The Hermetic Museum, Vol. I, by Arthur Edward Waite, , at sacred-texts.com
p. x p. xi
IT would be unjust to doubt, most gentle reader, that of all the arts invented for the use of life by the reason of man, that of Alchemy is the most noble and glorious. For all philosophers exclaim, as it were, with one voice, albeit in many languages, that this art is not only true, but (after the Divine Law by which our souls are saved) the best and most magnificent gift bestowed upon man by God; and that it should therefore be investigated with all zeal and with the greatest pains. But as good wine needs no praise, so neither does this art require a herald; for its truth is undoubted, and its utility in human life universally acknowledged, and shewn forth, not only in the Art of Medicine, in Pharmacy, and many other sciences, but more especially in the Art of Transmuting Metals, is so clearly and perspicuously demonstrated, that it in no way requires to be adorned by the splendour of oratory, or tricked out with the device of language. I will not enlarge upon the blessing which the elaboration of minerals and metals has bestowed upon our race. I merely point it out, but refrain from discussing it at length. Different men devote themselves to the study of this science from different motives. The philosopher is impelled by the love of truth, and the thirst after wisdom. He delights in knowledge for its own sake. He
welcomes every elegant and copious treatise on the marvels of Nature, to the glory of Almighty God. This is a sufficiently generous reward for a philosopher. He has at his command the most effectual means of becoming rich, if he would only use them. But he is fired by the love of philosophy, and does not care for the mocking grandeur of fortune. So thought the Sages of the Saracens, Egyptians, Arabs, and Persians; for when they were oppressed by tyrants, and violently driven into exile, they protected and supported themselves by means of their Art, and, through their knowledge of the transmutation of metals, they had at their command, not only sufficient to live upon, but all the comforts and pomp of life, and thus practically demonstrated that they could obtain all that gold and silver could give. Concerning this true transmutation of metals, which is accomplished only by the Elixir or Stone of the Philosophers, we here propose to speak. This art is set forth in a series of treatises by different authors, which appeared several years ago, and, like the present volume, was entitled "A Museum of Hermes." But many writers having discussed this subject, and treated it from various points of view (so that one writes more clearly than another, and each throws light on the other's meaning), some of my friends, who are adepts in this Art, urged me to add to the former collection certain treatises supplementary of those already given. For though that former collection contained the most select writings on the subject, yet it was not as complete as it might have been, nor was it calculated to furnish to the reader in full measure the eagerly expected fruit of his study. To this wish of my friends I have all the more readily submitted, because its fulfilment must redound to the advantage of the student. I have, therefore, enlarged the collection with several most select treatises, and caused it to be adorned with many engravings. I was most strongly impelled to undertake the task by this consideration, viz., that through the fraudulent machinations of greedy impostors many false, so-called chemical treatises have been put forward, in which there is not a single spark of truth, and that very many have been, and are still being deceived by them. These dupes, by reading this book, in which the Magistery of the Stone is most clearly and plainly set forth, and into which no
error or forgery has been admitted, will be secured against the imposture of that wicked and mercenary band who delight in fraud For in this book all errors are shewn up and dispelled. For this reason I confidently offer this volume to the sons of knowledge, in order that while they think upon and investigate the secret working of Nature, they may obtain from it nothing but the truth, and gain a clear insight into the very nature of things. In this alone consists the perfection of the entire most Holy Art of Philosophy. Only let them go forward along the Royal Road which Nature prescribes in all her operations. As to the rest, I heartily beg the friends of this Art to give a kindly reception to the present volume, and when, through the Will of God, by constant labour, they have put ashore in the desired haven of philosophy, after the manner of philosophers to exclude all that are unworthy from the knowledge thereof, and, being mindful of charity towards their needy neighbour in the fear of God (without any vain ostentation), to sing eternal praises to the Good and Thrice Great God for this Wonderful and Divine Gift (without any abuse thereof) in a silent and devoutly joyful heart.