Chapter 12 Vade Mecum
In the first degree, the stone is called Adrop, philosophical lead, which is
not lead, but a supposed derivative of lead, antimony. In the second degree,
when the sulphur of Mars has been joined to it, it is called the
philosophers’ water, and is now their mercury.
Distilled vinegar is not the vinegar of the philosophers. Their most sharp
vinegar is another name for the “ Secret Fire “.
The beginning of this art is only one thing; composed of two substances, a
fixed Sol and an unfixed mercury. The fixed sol is the seed, and the other
remains the Mother, as is called by the adepts. The one is the red fixed
servant, and the other is the white wife.
“If you wish to see the sign of putrefaction, it is necessary that you
procure an external moving heat, for as nature in the mine boileth by means
of a gentle heat, in a like manner, our philosophical matter receives power
to alter itself, from such a degree of artificial heat and may be able to
stir up its inward power. This artificial heat must not be violent, but soft
and gentle, only able to act on the most subtil particles, to raise and mix
them, until the whole composition be broken, divided without any manual
separation, and converted into perfect blackness.”
When commencing experimental work, it is well to be resigned to the fact
that nothing will be achieved before twelve months at least, so a settled
patience of mind is very necessary. It was however the proud boast of the
successful Philalethes that he managed to uncover the whole secret in two
and one half years.
The temperatures to be used must be regulated from 150°F. at the
commencement to about 250°F. Later the temperature may be higher, but it
must be remembered that the compound will itself generate heat as time goes
The necessary liquid in the flask, with the correct heat will moisten the
contents. Inadequate heat will not initiate this reaction, and too much heat
will drive the vapour upwards, leaving the contents dry and hard, which will
coalesce into a solid lump, spoiling the experiment. Thus the temperature is
The very first secret uncovered was the nature of the “Secret Fire” which is
the mercury of the philosophers, where it is to be found, and how it is to
be made, so that it will dissolve the compound of metals into a liquid,
exactly as sugar or salt might dissolve in water.
Remember that the alchemist’s mercury is not quicksilver or common mercury,
for such has no place whatsoever in the art of alchemy.
“Mercury” appears everywhere in all the treatises, and is the greatest
stumbling block of all, for common mercury will mix with most metals, but
will not remain amalgamated with them, as is desired.
Common lead is another metal which the alchemist should never use, but there
are derivatives of lead which one can use. Lead contains a great deal of
dross, which in alchemy is not acceptable.
The augmentation or multiplication of the Stone can be performed in two
ways. (1) By repeated solution and coagulation. This coagulation increases
the Stone in virtue; (2) By fermentation, which added, then increases the
Stone in quantity. The multiplication by fermentation however is soonest
accomplished. What has been resolved operates much quicker when fixed by its
own ferment, that is gold, or silver (according to which the alchemist
desires to produce). The action is similar to leaven: a small quantity
leavens the whole lump, and the Stone when projected on imperfect metals
transmutes a large quantity into perfect gold.
There are three colours which must of necessity appear in the work, Black,
White, and Red. The first two must be produced by a very slow heat, which
must be increased very gently.
By way of summary, the following treatise is quite helpful:
ON USE OF MALE AND FEMALE ELEMENTS
RED MAN AND WHITE WIFE
“Decoct the male and female vapour together with the Secret Fire, until such
time as they shall become one dry body, for except they be dry, the divers
and various colours will not appear. For it will ever be black, while the
moisture has the dominion. But if it be once wasted, then it will emit
diverse colours, after many and several days.
“And many times it will be changed from colour to colour, till such times as
it comes to the fixed whiteness. All the colours of the world will appear in
it when the black humidity is dried up. But value none of these colours, for
they be not true tincture: yet many times it becomes citrine and reddish,
and many times it is dried, and must become liquid again before the
whiteness will appear.
[Author’s note: All this must have its proper time; one simply cannot hurry
it, for, as warned, it is nature’s work. Yet the expert might learn in
course of experiments how to force things, in the same way as fruit and
vegetables are produced before their natural time. Skill must be used, which
can only be learnt by experience, with regard to not interfering with the
work, and when to interfere, for with so many instructions, one must know
when to leave wetness in the flask, and when to dry the matter. Open and
shut, dissolve and coagulate, is one of the axioms of the adepts in alchemy,
and how can one do this without moving the metals? Working in the dark, that
is without knowing whether the work will be spoiled or progressed by manual
movement, is a constant problem at first trials.]
“Now while all this is going on the spirit is not joined with the body, nor
will it be joined or fixed but in the white colour. Astanus hath said,
between the red and the white, all colours will appear, even to the utmost
imagination. The cause of these colours is from the extension of the
blackness. Therefore as often as any degree or portion of the blackness
descends, so often various colours arise until it comes to whiteness. Then
it will go on in the same manner to redness.
“Repeat this rubifying three or four times [for however, there must be an
addition of new matter-the infant must be fed with his mother’s milk or
secret fire] and you will have the most perfect red stone, like blood in
colour, with which you may tinge mercury and all the imperfect metals into
WHAT IS FERMENTATION
How to Mix our Mercury and Sulphur
“ It is necessary that you take of the above red tincture or sulphur three
parts, add thereto one part of pure gold, reduced into a subtil calx, and
two parts of its water [secret fire]. Rub these three together in a clean
glass mortar, put it into a strong glass, and in a graduated strong heat,
melt it together into a red stone. [The author points at fermentation, but
which other artists recommend to be done without adding any secret fire.]
“The ‘Fountain’ [regulus of antimony and mars] is as it were a mother of the
King [gold]. She draws him to her, and killeth him, but the king arises
again from death, through her, and unites so firmly with her, that he
“The body of gold must be dissolved, destroyed, putrefied and deprived of
all its powers [or natural properties] and this the beginning of the work,
assumes first a dark, and later a perfectly black colour called the Raven’s
Head. This takes place in about forty days. During this blackness the anima
of gold is extracted and separated, and is carried aloft and totally
separated from the body, the body remaining for some time without life, and
like ashes at the bottom of the vessel.”
To save much time in research and experiments, and to shorten the time gap
before results, it is wise to try more than one experiment at the same time
using the same hot-plate, for much depends on the quantity, quality and
purity of the metals used.
Use a hot-plate that would be safe to leave working for weeks on end and
which has an effi cient thermostat, for to stay watching beside the
experiment (especially whe n there is doubt as to the correct procedure) is
a heart-breaking business. A housewife preparing food at least knows exactly
what to expect and how long the work must take; and the farmer knows the
time he must expect to wait before his crops ripen.
To make and prepare the regulus of antimony and iron (which has been called
by alchemists silver or Luna or mercury) take four parts antimony, two parts
iron, and mix well in powdered form. Then saturate with “Secret Fire”, and
heat, but only at such a low heat, just to stir up the matter and make it
sweat. Wait forty-two to fifty days, by which time the compound should be
black. You might try adding one part venus (or copper) to the mixture at the
start, but this venus has traditionally been looked down upon with contempt
as useless, although one master in alchemy has told us in his treatises that
venus must be added. This adept was Eireneaus Philalethes, who wrote many
books and claimed he had done the work many times. However the addition of
copper is probably a blind.
When the regulus is black, dry off the water and crush it into a fine
powder. Of this take three parts and mix in one part Sol in powder. Saturate
with Secret Fire, and place into the heat again.
VADE MECUM ON PROJECTION
“ When the perfect powder, white or red, is taken out of the philosophical
egg, it appears like the most impalpable powder, whose atoms appear more
minute if possible than those in the sun’s light, and yet it is very
ponderous, like burnished gold [or silver]. But when united to or mixed with
a perfect body of its own kind, it appears like white or red glass ...
easily pulverizable.... The powder in its first state, whether aurific or
argentific is too universal or undeterminate-too far above specificated
metallic nature [for instant projection] and therefore must be familiarized
to metals by mixture with a perfect metallic body.... The philosophers
advise us to project by gradation till projection ceases; that is to project
one part of the tincture on ten parts and again one part of the latter on
ten, until after the last projection [no longer glass but] pure gold or
silver comes from the fire.
“If in its first state the stone should only go one upon a hundred parts,
yet by reiterated solution and coagulations, the energy, penetration and
virtue of the tincture may be increased to such a degree that its extent can
hardly be calculated.
“If projection is made on mercury, as is mostly done, let the mercury be
heated in a crucible, until its crackling noise announces its approaching
flight. Then the known quantity of the fermented elixir must be projected on
it which enters in an instant and tinges and fixes the mercury.... The heat
must then be augmented till you perceive the matter in the crucible flow
thin and clear. When poured out it will be found to be gold or silver,
according to the kind of elixir.... The tincture obtained by one continued
linear motion, by the first circulation, is called, when perfected, the
elixir of bodies. This must be cibated by seven imbibitions, and with the
last it must be putrefied, whitened and again congealed and fixed....
“Many working in this art lose their labour by making projection on impure
metals . . . but when melted with a perfect metal, of its own species,
whereby it is converted into a metallic tinging glass, then and not before,
it flows like wax on an imperfect ignited metal, or when thrown on heated
mercury. The imperfect metals, being too far removed from perfection, the
unfermented tincture does not enter fast enough, not having affinity for the
imperfect metals of strength sufficient to separate their scoria in a strong
heat. Therefore the powder or tincture gets confusedly mixed and dispersed
among the faeces, and the hope of the deluded artist is frustrated.”
VADE MECUM ON INCREASE ON POWER & WEIGHT
“I know that many authors do take fermentation in this work for the internal
invisible agent, which they call ferment, by whose virtue the fugitive and
subtile spirit, without laying on of hands, are of theirown accord
thickened; and our aforementioned way of fermentation they call cibation
with bread and milk [sol and mercury], but I know as well as they, have
followed my own judgement in my writings.
“There is then another operation, by which our stone is increased in weight
more than virtue. Take of thy sulphur, white or red [this is the completed
stone], and to three parts of the sulphur, add a forth of the water [our
mercury], and after a little blackness, in six or seven days decoction, thy
water newly added shall be increased or thickened, like unto thy sulphur.
[Note how the adept does his best to hide his secret, by calling the stone
sulphur, and his mercury water.]
Then add another fourth part, not in
respect of the whole compound, which is now increased a fourth part by the
first imbibition, but in reference to thy first sulphur, as thou tookest it
at first, which being dried, add another fourth part, and let it be
congealed with a convenient fire. Then put in two parts of the water in
reference to the three parts of the sulphur, which thou tookest at first,
before the first imbibition and in this proportion, imbibe and congeal three
other times. At last add five parts of water in the seventh imbibition,
still remembering to reckon the water in reference to the sulphur as it was
taken at first.
[This deliberate manner of writing is done to confuse, and
Seal thy vessel, and in a fire like to the former, make
thy compound pass through all the aforesaid regimens, which will be done in
one month, and then thou hast the true stone of the third order; of which
one part will fall on a thousand, and tinge perfectly.”
(All the above was written in one sentence, but has been separated and
punctuated as clearly as possible.)
ON MULTIPLICATION OF THE STONE
“To the multiplication of the Stone, is required no labour, save only that
thou take the stone, being perfect, and join it with three parts or at the
most four parts of mercury of our first work, and govern it with a due fire,
in a vessel well closed, so that all the regimens pass with infinite
pleasure, and thou shalt have the whole increased a thousand fold beyond
what it was before the multiplication of it. And if thou shalt reiterate
this work again, in three days thou shalt run through all the regimens, and
thy medicine shall be exalted to another millenary virtue of tincture; and
if thou shalt yet reiterate the work, it will be perfected in a natural day,
and all the regimens shall pass-which will be done afterwards with another
reiteration in an hour, nor shalt thou at last be able to find the extent of
the virtue of thy stone; it shall be so great that it shall pass thy
ingenuity to reckon it, if thou shalt proceed in the work of reiterate
multiplication. Now remember to render immortal thanks to God, for thou has
now the whole treasure in thy possession.”
ON THE MANNER OF PROJECTION
“The manner of Projection is to take of thy stone perfected as it is said,
white or red, according to the quality of the medicine, take of either gold
or silver four parts, melt them in a clean crucible, then put in of thy
stone, white or red, as the metal that is melted is in quality, and being
well mixed together in fusion, pour them into an ingot, and thou shalt have
a mass which is brittle; take of this mass one part, and mercury well washed
ten parts, heat the mercury till it begin to crack, then throw upon it this
mixture, which in the twinkling of an eye will pierce; increase thy fire
till it be melted, and all will be a medicine of inferior virtue; take then
of this, and cast one part upon any metal, purged and melted, to wit, as
much as it can tinge, and thou shalt have most pure gold and silver, purer
than which nature cannot give. But it is better to make projection gradually
until projection cease; for so it will extend farther; for when so little is
projected on so much, unless projection be made on mercury, there is a
notable loss of the medicine, by reason of the scorias, which do adhere to
impure; by how much then the metals are better purged, before projection, by
so much more will the matter succeed.
“He who has once, by the blessing of God, perfectly attained this art, I
know not what in the world he can wish, but that he may be free from all
snares of wicked men, so as to serve God without distraction. But it would
be a vain thing, by outward pomp to seek for vulgar applause, such trifles
are not esteemed by those who have this art, nay, rather they despise them.
He therefore whom God has blessed with this talent, hath this field of
content, which far exceeds popular admiration; First if he should live a
thousand years, and every day provide for a thousand men, he could not want,
for he may increase his stone at his pleasure, both in weight and virtue; so
that if a man would, one man that is an adeptist, might transmute into gold
and silver that is perfect, all the imperfect metals that are in the whole
world; secondly, he may by this art make precious stones and gems, such as
cannot be paralleled in nature, for goodness and greatness; thirdly and
lastly, he hath a medicine universal, both for prolonging life, and curing
all diseases, so that one true adeptist can easily cure all the sick people
in the world. I mean his medicine is sufficient.”
Now to God Eternal, Immortal and Almighty, be everlasting Praise for these
unspeakable gifts, and invaluable treasures.
To attempt to present a general overall conception of alchemy, we now quote
an important work by Paracelsus, a physician very famous in his day, in
which a theory of the art is set forth by question and answer: it is given
in an abridged form. This work was written to appeal to the medieval
scientific mind, and it is by no means an easy matter for thebeginner to
appreciate the value of the work, nor will he comprehend how the whole
secret is embraced herein in theory; yet it is so. To understand all its
implications, the reader is advised to read it though slowly, and after
digestion, to read it again. What is not understood at first, will make
sense when reverted to subsequently.
THE THEORY OF ALCHEMY
by Paracelsus (abridged)
Q. What is the chief study of the philosopher?
A. It is the investigations of the operations of nature.
Q. Whence are all things derived?
A. From one and indivisible nature.
Q. Into how many regions is nature separated ?
A. Into four primary regions.
Q. What are they?
A. The dry, the moist, the warm, the cold, which are four elementary
qualities, whence all things originate.
Q. How is nature diiferentiated?
A. Into male and female.
Q. Give a concise definition of nature.
A. It is not visible, though it operates visibly, for it is simply a
volatile spirit, fulfilling its office in bodies, and animated by the
universal fire which vivifies all things that exist. Q. What should be the
qualities possessed by the examiners of nature? A. They should be like
nature itself. That is to say, they should be truthful, simple, patient, and
Q. What matters should subsequently engross their attention? A. The
philosophers should most carefully ascertain whether their designs are in
harmony with nature, and of a possible and attainable kind. If they would
accomplish by their own power anything that is performed usually by the
power of nature, they must imitate her in every detail. Q. What method must
be followed in order to produce something which shall be developed to a
superior degree than nature herself develops it? A. The manner of its
improvement must be studied, and this is invariably operated by means of a
like nature. For example, if it be desired to develop the intrinsic virtue
of a given metal beyond its natural condition, the chemist must avail
himself of the metallic nature itself, and must be able to discriminate
between its male and female diiferentiations. Q. Where does the metallic
nature store her seeds ?
A. In the four elements.
Q. With what materials can the philosopher alone accomplish anything? A.
With the germ of the given matter. This is its elixir or quintessence, more
precious by far, and more useful to the artist than is nature herself.
Before the philosopher has extracted the seed or germ, nature on his behalf
will be ready to perform her duty.
Q. What is the germ or seed of any substance?
A. It is the subtle and perfect decoction and digestion of the subject
itself; or rather it is the balm of sulphur, which is identical with the
radical moisture of metals.
Q. By what is this seed or germ engendered?
A. By the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire, and through the direct
intervention of the imagination of nature.
Q. After what manner do the four elements operate? A. By means of an
incessant and uniform motion; each one according to its quality, depositing
its seed in the centre of the earth, where it is subjected to digestion and
action, and is subsequently expelled in an upward direction by the laws of
Q. What do the philosophers understand by the centre of the earth? A. A
certain void place where nothing may repose, and the existence of which is
Q. When then do the four elements expel and deposit their seeds? A. In the
ex-centre, or in the margin or circumference of the centre, which after it
has appropriated a portion, casts out the surplus, into the region of
excrement, scoria, fire and formless chaos.
Q. Illustrate this teaching by example.
A. Take any level table and set in its centre a vase filled with water;
surround the vase with several things of different colours; especially salt,
taking care that a proper distance intervenes between them all. Then pour
out the water from the vase, and it will flow in streams here and there; one
will encounter a substance of a red colour, and will assume of red; another
will pass over the salt and will contract a saline flavour; for it is
certain that water does not modify the places which it traverses, but the
diverse characteristics of places change the nature of water. In the same
way the seed which is deposited by the four elements at the centre of the
earth, is subject to a variety of modifications in the places through which
it passes; so that every existing substance is produced in the likeness of
its channel, and when on its arrival at a certain point encounters pure
earth and water, a pure substance results, but the contrary in an opposite
Q. After what manner do the elements procreate this seed? A. In order to the
complete elucidation of this point, it must be observed that there are two
gross elements that are heavy, and two that are volatile in character. Two
in a like manner are dry, and two humid, one of the four being actually
excessively dry. There are also masculine and feminine. Now each of them has
a marked tendency to reproduce its own species within its own sphere.
Moreover they are never in repose, but are perpetually interacting, and each
of them separates, of and by itself, the most subtle portion thereof. Their
general place of meeting is in the centre, where coming to mix their seeds,
they agitate and finally expel them to the exterior.
Q. What is the true and first matter of all metals? A. The first matter,
properly so called, is dual in its essence, or is in itself of a twofold
nature. One nevertheless cannot create a metal without the concurrence of
the other. The first and the palmary essence is an aerial humidity, blended
with a warm air, in the form of a fatty water, which adheres to all
substances indiscriminately whether they pure or impure.
Q. How has this humidity been named by the philosophers.
Q. By what is it governed?
A. By the rays of the sun and the moon.
Q. What is the second matter?
A. The warmth of the earth, otherwise that dry heat which is termed sulphur
by the philosophers.
Q. What therefore should be done?
A. The matter must be effectively separated from its impurities, for there
is no metal how pure soever, which is entirely freed from imperfections,
though their extent varies. Now all superfluities, cortises, and scoria must
be peeled off, and purged from out of the matter in order to discover its
Q. What should receive the most careful attention of the philosophers? A.
Assuredly the end of nature, and this is to be by no means looked for in the
vulgar metals, because these having issued already from the hands of the
fashioner, it is no longer to be found there.
Q. For what precise reason?
A. Because the vulgar metals and chiefly gold, are absolutely dead, while
ours on the contrary, are absolutely living and possess a soul. Q. What is
the life of metals?
A. It is no other substance than fire, when they are as yet embedded in the
Q. What is their death?
A. Their life and death are in reality one principle, for they die as they
live, by fire; but their death is by a fire of fusion. Q. After what manner
are metals conceived in the womb of the earth? A. When the four elements
have developed their power or virtue in the centre of the earth, and have
deposited their seed; nature in the course of a distillatory process,
sublimes them superficially by the warmth and energy of perpetual movement.
Q. Into what does the air resolve itself when it is distilled through the
pores of the earth?
A. It resolves itself into water from which all things spring. Q. In this
state it is merely a humid vapour, out of which there is subsequently
evolved the principle of all substances. Q. Are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and
Venus, the Sun and Moon separately endowed with individual seed?
A. One is common to them all; their differences are to be accounted for by
the locality from which they are derived, not to speak of the fact that
natures completes her work with far greater rapidity in the procreation of
silver, than in that of gold; and so of the other metals each in its own
Q. How is gold formed in the bowels of the earth? A. When this vapour of
which we have spoken is sublimed in the centre of the earth, and when it has
passed through warm and pure places, where a warm and sulphureous grease
adheres to the channels, then this vapour which the philosophers have
denominated their mercury, becomes adapted and joined to the grease, which
it sublimes with itself; from such amalgamation there is produced a certain
unctuousness, which abandoning the vapourous form assumes that of grease,
and is sublimed in other places which have been cleansed by the preceding
vapour, and the earth thereof has consequently been rendered more subtle,
pure and humid; it fills the pores of the earth, is joined thereto, and gold
is produced as a result. Q. How is Saturn engendered?
A. It occurs when the said unctuosity or grease, passed through places which
are totally impure and cold.
Q. How is Venus brought forth?
A. She is produced in localities where the earth is pure, but is mingled
with impure sulphur.
Q. What power does the vapour which we have recently mentioned possess in
the centre of the earth?
A. By its continual progress it has the power of perpetually rarifying what
is crude and impure, and of successfully attracting to itself all that is
pure around it.
Q. How is the generation of seed comprised in the metallic kingdom? A. By
the artifice of nature; the four elements in the first generation of nature,
distill a ponderous vapour of water into the centre of the earth; and this
is the seed of metals and it is called mercury; not on account of its
essence, but because of its fluidity, and the facility with which it adheres
Q. Why is this vapour compared to sulphur?
A. Because of its internal heat.
Q. From what species of mercury are we to conclude that the metals are
composed? A. This refers exclusively to the mercury of the philosophers; and
in no sense the common or vulgar mercury, which cannot become a seed, seeing
that like other metals, it contains its own seed.
Q. What therefore must actually be accepted as the subject of our art of
A. The seed alone, otherwise the fixed grain, and not the whole body which
is turned into sulphur, or living male; or into mercury or living female. Q.
What operation must afterwards be performed? A. They must be joined together
so that they may form a germ, after they proceed to the procreation of a
fruit which conforms to their nature. Q. What is the part of the artist in
this operation? A. The artist must do nothing but separate that which is
subtle from that which is gross.
Q. To what therefore is the whole philosophic combination reduced? A. The
development of one into two, and the reduction of two into one and nothing
Q. Whither must we turn for the seed and life of metals and minerals? A. The
seed of minerals is properly the water which exists in the centre and heart
of the minerals.
Q. How does nature operate by the help of art?
A. Every seed, whatsoever its kind is useless, unless by nature or art it is
placed in a suitable matrix, where it receives its life by the coction of
the germ, and by congealation of the pure grain. Q. How is the seed
subsequently nourished and preserved?
A. By the warmth of its body.
Q. What is therefore performed by art in the mineral kingdom? A. He finishes
what cannot be finished by nature, on account of the crudity of the air,
permeating the pores of all bodies on the surface, but not in the bowels of
Q. What correspondence have the metals among themselves?
A. The sun enters into all, but it is never ameliorated by its inferiors.
Q. What is the object of research among the philosophers? A. Proficiency in
the art of perfecting what nature has left imperfect in the mineral kingdom,
and the attainment of the treasure of the Philosophers’ Stone.
Q. What is this stone?
A. The stone is nothing else than the radical humidity of the elements,
perfectly purified and educed into a sovereign fixation, which causes it to
perform such great things for health; the life being resident exclusively in
the humid radical.
Q. In what does the secret of accomplishing this admirable work consist? A.
It consists in knowing how to educe from potentiality into activity the
innate warmth, or fire of nature, which is enclosed in the radical humidity.
Q. Why does this medicine heal every species of disease? A. It is simply
because it powerfully fortifies the natural warmth which it gently
stimulates, while other physics irritate it by too violent an action.
Q. How can you demonstrate to me the truth of the art in the matter of the
A. Firstly the truth is founded on the fact that the physical powder being
composed of the same substance of the metals, namely quicksilver, has the
faculty of combining with these in fusion, one nature easily embracing
another which is like itself. Secondly seeing that the imperfection of the
base metals is owing to the crudeness of their quicksilver, and to that
alone, the physical powder which is a ripe and decocted quicksilver, and in
itself a pure fire, can easily communicate to them its own maturity, and can
transmute them into its nature, after it has attracted their crude humidity,
that is to say, their quicksilver, which is the sole substance which
transmute them, the rest being nothing but scoria and excrements, which are
rejected in projection.
Q. What road should the philosopher follow that he may attain to the
knowledge and execution of the physical work?
A. By observing how the chaos in the creation of the world was evolved.
Q. What was the matter of the chaos?
A. It could be nothing else but a humid vapour, because water alone enters
into all created substances, which all finish in a strange term, this term
being a proper subject for the impression of all forms.
Q. What profit may
the philosopher derive from these considerations, and what should he
especially remark in the method of creation which was pursued by the Supreme
A. In the first place, he should observe the matter out of which the world
was made; he will see that out of this confused mass, the Sovereign artist
began by extracting light, that this light in the same moment dissolved the
darkness which covered the face of the earth, and that it served as the
universal form of the matter. He will then easily perceive that in the
generation of all composite substances, a species of irradiation takes
place, and the separation of light and darkness, wherein Nature is an
undeviating copyist of the Creator. The philosopher will equally understand
after what manner, by the action of this light, the empyrean or firmament
which divides the inferior and the superior waters was subsequently
produced; how the sky was studded with luminous bodies; and how the
necessity for the moon arose, which owing to the space intervening between
the things above and the things below; for the moon is an intermediate torch
between the superior worlds and the inferior worlds, receiving the celestial
influences and communicating them to the earth. Finally he will understand
how the Creator, in the gathering of the waters produced dry land.
Q. What kind of mercury must the Artificer take to make use of in performing
A. Of a mercury which as such, is not found on the earth, but is taken from
bodies; yet not from vulgar mercury, as it has been falsely said. Q. As you
have told me that mercury is the one thing which the philosopher must
understand, will you give me a description of it to avoid misconception?
A. In respect of its nature, mercury is dual; that is our mercury is fixed
and volatile. In regard to its motion, it is also dual, for it has a motion
of ascent and descent. By that of descent, this is its first office previous
to congealation. By its ascentional movement, it rises seeking to be
purified, and as this is after congealation, it is considered to be the
radical moisture of metals, which beneath its vile scoria, still preserves
the nobility of its first origin.
Q. Why is the vulgar mercury unfitted to the needs of the work? A. Because
the wise artist must take notice that vulgar mercury has an insufficient
quantity of sulphur, and he should consequently operate upon a body created
by nature, in which nature herself has united the sulphur and mercury that
it is the work of the artist to separate. Q. What must he subsequently do?
A. He must purify them and join them anew together.
Q. How many species of mercury are there known to the philosophers? A.
Mercury may be regarded under four aspects. The first is called the seed;
the second is the mercury of Nature; which is the bath or vase of the
philosophers; otherwise the humid radical. To the third has been applied the
designation of the mercury of the philosophers because it is found in their
laboratory and in their minera. It is in the sphere of Saturn; it is the
Diana of the Wise, it is the true salt of metals, after the acquisition of
which the true philosophic work may be truly said to have begun. In its
fourth aspect, it is called common mercury, which yet is not that of the
vulgar, but rather properly the true air of the philosophers, the true
middle substance of water, the true secret and concealed fire, called also
the common fire, because it is common to all minerals and metals; and thence
do they derive their quality and quantity.
Q. When may the philosopher venture to undertake the work? A. When he is,
theoretically able to extract by means of a crude spirit, a digested spirit
out of a body in dissolution, which digested spirit he must again rejoin to
the vital oil.
Q. Explain to me this theory in a clearer manner? A. It may be demonstrated
more clearly in the actual process. The great experiment may be undertaken
when the philosopher by means of a vegetable menstruum, with which menstruum
united he must wash the earth, and then exalt it into a celestial
quintessence, to compose the sulphurous thunderbolt which instantaneously
penetrates the substances. Q. Have those persons a proper acquaintance with
nature, who pretend to make use of vulgar gold for seed, and of vulgar
mercury for the dissolvent, or the earth in which it should be sown?
A. Assuredly not, because neither the one nor the other possess the external
Q. In seeking the auriferous seed elsewhere than in gold itself, is there no
danger of producing a species of monster, since one appears to be parting
A. It is undoubtedly true that in gold is contained the auriferous seed, and
that in more perfect condition than is found in any other body; but this
does not force us to make use of vulgar gold, for such a seed is equally
found in each of the other metals, and in nothing else but that fixed grain
which nature has infused in the first congealation of mercury, all metals
having one origin and a common substance, as will ultimately be unveiled to
those who are worthy by application and assiduous study. Q. What follows
from this doctrine?
A. It follows that although the seed is more perfect in gold, it may be
extracted much more easily from another body than gold itself, other bodies
being more open, that is to say less digested and less restricted in their
Q. Give me an example taken from nature?
A. Vulgar gold may be likened to a fruit which having come to a perfect
maturity, has been cut off from the tree, although it contains a most
perfect and digested seed; notwithstanding should anyone set it in the
ground with a view to its multiplication, much time, trouble and attention
will be consumed in the development of its vegetative capabilities. On the
other hand if a cutting or root be taken from the same tree, and similarly
planted, in a short time with no trouble, it will spring and produce much
Q. How does nature deposit metals in the bowels of the earth? A. Nature
manufactures them all from sulphur and mercury, and forms them from their
Q. What do you mean by this double vapour? How can metals be formed thereby?
A. In order to a complete understanding to this question, it must first be
stated that mercurial vapour is united to a sulphureous vapour in a
cavernous place which contains a saline water which serves as their matrix.
Thus is formed firstly the vitriol of nature; secondly by the commotion of
the elements, there is developed out of this vitriol of nature a new
vapour, which is neither mercurial nor sulphureous, yet allied to both
these natures, and this passing through places to which the grease of
sulphur adheres, is joined therewith, and out of their union a glutinous
substance is produced, otherwise a formless mess, which is permeated with
the vapour which fills these cavernous places. By this vapour acting
through the sulphur it contains, are produced the perfect metals, provided
the locality and the vapour are pure. If the locality and the vapour are
impure, imperfect metals result. The terms perfection and imperfection have
reference to various degrees of concoction.
Q. What is actually the living gold of the philosophers? A. It is
exclusively the fire of mercury, or that ingeneous virtue, contained in the
radical moisture, to which it has already communicated the fixity and the
nature of sulphur, whence it has emanated, the mercurial character of the
whole substance of philosophical sulphur permitting it to be alternately
Q. What other name is also given to the living gold by the adepts? A. They
also term it their living sulphur, and their true fire. They recognise its
existence in all bodies, and there is nothing that can subsist without it.
Q. Where must we look for our living gold, our living mercury, and our true
A. In the house of mercury.
Q. By what is this fire nourished?
A. By the air.
Q. What should be done by the philosopher after he has extracted his
A. He should develop it from potentiality into activity.
Q. Cannot nature perform this of herself?
A. No; because she stops short after the first sublimation, and out of the
matter which is thus disposed, do the metals engender. Q. What do the
philosophers understand by their gold and silver? A. The philosophers apply
to their sulphur the name of gold, and to their mercury the name of silver.
Q. Whence are they derived?
A. I have already stated that they are derived from a homogeneous body
wherein they are found in great abundance, whence also they know how to
extract both by an admirable process.
Q. When this operation has been duly formed, to what other point of the
practice must they next apply themselves?
A. To the confection of the philosophical amalgam which must be done with
great care, but can only be accomplished after the preparation and
sublimation of the mercury.
Q. When should your matter be combined with the living gold? A. During the
period of amalgamation only, and thenceforth there is one substance; the
process is shortened by the addition of sulphur, while the tincture is at
the same time augmented.
Q. What is contained in the centre of the radical moisture?
A. It contains and conceals sulphur, which is covered with a hard rind.
Q. What must be done to apply it to the great work? A. It must be drawn out
of its bonds with consummate skill, and by the method of putrefaction.
Q. Does nature in her work in the mines, possess a menstruum which is
adapted to the dissolution and liberation of the sulphur. A. No, because
there is no local movement. Could nature unassisted provide us with the
physical stone, which is sulphur exalted and increased in virtue, there
would be no need of the alchemical art. Q. Can you elucidate this doctrine
by an example? A. By an enlargement of the previous comparison of a fruit or
seed, which in the first place is put into the earth for its solution, and
afterwards for its multiplication. Now, the philosopher who is in a position
to discern what is good seed, extracts it from its centre and consigns it to
its proper earth, when it has been well cured and prepared, and therein he
rarifies it in such a manner that its prolific virtue is increased and
Q. In what does the whole secret of the seed consist?
A. In the knowledge of its proper earth.
Q. What do you understand by the seed in the work? A. I understand the
interior heat, or the specific spirit, which is enclosed in the humid
radical, which in other words is the middle substance of living silver, the
proper sperm of metals which contains its own seed. Q. How do you set free
the sulphur from its bonds?
A. By putrefaction.
Q. What pains must be taken by the philosopher to extract that which he
A. He must take great pains to eliminate the fetid vapours and impure
sulphurs, after which the seed must be injected.
Q. By what indication may the artist be assured that he is in the right road
at the beginning.
A. When he finds that the dissolvent and the thing dissolved are converted
into one form and one matter at the period of dissolution. Q. How many
solutions or processes do you count in the great work? A. There are three.
The first solution is that which reduces the crude metallic body into its
elements of sulphur and silver; the second is that of the physical body, and
the third is the solution of the mineral earth. Q. How is the metallic body
reduced by the first solution into sulphur and then into mercury?
A. By the secret artificial fire which is the burning star.
Q. How is this operation performed?
A. By extracting from the subject in the first place, the mercury or the
vapour of the elements, and after purification by using it to liberate the
sulphur from its bonds by corruption, of which blackness is the indication.
Q. How is the second solution performed?
A. When the physical body is resolved into the two substances previously
mentioned, and has acquired the celestial nature. Q. What is the name which
applied by the philosophers to the matter during this period?
A. It is called the physical chaos, and it is in fact the true first matter,
a name which can hardly be applied before the conjunction of the male, which
is sulphur, and the female which is salt or mercury. Q. To what does the
third solution refer?
A. It is the humectation of the mineral earth, and it is closely bound up
Q. What fire must be made use of in our work?
A. That fire which is used by nature.
Q. What is the potency of this fire?
A. It dissolved everything that is in the world, because it is the principle
of all dissolution and corruption.
Q. Why is it also termed mercury?
A. Because it is in its nature aerial, and a most subtle vapour, which
partaked at the same time of sulphur, whence it has contracted some
Q. Where is this fire concealed?
A. It is concealed in the subject of our art.
Q. Who is it that is familiar with and can produce this fire?
A. It is known to the wise who can produce and purify it.
Q. What is the essential potency and characteristic of this fire? A. It is
excessively dry, and is continually in motion; it seeks to disintegrate and
to educe things from potentiality to actuality; it is in a word, that which
coming upon solid places, circulated in a vapourous form upon the matter,
and dissolves it.
Q. How may this fire be most easily distinguished? A. By the sulphureous
excrements in which it is developed, and by the saline envirement in which
it is dothed.
Q. What must be added to this fire so as to accentuate its capacity for
incineration in the feminine species ?
A. On account of its extreme dryness, it requires to be moistened.
Q. How many philosophical fires do you enumerate?
A. There are in all three; the natural, unnatural, and the contranatural.
Q. Explain to me these three species of fires?
A. The natural fire is the masculine fire, or chief agent; the unnatural
fire is the feminine; which is the dissolvent of nature, nourishing a white
smoke, and assuming that form. This smoke is quickly dissipated unless much
care be exercised, and it is almost incombustible, though by sublimation it
becomes corporeal and resplendent. The contranatural fire is that which
disintegrates the compound, and has the power to unbind what has been bound
very closely by nature.
Q. Where is our matter to be found?
A. It must be specially sought for in the metallic nature, where it is more
easily available, than elsewhere.
Q. What kind must be preferred before all others? A. The most mature, the
most appropriate, and the easiest; but before all things, care must be taken
that the metallic essence shall be present, not only potentially, but
actually, and that there is moreover a metallic splendour.
Q. Is everything contained in this subject?
A. Yes, but nature at the same time must be assisted, so that the work may
be perfected and hastened, by means which are familiar to the higher grades
of the experiment.
Q. Is this subject exceedingly precious?
A. It is vile and originally without native elegance. Fundamentally it is
not saleable because it is useful in our work alone. Q. What does our matter
A. It contains salt, sulphur and mercury.
Q. What operation is it most important to be able to perform?
A. The successive extraction of salt, sulphur and mercury.
Q. How is that done?
A. By sole and perfect sublimation.
Q. What is in the first place extracted?
A. Mercury in the form of a white smoke.
Q. What follows? Igneous water and sulphur.
Q. What then?
A. Dissolution with purified salt; in the first place volatalising that
which is fixed, and afterwards fixing that which is volatile. This into a
precious earth which is the vase of the philosophers, and is wholly perfect.
As the questions and answers have continued in the above work, the questions
have become more pertinent and interesting, and the answers ever more
tantalising; yet time and a deeper knowledge will show that every answer is
to the point, and true.