Chapter 6 The Green Lion Lion
It is said of “our mercury”, the artificial mercury, that gold will dissolve
in it as ice in warm water, but the gold takes a long time, possibly a year,
before this takes place. It is also called the “dry water which will not wet
the hand”, and this because it arises as a vapour when it is extracted from
metals, and naturally distills into a liquid when it is cooled.
Before considering further quotations from a few treatises which bear out
what has been outlined in previous chapters, it is as well to investigate
some more rather difficult terminology. Prepared mercury is the vapour of
metals, and extracted from antimony and iron.
Saturn, the planetary name given to lead in the old days, was never used to
describe the metal. It is a blind designed to mislead, and invented owing to
its descriptively dark nature. The first change the compound undergoes is
that it becomes black in forty days or more (90 days are optimum). But if
this colouring was due to lead, nothing will come of the experiment. Also
note that antimony is not mentioned at all, but Mars (the name given for
iron) is mentioned.
Now to deal with the problem as to whether Venus (or copper) is to be used
in the work of preparing the “ Secret Fire “.
Many alchemical adepts said that Venus is of no use for the purposes of
alchemy, and looked upon it with contempt. But Philalethes claims that
without Venus nothing will be achieved. We quote from his poem The Marrow of
Alchemy. (Remember Saturn is really antimony, Mars iron, and the sun gold.).
Mars is the stout and valiant god of war,
His body vile, and little is esteemed,
He’s fierce of courage, conquering near & far
all sturdy opposites, and may be deemed,
that his rough outside hidden doth enclose,
a spirit whose full virtue no man knows
Venus, the planet fair, the god of love,
Whose beauty the stout god of war allures,
her central salt; whoso has wit to prove,
shall find a key all secrets which assures
the owner for to find; I say no more,
for this disclosed by none, hath been before.
To Saturn, Mars with bonds of love is tied,
who is by him devoured of mighty force,
whose spirit Saturn’s body doth divide,
and both combining yield a secret source,
from whence doth flow a water wondrous bright,
In which the sun doth set and
lose its light.
The “bonds of love” which must be joined as a preliminary work indicate the
use of Venus (copper) to join the regulus of Saturn (antimony) and Mars
(iron). More detail from Philalethes:
58. But of this mercury, if you desire, the secret for to learn, attend to
me, for this is a water which yet is fire, which conquers bodies from their
fixed degree, and makes them fly much like a spirit pure, this after fixing
all flame to endure.
60. This Saturn’s offspring who a well doth keep, in which cause Mars to be
drowned, then let Saturn in this well behold his face, which will seem
fresh, young and tender, when the souls of both are thus together blended,
for each by the other needs to be amended.
61. Then Lo-a star into this well shall fall, and with its lustrous rays the
earth shall shine, Let venus and her influence withal, for she is nurse of
this stone divine, The bond of all crystalline mercury This is the spring in
which our sun must die.
62. This is the lunar juice, this is our moon, This is the Hesperion garden,
happy they, who know it to prepare, for they very soon, may climb the
mountain tops, where day shall banish darkness and all obscurity.
The sun is gold, and the moon is a name for silver-but silver is not meant
here because gold and silver may never be used together. The compound or
regulus of antimony and iron is often called “mercury” or luna to mislead.
Further from First Principles by Jacob Behmen:
“This shows the theory of nature in relation to its spirit and to the matter
of every sort; the prime matter is antimony purified by iron, and finely
pounded; the invisible mercury is the spiritual air of antimony, which
combines with animal or vegetable fluids, and then solids, in its spiritual
or watery form, and from thence, combines with metals or stones.
“From this theory, the affinities may be learned for practice. The gas will
not unite easily with metals or minerals until it is embodied for that
purpose. This may be done either by the thick red or white mercuries, which
are the oil and water of antimony. . . “
In alchemical literature, one will often come across the expression, “the
red man and his white wife”; and here we may gather what they are. Iron is
the red man and antimony is the white wife. Later we can infer-that gold is
the red man and the regulus is the white wife. Again, the regulus of
antimony and iron becomes one principle, the red man, and mercury (which is
clear white) is the white wife. All this is useful to know, although not
essential, if one is reading the artful philosophers who try to hide their
knowledge from dilettantes. But it is well to know that the regulus of
antimony and iron is referred to as one principle; gold or silver (note that
we say or silver as these must not be used together) is another principle,
and mercury is a third, making three principles in all. In many books of the
alchemists, they advise that only three principles are to be used, so always
remember these three given here. The prepared mercury, of course, is not a
metal at all, but is the catalyst, and only called a principle to mislead.
One more confirmation of the ingredients of the regulus of antimony and
iron, which will produce “our mercury”, this time from the book called Vade
Mecum. Again, the notes in brackets are comment by the author.
“A crude immature and coagulated Mercury vive, not yet fixed, is the
destroyer of the perfect bodies [gold or silver], for truly it destroys
them, incrudates and softens them, and renders them fit for our work. It is
the offspring of Saturn [Saturn here is not lead, but the appearance of the
black stage], and is acknowledged as such by the philosophers, and is the
only and greatest secret in the art.
It is necessary that it [the antimony] be freed from all superfluous and
burning sulphur with which it is joined in the mine [being found in the
natural state as stibnite, a sulphide], after which that which lies hidden
in the centre thereof will be manifested.... The sign of its [raw state]
right preparation is a beautiful whiteness, like the purest silver, a
heavenly brightness and a wonderful glittering on the face of its fractures,
like the polish of a bright sword.
Ripley calls it the ‘green lion’ [The main colour of the water which arises
in the work from antimony], which devoured the sun.... In the Turba
Philosophorum it is called sea water, in which ‘the perfect body’ [gold] is
decocted until it [the sea water] is congealed. Artephius calls it the most
sharp vinegar of the mountains.... It is the offspring of old Saturn
[remember antimony used to be considered a form of lead], for which reason
it has by some been called ‘Venus’ [see the myths concerning the birth of
Venus], and principally for this reason; because she has been connected with
the warlike Mars, and has been caught by Vulcan [vulcan is heat] in the act
iron is added in preparing the regulus]. It has been called a ‘Wood’ and has
received the name of ‘Diana’.
It is likewise called the philosophical mercury . . . and by Artephius a
middle substance, because neither a mineral [crude Antimony at this point in
the work]. It is moreover a ‘ middle substance ‘ between the body [gold] and
the spirit [secret fire], between earth and water.”
Enough has now been said to confirm that antimony and iron are the metals
that produce a “mercury” required in the making of our stone. These two when
fused into a regulus are the one principle that is called mercury or
sometimes luna. Now we require “sulphur”, and although most treatises of the
art refuse to say where this comes from, the truth is that only gold and
silver represent the “sulphur”. If there is any doubt about that, study the
extract given above from the Vade Mecum, and take it for granted. Now we
need salt; that is truly a liquid, a burning water, the sea water from the
quotation above. This is the, “Secret Fire”, the catalyst, which is easy to
discover, but which no book ever mentions, but enough has been said.
THE SECRET KNOWLEDGE OF MERCURY
The identification of each kind of mercury is one of the deepest secrets in
alchemy. It is therefore important to obtain a definite knowledge of what
that mercury is, and what that is, mentioned in every case where the name
mercury appears in treatises. Sometimes it is “The Philosophers mercury”,
and at other times, common, vulgar, or ordinary mercury, it is always
necessary to notice the manner in which each is said to react upon bodies.
From this it may be gathered that there are two kinds of mercury. Both are
volatile and liquid in form, but one is a metal, and does not wet the hand,
and the other is a liquid which will naturally do so.
It is said of them, common mercury is silvery and opaque, and the
philosophers mercury is not a metal, and is clear; as clear as the tears of
the eyes, a beautifully clear, brilliant, and shining water. yet by no means
a water, rain or dew as it has been described.
When the salt of the philosophers mercury is dissolved in common mercury,
the clearness disappears, and it becomes milky and opaque. This is the milk
often mentioned. Here it should be reminded that common mercury only becomes
clear and transparent by being dissolved in an acid but acid is never used
in alchemy so it is seen that both kinds of mercury are opposite in nature.
The philosopher’s mercury first arises as a vapour, and is extracted from
all metals, but it is undetermined a simple, and not a compound substance.
Philalethes says: “For this thing is not water otherwise than to the sight”.
And the artful sages have said: neither can we imagine that water can be in
solid metals. Of course not, but they go on to say and agree too, that there
is a despised and common substance from which, although difficult to
prepare, yet with little trouble and expense may be obtained the
philosophers mercury, also sulphur and salt, the same as in gold and silver.
So we have to learn what the philosophers mercury is, called the mercury of
the bodies; and common mercury which is the mercury of metals. The latter is
only to be used after the former is made.
Chapter 7 The Red Man and His White Wife
The special treatise and most important work for reference which is given in
full in this book, is Artephius; if one studies it closely it will be found
to be full of information; every line of it is composed with a deliberate
purpose. Supplementary to this work however are the following useful
writings extracted from treatises by famous adepts in alchemy: such men as
Roger Bacon, Philalethes, and others.
“If you prudently desire to make our elixir, you must extract it from a
mineral root. Sulphur and mercury are the mineral roots, and natural
principles, upon which nature herself acts and works in the mines and the
caverns of the earth. Of them is produced a vapour or cloud, which is the
substance and body of metals united. In the same manner, Sol, which is our
sulphur, being reduced into mercury by mercury, which is the viscous water
made thick, and mixed with its proper earth, by a temperate decoction and
digestion, ariseth the vapour. When this vapour is returned into the earth,
out of which it is drawn, and in every way spreads through or is mixed with
it, as its proper womb, it becomes fixed. Thus the wise man does that by art
in a short time, which nature cannot perform in less than a thousand years.
Yet notwithstanding, it is not we who make the metals, but nature herself
“Choose then the natural minerals, for nature generates metalline bodies of
the vapours of these, or fumes of sulphur and mercury (regulus of antimony
and iron), to which all philosophers agree. Know therefore the principles
upon which art works, for he who knows not these things shall never attain
to the perfection of the work. The second principle of our stone is called
mercury, which word stone is a simple name. One philosopher said, this stone
is no stone, but that without which, nature never performs anything; which
enters into, or is swallowed up by other bodies; and also swallows them up.
This is simply argent vive which contains the essential power. For it is the
root of metals, harmonizes with them, and is the medium which conjoins the
“Euclid advises to work in nothing but in sol and mercury; which joined
together, make the wonderful and admirable philosophers’ stone. White and
red both proceed from one root, no other bodies coming between them. But yet
gold, wanting mercury, is hindered from working according to his power.
Therefore, know that no stone, or other foreign thing belongs to this work.
You must therefore labour the solution of the citrine body to reduce it into
its first matter. For we dissolve gold so it may be reduced into its first
matter, or nature and that is into mercury. For being broken and made one,
they have in themselves the whole tincture both of the agent and patient.
Wherefore, make a marriage, that is a conjunction between the red man and
his white wife, and you have the whole secret.
“If you marry the white woman to the red man, they will be con joined and
embrace one another, and become impregnated. By themselves they are
dissolved, and by themselves they bring forth what they have conceived,
whereby the two are made one body. And truly our dissolution is only
reducing the hard body into a liquid form, and into the nature of argent
vive that the saltness of the sulphur may be diminished. Without our brass
then be broken, ground, and gently and prudently managed, till it be reduced
from its hard and dense body, into a thin and subtle spirit, you labour in
“He that prudently draws the virtue out of sol, and his shadow, shall obtain
a great secret. Again it is said, without sol and his shadow, no tinging
virtue or power is generated. And whosoever it is that shall endeavour to
make a tinging or colouring tincture without these things, and by any other
means, he errs, and goes astray from truth, to his own hurt, loss and
“The vessel for our stone is one, in which the whole magistery or elixir is
performed and perfected; this is a flask whose bottom is round like an egg,
smooth within, that it may ascend and descend the more easily. Its largeness
ought to be such, that the medicine or matter may not fill above a fourth
part of it, made of strong glass, clear and transparent, that you may see
through it, all the colours appertaining, and appearing in the work; in
which the spirit moving cannot pass or fly away. Let it be so closed that
nothing can go out of it, so nothing can enter into it, so that your work
will not be spoiled or lost.
“Therefore be very dilligent and careful in the sublimation and liquefaction
of the matter, that you increase not your fire too much, whereby the water
may ascend to the highest part of the vessel. For then wanting a place of
refrigeration, it will stick fast there, whereby the sulphur of the elements
will not be perfected. For indeed in this work, it is necessary that they be
many times elevated or sublimed, and depressed again. And the gentlest of
temperate fires is that only which completes the mixture, makes thick, and
perfects the work. Therefore that gentle fire is the greatest and most
principal matter of the operation of the elements. Burn our brass with a
gentle fire, such as that of a hen for the hatching of eggs, until the body
be broken, and the tincture extracted. For with an easy decoction, the water
is congealed, and the humidity which corrupteth drawn out; and in drying,
the burning is avoided. The happy prosecution of the whole work consists in
the exact temperament of the fire; therefore beware of too much heat, for if
it be kindled before the time, the matter will be red, before it comes to
ripeness and perfection, for that will bring you to despair of attaining the
end of your hopes.
“You ought to put on courage, resolution and constancy, in attempting the
great work, lest you err and be deceived, sometimes following and doing one
thing and then another. For the knowledge of this art does not consist in a
great number of things but in unity. Our stone is one, the matter is one,
the vessel is one; the government is one, and the whole art and work thereof
is one, and begins in one manner, and in one manner it is finished. This is
notwithstanding the philosophers have clouded their instructions with
enigmatical words and phrases, so that their art may stay hidden.
“Thus they advise to decoct, to commix and conjoin; to sublime, to bake, to
grind, to congeal; to make equal, to putrify, to make white and to make red;
all of which things, the order, the arrangement, and way of working is all
one, which is only to decoct, and therefore to grind is to decoct, of which
you are not to be weary. Digest continually, but not in haste, that is with
not too great a fire; cease not, or make intermission in your work, follow
not the artifice of liars, but pursue your operation to the complement and
perfection thereof. Be cautious and watchful, lest your work prove dead or
imperfect, and to continue it with a long decoction. Close up well thy
vessel and pursue to the end. For there is no generation of things, but by
putrefaction; by keeping out the air, and a continual internal motion, with
an equal and gentle heat. Remember when you are in your work, all the signs
and appearances which arise in every decoction, for they are necessary to be
known and understood in order to bring about the perfecting of the matter.
You must be sure to be incessant in your operation with a gentle fire to the
appearing of the perfect whiteness.
“This then is the thing, that the vessel with the matter be put into heat,
so that the middle or one half of the vessel be in the fire, and the other
half out of the fire, so that you may daily look into it. And in about the
space of 40 days, the superficies or the upper part will appear black as
melted pitch; and this is the sign that the citrine body is truly converted
into mercury. When you see the blackness of the water to appear, be assured
that the body is made liquid. This black ness the philosophers called the
first conjunction, the male and female are joined together, and it is the
sign of perfect union.
“Yet notwithstanding, the whole tincture is not drawn together; but it goes
out every day, by little and little, until by a great length of time, it is
perfectly extracted and made complete. And that part of the body which is
dissolved, ever ascends or rises to the top, above all the other undissolved
matter, which remains yet at the bottom. (Take good notice of what is said
in this paragraph, for unless the whole is dissolved into blackness, this
first work is incomplete and will lead to failure.)
“In this first decoction, which is called putrefaction, our stone is made
all black, to wit, a black earth, by drawing out of its humidity; and in
that blackness, the whiteness is hidden. And when the humidity is reverted
upon the blackness again, and by a continual soft and gentle digestion is
made fixed with its earth, then it becomes white. In this white the redness
is hidden; and when it is decocted and digested by the augmentation and
continuance of the fire, the earth is changed into redness.
“To return to the black matter in the vessel, continually closed, let this
vessel stand continually in the moist fire, till such time as the white
appears, like to a white moist salt. This colour is called by the
philosophers arsenic, and sal ammoniac, and some have called it, the thing
without which no profit is to be had in the work. But whiteness appearing,
there is a perfect conjunction of the bodies in this stone. which is then
indissoluble. But before it becomes white, you will find many colours to
appear. Decoct the male and female together until such time as they shall
become one dry body, for except they be dry, the various colours will not
appear; for it will ever be black whilst the humidity or moisture has the
dominion; but if that be once wasted, then it will emit divers colours after
many and several ways.
“And many times it will change from colour to colour, till such time as it
comes to the fixed whiteness. But value none of these colours for they are
not the true tincture. Yes, many times it becomes citrine and reddish, and
many times it is dried and becomes liquid again, before the whiteness will
appear. Now all this time, the spirit is not perfectly joined with the body,
nor will it be perfectly joined but in the white colour. Between the white
and the red, again all colours will appear, even to the utmost imagination.
“The matter then of the white and the red among themselves differ not in
respect to their essence; but the red needs more subtilization, and longer
digestion, and the hotter the fire in the course of operation than the
white, because the end of the white work, is the beginning of the red work;
and that which is complete in the one is to begin in the other. Therefore
without you make the white elixir first, you can never come to the red
elixir, that which is indeed the true red. But the heat of this dry fire
ought to be double at least to what it was before, and by the help of this
fire, the white matter receiveth the admirable tincture of redness.
“You cannot err if you continue the dry fire; therefore with a dry fire, and
a dry calcination, decoct the dry matter till it becomes in colour like to
vermillion or cinnabar. Decoct the red matter and the more red it is, the
more worth it is, and the more decocted it is, the more red it is. Therefore
the more decocted, the more precious and valuable the powder will become. Do
not cease, though the redness may be somewhat long before it appears.
Between the whiteness and the redness, one colour only appears, that is
citrine, but it changes from the less to the more, until such time as it is
clothed in the purple glory.”
What follows is of the greatest importance and is specifically mentioned in
Artephius’s Secret Book in paragraphs 19-20, but here it is taken from an
extract from Root of the World by Roger Bacon:
“This is a great and certain truth, that the clean ought to be separated
from the unclean; for nothing can give that which it has not. For the pure
substance is one of simple essence, void of all heterogeneity; but that
which is impure and unclean consists of heterogene parts, is not simple, but
compounded (to wit of pure and impure) and apt to putrify and corrupt.
Therefore let nothing enter into your composition, which is alien or foreign
to the matter, as all impurity is; for nothing goes to the composition of
our stone, that proceedeth not from it neither in part nor in whole. If any
strange or foreign thing be mixed with it, it is immediately corrupted, and
by that corruption your work becomes frustrate.
“The citrine bodies, as sol, and etc., you must purge by calcination; and it
is then purged or putrefied if it be fine and florid. The metal being well
cleansed, beat it into fine leaves, and reserve them for use. The white
liquor, as mercury, contains two superfluities, which must necessarily be
removed from it, viz. its fetid earthiness, which hinders its fusion; and
its humidity which causes its flying. The earthiness is thus removed. Put it
into a mortar, with its equal weight of pure fine and dry salt, and a little
vinegar. Grind all with a pestle, till nothing of the matter appears, but
the whole salt becomes very black. Wash this whole matter with pure water
till the salt is dissolved; this filthy water decant, put to the mercury
again as much more salt and vinegar grinding it as before, and washing it
with clean water, which work so often repeat, till the water come clear from
it, and that the mercury remains pure bright and clear like a Venice looking
glass, and of a celestial colour “.
[The beginning of this important paragraph speaks of using only
well-purified gold, and in leaf form. Today one may purchase already
precipitated gold 99.9 per cent pure, so that the modern scientist is spared
this work. From then on, the paragraph deals with the purifying and cleaning
Mercury, which of course refers to the regulus of Antimony and Iron, for
which a simple recipe is supplied; these two metals may also be bought in
the same condition as the gold, and one can be more wasteful with them as
the cost is considerably less, although the work is still to be considered,
as only when the regulus is made, can the cleaning take place.]
“Then strain it through a linen cloth three or four times doubled into a
glass vessel, till it be dry, the proportion of the parts is as 24 to 1.
There are 24 hours in a natural day, to which add one, and it is 25 to the
rising of the sun. To understand this is wisdom, as Geber saith: ‘Endeavour
through the whole work to overpower the mercury in commixion ‘, Rhasis
saith: ‘ those bodies come nearest to perfection, which contain the most
argent vive.’ He further saith: that the philosophers hid nothing but the
weight and measure, to wit, the proportions of the ingredients, which is
clear, for that none of them all agree one with another therein, which
causeth great error. Though the matters be well prepared and well mixed,
without the proportions or quantities of the things be just, and according
to the reason of the work, you will miss of the truth or the end, and lose
all your labour; you will not bring indeed anything to perfection. All this
is evident in the examination, when there is a transmutation of the body, or
that the body is changed, then let it be put into the cineritium or test,
and then it will be consumed, or otherwise remain according as the
proportions are more or less just; or just as they ought to be. If they be
right and just, according to the reason of that, your body will be
incorruptible and remain firm, without any loss, through all essays and
trials; you can do nothing in this work without the true knowledge of this
thing, whose foundation is natural matter, purity of substance, and right
reason or proportion.”
THE MARROW OF ALCHEMY
by Eirenaeus Philalethes
I now proceed the practice to discover,
Which weigh with judgement ere you pass it over.
Take then our mercury (which is our Moon)
And it espouse with the terrestial Sun.
Thus man and wife are joined, and to them soon
Add the reviving spirit; this when done
A noble game you soon shall espy, because
You have attended natures noble laws.
Of the Red man one: of the white wife three:
Take thou and mix (which is a good proportion)
Then of the water four parts let there be,
This mixture is our lead, which unto motion
Will be moved, by a most gentle heat,
Which must increased be until it sweat.
But if thou list this pond us to obsene,
One of the Sun, two of the moon to take;
In such proportion thou shalt never swerve;
The water let be four, which added up will make
The perfect number, and to thee shall prove
A joyous Sabbath, and the bond of love.
For Latten he is red, but to our work
Availeth not, until he whitened be;
Though in his centre doth a spirit lurk;
Yet appears not, till joined with mercury,
This mercury a tender body is,
The spouse of Sol, whom he doth straightway kiss.
Thus is thy work with trinity begun,
The body and its soul are first conjoined,
And both are with spirit mixed; the Sun,
The Moon, the water, these are one in kind,
In number three, and yet indeed but two,
For why? The sun is hidden, no light doth show.
Two bodies thus combined, we oft do call
Our lead, our brass, and our Hermaphrodite.
Tis red within and fixed, but yet withall,
To sight saturnine, volatile and white.
These separate natures, do not part,
But join, inseparately by our art.
This is the wonder of our hidden work,
That what is perfect we to retrograde
Do cause: Long time to wait, nor does it irk,
Till the water do congeal: this had,
We then sublime, exalt, and fix to dust.
This essence sift, which then revive we must.
For this, in readiness a vial glass,
Oval, or spherical, be sure to have,
In which the matter put, nor out must pass
Ought of the enclosed air, which for to save,
Seal up the neck with a strong seal, and then
The spirits are secure within their den.
So big thy glass let be, as may contain,
Four times at least as much as you enclose,
For vacant space receives the dew and rain,
Which falling down the body doth dispose,
To die and rot, and after to revive,
And to be joined in union, not to strive.
Nor if your glass of too greatness be,
And so the female sperm too much dispersed,
Will not return, this error trust to me,
Thy work will spill, the surest course is best;
Accordingly therefore to your quantity,
In bigness get your glass accordingly.
This is your great rule, if of the woman three,
Then of the man one you take, then equal water
Unto the earth we claim; but if there be
But two to one, then so we mix the matter,
That one more of the spirit doth appear
Than of the body, this by Ripley clear.
We leave the treatises here, and proceed to explain in more detailed form
what has been said so far. Generally the time allowed to pass from the white
stage to the red stage is five months, and it is said that during this long
digestion, hands should not be laid on the vessel. The experimenter would be
well advised to experiment with a few vessels so that he can try various
combinations of conditions leading to his goal. We have shown by Artephius’s
book, chapter thirteen, that continual digestion is all that is needed to
bring the white to the red stage. But the reader has already been warned
many times not to take anything for granted, especially where the adepts in
alchemy have been most frank. Therefore the researcher must be on his guard;
try moving the vessel in one case, and leaving another to digest
undisturbed, observing carefully which brings the best results. But do not
open the vessels. Where there is any water in the flask, beware of too much
heat, for with the liquid rarefying a weak flask may explode. This is a rule
not elsewhere mentioned, but take heed else too much heat will explode a
vessel containing wet vapour. More heat can be used where the vapour is not
too wet; that is, a metallic vapour.
As the student can never have enough information and instruction to help
him, here are more extracts from various treatises on this stage.
First of all from Ripley Revived by Philalethes, which describes the work
after the white stage has been reached.
“After the white, the fire being continued, the compound will become azure,
grey, and then citrine, which will last a long time; and at last end in
“He that supposeth his work ended when the stone is brought to redness is
mistaken. But yet again twice turn about thy wheel. The stone by constant
and long decoction brought to this pass, anyone who thinketh the race quite
run is mistaken. It is a medicine of the first order, and must be brought to
third order by imbibitions and cibations, (adding liquid as in the
beginning.) which is a second turning round of the wheel; and by
fermentation (mixing with pure gold), which is a third turning round of the
wheel, which brings the medicine to the third order, and makes it fit for
projection. For till the medicine will flow like wax, it cannot enter metals
before its flight. Leave not then, where you should begin, but go on till
you bring the matter to the third order.”
Here is another helpful extract from the same author:
“Consider now thou art in process to a new work, and though in perfect
whiteness thy stone was incombustible, yet in continuing it on the fire
without moving, it is now become tender again; therefore, although it be not
in so great a danger of fire now as heretofore, yet immoderacy now may spoil
all; and undo thy hopes.
“Govern with prudence therefore during the while that these colours shall
come and go, and be not over hasty nor despondent but wait until the end
with patience. For in a short time, thou shalt find that this green will be
overcome with azure, and that by a pale wan colour, which will at length
come to a citrine, which citrine will endure for the space of forty-six
“Then shall the heavenly fire descend and illuminate the earth with
inconceivable glory. The crown of thy labours shall be brought unto thee,
when our Sol shall sit in the south, shining with redness incomparable. This
is our Tyre, our basiliske, our red poppy of the rock, our Lion devouring
all things. This is our true light, our earth glorified.”
The successful adepts in the art each achieved the same end in a variety of
ways, and then it followed that if they wrote anything on the subject, they
imagined that theirs was the only way. The student is advised not to read
much alchemical literature, but to concentrate on selected texts and to try
various experiments at the same time. The greatest bugbear of all alchemical
work, the time factor, is another reason for trying a number of experiments
simultaneously. One must be prepared to be a model of patience and wait for
the results without too much handling of the flasks, for we are warned
repeatedly that all is nature’s work and it is to be carried out without
laying on of hands. This makes the work tedious almost to desperation.
The farmer sowing his seed knows exactly what to expect, and therefore can
wait on nature patiently, but the tyro in alchemy, not knowing what to
expect, can wait many months, never quite knowing if he is on the wrong
track or not.
Chapter 8 The Journey through the Twelve Gates
We may now take up Ripley Revived. As mentioned previously in Chapter 2,
this is a long poem in twelve parts, which Ripley called his Twelve Gates.
Here it is presented in an abridged form, omitting many verses which are
merely padding, reiteration, or misleading.
When in the work, the three colours are attained, namely black, white, and
red, and when the powder is complete, there are still further processes to
be carried out. Here Ripley excels, for he deals with all the processes,
which most writers have ignored, or mixed up. Ripley deals with each
separately, leaving nothing unsaid; he is however very verbose which is the
reason for the abridgement.
But let Ripley explain his own intention in specifying these twelve gates,
which are given in the introduction to his treatise. Although he numbers his
gates, it does not necessarily follow that any one should be in correct
The first chapter shall be of natural calcination.
The second chapter of dissolution secret and philosophical.
The third chapter of our elemental separation.
The fourth chapter of conjunction matrimonial. The fifth of putrefaction
then shall follow. Of congealation, albyficate shall be the sixt.
Then of cibation the seventh shall follow next. The secret of our
sublimation, the eight shall show. The ninth shall be of fermentation.
The tenth of our exaltation, I trow.
The eleventh of our marvellous multiplication.
The twelvth of projection, then recapitulation.
And so this treatise shall take an end.
All this might be compared to making a simple cake in twelve stages or
sections; which indeed is not as difficult as it sounds. The materials, type
of vessel, proportion, temperature used, signs to look for and time it will
take could be arranged according to a similar pattern. Note that the
author’s comments are in brackets.
THE TWELVE GATES
by Sir George Ripley, 1649 (Abridged)
CALCINATION - The First Gate
Calcination is the purgation of our stone,
Restoring also of his natural heat,
Of radical moisture it looseth none, [metallic vapour]
Inducing solution into our stone most mete. [necessary]
After philosophy I you behight. [advise]
Do not after the common guise,
With sulphur and salts prepared in divers wise.
Neither with corrosives, nor with fire alone,
nor with vinegar, nor with water ardent,
neither with the vapour of lead, our stone [do not use lead] is calcined to
All they to calcine which so be bent,
From this hard science withdraw their hand, till they our calcining better
For by such calcining, their bodies be shent, [spoiled] which diminisheth
the moisture of our stone;
Therefore when bodies to powder be brent, [burnt]
dry as husks of tree or bone,
of such calx then will we have none;
For moisture we multiply radical,
in calcining, deminishing none at all.
And for a sure ground of our true calcination,
mix wittily kind only with kind,
For kind to kind hath appetite and inclination.
Who knoweth this in knowledge is blind,
he may wander forth as mist in the wind;
Knowing never with perfectness where to alight, because he cannot conceive
our words aright.
Join kind with kind therefore as reason is,
for every burgeon answers to his own seed,
man begetteth man, a beast a beast likewise,
further to treat of this is no need,
but understand this point if you wish to speed.
Everything is first calcined in his own kind, This well conceiving, fruit
therein shalt thou find.
And we make calx unctous both white and red, of three degrees, ere our base
Fluxible as wax, else stand they in little stead.
By right long process as philosophers write,
A year we take or more for our respite.
For in less space our calx will not be made.
Able to teign with colour which will not fade.
As for the proportion thou must beware,
For therein many a one is beguiled.
Therefore thy work that thou not mar, [spoil]
Let thy body be totally filled,
With mercury; As much then so subtiled;
One of the sun and two of the moon,
till altogether like pap be done.
(This is a difficult passage. It means one part of the sun or gold, or
sulphur, and two parts of the moon (not silver, but our mercury made from
antimony and iron). But the mercury is made from three parts of antimony and
one of iron. When ready, this is called mercury or moon. Then use only so
much liquid to make it into the consistency of pap. This reveals the true
proportion, which is one part gold, and two parts what the masters of
alchemy called mercury.)
Then make the mercury four to the sun,
Two to the moon as it should be,
And thus thy work must be begun,
in the figure of the trinity:
Three of the body and of the spirit three;
And for the unity of the substance spiritual, one more of the substance
(In this case the spirit means the water or liquid used to moisten the
matter which acts as a catalyst. This verse then means the same as the verse
above, with a different wording. The next confusing verse is omitted, and in
future, verses of a similar kind will be left out without comment.)
If the water be in proportion to the earth,
With heat in due measure,
Of him shall spring a new burgeon;
both white and red in pure tincture,
which in the fire shall ever endure;
Kill then the quick, the dead revive,
Make trinity unity without any strive.
This is the best and surest proportion;
For where is less of the part spiritual, [which means water]
The better therefore shall be solution:
Than if you do it with water small.
Thine earth overglutting which loseth all;
Take heed therefore to form potter’s loam,
and make you never too wet thy womb.
That loam behold how it tempered is,
The mean how thou it calcinate,
And ever in thy mind, look thou, hear this,
That never thy earth with water be suffocate.
Dry up thy moisture with heat most temperate.
Help dissolution with moisture of the moon, And congealation with the sun,
then hast thou done.
But first of thine elements make thou rotation, and into water thy earth
turn first of all;
Then of thy water make air by levitation, and air make fire. Then master I
will thee call, of all our secrets great and small.
The wheel of elements thou canst turn about, Truly conceiving our writings
This done, go backwards, turning thy wheel again,
and into thy water, turn thy fire anon,
and air into earth, else labourest thou in vain,
For so to a temperament is brought our stone,
and natures contrarious, four be made one.
After they have three times been circulate,
Also thy base perfectly consumate.
Thus under the moisture of the moon,
and under the temperate heat of the sun,
thy elements shall be incinerate soon,
and then thou hast the mastery won;
Thank God thy work was thus begun.
For then thou hast one token true,
Which first in blackness to thee will show.
The head of the crow that token call we,
and some men call it the crow’s bill.
Some call it the ashes of Hermes tree,
Our toad of the earth that eateth his fill,
and thus they name after their will.
Some name it by which it is mortificate, The spirit of the earth with venom
But it hath names I say to thee infinite,
For each thing that black is to sight,
named it is till the time that it wax white.
For after blackness when it waxeth bright,
then hath it names of more delight.
After white things, the red after the same,
Rule of red things, doth take his name.
At the first gate, now thou art in,
of the philosophers castle where they dwell,
Proceed wisely that thou may win,
In at more gates of that castle,
which castle is round as any bell;
And gates hath eleven yet mo, [morel
One is conquered, now to the second go.
SOLUTION - The Second Gate
Of solution now will I speak a word or two, which showeth out what ere was
hid from sight, and maketh things thin that were thick also;
By the virtue of our first menstrue clear and bright, In which our bodies
have eclipsed been to sight;
And of their hard and dry compaction subtilate.
Into their own first nature kindly retrograde.
One in gender they be and in number two,
Whose father is the sun, and moon truly is mother,
the mean is mercury, these two and no more,
be our magnesia, our adrop, and none other;
Things there be, but only sister and brother.
This is to mean, agent and patient, sulphur and mercury, co-essential to our
Betwixt these two, in quality contrarious,
Engendered is a mean most marvellous,
Which is our mercury and menstrue unctuous;
Our secret sulphur working invisibly,
More fiercely than fire burning the body,
Into water dissolving the body mineral, Which night from darkness in the
north, we call.
But yet, I trow, thou understandeth not utterly, The very secret of
Therefore understand me, I councel thee wittily,
For I tell thee truly without delusion,
Our solution is cause of our congealation.
The journey through the Twelve Gates
For the dissolution on one side corporal, Causeth congealation on the other
And we dissolve into water which wetteth no hand,
For when the earth is integrally incinerate,
then is the water congealed, this understand;
For the elements be so concatenate,
that when the body from his first form be alterate,
A new form is induced immediately,
For nothing is without form utterly.
And here a secret to thee I will disclose,
which is the ground of our secrets all,
And if thou know it not, thou shalt but lose,
thy labour and costs both great and small,
Take heed therefore in error that thou not fall.
The more thine earth, and the less thy water be, The rather and better
solution shalt thou see.
Behold how ice to water doth relent,
and so it must, for water it was before;
Right so again to water our earth is bent,
and water thereby congealed for ever more,
For after all philosophers which ever was bore, [born]
Every metal was once water mineral, Therefore with water they turn to water
In which water of kind occasionate,
Of qualities been repugnance and diversity,
Things into things must therefore be rotate,
until diversity be brought to perfect unity;
for scripture recordeth when the earth shall be
troubled; and into the deep sea shall be cast, mountains, our bodies
likewise at the last.
Our bodies be likened conveniently to mountains, which after high planets we
Into the deepness therefore of mercury,
turn them, and keep thee out of blame;
Then shall you see a noble game.
How all shall become powder soft as silk,
So doth our rennet by kind curd our milk.
Then hath our bodies their first form lost,
And others have been induced immediately,
Then hast thou well bestowed thy cost;
Whereas some others uncunningly must go by, Not knowing the secrets of our
Yet one point more I must tell thee, Everybody, know it, hath dimentions
Altitude, latitude, and profoundity,
By which always must we turn our wheel.
Knowing thine entrance in the west shall be;
Thy passage forth into north, if thou do well,
And there thy lights shall lose their light each deal,
For there thou must abide ninety nights,
In darkness of purgatory without lights.
Then take thy course up to the East anon, By colours variable passing in
manifold wise, And then be winter and spring nigh overgone;
To the East therefore, thine ascending devise, For there the sun with
In summer, and there disport with delight, For there thy work shall become
Forth from the East into the south descend,
And set thou up therein thy chariot of fire;
For there is harvest, that is to say an end
Of all thy work after thine own desire;
There shineth the sun up in his own sphere.
And after the eclipse is in redness with glory, As king to reign upon all
metals and mercury.
And in one glass must be done all this thing,
Like to an egg in shape and closed well.
The journey through the Twelve Gates
Then must you know the measure of firing,
The which unknown thy work is lost each deal,
Let never thy glass be hotter than thou may feel,
And suffer still in thy bare hand to hold, For dread of losing as
philosophers have thee told.
Yet to my doctrine furthermore attend,
Beware thy glass thou never open nor move,
From the beginning until thou hast made an end.
If thou do otherwise, thy work may never achieve;
Thus in this chapter which is so brief,
I have taught thee true solution,
Now to the third gate go, for this is won.
(Take note, in these last two verses, you are given the size and shape of
the flask to use (egg size, 100 to 150 ml. or a shade bigger with a long
neck), the measure of the heat (“never thy glass be hotter than thou may
feel”), and finally, an instruction not to move or open the glass. But here
the experimenter must be wary, and experiment with more than one glass, some
bigger, some smaller; some hotter or cooler; some moved or opened, and also
some never moved or opened. Watch carefully the results, and take notes.
This solution applies to all the processes where the solution is necessary,
and remember not to make the matter too wet, as it should always have the
consistency of potter’s clay, or perhaps slightly wetter.)
SEPARATION - The Third Gate
Separation doth each part from the other divide.
The subtle from the gross, the thick from the thin;
But Manual separation look thou put aside, For that pertaineth to fools,
which little fruit do win. For in our separation, nature doth not blin.
Making division of qualities elemental,
Into the fith degree till they be turned all.
Earth is turned into water black and blue,
And water after into air under very white,
Air is turned into fire, [red], elements there be no more;
Of this is made by craft our stone of great delight.
But of this separation, much more must we write.
And separation is called by philosophers Definition, Of the said elements,
And of this separation, I find a like figure, Thus spoken by the prophet, in
God brought out of a stone a flood of water pure, And out of the hardest
stone oil abundantly;
Right so out of our precious stone if thou be witty,
Oil inconbustible and water thou shalt draw, And thereabout thou needest not
at the coals to blow..
(Every line of this poem applies to the whole of the process although it may
appear the instructions are specially for the work in hand. Keep this fact
well in mind when experimenting, otherwise seeing certain colours and
changes at any one point may mislead you. Besides the main colours of black,
white and finally red, you may see green, yellow and a number of other
colours come to the surface and soon disappear. This is in the nature of
Do this with heat easy and measuring,
First with moist fire, and after with the dry,
The phlem with patience outdrawing,
And after that thy other natures wittily,
Dry up thine earth till it be thirsty;
By calcining, else thou labourest all in vain, Then make it drink up its
(This whole gate of separation has to do with distillation. The researcher
is advised to study this gate well, intently and closely as so much depends
on this part of the work. The matter will forever remain black while the
wetness is in it. When the water is drawn off, different colours will arise,
and with the return of the water, blackness will return; but study the gate
of separation well, and you will be led to do the correct thing.)
Separation thus must thou often times make,
Thy matter dividing into parts two.
So that the simple from the gross thou take,
Till the earth remain below in colour blue.
That earth is fixed to abide all woe,
The other part is spiritual and flying,
But thou must turn them all into one thing.
The water wherewith thou must revive thy stone,
Look thou distill before thou work with it,
Often times by itself alone;
And by thy sight thou shalt well wit,
From feculent faeces when it is quit,
For some men can with Saturn it multiply,
And other substances which we defie.
(The last two sentences are put in just to mystify and mislead.)
Distill it therefore till be clean,
And thin like water as it should be,
As heaven in colour bright and shine,
Keeping both figure and ponderosity.
Therewith did Hermes moisten his tree.
In his glass he made it to grow upright, With flowers discoloured beautiful
This water is like to the venomous Tyre,
Wherewith the mighty miracle is wrought,
For it is a poison most strong of ire,
A stronger poison none can be thought;
Oftentimes at the chemist it is sought,
But no man shall be by it intoxicate,
After the time it is into medicine elevate.
For then it is the miracle true,
It is of poisons most expulsive,
And in its workings does marvels show,
Preserving many from death to life,
Look thou mix it with no corrosives.
But choose it pure and quick running,
If thou thereby will have winning.
(All of which means nothing more than distil the liquid out of it, leaving
the matter dry, before returning it. What follows explains that this must be
done seven times.)
It is a marvellous thing in kind,
And without it nought can be done.
Therefore did Hermes call it his wind,
For it is uprising from sun and moon,
And maketh our stone to fly with it soon.
Reviving the dead and giving life,
To sun and moon, husband and wife.
Which if they were not by craft made quick,
And their fatness with water drawn out,
And so the thin dissevered from the thick,
Thou should never bring this work about.
If thou wilt speed therefore without doubt,
Raise up thy birds out of their nest,
And after bring them again to rest.
Water with water will accord and ascend,
And spirit with spirit, for they be of a kind,
Which after they be exalted make to descend;
So shalt thou unloose that which nature did blend.
Mercury essential turning into wind
Without which natural and subtle separation,
May never complete profitable generation.
Now to help thee in at this gate,
The last secret I will tell to thee;
Thy water must be seven times sublimate,
Else shall no kindly dissolution be,
Not putrefying shall thou not see.
Like liquid pitch nor colours appearing,
For lack of fire within thy glass working.
Therefore make fire thy glass within,
Which burneth the bodies more than fire
Elemental: If thou wilt win our secret
According to thy desire;
Then shall thy seed both rot and spire,
By help of fire occasionate,
That kindly after they may be separate.
Of separation the gate must thus be won,
That furthermore yet thou mayest proceed,
Toward the gate of secret conjunction,
Into the inner castle which will thee lead.
Do after my counsel therefore if thou wilt speed.
With two strong locks this gate is shut,
As consequently now thou must cut.