Alchemy Rediscoverd and Restored
Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored by Archibald Cockren
- 1 Pretext
- 2 Part I: Historical
- 2.1 Chapter I: Beginnings of Alchemy
- 2.2 Chapter II: Early European Alchemists
- 2.3 Chapter III: The Story of Nicholas Flamel
- 2.4 Chapter IV: Basil Valentine
- 2.5 Chapter V: Paracelus
- 2.6 Chapter VI: Alchemy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
- 2.7 Chapter VII: English Alchemists
- 2.8 Chapter VIII: The Comte de St. Germain
With an account of the extraction of the seed of metals and the preparation of the medicinal elixir according to the practice of the hermetic Art and of the Alkahest of the Philosopher
To Mrs. Meyer Sassoon
The Smaragdine Tables of Hermes Trismegistus
said to be found in the Valley of Ebron, after the Flood.
- I speak not fiction, but what is certain and most true.
- What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is below for performing the miracle of one thing.
- And as all things were produced from One by the Mediation of One, so all things are produced from this One thing by adaptation.
- Its father is the Sun, its mother was the Moon, the wind carried it in its belly, its nurse is the Earth.
- It is the cause of all perfection throughout the whole world.
- Its power is perfect if it be changed into the earth.
- Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with judgment.
- It ascends from earth to heaven, and descends again to earth, thus you will possess the glory of the whole World and all obscurity will fly away.
- This thing is the fortitude of all fortitude, because it overcomes all subtle things, and penetrates every solid thing.
- Thus were all things created.
- Thence proceed wonderful adaptations which are produced in this way.
- Therefore am I called Hermes Trismegistus, possessing the three parts of the philosophy of the whole World.
- What I had to say concerning the operation of the Sun is complete.
Forward, by Sir Dudley Borron Myers, O.B.E.
Having been intimately associated with Archibald Cockren during the past ten years, and having long since learnt to place implicit confidence in his efficiency and reliability in all matters to which he has devoted his many remarkable gifts and talents, it affords me real pleasure to write a few words by way of introduction to 'Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored.'
In this book he tells of the sensational work which he has accomplished in once more bringing to light, and to the service of humanity, secrets which baffled the majority of scientists of all ages, and which, for several centuries, have been buried in a grave of doubt and sceptical tradition. That this grave should at last have been opened, and that the real, albeit hidden secrets which it contained should now stand revealed and proclaimed, must undoubtedly be regarded as an epoch-making event.
I do not myself claim to have any scientific knowledge whatever, but seeing is believing, and I have been privileged to keep in close touch with the author's experiments from the very beginning. Not only have I seen the results achieved, but I, among many others, have been able to test and pay grateful tribute to the efficacy of the Elixirs produced by the alchemical process. These, one may venture to assert, cannot fail as they become better known to prove a very valuable addition to the remedies at present available to mankind.
There is no question of the claims which are put forward in this book being taken on trust. On the contrary they are open to the fullest examination. The proofs are there and they can safely be left to speak for themselves, in the light of the outcome of any investigations to which they may be subjected.
Seeing the far-reaching importance of the author's researches and discoveries it is necessary that some account should be given of his career, and of those qualifications in the wide field of physiology which entitle him to consideration in questions of the treatment of human ailments.
After the necessary period of training he was, in 1904, certificated at the National Hospital for Paralysis and Epilepsy as fully qualified for all purposes of massage, remedial exercises, and electrical treatment. From this hospital he passed on to the staff of the Great Northern Central Hospital, where he remained for several years. From 1908 onwards, however, he was able to devote part of his time to the private practice in which he then for the first time established himself in the West End of London. This practice had necessarily to be given up during the War.
The years 1915 and 1916 found him in complete charge of all electrical, massage, manipulative, and remedial exercises at the Russian Hospital for British Officers in South Audley Street, London. This hospital, it may be stated, was opened by the Russian nobility resident in London, and was wholly maintained by Russian money. From there he passed on in a similar capacity (1917--18) to the Prisoners of War Hospital. He was at the same time attached to the Millbank Military Hospital. In 1918, he was transferred to the Australian Army, and was on the Peace Conference Staff of the Australian Prime Minister in 1919. Since then, that is to say for the past twenty years, he has been in permanent private practice in the West End of London.
For over twenty years he has been a keen student of the sciences of metallurgy, No-chemistry, and bacteriology, and it will thus be seen that in the claims he now advances in this book he writes with that measure of authority which a life devoted to the alleviation of suffering, and to the effective treatment of human ailments, undoubtedly confers on him.
It is given to few men to make such momentous discoveries as have rewarded his persistent work and patience. His work has, indeed, to my knowledge, often been pursued under conditions of great difficulty and disappointment. May what he has accomplished in the interests of science and of the human race bring him the reward which he deserves--the reward of general recognition and appreciation of the results achieved.
DUDLEY B. MYERS.
Part I: Historical
Chapter I: Beginnings of Alchemy
To most of us the word 'alchemy' calls up the picture of a medieval and slightly sinister laboratory in which an aged, black-robed wizard brooded over the crucibles and alembics that were to bring within his reach the Philosophers' Stone, and with that discovery the formula for the elixir of life and the transmutation of metals. But one can scarcely dismiss so lightly the science--or art, if you will--which won to its service the lifelong devotion of men of culture and attainment from every race and clime over a period of hundreds, or, indeed, thousands, of years, for the beginnings of alchemy are hidden in the mists of time. Such a science is something far more than an outlet for a few eccentric old men in their dotage.
What was the motive behind the constant strivings, the never-failing patience in the unravelling of the mysteries, the tenacity of purpose in the face of persecution and ridicule through the countless ages that led the alchemist to pursue undaunted his appointed way? Something far greater, surely, than a mere vainglorious desire to transmute the base metals into gold, or to brew a potion to prolong a little longer this earthly span, for the devotees of alchemy in the main cared little for these things. The accounts of their lives almost without exception lead us to believe that they were concerned with things spiritual rather than with things temporal. Rather were these men inspired by a vision, a vision of man made perfect, of man freed from disease and the limitations of warring faculties both mental and physical, standing as a god in the realization of a power that even at this very moment of time is lying hidden in the deeper strata of his consciousness, a vision of man made truly in the image and likeness of the one Divine Life in all its Perfection, Beauty, and Harmony.
To appreciate and understand these adepts' visions it is necessary to trace to some extent the history of their cult, so let us for a space step back into the past to catch a glimpse of these men, of their work and ideals, and more important still, of the possibilities that their life-work might bring to those who to-day are seeking for fuller knowledge and wider horizons.
References are to be found in the myths and legends of China. From a book written by Edward Chalmers Werner, a late member of the Chinese Government's Historiological Bureau, Peking, comes this quotation from old Chinese records:
This reference demonstrates that alchemy was studied in China as early as the commencement of the Christian era, so that its origin must probably lie far back in Chinese history.
From China we must now travel to Egypt, whence alchemy as known in the West seems to have sprung. The great Egyptian adept king, named by the Greeks Hermes Trismegistus, is thought to have been the founder of the art. Reputed to have lived about 1900 B.C., he was highly celebrated for his wisdom and skill in the operation of nature, but of the works attributed to him only a few fragments escaped the destroying hand of the Emperor Diocletian in the third century A.D., namely, the Asclepian Dialogues and the Divine Poemanda. If we may judge from these fragments (both preserved in the Latin by Fianus and translated into English by Dr. Everard) it would seem to be of inestimable loss to the world that none of these works have survived in their entirety.
The famous Smaragdine Table of Hermes (Tabula Smaragdina) I have placed at the beginning of this book, for although it would be difficult to prove its origin, yet it still represents a good example of Hermetic phraseology. There have been various stories of the origin of the Tract, one being that the original emerald slab upon which the precepts were said to be inscribcd in Phœnician characters was discovered in the tomb of Hermes by Alexander the Great. In the Berne edition (1545) of the Summa Perfectionis the Latin version is printed under the heading:
'The Emerald Tables of Hermes the Thrice Great concerning Chymistry, Translator unknown. The words of the Secrets of Hermes which were written on the Tablet of Emerald found between his hands in a dark cave wherein his body was discovered buried.'
An Arabic version of the text was discovered in a work ascribed to Jabir, which was probably made about the ninth century. In any case it must be one of the oldest alchemical fragments known, and that it is a piece of Hermetic teaching I have no doubt, as it corresponds to teaching in the Poemanda and 'Fragments of a Faith Forgotten' in relation to the teaching of the thrice-greatest Hermes. It also teaches the unity of matter and the truth that all form is a manifestation from one root, the Aether, which teaching corroborates the theory of our present-day scientists. This table, in conjunction with the Tractatus Aureus or Golden Treatise which I have inserted at the end of this book, is well worth reading, particularly in the light of my elucidation of the general alchemical symbolism. Unhappily, it is all that remains to us of the Egyptian sacred art.
The third century A.D. seems to have been a period when the science was widely practised, but it was also during this century, in the year 296, that Diocletian sought out and burnt all the Egyptian books on alchemy and the other occult sciences, and in so doing destroyed all evidence of progress made up to that date. In the fourth century Zosimus the Panopolite wrote his express treatise on 'The Divine Art of Making Gold and Silver,' and in the fifth Morienus, a hermit of Rome, left his native city and set out to seek the sage Adfar, a solitary adept whose fame had reached him from Alexandria. He found him, and after gaining his confidence became his disciple. After the death of his patron Morienus came into touch with King Calid, and a very attractive work purporting to be a dialogue between himself and the King is still extant under the name of Morienus. In this century Cedrenus also appeared, a magician who professed alchemy.
The next name of note, that of Geber, occurs in or about A.D. 750. Geber's true name was Abou Moussah Djfar--Al Sofi, or The Wise. Born at Houran in Mesoptamia, he is generally esteemed by adepts as the greatest of them all after Hermes. Of the five hundred treatises said to have been composed by him only three remain to posterity--'The Sum of the Perfect Magistery,' 'The Investigation of Perfection,' and his' Testament.' It is to him, too, that we are indebted for the first mention of corrosive sublimate, red oxide of mercury and nitrate of silver. Skilfully indeed did Geber veil his discovery, for from his mysterious style of writing we derive the word' geber' or gibberish, but those who have really understood Geber, his adept compeers, declare with one accord that he has declared the truth, albeit disguisedly, with great acuteness and precision.
Rhasis, another Arabian alchemist, became famous for his practical displays in the art of transmutation of base metals into gold. In the tenth century Al Farabi enjoyed the reputation of being the most learned man of his age, and another great alchemist of this century was Avicenna, whose real name was Ebu Cinna. Born at Bokara in A.D. 980, he was the last of Egyptian Philosophers of note.
Chapter II: Early European Alchemists
About the period of the first Crusades alchemy shifted its centre to Spain, to which country it had been introduced by the Moors. In the twelfth century Artephius wrote 'The Art of Prolonging Human Life,' and is reported to have lived throughout a period of one thousand years. He himself affirms this:
Of the thirteenth-century literature, a work called 'Tesero' was attributed to Alphonso, King of Castile in 1272: William de Loris wrote 'Le Roman de Rose' in about 1282, assisted by Jean de Meung, who also wrote 'The Remonstrance of Nature to the Wandering Alchemist,' and 'The Reply of the Alchemist to Nature.' Peter d'Apona, born near Padua in 1250, wrote several books on 'magic,' and was accused by the Inquisition of possessing seven spirits, each enclosed in a crystal vessel, who taught him the seven liberal arts and sciences. He died upon the rack.
Among other famous names appearing about this period is that of Arnold de Villeneuve or Villanova, whose most famous work is found in the 'Theatrum Chemicum.' He studied medicine in Paris, but was also a theologian and alchemist. Like his friend, Peter d'Apona, he was thought to obtain his knowledge from the devil and was charged by many with magical practices. Although he did not himself fall into the hands of the Inquisition, his books were condemned to be burnt in Tarragona by that body on account of their heretical content. For Villanova maintained that works of faith and charity were more acceptable in the eyes of God than the Sacrificial Mass!
The authority of Albertus Magnus (1234--1314) is undoubtedly to be respected, since he renounced all material advantages to devote the greater part of a long life to the study of philosophy in the seclusion of a cloister. When Albertus died, his fame descended to his 'sainted pupil' Aquinas, who in his 'Thesaurus Alchimae' to his friend the Abbot Reginald, speaks openly of the successes of Albertus and himself in the art of transmutation.
Raymond Lully is one of the alchemists about whose life there is so much conflicting evidence that it is practically certain that his name was used as a cover by a second adept either at the same or a later period. He was probably born in Majorca about 1235,and after a somewhat dissolute youth, he was induced, apparently by the tragic termination of an unsuccessful love affair, to turn his thoughts to religion. He became imbued with a burning desire to spread the gospel among the followers of Mohammed, and to this end devoted years to the study of Mohammedan writings, the better to refute the Moslem teachings. He travelled widely, not only in Europe, but in Africa and Asia, where his religious zeal nearly cost him his life on more than one occasion. He is said to have become acquainted with Arnold de Villanova and the Universal Science somewhat late in life, when his study of alchemy and the discovery of the Philosophers' Stone increased his former fame as a zealous Christian.
According to one story his reputation eventually reached John Cremer, Abbot of Westminster at the time, who after working at alchemy for thirty years, had still failed to achieve his aim, the Philosophers' Stone. Cremer therefore sought out Lully in Italy, and having gained his confidence, persuaded him to come to England, where he introduced him to Edward II. Lully, being a great champion of Christendom, agreed to transmute base metals into gold on condition that Edward carried on the Crusades with the money. He was given a room in the Tower for his work, and it is estimated that he transmuted 50,000 pounds worth of gold. After a time, however, Edward became avaricious, and to compel Lully to carry on the work of transmutation made him prisoner, although with Cremer's aid he was able to escape from the Tower and return to the Continent. Records state that he lived to be one hundred and fifty years of age and was eventually killed by the Saracens in Asia. At that age he is reputed to have been able to run and jump like a young man.
The enormous output of writings attributed to Lully (they total about 486 treatises on a variety of subjects ranging from grammar and rhetoric to medicine and theology) also seems to suggest that the name Lully was merely a pseudonym.
It was about this time that the science fell into grave disrepute, for the alchemist's claim to transmute metals offered great possibilities to any rogue with sufficient plausibility and lack of scruple to exploit the credulity or greed of his fellow-men, and there proved to be no lack either of charlatans or victims. Rich merchants and others greedy for gain were induced to entrust to the alleged alchemists gold, silver, and precious stones--which they lost--in the hope of getting them multiplied, and Acts of Parliament were passed in England and Pope's Bulls issued over Christendom to forbid the practice of alchemy on pain of death, although Pope John XXII is said to have practised the art himself and to have enriched the public treasury by this means.
In the fourteenth century lived the two Isaacs Hollandus, father and son, Dutch adepts, who wrote 'De Triplici Ordinari Exiliris et Lapidis Theoria' and 'Mineralia Opera Sue de Lapide Philosophico.' The details of their operations on metals are the most explicit that have been given, and because of this very lucidity have been discounted. John Read, for instance, Professor of Chemistry, in his 'Prelude to Chemistry, an Outline of Alchemy,' dismisses the writing of the Hollandus pair in a few words, possibly because their clarity of detail led him to suspect a blind. Alas, how blind sometimes are our experts themselves.
Chapter III: The Story of Nicholas Flamel
In the whole history of alchemy surely one of the most interesting stories is that of Nicholas Flamel (1330-1 418), the most successful and most celebrated of France's adepts, and I am accordingly giving in his own words the account of the discovery which proved be the turning point in his life:
Nicholas Flamel died eventually in 1415 at the age of one hundred and sixteen years. Some evidence of his house, dating from 1407, is still to be seen in the building of 51, rue de Montmorency in Paris, and in the Musée de Cluny there is an inscribed tablet from his tomb in the old Church of St. Jaques-la-Boucherie, now demolished. This tablet, which is quite unique, had an interesting and somewhat chequered career. Lost for many years, after the demolition of St. Jacques-laBoucherie in 1717, it was eventually found in a shop in the rue des Arias, where the owner, a greengrocer and herbalist, had been using the smooth marble back as a chopping block for his herbs.
The tablet itself measures 58 x 45 centimetres, and is four centimetres thick. At the top is a carved representation of Christ, St. Peter, and St. Paul, and the inscription records that Nicholas Flamel, formerly a scrivener, left certain moneys and properties for religious and charitable purposes, including gifts to churches and hospitals in Paris.
I have retailed this account of Flamel’s experiences in full as it seems to me to be of no mean interest, despite the fact that certain authorities have doubted its veracity. My own feeling about it is that the history is a true one; that the book of Abraham the Jew to which Flamel refers is evidently an allegorical writing of the whole process, and that the corresponding pictures are, to anyone versed in alchemical language, representative of the different phases of the work. Some writers and critics, certainly, have held these allegories up to ridicule as the outpourings of religious visionaries, but here I think they demonstrate their ignorance of the whole process. One of the greatest proofs of the truth of this history is, in my opinion, the point at which Flamel refers to the attainment of the First Matter. Of this he says ‘ The fact of my success was revealed to me by the strong odour,’ and this fact I myself have demonstrated in the laboratory; the odour is unmistakable, and the gas of such a volatile nature that it pervades the whole house. In the theoretical and practical sections I shall refer to this more fully.
Chapter IV: Basil Valentine
Records of the life of Basilius Valentinus, the Benedictine monk who for his achievements in the chemical sphere has been given the title of Father of Modern Chemistry, are a mass of conflicting evidence. Many and varied are the accounts of his life, and historians seem quite unable to agree as to his exact identity, or even as to the century in which he lived. It is generally believed, however, that 1394 was the year of his birth, and that he did actually join the Benedictine Brotherhood, eventually becoming Canon of the Priory of St. Peter at Erfurt, near Strasburg, although even these facts cannot be proved.
Whatever his identity, Basil Valentine was undoubtedly a great chemist, and the originator of many chemical preparations of the first importance. Amongst these are
- the preparation of spirit of salt, or hydrochloric acid from marine salt and oil of vitriol (sulphuric acid)
- the extraction of copper from its pyrites (sulphur) by transforming it firstly into copper sulphate, and then plunging a bar of iron in the watery dissolution of this product:
- the method of producing sulpho-ether by the distillation of a mixture of spirit of wine and oil of vitriol:
- the method of obtaining brandy by the distillation of wine and beer, rectifying the distillation on carbonate of potassium.
In his writings he has placed on record many valuable facts, and whether Basil Valentine is the correct name of the author or an assumed one matters little, since it detracts nothing from the value of his works, or the calibre of his practical experiments. From his writings one gathers that he was indeed a monk, and also the possessor of a mind and understanding superior to that of the average thinker of his day. The ultimate intent and aim of his studies was undoubtedly to prove that perfect health in the human body is attainable, and that the perfection of all metallic substance is also possible. He believed that the physician should regard his calling in the nature of a sacred trust, and was appalled by the ignorance of the medical faculty of the day whose members pursued their appointed way in smug complacency, showing little concern for the fate of their patients once they had prescribed their pet panacea.
The following quotation from Basil Valentine's ' Triumphal Chariot of Antimony ' is from the Latin version published at Amsterdam in 1685, and translated into English and published by James Elliott & Co., Falcon Court, Fleet Street, E.C., in 1893.
On the subject of the perfection of metallic bodies, as in his reference to the Spagyric Art, the Grand Magistrum, the Universal Medicine, the Tinctures to transmute metals and other mysteries of the alchemist's art, he has completely mystified not only the lay reader, but the learned chemists of his own and later times. In all his works the important key to a laboratory process is apparently omitted. Actually, however, such a key is invariably to be found in some other part of the writings, probably in the midst of one of the mysterious theological discourses which he was wont to insert among his practical instructions, so that it is only by intensive study that the mystery can be unravelled.
His most famous work is his ' Currus Triumphalis Antimonii' (' The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony ') It has been translated into German, French, and English, and has done more to establish his reputation as a chemist than any other. The best edition is undoubtedly that published at Amsterdam in 1671 with a commentary by Theodorus Kerckringius. In his preface Kerckringius states that he had actually spoken with Valentine besides studying his works. He speaks of Basil as ' the prince of all chemists, and the most learned, upright, and lucid of all alchemistic writers. He tells the careful student everything that can be known in alchemy ; of this I can most positively assure you.' A perusal of this book makes it quite evident that Valentine had investigated very thoroughly the properties of antimony, and the findings on his experimental work with this metal have been brought forward as recent discoveries by chemists of our day.
His other works are ' The Medicine of Metals,' 'Of Things Natural and Supernatural,' ' Of the First Tincture, Root and Spirit of Metals,' ' The Twelve Keys," and his ' Last Will and Testament.' It is alleged that this last work remained concealed for a number of years within the High Altar of the church belonging to the Priory. Such a story is quite feasible, since alchemists both before and after this era, deeming their works unfit for the age in which they were written, are known to have buried or otherwise secreted their writings for the discovery and benefit, as they doubtless hoped, of a more deserving and more enlightened age. Such manuscripts would very often not be discovered for several generations after the death of the author.
In view of his other outstanding achievements as a chemist of great ability, it seems not illogical to suppose that Valentine's Universal Method of Medicine should be capable of achieving as great a measure of success as his other somewhat more prosaic discoveries.
Chapter V: Paracelus
Aurolus Phillipus Theophrastur Bobastur von Hohenheim, immortalized as Paracelsus, was born in 1493. He was the son of a physician of repute, who has been described as a Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, and it was from him that Paracelsus took his first instruction.
At the age of sixteen he entered the University at Basle, where he applied himself to the study of alchemy, surgery, and medicine. With the science of alchemy he was already acquainted, having previously studied the works of Isaac Hollandus, whose writings roused in him the ambition to cure disease by medicine superior to the material at that time in use, for apart from his incursions into alchemy, Paracelsus is credited with the introduction of opium and mercury into medicine, while his works indicate an advanced knowledge of the science and principles of magnetism. These are some of the achievements which would seem to justify Manly Hall’s description of him as ‘the precursor of chemical pharmacology and therapeutics and the most original medical thinker of the sixteenth century.’
The Abbot Trithemius, an adept of a high order, and the instructor of the illustrious Henry Cornelius Agrippa, was responsible for Paracelsus’ initiation into the science of alchemy. In 1516 he was still pursuing his research in mineralogy, medicine, surgery, and chemistry under the guidance of Sigismund Fugger, a wealthy physician of the city, but was forced to leave Basle hurriedly after trouble with the authorities over his studies in necromancy. He started out on a nomad’s life, supporting himself by astrological predictions and occult practices of various kinds.
His wanderings took him through Germany, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia. In Russia he is reported to have been taken prisoner by the Tartars and brought before the Grand Cham at whose court he became a great favourite. Finally, assuming this story to be true, he accompanied the Cham’s son on an embassy from China to Constantinople, the city in which the supreme secret, the universal dissolvent, the alkahest, was imparted to him by an Arabian adept. For Paracelsus, as Manly Hall has said, gained his knowledge ‘not from coated pedagogues, but from dervishes in Constantinople, witches, gipsies, and sorcerers, who invoked spirits and captured the rays of the celestial bodies in dew; of whom it is said that he cured the incurable, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the leper, and even raised the dead, and whose memory could turn aside the plague.’
Paracelsus ultimately returned to Europe, passing along the Danube into Italy where he became an army surgeon. It was here apparently that his wonderful cures began. In 1526, at the age of thirty-two, lie re-entered Germany, and at the university he had entered as a youth took a professorship of physics, medicine, and surgery. This was a position of some considerable importance, and was offered to him at the instance of Erasmus and Ecolampidus. Perhaps it was his behaviour at this time that eventually led to his title ‘the Luther of physicians,’ for in his lectures he made so bold as to denounce as antiquated the systems of Galen and his school, whose teachings were held to be so unalterable and inviolable by the authorities of that time, that the slightest deviation from their teachings was regarded as nothing short of heretical. As a crowning insult he actually burnt the works of these masters in a brass pan with sulphur and nitre! This high-handed behaviour, coupled with his original ideas, made him countless enemies. The fact that the cures he performed with his mineral medicines justified his teachings merely served further to antagonize the medical faculty, infuriated at their authority and prestige being undermined by the teachings of a ‘heretic’ and ‘usurper.’ Thus Paracelsus did not long retain his professorship at Basle, but was forced once again to leave the city and betake himself to a wanderer’s life.
During the course of his second exile we hear of him in 1526 at Colmar, and in 1530 at Nuremburg, once again in conflict with the doctors of medicine, who denounced him as an impostor, although once again he turned the tables on his opponents by his successful treatment of several bad cases of elephantiasis, which he followed up during the next ten years by a series of cures which were amazing at the period.
Franz Hartmann in his ‘Paracelsus’ says:
He died in 1541 after a short sickness in a small room at the White Horse Inn near the quay, and his body was buried in the graveyard of St. Sebastian. One writer supposes the event to have been accelerated by a scuffle with assassins in the pay of the orthodox medical faculty, but there is no actual foundation for this story.
Not one of his biographers seems to have found anything remarkable in the fact that at sixteen years of age Paracelsus was already well acquainted with alchemical literature. Even allowing for the earlier maturity of a man in those times, he must still have been something of a phenomenon in mental development. Certain it is that few of his contemporaries either could or would grasp his teachings, and his consequent irritation and arrogance in the face of their stupidity and obstinacy is scarcely to be wondered at. Although he numbered so many enemies among his fellow physicians, he also had his disciples, and for these no praise was too high for him. He was worshipped as their Noble and Beloved Monarch, the German Hermes, the Philosopher Trismegistus, Dear Preceptor and King, Theophrastus of Blessed Memory and Immortal Fame.
I am indebted to Mr. Arthur Edward Waite’s translation from the German of the Hermetic and Alchemic Writings of Paracelsus for many of these facts of I life.
Chapter VI: Alchemy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
The first man to teach the chemistry of the human body and to declare, as did Paracelsus, that the true purpose of chemistry was the preparation of medicine for the treatment of disease was one Jean Baptista van Helmont, a disciple of Paracelsus, sometimes called the Descartes of Medicine.
In his treatise, ‘De Natura Vitae Eternae,’ he writes
In his early thirties van Helmont retired to an old castle in Belgium near Brussels and remained there, almost unknown to his neighbours until his death in his sixty-seventh year. He never professed to have actually prepared the Philosophers’ Stone, but gained his knowledge from alchemists he contacted during his years of research.
Van Helmont also gives particulars of an Irish gentleman named Butler, a prisoner in the Castle of Vilvord in Flanders, who during his captivity performed strange cures by means of the Hermetic medicine. The news of his cure of a Breton monk, a fellow-prisoner suffering from severe erysipelas, by the administration of almond milk in which he had merely dipped the Philosophers’ Stone brought van Helmont, accompanied by several noblemen, post-haste to the Castle to investigate the case. In their presence Butler cured an aged woman of ‘megrim’ by dipping the Stone into olive-oil and then anointing her head. There was also an abbess who had suffered for eighteen years with paralysed fingers and a swollen arm. These disabilities were removed by applying the Stone a few times to her tongue.
In ‘Lives of the Alchcmystical Philosophers,’ published in 1815, it is stated that prior to the events at Vilvord, Butler attracted some attention by his transmutations in London during the reign of James I. He is said to have gained his knowledge in Arabia and in this way. When a ship in which he had once taken passage was captured by African pirates, Butler was taken prisoner and sold into slavery in Arabia. His Arab master was an alchemical worker with knowledge of the correct processes. Butler assisted him in some of his operations, and when later he was able to make his escape from captivity, lie carried off a large portion of the Red Powder.
Denys Zachare in his memoirs gives an interesting account of his pursuit of the Philosophers’ Stone. At the age of twenty he set out to Bordeaux to undertake a college curriculum, and hence to Toulouse for a course of law. In this town he made the acquaintance of some students in possession of a number of alchemical books. It seems that at this time there was a craze for alchemical experiments among the students of Paris and other French towns, and this craze caught Zachare’s imagination. His law studies were forsaken and his experiments in alchemy began. On his parents’ death, having expended all his money on this new love of his he returned home and from their estate raised further money to continue his research. For ten years, according to his own statement, after experiments of all sorts and meetings with countless men with a method to sell, he sat down to study carefully the writings of the philosophers on the subject, and states that it was Raymond Lully’s ‘Testament, Codicil, and Epistle’ addressed to King Robert that gave him the key to the secret. From the study of this book and ‘The Grand Rosary’ of Arnold de Villeneuve, he formulated a plan entirely different from any he had previously followed. After another fifteen months of toil he says:
In his one writing entitled ‘Opusculum Chemicum’ he gives his own personal narrative and states that the Art is the gift of God alone. The methods and possibilities of the transmutation of metals and the Tincture as a Medicine are also considered.
There is also the evidence of John Frederick Helvetius, as testified in 1666. He made claim to be an adept, but received the powder of transmutation from another. He writes:
In the Helvetius tract is also testimony of Kuffle and of his conversion to a belief in alchemy as the result of an experiment which he had been able to perform himself, although no indication is given of the source from which he obtained his powder of projection.
Secondly, there is an account of a silversmith named Gril, who in the year 1664 at the city of the Hague, converted a pound of lead partly into gold and partly into silver, using a tincture received from a certain John Caspar Knoettner. This projection was made in the presence of many witnesses and Helvetius himself examined the precious metals obtained from the operation.
In 1710 Sigmund Richter published his ‘Perfect and True Preparation of the Philosophical Stone’ under the auspices of the Rosicrucians. Another representative of the Rosy Cross was the mysterious Lascaris, a descendant of the royal house of Lascaris, an old Byzantine family, who spread the knowledge of the Hermetic art in Germany during the eighteenth century. Lascaris affirmed that when unbelievers beheld the amazing virtues of the Stone they would no longer be able to regard alchemy as a delusive art. He appears to have performed transmutation in different parts of Germany and then to have disappeared into the blue and so out of history.
Chapter VII: English Alchemists
In England the first known alchemist was Roger Bacon, a scholar of outstanding attainment, who was born in Somersetshire in 1214. He made extraordinary progress even in his boyhood studies, and on reaching the required age joined the Franciscan Order. From Oxford he passed on to Paris where he studied medicine and mathematics. On his return to England he applied himself to the study of philosophy and languages, with such success that he wrote grammars of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew tongues.
Although Bacon has been described as a physician rather than a chemist, we are indebted to him for many scientific discoveries. He was almost the only astronomer of his time and in this capacity rectified the Julian calendar which, although submitted to Pope Clement IV in 1267, was not put into practice until a later Papacy. He was responsible also for the physical analysis of convex glasses and lenses, the invention of spectacles and achromatic lenses, and if not for the actual construction, at any rate for the theory of the telescope. As a student of chemistry he called attention to the chemical role played by air in combustion, and having carefully studied the properties of saltpetre, taught its purification by dissolution in water and by crystallisation.
From certain of his letters we may learn that Bacon anticipated most of the achievements of modern science. He maintained that vessels might be constructed which would be capable of navigation without rowers, and which, under the direction of a single man, could travel through the water at a speed hitherto undreamt of. He also predicted that it would be equally possible to construct cars which ‘might be set in motion with marvellous rapidity, independently of horses and other animals,’ and flying machines which would beat the air with artificial wings
It is scarcely surprising that in the atmosphere of superstition and ignorance which reigned in Europe during the middle ages Bacon’s achievements were attributed to his communication with devils, and that his fame spread through Western Europe not as a savant, but as a great magician! His great services to humanity were met with censure, not gratitude, and to the Church his teachings seemed particularly pernicious. She accordingly took her place as one of his foremost adversaries, and even the friars of his own order refused his writings a place in their library. His persecutions culminated in 1279 in imprisonment and a forced repentance of his labours in the cause of art and science.
Amongst his many writings there are extant two or three works on alchemy from which it is quite evident that not only did he study and practise the science, but that he obtained his final objective, the Philosophers’ Stone. Doubtless during his lifetime his persecutions led him to conceal carefully his practice of the Hermetic art and to consider the revelation of such matters unfit for the uninitiated. ‘Truth, ‘ he writes, ‘ ought not to be shown to every ribald, for then that would become most vile which, in the hand of a philosopher, is the most precious of all things.’
Sir George Ripley, Canon of Bridlington Cathedral, Yorkshire, placed alchemy on a higher level than many of his contemporaries by dealing with it as a spiritual and not merely a physical manifestation. He maintained that alchemy is concerned with the mode of our spirit’s return to God who gave it. He wrote in 1471 his ‘Compound of Alchemy’ with its dedicatory epistle to Edward IV. It is also reported of this Canon of Bridlington that he provided funds for the Knights of St. John by means of the Philosophers’ Stone.
In the sixteenth century Pierce, the Black Monk, wrote on the Elixir the following:
Other works of the sixteenth century include Thomas Charnock’s ‘Breviary of Philosophy’ and the additaminta thereto, and ‘Enigma’ in 1572. He also wrote a memorandum in which he states that he attained the transmuting powder when his hairs were white.
In the sixteenth century also lived Edward Kelly, born 1555. He seems to have been an adventurer, and is reputed to have lost his ears at Lancaster on an accusation of producing forged title deeds. Whether this is true or not, the fact remains that Dr. Dee, a learned man of the Elizabethan era, was very interested in Kelly’s clairvoyant visions, although it is difficult to determine whether Kelly really was a genuine seer since his life was such an extraordinary mixture of good and bad.
In some way or other Kelly does appear to have come into possession of the Red and White Tinctures, since Elias Ashmole printed at the end of ‘Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum’ a tract entitled ‘Sir Edward Kelly’s Work’ and says:
How true that may be is a moot point, but it is a fact that in March 1583 the Count Palatine of Siradia, Prince of Poland, Adalbert Alask, while visiting the Court of Queen Elizabeth, sought an acquaintance with Dr. Dee to discuss his experiments, in which he became so interested that he was accompanied by Dee and Kelly and their families on his return to Cracow. The Prince took them from Cracow to Prague in anticipation of favours at the hand of the Emperor, Rudolph II, but their attempt to get into touch with Rudolph was unsuccessful. In Prague at that time a great interest was evinced in alchemy by all and sundry, but in 1586, by reason of an edict of Pope Sixtus V, Dee and Kelly were forced to flee the city.
They finally found peace and plenty at the Castle of Trebona in Bohemia as guests of Count Rosenberg, the Emperor’s Viceroy in that country. During that time Kelly made projection of one minim on an ounce and a quarter of mercury and produced nearly an ounce of best gold, which gold was afterwards distributed from the crucible.
In February 1588, following a breach between them, the two men parted, Dee making for England and Kelly for Prague, where Rosenberg had persuaded the Emperor to quash the Papal decree. Through the introduction of Rosenberg, Kelly was received and honoured by Rudolph as one in possession of the Great Secret of Alchemy. From him he received besides a grant of land and the freedom of the city, a councillorship of state and apparently a title, since he was known from that time forward as Sir Edward Kelly. These honours are evidence that Kelly had undoubtedly demonstrated to the Emperor his knowledge of transmutation, but the powder of projection had now diminished, and to the Emperor’s command to produce it in ample quantities, he failed to accede, being either unable or unwilling to do so. As a result he was cast into prison at the Castle of Purglitz near Prague where he remained until 1591, when he was restored to favour. He was interned a second time, however, and in 1595, according to chronicles, whilst attempting to escape from his prison, fell from a considerable height and was killed at the age of forty.
In the seventeenth century lived Eugenius Philalethes or Thomas Vaughan. Vaughan came from Wales and his writings were regarded as an illustration of the purely spiritual mystery within the science of alchemy, but whatever the various interpretations put upon his work, Vaughan was undoubtedly endeavouring to show that alchemy was demonstratable in every phase of consciousness, physical, mental, and spiritual. His work, ‘Lumen de Lumine,’ is an alchemical discourse and deals with his subject in the phases I have mentioned. His medicine is a spiritual substance inasmuch as it is the Quintessence or the Divine Life manifesting through all form, both physical and spiritual. His gold is the philosophic gold of the physical world as well as the wisdom of the spiritual. His stone is the touchstone which transmutes everything and is again spiritual and physical, and the statement that the Medicine can only be contained in a glass vessel signifies a tangible glass container as well as the purified body of the adept.
Thomas Vaughan was a Magus of the Rosicrucian Order and he knew and understood that the science of alchemy as such must manifest throughout all planes of consciousness.
Eirenaeus Philalethes, by reason of his very numerous writings, must be mentioned. There has been much discussion as to whether this was the name of another adept, or merely another pen name for Vaughan. Mr. Waite has attempted to prove to his satisfaction that they were two different men. ‘Personally, I should attribute both names to Thomas Vaughan, but although the question of these authors’ identity may make interesting debating material, it is of negligible importance from the standpoint adopted in this book.
Inhis preface to the Open Entrance from the ‘Collectanea Chymica,’ published by William Cooper in 1684, he gives testimony:
He then goes on to give an account of the transmutation of metals into silver and gold, and also of the fact that the medicine administered to some at the point of death affected their miraculous recovery.
Of one occasion he writes:
Again he remarks:
In the last chapter of the Open Entrance is his message to those who have attained the goal:
His principal works are ‘An Open Entrance to the Shut Palace of the King,’ ‘Ripley Revived,’ ‘The Marrow of Alchemy’ in verse, ‘Metallorum Metamorphosis,’ ‘Brevis Manuductio ad Rubinem Coelestum,’ ‘Fone Chemicae Veritatis,’ and a few others in the ‘Musaeum Hermiticum’ and in Manget’s collection. There is also the story of a transmutation before Gustavus Adolphus in 1620, the gold of which was coined into medals, bearing the King’s effigy with the reverse Mercury and Venus; and of another at Berlin, before the King of Prussia.
Sir Isaac Newton, the famous seventeenth-century mathematician and scientist, though not generally known as an alchemist, was undoubtedly an experimenter in that particular branch of science. If one follows carefully, in the light of alchemical knowledge, the biography of Sir Isaac Newton by J. W. V. Sullivan, I think it is quite easy to realize the experimental theories on which he was working. Sir Arthur Eddington, in reviewing this book, says:
His amanuensis records:
I think the answer to this might certainly be that Newton’s experiments were concerned with nothing more or less than alchemy.
In the same century Alexa’nder Seton, a Scot, suffered indescribable torments for his knowledge of the art of transmutation. After practising in his own country he went abroad, where he demonstrated his transmutations before men of good repute and integrity in Holland, Hamburg, Italy, Basle, Strasbourg, Cologne, and Munich. He was finally summoned to appear before the young Elector of Saxony, to whose court he went somewhat reluctantly. The Elector, on receiving proof of the authenticity of his projections, treated him with distinction, convinced that Seton held the secret of boundless wealth. But Seton refused to initiate the Elector into his secret, and was imprisoned in Dresden. As his imprisonment would not shake his purpose he was put to the torture. He was pierced, racked, beaten, seared with fire and molten lead, but still he held his peace. At length he was left in solitary confinement until his release was finally engineered by the adept Sendivogius. Even to his friend he refused to reveal the secret until shortly before his death, two years after his escape from prison, when he presented Sendivogius with his transmuting powder.
Chapter VIII: The Comte de St. Germain
It is rather remarkable that in the history of alchemy the Comte de St. Germain has not been mentioned. There is no doubt that he was an expert in the art, but of the many stories related about this remarkable man, his achievements in this particular sphere seem to play no part.
St. Germain was a baffling personality. As far as can be ascertained he was the son of Prince Racozy of Transylvania, but, in any case, there can be no doubt that he was of noble birth, a man of great culture and refinement. His history as far as it is known is well worth reading, but does not come within the scope of this book, which is solely concerned with his interest in the alchemic art. To those of my readers interested in dietetics, it may be a point of interest that most of his biographers have noted his habits with regard to food. It was diet, he declared, combined with his marvellous elixir, which constituted the true secret of his longevity, for it may be remembered that records of St. Germain’s various appearances in Europe extend over a period of 110 years, during which time his appearance never altered. Always he appeared as a well-preserved man of middle age. Madame la Comtesse d’Adhemar, for example, in ‘Souvenirs de Marie Antoinette,’ gives an excellent description of the Comte, whom Frederick the Great referred to as ‘the man who does not die,’ and Mrs. Cooper Oakley in her monograph, ‘The Comte de St. Germain, the Secret of Kings,’ traces him under his various names between the years 1710 and 1822.
The Italian adventurer, Jacques de Casanova de Seingalt, grudgingly admits that the Comte was an adept of the magical arts and a skilled chemist. Upon his telling St. Germain that he was suffering from an acute disease, the Comte invited Casanova to remain for treatment, saying that he would prepare fifteen pills which in three days would restore him to perfect health.
Of St. Germain’s athoeter Casanova writes:
Casanova further records an incident in which St. Germain changed a twelve sous piece into a pure gold coin. There is other evidence that the celebrated Count possessed the alchemical powder by which it is possible to transmute base metals into gold. He actually performed this feat on at least two occasions as stated by the writings of contemporaries. The Marquis de Valbelle, visiting St. Germain in his laboratory, found the alchemist busy with his furnaces. He asked the Marquis for a silver six-franc piece, and covering it with a black substance, exposed it to the heat of a small flame or furnace. M. de Valbelle saw the coin change colour until it became a bright red. Some minutes after, when it had cooled a little, the adept took it out of the cooling vessel and returned it to the Marquis. The piece was no longer silver but of the purest gold. Transmutation had been complete. The Comtesse d’Adhemar had possession of this coin until 1766, when it was stolen from her secretary.
One author tells us that St. Germain always attributed his knowledge of occult chemistry to his sojourn in Asia. In 1755 he went to the East for the second time, and writing to Count von Lamberg he said: ‘I am indebted for my knowledge of melting jewels to my second journey to India.’
There are too many authentic cases of metallic transmutations to condemn St. Germain as a charlatan for such a feat. The Leopold Hoffman medal, still in the possession of that family, is the most outstanding example of the transmutation of metals ever recorded. Two-thirds of this medal was transformed into gold by the monk Wenzel-Sei1er, leaving the balance silver, which was its original state. In the circumstances fraud was impossible as there was but one copy of the medal extant.
For these notes on incidents in St. Germain’s life I am indebted to Mr. Manly Hall's introductory material and commentary to the ‘Most Holy Trinosophia’ (Cornte de St. Germain).
The ‘Most Holy Trinosophia,’ or ‘The Most Holy Threefold Wisdom,’ is composed of twelve sections. It is at the same time a picture of the process of Initiation and an Alchemical treatise, a fact which careful perusal will establish. Let me quote from Section XII:
Here is a picture of the pelican in its sand bath, the process of the sublimation of the contents, and the change of colour which takes place in one of the laboratory processes in the preparation of the Philosophers’ Stone. That this preparation is a physical process carried out in a laboratory with water, retorts, sandbath, and furnaces, there is no doubt. That alchemy is purely a psychic and spiritual science has no basis in fact. A science to be a science must be capable of —“manifestation on every plane of consciousness; in other words it must be capable of demonstrating the axiom ‘as above, so below.’ Alchemy can withstand this test, for it is, physically, spiritually, and psychically, a science manifesting throughout all form and all life.
The various foregoing records should in some measure bear testimony to the claim of alchemy to be a physical science based on an inner knowledge of the properties of metals. Casanova’s description of St. Germain alone is evidence that as recently as the latter part of the eighteenth century, at any rate, a method of preparing a physical ‘Stone,’ capable of transmuting metals and curing disease was in practice.
Modern science knows of no substance that can change lead or quicksilver into the likeness of solid gold by the mere addition of a grain of red powder, and may therefore choose to scoff at the alchemists’ assertions as products of a too-fertile imagination, at their writings as ‘gibberish.’ But the fact must be borne in mind that the ‘assertions’ were corroborated by impartial observers, and that the ‘gibberish’ of the Hermetic tracts is scarcely less intelligible to the layman than is modern chemical phraseology.