Chapter 9 Consummation of the Hermetic Marriage
Twelve Gates (continued)
Conjunction - The Fourth Gate
After the chapter of natural separation,
By which the elements of our stone dissevered be,
The chapter here followeth of secret conjunction:
Which repugnant natures joineth to perfect unity.
And so them kniteth that none from the other may flee.
When they by fire shall be examinate,
So if they be together surely conjugate.
And therefore philosophers giveth this definition,
Saying this conjunction is nought else,
But of dissevered qualities a copulation,
Or of principles a coequation, as others tell;
But some with mercury which the apothecary sell,
Medleth bodies which cannot divide,
Their matter, and therefore they step aside.
For until the time the soul be separate,
And cleansed from its original sin,
With the water, and purely spiritualizate,
Thy true conjunction may thou never begin.
Therefore first the soul from the body twin,
Then of the corporal part and the spiritual,
The soul shall cause conjunction perpetual.
(Take good care now that you do not begin to distil the matter until it is
black and properly putrefied, which will not take place before 42 to 90
Of two conjunctions the philosophers do mention make;
Gross when the body with mercury is incrudate.
But let this pass, and to the second heed take, Which is as I have said,
after separation celebrate;
In which the parties be left, and so collegate,
And so promoted unto perfect temperence, That never after may be among them
This chapter I will conclude right soon, therefore Gross conjunction
charging you to make but one, For seldom have strumpets children of them
bore, And so thou shalt never come by our stone, Without you suffer the
woman to lie alone.
That after she has conceived of the man, The matrix of her be shut from all
For such as addeth evermore crude to crude, Opening their vessels and
letting their matters cool, The sperm conceived, they nourish not, but
delude themselves, and spilleth their work each deal.
Therefore if thou list to do well,
Close up the matrix and nourish the seed,
With heat continual and temperate, if thou wilt speed.
And when thy vessel has stood by months five,
And clouds and eclipses be passed each one,
Then light appearing, increase thy heat, then blive Till white and shining
in brightness be thy stone;
Then mayest thou open thy glass anon,
And feed thy child which then is bore,
With milk and meat, aye more and more.
And in two things all our intent doth hinge;
In moist and dry which be contrarious two;
In dry that it the moist to fixing bring,
In moist that it give liquefaction the earth unto,
That of them thus contemperate may go forth,
A temperament not so thick as the body is,
Neither so thin as the water is without miss.
Loosing and knitting together be principles two, Of this hard science, and
poles most principle:
How be it that other principles be many more,
As shining sanells which show I shall.
Proceed therefore unto another wall
Of this strong castle of our wisdom,
That inner at the fifth gate thou may come.
(The next gate given is “Putrefaction”, but on no account must the student
take it for granted that this is a fifth stage or process. These Gates are
purposely written out of order to confuse and mislead. In fact putrefaction
should have been put first in the order of working.)
PUTREFACTION - The Fifth Gate
Now beginneth the chapter of putrefaction,
Without which pole no seed can multiply.
Which must be done only by continual action,
Of heat in the body, moist not manually,
For bodies else may not be altered naturally.
Since Christ do it witness, without the grain of wheat, Die in the ground,
increase may thou not get.
And likewise without thy matter do putrefy,
It may in no wise truly be alterate,
Nor thine elements be divided kindly,
Nor thy conjunction of them kindly celebrate;
That thy labour therefore be not frustrate,
The privity of putrefying well understand,
Before ever thou take this work in hand.
And putrefaction may thus defined be,
After philosophers sayings, it is of bodies the slaying, And in our compound
a division of things three.
The killing of bodies unto corruption forth leading, And after unto
generation them abling.
For things being earth without doubt,
Be engendered of rotation of the heavens about.
And therefore as I have said before,
Thine elements comixt and wisely coequate,
Thou keep in temperate heat, eschewing evermore, That they by violent heat
be never incinerate, To powder dry unprofitably rubyficate.
But into black powder as a crow’s bill,
With heat of a bath, or else our dunghill.
To the time when nights be passed ninety.
In moist heat keep them from any thing.
Soon after my blackness thou shalt espy
That they draw fast to putrefying,
Which thou shalt after many colours bring,
To perfect whiteness with patience easily,
And so thy seed in his nature will multiply.
Make each the other to hug and kiss,
And like as children to play them up and down;
And when their skirts are filled like this, [with liquid]
Then let the woman to wash to bound,
Which often for faintness will fall in a swoon,
And die at last with her children all,
And go to purgatory to purge original.
(In the last verse in the chapter on “Solution”, one is told, “Beware thy
glass thou never open nor move “, and here in this last verse, one is told:
“Make each the other to hug and kiss, and play them up and down” to mix the
liquid well into the compound. The experimenter will have to try both ways
to find the true method. That is why more than one experiment must be
started. We have already quoted Flamel as saying: “and no more labour is
required, than that they should be every day turned, like a chicken on her
eggs, that the chickens may be sooner hatched, and better, concerning which
enough is said “.)
When they be there, by little and little increase,
Their pains with heat, aye, more and more;
The fire from them let never cease.
Consummation of the Hermetic Marriage
And see thy furness be apt therefore,
Which wise men do call Athenor: [continually hot]
Conserving heat required most temperately,
By which the water doth kindly putrefy.
Of this principle speaketh sapient Guido,
And sayeth “By rotting dieth the compound corporal”,
And then after Morien and others more,
Upriseth again regenerate, simple and spiritual;
And were not heat and moisture continual,
Sperm in the womb might have none abiding, And so should there be no fruit
Therefore at the beginning our stone thou take, And bury each one with other
within their grave, Then equally a marriage betwixt them make;
To lie together six weeks let them have,
Their seed conceived kindly to nourish and save,
From the ground of their grave not rising that while, Which secret point
doth many a one beguile.
(The last four lines may give the answer to the problem of whether or not to
move the flask. We are told, “six weeks let them have”.)
This time of conception, with easy heat abide, That blackness showing shall
tell thee when they die;
For they together liquid pitch that tide,
Shall swell and bubble, settle and putrefy;
Shining colours therein shalt thou espy:
Like to the rainbow, marvellous unto sight,
The water then beginneth to dry upright.
For in moist bodies, heat nourishing temperate,
Engendereth blackness first of all, which is
Of kindly commixtion be the token assignate;
And of true putrefying; remember this.
For then to alter perfectly thou may not miss.
And thus by the gate of blackness thou must come in;
To light of paradise in whiteness if thou wilt win.
For first the sun in his uprising obscurate,
Shall be, and pass the waters of Noah’s flood,
On earth; which were a hundred continuate,
And fifty, ere away all this water yode. [went]
Right so our waters as wise men understood,
Shall pass, that thou with David may say,
Abierunt in sicco flumina: bare this away.
(Each one of the masters in alchemy had his own idea of how long it took to
bring the processes to perfection; for each had to discover the secret for
himself. The present author thinks it takes three months to the black and
white, and then five months to the red.)
And that thou may rather to putrefaction win, This example take thou to thee
for a true conclusion For all the secret of putrefaction lieth therein:
The heart of oak that hath of water continual infusion, will not soon
putrefy, I tell thee without delusion:
For though it in water lie a hundred years or more, Yet should thou find it
sound as ever it was before.
But if thou keep it sometimes wet, and sometime dry, As thou mayest see in
timber by usual experiment, By process of time that oak shall utterly
putrefy. And so likewise according to our intent, Sometimes our tree must
with the sun be brent:
And then with water soon after must we it cool, That by this means shalt
rotting bring it well.
For now in wet, and now again in dry,
Now in great heat and now again in cold
To be, shall cause it soon for to putrefy:
And so shalt thou bring to rotting thy gold, Treat thy bodies therefore as I
have thee told:
And in thy putrefying with heat be not so swift, Lest in the ashes thou seek
after thy thrift.
(All this and what follows after having been told not to move or open the
glass! How is this to be done? Maybe it would be wise to start the first
process in a distilling retort glass, then one may just tip the retort so
that the water distils into the receiver.)
Therefore the water out of the earth thou draw,
And make the soul therewith to ascend,
Then down again into the earth it throw,
That they offtimes so ascend and descend,
From violent heat and sudden cold defend
Thy glass, and make thy fire so temperate,
That by the sides thy water be never vitrified.
Now in this chapter I have thee taught,
How thou the bodies must putrefy;
And so to guide thee thou be not caught,
And put in durance, loss, and villanie,
My doctrine therefore remember wittily,
And pass towards the sixth gate,
For this the fifth is triumpthate.
CONGEALATION - The Sixth Gate
Of congealation, I need not much to write,
But what it is now, I will first declare,
It is of soft things of colour white, induration.
And of spirits which slaying are, confixation.
How to congeal, thee needeth not much to care;
For elements will knit together soon,
If that putrefaction be kindly done.
The earthly grossness therefore first mortified, In moistness, blackness
This principle may not be denied,
For natural philosophers so sayeth, I wis,
Which had, of whiteness thou may not miss.
And into whiteness if thou congeal it once,
Thou hast a stone most precious of all stones.
And by the dry like as the moist did putrefy.
Which caused in colours blackness to appear,
Right so, the moist congealed by the dry,
Engendereth whiteness shining with might most clear, And dryness proceedeth
as whiteness the matter;
Like as in blackness, moistness doth him show, By colours variant aye new
(The matter, whatever its stage, will always remain black until dried out,
for only when the matter is dry will vapour arise.)
The cause of all this is heat most temperate.
Working and moving the matter continually;
And thereby also the matter is alterate,
Both inward and outward substantially,
And not as doth fools to sight sophistically.
But every part all fire to endure,
Fluxibly fix and stable in tincture.
And physick determineth of each digestion,
First done in the stomach in which is dryness,
Causing whiteness without question,
Like as the second digestion causeth redness,
Complete in the matter by heat and temperateness;
And so our stone by dryness and by heat,
Digested is to white and red complete.
But here thou must another secret know, How the philosopher’s child in the
air is born:
Busy thee not too fast at the coal to blow,
And take that neither for mock not scorn,
But trust me truly else thy work is all forlorn,
Without thine earth with water revived be,
Our true congealing shalt thou never see.
A soul betwixt heaven and earth being;
Arising from the earth as air with water pure.
And causing life in every living thing,
Incessant running upon our aforesaid nature,
Enforcing to better them with all his cure;
Which air is the fire of our philosophy,
Named now oil, now water mistily.
And by this means, air, oil, or water we call,
Our fire, our ointment, our spirit, and our stone,
In which we ground, in one thing, our wisdoms all, Goeth neither out nor in
alone, Never the flier but the water anon:
First it outleadeth, and after bringeth it in, As water with water, which
will not lightly twin.
And truly this is the cause principal,
Why philosophers charge us to be patient,
Till time the water were dried to powder all,
With nourishing heat continual but not violent;
For qualities be contrarious of every element,
Till after black in white be made a union.
And then forever congealed without division.
And furthermore the preparation of this conversion,
From thing to thing, from one state to another,
Is done only by kindly and discreet operation,
Of nature, as is of sperm-within the mother:
For sperm and heat be as sister and brother,
Which be converted by themselves as nature can, By action and passion, at
last to perfect man.
In the time of this seed process natural,
While that sperm conceived is growing,
The substance is nourished with his own menstrual, Which water only out of
the earth did bring;
Whose colour is green in the first showing;
And for that time the sun hideth his light, Taking his course through the
North by night.
The said menstrue is (I say to thee in councel),
The blood of our green lion and not of vitriol;
Dame venus can the truth of this thee tell,
At the beginning, to councel if thou her call,
This secret is hid by philosophers great and small,
Which blood is drawn out of the said lion,
For lack of heat had not perfect digestion.
(This last verse reveals the secret that one should never use copper or
venus in alchemical work: copper gives out a green colour but spoils the
But this blood, our secret menstrual,
Wherewith our sperm is nourished temperately,
When it is turned into the faeces corporal,
And becomes perfectly white and very dry,
Congealed and fixed into his own body,
Then bursting blood to the sight it may well seem, Of this work named the
milk white diadem.
Understand now that our fiery water thus actuate,
Is called our menstrual water, wherein
Our earth is lost and naturally calcinate,
By congealation that they may never twin;
Yet to congeal more water thou may not blin, [hesitate]
Into three parts of the earth congealed and no more, With the fourth part of
the actuate water, said before.
Unto that substance therefore so congealate,
The fourth part put of water crystalline,
And make them then together to be dispensate,
By congealation into a minor metalline:
Which like a new slipped sword then will shine,
After the blackness which first will show,
The fourth part give it of water new.
When thou has made seven times imbibition,
Again thou must turn thy wheel,
And putrefy all that matter without addition;
First blackness abiding if thou wilt do well,
Then into whiteness congeal it up each deal.
And by redness into the south descend,
Then hast thou brought thy base to an end.
Thus is thy water then divided in parts two.
With the first part the bodies to putreficate,
And to thine imbibitions the second part must go, With which the matter is
afterwards denigrate, And soon upon it by easy decoction albificate.
Then it is named by philosophers our stary stone, Bring that to redness,
then is the six gate won.
(It will soon be discovered that every instruction for each stage is
reiterated and spread throughout the whole of the work of producing the
Philosophers’ Stone; each bit of information might equally well apply to the
black state, the white, or the red. We are warned not to move the flask or
open it, yet we are to distil the contents, imbibe it with the water we
extract, and so on. Read and re-read the different treatises to be found in
this book, and by trial and error things will begin to finally clarify. The
time required to complete the work is the great bugbear; remember it was not
the adepts’ intention to expose the whole secret to every dilettante, so
patience and perseverance are required above all things.)
Chapter 10 The Use of the Stone
Twelve Gates (continued)
CIBATION - The Seventh Gate
Now of cibation I turn my pen to write,
Since it must here the seventh place occupy.
But in a few words it will be expedite,
Take intent thereto, and understand me wittily,
Cibation is called a feeding of our matter dry,
With milk and meat, which moderately they do, Till it be brought the third
But first give it not so much that thou it glut,
Beware of the dropsy, and of Noah’s flood;
By little and little therefore to it put,
Of meat and drink as seemeth to do it good,
That watery humours not overgrow the blood:
The drink therefore let it be measured so.
That kindly appetite thou never quench therefro.
For if it drink too much, then must it have
A vomit, else will it be sick too long,
From the dropsy therefore thy womb thou save,
And from the flux, else will it be wrong;
Which rather let it thirst for drink awhile.
Than thou should give it overmuch at once,
Which must in youth be dieted for the nonce.
And if thou diet it as nature doth require,
Moderately until it be grown up to age,
From cold it keeping and nourishing with moist fire;
Then shall it grow and wax full of courage,
And do thee both pleasure and advantage.
For it shall make dark bodies whole and bright, Cleansing their leprosies
with all his might.
Three times thus must thou turn about thy wheel, About keeping the rule of
the said cibation;
And then as soon as it the fire doth feel, Like wax it will be ready unto
This chapter needeth not longer protraction.
For I have told thee the dietry most convenient.
After thine elements be made equipolent.
And also how thou to whiteness shall bring thy gold, Most like in figure to
the lenies of an Hawthorn tree, Called magnesia afore as I have told.
And our white sulphur without combustability.
Which from the fire away will never flee.
And thus the seventh gate as thou desired.
In the uprising of the sun is conquered.
(Presented in medieval language and poetry, it is not easy to follow the
advice given, especially when it is offered in a manner designed to cast
doubts on every move one makes. It will always be necessary to re-read and
study the other treatises presented in this book by way of cross-reference
to confirm one’s conclusions in each case.)
SUBLIMATION - The Eighth Gate
In subliming first beware of one thing;
That thou sublime not to the top of thy vessel,
For without violence thou shalt it not down bring, Again, but there it will
abide and dwell;
So it rejoiceth with refrigeration I thee tell.
Keep it therefore with temperate heat adown, Full forty days, till it wax
black abowen. [above]
For then the soul beginneth for to come out,
From his own veins: for all that subtle is,
Will with the spirits ascend withouten doubt:
Bear in thy mind therefore and think on this,
How here eclipsed have been thy bodies.
As they do putrefy subliming more and more.
Into the water till they be all bore.
And thus their venom when they have spouted out,
Into the water, then black it doth appear,
And become spiritual every deal without doubt,
Subliming easily according to our manner,
Into the water which doth him bear.
For into the air our child thus be bore. [born]
Of the water again as I said before.
(Sublimation can refer to any process in alchemy. It means the rarefying of
the liquid in the glass, which must be kept closed, or in a retort receiver,
from which the liquid is returned. When the water is at length withdrawn,
the heat still continues to be applied, for then “The Alchemist’s child is
born”, and a fine white vapour arises which is the alchemists’ mercury, so
much sought after.)
But when these to sublimation continual,
Be laboured so with heat both moist and temperate,
That all is white and purely made spiritual,
Then heaven upon earth must be reiterate,
Until the soul with the body be reincorporate.
That earth will become all that before was heaven, Which will be done in
And sublimation we make for causes three;
The first cause is to make the body spiritual,
The second that the spirit may corporal be,
And become fixed with it and substantial;
The third cause is that from his filth original,
He may be cleansed, and his fatness suphurious, Be diminished in him which
Then when they thus together purified be,
They will sublime up whiter than snow,
That sight will greatly comfort thee,
For then anon perfectly thou shalt know,
Thy spirits shall be adown I trow.
Then this gate to thee shall be unlocked,
For out of this gate many a one be shut out and mocked.
FERMENTATION - The Ninth Gate
That point I will disclose to thee,
Look how thou didst with thy imperfect body,
And do so with thy perfect body in every degree, That is to say, first thou
them putrefy Her primary qualities destroying utterly:
For this is wholly to our intent,
That first thou alter before thou ferment.
To thy compound make ferment the forth part,
Which ferments be only of sun and moon.
If thou therefore be master of this art,
Thy fermentation let this be done,
Fix water and earth together soon:
And when the medicine as wax do flow,
Then upon the amalgam look thou it throw.
And when all that together is mixed,
Above thy glass well closed make thy fire,
And so continue till all be fixed,
And well fermented to thy desire,
Then make projection after thy pleasure,
For that is medicine then each deal perfect.
Thus must you ferment both red and white.
For like as flour of wheat made into paste,
Requireth ferment which leaven we call,
Of bread that it may have the kindly taste,
And become food to man and woman most cordial,
Right so thy medicine ferment thou shall
That it may taste with the ferment pure;
And all essays evermore endure.
And understand that there be ferments three,
Two be of the bodies in nature clean,
Which must be altered as I have told thee,
The third most secret of which I mean,
Is the first earth to his own water green.
And therefore when the lion doth thirst,
Make him drink till his belly burst.
(This needs explaining. “Ferments three” are the antimony, iron and gold or
silver. The liquid catalyst on antimony will make it green first of all, the
iron will turn it red and black. These two metals must first be properly
compounded. Therefore for these two to be properly mixed we have to give the
compound enough drink “to make its atoms dissolve “; or in the words of the
poet, “till his belly burst”.)
But fermentation true as I thee tell,
Is of the soul with the bodies incorporation.
Restoring to it the kindly smell.
With taste and colour by natural confection,
Of things dissevered; a true reintegration.
Whereby the body of the spirit taketh impression, That either of the other
may have ingression.
For like as the bodies in their compaction corporal May not show out their
qualities effectually, Until the time they become spiritual;
No more may spirits abide with the bodies steadfastly, But with them be
For then the body teacheth the spirit to suffer fire, And the spirit the
body to endure to thy desire.
Therefore thy gold with gold thou must ferment;
With his own water cleansed, thine earth, I mean.
Or else to say but element with element;
The spirits of life only going between,
For like as an adament as thou hast seen,
Yearn to him draw, so doth our earth by kind, Draw down to him his soul
borne up by the wind.
With wind therefore thy soul lead out and in,
Mix gold with gold, that is to say,
Make elements with elements together run,
To time all fire they suffer may,
For earth is also ferment with a nay:
To water, and water the earth unto
Our fermentation in this wise must we go.
Earth is gold, and so is the soul also,
Not common gold, but ours thus elementate;
And yet the sun thereto must go,
That by our wheel it may be alterate.
For so to ferment it must be preparate
That it profoundly may joined be,
With other natures as I said to thee.
And whatsoever I have here said of gold,
The same of silver, I will thou understand,
That thou them putrefy and alter as I have told:
Ere thou thy medicine to ferment take in hand:
Forsooth, I could never him find in all the land,
Which on this wise to ferment could me teach, Without error, by practice or
Thus with thy base after my doctrine preparate,
Which is our calx, this must be done.
For when our bodies be so calcinate,
Then water to oil dissolve them soon;
Make therefore oil of sun or moon.
Which is a ferment most fragrant for to smell, And so the ninth gate is
conquered of this well.
(This last verse speaks regarding an oil, most redolent, which reveals and
is another process and which makes the medicine that cures all the diseases
of man, the elixir of life.)
EXALTATION - The Tenth Gate
Proceed we now to the chapter of exaltation,
Of which truly thou must have knowledge pure;
Full little it is different from sublimation:
If thou conceive it right I thee ensure.
Hereto accordeth the holy scripture.
Christ saying thus; if I exalted be,
Then I shall draw all things to me.
(The third line of this verse states that exaltation is nothing else but
sublimation, so this gate is altogether superfluous.)
If thou therefore thy bodies will exaltate,
First with the spirits of life thou them augment,
Till time thy earth be well subtilate,
By natural rectifying of each element,
Him exalting up into the firmament,
Then much more precious shall they be than gold, Because they of the
quintessence do hold.
For when the cold has overcome the heat,
Then into water the air shall turned be,
And so two contraries together shall meet,
Till either with other right well agree;
So into air thy water as I tell thee,
When heat of cold has got dominion,
Shall be converted by craft of circulation.
And of the fire, then air have thou shall,
By loosing, putrefying, and subliming;
And fire thou hast of the earth material,
Thy elements by craft thus dissevering,
Most specially the earth well calcining,
And when they be each one made pure,
Then do they hold all of the fifth nature.
In this wise therefore make them to circulate,
Each into other exalting by and by,
And in one glass do all this surely congealate,
Not with thy hands but as I teach thee naturally.
Fire into water then turn first hardily,
For fire is in air, which is in water existent,
And this conversion accordeth to our intent.
Then furthermore turn on thy wheel,
That into earth thy air converted be,
Which will be done also right well;
For air is in water being in earth trust me,
Then water into fire contrarious in this quality,
Soon turn thou may, for water in earth is,
Which is in fire conversion, true is this.
Thy wheel is now well nigh turned about;
Into air turn earth, which is the proper nest,
Of other elements there is no doubt,
For earth in fire is, which in air taketh rest,
This circulation thou must begin in the west.
Then forth into the south until they exalted be, Proceed duly in the figure
I have taught thee.
In which process thou mayest clearly see.
From an extreme how to another thou may not go;
But by a mean, since they in quality contrarious be;
And reason will show, forsooth, that it is so.
As heat into cold with other contraries more:
Without their means, as moist to heat and cold.
Examples sufflcient, before this have I told.
Thus have I taught thee how to make,
Of all thy elements a perfect circulation.
And at thy figure example for to take;
How thou shalt make this aforesaid exaltation,
And of thy elements a true graduation.
Till it be brought to a quite right temperate,
And then thou hast conquered the tenth gate.
MULTIPLICATION - The Eleventh Gate
Multiplication now to declare I proceed,
Which is by philosophers in this wise defined.
Augmentation it is of that elixir indeed,
In goodness, in quantity, both for white and red.
Multiplication is therefore as they have said,
That thing that doth augment the medicine in each degree.
In colour, in odour, in virtue, and also in quantity.
And why thou may thy medicine multiply,
Infinitely, the cause forsooth is this;
For it is a fire which teigned will never die;
Dwelling with thee as fire doth in houses,
Of which one spark may make more fires, I wis;
As musk in pigments, and other spices more.
In virtue multiplyeth and our medicine right so.
So he is rich, the which fire hath less or more,
Because he may so greatly multiply;
And right so rich is he which any part hath in store, Of our elixirs which
be augmentable infinitely;
One way if thou dissolve our powders dry,
And oft times of them make congealation, Of it in goodness thou maketh then
The second way both in goodness and in quantity,
It multiplyeth by reiterate fermentation,
As in that chapter I showed plainly unto thee,
By divers manner of natural operation,
And also in the chapter of our cibation,
Where thou may know how thou shalt multiply, Thy medicine with mercury
(For more details of Multiplication, see Artephius, The Secret Book,
paragraphs 44, 45 and 46 onwards.)
But if thou wilt loose and also ferment,
Both more in quantity and better will it be;
And in such wise thou may that so augment,
That in thy glass it will grow like a tree,
The Tree of Hermes named, seemly to see,
Of which one pepin a thousand will multiply,
If thou can make thy projection wittily.
And like as saffron when it is pulverisate,
By little and little if it in liquor be
Tempered, and then with much more liquor dilate,
Tingeth much of liquor in quantity,
Than being whole in his own gross nature: so shalt thou
That our elixirs the more they be made thin,
The further in tincture so softly will run.
Keep in thy fire therefore both evening and morrow, From house to house,
that thou need not to run, Among thy neighbours, thy fire to fetch or
The more thou keepest, the more good shalt thou win,
Multiplying more and more thy glass within,
By feeding with mercury to thy life’s end, So shalt thou have more than thou
needest to spend.
This matter is plain, I will say no more.
Right now thereof, let reason thee guide,
Be never the bolder to sin therefore,
But serve thy God the better at each tide:
And whilst thou shalt in this life abide.
Bear this in mind, forget not I thee pray.
As thou shalt appear before thy God one day.
His own great gifts therefore and His treasure
Dispose thou virtuously helping the poor at need,
That in this world to thee thou may procure
Mercy and grace with heavenly bliss to mede.
And pray devoutly to God that he thee lead.
In this eleventh Gate He will thee best.
Soon after then thou shalt end thy quest.
PROJECTION - The Twelfth Gate
In projection it shall be proved if our practice be profitable,
Of which it behoveth me the secrets here to move,
Therefore if thy tincture be sure and not variable,
By a little of this medicine thus shall thou prove,
With metal or mercury as pitch it will cleve,
And tinct in projection all fires to abide,
And soon it will enter and spread full wide.
But many through ignorance doth mar what they made, When on metals uncleaned
projection they make For because of corruption their tincture must fade,
Which they would not away first from bodies take, Which after projection be
brittle, blue and black:
That thy tincture therefore may evermore last.
Upon ferment thy medicine look thou first cast.
Then brittle will thy ferment as any glass be,
Upon bodies cleaned and made very pure,
Cast thy brittle substance and soon thou shalt see, That they shall be
curiously coloured with tincture, Which at all essays for ever shall endure.
But at the psalmist and psalter example thou take, Profitable projection
perfectly to make.
On fundamenta cast first this psalme nunc dimittis;
Upon verba mea then cast fundamenta blive, [quickly] Then verba mea upon
diligram, conceive me with thy wits, And diligram on attende, if thou wish
Thus make thou projection three, four or five.
Till the tincture of thy medicine begin to decrease, Then it is time for
projection to cease.
By this misty talking I mean nothing else, But that thou must cast first the
less on the more, Increasing ever the number as wise men thee tells;
And keep thou this secret to thyself in store, Be covertous of cunning, it
is no burden sore:
For he that joineth not the elixirs with bodies made clean, He knows not
surely what projection doth mean.
Ten if thou multiply first into ten,
One hundred that number will make assuredly;
If one hundred into a hundred be multiplied then, Then thousand is the
number count it wittily, Then into much more than ten thousand multiply:
That is a thousand thousand, which multiplieth I wis, Into as much more as a
hundred million is.
That hundred millions be multiplied likewise,
Into ten thousand millions, that is to say.
Maketh so great a number I wot not what it is,
Thy number in projection thus multiply always;
Now child of thy courtesy for me thou pray.
Since that I have told thee our secrets both all and some.
To which I beseech God by Grace thou may come.
Now thou hast conquered the twelve Gates.
And all the castle thou holdest at will,
Keep thy secrets in store unto thy self,
And the commandments of God look thou fulfill, In fire continue to keep thy
And multiply thy medicine aye more and more, For wise men did say that store
is no sore.
END OF THE TWELVE GATES
Chapter 11 Sulphur and Salt
To recapitulate, the interested student should now possess the whole picture
of the art of alchemy, both in theory and in practice. Indeed he should have
gained enough knowledge of the subject to enable him to commence research by
practical experiment. Few of those who studied the art from books in the
past ever learned much: their reading could give them no idea even of the
materials to practise upon. The few books published in later years by modern
scientists are mainly fragmentary and a rehash from older treatises, padded
with comment which, at best, is meaningless instruction, only serving to
leave the reader more perplexed. Thus they have buried the whole art deeper
The student is recommended to follow Pontanus’s advice, remembering what he
said regarding Artephius and his Secret Book, it being the only one among
thousands that he found to be true, clearly written, frank, and useful.
Therefore the researcher should return again and again to this Secret Book
for confirmation, studying it closely and noting carefully what is laid down
To repeat what has been already said, the main reason for failure in finding
the true road to success has been ignorance of the true mercury, which is
nothing else than the metallic vapour of Antimony purified by iron, with
which everything is done, and without which nothing will be achieved.
Although it is well known to the modern metallurgist that ordinary mercury
or quicksilver (or argent vive, as the alchemists called it) will mix with
most metals, and reduce them to a liquid condition even at room temperature,
many experimenters of old failed, as they never imagined that anything else
could take its place. Thus they never gave up experimenting with this metal.
But mercury will separate from any metal with which it has been amalgamated
if it is heated. As soon as a correct heat is applied, it separates and as
the alchemist’s work was to produce a fixed metal that would not do this,
ordinary mercury was not the answer.
An important treatise on Antimony entitled The Triumphal Chariot of
Antimony, by Basilius Valentinus, gives us this valuable hint. The treatise
was written from a medicinal angle, by a monk: remember, the “Elixir of
Life” is another name for the “Philosophers’ Stone”.
“Therefore one should not think any labour too great, which is likely to
advance his knowledge of antimony . . . one should in the first place become
acquainted with the manner of its solution, so as to proceed in the right
way, without entering into devious patbs. Secondly he should learn how to
regulate the fire, so that it be neither too fierce or too feeble. Fire is
the root of the whole matter. By means of the fire, the vital spirits are
extracted and dissolved for the purposes of the operation. But care must be
taken not to destroy the spirit by means of too much fire.”
It should always be remembered that the Philosophers’ Stone must be produced
in a natural manner, which to the adepts meant long digestion in a heat not
much more than blood heat, which they term cooking Later in a dry stage they
used a greater heat, which they called roasting, never more than the heat
required for the roasting of food. The red powder apparently could stand the
greatest heat, more than the white stage, but a heat below the melting point
of gold. The heat required to melt metals in a furnace would “kill” them,
according to the true alchemists. The whole business must be brought about
naturally, and that meant slowly working up to the highest temperature
during which period the experimenter could watch the matter in the glass
changing colour and condition. The stages followed the pattern, first black,
then white, next citrine, and finally blood red, and in that order only. But
in between these colours all the colours of the rainbow were generated.
These various colours were often referred to as the “peacock’s tail”. If the
main colours were out of order then this was a warning of error in the
Also too much accumulated heat often burst the vessel during the drying and
rarefying of the liquid in the glass. This liquid was the catalyst, the
“secret fire” spoken of earlier, the mercury, which vaporised, arose from
the compound, and was cooled in the neck of the flask, before condensing
again into a liquid, and falling back into the bottom of the flask. If when
the long neck of the flask was not some degrees cooler than the compound
below, the vapour would expand too rapidly and explode the vessel.
The alchemists believed that when creation started, seed was granted to
everything in creation, and metals were no exception; for to the adepts,
metals are also living things. We all know where the seed of animals and
vegetables are to be found, but the great secret of alchemy is to know that
the seed of metals is to be found in or by the aid of their vapour, and by
this they are able to produce their kind ad infinitum as with all other
created things. Artephius has claimed “that the whole of this secret is
antimony and a mercurial sublimate”. This sublimate of antimony is a white
vapour. But do not think that even Artephius has quite casually given the
whole secret away to everyone who tries his hand at making gold: it must be
True, the adepts have claimed that the work is “child’s play and woman’s
work “, and so it is, but only to those who have the “knowhow”, and this has
eluded countless clever minds for hundreds of years. The very simplicity of
the work may have been the cause, for nature is simple in all her works. The
unveiling of a secret of such a tremendous importance could be a blessing to
mankind but it could also be a curse, and the masters of the art appreciated
this fact in a world of selfishness, greed and brutality, and therefore they
used all their ingenuity to hide the knowledge, and those who found it did
Here follow extracts concerning sulphur, mercury and the secret fire from a
comparatively modern publication entitled Bacstrom’s Alchemical Anthology
published by Watkins in 1960 and edited by J. W. Hamilton-Jones.
WHAT IS SULPHUR
“The invisible tinging spirit is the pure fire of Gold . . . The father of
the stone is Sol. [Gold is sulphur]
“As gold is the most perfect of all metals, so gold contains the tincture of
redness. Silver is a tincture of perfect whiteness.
“He who knows how to make a tinging venom from gold or its shadow that is
Luna [i.e. common silver] obtains our stone. [Gold or silver is mixed with
the prepared mercury]
“He who knows not how to extract the soul from the body of gold, and return
it to the body, wholly deviates from the right path.
“ Whosoever desires to enjoy the secret of the ‘ Golden Fleece ‘, let him
know that our gold making powder [which we call our stone] is only gold dige
sted into the highest degree of purity and subtile fixity, whereto it may be
brought, by nature and a discreet artist; which gold thus essensified, is
called our gold [and is no more vulgar] and is the period of the perfection
of nature, and of art. Let gold therefore be the one true sole principle of
gold making. This doth in our work supply the place of the male, and
therefore it is joined to our white and more crude gold [the regulus of
antimony and mars] Sulphur doth, in this work, supply the place of the male.
[Observe that Sol is here called sulphur.]
“Nature is to be amended by its own nature, that is gold or silver are to be
exalted in our water. [Luna is antimony and Mars reduced to water, which is
also known as mercury.]
“Gold will yield fruit and seed, in which it multiplies itself, by the
industry of the skilful artist, who knows how to exalt nature. The body
which yields the seed is gold; Our silver [the regulus of antimony and
mars], is that which receives the seed of the gold. This Luna is the garden
in which the noble scion is planted.
“Seek not the principles of gold anywhere else; for in gold is the seed of
gold: though being shut up it retires in deed and is to be sought by us with
“Two metals are more pure than the rest, namely gold and silver without
which the work cannot be begun or finished; because in them is the purest
substance of sulphur, perfectly purified by the ingenuity of nature.
“Sol, which is our sulphur, is reduced into mercury by mercury. [Mercury is
the regulus of antimony and iron.]
“Therefore, my son observe that the red philosophical sulphur is in the gold
. . . all philosophers do witness that the red sulphur is gold.
“If you wish to obtain the greatest secret you must endeavour not only to
purify the vulgar gold, but also to tinge it so that it may become seven
times more red. To make Sol more perfect than it is naturally, is not in the
power of nature, but this may and must be accomplished by an intelligent
artist if he wishes to obtain the jewel of knowledge.
WHAT IS “OUR MERCURY”
“A crude immature and coagulated mercury vive, not yet fixed, is the
destroyer of the perfect bodies [i.e. gold and silver], for truly it
destroys them, incrudates and softens them, and renders them fit for our
work. It is the only and greatest secret in the whole art. The sign of its
right preparation is a beautiful whiteness, like the purest silver, a
heavenly brightness, and a wonderful glittering on the face of its fractures
when broken, like the polish of a bright sword . . . [this is a description
of the raw metal]. The mercury of the philosophers [regulus of antimony and
mars], is not found in the earth, but must be prepared by art, by joining
the sulphur [of mars] to the mercury [of antimony]. He never shows himself
openly in his naked form.
He is put under a disguise by nature [it is found in the form of a
sulphuret]. We say sulphur and mercury are the minera of our Venus in a
crude state [i.e. common sulphur and antimony]; and this mercury has the
power to unlock, kill and revive the metals, which power it has received
from the acid sulphur of its own Nature. [Venus is here added to cause a
problem. Some have called it useless and others say a little is necessary.]
“Antimony is a mineral participating of saturnine parts and has in all
respects the nature thereof. This saturnine antimony agrees with gold and
contains in itself argentum vivum, in which no metal is swallowed up except
gold; and gold is truly swallowed up by this antimonial argent vive . . .
for this water is friendly and agrees with the metals, whitening gold,
because it contains in itself white or pure argent vive.
“Let the two heroes saturn [antimony] and mars [iron] fight together. Though
the former is peaceably inclined, let them have three or four violent
assaults [viz. by the addition of nitre in the glass when making the
regulus]. After this they will be reconciled and as a token thereof they
will erect a glorious banner resembling a star.
“All the metals have their rise from water, the root of all metals.
Therefore they are reduced into water, as ice by heat is reduced into
water-because it hath been water before.... It [our water] disposeth the
bodies [of gold and silver] readily. It is father and mother; it openeth and
shutteth, and reduceth metals into what they were in the beginning. It
disposeth the bodies and coagulates itself along with them. The spirit [our
secret fire] is carried upon the water [i.e. is added to it]; that is, the
power of the spirit is seen to operate there, which is done when [or after]
the body is put into the water [i.e. The secret fire must not be added till
after you have made Rebis] . . . one of the greatest secrets is to free this
stone or mercury vive from its natural bonds . . . that is to reduce and
dissolve it into its primordial water [the natural crude sulphur must be
separated from it, and the sulphur of mars substituted] for unless this is
done, all will prove lost labour....
“Let him who by divine assistance obtaineth this blessed water render thanks
to God, for he hath the key in his hands wherewith he may open the fast
locks of all metallic chests.
WHAT IS “OUR SECRET FIRE”
“Our philosophical mercurial water [secret fire] is the key whereby all
coagulated, fixed and unfixed metallic and mineral bodies are radically and
physically dissolved and reduced into their first principles. This mercurial
water has been kept very secret by all the philosophers, as the secret of
the whole art.
“When this spirit [mercury] has been sublimed [converted into sublimate] it
is called, the water which washes and cleanses itself because [in the work]
it ascends with its most subtile essence and leaves its corrupting particles
behind. This ascention has been called distillation, washing, and
“Our whole secret and work is made with our water, and from it and by it we
obtain all that we require. It dissolves the body, not by a common solution
as the ignorant think, who [the word ‘who’ is a stumbling block, leave it
out] look for a clear water like that of rain, but by a true philosophical
solution, so that the body is converted into an unctuous and viscous water
[Azoth], out of which the metals were originally formed.
“Our moist fire, by dissolving and subliming that which is pure and white,
casts forth or rejects its faeces or filth, like a voluntary vomit . . . the
pure and white substance ascends upwards, and the impure and earthy remains
fixed in the bottom . . . this must be taken away and removed because it is
of no value, taking only the middle white substance rejecting the foeculeus
earth which remains below [also any light flowers which rise into the neck
of the subliming vessel].
“The clear, white, pure and clean matter [in place of the word ‘matter’ read
‘water’] is wholly and only to be taken and made use of. This sublimation is
without doubt, the key of the whole work . . . in this whiteness
[sublimation] the antimonial and mercurial soul is by natural compact
infused into and joined with the spirits of Sol or Luna . . . in this
whiteness is the soul infused into the body. [This is the priest that joins
the male and female into an indissoluble union.]
“I will tell thee, and that faithfully, what kind of water this is, it is
the water of Salt Peter which is known as mercury. [It is like Salt Peter, a
white salt known to be mercurial.] Whosoever has once made our water,
nothing remains to be done but to cast in a clean body in a just quantity,
shut the vessel and so let it stand till the compliment of the work.
“Our sulphur [Sol] when it is joined with its water [our luna] or mercury
doth little by little consume and drink up the same by the help of the fire.
“In our work, we must attend to the weight of the sulphur in the mercury.
And since, as I have told, the element of fire does not predominate in
mercury, in its crude state which is the very thing which digests the
matter, it is necessary to know how much more subtle the element of fire is
than the other elements [viz. of our compound] and what proportion of it [by
weight] is necessaryto conquer them.”
(Distilled vinegar, often mentioned in alchemical literature, is not the
vinegar of the philosophers. Their most sharp vinegar is the secret fire,
which extracts the essence from the regulus of antimony and mars and forms
azoth, which is again “our mercury”.)
WHAT IS “REBIS”
“The error in this work is chiefly attributed to the ignorance of the true
fire, which is one of the moving principles that transmutes the whole matter
into the true philosophers’ stone.... In a short time, that fire without any
laying on of hands will complete the whole work.... And by means of this our
fire the medicine will be multiplied-if joined with the crude matter-not
only in quantity, but also in quality or virtue. Therefore seek out this
fire with all thy industry for having once found it thou shalt accomplish
thy desire, because it performs the whole work, and is the true key of all
the philosophers, which they have never yet revealed.
“The whole art is comprehended in . . . Sol or Luna [gold or silver] and
mercury.... In two of these is found the sulphur white and red. [The
Philosophers’ Stone is a white or red powder.] . . . The tinging rays . . .
but the stone of mercury unites and binds them both. [The stone of mercury
is the secret fire.]
“ We have three conjunctions, all of which must be known by him who intends
to complete the mastery. The first is gross; it is the amalgamation by
fusion of the regulus of antimony and mars, which compound is called
“Rebis”, that is two things. Res Rebis est una confecta. In this mixture
there aro two natures, the one more active, and the other more passive.
“The beginning of this art is only one thing [Rebis] composed of two
substances.... The one is the red fixed servant and the other is the wife.
[Later] One is Sol, which is the seed, and the other is the mother. One is
Sulphur, and the other is mercury [antimony and mars].
“As gold is the most perfect of all the metals, so gold contains the
tincture of redness-silver a white tincture, tinging with perfect whiteness.
With these bodies the mercury is mixed [with either of them], and is fixed
[by its digestion afterwards with the secret fire]
“The invisible tinging spirit is the pure fire of Gold. This is concealed
and caught in the centre of the coagulated salt [our mercury]. The universal
medicine which cures all human and metallic diseases is concealed in gold
and its magnet [the regulus of antimony and mars], the Chalibs of
“The true matter has been named by various appellations, so in truth it is
one thing, Rebis, the philosophers mercury. [It is called Hermaphrodite when
the regulus of antimony and mars is animated with Sol.]
“First take thy body which is gold and thy water [the regulus of antimony
and mars] which is mercury-the one [gold] ready made by nature to hand, and
the other thou must prepare.... Mix these together in due proportion.
“Make the marriage between the red man and his white wife and thou shalt
have the master.
TEMPERATURE, FURNACE, AND GLASS
“A single small furnace wherein the degrees of heat can be maintained, is
sufficient; let it be safely placed where no accident can happen from fire.
Put your small glass phial therein, and do not take it out until you see the
whole mass converted into a beautiful bloodred colour, the sign of ultimate
“During the solution, the fire must be gentle, but in the sublimation it
must be a little increased, and towards redness, it must be strong.
“During the solution the fire must be soft, in sublimation middling, in the
coagulation temperate, in the white-making steady, in the rubyfying strong.
If you are ignorant of the heat, you will fail.
“The heat must be linear to the end of the work. When the fire is equally
kept, the subject by theaction of heat, is better altered from one nature to
another, and that which was humid first will become dry, the black will
become white, and the white citrine and red.
“When thou seest that the fixt water [secret fire] without any ascending
thereof, fret not about the fire; only have patience until the spirit and
the body have become one.
“Put it on the fire with such a proportion of heat as shall only excite or
stir up the matter, and in a short time that fire [the secret sophic fire]
will complete the whole work.
“I swear unto thee, upon the faith of an honest man that if thou urge thy
fire so as to make ought sublime in the first regimen, thou wilt destroy the
work irrecoverably; be content then to wait forty days and nights [at
least], and suffer the tender nature to remain below in the bottom.
[Avoiding any kind of sublimation.]
“The heat of the first regimen must be like that of a hen sitting on her
eggs, to hatch chickens.... This heat continues until blackness, and it may
even be continued till the matter is changed into whiteness; but if this
heat be transgressed and the matter be kept too hot, you will never obtain
the wished for “Raven’s Head” [blackness]: but either a sudden transient
redness, or a red oily matter may begin to sublime, or swimming upon the
superficies. In that case the composition may be taken out of the glass and
imbibed anew with our virgin’s milk [secret fire] and then you may
recommence the concoction with more prudence, endeavouring to avoid similar
errors in the future. When the white appears, you may increase your heat a
little to the second degree, until the matter be perfectly dried up. [The
degree of heat now spoken of is merely comparative. If his winter heat is
equal to a hen on her eggs when hatching them, his spring heat must have a
proportional increase of temperature. This remark applies equally to what
follows.] When the stone is perfectly dry the fire must be increased again.
“Take heed to defend your glass from a violent heat and a sudden cold; make
use of a moderate fire and beware of vitrification.”
Further warnings about the heat and the glass are included in:
The Marrow of Alchemy by
...beware impatience do not cause thee
Through an itch of mind for to be bold,
In this thy work to transgress Nature’s laws
For no man errs sooner through heat or cold
Than he who through impatience of mind
Cannot expect its time which he would find
Move not thy glass, nor open, else thou wilt
Endamage, may destroy thy work; beside
Increase not fire rashly, lest that spilt
Thy work thou see. There’s nothing all the tide
That this thy work doth stand so much in fear
As too much fire: one hour will cost thee dear
Beware thy spirits find not where to exhale,
For that thy work would spill, and also cause
Much hurt to the workman. If you fail
Therein, you break one of the strictest laws
Of all this work: nor cause them so to rise
As for to break the glass, which brittle is.
Therefore as strong thy glass be sure thou get
As may be, without either knots or flaws,
Equally blown for strength, which thou shall set
Within a ring of brass, where thou shalt cause
It to be fixt....
With gentle fire thy work assay, ....
For that is certain. Be not moved with haste
Thy work to anticipate; no, not a day:
But bide with patience till the black be past, Then May’st augment thy fire,
but not too much, Rather too little than too great, for such The Counsel of
all the sages old.
But to continue with Bacstrom:
“You need only to prepare the matter. Nature herself alone will perfect it:
and if she be not hindered by some contrary thing, she will not overstep her
own proper motion, neither in conceiving, nor in generating, nor in bringing
forth. Therefore after the preparation of the matter, beware only, lest by
too much heat, you make it too hot. Secondly, take heed, lest the spirit
should exhale, lest it hurt the operater, also lest it destroy the work, . .
. Decoct the composition till it be invested with a most perfect red colour.
“Having prepared your principles, put them, most intimately mixed into a
proper glass, so that only one third part of the glass, may be filled. Shut
the glass closely that nothing may evaporate. Place it on the fire, and
administer the first degree of heat; such a heat that without burning yourh
and, you may be able to suffer it to rest on the upper part of the neck of
the glass. Keep it in this heat without moving or disturbing it until
blackness and the various colours appear, and whiteness follows; and until
the matter has become snow or silver white and fixed, and the queen is born.
After blackness the matter will become dry.”