Friday, June 26, 2009


The grand objects of alchemy were (1) thediscovery of a process by which the baser metals might be transmutedinto gold or silver; (2) the discovery of an elixir by which life mightbe prolonged indefinitely; and there may be added (3), the manufactureof and artificial process of human life. (for the latter see Homunculus) THE THEORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF ALCHEMY: The first objects were to beachieved as follows: The transmutation of metals was to be accomplishedby a powder, stone or exilir often called the Philosopher`s Stone, theapplication of which would effect the transmutation of the baser metalsinto gold or silver, depending upon the length of time of itsapplication. Basing their conclusions on a profound examination ofnatural processes and research into the secrets of nature, thealchemists arrived at the axiom that nature was divided philosophicallyinto four principal regions, the dry, the moist, the warm, the cold,whence all that exists must be derived. Nature is also divisible intothe male and the female. She is the divine breath, the central fire,invisible yet ever active, and is typified by sulphur, which is themercury of the sages, which slowly fructifies under the genial warmth ofnature. The alchemist must be ingenuous, of a truthful disposition, andgifted with patience and prudence, following nature in every alchemicalperformance. He must recollect that like draws to like, and must knowhow to obtain the seed of metals, which is produced by the four elementsthrough the will of the Supreme Being and the Imagination of Nature. Weare told the the original matter of metals is double in its essence,being a dry heat combined with a warm moisture, and that air is watercoagulated by fir, capable of producing a universal dissolvent. Theseterms the neophyte must be cautious of interpreting in their literalsense. Great confusion exists in alchemical nomenclature, and thegibberish employed by the scores of charlatans who in later timespretended to a knowledge of alchemical matters did not tend to makethings any more clear. The beginner must also acquire a thoroughknowledge of the manner in which metals grow in the bowels of the earth.These are engendered by sulphur, which is male, and mercury, which isfemale, and the crux of alchemy is to obtain their seed - a processwhich the alchemist philosophers have not described with any degree ofclarity. The physical theory of transmutation is based on the compositecharacter of metals, and on the existence of a substance which, appliedto matter, exalts and perfects it. This, Eugenius Philalethes andothers call 'The Light'. The elements of all metals is similar,differing only in purity and proportion. The entire trend of themetallic kingdom is towards the natural manufacture of gold, and theproduction of the baser metals is only accidental as the result of an unfavorable environment. The Philosopher's Stone is the combination ofthe male and female seeds which beget gold. The composition of these isso veiled by symbolism as to make their identification a matter ofimpossibility. Waite, summarizing the alchemical process once thesecret of the stone is unveiled, says: "Given the matter of the stoneand also the necessary vessel, the process which must be then undertakento accomplish the `magnum opus' are described with moderate perpicuity. There is the calcination or purgation of the stone, in which kind isworked with kind for the space of a philosophical year. There isdissolution which prepares the way for congelation, and which isperformed during the black state of the mysterious matter. It isaccomplished by water which does not wet the hand. There is theseparation of the subtle and the gross, which is to be performed bymeans of heat. In the conjunction which follows, the elements are dulyand scrupulously combined. Putrefaction afterwards takes place. `Without which pole no seed may multiply.' "Then, in the subsequent congelation the white colour appears, whichis one of the signs of success. It becomes more pronounced in cibation. In sublimation the body is spiritualised, the spirit made corporeal,and again a more glittering whiteness is apparent. Fermentationafterwards fixes together the alchemical earth and water, and causes themystic medicines to flow like wax. The matter is then augmented withthe alchemical spirit of life, and the exaltation of the philosophicearth is accomplished by the natural rectification of its elements. When these processes have been successfully completed, the mystic stonewill have passed through the chief stages characterized by differentcolours, black, white and red, after which it is capable of infinitemultication, and when projected on mercury, it will absolutely transmuteit, the resulting gold bearing every test. The base metals made use ofmust be purified to insure the success of the operation. The processfor the manufacture of silver is essentially similar, but the resourcesof the matter are not carried to so high a degree. "According to the "Commentary on the Ancient War of the Knights" thetransmutations performed by the perfect stone are so absolute that notrace remains of the original metal. It cannot, however, destroy gold,nor exalt it into a more perfect metallic substance; it, therefore,transmutes it into a medicine a thousand times superior to any virtueswhich can be extracted from its vulgar state. This medicine becomes amost potent agent in the exaltation of base metals." There are not wanting authorities who deny that the transmutations ofmetals was the grand object of alchemy, and who infer from thealchemistical writings that the end of the art was the spiritualregeneration of man. Mrs. Atwood, author of "A Suggestive Inquiry intothe Hermetic Mystery", and an American writer named Hitchcock arepurhaps the chief protagonists of the belief the by spiritual processesakin to those of the chemical process of alchemy, the soul of man may bepurified and exalted. But both commit the radical error of stating thethe alchemical writers did not aver that the transmutation of base metalinto gold was their grand end. None of the passages they quote, isinconsistent with the physical object of alchemy, and in a work, "TheMarrow of Alchemy", stated to be by Eugenius Philaletes, it is laid downthat the real quest is for gold. It is constantly impressed upon thereader, however, in the perusal of esteemed alchemical works, that onlythose who are instructed by God can achieve the grand secret. Others,again, state that a tyro may possibly stumble upon it, but that unlesshe is guided by an adept he has small chance of achieving the grandarcanum. It will be obvious to the tyro, however, that nothing can ever be achieved by trusting to the allegories of the adepts or the manycharlatans who crowded the ranks of the art. Gold may be made, or itmay not, but the truth or fallacy of the alchemical method lies withmodern chemistry. The transcendental view of alchemy, however, israpidly gaining ground, and probably originated in the comprehensivenature of Hermetic theory and the consciousness in the alchemical mindthat what might with success be applied to nature could also be appliedto man with similar results. Says Mr. Waite, "The gold of thephilosopher is not a metal, on the other hand, man is a being whopossesses within himself the seeds of a perfection which he has neverrealized, and that he therefore corresponds to those metals which theHermetic theory supposes to be capable of developing the latentpossibilities in the subject man." At the same time, it must beadmitted that the cryptic character of alchemical language was probablyoccasioned by a fear on the part of the alchemical mystic that he mightlay himself open through his magical opinions to the rigors of the law.

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