in his presence; it would require scrupulous examination to judge at this day: certain it is there are passages in his writings which leave room for controversy, though none, we think, virtually denying the art, whilst his essays in favor of it are acknowledged excellent and numerous; as many as 200 are given in the catalogue of Dufresnoy treating exclusively on this subject (58).
Those were singular times when few any longer doubted the possibility of gold-making, and individuals of the highest repute devoted their lives to the subtle investigation. We have adduced this notable instance of Lully’s prowess in England, as one only amongst many others, quite as well authenticated, which are told by the authors before cited and in the alchemical collections. Public curiosity was stimulated to the highest pitch; experiments were made reckless of consequences, and the spirit of avarice, bursting forth expectant, absolutely raged. Whether the incaution of adepts, in making their art too publicly profitable, had given rise to the frenzy, or whether it was spontaneously kindled, or from whatever cause, the fact is lamentably certain; the Stone was no longer sought after by philosophers alone; not only have we Lully, Cremer, Rupicessa, De Meun, Flamel, John Pontanus, Basil Valentine, Ripley, and the host of cotemporary worthies, successively entering the lists; but with these a spurious brood of idlers living on the public credulity, and which the practical evidence of these others continued to ferment; men of all ranks, persuasions and degrees of intelligence, of every variety of calling, motive and imagination, were, as monomaniacs, searching after the stone.
"As Popes with Cardinals of dignity,
Archbyshops with Byshops of high degree
With Abbots and Priors of religion, With Friars, Hermites, and Preests manie one,
And Kings with Princes and Lords great of bloode,
For everie estate desireth after goode;
And the Merchaunts alsoe, which dwelle in fiere
Of brenning covetise, have thereto desire;
And common workmen will not be out-lafte
For as well as Lords they love this noble crafte.
As Gouldsmithes, whome we shall leaste repreuve
For sights in their craft meveth them to believe;
But wonder it is that Brewers deale with such werkes,
Free Masons, and Tanners, with poore parish clerkes;
Ailors and Glaziers woll not therefore cease,
And eke sely Tinkers will put them in prease
With great presumption; yet some collour there was
For all such men as give tincture to glasse;
But manie Artificers have byn over swifte,
With hastie credence to sume away their thrift;
Yet ever in hope continued their hearte;
Trustinge some tyme to speede right well,
Of manie such truly I can tell;
Which in such hope continued all their lyfe,
Whereby they were made poore and made to unthrive:
It had byne good forthem to have left off
In seaon, for noughte they founde except a scoffe,
For trewly he that is not a great clerke,
Is nice and lewd to medle with this werke;
Ye may trust me it is no small inginn,
To know alle secrets pertaining to this myne.
For it is most profounde philosophye
This subtill science of holy Alkimy" (59).
Many usurped the title of the adepts, who had no knowledge even of the preliminaries of the Art; sometimes deceiving, at others, being themselves deceived; and it has been principally from the fraudulent pretensions of those dabblers that the world has learned to despise alchemy, confounding the genuine doctrine with their sophistical and vile productions; and a difficulty yet remains to distinguish them, and segregate, from so great an interspersion of darkness, the true light. For a multitude of books were put forth with the merest purpose of deception, and to ensnare the unwary; some indeed affirming, that the truth was to be found in salts, or niters, or boraxes; but others, in all vegetable bodies indiscriminately, committing a multifarious imagination to posterity. Not did these alone content the evil spirit of that day, but it must introduce mutilated editions of the old masters, filled with inconsistencies, and the wicked inventions of designing fraud; and thus, as the adept observes, they have blasphemed the Sacred Science, and by their errors have brought contempt on men philosophizing.
"As of that Monke which a boke did write
Of a thousand receipts in malice for despighte,
Which he copied in manie a place,
Whereby hath byn made manie a pale face
And manie gowndes have been made bare of hewe,
And men made fals which beforetimes were trewe" (60).
Nor has the literature alone suffered from such knavish interpolation; but the social consequences are described, at the time, as deplorable; rich merchants, and others, greedy of gain, were enduced to trust quantities of gold, silver, and even precious stones, which they lost, in vain hope of getting them multiplied ; and these rogueries became so frequent and notorious, that at last acts of Parliament were passed in England, and Pope’s Bull’s issued over Christendom, forbidding transmutation, on pain of death, and the pursuit of alchemy (61). But this, whilst giving an external check, did not smother the desire of riches, or that morbid desire of them, so long fostered in the expectation; experiments continued to be carried on in secret with no less ardour than before, both by knaves and philosophers. Pope John XXII who interdicted it, is said to have practiced the art himself extensively, and to have wonderfully enriched the public treasury through its means. But to bring forward each extraordinary tradition and character of the various artists who flourished during the 14th and 15th centuries, would trespass too far on our pages; and for the present purpose, it may be needful only to detail the more remarkable.
Amongst them, the story of Nicholas Flamel, and his wife Perenelle, has been thought interesting. Their humble origin, their charitable distribution of it, and the eminent piety and mystery of their lives, attracted great attention in their own country, and a widespread fame has descended and connects their name honorably with the history of the Hermetic art. The relation given simply by the author concerning himself as follows: --- "I, Nicholas Flamel, Scrivener, living in Paris, in the year of our Lord, 1399, in the Notary street, near St James, of the Boucherie, though I learned not much Latin, Because of the poverty of my parents, who, notwithstanding were, even by those who envy me most, accounted honest and good people; yet, by the blessing of God, I have not wanted an understanding of the books of the philosophers, but learned them, and attained to a certain kind of knowledge, even of their hidden secrets. For which cause’s sake, there shall not be any moment of my life pass wherein, remembering this so vast good, I will not render thanks to this my good and gracious God. After the death of my parents, I Nicholas Flamel, got my living by the art of writing, ingrossing, and the like; and in the course of time, there fell by chance into my hands a gilded book, very old and large, which cost me only 2 florins. It was not made of paper or parchment, as other books are, but of admirable rinds, as it seemed to me, of young trees; the cover of it was brass, well bound, and graven all over with a strange kind of letters, which I took to be Greek characters, or some such like. This I know, that I could not read them; but as to the matter which was written within, it was engraven, as I suppose, with an iron pencil, or graver, upon the said bark leaves; done admirably well, and in fair neat Latin letters, and curiously colored. It contained thrice seven leaves, for so they were numbered on the top of each folio, and every seventh leaf was without writing; but in place thereof were several images and figures painted".
Further, going on to describe the book and these hieroglyphics minutely, Flamel relates how, at length, after much study and fruitless toil, their meaning was explained to him by a Jew stranger , whom he met with in his travels; and how on his return home, he set to work and succeeded in the discovery, is thus familiarly declared: "He that would see the manner of my arrival home, and the joy of Perenelle, let him look upon us two in the city of Paris, upon the door of the chapel of James, in the boucherie, close by one side of my house, where we are both painted, kneeling, and giving thanks to God: for through the grace of God it was, that I attained the perfect knowledge of all that I desired. I had now the prima material, the first principles, yet not their preparation, which is a thing most difficult above all things in the world; but in the end I had that also, after a long aberration and wandering in the labyrinth of errors, for the space of three years. During which time, I did nothing but study and search and labor, so as you see me depicted without this arch, where I have shown my process, praying also continuously unto God, and reading attentively in my book, pondering the words of the philosophers, and then trying and proving the various operations which I thought they might mean by their words. At length, I found that which I desired; which I also soon knew, by the scent and odor thereof. Having this, I easily accomplished the magistery. For knowing the preparations of the prime agents, and then literally following the directions in my book, I could not then miss the work if I would. Having attained this, I came now to the Projection; and the first time I made projection, was upon mercury; a pound and a half whereof, or thereabouts, I turned into pure silver, better than that of the mine; as I proved by assaying it myself, and also causing others to assay it for me, several times. This was done in the year AD 1382, January 17th, about noon, in my own house, Perenelle alone being present with me. Again following the same direction in my book, word by word, I made projection of the Red Stone, on a like quantity of mercury, Perenelle only being present, and in the same house; which was done in the same year, April 25, at five in the afternoon. This mercury I truly transmuted into almost as much gold, much better indeed than common gold, more soft also, and more pliable. I speak in all truthfully. I have made three times with the help of Perenelle, who understands it as well as myself; and without doubt, if she would have done it alone, she would have brought the work to the same, or full as great perfection as I had done. I had truly enough, when I had once done it; but I found exceeding great pleasure and delight in seeing and contemplating the admirable works of nature, within the vessels. And to show you that I had then done it three times, I caused to be depicted under the same arch, three furnaces, like to those which serve the operations of the work. I was much concerned for a long time, lest Perenelle, by reason of extreme joy, should not hide her felicity, which I measured by my own; and lest she should let fall some words among her relations, concerning the great treasure which we possessed. But the goodness of the great God, had not only given and filled me with this blessing, in giving me a sober chaste wife; but she was also a wise prudent woman, not only capable of reason, but also to do what was reasonable; and made it her business, as I did, to think of God, and to give ourselves to the works of charity and mercy. Before the time wherein I wrote this discourse, which was at the latter end of the year 1413, after the death of my beloved companion; she and I had already founded and endowed with revenues 14 hospitals, 3 chapels, and 7 churches, in the city of Paris; all which we had built from the ground, and were able to enrich with gifts and revenues. We have also done at Bologne about the same as at Paris, besides our private charities, which it would be unbecoming to particularize. Building, therefore, these hospitals, churches, etc, in the aforesaid cities, I caused to be depicted under the said fourth arch, the most true and essential marks and signs of this art, yet under veils and types and hieroglyphical characters, demonstrating to the wise and men of understanding, the direct and perfect way of operation and lineary work of the philosophers’ stone; which being perfected by anyone, takes away from him the root of all sin and evil; changing his evil into good, and making him liberal, courteous, religious, fearing God, however wicked he was before, provided only he carries through the work to its legitimate end. For from thenceforward he is continually ravished with the goodness of God, and with his grace and mercy, which he has obtained from the foundation of eternal goodness; with the profundity from the fountain of eternal goodness; with the profundity of his Divine and adorable power, and with the contemplation of his admirable works".
Part of this relation is given of himself by the author in his Hieroglyphics, and part is taken from his Testament; and chronicle recount as late as the year 1740, that the evidence of his charitable deeds remained and the symbols of the art in the cemetery of the Holy Innocents at the church of St James, on the Marivaux door, at the portal of St Genevieve", &c. (62), Amongst the writings of Flamel, besides those already quoted from, we have La Sommaire Philosophique, in French verse, which is also translated in the Theatrum Chemicum, an esteemed work, with important annotations at the end; Le Desir desiree, and Le Grand Eclaircissement, which are more rarely to be met with.
The Isaacs, father and son, Dutch adepts, are said to have worked successfully, and are much lauded by Boorhaave, who appears not either to have been a stranger to their pursuit or to the principles of occult science. (63).
But Basil Valentine is the star of the 15 the century; he is generally reported to have been a Benedictine hermit; but a mystery hangs about his individuality which has never been satisfactorily cleared up, though careful researches have been made, and his numerous works written in all languages, called forth much curiosity on their appearance and have been held in high esteem by students in the Hermetic Art. He ranks high amongst his brethren for having, as they say, discovered a new method of working the Red Elixir, and facilitated the process materially, which had been hitherto laborious and a rare effect, as appears from those lines of Norton.
"How that manie men patient and wise,
Found our White Stone with exercise;
After that they were trewly taught,
With great labor, that stone they caught,
But few (saith he) or scarcely one;
In fifteen kingdoms hath our Red Stone.
Wheom to seeke it availeth right noughte,
Till the white medicine be fully wrought;
Neither Albertus Magnus, the Black Freere,
Neither Freer Bacon his compeere,
Had not of our Res Stone consideration
Him to increase in multiplication", &c (64).
The Hamburg edition of Basil Valentine’s works may be considered the most perfect (65). The English translations are rambling and incomplete: with the single exception of that one which is taken from the Latin of Kirchringius, with his admirable commentary on the Triumphal Chariot of Antimony and Stone of Fire. The Twelve keys are rendered in the Bibliotheque des Philosophes Chimiques, second edition.
A valuable collection of English Alchemy in verse was published by Elias Ashmole, himself a lover of occult science, and the great patron, in his day, of those who made it their study. Neither was he ignorant of the subject, if we may judge by the preface and curious notes appended to his Theatrum, wherein he exposes certain principles of magic, and alludes to the manual artifice without much disguise. I must profess, says he, I know enough to hold my tongue, but not enough to speak; and the no less real than miraculous fruits I have found, in my diligent inquiry in these arcane, lead me on to such degrees of admiration, they command silence, and force me to lose my tongue, lest, being not wholly experiences, as he goes on the say, I should ass to the many injuries the world has already suffered, by delivering the bare medley of my apprehensions without the confident attestations of practice; and by justly esteemed as indiscrete as those whom Ripley mentions, that prate,
Of Robin Hood, and of his Bow,
Whych never shot therin I trowe" (66).
Norton’s Ordinal, dated 1477, with which this Hermetic Theater opens, is a praiseworthy performance, and with the exception of the Subject Matter and certain preliminaries, which are constantly concealed, the process is presented in a candid, orderly, and attractive manner. So much cannot be said for the Canon Ripley of Bridlington, whose private misfortunes would seem to have made him envious. His composition is disorderly, and those Twelve Gates have, we conceive, little edified any without the Lodge. Added also to his own willful misguidance, the verses are said to have suffered spoliation and displacement from the order in which they were originally written, according to the mischievous cabalistic method in vogue at that time. Ripley, therefore, is universally complained of, though reputed a good adept. The commentary published by the celebrated anonymous Eirenaeus Philalethes, under the title of Ripley Revived, though it explains a great deal practically and may serve to lead on the initiated, yet will appear infamously sophistical and inevitably disgust a beginner (67).
All Ashmole’s collection is valuable, even were it only as a specimen of early mystic literature. The Fragment from Pierce, the Black Monke, Bloomfield’s Blossoms, and Philosophy and Experience, are among the most instructive. Ashmoles intention of collecting the English prose writings on Alchemy was not accomplished; only a few scattered portions were edited and those not of the best.
Ficinus, an Italian of highly cultivated genius, well known as the Latin translator of Plato, and savior of other valuable remnants of antique literature, was also an amateur in the Hermetic art. He collected and translated the works imputed to Hermes, before mentioned, from Greek into Latin, and took pains elsewhere theoretically to explain the art (68). Picus, prince di Mirandola, was his contemporary, and wrote a treatise, in which he connects Alchemy with the most profound metaphysical science (69).
Then we have the remarkable instance of Cornelius Agrippa, a man of powerful and penetrating genius who, having possessed himself of the means and principles of the Occult Science from his friend, the wary and learned Abbot Trithemius, set to work something it would seem after the example of Friar Bacon, proving them in a self-sufficient order. His three books of Occult Philosophy, especially the first two, illustrate the practical bias and enterprising nature of his mind; but as he declares, he had not, when he wrote them, arrived at a full experience, nor was he able to make the philosophers’ stone. But it was this discovery, made later in life, which caused him to be discontented with his former revelation, and to publish that book on the Vanity of the Sciences, which has been considered as a recantation of his former philosophy; but which is in fact no recantation at all, but a consummation rather and conclusion in general of his works. Any one taking the pains to read may perceive that Agrippa wrote it neither in ignorance nor in despair of human knowledge. It was by searching and proving the magnitude of the Mystery that he arrived at that final and convictive faith, which is as much above ordinary science as the vulgar credulity of mankind is below it. It is not the part of a mind, sane and philosophic to fall back content in ignorance, or to retrograde passively in despair of its object. The vanity of particular and temporal sciences is discovered by comparison only in the broad day light of universal truth; and there stood the magician at last when, as it were from the top of Celsus’ ladder, looking down upon the steps by which he had climbed, and whereon he had successively rested, he observed their inferiority and the small prospect they afforded in comparison with that which he now, at their clear summit, enjoyed. Let any one read from the Vanity of the Sciences the chapter on Alchemy, and judge whether the author contradicts, as the report has said, or contemns merely the experience of his early youth; and where, after showing the folly of pretenders, speaking of the genuine Hermetic art, he says, --- "I could tell many tings of this art, if I had not sworn to keep silence, and this silence is so constantly and religiously observed of the ancient philosophers, that there is bound no faithful writer of approved authority that hath openly described this art: which thing has induced many to believe that all books of this art were but of late years invented, etc. Finally of the one blessed stone alone, besides which there is no other thing, the subject of the most holy stone of the philosophers, to speak rashly, would be a sacrilege and I should be foresworn" (70). Looking to the final chapters of the same work also, we observe the ground of the whole Hermetic philosophy laid out, and the relative vanity of worldly science to that, which is universal, rational, and divine. The capabilities of the subject are great; and had it been treated in the usual and masterly style of a scholar of Nettesheim, it would have remained a work of lasting value; but he was fettered by oaths and had been somewhat conscience stricken; and the monks, whom he had formerly censured, eagerly promulgated the whole as a recantation of former errors, holding it in this light and as an acknowledgment of the sufficiency of their own doctrine and of the common faith for salvation.
In the beginning of his extraordinary career, Theophrastus Paracelsus proposed openly to discover the hidden secret of philosophy; but the world scoffed at his pretensions, abused and persecuted him; and all the revenge he indulged in was to leave it unenlightened. The writings he put forth are, with few exceptions, filled with subtle malice, as it were, so many sarcasms upon mankind and leading them far away, through alluring sophisms, from the straight way of truth. Surely, as Ashmole remarks, incredulity appears to have been given to the world as a punishment; yet neither in its belief did it speed better, but has still plodded on in error for want of thought, and through all ages men have suffered in ignorance, on account mainly of the indefiniteness and selfishness of their desires. Of the numerous books attributed to Paracelsus, and given together as his works, the three Addresses to the Athenians, and the Aurora, are amongst the best. Those to the Athenians have been translated into English, and published with The Philosophy of J. Crollius, a disciple, and the Aurora also is to be met with, though more rarely, in company with the Water Stone of the Wise Men, by J. Grasseus. With respect to the private history and character of this extraordinary man, accounts differ, and opinions accordingly; but his fame, and the authority of his doctrine, lasted down through a long period of time. His early death has been adduced as an argument against the probability of his being possessed of the elixir he boasts; and by others as a proof of his having been poisoned: but the poison of intemperance and irregular living has also been considered as especially likely to be fatal to one who was in the habit of taking a potent spiritual medicine, which would heighten the spiritual consequences of depravity and habitual excess, and accelerate dissolution in the conflict of opposite principles (71). Paracelsus, notwithstanding the world’s neglect, had numerous disciples, increasing also after his decease: some intelligent and worthy the name of philosophers, as Van Helmont, Crollius, Fludd, Helvetius, Faber, and many more anonymous, but there were others, montebank pretenders, more in number still, who, pursuing the baser line of their master’s example, whilst they enviously suppressed the little truth they knew, wrote and practiced for lucre, leading mankind into error and the commitment even of egregious crimes by their receipts. And the world which would not be drawn by the true light, gave easy way to their false stimulants, and encouraged the enemies growth in literature, until the tares possessed the field; nor could it be well otherwise, as a modern adept has observed on the occasion, for this bushel being placed over the light, the darkness of it invited ignorance abroad.
The burlesque of Erasmus, which, towards the close of the 16th century, were turned upon the follies then continually going on amongst the credulous chemists and their dupes, show that it was the prevailing mania of the age; when rich men and potentates fell easily into the snares of the lowest vagabonds, who had acquired the tact only to write and talk mysteriously. Chaucer, in the tale of the Chanon’s Yeoman, gives an example of this kind of the boastings, bereavements, and surpassing beliefs of ignorance; as Ripley also, in his Erroneous Experiments, tells how he
"Made solucyons full many a one,
Of spyrytts, ferments, salts, yerne and steele;
Wenying so tomake the philosophers; stone;
But finally I lost eche dele,
After my bokes yet wrought I well;
Which evermore untrew I provyd,
That made me oft full sore agrevyd.
Waters corrosive and water ardent,
With which I wrought in divers wyse,
Many one I made but all was shent;
Egg shells I calcenyd twyse or thryse,
Oylys fro calcys I made up ryse;
And every element fro other I did twye
But profytt found I right none therein.
Also I wrought in sulphur and in vitriall,
Which folys doe call the Grene Lyon,
In arsenicke, in orpemint, fowle mot them fall;
In delibi principio was myne inception:
Therefore was frawde in fine the conclusion:
And I blew my thrift at the cole,
My clothes were bawdy, my stomache was never hole.
I proved uryns, eggs, here, and blod,
The scalys of yern which smthys do off smyte.
Oes, ust, and crokefer which dyd me never good:
The sowle of Saturn and also marchisyte,
Lythage and antimony not worth a mite:
Of which gey tinctures I made to shew,
Both red and white which were untrew.
Oyle of Lune and water with labor great,
I made calcynyng yt with salt precipitate,
And by hytself with vyolent heatt
Grindyng with vinegar tyll I was fatygate:
And also with a quantitye if syces acuate;
Upon a marble which stode me oft in cost
And oyles with corrosives I made; but all was lost.
Thus I rostyd and boyled as one of Geber’s cooks,
And oft times I was dysceivyd with many falce books
Whereby untrue, thus truly I wrought:
But all such experiments avaylyd me nought;
But brought me in danger and cumbraunce,
By loss of goods and other grievaunce", &c (72).
The tide so long encroaching, however, began at last to fluctuate; and as mistrust, gathering from disappointment, ripened, a change somewhat suddenly took place in the public mind, and turned finally into an absolute odium of the deluding alchemists and the art. Then it was that several were obliged to retire into exile; and even the true adepts --- for the public knew not to distinguish --- suffered equal cruelty and abundant inconvenience. They who before had been courted and lauded in hopes of obtaining gold, or the means of making it, were arrested and tortured, in order to extort confession; accordingly we find mixed up with their philosophy, bitter complaints of injury, thefts, murders, and unjust imprisonments. Alexander Seton was hunted through Europe in disguise, not daring to remain in any town, for fear of detection. --- "I am suffering", says this author, in his Open Entrance [Correction: Philalethes], "a continual banishment: deprived of the society of friends and family, and, as if driven by the Furies, am compelled constantly to fly from place to place and from kingdom to kingdom, without delaying anywhere. And thus, though I possess all things, I have no rest or enjoyment of any, except in the truth, which is my whole satisfaction. They who have not a knowledge of this art imagine, if they had, they would do many things: I also thought the same, but am grown circumspect by experience of many dangers and the peril of life. I have seen so much corruption in the world, and those even who pass for good people are so ruled by the love of gain, that I am constrained even from the works of mercy, for fear of suspicion and arrest. I have experienced this in foreign countries, where, having ventured to administer the medicine to sufferers given over by physicians, the instant the cures became known, a report was spread about of the Elixir, and I have been obliged to disguise myself, shave my head, and change my name, to avoid falling into the hands of wicked persons, who would try to wrest the secret from me, in hopes of making gold. I could relate many incidents of this kind which have happened to me. Would to God that gold and silver were as common as the street mud; we should not then be obliged to fly and hide ourselves, as if we were accursed like Cain" (73). Michael Sendivogius was imprisoned by his prince; even the pious Khunrath is moved to bitterness, when speaking of the treatment he had experienced: George Von Welling, Fichtuld, Muller, Harprecht, also; for the good and innocent now suffered more and more than ever cautious to conceal their names, with the evidence of Alchemy, from the world. And as the mind of the day became gradually engaged in puritanical discussions, and the interests of political leaders, indifference to the art again succeeded, and a skepticism, as blind and nearly pernicious as the former credulity settled upon the minds of men. But philosophers were content to have it so; observing the incapability of the common herd, and how little they cared for the truth, or the witness of nature’s greatest miracles, in comparison with their own selfish emolument. Some gathered themselves together for better protection, and carrying on their work into the Rosicrucian Fraternity, a widely celebrated, though secret association, established, as the report is, by a German adeptest who had traveled into the East, and in Arabia was initiated into many arcane mysteries of nature. Their Fame and Confession, with the story of their first institution, has been rendered into English with an excellent preface by Thomas Vaughan, and an appendix showing the true nature of their philosophy, place of abode, and other particulars connected with their magian prowess and renown.
But we must not omit to notice the names of Dee and Kelly, two notorious magicians of Queen Elizabeth’s time; for though the latte was somewhat of a knave, and a little over-presumptuous, yet there is reason to believe that he practiced transmutation, and became possessed of the Red Powder by some secret kind of information, if not of the means of perfecting it by his own art. Thus it was generally reported of Dr Dee and Kelly, that they were so strangely fortunate as to discover a large quantity of the Powder of Projection in a niche amongst the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and which was so rich in virtue (being 1 upon 272,330) that they lost a great portion in trial before they found out the true height of the medicine. With this treasure they went abroad, fixed their abode at Trebona, and transmuted occasionally. In Dee’s diary we have the account of Kelly making projection with one small grain (in proportion no larger than the least grain of sand) upon an ounce and a quarter of common mercury, which produced almost an ounce of pure gold (74). Then there is the story of the warming-pan, related by Ashmole, from no very distant testimony, of a piece of metal being cut out and, without Kelly touching or handling it, or melting the copper even, only warming it in the fire, the elixir being projected thereon, it was transmuted into pure silver. The pan, he goes on to relate, was sent to the Queen Elizabeth by her ambassador, who then lay at Prague; that by fitting the piece into the place whence it was cut out, it might exactly prove to be once a part of that pan. Bloomfield had likewise seen in the hands of one Master Tyre and Scroope, rings of Sir Edward Kelly’s gold, the fashion of which was only gold wire twisted thrice about the finger; of which fashioned rings he gave away to the value of 4000 l. at the marriage of one of his servants. This was highly generous; but to say the truth, he was openly profuse beyond the modest limits, as Ashmole observes, of a sober philosopher. This kind of profusion has been frequently exhibited by such as are reported to have come by the treasure casually, never by those who have themselves confected it.
During the abode at Trebona, Dee and Kelly appear to have tried many experiments, and their conversations with their spiritual informants are ludicrously mundane and abortive (76). Whether or not they finally succeeded in the object of their research remains uncertain; the story runs that they did not, but that the secret of making of the Powder was confided to Kelly some years afterwards by a dying monk. In Dee’s Diary, towards the latter end, there certainly are expressions of joy and gratitutde, as if he had suddenly attained to some great and important discovery; --- Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus, omne quod vivit laudet Dominum; and upon the thirtieth day of the month following, he writes, --- Master E. Kelly did open the great secret to me, God be thanked.
Things were not carried on so privately abroad, but the Queen had notice of the proceedings of her subjects; and she sent letters and messages summoning them to return home: Dee obeyed, but Kelly remained behind, was taken prisoner by Emperor Rudolph, who had long set a watch on their movements. It was during this detention that he wrote that little book, De Lapide Philosophorum, which is commonly to be met with, but it is of little more value than repute. The death of Kelly is involved in mystery, and Dee is said to have expired in poverty in Mortlake.
The writings of Jacob Boehme, the profound theosophist of Prague, and those of the Pordage and Lead school. May not be undervalued, since these enthusiasts were all on the same original track; and the first would seem to have attained something better even than a view of the Promised Land. Moreover, Boehme has discovered such a ground of experience and principles of the Divine Art in his writings, as may help the student to conceive profoundly and lead him to the means of understanding the enigmas of the old adepts. For this author is, of all who have hitherto entered experimentally into the mystery, the plainest, simplest, and most confidential exponent. The Aurora, or Day Spring; The Discourse of the Three Principles; The Mysterium Magnum; The Tree of Life; The Turned Eye, or 40 Questions Concerning the Life of Man, and his Epistles, are full of explicit indications concerning the physical basis of magic and occult material of the philosophers’ stone (77). So that the following eulogy, copied from a manuscript found in a volume of his works, may not be considered misplaced, or altogether extravagant:
"Whateer the Eastern Magi sought,
Or Orpheus sung,or Hermes taught,
Whatever Confucius would inspire,
Or Zoroaster’s mystic fire;
The symbols that Pythagoras drew,
The wisdom godlike Plato knew,
What Socrates debating proved,
Or Epictetus lived and loved;
The sacred fire of saint and sage,
Thro’ every clime in every age,
In Boehme’s wondrous page we view,
Discoverd and revealed anew", etc.
Revealed anew, it will be observed, theosophically, but not intellectually. Nothing, since the Greeks, has been found to approach their doctrine of Wisdom in perspicuity, grace of utterance, and scientific explication of the divine source. Of all the successors on the same road, none have exceeded their authority, and very few have attained to the perfect veracity and ideality of their ground; but of this hereafter. Numerous works on Alchemy have issued from the German press, detailing the experience of excellent and learned adepts; amongst those of later years may be mentioned Ambrose and Phillip Mueller (78); Herman Fichtuld (79); and his friend George Von Welling (80); J. Crollius (81); the Van Helmonts, father and son (82); Grasseus, the reputed author of the Water Stone (83), a personal friend of Boehme’s; Henry Khunrath, a pious and learned adeptest (84); Andrew Libavius (85); J.J. Beccher (86); and J. Tollius, a Dutchman and an elegant classical expositor on the same ground (87). Faber also (88); but of all those who have connected ancient fable with philosophy, and explained them by the Hermetic key, Michael Maier ranks first; and his works are more esteemed and sought after even in the present day, than is easily accountable, since he is profoundly guarded in his revelations (89). Highly curious engravings and woodcuts adorn the works of these authors, and even the title pages of many of them convey more idea and food for reflection than other modern tomes, oftentimes throughout the whole of their development.
The Novum Lumen Chemicum, which passes under the name of Michael Sendivogius, the Polish adept, is one of the best known and popular of modern works on the subject. It has been translated into English by John French, also a practitioner (90); whose introductory preface is bold and striking, and was published in London under the title of The New Light of Alchemy, with the nine books of Paracelsus, De Natura Rerum, in 1650. This New Light, professedly drawn from the fountain of nature, and grounded in manual experience, is cleverly handled, and of an attractive character; though in consequence of the willful disorder and perplexity of the composition, repeated perusal and a certain knowledge are requisite, in order to gather its recondite drift; and so much the more, as its theory and asserted facts are at variance with our common conceptions and experience of the possibility of nature. The French edition of this work, also, has been translated by Digby, and contains, besides the Treatise on Salt omitted in the above, other curious additions, with a concluding Dialogue, which is instructive (91).
There is a multitude of little English books on alchemy afloat on the book-stalls; amongst them some original, well-written, and worthy of perusal; for although Britain has not been so fertile in adepts as France and Germany, yet her scarce ones have been great; the profundity and comparative candor of their writings, being very generally acknowledged by their foreign compeers to which Dufresnoy, though himself a skeptic, in his Histoire Hermetique bears this characteristic witness: --- "D’ailleurs on ne scauroit disconvenir que les Anglois n’ecrivent sur la science hermetique avec beaucoup de lumiere et de profondeur. Ils y font paroitre leur jugement et leur esprit de relexion. Il seroit a souhaiter qu’ils portassent la meme attention et la meme maturite a tout ce qu’ils entreprennent, on seroit beaucoup plus content d’eux et ils ne s’exposerait pas a perdre l’estime des autres nations comme ils s’y risquent tous les jours" (92).
This piece of flattering French testimony refers, we suppose, to the writings of our early adepts; otherwise, of all that have flourished in latter times, the most celebrated and facile princeps, is that Anonymous who styles himself Eirenaeus Philalethes: the many works that have appeared under this signature indicate so excellent and perfect an artist, that his brethren, always speaking with admiration, unanimously award him the garland. Yet of himself, his name, and habits of life nothing is known; no cotemporary mentions him; Starkey, indeed, professes to have been his servant once for a time in America, and to have assisted him in the art; and describes him as an English gentleman of an ancient and honorable family then living on his own estate and rarely learned. --- "I saw", says he, "in my master’s possession the White and Red elixir in very large quantity; he gave me upwards of two ounces of the White medicine of sufficient virtue to convert 120,000 times its weight into the purest silver: with this treasure I went to work ignorantly and was caught in the trap of my own covetousness, for I expended or wasted nearly all of this tincture, and did not know its value until it was nearly gone. However, I made projection of a part, and have tinged many hundreds of ounces by it into the best silver: of a pound of mercury I have made within less than a scruple of a pound of silver", etc. (93). It is also reported that Eiranaeus was intimate with the chemist Boyle; but the rumors are all uncertain, and, as if to increase the mystery, he has been confounded with other English adepts, as Harprecht and Thomas Vaughan, and his writings also with those of Sendivogius, who has been identified with him under the name of Alexander Seton and others. He himself informs us that he was born in England, somewhere towards the beginning of the 17th century, that he possessed the secret at a very early age, and was the victim of unremitting persecution. His principal works are, An Open Entrance to the Shut Palace of the King, Ripley Revived, The Marrow of Alchemy, in verse; Metallorum Metamorphoses, Brevis Manuductio as Rubinum Coelestum, Fons Chemicae Veritatis, and a few others in the Museum Hermeticum and in Manget’s collection.
Thomas Vaughan, whose pseudonym of Eugenius Philalethes has, notwithstanding the very obvious distinction of his mind and style, caused him to be confounded with the foregoing Eirenaeus, was the author of several luminous little treatises, bearing on the higher grounds of this mystic science, full of ideas and the recondite spirit of antiquity. In these Vaughan makes casual reference to the gold-making possibility, but is at little pains to attract in this direction, or indicate, as is usual, any sophistic order of practical operation; and thus repelling impertinent inquiry, he leads at once to the true and only valuable speculation of the subject. Moreover, unless we be mistaken, the one Art and medium of vital perfectibility is more clearly shown in his writings than in those of any other English author. They are as follows: Magia Adamica, or the Antiquity of Magic; whereto is added, A Discovery of the Coelum Terrae, or Magician’s Heavenly Chaos; Anthroposophia Theomagica, a discourse on the nature of man grounded on the protochemistry of Hermes, and verified by a practical examination of principles; Anima Magia Abscondita, a discourse of the universal spirit of nature, with its strange, abstruse, and miraculous ascent and descent; Euphrates, or Waters of the East, a practical discourse of that secret fountain whose water flows from fire; Lumen de Lumine, a new magical light discovered and consummated, with an allegorical display of the first matter, and other valuable magnetical introductions and guides. This author’s death is reported to have befallen extraordinarily, something after the manner of Virgil’s, and from an overdose of the elixir; nor should it appear wonderful, as the narrative runs, that the subtle light of life should in these instances have been swallowed up in the superior attraction of a greater flame. Agrippa gives a similar account of the death of Alexander the Great, saying that he died suddenly by the hand of his preceptor, administering the venom of the waters of the Styx, to whom the youthful monarch had previously intrusted his life, body and soul without reservation (94).
The Authors we have brought forth as distinguished and genuine, are but few in comparison with the whole number; some reckon as many as 4000 (95); but there are enough without forcing any into the ranks. Borricius, from standing testimony, counts as many as 2500 (96). L’Englet Dufresnoy has reduced the number still more, but then he was ignorant of the subject and excludes according to titles, rather that the matter, of several books covertly treating of the Hermetic art (97). The Bodlerian library contains many hundred volumes by separate authors. The Royal Library of France was reputed still richer in 1742, especially in manuscripts; and the Vatican and Escurial have large and valuable collections in the same branch.
And it is in these archives alone that the ancient Art is now preserved, in which we hoard the memory of long bygone hopes. O declare a man an Alchemist in the present day would be to brand him as insane, and the Hermetic ground is as far out of the road of common thought as if it were tabooed; not indeed that anyone regards it as sacred, but devilish rather, or delirious, or ridiculous, as the bias may be. Meanwhile, therefore, to reconcile this science or the teachers of it to the world, we should feel to be a task above our ability, were it very far greater than it is; the prejudice having grown so old and strong that neither reason nor authority is longer able to balance it. But in whatever light we be disposed to regard Alchemy, whether as the acme of human folly, or contrariwise, as the recondite perfection of wisdom and causal science, it appears almost equally remarkable: considered in the former way we have before us a huge amount of avarice, mad credulity, and fraud accumulating on continually from immemorial time, with the deplorable conclusion, that the greater part of those to whom the world has been taught to look up as philosophical authorities were in fact dupes and worse deceivers; on the other hand, if we hesitate in thus denouncing all the many well-approved and religious professors of this art, and suppose them, even in this particular, to have been sincere, what then ought we to conclude? That they were deluded? It is true their assertions are startling, but then the means of realization proposed are actual; the transmutation of metallic bodies was a proof addressed to the senses and so uniformly stated as to preclude subterfuge or any medium fulfillment. --- "I have seen the Stone and handled it", says Van Helmont, "and projected the fourth part of one grain, wrapped in paper, upon eight ounces of quicksilver boiling in a crucible, and the quicksilver, with a small voice, presently stood in its flux, and was congealed like to yellow wax; after a flux by blast we found eight ounces all but eleven grains which were wanting of the purest gold; therefore one grain of this powder would transmute 19,186 parts of quicksilver into the best gold. I am constrained to believe, for I have made projections divers times of one grain of the philosophers’ gold upon some thousands of grains of boiling quicksilver, to the admiration and tickling of a great multitude. He who gave me that powder" (the stranger Butler, whom he first found in prison) "had so much as would transmute 200,000 pounds worth of gold" (98). "Our tincture of gold", says Paracelsus, "has within it an astral fire which conquers all things and changes them into a nature like itself; it is a most fixed substance and immutable in the multiplication; it is a powder having the reddest color, almost like saffron, yet the whole corporeal substance is liquid like resin, transparent like crystal, frangible like glass. It is of a ruby color of the greatest weight; and this is a true sign of the tincture of the philosophers, that by its transmuting force all imperfect metals are changed, and this gold is better than the gold of the mines; and out of it may be prepared better medicines and arcane" (99). So likewise Friar Bacon says, and Lully, and Arnold in his Speculum, that he had seen and touched, after much labor and industry, the perfect thing transmuting (100). And Geber in these words --- "The things are manifest in which the verity of the work is nigh, and we have considered the things perfecting this work is nigh, and we have considered the things perfecting this work by a true investigation, with certain experience, whereby we are assured that all the words are true which are by us written in our volumes, according as we found them by experiment and reason" (101). And again, --- "By the goodness of God’s instigation and by our own incessant labor, we have searched out and found, and have seen with our eyes and handled with our hands the completement of matters sought after in our magistery" (102). And Pico di Mirandola, in his book De Auro: --- "I come now", says the prince, "to relate what my eyes have seen plainly without veil or obscurity; one of my friends, who is now living, has made gold and silver several times in my presence, and I have seen it and done it myself" (103).
We do not adduce these testimonials in proof either of the truth or plausibility of the Hermetic art; but to lead on inquiry, without which it would be equally vain to believe as to deny; and further, to show the pretension was not ambiguous, but absolutely provable, if at all, we have the story of the transmutation before Gustavus Adolphus in the year 1620, the gold of which was coined into medals bearing the king’s effigy with the reverse, Mercury and Venus; and that other at Berlin, before the king of Prussia, widely celebrated in 1710 (104). The story related by Kircher in his Mundus Subterraneus also is explicit, and that of Helvetius; but the foregoing, taken casually, may be sufficient to indicate that the evidence of Alchemy was neither abstract nor hidden, nor
But clean, experimental and determinable":
And that if there was deception at all, it must have been willful and not the offspring of self-delusion on the part of the adepts. And then what should induce men to invent, age after age, and to reiterate and confirm a shameful and unpopular falsehood? --- Pious hermits and ecclesiastics, physicians and metaphysicians, men of high rank and reputation, far above and out of the way of sordid allurements, most of whom had in fact relinquished station, power, wealth, and worldly benefices for the science, sake and the cause of true religion? What interest should have moved them, even supposing minds so degraded as to deceive so far and frequently their fellow men? Or shall we conclude that Ripley wither was so mad and simple a knave as to write the offer to his king to show him the actual working of the Stone, if he had possessed nothing? But he even promises to unfold the whole confection conditionally. Would he so far have ventured, or what motive had he to deceive?
"Never trewly for merke nor for pounde
Make yt I common; but to you conditionedly
That to yourself ye shall keep yt secretly;
And only yt use, as may be God’s pleasure,
Els in tyme comynge of God I shoulde abye
For my discoveringe of hys secret treasurye" (105).
And if the notion of willful deceit is improbable, then, their problem being one of tangible facts, it is still less likely that they were themselves deceived. --- "I write not fables", says H. Khunrath in his Ampitheater; "with thine own hands thou shalt handle and with thine own eyes thou shalt see Azoth, viz., the Universal Mercury, which alone with its internal and external fire is sufficient for thee; which transforms itself into what it will by the fire". And again, --- "I have traveled much and visited those esteemed to know what by experience and not in vain, amongst whom, I call God to witness, I got of one the universal tincture, and the blood of the Lion, which is the gold of the philosophers. I have seen it, touched it, tasted it, smelt it, and used it efficaciously towards my poor neighbors in most desperate cases. Oh, how wonderful is God in his works!" (105).
The liberal mind naturally experiences a difficulty in disbelieving where, a possibility being granted, the testimony in support of a matter is fair and honorable. And though sensible evidence and more than this sometimes is required to silence negative assertion; yet reason, supported by her witnesses, may enervate it, and induce that strict investigation and thought which should always precede experiment, but which the multitude have never yet been found willing to undertake; and are consequently led astray in progress, and learn as it were by chance. It is said that Lord bacon instituted certain experiments with a view to the discovery of the philosophers’ stone, and in the Advancement of Learning he faithfully recognizes the possibility, as does also Sir Isaac Newton in his works: nor did either of these great men, though they were practically unsuccessful themselves, condemn the ancient tradition or deny its validity. Yet it would seem to be more ordinarily natural to the human mind to reject these things, which it has neither been early imbued in the belief of, nor instructed to understand; besides individual research into mere possibilities, and because facts only are alleged, is too hopeless and arduous for this short life, which requires a definite assurance of success, and fruit even from the smallest labor. And this is the world’s palliation for despising Alchemy, and many things which the ancients have asserted in like manner, without the requisite means of realization. For they would not, not have they anywhere openly declared, even the common Subject of their Art; but left mankind to imagine, as they did, all that was erroneous concerning it, as of their salts, sulfurs, mercuries, magic elements, and occult confections. What a chaos of metaphor and monstrous allusion does not the literature of Alchemy present at first view! With what fantastic images and inconclusive positions is it not replete --- sings, symbolisms, and subtle enigmas innumerable, as if to try the ingenuity at every point? Contrary to the usual endeavor of writers to enlighten, by rendering their ideas intelligible, the adepts appear to have a directly contrary aim, at least so it would occur to anyone from a cursory survey; now leading along by some ingenious allegory, full of deep and exciting suggestions, yet withal enveloped in a mystery so obscure that without more light it were impossible to penetrate it; then, further to seduce, adding, it may be, another gleam of argument, tantalizing the hope and wearying the understanding with unequal assertions, until all passes away again, with all possibility of discernment, behind some clouded metaphor or word of warning that the secret of the ages may not be profaned. A variety of artifices according to the cabalistic method, moreover, have been employed, and the Hermetic discourses are not infrequently found introverted in their order, and dispersed with repetitions, to prevent the truth from becoming openly obvious, even to those who had already become possessed of the true key; but only of the vestibule and entrance rights;
"If you consider how the partes of the werkes
Be out of order set by the old clerkes,
As I said before, the master of this arte,
Every and each of them disclosed but a parte;
Wherefore tho’ ye perceived themas ye woulde,
Yet ye cannot order or joine them as ye shoulde" (Norton, 107).
"For is not our art cabalistic", asks Artephius, "and full of mysteries? And you, fool, believe we teach the secret of secrets openly, and understand our words according to the letter; be assured, we are not envious, but he that takes the philosophers’ saying according to the outward sense and signification has already lost the clue to Ariadne, and wanders up and down the labyrinth, and it would be of the same benefit to him as if he had thrown his money into the sea" (108). And Sendivogius, to the same effect in the Preface of the Twelve Treatises, --- "I would", says he, "have the candid reader be admonished that he understand my writings, not so much from the outside of my words as from the possibility of nature; let him consider that this Art is for the wise, not for the ignorant; and that the sense of the philosophers is of another nature than to be understood by vaporizing Thrasoes, or the letter learned scoffers, or vicious, against their own consciences; or ignorant montebanks, who, most unworthily defaming the most commendable art of Alchemy, have with their Whites and Reds deceived almost the whole world" (109). And agin, in the Epilogue, --- "All things indeed", says the adept, "might have been comprehended in a few lines; but we are willing to guide into the knowledge of nature indirectly, by reasons and examples: that thou may knowest what the thing truly is thou shouldst seek after, also that thou might have nature, her light and shadow, discovered to thee. Be not displeased if thou meetest sometimes with contradictions in my treatises, it being the custom of philosophers to use them; thou hast need of them: if thou understandest them, thou shalt not find a rose without prickles" (110).
"Each artist striving yt howtoconceal
Lest wretched caitiffs shulde the treasure steal.
Nor villains shulde their vyllanyes maintain
By this rare art; which danger they to heal
In horrid metaphors veiled are an art most plain,
Lest each fool knowing yt shulde yt when known disdayne" (Ripley, 111).
And Roger Bacon advises, therefore, to leave off experiments until the ground of wisdom is properly conceived. --- "And though I say, take this, and this, believe me not but operate according to the blood; i.e., according to the understanding, and so of all; leave off experiments, apprehend my meaning, and you will find, believe me, being a lighted candle" (112). And Basil Valentine and Eiranaeus, and most adepts in short, warn their readers against running into the practice upon vague premises, and before they have attained to a full understanding of the matter to be taken in hand; yet, notwithstanding all their injunctions, many seekers, and faithful ones too, have been led astray: Geber’s receipts, Basil’s and Glauber’s, though at variance with all common-sense probability, have been the means of surrounding many a literal soul with stills, coals, and furnaces, in hope by such lifeless instruments to sublime the Spirit of Nature; or by salt, sulfur and mercury, or the three combined with antimony, to extract the Form of gold. But they who have thus fallen to practice, without the true Light or heeding their injunctions, had no right to charge their error on the adepts, the disappointment and misery of those fanatical chemists having been attributable to their own misunderstanding bias, and more frequently owing to the deceit of sophists than to the genuine tradition of Hermetic science.
Since difficulties however are apparent, and the pretenders to the Art were in latter times far more numerous than the true adepts, and the literature has suffered in consequence grievous disgrace and spoliation, it is not surprising that the public, having been so long and grossly deluded, should at length have shut out Alchemy from amongst its credenda. If there was no desire to search deeper, it was wisely done, and checked the raging of a sore distemper. But that many have fallen into error and suffered, or others proved deceivers, or that the world has chosen to disbelieve, are no proofs in philosophy, even if it were without so many witnesses, that the Hermetic mystery is groundless. The world is fully as ignorant of the genuine doctrine and Art of Wisdom as were the imposters whomit repudiated, and their judgment concerning it is of as little value. The words of the philosophers remain, though modern science is not able to confirm them, or present anything analogous to the powers they professed, not in the advancement of the mineral kingdom only, but over all nature. And since they unanimously recommend a studious examination, in order to conceive rightly of the promises held out, before atemnpting to judge them or the pretensions of their Art, we propose to investigate preliminarily the theoretic ground and matter on which the physical possibility of transmutation rests.
References (Abridged) ~
(1) De Hermetica Aegyptior, vetere et Paracelsior. Nova Medicina.
(2) Oedipus Aegyptiacus. Idem, de Lapide Philos. Dissert.
(3) De Ortu et Progressu Chemiae...
(4) De Veritate et Antiquitate Artis Chemiae.
(5) See Plutarch de Iside et Osiride, and Bryant’s Analysis of Ancient Mythology.
(6) See Suidas de Verbo Chemiae...
(7) See Terullianus de Anime...
(8) Chimia est auri et argenti confectio (etc.)... Suida in Verbo Chemeia.
(9) See Jamblichus de Mysteriis, sect viii, cap. iv, etc.
(10) Hermetis Trismegisti Tractatus Aureus de Lapidis physici secreto.
(11) From the Asclepian Dialogue of Hermes, by Ficinus, as rendered by T. Taylor.
(12) See Taylor’s notes to the Prophecy, in Plotinus’ Select Works.
(13) De Ostane Magno, vide Plinium, Hostor. Nat. lib. xxx, cap. I.
(14) Democriti Abderitae de Arte Sacra...
(15) Synesius in Democritum Abderitam de Arte Sacra.
(16) Flamelli Summario Philosophico.
(17) Hist. Nat. lib. xxx, cap. I.
(18) Epistola, xci.
(19) Petronius Arbiter in Satyrico.
(20) Democriti Abderitae... (Syncellus, Chronographia, p. 248).
(21) See Norton’s Ordinal in Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicaum Britannicum.
(22) See lib. Iii, cap. 15... See also Aristotleis de Lapide ad Alexandrum Magnum; Theat. Chem., vol. v.
(23) Epistle II. Platos’ Works, by Taylor, vol. v.
(24) Suidas in Verbo Chemeia.
(25) Cleopatra Regini Egypti Ars auri faciendi, etc., in the catalogue of the Royal Library at Paris, 1742. See Dufresnoy, Hist. Herm., vol. iii.
(26) Invitaverat spec Caium... (Hist. Nat., lib. 33, cap. 4).
(27) Theat. Chem., vol 1; Ex petri Apiani Antq. Desumpta; also, Taylor’s notes to his Pausanias, vol 3.
(28) Ampitheatrum Sapientae Eternae
(29) Theat. Chem., vol. v, p. 746. Kircheri Oedipus Aegyptiacus, vol. 1.
(30) The Critic, new series, No. 13, p. 352 (1845).
(31) Symbola Auriae Mensa
(32) Commentariolum in Enigmaticum quoddam Epitaphium Bononiae studiorum... Theat, Chem., vol 5.
(33) See Alexander Beauvais in Speculo Naturali...
(34) Heliodurus Phil. Christ. De Arte Sacra Chimicor... See Dufresnoy, Hist. De l’Art Hermetique, vol. 3, Cat. Gr. Mss.
(35) Synesius, Epistola 36, 142.
(36) Troics, Traitez de la Philosophie, etc. (Paris 1612), The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, and The True Book of Synesius, on the Philosophers’ Stone.
(37) Gebri Arabum Summa Perfectionis magisterii in sua Natura, etc...
(38) Morienus Eremita Hierosol. De Transfiguratione Metallorum...
(39) See Theatr. Chem. vol. 5, Salmon’s Practical Physic; and Le Bibliotheque des Philosophes Chimiques.
(40) The following have been attributed to him: --- Avicenna de Tinctura Metallorum,Idem, Porta Elementa. Idem, de Mineralibus.
(41) See Paracelsu in Libro de Vita longa, Pontanus, Epistola, etc. R, Bacon in Libro de Mirab. Natur. Operib.
(42) Artefii Antiquissimi Philosophi de Arte Occulta atque Lapide Philosophorum Liber secretus.
(43) See Speculum Alchimiae Rogerii Bachonis, Theat. Chem., vol. 2. De Mirabilibus Potestatibus Artis et Naturae, etc.
(44) Speculum Alchimiae, in fine. Fr. Bachonis Anglici libellus cum influenctiis Coeli relates to the same mystical subject.
(45) Lib. Ii de Mineralibus, cap. 1.
(46) Tom. 21 in fol. Lugduni, 1653, and in Theat. Chem., vol. 2.
(47) Norton’s Ordinal of Alchemy, Preface, in Ashmole’s Theat. Chem. Brit.
(48) See Chronicon Magnum Belgicum.
(49) Tractatus D. Thomae Aquino datus fratri D. Reinaldo de Arte Alchimiae.
(50) Meteorum Initio, lib. Iv; and again, Praecipuus Alchimistarum scopus est transmutare metalla scilicet imperfecta secundum veritatem et non sophistice.
(51) Thesaurus Alchimiae, cap. 1 and 8. Tractatus datus Fratri Reinaldo. This with the Secreta Alchimiae and another are given in the Theatrum Chemicum, and other collections of the Art.
(52) Nostris diebus habuimus magnum... (J. Andraeas in addit. ad Speculum Rub de crim. Falsi.)... Haec ille Andaeas... (R. Vallensis de Veritate, etc., in Theat. Chem., vol. 1). Alchimia est ars perspicaci... (D. Fabianus de Monte, S. Severin in Tractatu de Emptione et Venditione, Quest 5. Oldranus, lib. Concilio, Quest 74.)
(53) Alani Philosophi, Dicta de Lapide.
(54) Prophetia Anglicana Merlini, etc., Alanai de Insulis, Francf. 1608.
(55) Ultimum Testamentum R. Lulli.
(56) Cremeri Testamentum.
(57) Aureas illas Anglorum primum... See Olaus Borrichius de Ortu et Progressu Chemiae, 4 to., p. 242; and E. Dickenson, de Quintessentia.
(58) Histoire Hermetique, vol 3. His Theoriea et Practica, given in the third volume of the Theat. Chem., appears to us one of the very best pieces of Alchemical philosophy extant.
(59) Norton’s Ordinal
(60) Norton’s Ordinal, cap. 1
(61) See Dufresnoy, Hist. Herm. vol. 2, p. 11, etc.
(62) See Histoire Hermetique, vol. 1, p. 206; Lives of the Adepts, p. 38; Les Hieroglyphiques de N. Flammel.
(63) J. I. Hollandus de Lapide Philosophico, Frankf. 1669. I. Hollandus Opera Universalia, etc...
(64) Norton’s Ordinal, chap.5
(65) Chimische Schriften, Fr. Basilii Valentinii, in 12 mo., 1717.
(66) Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Britanicum, London 1652.
(67) Ripley Revived... by E. Philalethes, London 1678.
(68) Marsilii Ficini Florent. Liber de Arte Chemica.
(69) J.F. Picus, de Auro in Theat. Chem., vol 2; also J.F.P. Mirandolae Domini, Concordieque, Opus Aureum de Auro...
(70) See De Vanitate Scientiarum, Alch., etc.
(71) See Lives of the Alchemists, p. 52
(72) An Admonition of Erroneous Experiments, Theat. Chem. Brit., p. 189.
(73) See Introitus Apertus ad Occlusum Regis Palationem, cap. xiii.
(74) Dee’s Diary, Spet. 1586.
(75) See notes appended to the Theat. Chem. Brit.
(76) See :A True and Faithful Relation of what passed for many years between Dr John Dee and some Spirits, London 1659.
(77) See Boehme’s Works, edited by Law and others, 4 vols.
(78) Philippi Mulleri Miracula et Mysteria Medico-Chemica, Wirtemburg 1656. Amb. Muller’s Paradeis-Spiegel, Launenberg, 1704.
(79) Probier Stein, Frankfurt 1740.
(80) Opus mago-Cabbalist, etc., Frankf. 1760.
(81) Crollius, Philosophy Reformed, etc., transl. By Pinnel, London 1657.
(82) Van Helmont, de Ortu Medicinae. Van Helmont, Paradoxes.
(83) Das Wasser-Stein des Weissens, transl. Into English in the Musaeum Hermeticum; Arca Arcano, Lillium inter Spina, ec., by the same author are in the collection of Manget.
(84) Ampitheat. Sapientiae Eternae, in fol. 1608. Magnesia Catholica, etc.
(85) Andr. Libavius, Opera Omnia Medica. A ponderous compilation.
(86) Physica Subterranea, Lipsig 8 vol. Idem, Oedipus Chemicus Aperius Mysteria, etc., Frankf. 1664. Idem, Laboratorium Chemicum, Frankf. 1680.
(87) Tollii Fortuita, Amsterdam 1687. Manudcutio ad Coelum Chemicum, 1688. Sapientia Insanies, sive Promissa Chemica.
(88) Opera Medico-Chimica, 2 vols., Frankf. 1652.
(89) Symbola Aurea Mensae.Idem, Ulysees.Idem, Septimana Philosophica,rare, etc.
(90) See French’s Art of Distillation.
(91) Sendivogius’ New Light of Alchemy, by John Digby, Lonon 1722.
(92) Vol. 1, p. 446.
(93) See Starkey’s Pyrotechny Asserted.
(94) Vanity of the Sciences, c. 54.
(95) Petri Norelli, Bibliot. Chem. Paris, 1656.
(96) De Ortu et Progressu Chimiae.
(97) Histoire Hermetique, tom. iii, in Catalogue Raisonnee des Ecrivains de cette Science, Paris, 1762.
(98) Book of EternalLife, Ortus Med., fol. P. 590, etc.
(99) Signatura Rerum, fol. P. 358.
(100) Speculum Alchimiae, sub initio, Theat. Chem., vol. 4, p. 515.
(101) Epilogue to the Investigation of Verity, Russel’s Geber, p. 20
(102) Idem., book 1, p. 215.
(103) Picus Mirandolae, de Auro, lib iii, cap. 2.
(104) See Borrichius, de Ortu et Progressu; and Dufresnoy, hist. Herm., vol. 2.
(105) Sir g. Ripley’s Epistle to King Edward IV, v. 5.
(106) Ampitheatrum Sapientae Eternae.
(107) Norton’s Ordinal, cap. 2.
(108) Phil. Antiquis. Tract. Secret.
(109) See New Light of Alchemy, preface.
(110) Epilogue to the Twelve Treatises.
(111) Ripley’s Fifth Gate.
(112) De Arte Alchemica, p. 345, etc.
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