Chapter Five (cont)
From the fourth chapter it is clear that the dislocated homogeneous parts of the elements can show that the elements, after they have been removed from their natural places, return to them along straight lines. It will not therefore seem absurd that the mystery of the four elements (into which each compound element can ultimately be resolved) is implied by the four [symbol of four lines meeting at a point] straight lines running in opposite directions from a single point. You should take note and diligently observe that geometry teaches us that a line is produced by the flow of a point. This is similar to the way our four elemental lines are produced by the continuous fall of drops becoming a flow (by drops we mean the points of our star). Thus does it come about in our mechanical magic. Moreover, the cabbalistic expansion of this quaternary according to the usual method of counting (that is, one, two, three, four) produces, when added together, the perfect number ten. As Pythagoras himself said, one, two, three and four add up to ten. Therefore it is not by chance that the rectilinear cross (which is the twenty-first letter of the Roman alphabet and considered to be formed from four straight lines) was chosen by the most ancient Roman philosophers to signify the number ten. Furthermore, its division immediately shows the quinary. Its place in the alphabet is determined also: for by multiplying the power of the ternary by the septenary establishes it as the twenty-first. It will be seen that this accords very well with the sun and moon, since through the magic of these four elements a most exact separation of the sun and moon into their own lines was effected. In addition, by the circumferences of their lines the conjunction [symbol of circle with four lines metting at a point] was made in the solar complement (for by the laws of geometry a circle may be described for a line of any length). It then becomes clear how much the proportion of our star - signified by the cross [symbol of four lines meeting at a point] - serves the sun and moon. The dagger-like, pointed zodiacal sign of Aries is well-known to everyone (that is, the figure [symbol of Aries] ). It is generally considered that from its position in the heavens comes the fiery ternary. We have added the astronomical sign of Aries, therefore, to signify the use of fire. It is agreed that this mystical sign, consisting of two semicircles joined by a single point, is most aptly assigned to the time of the vernal equinox. For a period of twenty-four hours, when arranged as at the equinox (that is, equally), denotes our most secret proportions (by 'our' I refer here to the earth). For this reason wise men have handed down to us the hieroglyphic signs representing the elements and Aries. Therefore drink of this truly golden milk, but if you would rather hunt the hare with the sophists, then do not catch hold of the pheasant or the ferret. You should be aware that skill is obtained by increments, for who does not know that the origin of all skills was quite crude and that it was only by the passing of time and the growth of experience (the universal teacher) that they grew to perfection? This is certainly proved by the study of medicine, a skill much sought after and continually developing.
Wisdom always increases in the presence of men.
So you must be taught, says Seneca, as long as you remain ignorant (perhaps throughout our whole lives), if we are to believe in this saying. It is true that all things increase through time and that in this way the arts have developed to such an extent that the practitioners of our day far exceed their predecessors. So it is that your own skill in the study of philosophy has itself grown: if we compare the older students of the true and more secret wisdom with you, we find that they appear quite worthless. If Hermes, the father of philosophy, were to be brought back to life today, there is no doubt that he would be laughed at by the alchemists, just as the sculptors say that if Daedalus was living today and was to make such things as those which made him famous, he too would appear ridiculous. Indeed, the wise men of today far excel their predecessors in increasing the number of syllogisms for our ultimate benefit. Every skill increases: if the well is drawn off it fills up all the better. But once you have arrived at a right decision you must continue along that path, otherwise you will be led astray from the truth before you have even started out on your way. Pile up that which is rare and in short supply in the open air and, after it has been completely soaked by the water, the rotting damp and its location make it waste away.
In the fifth consideration I did not attempt to demonstrate any other principle except that which Nature Herself has demonstrated. I acknowledge the spagyric art as representing the most skilful and sophisticated of all the arts, through which I am able to give you my opinion on these matters. For, as if by divine ordinance, it teaches us how to distinguish the pure from the impure, just as logic distinguishes truth from falsehood; it teaches us when to separate substances and when to bring them together; it teaches us the method most favourable to Nature, for it distinguishes between the clear and the confused, the subtle and the gross, the light and the heavy, fire and air, air and water, water and earth. In such a way as this did the Creator Himself show us everything in the First Creation. We are his imitators, and although we do not try to duplicate his work throughout the entire universe, yet we do attempt it in this small and confined world of ours. It is certain that since each of these considerations concerns the Universal Medicine, each one is also concerned with a method of enquiry. Therefore I affirm that the Universal Medicine for bodies is the philosophic gold, after it has been separated and drawn to the highest state of perfection. Our common gold has absolutely nothing in common with the philosophic gold we use to begin our task. In that respect common gold is dead and clearly useless. For just as a chicken is not born from a cooked egg, the Universal Medicine will not come from cast gold. Careful consideration must be given to what must be done, for we must not pervert nature but imitate it accurately to the best of our abilities. All the wise men agree that there is only this one substance, the One Medicine (speaking hieroglyphically), to which nothing is added and only the superfluous is removed (and even this process is achieved naturally). It is therefore a most difficult task to locate this medicine amongst the multitude of substances, although it would certainly be ignorant folly to look for it in an unnatural substance. The search is therefore rightly directed towards the sources of the metals and minerals. The philosophers set two of these above all the rest, that is, the sources of mercury and of sulphur. But just as they do not mean common gold, neither do they mean common sulphur or common mercury. The philosophers' gold is living, subtle and spiritual. Common gold is dense, hard and unchanging. The philosophers' mercury is the prime material of all things: without it the M cannot exist. But in fact liquid mercury, or quicksilver, is an impure metal which comes from its own special seed. The philosophers' sulphur is pure, permanent, white or red and flammable. Common sulphur, however, is combustible and impermanent. Hence it is easy to understand the difference between the philosophers' gold and that of those who are mistaken; between the philosophers' sulphur and that of the foolish; between the philosophers' mercury and that of the ignorant. The difference between heaven and earth is as great as the difference between the truly wise and the sophist.
The philosophers' gold is gold that has not yet solidified or hardened naturally, for if it were to do so then our man-made fire would have no effect on it, and the craftsman would be frustrated by his own skill. It is removed from the prime source of all the metals by pruning and separation through spring water, and in a natural way. For just as the Microcosm was first created out of the Macrocosm without a soul, which was later breathed into it by divine power, in a similar way does our man (mercury) appear. Later, he too receives a soul which is brought forth and kindled by the continuously regulated movement of the fire beneath. When our Mercury is joined with either magnesia or lunaria it is more correctly known as 'aqua sicca' (dry water). This does not wet the hands and when placed near a fire it flees like a runaway slave. It is also known as Proteus, since it transforms itself into various, distinct forms and is itself transformed by this process. At times it appears in the form of dew, at times like heavenly rain, sometimes even like snow, hail, hoar frost or a cloud, as if it were dressed in a cloak. This transformation can be seen everywhere: however it comes about, whether in metals, animals or vegetable matter, it is essential for the appearance of the mercury so that the work can be brought to a conclusion.
The mercury of Hermes and of all the Philosophers is water, the water that falls from the sky as rain and which the Sun, as its father, extracts from the earth each day in a very fine vapour and takes up into that part of the sky where the downpour is formed. Here it is condensed into rainwater by the innate natural force of the Moon, its mother, using that same power with which she controls affairs below. Thus it condenses into rainwater, thickens and falls in drops by its own weight. It is moved around willy-nilly by the air or the wind (which is, after all, nothing more than the movement of the air) until it lands upon the centre point, that is, the earth, its nursemaid, who must then carry it in her lap. Perhaps this seems like a Gordian knot, yet one even tighter than Alexander's, which can only be cut by the sword of reason.
As I have often told my sons of knowledge and wisdom, the Philosophers' sulphur is first formed when the water has returned to the earth. At times it floats on the top of the water and is multicoloured, like the earth covered in foliage, or like some kind of thick broth. All these different hues derive from the greenness of the vitriol. But experience has confirmed that all water which is without spirit may be hardened by heat, and that which has spirit may be hardened by cold. He who understands how water can be hardened by heat and how the spirit can be joined with it, will certainly discover something a thousand times more precious than gold, more precious than anything. Therefore the alchemist should separate the spirit from the water and allow it to decay until it resembles a seed. After the waste has been discarded he should reintroduce the spirit into the water from above, and effect a conjunction between these two. It is this conjunction or arrangement that will produce an offspring utterly different from its parents.
The sixth consideration deals with Nature itself and so we must must now define Nature. But Nature is a difficult thing to define, even amongst the wise there was disagreement about which came first, God or Nature. For if Nature came first, then God must have been created, which he cannot have been. But if God came first, then Nature must have been created, for only if Nature can have been born can it really come into existence. But some wise men define Nature as the originator of fire, and it is through fire that it enters sensible matter to enable its reproduction. Indeed it is clear that all things are created principally by fire. But Plato defined Nature as the Will of God, and this is the definition that meets with the most approval amongst the philosophers, for the Will of God is complete Goodness in its entirety and is present in all things. His will is born from his Divinity, so that things may be as they are, as they have been and as they always will be, and that Nature may be proof against aging. Nature, sensation and the whole world contains this Nature within them, in fact every living thing contains it. For each sex is fulfilled through procreation and this joining of the two or, more accurately, this unity between them-which you may well call desire or love (or both) - is quite beyond our understanding, just as much as are desire and love. However if both God and Nature are considered to exist and since neither can come from the other (for it must be that which is born of the first comes second), neither God nor Nature can be considered as having been born. Plato was quite correct when he stated that Nature is the Will of God, for God has always willed and it is necessary that he does so, for this is the truest cause of all things. Since, if it is the Will of God, Nature cannot have been born, then neither it nor God can have been born, and thus we must understand that the nature of the Macrocosm beyond the Microcosm is not Nature at all but God. For this same Nature, by which the world exists, is the Will of God; but the art that pursues Nature (that is, the Will of God) is the true knowledge of the Microcosm, and of what must be done. For it is not Nature that carries the vitriol from the mountain into the furnace, or builds a fire beneath. The true concern of man, his true art, is to prepare and produce the Medicine. Every man who has known that this art is the only true one may then practise it faithfully. He who has learned may then assume control. But whoever tries his skill should take care that he does not sin against the Will of God or the Laws of Nature.
But the greatest skill is the ability to dissemble that skill, for whoever feels it necessary to put something in writing or in speech about this great study, uses his skill in speaking to conceal his true meaning. This is to be contrasted with our more usual way of speaking, so that we may more easily agree with those appearing to speak naturally, rather than with those who have perverted that natural method of artifice.
For as Euripides says, the use of language is simple, but every man abandons that natural simplicity and comes under our suspicion, just as if they are trying to deceive and defraud us. Consider well, then, the following simple and natural example of the Great Work: the rainwater, after it has been completely covered over and left outside in the bright sun, becomes fetid and mud collects in the bottom. It becomes sticky and has a bitter, foul taste. But in time this foulness is exhausted and disappears. The sediment, or solid matter, will separate from the water and precipitate at the bottom and remain there. Thus a pure, clean water is produced that is sweet, fragrant and flavoursome. Pour the water off from the sediment into another glass and once more place it outdoors until the sediment forms a scum. Repeat the process until no more sediment can be found. This water has been produced naturally and as a result it is incorruptible. One could say the same of oil, wine and other liquids except that spring water, as I shall explain, separates all kinds of solid matter of both contrary and similar qualities, from the vitriol of Venus and Mars. It will do all this gradually and by a natural process. If you combine this pure and perfect material with fire you will produce pyraustae. After these have been left out in the sun they ferment properly.
But those fashionable Galenists and academic doctors who criticise distillation and alchemical matters generally, have not considered these matters seriously enough. They have not understood at all about the heat in wine, for example. This heat is first separated by fire from the parts with which it has been mixed, these being the cooler and more sluggish parts of the mixture. After it has been freed from these parts as if from an enemy it then exists in a fine type of distilled water without any more vigorous operation taking place. For this reason the philosophers rightly call their work (the Medicine) 'Fortitude', for this signifies the Elixir. Into its trust they rightly pledge all nature. Furthermore, the work and the true end of alchemy may be briefly described as that of 'the Body into the Body', and those of Magia as 'the Spirit in the Body'. The wise men call their results violent since they use amounts of strength that seem greater than those ordained by nature. There is more about this in the carefully-arranged books of Paracelsus, where there is a cure for diseases that aims to ease and cleanse sickness by using symbols, words and spoken formulae. But this resembles more the casting of lots and is therefore contrary to the Will of God; for this reason we reject it in our modern age.
In the seventh and last consideration I would not want to appear to be pursuing a Euclidean strategy, nor any other: you should learn from the fifth chapter of the fifth book, which concerns the secret deeds performed by the Monarch throughout his long life. In the fourth chapter it says that the Necrolii (or Necrolici) are forbidden a long life, that is, they are barred from the Great Work, which Geber calls the Third Order. The elemental substances in their crude state of blackness (according to Raymond Lull they are of a blackness blacker even than black) can produce a solution for the dead. The Scaiolae are the four elements in the vitriol of Venus after they have been purified. In the Necrolii, that is, in the First Order of the Work, are contained ridiculous travesties, sophistical preparations indeed, that do not withstand the test of fire. Yet they do shed light on the Cyphant, in other words, on the formation of the embryo or infant (as Arnold and Lull refer to it), and which Geber refers to when he says that the instruction is not complete until the preparations of the first order have been made (these preparations were adequately shown in the previous chapter). Those who get to this stage who do not advance to the other orders and therefore do not produce pyraustae are referred to as Alloeani by Paracelsus, since they are superficial imitators of the form and sophistical white-washers of the tinctures of Venus and the Moon. But if we suspect that anything might go wrong with the liquor then we should proceed as follows: the distillation should be repeated more often so that the favourable path to the good may be sufficiently open to you. That is, we should distinguish between the right way, which leads to the more perfect material and the left, which relates to imperfect bodies. Some philosophers refer to these enigmatically as the eastern and the western parts.
Water envies the Scaiolii and conceals the liquor of the lunaria from them. Now he who possesses the ability to extract spring water in a torrent is known as a water diviner; he who softens using fire is called a firetongs. Such a man laughs at the sophists, since they have little experience and act just like the easily-disturbed Necrolii when they are dormant, for they do not fix the tincture properly, which develops naturally up to a certain stage before flying from the fire. They are careless, as has often been said, about the poppy seed, which brings sleep just like the fifth essence of the vitriol. This essence brings about the coagulation of Mercury, which is alternately hard and soft. The alchemists refer to this process as fixing. This essence also brings sleep in a similar way to mandrake. But Aequaster, the anatic material of the completed operation, will not destroy the position of the Scaolii, for it delights to be in that spiritual seat of the Scaolii, that is, of the philosophers' Mercury. But if the Sun or the Moon is to be added to this crude preparation something must first be removed, in other words, the receiving material must be prepared by transmutation: this is the extent of the medicine of the second order. But the greatest Adech exceeds even this with the medicine of the third order, for the Mercury is first prepared philosophically and then accurately and fully gathered together. Thus prepared, the Mercury advances our purpose since, according to Geber, it brings the material we have already mentioned to advance the work. But this is not all, for in this order there is a difference in the method and the subtlety of the preparation. Once the pure Nymphidic spring water has left the Moon, the latter passes through the water of the Scaolii and undergoes another transformation, where it will remain difficult to work with and virtually insoluble. This has been decreed by the earthly sun, for this process is indeed death by fixing and life by the lightening of the Scaolii. The White Sun also agrees to join with the Moon in the early stages but he undergoes a change towards the end, since the King turns red at the end of the work. But all that is written at the close of the book concerning travesties and the Nymphidic spring water lead to obscurity, since they pervert the traditional order. This is something which the teachers if this wisdom often do, since (as Augurellus has it) they are dedicated to the laws of this intricate art. So that we may comprehend the Nymphidic and understand the Aniadic Year, in other words, how we may become immortal through hard work and suffering, we should first learn the characters (known as the gift of Venus) which, as Paracelsus says, even though you may understand them in relation to each other, you do not have practical knowledge of them. For the man who summons Palemon and Leucothea does so in vain if he has not first attracted Nereus. Nor will he attract Nereus if he has not first worked on the primary trinity of life. His work will have no firm grounding at all unless he has first attracted Vestra. For the aqueous nature of the Moon is referred to mystically as Saturn while it makes one revolution around the earth, by the science of the Scaolii. For the same reason it is also given the name of Jupiter. But after it has turned through the elements three times we represent it more obscurely, in this way: [symbol of lunar crescent with lower cross] , which is usually known as Mercury. You can see how lunar this symbol becomes: [symbol of lens-like figure with lower cross] . Some wise men would hold that it is produced by the fourth revolution, but this in no way contradicts our secret purpose. Only the purest magic spirit will carry out the work of whitening in place of the moon. Through his spiritual virtue, once he is alone with us, he may speak hieroglyphically without words for almost a whole day, introducing and impressing into the purest and plainest earth prepared by us those four geogamic figures, or instead that other figure shown nearby. But is not the mystical sign of Mars produced by the combination of the hieroglyphs for the Sun and Aries? And is not the teaching of the elements included in this? And is not, I ask, the sign of Venus produced from a fuller exposition of the Sun and the elements? These planets therefore have regard for the solar revolution and the work of rehabilitating metals by fire, where there arises during its progress that other Mercury, which is indeed the uterine brother of the first. He appears once the lunar magic of the Sun and the elements has been completed, just as the hieroglyphic messenger tells us most expressively, if we will only fix our eyes upon him and give him a more attentive hearing. By the Will of God he is that most famous Mercury, he is the Microcosm, he is Adam. Yet some experts would put the Sun in his place, something which we in our present age are unable to do unless we put in charge of this golden work a certain spirit that has been separated from its body by the pyronomic art. This is difficult to do and very dangerous because of the fiery and sulphurous fumes that are produced. But this spirit will be wonderful indeed, joining Venus and even Mars to the disc of the Moon (or at least to that of Mercury) with indissoluble bonds. This then produces the Sun of the philosophers in what they call the third position, which completes our septenary number. Care must therefore be taken when such an operation takes place in the Vitriol to ensure that the central heat can change water into air, so that it can spread out over the flat earth and scatter the residue, with the aid of the rain, throughout the channels of the earth. Finally the opposite will also come about: the air will turn to water of a particularly fine type. This occurs if you bring about the overwhelming of the gold and silver by the Old Man, that is, our aqueous Mercury, so that the water consumes them: eventually he will die and be consumed as well.
The ashes of the gold are then to be sprinkled on the water, and the water boiled until it is ready. You will then have a medicine for curing leprosy. But take care that you do not use cold instead of hot, or hot instead of cold. Mix like natures together, but if you must use a substance that does not occur in nature then separate it until it resembles a natural substance. In the end - by the Will of God - the Great Work is achieved not by hand but by fire.
In conclusion, can I really put a price on my work, when all I do is provide a brief sketch of the lunarium of the philosophers? I do not even possess all the required knowledge; and even if I knew how to express myself coherently would I even dare? For I consider this matter to be old enough to be common knowledge, while it is always the modern writers who believe that they can make clearer and surpass the unskilled ancients in their writing. But however it comes out my work will at least, to the best of its ability, help to recover and restore the ancient lost arts of knowledge and science to their descendants.
By lunarium it is generally agreed that the ancient writers refer to Chalcantum, whether it be cupric or hungaric Chalcantum. Its body is metallic, called 'blacking' by the Romans. It exists in two forms: it can be dug out of the ground and can be produced artificially. When it is out of the ground it is sometimes dark, sometimes pale. Occasionally it is white, occasionally transparent like glass, which is why it is commonly known as vitriol. You may get to know the bowels of the earth well with this metal, and by purifying it you will discover the Hidden Stone, the True Medicine. Its artificial form is produced by the action of rainwater flowing through the metals and forming a pool. After passing through those substances bound to the metals, it is collected in large clay vessels where after a few days it hardens in the air. Under certain conditions this water can turn Mars into Venus. But what happens if the natural form is improved upon by the pyronomic art? As the vitriol bubbles, two vapours are released from the channels in the stone: these create the metals. The first is therefore to be found in the elements of earth and water, with the Sun acting upon them and producing the vitriol; the second cause is in the chalcanthus; the third and last in the vapour, that is, in the twin spirits of sulphur and mercury that are the source of the metal, after its mother has first been impregnated by wild nature. The philosophers have laid claim to lunaria themselves, due to the aqueous nature of the Moon. Raymond Lull is chief amongst these, for we find the following repeatedly in his writings: 'take up the stone, whatever its form, and pour on the lunaria'. The flower of the air is considered to be Cheiros, that of Mars is rosemary. The magicians take this for their own and call it Martagon, as if it were born of Mars.
Undoubtedly chemistry cannot be understood without practice and experience. For all metals can be reduced to a vitriol resembling their own aqueous source,, without any diminution in their composition. This vitriol is the lunaria, otherwise known as the philosophers' tree. According to Borissa this has seven branches representing the seven qualities of the metals. The root of this tree is the metal-bearing earth; its trunk is red, solid and suffused with black. Its leaves resemble those of marjoram: there are thirty of them in all, fifteen corresponding to the length of the Moon's waxing and fifteen to its waning. Its smell is like that of musk; at the full moon its fruit resembles the finest saffron. If Mercury is removed from it at the time of the full moon or at the waning and replaced there at this same time, it turns into the Moon. If this is then boiled six times it turns into the Sun. In short, from this pure form flows pure water. But this water, although similar to ordinary water, because it comes from a very deep well, must never be assumed to be too much like ordinary water. For the elements have been interchanged, just as it says in the Psalterium of Sonus: but although their various names have been changed, yet their influence remains throughout. Such a precise description enables you to bring to a conclusion all that has taken place in the operation. For this reason have you praised your people in all their endeavours, Lord, and you have honoured them with glory. You have not disdained them, rather have you stood by them at all times and in all situations.
Thus nothing of value can arise in man's affairs,
unless his mind first spurns all thoughts of grandeur,
and wonders at and worships the One and Only God.
Eternal, unchanging and Infinite God, you who are truly born of yourself, and from whom all other things are created; you who are Good without comparison; you who are great without limit; eternal without time; omnipresent but in no single place. You are the only true virtue, the only perfection that alone embraces all other forms of perfection and enters into each one far and wide. You appear to us greater than the greatest; you have in your power the way to perfection. Only when we have remained in continual contemplation for a long period of time will we be fortunate enough to achieve this goal ourselves; however ignorant we may be, let us not be ignorant of this at least. Therefore, for as long as we seek you in the wilderness, let us not lose ourselves. Bestow upon us your fatherly and infinite goodness and mercy, so that we may come to find you in some way at least, by loving your glory and majesty, worshipping, admiring and adoring them. May we embrace and possess them through your only son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who always welcomes us. We seek this from you and ask of you with our most heartfelt prayers that you will bring it to pass through your Holy Spirit, for you are truly the best and greatest God, because of the love that you freely give to us. May there be praise and honour bestowed upon you, the One Godhead and the Three-in-One, the only Living and True God, for all eternity and for all time, Amen.
Philemon Philadelphiae Rosae Crucis