THE persuasion as to the possibility of the convertibility of the metals, and as to the existence of a master-means of improving and intensifying generally through all nature, until the confine was approached; and then by supernatural method (that is, supernatural to the world of man), that this border-line or limit (apparently so invincible) was passed over (indeed evaded) with power of return into the world with the fruits of the daring exploration openly in the hands:--this idea, which nothing could drive out of the mind, was fixed--spite of all the sense of those who supposed such contradictions. The proper cool-headed realization of the impossibilities, so far as Nature made them impossibilities, was not entertained.
There was much that urged--as a prime motive--such destruction as that effected by the Caliph Omar, on his conquest of Alexandria, in his committal to the flames of the famous Alexandrian Library. This destruction is usually taken as a reason for this elimination or extinguishment of previous accumulations of such imagined priceless value. It was not jealousy, but fear, that actuated the Caliph Omar.
The object of the Sultan, in regard to this immense collection of writings, is well known, and is usually attributed to the dogmatism and narrowness of his views in regard to his Mohammedan beliefs:--namely,
that if the books contained any philosophy which justified or explained, or enforced, the religion of Mahomet, or any wisdom which could be interpreted as explanatory of it, it was needless, because all such was already contained in the Koran; and that if it taught other things, or advanced any contrary religious beliefs, it was correspondingly mischievous, and as such should be relentlessly destroyed. Thus the Caliph took up such a position that he was right both ways. All the secrets of alchemy were supposed to be contained in the Alexandrian Library.
The sun is alchemic gold. The moon is alchemic silver. In the operation of these two potent spirits, or mystic rulers of this world, it is supposed, astrologically, that all phenomena are produced. It is a common opinion, and it is a generally assumed idea, even among the most learned, that that which is called The Philosophers’ Stone is a mere fable. It prevails as an assurance in all books of instruction, or of learning, that it is purely romantic--a delusion--a wild idea--poetical, and therefore necessarily untrue. But all poetry--even poetry--is true enough in a certain way, and whilst it is conceived in the mind, just the same as the colour of the flower, which has nothing to do with the flower. It is very difficult to get over the assertions of competent persons as to the possibility of making gold. The chemical records abound with accounts of its artificial production, and of its having been exhibited under extraordinary--and certainly (necessarily) under secret circumstances. A multitude of ancient and modern philosophers have contended that in the secret spirits of nature, urging towards the light, and towards the sun, which is gold (Chrysos, or the 'Saviour'), there was a movement in all matter towards extrication, and therefore out of the curse of nothingness, or of 'matter'. Thence
the precious gold, prepared and purged by the scorching fire. As to the possibility of metals being transmuted from one into the other, 'doctored', as we may say, in the skill of the alchemists, and 'purged' by the fierce conflagration, clear of their defacements, defilements, and diseases, into the divine angelic gold--responsive to the sun's brightness;--as to this stupendous art--believed in by the ancients, wholly discredited by the moderns--Libavius brings forward many instances in his treatise De Natura Metallorum. He produces accounts to this effect out of Geberus, Hermes, Arnoldus, Guaccius, Thomas Aquinas (Ad Fratrem, c. I), Bernardus Comes, Joannes Rungius, Baptista Porta, Rubeus, Dornesius, Vogelius, Penotus, Quercetanus, and others. Franciscus Picus (in his book De Auro, sec. 3, c. 2) gives eighteen instances in which he saw gold produced by alchemical transmutation.
The principles and grounds for concluding that there may be such an art possible as alchemy, we shall sum up as follows. Firstly, it is assumed that every metal consists of mercury as a common versatile and flexible base, from which all metals spring, and into which they may be ultimately reduced by art. Secondly, the species of metals and their specific and essential forms are not subject to transmutation, but only the individuals; in other words, what is general is abstract and invisible, what is particular is concrete and visible, and therefore can be acted upon. Thirdly, all metals differ, not in their common nature and matter, but in their degree of perfection or purity towards that invisible light to which all matter tends for its relief or rescue--that celestial, imperishable glory, which necessarily in the world of sentience or possibility of recognition to itself (or oneness), must have 'matter' (in this world made
up of senses, and of the avenues to those senses) as its 'mask', or the vehicle in which it is to be, and out of and exterior to which all is magic or miracle. Fourthly, art or design or contrivance in its own respects, and directed by the immortal resource or intelligence which is a matter of spiritual tradition, a pitying gift to man in his lost or fallen state, surmounteth and transcendeth Nature--as we see every day in the mastery of the soul of man over his fleshly lusts, which otherwise would urge him into daily ruin. For Art directed upon Nature, may in a short while--seeing the end of things, and not being 'put-off' by their appearances only--perfect that which Nature, by itself, is a thousand years in accomplishing. Fifthly, God has created every metal of its own kind, and hath implanted in them a really vital, restless principle of growth, struggling against diseases and interruptions; as we see in the efforts of the metals--especially in the perfect metal, gold, born of the sun--which is the king of the material, and which in its healthy state overflows with magnetic seed or sparks of magic light, welcomed by the aerial world, and usurped only by the devil for his bad purposes in this world of dazzling shows. The true spiritual side of this golden well-spring of lucidity--free of all debasement of matter--is never seen in this world. But it is the medium of connexion, and is the golden bridge--one-half gold, as it refers backwards to man from the fountain of all life and light, the Sun, and the other half forward, into the celestial and heavenly eternal GOD'S LIGHT! Thus gold, and light, as its consequence, can by art (assisted by the angels, and farthered by prayer) be evoked, be made to fructify and grow, and can inspire and multiply, and take in ALL matter.
We will now compress (into certain well-considered
passages) some of the ideas of that very remarkable chemist and speculative philosopher, B. V. Van Helmont, advanced in his Paradoxal Discourses concerning the Macrocosm and Microcosm, or the Greater and Lesser World, and Their Union. 1
Metals consist universally of a hot and a cold sulphur. They are as of male and female; in respect to both of which, the more intimately they be united or naturally interwoven, the nearer those metals approach to the nature of gold. And from the difference and disparity of this union (according to the proportion and quantity of every one), arises the distinction of all metals and minerals--that is, in the due proportions, as the said sulphurs are more or less united in them.
If metals be produced, and consist by the union of these two, where then is there room for a third principle in metals--which is vulgarly called salt--and which is spoken of by the chemists; who make salt, sulphur, and mercury the principles of all metals?
But this is indeed only an enigmatical speech of the chemists. For when we see that the superfluous combustible sulphur, which is found in great quantity in the ore of the perfectly united metals, is by mortification, transmutation, or calcination, changed into an acid salt, it ceaseth to be sulphur. Now, forasmuch as all of the said sulphur can be changed into a salt, so as that it cannot be rechanged into brimstone back again (because the salt serveth only as a means to dissolve the two perfect sulphurs in order to unite them); and whereas the white incombustible sulphur can never be changed into salt, how can we then make out three parts or principles which concur
to the composition of metals? For two fathers to one mother would be monstrous and superfluous; forasmuch as both of them are but one and the same. Likewise, also, there cannot be two mothers to one father, in order to the bringing-forth of one birth, for so there would be two births, out of each mother one. For it cannot be denied that to generate a child, whether boy or girl (of which the one hath more of the father's nature and property, the other more of the mother's), there needs only a union of man and wife, and it is impossible that a third thing should be superadded essentially.
This visible, glorious, spiritual body may lead us to endless glorious thoughts and meditations; namely, if we consider that in all the sands created by God, there is a little gold and silver from whence all other beings do exist and have their being, as proceeding from their father, the Sun, and their mother, the Moon. From the sun, as from a living and spiritual gold, which is a mere fire, and beyond all thoroughly refined gold, and, consequently, is the common and universal first created mover (even as is the heart of man), from whence all moveable things derive all their distinct and particular motions; and also from the moon, as from the wife of the sun, and the common mother of all sublunary things.
And forasmuch as man is, and must be, the comprehensive end of all creatures, and the Little World (in whom all seeds exist and are perfected, which thenceforth can never be annihilated), we shall not find it strange that he is counselled (Rev. iii. i8) to buy gold 'tried in the fire' (the Greek words imply gold all or thoroughly fired, or all a mere fire), that he may become rich and like unto the sun, as on the contrary he becomes poor when he doth abuse the arsenical poison, so that his silver by the fire must
be burnt to dross, which comes to pass when he will keep and hold the 'menstrual blood' (out of which he in part exists), for his own property in his own thoughts and outworkings, and doth not daily offer up the same in the fire of the sun, to the end the 'Woman' may be 'clothed with the Sun', and become a 'Sun', and thereby rule over the Moon; that is to say, that he may get the Moon 'under his feet', as we may see, Rev. xii.
Forasmuch as we are here treating concerning gold, it will not be inconvenient to query yet further, Whether is anything more to he considered and taken notice of about gold--namely, How many sorts of gold there be? And how gold is properly formed?
There are three sorts of gold.
Firstly. There is a white gold, which hath the weight and all the qualities of gold except the colour; for it is white as silver, and hath either lost its colour or hath not yet attained it.
Secondly. The second sort of gold is of a pale yellow colour.
Thirdly. The third sort is a high, yellow-coloured gold. But how little the tincture or colour doth, that is in gold, we may perceive from what follows:
1. In that the first sort, namely, the white gold, in its substance is as ponderous as any other gold, from which hint or instance we may see how little the colour conduceth to the being of gold; seeing it is not at all, or very hardly to be perceived in its weight and substance.
2. The whole body of common gold is nothing else, and cannot consist of anything else, but silver, which is a perfect body, and wants nothing of being gold but the fiery male tincture. If now it should happen that a certain quantity of silver should be tinged into gold with one grain of tincture, and that the said
grain should be only sufficient to turn it into gold, without giving it the true colour to supply this, we have already showed that the gold-beaters and gilders know how to give it a fixed yellow gold-colour.
It may be further queried, how it comes to pass that antimony and copper can give to pale gold its perfect colour, and so can help others, whereas they cannot help themselves. As also, whence it is that they can communicate this colour to gold, and not to silver or any other metal, and not to themselves.
Forasmuch as gold doth want this colour, and must have it as its due and property, which it hath either had before, and now lost it, or hath not yet attained to it, but must attain it for the future; wherefore the gold, to satiate itself, takes in this gold-colour in order to its perfection, and can naturally take no more than it ought to have.
There remains yet one considerable question to be asked, namely, forasmuch as it has been said that gold naturally takes in no more of a golden-colour than it stands in need of for itself, and that a tincture which must first turn the Imperfect metals into silver (as being the body of gold), and afterwards tinge them into gold, must consist and proceed from gold and silver (for no third or strange thing can be here admitted), and yet the said tincture must not be gold or silver, but the very principle and beginning of gold and silver, and so be partaker of the end and perfection of gold and silver, and have the sulphur of gold and silver in it: for that bodies of one nature (as before mentioned), cannot mechanically enter into each other, as being both of them equally hard to be melted. The tincture, therefore, must needs be and consist of just such a sulphurous nature--(namely, which is easily fusible)--as the sulphur of gold and silver is of, which hath
given them their form, and as it was before it entered into the composition of gold and silver, at the beginning of their being made such. And forasmuch as the said tincture is to tinge the other metals through and through not mechanically but vitally and naturally, it must of necessity abound with the said perfect metallic yellow and white tincture. Now silver and gold (according to what has been said) cannot mechanically take in more than they stand in need of themselves. The question therefore is, From whence such a tincture as this must be taken. And this question, in itself, may be said to include the whole challenge to the powers of alchemy.
We are likewise to weigh and consider how it can be, that such a little body of one grain should naturally be able so to subtiliate itself, as to be able to pierce a body of a pound weight in all its parts; which commonly is held to be impossible, because they suppose the metals to be mere gross bodies, and that one body cannot penetrate another.
Ask Nature of what she makes gold and silver in the gold and silver mines, and she will answer thee, out of red and white arsenic; but she will tell thee withal, that indeed gold and silver are made of the same. For the gold which is there in its vital place where it is wrought and made, is killed by the abundance of arsenic, and afterwards made alive again and volatilized, to bring forth other creatures, as vegetables and animals, and to give unto them their being and life. From whence we may conclude, that gold is not only in the earth, to be dug thence and made into coin and plate: for should we suppose this, it would follow, that an incomprehensible great quantity of gold must have been created in vain, and be of no use at all, there being vast quantities of gold which never are, nor ever can be, dug-up. And now
to draw a parallel between the divine part or soul of man, and the purged and perfected gold.
Seeing that man, as a perfect and express Image of God, had all created beings, and consequently all living creatures in himself, and that therefore it would have been unnecessary to bring the outward living creatures outwardly to him; must it not then be supposed, that this was done inwardly in the centre, wherein Adam then stood. And that in this centre he gave to all creatures their proper and essential names, forasmuch as this could not have been done by him, in case the essential living ideas of the said creatures had not been in him, from which he gave forth those essential names, as water gusheth out from a living fountain. And may we not therefore with evidence conclude from hence that the 'Garden of Eden' was not only an outward place without man. Doth it not also clearly appear from this that the 'Garden of Eden' was not only a place 'without man?' For that when Adam by his 'FALL' had lost the inward life out of the centre (which proceeds from the centre to the circumference), and was come into the circumference, his eyes were 'opened' so that now he was fain to take in his light from without from the outward world, because his own 'inward world' was hid and shut up from him; and now he saw his earthliness and bodily nakedness (which is the present state of all men in the world), for before he was 'full of light' from the continual irradiation 'from the centre'.
Pure gold is the sediment or settlement of 'light'. It is the child of the 'Sun', and is implanted and perfected by him.
436:1 London: Printed by J. C. and Freeman Collins, for Robert Kettlewel, at The Hand and Scepter, near S. Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street. 1685.